Greenwood improvements diagram
Greenwood improvements diagram. Click to enlarge.

On Wednesday, from 5-7PM at the Greenwood Public Library, the Seattle Department of Transportation is hosting an open house to discuss a set of proposed transit, pedestrian and bike improvements for the section of Greenwood between 85th St and 105th St. The proposal has  changed significantly from its initial version, but mostly in good ways. If you’re a person who uses transit on Greenwood, you should be there to express support for these changes, which will make your bus faster and more reliable; alternatively, you can send comments to Christine Alar at SDOT.

The main part of the proposal is to close a number of substandard and overly-closely-spaced stops, and upgrade four of the remaining stops to be transit islands similar those found on Dexter, with benches, shelters, conduit for future real-time sign installation, and bike lanes flowing around the outside (concept diagram below). This is a major upgrade for those facilities, as most of this section of Greenwood lacks proper sidewalks, and some of the stops are little more than a post in a ditch.

More after the jump.

Responding to public feedback, the stops at 87th have been retained, and other improved stops have been shifted closer to existing crosswalks and traffic signals. Also, not obvious from the map above, the stop currently just north of 103rd will be shifted up, just south of 104th, to slightly improve the connection between Route 5 and Route 40. Because of the channelization and traffic patterns of the complex intersection at 105th & Greenwood, and obstructions on the sidewalk, it’s not possible to move that stop further north.

Concept Greenwood bus island
Concept Greenwood bus island

The second part of the proposal is largely invisible preparation for the future installation of sidewalks throughout this section of Greenwood. As with many of the arterials north of 85th St (notably including Aurora), no authoritative survey of the public right of way has ever been undertaken, so property boundaries are unclear, which effectively prohibits major upgrades to bus stops and sidewalks. Surveys are expensive, but SDOT has paid to have this stretch of Greenwood surveyed, both for the bus islands, and to complete a shovel-ready design that can be used to compete for federal and city grants that would pay to complete the sidewalk network here.

There are some cheap things that could be done to capitalize on the speed and reliability improvements this proposal would provide. Most obviously, Metro and SDOT could work together to consolidate stops on the section of Greenwood between 50th and 80th, which has far too many stops, some just a block apart. The agencies could also examine the possibility of speeding up the bus by using Fremont and 50th rather than Phinney and 43rd.

Like everything else SDOT’s Transit division does with buses, my only real complaint about this project is that the scope isn’t large enough: we should be doing this for all of Greenwood, and for every other major transit street in Seattle, as fast as humanly possible. Projects like this aren’t sexy, and this part of Greenwood isn’t the kind of the photogenic place where electeds like to have photo ops, but this kind of block-by-block hard work, negotiating with property owners and transit riders to make transit universally fast, reliable and accessible, at a reasonable cost, is a major but unsung part of how we will make Seattle a viable place to live without a car.

49 Replies to “Wednesday: Open House for North Greenwood Stop Improvements”

  1. Uhg! The snails pace of change at Metro drives me crazy. Those stops are currently 1/8 mile apart, don’t even come close to meeting stop guidelines on spacing and have been that way for years. Think of all the wasted hours of bus time and rider time to stop at nearly every block, umpteen times a day, 365 a year.
    I recall sitting down with a Metro facilities planner in the early 90’s suggesting Metro go on a huge stop diet to save money. He brought up a GIS map that showed every stop in the system, zoomed in on some routes around Aurora and said ‘Yep, your right’. Then explained how they like to do this corridor by corridor, go through a proper public process, and make sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted. Then it’s off to the council for any last minute ‘save my stop’ letters, and finally to a warm body to pull the flag.
    We’ll, here we are 20 years later, and still gazing at our collective navels.

    1. They did a stop diet north of 85th a few years ago. It’s the stops south of 80th that frustrates me.

      1. I believe you, but they obviously didn’t do a very good job. I can’t imagine how bad it was with even more stops.

  2. As with many of the arterials north of 85th St (notably including Aurora), no authoritative survey of the public right of way has ever been undertaken, so property boundaries are unclear, which effectively prohibits major upgrades to bus stops and sidewalks.

