Northgate-Downtown HCT-01
Latest Concept Design – Graphic by the Author

At an open house last night at the TOPS School in Eastlake, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented updated ‘concept designs’ for the Northgate-to-Downtown High Capacity Transit Project. Like Madison BRT before it, the concept design will be refined and completed over the summer, after the which the project will seek funding. As a RapidRide+ corridor under the Move Seattle levy, the public will surely have an expectation that they have already funded most of the work, though they are likely to be disappointed in that regard.

When we last left the project, SDOT was analyzing three levels of investment, RapidRide (basically nothing), Targeted Investments (“Rapid Ride+”), and full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Mobility outcomes between the three options varied widely. The “Targeted Investments” alternative – clearly being telegraphed as the most likely – would yield 28% faster travel times, improving from 6.5mph to 8.3mph. The Full BRT option would yield nearly nearly light rail speeds, improving to a 21.5 mph corridor average.

Average Speed Roosevelt BRT

As expected, SDOT has chosen to advance the Targeted Investment option, largely foregoing dedicated bus lanes in favor of a patchwork of Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes, queue jumps, and small intersection improvements. In short, though the investments in frequency and electrification are fantastic, there is very little in the plan that could plausibly be called High Capacity Transit or Bus Rapid Transit, and the project will have far less in terms of transit priority than Madison BRT.

So what did SDOT show last night? Details after the jump…

Full Electrification

Happily, SDOT seems committed to making this a trolleybus, and the expense of hanging wire from Campus Parkway to Northgate is a huge part of the project’s cost. Given financial constraints, the design prefers electrification to transit priority, which becomes fully apparent when you learn that…

The Bus Would Run 80-90% in Mixed Traffic

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 7.17.31 AMLeaving Westlake, an outbound bus would travel in mixed traffic on Virginia Street to Denny, where side-running BAT lanes would provide transit priority for 4 blocks to Republican Street. From Republican to Valley, the bus would be left to contend with the mass of general traffic across the Mercer Mess, with the double-turn lane for cars being retained instead of taking one of those for transit. (When asked why the bus lane did not continue across Mercer, staff replied “because that’s where traffic is worst,” not appreciating the purpose of transit priority in the first place.) The line would then run in mixed traffic through Eastlake to Allison Street underneath I-5, where a short transit lane would allow for a station stop and queue jump to help the bus get a headstart across the University Bridge. From Eastlake to Northgate the bus would run entirely in mixed traffic except for queue jump lanes at 50th and 65th.

Southbound, the story is slightly better, with mixed traffic from Northgate to South Lake Union with queue jumps at 65th and 45th. At Yale Avenue near Fred Hutch, the streetcar tracks would be moved (at a cost of $10m) to the west side of Fairview Avenue and buses would have a dedicated lane from Yale to Mercer. From Mercer to Republican the bus would be subject to general traffic turning right from Fairview to Mercer, after which BAT lanes would provide priority to Denny Way. Finally, the bus would run in mixed-traffic on Boren Avenue and the existing BAT lanes on Stewart Street.

The Line May Not Reach Northgate for a While

SDOT no longer thinks it can reach Northgate by 2020, and is looking at a phased approach with interim terminus options at UDistrict Station and/or Roosevelt Station.

Roosevelt Keeps Its Parking, Eastlake Loses It

One of the benefits of a couplet is the doubling of right-of-way. Roosevelt and 11th combine for 80′, while Eastlake only has 50′. Yet even with 4 lanes to work with, SDOT doesn’t propose bus priority in Roosevelt. Instead, the design proposes protected bike lanes, parking, and two lanes of shared auto and bus traffic. In the narrower Eastlake corridor, on-street parking mostly disappears in favor of protected bike lanes, one lane of traffic, and a turning lane.

Bike Lanes Win in Eastlake, the UDistrict, and Roosevelt

Faced with tradeoffs between transit priority and bicycles, especially on Eastlake, bicycle advocates out-organized transit advocates and won a huge victory with the latest concept design. Two-way Protected Bike Lanes (PBLs) would be built on the east side of Stewart from 5th to Minor and from Fred Hutch to the intersection of Fairview and Eastlake. From there, the PBL would split into a pair of one-way PBLs that run continuously from Eastlake to NE 75th Street along the Roosevelt/11th couplet.  Additional PBLs would also be built on Roosevelt Way north of 75th to Northgate Way, and on NE 100th St connecting 5th Ave NE to the Northgate Link Station.

However, people on bikes coming into Downtown would be mostly diverted off of Fairview via Valley, 9th, Bell, and 2nd. Regrettably, the plan does not propose separating the current Valley Street bike lane, which is rendered useless on a daily basis by drivers using it as a holding lane (see photo below).

There's a bike lane there, hogged by cars. (a friend's Facebook photo)
There’s a bike lane there, hogged by cars. (a friend’s Facebook photo)

So what are we to make of this? We’ll have more in the coming days, but one immediate reaction is that this is again illustrative of the power of “BRT Creep” in practice. Mayor McGinn – to much contention – pushed for a streetcar through the corridor before the Council rebuffed him and diverted the study funds. The 2011 Transit Master Plan selected the corridor for High Capacity Transit distinct from “Priority Bus Corridors”, with coupled streetcars as the preferred mode. Bus Rapid Transit was the middle investment level, and “Enhanced Bus” the lowest study option. The city’s analysis at the time showed that 5-minute headways on 60′ ‘enhanced buses’ would still fail to meet peak demand. Yet here we are 5 years and a $900m levy later, and “Enhanced Bus” is what we are set to get. To be sure, the route will still be a nice bus and electrification is always welcome, but it will basically be an electrified and more frequent Route “70+67” and little more.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 12.12.40 AM
2011 – Eastlake Corridor Distinct from “Priority Bus Corridors” and Selected for Higher Level of Investment
Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 12.08.53 AM
2016 – Just one of many “RapidRide” corridors

Second, the choice to prioritize bikes over transit is an interesting one. As a bike business owner, daily cyclist, and transit blogger I have irreconcilably conflicting feelings about this choice, but here are a few thoughts. Favoring bikes, I’d note that the current Cheshiahud Loop through Eastlake is awful and not a plausible alternative pathway at present. It is riddled with poor pavement, sends you through alleys and driveways, and is 100′ and a 12% grade below places on Eastlake people actually want to visit rather than pass through. In a city in which cars and buses can drive on nearly any street, places for bikes are rare and fragmented, and in a city committed to Vision Zero their construction is a moral imperative. And of course, marquee bike facilities will help keep bikes off Link, which will be increasingly important as ridership grows.

On the other hand, the number of transit riders stuck in mixed-traffic gridlock is likely an order of magnitude greater than those cycling through, and I have no doubts that if a public vote pitted the two against one another, that transit would prevail. Failing to give transit due priority, especially with the combined 8 lanes of Roosevelt/11th, shows that SOV flow is still priority #1 at the city. In Eastlake it’s far trickier, and I don’t necessarily fault the city for choosing bike safety over transit flow, especially when Eastlake itself is not nearly as congested as its access points, especially South Lake Union.

But the optics are poor, and the history of progressive degradation of the corridor’s plans is clear. Combined with Madison BRT’s similar challenges, it’s an inauspicious start to the Rapid Ride+ program.

If you have questions for staff or ideas of how you want this corridor to work better, there is another open house tonight:

Thursday, June 16
6 – 8 PM
UW Tower, Cafeteria North
4333 Brooklyn Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98105

160 Replies to “Roosevelt BRT Will Not Be Rapid”

  1. Looks like only way to get subway performance is to pay for a subway.


    1. That is not entirely correct. We could buld BRT or Express Streetcar as SDOT calls it, at fraction of the price of subway. At-grade, exclusive ROW is how most of Europe gets around – the famous German S-bahn are at-grade “Express streetcars” some of which, dip below grown downtown.

      We can move a lot of people fast through the city through BRT or ESC. It requires more investment, but not THAT much investment. ANd the payoff is VERY WORTH IT.

      1. Let’s try this again.

        Given the politics and bureaucracy involved it looks like the only way to get subway performance is to pay for a subway.

        This is going to be the result with BRT in Seattle right now. The agencies involved are either powerless (Metro) or have competing priorities that outweigh transit performance (SDOT). That’s the reality.

        In some ideal world, yes BRT could work. But it doesn’t here, not right now.

      2. German S-Bahns are full-sized trains with 90 mph maximum speeds that serve the suburbs and converge to form a single high-frequency corridor through downtown. The exception is Karlsruhe, which is what probably what you’re referring to, which uses a tram-train network :)

        But yes, most rail systems are at-grade and do a very good job, because the road raster was built around it. In Seattle’s case, the road network is already there, so short of flattening a whole column of blocks for two tracks, you ain’t gonna get reliable at-grade service.

      3. What exactly does “subway performance” mean? Speed? Sure, I guess, but what good is speed if it doesn’t serve the areas that need to be served. This is very disappointing, to be sure, but it could eventually improve. I don’t see that with Link, for example — they will never add the stations that they should have added between the UW and downtown. That is not a high performance subway, in my book (just a fast one).

      4. S-Bahn trains are like Sounder with a full railroad right of way. U-Stadtbahn trains are like MAX but with a tunnel downtown. I don’t remember if the cars are smaller than MAX or single.

