Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

[UPDATE: Either people are skimming or I’m not writing clearly, so I’ll make the prescription shorter: A+, no flyer stop; create good 24/7 service from the Eastside to UW; pay for it with some specific revenue increments and by curtailing off-peak service from the Eastside to DT Seattle.  If you work through the permutations, you’ll see that all the connections still work out.]

There’s a lot of fear among transit riders that the loss of a Montlake flyer stop on SR520 will make bus service a lot harder to use in that corridor.  That fear is a reasonable one, in spite of the cost and the wider footprint that would have to be cut out of the neighborhood.   However, it would be a relatively simple matter to reorganize bus service to minimize the impact.  More after the jump.

There are two primary uses for the current stop.  One is for riders on Montlake Blvd. headed to the Eastside.  The A+ option has HOV access ramps that will allow access from the South to UW-Eastside buses.

The other use is Eastsiders heading to UW.  In the peak hours there’s plenty of service from all points to UW (277, 540, 542, 271, 556) in addition to the downtown buses.  Evenings and weekends, however, you’re much more likely to have a long wait unless you take a downtown bus and transfer at Montlake.

What’s needed to solve this problem is better direct service to UW.  On the revenue side, the County has a new $3m property tax fund for SR 520 service.  That’s about 24,000 service hours, or 3 buses running 21 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Sound Transit 2 also has an ill-defined commitment to BRT over the bridge.

That may not get you enough buses to have continuous, frequent service from all points on the Eastside to both UW and downtown Seattle.  However, at the low-volume times the emphasis should shift to serving the UW.  Eastsiders headed downtown will have decent options by either taking East Link downtown, or a bus to UW station and transferring, depending on where they live.

Life without a flyer stop requires changes to people’s routines, but with intelligent bus route planning there’s no need for connectivity to degrade below the current situation.

79 Replies to “Montlake Flyer Stops”

  1. Evening access to the UW and back again from the Eastside is pretty lacking currently. My wife and I are UW basketball season ticket holders and would love to ride the bus rather than drive (sitting on 520) and paying parking but getting back from the games requires a walk to 520 and usually a 30-40 minute wait for a bus. Not an easy sell in January & February.

  2. Certainly losing the flyer stop can be mediated by increased service, but why handicap bus flexibility by donating the width of the flyer stop to WSDOT for wider shoulders?

    Also, I don’t see how this can possibly serve Capitol Hill. Right now you can take the 43/48, bike or walk down to the flyer stop and catch buses to the eastside. This is closer and faster than downtown for much of the hill. Link has a single stop on Capitol Hill, and it looks like the connection between the UW station and eastside buses may be inconvenient.

    1. crazytrainmatt,

      There will almost certainly be bus stops on the HOV access ramp. So if you’re coming from Capitol Hill you pick up any of the many UW-Eastside buses there.

      1. I know you’re not necessarily a news organization, Martin, but don’t you think you should contact someone to verify that assertion?

      2. Mickymse,

        Metro is far from doing any serious planning on this so I’m not sure who I would contact. But looking at the video, there’s an obvious place to put one. I suppose it’s conceivable that they would be idiotic enough to not put one there, but this is the kind of thing that’s really cheap to fix.

      3. I do make an effort to check assertions made in posts, but comments are by their nature off-the-cuff.

      4. Michael, that’s already been verified. The new Sound Transit route 542, the 271, the 540, and others will stop there. It’s the same as the stop the 540/271/etc already stop at.

    2. Exactly.

      Martin,
      You appear to be coming at this solely from the perspective of a UW student on the eastside.

      You devote exactly two sentences to people in Seattle going to jobs on the Eastside. They want to catch the 545 (or other 5xx) going to Redmond, Bellevue, or Kirkland.

      They don’t need to go to or from the UW. I’ve lived in both the U District and in the Central district. In both scenarios, bus or bike to Montlake, then 5XX to Eastside is the only realistic bus commute.

      Dumping the flyer stop and claiming a new 30 minute interval bus route at UW station makes up for it is nonsensical.
      WRT to late night hours, Eastside tech jobs are not solely 8-5.

      I fail to see how a transit blog can claim that giving up a transit good (the flyer stop) is in any sense OK. It may be the best we can get given the rural makeup of the state transportation committees, but I don’t see why you are writing approving editorials about it.

      1. Clearly we need more than peak hour only service from UW-Montlake-Eastside, and that’s something we’ll ask for. But right now, what WSDOT and the state legislature are doing is too high level to answer that question. They need to pick between A+, K and L before they can look into narrower design decisions like funding transit using tolls – which we’ll be pushing for.

      2. psf,

        The reverse commute is the reverse of the UW stuff. If you’re coming from points North, you come in on Link and are better off with good service from UW to the Eastside. If you’re downtown, you have East Link, less (but some) DT-Eastside service, and the option to take U Link and then board a UW bus.

        I’m not advocating eliminating all off-peak DT Seattle-Eastside buses, just thinning out the volume to shift the emphasis to UW. At any rate the UW buses shouldn’t be any less frequent than DT buses are today, which is generally more than every 30 minutes.

        As for a flyer stop or no, it’s a question of priorities. Would you rather have a flyer stop or an HOV-only exit? A BAT lane on Montlake Blvd.? All these things are going to antagonize auto interests in the area (not just “rural legislators” who really only care that we don’t use their chunk of the gas tax), and you have to pick your battles.

