COLUMBIA STREET TRANSIT PATHWAY: Opening date announced for West Seattle buses’ new downtown corridor

The long-awaited opening date for the Columbia Street Transit Pathway has finally been set. Here’s the announcement just in:

For 26,000 daily bus riders on 12 routes, the Seattle Squeeze is about to get a little easier with the reopening of Columbia Street from Alaskan Way to Third Avenue on February 22.

That’s when King County Metro shifts bus service to a long-planned, smoother and more reliable transit pathway with bus lanes and key traffic changes designed and supported by the City of Seattle. The new corridor will have connections between Metro buses including the RapidRide C Line, the Metro Water Taxi, and Washington State Ferries at Colman Dock.

With the Alaskan Way Viaduct out of the way, we’re putting the finishing touches on Columbia Street, transforming the street to connect buses between Alaskan Way and Third Avenue – one of the nation’s busiest busways.

Opening Feb. 22, the new bus connection will be smoother and more reliable, bypassing previous freight train delays in SODO. New bus stops also will be within a block of Washington State Ferries at Colman Dock and the Metro Water Taxi at Pier 50, and buses will now carry riders from the waterfront to the regional public transit network and Link light rail stations in the heart of Downtown Seattle.

“The Seattle Squeeze has tested the patience and endurance of commuters, and this month we reach an important turning point – putting buses on a better pathway to and from downtown Seattle,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “A new hub of connections between ferries, water taxis, buses, and light rail within a few blocks make transferring easy, and will help keep people moving. Our partners at the city and waterfront have prioritized transit, helping make progress toward defeating the climate crisis and bringing more people closer to fast and reliable Metro service.”

For years, bus riders from Burien, White Center, and West Seattle traveled swiftly to and from downtown Seattle. However, the pathway relied on the seismically vulnerable and obsolete SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Since the viaduct closed, 12 bus routes have traveled on surface streets while crews demolished the viaduct and rebuilt Columbia Street for two-way bus operations. These routes – 21 express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, and the RapidRide C Line faced delays that peaked in summer 2019, prompting Metro and Seattle to temporarily shift outbound buses to Fourth Avenue to avoid major afternoon traffic delays. The two most popular routes on this list – RapidRide C Line and route 120 – carry a combined total of about 20,000 daily riders.

“During the Seattle Squeeze, residents from all over Seattle have chosen transit to help alleviate congestion. One of the most impacted neighborhoods is West Seattle, so this opening allows the start of faster and more reliable transit commutes,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Shifting buses to Alaskan Way and Columbia Street is an exciting first step toward the new waterfront optimized for transit.”

The project was funded in part by King County Metro, with $3.5 million in improvements on Columbia Street between First and Third avenues. Columbia Street between Alaskan Way and First Avenue was rebuilt as part of the City’s Waterfront Seattle Program and included new water and sewer lines, electrical infrastructure, drainage system, and a new street and sidewalks.

If weather permits, we will begin work to create a new bus lane on Columbia Street between First and Third avenues on Monday, Feb. 10. We will need to temporarily close some westbound lanes to complete this work, and once we are done, the new bus lane will remain closed to all traffic until bus routes change on Feb. 22.

The Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects is continuing to construct a new Alaskan Way from South King Street to Bell Street. The next milestone is opening dedicated, transit-only lanes on Alaskan Way between South King Street and Columbia Street by late 2021. Alaskan Way remains open during construction, with two lanes in each direction during the day. Closures, if necessary, will occur at night and on weekends and avoid major events. When completed in 2024, the new waterfront will reconnect the city to Elliott Bay for all modes of travel.

56 Replies to "COLUMBIA STREET TRANSIT PATHWAY: Opening date announced for West Seattle buses' new downtown corridor"

  • Bronson February 7, 2020 (2:48 pm)

    Does this mean they are doing away with the existing Pioneer Square stops? Seems like a good idea to keep a stop in the southern part is PS to service game day crowds.

