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Metro seeks public input on expanding late night bus service

Summary

King County Metro Transit is planning to improve and expand “Night Owl” bus service next year for late-night riders, and seeks public input on a proposal that would offer new transit options for those getting to or from jobs, the airport and nightlife between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Story

King County Metro Transit is planning to improve and expand “Night Owl” bus service next year for late-night riders, and seeks public input on a proposal that would offer new transit options for those getting to or from jobs, the airport and nightlife between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Metro has about 40 routes with some level of late-night service throughout King County.  Of these, 20 provide trips after 2 a.m., including three Night Owl routes that loop through some Seattle neighborhoods only between 2:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  The City of Seattle contributes funding to late-night transit operation and is a partner in this effort. Metro’s draft proposal would replace the three Night Owl routes with late-night service on regular, all-day routes that serve the same areas. The draft proposal also includes new after-hours bus service to Sea-Tac Airport for travelers and workers, for whom there currently are limited options after 1 a.m. It also includes hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.

“As Seattle grows, so does demand for safe and reliable transit at all hours,” said Metro’s Interim General Manager Rob Gannon. “This proposal will help Metro better meet the needs of our changing and growing ridership by making the first significant changes to Night Owl bus service in more than 40 years.”

The public is encouraged to review the proposal and offer comments via an online survey until Oct. 30. Public comments will help shape a final proposal, which could go before the County Council later this year. If approved, it will take effect in September 2017.

While overnight ridership represents a small portion of Metro’s total ridership, it has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. Metro conducted a first round of public outreach last spring and developed the latest proposal after hearing from more than 2,600 transit users. Among their highest priorities were better late-night transit options for:

  • Workers in jobs with non-traditional work shifts such as health care and many segments of the service industry.

  • Travelers and workers heading from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.

  • Customers enjoying Seattle’s nightlife, including music and arts venues.

  • Those who are experiencing homelessness.

“Seattle’s 24-hour economy thrives because of the workers who get up at all hours for shifts in hospitals, hotels and restaurants,” said Rebecca Saldaña, Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage. “It’s important they have the transportation options they need, like accessible late-night bus service, so they can get to their jobs safely and affordably.”

“Late-night bus service plays a key role in making sure youth of all backgrounds have access to our music and arts programs and educational opportunities, which are often at night,” said Tim Lennon, Executive Director of The Vera Project. "Better access to late-night transit will help ensure that the future of our region's creative scenes and workforce is an equitable one."

“Metro has long been a good partner in helping address the needs of our most vulnerable populations,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. “We look forward to continuing that partnership as Metro develops this proposal for new late-night transit service that works for everyone.”

The proposal would make several changes, including:

  • Replace current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 with two late-night round trips – around 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. -- to each of the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 70, 62 and 120.

  • Extend Route 124 all the way to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m. 

  • Improve late-night transfer connections between buses in downtown Seattle.

Current Night Owl routes do not match daytime routes, which some riders find confusing. To improve awareness of late-night bus service, Metro will work to improve customer information related to late night service options.

Riders can take the survey via Metro’s website at metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/late-night/. The survey is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.