The final SR520 Westside workgroup report, in addition to making recommendations about transit priority, also tried to narrow down a dizzying array of options on where buses should stop in the triangle where light rail, the medical center, and the campus proper meet.

With the planned elimination of the Montlake Flyer Stops, a smooth connection to light rail is critical. However, corridor HCT analysis suggests that 60% of bus passengers will head for the medical center or campus, 20% will transfer to another bus, and only 20% are transferring to Link. This led WSDOT to place stops A through C, near the current stop, on the short list, while retaining the (unfunded) option of constructing another stop on the east side of Montlake Blvd.

Option A

Option A, essentially the current location, provides the shortest walk for UW bound riders while dropping people off well away from the rail station. It also has relatively quick times for buses to transit through the area. Options and B and C have similar statistics.

To pick one of the alternate plans, Option D (depicted below the jump) brings both Northbound and Southbound buses by the station before turning on Pacific Place and merging onto Pacific St.  Obviously, the balance of walking times shifts considerably in favor of the station, and buses take another 1.5-2.5 minutes to get through the area.

Obviously, the walking distance issue could be remedied by combining the two, and having another stop both somewhere near the station and at the intersection of Pacific and Pacific. When I asked WSDOT about this, they said that (i) there would be yet more delay to buses going through, and (ii) Metro is generally reluctant to put stops so close together.

I’m a big supporter of Metro’s stop consolidation, but this seems like a good instance to make an exception. We have two potential high-volume stops that are serving important destinations arrayed around a very large open space. Metro could realize huge savings by having a high-quality transfer to Link and severely curtailing downtown-bound buses.

Option D, one of several with better access to the station (WSDOT)

29 Replies to “Montlake Triangle Bus Stops”

  1. I don’t see the real ‘chokepoint’ at Montlake and Pacific getting any better than it is today. The WSDOT numbers suggest about 6,000 riders per day cycling through the triangle, with associated walk times, and U-Link is projecting up to 25,000 riders per day at Univ Stn by 2030.
    I’ve not spent nearly the hours looking at this as Martin, Jonathan, and others on this blog have, but from an old Metro wire-driver point of view, with lots of hours sitting in traffic there, this seems like a clusterf#$k in the making.

  2. I don’t know a lot of the history pertaining to the decision to locate the LINK station directly adjacent the stadium, but in the long run I think this will prove to be a mistake. As I recall there was a lot of resistance from the University regarding vibration impacts to sensitive laboratories (or something like that).

    First of all, we have the transfer mess that this discussion highlights. If the station had been located directly under the triangle, it would have put riders closer to where they want to go (University or medical campus). Bus routing and stop location decisions would have been rather easier.

    Secondly, there may well be problems with stadium traffic. Depending on how many Husky football attendees ride LINK, there will be quite a bit of jamming when trying to get out of the stadium. When I was in Munich last year and attended a presentation by Allianz Arena officials, they noted that they specifically located the stadium a 10 minute walk from the nearest U-Bahn station to allow foot traffic to flow smoothly and not jam within the stadium.

    1. It’s worth noting that there’s going to be a station near University Way on North Link, which will provide better access to the University proper.

      1. It won’t provide better access to the U in general, just to that corner of the University. UW Station will still be much better for the whole SE part of campus.

      2. Draw a line from the location of Brooklyn Station to the location of UW Station. Find the midpoint of that line and draw a new line perpendicular to the first line running through that point. That line, as the crow flies, divides what’s closer to each station, and it falls right around Spokane or Chelan Lane, not leaving much of the campus for Brooklyn Station. That’s not taking into account topography or the actual street grid, both of which I suspect would favor UW station.

    2. Regarding the station placement, I remember seeing in one of WSDOT’s documents that one option being considered was an underground passage from the triangle directly into the triangle. Since Sound Transit is doing this under Broadway, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to do it at Montlake also. This way, passengers don’t have to climb up to street level from the station and then up to footbridge level and back down to the buses. This is essentialy locating the station in the triangle, and is found in lots of other metro systems like NY, Paris, London etc. I assume its cost prohibitive, but at what point do the benefits gained make what I assume to be a pretty straightforward project worth it?

      1. It would be cost prohibitive, and there were security concerns, as at a lot of hours there aren’t many people going to the Medical Center or Campus.

      2. There is already a tunnel from the first level of the garage to the Med Center, so if built a tunnel from there to the station would make getting across the triangle super easy. I find it hard to believe that any security concerns would be unresolvable, since Link already has large stations that exit into areas with low traffic, namely Tukwila and Airport stations.

      3. Bah, Alexjonlin. It’s not cost-prohibitive. It’s logic-prohibitive.

        If anything, a simple cut-and-cover pedestrian passageway should be cheaper than a gigantic looping footbridge.

  3. That pedestrian bridge over Montlake doesn’t look right. Is WSDOT assuming that the current ST proposal will be modified?

    1. A while back UW released their own design for the Rainier Vista that included a bridge over the Burke-Gilman and Pacific Place. The WSDOT/ST plan was modified to connect with that bridge.

