SDOT Image
SDOT Image

Since we last reported on the Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project back in February, SDOT and Nelson Nygaard have been busy refining concepts with an eye toward identifying a Draft Preferred Alternative in June. Tonight from 5-7pm, SDOT will host an open house at Seattle Academy (1432 15th Avenue) to update the public on the status of the project. Tonight’s presentation will reveal SDOT’s updated thinking on several key decision points for the project, including but not limited to:

  • Downtown’s eastbound pathway: Marion or Spring?
  • Downtown’s western terminus: 1st, Western, or Alaskan Way?
  • Eastern terminus: 23rd Avenue or MLK?
  • “Open” or “Closed” system?
  • Center,  Side-Running, or a mix of both?
  • Where should the I-5 vicinity stations be located? 6th or 8th Ave?
  • How should SDOT integrate bicycle facilities along the corridor?

This is a very important stage in the process, and if you live, work, or travel along this corridor, we encourage you to attend tonight’s meeting. Just as one example, alignment decisions made now will have cascading effects on the eventual shape of the line. For instance, a side-running solution could be an “open” system shared by several routes, which would frame the BRT project as primarily a capital improvement that could adapt to various service planning concepts over the years. By contrast, choosing a center-running solution that requires left door boarding would turn a capital project into a permanent service planning concept as well, requiring new vehicles and a dedicated route in perpetuity. Whether this would be a feature or a bug is for SDOT, Metro, and the public to decide, but the decisions and tradeoffs are substantial.

If available, we will update this post tomorrow with SDOT’s slides from the presentation.

64 Replies to “Madison BRT Open House Tonight”

  1. Median running ≠ left door boarding

    You can still build side platforms in the median that would allow right door buses to serve the stops. Think like the Othello and Columbia City stations on Link. You can also spilt up the northeast bound and southwest bound platforms to reduce the width of the right of way needed.

    That way you get an “open” system with the benefit of not having to slow down for cars turning right in the BAT lanes (often waiting for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk).

  2. I still don’t quite understand what’s supposed to happen with Madison Park. Will they have to ride a shuttle bus 3/4 of a mile, just to transfer to the BRT bus? Or is route 11 expected to run alongside the BRT bus, paralleling it all the way downtown?

    The former represents a significant downgrade of service to Madison Park. (A shuttle with frequency designed to match ridership would likely be limited to 30-60 minutes, weekday daytime hours only). The latter option would be a very expensive duplication of service.

    Is there any reason the BRT can’t just go one more mile to avoid this whole issue?

    1. To be clear, I’m not asking for an exclusive bus lane all the way to Madison Park. Even if the BRT bus operates in mixed traffic over there, that’s fine since there’s not huge volumes of traffic over there to begin with.

    2. Madison Park will not have the 11 anymore if the Link restructuring Alternative 1 goes forward.

      Instead, Madison Park would be served by an extended version of the 8 (have fun in the PM rush hour). Downtown riders would connnect at Capitol Hill Station. Supposedly this is a service improvement but I’m struggling to understand how that could be.

    3. The BRT group hasn’t brought that up, but bear in mind that Metro’s proposed Alternative 1 would reroute the 8 to serve Madison Park very frequently and would presumably share a stop in Madison Valley at MLK.

      1. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the 8/Madison Park is dead for the moment.

      2. David – I know it’s received some opposition here, and a lot from Reg’s Madison Park neighborhood group; are you pronouncing its funeral based on that, or something else?

      3. We’re only getting whispers at this point, but the whispers suggest strongly that it won’t be in Metro’s next proposal.

      4. Yeah, stay tuned, we may hear something publicly next week about Alternative 3.

      5. Even if the #8 extension to Madison Park, replacing the 11, is dead for now, it could come back.

        I actually think that a frequent 8, combined with Madison BRT to 23rd, would serve Madison Park pretty well.

    4. At the BRT meeting, they said that 23rd or MLK would be the end of the BRT capital project, and that buses “could continue further.” The audience made generally approving sounds.

  3. Whether this would be a feature or a bug is for SDOT, Metro, and the public to decide, but the decisions and tradeoffs are substantial.

    Umm, we pay you guys to dig into it and tell us which is better. Don’t you know how this works?

