Crosstown Bus Makes Official Debut - From One Hill To Another
An uphill battle that began two decades ago officially ended at 6:23 this morning when a Metro bus pulled from the curb on Lower Queen Anne Hill and headed straight for the top of Capitol Hill, without going downtown.
The run inaugurates Metro's first new regular service route in Seattle - the No. 8 - since the late 1970s, and serves as a testament to the perseverance of citizens who wanted the new route and bureaucrats who did not.
"It's an urban, crosstown route, neighborhood to neighborhood," says Mike Bergman, a senior Metro transit planner. "It's one of the types of service people always ask us for, but it's not something we've done a good job of providing in the past."
The desire for a direct Queen Anne-Capitol Hill bus link is almost as old as Metro itself. In 1974, Emmett McCormick, head of a citizens advisory committee, argued crosstown service would ease gridlock around the so-called Mercer mess.
Residents of Cascade, in the area that's now in the proposed Seattle Commons neighborhood, lobbied for the route, hoping for better access to grocery stores, health-care facilities and pharmacies.
Metro decided against the route, though, partly because railroad tracks and the steep grade of Denny Way would have caused buses to bottom out.
Although the city of Seattle eventually removed the tracks and regraded Denny, Metro, through the 1980s, focused more on developing routes that would bring people in and out of downtown Seattle.
"The one complaint I always used to hear was that the bus was great north to south but terrible east to west," says Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Gossett. "It's frustrating for people in the inner city who want to easily travel from one neighborhood to the other."
About two years ago, regional-transit planners began soliciting community advice on proposed train stops. Requests for a crosstown route along Denny Way quickly resurfaced.
The Capitol Hill Community Council began lobbying for the route, joined by the Broadway Improvement Association, the Seattle Commons and the Queen Anne Community Council.
Metro began circulating comment cards - and got nearly 1,000 responses, the highest number ever on a single issue.
The new route will run at 30-minute intervals between Group Health Hospital on 15th Avenue East and Seattle Center from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Metro expects 500 to 1,000 people to ride the bus daily.
Due to an oversight, though, this morning's charter run from Queen Anne - the 6:23 - carried just one rider who was picked up a few blocks from the end of the run. That's in part because the run is so new but also because the new signs marking the route's stop were still covered by plastic this morning.
When the problem was reported, workers uncovered the signs, and the return run to Queen Anne was much fuller, carrying at least a couple dozen riders. Later runs from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne also drew more riders.
Robert Lade lives on Queen Anne and works at Group Health. Before today, it would take him 40 minutes to get to work but today it took him less than half that time.
"I can wake up a little later to catch this one," he said aboard the No. 8 that left Lower Queen Anne at 6:53 a.m. "I've been waiting for this route for a while. It's about time."
Finally making the route a reality meant making cuts elsewhere.
Service at the waterfront streetcar will be cut from 20-minute to 30-minute intervals until mid-May, and the No. 13 route, which serves Seattle Pacific University, will stop operating after 11 p.m.
Many think the No. 8 would be widely used at night and on weekends as well.
"I'll be watching the route closely," says Gossett, head of the council's transportation committee. "I hope it succeeds."
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