Improving Route 5 in North Fremont
Proposal for Improving Route 5 in North Fremont

The Greenwood corridor, extending from Fremont to Shoreline Community College via Fremont Ave, Phinney Ave and Greenwood Ave, is one of Metro’s core North Seattle routes, but it has a raft of problems. Stops on the local Route 5 are spaced too close — far too close on the section south of 80th St; almost all the stops are out-of-lane stops, which, along with the busy traffic, often causes delays pulling back out; there are too many different service patterns; and the bus spends about a mile in the area between Fremont and the Zoo threading its way along slow, narrow, twisty streets. In this post, I want to talk about the last problem, but I’ll have more to say on those others in future.

As far as I can tell, from looking back at old maps like this one from 1914, public transit heading north out of Fremont has always followed the alignment of the current Route 5: north on Fremont Ave; west on 43rd; north on Phinney, through the wiggles of the 19th-century street grid at 46th and 50th. Generally, neighborhoods in Seattle grew up around streetcars, so absent natural or political obstacles, the rails were generally laid out in pretty straight lines. Guy Phinney’s enormous personal estate, which is now Woodland Park Zoo, would have presented an insurmountable obstacle at 50th St, but the curious question of why the men who laid out this line chose to jog over on 43rd rather than stay as straight as possible may be lost to time.

Regardless, time has not been kind to the 43rd/Phinney alignment. One of the terrible legacies of the 1940’s streetcar removal was the way the roads were paved when the tracks were abandoned: the rail ballast and ties were buried in place, poured over with concrete. This turns out to make a terrible road foundation, and the thin, poorly-supported layer of concrete on top is brittle, cracking when subjected to heavy loads like modern buses. Many streetcar roads went on to become heavily-trafficked arterial streets, and have been repaved properly and given traffic signals at intersections, but Phinney is not one of them, presumably because the vast majority of car drivers recognize that Fremont Ave, 50th St and 46th St are more direct ways to get anywhere than Phinney and 43rd. Finally, Phinney and 43rd are unusually narrow for streetcar streets, being only a little wider than the adjacent neighborhood streets.

More after the jump.

The upshot of all this is that this section of Route 5 suffers a number of vexing operational problems:

  • Northbound buses on Fremont Ave must turn left across oncoming traffic without the benefit of a signal or stop sign. This single turns can cause delays of a minute or more, and totally screw up northbound car traffic, when the road is busy. Southbound buses must wait at a stop sign, sometimes for quite a while, to make the turn from 43rd to Fremont.
  • The 43rd & Phinney intersection, in addition to being another delay-inducing stop, is so narrow that buses (or any other large vehicle) cannot turn simultaneously at the intersection; also, northbound articulated buses also often drive over the sidewalk outside Lighthouse Coffee. The current 5 schedule has buses meeting there almost every time, which means more delay.
  • Both streets, being narrow and windy, aren’t places where buses can travel very fast, and the pavement quality on both is quite poor, giving a bumpy ride.

There’s a potential solution, of course, it’s on the map at the top: send the 5 straight up Fremont and then left on 50th (the 5X would be similarly revised). This solves all the operational problems I’ve laid out above. It wouldn’t be free, because bus stops would have to be replaced, and there would have to be a public outreach process by Metro, but the cost would probably not be great. According to SDOT staff, the depth of concrete on 50th, and on Fremont Ave north of 43rd is not currently known, and core samples would have to be taken to ensure the concrete roadbed could survive the punishment buses dish out over the long term. Nonetheless, I suspect it would turn out to be feasible, if Metro is willing to try, and the potential benefits to riders further north on Phinney and Greenwood would make trying very worthwhile.

I do see one critique of the idea: the change would slightly reduce total transit coverage of this area. Some of the riders around 46th St, who would now be directly on Route 5, are already within walking distance of the Route 358/E Line stop at Aurora & 46th, whereas people on the west slope of Phinney ridge have no alternative downtown service and would have to walk another few minutes (albeit on nearly-flat, pedestrian-friendly streets) to Route 5. If neighborhood outrage ensues from this proposal, it might make sense to have the 28X serve the stops on 46th & Phinney, to maintain some front-door express service to downtown. Overall though, I doubt anyone would truly lose access to the transit system as a result of this change, and the pros to riders seem to outweigh the cons.

I’ve emailed extensively with SDOT and Metro staff about this idea. I’m told the idea has “been around forever”, although the oldest official mention of the idea I can find is in the Urban Village Transit Network map from the 2005 Transit Master Plan. Metro’s chief planner David Hull remarked, “We have looked at the routing you suggest and it is possible that we could discuss this and other service change concepts with North Seattle riders sometime in the future. However, at this time, we have no plans to do so.” It’s good that Metro is open to the idea, but a shame that there are no plans to take take it to the public. Metro is making a more-than-minor change in North Seattle with the introduction of RapidRide E, and so it seems opportune and germane to discuss a promising potential improvement to a neighboring route.

112 Replies to “Improving Route 5: North Fremont”

  1. I frequent the ‘5’ due to the fact that the Phinney/46th stop is the closest to where I live. I agree that the Phinney/43rd alignment is a problem, however a great many people live very close to the Phinney/46th intersection. I think it would be a mistake to eliminate that stop for a downtown bound bus just to save a minute.

    I would suggest instead to have Route 5 follow the 5E routing through the Phinney/46th intersection, and then to continue on the normal local routing at 46th and Fremont.

    1. I should add that the 50th to Fremont routing starts to duplicate Aurora bus service. The 5 has a role in serving upper Fremont and lower Phinney Ridge that would be harmed with the 50th/Fremont alignment.

      1. Also forgot to add (sorry haven’t had coffee yet) that the Phinney/50th light is a problem for all modes. I frequently bicycle north on Phinney, and have often had to run the red to continue on Greenwood due to a 5-10 minute wait (sometimes it doesn’t read my bike at all).

        That signal needs an upgrade for transit and bicycling. We should be improving the established transit/bike corridor instead of trying to circumvent it in a way that harms ridership.

      2. Just to establish my credentials–I used to live at the corner of 43rd & Phinney. The part of the route that is proposed for deletion seems to create quite a few on/offs that might be lost if the route is moved to the Fremont/50th route. Like others have said, the proposed new routing would largely duplicate service offered by the 358/E Line and make a longer walk for numerous riders.

        The point about the lights at 46th and 50th being chokepoints has always been true. If you want a quick speed-up for bus riders, install transit priority signals at those intersections. There also could be a pedestrian-activated/transit priority signal installed at the intersection of 43rd and Fremont that would aid buses and pedestrians trying to make it through that busy and dangerous intersection.

      3. And an awful lot of those boardings are transfers to/from the 44.

        Which would frankly work better (signal-timing-wise) at Fremont anyway.

      4. I too used to live at 43rd in Phinney, above what was then the co-op. The stops there are made by nearly every bus, and frequently three or even more people board or alight. Because they’re at a turn and the nearest stops to the east are at Fremont and to the north for northbound buses is at 46th, these stops serve 360 degrees of a large walkshed.

