SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

This week the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will debut its 30% design for Rapid Ride on the Madison Street corridor between 1st Avenue and MLK. Back at the 10% concept design late last year, we lamented the reliance on Business Access and Transit lanes in the downtown core, as well as the complete lack of transit priority on the eastern 36% of the route (between 15th-MLK). Noting that there is garage access on nearly every block and bus lane enforcement is woefully lacking, the project seemed headed for another watered down, sort-of-priority corridor.

But in the updated design SDOT will debut later today and in 3 open houses over the next week, bus priority has gotten much better. In an email, SDOT’s Emily Reardon told STB that

In the 10% design we had about 42% bus only lanes between First Avenue and MLK and 24% BAT lanes. In the draft 30% design, we have maximized red bus only lanes to approximately 60% of the same route, with approximately 4% BAT lanes. As we spoke about, most of that transition from BAT lanes to bus only lanes is in the downtown area, while still maintaining access to all driveways.

So how does SDOT hope to achieve this? While we haven’t seen the full channelization, the updated design will move the outbound bus lane from the north side of Spring Street to the south curbside, and the lanes will be fully bus-only. Access to garages will be maintained by vehicles turning across the bus lane to/from the center-right lane, rather than queuing in the bus lane itself. Having curbside stops (such as at Seattle Public Library) also saves a bit of right-of-way, as the need to have island platforms (to serve both Madison RapidRide and Metro’s Route 2) is eliminated.

At the horribly congested stretch of Spring Street between 4th and 6th Avenue, SDOT has a creative idea for getting buses through. From the curbside stop at SPL, the bus would move to an exclusive center-right lane, and it would enjoy its own signal phase, allowing the bus to jump ahead of traffic queuing for I-5. The two queueing lanes for cars would be maintained, but one would be curbside and one would be center-left. So the bus would split the difference and proceed straight on its signal, while cars would have lanes on either side and have their own signal as well. Though I remain skeptical that the transition from SPL to the bus lane will remain free of cars, I also see that this design wouldn’t preclude physical barriers to car entry, even if just bike-lane style plastic posts.

The 30% design level also is the time that the corridor-level study zooms into the nuts and bolts of stop placement, ADA access, curb cuts, and the like. The open houses will feature very detailed channelizations for the public to consider.

SDOT hopes to progress to final design by early 2017, begin construction in 2018, and have the project up and running by 2019. Much of the $120m cost comes from repaving, curb cutting, laying fiber optics for real-time information and off-board payment, buying new 5-door articulated trolleybuses, and hanging roughly 20 blocks of new trolley wire. SDOT confirmed that the bus will indeed be branded RapidRide, and that Metro will be the operator, so the route should be fully integrated into the transit network.

Funding for the project is still piecemeal and unsecured, as are most projects around here. $19m has been secured through Move Seattle ($15m) and a state Connecting Washington ($4m) grant, enough to complete final design, purchase a portion of the needed fleet, and fund any needed easements or property acquisitions. SDOT hopes to fund over half the project with federal grants, including up to $60m from the federal Small Starts program and smaller amounts from various other grants. Finally, Sound Transit 3 (ST3) provides an $85m “capped contribution” to Rapid Ride C, D, and the Madison Corridor. Assuming successful federal grants, ST3 funding would likely fall in the $40m range. Without the grants, an ST3 contribution would need to be higher, potentially pitting Ballard and West Seattle improvements against the needs of the Madison line. And of course, if ST3 were to fail, the project would have a large funding gap and the project could be delayed.

So come out to the open houses and see the updates for yourself, but the design seems headed in a better direction for transit riders.

Open House details below the jump…

Share your thoughts on the updated design!

Join us at open houses or online this summer to learn more about the Madison Street BRT project. You can see the updated roadway and station designs and provide feedback on planned improvements. You will also have the opportunity to talk to SDOT and other City staff.

August 3
5 – 7 PM
Seattle University, Campion Ballroom
914 E Jefferson St

August 4
11 AM – 1 PM
Town Hall Seattle, Downstairs
1119 8th Ave

August 9
5 – 7 PM
Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA
1700 23rd Ave

Can’t make it in person? Give your feedback online! Go to August 2 – 16. (Please note that the link will not be live until August 2.)

