UPDATE: We revised routing for West and Southwest Seattle buses on Jan. 11. The answers are updated below.

These are some of the most frequently asked questions from our riders about the viaduct closure and the new SR 99 tunnel. If you have additional questions, leave a comment below and we’ll answer them.

How much gridlock is anticipated during the State Route 99 closure? How will travel times change?

From Jan. 11 to the week of Feb. 3 – after the Alaskan Way Viaduct permanently closes and before the SR 99 tunnel opens – buses, trains and light rail will be more crowded than usual, especially during peak travel times from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. This three-week period will be the longest major highway closure the region has ever seen. Additional ramp closures before and after the main closure will mean travelers, especially those commuting to downtown from the south and west, will face up to six weeks of travel delays. 

Metro is predicting at least a 10-minute delay in all bus schedules during this period – but riders are encouraged to plan ahead for delays up to 30-60 minutes. How drivers and riders adjust their habits will affect the extent and duration of traffic delays and how full buses become on the busiest commute routes.

We will not know the full impacts and delays until the closure is underway.

Know before you go: 

Metro’s Get Ready/SR 99 Closure page
WSDOT’s Seattle Area Live Travel Times page 
WSDOT Traffic mobile app 
WSDOT Live Traffic Cameras 
SDOT Traveler Information Map 

How can I plan my trip?

To plan a trip by bus, light rail or train, use one of Metro’s online trip planning tools or call us at (206) 553-3000 for help with your transit options. Metro’s Trip Planner tool is available on desktop and mobile devices or download the app for iPhone and Android here

Which bus routes will change during the permanent viaduct closure? 

UPDATE: Twelve bus routes will change paths after the viaduct closes. Metro bus routes 21X, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 and the RapidRide C Line will travel into downtown Seattle non-stop via the SODO Busway, S. Royal Brougham Way and Fourth Avenue S., before continuing onto Third Avenue and their regular routes and stops.

With the exception of the RapidRide C Line, these routes will also serve the posted bus stops northbound on Third Avenue, just south of James Street and Madison Street, then their regular stops north of Madison Street. The C Line will serve the posted stops northbound on Prefontaine Place S., just south of Yesler Way, and on Third Avenue, just south of Seneca Street, and then its regular stops.

Heading toward their West Seattle and southwest destinations, these routes and Route 37 will travel non-stop via the SODO area after leaving their regular downtown routing and stops. Route 37 serves its regular route and stops when heading into Seattle in the morning.

In a slight deviation from previously published information, Route 125 also travels north through downtown Seattle on Third Avenue, then uses University Street, Fourth Avenue and Union Street to get back to southbound Third Avenue, where its next stop will be just south of Seneca Street as it heads back to West Seattle. No stops are missed.

Leaving downtown, these routes will use different pathways depending on the time of day. Additionally, SODO routing in either direction may be revised as necessary in order to keep buses moving, but regardless of the streets used, these routes will serve their regular downtown and West Seattle stops.

Heading in from southwest and West Seattle, the affected routes serve their regular routing and stops prior to their non-stop SODO area routing.

The bus stop on eastbound Seneca Street, just west of Third Avenue, will no longer be served by buses from West Seattle.

All affected routes travel non-stop along their SODO routing. Routes 21 Local in both directions and Route 37 heading into town, serve their regular SODO routing and stops

Commuters should plan for longer travel times. See the route maps here (including translated content). 

Five routes in the north end that currently travel on Aurora/SR 99 will remain on their same pathways when exiting SR 99 at Denny Way. However, these routes will also face delays during the viaduct closure. These routes include 5, 26X, 28X and the RapidRide E Line.

As is the case with West Seattle service, north end routing is subject to temporary revisions as needed to keep service moving in the event of blockages.    

Metro will provide 20 standby buses to maintain schedules on key routes that are expected to be affected by the closure. Riders should use the regularly published schedules and allow plenty of extra time.

During the viaduct closure, will the West Seattle buses travel via First or Fourth Avenues?

