STB has been on the 23rd Ave electrification beat since 2011, and the last update was via CHS in 2016, when trolleybus service was projected to begin in 2018. The street repaving and pole installation described in 2016 is long ago complete, and 2018 was a while ago, but Route 48 is, alas, still plied only by diesel hybrids. I contacted King County Metro for an update on this project, and here’s what I heard (emphasis added):

We completed the Alternatives Analysis phase of the project in Spring 2021 and are currently evaluating firms to complete the preliminary design. We expect to have a 30% design by Spring 2023 which will provide us with a clearer picture of the expected cost and schedule for the remainder of the project.

The current estimate for substantial completion is Spring 2026, subject to change pending the 30% design baseline.

The most recent project budget is $14.5 million, subject to updates and review after we are further along in design work.

The Route 48 Electrification project plans to install new trolley Overhead Contact System (OCS) infrastructure (i.e. trolley wires, poles, and switches) along two segments of 23rd Avenue and at the Mt Baker Transit Center. Each 23rd Avenue segment is just under a mile long.

The northern segment is between East Jefferson Street and East John Street and includes new northbound and southbound wire along 23rd Avenue, as well as new switches/turns between E Jefferson Street and E Cherry Street. The City of Seattle previously installed OCS poles along 23rd Avenue in this area, but additional poles may be needed to support the westbound right turn at the intersection of E Jefferson Street and 21st Avenue.

The southern segment is between S Dearborn Street and Rainier Avenue S and plans to include new wire and poles along 23rd Avenue, as well as new switches/turns at the 23rd/Jackson intersection. This segment will connect to existing trolley infrastructure on 23rd Avenue north of S Dearborn Street and on Rainier Avenue.

The project also plans to install additional OCS infrastructure at the Mt Baker Transit Center to support Route 48 layover operation using trolley buses. The existing Mt Baker Transit Center currently only has one trolley bus layover space, but the Route 48 needs at least three layover spaces. Therefore, additional trolley layover spaces will need to be provided within Mt Baker Transit Center.

In followup questions, Metro indicated staffing constraints were the primary driver of this schedule. Funding is $9.7M federal (CMAQ and formula money), $1.8M state (WSDOT Green Transportation grant) and $3.0M local.

Obviously, I’m happy that this project is advancing, and I appreciate the efforts of staff to keep it advancing despite the many other calls on their time. A delivery date of about four years out does not spark joy, however. This really is not a big project, especially when considered in the context of Metro’s commitment to 100% clean energy by 2040, which will require siting and constructing numerous bus charging facilities across the county. It seems to me that if our local agencies were as invested in the clean energy transition as our elected officials claim to be, this would be a project that happened in months, not years.

67 Replies to “Route 48 Electrification Expected in 2026”

    1. No. As I said below, Metro renewed the trolleybus fleet in the 2010s but opted not to expand the route network. The 48 is being added because 90% of the route is already wired, it’s part of the 23rd improvement project, and when the decision was made the 48 was considered a high-ridership route. (Although the 48-45 split later showed there’s more ridership on the 45.)

      The 8 could be wired on Denny, but its MLK segment is so low-volume I don’t see it happening there. The 8 is expected to undergo several changes according to Metro’s 2016-2020 long-range plan. (The current plan is not online so we can only guess.)

      A. Move the east-west segment around Seattle Center further north. Other Queen Anne routes like the 2 are expected to use this new segment. I think the 2 and a route from Magnolia would go through the segment the Denny I-5 bridge, Aloha Street, and Garfield HS.

      B. Reroute the eastern end to Madison Park. This is to replace the 11 when RapidRide G starts. The G will go from 1st to 29th. The 8 will go the rest of the way. The 2 is proposed to be rerouted to Pike/Pine-12th-Union to replace the 2, 11, and 49. A north-south route from the U-District to Beacon Hill is to replace the north-south part of the 49 and the 60.

      C. The MLK segment will be turned over to another route or left empty. The LRP suggested a short route from Madison & MLK to Mt Baker station.

      So it’s unlikely the 8 will be wired. And certainly not until all these issues are settled with the RapidRide G restructure. Will the Smith Cove-Madison Park vision of the 8 be adopted? Will the Uptown routes move to north of Denny? Will an I-5 bridge north of Denny ever be built?

      1. I agree with Mike. If the 11 was wired, then I could see the new 8 being wired, (from Madison Park to Uptown) but that isn’t the case.

  1. $14.7 million dollars to build just two miles of trolley wire like lot, especially given that only one bus route gets to use it. However, if the figure also includes the purchase of several new trolleybuses, $14.7 million starts to look a lot more reasonable.

    And, of course, there’s still the elephant in the room that even after the project is complete, route 48 will still be run by diesel buses 28.6% of the days, due to Metro’s blanket refusal to run any trolleybuses on weekends.

    1. I’m not sure why they switch to diesel for all the buses on weekends. I don’t think that used to be the policy. They have an RSS feed ( to tell folks when a bus goes from trolley to diesel, and basically it just says “all trolleys will be replaced by diesel buses this weekend”. That seems like overkill, and it seems like the RSS feed is largely pointless now.

      I can only speculate. Maybe it just became too much of a hassle to manage. Can all drivers drive all the different types of buses? If not, then this adds another level of complexity.

      1. All drivers start on diesels and are trained on trolleys if they pick work that uses them.

        A driving factor of weekend dieselization is that it simplifies maintenance. If the whole system is not in use on weekends, the whole system can be maintained without impacting operation. That adds flexibility and safety for maintainers.

