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SDOT dropped the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for Madison BRT on Friday.  The outreach phase, which included surveys and public comment,  showed that the public valued transit reliability and pedestrian safety.  Speed of autos and parking were low on the list, so good on everyone who showed up and commented.

There’s nothing too surprising in the report for those who’ve been paying attention. This tracks with what we’ve heard in the open houses.  More dedicated lanes East of 18th would have been useful. Alas, it was not to be. Parking spaces will remain East of 22nd (despite ample parking underneath Safeway and presumably the other new developments as well).

Here are the highlights:

  • A western terminal at 1st Avenue, shared with the Center City Connector
  • Eastbound operation on Spring between 1st Avenue and 9th Avenue
  • Stations near I-5 at both 5th Avenue and 8th Avenue
  • Center-running transit-only lanes from 9th Avenue to 15th Avenue
  • An eastern terminal at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way

BAT lanes will be provided from 15th to 18th.

The LPA will be submitted to council in 2016.  Design will happen in 2016 and 2017, and, pending federal grant funding, the line will open in 2019.

101 Replies to “Madison BRT Comes into Focus”

  1. Man, it takes sooo long to plan these things. 5-6 years of planning when it only takes two years to build?

    1. Charles, in peace-time or except after an emergency on the order of an earthquake any major piece of civil engineering takes much longer than six years. Certainly in a place as steep and crowded as Seattle.

      In the absence of a dictatorship or major corruption- usually the same things, getting wide enough agreement to start the project at all. The Downtown Seattle Transit Project at its present stage took one year to rearrange utilities and two years to build. After thirty years or more planning and discussion.

      Also, everything successfully built underground, also meant a lot of luck. But more important constant is that things that get built fast and cheap are slow and expensive to repair. Like every elevator on LINK right now.

      Hang in there, learn a lot of technical stuff, get trained in construction related skills, and start going to meetings. Transit driving is excellent prep too. But long project time means lifetime work.


      1. It actually doesn’t need to take this long, its only because its so overengineered requiring custom vehicles and an overly complex routing zig zagging around on the street. Red paint, simpler Dexter-like bus islands and the existing fleet would accomplish the same and leave $110M in the bank.

  2. Hopefully in the future, as additional bottlenecks in the corridor form, actually exclusive lanes can be extended.

  3. The really important part of Madison BRT is creating a transit route across I-5 and through downtown that’s reliable in both directions. First, because it needs to attract more ridership than current Madison service to justify such an investment in a corridor that doesn’t, today, have impressive ridership. Second, because in the future routes going places other than East Madison (most prominently, East Union) could use a reliable route across I-5.

    So how do people think this plan does at this? I don’t know much about how traffic entering I-5 backs up onto Madison and Spring… and SDOT’s materials don’t provide much information on this. Is Madison BRT going to give us a great bus pathway across I-5, or are we going to be doing this again in another decade?

    1. My understanding is it has high ridership; Metro has scrambled to get enough 12’s running in the daytime. Ridership is suboptimal because First Hill service is spread out over three parallel streets: Seneca, Madison, and James. People who want to guarantee a bus in a few minutes go to Pike rather than waiting at one of those stops. James is the only full-time frequent one, but it’s the slowest and most unreliable, so much that people try to take the 27 if they can. There’s definitely underservice right at Madison, which is halfway between Pike and James, so the added frequency and speed will attract riders.

      1. I recently was headed from 3rd/Pine up to Swedish on First Hill in the middle of a weekday afternoon. After looking at Google for my bus options, I decided to walk. I got there a minute or two faster.

        I hope this project provides a better alternative.

    2. So how do people think this plan does at this [attract more ridership than current Madison service and reliable route across I-5]?.

      Quite well, assuming the science is correct (and I see no reason to doubt it). This is a not a “we’ll built it and figure out the details later (ST type) project”. This is a specific route with specific stops that the traffic engineers say will provide very fast, reliable service. Sounds good to me. A few things this has that no set of buses in the region has:

      1) 100% Off board payment
      2) Signal priority
      3) Very good headways

      Swift has the first two, but lacks the third. RapidRide has a bit of the second and third. All that and a very high percentage of exclusive running explains why the engineers believe they can achieve the speeds they think they will achieve.

  4. This is extremely frustrating. Madison BRT was supposed to be the one time we didnt have to let anti-transit forces be the most important vote in planning.

    What happened?

    Didn’t pro-transit just win an election?

    Didn’t the public comments support going high quality?

    Who answers for this and why are they (still!) not on our team?

    1. The leader of this project kept insisting they would “only take the lanes we can prove that we need”

      Apparently the problem is inside SDOT now. :-/

      1. This isn’t our first rodeo. We arent going to suddenly upgrade to center lane BRT at some future date. These things take years.

