Bus Stop | The 49

This couple from Nashville were about to experience the 49 for the first time.

This couple from Nashville were about to experience the 49 for the first time.

With the minds of the city’s bus riders on high alert for impending cuts, this week we’ll look at a route that Capitol Hill could not live without and which is too valuable to our neighborhood to cut.

The 49 is Capitol Hill’s lifeline, the most frequent route in the neighborhood. Connecting Capitol Hill to the University District via the heart of Capitol Hill’s shopping and nightlife districts. Transit on Broadway in a myriad of forms dates back to 1891, but the 49 itself was formed after the northern portion of the 7 was broken off from the southern portion to improve on-time performance. Riders can still witness this continuous route all day on Sundays and late at night.

“It’s the quickest way to get from Capitol Hill to the U District,” Stephen, a rider who was headed to the University District farmer’s market, told me. “I’ll take the 43 in a pinch, but the 49 is much quicker.”


But even as the demand for the 49 will mean that it is safe from service cuts by Metro, the changing face of Broadway could mean that the 49’s role in getting people around the Hill could be diminished. The Broadway streetcar’s planned opening in autumn and its much-talked-about extension toward Volunteer Park will mean that Broadway’s rails will be redundant with this bus.

With two sets of wiring now hanging above Capitol Hill’s main thoroughfare, will there be room on Broadway for a trolley bus and a streetcar? Will the demand to get from the University District from Capitol Hill continue, especially as a 3 minute trip via light rail tunnel becomes possible in 2016? These will be the questions Metro will be faced with as the SDOT-led streetcar network and the Sound Transit light rail network looks to reduce the burden placed on Metro and switch riders from bus to rail.

In other words, while the 49 might be staying the same for now, there are few routes on the Hill whose future is more uncertain. In 10 years, the 49 will definitely look very different than it does today.14366283331_f8c7a4350d_z

Pull the cord now: next time on Bus Stop we’ll venture up the Hill for a look at a sleepier bus route.

Previously on Bus Stop

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8 thoughts on “Bus Stop | The 49

  1. More immediately, the 47 is on the guillotine for September. That will make the 49 to downtown more crowded in peak commute times. And crowd the 43 more too though probably not as much as the 49. Street car won’t go to central downtown so maybe more affects the 60 or 9. And what about people with limited nobility but who take the bus when they can. Light rail is great if people can get to the station. Hoping 47 is saved.

  2. For me the streetcar/U-Link extension will eliminate a considerably amount of travel time and a transfer. Currently I go from Sounder, to Intl. Dist. Station Bus/Link to the 10/11/49 up the hill. Having two faster ways to get to SCCC will be very nice.

    As for the 49’s future, it seems like an extension of the Broadway streetcar to Eastlake or Campus parkway might be in the cards, in 10 years time. If not then maybe the 49 is reduced to a Broadway/Pine to Campus Parkway run. And the 10 gets a bump in capacity?

  3. While I love the 49 and use it most often, I wish they would change the number. It constantly reminds me of the San Francisco 49’ers and well, I dislike that team.

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