Sometimes the quest for narrower streets creates strange bedfellows. This is certainly the case with the future Alaskan Way, whose proposed 9-lane “stroad” (surface highway) has upset a conflicting array of local advocates. Walk, bike, and Vision Zero advocates rightly clamor for a smaller, safer, slower roadway (reduce the general purpose lanes!). The Alliance for Pioneer Square has appealed the Final EIS, wanting to narrow the roadway without losing general purpose capacity (kill the bus lanes!). Meanwhile, the Historic Seattle Waterfront Association wants the same footprint but fewer travel lanes (more parking!).
Last year, there was enough public comment against the wide roadway to trigger another round of environmental review. But given that 2 general purpose lanes and 2 ferry queue lanes were seen as the immutable baseline for the project, the city sought to study the only lane reduction it had available, axing the bus lanes. This occurred despite the city’s insistent reassurance that it had no intention of implementing what it was about to study.
A year later, despite significant public comment to narrow the roadway, little has changed in the Final EIS. Giving each interest what they wanted (GP lanes, ferry lanes, bus lanes) always favored a wide roadway, and transit priority seemed to be the only allocation ever really at risk. So where do we go from here?
Though I certainly share the frustration over a bloated surface highway, I also believe the fight to reduce general capacity is now lost, and that further attempts at appeal will only endanger transit priority.
But transit priority must remain, even at the cost of a wider roadway, because the near-term alternatives are either politically impossible or objectively inferior. Though the proposed Pioneer Square/Main Street pathway was promising, neighborhood groups flexed sufficient muscle to scare Metro off. And now that the Lander Street Overpass is funded, there has been some rumbling about shifting transit from the waterfront onto 4th Avenue South or the Sodo busway instead. But this would be a grave mistake, with Metro’s 2013 analysis showing an up to 5-10 minute travel time penalty for transit riders, with $2,500 per day in additional operating costs for Metro in perpetuity. Even with the Lander Overpass, a Sodo pathway would add up to 10 signalized intersections if using the Sodo Busway, or up to 13 if purely along 4th Avenue S.
Luckily, there is a deus ex machina in the room in the form of Sound Transit 3. High capacity light rail will create brand new right-of-way to West Seattle by 2030, or possibly sooner if permits are expedited, bonding limits are loosened, or unexpected federal assistance arrives. With the surface highway not proposed for construction until 2020, that means West Seattle could be dependent on waterfront surface transit for less than a decade.
Metro’s Long Range Plan already shows no transit on Alaskan Way in 2040, with Link absorbing nearly all demand from West Seattle to Downtown. Only the Delridge RapidRide (via 4th Ave S) and a new West Seattle-SLU express route (via the Deep Bore Tunnel) would provide additional Downtown service.
I’d suggest two ways forward: 1) work hard to expedite Link to West Seattle to shorten the window in which the waterfront will be an anti-urban mess, and 2) agitate for explicit commitments from the City of Seattle to narrow the roadway upon Link’s opening. An MOU between Metro, the City of Seattle, and WSDOT should require designs amenable to narrowing and commit all parties to shaving 20-40′ off the width south of Yesler Way. Even though urbanists lost the battle for a narrower street, we can still win the war.
108 Replies to “A Waterfront Stroad is Regrettable, but Losing Transit Priority Would Be Worse”
“But given that 2 general purpose lanes and 2 ferry queue lanes were seen as the immutable baseline for the project,”
This right here is the problem. Removing a transit lane won’t make a bit of difference (as far as improving the pedestrian experience) as long as this is the baseline.
Here’s an alternative plan that should please WSDOT. A complete overhaul of Coleman Dock and the ferry queue area. They will love a new reason to waste tons of cash on a mega project when the tunnel and 520 are done.
Maybe they’d rather spite the new passenger ferry service to Kitsap. WSDOT is happy with letting them walk across a sea of parked cars before crossing the highway.
I continue to be deeply perplexed by the insistence of having transit on Alaska Way. We are going to have Transit Only lanes on First for the CCC. Just have the busses turn on Jackson and use the CCC corridor to Westlake. This even has the added benefit for making the CCC corridor much more useful because the west Seattle busses will add frequency to it.
It can take 10 minutes or more to get from Alaskan, across Alaskan, up the stairs, and several blocks over to get to First.
The point of bus lanes here is not waterfront transit — I’m not even sure the buses will stop along Alaskan Way. Almost all the waterfront destinations are farther north. This is the path for buses after their current route on the viaduct goes away.
That’s why calling it a “stroad” south of the ferry terminal is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not suffering from a conflict between its street-like and road-like functions, it’s pretty much just a road for going through.
I thought that the transit-only lanes on first were for exclusive use of streetcars. If that’s the case, they could be modified to support buses, but it would reduce the reliability of the overlapping FHS and SLUT lines, which together provide more than enough frequency for the corridor.