      3. I’m one of those 545 commuters. The 545 comes every 10-15 minutes during peak times, and is almost always standing room only on a double bus. Most of the seats are full eastbound as late as 11am, and westbound as late as 7:30. (Maybe later, I haven’t tried it). This is an awfully large group of people. Walking or biking the extra 5 blocks to UW, only to have the bus backtrack it, through what is usually pretty bad traffic, makes no sense at all for this very large group of bus commuters. There are a lot of eastside workers living in the CD, Madrona, Montlake, Madison Park, etc. Without the flyer stop, this one would probably drive, and I suspect many others would too. It’s not a trivial thing to just trade away.

      4. I’ll add that what is really needed is more shuttle service from places like Madison Park, Madrona and Leschi to Montlake. The 43 and 48 on 23rd are too far, and in many places up very steep hills.

      5. The whole point is that you have more 542 service going UW-Redmond, and people coming from the South can get on just before it gets on the highway.

      6. But UW is an extra half mile walk. Will there be stops at the highway? From the post, it sounded like that wasn’t decided yet. If there aren’t, then that’s a big deal.

  3. I agree with the logic of your comments as written; we need to adapt to changes as they come up, and the 520 bridge replacement is a very large change which directly affects many traveling to/from the U.
    In my mind, however, is the larger question of why we are even considering replacement. Why, as we reach peak oil are we building another larger automobile oriented piece of infrastructure which will last 75 years, long after automobiles will be remembered as we remember horsecars and Model Ts? Cannot 2010 be the year when we begin to say to the automobile cartel, “No, we aren’t going to do it this way anymore?”

    1. Lloyd,

      To answer your rhetorical question, “cannot 2010 be the year…”, the answer is no, it cannot. There is no politician, or credible candidate for office, or grassroots movement arguing that we should not rebuild the bridge.

      The most anti-auto proposal out there is Jamie Pedersen’s idea to make the Portage Bay segment “only” four lanes.

      1. Martin – I know this. All the same, at some point we are going to have to go beyond discussions about limits to new growth of automobility and actually “draw a line in the sand” and say no more. When my dad ran for Mayor in 1969, a major component of his platform was removal of the AWV since the I-5 project was about complete. It was a real proposal but also a “teachable moment” to get people to stop and think about what kind of city and region they wanted Seattle and Pugetopolis to become. Everyone said the same things about his proposal as you have written here. Yet, a quarter of a century later people started thinking seriously about his proposal and we have arrived now at the point where the AWV is likely to be pulled down.

      2. We have won the battle to block new freeways. But the battle for closing existing freeways will be much harder. If you don’t replace freeways when they end their life, you’re essentially closing them. If you keep them open without replacing them, they become dangerous. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is being replaced because it’s earthquake-damaged. Note that a replacement freeway is being built, so we’ve lost that battle at least so far. But we have raised the profile of a non-automobile alternative, and that will make it easier to push the bar in future projects.

        As long as ST2 Link doesn’t totally destroy its rails so it can’t run (viz. the accident near Mt Baker recently), it will gain massive ridership without even trying. Some Rainier Valley residents may poo-poo the train, but Bellevue and Northgate and Snohomish County residents will find it more convenient than their existing express buses, because of the increased frequency if nothing else. Note the popularity of the Tukwila I.B. station. (A few south Bellevue residents may be dissatisfied depending on the final alignment, and perhaps Issaquah/Somerset commuters, but they are a small percentage of the total rider-shed.) Once people see ST2 Link succeed, they will be more willing to at least consider transit improvements over highways.

        I totally agree with closing freeways except for the capacity needed for business trucks, people carrying big things, and the disabled who can’t walk to bus stops. The rising price of gas will make it a no-brainer someday. But we need to offer reasonable proposals and incremental change in the meantime. Knee-jerk reactions are a recipe for failure. We also have to make our suggestions at the appropriate points in the planning process. It’s way too late to suggest replacing 520 with a rail line, for instance. Likewise, the viaduct tunnel is unfortunate but the cost of obstructing it (in terms of backlash) may be too great. And putting a cork at 5th & Pine would significantly disrupt traffic to/from Capitol Hill. But hey, maybe eliminating the Arboretum on-ramps will be a small step of progress.

      3. I dream of the day 60 years from now when we start replacing our freeways with long linear parks, perhaps with HSR in the middle.

  4. Yeah, A+… Has a nice ring to it, like “Vision Line”

    Same sort of change without really changing the way we live. New idea please.

  5. I think the biggest drawback for A+ is the lack of eastside to North Seattle (not just UW) connection. If you go to Kirkland for example, East Link will not help.

    Has anybody studied stacking West and East lanes on top of each other over Portage Bay? That design may allow for a Montlake Flyer within the exisiting footprint and would reduce the environmental impact on the Bay, too.

    It would be great, if such new Montlake connection would have underground access to the Pacific Link station… May be the Link tunnel under the Montlake cut could be expanded…

    1. Mixio,

      Connections to North Seattle are almost completely orthogonal to the flyer stop debate. The point is if you have good all-day service to UW you have lots of good transfer options to get anywhere you want in North Seattle, just as you do today by taking a downtown bus to the flyer stop.

