It’s been 12 years in the making (or 40-100 depending on your perspective), and now we’re only about 9 months away from having rail transit in the city of Seattle. Light rail will begin service from downtown, to Beacon Hill, and through the Rainier Valley to (almost) SeaTac starting in July of next year, and Metro has started to evaluate changes to bus service so that it all fits together as one system.
And even though light rail isn’t going to have a stop in our neighborhood, it looks like we will see some positive changes. For one, there’s a whole lot of bus hours that will be freed up along Rainier and MLK. Those can then be deployed elsewhere in the city – although we’ll have to keep a close eye to make sure they don’t escape to other parts of the county. And it looks like Metro planners are trying to figure out how they can provide better bus connections between the CD and the Mt. Baker light rail station at the intersection of Rainier/MLK/McClellan.
The biggest changes are planned for the 48 route that runs through the neighborhood on 23rd Ave, connecting to UW and south Seattle on either side. There are two options in Metro’s plans:
Option A would increase frequency on the #48, but keep its direct connection to the far reaches of South Seattle.
Option B would truncate the 48 route at the Mt. Baker Station, leaving it as only a route from there northbound to the UW and beyond. A new route 109 would take over the southern half of the current route. This would hopefully increase the schedule reliability of the #48 and overall give us a better experience on the route.
For the 14 route, plans call for an increase in frequency and a change on the south end to have it go west on McClellan and connect to the Mt. Baker Station instead of going east to Hunter Blvd.
Planners are also looking at increasing service on Route 8. That would give people on MLK an easier ride to hook up with light rail at the Mt. Baker Station.
It would be nice if this all worked out as planned. We could grab either the #48 or #8 bus, head south a bit, and jump on light rail for trips to the airport. And some residents on the south end of the neighborhood might find that it saves time on downtown trips too, vs. the perpetually late and standing-room-only #4 bus.
But long term we’re going to need another option. When light rail reaches Capitol Hill in 2016, we need to push either the city or Metro to provide high frequency transit service between there and the Mt. Baker Station, running through the CD. The goal would be to give everyone in the neighborhood an easy bus ride to the nearest light rail station. A streetcar would be ideal for this kind of route.