The Seattle Department of Transportation has proposed eliminating two small loading zones and a handful of parking spots in order to extend the very busy pair of bus zones in downtown Fremont to cover essentially their entire respective block faces, as shown on the map above. We’ve written at length before about the specific problems at these stops (along with some other transit problems on Leary between Fremont and Ballard) but the letter from Metro succinctly states the case:

The need for these revisions is driven by an increase in transit service and ridership in the area as well as interest in improving general traffic flow along the block. Since September 2012, transit service to these bus stops has increased from about 8 buses an hour to 15 buses per hour during the peak, greatly increasing the likelihood of concurrent bus arrivals at both northbound and southbound bus stops. Since two large buses can’t fully pull to the curb at either the northbound or southbound bus stops, buses often have to block a general purpose travel lane until the space is cleared. This causes delays to riders and to drivers that get stuck behind the waiting buses. Similarly, restricting parking along the block will allow buses to move through intersections without having to wait for vehicle queues from the traffic signal to clear.

Over 1000 riders use these bus stops each day; we believe these revisions will provide a great benefit to them as well as general purpose traffic.

If you’re someone who uses these stops and you want to comment on this proposed change, email your comment to by May 3rd. Absent supportive comments from riders, the public feedback might well just be grumbling about parking loss from adjacent businesses, so if this will benefit you, be sure to make your voice heard.

29 Replies to “SDOT Proposes Expanding Bus Zones in Fremont”

  1. Great news – that SB loading zone on Fremont north of the SB stop has been a problem for years – especially when you’re in a bus trying to make the left from N 35th.

    I didn’t realize the loading zone was that long on N 35th E of Fremont. I always thought the loading zone was just in front of the restaurant and that there were a few parking spots between the no parking zone and the loading zone.

  2. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. This block has way too much traffic for parking to make sense anyway. I think its perfectly reasonable to force people onto one of the nearby side streets for parking.

  3. Previously here Metro drivers have commented that, northbound, they can’t physically make that right turn from the right lane, and at least one said he liked the cars parked there to prevent people from sneaking up to his right when he moved left to make his turn. It will be interesting to see what all happens there… particularly bike-bus movements, which are pretty complex on this block. How many cyclists will realize it’s OK to pass a 28 or 40 on the right but not a 26, 31, or 32?

    Southbound it seems like sometimes buses get far enough right that cars can pass them in-lane in that super-wide right lane, but not always… and I don’t think it’s typical for buses to be able to use the extra space to pass stopped cars to get to the zone. Will there be a lane marking put in to keep the bus zone clear? I’m not sure there’s enough extra space to actually help much. If I was rebuilding this intersection (with lots o money) I might fill that space with a bus island and sneak a bike lane to the right of it (a one-way bike lane can be pretty narrow).

    1. If that turn really is an issue SDOT could look at taking out one or two more parking spots on the north side of N 35th Pl and then shift the centerline north 6 or so feet to increase the turning radius.

    2. The problem I’ve had there is after the turn – that no stopping zone is routinely violated and it’s difficult to get a 60′ coach through there without going into opposing traffic after the turn. You can make it, but it slows everybody down.

      1. I have seen this many times as a passenger. I mentioned this issue in my letter, asking for parking enforcement (as there is no obvious engineering solution to this problem as far as I can tell).

      2. One partial engineering solution is to extend the sidewalk. People are more prone to violate no-parking zones when the outside lane is wide and it feels as if they can squeeze in between traffic and the curb.

    3. Former Metro driver here… I’ve seen drivers say the parking on northbound Fremont helps with the turn, and I don’t particularly agree. I’ll be glad to see it gone.

      Velo is exactly right that we need zealous take-no-prisoners towing enforcement of the “no stops” zone on eastbound 35th. People who park there can screw up all of central Fremont for ten minutes as a bus struggles to get through and backs up traffic in several directions behind it.

  4. Comment submitted – I focused on traffic in general as this really isn’t about improving bus flow – It’s about improving ALL traffic flow.

    A Queue jump light for buses heading to the Fremont bridge, OTOH, would be about improving things for bus passengers and would be a welcome addition to that intersection. A topic for another day, I suppose.

  5. I emailed as well, sounds like it’s a great plan. I did ask for some bike logos on the ground on the designated preferred lane for bikes in case they don’t have that in their repaint plan.

    1. That’s the thing… what is the preferred lane for bikes?

      Both northbound and southbound cyclists have to go left of stopped buses in zones, but all the southbound buses and half the northbound buses (the 28 and 40, turning left toward Leary) must then get left of most of the cyclists to get through the intersection. So that puts cyclists in the lane left of where the bus stops (where they should, like car drivers, pass buses with all lights flashing indicating a stop and yield to buses with the left turn-signal on trying to get back into traffic)… except when there isn’t a bus stopped and cyclists going through may prefer to use the bus-stop-and-right-turn lane to queue-jump (which is at the very least legit going south because it lines up with the bike lane). So the way through on bike depends on the situation.

      I think the only real fix here for bikes would be to redesign the block entirely and “Dexterize” the bus stops. Coming south there’s just one unavoidable crossover between bikes and buses, but coming north there’s one entering the block, where the road design just sends bikes and buses blithely into the same space without any clarification of right-of-way! If I arrive at 34th at the same time as a bus I’m basically guaranteed to get cut off. Anyway, that might not be acceptable without finding a way to remove lots of car traffic from Fremont Ave.

