Post navigation

Prev: (08/12/15) | Next: (08/13/15)

Bus Stop | What to do about the 8

A line waiting to board an 8 on a recent weekday stretches almost to the end of the block.

A line waiting to board an 8 on a recent weekday stretches almost to the end of the block.

Few bus routes in Seattle are developing a reputation for unreliability like the 8. But let’s be fair: the 8 has it rough. It’s a huge route, traversing the entire Rainier Valley, the Central District, Madison Park, Capitol Hill, north Downtown, and Lower Queen Anne. And it’s the go-to route for people to get between the city’s fastest growing job centers of South Lake Union, Denny Triangle and Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, it depends on the same road that most people in the same neighborhoods use to get to I-5: Denny Way. There are no other options to get across the freeway to Capitol Hill save heading to downtown streets which are already packed as well, or taking Lakeview Boulevard, which would be a detour so long it wouldn’t benefit anyone.

And the problem is getting worse, and spreading outside peak hours. In the 2014 Metro Service Guidelines Report, King County reported that the route 8 ran late 30% of the time- and 44% of the time during peak hours. In 2010 only 25% of trips were running late, though the peak hour percentage was relatively constant at 43%.

Bus Stop talked to David Seater, who recently started a job on the other end of the route 8 corridor. The trip should take 30 minutes from his home near 23rd and John. Instead he is ending up walking the route, getting home at the same time. If he takes the bus, he says, “I’d end up paying $2.75 every day to sit in an old, stuffy bus for an hour while it slowly rolls along Denny at a walking pace, burning limited transit dollars the whole time.”

This is a common story for Denny Way commuters. Not only are the buses incredible unreliable, but because of this they often end up packed. It’s enough to give someone pedestrian rage.

Okay, I hear you asking — what can we do about it? Well, the long term solution to the 8 is to get off Denny Way. When the Deep Bore Tunnel project is complete, the street grid will become reconnected on Aurora Ave N (to become 7th Ave N) between Denny and Mercer. This means there will be more streets that the 8 can run on, like Thomas Street, between Lower Queen Anne and I-5. Crossing the freeway still remains an impediment. An I-5 lid might help.

Seattle Prop 1, which injected money into King County Metro in the city, has already begun investing 2,800 annual service hours into reliability improvements on the 8 — around 10 hours per weekday during peak hours. However, it’s unclear exactly how that will help get riders home quickly without capitol investments, queue jumps, signal timing, and maybe even some limited bus lanes on Denny Way. Prop 1 money is prohibited from being used to fund capital expenses, but SDOT and Metro should work together to find ways to improve the 8 before things get much worse. A glance at the planned construction projects on streets that feed into Denny Way reveals that these projects have a combined number of parking spaces exceeding 20,000. That’s a lot of cars trying to get in front of the 8.

Parking Spaces Planned

South Lake Union will not be lacking in parking spaces soon- or cars coming and going from them.

Of course, there are always dreams of a dedicated transit service on Denny — a route 8 subway. Or a gondola connecting South Lake Union to Capitol Hill. Riders on Denny Way will take relief any way they can get it. The sooner the better.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

48 thoughts on “Bus Stop | What to do about the 8

  1. Route 8 is so unreliable that printed schedules are not worth the paper they are printed on or worth inserting in bus stop standards. OBA is better in that respect.

    • OBA is only useful if your definition of a “minute” is fluid. I’ve waited 20 minutes for an 8 bus that was “3 minutes away” according to the app.

      • Important to remember that OBA is limited by the fact that buses aren’t equipped with GPS, so it can’t actually tell how fast your bus is moving (or not moving) or exactly how far away it is from you. It can only go off of when it passed the last stop and the expected travel time between them. Metro needs to invest in system wide GPS positioning

      • Metro actually does use GPS now. The old AVL system was replaced in 2010. The problem here is likely that the app was reporting an ETA based on an inaccurate pace of traffic.

  2. During rush hour I usually avoid the 8. To go back to the Hill, it’s often faster to go downtown (via the 26, 28, 40, or SLUT) and catch one of the Hill-bound buses from 4th and Pike.

  3. I’m surprised there aren’t more extreme walking commuters out there. I walk up Capitol Hill at least six times per week and my body has never been leaner despite consuming a fair amount of sugars. But I did just take the 8 today for a meeting I didn’t want to arrive sweaty.

    • My husband started walking to/from LQA from Capitol Hill because the 8 takes longer or just about the same amount of time to get him home. He shed over 30 pounds in the first couple months!

      • My husband has also done this. He walks to and from Capitol Hill to Elliott and regularly passes two, three, sometimes even four #8 buses stuck in traffic. Been great for his “girlish figure” as he calls it.