Questions about the open houses? Email or call Emily Reardon, Public Information Officer, at 206-615-1485.

34 Replies to “Madison RapidRide: Now with More and Better Bus Lanes”

  1. Well, it’s decent of them to make it better.

    But if Move Seattle hardly does anything for Roosevelt, and it only goes halfway for Madison – what’s that money pot good for? Why shouldn’t we vote the next transportation levy down and demand that they come back with a plan that actually does something rather than an endless collection of half-measures?

    1. What’s being presented here for the Madison project seems much better than what’s currently being offered for the Roosevelt/Eastlake project- if Madison gets bus lanes running most of the way from 1st to 18th Ave- the most congested section, that’s a huge improvement over the status quo, and if they’re needed in the 18th to MLK section, they can be extended later. The important thing is for the city to actually enforce the bus lanes that are built.

      1. I agree; that’s not the biggest problem. What I was complaining about was how Move Seattle only funds $15 million worth of the project, leaving most of it completely up in the air.

      2. While I agree that it’s frustrating that our $1B city transit package won’t cover the full cost, it actually might be a good strategy to provide “seed money” to start the project. $15M in planning can allow the city to more effectively compete for other funding sources, like federal grants and ST3

      3. I submitted the following to SDOT:

        I live in Madison Park, and the current Madison BRT proposed routing leaves bus riders here at the mercy of Metro to provide us some service. We could have no service; we could have a shuttle to MLK or we could keep the current service with some rerouting of the 11 E Madison.

        There is no discussion on how East Madison can support the BRT as well as the 8 and 11 buses. There is no discussion on how the BRT will work if the City People’s development happens.

        Last, we the voters of Seattle we were misled when in the Move Seattle vote. We were not told that Move Seattle plus federal funding would get us the Madison BRT. Now we are being told that the BRT requires funding from ST3 and per the Seattle Transit Blog, they say the completion date is 2024, not 2019.

        I will NOT be voting for ST3!

      4. What billion dollar transit package? Move Seattle allocated 166 million for transit corridor and access. That is really the big problem. There just isn’t enough money to do a great job on every corridor. They could do a better job on Roosevelt (and may, after the dust settles) but to have full bike lanes on Eastlake as well as bus lanes would have blown the budget (many times over).

      5. So, to your original point, the reason they don’t fully fund the Madison BRT project, is that if they did, it would leave only ten million for all the other corridors. I think they should have asked for a lot more money for those projects, but I don’t think that voting them down would have helped. They could have spent less on other things, but when you look at the list, most of it is essential maintenance stuff (that we shouldn’t have to vote for, but you know, Eyman).

        I think in general, they need to ask for more money. I have no idea how they could go about that, but they should. The whole thing passed despite opposition from the Seattle Times as well as it being an off year vote. The biggest problem with this project is now the lack of money, not the design, which means that a transit only project would probably get a tremendous amount of support. Spend a few hundred million on projects like these (add in some key corridors like Lake City Way) and throw in a bunch of extra bus service and I think it would pass overwhelmingly.

      6. Reg, where did you get 2024? This post says 2019, as do all of SDOT’s documents.

        Additionally, if you’ve looked at SDOT’s materials for Madison BRT they still show it connecting to an unchanged 11 and 8. As far as being “at the mercy of Metro”… seriously? Do you really think Metro is going to cut off service to Madison Park without any public process?

      7. David,

        I saw the 2024 date on one of the ST3 time lines presented on the STB.

        As for as service to Madison Park, I’m not the only one that does not trust Metro as far as our bus service is concerned.

        One must ask, is there room for the 8, 11 and BRT on East Madison? I know that Metro would like to implement the March 2015 Alternative One that would send the 8 to Madison Park and then to the Seattle Center. You are right. I don’t trust Metro at this point and was not too happy with their public outreach last year either!

        Speaking for myself only, I think the 15-minute service we have six days a week is fantastic, but will Metro commit to it continuing?

