King County Metro 5 on Aurora
The 5 doesn’t often go this fast

Tomorrow, from 5 to 7 PM, at Greenwood Public Library, SDOT is hosting an open house to discuss a program of bus stop improvement and consolidation on Greenwood between 87th St and 105th St. Similar to the recent Ballard stop consolidation and improvements, this program arises from SDOT’s Bridging the Gap funding for small transit projects: the money will pay for bus bulbs or bus islands, and the stop consolidation is necessary to reap the gains in speed and reliability from those stop improvements.

For this section of Greenwood, there’s a twist: the road mostly lacks sidewalks. In these areas of north Seattle where sidewalks were not built before annexation by the city, they are generally only built when an adjacent property is redeveloped, or SDOT receives a grant to do so. The improved stops may therefore not connect to a continuous sidewalk, however SDOT expects to design most or all of them so they directly connect to a corner with curb ramps for wheelchair access.

SDOT’s packages of small-capital improvements to transit corridors in outlying urban villages make incremental but real improvements in service quality and rider experience, and I’m pleased to see this continue in Greenwood. My only regret is that it doesn’t go far enough: the stops south of 85th St are in just as dire need of this treatment, and the payoff would be even greater (because there are more riders on the bus closer to downtown).

If you live the area and would like bus service that sucks less, I urge you to attend the open house and give feedback on the proposed improvements, and in support of the stop consolidation.

42 Replies to “Tomorrow: Open House for Greenwood Stop Improvements”

  1. I am again struck how “The 5” means the bus route in Seattle…

    …but would mean the free, federally-funded (at a 90% match to state contribution; but that wasn’t social engineering, no!) limited access, divided, Interstate-and-Defense State Highway Number 5 in California.

    1. I imagine there are many people in this area that would interpret “the 5” in the Californian way. Not least all the California transplants.

      1. Ya, using the phrasing “The 5” or “The 405” is California speak. Such terminology has never been ubiquitous in this area.

        So here, “The 5” usually means the bus route, unless of course you are speaking with a Californian who hasn’t figured it out yet.

      2. “The 5” for I-5 isn’t just California speak, it’s southern California speak. It is (hella) looked down upon in NorCal. In the Bay Area you’d never say “The 280” or “The 101”, just “208” or “101”.

        It’s particularly weird in contrast to Chicago, where we neither primarily call freeways nor bus routes by their numbers. Except I-57 and I-80 west of the tri-state.

      3. ironically it is also the venacular in upstate NY were they have “the” 5&20 as well as ‘the’ 90 (I90). Not sure whether this makes them more hip, or southern cali stuck in the past…

      4. I don’t think ever actually heard “The 5” here. However, I do sometimes use “The” with low-numbered state highways like 9, 18, and 20. But not with numbers 99 and higher, and not with Interstates. And for some reason I called 512 “The 512 freeway” until I drilled myself out of it. I think that was because when I first encountered 512 it was new and only went a short distance.

        What do southern Californians call a #5 bus?

        Some people get confused by the bare number with lesser-known state highways. Sometimes I say 99 or 18 and people get puzzled because there’s no 99th Avenue or 18th Street there, so I have to say “I mean Aurora” or “I mean Pacific Highway” or “I mean the freeway from Federal Way to Auburn and North Bend”.

        The most striking change I’ve noticed over the years is that when people talk about how they’ll cross the lake, they used to say “The Evergreen Bridge” or “The Mercer Island Bridge” but now they mostly say “520” or “I-90”. That happened around 1990 when the population was expanding and more people were coming from elsewhere. So it may be that a lot of people weren’t used to the names and just said what was on the maps, and enough of them did that that it changed the culture.

      5. Never, never, never “the 5.” Ugh. Growing up it was always I-5 (or I-90); sometimes now it’s just “90” but still “I-5.” I seem to recall saying “highway” prior to state routes, such as “highway 99” or “highway 18;” Stevens Pass was always “US 2” although it’s probably been SR 2 since before I was born. 520 is, well, 520. Urban state highways get the street names unless they’re a freeway: 522 is Lake City Way or Bothell Way…until it leaves Bothell as a freeway!

        …and you mean you don’t call the bridges the “Lacey V. Murrow” or “Albert Rosellini” Bridge? ;-)

      6. @Al: Really? We always called CTA bus routes by their number. Maybe it depends on what part of town you grew up in?