    This area was part of a 1954 annexation to Seattle. At the time of the annexation, most of the transit service in the Ballard/Greenwood area was provided by trolley buses and it wasn’t until 1963, with the conversion of route 5 to diesel coaches, that transit service was provided on Greenwood north of 85th Street. Still, it’s surprising that almost 50 years have passed without a survey of the land.

    Projects like this aren’t sexy, and this part of Greenwood isn’t the kind of the photogenic place where electeds like to have photo ops

    Isn’t this Mike McGinn’s backyard?

    1. Checking my February 21, 1944 schedule for Greenwood/Evanston Ave N, bus service to the northern part of Greenwood (north of 85th St) was somewhat hourly during the day with better than 30-minute service in the rush hour. Some trips operated on Dayton and Evanston to be closer to the interurban alignment.

  3. Yes please. I live in Greenwood and this stretch is abysmal, especially on the east side of the street. Sidewalks would be amazing.

  4. Excellent news. I semi-frequently catch the 5 southbound at 85th, about a 9 minute walk from my house. OBA frequently tells me it’s on time when I leave my house, but 5 minutes late by the time I get to the stop. This section seems to kill reliability.

  5. Keeping the stops in front of the Safeway (NB) and Walgreens (SB) at 87th should have been a no-brainer. It’s not exactly a short block between 85th and 87th and, with the farside SB 85th stop, would require two crossings to get back to the Walgreens.

    1. From the diagram, it looks like those stops are staying. Ordinarily I would say they’re a bit too close to the stops at 85th St, but these stores are an important enough shopping destination that I think keeping the stops is justified.

      It looks like they’re removing the stops at 90th St to keep the distance between stops reasonable going north from there.

  6. I live right on this stretch of road and use both the 5 and 40 frequently. Reducing stops on the 5 seems like a definite upgrade and I am completely in favor of extending the bike lane and adding more sidewalks, but the biggest problem with transferring between the 40 and the 5 is the horrid design of the intersection of Holman/105th and Greenwood. Though there are crosswalks, crossing this mess often involves waiting through as many as three lights where the cars have a strong time preference at all of the crossings.

    More than half of the times I have missed the 40 have been due to waiting at a crosswalk light for 10+ minutes as I see the bus slowly approach through traffic, stop for several minutes and then leave as I am powerless to do anything but wave my hands and shout at the driver to wait for me.

    As both of these roads are major arterials, I don’t propose that we change light priority, but a pedestrian bridge might be in order at at least one of these crossings in the near future. Especially since several new apartment complexes have just gone in within a block of this very intersection. (Including a very large one that went in where the old bowling alley used to be).

    Its very unfriendly to pedestrians and there are about to be a lot more of then in the coming months.

    1. I’d argue the solution is improving reliability and more frequency on both routes, not pedestrian bridges.

      1. The intersection isn’t just bad for catching buses.

        I don’t disagree that increased frequency would be better though.

      2. And I don’t disagree that 105th/Greenwood is miserable for pedestrians in general, but ADA-compliant bridges are, in general, really expensive, and that’s why they don’t get built very often. For example, the West Thomas Street overpass was around $10 million, and it took many years to get a design that everyone could live with, and round up the money to pay for it. You could put in an awful lot of TSP and bus bulbs for that kind of money, probably most of the corridor north of 38th, and that would benefit a lot more people.

        There’s also the larger question of whether it makes sense to surrender the street level to cars by building a bridge, rather than hoping that the long-term increase in pedestrian activity will eventually cause that intersection to be looked at as more than a pipe for cars.

      3. Whether or not we have a bridge, something needs to be done at this intersection to accommodate more pedestrians in the very near future.

        With the massive injection of new apartment buildings within a few blocks of this intersection and the proximity to the QFC on Holman, there are going to be a lot more people walking in this area for both shopping and catching buses.

