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Bus Stop | What Capitol Hill bus service could look like in 2025 and beyond

The Madison bus rapid transit is slated to open by 2019.

The Madison bus rapid transit line is slated to open in 2019.

With its big U-Link bus restructure in place, King County Metro has quietly begun laying the ground work to adapt to the next phase of expansion of Sound Transit’s light rail system. Within days of Seattle getting its first look at how Seattle’s light rail network will look in 2040 — with service to Ballard and West Seattle, in addition to Everett and Tacoma on the extremities of the system — Metro released a map showing its first attempt to serve our region in conjunction with that system. CHS dug into the Long Range Plan map to find how those changes would affect Capitol Hill.

As we have seen in the past, these plans can change dramatically, even more so with the timelines in decades instead of years. But the map provides an insight into how transit planners at Metro are attempting to serve Capitol Hill riders. Metro is breaking these changes into two conceptual phases: 2025 service and 2040 service.


The biggest change that will be in place by 2025 is Madison BRT. This project will consolidate service on Madison Street in dedicated lanes between downtown and Madison Valley, freeing up some service hours to be used elsewhere to complement.

As a result, Metro is eyeing moving route 2 off Seneca St. on First Hill and onto Pine Street in Capitol Hill.

This change, in turn, will pave the way for Metro to create a new crosstown workhorse between the Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and Capitol Hill from the current route 49. This route will serve 12th Ave, which perplexingly does not have any Metro service today despite being the eastern edge of one of Seattle’s largest private universities. This will also be the most frequent transfer between Madison BRT and light rail service at Capitol Hill Station.

The other route that is in for major changes as a result of Madison BRT is the route 12. The proposed new 12 will essentially be the exact same route as a 43, except will serve 19th Ave between Thomas and Aloha. Service on Aloha is something new for Capitol Hill, and trolley wire would be required on that street to bring this route into the trolley bus network.

Speaking of Aloha, one of the most interesting new route proposals in the long range plan is a route that provides cross-Capitol Hill service on Aloha Street and Roy Street and connects to South Lake Union via the Lakeview Overpass. No Metro buses currently use the overpass. This would provide a pretty quick connection between South Lake Union and Madison BRT.

The future envisioned for the route 47? Metro imagines this route, which currently runs along both Summit Ave northbound and Bellevue Ave southbound, being consolidated onto Bellevue Ave. It also imagines it continuing on via Lakeview Boulevard and circling though Montlake before terminating in Laurelhurst.

By 2025 Metro envisions the route 8 and 11 fusing together as they had in previous restructure proposals. By that time Aurora Ave N will be reconnected to the grid as a boulevard, allowing the 8 to move off Denny west of Fairview Ave N in South Lake Union. Metro is planning a bus-only lane on the remaining portion, which should make the route much more reliable.


The 2025 network is almost identical to the envisioned network for 2040. The main changes are that two of the corridors I listed above will become one of 20 new planned RapidRide routes: the Beacon Hill-bound 49 corridor, and the route 8/11 hybrid corridor.

The upgraded 8 will connect the new South Lake Union and Uptown light rail stops, projected to open in 2038, to Capitol Hill. This will also be direct connection to other new RapidRide routes, like the one planned to take over the current route 40.

Bold Choices

As you can tell, Metro is making inroads to providing service in areas that it currently doesn’t serve at all. In addition, it appears to be eyeing the conversion of corridors that are currently tied to electric trolley wire to off-wire fully electric buses. How effective their vision will be realized on the ground is a different story that will play out in the coming years, most significantly with the roll out of Madison BRT in 2019.

These concepts will certainly change, but it is exciting to get a first glimpse at how people on Capitol Hill will get around without a car in 2040. The only thing missing is a gondola.


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18 thoughts on “Bus Stop | What Capitol Hill bus service could look like in 2025 and beyond

    • It’s different in one important way: it serves the dense and transit-using Summit neighborhood. This segment alone has more ridership than the entire 25 ever did. This proposed route makes up for the coverage gap, but at a much lower cost than a dedicated bus to downtown, which means more service (here or elsewhere).

      To be honest, I think Metro would have proposed this change for 2016, except for the lack of trolley wire. But trolley wire is cheap in the scheme of things, and so I’m very happy to see that this vision doesn’t constrain itself to the existing trolley network.

  1. So, If the 12 takes over the 43’s route, AND the 11 gets moved to John Street, can the 10 go back to Pine Street? The trip from 15th and Pine has gotten longer and less frequent since the 10 was moved, and BRT on Madison won’t provide the same connection to Westlake/Belltown/Denny Triangle. There are numerous, large apartment buildings going up at the uphill parts of Pike/Pine, and continuing to downgrade service to this part of the neighborhood is an unfortunate move.

    • Good question. Metro doesn’t have any change for the 10 in their plan through 2040. The 2 will provide service to 12th Avenue where it will cut over to Union.

