9th Ave Bus Lane Map
9th Ave Bus Lane Map

Just under a year ago, I wrote a post suggesting that SDOT install a southbound bus lane or queue jump, on 9th Ave just north of Mercer, to help keep Metro Route 40 out of the press of car traffic headed to Mercer and I-5. I’m very happy to report that SDOT is now planning to do something very like what I proposed (minus the bike facility I had suggested), as shown on the map above:

The Seattle Department of Transportation is planning to install the following changes on 9th Avenue between Westlake Avenue and Roy Street:

  • Install a new southbound bus lane on 9th Avenue between Westlake Avenue and Roy Street;
  • Restrict on-street parking on the west side of 9th Avenue N between Westlake Avenue and Roy Street between 6 -9 am and 3-7 pm;
  • Remove restriction to on-street parking on the east side of 9th Avenue N between Westlake Avenue and Roy Street.

This project is part of the City’s efforts to relieve South Lake Union traffic chokepoints. General purpose traffic currently stacks up during both peaks, creating several minutes of delays to Metro Route 40, the primary bus line between Fremont, Ballard, and South Lake Union.

Changes on 9th Avenue N are scheduled to be installed before the end of December, weather permitting.

Assuming this bus lane is adequately enforced, this change should save Route 40 riders at least one signal cycle crossing Mercer in the peak periods. Riding the 40 southbound in the PM peak, I find it mortifying to be stuck on a motionless bus, while half a dozen cars are parked just to the right, squandering precious street space. Props to SDOT for getting this done; let’s have more like this.

24 Replies to “SDOT Proposes 9th Ave Bus Lane”

  1. Finally, at least a partial solution to the 40, the infinite Mercer Mess and Amazonia. While I would like a one seat ride from Ballard to downtown, the 40 is just too unpredictable. Now that the interminable construction between Greenwood and I-5 is done, maybe we can count on the 40 passing through Ballard more or less on time.

      1. I have heard that there are agreements to not to re-purpose general lanes on Westlake until the 99 tunnel is finished…

  2. So if the west side parking is becoming peak-restricted, and east side parking is being added, doesn’t that mean a net increase in street parking during off-peak hours? That seems a backwards step in an otherwise good change.

    1. The east side is restricted from 4-6pm only, and there is very little demand for 2 lanes NB (and transit doesn’t use NB 9th) even then, so it’s probably fine.

  3. So how exactly is this lane supposed to work with those trying to take a right turn? I can see three possibilities:

    1) The lane is shared (which means this is good, but not that good).
    2) There a right turn lane as well as a bus lane (to the left of it). This means some weaving somewhere.
    3) No right turn allowed. This is ideal, but inconvenient for drivers (I’m not sure how else they get there).

    1. The real conflict is with left-turners, and that is alleviated once one crosses Roy and the street widens. Between Roy and Mercer, it is not terribly problematic to have the bus in mixed traffic, or even to have straight-bound traffic and right-turners mixed.

      Very few people turn right from 9th onto Roy, and for the most part they have plenty of chances to do so on red.

      1. OK, that makes sense. I’m used to the “old way” before they closed Broad (where I assume a substantial number of people could back up here). The backup is for people turning left or going straight and this should help considerably.

      2. The straight-bound red light at Mercer needs to stop being 5 minutes long, though. This lane won’t fix that by itself.

  4. I am presuming that the “bus lane” and the restricted “west side” parking share the same physical space, i.e. that this bus lane is part-time.

    That’s not necessarily a major problem, but it is worth clarifying.

  5. While part-time is better than not at all, there’s still a lot of traffic outside the rush hour periods when buses could benefit from a reserved lane. Cars that overstay into rush hour are still problematic, as are the instances when a car parks exactly at the time the restriction ends and suddenly creates a chokepoint as the travel lane instantly becomes parking.

    Removing ~15 parking spaces on a block with an auto body shop and a high-end motorcycle dealer doesn’t sound like a bad trade to improve reliability on a busy route.

