Rapidride J Aims to Double Route 70 Ridership

RapidRide J will be an electric trolley bus. (SDOT)

Route 70 is not a bus that riders are thrilled to ride–it’s crowded and often stuck in traffic in South Lake Union. But there’s a plan to fix that, and, thanks to the more reliable, speedy service at more frequent intervals, the City projects it would more than double ridership in the corridor. In fact, the RapidRide J Line (as Route 70 will be called after its upgrade) is predicted to have a whopping 21,600 daily boardings in 2024, in its first year of service. King County Metro reported Route 70 had 8,300 daily riders in fall 2017. The bus line will share the southern half of Route 67 along Roosevelt Way NE and 12th Avenue NE to reach Roosevelt Station.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has a series of drop-in sessions at the end of the month to gather public feedback on designs and the environmental assessment that was just issued.

Plans call for about 60 additional bus trips each day, while reducing overcrowding and upping frequency to every 7.5 minutes at peak. SDOT expects on-time performance to greatly improve thanks to some key sections of bus lanes and smart traffic signals that give buses additional green lights–17 minutes faster at afternoon peak.

RapidRide branding will mean upgraded bus stops with lighting, real-time arrival information on electronic displays, off-board payment, and all-door boarding. Sidewalks will be improved, including with 200 fresh curb ramps, and SDOT is planning protected bike lanes on Eastlake Avenue, a critical stretch that will provide safe biking connections between the University District and Downtown. The catch is that Councilmember Alex Pedersen has been talking about moving the bike lane to a parallel route, despite that being an untenable solution.

SDOT and Metro plan to electrify the northern portion of the line by adding overhead trolley wire and electric buses. That means lower carbon emissions, helping Seattle to grapple with its number one source of climate emissions: transportation. More zero emission buses in this key corridor would be a huge climate win.

RapidRide J would run southbound on Roosevelt Way and 12th Avenue NE northbound to Roosevelt Station. (SDOT)
Tranist lanes on Fairview Avenue. would help speed up RapidRide J. Protected bike lanes are envisioned on Eastlake Avenue. (SDOT)
Tranist lanes on Fairview Avenue. would help speed up RapidRide J. Protected bike lanes are envisioned on Eastlake Avenue. (SDOT)

SDOT released simulations that show how queue jumps and bus lanes would help whisk buses through South Lake Union traffic congestion.

Sharing a transit lane with the South Lake Union Streetcar actually looks like it will work pretty well courtesy of the queue jump.

Drop-in sessions:

  • January 28, 5-9pm, REI
    222 Yale Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109  

  • January 29, 12-4pm, Starbucks
    2344 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102  

  • January 30, 9am-12pm, Starbucks
    6417 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115  

  • February 1, 9am-12pm, University Family YMCA
    5003 12th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Councilmember Pedersen is also scheduled to discuss RapidRide J Line plans with the Eastlake Community Council on January 30th at Tops School from 6:30pm to 8pm.

Comments on the Environmental Assessment and Analysis must be postmarked or submitted online by 5pm on Friday, February 14, 2020. (Click here to access the online comment form.)

Meanwhile, SDOT faces a federal audit over its handling of Small Starts grants spurred by questions raised from the Center City Connector budget snafus. The RapidRide G Line project on Madison Street has been delayed another year to 2023 due to that added scrutiny. Even with the cloud of the audit, hopefully RapidRide J Line will still earn its federal grant in timely fashion and stay on schedule.

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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.

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I read this article and it left me scratching my head. RapidRide J does NOT replace the existing Route 70. They serve substantially different markets. Route 70 serves University Way and the UW campus. The new J bypasses those markets and instead serves the Roosevelt District and its Link station.

Will Metro abolish Route 70 and leave Eastlake riders with no direct service to the UW? That would be terrible.


It’s only the same route south of University Bridge. Given the volume of riders destined from Eastlake to the UW, it’s cavalier indeed for Metro to tell them to “transfer or walk.” It’s 5 blocks from Roosevelt to 15th~ and most UW riders have to walk yet further into campus.


Light Rail will take people from the Roosevelt Light Rail station to the UW campus. Take the bus to Roosevelt Light Rail and then Light Rail back to the UW. Easy, pretty much what light rail is all about.


in first paragraph, the forecasted weekday ridership if for the SDOT line between NE 65th Street and South Main Street, much longer than Route 70. it is an output of the relatively new FTA STOPS model. in the SDOT proposal, Route 67 would be retained.

later, the phrase reducing over crowding is used. it would address over crowding. new riders will be attracted by the shorter waits. crowding is a sign of a good transit system.

the 17-minute difference is theoretical. (ha, remember Rosemary Woods). it is between a route that does not exist and a forecasted route. Route 66 was deleted in March 2016. very few riders would ride the proposed line end to end. most will us Link if going to or from downtown from north of the canal.

off-board fare payment is what is used on current RR lines. in SF Muni and TransLink Route 99B, all-door boarding is achieved through on-board fare readers. that may be a better approach.

Route 70 is already electric trolley bus. the wire was built in about 1997. between 1940 and 1963, routes 7 and 8 served Eastlake with electric trolley bus service; each line ran every five minutes in the peaks. that was before I-5.

the flaw in the SDOT design is branding former Route 66 and not Route 70, as the latter serves the UW campus, the NE 45th Street Link station, and the heart of the U District. branding the longer alignment takes more capital, service hours, and may attract fewer riders through the longer transfer walks with Link.

Chris Shotwell

Looks like a great improvement. Seconding AJ’s request.

I’d also love to see a new all-day route that runs along Rainier, Boren, and Fairview. This would create an easy one-seat ride from Columbia City, Rainier Valley, Yesler Terrace, First Hill, and lower Pike/Pine to jobs in South Lake Union, or an easy one-transfer ride from routes 2, 3, 4, or 12 for residents of the Central District, Madrona, Mt Baker, Etc.


Do you have a link to a higher resolution Projects highlights map? Or even a link to the RapidRide J page? I clicked on a bunch of links in the story, but no joy.