  6. It’s great that SDOT is gradually improving major bus stops. But we also need to look at how this alongside the potential upcoming changes in the transit network. Namely, the second Fremont bridge that might take buses or cars away from Fremont Ave or replace the Fremont-downtown buses with a streetcar. If that happens, will this investment still be beneficial long-term, or will it end up being a short-term duplication of resources?

    The same thing has been happening on 15th NE, 45th, and Northgate Way: SDOT has been installing bus bulbs and queue jobs on Metro’s existing trunk streets, while the question is still open whether the buses should remain on these traffic-clogged streets or be moved off them, to 92nd and University Way and 50th et al. Because it’s really Metro who should say where the future network should be. But because Metro isn’t saying, the TMP and SDOT are defaulting to Metro’s current streets. That makes it harder for Metro to consider moving buses off those streets, because it would waste that investment. So the net result is possibly slower buses because the tactics came before the strategy and essentially constrained the strategy.

    The same problem afflicts the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. Link was basically forced to serve it because otherwise the previous investment in it would be wasted, and that would be difficult to explain to taxpayers. That prevented Link from having a more useful route on Aurora or downtown Mountlake Terrace where the pedestrians are.

    Maybe Metro has privately told SDOT that it wants these streets to remain the primary transit corridors, but if so it should tell us. Otherwise it looks like everything is being done based on default assumptions, which then solidifies these assumptions into the only viable strategy.

    1. Bus bulbs, queue jumps, signal priority etc. are such small costs compared to any of the potential high-capital projects that you mention that they’re basically not worth discussing in the same sentence, except insofar as minor improvements might drive short- to medium-term ridership on the corridor, thereby further motivating long-term high-capital investment.

      Metro and SDOT worked pretty well together on the bus priority sections of the TMP, AFAICT.

    2. This shift in particular requires only a minimal cash investment (paint, labor, removing/moving/updating a few parking and loading zone signs). To suggest that it should wait for a bridge that may or may not happen (and is years away if it does happen) doesn’t make any sense to me.

      1. “…paint, labor, removing/moving/updating a few parking and loading zone signs…”

        And periodic reigns of terror by Parking Enforcement Officers. I’d have one running laps on 2nd and 4th with a tow truck running as a wingman if I had my way. Russel Investment Center has about a 50/50 chance of having somebody blocking the bus lane when I swing through there every day around 4. When one dipstick parks illegally, everybody assumes it’s ok and a party starts up.

      2. There are quite a few spots where people routinely ignore “no stopping” or bus zone signs with a significant impact on operations. The one that always got me the hottest under the collar was the “no stops” zone in front of the Starbucks at Queen Anne and Boston. Making the left from WB Boston onto SB Queen Anne is essentially impossible if someone parks there and there is northbound traffic at the stop sign.

      3. In a city starved for revenue, you’d think sending out revenue producing officers to enforce the law would be considered a good idea. But my sense is this is considered “bad for business”, which of course has been the justification for not making these obvious changes to Fremont Ave. for all these years.

      4. “In a city starved for revenue, you’d think sending out revenue producing officers to enforce the law would be considered a good idea.”

        Im sure it’s a balancing act. Too many Parking Enforcement Officers (PEO): not enough “yield” per officer (or whatever the metric is called). Too few: not enough enforcement to cause drivers to pay attention. I get the sense that the city has enough out there – As I’m driving around I frequently see them targeting the areas I gripe about, but they can’t be everywhere all the time. I assume the city has metrics for PEO “productivity” that would be interesting to see on an aggregate level.

        Drivers park in my Ballard (29, 62) layover zone in Ballard almost every day. (The 8 vehicles parked on the North Side of Market in this StreetView are in the zones I’m referring to) About once or twice a week, I’ll see the area’s PEO ticketing and calling for tow trucks. I also happen to deadhead up 4th right at 3pm and frequently see a PEO running up 4th as well as 15th and Elliott.

        Ideally, we’d have a single button on our DDU’s that we could press to report a parking violation affecting operatons in the vicinity of our current GPS location. No more details than that, to prevent distraction. (If we call now, the coordinator asks for license plate information and other details. I’ve given up since it would require me to stop twice to safely report it – once to record the data, and once when they call back) Couple that with a “Parking vigilante” app, that citizens could use to report illegal parking and the City’s parking enforcement could be much more efficient. Imagine being able to ride along on the bus and report drivers illegally parked / stopped in bus lanes. The individual may not get the ticket that time, but the data could be very handy for enforcement. Crazy idea that will likely never happen… Maybe…

    3. If transit is taken out of this stretch (which I see as vanishingly unlikely) then just repaint the curb and put up a few “pay to park” signs. No big deal.

  7. Thanks, Bruce. I work in Fremont and could not agree more with these proposed changes. Letter sent and details shared with my colleagues.

  8. I commute by bike up Fremont in the evening. This block is a nightmare for bicyclists because of the intense amount of auto and bus traffic that tries to squeeze through this short block. I approve of the proposed change but hate the idea of having to ride with traffic in this block, short as it is.

  9. Another location where I almost always see parking violations is 85th and Greenwood Ave North. The northbound stop at that intersection sits right next to an ATM for Chase. Cars are always parked there with someone stepping out ‘for just a moment’ to make a withdrawal. As a passenger, I love it when the bus driver honks his horn to make the car driver pull away and leave his passenger at the ATM.

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