Running West Seattle buses in the 1st Ave streetcar corridor is a good solution, if transit lanes are eliminated on Alaskan Way. My general belief is that transit signal priority/queue jumps are more important than exclusive lanes. If 1st Avenue will have those (plus exclusive lanes), and Alaskan will not, then by all means find a way to run the buses on 1st. The total number of signalized intersections will be about the same. Which street can be better timed to accommodate buses?
Not with center platforms and 5 minute streetcar headways
Wait…the CCC is going to have smaller headways than Link?!? On a roadway that arguably will have more congestion than MLK Way (being downtown)?!?!?
I would LOVE to have whatever they are smoking.
Metro can’t run buses on 1st because the streetcar lanes are in the center of the street with center platforms, meaning metro would have to buy special buses with doors on the left side of the bus. Further, the streetcar will run every 5 minutes, leavinf very little space for buses.
5 minute headways are irrelevant – is stops can have many, many busses in 5 minutes (look at 3rd and Virginia for example).
Regarding central platforms, nothing has been built yet so we could do right side platforms. Anyways, RapidRide going forward (e.g. 120 and C line) will use 5 door busses which is the biggest chunk of ridership.
Center lanes are being considered in other places such as part of 45th, so five-door buses will likely become rather common and interchangeable. The 2 could use the center lane on Madison if they wanted to, and in that case they’d order 5-door buses for it. So it all depends on how big Mertro/Seattle go with center lanes in the twenty some unbuilt RR corridors. If they go big, they’ll put in a big order for five-door buses.
QA, there is a way to let standard right-hand door buses work to center platforms.
Pretty much like Bellevue Transit Center, when entering a section with center platforms- you wouldn’t want to do this station by station- a bus gets signaled diagonally across an intersection into counter-flow lane.
In which lane, trains will also run in the same direction. But, as everybody can imagine, the transit lanes will have to have some serious barriers alongside so nothing else can front-end collide with the transit vehicles.
The center lanes on 1st are being designed to accomnmodate both trains and buses. The buses would have to have left doors but that’s not a major barrier. Madison BRT use the paty between Madison and Spring as a turnaround, so both services will have same-station transfers. Nobody has yet identified what other bus routes would want to be on 1st. The C is unlikely because of its high-volume demand.
Link is 6 min peak/10 min off peak now. 6 is the floor for MLK to avoid impacting with the intersections. 1st is a different kind of street, narrower, with a lower speed limit, and less expectation of a fast drive through. That’s probably why it can handle lower headways. But the capacity for buses is probably modest, a couple semi-frequent routes, a route to Seattle Center maybe, not the high-volume C I would guess.
Lynnwood/Everett Link will be 3 min peak/5-6 min off-peak in the 2-line segment between Intl Dist and 128th in south Everett. The other lines will probable be like Link is now, although some predict Ballard will eventually reach 6-min off-peak, maybe turning back at Staditm or further south. DSTT1 can go below 3 min with capital improvements; ST3 had a candidate project to study that but it didn’t make it into the final.
A few more problems with this idea. 1) The sidewalks on First aren’t solid, there are areaways under the sidewalk (look at the colored glass) that could collapse due to added weight and frequency of buses. Take the underground tour to see what I mean. 2) First is far more congested. 3) Buses on First would be far more impacted by stadium events and the cars and pedestrians they bring.
Stephen, do you understand that from Pike Place Market north, there’s a cliff between First Avenue and Alaskan Way?
This whole article is about West Seattle buses using bus lanes on Alaskan south of Columbia. Those buses ain’t gonna be down on the waterfront around Pike Place!
The old Waterfront Streetcar line provided shuttle service up and down the waterfront. A convenient service used by locals and tourists alike. But the City sold off the old streetcars at the insistence of those brilliant waterfront planners. They are gone forever and won’t be replaced, for reasons truly unexplainable.
It looks like we wont be able get rid of the general purpose lanes, so we have to get rid of the bus lanes. This post only confirms this. If the long range plan is to remove transit from Alaskan Way, then the bus lanes dont make any sense. It is more important to the city of Seattle to get the waterfront right (pedestrian oriented) than to shorten commutes from West Seattle for less than 10 years. Dont sacrifice this once in a generation opportunity to reshape the city.
It will be a hard fight to get rid of the transit lanes in 10 years. Even if there are no buses, you are going to be spending money to remove lanes, while it would be much cheaper to simply make them general purpose. That will be the argument from drivers and we will be left with 3 general purpose lanes in each direction and a terrible waterfront.
And anyway, its West Seattle…
Except that 10 additional minutes per day each way for 10 years for a commuter working 250 days a year is…34 extra days spent on transit, and an extra million or two a year in operating costs for Metro. Even with the shortish timeframe, that’s hardly insignificant.
