The Madison corridor, from Colman Dock to 23rd Avenue, has grades that are simply too steep for conventional streetcars. The $81m BRT option is more efficient, according to ANC/NR, than the cheaper enhanced bus option ($2.96 vs. $4.16 per rider). Both values are middling for the study as a whole. The ridership difference is small – 14,000 vs. 12,500 weekday riders in 2030.

The BRT option would save about 8 minutes for travelers going end-to-end. It is both relatively cheap to max out and the one truly east-west HCT corridor. In either alternative, the this line replaces the 11 and 12, but buses at the end split between heading to Interlaken Park or Madison Park.

131 Replies to “TMP HCT Analysis (V): Madison”

  1. Remind me what they mean by BRT again. There are quite a few stops on that map. If they mean exclusive ROW with signal priority and some fast form of payment, then I’m mostly sold. Add overhead lines and I’m in.

    1. It’s exactly the same treatment they’d give the streetcar. You can see the ROW profiles at the link.

    2. Scratch that “few stops” comment – I see it’s about a quarter mile spacing.

  2. Why the hell are they serving 19th Ave? Ridership on 19th is practically nonexistent and a perfectly good turnback wire exists at 15th & Madison. This corridor has a number of other problems. Madison has no good connections to a light rail station downtown, versus the current route 11 which will connect better at CHS. It would be better to electrify the 11, axe the 19th Ave section of the 12, and boost the headways on both.

    This is retarded. My opinion of this study is going downhill rapidly. How much did the city pay for it?

    1. It’s a stop spacing issue, if they assume 12th and 23rd then 18th/19th is roughly halfway and maintains stop spacing. Either that or Trader Joe’s paid them off. :)

      1. If the city does, in fact, end up serving a useless extra mile of 19th Ave in the name of stop spacing, I’m going to seek Second Amendment remedies.

      2. That you have to be able to read and write to vote? That’s harsh.

        I didn’t realize women were able to vote here as early as 1910. We’ve been progressive for a while now. Of course the illiterate and non-taxpaying Indians didn’t get in until 1974.

    2. I think you are exaggerating the problem with 19th, but that is an ugly jog over from 23rd to 19th. I’m inclined to agree with you here–have this BRT line replace only the 12, and keep the 11 in roughly its current form so that Madison Valley can access the light rail station by crossing Cal Anderson (not the best connection in terms of distance, but it will be pleasant at least). People on 19th can take the 8 or the 43 to the Cap Hill station or just walk up to the 10 on 15th.

      1. No, I’m not exaggerating the problem. I have stop-level data showing how much the 19th Ave section of the 12 is used — almost nothing, outside of the AM peak. There is a guest post from me sitting in STB’s queue discussing the ridership patterns of the 12. That’s why I’m so pissed off about this shoddy analysis that the city probably paid a fortune for.

      2. What would be your opinion of keeping 30-minute frequencies on 19th? It seems to me that if each boarding is really small, 10 to 15 minute frequencies are the problem. Not enough demand for too much service. That usually calls for reducing service and seeing what happens, not eliminating it. How about the 11 splits at 19th, with some buses going to Madison Valley and some going down 19th. Then the frequency would be where its needed, everyone would get Link access, and this BRT would just be Madison.

      3. I don’t see the point, although I would support it over the status quo if I had no other choice. The bottom line with the 12 on 19th is that ridership is minimal and it’s four blocks from the 10. Axing the 12 denies mobility to no-one and saves a chunk of money.

      4. I agree that it is a silly route, but the problem is there is a built-in constituency there. Removing routes completely is a big problem in cities, because every route has affected land use. Lots of apartments were built there because of the old trolley and current bus. Lots of people (probably many with mobility problems that prevent them from walking 4 blocks up the hill) have moved there specifically because of the bus route. Just not enough people for the current 10 to 15 minute frequency. That small distance at 30 minute or 1 hour frequency would cost a very small amount of service hours in exchange for providing very basic service to the people who only live there because the bus goes by the door. It is also valuable to keep a bus going right to Interlaken.

      5. There’s a medical clinic on 19th. The Country Doctor – basically the only non-ER option for the city’s uninsured. Medical facilities get special treatment.

        Also, 19th runs right down the middle of a city-designated “urban village”, much of which has been upzoned from single-family to lowrise. DPD has targeted that corridor for future growth – the transit plan is coordinated with the zoning plan.

      6. We can’t afford to provide front door service to every medical clinic in the city, just like with route 42. Moreover, people aren’t using this bus in any significant numbers.

        Are you seriously suggesting the LR zoning requires we provide bus service a four-block spacing? The are plenty of people in Belltown who have to walk further and that DWARFS anything that will ever happen in this neighborhood.

        It blows my mind that we’re even having this conversation. There are underserved corridors in South King where low income people who live miles from their jobs and have been gouged by gas prices aren’t getting the service they should. Passengers on route 41 are routinely left on the platforms at Westlake and CPS.

        Meanwhile, presumed transit advocates on this forum are giving me lists of reasons why we have to keep running empty busses four blocks apart through a predominantly SF neighborhood with million-dollar housing. Unbelievable.

      7. Bruce,
        Realistically how many service hours would dropping service on 19th Ave (or the North portion of the 14 for that matter) actually gain for re-deployment elsewhere? You’d also need to replace terminal and layover space elsewhere if 19th was cut from the current 12 or from the proposed Madison BRT service.

    3. Bruce,

      I don’t understand. Are you complaining about the BRT stop or the fact that some fraction of the buses later go up 19th?

      What happens after you cross 23rd was not the focus of the study, nor will the city be investing anything there, so I believe they’re just holding Metro service patterns constant on arbitrary side streets.

