Northgate/105th: Another Epic Repaving Project

Bus stop at 105th & Stone

Bus stop at 105th & Stone. Transit and pedestrian facilities are substandard throughout this area.

Everybody remember the recently-completed repaving of 85th St, which screwed up the 48 schedule for much of last year? Well, because that was so much fun, we’re gonna do it all again! Starting this spring, using money from the Bridging the Gap initiative, SDOT is going to repave Northgate Way/105th St from Meridian to Greenwood; construction will continue for about a year. As Northgate/105th is the only arterial in this part of the city, no viable alternative route exists, so inbound Route 40 trips will take a substantial and unavoidable hit to reliability that will be felt by riders throughout the route. Riders to or from Northgate or North Seattle Community College will be impacted even more.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel for transit.  According to SDOT’s Bill Bryant, all the intersections between Greenwood and Meridian are being considered for Transit Signal Priority, which will (I suspect) likely be of the “hold or advance green” variety. While Northgate/105th isn’t a particularly pedestrian-friendly street — it’s fast and wide without many signals — those same qualities, coupled with the lack of street parking, and the addition of TSP, could make it a very fast and reliable pathway for surface transit.

More after the jump.

All of SDOT’s recent paving projects (e.g. 85th St, Airport Way) have provided minor, but valuable upgrades to the pedestrian environment and transit facilities, like better shelters, lighting, new or repaired sidewalks, and ADA-accessible curb ramps. The Northgate/105th project will do the same, crucially providing high-quality sidewalks throughout; and while the list of transit facilities improvements has not been finalized, some of the current stops on 105th are nothing more than a post on a shoddy tarmac sidewalk, so almost any improvements whatsoever are likely to be quite major for riders.

OneBusAway Excerpt Northgate

Stops on Northgate/105th.

My only concern is that one pair of bus stops, at Stone Way, is much too close to another set of stops at Aurora, as can be seen on the map at right. These stops should be relocated a block or two to the east, to provide better spacing and coverage in this area; a repaving and facilities improvement project is the obvious time to do this. Again, per Bill Bryant, SDOT and Metro are examining this.

OneBusAway Excerpt GeorgetownStops in Georgetown

Stops in Georgetown

As an example of what happens when stop spacing issues fall through the cracks, consider an example from the Airport Way repaving project, shown in the map at right. The stops here are all over the place, with some bunched less than 500′ apart, and others more than a quarter of a mile apart. SDOT’s contractor constructed concrete bus pads in the roadway for these stops, so they are now basically fixed in this head-scratching arrangement indefinitely.

I know I’ve already spilled quite a bit of ink in previous posts saying nice things about SDOT’s transit speed and reliability work, but I’m going to do it again. This kind of work is completely unsexy and thankless, but its absolutely essential to our future as a city, one where we must, of necessity, find thrifty ways to improve the quality of transit service, to give people in growing urban villages a viable alternative to driving everywhere. Outside of a handful of the busiest corridors, buses (or trolleybuses) are the transit technology we will be using for the foreseeable future, and we to make them work well. SDOT is doing the hard work to make that happen.

SDOT will host a public meeting on this project soon, although the dates have not been announced yet. I’ll post reminders about that meeting when it comes up.

Comments

  1. Mark Atkinson says

    Hopefully they put concrete in on the bus lane so they don’t have to repave it again in 1 or 2 years.

    How much money does SDOT waste not doing it right the first time with the correct materials? The Olive way bus-only lane to the I-5 express lanes is a prime example.

    • Doug says

      Mark – while I agree that we need to use the right materials for the job, I think it’s not the fault of SDOT. We are in such an antitax era that all transit agencies and departments are starved for cash to do the projects right the first time. It’s really our fault as taxpayers…

    • Lack Thereof says

      Outer lanes will be completely reconstructed in concrete. Inner lanes will be simply resurfaced in asphalt.

      Because concrete and asphalt paving require differently constructed foundations, SDOT generally will not switch a road in its entirety from one surface to another, unless the foundation is already compromised and needs to be rebuilt anyway (as is the case in this project).

      Also, are you sure the Olive Way ramp was an SDOT project, not WSDOT?

      • Lack Thereof says

        Oh, correction, Northgate/105th will NOT be concrete on the outer lanes. That’s what I get for trusting my memory. They are doing a complete foundation-up rebuild of the outer lanes in asphalt. I expect they will do concrete pads at the bus stops, though.

        23rd is the one getting concrete outer / asphalt inner, but that’s not until next year.

  2. mic says

    Maybe Bruce or Bill could answer this. When a bus approaches a signal with TSP enabled, does it get the same treatment each time for each bus, depending on where the light cycle is (the dumb version), or is it much more sophisticated, taking into consideration things like time of day, current traffic loads, whether the bus is on or behind schedule.
    In other words, when do buses get the benefit of TSP?
    Others have mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again. There are good drivers and not-so-good drivers. If the schedules keeps getting ‘dumbed down’ because of pokey drivers, then the TSP helps but gets lost in the schedule adjustment process.
    Is this the same for the Rapid Ride corridors, or is there system of TSP better for buses?
    Speculators or guessers can take a pass on this one.