      2. I know. And yet… they insisted they would just rebuild later if they thought they needed more lanes.

        It seems like such a waste…

      3. It is a waste. This is the worst of both worlds.

        Expensive and slow to implement like a closed system and given to bottlenecks like an open system.

      4. The fact that we got the center lanes at all is a victory. Where else in Seattle has those? Surely they must be somewhere on the C, D, and E but I can’t find them.

        But I echo this concern,:’The leader of this project kept insisting they would “only take the lanes we can prove that we need’. When an SDOT rep told me that at the last open house I couldn’t believe it; the justification is we voted for high-quality transit and we’re suffering because it wasn’t built forty years ago. The default assumption should be transit lanes; the burden of proof should be on the naysayers to justify not putting them in certain segments.

      5. To follow SDOT’s logic to its conclusion, the rep said that if SDOT excessively installs transit lanes where the numbers do not require it, SDOT would lose credibility. I guess that means the opposition would rise and say “You don’t need it here like you didn’t need it on Madison” and “You’re wasting our tax money; go fix potholes”. But there’s an underlying argument for high-quality transit even if it makes less of a difference in some places than others. The closer you get to 100% transit lanes, the faster and more unencumbered the entire network is, and that makes it more attractive compared to driving, and that was our goal in the first place. Many peer cities are far ahead of us — Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, most European and Asian cities — at least in frequency if less so in transit lanes, so we should catch up to them.

      6. “they insisted they would just rebuild later if they thought they needed more lanes…. It seems like such a waste…”

        It takes time for people to learn and accept change. Are you also disappointed that Seattle Subway (or whatever maximum network you prefer) isn’t fully built now? It’s the same thing, just a different scale and time. If we agitate and move, we move forward, we generally move forward even if we sometimes stagnate or move back. If we don’t agitate and move, we definitely don’t get anywhere.

      7. Mike – Yeah, my frustration is that focusing concern on backlash by anti-transit forces gives them a level of power they havnt won (or even fought for.)

        There is demand for a real transit network that is advantaged over other modes.

        The argument around demand is circular. Traffic is always either not bad enough to require exclusive lanes or too heavy for transit lanes.

        A few blocks of center lane are a good start… But I had higher expectations for this corridor.

      8. There is no point in center running lanes on a one way street. At best you can have contraflow, which would be relatively cheap to add later (if needed). The same with BAT lanes to the east. That is just paint.

        Adding center running to the east would add to the cost substantially, and there is no evidence that it is needed. If it is needed, it can be added later. SDOT has a limited budget. They can’t spend billions on this area (unlike Sound Transit). Spending a lot more here would mean that other corridors (such as 45th) might get short changed. Is that what you really wanted when it isn’t clear at all if it would make any difference?

        This was not a blow out win for transit fans, but it was a solid win. The next battle is Roosevelt BRT. With enough effort, we may get eye popping numbers for travel times along that corridor (competitive with Link). But if not, then it will be as weak as you fear this one will be (and unlike this corridor, there is data to back that up).

    2. Am I reading wrong,but didn’t majority local opinion just get overruled? Reliable constant is that the better any transit project gets, the larger and louder the opposition. Many of whom, on opening day, switch complaint to: “Why did it take so long to get this?”

      Also: “Why is it taking so long for my neighborhood going to get one?” This was a good morning to wake up and read the blog. My own worst problem with the Madison BRT has always been that by the tape measure, Madison is to narrow.

      On that point: problem solved. Good on whole STB for staying with this.

      Mark Dublin

      1. No, Mark, the majority opinion (those who support transit) got what they wanted within obvious budgetary constraints. Center running. Way fewer allowed turns. Fewer lanes of traffic through downtown. Dozens of parking spaces gone. Those are all huge losses for those who want to drive through there. The minority (those that wanted to preserve those things) lost out.

    3. What the hell are you talking about Keith — we won. Read the document. We won. Here are some big things:

      1) 100% Off board payment
      2) Signal priority
      3) Very good headways
      4) Center running through the most important, most congested section.
      5) BAT lanes where they are needed most.
      6) Left turns eliminated all over the place to allow for smoother running.
      7) Elimination of scores of parking.

      If that sounds like a victory for the anti-transit forces, you are delusional. This is a major change. As one of the few who actually had a constructive idea that I believe would have improved speed and reliability downtown, I’ll admit it probably isn’t necessary. Why do people assume the worst when you look at this project? This is a huge deal and nothing of this quality has been built since we dug a tunnel under downtown.

