The Seattle Department of Transportation is in the midst of planning a new high capacity transit (HCT) corridor from Roosevelt to downtown. The route would connect some of Seattle’s most populous neighborhoods: Roosevelt, UW, Eastlake, South Lake Union and downtown.
The latest official document lists three options. The first is based on the current Metro RapidRide service and is called (of course) RapidRide. This has some stop consolidation, off board payment and transit priority. North of Denny, it would lead to a 26% increase in peak hour (i.e., rush hour) speed. The second option is called “Targeted Investment” and involves all of that plus “Minor roadway geometric changes that may include use of queue jump, business access and transit lanes, or dedicated transit lanes”. North of Denny it would be 38% faster.
But the most exciting proposal is called “Full BRT“, which would revolutionize transit it in the area. It would have center running buses and have “major roadway geometric changes that may include use of queue jump, business access and transit lanes, or dedicated transit lanes”. The result is extremely fast rush hour speeds:
An average speed of 21 MPH may not sound like much, but that is fast for the city, and blazing fast for urban transit (the NYC subway and Toronto subways average less than that). It is also, as the chart shows, a dramatic improvement — south of Denny it is over 10 times as fast as today! To get an idea of the possibilities, here is a chart showing travel time from stop to stop:
These numbers are rounded up to the nearest minute from the rush hour estimates. The stops are the ones that SDOT recommends. This obviously represents a dramatic improvement in transit mobility.
But this won’t happen unless enough people support it. Please let SDOT know that you want “Full BRT” on this important corridor.
64 Replies to “Support “Full BRT” with Roosevelt HCT”
At the open houses in December, SDOT said that only about $30M was budgeted for this corridor (though I believe Madison has been allocated $120M). The very clear message that I got was that Full BRT is way too expensive.
There isnt much in the local budget for Madison either. All of the BRT corridors in Prop 1 assumed Federal grants.
Though it’s clearly marked as a high cost option here, there was an interesting note in the Madison presentations: Sometimes center lane is cheaper/easier because there is no need to rebuild the sidewalk or do utility relocation.
Wow! BRT that moves that fast in this corridor woudl be incredible. 21 MPH is no joke. If we get anywheres near there for Roosevelt and the other RR+ corridor’s it will seriously change transit as we know it.
Can you add the map from the study for full BRT to this post? I’ll share it up on Seattle Subway’s FB.
I think it is within the PDF. I’m not sure if I can edit this post once it has been published (it would be up to Zach).
Ok – cool, no worries. Posted it earlier.
That speed improvement is really awesome. Not sure how winnable it is in that corridor. The most important improvements are always the hardest fights.
Thanks Keith. I do think this is worth fighting for. The speeds they are talking about are extremely fast, and the area they are talking about serving is very popular. It would be a model for the rest of the city, even if in many cases they couldn’t achieve it (because of the configuration of the streets).
Gee, 3 times as many stops as N.Link, taking only 2 minutes longer to downtown seems like a real bargain. I hope it doesn’t cost $4b like Link did.
Seems highly improbable, doesn’t it?
Why does this not serve Lake City?
Good question. Probably because it would add too much operating cost for the annual budget. It’s a long way out there to 145th and LCW.
I agree. It would be expensive, and unfortunately for Lake City, there is very little in between Roosevelt and Lake City. The area may grow (someday) but as of now, it is one of the more sparsely populated areas of the city. That being said, someday extending this out to Lake City (via an express could make some sense). I am still partial to an east-west line (using 125th/130th) but both could be warranted.
Because LCW would destroy the promise of speed?
I do agree that LCW will be needed, but that those 5 blocks southbound near the I-5 connecting to Roosevelt is a bottleneck that is going to have to be reconfigured.
Average speed faster than 25 MPH south of Denny? That does not sound plausible in this area.
The loop south of Denny is about 1-1/4 miles; at 25 MPH it will take 3 minutes. In this time it makes three 90-degree right turns (Boren to Stewart, Stewart to 3rd, 3rd to Virginia) and two “bends” to the left (Fairview to Boren, Virginia to Fairview), and there are three stops (not counting Fairview/Denny, for the sake of generosity).
