WHITE CENTER — Red and yellow buses will begin zipping riders along King County Metro’s newest RapidRide line Saturday, with the aim of better connecting Burien, White Center and Delridge to each other and to downtown Seattle.

The H Line will replace Metro’s existing Route 120, making similar stops on the same streets as Route 120 did while adding faster and more frequent trips up and down a 12-mile corridor that’s been rebuilt — with new bus stations, new bus lanes, new bus-prioritizing traffic signals and new crosswalks.

Stepping off a RapidRide bus to address reporters and supporters Friday at a news conference in White Center, Metro general manager Michelle Allison called the $154 million “transformation of Route 120” a project worth celebrating. She said the H Line and its revamped streetscape should offer quick, reliable service throughout the day and week, and in both directions, rather than catering mostly to rush-hour commuters with jobs downtown.

The all-day emphasis isn’t new for the RapidRide network, which launched its first route in 2010. But the concept has taken on greater significance recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering transit-use patterns.

The H Line is Metro’s seventh RapidRide route and the first to start service since 2014, when the E Line began shuttling riders between Shoreline and downtown Seattle, and when the F Line opened between Burien and Renton. The city of Seattle, Metro and the city of Burien contributed funding.

“RapidRide is the evolution of Metro,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said Friday, describing the H Line project as a “game changer” for Burien, White Center and Delridge, which are home to more low-income residents and people of color than many other communities in the region.


Metro selected Route 120 for a RapidRide makeover partly for equity reasons and partly based on ridership. The route, which runs between the Burien Transit Center and downtown Seattle via arterials like Ambaum Boulevard Southwest and Delridge Way Southwest, averaged 9,200 daily boardings before the pandemic, said Jerry Roberson, Metro’s lead planner for the H Line.

That number dropped when COVID hit and now stands at 6,800 daily boardings, but Route 120 has retained riders better than most other Metro bus routes, said Hannah McIntosh, the agency’s system expansion manager. It recorded 1.7 million boardings last year, ranking No. 6 among all routes.

Before the pandemic, Metro expected Route 120’s RapidRide conversion to boost the route’s ridership by about 40% over five years. Planners still think that will happen, Roberson said, though it’s hard to know whether the route’s baseline ridership is still rebounding or has already reached a new normal.

The new H Line bus stations, like other RapidRide stations, feature red-accented shelters. Many have off-bus ORCA card readers. They also feature digital screens with real-time arrival information. RapidRide routes are meant to trim travel times (by an estimated 10-15% on the H Line) and reduce crowding. The H Line will make slightly fewer stops than Route 120.

On weekdays, H Line buses will run every seven minutes in peak directions during rush hours, every 10 minutes between rush hours and every 15 minutes during evenings. On weekends, they’ll run every 15 minutes from mornings through evenings. Late at night, they’ll run less often.

“That’s more than 100 trips each direction, every weekday,” Constantine said.


Riding a Route 120 bus with her daughter Friday on a journey from their home in Delridge to Seattle Center, Jill Wagner said the extra trips on the H Line may save her some stress. Last spring, 11% of Route 120 buses were late on weekdays and 22% on Saturdays, according to Metro.

“It’s always frustrating to be chasing a bus” or waiting for one, said Wagner, a paralegal who’s commuted to her job in downtown Seattle on Route 120 for more than 20 years. “More frequent service will definitely be helpful.”

Seattle spent more than $90 million on the project, making improvements along Delridge Way Southwest. Mostly covered by the Move Seattle property tax levy, the work included street repaving, upgraded utilities, new sidewalks, new bike lanes and new trees planted on a median strip.

The project has also reshaped Burien’s Ambaum Boulevard Southwest, where wider sidewalks and new crossings have been installed. Burien is working on land-use changes for the same stretch, Mayor Sofia Aragon said, aiming for development that adds vibrancy without displacing residents and businesses.

The H Line was originally scheduled to launch in 2020, but was delayed by schedule revisions, staffing and coordination challenges related to COVID and a strike by concrete workers, according to Metro.

“The investment that the H Line brings has been long in coming,” Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott said, drawing out the “o” in “long.”


Now, at last, residents will have a better way to move around, McDermott said, and visitors will enjoy better access to attractions like the DubSea Fish Sticks, White Center’s summer collegiate baseball team, he quipped.

People who use the White Center Food Bank will benefit, especially because the organization will soon move into a new location just around the corner from an H Line stop, said Carmen Smith, executive director. Customers often leave with 50 pounds of groceries, so walking home isn’t ideal.

“We’re super excited for our customers to have reliable transit,” Smith said.

The RapidRide G Line, linking Madison Valley, First Hill and downtown Seattle via Madison Street, was at one point supposed to open before the H Line but has also encountered delays. It’s currently under construction.

There are other RapidRide lines planned, including the I Line (Renton-Kent-Auburn) and the J Line (University District-Eastlake-South Lake Union).

This coverage is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.