At last Tuesday’s County Council meeting about the ULink restructure, Metro estimated walking times from various bus stops to UW station:

  • 2 minutes to the Pacific Place stop, served by routes 44, 45, 65, 67, and 73/78
  • 2 minutes to northbound Montlake Blvd stop, served by routes 65 and 73/78
  • 2 minutes to UW Medical Center, served by routes 44, 45, 48, 65, 67, 167, 197, 271, 540, 541, 542, 556, and 586
  • 5 Minutes to Stevens Way/Mason Rd, served by routes 31, 32, 65, 75, 78, and 372

Councilmember Dembowski asked Metro if they had walked each of these to confirm the accuracy of these estimates, and they admitted they hadn’t. Metro also quoted these times at “platform to platform”, but there was some uncertainty about whether the estimates were platform-to-headhouse instead.  Last Thursday, I went out and walked from both Stevens Way and UWMC to the station, and the videos are above.

As an able-bodied 6’2″ male, my walking times can reasonably be expected to be the lower bound of reasonable estimates, with people of other heights and abilities being expected to take longer to make the walk.

From Stevens Way, it was 4 minutes exactly from Mason Rd to the top of the UW Station escalator, so the 5 minute platform-to-platform time that Metro quoted is reasonably accurate. Of course, the walk from Stevens Way will also be 100% reliable due to its full grade separation.

From UWMC, even from the closest future location of the bus stop on westbound Pacific, it still took me 2:26 to get to the top of the station escalator, with 1:00 wasted waiting to cross Montlake Boulevard. If you caught a green light to cross Montlake, you could be at the station headhouse in 1:30 and at the platform in 2:30-3:00. But if you just miss a light and have to wait a full light cycle,  the walk could take 4 minutes, still modest but roughly double Metro’s estimate. It’s ok to quote 2 minutes as a best case, and we should definitely make every attempt to optimize signals for the shortest possible wait, but the variability inherent in the Montlake Blvd crossing should be transparently stated.

27 Replies to “Walking the Montlake Triangle”

  1. i assume you used the existing stops on Pacific Street for the stops serving UW Medical Center for this exercise. I think there is a proposal to move those stops closer to Montlake Blvd to be closer to the LINK Station.

    1. In terms of signal delays, there’s a big difference between the stop on the north and south side of Pacific St. From the north side, the option exists to take the bridge and avoid the signal. From the stop on the south side, however, it is impossible to avoid the signal.

      I also have a strong suspicion that if you’re approaching the station from a bus heading north over the Montlake bridge, it will actually be faster to get off at the stop right before the bridge. Compared to the shortest-walking route (crossing Montlake at-grade), it adds about 3 minutes of additional walking, but avoids two full cycles crossing Montlake twice – the first time on the bus, the second time on foot.

      1. No, you can use the underpass and bridge. It can be completely grade separated. But it’s a long, long walk.

      2. Given that going around to the underpass would take longer than waiting for the light, even if you just missed it, I’m considering that option to be irrelevant.

    1. I believe there is some guy coming here tomorrow who might be able to get you in touch with any business in the whole country. Just don’t try to approach him without an invitation.

      1. Hmmmmm. Looks like route 271 will get me over by the Gates house just before Bill et al has dinner with Mr. J. Maybe if I bring over some Pillsbury crescent rolls they’ll let me in to talk to him?

    1. The Roosevelt station will be even worse. I’m pretty convinced it will be the world’s largest subway station. Why does an underground station need to take up two blocks above ground, with massive blank facades and nothing on top?

  2. Zach,

    Unfortunately, the crossing can’t be optimized both for pedestrians crossing from southside Pacific to Husky Stadium AND for the buses turning from Montlake to Pacific (plus of course the jump signal, which is only a couple of seconds).

  3. This is to be expected by virtue of the UW station being a single stop. It can’t be a 1-2 minute walk from everywhere.

    Another interesting time would be the walk time to NE 45th Street (although Metro’s route redundancy kind of makes this irrelevant since buses should run every 3 minutes).

    1. From the corner, NE 45th St. and 15th Ave., it’s about 15-20 minutes walk to the station, long enough to make the bus a slight win on time, although I would personally prefer the walk anyway. If a Pronto Station opens at the Link Station, you could coast down Stevens Way without even bothering to pedal, and be at the station in 5-7 minutes, tops.

  4. So it would take an able bodied man to walk 5 minutes from Stevens Way to the Light Rail Station so what about people who have to walk with canes or walkers. As far as I am concerned if you are going to make people transfer from a bus route to light rail then the bus should be routed directly to the station. Maybe to some of you 5 minutes is reasonable but it is a hardship for those who have trouble walking.

    1. That’s easy to say, but routing every bus to stop right in front of the station does have consequences. Do it with routes like the 48 and the already-very-slow trip from the U-district to the Central District becomes even slower. Do it with routes like the 32 or 75 and people with canes and walkers will complain that getting to upper campus is too difficult.

      Routing choices are ultimately somewhat of a compromises, but at the end of the day, a mass transit system needs to have mass appeal to get ridership, and that means routing that gets the majority of the people where they want to go as quickly as possible, not a routing full of twists and turns, prioritizing minimizing walking distances over all else. As it stands, the small percentage of the population who can’t walk from Pacific St. to the station entrance aren’t stuck – they still have the 49 and the 70, exactly the same routing as before, and with improved frequency. Also, the less-frequent 73/78 pair does actually stop right in front of the station, at least one direction.

      1. A tunnel directly into the Triangle from the mezzanine of the station would have helped tremendously. :-P

  5. One thing I try to check at ped crossings is the length of the WALK light. Some give peds only 5 seconds to (legally) step off the curb and start walking before the WAIT light starts flashing.

    Judging from the videos (and thanks for those Zach), that at-grade crossing is a grim experience indeed. More befitting a suburban street crossing.

  6. It may well be a 5 minute walk from Stevens Way to UW/Montlake but I believe it rains occasionally around here. That’s the problem with that connection. It’s certainly a discouragement to using that connection. I’m still for making an additional lane of transit (only) available on Montlake. A bus passing all those cars lined up late afternoon would also be a nice visual encouragement to use the service.

  7. My bigger concern is how the buses are going to get to the station. The area is already a parking lot at commute time, now let’s add a few dozen busses an hour.

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