If each stop costs 20 seconds (between deceleration, dwell time, and acceleration, this feels like a low-ball estimate) then we’re down to 2 minutes. Similarly, each of the three 90-degree right turns is going to cost at least 5 seconds in deceleration and acceleration compared to blowing straight through — I’m not an expert on this, but I can’t imagine it’s any better than this even in ideal conditions (bus lanes throughout, perfect TSP, dedicated signal phase). So we’re down to 1:45. That means you’d have to hit 42 MPH on the straightaways between stops, and through the bends. I could work out the math of acceleration and deceleration more rigorously, but… I’m pretty sure it’s impossible. Maybe it’s at the edge of possibility if you ran it like a race (i.e. driving a 60′ bus full of passengers, picking up and dropping off people at the stops, having to stay in the bus lane, but with the roads otherwise closed to traffic, so no need to drive defensively), but no way in hell could it be done during rush hour in Seattle.
(That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing even post-Link… the big problem south of the ship canal on this corridor is reliability. 10 MPH average speeds south of Valley in peak hours combined with reliable headways all day would be an incredible improvement.)
Well, that’s what the report says. My guess is the dwell time is low and there are only a couple stops.
“That’s what the report says”?!? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, my friend! 25 MPH average speeds on urban street-running mass transit is an extraordinary claim! Not least on a segment where, in not much more than a mile, the line:
– Makes three stops — its only three stops downtown!
– Makes three 90-degree turns
– Makes two non-trivial bends
– Is in close quarters with rush-hour traffic
– About a third of the distance is on Stewart Street, which is shared with a ton of other bus routes, lots of turning cars, and crosses lots of busy streets. No amount of money can guarantee political support for the street layout and signal operations needed to achieve that kind of speed on Stewart.
I think it’s more likely that the quoted speed average is some sort of mistake than that SDOT seriously believes they can average that speed south of Denny.
Again, I support full BRT here (and lots of places!). I don’t believe for a second that its implementation would achieve 25 MPH averages on the route drawn.
This won’t happen. SDOT has gotten out the handcuffs and whips to titillate STB readers. Eastlake simply isn’t wide enough to dedicate lanes for buses, and unless left-door ETB’s are bought for Metro’s use, the 70’s are not going to be able to use that center busway. Far more people boarding and alighting along Eastlake are headed for or came from UW than from the Roosevelt corridor. Get to a corridor average of 12 mph with BAT lanes and things will be great.
I can’t believe they’re still proposing the kink to 80th! The right way through the area is 75th, Banner Way, and Fifth NE. The intersection at 80th and Roosevelt is narrow, congested and not amenable to overhead.
They probably feel 80th has a better walkshed compared to Banner Way that parallels the freeway. That or they’re blindly following the current 66/67 route, but isn’t that supposed to become all-Roosevelt once the big restructure happens?
It might be different if there were going to be a station at 80th and Roosevelt. About two blocks north of 80th the Roosevelt Commercial District begins. But there’s NOT one or they left it off the map by mistake? Let Metro deal with the two-block long congestion there. It’s not BRT-able.
I do think that it’s weird that they show the Metro lines as they are running today, whereas in two months the trunk line will continue north on Roosevelt.
The Roosevelt Commercial District is 65th and Roosevelt. I think you’re thinking of the Maple Leaf Commercial District, which is starts (heading north) at around 89th and Roosevelt.
FWIW, I think it would be a huge error to run any form of BRT through Maple Leaf and miss the commercial district.
The map shows stations at 94th and 85th in the “no priority” section along Fifth NE. So either they inadvertently omitted an 80th and Roosevelt Station or there’s not plan for one. And if not 75th–Banner–Fifth is two minutes faster with no traffic and five to eight during the congested peaks.
I’d prefer at Roosevelt Station this BRT line turning onto NE 66th St to Weedin Pl NE which becomes 5th Ave NE. This way it can serve Green Lake commercial area including right in front of the new PCC store and its huge mixed use development, plus it hits directly the park & ride under I-5.
I like that routing too. It might get a bit bogged down at the freeway, Weedin is a great street. And of course serving East Green Lake is a huge win.
Well Green Lake commercial area is every definition of an urban village. I realize Roosevelt station is close but I wish Green Lake also had a station on Northgate Link. It doesn’t but GL does need more frequent transit service with a major route, and ideally a solid bus connection to Link. The P&R is just icing on the cake with this routing.