      7. Ah, upstate NY nomenclature. “Five and Twenty” is a particularly odd way of referring to a highway — especially since it’s routinely used even for the sections where US 5 and NY 20 are *not* the same road. :rolls eyes:

      8. Chicago is notable because names stick, and they actually use them on the road signs. So it’s always “the Dan Ryan” or “the Skyway”, not a number.

        In rails, there’s intense conservatism in the names too. It’s taken a while for “the IC line” to become “Metra Electric”; older folks still refer to “Northwestern Station” or “CNW Station”.

      9. Yes, there has always been a divergence between the bridges’ official names and their popular names. Most people wouldn’t know what the “The Lacey V Murrow Memorial Bridge” or “The Homer Hadley Bridge” means unless they’ve seen it on a technical map. They do know what the “Gov. Rosselini Something Bridge” because of that obnoxious sign on the Evergreen Bridge. (Its former official name, the “Evergreen Point Floating Bridge”, is self-explanatory. Funny how Evergreen spread from the point to the whole bridge and then connoted the tree rather than the point.)

        “Metra Electric” has always bothered me. It suggests there will never ever be another electric line in Chicago, and that there’s something “electric” about the region it travels through. Shouldn’t Metra be aspiring to electrify all its lines?

  2. I wish it went all the way through Greenwood and Phinney. These stops are two blocks apart in an area with short blocks. Every morning I see large groups at these stops waiting to board, with half of them causing their own bus to be late because they can’t walk two blocks.

    1. Yes, agreed. Let’s put pressure on SDOT and KCM during the meeting to address this. If enough people complain, things will happen. Weekly I hear people beside myself vocally complain about the bus stopping every 2 blocks. This is an egregious waste of time, brake pads, damage to the road, petrol, and delay to vehicles behind the bus. I’ve convinced many riders that stop consolidation is the way to go. I think we’re ready for this on the 5. Metro was clever in stop consolidation on the 48 as reconstruction of 85th Street was done. :)

  3. It seems like doing a stop diet in an area lacking sidewalks might be counterproductive. If it’s difficult and dangerous to walk a couple of blocks to a consolidated stop, are you really serving the best interests of the riders?

    On the other hand, adding pedestrian ameneties in the vicinity of the stops should help improve things incrementally. If there is anyone with good knowledge of the area, could you comment on what the typical condition at the stops is? Do they have at least a concrete pad? Are there shelters? It’s hard to tell for the stop in the photo, because there’s a truck and a bus in the way.

    1. The photo isn’t in the affected area, it’s on Aurora by Queen Anne Hill.

      Conditions aren’t too bad in most of the affected area. There aren’t sidewalks, but there are wide driveways and shoulders that make most of it more or less walkable. The challenge is crossing Greenwood, and that won’t change as a result of the stop diet.

      1. +1 I’ve walked it. It’s not bad except as David says. Crossing the street has always been hazardous. The area needs a road diet.

    2. I just ‘walked’ down it using Google Maps. While not having full up to code sidewalks, it’s not like people are walking in a ditch or out in the road. There is at minimum a paved path on both sides of the road the entire segment, and what looks to be full sidewalks about 2/3rds (85th to about half way between 92nd and 97th and then 101st to 105th) with the west side of the street noticebly better.

      1. (Which is not to say we shouldn’t look at stop consolidation. We certainly should. The walking conditions definitely need work in some spots, though.)

      2. “it’s not like people are walking in a ditch or out in the road”

        That’s more of a problem on the side streets than on Greenwood.

    3. “If it’s difficult and dangerous to walk a couple of blocks to a consolidated stop, are you really serving the best interests of the riders?”

      If the problem is a lack of sidewalks, you don’t solve it by placing bus stops really close together. You solve it by building sidewalks!

  4. It’s interesting how much more peaky the 5 is close in than far out. I saw a similar pattern on a graph of the 26 a while ago. With the 26 there’s a clear point outbound of which there are better peak options to/from downtown and inbound of which there aren’t. That seems to be the case on the 5 as well.

  5. I made a Greenwood tour Friday afternoon. I took the 28 north to 103rd, walked to Holman Road & Greenwood, found the northbound 5 stop two blocks north of there, went north to 143rd, and back south to downtown. (I would have gone to 160th but it was almost the PM peak and I didn’t want to pay a two-zone fare just for a few blocks.)

