SounderBruce (Flickr)

Slowly zooming in and dialing up the resolution, SDOT is out with its latest designs for Rapid Ride G (formerly Madison BRT), and is accepting public comment through March 22nd.

Assuming the ink dries on a finalized Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant, construction on the $120 million project should start in February 2018, with start of service targeted for mid-summer 2019. With new five-door trolleybuses coming up to every 6 minutes, the line will provide a huge boost to First Hill and improve transfers to the future Center City Connector streetcar, 3rd Avenue and Link light rail, the future ST3-funded Green Line tunnel, the First Hill Streetcar, and the eventual Rapid Ride corridor along 23rd Avenue.

This design update gives us clearer indications of SDOT’s thinking on multimodal tradeoffs – conflicts between buses, cars, parking, and people walking and biking – as well as a draft construction schedule. The project is tentatively phased as follows:

  • Early 2018: Arthur Place layover, and protected bike lane on E Union Street between 12th and 14th Avenue
  • Mid 2018: Madison Street from 1st to 6th Avenue, and Spring Street from 1st to 9th Avenue, including a left-side bike lane on Spring from 1st to 8th
  • Late 2018: Madison from Boren to 11th, including most of the center-running right-of-way
  • Late 2018-Early 2019:  Madison from 17th-25th, in a section where buses will run in mixed traffic
  • December 2018: Trolley wire work and other improvements on 1st Avenue to allow Rapid Ride G to share a stop with the streetcar
  • Early 2019: Madison from 11th-17th, and one additional block of protected bike lane on Union between 11th and 12th
  • Mid-2019: Construction will wrap up in the congested stretch of Madison between Boren and 6th.

Rather than walk you through all the changes since the 30% design level, as this wonk blog would customarily do, we’re going to stick to a descriptive treatment of the entire route so that those new to the discussion can more easily follow along. Let’s start at on 1st Avenue and head east. 

Eastbound to Madison Valley

As the inbound G-Line approaches 1st/Madison, it will turn right onto 1st Avenue for a shared station with the Center City Connector streetcar. This will permit same-platform connections to the streetcar, providing quality transfers for destination pairs such as First Hill-Pike Place Market and First Hill-Pioneer Square. To accommodate both center and side stations along the alignment, the G-Line buses will have doors on both sides (3 right, 2 left).

The bus will then turn right on Spring Street and hug the right lane until across I-5, with stops at the near side of 3rd and the far side of 4th, just over a block apart. Earlier concepts for a left-side bus lane have long been binned, and retention of right-running bus traffic allows a shared stop with Route 2 and continued direct service to Seattle Public Library (SPL). The bus will have transit priority and bus lanes through Downtown, mostly avoiding the current hell of Route 2 on Spring Street stuck behind queueing cars. However, cars will still be allowed to clog the Spring Street lane to turn onto 3rd Avenue. That’s right, mixed traffic is being allowed to turn right from our BRT lane into our transit mall. This is likely being done to facilitate continued parking garage access to 1000 2nd Avenue and Expeditors International, who would otherwise be forced to continue on Spring to 5th if trying to go southbound by car. (Slide 2)

From SPL, cars will queue for I-5 in the second-to-right lane, and buses will have their own signal cycle.  (Slide 3)

From 6th to 8th Avenue the bus will run in mixed traffic, where it will turn right to 8th Avenue into a bus-only left turn lane. This left turn lane sets up Rapid Ride G for the core of the project – two-way center running on Madison Street itself. Stations would be at Terry/Madison and Boylston/Madison. The Terry station has moved further to the east side of the intersection, apparently at the request of emergency vehicles needing access on Terry. The latter stop will provide the best connection to the First Hill Streetcar, with a one block walk from Boylston/Madison to the Broadway/Marion station. (Slides 4-5)

