Bus Stop | The 47

The 47 on Bellevue

Waiting on Bellevue

Waiting on Bellevue

Bus Stop has a new driver. Welcome Ryan to the CHS family of contributors. This is his first Bus Stop post.

Often bus riders take for granted that the bus will be there for them when they need it.

The 47 is Seattle’s shortest trolley bus line, connecting downtown with one of the densest census tracts on the west coast of the US. For 105 years, a bus or streetcar has come up the Hill from downtown, dropped passengers off on Summit Avenue as it headed north, turned around once it hits Lakeview Boulevard, and then headed back down Bellevue Avenue. Its frequency may have gone up or down as the years elapsed, and the 13 streetcar turned into the 14 bus to Mount Baker, which was eventually decoupled to form the downtown-only 47. But this bus has always been here. That looks about to change.

I decided to take a walk along the footsteps of this often overlooked bus.

As I walked the bus route, I ran into Joseph Lambert outside his Bellevue Avenue E apartment having an evening cigarette, just across the street from a soon-to-be mothballed 47 stop, just as the street lamps were beginning to click on. Joe works at Analog Coffee, just around the corner, and while he doesn’t commute to work, he told me that he does take the 47 regularly and was not happy about having to find alternatives.

Prescient sign

A blank, prescient sign

I asked for his thoughts on the failed ballot measure. He echoed the frustration that I have heard from folks around town at voters from far-flung reaches of the county getting to have a say in how much bus service Seattle has. “If you choose to live in a city, you should have to pay more to have a car. Good transportation is a part of the city,” he said.

The elimination of all service on route 47 is scheduled to take effect with the first round of service cuts, in September of this year. Plans to buy back service in Seattle through a local ballot measure, even if successful, would not take effect until 2015 so it’s clear that riders of this legacy route will have to find a new way to get around Summit Slope real soon.

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18 thoughts on “Bus Stop | The 47

  1. the 14 never reaches Lakeview Boulevard. It travels north on Summit to Belmont, then up Belmont to Bellevue Place and left onto Bellevue Avenue.

    the ballot measure failed because it was a poorly planned disaster of a funding package that was poorly publicized.

  2. It makes me sick to hear this news. I take the 47 when it’s pouring rain and there are always loads of elderly people that use this bus. So tragic that we let other people have a hand in something that doesn’t effect them. Oh but I’m sure they will be complaining once football season starts and they have no bus to get on!

    • Ella, seriously?

      Your comments are myopic. A .01% sales tax increase affects EVERYONE in the county and a $60 car tab tax affects EVERYONE who has car. Perhaps you should take a civics course and get a grasp of how a democracy works?

      Regardless of your position on this issue, the votes decided that they do not want to get taxed anymore for an agency that bleeds money hand over fist. And for Metro to cut rush hour routes and whole routes in the core of Seattle disingenuous at best and spiteful at worst.

      There are plenty of other routes they could cut in outlying areas like Maple Valley and Enumclaw but instead they stick it to the voters as retribution for not getting what they want.

  3. Yes, it’s true that sometimes voters outside Seattle determine the results of an election, but the reverse is true also…..liberal Seattle often calls the shots in an election, because our population is so high relative to King County as a whole.

    I assume Metro is closing the 47 (and other routes) based on relatively low ridership, so while it is a problem for those that use the route, the closure will not affect that many people.

  4. The measure failed because Metro is bloated (e.g., more than 200 bus drivers make over $100,000/year), and despite repeated sales tax and other measures passed for Metro in the past few years, time and time again after going to the public for more money, Metro has failed to implement the reforms that are always promised but never realized.

    Increase the share that riders pay through fares, charge for the now free passes given out to public employees, and stop pinning everything on car owners. Sure, the area needs public transportation, but it is ludicrous to keep piling on — Sound Transit, light rail, bike lanes, road diets, the Tunnel, on and on.

    • Nice post Ryan! As far as the comment here, Fritz, the drivers that make a lot of money often work lots of overtime to get that money. Drivers take on life and death responsibility driving enormous heavy vehicles with passengers who can often be incredibly challenging, and many aren’t paid enough. They also don’t always get their breaks, sacrificing their own comfort to make sure that transit riders get to their destinations on time. I am assuming that public employees get free passes because their agencies pay for those, but if not, I agree that they should have to pay their share. Don’t increase fares, though, unless absolutely necessary! They’ve gone up so much, so quickly, and many on the buses already can’t afford these increased rates. This bill would have also helped car drivers by keeping traffic out of their lanes, and by doing some road improvements, so this was not a case of bus vs. car. This would have been good for all, and those with cars also can generally afford a slight increase better than a lot of low-income transit riders. (In case you’re wondering, I do not work for Metro, I just appreciate the heck out of the hardworking transit operators who help me and many others get around town.)

  5. This is unfortunate – yes, there are a lot of elderly people, others who don’t have such great mobility on this route, people who work later hours or go to events downtown. If you have an injury and are on crutches, just getting downtown (work, doctor’s appts, whatever) and back is not so easy, especially if you have to go several blocks to get to a bus stop. Driving, cab fare, Uber isn’t available to everyone. Not everyone in this neighborhood is a 30-ish hipster with an Amazon paycheck.

    And then for the 47, if they raise the fare to $2.50-$3.00, that is a fair amount for a relatively short distance to downtown. If you want to go to Pioneer Square, you have to transfer to another bus or skip it altogether and walk to the tunnel entrance, for the distance of about 2 miles. That generally makes riding the #47 a just a convenience in bad weather. It didn’t stand a chance after the decoupling from the Mt. Baker route.

    • Seniors do have alternatives for transportation. I am a volunteer driver for Senior Services…we take people to their medical and dental appointments, on a donation basis (not required). The same agency runs the Hyde Shuttle, which will take seniors anywhere (within a certain geographic area) for any reason. Then there is the Metro Access van access program for those who qualify. And also the taxi “scrip” program for lower-income folks….they pay 50% and Metro pays 50%.

      Unfortunately, not all seniors know about all these possibilities, but many take advantage of them.

      • you are right, some folks don’t know these services are available. One I know of works downtown but has mobility issues, and is very concerned about the cuts in service.

  6. I’ve taken this route and been the only person on the bus, I understand why they’re shuttering it.

    Just walk a couple extra blocks and catch the 43 in front of Starbucks.

    • It’s more crowded during rush hour commute both ways of course. The 43 is more than a couple blocks away from the north end of Route 47. And if commuting back up the hill from downtown, the 43 is not as direct a route for some. And that’s the point. Consolidating ridership means a more crowded 43 and a more crowded 49. The 25 being eliminated also may mean a more crowded 49 both ways.

      Perhaps the neighborhood being more expensive means less people who are bus riders and more who drive. It’s a guess. All I know is Metro can’t collect fares for bus routes that don’t exist.

      And how many drivers will lose their jobs because of this? If it’s a cut of 550,000 hours, seems it would be about 250 to 350 (roughly) who would lose their jobs or go to p/t. What a great boon to the economy that will be.

  7. I definitely understand that the hours when barely anyone is riding the 47 is something to consider. What I wonder is if anyone has ever proposed shuttering service for specific time frames versus an entire route.

    Example: 47 would only run between 7-11am 4:30-7pm.

    Curious if anyone has any insight on an approach like this.,

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