    4. I’d like to see a more detailed workup of this corridor. As much as I hate seeing any ETB mileage eliminated the 19th Ave section of the 12 has very little ridership. The Rapid Trolley Network plan removed service from 19th Ave in many of their scenarios.

      The only real reason I can see for keeping it is if it is needed to provide terminal and layover space. I’m not sure if the available space at Madison Park could handle every 5 minute service. Since the Downtown end would likely be live-looped there needs to be layover/break/recovery space at the other end of the line.

      That said, I’d like to see this line done as a single route all the way from the Ferry Terminal to Madison Park. Ideally with 60′ ETB coaches. Perhaps the off-wire capability of modern ETB coaches would be enough to avoid the expense and more importantly the huge fight of putting wire up in Madison Park.

      As for losing ETB mileage there are plenty of routes/corridors that scream for ETB service such as 23rd, 12th, or Denny.

  3. I wonder what the balancing point of benefits/disadvantages for couplet operations. From a ROW perspective contra-flow operations is better. From a ease of use it is also better. However I could see signal timing either make or break it. Unless transit has a good amount of priority, adding additional signal phases for transit usually isn’t ideal, and in that way running on a one way couplet may be better.

    1. And good luck eliminating that many stops. There is no way in the world Metro would only have stops at Coleman/1st/4th/Boren/Broadway/Union/18th/23rd. I bet that is where a vast majority of the 8 minute time savings comes from. This corridor will forever be slow. The best thing you can do is focus on travel time reliability through exclusive lanes at areas with congestion, off board fare payment and three doors (to minimize effect of large number of boardings/alightings), and TSP at key intersection where SDOT would actually give transit priority. Stop consolidation would help but realistically you would probably have twice the number of stops called for in this document.

      1. Seriously. If there is one corridor in the city where I don’t mind stops on every block (the 12 is about there) it’s this one.

        Pretty much the entire analysis of this corridor is crap and should be ignored.

      2. Why not? As the term BRT implies, call this an express. I’m fine with keeping the very short stop spacing we have in many areas in Seattle. Just provide infrequent “local” service to these stops and put the bulk of service hours on “express” service that only stops every quarter mile.

        There are far too many routes that go far too slow just to hit every stop.

      3. I’m sorry, but this all seems totally implausible to me. We’re going to spend millions to hang express trolley wire so that another bus can sit in traffic downtown? The only thing that can fix congestion for busses downtown is exclusive ROW which is not in the cards here. Once you get across I-5, the 12 is pretty speedy.

        The only things wrong with the 12 is that it doesn’t stop at the 15th Ave turnback, and that it’s not frequent-service on Sundays.

      4. Seems to me that offering frequent electrically powered transit, some judicious stop eliminations and some minor route adjustments along the route of the Madison Street Cable Car should be sufficient improvements for the next 20-30 years. I’d be grumpy, as an 11 rider, if there’s not a good connection for me to get to Link on my way to SEA, and that is not a minor complaint. I see luggage toting passengers passengers almost every day boarding the 11 east of 23rd who get off in front of Nordstrom and head for Link – I’m one of those folks 3 or 4 times a year.
        Keep it simpler; use the “BRT” moneys where BRT can actually make a difference.

      5. They seem to be going for a strict average stop spacing for these corridors, but on a hill you just have to have closer spacing. Not every block, but more than this map shows.

      6. Yeah I agree with Lloyd on this. Spend “BRT” money on corridors where that investment will really do a lot to increase the speed of service.

      7. Just because it is a hill doesn’t mean you have to have a stop every block. Its easy to walk to a stop downhill from where you are, and if it is to reach an express service with good frequency, I think people will do it. If you can’t walk 2-3 blocks downhill, you may be better off with Access or using a local bus to transfer.

    2. I could see signal timing either make or break it… and in that way running on a one way couplet may be better.

      I’m not so sure about that if you consider the CBD as a whole. Ideally you want traffic to flow at a speed close to the posted limit to hit each light as it turns green. Impossible in DT I know but you still want to move large blocks of traffic at a time and minimize start/stop/idle time. If you disrupt traffic on both 4th and 5th for streetcar priority I’m thinking overall congestion gets worse. For that matter, any disruption on 4th is going to have a much greater effect on overall congestion than on 5th. I still don’t understand the logic in 5th being a one way south only street with no northbound counterpart.

      1. I’m not sure either way. Downtown signals are optimized for N/S travel so E/W travel crossing the grid is essentially beholden to whatever the N/S flow needs.

  4. Eyeballing that, there’s about 6 blocks between stops, depending on how you measure that sort of distance on Madison. And this replaces the 10 and 12, which stop every 2-3? What ever are the old ladies gonna do?

    1. And as more and more of us born before 1960 age and wish to stay in-city, this will become a larger and larger problem. Hence my plea above for enhancements but not necessarily BRT on Madison, all the way to 43rd, thank you.

  5. Careful, Bruce. One more remark like that about Nineteenth Avenue and I’ll mobilize the whole historic vehicle community to have the Route 12 Interlaken declared a national monument. A mile of trolleywire ending at a beautiful park, running past Councilman George Benson’s pharmacy- it’s a local treasure. Leave it alone.

    If you want to use the US Constitution to demand the whole range of anything you want, I think it’s the Tenth Amendment you need- nothing written down in the Bill of Rights takes away any other rights people already have. Because I’ve seen drive-by shootings with battery-powered squirt-guns, and you don’t need a silencer.

    Touch one bolt on the spanwire on Nineteenth Avenue and your flintlock won’t have any powder dry enough to go “pop”.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Interlaken is indeed beautiful. It’s definitely worth walking the extra four blocks from the terminus of the 10 at 15th & Galer.

      1. Maybe we should extend the 10 down Galer to 19th? Then depending on where you are on 19th you can walk to the 10, the 43, or the 11, and not have to climb the hill in any case.

