SLOW BUSES: What your King County Councilmember says

We’ve continued to follow up on the “bus crawl” – as at least one commenter called it – that’s been slowing Metro riders’ trips home to West Seattle recently. SDOT says it’ll try tweaking signal timing; Metro is reluctant to reroute. One voice we hadn’t heard from yet is that of County Councilmember Joe McDermott, the West Seattleite who represents this area (and beyond). He’s a member of the council’s Mobility and Environment Committee, which has a portfolio including transit. So we asked what he’s doing about it:

I’m both hearing about the problem from constituents and experiencing it myself. By all conclusions, it’s awful.

In response, I’ve been talking to Metro closely to elevate the issue and push for solutions. I’ve also kept in touch with Councilmember Herbold’s office since many of the solutions are going to require cooperation from SDOT. As a result, Metro is looking at several improvements and you can read more about them on their blog here.

As it has been explained to me by Metro, they looked at a few options when planning for the removal of the viaduct and the “period of maximum constraint” that we are suffering through now. Every route has challenges and made finding a predictable and reliable route difficult – whether it be contending with stadium event traffic, using the lower bridge and then risking delays due to boat traffic, or the current route which was better than other options but has clearly proven impossible on Fridays and challenging otherwise. You might remember Metro using 4th and 6th Avenues during the February shut down of the viaduct and I brought this up with Metro. They pointed out that in order to use the high bridge they need to go down First. If they use 4th or 6th Avenues outbound to West Seattle, they use the lower bridge. This worked during the closure in February because they had a special agreement with the Coast Guard not to allow boat traffic during peak bus commuting hours. Now, they can’t be guaranteed boat traffic won’t significantly delay their buses. Of course, we get that they are seeing significant delays anyway so that is why we are encouraging them to take another look at the options. There is also conversation about adding service to the 50 so that people might avoid the situation by taking light rail and then transferring to the 50 at the SoDo station.

Metro has assured us they are working closely with SDOT on solutions that will help improve the temporary route. The permanent route will avoid First Avenue all together by using Alaskan Way and the newly rebuilt Columbia Street, but that permanent pathway is scheduled to open in early 2020.

We will continue to work with Metro and Councilmember Herbold’s office/SDOT. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions and feedback.

He’s at

23 Replies to "SLOW BUSES: What your King County Councilmember says"

  • J August 7, 2019 (6:46 pm)

    I just wrote emailed him and asked if he could recommend to Metro that they add additional route 21 buses during this time, since that route also bypasses 1st ave. The problem is that it only shows up every 20-40 minutes.

  • John August 7, 2019 (8:00 pm)

    Metro is going to reroute West Seattle busses tomorrow for the Seahawks game off of 1st Ave.  Funny they can make that happen last minute for this event?

  • Roms August 7, 2019 (8:39 pm)

    So, basically he’s doing nothing about it. He also implied it’s mostly a Friday issue (“has clearly proven impossible on Fridays and challenging otherwise”), which is wrong. It’s every single day (except this past Monday) since end of June/early July.Also, route 21 does NOT go via the low bridge. It goes via the high one. So it is possible to reroute routes 21X, C, 55, etc., so that they take most of the 21 route.Also, Metro posted an announcement that all these lines WILL BE rerouted off of 1st tomorrow before and during the game.

  • Kyle August 7, 2019 (9:03 pm)

    Why can’t we stripe temporary bus lanes on 1st or wherever the interim bus route is going to be? Honestly, I’m just going to stop taking the bus and drive my SOV. If metro and our elected officials won’t prioritize transit they clearly want people to get back in their cars until they finish construction. They can say they want people to take transit but there action(or inaction) speaks much louder. Many folks will make the same choice between an hour and a half bus commute and 25-40 minutes by car. Please prioritize transit users if you want it to be a a viable mode of transportation during this time.

  • Matt P August 7, 2019 (9:19 pm)

    I don’t see why buses can’t continue down 3rd then move to 1st later as 21 and 116 do to take the high bridge. It’s a much better route.Oh, and there were 4 traffic cops at 1st and broadway and 99 today but they weren’t doing much. We were stopped at the light waiting to turn left onto 99 and none of the traffic was moving because of backups. This would have been the time for them to step in and wave us through but they did nothing until the light had already changed when one moved out into the intersection and blew her for us to go – uh thanks I guess?

