Sunset skyline

Crises inspire clarity and focus, and One Center City is no different. Our whirlwind of overlapping projects usually overwhelms us with extended process and mind-numbing rounds of design revisions and open houses. But Seattle in 2017 faces an historic convergence of projects that prevents us from such discursive luxuries. If we do nothing, we face 3 years of misery from 2018-2021 until Northgate Link saves the day. We have to act quickly and boldly.

In a Center City where 70% of commuters (and 95% of new commuters) do not drive alone, it should be crystal clear where our priorities lie. From Vision Zero, our Bike and Transit master plans, to our climate commitments, or to a cold utilitarian optimization of space, One Center City should head in only one direction. We must enhance transit, walking, and bicycling, and deemphasize peak auto access. Since the geographic constraints of our city are immutable, our dilemma is not ideological but geometric. As such, there are only two ways to make traffic better: transcend it through a more efficient use of space, or hope for recession, depopulation, and urban flight. Which would you prefer?

If our civic leaders really believe this, One Center City’s options come into clear relief. Here is what should be done:

Transit Priority Like We Mean It

Today there are only a handful of all-day bus lanes, such as Battery Street or Aurora Avenue North. The core arterials of our Center City, 1st through 5th avenues, are unrestricted to cars for all but 35 hours per week. It’s time to install all-day transit exclusivity on 3rd Avenue, and all-day bus lanes on whatever additional arterials we designate for transit. One or two people should not be able to hold up 50 on a bus.

Transit priority will only work with robust enforcement and clear rules. Creating all-day transit restrictions will be clearer for drivers too, who will not get caught innocently blocking transit on account of ignorance. For those who still cheat, there should be dedicated enforcement resources, even if SDOT has to pay SPD for them. Cameras would be ideal, but a larger police presence would help.

Pick All the Low-Hanging Fruit

Drop the $5 ORCA card fee. Deploy far more off-board payment throughout Center City. Integrate the Monorail with ORCA. Re-time signals at the speed of transit. Paint more transit lanes, and enforce them. Concrete is expensive, paint and policies are not.

Option D: Create a New 5th Avenue Transit Spine

An all day, two way, transit only spine on 5th Avenue– Option D – offers the best opportunity for accommodating increased surface transit during the crunch years of 2018-2021. It costs little more than the ‘do nothing’ option, but instead of spending money for no benefit through increased operating costs, we have an opportunity to create an entirely new transit corridor with the same money.

As a bonus, two-way 5th also creates an elegant long-term network, with transit prioritization on 1st, 3rd, and 5th Avenues, and vehicle and (protected) bicycle traffic prioritization on Alaskan Way, 2nd, and 4th. Imagine a future in which the Center City Connector streetcar runs on 1st Avenue, the Red and Blue lines run underneath 3rd Avenue, the Green Line runs underneath 5th, numerous local buses run just overhead, and seamless east-west connections exist on Pike-Pine, Madison BRT, Yesler, and Jackson.

5th Avenue is perhaps our most beautiful downtown street, and 3rd is perhaps the least. In converting 5th to a transit corridor, care must be taken to preserve and enhance the pedestrian realm. We must make 3rd look more like 5th, and not the other way around. This could be accomplished by making 5th Avenue just one lane in each direction (instead of the proposed 2 lanes southbound and 1 lane northbound), creating space to expand sidewalks and bus shelters without needing to cut into the urban tree canopy. Public realm partnerships with civic associations such as the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) should be welcomed and expanded.

Don’t Throw Bikes (Literally) Under the Bus: Option B for Pike-Pine

This 3-year crunch should not delay prior promises made to the bicycling community through the Bicycle Master Plan, Vision Zero, and Move Seattle. We believe that the Basic Bike Network concept, as laid out by Cascade Bicycle Club and others, can readily be accommodated while providing sufficient transit capacity.

From 8th Avenue to Broadway, Option B for Pike-Pine would create a 2-way cycle track on Pike Street and move all transit traffic to Pine Street. We believe this is superior to the confusing, anti-urban one-way couplet proposed in Option C. We believe Option B protects the integrity of Capitol Hill’s street grid, offers the best opportunity for traffic calming, and provides the most legible transit network by consolidating buses onto (traffic-free) Pine Street.

Run the Longest Trains Possible, as Often as Possible

We have only one grade-separated right of way through Center City, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT). Surfacing the tunnel’s remaining buses for a semi-private construction project is unfortunate for a period in which maximizing the tunnel’s capacity is imperative. Though the best response would be to delay Convention Center construction until new light rail vehicles arrive, we must maximize DSTT capacity either way.