  4. It is hard to get excited about Madison BRT after the Link Restructure Alternative 1 proposal. Certainly most of the sentiment on this blog turned pretty hostile to Madison as a viable transit corridor after Alternative 1 came out. Most supported cutting the 11 and 12 and saw no need for an “all-Madison” route. Among the criticisms:

    1) Not enough ridership east of Broadway, especially off-peak
    2) Madison’s diagonal path does not fit a neatly-gridded system
    3) Any service would be duplicative with the 2, 10, and Link (& the revised 49)
    4) I-5 messes up Madison traffic which hurts reliability
    5) No Link connections on Madison

    I live in the area. I’d like to see direct service to downtown on Madison remain. However, this makes no sense – Metro apparently thinks Madison is a bad transit corridor, so why is SDOT going forward? I’d rather see the money spent on improvements that might actually be used by Metro. If the only route on Madison is the 49 to Broadway, any “BRT” investment is comical – you’d be lucky to cut a minute out of the travel time between I-5 and Broadway. It is just too short of a distance.

    1. There’s a big difference between Madison west of 12th and Madison east of 12th. Absolutely everyone wants BRT-like service on Madison west of 12th, or at least Broadway. And BRT there with dedicated lanes and signal priority would save a LOT more than “a minute” at peak hours.

      The differences of opinion concern what the BRT corridor should do east of Broadway or 12th. Few folks here like the idea of it going all the way down Madison, because Madison Park doesn’t have the ridership to support a 5-minute corridor. (Although… I think we’re going to be hearing more about all-Madison buses soon.) But all of the following options have gotten some support from STB staff and/or knowledgeable commenters:

      – On Madison to Madison Valley, connecting there with an 8-Madison Park
      – On Madison to 23rd, turning around as close to 23rd as practical
      – On Madison to 23rd, continuing to the U-District on 23rd as a Route 43 replacement
      – On Madison to 15th, continuing north as a route 10 replacement
      – On Madison to 12th, continuing east on Union like current route 2
      – On Madison to Broadway, continuing north as a route 49 replacement

      There still is no clear consensus on which of these is best. Personally, I think the best cases can be made for the 2-like and 49-like options.

      1. Good point, I was only thinking of dedicated lanes and totally forgot about signal priority, particularly at Boren. It is probably more like 4-5 minutes if you can get a green light at every intersection from I-5 to Broadway.

        Of the options you’ve listed, the 49-Madison is already the plan in Alternative 1. No service east of Broadway. I assume that is Metro’s preferred option. The 2 would be the most logical user of BRT to 12th, but I can’t imagine it will ever leave its current routing. The 23rd-Madison idea is interesting, but I fear that the reliability penalty from Montlake combined with the lengthy route would be severe negatives.

        If BRT doesn’t go beyond Broadway it will be a lot less useful to Pike-Pine and Madison-area residents. It would really only benefit hospital workers and the few people who live along Madison west of Broadway that don’t already walk downtown.

    2. I agree, Alex. It’s just stunning that the City is moving on its merry way as if Alternative 1 doesn’t exist!

      The City should really save some face here and look at a shorter BRT line from Broadway into Downtown..

      1. How many different ways will we need to go from the Downtown Core to Capitol Hill? We’ve got Link, Streetcar, and Madison BRT. In order for this BRT line to really improve mobility, it needs to go to at least 23rd, where it will provide a rapid alternative for Central District riders to get Downtown/First Hill, etc.

    3. SDOT’s survey shows a very strong preference for service east of Madison; a large majority of respondents actually wanted the route to continue past the planned terminus at 3rd to MLK.

      Personally, I think that if SDOT built such a route it would be so useful for so many trips that I might actually be willing to forgive it for being a bus, possibly.

    4. The problem with the 12 is it turns short of 23rd, which eliminates transfers to/from the 48. Likewise, the short 12s turn at 12th, which make them less optimal for 15th, 17th, or 23rd. If you put the terminus at Broadway, it makes it less than optimal for 12th too. Every truncation here loses riders and makes the transit network less useful, for not much reason.

  5. I’ve said it before, but I have fundamental issues with Downtown Marion/Madison part of the corridor. The stops are very steep and unusable for persons getting on or off. There is a fair amount of distance to a Link station entrance. At least Spring would begin to demonstrate some reasonable grades for a stop by the library and get riders a bit closer to Link.

    1. Except that any non-island stop at Spring and 4th/5th would fight the huge I-5 queue, which is most of what delays the 2 so much currently.

