Multimodal afternoon jam on 4th Avenue South. Photo by zargoman.

Yesterday, Mayor Mike McGinn issued his proposed budget for 2014.  The $4.4 billion total proposed budget represents a 1.9% increase over the 2014 budget endorsed as part of last year’s budget process.  The mayor’s office reports that the increase is possible largely because of better-than-expected tax collections resulting from the sustained economic recovery.  SDOT fared better yet in the Mayor’s proposal, receiving a 3.9% increase (bottom of p.3) from last year’s endorsed budget, to a total proposed amount of $407 million.  (The existing Seattle Streetcar, which is a separate line item from SDOT, saw no change.)

Buried in the details of the budget proposal are some items of considerable interest to transit riders.  There are direct improvements to the city’s transit network, as well as street improvements with the potential to have a disproportionately positive impact on transit service quality.  Further details below the jump.  The descriptions in the budget documents are relatively basic; text in italics represents my commentary.

Downtown Improvements

As the Highway 99 project progresses, the administration intends to continue making improvements to downtown traffic flow.  The budget includes a substantial investment in Intelligent Transportation Systems (“ITS”) equipment, which is intended to improve traffic flow throughout the CBD, especially by optimizing traffic signal cycles.  Included are real-time traffic sensors; closed-circuit TV cameras; new traffic signal equipment; new monitoring equipment to replace failing equipment in the city’s control center; and, most importantly, four engineers to help implement and operate ITS systems in the CBD.

I’ve long beat the drums for serious ITS enhancements.  They are a win for all motorized road users, including transit, freight, and SOVs.  Politically, they are a meaningful enhancement for transit users that is immune to any “war on cars” hysteria.  I’m very pleased to see the city placing ITS in the foreground.

23rd Avenue Improvements

The proposed budget adds $2.9 million in new funding to the 23rd Avenue corridor project.  Noteworthy nuggets in the budget line item include trolley-wire-compatible utility poles; ITS enhancements; wider sidewalks (as four feet wider on each side); and a parallel greenway for cyclists.

It’s excellent to see this project continue toward completion.  What street the greenway would use — a topic of perennial debate in 23rd Avenue discussions — is not specified.

Transit Enhancements

The budget includes a number of Transit Master Plan priority corridor improvements, including the following:

  • $1m for preliminary engineering of Madison BRT.
  • $1m for Center City Connector final design, and $4m in the 2015 Capital Improvement Plan to start construction. This priority is shared by Mayor and Council, and this funding will open up the opportunity for federal funds.
  • $500k for the ship canal crossing study, now that there’s a likely council majority.
  • $200k for Ballard to Downtown corridor station site planning
  • $175k for study of a North Broadway LID to extend the First Hill streetcar northward
  • $150k for SLU streetcar speed and reliability improvements – despite having almost complete signal priority, there are three intersections where the SLU streetcar gets caught in traffic, and this would likely address those three.
  • One new full-time engineer devoted to transit speed and reliability

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that I think one of the best line items here is also the smallest: the new speed and reliability engineer.  It can’t be emphasized enough how much small speed and reliability improvements can contribute to a usable transit network.  More BAT lanes, more queue jumps, more TSP, and possibly even a fixed d.p. Memorial Traffic Light are the best thing we can do without investing real money.

I’m also particularly pleased to see Madison BRT moving forward, and reviving the ship canal study would be welcome news.

Ben will expand more on all these investments in a separate post.

More TMP work

Finally, the budget includes some interesting items of long-term planning.  The most important is $800k to begin corridor studies of four new corridors: Beacon Ave S, Lake City Way NE, Greenwood Ave N, and E Marginal Way S.  These corridor studies would consider all modes, including transit, bicycling, and walking.  There are funds for TOD planning and implementation in Uptown, Ballard, and Lake City, and near several Link stations elsewhere.  Finally, the mayor wants to update the Pedestrian Master Plan and the transportation portion of the Comprehensive Plan, and complete the SR 99 Tunnel Closure Response Plan for the new tunnel (which is similar to a plan the city already has for the outgoing viaduct).

Good news in the long term for riders of the 5, 36, 60, 124, and 522 (as well as other users in those corridors).  A Phinney stop diet, a longstanding hobbyhorse of multiple STB authors, might even come out of this planning work!

And so much for the idea that the mayor would try to obstruct smooth tunnel completion or operations, now that the tunnel is past the point of no return.

***

It’s easy to play Santa Claus when revenues are good, and the mayor certainly is doing so throughout his proposed budget. But, on the whole, he deserves credit for a well-thought-out set of priorities for transportation and transit investment. SDOT has made consistent if slow steps in recent years toward spending more effort on these sorts of unglamorous but tremendously cost-effective improvements, and the Council should work with the mayor to enable more of them to happen.

