Atomic Taco (Flickr)
Atomic Taco (Flickr)

In debating the relative merits of transit and bike priority in the Eastlake and Roosevelt corridors, it’s easy for each side to instinctively defend their own prior preferences. But largely unanswered in the debate so far is the fundamental existential question about the corridor, namely: How important is it from a mobility perspective, and for whom? 

SDOT’s continued prioritization of the corridor, and its inclusion in Move Seattle, goes against Metro’s own planning instincts. Metro, having noted the poor off-peak performance of former Route 66, decided to break the corridor in two for the ULink restructure, and add peak-only service from Northgate (Route 63) and Roosevelt (Route 64) to South Lake Union to compensate. And we’ve already catalogued the dwindling importance of the corridor from a policy level, from the McGinn-era “rapid streetcar” dreams to the dangled possibility of real Bus Rapid Transit, to the current concept of modest improvements, electrification, and protected bike lanes.

So then, a question that needs answered: In 2021, which trips would be faster by bus, by Bus + Link, and by Link alone? With an educated guess of 20 stops in each direction, there are total of 380 possible trip pairs, and I won’t analyze them all. Rather, I’ll look at travel times for every southbound stop to each of the 6 major destinations along the corridor: Maple Leaf (75th), Roosevelt Station (65th), UDistrict (45th), Eastlake (at Lynn), South Lake Union, and Downtown.

One of the first things to note is that for all the proposed investment, baseline travel time would still be worse than today’s scheduled times. Travel time improvements are relative to worsened baseline assumptions for 2021, not today’s travel times.  Nearly all of the congestion is between Downtown and the UDistrict, with a travel time of 40 minutes to travel 3.8 miles (an average speed of just 5.7 mph). The trip from Roosevelt to Northgate is projected to much speedier, traveling the final 3.4 miles in just 16 minutes (average speed of 12.75 mph). Average speed for the entire end-to-end corridor would be roughly 7.7 mph.

Link, of course, will be 5 times faster from Westlake to the UDistrict (8 minutes), 5 times faster to Roosevelt (10 minutes), and 4 times faster to Northgate (13 minutes). Average corridor speed between Northgate and Downtown will be roughly 35 mph. So it’s clear from the outset that the bus corridor will serve primarily a shadow function, either connecting riders to their nearest Link station or facilitating trips between two in-between destinations (say, Eastlake to Ravenna Boulevard).

But from my attempt at a travel time analysis, assuming 6-minute frequencies on both Link and bus, it’s even trickier than that. For most riders, Link alone, the bus alone, or a simple same-direction transfer between bus/Link will yield the fastest trip. But if the analysis is close to correct, there are several major trips for which a 3-seat ride (bus-Link-bus) or a backtrack (Link to bus) will be faster. Prominent among these are trips to South Lake Union from Northgate, Roosevelt, or even the UDistrict, for which backtracking from Westlake will save time. Others fast backtracks are Westlake to Maple Leaf (via Northgate), or Westlake to Upper Eastlake (via UDistrict Station). Trips from Maple Leaf to Eastlake or South Lake Union would be fastest via a 3-seat ride, using Link between UDistrict and Roosevelt in between two bus trips.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 8.21.59 PM

Despite a projected end-to-end bus travel time of 56 minutes, no trip on the corridor would need to take longer than 36 minutes. The only trips longer than 30 minutes are long trips originating in South Lake Union, Maple Leaf, or Eastlake. So the route would indeed be a local shadow and feeder service, with most trips involving a Link transfer along the way.

One of the defenses SDOT and select advocates have made for reduced investment is that short trips will predominate, with common trips of 1-2 miles saving only a minute or two for tens of millions in potential “full BRT” investments. The table above shows that this is indeed true, with very good travel times throughout the corridor at the proposed investment level, but only with Link’s help. It is also clear that Eastlake and South Lake Union suffer most, with the most bus dependency and the slowest travel times, with only trips to Roosevelt or Northgate benefiting from a Link transfer.

Going forward, Eastlake will surely (and rightly) be a passionately contested corridor between bikes, transit, parking, and traffic interests. But though that is a legitimate debate, there is lower hanging fruit. Reducing the (frankly insane) amount of time budgeted to clear the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union (nearly half an hour in peak) would seem to be the highest imperative. This means continuous priority through the Mercer Mess, and possibly not using Stewart at all. Of course, all urbanists should ask SDOT to reduce the amount of parking between NE 45th and NE 65th. These are issues on which bike and transit advocates can and should find common cause.

In recent conversations, SDOT staff have told me they see Eastlake as “a bottle with two necks”, implying that treating the entrance points (SLU and the University Bridge) is more important than Eastlake itself, where it is presumed that buses will move relatively well. SDOT also believes that “the bus will set the pace”, with inline stops throughout and cars unable to pass. Done well, SDOT thinks this will strongly disincentivize through-travel, calm local traffic, free the bus to flow, and permit the installation of full-fledged protected bike lanes on a corridor for which building alternate bike facilities is cost prohibitive. Though I remain disappointed by some of the seemingly inevitable tradeoffs, after looking at trip times I’m tentatively inclined to agree, or at least understand where they are coming from.

