SDOT Director Scott Kubly introducing the project
SDOT Director Scott Kubly introducing the project

Last night SDOT hosted a crowd of nearly 200 people to hear the latest Preferred Concept Design for the Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. SDOT staff and Nelson Nygaard walked attendees through the rationale for the project (inclusion in Seattle’s Transit Master Plan), the preferred alignment, stop and facilities treatments, fleet plans, funding, and alignment.

Much of the discussion would have been familiar to those who had attended previous SDOT meetings or read the various coverage on the project here, at the Seattle Times, and on The Urbanist. The route will run on Madison street from 1st Avenue to MLK Blvd in Madison Valley, with varying levels of transit priority between 1st and 18th Avenues, and mixed traffic from 18th-MLK.

IMG_1015 2

SDOT has a mandate to go big.
SDOT has a mandate to go big.

Analysis and commentary after the jump.

Outbound Alignment: Beginning at a shared stop with the Center City Connector (CCC) streetcar on 1st Avenue between Madison and Spring, the line would run uphill on Spring Street in Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes. Near SPL there would be a shared stop with Route 2, with the BRT line boarding on both sides via an additional island platform. At I-5, the bus would transition to the right hand side, with minor potential vehicle conflicts at the turns from Spring to 8th and from 8th to Madison. Once on Madison, the line would enjoy dedicated center lanes from 9th through 15th, after which there would be a short BAT lane section (15th-18th) followed by mixed traffic for the final .8 miles to MLK.

Inbound Alignment: The story inbound is much the same, with mixed traffic until 18th Avenue, transit priority to 9th, and BAT lanes downtown. The only twist is that SDOT assured the crowd that the bus wouldn’t get stuck in the I-5 queue at 6th/Madison, but instead the bus would stay center-right until across the freeway, and only then running in a right-hand BAT lane to 1st Avenue.

Downtown traffic interactions: Nelson Nygaard stressed that SDOT wanted to retain two general purpose travel lanes west of I-5, which restricted available choices for dedicated ROW. By my count, the downtown BAT lanes will conflict with 8 parking garages and up to 6 vehicle turning movements:

  • Parking Garages with access on Madison or Spring:
    • 2nd & Seneca Building
    • 1111 3rd Avenue
    • 1110 3rd Avenue
    • 415 Seneca St
    • SPL Loading Dock
    • Safeco Plaza
    • 1015 3rd Avenue
    • 1000 2nd Avenue
  • Potential Turning Conflicts
    • Left turns from Spring to 3rd (off-peak)
    • Left turns from Spring to 4th (all day)
    • Left turns from Spring to 6th (all day)
    • Right turns from Madison to 4th (all day)
    • Right turns from Madison to 3rd (off peak)
    • Right turns from Madison to 1st (all day)

Fleet: SDOT also confirmed that the line will require a new, dedicated trolley fleet, with 60′ articulated trolleys with 5 doors (3 right, 2 left). SDOT staff also said they’ll ask New Flyer to spec a non-articulated 40′ version as well. While this permits left-side boarding, it adds operational complexity to the line and reduces its resilience by eliminating interoperability. SDOT also said that they have no plans to order diesel coaches with doors on both sides, leaving an open question whether or not the line would shut down during maintenance if the overhead were inoperable.

Funding: Move Seattle provides $15m of the estimated $120m cost, or 12.5%. The remaining would likely come from federal grants, most likely Small Starts.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.32.51 AM

So how should transit advocates feel about this project? Despite any media narratives of “showdowns” or “battles” brewing, first and foremost this would be a substantial improvement on the status quo. Even with the disappointing downtown BAT lanes, the concept goes a long way to reducing the worst bottlenecks (especially near I-5) that kill reliability on Routes 2 and 12 today. Running 60′ buses every 6 minutes Monday-Saturday (instead of today’s 40′ buses every 15 minutes) would be a fantastic 275% capacity improvement. The station-level amenities would speed boarding and beautify the corridor. The center-running section that the First Hill neighborhood fought for would represent a needed paradigm shift for transit priority in Seattle. There’s a lot of good in this project.

But by building a short center-running section, the line locks in all of the operational sacrifices of a closed corridor without fully realizing its benefits. It requires a special fleet that reduces resilience, it likely locks Route 2 onto Seneca in perpetuity, it sacrifices reliability for the sake of 2 GP lanes downtown, and it makes a permanent service planning decision for the sake of ~10 blocks of special right-of-way. It fails to plan for growth in East Capitol Hill, the C.D., and Madison Valley, unwisely relies on an assumption of continued free flowing traffic between 18th-MLK, and gives transit no resilience when collisions or other vehicular blockages inevitably get in its way. Finally, it relies upon a BAT lane solution downtown that consistently fails for lack of enforcement. So while it’s still important to recognize that we’re in the fortunate position of fighting to make a good idea even better, transit advocates still have a lot of work to do as this project evolves.

117 Replies to “Madison BRT Is Good, But Let’s Fight to Make it Great”

    1. new special buses, new bus stops, card readers, rebuilt streets with bus only lanes in cement, electric bus wire….

      Its sad that we want to spend all of this and still not give full priority to buses because “its not needed yet”

      So do we tear up and rebuild again when it is??

    2. That “it’s not needed yet” was the pivotal phrase of the evening. SDOT says its studies show that congestion between 13th and 23rd is not bad enough to require center lanes, therefore it doesn’t feel justified in doing them anyway, but that that could change if there’s overwhelming public feedback for them. I told them they’re thinking about it the wrong way around: they should start with a top-quality transit line, and the burden of proof should be on the opponents why a certain segment should be downgraded.