  6. Martin, what you’re saying is that for greater cost we can have inferior service. Yes there should be more direct service to the UW, especially after Link is operational. But no matter how much you add you still lose a significant amount of flexibility by dropping the flyer stop. Plus, the traffic through south campus is already awful. Trying to dump more cars and more transit into the mix will make it even worse. The biggest objection to any interchange design at Montlake seems to be the foot print. Drop the clover leaf. Build a flyer stop like the one at Totem Lake. You get the flyer stop, direct access to the UW and a traffic volume that the streets might actually be able to support. You can play with HOV 2+/3+, open hours, HOT lanes, whatever but the fact is there is a limit on the amount of traffic that can move through the south campus triangle. The only way to make this work for anybody is to meter access. If the goal is movement of people then during peak hours only car pools, van pools and transit can meet that goal.

  7. Bernie, I disagree with your characterization. Overall bus service will probably increase, but for the sake of argument say that the level remains the same but you swap the volume between Eastside-downtown and Eastside-UW. You’d have the same level of connectivity, not “inferior service”. Plus, “greater cost” in comparison to what? A+ is pretty much the cheapest live option out there. That’s not to say that doing what I’m saying plus having a flyer stop wouldn’t be even more connected; it’s just not the disaster it’s being made out to be.

    Obviously, I’d be fine with closing off the exit to SOVs entirely (although that has some implications for the arboretum ramps), but I have a hard time believing stakeholders will accept that.

    1. Obviously, I’d be fine with closing off the exit to SOVs entirely (although that has some implications for the arboretum ramps), but I have a hard time believing stakeholders will accept that.

      First, no matter what happens the damn Arboretum ramps need to be closed for good. Dumping highway traffic into a park is just stupid and never should have happened in the first place.

      Second if there are HOV ramps in both directions at Montlake then there is the opportunity to create something similar to the flyer stops on the ramp structure at the same level as Montlake Boulevard.

      Ideally I’d like to see no SOV ramps at Montlake, but perhaps having only an Eastbound on-ramp and a Westbound off-ramp for GP traffic would leave space for HOV ramps in both directions plus cut the traffic volume at Montlake a bit.

      1. Arboretum ramps need to be closed for good… just stupid and never should have happened in the first place.

        Yep.

        perhaps having only an Eastbound on-ramp and a Westbound off-ramp for GP traffic would leave space for HOV ramps in both directions plus cut the traffic volume at Montlake a bit.

        The westbound on ramp and east bound off ramps seem to fit the “stupid” definition. If a GP east bound on ramp, west bound off ramp are the political football that gets it built so be it but I still think timed GP access to a dedicated HOV ramp will offload all the vehicle traffic the Montlake to UW roadway can handle. The problem with the “political will” seems to be everybody angling for parks on lids and completely tangent to any transportation issues.

      2. There just needs to be a pair of bus stops south of the Montlake Bridge. Whether they’re in the on-ramps or on Montlake Boulevard doesn’t matter as long as people don’t have to wait for a light and cross a street to transfer.

    2. One option would be to divert virtually all buses across 520 to the UW instead of downtown and force a transfer to Link; that’s the swap option. Assuming the buses can actually get from 520 to Husky Stadium in a reasonable amount of time that could work. It’s not workable now and the A+ option only increases congestion. If you continue to run buses through the Montlake interchange and eliminate the flyer stop you’ve severely limited transit options. Operational hours are a limited resource. You can get more by increasing funding but it’s still pulling resources away from somewhere else if they’re used to mitigate the loss of the flyer stop. The U district could use more bus service but that doesn’t really diminish the usefulness of the flyer stop. Peak hours there may be express buses that can bypass the flyer stop but off peak the flyer stop is really crucial. And still, if there’s an event going on at the UW during the evening commute, even a minor one like a HS graduation, it’s faster to walk from Montlake to Hec Ed than to take any sort of vehicle.

      1. Bernie, you’re bringing up these points as if I didn’t mention them in the post.

        1) I specifically mention that during peak hours — when congestion is worst — connections to both downtown and UW are being maintained.

        2) Of course operating hours are limited, but I specifically brought up funding options that must be used for SR520. I’d boost service to UW further by reducing off-peak service to downtown.

        3) I laid out why, in the off-peak, everyone can get to where they’re going if UW gets the service emphasis.

    3. Martin, I think A+ is the likely option to be built because of cost. Now the question is, can we engineer it in a way to preserve the Montlake Flyer stops? I don’t think anyone has been given that engineering task. I find it hard to believe that, for example by elevating ramps and using the space under them, or other engineering creativity, that there isn’t a way to design Flyer stops. It may cost some dollars, but likely only a small number.

      Your example of $3 million supporting three buses in operation – that’s about half of what is needed to run MT255 or MT 271 – it’s one bus an hour. In today’s operations on a Saturday or Sunday we have ST 545 every 30 minutes serving Redmond-Montlake-Downtown, we have MT 255 every 30 minutes serving Kirkland-Montlake-Downtown, and we have MT 271 serving Bellevue-UW (every 30 minutes on Sat, every 60 minutes on Sunday.) Evenings after 7pm becomes like Sunday service, then MT 255 drops to hourly.

      Adding one bus every hour doesn’t come close to preserving the service pattern if the Montlake stop is closed.

