Buses only sign on Columbia Street (SDOT)

On February 22, twelve routes from West Seattle and Burien will begin using the new Columbia Street transit “pathway” to reach Downtown Seattle. These routes (RapidRide C Line, 21X, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125) carry a combined 26,000 daily riders and continue south via Alaskan Way to State Route 99.

In the year since the viaduct was permanently closed, these routes have shifted between two corridors through Pioneer Square and the stadiums, but they will now have a permanent home on the waterfront. A new set of bus stops on Columbia Street to the east of Alaskan Way will be served by all twelve routes, restoring much-needed year-round bus access to the Colman Dock ferry terminal that has been absent for several years.

Changes to lanes on Columbia Street (SDOT)

The pathway has a set of continuous bus lanes in each direction and non-bus lanes for westbound traffic. There will be several points where turning traffic will be forced to merge through the westbound bus lane to reach marked turn lanes, but eastbound bus lane should remain unimpeded. The street has been entirely rebuilt by SDOT with concrete pavement and improved underground utilities to serve the waterfront redevelopment project.

Bus lane painting and other late-stage work began on Monday and is set to be completed within a week depending on the weather. The city plans to open a set of bus-only lanes on Alaskan Way between Columbia Street and South King Street by late 2021, while the waterfront promenade is still scheduled to be finished in 2024.

25 Replies to “Columbia Street busway opens Feb. 22 with stops for ferry riders”

  1. I like those bus left turn lanes from the right (UW has one for the new 255). It forces a bus-only lane and a dedicated signal, *and* eliminates the need for buses to weave through lanes of traffic to turn left.

    1. The tradeoff, of course, is time waiting at the signal. Hopefully, they have this light timed so buses won’t be stuck waiting a full (2-3 minutes) signal cycle to make their left turn every time.

      The good news is that SDOT appears to have used a far-side bus stop, rather than a near-side bus stop at 3rd/Columbia. A near-side bus stop would have caused big problems where buses waiting for the light block the bus stop, preventing buses behind them from opening their doors. Thankfully, SDOT avoided this.

    2. This is good for kidney transplant good for kidney transplant folk who use the Swedish hospital off Columbia street in Seattle.
      Pete Harrison

  2. Any word on whether there will be any NB and SB stops in the vicinity of Jackson St.? If not, folks working/living south of Yesler are going to have substantially further walks than under the current routing.

  3. I think this is a great project!

    I am concerned that all of the routes listed above appear to head up or come from the Westlake area. I’m not seeing these routes headed to or from King Street Station, the stadiums, the King County buildings or Harborview. Am I missing something?

    1. Yes, these routes will not serve Pioneer Square or SODO, just like they have forever with the exception of the temporary Pioneer Square stops on their temporary route (the one that takes 60 minutes to get to SR99 from downtown at peak).

      So heading to these stops will require a transfer to another bus or Link (Link doesn’t work well at all during Connect 2020, but buses on 3rd ave come every few minutes nearly all the time).

      Harborview always required a transfer to the 3/4 unless you’re up for a hike.

      1. Yeah, this pathway gets close to restoring what transit access from West Seattle looked like with the viaduct for better (faster and more reliable access to the downtown core and points to the north) and worse (need to backtrack to the stadiums and ID). The fact that the buses are entering downtown at Columbia St rather than Seneca St means access from West Seattle to the County buildings and Pioneer Square is a fair amount better than it used to be.

        For what it’s worth, the 21 has and will continue to take 1st Ave through Sodo and by the stadiums and King Street Station, so you can take/transfer to the 21 if that routing ends up being quicker for you than backtracking from downtown.

      2. I suspect it will last about a week before they add a stop at Jackson St. The temporary King St. stop is very popular.

      3. Welcome to Seattle and the “Seattle Whine.” People complained up a storm when they lost their normal routing and had to get used to a temporary routing, and now they complain up a storm when the buses go back to the normal routing and they lose their “temporary” stops.

        Expect the city council to weigh in on this injustice any minute now.

        Oh, and by the time the Columbia busway opens Connect 2020 will be almost over.

      4. People would have wanted a stop in Pioneer Square a long time ago but it wasn’t possible when the buses took the viaduct.

      5. I think we see why Metro was reluctant to open the temporary Pioneer Square stop in the first place. It worked well, but only for the temporary routing, and inevitably when it goes away, lots of people will complain.

        Seems to me that Metro should be thanked for doing people a favor when buses were at its worst, rather than complaining that your bus won’t go to the front door of your destination. It’s not that hard to take two buses, especially when you have perhaps the #1 most frequent bus corridor in the state to fill in the gap.

      6. It should be noted (as it was above) that the reason why stops were not provided in the Pioneer Square area previously was that it was a viaduct. Further, in the Waterfront Seattle documents, a stop is provided at Jackson St. So, it appears to be the intent of either Metro or SDOT to provide West Seattle-Pioneer Square access. While the 21 does provide access, it only provides access from a subset of West Seattle and does not include the Admiral, Fauntleroy, Delridge, etc. neighborhoods. The only real question is if this stop can be provided as work is continuing in the area.