      2. That makes sense. Sort of like how a lot of subway systems are maintained at night. If you run late in the evening, it is much more costly to do maintenance. Likewise, I assume that bus maintenance is a lot easier as well. Trolley mechanics just work weekends, and they know they can work on the entire fleet; scheduling is trivial.

        My guess is it is all of these things put together. It is just more consistent. They don’t have to worry about the temporary outage (caused by construction, a festival or whatnot) along with these other benefits.

        I wonder if they could get by with just being out for one day, especially if they are more comfortable running on battery for short sections. That would mean that a detour is no big deal, and they can still run the same buses. They could still get all of the advantages of having the entire system down for a day (to work on the wire, or the buses) while reducing in half the number of diesel buses substituting for trolleys.

      3. I thought it was more about maintenance of the wire system, rather than the buses themselves? I’d imagine the buses are worked on 5 or 7 days a week, as the trolley fleet would include hot & cold spares.

        I’ve wonder why the wire system cannot be depowered in sections, but I’ve assumed there are technical reasons why not. For example, north Seattle can have trolley buses run on odd numbered weekends, while south Seattle can have trolley buses run on even numbered weekends.

      4. I thought it was more about maintenance of the wire system, rather than the buses themselves?

        I think it is. I just think you also benefit from having an entire fleet available to mechanics who work just on those vehicles.

        I’ve wonder why the wire system cannot be depowered in sections, but I’ve assumed there are technical reasons why not.

        I think you can; it just gets more complicated. It is really about simplicity. Instead of having to deal with this section over here being rerouted (because of a farmer’s market, or a festival) and that section over there being worked on (because the wire needs replacing) you just assume that the entire wired network is down on weekends.

    2. That looks grossly inflated if the budget is just for electrification. Real life examples suggest a maximum cost of $2.5m per mile, including substations. But are substations needed in this case? Two short gaps are being filled in an existing network, so there may not be a need for additional substation capacity.
      Maybe some of the budget is being used for other construction works being done at the same time along the route.

      1. That does seem likely. SDOT has done that with bike projects (inflating the stated cost as it includes utility work that would have to be done eventually anyway).

    3. I remember the Bredas when they went in to the original Convention Center portion of the Bus tunnel. They had areas where they could raise their poles without getting out of the bus. That was before computer controls. Springs, pneumatic controls and ancient relays used to raise and lower the poles. That was all mechanical and probably very complicated to maintain. They drove in diesel mode all the way through the Ave to downtown.

      They also had painted areas for drivers who were trained to make this work. They drove to a certain exact spot that was painted and raised their poles. That was is 1990. So it can be done now.

      Thirty years later we have busses than can drive through an area of dead or turned off wire on their batterry. But if they have to detour to another street, they still have to lower their poles, drive away on battery power and put them back up. It still takes planned areas that are set up to raise those poles without the driver stopping, securing the coach, getting out and maunally raising the poles. While customers wait. Making it easier to raise the poles after a street detour is important and maybe part of the solution to have weekend trolley service. That is where the improvements need to be to made to make this situation more convenient. In my opinion.

      1. In order to raise the trolley poles without getting out, they need to have pans on the wire at that location. Last time I rode route 1, they went through downtown Seattle with the poles down, then put them back up around Denny. Apparently there’s a pan on the wires there.

      2. The pans look fairly simple to add. You have a little bit more dwell time, but not much, really. I could easily see this working for minor changes with very little effort.

        One example where this would make a lot of sense is the RapidRide J. This is a modification of the 70, in that it turns on 43rd, instead of Campus Parkway. This means adding wire. Making matters worse, it is quite likely the wire is temporary. It really doesn’t make sense long term; either the bus should turn earlier (following its current path, more or less to the U-District Station) or it should keep going on the Roosevelt couplet past the Roosevelt Station (the long term plan). But because they ran out of money, they can’t do the latter. For now, the bus should just run off wire between Roosevelt and the layover. It would disconnect at the last bus stops on Roosevelt. It would connect again at the layover (where there is wire) to recharge. Then it would do the reverse. At worse you have a longer wait at the bus stops on Roosevelt (a few seconds, really) — which is no big deal.

  2. @asdf2 that “blanket refusal” is not Metro’s choice. There are weekend events and construction outside of KCM’s command that require buses to be rerouted.

    1. Yes, but weekend events and construction do not force reroutes in every single bus route, every single weekend.

  3. Is trolley wire infrastructure becoming outdated? What happened to Metro’s plan to buy electric buses?

    1. It’s more environmentally sound than batteries. Batteries are an inefficient method of electricity storage. They’re heavy RapidRide G couldn’t get battery buses suitable or Madison’s steep hills so it fell back to hybrid much of the energy goes to moving the battery. They require rare-earth minerals, some from authoritarian countries like China and Russia. Even non-rare mining is environmentally damaging, and leaves a wasteland and pollution behind. Trolleybuses can climb hills better.

      Metro renewed its trolleybus fleet in the 2010s so it will be around long-term, but it decided not to expand the route network. The 48 is an exception because it’s part of the 23rd improvement project and it’s already 90% wired, and when the decision was made it was seen as a high-ridership route. (But after the 48-45 split, it turned out there was more ridership on the 45, so that calls that into question.)