The bus will continue in center-running lanes through 16th Avenue, including through the difficult 6-way intersection of Madison/12th/Union. Stops will be at 12th Avenue adjacent to Pony and at 17th Avenue across from Trader Joes. Connections between Rapid Ride G and Route 2 will be decent in the eastbound direction, with Route 2’s current stop remaining next to Seattle Academy. But the westbound Route 2 will also retain its stop on the far side of 12th/Union. Thus under this design update, Route 2 riders will have to endure the 11th/13th Avenue ‘bowtie’ indefinitely, and westbound riders wishing to transfer will cross 12th twice, by bus and then backtracking on foot. (Slides 6-7)

From 16th the bus returns to the curb for one additional block of transit priority to 17th, but once east of Trader Joes the bus will run in mixed traffic. The x-like swap at 16th Avenue – buses going to center-to-curb and cars going curb-to-center, seems difficult to pull off efficiently. Eastbound stops will be at Madison/Denny/22nd and at 23rd/24th Avenue. Assuming Route 48 keeps its current stop locations, eastbound G-Line riders looking to transfer to Route 48 would alight at a 24th Avenue stop and backtrack one block uphill on John Street. (Slides 8-10)

The route then makes its 11th and final stop at Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, turning right into a dedicated layover facility on Arthur Place. (Slide 11)

Westbound to Downtown

Westbound from the MLK stop, the G-Line would continue in mixed traffic to a stop directly at 23rd, offering a better connection to Route 48 compared to the eastbound direction. Bus priority picks back up at 17th Avenue with a curbside bus lane, and the bus then transitions back to center running lanes via another x-like swap between cars and buses between 16th-15th. The First Hill stops at 12th, Boylston, and Terry will all be center platform stations, shared with their eastbound counterpart.

Heading west across I-5 from 7th Avenue , the bus would move to the far left lane, leaving two right-hand lanes for vehicle queuing for southbound I-5. At 6th Avenue the bus would have its own signal to cut across back into the right-hand lane, where it would remain until 1st Avenue, with stops at 5th, 3rd, and then again on 1st.

Bike Facilities

Eastbound from 1st Avenue, a buffered bike lane would be painted on Spring on the left curbside from 1st to 4th, but would then transition into an unprotected door-zone bike lane from 4th-5th and again from 6th-8th. In First Hill proper, people on bicycles would use neighborhood streets such as University, though without the earlier proposed Greenway improvements. Though still in the Bike Master Plan, the Union Street Protected Bike Lane will no longer be funded by this project, with the exception of a short stretch from 11th-14th. There will be no bike facilities on Madison itself, in either direction. (Slides 1-5)

The 12th Avenue design is peculiar, a complicated answer for a complicated intersection. Cyclists will be asked to use E Union Street as a through route for east-west travel, but will still not be allowed to stay on Union across 12th. Eastbound cyclists would be asked to cross to the northeast corner of 12th/Madison, and then cross 12th to again reach E Union St. These crossings would be in pedestrian crosswalks and in conflict with people on foot. Westbound cyclists would make the same maneuver in reverse, but in their case it would be a more natural movement. Cyclists on northbound 12th heading east on E Union Street would be asked to ride up onto the sidewalk to access the eastbound protected bike lane. (Slide 6)

Cyclists are generally on their own east of 12th, with no bike facilities provided. Anecdotally, current travel options on E Pike, E Pine, and E Union, while not ideal, do offer reasonably calm alternatives and a relatively intact grid through which to weave. (Just stay off the cobblestone of 18th/Pine!)


Questions remain: how many cars will clog up Spring to turn onto 3rd? Will cars block the box between 6th and I-5, blocking the G-Line from proceeding on its own signal? Can’t Route 2 and the G-Line better connect? How will the double-x weave between 15th-16th be done safely (likely answer: buses will just have to wait until it’s clear to do so). Why can’t Rapid Ride G and Route 48 better connect? Why are there nearly no stops on the steepest part of the street between 24th-MLK?