      4. This can be fixed by simply changing the timing of the lights. I’m a strong advocate for downgrading Aurora from a highway/freeway to just a city street. One small step toward that is having shorter light cycles.

      5. Sure, re-timing of lights is fine if that works to reduce the problem. I am concerned about the push back from drivers in the area given that the street is essentially treated as a pipe for cars at this point, but if you think getting past that is more likely to work than creating separate pedestrian infrastructure, I would be willing to give that process a try.

      6. At intersections like this, jaywalking can sometimes be the way to go. Often, complicated intersections have 2 or 3 signal phases that give you a protected path across the street – especially if there is a safe place to wait at the median – but standard design rules say the walk sign is only allowed to come on in one of them.

        And, of course, if the “don’t walk” sign is flashing, you need to run across if OBA indicates a wait time under 3 minutes or so, even if you don’t actually see the bus.

      7. @asdf: I think just about all the phases have turn arrows at this intersection — jaywalking is a pretty dangerous proposition unless you really know the cycle and lane assignments well.

      8. There are a couple of Ballard intersections where I literally never cross at the intended phase.

        My advice is the same as ASDF’s: learn the signal timing and then do it constantly.

      1. I respectfully disagree. Though the downtown service on both the 5 and the 40 are duplicated, the 5 goes through Phinney ridge and takes 99 downtown. The 40 goes through Ballard and Fremont on the way to downtown giving people who live up north of 85th a viable way to get to these parts of town without using a car.

        Though the Rapid Ride D could partially make up for this loss (requiring a walk from 15th to 24th for those going to and from Ballard), I would argue that it would not be sufficient unless the Rapid D was extended from its terminus at the back side of the Holman QFC up to the Northgate transfer center.

      2. Mike, I’m with you. Charles thinks the standard should be no degradation of access for Holman Rd. riders, but travel on 85th -> Greenwood -> Holman would serve more residential density, businesses and urban villages with only slight effect on travel time, including better service to the massive new development where Leilani Lanes used to be. From the perspective of “no degradation,” I’d remind that Phinney and Greenwood lost their direct connection to Northgate with the last service change.

      3. @Rob So you’d cut off reasonable access to the Northgate transfer station just as they are starting work on the Light Rail station in that area?

        I suppose you think its fine for people to have to take two buses (and take roughly an hour) before they can even get to a light rail station, when they can get there -in 10 minutes or less by car. Its barriers like that that will make people not use transit to begin with.

        I do not argue for no transit degradation, but you are talking about a pretty massive service loss for the folks up north of 85th with no reasonable replacement. This isn’t a loss of a few stops or fewer bus runs, but a loss of a whole bus line, and loss of relatively quick access to an important transfer center (and future light rail stop). This would put a pretty big hole in the service map right as a significant amount of density is going into that area.

        What is the benefit to the area as a whole you propose by putting this line down on 85th (which already has several buses and a direct line to the U-district)?

        How about we truncate the 48 at UW when the new light rail station goes in and have that bus run a loop up through Northgate and back down through 105th/Holman and into Ballard? That sounds like a better solution to me than randomly removing east-west service from part of town because part of the line somewhere happens to overlap part of another line.

      4. As a weekly rider of the 40 to Northgate, Holman has a decent amount of ridership. Extending the D to Northgate would be necessary—and I think it’s worth considering, since the QFC terminus is ludicrous by comparison.

        If the 40 serves 85th, what of the 48? My preferred approach for rationalizing Ballard service has been the elimination of the 61 and the extension of the 48 to Ballard/Market. The 40 operates at crush capacity; it needs all the service it can get, which eliminates the need for the 48N on 85th. How do we maintain subsistence-level service to Sunset Hill?

      5. Answering my own question: extend the 24 to the North Beach loop. Kill the backtracking in Magnolia. Sorry Larry Phillips.