103 Replies to “Mayor McGinn Proposes Transit Improvements in 2014 Proposed Budget”

      1. Is there any specific mention of this intersection, or of any existing RapidRide line, in any of the official proposals? Nothing of the sort is mentioned in the post.

      2. Not that I saw in this proposed budget. A proposed budget is put together at only a semi-specific level. Certainly, RapidRide lines would be one logical place (along with other TMP priority corridors) to focus some of the transit service quality improvement efforts for which the budget provides funds.

        Metro and SDOT are aware of this particular intersection.

      3. Al, this was toward the end of an email I received from the mayor’s office yesterday:
        “Already-funded transit corridor improvements in 2014 include design and construction of speed and reliability improvements for RapidRide C (West Seattle) and RapidRide D (Ballard).”

      4. Unless the reliability engineer is empowered to tell the rest of SDOT to STFU about its Highway Elliott obsession, then you won’t see any changes to this notorious light cycle.

  1. ITS downtown sounds… fine as long as it doesn’t mean longer light cycles with more turn phases. The most important form of transportation downtown is walking.

    1. Additionally, it’s unacceptable anywhere, but especially downtown, to have signals where you need to press a button to get a walk signal along a parallel green light for cars. Let’s use ITS to improve traffic flow, but never at the expense of walking where it’s most critical.

      1. +1 – very good point. SDOT is getting good at looking at all the users of an intersection and prioritizing those we want to encourage, and I don’t see them stopping anytime soon.

      2. Let’s use ITS to improve traffic flow, but never at the expense of walking where it’s most critical.

        With SDOT, this isn’t something you’ll really have to worry about. They’re good about keeping pedestrian signals green.

        Standard SDOT practice is to keep a green pedestrian signal even across a flashing yellow (yield to oncoming) left turn arrow. Compare that to Bellevue’s implementation on their revamped Bel-Red area signals, where pedestrians get both get a Don’t Walk automatically, and pushing the button doesn’t get them a green until the next light cycle, when a red arrow can be scheduled.

      3. That “standard practice” is honored in the breach in rather silly ways. For example, at the intersection of Denny with the northern end of Seventh Avenue, there is a green left turn arrow onto Seventh and the walk light along Denny across Seventh is solid red during that arrow. There isn’t a whole lot of pedestrian traffic there, but there’s also no reason why the walk cycle doesn’t cover green light eastbound on Denny.

      4. Much of the older signal equipment lacks the capability to give the walk signal during more than one phase, which leads to silly results like a don’t walk signal appearing when a left turn movement not crossing the crosswalk in question is permitted. The replacement equipment in this budget would fix some of those situations.

      5. Additionally, it’s unacceptable anywhere, but especially downtown, to have signals where you need to press a button to get a walk signal along a parallel green light for cars.

        I agree with you about downtown, but can’t get behind your assertion that pedestrian signal buttons are unacceptable everywhere. Suppose you have an intersection of a major, wide street (like Aurora) and a minor arterial. Suppose traffic engineers have determined that the most efficient way to move vehicles through that intersection is to have a 15-second green phase for cars crossing Aurora on the minor arterial. Suppose the average pedestrian takes 25 seconds to cross Aurora, but pedestrians only want to actually make that crossing in about 5-10% of the light cycles. Do you always activate the pedestrian signal, making the light cycle take twice as long as it needs to, and slowing down all the traffic (including buses) on Aurora? That seems unnecessary and inefficient to me.

        We should look at all road users when designing light cycles, and what will help the most people get where they’re going the fastest. In places where the light cycle will take the same amount of time regardless of whether the pedestrian signal is active, it should absolutely be on every time. The same is true in places like downtown where pedestrians cross pretty much every light cycle during the day. On other intersections, I don’t mind pressing a button when I’m walking.

      6. For pedestrian-only crossings, I’m fine with pressing the button, as long as the light changes reasonably quickly once I do press the button.

        When you’re on a bike, however, it is completely unacceptable to have to get up off your bike to press the button to get the light to change (or keep waiting until a car pulls up behind you). Many lights have sensors that can detect bikes, but some of the older sensor-driven lights don’t. That is something that should be fixed.

        As to “Much of the older signal equipment lacks the capability to give the walk signal during more than one phase, which leads to silly results like a don’t walk signal appearing when a left turn movement not crossing the crosswalk in question is permitted” – the only reason why I can argue that maybe it doesn’t need to receive a super-high priority is that pedestrians with common sense can choose to ignore the ped signal and cross anyway when the traffic light gives them a protected path, and police officers with common sense will refrain from ticketing people who do so.