      Metro is still planning to replace its entire non-wired fleet with battery buses. A substantial part of its sales tax is reserved for that, and I think the state is contributing to it. I don’t remember the timeframe.

      Metro is also planning to retire its existing buses early to become all-electric sooner. I think that’s a mistake because frequency and coverage is more important. If frequent buses attract more people from their cars, that’s a bigger environmental benefit than the buses being electric. We can phase out fossil-fuel buses at the end of their life.

      1. This reminds me, I would think that of all routes, Rapid Ride G would be trolley bus, since the battery electric option didn’t work out, and a lot of infrastructure money is being put into the corridor, and by design as BRT the busses are supposed to never leave the bus lanes. Was it ever seriously considered, or was hybrid simply the “least path of resistance” fall back?

      2. I think Metro tried, but couldn’t find anyone willing to make buses that both ran on trolley wire and had left side doors.

      3. Yeah, that was it. The plan was for it to be wired the whole way. When that fell through, they went with diesel-electric. My understanding is that the company that makes them would actually build them, but not for such a small order. The buses will run often, but because they are fast and the route isn’t that long, there won’t be that many of them.

        I could see this as a future project though. Eventually the existing trolleys need to be replaced. If we buy a bunch with doors on both sides, they could be used for any route (you can just ignore the doors to the left). At that point, wiring Madison would make sense.

      4. Thanks, that makes sense.

        If Rapid Ride G proves popular and the model were to be used elsewhere in the future, there might be more opportunity for a larger volume purchase.

        SDOT was the lead on the G Line. The same ETB vendor provided new ETB for both Metro and SF Muni. The artic ETB provide power to one axle and neither agency uses them are very steep grades. In the streetcar era, the very steep grades use the counterbalance or cable cars. The vendor could have provided a standard ETB with left side doors for the G Line; standards can climb the grade. SDOT wanted artics to allow bikes on board; that may have shorter dwell time. So, the two agencies went for hybrids; it is odd to run hybrids under the overhead.

    2. Yes, but is it still the best when installing just two miles of wire costs $14.7 million and, even with all that money, 20% of the trips will still be running on diesel, as if the wire were never built.

      $7.5 million per mile of trolley wire seems extremely high. I would expect completely tearing up and repaving the street to cost about that much. Overhead wire should be cheaper than that.

      1. This may be on the expensive side, but it still probably pays for itself, in fuel savings as well as lower maintenance costs.

      2. According to OneBusAway, the route 48 midday fleet is about 7 buses. At $1m each, the cost of replacing the entire fleet is still less than half the cost of installing the wire. This will not pay for itself, not even close.

        The fuel and maintenance issues of diesel will also be avoided anyway with battery buses.

      3. The fuel and maintenance issues of diesel will also be avoided anyway with battery buses.

        Fuel yes; maintaining wired buses is still significantly cheaper than maintaining battery electric (which is why we haven’t converted).

  4. Does this dovetail with any discussions to move buses from the Mt Baker Transit Center to a layover spot more underneath the Link station?

    I’m never sure if Metro would move the transit center, even though it’s been discussed. It’s one if those “good ideas” that remain elusive from ever getting seriously designed and built.

    1. The Link station certainly isn’t going to move, so the transit “center” should, in order to deliver buses directly to the station.

      This has the side benefit of opening up a prime opportunity for transit-oriented development to address our urgent housing crisis.

      This all seems blindingly obvious, yet this new plan (which I am otherwise enthusiastic about) oddly doubles down on the current transit center. The problems in this area (long discussed on this blog ( are generally evident enough that there was political will to fund an “Accessible Mount Baker” plan, but that plan seems to have omitted the long-suggested removal of the transit “center” and direct Link station access for the 48. It would certainly be more accessible if all people transferring between Link and Metro 48 at Mount Baker didn’t have to scramble across a busy wet road in the dark.

      1. Yes, the new proposal to replace the UW laundry building looks like it would deep six any Mt Baker Transit Center relocation. It is very unfortunate.

        I refer to the earlier Acessible My Baker scheme as the “not any more accessible” Mt Baker scheme. It forces messy bus movements at the station but doesn’t change a thing for walkers between the TC and station.

        It’s a shame too. The current transit center site could become a perfect housing site.

      2. What’s happening to the laundry building? I thought UW abandoned it and it was going to be TOD or something and a possible place for the transit center. Is UW reclaiming it? Or something else going in?

      3. The transit center is mainly just a place to park the buses. It would be better if they parked next to the train, but I doubt it would make a big difference in terms of transfers. The main transfer we are losing with the poor station location is with the 7. That isn’t going to change.

        You do have a few transfers to Link from other buses — but my guess is not a lot. If you are headed south from the 48, you just make a same-bus-stop transfer to the 106, unless you are headed really far south (and there aren’t that many doing that). You do have folks going up to Beacon Hill though, so there is that. You also have the 8, but rumor has it, the southern part isn’t long for this world. There is the 14, which doesn’t make a great connection to the 106, so it could definitely be improved by ending closer to the train. It would likely be better if the buses all laid over by the train, but I doubt it would make a difference for that many riders.

        Then you have the issue of bus travel time. It isn’t clear that getting next to the station is any easier. If it is harder, it wouldn’t make much difference for riders, but could impact frequency.

        It should be something they look at. The largest benefit would likely be the new development there. I assume the county owns the land, which means they would benefit from selling it. In that sense it is like the Aurora Village Transit Center — you get a lot of benefit from selling it.

