Existing Conditions
Existing Conditions

Some great news from the Aurora Seattle blog. SDOT is looking at creating mini plazas along Aurora Ave N by reallocating side street ROW to transit riders. The project, which is funded by Bridging The Gap, will improve the waiting environment at 3 locations (104th, 84th, and 76th) for transit riders, especially in areas where existing sidewalks are narrow and ridership is high. This is an innovative (I have never seen this anywhere before) example of how street ROW can be put to better use. Aurora is one of the most hostile streets for pedestrians, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m guessing this is a result of planning for the larger RapidRide station shelters. More information herehere and here. Thumbs up SDOT!

Option #1
Option #1

Option #2
Option #2
Option #3
Option #3

54 Replies to “358 Bus Stop Plazas”

    1. I completely agree. Aurora is outdated and it’s time to convert it to a surface boulevard and restore some of the cross-town connections. It’s a huge pain in the ass trying to get around that area (especially between ballard and the U-District) with a limited access speedway blocking your path.

      1. Also, Aurora was really built to get people in and out of downtown fast, and while it certainly does that, I don’t think it helps to advance pedestrian- and environmentally-friendly development. Why not slow traffic down, reconnect the grid, and make the whole corridor much more liveable?

      2. Massive traffic congestion is more liveable? Not only would decreased capacity turn Aurora into a sea of idling cars it would likely do the same to I-5 and even spill over onto Lake City Way. Cut through traffic would be all over the adjacent neighborhoods. Bus times, and therefore cost would also increase meaning less service system wide.

      3. A mere temporary side effect. People would not expect a swift drive in and out of town the next time they are looking for a home/job. Adaptation, it’s the newest rage.

      4. One of the main problems right now on Aurora is the backups that occur as cars are exiting the expressway, since cross-town connections are generally spaced at 1 km intervals. This also means significant bottlenecking on east-west trips. Have you ever tried driving from the University District to Ballard on a Sunday afternoon? All of the traffic is funneled through two narrow underpasses – 46th and 50th streets – and it can turn into a 45-minute drive while the privileged drivers on Aurora breeze by obstructed only by a line of cars trying to exit. Of course, if you actually get stuck on Aurora when you don’t mean to, good luck finding a way to turn around.

        In addition, Aurora kills the urban environment around it. When it was turned into a speedway it effectively destroyed its immediate surroundings; cute houses bulldozed to make way for motels. And it’s still an ugly wasteland because, seriously, who would live next to that?

        I propose that Aurora be turned into a high-capacity boulevard with tree-lined sidewalks, high density development, well-timed signals or even roundabouts, and lower vehicular speeds. It could revitalize the neighborhood, make cross-town connections easier and less congested, and make the corridor much more pedestrian-friendly.

      5. Regardless of the other effects of turning Aurora into a boulevard, how would doing so help in any way to improve E-W traffic flow at 46th and 50th? The existing Aurora overpass presumably allows _optimal_ E-W traffic flow. What other option would you have? Excavating a mile of Aurora to make 46th and 50th into 4-way intersections? How could that possibly improve E-W traffic flow? The problem on 46th and 50th is too many people trying to drive between Ballard and I-5 on minor arterials with numerous lights, I think, not that the path of the traffic happens to intersect with Aurora (at an elevation difference of 15 feet).

      6. There’s Greenlake, the Zoo and the cemetary that all constrict E/W access. From the UW go north to 85th or use Northgate Way and Holman. Because of the Sound and Lake Washington Seattle is forced to put the emphasis on North South over East West.

      7. If aurora were a boulevard we could have more minor crossings of 99 – perhaps at 42nd – and some left turn lanes allowing people to avoid clogging up the few underpasses there already are. It would help disperse low-speed, local traffic onto surface streets and free up capacity on the main collectors.

        But I guess it really all comes down to priorities. Do you want to primarily serve people living in far-out housing and commuting to downtown or do we want to make seattle neighborhoods better places to be?

    2. i’m with barman, aurora is the problem, not the cross streets. in fact by eliminating the cross street connections, it just makes aurora more of a limited access expressway.

      reduce the size of aurora with on-street parking and cycletracks (between the parking and the sidewalk), and add bulb-outs for buses and pedestrians on the street corners.