  • Quora August 7, 2019 (9:46 pm)

    This whole stupid fiasco is a reminder about how difficult it is for elected officials to alleviate problems those that voted for them face. People’s lives are being greatly affected by this mess. Commute times are screwing up people’s working schedules and job obligations, people aren’t able to get back home to pick up their kids from childcare, we are spending less time with our families because of the transit time, and I worry that those that depend on timely public transportation for basic needs and services are the most affected and that is scary and it sucks. Just a really sh!&! job on everyone’s part.

  • dsa August 7, 2019 (10:01 pm)

    “… but that permanent pathway is scheduled to open in early 2020. …”  Thanks Joe for your lack of  attention to remedy these blocked intersections.  I refuse to write you, because that takes the discussion out of the public arena.

  • Trickycoolj August 7, 2019 (10:12 pm)

    The 50 should run every 15 min minimum. It baffles me why there is so little east-west service in and out of West Seattle. Everything is focused on downtown. Get a reliable East-west connection to light rail and people can commute both to downtown jobs and Tukwila and SeaTac Airport jobs. It would even provide simpler access to stadium events both in Sodo and UW. 

  • JJA August 7, 2019 (11:20 pm)

    Adding runs to the 50 and 21 seem like realistic, temporary, partial solutions. I tried taking the light rail to SODO in the evening, but the 50 I had planned to catch was running 25 minutes late so it would have taken another full hour to get home. I paid $9 for an Uber pool instead. 

  • Beckyjo August 7, 2019 (11:22 pm)

    I think Joe McDermott should hop aboard a route from downtown to West Seattle during rush hour, on a Friday during an event..

  • gh August 8, 2019 (6:53 am)

    Looks like it’s time to leave the city and set up our own public transit…

  • AMD August 8, 2019 (6:54 am)

    Did anyone tell him buses don’t need to take 1st Ave the WHOLE way to get to the high bridge?  Why can’t they take 3rd and then move to 1st via Holgate like the 21, 116, etc. do?  It does look like adding extra peak-hour 50s is the easiest solution.  It seems like the less creative a solution is, the more likely Metro is to actually do it.  I’m happy he’s talking to Lisa Herbold, but Durkan has given ZERO indication during her time in office that she will ever direct anyone to prioritize buses over cars, so good luck Lisa on getting the mayor to listen to you.

  • West Seattle Coug August 8, 2019 (6:57 am)

    Why 1st Ave at all? When the initial viaduct closure happened, I had a 56 driver go down 4th then get onto I-90/I-5 there at the stadium and use the WS Bridge exit. Easy peasy… and quick. Seems like a logical solution to me. Wait… we’re talking Metro here… never mind!

  • Em K August 8, 2019 (8:56 am)

    I would consider taking light rail to SODO station if the connection to the 50 was more frequent than every 20 minutes during commute times.

  • Alternate Buses August 8, 2019 (9:31 am)

    The 116, 118 and 119 are other options which avoid Pioneer Square for getting out of downtown.

    • Matt P August 8, 2019 (11:37 am)

      And 21 but not 21x for some reason making it not express at all.

  • B.W. August 8, 2019 (12:55 pm)

    I drive. Skipping the bus causes less anxiety and more time to get home and drink my craft beer.

    • Sam August 8, 2019 (3:43 pm)

      Which is clearly the type of behavior that is the actual source of the problem. It is waay too cheap and easy to drive in a city this crowded. When people in dense areas refuse to not be selfish, of course decent behavior has to be legislated.

      • J August 8, 2019 (4:12 pm)

        I rode the bus 10 years instead of driving, but a few weeks ago I started driving instead. I don’t care if I’m contributing to the problem. I’m not going to sacrifice my evenings anymore by taking 1.5-2 hours to get home every evening. It was killing my back and draining my energy. Since I’ve been driving, my commute has been under 25 minutes (SLU to westwood area), and I’m no longer ending the day feeling anxious and agitated.

        • Sam August 9, 2019 (11:15 am)

          ” I don’t care if I’m contributing to the problem.”Says it all. Welcome to the new America. Sad.

  • WSsince1990 August 8, 2019 (2:26 pm)

    The fact we’re told bus routes can’t and won’t change, but then–suddenly–the evening before a football game, we receive notification that routes will change for the Seahawks really shows where our leaders invest their priorities.

  • Steve August 8, 2019 (3:36 pm)

    They’re friggin’ idiots that will study the problem to death and never do anything about it.  Adding more frequency to the 50 would be a good start along with re-routing off of 1st at least until Holgate.  And why is the Lander overpass taking what seems like forever?  This city drives me NUTS!!!

    • CAM August 8, 2019 (5:39 pm)

      I think the lander bridge is on schedule. It was always going to be a 2 year project. 

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