Wednesday: Greenwood Sidewalk and Bus Stop Improvement Open House

bike lane behind bus bulb

SDOT has some great improvements in the works for residents of the southernmost sidewalk-less section of Greenwood Ave, between 90th St and 105th St. Previous plans to improve transit and bike facilities on this section of Greenwood have been expanded to include a continuous sidewalk on the east side of Greenwood, and design work for sidewalks on the west side, which then could quickly be built as funding becomes available. Once this gap is filled in, Greenwood will have continuous sidewalks to about 112th St, meeting a critical need on this heavily-trafficked, densely-populated arterial corridor.

I’ve previously discussed the bus and bike improvements slated for this section of Greenwood (essentially: stop consolidation, bus islands and bike lanes, similar to Dexter) and while those improvements have been refined, they don’t appear to have changed significantly; they remain an excellent idea. As before, my only criticism of this project is that the stop consolidation and bus island treatment should continue further south. The stop spacing Metro allows to persist between 50th St and 80th St, and the crawling sluggishness and unreliability thereby inflicted on Greenwood riders, is appalling. I can only hope the improvements between 90th and 105th, once built, will embarrass Metro into action further south.

The open house for this project is this Wednesday, 5-7 PM, at the Greenwood Public Library. SDOT hopes to begin construction this winter, finishing sometime next year.

Comments

  1. Aleks says

    I’m mildly amused that SDOT is building sidewalks along the District 5 side. :P

    Seriously, though — this is a fantastic project. I live along this section of Greenwood, and the lack of sidewalks completely kills street activation. This section of Greenwood is mostly zoned commercial, and yet there’s a huge number of empty lots. I hope and expect that these improvements will catalyze development along this corridor.

    • Charles B says

      Its not just the sidewalks. There are hardly any businesses between 90th and 105th because there is not much retail infrastructure to begin with. Sidewalks would be nice though.

      Maybe this will help that building at 103rd or Lelani Lanes to get some commercial tenants though.

      Its too bad the bike lanes will still not go any further north than 103rd-ish. I talked to the folks a few months back and it appears that the turn lanes and arterial nature of the road north of 105th supersedes (in their opinion) any needs bikes might have in that area… I guess we are just supposed I have switched over to Fremont ave by then.

      I do home development can catalyze along this northern stretch of Greenwood ave… there are a few too many empty gravel lots.

      • Aleks says

        Well, it’s a chicken and egg problem, right? Phinney/Greenwood has a continuous fabric of street-oriented development from 50th to 90th, and then there’s another cluster of street-oriented development from 105th north. There’s a void between 90th and 105th, and that’s also where the public infrastructure (i.e. sidewalks) is the worst.

        As far as bikes go, consider that Greenwood north of 105th is a major truck arterial, of which there are very few in the city. I personally have no interest in biking along a major truck route!

      • Charles B says

        I wasn’t suggesting that the bike route go north of 105th, but it would be nice if it finished going somewhere and maybe connected to a greenway or something before just evaporating at Holman. It basically ends and becomes a sharrow, pointing bicyclists into the disaster for bicyclists that is Greenwood North, 105th/Northgate Way and Holman Ave.

        Ending it officially at 104th and greenway-ing 104th up to Fremont would seem like a good (and small) future project. :)

      • asdf says

        Looking at the map, there are plenty of quiet adjacent residential streets to ride on, at least to 130th. Although if you’re headed to Edmonds, you will need to get back Greenwoord somewhere between 130th and 145th.

      • Emily says

        If you want to bike north or south near Greenwood Ave, use Fremont. Hardly any cars and stop lights at most of the big intersections so you can get across them safely.

  2. MaggieK says

    This is massively needed. I lived at 105th and greenwood for about 3 years and It always felt so dangerous when I needed to run down to 85th for errands. It will make it appear much nicer as well :) Much needed neighborhood curb appeal.

  3. Stuart says

    They could easily swap the parking with the bike lane (with a few feet of buffer). And have the bike path go over the neckdown, which could be expanded all the way as an extension of the transit island. The design above is vastly already out of date.

