"New Portage Bay Bridge looking east," image from WSDOT.

Update @ 2:55 pm: WSDOT has posted a web page detailing the changes.

Original Post: The Seattle Times has the scoop on changes to new SR-520 west approach to mollify concerns that the Seattle City Council expressed in a letter earlier this month. One change that Mayor McGinn proposed to afford the ability for light rail in the future is included as well. Some of the proposed changes are:

• A direct ramp from the Washington Park Arboretum to eastbound 520 would be dropped, and other approaches could be limited to peak hours only, said Clibborn. These moves are meant to reduce Arboretum traffic and are more dramatic than what City Council members requested.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, as well as Paige Miller, executive director of the Arboretum Foundation, have suggested extra tolls on cars that use the Arboretum to reach the floating bridge and other moves to calm traffic.

• The section across Portage Bay, from the Montlake Interchange to Interstate 5, would be narrower and perhaps have a 45-mph speed limit, Clibborn said, to reduce noise and provide “more of a boulevard feel.” Earlier, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a standard highway segment, with a new seventh lane for merges and exits.

• A second drawbridge would be included across Montlake Cut. King County Metro Transit needs those extra lanes to improve bus connections, but a plan for better transit flow has yet to be worked out, Eddy said. Seattle leaders also have called for room for new bike and pedestrian paths.

• An open-air gap would exist between new westbound and eastbound lanes at Foster Island, a change also promoted by Mayor Mike McGinn. If light rail is added someday, trains would exit from the middle and head directly toward the stadium station, presumably on a new Union Bay bridge.

We need to see more details on the changes to get a good idea of things, and we’d like to see a “better transit flow” plan sooner rather than later. Overall, though, the city council is likely to respond positively to these changes.

The gap described in the last bullet point would make future rail more viable if region eventually wants it. Even though I’m not supportive of light rail across 520 because bus service would do a better job for the foreseeable future, I’d support changes like the gap, to hedge my analysis, if the costs were low enough. WSDOT apparently feels the costs of that particular change are low enough to include without much prodding. (I should note that our coolness on light rail over the new span is not the straw man that “it isn’t in the plans” but rather that there is no concrete destination in the Eastside suburbia to run another light rail line toward, with Bellevue and Overlake already being served by East Link. There are arguments of merit, not of process.)

78 Replies to “State Proposes Changes to New 520 West Approach”

  1. I’m confused as to why they’re adding the second drawbridge without having the transit flow plan first. Shouldn’t the transit flow plan inform the configuration of the bridge, not visa-versa?

    1. I was wondering the same thing. I would bet that they want a second bridge for other reasons but it looks better to say that they are expanding the roads for transit.

    2. To improve transit access it will be necessary to classify a lane in each direction as HOV/transit only. Doing so, however, would leave only one lane available for general purpose traffic in each direction, resulting in a HUGE bottleneck that would result in even worse delays.

      If I were to guess, I’d assume the State and King County have already considered transit options, but they’re not ready to release a specific configuration until the details of the “Rainier Vista” and Light Rail connections are worked out.

      Either way, a second bridge is absolutely needed.

      1. … or maybe HOV lanes would convince the people in those single-occupant vehicles to carpool or take transit?

      2. Bingo! Call it a new bridge for transit but in reality it’s butchering the Montlake neighborhood for the perception that extra lanes will allow more people to drive alone into the U-district. It will do nothing of the sort because the bottleneck is at Pacific. HOV only (or possibly a HOT lane) at Montlake will reduce traffic to the point that more vehicles and way more people will be able to get through. Instead of the new draw bridge the money should be spent on University, 45th and other access points. Better pedestrian and bike access would be really nice but I think that can happen with a retrofit of the existing structure. What’s there has worked, not great (pretty sucky) but it works. If WSDOT follows through on eliminating the flyer stop there will be a lot less pedestrian traffic. So, let’s see… the current plan is for more cars and less pedestrians; that sounds about right for a “plan” from WSDOT.

      3. A second drawbridge should really be the last thing we try in order to improve transit in this area, not the first. It’s the 300 feet of the corridor with the highest cost and impacts to enlarge. Obviously it doesn’t begin to address the schedule reliability issues due to drawbridge openings, so that’s no better than a wash. I think the lion’s share of any benefit for buses comes with a queue jump on either side of the drawbridge, rather than the new drawbridge itself. We have a queue jump on Pacific now; how much time would it really save buses if they didn’t have to merge at the tail end of this HOV-3 lane? They already have signal priority. I wager, they would save about nothing.