        For people between Greenwood and Third West, which is a steep hill moving the bus to Fremont north of 43rd would essentially force them to walk uphill from Eighth Northwest. Now they walk downhill to the 28 departing and downhill from the 5 returning. You would foreclose that option of them.

        The proper thing to do is to rebuild the street. That’s not easy, I know, because there are buses almost around the clock.

      5. I don’t doubt that people use that stop. Those very same people would also use a stop on Fremont Ave, right at the corner of 43rd. And they’d likely save time overall, even with the walk.

        Nobody between Greenwood and 3rd West uses the bus. Ever.

        The proper thing to do is let the bus go straight, rather than demanding a front-door-access detour for all through-riders for the sake of a few people not wanting to walk 900 feet.

        In many ways, this is as bad as the VA driveway.

      6. “Nobody between Greenwood and 3rd West uses the bus. Ever.”

        Maybe not south of 46th, but near the zoo they do.

      7. The topographic barrier between Phinney and Ballard starts disappearing around 60th. Of course, this routing change has only beneficial effects for them.

      8. Are the houses around 1st NW south of 50th really that much larger and more expensive than those in the surrounding neighborhoods? They look the same to me.

      9. Probably only slightly more expensive on a square-footage basis, thanks to the stellar views.

        But it is far steeper, far more pedestrian-hostile, far more disconnected from the grid. Everybody there drives. They just do.

        (Outside of commuting, everyone on the leafy slope north of 50th drives too.)

    2. Multiply that minute by the number of effected riders and also by the number of effected buses. Multiplication makes numbers more interesting….

    3. I agree, follow the 5E if you’re going to do this otherwise you’re really harming the catchment. The whole length of the deviation has medium density residential and mixed-use. And, the on-offs along it equal the number of the whole length from 50th to 85th in my experience.

      I ride the 5 Phinney all the time. It’s my primary mode to Downtown unless its service is bad, in which case I’ll go with the 358 or 28.

      1. The old 5 route system (54/55>5 Northgate/5 Shoreline College) suffered from irregular and unreliable schedules that often created situations where the buses were bunching, which might seem impossible with buses at 15 minute headways, but it seemed to happen too regularly when I lived in Phinney. I’d like to see what will happen with the new routing (5 >21), which should be much more reliable and, hopefully, will generate more ridership. Let’s give this route a chance to settle in and see where the ridership numbers are in 2 years.

    4. Frankly though, I’d rather see no alignment change at all. I’m generally open to shake ups, but I just don’t see the benefits to ridership or time. I think reducing pull-outs and creating better priority for the 5 Phinney would be better.

    5. With Bruce’s proposal, the bus goes straight through the 46th/Fremont intersection, and follows the natural alignment at 50th/Phinney. The only somewhat difficult intersection would be 50th/Fremont.

      With your proposal, the bus would have three difficult turns: 46th/Fremont, 46th/Phinney, and 50th/Phinney (since Phinney stops being an arterial south of 50th). Each one of those is a bigger potential source of delay than 50th/Fremont, and there’s three of them.

      I think a much better way to serve 46th/Phinney would be to reroute the 28 local so that it uses Aurora between 46th and downtown, and then uses 46th/Market between Aurora and 8th. That change would make the 28 simpler and faster, and expand its walkshed in general. (Of course, this only makes sense if you have the 5 take its place in Fremont and on Dexter.)

  2. This reroute violates the “don’t take transit away from people who already have it” rule. I don’t see a clear need for moving the route north of 43rd to Fremont. Building bus bulbs to remove the out-of-lane stops does make sense and would improve speeds.

    1. I don’t see a clear need for moving the route north of 43rd to Fremont.

      Have you ever actually ridden the route?

      1. Yes, many times. As others have pointed out, Fremont between 50th and 43rd is even worse for traffic and buses, so this seems like a bad idea. Bus bulbs can do a lot to help improve matters. Try that first and see what happens.

      2. Fremont between 50th and 43rd is a much better street for buses in every respect. Using it would take out two sharp turns, a million bumps, and a narrow passage that presents safety problems and often causes delays.

        The only concern (other than coverage) is traffic at the light at 46th and Fremont. And I think from experience that the commenters here are overblowing that concern.

      1. Kevin’s actually somewhat right. If you propose to reroute a bus away from a stop, you’ll get some tiny number of emails from transit fans who are happy about the change, and 10 times as many emails from people who are angry at losing their stop (regardless of whether or not they ever use it). Most of the people who would benefit from the change don’t even know that it’s happening, and certainly don’t bother sending letters or making calls.

        It takes a very special kind of politician to be willing to push through these types of changes anyway.

        That’s why I continue to think that the only successful transit in this region will be transit that can be planned administratively, rather than politically. Sound Transit is doing a great job here, of course. And Metro is learning to be smart about making “administrative changes”, like the way that they broke the through-route on the 10 and the 12. But to the extent that our service planning is constrained by politics, it will always be suboptimal, precisely because of Kevin’s point.

      2. re Douglas rule; have you heard of Pareto efficiency in classical econmics; it set an impossible standard for change.

        re arterial profile north of North 50th Street: what would STB suggest to SDOT to provide in-lane stops and better bike infrastructure?

  3. Terrible idea. Does this author even ride the 5? First, the buses almost never pass at the ‘chicane’ on phinney at 45th – they generally pass each other between lighthouse coffee and caffe vita, though they can and do on the chicane. The intersections at Fremont and 46th, Fremont and 50th back up big time during rush hour. There is actually time saved by taking 43rd, on top of the larger underserved catchment. It takes less time during rush hour to get from 50th to Fremont via 43rd (or inverse) than it does to get from Fremont on to 99.

    If you were really serious about improving transit time, prioritizing transit from BF Day to bridge way (and inverse) during rush hour would save much more time.

    1. If the intersection at 46th/Fremont is a big enough problem to scupper Bruce’s proposed reroute (and I’m not at all convinced of that), then we should do two other things.

      First, we should put a 4-way stop at 43rd/Fremont, so that buses don’t have to wait forever to make the turn in both directions. Second, we should give aggressive transit priority at the 50th/Phinney intersection. (It would be nice at the 46th/Phinney intersection too, but difficult to implement with heavy bus traffic crossing that intersection in both directions.)

      And, of course, no matter what else we do the 5 needs a stop diet now.

      1. the 4 way stop at 43rd and fremont makes a lot of sense for calming traffic for pedestrians as well. drivers haul through here and seldom yield to pedestrians. this would also be beneficial for local businesses.

        but there really isn’t much of a wait for northbound buses turning onto 43rd from fremont.

        regarding a stop diet – there are FOUR stops in 7 blocks between 46th and fremont (southbound) that could easily be consolidated into one or two stops – and two of them are within half a block of each other. additionally, there are two stops within a half block of each other in front of BF Day on fremont (also southbound). this has never made any sense…

      2. And, of course, no matter what else we do the 5 needs a stop diet now.

        The only “stop diet” possible in the dogleg is to remove the southbound stop at 44th and Phinney. There is no matching northbound stop, and the stops at 43rd and Phinney are the only other stops on the route between 46th and Phinney and 43rd and Fremont. There are no stops at all between 46th and 50th on Phinney. So, sure, take out the assymetric southbound at 44th.