Southbound trips may use alternative pathways from downtown to West Seattle depending on commute conditions. However, these alternative pathways will not affect stops. The buses will go to the same places and the same (or very similar) stops. See the route maps here.

Will the Water Taxi increase service during the viaduct closure?

Yes, the Water Taxi is adding a second vessel, the 240-seat San Juan Clipper, from Jan. 14 through March 27, 2019 on the West Seattle route only. (The Vashon Island Water Taxi route has capacity and will continue to run as usual between Vashon Island and Seattle.) Trips will leave West Seattle Seacrest Park roughly every 20 minutes during peak times Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and operate once an hour midday. It’s approximately a 10-minute ride from Seacrest Dock to downtown. Read more.

In addition: 

  • Water Taxi shuttle service for routes 773 and 775 is available for each boat departure and arrival, and more shuttles will be in service.
  • Additional parking is available on Harbor Ave SW, SW Bronson Way and Pier 2 (290 spaces), Monday through Friday from 5:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with free connector shuttles. 
  • Ride2 West Seattle, Metro’s new on-demand service, is now available to and from Metro buses at the Alaska Junction and the Water Taxi at Seacrest Dock. The service is available Monday through Friday from 5-9:30 a.m. and 2:30-7 p.m. Read the details. 
  • A free Seattle waterfront shuttle, courtesy of the Downtown Seattle Association, runs from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week. See the shuttle map here.

Why is Water Taxi service not available on the weekends?

The West Seattle Water Taxi route operates Monday through Friday only. There is currently enough capacity on Metro buses to serve riders on the weekends.

Are there plans to expand the West Seattle Ride2 service area? Why is South Delridge not included?

Ride2 provides first and last mile connections to transit hubs and aims to achieve a level of service that averages 10-15 minute wait times and 15-20 minute in vehicle travel times. To achieve this level of service, a service area generally extends about a mile in radius around the hubs. In West Seattle, this area was drawn to achieve our level of service targets with an additional emphasis on equity to serve the neighborhoods of High Point and North Delridge We’ll be monitoring performance and learning from customer feedback, and will look at what service adjustments might be needed or in demand during the pilot project. Read more about Ride2 here.

If buses are running on First and Fourth Avenues, why can’t Metro add stops that would enable people to transfer to Link light rail at SODO or Stadium stations without having to come all the way into downtown?

The 12 bus routes that utilize the viaduct/SR 99 will be re-routed to/from downtown via SODO surface streets (and the SODO busway), but will not stop in the SODO neighborhood. Heading into town, this helps avoid additional delays on the SODO busway where several other bus routes are in service and capacity is limited. Heading south, Metro plans to use multiple corridors so that buses can be on the fastest pathway given changing traffic conditions on the street. The Coast Guard recently agreed to limit how often marine vessels will close the swing bridge to vehicle traffic during the viaduct closure, allowing Metro to better connect afternoon commuters with West Seattle.

Metro will be in close contact with SDOT and WSDOT to monitor and evaluate changing traffic conditions during the viaduct closure and their impact on bus service. Metro is continually assessing ways to improve bus routes and may evaluate alternatives if conditions warrant them.

Will Metro consider adding a route that goes from West Seattle directly to South Lake Union using the SR 99 tunnel without having to pass through central downtown?

Not at this time, however it is a possibility in coming years. We will continue to monitor operations through the closure and the SR 99 tunnel opening and will make service adjustments as needs and resources allow.

Where can I get updates about my bus?

To keep up with service changes, emergencies and other advisories, sign up for Metro Transit Alerts here. Real-time information is available at Metro’s Trip Planner and Tracker, Metro’s text for departures and third-party apps. Follow King County Metro on Twitter, too. The fastest way to find out the predicted time for the next bus departing from your stop is to text your stop ID to 62550.

Has the Metro Trip Planner been updated with the reroutes and schedules?

Yes, the Metro Trip Planner is updated with the reroutes and schedules for trips that are entered for travel dates after the viaduct closes. However, the Trip Planner is using the updated route maps and schedules that will go into effect after the SR 99 tunnel opens. We recognize there will be a four-to-five week period when the Trip Planner is not featuring the accurate bus routes. While this may sound confusing, the bus routes will go to the same places and serve the same or similar stops. See the route maps here for both the temporary bus routes during the closure and the new bus routes after the SR 99 tunnel opens.    