      2. Actually, I was thinking of that earlier. Extend the 10 east to 19th and south to Madison. That would be the cheapest way to keep service on 19th.

      3. I’m not sure a one-way couplet from Pine to Galer is particularly efficient, but considering half of the 10’s walkshed north of Aloha is gobbled up by Volunteer Park…

    2. The whole idea of walking from 15th to 19th and back again is great if you have mobility and don’t mind the hill. If you can’t traverse the hill, you’ll use bus service on 19th.

      1. If you can’t traverse the “hill” from 19th to 15th, I don’t see how you can traverse the grade from any 12 stop downtown to any N-S street. That’s much steeper.

      2. Bruce doesn’t recognize the existence of people with mobility problems. I know, I know, that’s what Access is for, blah blah blah, but if you have a concentration (senior housing, disabled housing, clinics & hospitals, etc.) it justifies a bus. It should be way less frequent, but skeletal service for social equity is a good thing. We had the same discussion awhile back about the 2. People cried “why oh why does it run only 2 blocks parallel to the 12?” The answer is, “because Virginia Mason needs front door service.” We can’t be so obsessed with abstract notions of a perfect grid and stop spacing that we ignore realities of what institutions or neighborhoods have concentrations of mobility-impaired people, and we can’t stress productivity to such an extreme that we lose all social equity. I think we have gone too far in the equity direction, but we shouldn’t lose it altogether.

      3. I’m very well aware of the existence of people with limited mobility. Your arguments are utterly bogus. What about the many parts of the city with no service at all? e.g. McGilvra/Lk Washington between the 11 and the 2? What about Riviera place? If we applied your four-block standard to every part of the county with density as low as that sliver of North Capitol Hill, we’d never have a chance of meeting it. No, if you’re for the 12, you’re also for the 42, the 38, the 46, and every other route that provides front-door service to a tiny handful of people at the expense of depriving a vastly greater number of people of the same mobility. That’s insane.

        The Seneca/Spring routing of the 2 is also stupid. If a BRT solution is done on Madison/Marion, it will be doubly stupid, as you’ll be running a bus two blocks from an enhanced alignment, making everyone’s trip slower.

      4. Um, that part of 19th is quite dense, and the other places you mention are not, so…no, I don’t support those other routes. Have you been to 19th before? Mostly apartment buildings. Density + Hill + Transit-Dependency = local bus service. I agree that 19th should not have the frequent service it does now.

        As for the 2, Virginia Mason is planning to expand to Madison, I believe, so in the future those service hours can shift to Madison. Major hospitals need front door service, and keep in mind the hospitals pay for a good deal of that service. In cases like the hospital on Beacon Hill, which was stupid enough to build in a really inaccessible place, I think they should run their own shuttle down to the main road so the buses don’t have to do that long jog up to the hospital and back down.

        We should keep in mind that the most expensive service is not the 30 to 60 minute local buses, but the one-way peak express buses. Those are the routes that if eliminated can really generate funds. Otherwise Metro should start charging $5 fares for express buses. I’ve brought this up before and no one seems to have an opinion. Why are we providing a clearly superior and expensive service to commuters who can probably afford it, but still charging the same fare as a local-stop bus? All we get are overcrowded express buses that still have a bad recovery ratio.

      5. I’m fine with charging more for peak express service, but that’s not the question before us.

        That part of Capitol Hill is not remotely dense enough to justify transit service every four blocks. Belltown doesn’t have that level of service and there’s far more people there. In fact, a bunch of them live on the steeply sloping parts west of 1st Ave on Elliot and Western Aves. I hear no howls of protest about lack of transit service on Western. Moreover, I’ve seen the data — these coaches are nearly empty. We are providing a service that people are not using. This is stupid.

        Ballard is comparably dense and has a reasonable number of old people. Somehow they make it through the day with a half-mile route grid.

        I’m willing to bet that if 19th Ave service didn’t exist and someone proposed we start it, they would be laughed off of STB. I think this is just irrational attachment to an old streetcar route. It baffles me.

      6. You’re completely right that nobody would propose a brand new route on 19th, but that’s beside the point. This is service that has been there for decades and we should be very wary about removing it. People have built there lives around it. I look forward to seeing your numbers–if every bus is empty as you say, it would be hard to argue. The grid in Ballard has been stable for decades, so people have organized their lives around that kind of spacing. The comparison is irrelevant. This is why we should be careful about where we add service, because removing it once its been there for long enough is going to piss off people who sensibly bought or built houses and apartment buildings with the expectation that transit service would be there.

      7. I know, I know, that’s what Access is for, blah blah blah, but if you have a concentration (senior housing, disabled housing, clinics & hospitals, etc.) it justifies a bus.

        I have a friend who has real mobility issues. She has to take a rest break when walking up Olive Way from Belmont to Boylston (1 block). She also finds it incredibly stressful to switch buses, partly because of the walking involved, and partly because of the cognitive effort of figuring out the routes. So even if there were a bus that went right by her apartment, unless it went directly to every destination that she ever wanted to go, it still wouldn’t be good enough.

        Let me say that again: The current system, which is about as far away from a sensible grid-based network as a medium-sized city could have, is completely unsuitable for my friend’s needs. It sucks for the 90% of riders who can walk 1/4 mile, and it’s *still* no good for the other 10% who can’t.

        The whole point of transit is that we can recognize common trip patterns that people want to take, and streamline them. Point-to-point service is the antithesis of transit. An urban transit network that attempts to provide point-to-point service, and by doing so to directly compete with cars, will always fail, because it can never be as good as cars on their own terms.

