SLOW BUSES: Metro to move SB routes off 1st, onto 2nd/4th; plan for Dearborn demolition also announced

11:31 AM: Just announced to address the south-downtown slowdown: Starting September 9th, SB Metro buses will be moved off 1st and onto 2nd, connecting to 4th. There will be a “longterm stop on 2nd Ave Ext. S. between Washington and Main to replace the SB stop at 1st/King.” More details to come.

12:21 PM: Just leaving the media briefing downtown. Also from the announcement: Starting September 12th – the projected start date of the Dearborn section of viaduct demolition – NB buses will be rerouted too, though that’s only expected to last a week and a half or so.

During that time, NB buses that use 99 will take 4th Ave. S. with stops at Prefontaine Pl. and James St.

The permanent pathway for buses is expected to open around the end of the year, the SDOT and Metro reps at the briefing said. Meantime, we asked what took so long to come up with this solution – couldn’t the problem have been predicted?

Metro’s Bill Bryant said it really took summertime traffic to kick in before they realized things weren’t going well. As for the month-plus it’s taken to come up with this, he indicated that they tried hard to see if signal timing and other nonrouting measures would help enough … but they didn’t.

The routing alone isn’t the only change planned; SDOT’s downtown mobility director Heather Marx said there remain many “moving pieces” in terms of signal timing and even channelization changes. Today’s announcement notes that “Buses using 2nd Avenue to connect to 4th Avenue S. will have a second left-turn lane from Columbia St. to 2nd Avenue.” And on 99, for example, the NB bus lane that was in place pre-tunnel will be brought back, possibly in time for the end of the Dearborn demolition.

2:57 PM: Commenter Kyle asked about data. We in turn asked Metro spokesperson Travis Shofner, who replied:

These travel times are between 3rd and Columbia and Avalon St in West Seattle. Here are the scatter plots looking at the afternoon and evening rush (Limited data in these plots):

While we cannot promise that Fourth Avenue South is always going to be faster than First Avenue, riders should have a more predictable commute. From the data … you can see that First Avenue was sometimes the fastest option but also unreliable and inconsistent, with extended travel times for riders in the afternoon and rush hour. Second Avenue to Fourth Avenue South has less data, but in just one day of reroute, showed more consistency and was much more reliable without as many extended travel times. With SDOT improvements not reflected here, we may see those Second Ave/Fourth Ave S times improve.

68 Replies to "SLOW BUSES: Metro to move SB routes off 1st, onto 2nd/4th; plan for Dearborn demolition also announced"

  • Matt P August 29, 2019 (11:37 am)

    Woohoo!!!  I’m assuming this means both north and south bound correct?

    • WSB August 29, 2019 (11:47 am)

      This is for SB. Except for the Desrborn demolition Seot 12-21, which will have NB reroute too.

      • Matt P August 29, 2019 (11:53 am)

        Oh well, can’t get everything you wish for  I guess.

  • Meyer August 29, 2019 (12:09 pm)

    Am I the only that feels like the commute times have gotten better on the way home in the last couple weeks? I felt like out of nowhere about 6-7 weeks ago the buses crawled to a stop during rush hour SB but have since gotten much faster. This might reroute might be a little too late

    • Heather August 29, 2019 (5:16 pm)

      Good observation!  SDOT has implemented really aggressive priority for north/south traffic. It’s not great for pedestrians or easy/west movements.  I am relieved that Metro is moving onto 2nd/4th!

    • CAM August 30, 2019 (7:34 am)

      Agreed. I don’t get the reasoning behind the sledgehammer approach here. The current routing was only terrible for a couple of hours a day and that was only a serious problem for a short period of time while certain construction related reroutes were in effect that changed the traffic patterns in Pioneer Square approaching 99. Things have definitely gotten better since they reopened some of the east/west streets to Alaskan. Routing on 2nd and 4th will pose the exact same problems on game days and will not be any faster and adds in the problems of dealing with regular train crossings and trains blocking intersections for extended periods. Beyond all of that, this reroute slows down the travel time of the buses during all non-rush hour periods. So all those people who have intentionally flexed their schedule to improve their commute and lessen the crush of rush hour will now have worse travel times. Overall this makes things worse. 

  • Jort August 29, 2019 (12:14 pm)

    Wait, I thought signal re-timing was the magic ingredient?! What happened to signal re-timing and “asking for patience (but only from bus riders but not from anybody driving their car)”? I deeply dislike transportation officials shrugging their shoulders and saying “there’s nothing we can do.” There’s always something we can do, it’s just that political officials are unwilling to sacrifice car drivers’ feelings to make it happen. 