  4. The 8 has become to unreliable, and Denny such a cluster fuck, that I now just take the 49 (super reliable) and walk to SLU and then walk back to downtown and grab the 49, 47, 43, 11, or 10. Whichever comes first! I beat the 8 every time which isn’t logical if you look at a map but it’s true.

  5. I have the same scenario. Working in SLU, living in Madison Valley. It’s just easier and quicker to walk home 3 miles over the hill than it is to wait an unpredictable time for the 8, which is often too full to take on passengers at the Stewart stop due to the steep hill. I’m fortunate that I have that option, but that’s obviously not the case for anybody with mobility problems or a family schedule to maintain.

    • I do the same, either bike or walk Madison Valley to SLU/Eastlake. My commute times are as follows: driving (which I never do), 10-15 minutes. bike, 25 minutes. Walking, 45 minutes. Bus, 1 hour 10 minutes (with transfer downtown) if buses are on time and not overcrowded. I only ever tried the 8 twice, both times were a complete disaster and took nearly two hours to get from work to home.

  6. Talk about tunnel vision. You left off half the story. 23rd and John is not “the other end of the route 8 corridor”. Try Rainier Beach. The stretch from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill is a big contributor to the #8 being late too. Increased traffic on MLK due to construction on 23rd Ave has impacted the #8 too. Also, a helluva lot of people ride the #8 through Rainier Valley and the Central District on MLK before it gets anywhere near Capitol Hill. All this whining about how late the buses to/from Capitol Hill are, and poor Amazonians getting stuck on Denny– you have no idea how under-served parts of the Central District are, that rely entiurely on the #8, with all its lateness.

    • ^^totally agree.

      Walking from SLU to broadway and olive should take about 20 minutes. not a big deal. Meanwhile we have the entire rest of the 8’s route which is totally effed because of the traffic on Denny.

      Let’s put a toll on Denny. make drivers find an alternative way to get on the freeway during rush hour, or pay money.

    • “Bus Stop talked to David Seater, who recently started a job on the other end of the route 8 corridor. The trip should take 30 minutes from his home near 23rd and John.”

      He’s not saying 23rd and John is the other end of the route. This guy lives on 23rd and John works at the other end of the route, presumably on Lower Queen Anne.

    • Thank you! I usually walk to work near Denny from my home in the CD. Right now it’s pleasant and I’m saving money, but once it starts getting rainy/cold and I get off work after it’s dark, I definitely want to bus. In fact, as a woman, I pretty much need to bus home if I get off work after a certain hour due to safety concerns. The issue is much worse for those who aren’t physically able to walk. Improve the Late 8!

  7. The 8 was the first city bus I ever tried taking on my Capitol Hill -> Belltown commute. I almost quit taking the bus completely because of how terrible the 8 is, but thankfully discovered the 4th & Pike workaround. I grab any bus at 3rd & Cedar (all of them stop at 3rd & Pike) and the 10, 11, 43, 47, or 49. Rarely have to wait more than a few minutes at both stops.

  8. I HATE the 8. Its always jammed full past capacity. Nothing is better than waiting for a bus that is continually 20+ minutes late, only to have it finally come to my stop and PASS ME BY because its over capacity. Not to mention all the asshole car drivers that block every single intersection on Denny. The ride home takes much longer than I can walk. But you know what, sometimes I don’t want to walk up that giant-ass hill. Plus I have the supposedly reliable one bus away app singing me a siren song that my bus is only 5 minutes away… when that turns out to be a lie. What a clusterfuck. They need to greatly increase the number of buses on that route.

  9. It never used to be this bad on the 8 until, you guessed it, Amazon moved into South Lake Union. This gazillion dollar company should subsidize more frequent buses in this area or private buses for their drones, I mean employees. This happens in Silicon Valley. If a company is going to have such a huge impact on the infrastructure of an area they need to help fix the problems they cause. They have the money.

    • Just what Denny Way needs, ten more buses in that traffic on that 10 block stretch during rush hour! Silicon Valley has those buses because they house their workforce 40 miles away in San Francisco. How has that worked for SF?
      I love how some residents think if only Amazon built it’s headquarters in the suburbs, none of their employees would live on Capitol Hill. Nope. More traffic as all the people walking and riding public buses now would drive. Or private buses clog the streets and block stops.

  10. I’d like to see a couple of benches installed along the “big-ass” hill for walkers trying to avoid heart attacks.

    The roads are all too thin for modern traffic. It will always be a problem. Cars and streets are antiquated. It’s the beginning of the end for cars.

  11. Put me on the list for the gondola

    From Mercer to SLU would be cool incredible views.

    Im open to wherever though great idea

    Lets start something!

    • We’re in. We live on Mercer (Cap Hill end) and overlook the mess that is daily traffic. We absolutely need some sort of “up and over” option to get to the other side of I-5 and Mercer makes sense for serving the heart of the SLU boom.