    2. Certainly pedestrians need to be considered for any signal planning in dense areas. The challenge is that it’s very difficult to predict their behavior. The range of walking speeds is very wide, and users that are functionally “pedestrians” further include joggers, wheelchair users who move at a huge range of different speeds, and kids and people with mobility impairments who are slower than most walkers. So planning for “pedestrians” becomes less about ensuring no “don’t walk” signals for one narrow category of sidewalk users and more about ensuring that too many sidewalk users don’t bunch up waiting for any one crossing.

      I strongly agree that users should not have to press a button to cross during any time of less than minimal congestion. (I’m okay with it at times where vehicle traffic flow is so low that the vehicle light is triggered only on demand.)

      1. What I mean by this isn’t that pedestrians should never wait — obviously that’s impossible where two significant roads cross. What I mean is that often traffic flow optimization means a bunch of things that adversely affect all sidewalk users: long light cycles, long turn phases where no sidewalk users can move, giving cars a “green wave” on arterials that results in higher top speeds (but doesn’t speed up transit vehicles, which still have to stop to pick up passengers).

        All this optimization effort, taken to its extreme, ultimately results in miserable intersections like those in downtown Bellevue, or at 50th/Stone/Green Lake Way, sending extreme traffic pulses that can only be handled by more miserable intersections, which we consent to to prevent scary things like “breakdown” of traffic flow. Once the traffic capacity is added it will be used in these places, and we’ll never be able to remove it, no matter how bad things get for people walking. So it’s critical that we don’t let them get this way.

      2. This is a concern for me too. During rush hour, green time is a zero-sum game and it’s impossible to produce an outcome that works well for all users. What works well for cars is often horrible for buses, as it makes them miss the green wave and wait a full cycle every time they stop to let one person on or off. And, of course, both bikes and pedestrians benefit for signal cycles being as short as possible.

        Also, SDOT should consider which intersections with traffic signals actually need traffic signals – for some, a 4-way stop would be sufficient, especially during off-peak hours. For example, when Campus Parkway intersects Brooklyn Ave. and University Way, both of these intersections have extremely long light cycles, in spite of having very little traffic pass through them. A good portion of what traffic does pass through here is buses (25, 30, 31, 32, 49, 65, 67, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 372). It is very routine for a bus with 50 people on board to have to sit at these lights for at least a minute a piece, while a mere 1-2 cars goes by along the cross street. From a transit speed and reliability perspective, the buses are already moving very slowly through these two intersections, so a simple 4-way stop sign would be as good as anything.

        There is another intersection, however, 5th Ave. and Banner Way, where the reverse is true. It’s currently a 4-way stop sign, but has lots of car traffic and very little bus or pedestrian traffic. That intersection should probably be upgraded to a traffic signal.

  2. Obviously, I think all the bus stuff is great, and the streetcar stuff a waste of money. ($175k to study a funding mechanism for a tiny streetcar extension from CHS to … a park? Which will allow us to restructure and reallocate … zero hours of bus service? SDOT’s bus people could do something actually useful with that, but I digress).

    The buried treasure here is the full-time signal engineer position. Last I checked, a bunch of the TSP installations done over the last two years on 15th, Rainier, and Market had either not been turned on at all, or had only been set up with basic programming, with no optimization done based on observed transit and GP travel patterns. This stuff is obscure even by the technocratic standard of STB, but it makes the difference between (say) your bus getting through the light half the time vs. 75%. Tremendously important.

    1. I think it’s very interesting that increasing transit service doesn’t seem to be useful to you if it doesn’t let you remove a bus.

      1. I’m definitely not Bruce, but in this time of budget crises, I think transit improvements that let us remove buses are the most important.

      2. No planning work we could do now would have any impact on this budget crisis – those cuts will be long made.

        That said, making capital investments in order to *make cuts hurt less* is a terrible way to deal with a budget crisis; it’s reactionary planning at its worst. It’s FAR better to just fix the cuts, which we’re doing, and put our capital investments where they should actually go.

    2. The First Hill Streetcar has always been a glass half full. On the one hand it’s a new connection between Broadway and Jackson Street, and more frequent service between upper and lower Broadway. On the other hand, it’s too short to replace buses for trips from Broadway to 10th E or the U-District, or from north Rainier to Broadway. And if you’re going from north Rainier to transfer at Intl Dist station and were forced to transfer to the FHS at 12th & Jackson, that would be two transfers within a mile which is excessive. The extension to Prospect (?) Street would make it more useful and allow it to absorb more Broadway/Jackson trips, but it’s not enough to make it really shine as a route. I’d support it as progress toward a long-term goal of a bigger streetcar network, which could potentially have a line from Mt Baker station to Prospect St for instance. But it’s not a must-have like some other things are.

      I disagree with Bruce’s general dismissal of rail in most Seattle cases, which this is a part of, but that’s a different issue.

      1. The most efficient transit routes have significant destinations at both ends. For the First Hill Streetcar, the north destination is the Broadway retail and residential hub. North of Roy Street, the retail ends as does much of the density.

