Click to Enlarge

Metro’s head of service development, Bill Bryant, told STB about Metro’s provisional plans for West Seattle bus operations when the viaduct closes later this year, during the 3-6 week period when the SR 99 tunnel has not yet opened. These changes are not permanent. Metro will revise service again when SR 99 is back in operation through central Seattle.

Bryant also provided STB with two maps of the intended route changes. Those maps, and the below plans, were shared with and created with input from SDOT and WSDOT.

One map shows operations downtown, which may have another revision; the other shows operations in Sodo, which are unlikely to change. Bryant emphasized that any part of the plans could change, especially if operations create unforeseen challenges.

“[The map] is subject to change,” Bryant said. “Metro is working hard to be flexible, and we might need to change the routing during the actual closure as well.”

Here are the important points, from a rider’s perspective:

  • Stops will not be changed in West Seattle, or south of West Seattle. Routing “south and west of Spokane Street” will be the same, says Metro spokesperson Scott Gutierrez.
  • Schedules will change, because trips will take longer. “Travel time between the middle of downtown and Spokane Street did increase by 50 to 100 percent,” in Metro’s models, Bryant says. Metro hopes to improve travel times over previous viaduct closures. During the 2016 closure, that segment’s travel time consistently increased from 12 minutes to 24 minutes.
  • Metro is adding service. Metro will have up to 20 buses at a time on standby, which will be dispatched “as needed to maintain capacity and when extreme delays occur,” Gutierrez says. The West Seattle Water Taxi will also add service with a new vessel. The circulator shuttle routes that serve the water taxi, 773 and 775, will each gain an extra vehicle during peak hours.

Which routes will be restructured

Bryant said twelve routes will be affected: 21 Express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, and RapidRide C.

How West Seattle buses will cross Sodo

Click to enlarge

Northbound/towards Downtown

Buses will exit the West Seattle Bridge from the Spokane Street Viaduct at the 4th Avenue South exit. They will take two right turns and a left to enter the Sodo Busway from the offramp. 

SDOT will make changes to improve mobility at the 4th Avenue South exit, Gutierrez says:

“SDOT will temporarily extend the eastbound bus-only lane on the West Seattle Bridge to the 4th Avenue off-ramp intersection. The off-ramp is two lanes, one of which will be bus-only. On the northbound approach to Spokane Street, the through lane adjacent to the right-turn-only lane will be designated as a bus-only lane temporarily.”

At the north end of the busway, buses will turn left onto Royal Brougham Way, and right onto 4th Avenue South.

“SDOT will temporarily make westbound Royal Brougham Way west of 6th Avenue bus-only to help facilitate this movement,” says Gutierrez.

Buses will then enter the 3rd Avenue Transit Mall via Prefontaine Place.

Southbound/towards West Seattle

Southbound buses will exit the 3rd Avenue Transit Mall via a right turn onto James Street. They will turn left onto the 2nd Avenue Extension and merge onto 4th Avenue South.

Vehicles will then traverse the Edgar Martinez Drive overpass and turn left onto 1st Avenue South, and enter the West Seattle Bridge via the Spokane Viaduct onramp.

Alternate routes

Metro’s map shows two southbound alternatives in orange:

  • Columbia Street: Buses would exit the 3rd Avenue Transit Mall via a right turn onto Columbia Street, then turn left onto Alaskan Way, and continue onto East Marginal Way S, via a bus-only connection between Alaskan Way and Marginal Way that WSDOT will build. Buses would turn right onto Spokane Street and traverse the Spokane Swing Bridge to West Seattle. This route would only be used in the afternoon. (According to Metro, port freight traffic causes too much congestion for buses to use the street in the morning.) 
  • Edgar Martinez & East Marginal Way: This route would diverge from the primary option at Edgar Martinez Drive. Instead of turning left onto 1st Avenue South and traversing the West Seattle Bridge, buses would pass 1st and turn left onto East Marginal Way S via the Atlantic Street overpass, and turn right onto Spokane Street and traverse the Spokane Swing bridge.

18 Replies to “How West Seattle Buses Will Run While the Viaduct is Closed”

  1. Why can’t buses just turn left from Spokane St. to the SODO busway? This around the block detour is going to slow things down.

    Also, if the bus isn’t actually stopping for passengers in SODO or Pioneer Square, would it be possible to at least allow drivers to check the traffic report and have the discretion to take I-5 to Seneca or James St. when traffic if moving? I understand the I-5 routing would be terrible during rush hour, but off-peak, it’s not that bad (at least, when the construction-related lane closures aren’t happening), and Metro has used the I-5 routing during a weekend viaduct closure in the past, at least once.