If we do surface remaining tunnel buses in 2018, Sound Transit should commit to running the longest train consists possible at the highest possible frequency. Knowing that 122 new light rail vehicles will begin arriving late next year, Sound Transit should temporarily lower its reserve ratio to deploy as many cars as possible, and additional trains between UW and Stadium Stations should be implemented to boost core capacity.

Truncate SR 520 Bus Service at UW Station
Unlike many of the other truncations proposed in One Center City, terminating SR 520 service at UW Station makes good sense. Riders can transfer to fast, frequent service at UW Station that will be reliable no matter what salmon and butane trucks decide to throw at us. By cutting the route distance in half, any saved service hours should be reinvested within those same corridors, providing a frequency boost to sweeten the forced transfer. Truncation provides an opportunity for ultra-frequent service on SR 520.

We remain concerned about the transfer environment at UW Station, and we implore the university, SDOT, WSDOT, Metro, and Sound Transit to allow bus stops adjacent to UW Station on the east side of Montlake Boulevard for inbound buses from SR 520 that terminate at UW Station. For outbound buses, we ask the university to allow an operating easement in the E-19 parking lot. Doing so would significantly cut down the time needed to make the transfer.

Run Route 550 Through Downtown

We believe that singling out Route 550 for truncation will be confusing and frustrating for riders. With adequate transit priority and enforcement, we believe that all I-90 service can and should be accommodated together to create a common corridor. We do not believe that the transfer environment at International District Station is sufficient to handle peak loads, and we believe that future Link corridors should do as much as possible to retain and grow their ridership in advance of Link’s arrival.

Put Route 41 on Third Avenue

The proposal for Route 41 on Pike and Union Streets fails to connect riders to the DSTT, missing two stations by one block each. Even if the Pike-Union couplet is implemented, we ask planners to consider running Route 41 through downtown on 3rd Avenue. We believe the maximum of 12 additional buses per peak hour/peak direction is not too much for 3rd to bear, especially with the proposed removal of 11 West Seattle routes from 3rd.

Go Through with the West Seattle Restructure

We believe in the merits of the proposed West Seattle restructure for a number of reasons:

  • Pioneer Square Station is the least-used DSTT station, with adequate capacity to handle additional passengers
  • Yesler Way is set to have a new bridge within the One Center City timeframe
  • The heart of Pioneer Square has long been lacking in peak bus service
  • First Hill is chronically underserved from West and Southwest Seattle
  • Alaskan Way Viaduct removal, boulevard construction, streetcar construction, and Colman Dock renovation will make West Seattle service especially difficult to accommodate through Downtown

To increase reliability from West Seattle to Pioneer Square, we ask that this restructure come with additional bus lanes and street parking removal wherever possible.

We all look forward to the fast, reliable transit Northgate, Lynnwood, and East Link will provide. But though there will be pain during the transition period, we believe we do not need to hit pause on all of our shared values.  Let’s build a city where our streets reflect the proportions of people choosing not to drive, and make transit, walking, and bicycling the clear choices for Center City commuters, shoppers, and revelers alike.

The current STB Editorial Board is Martin H. Duke, Zach Shaner, and Dan Ryan.

67 Replies to “Editorial: Go Big on One Center City”

  1. What is “the West Seattle restructure”? Do you mean moving buses to Alaskan Way while it’s under construction? That sounds slow and unreliable.

    1. One Center City proposes sending peak-only West Seattle routes (37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122, 123) to First Hill via Pioneer Square. They would travel via 1st Ave S, Yesler, 8th, and Jefferson, terminating at 12th.

      1. Are they proposing a new ramp from northbound SR 99 to northbound 1st Ave, near the stadiums? The map seems to show that path for the WS bus routes but no such ramp exists there today. Or is this already part of the viaduct removal plan?

      2. Oooh ok thanks Zach, I hadn’t seen that new intersection of that ramp with Dearborn. The bus lane marking made me think that was a continuous ramp up to new Alaskan Way but now I see they’ve even drawn a tiny car waiting to turn right onto Dearborn, which I guess this proposal now has the buses doing.

        If the goal is to go east on Yesler, why add the right-left jog onto 1st Ave, rather than continuing on Alaskan Way and turning right on Yesler there? The extra left turn on 1st is sure to add a couple minutes on average.

