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.
5 – 7 PM
Seattle University, Campion Ballroom
914 E Jefferson St
11 AM – 1 PM
Town Hall Seattle, Downstairs
1119 8th Ave
5 – 7 PM
Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA
1700 23rd Ave
Can’t make it in person? Give your feedback online! Go to MadisonBRT.participate.online August 2 – 16. (Please note that the link will not be live until August 2.)
Questions about the open houses? Email MadisonBRT@seattle.gov or call Emily Reardon, Public Information Officer, at 206-615-1485.