As reported last week SDOT has recommended, and the council and Mayor seam to agree, that building the streetcar entirely on Broadway is the best solution. The next major decision that must be made is the street configuration. Currently the city is looking at three alternatives.

  • 4-Lane: two travel lanes in each direction, shared outside lanes with bicyclist, 1 parking lane
  • 3-Lane: one travel lane in each direction, center turn lane, bike lanes in each direction, 1 parking lane
  • 2-Lane: one travel lane in each direction, bi-directional cycle track, 2 parking lanes

Its good to see the city looking at a broad range of alternatives, especially the last one. The first one treats Broadway like an arterial, essentially as a means to get people somewhere else fast. I assume this alternative is still being looked at as a base alternative because at first blush it would speed up the streetcar. However I’m not convinced this would occur because there is no dedicated left turn lane, and cars will be able to pass the streetcar and then queue in front of it at signals. This could cause situations in which cars that want to make a left turn will pass the streetcar using the right lane and then cut back over. Since no protect left turn phase will be provided these car will have to wait for through traffic and pedestrians to clear the intersection. This waiting will certainly slow down the streetcar.

The second alternative is most similar to the current configuration although it removes parking on one side of this street. It treats bicyclist better however the major emphasis is still on moving through the space. I’d also be a bit worried of people parking on a bike lane, possibly blocking the streetcar, because there won’t be parking on one side of that street.

The final alternative created by the Capitol Hill Community Council envisions a different type of street, one that prioritizes what the community wants, good bicycle facilities and on-street parking. Its good that these interests have been aligned because it creates an alternative that re-defines the purpose of Broadway in a very welcome way. I would hazard a guess that with left turn lanes at specific locations and turn restrictions at other locations the streetcar would probably experience minimal increase in travel time over other alternatives. Traffic modeling that will better flesh this out will be done in June.

A few notes. As Michael Snyder at SeattleLikesBikes points out the, cycletracks are more complex than bike lanes, and all the details need to be figured out for them to work well, especially with a bi-directional cycletrack. Cycletracks on both sides of the street are certainly better but also take up more room, which is why SDOT is looking at the bi-directional design. All this absolutely does not mean that cycletracks aren’t a good solution, they just need to be built where they make sense and thoroughly designed.

62 Replies to “Two-Way Broadway Cross Sections”

  1. I think you’re underestimating the value of the left turn lanes. Without the turn lanes traffic backs up in a single file queue. That queue then decreases the gaps in traffic making it harder to turn left. That in turn makes the queue even longer. It’s a vicious cycle.

    If the streetcar is caught up in that much traffic congestion it won’t keep to timetables which will frustrate riders and satisfaction with the project. I think either a lane of the parking needs to be sacrificed or the cycle track to maintain a 3-lane configuration. New development will have underground parking. Cyclists could have facilities on parallel streets.

    1. I completely agree that it is an issue and that is exactly why I said there needs to be turn restrictions and left turn pockets at some intersection. So for example at Republican, Harris, Thomas, etc. you wouldn’t allow left turns but at John/Olive, Pine, Madison, etc. you would still have a turn lanes and remove that last lane of parking to get the width you need.

      Also you’re assuming that cars will be in front of the streetcar. If you watch traffic on the Ave which has a two-lane configuration just like what they are proposing on Broadway you will see that buses are almost never behind cars because when buses stop to pick up and load passengers all the cars queue up behind the bus, not at the intersection.

      This slows down the street and causes most people to use other routes if they are traveling through the area. Most of the cars on the street are looking for parking or dropping off/picking up things. The traffic modeling should show how this will work but the model will be flawed if they assume traffic volumes on Broadway do not change regardless of alternative.

    2. I want to echo what Adam just said – the cars can’t pass the streetcar in the preferred scenario, so they won’t be able to queue in front of it. If you sacrifice a lane of parking, cars *can* pass the streetcar, and then you’ll end up with the queue.

      The nice thing about the two-lane configuration is that it really discourages cars from trying to use Broadway for anything other than local access.

