45 Replies to “Podcast: Political Costs”

  1. On the subject of separating modes which you brought up, how about a one-way couplet on Denny and John between 23rd and 32nd with parking removed from one side? There would probably have to be speed tables to keep things sane for the residents, but 32nd is already a neighborhood arterial which could serve to divert traffic that now uses Madison through the retail area around MLK.

    Obviously this would be toxic on Denny and John but with speed tables and permanent radar enforcement it might be workable.

      1. It’s a simple idea how to separate “through” cars from buses and pedestrians around MLK and Madison. Did you listen to the podcast?

      2. Sure did. I’m just having trouble imagining a bus running down John, since it is so steep and narrow. Removing a lane of parking would only just make it passable; it’d be a slow, lurchy ride, and adding speed tables just sounds like it would be over-the-top uncomfortable.

      3. I’m proposing a BUS running down John and Denny. I proposed a one way couplet so CARS which currently use Madison would be attracted away from it, at least for the critical stretch through the business district.

      4. I really must just not be understanding your proposal; a map would help. It still sounds like you are talking about sending a bus line along John and Denny between 23rd/24th and 32nd – down one and back up the other – and those are such steep, narrow, uneven streets that I just can’t imagine how that would be a good idea.

  2. For Madison BRT, I’d like to hear more about why they aren’t looking at right side islands with center lanes. I’m glad this was brought up on the podcast. It would allow both center transit lanes and normal right side buses to use them. Win-win.

    Instead of both directions sharing a single stop in the middle of the street and therefore needing left-side doors, the stops would be separate from each other and located between the center transit lane and right side general traffic lane. They are actually quite common… Church Street in San Francisco: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39017545@N02/15100998726/ Even Dexter is like this except its a bike lane to the right of the bus stops, on Madison it would be a general traffic lane.

    1. +100

      I seriously hope that someone from SDOT hears this. For one, this way other routes on the corridor can share the bus lanes (otherwise they’ll be even slower). Second, now you don’t have to buy special busses, you can just use the normal fleet and paint it red (you _could_, but in a pinch normal busses would still be able to serve the route).

      This seems like a win-win, I really hope someone from SDOT can explain why this isn’t the plan from day 1!!

      1. If they had done this with the streetcar stops on the new streetcar line on Jackson from Union Station to 14th, the center lanes could have been shared transit only lanes for the new streetcar plus the 7, 14, 36 and just like Church Street in SF.

        I’ve been harping about center lanes with right side boarding at every Madison BRT open house and comment card opportunity. I’ve also been commenting to get them to do this for the CCC on 1st so buses may also use the transit lanes, in the future they may very likely need to north-South surface transit capacity downtown and it would be a shame to make this not possible because of left side center island stops.

    2. They tried to make this work in the street envelope by “weaving” so that the bus lanes took only as much width as they would with center platforms. Why they dropped the idea was not reported, either by SDOT or an outside source. I like the idea, but it would require the drivers to be more precise than just running in a straight lane.

      1. Even with the bus lanes they aren’t going to be going super fast, plus the buses are pulling out of a stop anyway so the weave shouldn’t be a problem. I think even the island stop could be a bit narrower too than the shared center island stops, again looking to the Dexter island stops for design.

      2. Actually, Poncho, the drivers would be pulling INTO a stop. The mooted rdesign was to have the stops be “farside” to make the most of “long green” priority, which is the least intrusive kind.

        But, to your basic point, yes, the buses would be moving relatively slowly at they made the weave. So what IS the reason that the plan was rejected, if not that? It takes no more room than island platforms, and it avoids the confusion of contraflow center lanes. So why not use it?

      3. Poncho,

        You were right half the time. I remembered that the sequence of platforms would alternate at each pair of stops, because the direction in the middle approaching a cross-street has to have the platform “nearside”.

    1. It won’t. They are expecting this to be self sufficient or nearly self sufficient. the streetcars will also have a low cost/rider once the CCC exists.

      The captial costs are higher but the cost/rider will be lower due to the exclusive lanes. They are correctly expecting significantly higher ridership.

      Interesting side item: The center lane stations are cheaper than building new right hand stations (from their presentation.). Therefore going full center lane exclusive is both cheaper AND better. Win/win.

    2. Each station requires a minimum width for people to wait at, buy tickets at, and walk past. Combining two into one probably allows some of those to overlap, so that takes less width from the street. Space is at a premium so less width demands is probably cheaper.

      East of 13th they’re saying that the street narrows further and can’t fit center lanes, so putting them in would require widening the street and pushing out the sidewalks into neighboring properties, which would be expensive. So that’s an example of the same proplem (limited width) but opposite result (no center lanes).

      1. Doesn’t that drive up the construction costs? On the podcast they were talking about how it would generate higher ongoing operating costs, once it’s fully built.

      2. Mike – I missed that detail, interesting. Not sure how the dollars compare then.

        Djw, I think they were talking generally about added service.