      5. “That is not a high performance subway, in my book (just a fast one).”

        That’s what makes it high performance though. 6 minutes from Westlake to UW. As opposed to the poor little 70 that takes thirty minutes, and this proposal is not much better. Adding the Bellevue, 15th, and Montlake stations would make it more useful, but that doesn’t mean it’s not high performance without them. There are tens of thousands of people going to the U or the U-District who will take the fastest thing that’s available, and if it takes less than fifteen minutes that’s a major bonus. So those riders alone make it high performance, then on top of that there’s the people who take it to Broadway (and have ditched the 49, and never had a 49X option).

        What’s frustrating about this BRT creep is that Roosevelt could have been a showcase of the best BRT Seattle has seen. I lived at 56th & University Way for a long time, and I would have taken it to Roosevelt, Half Price Books (47th?), Hardwicks (42nd), two physical therapists (on Eastlake, one in the UW Physicians building), my dad’s apartment (Eastlake), SLU (various destinations), an ex Greek pizza place my friend ran (80th), etc. Everyone who lives between SLU and 95th could make a similar list of destinations. Link is not always nearby (e.g., at 55th) or doesn’t go there at all (Eastlake, SLU). Then there’s the emerging mixed-use housing along Roosevelt in the U-District, and the upzone it will be in the center of. That will lead to more people and more trips.

        So with just all that, a bus like the 66 would be successful without even trying. Especially now that the 71/72/73X are gone and the 70 would be replaced, which it had a hard time competing with since they went to University Way. But “a success without even trying” is not what we approved Move Seattle for. It was intended to bring transit/BAT lanes to a large part of Seattle’s highest-volume corridors, to reach a level of transit we’ve never had. And now that’s been watered down to something the speed of the 71/72/73X, which ground the term “express” into oblivion.

        If we can’t afford both transit lanes and electrification, then maybe we should defer electrification. I hate to say that because I’m looking forward to a wired, carbon-neutral, fast hill-climbing, quiet and smooth future. But the primary purpose of transit is to move people, so if it has to do it with self-powered vehicles for a little longer, that’s a good tradeoff.

        McGinn’s streetcars would not have solved this problem. Streetcar creep is as bad as BRT creep. Only elevated or underground rail, or exclusive-lane rail/bus with underpasses, is free of creep.

      6. Oh, Mike, again, you don’t get it. Look, I completely agree with the third, fourth and fifth paragraphs. I agree, this is all extremely frustrating. BRT creep at its creepiest.

        But then Link has suffered from subway creep. By all means, Link is great for getting from parts of the UW to most of downtown. But it it only serves one tiny bit of Capitol Hill! It completely skips over First Hill! If you are taking a trip from First Hill to downtown, or First Hill to the U-District, Link is not at all fast. It should have been, but the same sort of “good enough” mentality crept in, and we are left with the most important section we will ever build being inadequate for most of the people who travel over that very line.

        It isn’t just First Hill, of course. There are plenty of cases where stops were skipped, or “awful” stations built (Martin’s words, not mine). Now entire lines are skipped, while some aren’t even studied, while we pursue routes that will never come close to improving transit in the region.

        Either way it sucks. It sucks when you have a fast subway, without the proper stops just as much as it sucks if you have a “BRT” line, that will never be that fast. The difference is that the bus line can be fixed, bit by bit. We are probably stuck with the poor decisions that were made with light rail in this town for a very long time (if not forever). Oh, and the other difference is that this didn’t cost that much.

      7. That “tiny bit” is the center of the urban village, and a 10-minute walk reaches almost all of the dense mixed-use area that Link was intended to serve.

      8. “intended to serve”

        I could care less what the intent was (although if poor performance was the goal, it is even worse than I thought). My point is that Link does not perform as well as it should, and a big part of the problem was “creep”. They could have served First Hill and had planned on serving First Hill. They should have planned on serving Madison and 23rd. That would have enabled service to the entire Central Area, the area that shows up so prominently on this map: Most of that isn’t within a “ten minute walk” and most of it isn’t within a nice connecting bus ride either, despite being way more densely populated than just about anywhere else Link intends to serve.

      9. And then there is density creep. Let’s build stations in neighborhoods proud of all their “density”, then watch as they hold the line on heights, turn the plots zoned for “height” into parks, surround the few blocks of density with SFHs, and allow individual citizens to file last-minute delays that push construction of new housing back a few more years.

        Capitol Hill’s pocket of non-SFH has been served.

        First Hill’s density has already seen streetcrawler creep, BRT creep, and what happens when the composition of the ground gets in the way of neat wavy lines on maps that would have turned a subway into a milk run.

      10. There is no such thing as BRT. Does not exist. It’s just an excuse to *not* build trains, *not* build bus lanes, and generally *not* build anything useful. Never seen one anywhere.

        At-grade, exclusive-ROW train routes are excellent and work well throughout the world.

      11. Curitiba, Brazil. Other Latin American countries. Supposedly Los Angeles. And the Eugene BRT sounds pretty good. So it’s really just that 99.9% of the US does not have good BRT or a realistic possibility of getting it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world. And yes, capacity is lower than a train, but it may be adequate for many cities. It worked well in Curitiba, although I heard it had finally outgrown capacity and they were converting it to rail but I don’t know if that has happened. But it’s still a high threshold to exceed capacity, when you have triple-articulated buses every 90 seconds. That’s far higher capacity than the E would need on Aurora for its current and near-term demand.

      12. LA’s Orange Line is real BRT, Eugene’s EmX is real BRT. lots of real BRT in South America as well.

        The problem is doing it right tends to cost a lot of money. Maybe not quite as much for rail but close enough. It also usually requires taking space from cars, something which has proven politically difficult in the US.

        It likely is no accident that where BRT has not been watered down in the US has been where it isn’t competing for space with cars. (Not sure about the healthline in Cleveland I haven’t seen it and don’t know much about the implementation other than it is supposedly silver level BRT).

      13. Real BRT exists. But it is rare in the U. S. Like a lot of things, it is a judgement call, but ITDP has rated a bunch of systems, and assigned them levels of service based on a lot of criteria. Not all systems have been judged (the scorecard is a couple years old) but we manage to get a silver (in Cleveland of all places) along with three bronze medals (Eugene, L. A. and Pittsburgh). A good performance for Lithuania in the summer games, perhaps, but not exactly what the U. S. should aspire to.

        It would be nice if they judged more systems. It would also be nice if they judged light rail lines using the same sort of criteria. Most U. S. systems built in the last fifty year would likely be judged as poor. The exception being D. C., of course (a gold level system in my book). Our line would likely be judged “real subway” or some such moniker, but not that high. We would get poor marks for many of the same things that ITDP judges BRT on. For example, Integration with other public transport, pedestrian access or distance between corridors. Interestingly enough, we would be judged highest on the part of infrastructure not built by Link, but built years ago, for buses.

        Which is part of the reason why I think it is nuts to give up so easily when it comes to bus improvements, and assume the best when it comes to light rail. Without a doubt this is disappointing. No one did more than me to champion this project, and push for something that would likely get us on the medal stand. But Madison BRT is real BRT, and would probably receive a very good grade (unless the weaknesses are much worse than feared). Even within the very constrained budget, we can build things that make sense — we just aren’t going to do it along here. It will still be a lot better than it is now, just not as good as it should be. It has the off board payment, the level boarding, the signal priority,stop spacing and corridor preference to make it great. But I doubt that this will avoid all significant congestion, which will likely slow this down considerably.

        As I said above, though, the best part is that it is relatively easy to fix it later. If we decide that we want to have both a top class bikeway and busway, then we can do that, but it will cost a bunch of money. I’m not sure if it will ever be worth it, though. My guess is that the best we can do is make improvements downtown and north of the bridge, which are likely to make this better, just not the 100% busway that is possible.

    2. But what about Chicago “L” performance, Matt?

      Every “L” station in the loop used to have peanut machines where a huge flock of pigeons would reflexively fly from one station to another when they heard a “click”. Have pity on urban wildlife, which are always on the brink of extinction by anybody who can get their hands on one!

      You’re depriving thousands of people the close relationship with their transit system accurately portrayed in that scene in “The Blues Brothers” where Elliot and Jake are relaxing in the kitchen of their hotel room with 1953 PCC(!) trains going by five feet away. Louder than when Carrie Fisher blows up the building with a rocket launcher ten seconds later.

      But the main thing is that based on current apartment rents in refurbished buildings along the tracks, imitating Chicago will definitely encourage Density! While also creating irresistible demand for subways.


  2. At the risk of sounding like a commentator saying “don’t invest in transit, self-driving cars will fix everything!” … is running that much wire a good investment? Was there a study on whether it would be cheaper to buy a fleet of battery powered buses and building charging stations at Northgate & downtown?

    As we are seeing with the $10M spend to move streetcar lanes, trolley wire fixes a route and limits future flexibility. I get that this is a major corridor and the chances of re-routing are low, but it seems like investing in full BRT and faster transit is a much better investment than trolley wire both short & long term. Whatever we save by “going green” with electrification I think may be outweighed by full BRT supporting more people to ride transit & reducing SOV.

    1. This…I’m assuming (perhaps wrongly) that off-wire technology will continue to improve before this “thing” — which once held so much promise — is completed. Perhaps the capital cost of providing charging stations is equivalent to stringing wire (I have no idea), but it certainly seems silly nowadays to put so much of the budget into capital investment that seems to be becoming outdated as we speak.

