Bus Stop | The 8

8 at Olive and Summit 3Ah, the 8. The great equalizer, Bumbershoot shuttle, Capitol Hill’s crosstown chariot. Any given day, the number of things that you can encounter on a trip up or down the hill on this workhorse route is without limit. The only bus route with a parody twitter account is on a level all its own.

With Seattle’s grid filling its hourglass shape, there aren’t too many routes that provide east-west travel, and linking Seattle Center with Capitol Hill and ultimately the Rainier Valley via MLK beyond has made this route an indispensable tool in any Seattle transit user’s arsenal. But it is that strength that is also its Achilles heel: Denny Way its direct shortcut is also most people’s chute to Interstate 5, and can turn into a parking lot at the slightest provocation.

The 8 is one of the top routes in Metro’s system in terms of ridership numbers. In 2010, the most recent year for which I could obtain ridership numbers, over 2.5 million individual trips were recorded on the 8: this is almost 7,000 per day. The average number of people who ride the 8 every day could fill the Paramount Theater twice with some still waiting outside.

The planned service revisions that Metro is planning will cut the 8 into two routes: the good old stuck-on-Denny 8 will remain, but it will go no further up Capitol Hill than the back of Group Health on 16th Ave E. From there service will not be picked up again until 23rd and Jackson, where the 106 will be rerouted to serve the 8’s current Central District to Rainier Beach portion, continuing on to Renton. Those who ride the 8 currently between John Street and Jackson will have to transfer. Could this be a blessing in disguise? Will turning the 8 back at Group Health improve the 8’s on-time performance and reputation?

8 at John and 12th (1)Another facet to the adjusted 8 is a reduction in frequency late at night: schedules could be adjusted to include up to an hour between buses at night, and service could end around 11:00 pm, whereas today the last 8 comes through the hill around midnight.

I caught up with a regular 8 rider and frequent CHS commenter Vince (aka “Uncle Vinny”) at Olive Way and Summit outside the Starbucks, one of the 8’s most popular stops on the hill. Vince recently divested himself of his car after he realized he could save hundreds of dollars a month relying on his feet and public transportation to get around.

Working in South Lake Union, he finds himself worrying about the future of public transit in Seattle after the recent failed ballot measure. “I really am exasperated about the whole thing,” he said. “I feel like [the people who voted against the measure]’s lives are going to get worse, and they don’t think it will. Well, your traffic is going to get worse.” He’s also concerned about the effect on those with mobility issues in the neighborhood: “It’s going to be really hard for some people to get to work. Not everyone can walk, if there’s not a bus.”

Ultimately, as I talk to folks who take the bus around the neighborhood, what worries them is the uncertainty that is coming to our bus system. You can arm yourself with knowledge, at the very least.

Metro Cuts Meeting
And you can speak up. Metro is holding an open house about the proposed changes to its system on Tuesday, May 13th, at Union Station (401 S Jackson St) at 5:30. Part of the session will be devoted to recording public testimony on the cutbacks. You can read more about the changes here.

Previously on Bus Stop

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27 thoughts on “Bus Stop | The 8

  1. And it’s this interaction with I-5 that messes up the 8 constantly during the day and why you can’t have a “normal” schedule. I can *always* count on the 8 being late or bunched up with another 8 behind it by only a few minutes.

  2. The planned revisions are anything but a “blessing in disguise” for the #8. A large stretch of the central district along MLK between Madison and Jackson will have NO regular busses running along it. Riders in this stretch that now have fairly convenient connection to light rail at Mt Baker, would have to walk many blocks to catch other buses downtown. And lots of people in the CD commuting to those techie jobs in SLU will end up driving again. Gutting the #8 would be a huge disaster.

    • Absolutely! Also, the #8 only began having later hours on weekends and holidays in the last couple of years. This was critical in reducing traffic around Seattle Center during events such as SIFF, Bumbershoot and Folklife.

  3. It’s still better than it was before the #8 existed. Getting to Capitol Hill from Queen Anne meant bussing through Belltown, then connecting to a bus going up the hill. Or just walking up Denny or over the Lakeview bridge. Still, it’s incredibly unpredictable now. But on the bright side, most other routes will probably become equally unpredictable once bus service is gutted and car traffic increases. Universal suck.

    I do hate those hard seat versions of the 8. I mean as compared to the regular cushioned seats, those ones with the swirly blue pattern with like 1/16″ of padding. They are nauseating visually and physically and seem to afflict the 8 more than other routes. Yuck.

    • Here we have to agree to disagree. You are referring to the newer Orion buses both the 40 foot “regular” buses and the 60 foot RapidRide buses. I find that the seats are more comfortable for the reason that you have better lumbar support. I do have to say that the seating on RapidRide for the seating that faces sideways the seating is indeed a lot less comfortable than the “twos” seating facing forward.

      • Hi Joseph: I don’t know the model number/name of the buses, but I have noticed newer buses (for both Sound and Metro) have far more narrow seats (still padded). The normal old seats were a tight enough squeeze for our more..ahem, horizontally challenged passengers…but now these new tiny seats are even a tight squeeze for average-sized people. What gives with shrinking the seats???

      • Slightly narrower seats give a bit more room in the aisle so that when buses are crush loaded with standing passengers in the aisle, then there is at least a little bit more room for offloading passengers to squeeze by and get off the bus. Even if the routes you use are not often crush loaded, the buses have to work throughout the whole system where many routes are crush loaded at least during peak times.