      1. You don’t have to pass a streetcar to wind up in front of it. If you turned left onto Broadway one block, then got stuck at a light where 5 people are trying to turn left at the next block, the streetcar could easily wind up at the back of this lineup. That would mean the streetcar has to wait for all those cars to turn left before they can go.

        I would be in favor of the 3-lane option, with one change to be that the bike lane could still be 2-directional on one side of the street, separated from traffic by the parallel parking (or just a curb).

        If you like, you could make it like the 2-lane setup, with parking, and for a short distance at each intersection (whatever is standard, 4-8 car lengths), lose one of the two lanes of parking in favor of a left turn lane. What you want to avoid is the situation where the light is green but the streetcar can’t go because it’s stuck behind left-turning vehicles. This would force some swerving by one of the streetcar lines, but would allow for more parking.

      2. I think we are essentially saying the same thing expect you are focusing on what the cross section should look like at the intersection and Ben and I are talking about what the cross section should look like mid-block, with modifications like turn pockets or turn restrictions at the intersections.

    3. One problem with three lane arterials is often the center left turn lane ends up being wasted space. Even now on Broadway there are many blocks where there simply isn’t anywhere to make a left turn into except at the intersections.

      The Ave is a great example of what can happen if you are willing to put the street on a bit of a road diet. The buses are still slow up and down the Ave but that is more due to long stop dwell times than the traffic. The bus bulbs along with left turn restrictions on 45th mean buses almost never have to wait through more than one light cycle.

      1. The amount of impervious space lost on left turn lanes to nowhere is one of my pet peeves. However, I can see where left turn lanes will be required and I don’t thing you can (or want to) “bulge” the street just at selected intersections. If you made all of the street car stops in the center it seems like it would make good use of the land between left turn lanes. You’d only have to build half as many stops since they wouldn’t be duplicated on each side of the street which means for the same money you can make them nicer. In fact where there’s room space could even be leased to street vendors and or be kept pedestrian friendly for street fairs, provide landscape buffers or whatever. This would also provide for mid block crossings. One other advantage might be that since there’s a Link station at each end some people might choose to just hop on the streetcar which ever direction comes first.

  2. (full disclosure: I worked with CHCC on the two-lane/cycle track proposal and am the author of the drawings presented to the community and SDOT)

    A subtlety of two-lane proposal that will not alleviate the left-turn issue entirely, but may address it in some situations, is the location of SC stops at mid-block. This creates a traffic buffer at either end of the block for queuing. Will it fully address left-turn demand or eliminate the need for left-turn restrictions? Maybe at lesser intersections (i.e. Republican, Harrison, etc), but John/Olive would require something along Adam’s suggestion above. Offsetting the SC stops from traffic intersections puts less demand on the intersections. It also creates an opportunity for mid-block crossings, which is central to the improvement of the pedestrian environment.

    Of course the mid-block stop/crossing proposal needs to be studied from a traffic engineering perspective to determine if left-turn restrictions would be needed or not. And it also creates another intersection with the cycle track, which would warrant more study. But at the same time, let’s also study its affect on the pedestrian environment.

    1. If this is to be a pedestrian, bicycle and streetcar corridor, why allow turns at john or olive at all?

      1. Because after people come onto Broadway and go to Pagliacci’s and go shopping, it’d be nice to let them back out. Take away a lane of parking near the intersection and you can easily allow turns.

      2. I don’t see why taking a couple of heavy turns out of the many, many turns available to them constitutes “not letting them back out”. They can easily go to Roy or Pike/Pine.

  3. That is similar to the situation with Toronto’s streetcar network. Most of the downtown streetcar lines have no left turn lanes. They share left turns with the through traffic and streetcars. However, at the streetcar stops without a boarding or safety islands, the same direction traffic is forced to stop at the open doors, allowing left turns in the opposite direction to move.