      1. The general idea is that this will be a limited stop service, with outbound stops at 3rd, 6th or 8th, Terry, Boylston, 12th, 17th, 23rd, and maybe MLK. In the concepts I’ve seen there is no stop at 4th or 5th. In the Spring concept the bus may run on the left in a bus lane and get a queue jump to move back to the right over I-5.

      2. I’d agree, William. An island stop would make the most sense by the Library. A bus-only lane on Spring by the library with a queue jump at 5th could also work — and alleviate this problem on Route 2 as well as the proposed BRT.

      3. I wouldn’t call that “limited stop”; I’d call that ideal local stops. Limited stop is like Swift.

        However, Metro is proposing a station at either 1st, Western, or Alaskan Way. If it goes as far as Alaskan Way it should probably have another station at 1st because of the steep hill.

      4. And there’s just as steep a hill between Third and Fifth; it should have another stop there. Let’s not forget about transfers from the 512 and 545, either.

    2. The stops are very steep and unusable for persons getting on or off.”


      I can understand the need for a high frequency, rapid link between the hospital district and the downtown core. But this doesn’t really do much for connection riders except to and from the ferries. There’s only a downhill stop at Third Avenue, which is the main route for “Seattle” buses in the CBD and that stop is two blocks from University Station’s south entrance. Who is going to want to transfer from Link or a RapidRide to a westbound bus, ride down to Western and then back up the hill to the hospitals?

      People are advocating for an island platform across from the Library on Spring, but there are NO stations shown on either Spring or Marion east of First Avenue. IOW, SDOT realizes that boarding on those steep hills is hard to do promptly.

      Who does SDOT think this will serve? Folks from Winslow?

      1. The concept map above is a bit unclear. In other concepts, it is clearer that there is an uphill stop at 3rd.

        I’ve said my piece on how to solve the accessibility issue, but the city has made clear it doesn’t like this option.

      2. David,

        Thanks; that makes it more palatable. It should go up Spring (in the left lane) and have island stops at both Third (nearside right at the intersection; there’s only a relatively mild grade there) and between Fourth and Fifth between the garage entrances for ST’s long distance buses on those streets. The hotel parking in the western half of the block is a problem, but they’ll just have to adjust. A narrow lane with a barrier between the hotel lane and the BRT lane to keep cars from pulling out and blocking the buses would be appropriate. Put a light at the end of it which would control egress from the lane and move the bus lane over to the curb with the platform between the garage entrances. Obviously, put a bus-operated light at the exit from the garage. Both would need camera enforcement.

        Just like LRT systems, having frequent stops in end-of-line activity centers on BRT lines is a good thing, especially when gradients are so steep. The riders who board or alight at the stops closest to the physical end are briefly delayed by stops closer to the center, but they are a minority of riders.

      3. One of the west end options presented last night included BRT sharing the northbound streetcar stop on 1st as the bus looped from Madison onto Spring (the others looped on Western or Alaskan Way). Feedback from the audience was split roughly evenly between the options.

        They didn’t mention the type of stops at 3rd, but there would be one in each direction.

        The next set of stops would be near I-5, either at 6th or at 8th, followed by a set at Terry. 6th seems to serve downtown better, while 8th is good for First Hill. Split opinion from the audience.

      4. “Who does SDOT think this will serve? Folks from Winslow?”

        Somebody shouted that at the meeting and it angered me. He said the project is not worth the money because it will only serve ferry riders going to First Hill. That angers me because it implies people living in Seattle without a car don’t exist. The majority of passengers will probably not be ferry riders but people transferring to Link, downtown buses, and going to the library. The ferries are like Sounder: they only run occasionally so that severely limits the ridership going to them.

      5. The majority of passengers will probably not be ferry riders but people transferring to Link, downtown buses, and going to the library.

        … or, at least, they would be if this BRT actually stopped near Link or the library.

      6. Mike,

        If you look at the stops on the map, it looks exactly like it’s meant to serve people from the ferries. David Lawson made it clear that there will be an uphill stop at Third and one by the freeway as well. Personally I think Fifth Avenue is far superior, because Sixth has no eastside walkshed. But whatever.

  6. I note how often staff feels that it’s okay to put ideas on the web only a few hours a public meeting. I looked at the City’s web site on this yesterday and saw nothing. Do they want sincere feedback, or do they know what they want to do and just don’t want any hassle? There are better ways to handle public participation — unless the City’s primary objective is just to say that they did something for the public when they submit their grant proposals.