It’s 4 lanes of through traffic now, and will be at least 4 lanes of through traffic afterward. Due to the elimination of the equivalent tunnel connection at Western, through traffic on Alaskan will include a bunch of north-south traffic from Elliott that now takes the viaduct. Alaskan will be become even more of a major through highway than it is now.
Therefore, I can hardly consider this to be a “once in a generation opportunity to reshape the city” since the primary objective is fairly obviously to move through traffic, just as it is now.
The road is designed to allow narrowing it by two lames in the future when the buses leave, replacing it with parkland of some sort, We just need to keep it up in the city’s priorities.
The transit lanes are for West Seattle buses, no the waterfront circulator, which will probably be in the outer lanes with more stops. Their only overlap between them is south of Columia. The EIS prefers a battery-electric bus or minibus, terminating at Broad Street but with a possible extension to Seattle Center.
I always love it when the anti-West Seattle crowd weighs in. Did you know WS is growing faster than Ballard over the past few years? Did you know that the C Line and the 120 are two of the busiest buses in the system. Did you know that WS has four urban villages? Did you know that the transit market has dramatically grown there because of viaduct mitigation dollars? I didn’t think so.
If West Seattle buses stop using the bus lanes, then other buses will take their place. Really.
Buses will continue to carry most of the transit riders in town, just as they do in San Fransisco, which has both BART and light rail. It is critical that we do what we can to improve transit mobility. It boggles the mind to think that we are worried about two lanes on a street that will never be that interesting to walk on. Sorry, but only so many people want to visit the Ferris Wheel.
Ross, a lot of the concern involves the Waterfront itself. You’re going to have, in effect, a narrow plaza about a mile long, with either a cliff or some very steep hills north of Pike Place Market.
The place is intended to be very crowded much of the time. When the project first went onto the boards, streetcar transit was intended, probably improved over what we had. Now, only mention of line-haul transit (pedicabs don’t count) deals with small battery powered buses.
Meaning no real plan for end to end transit. The change-of-grade I mentioned makes any transit on First Avenue no help at all for the Waterfront itself. I’m not advocating streetcars for memory’s sake.
It’s because what I’ve seen firsthand tells me that, because because they can’t move an inch out of lane, pedestrians become very comfortable with them at close quarters. However, would also settle for joint-use on same lanes.
Depending on distance on batteries, both modes could run wireless. If not, buses could drop poles when crossing the tracks, and rewire and continue on wire up past First Avenue.
Tempting to let them cross the tracks and climb Broad Street, but wonder about heavy service across a really wide set of well-used freight tracks. Agree that lanes for West Seattle buses should turn at Columbia.
The reason streetcars were disrecommended is that their tracks would widen the stroad enen further,
Ross has a good point: even if every West Seattle route on the viaduct turns into a light-rail feeder post-ST3 there are a few other routes to the south. It’s possible there could be more in the future. The 509 extension might make shifting to 99 attractive there for some routes (no routes use 599 for this today, but 509 would be more direct and bypass the 405 interchange). Also if I-5 needs maintenance or repairs…
I wonder if the option to have only one ferry lane, but make it twice as long for storing cars, was studied. Could have been a small victory.
At the presentation I saw, the issue was the throughput of the left turn. In that case, the lane would have had to have been twice as long, and the green arrow for the left turn would have had to have been twice as long as well.
3 lanes available on the viaduct. just need a little bridge down to colman dock.
Easy way to make it smaller, even if the driving lanes can’t be removed: shrink the “buffer / median” zones. Making them all 8′ wide saves 7′ of width across the width of the project. No idea why they need to be so wide.
We should also nix the parking (10′ wide). Parking is the worst use of the scarce resource that is waterfront street capacity – it certainly serves the fewest people per hour. Load zones can be cut into the water-side buffer zone in strategic locations for deliveries to waterfront businesses. If you add back 2′ to make the waterside buffer 10′ (to allow for cut out load zones) that still saves another 8′ in width.
Also, it is possible to reclaim that 2′ by narrowing the ferry lanes from 11′ to 10′ wide. The ferry lanes aren’t exactly drive lanes so the 11′ standard may not apply.
Perhaps the bike facility is too narrow – bike volumes could be pretty high, especially if many are slower-moving tourist riders.
The bike facility is definitely too narrow. NACTO’s design guide calls 12′ a “desired minimum.” Given expected volumes, 14′ would make more sense.
I would also argue that ferry lanes can be 9′. We’re not putting buses and trucks on the ferry, right? There’s no need to worry about wider vehicles. On NE 75th, the center turn lanes are 9′ wide and it works just fine.
I’d actually argue FOR parking. Parallel parking and opening doors results in slower traffic movement. I agree that it should be the absolute lowest priority, though.
