Reconnect West Seattle’s bus brainstorm proposed replacing some car trips traveling between West Seattle and Southeast Seattle with an alternative that would take up less road space. This market certainly isn’t well served by transit today. Witness Route 50:
The eastern half of this route used to head downtown as the 39, but this was redundant with Link. The 50 is now a milk run that provides East-West connectivity between the major corridors in both the Rainier Valley (Rainier, MLK, Beacon) and West Seattle (Delridge, 35th, California).
In theory, it also provides a coveted East-West Connection in one of the few southern corridors that can do this in a roughly straight line. Indeed, zipping along the West Seattle Bridge would have been time-competitive with driving. But instead, it takes a costly detour through Sodo for a couple of reasons:
- One of the themes of the post-Link restructure was providing better connections to jobs in Sodo, as Link reduced the need for direct service to downtown.
- Running on the high bridge, there is no transfer point to connect with the very high volume of buses on the busway. Riders on West Beacon Hill would have no easy way to access the broader system except to take a bus away from downtown to a Rainier Valley Link station. There is no straightforward way to get on the West Seattle Bridge westbound from Spokane St.
(Un)luckily, closure of the West Seattle Bridge resolves this dilemma. As Spokane St is now the fastest way across the Duwamish, it’s easy to intersect with a huge volume of buses to downtown and Sodo:
According to SDOT, roughly 9% of peak hour traffic on the 2019 bridge was headed for Southeast Seattle. A modified Route 50 could serve this demand better than the detoured alternatives, provide better connections to Southbound Link, and not compromise connectivity to Sodo and Downtown.