        Physically, a second drawbridge is a separable project from all this 520 business. It costs $81 million we currently lack and it is strongly opposed by the community. We ought to take a step back and look for some less expensive enhancements that might actually provide more benefit. It shouldn’t be taken as gospel that this corridor is required until the end of time to carry over 50,000 cars a day. The second drawbridge is adding very little if any real vehicle capacity because of fundamental intersection capacity constraints on either side. We are chasing marginal traffic benefits as an indirect way of helping transit. Maybe we can chase away a few of those 50,000 cars somehow and make the whole system work a lot better. I think WSDOT and the City already intend to develop a plan resembling that.

        How about a southbound HOV-3 lane from U Village to the UW triangle? Think how much time that would save for any HOV coming from NE Seattle. What an incentive that would be. We could provide a future direct route – maybe even an in-city express route — from Children’s (or maybe all the way from Sand Point) to U Village to the UW station and perhaps even carrying on to the Eastside, or alternatively, circling around the triangle with many transfer opportunities. That seems like a route with a whole lot of potential. All we need is a street is can run on without getting stuck in a half-hour backup. A second drawbridge does not fix that backup, but a southbound HOV lane on Montlake Blvd. would allow transit and emergency vehicles heading to the hospital to fly past it in about three minutes.

      4. One touted benefit of a second bridge is a dedicated bike lane across Montlake Cut. But I’m guessing it should be possible to add bike lanes to the outside of the existing bridge for far less cost and without compromising the historic integrity of the structure.

  2. This is all great to see but the fact that so much can easily be “improved” or “changed” at the last minute to make it better for transit and non-motorized transportation to me shows how little the state has thought about them in the first place. These changes are low hanging fruit. And I still don’t see any guarantees. I don’t think it is unreasonable to be skeptical until I see it past 60% design.

  3. A 2nd drawbridge? Isn’t that going to lead more delays on the Montlake side anyway?

    Is 520 ever going to be rebuilt?

    1. The new bridge would be in parallel to the existing bridge. One would carry northbound traffic while the other carries southbound. Delays due to the drawbridge opening would have the same effect that they do now, though there’d be more space to “store” waiting cars.

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  5. I guess you could characterize the changes as responsive specifically to the City Council as the Times article does. Or you could consider the simpler practical fact that the previous design would have taken the Northwest Fisheries Science Center at a cost of several hundred million dollars to the project. The cost of exercising emminent domain, and of moving several hundred research jobs and the equipment supporting them seems a more likely motivator here, as the proposed design tweaks help avoid the need to take the NWFSC.

  6. The WSDOT webpage’s image of the Montlake interchange shows a lid over Montlake Boulevard between Husky Stadium Station and the triangle. This would really help people getting to and from the Link station, as only an at-grade crosswalk had been planned there before.

    1. That’s a long-term plan that the University has, especially if the went for the Pacific interchange, but I think it was nixed with this plan as it would be way too expensive.

      1. Actually, sorry, I think I was wrong there, it looks like that is part of the plan in the new thing. Awesome!

      2. This new lid from the Link station to the UW triangle is indeed a great addition to the plan. There would be no at-grade street crossings from the UW Link station to central campus. It fully replaces the function of the original bridge concept, with better urban design.

        But it goes much further than that. With the addition of the lid over Montlake Blvd., the Rainier Vista extension to the triangle, and the other trail connections that are proposed, peds and bikes would have no street crossings from Burke-Gilman trail to the Eastside, or the Arboretum, or the Montlake Playfield, with this plan. This is a huge improvement over the at-grade crossing and I think it is happening largely because of the collective advocacy for better connections here. I think future generations of UW students would be delighted with this configuration. Of course, it’s a new lid location and there’s still plenty of details to work out.

    1. Just once, John, I would like you to acknowledge it when someone presents facts that plainly demonstrate you’re either willfully lying or just have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Once. Please.

  7. One interesting thing I saw in the WSDOT web description was a grade-separated pedestrian crossing of Montlake Blvd. at the Link station. I don’t recall hearing about that before.

    1. I really question the transit lane configuration as is, since it looks like there will be no easy way to get from 520 to the link station for bus riders. What I really would love is center lane bus stops under the lid like there is going to be on the Eastside. That way busses wouldn’t have to cross through the SOV lanes in order to get people to/from the link station.

      1. A possible replacement for the flyer stop would be to have HOV exits both directions, this would likely require deleting the EB SOV off ramp to Montlake and the WB on ramp. A bus stop area could be built on top of the lid.

      2. I like the arrangement of the bus stop. It’s distance from Montlake is roughly the width of a house.

        I’m not sure where the north-south buses will go, but hopefully there will be a bus stop for them as close as possible.