      As for the prioritization of one mode over another (used by orders of magnitude more people), well, let’s just say that it is becoming harder and harder to vote for anything in this city.

      1. I dont think wire is all that expensive, most of it is probably the substations and I dont think this would require too many. They can save a lot of money if they just use (and design around) the existing brand new trolley fleet instead of custom buses like Madison BRT.

      2. I don’t there is any center running on this line, so the only reason I can see why they would invest in the new fleet is level boarding. That doesn’t seem worth it to me. So, yeah, I would try and just leverage our existing fleet (the speed difference in boarding and alighting between the two vehicles is probably tiny).

    2. Let’s tell SDOT to deprioritize electrification if we have to choose between it and transit lanes. That will probably surprise SDOT, and may shake it up enough to achieve a better balance. The primary purpose of transit is to move people to where they want to go. Unnecessary slowdowns are inefficient, and uncompetitive with driving. Cars use much more fossil fuels than buses do, so if a bus approaches car speed while still making local stops, that will do more for the environment than a slow trolleybus.

    3. I’m guessing one reason to favor stringing wire vs. transit lanes is what is available in terms of Federal grants. I believe once the wire is up metro can get extra money every year as opposed to transit lanes where the Feds will fund construction costs but not operations.

  3. This shouldn’t be presented as bikes over transit but as SOV over all. The city can say all it wants about mode share, but when it comes down to actual projects, as you say, SOV flow is still priority #1.

    1. Yeah, I think if anything the complaint is Transit finished #3, below Bike at #2 …. :(

      1. Not really. The people at the meeting were pissed as hell over losing their parking. 72% of the parking will be gone from 45th to downtown (which I assume is pretty much all just Eastlake). This really is a mish-mash. Drivers take a small hit; parking takes a big hit in one area, and then nothing in another; buses get some improvements, but not that many.

      2. That’s 72% of free parking that is on eastlake itself. That’s a number made to scare people. The majority of the public street parking in the area is on the side streets. I wouldn’t call it a “big” hit, in the grand scheme of neighborhood parking.

      3. Oh, I agree, Lack Thereof, I’m just saying, that’s not how people view this. No one wants to scare people. Believe me, the folks at the meeting got a lot of flack from those worried about their parking. Most of them had a hard time believing the assessment from the city, where they basically said there was plenty of parking, even though they removed a lot. There is the feeling (however unjustified) that parking is really hard to come by, and by taking out a decent size chunk, the area will suffer more. A lot of it is that people don’t want to walk that far, or don’t want to pay to park in a garage or (most often) they just want things the way they used to be.

        The folks I feel sorry for is the occasional merchant of delivery guy who has to deal with a load/unload change. But that really is a case by case basis thing. If you can just park around the corner, it is no big deal. But in some cases (maybe not here) that isn’t easy, and getting rid of the loading area makes it tough to move stuff around.

    2. Yes! We must stick together or the status quo of SOV uber alles wins.

  4. But there will already be Light Rail connecting various points throughout the corridor, so why wouldn’t a person just use the Light Rail instead? I understand the need to connect the Eastlake portion of this corridor, but am quite baffled as to why you would need high speed BRT from Northgate to Downtown. It seems like the need to invest in other routes to get people up to the Light Rail Stations (including improvements to frequency on this corridor) is a better investment than a high speed BRT route that essentially parallels the Light Rail with stops in the exact same neighborhoods.

    1. +10000

      We need good connections to Link stations not waste of tax dollars for duplicity.

      1. With 20 blocks or more between Link stations, this route does connect them. Not doing a the full BRT treatment in this context makes sense.

      2. aw,

        This plan barely solves the very real problem you pointed out. There will be just three “stations” between Roosevelt Station and Northgate and two between Roosevelt and U-District. There are plenty south of there apparently because there is no Link service, but frequent buses and a less extreme stop diet would be better north of 45th.

        Breaking the line at U-District with BRT to the south and stop-dieted FS bus to the north would be a better use of all-day Link.

      3. Great point Anadakos – it’s one corridor, but perhaps best served by two routes with different features, one with BRT frequency & ROW and one more traditional Metro service. Where would you split the route, at the Roosevelt station? Would need to be somewhere with some layover capacity.

      4. I would split it at 65th, which is pretty much what will happen. It isn’t clear whether this will ever go up to Northgate, nor is it clear whether it should. There is simply a lot less demand for service between there (unless they managed to cut over to Green Lake via Weeden or a similar street).

        As for stop spacing, it is pretty good, but I would add a stop. Here is what it is now between 65th and 41st::

        65th, Ravenna (which is roughly 60th), 50th, 45th, 41st

        I think all you need to do is add a stop at 55th. There is (in my opinion) also too big of a gap between Fuhrman and Lynn. That is close to a mile. Add a stop at Hamlin and it looks good. All of that could be added later, of course, but you might as well add it now (do all the work now). I’m sure it costs something, because you will need islands for the stops (with the bikes running close to the curb).

    2. Good point. Through-travel from Northgate to Downtown isn’t the intended use for this route, so overall travel time/speed isn’t as important as on other routes. The keys points are frequency and transfer convenience. The Link transfer environment at Northgate, 65th, U District and Westlake Stations is critical. The primary use case is for people along 5th or Roosevelt is seamlessly catch a bus to the nearest Link Station.

      The only segment with a lot of one-seat riders is Eastlake-Downtown (basically today’s Route 70) – there is some new transit priority in this section (although it could be much better).

    3. Yes – this is the same mistaken argument, on a smaller scale, of people complaining about Link speeds from Tacoma to Seattle – the bus is intended to serve the space in between, not the endpoints. I would expect transfer en-mass at Roosevelt station for people heading into the downtown core, taking Link to Westlake & south.

      That said, Roosevelt BRT hits lots of destinations in SLU & Eastlake that one will have to take the bus to, whether a rider is going bus-bus or Link-bus, so I think not having transit only lanes south of the ship canal is an unforced error. Similar to Madison BRT, I don’t think anyone is advocating for transit only the ENTIRE length of the corridor, simply wishing SDOT was covering much more of the line than proposed, reducing mixed traffic to something like 60% vs. the proposed +80%

    4. This is a good point, but what I’m worried about is buses stuck in complete gridlock. I’m much more concerned about frequency on this alignment for the reasons that you mention, but it would be infuriating to get on a bus for a 10 block trip only to be stuck in traffic.

      I don’t think dedicated right of way is required on 100% of this line, but more coverage would be better, and lacking that, at least ensuring queue jumps and signal priority elsewhere.

      1. I think that is what is proposed. This focuses the energy on where the biggest problems are (lots of queue jumps). At least, that is what they are saying. If they are wrong, then we are screwed.

      2. But it is only one block. I think the statement may have been taken out of context. This is a compromise, and arguably not a good one. But the lane we want to take could mean that traffic gets screwed up for a very long distance. On the hand, the lane the bus will be forced to endure is not that lane — it is the lane that goes straight. That area is really screwed up right now (last time I checked) but I don’t know if that will always be the case. It is possible that this really will be a minor hit for a bus, but would have been a major hit for general purpose traffic. At least that is how I see it.

      3. And because the bus is so slow and unreliable that people choose to drive. Then we have more cars on the road clogging the road that further makes the bus slow and unreliable. Then more people choose to drive.

        Then we wonder why traffic is so bad.

      4. It is “one block” that can currently delay the 70 by 20 minutes or more. If there’s any spot along the whole route where transit priority is needed, it’s at Fairview and Mercer.

      5. Ross,

        Five queue jumps in eight miles does not deserve the encomium “lots”. There isn’t even one at 45th northbound or 50th southbound.

      6. Why not turn the northbound right at Harrison up to Eastlake. There is no stop between Fairview and Thomas and Fairview and Yale. Put the new BRT stop on the Eastlake side of Fred Hutch and add a bus-only light at Harrison and Eastlake. Also, remove the two stop signs.

      7. >> Five queue jumps in eight miles does not deserve the encomium “lots”. There isn’t even one at 45th northbound or 50th southbound.

        Fair enough. I thought that was bidirectional (I thought there were queue jumps on both sides of 45th and 50th both directions) but looking again, there aren’t. Yeah, I think that is by far the weakest part of this plan (and the hardest to understand). I don’t understand why much bigger changes weren’t made on Roosevelt and 12th. We were stuck with Eastlake (only so much room) and a lot of improvements were made to the south (although arguably not enough) but I see no reason why they didn’t just give the buses a lane everywhere north of the split (at 41st). That will be the big thing I’ll push for.

        As for that one block, does it really take 20 minutes to go that one block? Are you saying that once a northbound bus gets north of Republican on Fairview, it takes 20 minutes to get to Mercer? Or is southbound the problem — does it take 20 minutes to go that one block the other direction? Does the construction have anything to do with the problem, or is that done now?

      8. If we can’t get priority through Mercer, we need to take it off of Fairview and put it on Eastlake, like the old 70-series. Trying to provide service through there is just throwing money into the fire. SLU riders can transfer to the streetcar.

        45 minutes to 65th is unacceptable, period. In that time you can ride the 120 all the way down Delridge, through Westwood and White Center, all the way in to northern Burien. Without any significant priority.