70 Replies to “Who Would Ride Roosevelt-Eastlake BRT?”

  1. I am mostly disappointed because I fear it means a similar treatment for 45th/Market street.

    Without exclusive lanes through Wallingford, the buses will simply never move.

    If we can find common cause against parking, we should. As far as bottlenecks go, safety should be a priority, but cutting costs should not.

    if there’s a parallel bike route that would work to allow both if only it had a bridge, we should build that bridge.

    1. I would be surprised if the Metro 44 route suffers the same fate. There were a few things that really screwed this up:

      1) This is a major bike corridor. Making this work for both bikes and transit would have blown the budget (https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/06/16/roosevelt-brt-will-not-be-rapid/#comment-739720).

      2) The streetcar is in the way, which adds to the cost: https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/06/16/roosevelt-brt-will-not-be-rapid/#comment-739720

      3) Downtown is tricky. Much of the parking is already taken. I think they need to do a better job here (I don’t think this is adequate) but unless you are willing to take general purpose lanes, there is only so much you can do. The trickle effect on traffic might actually make things worse overall (it might make it great for this bus, but other buses might be messed up). The city needs to figure out a plan for downtown, and this is only one small part of it (which is why this might be made much better in a few years).

      For the 44 route, the U-District is a problem. We either take lanes from general traffic (which was done here sparingly) or deal with a slog around the freeway. It isn’t clear whether we need a good bike path over the freeway — I think we can send the bikes up to 50th. Meanwhile, you certainly don’t need a bike path on 45th in Wallingford. Their already is a nice set of bike paths that parallel that area. This is where the biggest time savings will occur. Just take the parking, and run the buses. It gets tricky around various intersections, so it won’t likely be smooth sailing, but it should still be a lot better. On Market it is similar to the U-District. You can take a general purpose lane (if you dare) but bikes aren’t a concern.

      1. A couple points:

        1. I expect the Wallingford business community to litigate any loss of parking for years, even if data show that lack of good mobility hurts their business today.

        2. 50th is hardly a bikeable street in its current state on either side of I-5. SDOT needs to improve 50th in addition to bringing the existing greenway on 44th up to current standards (a couple buckets of paint and some signs does not make a greenway).

      2. AJ, I suggested that, but an SDOT person said that the concrete in which the rails are embedded Is not strong enough to support buses (the rails are supported by ties).

        This corridor should be handled by a 70 with 10 minute headways and a stop diet plus a more frequent and stop dieted 67. There might be a case for a Roosevelt (or Lake City) to Expedia BRT line across Harrison to tie the Eastlake neighborhood into regional services. Changing to Link at Harrison Station for dairport trips would be a big win for Eastlake/SLU.

      3. Questions I’d have for whoever in SDOT says concrete where streetcar tracks are embedded won’t take weight of buses:

        How long ’til RapidRide destroys the whole southbound trackway on Westlake south of Valley? And will First Hill line be further slowed by trucks full of broken concrete most of its length?

        The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel itself gives 20 years of proof that joint use works, given the signal system King County has wasted for same amount of time. And buses and streetcars have been running same lanes since both were pulled by horses.

        And what grounds do Wallingford merchants or anybody else have to litigate loss of parking on publicly owned streets? Might as well spend their legal money suing over views. They can always regain their rights by moving.

        As I suggested for First Hill Streetcar, answer for Wallingford could be signal pre-empt and change of understood priority. Meaning that anybody insisting on driving will have to accept same operating conditions buses do now.

        And vice versa. Also, incidentally, think that Ballard-University deserves, and will therefore eventually get, a subway. Whether this happens before of after Ballard/Downtown Seattle/West Seattle gets built could be up to geology and soils.

        Would be good idea to get as much study on conditions like these on both routes, so if one turns temporarily impossible, work can get going on the other.

        Mark Dublin

      4. @Mark,

        I have no idea what grounds they’d sue under, but that sure hasn’t stopped Ballard business owners from blocking the Burke-Gilman missing link construction for the last 15+ years.

      5. Mark, AJ,

        Just to be clear, I was understanding “the streetcar right of way” to refer to the reserved section along Valley between Fairview and Westlake. Certainly buses could drive in the panel track on Fairview to the north of Valley. The streetcar track is to be moved to the right lane so that the BRT and streetcar can share a new reserved lane.

    2. SDOT should declare its plans for 45th now, even if it’s an early stage with many unknowns. What is the budget, what’s the maximum length of transit lanes it could buy, and what might be the impact of other priorities on them? Some of the resistance to SDOT’s Roosevelt plans would diminish if we had definitive proof that other corridors will be better, especially 45th which is arguably the most troubled and most critical. (The others are 23rd, Delridge, Rainier, and route 40.)

      Earlier I detailed the myriad trips that Roosevelt BRT would facilitate in the growing Roosevelt corridor. 55th to Eastlake, 55th to SLU, 55th to 42nd, etc, but not particularly 55th to downtown. The biggest loss from the 66 is severing the link between Roosevelt and Eastlake. The 66 was not a great link because it was half-hourly and less frequent than the 71/72/73 and 70. Woe to those who missed the 66 and had to take the 67 and had to detour to Campus Parkway and walk across the street to the 70. But if Roosevelt BRT restores the corridor and fixes the 66’s frequency problem, then it could do well. But it doesn’t have to be the same route that goes to downtown. Metro’s plan is to keep the 70, routed to U-District Station somehow. What if we had a 65th-SLU line and the 70? (The 67 would also remain until the BRT is extended to Northgate.)