  4. In the 2 travel lane scenario they have 2 parking lanes while all the other scenarios have 1 parking lane. Why not have just 1 parking lane, 2 travel lanes and then cycle track on both sides of the street? It seems that since broadway will be undergoing a major overhaul that this would be a tremendous opportunity to show the rest of the city how cycle tracks can be used to full effect.

    Also, does the current proposed scenario for cycle track assume their would be separate traffic signals for cyclists?

    1. I was under the impression that two way tracks were much more usable. But I don’t have anything to back that up- can a bicycle person tell me if I’m on the right track?

      1. No they are better if they are opposite sides of the street. I think business on Broadway want to maintain the parking on both sides of the street. That is the reason.

      2. My fear with the two way cycle track is if you’re on the street side lane traveling opposite the direction of traffic your view of cars/trucks going the same direction is obsured and the drivers can’t see you and don’t expect cyclist to be crossing intersections in the wrong direction.

        So, a driver is sitting waiting to turn left from the side that doesn’t have a cycle path. He may have a street car or truck in the lane next to him that totally blocks the cycle path. He see’s a break in the on coming traffic and floors it to make a left turn. At the same time a cyclist is going 15 mph and rides out into the intersection right in front of the vehicle making the turn. #$%@!! And now the ambulance is stuck behind the street car because there’s no center lane and no way for traffic in either direction to pull right for lights.

        It’s also going to be incredibly hard for cyclist riding opposite the direction of the vehicle lane to make a right turn. I think I’d rather have the two way cycle path in the center.

      3. they really could make it on both sides if they have a five foot cycle track on each side with a two foot curb just by taking away a foot from each of the driving lanes. in the three lane option, each driving lane is 11′, so i wouldn’t foresee it being a problem.

      4. I’ll bring it up again. I’m not sure center cycle paths are the best and I do concede that they only work if certain criteria are met. But another advantage in this situation over a bike lane on the outside each direction is that you only have one set of track to cross. Then again, if they’re outside and you’re turning right you have zero track gaps to negotiate and a right turn from a center cycleway isn’t great.

        The number one consideration is that cyclist be visible. Number two might be that cyclists have a clear view of traffic and therefore potential hazards. The bidirectional on one side seems to fail on this measure. A center/median route seems to me to give cyclist the maximum visibility with respect to drivers seeing them. It works pretty well for cyclists seeing and reacting to traffic.

      5. If we’re limiting left turns, the two-way cycle track might still be within reason. I’m thinking of a situation where I’m riding northbound on the west side of Broadway. Wouldn’t I be more visible to oncoming cars turning right?

      6. I’m not totally clear on northbound vs southbound in the cross section. But what I think you’re saying is if you’re northbound on a bike you’ll be in the cycle path that is farthest east. Yes, you may be slightly more visible to a southbound driver turning left. But, the danger is to a southbound cyclist that can’t see the left turning vehicle and that the southbound left turning vehicle can’t see them.

      7. Street films talked to an urban designer in Washington DC about two way cycle tracks.

        It seems to work best for one way streets.

        As a regular commuter, I find that cars approaching don’t see bicyclists on the wrong side of the road well. With the alignment as shown above it could work out. As a car turning right would see on coming bicyclist (but likely not yield to them.) Cars turning left after looking out for the trolleys will likely zoom through the two cycle lanes and not see anyone, especially bicyclists going straight.

      8. Gary- I think you nailed one of my concerns on the head regarding the visibility. I did a study once on bike collisions and by far the highest amount was a bicyclist going to wrong way on a sidewalk. This is essentially the same situation we would have here.

        Interestingly, when looking at the three alternative cross-sections, parking is either eliminated in the 4-lane option, one side for the 3-lane option, and on both sides in the cycle track option. If SDOT is set on creating a cycle track alternative, why can’t it be done with parking on one side as the 3-lane option and an overall better design in regards to safety?

  5. correct me if I am wrong, but don’t delivery trucks require more than 8′ of parking space? If they do, then the design illustrated above will not work for ANY business or residence expecting UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc … otherwise they will block the track … and that would create all sorts of problems.

