Update, January 8: With the impending viaduct decommission, WSDOT announced late last week that shuttle hours would expand to more commuter-friendly times: The north-south loop will begin operations at 6 a.m. on weekdays. Hours still start at 10 a.m. on weekends (and every day for the east loop).
Since the shuttle started in July, the service has provided about 90,000 rides.
Original article, October 4:
This past summer, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) announced a free shuttle running from Pioneer Square to the Seattle Center, traveling along the waterfront on Alaskan Way S. At the time, the bus service was supposed to end October 1, but thanks to a popular couple of months, WSDOT is extending the service through Labor Day 2019—and the shuttle has grown from one bus line to three.
The buses run every 10 to 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day through September 3, with the exception of Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Years Day.
Three lines intersect near the Aquarium. A north loop heads to the Space Needle and the Sculpture Park; an east loop heads to Pike Place Market, the Washington State Convention Center, the retail core, and hotels; and a south loop connects to the ferries and King Street Station, plus the stadiums and Pioneer Square.
The shuttles are branded as an option for tourists traveling by car to downtown to make parking easier, but shuttle-riders don’t have to be drivers. The route is specifically designed to connect to light rail and Amtrak for those arriving car-free.
It also provides a west-of-Third transportation option that doesn’t currently exist. From 1982 to 2005, a trolley ran along the waterfront, but it was postponed and eventually abandoned due to waterfront tunnel construction. The shuttle bus meant to replace it, Metro route 99, was axed this past March (after a redundant reroute to Third Avenue where most other buses that carry passengers through downtown run). The Center City Connector streetcar project was set to carry passengers on First, but that project is on hold—perhaps indefinitely—with its future unclear.
The shuttle is branded as part of the WSDOT project DowntownSeattleParking.com and is operated by DSA. It’s part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Parking Mitigation Program, designed to compensate for navigation difficulties during waterfront construction, State Route 99 tunnel construction, and viaduct demolition.
Waterfront and tunnel construction is just one arm of what city planners are calling the “period of maximum constraint” for Seattle traffic, where multiple road and construction projects are expected to converge onto downtown streets.
- Free Waterfront Shuttle [DSA]