    3. “This is a major bike corridor.”

      It’s not just a major bike corridor. It’s the shortest way from the U-District to downtown, and there is no parallel street due to elevation and barriers on both sides. Fairview is not an option due to cost, hills, and private land. If we want to avoid a cycletrack on Eastlake, the best way would be to make an attractive alternative on either Westlake or 520/Boyleston/Lakeview. The Westlake cycletrack would be a slight detour on the BGT (adding 5-10 minutes), plus the connection between the BGT and the Fremont Bridge isn’t that great. But those would be the challenges to overcome. The 520 western approach will have a bike trail if it’s funded, so if that has a good connection to the Montlake Bridge and Boyleston Avenue that would work. Or we could somehow build a “new bridge” from 15th to the 520 trail however that would work. So those could be alternatives to pursue.

      45th should have less demand for a cycletrack because there are already parallel greenways, and the only barriers are I-5 and the U-Village viaduct, which could have targeted solutions.

      1. Fairview isn’t an option due to private land and hills in one location: the houseboat colony between Roanoke and Hamlin. This distance really isn’t that far. It’s about two blocks.

        Considering some of the places Portland has crammed the Willamette Greenway Trail, such as between condominiums and the river , it is difficult for me to see how a solution on Fairview isn’t physically possible. It means getting to the destinations along Eastlake would be more difficult due to the hill, but you can always walk your bike for so short a distance if you need to.

        It seems like this route could be made much more pleasant than the horrifically auto oriented racket on Eastlake, which is why I chose that particular route for walking on the east side of the lake.

    4. CharlesB, the numbers will likely work out very differently on 45th. While there may be room for one-way protected bike lanes over the I-5 bridge, there’s almost certainly not room for 2-way without rebuilding the bridge or adding a new one (very costly so not likely). I’m not too familiar with biking near 45th, but the parallel route possibilities look better than Eastlake. Couplet routes (one way protected bike lanes over neighboring bridges) while not ideal for bikes may be all that is realistic. Also it’s an East-West route with no alternate fast transit options. Replacing on-street parking with high-quality alternatives to car ownership should definitely be the priority.

  2. I am confused about the benefits of this. After spending all this time and money, it appears that this is basically the Route 66 with nice stops and a few BAT lane sections? I have no problem with the 66 or improvements to it, but why all the fuss? Is this a pretext to build bike lanes? Does SDOT believe that this is high capacity transit or BRT? They can’t be that foolish.

    Personally, after seeing the results of Broadway, I’d be hesitant to let SDOT overstuff more arterials…

    1. For starters, this new line will run a lot more frequently than the former route 66 ever did. It was the half-hourly frequency, combined by competition with the more-frequent route 70 that resulted in route 66’s low ridership.

      In fact, when I did used to ride route 66 occasionally, I did so because of its low ridership, in spite of its frequency (usually, on the way to the airport, so I could have enough room to put my luggage on the seat next to me without feeling guilty).

      1. Yes, the added frequency as well as some of the low budget fixes (new BAT lanes and bus lanes) are great. But I wonder if adding off board payment and level boarding is worth it. That is where most of the money is being spent (along with moving the streetcar). That just doesn’t seem worth it for this corridor, given the (projected) slow speeds. Unless, of course, SDOT is completely wrong, and this is much faster than they say.

    2. This is just a rehashing of what happened when the RapidRide C, D and E corridors were brought into this world. There were enough improvements to where it was a little more than just putting “lipstick on a pig”, but in reality, they are improvements that should be done regardless of this particular route becoming a RapidRide route.

      In the end, there will be much fanfare by the various agencies. People that normally ride the route will be left unimpressed. Life will go on as we wonder how it still takes 35 minutes to go 5 miles (85th/Roosevelt to Fairview/Thomas) along a single arterial in the 21st Century.

    3. much like Madison brt, it makes you wonder how they manage to blow through $100+ million for what is little more than a few spot improvements that could be done in-house. its really just overpriced consultants overengineering a simple problem but instead requiring blowing all the money on custom buses and pointless traffic lights to deal with the crazy needlessly complex design.

  3. I appreciate the conversation between the bike vs. bus infrastructure and its trade-offs. I agree that we should all be on the same side because quite frankly most of us are bike and bus riders (at least I am). I do not think bike infrastructure should be placed on a route that parallels a “destination.”. This often just leads to an empty parallel route and an arterial route full of cyclists and no infrastructure. Just look at how the city royally screwed up the Queen Anne portion of Mercer west of 5th ave N….just about ever cyclist continues on Mercer (often on the sidewalk understandably) instead of taking the bike lane on Roy. This is because Mercer is there destination and not what they are trying to bypass. I do think that Eastlake is different though–I do not think Eastlake Ave is a “destination” like Queen Anne’s Mercer street. I think most cyclists on Eastlake are headed to SLU or downtown and would prefer to bypass the whole thing on Fairview. I believe one of the “catalyst” projects on the BMP was to build a connecting bridge on Fairview, so that cyclist didn’t need to summit the alley between Hamlin and Edgar. If our politicians weren’t so fearful of pissing off 1 or 2 homeowners for the benefit of thousands, I strongly believe that this would be a win-win situation for bus and bike riders.