      8. SDOT leaves it to Metro to decide what to do about the other routes. The original Madison corridor in the TMP showed the 12 backtracking from 23rd to 19th. That wasn’t a recommendation; it was just a placeholder to show the fewest changes to existing service so Metro can decide whether to restructure further. Later SDOT made more assumptions about service hours, that the 12 would be deleted so the BRT can use its service hours; but that implies nothing for the 11 and 8. That would leave 19th Avenue up in the air, so Metro would have to decide what to do about that.

        Metro’s ideas are in its long-range plan, for a post-Move Seattle/ST2/ST3 world. And what do we see in the plan?

        In 2025:
        – Madison BRT to MLK.
        – 23rd-Rainier BRT.
        – Frequent #1061: Madison Park, John/Olive/Denny, Harrison between Fairview and 5th Ave N, to QA/Mercer. “Frequent” is defined as 15-minute minimum full time (same as RapidRide).
        – Frequent #1213: Pine, Olive/John, 15th. (Not Pike.)
        – Local #3123: Pike/Pine, Olive/John, 19th, Aloha, 24th, Boyer/Fuhrman, University Bridge, to UW Station. “Local” is defined as 30-minute maximum frequency.
        – Local #3208: 6th Ave W, Galer, QA, Mercer, Harrison, Eastlake/Belmont/Aloha, 23rd to John.

        In 2040:
        – Madison BRT to MLK.
        – 23rd-Rainier BRT.
        – Upgrade the Denny-Madison route to RapidRide #1061. This is your Madison Park route. Extend it west to Elliott Ave (Expedia?).
        – Keep Local #3120 and #3208.
        – Local #3104: West Magnolia, Mercer, Harrison, Aloha, 23rd to John.

        Note that some local routes overlap for potential 15-minute service on Eastlake/Belmont/Aloha. And Rapid, Frequent, and Local routes overlap for potential 5-10 minute service on Harrison and Olive/John to 15th. Also note that Metro’s upgrades are unfunded at this point: some of the hours could be recycled but some if it would probably require new hours. But it shows which direction Metro wants to go. And it shows that Madison Park will not lose all bus service or be reduced to a Local route.

      1. As someone who will vote against ST3, I agree. The money set aside for Madison BRT (along with things like the added stations) are really the strongest argument for voting for the thing. The little stuff is great, it is the big stuff that is terrible.

    1. I hope so. For Eastlake itself, though, I doubt it. As I said in the other comment, there is only so much you can do unless you screw over the bikers, or spend a lot more money. But they could make Roosevelt/12th a lot better and most importantly, they could improve downtown. If they just did that — if they just eliminated congestion downtown — I think it would be a decent project. Without it, this is mostly a bike project (although the added service is nice).

  2. Time will tell, of course, but if I had to give this a ranking from one to ten, I think I would give this a nine. That might be optimistic, but if the changes work as proposed, you would have no congestion from 1st to 18th. This is the most congested section and if you end up needing more bus lanes for the rest of it, it could be added later. I know there is a lot of cynicism about BRT — many of it justified — but this looks like a very good project. It isn’t cheap, but at 120 million, it looks like a great value compared to much of what Link is considering. Similar changes won’t work everywhere (there are physical limitations in areas like the 44 corridor or Eastlake) but wherever similar changes can be made they should, as this is an outstanding value. I just wish we had more money to spend (we have about $130 million, if my math is correct). I would love to spend a few hundred million on these sorts of projects.

  3. “Much of the $120m cost comes from repaving, curb cutting, laying fiber optics for real-time information and off-board payment, buying new 5-door articulated trolleybuses, and hanging roughly 20 blocks of new trolley wire.”

    Wow, I’m in the wrong industry. That adds up to $120 million?!?

    1. It would be interesting to see a more detailed breakdown. Buses aren’t cheap, so maybe that represents a good chunk of the money. Center running is also expensive (repaving and curb cutting). It really is amazing how expensive that sort of stuff is (simple sidewalks cost a fortune). But compared to a lot of things, all of it is a bargain.

    2. I’m guessing that SDOT is going to use this opportunity to rebuild chunks of Madison, which it needs in some areas. $120 million for what I will assume includes rebuilds from I-5 to 23rd, seems about right. And as Mark pointed out, labor ain’t cheap.