      9. Lack, you really do need the Thomas stops to be on Fairview. Eastlake’s walk shed is truncated by the freeway, which is why Metro moved the 70 trolley to Fairview. But diverting at Harrison allows the stops there while avoiding the “merge left” difficulties the 70 faces today.

        However, the walkshed of the stops at Yale are truncated by Lake Union, so putting the stop on Eastlake one direction wouldn’t miss any potential riders.

        So far as taking lanes on Eastlake, why not make improvements to Roanoke and Lakeview and make that route the “auterial” and discourage through traffic from using Eastlake?

      10. Ross, yes, it can take that long to get through the two or three blocks approaching Mercer/Fairview — in both directions, but especially northbound. If there is any backup on I-5, that backup will spill back down the ramps, and then only a few cars will get through on each cycle. Remember you have three multi-lane arterials — Mercer, northbound Fairview, and southbound Fairview — feeding three one-lane onramps.

        There is an absolutely desperate need in that area for a center-running bus-only lane approaching Mercer northbound and a right-side bus-only lane approaching Mercer southbound.

      11. >> Ross, yes, it can take that long to get through the two or three blocks approaching Mercer/Fairview

        But again, that’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking about the final block. That one block — how bad is it? Here is the way I see it working, if done properly:

        A bus cruises along the right lane, all the way to Republican (in a BAT lane). Then it gets a queue jump, so that it can switch to the left lane (I consider this essential ). So that means that as it approaches the intersection, the regular traffic heading the same way has to stop (if it isn’t stopped already) so that the bus can get to the left lane. At the same time the bus passes through, the northbound lights on both Mercer and Valley turn green. There are only a couple ways i see that failing. First is if people make last second lane changes out of the left lane. This should be illegal.– you can specify that left lane as a straight ahead/left or bus only BAT lane. That is unusual, but with enough signage and paint, it becomes obvious (move over to the right if you are headed north on Fairview and want to get on the freeway). The second is if Fairview or Valley traffic backs up. If and when that happens, we are screwed. Hopefully that is rare.

        Center running makes things a lot simpler there. The left lane (heading northbound) is a BAT lane the whole way. No need for a fancy queue jump (but you certainly want signal priority). There are a couple drawbacks though. The first being the need for a bus stop along there. Right now the plan is to put stops just north of Denny. There isn’t a lot of excess space, but I could see a center stop north of Denny, by taking away part of the turn lane headed the other direction (here: Another problem is left turns. This complicates things quite a bit (this isn’t impossible — this is the norm for Madison, but it makes things tougher). Other buses wouldn’t be able to use the BAT lanes either. Even though there aren’t a lot of buses, they could use the BAT lane as much as anyone, since they are mostly commuter buses. We might have to move a little more wire, too. Finally, it means we definitely need dual sided buses for this route. That may not be an issue (all our “RapidRide +” buses may be dual sided) but if not, I wouldn’t think that would be worth it.

        I personally would stick with right lane running through there. But I would take a lane, and give it to the bus. It would be the second to the right. That does mean the bus needs to do a weave, although not as big of one (it might require the signal magic as mentioned, but only during certain times of the day). But that would mean that the express buses (63, 64, 309) get to the front of the line (a pretty nice bonus in my book). I have been most forgiving of the planning crew when it comes to that one block, but I really don’t get the point of having two left turn lanes. When you need to empty out Seattle, I-5 is usually a mess. When you don’t, who needs two lanes? As a driver, I always though it was confusing. It seems safer to have only one turn lane. Plus, what is the point of two left turn lanes, when, for most of the way, you only have one lane?

        If we can’t get that, if for some reason the city (or even the state for all we know) balks at having only one entrance lane for I-5, then try to make due with the queue jump and the signal timing as mentioned.

        Southbound is an issue, but I don’t know how much of one. But again, it it hard for me to see why we need to get the cars off of I-5 in 2 lanes southbound on Fairview, but they will eventually funnel into one lane (as the do now — while construction continues). The only possible issue is that changing that would likely involve WSDOT, since you wouldn’t want to have two lanes suddenly change to one before the end of the intersection.

      1. Mike Orr, this would be why I acknowledge the need to connect the Eastlake portion of the corridor and the need for local bus service to get people to the light rail stations. I wouldn’t disagree that a Roosevelt BRT would be a good thing. It sure would. But we have so many other needs right now. This corridor is already getting a huge win with the Light Rail stations. At one-mile spacing, that results in a half mile walk for somebody living on the corridor between the 45th Street and 65th Street stations, but a much further walk for people living laterally away from the corridor, which is why feeder bus service is MORE important than Roosevelt BRT. Our money is limited. I really wish that it was not, but it is. If I worked for Metro or ST, this would be about the last thing on my priority list right now. Fast frequent service along the NE 65th/Banner/N 85th, N/NE 45th, Montlake/Sand Point, and 105th/Northgate corridors would be WAY higher on my priority list than a BRT that duplicates service. We need to be providing excellent service to the maximum number of people, not creating duplicative services on a single corridor.

    5. “That area is really screwed up right now”

      Have you forgotten the Mercer Mess already? It was only a few years ago that the area was really screwed up. The current problems don’t really deserve that phrase.

      “And because the bus is so slow and unreliable that people choose to drive. Then we have more cars on the road clogging the road that further makes the bus slow and unreliable.”

      It won’t be as slow as the 70 is now, and it will be a little faster than the 66 and 71/72/73X were. So all those people who would drive are already driving. They’re what make the traffic that necessitates these improvements. If the line is marginally faster than the current service, it will get marginally more market share. When it becomes full-time frequent, people who couldn’t practically use it before will be able to. When people move into those new mixed-use buildings in the U-District, a full-time frequent route will be at their doory, so they’ll be more inclined to use it from the beginning than current residents are.

    6. so why wouldn’t a person just use the Light Rail instead?

      So, we are all agreed then that local streets between downtown and Northgate are duplicitous now that Interstate 5 exists?

      So, we are obviously safe closing a continuous set of local streets from Eastgate and Republican north to Northgate as they aren’t necessary.

      Transit and bike problem solved.

  5. No surprise — BRT almost always ends up being anything but “R”.

    In essence, “BRT” is most often just a marketing slogan used by critics to divert funding from more serious investments (LRT, etc), or a carrot used by transit agencies to justify increased funding. In the end, by either path the tax paying public usually doesn’t get much.

    That said, true BRT on this corridor probably isn’t justified since LR shadows it on most of the route and will always out perform it. Electrification? Yes. Frequency improvements? Sure, within reason. Infrastructure improvements to increase reliability at moderate cost? Sure, why not.

    But true BRT? Na, get on LR.

    1. Right, because no one lives or works on Eastlake or South Lake Union. Or Campus Parkway, or 50th, or 55th (which are actually right on the Link line, but lack stops).

    2. Link outperforms it where Link goes. It doesn’t go to the entire route. When a rapid transit network is installed, good bus routes are often reorganized to meet it at two points. They diverge and come back, and that serves the people in the divergement area. Roosevelt BRT is like that between Westlake and U-District, and is a local shadow from there to Northgate. The 48 diverges from Link at UW and meets it again at Mt Baker. That serves people at; e.g., Garfield High School; whose nearest Link station is a mile away in a third direction (Intl Dist). We don’t say the 48 is redundant with Link, and Roosevelt BRT isn’t either. Where Link and BRT overlap (45th to 110th), it’s like Swift and the 101 in Snohomish County. Both routes serve partly distinct transit markets because they’re different levels of service with different tradeoffs.

      (Oh, and those who think Link should have had more stations, you’d need to come up with $600 million for the Capitol Hill stations and $200 million for the 55th station. Those alignments were decided when ST was unwilling to go above $15 billion per phase, and when the public may have been unwilling too.)

      1. @Mike Orr,

        There is no doubt that some people will have excellent access to Link and some people will find themselves between stations with less direct access. But that is not the question here.

        The question is, “What level of secondary service is justified for the people on this corridor?” Clearly SDOT has determined that full BRT is not justified, and that is probably the right decision.

        The problem isn’t the proposed service level, the problem is that SDOT continues to refer to their proposal as “BRT” when clearly it isn’t. But that is just marketing, and it is a pretty common approach taken by transit agencies trying to justify their spending/investment.

        But the bottom line is that whatever you call it, this corridor doesn’t justify the investment that true BRT would take. Just switch it to ETB’s, make some frequency and reliability improvements, and call it good. That is in essence what SDOT is proposing, and they are undoubtedly correct..

    3. “Garfield High School; whose nearest Link station is a mile away in a third direction (Intl Dist)”

      Pioneer Square. I started with a Yesler example but switched to Garfield HS because it’s a big destination, but I forgot it’s closer to Pioneer Square than Intl Dist.

    1. No, not really. Bikes, parking, transit, general traffic, money. For Eastlake, they picked bikes over buses, parking, and spending (a lot) more money. For downtown they got a blend of transit without screwing up general traffic too badly. Up north they preserved parking. They spent money, but they didn’t spend huge amounts of money on any of this. About half of it went to moving the streetcar and running the wire.

      1. I’m just saying for right of way: there’s room for lots of things, but you do have to make choices. SDOT has chosen along a lot of this not to piss off store owners by not having parking on the street. Plenty of places you could have put in both bikes and transit and still have general purpose lanes.