        As for HOVs going between UW and downtown, three words: Ride University Link.

      3. Yeah I think they really should get rid of the on/off-ramps from Montlake to the Portage Bay Bridge. Totally unnecessary, and they just screw up the neighborhood more.

      4. Or at the very least the only HOV on/off ramps between Montlake and the Portage Bay Viaduct. It cuts down on the traffic and allows downtown to Eastside routes to use the bus stops on the lid if the ramps are configured correctly.

    2. It’s too bad we can’t do something on the order of this:

      It’s the Schottentor bus/tram/U-bahn station in Vienna (adjacent to the University of Vienna on the Ring). Buses stop at a covered area at street level; below (and shown on the photos at the above link) trams drop down from street level to a semi-exposed platform on a loop. Below that is the underground Metro station. No streets are crossed when transferring.

      It handles a high volume of passengers due to the proximity of the University. Of course here only two forms of transit (bus and Link) need to intersect, and unfortunately the cost here to grade separate the buses around the Triangle garage would be too high, but I’ve always thought if there were a way to separate the bus lines from general traffic here and provide a direct connection to the rail station, such a node would work well for that seamless transfer to Link downtown.

  8. The new plan looks really promising. However, there does seem to be a lot of hand waiving when it comes to “transit flow.” I really like the new ideas of 45 mph over portage bay and the sunken Montlake blvd. Thank god they dropped the arboretum ramps.

    I still don’t really get the “reversible transit ramp.” Isn’t traffic just as bad in each direction morning and night?

    1. The reversible ramp is into the reversible I-5 express lanes. I’m not sure, but I don’t think that downtown I-5 has HOV lanes on the local part of I-5. Frankly, I would really like a ramp from 520 that went to the Westmost lane of I-5 South since getting over to the first exit is a pain, but I think they only want to build 1 new ramp not 2 :)

    2. Not having an on ramp from Lake Washington Blvd. to the east is certainly a physical improvement. However, I have yet to see any data on what this does to traffic congestion in the area. One of the concerns would be what happens to transit reliability for buses heading northbound approaching the interchange. (Metro 43, 48, etc.) It looks like this interchange will have a lot more traffic running through it with this configuration, and it’s not functioning that well today, so I’m anxious to learn about how the traffic is supposed to flow with this plan.

  9. Hmmm… Wow, looks pretty good to me. I think McGinn would be wise to take this and run with it…

    1. And….he didn’t.

      Off-topic, but I’m waiting with baited breath for McGinn’s reaction once he realizes a Capitol Hill Streetcar might be built without him demanding a do-over.

      1. The Mayor and the Council seem to be on the same page regarding the Capitol Hill Streetcar. Of course, agreement doesn’t make for good copy.

        The Mayor has wanted rethinking on automobile projects, not transit projects. I’m in total agreement with every project on which he has stuck his neck out.

  10. that reversible ramp between 520 and I-5 really isn’t necessary, as it would be far cheaper and far more convenient if the trains simply terminated at Huskey stadium. Not only would it make Downtown less saturated with buses, but would also save bus hours and allow the same bus from the east side to provide access to Downtown and the U-district, instead of having different buses do so.

    1. I think there’s enough demand for lots of buses directly to Downtown and directly to the U District, and eliminating one seat rides tends to discourage ridership, especially from choice riders, unless the transfer is super easy.

      1. Splitting the buses between two destinations doubles the headway for each route. If the connection to UW Station is well-thought-out (and, no, WSDOT is not there yet), then the 2-seat ride will be faster than getting stuck in I-5 gridlock. Indeed, the wait+travel time on Link will be less than the difference in bus headway.

        It will be tragic if WSDOT fails to enable the station connection.

      2. The U Link/North Link line is going to be really crowded at peak period in peak direction as it is even with 4 car trains and 3 minute headways. I’m not sure there would be enough room in the trains for all of the peak direction bus commuters crossing 520.

      3. Wouldn’t people getting off the train in the U-District make room for people who want to get on the train there? The U is almost as important a destination as downtown, so the turnover should be pretty high at the 2 U-District stations.

