Responding to criticism about a lack of late night transit service on New Year’s Eve, King County is not only extending service to 4am this New Year, but also making transit free all day New Year’s Eve. King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove proposed the idea and fought to get it implemented.

“We want people to go have a good time and know they can get home safely, affordably, and reliably,” County Councilmember Upthegrove said.

The free rides will start at 4am on Sunday, December 31st and last 24 hours, including DART and Access. Seattle Streetcar will also be free and run until 1am. Metro routes with added service will include 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 14, 24, 32, 36, 40, 41, 62, 65, 70, 101, 106, 120, 124, 150, 255, RapidRide A, B, C, D and E Lines, and ST 550, ST 554, King County Metro said in a press release. “The fareboxes and ORCA card readers on Metro buses will be covered to remind customers not to pay.”

Link light rail won’t be free, but Sound Transit is extending service beyond normal hours. A regular valid fare will also be required on Sound Transit Express buses.

Seattle’s Night Owl network got an overhaul in September. (King County Metro)

King County Metro will operate regular Sunday schedules on New Year’s Eve with extra buses as needed on several routes serving destinations such as Seattle Center, Capitol Hill, and Downtown. Metro’s recently expanded Night Owl network will also be available with added service on major routes between 1am and 5am.

Transit riders will likely see the situation this year a big improvement over years past. Last year, King County Metro did not extend service and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) promoted taxi apps Uber and Lyft by offering $10 vouchers in lieu of late night transit service. The catch was surge pricing spiked after midnight, erasing the savings for some users. Such a solution was neither equitable nor in line with the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2030. This year’s solution to extend transit service and make it free will more effectively deter drunk driving and better serve King County’s lower income residents.

On New Year’s Day, buses and rail service will operate on Sunday schedules with a regular valid fare required on all service. Details are posted on Metro’s holiday and reduced service page. Sound Transit will operate ST Express, Link light rail and Tacoma Link on a Sunday schedule, but will not operate Sounder service New Year’s Day.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will have Sunday service.

Regular Sunday in Snohomish and Pierce Counties

Snohomish and Pierce transit users weren’t so lucky. Everett Transit and Community Transit are operating a normal Sunday schedule with full fares and not extending service. Sunday service will also apply on the holiday of New Year’s Day, except that some commuter routes will still operate. Pierce County is also going with Sunday service on both New Year’s Eve and Day and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Pierce Transit’s holiday schedule is available here.

Transit Holiday in Olympia and Kitsap County

Intercity Transit will operate normal Sunday schedule on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Kitsap Transit does not operate on Sundays and will have no service on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The featured header image is by Chris Blakeley on Flickr.

King County Metro Poised To Expand And Revise Late-Night Bus Service




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Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.