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.
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