        There would be very little to gain by extending trackage north to Aloha or Prospect. I expect the per trip ridership north of Roy Street could be counted on the fingers of one hand — definitely not worth the high cost of rail construction.

      2. The extension that would actually improve the utility of the entire FHSC would be an extension all the way to the U-District. But to justify the cost of that extension, I think we’d need to see some upzoning in north Capitol Hill and some significant additional S&R measures for the entire length of the line.

        Unless it’s clearly understood that it’s the first step toward a U-District extension, I agree an extension to Prospect probably isn’t worth it, although I think it would have a bit better ridership than you expect. There is some high-density housing along 10th Ave E.

        But if a LID will pay for it, then…

      3. Oh, so now we have to do more planning to justify a project that’s mostly built? Making up a higher bar to oppose any project really stinks of looking for ways to justify your bias, and hurts transit in general by chipping away at trust for local government.

      4. The $25M for an Aloha extension would buy quite a few other improvements…

        An extension from Aloha to the U Dist is nearly a $200M question with a third of the alignment parallel to I-5 or on the U Bridge. Plus, there would be some serious well-funded NIMBYism from the homeowners north of Aloha. And $200M buys a hell of a lot of other improvements, including streetcars to more logical places.

      5. It seems like earlier there was more STB love for the Aloha extension. Almost everyone was pro extending it to north Broadway and Volunteer Park, and they were trying to get the funding in place so that it could be folded into the initial construction project to save redundant costs. Have you guys changed your minds since then, or are the opponents just speaking up more?

      6. At least in my case, I’ve just been quiet.

        Yes, I think we should extend it to Roy St. Stopping a few blocks short of the natural end of the commercial district is just silly. Not only will people use the extra stop, but it will make the whole line more productive.

        I’m not going to comment on whether we shouldn’t have built the line in the first place, because it doesn’t matter. It’s already half built. A streetcar that goes to Roy is better than a streetcar that ends at Denny, and those are the choices.

      7. The extension that would actually improve the utility of the entire FHSC would be an extension all the way to the U-District.

        The FHSC will supposedly have 10-minute baseline headways. (If it won’t, it should.) Maintaining those headways all the way to Campus Parkway would be much more expensive. It would also be silly, since there are relatively few on/offs between Roy St and the bridge, and because North Link will capture virtually all of the demand between Broadway and the U-District.

        Eastlake is a relatively dense commercial and residential corridor for the whole length. There’s plenty of demand for intra-corridor travel that would be well served by a streetcar. 10th Ave E has no such demand. So a streetcar that went the whole distance would either overserve 10th, or underserve Broadway.

      8. Well said, Aleks. In addition to a new terminal station at Roy, we should add a mid-point station at Harrison. Six blocks between stations is too far for this dense corridor segment.

        Another streetcar extension I’m enthusiastic about is the Central City connector — tying together the FH line with SLU. Adds much to the productivity and usefulness of the two existing lines. It’s clear to me connection is the highest streetcar priority in the city.

      9. I agree with the 64% of those surveyed by the project who favored an extension to Prospect Street. The incremental cost isn’t that big. Volunteer Park is already a destination for locals and tourists alike, with the Asian Art Museum, water tower, conservatory, gardens, sports facilities and events, and there’s plenty of relatively dense housing in the area. At some point the reservoir will be capped, and whatever amenities come with that will only draw more interest from the community at large. Prospect Street is close enough to be generally perceived as actually serving the park, and the other termini aren’t. Build it.

      10. Regarding Mike’s question about the Aloha extension:

        Ben’s written the most about it and I believe he is strongly pro.

        Bruce has not written much about it but is strongly anti, and I believe David is as well.

        As with most streetcar projects I’m a bit of a waffler.

      11. The Seattle Streetcar’s own website makes very clear that the headway has been downgraded to 15 minutes at all times except rush hour.

        It is impossible to have a sane discussion of short-haul connective transit when the dramatic difference in usefulness between those two standards continues to be swept under the rug..

    3. It’s a Link feeder, and maximizing our existing investment. The more of our streetcar network we can build out the better.

      Whether you like it or not rail bias does exist. And for good reason. In many ways rail is better than buses.

      Aside from my work commute I almost never take a bus any more. Too many bad experiences trying to juggle a child, a diaper bag, a folded up stroller and all the assorted knickknacks. All with a crying baby b/c I had to take him out of his stroller. Let me tell you, it’s no fun being THAT GUY. If I can’t take Link or the SLUT, where it’s just roll on roll off, I’ll wait until my wife can drive us.

    4. Extending the streetcar to Aloha is worth it, just because there is significant residential density north of Roy. It’s not going to replace the long-haul 49, but will serve local Capitol Hill passengers better than a crappy overloaded Metro route.

