Broadway/Madison (SounderBruce)
Broadway/Madison (SounderBruce)

[Correction: SDOT says in an email the updated concept will have no bus priority east of 18th Avenue, with buses running in mixed traffic from 18th-MLK. The original post has been updated below.]

It’s been roughly six months since we last heard from the (newly funded!) Madison BRT project. Back in May, public feedback generally preferred center-running bus lanes, an MLK terminus, 3 stops downtown (1st, 3rd, 6th), two stops in First Hill (Boren, Boylston/Broadway), as well as a Madison/Spring couplet downtown to connect to University Street Station and Link.

Madison BRT Project Timeline
Madison BRT Project Timeline

SDOT and the consultant team spent the summer and early fall integrating this feedback with further technical analysis, and they are hosting an Open House at Seattle Public Library on November 16 to unveil their “Complete Concept Design.”

2 layover options presented in October
2 layover options presented in October

In a phone call yesterday, SDOT staff said that the Complete Concept Design will propose curbside bus lanes for the majority of the alignment, from 1st to 9th Avenues and again from 13th to 18th Avenues 13th Avenue to MLK, with a center-running section in First Hill for the 10-block stretch between 9th-13th Avenues and mixed traffic from 18th-MLK. This mixed profile alignment will likely require coaches with doors on both sides, with right boarding at curbside stops, island boarding on Spring Street outbound (where buses would use the left lane to avoid the I-5 mess), and left boarding on the center-running section. On the short section of Madison shared by both center-running BRT and curb-running Route 60, the latter would have its own stops in the general purpose lane.

Figuring out layover options has been tricky for the project team, due to public feedback that both preferred MLK as a terminus and objected to the best layover candidates on Arthur Place. In October SDOT took feedback on two options for the BRT terminus:

  • Options 1A and 1B: This concept would have created two layover spaces on Madison Street in downtown, with a third layover space just off Madison/MLK, either on MLK or on Harrison St.  This would result in a split service pattern that would live loop two-thirds of buses in Madison Valley and live-loop every third bus downtown.
  • Option 2: This concept would have extended the service deeper into Madison Valley, with a layover for all 3 coaches on the north side of Madison, just west of Lake Washington Boulevard above the Washington Park playfield.

SDOT staff now say that neither of these options will be carried forward, and that the open house will take feedback on a modified ‘Option 1C’.  In Option 1, the split service pattern would have added operational complexity in direct contradiction to the project goal of providing seamless, intuitive, reliable service. For example, inbound riders wanting the closest connection to Link at University Street Station would have had a 1-block walk on every third bus, with a 2.5 block walk on other buses. Meanwhile, Option 2’s extension to Lake Washington Boulevard would have added $2m in project costs and likely faced significant neighborhood opposition.

So Option 1C will attempt to find the necessary 3 layover spaces in the vicinity of MLK/Madison, with an added layover on Madison just west of MLK, in addition to using both locations identified in Options 1A and 1B.

For more details, to see maps of the latest concepts, and to ask questions of SDOT staff, please attend the open house on the 16th and make your voice heard.

When: Monday, November 16, 5-7pm
Where: Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue, 4th Floor, Room 1

39 Replies to “Madison BRT Open House on November 16”

  1. While a bit more costly and facing “neighborhood opposition”, the clear solution is to run the BRT line all the way to the current 11 terminus with a modified loop. The overarching goal here is to have a complete & fully connected corridor but stopping 1 mile shy of the end doesn’t accomplish that.

    Additionally, without fully extending BRT all the way to the Lake where the 11 currently ends, we’ll still need to serve the neighborhood with transit. That’ll still requires buses and operators while still not taking advantage of the center-running lanes, the connectivity they’ll provide, and the faster service (saving money).

    Is the alternative school of thought running peak-only service between the lake and Downtown or shadow service?

    1. Mike,

      The idea of peak only service to Madison Park is totally useless for those of us living in Madison/Washington Park. Are you suggesting that we walk uphill over a mile to catch a bus during the day and on weekends and vise verse going east. This is like having no service, just like what has been done to the 43 users!

      BTW, a Madison BRT affects the 8, 11 and 12 routes and the people using them so this will require another major restructure on Capitol Hill.