      Besides, it is fairly easy to fix it if the engineers are wrong. If their models are flawed and we need to extend the BAT lanes or even add more center running it isn’t the end of the world. Much of the cost is for a new fleet of buses that have dual sided doors (so they can take advantage of the center running). A lot of the other cost is for the center running stops. At worst if they move the downtown lanes (as I suggest) then they have to move a bunch of off-board readers and do a lot of extra painting. That is a trivial cost, really. This is nothing like moving streetcar rail. It certainly isn’t like building a tunnel. Does anyone thing that Sound Transit will add more stations between the UW and downtown? How about moving the Husky Stadium station over to the triangle, or fixing the Mount Baker station? Those changes will never happen.

      At best this works exactly as the engineers say it will — fast, frequent, very reliable, very effective service through a very important corridor. At worst it can be fixed easily. I wish I could say the same about Link.

  5. they picked a horible first example.

    Lower ridership for 121 million.

    The community told them to put parking low on thier list , but left more than 50% of on street parking. The last 50 spaces should be in a residential zone, read homes.

    No bike facilities on the route.

    Exclusive capital busses that can’t be integrated with other routes

    weird setup of 3 doors and 2 doors. Reducing seats and boarding time. This all because of mix use of center, and bat lanes. Even though 80 percent wanted transit realibilty.

    They study the entire corridor for cars travel time. But only studied a core segment for brt.

    They say stops are supposed to be spaced out .5 but clearly 10 stops in 2.1 miles is not. Remember the 80%.

    Bus racks have not been committed on the bus.

    If it’s only 2.1 miles do it right not half ass.

    1. does this LPA even address the many concerns people had about right turning cars clogging the buses up in downtown?

    2. Madison plays a critically important role in the transit network, and was left out of both the DSTT and ST and everything else. It’s high priority to rectify. First Hill is one of the largest job centers alongside the U-District and SLU, and the hospitals generate all-day ridership and a concentrated need for elderly/disabled/poor mobility. (“How can that be Mike when the poor can’t afford hospitals?” One, Harborview has social services, and two, with Obamacare they can sometimes afford the others.) So Madison was high-priority for something — much higher priority than the CCC or First Hill Streetcar or SLU Streetcar. This Madison BRT may not be the optimal solution but it’s something.

    3. I’m also skeptical about needing buses that can’t be used anywhere else. Part of my feeling about “branding”- using something fast-looking just to showcase the different concept.

      One way to handle the door-side problem is to arrow- signal the buses to contraflow in the center-running segment, and then back across to curbside to use curb lanes.

      I think it would be necessary to put a low jersey barrier between bus and car traffic. But really, clearance would pretty much the same as any two-lane road.

      What’s highest planned speed, given the number of street intersection. 25? Incidentally, there’s a precedent for testing this contra-flow arrangement.

      During design engineering for the Tunnel buses, we took a couple of dozen artics out to the raceway, and had lines of orange plastic cones accurately positioned to simulate lanes and curbs.

      One modification on every new that I first saw on the special buses in both Lynnwood and Eugene: wheelchair securements with fast positioning.

      Something that should have been done when the Tunnel fleet was specked out. Especially when the low-floor hybrjds came in.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Passive restraint systems weren’t common (or invented?) back when the first Hybrids were purchased for the DSTT, I think. That said, they are getting more common: Here in San Francisco, *all* new busses come with them, and Metro was at least experimenting with them.

        Another great feature from Muni that Metro ought consider: a seat by the rear door that flips up to allow more space for a walker, shopping trolly, or stroller. Really, really useful when you have all door boarding and standing loads.

  6. If the portion of the route without transit lanes messes up the reliability of the rest of the route, is there a Plan B to extend the transit lanes?

    Has SDOT demonstrated that the sections without transit lanes won’t impact the route’s reliability?

    1. Yes and yes. The studies show that this will run quite well without those (and other) changes. The city has also said that if their modeling is wrong (or conditions change) then they can add things later.

      This makes sense. This is a very expensive investment (for the city — but peanuts compared to Link). Center running is expensive. The new buses are expensive. Running this every six minutes all day long is expensive. You want to maximize your investment and to do so, the buses need to run without encountering congestion. If changes are needed, then it could lead to a much higher fair box recovery rate, which would probably pay for itself.

  7. Man alive, we need to enact a legislative ban on “parking impact” analysis for any transit, bike and walking infrastructure studies.

    We all benefit from removal of stupid parking spaces in dense transit served areas of the city. Good grief. .

      1. Maybe the better question would be ‘How many spaces total, and how many taken for transit.?’ We can all do the math – or sincerity check.

      2. Well the document referenced above states “As indicated by Figure 2-6, the draft LPA
        would remove approximately 227 total onstreet
        parking spaces between 1st Avenue
        and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Of this
        estimated total, 12 would be passenger or
        delivery loading spaces, 120 would be parking
        spaces that are available all day, and 95
        would be spaces that are restricted during
        peak periods.”