      Also, keep in mind that the 49 that probably won’t maintain it’s current level of service after U-Link opens. Like the 43, a lot of its ridership will move to Link, so keeping the 49 at a frequency that adequately serves Broadway could mean vastly overserving everything north of Aloha and (likely) mostly-empty buses at Roanoke.

      A streetcar extension would be a much more palatable alternative to 49 turnbacks or some other such nonsense.

      1. The 49 has very heavy ridership on the 10th-U District segment, which probably won’t change when Link opens (as backtracking to Link would take longer than that very short bus ride). I expect the 49’s frequency to stay the same, although it could well be changed to continue south (see TMP Corridor 3) rather than turning west on Pine to go downtown.

      2. I don’t get it, Lack — You are concerned that riders diverting to Link will lead to diminished service on the 49, so the cure for that is to extend the FH streetcar to Prospect St. and divert even more riders away from the 49?

      3. Hopefully any riders lost on the 49 would gradually be replaced by new riders, because overall ridership is increasing everywhere, and that would especially be true if the route is reorganized to serve trips that currently require transfers or are infrequent or end early.

        A lot of people on the 43/49 will probably switch to Link when it opens, because the only reason they’re on those buses is there is no express from Broadway and the 71/72/73 get so annoyingly overcrowded. But they may be gradually replaced by new riders because ridership is increasing everywhere. And if the route were made significantly better by reorganizing, it would serve trips that Metro currently doesn’t do very well.

      4. The 49 has very heavy ridership on the 10th-U District segment, which probably won’t change when Link opens (as backtracking to Link would take longer than that very short bus ride).

        If you have numbers to back that up, I won’t argue. Anecdotally, I used to ride the 49 very freuqently (I lived near Broadway & Roy), and while there were many through-riders, I observed a very small number of on-offs north of Broadway and south of the bridge.

        I do fully expect that most folks south of Roy St will walk to CHS, especially once frequencies go to 6 minutes. The bus is fast, but you can’t argue with frequency.

        I expect the 49′s frequency to stay the same, although it could well be changed to continue south (see TMP Corridor 3) rather than turning west on Pine to go downtown.

        Staying the same means staying at 15 minutes. The streetcar segment can easily sustain 10-minute frequency. Extending the streetcar would mean adding 50% more service on a segment that doesn’t really need it.

      5. It’s heavily commuter ridership, and it doesn’t fill buses by itself because there are so few stops on North Cap Hill. But the stops at Galer, Howe/Newton, and Miller all have very respectable numbers for riders in both directions. Southbound riders will continue to ride so they can access CHS, and northbound riders will continue to ride through to the U-District.

        I agree with you that most people south of Aloha or so will walk.

  3. “$175k for study of a North Broadway LID to extend the First Hill streetcar northward?”

    Give me a fricking break. Stop studying every little detail of it to death and just build it….there is no excuse for this not being already under construction.

      1. Maybe once we study whether or not a LID can fund it we can launch a new study to determine how to phase-in the LID which will fund it. Study study study…..

      2. lazarus, if you would like to do the research and small starts grant application work yourself, go right ahead! Or, perhaps, you could lobby for the federal government to assign staff to prepare grant agreements for cities! But if you don’t want to, quit complaining that it costs money to administer projects.

      3. Just compare the process/timeline for the original SLU SC to the process/timeline for this (relatively minor) extension to the First Hill SC and it should be obvious to even the most casual of observers that something has broken substantially in the intervening years.

      4. The difference is that Vulcan wanted, and funded to a significant extent, the SLUSC. There is no comparable funding and power base behind the FHSC extension.

      5. That surely is part of it, but in building the SLU SC they also built a roadmap in how to get these kinds of things done. Given that the Broadway Ext is smaller, cheaper, and the 3rd time we’ve done something like this, it ought to be pretty darn easy to get this thing going over the last X years.

        The real difference is in leadership. The Broadway Ext just hasn’t been pushed as a priority.

      6. It was 50% funding from property owners along the line — not 50% funding from Vulcan.

        Giving all the credit to Vulcan is mis-leading and lends the impression that the funding package for SLU SC was somehow unique and can’t be duplicated elsewhere. This is inaccurate.

        Funding for SC type systems does not depend on fat cat donors like Vulcan and can be achieved in many urban settings.

        And I certainly wouldn’t assign blame to the council either.

  4. This all sounds great, but I will also want to examine SDOT’s proposed budget for street maintenance. One of the best things the City can do for transit riders is repave the streets that buses travel on! For regular bus riders, few things are more annoying than the noise and jostling that occurs on buses forced to travel on failed pavement.

    How many lane miles of bus routes will be repaved next year under this proposed budget?

      1. I did look, Ben; spent 40 minutes perusing all 38 pages of the SDOT draft budget, and could find no specifics on the number of lane-miles of city arterials (bus routes or not) the city expects to repave next year.

