Graphic by the author
Graphic by the author

The update to our recent Madison BRT post contained a crucial bit of information, namely that SDOT’s Concept Design is not considering transit priority east of 18th Avenue for Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and that it will only have fully exclusive right-of-way for 10 blocks (from 9th to 13th Avenue).

There may be good (or at least substantive) reasons for each of these changes, likely because transit priority is losing out to competing neighborhood concerns, right-of-way (ROW) limitations, parking garage egress, etc.  But it is also wonderfully illustrative of how “BRT Creep” works in practice. SDOT staff are smart, hard working, and undoubtedly want to build a great project, but if we can’t even keep transit priority alive through a concept design, how do we expect the final product to fare once all the inevitable mitigations and concessions have done their work?

SDOT has billed Madison BRT as the first high-quality BRT line in Seattle, intentionally differentiating Madison BRT and RapidRide and claiming to have learned from RapidRide’s mistakes. Unfortunately, the most recent changes to the Madison BRT plans call into question SDOT’s commitment to make Move Seattle’s seven BRT routes substantively better than RapidRide. SDOT has had mixed results with downtown Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes, with widespread disregard and a relative lack of enforcement combining to reduce their effectiveness. Yet for all its flaws, the Center City Connector streetcar will have fully dedicated ROW as a first principle.

I think it’s important to remember that Move Seattle’s seven “RapidRide+” projects are corridors, not lines. They are capital projects to increase speed and reliability, and only secondarily should they be service planning decisions. The special vehicles, branding, off-board payment etc are necessary but not sufficient for building real Bus Rapid Transit, and they are secondary to the primary focus of right-of-way management. Having either mixed traffic or minimally effective BAT lanes for 76% of the alignment would be disappointing and wouldn’t inspire confidence in the other six corridors going forward.

There is no reason for panic, but every reason for concern. In any case, it’s a great reason to show up at the Open House on November 16th, support more robust transit priority, and ask hard and pointed questions of staff. Look closely at how the curbside bus lanes will work from 1st-9th Avenue and from 13th-18th, how the transitions to/from the planned center busway will function, and ask for transit priority along the full length of the alignment.

Facebook Event: Support High-Quality Madison BRT
When: Monday, November 16, 5-7pm
Where: Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue, 4th Floor, Room 1

184 Replies to “Whittling Away at Madison BRT”

      1. Alternate Definition of ROW:
        My ability to park an old clunker out of view from my window, a bit down the street, in front somebody else s house, where no taxes are generated to the city, and I need only worry about my rights to this 10×30 chunk of real estate at Community Council meetings to raise hell once in a great while.

  1. I agree. I was very concerned when I read the previous post. It is one thing to run in mixed traffic in an area of low traffic (perhaps as the open part of an open BRT line), but I fear the current plan will mean that the bus will be stuck in congested traffic for a substantial amount of time.

    I will say that curb side running does not automatically mean that it will share substantial traffic with regular cars. It does make it more likely, though. As I see it, it breaks down like this:

    * Center Running — All you need to do is regulate left turns. Allow left turns on a left turn arrow only. In some cases, this means no left turn at all, while in other cases it means that a car turning left will turn in front of a stopped bus (while pedestrians have a Don’t Walk signal). Left turns in the middle of the street (to a garage) are also eliminated (which is probably the case in most of this area anyway).

    * Curb Side — Things get a bit more complicated, but this can be done in the same manner. The key is to treat the bus lane the way that the current bike lane is treated on 2nd. If you want to make a right at the intersection, you have to wait for a right turn light. Again, the car that’s turning might turn in front of a stopped bus (and pedestrians have to wait). It gets a bit tricky for garages and other mid-block destinations. You can’t eliminate these, which means you have the possibility of a car yielding to a pedestrian while trying to get into (or out of) a garage, while a bus waits behind. This isn’t as big of a blockage, but it isn’t good, either. You also have the issue of cabs.

    I agree with the author. We should be vigilant and insist that this is done right. It seems crazy to spend a bunch of money, yet still see buses stuck in traffic. This is a relatively short distance in a very high demand area. It makes sense to spend the money and do this right.

    1. We should push for exclusive center lanes for the whole route. Set an example for the rest of the rapid ride routes so we start our ROW battles from a stronger position.

      How can we expect to get exclusive ROW through Wallingford for the 44 if we can’t even get it for Madison which at least has ROW to spare?

      1. On a one-way street actual center-running would be difficult because you’d be between two lanes of car traffic going the same direction and would be blocked regularly by people changing lanes. One possibility would be truly exclusive curbside bus lanes, with separate turn pockets and phases for turning cars.

      2. I agree Al, and realized that after the fact. I forgot that Madison is one way.

        I discuss that idea more below.

      3. Two-way Madison was considered already, but I can’t remember why it was eliminated from consideration.

      4. Center running is also less necessary on one-way streets, because the one-way system eliminates half the turns and potential slowdowns.

      5. Well, it is time to reconsider it, along with two way Spring. It is the easiest way, by far, of getting fast service downtown. The other solution (right turns at the intersection with green arrow only) is very problematic. Much worse, really, for everyone (drivers, pedestrians, transit riders).

      6. That’s interesting — run the buses along a couplet, going the opposite direction as cars. It might be a little counterintuitive for people that know the grid (and, of course, couplets generally can often be hard to pick up for new riders).

        I guess this would make left turns somewhat more difficult for drivers, but only a little. Adding some opposite-direction traffic should have a slight traffic calming effect, if I understand traffic calming theory (I’m not sure anyone understands it completely). This arrangement should prevent some planned closures of the bus lane — any construction closure would require either shifting the center-line so buses can move, or rerouting the buses. Temporary disruptions (mostly collisions, I guess) would be tough to manage.

        It seems like using Madison eastbound and Spring westbound to cross I-5, in bus-only lanes, would be an effective way to avoid freeway backups. But I don’t know the specific traffic situation there that well. That, plus downtown turning backups, should be the biggest threat to reliability on all of the route, right?

      7. There are existing contraflow lanes, such as 5th Avenue. So anyone who wants to see how well they work can go down and look.

      8. It isn’t really contraflow. I’m not even suggesting that. It is basically making both Madison and Spring two way streets, with vehicles driving on the right side of the road (this ain’t England).

        Except the new lane on Madison and the new lane on Spring are given over entirely to buses. This makes it intuitive for everyone. Pedestrians look both ways on the streets; they expect vehicles to drive on the right (which these will do). Those taking the bus see this as perfectly normal as well.

        Drivers know how to make left turns. The only difference — the only weird thing about the bus lane streets — is that you can’t access them legally in a car. If you are going up 3rd, you can’t make a right turn on Madison. That is true today and will be true if this goes through. You don’t even need to change the signs. There is no need to add the “except transit” clause, because transit won’t even turn. So this sign on the post in the middle of this picture ( doesn’t even have to change.

        This arrangement should prevent some planned closures of the bus lane — any construction closure would require either shifting the center-line so buses can move, or rerouting the buses. Temporary disruptions (mostly collisions, I guess) would be tough to manage.

        Yeah, but those are minor things in the grand scheme of things. Accidents require cops that wave people through, and they should be able to wave a bus through. Worse case scenario a bus creeps over the double yellow, squeaking and honking its way through (you wanna argue with a bus?). Construction is planned, so it either moves the other lane over (like you said) or the bus goes on the other street (i. e. flags over bus stops, etc.). It might be better (as you suggest) or it could be worse, but it won’t be terrible.

        It seems like using Madison eastbound and Spring westbound to cross I-5, in bus-only lanes, would be an effective way to avoid freeway backups. But I don’t know the specific traffic situation there that well. That, plus downtown turning backups, should be the biggest threat to reliability on all of the route, right?

        That is a little different than what I had in mind, but definitely worth considering. Madison is two way on 6th (west of the freeway) but Spring is one way until 8th. This means that a new lane on Spring would be totally free sailing. The one advantage of turning on sixth over turning on 8th is how easy it is to turn. 6th is a one way street, with no driveways at all on the left side (driver’s side) of the road. This means that a bus heading west on Madison takes a wide right, grabs that far left lane and that lane is a Bus lane. 100% bus lane (no cars allowed). Then the bus takes a left (an easy left, because the bus is traveling on a one way street) into the normal right lane. It’s actually very intuitive for everyone, including the bus driver. 8th is a little messier. It is two way. You might be able to carve out a lane, but there is a parking lot on the west side, so either you share a bit of it, or you ban the left turn lane into the parking lot (forcing drivers to access it from the other side). You also need to make a left turn at the light and that would require a left turn signal. The turn signal may be all you need, though, because it does look like a relatively quiet street (but I really don’t know). It is only one block, so I don’t think it is that congested.

      9. My apologies, Mike. I should have looked up the terminology. For some reason I thought contraflow was the term used for reverse running (when a bus runs on the left side of the road so that it doesn’t need doors on the right). I was wrong. Contraflow is exactly what I’m describing:

      10. @ Al — I’m really warming to your idea of turning on 8th. One of the reasons I like turning on sixth is that the subsequent left turn onto Spring is very easy. That is a left turn from a one way street, which is essentially the same as a right turn.

        But I like your idea better. Sixth is a mess. Whether you go straight or take a right, it is a mess. There is a ton of traffic that turns here headed to the freeway, which means it backs up. I think the problem can be solved, but doing so isn’t easy.

        But turning right on 8th is a piece of cake. That is a much quieter street. It also means that a bus runs without center running on Madison for only one block. Essentially a bus leaves the center lane at 8th, moves over to the right lane and take the next right.

        You could add a BAT lane for 8th (for that one block between Spring and Madison), but it isn’t clear that is even necessary. If you added it, then it would be on the left lane, and only compete with the one surface parking lot. Better yet, add the BAT lane, but ban left turns into and out of that parking lot. The parking lot can be accessed by seventh, so that seems very reasonable.

        After the bus takes a right on 8th, it has to take a left on Spring. Right now this intersection is regulated with stop signs on Spring (and free flowing traffic on 8th). I would change this one of several ways:

        1) Have a three way stop at a four way intersection. This is rare, but not unheard of (you can find examples). But it is weird and potentially dangerous. The idea is that you stop southbound traffic on 8th, but allow free flowing traffic northbound. This would make taking the turn trivial for a bus.

        2) Add traffic lights, but only north and south bound on 8th. The northbound light would have a left turn light along with the regular set of three lights. The straight ahead signal (the regular green) would be green 100% of the time. The southbound traffic light would be a regular three color light. The light only turns red when a turning bus triggers it. Meanwhile, the stop signs remain the same (“cross traffic doesn’t stop”). This would have a minimal effect on existing traffic.

        3) Just add a regular signal there. Trigger a light for Spring only occasionally. The left turn signal for the bus gets triggered by the bus.