    1. UPS, FedEx, DHL etc manage to deliver just fine all over the world where trucks aren’t allowed on some streets at all. I’d let them worry about it.

      1. Never hurts to address deliveries in the design of streets. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this as an very valid element to address – particularly as commerce moves in the direction of more and more online commerce.

        That said, delivery companies can size their truck selections on routes to the space available, and they do.

  6. also … will this planned alignment on Broadway also help with the future replacement of the Pike/Pine busses with Trams as well?

    1. It would be super if the Route 10 bus could be converted to trams at the erarlies opportunity between Volunteer Park and the Pike Place Market (or perhaps all the way down First Ave to Pioneer Square and the stadia?).

      1. There’s already going to be a few routes going down First, so I think it’s better to just have it end at Pike Place, and make it more of a grid system.

  7. If our goal is to create a pedestrian/cycle/transit (read: people) friendly solution, then the 2-lane option is the best.

    That said, I think it is important that we look at the traffic diversion that will inevitably happen from this scenario. Specifically I am thinking of 12th, already a very hostile and dangerous street for pedestrians. Presumably much of the Broadway traffic will move to 12th, making it even a bigger neighborhood divide.

    Along with the Broadway improvements, we should add some traffic calming and crossing improvements to 12th (even N/S stop signs) to ensure that we don’t sacrifice one street for the enhancement of another.

    1. Pavement bulbs on 12th at the crosswalks, expecially ones at intersections, would be ideal – no zooming around on the right. Cars get slowed down, and we need to traffic calm the next road over, too. Sounds good to me! What else?

    2. 12th has been designed as a bypass to Broadway.
      Cars need a way to get in and out of the area. 12th has been designed as an automobile bypass for Broadway, so it makes more sense to encourage through traffic to move to 12th than to slow it down there.

      1. Mike you highlight one of my biggest fears of this project, that as Broadway is made more pedestrian-oriented, traffic is “mitigated” by making 12th (or other streets) even more auto-oriented. But 12th’s design as an automobile bypass for Broadway has been explicitly at the expense of other users, namely pedestrians. If we amplify these issues on 12th then we risk “mall-ifying” Broadway, whereby Broadway itself becomes an internally good pedestrian place but the surrounding areas are completely neglected. (Granted this is a bit extreme, Capitol Hill will never be Northgate).

        While the project is focused on Broadway, I think the wider goal is to make Capitol Hill a people place, and this will take a bigger picture view of how we prioritize transportation throughout the neighborhood.

      2. If 12th gets bad, we put in bulbs and other traffic calming methods. Have that fight then.

      3. I completely agree but on the flip side I think you could make an argument that Broadway and the Cap Hill station area should become as pedestrianized as possible. If there is anywhere in Seattle where auto traffic should be restricted it is on Cap Hill and on the hill that means Broadway and Pike/Pine.

      4. Oh for sure. I think the most aggressive pedestrian improvements should be on Broadway and Pike/Pine. I’m only suggesting that we don’t forget about the other streets and look at this more as minimizing car traffic, not just moving it.

      5. Traffic needs to be slowed down in cities, period. As we move away from our fixation on the supremacy of automobile travel, we must slow down those who still can’t seem to get out of their cars (sometimes legitimately, I’ll grant). Streetcars, bikes and walking must not continue to be seen as alternatives to autos, they are the true predecessors AND successors to automobiles. Let’s get 12th calmed, too.

      6. More along these lines from Streetsblog Los Angeles today:

        David Yoon, author of Narrow Streets L.A., was holding a panel encouraging people to think of the effects that more narrow streets would have on Los Angeles’ traffic planning. I’m told it was a “show stealing” presentation, and it certainly sounds like one, but it loses something without the slideshow which was just too darn big for me to upload successfully. I tried. in the meantime, you can listen to the audio and view some of his pictures at the 25 March entry for Stretsblog LA.