    The main thing that struck me is that the 5 is a slowpoke due to being an articulated bus that can’t accelerate well. It needs the capacity of an articulated but I could see myself getting frustrated at that if I lived north of 85th and had to ride the 5 regularly. The first thing that came to mind was, I wish Aurora Link existed. Of course, for urbanism people “should” live south of 85th, but at the same time there’s a huge apartment and townhouse boom between 105th and 145th, on some blocks a solid wall of them.

    The extent of missing sidewalks north of 85th is really stunning, as I keep discovering more and more when you step off the “bus streets” (and even on some bus streets like Greenwood). Seemingly affluent blocks with large houses — don’t have sidewalks. It’s hard for me to imagine people in places like Bellevue tolerating it, or willing to buy a house without one. I read about people who “have to drive” their kids out of the neighborhood because they’re afraid the kids will get run over by a car if they walk on the sidewalkless streets. That sounds like being imprisoned in your house. It reminds me of how I felt growing up in a suburban area with the nearest supermarket a mile away and where I was “more lucky than most” to have an hourly bus route nearby.

    I don’t have a problem walking on the shoulder on Greenwood Ave or Sand Point Way or on the street in other places, but I can see how a kid or elderly person would be hesitant.

    On NW 103rd Street between 3rd NW and Holman Road, the houses are set back as if ready for a sidewalk, but the space is filled with grass and a non-level ground that’s inconvenient to walk on. And a few houses have built things right where the sidewalk would go. One house has a little shed building; another has part of the garden. These things would have to go if sidewalks were ever installed.

    1. Sand Point Way is extremely annoying to walk along at any time–it’s a street that has long since needed sidewalks badly (far more than 125th needed bike lanes, though that’s another story, and of course a different cost). I’ve walked it for several decades and the speeds on that road are far above that posted (and I can count on one hand the number of tickets I’ve seen being issued). You also have cars parked in the area between people’s lawns and the lane stripe, which is that paved area used as a “sidewalk” and defacto bike lane.

      Not sure why “for urbanism” people should live south of 85th–both Greenwood and (especially) Lake City have had a decent number of mid-rise apartment buildings for many years, and several more built in the past decade or so. Both areas are designated urban villages and both are 6-7 miles from downtown. Lake City’s density per square mile (per zip code, 98125) is higher than any of the West Seattle zip codes; the Lake City urban village population grew 43% and Greenwood’s 27% from 2000-2010. It’s more a function of better transit serving these areas that will create even more opportunities for higher density living in both these places…both could use HCT and, as you say, an Aurora Link would have been great for Greenwood and would have also opened up Bitter Lake as a decent location for future density.

      1. The lack of sidewalks on Sand Point Way is mitigated somewhat by the Burke-Gilman trail right next door, but it’s still a problem for access to the homes business right along it.

        One thing I’ve always wished for on Sand Point Way is more crosswalks. The most direct access route to the north part of Magnesun Park from the Burke Gilman Trail requires a dangerous crossing of Sand Point Way where there’s no crosswalk. Usually I prefer to cross further south at a light (I’m usually coming from the south, so it’s not a detour). However, to actually get into the park, I have to either ride on Sand Point Way itself for a quarter mile or get off my bike and lift it over the curb because the city never bothered to install simple ramps.

        This is something that needs to be fixed. The latest I’ve heard, the city is attempting to improve non-motorized access to the park by installing a cycle track on 65th between Sand Point Way and the Burke Gilman trail. However, the city is focusing on the wrong area because 65th St. isn’t the problem. The problem is having to lift your bike over the curb at 65th and 70th St. to get to the abandoned road that’s a de-facto bike trail and having no safe crossing of Sand Point Way at 77th St. Those are the problems that the city should be most focused on trying to solve.

      2. The mitigation of the lack of sidewalks by the nearby presence of the BGT is fine up until about Mathews Beach–after that, the street and trail diverge significantly and there is a steep slope down to the lake from Sand Point Way. By bike there are other ways from Lake City and Meadowbrook to Magnuson and south, but as a pedestrian Sand Point Way is easier and the exact point of a discussion on sidewalks. If the 75 ever gets a stop diet (and it probably should; the bus’ frequent stops can often back up traffic for some distance, and THEN try to cross!), safe sidewalks and not just paint are going to become necessary. Your other points are spot on–and it’s a waste to spend a dime on a cycletrack on 65th for the short distance down to Sand Point! That’s hardly a heavily traffic-ed arterial at any rate.