But again – the baseline assumption is a clusterf%#k. Two lanes in each direction for through traffic already puts you at a huge disadvantage when it comes to pedestrian comfort and safety.
Buses and semis go on the ferries regularly.
Generally they wind up in a separate staging area though because they have to have the tall clearance area.
The four GP lanes are the state’s mimimum requirement, The two ferry lanes were part of the deal when the Port gave some money for the project. That’s why they’re immutable.
Give the money back to the Port, then. And push back on the state. In my dealings with WSDOT, they mainly care about highway capacity and throughput. The tunnel should handle throughput, so I-5 capacity and volumes will be maintained regardless of what happens with the waterfront. A surface street is for I-5 connections into Seattle, and Seattle should have the final say about what that looks like. Yes, we will need to figure out ferry solutions, but the current plan is just plain bad.
This stuff is never set in stone. This feels like institutional inertia more than anything else.
Careful. No matter how slowly he’s driving, I wouldn’t want my own insurance agent to take off my door when I open it.
I think it’s worth talking to the Pioneer Square folks about that parking south of Columbia. My understanding is that it was a throw-in from SDOT to try to satisfy them, and they may not really care about it all that much. I suspect access to it during peak hours with the bus lane in between may be challenging.
Completely agree with Alex.
We have a generational opportunity to have a decent waterfront focused on walking and bikes and transit.
Yes, add car lanes near the ferry, but the rest of the stretch should be transit, bikes and walking people only. It is all induced car demand and will suck like Mercer does now for everyone. No general purpose lanes needed.
Get rid of the cars and parking. Do it now.
just put the buses in the new tunnel.
What? The buses are trying to get to Seattle, not through Seattle. Transit has no use for the tunnel.
Might work if the Deep Bore Tunnel could be fitted with passenger platforms and shafts to the surface. Two stations would probably be enough. But would ask a foreman on the current “dig” before I went public with the idea.
Could see express service some day, maybe, finally, Ballard to West Seattle, as an adjunct to the LINK project. Nothing to prevent it.
Just woke up. Did I miss what the colored lines stand for? Light rail even under discussion is good news. Marshall Foster has said before that street utilities are being designed with this in mind. Any ST details? But my every walk between Jackson and Myrtle Edwards since 2005 tells me same things.
1. General purpose parking-free roadway past Colman Dock, and up the slope on Elliott.
2. 2-direction non-stop signal-preempted busway along east side of Alaskan Way from Spokane Street, turning at Columbia.
3. Streetcar line Jackson to Occidental Mall to Yesler, joint use on busway, and along east side of the Waterfront plaza to the Market and the Aquarium. Have video proof that open-air cafe customers don’t mind it.
4. Streetcars following existing Benson Line right of way to Myrtle Edwards. It’s still there, stations and all. Library 10th floor archives have plans for extensions north to South Lake Union, and south past stadiums.
5. 2-lane roadway between Myrtle Edwards and the Market. Does anybody know if any trucks route through there? If not, we can close a railroad crossing that’s always looked dangerous. Giving us a walkable plaza to Victoria Clipper.
6. Example for parking: Tukwila International to IDS to Waterfront Streetcar. Same for other LINK lines and suburban parking structures . My own favorite: Victoria Clipper to streetcar, streetcar to IDS, LINK to Sea-Tac, Icelandair through Kevlavik to Copenhagen, train to Oslo, Number 12 streetcar to Waterfront. All the world has available spaces.
No sailing metaphors allowed, Mic. She’s still half-built in the yards at Liverpool. Plenty of time to cost out the champagne for the bottle.
The transit lanes are not only a priority for West Seattle commuters, but also have an enormous benefit of connecting ferry service at Colman Dock to the rest of Seattle. Imagine getting off of a ferry on foot and immediately hopping on a bus to get to Belltown or South Lake Union, rather than hiking up to Third Ave to do the same thing, or worse, driving on to the ferry because it’s easier that making that unwieldy transit connection. This could be a game changer for a lot of Bainbridge and Bremerton commuters who don’t work in the immediate vicinity of the ferry terminal. Getting rid of transit priority only makes driving more desirable. More driving onto ferries (rather than walk-ons) means more ferry queuing, more lanes and a less walkable waterfront. Gutting transit service only worsens the problem.
There’s already an elevated walkway between the ferry terminal and 1st Ave. From the upper level of the ferry terminal, it’s nearly flat. Those who don’t want to hike up to 3rd can always use that walkway and ride the streetcar on 1st.
The Route 12 comes down Madison to First, and then up Marion. Refresh my memory: Is there any service the Downtown length of First? Can’t believe that Metro’s gotten away with the loss of it for so long.
1st is used by Route 99 along most of its length, by Route 62 south of Seneca, and by inbound Routes 113, 121, 122, 123, and 125 between Seneca and Virginia. Very little service overall.
