February 2011 Downtown Service (Click for full, Source: Metro)

Metro has updated their maps. Take a look. As Jack Latteman said at our last meetup, 3rd Ave is now a rainbow of frequent service.

96 Replies to “A Rainbow of Frequent Service”

  1. I am not opposed to this.

    (Although when I really just need to zoom from Pike-ish to Yesler-ish, nothing beats hopping on a 2nd Ave bus. Makes me wonder why the signals on a transit-only 3rd can’t be, you know, better timed for transit.)

    1. It’s not transit-only for portions of the day (and night), and it’s a 2-way street. You’re absolutely right that SB on 2nd (or NB on 4th) is often quicker than service on 3rd.

    2. With the heavy volume of 2-way bus traffic on 3rd I think it would be hard to time the lights to advantage buses. I would like to see the signals on 3rd Ave. set to advantage pedestrians, if anything. I appreciate the signal synchronization (for autos) on 2nd and 4th Aves. It keeps auto traffic moving which also allows buses to move more quickly.

      1. Well, the best way to advantage all users is short signals all around. 20 seconds one direction, 20 seconds the other direction. Then even if you miss it, you’re on your way 20 seconds later.

        But SDOT just hates that time-tested logic.

        So if they insist on signal-syncing and long cycles, they should be synced around the existing 3-block stop intervals — i.e. when a bus leaves a Pine or Pike stop, it makes it all the way to the University or Seneca stop on the next green — with the archaic-wire-switch time penalty taken into account. At present, you often get a red just as you leave the stop, only to hit another red before the next one.

        This should be the case all the way through Belltown, too. Nothing is more infuriating than turning from Broad onto 3rd, seeing a completely traffic-free street stretch out before you, and still somehow stop 10 times.

      2. “Then even if you miss it, you’re on your way 20 seconds later.”

        That’s assuming you are able to get through the intersection within 20 seconds. If not, then you end up waiting multiple cycles to get through.

        “But SDOT just hates that time-tested logic.”

        Maybe I’m saying this because I work at SDOT and I am a traffic engineering student but engineers don’t hate logic.

      3. d.p.

        Between moving all vehicles (i.e. queue clearence) and pedestrian minimum crossing times you’re going to need longer than 20 second cycles.

        Ignoring minimum pedestrian times, putting everything on a 20 second cycle on such closely spaced blocks virtually guarantees gridlock for all, including buses.

        I’d bone up on basic traffic engineering before you start claiming that someone “hates time-tested logic”.

      4. I know it’s totally anecdotal, but I really do think that the average light cycle in Boston or New York is shorter than in Seattle. Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe there’s a totally logical reason for it, but I’m curious either way.

        My working theory is that the light cycles around here were optimized for different criteria than the ones on the east coast. That doesn’t mean that the traffic engineers here didn’t know what they’re doing — they did — just that they had different goals.

      5. Aleks: it’s not just anecdotal. Have urban planners in the family and the basic guiding principles are just different. Meanwhile, it’s the first thing I notice anytime I’m back east.

        Oran: My hunch is that, since you’re young and just beginning in the field, you have yet to get set in ways that might be counterproductive. My other hunch is that some traffic engineers let math trump logic (where math = absolute maximum volume of cars through the intersection; and logic = “gee, maybe it’s lame to make pedestrians and cross-traffic wait for minutes at a time).

        I know that you personally have no problems with math or logic. Consider:
        – even if unusually high traffic volumes make you miss a cycle entirely, two 20-second waits are still infinitely better than one 90-second wait;
        – Seattle’s really long light cycles still don’t prevent the situation you describe, particularly along Denny. So then you get multiple 90-second waits!

        Finally, since you’re currently working at SDOT, I BEG OF YOU to find out what the hell they were thinking when they made the left signal turn from Elliott to Mercer stay red for 4 full minutes, 2:00 PM through 8:00 PM, 6 days per week (and possibly Sunday too)!!!??? I have literally lost hours of my life on the 15/18 to this one intersection! (And it’s new as of the last 18 months, too. This used to be a 45-second red followed by a 15-second green at all hours. The change is one of the most destructive things SDOT has ever done, especially for “must serve LQA” transit.)

      6. d.p., math trumping logic is what we call “poor engineering judgment”. You cannot say for certain that you will only wait 2 20 second cycles. That depends on the conditions at a location or corridor. As for the light you mentioned, I sure hope you’ve contacted the city with your concerns. I’m not the city’s representative here on this blog.

      7. (And “set in your ways” is being used in its common-colloquialism form, alluding to humans’ tendency to see their habits solidify as they age. It’s neither directed as an insult nor intended as a prediction for your career. It can, however, be taken as a back-handed rationalization for the follies of SDOT’s elders.)

      8. Oran, I appreciate you’re not wanting to be the city’s rep here. That’s fair.

        While I would love to hear the “official word” on that intersection, I’m pretty sure I already know what they were thinking:

        “Let’s turn Elliott/15th into an uninterrupted freeway during the afternoon rush hour, and let’s define rush hour in the widest possible sense, and screw anyone who uses the bus in the counter-commute direction during that time!”