        If that isn’t slim and svelte for you then you have an incipient anorexia problem.

      3. If you put a four-way stop at 43rd and Fremont you’ll slow the buses down much more than the current occasional wait for a left turn. A two-way flashing yellow that can go red for the southbound traffic when a bus approaches from either direction or red both ways when triggered by a pedestrian in a new, marked cross-walk to the NORTH of 43rd would be optimal.

      4. The Fremont Neighborhood Council asked for the city to look into pedestrian improvements at 43rd & Fremont. Unfortunately the Lake Union District Council did not think that this was a priority. While the City would need to look in to what would be most appropriate, these improvements could include stop signs.

      5. Traffic engineers won’t use flashing yellows that can go red in most circumstances because people don’t pay attention to them.

        I suppose one solution, if we’re determined to keep the dogleg at all costs, could be to put in a stop sign southbound on 43rd. The turn from eastbound 43rd onto southbound Fremont is even worse than the turn from northbound Fremont onto westbound 43rd, because visibility is horrible. Both turns can take 90 seconds if you get there in the wrong phase of the 46th/Fremont light.

      6. David,

        If you mean “southbound (on Fremont) at 43rd” I’d agree. That’s the optimum solution.

  4. Off-topic regarding the proposal, but I notice in the 1914 map that there was a canal crossing at Stone Way for the Green Lake and Wallingford streetcars. I never knew that.

    1. You may also notice (or you may already know) the Ballard streetcars came in on 14th, not 15th; the streetcars to the U-District cross at a trestle around Pasadena Ave; and the Great Northern crossed on a trestle through the east side of Salmon Bay.

      Before Seattle was a city of bridges, it was a city of trestles.

      1. That wasn’t the GN that crossed the east end of Salmon Bay; it was the NP passenger line from Woodinville, Snohomish, Sedro-Wooley, Bellingham, and Sumas that came down what is now the Burke-Gilman trail.

    2. The Stone Way bridge was temporary while they were replacing the first Fremont Bridge with the current one.

  5. I’ll third the issues with the intersection at Fremont and 46th. It operates at a level of service “F” whenever there’s much traffic and it can often take multiple light cycles to make it through the intersection northbound. Some serious improvements would need to be made to move this route, and I’m still not sure if it’s worth it. Let’s delete some stops first and see what that gets us.

    1. Eastbound and westbound back up. Northbound rarely does, and then only for people trying to turn. Those heading straight can usually weave through with ease.

      Meanwhile, Fremont gets a long green roughly once every minute. Phinney gets a short green about every 3-4 minutes, which the bus seemingly always just misses.

      1. We’d have to actually take some measurements to determine the impact of peak-hour backups on northbound Fremont. “Weaving through” by squeezing between right-turning cars and oncoming traffic is much more difficult in a 60′ bus than it is in a personal car. I believe there might be times when the bus has to wait a cycle or two. I also think the reroute, with the wait, would likely still be faster than the current route.

  6. Get the 5 on Aurora and give it a stop at 38th. I’ve walked past the 5 many times up or down the Fremont hill as it sits in traffic.

    1. But isn’t that what the Rapid Ride is for? I get your point, though. Sometimes a bus becomes so slow that it is pointless. Maybe the answer is to fully fund the Rapid Ride (make it extremely rapid and frequent) then add milk runs coming off of it. Without something on Fremont, you have a pretty big hole to the west of Aurora. Even a new bus on 3rd would require a lot of walking for folks on the south end of Phinney Ridge (and steep walking at that). Maybe a combination of a bus that goes up Fremont to 50th, along with a bus that goes from 50th and Aurora over to Phinney/Greenwood and then north (along the current route 5).

  7. I’m intrigued by the possibility of a better transfer between the 5 & the E Line with this option. A 2 block walk (or 3 if coming from the pedestrian underpass to the other side of Aurora) is very doable and could be signed. In the absence of an E Line stop closer to the Aurora bridge, this could be handy.

    OTOH: I suspect the existing route, which is closer to existing density, could be improved enough to solve many of the problems. A stop diet, a hardened curb near Lighthouse (similar to this one that I currently run over daily), and a couple of strategic NO STOPS zones might do the trick.

    I haven’t driven the 5 enough to give a strong opinion either way though. That said, I do recall almost always being stuck at the light at 46th & Phinney. Google’s streetview backs this up too. Add TSP to the list?

    1. I’m curious about who would transfer from the 5 to the E headed southbound at this point. Any time savings headed Downtown would likely be offset by the walk and the wait for the E. I would also wonder about the audience for a northbound transfer from the E to the 5 – anyone who might be a candidate for that would have already had a chance to pick the E Downtown over the 5.

      1. You might transfer if Fremont is backed up. In other words, if traffic is so bad that it takes the 5 bus ten minutes to get from 46th to Aurora, then you might as well walk over to the E Line.

      2. I suspect the more common transfer would be from the E to the 5 southbound, to better connect southbound E riders to downtown Fremont (see the thread last week about improving the E by adding a stop at 38th to provide access to/from Fremont to points north.)

      3. Implementing a convenient transfer at 46th would put more areas along Phinney and Fremont within a 2 seat ride of all points along the E line. Getting to many parts of Phinney now requires a 3 seat ride for passengers coming from the E Line to the north. That said, many scenarios involve backtracking (riding the E line south to 46th and then riding the 5 back to the north, for example).

        Any public process around these proposals would have to try and tease out whether the gain is worth the extra walking for everybody on the current routing. As a plus, those folks would gain better access to points north via the transfer at 46th as well.

        Given the resistance to change and/or rocking the political boat, I doubt Bruce’s proposal will ever see the light of day outside of this post. BUT, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring.

    2. My memories of driving the 5 are that the 50th/Phinney intersection is worse than the 46th/Phinney one northbound. It just seems like you sit there forever.

      1. 1) 50th & Phinney is optimized for “through traffic”, which is assumed to be continuing to and from 50th.

        That’s one check in favor of Bruce’s redesign.

        2) Whereas 46th & Phinney is weighted about 6:1 in favor of east-west traffic, 46th & Fremont is a roughly even three-way split: eastbound gets 1/3, westbound gets 1/3, north and south get 1/3 together. And through-traffic on Fremont is the only direction that never has problems here.

        That’s two checks in favor of Bruce’s redesign (and against any “compromise” that involves turning onto 46th).

        3) More turns always makes for impinged bus running. Zig-zags count. The current route turns four times, compared to the simplified route’s two.

        That’s three checks in favor of Bruce’s redesign.

        4) People will gladly walk .2 miles to access a palpably better route.

        That’s a home run.

      2. d.p. That doesn’t work out. Ride the route 100+ at all hours times and drive this a crap tone in a car and Bruce’s modification of the route does not pan out. Then consider the land use. Strike, strike, strike.

      3. I too have used the 5 hundreds upon hundreds of times, and driven the area in a car as well.

        I would never in a million years choose to do what the bus does. Straight on Fremont to 50th is better from a speed/signals perspective and better from a legibility perspective. It’s just better!

        It also passes straight through a commercial district with a grocer, a video store, and other drop-in type businesses, which the zig-zag does not.

