Aurora BAT Lane Profile

The Seattle Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on its proposal to add peak-period, peak-direction bidirectional Business Access and Transit lanes to Aurora Avenue, between 38th St and 115th St. These BAT lanes will connect with the existing full-time BAT lanes on Aurora, in both directions between 115th St and 145th St (and extending north throughout Shoreline), and southbound between Roy St and the Aurora Bridge.

The proposal is part of a package of minor improvements for Aurora, that includes a few blocks of new sidewalk, bus stop upgrades, transit signal priority, and signal retiming, which together will improve safety for pedestrians and travel times for all vehicles. If this proposal is implemented, Metro’s forthcoming RapidRide E service will, in the peak, enjoy an almost continuous transit lane from its northern terminal at Aurora Village, to the north edge of downtown Seattle.

Readers who’ve previously taken a ride in the Seattle Transit Lane Rodeo may have have an attack of Luna Park Café deja vu when reading the fine print of this proposal: the southbound BAT lane between 77th and 72nd is “pending evaluation of implementation options”. Businesses elsewhere on Aurora mostly have their own off-street surface parking, but on this older strip (which notably includes Beth’s Cafe), businesses are quite dependent on public parking, and it’s not clear whether parking or transit will be prioritized here.

If you’re a person who uses Aurora Avenue, you should submit feedback on this proposal through this survey.

56 Replies to “SDOT Seeks Comments on Aurora BAT Lanes”

  1. I can see allowing parking in the southbound lane in the PM peak through here. However, the only business that will notably affected during the AM peak is the Cafe, which has parking in back. The others are mostly specialty retail (games, guns, and motorbikes) which probably don’t open until 9 or so anyway.

    Perhaps the cafe can rent extra space from the bar next door for use in the morning.

    1. NO parking in the BAT lanes. please, thank-you!
      We should have learned that easy lesson by now.

    2. That stretch of Aurora already has no parking allowed during the peak period in the peak direction. This proposal would eliminate peak period off-peak direction parking (southbound from 3-7 PM and northbound from 6-9 AM), and make the right lanes reserved for buses (probably with right turns allowed too) in both directions during those periods. Seems entirely reasonable to me.

    3. There’s plenty of parking nearby. There’s no reason we need to have parking on Aurora at all.

      1. if you’re biking on Aurora, I’d advise you to do it in the next lane over, to get out of all the turning movements.

        The nearest signed long-distance N/S bicycle route is a few blocks to the West, and you should probably stick to either that or the full bike lanes on Greenwood.

      2. I don’t think you’d be that crazy to bike on Aurora between, say, 85th and the city limits where speeds are kept down by frequent traffic signals. It’s just that there are usually better parallel alternatives for through travel so people don’t tend to do it. People biking to locations on Aurora largely use the sidewalk (as do people biking to locations on LCW).

        By comparison, 15th Ave W is probably worse (faster vehicle speeds) but people do bike on it (in the bus lane) because for many trips the parallel alternatives are so far out of the way it’s not worth it. 1st and 4th Avenues S are not much different, but people use them because there’s no other place to go. There’s a stretch of East Marginal Way S near Boeing Field that actually has sharrows painted on it where typical traffic speeds are way faster.

      3. I’m surprised McGinn and the bike lobby would let this thing fly without a segregated cycletrack!

        It’s a central corridor!

  2. To me the parking on Aurora always seemed like an inherently silly idea. This is one of the two major arterial roadways of your city, and you allow people to park on it? There is a reason there is no parking allowed on I-5. Its not safe, especially for people who are turning onto or off of the road.

    Further up north there is no parking at all on 99, and the speed limit actually goes up a bit.

    How about they buy up some of the dilapidated properties on Aurora, turn them into parking lots and eliminate all parking on 99/Aurora? The lanes on the far right and left should only ever be used for turning and buses (and possibly bike lanes) in my opinion.