        Do you think that qualifies as “poor engineering judgment,” as you put it?

        Because I’m pretty sure it was deliberate, and that was their rationalization, and they chose 4 minutes, and they couldn’t give a damn if I like it or not.

      9. d.p., balancing the needs of the diversity of road users is a tricky thing to do. Deliberately timing 4 minutes sounds excessive and unusual to me, barring any cycle failures that could cause delays that long. While I don’t know the signals folks very well, I don’t believe they deliberately want to “screw transit”. These are the same people who run the signals along MLK for Link, which is the best working example of transit priority in this city. Still, you should e-mail traffic.signals@seattle.gov for an explanation, it doesn’t hurt trying.

      10. When you work in traffic and transit long enough you recognize certain patterns.

        1. Everyone is a traffic engineer.
        2. Everyone is a transit planner.

        And in most cases, the individuals specific pet peeve causes them to lose sight of the overall picture. Think forest and trees.

        Oran, you’re spot on with talking about balancing needs.

        Signal timing is a tricky thing and there are many, many different ways to do it. But most of the time, signal timing has been tested out using simulation programs – and testing shorter cycles is something that can be done.

        d.p. Let’s stop confusing 20-second signal phases with 90-second signal cycles. Have you thought about the reason why signals on Denny are currently failing at 90-second cycles? You’re blaming a long cycle time when clearly there’s more at issue. Step back and let’s find the root cause rather than calling people set in their ways or any other borderline deragotory comment.

      11. 2Tall:

        Has it occurred to you that when you accuse me of “not thinking about the root cause” of Denny’s congestion, you are being equally derogatory by implicitly calling me an idiot (which, as it happens, I am not).

        Denny is clogged in the eastbound direction because it is one of only two possible routes to I-5 South and to Capitol Hill — thus the high traffic volume in the afternoon — and because nearly every intersection along the way involves another major street — thus the potential to back up along its entire length.

        The root cause of the root cause is Seattle’s overreliance on an “arterial vs non-arterial” distinction, leading to a permanently limited number of through-routes that can easily have their capacities maxed out. (Compare total capacity to cities where nearly every street is a through street.)

        Seattle’s been built as its been built, and now it’s too late: neither I-5 backups nor the dearth of arterials are ever going to get fixed. And neither 20-second cycles nor 90-second cycles nor 3-hour cycles nor transit-priority exemptions to the cycles are ever going to make the slightest difference in the quantity of eastbound Denny gridlock. So refusing to even consider such a thing because “we don’t do that between Denny and Jackson” is a pretty foolhardy rationale.

        There. Did I “think about that enough” to meet your professionally condescending standards?

      12. Part of this “arterial vs. non-arterial” distinction is necessitated by Seattle’s topography. Westlake and 15th were always going to be major routes. To some extent, the same could be said for Aurora near Green Lake. And in the area you’re talking about, Seattle Center and Lake Union get in the way of having too many east-west through routes.

        The problem with Denny being one of two major routes to the freeway isn’t so much the “arterial/non-arterial” distinction itself as the fact that Denny happens to be where the street grid changes, so it has to deal with downtown avenues every block near Seattle Center, and sometimes the same avenue twice, once on each side.

        IIRC, the Mercer Mess project is supposed to involve some sort of improvements all the way to Mercer Place. Eastbound capacity on Mercer will be reduced, but maybe a route with fewer lights will be made more attractive, and maybe you’ll get your sane red phase for the left onto Mercer Pl. :) (What’s the other route to Capitol Hill? Lakeview, Olive, or Pike/Pine?)

  2. Flash-based map, so those of us out walking with our iDevices are blind to it. Nevermind the merits of using/not using this proprietary webware, it’s past time a convention arose of appending a signifier denoting a Flash object so those of us blind to them don’t waste our time seeking out that which will never load. An encircled F, maybe.

    1. I absolutely hate Flash and just sent a comment to Metro that they should use Zoomify or some other non-Flash-based plugin like the Seattle bike map and KC bike map websites do. And I hope you sent them a comment too. But your particular complaint should really be directed to Apple—it’s their OS & browser and they could support Flash and/or add a placeholder if they wanted. Instead they’re exploiting their customer base in an attempt to topple the dominant multimedia plugin. Also, there are ways to get Flash on iOS—though you’ll have to pay for something like Skyfire or jailbreak your device. Or, you know, you could just get a non-Apple device :)

      1. Er, Zoomify is Flash-based. But the KC bike map definitely isn’t. Since both KCDOT and Metro are King County agencies and both sites are on the same host, hopefully it won’t be too much trouble for Metro to de-Flash-ify that map.