    1. I second this. Compared with other agencies, SDOT’s transit projects have terrible outreach practices.

      1. There will be lots of outreach about this coming up, it’s not just tonight. Comments taken tonight and elsewhere will inform the draft preferred concept, then we’ll do this all over again, then there will be a final preferred concept, THEN they’ll go out for funds to design and construct. You know, our beloved process. There’s plenty of it for everyone. :)

  7. Hi guys,

    I guess It’s time for me to chime in again. Metro met with the MPCC Monday night and announced that they are going with the a water 11 that would NOT service the Pike/Pine corridor by transferring to the 10 an Broadway and Madison. This is NOT my Alt 3, since Metro removed the NOTCH and it will receive almost no support in Madison Park.

    I was at the May 5 BRT meeting and there was some talk about every other bus going to Madison Park, but few details. The biggest news is the the Madison Park BRT will only occur if the Republican Congress approves funding, big chance of that!

    1. Forgot to mention we had Metro at the meeting and it lasted 2 1/2 hours with a lot of questions. BTW, Alternative one is totally dead.

      The BRT folks were told that Madison Park will accept electric buses with wires and we have the easiest turnaround for the BRT too!. There is no room on Madison for more that one bus given the frequency Metro/BRT are suggesting. Even having the 8 which will be split at 23rd and S Jackson running on E Madison from MLK to E John is a problem. There was talk of eliminating street parking and center delivery lane too.

      The Metro 11 proposal is the BRT routing, but with Madison Park included.

      1. Thanks Reg, we are aware of the details of the Alternative 3 proposal and will be publishing our story early next week when the details are publicly released.

    2. Does Madison Park need frequent bus service any time but the peaks? Do folks actually ride mid-day to and from there? This is not a snark, but a genuine question.

      By “Madison Park” I mean the terminal loop and areas east of Lake Washington Blvd.

      1. As a long time resident of Madison Park I can tell you that we need bus service just like everywhere else in the city. If you’re suggesting that we walk to MLK or 23rd to catch a bust than think again!

        Yes, the buses are frequently empty, but they are more frequently late so that most people have to catch an earlier bus to get to appointments. I happened to be on the 11 recently with 3 Metro plans and they saw that the previous bus was 25 minutes late! Most of the day out service is 30 minutes and even if it’s 15 minutes during peak, it is still late.

        Those that have cars won’t put up with that kind of service, so I must ask you, would you?

      2. I forgot to mention, that if you look at the map we are part of Seattle, we pay property and sales tax and including the recent .1% increase, so why shouldn’t be have reliable and better service. I for one could live with 15 min all week. We don’t need 6 or 10 minute service. Yes, we live in Madison Park, but not everyone in Madison Park is rich with servants and maids either. Yes, there are some down here who don’t want to part of Seattle, but they don’t talk for us either!

        I could still walk to MLK to catch a bus which would be a mile walk, but a lot of seniors who live here could not! Take the bus away and you will have more cars on Madison too!

      3. Reg,

        All I said was “Do you need frequent [e.g. 15 minutes or more often] service during the off-peak?” Of course you need bus service, but if “the buses are frequently empty” with 30 minute platform service, I really don’t think you need to up it to frequent service. A few more riders would be attracted, yes; but they’d be spread over twice as many buses.

        There are lots of routes in the city which have 30 minute platform service. Basically nearly all the routes north of the ship canal except RapdRides D & E, the 5, 16, 41, and of course the 44 and 48 are 30 minute headways. Some of those 30 minute buses run on overlapping routes (like the 26 and 28 on Dexter, the 7X’s on 15th NE and the Ave) so that parts of their routes have more frequent service.

        The same is true for West Seattle routes; except for the 120 and 21 they serve a similar demographic and have similar ridership profiles.

        Of course not everyone living east of LWB is rich. But a lot are and they’re not terribly likely to take the bus for mid-day errands; most who do are probably heading for the retail core which the current 11 serves very well. I was appalled when Alternative 1 showed peak only service to Madison Park. But BRT service out that far would be foolish, and do your riders really want to go to Madison/Marion in the middle of the day? It’s ALL office buildings.

      4. Half-hourly service is crap. It presumes that your time is worthless, demanding that you waste lots of time waiting around and expecting you to subordinate your schedule to that of the bus. Nobody with a choice will put up with that; it is service for the desperate.