    • KyleK says

      Great point Stuart — why are we forcing the bikes into an area where they interact with cars and can get doored? I think I’ll try to make this open house and make that point (if they still have it that way, I don’t see any recent designs out there.)

    • D Murray says

      This design is consitant with the new Bike Master Plan. 90th to 105th is supposed to be a “Neighborhood connector, in street, minior separation” This plan is consitant with that designation. South of 90th Greenwood is supposed to have a cycle track in the future.

      • KyleK says

        D. Murray: Any idea why?

        Doesn’t seem like the safest alternative if we’re doing this much work on the street. Is there an inherent safety issue with having the bikes on the other side of cars?

        I can see why a cycle track is a bigger lift in a spot like this, but a fully separated bike lane here seems like an identical lift considering the scope of the project.

      • Stuart says

        OK, I’m just disappointed that “in street, minor separation” defaults the bike lane to the outside of parallel parked cars. Especially considering the comparatively major work involved in installing pedestrian improvements.

      • D Murray says

        KyleK, Yea i really don’t know why this is the default. It is the same as Dexter ave which is also “in street, minor separation.” You could put the bike lane on the other side of parked cars easily. Then just don’t allow parking within 50ft of a corner so bikes become visible to turning cars. You could even taper the bike lane in over the 50ft to the corner to make sure bikes are not hidden. This can all be done with paint and would make for a much better bike facility than a door-zone lane.

      • BA says

        Seems like drivers are more likely to look for traffic before they open their door than a passenger would be. Putting bikes to the right of parked cars isn’t a perfect solution either.

        Wouldn’t it be better for the stop to be on the far side of the intersection? Then there is plenty of visibility for everyone to see each other – or are we thinking the bus is acting as a block to bikes?

      • josh says

        Getting doored is a very serious, often fatal, way to get hit, particularly on the driver’s side of the car. If you’re close enough to the car that you hit the inside of the door, you’ll just punch your head through the glass and break your arms.

        But if you’re a little further left, the door catches the right side of your handlebar, which flips your front wheel sideways, turning your front wheel into a pivot that launches you head-first to the left, under whatever traffic is in the lane.

        I knew about the risk of dooring hypothetically for many years, but thought I was alert enough to swerve when a door started to open. I thought Seattle’s extensive network of door-zone bike lanes represented real progress. Then I saw a dooring in person, and recognized just how fast it happens, how little time a cyclist has to react, and how gruesome it can be.

        I don’t ride in door zone bike lanes, period.

    • josh says

      Personally, as a multi-modal commuter who rides a bike to transit, I wouldn’t be using that bike path no matter which side of parked cars it puts me too close to.

      The dooring risk on the driver’s side is well-known, but at least that means many drivers are used to looking for bikes before opening their doors. And at least the driver has an outside mirror.

      On the passenger side, the doors don’t open quite as often, but people are much less accustomed to looking for bikes before opening passenger-side doors.

      In either case, the legal fault would be on the person opening the door, but the design failure is routing bicycles through the door zone in the first place, and once it’s built, the safety “fix” for a poorly-designed path is to avoid it entirely.

      Given the design above, I would probably be riding my bike in the street for safety.

      • D Murray says

        The idea though would be to put a 2-3 foot buffer between the parked car passenger door and the bike lane. Currently this buffer is placed between the moving traffic and the bike lane like on Dexter. So for the same ammount of space you could have a lane buffered by parked cars and a door opening area.

      • Stuart says

        Also the risk is similar between the passenger side and the drivers side. Why not get the bonus protection if you are using the bike lane anyways? The risks with parking barriers are dealing with turning traffic. But it seems the pedestrian improvements could go a long ways towards mitigating that.

      • d.p. says

        Copenhagen has had quite a bit of success using parked cars as the buffer between moving traffic and the bike lane. New York has begun to work the layout into their bike scheme on a case-by-case basis as well, often changing nothing but the paint scheme. There’s no good reason why parallel-parking/riding conflicts should be our “default”.

        It is important not to skimp on the lane width, though, for the reasons Josh fears and D Murra resolves.