        The only reasonable way to design a transit network for any decently-sized city, of which Seattle is definitely one, is to make certain assumptions — for example, that your riders will be able to walk 1/4 mile to get from their origin (or to their destination) to/from the bus stop. This will inevitably fail to meet the needs of some people. But that just means that you need to find another way to meet their needs.

        I know that you and many others are dismissive of Access, but that’s because Access just isn’t run that well. For many people, all they need is someone to drive up to their door and drive them to their destination. Taxis can do this for much more cheaply than Access, and with much less of a wait. Full-blown paratransit is great for people who need it, but there are many people whose mobility needs aren’t quite that great.

        Otherwise Metro should start charging $5 fares for express buses. I’ve brought this up before and no one seems to have an opinion.

        100% with you. Market differentiation is a fantastic way to raise money without abandoning/alienating customers. The people who ride the expensive express routes are precisely the people who can afford to buy their way out of traffic.

      8. And yet I see people in wheelchairs and walkers using the buses all the time, so clearly it works for them. Pay attention to what I wrote: when there is a concentration (i.e. density!) of low-mobility people living somewhere (e.g. senior housing) or if you have a major low-mobility destination (e.g. hospitals), it makes sense to try to get a bus route to go by those places. Obviously if someone with mobility problems wants to live in some single-family low-density neighborhood, Access is the best option. I’m also talking about infrequent local routes here, not a big deal. For all the angst over the 42, it doesn’t use up many service hours. There’s bigger fights to have.

      9. zef,

        First, I don’t mean to say that low-mobility people *can’t* use the bus, just that the current system is by no means perfect for them (or anyone else). If there are sound reasons to change the system, saying “but think of the people who can’t walk!” is *not* reason enough to skip the change.

        Second, I don’t believe you’ve given any evidence that 19th Ave has a particularly high concentration of low-mobility users.

        As Bruce says, this bus just isn’t used that much, and removing it wouldn’t be taking transit service away from anyone but a very small group of people who are mobile enough to get to/on the bus (and transfer, etc.), but who aren’t mobile enough to get to a nearby bus. When you consider the vast areas of Seattle that have much higher concentrations of low-mobility people and much less service, this route just isn’t justifiable.

  6. The main problem with the Madison corridor is the sheer bottleneck between I-5 and Broadway. Does the plan really envision fully-reserved transit lanes? And if not, how rapid can it be without them?


    1. Yes, the plan really does have fully reserved transit lanes. Street parking from I-5 to Broadway gets the axe, the current outer lanes become transit-only, and the inner lanes stay GP.

      And this is one corridor where the “Enhanced Bus” projections aren’t so dramatically lower than the BRT projections. They still are lower, but not nearly as much as the other corridors. To me, that’s a reflection of the value of preserving significant local service on First Hill.

      The BRT option is much cheaper, though, probably because the quicker round-trips require fewer service hours. And the 2 proposed stops stations at Boylston and Boren do provide pretty decent local coverage for the top of pill-hill.

      Were I in charge, I’d go with the BRT plan, but add just one more station lower on the hill, perhaps at 8th, to cover the dense residential developments down there. I know at that point, you’re flirting with walking distances to 3rd ave/DSTT, but with 5 min headways and the severe grade involved, my gut says there’d still be a lot of takers.

      1. Is the city actually going to have the guts to take that much parking for one bus route? I’ll have to see it to believe it.

      2. It’s not so gut-requiring. As-is, only about half the blocks still have any street parking at all, and what street parking is left is time-restricted.

        In the end, it’d only mean the removal of about 2 dozen spaces. The bulk of First Hill’s street parking is on the side streets.

      3. @Bruce That is part of the whole “BRT” thing. You call it something besides a bus and politicians might actually be willing to remove parking.

        With that said there isn’t a huge amount of parking along this corridor already because their are already a lot of curb lane restrictions, peak direction restrictions and bus stops. I counted it up and there is roughly 5 block faces of parking between I-5 and Broadway. The bigger effect would be on GP traffic, since the two lanes are currently open to traffic in the peak direction.

      4. I’ve always thought Madison needs a road diet, so this would nicely accomplish that goal. I question the need for 4-lane roads pretty much anywhere. The speed gained from extra capacity is cancelled out by frequent lane changing and left turns, and during non-peak times it just encourages speeding. The city could turn pretty much every 4-lane road into a 3-lane road with little effect on mobility. Pair it with transit lanes and you increase total mobility. The only time you need extra traffic lanes is when approaching highway on-ramps, and even that can be accomplished with turn pockets or ultimately managed through tolling.

      5. Today I rode the 12 from 4th & Marion around 6 pm. We spent 3 minutes to go 3 blocks because of traffic on Marion trying to get to I-5. I can outwalk it at that pace. That’s where a contraflow bus lane on Madison would be beneficial.

      6. Several buildings in that part of downtown provide walking relief from 3rd to 4th, and from 4th to 5th. I’m surprised there isn’t more from 5th to 6th – I don’t know of anything south of University besides the Municipal Tower that straddles the express lane ramps.

      7. One other thought is the 2 could be re-routed onto Madison to provide local-stop service between Coleman Dock and 12th Ave. That would take some of the sting out of having only one BRT stop at Boren between 4th Ave and Broadway.

        I do wonder if sharing the bus lanes with local stop service might slow down the BRT service too much. There are also the issues of additional wire so the BRT coaches could pass local service.

  7. Interesting series of this week Martin, using ANC/NR (or annualized net cost per new rider). I like the metric. So far we have:
    CBD CC2 (Rail) at $1.71 per new rider
    Ballard (BRT) at $3.11
    Eastlake (Rail) – $0.65
    Madison (BRT) at $2.96
    Now, compare that to Central Link at $17.77, IF they make projections in 30 years.
    (note, I used ST capital cost, divided by 30 years, and credited 2/3 of annual operating cost to savings from existing riders and 1/3 only to new riders, or $11 mil/yr per the FEIS)
    As all of this is 30 years in the future, so anyone can guess what the numbers will be, but all things equal, at least the comparisons you’re making are useful.