      In any case, travel time from 1st to 23rd with this alignment is 9 1/2 minutes, so that actually exceeds my 10-15 minute assumption. If the preferred alignment can achieve 10 minutes, that may be OK. I asked if extending the center lanes to 23rd was more expensive than BAT lanes and would endanger the MLK extension. The rep said center lanes aren’t intrinsically much more expensive, but between 13th and 23rd it would require widening the street and pushing out the sidewalks, and that’s a major expense they want to avoid and might endanger the MLK extension. They also said the 17th intersection wouldn’t work with center lanes; they tried to fit it in and couldn’t. Center lanes would also block left turns.

      They said the eastbound transition to BAT would be at a traffic light with a queue jump, so it would give the bus a green before the car in the right lane. The westbound transition to center lanes will be anywhere within a block, so the bus can change lanes wherever there’s an opening.

      1. I would really, really, really like to see their basis for the 9.5-minute time. It seems so amazing I can hardly believe it. But if they can reliably achieve that, it would justify every decision they’ve made on the alignment.

      2. So we have money for over engineered design and custom buses and a $120M project but changing the curb locations and electrifying to Madison Park we don’t have money for?

      3. According to WSDOT, studies also show a reconfiguration of the left-hand ramps at SR 520 & I-5 interchange have little impact on traffic. But if anyone with eyes went out there and watched for an hour, it’s a different story. Computer models can only tell us so much.

      4. @William — That does seem incredible, but not that crazy when you do the math. It is a little over two miles, which means it is an average of 12 MPH. I think one of the big factors is signal prioritization. Imagine driving that distance in very low traffic (3:00 AM) and making every light. You are there very quickly. Now add back the time spent at every stop. The dwell times should be tiny (perhaps shorter than Link). That is what SDOT is claiming.

        I’m not sure if it is true all the time. I see a lot of potential problems — I see a lot of maneuvers that will not resemble 3:00 AM traffic. but maybe not. I hate to freak out when they have actually done the work.

      5. By Seattle standards dedicated lanes for EmX in Eugene wouldn’t be needed yet, but they did it anyway.

        You can’t argue that a doubling of ridership they experienced a short time after opening wasn’t good.

  1. Was there any discussion of how the 2, 12, and 60 will be impacted? If they are stuck in general purposes lanes between 9th and Broadway I fear worsening of reliably for these heavily used routes.

    1. Presumably the 2 would stay on Seneca, the 12 would be eliminated or restructured in some way (could run 19th-Thomas-John Olive, or 19th-Madison-16th-Pine, for example), and the 60 isn’t planned to be changed, i.e it would still run on Madison but not in the busway. It would serve separate stops on the curb.

    2. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 60 changes as well to become more of a straight shot. A lot of these bus routes go on Madison just to help with the high volume of people going along there. That won’t be an issue anymore.

      I think the only bus that will spend much time on Madison will be the 11. The silly back and forth will be eliminated, and the bus will go on John, making it faster (with very nice connections to both Link and this BRT line). That is argument for plain old BAT lanes there (not center running) so that the 11 can also take advantage of that lane. Center running would probably force a lot of cars into that right lane.

      As far as the 2 goes, it is one more reason to go with the contraflow . Such a route would not much with the 2.

    3. The 60 detours to 9th because the neighborhood asked for it to, to get closer to the center of First Hill and Harborview. I don’t know that Madison BRT makes much difference to it because it goes completely different directions. But there’s also the streetcar. So I don’t know, is that enough reason to move the 60? I do find it very slow; e.g., from Broadway to 9th & Madison, or Broadway to Little Saigon. And 12th Avenue has been asking for a route for a long time. Also, it’s been a long time since the 60’s route was set; maybe the neighborhood doesn’t feel as strongly about it now.

      1. If folks still want the 60 to make the detour to 9th, it could do so on Seneca, sharing service with a small part of the 2.

  2. For $120 million?!? We could do a lot better taking that $15 million in the bank (so to speak) and making spot improvements including painting lanes red instead of this overengineered highly complex design with custom inflexible buses zigzagging between sides of the street in traffic clogged BAT lanes. I still think the way to go use the brand new fleet of regular fleet trolleys, simply painting the center lanes red, building simple right side island stops just like on Dexter and a few other easy improvements. By looking at this as a BRT project it is becoming this huge expensive complex project, versus accomplishing almost the same results with SDOT spot bus improvements (like bus lanes) for much, much less money, process, consultants and time. They had a board yesterday breaking down the cost of the project and it was amazing how much was design/engineering and custom buses.

    1. It would be interesting to see how far we could get towards BRT with just a bucket of red paint.

      1. Or just remove all of the parking on Madison. That would be cheap and achieve some of the time savings of BRT at a trivial fraction of the cost.

        I ride the 12 a lot. It has 2 main schedule-killing traffic problems.

        1) WB Madison, the right lane west of Boren is severely congested with I-5 traffic. In the AM peak the backup usually reaches Terry. In the PM peak I’ve seen it run as far as Broadway in extreme cases, and usually it is beyond Boren.

        2) The EB Marion segment tends to get badly congested between 4th and 5th in the PM peak. Most of the traffic on Marion is in the right lanes queuing to turn onto 5th or 6th and the 12 gets stuck in that backup trying to stop at the bus stop just east of 4th. The back-in angle parking on Marion takes up a lot of street for very few cars. Removing that parking could open up some street configuration options.

        I hope we could resolve both of issues for less than $120MM.

        Besides those two points, the 12 actually runs pretty well, and it would run a lot better if the parking along its route was gone 24/7.

      2. That’s been done in NYC & it’s ridiculous. Please, please Seattle… don’t make the same mistake. This is coming from a New Yorker mind you.

