After soliciting feedback last summer about a potential move to Yesler Way, Metro has decided to keep Routes 3 and 4 on James Street between 3rd and 9th Avenues:
We considered this change as a way for the routes to avoid traffic congestion near the James Street I-5 ramps, improving their speed and reliability. About half of those who responded to our survey supported the concept, but many people who work, live, or travel in the immediate area had concerns about how it could affect seniors and people with disabilities and/or low incomes who use stops along this steep section of James Street to reach housing and social and government services.
In addition to receiving public feedback on this concept, we also studied its feasibility and travel-time benefits, as well as the costs of improvements necessary for trolley bus operations along the Yesler Way routing. The study found some potential for travel-time improvement in one direction, but that improvement would not be significant for the routes overall, and would not justify the high cost of new infrastructure to support the change.
Though public feedback was in favor of the change, 53% to 40% (87%-13% from the Yesler Terrace Community Council), several organizations voiced concerns about access to services along James Street including municipal facilities and a food bank, that would be impacted. We wrote favorably about the proposal, which would have saved riders up to 4 minutes and improved reliability, and suggested some mitigation strategies for impacted riders.
Between the equity and access concerns and the high costs of trolley wire, Metro decided not to pursue it. Instead, they say they will work with SDOT and work with partners to “explore future large capital improvements to the James Street and I-5 interchange.” What that will look like is anyone’s guess, perhaps some kind of dedicated bus lane on James Street that skirts the I-5 queue.