        (The only time I’ve ever doored someone was from the back seat of a car, passenger side — no mirror to check. Of course, that was in a traffic jam, in a middle lane, and the guy on the bike probably shouldn’t have tried to squeeze through a 2-foot gap between stuck cars. No one was hurt.)

      • RossB says

        I think drivers tend to be more careful getting out of a car than passengers. A driver has already surveyed the landscape and (one would hope) already knows that there is a bike lane nearby. But a passenger may not be focused on the road. I almost doored a guy as a passenger for that reason. My wife (who was driving) said be careful, but I basically said “what” and almost hit the guy. Fortunately the biker was smart, and anticipated the situation and stopped with plenty of time. There is also just a force of habit that comes from years of getting out of cars — be careful when you get out on the drivers side, but don’t worry about it when getting out on the passenger side (not because of bikes, but because of other cars).

        All that being said, adding the extra space (as D Murray suggests) would probably solve the problem. I think we should either get rid of these types of lanes or add a lot more of them. With a bunch of them, drivers get used to it. With only a handful, drivers are surprised. Finally, worse case scenario, getting doored isn’t the worst way of getting hit. As an occasional biker, I would much prefer the chances of getting doored (or getting doored) versus getting hit by a moving car.

  4. Stephen F says

    I’m definitely excited about this project as a former resident. Bruce, I agree that Metro needs to take stop consolidation seriously along the 5. And, it’s a bit disappointing that this project will not go as far as it originally envisioned for stop relocation/consolidation. But, can you chill with the harsh jabs at the agencies? It doesn’t add to the quality of insight and analysis.

    • Bruce Nourish says

      I don’t regard any of the comments above as a “harsh jab”. The bus rider experience on the south end of Greenwood is appalling, I’m just calling out a straightforward fact. I’m not calling anyone names or casting aspersions on the agency.

    • says

      I used to live in Greenwood, took the 87th/Greenwood stop downtown. Appalling is an understatement. 45min to get to work. The express is not much better – 40 minutes maybe. The Northgate parking lots overflow with the Greenwoodians taking the 41.

      I now live in Lake City, and while you all think we are under-served and cut off, by comparison I can get to downtown in 20 min (522) or 30 min (312).

      When is our next shot at asking for the 130th light rail stop?

    • Emily says

      I love the #5. A long time ago, before the zoo built the snazzy elephant house, you could sometimes see the elephants from the bus. And what could be cooler than a bus line that gave you a view of elephants?

  5. the358 says

    Agreed about the stop consolidation on the 5. Especially if the 355 gets merged with the 5E, as proposed as part of the package of cuts we may be facing. It’s brutal for folks living north of 85th to sit through so. many. stops.

    • Charles B says

      Fewer and nicer (covered?) stops in general would probably boost ridership a bit in the wet months. Maybe ridership isn’t quite high enough along the 5 to justify this, but it is one of the more popular long routes in the city.

      Better street crossings near these fewer stops might also be nice too, but I don’t know if this project would even really consider that kind of improvement. North of 90th the crossings are few and far between. The lights also seem very slow to respond, so you get a lot of people feeling like the best option is to run across the street in an unprotected crossing rather than miss their bus.

      • Aleks says

        The 5 is actually one of the highest-ridership routes in the city, with 8,000 daily riders. And if we ever convince Metro that the 5 should go to Fremont, its popularity will skyrocket.

      • David Lawson says

        Guess what else is one of the highest-ridership routes in the city? The 358.

        And another one? The southern half of the 40.

        And yet another? The common portion of the 26 and 28.

        Between all those routes, plus the 5X, 301, and 355, there are somewhere around 35,000 daily riders traveling along a corridor that roughly goes Downtown-SLU-Fremont-Phinney-Greenwood-Bitter Lake-Shoreline. Sounds like a place that could benefit from a higher-capacity mode.