    2. @Mike — No, sorry. As tempting as that is, it doesn’t make sense. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

      The cost to both create and operate the service largely correlates with the distance you have to travel. With that in mind, here are some distances:

      MLK and Madison to 43rd and Madison — 1.3 miles.
      MLK and Madison to 43rd and McGilvra (the far end of the 11) — 1.6 miles
      MLK and Madison to 1st and Madison — 2.4 miles

      So going to 43rd would be over 50% more expensive. Going to the end of the 11 would be 66% more expensive. This would make sense if the Madison Park area was roughly as popular or populous as the rest of the line. It isn’t. There are several reasons why:

      1) Population density. Simply put, the population density for that 1.3 to 1.6 miles is a lot less than the rest of the line. There are a cluster of apartments at the end of the line (Madison Park) but the density there is roughly as small as the smallest census block between MLK and downtown. It is nowhere near as big as the highest density sections. Meanwhile, much of that mileage is spent traversing through very low density housing. To top it all off, the highest density sections are towards the end of the line, where ridership is hampered because it is next to the water (e. g. a quarter mile circle at 43rd or even 42nd does not include that many people because it includes a lot of water).

      2) There are several feeder bus lines along most of the route. There are none between MLK and Madison Park.

      3) There are very few destinations at Madison Park — just a handful of restaurants and the park itself. Meanwhile, the rest of the line contains several huge hospitals, several huge office buildings as well as a major university.

      A “water to water” line would involve spending somewhere between 30% to 40% of the time and money on the section east of MLK, but ridership along that section would be much, much lower than that (probably close to 10%). It simply isn’t a good value.

      No one is suggesting that the UW to Ballard light rail line extend to 32nd NW. The Magnolia buses have never served Magnolia Boulevard. Investments should match the ridership, and a BRT investment to Madison Park would not.

      This means that a new 11 would simply be a feeder bus. I’ve suggested it go from McGilvra (as it does now) to Madison, then on Thomas, John and the Capitol Hill station. That would provide new one seat service for Madison Park riders to Group Health as well as the station. You would also double up the Thomas/John corridor (a very popular stretch).

  2. One way to avoid second set of doors: have buses get signaled over to “contraflow” at beginning of center-running sections- keeping regular right-hand doors on platform side.

    Might very well need some physical separation from car traffic, from Jersey barriers down to stones raised a foot or less. Bordering pavement also higher than car lanes. Especially if signal pre-empt is planned.

    Curbside lanes- no sweat except for having to hold an express coach for delivery trucks, stopped taxicabs (and Ubers) and every other obstacle demanding center-running. Route 60 can use either set. Is Route 12 going to stay on Madison?

    Real question is, does Madison corridor, and its neighborhood really want rapid transit or not? If not, acceptable compromise could be to take some of those 3-door hybrids- ok, with poles on the roof- keep current color scheme, but fit a jet nozzle on the back shooting sparks like those friction cars we used to get for presents.

    Which could now be fitted with a digital sound system that could make them go BRRRRRRRT!!!! Or, because they’re digital, anything from one of those really loud jet fighters on take-off to the whistle of one of those giant compound locomotives. That’d blow the purple mustache off Lyft!

    Since it’s Christmas season now, good time to take a poll about what’s expected from Santa Clause if everybody is really really good. Otherwise…anti-environmental coal-car for a stocking!


  3. I’m really disappointing that they are leaning towards requiring coaches with doors on both sides. We really need to be thinking about this as a network, not just this corridor in isolation. That means we want normal routes to be able to leverage the exclusive lanes etc… That will apply to all of the new Move Seattle routes. Plus, the CCC. The designers for these corridors should assume that road space is a precious commodity. Taking exclusive lanes for transit that most busses can’t use will actually have a negative impact because the GP lanes will go slower, which is where the busses will have to be…

    1. I’m not sure if there will be normal buses traveling on this route very far when all is said and done. MLK to 23rd is about it (for a new 11, which is similar to the newly revised 11, except without the detour on 19th). Every other bus should intersect Madison, thus making much more of a grid.

      That being said, I do think the idea of separate bus stops makes sense for that section. I’m also not sold on the idea of boarding on both sides. It seems like the route can be designed in such a way that doing so is not needed (as with the Van Ness example).

  4. What’s everybody think about center-running with buses “crossed over” so no left-hand doors are needed? Any reason not to do it? Also: will BRT be trolley-wired?