      4. “The main transfer we are losing with the poor station location is with the 7.”

        The 7 has the best transfer at Mt. Baker, not the worst. Southbound, the bus stop is right in front of the station. Northbound, you can walk to the train via the bridge and avoid the stoplight. The 48, you don’t have any choice except to wait for the long light to cross Rainier, and you have to do it in both directions.

        The “accessible Mt. Baker” plan makes things worse, not better. It demolishes the ped bridge to make disability advocates feel better (if wheelchairs can’t use it, nobody else should be able to either) and makes you wait at two stoplights to cross the street. And, by the time the traffic engineers get through with it, those lights will inevitably be very long lights because minimizing car delay is a priority for traffic engineers and minimizing pedestrian delay is not.

      5. Dubman is correct again. Transit cannot be seamless; it has seams of distance, time, and information. Transfer distances should be minimized subject to the constraints of budget and rights of way. The ST budget constraint for the initial segment was so severe they would not straddle Rainier Avenue South and help pedestrians across it. With the UW laundry move, Seattle and Metro have an opportunity to reduce the transfer distance. There may not be space to lay all the buses over west of Rainier, but some could.

      6. It’s not even necessary to use the laundry facility property. Just turn 26th Ave. And Forest St. into a bus loop. The streets would be plenty wide enough if you get rid of the parked cars.

  5. Another downside of trolley wire that should be mentioned is that it limits Metro’s options for future service restructures. With few exceptions, a trolley route can never be extended, thru-routed with a nontrolley route, shortened, or moved to a different street without either the enormous expense of building/moving wires, or simply abandoning the wire and running a diesel or battery bus.

    For instance, a decision to make the 48 a trolley bus today could prevent the route from being extended northward or southward in 2050. The fact that the Queen Anne buses were made trolleys in 1940 is largely responsible for upper Queen Anne still having no bus to anywhere north of the ship canal.

    A battery system is so much more flexible, and in order for the hundreds of millions of cars in this country to become electrified, we’re going to need new battery technology that avoids rare earth metals anyway, which, of course, buses could use also.

    1. If the old LRP goes through as outlined we’d lose the 2N, 4S, 12, 43, and 47. The 2N would have a long unwired segment to Aloha and Garfield HS. The 47 would have a long unwired segment in 25-land. The 12 will be replaced by the G, which is non-trolley. The 43 would become a 19th-Aloha-23rd route, which would require wire on Aloha if it’s to remain a trolleybus. The 4S was going to be restructured away, although equity concerns have been raised. There’s also the 2S. I’m not sure if a couple blocks of wire would need to be installed for the Pine-12th-Union routing. Metro might install it or it might make the route non-trolley. I hope it keeps it as a trolleybus.

      The wire on 23rd would go from serving the 4S and 43 to the 48. (The 44 would still need it to get to its route.)

    2. Yeah, but you could say the same thing about streetcars, elevated structures or tunnels. In each case you have much more cost (moving surface rail is a lot more expensive than moving wire; building new elevated structures is a lot more expensive than moving surface rail, etc.).

      For that matter, every restructure has its cost — even if there were no trolleys in Queen Anne, it isn’t clear they would run the buses north of the ship canal. As of right now, crossing the Fremont Bridge is extremely congested. This is especially bad southbound. You don’t want to start a route with a delay. If and when they add the improvements to the 40 that should get better. There are other issues as well (such as layover).

      I would say the biggest problem with Metro routing and trolleys is the disinterest in running off wire. There may be some reason why they aren’t using this capability, but it seems like a weakness.

      1. Here’s an example of a service restructure that I would consider a no-brainer if there were no trolley wire, but Metro would never even consider because of the trolley wire:

        Extend the #13 past SPU, over the Fremont Bridge, and have it replace the #32 to UW. Then, reroute the #31 to use Dravus instead of Emerson, on the way to Magnolia, to maintain the Interbay->Fremont->UW connection. (During rush hour, some of the #13 trips would continue to end at SPU).

        Outside of rush hour, the #13 and #32 run at about the same frequency, so the change would provide a one-seat connection upper Queen Anne->Fremont->Wallingford->UW at essentially zero operating cost over the current network, leaving very few riders worse off. Occasionally, someone headed downtown might have to wait a few extra minutes at the bus stop due to a ship canal opening, but that’s no different from what people along Westlake or Dexter already experience, and it’s a tradeoff well worth it for better access to the broader city.

        What actually prevents such a restructure from ever happening is the trolley wire. Metro would have to either spend a huge sum of money building new trolley wire in Wallingford and over a moveable bridge, or abandon the exiting wire or give up and run the route with diesels. The happenstance routes of trolley wire from 1940 is dictating where buses are allowed to go in the year 2040.

      2. “Extend the #13 past SPU, over the Fremont Bridge, and have it replace the #32 to UW.”

        That would help replace the Queen Anne-UW express that once existed. A guy I once worked with lived on to of Queen Anne, and it’s ridiculously time-consuming to get from there to anywhere, especially if it’s not uptown or downtown. Another person who lived there said everything is accessible if you walk a mile downhill to Fremont. I worked in a house in upper Queen Anne near the 3/4, and it was a long way to get there from the U-District.

        I wrote an article about this once. Queen Anne’s Unique Opportunity. In 2013 when the Ballard Link corridor study was happening. “One of the alternatives Sound Transit is considering for Ballard-Downtown light rail has a tunnel under the middle of Queen Anne Hill with a station near Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street. If this option, or some variation of it, is selected, it would result in a 7-10 minute travel time from Queen Anne to either downtown or Ballard. That’s at least twice as fast as the current downtown buses, and would enable a direct connection from Queen Anne Hill to Ballard.”

