Why are buses coming out of the tunnel?

Seattle, your bus route has changed. It’s time to make a plan.

When King County first built the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the region’s agencies always intended for an eventual transition to light-rail-only. There are two reasons that caused the buses to move permanently to the surface on March 23, 2019:

  • To continue preparing downtown tunnel stations for Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail expansion to the Eastside in 2023
  • The Washington State Convention Center Addition project
Northgate station Link light rail construction site
Link light rail construction at Northgate.

Light rail expansion.

Just south of International District/Chinatown Station, Sound Transit is preparing to expand light rail to the Eastside in 2023. As part of that project, next January, Sound Transit will build track connections that will allow trains from the Eastside to travel into downtown Seattle and on to Northgate. Read more in Sound Transit’s latest blog post.

This means that Sound Transit needs to start preparatory construction now and riders will start noticing early work soon after March 23.

Sound Transit will:

  • Begin early construction work to retrofit the tunnel and remove bus-only infrastructure in March as soon as tunnel closes
  • Construct a turn-back track at the International District/Chinatown Station this summer
  • Construct a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square in October

When the Northgate extension opens in 2021, Sound Transit will operate longer four-car trains. In 2023, trains from the Eastside and from SeaTac will both continue through downtown Seattle all the way to Northgate. These two lines will mean trains run as often as every four minutes at shared stations. 

With buses no longer sharing stations with trains, the announcement “the train is being held due to traffic ahead” will become a thing of the past.

Starting next week, trains will be more evenly spaced and will adhere more closely to their peak schedule of arriving every six minutes.

Two Link light rail trains

Integrated buses and trains are the future!

We’re about to see our whole region connected by light rail. The extensions to Northgate (2021) and Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake (2023) are under construction. ​Trains will then reach Lynnwood, Federal Way and downtown Redmond in 2024; West Seattle and Tacoma in 2030; Ballard and South Lake Union in 2035; Everett in 2036; and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041. The future is buses and trains, people!

Convention Center.

Just northeast of Westlake Station, Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) construction continues to make progress and will soon close off the only access point for buses at the former Convention Place Station. Metro agreed to transfer the Convention Place property in June 2017, and timed the service change so riders and bus service could make a smooth transition.

The WSCC Addition will be a transformative project that provides a host of economic benefits, including as much as $260 million annually in visitor spending, as many as 3,900 direct and indirect jobs, and some 6,000 jobs during construction.

A history lesson from the WSCC Addition Project.

The WSCC Addition Project has a great website where you can learn more information about the project. Here’s how they describe the change:

Nearly 15 years ago, the decision was made to close Convention Place Station (CPS) to bus traffic when light rail extends beyond the University of Washington. The long-term plan has been for the buses to deliver passengers to the light rail stations and use the light rail to move riders through the hourglass of downtown. This requires more trains and rail cars, which means buses must move out of the tunnel.

WSCC Addition Project

Construction timeline.

The construction is scheduled to be complete in 2021, and will be open for events in the spring of 2022.

Follow @WSCCAddition on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. You can also see the latest construction updates.