  8. SDOT is up to their worst again. I don’t see how any of these arrangements make sense. Plus, streetcar stop design CANNOT be considered separately. The 3-lane w/center Left-Turn seems to make the most sense (stops can be at curbside and street center). But, consider adding the cycle track on one side. Whatever…

  9. I also wonder how far will the cycletrack go? All the way from Roy Street to Yesler? Adding a short cycletrack of a few blocks makes the streetscape prettier, but for longer bicycle trips you really need a proper exit at each end, some place for each direction to go. For instance, will northbound cyclists have to cross the street at each end?

      1. I think the ultimate goal is for the cycle track to be the heart of an inner-city trail. North it can connect to the Burke-Gilman and Interlaken to Lake Washington Blvd. South it can connect to Beacon Hill, the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and the Chief Sealth trail.

      2. I think the city just needs to spend more money on bicycle infrastructure, with that said I think that the success of the burke gilman trail shows how important high quality infrastructure is. Sharrows might work but are they really worth it?

        I think bike lanes are a good first step but I think that we need to build a network on even higher quality facilities that help link major destinations and neighborhoods. I’m thinking of UW to downtown. That would be a perfect demonstration project. N/S in downtown, Ballard to Downtown, E/W somewhere north of Greenlake, N/S in west seattle. N/S in rainier valley and CD.

      3. The problem is, where would you put a new bike trail? The best solution seems to me like it would be the Bicycle Boulevards concept that they have in a few cities and that is proposed in the Bicycle Master Plan.

      4. Cycle tracks are a very new feature to the US. If you look at the numbers, it appears that only NYC and Portland have demonstration projects. The NYC project is on a one-lane road, has its own traffic signals, and is one-direction. Portland’s is also on a one lane road with low-volume side streets. There are no separate traffic signals as of now.

        We need to make sure that if a proposal like this becomes reality that it is done right. I am still not convinced that the design above can work. In fact, I believe that this design would be more dangerous than a simple bike lane or shared lane.

      5. It is very true that cycle tracks are new in the US but they are certainly not new internationally. The cycle track in NYC is on a 4 lane one way arterial, and the PDX example is on a road that is on a 2 lane, one way arterial.

  10. The sidewalk, bike, parking, car division is great.

    I have been reviewing similar designs from other cities with the local bicycle advisory board on which I sit.

    I find this does a lot to remove door-ding and other dangers associated with riding against the parking lane.

    Also having curb isolation from peds and cars is always a very good idea for a bike-only lane.

  11. As a frequent cyclist I’m personally happy to use a parallel street such as Harvard or 10th when traveling north and south through the area (which I already do to avoid lights + traffic), but the two-way cycle track is certainly intriguing.

    One thing I’m wondering is, realistically, how many buses will be running on Broadway once the streetcar is extended to, say, Aloha? If any buses remain, then obviously bus stops must continue to be provided in addition to streetcar stops, unless they are one and the same. (Is that the idea?)

    If Route 60 remains as-is, it would provide access to Virginia Mason from Capitol Hill station. Route 2 from downtown is another option for those coming via light rail.

    The 49 provides local service to 10th Ave. and Harvard en route to UW that will still be required even with the new light rail connection, and it’s hard to envision truncating that at Aloha, so it seems to me that bus stops need to remain on the street, but maybe there are other options.

    1. I’m a big fan of the parallel route concept. The problem I see here though is that by pushing traffic away from Broadway those parallel routes are going to become less appealing and more dangerous for cyclists.

      I’ve been told that center bike lanes only work when there is a median divide (like the route over to Greenlake from Ravenna. If the Streetcar reduces (or at least slows) traffic on Broadway would the center “median” used for streetcar stops, landscape and left turn lanes at designated intersections make Ravenna style bike lane configuration feasible.

