Uptown-Belltown: Inbound New Routing
Uptown-Belltown: Inbound New Routing

On Wednesday, from 4-6PM, at Urban Oasis Cafe (1st Ave & Broad), the Seattle Department of Transportation is hosting an open house to obtain public feedback on the Uptown-Belltown Electric Transit Improvements. This proposal would do two things:

  • Add trolleybus wire on Denny to put the inbound Queen Anne trolleybuses on the same path as diesel coaches, speeding inbound trips by, on average, two minutes each.
  • Move the Denny & Warren stop a block and a half east, to a location with a better, wider sidewalk, where a higher-quality stop and shelter will be installed.

In addition, not shown on the map above, is that the current eastbound 8 stop at Denny & Broad will be deleted, which will give eastbound Route 8 an improved stop spacing in this area, and a corresponding speed boost.

This improvement complements another which SDOT and Metro have recent made in the vicinity, namely striping an outbound BAT lane and closing a bus stop on Broad Street. SDOT continues to study the possibility of a transit-actuated signal for outbound buses at 3rd & Denny, which would allow buses to avoid the Broad Street jog altogether.

I’ve reported on and cheered for this project from its incipience, making this perhaps the most-written-about three blocks of potential trolleybus wire on earth. Finally, about 15 months after I heard of the project, SDOT has a design ready to be taken to the public, with the improvements scheduled to be in place for the Spring 2014 service change. If you ride trolleybuses in Queen Anne or Belltown, you should show up to the open house to support this project.

52 Replies to “Wednesday: Uptown-Belltown Trolleybus Wire Open House”

  1. Come on and just do it, SDOT. There’s a clear benefit and it’s in the scope of your agency to provide adequate transportation infrastructure. Not everything needs to be Seattled to death beforehand.

    1. Amen. Is there really anything to object to about this project? It could be that the open house is simply a chance to tout a small success or a popular project, though.

      1. I just know what’s going to happen: one person with mobility impairments who has lived right at 1st and Broad for decades and would have trouble walking to Denny and Warren is going to make a huge stink in the city council about how unfair this is. And, since this is Seattle (home of The Process) it might even work, unfairness to hundreds of other riders notwithstanding.

      2. It’s as if SDOT is just begging for this to happen, placing the sole open house where it is guaranteed to attract only the handful most inconvenienced by the change. Few riders from further afield will be able to make it; the event is early and the buses are slow.

        Also, I wonder if moving the Denny stop eastward isn’t actually a net negative for riders to and from the (wider) area, and should perhaps be considered separately from the more crucial wire/routing change.

      3. What’s the concern about the eastbound stop relocation? The new location evenly splits the distance between the surrounding two inbound QA trolley stops, although it probably won’t be as close to a Denny crossing as the current one. Warren Pl was admittedly pretty convenient as a way to walk south into Belltown from that stop.

      4. Firstly, the Warren Place stop is the natural replacement for the southbound stop on 1st just after the turn. This remains, amazingly, the busiest stop on the 1st-Broad detour, even as the number of routes serving it has dwindled.

        Secondly, Warren Place serves as the de facto “companion” stop for the northbound stop on 1st Ave North. No matter the desires of Metro planners and RapidRide stop arbiters, the final southbound Queen Anne Ave stop does not functionally serve the same walkshed. The signal timings and partially-verboten crossings make Queen Anne Ave worthless for access from the east or southeast; there’s too much backtracking and too great a chance of missing the bus while fighting for your right to cross the street. That the 1st & Bay stop mentioned above remains so popular despite such inferior service shows how offputting the access to Queen Anne Ave is.

        Thirdly, as you mention yourself, Warren Place helps to provide a reasonably intuitive pedestrian pathway into the quadrant of Belltown previously service by the detour. The pedestrian scale of the buildings on that triangular block aids in this. By contrast, the proposed stop abuts a behemoth of a 1980s Cisco office pyramid. It’s all setbacks and reflective glass and endless hedges and concrete retaining walls that you must circumnavigate to get anywhere — you have to walk 450 feet even to get to the nearest door!

        When Metro looks at that stretch of Denny, it sees an underused sidewalk with plenty of space to wait. What it overlooks is that it is a terrible place to walk to and a terrible place to be.

