Seattle considers bus route changes

<i>Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to more accurately reflect the number of students who use bus passes from the Student Union Building.</i>

Seattle Pacific junior Hope Estes lives in Ballard and rides the bus to get to school. But King County Metro Transit has proposed the elimination of the route Estes takes daily: Route 17, which runs past SPU to Ballard and downtown.

This is one of the approximately 60 routes to which Metro proposed changes.

Metro just wrapped up the second phase of outreach for the proposed service changes and is now reviewing feedback on the proposal. It will be preparing a recommendation for bus route revisions to send to the King County Council for review and consideration.

The final decision on bus route changes will be made later this spring, according to Have a Say at KC, a Facebook page that outlines changes made to the Metro system and allows user involvement in planning for the system’s future.

If Route 17 is cut, Estes will have two options: take a bus to Fremont and transfer to a bus that goes to SPU, or take a bus across the Ballard Bridge and walk to SPU.

Both options would add at least 20 minutes to her commute, and the second option would also include walking underneath the Ballard Bridge.

“That’s not something that I ever want to do at night or even during the day really,” Estes said. “It’s pretty dangerous.”

Estes said she was upset when she heard about the possible elimination of Route 17.

“I understand that it’s really expensive to keep a bus running, but I still think it’s pretty ridiculous to cut the only bus that runs from downtown to Ballard and passes by SPU,” Estes said.

Freshman Heather Bean said the change to bus routes would be a big change for everyone.

“When you don’t have a car and you don’t want to go to Queen Anne, going to Ballard is the other closest option when you want to get off campus,” she said.

According to the King County Metro website, the proposed route changes would increase connections, reduce duplication and make the transit system more effective.

To better inform the recommendation it will give to the King County Council, Metro accepted comments from the public about the changes during the month of February.

In response to the changes, the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific created a Facebook event encouraging students to protest the changes. Just under 400 people accepted invitations to the event.

The event’s information included an email template for students to send to King County Metro that said eliminating Route 17 would be a significant inconvenience to students.

ASSP President senior Josh Norquist said ASSP would do everything it could to keep these changes from happening.

“A change like this would impact students in a major way,” Norquist said. “We will pursue stopping this [in] as many ways as possible.”

ASSP offers bus passes to students at the University Communications desk in the Student Union Building for up to five hours; passes can also be checked out for 24 hours for a $2 charge.

ASSP budgeted $51,350 to spend on bus passes and $7,600 in revenue from fines and 24-hour bus pass rentals for the 2011-2012 school year.

The bus passes are one of the most-used features of ASSP, Norquist said.

In January, 660 students checked out bus passes, and 786 students utilized the service in February, SUB Manager Jeff Gullikson said. A number of those students were repeat users.

Dale Anderson, director of Student Programs, said changes like this happen in a budget-driven government.

“But [bus Route 17] goes past our university,” Anderson said. “I think we all agree that it would be a bad thing if it went away.”

When senior Toby Salado takes the bus to get to work, he uses Route 17.

“I was shocked when I heard about [the proposed changes],” Salado said. “When I work early mornings, that route is the only one that I can use to get to work.”

When freshman Amanda Erickson heard of the proposed changes, she thought of the opportunities it eliminates for students.

“It limits the possibility of getting an off-campus job, especially in Ballard,” she said. “If you want to go to Ballard, you take Route 17.”

Estes said students who commute from Ballard and Greenwood will experience the greatest impact.

“It would definitely make things harder, but in general, not impossible.” Estes said. “They wouldn’t leave us stranded.”

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Title: Seattle considers bus route changes | Author: Christine Cook | Section: News | Published Date: 2012-03-07 | Internal ID: 8102