Our last piece in this space concerned what King County Metro Transit lost in September: the popular downtown “Ride Free Area.”
But the same day that ended, a new service began. It’s RapidRide Lines C and D.
They’re really one route that changes names upon entering downtown. You can ride it all the way from northern Ballard to southern West Seattle.
If that routing sounds familiar to some of you, it could be because that was where the Seattle Monorail Project’s first trains would have gone, had that popular and ambitious scheme not died its undignified death some years back.
As a kind of consolation prize to monorail supporters and neighborhood residents, the city and the county devised RapidRide C and D. (Routes A and B started up first; they respectively run from SeaTac to Federal Way and from Bellevue to Redmond.)
The “Rapid” part of the name refers to the rides’ frequency, not their duration. Unlike the main promise of the Monorail Project’s proponents, RapidRide buses do get stuck in traffic.
And to make budgetary room for them, Metro dropped, cut back on and rerouted several other routes, including service to Admiral Way in West Seattle. In return, we get RapidRide.
Frequent service (every 10 minutes during peak hours). Fewer stops. Specially painted buses. Specially branded bus stops, with prepay machines to make getting on faster.
Akin to the monorail?
Oddly, both end points of Routes C/D are at strip malls with QFC supermarkets.
The northern terminus is behind the Holman Road shopping center, former home of the still-missed Art’s Family Center hypermarket.
The southern terminus is at Westwood Village, formerly anchored by the old Lamonts apparel chain; now home to Target, Marshalls, Barnes & Noble, etc. (It’s also a longish walk or short transfer bus to White Center and all its Asian and Hispanic grocers.)
From Westwood, Route C makes stops at the Fauntleroy ferry dock, Lincoln Park, the West Seattle Junction and Luna Park, before the bus takes to the West Seattle Bridge and (what’s left of) the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
After a mere two stops on Third Avenue downtown and three in Belltown, what’s now Route D takes over the path of Metro’s former Route 15. It passes the west side of Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne, Interbay and the Ballard Bridge, then heads straight up 15th Avenue Northwest before veering northeast onto Holman Road.
The Monorail Project’s critics often complained that West Seattle to Ballard was a relatively low-traffic, low-priority route (or pair of routes). There was no need, these critics carped, for anything more than regular, ol’ bus service to these places.
The massive, immediate response to RapidRide has disproven that argument. Metro has had to add additional peak and midday runs on Routes C and D to help meet the demand. A lot of people, it turns out, need get around in these historic, growing neighborhoods.
And I can even imagine tourist, or at least recreational, uses for the route.
Sights to behold
Granted, the 15th Avenue strip doesn’t have a lot of the cool attractions it used to (Zesto’s Burgers, Lunchbox Laboratory, Sunset Lanes). But it’s still got the hilltop entrance to Carkeek Park, the Celtic gift shop Galway Traders, the Bardahl sign, the new “tumbling girl” neon sign for the Seattle Gymnastics Academy and the “spite house,” surrounded on three sides by the Ballard Blocks development.
Farther south, RapidRide gets you to, or close to, Fisherman’s Terminal, Interbay Golf and the Helix Pedestrian Bridge at the Amgen office park.
It goes by Seattle Center and Belltown and downtown’s many attractions. Then it traverses the viaduct, which, for now, is still one of the city’s greatest view streets.
It passes past or over the stadia, SoDo’s industry and the hulking, abandoned Fisher flour mill. It gets you past the Junction’s shopping and galleries, then past Lincoln Park’s big trees on the way to the Vashon Island ferry.
What RapidRide lacks in actual speed, it makes up for in revealing aspects of the city even many residents ignore.
CLARK HUMPHREY is the author of “Walking Seattle” and “Vanishing Seattle.” He also writes a blog at miscmedia.com. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.