Photo by the Author
Photo by the Author

In April I asked SDOT if the Expedia move would strengthen the case for full-time bus lanes on Elliott. At the time, they didn’t have a timetable. Now they do. Rick Sheridan:

SDOT’s Transit division has an ongoing program of C and D Line enhancements. The current focus is on restriping 15th NW between NW 49th and Market to install a northbound BAT lane and, at NW 52nd, a new signalized crosswalk to connect transit riders and others to two growing parts of central Ballard. This project is working toward final approval and is expected to be installed by the end of the year.

Even as that project moves forward, a number of other D Line enhancements are in design, including expanded no parking hours and BAT lane striping north of NW 65th. The addition of off-peak direction BAT lanes on Elliott will follow these other projects, with design/outreach starting in early 2016.

Our work to enhance transit along this corridor will occur well ahead of Expedia’s relocation there in 2018.

Good news! Whatever forces prevented full-time bus lanes in the past are likely still present, so please remain ready to submit positive comments next year.

37 Replies to “Elliott Bus Lane Followup”

  1. So…bus-wise, at least a year out and not much in terms of real improvements in the meantime. Striping north of 65th is a welcome addition, but doesn’t help solve the core reliability issues with RapidRide in the more congested parts of Seattle. Expect more in 2016, hopefully, assuming Elliott businesses don’t have a fit?

    The 52nd pedestrian crossing, should people driving respect it, will be incredibly welcome!

    1. Yeah, unfortunately this won’t help the most major slowdown on the route… LQA/Uptown.

      I suspect they need to pay at least as much attention to downtown to Interbay as Ballard to Interbay… not every Expedia employee is going to move to Ballard.

      HOV Lanes on I-90 will help some, but without a quick ride from downtown on the D, most folks are just going to take a car instead.

      Maybe some reverse peak 15x would help?

  2. I really wish they hadn’t turned the third southbound lane on 15th, north of 65th, into a dedicated parking lane with bulb-outs.

      1. If it is, they did it on the wrong side of the road (bulb outs are on the west side of 15th, High School on the east side). I think it was to calm people’s fears that they would lose parking to a future BAT lane when they were building out the RapidRide D infrastructure.

  3. It is insane that it should take years of “design” and “outreach” to change a handful of signs.

    Just as it is insane to prioritize restriping north of 65th, where free flow is the norm, while continuinf to leave untouched a 4-minute red turn light onto a pointless detour that continues to consitute nearly half the run time of the route.

    And people wonder why this city has a questionable reputation for taking transit function seriously?

  4. Good start, SDOT, but we have these maddening “little” (big for transit, of course) chokepoints all over the city. It would be great if Metro and SDOT could get together to identify areas where small investments or traffic/parking adjustments could unlock major benefits for transit riders.

    I’ll nominate Madison between Boren and 15th. Forget BRT and whether the 12 should exist or not – using any part of Madison for street parking at any time of the day is a staggering misallocation of limited street capacity. There’s plenty of off-street parking in the area, plus side streets where people can park.

    Off-street parking may not be desirable, but at least it doesn’t take away transit capacity like street parking does. I’m fine with parking on side streets and on wide arterials, but in chokepoints like Elliott it makes no sense.

  5. This will increase an already congested commute northbound on 15th over the Ballard Bridge. This will make things even worse for traffic through Ballard and increase Metro commute times, not a good idea.

      1. “to install a northbound BAT lane and, at NW 52nd, a new signalized crosswalk to connect transit riders and others to two growing parts of central Ballard. ”

        Both of these changes will restrict both car and transit traffic across the Ballard bridge NB. No longer have 3 lanes after the bridge and the new signalized crosswalk will restrict traffic flow.