        Personally I like the second option. That seems like it is very fast, very safe and not very disruptive to existing car traffic.

        I would also run the eastbound center running lanes starting at 6th, not 9th. This would make it really easy for the bus (going straight, but in contraflow mode) to get into the center running lane. When the light turns green, it is the only vehicle going that direction. The only cars that enter Madison going that direction are the folks turning right on sixth. They will be forced to the right lane, which is the way you are supposed to make a right.

        For west bound buses, ending the center lanes at 9th is just fine. It basically means that a bus has one block to change lanes and then take a right. I don’t think you need a BAT lane for that, since you essentially have a weave at best. If cars get bogged down here in the right lane, then you could delay the walk signal on that side of the street and add a right turn signal.

        I would imagine that adding (or in this case extending) the center running lanes on only direction is less disruptive and cheaper than if you did it both directions.

        In this way you pretty much eliminate all traffic concerns west of 18th. On Madison the bus is either traveling in the contraflow lane or the center lane. On Spring it is in a contraflow lane. At worst you have one block on Madison that is congested from right turning cars, but that can be remedied with signals.

  2. Downtown BAT lanes don’t work very well. Lots of pedestrian traffic and too many turning cars.

    Before SDOT goes full-on BRT on Madison, perhaps it could remove all of the on-street parking 24/7. Parking is poor use of street space, especially on a major arterial. It is not “anti-car” at all IMO – the bottleneck down to 1 lane causes a lot of traffic delays in exchange for not very many parking spaces.

    1. It really boggles my mind how much on-street parking is allowed on major arterials in Seattle, especially east-west routes that are already lacking in capacity, like Mercer, 45th and 50th.

      1. I think street parking on 45th used to be more restricted, like on 50th (with peak-hour parking restrictions). This is long before my time in Seattle, so I might have it wrong, but I think 45th was road-dieted in the 70s or 80s to encourage its use as a local commercial street instead of a big through-road, with a center turn lane and all-day street parking instead of four lanes and part-time parking.

        On 45th, I’d rather have its current arrangement than the old 4-lane configuration. It’s true that Seattle is generally imbalanced, with more north-south traffic than its east-west streets can handle. There’s no way out of that but to reduce north-south traffic. I think my opinion of Madison near MLK is basically the same: better to have the parking than the four-lane.

        The parking spaces along Mercer are mystifying. The eastern section of Mercer doesn’t provide front-door access to much of anything (and thankfully is designed explicitly not to), and parallel parking along it will always be annoying and dangerous. Even in the retail-facing areas to the west, I think it’s like the time-restricted parking on various streets (N 50th St, Leary, parts of 35th Ave NE), where it’s cleared out to provide extra car capacity during peak hours and consequently can make the street really confusing to drive on when the parking is in place. I’d tend to get rid of the street parking on the highway-like sections, clear out room for buses where that’s appropriate, and make the parking full-time (and better marked) in the other places.

    2. +2

      I’ve never understood the City’s reluctance to remove the parking on the 1.5-block stretch eastbound between 13th and Pike. The adjacent buildings are one-story (and I think where Piecora’s was is still vacant), and one of them I believe is an auto-repair type of business that should not need immediately adjacent on street parking at any rate. Except for 4-6pm one has to veer out of the curb lane to the middle lane there. That lane isn’t blocked by parking west of there 24 hours a day, and isn’t east of there until at least 15th. That parking should be removed now.

      1. Yes, Piecora’s will become an apartment building but nothing is happening yet. There’s ample evening parking in the BofA lot across the street.

        I’m not even sure that segment has “no parking 4-6” restrictions. If it does, they aren’t enforced very well, as I’ve been on more than a few 12s around 5:30 that have to go around cars (or sometimes literally 1 car) there.

        Such a simple fix – maybe we don’t need BRT, just remove such obstacles to regular bus operations.

  3. From the start, I’ve been begging SDOT to not create another BRT brand. RapidRide, for all its faults, has advantages over “regular” Metro service with the promise of further improvements (improved dedicated ROW, elimination of paper transfers, cash surcharges, etc…) Since it is likely Metro will operate the Madison BRT, procuring unique coaches will increase pressure on operating costs and limit flexibility. Focus on improving ROW and solving bottlenecks rather than futile branding wars.

    1. +1 to Velo!

      Every agency does not need its own brand… and we really do not want an oddball fleet of left door coaches…

      1. Why not? We already have Metro buses, Sound Transit buses, RapidRide buses, monorail cars, South Lake Union trolleys, First Hill trolleys, and Link trains. If a fourth kind of bus will allow the creation of a transit service that sucks less than the one it replaces, what’s the harm? Let’s build it.

    2. Mars there are many reasons.
      1) Operational flexibility which that rule is already broken with ST buses running CT routes and (although CT is contracted to run certain ST routes etc.)
      2) Another set of branding which may confuse people.

      Translink in Vancouver had special livery but it wasn’t much different than regular ARTICs, besides I don’t really like the RapidRide buses to begin with, especially the lone seats in the vestibules. Let’s keep it consistent, have all door boarding all stations, all day.

      1. The grant for RapidRide requires a unique brand and minimum standards. But Metro can add more lines to it if they meet the standards. So they would have to have hotdog-red buses, and no exchanging hotdog buses and regular buses except to fill short-term shortages.

        The longer-term issue is what will become of RapidRide if it doesn’t expand? Will it continue sticking out like a sore thumb with six non-geographic route letters? Although the seven Move Seattle lines will be an expansion if they all get the RapidRide band. Metro also needs to work on incremental improvements, which means some of RapidRide’s features without going all the way. The feds are now more flexible in recognizing this niche, but what does that mean for RapidRide whose terms are already set? I think at some point Metro will need to fold RapidRide into something larger and less strict, but will the feds allow it without requiring Metro to pay back the grant? It’s silly to have a bright red line on 15th Ave W when the unnoticeable route 40 line goes to “real Ballard” that visitors are actually trying to reach. If the 40 becomes RapidRide too, though, then that solves that problem.

  4. There may be good (or at least substantive) reasons for each of these changes, likely because transit priority is losing out to competing neighborhood concerns, right-of-way (ROW) limitations, parking garage egress, etc. But it is also wonderfully illustrative of how “BRT Creep” works in practice.

    I think it may be the so called “Seattle Process” at work. The fact that “neighborhood concerns” is on this list is quite telling. This suggests that SDOT is trying to please everyone. Please stop. There will always be people who will complain about changes for various reasons. It is worth it to listen to them and if possible, help deal with their concerns, but you shouldn’t screw up a project just because of a handful of whiners.

    In that regard the light rail down Rainier Valley serves as a good example. For all the complaints, the choice of surface running costs a rider all of two minutes. The reason the time cost is so tiny is because the trains never sit in traffic. I’m sure there were people who complained about this. I’m sure there are people who complain now about having to wait for the train. Tough. It is for the greater good.

    1. Sadly, welcome to Seattle. Unlike many other pioneering cities, there’s no desire for collaboration and compromise to complete a successful project for the greater good.

      The Missing Link of the Burke Gilman is another great example. 98% of the community supports it, but one or two businesses don’t, so nothing has happened for over a decade.

      1. That is more of a legal challenge, though. The city would simply build it if not for the legal issues.

        That doesn’t mean the city can’t or shouldn’t be tough on the business. I personally would scatter the area with stop signs. Basically say that until the bike problem is fixed, safety is our first priority, and that means stop signs. See if the truck drivers like that.

      2. Mike’s points above about the “missing link” of the Burke Gillman trail are indicative of the myopic, tech-centered urban city that many on STB advocate for without thinking through the ramifications.

        I’d love to see the Burke-Gillman trail completed. Shilshole Avenue, just a block off of one of the greatest neighborhoods in the city, needs a lot of improvements.

        But those lawsuits from the businesses that would be affected by the trail are real. The people that work there are real. And the impact the departure of those blue-collar jobs on the urban environment are real.

        A functional urban environment has to have a reasonable amount of light industry. Not every person that grows up in a city like Seattle can be or will be a programmer, IT manager, business analyst, etc. The companies operating their light industrial businesses along the ship canal provide good, well-paying blue collar jobs for those who do not have the desire to work in an office every day. Additionally, these businesses support the light industrial marine activities along the ship canal and Lake Union. We have a very robust maritime industry in these corridors, bringing good jobs and creating a lot of value for the city.

        Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, one of the businesses that opposes the bike trail on Shilshole Ave, is the ubiquitous provider of concrete for the entire city. You see their trucks pouring and pumping concrete at every major construction site in the north end, and extensively at sites in downtown and south of downtown. If they are unable to insure their trucks operating at that terminal, they’d have to move.

        To where? Renton? Kenmore? Lynnwood? All those trucks would now have to commute in (on our overstressed roadways) and the cost of a material input to so much of the city’s growth will increase, to cover logistics costs. Same situation with Ballard Oil, which delivers home heating oil to much of the city, and also provides marine petro products on their dock *out back.*

        Meanwhile, for the employees of these companies that live in the city, they’re now forced to commute. Younger generations of kids in Seattle will see fewer opportunities for these blue collar jobs in the city. I have argued for many years that one of the key features of the disparity between Lake Union and Lake Washington has been Lake Union’s ability to keep this great maritime industry going, in the city. It keeps the shoreline interesting, provides for a great mix of jobs within the city, and keeps different sectors of the economy interacting with each other.

        But don’t worry, 98% of the community (dubious stat, by the way) wants the missing link complete. And for those that just view light industry as a low-density eye-sore in their vision of an urbanist utopia, those businesses that stand in the way are just collateral damage. But most of the greatest cities and urban environments in the world have light industry peppered throughout the cityscape. Somehow, they are able to co-exist peacefully … the trail plan doesn’t allow for that.

      3. Unlike many other pioneering cities, there’s no desire for collaboration and compromise to complete a successful project for the greater good.

        Then there’s the Eugene situation, where BRT EmX exists despite Lane County tea partiers that railed against “big government” over parking space elimination.

        Sometimes, it can actually be helpful to have a few crazies around. Elimination of a few parking places doesn’t look so bad in the face of “They’ll use the bus lanes to run tanks down the street to send us to concentration camps” or whatever.

      4. K H, the fact that a few business owners kick and scream about the Burke Gilman does not mean it would actually cost any jobs. Trails coexist with industry in many places just fine. SDOT’s project would actually improve safety for the employees of those businesses.

      5. Is there any reason to believe any of the businesses along the BGT Missing Link would actually leave if the safety of the street were improved?

        The owners whine like petulant children, but an objective look at the state of the streets today vs. completion of the Trail suggests truck drivers would have clearer crossings and fewer conflicts, fewer cyclists would be using the general travel lanes of the street, and the businesses would generally have better access, not worse.