      3. Probably due to the fact that the Alaskan Way boulevard remake and/or the bus lane will be under construction throughout the OCC period.

    2. The WS portion of this also merits consideration for the 21. If you’re going to paint bus lanes on 1st all the way to Yesler, it makes sense to run the 21 over there to make full use of them. With the intention of continuing to run the 21 on 3rd avenue, the jog over from 1st to 4th can be achieved via Edgar Martinez or Jackson. (I vote for Jackson, which adds service to the heart of Pioneer Square, and because I’m not necessarily convinced that Edgar Martinez is necessarily faster during peak hours.)

      So, you now have 4 at-least-decent quality transit spines in Sodo: 1st (21, plus WS peak runs), 4th (132, 133), the Busway (101, 102, 150, and the southbound ST expresses), and Airport (124). Oh, and the Link stations at Sodo and Stadium, too. This reduces, as best I can tell, the number of lines crossing the BNSF tracks to just one: the 50.

      Subsequent focus would have to be on E/W pedestrian connections, and Sodo is notoriously bad in this respect. At its widest point, transiting Holgate or Lander from 1st to Airport is 0.6mi, a walk generally achievable in 15 minutes…under good conditions. Good, wide sidewalks, long crosswalk times, and decent wayfinding will be essential.

  2. “Imagine a future in which the Center City Connector streetcar runs on 1st Avenue, the Red and Blue lines run underneath 3rd Avenue, the Green Line runs underneath 5th, numerous local buses run just overhead, and seamless east-west connections exist on Pike-Pine, Madison BRT, Yesler, and Jackson.”

    I think I cried a little imaging that

  3. Under current timetables, what’s the gap between buses leaving the tunnel and the new Link trains arriving? I still feel like that is the biggest opportunity for improvement … delaying the Convention Center by, what, 6 months will allow for much more aggressive bus truncation if Link has the additional cars to handle the volume.

    1. The Convention Center’s timing is outside the city’s control. You can ask them to cooperate but it’s like asking UW to cooperate on bus access at UW Station: they haven’t listened so far so what’s the chance they’ll do so later. The time the buses gets kicked out keeps changing, but if the Link trains arrive in late 2018 then it will be about the same time give or take a year.

      1. Correct, both boards are totally independent of the city. But while UW clearly views itself as a state entity equal to Seattle, the WSCC is a county-level entity and might be more open to strong suggestions coming from mayor Murray or Dow.

        “it’s like asking UW to cooperate” … totally. Is in power anyone asking? Has SDOT even tried?

        Also, the new Convention Center permitting is still very much in process. The city still hasn’t vacated the needed alleyways, so Seattle still has plenty of leverage. Unless the city is so silo-ed SDOT doesn’t talk to the permitting folks?

      2. Is the Convention Center constructions truly outside the city’s purview? Our mayor is not a wilting flower – and he does control streets and sidewalks around it. I would think he would have some leverage.

        An unrelated rant – why do we have these unaccountable quasi-public institutions that get automatic tax authority but Sound Transit has to beg for everything?!?!?

      3. Mercer Island has set the precedent that city’s can sue other public entities if the city doesn’t like what the other entity is building. If the Convention Center doesn’t want to play ball, the City can sue.

      4. Also unclear why Metro didn’t negotiate on this point when selling for what already appears to be quite a nice low price. Now Metro has to pay for replacing the layover/staging space, the OCC study itself, the improvements recommended by the study, and any net increases in operating costs that occur despite investments…

      5. Yeah, it’s a pretty sweet deal for WSCC, not so much for the public purse. I support the expansion, but not without significant mitigation first.

      6. why was the first convention center built over I-5? Why can’t the expansion be built over the freeway as well? (I guess what you get a sweet deal for the land you don’t need to build over the freeway) my only thought is maybe kc metro is not allowed to sell for less than market price, maybe there is some way to stop the deal based on the fact it’s a giveaway

      7. Seattle doesn’t even need to sue. It can simply delay approving the alley vacations until the new Link trains arrive.

      8. Regarding keeping any buses in the Tunnel, biggest obstacle is lack of any evidence that either King County, Metro and Sound Transit, and the people who operate those hybrids are willing to make the necessary effort to keep them out of the way of LINK service.

        Convention Center or not.

        Surface transit operations these next few years will face the DSTT project with exactly the conditions joint-use was invented for- at massive expense Its discard could rate as LINK’s most expensive waste to date.

