Rethinking Route 41

Metro Route 41 is one of the two most frequent routes slated to be kicked out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. The One City Center plan calls for it to live loop on Pike & Union. But why just there? During the peak hour, there’s enough runs and ridership to justify splitting it in two, decreasing the number of 41 riders who would have to transfer from Link.

I also think it’s possible to save driver hours in the process. Most passengers get off at the Northgate TC; if we run fewer buses to 125th, fewer buses have to sit in traffic on I-5 southbound from 130th.

To illustrate this, I’ll focus on the evening peak hour, as has already been discussed a bit in recent blog posts discussing the One City Center plan and alternatives.

Route 41 already has two different variants; the peak-only variant goes from downtown to Northgate as an express, stops at all local stops until 125th, and either returns to base or gets on I-5 southbound for another run (getting stuck in heavy congestion all the way from 125th). The all-day variant (including one in three runs during most of peak, one in four runs during the peak half hour) follows the same path but turns right at 125th to head to Lake City.

When I’ve ridden this route during peak, most riders disembark at Northgate TC; fewer than 1/3 of riders continue on. So we should be able to truncate half of the runs there, taking 5th Ave to the ramp on NE 75th St at 9th Ave NE (just like the southbound 41 does during the evening peak). To avoid confusion, this should probably get a new route number. The existing 41 would still have some runs that continue to Lake City and some extra peak runs that stop at 125th, just fewer runs than the new route.

So what about downtown? I’m less sure about that, but here’s a starting suggestion. One route would live loop in north downtown, perhaps using Stewart – 9th, entering the I-5 express lanes behind the Paramount Theatre. This would require a new peak-only stop on 9th somewhere near Pine St.

The other route runs would live loop in a different part of downtown, perhaps Union – 5th, entering the I-5 express lanes at 5th & Columbia.

The good? We get better downtown coverage, and probably save service hours in the process by improving the return path to downtown for service runs. The bad? Neither of my specific route suggestions is that close to Link. The 5th & Seneca stop is two blocks uphill.

Are there other downtown routings that would be better for this?