The free shuttle that ran along the Seattle waterfront this summer will continue through the winter.

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This summer’s free Waterfront Shuttle, which connects to most downtown destinations, was so popular it will be extended through Labor Day weekend of 2019, supporters announced Monday.

The buses have averaged more than 1,000 passengers daily since they started in late July, said James Sido, spokesman for the Downtown Seattle Association. The service started as one 11-station line, but now has three loops to add capacity: Seattle Center, Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market, plus the state convention center. The buses converge one block north of the ferry dock where riders can transfer. They are marked by blue and orange signs at 11 stops, operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and are wheelchair accessible.

The downtown association had planned to end the service Monday. But officials decided to continue the shuttle because, based on the enthusiasm this summer, they expect a winter demand, especially for weekday rides. “Conventions happen through the year,” said Sido. “Getting them to Pike Place Market and to the waterfront is still a useful service.”

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By running through winter, the shuttle service may come in handy when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes permanently Jan. 11, causing widespread congestion and a switch by some commuters to water taxis at Colman Dock. Waterfront buses add an option to the existing taxis and dockless rental bicycles.

Three bus loops meet near Colman Dock and circulate to Pioneer Square, the Convention Center and the Space Needle.
Three bus loops meet near Colman Dock and circulate to Pioneer Square, the Convention Center and the Space Needle.

The buses are being subsidized by state megaproject funds, to offset parking and access hassles during construction of the Highway 99 tunnel. That four-lane tube opens in February and related state construction will continue at the waterfront for about three years.