FOLLOWUP: Metro monitoring bus frustrations since 1st Avenue move

(Framegrab from WSDOT camera looking south over new exit ramp, February 2018)

The viaduct-to-tunnel transition has meant big changes for people riding Metro buses between West Seattle and downtown, and the changes aren’t over yet. After the Alaskan Way Viaduct was permanently closed in January, the buses that used it moved to the first phase of interim pathways until the new Alaskan/Dearborn ramp opened. Then, the buses moved to the second-phase interim pathway – 1st Avenue. Starting with Metro’s service change this Saturday (March 23rd), Pioneer Square stops are being added, as reported here Tuesday. But riders have observed – often in comments following our weekday transit/traffic coverage – that the absence of a stop is far from the only concern since the ramp opened. So we asked Metro what they’re doing about the new concerns. Here’s how spokesperson Torie Rynning answered:

Travel times are better than during the viaduct closure, but not as good as the viaduct travel times. We’re still monitoring the travel times and the new bus stops on 1st Avenue should help customers. Our interim pathway is on 1st Avenue to avoid the direct effects of the ongoing viaduct demolition and upcoming waterfront construction. As you know, once these projects are completed, Metro will move permanently to using Alaskan Way (and Columbia Street) to get into and out of downtown for West and South Seattle transit service. There will be a bus lane in each direction 24/7 between Dearborn Street and Columbia Street on Alaskan Way, and on Columbia Street from Alaskan Way to 3rd Avenue.

The longstanding estimate for how much longer that would take has been “9 months to a year” (as shown here) – we’ll follow up to see where that stands.

P.S. If you have something to say to Metro – about this, or something else – here’s how.

35 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Metro monitoring bus frustrations since 1st Avenue move"

  • Bus traveler March 21, 2019 (7:11 pm)

    Thank you for the update! This information is really helpful as the new exit is a bottle neck lately and seems to get worse by the day. 

  • Barb March 21, 2019 (7:18 pm)

    It has been frustrating with funneling the buses through Pioneer Square.  During recent rush hour (between 5 and 6pm) its been adding 20+ minutes for the C to get from 3rd and Seneca to the new on-ramp.  What will it be like for when the Mariners have home games or Saturday when the buses are kicked out of the bus tunnel.  Is there some reason they can’t use the Busway.  There’s  been numerous 55 cancellations today as well. 

    • Bus rider March 21, 2019 (8:47 pm)

      During the 5 o’clock hour, my bus took 13 minutes to go from 3rd & Columbia to the Hwy 99 ramp. 

      • J March 21, 2019 (10:24 pm)

        Same thing happened around 3:30 on the C. It took 10-15 minutes. Not fun when standing and hot

    • Blithe March 22, 2019 (10:32 am)

      Why are 55 and 56 being canceled almost every day this week?

      • James March 22, 2019 (12:11 pm)

        I second this question – route 56 and 57 service has been an issue these last couple days

      • NH March 22, 2019 (5:45 pm)

        Agreed. 57 as well, both officially canceled or just no shows. This week has been bad!

  • NW March 21, 2019 (8:37 pm)

    Is the route 21 a quicker trip into downtown or taking a 50 then transferring to light rail during peak travel times?

    • ScottA March 22, 2019 (5:43 am)

      With buses out of the downtown tunnel after today the speed and reliability of Link trains should improve. I’d certainly consider transferring as you suggest with the 50 but I suspect it would still be a little slower compared to just staying on a bus for 10 minutes. If timed perfectly I’d guess the transfer would be a wash but then consider the 50 makes quite a few stops on it’s way to Sodo station.

    • CAM March 22, 2019 (12:50 pm)

      Because of the bus lanes on 4th, the 21 during peak am commute times makes pretty good time. I’ve got a bit of a walk to get to it but I would estimate that when I take the 21 in the morning it is about 20 mins from 35th and Avalon to 4th and Jackson. Light rail is a good option too but I would not recommend taking the 50 all the way around SODO to get to it. I’d get off whichever route I chose at 1st and Lander and then walk over to the SODO stop from there. That’s going to save you some time over sitting on 1st which can be a parking lot. It depends on how far you are going past downtown. If you are stopping in downtown then the light rail probably wouldn’t save you any time because you’d spend that time getting to the station (either on foot or bus) and then waiting for the train. The C and other routes on 99 are going to be faster than either option above, it just depends on where you are trying to get to. The new stop in Pioneer Square should save a lot of people a lot of time commuting. 

  • Nick March 21, 2019 (8:52 pm)

    I honestly thought the 120 route in the morning was better when it used the busway. 

  • Ktrapp March 21, 2019 (9:49 pm)

    The 21x feels a bit faster in the morning than the pre-Viaduct closure, but the commute out of downtown at night is pretty bad.  It seemingly takes an eternity to get from 1st Ave to the on-ramp.  It seems like the timing of the light at the on-ramp could be tweaked a bit to help out.  While both sides of 1st Ave back up waiting for the light, there’s frequently no traffic on Alaska Way getting on the on-ramp, while they’ve got the green.

  • East Coast Cynic March 21, 2019 (10:04 pm)

    I thought the 21X was faster using the busway to downtown than the 1st ave/Pioneer Square traffic nightmare of present.

  • Stephen M March 21, 2019 (10:37 pm)

    Can we please move the buses back to 4th Ave or the busway (that’s why they call it a busway!). That alternative worked much better than 3rd>Columbia>1st>Dearborn

    • LaraG March 22, 2019 (10:58 am)

      ^^^Seconded!!  The routing on 1st is SO FRUSTRATING made even more so because it was an obvious and predictably bad option. 

