Relief is coming for 1st Ave S buses to West Seattle.

We’re nearly 9 months into the #SeattleSqueeze & getting around parts of Seattle continues to be a real challenge.

West Seattle and Pioneer Square have both taken the brunt of construction-related traffic impacts this past year, and so people who rely on buses traveling through both of these neighborhoods via 1st Ave S have felt an especially large burden of long and unreliable commutes.

While there’s no silver bullet to end congestion entirely, there’s some relief coming for these bus riders as we’ve been working closely with King County Metro to reroute these southbound buses to 4th Ave S for the next few months until waterfront construction allows them to shift to a better, permanent route along Alaskan Way in early 2020.  

The reroute will take effect on Sept. 9 for southbound bus routes: 21X, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, & RapidRide C Line. 

Map of new route. A new southbound stop will open at 2nd Ave Ext S and S Washington St.

New bus routes through Pioneer Square and SoDo.

Southbound buses will use 2nd Ave to get through Pioneer Square then shift to 4th Ave S to get past the stadiums.  

Northbound buses will remain on 1st Ave except for a short-term reroute to 4th Ave from September 12-21 due to Washington State Department of Transportation viaduct demolition which will temporarily close the Dearborn St off-ramps from State Route 99.  

See more details and maps on King County Metro’s blog

We worked closely with Metro to identify a solution to improve transit reliability on 1st Ave S, but ultimately this route posed too many operational challenges.  

One option that we considered was creating a transit-only lane on 1st Ave; however, even if we removed parking on 1st Ave, buses couldn’t safely drive in the right lane because there are hollow underground areaways beneath the sidewalk which can’t support the weight of buses. Creating a transit lane in the left lane wouldn’t have solved the problem either because buses would’ve had to continually merge in and out of this transit lane in order to reach bus stops.   

Another option which we tried was optimizing 1st Ave traffic signals for transit. On August 12, we reprogrammed traffic signals to aid transit movements, which improved bus reliability and reduced transit delays. However, even with reduced delays, other challenges like large stadium events, construction, and ferry traffic meant 1st Ave is not as effective as using 4th Ave.

We’re working with Metro to make several changes to make this new 4th Ave route as efficient & reliable as possible. 

We’ll be modifying the traffic signal at Second Ave and Columbia St to create a bus-only phase that allows buses to make a left-turn from the existing transit lane on Columbia St.

We also recently painted northbound 4th Ave transit lanes red between Royal Brougham Way and Jackson St. This will help improve reliability for these buses during the temporary northbound reroute in September, and for many other buses which take this route into downtown every day.  

The 1st Ave route was never a long-term plan for buses, and we’re supportive of Metro’s decision to shift southbound buses to 4th Ave as a more reliable short-term solution until the new two-way Columbia St transit pathway is completed in early 2020.

This pathway will be located where the southbound viaduct entrance used to be and will offer a new and improved connection to Alaskan Way. Once this pathway is open, these buses will be able to travel south along the waterfront on a route which solves many of the problems affecting 1st Ave S and 4th Ave S.