    1. I seriously don’t like the idea of crossing over. Lots of people use streets in slightly irregular ways, depending on street generally working like a standard American street with eastbound traffic in one direction, westbound in the other:

      – Confused or impatient drivers and cyclists
      – Emergency vehicles
      – Jaywalking pedestrians

      These people are all used to dealing with standard road medians and will usually avoid mistakes there, but not multiple-direction medians. Considering the rate at which flexi-posts are destroyed in this city and the awful consequences of a head-on collision, you’d need a serious barrier (both visibly and physically imposing) to prevent vehicles from entering the bus lane and pedestrians from crossing mid-block. This is far from the street design that we want on Madison, encouraging faster “tunneled” driving and breaking up the view from side to side. And it would break up the space available for emergency vehicles, possibly increasing their delays.

      Before crossing over to keep doors on the right, I’d consider split platforms. Here’s an example in San José. I’m not sure why they did it this way, since I’m pretty sure their cars have doors on both sides… but there it is.

    2. Currently living in Buenos Aires. Controflow is working great for their BRT on Av 9 de Julio! And any bus can use it. No specially modified one-off bus. Granted they have a little more space than on Madison, but the concept and system holds up. Can Metro not take a lesson from SDOT’s First Hill Streetcar? Developing your own technology can be quite problematic and lead to complications and delays.

    3. I’m also concerned about contraflow in the middle. The existing cases are on the side of one-way streets. London had to paint signs on the sidewalk near Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge saying “Look left! Gardez à la gauche!” because so many visitors come from right-lane driving countries and weren’t seeing cars coming from the left. This would introduce the same problem.

  5. Any word on why each section is center/side running? Street width, desire to include local buses in lanes, neighborhood concerns, etc.?

    It seems needlessly complicated to switch (and switch back) for just a few blocks, to say nothing of the cost of the buses. Either way, funded+happening = me happy.

  6. RE: Option 2: This concept would have extended the service deeper into Madison Valley, with a layover for all 3 coaches on the north side of Madison, just west of Lake Washington Boulevard above the Washington Park playfield.

    The obvious layover spot is that unfriendly three block wall at Broadmoor.

    I’d rather see buses with doors on both sides down in the bus tunnel, with a center platform in the ID.

    1. That’s hardly an obvious layover spot, since it’s not at the end of the line. Would people need to walk up from the lake to 36th to catch an inbound bus since that’s where they’ll be waiting? That doesn’t make sense.

      1. Scott, not sure what you’re reacting to since it doesn’t sound like the end of the line was ever going to be all way down to Madison Park. Presumably there will still have to be some bus service coming out of Madison Park since Madison BRT won’t serve it. You could probably save a lot of hours by just running a Madison Park connector up to the BRT terminus, but I suspect there’d be a lot of protests over losing the 11 (although I’m not sure where it will go any more with the latest proposed Cap Hill restructuring).

        If I’m reading the Option 2 diagram correctly, the layover spot under consideration was the spot just west of LWB and south of the ball fields (across from the newish Pagliacci). That seems like a great spot to me if you don’t mind losing a bit of parking, but it sounds like that’s off the table now.

  7. Terrible. Not using center-running the entire route is stupid. And not running all the way to L. Washington is stupid. A bus route should never arbitrarily dead-end in the middle of a dense urban area like that. It should run to its logical conclusion point. Jarrett Walker has written/spoken about this many times.

    1. There’s nothing dense or urban about the stretch of Madison between 29th and McGilvra. Of course it would be nice if this new bus line ran all the way from bay to lake, but given that the original plan was to stop at 23rd, I’m just glad the almost-barely-urban clump of semi-density at MLK managed to sneak in.

      1. The problem is if the BRT doesn’t serve Madison Park, how do you serve Madison Park? You can’t just leave them without service, and running the regular old 11 alongside the BRT bus would be a huge waste.

        The most sensible solution would probably be to go back to Alternative 1 and serve Madison Park with an extension of the 8, but then you’re back to all access to Madison Park being dependent on a bus whose reliability is at the whims of Denny traffic.

      2. The new!11 (modified to eliminate the 19th diversion) wouldn’t be a waste; it’d only duplicate the BRT for a short stretch from Thomas to MLK. I don’t see any problem there.