      Inevitably either the riders using Montlake today are going to face reduced service, or the downtown buses must be truncated to UW in off peak hours. The connection between 520 and the UW/Husky station and the transfer there has not been optimized for bus transfers there. If it were optimized the buses would stop near station entrances without street crossing required. Instead a rider leaving Link who wants to go to the Eastside needs to cross Montlake Blvd, then cross Pacific St, and then wait outdoors for buses that typically run every 30-60 minutes. That’s not going to be attractive service for choice riders.

      I think you also underestimate the value of the network effect. There may be dozens of potential connections via 25, 43, 48 etc. each of which are small markets by themselves but in agreggate support increased service. Plus if a transit station can be designed such that BOTH downtown and UW services use the same stop, then you can have direct service every 30 minutes but connecting service every 15 minutes on core segements (e.g. 542/545 alternate offpeak to provide 15 minute service along the 520 corridor between Montlake and Redmond – that’s attractive. 255/540 could be structured similarly.

      The issue isn’t peak service – it is easy enough to provide sufficient peak service to each destination. But even peak riders sometimes need to travel off-peak, and others travel at all times of day, especially people going to entertainment, shopping, sports, etc. Having sufficient frequency off-peak makes the whole system more attractive, reliable, and useable. In fact the whole trend in the bus system is to have more core routes with 15-minute frequency so you can just show up and not have to wait too long. The Montlake Flyer station plays an important role in that.

      To think that we are about to spend $3-$4 billion (or more) to rebuild this corridor and in the process remove a core piece of bus connectivity is extremely backward looking. And there is no way to characterize but to say that we are taking the existing right of way and allocating more of it to non-transit use as compared to today, and that it will cost more to operate transit at a given level of service frequency compared to today. For 2% of the construction cost ($80 million), could we find a way to design the Montlake Flyer stops back? We didn’t lose them on I-90 at Rainier Avenue when it got rebuilt, and Montlake has ten times more riders than does the Rainier stop on I-90.

      1. or the downtown buses must be truncated to UW in off peak hours.

        That’s exactly what I’m arguing for given finite resources. Today, it’s UW-bound off-peak riders that have to transfer; this would make it so downtown-bound Eastsiders would have to take a bus to UW in the off-peak and take Link in (or, for some, take East Link).

        All the other bus connections you mention (25, 43, 48) are still served by UW-Eastside buses with a stop at the HOV ramp. No change there.

        We are spending $3-$4b to add an HOV lane, not improve connections at Montlake. Regardless, the connections are not getting any worse.

      2. First – there should be an bus service operating plan developed for what gets built. Otherwise, how do you evaluate whether the infrastructure is appropriate?

        Second – if truncating Eastside service at UW during off-peak hours is the plan, with onward transfer via Link, then the combination of station entrance, bus routing, and stop locations needs to make the transfer easy, well-lit and safe at night, and weather protected. I mean that there should be something approaching what TTC does in Toronto where buses connect directly to the subway. I see nothing in the designs to make the UW/Husky station an easy transfer point.

      3. transfer easy, well-lit and safe at night, and weather protected

        Now you’re moving the goal posts. The current transfer at the flyer stop doesn’t meet those requirements.

      4. Currently we don’t make riders going to downtown Seattle transfer. The major destination from the Eastside is downtown Seattle, not UW, and today these riders have a direct one-seat ride. Your proposal is that these riders will need to transfer. In that case, it ought to be a convenient transfer.

        Today’s Montlake Flyer stop was originally built in 70’s on the cheap and hasn’t been improved since then. The Eastbound flyer stop can reach both sides of 24th Ave/Montlake Blvd with no traffic crossing required. Westbound flyer stop can reach northbound stop with no traffic crossing. Yes, there is room for improvement. But I wasn’t talking about that. I’m saying that if you’re going to make riders who have a 1-seat ride today make a transfer, at least that transfer should be easy.

        The 520-bridge proposals without the Montlake Flyer stop are not well-designed for transit users and transit operating efficiency outside of peak periods.

      5. That could work but it’s still inferior service. I think most people riding downtown buses are headed downtown. Off peak it’s about 10 minutes from Montlake to downtown on the bus. It will take 3 minutes to get from 520 to UW. Then you’ve got the off peak wait for your transfer to Link (average 7 minutes) then a 9 minute ride to downtown. So you’ve added about 10 minutes and the inconvenience of a transfer. And you’ve still lost the peak hour flexibility which is when the flyer stop gets the most use.

      6. Bernie – I think we agree. I’d much rather see the Montlake Flyer stop retained, let people from the Eastside have a one-seat ride to downtown Seattle, while provide good connections at Montlake to people headed to UW and other destinations via transfer at Montlake. I think that’s the optimal use of service hours during the off-peak hours. Martin’s argument is that flyer stops aren’t needed, and if you can’t afford direct service to both UW & to downtown, then just do UW and force transfer downtown. I don’t agree – I think the Montlake flyer transfer point should be available for buses headed downtown. But if it’s not, then connections to Link at UW need to be much better than currently planned. Right now it appears to be the worst situation – no Montlake Flyer stop, and no good connection to Link, either.

      7. Central Link is currently 15 minutes after 7pm — I imagine the average at UW station will be better the 7 minutes.

        Do you think Downtown will still have greater numbers when a fair number of Bellevue and Redmond riders are poached by East Link? I don’t know the answer, but I have my suspicions.

        I can turn around your 10 minute calculation. Say you don’t have tons of UW buses but have a flyer stop. Then you’re taking the 545 or whatever to get to UW. You have to get off at the flyer stop and wait the same amount of time (and less reliably) for a 43 or 48. That’s the current situation and you’d be hard pressed to say what I’m sketching out is worse.