        Sure, maybe the business owners really would cut off their noses to spite their faces, but it seems very unlikely.

      6. Get real, K H. The land is zoned industrial. This means that someone will have industry there, if they company quit. But that is highly unlikely. As Josh said, it is really a stretch to assume that just because a bike path goes in front of their plant, it will put them out of business. Hell, they could work with the city and add a bike traffic light. Once a truck pulls up, the light turns and the bikes have to stop. Instead they’ve just fought the thing with lawyers (quite well).

    2. “the choice of surface running costs a rider all of two minutes”

      It’s an hour or more when an accident stops the line.

      1. Service disruptions happen in all sorts of systems, including the grade separated parts of Link.

        But the way to reduce the number of surface accidents is to ban left turns and build underpasses. That would also allow for much more frequent travel.

        The surface running itself — the speed at which a train can travel — costs a rider all of two minutes. There are far cheaper ways to get that two minute savings per rider than digging a tunnel or even an elevated line down Rainer Valley (and an elevated line was a non-starter).

      2. They happen 90% less if people can’t physically drive or walk across a track without climbing a stanchion or going down a hole. It eliminates both deliberate incursions and accidental ones.

        I get Link’s disruption alerts once, twice, three times a week. Half of them are on MLK. The other half are in the DSTT due to mixing buses with trains. Half of those are because the tunnel is overcrowded beyond capacity peak hours, and the other ones are mid-day and I don’t know why they happen. Probably because a bus broke down. Sometimes a train may break down, but the alterts are never for the grade-separated sections south of Rainier Beach or between SODO and Mt Baker. And they aren’t in the SOD segment either for that matter.

    1. AFAIK they can still qualify for Small Starts, but I’m not sure of the federal formula for weighting fixed guideway (which I’d assume trolley buses qualify for?) vs exclusive ROW. If it were more exclusive it could also qualify for State of Good Repair grants under MAP-21.

      But I’d love anyone more familiar than me to chime in as to the federal process.

    2. I was just looking at the list of TIGER grant winners and was surprised how many of them were streetcar projects, including Tacoma’s, that offer way less separation than this Madison proposal. And yes, trolleybuses count as fixed guideway systems so this is well positioned for federal grants.

  5. Given the station/stop spacing and now this, let’s not call this BRT. RapidRide design is more BRT than this is. 8 stops in 2.5 miles is really just local bus service — with some signal priority, nice shelters and exclusive lanes added in.

    1. RapidRide E has stops every quarter-mile along much of Aurora, except in a few major gaps. This line averages slightly wider stop spacing than a quarter-mile without gaps. Madison is a short route through an area that’s continuously urban and even fairly dense by Seattle standards most of the way. Madison is a pretty steep street with pretty hilly surroundings, but never runs along hillsides so steep they prevent the formation of an urban street network, like the E Line does on the east slope of Queen Anne, or on a highway that is uncrossable for long stretches, like the E Line does from Fremont through Woodland Park. So it just doesn’t have gaps.

      The other lines are broadly similar: quarter-mile spacing most places, maybe closer spacing in the densest areas, stops at major transfer points, and gaps for highway corridors. There’s a solid argument that RapidRide is simply not BRT by global standards; whatever RapidRide is, in terms of stop spacing, Madison BRT is actually pretty similar.

      1. I’d even note that several of the project’s issues — center-running sections; mixed-flow sections; where to turn around the vehicles — reflect streetcar design issues. The project is being planned as a rubber-tired streetcar even though it’s called “BRT”. The project would be a streetcar project if the street grades were not so steep.

        Maybe Seattle should just design this for a rubber-tired streetcar with steering at both ends and doors on both sides. Then it could move forward with proper branding as part of the downtown streetcar system.

      2. These issues are general ones for high-quality transit ROW through intersections, not specific to streetcars. Trains and buses have a lot in common! Not addressing these issues means being stuck behind cars in right-turn queues, not where you want to be if there are lots of pedestrians.

        There are a few motivations for this route. They don’t really draw from the modern-streetcar bucket (encouraging development, “streetscape” improvements, “neighborhood circulation”, nice last-mile transfers from regional trains). They’re really closer to what we expect from BRT: high-quality ROW to keep up speed and reliability when traffic is congested, and the establishment of a core direct route in a major urban corridor. The corridor is shorter and denser than the RapidRide ones, and doesn’t include any highway sections, and it looks different largely because of that. It’s debatable whether they’ve chosen the best route for this, but given the local opposition to 2-on-Madison…

      3. or how about putting steel wheels on some trolley buses, embed the rails and call them Tramies?
        Seattle – the city of transit oddities.

      4. It was even odder in the 80s when the only thing we had beyond coverage buses and peak-expresses to downtown was a monorail!… with two stops. But we had a subway!… in the airport.

      5. Some of the guidance rail rubber-tired, tram-style systems like Translohr or Bombardier’s GLT Might actually be very applicable for Madison. They operate in a narrower lane width, which would make exclusive lanes easier to implement. The information on these suggest that they can operate at grades up to 13 percent.

    2. BRT does not mean wide stop spacing any more than light rail means wide stop spacing. If anything, it is the opposite. A bus that simply went from SoDo to Convention Center, with off board payment and level boarding could certainly be considered BRT. A little short, perhaps, but otherwise BRT.

      From what I can tell, this line may flunk the BRT test not because of stop spacing, but because it will likely be impeded by congestion. The stop spacing is fine — if anything there needs to be another stop (as Frank said below —

    3. The idea for BRT is supposed to be longer than 2.5 miles with eight stops in that distance. That’s exactly what a streetcar is supposed to serve. I continue to believe this is a rubber-tired streetcar project no matter what we call it. I also don’t dispute that exclusive right-of-way is preferred (unlike our terrible streetcar implementation in Seattle where we don’t provide that).

      I note that the normal primary metric of a BRT or “rapid” system is higher aggregate average speeds beyond 8 or 10 miles per hour and preferable to 15 or 20 mph. That it is not possible here — clearly making the project something other than “rapid”.

      1. The real key isn’t definitions of BRT couched in context-free statistics like miles and stop count. It’s how to build an effective transit network. Seattle is only a few miles wide at this point. A lot of people need to travel these few miles, and most of the options are slow and unreliable.

        A streetcar is a kind of transit vehicle, like a bus. Streetcars sometimes have more capacity and a nicer ride, but require those pesky rails in the street. Rapid transit is, essentially, a type of transit service: frequent, consistent throughout the day, comprehensive within its corridor, and fast enough to aggregate travel demand along it (i.e. you typically don’t need to bypass it with express routes). A lot of effort is going into planning infrastructure to improve service characteristics, not vehicle characteristics. That’s why we’re all discussing it and not dismissing it.

      2. The idea for BRT is supposed to be longer than 2.5 miles with eight stops in that distance.

        Where do you get that idea? Seriously, I’m curious. There is nothing in the BRT definition (, the BRT Standard ( or the IDTP rating system that suggests that. For example, the gold rated Transmilenio has twelve lines, which average 4.5 miles and 12 stations. If you look at the map of their system it is obvious that many of the lines are quite similar to this (short, with lots of stations). It is just like a subway — you don’t say a subway isn’t a subway just because it is a short line, do you?

        I really think you are confused. Perhaps you are confusing express bus service with BRT?

  6. Perfect example of major advantage streetcar has over bus: because buses “can” turn out of lane to clear obstacles, the more and more they have to.

    “BAT” really ought to be referred to just like it sounds, except with an “S” on the end, like a famous bunny used to have. WWII generation thing. Also like the gangster that founded Las Vegas, who had a “y” after the “s”. Would anybody say “Business Access/ Express Train Track?”

    Who’ll have precedence: bus or car turning out of a parking lot? Bus or cab picking up passenger? Bus or car letting off passenger? Counter offer to those concern-possessing neighbors: “Your business wants the benefits? Give the line what it needs. Deal?”

    Wherever they are, both Bugs and Bugsy will put in a good word for you. One loved sheer gall. The other appreciated guts.


  7. The bus absolutely must run in exclusive lanes at least to 23rd Ave for that connection to the 48 (which is also getting improvements). East of 23rd, I don’t really think it’s vital to have its own lanes. Traffic isn’t too bad and it’s not making any major transfer connections.

    We can’t let this get watered down. It’s not just about this line, it’s a precedent for the next nine years. Move Seattle passed in large part because of these rapid transit promises. There’s a mandate to do them right.

    1. I agree. Downtown has its own issues (and they should be solved) but there is no reason to go back to general lanes until it is east of 23rd. Doing so would mean a fairly short distance of mixed traffic. As you say, traffic isn’t that bad, either. Furthermore, if it does get bad and screws up the rest of the system, then it could be truncated at 23rd.

  8. “Having either mixed traffic or minimally effective BAT lanes for 76% of the alignment would be disappointing and wouldn’t inspire confidence.”
    But that would still be vastly better than the piece of shit C Line.

    1. (off topic) I ride the C Line often and actually it provides greater benefit than this proposed Madison BRT layout – because of the usually clear bus-only lanes on the WS Bridge and Highway 99.

      The latter are scheduled to terminate when the Highway 99 tunnel is finished, which is an entirely different issue that will also foul Route 120 and miscellaneous West Seattle-White Center-Burien routes. See you there in 2018.

      1. lol “2018”. Yes I’m worried about the transit-pocalypse West Seattle will be subjected to when the viaduct comes down, but I doubt that’ll happen in 2018. Want to make a bet? I’ll bet you one margarita at Matador that some part of the viaduct will still be standing, carrying buses into downtown, on January 1, 2019.

    2. Also a frequent C Liner. It does a surprisingly good job of getting into downtown actually faster than cars in morning rush hour, and almost as fast at other times. I’d like to see the bus-only hours on 3rd Ave extended, given how many more buses are using them, and since their effective duration is shortened by a half hour of cheating cars at either end of the window as it is. I’d also like to see more buses run on it. Would-be riders are routinely left behind on 3rd and on Columbia in afternoons now. Since the the 56/57 etc stop running stupidly early, the C Line is everyone’s only hope of reaching the Junction after about 6pm, so it is PACKED.

      Hopefully the afternoon reliability will be improved when it no longer through-lines with the D Line from Ballard. Back to back bunching now seems to be the daily norm, so headways are effectively double what they should be. Running it through the SLU mess instead, though… well we will see what happens! I do wonder what all the present Ballard to West Seattle riders will do. Transfer on 3rd, I guess. Last few times i’ve gotten on at 3rd and Pine, it’s already 85% full, and certainly every seat is full. Who are these people? Why didn’t they protest the restructure? Maybe because that public comment hearing was out in Sand Point. I may have been the only person to mention it, and I was supporting it.