      4. I think Zed is correct; what I’m less sure of is the relative passenger volumes. I do think there will continue to be a utility for peak-hour routes from the Eastside to downtown Seattle, perhaps with some route refinements in the future. (Service via South Lake Union perhaps? That would get buses off the mess on I-5 a bit sooner…)

        I think Link will be especially great at collecting commute trips originating in Seattle to funnel people onto SR 520 routes.. Right now there’s tons of transit service from Montlake to the Eastside, but getting to Montlake is a problem for a lot of people. Once the UW station is open, I think it will be used for a bunch of folks from Shoreline south who are trying to get to the Eastside. If I live at Northgate and work in Kirkland, this UW connection point would be gold to me. Those headed to Bellevue, Kirkland or Redmond will transfer to a 520 route as there will be new BRT service to all of those places. The remainder will probably stay on Link and take a scenic train ride over I-90.

        I think we are really going to want direct and fast bus service to the UW station area from U Village and Children’s. That would add transit in another important direction from what is becoming a very important transit hub. And maybe it would entice some those folks stuck in the notorious backups out of their cars, for those not already enticed by the Burke-Gilman trail. This means we are going to need to configure Montlake Blvd. so buses can get through there reliably.

      5. Upon further reflection, the direct service on 520 between downtown and the Eastside could be limited to peak hours. This is when the passenger loads on link are likely to cause the most problems. Outside of peak hours simply run all 520 routes like to UW station.

        This means an extra transfer for many riders but keeps there from being a loss of frequent service by splitting the available service hours between two different destinations.

  11. There is no reason why in the future we couldn’t have a lightrail line running from:
    Ballard – Fremont – Gasworks Park – UW – and on to Redmond

    1. I’d make two revisions:
      For the West side of Lake Washington run the line between Ballard – Fremont – Wallingford – Brooklyn Station – U Village – UW station.
      For the East side of Lake Washington run the line via S. Kirkland P&R and the BNSF ROW joining East Link near 15th. Share East link ROW through Hospital Station, Downtown Bellevue, SE 8th, and S. Bellevue P&R. Head East via I-90 ROW to Eastgate and Issaquah.

      Brooklyn Station to Ballard and S. Bellevue to Issaquah is already in Sound Transit’s long range plan. The 520 line would provide a connector between the two as well as service to S. Kirkland P&R and U Village.

      1. I’d say Ballard-Wallingford-Brooklyn Station-UW Station-Bellevue-Issaquah, as the jog down to Fremont would waste a lot of time and there’s definitely enough demand for a route that goes straight along there.

      2. I don’t think there is a huge time penalty as long as the line is grade separated. Because of the hill and limited space on the surface any E/W line is likely to be grade separated at least between 3rd NW and Brooklyn Station in any case.

        Fremont is a dense neighborhood with only slow transit serving it and no real possibility of getting anything fast other than the E/W line from Ballard to Brooklyn Station.

        Even with a jog to Fremont the travel time is likely to even beat a car during the day.

      3. By “Fremont”, I assume that you mean the commercial district centered around the intersection of 35th and Fremont Ave, which would represent a jog south of Ballard-Wallingford-Brooklyn line. However, Fremont is more than just “downtown Fremont”. In fact, the area up by 45th actually has higher residential density than the commercial district in the south.

        Try this: keep the Ballard-UW subway a straight line; put a stop at Woodland Park Zoo in the vicinity of Fremont Ave and 51st; then run a streetcar line from the Zoo, straight down Fremont Ave then across the Fremont bridge into downtown. This would capture both the residential and commercial areas of Fremont as well as the zoo and provide a direct rail connection from Fremont to downtown. The Zoo spur is already suggested as part of the proposed Downtown-Fremont-Ballard streetcar line (page 5), which I believe would complement rather than duplicate a Downtown-Ballard light rail line via Belltown-Uptown-Interbay.

      4. The commercial district centered on 35th & Fremont is the heart of the Fremont Hub Urban Village. The area up by 46th may be closer to Fremont than anything else but it is outside the urban village boundary.

        Now cost may not make it practical to serve the Fremont Hub Urban Village but I’d like to see alignments with a station in Fremont studied as part of the scoping of any future Ballard to UW light rail line.

        It may be that a streetcar with connections to light rail in Ballard or at 46th and a rapid streetcar component to downtown on reserved ROW between Fremont and Mercer might be “enough” service for Fremont. I’d still like to see the cost and ridership estimates for all of the options.

        FWIW I do support building a streetcar line from Downtown to Fremont and Ballard. I also support an extension up Fremont and Greenwood Avenues possibly as far as 85th.

      5. I’ve brought this up a couple times here asking why no one is talking about such a line, and got no responce. It seems all discussion of Link over 520 is only focused on UW-MS.

    2. Sending the line down to Gasworks would bring it too close to the physics labs on the way to UW station. Plus the Ballard Streetcar already promises to provide a Ballard-Downtown Fremont connection.