      • Aleks says

        @Charles: That’s roughly correct. I’d like to see the 5 use Westlake between downtown and Fremont. (I would serve Dexter with the 28.) Modulo construction, it should be faster than Dexter (and almost as fast as Aurora), and it also goes through the heart of SLU. There’s an interesting question about whether it should follow the grid-cutting route of Westlake from Denny to 3rd, or whether it should use Bell/Blanchard like the 40 does today. I don’t have a strong feeling about that one, except to say that I think there’s an advantage to sharing a corridor with the streetcar (especially if we created exclusive transit lanes). If it were up to me, I probably would have deleted or “woonerfed” Westlake Ave between Denny and 5th [1], but it’s clearly too late for that ;-)

        North of the ship canal, things are a bit different:

        – The old streetcar, like the 5, crossed over to Phinney at 43rd. These days, the better path is to stay on Fremont to 50th.
        – The streetcar took Phinney to 70th, where it ended, and then turned onto Greenwood. For reasons I don’t understand, some road engineer decided that Greenwood should become the primary arterial between 67th and 70th, leaving a tiny stub end of Phinney whose main purpose is to require an awkward traffic light. I can only assume that there were issues acquiring the land that would have been needed to create the more natural link at 70th. Regardless, the 5’s current path through that area is the correct one.
        – The streetcar did not run on Greenwood north of 85th.

        [1] This isn’t as unprecedented as it sounds. As far back as 1914, Broad Street extended all the way to Lake Union. SDOT is now in the process of deleting it.

      • David Lawson says

        Regarding Westlake… I think there are two options.

        1) Double down on Westlake, and make it flow better at the expense of the rest of the grid in the area. Sometimes diagonal streets can work well if you use this approach; they absorb the through traffic, and the remainder of the grid in their immediate area can become more urban with less traffic. I think Westlake is a good candidate for this because, honestly, most of the grid in the Denny Triangle is not oriented in directions people actually want to go. This approach would require aggressive TSP for transit (both bus and streetcar) on Westlake and narrowing of some of the surrounding streets (and possibly closing of a few intersections). This is my preference, and I’d like to see all Westlake bus service use Westlake all the way to Stewart/Virginia, like the 17 used to some years ago (but this time with TSP).

        2) Close Westlake altogether. No woonerf, just close it and get rid of it entirely. Then you’d have an uninterrupted grid, with the advantages of such. It’s not ideal because it’s oriented the wrong way, but you could improve flow for 3rd/Blanchard/Westlake buses and for car traffic. This would be a very expensive and disruptive option as you’d have to reroute the streetcar.

        I think any deemphasis of Westlake short of getting rid of it entirely would only get you the worst of both worlds.

      • Charles B says

        @Aleks Phinney Ave ends at 70th, perhaps this is why they swung over to Greenwood? You would have to ask someone at the archives as to whether or not this condition predates the streetcar.

        The diversion along 43rd is a bit more mysterious to me. I would naturally guess they were trying to get around a slope issue, except that there does not seem to be that much of a slope before 43rd on Fremont.. and there is a much more significant drop after there.

        Its true that the streetcar never went north of 85th, but then that is about as far north as the city went back then. From there the interurban (roughly between Evanston and Fremont?) was the only route that went further north.

      • says

        Phinney Ave ends at 70th, perhaps this is why they swung over to Greenwood? You would have to ask someone at the archives as to whether or not this condition predates the streetcar.

        Right. The old route was to take Phinney to 70th, then turn west for about 50 feet, then head north on Greenwood. The new route is to cross over from Phinney to Greenwood at 67th. Compared to the old route, the new route avoids any turns (since the street curves), but it also orphans the section of Phinney between 67th and 70th.

        I understand why they built a road that connects Phinney and Greenwood without an intersection. What I don’t understand is why they built that road at 67th instead of 70th. It seems like building it at 70th would have been more closely aligned with the street grid and transit network at the time.

        It’s true that the streetcar never went north of 85th, but then that is about as far north as the city went back then. From there the interurban (roughly between Evanston and Fremont?) was the only route that went further north.

        I’m just trying to be precise about the route I would like to see. It’s not identical to the old streetcar route, and this is one of the reasons why. :)

      • Aleks says

        My preference is for your second option. To be clear, when I say woonerf, I really mean close the street for all motorized traffic. I don’t think the street needs to be immediately filled in; if it just acts like an alley or greenway, then it’s not going to materially affect traffic patterns.