        But effectively nasty counter-argument: Peanuts, compared to 27 years of operating costs stemming from how few people at any level thought that joint operations were worth the training and coordination the concept demanded.

        Anybody in uniform who thinks I’m wrong- prove it with some sustained mail and text to one County Executive, one Mayor, and all your city and county council members. Both on and off the Sound Transit Board.

        Because I think that if the King County Executive, the Mayor of Seattle, two council-members each Seattle and King County, and a voluntary shake-up full of ATU Local 587 members go public demanding that joint use be kept long as needed, that’ll happen.

        If not- can’t and shouldn’t.

        Mark Dublin

    2. The Convention Center is pushing its schedule forward so that they can tie up their tax revenue stream in $1.6 billion of bonds before enough people can realize that the expansion is totally unnecessary. This will last for about 15-20 years, before they will need a new multi-billion dollar, unnecessary project to tie up their revenue stream again.

      Attendance at WSCC was higher 20 years ago, before the last expansion was opened in 2001. This is an attempt to keep up with the equally bad mistakes other cities have made by expanding their convention centers. Any mention of benefit to the City of Seattle is a hoax. This project is already unapologetically hindering plans (Transit Master Plan, Bike Master Plan) that the City has made.

      No politician is willing to say anything against it because there is no elected official responsible. There is some link to the county, but only that the Public Facilities District was formed by a King County ordinance. The county really doesn’t have much oversight. It’s a runaway train overseen by a board that does not face any kind of election.

      1. don’t sell don’t sell. the KC metro only has an agreement to sell the actual deed for the convention place property has not been transferred, based on my checking the parcel on King counties website. it’s always possible to get out of an agreement, there might be a penalty but it’s not final until the deed is recorded, we are a recording state

  4. Overall, I think that restricting Third Avenue to a transit-only street is great! Seattle could then begin to install the right street treatments, such as more pronounced signage and better pavement indicators for cars to not be on the street. Along with this, more signal time could be given over to the buses on Third so that fewer buses would get stopped at traffic lights. Additional security officers and lighting could be added to make people feel safer. I even would support the idea of some paid fare zone middle lane boarding islands if they could be safely designed. I think that the transit capacity and quality of the street could really be reimagined and improved with cars off of it!

    On the other hand, I cannot see how a Fifth Avenue two-way transit-only street will be very beneficial. First, I would need to be convinced that an enhanced Third just doesn’t have enough transit capacity before supporting using Fifth and I don’t think the City has really proven that. I would also want to see more study of how transit could operate effectively with one lane in each direction because buses won’t be able to pass each other very easily (it’s narrower than Third). Regular traffic would shift to using other already-congested streets as well as east-west streets to find new paths through Downtown, and that will add lots more turning movements with congestion all over the place, which are exactly the kind of movements which usually create more potential pedestrian accidents! Finally, making a street work in both directions is not a low-cost item, because all of the signal equipment (and electrical connections) and signal timings would have to change in addition to pavement and curb changes and there may also not be enough time to implement that and assure that this quick change would also be safe.

    1. “Fifth Avenue is perhaps our most beautiful downtown street, and 3rd is perhaps the least. In converting 5th to a transit corridor, care must be taken to preserve and enhance the pedestrian realm. We must make 3rd look more like 5th, and not the other way around.”

      Some research might confirm my memory that the interests who made Third a parade of office buildings applied considerable pressure to make sure that between Yesler and Pine the street was as Sci-Fi time-warp empty as one of their hallways after working hours. Since antique Turkish streetcars are red, Rapid Ride won’t stand out. As long as it allows riding on bumpers.

      So project making Fifth Avenue an even more beautiful street than now should also Third Avenue into an extension of the Turkish Delight restaurant at Pike Place Market all the way to Pioneer Square. As a warning to others, as 1960’s Architecture hating tyrants always say.

      But I’m curious, Al S. Who will undeservedly suffer if we end up with one too many enjoyable avenues Downtown?

      Just so we’ve got city ordinances that sidewalks should be crowded, music steel-drummed, and purchase bargaining loud and raucous. Enough that people proud of paying too much for boring things don’t congregate and raise prices out of reach of the world’s whole population. And not to Fifth Avenue, either!

      Mark Dublin

  5. Hurrah! Yes, this is what we need. The other benefit not mentioned – by consolidating buses to the odd-numbered streets, car drivers don’t have to deal with them. Obviously that’s a lower priority for us transit loving folk, but it improves the efficiency of the whole street network and is a tangible benefit for those whose downtown commute, for whatever reason, continues to happen by car.

