Local Bus Service

Local bus service is essential not only to let people ride for fairly short distance, but is also essential as a link between people’s homes and the express and high-speed services for travelling longer distances.

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By local bus service, I am referring to buses that are not normally express services, but stop every two or three blocks or so, serving residential neighborhoods or business districts. The local buses are an effort to have a stop within a relatively short walk of somebody’s home, office, or other origin or destination. The local bus may take someone to another stop near their destination, or take them to a transfer point where they can transfer to another bus taking them close to their destination, or to a faster mode of transportation, such as an express bus, train, or monorail, that will take them further at a higher speed.

The Seattle Area already has one of the best bus systems in the United States. in the more urban areas there are many bus routes, not very far apart, so that most places are within a few blocks of a bus stop. On many of the routes the buses run as frequently as every fifteen or twenty minutes. In many cases the schedules are coordinated so that at certain transfer points the buses from two or more routes meet at the same time so that passengers can step off of one bus and onto another without waiting.

However over much of the system, especially away from the urban areas, the service is not as good. Buses may run one or two hours apart, with long waits at transfer points.

There are several transit agencies in the area. Seattle is in King County, which owns and operates the King County Metro transit system. The next county north of King County is Snohomish County, which owns and operates Community Transit. The largest city in Snohomish County, Everett, has own bus system, Everett Transit. The next county south of King County is Pierce County, which owns and operates Pierce Transit. The largest city in Pierce County is Tacoma, which is included in the Perce Transit system. There is also Sound Transit, which operates express buses, light rail, and commuter rail over longer routes in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties.

King County Metro is the largest agency in the area, since it serves the city of Seattle and the highly-populated area around Seattle. Metro has a mix of coaches(buses) — 30-foot and 40-foot standard diesel coaches, 60-foot diesel articulated coaches, 60-foot diesel-electric hybrid articulated coaches, 40-foot trolley coaches, and 60-foot articulated trolley coaches.

Articulated coaches have a front section about 40 feet long with a rear section about 20 feet long, connected by a large swivel and hinge arrangement so that they can bend as the turn, permitting tighter turns for a 60-foot-long coach. The diesel-electric hybrids have a diesel-powered generator that charges a bunch of large batteries, which in turn power electric motors that move the bus. When braking, the electric motors are used as generators to charge the batteries and the physical resistance of the generators help slow the bus. The trolley buses have only a large electric motor for power. The electricity is supplied by a pair of overhead trolley wires. Two “trolley poles” extend up from the top of the coach and slide along the trolley wires to conduct electricity to and from the coach.

The other transit agencies in the three-county area have most 40-foot diesel coaches and a few 60-foot articulated coaches. Sound transit also uses some hybrid coaches. Community Transit is evaluating a leased double-decker bus and will make a decision later as to whether or not to buy some.

King County Metro is buying more hybrid coaches and expanding its fleet, and is adding new routes and increasing the frequency of service on some routes over the next few years. In the next two or three years or so, Metro plans to have five high-speed bus routes with buses running every ten minutes. Community Transit is planning a high-speed bus service along State Highway 99 between Downtown Everett and the Aurora Village Transit Center, just south of the King/Snohomish County line.


I have no news at this time.

My Opinions

One of my opinions is to add routes, offer more frequent service on many routes, and run buses earlier in the morning and later at night. Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions on how to pay for these improvements.

I also suggest that some routes be converted to trolley routes. This would save on fuel costs and help the environment by reducing use of diesel coaches. It should be noted that most power in the Seattle area is generated by water power, a renewable resource, and electricity here is cheaper than in most other areas.

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©2002 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated 16 May 2018.

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