    • WSB August 29, 2019 (12:49 pm)

      One of the briefers said they squeezed everything out of timing they possibly could.

    • Gene August 29, 2019 (1:17 pm)

      Oh please.

      • SS August 29, 2019 (3:24 pm)

        It’s sad to me that so many people have moved to this region from car dominant parts of the country and instead of adapting their behavior to what is appropriate, most of them are just carrying on with car business as usual and complaining and blaming those who didn’t create this problem but are bearing the brunt of it.

        • CAM August 29, 2019 (5:54 pm)

          Wait, the people who lived here long ago and rejected multiple attempts to improve the mass transit system bear no responsibility for the current state of things? 

          • Mike Lindblom August 30, 2019 (10:11 am)

            This fallacy. Seattle-area residents haven’t rejected a regional mass-transit plan since 1970, in the depths of the Boeing Bust, before passing at least six major tax increases since 1996 and two city levies for streets and safety work (by far the highest transit investment per capita in the U.S.)  Even when Tim Eyman’s  Initiative 695 passed in 1999, and spooked lawmakers into cutting revenue sharing for bus funds, Seattle voters were on the pro tax side.  Voters did fail a couple measures for good reasons, but followed up with more increases.1) They said no to the Ballard/West Seattle monorail in 2005, after saying yes to monorails FOUR times, when the agency’s tax base of car tab taxes underperformed the estimates by 1/3.  The agency in June 2005 disclosed they would need a 50-year debt with only 1.1 coverage rate (w some junk bonds) to build the first line.2) In 2007 the region failed a “roads and transit” package, but in 2008 essentially the same transit plan won in the form of Sound Transit 2.  That sales-tax increase pays for most of the Husky Stadium-Northgate-Shoreline rail corridors now being built.3) A tax boost for Metro in 2014 failed in King County, because the agency was already prospering post-recession. The net loss was a relative handful of low ridership routes, and a year later a Seattle-only tax boost, voter approved, greatly increased Metro service in-city, while county funds rebounded.Where the longtime local residents (and some newcomers) hindered transit was the Seattle Process. We’re accustomed to struggling over every block of streetspace as transit lanes or tracks are proposed. The outreach can prevent blight or business closures (the Youngstown neighborhood is trying to resist ST3 destruction currently), and nearly always adds costs and delays. 

          • CAM August 30, 2019 (4:22 pm)

            Long ago wasn’t really referring to the past 20 years. Seattle did develop later than the East coast and Midwest cities with large mass transit systems but it did not develop 120 years later than them. The fact that it is only now starting to work on an effective mass transit system is overly late in the game and the traffic problems it is experiencing currently are its own fault. They aren’t the fault of people moving here in the last 20 years. 

  • Eugenia T. August 29, 2019 (12:18 pm)

    Thank you Metro!

  • Kim August 29, 2019 (12:31 pm)


  • Mj August 29, 2019 (12:35 pm)

    Trains could impact the new routing.  With no stops south of the last stop on 2nd will drivers be allowed to adjust route when trains impact the route?

    • Peter August 29, 2019 (1:58 pm)

      Incorrect. There are no at grade rail crossings on this reroute. 

      • CC August 29, 2019 (2:27 pm)

        8 routes cross Holgate when southbound.  

        • West Seattle since 1979 August 29, 2019 (5:12 pm)

          I thought the buses were using Edgar Martinez Drive, which is elevated?

          • newnative August 29, 2019 (9:08 pm)

            The bus I was on (57) was stuck on 4th Ave S due to a slow train and the residual back up. The reroute was slower to me. 

          • Matt P August 29, 2019 (9:13 pm)

            Nope.  Going to be fun when the train comes like yesterday when I left work early and met my wife at Costco but got stuck at the train trying to go home at 6.

      • Peter August 30, 2019 (9:44 am)

        My bad, I misread the map. Holgate is a very bad idea, hopefully they’ll have enough sense to just use Edgar Martinez. 

  • Conrad August 29, 2019 (12:45 pm)

    The temporary SB reroute is a great idea, but the new Pioneer Square bus location (2nd and Main) is terrible.  This is an major assembly location for homeless drug addicts and will not be safe or hygienic for commuters.  Metro should consider Jackson and 2nd instead, which has far more commuter traffic.