    1. While I whole-heartedly agree that Fairview would be preferable for bikes, it’s far more than 1 or 2 homeowners. Mallard Cove would need to be bisected, and that’s on the order of 50 townhomes and 50 floating homes, all with price-tags near a million dollars or more. While I think a through bike bridge would enhance home values, I’m guessing that current homeowners would disagree. And with $100 million in Real Estate, that a lot of money. And a lot of long, drawn-out lawsuits.

      We needed to get an easement when the permitted it in the 90s.

      1. Good point. What I meant by my comment is that even if it was at the expense of pissing off 1 or 2 wealthy homeowners, I don’t think a single Seattle politician has the spine to make that argument. If 50 townhomes and floating homes are affected…that fight is never going to happen in this city.

      2. I’m looking at Google Maps’ photos right now, and there might be a way to connect that while only taking two homeowners’ property. Coming from the south, go up the driveway next to the floating homes, and through the semicircular parking lot. Then, build a new path behind those houses and past the Edgar St dead-end to connect to the parking lot just to the north.

        It’d be awkward, it’d annoy all the homeowners thereabouts, it’d leave bikes in general traffic on that driveway, and it might not even be possible due to the terrain… but then, it might work.

        Thoughts?

      3. @William — Yeah, that is the type of thing that has been discussed here and on the bike blogs. The thing is, all it takes is a few pissed off neighbors (with good lawyers) and the thing is held up for years. Just look at the missing Link in Ballard. That is such an obvious project, everyone knows it is the right route, it doesn’t involve taking any houses, yet it has been dragged out for years. I could easily see the same thing here. I just don’t think it is worth it.

        I think we should stop worrying about the middle, and focus on each end. Make downtown and the U-District really fast and no one will be that concerned about Eastlake. I send SDOT a bunch of suggestions. It is long, but it boils down to this:

        1) Virginia — Take parking and turn it into a bus lane.

        2) Northbound Fairview between Republican and Valley — Proper signal management (queue jump) and/or a bus lane is needed.

        3) Southbound Fairview between Mercer and Republican — Extend the bus lane to here (have only one exit lane for the freeway).

        4) Roosevelt and 11th/12th — North of the ship canal, change general purpose right lane to BAT lane. Change the left lane (a parking lane) to general purpose lane during rush hour (and parking the rest of the day).

        5) Convert a general purpose lane southbound across the ship canal to a bus lane. This is by far the most disruptive suggestion and complicated.

        6) Save money by simply truncating the streetcar line.

      4. You can see the “missing link” section for yourself in this ride video I took.
        https://youtu.be/XF0EINGiDQs?t=8m

        I queued it up at 8 minutes and the trip through the alley lasts until about 10 minutes. You can see the apartment (condo?) complex in the background right around the 8 minute mark. You’ll also see at the end of the video that all the other cyclists took Eastlake. This isn’t an awful route, but it’s not a substitute for Eastlake. It seems substantially more popular for walkers/runners than cyclists. People walking and running do have the option of doing so on Eastlake sidewalks as well.

    2. what ticks me off is the bike lanes on Fairview/Eastlake still are only going to be used by a couple young and fearless spandex warrior cyclists, they still wont be used by all ages 8-80 bike riders. if you are going to do bike lanes at the expense of all other modes, at least do them right where they actually get used. though broadway shows that they still don’t get used.

      1. I think there is something to be said about building where demand has been demonstrated. Making a route nice for bikes doesn’t just draw bikes, as we’ve seen with Broadway. But if a route with awful bike conditions still has cyclists, it is likely many more want to ride that route but don’t because it’s aweful. Putting good bike lanes on Eastlake would likely make it like dexter. Obviously it would be much better if this route could be made all ages and abilities, but I can’t imagine how that might be accomplished. In the meantime, we shouldn’t make perfect the enemy of okish. Lanes on Eastlake would be a huge thing for many cyclists. We should do it.

  4. This post pretty much sums up my opinions on the corridor. The Roosevelt/Eastlake/downtown line is important, but no so important that it’s worth throwing bike riders under the bus in the name of exclusive bus lanes.

    However, as a thought experiment, let’s pretend that Eastlake were to be reconfigured to have an exclusive bus lane and no bike facilities. Where would all the existing bikers on Eastlake go? They would not detour to Fairview and go up/down the steep hills, nor would they ride in the left lane with the cars, since that would be insane. What people would do in practice is ride their bikes in the bus lane, forcing the bus to constantly weave back and forth between the lanes as the buses and bikes leapfrog each other after every bus stop. Effectively, the “bus lane” would function as little more than a bus pullout, and all that weaving would be much more dangerous than the actual proposed configuration of a separated bike path.

    I actually think the proposed configuration on Eastlake will work for buses fairly well. Eastlake usually moves fairly smoothly once you get past the bottlenecks, and a bus lane over the U-bridge (which there is room for) would help considerably with that. Allowing buses to stop for passengers in-lane without losing their place in line will also help, as will signal priority, which should have put in there for the 70/71/72/73 decades ago. I do agree though, that queue jumps for the Mercer and Denny bottlenecks could use some improvement.