        That said, infrastructure improvements that make busses more efficient save operating dollars.

      3. Operating cost could be a lot of things. The streetcars cost more to operate than buses, so when the city forced Metro to run them and absorb the operating cost, it cut down the service hours available in the city. RapidRide expenses could be due to maintaining the small red-bus fleet, face inspectors, maintaining the offboard ORCA readers and real-time signs, etc.

  3. Doesn’t look like it has posted to iTunes yet. Any ETA on that? Thanks again for putting out another podcast. I always look forward to them.

  4. Let me know if I’m missing something, but…In all this discussion about left-side doors, has anyone suggested that the buses travel “the wrong way” (British-style, driving on the left side of the road) on their dedicated pair of center lanes? The bus stop islands could then be in the center of the street while using regular, right-opening coaches. The only required modification I can think of would be additional training for the bus drivers, and perhaps some signage and/or signaling changes.

    1. Yes, it has been discussed. The problem is again that to make it work within the street envelope was proving difficult. The lanes have to be separated by about a foot to accommodate the double yellow lines (or a curb) and Madison really is that constrained.

    2. Center of street, center platforms, and contraflow running so any can use it- with right side doors. My favorite too, Crunchy. To the point where I’d say that either do it this way or shelve the project until you can.

      After “Rapid Ride”, I’ve got no patience at all with “branding”. Do they even do that with cows anymore? Good trolleybuses with the fleet’s own colors are just fine. Except with no advertising glued to glass. But with “brand” of an ordinary bus that can go anywhere. And that will definitely not need separate maintenance facilities.

      Every time I’m around the hospital and look at Madison, I really wonder if there’s enough room for anything to move at all, let alone rapidly. I think a contraflow center transit way is the only way transit will be able to move at all. Anything running along a curb is going end up same speed as any other parked car.

      The pics from SF show one serious safety problem with the “island” idea: passengers have to cross a traffic lane to board a bus. Not to say this isn’t done elsewhere. In Toronto when I was last there, streetcar door inside panels were reflectorized to serve as “gates” to hold traffic for boarding passengers.
      Also signs at motorist eye-level at right rear corner of the streetcar, warning drivers how fast a deboarding passenger can step down right in front of them.

      Come to think of it, the N-Judah line does the same thing on the whole track out to the ocean. Where there aren’t “islands”, which also occur. Worldwide, long familiarity makes many things safer than they look. As long as everybody’s been there long enough to get used to them.

      Wouldn’t do this anywhere as narrow, time-sensitive, busy and brand new as a Madison line will be. I’d still like some discussion on the center contraflow idea. Especially solid reasons why it wouldn’t work.

      Mark Dublin

      1. There are plenty of examples where having to walk a little farther paradoxically reduces total trip time. Stop consolidations, on-street stops at park & rides, and going up or down an escalator to access a grade-separated passenger train are a few examples with which most readers here should be familiar.

        Letting buses run down the middle of the road and have riders cross a lane of traffic to get to it is one of the most mild examples of adding walking distance to reduce overall trip time. It is just a few more steps. Indeed, some riders who would heretofore have had to cross all the lanes will be saving as many steps, on average, making the center islands extra-footstep-neutral.

        And this time, there will hopefully be all-off-board payment stations on the center islands, making far better use of the boarding islands than was made of the mezzanines in the DSTT.

      2. I’ve never had a problem in SF because the car lane is usually empty when I want to walk. It would be an issue if the lane was so full and the cars were so fast that you had to wait a minute minute to get to the platform.I’m concerned it may be more trafficky on Madison, where the curb lane is the only lane cars have.

      3. Right, you couldn’t do on Madison here what they do on Taraval and Judah in SF, Madison is a totally different street.

        I despise the contraflow center-running idea. It makes the street too complicated. You pretty much have to close every movement across it that isn’t completely signal-controlled, car and pedestrian alike, and where it begins and ends there’s effectively an extra turn to go straight. And it would be totally inappropriate to extend the treatment farther down Madison, where there are more unsignalized intersections.

        Split platforms are much better.

      4. Madison not equal Judah west of Nineteenth where the reservation ends. Not in anyone’s wildest imaginings. And there’s a STOP sign at every corner where there is a classic “pole stop” for the N. So traffic is essentially at five miles per hour when it approaches the deboarding doors.

      5. Ah, Market; the other commenters both specified the L and/or N on Judah or Taraval, so I was assuming that context

        Yes, the center lane islands definitely work there, and Market is plenty busy, though mostly with buses. Still, there’s traffic in the curb lanes pretty regularly, though probably not moving as fast as it does on Madison.

    3. “The problem is again that to make it work within the street envelope was proving difficult.”