Trip Planner itineraries that include affected routes and stops will be marked by the ‘Alert!’ symbol.

Visit the service advisories page on Metro‘s website for information about specific service revisions.

Metro’s Trip Planner is available on desktop and mobile devices, or download the app for iPhone and Android here

Will the tracker function on Metro’s Trip Planner (desktop and mobile) work for routes that will be affected by the viaduct closure? 

In most cases, Tracker and the other real time reporting tools are expected to work once the vehicle being tracked is located at a point along its regular route per the system data. When buses are rerouted off their regular routes, tracking may temporarily drop out.

The fastest way to find out the predicted time for the next bus departing from your stop is to text your stop ID to 62550.

Will real time information (text for departures, next departure and estimated departure times in third-party apps) be accurate for routes affected by the closure?

Estimated departure times are created as buses travel along their routes and update their location every 30-90 seconds. That location is then compared against that bus’ schedule. 

Estimated departure times are as reliable as the specific traffic delays that a vehicle experiences.

Viaduct bus routes will have more reliable departure times in either direction prior to diverging to the revised pathways they’ll be using when traveling through the SODO area. In lighter traffic, estimated times are likely to be more accurate; during heavier traffic (due to volumes or bad weather), it may be more difficult for apps to accurately estimate and display the expected departure times at stops.

We’re hoping riders pad their schedules and travel early to make sure they can arrive to important appointments on time during the coming several weeks.

Predicted departure data could also be different from scheduled data since the schedule will reflect operation along long-term pathways while buses will be operating on temporary pathways for 4-5 weeks.  Due to expected traffic delays, however, it is not possible to know the exact impact.

To keep up with service changes, emergencies and other advisories, sign up for Metro Transit Alerts here. Real-time information is available at Metro’s Trip Planner and Tracker, Metro’s text for departures and third-party apps. Follow King County Metro on Twitter, too.

If customers are being asked to travel at off-peak times or shift their travel times, will there be added bus service — especially before 6 a.m. or between midnight and 4 a.m.?  

There are no added trips, but there will be more capacity on the earlier buses. Many peak commute hour buses are already at capacity. This is why we are encouraging customers to shift their travel times earlier if possible. Commuters are also encouraged to talk to their employers and consider telecommuting, rideshares, biking or walking. Owl service was expanded on 18 routes in recent years to help riders travel more easily very late at night.
Read more about your options here.

What is Metro doing to avoid canceling service?

Metro is doing everything we can to ensure that we operate all of the trips that are scheduled in our system. We have been working hard to avoid canceling trips by hiring and training more part-time and full-time bus drivers. We currently have more than 3,000 bus operators and we are hiring more. During the viaduct closure, we also have 20 standby coaches that will be deployed on a daily basis to maintain scheduled service. We are also increasing our vehicle maintenance service during this period to keep buses running safely and as scheduled. To keep up with service changes, emergencies and other advisories, sign up for Metro Transit Alerts here.   

Will the SODO busway continue to be transit only? 

Yes, buses will use the SODO busway when heading to downtown during the viaduct closure, before the SR 99 tunnel and new Dearborn ramp open. The SODO busway is a 1.5 mile-long busway in the SODO district that has four stops with limited capacity to accommodate additional buses, including two that connect to Link light rail stations.  Not all buses that travel along the SODO busway serve all stops.

How will the viaduct closure affect Sound Transit Express buses (specifically ST routes 590 and 594, which travel to/from Tacoma)? 

These buses will operate on their normal routes and schedules. Sound Transit is asking its customers to ride the Sounder Train (during weekday peak hours) and Link light rail (peak times from 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.) when possible. Riders traveling outside of traditional peak commute hours may experience longer travel times, but routes will remain the same. 

Can Sound Transit add more trips to the Sounder train?  

Not at this time. Sounder trains operate on tracks owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). This limits the hours that Sound Transit can use the tracks for peak commute trips.  