      I’d also be curious to see if they ever estimated ridership on a C Line with no stops between downtown and the junction. Seems like maybe 5% of riders use those stops, and they add about 5 minutes compared to just Fauntleroying straight to the Junction.

      1. “I do wonder what all the present Ballard to West Seattle riders will do”

        The question is are there really that many of them?

        “Last few times i’ve gotten on at 3rd and Pine, it’s already 85% full, and certainly every seat is full. Who are these people?”

        They probably got on in Belltown or Uptown. It’s the same thing you see with the 31/32 through-routed with the 75, the 26/28 with the 131/132, and the 7 with the 49. A few people are on when it reaches the outsikrts of downtown or the UW, then a lot of people get on, and by the time it reaches the outskirts on the other end it goes back down. If people in Uptown or Belltown end up having to transfer to the C, they have a lot of other routes to choose from which combined make it frequent.

  9. Maybe a good time to revist what I wrote in Page 2:

    What’s the goal of BRT? What’s the travel time supposed to be? What’s the reliability? Accessibility? Those aren’t well defined and that’s why we have this “BRT Creep”.

    “It’s easy to backtrack and modify service objectives that were never well-defined in the first place.”

    1. +1. The problem is that the goals aren’t hard, so they end up getting lost in the demand to preserve parking and car lanes.

      1. +111111 the “save our parking” ‘give us car lanes’ people are foolish and represent the past. The only way to get the politicians to do what we want is to email, call, show up at open houses and talk, and vote. Maybe change will come.

    2. By “hard” I don’t mean difficult but unshakeable. We should start with a travel time goal, rather than letting travel time be just whatever happens at the end. The public is crying out for real BRT, and just invested a lot of money in seven lines. We were told that Madison BRT would be better; it wouldn’t make the mistakes of the past. But ten blocks of center running is not much. We need more. Not necessarily center running, but that level of quality.

      1. I agree with this approach, Mike Orr.

        Start with the outcomes, and design the corridor to achieve them.

        If you don’t start with the outcomes, than the outside forces push against them, leaving you with a suboptimal system.

        If SDOT started Madison with an outcomes approach, they could calculate exactly how each tradeoff negatively impacts the stated goals of the project. At the point it is sufficiently diluted, is it still a project that is worthy of investment?

      2. … This, with the caveat that setting a specific travel time to optimize is part of what got us the DBT. To be sure, tunnel pushers hand-picked a metric based on what the tunnel could do well, one that didn’t have much to do with our general travel needs — they picked a stupid metric because it made a stupid project look good, and got a stupid result. We’d have to make sure to pick smart metrics, to allow the smart projects to come to the fore…

      3. Starting with travel time is precisely what I recommended to ST for the Ballard-downtown line. The issue of whether partial surface or all suface is acceptable comes down to travel time and reliability. And frequency, because surface can limit it. The current travel time of the 15X is 14 minutes (southbound 7am, Market to Pine), 32 minutes (southbound 8am), and 27 minutes (northbound 5pm). The D is 26 minutes, 27 minutes, and 30 minutes, and we know it’s usually worse than this. So that’s one data point.

        The other data point is, what’s a reasonable travel time for Ballard-downtown? One that “feels right” and is competitive with driving, but doesn’t impose extraordinary costs (like 1-minute teleportation would). We should look not only at simple Ballard-downtown trips, but how much Ballard adds an overhead for trips from e.g., Bellevue. If you live in Ballard and go to places beyond downtown, you incure that overhead twice for every round trip, and they add up.

        So my estimation is that 10-12 minutes is excellent travel time, 15-20 minutes is OK, and 30 minutes is unacceptable. By that measure, some of the grade-separated alternatives are excellent, the partly-surface (15th) alternatives are OK (and keep up with the 15X), and the mostly-surface alternatives are unacceptable.

        A Westlake-Fremont-Ballard streetcar is OK for trips to/from Fremont but it’s not sufficient for Ballard-downtown trips. So it needs to be looked at as a completement to Ballard light rail rather than as a substutute for it.

  10. Given that I think it’s high priority that:
    1. Other routes can take advantages of these lane
    2. We don’t have to purchase special busses with left-side doors

    … I think we should see what we can do with BAT lanes + dedicated bus signals and TSP. This is the easiest way to implement an asset that can be used by the entire system. It would avoid this weird weaving between center and right side.

    Center running is possible, but requires a commitment to either contra-flow lanes, or accepting the additional ROW space for 2 center islands (since you want to be usable to busses with doors on the right). But if we’re going to do it, it should be for the entire corridor, or at least, for half of the corridor. Going to Bat -> center ->bat -> Gp is just weird.

    1. That’s why I’m concerned about center-running without contra-flow. It precludes the 2 and 49 from ever using the transit lanes. (The 60 doesn’t matter as much because it’s only four blocks, so people won’t be waiting for either the M or the 60.)

    2. I agree. I would do this:

      1) Run in the center as far as possible to the east (close to MLK if possible). Extending this thing to MLK makes sense, but not if it gets watered down to the point where the bus spends half its time east of 19th. That is crazy. If it has to turn around at 23rd, so be it. Sound Transit paid for one of our stupid streetcar lines as compensation for not adding a stop at First Hill. This is what they should have built instead. A very fast, very frequent line from 23rd to the water is huge — extending it to MLK is just a bonus.

      2) Add center running all the way to 6th, but only eastbound. That would be really nice. A bus would go up Madison (in contraflow mode) then simply get into the center lane. This would be much easier than the current plan (no weaving with traffic). The only cars that access Madison at this point are those that take a right from sixth. They simply turn into the far right lane (as they taught us in driving school). Center running in one direction is half as expensive and half as disruptive (I imagine).

      3) Keep the current plans for center running westbound. The westbound center running ends at 9th. Then the bus changes into the right lane and takes a right at 8th. Not ideal, but not exactly terrible. The right turn could problem could be remedied with a right arrow and a delayed crosswalk signal on that side of the street (forcing pedestrians to wait a few seconds for cars turning right). This may not even be necessary (it isn’t clear how many take a right here or if pedestrian traffic is an issue).

      4) Add the proper signals on 8th, and maybe a BAT lane (on the left). That may not be necessary.

      5) Contraflow the rest of the way (down Spring and up Madison).

      That should do it, really. Off board payment is a given as well as level boarding. So is decent frequency (five minutes). This would be faster than a driving even at noon.

  11. This is another example of how BRT tends to get so watered down that the term means nothing. A few blocks of center lane is great but the weakest link always defines the chain. I thought we had a shot on getting Real BRT on this one, short, line.

    We need at least one mode that doesnt interact with traffic. We’ll keep fighting for new rail to have its own ROW and we’ll keep supporting the highest quality possible for the “Rapid Ride” lines.

    I’m glad Prop 1 passed and I’m glad we helped it pass – but this kind of stuff makes my blood boil.

    1. Another awesome reason why streetcars can be superior to BRT – can’t be watered down in many cases :) (not that streetcars can be laid in this corridor, necessarily)

      1. Streetcars can definitely be watered down in this way, just look at the debacle of the First Hill line. But at least it seems that SDOT has learned not to repeat those mistakes with the CCC if/when it’s built.

      2. sure they can, just look at the First Hill line. Mixed traffic for the whole route.

        Its subways and elevated rail that guarantee no mixing with traffic. Everything els you have to fight for.

      3. Agreed – streetcars suffer the same political struggles. FHSC is what happens when we let anti transit forces make design decisions.

        To be clear: We will have to fight for every pro-transit design decision regardless of mode.

        The forces of “good enough” and against giving transit any primacy are very, very, strong.

        I heard somewhere we won the last election. ;).

        I’m hoping that somehow gives us a louder voice in these discussions.

      4. To be clear: We will have to fight for every pro-transit design decision regardless of mode.

        Well said.

        I think it is more than just giving transit any primacy, though. I think the bigger problem is just competence. Not with this particular decision, necessarily, but in general. I believe that a lot of our politicians have no idea how to build a good transit system, and are blindly pushing projects.

      5. You don’t have to look as far as the First Hill line. The SLUT is so watered down it’s slower than a bus.

      6. A followup to Keith Kyle …

        “To be clear: We will have to fight for every pro-transit design decision regardless of mode.”

        I actually do not believe that every pro-transit decision is in the best interest of the city.

        This is why it is important to do what Mike Orr pointed out above …. start with what you want the outcomes to be, and then design the system. Once that’s done, you can determine if the decisions you made are a net positive for the entire transportation system and the city as a whole.

        We have pro-transit decisions that I view as being net negatives for the city… The implementation of SLUT. The FHSC. Splitting the C/D (given the opportunity cost of other improvements). These decisions have to be viewed as part of system, assuming opportunity costs exist, and also considering the impact and resiliency on those already there. It is possible to get a great transit system and have a great city. But just pushing for everything that someone has considered “pro-transit” does not necessarily get us there. It just spends a lot of money.

      7. KH: I think you are missing my point a little. FHSC and SLUS were watered down by anti-transit pressures. Pro-transit design would mean exclusive lanes that could also be used by buses.

        The outcomes arent that hard to define. A “BRT” line should be defined by its ability to move a lot of people through a heavily traveled corridor quickly despite traffic.

        Any corridor where this would mean the majority of people moving through it would be on transit should be considered for this treatment.

    2. Light rail can (and has been) watered down as well. First Hill is a prime example. That is just in our city (I’m sure examples exist all over the place).

      I think part of the problem with surface running transit of any type (streetcar, light rail or BRT) is that you run across a lot of logistical problems. It isn’t just that the agency in charge wants to cut corners (Sound Transit has done that, and not just with First Hill) but that the problems are a bit trickier to handle. Spending money helps, but sometimes you can only do so much. The same thing happens with bike paths ( The biggest problem is with mid-block destinations (e. g. parking garages). You can properly regulate intersections (as you can with bike paths) but it is very difficult to deal with parking garages, unless you decide to go with center running. Center running is fine, but problematic when dealing with one way streets. I believe that is the problem with this line: Madison is one way in downtown. There are solutions (I mention one down below) but they aren’t simple.

      Then again, you run into problems when digging tunnels, or figuring out how expensive it is to dig tunnels, which again explains the lack of a First Hill station. This whole debate would look a lot different with a First Hill station by the way.

      There is no reason why bus infrastructure should get watered more down than anything else. It is just that bus infrastructure tends to operate on the surface. There are exceptions, and we have a great one in this city. The bus tunnel was watered down (I believe it was supposed to have one more station) but it sure as hell is great otherwise. The lack of the station is minor compared to Link, which skips much more important ones (it isn’t even obvious what station the bus tunnel skipped — Madison maybe?).