They would just have to remove parking on one side of the street on NE 66th by the station so buses can run two-way on it. The other option is to use 65th but there is more traffic and the inbound buses would then be on the south side of 65th requiring peds crossing 65th to get to the station which is less than ideal for a major transfer.
It won’t happen unless people ask for it. What happens north of 65th is really outside the scope of this proposal. We can have blazing fast speeds from 65th to downtown.
I happen to agree that if you are going to continue to Northgate that you should use Banner, but that is really not the main point here. Do you want really fast speeds from Roosevelt to the UW to Eastlake to South Lake Union to Downtown or not?
But, have you seen the intersection of 5th Ave NE and Banner Way NE during the afternoon rush hour? It is a 4 way stop and could take a while to get through the intersection, mainly in the southbound direction. That turn at NE 80th/Roosevelt Way NE can be tough sometimes. Going to Northgate, have to wait for the cars SB on Roosevelt and sometimes a car goes over the stop bar, making it more difficult to make the turn. Going South, sometimes there would be a lots of cars trying to make the left turn from NE 80th (EB) to Roosevelt Way (NB) and the turn requires the bus to use both lanes to make the right turn. So, in some cases, can take a few light cycles to make any turns there.
As for the Roosevelt/11-12th/Eastlake, there is another problem that slows down buses. BIKES. really need to move them to the left side of the street on Roosevelt/11-12th. Some bike riders are super slow.
Yep, I drive the 66-67 weekdays, so I know.
This would be center running, which means the bikes would be on the outside and the buses on the inside (in completely different lanes).
If the BRT were routed 75th, Banner, Fifth you can be sure that SDOT would find the money to buy a light at 5th and Banner.
But Poncho made a much better suggestion than mine: 65th, Weedin, Fifth. It has exactly the same “angle” turns as does Banner and it serves East Green Lake, an area which will grow to a major urban center whether the City thinks it should or not.
Let Metro handle Roosevelt/12th north of 65th. The BRT should pierce the urban centers.
Thinking “full BRT” down Roosevelt will occur is like thinking streetcars will run down 45th, it ain’t happening. I’ll take the 71-74 express service over BRT anyday. If Ross is so infatuated with BRT he should move to a city that has implemented it.
I was thinking Eugene or El Paso but Latin America or Canada would work too. Funny how the biggest proponents of BRT have never lived along a BRT line.
I guess that is out of bounds. So, here is a new response — Hey Les, if you don’t want to fight for good transit, move.
Sorry, but 14 minutes from 65th/Roosevelt to 3rd/Stewart is just not believable. Driving the route at 3 in the morning, with no traffic and no passenger stops takes at least 15 minutes. Link from Roosevelt to Westlake Station will be about 12 minutes, with complete separation from traffic, higher speeds, and fewer stops.
No matter how good the transit priority treatment is, basic physics do require at least a minute or so per stop (including acceleration/deceleration time), so the absolute minimum feasible travel time is 27 minutes (15 + 12), not 14.
The 66, today, is scheduled at about 27 minutes, but it is nearly always late, and achieves its relative speed mostly by not picking up very many passengers, compared to the nearby 71/72/73. If the 66 were fuller, it would, by necessity, run a lot slower.
That doesn’t mean that full BRT on Roosevelt is not worthwhile – Roosevelt is still an important corridor for local access and connecting to Link. But it’s important not to post unrealistic travel-time numbers and be disappointed when these number don’t happen.
The BRT also doesn’t consider the transfer penalty. 66,71,72 and etc are all 1 seat rides for many and achieve comparable times.
What transfer penalty? The transfer penalty is way less with a BRT than it is with most light rail stops. The simple reason is that our stations are in a big hole. I’m not criticizing Sound Transit, that is the best way to dig the tunnel. But it means that you have spend a fair amount of time getting up and back from the station.
In this case you just walk on the surface. Besides, that misses the point. Many riders won’t transfer. They will simply start at one stop and ride to the other. Roosevelt, UW, Eastlake, South Lake Union, Downtown. That is a pretty big set of destinations that will get plenty of riders without a single transfer. But you bet your ass it will get transfers. The 48 would feed extremely well into this, as would the 44. Either way this would greatly reduce the time spent going to Eastlake or South Lake Union.