And the deletion of most of the bike projects is quite disappointing. I wish that a more radical concept for 12th had been presented, to somehow allow Route 2 to end its “bowtie” and allow cyclists to travel straight across Union. I remain disappointed in the lack of transit priority east of 17th, and at some of the pedestrian inconvenience that will be seen at 24th, where some walkers will have to zig zag against their ‘Desire Lines‘.

But it also seems that these latest designs and compromises strike a realistic balance between optimizing the corridor’s performance and recognizing fixed constraints. (Parking garages aren’t going to move locations, and neither would the city force them to close, so they will be accommodated.) I think this corridor as designed would be a marked improvement over current conditions, and would provide comfortable, faster, and more reliable service. Let’s hope that as the design progresses, SDOT can take a few additional looks at Vision Zero, provide some level of continuous service for people biking, and squeeze in a bit more transit priority.

If you walk, bike, ride, or drive this corridor and see something worthy of praise, criticism, or refinement, please speak up by March 22nd.

There is also an open house TONIGHT:

Wednesday, March 15
5:30 – 7:30 PM
First African Methodist Episcopal Church
1522 14th Ave

112 Replies to “Rapid Ride G Coming Into Focus”

  1. To get to Madison Park do you then have to change to the 11? Sort of a bummer it doesn’t just go the whole way.

    1. This has long been debated. Short answer is that it would basically provide 10% more benefit for about 40% more cost. There is nowhere near the number of apartments, offices, hospitals or other attractions north of MLK to justify the cost.

      My guess is they run a revised 11 that basically follows the 43 route from 23rd to downtown (Thomas, Pike/Pine). That way folks in Madison Park have a one seat ride to downtown, along with a very good connection to both Link and the Madison BRT.

      1. He asked a simple yes or no question. All you had to do was say “yes” without defending the stupid decision not to run it from water to water.

      2. @Chris, since you brought up the subject of whether SDOT’s decision was stupid, would you mind responding to Ross’s very valid point? Within a fixed budget, we’re essentially trading the G Madison Park off against (say) a faster 44, or a 70-Northgate.

      3. A huge chuck of this BRT money is going to buy custom left door 60′ trolley buses. They could have saved $30+ million if they had designed this alignment for the existing fleet brand new standard right door trolley buses. I have to say I really dont understand the $120 million cost, most of this route is already wired and hanging wire isnt that expensive. Is it all going to pouring a concrete roadway the entire length?

      4. A ton of repaving, yes. The sectional drawings show a ton of new concrete where none exists today.

    2. I always thought a straight shot on Madison from 1st to 43rd made the most sense, especially since because of low traffic east of MLK, you could run a rapid bus in mixed traffic just fine (or even running it in “non-rapid mode” for that portion still makes a lot of sense), but with trolley wire being required, all of a sudden that doesn’t make so much sense.

      1. Wouldn’t worry about Madison Park. Have a feeling that from here on, judging by current demographics every new Madison Park resident will be one more demand- and vote- to get that wire.

        And have an income that’ll make them glad to use money planned for a Beautiful Wall for trolleywire that isn’t from Ohio Brass to PAY FOR IT! It’ll be Yooooodge! And go right to the new Madison Park Private Prison.

        Question, though. Will we need an entirely different trolleybus fleet? Or red and yellow paint job? Or can our ordinary Easter-egg colored buses “brand” themselves by just rolling rapidly?


      2. Part of the capital budget for this project is to acquire a few more XT60s (13, IIRC), painted red and with added left-hand doors.

      3. As I said up above — 40% more cost, 10% more benefit. As it is, this project is already underfunded. For example:

        1) Why are the cars allowed to share the bus lane downtown when they want to make a right? Why not have them turn from the second to right lane, via a right turn arrow (as they do with the bikes on Second)?

        2) Why does the center running lane suddenly end at 16th? Doesn’t it make sense to just keep going with the center running, until the end?