  4. I think the reason for the 20% bus-train transfers is it’s the middle of nowhere. Transfering at Brooklyn or downtown or Capitol Hill is more pleasant if your destination allows it. U-district traffic and the dorms will go to Brooklyn, and U-Village would require a Montlake Blvd bus. Metro says Montlake Blvd currently has too much traffic for buses, and there would be strong pressure for northeast routes to go through campus to Brooklyn instead of UW stn. That leaves only the south, which will probably get the shaft again because it’s perceived as a small market. (West of 23rd and south of Aloha, Capitol Hill station is closer.)

    1. While it’s not a commercial shopping area like the Ave or Broadway, UW station is by far the closest to SR 520 and is very well served by many high-ridership bus lines that have no choice but to go through that area (e.g. 43, 48 and many other routes.) The 48 is Metro’s highest ridership bus route (in part because it’s so long, but it’s also very well used in that segment.) UW station is also a potential transfer point for future connecting service to the University Village and Children’s Hospital areas.

      That 20% is 20% of a very high number. 25,000 boardings a day is very close to that projected for Westlake, which is anticipated to remain the highest ridership station in the system. It was also based on a service implementation plan that did not take maximal advantage of the transfer potential. I suspect it will prove to be a conservative estimate.

      1. I can’t help but wonder if WSDOT’s estimates even take into account the transfers the closure of the Montlake Flyer Stop would force under the “send all the Eastside buses to UW station” plan.

  5. I can’t remember if I said this before, but I think that, in light of the lack of a bridge to UWMC and all the various bus connections, they should look at making Pacific St & Montlake an all-way cross when UW Station opens. This would make it much easier for people to get from the station to the Medical Center (the largest office building in the US after the Pentagon), and it would be great for bikes coming from the Burke-Gilman and heading over the Montlake Bridge. In a lot of situtations, all-way crosses make it slower for pedestrians to get across the street, but I think in this situation it would make it faster, because of the crazy signal phases and everything. As long as they don’t keep all the pedestrian crossings red even when they’re going the same direction as a green signal phase.

    1. I certainly agree that the Montlake/Pacific intersection needs better treatment of peds/bikes.

      A scramble crossing there (like we have today in front of Pike Place Market) would be an improvement over existing conditions for pedestrians, but unfortunately it would demolish the vehicular throughput of the Montlake/Pacific intersection which I believe is already about 40% over capacity at peak hours, severely impacting all the bus routes that cross the Montlake Bridge. This is probably true even in a two-bridge scenario.

      If the peds/bikes could be fully grade-separated at least across Montlake Blvd., if not Pacific, then we could potentially eliminate the traffic signal for northbound vehicular through movements and increase at least the northbound capacity of the intersection, probably for about 10% of the approximately $80M cost of constructing the second drawbridge. Southbound capacity is a problem even in a two-bridge scenario; queue jumps, like the one we have on Pacific now, for buses, are a big help, but if the northbound traffic queues extend south of SR 520, that transit corridor is kaput.

      1. Pacific intersection which I believe is already about 40% over capacity at peak hours

        Is there any hope that WSDOT can ever get the mandate that reduction in the number of vehicles is the best solution? For starters, cut back drastically on the number exiting from 520… gosh, let’s say only 3+ HOV access during peak hours. It’s so stupid to spend billions to try and eliminate peak hour congestion when all extra pavement does is the exact opposite.

      2. If we could somehow chase away 40% of the peak period traffic crossing the Montlake Bridge, we’d be golden. We could potentially toll SOV’s on the Montlake Bridge, but we’d have to toll the alternate routes as well or parallel routes (I-5, University Bridge, et al) would suffer greatly from diversion. It’s hard to imagine it happening in Seattle anytime soon, and there are numerous social equity issues, but London is a fascinating case study in pricing urban streets:

        Or, more simply, perhaps more can be done with parking policy. Where do all the vehicles come from that fill the oceans of parking around UW, and how do they get there, and do all those folks really need to drive, if they had better transit options? Food for thought.

      3. I wholeheartedly agree that traffic should be restricted at Montlake. The area is already a mess as it is today, even outside of peak hours, I can’t imagine what it will look like with a bigger 520 bridge and the elimination of the Lake Washington Blvd. ramps. Since the bridge is going to be tolled anyways, maybe they could charge extra for SOV’s to use the Montlake ramps during peak hours. The UW gives people such a huge break on HOV parking rates that it really would be in people’s best interests to carpool to campus anyways.

      4. The UW has significantly reduce the number of trips into the U-District and the primary tool was a zero tolerance for increased parking. It’s not rocket science although if you need that I’m sure the UW can assist. Extra lanes across the Montlake Cut are a huge step in the wrong direction. Maybe the first step is to eliminate this corridor as a State highway?

      5. Since the bridge is going to be tolled anyways, maybe they could charge extra for SOV’s to use the Montlake ramps during peak hours. Brilliant, that’s a great idea… basically London congestion pricing and we’ve already invested in the capture mechanism. I like that better than hour restricted HOV access that I’ve championed up until now.

  6. I don’t think this report will be the conclusion of public process over the design of the Triangle. Traffic volume triggers are supposed to lead to the design and construction of the second bascule bridge. The design of that bridge is tangential to the design of 520, WSDOT reps reassured the audience at various meetings.

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