As for the 66, 71, 72 being just as fast as this, that is ridiculous. Of course they get stuck in traffic. Of course they wait for lights. Of course they wait for people to pay their fare or for the wheel chair lift. All those things add up, which is why they are dirt slow compared to this, despite (in most cases) being an express and skipping right over Eastlake and South Lake Union.
I didn’t make this up. It is right in the report. If you think the city is lying, then fine. Great. Engineers and public officials put out a report like this and they just made the whole thing up. You, somehow, are the expert.
But you aren’t. A quick look at dwell times shows that you are simply wrong. From this http://reimaginerpe.org/node/344:
This system of same-level bus boarding, plus the pre-boarding fare payment, results in a typical dwell time of no more than 15 to 19 seconds at a stop.
I suppose those guys are lying as well.
Look, I don’t want to be harsh about this, but if someone said you could build a light rail line in the city and get from the UW to downtown in less than ten minutes it might seem crazy. We’ve never done anything like that! But we are about to. There is no reason we can’t do the same with bus service. But it requires people to care. if everyone just sits on their ass and thinks that we can’t build a rail system or build a very fast bus system, then we won’t.
My source is nothing more than Google driving directions. You can see for yourself here (https://www.google.com/maps/dir/47.6758306,-122.3175203/47.6115146,-email@example.com,-122.3673693,13z/data=!4m11!4m10!1m5!3m4!1m2!1d-122.3343419!2d47.6237969!3s0x54901530ac84d22f:0x1f8fcf87665e7d4f!1m0!2m1!1b1!3e0) exactly how long it takes to drive the route in a car, without traffic, without making a single stop to load or unload any passengers. The answer: 18 minutes.
To be fair, the 18 minutes probably includes some amount of padding time for the inevitable red lights. If a bus got absolute signal priority, and never had to stop for a single red light, it is possible that the time spent a bus stops would equal the time that a typical driver, in no traffic, would spend waiting at stoplights, thus allowing the bus to achieve an 18-minute travel time.
In practice,this is a very optimistic assumption. 45th, 50th, and Denny Way are all big enough cross streets to make MLK-style signal priority impractical (and, if it were done, it would have significant repercussions on the reliability of the 8 and 44, not just car drivers). Bus stops are spaced closer together (~1/4 mile) than the typical traffic light, and the 15-19 second dwell time numbers assume that the bus will be at least as fast, if not faster, in loading and unload passengers, than a Link train. Also, the time penalty to serve a stop is not just the dwell time – it’s also the time it takes to slow the bus down to a stop and get it up to speed again (my one-minute time penalty per stop number in my earlier comment includes acceleration and deceleration time, not just dwell time, which is why it seems relatively high).
Obviously, full BRT will be faster and more reliable than half-assed BRT, and it is definitely a good thing to do. I’m just saying that we should not use pie-in-the-sky numbers to justify it, and then complain when a real bus carrying real people is unable to achieve those numbers.
The 66X times off-hours are a reasonable proxy for the BRT speeds, and it’s pretty fast as is. It’s just not frequent, and it doesn’t have any speed or reliability at peak hours. Full BRT would be really fast and useful in this corridor. And by the scheduled completion date, you’ll probably be able to take a less-than-10-minute bike share ride to get to it from half a mile away. Full BRT plus bike share on this route would essentially cut a 70 minute commute to a 40 minute commute in practice. My actual commute is very similar – bike to 312X is about 40 minutes. Any other route (or walk to 312X) is over an hour.
@ asdf2 — I’m sure that is what the engineers did. They started by looking at Google maps. Just like meteorologists stick their head out the window, or check to see if Uncle Frank’s knee is acting up. Again, show me some science to refute the work that the engineers did, and I’ll begin to question the numbers. But Google Maps driving directions are not that accurate, and irrelevant in this case (https://www.quora.com/Google-Maps/How-does-Google-Maps-calculate-your-ETA).
The numbers that the city came up with are based on the street geography, dwell time and other factors. Of course they assume signal priority. It is right there in the document as a bullet point item (Transit signal priority and communications). If you make every light, have short dwell times (around 15 seconds) and run completely unencumbered by traffic, these numbers make sense.
Oh, and of course this will have shorter dwell times than a lot of trains. Trains are wider. They carry way more people. The driver can’t go until the last door can be closed. All that adds up to a longer dwell time. Trains can carry a lot more people, but a good BRT can load and unload faster.