        In both cases, the problem is money. Now you want to spend *more* money, to go all the way out to the water? What if they say that is a possibility, if they get rid of *all* the center running. Is that a fair trade? Not in my book.

    3. They” will replace the 11 with an 8-Madison (Harrison-Fairview-Denny-John-Madison). The 11 will probably keep running as is until then. (I think the 11 is superior to either an all-Madison route or the 8-Madison, but what do I know.) The 2 will move to Pine Street (Pine-12th-Union). The city is deciding wither to make Pine Street two-way for buses or whether Pike Street will still be involved.

      1. What will happen to the north-south half of the 8 route in that case? Does it get a new number or do they just stop running it?

      2. The Metro solution is a local route running between the Madison Valley RR G terminal and Beacon Hill Station via MLK, Judkins Park Station, and S College St (which currently doesn’t have service). The route would be infrequent in 2025 (which is consistent with current ridership along that part of MLK) but upgraded to frequent by 2040.

      3. See the map in the link. The south part turns into a Local route from Madison & MLK to MLK-Main-23rd-College-17th to Beacon Hill Station. That’s apparently an attempt to stitch together segments Metro things are underserved.

        My biggest concern about that route is dumping people from the south at Madison & MLK. That does not seem like a strong destination or transfer point for them, Whereas for people coming from Madison or Capitol Hill or First Hill or transferring straight through on Madison, it’s more of a common destination and natural transfer point. But this is the kind of dilemma one faces when one tries to sketch out routes that work for the most people, and try to put something on northern MLK which dead-ends in a small commercial district.

      4. I did look at the map in the link, but must not have understood what to look for, since it appeared to describe service only as it exists today. Thanks for the explanation.

        As a Madison Valley resident myself, I’d love it if we could upzone the commercial strip and the blocks surrounding. There’s a lot of unrealized potential here due to constrictive zoning. The intersection of Madison & MLK could easily become much more of a destination if we simply allowed it to.

  2. Why is it that every meaningful transfer is one block away? And why do they miss so many stops “at” major intersections? Could we get a real Broadway stop, especially since the 12 has a real Broadway stop and it’s going away? How about a real Boren stop? It’s center running lanes right, so doesn’t that give more flexibility to stop placement and pedestrian crossing integration with these intersections?

    Or how about a 23rd ave stop to connect with a future RapidRide? Nope, you get 22nd and 24th. Why? How about combine those stops into 23rd Ave, where it will be more useful anyway, and save dwell time? I don’t get it.

      1. My comment looked like this if you want to copy and paste.

        “Please add a real Broadway, especially since the 12 has a real Broadway stop and it’s going away.

        Please add about a real Boren stop, It’s center running lanes right, I believe that will give more flexibility to stop placement and pedestrian crossing integration with these intersections.

        Combine the 22nd and 24th stops into 23rd Ave, where it will be more useful and save dwell time.”

        PS you guys need to make activism easier on people. Per-built comment with the link to copy, paste, and add information boom done.

      2. I think your referring to the activism? Maybe is being pro-transit a political statement.

      3. The transition between the curb lane and the second lane from the south at Fifth Avenue will be a problem. Cars waiting in the queue for the turn onto Fifth will back up and block the bus’s exit from the Fourth Avenue station. Is there really a compelling reason for Madison to allow a turn onto Fifth there? Couldn’t drivers wanting to go south of Fifth either use Marion to get to it or, if they enter from one of the garages actually on Spring continue straight to Seventh, turn right, turn right again on Madison and then turn left onto Fifth?

        Sure, that’s quite a detour but how many cars will actually debouch onto Spring from a garage — not turn onto it from Western, First or Second for convenience — and need to go south on Fifth? A couple of hundred per day, if that. Removing right turns at both Third and Fifth would effectively remove Madison as an eastbound “street switch” option forcing traffic to use University or Marion, neither of which will have a bus when the 12 goes away.