    We also need better signaling control at cross streets (like a better sensor light at 83rd!) and more pedestrian/bicycle bridges. Aurora/99 is second only to I-5 as a barrier to bicycle and pedestrian traffic in this city.

    1. Buying a couple of blocks of frontage property on Aurora might cost more than the entire RapidRide E project.

      Moreover, in general, building pedestrian and bike bridges, and bulldozing adjacent buildings for parking is not the way to make a big road more urban.

      1. More expensive? Yeah probably, but I was trying to at least compensate for getting rid of the parking so the local businesses have something to use. The parking on Aurora/99 still seems like a really bad idea on its face and if it weren’t already grandfathered in, I suspect we would never choose to allow it.

        Perhaps bridges will not make the street safer, but having them would make a lot of us feel a lot safer crossing that blasted street.

        If you think you could manage to get enough support to turn Aurora into a street friendly to more than just cars, I would be behind you all the way, but I think that would be a significant undertaking given how 99 is used through the rest of the state.

        At a minimum there need to be better signals at the cross streets. The light at 83rd and Aurora is pretty useless when trying to cross west towards Greenwood/Ballard. Oddly enough it works just fine in the opposite direction. Pretty pathetic for one of the official marked routes to Green Lake from Fremont/interurban north.

      1. That’s hardly true for the 30 mph zone north of Green Lake Way and south of the cemetery. That’s the same speed as any arterial in the city and there are more lights on Aurora.

      2. Not unsafe, just insane from a traffic and transit engineering perspective. BAT lanes there will benefit far more residents than a few parking spots, especially since parking is essentially always available on the gridded streets nearby.

    2. Buying up properties and turning them into parking lots is something for the businesses to do, not the City. The U-district found a simple way with shared private lots and parking validation, that I think works very elegantly.

      But it won’t matter so much here, because there’s more free street parking right around the corner in most cases. At least until local residents get an RPZ set up to claim it.

  3. Nice. It will almost offset the time lost by almost everyone paying on-board the E-line to get the one-zone fare instead of paying a two-zone fare offboard.

  4. If they got peak-period BAT lanes all the way from 115th down to 38th except for the short stretch between 72nd and 77th I’d be a lot more disappointed about losing them off-peak than “72nd to 77th”.

  5. Everyone please note that the initiative for a district-based city council is heavily funded by an opponent of the Aurora BAT lanes, which should tell you all you need to know about how the districts have been drawn to dilute the political power of transit-oriented constituencies.

  6. I’m torn. BAT lane good. Fast moving buses inches from pedestrians bad.

    Can’t we just convert one of the car lanes to BAT during commute hours?

    1. But, then, how would the bus access the bus stops? And how would fast-moving cars and trucks inches away from pedestrians be any better than fast moving buses? At least fast moving buses would only be coming by once every several minutes.

      1. I think you misunderstand. Keep parking 24/7. Convert the outside lanes to BAT during peak hours (or longer, if that’s not enough). Have bus stops without parking (or bulbs out to in-lane stops).

  7. I’ve never understood allowing parking on Aurora – it makes no sense given the purpose of Aurora, and ultimately is nothing more than prioritizing a few automobile drivers over thousands of transit riders. At best, it creates a confusing and dangerous STROAD – and Seattle has enough of those.

    The limited time periods of parking on Aurora as is significantly limit it’s utility, and even one violator has a significant impact on transit mobility and reliability. I can’t understand (outside of political pressure from a few business owners) why SDOT would consider anything but full time BAT lanes.

    1. Because there are sidewalks. And having a sidewalk next to 50+mph vehicles* is generally a bad idea. Parked cars create a steel buffer between the fast heavy things and the slow soft things.

      * Ok, 40, if people obeyed the speed limits.