        It serves all of the residences between the two routes better than the current route does, thanks to avoiding the time required to turn on 43rd. Again, walking .2 miles to access improved transit is a “no brainer” trade-off. (Note: .2 miles is not an acceptable distance for cross-transfers. Fortunately, the Fremont/46th transfer is even easier than the Phinney/46th one.)

        As for the blocks west of Phinney… oh, whoops, there’s a freaking cliff there, studded with million-dollar-view homes! No one west of Greenwood and south of 50th rides the bus. There’s no walkshed to be lost.

  8. I think that this change would make more sense in the context of having the 5 replace the 26/28 on Dexter. This would insure N/S service all the way along Fremont Ave.

    This also means that while the service would duplicate the 358/E Line somewhat, the two routes would really be serving different purposes the E line as the express and the 5 as the local.

    There have been a lot of ideas floating around recently about how to reorganize service in Fremont. These have included: both the change in this post to the 5 and the idea of running it on Dexter, extending the 13 across the Fremont bridge, the RR E Line stop at the north end of the Aurora bridge, converting the Fremont bridge to mostly or entirely transit only, deleting the tail of the 26 and making the 16 run every 15 minutes and of course the new streetcar that the City and Sound Transit are studying.

    It would be really great to look at all of these changes together. Some of the changes that may look less appealing on their own may look much better in the context of all of the other changes that have been proposed.

    1. I agree. I think all of these should be looked at together. I’m not sure when Link will be extended, but that could be part of the plan as well. For example, if they decide that the best way to get to Ballard is via a line from the U-District, then everything changes. Of course, if it takes 10 years to build it, then it probably makes sense to ignore that for now. I have no idea how long it would take to build a bridge (and add all of the other improvements) but my guess is that a new bridge is on a similar time frame (and should be ignored for now. The RR E Line is coming very soon, and improvements to bus service on related lines (like this one) could be made quite quickly.

      I do like the idea of having the 5 be local and the E line being the express. It is one thing if your local bus is stuck in traffic, but it is another thing if your express is. If your local bus is stuck (whether on Phinney, 43rd or just in the middle of rush hour Fremont Avenue) then you can always get out and walk a few blocks. But if your express bus is stuck, then there is nothing you can do.

    2. I still don’t think the benefits of the straightened line are worth making an already very long trip 8-12 minutes slower. By putting the 5 through Fremont, you would essentially be telling everyone north of 85th to drive.

      1. You’re assuming that the most important trip is from Greenwood to downtown, rather than to Fremont, or to anywhere on the 44 (via a transfer). That’s probably true during and around peak hours, but I doubt it’s true in general.

        To me, the solution there seems obvious. Replace the 5X and the 355 with a single route that goes express south of 85th St, and takes the fastest possible route to downtown. Have it run every 10-15 minutes during “extended peak” hours. The rest of the time, there should be minimal traffic on Dexter, and/or people can walk four blocks west to the 28 (which would be rerouted to Aurora).

      2. That’s it. Make the 355 run all day, and a lot of the opposition to rerouting the 5 to Fremont/Dexter disappears. It’s because of the lack of alternatives that people are so resistant to making an already-unacceptably-long #5 trip even longer. People aren’t just going to downtown at peak hours. They’re going to downtown, the Central District, Bellevue, and West Seattle all day. The 45 they spend on the 5 is just part of their trip. If you make that segment longer, their total one-way travel time starts approaching 60 or 90 minutes, and transit starts looking less and less viable for it.

        Nevertheless, if we must do something in a revenue-neutral way, it would be better to reroute the 5 to Fremont/Dexter than to do nothing. It would improve the grid and make the transit system simpler and help higher-density Fremont/Phinney, even if it hurts lower-density Phinney/Greenwood/Broadview.

      3. Aleks, even off-peak, slogging through Fremont and Dexter would add 8-9 minutes to the 5 trip. You can verify this yourself by comparing travel times of the 5 and the 28.

        And you’re misunderstanding the role of the 5X. It exists to help people between 85th and 50th, not people at or north of 85th. It would be even more necessary if we slowed down the 5 local so that it took 40-45 minutes to get from 85th to downtown.

        The 28 local is the best choice to provide a Fremont-Greenwood connection, because having it be super-slow over the rest of its route affects so many fewer riders, and because it’s so much shorter. Make the connection by having it jog over to Greenwood and lay over at the 5X terminal rather than ending at the Holman Road QFC, where it’s redundant with RR D.

      4. David,

        I don’t understand why everyone is so quick to defend Metro’s decision to deviate RapidRide D — a deviation which costs 10+ minutes for *most* riders — and yet is so quick to oppose removing the deviation on the 5 — a change which would affect a smaller number of riders (simply because a revised 5 would be more important to Fremont than the D is to LQA).

        I’ve spent lots of time on both the 5 and the 28, and it simply hasn’t been my experience that Dexter is the nightmare corridor that you describe it as. In my experience, the biggest sources of delay on the 5 have always been the turns at 43rd/Phinney and 43rd/Fremont, the light at 46th/Phinney, and getting on/off the Aurora Bridge. Staying straight on Fremont would eliminate all of those. Fremont Bridge openings cause delays, but I’ve very rarely gotten stuck in an off-peak traffic jam on Dexter.

        For what it’s worth, the schedule seems to agree with me. In my reading of the schedule times, off-peak, the 28 takes about 15 minutes to get between 3rd/Pike and Fremont/34th. That happens to be almost the precise amount of time that the 5 takes to get between 3rd/Pike and the Aurora Bridge. Yes, there are trips on the 28 that are longer (especially during peak), and there are trips on the 5 that are shorter. But on average, based on the scheduled time, I simply disagree that Fremont/Dexter would represent such a huge time penalty. The main exception is at peak — and that’s why we have express service.

        All things equal, simpler routes are always better. I recognize that things are not always equal — sometimes you have a very important trip pair which just isn’t well-served by a simple route. But all available evidence suggests that a revised 5, which took Dexter to Fremont north to 50th, would be approximately the same speed as the 5 today. I don’t think that is sufficiently compelling to justify the complexity of the labyrinthine connection between Greenwood and Fremont that you propose.

      5. Also, as Beavis mentions below, if Dexter is really so terrible, then just put the 5 on Westlake instead.

    3. I agree completely. With such a route, the bus would go pretty much straight from 3rd/Battery to 50th/Fremont! That would be a huge win for legibility and connectivity.

      If you also reroute the 28 to follow the express routing all day, then you preserve service at 46th/Phinney. And folks in Greenwood who want a faster ride downtown can walk the handful of blocks to 3rd Ave.

  9. So… long story short, the most compelling cases for keeping the 5’s existing route are coverage and residential walkshed (a moderately compelling case… if lost, other changes could mitigate it somewhat); the most compelling case for moving it is the badness of the turn at 43rd/Fremont (there’s no obvious cheap fix there).