      4. No, I’m not “referring to the activism”. “Excepting” means excluding. “Accepting” approximately means “including” or more specifically in this case “allowing [something] in”. The two words sound (almost) the same, but they mean essentially the opposite of each other. It would be wise to learn the difference.

        And just as an aside, it’s “you’re” not “your”, though I know that auto-correct makes that mistake frequently, and so it may not be your error. Get a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. It’s worth a read.

      5. I also made this comment online and at the first open house for both Broadway and 23rd Ave

        Clearly left turning auto traffic takes priority over a decent transfer between two RapidRides or this RapidRide and the Broadway transit corridor.

  3. Is it usual to have bus stops every 2-3 blocks on a BRT line? I hope it loads/unloads quickly.

    1. Unloading and loading is a key element of this project. There will be level boarding and off board payment, so dwell times should be short (20 seconds on average, I’m guessing).

    2. It’s only 15 minutes end to end… so probably cutting a few stops out just isn’t worth it. It looks like a different calculation than something like rapidride E, which covers a great distance.

      1. It is amazingly short, isn’t it. Will this be our shortest bus route? I guess not, since 99 is still around.

      2. 47 is slated to be extended in Metro’s 2025 plan, but until then it’s shorter.

      3. It’s the shortest RapidRide by far, and it’s not even close. But it’s also by far the most “BRT-like” RapidRide (compared to the 6 in operation), even though it’s significantly compromised in that regard. Just goes to show how expensive and politically challenging it is to achieve good BRT. That’s part of why I favored running it the whole length of Madison, because it would be a true end-to-end corridor route, and traffic on 23rd east of MLK is so light that achieving BRT-like rapidity could almost be done with ONLY stop consolidation. It would seem like an easy decision if it weren’t for the lack of trolley wire….

  4. I think the most disappointing aspect of this is the fact that neither the 12 nor the 2 and the G lines can’t share stops. Creating common stops for busses travelling in a common corridor is transit planning 101.

    1. Then this must be transit planning 102. The G will have off board payment and level boarding. The 2 won’t. You don’t want the (very frequent) G stuck behind a 2, while someone fumbles with cash getting on the 2. Ideally you don’t overlap the routes at all (each route should be independent) which will certainly be the case for the 12 (it will no longer travel on Madison). But because of limited options (and the choice to run on Spring) there will be some corridor sharing. But the stops should be far enough apart that the G can pass the 2.

      1. Is the 12 being retained and being moved from Madison? I always assumed that the 12 would go, the 11 would stay, and for people on 19th ave to Interlaken Park, tough.

        But I kinda like the idea of giving the 11 route 43 routing through 23rd, then continue like the 8 onto Madison and stay on Madison like today’s 11. Maybe the new 12 could adopt 11’s routing on Pine to Madison, overlap about 3 blocks with the G-line for transfers, and turn onto 19th.

        But the 12 would need to run diesel buses, rendering the trolley wire on 19 unutilized. It would be a little more flexible if wire was configured for turns from Thomas to 19th like it is for John to 15th (then we could run something like a route 10 for 19th on trolley wire, and call it route 12). It might be a worthwhile modification though, certainly much cheaper than wiring new corridors.

      2. Metro’s 2025 network has the following changes to other service that is around the G Line:

        – The Madison Park part of the 11 is again combined with the 8, which has routing changes in the SLU area to reduce (but not eliminate) its exposure to Denny delays.
        – The 2 is moved to Pine Street (transitioning between Pine and Union on 12th) to replace the 11 and 49 service that disappear from Pine. Replacement service to Virginia Mason and Horizon House for those who can’t walk from the G Line would be provided in a north-south manner, on 9th, by a revised 27.
        – The portion of the 12 along 19th Ave E would be partly replaced by a new infrequent local route that would be like a 43 with ADD, obviously intended for coverage purposes. It would travel between downtown and the U-District via John/Thomas, 19th, Aloha, 23rd, and Boyer/Fuhrman. There would be no service to the front door of Stevens Elementary. Capital improvements to Aloha and the 19th/Aloha intersection would be necessary for this to work.
        – The 49/36 combination would happen, traveling on 12th in the area of the G Line.