    1. The metric falls apart when dealing with long-haul routes. At that point you need to start factoring passenger-miles in.

      Central Link isn’t an extreme long-haul route like ST Express bus service is, but the average trip is long enough to start skewing any strictly per-rider metric.

      1. There’s also the oft-pointed-out issue that with Central Link, ST built the weakest segment first, for political reasons. Downtown to Northgate, followed by Northgate to Lynnwood are the parts of the system that will ultimately justify its existence.

      2. There were also some very high-cost segments mixed into Central Link – tunneling and a complete rebuild of MLK. Capital projects of that scope I think deserve a longer time horizon.

      3. Is Northgate to Lynnwood really that line-justifying, especially if it doesn’t go down Aurora?

        The main reason ST didn’t build north first was the considerable engineering challenges of a Capitol Hill tunnel and crossing the Cut.

    2. That should be $2.73 ANC/NR for Eastlake rail. $0.65 is just operating cost.

      Most link riders are going a lot farther than riders on these routes so you comparison is a little unfair to link.

    3. Some of your inputs are hand-wavy, but I think the larger point is that building stuff in very dense areas is more cost-effective than not-dense areas. See also the reply above about passenger miles.

      And as I’ve cautioned, ANC/NR is not the be-all and end-all of analysis.

      And you’ve mangled the summary. Eastlake’s ANC/NR is not 65 cents — read it again.

    4. So now that we’ve seen all of these analysis’ this week (and I really love seeing these), I guess the next question is…where does the funding come from? Local LIDS or federal government grants. Forget about city, county or state funds. This is going to have to come from private or federal resources.

      1. The city could fund some of this, especially if the $80 car tab fee passes. The project costs aren’t that out of line compared to other transportation projects the city has funded. Besides tax revenues in Seattle are recovering faster than elsewhere in the region.

        Another possibility is ST3, especially if Sound Transit has to propose a modest measure due to the legislature not giving them any additional taxing authority.

        Finally there is always the hope that the legislature will provide some new taxing authority to ST and cities and counties.

  8. The Madison corridor, from Colman Dock to 23rd Avenue, has grades that are simply too steep for conventional streetcars.

    Wasn’t Madison one of Seattle’s original streetcar lines? If it didn’t extend to the waterfront where did it terminate? Or was it a cable car leaving DT?

    1. Madison, James and Yestler were cable cars. Even so, modern streetcars can’t climb grades like the old ones could. For example, Taylor St (now the 3) in Queen Anne was a conventional streetcar but I seriously doubt you could run a modern one on it.

      1. What are the main differences between modern streetcars and conventional streetcars that make’s modern ones less capable of handling hills?

      2. The issue is more one of off-the-shelf models not being able to handle steep grades. Models with better hill-climbing ability have been built for cities with steep grades in some of their lines. IIRC Pittsburgh has a 12% grade on one of their lines.

        If you have big enough motors and enough powered axles you can match anything the old cars were capable of.

    2. It was a cable car. “The first cable car to run the nearly 20,000 feet between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington did it in December 1890. Two cables, like two arms, extended east and west from the powerhouse midway on the line at 22nd and Madison.”

  9. Do we know exactly where the grades are that make rail impractical? Would there be any way of modifying the route so that rail could become an option? Clearly rail can get up to capital hill via the first hill route, so I’m wondering if there’s a way of modifying the path that would open up streetcar as a possibility. I’ve always thought that a streetcar up madison would be really cool.

    1. I think that streetcars can do 10 percent grades but they like do keep it to 8 percent. Madison has some ungodly grades of like 14 percent.

      1. I believe there are streetcars commercially available that can do 12% grades and better, but not the ones we’re using. Those streetcars would be more expensive.

        And like Bruce mentions, the breakover angles at the cross-streets is what kills us. We’d have to regrade every intersection, and doing that would cause some interesting accidents on the cross-streets during slick conditions, if it’s even allowed.

    2. The First Hill Streetcar uses Jackson, then Broadway specifically to avoid steep grades. It follows the flattest path to Capitol Hill there is. Going straight up Madison would be impossible for a modern streetcar. Gondolas, maybe, but not a streetcar:)

      1. I don’t suppose there’d be any support for a SF-style old fashioned cable car? I’ll bet the trenches for the cable are still there under the pavement.

      2. That would be interesting, but would require major construction on the roadway. One attractive thing about modern streetcars is that you don’t actually have to tear up the whole street.

      3. Ooh, a cable car would be cool. I think we should be able to suck up the very transient cost of construction.

      4. And think of the tourist aspect. This would start right at the waterfront. Yes, people always focus on getting residents around and that’s important. But tourism is a huge here, bringing $5.5B a year to the area. Increasing that even a small fraction would pay back quickly. Of course, designed well a cable car would be just as useful to locals as a streetcar or BRT.

      5. Unfortunately that wouldn’t work because there aren’t any attractions up on Madison. Maybe we should raze the whole area around 23rd & Madison and build an amusement park?

      6. You’re right. Other than Lake Washington, the Arboretum, the busy area of Pike/Pine, and hundred year old residential neighborhoods there’s practically nothing to see. Except for the historic cable car.

        I know on my vacations to interesting cities I only hang out at amusement parks. And those people that ride SF’s cable cars are clearly wasting their money.

      7. [Mike] The original steam powered one on Madison went 10, and when they switched to electric motors it went 12. That’s certainly no bullet train, but I’m not sure buses on Madison go much faster than that. Higher frequency and better ROW would make up for that.

