SR-520 HTC Plan

We have talked a lot about transit across SR-520 over the last few months, but I don’t think we have ever mentioned what the adopted plan for the corridor is. The plan calls for increased bus service during SR-520 construction with BRT service phased in afterwards. The plan also touches on the Montlake Triangle and light rail over SR-520. Both of these sections are somewhat redundant, as imminent planning or recent studies cover these issues in more detail.

Five BRT lines (see map above) would have two-ways service with 7- to 10-minute headways during peak periods, 15-minute headways mid-day, and 15- to 30-minutes headways in the evenings. Under this plan the 255 and 271 become BRT routes. The plan says that $16.5 million per year (in 2008 dollars) will be needed to fully fund the additional 130,000 service hours identified in the plan. I believe that 38,000 to 48,000 service hours have already been funded through ST2 and the ferry district tax, but money for another ~90,000 service hours is needed. This lack of identified funding sources is in my opinion one of the largest unaddressed issues for transit in the SR-520 planning. A funding plan (supported by toll money?) has to be written in stone or else I have very little confidence that the hostile state leadership will allow or authorize more funding.

40 Replies to “SR-520 High Capacity Transit Plan”

  1. It’s interesting that from UW station it apparently goes North and takes a left (via U-Village?) rather than going up Pacific. Is that an actual plan or just an artifact of the graphics?

      1. It seems like you could add some useful service by having some routes go via Montlake and NE 45th.

        Likewise, it seems like some useful additional service could be had by fanning out the ends of some routes. This way you could get high frequency, high velocity and high throughput service in the middle of the route, but having the ends serve more destinations and acting as collectors. E.g., for the Eastgate to UW route, you could have separate tails to serve Factoria/Newport Way, Issaquah and Bellevue College/Crossroads. At the other end, you might variously serve UW, Northgate and U-Village/Wedgewood.

      2. Yeah that is a great point but I think that the UW is a dense enough and large enough destination that it should probably be served as well as possible. I was thinking that this might work better with the pink route. Riders that want to go to the tunnel could take the blue line and transfer to LINK. This would then allow the blue line to get off in SLU and serve SLU, Denny Triangle, Seattle Center and Lower Queen Anne? This would be a huge improvement in accessibility for that neighborhood directly linking it with the Eastside, LINK and improving East/West transit north of downtown Seattle.

      3. Note the proposed UW-Bellevue BRT route is not quite the same as Metro 271, which uses local streets from Evergreen Point to BTC. With the addition of the bicycle lane on 520, hopefully we won’t run out of bicycle racks on these buses.

        This is a good base service plan but the plan does not address how the 25th Ave. NE, 35th Ave. NE and Sand Point Way transit corridors will access either the UW rail station or all these new SR 520 BRT routes to the Eastside.

        If we had a southbound HOV 3+ lane on Montlake Blvd. from U Village to the UW station, we would enable all sorts of possibilities. This has been suggested numerous times and would be pretty easy to construct. It would be a huge help for any Children’s Hospital shuttles, Metro vanpools and emergency vehicles in addition to buses. There’s a lot of growth planned up there and with or without any second-drawbridge, the bottleneck and associated traffic backups will remain with this plan.

        We should consider constructing this southbound HOV lane on Montlake Blvd. NE early in the project so we can run reliable transit service on this corridor (e.g. limited stop service from Sand Point to UW station via U Village and Children’s) as construction mitigation for SR 520 — service that then could become permanent as long-term funding is identified. The only other way from Children’s to Link is to clamber up 45th St. and that is never going to be that fast, especially to the Eastside. Meanwhile, from the Roosevelt Link station to Sand Point is 2.5 miles down 65th St. over hill and dale, almost the same length as the journey to UW station which is where the light rail line jogs a bit to the east. If we make transit really work in this corridor, maybe fewer people will need to be drive SOV’s on Montlake Blvd. and other transit routes will work better too.

        In the long term, according to the 2008 SR 520 HCT plan, the Downtown Seattle-Redmond route (ST 545 equivalent) is anticipated be fully replaced by the combination of East Link to downtown Redmond plus the UW-Redmond BRT service. This leaves peak period commute routes from Eastside P&R’s plus the proposed BRT service to Kirkland / Totem-Lake which is the equivalent of the 255 still running on SR 520. This Kirkland BRT service would no longer have the benefit of the DSTT as that will be exclusively for rail use by 2016.