    It should also be noted that when Eastlake and Roosevelt are congested, much of the backup is thru-drivers trying to avoid I-5, when I-5, itself, is backed up. Hopefully, a little bit of traffic calming and a narrower street will nudge some of these drivers back onto I-5, so things won’t be quite so bad.

    1. I totally agree with this. Unless they build a connecting bridge on fairview for cyclists to bypass Eastlake, they are just going to ride in the bus lane making this a lose-lose for all.

      1. Couldn’t that be fixed by vigorous enforcement of the bus lane, perhaps with cameras? I think that even a cyclist would learn not to use the bus lane if they got hit with a $127 fine every single time they delayed a bus.

      2. The same way there is “vigorous enforcement” on Bell Street downtown of cars using it as a through street? Not going to happen. Also, penalizing cyclist for using the bus lane when there is no alternative is a terrible idea.

      3. @William: How do you identify someone on a bike from a photo? Bikes don’t have license plates (you can’t enforce license plates in one city without doing a lot of stuff that just isn’t going to happen).

        The proposed law just doesn’t make sense anyway. Biking is allowed in essentially every bus lane in the city. For curbside bus lanes it’s hard to see how you’d expect people to ride anywhere else.

      4. Facial recognition + Facebook.

        The city owns the lanes, they can make cycling in them illegal. Bottom line is that if bkies in the bus lane are a problem, there are simple fixes which don’t require the city to spend a bunch of money.

      5. Yeah, and then from Facebook we’d look up their addresses… let’s just start the surveillance state over here. Never mind whether it’s actually reasonable policy to ban cyclists from the curb lane — it isn’t, and the city would never pass that law.

      6. @Capitol Hillian: William is saying the city could change that policy if they wanted to.

        I don’t think the city would, and ultimately the reason they wouldn’t is because the current policy is basically a good one, and changing it (at least in curb lanes) would be totally unreasonable.

    2. I agree as well. This would be a very nice corridor for buses if it could be made very fast, but in general, it has trouble breaking the top ten. The only part that is really important is downtown and the U-District. Eastlake itself is not that important for transit.

      Yet Eastlake is huge from a bike perspective. Meanwhile, as Fish said, providing both would be extremely expensive — well beyond the budget for this project.

      No, what bothers me are the numbers. It is easy to look at the set of improvements and think they are a cost effective way to avoid all the bottlenecks. Yet SDOT doesn’t say that. They say it will take a very long time to get from one place to another, and that driving will be significantly faster. This is a huge contrast with Madison BRT (where taking the bus is expected to be faster).

      I think prioritizing bike travel along this corridor is the way to go. I also think that doing so does not kill the chance for really good service here. But unless their own numbers are incorrect, then there is still a lot of work to be done on either end (in areas that don’t involve bike travel).

    3. What if it were set up with center running bus lanes. Thinking of this more as if european style light rail in dedicate lanes were put through, those lanes would be separate, maybe even grass track, and you’d have calmed general purpose traffic lanes either side shared with cyclists. We aren’t going to do light rail/”enhanced streetcar” (why not I don’t know) but there’s no reason not to run the buses the same way. They can be center platform stops like Madison BRT, and share the same vehicles even. This could even become the norm for BRT in Seattle.

      1. Because streetcars are more expensive. McGinn was all for streetcars, and the 2012 Transit Master Plan recommended streetcars on Eastlake and Westlake. But that would have taken more money from other corridors. After the lackluster performance of the SLUT and FHS and the critical transit needs across the city, SDOT in the Murray administration fell back to BRT in Eastlake and Westlake.

        (Note: the SLUT and FHS cost more to operate than buses. Even though SDOT and ST paid for their capital costs, the city basically imposed the lines on Metro so it’s paying the operating costs out of its bus-service hours. Since SLUT + FHS cost > Bus1 + Bus2 cost, the net result is a loss of service hours in Seattle. If we had Eastlake and Westlake streetcars to 45th/Market Street, the service-hour loss would have been even larger.

      2. I think everyone would like that, but as mentioned, there were several problems with giving this corridor the same type of treatment as Madison:

        1) Eastlake is a major bike corridor. To get both you would need to spend a bunch of money.

        2) Center running is great, but you need the space to have center stations. You then have to eliminate left turns (which is tricky in places, because three rights are difficult) or otherwise manage left turns. I was told at the meeting that doing so can be counter productive — trying to manage the traffic lights while allowing left turns becomes a big pain.

        In short, they didn’t want to disrupt regular traffic too much, or spend too much money providing both a great bike route and a great bus route.

      3. they need to be doing center running rapid streetcar with dedicated lanes for any future streetcar project… it would be cheaper than light rail, it would be fast and reliable and would solve the bike-streetcar conflict.

      1. There is not enough racks for all the bikes. Also, at least for me, I often bike because it’s faster. That being said, I really appreciated those racks when I got a flat one time.

  5. Last posting on this subject, I said some hard things about Seattle Department of Transportation’s attitude toward transit. Basically, that in its deepest thinking, SDOT don’t care if buses are slow. Especially if remedy would slow one car down five miles an hour over two blocks, or lose a single parking space.

    And that for anything to do with transit, first order of business is to get that attitude changed.
    I don’t apologize for any of that. But I should have added: “At least their performance to date merits every word of it.”

