If you last checked this blog Friday around lunchtime, you should go and read the substantially revised SR520 post from Friday afternoon. It’s of great interest to anyone interested in effective transit over the new bridge.

31 Replies to “SR520 BRT not Looking so Good”

  1. I know I’ve said this before but the way that apparently busses get shafted is really disappointing. The thing that annoys me the most is it doesn’t _have_ to be that way. The idea that I have is that you can create a busway that parallels Montlake Blvd that goes directly from SR520 to the link station. Doesn’t BRT often have dedicated ROW in other places? Why are we content with forcing the busses here to be stuck in GP traffic and have to weave across lanes and crap like that?

    My proposal: http://iscs.us/montlake.pdf

    1. This proposal makes way more sense than anything I’ve seen from WSDOT, METRO, Sound Transit. The buses would be completely segregated from general purpose traffic, and therefore free-flowing, and the connection to Link would be seamless. Why haven’t any of our transportation engineers thought of this?

    2. Yeah I think in general Metro, ST, WSDOT, SDOT, etc aren’t really thinking “out of the box” enough. The new bridge and Link station are going to completely alter this area.

    3. I like it. I’d like to see STB take an editorial position in favor of something like this, and work to change the current proposal.

  2. Here is a copy of what a northbound outside, southbound inside design could look like. I drew it out to help myself think through all the issues. It would require closeing two left turns and 2-3 island stops, but it completely segregates all bus traffic (520 and local) in areas that are currently congested. It doesn’t impact signal operations much and allows for a NB stop right next to Link. http://db.tt/eFE0GBk

    1. Simply turning left across all lanes of traffic at Pacific still leaves a multiple-minute walk to the light-rail station. We’d be kicking ourselves later if there is a long walk between the bus stop and the UW Station elevators, and people trying to cross football crowds at 90 degrees. Not safe.

      Perhaps the buses could circle around the station and re-enter traffic at the Pacific interchange, so as to avoid expanding the Montlake-to-Pacific right-turn arch.

      1. Yeah I think going around on Pacific Pl is another option that helps minimize the transfer distance. The one thing is you don’t want to create too many “special” signal phases for transit, because this often puts transit at odds with intersection capacity. If the signal timing isn’t optimized for transit you could easily eat up the walking time savings waiting for a bus only signal phase.

    2. OK, here’s my very rough sketch of how to move the flyer stop up onto the new lid. The Montlake HOV lanes would extend north to the UW “student” lot. There would need to be a left turn pocket SB on Montlake (to hard to draw in Paint). No exit from SR-520 East bound to Montlake. No GP exits at Montlake period although I would make the entire HOV corridor open to GP traffic for as much of the day as possible to the extent that it didn’t impact their use for traffic. HOV 2+ or 3+, aame thing. If 2+ works once the HOV is continous and centered then fine but my bet is it will need to stay 3+ and 405 from Renton to Mill Creek should be changed to match (or at the very least I-90 to SR-522).

  3. OK. What are the forces we have to organize politically to get a good solution for transit out of this project? And how fast could we get a single solid plan to put in front of the public to tell them to call their legislator in favor of?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Will the Montlake Neighborhood Association sign off on a transit-only bridge (even if it bascule)?

      1. Does it matter? As this is a key component of our regional transit system, I would hope that the Montlake Neighborhood Association has exactly as much say as the Surrey Downs Neighborhood, as in, none at all (besides the power to put up illegal annoying signs in the middle of the street).

      2. Politically, it does matter. Montlake NA has deep pockets, which could help fund the effort to get buses to actually serve UW Station, if they like the solution(s) we propose. They also have the automatic ear of the 43rd District delegation.

        Besides, if it weren’t for them, the tragedy that is the 520 replacement plan would already have been built, and probably without HOV lanes.

  4. I think the Montlake interchange should be HOV(3+)/transit only. Let the SOV drivers slog over to I-5 and back.

    If that isn’t going to happen then at least keep the functionality of the Montlake Flyer stops and address the issue of transit flow between 520, the UW Link station, campus, and the Campus Parkway transfer center.

    1. Chris,

      The Montlake Flyer Stop was never that functional. It’s scary. It’s a long wait. And it is kinda in the middle of nowhere.