      5. I see this stop relocation as one of the best benefits of this change.

        Warren Place is a substandard stop. The rear door opens onto the curb cut that serves the parking in the back of the steakhouse. The tiny unsheltered bench puts you 3 feet from cars whizzing by at 30 mph.

        A far-side stop at 2nd Avenue still provides a reasonably direct walking path into Belltown on 2nd Avenue.

        It’s also a lot better than the current Denny & Broad stop, where you’re waiting in a triangle surrounded by roads where the benches are frequently used as beds by the homeless. Plus closing this stop opens up possibilities for reconfiguration that would enable NB service to avoid the detour.

      6. The unusually large pentagonal block where the proposed stop is located violently interrupts that grid. The Cisco fortress upon that block just makes it worse.

        This is an awful place for a bus stop in any city.

      7. Kyle, I go to Green Leaf often. This would be the least-worst path from that stop to the side entrance.

      8. And to be clear, this stop isn’t really “far side”. When all is said and designed, it will be mid-block on a terrible block.

      9. I’m assuming you’re coming from Ballard, in which case you’d be on RapidRide, which won’t serve this stop.

        But RapidRide and all other routes besides the 8 *do* stop at 3rd & Cedar, which offers an even shorter walk to the Labor Temple.

        But thanks for the contrived example.

      10. I don’t understand why you’re being [Ad hom] any more than I understand why you’re advocating for a bus stop in pedestrian hell. But for the record, the farside Cedar stop is 3.5 blocks past the Labor Temple, which is an awful lot of backtracking to do from any of the predictably slow bus routes through this area. You’d lose three minutes to save a block.

      11. Oh, and your Homeless Triangle is quite the canard. Since we have neither adequate social services nor a functioning social contract in this city — nor any ability to associate cause and effect — every piece of public infrastructure becomes a magnet for the homeless. Including, inevitably, any shelter built at this new stop.

        But at least passengers will get to share said space on an otherwise abandoned block where cars tend to speed and there are zero additional eyes.

    2. Now now, we can’t just do something. That might be too drastic. What if somebody is concerned with impacts to flowers or offended by electricity? Their input to our infrastructure is valuable and important.

  2. Hopefully, this is the first of many other Denny Way improvement projects, because heaven knows it needs the help.

    1. Continue that wire right up the hill to merge with the 43 wire at Olive, close off most angled street intersections, and so much more. So simple on paper so extremely difficult in the Reality of Seattle.

      1. This is a nice step towards thinking about electrifying the 8 (which would use the proposed wires on much of Denny includ), but that’s a long, looooong, way away. There are lots of substantial gaps in the route in addition to Denny itself. In terms of electricfication priorities, the 8 just isn’t high enough on the list yet. It would be an ambitious project that can’t be half-assed, and Metro and SDOT probably don’t have the dollars to execute on something that like right now.

        I’m hoping for better traffic management in general on Denny – the fact that freeway queues hold up the bus the way it does should be unacceptable in the eyes of both Metro and SDOT. Uptown/LQA is a start, but the other direction (5th to Stewart) is in equal need of attention.

      2. When you think about it, if the 8 is sitting around idling in freeway-bound traffic so much, it’d make sense to electrify it to eliminate exhaust emissions.

      3. The long-term prognosis for crosstown transit on Denny is that there’s a good chance it won’t be on Denny — at least west of Fairview.

      4. Yet 4 blocks of Denny west of Fairview just got electrified, a symbol of quasi-permanence. I’m on board with eliminating crosstown transit on Denny, but what’s the alternative? A new bridge over I-5? A cutover to Mercer via Fairview?

      5. One post-2016 alignment could be Mercer from 1st Ave N to 5th Ave N, Harrison St from 5th to Fairview. Then, figure our how to get up the hill, as is being discussed below. Western layover would be at the old 1-Shuttle terminal on John, eastern either at the old 8 terminal, or combine the 8 and 11, extend this 8-11 to Madison Park.

    2. Given that Denny is a “grid-break” street, principles of traffic flow mean that it should be closed entirely to private vehicles, west of I-5.

      It would be OK to keep it open to buses.

      This would probably require making Stewart St. two-way.

  3. Well of course you meant the 8. (I ride it often!)

    My point is, if Denny isn’t the answer for the 8, then what becomes of crosstown transit through that corridor, and what becomes of the 8 itself? A topic for another time, I suppose.