      How about this route, with connections:
      – Terminal station at Market St and 22nd Ave. Connecting service to the 18 and Ballard Streetcar.
      – East under Market St to station at 15th Ave. Connecting service to RapidRide E line.
      – East under Market St to a deep bore tunnel section under the hill. Deep bore section turns towards southeast.
      – Station at 50th St and Greenwood Ave. Connecting service to the 5.
      – South under Phinney Ave to 46th St.
      – East under 46th St to station at Aurora Ave. Connecting service to a buncha things.
      – East under 46th, and then 45th to station at Meridian Ave.
      – East under 45th to Brooklyn station.

      1. Well, leave it to me to confuse the 45th/Aurora stop with the 38th St one. Since it would only serve the 358 and the 44, which would both be made redundant, I think it would be safe to delete that stop. That opens up many more possible routes for the train to get to Wallingford, including through Green Lake.

      2. I don’t think the SLU/Fremont/Ballard streetcar is a good reason for E/W Link to bypass Fremont. While I do think this streetcar line makes sense I also think it makes sense to try to include Fremont in any E/W line serving Ballard and the U District.

        If you’re going to go as far south as Bridge Way you might as well serve central Fremont.

        There is a good chance that by the time a Ballard/UW line is built there will be a light rail line running from Ballard to downtown via Interbay and Lower Queen Anne. Any E/W line should try to have a transfer station with that line.

        Stations in Ballard would be tricky simply because stations on Market at both 22nd and 15th make sense, but these are rather close together for anything other than CBD stations on light rail or for a streetcar. Though surface alignments make two stations more feasible than elevated or a tunnel.

      3. I wasn’t intending to go as far south as Bridge Way. I had confused that bus stop’s multiple lines of service with that of 45th and Aurora, which doesn’t serve all that much.

        Since I’ve got nothing better to do with my time (HA!), I’ve made a map to illustrate my ideas: http://www.lanechng.com/NShipCanal.pdf

        I’m still unsure about the I-5 crossing.

      4. That is an awesome map!

        Er … I’m kinda new here … What is the reason behind the rail line swinging north at Roosevelt for 1 block and then swinging back south to 45th and Brooklyn. Is there a high value stop there at 12th and 47th, or is it that trains don’t much care for 90 degree turns?

      5. The Brooklyn station ends at 45th st, and runs north-south. The trains require a decent turning radius; I was just trying to illustrate that.

      6. I really need to learn to draw decent maps to illustrate my transit ideas.

        I’d make two changes. First I’d move the station at 50th and Phinney to 46th and Fremont. This allows better access to the small commercial district on Fremont Ave and to the various clusters of multifamily buildings in the area. Second the station at 45th and Brooklyn should be a E/W station separate from the North Link line.

  12. Wow this is pretty much the best possible situation that I could have hoped for! I never thought that WSDOT would give into any demands, but they appear to have gone above and beyond. That’s great, and shows that the state may care about the urban environment after all.

  13. This looks like a big improvement, though it’s still an expensive car-first superhighway rammed through the Arboretum, Foster Island, Montlake and Portage Bay. McGinn hasn’t gotten much love around here, but I attribute some of the state’s willingness to bargain to his aggressive stance. In particular, the Montlake intersection looks a lot like some drawings in his commissioned Nelson/Nygard study. The city council, on the other hand, looked spineless in cowering behind the A+ plan

    Glad they took the arboretum ramps off the table. Probably WSDOT was happy to use the pressure from Seattle to save a few hundred million.

    They didn’t fully replace the Montlake flyer stop — it looks like the ramps only work for UW-eastside buses, and buses from downtown would be stuck in regular traffic if they stopped at Montlake.

    I like that they lowered the speed limit over Portage Bay. This is a cheap way of reducing all sorts of impacts. Why not design the entire span as an expressway instead of a superhighway? This reduces cost, noise, smell and width, and is generally more friendly to the urban and natural areas it runs through. I’d bet it wouldn’t change peak travel times much either.

    I’m glad they extended the lid over Montlake (it’s certainly a more valuable lid than the I-5 one), but it looks like it’s divided along an east-west axis by the bus lanes and an offramp. Not much of a park, though I suppose it’s probably an improvement.

    Does the arrow underneath the southwest corner of the existing Montlake bridge mean that they’re going to build out access from the sidewalk to the path along the cut below (right now the steep dirt path is obstructed by thick plant growth).

    1. “They didn’t fully replace the Montlake flyer stop — it looks like the ramps only work for UW-eastside buses, and buses from downtown would be stuck in regular traffic if they stopped at Montlake.”