      In general the question often comes down to quantity versus quality. Do you want five great lines or seven mediocre ones? Personally I would pick quality. I’m not saying we should gold plate everything, but for something like this — a very urban area that is essentially ignored by a tunnel that cost ten times as much — I think it makes sense to spend the extra money and do it right. Abandon the silly streetcar and put the money into this. If cost really is an issue, then I would just turn around at 23rd. That right there would save a few bucks and be just about as good a value. There will always be a bus coming from MLK to 23rd (like the 8) as well as a bus coming from Madison Park to 23rd, so at worst a rider has to take a fairly frequent bus a few blocks and then take the BRT. But at least it would be real BRT.

      1. Madison Station is sorely lacking, but I don’t remember a station being deleted. It’s more that University Street Station was deemed adequate for both Madison and Pike, the way ‘up’ escalators were deemed unnecessary.

    3. Exactly, and we shouldn’t be starting at this time with this weak proposal before Seattle Process and BRT Creep will unfortunately yet surely occur.

  12. Based on this (and other diagrams) it looks like the buses will run both ways on Madison until about 1st). Is this true?

    West of the freeway (6th) Madison is one way (headed west, downhill towards the water). If the bus runs curbside both directions, then how many cars will be allowed in the lane headed uphill? By my reckoning, very few, if any. Do you allow a car to turn from a general purpose lane (e. g. 3rd) into the BAT lane if they plan on using a garage on the next block (like the silver car in this picture — That seems like a very confusing thing to regulate. How do you even put that on a sign? “Turn right only if you plan on turning right again before the next intersection” — Huh? This suggest that the only people allowed in the uphill BAT lane are those who exit a garage, if that. It is much simpler if you treat that lane like a bike lane. No cars allowed. This does mean that those who enter and exit have to look both ways. That isn’t exactly rocket science. If you headed towards the garage, you are going downhill and would take a left, crossing over the line to get into the garage. A bus headed your way should be obvious. This is no different than taking any left into a garage. The same is true taking a left out of the garage. It isn’t as easy as it is today, nor is it easy in general since you do have to take a left turn (you can’t take a right) but it is fairly common.

    For the same reason, cabs shouldn’t be allowed in that lane. It is basically like it is today. For that section of Madison, you can’t turn onto it heading up the hill.

    So, in that sense, that solves half the problem. Buses heading up the hill will not have to deal with traffic even though the bus will be running curbside. I think this should be leveraged for downtown.

    The BRT should run on Spring downhill and Madison uphill. There has been little enthusiasm for cutting over to Spring (for good reason) but I think it solves the congestion problem. I can’t help but assume that for Spring, the assumption was that the buses would run with the traffic. I’m proposing the opposite.

    I’ll describe it from the east (First Hill). It would be center running until sixth. From there, the bus takes a right on sixth to the far left lane (sixth is one way heading north). This would be done with a special bus signal, since the bus would be cutting across traffic headed straight. Basically a stop light occurs for straight ahead traffic, but a turn signal appears for the bus. It could be even simpler if the bus just uses the center lane and turns right (the far right lane is right turn only). I don’t think this turn is a problem in general (quite the opposite).

    The left lane on 6th would be a bus only lane (for only a block), All you have to do is eliminate the cabs and this becomes a full fledged bus lane (not a half-ass BAT lane). There is no garage entrance next to the courthouse, nor can a regular driver take a left on Spring. But a bus can, and does.

    It then runs in the right curbside lane the entire way down to first. It is the only vehicle going that direction. Spring (like Madison) becomes a two way street, but buses are the only thing making it two way. The bus goes down to Alaskan Way and takes a left. This is a very easy left turn. The bus then goes one block (along Alaskan Way) then takes another left on Madison. Again, this is an easy left turn. Now a bus heads up the hill in the right lane until it gets to sixth (where the streets are two way) and then cuts over to the center running section.A jump ahead light could make this easier.

    I think this not only solves the congestion problem but it makes it easier for traffic. Rather than take two lanes on Madison, we take one on Madison and one on Spring. No fancy center running either. Entering and exiting the garages is slightly problematic, but not really that difficult. There is no steady stream of traffic going on these streets, only a bus that appears every couple minutes or so.

      1. So that means that it will run *with* general purpose traffic, which means that these streets remain one way. This is backwards, as I’ve explained. That right there is the biggest failing of this thing.

        A bus lane operating on a one way street is bound to be a BAT lane, and the BAT lane is bound to be congested. You can ban cars from the lane, but then you have to build a lot of counter-intuitive traffic signals. Drivers are used to taking a right on green, but you would have to ban that. You would only be allowed to take a right on a green arrow, and during that arrow, you would have to force pedestrians to stop. Mid-block destinations remain a problem. You really can’t ask a driver to make a right from the second to the right lane, potentially cutting in front of a bus. That is just too dangerous. So you end up with BAT lanes, that can be clogged by all sorts of things. People taking a right at the light, people turning into a garage or even taxi-cabs.

        On the other hand, if the buses go the other way, the problems disappear. To a pedestrian or a driver, it is just another two way street. Except that one of the lanes is reserved for buses. This is common. This is obvious. All you have to do for most of the intersections is add a little “except transit” to the signs (e. g. “No right turn except transit”). That’s it. Right turns for drivers are obvious and the same as they always were. Left turns are like any two way intersection — yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Mid-block garages require a left turn entering and exiting. People do that all the time.

      2. Madison is relatively uncongested west of I-5 most of the day. It’s Spring that’s the problem due to the I-5 ramp, but I honestly think their likely solution is a decent one, with a left-hand bus lane with a stop island so that Route 2 can use it. That completely keeps it out of the SPL/6th/I-5 mess that kills the #2’s reliability today.

        I’m less worried about downtown working well than I am about the First Hill/Capitol Hill CD stretches. An all-BAT lane solution would be a decent and simpler improvement, providing less travel time benefit but also allowing Metro service flexibility far into the future. By contrast, a fully exclusive alignment could actually be real BRT and be deserving of whatever fancy branding they want to give it, but this mix of both still requires a dedicated fleet and sets the route in stone indefinitely without realizing the additional operational benefits..

      3. Well, I’m worried about all of it. This just seems like a mess to me. These downtown streets might not be too bad, but they are still downtown streets (where turns get delayed). The center running is too short. As you suggest, it may just be the worst of all worlds. Expensive, exclusive, and not that effective.

        I would be much happier if we added the two way lanes on both Spring and Madison (as I suggest), extend the center running lanes all the way from sixth to 23rd. From 23rd to MLK is less of an issue (based on what people say) and that could eventually be cut anyway. Otherwise we might as well “cut bait” with BAT lanes and save the money (as you suggest).

    1. “It is much simpler if you treat that lane like a bike lane. No cars allowed.”

      Except cars *are* allowed in bike lanes, when making right turns.

      Both the approach to the turn and the turn itself must be made from as close to the curb as practicable — drivers are actually required by law to merge into a bike lane before making a right turn, rather than making a turn across the bike lane, specifically to prevent the serious collisions that come from making a right turn in front of through traffic.

      1. That is only true in the intersections, and isn’t true of all intersections. There are plenty where they are not allowed. On 2nd Avenue, the possibility of a car cutting in front of a biker exists (a “left hook”) but traffic lights prevent a driver from doing that (notice the green arrow in this picture:

        Anyway, with this bus lane it would be like a bus ramp, a bus lane, or the Burke Gilman — no cars allowed. We also wouldn’t need fancy traffic signals like this because the buses and cars would be going opposite directions. It would be ridiculously intuitive for drivers, and very cheap to manage (paint on the ground, mostly). I don’t think you would even need to change many signs.

  13. Welcome to reality. “BRT” is most often supported by the opponents of transit as a tool to shoot down larger investments in things like rail. But if BRT ever gets passed, then the first thing that happens is it gets watered down to little more than a fancy express bus. And, once built, there is usually little will to enforce lane restrictions and such. Witness our current BAT lanes. It ends up being a nothing-burger.

    Such problems could be solved with exclusive lanes, but then the cost is too high for our weak willed politicians to stomach.

    Alternate definition for BAT: Big American Truck. It’s what you find clogging up your BAT lanes when you try to build BRT on the cheap.

    1. Welcome to reality. “BRT” is most often supported by the opponents of transit as a tool to shoot down larger investments in things like rail.

      This particular BRT initiative was supported by the authors of the Move Seattle levy, and then subsequently by the ~58% of the electorate who voted for it. Which relevant actors here are trying to “shoot down” rail investments? And if the answer is, as I suspect is surely is, “none,” what point does this little nugget of cynical wisdom serve in this particular context?

      1. Hence my use of the word “often” instead of the word “always”.

        But hey, I voted for Move Seattle too, but I was under no illusions that we would be getting “real BRT”. And that does indeed seem to be the case. It’s pretty much the pattern

        Not that there is anything wrong with Enhanced Express Buses, but calling such things “BRT” just waters down the concept.

      2. And now the car-lanes-and-parking supporters are going against 58% of the electorate and winning. SDOT could say, “50% of the electorate voted for high-quality BRT, so no you don’t get all your GP lanes, BAT lanes, and parking spaces.” But so far that isn’t happening.

        This reminds me of Sunday’s discussion of Zurich, which is similar to the Netherlands. Their response to the 1970s oil crisis was to turn away from car dominance and invest heavily in transit and bicycle lanes. The reason we’re having these problems is that we’re not doing the same. We’re trying to spend a little bit to add some transit infrastructure to the existing road network, rather than rethinking the road network. Not to denigrate the Complete Streets and road diets that have happened, but we need fundamentally more, for instance in the Madison corridor.

      3. Transit Now was voted on and supported the “Rapid Ride” buses. And they got watered down to what they are today – nicely painted, frequent express buses.

      4. That’s partly because Transit Now was too low-budget. It couldn’t support limited-stop lines with a local overlay like Swift, so we ended up with the E, which then got watered down by people asking for stops every five blocks. (These are especially dubious between 73rd and 105th in the middle of the line. They’re more justified between 145th and 200th where Shoreline upzoned around them and installed full BAT lanes.) Then Metro’s base funding was savaged by an Eyman initiative that eliminated the MVET, so the Transit Now funds had to backfill it and weren’t available for RapidRide.

      5. @Mike Orr,

        I agree, we need to move away from car dominance and we need fundamentally more transit (as well as re-architectured cities I’d say), but that isn’t what you get when you get these BRT-Lite proposals presented to the populace. What is presented to the voter is something akin to BRT, but at an express bus price tag. It doesn’t provide as much bang, but the buck part is kept low enough to pass at the polls.

        Then once the BRT-lite plan passes it gets watered down to satisfy various whiners. It’s just the way it works.