    • H August 29, 2019 (1:31 pm)

      Just like my stop at 3rd & Pike 😕

    • Peter August 29, 2019 (2:02 pm)

      The Union Gospel Mission, which is an anti-LGBT hate group, is responsible for the unmitigated filth and crime in this area. In fact they encourage it. 

    • KM August 29, 2019 (2:21 pm)

      Ignoring the awful language and implications regarding our neighbors experiencing homelessness (jk, totally pointing it out), there’s already a bus stop at 3rd & Main which serves some West Seattle routes, and as a 5-way intersection, it is virtually the same block as where 2nd Ave Ext. & Main (assuming the stop is closer to Main than Washington, and not mid-block). Perhaps Metro feels that the 2nd Ave Ext. and Jackson stop is already too crowded since it already serves as a stop for 19 routes?

    • Hoku August 29, 2019 (3:45 pm)

      Sorry. The 3rd Ave S & S Main bus stop has been scarier than 3rd Ave Pike/Pine the last 2+ years. So bad that area business owners asked if they should buy cameras to point at this stop to keep me safe (told them no because that’s not their job or responsibility). Stop at 2nd Ave Ext S between S Washington & S Main not so good. Might work if riders waiting there don’t give $ to those who ask and if SPD and Union Gospel Mission help to support METRO decision for this bus stop. 

      • WSB August 29, 2019 (3:55 pm)

        It was brought up at the briefing and the reply was that SPD and Metro Transit police would be paying attention (not the exact verbiage) to the stop.

        • Beth August 30, 2019 (1:43 pm)

          Tracy, what does that even mean?  Pay attention to the stop.  What after someone is stabbed? Spit on? Robbed. Let alone endure the crack/crank/pot smoking that takes place at this stop…daily.  The irony is many of King County employees use this stop. My head can not shake any harder.

          • WSB August 30, 2019 (2:21 pm)

            I’m sorry I don’t have the exact verbiage. While we recorded the briefing, it was held in a rather loud roadside spot and that doesn’t work for our equipment (a situation we’re going to have to work on).

  • Mj August 29, 2019 (12:57 pm)

    And on que Jort with an anti car salvo!  

    • DH August 30, 2019 (7:03 am)

      Impressive timing! 

  • Jort August 29, 2019 (12:59 pm)

    I’ve noticed that management of all stripes likes to use “many moving pieces” to describe situations when they’re in over their heads. To act as though this nightmare was not 100 percent predictable strains credibility. Jenny “I Love Cars” Durkan was too worried about histrionic Seattle Times comment section responses than the actual mobility and safety of people, and she made her plans for the “Seattle Squeeze” accordingly. Traffic will always be bad when driving a car alone is the easiest and fastest transportation choice to make. Change that balance, and you see results. This is not complicated and has been demonstrated to work time and time again in cities big, medium and small all around the entire planet. But, gee golly, with so many “moving pieces” gosh how can you predict anything, really? 

  • JCW August 29, 2019 (1:55 pm)

    And on 99, for example, the NB bus lane that was in place pre-tunnel will be brought back, possibly in time for the end of the Dearborn demolition.Wait… what?! That’s the one spot where traffic has actually cleared up a bit. 99NB has been relatively smooth since the bus only lane became an additional/non-merge lane. The busses coming off the WS Bridge no longer get stuck behind 6 cars trying to merge left out of the bus lane and the routes coming up from Marginal Way have had some breathing room to get over, instead of merging the opposite direction during the pinch point. Can Metro please just play with one lever at a time instead of flipping the whole table every time a change doesn’t go smoothly??

    • olivist August 29, 2019 (3:59 pm)

      Totally agree.  Bringing back the NB99 bus lane in favor of all traffic lanes where WSB joins NB99 will be a nightmare for everyone.   The buses have a bus lane on the WSB and NB99 to downtown exit which is where back-ups actually occur.  Absent an accident, buses are never stuck in the new NB99 all traffic lanes.  Adding back a finite “mandated” merge point will create a mess where there is nothing to fix. 

      • Sna August 29, 2019 (5:02 pm)

        Completely agree.  Forcing cars to merge there just slows everything down for both cars and busses.  

        • Jort August 29, 2019 (8:54 pm)

          Nah. If the car drivers don’t like waiting in traffic, then they can get out and start riding the bus. It’s pretty simple, really.

          • Canton August 30, 2019 (7:24 am)

            Driving if great jort, you should try it. Although, you would have to take the driving test and the written part is facts, not opinions. So you may have a hard time wrapping your head around that. Every civilization in modern history loves cars.