    But very good thing if I’m right. Because attitude related problems don’t cost a capital dime to fix.
    The First Hill Streetcar isn’t a crawling embarrassment because of bike lanes. The trains might even not need their own lane the whole trip.

    But a guaranteed green light at every intersection, and a stop only at platforms, and that nothing parked will ever hold a streetcar…Remedy is single decision that a trackway of SDOT’s own design will now mean that automobiles and streetcars trade places for priority.

    Another attitude-metric has been mentioned before. At the worst choke-point on the South Lake Union line at PM rush, Mercer project has concluded with several signal pre-empts turned off!

    Given a weather-and-traffic-proof LINK ride north and south, with a station at Roosevelt and 65th, above change of thinking should give trolleybuses the speed and reliability to serve that corridor very well.

    But I think another attitude also slows transit: That mode choice is a matter of religious faith, with no regard for context. Streetcars. Light Rail. Busways. Monorails. Bicycles. Shoes. Screwdrivers. Wrenches. Tape Measures. Every tool’s got its use.

    Mark Dublin

  6. I’m surprised you mentioned going to Northgate. SDOT made it clear that this won’t do that. Maybe some day, but that is not part of the project. For all intents and purposes, the transit project ends at 65th, while the bike project ends at 75th.

    While I tend to cut SDOT a lot of slack, if their numbers are correct, this is a big failure. We are talking about spending millions of dollars on a corridor, and it will still be faster to drive. The implication is not obvious, so let me clarify. One of the big things this will have is off board payment and level boarding, along with special buses with lots of doors. This means dwell times should be in the 10-30 second range, all day long. At the same time, a bus will have signal priority. Yet it will be faster to drive! Quite a bit faster, actually (10.4 MPH versus 6.3 MPH). That is terrible. Either their estimates are way off, or they really haven’t improved things. For the most part, this is a bike project, not a transit project.

    It is easy to confuse this with Madison BRT. There was much hand wringing over the fact that they cut corners. But in the case of Madison BRT, the compromises were minor. BAT lanes (instead of bus lanes) downtown, and mixed traffic where it doesn’t matter. The result is that every single trip, a bus is faster. Call Uber, be picked up at the curb, and be prepared to be passed by a bus along the way. It is obvious that they managed to make a huge improvement, even if it didn’t go as far as we want.

    That simply isn’t the case here. The improvements sound pretty good and I could see how they might be similar — they might be the key to great performance. But why, then, are the numbers so bad? Either they screwed up the numbers, or the improvements are largely meaningless.

    I think SDOT really needs to look at the big picture here, and examine where we are with transportation in this city. We need to level with people. I don’t see anyone who is happy with the way things are going. This is just one little example. From a transit standpoint, this is a failure. From a bike standpoint, this is a great improvement. But look at the details a bit. At Fairview and Valley, the bike path crosses the streetcar tracks at about a 45 degree angle. This is very dangerous (of course). Yet we are spending roughly 7 million dollars so that we can move one streetcar stop a couple blocks and we are doing nothing about that crossing. That is crazy. It is not good for bikes, nor good for transit and a huge waste of money.

    Meanwhile, the city wants to extend the streetcar line, and the latest study didn’t even consider the danger it poses for bikes (http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/23/downtown-streetcar-plans-would-make-1st-ave-stewart-more-dangerous-for-biking/)! We are essentially telling bike riders that they finally have a safe way to get around the lake, then we turn around and say we are going to spend millions moving tracks around, even if the tracks end up injuring or killing riders. This all seems like a hodge podge of ideas, with no one looking at the big picture. We need to rethink all of these projects, look at the budget, and let people know we can’t have it all. This means making some tough decisions we don’t want to make. Here is what I recommend:

    1) Get rid of the streetcar lines. They are a failure. They make no sense for our streets and are causing more problems as we try and expand our transit and bike system.

    2) Save this project by making lots of little improvements. If mixed traffic on Eastlake isn’t a big deal, then it isn’t a big deal. But make sure the buses can move quickly through downtown and through the U-District. Right now, SDOT’s own data says otherwise. If you can’t fix it — if my suggestions, as well as other suggestions are not acceptable — then cut bait. Acknowledge that we have a limited budget, and that we can’t spend enough money to provide excellent transit and bike infrastructure on every corridor. In this case, I would simply say that this will be a bike pathway, and nothing more. Keep the bus lanes and the signal priority, but don’t spend money on the BRT buses or stops (since they won’t be operating in BRT mode). Off board payment and level boarding save a huge amount of time at each stop, but if everyone who rides this takes it a couple stops (and your chart implies as much) then the time savings are minor. Save the special buses and stops for areas that can take full advantage of it (e. g. the 7). Just run the buses more often, and make the cheap little improvements we plan on making. But don’t pretend this resembles anything like the type of improvement that we thought was possible a few months ago.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I tend to agree with you and you are able to articulate my thoughts better than I ever could.

