Bus service access & advocacy

[Note: the following section discusses current Metro bus routes and their near-term improvement. See the separate section on the proposed Roosevelt Rapid Ride (high capacity express buses with special stations), a planning process that also considered streetcars.]

Stand up for more route #70 buses and restoration of express service via route #73 or restoration of route #66! People who live or work in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood are among the region’s most faithful users of public transit. Eastlakers voted in large numbers for the Nov. 2014 City tax increase to save and expand bus service. They also voted overwhelmingly for the April 22, 2014 countywide bus and road construction tax measure that as defeated because of opposition from voters outside of Seattle.

Those who live or work in Eastlake were surprised and disappointed by King County Metro’s 2015 decision to eliminate routes #25 and #66 through Eastlake, and the funds saved were largely spent for service that does not benefit Eastlake. Promised improvements in the route #70 have fallen far behind the increased demand, and anyway that route is only a local. Eastlakers now have fewer transit choices and worse service than in generations. Eastlake is left without express bus service for the first time in generations.

Click here for the Eastlake Community Council’s June 26, 2016 letter calling for more route #70 buses and for restoration of express service to Eastlake. The letter went to King County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilmember Larry Gossett, Mayor Ed Murray, and District 4 City Councilmember Rob Johnson. Of the four, only Constantine had responded as of February 2018. Click here for his Aug. 1, 2016 reply.

Cancellation of route #66 left Eastlake without any express service. What is most frustrating about these changes is that the funds saved from cutting Eastlake’s bus service went mostly to improve bus service in other neighborhoods, not in Eastlake. And although the route #73 express became more frequent with funds taken from the 66 cancellation, Metro ignored the urging of the Eastlake Community Council for it to add the four express stops (Aloha, Garfield, Lynn, and Harvard) that were served by route #66.

Metro unfortunately still sees the Eastlake and South Lake Union neighborhoods as a corridor for zipping passengers between downtown and the University District. The Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, hundreds of petition signatures and many letters have called on Metro to establish for each express bus just a few stops (as with the 66 express) on Eastlake Avenue, respecting Eastlake and South Lake Union as the transit destinations that City legislation says they are. Taking away the route 66 express bus without adding a few Eastlake and south Lake Union express stops to the route 73 express was a major step backward.

Eastlake bus riders need to be organized, to defend their bus service and speak up for its improvement. For questions about any of the above, or to get involved, contact ECC at info@eastakeseattle.org.

Background Eastlake grew up around a streetcar system that served both Eastlake Avenue and 10th Avenue E. (there was no Interstate 5 in those days to block access between these two routes). But in 1940 the voters of Seattle disbanded this system. Eastlake’s streetcars were replaced with electric trolley buses, but these were replaced with diesels in 1971.

Through years of effort by the Eastlake Community Council and others, Metro in 1993 switched Eastlake’s local bus service from diesel back to electric trolley buses. However, south of Fairview Avenue N., the route to downtown was moved from Eastlake Avenue onto Fairview Avenue N., through the “Mercer mess” and the middle of the South Lake Union area. Also, promises were broken to wire Eastlake’s electric trolley buses into the downtown transit tunnel, with no notice to the neighborhood, and the funds spent instead on suburban bus service.

ECC continues its work to improve Eastlake’s bus lines, which are increasingly crowded. Better transit service would make it easier to dine, shop, work or reside in Eastlake, and to commute to jobs outside the neighborhood. Most Metro buses that use Eastlake Avenue never actually stop on Eastlake Avenue, seeing the Eastlake and South Lake Union neighborhoods as a corridor for zipping passengers between downtown and the University District. The Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, hundreds of petition signatures and many letters continue to call upon Metro to establish for each express bus just a few stops (as with the 66 express) on Eastlake Avenue, respecting Eastlake and South Lake Union as the transit destinations that City legislation says they are.