      2. As a pedestrian/cyclist in Ballard and frequent rider of the D, it is absolutely terrifying to take direct on foot/bike routes in southwest Ballard. Very few marked crosswalks, lots of freight, and challenging crossing distances/road surfaces make run-ins with inattentive traffic pretty frequent. 15th absolutely makes the most sense as a “BRT” corridor for this part of town, but south of Market and west of 15th is a terrible place to be a pedestrian so improving connectivity across Leary would probably do more to increase the utility of the Ballard Blocks/Bridge stops than the 52nd crossing. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m somewhat confused about who that is attempting to serve, when there is a significantly longer stretch of Leary that horribly blocks pedestrian access immediately to the west, with the one crossing between market and 15th, near Senior Moose, being a total joke as far as cars stopping for peds is concerned. Pedestrians are constantly hoofing it across that street between cars to avoid a half-mile long detour.

      3. Still no change in the number of general-purpose lanes, Chuck.

        Traffic backing up from Market is inevitable, and this merely helps the northbound buses by not forcing them to merge at 51st before they split again at 53rd.

        The extra pedestrian crossing is unlikely to add any further bottleneck either, since its slice of the total cycle will be piddling compared to the red at Market.

      4. d.p.’s right. There are only 2 northbound lanes north of the Ballard Bridge now anyway. And the new pedestrian signal (1) won’t be that long and (2) will only be activated when there is a pedestrian.

        Derek, Leary will be getting a bicycle and pedestrian signal at Dock Place later this year (part of the 17th Ave greenway project), so there will finally be a decent crossing south of Market!

      5. That crossing at Dock Place is the worst idea ever. The City needs to grow a pair and put the 17th Greenway crossing of Leary at (GASP!) 17th and Leary! Everyone biking south on 17th wants to go east to Ballard or Fremont bridge and will continue to cross Leary at 17th, whether they improve the crossing or not. People who might take Dock Street into downtown Ballard will likely have gone over the 20th by this point; Dock Street is a road to nowhere.

      6. Crossing Leary at 17th isn’t a matter of one’s “pair”, it’s a matter of the crazy shape of the intersection. Dock crosses Leary at a right angle; that reduces pedestrian exposure to traffic, shortens and simplifies signal cycles, and improves sight lines. 17th is worse even than a typical off-angle intersection because of the other odd streets connected to it south of Leary.

        17th/Vernon/Dock is also weird-shaped, but there’s little enough traffic that it’s not a huge problem — we could do several different things, including nothing, that would work OK.

      7. The thing to do at both 17th/Leary and 20th/Leary is to take the existing pattern farther: curve the avenues to the right approaching Leary from either side to form compact, square intersections that don’t line up directly across Leary. Then curb off the rest of the space to shorten crossing distances. 20th north of Leary lines up better with Vernon south of it; if there’s ever a full signal there it should treat these as continuous across Leary (like how 9th Ave N continues as Bell crossing Denny)… but that might send too much traffic down a narrow street like Vernon. In any case that’s how the crosswalk is laid out, and if a signal and second crosswalk was added it would logically frame a nice compact right-angle intersection.

      8. @Al You are correct about the bad intersection, as myself and anyone else that uses 17th to travel south know. But throwing up our hands in defeat and sending the greenway the OPPOSITE direction that people are trying to go accomplishes nothing.

        Sure, the City will be able to pat themselves on the back, but meanwhile cyclists will continue to use 17th south of Dock Street and continue to cross Leary at 17th as they do today. What we’ll be left with is no safe crossing at Leary and no safe crossing at Shilshole to the Missing Link.

        And don’t get me started on the “safety island” at 57th: a grid severing solution in search of a problem, no doubt dreamed up by some academic researcher who has no knowledge of proper urban design.

  6. 53rd to Market on 15th going northbound is 3 lanes. Any new signal which stops traffic on a already congested street will back up traffic, no way around this.

    1. That third lane is right-turn-only, and will remain bus+right turn after the work. This lane has zero benefit for effect through-traffic today, and that will not change.

      The only physical change is happening below 53rd, where restriping will find a bus lane within what is now two excessively wide lanes and an ambiguous non-shoulder.

      And you are emphatically wrong on your last point. With the primary bottleneck uphill/downstream from this crossing, there will be no additional delay outcome whatsoever.

      1. Any signal which stops traffic will slow down traffic and add to congestion when this road is already bumper to bumper, no way around this.

      2. Again, that is incorrect.

        At the height of rush, traffic already stops completely all the way to the bridge. Time this signal to the Market signal, and you will see no change in congestion effect or travel time.