    2. Thanks for the feedback, people. PDF it is, and a word to Metro in the meantime. This isn’t the place for the discussion about the merits of Apple’s decision, but as a 21 year member of the cult I don’t miss that buggy, crash-prone, slow implementation of their webware at all. And as it’s only available on a very few of *any* other smartphones, Android, Windows, Symbian, PalmOS, it’s a poor choice for informing via the web to those afoot.

  3. I wrote to Metro to tell them how much I like having all the frequent service on 3rd — it’s very convenient.

    I with they’d axe the north portion of route 14 and instead make it loop around on 1st Ave in Belltown with a layover somewhat like the 16 does (no new wire required!) Reassign those service hours to extend 15 minute headways into the evening on route 10. This would improve reliability on the south part of the 14 and, frankly, there’s nowhere you can’t walk to on Summit from Broadway.

    1. Except that the 49 is a total nightmare and the 43 isn’t much better. Fix the Pike-Bellevue-Pine nightmare and double the 49 service and you’d have a much better case.

    2. (I don’t just mean the Bellevue switchback. I mean fix the whole Pike Street mess: schedule mis-timing, bunch-prone 15-minute waits for any of the 7 routes to come, slow boarding, lack of low-floor trolleys, missing every damn light to Boren, and the ultra-Boren-favoring signal.)

      (Or just wait for the train.)

      1. ST really needs to improve Link headways to Capitol Hill Station. The next train isn’t for 5 or 6 years! Hopefully they can get that down to minutes instead.

    3. I agree, that part of Pike is a nightmare, although I have no idea what to do about it.

      Is the 14 much better than the 43 in that respect? The 10 was just an example, it happens to be the bus that I often want and always end up walking home for lack of. I sometimes walk down the western slope, passing a 14 with two people on it.

      I’m surprised that bus service on the hill is typically 30 minutes in the evening. There’s a lot a drunk people who need to get home. It seems like it would be worth trading some of the route density for shorter headways in the evening, although I’m not particularly sure of what route is best to add it to.

      1. Well, you offered the 49 as the closest parallel to the 14. But every deleterious-to-service thing under the sun is concentrated on the 49: high ridership in general, over-capacity ridership to Pine/Broadway, high usage by winos who aren’t particularly efficient boarders or deboarders, worst wheelchair lifts in the system and frequent short-hop disabled usage.

        The 14 isn’t any speedier than the 43, but it doubles service on the shared portion, and either one is a heck of a lot easier for getting to Capitol Hill’s west face than the 49 is.

        I strongly favor exchanging route density for frequency at all times, not just at night, but when every option is bad, you have to address the other problems too. (The nighttime problem is that even the total service allocated to Capitol Hill is, in typical Metro fashion, pretty thin. The 12 ceases, and the 11 drops to hourly at some point. I think the 10 stays at 15 minutes the longest. But I think you’d have to have all 3 of the primary routes — 10, 49, 43 — at such frequencies all evening before you could delete the secondary routes — 12, 14 — entirely.)

        I’ve always thought it would help to string wire on Pike from Bellevue to Broadway, saving the 49 the zig-zag. Sure, the 10 and 11 would still need to zig-zag at Broadway, but you can’t underestimate the psychological effect (on the driver especially) of having a straight, clean shot away from downtown. Also, bus signal priority is a must at 5th, 6th, and Boren (all of which are heavily weighted to the avenues, none of which have transit on them).

        Not long ago, someone suggested an eastbound counterflow transit lane on Pine as an alternative plan. That’s a shockingly good idea! Pine is rarely at capacity currently, it’s already signalized (somewhat) better, transfers from the tunnel would get easier, and the lane would be exclusive.

      2. I wish there were an bus-service-hours estimator like those widgets they make for balancing the budget etc. I wonder, if the 12 north of Madison was axed, and the 14 terminated in Belltown, how much 43 service that would buy? Probably not much because it’s so much longer.

      3. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Metro is just marking time until Link opens. Link will take a lot of the pressure off the 49, 43 and 14 because it’ll be much quicker for anyone south of University. If the First Hill line extends to Aloha it’ll probably some of local demand from the 49 as there’s not much density north of that.

        Maybe we just have to wait after all.

      4. What the 49 needs in the meantime;


        The 49 used to be a fairly reliable bus that handled the high volumes just fine, but the recent combination of Breda Frankenbuses, poor pavement, the new routing via Pike and Bellevue, and heavy traffic, to name just a few things, has really crippled that route. I really hope that when Metro finally decides to keep the trolleys they make some investments in improving the routes, a few “rapid trolley routes” would do wonders for city mobility.

      5. Talk about a Frankenbus! That thing is a monster. I was on a 49 last night whose wires fell off right at Pine and Bellevue; if it had been one of those double-artics at rush hour, I can’t imagine how bad the traffic jam would have been. :)

        Zed, can you elaborate on the routing change? I’ve only been in Seattle for 2 years (not even), so for me, the 49 has always had its current route. When did it change, and what was it before?

      6. The 49 used to be the 7 and 9. The 49 runs along the 7’s previous routing; the 9 used to extend to the U-District. I think the 9 truncation may be what he’s talking about.

