On March 6, I attended the Seattle Sounders opening match. After a disappointing 1-0 loss, 40,000 fans poured out of CenturyLink Field and filled the streets of Pioneer Square. For 20 minutes I waited for the route 26 or 512 to take me home to east Wallingford, but neither bus appeared.
Just as well.
Cars were at a standstill, my bus would’ve inched along Fourth Avenue to a gridlocked Third or I-5, stuck in Seattle’s worsening traffic. So I gave up on the bus, grabbed a Pronto! bike, rode to the U District, and walked the final mile home.
This Saturday, that familiar scene of being stranded by unreliable public transit stuck in gridlocked traffic will change. For the first time since the Seattle Municipal Street Railway stopped running in 1941, commuter rail is extending north of the ship canal in Seattle. And while the trains won’t exactly drop those of us in Wallingford at our front door, the University of Washington Link light rail station will greatly increase our commuting options to and from downtown, south Seattle, and SeaTac airport. For me, Saturday is Christmas morning plus a Seahawks Super Bowl Sunday…times 1000.
Apparently I’m not alone in celebrating. Sound Transit has a grand opening party scheduled in and around the new University of Washington station on Saturday. DJs, bands, parades, dancers, food trucks and more will be there from 9:00am to 5:30pm (full schedule here). Free rides on light rail will be begin at 10:00am and last all day. The current weather forecast calls for 60 degrees, with a chance of kittens.
In an effort to align transit serving the new University of Washington station, starting on March 26 Metro is making significant changes to dozens of bus routes, many of which serve Wallingford. Detailed routes and schedules can be found on the King County website, but here’s the CliffsNotes version:
Route 16 is going away.
Route 26 is now exclusively an express route, the 26X, meaning it will no longer stop in the heart of Fremont. If you want to get to Fremont on the 26X, you’ll need to get off at Bridge Way and walk down the newly landscaped path to N 36th St (beware of trolls). To the north, the 26X runs to the Northgate Transit Center.
Route 30 is going away.
Routes 31 and 32 will use Wallingford Ave (instead of Stone Way) between 35th and 40th, and will serve stops on Stevens Way, a 5 minute walk from the University of Washington light rail station.
Route 44 will remain the same, providing central Wallingford with its most direct access to and from the University of Washington light rail station.
Route 62 is a brand new route, kind of a hybrid of the old 16 and 26 with a Sand Point bonus. This bus will run every 10 to 15 minutes along Meridian, 45th, and Stone Way, through central Fremont and downtown Seattle. It’s a very long route, so expect it to always be late.
Route 63 (the Bezos Express) is a brand new route running during peak commuting hours. It will serve Wallingford at the northbound I-5 and 45th freeway station, after making limited stops on Pill Hill and in South Lake Union.
The 66X and 72 are going away.
The 71 and 73 will no longer go downtown, terminating at the University of Washington light rail station instead.
If you use public transit, these are big changes. I am wary of some of Metro’s decisions on bus route realignment, but I will keep an open mind for now. One thing is already clear: on Saturday the transportation landscape in Seattle will change forever. And most likely for the better.