It’s been five weeks since Seattle started seeing added service on King County Metro buses. It is only the first phase in what has been promoted by members of the city council as the “best bus service Seattle has ever seen” and the improvements that have been made on the Hill are more targeted than the ones being applied elsewhere in the city, but I’m devoting today’s column to what Capitol Hill bus riders are seeing at the stops.
The most noticeable change is the return of the 47. This Summit Avenue/Bellevue Avenue bus, deleted in September (we gave it a nice sendoff) is back, with even more limited service hours than it had before. With only 12 minutes on the schedule from one end of the route to the other, and half of the route being shared with the 43 along Pike & Bellevue. this bus returning to the hill is a large chunk of the service hours Capitol Hill is receiving from the increase in the sales tax rate and car tab fee.
And with good reason: the 47 is a vital connection to a part of the neighborhood that would not otherwise be well served by transit, and not easily accessible if you aren’t able to go up and down the hill to Broadway. Points that have all been made before. But if the 47 is going to survive as a long-term transit corridor, with the introduction of light rail into the neighborhood, it seems clear that Metro is going to need to get more serious about investments in it.
For example, service on the 47 now doesn’t extend past 7 PM. This is an extremely early time for termination of service. For the northwest corner of Capitol Hill to secure a spot on the high frequency grid that should arise with light rail’s introduction to our neighborhood, that service will need to be extended longer.
Until 2012, the 47 operated as the northern tail of the route 14 from Mount Baker to downtown. This provided a benefit to the riders of both bus routes: riders from Summit Slope had a direct connection to Pioneer Square, the ID, and the northern edge of the Rainier Valley, and riders from these areas could catch a bus almost all of the way into the heart of Capitol Hill. After this connection was severed and the 47 created, ridership on the 47 has never been able to attain what it once was when it was connected to the 14. Granted, many of the neighborhoods that were once connected in this way will be better accessed by Summit Slope residents by light rail or the First Hill streetcar, but Metro would benefit from attempting to reintegrate the 47 into the bus network. This would improve the 47’s productivity and have a net positive benefit for all riders.
A curious feature of the new 2015 47 is that one of the northbound stops, on Summit at Harrison Street, has been deleted. After the stop at Summit and Olive, which is essentially the same as taking the 43 to the stop on the other side of Olive, there were only three additional bus stops until the end of the route previously. This is a 33% reduction in northbound stops unique to the 47: anyone who gets off at Summit and walks north might as well have been on a 43. On recent peak PM trips, I have observed at least half of the riders from downtown getting off at this stop of the route or before. This is an odd place for Metro to cut corners. Bus Stop has not yet heard back from Metro on the reason for this stop’s elimination.
This is what I am observing on the resurrected 47- what are you seeing on your buses? Do you ride the 10 or the 60, the other main beneficiaries of prop 1 money? Bus Stop wants to hear your stories.