        When Cap Hill station and the streetcar open, the 49 may be completely dead except for some perfunctory service on 10th. But will enough demand be allieviated to avoid having to make any changes to the other routes? And if not, what other changes would need to be made?

        (If I lived along the 14’s route, the steep hill alone would keep me right on the 14 and only walking up to Broadway if my destination was Broadway.)

      7. “Zed, can you elaborate on the routing change? I’ve only been in Seattle for 2 years (not even), so for me, the 49 has always had its current route. When did it change, and what was it before?”

        I won’t bore you with all of the iterations, but most recently Capitol Hill-bound buses would turn north on 8th Ave. from Pike and then east on Pine. This routing was faster than today’s routing because of the mess that accumulates on Pike between 5th and Boren that buses get caught up in today and eastbound traffic has always been lighter on Pine. There was also a stop in front of the Paramount which was convenient for transferring to/from the 49, or the 7, at Convention Place Station. Nowadays Pine has no eastbound service between downtown and Summit, which kinda sucks. The routing was changed back when Pine street was closed for construction of the stub tunnel.

        “The 49 used to be the 7 and 9.”

        Sort of. :-)

      8. Maybe when Link and the Streetcar are put in, 49 can be rerouted to follow the 43 until Broadway (so it hits the Link station but doesn’t dubplicate the streetcar too much) and the schedules arranged to provide < 15 minute headways on the western slope. The 14 and 12 north of Madison could be axed and the hours shifted to the 10. That way you get < 15 minute headways on Broadway to Aloha, Pine, 15th Ave, and if you count the 8, on John to 23rd Ave; then 30 minute headways on Broadway north of Aloha and 23rd Ave, which seems about right.

      9. After U-Link opens, I’d like to see the streetcar extended to at least Aloha and the 9 & 49 axed and replaced with a trolley route running on 12th and then picking up the current 49’s route north of Aloha. The burgeoning 12th Ave. neighborhood is in desperate need of N-S transit service. I’m not sure where the southern terminus of the new route would be, Little Saigon? The new Rainier light rail station? Maybe it could be incorporated somehow with the 36 or the southern routing of the 9.

        I’d also like to see current E-W Capitol Hill trolley routes moved off of Pike and onto a 2-way Pine Street. Pine would make a great corridor for a “rapid trolley route” to show off modern bus technology.

      10. Well now that you mention it, I don’t know why they didn’t move those buses back to 8th. Maybe they really are waiting on Cap Hill Station.

        I think I suggested something close to Zed’s 12th Ave suggestion in another thread – north of John, though, the topographical and architectural barriers between Broadway and 12th are nil, so the bus would be way too close to the streetcar. Either move it to Broadway at Pine or John (obviating the need for the Aloha extention somewhat), or send it up Pine or Madison to take up the 15th leg of the 10 and ax the 10 as-is. If you take the latter, sidle over to 10th at Aloha, or just send it up Boston; I proposed a loop around Volunteer Park that wouldn’t go to the U-District or indeed anywhere north of Boston but would serve both St. Mark’s Cathedral and the current 10 terminus.

      11. “Well now that you mention it, I don’t know why they didn’t move those buses back to 8th. Maybe they really are waiting on Cap Hill Station.”

        You know, a cynic might say that it’s not particularly loyalty-building or reputation-enhancing to waste minutes of thousands of people’s time every single day for ten years.

        Just sayin’. A cynic might point that out.

    4. Actually the Summit portion of 14 used to do very well until the 43 was implemented. I remember when the 14 ran every 20 minutes during the midday.

  4. I’m a little surprised they can get away with so many similar colors in the middle. Not very color-blind friendly. It’s surprising how many people have troubles with certain color groupings (comes up often when I make presentations). Of course, I do think the colors look lovely.

    1. They all go to the same place and when a route splits off it is labeled so I don’t think this is too big of an issue.

  5. I don’t like this map– it’s better than the vanilla monocolor maps, but it could be so much more. Group colors by destination, for example, like green for Fremont, Blue for Ballard etc…, maybe it already is like that but I can’t tell because there’s no key. Also, there’s a lot of ambiguity. Just follow the routes and it’s not clear where they come from or where they go. The other day I was trying to take the 36 to go south from downtown, but this map doesn’t show where the 36 starts. I see it leaving downtown, but not where it comes from!

    1. Actually, it is already like that. Fremont is orange; Ballard is greenish-yellow; Capitol Hill is dark blue; etc. But I agree that it would be nice if the destinations, rather than the route numbers, were emphasized. And even better, if we could standardize on a set of colors, and then use those colors on the bus destination signs, so that people could find the right bus without ever needing to know the number.

      1. Actually, the main distinguishing factor is how many separate routes need to be distinguished. The 16 is a different color to the 3 and 4 because of the ferry terminal loop, not because it isn’t going to Queen Anne. I know because the main purpose of this map is to help tourists “get around downtown”.