    1. Because they aren’t on Spokane St, they are on the Spokane St viaduct. The off ramp goes around to 4th Avenue which they would then get onto Spokane St from to be able to turn left onto the Busway.

    2. Oh, are you asking why the buses can’t take their current exit but continue on Spokane St to turn onto the Busway? That is a better question. I would imagine it’s simply because they don’t expect buses to be able to cross that many lanes the quickly in traffic.

    3. Also I don’t know if the busway is designed to allow left turns from the west on Spokane street. It was built with the freeway in mind, and so was designed to have all buses turn right from Spokane Street in the east.

      Though one bus does use the busway from West Seattle and that’s the 50. But it turns left into 4th Ave, then uses Lander or Holgate to get to the busway. That might actually be a good path for WS buses to use the SODO busway.

    4. I’m assuming you’re asking why the buses can’t use the 1st Ave exit and continue on Spokane St instead of using the 4th Ave exit. I’m guessing the railroad crossing between 1st and 4th factored in the decision.

      1. Crossing those railroad tracks on S Spokane Surface Street would be a nightmare. I believe Metro is getting it right by using the 4th Ave S Exit from the Spokane St viaduct, painting the right lane red on the exit, and painting the 2nd lane red NB on 4th Ave S approaching S Spokane St surface street. There is an existing turn lane from EB Spokane St to NB E-3 Busway.

        Hopefully the 113, 121, 122, and 123 will approach this same routing from NB 1st Ave S Bridge, R on S Michigan Street, L on NB 4th Ave S (but requires skipping the four or five stops on E Marginal Way S near Federal Center South).

    5. The queue for I-5 northbound is 10-15 minutes long at most times now. The morning rush hour has basically expanded to merge most days with the afternoon rush hour. Once the viaduct is closed too, that will get drastically worse. On recent weekends when I’ve had to drive north, either to I-90 or northgate from West Seattle, even google maps has recommended getting off on 4th, up to its I-90 ramp near the stadiums. Basically, no one uses I-5 from West Seattle anymore–it’s too crowded.

  2. I want to just commend Metro for doing an excellent job of conveying the changes. The maps are very easy to read and understand.

  3. I don’t understand the deviation from other, more-established alternative routes and then laying down the red bus lane paint with abandon. Why not follow the regular 21 route to 3rd and Main and then down 4th/1st? 1st avenue in Pioneer Square is already a disaster, what with half the street torn up for indefinite work on the CCC (which will run far longer than this project) and gameday traffic already ruining this area.

    These alternates look like desperation, when the right answer isn’t in the routing, but in the way the routes are implemented on the street.

    The 50 and its stop at SODO light rail will likely become popular alternatives.

    1. @Adam S,

      “The 50 and its stop at SODO light rail will likely become popular alternatives.”

      Bingo, during the last viaduct shutdown bus ridership went down and Light Rail ridership went up. I’d expect the same pattern to hold this time. Any ability to access LR and/or transfer to LR outside of DT will be extreamly popular.

      Metro really needs to ensure that more people can access the LR option, because rail and the water taxi will be the only modes unaffected by the increased congestion.

    2. … thus prebuilding ridership for West Seattle Link, which will have approximately the same alignment.

  4. :

    “In Alaska, she also worked as a baggage handler for Wien Air Alaska in St. Mary’s and was a dues paying Teamster.”

    So let’s start the Question None of The Seattle World either Wants to know or isn’t too chicken to ask:

    Has the Mayor ever personally met with anybody remotely connected with either Metro, Sound Transit, or on not getting fired for tardiness? Because only massive lane-priority will keep civic rigor mortis at bay untilll ’til ST-3 is finished.

    Let alone keep the city from choking to death on its own exhaust and spilled fish truck fumes. Beyond important to the ONLY thing: Make Official Seattle give transit transit the priority it needs to allow and encourage motorists to ride buses to work. And t
    o refute our Chief of State’s saaaad, Unfair, and FAKE opinion that fossil-fuel fumes are how life got started on Earth.

    Does STB have to file with the State to be a lobby? Or even better join the Teamsters- which could maybe give the ATU a overdue example. Maybe a ceremonial motorcade eastward to exhume that great retired Teamster’s Union leader Jimmy Hoffa from his resting place inside a highway pillar.

