ⓘ Blog | Route 41, King County Metro - bus routes in the united states. Route 41 is an express bus route operated by King County Metro in Seattle, Washington. It conn ..


Route 41 (King County Metro)

Route 41 is an express bus route operated by King County Metro in Seattle, Washington. It connects Lake City and Northgate to Downtown Seattle, with non-stop service on Interstate 5 south of Northgate Transit Center.

The route was created in 1970 by the city-run Seattle Transit System as the 41 Blue Streak, the first in a series of express bus services in North Seattle using the Interstate 5 express lanes. It was transferred to Metro in 1973 and dropped the "Blue Streak" branding in 1978. Route 41 was moved to the downtown transit tunnel in 1991, and expanded into an all-day route in 2002. It has since become one of the busiest routes operated by King County Metro, with over 10.000 daily riders. The service was moved out of the downtown tunnel in 2019 and is anticipated to be eliminated in 2021, with the opening of Link light rail service to Northgate.


1. Route

Route 41 begins in the Chinatown–International District neighborhood at the south end of Downtown Seattle, serving a pair of stops near International District/Chinatown station and King Street Station. The bus route travels through Downtown Seattle on 3rd Avenue, the main transit corridor for the city, and turns east onto Olive Way near the Westlake Center. Inbound buses travel via Union Street, while outbound buses use Olive Way to reach Interstate 5, with northbound access to a direct ramp on Howell Street to the express lanes during certain times of the day. Route 41 travels non-stop on Interstate 5 for 6 miles 9.7 km to the Northgate Transit Center, a major bus station in North Seattle near the Northgate Mall; buses stop at bays 2 and 5 for northbound and southbound trips, respectively. From the transit center, route 41 continues north on 5th Avenue Northeast past the Northgate Mall, and turns east onto Northeast 125th Street in Pinehurst. Buses make local stops through the mostly residential area, which gives way to the Lake City commercial center. Route 41 turns north onto Lake City Way and terminates at Northeast 130th Street.

Route 41 runs at a frequency of 6 minutes during peak hours on weekdays, and 15 to 20 minutes at other times. Some trips are truncated to Northgate instead of serving Lake City. In spring 2015, Metro estimated that 10.000 daily riders used route 41 on weekdays.


2.1. History Blue Streak

The construction and completion of Interstate 5 through North Seattle spurred considerable suburban development in the 1950s. Northgate and Lake City were annexed into the city of Seattle in 1954, and the city-run Seattle Transit System expanded bus service into the area. The new service included a shuttle that ran at a significant loss for several years before being cancelled in the late 1950s. A second attempt at serving the north end with bus service was launched in 1963, with existing routes extended north towards Northgate and Lake City later that year.

Increasing congestion on Interstate 5 and declining bus ridership led city officials to propose a rapid transit service using the freeways reversible express lanes. In 1966, the federal government approved planning of an express bus service, named "Blue Streak" by Seattle Transit, that would use the express lanes between Northeast 110th Street and Cherry Street in Downtown Seattle.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD awarded $1.03 million equivalent to $5.79 million in 2018 dollars in January 1968 to Seattle Transit to develop the Blue Streak project, but the launch was delayed by a shortage in suitable buses. In May, HUD awarded a further $2.39 million equivalent to $13.4 million in 2018 dollars to purchase 70 diesel buses, which were delivered in November.

The continued financial problems with Seattle Transit put the Blue Streak program in jeopardy, leading to calls to suspend the program before it launched. Service was originally slated to begin in 1968, and delays led to the federal government establishing a deadline in early 1969 for a city decision on whether to move forward. A park and ride lot in Northgate was secured in August 1969, settling the demands of the federal government. The United States Department of Transportation approved $2 million equivalent to $11.2 million in 2018 dollars in operating funds for Blue Streak in January 1970, providing two-thirds of the systems operating budget for the first two years of service.