  3. Some thoughts on the walking and biking aspects of this project from the advocates who were there last night:
    1) As depicted in one of the drawings, Union St protected bike lanes must be one ways rather than a combined two-way due to the steepness of the hill.
    2) Intersections are often the weakest links: For the protected bike lanes crossing 12th Ave is going to be tricky and take careful engineering (the squaring up of Union depicted in one of the visualizations was a good start, but more needs to be done). At the 6 way intersection at 24th Ave E where there is proposed to be a stop, there needs to be thoughtful design work to make safe, easy, and intuitive to cross.
    3) Sidewalk width must not be compromised and many are in need of repairs – especially on First Hill.
    4) At one point a slide incorrectly labeled the Denny St neighborhood greenway and Union St protected bike lanes as alternatives, when as the presenter pointed out, they are both needed – even if one is to be built first.

  4. What was SDOT’s understanding of the public outcry? It seems like the post-it notes of less-than-satisfied residents were pretty representative.

  5. Why couldn’t these buses be used on other RapidRide+ corridors, now that Move Seattle has passed? The 44 from Ballard to UDistrict and the line on Rainier Ave come to mind.

    1. Unless they make the RapidRide+ corridors center running, they wouldn’t be able to use Madison BRT buses on these corridors. The big difference is that they would have left side doors. Since there’s talk of them having doors on both sides, this might be less of an issue. Plus, I’ve heard that the Madison BRT buses need to be 40′ to avoid issues with the hills (flexing back and forth in the center while going up the steep hills). The RapidRide+ corridors you mention already run 60′ 95% of the time, so using Madison BRT buses for these corridors would be a step backward for capacity.

    2. I asked the person who seemed to know the most about 45th, and he said that later this month SDOT will submit to the council an amendment to the Transit Master Plan that would reroute the corridor from Ballard to Children’s as has often been suggested here, and make other unspecified changes to the seven corridors. Then they’ll get to work on designing the corridors. Multiple reps said that left-side doors would be of particular benefit in the 45th corridor, enabling things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I mentioned the bottleneck from I-5 to Roosevelt, and he said they’re considering center lanes from I-5 on east. (I’m not sure if he meant to 15th or further.) I didn’t ask about the other parts of the line to give them room to solidify a proposal, although I mentioned that parking in Wallingford would be an even more difficult issue than on Madison.

      1. I look forward to seeing what solution they propose for the 44. Its a highly problematic route and needs a lot of help that will be difficult to achieve without a lot of special work.

        In the more good news column, it sounds like more fixes are coming soon to the 40 before its 2023ish Rapid Ride + debut.

        The Westlake ave fix downtown next year for the 40 may be only the beginning of incremental fixes that will make even the regular route more reliable in the very near future.

      2. I’m just nervous that if they build out too much for a RapidRide+ route through the 45th corridor, that will dash any hope of a light rail line along that route. Although I definitely see the benefit to moving the endpoint to Children’s, it’s going to make transfers to Link or Montlake Freeway station routes substantially harder than they already are.

      3. @Ren Bussell. A better flowing route on 45th can only increase ridership, making it an even better candidate for light rail.

        Have Rapid Ride C/D reduced calls for light rail to Ballard/West Seattle?

  6. Excellent post, Zach. I really like the way you laid out the pros and cons of this. There is a lot to like, but a lot to be concerned about as well. For downtown, I like this: If parking is removed, you would still have two lanes of general purpose traffic on the streets. The other pros and cons of this route are discussed in the post, but this would essentially get you unobstructed travel west of 13th.

    East of 18th, I would just like to see BAT lanes. It would be great, of course, to have center running all the way to MLK, but that might not be possible. If the bus does move over to BAT lanes on 13th, then it makes sense to continue those all the way to MLK. From 13th to MLK, BAT lanes should be fine. Eastbound, there aren’t that many right turns — the only major one is at MLK, where a bus may be turning around anyway. Westbound is similar, with the one big right turn at John. On the other hand, there is a major left turn on this route: eastbound on Madison to northbound on 23rd. Running in the center would be fairly expensive and not gain you that much.

  7. For the BRT to make sense it should be going east to Madison Park where there already is a logical turn around point with a rest stop for the drivers. Yes, it will cost more, but what kind of bus service would be provided by Metro East of MLK? Would Metro do to the 11 riders what they are doing to the 43 users, namely peak hour service only?

    I for on no longer trust Metro given the news I heard last night about the 8 and 11 restructure via 19th Avenue East being dropped since the 8/11 can’t turn at 19th Avenue East. I voted for Move Seatle so that we would have stable and reliable service on East Madison that wouldn’t be up to the whims of Metro planners.

    1. We’ve heard that too and will write about it once we get official word. For now that’s not been publicly released.

    2. A poster said a Madison Park extension may appear in a later phase, and the feedback form asked if people want it. I wrote yes.

      1. Mike,

        A big thank you for those of us living east of MLK! I would also be willing to bet from what I know that the Valley residents would rather have the BRT not turn around there.

      2. Every neighborhood has its NIMBYs. I wrote my feedback in hoping to counteract some of that, since I live as close to the turnaround/layover area as anyone, and told them they ought to ignore neighborhood feedback for once and just do whatever the engineers think best.

    3. I should hope they make Madison Park a destination on this route. Doesn’t make sense to me if it’s called Madison BRT but doesn’t go to Madison Park.

      1. Madison Park has a very popular beach as I’m sure most people know, mobbed with people during the decent weather months. Whether that’s enough to help justify BRT all the way to MP, I don’t know, but it is a regional attraction that attracts a lot of people. I think everyone, especially MP residents, would much rather people came by bus than by their own car to take up parking and clog the streets. Of course much of the reason people do drive to the beach at MP is that the bus service is infrequent (~30 mins) and unreliable with delays very common on the 11 (thanks again to all those cars clogging the streets looking for free street parking).