      8. I appreciate your snark, but seriously, none of those are actual tourist attractions except maybe the arboretum. San Francisco is way more interesting than Madison Valley, too. The point is any transit line, especially one geared towards tourists, needs strong endpoints, with some decent points in the middle. San Francisco’s cable cars have Market Street on one end and Fisherman’s Wharf on the other–those are very strong endpoints that generate tourist demand. The arboretum wouldn’t cut it.

      9. Yeah, my snark was set a little high. But I think you’re seeing the city as it is now, not as it could be. There are some awesome points of interest on this line, and I tourists don’t currently have easy access to Lake Washington. Add tourists to a route and you’ll see development spring up (anything from retail to “your new condo will be just blocks from the historic cable car”). The main point of interest would of course be the cable car itself – running on a 130 year old route right through downtown to the waterfront.

      10. SF has trolleybus lines intersecting cable car lines. From the 30-Stockton you can see that it runs fast enough to be effective transit, while the cable cars are merely an “experience”.

      11. [Mike] Obviously we would want it to run with enough frequency that it’s useful to locals. The 12 takes 21 schedule minutes during rush hour to get from 2nd & Marion to 15th & Madison. That’s an average of 3.7mph. I’m not sure top speed is really a limiting factor on much of this run.

        Another point about a cable car: I would imagine we could pay for the operation with tourist dollars, for example with hotel parking fees. Streetsblog brings this point up for SF’s cable cars. The downtown hotels are in the process of trying to tax themselves $2 a room for $55M worth of marketing. Expanding Seattle’s tourist ammenities would be pretty good marketing.

      12. Matt, I’m surprised you didn’t suggest a gondola. Every I-5 overpass is a major congestion point, dedicated lanes will never happen, and 3.7 mph is really sucky service that will nonetheless almost certainly be worse with a cable car. A gondola would be quite fast by comparison, and if you built it to Madison Park you could even continue from there to Husky Stadium. Problem is land/building modifications for the stations will be expensive.

        I would also note, San Francisco’s historic streetcars are actually historic, unlike the “historic” waterfront streetcar we used to have that wasn’t very old, though I guess tourists rode that anyway. San Francisco’s streetcars aren’t very high capacity and there is very little room for locals on them; we might still need a transportation solution for this corridor if we built a cablecar.

      13. “Maybe we should raze the whole area around 23rd and Madison…”

        Already been done, though not for an amusement park. The lot across the street (former Twilight Exit) is also slated to get demolished and turned into multi-story development soonish. One block further east, the fenced and empty lot across from the church at 23rd & Madison is planned to become a 6-story assisted living facility.

        There are a lot of development projects on Madison that are starting to get back underway.

      14. [Eric] I was tempted to suggest a cable car thanks to the freeway and all of the hills. But this line needs stops at 1/4 mile spacing or more, and stations are the one expensive piece of a gondola system. Keeping all of these stops would require 8 stations. That morphs a cheap $10M gondola system into a $40M* system. If there were no stops this would be a 9 minute trip, but each station adds a minute to your time, making it a 17 minute trip. Actually, the current timetable says this trip is 27 minutes on the #12 during rush hour, so an 8 minute savings would make BRT a 19 minute trip.

        So I guess a gondola would be faster and, by my wild guess, half the price. With a higher passenger capacity. And no waiting.

        * My $10M number is based on at least a little data, but this $40M number is just a wild guess. I multiplied the $10M by 4, since there’s 4x the stations. This still may be low since my $10M number assumes not much more than off-the-shelf stations.

      15. Note that the FHSC uses basically the same route as virtually all the First Hill and Central District snow routes.

        The Madison Park area seems vaguely tourist-oriented to me, even if by “tourist” we mean “staycationers”. It’s almost Seattle’s own Coney Island, without the amusement park.

    3. Its not just downtown where there is a problem. The grades on the east side of the hill are also to steep for rail.

  10. As someone who lives a few blocks from 23rd and Madison, I’m of course thrilled for personal reasons to see this route make it into the Top 4. And I agree with Bruce and others that the way they have it jogging and then continuing down 19th is weird at best. If they simply mean for everything beyond 23rd and Madison to be the various local runs that this fans out into, then OK. But if so, I would imagine it would make sense to run heading north on 23rd, or even perhaps one going south on 23rd to Union or something.

    Someone mentioned that it would make more sense to do the upgrades on the 12 portion and leave the 11 essentially alone. That would mean ending this corridor at 19th and Madison. If you do that, you miss the 23rd and Madison area, where 3 of the 15 corridors that the plan prioritized come together, one of which is the most heavily ridden bus in the system (the 48). With the various development going in around this area (no, it’ll never be Belltown, but it is building up pretty fast, the focus of a recent front-page Seattle Times article) and the various heavily-ridden transit arterials converging here (most of which head in different directions towards a light rail station), it does seem like the 23rd/Madison/John triangle is a reasonable place for an emerging transit hub. Not that I’m biased.

    On a tangential topic: it’s always seemed weird to me that there isn’t a single route running the length of Madison. Anyone looking at a street map of the city overlaid onto an aerial photo would probably imagine Madison to be one of the most obvious places in the whole city to have a continuous direct line. Sure, the density declines east of Madison Valley, but it’s still the biggest eastish-westish arterial in the heart of the city. Does anyone know the logic behind why this was set up way back when with one route (#12) from downtown to 19th and another route (#11) from 17th to the lake?

    And since this is my first post, I’ll introduce myself: I’m a Central Area resident (obviously), transit fan (obviously), and demographer who commutes via the 48, and who takes the 2, 8, 11, and 43 for just about everything else. My partner and I share one car; for a while we also had Flexcar, but never used it, because really, one car is plenty.