Good luck giving the Roosevelt bus ambulance-style signal priority at the intersections of 50th, 45th, and Denny Way. There are way too many cars on these streets for the traffic impacts to be acceptable, at least if the bus runs at the frequency we want it to run. 45th and Denny are also important transit corridors in their own right, so even if the light were configured so that the Roosevelt bus never has to wait, that would simply mean more waiting for the 8 and the 44.
It’s also important not to lose sight over the objective of Roosevelt BRT. Roosevelt BRT is a local shadow and anyone who really wants to travel all the way from one end to the other should be on Link. For short distances that local feeder routes for a train with 2-mile stop spacing typically carry people, it is frequency that matters more than brute speed. Speed still matters, but not so much that it’s worth screwing over all the cross-town routes to shave a minute or two.
I think you are wasting your time on this blog, asdf2. You should be telling Boeing that their planes won’t fly. A carbon fiber plane? No way, it is too brittle. What happens when it hits turbulence?!!
Do you really think the engineers at the Seattle Department of Transportation don’t even know their own city? Do you think they are unaware of issues surrounding the streets (Denny, what’s Denny)? Your armchair engineering is ridiculous. Go get on sports radio and explain how million dollar coaches are doing it all wrong.
The purpose of this, and every other transportation project is to move people. In this case it connects people to very popular and populous places. Link does that as well. The two actually compliment each other (imagine that — what a concept). For example, if I want to get from Lynnwood to Eastlake I would get off at Roosevelt and take this. The same is true if I want to get to South Lake Union. The same is true from the south. From Rainier Valley to South Lake Union or Eastlake you take this bus after transferring at Westlake. In case you haven’t noticed, South Lake Union is kind of a big deal. There are lots of people working and living there — providing fast transit to the area is important. Just the number of people from Roosevelt and the UW who travel to South Lake Union is enough to justify this project.
It’s not only South Lake Union and Eastlake, of course, but also the U-District. Link only has a couple stops in the UW, and only one in Roosevelt. This means that it skips over some of the most densely populated parts of the city. Campus Parkway is one. Likewise 50th. Plus it serves the east side of the U-District, an area of high density and one not served that well by Link. I’m not criticizing Link — I would put the stations closer to the campus — I’m just saying that there are huge numbers of people on the east side of the U-District (higher concentrations than anywhere in West Seattle, for example). This would serve them much better than Link if they are headed to any of the destinations here.
This may not be obvious, so let me explain why. Take someone who lives close to Roosevelt and Campus Parkway. This is one of the most densely populated areas of Seattle (top five). Right now if someone from there wants to go downtown, they take a bus. In the morning this bus is an express, and uses the express lanes to get downtown very quickly. In the afternoon it slogs down in traffic. Assuming these buses are eliminated, someone from this area will have to walk ten minutes to Link, or take a shuttle bus and transfer. Either way it will be slower. Assuming a regular bus, you are talking about a two minute bus ride, followed by a two minute walk to the station, followed by a two minute walk to the platform, and then a wait for Link. On the other end you have a two minute walk up from the platform. If you timed it perfectly, you have a 16 minute trip to downtown. The bus would take 10 minutes and not require a transfer.
The fact that this can get you to the same destinations (UW to downtown) 6 minutes faster (depending on where you start and where you finish) means that it is justified. The fact that it also serves South Lake Union and Eastlake makes it even better value.
SDOT knows its own city streets, but was it really serious about the full BRT option or did it just throw it out there to say we tried but it’s unworkable. Eastlake is very narrow still.
My God, Mike, they are still in planning! Nothing is done, yet. I really don’t get this blog sometimes.
Look, we fought hard for good BRT on Madison. We fought hard to take away the parking. To run the buses in the middle of the street. To have complete off board payment and level boarding. To run the thing frequently all day. Guess what? WE GOT IT! We got all of that.
Then what happened? We wanted more. Even after the city said in their own studies that it wasn’t needed, people fought for more. The city said, basically, that they could add it later, if it was really needed, but it probably won’t be needed.
But now, long before that stage, people are just throwing up their hands and assuming that we can’t build anything really fast along Roosevelt. It is insane. The report clearly states that this is possible and would be really fast. This is the opposite of Madison. With Madison they said they didn’t want to build anything more than what the built (which was plenty — an unprecedented surface bus infrastructure project) because it wouldn’t make it faster. With this they state clearly that this would lead to much faster speeds.