    1. I’ve heard several options, including:
      (1. Harrison/Fairview/Denny, which would allow an eastbound 8 to bypass the queue traffic with a signalized left from Fairview onto Denny and a quick right merge to the Stewart stop.
      (2. Harrison/Eastlake/Lakeview/Belmont/Roy/Broadway/John, which could possibly allow for the deletion of both the 25 and the 47 by connecting Summit to Capitol Hill Station. (My guess is that this would be limited to 40′ buses, tho, due to the sharp turn from Belmont to Roy).
      (3. And, of course, I still like my idea to close Yale and require I-5 SB queues to form on Boren or Minor instead, but admittedly that idea doesn’t do anything for eastbound traffic between Queen Anne Ave and Fairview.

      1. The Belmont/Roy option looks so appealing on a map, but would require a total rebuild of Belmont and Roy. There are three problems: 1) the turn angle, which is not safely navigable for either 40′ or 60′ coaches; 2) the approach and breakover angles going up Roy; and 3) the width of Roy, where it’s not clear two coaches could safely pass each other.

        Realistically, any solution is still going to cross I-5 on Denny.

      2. Which indeed is the problem. In addition to the solutions already detailed (I’m not sure about that Harrison option, though), I’ll add two more:

        1. Olive/Boren. Olive Way over I-5 is re-channeled to have a westbound bus-only lane, and eastbound buses turn south on Boren, west on Olive, and along the route normally. I feel like this is a low-disruption option, but feel free to argue otherwise.

        2. A new I-5 southbound on-ramp. The only problem with the existing one is where it is – Yale is so completely ill-equipped to deal with the southbound rush. Minor? Boren? Discuss.

      3. Denny Way traffic sucks, but at least it makes the 8 a very legible, easy-to-understand route unlike the terrible zig-zagging Belmont/Roy route you described.

      4. I agree in principle with Matt L and Al. Denny is the best place for the bus to be. It’s just an exceedingly difficult problem to fix it, with no obvious and politically even semi-realistic answer.

      5. Gondolas (if you are cheap) or grade separated rail (if you are not). That area has reached the density tipping point (buses don’t make sense anymore).

    2. The completion of the DBT project will introduce several new Aurora crossings, and open up a new selection of east-west paths that the 8 could potentially be moved to. The 8 will still have to get back on Denny to get across I-5, but that’s better than going the whole length.

  4. I don’t suppose the old wire will be kept in place with appropriate switching. Once or twice a week, when Denny is buggered, I drive an inbound C Line up Broad from either 1st or 2nd to bypass the mess. Metro occasionally calls out this bypass so it’s legit.

    1. IANABD, but… the trolley routes will have a stop on Denny, so any temporary switch to the old route would require a little more notice, right?

  5. And while we’ve got the line truck in the area, why don’t we get that dead-spot off the northbound wire one block up the steepest part of the Queen Anne Counterbalance?

    I’m told we might not even have to move the whole piece of special-work. There’s something called “no-bo” circuit breaker that could replace existing equipment.

    Might serve as a move symbolic of exactly the kind of change our transit system needs.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It will probably be quicker to just wait for the new batch of moderntrolleys, which seamlessly cross such dead sections on battery power.

  6. Only on the Seattle Transit Blog would a post about relocating 4 blocks of trolley wire and a bus stop generate 40+ comments.

    1. Only in Seattle would a one-shift fix of a piece of special-work designed by someone who thought that because his drafting board was flat, Seattle was too, take forty years.

      Maybe when necessary action gets faster and more frequent, it won’t generate so much notice.

      Mark Dublin

  7. MOAR WIRE PLZ?

    Anyway, good. This is the first new trolleybus wire in how many years?

    1. If you don’t include new layover bays, or the reconnection of the Eastlake/Fairview wire (related to the Mercer Corridor Project construction), I think the last trolleybus wire extensions were of the 14 and 36 to Mount Baker and Othello respectively, with the opening of Central Link. So that was probably around 2009. Before that the last revenue wire added was Eastlake in ’97.

      1. …hopefully to be followed in another few years with new wire on 23rd to fill in the gaps. Hope springs eternal, etc.

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