      7. Alright Lazarus and Alex, calm your judgey selves down a notch. I know I’m not the only one who has never experienced these busses using anything other than the PSQ stops. Lots of people move around the city every year.

        Here’s how the changes will affect my commute, for example. Currently, I leave the house by 6:13, walk five minutes to my bus stop, then get off at Jackson around 6:23-6:26 where I walk five minutes to my train, boarding at 6:35 to Auburn. I get off and walk five minutes to work, at my desk by 7:10 reliably every day. It’s actually quite nice, even if it is a little long. On my way back home, I walk like two minutes to the 2nd and Main stop and because I’m the first stop off the bridge I can take pretty much any bus that comes.

        With the new configuration, I’ll have to leave the house by 5:45 or sooner to catch the 5:50 bus Downtown to make it to my train via a three seat ride, or a twelve minute walk. My commute is increasing by 50% (in both time and number of transit vehicles) with this change between the backtracking and infrequent/slow 21 bus that happens to drop me off either 20 minutes early or three minutes late today. It’s not “waahhh, this isn’t dropping me off at my front door.” This is a real disruption to many people’s lives (which honestly just means I’ll have to start riding my bike to the Sounder year-round again, but honestly it was nice to live in a city where I didn’t have to rely on a bike to fill the transit gaps for once in my life).

        Additionally, as Mike Orr mentioned, the new waterfront boulevard plans have a stop at Jackson. We can’t have a sign version of that now just because there’s no transit lane on Alaskan Way? Or what?

      8. Is there really going to be no stop in the Feb 22nd routing, or are people making too many assumptions. I’ll ask Metro when I have time but maybe somebody can confirm it in the meantime. Just because the Viaduct routing didn’t have a Pioneer Square stop doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be one going forward.

      9. Anthony,

        Fair point about the judgey tone. That was uncalled for. In any case, I do acknowledge that it is a disruption to many people’s schedules.

        I do see that your case in particular is a more unusual than most, so it’s harder hit. It seems more a result of the weirdness of Sounder, since it only has one downtown stop and only a couple reverse peak trips. That is annoying. That said, one hour is quite good for a trip like that. Suburban bus trips can easily become a 3-bus, 2.5 hour ordeal, especially if you’re heading to a not-quite-downtown part of Seattle.

        I wasn’t quite sure where the freeway part of 99 ended, but it from how it looks it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to add stops on 99 at Jackson Street, so maybe we should fight for those when the bus lanes are complete in 2021 (why so long?).

      10. Alex, I appreciate the apology for tone – I know we’re all passionate and we want what’s best for the city, so I know that wasn’t coming from a bad place. I am an extreme example because my timing is based on the Sounder. It’s still a 15-minute backtrack, and I feel like adding a stop would still serve the SLU and Downtown folks well with a minute or two delay. The re-built Alaskan Way has bus stops planned at Jackson, but it’s not clear if the intention is to add those stops with the bus only lanes in 2021 or if those will not be active until 2024.

        Mike, the graphic that’s on the KC Metro website and circulated by their Twitter account does not have stops identified on Alaskan Way. If the intention is to have stops, they haven’t been advertised in their press material.

        I just *gasp* drove down Alaskan Way tonight, and it looks like maybe the construction fencing is blocking a potential NB stop, and that may be why there’s no interim stop on Alaskan? Which, I wouldn’t advocate for keeping the 1st Ave routing because I remember during peak hours it’s a nightmare, that wouldn’t be equitable when there’s a better route available.

    2. One reason I made my comment was because I’d rather see the FHSC terminate at Colman Dock rather than run on First Avenue. The FHSC could continue on Jackson and use waterfront bus lanes (tracks added), and end on a new stub track or a loop track in the parking area. That would provide a waiting streetcar for exiting ferry riders that goes to the Stadiums, King St Station (connecting to Link to the south or East better or to Amtrak/ Sounder, to First Hill hospitals (admittedly slowly).

  4. “The city plans to open a set of bus-only lanes on Alaskan Way between Columbia Street and South King Street by late 2021, while the waterfront promenade is still scheduled to be finished in 2024.”

    That’s my main question: will they really be able to keep the boulevard open throughout construction with major projects on every block along both sides of it?

    1. Why didn’t they just do the bus lanes while this was closed for “9-12 months,” which became 13.5 months?

      It’s only taking them two weeks to put paint on Columbia Street.

    2. Because they were demolishing the viaduct and a heavy piece of concrete might have fallen on a bus.

  5. Alaskan Way NB gets pretty backed up in the morning. I’m not sure this route will be faster than the current 1st Ave alignment since they re-timed the lights. It would be nice to get a temporary NB bus lane on Alaskan. The evening commute will be a huge improvement though.

  6. Via 56/57 Google says it’s about a 27 minute trip to Admiral (although my wife says its closer to 40 most days). Anyone have a guess at what a trip time with the new alignment might be?

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