    2. Next week I’m moving from my Rainier Valley train paradise into one of these areas without sidewalks (near the lake, east of Lake City and just off Sand Point Way). So I’ve thought about this a bit lately.

      It’s not too bad on the residential streets. Speeds are slow there for the most part, and people are expecting pedestrians, bikers, dogs, etc. Where it’s really bad is on arterials that don’t have sidewalks. Sand Point Way is an excellent example, better than Greenwood which at least has wide shoulders. 40+ mph speeds and a narrow shoulder that is sometimes blocked by parked cars don’t add up to a pedestrian-friendly environment. (That said, I’m still going to walk to 125th and Lake City for my commute downtown.)

      1. Welcome to the neighborhood! It’s actually not a bad place at all–I grew up there, went to schools there and later bought my first house in the area just off of Sand Point Way. Walking away from the arterials is quite pleasant and you’ll often see walkers and dogs about (one big snowstorm at 2am brought out a surprising number of neighbors!). Lake City and 125th is pretty well served by transit; the entire rest of the area, however, is a 2+ seat ride to anywhere. At least the 75 is reasonably frequent much of the day.

        At the VERY least, the arterials need actual sidewalks similar to those on 35th NE and not foot paths; this would include Sand Point Way, NE 105th, 110th and maybe 115th, Ravenna etc.

    3. Northup Way east of 164th didn’t have streetlights when I was growing up. That was scary to walk at night. It was pitch black so you couldn’t see whether you were walking in the shoulder or veering into the lane. I can’t remember if the other side was a ditch or went up. The only lights were an occasional car. If a car came up behind you, you had to hope you were in the shoulder and it wouldn’t hit you.

    4. I didn’t mean Lake City, more northwest Seattle. And I don’t fully believe the theory; I’m just pointing out that for historical reasons south of 85th has more density and transit and community spirit, which means it’s easier to have a low carbon footprint and get around without a car and get plugged in to the community. I could fully support designating 105th to 145th as part of the urban village, and increasing its transit and amenities likewise. It would mitigate the problem of the atrocious low density on nearby Aurora and the hostility of Aurora businesses to removing streetside parking. It would also justify giving both Aurora and Greenwood frequent RapidRide type transit even though they’re close and parallel. (Seattle seems to have several of these problem pairs, 15th and 24th, Aurora and Greenwood, Rainier and MLK, etc. Ideally it would all be concentrated on one street with one frequent transit line, but the communities have established themselves on two parallel streets. Although MLK would still be just a back street if Link hadn’t chosen it.)

    5. I assure you, the Greenwood Neighborhood Council wants investment in sidewalks. Neighbours want sidewalks. We need and LID.

  6. Talk about excessive stops, the 5 has two southbound stops at 143rd and 145th, so close you can easily see the other stop. I immediately thought of “Stop diet”, so it’s ironic that this post appeared a few days later, even if it’s a different part of Greenwood. (Or “Broadview” as the sign says at 105th.)

  7. I grew up near the corner of NW 100th and 3rd NW. No sidewalks but at least we had curbs on our street which made it look better. I would frequently walk up 100th to go to Oak Tree Village(Larrys Market, Oak Tree Cinemas and Starbucks) and noticed that it was not as nice east of Greenwood as there weren’t even curbs there. Walking down Greenwood, at least there was a pathway until about 92nd when the sidewalks would appear. Now, I live in Shoreline and park my car along Greenwood to take the bus to work near Seattle Center. I’m still amazed all these years later that sidewalks haven’t been a priority from 90th to 145th. Greenwood Avenue itself looks like a third-world street with the potholes and cracks. As for the bus stop consolidation, I think there are more stops south of 85th that could be taken out(67th street stop?) than there are north of 90th. The road diet between 90th and 105th has really helped the flow of traffic and to me, proves that it works and can work elsewhere.

  8. Balkanization of agencies is a problem. Sidewalks would help everyone, but the other agencies which would benefit from sidewalks aren’t responsible for sidewalks, so….

Comments are closed.