    • Yeah, and when it does that, it’ll pretty much ruin the 2’s effectiveness as a quick trip to downtown for all the working people through the CD. And (as they proposed before), strand all the elderly population on First Hill along Seneca Street. Seems like they never get tired of thinking of ways to f**k with the #2.

    • > it’ll pretty much ruin the 2’s effectiveness as a quick trip to downtown for all the working people through the CD

      I admit that I’m confused by this. I pretty much never take the 2, even when it would be a door-to-door trip, because of how long it takes to get anywhere. The proposed route would be _way_ faster.

      If you don’t believe me, just check the current schedules. During the PM peak, the 2 takes 16 minutes to get from downtown to Broadway, while the 11 takes 11 minutes to cover the same distance. At noon, the 2 takes 11 minutes, while the 11 takes 8 minutes.

  2. Jim, I don’t actually understand your point. In this plan, Central District riders along union can transfer at Capitol Hill station to get downtown, they can transfer at Madison BRT to get downtown, or they can stay on the bus and get downtown.

    As for Seneca, it’s really hard to see why we should preserve service there when we are creating a dedicated bus service corridor two blocks away.

    • I said a QUICK trip to downtown for working people through the CD. People who ride the #2 across Union to get to work in the business district. Have you ever ridden the #2 along Union during rush hours? Try it. Don’t just stare at maps, take yourself to Union and 34th in the AM at about 8:00 and take it downtown. It’s full, sometimes SRO, with lots of people who work in the north end of the financial district, elderly people from the ACLFs along Seneca, and people getting services at the clinics along Seneca. The proposed re-route along Pine doesn’t connect to the Capitol Hill rail station and is useless for that. Then it grinds slowly down Pine through already-busy traffic into the entire other end of downtown. This will make a huge cluster-f**k for commuters along the current #2 who work downtown. The only thing good to say about it is it won’t happen till probably 2025.


    • The solution here is transferring at Madison to the BRT, which will probably be quicker than the 2’s current slog to downtown anyway. While it’d be great to have one seat rides from everywhere to everywhere, we can’t. Those willing to walk a few blocks can transfer to Link also.

    • Sure, let’s tell all the elderly people with their walkers and wheelchairs they can hike a couple of blocks over to Madison. Hope you’re OK with taking the “R” out of BRT when that happens. As for the #2’s “slog to downtown”– the slow part of the #2 is the part past MLK, 23rd, and 12th. But you already know that, Ian. Once it crosses Union it’s not slow. Turning onto 12th and down Pine and it’s gridlock the whole way. Transferring at Madison? Hope they’re planning to double or triple the number of BRT buses on Madison. “Willing to walk a few blocks to light rail” and transfer– yeah, that’s effective. Makes your 20 minute commute stretch to closer to an hour. This bus is always full. Why do they insist on constantly proposing to screw with it?

    • > Once it crosses Union it’s not slow.

      The schedule does not agree with you. The 11, which follows the route that Metro is proposing for the 2, is 5 minutes faster than the 2 between downtown and Broadway.

      > Have you ever ridden the #2 along Union during rush hours?

      Yes. Quite often. But I’ve learned the hard way that it’s something to avoid. I always try to take the 11 or 12 instead, because they’re so much faster, even taking into account the extra walk.

      > As for Seneca, it’s really hard to see why we should preserve service there when we are creating a dedicated bus service corridor two blocks away.

      I don’t completely agree with this. Seneca (east of I-5) has the front entrance of Virginia Mason, and a disproportionately high number of elderly/disabled riders. I think it’s important to maintain some sort of coverage here, even if it’s just a short circulator that runs between downtown and Capitol Hill Station via Seneca and Broadway.

  3. Nice. I especially like the Aloha crosstown route. It will probably be underused until some of those middle spans densify (if that ever happens), but it’s a neat route that’s never been there before.

    The 12 and 47 are silly though. There’s no reason to run service on 19th, as 15th and 23rd are a flat half mile from one another and it’s mostly single family homes. Likewise, the 47 will basically replicate the 25, which never performed very well. Maybe they’re foreseeing much more density in those areas in the future or something, although I doubt it.

  4. > being consolidated onto Bellevue Ave

    FWIW, I wouldn’t take this too literally. The map also shows the 67 being consolidated onto 11th Ave NE (a one-way street), and the 26 being consolidated onto Latona Ave south of 50th (a one-way street with only a single lane of traffic). Perhaps Metro is talking to SDOT about rebuilding these streets… but it seems more likely that they just didn’t bother adding both directions for all these routes.

  5. Why CANNOT THEY NOT LEAVE THE NO 2 ALONE? Every year they float some BAD idea to change it. What is bugging these people? Please remember this, Metro: folks have built, purchased and rented housing based on where the buses go. Changing a route can destroy those plans. LEAVE GOOD ENOUGH ALONE.

  6. 15th to 23rd is not a flat route at all. Probably a 125 foot elevation change from point to point. And lots of people use the route on 19th, including older people, for whom that walk you describe would be a deal breaker. Plus, those single family homeowners pay more on a per capita bais for their share of Metro’s budget.