I think this is a great point. The transit connections at the ferry terminal now are basically non-existent. Yes, you can walk up to 1st, but the connections you want tend to be up on 3rd. Being able to hop on a RapidRide that comes every few minutes would be very welcome.
Madison BRT will have a station at 1st shared with the CCC streetcar, that got more public support than extending the BRT to Alaskan Way. It’s only two flat blocks in between,
The bus lanes would end at Columbia. They won’t continue up to Broad Street.
Is traffic really so heavy that 1 GP lane in either direction wouldn’t be enough?
According to the modeling, yes, at least based on the old-school Level of Service metric.
You people are too tied to thinking we need to accommodate cars in a densely developed downtown with billions of dollars of transit infrastructure. Screw the cars and build for transit, bikes, and people walking. Healthier for the planet and our physical health.
Remember that the Elliott ramps and the ramps to and from Downtown go away when the tunnel opens. That’s going to be more traffic than is on the street today.
The speed to and from mid town may have been over emphasized in the alignment decision and access to Pioneer Square and the government center under emphasized. It seems odd to place so much transit frequency next to Puget Sound for at a decade, beginning about two years after the deep bore opens. How about considering about Main and Washington streets? It has a better approach to and from the 3rd Avenue transit spine. We have until mid 2019 to get either pathway ready. The Metro LRP network depends on ST3 West Seattle Link. Either pathway will get less use after ST3 Link. The SR-99 buses do not have left hand doors to serve the CCC streetcar center platforms. Is the CCC really going to be built instead of all the other projects that could be provided instead or that could use the 1st Avenue transit priority instead?
Main and Washington would have been better, but Pioneer Square killed that idea a while ago.
Just a reminder that through May to October there is a massive amount of truck, tour bus, etc., traffic on Alaskan Way which is connected to the cruise ship industry. It’s difficult navigating there now let alone with the traffic once the viaduct is gone. As a resident of the area I think it was a terrible decision to eliminate a tunnel exit near the Market.
Deborah, I think that with a tunnel bored that deep in ground that bad, only possible exit at the Market would be a passenger stop each side, with elevator shafts to the surface.
But I also think that the City of Seattle’s absolute insistence on a highway tunnel with no Downtown service at all justifies some real intransigence from our side that surface transit move freely. One possible trade-off worth pursuing is a system whereby people can ride transit to and from parking where it’s not in the way, like in Tukwila for instance.
Instead of having to drive to parking on or near the Waterfront itself.
How about a two-way bus-only+bicycle-lane track? That would create an additional stopping point for pedestrians, as well as free up a really wide track for bicycles only ones the West Seattle Link is operating.
Having buses stuck behind slow biker for 10 years has all the same operational problems as buses stuck in GP traffic.
From years driving buses, no way they should ever share lanes with bikes. Streetcars could get away with it because side to side clearance is always the same. But I don’t think bicycles should have to share a lane with any motorized thing bigger than a golf cart
I should have been more specific. I was talking about two 5-foot bicycle lanes and two 12-foot or maybe 11-foot bus-only lanes. It’s lots safer having a bus whiz by you on a bicycle every five minutes than it is to be in stop-and-go mixed-flow traffic. It’s also safer for buses to go carefully by an occasional bicyclist than it is to dodge bicycles and mixed-flow traffic. When you take the mixed-flow congestion out of the mix, it’s going to be safer no matter what transit mode you are talking about.
RE: the MOU to narrow the street in the future – if the street is narrowed now (i.e. transit lanes removed), what happens to all that ROW? Absorbed by bigger sidewalks?
Anything different if it gets narrowed now or in the future?
The Times article a couple weeks back said a lane in each direction could become trees/bioswales…basically filled in with greenery.
Why? I’m tired of us spending ROW on giant green spaces or giant stupid rocks near the convention center when our sidewalks are already too narrow. Its the waterfront, not a forest. It needs sidewalk space for the sheer volume of people walking in the area.
Hey! Don’t knock the Hawk Rock. Whoever came up with that idea and actually got someone else to pay for it is a genius. Me? I grind out my paychecks the hard way.
That said, we really should do the waterfront right the first time. Ax the transit lanes upfront and right size the walkways, greenways and public spaces.
There simply isn’t any upside to doing things wrong the first time and simply hoping that you can fix your wrong later – because more often than not that never happens.
Ax the transit lanes, and ax them now.
We transit supporters shouldn’t be seen as being on the side of promoting a giant 9-lane stroud of death. It sends the wrong message to the public, and these lanes are only temporary anyhow. How much intellectual capital and how much moral high ground are we willing to give up for a temporary situation that is of marginal utility anyhow?
Na, the future of travel on this corridor is rail. We should focus on that and do our best to get it early and get it well designed. Temporary battles over short stretches of bus lanes are pointless. Everyone knows that isn’t where the future is for this corridor. Accept it and move on.
