Community Post

Metro study says routing 3/4 buses via Yesler would save time, $

Metro’s #3 and #4 buses are the workhorses of Central District transit. They each carry thousands of riders per day and rank in the top 20 busiest routes in the Metro system.

But regular riders of the #3 and #4 buses know that schedule reliability is not among their strengths, and a key cause of delay exists around Harborview where the buses have to negotiate a tight left turn from 9th to James, fighting all the way with a mess of other vehicles trying to get to and from I-5.

The county has definitely noticed that too, and are in the initial stages of investigation into possible solutions.

Metro spokesperson Linda Thielke tells us that it all started during work Metro did on how to cope with the closing of the Alaska Way Viaduct and speed up bus service through downtown. In that process Metro planners identified the turns to and from James, both on 3rd and 9th, as major causes of delay and began looking at alternatives.

One option that jumped out was Yesler Way, currently only served by the infrequent #27 route. It’s a much less congested roadway and doesn’t have any access to I-5, allowing it to avoid the rush of hospital employees that clog up James during rush hours.

The new routing would send buses up Yesler from James, turning left on 8th Avenue and then rejoining the usual path on Jefferson in front of Harborview.

Metro staff says that the new route would save an estimated 4-5 minutes per trip, and result in $997,000 annual cost savings for bus operations.

But moving the buses would require installing new bus wires on Yesler, 8th, and 9th Avenues. That’s expensive, and would require capital funding that Metro currently doesn’t have. And any attempt to move forward would require a significant amount of engineering, public outreach, and other planning.

So for now the project is staying in a conceptual phase. But as a regular rider of that route, we would definitely like to see that kind of time savings.

0 thoughts on “Metro study says routing 3/4 buses via Yesler would save time, $

  1. I agree that it would be great to save a few minutes on the 3 and 4 routes, but that would leave a 7-block long hole in the downtown area with no Central District bus service (selfishly, right where I work, but also where quite a few big office towers are located). The east and westbound busses to the Central District would only run down Yesler (#3, 4, 27) and Spring/Seneca (#2) if they go through with this. Scott, do you know if there is any link or person we should contact to comment?

  2. I see where canamian’s coming from. The biggest impact of this routing would be to people who get on/off at or around City Hall at 5th & James. Currently a lot of people get off the 3/4 at that stop.

    But keep in mind the 3/4/27 would still all turn up Yesler and presumably stop at 3rd and James, just two blocks from City Hall. So there would still be nearby coverage to all those office towers.

    I’m in favor of anything that makes the 3/4 more reliable.

  3. The 3 & 4 are slow for sure, but they do serve people without reasonable alternatives at hand. There is often a queue at the stop on 8th & James, of old people with sacks of groceries coming from the Northwest Harvest food bank. It’s also the stop for people living in Jefferson Terrace, very low income housing with many disabled folks. I don’t think hiking up the steep hill to 9th & over to Jefferson is a good option for these people.

  4. I would love it if there were more bus options East and West on Yesler. And those working at City Hall – it’s actually just a short walk from 6th and Yesler to City Hall if you go behind the jail.

  5. Actually the main entrance to Jefferson Terrace is ON Jefferson, and is less of a grade to the stop at 9th and Jefferson than the stop at 8th and James.

  6. Why DOT doesn’t do something about the signals (maybe go the same route as 23rd & Union/Cherry does, where each way gets both a left turn and thru green lights) there year after year is so frustrating to anyone stuck there. It’s a complete mess…too bad there isn’t enough room to add left-turn lanes, as that would solve a lot of problems by itself. Sigh.

  7. Nice to hear some alternatives for speeding up the CD/Downtown bus routes. But I’m not sure I understand the proposed alternative route- Would the buses jog down to Yesler at Harborview rather than jogging up to James?

    Speaking for myself- that change sounds promising.

  8. Seeing a picture would be good. Hills aren’t an issue for me but a month on crutches sometime ago which gave me some humility, and I notice some people really struggling with hills. I’m wondering where the stop on Yesler for the City buildings would be. Getting to Harborview or Jefferson Terrace is extremely easy now. If something as simple as signals would help that should be considered. In this case, the change is a big enough deal that the savings in money and time should be guaranteed.

  9. I think you’re misunderstanding. The routing would only change from 3rd to 9th; it would still run down Jefferson from 9th to 23rd.

    The goal is to avoid the congestion on James around the I-5 onramps, and the left turn from 9th to James.

    And here’s some google map-fu to show the two routings
    Current routeproposed change

  10. I am not convinced that this would be more efficient in either direction, but turning left on 8th traveling downtown especially doesn’t seem to save any time and distance is being added there.

  11. Thanks for posting the pix; very helpful. It looks like the proposed change in the route would still serve most destinations quite well and in some cases better, and the turn to-from James now is really a problem.

  12. I still love the pictures. Perhaps improved signaling could be an easier less expensive fix for the problems of those turns. If someone can explain why not, that would answer the question I am trying to ask. “Why an alternative route and not a turn signal solution?” Either plan means some extra turns here and there.