        I rather like the idea of running some of the cross-lake buses – perhaps this Kirkland BRT service — via South Lake Union at that time, probably via Mercer – Fairview, as SLU is growing quickly, particularly in employment (Amazon, to name one.) There’s an express lane connection to Mercer that would be handy for this. It would slightly slow the service to downtown proper, but anyone going from the Eastside to the south end of downtown is probably better off on Link anyway. This routing avoids half a mile of potential congestion on the general lanes of I-5 when the express lanes are running in the unhelpful direction.

      4. It’s interesting to “game out” how an example commute from Capitol Hill to downtown Kirkland would work with this plan. Here are the 3 top contenders for routing this trip in a future world where everything currently proposed is constructed, including the new SR 520 and East Link.

        1. Take Link from Capitol Hill to Westlake (3 minutes) and transfer to a Kirkland bound bus. Subject to peak-period congestion on downtown streets.

        2. Take Link from Capitol Hill to UW (3 minutes) and transfer to a Kirkland bound bus. Subject to off-peak drawbridge openings.

        3. Take Link from Capitol Hill to Bellevue over I-90 via downtown Seattle, Mercer Island and South Bellevue, and then transfer to a Kirkland bound bus at BTC.

        All 3 options involve a transfer from rail to bus. #1 is subject to drawbridge openings in off-peak times which may last about 6 minutes, but it’s otherwise the most direct route, with the least backtracking. Congestion on downtown streets might be fixable via transit priority signals and/or lanes. The timing of the drawbridge openings could be finessed to minimize impact to transit with a bus tracking and signaling system. Link would not suffer from congestion or drawbridges, but the routing is indirect.

      5. Running an HOV lane from UW Station northward on Montlake makes perfect sense (and is one more reason why the inside HOV lanes from 520 to UW Station make no sense). The southbound HOV lane on Montlake toward UW Station has less utility, as the buses will eventually need to weave into the left-turn lane. But no better solutions come to mind.

        Now comes the cultural/political hurdle: When I talk to WSDOT officials about HOV lanes, they ask me where they can get the right-of-way to build new lanes. I kid you not.

        Thankfully, the RapidRide Line A has set the precedent of taking a general-purpose lane and making it a transit lane. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, and it wasn’t even in Seattle.

        I hope the HOV lanes would continue the length of 25th Ave NE, Montlake, and 23rd Ave E/ /S down to Mt Baker Station.

      6. Option 4: Link to UW Station, transfer to water taxi to Kirkland?

        I was thinking about connections from UW Station, and I think that a streetcar would be a great solution. The streetcar I have in mind would start at UW Station, go up through a slice of the current huge Husky Stadium parking lot to 45th, then jog over to the middle of 25th and go up past the U Village to 65th, where it would turn west and go through the neighborhoods of Ravenna and Roosevelt (hooking up with the Link station there) and ending at Green Lake. This would serve a lot of neighborhoods, the U Village, and two light rail stations, and a lot of the line, especially around U Village, has a lot of potential for development.
        You could also have a streetcar go from Sand Point down past Children’s then up the 45h St. Viaduct and ending at Brooklyn Station. You could have a similar thing for 35th, too.

      7. With the Link station at UW destined to be 6 minutes from Westlake, I think the UW–Kirkland water taxi service concept has potential to be popular, though it would be somewhat redundant to bus service. There’s quite a lot to go to on each end of this potential route. The Burke-Gilman is right there too. And drawbridge openings cannot interfere with this route!

        If the UW–Kirkland route ever pencils, how about a three-stop route from Kirkland to the UW, but continuing on from there to Madison Park before turning around? It could go just always go via the UW, or there could be a clockwise and a counter-clockwise route serving the three destinations. Getting from Madison Park to Kirkland now either requires three buses (11, 48, 255) or you have to ride the 11 all the way downtown and catch the 255 there. The Madison Park service might help get a few cars out of the Arboretum. You could try to sync the service with Metro 11 schedules. Of course, Madison Park isn’t that big a destination, but that whole zone of the city seems to be generating about 20,000 vehicle trips a day through the Arboretum and they aren’t all going to the Japanese Garden.

        SR 520 construction mitigation could be a source of funds to start this service up. Those Lake Washington Blvd. ramps will be closed for years, which is going to wreak havoc on the Montlake interchange and all of the local and regional buses going through there unless we provide some new options somewhere.