      3. My guess is that with Madison BRT, there will be a major restructure of buses in the area. Attempts were made to do this when U-Link was added but since Link only added one stop in the area, it was difficult. None of the big changes seemed like overall wins, so in the end, Metro made minor changes, and a major restructure was put off to another day.

        I think that day will occur with Madison BRT. Even with some speed shortcomings, it will still be reasonably fast and very frequent. Six minute headways, very short dwell times and urban stop spacing mean that no other bus should use Madison. Transfers to this bus will be outstanding (or at least they should be, if they get the bus stops right).

        Metro will probably try once again to combine the 11 with the 8 as David described. They will once again get opposition from folks in Madison Park who want a one seat ride to downtown as well as folks on MLK, who like to round the horn towards Capitol Hill or Queen Anne. That is why I think the new 11 I described (along with keeping the 8 largely the same) would be more popular.

        Moving the 2 to Pine Street is an excellent idea. That solves the bow tie problem, consolidates service, and retains good coverage.

        The “43” you mentioned is a weird bus route, but it has more going for it than the current 43. At least it adds coverage (along Boyer) that plugs a pretty big hole (resurrecting part of the 25 if I’m not mistaken). If it is the only bus that serves 19th, that also adds coverage. On the other hand, the 43 lacks unique bus stops, and simply makes for a more convenient ride for a handful of people.

        I like the 49/36 combination, but I would push it farther east. Instead of heading south on 12th, head south on 15th/14th. That creates a better grid, and a nice one seat ride from Cherry Hill Swedish to Group Health. I’ve been meaning to sketch something that incorporates these ideas, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

        In any event, I think it is highly likely that there will be a couple set of proposals (if not more), just like last time, with plenty of input from folks.

      4. Alex,

        It’s only a bit more than a block from Pine and Madison to 15th and Pine. Hang wire.

      5. All that’s needed to keep Madison Park happy is a peak hour direct express that goes all the way to the south end of downtown, preferably on Fifth southbound and Fourth northbound. The rest of the time having a direct Link to the Capitol Hill business district and Link will be more useful for them. So do the 11/8 combination and add a peak express overlay on the old Pike/Union routing of the 11.

        There are a lot of financial and legal folks who live in Madison Park and who pay a lot of taxes. This would serve them very well.

      6. The 49 is going away? the map seems to say that but do mine eyes believe it? Metro has been repeatedly positioning the 49 as the most frequent route on Capitol Hill, and now it’s going to a north-south route? What will be the best way for somebody around Pine going to upper Broadway who doesn’t want to use Link?

      7. Pine to Upper Broadway could be, depending on where along Pine and where on Broadway: 1) walk to Broadway, then catch 49/36; 2) use Link and walk on both ends, or 3) transfer between 2 and 49/36.

        Worth noting that Metro’s first preference appeared to be the 49-Madison, and that the 49/36 has largely been driven by SDOT (although Metro has apparently now bought in now that RR G is official).

      8. I ride the 11 daily from/to east of the G line terminus. Following the 8 to Capitol Hill Station would be outstanding (and yes, I was one of those who wanted the G and its wire extended all the way to Madison Park). A reasonable connection to the regional rail system is a big deal; transferring to the G to get to central downtown will be nice, but actually being able to get on and off the train directly instead of going all the way downtown and walking to a station is a win.

      9. The “weird 43” sounds unnecessary but I would be on that bus twice a day every weekday, maybe 4x a day if it runs later into the evening. The 43 was my only one-seat ride not just downtown but also to Capitol Hill. 6-minute peak headways don’t do me any good when I have to walk half a mile to Capitol Hill Station and then wait for who knows how long at midnight at the deserted Montlake southbound stop for the 48 if I want to be able to get home on transit after going out for the evening.