      Highlighting the last part of your sentence — that’s what University Link is for, right?

      1. Yeah, if it connects to a major, well-done bus transfer station, the light rail helps compensate for the loss of the flyer stop. But why doesn’t WSDOT find a way to keep the flyer stop too, which would give us more scheduling flexibility for the next 50 years? They’re focusing on improving the peak commute for SOVs, and transit gets just enough scraps to placate Seattle.

  14. There is much good in this newly-revised preferred option.

    However, the transit connection to UW Station is still not happening. Buses still have to leave the HOV lane and cross general traffic to get into the station.

    That’s why the second bascule bridge should be transit only. It *would* enable the direct connection to UW Station.

  15. I’ve always thought that the congestion problem at Montlake wasn’t so much a result of a lack of lanes but more a result of the fact that the lanes that exist currently don’t flow well because of the configuration of the intersections. Solve that flow problem and you don’t need more lanes.

    For example, currently as soon as you cross the bridge going northbound you hit a light. I can guarantee you that that light causes more backups than the lack of lanes does. And I believe it’s one of at least 3 lights near the triangle parking garage.

    How to solve congestion problem north of the bridge? Why not rationalize the roads in that entire area?

    This is probably blasphemous to SDOT and WSDOT, but I’d start by eliminating lanes.

    Take one of the two clockwise inner lanes circling the triangle parking garage and eliminate it. Take the other clockwise lane and reverse its direction so it goes counter-clockwise the same as the outer two lanes.

    What do you have? You have a large, two lane traffic circle with an inner merge C-D lane. You also have no lights and an entire confluence of roads that flows continuously. On top of that, instead of adding more lanes you’ve actually reduced the number of lanes (more landscaping!) and eliminated the need for the 2nd bridge.

    You’d have to do something to improve access to the stadium, but surely that is cheaper than a 2nd bridge.

    That’s half the problem — you still have to do something for congestion south of the bridge. But that is mainly a local access problem and surely that can be solved to.

    1. I’ve often thought that a roundabout might solve many of the traffic issues in the triangle area.

      1. That hadn’t ever occurred to me, but it’s a very interesting idea.

        The area is covered with turn restrictions, which leads to a lot of confused drivers making circles or turning illegally. A roundabout would absolutely need the lid to work though, given the foot and bike traffic. It might take up more space too, depending on how the traffic volume numbers work.

      2. Yes, you would definitely want lids and/or ped overpasses with a large traffic circle, but the lid is already baseline in the State’s SR520 proposal. And separating peds from traffic is good for both as it allows both to be free-flowing in a safe and unimpeded manner.

        57,000 vehicles cross the Montlake bridge every day. 46000 of these vehicles continue north on Montlake towards U-Village. Comparatively few vehicles travel to/from the west past the hospital (currently). You’d need to take this into consideration when designing the traffic circle, but it is very doable and should actually require less total footprint then what the current configuration requires.

        It’s doable, it’s free flowing, and it separates peds from cars. It ought to at least be studied.

  16. Can we say “Hallelujah!” to the pedestrian lid over Montlake Blvd by UW Station? It’s a lid, not a bridge, so the city council shouldn’t try to mess it up based on arcane architectural policies that really don’t apply at that Station. If WSDOT wants to build it with their funds, I say be my guest.

  17. I’m confused by the WSDOT drawings. It looks all jacked-up to me, but perhaps that’s because I’m not interpreting it correctly.

    At Montlake there is an HOV-only onramp and an HOV-only offramp on the east side of the lid that runs ON the lid? And this is where the bus stops are? So east-bound buses have to use a non-HOV off-ramp, make their way over to that area on the lid to pick up/drop-off folks connecting from Link and then get back on 520 via the HOV-only on-ramp? West-bound buses get right off at the HOV-only off-ramp, but then need to use non-HOV onramp to get back onto 520? Doesn’t this seem highly messed up? Are East-West buses just not gonna stop over there? That would make much sense since you’d have the Link stop somewhat close by.

    Also, it seems like it would be about a 1/4 mile walk between the Link station and these stops. I’ve heard folks here say that 1/4 mile is generally considered a reasonable walk for mass transit. Is that also the case for transfers? And how about in the wind and rain? What am I missing? Have I completely misread this? It’d be nice if there were some semblance of detail on those drawrings.

    1. My understanding is that the only buses stopping on the lid (and using those HOV off-ramps) will be U-District – Eastside routes. Downtown – Eastside routes would not exit (or stop) at Montlake, the assumption being that people wanting to make that trip would ride Link.