  6. A few random questions, in case anyone knows the answers:

    – How do they choose which buses to mark here? For example, why is the 16 included, but not the more-frequent 5? The listed routes do not correspond to the frequent service table, which seems especially odd.

    – Why do the 15/18 turn on Broad St, rather than continuing to Denny and mirroring the southbound route?

    – How come most of the east-west routes travel via 3rd, instead of via 1st like the 10/12? From this map, I’m wondering about the 1/2/13, the 3/4, and the 7/11/14/36/43/49. It seems like running those on 1st, like with the 10/12, would strictly improve connectivity (they’d all still cross 3rd Ave) while improving reliability (fewer difficult turns at 3rd Ave intersections), and these routes don’t have much overlap with the N/S routes. Alternatively, why do the 10/12 still make this loop? It seems like picking one or the other would be better.

    1. For your second question: there is no signal protecting left turns from 3rd to Denny. In fact about a year ago SDOT closed the northbound block of 3rd between Denny and Broad.

      I know there has been talk of vacating Broad north of Denny. If and when that happens, that intersection would probably be reconfigured to allow buses to just use 3rd instead of making the jog to 1st.

    2. For example, why is the 16 included, but not the more-frequent 5?

      I wonder the same thing; the 14 is another case. I think this map is mostly for getting people around downtown, and I could see how if you were a limited-mobility person coming in on the ferry, the 16 would be a very helpful bus.

      Why do the 15/18 turn on Broad St, rather than continuing to Denny and mirroring the southbound route?

      IIRC the left turn on to Denny is closed there when going north. Going south, I would swear the Ballard busses don’t go along Denny like that but I might be wrong.

      I’m wondering about the 1/2/13, the 3/4, and the 7/11/14/36/43/49. It seems like running those on 1st, like with the 10/12.

      3rd is wider, less steep, better paved and is restricted on-peak to busses only. The 10/12 (they’re really one through-route) is unique in that it swings in and out of downtown from Capitol Hill without going anywhere else, and it makes more sense to streamline third for busses that are (mostly) passing through north-south. That part of 1st is wider than the part near the market and has had concrete slab put in on the bus lane.

      1. I think this map is mostly for getting people around downtown, and I could see how if you were a limited-mobility person coming in on the ferry, the 16 would be a very helpful bus.

        That doesn’t explain why buses like the 5/54/55 don’t make the cut, though.

        it makes more sense to streamline third for busses that are (mostly) passing through north-south.

        The 1/2/13 goes east at the S streets — further north than the 10/12. On the north end, it runs near a segment of 1st Ave which (until recently) was good enough for the 15/18. So it seems like the streamlining argument would apply equally well for those buses.

      2. From the map’s legend:

        Routes shown provide service every 10-20 minutes; every 15-30 minutes evenings, Sunday and holidays.

        The 5 runs every 15 minutes Monday-Saturday, and every 30 minutes on Sundays and evenings, so it should, theoretically, make the cut.

        On the other hand, the 5, 54, and 55 aren’t very good intra-downtown routes, since, among other problems, you can’t board them northbound until you’re in the northern portion of downtown anyway.

        I just noticed something, though: was the 8 on that map before?

      3. I believe the 5 was not shown on the map because the interline with the 54 & 55 which taking the viaduct. Many unweary people are caught off guard as the 55/54 turn on to the viaduct. Further the 5 coming off the viaduct doesn’t start on 3rd until mid downtown. This is the same issue with frequent route 120.

      4. The 16 is listed not just because of the ferry but also because it’s one of the routes tourists use to get to Seattle Center. It’s packed during tourist season with folks headed to the Space Needle or other attractions.

    3. I can answer the question regarding Broad St zig-zag on the 15/18/RapidRide plans: it’s because SDOT and Metro are both run by total, unrepentant morons.

      Yes, I know that was predictable of me, but in this case it’s really true!

      Less then a year ago, SDOT permanently blocked off the northbound lane of 3rd where it meets Denny. There is no signal there, so transit has never gone that way while cars were allowed a precarious left turn after a stop sign.

      Of course, with RapidRide intended to be, y’know, rapid, the obvious thing to do would be to reopen that lane as transit only, paint it bright red and litter it with “do not enter” signs to keep cars out, and install a lef-turn traffic signal that never turns green except by request of a bus transponder.

      I mean, like, painfully obvious. Excruciatingly obvious.

      That RapidRide will continue to zig and zag leaves me perilously little faith in this city.

      1. All of downtown’s signals are set up on a fixed cycle, which includes Denny. No transit downtown gets TSP.

      2. “No transit downtown gets TSP.”

        What about the bus signals on Stewart and Olive?

        Even lowly Issaquah has bus priority signals on southbound SR-900 between I-90 and the transit center. It can be done Seattle!

      3. @d.p.