        None whatsoever.

        Just don’t block the box, and this will work out fine.

  7. Timed signals in Seattle? this does not happen.
    Any new signal which stops traffic back to the Ballard Bridge will add to the stop and go traffic flow 15th northbound has every day from 4:00-6:00, no way around this.

    1. Market is the flow-controlling chokepoint. It cannot be “added to” by a significantly less time-intensive pedestrian signal upstream from the chokepoint.

      You are incorrect. Repeating your misperception will not make it any more accurate.

      1. D.P –
        Any new stoplight between Dravus and Market will slow down throughput from Dravus to Market. This light will not be timed with the light at Dravus or Market, just adding a random stop on an already slow moving thoughput at certain times of the day. Stopped traffic near the Ballard Bridge adds to commute time going either South or North. Great for the few pedestrians needing to cross at 52nd, sucks for cars, trucks, buses trying to get through Ballard. No way around this.

      2. I don’t know how else to explain this to you.

        There is zero chance that a relatively modest red light 3 blocks south of Market will cause a single car to miss the green at Market that would otherwise have made the green at Market. This is what a “controlling bottleneck” means.

        The green at Market is actually quite long — it is in excess of 2 minutes in the afternoon rush — but is nevertheless overwhelmed by the volume of traffic. The precise same number of cars will be able to fit through each green cycle, whether those cars start from a stopped position in today’s zero-crossing zone, or whether they start from behind the crosswalk at 52nd.

        If the precise same number of cars make it through each Market green, then the new crosswalk is not worsening congestion. By definition. Not even a little bit.

        For a similar example, see the spot where Aurora switches from being a limited-access highway to a regular street, causing backups at rush hour. There is a pedestrian-activated crossing just a few blocks south. This crossing has zero effect on total congestion or travel times, because the end of limited access just afterward is the “controlling bottleneck” for the area. This proposed crossing will be much the same.

  8. You cannot explain away the lack of congestion with your “controlling bottleneck” theory at the Market St. light. That is not accurate. NB 15th has many bottle necks, most at entry points to 15th. Many days from 4:00-6:00 northbound 15th can get bumper to bumper from the Interbay Golf facility to Market and even farther. Eastbound Dravus gets backed up past 20th. Cars need to go through 4 lights, going from light to light, to then merge to NB 15th. Cars on eastbound Emerson need to get through 2 stoplights and 1 stop sign to merge to NB 15th. This can take longer 10-15 minutes for a 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile trip, totally unacceptable. Adding a new signal which stops this slow progress adds to congestion and will make trips longer, no way around this. You need to experience the pain to understand this. Objective will always need to be to get the traffic in and out of Ballard/Ballard Bridge/Interbay as quickly as possible. Move the traffic, lessen the congestion. This will benefit all. Any additional stops adds to commute time, no way around this.

    1. It’s not a “theory”. It’s a central tenet of throughput modeling.

      I live in Ballard and am intimately familiar with the situation. There are precisely two flow-controlling bottlenecks in the northbound direction: the Ballard Bridge merge point, and the Market light signal.

      If you were to do something to worsen throughput at one of those two locations, that would be a real problem. Anywhere else, you cannot worsen a situation whose flow rate is already controlled by the bottlenecks elsewhere!

  9. The Ballard Bridge merge point will be impacted for both NB and SB traffic on 15th with this new signal.
    This will cause delays, no way around this. Consider more points which “control” or impact NB flow of 15th. There are many.

    Your modeling is flawed, anyone stopped at the proposed light may miss the 2 minute light at Market they may of otherwise made and then will need to wait for the next light. This delay has impacts downstream (south of the Ballard Bridget) and can repeat again and compound the congestion. You miss other lights due to the stopped traffic. Pedestrians may cross the street again and this would signal the light. You cannot make-up the time spent due to stopping at this new signal after you pass by the signal. Traffic north of this signal is still there, you are now 2-10 minutes later.

