Ah, 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?
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