        It’s not a “policy” issues it’s a capacity issue. I can’t speak for the person (or more likely people) that set up downtown’s signal timing but what I learned from my traffic modeling classes is when you have congested flow conditions it is almost always most efficient to have a set signal timing system than a responsive one. This is because you can create a green wave in a direction of travel maximizing the volume throughput (including buses) of an intersection and other signal on that corridor. This includes all of the N/S streets. Now when these streets hit other E/W streets like Denny you get a hell of a mess, and throwing TSP into it certainly will not help.


        I haven’t watched this signal closely and so this is a total guess but what I would do as an engineer is simply take a few seconds away from the normal green phase, holding GP traffic but letting buses start at the normal time. This wouldn’t actually lengthen the signal phase. This gives buses a change to merge left while keeping the signal in phase with the rest of the system.

      4. Adam, your point is well taken but doesn’t remotely apply to the confluence of 3rd and Denny.

        3rd is essentially empty at that point. Nearly all automobiles turn off at Blanchard, Battery, or Cedar — none of them use 3rd to get to Broad, so there’s never any traffic except buses on 3rd’s northernmost blocks.

        Denny, meanwhile, gets horribly backed up (eastbound), regardless of any signal timing the engineers might have in place. Denny (westbound) is kept pretty clear along that stretch thanks to a long light at 1st North/Queen Anne, which has no timing relationship to the signal at Broad (just east of the 3rd connection).

        You could institute a bus-priority signal from 3rd onto westbound Denny without affecting the current situation for Denny traffic in any perceptible way.

      5. Also, Adam, I do want to point out that I never advocated abandoning set signal timings in the actual downtown area — only for one intersection on Denny where transit is now forced to make a lengthy detour for reasons having nothing to do with traffic into or out of downtown (it’s mostly I-5’s extended backup; please see my slightly-aggravated reply to 2Tall, above).

        In downtown, I suggested refining the signal timing, not getting rid of it. Specifically, as 3rd is primarily a transit corridor, I suggested that the ideal should be for buses to travel the 3 or 4 blocks between stops without hitting multiple reds. I remain convinced that the signal-tweaks necessary to make this happen would be minor.

        I also proffered the opinion — borne out by the experience of the East Coast, or even Portland — that shorter cycles all around work better for pedestrians without especially penalizing cars or transit. This alternate option would require a more thorough re-modeling of signals, but I think it would be both feasible and a positive change. I am aware that it would be a more time- and labor-intensive change to implement.

        But let’s explore the transit impact for a second, this being a transit-biased blog and all. As on so many Seattle transit matters, what happens now is not working!

        We all know that Metro’s heavy “transfer penalty” results from its one-seat mentality and its corollary CBD-centrism and poor frequencies. But even if you get lucky and make a no-wait connection, the transfer penalty is still pretty horrendous, because each leg of your journey likely involved 10-15 minutes of just entering or leaving downtown! To put it another way, the system adds 20-30 minutes to every trip just within 2 miles of the CBD, not counting wait times!!

        By contrast, downtown transfers on (true) rapid transit systems don’t inherently come with heavy time penalties, because they zip through downtown the same way they zip through the rest of their corridors. So it should be worth it to Metro, and worth it to a hypothetically transit-friendly city, to speed up the last mile around and through downtown by any means available!

      6. @ d.p.

        The issue with 3rd and Denny isn’t related to volumes on 3rd. First off there currently isn’t a signal there. That would at least be a 500K. If a signal was there then the signal would likely only turn green for NB 3rd Ave traffic when the timing on Denny allowed it. You just don’t break your signal timing on a corridor for one signal.

        We both agree speeding up transit downtown is good, I’m just trying to say it’s probably more complex that you would expect.

      7. Adam, if you’re still here:

        But there’s no coordination currently between the Queen Anne/1st signals and the Broad signal.

        So there’s no current signal timing to “interrupt” with a transit-only NW-bound signal at 3rd.

        $500,000? They’re not willing to spend $500,000 for the difference between RapidRide and StupidRide? I’m sorry; that’s indefensible!

  7. I like how the 8 stands out as a frequent (if slow) crosstown bus.

    I don’t like how Link is still so deemphasized.

  8. I’m not sure I like it. This makes 3rd really useful, but anything west of that is stranded all the way from Belltown to SODO.

    And for my specific gripe: the 15/18 used to stop right in front of my office and I’d use them in my 3-seat, 3-mile ride home. Now I have to climb up the hill to 3rd and decide which bus stop to wait at. Choose the 2X and risk three 15’s and an 18 zip by. Choose the 15/18 and risk 2X’s zipping by.

    1. Now that the 15 & 18 are on 3rd, I no longer have to decide whether to wait on 1st or 3rd when I’m going to LQA, Belltown or West Seattle. They’re all in one place. Your loss is my gain.

      Not to be nasty, but if you aren’t willing to walk two blocks up to third and wait for the 2, 2X or 13 one-seat-ride home, I have absolutely no sympathy for you. Plenty of people would kill for a commute like that. Mine is even shorter — I walk five blocks down Western. To get a commute that short I had to structure my life around it, which was fine for me as it jives with other things I want. If I suddenly had to find a new job, I would be stoked to get a commute as good as yours.