    1. I walk though this area pretty often, and I’d actually say the opposite. Most weekday nights after 7 traffic on 9th and Westlake is non-existent. Maybe there’s some traffic Friday nights, but even then it’s light enough to easily jaywalk across either instead of waiting for the ridiculously long light cycles.

  6. Would have been good if Metro had insisted, and SDOT complied with, the the bus lane measure during construction- when I saw backups more than half an hour long. Of course what’s here is better than nothing- and its likely it will be expanded and hours extended over time.

    Glad I lived to see it.


    1. I was stuck in some of that construction traffic. I generally got out of the bus and walked.

      Sometimes I even transferred to the SLU streetcar. Even the mixed traffic streetcar was faster than the 40 stuck in construction traffic.

  7. Why not have the 40 run two-way on Westlake and share as many stops as possible with the streetcar? I find it weird to share stops northbound with the streetcar but not southbound with its current weird couplet routing in this area.

    1. It’s weirder than that, even. The 40 northbound shares just one stop with the streetcar, at Denny, before the streetcar leaves Westlake and runs up Terry. North of Denny the streetcar only runs south on Westlake and the 40 only runs north on Westlake.

    2. I totally agree. As someone who worked in SLU for a time, the bus + streetcar integration is awful.

      I’d go so far as to say that the 26/28/40/131/132, should share 100% of the stops with the streetcar and the streetcar lanes should be 100% BAT lanes.

      1. Um, NO to the the NOth power.

        Y’all do understand that the streetcar is slow not because of a particularly heavy load of traffic in its ROW, but because the route it takes is inherently slow, right?

        The 26, 28, and 40 would meander up Terry over my dead body.

      2. It would also slow things down further when buses and trains wait in line for buses ahead of them to clear each stop. Again, no thanks.

      3. … and for the streetcar, Terry is slow and adds extra turns but at least isn’t totally out of the way, since it then turns east along Valley. For the 40, 26, and 28 it would be out of the way and require a jog at the north end. It’s especially bad for the 26 and 28, which would have to jog all the way back to Dexter, either in Mercer traffic or waiting at interminable lights on Valley/Broad/Roy. For better or worse these routes are the best connection many neighborhoods have to the Westlake hub and they need to take a non-ridiculous route to get there so that the idea of transferring downtown isn’t a total joke.

        I’d also guess that the 40 gets from 3rd/Pine out to the Westlake/Denny stop it shares with the streetcar faster than it would trying to make all the streetcar stops. And that implementing street improvements along the 40’s current route (3rd and the Bell/Blanchard couplet) would result in a faster, more reliable trip than similar improvements along the streetcar route. I could be wrong about all this, blinded by my other reasons for hating Westlake south of Denny.

        There are a bunch of little reasons the 40 is probably faster and more useful doing the 9th/Westlake couplet instead of using Westlake both ways north of Denny (especially during construction going on now that affects the possibility of adding bus stops on Westlake just north of Mercer, and on parts of Lenora); it’s not so great for legibility, but that’s what we get for having a weird street network. The streetcar’s jog to Terry is much more questionable. It probably has more to do with getting out of the way of northbound cars hurrying up to wait at Mercer than any actual transit consideration.

      4. I’ve tried to tally up the number of different southbound routings I’ve experienced over the past eight years on the 17-now-40, and I lost track as I was approaching a dozen. (Again, that’s southbound alone!)

        There have been three or four “permanent” revisions, year-long reroutes, and months-long reroutes-to-the-reroutes. I’ve been down Westlake, 9th, Dexter, Bell, Wall, Stewart, Harrison in both directions…

        I’m tempted to say that the current route, post- major construction on Mercer, is the fastest it has been since back when SLU was still a wasteland and the cross streets had few lights and fewer cars. Perhaps the period when the bus snuck over to Dexter via 8th and Aloha might even have been slightly faster.

        Regardless, this bus lane is a partial win. A better signal cycle crossing Mercer would be a total win. Funneling everyone to the slowcar’s path would be the opposite.

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