      8. Let me guess, Jon: you live in Madison Park? I suspect the cars going through the Arboretum are going to any number of destinations east of 23rd Ave, from Madison Park to Denny-Blaine to (to a limited extent) Madrona. (I used to go to ML King elementary school and went through the Arboretum all the time.) I’m tempted to just go further south – maybe some sort of route that went from UW either to 34th somehow, ending where the 3 does at the Union-33rd-Spring loop, or maybe down ML King Way from Madison St to Mount Baker Station, even though that’s a little close to 23rd and a little far from the water. But since the rough midpoint between 520 and I-90 is a little south of Denny Way, your suggestion, if it uses 23rd/24th rather than the Arboretum (and maybe 32nd and Denny rather than Madison St?), is probably the best way to really serve everyone who would be affected (now and in the future, short of direct access ramps to Madison Park from the new 520, and I don’t think anyone wants that!).

      9. Just remembered that we already have a route on ML King between Madison St and Mount Baker Station, the 8, though it doesn’t serve UW. But the more I think about the idea of a route from the 3 terminus (or maybe the 2 terminus) to at least UW station, the more I like it. The U-District is probably considered enough of a destination to justify it.

      10. I think if you want to have the ferry continue on from UW, SLU is where you want to go.

      11. Where would a good stop for U Village be, though? It can’t stop on 45th after it turns from Montlake until it gets to the top of the hill. It also needs to be able to get over on Montlake to make the turn up 45th, so the last stop on Montlake would have to be pretty far back from the turn. So really, going that way wouldn’t serve much of anything besides the IMA, Hec Ed and the Stadium, places that will served by LINK and the bus stop at the Med Center.

      12. I don’t think this would be a great idea because that’s a very high traffic route and you don’t want long distance commuter buses getting stuck in traffic. It should still go up Pacific and 15th, and people could transfer to feeder service at UW Station or Brooklyn Station.

  2. Adam, you put the big gotcha at the end. My worry is that the service levels end up being a bait and switch – pretty graphics right now showing 15-minute all day service on 5 routes, and 15-30 minute evening service. That’s what everyone sees when signing off on eliminating the Montlake Freeway station.

    Then when it’s time for funding, the funding is only enough to deliver hourly service evenings and weekends. By then the graphic artists are gone and the riders are waiting.

    By the way it is “Montlake” not “Mountlake”.

    1. Yep. That is why I’m always leery of plans like this that aren’t attached to funding. They look nice on paper but unless the state is going to step and and provide funding rather than attacking transit whenever it can it won’t go anywhere and once again transit riders will get screwed over.

  3. Given the $2 billion funding hole in the project, I see the BRT plan as a mirage, especially with eastside legislators hostile to tolling. Remember, they even elected Kemper Freeman decades ago.

    Everyone, including our Seattle City Council that seems to just want the issue to go away so they can move on to something else, seems to have signed off on the unfunded plan.

    I see extending tolling as the only way to get the BRT funding out of non-ST sources. The phrase “Good luck with that” comes to mind.

    1. Actually as this looks like the type of plan that Kemper Freeman likes – maybe he should be asked for a funding solution.

    1. I think this discussion is confusing and conflating time lines. There is the period during which 520 construction takes place, the period after 520 fully opens and before UW Station opens, the period between UW station opening and East Link opening, the period until Overlake stations open, and the period until Redmond stations open, and then the Undiscovered Country beyond.

      It’s hard to follow what routes are being discussed for which period without doing the inside reading. It’s also hard to follow what periods WSDOT is offering to fund supplemental bus service for (if that offer is still on the table).

  4. Simply put, the BRT routes proposal makes a good argument favoring LRT on 520.

  5. It would make much more sense to have all the buses terminate at the UW, as it would save money and riders going downtown could transfer to Link.

    It would also make more sense to have the purple and pink lines terminate either at the Overlake Village or the Hospital stations of Link, to save money while providing for a more varied trip.

  6. Is a direct access ramp included to/from South Kirkland P&R? I saw mention of direct access ramps in the report in a “it would be nice to them” kind of way.