      There are certainly parts of the city (mostly the north) that could benefit from a proper grid set-up: something between the 48 and 44 perhaps. Ideally, we’d also have a 2nd Ave subway through Queen Anne and Belltown to Ballard that would allow us to restructure the Queen Anne busses as neighborhood circulators (on the hill) and true Belltown local services; but this is not an ideal world, and considering that, you have it pretty darned good.

      1. Of course the 15/18 and the 2/13 don’t share the same bus stops, so my loss isn’t really your gain.

        I’m fine with walking up the hill, but the 2X isn’t terribly frequent and the 2/13 don’t go far enough south.

        I know many people well outside the city that have a bus ride home less than half an hour. I’ve spent significant effort arranging my home and my job to be within 3 miles of each other and still have a 45 minute commute home. I’ll feel lucky when our city has the power to optimize in-city routes rather than just fast-tracking suburban runs.

      2. Going north they do. At least they share 3rd & Pike, which is the one I care about. I didn’t realize the 2X ran further south than the 2, so I take that part of it back, although you still have more than a dozen evening 2X’s from which to choose.

        Your three miles figure is something of a red herring. Travel distance by any mode depends far more on the presence of other traffic than anything else; you know this, of course. Crow-flight distance is not the variable to optimize when choosing your home to have a short commute.

        Regarding a more rapid way to move through downtown, only by closing off an entire street or grade separating can you hope to move fast through the city. Given the resources available to the city and county, and the political clout of car drivers, none of those things are within the realm of possibility for Metro (hell, we can’t even take a few parking spaces in West Seattle for RapidRide.) This may be a failure of our society or political economy, but it is not a failure of transit planning.

        Nor do I think your particular commute militates in favor of a grid system, although I think a grid would be far more sensible than the current mess of 7x busses meandering around the north of the city. Queen Anne has a lot of pokey little streets and one-ways that would be difficult to run a bus grid through.

        Instead, Metro has opted to make a trunk line through Belltown and LQA by interlining busses that have long tails through Upper Queen Anne. That’s a valid strategy that works well for the very large number of people who use the trunk, but not always as well for the smaller number of people on the tails. You happen to be one of the latter.

        This is not to say that Metro is perfect or that we don’t spent too much effort on suburban service; but I don’t think your particular case indicates a fundamental flaw with Pioneer Square to Upper Queen Anne service, within the scope of what is possible in Seattle today.

      3. Of course I was getting caught up in my specific commute. I do think those downhill from 3rd losing service is a big deal, but I know Metro has to cut somewhere.

        “only by closing off an entire street or grade separating can you hope to move fast through the city” Exactly. A city of our size and density needs these strategies. Anywhere there’s a choke point we should at least have a bus-only lane and bus signal priority. Keeping buses equal to single occupant vehicles in most places in the city is costing us time, transit money, and commuters.

  9. They have missed a few frequent service corridors, although they have finally got the 8 on there, which is great.

    The 5/54/55 isn’t on the map, nor is the 545, or the 510/511. Those would be helpful.

  10. I used to work on 3rd avenue. I took transit there — Sounder, then tunnel.

    You know what? I rarely used transit while there…I simply walked to the nearest lunch spots and then commuted back home.

    So, it seems that there is way too much emphasis on “intra-downtown” trips when it seems like most workers pick a place to land and then stay there for the duration of the business day.

    1. Yeah, I rarely bother to take a bus for intra-downtown trips – and I know few who do. Tourist or otherwise, it’s usually just easier to walk.

    2. That’s because you’re a thoroughly anti-urban being, John, and you don’t have an urban-explorer’s bone in your body.

      It’s also, to some degree, a symptom of the culture and habits of Seattle’s commuter workforce. New York business-commuter types are still likely to place a value on face-to-face contact. Business meetings and other appointments are still plenty common, and result in an all-day need for travel to and from Midtown and Lower Manhattan and points between. Seattle’s workforce is more likely to be tethered to office and e-mail throughout the day, leaving only for a (non-traveling, as you say) lunch.

      Whenever I happen to be downtown, I’m usually wanting/needing to go 4 or 5 different places between Stewart and Jackson, and when I don’t have the time available to walk (or the weather is particularly horrendous) but the trip isn’t quite far enough to justify the tunnel’s “gigantic mezzanine time penalty,” I definitely value being able to catch a frequent bus along the north-south axis.

      Of course, the Ride Free Area is meaningless to me because I’ve got a pass, and that trip would probably be more reliable without the one-stop freeloaders piling on.

      1. Your attitude toward the magic carpet zone is strange. You value taking the bus a stop or two, but other one-stop “freeloaders” slow you down. You didn’t directly pay for that trip – it was mostly subsidised by homeowners and renters. Including those “freeloaders”.