But it won’t get built unless people spend a couple minutes and ask for it.
It reminds of the comments surrounding ORCA and the monorail. You may not remember that, but I was the one who started the conversation. I asked why it wasn’t supported, and people explained why. Then there was a long round of whining about Seattle. People spent huge amounts of time and effort complaining that nothing would change. But I pointed out (based on new found information) that if we simply contact the city council, we can change it. We did.
What was true then is true now. These things won’t happen without public pressure. But if we do put public pressure on them, it will happen. At worst we get an estimate for the cost. At worst they tell us how much it costs, and then we defer it to another day. But assuming failure will simply assure it.
I’ll really miss the purple trolleys if this plan gets implemented/
21 MPH is much faster than the NYC subway (probably the slowest in the world), but it’s actually slightly slower than the Toronto subway. It’s great for an in-city bus route though.
You may be right. On Wikipedia there is a line there that states that the Younge subway operated at an average speed of 20 MPH. But that was when it opened. That is also only one line. It is possible that average speed of the entire system is faster (and that the Younge line is faster, since it has been extended).
A lot depends on where the trains go. Through downtown, our train is much slower than that. Our dwell times are huge, and there are a lot of stops. From I. D. to Mount Baker, it averages right around 20 MPH. From Mount Baker to Rainier Beach it speeds up again, to 23 MPH. It is only when Link stops operating like a light rail line and starts operating like a commuter rail line (miles and miles between stops) that it becomes a lot faster than this BRT line. The fact that this BRT line could be just about the same speed as our light rail system in the heart of the city is very impressive.
I didn’t want to compare this to Link in the north end because it is apples and oranges. There are advantages to each and they should complement each other. But from Roosevelt to the north end of downtown it is competitive, even though it makes twice as many stops. Link serves Capitol Hill (and the other side of the U-District) but this serves Eastlake and South Lake Union. This will average a much slower speed, but still get there only 4 minutes later. Given the time needed to get into and out of a station, they are basically the same, end to end. In other words, if you are half way in between a BRT and Link station, and headed half way in between a BRT and Link station, you may as well flip a coin.
I guess my point is that it is not only great for an in-city bus route, but good for an in-city subway.
It depends on which section of the Yonge subway. The older inner city sections have closer station spacing than the outer sections, just like Link.
I think that with that Link speed data (aligned in an alignment with physical barriers) you pretty much proved how silly the 21.5 mph assumption on Roosevelt is.
I suspect the calculation was made by a junior analyst who believes in BRT and does not have the ability to do a “reality check”. No management wants to question “good news”. It’s what happens when you trust analysis to people that don’t know what it’s like to drive an urban bus. SDOT (or any agency) should be making sure that a panel of experienced drivers are reviewing their data before rolling them out to the public.
If you took a straight arithmetic average of Toronto’s 4 lines, it would probably be about 23 MPH. If you took an average weighted by line length, it would probably be about 22 MPH. The Sheppard line for example averages about 25-26 MPH.
@Oran and @Chris — Yeah, that makes sense. It wasn’t until I re-read the Wikipedia reference that I realized the average speed was for when it opened. The more suburban a subway line is, the faster a subway line tends to be (because the stops are farther away). I’m curious as to how you found out those numbers. When I wrote this piece I was searching for examples, and found very few.
@Al — If anything, the speed south of Denny is the one they got wrong. But I see no reason to doubt their numbers. It is clear that they are talking about some major changes. Basically you are talking about a bus with very short dwell times, no traffic, and no waiting for lights. Those seem like a stretch, but not really. BRT can have really short dwell times, (shorter than trains — certainly shorter than our trains, which have excessive dwell times). The buses should be able to accelerate quickly (since they will be electric). With center running you eliminate traffic (you essentially have a busway the whole way). Signal priority on most of Roosevelt should be fairly easy. That is the prevailing priority. There are a handful of big intersections, but they are on either end (50th, 45th, Mercer, Denny). That is the challenge. The rest of it could flow very quickly, like Link down Rainier Valley.
Speaking of which, Link down Rainier Valley averages 23 MPH. Imagine what that number would look like if dwell times were cut substantially (down to 15 seconds or less). A similar mass transit line down Roosevelt with similar speeds seems quite plausible in that light.
