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Bus Stop | Off Capitol Hill: What service could look like across CD, First Hill in 2025

The #2, Central District, Seattle
Route-48In April, Bus Stop looked at what King County Metro’s long range plan — envisioning our bus network in 2025 and in 2040 — might mean for Capitol Hill routes and the riders on them. Today I want to look at how the future network sketched out by Metro’s planners imagines how things will change in Capitol Hill’s connecting communities, First Hill and the Central District.

Frequent routes
Metro defines a frequent route as a route running at 15-minute or better frequency during most of the day. Evening service, however, can be another story, but we are going to look at the frequent routes Metro has included in its long range plan as those are going to be the most important ones for providing reliable neighborhood service.

One of the most frequent routes in this network will remain the route 48. Funds have been dedicated in the Move Seattle levy package to convert the 48 corridor into a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, combined with the highest ridership route in Metro’s fleet, the 7 running on Rainier Avenue in Southeast Seattle.


The current routes 3 and 4 share a corridor through downtown but have unique tails at both ends, in Queen Anne and in the Central District. On our end, the 3 ends in Madrona and the 4 ends in Judkins Park. Metro’s long range plan only envisions the frequent corridor ending at Madrona, what we know as route 3. It also switches the route from its current path on James Street down to Yesler Way while still making the crucial stop today at Harborview Medical Center.first-hill-crosstown

On First Hill, with Madison BRT handling the lion’s share of riders heading northeast away from downtown, Metro also plans a Boren Avenue route that would bisect the neighborhood in the other direction. Boren is quite a different street to run buses on than Seneca, which would in the long range plan lose the route 2 to Pine Street in Capitol Hill. This is likely the most controversial part of the proposed map as the comments on the last article could attest. But a First Hill route on Boren could create an all-day connection between that neighborhood and South Lake Union. With a Denny Way and Westlake station proposed on the Ballard light rail line this could strengthen the all-day network if Boren was not as congested as Denny Way is currently in 2038.

Local service
Some corridors that see frequent service today are not imagined by Metro to be long term candidates for frequent service in the future. One of the most notable ones is Martin Luther King Way. Currently the route 8 provides very frequent service here on one of the most ridden routes in the system. With the conversion of the 48 into a RapidRide corridor, Metro clearly sees the riders on MLK being served for the most part by service on 23rd. A big driver of this is the only new light rail station central Seattle will see before a new downtown transit tunnel is built: Judkins Park. This stop on the way to the Eastside  at 23rd and I-90 should provide a quick transfer point for Central District riders.mlk

The only service on MLK imagined is a local route connecting Beacon Hill Station to the termination point of Madison BRT at Madison & MLK with the route also serving 23rd south of Yesler.

The current route 27, which runs on Yesler is imagined as a local route also connecting South Lake Union with First Hill, the CD, and Lake Washington Boulevard and ending in Mount Baker.27

A definite redistribution of service
Unlike on Capitol Hill, where the long range plan appears to lean toward providing service to new areas, the long range plan for First Hill and the Central District appears to be more of a neutral redistribution, more on the order of a light rail restructure. With the fact that all of these neighborhoods will be expected to accommodate a large portion of the city’s expected population growth, the two big questions that Metro will work hard to answer over the coming years are: is the proposed network going to be the best way to serve riders in our region, and will the neighborhood resistance to changes in bus routes cause the network to change in ways that help or hurt ridership?

The long range plan is, once again, not a service change proposal. The rubber will hit the road when Metro gets out and talks to riders about what they want to see from a transit network and what serves their needs. But the seeds of the long range plan will shape those conversations for years to come.

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9 thoughts on “Bus Stop | Off Capitol Hill: What service could look like across CD, First Hill in 2025

  1. Anything down Boren would be wonderful. They added some more express routes, but those only run one way for the AM, and then the other in the PM – and it only really serves those coming into FH in the morning, and heading into SLU in the PM. Running both ways during the rushes would be great.

    • Ever ride the three? You can walk faster than that bus moves from Harborview to James. Seattle needs faster service on the #3. Just imagine what traffic on James is going to look like after Swedish adds a few thousand more employees on Cherry Hill.

      • I live on James St. Ride the 3 or 4 frequently. I also hike up the hill from time to time, and that’s not something I want to do daily. The switch to Yesler will leave no bus service going up the hill between Yesler and Madison. That’s a pretty wide swath.

  2. James Street traffic flow has to be fixed. That is the fix that has to be explored in depth, James also represents the community access to City Hall and County buildings.

  3. Doesn’t the 8 Denny Way combine with the 11 to Madison Park in these plans?

    I’m interested to hear more about the 2 on Pine, how/where does it shift over to Union? Broadway? 12th? Further east?

    Also heard the 49 would be shifted over to 12th from Broadway and not run downtown but continue onto Beacon Hill as the 36

  4. Is there anything in long-range plans involving Pike St., say, east of the Freeway? Seattle City Light seems to want to keep poles on the south side of Pike St. (that is, the uphill side) even as they compel building owners to move their electrical service underground. Could they be planning for a hybrid trolley bus with overhead power lines on the uphill side, and have it go down Pike St. on battery?