    1. I think there will be direct HOV and Transit access ramps to and from the west.

  7. I really don’t like this plan. We need to think about BRT in terms of the whole network, not just one segment. How does this plan integrate with the ephemeral I-405 BRT? Is it going to be done in conjunction with the apparently totally independent work going on by King county for their BRT system? How will capital costs for this project be used in the future when we have light rail in the seattle -> overlake corridor? What about other corridors that are ripe for BRT, like Seattle -> Issaquah or Seattle-> Bothell via Lake City?

    I don’t want to see what one agency wants to do for one (important) segment of the region’s transportation infrastructure, I want to see a single cohesive plan that covers the region and integrates the independent initiatives already underway by various organizations.

    1. It is kind of crazy how many separate rapid/rail transit systems we’ll have in the Puget Sound Region. Sounder, Link, ST Express, Tacoma Link, Tacoma Streetcar, Ezra BRT in Puyallup, Pierce Transit’s planned BRT, RapidRide, 520 BRT, Seattle Streetcar, Monorail, and Swift… They really should integrate everything.

  8. Would it make any sense to move all these currently downtown originating buses to originating in, say, Ballard or other points W of I-5? They would could converge near the UW station. NE Seattle is seemingly left out of all these transit plans. Going from there to the Eastside in this Brave New World would require a Bus-Link-Bus trip. Either that or you get to ride the rediculously slow 44 (or other routes originating farther north of Ballard).

    Since we won’t see any LRT E-W routes in N Seattle anytime soon, it might be nice to use express bus service in this corridor. You’d convert a 3-seat ride into a 2-seat or posibly 1-seat ride (if you’re lucky)

    1. Regardless of what happens with downtown routes, once UW station is open, I do think it would be very helpful to have limited-stop in-city feeder service to it from Ballard to Fremont to UW station. Perhaps this could travel along the canal which is a route that’s usually pretty open. Maybe this could be combined with the U Village and Children’s service so it serves multiple functions like so:

      How about a Ship Canal / Burke-Gilman Express bus route (for now) that follows uncongested streets parallel to the Burke-Gilman trail, forming a sort of giant smile from Ballard to Sand Point, stopping only at significant destinations or transfer points. Perhaps something along these lines: (At least the Fremont to Ballard segment might be part of a streetcar line someday.)

      Starting in Central Ballard – follow Leary to Central Fremont. Follow 34th to Pacific and then to UW station. Follow Montlake Blvd. to University Village. Follow Sand Point Way all the way to Magnuson Park.

      This would

      — Directly connect Ballard, Fremont, South Wallingford, UW station, University Village, Children’s Hospital, NE Seattle neighborhoods and Magnuson Park on one line.
      — Connect Ballard to the Eastside with one transfer.
      — Connect U Village and Children’s to the Eastside and to Link with one transfer.

      This assumes changes to Montlake Blvd. to speed transit between UW station and U Village. (That’s the true missing link in this route today.)

      1. This could be done today by extending the 46 and giving it all-day frequent service. It is a local route, but is still far faster than the 44.

      2. For all these recoupling ideas, the proof will be in the pudding of getting access to the ORCA data showing how many passengers are transferring between various route pairings.

      3. Unless the trip ends on a rail route, that would give you the origin and each transfer point, but not the ultimate destination, since you don’t tap when you leave a bus. You could combine the ORCA data with APC data to get relative deboarding stop popularity at the route tails.

  9. I’m surprised that there’s no BRT planned for the I-405/Eastside corridor connecting points north of 520 (Kirkland, etc) to Bellevue or points south of I-90 (Factoria, Renton, etc.) I expect that eventually Link Light Rail will be extended north from Bellevue to Kirkland and beyond…or maybe I’m mistaken in that assumption? If that were the case, I’d expect there to be some similar BRT service prior to building that next segment of LRT.

    1. There’s nothing concrete for ST3 yet, but the most likely Link expansions are completing East Link to Redmond, and a line from Issaquah to Bellevue, perhaps continuing north to Kirkland and Lynnwood. A Burien-Renton line is also expected in ST3, which could later be extended north on the BNSF route.

      I have not heard of any Eastside BRT besides the 520 routes and the one on NE 8th Street. But Kirkland-Bellevue certainly makes sense, as does perhaps something up to Bothell, Factoria, and Renton. (Psst, the Kemper Freeman designer BRT I suggested in another thread: Kirkland TC, south on Lake Washington Blvd and Bellevue Way past Bellevue Square to South Bellevue, then on to Factoria or wherever. Or if Lake Washington Blvd is too congested, 108th.)

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