        This is a program budget, long on verbiage and short on details. Looks like we have to ask the right program managers how they intend to spend the block of money assigned to their programs. I saw a few such programs that looked like they might result in fixing failed pavement.

      2. Yes, that’s by far the preferred way to do most neighborhood projects – assign a budget amount, then let communities say which they’d like done next. If you really want an answer to your question, though, you should look at Bridging the Gap.

        Also, since you did some research, why don’t you share what you *did* find? Or perhaps, start advocating for a larger Bridging the Gap so that we have more money for road repair?

      3. I’m all for renewing Bridging The Gap, and at the highest level imaginable. And I would put essential street maintenance at the top of the priority list, not at the bottom as you suggest. Let those advocating the Shiny New Objects do the arguing for an even larger levy.

      4. That’s why people vote for things – shiny new projects. We voted for a mostly street and sidewalk package in 2011. It failed.

      5. I think you got your history wrong, Ben. Bridging The Gap passed in 2005 because voters believed it would catch up on the backlog of failed street pavements. $60 Car Tabs failed in 2011 because voters perceived it was an unfocused Christmas tree, with new transportation dollars spread too far and too thinly. Or put another way, too little for repaving failed streets, and too much for planning new streetcars.

        CM Godden had proposed $40 car tabs devoted just to the street maintenance backlog, and I’m confident that would’ve passed. Shiny New Objects are not the selling points they once were; voters are taking a sharper look today.

    1. The streets are indeed horrible and need repaving. While I understand it’s an apples and oranges comparison, think about how rail track doesn’t deteriorate nearly as quickly and doesn’t need complete redoing when it does and what it will bring us if we had more streetcars rather than buses…

      1. Many of the failed streets our buses have to travel on weren’t built with transit vehicle loading in mind. With a good base, drainage, and dowel bars, a well-build concrete street can last 50 years under the pounding of buses and cars. The catch with rail is you need rails, and we don’t have a lot of them or a lot of money to install them.

  5. The BRT for Madison … they really need to make the ETB wires go all the way to Madison Park and make the 11 go to the current terminal of the 12 on 19th ave.

    and do a better job with it than Rapid Ride.

      1. No, but why on earth would the city spend money on a project when the people it would serve speak strongly against it? That’s terrible governance.

      2. Because the general public is typically misinformed and/or has no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to infrastructure projects. Along the 11, people are primarily concerned with the visual impacts of trolley wires and ignore the benefits (clean air, noise reduction, faster travel times, better use of diesel buses, lower operating costs, lower maintenance costs, higher frequencies). As outlined in our very own trolley replacement study, people who live in neighborhoods with trolley buses like them and quickly get over the wires when they don’t have to hear the diesels chugging along. In history, people voted against true heavy rail several times despite it’s obvious advantages. Would it have been bad governance to build it against the peoples wishes in 1968/1970/?/1995/2007, or should we have waited as long as we did? I think the answer is rather obvious, as would be the decision to electrify the 11.

      3. No, but why on earth would the city spend money on a project when the people it would serve speak strongly against it? That’s terrible governance.

        Who is “the neighborhood”?

        Depending on who you ask, “the neighborhood” of Ballard didn’t want RapidRide, and “the neighborhood” of Upper Queen Anne doesn’t want a subway, and “the neighborhood” of West Seattle doesn’t actually want to be part of the City of Seattle.

        I totally understand that there’s a limited supply of money, and a nearly infinite supply of worthwhile projects, and there’s definitely value in starting with the projects that have widespread public support. But I also want to be careful that we’re not allowing a small number of loud neighborhood activists to take away useful service from a silent majority.

      4. Ben, when did this happen? I’m not disputing that some neighbors might not want it, but I’ve lived there for two years and haven’t heard the question raised. Was it before that? (I would think any improvement that makes the 11 or its successors more reliable might be very popular in Mad Park/Valley…nearly every time I’ve tried to take an outbound 11 it seems to be extremely late. I usually just walk the hill now.)

      5. I’d say that is a bit of an overgeneralization. *Madison Park* is anti-wire; this is the same neighborhood that worked very hard to remove overhead electrical wires as well.

        Madison Valley, or the stretch of Madison from 19th (where the 12 cuts over) down the hill to MLK, would more than likely have a very different perspective on ETB service. I’m not sure it makes sense to run all the Madison service all the way to Madison Park anyway (and I’m saying that with merely anecdotal evidence, not ridership numbers); seems like a turnback at MLK or 23rd might make more sense.

      6. The turnaround at MLK would face extremely intense opposition from the residents along E Arthur Pl, where the turnback would have to go (all other turnback options are exceedingly awkward to impossible). I proposed it anyway for route 8 in the Frequent Network Plan, but getting it into operation would be a major obstacle.