      2. Poncho,

        Your comments are right on and I would have to add that a lot of people are employed in MP, like at Park Shore and at Broadmore. Yes, MP is a major attraction in Seattle and we get tour buses through our neighborhood during the tourist season.

        You are right about the bus service which is much better with the 15-minute frequency, but the bus is still not reliable even on Saturdays. Can one imagine what going back to 30 let alone 60-minute or only peak hour service would mean for MP?

      3. Nobody except you has talked about making the 11 peak-only or 60-minute. Even Metro’s cut scenarios never contemplated that.

    4. “I for on no longer trust Metro given the news I heard last night about the 8 and 11 restructure via 19th Avenue East being dropped”

      Isn’t that what you wanted? To either restructure the 11 further or revert it to its current routing? It seems like mid Madison wins, while John goes down to only the 8 and a peak-only 43. And the distance from Pine Street to the southern Capitol Hill Station entrance has been persistently overrated, so maybe it’s not the end of the world for Link transferers.

      “since the 8/11 can’t turn at 19th Avenue East.”

      You’re mad because Metro didn’t fully test the turn before the proposal? The reorg was on a very tight timeframe, remember, and the rest of it would have to remain pending while Metro tested this intersection.

      “I voted for Move Seatle so that we would have stable and reliable service on East Madison that wouldn’t be up to the whims of Metro planners.”

      Then you should be glad that SDOT is designing the BRT corridors rather than Metro.

      As for what the other bus routes will be like after Madison BRT opens, I assume there will be another reorg. In the meantime we just have to put our best proposals forward.

      1. If all this is true, and Madison/Pine keeps the #11, then basically what we got was the nearly universally-panned Alternative 2, an intact legacy network that ignores Link and mostly cuts the 43. IMO, the answer to this debacle (and David L agrees with me) would then be to move the #10 to John. John/Olive between 15th-CHS-Downtown is more important than serving 15th between John-Pine and adding even more redundant service on Pine from 15th-Downtown.

        Otherwise the introduction of Link screws a lot of people and the restructure process was largely a waste: east Capitol Hill would gain nothing at all from the restructure, Thomas/John would go from the current 8 buses per hour to 5, all of 23rd/24th loses off-peak service without the frequency boost to make it palatable, and the 8 would be the ONLY off-peak route east of Broadway that would connect to Link at CHS. Riders on the 10, 11, 12, 43, and 48 would gain little or nothing.

      2. Zach: My thoughts exactly. Somehow we’ve gone from a great proposal with lots of new connections (the original alternative 1) to “the restructure that wasn’t.” It’s incredibly disappointing. I’d forgotten that this is basically what the old alternative 2 was.

        My only hope now is that by the time Madison BRT is ready (2019) people have realized that Link exists and is vastly more useful than buses continuing to trundle downtown. In the meantime I guess I’ll just have to live with having my service to the Capitol Hill station cut in half despite living along the arterial that connects directly to the station.


      3. David – Don’t forget about Northeast Seattle. That’s a great restructure – and even if you don’t like it, you can’t deny it’s a huge restructure.

      4. Zach, regarding the #10 change, metro could do a little damage control here and at least make an administrative change to the #9 to run up John and layover behind group health. This was discussed in one of the earlier alternatives abut was dropped at some point. Suddenly this bit of added service up the hill seems critical. Doesn’t have all the benefits of changing the 10 but it would be a quick fix.

      5. “the answer to this debacle (and David L agrees with me) would then be to move the #10 to John.”

        +1. That has been suggested here, and Metro suggested it at one of the reorg sounding board meetings. I don’t know what the general feedback was but I suspect it wasn’t as toxic as rerouting the 11 or 12 or cutting the 43.

      6. William, I should have been more specific: I think the Capitol Hill portion of the restructure is a huge disappointment. I’m very much in support of the NE Seattle restructure.

      7. I suspect the thinking is now to wait until after Link opens to do the restructure when there is new data about what bus service is being used and not used. Then there will be a big shakeup after people have reshaped their travel behavior to utilize Link.

      8. Capitol Hill was always going to be difficult because it’s such a short distance from end to end, the multifamily areas are arranged in a stick-shift shape, people want to go from everywhere to everywhere, and it’s surrounded by hard barriers like I-5 and 520 and steep hillsides. Every proposal has been a tradeoff, all about equally good and bad. None of them was wonderful. The 43 really did connect all the dense areas, and to their most common destinations the U-District and downtown. But it was grid incorrect, and so is the 49 and 10. The 8-Madison looks good on paper but it contradicts the majority of trips which are to downtown, and Denny Way just doesn’t have enough destinations to be a substitute, unlike one of the crosstown streets in Chicago. So the status quo is a viable option here for now, and it does have the advantage that people already know where the buses go and how frequently, so they know what the impact will be and how to get around it and where to curse. After Link has been running for a year, we’ll see whether ridership really goes down on the 49 and 43, whether the 10 and 11 become stronger backbones, how many complaints about 23rd transfers come up, etc.

      9. Mike,

        The facs on the ground are very well stated by you and I fully agree and said that in a Page 2 post in June 2015. But, does Metro have the back bone to admit they failed in restructuring the Cetral Area? THey already have egg on their face for the 8./11 19th Aven East fiasco! I feel that Metro needs to no return full serive on the 43 too!

        Maybe one should hope that Metro planners start taking some advice frm the STB.

      10. Just because something doesn’t work out is no reason to use hyperbole like fiasco and egg on faces.

        Restoring the 43 would probably require rejoining the 8 and 38, 45 and 48, and/or canceling the 49’s frequency increase (from 15 to something like 8 minutes) to get enough hours for the 43. So that would impact other areas than just the 43 or just Capitol Hill.