    Overall I think there’s more to gain through TSP and stop diets than moving this part of the route. For selfish reasons, I hope the spotlight shines on the 5 soon (and, of course, on the parts of Greenwood without sidewalks, for less selfish reasons). If I put on my less selfish hat I’d probably find higher capital improvement priorities elsewhere, though…

    1. Here’s how I’m thinking about it now: if the 5 was moved to Fremont/50th without other changes it seems likely enough it would get a little faster. If it was brought up as a possibility along with other improvements…

      – Good TSP at 46th should have more impact on Phinney than Fremont, to the extent that buses would get through 46th in about the same amount of time on Phinney or Fremont. Fremont is more of a chokepoint for 46th than Phinney is, so less help could be given at Fremont. The simpler cycle at Phinney also helps, since if TSP was allowed to give buses an early green there wouldn’t sometimes be another intermediate phase it had to go through first. Also, general backups at 46th aren’t as bad on Phinney as Fremont.

      – TSP at 50th should be able to get buses through equally quickly regardless of whether it’s on Fremont or Phinney.

      – The turn at 43rd and Fremont on the current alignment is bad (for more than just buses) and hard to fix. The way Phinney weaves around is bad (for more than just buses) and impossible to fix. The pavement on 43rd and Phinney is bad and expensive to fix. These are major points in favor of Bruce’s alignment.

      – If buses are moved off of 43rd and Phinney it might be easier to improve cycling conditions on what’s one of the worst miles of the Interurban Route. Something like the Lake Washington Loop (where it parallels the Arboretum) would be an improvement… or bike lanes could be added in one of a few ways that would calm traffic significantly.

      – The 5 needs a stop diet all over. Changing the alignment might make it easier to get in a reduction in stops between 43rd and 50th because Metro would get to set out stop spacing from scratch there. But the general controversy of the reroute might also make it harder to propose other nearby stop eliminations.

      1. There is only one set of stops between 43rd and 50th, at 46th. Yes, there is that one southbound redundant one at 44th. Get rid of it. But between 43rd and Phinney and 50th and Phinney, there is only one set of stops.

        And that’s a major transfer point.

        There’s plenty of beef; where’s the fat (except 44th)?

      2. You’re right. 43rd to 50th isn’t the section of the route with ridiculous stop spacing, 43rd to Aurora is the section with ridiculous stop spacing.

  10. Just a reminder: this is the lateral change that we’re talking about.

    It’s the equivalent of the single long block from 17th to 20th in Ballard, which people had no trouble walking when we stop-dieted the 44. It’s the equivalent of catching a bus on 3rd from Pacific Place.

    If Lower Queen Anne were 900 feet from Elliott Ave — and totally flat — would anyone be trying to defend that deviation? Why the hell is anybody defending this one?

  11. That map shows that from 46th & Fremont it’s closer to walk to the 358/E stop than walking to 46th & Phinney. So, a rider who begins their trip from 46th & Phinney likely wouldn’t be stressed by the walk to Fremont Avenue, but how many people actually begin their trips at 46th & Phinney?

    1. The grid is unbroken. Anyone in any of the small apartment buildings along Phinney has that easy of a walk to Fremont.

      West of Phinney/Greenwood, demand falls off a literal cliff.

      1. D.P.

        Wow, your inner Marxist is definitely showing today:

        As for the blocks west of Phinney… oh, whoops, there’s a freaking cliff there, studded with million-dollar-view homes! No one west of Greenwood and south of 50th rides the bus. There’s no walkshed to be lost.

        Go to Google maps and march west from 43rd and Phinney down 43rd to Greenwood then down the steps to Palatine and so on down to Third Northwest. Pause at 135 North 43rd, a little white bungalow; it looks like it has a slightly daylighted basement, so the square footage might total 1100.

        You are so right that there’s a cliff there, but you know what? There are houses crammed together all over it, except for the uphill side of Palatine. Now go back to 43rd and Palatine and jump up Palatine to the north to 4408, a cream bungalow with a green Accord in front of it.

        Pretty amazingly small “million dollar” houses. Most of them have had renovations to increase the living space, but the average square footage can’t be much above 1,300. And you want to deny these people the transit service they’ve had for decades?

        No wonder people think that transit geeks are liberal nanny staters.

      2. This proposal “denies these people transit service” by moving it 2 tenths of a mile? Wow.

        If that’s the case, we can never change a route ever anywhere. That seems like a ridiculous standard.

      3. “Deny people transit service” by making them walk two flat blocks further, in order to save the riders on the entire rest of Route 5 two or three minutes on what is an inexcusably long trip?

        Your inner NIMBY is showing. Usually you evaluate things in a much more balanced way.

      4. And that house on Palantine? It sold for $445K in October according to Zillow. So maybe not a million dollars, but 1/2 million dollars? Sure.

        And according to Google, their walk to the bus stop would increase from 5 minutes to 8 minutes. Oh, the horror.

      5. Wow, your inner Marxist is definitely showing today:

        That’s an astonishingly silly characterization of the perfectly obvious and banal point he was making, which is that the neighborhood in question is unlikely to generate riders, because of wealth, steepness of hill, and low density. It’s not “Marxist” to suggest we shouldn’t route our buses to provide service to people who don’t use it. Was it “Marxist” to cut the low-usage North tail of the 28, because it served a number of million dollar view homes where people didn’t ride the bus on in the 8th/125th stetch?

      6. Andandakos: Going to Google maps raises the question of why there is no bus route running down 3rd Ave. NW.

      7. Everyone here is all ga-ga about “grid systems” with lots of transfers. I agree that’s a great base service plan; it allows the most people to access the greatest number of potential destinations in the most efficient way. However, if you will please look at the grid north of the Ship Canal/Lake Union you will see that in the absence of physical obstructions, north-south bus lines run at half mile separation. The grid between Green and Bitter Lakes has buses on Meridian, Aurora, Greenwood, 8th/3rd Northwest and 15th Northwest. Those are half mile separations, with the exception that Meridian and Aurora are a bit closer, because Meridian is the only through arterial between Aurora and I-5.

        For the #5 to divert from Fremont to Phinney at 43rd allows establishment of that north end grid at the southernmost point possible for the Greenwood/Phinney “wire”. Yes, it’s somewhat slower, but that potentially has technological fixes listed in this post. As Bus62 says, if the Fremont re-route is pursued, there will be “a significant hole” west of Francis between 41st or so and 46th west of Phinney. People living in a relatively dense, transit developed neighborhood will be a half mile from service.

        It’s not “two blocks” between Phinney and Fremont, it’s four (Phinney to Francis to Dayton to Evanston to Fremont), and the people in question are down the hill from Phinney a minimum of an additional two blocks. Grant those are “short blocks”, but they are “blocks”.

        Folks between 43rd and 46th along Fremont and Linden can walk to the frequent service 5 at 43rd and Fremont or to 46th and Aurora for the 358/E Line, also frequent service. Coming from downtown they can take whichever comes first but if they end up on the 358 they do have to cross under Aurora.

        At the same time the people on Palatine will have to climb the stairs then walk those five blocks from Greenwood to get frequent service in Bruce’s plan — which really just gives redundant service to the 46th and Aurora walkshed. The other choice for the folks on the west slope is to walk downhill and get the half-hourly 28, which everyone is hot to chop off at Leary. I don’t like either of those options for people some of whom were once my neighbors. Be they rich or not.

        But read on, Nathanael has a good idea.