    Because to maintain your reputation as a Teamster, somebody spits in your eye and it’s only good manners to wash their face with your handkerchief, before politely continuing with the discussion. Sort of like the coveted “Rescuing A City From Its Own Transportation Department” badge. Everybody in the Local, please rise and say “hi” to the Mayor.

    Mark Dublin

  5. Think largest convenience counter-force to jam-ups will be most office work going digital. Also meetings, from corporate to doctors’ offices. For years. Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) enables things being designed in Seattle and produced in (you name it.)

    Same with schools- been there, still doing that. So city reality might already have changed so much that large number of digitally-driven workers won’t travel to work by car at all. Freeing up much street space for faster-moving buses.

    For the buses themselves, we already have ways to increase speed and capacity without much extra capital. Example: Especially where we’ve got reserved right of way, run buses in “platoons” (no, not camo colors for “branding”- necessarily).

    For once “accordion” effect- buses increasing space between them as they accelerate- might really help keep the bus-lanes clear. Coupling tempting- but for buses running most of their route on streets, needlessly complicated modifications.

    And while we’re putting fare-collection off-board let’s put similar “saved” column for every simplification. One, forget distance, subarea, or agency – which regional transit’s original objective was to eliminate.

    One electronic ticket for one month, or other space of time, each one an emphatic Proof Of Payment for whole system. Like an amusement park or museum. Special adjustment for age or income- put it in the Cloud.

    But what would more than save what they cost. Improved signaling to adjust speeds and keep intersections clear. However, underneath the equipment, serious attention to driving skills and attitudes.

    Over 28 years, DSTT lost enough money through wasted operating time (could somebody please create a special balance sheet column for that one) to possibly pay for this whole exercise. And all the fare collection the system needs:

    (All you BRT enthusiasts: Curitiba, Brazil. Read it and pick your favorite route for Seattle. But think if Madison is wide enough)

    Point isn’t exact copy, but idea that shelters can be simple, tough and comfortable, And able to have a turnstile at the door, Would save a LOT of fare inspection related delays.

    So we’ve got wherewithal to get buses moving like we need, with neither complication nor disruption. But Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel experience proves one thing. It’s your operators, supervisors, controllers etc. that make the system work. Or also not.

    Just use it, Metro, just use it.

    Mark Dublin


  6. Clarification question: Was the estimated 24-minute traverse of SoDo for the interim pathway via 4th, or for the permanent Alaskan Way + Columbia Street routing? I’d wager anyone that the interim route will take more than 24 minutes northbound in the mornings. Probably closer to 45 minutes. I’ll be thrilled if it’s 24 minutes after 99 to Alaskan Way reopens.

    Thanks for sharing these details. It is truly a looming catastrophe for all of us who commute from West Seattle.

    At least they’re making an effort, like the bus lane on the 4th Ave exit ramp, though I’ll be curious to see how that works once the buses also have to take an immediate right turn from the center lane of 4th onto Spokane. I wonder if the planners are aware how many SOV drivers regularly use that as a way to cut in line for I-5 NB, just looping down below to Spokane to use the last ramp that then zippers with all the Spokane viaduct drivers overhead. I’m sure that behavior will get magnified once the drivers try to adapt to their new reality.

  7. For the love of transit, such an easy fix. Let buses use the busway north and south. And since metro can’t wrap its small brain around that, have all WS buses stop at 4th and lander and let us transfer to rail to avoid any 4th or 1st Ave traffic. DUH!

    1. There is almost zero capacity on the light rail trains in the morning as it is… which is why Metro does not intend for any of the rerouted buses to make stops in SoDo even though they will ilterally be driving right past the light rail stations.

      1. Mickymse is correct. LR is very popular right now and is operating near capacity during peak-of-peak periods, but that doesn’t mean that Metro has made a wise decision in intentionally bypassing an opportunity for inter-modal transfers. In fact, Metro has made a horrible decision.

        Rail and water taxi will be the only modes not impacted by increased congestion. Denying commuters the opportunity to access a crowded, congestion free mode, while keeping them locked up on a crowded, congestion impacted, time delayed, and slower mode, seems like a highly questionable decision (to say the least!). We definitely need more transparency and accountability in the Metro decision making process.

        Additionally, it isn’t like ST won’t be making some changes on their end too. I’m sure they will at least be operating with reduced rolling stock reserves over this period.

        And let’s face it, if the buses were already out of the DSTT, rail would be operating more reliably and with quicker travel times through DT — effectively increasing capacity. And we might already have a turn-back line that puts the LR resources where they are needed.

        But hey, it’s Metro. They make a decision and leave the rest of us to scratch our heads. Same as it ever was.

Comments are closed.