        It’s true that money matters. It’s also true that SDOT isn’t really even wiling to consider getting rid of a tiny fraction of parking spaces to create a corridor. I also have mixed feelings about the choice between bikes and transit, but I think the framing of the problem as that particular choice lets us not even think about the choice we’re really making: to get rid of a few parking spots.

      2. >> It’s also true that SDOT isn’t really even wiling to consider getting rid of a tiny fraction of parking spaces to create a corridor.

        Simply not true. They removed 72% of the parking between the UW and downtown. They removed plenty for Madison BRT. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t remove parking on Roosevelt and 12th. It seems weird that they were willing to piss of Eastlake people (and they were pissed off) but not those in the U-District and Roosevelt area.

      3. Okay, I’ll read it again. Was thinking this was a much more extensive failure. :)

        I would guess Roosevelt NIMBYs were just more organized?

      4. How are you squaring what you’re saying with statements like this: “From Eastlake to Northgate the bus would run entirely in mixed traffic except for queue jump lanes at 50th and 65th.”

        Feels like they got rid of parking on one side, to accommodate the PBL, but not the other side, to accommodate transit. Not true?

  6. “[…] this is again illustrative of the power of “BRT Creep” in practice. Mayor McGinn – to much contention – pushed for a streetcar through the corridor before the Council rebuffed him […]”

    The experience of the First Hill line suggests that if SDOT were studying a streetcar, we’d be looking at a streetcar in mixed traffic — slightly higher ridership, similar service levels, at vastly higher capital cost. Broadway has the same problems as Eastlake, so I’m not surprised that part of the design has ended up as a bike project. Much harder to forgive is the Roosevelt/11th couplet north of 50th. Like most of Jackson, this has the room for semi-exclusive running, but they’ve totally punted.

    Finally, the SDOT staff member who suggested that BAT lanes should end where traffic is worst, should be kicked out of the transit division and sent to work on street paving, or to some other part of the organization where they can indulge their love of cars. How many pro-transit ballot measures do we have to pass before everyone there gets the message?

      1. Right, and the BRT they presented was streetcar on rubber tires (money quote from your link above: “rubber tired bus with the operating characteristics of Rapid Streetcar”). The pressures that shittified Seattle’s streetcar investments are the same that shittify BRT: Constrained ROW; competing uses, both smart (bikes) and dumb (arterial parking); institutional inertia and car bias; boneheaded NIMBY neighbors; and cost.

      2. Yeah, and don’t forget that a good chunk of the money (roughly 20%) on this initial project is being spent on moving the streetcar line. Someone want to explain to me again the benefits of having a streetcar be “permanent’? When you consider that about half the money is going into running wire and moving the rail, this really isn’t a very expensive project.

        I don’t know why they didn’t take more parking up north, when they are willing to do so farther south. A petition was circulating to “save our parking” (on Eastlake). It seems like on Roosevelt (an arguably more urban area) you could do the same thing (take parking and live with the blow back).

        The constrained ROW with bikes was probably the biggest challenge with this thing. Solving that problem would have been expensive (a lot of repaving or a lot of street widening). This makes it different than Broadway (they should have simply run the streetcar on a different street). Still, they could be more aggressive downtown and again, i don’t understand why they aren’t taking parking lanes up north. All that being said, even with all the weaknesses of this project, I think it will be miles ahead in terms of speed compared to the streetcars (that never got much of anything when it came to speed considerations — not even a decent route).

  7. This is extremely disappointing. How is this any better than RapidRide? It’s worse. The C, D, and E lines have more miles of BAT lanes and have a number Q jumps. They could certainly be better (like more 24/7 BAT lanes, additional Q jumps, better TSP, etc.), but they’re not nothing. This is nothing–hell, the 45th St and 65th St Q jumps already exist (though not signalized).

    I don’t understand the travel speed graph at the start of this post–what is the “RapidRide” level of investment that was evaluated? With how little improvement the “Targeted Investments”/RR+ provides relative to today, how can this be faster than RR? Does the “+” really only save speed up things by ~0.5 mph? Is this what we voted for with Move Seattle?

    1. Yeah, surely some of that parking can be converted to “Parking except for rush hour” like it is on Elliot for the D-line, which seems to be a great compromise … bus-only lane when congestion is at it’s worse, and plenty of parking off-peak.

    2. I mock the overselling of “rapid ride” as much as anyone, but I must say, having just experienced it for the first time, the BAT lane on the E northbound was pretty impressive. I was in trip planner, looking to go from Greenwood to Edmonds, and I was somewhat skeptical when it told me the E from 85th to Aurora Village was 21 minutes–that’s basically what it takes to drive. But to my surprise, it was correct, despite the bus I was riding having to stop at all but one or two stops. I know it’s compromised in various ways on the Southern half, but I felt like that particular ride deserved some credit.

  8. As someone who views bikes mainly as a way to get around poorly done transit corridors, the idea of poorly designing a transit corridor to accommodate bikes is perverse. Hard core cyclists are free to disagree, but bus transit is accessible to significantly more people than bike infrastructure.

    1. Agreed. Eastlake is first and foremost a pass through for probably 95% of cyclists (source is personal experience). What needs to be done is to improve the Cheshiahud Loop in Eastlake (AKA Fairview Ave). Eastlake Ave can be left to transit and cars.

      Fairview is flat and much more optimal for cyclists than an Eastlake bicycle facility, it just needs a lot of improvement. A few blocks of steep grade for the few that are going to/from Eastlake is not a legitimate excuse to take a lane of traffic on a vital arterial.

    2. The Cheshiahud Loop is not a substitute for bike lanes on Eastlake. It is too cut off from destinations along Eastlake, and even for through riders, there are some very steep hills, compared to Eastlake itself.

      1. Yeah, and fixing it would be extremely expensive. I talked to one of the reps (I believe the head guy) about alternative bike routes and he said that his bike team looked at the area in detail and said it was much worse than what they thought (and they thought it was bad). You would have to do a lot of repaving, along with putting up with some tough areas.

      2. Not only do you have to repave, but there’s the Mallard Cove “missing link” section, where the Cheshiahud diverts up a steep hill and through a narrow alley to get around the private waterfront between Roanoke and Hamlin. It may not sound like an obstacle to a non-cyclist, but the detour is enough of a physical challenge and safety risk that most cyclists prefer to ride on Eastlake, where the grade is smoother and traffic more predictable.

        To make the Cheshiahud Loop a viable bike alternative, the city would not only need to rebuild Fairview, but would also need to negotiate an easement and undergo a lengthy design and environmental review process to construct the necessary waterfront pathway and close the missing link. All for a low-traffic street.

        On the other hand, they can slap PBLs on Eastlake as part of a larger project that includes improvements for SOVs and transit (however modest, for the latter). It’s not ideal, but it’s a much bigger ROI for SDOT (and politically a lot higher profile) than doing anything about the Cheshiahud.

      3. I agree. To do it right would be very expensive. This is a reasonable compromise. The biggest problem is north of there.

    3. >As someone who views bikes mainly as a way to get around poorly done transit corridors

      Spoken like someone who has never experienced a place that has both high-quality biking AND transit facilities.

      1. You could do that in this corridor, but you would have to spend a bunch more money (that we don’t have).

      2. Spoken like someone who has never experienced a place that has both high-quality biking AND transit facilities.

        That is neither here nor there. I don’t really enjoy biking and if there is a rapid transit alternative I will take it. When I’m in a hurry, and the alternative is a bus stuck in traffic, I take the bike.

        I’m all for a corridor with good infrastructure for both, but that is quite clearly not what we are getting here.

      3. @RossB – we’re about to spend 50B+ building rails instead of moving people. We do have the money. SDOT may not control it directly, but we have tons of money.

      4. @kptrease — Right. The people are willing to spend the money, too. But right now, SDOT doesn’t have the money, nor can they raise it very easily (as long as the Eyman style restrictions are in place). Move Seattle only allocated a relatively small amount for the bus corridors. Mere peanuts compared to what Link is thinking about spending.

    4. I think the wide stop spacing (and route spacing) is precisely the reason to integrate bike lanes with RapidRide projects. This is particularly true with the advent of bike share and e-Bike technologies. Expand access to/from the stops and get an important safe bike network connection as a bonus. Or vice versa.

    5. It was abundantly clear to those of us who were there last night the that alternative was transit priority vs SOV backup. At the Southern end of the University Bridge and at Mercer St bikes got nothing, and neither did transit, in favor of SOV throughput. On Roosevelt and 11th, parking won out over transit.

      Transit and safety advocates need to work together to make this suburban corridor into an urban one. This corridor goes through 5 fairly dense urban villages. Why are we still expecting everyone continue driving alone forever?

    6. Martin is absolutely right. Biking is important, but many reasons preclude people from biking (age, physical capabilities, weather). I don’t think transit should be hamstrung by bike infrastructure. That said, I do believe it should be built, but transit should have priority.

      1. Martin is most definitely not right.

        We’re not talking about bike speed vs transit speed here, we’re talking about bike safety vs transit speed. What you’re saying is, “It’s okay if people on bikes get hurt or die, because we should prioritize this space for transit.” That is a terrible argument to make, and basically how we’ve gotten into the current transportation mess. As a country (and city), we’ve said “It’s okay if people walking or biking get hurt or die, because we should prioritize this space for cars.” And so no one feels safe walking/biking, and they drive instead.