        It is unclear to me if removing 500+ spaces would fix the proposal and make a better urban environment.

      3. I would have liked to see that in the report: how many parking spaces are remaining and what percentage is that?

    1. Some European cities have either put a cap on parking spaces (remove one for every one added) or a gradual reduction (remove 500 per year). The reclaimed space goes to higher-speed transit.

      1. Yup, gradual citywide street parking reduction is the policy we need here, and we need the citizens to buy into it.

      2. More parking = more traffic as cars enter and exit those parking spaces. Less parking = less traffic.

    2. >> It is unclear to me if removing 500+ spaces would fix the proposal and make a better urban environment.

      Exactly. I think the parking issue is a red herring. Not adding contraflow lanes downtown had nothing to do with parking. It is really unlikely that extending center running or BAT lanes to the east had anything to do with parking either. The decisions were based on the science that suggests that those changes aren’t needed. If they are, they will be made, and preserving parking won’t be an issue (the spots will gone just like these are gone).

      I have no idea why studying “parking impact” is required, but I would not be surprised if it is a legal (national) thing. But all you have to do is study it (and gather public input). But after the due diligence is done, you can still do the right thing and favor other priorities (as they did here).

  8. With unique vehicle procurement required, I think 2021 is optimistic. Specs and bids will be needed, right?

    The LPA is not yet through Council and results from grants take some time too.

    1. Could the vehicle procurment use options on the current trolleybus procurement? The red paint and seating changes should be easy, but can the coaches easily have left side doors added?

      1. Agree with you about using standard equipment, aw. But don’t at all like the idea that paint stripes of any color are sufficient to separate transitway from regular street.

        Also really disagree with the attached thinking that ordinary pavement is also good enough. Very large buses are very hard on paving. And lanes are the perfect target for “deferred maintenance” when ride quality starts to get bad.

        Another reason for favoring streetcars. Which this transitway can eventually be converted to. But meantime, if we’re going to use buses, pave-and pay- for good running surface.


      2. if we are going to the expense and effort of building new concrete lanes then make them raised at least a mountable curb or full curb and +6″ above general travel lanes.

        as I keep repeating on here my opinion is to just repurpose the center lanes and paint them red and pocket the 90% of the money budgeted, in that case I’m fine with the lanes at the same level

    2. I can’t believe the city is just assuming the grant will come through the first time and will be as high as we want. It may take two or three years, or ten years, or the grants may be eliminated, or temporarily eliminated, or other cities may have more compelling projects…

    3. While these would be the 5 door trolleybuses in North America… I doubt it would be that tough to procure.

      New Flyer is currently building 60 foot trolleybuses for Metro and that same company has plenty of experience building 5 door coaches for other agencies. It shouldn’t be hard to combine the two options together.

      The biggest issue is manufacturer backlog. Transit buses are in high demand. New Flyer has four production cranking out buses and it still takes over 6 months for a bus to be delivered after an order is placed.

  9. I’m very disappointed in the effects this’s going to have on route 2. We’ve been talking about moving it to Madison – but the regular buses on the 2 can’t share lanes with this center-running BRT. And, the 2 isn’t even going to be able to take advantage of the new bus lanes on Spring: they’re on the left side. So, despite all the money gone toward improving a path a few blocks away, the 2 is still going to be stuck in traffic.

    SDOT needs to lay out its plans with more of an eye toward improving the whole network.

    1. SDOT assumes that other RapidRide lines will have left-side doors too, particularly 45th where they’re contemplating center lanes between I-5 and 15th (and maybe more; the planning is just getting started so I didn’t press for details). So it can negotiate a larger order for left-door buses and get a better rate, and options for additional orders after that. In that case, there’s no reason it can’t get buses with left-side doors for the 2 too, if not immediately then eventually. And if they become a larger part of Metro’s fleet, then they might just become an ordinary procurement item.

      Ultimately the 2 should be aligned with Madison BRT downtown and turn off at Union. Maybe a special 2-lane turn and light cycle can be set up for it.

    2. Mixing a regular bus with a BRT can be problematic. You don’t want to have a BRT bus slowed down by a regular bus at a bus stop (e. g. have someone use a wheelchair ramp to get on the 2 while the BRT has to wait). This is why, for example, the 8 doesn’t run in Link’s railway along MLK, even though it would probably speed it up a bit.

      You can have a second stop on the same street, but then you have to have enough room for the BRT to swing out and pass the other bus if necessary. With few exceptions (such as a dead head or an express) lanes like this are best used exclusively by BRT.

      In any event, making improvements all over the place (such as where the 2 travels) is something that SDOT is doing, but it is a separate thing.