Blue Streak service on Route 41 began on September 8, 1970, traveling on local streets between Sand Point, Lake City and Northgate Mall, and proceeding onto Interstate 5 non-stop to Downtown Seattle. Blue Streak buses were given exclusive use of the Columbia and Cherry ramps on the Interstate 5 reversible express lanes, as well as a bus-only lane on 5th Avenue. Buses traveled primarily on 3rd Avenue through Downtown, heading northbound during morning inbound trips and southbound during afternoon outbound trips towards Northgate. Buses ran at a frequency of 7 to 15 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. The trip between Northgate and downtown took an average of 15 minutes, and took near-full busloads on the first day. The 22 buses on Blue Streak service were initially colored red, but were later repainted blue to match the branding.

US Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe praised the Blue Streak system during a speech on opening day, calling the express buses "an example imaginative, innovative use of existing transportation facilities and equipment". The Blue Streak experiment attracted interest from mass transit advocates and officials from across the nation. The Blue Streak system was expanded to other routes in the 1970s and served as the model for modern park-and-ride express service in the Seattle metropolitan area and across the United States. In its first year of service, Blue Streak routes increased ridership in North Seattle amid an overall decline in Seattle Transit ridership.

Seattle Transit general manager Lloyd Garber said that demand for parking was higher than expected and that it was too early to analyze ridership; after the first week of service, Seattle Transit began surveying riders to determine whether motorists had been lured by the new service. The study determined that 75 percent of surveyed patrons had switched from their personal automobiles, and that Blue Streak was responsible for a decrease of 400 vehicles on Interstate 5 at rush hour. By late October, demand at the Northgate park and ride prompted the State Highway Department to offer funding for an auxiliary lot.

Seattle Transit cancelled Saturday service on the Blue Streak routes in March 1971, citing low patronage and the near-empty parking lot at Northgate.


2.2. History Metro Transit

After a countywide public transit system was approved by voters on September 19, 1972, bus service within Seattle was transferred from the Seattle Transit System to the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle Metro on January 1, 1973. As part of the changeover, the leased Blue Streak parking lot was acquired by Metro using funds from the Urban Mass Transit Administration. As part of a system renumbering in January 1978, Metro eliminated the "Blue Streak" branding on routes, creating the modern route 41.

Route 41 was chosen as one of the initial routes to be routed through the downtown transit tunnel in Downtown Seattle, but due to a delay in the production of special dual-mode buses for the tunnel, route 41 was not moved into the tunnel until 1991. Route 41 ran primarily during peak hours, with some limited midday service, and was supplemented by route 307, which ran from Downtown Seattle to Northgate and Bothell on weekends and nights. The northern terminus of route 41 was moved from Magnuson Park to 5th Avenue NE and NE 125th Street in 1997, eliminating service to Sand Point and Lake City.

A major restructure of Northeast Seattle service occurred in 2002 to accommodate the new Sound Transit Express route 522 from Seattle to Woodinville via the State Route 522 corridor. As part of the restructure, route 307 was eliminated and replaced by route 522 as well as increased service on route 41, which was extended to Lake City and given service 7 days a week with frequencies as high as 15 minutes at midday on weekdays.

Beginning in September 2005, the downtown transit tunnel was closed for renovations to accommodate light rail service. Route 41, the tunnels most popular bus route, was routed onto surface streets within Downtown Seattle, primarily using 3rd Avenue between Jackson and Virginia streets until the tunnel reopened in September 2007. Buses were permanently removed from the downtown transit tunnel on March 23, 2019, as construction at Convention Place station had severed access to the north portal. Route 41 was relocated onto 3rd Avenue, serving stops near the transit tunnel stations, as well as Olive Way and Stewart Street. In July 2019, inbound southbound buses were moved from Stewart Street to Union Street to reduce morning travel times by 10 minutes.


3. Future

In 2021, Sound Transit plans to begin operating Link light rail service to Northgate Transit Center as part of the Northgate Link Extension project. At that time, Metro plans to discontinue route 41 entirely and replace east–west service to Lake City with route 75.

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