      8. Bellevue to downtown riders are on the 550 (they were forced there when 253 service across 520, which is a faster routing when 520 is free-flowing, was canceled to force people onto 226/550). They’ll be on Eastlink.

        Kirkland to downtown Seattle riders will be on the bus across 520. I have to go look up the Link estimated Link running times, but I recall that off-peak the 545 is 15-20 minutes faster than Eastlink will be, and would still be the main route from Redmond to Seattle even after Eastlink opens.

        I think there are more downtown riders than UW riders from the Eastside. for people who need to get onto a 43, 44, or 48 to complete their journey, most of them have to do that whether they transfer at Montlake from a bus headed downtown, or transfer in the U-District from a UW bus. Also you can reach a good part of the UW campus within 10-12 minutes walk from the Montlake Flyer station, and the UW buses only skirt the campus. I think the majority of 520 riders are better served with high frequency downtown buses with a Montlake Flyer stop, than they would be with the same frequency buses to the UW and connections for those headed downtown.

      9. Actually, Central Link runs every 10 minutes off-peak until 10 pm. Afterwards it’s every 15 minutes to end of service. If Metro can get my 255 to run every 15 minutes with the loss of the flyer stop and truncation at UW Link Station, I’ll gladly take it. And I don’t have to walk as far from campus to catch it.

      10. Eastsider,

        I’m not going to assert that no one’s trip is going to be made worse by this. If the flyer stop were “free” I’d be all for it.

        That said, the time advantage between 545 and Link largely depends on which end of downtown you’re talking about. I’ll assert (without much evidence, beyond weekend Link ridership) that rail bias is also a stronger effect in the off-peak than during peak hours. So I don’t know that teh 545 will remain “primary” from Redmond.

        So we’re left with an improved off-peak trip for everyone headed to UW vs. a worse off-peak for Kirkland-downtown. Sucks if you’re the latter but this isn’t something to blow up the 520 bridge project over.

      11. Having a flyer stop doesn’t preclude additional UW service. Done right it doubles as the HOV/transit exit and decreases the foot print of the interchange. Not once when I attended UW or since when I’ve taken the bus across 520 and gotten off at Montlake have I ever waited around for a transfer. I’ve either walked to campus or ridden my bike to Seward park. Sure you can mitigate the loss and it might be a small operational savings to force the transfer off peak but it’s still a bad decision to drop the flyer stop because it will always leave us with significantly fewer options.

        Do you think Downtown will still have greater numbers when a fair number of Bellevue and Redmond riders are poached by East Link? I don’t know the answer, but I have my suspicions.

        My suspicion, and I think it’s actually stated policy is that once East Link opens there will be fewer buses using 520. That makes it even more important that we keep the option of allowing the remaining cross lake routes to access the flyer stop. Losing the flyer stop isn’t the end of the world but it is completely bassackward.

      12. If the flyer stop were “free” I’d be all for it.

        You’re looking at it as an adder to bum design. A+ all but precludes the ability to have a flyer stop and (among other reasons) should be thrown out. Redesigning the interchange doesn’t mean sinking the bridge project. We were given a multiple choice question and the correct answer was “none of the above”.

      13. Well the question then becomes what baseline are you going to use. If it’s any of the K/L/M cut crossing family then that’s enormous expense for little transit gain.

        Perhaps you’re talking about the four-lane variants. I could play ball with that but I think it’s another case where you’re crossing the red lines of other stakeholders.

        Or perhaps you want to do something A-ish but with a totally different interchange. I get the HOV only exit concept, but is there an alternate plan that preserves SOV access and meets your objectives, or are you going to die on that particular hill?

  8. I have made the case for a long time that we could live without the Flyer stops, and it’s true, we could survive without them. But it is not a benefit, and it clearly reduces transit options, to remove them. The reason they are gone from all these plans is that the assumption has been that we need carpool lanes in addition to transit lanes all the way across Portage Bay, for bus acceleration and deceleration from transit stops, and that would push the Portage Bay crossing to 8 or 9 lanes (plus shoulders) — which would mean mammoth environmental impacts.

    There is a simple solution and that is to boot the non-transit vehicles out of the “HOV” lane long enough to bring buses to a stop in their own lane without having to accelerate back up to 50 mph up a steep hill with a full load from a dead stop. The need for the extra pair of lanes across Portage Bay goes away. The new Flyer stops would be located between where the traffic gets off and where other traffic gets on, in a section of the highway that has about a third lower traffic volume than the segments to the east and west. A few cars with two kids in the back might be delayed by, like, a minute — prior to hitting the wall of traffic at I-5. I think that’s an acceptable trade to provide access to 355 buses a day.

    We’d be happy here in Montlake to accept the infrastructure of an enhanced bus station with elevators etc. for use by denizens of Capitol Hill and other bus-accessible destinations. We also make heavy use of these stops ourselves.

    Also, a lot of people bike to Montlake from various places in the city. It’s obviously very close to the Burke-Gilman trail. Not everyone will want to bike all the way to the Eastside, even with a trail. Without access in Montlake, I bet a lot of those bike racks on the buses would go empty. With bus access in Montlake, I bet those racks would continue to be well used.