  10. They managed to come up with the most overengineered and overly complex way to run a bus line. This should be a fraction of the cost and do twice as much… use the normal fleet and have more regular red painted bus lanes run further.

  11. Given the claims that the ORCA pod can’t spare four ORCA readers for the monorail, and that Vix is no longer manufacturing ORCA hardware during the run-up to ORCA 2.0, do we know if SDOT has actually acquired the equipment to be able to do off-board payment on the Madison Partially BRT route? Would it be ORCA 1.0 or 2.0 hardware?

  12. “The estimate assumes partially colored concrete transit lanes and an extension of the existing OCS from 19th Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, requiring an additional substation. Construction costs account for approximately $61 million of the total, while right-of-way and vehicle purchases account for $13 million and soft costs including project development and design account for $27 million. These figures include FTA mandated category-specific contingencies ranging from 15 to 40 percent. The FTA required unallocated contingency of 20 percent adds another $20 million to the project cost.”

    $61 million for concrete lanes (unnecessary), a handful of custom designed stations when simple bus shelters will do and extend wire 8 blocks with one substation
    $13 million for custom vehicles when we have brand new state of the art vehicles
    $27 million for cooking up this overly complicated alignment
    $20 million in reserve for concrete lanes

  13. OK everybody, pretty soon Frank is going to reveal that considering the tone of this morning’s comments, this posting is going to be revealed as one more public meeting, and SDOT will come out of the Candid Camera curtains Shame on you, Frank!

    Seriously, though, I think one clarification will improve the perspective: Calling this project “Bus Rapid Transit” is not fair to a concept I think is a verbal contradiction anywhere. A subway under Madison can be “rapid”.

    This is a Transitway, using a street which will do just fine with one. If we’re lucky, eventually for the First Hill Streetcar and the South Lake Union line as well. Every successful system needs, and has, something between local and Rapid.

    “Transitways” should also carry less public threat and more reassurance.
    Mark Dublin

    1. I agree, Mark. This whole project is actually a rubber-tired tram more than BRT. I think that it would help local acceptance if SDOT would accept that. Of course, the FTA grant games may require that it be called BRT.

    2. This is where the BRT levels that Mark derided come in. Rather than endlessly arguing about what qualifies as real BRT, we can just point to the level that it is. That also makes it crystal clear what levels are above it and what it’s missing.

      1. Mike, less worried about verbally defining BRT than widespread understanding what we’re really building. And need.

        While there are some adjustments necessary, like eliminating parking and curb-running, there is absolutely nothing substandard about this line.

        With true rapid transit as the concept has long been understood whatever the wheel covering, the most stations from First Avenue on out might be five.

        And every single cross-street would have had to be closed, with the exception of the main ones like Boren, which would have to be undercut.

        The idea that an excellent system for our actual needs gets marked down in anybody’s estimation is plain wrong. Let the estimator come on-site and at least see Madison for the first time.

        Though easy fix would be to have one wheel with spokes on every bus, and a bracket go hold a card or piece of plastic where it can make the bus go: BRRRRRT! Problem solved.


  14. So basically they held a open house where pretty much everyone told them to extend the center lanes, but decided to stick with their original plan, as though they never held the open house? Wtf…

  15. I expect two major approval hurdles:

    1. Any Swedish executive who realizes how inaccessible the project makes the buildings, especially in how taxis and paratransit vehicles access the complex.
    2. The Fire Department reps (and maybe adjacent building owners) who realize how the median street design makes it tough to get ladder trucks to tall buildings.

    1. I assume the fire department has heard of the project and seen the design. It can block off the whole street when it’s responding to a fire in a tall building, which it would likely do anyway to fit multiple trucks and ancillary vehicles.

      But fire regulations have been the bane of urban planning generally, not as much in Pugetopolis but in other cities. One reason cities have such wide streets, especially suburban residential streets that are as wide as highways, and sometimes have deep curb corners that make pedestrian trips longer, is to ensure that two hook-and-ladder trucks can turn around simultaneously absolutely everywhere. Shoup (“The High Cost of Free Parking”) also mentions a precedent where the DOT asked the fire department/union what street width it wanted, and just implemented that without considering any other factors, and other cities just copied the regulations.

      1. The issues are different when a city installs a long median boarding island on a narrow street like Madison, and the adjacent buildings require longer ladder trucks. That’s very different than most other geometries and truck operations in more generic literature.

    1. Because the 2 is more important than high-volime, unbottnecked, ultra-frequent transit to First Hill.

      1. Well said, Mike. People need to get a grip. This is a huge improvement in mobility in the region, and the cost is worth it. If congestion is worse than the modeling said, then the improvements can be extended.

        By the way, the 2 has less than 6,000 riders. This will carry around 12,000 the first year, and around 17,000 in twenty years (if estimates are correct).