      But if no more buses head east from Montlake on SR 520, and they all go to UW Station, then we’ll at least have dealt with the portion of flyer-stop users who come from UW. For those coming from Capitol Hill, a stop on the lid (instead of a stairclimb, where you have to guess whether the next bus is coming from UW or downtown) is going to be a much better connection after UW Station opens because *all* the 520 buses would be passing by that stop. Well, all, that is, except any peak-hour specialty buses from north Capitol Hill to Microsoft, but I rather doubt Metro would run such a route after Capitol Hill Station opens.

      During the interregnum from now until 2016, WSDOT should ante up for more frequent split service, including perhaps peak-hour routes from north Capitol Hill to Microsoft.

      As for barring general-purpose traffic from Montlake, good luck with that. It would be great to happen. I’m not holding my breathe. I’m trying to find a solution that might actually be implemented.

      1. I have to say, I’m not sure how anyone who’s been to the Montlake stops could think that they’re worth saving. They’re just about the least hospitable transfer point I’ve ever been to in any city.

        Obviously, it’s very important for people to be able to get between the Eastside and UW without going through downtown. But given how much money is being spent on the 520 rebuild, I think that maintaining the status quo (i.e. the flyer stops) should be rejected as too transit-unfriendly.

      2. I regularly use the Montlake flyer stop and I like it. With a bike I can get from the middle of campus to the stop in less than 10 minutes. If things go really smoothly (or traffic on Montlake is really bad) I can use a bike and the 545 to get from UW to Microsoft faster than a car can.

      3. As Jarrett Walker talked about in his presentation, whenever you divide one line into two you cut frequency in half on each branch. By removing the flyer stops you making it *impossible* to transfer to/from all buses going from the Eastside to downtown. This means many service hours have to be “wasted” just to keep the similar quality of service as we have now. That is why it is such an issue. Yes it absolutely is not a nice place but it gets the job done.

      4. Are you arguing in favor of keeping 520 buses going to downtown after 2016? If so, that would be the route splitting that causes the wasted service hours.

        There will still be a flyer stop with the lid, but it will be on the lid, where it is more easily accessible, not down a stairclimb.

        Between now and 2016, while construction is going on, there aren’t any good options besides duplicative service. The WSDOT plan that has buses *not* going to UW Station is an example of how a short-term solution creates a long-term tragedy.

      5. I’m not arguing for anything. I’m simplay stating what it will be like if we keep current service. From a systems perspective eastside routes should go to LINK but it is always hard to change what is currently done.

      6. The Montlake Flyer station may not be beautiful or attractive or quiet, but it sure provides a lot of connections to frequent and fast service.

        If a new station is built to standards like on the Eastside, it would be a lot nicer than what is there today, which was built on the cheap.

        There is no evidence that WSDOT, SDOT, Metro or ST are advocating for a fast, efficient, reliable route to the Husky Stadium Link station. I don’t think Metro or ST are going to eliminate direct downtown Seattle service from riders and taxpayers in Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville.

        So to avoid costly duplication of service or dividing headways, the Montlake Flyer station should be retained.

      7. I’d wager that redesigning to retain a flyer stop would be more expensive than redesigning to have the buses go directly to/from UW Station, with a lid stop.

        The politicians would look like such clowns to not have the buses serve UW Station that, when they become cognizant of the issue, they will make it happen.

      8. By “functionality” I don’t necessarily mean the current stop configuration. I’m simply referring to some way for buses traveling along 520 to stop for loading and unloading passengers at Montlake without adding significant time to the route.

        If there was a Westbound HOV entrance and Eastbound HOV exit aligned with the stop on the lid and the corresponding Eastbound HOV entrance and Westbound HOV exit then you would have a stop similar to the I-90 station at the Eastgate P&R. While there isn’t currently room for such a configuration it could be gained by eliminating the WB GP lane entrance and EB GP lane exit.

        In any case, transit flow between the Montlake interchange, the Triangle, and Campus Parkway is an issue that needs to be addressed no matter what the ultimate form of the Montlake interchange.

  5. I can’t help but think that WSDOT has been at this process so long that UW Station never really entered into their planning until recently.

    Many voices saying the same thing will help. Getting legislators and other elected officials to sign on to the plan will help. Showing how this costs less than the current plan on the table would help even more.

    I think we’ve adequately demonstrated that the cost to Metro of not providing a smoothe transition between 520 buses and UW Station is enormous and ongoing. But we also need to show WSDOT how this plan will save WSDOT some money.