        You’ll notice that I made the same recommendation for Madison. :)

        I understand the argument that Westlake goes in the right direction. But here’s the thing. As the *only* street that goes in that direction, it provides no redundancy. History has shown that when you have a single best way to travel in a certain direction in a city, that route will be eternally congested. That’s why Denny is so bad, and why I-5 wreaks so much havoc on local traffic.

        From the perspective of transit planning, Westlake also skips Belltown, which is unfortunate.

        If New York was able to close the grid-indirect part of *Broadway*, then surely Seattle could close the grid-incorrect parts of Westlake and Madison. And heck, we finally figured out that we should close Broad Street (which has been around for over a century); maybe we can apply our learning further. :)

        As far as the sunk cost of streetcars goes, the whole thing needs to be rebuilt anyway. It needs exclusive lanes, and better isolation from turning vehicles. (The T-Third Street is a good model.) And the tracks on 9th should be moved to Westlake. And it should be extended to Ballard to replace the 40. And the segment to Fred Hutch should be abandoned, in favor of a grade-separated Fairview/Eastlake route. But I’m digressing…

      • d.p. says

        New York has a subway under that grid-indirect arterial, which has and continues to handle seven thousand times as much traffic as ever followed that course on the surface.

      • Aleks says

        d.p.: Then let’s build a cut-and-cover subway under Westlake, before we narrow it and turn it into not-a-street. No need to worry about disruption, since the street is going away anyway ;-)

    • Aleks says

      I really hope that the 5X/355 consolidation goes through. I live right next to a 355 stop, and for a while, I was taking the 355 about once a week to get to Capitol Hill. However, when you add together the inbound AM congestion on I-5, and the detour in the U-District, and entering downtown from the reverse direction, and the reduced frequency, the 355 was actually meaningfully slower than the 5 *local*.

      The only useful way for me to use the 355 was to get off the bus at 85th and Wallingford, walk to the 316 stop, and then take the 316 the rest of the way. When it works, that saves me quite a bit of time, because I can get off the bus at Convention Place and walk the rest of the way to my destination. But it’s a very tight connection, and the time that I need to get to my destination means that I’m trying to transfer to the last 316 for the morning. If I miss it, then I’m stuck on the 355, which means I’ll be 20 minutes late.

      Basically, unreliability is worse than slowness. With the 5 local, I know that it’ll take me about 50 minutes end-to-end. With the 355, it’s 40 minutes if I catch the 316 and traffic is good, or 60+ minutes if I don’t switch buses and/or I-5 traffic is bad.

      There are a number of ways that you could change the 355 so that it’s actually useful as a north-end express. For example, you could extend the 5X to 105th, and then have the 355 take Northgate Way to the express lanes entrance at Northgate. Or you could have the 355 take Banner Way to the Lake City Way express lanes entrance, or Green Lake Way to the Ravenna Blvd express lanes entrance. From there, it could go to the DSTT, or it could use the Pike St ramp to get to 3rd (so that it could continue to share stops on 3rd Ave with the regular 5). Regardless, I think Metro’s plan to have a single express route using Aurora is probably the best option.

      (As an aside, why does the 316 use the tunnel, rather than the Pike St ramp like the 522? It seems like it would make more sense to have the 316 use the same stops as the regular 16.)

      • David Lawson says

        The 316 uses the tunnel because the bulk of its passengers are headed to Green Lake P&R and can use either the 316 or the 76. The 76, in turn, is in the tunnel because of common destinations with the 71.

      • says

        Obvious question: Let’s say that the 17% cuts go through. Or they don’t, but Metro still goes ahead with restructuring the 5X, 355, 70-series, etc. In that case, the tunnel will no longer have all-day service to the Green Lake P&R (though admittedly, the 73 will get close). So, if the 76 and 316 will no longer share any stops with any all-day tunnel routes, will Metro kick them out of the tunnel?

      • David Lawson says

        So, if the 76 and 316 will no longer share any stops with any all-day tunnel routes, will Metro kick them out of the tunnel?

        Not necessarily (for the short time when buses will remain in the tunnel). They are still I-5 north express routes, which are one of the categories of routes that can make the most effective use of the tunnel.