      1. Yes. In some cases the GP lanes will remain as they are, but the bus lanes will likely be fully redone as (I’m guessing) concrete. This would be similar to what happened with the First Hill Streetcar, with half the roadway getting a fresh surface and the other half left as is.

      2. Well if the bus lanes are going to be rebuilt then at least raise them curb height to discourage car use, in addition to red paint. The renderings at the meeting showed red only between the bus tires not the entire lane, I hope that’s not the actual case.

        Id rather they skip the lane rebuilds, seems an unneeded luxury, and save the money to make this a cheaper project and use it on one of the many needed BRT corridors.

  4. If they can lay 20 blocks of new trolley lines, why can’t they put trolley lines all the way to the waterfront so it doesn’t dead-end at 1st Avenue, forcing people going to/from the waterfront to make a needless walk the first/last several hundred feet.

    1. I am not sure where it stands now, but I believe the original plan was to make 1st the terminus while the waterfront is being rebuilt and eventually the terminus will be the waterfront.

    2. That was part of the project design. SDOT asked the public whether the western terminus should be at 1st or Alaskan. The majority said that sharing a station transfer with the 1st Avenue streetcar was more important than going to the ferry, because that would improve transfers, Madison riders are more numerous than ferry riders, it’s only two flat blocks to the ferry terminal, and it would save money which could be used to extend the center lanes.

      1. The ferry terminal also has the walkway to get to first, so in some ways going to Alaskan would be worse as it means crossing a street at ground level then going upstairs.

  5. That’s an interesting photo, as it shows the 1.5 blocks eastbound between 13th/Madison and Pine/Madison where parking is allowed to block a lane all day, every day, except from 4-6pm (to the left of the 12 bus). I don’t believe there is any other stretch of Madison between Broadway until 20th (where there are two unobstructed traffic lanes) where this occurs; west of Broadway the curb lane allows non-peak parking but there are turn lanes there, so the backup isn’t as bad. Parking is allowed east of 23rd but this is a lower-density area leading down the hill. Personally I think everything on Madison from 23rd east to MLK should be no parking in the evenings as traffic typically backs up all the way from the Arboretum to the top of the hill, further delaying the 8 and 11. The large apartment complex that borders much of the street’s length on that side has its own parking.

    This odd lane blockage seems to be a vestige of some other time, as there is no real reason (loading, etc.) why this should not be a free-flowing lane as it is both east and west of there. There are two bars and an auto-parts warehouse on one block; the building on the other has been demolished. Any bus–or other vehicle–traveling eastbound on Madison there has to pull into traffic to get around the parked cars 22 hours a day. This is a problem, as is the parking during peak hours eastbound between 23rd and MLK, that can be fixed tomorrow for about $100–and should be.

  6. “Access to garages will be maintained by vehicles turning across the bus lane to/from the center-right lane”. This is a dangerous maneuver. Setting up to turn right into a garage, it’s extremely difficult for drivers to crane their necks enough to see there is no bus coming from behind.

    There’s a reason the Traffic Code says right turns must be made from the right lane of traffic.

    1. If experience across town is any guide, quite a few drivers will roll through a red bus lane as a merge lane, until a gap opens in the adjoining general lane — or failing that, shoot through an intersection from bus lane to general lane. Enforcement would prevent this, but the city is already loaded with complex or violation-prone street layouts the SPD’s been unable to enforce.

  7. I went to Seattle U but I couldn’t find the open house. I didn’t have the building name, and I walked all down the center path and on some side paths but I didn’t see a sign. That’s funny because there’s always been a sign for other ones.

    1. Yeah it wasn’t the best location. I had to check the location on google maps several times on my way there on my phone. Hope you can make it to the one tomorrow.

  8. My thoughts/comments at Open house:
    -Much better than before
    -Raise the center transitway lanes for greater visibility/separation especially since they are rebuilding these lanes anyway.
    -Extend the center transitway to about 18th, it currently ends about 15th
    -Concerned about right turn conflicts downtown and places where cars cross and will block the red lanes like Spring Street for I-5.
    -Extend the line in non-BRT mode to Madison Park.

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