      I know one issue is the overall width of the street. I’m bias as a cyclist but my thought is to take a couple of feet out of the 14′ of sidewalk on each side. I mean, if a tram, bus and delivery truck can make do with 12′ (which is actually very generous.. that’s freeway lane spacing for 60 mph operation) then can’t pedestrians make do with 12′ as well? I’d also suggest that a 4′ wide bike lane with a 2′ wide curb separating you from traffic ought to be more than adequate. By narrowing each cycle path from 5′ to 4′ you get back enough to have the 2′ buffer on each side. In fact, if a cyclist can’t navigate down a 4′ lane then I’m not sure I want them coming toward me even on a 5′ wide path with no barrier between us :=

      1. i would bet that in those 14′ sidewalks are going to be trees and possibly planters, so don’t take that 14′ at face value.

      2. Bernie just to be clear cycle tracks are almost never in the middle of the road, they are between parked cars and the sidewalk. As you said center lanes for bicycles are mostly used where there is already medians in the roadway or there are a large number of conflicts on the outside of the road (entering and exiting cars).

        Also I asked Ethan about this but the city will never go above the 52ft cross section, they are essentially tied to that cross section. 52 ft is the current cross section and *any* increase of that would mean sewer/curb/sidewalk reconstruction along at least one side of the street. That is simply too expensive.

        I looked for the presentation but I can’t find it. It was about cycle track width and I think it said that the cycle track should be at least 5 ft with a 2 ft buffer or 7 ft with no buffer. Either way it needs to be at least 7 ft.

    2. Here’s an idea for the future Route 49: Follow 10th to Broadway to John as today, then jog over to 12th Ave. and head south as a new trolley route. Follow 12th Ave. at least to Jackson St.

      From there, it could turn around, or continue on to the International District, or to Beacon Hill, or even to Mount Baker via Rainier, which would connect to East Link en route. All the way to Mount Baker would only require a mile and a half of new trolley wire, on 12th.

      However, I do wonder: can a future Route 49 co-exist as a trolley line with a streetcar on the north end of Broadway?

      1. I was thinking of a similar re-route of the 49, although maybe it could turn east at Aloha to 12th.

        Trolley route 70 and the South Lake Union Streetcar coexist along Fairview by the Hutch.

  12. I think the thinking is that 12′ lanes with streetcar on them are better than 11′ wide lanes since some cant parallel part right, it gives you some extra room. granted its rarely problem. (i have seen in portland an suv lose its enormous mirror when it parked close to the line, streetcar took it out at a pretty good speed.) this is also why i assume they are going with 8′ parking lanes as opposed to the customary 7′ parking lanes.

    i agree about trying to get the cycle track split on both sides of the street, i think its been suggested but based on the section cut above…
    13′ sidewalk – 5′ cycle track – 2′ buffer – 8′ parking lane – 12′ travel/streetcar lane – 12′ travel/streetcar lane – 8′ parking lane – 2′ buffer – 5′ cycle track – 13′ sidewalk
    thats 80′ property line to property line

    it shaves a foot off the already generous sidewalks on each side of the street to gain 2′ buffer, then you move a 5′ cycle track direction to the other side of the street. everything else stays the same.

  13. Cycling: 11th Avenue & Federal get you from Madison to 520 on quiet backstreets.

    Am I missing something?


    Daily cyclist. Leg broken by car in 1980. Nothing since then.

  14. the two-way cycle track suggested by the community seems too narrow to be safe and it is not clear how long it would be or what would cyclists do at its ends to transition to regular streets or how they would make turns. the cycle tracks I have seen have been on one-way streets or have been on the outside in both directions.

    Dubman asks a good question: what of Route 49? If it is shifted to 12th Avenue, how is the new overhead funded?

    Note that Broadway was already put on a diet; before its three-lane profile, it had a four-lane profile.

    how about keeping 12th Avenue free of transit and making it a good through arterial for cycling between South Jackson Street and East Aloha Street?

    how about extending Route 60 to GHC main campus via John Street?

    of course the best solution for the First Hill streetcar is to cash it in and use the funds to improve the electric trolleybus network.

  15. I took a look at the street while I was waiting for the 49 across from the Broadway Market. Everything looks OK except the west row of parking and bus bulbs. The street doesn’t look wide enough for it. But I’m not an engineer.

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