    1. Ok, my apologies, I see that the text says BAT lanes west of Sixth. Not great but not awful because on Spring they’ll be left side and there aren’t THAT many cars turning left onto Fourth, because Spring starts at First. Perhaps left turns can be banned between 4 and 6?

      All right turns off Madison should be banned through the BAT section. Drivers wanting to turn right should use Seneca.

  16. Some follow-up notes after thinking about this for a day:
    – I’m going to stop calling this project “Madison BRT.” It’s really Madison RapidRide.
    – I need to find out what will happen to the 2. It looks like there will be a center bus island around 13th and Madison so I don’t think the 2 will be able to make the bowtie turn onto Union then to Seneca. Possibly it moves north to Pike/Pine West of 14th and picks up some of the slack from the 10 moving to Olive? If so I think that would be a win for most 2 riders.

    1. “Possibly it moves north to Pike/Pine West of 14th and picks up some of the slack from the 10 moving to Olive? If so I think that would be a win for most 2 riders.”

      Like David proposed a couple years ago? If so, that’d be great whether the 10 or the 11 moves to Olive!

    2. I’m concerned about the 2 on Spring by SPL having to get stuck in the SOV traffic getting on I-5 since it cant use the special Madison BRT left lane

      1. There is a planned improvement coming on Spring Street. They have had funding for it for several years.

    3. I have no objection to that, but the loudest protectors of the existing 2 route reside between Broadway and Boren.

    4. Oh come on Frank. This is so much better it is laughable. Here is what this has:

      1) 100% Off board payment
      2) Signal priority
      3) Very good headways
      4) Center running through the most important, most congested section.
      5) BAT lanes where they are needed most.
      6) Left turns eliminated all over the place to allow for smoother running.

      Most of RapidRide has very little of that. SDOT has said that their modeling shows that further improvement isn’t needed. They have also said that if they are wrong (or conditions change) then they will extend BAT lanes and center running. RapidRide has obvious flaws and nothing is being done about them.

      As far as the 2 goes, this will spur a major restructure, and one that will be ridiculously easy compared to the one that Metro suffered through (and failed miserably at) recently (with the addition of one measly station in the area). It will be similar to what David proposed ( but with obvious differences (the 8 may just go all the way to Madison Park or maybe the 11 just turns at John and follows the 43 route west of 23rd).

      1. +1

        While I think it is great that there is such an active call for more transit priority, I would rather see Seattle spend money on other transit choke points around the city instead of fighting tooth and nail to get transit lanes all the way to MLK, just to be able to say that 100% of the route has dedicated lanes. That being said, it will be important to monitor this and address any reliability issues by extending the transit way east if it becomes useful to do so.

        I think people are going overboard in dismissing this as BRT Lite or way too expensive for what it delivers. If you want to, you can say this project delivers 20 blocks of full BRT (with electric vehicles) in one of the densest corridors in the Pacific Northwest AND this project delivers 8 blocks of BRT Lite in an area with little traffic congestion.

        If this line can reliably take 10 minutes to travel from 1st to 23rd and come every 6 minutes with nice stations and off board payment, it will be extremely high quality transit (no matter what you call it).

  17. I’m looking at this map, and I see that the outbound route doesn’t cut over from Spring to Madison until it gets past Ninth. That may be a nuance that some people don’t see and that I was not contemplating until today..

    That begs the couplet extension concept: How about going outbound on Spring all the way to Boylston? In fact, how about making Madison one-way inbound and Spring one-way outbound all the way to Boylston? If that’s too controversial, how about having the bus lane only go up Spring in the outbound direction and only design inbound Madison for buses between 9th and Boylston?.

    That would free up lots of capacity to allow for an exclusive bus lane almost all the way from Broadway. Route 2 buses could use Spring as well.

    It seems like we should be contemplating using the pavement on adjacent streets rather than try to cram every single mode on Madison. Right now, we’ll be having buses, through vehicles, turning vehicles, hospital visitors often in special vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists all on Madison. The area is a major bottleneck already, and as more buildings and Whole Foods come on line, it’s going to be even worse.


    1. As a longtime San Francisco resident, I disagree with Mike Orr’s positive assessment of SF public transit. But the one thing it does right is heavy use of one-way streets. That is the single most important ingredient to make traffic flow steadily.

      1. Kevin, I wish you’d do a posting about MUNI sometime. Over the years, both before and after I started driving trolleybuses for Metro, I’ve always really admired the people who drive for MUNI.

        Much old, vehicles, pavement, and the rest of San Francisco. One fund raising idea: have KC Metro pay to train our trolleybus and light rail drivers. I’d pay personally to learn the 24 Divisadero.