      1. The speed limit on Aurora between about 70th St and 85th St is 30 MPH. This is where most of the controversial parking removal is located. Anyone going 50 MPH in this area is speeding in a severe way. I would expect transit buses to stay pretty close to the speed limit, making their operation right next to a sidewalk safer than just letting any old cars drive there.

      2. I’ve been passed on the right by buses on Aurora.

        But anyway, this seems to be going against the direction I want to see Aurora heading. Whatever speed limit we put on the sign, driving less than 40 will seem very slow on a highway. I want to see traffic lights every other intersection, curb bulbs, well lit crosswalks, trees… Having a surface road where people think it’s too dangerous to park (other comments here) is not acceptable. With the dramatically lowered traffic volumes that will come with tolling 99 we should make this an arterial, not a freeway.

        Allow parking 24/7, and convert the outside lanes to bus lanes during commute hours.

      3. This section of Aurora is already like that in many ways. It’s wide, sure. However, there are stoplights and crosswalks at Winona Ave, 77th St, 80th St, 83rd St, and 85th St. The buildings are close to the sidewalk and close to each other. Several don’t have parking lots in front (which is the big reason why so many of the business owners don’t want to give up the street parking). Compared to the rest of Aurora it’s downright walkable.

        Frankly, I don’t think reducing the expressway portion of Aurora to one general-purpose lane, one bus lane, and one parking lane, with lots of stoplights and crosswalks, will be politically possible anytime in the foreseeable future.

      4. Parallel parking is nice for pedestrians, but in this case it’s not worth the disruption to transit and traffic.

      5. “in this case it’s not worth the disruption to transit and traffic” And keeping transit and traffic moving quickly is not worth disruption to my pulse. We have a freeway through Seattle, we don’t need two. And if we really do need two, do it right and put the terrible barriers and fences required to keep pedestrians away. Moving pedestrians closer to traffic and speeding up this traffic is a terrible recipe.

      6. Matt,
        I’d agree that fast moving traffic next to sidewalks is a bad idea. It creates a pedestrian-hostile atmosphere, and discourages bicycling as well.

        Frequent stoplights and a 30 MPH speed limit reduce the “Oh God I’m Going To Die” factor of walking by a true freeway a good bit, and narrow lane widths would help there as well. Having a 13-foot lane next to a sidewalk is a problem: it is far too wide for the speeds the road is signed for, and does encourage speeding. I’d much rather see that lane reduced to 11 feet, like the other lanes on the road, with the extra foot used to provide a buffer of some sort. Reducing the center turn lane to 10 feet would allow for more buffer space. Eliminating any median to provide for a real buffer would be awesome, as well.

        Additionally, I’d rather have a BAT lane next to the sidewalk than poorly-used parking (which would fail to create a comfortable buffer on its own), since it would reduce the raw count of vehicles using the lane.

      7. Some added lane width is required by State standards as SR 99 is classified as an NHS (National Highway System) roadway when it abuts curbs. Check WSDOT Design Manual Chapter 1130 Full Design Level for more info. It’s available online for reading.

        If drivers have shredded tires and bent curbs because of your heebie jeebies, then you should pay for the replacement rims and tires. Seattle would have submit significant documentation detailing “why” lanes were narrowed. Trust me, it isn’t easy.

    2. “it makes no sense given the purpose of Aurora”

      Aurora is a road with an identity crisis. It’s worth recalling that it used to serve as US-99, the primary north-south corridor on the West Coast, but was replaced in this function by I-5. This is why the DBT is such a tragedy – the Alaskan Way Viaduct was built to serve through-traffic demand that has mostly moved to I-5.

      I’d love to go the other way – make Aurora more of an arterial city street and less of a quasi-freeway with blind-corner on-ramps.

      1. Aurora is still one of the only ways to cover ground in the west side of the city. That applies to buses, not just cars. Even on today’s 358, with the Linden deviation and parking, you can be north of 105th by the time a 5 leaving at the same time reaches 65th. Don’t slow Aurora down unless we get grade-separated transit west of North Link.