    • Seabruce March 22, 2019 (4:40 pm)

      Hear! Hear! Don’t know why Metro doesn’t want to use the Busway at least for Rapid Ride and Express Buses. Maybe they don’t want them merged into one route leaving West Seattle for downtown? Could WSB ask Councilor Herbold and King County rep?

  • Pdxmark77 March 21, 2019 (11:48 pm)

    I’m on either the C or 120 almost everyday at around 6pm and 6am and never had any major problems getting through.

  • West Seattle since 1979 March 22, 2019 (2:52 am)

    I don’t care where it comes from, there needs to be some kind of stop on 1st Ave. The 21 local would be better, but there needs to be something. 

    • CAM March 22, 2019 (12:52 pm)

      The 21 stops on 1st in multiple locations as far north as Edgar Martinez for now until the Lander overpass is finished. 

  • AMD March 22, 2019 (6:29 am)

    What’s worse is that those of us who work varied shifts get to deal with the rush hour-like gridlock on Friday and Saturday nights as well while trying to get home from work.  The easier commute used to be the trade off for working those hours.  Not so much now…

  • FrustratedCommuter March 22, 2019 (6:40 am)

    Seriously, why isn’t RapidRide C using the SoDo Busway during the time of this squeeze?

  • Kyle March 22, 2019 (6:59 am)

    Metro never responds when you send them a just get a stock “we’ll consider it” from customer service with no follow up. The new bus stop on 1st Ave will actually make it slower for downtown customers (no all door boarding planned there). They painted a temporary bus lane for the viaduct closure, why not paint a temporary bus lane for peak times for this 9 month – 1 year detour? Why not re-time the signals in pioneer square to help traffic flow? Why not restrict left or right turns in pioneer square like they do on Denny to help traffic flow as well? Having busses wtih 100+ people sit in traffic with a wait and see if it gets worse approach doesn’t seem like a city trying to encourage transit usage. Perhaps I should go back to driving, where I can sit in my own car next to the bus in the same general purpose lanes.

  • admiraldon March 22, 2019 (7:09 am)

    Yes, seems to take much longer now with delays at first street.  Rode 56 multiple times.  believe it or not, still faster to drive at my commute times.would be nice if 128 would drop its last stop at the water taxi.  Much faster than the current bus situation.    The water taxi is faster than taking the bus so it would seem this would be a good place to get more of us going to.  However, getting there is not so easy.  Walking is healthier, but does not get me to work anytime sooner.  bikeshare is ok if there is a bike near you.  taking the water taxi shuttle takes just as much time as it goes the long way around Alki.  So far, sadly, my solution has been to drive. 

  • Theresa March 22, 2019 (7:14 am)

    To be honest in the morning the 21 local is nearly as fast as the Express.  Evenings on 21X are longer and taking longer each day.

  • Bus rider 2 March 22, 2019 (7:28 am)

    Riding the bus from 99 offramp to seneca has taken 20-25 minutes around 8:30am and same between columbia and on ramp at 5:30 pm. Having stops in pioneer square will help but i am not looking forward to game nights at tball stadium.

  • JayDee March 22, 2019 (7:58 am)

    I sure hope someone at Metro reads the WSB.

  • Ice March 22, 2019 (8:06 am)

    It seems like the time at which you take the 21x makes a bigger difference now. If I get on the bus before 7, it’s nearly as fast as it used to be. Even before 8, it still seems pretty quick. But, if I get on one of the buses after 8, it takes waaaay longer than it did before the viaduct closure. 

  • Joe Z March 22, 2019 (8:22 am)

    It seems like a big problem is that the Dearborn exit is designed with the idea that the majority of traffic will go straight onto Alaskan, which is a valid assumption for 1 year from now but not presently. Moving the buses back to the SODO busway (during peak hours only) will benefit both cars and bus riders. Make the switch Metro! 

  • Meyer March 22, 2019 (11:53 am)

    @WSB – What was the 9 months to a year estimate in regards to? According to this , link the Alaskan Way bus lane won’t be ready until late 2021.

  • Dave March 22, 2019 (4:02 pm)

    I ride the 57 every weekday @6:30 a.m.  I arrive at work the earliest I have in years.  The 57 home is about the same as before.  Everyone needs to remember we live in a larger city, there are gonna be delays.  Read a book,  talk to the person next to you.  Be thankful you get to work and home safely.

  • Kravitz March 22, 2019 (7:29 pm)

    For the folks that want to suggest changes, voice complaints, give kudos to your Metro drivers, or otherwise express concerns – please visit the Metro link that’s provided in this WSB post. I noticed someone’s comment above about hoping that Metro would read WSB, but they likely won’t. I just voiced my 2cents directly with Metro via the link within this post and it was very simple and they will assign you a claim/case number regarding your comments and will even respond to you (if you choose).  

    • Kyle March 23, 2019 (9:17 am)

      I wish Metro actually read those submitted comments..I’ve sent them one weekly giving suggestions on what they should evaluate to make 1st Ave better. You’ll get one response, that you can’t respond to, from a customer service rep saying they’ll take your comment under consideration. It won’t go to a planner or anyone with real power to make changes. Have had better luck having WSB talk to higher up people in Metro to let them know folks are unhappy.

  • DaPuffin March 25, 2019 (4:38 am)

    21x service early morning, as other have said is pretty good.  Return trips are more crowded and super slow on the way back to West Seattle.  That said, I’m hapoy every time a 21x arrives to take me home after the February snows, when they pretty much ceased with no notification from Metro.  

Sorry, comment time is over.