        Thing I like best about MUNI is that it really smells of sweat, both figuratively and the other way. On the other hand, with the steep grades and close quarters, curious about ideas for change.

        Shooting whoever opens vertical diamond lanes to regular traffic after 6 might help. So for us, any suggestion of Madison line? For that and much else, seriously, all thoughts appreciated.

        Mark Dublin

    2. What I like about San Francisco and those other cities is the baseline frequency. Most core routes are at least 10 minutes daytime, and 20-minutes evenings, and there are half-hourly night owls spaced a mile apart. We have a smaller area of 15 minutes daytime, which has recently been upgraded to 15 minutes evening with temporary funding, and a few night owl routes with 1-3 hour gaps in between and nothing north of 85th except the E. The other cities’ buses are often as slow as ours and even more overcrowded, but at least they’re frequent.

    3. I think extending Madison to one way farther up the street is probably a bigger change than people want to consider. I have no idea what that would do to traffic patterns, but it might not be good.

      In any event, from a bus right of way standpoint, on a one way street you want contraflow (center running won’t work). That is fine. I actually proposed it for part of this route but that was using Marion ( The lucky part about that proposal is that getting over to Marion is pretty easy as is completing the loop. But Marion doesn’t go over the freeway. If you go contraflow using Spring (something I also considered) then you have to take left turns. First Avenue is two way, so you would have to go farther west. It could work (I considered it) but it really doesn’t work as well as Marion.

      Assuming you keep the streets as they are, then you want center running on the two way streets. With that in mind, it actually makes sense (if the streets are wide enough) to have those center running streets be on the same street (that way the island could be shared). This suggests center running both directions up to where Madison and Spring convert over to one way, which is pretty much what they proposed.

  18. Same complaints I’ve had from the getgo. it should run from water to water. There’s no reason to end a bus route in the middle of a city like that unless it’s at a major transit transfer point like a rail station.

    1. We really did have a cable car line doing just that. I think the giant black wheel with the cables going into the wall at Pioneer Square Station really was discovered when the station was built.

      Serious also that both the water-to-water cable car be rebuilt, but also the Queen Anne Counterbalance. We could probably get historic funding- with added credit for only transit museum competitive with MUNI’s F-line.

      Maybe we could combine a counterweight on Madison up from the water, and a moving cable from Broadway to the lake? Could be discrimination to have minimum weight for engaging that huge cable grip lever. But we definitely should trolley wire the 27.

      Useful fuel-saving-wise, good use of trolley equipment, and Heaven to drive. Though any 24 Divisadero driver would still win the coveted Golden Transit Shoe award every time.


      1. There’s no need for the Counterbalance; the trolleys manage the hill perfectly well except on the increasingly rare snow day.

    2. No, ridership drops off dramatically after MLK. There just isn’t the density to support extending it.

      Folks in Madison Park will still have a bus that will connect to this. It will also connect to Link or go downtown (or both).

      1. You wouldn’t even need dedicated lanes or any of the other “RR+” infrastructure east of MLK. Just run it water to water so people aren’t penalized with a pointless transfer. It’s basic transit network design 101.

        There are zero advantages for someone wanting to travel from downtown to Madison Valley in being forced to transfer. It is just terrible network design. The best design is a frequent grid in which each line continues to it’s logical conclusion. Dead-ending in the middle of the city like that is not logical from a network design perspective.

      2. I don’t think you get it Chris. Think of this like a train. It would be really nice if the train went to Renton. So maybe we can just send it down that way. Lay a little rail. You don’t need all those “RR+” infrastructure goodies (like off board payment or signal prioritization). Just have the engineer validate the transfers and everything is cool. The train might be late getting to downtown — you might cut into headways in a dramatic fashion, but hey — it makes for more of a logical network and that way folks in Renton aren’t penalized with a needless transfer. It is just transit 101.

        Actually, going to Renton makes a lot more sense than what you are proposing. But if we go to Renton, then the train has to be built to the same standards. It doesn’t make sense to just abandon speed and consistency for a segment. That would be very stupid, and expensive overall. You don’t sacrifice your big investment just to satisfy some notion you read in a book somewhere and obviously misunderstood.

        Again, I don’t think you get it. This will operate a lot like our light rail line. It will involve 100% off board payment. That means that there will be fare inspection. That is expensive, and only makes where there are enough people boarding to justify it. To quote TransitWiki (

        For these reasons, off-vehicle fare payment may be most cost-effective on corridors with a high volume of boardings

        There just isn’t east of MLK. We are talking about running this thing day and night every six minutes. There just isn’t that kind of demand east of MLK (as should be obvious if you look at a census map, an aerial view, an employment map or just walk the street).

      3. A. Your comparison of building a rail line all the way to Renton to running a bus another mile or so is completely senseless.