        There are easier options for turnbacks at 23rd but it’s not nearly as satisfying a destination.

    1. I’d like to see the city drive this bargain with the neighborhood:

      1) Agree to the wire, and you get 10-minute frequency with dedicated lanes in the most congested part of the corridor. But
      2) Don’t agree to the wire, and you’re stuck with the old, infrequent, slower-than-molasses 11.

      In real life, though, the regrettable 11 is probably here to stay unless Metro and the city adopt Bruce’s idea of sending the 8 out there instead.

      1. I think their advocacy has made their preference of #2 clear.

        What I expect to happen is, after the line is built, some people who would benefit will eventually demand more, and then it will be extended.

      2. You’re probably right. It’s just a huge loss, and demonstrates a blatant power disparity between a few very wealthy and connected owners of large homes in south Madison Park and Broadmoor and the bulk of north Madison Park residents, who are well-off but not nearly as wealthy.

        Madison Park has as much potential as any place in the city save downtown to become a fantastic car-free destination. The problem is that right now you can’t be car-free because the only option is the 11, which is half-hourly for much of the day and hourly at night, and which can take half an hour to get downtown on a bad trip.

      3. When 90% percent of the population has cars, there really isn’t anything to bargain about. They’ll just say, “no wire, and I’ll just drive my car, so I couldn’t care less how much the #11 sucks”.

        It’s people who want to live a transit oriented lifestyle and might move there in the future that don’t get a say.

      4. And transit-oriented visitors from other neighborhoods. Madison Park is a great place to visit, but right now getting there and back is just too painful.

      5. Would love #1, David – and I am immediately adjacent to Madison. I’ve heard no neighborhood discussion of this recently.

        Madison Park/Valley is 42% renters, per the last census data, by the way — yes, some of those rentals are extremely expensive but not all of them. Parking in Madison Park is a zoo on any nice day, especially on the weekend–again, I tend to walk but more frequent service might be able to be sold to the bluehairs that like to drive the 6 blocks to get their coffee, and can’t always get parking–fewer cars/more people on buses mean they can find a spot.

    2. The BRT corridor study is only to 23rd. That doesn’t mean a trolleybus route couldn’t extend beyond it. Bus route decisions would be at some later stage.

      Also, just because Madison Park rejected trolley wires in the 1960s doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily do so now, or that the city can’t make some kind of deal with them. They haven’t been asked yet whether they’d support a trolleybus now, or how strong their opposition would be. People have grown old since the 1960s, moved in, moved out, and have a greater appreciation for ecology and energy efficiency.

      1. The BRT corridor study is to 23rd because the neighborhood past 23rd said they don’t want it in the scoping of the Transit Master Plan.

        It’s pretty important for us not to pretend this is based on 60s planning or that “SDOT can just build it anyway” or something. Ignoring reality doesn’t help us actually get electric transit.

      2. It would be Metro that pays for the wire unless the BRT project includes it. But the BRT project won’t go past 23rd so it comes back to whether Metro decides to string the wire to Madison Park. First Metro has to finish replacing its trolley fleet, then it needs to get expansion money, and then it can decide whether it wants to put Madison Park in its first round of trolley expansions, and only THEN will it be relevant whether Madison Park residents will support or oppose it.

      3. 23rd & Madison is a terrible place to terminate a bus route, any route whether BRT or not. Any service to that intersection needs to continue on to a logical destination; 23rd & Mad is no destination.

      4. Do we actually need wires the whole way? Metro is buying trolley buses with off wire capabilities. The First Hill Streetcar will be able to go off wire. By the time we actually are ready to buy the buses for this new BRT line, the battery technology will probably be a bit better. It is 1.8 miles from 23rd/Madison to the end of Madison. Just put in some overhead at the terminus and let the buses recharge there. And maybe extend the wire part of the way from 23rd in the uphill direction if you really need to.

        Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have the wire the whole way, but if the community objects, it may not be quite the obstacle that it has been in the past.

      5. The TMP did not really get into bus routes; it just put in a placeholder for how Metro might accommodate it with the least change in service. Namely, having the 12 backtrack from 23rd to 19th. That sounds ludicrous but it’s an initial idea until Metro is ready to consider bus routes, and it seems it should be made in the context of a general Capitol Hill reorganization.

        The main principles I see are:
        – There’s strong ridership to 23rd and even to 30th.
        – An all-Madison route is geographically appealing, but there are a lot of Madison-Pine riders who would be annoyed. Pine Street has both more destinations and a wider variety, and western Madison has a long way to catch up. Perhaps boosting the 8 could partly make up for losing a Madison-Pine route.
        – Trolleybuses are always better than gas buses. It’s still worth negotiating with Mad Park about trolley wires, or seeing if a bus can run off-wire between 23rd and 30th.