        That would have solved Queen Anne’s access problems right there. But the neighborhood didn’t seize the opportunity and push for it; their feedback was mostly nimby (“No growth!”), and others pushed more for other things or lower cost, and the opportunity died.

      3. A Queen Anne tunnel and station would’ve been amazing! Shame there wasn’t more interest from residents.

      4. reroute the #31 to use Dravus instead of Emerson, on the way to Magnolia

        Yes! Absolutely. That is definitely a “no brainer”, and long overdue. For that matter, the 32 should also use Dravus, and go to Magnolia. I came up with a plan a while ago: This would dramatically improve things for people in the most densely populated parts of Magnolia, while asking only a handful to make an easy, same stop transfer. Yet Metro doesn’t do this. Why?

        The wire has nothing to do with it. There is not one inch of wire on these routes. You are giving the wire way too much credit; this is just institutional inertia. Agencies really don’t like to change routes.

        The specific proposal you have in mind (with the 13) would be way more controversial, and have way more negative effects than moving the 31 or 32. Metro isn’t eager to send the 13 into some of the worst delays of the city. The 13 gets way more riders per hour than the 31 or 32. It sucks that the 31/32 gets delayed so often, but delaying a bus with fewer riders is better than delaying one with lots of riders. The proposal you think is obvious is not, and would likely result in a lot of unhappy riders. It is the nature of any restructure — there are winners and losers. That is why it is tough to make the change.

        Consider the move of the 3/4 to Yesler. It required moving the wire, but that wasn’t the problem. It isn’t being moved because of community opposition. Of consider the 4 to Judkins Park. Metro has proposed moving it as part of the East Link restructure, despite being on wire. (Personally, I would just truncate the 4.) The point is, wire has nothing to with whether or not these routes are altered.

        Of course wire plays a part in the inertia, but as we’ve seen with buses like the 31 (which remains the same) and the 4 (which won’t) is that it is really a tiny issue.

      5. In order to connect Queen Anne to the north, either some bus route that runs from Queen Anne to downtown has to be extended (could be the 2, 3, or 4, not necessarily the 13), or a new route needs to be added that duplicates some existing route through Queen Anne. In terms of service hours, the former is more efficient than the latter, especially if it can also replace the 32’s connection from Seattle Center to Fremont (which includes several miles down 15th and Mercer that duplicates the D).

        One can argue about whether the route to be extended should be the 2,3,4, or 13, and about what it should do once it gets to Fremont (e.g. go to u district, Greenwood, Ballard, or Green Lake). I personally think the U district is best, but that point is debatable.

        What I don’t buy is the argument that Queen Anne has magically different transportation needs than other nearby neighborhoods, and that everyone goes only downtown, and nowhere else. Nor do I believe it to be good for the city to have a transit network that says “the bus is to go downtown, your car is to go everywhere else”.

        Urban Villages 1-2 miles apart (Fremont and upper Queen Anne) should be connected by bus that runs frequently, all day, and takes a direct route with no transfers. For longer trips (e.g. Queen Anne to Lake City), a transfer is acceptable, but it should be one transfer, not two, with both legs running frequently in a straight line down a direct route. I’m not even asking for a multi billion dollar rail line (though that would be awesome) just basic bus service. Yet, nobody at Metro even bothers to ask the question of what such a route would look like. Partly for reasons of inertia, but partly because adding new trolley over a moveable bridge is bound to be very expensive, and Metro does not have the capital budget for it, and switching from trolley to diesel would get lots pushback from neighbors who don’t ride the bus (or have no interest in riding the bus anywhere except downtown) and don’t want the noise or pollution of diesel buses.

        Realistically, the only way I see this issue getting solved is when the diesel buses become battery buses. At that point, Metro can propose extending routes to serve more neighborhoods without bringing out the NIMBY pitchforks. Inertia will still make it an uphill battle, but it will at least be possible.

      6. [Buses don’t go from upper Queen Anne over the bridge] Partly for reasons of inertia, but partly because adding new trolley over a moveable bridge is bound to be very expensive

        But mostly because of traffic around the Fremont Bridge.

        Look, there are dozens of restructures I would like to see. Most of them have nothing to do with wire. Just look at the Northgate restructure. The biggest improvement would have been sending the 20 to Greenwood. It wasn’t done, and this has nothing to do with wire. Yet they are messing around with the 44, making it do two extra turns, despite the cost of moving wire. This isn’t the only example. The biggest change created by the Capitol Hill Station was moving the 10. This was definitely controversial, and still is. This involved moving wire. Or how about the 62. It wasn’t moved because SDOT doesn’t want to mess with the pavement. (Maybe if the bus was lighter — like a trolley — they would have made the restructure.) There are a ton of potential routes that aren’t considered, in part because the neighbors don’t want a diesel bus there. It cuts both ways.

        But mostly it makes no difference. If Metro feels like the restructure is worth it, SDOT will move the wire. They have done it numerous times. If they don’t feel like messing with a route, they won’t — whether it has wire or not. There have been a ton of restructures over the years, and I can’t remember Metro ever saying “Yeah, that sounds great, but we won’t do that, because SDOT won’t move the wire”. At worse you have a delay, similar to the 62. The only example you’ve found is mythical — just because you want it, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Maybe it influences restructures, but again, the simple fact that we can’t remember a single example of that happening, yet can can find numerous counter examples just shows that it isn’t the big deal you think it is.