  6. I really wish Seattle could put their resources where their residents are regarding transit downtown. Even the most radical option (D) for transit results in a net loss of one lane for buses, as we lose 2 lanes in the tunnel and one bus lane each on 2nd and 4th Aves, while gaining 3 on fifth (this is complicated somewhat by the streetcar & Link, but right now I’m talking purely buses), while cars also only net one lost lane, losing three on fifth but gaining one each on 2nd and 4th. I’d like to see a plan that didn’t lose any bus lanes, but I guess the city just isn’t there yet–even if the commuters are.

  7. I just sent this to the City Council, credited the STB editorial board, and added my name as a backer. We all need to engage our city leadership and let them know this is what we want.

  8. While we’re at it we should increase transit priority on the periphery of downtown, where many buses are funneled onto a few streets that are still fully subjected to downtown traffic. I’m looking at you, D line. And Aurora, Jackson, and friends.

    (Open question – are there opportunities to consolidate nearby lines into corridors with greater transit priority, albeit at the cost of more walking? eg putting the 40 and 62 on Westlake or Dexter, instead of one on each. Though there are some walkability issues for hat example, admittedly.)

    1. Dexter and Westlake are simply disconnected corridors, because of topology. And south of Aloha, Dexter is pretty densely populated now (often by Amazon employees riding the 62 only a couple of stops,but that’s exactly what it’s there for). Both corridors need buses.

  9. I have to object to the comment that “Concrete is expensive, paint and policies are not.” is just not true. Obviously there is a difference in the magnitude of costs, but unfortunately most things do cost money. It still matters whether the benefits outweigh the costs. ORCA cards cost money to buy and manage, and eliminating the fee means Metro has less money. Adding BAT lanes including striping, signage, any necessary signal changes, etc also obviously costs money.

    1. If a cash payer boards twice every weekday (250 days) for a year and cash takes 2 seconds longer to board, that’s 1,000 seconds of bus delay, or 27% of an hour. At $150 per service hour, that rider costs the agency $41 in annual delay. A $5 retail card makes no sense. It should be free, and cash should be minimized to the greatest possible extent.

      1. This!!! 2sec. is very conservative, what if it’s 4 or 10? There are also administrative costs with emptying the cash out of fareboxes to be considered too. Even if we can’t make ORCA completely free it should be free with a monthly pass purchase or minimal loading of cash onto the e-purse.

      2. There is no evidence that I know of that the card fee is the main reason, or even a significant reason, that people are not using ORCA. Metro’s survey data indicates that for many people they just don’t ride enough to bother getting, loading, and carrying the card around at all times. Others are obviously using cash in order to get a paper transfer which is easily abused. I wish we didn’t have the $5 fee, but eliminating it does cost money and we have no way of knowing how much doing so would increase ORCA use. I suspect the impact would be very minor.

      3. Both non-users and users say the fee is a significant deterrent; they wait to get it until they feel they’ll ride often enough to justify it. There are a large number of people who ride only Metro and don’t care about interagency transfers because they’ll never use them. Metro’s paper transfers give them more time than ORCA’s 2-hour limit, because the transfer time is set at the beginning of the run for the whole run and interlines, so it ends up giving some people more time than others. And after 9pm you get an all-night Metro transfer, whereas ORCA transfers are still 2 hours. (ORCA users can supposedly ask for an all-night paper transfer but few of them know about it or do so.)

        Nevertheless, ORCA usage has been going up, and with bus restructures it’s getting harder to avoid Link, and those who sign up for the ORCA LIFT low-income fare are on ORCA. So all of these have increased ORCA use. There are still vast areas like southeast King County where Link and TVMs are absent and almost everybody paid cash on off-peak routes as of a couple years ago; I don’t know if they’ve gotten to majority ORCA yet.

        Also, ORCA is a joint agreement among several agencies. Metro can’t change its policies unilaterally, and smaller agencies probably depend on every penny of revenue more than Metro does.

    2. I’de have to agree. The base costs (both schedule and capital) of the environmental assessment/public involvement cost to any road project often outweighs the costs of moving curb and gutter, drainage, paving, utility lids, and so forth. Might as well spend the time to do things right the first time. There really is no opportunity to implement ‘paint’ changes quick and dirty.