      • Roms August 29, 2019 (5:39 pm)

        Don’t forget that once the tolling begins, many cars will avoid the tunnel and thus take the same exit as the NB buses. Given that the number of cars is already high at this exit and at times backing up into 99, having a dedicated bus lane might help.

    • K. Davis August 30, 2019 (5:24 pm)

      I couldn’t understand from the post – is the idea that SDOT will bring back the NB bus-only lane on SR99 permanently, or just during the last of the demolition?  If temporary, ok.  If permanent – who do we protest to about this monumental stupidity?  

      • Pdxmark77 August 30, 2019 (5:32 pm)

        The permanent routing will be 99 to Alaska Way to Columbia and over to 3rd Ave. (both NB / SB)The plan is to have bus dedicated bus lanes including on Alaska Way.  (The bus lanes on Alaska Way is still a year away)All of this is temporary.

  • JW August 29, 2019 (2:06 pm)

    Maybe don’t do your traffic tests at the same time you’re doing major construction and have a lot of streets closed off. The traffic has cleared up a lot now that E/W facing streets are open.

  • Kyle August 29, 2019 (2:16 pm)

    Did Metro offer any data that the reroute will be faster? All we seem to get is anecdotal evidence. I’m assuming Metro tracks performance time for every route. I’m assuming this reroute will be slower than using 99 with no traffic, but faster than using 99 with traffic. I’m also worried about adding in the NB bus lane on 99 that was in place pre-tunnel. The bus lane caused traffic to back up on the clover on-ramp negating any time savings. Again, data on aggregate routes would help make an informed decision instead of randomizing everyone.

    • WSB August 29, 2019 (2:21 pm)

      Bill Bryant said in response to a question that they conservatively expect to save half an hour in travel time. I can ask about data.

      Meantime, just for the record, Metro has sent a digital version of the map so I’m substituting that for the photo I grabbed from the easel-displayed paper version at the briefing’s beginning.

  • Kyle August 29, 2019 (2:33 pm)

    Another thought..If the buses plan to go from Colorado Ave to Alaskan Way as depicted in the orange reroute (not sure on when they go which route)..why wouldn’t they go right on Alaskan and loop around to enter the 99 on ramp? Even better..why don’t we make this a temporary bus only route for entering 99? Buses could then get to use the high bridge and get the benefits of faster speed limits and no lights on 99 and the West Seattle bridge.

  • WSB* August 29, 2019 (2:34 pm)

    What a waste! The current route is so much faster than any of their old routes and it actually has good stop location that lots of people use. The need more stops in pioneer square for people and they just keep taking them away. 

    • WSB August 29, 2019 (2:51 pm)

      Asterisk added above as the commenter is not me or anyone else on staff.

    • West Seattle since 1979 August 29, 2019 (5:17 pm)

      They really do need more stops in Pioneer Square, especially downhill (not on 3rd).

  • Kyle August 29, 2019 (2:35 pm)

    Thanks WSB! Half hour per trip sounds great, but I’m assuming it’s different at different times. 

    • WSB August 29, 2019 (2:57 pm)

      Travis from Metro quickly provided some data. I’m adding above – should take just a few minutes.

      • Matt P August 29, 2019 (3:34 pm)

        Data looks reasonable although they didn’t take any on some of the worst days otherwise they scale would need to be increased to account for the hour+ rides that were happening.

        • Roms August 29, 2019 (5:43 pm)

          If they were to provide the data back to the end of June, that would not support the message that they were acting on it (since nothing really happened until August was well started).

        • newnative August 30, 2019 (8:49 am)

          Also it doesn’t factor in any travel time (backups et al) before Columbia. Sometimes the back ups start further north, making the travel time more like an hour and more. 

  • old timer August 29, 2019 (3:14 pm)

    Well, we shall see what happens when the busses stack up waiting for a train at Holgate.I remember the 21 @ Lander, with up to three 21s waiting for the road to clear.Lots of sit time.

    • West Seattle since 1979 August 29, 2019 (5:22 pm)

      Oh no, they really are going on Holgate—I looked at it wrong before, when I said they were going on Edgar Martinez Drive. You’re right, that’s going to be a nightmare, because there are often trains going through there. Why didn’t they take that into consideration?

  • Watching August 29, 2019 (3:41 pm)

    LOVE your comment’s Jort!! In past post’s you say you know all about traffic because you drive everywhere. Have you sold your car? 