      1. Exactly. Do they want Aurora to be a freeway or not? Because parts are very freeway-ish, and many people certainly use it as if they were on a freeway. Eliminating more cross streets is only going to make it more of a pseudo-freeway, making it more hostile for all but car traffic.

  1. I bet this will m,ake the owners of the house right by that bus stop happy

    1. If I lived right on Aurora, I’d certainly be happy with this. A more attractive street front, fewer accidents in front of the house, less congestion from turning traffic, safer access to the side street.

      But then, if I owned a house right on Aurora, I’d really like this because it would improve transit service to the apartments I’d build after tearing down the house….

      1. Although, most people will see it as “grr, construction, more people loitering around MY house, more transit service and more noise. I LOVE the idea, but can you put it a block down the road?”

      2. There aren’t houses on Aurora in those locations. A bigger concern would be the nearby businesses complaining about how this impacts vehicle access.

    2. I live at 83rd & Aurora. I wonder if these options would create more traffic on 83rd. More traffic on my street–bummer. Nicer place to stand and wait for the bus–nice. Hmmm.

    3. That would be us-ours is one of the streets with one of these bus stops at the end. We are trying to get our block to go cul-de-sac because the proposed changes are sure to turn our street into a park and ride. Do you think the city and metro is doing anything to alleviate this future problem? In fact, they have effectively taken this option off the table for our street. Also given that because people speed down Aurora, they speed up our street. That really makes the parents of small children happy and we fear for our lives getting in and out of cars.
      Additionally, we have some SERIOUSLY bad parking problems already on the street, with people already parking and riding the bus and a business down on Aurora that uses the street as a parking lot for their service trucks. The bus stop will be expanded, but we are not seeing any viable solutions to our existing parking problems.

  2. On Option 2, I’d suggest an even tighter radius on the curb on the right — a tight turning radius forces motorists to slow down in pedestrian-oriented areas, and it shortens the pedestrian crossing.

    Option 3 needs only one small tweak — a curb cut on the sidewalk for bicycles, with a clearly marked bike path through to the side street — to start making the side street a bike boulevard (local auto traffic only, with through access for bikes/peds). I’d put it off to the right, so the bike route passes the bike rack.

    1. A bike boulevard up to Phinney Ridge from Aurora is really only going to get a lot of traffic if we were to have a Norwegian style bike escalator. I’ve tried biking up 83rd and it is not fun!

  3. As far as public works go, this thing is kinda ugly.

    Of course, function and beauty are sometimes independent, so if it works, I guess it doesn’t have to be all that attractive.

    1. Until we see some rendering of the proposed stops we really have no idea if these will be ugly or not. Given the general condition of Aurora almost anything is likely to be an improvement, especially if it includes a little greenery.

  4. I hope SDOT is coordinating with KCMetro to make sure these locations will be designated Rapid Ride bus stops. So, sorry, from experience we know we can’t just ASSUME that this coordination is happening…

    No sense making the investment if the major bus route in this corridor bypasses these zones.

  5. I don’t get it. The only benefit I can see is that, as you point out, the RapidRide shelters are huge and probably wouldn’t fit on the existing sidewalk space. But if I realized these shelters were too big for many of our sidewalks, my first thought would be to redesign the shelters, not to start ripping up ROW.

    Looking at these stops on Google Street View, they all seem to have perfectly good sidewalks, and room for standard Metro shelters, benches, bike racks & trash cans. (The N 76th St stop only has a bench and a trash can, but it looks like it could accommodate all of the above in the existing space. Ditto for the lack of bike racks at all the listed locations.) The plants will be an improvement at all but the 84th St stop, but otherwise this mostly seems like merely a traffic calming measure rather than anything that will significantly benefit transit users compared with what already exists. What am I missing?

    1. “But if I realized these shelters were too big for many of our sidewalks, my first thought would be to redesign the shelters, not to start ripping up ROW.”

      My first thought would be to widen the sidewalks. I agree with others that Aurora should be tamed – it’s a blight to our city. A good first step would be to remove a lane and add bike paths or parking and make the sidewalks wider.

  6. I like option 2 the best – there’s a hidden benefit to it, it gives pedestrians the best visibility of oncoming traffic. In option 1, a pedestrian in the bus shelter would be much more blocked by the adjacent building.

