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A month and a half ago, the city of Kenmore held a meeting in its city hall to rally its citizens to a cause: building support for more transit along the highway 522 corridor. The city council was concerned that the communities along highway 522 were going to be left behind in the 2016 Sound Transit ballot measure. The meeting was held to find like-minded citizens who were willing to volunteer to make a push for better transit along the corridor.

Why the interest in transit? Well, traffic volume has gotten measurably worse on highway 522 over the years, especially due to tolling the 520 bridge: 522 has seen a 9% increase in traffic as a result of people changing their driving habits because of the toll. Bus service has traditionally worked well, but overcrowding during peak hours is becoming a big problem, and off-peak headways are infrequent (if you miss the 9:30 PM bus from downtown, you could be waiting an hour for the next one). Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park and Lake City have all been adding additional housing along the corridor, which means even more transit riders. Improving our transit service is the clear answer.

Thus, 522 Transit Now was born. The organization is a coalition of city staff and volunteers (myself among the volunteers), working together to make sure we can get transit improvements along the corridor in ST3 as well as future ballot measures. The primary goal is to get bus rapid transit service along 522 from Bothell to the Seattle city limit, which will then follow 145th Street to connect with the future light rail station at 145th and Interstate 5. Looking ahead to the future, we want the corridor to be studied for light rail. 522 is an attractive corridor for light rail, since there is a lot of development potential, and it’s impossible for the light rail to simply run in the shadow of a giant freeway. Additionally, it would presumably connect to Lake City, one of Seattle’s urban villages not yet a part of the light rail network, so Seattle would also benefit from this.

Our first effort was to get citizens to respond to the now-completed ST3 survey, which many did: Kenmore was the top non-Seattle zip code to respond to the survey, and Sound Transit listed 522 BRT as a project they’re looking at in their meeting on July 23. Of course, the city of Kenmore doesn’t plan on going it alone on this, and city staff have been communicating with staff and council members in Shoreline, Bothell and Lake Forest Park, as well as local business owners.

Ongoing efforts include a petition, and we invite all residents of the Northshore area – or really anybody else who’s interested – to sign it. We hope to deliver the petition to the Sound Transit board by their August 27 meeting.

Members of the coalition also plan to appear at meetings. About a dozen volunteers were at Thursday’s meeting in yellow shirts, and we’ll be attending meetings on August 13 and 27.

We’re always looking for more volunteers. If you’re interested, you can sign up at the website.

16 Replies to “522 Transit Now”

  1. I see bus lanes on 145th to Shoreline station as part of your plan but what about on 522? Other than better service what do you envision? Is this filing the gaps in the existing BAT lanes? Building/shifting to new center running bus lanes? BRT like stations? I’m just wondering what you mean by “bus rapid transit” in this corridor that already has a pretty good amount of BAT lanes?

    1. I have to agree with Poncho here. I ride the 522 several times per week, and have often traveled the full distance to the Woodinville P & R from downtown Seattle. There are a number of BAT lanes along with easy loading on the P&Rs. It gets its 41-style SRO after 145th.

      While I understand the turn because 522 is slower than molasses south of 145th, it reads politically like 522 Transit Now is co-opting the LC/Seattle traffic to argue for the BRT and cut the same traffic out to get the speed.

      I say we try to get real BRT on the 522 all the way down to Roosevelt.

  2. I’m a bit confused — doesn’t 145th miss the core of Lake City? Given there’s no 130th street station I assume a path that would serve the full 522 corridor would need to terminate at Northgate station. Or, are you suggesting 2 different BRT lines, one for Lake City another for the rest of SR 522? I feel like that would be very expensive.

    1. As I said below, the answer is to improve all the lines, and not worry about what parts are BRT, and what parts aren’t. There is enough redundancy and enough density to justify spending substantial amount of money on each corridor. 145th, 125th and SR 522 between the two (and to the north) are all important corridors that should be made faster. This means more bus lanes. There already are quite a few, but there are plenty of gaps that screw up bus traffic and should be removed. This might mean spending a lot of money, but it would pay substantial dividends.

      If push comes to shove and we make one BRT line, then it should go along SR 522 from 145th to 125th. To do otherwise would be stupid. That is by far the most densely populated section (and it is growing faster than any other part). North of there, I don’t know where to end it, but UW Bothell is a fine destination. It is one of the few places that has bidirectional demand all day long. Once BRT gets to the heart of Lake City (125th) it should head west, to a new station at NE 130th. From there, it should continue west, to Aurora or Greenwood Avenue. That is real BRT. That connects very dense areas (greater Lake City) to other transit routes (Link as well as BRT along Aurora and other bus routes along every major intersection) all within a relatively short distance.

