Blue Streak, first express park-and-ride bus service, begins between Northgate and downtown Seattle on September 8, 1970.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 3/19/2001
  • Essay 3115

On September 8, 1970, Seattle Transit launches the first express bus service between Northgate and downtown Seattle. The "Blue Streak" will serve as a model for dozens of additional park-and-ride routes implemented by Metro Transit after 1972.

In the late 1960s, Seattle's municipal bus system was running up chronic and growing operating deficits. Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman (b. 1935) attempted to rejuvenate the system with new funding, such as a controversial "household tax," and new services such as Blue Streak. Conceived by Seattle Transit planner Jim Patrick and funded by a special grant from the federal Urban Mass Transit Administration, the service was an instant success. Riders quickly filled 500 reserved parking spaces and were credited with eliminating 1,200 cars from the daily freeway commute.

It was not enough, however, to stanch the flow of Seattle Transit's red ink and Uhlman's aggressive political style rankled traditionalists such as long-time transit manager Lloyd Graber. The battle was resolved temporarily on November 30, 1970, by voter approval of a City Charter amendment to replace the semi-autonomous Transit Commission with a new Transit Department directly accountable to the mayor. Despite the innovations introduced by new director Robert Lavoie, the reformed transit system continued to lose money until taken over by Metro (now King County) in 1972.


Walt Crowley, Routes, An Interpretive History of Public Transportation in Metropolitan Seattle (Seattle: Metro Transit, 1993).

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