    • Bronson February 7, 2020 (2:58 pm)

      of PS*

    • NotOnHolden February 7, 2020 (3:25 pm)

      I’m seriously going to miss the Pioneer Square stop BUT google maps says I’m only dealing with a 10 minute walk vs. my 3 current minute walk.  I can’t speak for folks that may have mobility issues.

    • CAM February 7, 2020 (3:33 pm)

      Nobody seems to like it when I say this, but the 21 is an excellent option for getting to the stadiums. 

      • KM February 7, 2020 (5:25 pm)

        Love the 21 to/from the stadiums. Easily transferrable from the C line! The problem is getting home from the games, SPD holds back busses for 10-20 minutes to allow for cars to come out of the parking garages. *sigh*

        • Jon Wright February 7, 2020 (6:23 pm)

          When leaving a game at CenturyLink or T-Mobile, what you gain by having a Pioneer Square stop, you lose because the bus has to fight its way through pedestrian and vehicle traffic leaving the stadiums. Columbia is farther to walk, but once you’re on the bus, it jumps right on 99 and you bypass the stadium mess.

          This past season, taking the C after Seahawks games routinely took over an hour of travel time from Pioneer Square to West Seattle. I will gladly trade the walk for a faster bus ride! Of course as bad as the M’s are liable to be, big crowds at T-Mobile probably won’t be an issue!

        • East Coast Cynic February 8, 2020 (6:30 pm)

          You’re giving me another reason to drive to and from Mariner games other than the longer bus headways in the evening and on the weekends.

          • newnative February 10, 2020 (10:14 am)

            From the Stadium you can hop on a light rail or even walk to it for the 50 at SoDo station. 

  • One of 20,000 February 7, 2020 (2:59 pm)

    Hooray! SODO is nice and all, but I look forward to skipping that slog every day on the C or 21X.Mrs. One of 20,000 was lucky enough to have temporarily skipped the last year of downtown trips due to a temporary job change. She recently started up again and at one point, while waiting on the C at the tracks on Holgate texted “you’ve been doing THIS the whole time?!” She has no idea how much better that was than the summer I spent waiting in traffic on 1st.

  • East Coast Cynic February 7, 2020 (3:01 pm)

    The game day crowds can take link from the university street station to the stadium district w/o forcing the buses to slog through pioneer square.

  • MJR February 7, 2020 (3:12 pm)

    There seems to be 2 new stops at the corner of Alaskan Way and Columbia in both directions. That’s as close to Pioneer Square as we’re going to get.

  • ScottAmick February 7, 2020 (3:22 pm)

    Agreed that maintaining one stop in each direction closer to King Street/Pioneer Square would greatly assist people like me that work in Pioneer Square or for games and King Street Station access.  At least it’ll be a level walk to Alaskan Way and Columbia St

  • Will S. February 7, 2020 (3:33 pm)

    This is good news!

  • CAM February 7, 2020 (3:38 pm)

    I’m disappointed that stop for the C northbound on 3rd isn’t planned to be in Columbia instead. You’re just making everyone who works in the South end of downtown/Eastern Pioneer Square have to walk another long block farther to get where they’re going. I don’t understand why these buses can’t come up Yesler and make the turn onto 3rd. There’s enough space to make that turn and it would serve a larger number of people if that’s the goal. The goal to link people on the C line to the Water Taxi downtown also seems like a really silly goal. 

    • KM February 7, 2020 (5:29 pm)

      Maybe it’s a soil issue at Yesler and they don’t want additional bus traffic/weight? I am absolutely not an expert here, but it seems there’s been more soil/ground issues reported in that part of downtown during the tunnel construction and whatnot. I know it’s only a couple blocks apart though…

    • Jon Wright February 7, 2020 (6:15 pm)

      Re: linking the C line to the Water Taxi

      • What about people who want to travel between Alki or Vashon Island and South Lake Union? That might be a handy connection.
      • I doubt connections between the Water Taxi and C line was an explicit “goal”; however connections between the C line and Bainbridge and Bremerton ferries is useful to West Seattle transit riders. The Water Taxi just happens to be where the ferry terminal is.
  • KJ February 7, 2020 (5:30 pm)

    Really upsetting that they are taking away the Pioneer Square stops. I work by the stadiums and this effectively takes away my ability to bus to work. With all the talk about getting people out of cars it makes no sense to remove stops that are being used by people every day. Walking from the stadiums to this stop would effectively double the amount of time it takes for me to drive in, so why bother? Guess I’ll be back on the roads. 

