This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.


In the comments to this STB post on McGinn’s solicitation of ideas, one of the readers links to the rapid trolley network, an idea that was commissioned as a possible component of the surface-transit alternative to the Viaduct replacement.

Matt Fiske wrote about this idea in Crosscut back in March (I could’ve sworn I wrote about it, too, but I can’t find any reference in the archives).

Obviously the buses are run by the county, but Seattle can still play a fairly significant role in getting transit through the city more quickly. Indeed, the report lists them out:

  • Business Access and Transit or BAT lanes allow transit coaches to operate in the outside lane shared only with right-turning traffic. BAT lanes can help improve operation speeds and reliability of routes.
  • Bus bulbs are another option to improve speed on trolley routes. Bus bulbs allow transit to stop in-lane, saving time necessary to re-enter traffic flow and provide additional space at bus stops for passenger facilities. Bulbed bus stops require less curb space than bus pullouts due to pull in and pull out distances.
  • Turn restrictions that focus on areas with heavy pedestrian traffic or where left turns may be unprotected or where right turning vehicles may be delayed by large pedestrian flows.
  • Transit queue jumps provide a lane or green time allowing transit to enter a signalized intersection ahead of general-purpose traffic.
  • Routing changes could go around congested intersections but may require new segments of electric trolley overhead.
  • Transit signal priority could provide trolley coaches with better speed and reliability through improvements in signal timing including adjustments to signal length and cycles. Transit Signal Priority allocates green time at signals to favor transit flow.

Almost all of these fall within the city’s domain and would be a huge boon for in-city transit. Sadly, none of them are included in the report’s cost estimates. *

In fact, if the network had any hope of being “rapid,” you’d have to invest significantly in the street-grid bottleneck between downtown and Capitol Hill. Almost all of the proposed rapid routes — much like the current routes between Queen Anne/Belltown and Capitol Hill/CD (2,3,4,8,10,11,12, etc.) — would waste a ton of time getting from one side of I-5 to the other, especially during rush hour. Finding a way to prioritize crosstown transit between, say, 5th Avenue and Broadway would be a big help.

* The report does calculate $142M in capitol costs for new trolley wire, improved stations, new fare collection systems, and a new electrical substation. Street improvements are outside the scope of the analysis.

Comments are closed.