Below are some of the most frequently asked questions from our riders regarding Metro’s upcoming spring service change. If you have additional questions, leave a comment below and we’ll answer them.
Why are Metro buses permanently moving out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel?
Buses are permanently moving out of the transit tunnel onto surface streets due to the current expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and to continue preparing the tunnel for the increase in Link light rail service in the coming years. On the north end of the tunnel, convention center construction has progressed far enough where buses can no longer travel through the exit pathway Metro has been using since last August. Meanwhile, on the south entry to the tunnel, Sound Transit is readying the facility for light rail expansions in 2020.
Since the tunnel was first built, it was intended to eventually be used for light rail only – and, with the timing of the convention center’s expansion, it was determined that March 23, 2019 be the moving date for Metro’s buses.
Which routes are being moved from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to surface streets? Which surface streets?
Metro routes 41, 74, 101, 102, 150, 255 and Sound Transit Express Route 550 will begin operating on surface streets starting on March 23, 2019.
These are the new northbound (NB) and southbound (SB) pathways for the routes that are shifting out of the tunnel.
|Current Tunnel and Surface Routes||Surface Street Pathway|
|Tunnel Route 41 (all-day)||3rd Ave (SB and NB)|
|Tunnel Route 74 (peak only)
Surface Routes: 76, 77, 301, 308, 316
|2nd Ave (SB)
5th/6th Ave (NB)
|Tunnel Route 255 (all-day)
Surface Routes: 252, 257, 311
|5th Ave (SB)
5th/6th Ave (NB)
|Tunnel Route 101 (all-day)
Tunnel Route 102 (peak service only)
Tunnel Route 150 (all-day)
Tunnel Route 550 (all-day) (Sound Transit)
|2nd Ave (SB)
4th Ave (NB)
Metro’s March service change site highlights the routes that have new service or routing revisions. Check the list to see if or how your route is changing.
You can also use Metro Trip Planner to see how your route is changing, but remember to enter a travel date of March 23 or later to reflect Metro’s upcoming service changes.
Which routes will be moved to the new transit pathway on Fifth and Sixth avenues?
Metro routes 74, 76, 77, 252, 255, 257, 301, 308, 311 and 316 will be moved to the new Fifth and Sixth transit pathway beginning on March 23, 2019.
How do these changes help riders?
By moving routes to different streets, we are maximizing the transportation system for all users. The people who are most affected are the ones used to catching their bus in the tunnel. Passengers that already travel via a surface street may have to walk farther to a new bus stop, but actual travel times should be very similar.
For example, transit travel time on Fourth Avenue today is about 12 minutes between South Jackson Street and Olive Way. After March 23, transit travel time is expected to decrease by about two minutes because there will be 22 fewer buses per hour on Fourth Avenue.
After service change, riders who will catch their bus on Fifth Avenue instead of Fourth Avenue will experience a nine minute transit travel time between South Jackson Street and Olive Way. Most recently, this same distance has taken 12 minutes.
Where exactly is the new transit pathway on Fifth and Sixth avenues? Is it bus-only? Are there new bus stops?
Metro worked with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to create a new northbound-only transit lane, commonly referred to as a transit pathway, on Fifth and Sixth avenues that spans from Cherry Street to Olive Way. The current northbound transit lane on Fifth Avenue will be extended two blocks north to Marion Street, where it will then connect to Sixth Avenue and continue north to Olive Way.
The new bus lane will run in its own travel lane, reserved for buses only from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Bus stops will be located at Fifth Avenue S. and S. Jackson Street, Fifth Avenue and James Street, Fifth Avenue and Marion Street, Sixth Avenue and Union Street, Pike Street and Seventh Avenue and Olive Way and Eighth Avenue.
Since the new transit pathway on Fifth and Sixth avenues is northbound-only, what are the southbound pathways for routes being moved to Fifth and Sixth avenues?
Routes 74, 76, 77, 301, 308 and 316 will travel south through downtown on Second Avenue. Routes 252, 255, 257 and 311 will travel south through downtown on Fifth Avenue.
How will the March 2019 service changes affect my route?
Metro’s March Service Change site highlights the routes that have new service or routing revisions. Check the list to see if or how your route is changing.
You can also use Metro Trip Planner, which is available on desktop and mobile devices or download the app for iPhone and Android here. Just remember to enter a travel date of March 23 or later to reflect Metro’s upcoming service changes.
You can also call Metro’s Customer Information Office at 206-553-3000 on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What about Metro’s Westlake Customer Service Office in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel?
Metro’s Sales and Customer Service Office in the tunnel has permanently closed. ORCA cards can be purchased or reloaded at nearby locations. Ticket vending machines will still be open at the Link Light rail station at Westlake Center. Also nearby is the Bartell Drugs at 1404 3rd Ave, which sells ORCA cards Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ORCA cards can also be purchased online at orcacard.com, at participating retailers or other ticket vending machines located at transit centers, Sounder commuter rail stations and Link light rail stations.