      6. Trolleybuses are always better than gas buses. It’s still worth negotiating with Mad Park about trolley wires, or seeing if a bus can run off-wire between 23rd and 30th.

        I’m not sure I’d agree with that. If not for the wire on 19th, we would probably have killed that segment of the 12 ages ago. We might have extended the 44 to Children’s. We might have killed the 4.

        In the absence of routing decisions, trolleybus technology is better than petroleum technology, for sure. But wire makes bus routes harder to change, and that isn’t always a good thing.

      7. “Trolleybuses are always better than gas buses.”

        No, they’re not, especially now that modern diesel-electric hybrids are quiet and have virtually no non-CO2 emissions.

        ETBs are better when all of the below apply:

        1) There are steep hills somewhere along the route.
        2) Maximum speeds throughout the route are low, preferably with no speed limits higher than 30 (or 35 at the very outside).
        3) The route and wire are positioned such that deadheading buses is not ridiculously inefficient.

        Where any of those doesn’t apply, diesel-electric hybrids beat ETBs.

      8. Well, of course I didn’t mean trolleybuses on freeway routes. But there’s one other advantage of trolleybuses. They can be powered by a wider variety of energy sources than self-powered vehicles, including more environmentally benign sources. There are no solar cars yet, and you can’t attach a hydroelectric generator or a geothermal plant to a self-powered vehicle.

    3. As a West Seattle resident, I’m totally cool with being part of the city and I want a damn subway in my lifetime. But I guess that makes me a minority.

      And the majority was bats**t f***ed to not vote for heavy rail cause we’re paying the price more and more each day.

  6. This is nothing but good news to me.

    I don’t see one item in the list I do not like… the money to improve efficiency of existing transit routes is particularly nice to see.

    Hearing Greenwood Ave N and Lake City Way on the research list is big news for those of us in North Seattle. I am glad to hear we are finally on the real road map to better transit.

  7. he most important is $800k to begin corridor studies of four new corridors: …E Marginal Way S

    What would this be? Another freight train? A special shuttle for the Federal Center?

    1. Yeah I don’t know that I understand what that one is about either…. maybe taking a look at the report in detail will provide more information on this corridor….

    2. It sounds like a general corridor study more than a transit-specific one. The bike master plan calls for a major improvement on East Marginal Way south of Spokane — I have no special insight into this, but I bet that’s most of what comes out of the study… I’d make the same prediction about Beacon.

      1. “Beacon,” interpreted broadly, could include looking at implementing better bus service along TMP Corridor 3, which could be a huge win if implemented well.

        Route 35 in my Frequent Network Plan is a variation on this theme, but there could be quite a few ways to do it, and most of them would be improvements. It’s a great corridor to study for transit improvements, not just bike improvements.

        “East Marginal” may also include 1st Ave S between East Marginal and Spokane. New or rerouted bus service could possibly make sense there temporarily in conjunction with the massive shakeup that will have to take place in 2016 when the DBT opens but the new waterfront isn’t yet complete, or permanently when Seneca Street is no longer a good path into downtown. I’ll have a separate post about the 2016 Reroute of Doom soon.

    1. Sure is. At least half the streets in downtown Seattle are, which is why the city is confusedly budgeting a whole lot of money toward maximizing the number of cars it can shove down them by installing ITS while simultaneously trying to promote whatever pedestrian and cycling improvements it can fit in around the edges.

      It is the great confusion of American cities, in all their forms and sizes.

  8. Caption: “Multimodal afternoon jam…”

    I’m guessing the photo caption was intended ironically; unless you really squint to see the three partially visible pedestrians in the photo, the only transport mode in the scene is that of rubber tires supporting internal combustion engines. More or fewer seats but the visible vehicles are all anachronisms.

    1. I do count 6 buses there. Granted, at this point, the buses are probably pretty empty, since they are just beginning their routes, but once they fill up, they will be easily carrying more people than the number of cars in the picture.

      In a sense, everyone who is going to get on those buses at later stops downtown is waiting in the traffic jam. The only difference is that their wait time is getting spent standing at the bus stop, rather than actually inside of a vehicle.

      1. I count seven buses (or 4 buses and 3 partial buses) in the photo. And while the 522 and 5 are near the start of their routes, the 594 and 36 are near the end of theirs, so they would probably be pretty full.

    2. Sounder and Link transfer points are also in the picture. And the two bus stops closest to the camera are absolutely crammed with people (although they are mostly out of the frame, or crammed under the shelters)

    3. Freight, buses, and cars are different modes, even if they use similar technology. And buses are far from being anachronisms. They are essential parts of any urban network.

      There are also pedestrians visible in the picture, and it’s only chance that there are no bicycles — plenty of bicyclists (myself included in the days when I commuted by bike) use that stretch of street.

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