    1. There are a number of problems with an all-Madison routing compared to the current setup.

      First, the section of Madison up to about 12th Ave has vastly more demand than the rest of the street. You’ll either have to turn back half your coaches or send them somewhere pointless, like 19th Ave. If you just terminate everything at 15th, you can serve the one really busy part of the route really well.

      Second, it’ll be really long and have sucky Link connectivity. Madison/Marion are awkwardly between Link stations. Riders to the MV would have a long slog all the way through the congested parts of downtown. By contract, with the 11, people from the south end of downtown can take a fast, frequent ride to to CHS and transfer to the 11 with a short walk. When the 11 is frequent service, this might well be faster for downtown riders, and it will always be much faster for non-downtown riders on Link.

      Similar to my first point, the Pike/Pine part of the 10 has far more ridership than its long tail up 15th. The 11 shares that part of the 10s alignment and so doubles the capacity of the 10 on its busiest section.

      Finally, the 11 helps knit together urban villages like the MV and Capitol Hill, rather than just having an entirely radial network.

      1. “The 11 shares that part of the 10s alignment and so doubles the capacity of the 10 on its busiest section. ”

        Not when the 11 is running hourly and the 10 half-hourly, and they both come within five minutes of each other.

    2. Oh yeah, the other big thing about Madison: you can’t run 60′ coaches because of the hill breaks. You can on the 11. 60′ trolleys don’t cost much more to run than 40′ trolleys (unlike diesels), so once we electrify the MV part of Madison, running 60′ trolleys would give us nearly double the capacity at little cost. With an all-Madison routing, you’re stuck with 40′ coaches all the way out.

      1. I’m glad to hear it, since it is always SRO when I catch it from downtown. I’ve just personally never seen one in service.

      2. Now you’ve got me doubting myself. I’ll keep an eye out, but I could swear I’ve seen them.

    3. Madison is the only east-west arterial (street, actually) that runs all the way from bay to lake (or lake to bay, depending on your POV). If Madison Park were a different neighborhood, or there were still a functioning ferry leaving the old dock there, I’d go with Matt’s suggestion and look very hard at a cable car service. But MadPark loves its quiet (except for during beach season) state, and I don’t see the City changing zoning there anytime soon. And the odds of a ferry cx there seem even lower.

      I’m more with Zef on the 12 (drop the headways during off-peak when there’s less demand) and I think whatever service gets implemented on Madison shouldn’t go high-frequency past 23rd. Seems like you’d do a turnaround somewhere in the 23rd/Madison vicinity (although that Safeway building seems like it would make it difficult to pull off without going downhill into Madison Valley) and have separate local service handling the 11 & 12 routes.

      Good to see another CD resident here, Steve :)

      1. I’m told the grades make it difficult to have a transfer point at 23rd/Madison/John, but it’s a good idea to try to make it work anyway – it may be a necessity if we want to eliminate the 43.

  11. This is just a consultant’s suggestion, not a commitment to build it as-is. Seattle still has to decide whether to build one, two, or all of the lines, and they’ll also coordinate with Metro who does not favor an all-Madison line. This plan has to be integrated with the city’s other plans (rapid streetcar, rapid trolleybus), and Metro’s not-yet-decided plans for its trolley routes. Given the significant opposition to this line as-is, it will likely be postponed till after Fremont and others, and there’ll be time for everyone to debate which east-west Madison/Pine/Denny route(s) would be best.

    The main problems I see with this proposal are:
    – It underserves Madison Valley and overserves 19th.
    – It doesn’t stop close enough to a Link station.
    – I think there are more Madison-Pine riders than Madison-Madison riders.

    There are a significant number of people on Capitol Hill who shop/eat/recreate in Madison Valley, and would do so more often if the 11 were more frequent and not diesel. Likewise, there are people in Madison Valley who shop on Capitol Hill or go to nightclubs or attend SCCC, or are going to Westlake/Pike Place or would like to transfer at Westlake. Another option would be to go on John to serve Capitol Hill station directly, which is close enough to Pine. Walking from Madison to Pine at 12th, Broadway, or Summit is a longer, steeper, and less pleasant walk than from John to Pine. (Although I suppose it will become more pleasant as Madison densifies.) Against this you have the people who prefer a Madison-Madison route: those going to the hospital area, to Seattle U, to the library, to the ferry terminal, or to the lower downtown offices. Not those going to Link or anywhere else, because the transfers are worse from Madison. I postulate that while the group of people going straight down Madison to the hospitals and offices are important, they’re a smaller cross-section of the population than those who’d prefer to go to Pine.

    1. I like the idea of the 11 going down John, especially if the 43 is eliminated. This would combine with the 8 for good frequency, hit the light rail station, and Pine would still have the 10.

    2. [Mike] Most of what you say makes sense to me. One exception: “Walking from Madison to Pine at 12th, Broadway, or Summit is a longer, steeper, and less pleasant walk than from John to Pine.” The walk from Madison to Pine at 12th is two blocks, past pedestrian-scaled restaurants and shops. The walk from John to Pine at 12th is four blocks, through much less pedestrian-oriented or cohesive development. Comparing along most other avenues west of there, though, and I agree with you.

      My neighbors in Madison Valley and the CD include a mix of folks who take transit as a lifestyle choice (including myself) and those who take transit out of economic necessity. Certainly the former are more interested in going to Capitol Hill and Westlake (plus some to downtown for work), while the latter may be more interested in a direct and fast connection to the hospitals and other parts of downtown. I could easily be wrong about the latter, though, which is why I leave it to the experts to do the demand analyses. But given that the former group is continually displacing the latter group, I think you’re right that the demand in this area will become more and more towards connecting with Capitol Hill. But I still think that the direct Madison line does a good job of that, since it goes to the Pike/Pine corridor directly. And the First Hill streetcar at Broadway.