      Speaking of a huge waste of money, I wonder if this court decision might become relevant to Seattle’s streetcar lines,
      http://komonews.com/news/local/appeals-court-cities-must-make-roads-safe-for-bicycles-in-wash-state

      I saw another (presumed) victim of the Jackson tracks on Wednesday evening. Female cyclist being loaded into an ambulance as I pedaled past. No obviously-involved cars or crushed/mangled bike on the scene so most likely another fall due to the tracks. I wonder if she or one of a future victim’s lawyers might find it relevant that the city didn’t even bother to consider the tracks’ impact on cyclist safety.

      1. OK. City passes ordinance prohibiting cyclists from crossing streetcar tracks without dismounting and walking the bike across. Camera enforcement. $129 fines every single time. Problem solved.

      2. it wouldn’t stand up considering the FHSC was designed first and foremost for cyclists with cycle tracks and center streetcar lanes on Jackson and bike lanes on Yesler and endless signs explaining common sense. provisions have been made the entire route for bikes, if cyclists choose not to use them, that is their own problem. cyclists shouldn’t ride recklessly and should learn how to ride a bike first.

    2. It’s worth remembering that the original TMP corridor was downtown to 45th. Northgate was added as a lesser benefit, like the Madison BRT extension to MLK and unofficial proposals to Madison Park. But extending the line to Northgate changes the nature of the corridor and the bus routes it would replace, and people are not noticing that. A line to 45th would be a straightforward replacement of the 70. A line to 65th would bring in the still-dense upper U-District and Roosevelt, but again it would be a 70-extended line. (I think the 48 should have terminated at 65th instead of 45th for the same density reason, overlapping with the 45.) But if you extend it to Northgate, suddenly it replaces the 66, and people start to think of it as a different kind of route, and forget that its core motivation was a 70-replacement. If it’s true that a downtown-Northgate line would have less than twice the impact of a downtown-45th line, then maybe we should downscale our expectations of it and the necessity of it. And if it’s now being truncated at 45th or 65th this phase, then that’s actually reverting to the original vision. Which again is a 70 replacement, and should be judged on that basis.

      Another factor. If the line terminates at 45th or 65th, then the impact on through trips between SLU/Eastlake and Roosevelt/Northgate depends on whether there’s a same-stop transfer without detouring. The E and Swift currently detour into Aurora Village. If Swift switches to Aurora-185th and the E remains as-is, that will allow a same-stop transfer on Aurora going northbound or southbound. Will Roosvelt BRT and the 67 have a similar transfer? Or will people have to detour to U-District Station as they do now on Campus Parkway? And will a “45th” project really go to 45th? Or will it turn on 43rd or Campus Parkway to U-District Station? Going north to 45th and fishhooking around to U-District Station sounds like a congestion bottleneck like Northgate. So I’m pretty sure it would turn on 43rd or even Campus Parkway. That would then persist the gap between it and the 67, which will presumably turn at 43rd or 42nd.

      1. I think you are laying out a good case to go beyond 45th. Going all the way to 65th would also serve the extremely rapidly densifying north U District with one seat rides to SLU.

        Beyond 65th, I don’t think Northgate should ever be the goal. Why not Green Lake or Lake City, creating a complimentary line that simultaneously helps bring people to the link corridor and provides direct service to Eastlake, SLU and the Convention Place corner of downtown?

  7. We have to remember that theoretically, at least, Vision Zero is SDOT’s first priority here. Vision Zero doesn’t care about travel times; safety is the first and, taken to its logical conclusion, only priority. Mobility is irrelevant.

    If SDOT wanted to put the full Vision Zero treatment on the street, I think we’d end up with:

    2 traffic lanes (1 each way) and 2 wide PBLs (1 each way)
    No left turns – use 3-rights instead.
    Signalized right turns for drivers to avoid bike-car confrontations.
    Aggressive SPD enforcement of speeds, turns, and jaywalking (haha, I know…)

    That would be fairly safe, in theory. There’s no free lunch, however. It would be somewhat slower for everyone and downright terrible for drivers and transit.

    1. Vision Zero is also considering lowering the speed limit on arterials from 30 to 25. That would affect Link on MLK, as well as the E on Aurora between 73rd and 105th, the 7 on Rainier, and BRT on Eastlake, making cross-city trips slower across the board.

      1. WHY “would [it] affect Link on MLK”? Every other city in the country except equally paranoid Portland runs LRT in exclusive center trackways at speeds of 45 or even 50 if the stations are far enough apart to reach that speed. Link’s are surely that far apart.

        Quit wimping out, SDOT!

      2. If I recall correctly, the reason is that legally to go faster than the posted street speed limit, crossing gates would be required at every intersection.

    2. Or design and drop the speed limit to 15-20mph and no need for bike lanes. Then you can have 2 bus lanes and 2 general purpose lanes for bikes and cars.

  8. Excellent analysis, Zach. I really appreciate you doing the hard crunching.

    I see little to disagree with here. It’s a shadow local and the slowdowns aren’t really on Eastlake.

  9. Just out of curiosity, how did you calculate the time it takes to get to the station and wait?

    For example, from Roosevelt and 65th to Campus Parkway, it depends on where you are headed. If you are going to Campus Parkway and Eastlake, then the bus will take about 8 minutes. I don’t think you can beat that with the train. Figure a walk down to the platform (1 minute) a wait (3 minutes) a ride (1 minute) a walk up to the street (1 minute) then a 3 minute walk over to Roosevelt. Not counting the last trip (on a bus) it is slower to make the transfer. Plus that is assuming a one minute walk down to the platform, which is being really generous (these are deep tunnels). Even if the train is running every couple minutes, I think the bus will be faster.