        Transit should most definitely be hamstrung by bike infrastructure. Mode hierarchy triangles generally put pedestrians first, then bikes, then transit:

    7. In general I agree, Martin, and said as much in the bike blog:

      Transit trumps bikes in my book, nine times out of ten. The thing is, this may be one of those rare occasions where bike infrastructure is more important. This is an important corridor, but really made up of different pieces. Taken together and done right, it is spectacular. But I doubt anyone would consider the end to end route — (even truncating at 65th) — as a top five corridor. Roosevelt to the UW is nice, and given the suburban stop spacing of Link for a very urban area, this would fill in nicely; but this really isn’t that big of a deal. If you want to ride Link to 65th and then go to Campus Parkway, this should still work fairly well. Eastlake is nice, but was never seriously considered for light rail (even back in the Forward Thrust days) because it trails in density and connecting bus service. The only part of this that could be huge is South Lake Union.

      I guess my point is that overall (for the complete corridor) it is nothing like a 44 subway, which would transform the entire region for miles around. Nor is it like a faster 7, which is the workhorse of our transit system (carrying over a fifth the riders of LInk despite no special treatment and paralleling it for much of the way). Now is an 8, tying together the most urban areas in the city trying desperately to overcome the congestion that screws up speed and reliability. It is an important corridor; it is big, but not huge.

      But from a biking perspective, this is huge. Ask a biker what they want for Christmas, and this is it. This means that very soon, you will be able to bike around Lake Union without much worry (Westlake will be done soon). It will be reasonably safe and reasonably fast. Since the top half of Lake Union also connects to the Burke Gilman (which also connects to other bike paths, like the new bike path over 520 or the route that parallels Nickerson and covers the downtown waterfront) then this is huge. You will finally have a real bike path system, not just a series of paths that cover disjointed areas. Imagine that as a subway line (with great stop spacing) and we all begin to drool.

      What disappoints me is that SDOT didn’t try and do both. My guess is that it simply costs too much money. Ask SDOT to build a busway and a reasonably good bikeway for this entire corridor, and you have to spend some bucks. Either you widen Eastlake (which means cutting into sidewalks and moving utilities) or you do the sort of thing that bidab mentioned ( Once you utter the word “easement” you open up the possibility of lawsuits, which means that this could be dragged out for years and years (just filling in the “missing link” has taken forever, and it didn’t involve that).

      So I can understand why they didn’t do that. The lack of a 100% busway is not my biggest disappointment . But I don’t understand why they didn’t try to transform downtown. I could live with a certain amount of slogging on Eastlake if I knew that you could get from the Hutch to 3rd and Virginia in five minutes, any time of day. That looks less likely from what I can tell, which is very disappointing.

      What really scares me is that it sets a very bad tone. One of the main reasons I pushed so hard for what SDOT called “Real BRT” is because I thought it could set the bar for transit in the city. People would ask — and demand — that similar projects get similar treatment. That might have broken the bank (it probably would have) but I would rather have the projects done in a truly transformative way, and then ask for more money, then do the opposite.

      This is what scares me. Not only does this set the tone for future projects, but it may also set the mood. I see it in the comments, and it is quite common these days. A strange sort of naive cynicism. Ask for the moon, and when we don’t get it, then give up, and call the whole game rigged. I sure hope that doesn’t happen. I want this to be great, but if it isn’t, I will still keep fighting to make it better (pretty good is OK by me). I just hope that we don’t have a city full of whiners who are too cynical to write in and push for the right thing when it really matters (like on other corridors).

  9. Why are we preserving parking along this route again?

    A balance between biking and transit makes sense, but losing out to parking again?

    Why are we even building this? What did we vote for?

    This will be a lot less rapid than even Rapid Ride D. :-/

  10. Whether Rapid Ride is BRT, I do think the policies in place for the brand show definite improvements over most Metro lines. The promise of schedule-less service, rear door boarding, off bus payment, arrival time screens, extended service hours, and even the letter route designations all help make for a service that has real benefits both to frequent riders and to people who are new to the system.

    I’d love to see more dedicated right of way, but it seems to me that if we build on what works with Rapid Ride, ensuring all stops are up to snuff, extending frequent service hours, adding traffic improvements as possible, then we could get into a feedback cycle where upgrading some portions of these routes to more proper BRT may be possible in the future.

    As in, there’s nothing wrong with the D line except it gets stuck in traffic during rush hour, what if we gave it a lane?

    1. I agree. One of the really nice things about BRT (or bus service in general) is that it can improved fairly easily. Moving stops isn’t always cheap (especially if you have center running) but it isn’t nearly as expensive as moving rail.

    2. agree also – if the problem is lack of ROW, the parking can go away in a future iterations. Which is my concern about running wire, because you can simply adjust the route slightly to reflect evolving traffic pattern. If the bus lane shifts over one lane, does the wire have to move or can trolley buses still reach the wire if “off” by one lane?

      1. Forgive me that 20 years have left me uncertain about this, but I think that centerline of the coach body can be 13 feet from under the theoretical centerline between the two trolleywires.

        This means that the coach can easily change lanes to pass a stopped vehicle. However, driver has to be careful not to get ropes snagged on the corner of a truck. Absence of a rear window is a real problem here.

        But imagine that now, it’ll be more or less standard to drop poles and pass on battery, to rewire up where convenient. Might be better than passing at crawling speed, and then having to go back and try to re-wire- which isn’t always possible.

        Remember clearly having this happen eastbound on the 44 through Wallingford. Shop truck had to come out, and maintenance man had to reach up with a special hooked pole to bring my poles down.

        Re-wiring should have been a rodeo event, if there were rodeos for trolleybuses, which there should be. Would be great to compete against the Brazilians, and especially the Russians. Definitely takes some ingenuity, considering poles often dewire where much of the wire is dead.

        But more important is to hang the wire so that as much as possible, and a hundred percent where dewirement avoidance is critical, the coach will always be directly under the wire. The 1970’s re-wire was done by same class of people who create our information messages.

        That’s why for over forty years, there’s been a dead spot precisely at the point northbound on the Counterbalance where a driver needs to be able to power as hard as possible.Going through any dead spot with the power on shuts off the motor with a lurch that can throw down standing passengers. I hope I’m wrong about it still being there.

        But more than anything else, a trolley-bus needs to be able to keep moving smoothly. Remember, a very large amount of its propulsion- and braking- are gravity and momentum. Meaning lane reservation and signal pre-empt.

        SDOT’s present plan shows an attitude problem. I can’t vote on this one, even though local transit in Seattle has cost me a lot of cab fare when I visit. So somebody else will have to tell the city to bag this plan and do it over.

        Tell them the truth. That every single preventable inconvenience is likely more than one vote against the rest of transit, instead of ST-3. “Inevitable Government Ineptitude” is more dangerous when it’s true than when it’s just an anti-transit lie.

        Mark Dublin

  11. This is infuriating. What’s the point of transit that isn’t rapid?

    I’m rescheduling my evening so I can go to the meeting.

    Question, though – is the format one person speaking at a time? If so, it’s likely that a lot of people won’t get the chance to talk.

    Any ideas for a good way to maximize visibility and impact, a-la Save Our Trails t-shirts? We need to make it clear that we don’t support such 10-20%-assed transit.

    1. It is an open house. People tried to turn it into a forum. First there were a bunch of people complaining about the parking, then someone was complaining about 3rd avenue, completely ignoring the fact that the speaker asked for general questions (not comments) and that she clearly stated that 3rd avenue improvements would be considered at a later date (since those will involve a lot of other bus routes).

      Anyway, basically they take comments, either written on the big board, or on sticky notes, attached to the various areas. There will be people there to answer questions and explain why they decided to do certain things. For example, I noticed that one intersection was a right hand bus lane, which meant that a car turning right has to wait for a turn arrow. I asked about why that was extended farther (the rest of the street was BAT lanes). The guy said that could screw up the bus worse, as it requires a longer wait for the signal, instead of the occasional person turning right. I didn’t here the comment about the “that is where the worst traffic is”, though.

      The bottom line is you shouldn’t expect to talk in front of a big crowd, but if you have suggestions or comments (and certainly if you want to ask questions) you can and are encouraged to do so.

    2. Open House format. 6-8PM. Presentation at 6:15pm for about 15 minutes. The rest of the open house is boards on easels and giant maps on tables to place post-it comments and fill out comment postcards. Most of the activity is at the giant maps.

      (I went last night)

      Could wear some transit advocacy shirt. The cyclists stand out with their helmets, reflective and neon yellow clothing or bike advocacy t-shirts. The pro-parking, anti-change crowd stands out with their gray hair.

      1. Hey, be nice — I am a bit gray up there as well :)

        But, yeah, when someone older than me spoke, I figured they were complaining about parking.

  12. The original travel time projections of 14 minutes from Roosevelt Station to 3rd/Pine were never realistic. Driving the route at 3 AM with zero traffic and zero bus stops along the way is already about 14 minutes. Nor, was full dedicated lanes with absolute signal priority ever really feasible. Sacrificing safe bike facilities for dedicated bus lanes would not have been a good decision, any any transit signal priority of the Roosevelt Line has to be weighed against other important bus routes on the cross streets, such as the 8 and the 44.