        That said, count your blessings that SDOT isn’t WSDOT and isn’t proposing to change these BAT lanes into the equivalent of BAT-HOT lanes. You know, allow people to buy their way into a BAT lane in their gas guzzling SOV as a way to manage capacity and reduce congestion……

        Say what you want about rail, but nobody is going to convert rail to the equivalent of HOT lanes. By its nature rail is a beast apart, and will stay that way.

      6. Count your blessings that Metro and ST aren’t state-funded and vulnerable to the latest Eyman initiative which will either cut or cap the state budget. The courts will tap money for education, mental-health evaluations, public defenders, and other Constitutaionally-mandated spending, and it’ll come out of all the other state’s programs including transit (rural grants, congestion grants, Amtrak Cascades, DBT mitigation, etc).

      7. Is Madison BRT getting watered down because of the price tag or because of an unwillingness to devote a sufficient portion of road-space to transit?

      8. Cost isn’t a specific factor in this debate because it’s a tenth the cost of a tunnel. But lazarus is right in the general sense that anti-transit folks use cost and road space indifferently as weapons in their debate. Anything that cuts down their lanes, parking spaces, or driveways must be stopped, and their taxes should be raised only for GP lanes.

  14. The map at the opening indicates a stop at 6th and Spring and then Terry & Madison. Throughout the process of Madison BRT planning, residens of the western slope of First Hill requested that there be a stop at 8th Avenue, reflective of present and near future construction of residential high rise units. It seems that each time we have been left with an impression that our need would be met, someone pulls a switch and erases the stop. To those who proclaim that there are too many stops already, I would like to remind all that First Hill is a densely populated neighborhood both in terms of residents and of people who work there. The desire of some contributors for really fast service from, say 23 and Madison to downtown should not trump the realities of transit usage–First Hill is a place, not a place to get through as rapidly as possible.. I realize that some contributors to this list are so fixated on “their” concept of transit improvement that it is difficult for them to conceive of the legitimacy of other perspectives. Thus we have references to “a handful of whiners”–an inaccurate characterization, but reflective, perhaps, of the zeal of pure transit wonkery.

    1. You have a very good point. This is supposed to be BRT, not an express. The lane may be exclusively used by the buses on this line. It makes sense, then, to have urban stop spacing. Furthermore, there is no fast alternative. If this was part of a larger grid, then longer spacing might make sense. But if you are on, say, Cherry and 8th, then it is a five block walk. You can always take the 3 or 4 downtown, but that is useless if you want to go to the other side of the hill (e. g. Madison and Pike). In short, there isn’t a good grid here, you can’t make one, and this line is special. I agree, there should be a stop there.

      If there are gains in speed to be made, then they should not be made at the cost of ridership. A stop should be added at 8th.

      By the way, some of these issues shrink when you get east of Broadway, and Madison becomes a diagonal street cutting through a grid. For example, if you are 20th and Union, it is only a little bit farther to 17th and Union (where there is a stop) than it is to 20th and Union (where there isn’t). It isn’t an additional three blocks, as you might assume (because you can essentially walk diagonally).

      1. I should mention that my recommendation is based on the premise that adding such a stop is easy. If it proves to be difficult or very expensive, then I wouldn’t support it. A lot depends on how this all shakes out (how much of the route will be center running, and how people get to those bus stops).

    2. Frank … the map posted above is incorrect.

      The stops will be:

      1st Ave (Madison-Spring) (shared CCC Streetcar stop)
      EB 3rd Ave / Spring St
      EB 5th Ave / Spring St (Library)
      EB 8th Ave / Spring St

      WB 8th ave / Madison St (island platform)
      WB 5th / Madison (north curb lane / current rt 12 stop)
      WB 3rd Ave / Madison (north curb lane / current rt 12 stop)

      EB/WB Terry Ave / Madison St
      EB/WB Boylston Ave / Madison St
      EB/WB 12th Ave / Madison St
      EB/WB 17th Ave / Madison St
      EB/WB 22nd Ave / Madison St
      EB/WB 24th Ave / Madison St
      MLK / Madison St

      Spring St will run in the left curb lane (north side of Spring) and will be transit exclusive to 6th ave w/island bus stops for the BRT line and the Rt 2 (east of 3rd ave)

      1. That sounds like a pretty good choice of stops, especially the Spring Street island stops. I’m not seeing that anywhere on the SDOT page, though; could you give a link?

  15. I wholeheartedly agree with those condemning the way BRT is continually eroded to lower and lower quality. If we show up in force at the Nov 16 open house, we can reverse it. The reason this happens in Seattle is because when we put things on the ballot, Seattleites know we need more transit, and are willing to pay for it, but when we get down to details, only those in the neighborhood feel effected enough by a project to go to the meetings and make themselves heard. So for each section we sacrifice the good of the city for the good of the neighborhood, find the result insufficient, and vote to spend more money on the problem.

    The solution is to take the time to be as vocal as the neighborhood concerns (which shouldn’t be hard – it’s the whole city that is affected! Each neighborhood only has so many people, but if a smaller portion of the general populous shows up, no matter the neighborhood, we can be the majority at any meting, and win these things).

    So speak up.

    Also, I want to point out that one mindset we really need to fight is “there isn’t traffic here, so we don’t need exclusive lanes for this part of the project.”

    The truth is, traffic isn’t bad there, so it shouldn’t be a challenge to get exclusive lanes, because demand is low. But the project goes there because we expect we will need it in the nearish future – traffic will be bad. At that point it will be way harder to get exclusive lanes, involving the wasted costs of redesigning the street and fighting locals who are actually in a situation of too little street space – motivated locals, those.

    So we need to build it right, for its length, now.

    (Incidentally, the pair to “not bad enough to need lanes” is another pernicious NIMBY argument – that area x is too full of traffic to give up ROW). If we have to have general purpose lanes in crowded areas, and there’s no need for exclusive lanes in less crowded areas, where do we put bus only lanes?)

    (Our hipocratic pair is “too much traffic – need lanes for higher capacity transit” and “not much traffic – cheap to put in lanes!” The responsible transit advocate is not a hypocrite, though, because we reserve the first argument for places that support headways that actually increase capacity, and we reserve the second argument for places where growth in traffic is expected and/or GP lanes promise to be the weakest link in an otherwise exclusive lane project that we’re sinking a bunch of money into, eg Madison.)


      “Also, I want to point out that one mindset we really need to fight is “there isn’t traffic here, so we don’t need exclusive lanes for this part of the project.”

      The truth is, traffic isn’t bad there, so it shouldn’t be a challenge to get exclusive lanes, because demand is low. But the project goes there because we expect we will need it in the nearish future – traffic will be bad. At that point it will be way harder to get exclusive lanes, ”

      This is an advantage that rail has, for advocates. You’re ripping up everything and building tracks anyway, so “Oh, there isn’t much traffic, why can’t we drive on the streetcar tracks” tends to sound crazier than “Oh, there isn’t much traffic, why can’t we drive on the bus lanes”.

  16. “I think it’s important to remember that Move Seattle’s seven “RapidRide+” projects are corridors, not lines. They are capital projects to increase speed and reliability, and only secondarily should they be service planning decisions.”

    Ok. Why was it called RapidRide+ then? Why not call them something like “service improvement corridors”? You know, when potential voters see they live on a “RapidRide+” corridor, they think “Oh, I’ll be right next to the RapidRide G Line, and it will be even better than the original RapidRide!” This is misleading at best, and false advertising at worst. It’s making it sound like a literal addition of RapidRide “+” (like, a version of RapidRide that is actual BRT, which is what I assume the plus would signify), while being within plausible deniability when it comes time to make good on your promise.

    Be honest. Call it “service improvement corridors,” and if people want service improvement, they can vote yes, otherwise they can vote no.

  17. Can we agree on at least the following and send a united message?

    1) Dedicated transit lanes from 9th to 23rd is a requirement, and more important than the MLK extension. If we can’t afford both, then truncate it back to 23rd.

    2) SDOT should set a travel time goal appropriate for a transit-priority line, and stick to it.

    1. My commentary on these:

      If we send a united message on a limited number of stipulations, we’ll be recognized as a significant percentage of the electorate, and that will give SDOT leverage in pushing back against SOV/parochial interests.

      Dedicated lanes to 23rd are important for transfers from the 48. If this is to replace the 43 long-term, it must to be robust. It also sets a good example for the other corridors.

      I’m less sure about center lanes and left-side doors. But if we’re going to to do them, at least extend the lanes to 23rd. Left-side doors for just ten blocks and 24% of the line is ridiculous. At that point we might as well scrap the center lanes and save the money for another corridor. If we end up doing that, SDOT should admit that “full BRT didn’t work here”, and do better in another corridor.

      If the line is truncated at 23rd, the 11 can still do the rest. It’s newly frequent; there will be same-direction transfers on Madison (although center-lane compatibility will be an issue), and it wouldn’t preclude moving the north-turn west as Reg N wants.

      What’s a reasonable travel time from 1st to 23rd (or MLK)? 10 minutes? 15? 10 minutes may be too tight for the inevitable stopped cars, traffic lights, wheelchairs, and accidents. The 12 is 9 minutes from 2nd to Broadway (8am eastbound), or 22 minutes from end to end.

      1. Google Maps puts the travel time at 11 minutes in a private car, without traffic. (That’s 12 miles per hour.) I think 15 minutes would be a reasonable somewhat-stretching goal for the BRT, then.

      2. ” They essentially judged each section by itself. They ran the numbers to decide whether it was worth it or not to have BAT lanes, center running lanes or nothing at all for each section. This is what they came up with”

        This is because they were judging the sections by *idiotic methods*. I’m going to point you to what EHS said above:

        In places where there isn’t much non-bus traffic, the exclusive bus lanes should be put in immediately — there’s room for them, because there isn’t much traffic, so it can go in the remaining lanes without trouble. If you make the buses slog through mixed traffic, then when the traffic *does* increase, it’s much harder to get the exclusive lanes you need. Build them while it’s still easy!

    2. This would conflict with the feedback SDOT received during the planning exercise, which showed very strong support for extending the line to MLK.

      1. Well apparently “very strong support” only means “give me a Hot Dog Bus but don’t take away my parking spot!”

      2. The feedback for MLK was before there were any details of what service level it would be. Given SDOT’s current proposal, some people might change their minds. I did, and I was one of the feedbackers.

      3. As a resident of Madison Valley, “does it run to MLK” determines whether the project represents an improvement in transit service or merely an expensive reduction in arterial quality.

        If SDOT does absolutely nothing to Madison, and the project ends up being an ordinary Metro bus running along the proposed corridor, that would provide an improvement in mobility and I would feel glad I voted for it.

        If SDOT goes BRT-crazy and builds the world’s best bus line from downtown to 23rd, I would literally never use it, because any benefit it might have would be overwhelmed by the cost of hiking up a steep hill to reach it. My overall mobility would actually be reduced, since my primary connection to the rest of the city would presumably have been nerfed as badly as Broadway, or worse.