[1] Robert from Move King County Now spoke about the ongoing efforts to secure funding for Metro. Regardless of the outcome of the current legislative special session, some proposal for Metro funding will come before King County voters. This is necessary to find a sustainable funding source for Metro besides sales taxes, which fluctuate considerably with the economy. Without new funding, Metro will begin to make cuts quarterly beginning in January. These cuts will represent 17% of Metro’s current service. Move King County Now is working toward building support for Metro in the legislature and ultimately among King County voters. People can learn more about Move King County Now at www.movekingcountynow.org

[2] Bo from the Transit Riders Union spoke about his organization’s efforts. TRU works to coordinate efforts across neighborhoods in Seattle to advocate for public transportation. This helps to avoid pitting neighborhoods against one another for Metro services. People can learn more about TRU at www.transitriders.org

[3] Public discussion among Eastlake residents about bus service issues:
*Bus etiquette: some people do not give up seats to the disabled, elderly, expectant mothers, and others who need a seat. This can occur as a result of overcrowding and as a result of people just not being aware.
*Overcrowding: This is a problem on the 66 and the 70. These buses sometimes arrive full before reaching Eastlake, especially in the morning.
*Express service: The 66, which makes 4 stops in Eastlake, is currently the only express bus that stops in the neighborhood. The 71/72/73 typically pass through without stopping in order to connect the U-District to downtown. Under the proposed changes from Metro, the 66 would be cut, and it is unclear if the new 73 route would stop in Eastlake at all.
*Emergency or snow routes: Eastlake has limited or no service if the 70 breaks down or if conditions shut down the route. The 71/72/73 buses between downtown and the U-District do not stop in Eastlake even in this circumstance.
*Complicated stops: Split stops make catching the bus to Eastlake more complicated. This includes the fact that some buses run on street-level (66 and 70) while others use the bus tunnel (71/72/73). Signage is limited in notifying people during times when they should be trying to get the bus in the tunnel.
*Bus reliability: Heavy traffic near Mercer or near Virginia street often can delay the 70. That the 70 is an electric bus necessarily eliminates its ability to alter its route to avoid a major traffic incident. This increases its risk of major delays.
*Eastlake Corridor Study: A study has been commissioned by the city to assess the feasibility of various high-capacity transportation options for Eastlake including a street car, protected bus lanes, RapidRide, and other options. There should be numerous opportunities for public comment once this study begins.
*Route 25: A number of people appreciate route 25. This route rarely gets stuck in traffic, has more available seats, and is by far the most accessible route for people living on Lakeview. It was also acknowledged , though, that it does not seem to have nearly the ridership levels of many other routes, which makes it a target for cuts.
*Bus safety: There are several concerns about bus safety: (1) Overcrowding: makes it dangerous for people who have difficulties standing (this is also a matter of bus etiquette); (2) Slick floors: On wet days, the bus floors are extremely slick. This can create falling hazards especially when people are not able to sit on the bus. This can also be exacerbated by aggressive driving. Different paints, coatings, or non-slip pads might help to alleviate this; and (3) Hasty braking or acceleration: Drivers who are braking heavily can make riding the bus uncomfortable or dangerous
*Working with other communities: There was a suggestion to coordinate with the Cascade Neighborhood Council as that neighborhood is served by similar routes as Eastlake
*Routing the 70: Alternate routes for the 70 could be considered besides Fairview. For example, running on Eastlake Avenue (as it did for several months during the Mercer construction) or perhaps Westlake.
*Coach size: The 70 does not seem to have a consistent coach size. Larger coaches might help to resolve some issues with overcrowding.
*Stop announcements: Bus drivers need to be more consistent in announcing bus stops or keeping the volume at audible levels for the automated bus stop announcements. The TRU has an initiative on this topic that has strong support of other organizations, including those representing the visually impaired.
*Positive feedback for drivers: The Metro comment system can be used to give positive feedback for bus drivers. Calling Metro with the bus number, time, and operator name can ensure they get positive feedback on their record.
*Temperature control: Bus temperature can be an issue in summer (buses too hot) or winter (heat on buses is too high)
*Buses to match density: As building projects increase density, it is important to coordinate services like Metro to scale with the increasing number of people. This is an issue in Eastlake (with new buildings including microhousing) and in South Lake Union where changed building height restrictions allow for larger projects.

[4] Recommended Actions
*Contacting representatives in the State Legislature can help to express support for local funding options for King County public transportation
*Create new methods for connecting Eastlake’s bus riders. This may include an email list, a Facebook page, a Google Group, or other social media options. The goal will be to expand discussion about pressing issues for Eastlake. Eric has volunteered to get this process started.
*Comments about any of these issues should be submitted to Metro directly at customer.comments@kingcounty.gov.
*Please contact ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org to be added to ECC’s e-mail list for alerts about bus issues, or if you have additional suggestions or wish to volunteer.