      7. A Queen Anne tunnel and station would’ve been amazing! Shame there wasn’t more interest from residents.

        It was quite popular, and had the highest ridership according to the studies. But it was also the most expensive option. They went with the cheaper alternative (which, of course, is much more expensive than what they originally planned). Oops.

      8. “The biggest change created by the Capitol Hill Station was moving the 10. This was definitely controversial, and still is. This involved moving wire.”

        The wire was already there for the 43 and 47. The only thing it maybe had to add was a turn from John to 15th.

      9. Here’s what I think should happen to the Queen Anne routes:
        #1: Delete entirely. South of Dravus, #32 will run via 15th, Gilman, and Howe, then run along the old #1 route to Seattle Center. Maybe even extend the #32 into Downtown. Obviously, move #31 to Dravus to provide frequent connection. Normally I would suggest having the #32 turning on Dravus and going via Dravus, 11th, Barrett, and 9th, but some of those streets might be too steep and narrow for a bus.
        #2N: Make the loop larger to cover part of the deleted #1. Convert to diesel route, through-route with #27 or #125. Renumber as #35.
        #3/4: Leave as is.
        #13: Upgrade to 15-minute frequency, through-route with #14.

    3. Your comments would have been fair in the past, but nowadays most trolleybuses are battery-trolleybuses using In Motion Charging. Even the current fleet has this function, though the off-wire range is only about 5 miles and, as others have already said, KCM is reluctant to use this function for regular service.
      Mostly in Europe, trolleybus systems are electrifying diesel routes which run, say 50%, under wires. The combination of batteries and the ability to charge while in motion under the wires enables the rest of the routes to run off-wire.
      New Flyer has upgraded the specifications of its trolleybuses to provide larger longer range batteries. If you look at specs tab in this brochure, you’ll see the battery range is now 22.1 miles for the 40′ trolleybus and 15.7m for the articulated version. This is ample to be able to extend existing routes or convert diesels routes that run substantially under existing trolley wire.

      1. the off-wire range is only about 5 miles and, as others have already said, KCM is reluctant to use this function for regular service.

        Which seems to be the biggest issue, by far. There are a lot of little changes that could be done without moving the wire, but aren’t.

  6. It’s great that this is finally happening, but why are we investing a dime in that Mount Baker Transit Center, which never served a single purpose other than banking some land, and should just go away and be replaced with something that better serves our needs, like TOD.

    The 48 comes south towards the station, and right before it gets there, waits to take a left turn to spiral into the transit “center”, which forces every person transferring to and from the Link station to cross the busy street. I’ve been annoyed with this every single time I come through there since the day that station opened in 2009.

    The 48 should pick up and drop off directly in front of the station (which obviously can’t be moved), and we should carve out whatever staging space we need from public ROW or via eminent domain if needed to make that happen. What are we prioritizing at Mount Baker now? It isn’t transit.

    For reference:

    1. It’s not even necessary to acquire property. There’s room for a bus loop on the street, you just have to be willing to get rid of the parked cars.

  7. Thanks Bruce. The slow implementation is frustrating. It was an SDOT project to be complete in about 2018 but SDOT leadership seemed to focus on other projects.

    Orr: Metro Connects is a bit short of a plan; it may be an unfunded dream. It does not have the technical rigor or the public outreach of a network restructure. There may be a three-stage public process around the G Line restructure. During the reductions exercise during the great recession, the public and Virginia Mason rose to defend Route 2. The bus lanes on Spring Street help it. So, do not bank on the planner notion of Route 2 shifting to Pine Street. Route 12 could reach the Seneca Street overhead without any new wire. Yes, the best course for MLK Jr. Way between Madison Street and South Plum Street may be no service at all; it is four blocks from 23rd Avenue.

    Yes, Route 8.11 was proposed with U Link and not advanced; too bad. There seem at least two reasonable Route 8 outcomes: Route 8.11, between Uptown and Madison Park; or, Route 8 (original), between Uptown and 16th Avenue East. Madison Park might have another non-radial service at the Capitol Hill station. The planner notion of Route 8 shifting from Denny Way may not survive analysis and the public process, given the density of Belltown.

    Yes, note that the U Link restructure on Capitol Hill was much less successful than that north of the ship canal. Link is more powerful than folks expected. It seems a network weakness when frequent routes miss short transfers (e.g., G Line, outbound J Line, routes 11 and 20).

    Relative to battery bus, the electric trolleybus may still have operational and cost advantages. The BEB has range issues, especially at times of temperature extremes. In the short term, the hours used on routes 9 and 29 seem like they could easily be shifted to clean electric trolleybus. The G Line will unfortunately use hybrids.

    If South Henderson Street had overhead, Route 48 could extend to Rainier Beach Link station and Route 7 be truncated at Mt. Baker.

    1. I actually wonder about assigning both Route 7 and 48 service to Rainier between 23rd and Henderson. Route 7 could operate as is, but some of its ETB fleet would be assigned to Route 48 runs instead and those could connect to Rainier Beach Link. That enables the badly needed SE Seattle to CD direct connection. Routes 7 and 106 already provide too much service north of 23rd and the opening of Judkins Park Link will draw more riders away north of there.