I think we are missing the big picture here, though. Lets assume for a second that SDOT got it wrong. Nobody double checked the numbers. This seems far fetched, but just assume that. Now assume that everyone takes a couple minutes and says they want “Full BRT”. What then? They do additional work and find out that they can’t deliver. Even with “major roadway geometric”, they will only achieve speeds of 17 MPH. That is substantially slower than what they originally estimated. But it is still blazing fast at rush hour. It still means that you have a very fast ride to South Lake Union or Eastlake. It still means that if you are closer to the BRT than you are to Link, and are headed to the same location, you are better off taking the BRT. That is a dramatic improvement with relatively very little money.
At that point, with substantially lower speeds (17 MPH versus 21 MPH) we could basically abandon such an improvement. But I don’t see why we would. I would go ahead and print up another little chart and it would still look impressive.
Full BRT — totally exclusive bus lanes — probably made out of concrete — great! Now add up the costs…
…and compare them to the same system, only with tracks, articulated streetcars, and overhead wiring.
The streetcar system will cost less to build and less to operate, and will have more riders.
This same calculation has been ignored repeatedly to the detriment of many cities.
While the city has clearly moved away from extending the streetcar system all the way to U-District/Roosevelt, full-scale BRT makes a case for slapping down enough to track reach the heart of Eastlake. The argument against doing so was always that (1) the Fairview Avenue bridge needed to be rebuilt and (2) you would never get support from the Eastlake community for repurposing a lane. The bridge is being rebuilt in 2017. If you ran center-running BRT in a transit lane down Eastlake Avenue it would make a lot of sense to link that neighborhood to the streetcar network. Eastlake was always a more logical terminus than Fred Hutch.
Of course, if you’re going to consider true BRT you might as well consider a streetcar for the whole route, but that ship seems to have sailed.
Why would you need a streetcar, a local bus (the 70 to UW) AND the Roosevelt BRT on Eastlake? Just ask yourself that question and then ask if there is any possible reason to undertake the costs of extending a track there. What niche would the streetcar serve?
That is ridiculous. There is no way that a streetcar with the same functionality — the same speed — could be built at lower cost than BRT.
Likewise the streetcar wouldn’t be cheaper to operate. That is a myth. To get cheaper operating costs you have to have bigger vehicles. This means a whole new set of trains, different than our existing streetcars. It means much bigger stops, which adds substantially to the cost.
The idea that cities have ignored streetcars and built BRT instead is nonsense. Cities have embraced streetcars. When they have failed from a transportation standpoint, they have claimed (with little evidence) that they have somehow revived the area. Building Gold Level BRT is much tougher politically, because people have an illogical attraction to trains (trains are fun — buses are stinky). You get the same tired arguments for BRT (why spend so much money on a bus? It is just a bus. If you do that, why not build a streetcar?). No logic, no discussion of the trade-offs, just illogical bias. The fact that Seattle has put aside the bias and is trying to build something that will provide a much greater benefit for the money should be applauded.
Trains make sense when you have major capacity issues, and you need much bigger vehicles. If this runs every two minutes and is full of people, then we should certainly replace it with light rail. Not a streetcar like our streetcars (which carry roughly the same number of people) but big trains. Doing so would cost substantially more money, but at that point (if it ever gets to that point) then it will be worth it.
While I agree that BRT is a good fit for the Roosevelt corridor and the projected travel times are outstanding, not all of what people refer to as “rail bias” is illogical. Rail is typically a smoother ride. More riders state a preference for rail than for BRT. They are reporting on their subjective experience but that doesn’t make it illogical. Why would we not want people to be comfortable and excited about the transit mode they are using?
Good article. I’m glad to see a good plan from SDOT and a BRT enthusiast to deliver the good news brimming with excitement.
OK, see Doug, that is a statement implying a trade-off. You state that there is a preference for rail. Fair enough.
Rail is sometimes more smooth, sometimes not (most of the subways I’ve ridden shake a lot). We have to be careful about polling (especially in this area) because people associate trains with high speed, and buses with the low speed. That is, without a doubt, what drives the desire for more rail in this town (people assume it will be fast).