      4. Mars, with all due respect, that’s a parochial position: “It’s only worthwhile if my block benefits from it.” Madison Valley is a growing urban village and needs more frequent, non-fragmented service. That’s why I support extending Madison BRT to it. But this proposal starts to contradict another important goal: a line that’s fully fast, frequent, and reliable, and a model for future lines (because the existing RapidRide lines aren’t that great a model). From a citywide perspective, it’s more important for dedicated transit lanes to go a substantial distance (from 9th to 23rd) than to extend “BRT-lite” to Madison Valley. BRT-lite just reinforces our existing problem of enhancements that aren’t really much enhancements. But a high-quality line to 23rd can later be extended. In the next Move Seattle or possibly sooner, we could extend the high-quality line to Madison Valley or Madison Park. (Of course the transit lanes would have to drop off at some point because the road narrows, but I’m not worried about that east of 23rd.)

      5. “My overall mobility would actually be reduced”

        Would it? I’m assuming the 11 would remain at its current service level if the BRT terminates at 23rd. In that case, the BRT really only replaces the 12, and the people who should be concerned are those who live on 19th Ave E. I’m also assuming that BRT to 23rd will reopen the issue of the 11’s routing, for those who have diverse ideas of how it should be routed between Broadway and 23rd.

      6. I don’t believe that “BRT” makes any significant difference; it’s just another bus line. It’ll either come to my neighborhood or it won’t, and I’d prefer that it come to my neighborhood. Beyond that, why should I care? We need to accomplish a wholesale change in transit behavior if we’re ever going to get serious about climate change, and we’ll never make that happen with buses no matter how many of them we buy.

        I’m not interested in transit because I care about the bus network, I’m interested in transit because I’m looking forward to a future where I don’t have to use the bus network. Of course that future will not arrive in Madison Valley during my lifetime, but perhaps 20 years from now I’ll be able to retire into some neighborhood which offers the kind of transit service that was common in European cities 20 years ago.

      7. By “my mobility will be reduced” I mean that most of my car trips travel along Madison for some distance, and if it’s had lanes removed and turns prohibited it’s going to be slower, more congested, and less useful for getting where I want to go. I’m willing to accept that if there’s a new bus line justifying it, but if the bus line doesn’t come to Madison Valley then the project is 100% downside as far as this area is concerned.

      8. “Beyond that, why should I care? We need to accomplish a wholesale change in transit behavior if we’re ever going to get serious about climate change,”

        The second part answers the first. To get a wholesale change in the public’s behavior, the buses have to be fast in dedicated lanes so that they approach the performance of light rail. Having a high-quality line from 1st to 23rd goes a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Extending the dedicated lanes to 23rd doesn’t necessarily mean losing the Madison Valley segment: that depends on how much they cost compared to the total budget. SDOT can tell us whether they can do both. I’m only raising the cost issue so that we can be aware of a potential problem early.

      9. We will never have Curitiba-style BRT in Seattle because our major arterials aren’t wide enough to support it. We have to choose: a road can either be a major arterial or it can be a busway. If it has dedicated bus lanes then it cannot also be a major through-route, because there isn’t enough physical space left. Yes, BRT attempts here get watered down in part because of political spinelessness and the mushy try-to-please-everyone nature of Seattle politics, but the conflicts are so intense precisely because the real estate is so precious.

        We will not have a “high-quality” line. We may get a line which is slightly better than a normal route, like RapidRide. That’s fine. But we simply aren’t going to solve our transportation problems with buses, because we don’t have room.

      10. We will never have Curitiba-style BRT in Seattle because our major arterials aren’t wide enough to support it.

        Nonsense. Our arterials are huge. Even SDOT says so. Everyone is jumping on them as if they are proposing BAT lanes the whole way. They aren’t They are proposing center running bus lanes through the heart of this line. So the idea that Madison isn’t wide enough is ridiculous. If it is wide enough there, then it is wide enough east of there.

        If you read the previous docs, you can tell what happened. They essentially judged each section by itself. They ran the numbers to decide whether it was worth it or not to have BAT lanes, center running lanes or nothing at all for each section. This is what they came up with. I don’t think anyone likes it, but to suggest that the forces of parking won this battle, or that the streets are too narrow is ridiculous.

        It is up to us and the city to expand upon this. West of sixth this means contraflow lanes. These are very simple and work just as well as center running bus lanes. This leaves only two gaps. I would like to see the center running lanes extended three blocks to 6th (certainly eastbound, where it would be trivial for a bus to get from the contraflow lane to the center lane as the street turns into two-way). This is a bit more expensive, but not that much more (especially since you aren’t adding bus stops). Likewise, the center running lanes need to be extended east. Once you get close to 23rd it is a bit tricky, since the bus has to turn around. BAT lanes might be just fine there.

        All of that costs more money. That is really the issue here. The city did a preliminary study for each section, and came out with what they considered to be a cost effective system. It is just when you put it all together that it doesn’t work that well. But if we are willing to spend the money, then there is no reason we can’t make this a very good line.

      11. Nonsense. Our arterials are huge. Even SDOT says so.

        Where do you get that idea? SDOT thinks our arterials are so narrow they cannot safely accommodate the four lanes they were built for, which is why they’re busy running around the city nerfing them all down to three lanes. It’s not pretty.

        It’s a common remark when people visit me from elsewhere: “the streets here are so narrow! The cars are all packed in, it’s scary! How do you deal with it it?”. The sleepy little suburban back street my brother lives on has a right-of-way as wide as Madison does!

        The Curitiba system worked because they had a massively wide boulevard running right through the middle of town. It was a six-lane road with a wide median; they converted the median to a two-lane busway, and they still have a six-lane road. There’s not a single road anywhere in the city of Seattle which offers that much space, except maybe the newest two blocks’ worth of Mercer. The only thing remotely close is MLK South, and – oh hey, look at that, we already ran a transit line down its median.

        Madison is a major arterial, one of very few efficient cross-town routes; but if you turn half of it into a dedicated busway, what’s left is two narrow lanes with limited left-turn opportunities. That’s not a major arterial, that’s a minimal local-access road.

        Every single BRT proposal everywhere in the city of Seattle will have to deal with this problem: there is not enough width available to create a busway without significantly reducing the road’s utility for non-bus transportation. That means the bus route being proposed had better be spectacularly good and serve a huge number of people very very well, or it will represent a net loss of transportation capacity, and people will therefore lobby to have it watered down just like all the other BRT projects.

      12. That’s not why they’re turning four lanes into three. It’s because four lanes encourages lane-changing, which both increases accidents and slows down traffic. So four is not really twice the volume of two; it’s less. The city is working toward a zero-accident goal: that’s motivating both the rechannelizations, lower speed limits (25 to 20, 35 to 30), pedestrian “Safe Routes to Schools”, and bicycle greenways.

      13. It’s a common remark when people visit me from elsewhere: “the streets here are so narrow! The cars are all packed in, it’s scary! How do you deal with it it?”

        Jeesh, where are your friends from? Besides, as I said, it a moot point. Let me repeat this one more time. SDOT has said that Madison is wide enough for center running. They proposed it. What part of that don’t you get?

        Center running is expensive. That is why they didn’t go that far with it. They didn’t feel it was worth it for the sections that don’t have it. But it is cost, not width, that is the issue. Part of that expense is running it to MLK. If push comes to shove, then we either spend enough money to make it all work well, or turn around at 23rd.

        I get it. You would rather have a very slow line to MLK, rather than a fast line to 23rd. But keep in mind that speed also effects frequency and cost of operation. If the bus spends half of its time east of 18th, then that is crazy. You are basically asking everyone else — the vast majority of riders on this line — to put up with a slower, less frequent ride just because you don’t want to walk a bit farther or make a transfer. To suggest that makes sense for a mass transit system with expensive dual sided buses, level boarding and off board payment is a pretty selfish position.

        Look, everyone on here wants this thing to go to MLK. There is no argument there. But we would much rather have this high quality, very expensive tool used right, rather than in a stupid way. If the choice is between a slow, infrequent bus to MLK or a fast, frequent bus to 23rd, I’ll take the second one every time. So will almost everyone else. I don’t mean they will just prefer it, I mean they will literally “take it”, as in get on the bus. Ridership east of MLK is literally ten times that of MLK (adding MLK adds less than 10% more ridership —

        If we don’t make this really fast, we are being stupid. That would be like putting cheap tires on a Ferrari. Why even bother buying the Ferrari?

      14. Jeesh, where are your friends from?

        Suburbs in California.

        SDOT has said that Madison is wide enough for center running. They proposed it. What part of that don’t you get?

        Oh, I get it, all right. I’m just pointing out that after you’ve taken more than half the right-of-way for a center-running busway, what’s left for cars will no longer function as a major arterial. Major arterials are very scarce in central Seattle, so we’d better be getting something pretty goddamn awesome in exchange for giving up that much road.

        I don’t really care if it’s “fast” or “slow”, because “fast” for a bus is still slow, and unless the city spends millions of dollars ripping out all the concrete and repaving it, the fast bus is going to be just as janky, clanky, shaky, and uncomfortable as the slow one. Spending more money to make it run faster is fine if we have nothing better to do, but we’re talking about maybe a single-digit percentage change in the line’s usefulness.

        But so what? The line’s usefulness is zero if it doesn’t serve my neighborhood, and a few percent more zero is still zero.

        You see a choice between a fast bus and a slow bus. I see a choice between “give up my primary connection to downtown in exchange for a bus line I’ll ride every work day” or “give up my primary connection to downtown, full stop, no cookie, have a nice day”.

        I observe that this dilemma is inherent to the geometry of Seattle rights-of-way, that every single BRT project ever proposed in this city will leave people facing similar choices, and it is therefore no surprise at all that every BRT proposal thus far has been watered down to the point of uselessness. I predict that every BRT proposal in the future will encounter the same opposition for the same reasons.

      15. “Center running is expensive. That is why they didn’t go that far with it.”

        We don’t know that the cost is that much or that it can’t be extended without busting the budget. That’s what we need to find out from SDOT. Did they not extend it further because they absolutely can’t afford it, or because they judge it “not necessary”. We also need to find out if it can be extended toward 23rd if it can’t go all the way.

        “The line’s usefulness is zero if it doesn’t serve my neighborhood,”

        Did you vote against ST2 too because Link doesn’t go to Madison Valley?

        In any case, a citywide transit network needs to look at what serves the most people and the widest variety of trips, not a particular few blocks. So I support Madison BRT and Roosevelt BRT even if I won’t be able to use them.

