King County Metro Route 255 is an old friend to the residents of Kirkland, providing service to and from Seattle. And just like an old friend, locals may not use the route daily or even monthly, but they always know the bus will be there for them if necessary.
Infrequent users may not be aware of recent changes to the route and planned future changes that will impact many, including older adults.
In March of this year, all buses were removed from what was euphemistically called the “bus tunnel.” The 255 now drops riders off at planned stops along 5th Avenue. Riders should plan before traveling to know which new stop is closest to their destination and where to catch the bus along a surface street for the return journey. Returning to the Eastside, there are stops along both 5th and 6th avenues (check the Metro website). There are few bus shelters at these stops, so be prepared for weather — heat, rain, cold. Metro has predicted that this change may also mean increased traffic congestion and travel times.
On June 22, the Montlake freeway stations closed. Kirkland riders needing to get to the University of Washington can transfer buses at the Evergreen Point Station to route 277 during weekday peak hours and/or Sound Transit route 542 daily (WSDOT contributed funds so Sound Transit could add service in the evenings and weekends). Downtown Kirkland riders can take the 540 during the weekday peak hours and/or transfer from the 255 to route 542 at Evergreen Point during non-peak times.
In March 2020, Route 255 will no longer go to downtown Seattle but will terminate at the University of Washington Link Light Rail Station. This is a major change for our old friend 255. Riders headed for downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill or SeaTac will transfer to Link light rail. Transfers to other bus routes can also occur here. There is ADA access here via elevators. This Link station is part of the expanded tunnel (remember the bus tunnel?) although there are many more stops, including the airport. The new 255 stop, under construction now, is directly in front of Husky Stadium and adjacent to the University of Washington Medical Center. Metro will continue to provide direct downtown Seattle access from the Eastside on routes 252, 257 and 311 during peak hours.
Also in March 2020, the 255 route will have a new northern terminus at the Totem Lake Transit Center, which will be the new start/end point of the route. Buses will come every 15 minutes or better on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. After 10 p.m. and on weekends, bus service will run every 30 minutes and service will operate one hour later on Saturday and Sunday nights than it does today. Link light rail trains run every six, 10 or 15 minutes depending on the time of day. Service is available from 5-1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays and holidays. The last train from SeaTac is midnight Monday-Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday.
The most cost-effective way to use this new, integrated service is to have an ORCA card. Seniors are eligible for a regional reduced fare permit ORCA card. Transfers between Metro and Link Light Rail or Metro and Sound Transit buses are free when you use ORCA. If you pay with cash, transfers from one system to another requires a separate fare for each segment of the trip.
The city of Kirkland and Metro have been working together to issue ORCA cards, including the regional reduced fare permit (for 65 and older), throughout our community. Through this effort, an ORCA To-Go team, in collaboration with the city of Kirkland, provides ORCA card services at Kirkland City Hall every first and third Wednesday of the month from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
The Orca To-Go schedule is also available online at tinyurl.com/y4kyl2va.
To plan your next trip, go to tripplanner.kingcounty.gov.
Coming of Age…Again is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the city of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership is open throughout the year.