        You’re right, of course; there should be a bus on 3rd Northwest, at least up to Market from the Ship Canal. That would make it possible to straighten the 5. But where would it go north of Market? Third narrows there and is only those same four short blocks from Phinney/Greenwood. And, what would you do with the 28? Given the budget realities with which Metro is faced, it isn’t going to have buses on 1/4 mile separations except where there are such serious elevation separations as the southwest face of Phinney Ridge or between 6th and 10 West on Queen Anne Hill.

        Nowadays, the 40 serves Leary and is frequent service, so it catches 8th up to around 48th. So, you might chop off the bottom of the 28 on Eighth NW and send it up Market to 3rd.


        I wasn’t talking about his transit suggestions when I talked about his “inner Marxist”. I was directly referring to his (unsubstantiated) claim that these are “million dollar houses”. They’re not, but even if they were, so what? Transit has been offered to the southwest face of Phinney Ridge for 100 years; taking it away for some ideological objection to the owners’ wealth sounds pretty Marxist to me.

        However, as I said above, Nathanael’s idea of putting transit on Third NW would solve the problem. People who didn’t want to climb up from Third NW would have to walk farther from Fremont, but they would have transit close by.


        It’s been a long time, but back in the 1970’s and 1980’s I was a #5 rider for eight years and very grateful for such a fast route. Before I lived above the co-op (the coffee roaster now) I lived at 77th and Dayton while I worked at the Metro Information Office at 3rd and University as a phone information operator. I was the lowest seniority person so I had to take the Friday night to Saturday morning, Saturday night to Sunday morning, and then come back on Sunday evening shifts (plus Monday and Tuesday evenings). That made for a nice long “weekend” (Tuesday evening 11 PM to Friday evening 11 PM). But it was a bear on Sunday evening…..

        I took the #5, of course, and there was this taciturn driver on the 10:15 departure from 85th who hated to drive slowly. He’d lay at the 87th stop until about four or five minutes down from the 85th time point then bomb down Greenwood at about 45 or 50. For the first few weeks I had to stand out in the street to wave him down at 77th, but my Metro Employee pass convinced him to look out for me on Friday and Saturday nights. I got downtown from 77th and Greenwood in about 22 minutes with him, and let me tell you, it was nice.

        We’d come down the hill on Phinney between the 45th wiggle and the stop sign at 43rd with the Jake brake roaring (they ran Flxible 500’s on that route and they had them). I’m sure that the folks in those two blocks hated that guy; I certainly did after I moved into the co-op building. But it was fun when I lived at 77th……

      8. This can be rebutted in a series of bullet points a fraction of the length of the above spew.

        It’s “four” short-as-fuck blocks from Fremont to Phinney. Those are about the skinniest blocks in all of Seattle.

        Again, the single block of Ballard from 17th to 20th is the same distance. We stop-dieted away the 17th bus stop, and nobody suffered one iota.

        You don’t need to continue the grid where no bus riders exist. There are no bus riders south of 50th and west of Greenwood. Million dollar homes or 1/3-million dollar homes, every-fucking-body there drives, because it’s steep and dark and has no pedestrian-oriented development slippery when wet and driving is just a million times easier.

        You know those people who freaked out at the possibility of charging to park in downtown Fremont. It’s these people who were complaining. Because they drive even in their own neighborhood.

        You can’t disenfranchise a walkshed that doesn’t exist!

        And you can’t have a bus on 3rd unless you’re one of those people who thinks 45-minute waits to save having to walk 1/4 mile is just the bee’s-knees transit.

        I’m starting to get annoyed at just how divorced from reality some full-time backseat “advocates” can be.

      9. d.p.

        Since Metro “stop dieted” the 44 at 17th and Market, nobody has an additional walk greater than one of those “long blocks” you crow about. The entire distance between 15th and 20th is only half again the distance between Fremont and Phinney, so either of those long blocks is 2/3 of it. In the worst case, when they are beginning or ending their journey right at 17th and Market or along 17th to the north or south, they have to walk either to the stops at 20th or the stops at 15th. If they’re going east they’ll probably “double back” to the stop east of 20th (especially if they’re coming from south of Market where they can get a diagonal on Barnes or Tallman; if from the north they can use the walkway behind the buildings on the north side) and if going west very far, they’ll probably use the one west of 15th. Whichever they do, either of those stops is closer than the full distance to the parallel street.

        What you’re asking people west of Phinney to do is to walk somewhat farther PLUS whatever they have always had to walk to get to the stops on Phinney. It’s hardly a fair comparison.

        Sure, for people who live between Fremont and Phinney north of 43rd, especially on Evanston, a stop a little farther north on Fremont than 43rd would be closer. The Fremont alteration is not all bad; but it does leave a hole; plenty of people get on and off at the coffee roaster and always have. Quite a few of them came from or are destined down the hill.

        And finally, why do you think the 28 runs every 45 minutes? The schedule shows it running every 30 minutes during the base service periods (granted with an odd inconsistency of two to four minutes in the afternoon). Just curious on that one.

      10. This is Fremont to Phinney.

        This is 15th to 20th.

        Gee, which is a longer line? Like, by a longshot.

        We just had a whole post on an “improved” transfer in SoDo that requires walking 1200 feet! To transfer! Transfer distances are a far greater penalty than access distances, because you have zero control over when you step off the first vehicle.

        The 900 feet from Phinney to Fremont is, in the grand scheme of things, incredibly easy access for straight-running, decently frequent transit, that happens to get on a highway and go super fast starting two blocks later.

      11. 30-minute transit is far more prone to travel-time variations than more frequent transit. 45-minute gaps on the 28 are perfectly commonplace, especially northbound.

        But rather than working to consolidate, straighten, and improve, you and Nathanael would add an infrequent bus on 3rd, splitting demand even further. 45-minute scheduled frequency is probably the best you could hope for from such an ill-conceived addition.

        But as your deviation defense shows, you’re certainly willing to fragment service and move in the wrong direction on the basis of questionable logic.

      12. And yes, I would be sympathetic to the plight of those transit riders down the steep, steep slope from Phinney… if they fucking existed. Which they don’t. End of story.

        Those headed to Lighthouse Roasters can easily walk three minutes and change.

      13. Perhaps the best way to settle this argument would be actual data on how many riders board the bus at those stops? Has anyone seen any such reports?

      14. Perhaps the best way to settle this argument would be to ask the 7,000 other riders if they’d rather save three minutes in each direction, every single day, every time they went anywhere, or if they’d rather squiggle incessantly until the end of time in order to have a one-seat ride to Lighthouse Roasters.

      15. “Yeah, getting into central Fremont requires an 8-minute walk on a pedestrian-hostile arterial. But at least I’ve got my one-seat ride to the DeSoto Arms apartments!”

      16. I said “the distance between Phinney and Fremont is 2/3 of the full distance between 15th and 20th”. Google earth says 0.2 and 0.3 miles. That’s a 2:3 ratio or 2/3 fraction. Since there are two “real” blocks between 15th and 20th and a pair of stops at each end of the two real blocks, the worst possible situation for a person needing to access a stop is NOT walking from 20th to 15th or vice versa, but walking between 17th and whichever “farside” stop is closer (20th eastbound; 15th westbound). Anyone originating or destined to a location within one of the blocks will use the pair of stops at the end of that block.