    • J February 7, 2020 (8:20 pm)

      It’s because by the time the C line travels from SLU through downtown to pioneer square, people have already been sitting on it for 30ish minutes. There is nothing rapid about that. I think the 21 needs to run way more frequently or a bus line just between west seattle and pioneer square should exist. 

    • newnative February 10, 2020 (10:16 am)

      What did you do before the (C)rapidride stopped in Pioneer Square? 

  • MJ February 7, 2020 (5:37 pm)

    This change has long been planned and cannot arrive soon enough, this will improve reliability and reduce commute time for the vast majority of riders.

  • B.vadakin February 7, 2020 (7:03 pm)

    We need a closer Cline stop to thestaduims both coming and going.

  • Ookla the Mok February 7, 2020 (7:32 pm)

    We need an express C Line that bypasses downtown and goes straight to SLU via the tunnel.  

    • J February 7, 2020 (8:26 pm)

      A 120 needs an express route before a C line. The 120 comes from all the way south in Burien and crawls through white center and delridge. It’s a slug if you’re riding it from opposite ends, and standing room only from westwood on to downtown. A lot of the bus routes in this city have too many bus stops along the way. They made sense when there were less people here but they take forever and are overcrowded now

      • Mark Broomfield February 7, 2020 (11:22 pm)

        The 120 DOES have an express route. It’s called the 121/122/123.

        • 120rider February 8, 2020 (8:05 am)

          and none go on delridge where the bulk of ridership exists, useless numbers to us

      • East Coast Cynic February 8, 2020 (12:16 pm)

        In 2021, the 120 is being converted to the Rapid Ride H.  From the initial map, it still does appear to have a lot of stops going from Burien to downtown, but at least there will be more buses with shorter headways (less crowded buses hopefully).

    • Jim P. February 8, 2020 (11:21 am)

      “We need an express C Line that bypasses downtown and goes straight to SLU via the tunnel.

      “The tunnel is no longer used by any buses.
      Link runs too frequently to allow the mingling of bus/rail. I think they should consider running some of these buses along second or first.
      Third is way overloaded with traffic, especially when you get the less sentient car drivers who think the “Bus only” signs apply to other people. The 21 is a prime candidate for this, it used to serve all the way over to Pine Square but now it makes a stunted little loop downtown as if ashamed to be seen. It took a load off the 120 for folks in the north end of WS or around Westwood. Same for the 22 which used First downtown and was lovely if a bit slow for getting to and from the waterfront/touristy areas.

      • CAM February 9, 2020 (3:43 pm)

        The 21 goes all the way to Shoreline. It does not stop downtown. 

        Also, I’m pretty sure this comment was referring to the 99 tunnel, not the old bus tunnel.

        • Peter February 10, 2020 (8:10 am)

          That is incorrect. The 21 turns into the 5 which goes to shoreline. The 21/5 make stops through their downtown section. 

        • Jim P. February 18, 2020 (1:12 pm)

          My apologies,  I meant the 125.  My goof entirely.

    • Nadoka February 8, 2020 (12:24 pm)

      Will be faster, more reliable and comfortable with the change to Columbia. Running coaches through PS was dicey at best. Street Car down 1st would make access to PS quite nice, but getting real about the challenges in the PS infrastructure was, as usual for SDoT, SPU, PSE, City Council, Mayor, whoever was not met. So we just need to groan and bear it for time being 
      But: Good luck getting on the packed to the gills Cee if you are a ferry rider inbound in the AM commute or outbound in the PM commute…. have to wait for Metro to get real (usually takes quite awhile for that to happen🙄).

    • Seriously? February 9, 2020 (10:40 am)

      Well, you and the other Amazonians can pool your money for your own private bus system so you don’t have to be inconvenienced by the rest of us who work downtown, but not at Amazon. Despite the assumptions, Amazon people are not automatically granted special privilege when it comes to transportation – especially PUBLIC transportation!

