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Metro, SDOT expand late-night bus service for workers, travelers and nightlife denizens


King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced legislation Tuesday to expand and improve late-night bus service in the City of Seattle. The proposal, which Executive Constantine will submit to the King County Council, meets demand for transit from late-night and early-morning workers, as well as those traveling off-hours to the airport and enjoying nightlife.


Metro, SDOT expand late-night bus service for workers, travelers and nightlife denizens

King County Executive Dow Constantine submitted to the King County Council legislation that expands and improves late-night bus service in the City of Seattle.

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 the Seattle Department of Transportation developed the late-night service expansion package after 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 to and from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.

  • People enjoying Seattle's nightlife, including music and arts venues.

  • Low-income and vulnerable populations.

"We live in a fast-growing region, and late-night mobility is critical for nightshift workers to support their families, for travelers on early-morning flights, and for those out enjoying Seattle's arts and music scene," Constantine said. "Metro's partnership with the City of Seattle makes our late-night transit network easier to use and more accessible for everyone at all hours."

"Giving people affordable, reliable, and convenient transportation choices is key to Seattle's top two priorities -- equity and sustainability," Mayor Ed Murray said. "This is particularly important for working families and people of color who are hit disproportionately by the increasing cost of transportation, which is nearly $10,000 a year on average."

Metro currently has about 40 routes with some level of late-night service, including three Night Owl routes that loop through some Seattle neighborhoods between 2:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. and operate only during those hours. The City of Seattle fully funds the Night Owl routes.

The proposal 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 the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 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 will add 2,000 service hours, which include:

  • 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.

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.

If approved, the late-night service plan would take effect in September 2017 with Metro's semi-annual service change.