Along with light rail, Federal Way wants bus reform

A typical morning line-up for the ST Express Route 577 bus at the Federal Way Transit Center. - Courtesy photo
A typical morning line-up for the ST Express Route 577 bus at the Federal Way Transit Center.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Aside from a sidetracked light rail project, Sound Transit's bus service in Federal Way is under scrutiny.

City officials have expressed concerns about overcrowded buses, especially the ST Express Route 577 to Seattle. Commuters fill those buses at peak morning times, standing in line before sunrise, often waiting through one or two boardings before scoring a seat.

In response, Sound Transit says it spends $12 million a year on three express bus routes at the Federal Way Transit Center:

• Route 577 to downtown Seattle. This service provides 27 daily weekday bus trips.

• Route 574 to SeaTac airport to the north and Tacoma/Lakewood to the south. This service operates all day, every day, with a total 77 daily weekday bus trips.

• Route 578 to downtown Seattle to the north and Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup to the south. This service provides 53 daily weekday bus trips.

Opened in 2006 on 23rd Avenue South, the Federal Way Transit Center was funded by nearly $40 million from Sound Transit. The agency teams with Federal Way police for public safety and security. King County Metro and Pierce Transit buses also use the transit center.

To address overcrowding, Sound Transit has purchased new buses and added routes for peak periods. Standing-room only buses and packed parking lots are common at these times for any transportation provider, according to Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. Service areas in East King and Snohomish counties deal with even busier routes, she said.

The city's complaints about crowded bus service coincide with its response to the delayed extension of light rail to Federal Way. The city has launched a fact-finding mission, including extensive public disclosure requests, for information on Sound Transit's resources and operations.

Metro bus service

Of the 110 million annual boardings on the King County Metro system, about 20 percent originate in South King County, which has some of the highest rates of use within the system. Federal Way alone has more than a dozen daily Metro routes. Metro hopes a handful of proposed changes will ease bus overcrowding, improve the performance of chronically late routes, and reduce inefficient bus service.


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