      • WSB February 9, 2020 (1:12 pm)

        I don’t recall Ookla identifying themselves as an Amazon employee. This is not an opinion on whether an express line would or wouldn’t be a good idea, BUT please note, many other companies have offices there too. In fact, the last TV station I worked for was, and still is, in SLU (which bears very little resemblance to what it looked like when my daily commutes ended in 2007!). – TR

        • Ookla the Mok February 10, 2020 (9:21 pm)

          WSB is correct, I (Ookla) am not an Amazon employee.  In fact, I work in Lower Queen Anne.  An express C (or 120 for that matter) followed by a walk from SLU to Lower Queen Anne would be a lot better option than the current route snaking through downtown.

  • AMD February 7, 2020 (8:38 pm)

    How did everyone who works in Pioneer Square get to work before they closed the viaduct?  Whatever you did up until a year ago, just do that again.  Onto other changes this re-route created that I would love to be undone… Is there a map that shows how far north the 125 will go before it turns around?  There used to be a stop on Union.  Now Spring is as far north as you get.  Is Marion going to be the only stop downtown after we move to Columbia?

    • KJ February 7, 2020 (10:35 pm)

      Until we got bus service by the stadiums I drove, which is why I said I’d be back to that. Adding to my frustration is that I’ve already paid for my annual ORCA through work without knowing I can’t use it 10 months of the year now. I’d much rather bus, but I can’t double my commute time to justify it.

      • KM February 7, 2020 (11:08 pm)

        If you take the C line out of West Seattle, you can transfer to the 21 on Avalon. Not sure your exact route, but might be an option.

        • Zoe B February 8, 2020 (10:22 am)

          I think if enough pioneer square employees reach out they may look into a bus that follows the path of the 37. Not sure where you start but if it’s near a 21 line someone mentioned it. If you start nearer the C, 55, 56, 57 then it is possible to transfer to the 37 at the West Seattle Bridge. It’s just quite a hike down a hill and probably hard to time. Maybe metro would consider having one of those 4 stop at the bus stop under the Seattle bridge again where the 37 stops to create a clear transfer. The 37 bus line already has significant issues so replanning it to be a strong option for pioneer square and sodo would be a mutually beneficial situation. Sorry there is no great solution as of now.

      • Lee February 8, 2020 (4:14 am)

        I think Metro was always pretty clear in their communications that the 1st Ave stop was temporary, and buses would use the Columbia busway when that was complete. In any event, Google Maps says the walk from the new stop at Alaska & Columbia to the old stop at 1st & Jackson is 8 minutes. 8 minutes is a hassle, but shouldn’t double total commute time for anyone coming from West Seattle by bus. As others have pointed out, 21 stops at Edgar Martinez, as do the 37 and the 116/18/19, so those would all be better options for commuting to the stadiums than even the temporary C line stop.

    • ErsatzMossback February 20, 2020 (2:42 pm)

      I drove, because I have moderate to severe arthritis in both knees and can’t walk more than a couple of blocks or stand any real length of time waiting for a transfer. After losing the ability to take transit when Metro moved buses to the viaduct and the closest stop was Seneca, it was great being able to bus to work again…for a few months. Alas. 

  • 120rider February 7, 2020 (8:39 pm)

    was that just an angel choir i heard?

  • Peter February 8, 2020 (9:28 am)

    For those concerned about access to south downtown, or even mid downtown, I’ll tell you my secret: the 21 local is often faster than the 21 “express,” and at worst takes no longer. It’s true, I’ve been doing it for years. I say this for your benefit at the risk of making my bus more crowded. 

  • Stephanie February 8, 2020 (9:46 am)

    Alaskan Way is actually pretty backed up daily- will there be a bus only lane?

  • MD February 8, 2020 (9:54 am)

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO grateful that they are finally getting ready to change this bus route.  When the viaduct was up it took me 25 minutes to get to work and to get home.  It tripled that when they went down first ave and the current route takes about 45 minutes.  I, for one, am very happy with this change.