      10. There are two weird routes in north Capitol Hill. Their purpose is to restore coverage from the 25 that was deleted in the 2014 cuts (Lakeview Blvd, Boyer Ave, Del Mar) or will be deleted when RR G replaces the 12 (19th Ave E). Since the 25 was one of Metro’s least-used routes, they may exist only in a best-case scenario (“if the economy continues going gangbusters”). The hope is that by rejiggering the routes a bit they’ll gain ridership. One of them also subsumes the 47, so it will have at least the combined ridership of the 47 and the 25, and perhaps more if it turns out to be more useful than either route was.

    2. Either make the RapidRide actually rapid, or share stops with the 2. Center-running exclusive lanes are great, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t trade-offs. I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off, especially given that it will run every 6 minutes at peak (partially made possible by true rapidity making frequent service operable with fewer buses). I’m glad they are sticking to their guns on this, like they so often don’t with “BRT” projects.

    3. Keep in mind, Metro wants to move the 2 to Pine by 2025. And I definitely wouldn’t want to tie a forward-looking project like Madison BRT to a route with as tenuous a future as the 12. :)

      1. Great point. I was unaware of the 2 moving to Pine, but I think that completely solves the problem. Neither the 12 nor the 2 run on Madison (or any other part of G line). That is ideal. It means we shouldn’t freak out too much about the bow tie aspect of the current 2, or worry at all about sharing bus stops.

    4. The distance between the 2 and G stops is really not far. It’s close enough that a rider can still quickly walk over to a stop if they see a bus coming down the street.

      The big omission from the transfer discussion is the bigger transfer distance and hassle is getting to and from Link, the transit route that today carries more people than all of the RapidRide lines that operate COMBINED. Even assuming that a 5th and Madison station is in place in 2035, RapidRide G still won’t hit the primary light rail line that connects to UW and Snohomish County as well as the Eastside and West Seattle.

      Why the City of Seattle wants to invest in a high capacity RapidRide route that requires both ferry riders and Link riders to walk at least a block to get to a stop is truly one of those basic system flaws that mystifies me. Why major STB commenters accept this basic system problem mystifies me even more.

      1. I’d feel much better about Link connectivity with this project if the City would add an element to this project: a mezzanine level walkway from University Street Station under Third Avenue to the RapidRide stops. With the Third Avenue RapidRide G stops on the downhill side of Third Avenue, it may even be possible to have portals that don’t require stairs or escalators. Given the huge cost of this project, spending an extra amount to assure protected connectivity seems like an obvious solution.

      2. Yes, this would be much better if:

        1) The original bus tunnel had a station at Madison. I believe this was the original plan.

        2) Link stopped on Madison up the hill. Summit and Madison (First Hill) or 23rd and Madison would be logical stops.

        That didn’t happen, so this simply makes the best of a weak situation. Madison is a logical choice for a BRT line, even though there is no light rail stop. They could run a BRT line on Broadway, but that is what the streetcar is for (too bad that isn’t BRT). They could try and run a BRT RapidRide line to replace the 8, and my guess eventually they will.

        As it is, this will connect reasonably well to Link downtown. It is only a block, and I really see no logical alternative. I suppose you could loop around to get closer to the station, but that seems challenging. Other than your mezzanine idea (which sounds good to me) what do you have in mind?

      3. Yes, some of these stations are pretty far underground, and it sure seems like it would be a good idea to widen the coverage of the stations with some added passageways. There are lots of examples fro all over, but among the ones that spring immediately to mind, Skytrain’s Waterfront station has an entrance three blocks west of the main station.

      4. Ferry riders: SDOT asked during a previous comment period whether the line should end at 1st Avenue or the ferry terminal. The majority of feedback said 1st Avenue because it could share a station with the streetcar. Ferry riders will be a small fraction of the total ridership because the ferries come less than once an hour, while the streetcars will come every five minutes and other people will be transferring from Link or a bus or coming on foot. Ferry riders are mostly commuters going to work at First Hill hospitals, while everybody else will be going there all day every day.