      2. There are more important things in life than speed. Plowing through a walkable neighborhood in a massive bus inches from pedestrians is a terrible idea. Want fast transit? Grade separate.

      3. There’s something to be said for having a resilient transportation network, and for Aurora filling that need as an alternative north/south route to I-5, but it’s a poorly designed one for sure.

        There’s a term for roads that can’t decide if they’re a street or a freeway – STROAD. Not only do they not work well, they’re anti-urban, unsafe, and ultimately a blight on the city. Aurora could easily work as a good north/south route and a decent urban arterial with a good redesign, but as long as engineering standards emphasize lane miles over livability it wont’ happen.

        Given the ROW width, Aurora should be four lanes, with an occasional turn pocket, a dedicated BAT lane near the curb, and parking-buffered bike lanes (or a cycle track). Assuming 11 foot wide lanes, 7 foot wide parking lanes, and 7 feet for bike lanes and buffer space between them and the parking, that leaves 4 feet in the ROW to expand the sidewalks to boot*. This would screw over cars a bit, but with frequent transit on the corridor and nearby I’m not sympathetic.

        *if my 30 second, back of my brain math is right

      4. “There are more important things in life than speed.”

        When there is a fast alternative, I’ll agree with you and support turning Aurora into an arterial. Until then, I don’t support making it impossible to get anywhere from the northwest of the city, whether by car or bus.

      5. Will, your proposal would screw over the transit (and its users) as well. It would make the 358/RR E as slow as today’s 5, if not slower.

      6. “When there is a fast alternative, I’ll agree with you” Until then you’re happy risking lives and walkable neighborhoods in the name of speed? If you want high speed transit, build it right. Until then, it’s unacceptable to run at high speeds next to sidewalks.

        “I don’t support making it impossible to get anywhere from the northwest of the city” There is no fundamental right to high speeds through neighborhoods, inches from pedestrians. If it really takes too long for you, consider moving closer to your job.

    3. The real reason parking is allowed on Aurora is that roadside parking has been allowed since cars were invented, and horses were hitched the same way before that. Aurora missed the horse era, but highways in its day were more like regular streets; i.e., with parking and side streets. So it’s not a case of parking being added to Aurora at some point, but rather that parking restrictions ocurred only in the most extreme cases.

  8. Doesn’t Aurora already disallow parking peak hours? Its six lanes are full, like Roosevelt Way and other streets that only allow off-peak parking. So this may be more about kicking moving cars out of the lane than about kicking out parked cars.

    1. Parking is currently disallowed during peak hours in the peak direction only. The SDOT site indicates that the BAT lanes will be in effect during peak hours in both directions (with a possible exception for southbound in the afternoon between 72nd St and 77th St).

  9. Fixed part of that second to last paragraph for you:

    “Businesses elsewhere on Aurora mostly have their own off-street surface parking, but on this older strip (which notably includes Beth’s Cafe), businesses have deluded themselves despite all available evidence that they are somehow dependent on public parking, and it’s not clear whether their ideological whims will be catered to or if transit will be prioritized here.”

      1. BAT = HOV Facility …nice try though.

        I know what BAT stands for, and the rules apply for both BAT lanes and HOV. According to FHWA, HOV facilities are an umbrella term for TRANSIT LANES. BAT lanes are a hokey term drawn up to segregate the two, but when local agencies apply for fed funding, they have to meet fed guidelines! …which means they have to abide by fed What are buses? High…Occupancy…Vehicles

        The reason why Edmonds, Lynnwood and Shoreline have not applied it is because they feel there is a safety conflict. …yet bicycles are still allowed in the right lane. I don’t track the logic. According to FHWA, bicycles and motorcycles were to allowed under SAFETEA-LU. MAP-21’s language is a little more vague by stating that Washington would have to submit documentation to FHWA stating why motorcycles and bicycles would be excluded from given facilities.