    However, I don’t consider the reality check the catastrophe that people on this blog are making it out to be. The Roosvelt BRT bus was never intended to be ridden all the way through from Roosevelt or Northgate all the way to downtown. That is what Link is for. Rather, the typical ride will be for shorter trips, such as U-district to South Lake Union or Maple Leaf to Roosevelt Station. For shorter trips like this, the critical point is frequency, not speed. I haven’t heard what the all-day frequency on this line will be, but if it can run every 10 minutes, all day, 7 days a week (a bus for every train), that, in and of itself, would be a huge improvement.

    And, even the speed will still improve. Off-board fare payment will help a lot, as will queue jumps at a few of the more notorious intersections.

    1. “The Roosvelt BRT bus was never intended to be ridden all the way through from Roosevelt or Northgate all the way to downtown. That is what Link is for. ”

      Thats exactly what they said about First Hill Streetcar. Why cant we have both routes be of decent quality and use?

    2. Almost nobody rides EmX from Eugene to the far end of the line, but it still gets a dedicated lane (albeit a single lane with bus travel in both directions).

    3. The Roosvelt BRT bus was never intended to be ridden all the way through from Roosevelt or Northgate all the way to downtown. That is what Link is for.

      Right, and I’m not supposed to use the 560 + Link to get from Burien to Downtown instead of taking the 120 for nearly its entire length, but guess which one is faster and more convenient in practice!

  13. OK, I’m as disappointed as the next guy (if not more so, since I pushed hard for this — But this isn’t all doom and gloom, from what I can tell. Admittedly, a have to take a lot of this as faith, since I am not a traffic engineer, and don’t regularly visit the area (when the engineers say that there isn’t much congestion there, I believe them). But let’s not forget some of the dramatic changes that will occur here:

    1) 100% off board payment.
    2) Signal priority on this entire line.
    3) Queue jumps where the experts believe they are needed.

    One of the reasons I think this looks much worse than they say is because I think they really screwed up their numbers. It wouldn’t be the first time they did that on this project. Here is the math (this is repeated from an open thread comment):

    SDOT says a car, not making any stops, can average 12.6 miles per hour from 65th to downtown right now. They also claim that with these changes, a car will be slowed a bit, to 10.4 MPH. At the very minimum, not counting stops, a bus should be able to average that 12.6 average. At 12.6 MPH, it takes 25 minutes to go from 65th down to 3rd. At 10.4 MPH (the new car speed), it takes 31 minutes. That is a six minute difference. There are 14 stops. Assuming 30 seconds a stop that is roughly the time spent per stop. In other words, if you simply slow down the car (as they say it will be slowed) and add off board payment (which they will) the bus and car should get there at about the same time.

    But a bus should be able to do much better that that. With queue jumps, bus lanes, BAT lanes and signal priority, a bus should travel faster than 12.6 MPH (not counting stops). I really think they are grossly overestimating the time it takes to get on an off a bus when everything is level, and no one pays a fare. It may be that all the numbers are off (driving is a lot slower) but either way a bus, end to end, should be at least as fast as driving, if not significantly faster.

    1. Unfortunately, for #2, there probably won’t be an TSP downtown since SDOT doesn’t allow it for any other route. I’d be impressed if they’d do TSP at Denny or Mercer (or even at 45th St) since that would hurt cars where LOS is already F.

      Also for #3, 3 of 5 queue jumps already exist today. And the northbound one at 50th is easy to implement today–just removing a few parking spaces. I’m not sure if I’d agree that “experts” are coming up with a great plan or just that there is momentum for what’s already out there.

  14. “Happily, SDOT seems committed to making this a trolleybus, and the expense of hanging wire from Campus Parkway to Northgate is a huge part of the project’s cost. Given financial constraints, the design prefers electrification to transit priority…”

    This sentence implies that they could spend more on transit priority measures if they didn’t have to hang the trolley wire. Speaking as a resident of a land where all the buses are diesel, is there a reason SDOT and STB would prefer a slower trolleybus to a faster diesel?

    1. Or dont spend $10M relocating the streetcar terminal at Fred Hutch or if so they could cut it back to the Center for Wooden Boats on the private RoW and all it would need is a crossover switch between the existing 2 tracks

      1. I like that idea, and think you should propose that (if you haven’t already). Here is what they say moving the streetcar will do (with my comments):

        1) Better signal phasing — This sounds good (but I don’t know if it is worth it)
        2) Faster travel for streetcar — I don’t care
        3) Closer transfer between streetcar and bus lines — I don’t care
        4) Better defined intersection for motorists — Is this a safety improvement? Is so, this is nice. If not, I don’t care.
        5) Accommodates RapidRide C line end point — Sounds good, but I would imagine there is a cheaper place to do that.

        That seems like a lot for that.

      2. Getting the bus off of Fairview and move it to Eastlake allows us to both dodge the terrible backup at Mercer, and avoid spending 10 million to move streetcar tracks. Then spend the 10 million on bus priority treatments elsewhere in the corridor.

      3. >> Getting the bus off of Fairview and move it to Eastlake …

        That occurred to me as well today. One of the other advantages is that you have fewer turns. This means that you can take the right lane headed northbound, and the left lane headed south, and never worry about turning cars. The big drawback is that you don’t go to South Lake Union.

        Eventually (when Bertha is done) you will be able to move east-west, which means you could connect up to this, through Harrison or Thomas, on a bus that would run unimpeded over Aurora. Then you could try and clean up a route for the streetcar (if not Westlake, some other street) and extend it up to the convergence of Fairview of Eastlake. Oh, wait — God I hate streetcars.

    2. I don’t think that’s an either/or comparison, Matthew. You get plenty of benefits (noise reduction, air quality) from electrification…and there is zero guarantee that staying with diesels would mean that SDOT would then spend that money on dedicated lanes or other transit priority improvements.

      As someone who will personally benefit from improved travel times via Madison BRT, I can say that this project will do a seemingly good job of getting you to the nearest LINK station, which will always have faster travel times to downtown. It would seem to me that the point of projects like these is to serve as feeders to LINk, as much as it is connecting more local destinations.

      1. “there is zero guarantee that staying with diesels would mean that SDOT would then spend that money on dedicated lanes or other transit priority improvements.”

        The money would remain in the Move Seattle budget, and would be used on one of the lines if not this one.

  15. Will the 70 be dropped after this is introduced? While it would handle most of the 70’s functionality, I think there’s some utility to the 70’s 15th routing. A walk from the middle of campus to Roosevelt is at least a half mile, although I guess college students are probably the best demographic for that sort of a walk…

    1. I would guess so. There will be other buses that would connect into it (from 15th as well as other streets). I think once Link gets there (which will occur at roughly the same time) there will be a major restructure in the area.

    2. A campus feeder bus circulating between Husky Stadium and Roosevelt/45th, cutting through or adjacent to campus would be a great solution to this problem.

    3. There is a campus circulator bus between UWMC Roosevelt and UWMC main. It might just need more capacity and frequency.

    4. I would hope not. The 70 connects the Ave. corridor with SLU, this will connect the Roosevelt corridor with SLU. Plus with the massive amounts of new density coming to SLU, it could certainly use more service frequency.

      1. This will be very frequent. Madison BRT is every 6 minutes, and if this needs it, it will get it. I really don’t see why you want to risk slowing down a BRT bus (which has off board payment and level boarding) with a 70 (which will have neither). The bus doesn’t even have a lane to pass the other bus.

        As for connecting directly with the Ave, I fought for that too. But sometimes it is better to just keep going fast, rather than going close. It sucks to walk an extra couple blocks, but I would rather do that than spend those two blocks slogging in a bus while everyone who isn’t headed that way wishes we weren’t. Meanwhile, development along Roosevelt is growing at a pretty rapid clip. This is a good route — it wouldn’t make any sense as a subway — but for a bus route it makes a lot of sense.

  16. I tire of every good bus route design being called BRT. We need to move away from this vague term that means different things to different people. Just this week, the blog has discussed Roosevelt BRT and 405 BRT – and they are nothing alike.

    User-friendly bus stops and signal priority should be universal investment tools that can be applied anywhere. Express buses on freeways existed long before the BRT term did. The Feds came up with three levels years ago but they are bevel discussed by operators or advocates.

    So let’s begin to dialogue for new terms. Suggestions? Minimal route design requirements?

    1. Yeah, it is a problem. But the same problem exists with terms like light rail and streetcar.

      Keep in mind that these routes will all have 100% off board payment. That is a significant switch for a route like this, where people get on and off all the time. It doesn’t matter as much with an express. My guess is that in this case, that is why they are calling this BRT (although even they prefer the term RapidRide+).

    2. 100% optional off-board payment. I haven’t heard that it will be like Link where it’s impossible to pay cash to the driver. If it’s possible, people will do so, especially visitors, occasional riders, and low-income riders. And as Sam likes to remind us, those 7pm signs are still on RapidRide doors and ORCA readers. I kept following them even after the rule was rescinded because I didn’t know it had been.

      1. When I asked the rep, he said 100% off-board payment. The brochure says “off-board fare payment”. There is no mention of “optional”.

    3. thats why i like the term ‘busway’, i know what it is and for most part its either a busway or not

      1. I agree, and thanks for reminding me. Rather than a catch all (BRT = busway + off board payment + signal priority + …) it is best to just call out each piece. I did that in one of my later comments.