    5. I think your argument is contradictory and a bit paranoid. The 43 was almost killed because there aren’t that many people in Montlake going that way and there are alternatives. Someone from Montlake can take the 48 and transfer to any number of buses to get downtown.

      This is simply not true of Madison Park. Madison Park may not have enough people to justify all day, six minute BRT service, but it sure as hell has enough people to justify bus service. Especially bus service to a subway or an all day every six minute, sub ten minute ride to the far end of downtown. At worst there will be less frequency (because it is difficult to justify high frequency if not that many people ride the bus). But if there really are very few people riding the bus, then it is crazy to suggest that the BRT be extended that far.

      If the area becomes more dense, then I could definitely see it. I think it would be wonderful if the BRT went from one side to the other. But that only makes sense when the eastern side is not magnitudes less popular or populous than the rest of the line. To ask the city to spend oodles of money on service which relatively few people ride only makes sense if we have money to burn. So my suggestion is to either pass the hat (Kickstarter perhaps?) or push for more density in the area. Good luck.

      1. Ross,

        So what kind of service do you propose for MP if the eastern end of the RT is at MLK? BTW, any time your want to replace Broadmore with denser housing I’m for it!

        Do you really think that Metro will continue 7 days a week bus service for 20 hours a day? BTW, I suggested MP for the east end of the BRT since that would allow Metro to drop the 11 and SDOT would able to use existing bus facilities in MP.

      2. Reg, how about an 11 that starts in Madison Park, turns onto John/Thomas, connects to the light rail station, and then follows Olive Way and Pine into downtown (or turns on Broadway to head to First Hill)? People who need to get to destinations on Madison can connect to the Madison BRT in Madison Valley.

      3. Sorry, but that was rejected in June 2015 since it give no bus access on East Madison between 24th Ave East and 19th Ave East. There is a lot of growth/construction on East Madison and I see each day I ride the bus.

        Again keeping the bus as is until 15th Ave East and East Pine and then to LR is acceptable to me, how about you?

      4. Not oodles of money. It’s only 3/4 mile and two or three stops. Extending the route to Madison Park doesn’t necessarily mean extending the BRT features. It just requires the bus itself going there and making the stops like the 11 does. The three layover spaces in the valley are rumored to be unpopular, so if they get replaced with the existing layover spaces and perhaps one more, perhaps the neighborhood would see it as a positive.

      5. @Mike — 1st to MLK — 2.25 miles. MLK to McGilvra, 1.57 miles. That’s a 42% increase! That is oodles of money in my book.

        @RegN — The 11 is pretty good. I would simply straighten it out. Avoid the back and forth of 19th. Just turn on John, which would make it faster. I see no reason to change the frequency of that bus. The 43, on the other hand, is not long for this world.

        The other alternative (proposed way back when) is to send the 8 to Madison Park, as was originally proposed (thanks, Sean, for the reminder). That would certainly have enough frequency forever.

        I’m glad you welcome more density, that would greatly increase the likelihood of this being extended to Madison Park (which would be very nice).

      6. What about sending every other bus to Madison Park and the other buses terminate at the currently proposed terminus which can then be one less layover space (2 vs 3)?

      7. Reg: rejected by who in June 2015? I’m really upset with the way the changes on this side of the hill were completely unraveled by nameless “neighborhood concerns.” Metro’s planners didn’t come up with those ideas randomly; a lot of work went into those designs to make them very effective at connecting people to places. To have it all shot down because people don’t want to change their habits is incredibly frustrating.

        In any case, what’s done is done. My proposal here to straighten out the 11 by taking it off of Madison at John is intended for after Madison BRT is in place. That would provide plenty of service to Madison not just from 19th to 24th but all the way to 1st as well as a high frequency corridor connecting people (like you!) directly to the light rail station. Yes, I see all the new developments at 22nd too every time I walk to Trader Joe’s and Safeway, and I agree that serving them with good transit is important.

        As far having the 11 zig-zag along 15th: I’m completely opposed. Buses should go in straight lines whenever possible. In addition, unless you also rerouted the 10 there’d be far too much service on 15th, with routes to downtown headed in completely opposite directions.

        The restructure doesn’t work unless multiple routes change to support a new network of connectivity. Diverting a single route here or there is not enough. All of the routes need to work together in a legible and straightforward way to carry riders to a variety of destinations. That means changes for some people, which I acknowledge can be hard. But look at what insisting on the status quo has gotten us: worse access to the biggest transit investment in our area.

      8. Dave,

        I can live with the 11 going up East John, if and only if its after the BRT is implemented to Madison Park!

      9. “rejected by who in June 2015?”

        The Madison Cabal. Who apparently speak for only one faction of Madison-area residents.

      10. Mike,

        There is NO Madison or Madison Park Cabal, but maybe we need one. To be very honest and you can verify this, I was credited with stopping Metro’s June plan. FYI, the restructure was supposed to go to the KC Council in July, so you can blame me for that too. The removal of the 11 from Madison would be fine after BRT goes in.

        BTW, if you have sources in SDOT and Metro they will verify what I am saying!

    6. This discussion points to exactly why we should table Madison BRT for at least a year. With Link and streetcar openings eminent and bus restructure tweaking likely, we should have a bigger systems assessment once riders change their travel patterns. I’d hate to see us spend the effort and money to buy special buses and do this project if it doesn’t fit well in a restructured bus service.

  8. Dedicated vehicles are a good thing, because permanence inspires reciprocal investment. If Metro is locked in to this route and can’t easily change it or divert service elsewhere, that increases the value of moving one’s home or business closer to the bus route’s stops.