      1. Ross, if the cities in North and Northeast King County don’t want the 130th Station, it don’t believe it will happen. You can be certain that folks in Snohomish County and Shoreline don’t want it, because it would add a minute and a half — including the slow-down and acceleration time — to every trip they make on Link. So if Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Bothell chime in with “We don’t either because we don’t want to ride through Lake City”, then the station is dead.

        The Board’s composition is stacked against the City of Seattle. The City has two representatives out of eighteen members, and I believe three of the County Council representatives live in the City, County Executive Dow Constantine, County Council Chair Larry Phillips and Joe McDermott. They do an excellent job of representing the City’s needs, but clearly Executive Constantine and Chairman Phillips can’t take strong stands in favor of the City’s needs when there is a conflict. Executive Constantine explicitly represents everyone in the County and the Chairman of the County Council does as well, at least to some degree.

        So, the City has three votes out of eighteen on which it can pretty much count. And on most issues involving the City, the suburban representatives are admirably “Hands off; it’s their money”. But when there is a disagreement between cities within King County and the City of Seattle the suburban board members are going to sympathize with the small cities.

        The best news is that The Board voted to spend the $10 million to “make a flat spot” at 130th, so when BART del Norte” reaches Everett via the Hunchback of PaineField Fame and turns out to be a magnifico fallimento, maybe The Board will build that station.

      2. Such pessimism and suspicion. During the 130th Station debates there was not one word about travel time impact that I heard. It was all about the station’s cost, and not wanting to stretch ST2’s budget for it, and not wanting to take something out of ST2 to make room for it. And also because the ST3 vote is coming up, and they wanted to save any extra money in ST2 as a down payment on ST3, and the station is a carrot to hang before voters. Seattle’s mayor and council unanimously asked for 130th Station last year or earlier this year, whenever it was, and said it was one of their top concerns, and all of Seattle’s boardmembers are likewise. So there’s an example that ST doesn’t always do what the cities want. I don’t think Shoreline or Snoho care that much or would object to it. Shoreline was more concerned about preventing 155th Station, and its citizens (though not its government) about keeping the 185th station area low density. Snoho has its own deferred station it wants, at 220th Ave SW. It was all about these ST2/ST3 budget issues, and I suspect it has a reasonable chance of coming back later.

  3. You lost me at “We recommend structured parking garages on 522.”

    It’s a good way to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars, but doesn’t help with traffic or transit ridership.

    1. There is a big area north of 522 between I-5 and I-405 that will never develop in a way that’s conducive to local transit service. It will never be all that densely populated, either, but 522 is the main way in and out for a lot of people, it’s not that big of a road, and I’d rather build a few P&Rs than expand 522.

  4. As someone who used to live next to the Kenmore P&R, lived in Bothell, was a regular commuter to UW Seattle and Bothell, and still has family there, I’m all for more fast, frequent and reliable transit service on SR 522.

    Feeder bus service to regional transit is weak or non-existent in many areas along 522. Regrettably the land use isn’t that great. They also make TOD more expensive. But I rather see that than more parking, which concentrates a lot of car traffic into a small area and doesn’t help us who don’t have or don’t want to have a car. I can see where they might make sense, like the current Bothell P&R site that’s built into a hill. You want to catch the cars before they get onto 522, otherwise it’s creating traffic.

    This misses the heart of Lake City which is becoming a destination in its own right. It too desires a better connection to regional rapid transit. Looks like the petition is missing an opportunity for a greater coalition of supporters.

    Finally, I can’t help but notice my photo of a Link light rail car in Othello being used without following the proper attribution required under the Creative Commons license I made it public under. Public doesn’t mean “public domain” a.k.a “do whatever you want with it”. If don’t want to comply with the rules for whatever reason, the least you could do is ask nicely.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/viriyincy/2894812620/

    1. This misses the heart of Lake City which is becoming a destination in its own right. It too desires a better connection to regional rapid transit. Looks like the petition is missing an opportunity for a greater coalition of supporters.

      That’s my biggest complaint with the push to send transit links down 145th: it bypasses Lake City almost completely. There should be a 130th station and regional–or near-area–transit should go through LC.

      1. Any substantial investment in the 522 corridor would include Lake City, unless someone has their head up their ass. Sorry to use such strong language, but really, just look at a census map. The biggest concentration of population is between 145th and 125th. There are more people there than there are in a similar area in Ballard, and the area is growing in a similar fashion. Tiny buildings and parking lots are being replaced by six story apartments every day. From the heart of Lake City — 125th and Lake City Way — which is both a vibrant, densely populated neighborhood but also a major corridor convergence — the obvious route is west, along 125th to 130th. From there, you can end at Aurora or better yet, Greenwood. A bus route like that would include some of the most densely populated areas in Seattle, and cross almost every major corridor in the north end.