  • AM February 8, 2020 (2:38 pm)

    Previously, Metro showed bus stops along Alaskan Way at Jackson Street. What happened to those stops for those who work in Pioneer Square???

    • NotOnHolden February 9, 2020 (6:52 pm)

      Right?  I’m curious about that, too.  We didn’t all imagine that!

    • Brian February 10, 2020 (3:39 pm)

      I have the same question.  Metro should put a stop at Alaskan Way/Jackson both inbound and outbound to serve PS workers.            

  • Matt P February 8, 2020 (6:45 pm)

    This will be great going back in the evenings, but heading into downtown in the mornings, I’m still skeptical.  Alaskan Way gets pretty backed up in the mornings and won’t be better for the bus – some days better, some days worse, overall a wash – until they put that bus lane in.  Any idea when that will be? 

    • JVP February 9, 2020 (5:30 pm)

      Hopefully sooner than “ . When completed in 2024, the new waterfront will reconnect the city to Elliott Bay for all modes of travel.”

  • Mike F February 9, 2020 (12:59 am)

    I don’t understand why there won’t be a stop at 1st and Edgar. I loved when the 21 dropped me off right there. There used to be an express his after the game that you could pick up at 1st and Edgar and went to Burien via 35th. That made perfect sense. Or one from 1st and Edgar to Alaska and California would be fine, too. I don’t want to walk through Pioneer Square to get a bus to West Seattle. I’ll just stay home and watch on tv.

  • Wow what about workers February 9, 2020 (8:10 pm)

    So I guess anyone working in pioneer square/occidental plaza is SOL. And the reference to 8 minute google walk is absurd – in the pouring rain and the poop invested traverse. The number of people POURING off the C line in the am at the “temp” stop tells me there are loads of employed at that end if the city. And to those that are suggesting switching bus lines down under the viaduct- do you ride the bus?  Our outbound bus lines are already over capacity. Can’t imagine that you could get on at that stop. I leave Westwood village at 5:55 AM. My bus is full to the gills and passing the stop before Avalon. 

  • Jill February 9, 2020 (11:20 pm)

    Would just like the 21 and the 22 to run more frequently. I waited for a 21 late at night for a half hour at Bradford after getting off the C. Not good. More buses will increase ridership. And let’s get a bus from West Seattle that goes to Seattle Center again. Just two cents from someone who uses buses in noncommuting times. 

  • Carl February 13, 2020 (5:43 pm)

    Will these buses get stuck in ferry traffic if they go through when a boat unloads?

  • John February 20, 2020 (5:31 am)

    Don’t know what they have to totally bypass pioneer square.  A lot of people work there, the street car starts there.  All metro has to do is add an additional bus stop just after it gets on Alaska way at Jackson.  Hopefully that’s their plan after all the construction is complete on the waterfront.  If that’s not their eventual plan, then they are totally ignoring pioneer square and the people who work there.

    • KM February 20, 2020 (7:12 am)

      John, these are routes that never went through Pioneer Square prior to the TEMPORARY reroute. There are also other ways to connect via transit to these bus lines if you cannot or do not want to walk the distance to the bus stop for these routes. We can’t have every WS route serve Pioneer Square, it would slow down travel times for everyone else. Both the 21 local and 120 (soon to be Rapid Ride) serve Pioneer Square.

      • ErsatzMossback February 20, 2020 (2:53 pm)

        KM, these routes actually went through Pioneer Square before being moved to the Viaduct in 2011 or 2012. I know this because that reroute is what made me a car commuter after I bought my house based on the proximity of bus lines that would get me to work…only to have Metro cut off access to Pioneer Square and the south half of downtown. And I don’t see why buses driving through Pioneer Square can’t have a stop in the south end at King or Jackson in addition to the one 5 blocks north at Columbia. I mean, by the logic that every stop makes the bus slower, the best bus of all would be one with no stops! (Which would be…a car.) Five blocks is not unusual stop spacing for these routes and a King or Jackson stop would help these routes serve Pioneer Square and the stadiums. 

Sorry, comment time is over.