      While this seems fine for people traveling between Downtown and the U-District, it means that separate routes are needed for people coming from the Eastside to get to UW or Downtown. I think this was covered quite a bit on other threads.

      Assuming there’s no through service for those stops (as there is at the existing flyer stops) I’m not sure what the reason is to have them there. People transferring to N/S buses (43, 48) could do so on Pacific by the Med Center, or at the UW Station if bus access gets sorted out there.

  18. Lack of an efficient BRT station along 520 at Montlake – the Montlake Flyer station – is a major flaw that remains in this design.

    520 has been designated to be a BRT corridor. Montlake is a natural pinchpoint and connecting point between 520 routes and north-south routes – like the 43/44, 48, 25, and Link northbound when it is extended.

    A couple of days ago there was an excellent posting regarding Zach Shaner’s comparison between Vancouver and Seattle transit systems. Seattle has tons of one seat rides that run rush hour only or infrequently. Vancouver has a network of frequent routes.

    BRT is supposed to be frequent routes and to support a network of frequent routes, you need connecting points. Otherwise you have to divide in half people traveling from Kirkland to downtown Seattle from those going Kirkland to U-Dist or Montlake transfers – and each route now has to run 30-60 minute headways instead of a joint 15 minute headway.

    The Montlake design should allow for Eastside buses headed to downtown Seattle (like today’s 255 and 545) to make a connection at Montlake. At peak periods there can be direct U-District service, but off peak connections at Montlake permit frequent service.

    Additionally, it looks like the HOV lanes on Montlake Blvd are only designed to connect to eastbound 520. What about the 43, 48 and 25? They get stuck in traffic too and the HOV design should support this service, which has more buses/hour.

    Lastly, the pedestrian environment looks no better crossing Montlake Blvd than it does today.

    I think it would be great if DOT would design an HOV stop in the center under Montlake Blvd similar to what is planned for 92nd Ave and Evergreen Pt, with access to both sides of Montlake Blvd.

    1. Why would anyone want to risk getting stuck in gridlock on I-5, or stuck in slow traffic downtown, when they could instead have a two-minute bus ride north from 520 to UW Station, head down one of several elevators, wait about a minute for the next U-Link train, be downtown in six more minutes, and past downtown in twelve?

      1. There are good arguments to be made on both sides of the issue of retaining the Montlake Flyer bus stops. Widening of the highway would be required to maintain these stops at highway level. Even if the center lanes on Portage Bay were HOV only, there would still need to be 40-60 feet of platforms and passing lanes. Maybe it is worth it, and maybe there is a way to make that work, but these stops are not included the current plans.

        The utility of these stops hinges on the extent to which buses crossing the lake on 520 will continue to run straight downtown in the long term. To the extent such bus routes continue to exist and can be accessed in Montlake, they offer more seats, more bike rack slots, more origin-destination pairs with a one-seat or two-seat ride, more choices in general. Also, in the evenings or on Sundays or whenever headways are longer, average wait times could be dramatically reduced by retaining the Flyer stops. More transfers would be required for a certain set of origin-destination pairs if they are removed. These transfers (on the Eastside) would be confusing to occasional users and annoying to frequent users.

        With enough employment in South Lake Union, perhaps it would make sense to shift some peak hour “traditional commute” routes or perhaps even all of the BRT service to use the I-5 express lane access to Mercer and serve South Lake Union en route to downtown. This would provide a good transit option where it does not exist today. Someone who lives in Kirkland and works at Amazon could use such a route. A bonus would be new in-city express service between Montlake and South Lake Union that it would be nice to be able to access via Montlake Flyer bus stops. An SLUT extension up Eastlake would probably not get to the UW station area so it would not make that connection. Montlake, of course, is a major transit connection point, so the connection would be meaningful.

        Retaining these stops would provide a transit connection that is not harmed by drawbridge openings. In contrast, the BRT routes between the UW and the Eastside would be impacted by drawbridge openings, even if you are boarding the bus in Montlake, south of the drawbridge.

        I would consider the jury still out on the Flyer stops without more discussion of it. It just seems odd to me to spend $4.65 billion in Seattle in 2010 and have a net result that eliminates very popular transit stops on future BRT lines.

      2. Up top, I meant to say — even if the center lanes on Portage Bay were *transit* only (instead of HOV only), there would still be widening required in heart of Montlake to provide transit stops at highway level.

        But maybe the transit stops don’t have to be at highway level. Maybe the interchange can be adjusted so buses have the option (but certainly not the obligation) to get on and off fairly easily and use these stops proposed on the lid, at least some of the time, perhaps during evenings when there are longer headways, fewer buses, it’s rainy and dark and waiting is more of a burden, and there’s no congestion around the interchange or on the highway (where a bit of weaving would be required.) Maybe something along those lines is a good compromise on this issue. The South Lake Union routing idea is independent.