        Which is not to say that investing in the 145th corridor is a bad idea. Far from it. The two can work together, and should work together. Even if you have buses along the obvious corridor, from 145th to 125th to Greenwood and even if they cruised Vancouver style (every minute or two), you would still want the occasional bus to go along 145th. There is enough demand, and enough service right now to make it all possible and all make sense. The 145th corridor is no slouch — it is way bigger than every part of 522 north of 145th, so having good bus service there makes sense. But lets not pretend that it is as good as Lake City Way, or that making sure that a handful of people in Bothell or Lake Forest Park have a short ride is more important than the much larger numbers of people in Lake City.

      2. Ross,

        But if you build 130th and run the SR522 BRT line down to 125th and over to that station, folks out in Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville, and even Carnation would then sometimes be required to stand until people riding to Lake City within Seattle get off. We simply can’t have that for a “522 Line” now can we? That’s ‘Burban Transit.

        Let the people riding to Lake City take a slow surface bus from 1st NE and NE 102nd Street. It serves them right for not having had the foresight to move to Kenmore.

        This is why I thought that a busway between Lake City Way where Northgate Way peels off and Northgate TC is a good idea. The Boonies Caucus in control of The Board [typed with all due reverence] is going to make sure that “no time is wasted” by stopping at 130th, so close to the UberUseful 145th Street Station.

    2. Hi Oran,

      This comment was just brought to my attention. I helped 522 Transit Now! out with their website, and it was my mistake in using the photo improperly–I simply did not pay close enough attention to what the license required. It was definitely not the coalition’s intent to misuse it in any way.

      I’ve taken the photo down until I look at the license requirements more closely and ensure that we meet those requirements before (if) we post it again.

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We certainly want to give credit where credit is due!

      Best,

      Brennan

  5. Thank you very much for your efforts. I think you can make a good case for BRT along 522, from Woodinville, or at least Bothell, all the way to Aurora, if not Greenwood Avenue. This would, of course, cut through Lake City, from 145th to 125th. To make this worth our while, there would have to be a Link station at 130th.

    But as much as I like BRT, I think simply improving the bus lanes might be sufficient. There are bus lanes for much of the way, but they fizzle out in places, especially between 145th and 125th. This is ridiculous, given the very high population density there — higher than anything between the U-District and the Canadian border (and that includes Ballard). This is not that difficult a problem to solve, either. Simply adding lanes would cost millions, not the billions that light rail costs. Not that I’m against light rail here, but I do think that will be a long time coming, and very expensive.

    But the 145th corridor also needs improvements. I don’t think it is essential to have light rail or even BRT. Simply improving the bus corridors along all the main lines would make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of people. A bus that goes from Lake Forest Park to Lake City and NE 130th should travel without delay. So too should a bus that goes along 145th, regardless of where it started. These are things that are not horribly expensive, but they aren’t cheap either. Both the city and Sound Transit should look into improving the corridor by making substantial capital improvements to the area, since it effects the lives of so many people.

  6. +1 for fixing the bus lanes to be continuous throughout the SR-522 corridor, rather than abruptly end. I am not so keen about the idea throwing Lake City under the bus to speed up downtown trips for Kenmore and Bothell. Lake City is an urban center in its own right and supplies a significant chunk of the current 522’s ridership. Any viable solution must maintain Lake City’s access to downtown (either direct or via Link) and also maintain Lake City’s connection to Bothell/Kenmore.

    I agree that once Link is fully built out, the service hours should exist to run parallel routes through the 522 corridor to connect it with both Link and Lake City/U-district.

    Not as good as with the 130th St. Station, where one frequent route could do both, but still a big improvement over today.

    One suggestion I would like to make would be – if the 522 is going to go to the 145th St. Station, it should at least continue another mile west to 145th and Aurora. This not only allows the bus to act as a Link feeder in the other direction, but it also connects people along the corridor with the E-line and the shopping destinations near Aurora and 145th.

  7. I live in Bothell and signed the 522 Transit Now petition, but I almost didn’t for the reasons that others have already mentioned. I ended up signing but including a comment with my (hopefully constructive) criticism.

    Mainly:

    * Parking garages are a bad idea in general, and will make matters worse unless other changes are made to mitigate the poor traffic and development patterns they tend to spawn. I think if you required ORCA for parking in the lots and charged a fee that would also include a normal fare trip on the bus (so that it was free for people who used the bus, but an expense for those who didn’t), you would cut down on people using the lots for non-transit purposes, and possibly not create gridlock leading up to the stations/stops on 522. Improving pedestrian and bike access to the stations would also be necessary (with or without parking). You’d also want to site the parking away from the street so that it would not preclude mixed-use buildings in the nearby area. You’d want it tucked behind or beneath buildings that create a less sprawling environment. But you’d want to study the impacts fully before building anything to make sure that the overall access improvements for riders would justify the costs, and would be paid for without taking money away from transit, which is the whole point.
    * The 125th routing to include Lake City is necessary, as is the 130th St. Link station that makes it work.
    * The bus should continue past I-5 to 99, with a good connection to buses on 99.

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