    1. … So how does that work for a streetcar? That’s the epitome of “dedicated vehicles,” but we almost unanimously dislike our implementation of streetcars. Has having the SLUS running increased the value of moving one’s home or business closer to SLUS stops? (I mean, I kinda doubt that Amazon’s increase in the area is due to there being a streetcar)

      1. You’re reading too much into what I’m saying; dedicated vehicles are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a successful transit system. I am merely pointing out that this feature which looks like a bad thing to planners actually looks like a good thing to passengers.

  9. And this is why I voted no for Move Seattle (FYI: I’m a bus commuter during the week…): to think we hand over this much money to the SDOT, only invest $15 million and hope the rest of the money is provided within the next 24 months? Couldn’t be further from reality considering their track record in securing the balance for other projects thru the feds.

    Money that is stolen from taxpayers to first pay labor contracts, engineering costs and “special” buses, then SDOT presents to a public forum”this is what we have left for reliability and planning for the future after paying everybody else”. Doesn’t add up to much, does it? But at least our property taxes will increase between 10-20% in aggregate for passing this fiasco.

    This city can do better, Move Seattle can do better. Until “transit advocates” say no to poor planning and not handing over money with no guarantees, you get what you pay for: crappy shortsighted planning.

  10. I’m very concerned about the buses operating in general traffic westbound. No matter the level of congestion today, when two GP lanes merge into one to accommodate BRT, there are going to be delays. And at the start of the run, that means that headway management is going to be crap the length of the line in the westbound direction.

    1. Agreed. This seems very short sighted to me, and its likely to be repeated on every subsequent “Rapid Ride +” corridor without significant push back.

      We need to make these capital investments worth what we are paying for them.

    2. Agreed. We’ll end up tearing it up and redoing it if we’re stingy on right-of-way, or we’ll eat operational costs, for an underperforming system, for years. Either way, a pile of money is wasted, to say nothing of lost opportunity and bus rider’s time, by not going center running.

    3. I agree, there should be a queue jump for the transition from BAT to center running. There should be BAT when there isn’t center running or contraflow.

  11. I’ve said it before and will say it again, unless somebody comes up with a good reason not to do it. Center lanes to permit right-hand-loading buses. With special signals for entering lanes- like at Bellevue Transit Center.

    And and no, you can’t do it with paint stripes of any color. I don’t think traffic barriers would need to be more than a couple of feet high- though if police and fire say no- then answer is no to the whole idea.

    Though I do remember paint-striped contraflow lanes on Second and Fourth during rush hour. Roughly same speeds or a little higher.

    But it does seem to me a good test to see how important it is for the B to have RT on the end of it. Precisely because buses are supposed to be able to get around double-parked cars, and stopped cabs, and trucks, that’s exactly what they’re going to have to do.

    With this arrangement, I can see only one real problem with streetcars: I don’t think they could climb those grades from First to, probably, Boren. Though there may still be hardware around from the Queen Anne counterbalance, Making the line Historic, and therefore non removable.

    Or, trains could use constantly-moving cables, with grips to grab and release. Main trouble there is that drivers have to be strong enough to”reef” on those levers. Meaning that the streetcar Operations and Maintenance base will need extra weight rooms, and Olympic coaches.

    With muscles, not rubber tires. Resulting in theft not only by pension and union dues, but also strong-armed robbery. Meaning, concentrate on theft by salaries of managers, but even better, consultants. The way they wimp out on decisions like fare-boxes in the Tunnel- squirt guns will work.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Why wouldn’t there be a station at 23rd Ave? 23rd Ave is another priority corridor for RapidRide, so there should be an easy and quick transfer point at the intersection of Madison and 23rd. The dedicated bus lane should also extend all the way east to account for anticipated growth and increased congestion. We should be doing this right the first time to make public transit as appealing and easy as possible.

    1. I was waiting for someone else to make this observation. I agree the pair of stops at 22nd and at 24th seem counter to the whole ULink reorganization where 23rd and Madison would be a major and frequently served transfer point for the 8 and 11 (and Madison BRT) to the 48 (and future 23rd Ave BRT). It seems like there was some communication breakdown between Nygaard/SDOT and Metro planners.

      From Reg N and Zach’s comments above, it sounds like this area will get even more complicated. If the 8 and 11 go back to John/Thomas at 23rd (which I support), then transferring around the inclined Madison/23rd/John triangle will be a mess no matter which way you slice it. Not sure what the best solution is there except really good pedestrian improvements and shelters.

      1. Again, from what I’ve heard from multiple sources including Metro the 8 and 11 stay as is. That means the 8 stays on East John/Thomas and the 11 stays on East Madison. There was not mention of putting the 8/11 both on East John/Thomas at all!!!!

      2. Leaving the 8 and 11 on their current routes would be a horrible idea that will ruin the restructure for people living in eastern Capitol Hill. If that happens, I would lose a lot of my trust in Metro.

      3. I don’t think that you are the only one who has lost their trust in Metro. I lost it in June of this year and they have nothing to gain it back and I believe that the Kind County Council will lose trust too. How could they have proposed a plan without seeing if the buses could navigate the route that they are proposing?

      4. I’d just like to take a moment and give a shout out to Metro planners, and point out how foresighted their proposal for this area was waaaaay back in March’s Alternative 1, before it got Seattle Processed.

        The #8 would have run to Madison park instead of down MLK, and the new #38 would have run up MLK from Mt Baker, and then replaced the 11 all the way to Broadway on it’s current route, and then turned up pine street passing in front of the station and terminating at Aloha. (In my opinion the flaw in the plan was that the #8 has a branding issue. I think if they had switched the names and called the Denny route #38 and MLK #8 it may have gone over better.) If they had the opportunity to propose this again, I think the public would be much more receptive.