  10. On the surface it sounds like a good idea, however I have to wonder if LINK can even handle the added demands placed upon it if this scheme were imposed. I don’t think it has enough capacity today to handle such a scheme, and it would create a lot of rider upset. Finally, who is paying for the stop improvements? On the plus side, this could free up a fair number of service hours for redistribution. Also, one specific comment in regard to Tacoma, is that I would also start a new Tacoma Dome-Westlake-SLU route, to join the 592 and 577/578

  11. I get the value of connecting the Southwest Quadrant with First Hill; it’s a natural route given the “express” nature of Yesler across Fourth and Fifth.

    But every route?????

    Why not one or at most two routes from Burien/White Center, one from the Junction, and one from the north end of West Seattle (probably the 37) with others headed to different parts of downtown? Maybe extend the contra-flow lane one block to Columbia and hot loop back down to First?

    It seems like Southwest is being put in a transit ghetto.

    And they simply must give Eastside 550 trunk riders access to the entire CBD core. Putting it the line of Second and Fourth is a great suggestion.

    1. It’s every *peak-only* route.

      The C Line, 21, and 120 carry the bulk of the passengers from the West Seattle peninsula to Downtown… and their routes aren’t changing.

      1. Certainly that’s true. However, the peak-only routes exist specifically to meet the needs of downtown commuters, the majority of whom aren’t bound for First Hill. They can’t continue to use Second/Fourth or Third, but the contraflow Lane is much less used than in times past and could be a way for these riders to get at least to the lower half of the financial district without a transfer.

        Having some of the routes end on First Hill is an actual improvement to the network, and a loop on Fifth and Columbia would have the direct connection to Pioneer Square Station at both ends. Grant that “outbound” it would not have “whichever comes first” flexibility.

      2. There is limited capacity on 3rd, and it is increasingly going to be needed for all-day routes.

        Downtown commuters will have to make the transfer. At rush hour buses on 3rd are frequent enough to be a moving sidewalk, plus there is Link under the street.

      3. Also, I suspect some of these routes may need more layover space than is avaliable doing the 5th/columbia loop, but don’t actually know. There’s definitely space at the proposed turnaround near Seattle U.

      4. Hot loop them, Lack. They’re commuter expresses and they don’t lay over now at the “destination” end of their runs now usually.

      5. I admit that hot looping might not work for the long Burien routes, but it’s entirely adequate for the Admiral District buses, which are where you’re going to have financial district ridership.

  12. Do they really want to make Pike and Pine one-way couplets? Would this just be temporary? That sounds awful. I despise one-way streets that have more than one moving lane. Seattle has too many of them already.

    1. Honest question – what’s wrong with one-way streets? I frequently read people objecting to one-way streets, but I’ve never understood what’s the drawback.

      1. Cars pass each other on the left and right simultaneously; it’s hard to see all the traffic, especially that coming from the direction of the sidewalk you’re on. I know, that sounds backward, but if there’s a tall vehicle stopped in the nearside lane, it’s quite difficult to see around it to traffic that might be coming from its left rear.

      2. Seriously? They’re terrible for everyone. For pedestrians they degrade the experience by increasing vehicular speeds. For drivers they force you to drive longer routes than necessary at times because you can’t go both ways on the same street. And for transit riders they mean longer walks often because the transit only runs one way on a particular street, so if you want to go back and forth on the same street you are forced to walk to a parallel street where the service runs in the other direction.

        And that’s just off the top of my head. You REALLY can’t see any drawbacks?

      3. I believe there have been studies that show one-way streets are bad for business, not only because of the propensity for speeding, but because drivers tend to look to only one side of the street while on them, and miss the businesses on the other side.

      4. As a pedestrian I find one-way streets safer because cars can come only one direction and turns are simpler (half the turns are not possible). But others like Jeff Speck (“Walkable City”) think one-way streets are pedestrian unfriendly, although they never really say why, at least nothing I’ve found convincing. Cars may drive faster, but again you don’t have to worry about traffic coming both ways, or head-on collisions if a car strays from its lane or passes at the wrong time.

        There’s also the history of how we got one-way streets. Originally there were streetcars in the middle that had the right of way, and pedestrians and horses and cars that had to stop for the streetcars. The automobile lobby wanted to get rid of the streetcars to eliminate their superior right-of-way, and because they wanted to make the streets one-way and that was impossible with streetcars. So they got rid of the streetcars for multiple reasons and converted the streets to one-way as they wanted. So some people see converting them back to two-way as righting a historical wrong and getting one back on the automobile lobby.