Compromise isn’t a 4-letter word.
And who cares about the next 20 years before rail is delivered? I think we should expect to get into town on buses without sitting in congested traffic.
It’s more like 10 years. Hardly long enough to get excited about.
I say ax the lanes, build the waterfront right the first time, and get on with bigger and better transit battles.
That assumes that no other buses could use these lanes. Honestly, sometimes I feel like people forget that the vast majority of transit riders in this city will not use Link, but depend on buses.
What buses headed where? The #16 used to terminate right in front of the Ferry Terminal. Nobody rode it. You know enough about transit to know that people will by and large walk farther for greater frequency. That’s exactly what happened to the 16. Folks walked over to Third and caught the first bus headed north, sometimes the same 16 they might have caught at the Ferry Terminal.
>> What buses headed where?
Buses from the south end headed through downtown. South Park, Burien, that sort of thing. Right now those buses (131, 132, 124, etc.) go on other streets (4th, Airport Way, etc.) but it wouldn’t take much effort to reroute them to take advantage of much faster speeds along the waterfront. Then you would have both frequency and speed along there.
Downtown is just about maxed out as far as buses, which is why alternatives like this are worth pursuing. If I’m wrong, and it turns out in ten years we magically have enough room to put all the buses downtown, then it wouldn’t be that hard to make the sidewalk wider. But if we don’t add lanes now, my guess is we never will, and we may end up with buses stacked up on the other streets.
I remember the #16 being terrible. It was so infrequent that it was generally faster to walk up the hill since you could catch a bus there before the #16 would be by to take you up the hill. Having RapidRide out front would be a different story.
The best answer is to use Main St. as a bus street to connect from the waterfront to 2nd, 3rd and 4th avenues. This was the original proposal, but gentrifiers in Pioneer Square protested that buses were incompatible with the type of neighborhood they foresee. Metro caved to this sentiment and agreed to run down the waterfront to Columbia instead. This issue should be revisited – and the notion that buses are incompatible with urbanity should be resisted.
Since the buses won’t be stopping on the waterfront anyway, how about we make these transit lanes curbless and add decorative metal fencing to mark the end of the bus lane?
While we’re at it, add mounting blocks to the inner lane edge so we can just move the fence when the bus lanes are no longer needed.
We’ll need extra sidewalk on the waterfront much more urgently in the future than bioswales
Why won’t the buses be stopping at the waterfront? I would assume they would be.
One place, at Jackson.
We coupd transition to curbs at transit stops where any exist.
They will also stop at Columbia
I know couplets are not ideal, but considering ST3 passed and therefore the lifetime of these bus lanes is probably 10 years, I think the parties involved should take a serious look at removing the SB bus lane and running SB bus service down 2nd (e.g. 2nd to King to Alaska Way). 2nd in downtown has bus lanes and I believe you could easily add bus lanes to King and 2nd Avenue in Pioneer Square.
This solution addresses several issues with the current proposal:
-Reduces road width south of Columbia by 11 feet.
-Eliminates the right turn off third, improving third avenue flow.
-Improves bus access from Pioneer Square to West Seattle, both by serving Pioneer Square more centrally and by eliminating the need to cross at 100 foot wide boulevard.
Other buses could be moved over there, even when Link runs downtown. It’s not like there is a shortage of south end buses, or that the need for such things magically goes away because Link gets to West Seattle.
True, I thought about that after I had posted. At the very least you’d probably see trippers to/from Burien, Des Moines etc. use those lanes indefinitely. It shouldn’t change the general point though.
However, I do think there are some issues (network legibility) with running all-day core routes (C, 120) on a couplet downtown indefinitely. But if the timeline is only ~10 years then it’s a worth while trade-off for the benefits I stated earlier.
Correct – Metro long range plan still shows “express routes” using 99 to get into downtown, route 2003 (basically the RR C post-rail) and route 2016 (Burien to Seattle). That Burien route will be by far the fastest transit route for people that live between South Park and Burien to get to downtown Seattle – that alone could merit keeping the bus lanes post-WS rail? Otherwise, local routes are generally terminating at SoDo and not entering downtown.
@AJ — Yeah, and a lot of people might not like terminating at SoDo. If they did, everything would be different now, wouldn’t it? All of those West Seattle buses would just go back and forth to SoDo, saving oodles and oodles of service time. North end buses would do the same, of course, turning around at Westlake. The Tacoma and Renton express buses would do the same thing. But again, folks don’t want that, so they put with the big slog through downtown. This would eliminate that for plenty of people, which is a very good thing, and it would be stupid to squander that, all for two lanes.