      5. @William — I completely agree. I do think, though, that Metro will restructure some of these routes (it will only need to modify some of them a tiny bit).

        As for the 8, Sean, that is really amazing. That would be absolutely fantastic for folks in Madison Park. To have #8 frequency and one stop connections to Queen Anne (along with very fast, very frequent two stop connections to downtown as well as Link) would be quite something.

      6. Has someone forgotten about the 8 being stuck in the Mercer Mess or did someone eliminate that problem while I wasn’t looking? You will have a hard sell convincing users of the 11 that Queen Anne is more important than their destination on East Madison and on Pine!

        Metro had the chance to make its current plan work by having the 11 run up toe 15th Ave East and East Pine and then north to Light Rail, but they said that was too long a run and I was told that today! I could have lived with that revision given that the combination of the 11 and Light Rail via 15th would still be a faster trip downtown then today! Yes, this plan would put the 8 back on John/Thomas but this is a good thing in my humble view!

    2. 22nd & Madison is a good place for a Madison-BRT stop because it is an actual destination, full of pedestrian-friendly retail, with two big developments in progress that will bring even more. There’s nothing at 23rd & Madison but a church and a psychic, both with very limited hours. What’s more, assuming Madison-BRT would stop just east of 22nd, as Route 11 currently does, the walk over to 23rd is trivial – it’s the same distance you’d walk when transferring from a northbound bus at “3rd & Pike” to an eastbound bus at “3rd & Pike”!

      1. >> There’s nothing at 23rd & Madison but a church and a psychic

        Yes, but the psychic knows exactly when the next bus is coming.

        Seriously though, I agree. That is a short walk , and the stop has benefits for the folks who walk to the bus as you describe.

  13. “Finally, it relies upon a BAT lane solution downtown that consistently fails for lack of enforcement.” Lack of enforcement is of course the key to the failure of any such grandiose plans. The woonerf on Bell St. is signed so that SOV must turn off it after one block. I bike it (and bikes, like buses, are exempt from this) all the time and I’m nearly always following a vehicle that continues on Bell from Sixth to First with no concern and obviously not a clue there’s a sign telling it to turn every single block.

    1. If we’re not willing to pay for enforcement officers, we should have enforcement cameras at a minimum.

      1. Cameras is the way to go. It pains me to see cops pulling over folks because they aren’t following the rules. Now you have cops blocking lanes instead of fighting more serious crimes. Hell, compared to running a red light or speeding in a school zone, a BAT infraction is really minor. Nobody dies because some jerk makes a bunch of bus riders wait. Just take his picture and send the bozo a letter.

      1. Speaking of enforcement, SDOT had announced last week that SPD would be doing a one-day only enforcement experiment of the Pike street bus lane today during evening peak. But an email this morning from SDOT said that the enforcement was being postponed to next week due to inclement weather.
        So apparently enforcement of traffic laws are only possible of nice days, and only when everyone has been sufficiently informed of the exact times of the enforcement.

      2. It’s almost as if designing a product that didn’t require enforcement would be preferable.

  14. Does transit benefit the newcomer or the established homeowner.

    If transit is going into a place where there is no hope of buying in.

    And there are no zoning changes.

    Then is that money, collected from all citizens, fairly spent?

    1. Construction on First Hill is proceeding furiously, so the upzone already happened. There’s also a school called the Seattle Academy, whatever that is, next to Seattle University. And Providence is expanding and I assume Seattle University is expanding.

    2. There are hundreds of new apartments being built along the Madison BRT corridor. At Madison & 22nd alone there are over 300 units under construction today with more in the planning stages.

  15. I think perhaps the ire should be focused on SDOT’s REQUIREMENT of the contractor that 2 GP lanes be maintained uber alles

    1. Did anyone ask SDOT why this is a requirement? Apply pressure directly to this fallacy and perhaps we can make it fall away.

  16. So, other than:
    ” It requires a special fleet that reduces resilience,
    it likely locks Route 2 onto Seneca in perpetuity,
    it sacrifices reliability for the sake of 2 GP lanes downtown, and
    it makes a permanent service planning decision for the sake of ~10 blocks of special right-of-way.
    It fails to plan for growth in East Capitol Hill, the C.D., and Madison Valley,
    unwisely relies on an assumption of continued free flowing traffic between 18th-MLK, and
    gives transit no resilience when collisions or other vehicular blockages inevitably get in its way. Finally, it relies upon a BAT lane solution downtown that consistently fails for lack of enforcement.”

    1. +1. If they can somehow get the 9.5-minute travel time to be reliable in the thick of rush hour, this’d be great…

      But aside from that, I think it’d be better to throw this project away, start from zero again, and just get out the cheap red paint.

      1. I don’t see how it’s possible to have 9.5 minutes one-way travel time, given 7 loading points on the vehicles. If one assumes a mere 30 seconds per stop, that 3.5 minutes right there.

        The actual moving travel time, if set at 25 miles an hour for 2.5 miles is a tenth of an hour, or another six minutes. That’s a total 9.5 minutes.

        BUT that assumes that a bus would never stop at an intersection or encounter congestion!

        The stop locations are pretty close to each other. Many of the signals need permanent pedestrian crossing phases, not optional ones. It’s not like MLK where the trains have much longer distances to travel between stations so the signals have a lot of lead time to adjust to keep the trains from stopping. Signal priority can’t realistically produce 0 seconds of delay in stopping or at least slowing down for the entire length of this corridor.

        Then on top of that is the impact of the long sections in mixed or somewhat mixed traffic. That will surely add travel time.

        Bottom line: I don’t think the person doing the estimates understand how to estimate a realistic travel time.

