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Two U-District bus routes to see increased weekend service

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Commuters exit the Route 48 at a bus stop on 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 43rd Street. Next year Seattle will be increasing evening and weekend service on eight bus routes including the Routes 48 and 49.

Photo by Joshua Bessex

As the state Legislature grapples with potential cuts to transit service, good news arrived for both King County Metro and UW students who rely on the transit system.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond announced June 17 that the City of Seattle will buy more than 5,000 hours of additional annual service through 2016 for eight Metro bus routes in the Seattle area. Rochelle Ogershok, Metro’s public affairs coordinator, said the additional service will begin Sept. 28. 

Metro Route 48, which runs between the U-District and the Mt. Baker Light Rail Station in South Seattle, and Route 49, which runs from Loyal Heights and through the U-District to downtown Seattle, are among the eight transit routes that will see increased service.

For the Route 48, Metro will increase the frequency of the Saturday service with extra late night and early morning both north and southbound trips. For the Route 49, there will be additional late night service on both Saturdays and Sundays.

“These extension of service hours will be significant for UW students [and] to those around the community for both weekend employment and nightlife,” said Josh Kavanagh, the UW director of transportation services.

The City of Seattle can provide these service additions thanks to $750,000 in savings accumulated from the Bridging the Gap levy, a 2006 voter-approved initiative intended to address issues related to transportation maintenance.

“We worked closely with Bridging the Gap [as] it was being put together by a panel of transportation groups,” said McGinn spokesperson Aaron Pickus. “We actually had more money than we expected so we decided to purchase additional trips.”

Ogershok said the routes to receive additional service were identified as a top priority in the city’s Transit Master Plan, which identified key corridors for transit service.

While the savings accumulated from Bridging the Gap provided additional funds for the transit system, there are still questions as to what the state Legislature and Metro will do to cover the projected $75 million annual shortfall when temporary funding sources from the Congestion Reduction Charge expire in May of next year. The Congestion Reduction Charge is an annual $20 fee paid by King County residents when they renew a vehicle registration, helping Metro maintain current levels of service.

“[Possible service cuts] are still in play. We are pushing hard and making it a priority,” Pickus said. “It’s not just Seattle that is working on this. We’re working with mayors and representatives, regardless of Democrats or Republicans, all throughout the state, to come up with solutions in the long run.”

As discussions toward finding a long term financial solution continue in Olympia, Kavanagh said the public currently doesn’t have many options.

“We’ve been down to Olympia multiple times to explain the needs [of the transit services] shared by the UW and the local community. It is [now] up to the elected officials,” Kavanagh said. “Right now it is time to be patient and be ready to move swiftly when we get the path for action cleared by the council.”

Reach reporter KJ Hiramoto at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @HiramotoKJ

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