Two of our most anticipated events of the year are coming up this weekend, providing Seattleites with a chance to celebrate transit and the start of spring. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the final bus will run through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel before it is handed over to Link light rail trains for good. Just under 36 hours later, the first buses will travel on the Swift Green Line in Snohomish County, bringing frequent service to a new airport and several suburban activity centers.
The celebrations begin at 11 p.m. on Friday, March 22 at the plaza atop International District/Chinatown Station, with photos and autographs available for members of the public. MEHVA, the historic bus society run by Metro employees, will drive a 1990s Breda dual-mode bus through the tunnel, one of 236 coaches built specifically for the transit tunnel before being converted for trolleybus use in the mid-2000s and retired in 2016. This particular Breda coach was preserved before the conversion and retains all of its original features, including the suburban-style seating with ample legroom.
The Breda bus will begin the last run through the tunnel with a northbound trip departing International District/Chinatown Station at 12:45 a.m. The bus will run through the tunnel and turn around at Convention Place before it heads back southbound and terminates at International District/Chinatown Station. There will be a few in-service trips on Routes 41 and 550 in the hour before the final departure, so keen busfans may also want to ride them as well before catching a Night Owl surface bus or finding another way to backtrack to the International District.
Once the sun rises on Saturday morning (if at all, given the weather forecast), the five tunnel bus routes with weekend trips will find themselves on their new surface alignments through downtown. Other changes to dozens of routes, as well as the implementation of all-door boarding on 3rd Avenue, will also take effect on Saturday. The full rollout of ORCA readers at 3rd Avenue stops will still take a few more months, so Metro will redeploy the tunnel boarding assistants at surface stops with their handheld readers to scan ORCA cards. The now train-only tunnel will re-open at 5 a.m. and operate with the usual frequency, though reliability improvements and other differences will take time to notice.
In the meantime, transit fans can also appreciate an adaptive re-use of another landmark with the grand opening of ARTS at King Street Station. The city-run program will convert the third floor of the station, previously slated for a street food market and other ideas, into an art gallery that is open to the public. The inaugural program is a showcase of indigenous artwork from various parts of the Pacific Northwest, which will run until August.
On Sunday, March 24, Community Transit will open its new Swift Green Line, the second bus rapid transit line in Snohomish County. The Green Line travels just over 12 miles from the Boeing Everett Factory and Paine Field in the northwest, through Mill Creek on State Route 527, and to Canyon Park in northern Bothell. Buses will run every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes at other times, and provide transfers to the Blue Line as well as other Community Transit routes.
The opening celebration, including music, food trucks, caricature artists, giveaways, and activities for children, will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at McCollum Park in Everett. U.S. Representative Rick Larsen, County Executive Dave Somers, and State Senator Marko Liias will also be speaking at the event. The first ride will depart with VIPs at 12 p.m., with later buses running on their usual schedule.
McCollum Park is accessible by the Green Line, as well as route 105, which functions as a local “shadow” along the entire SR 527 corridor. Route 109 is the best option for those coming from Sound Transit Express Route 512, departing from Ash Way P&R every hour on Sundays.