      1. Bonus points for them renaming Route 48 as Route 6. That would put Routes 6/7 south of 23rd and Routes 106/7 north of Mt Baker TC! It’s a pretty intuitive numbering.

    2. “Metro Connects is a bit short of a plan; it may be an unfunded dream. It does not have the technical rigor or the public outreach of a network restructure.”

      It’s the only thing we have. Before Metro Connects there was no full-network vision, we had no idea what Metro planners wanted longer-term, and every district restructure was in a vacuum. Metro Connects shows which nodes Metro wants to connect to each other, and which tradeoffs Metro planners thought were best at the time, or they put in for the public to consider. Even if the ultimate result differs in details, it still shows generally what Metro is trying to do, and which destinations are most likely to be easy from any given point.

      I don’t think the full extent will be fulfilled. I’ve always thought the new Aloha corridor and the Lakeview-Fuhrman (25) restoration would be the first to be eliminated in a tight budget. Now that Metro is in a tight budget, Seattle’s TBD is smaller, and the Metro Connects levy is still unscheduled three years before the 2025 milestone, I suspect they’ll never see the light of day. The Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route (Ballard to Lake City) also seems speculative. The 20 corridor superceded earlier plans. Part of the problem is we’re going from an old plan, parts of which are superceded, and parts that will probably be superceded, but it’s the only network-wide starting point we have.

      In the 2012 C&D restructure, the 2014 cuts, and the 2016 U-Link restructure, the biggest opposition was splitting the 2. In the U-Link restructure, the second-biggest was deleting the 12.

      In RapidRide G and U-Link, Metro and SDOT had incompatible visions of Madison service. SDOT preferred an all-Madison route. Metro preferred a Madison-Broaday route. Metro would have created a G to Capitol Hill Station or maybe further to the U-District. SDOT wanted a G to 23rd, MLK, or Madison Park. In the U-Link restructure as a precursor to the G, SDOT wanted an all-Madison 11 to Madison Park, while Metro wanted to reroute the 49 to Madison instead of Pike-Pine.

      What ultimately doomed these was opposition to modifying the 2 or 12, and hesitancy to modify the 11. So the 11, 12, and 49 were left as-is.

      BUT, with RapidRide G there will be new pressure to get the 2 off Seneca. Metro is consolidating routes to more widely-spaced corridors, and the 49-2-12-3/4 on First Hill are too narrow, as are the 1-2-3/4 on Queen Anne. The opposition to restructuring the 2 is really a few loud squeaky wheels. And the 2N has less ridership so there’s reason to downgrade 6th Ave W to coverage status and consolidate the frequent resources to the 13, which is within the walkshed of 2 riders and a pretty flat walk.

      However, the Pine-12th-Union route is still just a preliminary idea, and who knows how strongly Metro will pursue it. The 2 also gives front-door service to Virginia Mason hospital, which is important for disabled patents.

      Another issue in U-Link was East Olive Way. I and others were hesitant to remove frequent service from a high-ridership, high-pedestrian area, and urged Metro to move the 10 to Olive. Metro finally agreed and did so. But when the new routes started, many 10 riders switched to the 11, which remained on Pine Street. So the move may have been a mistake, and future restructures might shift some hours back from Olive to Pine.

      Metro Connects and other Metro restructures plan to wire Henderson Street and reroute the 7 to Rainier Beach Station, and abandon the Prentice segment. The 48 could just as easily use this.

      Earlier plans, including Seattle’s 2012 Transit Master Plan and the early years of the 2016 Metro Connects, replaced the south part of the 7 with the 48 (a 23rd-Rainier route). There was a lot of controversy over whether this was better or worse for Rainier Valley. Later SDOT and Metro turned against it, and decided to keep the 7 and 48 as is. So doing as you suggest would reignite that controversy, and I don’t know where it would land.

      Another option would be to extend the 48 to Rainier Beach on MLK, replacing the 106. That’s what it used to do for some years before Link. But that would run into opposition by the loud ACRS activists, who want an MLK-Rainier route, and are the main reason the 106 was extended from Mt Baker to Intl Dist to replace the 42. The 106 is also pretty successful, in connecting Renton to Rainier Valley, and Rainier Valley to Little Saigon, and providing ultra-frequency north of Mt Baker. Metro’s long-term plan, which many STBers have clamored for, is an MLK-Boren route to SLU. That would also serve part of First Hill and southwest Capitol Hill, where there’s currently a transit gap in the northwest-southeast axis. That would probably disconnect MLK from Renton though, which would be unfortunate.

      I’m not looking forward to losing the 11. It’s the most useful east-west route if you live in southwest Capitol Hill or the mid-Madison area: it goes to Westlake, Trader Joe’s,. Madison Valley, and Madison Park, and is a short walk to Olive/John destinations. The 2, 8, 10, 12, and 49 are less useful because they don’t go to all those areas, and instead go to lesser-used destinations. it’s a pity the 11 isn’t the most-frequent route, and that it will be lost to the G and the 8-Madison.

      1. I do think some changes are more likely than others. I think having the 8 take over the eastern part of the 11 is highly likely. Moving the 2 at that point would also make a lot of sense. Not only do you have better coverage (by moving the 2 away from the G) but you backfill service on Pine (to 14th).

        Other changes become more controversial, although I think they are long overdue. Straighten out the 60, and combine it with the 49. Run this bus (call it the 49) opposite the streetcar. That solves your last mile problem to First Hill, which means you can get rid of those express buses that go there. With the 49 no longer going downtown, you can resurrect the 47, run it every 15 minutes, and expect to get good ridership.