  17. Did SDOT say what the cost difference would be between the “Targeted Investments” and “Bus Rapid Transit” options?

  18. So how bad are the spots that people think are really bad?

    1) The infamous single block on Fairview from Republican to Mercer. This is only one block. As I see it, traffic backs up as people are headed to the freeway. The bus will be traveling in a bus lane, so all that is really needed is a queue jump, so that it can switch lanes (from the right to the left). Everyone else is headed towards the freeway (in the two right lanes). Last time I checked, things are messed up there because of the construction. Is this still the case? If not, how many light cycles does it take for someone to go straight for that block?

    2) Roosevelt or 12th. If memory serves, this area does get congested, and not just where they are adding queue jumps. This seems like the biggest area for improvement. Just take the parking, like they took the parking on Eastlake. Or is there a hidden expense here? If you have bike lanes, then you need bus islands, like on Dexter ( That can cost money. If you add those, is there enough room, even if you take away the parking?

    3) Virginia — Virginia doesn’t get any help at all, despite having parking that can be taken. This seems like an easy win There are a lot of loading zones in the heart of downtown that might be a challenge, but as you go towards Boren, there seem to be a lot of 4 hour parking spots. These are all on the opposite side of the street, so you would have to move the lines, but otherwise it seems like a pretty easy thing to do.

    4) Boren (over to Stewart) — Like the one block of Fairview, this looks like a challenge to fix, but would be great if we could. This would likely screw up traffic, but would also probably make things a lot faster. Then again, it is one block, so maybe it isn’t worth it.

    Any other thoughts on making this better? (I’m not concerned about anything north of 65th since that won’t happen for a while anyway).

    1. They just finished building the bus islands and up and down ramps for the bike lane on Roosevelt, so don’t worry about the cost of those.

      1. Cool. Good point. I guess the only question is how much room is there then (did they already take all of the parking they could next to the island). If nothing else, I could see big sections with queue jumps between the stops. Just get rid of parking, slide the bike lanes to the curbs (a win for both modes — hurray!) and get pretty good performance.

      2. The parking is now only on the left side of the street, with the protected bike lane on the right and two traffic lanes between.

      3. OK, cool. Too bad, because improving things for bikers might get it done. On the other hand, it does now sound like an extremely cheap project. Just get rid of the parking and slide the general purpose lanes over to the left and make the right hand lane the BAT lane. The only possible problem is curb bulbs (if there are any).

    2. “traffic backs up as people are headed to the freeway”

      This happens at all freeway entrances. The freeway is 55 mph without intersections; alternative streets are 30 mph with intersections. That’s a major difference and people flock to the freeway even when it gets down to 30 mph and below. So SDOT/Metro should just assume that all freeway entrances will be like that, and have targeted transit priority there. Denny Way also comes to mind.

      1. Yeah, but it really doesn’t answer my question. I can understand perfectly why Fairview is clogged for much of the way. Everyone is trying to get onto the freeway. But if you are headed northbound, after Republican you have to be in the right lane (or they should make it that way) to get onto the freeway. If you are in the left lane, then you are headed straight or turning left. I can easily see how both could back up. Those turning left back up the traffic, waiting for that signal. Maybe Mercer is so clogged up, that they can’t even turn (does that happen?). Or maybe it is clogged up with people going the same direction as the bus (on Fairview). If so, does that really back up horribly, or is it simply a case of waiting for each light?

      2. It can take multiple light cycles to make it through in any direction at rush hour – straight through, onto mercer, or onto I-5. It doesn’t stay green long enough to clear traffic because it has to get back to the other travel directions, which are equally backed up.

        SDOT’s timing and lane distribution through this light is about as balanced as it is possible to be (they’ve had years to study this intersection before the last rebuild, after all), it’s just a lot of traffic.

  19. OK, I’m obviously not going to be going all the way up there for this meeting, but someone who does go to this meeting:

    Please see if they can look at using a single dedicated bus lane in both directions like EmX in Eugene does in many places. This is one way to make bus travel faster in limited space. Sure, it means having to have very carefully planned timetables, but if Eugene can do this I don’t see why Seattle can’t. Well planned out with VERY FREQUENT passing areas and passing areas at every platform, it can be faster than being stuck in auto traffic.

  20. OK, I’m confused. We voted on and passed Prop 1. What *exactly* is SDOT planning on spending the money on? They’re doing a fine job of proving the people who opposed Prop 1 on the grounds that it didn’t have specific projects right. I would much rather have a few showcase lines to show what real transit looks like, than lots of lines that are no better than what we have now.

    1. +1. At this moment, I’m leaning against giving SDOT another dollar until they come up with some better plans to build real transit.

    2. Another thing I find annoying about this is their primary effort is aimed at car throughput, but probably a majority of those vehicles blocking Mercer reside outside the tax district.

      1. Ha, that’s the irony of American transportation, the urban areas are sacrificed and pay for those outside the city’s motoring convenience. The Sellwood Bridge in Portland is a fantastic example.

  21. At the risk of sounding like a troll (which I’m not) I am confused as to what the benefits to this are. I’m sure a few signal jumps and intersection improvements are well and good, but that is not BRT, HCT, or really anything. So basically HCT mean “a bit more frequency and a few improvements” to the route. I’m feeling this was a bit oversold and underdelivered.

  22. I know this will not be a popular comment, but I see things differently than many here. Roosevelt used to be the *fastest* way to get to town on transit. When I lived in the U District you could get downtown in not much more than 10 minutes by waiting for an express bus there headed to the express lanes. At the time it was not a bad route for driving either. Lights were actually timed and progressed.

    Since then SDOT has traffic calmed Roosevelt *to death.* There is a signal on almost every block, and if there’s a progression it is totally ineffective. And the net result? It’s much worse for cars and it’s worse still for buses. Unless there’s a dedicated bus lane, whenever decisions are made to tip the scales away from cars, bus performance is affected even more severely – because buses need to re-enter traffic after every stop.

    So I don’t agree that this is just another case of the city prioritizing SOVs over transit. Cars using Roosevelt are screwed – I think operation of Roosevelt has been destroyed. The point is that without priority lanes, buses do better when traffic moves well. The idea that slowing cars makes transit more attractive is only true if the transit isn’t slowed as well.

    1. Turning Eastlake and Roosevelt into a highway is not the way to go. People do have to be able to cross the street, as do buses (e.g. routes 8, 44). Furthermore, signal progressions don’t work for buses anyway, unless you count express buses that skip all of the stops. The problem is that every time the bus needs to stop to load/unload passengers, they miss the “green wave” and have to wait for the next signal, anyway.

    2. “When I lived in the U District you could get downtown in not much more than 10 minutes by waiting for an express bus there headed to the express lanes”

      You must go downtown in the AM peak and back to he U-District in the PM peak. If you reverse commuite it’s not like that at all, nor if you go southbound midday or either direction weekends. Also, the express lanes are under capacity because there’s no 520 exit so they miss all the traffic heading to the bridge. WSDOT is talking about connecting the 520 to the express lanes so then it will slow down.

  23. On comment 126 as I type, the silence of Johnny the BRT Artist, aka John Niles is stunning. Shocking.

    Let’s go win this thing for the true believers.

    ^^Thanks and hugs to a Shefali I know^^ for the first half, the second half comes from Paul Keating.

  24. Really meant to say that passengers insulted by local transit are often blind to coach colors. Which wraps make even worse to discern. Meaning “separate agencies” claim, bad enough as an excuse for missed connections, can’t restore a lost vote for ST3.

    And trolley or diesel, putting an Express sign on anything without its own lanes and signals is consumer fraud.


  25. Looks so much like the routing of the 66. Wish they would have kept it until this BRT starts.

  26. Again, and as always, the most important opinions in the planning discussion are those who voted against the project.

  27. This debate has been a step in the evolution of BRT-is-better-than-rail, by having an actual BRT proposal, and governing entity willing to build it, whereas before we just had flat-out BRT insincerity with pretend plans unhindered by human politics, geographic reality, or the need for more than just a band of rail critics to agree the plan is something not completely drawn-up on the back of a napkin.

    Okay, so it isn’t BRT. At all.

    Link wins this round.

    1. Link actually has to do something to win a round. Like build a tunnel underneath downtown, with true urban stop spacing. Good job, Link. Oh wait, that was built for buses, and for most of its time, has served buses. It will probably be a very long (if ever) that the time saved by train riders comes close to the time saved by bus riders in the tunnel. I suppose the bus tunnel didn’t involve human politics or geographic reality.

      But what about the biggest, most important extension of that tunnel: Connect downtown through the most densely contiguous section of the state ( and onto a similarly dense area which also happens to be where the biggest university in the state exists. How did that go? Did it include all of the urban areas, while providing great connections to surface transit for the rest. No, no it did not. Is that a win for BRT? Hardly. It is simply a loss for good transit, just like this is. The difference is, the loss will cost billions, instead of this one, which will cost a few million.

      ST build a good line to Rainier Valley and a less important one to the airport. SDOT is in the process of building a good line on Madison, and (it looks like) a weak one here. Some of the money spent on this will be on moving the streetcar. If we really want to argue about modes, that is one that always seems to fail. The other modes seem fifty-fifty at best.

Comments are closed.