A slab of concrete in the SoDo area of Seattle could save Sound Transit as much as $500,000 annually.
The so-called “mid-day bus storage lot,” which opened in late 2015, allows the agency to store about 15 buses in Seattle each day instead of bringing them back to Pierce County after they make their runs north during the morning rush.
The buses then are available at peak times during the afternoon commute to pick up riders headed from Seattle back to Tacoma, Gig Harbor and other Pierce County cities.
Pierce Transit operates the Pierce-to-King county routes as part of a contract with Sound Transit.
Sound Transit estimates storing the buses at the lot near Airport Way South and South Stevens Street could save $300,000 to $500,000 a year on fuel and maintenance costs.
“It beats sending empty buses back across the county line,” said Bruce Gray, spokesman for Sound Transit, which owns the lot.
Storing the buses up north means they are ready for the afternoon commute without having to slog through Interstate 5 traffic between Tacoma and Seattle, said Peter Stackpole, planning manager for Pierce Transit.
“This way they are staged for the afternoon peak,” he said. “We can respond more rapidly to ridership demands.”
The parking area once served as a storage lot for supplies used to build the Beacon Hill light-rail tunnels nearby. Sound Transit converted the area to a parking lot at the cost of about $1.18 million.
Drivers who take the buses north each morning catch a bus south to finish their shifts on other buses, said Rebecca Japhet, a spokeswoman for Pierce Transit.
A new set of drivers travels north to bring buses and passengers home in the evening, Japhet said.
The buses then are cleaned and refueled at Pierce Transit’s yard in Lakewood to be ready for morning routes to Seattle.
Pierce Transit driver Andrew King was assigned to operate Route 595 (Seattle to Gig Harbor) on a weekday afternoon.
“It’s a tight fit, but it seems to be working,” said King, who lives in Tacoma.