    We should fund the same level of transit service to the UW regardless of this question. We will need a lot more buses crossing 520 in the future to handle expected demand, especially once that UW rail station is in operation.

    1. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. You exit the buses on a ramp up to Montlake. No elevator required, passengers load/unload at street level. Then the buses accelerate down hill as they merge back into traffic. That’s just what they do at Totem Lake and from the Bellevue transit center and they’re dealing with 60mph speed limits. If the 50mph is too much (I doubt it) then lower the speed limit at Montlake. The travel time difference from Montlake to I-5 at 50 mph vs 35 mph is about 45 seconds. In reality it would likely improve throughput during peak hours because roadways actually move more vehicles with the lower speed limit. counter intuitive I know but it’s been proven and is being put into use in the form of variable speed limits around the world.

      1. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. You exit the buses on a ramp up to Montlake. No elevator required, passengers load/unload at street level. Then the buses accelerate down hill as they merge back into traffic. That’s just what they do at Totem Lake and from the Bellevue transit center and they’re dealing with 60mph speed limits.

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. I just couldn’t remember which locations had HOV ramps in this configuration. I don’t remember if any of the HOV direct access ramps in the region have the stops at the top of the ramps which is what I have in mind for Montlake.

        In reality it would likely improve throughput during peak hours because roadways actually move more vehicles with the lower speed limit.

        If I recall correctly the optimum speed for maximum road capacity is around 40 mph or so.

      2. Yep, it would be slightly different in that there would have to be an extension for the stop level with and east of Montlake. Some nice plantings and pedestrian access like is planned for the currently under construction 32nd/36th street overpass at Overlake and you’ve got your lid as a functional part of the infrastructure. Since you’re not dumping an excess of SOVs onto Montlake from 520 you could likely reserve the outside lanes of Montlake Blvd for HOV/transit use during the day. I’d guess that with less congestion through this corridor there would be fair deal of latent demand from locals wishing to move north/south which would offset some of the anticipated increase on 45th, University Bridge and I-5. Local roads that the locals can actually use. These neighborhoods pre-date the decision by the State to build the Evergreen Point bridge. The new comers on the eastside can damn well be inconvenienced if they don’t want to take advantage of the fantastic public transit provided (or at least carpool). Of course someone that lives in Montlake and wants to commute alone to the eastside will be similarly inconvenienced. Maybe more so since transit options aren’t nearly as ubiquitous on the eastside.

      3. The access to/from the I-5 express lanes is via the inside HOV lanes. Do you assume buses will weave across traffic going uphill in that short distance, reconfigure the I-5 interchange, or just write it off so you can have the stop at Montlake???

      4. Not understanding the question. The HOV lanes on 520 will be inside. The Flyer stop would be on the inside. I haven’t really looked at the express lane connection so that’s probably why I’m confused but I don’t understand how the flyer stop or lack of would create a need to weave?

      5. Sorry, I’m not understanding what you’re proposing. I looked back in the comments here and still am not sure.

        From your response here, it sounds like you are suggesting a ramp up to Montlake in the middle of the highway for transit that lets the buses temporarily get off of SR 520, then cross Montlake to return to SR 520. That won’t work with the outside GP ramps. Are you suggesting those disappear? If so, your idea is DOA.

  9. The Montlake Freeway stops need to be made more inviting and spruced up if nothing else – neither stop is the most attractive gateway to the U-District or to Capitol Hill. They have that austere look such as currently graces the SeaTac Airport bus terminus. Some more color, more art work, better trash and graffiti clean up would improve the Montlake Freeway Flier stops quite apart from any future plans for the stops.

    Metro is always talking about scaling back its maintenance activities but for this writer at least, I feel they should be ramped up and not down, but this is off-topic for this discussion.

  10. Sort of interesting article/perspective here, Revamping the ramp. Really interesting is the assertion that the ramps to Lake Washington Blvd were originally considered “temporary”. Sort of like the military version of temporary housing; good until it falls down and then we rebuild it. I’d be interested to know what the general consensuses is with students, or if they even have a clue. I’m betting most freshmen don’t. It seems that A+ is pretty much locked in to preserving the ramps from the Arboretum. Not surprisingly the supporters of A+ are keeping that a secret. I know if it were back in the day I was at the U I’d have been dead set against losing the flyer stop. Back then the buses were drawn by horses so maybe I’m just stuck in the past.

    1. Bernie, I’m pretty sure what they mean is the connection to Lk Washington Blvd was meant to be temporary — not the ramps. The ramps were meant to be reconfigured to connect to the RH Thompson expressway.

  11. Why fight over angels on the head of a needle when the needle itself is diseased?

    It seems to me that pulling the plug on 520, letting freight and other essential private-vehicle trips take I-90 (and giving freight access to the HOV lanes once light rail is up and running), and getting the light rail line from UW through downtown to the eastside up and running quickly is the real solution.

    There were those who predicted voting down roads & transit would be a terrible setback for transit funding. They were proven wrong.

    Removing freeways is an uphill battle, but keep in mind that in the legislature, those seeking to get funds are the ones fighting uphill. If we stake out the zero-funding position, we have the advantage (and Mr. Speaker seemingly on our side).

    1. While that might be an “ideal” solution it isn’t going to get you anywhere. Anyone suggesting the highway be removed entirely is going to get laughed at. Now I will grant you that the same thing could be said about the AWV when that debate first started and since then we’ve had WSDOT both seriously study the “no highway” option as well as had a mayor’s race where that was the major issue. So maybe you have something there.

