This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I was in Portland not too long ago, and it got me thinking about the amount of street right-of-way that’s been given over to transit in that city.  This fact was on my mind as I waited for the No. 2 bus to take me home to the CD one evening.  Here’s what I saw when I opened One Bus Away on my iPhone:

The Number 2 Bus Delayed Again

Not a pretty sight!  The reason for these delays, typically, is the fact that the bus heads East over I-5 via Spring street, stuck in traffic with all the cars trying to get on I-5 S in the evening.  Once it passes I-5, it moves over to Seneca and heads up First Hill (since Seneca is one-way West of 7th Ave), as you can see in my lovely map below:

The red arrows show car traffic entering and exiting I-5.

One way to solve this mess would be to create a transit-only Eastbound lane on Seneca between 3rd and 7th.  Then the bus would avoid the I-5 entrance and Spring St. altogether.  The transit lane, in my awesome rendering, might take up the yellow space below:

Of course, this would mean one fewer lane for cars exiting I-5 at Seneca in the morning.  Maybe you could mitigate this by removing parking on Seneca, and thereby retaining capacity.  But if not, well, I won’t shed a tear.  The city may not control the bus system, but they do control the road right-of-way, and it would be nice to see more efforts to use that right-of-way in favor of transit, not cars, especially cars coming in from outside the city.

I write about this not to try to over-generalize wildly from personal experience, but to show an example of where the priorities of transit riders and the priorities of auto commuters collide.  If the city’s serious about increasing transit ridership and decreasing auto dependence (i.e. “Walk, Bike, Ride”), these are the sorts of moves to make.  A more frequent, reliable No. 2 could also help revitalize the languishing corner of 23rd & Union.

This is all easy to say as an armchair planner.  Still, I can’t help but think there’s some merit to it.  After all, the No. 2 appears to have had a more direct route back in 1941 before I-5 was built.  Perhaps it can be that way again.

2 Replies to “Prioritizing Transit over Cars, No. 2 Bus Edition”

  1. Great idea, not just for the #2 but in general. Taking 3rd for buses seems to have helped bunching quite a bit, but that’s only one street. We need bus lanes all over the city at choke points – near freeway on/off ramps, at Denny, etc. To give SDOT some credit, they’re clearly heading in this direction. Follow the #2 north to where it hits 15th and you’ll see a short bus lane just meant to get easily through that crowded intersection. It works well, and came at the expense of only a few parking spots.

  2. I’m sure Seattle would be improved by running the bus as you’ve indicated. I’m less convinced that the bus would be improved.

    For one thing, if all those buses are late, doesn’t that just mean you catch the one you would have missed if it had come on time? That’s how I always interpreted it, partly because…

    The slow part there is going up past VM hospital. As I recall, the bus stops at a light at the corner of the hospital, stops at a bus stop, may stop again for a pedestrian light, and then stops for Boren.

    And ‘slow parts’ are pretty common with Seattle buses. So I’m not sure how much adding a few ‘fast parts’ is going to help.

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