      16. “I observe that this dilemma is inherent to the geometry of Seattle rights-of-way, that every single BRT project ever proposed in this city will leave people facing similar choices, and it is therefore no surprise at all that every BRT proposal thus far has been watered down to the point of uselessness. I predict that every BRT proposal in the future will encounter the same opposition for the same reasons.”

        I don’t believe in giving up just because it’s difficult. It mostly revolves around people’s attitudes, and people’s attitudes can change. Already we’re accomplishing more than the public/politicians were willing to ten years ago, and each decade has been better than the one before going back to the 80s. At some point the majority of people will immediately accept transit lanes and paying taxes for several underground lines, because they’ll see it substantially improves their quality of life, and depending on automobile infrastructure is a dead-end. The level of transit and walkability just needs to get good enough to reach the tipping point. It may have happened already given Move Seattle and the council elections, but we won’t know definitively for a year or two when there’s more evidence. And it may be that winning elections comes before the opposition to removing parking spaces and GP lanes weakens. One of the things businesses are looking at is the number of walk-in clients vs drive-in clients. The construction boom on Madison will bring more walk-in clients, and eventually businesses will realize there’s massive pent-up demand for walk-in access to businesses.

      17. Did you vote against ST2 too because Link doesn’t go to Madison Valley?

        Hell no. I voted for ST2, just like I voted for the monorail, because I am looking forward to the day that Seattle has a citywide transit network and it is no longer necessary to put up with cars and buses.

        I don’t believe in giving up just because it’s difficult.

        Neither do I! That’s why I refuse to accept all the cheapskate nonsense about “BRT”. Forget BRT – it’s a distraction. Still just a bus, still sucks, still won’t solve the problem no matter how much money you throw at it. We need a real transit network and we need it yesterday. We need to light a fire under ST’s collective ass, get them moving, smack them around until they drop this weird fixation on their useless Canada-to-Mexico “spine”, and get on with the project of building grade-separated light rail through all of Seattle’s major travel corridors. Expensive? Of course! But we need to do it, so let’s stop cheaping out, let’s stop wasting money on fancy paint jobs for buses that are still just crappy ol’ buses at the end of the day, and get on with finding the money we need to do the job right and build ourselves the transit network we really want to have.

  18. Given how poor a route choice Madison is, if they can’t make the entire route real BRT they should just scrap the whole concept and let Metro make routing decisions that actually make sense. This project has already helped ruin the U-Link restructure, it may be time to cut their losses while they can, and put in transit priority west of Broadway or 12th for other routes.

    1. Given how poor a route choice Madison is

      What are you talking about? That is nonsense. Madison is one the most densely populated, most destination filled street in the city! Poor choice my ass.

      This project has already helped ruin the U-Link restructure,

      How the hell did this ruin the U-Link restructure? This has nothing to do with the restructure. If anything, it is trying desperately to save the restructure.

      Maybe you are confusing this project with Sound Transit’s decision to have only one station between Westlake and the UW. That certainly screwed up the U-Link restructure. Big time.

  19. May I beat the drum again that Martin posted about several months ago? For all the difficulties – technical, financial, and political – that Madison BRT faces, widespread disregard for BAT lanes (on Madison and anywhere) is one that seems technically simple and politically straightforward. BAT compliance can, with modest infrastructure and administrative staff, be photo-enforced – no real-time stops, no uniformed police involvement. Same basic infrastructure as bridge toll collection, on a portable setup similar to the “your speed is” signs, move them around on a schedule to get and keep people out of the habit.

    Politically straightforward – net cost would be modest, the law already exists and is clear. No police practices to change. Seems like the sort of “broken windows policing” approach that SDOT should be clamoring for and eager to support, entirely apart from Madison BRT or any other big projects.

    1. “BAT lane” compliance can’t be enforced so easily, because “I was planning to turn right but the driveway was blocked or I saw something which made me change my mind” is actually a legitimate excuse. Not cut-and-dried.

      Bus lane enforcement for true bus lanes (such as center-running bus lanes) CAN be done. It’s very different because there are no excuses for being in the bus lane.

  20. I just wanted to say the graphic is awesome and needs to be developed and included in any discussion about surface bus routes leading into and out of downtown Seattle (and Bellevue for that matter).

    The tyranny of car lanes and on street parking needs to end now (where it makes sense).

      1. So it wouldn’t have five GP lanes in addition to BRT, or even four like MLK has. That’s why the debate is more acute; people wouldn’t mind as much going from six lanes to four as from four to two, or taking out a parking lane for BRT. That’s why the opposition is so strong.

      2. Right. In some ways the debate is like the HOV 3 versus HOV 2 debate. If you change to HOV 3, then a lot of people will not gain any advantage whatsoever when they carry another person. Despite the fact that they are carrying twice as many people, getting twice as many miles per person per gallon, they have to slog along with everyone else. Sorry. It is simply for the greater good. I have a lot of sympathy for folks who would lose their two person carpool advantage, but I sure as hell want HOV 3. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. Taking as many lanes as possible to make this work is the way to do it.

        As it is, there are plenty of lanes being taken. It is just that the lanes are being taken in a poor way. As I mentioned, if you simply make the one way sections of Spring and Madison two way (with the new lanes bus only lanes) you essentially have free running there. This is just as fast a center running. No stalls because of right turning cars. That leaves a small gap from 6th to 9th and the gap at the end (beyond 18th). Everything else would run very quickly (like a car at 3:00 AM). Here is my analysis of those:

        6th to 9th is only three blocks (Madison is working with the grid here). I would love to see center running here, but I’m not sure if matters that much. I have no idea what the issue with center running is here. If it is money, then spend the money, in my opinion (and shorten the line if you have to).

        From 18th to MLK is a long ways. It is a little less than a mile. I really don’t know what the issue is — why they can’t do center running here. About half of this is from 23rd to MLK . It makes sense to extend this to MLK, but not if it can’t be done right. That section is not essential, which is why it was an option. I don’t know how much faster this line would be if it turned around at 23rd, but it should be considered, especially since the average speed of a bus on this section will probably exceed the average speed of a bus on most of the line (when it is traveling through a busier area). Again, I don’t want that, but if folks really want this to be extended to MLK, then they should fight for center running all the way there. Otherwise I think we should shrink the line to 23rd, as this would be for the greater good.

      3. “I really don’t know what the issue is — why they can’t do center running here.”

        We don’t know that they can’t. We need to find out how strong the factors against it are and whether we can bend the curve.

      4. Ross, your scheme is damn good. But… it requires two street crossings to get from a eastbound stop to a westbound stop. Madison and Marion instead, maybe?

        Of course, center-running bus lanes across the bridge over I-5 are vital. Guess what, those aren’t in the current plan, are they?

      5. I was thinking of Madison and Marion as well. Funny coincidence. I’ve thought enough about the idea to come up with a Page 2 post. I may throw something up there today (even though it won’t be very polished).

      6. The advantage of Spring is that it’s a lot closer to a DSTT entrance.

        And I don’t think the two street crossings are so bad. Who would need to get from an eastbound stop to a westbound stop? Especially so close to the end of a line, when buses are live-looped?

      7. I decided to write up a blog post with contraflow on Marion after all. I address your concern, William. It is actually only a block closer, and only for half the trips (the other half involve Madison either way). Meanwhile, ferry riders are a half block closer, both directions (assuming a stop on 1st or Western).

        There is a trade-off here, but I think it is a good one. Turning right from Madison to get to Spring is not easy. I had some ideas, but none sounded that great compared to extending the center lanes all the way to 6th.

      8. “Who would need to get from an eastbound stop to a westbound stop?”

        People with disabilities who want to be closer to their transfer or destination, or who need to board in a flat place.

  21. Why do they allow parking (especially west of Broadway) anywhere/anytime on Madison, starting forever ago? First off, that constriction WB at McDonalds from 2 to 1 causes all sorts of havoc every frickin day, and secondly that is very, very unreliable parking. I mean, who is going to drive to one of those businesses and really expect to find a spot there? It just seems like a lot of sacrifice for a few dozen cars to have very erratic and irregular access to parking. I guess I’m biased, but what modern Seattleite even momentarily contemplates driving and parking in the CBD/CH/FH/LQA between 5am and 10pm? It’s beyond logic.

  22. Why does this even need to be an official BRT project?!?!?

    Going the BRT direction just means it will cost many tens of millions, take 4-5 years minimum, require endless process and be overly engineered/designed in alignment and equipment. This is exactly what we are seeing now. If they went the simple bus lane direction for this project for the length of the street, say, literally painting the center lanes red (painting lanes red is obviously becoming more common around downtown) and build right side island stops just like we see on Dexter, this could be done by sometime next year for a fraction of the cost and quite frankly work 10 times better!!!! Oh and use the brand new electric trolleys that are arriving anyway and that were probably even allotted to this route in the procurement of the vehicles a couple years ago!!! You cant tell me painting the center lanes red and building 10 Dexter-like island stops would cost more than $15 million which is what Move Seattle has provided funds for. Yet the full Madison BRT project is to cost about $85 million, and for what?????

    1. The process is to decide whether to just paint lanes or do more. And it’s implementing the Transit Master Plan which the city approved in 2012. The TMP designates Madison as an HCT BRT corridor. (The level above that is HCT Rail: Westlake/Fremont/Ballard, Eastlake/Roosevelt, and CCC. The level below that is Priority Bus, which is the seven corridors in Move Seattle and a few others that haven’t been addressed yet. Since then Roosevel’s favored mode has switched to BRT.) If they’re going to do the entire package of upgrades, they can either do the restriping as part of it or separately. Doing it with it unifies planning and lowers costs, and gets a BRT line on the ground sooner.

  23. A BRT along an important arterial like Madison St. is a waste of time. Why do people discuss bad ideas here instead of pushing for bigger ideas that are much more effective in moving people?

    I’m talking about pushing for real rapid transit, the kind that’s grade separated and goes above or below street traffic, moves lots of people, and gets to places quickly and reliably.

    Sure, it’s expensive, but these type of half measures are really bad ideas. Is there enough density to support the projected ridership? Think those people living closer to the end of the line are going to walk from the multi-million dollar homes along Lake Washington to a bus stop on Madison St and take the bus to work? Really?

    1. >Is there enough density to support the projected ridership?


      >Think those people living closer to the end of the line are going to walk from the multi-million dollar homes along Lake Washington to a bus stop on Madison St and take the bus to work?

      Some, but there’s also other people who will take the brt.

      >Why do people discuss bad ideas here instead of pushing for bigger ideas that are much more effective in moving people?

      Rail can’t go everywhere. Buses are important to fill gaps. Madison BRT will connect people to/from the Center City Connector streetcar and most likely the 2nd DT tunnel in ST3. Even NYC has great and well used BRT lines which interact well with the subway system.

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