    • Lack Thereof says

      Current implementation on the RapidRides is “the dumb version”. I believe there is also a limit on how frequently it will kick in – it’s only allowed to interfere with the light cycle once every x minutes.

  3. David L says

    While Northgate/105th isn’t a particularly pedestrian-friendly street — it’s fast and wide without many signals — those same qualities, coupled with the lack of street parking, and the addition of TSP, could make it a very fast and reliable pathway for surface transit.

    So far, it hasn’t been, and I don’t expect it to be after the project. The reason is backups that form at the lights at Aurora and Greenwood (as well as Meridian, eastbound). TSP doesn’t do much good if the bus can’t get to the signal.

    SDOT is doing the hard work to make that happen.

    Sometimes.

    They are still single-handedly ruining inbound RapidRide D by refusing to change the light timing at Elliott and Mercer Place.

    • asdf says

      Moving the stop at Greenwood from before the intersection to after the intersection would help at lot. The current design forces the bus to spend one cycle getting to the bus stop, then another cycle to clear, even if just one person is getting on or off the bus. This intersection has a lot of signal phases, so the extra cycle to clear amounts to at least 2-3 minutes.

  4. RapidRider says

    This road desperately needs a suicide lane. Unfortunately there’s no room to expand outwards and a road diet would be a fatal mistake due to the volume of traffic pretty much all day. But the amount of left turns causes mini backups on 105th, which delays both drivers and buses.

    And don’t even think of riding your bike on this mini urban freeway. Every once in awhile, I see some lost soul riding down the road in what I can only imagine is some new trend of automobile assisted suicide.

    • archie says

      A middle turn lane would be glorious. It would totally make that highway safer and even allow for street parking for those car lovers. West of Meridian and east of Roosevelt at the very least…

    • Lack Thereof says

      It’s been on the paving schedule for years and years and years. The problem is that it requires SDOT’s entire paving budget for nearly the whole year (there was just enough money leftover to do a couple blocks of Delridge), so it took a long time to fit it in the schedule.

      In 2014, SDOT’s entire paving budget will be devoted to 23rd Ave, and the 48 will be thrown into disarray once again.

  5. says

    I think the stops on Stone could simply be deleted. Look at the walkshed–north of Northgate it’d only serve a few dozen houses and south of Northgate it’s not significantly different than the pair at 105th/Meridian.

    The pair at Northgate/Meridian should stay if not just for the many doctors within a block of that stop.

    • Kyle S. says

      I’m someone who uses that stop weekly for doctor visits. (Used to be thrice-weekly.)

      I really hate the detour down Meridian, but since I’m partial to Bruce’s argument that the 16 should probably take 1st Ave NE all the way to Northgate TC, I guess the 40 is stuck serving Meridian. At least the 40 now terminates at the Northgate TC rather than continuing the arduous journey of the 75.

    • Gillian says

      Tar MacAdam, as in the guy who (re)invented it :-)
      Origins

      Babylon, in 625 BCE, was the first city to have its streets paved with tar.[1] More than 2,000 years later, John Loudon McAdam invented a road construction method called macadamisation.[2]

  6. says

    Distances in this part of town are not as far as the abysmal pedestrian infrastructure make them appear. Several years ago I was stuck at Aurora/Northgate, with no 75′s coming in the foreseeable future, so I started walking towards my destination at Northgate Mall. Although route wasn’t too safe due to lack of sidewalks, I walked to Northgate in 15 minutes. I was surprised it was that quick.

    The addition of sidewalks all along Northgate Way will do wonders for accessibility in the neighborhood.

    • Groan says

      The addition of sidewalks on many arterials would be of benefit. I nominate NE 95th St between 32nd Ave NE and Lake City Way. I see many brave souls making their way down the “sidewalk/ditch” to catch the ST Expresses downtown…

    • RapidRider says

      I remember hearing that the RR D would be investigated for extension to Northgate. This was well before it debuted and I haven’t heard anything else from it. I can’t see it going anywhere else but 105th though.

      • Bruce Nourish says

        Yes, Metro investigated the possibility of sending RR to Northgate, but it would have cost significantly more (because you’d need more new RR buses) and made the through-routed C/D incredibly long.

        I could imagine it happening at some point in the future, when Metro has more money.

      • David L says

        I think you would have no choice but to break the through-route at that point, which would increase costs by quite a lot. There are major reliability issues getting from Northgate to the current RR D terminal, and I don’t think this project will do anything to fix them. RR C/D is already about the longest a through-routed combination should get.

      • Mike Orr says

        Are we assuming Metro will be in such dire straits forever? I’m sure it will break the through-routing as soon as it can, both because it’s more rational for Ballard-Northgate to be on RapidRide, and to add that Ballard-Pioneer Square service people have been complaining about.

