[Note: This post is a substantial revision of two posts that were accidentally written based on outdated materials and taken down. If you did read those, you’ll find that the situation for SR520 buses has gotten substantially worse.]
Last week’s SR520 meeting had lots of pictures of how Montlake Blvd is to be configured when the project is done. The plan includes a transit lane in each direction to improve connectivity between the interchange and the Husky Stadium light rail stop, absolutely critical if the Montlake Flyer Stops are removed to save money and reduce the overall width of the interchange. The bad news is that some compromises in the project, made with good intentions, will make this connection not quite as smooth as it might otherwise be. You can find the meeting materials here, especially the key presentation.
Note that there is no Southbound HOV lane in the picture above. More after the jump.
The Northbound HOV lanes will be on the inside to facilitate the large number of buses turning left onto Pacific Blvd. Unfortunately, that means that buses serving stops directly adjacent to the station will end up either not using the lane or fighting across the traffic.
Southbound, the picture is even worse. Lanes will be on the outside to support buses headed south beyond SR520 like the 43 and 48, meaning eastbound buses will have to make their way through traffic to a left turn. Furthermore, the HOV lane ends somewhere between the bascule bridge and Hamlin St, so the 43 and 48 will have to fight with the traffic merging on and off of SR520.
The takeaway from the diagram above is that the involved agencies haven’t really figured out what to do with bus stops in the vicinity of the light rail station. However, there are two oddities with the stops further South:
- The Shelby St. stop serves routes traveling in the inner HOV lane, so either the stop will have to move to an island or buses will have to weave in and out of traffic to serve it.
- Buses destined for Seattle stop several blocks south of the SR520 offramps, so there is a clunky transfer for people going from the Eastside to destinations around 23rd and 24th Avenues.
I think the whole bus plan for the West interchange has to go back to the drawing board. If the deletion of the Flyer Stops is not to make bus trips much more laborious, there must be an effective connection between SR520 and the UW Link station so that it’s an adequate alternative to continuing downtown. I would suggest three critical changes:
- Northbound HOV lanes on the outside to support a stop on the Eastside of Montlake and close to the Link station. This allows riders to disembark without waiting for a left turn onto Pacific and avoids a street crossing. This would also support the marooned Shelby stop.
- Southbound HOV lanes on the inside to avoid all the SOV traffic using the on and off ramps, and allowing uncongested progress to the HOV ramps.
- A stop for 24th Avenue-bound buses somewhere in the vicinity of the direct-access ramp stops to allow transfers for riders headed South.