        This might be influenced by the side of the street from which one begins the journey, because of the need to cross the street. But in any case, the greatest actual distance anyone beginning or ending on Market and who doesn’t want to “double back” or cross Market needs to walk is a bit more than one “real” block. Folks coming from the north or south of course have to add the distance to access Market, but they would have had to walk that far if the stops at 17th were still in existence.

        And “no”, we did not suggest adding a new infrequent bus on Third NW. I don’t know what Nathanael had in mind, but I specifically suggested diverting the existing 28 at Market and bringing it over to Third NW, then down to Leary to resume the current route.

        That would have not have been possible before the 40 was initiated, but now that it’s there, its catchment at an Eighth and Leary stop could reasonably draw folks up Eighth NW to about 49th or so. I believe such a stop would have to be added.

        The link provided by Bruce and William shows that 43rd and Phinney is one of the larger non-transfer stops on the line. No, it’s not as important as 43rd and Fremont, which serves the area between Fremont and Aurora and up Fremont to 46th. But it’s as big as 55th and 60th and bigger than most of the other non-transfer stops south of 85th, especially for deboardings!

        I think that’s exactly because lots of people on the southwest face walk down to the 28 in the morning and walk down from the 5 in the afternoon, which is the rational thing to do. If you’ll look closely, you’ll see the same pattern at 55th, 72nd and 80th. Deboardings are noticeably greater at those stops too, because of the “walk down the hill” tendency. Seventy-second and 80th have a hill pairing with the 358 as well as the 28.

        I wish they’d left the “ad hominem” so we could all see what you think of me.

      17. I don’t know what Nathanael had in mind, but I specifically suggested diverting the existing 28 at Market and bringing it over to Third NW, then down to Leary to resume the current route. That would have not have been possible before the 40 was initiated, but now that it’s there, its catchment at an Eighth and Leary stop could reasonably draw folks up Eighth NW to about 49th or so.

        Oh, I see. So after spending a dozen comments expressing repulsion at the possibility of people having to walk a totally-flat 900 feet from Phinney to Fremont, you’d now like change a different bus’s routing in a way that would make some people walk 1350 additional feet up-hill! Hypocrite much? And you’d make another through-route slower to boot!

        The greatest actual distance anyone beginning or ending on Market and who doesn’t want to “double back” or cross Market needs to walk is a bit more than one “real” block.

        One “real” block that is just under .2 miles, i.e. the exact same distance as Phinney to Fremont.

        You keep trying to draw a distinction without a difference. Someone who lives on 17th five blocks north of Market and wants to reach the 44 walks a ways down 17th (as they always have), and now walks a few hundred extra feet along Market to their stop. Just as people west of Phinney would walk to Phinney (as they always have), and then walk a few hundred perfectly flat extra feet to the straighter, faster 5.

        No harm has been caused among 17th residents. No harm would come to Phinney/Greenwood/slope residents either.

        The link provided by Bruce and William shows that 43rd and Phinney is one of the larger non-transfer stops on the line.

        What the chart shows is that the only really important stop on the current detour is the one with the 44 transfer. What the chart shows is that a whopping 1.5 people on average get on or off the bus in the vicinity of Lighthouse Roasters, which is the part you’re mostly bitching about.

        1.5 people is worth inconveniencing the average of 22 other people on bus at that time?

        Here’s a gentler ad hom: your argument makes no sense whatsoever.

  12. I’ve been riding route #5 since I was a teenager living near 100th and Greenwood. When I returned to Seattle after being gone, I lived in an apartment on 90th and Greenwood. When I bought my first home, it was near 45th and Fremont. Those last two choices were to make sure I could take a bus to work near the Seattle Center. Nowadays, I live in Shoreline but still have to drive to catch a bus(#347 ends too late for me to take a bus all the way home) so I drive and park my car along Greenwood in north Seattle. I don’t mind the little deviation but I think two things would really speed the #5 on it’s route. Going south on Fremont, the left turn onto Bridge Way needs to have a ‘left-only’ turn signal because that seems to be the biggest delay. There have been many times, even in the early afternoon, that a bus waits two, three, or even four cycles before it can make the turn up to Aurora Avenue. Two, a stop diet is desperately needed between Fremont and 38th, and Greenwood and 105th.

    1. I was gone for about 8 years. When I returned, route #5 had been split between Shoreline CC and Northgate. I’m glad it is back to Shoreline all the time. As for going up Fremont to 50th, uh…how many homes are on 50th from Fremont to Phinney? NONE. It is the southern edge of the Zoo. There are a lot more people living on the current deviation than the proposed change. If there’s a problem with speed, then the changes(light on 43rd, better light timing on 46th/Phinney) should be made, not a route change.

      1. Buses are fundamentally bad at wiggling. More turns = slower service, always.

        So unless you want to start tearing down a whole bunch of buildings in order to straighten Phinney and to give the bus a wide turning berth onto 43rd, the deviation will forever be palpably slower. A turn signal could actually make things work, given SDOT’s obsession with multi-minute light cycles.

        This deviation, like most deviations, does significant cumulative harm to many through-riders for the very slight (arguably nonexistent) benefit of a few. Like most deviations, it should die.

      2. Although you may save a minute by cutting out the deviation, I think you’ll slow down even more with this proposal of going up Fremont Avenue to 50th. The lights on Fremont/46th and Fremont/50th are pretty long and there is a lot of north/south traffic on Fremont at 46th. So, would you rather go slow through the deviation or completely stopped at these two lights? For me, I’d rather go slow. Plus, you are still passing by a lot more homes in the current routing.

      3. Cinesea, you spend far longer stopped at the lights at 46th and 50th on Phinney than you do at the same lights on Fremont. Their cycles are longer. Plus, the bus has to make three turns instead of one, which also takes time.

  13. I used to live at 46th and Greenwood. So I’m no stranger to the ludicrousness of today’s routing.

    I am strongly in support of Bruce’s proposal, for all the reasons that he’s listed. The jog from 43rd and Fremont to 46th and Phinney shouldn’t be an arterial at all, let alone a conduit for 60-foot buses.

    I would have been more than happy to walk a bit further in exchange for a more reliable and faster trip.

    I also completely agree with Kevin that this change would be even better if the 5 were shifted to Dexter and routed over the Fremont bridge. With those changes, the resulting bus route would actually look somewhat sane. And if you simultaneously changed the 28 to use Market/46th/Aurora all day (like the express routing), then you also preserve all-day service at 46th and Phinney, too. Wins all around.

  14. About the original routing, I suspect the topography south of 43rd was the reason for the jog. Phinney/Greenwood was the natural transit corridor splitting 6th and Woodland Park, but Phinney becomes super steep south of 42nd, so they jogged it over to Fremont, which has more of a uniform slope. Woodland Park and 6th have both lost their transit service to other streets over the years, so it’s not a bad idea to look at it again. But Fremont Ave service north of 43rd would be duplicative of the E and leaves a significant coverage hole.

