by Enrique Pérez De La Rosa
Emma Catague would often see bus riders dash across Martin Luther King Jr. Way to make route transfers during rush hour to buses that ran only every 30 to 40 minutes.
People with groceries, parents with children and even the elderly, she said, would run across the street in order to keep appointments at social service providers like the Filipino Community of Seattle, where Catague is the Program Coordinator.
“They’re crossing even though it’s a red light because they don’t want to miss that,” Catague said.
King County Metro revised Route 106 last month in an effort to make commuting easier for communities of color and low-income residents within the Rainier Valley and International District. Route 106 runs the length of the Valley from Renton and Skyway to downtown Seattle. Commuters can now expect a bus on the route every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, according to a Metro Special Rider Alert.
“I’ve seen more people happy,” Catugue said of her clients. “They don’t have to rush.”
Catague represented the Filipino Community of Seattle in the Southeast Seattle Community Advisory Group, a group of community leaders from various organizations that has worked for 7 years with Metro to bring better bus service to the Rainier Valley.
The Asian Counseling and Referral Service was also represented in the group by Executive Director Diane Narasaki. The more frequent service enabled more of the elderly to get to the organization’s senior center, spokesperson Gary Tang said.
Tang said he’s seen at least 10 new members since the revisions. Another 20 members, who would previously only commute there once a week, started attending more often, he said.
The changes to Route 106 enable low-income residents of South Seattle to travel more easily to services along Martin Luther King Jr. Way that are culturally and language appropriate, according to a post on the Metro Matters blog.
The route alterations, as well as added trips and expanded service to more than a dozen other routes throughout Seattle, went into effect on Sept. 10. Route 106 was the centerpiece for changes in South Seattle, according to Doug Johnson, a transit planner at Metro who worked on the service changes.
Transit planners at Metro worked with social service agencies like the Filipino Community of Seattle for the past few years, Johnson said. Many told Metro that because of short routes like Route 38, riders had to make several transfers to other routes or to light rail to complete their trip.
“We just continued to hear these concerns about disadvantaged populations, riders that had no other means of transportation, they didn’t have a car,” Johnson said. “It was just burdensome for them to have to make a trip out of their neighborhood on the bus for daycare or for groceries or doctor’s appointments and then have to make another trip on another bus.”
The new Route 106 connects the Renton Transit Center to the International District via Martin Luther King Jr. Way, replacing Route 38 and providing alternate service between the Rainier Beach and Mount Baker Link Stations.
“Linking trips together by bus was so difficult when they’re traveling the length of the Rainier Valley,” Johnson said.
Though the 106 connects Renton, Skyway and Rainier Valley to downtown Seattle, it no longer operates in the transit tunnel as it did previously, instead ending on Jackson Street. Once there, commuters can transfer to light rail at the International District Station or onto the First Hill Streetcar.
Redirecting Route 106 through Martin Luther King Jr. Way took away service from neighborhoods it once served, most notably thorough Georgetown. Service through Georgetown is now provided by routes 107 and 124. Route 107 also provides another alternate route between the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill Link Stations.
A significant percentage of Refugee Women’s Alliance clients travel to their appointments by bus, according to Wendi Lindquist, Development and Communications Officer for the organization. The Refugee Women’s Alliance was not a part of the Southeast Seattle Community Advisory Group but it approves of the changes, she said.
“When we talk to our clients about busing, the two concerns they have are the frequency of buses and access away from the main street lines, to get from within the neighborhood to another neighborhood,” Lindquist said.
But Lindquist adds that the Refugee Women’s Alliance has not yet seen the impact of the revised routes through Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“I haven’t heard any complaints but I don’t know if we’ve seen a change one way or another,” Lindquist said.
It’s still too early to tell how ridership statistics have changed since the alterations. Ridership numbers and a full performance analysis will be available next year in Metro’s 2017 Annual Service Guidelines Report, according to Johnson.
Featured image:A man on a red scooter overtakes a bus from Route 106 after it makes a stop by Othello Station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The altered route connects Renton to the International District through the Rainier Valley. It also replaces Route 38, which operated from Rainier Beach Station to Mount Baker Transit Center. (Photo by Enrique Pérez De La Rosa)