      2. In addition to doors on the left side and right side, I’ve heard they plan to have big doors on both the front and back of the bus, enabling it to stay moving as it scoops ’em up and spits ’em out the rear.

      3. 9 1/2 minutes is only to 23rd. They apparently studied it when the extension was less certain. That basically gives it 5 minutes west of Broadway and 5 minutes east of it.

    2. You forgot the $120 million part of which $15 million is in hand and the other $105 million is hoped to come through the Feds which of course will require all their delayed timelines and bureaucratic hoops

    3. I hate to pile on the Negative Nellie train but this proposal stinks and it isn’t even watered all the way down yet. BAT lanes are routinely ignored or blocked by right turns. This proposal will increase speed some but, in my estimation, is not worth the $$ and work. I hope I’ll be proven wrong.

  17. Will the center transit lanes be mountable by all vehicles, in case the right lane is blocked? Madison has lots of drivers who aren’t familiar with the area or who have driving difficulties making right turns in and out of medical facilities. In addition, there are often pedestrians on the sidewalks that have canes or walkers or wheelchairs that need extra time crossing minor streets and driveways. If a driver can’t get around these choke points by intruding into the transit lane, major disruption is going to quickly ensue.

  18. So we (almost) all agree that the proposed downtown situation isn’t good with BAT lanes… what would be some thoughts for the ideal workable design in the downtown zone? How might real dedicated bus-only lanes work in this stretch?

    1. I agree with Ross that counterflow lanes are better than with-traffic lanes, but I think we can still do counterflow on Spring-Madison instead of Ross’s planned Marion-Madison. There’d be left turns instead of right turns on First, but I don’t think that’d be an insurmountable obstacle.

      1. That is what I was originally going to propose. Spring is better than Marion in general. I think it is definitely worth considering. A few things to keep in mind with that route:

        1) The center lanes could still be extended to 6th. The bus would take a left turn from the center lane on westbound Madison to the far left lane on 6th. It would need a jump ahead light to do that, though, since it would be cutting in front of cars to the inside heading down Madison.

        2) The left turn from 6th to Spring is trivial, since 6th is one way.

        3) The left turn from Spring to 1st is problematic. You would need a left turn signal. If this bus went all the way down to Alaskan Way then it wouldn’t be a problem, but that is not the plan.

        4) Likewise the left turn from 1st to Madison is problematic.

        So basically you would need two left turn signals and a jump ahead light on sixth. That could work (and only slow down general purpose traffic minimally) but it is a bit messier.

        I think either option would be much better than what we have now and should be considered seriously.

    2. Yes that looks great and right side boarding too so normal buses. I was so focused on center running before the meeting that I neglected thinking about the downtown part of the route, now it is very clear the downtown design as proposed is the weakest link. Your scheme works really well as far as I can tell. Oh and I like keeping it two-way longer too.

  19. There seem to be a few constricted places on this.

    EmX uses a single lane for buses going both directions in cases like this, with passing at station platforms where buses are on each side of the platform. I’m not sure there are any places with the Madison BRT where that would be worthwhile, but if necessary it is something to consider. With reliable schedules and traffic separation, you don’t necessarily have to have a lane in each direction everywhere.

  20. First, I would like to compliment Dave Lawson for his idea changing the 10 to use Olive and John. This works well since the 11 will be able to handle the Pine street load and fills part of the void left in the Summit area.

    Now to the BRT, there have been comments about the cost of extending it to Madison Park and I must ask why there would be extra costs involved if the BRT bus ran the 11 route from MLK to MP using existing bus facilities?

    1. There would be little extra cost if it runs like a regular bus. The costs come if they do street improvements, offboard ORCA readers, real-time signs, a fiber-optic cable (necessary for the ORCA readers, real-time signs, and probably enhanced bus tracking), etc. It’s unclear what level of service SDOT is contemplating, or how flexible it would be about that.

      Running it to Madison Park as a regular bus would appear to save money if it allows the 11 to be retired.

      1. Mike, actually it would save money since we already have turn-around facilities in MP and I have no problem retiring the 11 either!

    2. There would be bigger capital costs as well as operation costs. Mike listed some of the capital costs.

      The operation costs are due to the buses spending more time completing their route. More time spent means more bus drivers. It also means more buses need to be purchased. This costs money as well, especially since these are special buses. So running this farther means higher capital and operation costs.

      If you skimped a bit on infrastructure (and ran this as a regular bus) then it would further increase operation costs, by delaying the bus. It could also hurt reliability, which would be terrible. I think that is a non-starter. In short, if this gets extended it needs to be done right.

      As Mike said, it is possible that by retiring the 11, you make up for the extra operation cost. The 11 spends a significant amount of time west of Madison. Using a little napkin math, I think it works out like this:

      1) Extra time for extension can be calculated by averaging the time spent and distance from 23rd to downtown (ten minutes and 2 miles) . MLK to Madison Park is 1.5 miles. So 75% of ten minutes = 7 minutes (one way) or 15 minutes round trip. 10 buses an hour * 15 minutes is 150 minutes an hour.

      2) It is hard to say how much time the new 11 will spend on its route. But if you take an average of 20 minutes one way (forty minutes round trip) along with an average of four buses an hour, then it works out roughly the same. Since the 11 does run quite a bit at rush hour (when it is running slowly) my guess is that from an operations standpoint, extending this to Madison Park and killing the 11 would come out ahead (but that is just a rough guess).

      However, if you killed this, then you would lose some of the service along Thomas/John/Olive/downtown. It is possible that Metro might have to push some service that direction. If that is not an issue, though, then this works out well.

      But in general I would say it is capital cost and not operation costs that is the big issue. I’m not sure how Metro and SDOT are coordinating on this, but having Metro pay SDOT to extend this might make a lot of sense.

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