But as the current streetcar has shown, when it isn’t, it isn’t very popular. But lets assume their is a preference. How much? How much will people prefer a smoother, or otherwise more pleasurable ride versus getting to their destination faster? Not much, really: http://humantransit.org/2009/04/the-disneyland-theory-of-transit.html
Money is short. We can’t afford to build everything we want to. It is quite likely that this project will fail because of lack of money. Obviously if there are low hanging fruit — cheap things we can do to make transit more fun or less annoying — than we should do it. But it makes sense to focus our money on providing fast, frequent transit, especially since our own example of a streetcar is not exactly popular.
I agree that money is short and BRT can be a great way to get the most out of limited funds. The Roosevelt corridor should be great as BRT. The city hasn’t dedicated much money with apparently around $30 million. Luckily, I think this project could be eligible for a 80% federal match through the Small Start program, or failing that should get some other federal grants. That should amplify the investment and get us a pretty solid BRT. That’s actually one of the bigger advantages of beefing up our bus network to BRT in more corridors this decade. The current iteration of the federal transportation bill offers good matching funds for BRT, not much for LRT.
As to subways shaking a lot, letting century old legacy subway systems on the East Coast stand in for what rail quality will be in a brand new system is ludicrous. We should expect brand new light rail systems to be very smooth. Meanwhile buses, even really nice ones, can only be as smooth as the road over which they drive. The reality is that many Seattle arterials aren’t in great shape and maintaining the road is a hidden cost of BRT. Meanwhile light rail track lasts a long time and is comparatively easy to maintain.
We should be careful about polls, but we should also be careful about expecting BRT to be consistently be faster than LRT while also still be significantly cheaper. We should study carefully what works best for the unique conditions of each corridor given the funds available. For Roosevelt, BRT appears to be a slam dunk. That won’t be true of every corridor.
Wow Ross. I am really impressed with your tenacity and ability to address the BRT doubters’ concerns.
My takeaway from this article and the open house is that the City would rather pursue a ‘targeted investment’ approach that does not address some key choke points and we really need to ask for more. I was particularly surprised that there were no bus lanes on the southern end of the route. That is clearly where you get the most bang for the buck.
I wanted to highlight that one of the key places this BRT line would serve is the Convention Place area which will lose its bus tunnel and will not have Link service. There is a tremendous density of jobs and residents that will benefit by this line filling that and other gaps between Link’s stations.
While i absolitely believe SDOT should add more dedicated transit lanes and eliminate traffic impediments, my only hesitation in saying this should be Gold BRT or the highway has to do with how this line interacts with other transit lines, peds and bikes.
The U Bridge is a key connection for bikes so this corridor needs to accommodate them much more safely than it does today. If that means a slight decrease in BRT quality i am OK with that (especially since this will all come online around the same time Link comes to Northgate creating a very fast transit alternative for long trips on this corridor.
Downtown, I would rather have other buses share the benefits of a transit way rather than separating this line from other buses to ensure maximum speed and reliability. Of course, it remains to be seen what busses will be running where after Northgate and Lynnwood link stations are functioning as many of the buses currently on Stewart might not be there.
I agree with all of your points. I was going to write something about the importance of this corridor from a bike perspective, but left it out (just to keep the thing short). I would hope that you could accommodate both without breaking the bank.
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Hi Ross (or others) — I have been mostly thinking about the Targeted Investments approach since that was so clearly what SDOT was advancing at the open houses. After reading this post, though, I wanted to look more closely at full BRT, and I have a few practical questions:
–In general, for full BRT, what is the preferred width needed for a center station? If the preferred width isn’t possible, what is the minimum required width?
–In looking at the cross-section for one of the narrowest areas of the corridor in Eastlake [just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m looking at the drawing on page 3 at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/roos/FINALBOARDS_12-07-2015.pdf%5D, there does not appear to be any spare capacity in the curb-to-curb for a station.
–It also doesn’t appear that there would be room for any kind of protected bike lane. In the cross-section from the open houses, they actually have sharrows in the one general purpose traffic lane each direction. Any thoughts on how you could design a cross-section that includes center-running BRT and protected bike lanes? And if so, how would it also work at areas with a station?
Kind of a bummer that ad homs seem to get a quick reply but logistical questions get lost in the shuffle.
I would still be very interested in hearing how full center-running BRT might be done on a narrow street like Eastlake without sacrificing bike lanes or significantly increasing the roadway width.
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