@Ross – fo’sure. I was just going off of the proposed LR plan, where express buses would use the bus lanes while local ones wouldn’t. I meant that as an argument to keep the bus lanes, which probably wasn’t clear…
But your point, and the point a lot of people are making is that if we add bus lanes, they will only be in place for ten years. Let me be clear about that point:
That is one hell of an assumption!
For all we know, ten years from now, we want to send lots of buses there, because every other alternative (such as the ones you mentioned) is just too difficult or crowded. I know everyone is excited about ST3 and all, but it hasn’t really changed the fundamental dynamics of the city. No one wants to get off their bus on the outskirts of town (if they did, then SoDo would already be a major transit center) and lots of people will ride buses into town. Look at a map and this becomes obvious. This is not a case where a heavy rail line intersects all traffic, and everyone will be funneled into the great rail system. You have huge gaps between each of the lines, and buses will (of course) fill that gap. But they need to move through downtown, and since we don’t have a tunnel anymore, there are only so many places they can move.
Again, I use the example of San Fransisco. The Embarcadero *is* a huge, nasty street, made nastier by the big, wide, transit lanes. But no one wants to replace those lanes, and force transit onto the main street, because doing so would be horrible for transit riders. This is in a city which is simply very big, as opposed to one with a major bottleneck. Let me put it this way:
We need those lanes! We will probably always need those lanes (and then some).
Has anyone here walked down San Francisco’s Embarcadero during rush hour? It is a traffic mess but has dedicated ROW for their street cars. Well it is 6 lanes of gridlocked pollution chugging traffic, but is still very functional for a commuter, the MUNI and BART is 2 blocks away from the ferry.
Not a pleasant experience but until our society gives up on the car its what we are gonna get. What would kick ass is an entrance to the new transit tunnel right there for the ferries, but either way get ready to suck down some exhaust on your multi-billion waterfront park/promenade.
Exactly. The Embarcadaro is exactly the situation we need to avoid. It is too big and too dominating of the SF waterfront.
Ya, the streetcar ROW is nice, but in Seattle we know the transit lanes are only there for about 19 years. Best not even build them and work on real, longer term solutions instead.
That should say 10 years. Darn small keyboards.
Lazarus, only danger of our Waterfront resembling the Embarcadero is if a tsunami leaves it both building-free and littered with freighters lying on their sides. Which could, after necessary measures to satisfy the health department are finished, make awesome restaurants.
Lottery for which one gets to be named “The Poseidon.” But as long as we’re talking temporary measures, what’ve we got to lose by making two of those measures temporary bus lanes for twenty years?
Probably easiest strips of ground to convert to rail transit when the time comes.
Tuck, whichever avenue DSTT2 is going to run under, I think University Street and Pioneer Square west side entrances are as close to the Waterfront as we can get. The old Burlington Northern freight tunnel could be in the way too.
But I think the anti-transit people’s rhetorical tread is wearing ever thinner about transit not curing congestion. It never does. Just gives people a choice about getting stuck in it.
For the car traffic, I’ve got a feeling that before air quality problems require a car-less city, a couple of generations of younger and better off people will choose to have their city not be a smoking parking lot they can’t bill their time for.
And instruct their city government accordingly.
I was just down there and it wasn’t that bad. San Fransisco is San Fransisco. It is real city, with gritty areas and pleasant ones. Of course it would be nice to get rid of the cars, but that won’t happen. But getting rid of the buses would be like getting rid of the trolleys down there. Quite similar, really. you could shrink the street considerably if you simply got rid of the streetcars, and depended on BART. After all, that is a real subway, so there is no need for surface transit running in its own lane.
Sorry, but that is ridiculous. No one in their right mind wants to do that. Walking along the waterfront isn’t that much fun, but so what? There are other places to walk. Anyone who knew anything about this city saw this coming, when they decided not to add ramps for Western or downtown. It would have made way more sense to add a split viaduct (as proposed on this very blog) but folks didn’t want it, so we are stuck with this mess. It would be crazy to sacrifice needed transit in a city that is desperate for it for the foreseeable future just because we have this silly idea of a lovely promenade along the waterfront.
I firmly agree.
And the parts of the waterfront people will actually walk on are north of Columbia St, where the road will be much narrower. The issue is only south of Columbia.
Yep. I agree completely. Plus there is a very decent sized buffer between the streets anyway. If you want to walk the southern waterfront, you can. There will be 48 feet between the water and the bus lane. If that bus lane is electrified, that means almost 60 feet before the first noisy car, which probably won’t be moving that fast. It will take a long time to cross, but that is a small price to pay. It isn’t quite as nice on the other side, but it still isn’t that bad (with the parked car lane, you have 40 feet before the bus).
But your right — the main, touristy area will be to the north, where the road narrows considerably. Meanwhile, the greatest aesthetic benefit will be to the area surrounding Pike Place Market. Folks there will no longer have to deal with the noise of the viaduct.