  7. I guess option 2. If I’m reading this right the idea is cars will cut through the parking lot to the signalized intersection. It makes more sense for someone trying to access that business by making a right off of Aurora and then a right into the parking lot than a right off of Aurora on the street with the signal and then trying to immediately make a left across traffic. Also, I think it’s a little safer and better from a traffic flow perspective to have people entering Aurora at the signal (especially if it’s no right on red).

    I’d concentrate bike access on Greenwood or some other parallel option. Riding on Aurora just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

  8. Don’t forget folks, Aurora is the place where certain types of merchants will locate who would otherwise not locate in the City of Seattle or certainly not Seattle north of the Ship Canal. Be careful what you wish for in pedestrian and transit improvements or you may be driving to Lynwood for that light fixture that only Home Depot carries (and taking the sales tax money away from Seattle, King County, Metro and your ST subarea.

    Never under estimate Faye Garneau!

    “[Aurora is] the second-largest area of commerce in the city.” With gross receipts of $1 billion annually, Garneau claims, Aurora businesses generate more than $20 million in sales tax for the city every year.

    And do take the time to read these:






    No, Aurora ain’t pretty, but then because it exisits, we can save the other streets in Seattle from that type of typically-American Blight

    1. Except that Lowes and Costco are in Shoreline, which has its own processes and is already building bike paths and painted crosswalks across Aurora.

      The area in question (roughly between Green Lake and Greenwood) does not have any big-box retail that I remember unless you count gun shops and Stupid Prices. Somehow I doubt they’re contributing that much to the sales tax figures.

      1. I think the reference is to Lowe’s at 125th–definitely still in the city (as is Home Depot at 120th). Your point is well taken though, as they are both north of Washelli Cemetery and these stops are south of it.

    2. I’m sorry. The problem here is that we would lose access to big box stores? Does that mean we’ll have to do more shopping at small businesses nearby? The horror!

      Those millions of dollars won’t just dry up – they’ll go to smaller non-sprawl-based businesses.

      1. Smaller businesses don’t have the name value of a Home Depot or Lowe’s. For the most part, you won’t find them on TV, so you’re less likely to know they exist.

        Also, because they’re so big they can carry some stuff you won’t find anywhere else, as Erik points out.

  9. It’s going to piss off the motorists no matter which option is chosen. At least #1 doesn’t block the side street while the bus is at the zone. And if #1 is picked, I’ll bet there will still be people that use it as an entrance.

    1. I was assuming the stop is long enough which looking again at the scale probably isn’t the case (particularly not with articulateds). I’m not sure what the lane restrictions are but I’d be a bit concerned about pulling out with the bus blocking the view because someone may be merging right from the blind spot created by the bus.

      You’re probably right some drivers will ignore the one way aspect but I think it’s more likely someone will exit Aurora illegally with option #1 than pull into the oncoming lane and try to enter Aurora from the wrong side of the side road.

      1. The bus blocking the side street could be a good thing if you’re running down the sidewalk to catch the bus. Reduced chance of car pedestrian accident.

  10. Option 1, 2 and 3 are all bad options. They reduce street connectivity forcing people to drive further (and probably clog up another intersection) and allowing traffic on the main artery to travel faster. The best option would be to do a bulb out to narrow the road at the intersection and increase the sidewalk width the entire way.

    1. Well, yes, dropping a lane would be great, you’re right.
      I don’t know that narrowing the exit would really increase arterial speed, though? It wouldn’t remain the same, at least if it’s an exit, rather than an entrance?

  11. I generally like the concepts here, but I think that there is not one single solution that would work for every location. I live a block away from the 84th location and I think Option 1 might work best for that. There is a right turn from Aurora (very close to the 85th intersection) into the lot and then having egress out onto either Aurora or 84th and back to Aurora would work well. An overhead look at the 104th location looks similar, while an overhead look at the 76th location looks like maybe Option 2 would work better, as it looks like current traffic flow in the lot behind the building goes from 76th to an alley and back to Aurora anyway. This applies to the SB direction at least, which is the perspective of the diagrams given the streets and where the signalized intersections are. NB direction may also require varied solutions.