  12. I guess I am the only one who rides it late at night after a movie at Pacific Science Center. It is on time late at night.

  13. I ride the 8 – better known as the Late – and agree it is a problem and only capital improvements will make it better. As for crowded buses, it surprises me that people don’t do more to accommodate more passengers. Having grown up in Boston and spent time in NYC, the buses don’t reach capacity in Seattle because people don’t cram in. Thankfully I’m not the one left on the street, but if I was, I’d be pissed that people on the 8 aren’t considerate enough to snuggle up to their fellow passengers.

    • I really do think we should remove most of the seats on 8 coaches and turn the inside of the coach into something resembling a NYC subway car.

    • Totally agree with this – and not just on the 8. This morning, I got on the 10 and there was a woman sitting on the “aisle” sit with an empty seat by the window. She acted like I was really putting her out when I wanted to sit there – even though the bus was clearly filling up. WTF PEOPLE?!? You’re on a BUS. Have some common courtesy for your fellow passengers.

      • When we got rid of civics classes in schools and evolved toward more of an anything goes value this is just one of the things you get. I’ve seen some actual hostility erupt from some of these azzholes who want to claim a whole row. And many of them clearly not homeless/mentally ill.

  14. True, the street grid will be reconnected once the tunnel opens, but also more traffic might be brought to Mercer Street in order to access the tunnel’s north portal. So the tunnel might be detrimental to SLU traffic (although this effect may be limited by the tunnel’s high toll).

  15. Metro and the King County Council need to pull their heads out of the sand and look at models from other cities. In Vancouver BC if a bus is bogged down they will route an empty one and inject it onto the route ahead of the bogged down one to keep the schedule better. I’ve taken the 12 in the 4-5 PM time frame lately and seen no buses for over half an hour and then up to three all together following each other come chugging up the hill from the hospitals. Metro could apply a different approach such as breaking down these long routes into sections, and they could also ask drivers not to do 40 in a 30 zone as I have seen too often. (Confirmed by one of those roadside electronic signs that displays speed to drivers)

  16. I still think the name “Bus Stop” that you’ve chosen could use a title that’s a little more fun. Fun it up, dude!

    possible suggestions:
    Bus and Let Die
    Bus and Roses
    Bus Packer (get it? cause your last name is Packer)

    • And your reason for saying that Metro is like a “third world” bus service is what? Hyperbole is nice but it doesn’t convey much.

  17. OMG…Did someone really say the bus service here is Third World? Aside from the fact that that term went out of fashion years ago, it’s just, not. If anything, this problem, as others have said, is a symptom of development.

    But yes, the 8 is definitely not running at its best these days during rush hour especially. My partner usually ends up walking up the Hill from slu about once a week. He enjoys the walk, so that works for him.

  18. I walk to work but my job often requires very long hours. I work on Capitol Hill and live in the CD, and I sometimes just don’t want to walk home at 10:00 PM on a November night. There is no direct bus route between my office and home, so the 8 is the only option that gets me reasonably close. There have been many times when I have gotten to the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus is supposed to arrive, and I end up waiting 50 minutes for a bus. They run this far behind schedule at 10:00 at night! I can walk to my house in 25 minutes.

    For those of you who can walk, I would give it a try. It is far better than taking the bus. You may want to wait until the weather cools before your first attempt. Contrary to what you may believe, the summer months are by far the most uncomfortable, and this has been a brutal summer. Walking at night is doable if it is not too late and you observe safety practices. Never, ever, use headphones or earbuds and don’t talk on your phone. Walk very fast and pay attention. Don’t carry valuables or wear any jewelry. Stick to arterials as much as you can. Wear something light-colored for visibility. Watch out for bicyclists; they do not stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and they can be hard to see.

  19. The nice thing about one bus away is that I can check around a bit to see if complaints are an exaggeration. I have to say I look forward to the day that some solutions are actually offered on the Mercer/Denny mess and Montlake. At the moment late in the evening the 8 is running 1 minute early southbound and on time northbound. I am not saying this is normal, and I use it often enough to say complaints have merit, but some of these are either exaggerations or outside the norm. On advantage to being on a bus and not driving is if there is a serious back up or accident you can exit the bus at the next stop and walk, but you cannot leave your car behind.

  20. Note that the 8 does NOT “traverse…Madison Park” as indicated in the article. It does pass through Madison Valley, but that is a distinctly different neighborhood!

  21. I live around 26th and Jackson and also walk to work. The bus, whether it’s the 4 or the 8, would save me at best 10 minutes so might as well get in the 6 miles of walking.

  22. Obvious the answer is for everyone to use the City’s bikeshare bikes. Time for people to get off the buses and on to bikes, or move where there is actual bus service.