      The lack of a light rail station near 3rd and Madison is a major major flaw with this route, though. I fear my fantasy of hopping on the cable car/streetcar/BRT to catch the light rail pretty much everywhere shall not come to pass in my lifetime :-)

      1. I know its a psychological more than a practical obstacle, but it’s worth mentioning that the blocks between Yesler and University are much shorter than the ones from University to Battery — just over half as long.

        So the two blocks from Madison to the tunnel’s Seneca entrance or the two blocks from the tunnel’s Cherry escalator to Marion are barely more than strolling from Pike to Pine.

        But that’s two separate tunnel stations. It’s confusing.

        One of about one hundred reasons why it’s insane to keep this BRT on Marion rather than building a contra-flow lane on Madison. As BRT goes, this proposal otherwise excellent. So what’s the deal with that stupid vestige sneaking in?

    3. After reading the entire HCT report linked by zefwagner, I have another idea. If the city is going to push hard for a Madison-Madison route, maybe we should insist that all buses go to Madison Park, not 19th. That would at least give Madison Valley the frequency it needs. As for 19th, if it’s poltiically impossible to eliminate the 12, then just downgrade it to half-hourly and leave it as-is. (But don’t count it as part of Madison’s frequency because its main purpose will be 19th, and Madison needs one frequent route with consistent headways (even if other routes are also on it), not two routes with uncoordinated headways that sometimes come late anyway.

  12. I’ve lived on the #12 line for 15+ years. Before economy tanked in 2008 there was standing only on return PM trips past the 19th Ave E/Madison intersection. To save $ Metro flipped more trips from Interlaken Park to the short route at 15th & Madison. All that did was make the service unreliable — riders scramble off the #12 in hopes of catching #10 NB @ 15th & Pine. With explosion of new apartments (19th & Madison is the latest), improved economy, more reliable trips to Interlaken #12 will quickly bounce back to standees.

    1. How does the 15th & Madison routing make it less reliable?

      I do admit that there is a paradox in Metro’s current scheduling for the 12, in that only peak trips turn back at 15th, whereas the peak is basically the only time there is decent ridership on 19th AVe.

    2. So what about peak only service on the 12? Or “expanded peak” (6-10am, 3-7pm weekdays).

      1. Or going further, joining the 12 to the 14-north as a peak-only route? That would “save” the 12 and the 14 at the times when they’re full. As a bonus it would give the same downtown circulation as the current 10/12.

  13. So here’s the problem I’ve been having with this whole series of posts… obsessing over slight differences in annualized costs per new±total riders has led to a weird and very distracting obsession with prioritization.

    The corridors are in no way alike. A few are just infill for missed mass transit opportunities. One (Eastlake) is near-fill. Only the Fremont one (imperfectly) serves a totally unrelated corridor.

    Some contribute significantly to connectivity, and others don’t.

    But this one is obvious. I mean really, absurdly obvious. Obvious to anyone who’s every wasted 30+ minutes of precious life when all they wanted to do was get from downtown to somewhere — anywhere — in the “teens” of Pike-Pine or C.D.

    8 minutes saved is a big, huge, whopping deal. I say this as someone who normally distrusts BRT proposals. But with uninterrupted dedicated lanes, many fewer stops, and (pretty please) off-board payment, an 8-minute reduction seems totally believable. Get rid of the dumb Marion couplet and shave another minute off!

    The First Hill Streetcar, with its detours and infrequency, is a failure for getting out of downtown. The Capitol Hill Link station is far from 14th and Pike and way too far from 18th and Union (and again, the First Hill Streetcar fails to help, as the part of that walk it “covers” can be walked faster than its average wait time).

    We’re talking about a 5-minute-frequency, double-speed-vs.-anything-that-exists-now actual solution to the downtown transfer penalty and to east-west connectivity in the middle of our city.

    But thanks to poorly applied metrics and this region’s typical infighting, we’re supposed to be resigned to it “likely being postponed till after Fremont and others”?? Criminal!

    1. Who are you quoting at the end? This corridor is likely to be funded well before any streetcar line gets built. Trust me, this will happen first. It requires the least amount of new infrastructure and capital costs, all it requires is better Metro and city funding.

    2. Nobody is saying the corridor is unimportant, or that they’d lie in front of the bulldozer if the city commits to it. People are just debating whether minor changes to the routing would make it more useful. Ideally the 8, 10, and “Madison” will all be upgraded to HCT. But if we can get only one east-west line, we have to try to get the most effective one. Even if we will support whatever the city commits to after they decide, because some HCT is better than no HCT.

  14. It would be fairly simple to tweak the plan so that Madison Park was the focus. Say 10 minute service to 23rd and 20 minute to Madison Park. 19th could become peak only and/or hourly off-peak if the financial crunch continues. 19th Ave runs could go into town via Union or Pine so as not to mess with the BRT.

  15. If we assume this will be built, and hopefully the 8 and 48 upgraded, what can be done at the 23rd-John-Madison triangle to make a real transfer station, one that wouldn’t require walking across two intersections to transfer, and that would be more pleasant to wait at?
    The two main sticking points on eliminating the 43 are the undeveloped (and presumed unsafe) transfer point, and the frequency of the 8 and 48 (which could lead to a 15 minute transfer wait in the daytime, or 30 minutes evenings).

    Actually, I think it would be harder to eliminate the 43 than the 49, because of this transfer point and the number of Montlake riders. (In comparison, 10th E could easily be served by a north-south line, Broadway is a better place to transfer, and Capitol Hill stn is right in the middle.) So if the 43 is retained, it would also have to use this triangle, and its stops would have to be coordinated with the other routes.

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