    Regarding cross-traffic and bicycles. None of these streets provide cross-Aurora traffic as there are medians at all locations (104th doesn’t even exist east of Aurora) and 77th and 83rd are both designated bicycle routes, that provide more direct routings (especially in 83rd’s case as the continuation of Green Lake Dr), so there is little, if any, benefit to redesignating the bus bulb streets as bicycle routes.

    1. Exactly. These options are really solutions for different locations. It really depends on the individual conditions of the intersection. Also I agree about bicycles. Unless there is an existing signal it is crazy to think that a bicyclist would try to get across Aurora.

  12. Okay. I’m compelled to say something about this. This is my neighborhood we are talking about, and I am a biker that rides to work 4-5 times a week. I cross Aurora as part of my commute. When I go downtown on weekends I usually ride the 5 or the 358.

    As is usual for me, I look for balanced perspectives and action. I want the 77th St bike boulevard to be better managed and signed. I want better access to buses and wider sidewalks at all the intersections mentioned in the SDOT documents. BUT, I don’t want all of Aurora to change. We need an alternative to the blockage on I-5. Aurora is not a freeway and never has been. Neither is it an ordinary arterial. It is something in between and I am fine with that.

    Step by step reasonable actions to improve walkability, transit and bike access along Aurora are the goal – not wholesale change because of some rigid ideology. It’s the latter that I’m hearing from most of you: “Dump it and start over.” It’s that kind of talk that turns off average people.

    Believe me, my neighbors in Greenlake, Greenwood, and Phinney Ridge want change in transit and traffic, but they don’t want blind adherence to an ideological viewpoint. BRT is coming so we will need changes. Electric cars are coming, so traffic won’t go away. Density is coming, so we need adaptations and alternatives.

    A bus plaza here, removed parking in this spot, tree planting there, wider sidewalks here, bike boulevards there. Selective, thoughtful and balanced changes. That’s what we need.

    1. Here, here! I might add that the goal should be a transit lane on Aurora that allows service like Rapid Ride to actually function. These street changes seem like a positive step in that direction. It looks similar to the direction on SR-522 around the north end of Lake Washington (aka Bothell/Lake City Way). No to more lanes; yes to better use of the existing lanes.

      1. And, to encourage biking, “Rapid Ride” and boulevardization, no subsidized (“free”) parking on Aurora south of the north city limits, please! As John C says above, we need Aurora as an alternative to blockages on I-5, Greenwood/Phinney, Roosevelt/11th, and as the major arterial it is. And Bernie has it right “No to more lanes; yes to better use of existing lanes” and, please NO parking.

      1. Fremont & Dayton are being transitioned into official bike boulevard status. 77th, though not yet officially a bike blvd., it is a cross town “shared use” street according to the SDOT bike master plan with bike signage all along the route, traffic calming, special bike access features and a signal at Aurora. From Golden Gardens to Greenlake it functions as a bike blvd in practice if not in name. Besides, strictly speaking, Seattle has no bike blvds if you compare us to Portland or Berkeley. I wish we weren’t so far behind those two cities.

    2. Not to mentions there isn’t any money for anything more than incremental improvements to Aurora.

  13. There needs to be a bus stop on Aurora closer to downtown Fremont–that weird freeway stop up at 46th Street in the middle of nowhere is too far away and spooky after dark. I was surprised that such stop was not included during the recent reconfiguration of the 39th Street stops near the Aurora bridge. The old Route 6 used to stop on 39th some years ago, and served Fremont residents well, especally those who needed to go to and from the Zoo and Shoreline area. Today at least a flagstop for riders to debark ONLY on Aurora and 39th would be an improvement.

    1. I used to live right on bridge way. It would be nice if the 358 at least stopped there off-peak. The 5 provides good service but late at night it would be nice to have both.

    2. This would be a HUGE improvement over the 16 from Northgate. Takes forever and you have to walk in some not so friendly areas to reach the heart of Fremont.

  14. I’d love to rip out Aurora and replace it with a boulevard. SDOT has a whole pedestrian safety project going on there because the corridor is so dangerous for peds. But remember: it’s a STATE highway. Olympia’s permission would be required. Given their hemming and hawing over the Viaduct tunnel, I don’t see them allowing or funding this anytime soon.

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