        Another significant change is to extend the 106 on Boren, and send it South Lake Union and Uptown. Sending the 8 to Madison Park means you lose service on MLK. I would backfill it with a branch of the 27 (called the 37), thereby giving riders on most of Yesler double the frequency, while connecting Yesler to MLK (albeit every half hour).

        That leaves the 12. One option would be to just eliminate it. That leaves a bit of a service hole, but not a huge one. Another would be to extend the 47 east, eventually on Aloha, to 23rd. Along with moving wire, hardening the street, adding bus stops and all that, you would have to find a layover around there.

        I could also see the 12 being kept, but following one of two routes to downtown. One would be similar to today, but it would only be on Madison for a couple blocks; it would turn onto Pine, following the same path as the 2 to downtown (here is a map). The 2 and the 12 would be paired up (running 10-15 minutes) giving riders double frequency on Pike/Pine to 14th. Another option would be to have the 12 follow the 10 downtown (like so). Again, I would synchronize the 10/12, running each every 10-15 minutes, but giving riders double the frequency much of the way.

        These options would cost money, but not a fortune. Even before the pandemic, Capitol Hill was underfunded, given the performance of the routes. But more than anything, Seattle needs to find a way to fund its transit system. If we can fund multi-billion dollar projects like West Seattle Link, and a second tunnel downtown (that will make transit worse for a lot of riders) we should be able to run buses through the heart of the city more often.

      2. “Straighten out the 60, and combine it with the 49. Run this bus (call it the 49) opposite the streetcar.”

        The plan also includes turning on Broadway-John-12th so it wouldn’t serve First Hill. This is to meet a longstanding request for service on 12th. It’s down a steep hill from lower Broadway so average people would not be able to get to the hospitals with this. Lower Broadway is to be served exclusively with the streetcar.

        I assume you oppose this? I have serious doubts. I don’t think this is the way to serve 12th. A lower-volume route would be more appropriate. Maybe the 27 could turn north on 12th and go to Capitol Hill Station and Westlake? Would that be too convoluted? I can’t think of what other route you could pull. The main routes from Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley should not be diverted to 12th, so what’s left? The 106? But we want it on Boren. Well, there is the 9, but hospital workers wouldn’t like that, and its hours will likely be taken for other routes.

      3. I would love to see service on 12th, but I don’t think it makes sense to move the 49 there. There is inadequate service on Broadway. We have only so many streetcars (and buying more doesn’t really make sense). The overall streetcar route is poor, but the section on Broadway is good. By sending another bus there, you have adequate service there (e. g. 5 minutes all day long).

        I could see sending the 12 down 12th. It would start on 19th and dogleg over (either using Madison, or Thomas/John. The bus would keep going, maybe up to Beacon Hill, or to Mount Baker Station. That would be very different, and my latest maps take a more conservative approach.

      4. The biggest problem with the streetcar is it terminates at Denny and turns at Jackson, so it’s useless for a large cross-section of north-south trips that cross those boundaries. When I talk about two transfers within two miles being unacceptable, a perfect illustration is transferring to the streetcar at Denny and from the streetcar at Jackson. That’s not necessary now but it might be if the streetcar were the only only transit between Denny and Jackson. And the fact that the streetcar is so short on Broadway means it can’t contribute to the anemic frequency for north-south travel. It’s only useful for short trips that terminate or turn at 12th & Jackson. There are some trips like that: I take it to Thanh Vi or to walk to Goodwill, or from Uwajimaya to Pine. And it fufills its original purpose of getting Sounder passengers to First Hill. But a proper grid should focus mostly on north-south frequency over all of Broadway at least, and preferably UDist-Broadway-Beacon or UDist-Broadway-Rainier, and treat Broadway-Jackson as a secondary corridor or skip it. Instead we make the primary corridor Broadway-Jackson by putting a streetcar on it (and lowering the frequency and span on Sundays), and secondary north-south service on the 60 and 9, instead of the other way around. Broadway RapidRide, anyone?

  8. Much needed step towards electrification. Disappointing timeline. Thanks for the update.

  9. This can all be boiled down to one thing — local elected officials in Seattle and KC are all talk and no action! King Co. Council Members droll over themselves along with agency people at Metro over electrification but they don’t advocate for expanding routes on the wire! Metro hates the wire and only goes along with it because Seattle owns it and pays for it. To put it mildly SDOT officials are just about the most inept government officials we have they mismanage every major project and can’t deliver on almost everything they’ve promised. Seattle City Council Members are so micro focused on human services they let SDOT get a pass. The wire is city owned and city driven – it’s the city folks that need to drive this and the short answer is they don’t care the least bit about this issue so it’s dragged out over a 10+ year timeline. Wake up people and educate yourselves about this rather than postulating about things you don’t know anything about!

  10. The 48 Southbound is supposed to start at the University Heights Community Center. But at least since October it has started by the Burke museum. Metro says this is because of construction at the University District light rail station. This doesn’t make sense to me as the 48 doesn’t go by the light rail station. What is the deal with this reroute?

    1. I’m not exactly sure but some of the Northgate Link rewiring around U-District Station is unfinished and several routes are on temporary routing. I think some routes are stopping eastbound on 45th that won’t ultimately. The last time I was there a couple months ago the next-arrival display at that stop was still in testing, so that may be related.

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