        As for the seats being slimmer profile (i.e. less padded) front to back on the newer buses, I see that as a huge advantage for leg room. On older buses if I am fortunately to sit, then my legs are jammed in to the seat in front of me. But the new buses having the lower profile seats have more leg room. Those seats are also better contoured for both lumbar support and seat cradle and I find that I slide around a lot less on the seat in stop and go traffic on those new seats than the old padded seats.

  4. This is my commute bus, and also one of my least favorite routes in the city. In addition to being always late, the drivers are some of the most unfriendly in the Metro system. In peak hours, when the bus is crammed full of Amazon employees and their dogs, it always smells like teriyaki and entitlement.

  5. How could cutting the #8 route be anything but bad?! It is just one more way to emphasize the (ever-denied) segregation in Seattle. People from the CD will have less access to Seattle Center and CH; CH people will have less access to the CD – and even less interaction with the “Others”. The #8 as it is now is one of the last bus routes that crosses through our Invisible (race) Wall … riding the #8 is one of the last public places to experience real cross-cultural mixing. This decision to divide the route reeks of ‘gentrification segregation mentality’.

    • I was pretty sad when the 7 broke into the 7 and the 49, for the same reason.

      Also, `increasing reliability’ by removing through service seems like a Potemkin solution to me.

  6. Severing the routes creates inconvenience and inefficiency. To get from the west side of Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square for example, you have to transfer downtown to travel a distance under 2 miles. In the instance of severing the 8, service will be eliminated in neighborhoods that need public transportation. There is no forward thinking to these cuts – just short term remedies, and with pending fare increases: higher cost for mediocre service.

  7. I don’t see the problem with service being removed from 16th to 23rd. If someone in a wheelchair wants to get from that part of the CD that the new 106 will serve, they just need to take it to 23rd & Jackson, then get the 48 going north. Then switch to the 43 at 23rd & thomas. Then take the 43 to the 15th & John Safeway stop where they can easily wait forever plus 5 minutes for the 8. Or I suppose they could catch the 3 or 4 from 23rd and jackson if those still run that way, which would mean a trip through downtown and belltown before reaching lower queen anne. And then do it all in reverse. Easy! Easy! Easy!

    It takes a bus scheduling genius to notice that nobody lives anywhere or would want to travel anywhere on, between, across, 23rd & Jackson to 16th & Thomas and beyond. A genius.

  8. > But it is that strength that is also its Achilles heel: Denny Way its direct shortcut is also most people’s chute to Interstate 5, and can turn into a parking lot at the slightest provocation.

    I simply don’t understand why the street that links eastbound Denny to I-5 (outside the 25 Hour Fitness, Orion center, etc.) Is a two way, one lane street. And why parking is allowed on those blocks.

    Denny gets SO backed up because it only takes around 4 cars to block that turn lane up onto Denny. It’s a single line of cars trying to get onto I-5. Only a few get through the light at a time. Each driver leaves 10 feet of space in front of them, backing it up further. Everyone is on their phone, and waits 5 seconds after the light turns green to finally start going.

    If they instead turned that 24 Hour Fitness block into a giant 4-lane “holding area” for cars trying to enter I-5 the backup on Denny would be majorly reduced.

  9. This is NOT a blessing in disguise for anyone that actually lives in the areas getting cut, this is complete and utter classist bullshit, and they are putting people in danger by cutting back the night time runs as well, making it harder for kids to get to school, screwing the working poor.

    The 8 is one of the most useful routes as far as I’m concerned and it’s a complete travesty that they are changing it in any way besides figuring out how to make it run smoother.

  10. Also it was not that long ago that the 8 DID stop at 15th in the evening, and it was NOT a blessing for those of us who actually have to go ALL THE WAY INTO THE CD at the end of our day or maybe want to go out at night sometimes outside our neighborhood but aren’t rich. SERIOUSLY I AM SO PISSED OFF ABOUT THIS, I’m SORRY, I CAN’T EVEN. I hope some of those amazon rich people make some noise since clearly the monied outcry is the only reason anyone in this city government does anything.

  11. Routing the 8 around Group Health is a horrid idea, Thomas is way too narrow and in bad shape to have a bus go down every 15 min

  12. The 8 has always been, in all my years living here, one of the least reliable and in turn useful major Metro lines in the city. When I lived in Queen Anne I never used it to get to/from Capitol Hill unless I knew traffic was clear, it lined up just right with my schedule and OBA told me it was running on time… which was hardly ever. I would always walk down to Union and take the long, slow crawl on the 2. At least you could count on THAT.

  13. Even longer ago, several rounds of cuts ago, the # 12 went downtown, turned into the #13 and then went on to Seattle Center and Queen Anne (and then vice versa).

    It wasn’t that fast (went through downtown) but you got to stay on the bus and there were no long layovers, so it was a pleasant way to get to Seattle Center.

    Given that the cuts are going to happen, perhaps inventive joining of routes could provide useful needed service without (much) expense?

  14. I’m losing my one seat ride from 25th E to Whole Foods and Banya 5! It seems like they should run it to at least 23rd instead of 16th.

    I could never figure out why they put “short” buses on the 8 during weekends…it doesn’t seem like there are that many fewer people riding on the weekends, meaning it’s fully sardined by the time you get to Westlake.

    The 8 has been a very useful route. Sometimes it smells too strongly of weed, but oh well, it definitely has character.

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