      3. I don’t see the 11 as a huge waste after this new line starts, because it goes to the north end of downtown while the new line goes to the south – the western termini are two subway stops apart. Seems reasonable that people will take the 8 north from the CD or the 11 west from Madison Park to the corner of Madison and MLK, then transfer to the new line if they are going to the business part of downtown, the 11 if they are going to the shopping part of downtown, or the 8 if they are interested in a leisurely tour through the densest, most thrillingly scenic traffic jams Seattle has to offer.

      4. It’s not redundant because the 8 and 11 go to widely different destinations. The same with BRT and the 60: it doesn’t matter per se if they stop at different places because the maximum distance you could take either one is four blocks or one stop.

      5. I pretty much said the same thing above. BRT is expensive, and only makes sense for very popular or populous areas. MLK to Madison Park is neither.

        I sketched out a “new” route for the 11 above without realizing that the route had already been restructured. Basically the new 11 makes a lot more sense once you add Madison BRT. As William said, all you need to do is avoid the 19th diversion.

        But in any event, there would be a lot of restructuring once Madison BRT is built. The 10, 11, 12 and 43 could see major revisions (including in some cases being eliminated).

  8. Couldn’t the bus run all the way down Madison and end at the same place as the 11, but without any special right-of-way east of Lake Washington blvd. (or even 23rd)? Meaning, after that point, traffic should be mild enough that even BRT wouldn’t need any special right-of-way to be fast on that road?

  9. I’m suspicious of the decision to switch between center and side running for such a short distance. Chicago’s Ashland BRT plan also includes center running only in the middle, but it’s a much longer route — the section slated for center running is longer than Madison Street in its entirety, and should keep the bus out of turning queues for two freeway interchanges and several major arterial streets. On Madison the big freeway crossing and a lot of the turning queues are inbound of 9th!

    I never personally witness high-peak traffic on First Hill, but I see shoulder-peak traffic on Madison a lot, and I wouldn’t guess that center-running between 9th and 12th will make a huge speed or reliability difference. I could be wrong about this — there’s an enormous difference between high-peak and shoulder-peak traffic on a lot of primary surface routes to downtown. Center-running there might have more to do with street design (traffic calming, pedestrian improvements, etc.) than anything else… while removing some mid-block left turns might be nice, requiring separate signal phases for left turns and buses will slow everyone down, pedestrians and buses included.

  10. This is becoming overly complex and over engineered for the route, buses and alignment within the street. This should be designed to be really simple and use normal existing fleet buses, run it down the center all the way from downtown to 23rd and have right side island stations, terminate at Madison Park where it currently does. Let the 60 use the route also where it overlaps. When you have dedicated transit lanes use the transit lanes for all transit. Plus shoulder transit lanes do not work at all.

    An example of what I’m talking about is Church Street in San Francisco between Market and Dolores Park.

    1. There’s also the 2, which could move to Madison sometime if the design doesn’t preclude it or relegate it to the GP lanes.

  11. What would be the source of neighborhood opposition to Option 2? There’s not much residential directly along the stretch of Madison between MLK and LWB, but there’s quite a bit to the north and south of Madison that I’d imagine would appreciate having BRT closer by. Plus the businesses in that stretch would likely benefit too.

    Is it really just concern about opposition to losing parking for the 3 layover spots south of the arboretum? If so, that’s kinda sad.

  12. I don’t like the idea of switching sides twice but I’ll reserve judgment until the open house to find out why SDOT thinks it’s beneficial. 9th to 13th is a short distance and not the highest-volume segment, so it seems silly to put center-lane BRT here if you’re not going to do it downtown. That would be like putting a transit lane on 24th south of the 520 exit but no further: the bottleneck is between the 520 entrance and Pacific Street.

    1. I agree. One of the big questions I have is whether the curbside sections allow for cars turning right. If so, then this doesn’t sound like BRT. If not, then I’m OK with it. That might explain the moving from right to left and back. Maybe they are trying to minimize the amount of work needed to support this. That doesn’t make sense to me, but I don’t know the street layout.

      One of the tricky things about Madison as a BRT route is that it is a diagonal street, which means it has a bunch of tricky intersections. Normally, you can use the center lanes and simply ban left turns. Banning left turns often speeds up traffic in general, so no great loss. But for Madison, it is difficult to make three right turns in a lot of places.

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