        Finally the signing for BAT and HOV facilities are basically the same, a black on white regulatory sign. In the upper left hand corner of the sign is a white diamond on a black background indicative of an HOV Facility. Look at the BAT lane signs on southbound Aurora, just south of Dexter….look at the shoulder-mounted HOV lane signs on the freeways. Notice the similarities?

        Washington does not want to admit that motorcycles and bicycles are permitted by fed policy that the BAT lane must be open to both bicycles and motorcycles. I’m for it!

      2. BAT ≠ HOV …nice try though.

        BAT lanes are a municipally-applied designation, not a federal one, and fall under municipal (and state, where it applies) jurisdiction. Given that Aurora is a state highway, it doesn’t fall under FHWA guidelines, anyhow.

        The diamond symbol you mention is indicative of a lane restriction, with signing more clearly indicating what the lane restriction is, such as 2+ or 3+ for a HOV lane. Up until a few years ago, even bike lanes could use the diamond symbol, per the MUTCD Manual. Just because one sign looks similar to the other doesn’t mean it’s the same as the other.

      3. Oh…I had to rub it in. I had a good time riding my motorcycle (let me emphasize)LEGALLY in the BAT Lane today! SB 5142 is now officially part of RCW 46.61.165!

        So…nice try. ;-)

  10. I totally forgot the darned bill I testified on! S.B. 5142 ! In two days it is enacted as an amendment to RCW 46.61.165! Senate Bill 5142 made it legal for motorcycles to use BAT Lanes! It was signed into law back in April by Gov. Inslee! That makes my life easy! Bump having to persuade the city! Even the RCW’s highlight the BAT lane an HOV Facility.

    The State refers to them as HOV facilties. The Association of Public Transit Agencies refers to them as Bus Lanes. Still this opens the case for motorcycles because bicycles are permitted to use the facility.
    APTA Calls BAT Lanes – Arterial Bus Lanes in Their Definition

    Since you KNOW so much about the “MUTCD Manual,” what does the “M” in MUTCD stand for? Before you have the wherewithal to get snide with me and tell me that Aurora does not fall under FHWA guidelines, you’d better read the introduction of the MUTCD. Better yet, let me provide it.

    “The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is incorporated by reference in 23 Code
    of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F and shall be recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel (see definition in Section 1A.13) in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 109(d) and 402(a).
    The policies and procedures of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to obtain basic uniformity of traffic control devices shall be as described in 23 CFR 655, Subpart F.
    03 In accordance with 23 CFR 655.603(a), for the purposes of applicability of the MUTCD:
    A. Toll roads under the jurisdiction of public agencies or authorities or public‑private partnerships
    shall be considered to be public highways;
    B. Private roads open to public travel shall be as defined in Section 1A.13; and
    C. Parking areas, including the driving aisles within those parking areas, that are either publicly
    or privately owned shall not be considered to be “open to public travel” for purposes of MUTCD
    applicability.
    Any traffic control device design or application provision contained in this Manual shall be considered to be in the public domain. Traffic control devices contained in this Manual shall not be protected by a patent, trademark, or copyright, except for the Interstate Shield and any items owned by FHWA.”

    Notice that FHWA is mentioned. …and FHWA publishes the MUTCD.

    The diamond symbol are considered preferential lanes….but now they are also considered managed lanes. These are HOV Lanes…BAT Lanes….bicycle lanes….etc. In the 2009 Edition, Section 2.G is entirely dedicated to signs and markings. I know the traffic signs I discussed, Will. I only used them as a reference in similarities, but it seems that it flopped.

    Yes, BAT may be applied to a given municipal or state project, but it’s regulated at a state level as seen in RCW 46.61.165, the WSDOT Design Manual (Chapter 1410: HOV Facilities) and associated municipal design requirements. Notice…BAT falls under HOV FACILITIES.

    So…

    BAT = HOV Facility. :-)

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