I also agree since the road is narrower farther north where more people and businesses are. The wide section of the road is only a short section of the total waterfront.
However to help make it more inviting to go to or from Pioneer Square where the road is wider, maybe they could make the crosswalks on one or more of the streets more inviting looking than just a typical crosswalk of painted white lines. I am not sure what all could be done, but making it look like a gateway or pathway to Pioneer Square could help mitigate the reality of crossing all the lanes of traffic.
@MLMike — I think that is basically what they are planning on doing, which is similar to Embarcadero. I just got back from there. We took the ferry in from Vallejo, and walked around town. Crossing Embarcadero is not quick, but it is not a miserable experience, either. The worse part of our walk was probably on the way back, via Bush street. Embarcadero is simply big. Lots of people, lots of vehicles, and a huge crossing. But it isn’t intimidating, like crossing Mercer, Aurora or Lake City, in part because you have so many people, and the cars go fairly slow. Plus they break it up nicely, so you cross piece by piece (first one set of cars, then the train tracks, then the other set of cars). This is almost exactly the type of crossing that will occur here as well. the cars in general won’t be going that fast (20 MPH speed limit I assume) along with crossing section by section.
@MLKike – there are plans to connect the waterfront to both Pioneer Square and the Stadiums, check out #s 1 and 2: http://waterfrontseattle.org/overview
@Ross – I don’t get the hate on Mercer. Yes, it’s congested because people want to get on I5, and it’s terrible for transit. But intimidating to cross is a stretch to me – crosswalks are frequent, there are broad sidewalks & shade streets, etc. (isn’t there a bike lane, too?) It’s not materially bigger than, say, 5th Ave downtown.
@AJ – Cool, thanks for the link. Lots of good info there.
We should adopt the plan as is. Transit is a high priority, and this is very cheap way to improve transit a lot.
In the future we can look at alternative ways of shrinking the street. But if push comes to shove, we live with this. It doesn’t seem that bad to me. It is downtown, for heaven’s sake. It doesn’t strike me as being very different from the San Fransisco (downtown) waterfront (https://goo.gl/maps/XQptozEPhXH2). Very similar, actually. From what I can tell, they have six general purpose lanes, plus a couple parking lanes, along with a middle section for trains. It really is no big deal.
I disagree with the idea that we should automatically assume that the transit lanes go away once Link gets to West Seattle. It is quite reasonable that other buses simply use those lanes.
The width of Alaskan Way at it’s maximum only exists between for 3 blocks that are actually along the waterfront… roughly Jackson to Yesler, and a slightly less wide version from Yesler to Columbia. South of Jackson is adjacent to the Container Terminal and will not be a great pedestrian experience regardless of the size of the road. There are 14 blocks of waterfront north of Columbia that could be very nice.
While it would be great for the blocks from Jackson to Columbia to narrower, the trade-offs to get there are not great for other reasons.
We should concentrate on making the areas North of Columbia the best they can be. Keep the transit lanes where we have them, delete the curbside parking south of Columbia if they still exist. Move on from this.
Comparing [Stroad with dedicated transit lane] to [Stroad without dedicated transit lane] is already giving up the fight that we should be fighting. A Stroad is the wrong decision here.
I’d love our waterfront to become something closer to Vancouver’s waterfront — a heaven of bikability, walkability, a pathway that pulls you onward. The best thing coming out of the Bertha fiasco is that we can finally stitch our city together without having this wall between waterfront and the rest of the city, why would we add a new wall?
We should design this right to start with. I don’t see it getting easier to lobby for a narrower road later and if we start with a narrower road plan we can better design the space around it.
That fight is over. Highway and port interests got their needs written in early. They’ve won.
I really think a lot of the fighting comes from misunderstandings. South of the ferry terminal the waterfront is mostly industrial; that’s also where the bus lanes have to be. It’s not a “stroad”, which indicates conflict between direct access to destinations (street) and through-traffic capacity (road) functions, it’s basically just a road. There’s one high-traffic destination, the ferry terminal, and it has lanes and signals dedicated to it. Walk-on ferry passengers have an overpass of the road that gives them a nice level path from the terminal building. To cross a city street this would be considered heavy-handed today, but to cross a road that nothing faces and that has very long signal phases dedicated to ferry loading and unloading it’s actually reasonable.
If you’re going to fight, fight north of the ferry terminal and stop giving every bus rider from West Seattle, Burien, and Des Moines a heart attack.
Al nailed it…
Aside from the 3 blocks along the bay between Jackson and Yesler, the new waterfront will in fact be a be what you describe.
It is unfortunate that the media and blogosphere continue to write headlines that lead you to believe that there will be a nine-lane highway along the entire length of the downtown waterfront from Dearborn to Broad street. However, it would also be a good idea for people to actually read the EIS before believing the sky is fallings.
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