    1. I could be wrong, but whenever I look at the topology around Fremont Ave. I think it must have been regraded significantly (around BF Day both the areas west and east of the road sit at significantly higher elevations) — it may have been chosen as the arterial road and the bridge site because it was the easiest location for such a regrade.

    2. Only “duplicative” if you don’t care about any place but downtown,

      Only “a coverage hole” if the land use is remotely transit-supporting, which west of Phinney/Greenwood it is not.

  15. Take the 5 off of Aurora entirely. Let it parallel the 40 to Fremont, then head up the hill as suggested to 50th. A connection from Fremont to Greenwood is overdue.

    1. This is an interesting compromise between the current Phinney/Fremont/Aurora routing and the sometimes-proposed Fremont/Dexter routing. It has a couple advantages: it’s almost as expressy as Aurora, and it avoids disrupting the 26/28 status quo. The disadvantage is that it’s not as straight north-south and loses the opportunity to build up a Dexter/Fremont/Phinney/Greenwood corridor, whatever that’s worth. (Metro and I think some STBers thought it was worth something last year, to give densifying Dexter better north-south service.)

      It would also give Westlake ridiculously high frequency. The interesting thing about that is how the shape of the street affects people’s perceptions. We don’t say that the 5 on Aurora is “giving Aurora service” but rather that it’s “the fastest street in the vicinity”. Any service Aurora needs south of 35th is met by the 358. Dexter, in contrast, is not fast at all: the only reason for buses to be on it is that the multifamily buildings on it supposedly need frequent service. Westlake, however, is in between. It’s like a highway with few intersections or destinations or residents, but at the same time it looks more like a regular street because it doesn’t have highway barriers or six lanes. So buses on it appear to be more “serving it” than they do on Aurora or I-5, which leads to the impression that 8 buses an hour would be severely overserving it. Which wouldn’t matter except that other parts of the city are crying out for more service, like the hourly evening 40 DP complains about so much, or the 30-60 minute 11 I complain about. So in part it depends on how you perceive Westlake Avenue.

      1. The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.

        Another nice advantage of Westlake is that, south of Mercer, it’s a much better corridor than Dexter. Belltown and the Denny Triangle are already adequately served by dozens of buses. But a direct connection from Upper Fremont and Phinney Ridge and Greenwood and Shoreline to the heart of SLU and one of the region’s biggest employers? That’s pretty awesome.

        In the fullness of time, when the streetcar is extended to Ballard, this becomes even more compelling. You have a single, unbroken corridor all the way to Fremont, with service every 5 minutes; then the bus and streetcar branch at 35th and Fremont.

      2. Mike and Aleks,

        The current phase of the Mercer project is causing such back-ups at 9th as to make Westlake-bound buses slower than Dexter buses for multiple hours every day. If it’s after 3PM and I have the opportunity to switch from a 40 to a 26/28 in Fremont, I probably will.

      3. Yeah, I realized that after looking at the schedule. The 26/28 are definitely quite a bit faster.

        Still, by the time Metro makes any changes here, the Mercer project should be long finished ;-)

      4. In reality, a free-running Westlake/9th will be a good 2-3 minutes faster than Dexter.

        (Also in reality, a free-running 40 will be 7 minutes or more ahead of schedule by the time it hits Belltown. There’s some ridiculous padding in that schedule. Heck, I’ve had trips that got stuck in terrible Mercer traffic and still arrived “early”.)

        All I’m saying is that, for the duration of the Mercer project, Dexter is the more all-hours reliable of the two.

  16. I would really love to see some grad student do a research project on how the 5’s routing came about. That would be a fascinating read.

    I would also like to see Metro study this proposal seriously, like, survey riders about where they live so we know who these stops are serving and what their walk would look like if the stops were re-routed. A few blocks could be no biggie (I.e. pacific place to 3rd ave) or it could be a real slog (I.e., 1st & Madison to 5th & Madison) and knowing whether we’re mostly talking about a flat walk for riders or a steep hill would be useful.

    That said, something needs to be done to speed up the 5 and I am disappointed that Metro has thought about this idea for a while and never done anything with it. Is it that expensive to study an idea that might increase efficiencies (and this save money in the long term)?

  17. Sorry to be late to the party. My comments:

    1. I use the #5 fairly often for 40 years (I bike more, but when it’s raining, etc.). People who say there are no transit users between Fremont and 3rd don’t know what they’re talking about. There are always people coming up the hill from south and west to the stops at the Lighthouse. And there is much higher density of housing in the L zones of Upper Fremont than when I got here in the early ’70s. If you move the #5 over to Fremont Ave, you make service for Upper Fremont significantly worse. For those of us further down the hill (I’m on Baker), the recent addition of #40 on Leary has helped, but it is not that useful below about 1st NW and N/NW 40th. Bruce Nourish’s proposal enlarges the hole in the service grid. Why would you do that in an increasingly dense neighborhood? I thought we were trying to promote “frequent transit” for people, not take it away.

    2. The comments about problems on Fremont from 43rd to 50th (very crowded at rush hour) being problematic are correct. The real problem is the turn onto 43rd from Fremont (and the other direction to a lesser extent). The solution for that problem has also been noted–some kind of signal. Fremont Neighborhood Council, local businesses, Fremont Abbey, and others are pushing hard on SDOT to improve that corner for pedestrians as well. Please help us get SDOT to act.

    3. Condition of paving? I bike those streets a lot and have no concerns; they are no rougher than many streets I ride on. The worst area is in front of the Lighthouse, and it needs to be fixed up for sure.

    1. Toby,

      No one has said that the stops at 43rd/Phinney and 46th/Phinney are unused. Rather, Bruce has argued (convincingly, I think) that serving these stops represents a significant time penalty for all the riders who aren’t using these stops.

      The problem is not just the intersection at 43rd and Fremont. The intersections at 43rd/Phinney, 46th/Phinney, and 50th/Phinney also contribute to delays. 43rd/Phinney is narrow, and difficult to negotiate when two buses meet there (as they often do). 46th/Phinney and 50th/Phinney are optimized for the arterial routes, which the bus does not follow.

      No car driver would follow such a route between Fremont and Greenwood. By taking Fremont to 50th, the bus can avoid all four of these difficult intersections. That represents a significant time savings for the through riders from Phinney Ridge and Greenwood, who significantly outnumber the riders boarding or exiting at 43rd/Phinney.

      I don’t dispute that riders who live in Upper Fremont may have to walk a bit further for a bus. For better or worse, that’s what the street grid dictates. There just aren’t any good streets for buses between Fremont and 8th.

      Still, I think you’re overblowing the problem. Someone who lives right above Lighthouse will have to walk an extra 4 blocks — 0.2 miles — to the 5. Someone who lives at 43rd and 2nd will have to walk 0.3 miles to the 40 or to the 44. I can’t find any point in the street grid which would be more than about a 1/4 mile walk to either the 5, the 40, or the 44. I really don’t think a 1/4 mile walk is sufficiently bad to justify running a major bus on what are effectively local access streets.

    2. Also, not sure how I missed this earlier, but buses are *much* more demanding on pavement than bikes are. The fact that a street is good enough for biking says pretty much nothing about whether it’s good enough for buses.

Comments are closed.