      3. As I mention above another idea would be to shift the service across 520 so routes only travel downtown during peak hours. The rest of the time all 520 routes only serve UW station and the U District. This provides better service outside of peak for current flyer stop users because it connects directly with Link and bus routes in the U District.

  19. It just seems odd to me to spend $4.65 billion in Seattle in 2010 and have a net result that eliminates very popular transit stops on future BRT lines.

    I totally agree. This plan eliminates a stop & transfer point that works and is well patronized – while the freeway footprint is actually widened! That’s what was done in the 1950’s, but here we are in 2010 and supposedly building a sustainable city.

    It won’t be efficient to have good headways on a UW route evenings and weekends. The ST 540 was a 7-day a week route for about 5 years and they finally gave up on it on weekends and is now a 5-day route that’s hourly from 7pm and ends at 9pm. But the Montlake Flyer stop and MT 255 do provide service.

    Enabling the connection to South Lake Union is interesting, too.

    1. It won’t be efficient to have good headways on a UW route evenings and weekends. The ST 540 was a 7-day a week route for about 5 years and they finally gave up on it on weekends and is now a 5-day route that’s hourly from 7pm and ends at 9pm. But the Montlake Flyer stop and MT 255 do provide service.

      You could still provide good service at all hours to both to Downtown riders and U District/Montlake/Capitol Hill/CD riders. Make the 255 a peak-only route. Extend the 240 out to Juanita-Totem Lake-Brickyard and run it at the same frequency during the same hours as the 255. Anyone who needs to connect to downtown can transfer at UW station.

      You can do the same thing with the 545 and the 542. The 542 becomes the frequent 7 day a week route and the 545 only runs during peak hours.

      Essentially you only run direct service to downtown Seattle across 520 when demand is high and passenger loads on U Link/North Link mean someone might have to wait for several trains to get a spot to downtown at UW station.

      1. Anyone who needs to connect to downtown can transfer at UW station.

        If Husky station were to be used as an Eastside bus transfer station, it should be designed as such with a well located, weather-protected bus transfer center, like Toronto does. Further, you’d want dedicated lanes from 520 to the transit center, and not multiple traffic lights. And you’ve added a drawbridge opening. (Bridge impassable most of the day Sat May 1 for opening day.)

        Further on weekends there’s significantly more demand for service from the Eastside to downtown Seattle than to the U-District, and it takes only about 8 minutes from Montlake to Pine St.

        So truncating Eastside routes at Husky station lengthens the time for the majority of riders, adds unpredictability of a drawbridge, and is not a well designed transfer with waiting for eastside buses outdoors after crossing two busy streets. Not attractive or good service for Eastside riders.

      2. Reducing this question to the long term:

        Since downtown Seattle, Bellevue, Overlake, and Redmond are all served by a 1-seat ride on East Link by 2023, this is really about the quickest route for Kirkland to downtown.

        I suspect a direct bus will still be faster from Kirkland to UW than catching a bus to Overlake and riding E-Link around the long way to UW, but I don’t have math to back this up. I don’t think the completion of Link will make this line go away.

        For getting from Kirkland to points north of UW (Northgate, Lynnwood, Everett), I suspect that getting to North Link will be faster than dealing with the I-405 express route(s), so there will still be some demand on weekends.

        Given the continued existence of a Kirkland-UW route, I doubt ST or Metro will want to spend the extra money for an additional Kirkland-downtown route to save maybe a couple minutes on commutes (under perfect 520 and I-5 traffic flow, which I’ve never witnessed), especially given the existence of the additional option for Kirkland-Overlake + East Link. Moreover, Kirkland-Overlake and Kirkland-UW are likely to be short headway routes, while Kirkland-downtown may be a longer headway due to limited demand. (But if Kirkland-UW and Kirkland-downtown are split, both may suffer long headways.)

        In the meantime (after UW Station opens), I think it is to the benefit of UW riders to push for folding eastside-downtown service into eastside-UW service in order to get better headway. I still think the two-seat ride downtown with U-Link will be slightly faster under real-world conditions, and a wash at worst under free-traffic-flow conditions. But saving a minute or two for eastside-downtown riders will add travel time for every other bus in congested downtown, and add about 10 minutes to eastside-UW commutes due to missing the opportunity to combine and reduce headway.

        We can’t just shove more buses into downtown streets when U-Link opens.

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