        B. This route is not going to run every 6 minutes at night.

        I’ve not misunderstood anything. MLK is not a logical conclusion point. The street doesn’t end there. There is no natural barrier stopping the route. There is no artificial barrier like a freeway. The city limits don’t end there. It is not a major transfer point like a light rail or commuter rail station.

        There are zero advantages to this silly plan.

      4. OK, you obviously don’t understand analogies. So I’ll try and explain this to you one more time. First of all, MLK is a logical conclusion point because it is where high ridership ends. Are you really disputing this? Do you really think that there is the same density there as there is along the rest of the route? Because if you are you really need to check the census maps or just look at an aerial map. It is also a logical endpoint because it is a major connection point. Subway systems and buses all over the world end long before a “natural barrier stops the route”. The 19/24 (serving West Magnolia) doesn’t go down Perkins Lane. Hell, it doesn’t even go on Magnolia Boulevard! The 17 doesn’t go down Seaview (Golden Gardens). The 75 doesn’t go to Riviera Place — it follows Sand Point Way instead. These are all buses, to say nothing of trains all over the world that stop short of the water because of a change in density or a lack of attractions.

        This is not a regular bus. Got it? This is not a regular bus. It has more in common with Link than it does a regular bus. Off board payment, exclusive lanes and all that. But here are the key similarities:

        1) Both are expensive to build.
        2) Both are expensive to operate.

        There is a conflict there that should be obvious, but I’ll explain that to you again. Since it is expensive to build, you want to leverage that investment. You want it to provide as much value to society as possible. That means running it often. But running it often means it costs more to operate. Got it?

        OK, here is another key point:

        3) The longer it runs, the more it costs. This should be obvious, but I don’t think you understand the importance of this. If you suddenly run this out to Madison Park (a substantial distance) then it costs a lot more money to operate. It also costs a bit more money to build (additional off board payment stations) but that really isn’t the key point. By extending this, you either have to magically come up with more money, or run it less often. What naturally follows is:

        4) If you run it less often, you pick up fewer passengers. You make transfers more burdensome. You also reduce the fare box recovery rate.

        So basically what you are proposing is to spend more money extending this to Madison Park so that it can run less frequently, have less ridership and cost us all more money. Great plan.

      5. Oh, and I consider 7:00 PM night. But whatever. This will run every 6 minutes from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM to start.

        It is interesting to compare this to Link. For most of the day the times are identical. From 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, and from 6:30 to 7:00, the BRT is more frequent (running every 6 minutes while the train runs every 10). From 7:00 to 9:00 PM, the train is running more frequent (running every 10 minutes, while the bus runs every 15). The rest of the time they are identical.

      6. >>Subway systems and buses all over the world end long before a “natural barrier stops the route”.<<

        No. That was ONE of the reasons I gave among several for a route to end. MLK doesn't meet any logical criteria.

        If one wants to travel to/from Madison Valley, this plan is just adding one more transfer to that trip. And with the relatively poor frequency of most Seattle bus routes, adding an extra transfer on top of whatever transfers you're going to be making anyways is not insignficant.


        “Notice too that both routes try to get all the way across the grid before they end, so that almost all end-of-line points are on edges of the city. This is a common feature of good grid design, because it maximizes the range of places you can get to in just one connection. If you look at the abstract grid diagrams earlier in the post, you can see how they’d work less well if some lines in the grid ended without intersecting every one of the perpendicular lines. You’d have fewer options for how to complete a trip with a single connection.”

    3. There are three issues. (A) Water to water makes a simpler network. (B) Lower density east of 23rd. (C) The destinations people in Madison Park/Valley are going to are mostly near Pine rather than western Madison. The latter might change in the future as mid Madison development finishes and more mixed-use buildings appear in downtown’s 9-5 office ghetto. So it’s really a tradeoff and there are reasonable alternatives both ways. MLK may be an interim terminal until they find the operating funds to extend it to Madison Park (without the other BRT features).

      1. People in Madison Park don’t want to go to the 9-5 office ghetto between 9am and 5pm? Why would they rather be near Pine?

  19. The proposed service plan is bizarre…

    Service span is 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m Sundays & Holidays.
    Headways are every six minutes between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and every 15 minutes during all other hours of operation.

    Granted the six minute headways are awesome, but all of the RapidRide lines currently running in Seattle have night owl service and operates at 12 minute headways on Saturday. This is supposed to be “RapidRide+” so you’d think this line would at least meet the current RapidRide standard.

  20. Again, I ask why KCM didn’t propose extending the 12 down Madison to MLK, leaving the proposed 8/11 move to John St and not moving the 10 to Olive Way? Make one big change and the Madison RapidRide would simply be a name change and service upgrade to an existing route.

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