  7. Mike Orr says

    It’s good that SDOT is improving the street because it’s a lot harder to convince Metro to move the buses off Northgate Way. I have some hope the 40 will be improved a little bit but I’m not holding my breath. I’m more interested in what STOT can do to get buses through the thick traffic between I-5 and Roosevelt. If Lake City is not going to get Link for a long time, there should be a frequent/fast bus from Lake City to Northgate. I’m not sure if the 75 or 41 routing is better, or if both need to be supported equally, but one way or another the buses need to be speeded up. It’s ridiculous that the 75 takes 10 minutes from Sand Point to Lake City, then 20 more minutes to Northgate, then (now the 40) 15 minutes to Aurora. That’s 45 minutes from NE Seattle to not even NW Seattle. And they wonder why people in north Seattle drive?

    • David L says

      What is needed is not a faster way through Northgate — that ship has sailed; Northgate is just too congested, and the transit center is in the wrong place for every single destination except downtown at rush hour — but a way around it.

      A 130th Link station would fix the problem, by freeing the 75 to become a 125th/130th crosstown route. But in the decade or more before that happens (if it ever does), it would take new service hours to really make a difference.

      Incidentally, I don’t ever see the Northgate/Lake City leg taking 20 minutes on the 75; it’s between 8-15, with westbound taking much longer than eastbound because of the atrocious light at 5th/Northgate Way. The 41 takes longer.

      • says

        Yeah, Northgate TC is like South Kirkland P&R, and Metro/ST are doing the same thing: doubling down on its awful location instead of building something that the buses can get through quickly. As with most P&R loops, the answer is that the buses shouldn’t go to a loop in a P&R any more than a train should do so. The buses should continue through with stops on arterial roads, and whatever pedestrian crossings of those roads are necessary should be accommodated.

        I think the biggest problem with Northgate Way traffic is the imbalance between north-south and east-west road capacity in this part of town. What to do? Diminish N-S road capacity coming toward Northgate Way. This means exit ramps off of I-5 and lanes on 1st and 5th Avenues NE. The southbound I-5 exit to Corliss/Northgate Way, for example, doesn’t need the right-turn channel — in fact, you might even ban right-on-red there. Road diets on 1st and 5th Avenues NE could remove lanes headed toward Northgate Way but not away from it while providing better pedestrian and bike routes in a place where they’re pretty chopped up.

      • says

        And Northgate Way traffic is important — Northgate Way is the main arterial and has lots of business access, and it should be a plausible site for east-west transit that goes directly through. It’s much more important than 1st and 5th Avenues NE being giant car pipes in an area that already has lots of north-south car pipes. Actually, this reminds me of a the somewhat similar situation of 45th in Wallingford and the UD. Maybe part of the solution there is to cut down off-ramp capacity from I-5, particularly from NB I-5 because it’s a two-lane ramp where one could be converted to transit-only. There will be traffic backups in places like I-5/45th and I-5/Northgate Way, and the freeway is designed to try to isolate the freeway from the backups… but I think it’s overbalanced in this regard — the arterial is unusable because the freeway dumps an insane load of cars onto it. Instead the freeway ramps should take on a greater share of the backups.

    • asdf says

      And of course, for anyone who wants to get from Lake City to Greenwood, the segment from Northgate and 5th to Northgate and Meridian takes over 20 minutes by bus, compared with 2 minutes driving or 10 minutes walking.

      I used to live on Meridian just south of Northgate and wished repeatedly for a bus that just went straight down Northgate without the time sink of going south and back north again. I also discovered that to get to Lake City, it was actually faster to walk along Northgate Way to 5th Ave. and catch the 75 there than to catch the same 75 right in front of my apartment.

      I’m not holding my breath that this straight-through-along-Northgate route will ever happen, though. If anything, Metro has decided in the last shakeup anymore that everybody who wants to go between Lake City and Greenwood is already driving anyway, so they may as well break the 75′s thru-route, add a transfer, and make the slog through Northgate take even longer.

      • the358 says

        +1 on the options from Northgate TC to Northgate and Meridian. I used to live just north of that intersection and it is often faster to walk to the TC from there than to wait for a bus that goes all the way south to 90th in order to come back north to the transit center. Although, the walking route is terrifying. The intersection at 1st & Northgate Way is particularly terrifying–cars aren’t looking for pedestrians as they wing around the corner from Northgate Way to 1st. I learned to just stand there until a car came to a complete stop and the driver waved me across.

    • Mike Orr says

      Just yesterday I walked the 125th/130th corridor to see what potential it has. It took a whole hour from Lake City Way to Aurora, which makes it three miles. So it’s not one of those “distances are shorter” places Chad N mentioned. There are multifamily houses along the 41 route, a small Safeway commercial block at 15th, and a nice-looking ravine greenbelt around 20th, but other than that it’s all older single-family houses. So a bus route would be mostly point-to-point rather than much on/offs in the middle. Still, it’s important to connect north Seattle together better.

      Of course, the street could be upzoned to multifamily/commercial. I’m sure there would be a huge uproar by NIMBYs which would probably scuttle any chance of that. But, interestingly, an upzone wouldn’t force homeowners to sell or develop if they don’t want to. It just allows them to do so if they do want to. Bellevue’s auto row on 116th has been upzoned for years but the car dealerships are still there.

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