  13. Can someone please explain to me why having zero rush hour busesfrom admiral to downtown is a good idea

    1. The 55, 56, and 57 would still go to 3rd/Yesler (Pioneer Square Station), which is a better and less congested truncation point than International District, and unlike the proposal for Route 41, a direct transfer to Link where you’d be no more than 2 stops away from any destination served today by Admiral-Downtown routes. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the other proposed truncations except for SR 520, and it comes with a bonus of radically improved service to First Hill. Direct downtown service would still exist every 6 minutes from the Junction on RR C, and every 10-15 minutes from 35th Ave SW and Delridge on Routes 21 and 120.

      1. Yesler is a block and a half south of James at Third. But fortunately there is an entrance at Third and Jefferson (a half block north of Yesler) at Third.

        I was wrong above saying that a loop on Columbia would be right at PSS. It would be a block north of the station shell and two from an entrance. So the majority of transfer riders would select the routes coming down from First Hill on Yesler.

        Still, the majority of the riders on the peak-only expresses are just heading into the center of the CBD, usually the financial district. Getting off the bus at Fifth and Cherry or Fourth and Columbia would be preferable to walking from Fourth or Fifth and Yesler for most of them.

      2. James would be preferable to Yesler, certainly, for those wanting to walk from a stop at 5th/James into the Financial District. And it’d be a more direct route to Harborview too. But without a bus lane or a solution to the queuing for I-5 at James, I wouldn’t want to subject the West Seattle expresses to the same awful delays as Metro’s Routes 3 and 4.

      3. “the majority of the riders on the peak-only expresses are just heading into the center of the CBD”

        That may be but the center of the CBD won’t have enough roadspace to keep all the buses reliable if we keep all the buses there. It’s less disruptive to reroute peak expresses than to have all-day routes go to one place peak and another place off-peak.

      4. Zach, I guess I misread one of your replies; I thought you had mentioned James. I’m not advocating using James; I was just pointing out that the map from the Center City project shows the routes on Yesler and (I thought) you had written James in your reply. My apologies.

        But to be very specific, buses would take the same one-way loop during both peaks. They’d go east on Yesler to Terrace, angle up Terrace to Fifth Avenue and turn north on the contra-flow lane. The lane would be extended one block to just south of the northern tunnel portal and a special bus-activated and bus-only left turn with all traffic excluded from the tunnel portal would take the buses from there diagonally across the intersection of Fifth and Columbia and down the hill. A new stop on Fifth between the tunnel portals would serve Columbia Center and the Seattle City Building both directions.

        A stop would be added on Columbia at Fourth and another at Second. Columbia will be less important after the viaduct closure, though it will certainly remain an important access to Alaskan Way. But for the time of the hoo-raw it can spare a westbound peak hours bus lane because most people heading southwest in cars will go as far south as they can before cutting over to Alaskan Way. It will need a bus-only cycle at First to allow buses in the left lane to turn onto First Avenue southbound.

        This puts commuter expresses within walking distance of the entire financial district on a nice day and on rotten ones the folks headed up to Seneca or University still can jump on Link at PSS. If you’re going to one of the buildings between Second and Fourth you get off at Fourth in the morning and get on at Second in the afternoon.

      5. Mike, I’m not advocating messing with the all-day routes. They’re going to stay on Third Avenue. But if one of two routes serving a given area in the Southwest quadrant (say the 56 from Alki) goes to First Hill and the others (the 37 and 57) go on the Columbia Loop or vice versa depending on what the neighborhood would want, then folks in the commonly served area (Alki Point and the Admiral District in this case) have a choice of destinations.

        The same sort of thing could happen to the 13X’s from Burien. Send the line that goes by the apartments to First Hill and the ones that serve the SFH neighborhoods on the Columbia Loop. It better matches the ridership.

        This is not a stupid idea, regardless of what you folks think of me.

        It may not be doable for some technical or political reason, but it’s sound.

  14. If the SR-520 bus routes at terminated at UW, I will never use transit to go downtown evenings and weekends and especially to return, and I will fight any future tax increase transit.