      This is starting to look like they made promises without making sure they could keep them. “It will be better than RapidRide.” “This will be the best BRT Seattle has ever seen and will set a new standard.” “This will be good BRT where the bus doesn’t slow down and get caught in bottlenecks.” If the width is so limited that they can’t install transit lanes at least to 23rd, then maybe the Madison project was too ambitious and should have set its sights lower. Or it should have included moving some car traffic to neighboring streets, however that would have worked. Or maybe the city should start just building garages in neighborhoods to replace the street parking.

  5. Thanks for exactly the kind of detail I’m looking for, Anandakos. But if it’s true that our transitway can’t be separated from general purpose lanes by anything but a paint stripe- I wonder if it’s worth the trouble to do any kind of special system at all on Madison.

    Standard trolleybuses, rush hour parking-free lanes, all-day where we can get them, and some signal pre-empt 24-7-365. Newest best practices in overhead hardware. And buses as frequent as possible. A line which will certainly be nothing to be ashamed of.

    If the Madison business district is really looking to expand far enough beyond its present limits that a heavier caliber line is needed- Madison’s days as a major car-traffic arterial will have to come to an end. If we keep the buses and wire in good repair, we’ll also have a decent fleet to run the new transit-way with.


    1. Mark, A CONTRAFLOW system has to be separated by at least a double yellow, which is a minimum of a foot with the central no-paint stripe. And I agree with Al; such a street would be confusingly dangerous for pedestrians.

      I liked the “weave” suggestion, but apparently the consultants — or SDOT itself — did not like it. They haven’t said why to my knowledge. One thing is sure: you can’t have right side islands and with-flow travel within the existing street envelope without the weave.

      1. What is weaving? Doesn’t it mean changing lanes? That’s a recipe for buses to stop waiting for an opening in traffic. The plan has one weave at 13th where the buses go from center to side. Eastbound is supposed to have a traffic light with a queue jump (the bus lane gets green first). Westbound is supposed to have a whole block to move left. But you can’t do that at every station.

      2. Actually, there was a proposal that would have had offset lanes between pairs of platforms. There would have been a westbound platform to the west of a street and a matching eastbound platform to the east of it, and the lanes would not “match” across the street. The eastbound platform to the east of the cross-street would occupy the space of the eastbound LANE to the west of the street, the eastbound lane to the east would occupy the space of the westbound lane to the west of the cross-street, and the westbound platform would occupy the space of the westbound lane to the east of the cross-street.

        At the next stop the sequence would be reversed. The westbound platform would be to the east of the next cross-street and the eastbound lane to the west of it. And so on.

        I can’t find the post but I remember thinking that it was an interesting idea.

      3. Oh, and the space “beyond” (in bus-travel direction) the platform could be a left-turn pocket for the next street beyond the cross-street with a “station”. So, if you had a platform at every third street you’d have a platform “farside” of the first street (in bus direction) and [a] left turn pocket[s] at the either the second or third street of the triplet or perhaps both. Then at the first street of the next triplet, you’d have a “nearside” platform, the lanes would weave through the cross-street and there would be no left turns through the rest of that triplet because the in-direction bus lane would be immediately adjacent to the in-direction general purpose lane at the curb. Left turns would be accommodated from the opposite direction.

        So the “weave” would somewhat improve left-turn availability on Madison versus the “standard” of island platforms with left-side boarding OR contraflow with right side boarding assuming that the lane occupied by the platforms continued empty between stations.

        In some island systems a version of the “weave” is used to provide the turn pockets. Between platforms one of the bus lanes weaves to be adjacent and then weaves to widen at the next platform, rather like MAX does along the Banfield. With the buses, though, instead of both tracks curving to create the platform gap, only the one lane weaves at each end of the platform because if they narrow to the middle of the street, there isn’t enough room on either side to provide left-turn pockets.

  6. I think we can put away the idea that buses can do what a subway does permanantly. Capacity issues and operating realities aside, the political capital required to het exclusive lanes throughout the city is higher than any American city (and its politicians) will be willing to pay any time soon.

    Here we are trying to influence high quality design in a corridor everyone admits needs high quality, yet still: The powers of “good enough” always seem to hold veto.

    This, in a city thay just passed a “peanut butter” new urbanism transportation bill in an off year election by 20 points.

    1. Then we’re left with nothing though, because so far neither ST nor the city has been willing to consider an underground line at Madison or Denny. Or at least they put it off so far into the future they won’t consider specifics now. (I.e., Madison Street is still in ST’s long-range plan, since the board wasn’t sure whether Madison BRT would fully address the corridor.)

      1. I’m more repsonding to Jarrett Walker’s line about buses being able to do what rail does. It’s ultimately not about technology – it’s about politics. We live in a world where stakeholder politics design everything in the public sphere. It leads to compromised solutions. It’s part of why we need to be unrelenting in our pursuit of high quality rail with Sound Transit.

        Not to say we won’t keep fighting for high quality on Madison and on future RR+ lines. It just means we’re not fooling ourselves into thinking that “good enough” ever actually is.

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