      6. @Kyle S Your approach makes more sense to me. I am not against change and greater efficiency, but eliminating routes with no compensation for the loss as Rob was suggesting is over doing it.

        I am all for getting rid of duplicate service if its actually duplicate, and extending the Rapid D to Northgate to replace the 40 is a better idea than just moving the 40 to 85th without compensating. The 9 block hike into Ballard (15th vs 24th) is a bit rough, but not nearly as bad as losing any reasonable service to Northgate/NSCC.

        I also ride the 40 quite a bit and it is well used both during the week and on the weekends. Its not a route that needs double service, but dropping portions of the corridor entirely would not be advisable. Dropping a station or two between Crown Hill and Northgate Way would probably be worthy of consideration though.

      7. Thanks for the replies on whether or not to move the 40. I don’t have a strong opinion on it since I haven’t spent a lot of time in Greenwood, but it seems strange that lower-density Holman Road is getting a one-seat ride to Northgate while higher-density 85th (a long-successful urban village) has to transfer. The walking distance from 100th to 85th is not that long: I’ve done it going to gyms and martial arts schools on Aurora and visiting a friend on Meridian. (Yes, Holman road is at 105th but half its cachement area is south of that.)

        I’m not concerned about overlap with the 48 because I assume the 48 is close to being reorganized anyway. It doesn’t make sense for it to peter out in a single-family part of north Ballard; it should be extended to central Ballard or absorbed into another route. And people taking the 48 are going south, while people taking the 40 are going north, so they’re separate markets. A short one-mile overlap in a mostly-residential area is no big deal; the alternative would be transferring in said residential area, which is not as good as transferring in the center of an urban village (especially if you have to wait 25 minutes).

      8. @Mike Orr Though I do appreciate your interest having routes where there is the most population to server, its also true that 85th has a lot more existing service than the 105th/Holman corridor. There is also an increasing amount of density along that part of Greenwood.

        I suspect the reason the bus takes Holman ave up north is because that is a more direct route to Northgate then 85th. Also, aside from the Rapid Ride D (which terminates too early) its the only bus serving along that street grid.

        There is a significant amount of growth happening in this corridor right now and there will likely be quite a bit more in the future given the number of underutilized properties along Greenwood north of 100th. There are also developments that have been/are going in on Aurora at 105th that benefit from this line as access to Northgate and Ballard.

        15 – 20 blocks may not seem like a lot when you are already off of your bus and are just finishing a walk to your destination, but its quite a lot to ask when you are trying to catch a bus, and especially so for those who are much older and/or have mobility concerns. Its also far enough away for people strongly consider not using the bus anymore.

        I’m not really unreasonable about this though, if the Rapid D were extended to Northgate (instead of stopping at the backside of the QFC), I could see a much stronger argument for moving the 40 down to 85th. It would also be a lot more useful in general as people living in Ballard near 15th. As it currently stands, the north end of the Rapid D stops in a really weird place (right in front of Carkeek Park) which seems to just serve the medium sized apartment complex and QFC plaza there. If it were instead extended up through 105th with a stop at Aurora and another (single) stop on Northgate Way (near Meridian so there is access to the college?) on the way to the Northgate transfer center, it would seem to be significantly more useful to everyone on the line.

      9. What’s going into 105th & Aurora?

        Around the time the final RapidRide route was announced, I heard that Metro wanted to extend it to Northgate but didn’t have enough money to do, so it left that for a future phase.

      10. @Mike Orr
        Actually I never bothered to check exactly what it was until you asked. It turns out to be housing for the homeless:
        http://www.desc.org/aurora_supportive_housing.html

        I had thought that it might be market rate or subsidized housing, but given that we are talking about Aurora, its not really a huge surprise. On the plus side, its an improvement over the hotels that are found all over that street.

        I know there is a strong desire to replace those hotels on Aurora with something that will clean up the area, but its really difficult to get people to want to invest in that corridor.

