Waterfront Shuttle Restructures, Grows, Lives On

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waterfront shuttle

This piece was originally published by the Seattle Transit Blog on October 6, 2018

Two months ago I wrote about the Downtown Seattle Association’s experiment with a free waterfront shuttle. The pilot’s original term ended on October 1st, and the numbers are in.

September 14th was the highest ridership day, at 1,674. The average weekday attracted 953 boardings, or 95 per hour. Weekends actually saw more usage, at 1,044 per day or 104 per hour. In absolute terms, this is roughly equivalent to a low-ridership Sound Transit Express route, and over much less distance. This isn’t moving the needle regionally, but isn’t bad for a new route with its share of quirks.

Source: Commute Seattle

But that’s not the really interesting news. After starting as a single loop from Pioneer Square to the Space Needle with unscheduled 25-minute headways, the shuttle is now three separate loops (see right). 3 to 6 buses per hour serve each of these loops, with the congestion issues you would expect. Commute Seattle data suggests all the but the green loop are pretty consistent through the day.

The DSA added the green (east) loop on August 31st “to circulate riders to Pike Place Market and the Retail Core & Convention Center from the waterfront,” according to spokesperson Margaret Steck. Weekly ridership jumped from 3,824 to 6,270 on either side of the change, although some of that may have been Labor Day weekend.

If you’re interested in this service, that’s not the most exciting news. Instead of ending last week, the DSA has the funding to run through at least Sep. 3, 2019, 10am to 8pm, except for Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. One would expect ridership to dip in the bad weather months, and given the apparent leisure focus of many trips, it’s a bit odd to shut down over major holidays. But it’s always good to have novel funding sources create free transit in some of the region’s most constrained spaces.