14 Mount Baker

Back to Ballard. Win!

In 2011 I lived in Ballard. I rode my bike into the city sometimes and other times I rode the bus. At the time the bus I took was the 18. Sometime over the years King County Metro took the 18 and the 75, killed those local routes and rolled them into route 40. There is still the 18x, which is a morning and evening rush hour express bus, and follows the path of what was the 18 route in 2011. Life working in circles, I am now located in Ballard again! Yay!

Honestly, I’m stoked. After the torture of Redmond I’m euphoric at having legit amenities, breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, drinking, and related joints, plus a plethora of serious coffee joints all within a short walk or bike ride away. Instead of just QFC and a Whole Foods, I’ve now got bike, transit, and walking access to… ok, I was about to start writing this list inline, but let me actually bullet list this sucker, because wow.

Redmond Options Within 6 kilometers:

  • QFC #1
  • QFC #2
  • Whole Foods

Ballard Options Within 6 kilometers:

  • QFC #1
  • QFC #2
  • Safeway
  • PCC
  • Whole Foods
  • An actual local butcher (Better Meat)
  • Ficherman’s Docks
  • Market 1
  • Market 2
  • Ballard Market

Needless to say, I like the options and unique characteristics of many of these places. It’s why I love cities and am bored to brainless apathy when trying to deal with the lack of legitimately unique suburban options. They simply just don’t exist. But I digress.

The Smoky Hellfire Furnace of Cascadia! AGGGGHHH!!!!

Being back in Ballard I’m now biking to work every day. However on 3 days out of the two weeks of living in Ballard so far, I’ve taken the bus to and from. Today was one of those three days, because of this smoky low quality nasty air. It’s rough outside, and combined with the high temperatures, it’s a recipe for ailments if you go tearing through the air soup of smoke. Today, to resolve the issue as best as one can, I rolled into downtown Seattle on route 40.

Now, I’ve ridden route 40 a number of times before. I’ve also ridden it a number of times over the years on trips up to the area. I have in the past tended to swing out the Ballard even when not living in the area. So let’s talk transit sleuthing on the 40.

Route Description

On the south end, the route starts just across the street from King Street Station. That makes it an extremely convenient bus route to connect with Amtrak or Sounder at King Street Station. The bus then heads north through the city on 3rd Street, which is basically Seattle’s bus mall style street, which then cuts over to Westlake and goes through the South Lake Union area where Amazon and such is located. From there, it follows Westlake along the western edge of Lake Union. Then it’s across the Fremont Bridge into Fremont, past “the center of the universe” and then along Leary Way into Ballard. In Ballard it cuts from Leary onto Market Street heading westward, then a right onto 24th to head north.

Now this is where the old 18 route basically was done but the 40 continues onward. The 40 then head north and eventually turns on a street heading northeast, then east, and then onward to Northgate. Basically part of what used to be route 75. I’ve not ridden the 40 past 24th & 65th at this point, and today’s commute takes me along the same route.

Progress, Move Ya Damned SOV Motorists

One of the grand changes for this route over the 18 route is the dedicated lanes and light priority in the South Lake Union area. This are has become highly notorious since before it got popular with what was referred to as the Mercer Mess. After Seattle spent a gazillion bucks to fix it, they’ve made it exponentially worse and it’s still the Mercer Mess. The other difference however, is there are about 50k employees of Amazon and other companies in the area every day and about another 20k residents that live in the neighborhood now. This makes for what could be a completely inoperable route path for the bus during rush hour. However Westlake through to Mercer has bus/transit priority lanes and at Mercer has a dedicated light that let’s the buses leap from traffic to get across Mercer. These two tweaks to this corridor literally increase the throughput for buses by a massive degree. It slows motorists somewhat, but they were stuck there being the problems that they are already. Adding a minute or two to their commutes to enable thousands upon thousands to actually get through on transit is a huge payout in time and money for Seattleites. In the end, an absolutely huge win!

That’s it for today’s observations. The 40 route, at this point is a usable and pretty heavily ridden route. I’ll have to do some sleuth work and see what the ridership numbers actually are on the various segments. I’d be curious what the overall activity is over the course of the day. Until next time, happy riding.