      11. Absolutely. What makes the 40 so valuable, beyond much needed downtown to ballard service that doesn’t have all the D’s problems, is that it connects urban villages well: Fremont, Ballard, Greenwood, and Northgate. It serves the heart of 3/4 of those urban villages, but skirts the edge of the 4th, Greenwood, at distances that make walking impractical for most. I’m not a 1 seat ride fetishist, but for a ride as short as Greenwood to Ballard, and at little cost (since the Holman stretch is served by D), I just don’t get the advantages of the current alignment. It would be good for downtown greenwood and good for metro.

    2. I used to live in Greenwood, and still weekly traverse that intersection. I wonder if the stop placement could be a lot better than it is. It seems like where the 5 stops (southbound crossing 105th) and where the 40 stops (westbound does not cross 105th) always insures that the pedestrian has to cross at least 2 -3 crosswalks.

      Moving the 40 to 85th means that we double cover the 48.

      1. @baselle yes the placement seems a little weird to me too, but that is where the two lines naturally cross with the most direct routing. I still think that modifying the intersection in some way to make it easier for pedestrians to get across is a better solution than moving the transfer point though.

        Moving either line could mean a significant service reduction either for Greenwood or for the 105/Holman ave corridor.

      2. At intersections with long light cycles, I generally support a farside official stop, combined with a tacet understanding that if anyone wants go get off while the bus is sitting at the light, that the driver will open the doors. Without this, you could easily miss a connection while you wait to cross the intersection on the bus, only to wait again to cross that same intersection back the other way on foot.

      3. Similar issue with the 50 at MLK. Refusal to let people off before the intersection while the bus is stopped waiting for the light means a 10 minute delay for lots of people that miss their train.

      4. The problem with unofficial near-side stops is that sometimes stops take longer than expected. It’s fine if it’s one or two able-bodied people standing at the door before the bus stops, but… it’s probably a bad idea for Metro to create a policy awarding extra stop locations to people based on their ability to exit a bus quickly for obvious reasons.

      5. @Rob Sorry, the Rapid Ride D is not an adequate replacement for the 40. It runs nearly 10 blocks east of most of the stops in Ballard and (more importantly) cuts off all reasonable access to Northgate and the Community College to people in this area.

        If you force a transfer from the 5 on 85th you add at least 30 minutes to what is normally a 20-30 minute trip.

        If you want to replace the 40 with a Rapid ride D that goes at least to Northgate or put in another east-west route through Holman/105th we might have something to talk about, but reducing the already pathetic East-West access this city already has even further is a non-starter.

        If all we get is fast access to downtown, you can expect a lot more people in cars than there already are.

      6. I’m fine if anyone who needs the lift or needs to unload a bike has to wait for the real stop, but for able-bodied people, standing at the doorway, there is really no reason not to let the, out. This is an example of lawyers and liability concerns taken to an extreme. In the case of the 50, there is no safety difference between the official stop and the red light stop. It’s exactly the same sidewalk on both sides. The only difference is a metal sign providing the driver CYA protection in case someone trips and falls getting off the bus, which could happen anywhere.

      7. @asdf: How will the driver tell whether someone is going to get a bike off or use the lift? Sometimes people don’t announce these needs until the doors are open. What happens when the people waiting by the door get off and then a bunch of people that are still seated decide they want to get off (maybe they think it’s the real stop)?

        I don’t think it’s a liability issue, but I do think widespread unofficial stops would have a larger than expected impact on reliability.

  7. I live around 122nd, and I’m astounded that the stop near my house is still open, given that it’s less than a block away from the bigger 125th street (7-11) stop. I wouldn’t mind losing it and walking the extra block and a half at all, and it would certainly speed things up.

    1. In addition to SDOT, there will be a Metro representative at this open house, so you should go to the meeting and say that.

    2. +1. It should be noted that the 355 does not stop at 122nd. I feel like a lot of people boarding at 85th get on the 355 instead of a 5 when available because of how much faster it is because it makes fewer stops.

  8. @Al: among other things I suspect it’s (at least technically) against the law (ADA).

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