By Will Parry
The King County Council’s decision to eliminate the 42 bus route rather than to restore most of its original route next year, if it stands, will rob the people of Seattle’s most transit-dependent neighborhoods of ready access to the many destinations that are essential to their lives.
The decision has drawn an outpouring of protest and strong community support for Route 42’s original service area, which includes downtown, the International District and neighborhoods along Rainier Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way South, on to Rainier Beach and Skyway.
Over the past three years, postcards and petitions have flooded King County Council offices, and a crowd of about 300 packed a hearing on the issue. The Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans has pledged its full support for retaining the long-standing service hours of Route 42.
The neighborhoods that depend on the 42 are the city’s most diverse, with the lowest incomes and the most troubling health indicators. They have the highest concentration of people of color, immigrants and refugees, households where English is not the primary language, students, seniors and persons with disabilities.
Riders who depend on the 42 bus, include people who live in the most diverse zip code in the nation. These communities have a very compelling a need for reliable, affordable transit service.
People use Route 42 to reach ethnic shops, grocery stores and food banks, culturally sensitive and linguistically accessible medical, behavioral health and social services, community centers, churches, temples, schools and jobs.
Light rail is no substitute. Light rail’s mission is to provide rapid service to commuters, moving people through neighborhoods, without local neighborhood stops. Light rail stops are more than a mile apart, not a walkable distance for many patrons. The system is difficult to access, especially for persons with limited or no English, as well for persons with disabilities.
When the 42 bus was originally proposed for elimination in 2009, a Metro official confirmed that the service hours were to be shifted to the South Lake Union trolley, which serves an area with none of the critical needs that characterize Southeast Seattle.
Bus route 42 has historically served dependably the transit dependent people who need it. Metro needs to cut expenditures, but eviscerating Route 42 is the worst place to start.