        Do we want to be a grown-up city with a grown-up public transit system or not? Half-hour buses are embarrassing and we will never make a dent in automobile dominance if we keep pretending otherwise.

      5. “There are lots of routes in the city which have 30 minute platform service.”

        Many of those are below Metro’s service guidelines. Metro has long wanted to raise them but hasn’t had money until Prop 1. The issue is not “Most people have bad service so you should too”. It’s, “What level of service reaches the sweet spot of ridership vs cost and makes a car-free lifestyle convenient?” The reason Chicago and San Francisco have ridership through the roof is the buses come every 5 minutes in the daytime and 15-20 minutes in the evening, so people can get around without a car without it being a hardship and extraordinary time-waster. Madison Park itself may warrant only 15 or 30 minute service, but it’s less than a mile from MLK and there’s no other direction a bus can come from. So we might as well extend the frequent route that fraction of a mile for less cost than it would be to bring another route in, and it also gives a good layover place which is another cost consideration. It’s better to slightly overserve a place than underserve it, since we’ve been chronically underserving most places for so many years and that has sapped our ridership and led to high parking minimums.

      6. Mike,

        Thank you for your very rational post. It might even come to pass that reliable and more frequent service might actually increase bus usage from Madison Park.

        The biggest factor is the routing of the 11 and it appears that an all Madison route with no easy one transfer to the Pike/Pine corridor is a KILLER for future use of the bus in Madison Park and Madison Valley too!

      7. I agree, Reg. No matter where the bus goes from Madison Park, it’ll need easy transfers to many other destinations.

      8. Thank you William. It is sad to see that Metro does not see your point since they are proposing a Madison route that is not my Alternative Three which gaves full access to most points west directly or with one seamless transfer!

        The other factor that is not real is that a Madison route that does not include the Pine/Pike notch eliminates easy access to Light Rail at CHS and isn’t that the reason for this exercise? Madison to John versus Pine to John is a big difference especially since part of its up hill and lot longer distance! They also eliminate the easy access to Seattle Central and their students are bus riders too.

        Bottom line, buses are for people who use them, not play toys for people who design the routes! Buses need to work for the rider or what purpose do they serve?

      9. A Madison-Pine route is actually more convenient for me, living around Bellevue Ave where Madison is the furthest away, and I think it may be more useful for Capitol Hillites and Madison Valleyites in general, but it’s always a tradeoff. The main reason I rarely take the 2 or 12 eastbound is they’re less frequent than the combined routes on Pine Street or James Street, and I don’t want to go looking up schedules or waiting half an hour. However, a good Madison BRT with signal priority and transit lanes could attract people going generally up the hill, even some who currently take Pine Street buses. A 3rd & Spring station is reasonably close to University Street Station, and it’s not like 4th & Pike is much closer to Westlake Station.

      10. Mike, if a Pike/Pine 11 much better than an all Madison 11. I still prefer Alternative three with a notch so people can do a seamless transfer at Broadway to the Pike/Pine corridor!

        The BRT doesn’t change the need for a seamless transfer at Broadway to the Pike/Pine corridor.

  8. The “Seattle In Progress” map makes a clear visual case for why planning ahead for BRT out to 23rd or Madison Valley makes sense. There are a large number of sizeable projects (most with only limited parking) going in all along that corridor; they drop off just after 23rd.

    1. Likely because Seattle’s restrictive zoning prohibits almost all development activity east of 23rd.

      1. @Mars – presumably, yes. In either case, my comment was meant to be a response to folks suggesting that Madison BRT only has demand out to Broadway or 12th. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      2. Funny, I see a bunch of multifamily housing on Madison east of 23rd on my way to City People’s Garden Store. That wasn’t there thirty years ago, especially the swank ones.

      3. Yes, it’s very easy to identify the edge of the NC2-40 zone, because it’s all been built up.

    2. One of the slides shown at the meeting talked about residential and commercial growth along the corridor, and it had a screenshot of the Seattle In Progress map with the BRT corridor overlaid on it.

      1. It showed some 31 multifamily projects within the couple of blocks north and south of Madison.

        By the way, there’s a nice street-end park on the south side of 15th & Madison now, a block from the meeting place. The street may have been closed off for longer, but there are benches and plantings and concrete paths and a table tennis table now.

  9. Pingback: Madison BRT Survey

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