        The oddball is the 64, which can’t use the tunnel because of its First Hill routing. To this day I don’t understand why it doesn’t use Union and Pike like the 301/306/312/522. It’s the single route that would benefit most from that routing.

      • Ben says

        Unlike yourself I hope the 355 stays as it is much faster to get to the other end of downtown on the 355 than the 5, 5X, or any other option from Greenwood.

      • asdf says

        The 355 does save quite a bit of time over the 48 for those headed to the U-district. The 355 is roughly comparable with the 48X. However, the failed restructuring proposal to route the 355 down Aurora also tried to cancel the 48X at the same time, forcing all Greenwood->U-district commuters onto the regular 48, with stops every 100 feet, along the entire route.

      • Aleks says

        Metro has two criteria for determining whether a peak route is worth keeping. Is ridership 90% or greater compared to alternative service? And is travel time at least 20% faster than alternative service? The 355 fails both criteria. (For that matter, so does the 5X.)

        I understand that it’s useful to have a bus that goes directly to south downtown, if that’s where you’re heading. But you have to admit that it’s a bit perverse to have a bus that makes it faster to travel a longer distance than a shorter one. The 355 is marginally faster to south downtown than it would be if it used the tunnel, but it’s significantly slower to get to north downtown — which is particularly agonizing when you’re on the bus, watching your destination pass you by, and knowing that you won’t get back there for another 20 minutes.

        The most ironic thing about the 355 and the 5X is that they would be significantly more useful (relatively speaking) if the 5 went through Fremont. During peak, you’d have the fast bus that skips Fremont and takes Aurora from 46th or 50th, and the slow bus that serves Fremont. Off-peak, you’d just have one bus, which would be about as fast as the express bus is during peak (since that’s just how traffic works). Instead, Metro is proposing to reroute the 16 through Fremont, which means that commuters from Wallingford will have no fast alternative to downtown.

      • asdf says

        I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again – the 76 should be promoted from a unidirectional peak-only route to a bi-directional all-day route. The fact that the Roosevelt and Green Lake neighborhoods each take a good 45 minutes to get downtown when their peak-only expresses are not running is not an acceptable level of service for a trip that doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to drive.

        I think an appropriate level of service for a route like this would be 30-minute headways, all day, 7 days a week. I would pay for it with a restructure something like the following:
        – Delete route 66
        – Add weekend service on route 67 (to maintain existing service between the U-district and Northgate when route 66 goes away).
        – Truncate route 71 to terminate at 15th/65th St., leaving the Wedgewood tail served only by the new all-day 76. (To increase legibility, relabel existing route 73 trips that are truncated here also as route 71).

        Once route 67 gains weekend service, pretty much every route 66 rider today should be able to take either the all-day 76 or routes 70/71/72/73 instead.

      • David Lawson says

        I think Maple Leaf and Roosevelt riders would not like having their frequency halved, and I don’t think the ridership warrants such a cut.

        I like the idea of an all-day 76 in principle between now and the opening of North Link, but I think it would have to be an addition rather than a restructure. Everything you could cut to pay for it has higher ridership than it would. The only way I can see doing it as a restructure that would remotely make sense would be to make it an all-day 64 (minus First Hill), rather than 76, and have it replace the 72 outright. Even then, you’d probably need to find a way to increase frequency on the 372 to make it work.

  6. josh says

    Looking at this illustration, it’s an articulated bus, so presumably passengers will be disembarking through the rear doors, which are not aligned with the marked pedestrian crossing of the bike path. Instead, the rear doors are in an S-curve of the bike path, where people on bikes may be distracted by turning maneuvers.

    In Copenhagen, running cycletracks past disembarking bus passengers led to a nearly-20-fold increase in bike/pedestrian collisions at bus stops. (1,951% increase in bike/ped accidents, 1,762% increase in injuries.)

    Is there some sort of pedestrian/cycletrack barrier planned that isn’t on this rendering?

    • Charles B says

      I would go to the event Wednesday for more details (and to ask that question). My guess though is what you see on Dexter is what you will get on Greenwood.

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