  6. I’d actually rank the current major proposals as follows:

    Platinum: light rail across 520 as part of the replacement project. Since hardly anybody on this blog is calling for that, I’d put that in the fantasy category.

    Gold: the transit high bridge, which can be converted to light rail later.

    Silver: the second bascule bridge, as a busway to UW Station.

    Bronze: convert the westmost lane and one of the southbound lanes on Montlake to transit only, and the other lanes to HOV, freight, and bikes only. While friendlier to the neighborhood, this is less functional than the busway. This is also in the fantasy category, given how many Seattleites drive SOVs across the cut.

    Stone: WSDOT’s current proposal to have buses avoid UW Station.

  7. This is a chance for BRT supporters to show they’re in favor of better transit, not just cutting funds for rail, right? Can someone enlist the Discovery Institute to fight for a better interchange here?

      1. Um, I wouldn’t put the two of them in the same category at all. I think John Niles is honest, if misguided.

  8. I have precisely zero confidence in the ability of any transit designers, traffic engineers, or urban planners in this city or state to get anything right if left to their own devices.

    Stephen’s proposal above is fantastic. If STB can organize to have some actual impact in getting this done right, it will be the coup of the century.

    I think the key would be to not make the new bridge solely about the busway. If the bridge can hold one (northbound) general purpose or H.O.V. lane in addition to the two-way busway, it will be seen as unchanged in design and purpose — the lanes will simply have been rearranged.

  9. Here’s my take on why government officials are not planning to provide easy connections between buses and trains at Husky Stadium Station:

    1. The forecast/projection models show future trains full to the bulkheads approaching Husky Stadium from the north in the morning and from the south in the evening. There’s no room for Eastside people transferring to or from the trains at Husky Stadium in the peak directions. That’s the hope.

    2. In addition, it is the long-standing policy of the U of W that Husky Stadium and University Property NOT be a multi-modal transfer point for folks not having any business at the U of W campus, including the hospital. That train stop has been allowed on University property by U of W Regents ONLY (read mainly) for the purpose of serving students, employees, game attendees, and so on. This understanding is part of the agreement between ST and U of W, and otherwise documented in the historical record.

    3. The long-run transit plan already published jointly by WSDOT, ST, and Metro in December 2008 (pdf at http://tinyurl.com/2fraxam) shows 5 BRT routes from the U of W rail station area across the SR 520 to the Eastside, three of which exit SR 520 in Montlake for the UW campus and Brooklyn Station, but don’t continue on to Seattle CBD. Map on PDF page 28. Brooklyn Station appears to be the transfer point for getting on a northbound Link train in the morning. This future BRT service is a contractual obligation to the U.S. DOT under the Urban Partnership Agreement from the Bush Administration, and the service hours are being vigorously defended by Metro from the cutback scenarios being discussed at Regional Transit Task Force meetings like the one last evening.

    4. Two other express BRT buses between the Eastside and Seattle on SR 520 are shown on the planning map to completely bypass the U of W campus and go direct to downtown Seattle without providing any opportunity to transfer to the light rail at Husky Stadium. All told, if you want to ride a train from the Eastside to Seattle CBD or U District, you are expected to board on the Eastside. When four-car trains are in operation, the DSTT will be trains only.

    5. The PSRC model, documenting how this official scheme I describe will perform, shows the following morning weekday peak period 6am to 9am traveler flows across the two bridges, in 2040:
    SR 520 bridge toward Seattle, on buses: 11,105
    SR 520 bridge toward Bellevue, on buses: 3,375
    I-90 bridge HOV lane toward Seattle, on buses: 7,767
    I-90 bridge HOV lane toward Bellevue, on buses: 726
    I-90 center roadway toward Seattle, on trains: 5,279
    I-90 center roadway toward Bellevue, on trains: 9,173

    Also, for light rail, the 2040 model for AM peak shows this:
    North Link, into Husky Stadium station from the north: 19,310
    North Link, leaving Husky Stadium toward CBD: 16,182
    North Link, into Husky Stadium station from the south: 6,513
    North Link, leaving Husky Stadium toward Northgate: 3,400

    I understand that Sound Transit’s model for 2030 reports quite different numbers, but that the all-expressway tolling set for the 2030s in the PSRC plan changes mobility patterns quite a bit.

    To be clear, I’m not defending this scheme, but just reporting my understanding of where things stand now.

    Please anybody let me know if you think the official record says something different.

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