      OTOH those of us who assume something will get built need to work on hammering the final option into something that is as transit, pedestrian, and bike friendly as possible.

      My thoughts:
      * Option A is the baseline.
      * The Lake Washington Boulevard ramps must go, this is my highest priority.
      * Some method of providing a stop at Montlake for buses traveling between downtown and the Eastside should be preserved.
      * Any additional lanes provided by a second Montlake cut crossing must be transit-only.
      * A second Montlake cut crossing should be as close to the original bridge in architectural style and exterior finishes as is possible.
      * The number of GP exit and entrances should be kept to a minimum. Ideally in addition to eliminating the LWB ramps all GP ramps at Montlake should be dropped. If that isn’t going to fly then we should push for swapping the GP WB on-ramp and the EB off-ramp for HOV ramps.
      * Special attention to car/bike, car/pedestrian, and bike/pedestrian confilicts is needed throughout the entire corridor from Roanoke to Rainier Vista.

      1. That quote about “First, they ignore you…” comes to mind. Getting laughed at is a good first step.

        The problem with our stance is that the car nuts are portraying us as asking for expensive add-ons, like that goofy extra $2 billion tunnel under the canal.

        Some of the car nuts have a strategy similar to the no-replacement strategy, e.g. replace what is there or have a ferry. (For me, a ferry would be an improvement over SOV-only access.)

        If we pay attention to what the car nuts are really asking for, we may occasionally have odd alliances. That’s what it took to defeat roads+transit.

        If we really want 520 removed, all we have to do is block the bills that provide funding mechanisms to replace it. The more we ask for what we really want, the more torque we have working for us.

      2. Judging from the WSDOT website graphics, a lot more attention is needed to the conflicts between bikers and pedestrians on 520 itself. I don’t think WSDOT has even thought about how bikers and pedestrians will get onto and off of 520. Getting them to think about how buses will get from the HOV lanes to Montlake Blvd was itself apparently a terrible paradigm shift for some to swallow. At least they chose to address the most important of the four connections (getting from the eastside to the UW).

        As I have a rather callous attitude toward automobiles, letting them sit while large masses of pedestrians cross Montlake Blvd seems fine with me … until they have to cross the path of Burke-Gilman.

        A short dig under the pedestrian path to campus would hopefully be a cheap way to keep Burke-Gilman seamless and unimpaired by pedestrian crossings.

        Still, the best solution probably would have been to have the rail station directly under Pacific and have disembarkments to both sides of Pacific, with the large masses of pedestrians crossing Montlake Blvd on game days only.

        Perhaps that $110 million Sen. Murray got earmarked for Husky Stadium Station could be used to revive the tri-disembarkment plan that involved no crossings of busy roadways.

      3. Option A is intimately tied to preserving the Lk Washington Blvd ramps. Make no mistake about it. The only reason KC Metro gave it the nod of approval is because this is hoped to siphon off enough cars from 24th and Montlake that buses will be able to move. Option A is the no flyer stop design. There’s just no way to make it workable and KC Metro only acquiesced when bribed with extra operation funds to attempt to make up for this deficiency. More lanes (the second bridge at Montlake) does no good unless you add more lanes to Pacific and Montlake Blvd north of the Cut. In short it’s a foot in the door for a hwy 513 expansion through the UW campus.

        Speaker Chopp is starting to use the R word; Retrofit. That’s actually a very viable option. Floating bridges are temporary structures. WSDOT classifies them as marine vessels. Last summer they replaced half of the pontoons on the Hood Canal bridge. With a few weeks of summertime closure the pontoons on the Evergreen Point bridge could be replaced. The approach sections and Portage Bay is a bit more difficult but not impossible. The real issue there is not that it’s in immanent danger of falling down when “the big one” hits. The bull pucky about “it was built to 1961 standards” is just an excuse to add more lanes. I-5 was built to the same standards and nobody at WSDOT is running around like Chicken Little saying the Ship Canal Bridge is falling.

      4. Bernie,
        Actually all of the options I’ve seen presented (A, K, L, M) seem to have the option of preserving the Lk Washington Blvd ramps. Based on the plans option A+ probably provides the best chance of geting rid of the ramps as there isn’t a big highway structure coming across the cut and pointing straight at the current ramps.

        Furthermore I don’t think any of the options showed a flyer stop, though I could be wrong.

        Frankly I’d be fine with taking 2 of the current 520 lanes for HOV and transit, but unfortunately state law doesn’t allow that (no net loss of GP lanes allowed!).

        Much like the AWV tunnel I suspect fiscal reality will be what ultimately cuts the project scope way down.

      5. None of the options are really any good. I hope you’re right about budget reality cutting the scope so the focus can be put on designing a transportation system instead of park lids. I wasn’t aware that there was a law requiring no net loss of GP lanes. The law must not apply to ramps as WSDOT is planning to permanently remove some of the downtown exits. City streets likewise must not fall under this regulation either so the answer in Montlake is to return all of SR-513 to City of Seattle jurisdiction. Variable tolling could accomplish pretty much the same thing as dedicated HOV lanes on the bridge. Inside lane $10 for SOV, free for transit and $3 for HOV. Outside lane $3 for everyone. But if we’re replacing pontoons it’s easy enough to add lanes. Then you only have the approach structures to deal with. WSDOT’s done massive rework on the Hood canal approaches over the years so they have a lot of experience in keeping these old gals afloat.

