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Metro ready to expand late-night bus service after King County Council approval

Summary

Bus passengers traveling after 1 a.m. will have expanded late-night service under legislation approved Monday by the King County Council. It is the first major expansion of “Night Owl” bus service in 40 years.

Story

King County Metro, in partnership with the Seattle Department of Transportation, will expand late-night bus service this fall to meet growing demand from late-night and early-morning workers, as well as those enjoying nightlife and traveling off-hours to the airport.

The plan, unanimously approved as part of the 2017 service package legislation submitted by Executive Dow Constantine, will take effect on September 23 with Metro’s semi-annual service change.

Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced the plan in February. It invests about 11,000 annual service hours, 8,800 of which are funded by the City of Seattle, and replaces current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 by adding late-night trips to existing all-day routes

The City's investment includes:

  • Two additional late-night round trips on each of the following routes: 3, 5, 11, and 70, serving neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Central Area, Eastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, Phinney Ridge, Queen Anne, and University District. Other routes already provide late-night service to areas such as South Seattle and West Seattle.
  • Additional late-night service on routes 65 and 67 serving Northeast Seattle areas such as Lake City, Seattle Children's Hospital, and Northgate for the first time.
  • Cross-town (non-downtown) connections through added service on routes 44 and 48, creating a grid pattern that expands late-night bus travel options without having to go through downtown and diversifying travel options to, from, and through the University District.

Metro’s investment includes:

  • Additional late-night service at about 2 a.m. on Route 120 serving Delridge, White Center and Burien.
  • Hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.
  • Extend Route 124 from Tukwila to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m., increasing transit options for travelers and workers.
  • Added time to allow bus drivers adequate restroom breaks.

Late-night Metro ridership increased 20 percent in the last five years. This proposal more than doubles the City of Seattle's investment in late-night bus service, through the City's voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District.

Metro and SDOT sponsored a public outreach process last year that drew more than 4,500 responses and identified better late-night transit options for:

Workers in jobs with late-night or early-morning work shifts such as health care and many segments of the service industry.

  • Travelers and workers heading between downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.
  • People enjoying Seattle's nightlife, including music and arts venues.
  • Low-income and vulnerable populations.
  • Metro and SDOT will conduct additional outreach prior to the service change to inform riders of the changes.

Metro and its partners invest about $7.7 million for all bus routes system-wide between midnight and 5 a.m. This proposal increases that total by $730,000, with $500,000 from the City of Seattle.