  • AD August 29, 2019 (3:46 pm)

    It was my personal observation that the bus gridlock was far worse on the days where police officers were directing traffic. I’m sure they had their reasons, but it looked like they would ignore buses for 5+ light cycles while directing all cars through. Moot point now tho!

    • LS August 29, 2019 (5:05 pm)

      SO TRUE. I was just saying the other day when SPD is directing traffic, traffic is so much worse.  Sometimes they’re just standing there and not directing anything.  It’s actually comical watching it. 

    • Jort August 29, 2019 (8:53 pm)

      The reasons the police are doing that is the same reason you so rarely see traffic infractions enforced in Seattle: because Seattle Police, frequent drivers, themselves, think their primary job is to get cars through downtown as fast as possible. They have literally said they won’t write bus lane tickets because they don’t want to make traffic worse. Police would gladly direct 200 cars in front of a bus with 200 people on it, because they prioritize cars over transit. This is not complicated in any sense.    

  • GWS August 29, 2019 (3:54 pm)

    Bit of a confusing map, but I think I got it.  What, if anything, will Metro/SPD do about the never ending truck traffic tie-ups on East Marginal Way between Spokane St. and Alaska Way S?  It’s a popular ‘back way’ for traffic between W. Seattle/South Seattle and downtown.Second, the map shows Southbound routing of the W. Seattle busses using Holgate to 1st Ave. There is a grade crossing on this route and there are frequent backups on Holgate due to the train traffic.  Why didn’t Metro just use Edgar Martinez Way to get to 1st for these routes?

  • olivist August 29, 2019 (4:22 pm)

    @WSB – can you remind us who to contact about these changes.  (I know you’ve posted them repeatedly – thanks!)I’m really only concerned with the idea adding back the bus-only lane on NB99 which if I understand it would reduce the all-traffic lanes from three to two lanes and add TWO mandated merge points – one to get out of the bus  lane when merging from WSB to NB99 and another to merge from NB99 traffic lanes onto the Dearborn offramp.  I don’t think there is any question that by doing this SDOT and all would be creating massive traffic mess for everyone, including buses to fix something that isn’t broken. 

  • Gina August 29, 2019 (5:29 pm)

    Will these be bus only lanes during rush hour?

  • TJ August 29, 2019 (5:58 pm)

    When Jort says “change that balance”, he means socially engineer traffic so it is in purpose hard on drivers. Not letting the chips fall where they may and let people choose their transportation on their own life. But Jort isn’t just talking about driving downtown…Jort really wants cars to just go away in general, and uses carbon footprint and safety to try to push HIS agenda. Even in Seattle, the car culture is still dominant for many reasons 

  • D. Kilpatrick August 30, 2019 (11:10 am)

    Welp … that makes the 120/125 useless for me now. Guess it’s back to driving. Well done?

    • Mickymse August 30, 2019 (11:38 am)

      Care to elaborate how this change could possibly make the bus “useless” for you now? The only significant change seems to be moving the Pioneer Square stop. Unless you experience mobility issues, what is the problem?

  • WS_really August 30, 2019 (1:38 pm)

    Metro, I certainly hope the final stop will NOT push people further into the vile bowels of Pioneer Square, like you just did with this (#381) selection! At least the 1st & King/Railroad stop was clean and A LOT safer. Seems the majority of the people complaining are SOVs and So. Lake Union riders! They’ll complain, regardless because they are entitled to, right?  Additionally, we’ve endured the disgusting stop at 3rd & Main long enough. It’s appalling and dangerous. THAT stop should be moved.People,don’t get excited that you saved :15 minutes, because your experience while waiting for the bus is going to significantly change, especially when it’s dark at 5:00 and pouring rain, and you’re standing out there with addicts and drug dealers.  I put my personal safety alarm away when the 1st/King stop opened.  Now I have to dust if off again (this is no joke). It’s about to get real!  Safety? :15 minute longer commute? Safety? :15 minute longer commute?  Hmmm.

  • Pdxmark77 August 30, 2019 (5:35 pm)

    Something that no one has mentioned is that the city kind of wants Metro busses off 1st Ave.Quite a few operators are not moving over from the curb lane (the curb lane is off limits to busses) and damaging the the roadway.

  • SageK September 1, 2019 (3:10 pm)

    That first Northbound stop setup blows. A lot of people change to the C line at the first stop downtown. Now they have it spread out from the rest of the buses by several blocks, which is going to slow down people’s commutes. Even before the Viaduct came down all the West Seattle buses had the same first stop downtown.

Sorry, comment time is over.