How is Metro partnering with Lyft and Uber during the permanent viaduct closure?  

King County Metro, Sound Transit and the Seattle Department of Transportation are collaborating with three of the region’s rideshare companies — Lyft, Uber and ReachNow — to offer a $2.75 discount for those traveling to and from select light rail stations and transit centers outside of Seattle. The discounts are available from Dec. 10, 2018 to Feb. 15, 2019. Locations include South Park/Delridge, Angle Lake, SeaTac, Rainier Beach, Columbia City and Mount Baker Link stations. More information on the discounts and how to use them can be found here.  

Will the viaduct closure affect bus routes that use the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel?

Bus routes that currently use the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) will continue to use the tunnel during this period and once in the tunnel provide a reliable alternative to traveling on potentially clogged surface streets. These Metro routes include 41, 74, 101, 102, 150, 255 and Sound Transit Express Route 550. These routes could be delayed in reaching the DSTT while they travel on Interstate 5, the street grid connecting them to the north or south entrances, and coming up the SODO busway depending on traffic congestion. However, starting March 23, 2019, all buses that currently use the DSTT will permanently move to surface streets and only Link light rail will operate in the tunnel. Read more here.  

How will Metro make sure cars aren’t clogging up bus-only lanes and Third Avenue? Will the Seattle Police Department be helping?

Yes, Seattle Police Department officers will be stationed at critical intersections throughout the downtown Seattle area to keep intersections clear. If locations become problematic, Metro has staff working with Seattle Department of Transportation and can request police assistance when needed.

How is Metro working with the Seattle Police Department in the event of an emergency or incident? 

As mentioned above, Seattle Police Department officers will be stationed at critical intersections throughout the downtown Seattle area to keep them clear. SDOT also instituted a 24/7 Transportation Operations Center (TOC) where they gather real-time information to manage traffic incidents and update travelers, the media, first responders and partner agencies. SDOT also launched a new Response Team (SRT) to operate city-wide 24/7 that will work with WSDOT Incident Response teams and King County traffic safety crews. 

Metro will have additional support staff working around Seattle during the closure and will be in close communication/coordination with SDOT’s TOC and WSDOT’s Traffic Management Center to address incidents as they arise. Metro’s Transit Control Center will have additional staff on duty to help facilitate day-to-day transit operations and respond to transit-specific incidents.

Will Metro buses be using the SR 99 tunnel? 

Metro buses will not use the SR 99 tunnel when it opens in February. When the new tunnel opens, Metro buses will use the new on- and off-ramps at S. Dearborn Street to get to/from downtown Seattle via First Avenue. In the most distant future, Metro buses will travel on the new Alaskan Way, which will be built after the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The new Alaskan Way is currently scheduled for completion in 2021.

In the long term, Metro is continually assessing ways to improve bus routes and the SR 99 tunnel could be used by Metro at some point in the future.

When will the SR 99 tunnel start tolling?  

The tunnel will not be tolled when it first opens. No start date has been announced yet, but it could be as early as summer 2019, according to WSDOT. Eventually, tolls will be collected in both directions via cameras. Read more here.

How much is the SR 99 tunnel toll? Can ORCA cards pay for the SR 99 tunnel toll?  

Toll rates range from $1 to $2.25 each way depending on the time of day for drivers with a Good to Go! Pass, not an ORCA card. Without a Good to Go! Pass, drivers will be charged an extra $2 per toll. More information about tolling can be found here. You can get a Good to Go! pass here.

Will Metro Vanpools be allowed to use the bus-only lane on the West Seattle Bridge during this three-week closure?

No, the City of Seattle currently only allows Metro transit buses to use the bus-only lanes.

RapidRide C line needs more bus capacity. Early buses were passing stops because of maxed out ridership. What is the plan to resolve?

Metro has 20 standby buses to maintain schedules on key routes, including RapidRide C, that are affected by the closure. We have already deployed standby buses on RapidRide C and will continue to actively monitor passenger loads and deploy additional coaches to meet customer demand.