        I wonder if long-distance commuters think in-town “freeloaders” like you slow them down. I wonder if one of the one-stoppers think those long-distance commuters that all get off while they’re trying to get on make the bus less reliable.

        Sorry for being confrontational, but we’re all just trying to get around.

      2. One of the reasons I like this map is that it focuses on urban routes that are the ones people should use for getting around downtown and environs. I also really like the fact that Metro has put all of those busses on 3rd, and has put most of the suburban service on 2nd, 4th & 5th. I distinctly remember, when I first got to Seattle, Google Maps telling me to use one of the 59x Tacoma motorcoach routes to get from one part of downtown to another. Metro being smarter than Google… is that a first?

      3. Matt, I’d say my average “in a pinch” downtown trip is 3 or 4 stops. Longer than that and I’ll use the tunnel. Shorter than that and I’ll walk. I swipe my ORCA quickly and exit through the back if the drivers will f***ing let me.

        Those making a 3-block trip that they obviously wouldn’t if they had to have any form of payment medium to do so, especially those whose boarding is slowed by girth (i.e. those whom it wouldn’t hurt to make that 3-block walk) do not require my deference.

        I don’t board buses unnecessarily, and at $90/month I’ve (over)paid for every trip I need.

  11. This applies more to the full system map than the downtown inset, but a four-colour system might be an improvement over the current monochrome map or the other extreme of having a colour for each route. I propose:

    Red = local Metro routes
    Blue = express Metro routes
    Green = special Metro routes (Waterfront Streetcar/bus 99, UW commuter routes, event specials, and the like)
    Black = non-Metro routes (ST, CT, PT, Ferries, Sounder, Link, SLUT, etc.)

    Line thickness:

    Thick = frequent service
    Medium = non-frequent but all-day service
    Fine = rush hour only

    When multiple routes of the same colour category run on the same street, the thickest applicable line should be used.

    What do you think?

    1. 1) People with poor eyesight will have trouble with having to distinguish headway by line thickness. Headway is more important than local/express (which is not to say that local/express ISN’T important), and for non-colorblind people color is more noticable than line thickness.

      2) Inter-jurisdictional pissing matches are unnecessary and are part of the problem with the current system map. Besides which, you’re lumping “express buses that don’t happen to have Metro branding” with “completely different modes”, which is, to me, an important distinction. Reserve “other agency” colors for CT and PT LOCAL routes that drift across the county line.

      My thinking is: Thick yellow for frequent routes regardless of stop pattern, blue for locals with 30-minute headways or better, purple for less frequent all-day routes, thin purple for owls, light green for express routes that run all day, dark green for any route, local or express, that runs in rush hour only, thick red for RapidRide, thick teal for Link, thick orange for the SLUT, regular black for Sounder, thin black or gray for CT and PT locals. Workable, or too complicated?

      1. I considered making one last year, but it took up WAY too much of my time, and I eventually lost the file I was using via a complicated process known as “not saving”. May try again this summer. Or Oran could slap something together. I think it’d only get crowded near major transit hubs. Most of the lines would be yellow, blue, or green, and it’d be rare to have more than two colors on the same street. Red, teal, orange, and regular black would be applied to one line each (though that will eventually change) and would serve to separate them from the rest of the system, and thin black/gray is only there to show where the other agencies’ routes are (I’m not sure the numbers would even be put on the map). So yellow, blue, purple, and the two shades of green would be the main colors, and I’d be open to changing light green to blue/purple.

      2. Okay, I went ahead and put together a quick and dirty mock, covering just Broadview, Bitter Lake, Haller Lake, and Shoreline west of Meridian. I think the results are fairly typical, although only three colors are shown; I could add another by depicting Swift. I think it’s fairly clear if you ignore the huge route number indicators. I cheated a little and ignored the 345’s Northwest Hospital detour and extended 345/346 frequency through Haller Lake so you could see how I handle two routes combining to provide 15-minute frequency. http://img593.imageshack.us/i/quickmock.png/

  12. Why the stop sign at 3rd and Cedar? Is this due to the new construction site? As for timing with the new Feb 5 changes, there’s still alot to be done. Strange seeing the 15 and 18 on 3rd now….

  13. Will we still have a rainbow of private vehicles on 3rd Ave? Will restrictions be increased?

    Any rumors at all of using tolling on surface streets?

  14. The conspiracy theorist in me sees how turning 3rd Ave into a horizontal bus elevator may be sinisterly designed to compete with light rail. Metro caught on to those 11% of Link trips that are intra-DSTT, and took measures to discourage them.

    1. My mind is boggled by that 11% number. I wonder what percentage of those trips began or ended at the I.D. station. That’s the only time I would ever make such a trip, although as Martin mentioned earlier, we should actually encourage rail vs bus for that trip because of the faster boarding.

      I also don’t see what’s in it for Metro. It’s all in the RFA so they make no money, and the route-by-route performance stats use farebox data.

      1. I bet a majority of those trips are by people that have transit passes anyways so there is no cost to them for those rides.

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