        Has anyone else noticed that the time line for westside completion is being thrown out there as 2014. That seems a bit ambitious for something that’s unfunded and has yet to pass environmental review.

      6. Bernie, the timeline I’ve seen from WSDOT is the bridge would open to drivers in 2014, but the whole project wouldn’t be done until 2016.

        From what I’ve heard, WSDOT has tried to give 513 to the City of Seattle, but they won’t take it. I’m guessing they prefer to have the state on the hook for the cost of maintaining the old drawspan across the Montlake Cut.

      7. Mmmm, maybe with the new regime in Seattle and the State about bust there’s an opportunity for the City to regain control over it’s neighborhood. I was under the impression that all drawbridge operators were paid by the City. Not sure about that and maybe the State reimburses the expenses for operating Montlake. I wonder who SYC has to go through to get the permits to keep the bridge open for Opening Day, the State, the City or both.

    2. The 520 is not just a freeway though, it’s a bridge that is a really important connection in our region, not just for private vehicles and freight but also for a very large number of buses. It will also be an ideal light rail corridor in a couple decades. Removing this is a stupid idea.

      1. AJ,

        Think of University Link and East Link as replacing the capacity of the 520 bridge (both buses and cars), and of 520 staying open long enough for its capacity to be replaced.

        I know there are places on the northern end of the eastside that will have a while to wait for decent transit connections, but the 255 and 256 can be replaced with buses going to the same eastside destinations from downtown Seattle, either bypassing downtown Bellevue, or having more frequent service from downtown Bellevue, or both.

        Would you rather have the 520 toll money go toward 520 bridge replacement, or toward 520 capacity replacement in the form of the light rail lines that are currently being built at a snail’s pace?

      2. Removing the 520 would be awful for buses getting from the U District to the Eastside. And really, I know we’re against new car capacity here, but the 520 bridge is a vital link, and there’s no denying that fact. I would rather have the 520 bridge toll money go towards replacing the 520 bridge with a bridge that can hold light rail lines in the future. But really, we need this bridge.

  12. Another way to trip up those who proclaim driving as an assumed vote for continuing to put all transportation funding into roads: Give each toll-payer on 520 the option of having the toll applied toward eastside light rail construction rather than 520 bridge replacement.

    1. They are designing it so that a couple decades from now they can put rail on it. Obviously none of this is at all planned yet, but presumably they would need a tunnel from the 520 under Union Bay/Montlake Cut to tie into UW Station, and some have suggested continuing the 520 line on from there to Ballard.

  13. Anybody who has used the flyer stop knows that it’s very noisy, windy, and precarious there, and that there are far better ways to get to the UW or to go from the UW to either downtown or to the Eastside. If going from the flyer stop to the UW, one alights from their bus to the wind and noise, then has to walk up a lot of hard concrete steps to the surface, where they face a long walk on a narrow sidewalk across the overpass, traffic noise and weather elements at their height, then the marginally-less-precarious Montlake bridge…and that’s to the UW Medical Center! To get to the campus is another kettle of fish…a Metro stop is in-between the 2 bridges, as I recall. Removing the flyer stops to get a better 520 is a worthwhile exchange. The A+ option will result in transit times as much as 45 minutes faster due to the offramps that it features.

    1. 45 minutes faster? I’d love to see the math. Sorry for being skeptical.

      Remember that the 48 and 43 come pretty often. Yeah, you have to go up stairs (and choose the right set of stairs to get to the right bus stop — You don’t have to cross Montlake Blvd). That still isn’t a whole lot of walking.

      I think removing the flyer stop would be tragic for many neighbors to the south, as well as UW riders. Even having all-day frequent service from all points eastside to downtown *and* Husky Stadium Station or the U would still leave north Capitol Hill out in the cold.

      Consider also how the 70-series routes will be realigned when the station opens and Brooklyn Station isn’t open yet. And then consider how the 70s will be realigned again once Brooklyn and Roosevelt Stations are open.

      If the routes from downtown are realigned to start from Husky Stadium Station, then I can see how removing the flyover stops could be justified. Other than that, I think losing the flyover stops is a big step backward.

      On balance, I think we’re better with the 2 GP lanes than with a new HOV lane and losing the flyer stops. If we can get rid of the bridge altogether, that would be even better. We could design a future light rail line to make up for the lost SOV and bus trips (from Madison Park? from Sandpoint to Kirkland? around the north end of Lake Washington?)

      At any rate, A+ is a $4 billion step backward at a time when we can’t afford it.

      1. 45 minutes faster? I’d love to see the math. Sorry for being skeptical.

        Interesting that I got the same spiel from Ross Hunter, my Rep. in the 48th, “A+ makes the bus trip from Redmond to Seattle better by 45 minutes at afternoon peak. Why would I not want to do this?”

      2. Redmond to Seattle? Won’t that trip be just over a half hour when East Link gets there?

        I can understand the gripes from Kirkland riders or others off of East Link. But Redmond? Wouldn’t $4 billion be more than enough to complete the line? Why wouldn’t Rep. Hunter want that?

  14. For relatively little money, the flyover stops could become ADA compliant: Build a pair of elevators.

    Hiring a security guard (to protect the elevators and riders) would make the flyovers a little more inviting.

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