Reduced fare cards for youth, seniors, riders with a disability and income-qualified riders (those with household income of less than double the federal poverty level) are also available. You can visit Metro’s Customer Service Office at King Street Center, located at 201 S. Jackson Street, on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., call Metro’s customer service at 206-553-3000, attend an ORCA-TO-GO event or visit orcacard.com.
How much will travel time increase once routes are moved from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to surface streets? Will Metro be adding buses or increasing the frequency of those routes that used to travel in the tunnel?
All routes shifting out of the tunnel are expected to have longer travel times in downtown Seattle, which varies depending on which street the buses will run on, traffic conditions, and the time of day. Metro is estimating an average of 5-10 minutes longer, but it could be more. We won’t know until the changes are implemented and appreciate your patience. As always, Metro will be carefully monitoring travel times and impacts from the service change and will make adjustments if necessary.
Metro will not be adding additional trips to routes relocated from the transit tunnel, and the first and last trip times will not change. However, Metro is expanding bus service by adding trips on heavily-used routes, including Route 40, which connects downtown and Northgate via South Lake Union, Fremont, and Ballard, and Route 120, which connects downtown and Burien via Delridge and White Center. Those are listed on Metro’s March Service Change site.
Will routes already on surface streets experience delays once additional buses are added?
Metro anticipates routes already traveling on surface streets will experience minimal, or possibly improved, changes in travel times. There will be an adjustment period as customers and drivers adapt to new patterns, and Metro will be monitoring travel times as Seattle DOT monitors traffic conditions.
Third Avenue is already crowded. How will Metro accommodate the increase of people using or waiting for buses on Third? Will additional bus stops be added?
Starting on March 23, 2019, you will be able to pre-pay your fare with an ORCA card at bus stops along Third Avenue and board the bus using any door. All-door boarding will help riders get on the bus faster and help buses stay on schedule.
At the 21 stops where ORCA card readers are installed, riders will be able to tap their card, listen for the beep, and then board the bus at any door. (Unlike the Sounder train and Link light rail, you only have tap once for all-door boarding.) Metro will be adding new ORCA readers at 10 stops over the coming months, and until then, Metro staff, called ORCA boarding assistants, will be available during evening commute hours to help riders pay in advance before boarding.
All-door boarding is available on Third Avenue between Yesler Way and Denny Way and on Westlake Avenue through the South Lake Union area.
Metro will also be moving one bus stop and adding another bus stop on Third Avenue to improve the flow of buses. The southbound stop between James Street and Yesler Way will be moved one block north, between Cherry Street and James Street. The new stop will be installed in 2020 between Columbia Street and Marion Street.
When I get off light rail and tap my card as I exit the station, do I need to tap it again when getting onto a bus?
Yes, you should tap your card every time you use public transit. Your ORCA card information will serve as proof of payment for that trip and any other trips – whether you used an electronic transfer or ORCA payment.
When you tap your card on a reader to use the Link light rail or Sounder train, you are given an electronic transfer on your ORCA card to use within two hours for the amount of your light rail or train trip. If your trip on your next mode of transportation costs more than the amount on your electronic transfer, you are responsible for paying the difference.
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
When will real-time information (text for departures, next departure and estimated departure times in third-party apps) be accurate for routes affected by the March Service Change?
Scheduled and arrival time estimates and real-time information will reflect bus operations when the March Service Change takes effect on March 23, 2019.
What are the options for riders with mobility devices or challenges whose routes will be operating several blocks further east up hills, but who need to get to destinations or transfer points further west and/or downhill?
Seattle is a city of hills, but you can plan trips on public transportation to a number of downtown Seattle destinations that avoid the hills.
You can also call Metro’s Customer Information Office at 206-553-3000 on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and visit Metro’s Accessible Services site for help planning your trip.
For riders who would be more comfortable with in-person instruction, King County offers free transit training to individuals with disabilities and senior citizens. Please call 206-749-4242 (TTY Relay: 711), or visit Metro’s Transit Training site to request a training online.
With Metro buses coming out of the transit tunnel, who is responsible for maintaining the elevators and escalators in those stations?
Metro remains responsible for tunnel maintenance and operations until ownership of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is transferred to Sound Transit.
Beginning in March 2019, which bus routes will be contracted to Dial-A-Ride Transit (DART) service?
Mercer Island bus routes 201 and 204 will be consolidated into one route – Route 204 – and converted into a DART route on March 23, 2019. Duvall Route 224 will also be converted to DART. This conversion will allow Metro to continue meeting rider needs while freeing up larger vehicles for higher-ridership services.
What is DART?
DART is a fixed-route service that uses smaller transit vehicles with flexibility to perform a limited number of off-route deviations riders can request in advance of their trip. DART service will follow the same route as the existing routes, but include an adaptable service area. DART vehicles are ADA accessible, smaller than regular Metro buses and have bicycle racks.
Dial 1-866-261-DART (TTY: 1-800-246-1646) or submit an online form (www.hopelink.org/need-help/transportation/dart-ride-request) to request customized rides.