    But if you are headed to Campus Parkway and the Ave, you are better off riding the train and then walking or catching one of the many buses that will (likely) run that way.

    That’s why I think a lot will depend on where you are. If you are close to this corridor, and headed along this corridor, you will probably just take one bus. There are exceptions, of course. But I think a bus-train-bus ride along here will be rare — I don’t think you would save any time in the process (if you are lucky you will catch the exact same bus you could have taken from the get go).

  10. The analysis is great, Zach. I would add that many of the higher bus-only times are from residential area to residential area so that demand would not be very high. I also would note that these are average times,, and that buses in mixed traffic have much more variable arrival times. It’s easy to have subway trains at even 6-minute intervals but nearly impossible for a bus to do that in mixed traffic.

  11. I remain dubious of the logic at how the Transit Master Plan/Move Seattle corridors were selected. It appears to be more committee-based and the only quantitative analysis appears to be used as an arbitrary screening tool. Clearly, the choice of this corridor as a more important one (as opposed to Cherry/Jefferson Street or Lake City Way) is an indicator that the criteria used to select these corridors was perhaps more guided by personal preferences of a limited number of participants than it is guided by an objective analysis of maximizing public benefit.

  12. Let’s be realistic and understand that this route isn’t planned to be a RapidRide route at this point. Significantly faster travel times are apparently not an objective. Frankly, I would rather our taxpayer money for transit spent on faster, limited-stop routes. The Move Seattle money for transit is limited, and we should be spending it where speeds can be really increased! a project like this needs to come from the bicycle pot of Move Seattle.

    Further, if we are going to implement a Rapid system like Los Angeles, we need to do that building upon one of their basic design principles (linked below): “Fewer stops: Stops are spaced about ¾ mile apart, like rail lines, at most major transfer points .” Let’s spend our Move Seattle money using this criteria!

    https://www.metro.net/projects/rapid/

  13. That travel-time chart is really terrific, and it really drives home just how bad transit access to SLU is. Regional and express transit barely touches SLU and most local routes get stuck in particularly bad backups crossing Mercer. A chart indicating travel times just west of Lake Union would look much the same, even without Link, especially during rush hour.

    There are a few good and important projects that will improve this scenario in the future as they finish. Charts like this one show why these projects are good and important, and where arterial transit speed/reliability improvements often aren’t redundant with light rail.

  14. Eastlake Today at Newton Street:

    Parking Lane
    Traffic Lane
    Left Turn Lane
    Traffic Lane
    Parking Lane

    We can’t touch the parking because that is where the bike lanes are going, correct?

    What happens if you take the left turn lane and convert that into a directional transit lane in places? Similar to, say, EmX single lane bus service where they operate the bus equivalent of a single track railroad with passing sidings?

  15. It looks like you assumed no wait time in this analysis? Including a wait time in your calculation makes any bus trip less than ~5 minutes impossible, as even if you have 8 minute headways, half of that plus some distance on the bus is 5 minutes.

    It’s an important omission. Trips of less than 5-10 minutes will likely be replaced by walking, because it is both faster and more reliable; this cuts into the yellow, bus only trips substantially. Similarly, transfers to a less than five minute bus ride are going to be rare – how many people are going take link to the U-district station and then wait probably five minutes, maybe ten, possibly twenty if busses are caught in traffic, just to go from 45th to 50th?

    Looking at the table confirms this. The only blue, link-only boxes are direct trips between stations themselves. Obviously the stations have walkshed, and so boxes near the stations should be blue, too. Expanding the blue by a few boxes gives a better idea of what you’d actually see. Similarly, the gray – going nowhere – should be several boxes wide, indicating where people prefer to walk.

    Making these adjustments, it’s clear that the bus makes sense for Eastlake riders, and to a lesser extent for SLU and Maple Leaf riders (but it will probably be too slow through SLU to be competitive with walking, and Maple Leaf is not exactly dense). Elsewhere, it is coverage service for the transit-dependent rather than ridership oriented service. If you can walk to Link, you will.

    It’s hard to know how to feel about this. I suspect that the original “Full BRT” plan would have been much more competitive, in terms of travel times, but absent an analysis like Zach’s for that plan, it’s hard to say. It seems like if we aren’t willing to go bold and make it fast, we’re providing excessive coverage from the U-district north, and we should have 30 min headways or even just turn around at the u-district station.

    Then the question is how good of service we’re providing for Eastlake, because that’s the only area that’s going to see a big benefit from this line, and how to balance Eastlake’s transit needs with demand for bicycle through-traffic.

    My preferred solution would be to build a bridge to connect the two parts of Fairview, and then put exclusive bus lanes on Eastlake, but the price tag is probably prohibitive. Absent that option, I think SDOT has done a reasonably good job, though. Zach’s suggested improvements would be great, but big improvements in Roosevelt for a low-ridership, duplicative service, would be silly. It’s hard to balance the needs of Fairview versus bike riders coming from the NE quadrant of the city, but Eastlake is really the only reasonably flat, efficient route from NE Seattle to the CBD – protected bike lanes are a major boon to the cycling community and safety.

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