    You argue against terminating the 550 at Int. District because it’s a bad transfer environment – one set of stairs with easy access from both 4th Ave and 5th Ave – and layover space nearby. You argue against terminating the 41. But you want to send the 255 and 545 on a wild goose chase, with no layover space at UW, and a horrid transfer that takes 10 minutes due to street crossings and three sets of long escalators that are unreliable, congestion and lack of transit priority on Montlake Blvd, and a bridge that opens on demand from sailboats. Especially leaving downtown evenings and weekends when the 255 operate only every 30 minutes and even hourly on weekend evenings, when they take less than 10 minutes from the heart of downtown to the Montlake freeway station – you want to add 20 minutes to the trip, 2 street crossings, and possibly waiting for a bus running every 30-60 minutes. I don’t buy that there will be any increase in frequency because of (1) the need to layover north of the university district, and (2) the fact the ridership will drop with this change. Take a look at the ridership of the 545 vs. the 541/542, and the 255 vs the 540. Call it crowdsourcing. If the UW transfer were attractive, more riders would have shifted. They haven’t.

    Why single out Kirkland and Redmond for getting the shaft? The Eastside contributes its share of transit funding. Not wise to destroy the quality of transit service to downtown Seattle.

    1. 1. The hours saved by sending SR-520 routes to UW Station will be re-invested into those routes, improving headways.

      2. 541/542 have less ridership than the 545 not only because they don’t go downtown, but because they have less span of service. The 541 is peak-only, and the 542 is weekday-only and ends pretty early (~7PM). Furthermore, the 541 doesn’t go to Redmond, but to Overlake. Where the 541/542 combo has only 108 weekday trips (59 in each direction, 38 542s and 21 541s ), the 545 has 94 trips and runs until midnight.

      Despite the limitations in the 541/542 combo, they are competing quite nicely against the 545 with 179,477 Q4 2016 trips to the 545’s 607,110. The 545 ridership is actually down 5% so clearly some people are benefiting from the 541/542 changes.[1]


      1. Er, oops, forgot to add the two directions of 545 together, should be 187 trips, not 93.

      2. Skylar,

        LISTEN to Eastsider; he rides these buses.

        You have NO! knowledge that Metro will reinvest the hours saved in more frequent service on the same routes. Sure, we all agree that doing so makes the most sense and is clearly “equitable”. But it’s not a done deal, for exactly the reasons that Eastsider pointed out: UW can be a real bunch of jerks about their parking lots.

      3. Richard, Eastsider, I ride those buses too (OK, mostly not the 545, but I am on 520 a few times a week). Sure, I have no knowledge of what Metro/ST will do, but plenty of knowledge of what Metro has done: after the North Seattle restructure, the hours from the routes truncated to UW Station were invested back into North Seattle.

        At least in the case of ST, the saved hours will have to be reinvested according to subarea equity. Metro uses its own heuristics, but the 255 especially has overcrowding issues and Metro should easily be able to justify investment in it.

        As for rider experience, somehow North Seattle has survived with a “forced” transfer, and has done better than even STB predicted.

    2. As an Eastsider who regularly rides the 545 off-peak, I’m sympathetic to your points. The transfer environment is horrible at UW Station, thanks to the UW insisting on preserving a pay parking lot on prime real estate right next to the station.

      If the SR 520 routes are truncated there, I would demand either increased frequency (every fifteen minutes to end of service!) or guaranteed connections. If I board the train downtown at 8:23 PM, I want either a guarantee that the 542 would be waiting for me, or another 542 in fifteen minutes. Yes, Metro should give the same guarantees for routes like the 107, 65, 67, etc.

      Also, for the transfer environment itself – as long as UW unconscionably fails to sell or rent space in its parking lot, perhaps the late-night 542/255/271 could turn on Pacific Place to Montlake, picking up at the SB Montlake stop right under the pedestrian bridge? It’d make things at least a little easier, at the cost of potential confusion for riders who might still wait at the EB Pacific St stop.

      Alternatively, that’s an interesting idea to preserve the current 545/255 as late-night-and-weekends-only routes, sort of like the old 512 before the restructure.

    3. So what would you do with the 520 routes once they are kicked out of downtown due to the Convention Place station closing? Send them to Capitol Hill? That would easily add as much time as terminating them at UW station.

      There just aren’t any good options for those routes once the Convention Center construction starts.

  15. Zach,
    Yea on 3rd Avenue. please note that the West Seattle peak routes and the Route 41 peak direction trips go in opposite directions on 3rd Avenue, so the capacity is not compatible. also note that the South Dearborn Street interchange may not be available until the deep bore opens in mid-2019. Also, does not First Hill need two-way all-day service? when will the new LRV be in service? Is there time to plan and do civil work on 5th Avenue and in the Pacific Triangle before fall 2018? Why is the CCC streetcar assumed?

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