    This is just a minor change in the big picture of Seattle traffic issue, but slowly makes things worse. The new developments and added light at Dravus by Redmill Burgers a few years ago, the 3 proposed developments on the westside of 15th between the bridge and Dravus will add pressure to traffic from Dravus to Market and Interbay. Again, need to make changes to efficiently get traffic in and out of Ballard/15th/Interbay, not slow down traffic and add to congestion. Every little improvement helps, every little slowdown hurts.

    1. Emphatically disagree.

      The Ballard Bridge merge point (4 lanes coming from 3 directions down to 2 on the bridge) can in no way be impacted by a brief signal nearly a mile further downstream. (Downstream is where the traffic “flows” after the bottleneck. Upstream is where the traffic was “sourced” from.)

      And there is zero chance that anyone will miss the Market light for having stopped at 52nd. Not when traffic is light (because the Market signal is long), and not when traffic is heavy (because cars between 52nd and Market already take longer to “clear” than the duration of any walk signal.

      Again, if precisely as many cars make it through each Market signal after this light is installed as before, then there has been no additional congestion created. No matter how much the optics of not keeping this segment a “freeway” bother you.

      The argument you make is the same one made for incessantly widening Interstate highways. Billions are spent on such projects, and then people sit in just as much traffic when they hit the first unimprovable bottleneck “downstream” from the widening project. Or at the exit ramps. The congestion has in no way been “relieved” — it has merely been relocated.

      You could take out every single traffic light from Market to downtown, and Market would remain precisely the same level of bottleneck.

  10. Your analysis and theory do not equate to real world reality. Simple example: If I am at the Interbay Golf facility on 15th and am driving NB to Dick’s Drive-in at Holman road, with light traffic this is a 10 minute trip. If the the Ballard Bridge goes up, this could add 2 minutes to 5 minutes or more to the trip depending on where the bridge is at on it’s up/down cycle. This is time never made up on the trip north, regardless of the light at Market. In heavy traffic, it adds even more time to the trip. The same thing will happen with a new signal at 52nd, it will only add to the total time for a trip. A car stopped in traffic will always take longer than a car moving in traffic.

    Adding a light at 52nd creates an additional stop, I may or may not make it through the light at Market, all depending on the where the light is in it’s 2 minute cycle. (your Zero Chance of Missing this light is flawed) This is compounded and potentially repeated as traffic stops for this light, backs up additional flow and creates additional wait time at other lights (Emerson and Dravus)

    You must be confused with someone else with your Interstate Highway, Freeways, and Billions spent ramblings. Not sure where that came from.

    1. A Ballard Bridge opening is a long enough interruption to exceed the preexisting sources of delay. In your example, it becomes the new “controlling bottleneck”.

      This is emphatically not true of a short pedestrian cycle at 52nd, no matter your irrational fear of it.

      I urge you to observe the time it presently takes between the Market light turning green and the traffic below 52nd beginning to move. This is longer than the entire potential crossing cycle, and is why not a single additional car will miss the Market green as a result.

      The Interstate bottleneck is relevant as another example where people falsely assume that any minor delay is the controlling bottleneck, even when it is not.

  11. When you approach 52nd going NB, the Market St light could be green and it could be 1 second to 2 minutes from going yellow/red. You may or may not miss the light depending on where the Market Street light is in it’s cycle. A light at 52nd where cars stop can cause a number of cars to miss the light they would have made if there was no light at 52nd. Instead of making the current or 1st light, they now must wait for the 2nd or 3rd light, depending on where they are in the cue to get through (at 52nd, on the Bridge, south of the Bridge.) A stopped car travels slower than a moving car. Your thesis is wrong, go drive the route and consider the possibilities.

    1. At rush hour, you are not approaching this area at speed, because the backup already extends significantly below 52nd.

      It is therefore inaccurate to envision yourself racing a Market light that is “1 second to 2 minutes from going yellow/red” as if you were moving freely, because by this point you will have already ground to a halt by the compounding Market backup. Your subsequent rate of progress will be controlled by Market, not by 52nd.

      I have experienced this precise segment of rush hour traffic hundreds of times. Furthermore, the discrepancy between actual flow patterns and human psychological perceptions of delay is of interest to me.

      You are misassigning cause and effect, and are wrong.

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