        Link riders: it gets as close to University Street Station as it can. The bus will live loop downtown so people going either direction can get off at the 3rd & Spring station for Link. This was another question SDOT asked during an earlier comment period: whether the bus should run on Madison-Spring or Madison-Marion. Most people argued for Spring because of Link and the library, and that’s what SDOT did.

        The lack of a Madison DSTT station has been a problem ever since the tunnel was built in 1990. I don’t know if it was ever in the plan (calling Mark Dublin, ring ring) but it didn’t get built. I would have added a Madison station or shifted University Street Station a block further south.

        Madison Street is clearly the most important corridor for mid downtown and First Hill, so it makes sense to put BRT there if no east-west subway is coming. And if it truly takes only five minutes from 1st to Broadway and five minutes from Broadway to 23rd, it will revolutionize east-west transit in ways that may be hard to grasp ahead of time, because east-west transit has been so ultra-slow and not very frequent forever on the 2, 3, 4, and 12, and people have built into their expectations the extra half-hour overhead of waiting and crawling. (Or they use a Pine Street bus or the 27). If that overhead suddenly goes away, people will find it much easier to access First Hill and Madison Valley and all the hospitals, and they’ll start going there more often.

        Also, a ton of apartment and business construction is underway along the Madison corridor both on First Hill and downtown (at least one office-tower renovation with more 24-hour use promised).

      5. Ross, I actually would have preferred using Seneca for the RapidRide, and abdicated Madison to cars! I would have even considered closing the Seneca off-ramp from I-5 northbound. That’s personal wishful thinking at this point and I know this won’t happen.

        With the renewed interest on having real 24/7 transit malls on Third and maybe Fifth (noting that these were not part of prior Madison BRT planning), I would have liked to see RapidRide G turn to use one of these for a few blocks. That would guarantee a mostly level stop in another place besides First in Downtown as well as get riders closer to a Link station. Still, that’s also not in the cards at this point. There seems to be no interest in rethinking Madison as part of One Center City or our new transit demand reality.

        I’m not naive to pedestrian mezzanines having security and maintenance issues. Still, a two-block underground passageway here would improve connectivity in a number of ways and be a less costly improvement than any other option than I can identify. It’s much easier to connect this way then to do something drastic like create a new DSTT subway station. Doing nothing and making riders wait at street corners for signals to change — especially in bad weather — seems terribly cruel.

        Overall, it’s becoming increasingly clear from current soaring demand beginning in March 2016 to ST3 passage to Metro’s vision to One Center City that Link in the DSTT is and is to be Seattle’s main transit artery — and getting to and from it more easily should be a fundamental design requirement now more than ever. It’s still hard for some to fully grasp that DSTT Link is no longer just another transit line (carrying only 30k average weekday when the Transit Master Plan was written), is now carrying almost 70k and will likely be carrying 100k in 2021 and 140k in 2024 or 2025 and 180k or even 200k in 2031. All transit lines should connect to DSTT Link!

  5. This is starting to sound very much like a “foot in the door” project. There are aspects of this that could certainly be improved, but it would cost money. For example:

    1) Cars turning downtown. It is very difficult to ban this entirely; the best way is to manage it. Almost all the streets are one way streets, so running on the left side doesn’t really help things. One option is to run in contraflow mode, using Madison and Marion, not Madison and Spring. (Schematic here: Description here: The idea being that no cars ever share the lane with the bus downtown. You’ve basically created two way traffic through there, but for one of the lanes, only buses are allowed, thus eliminating every delay caused by turning vehicles.

    Since that won’t happen, the alternative is to manage the turns with turn arrows. This is done on Second, for the bike lane ( It may be hard to see from the picture, but you can’t just turn left on a green light (as you can on one most one way streets). You have to wait for the arrow, because you are cutting across a bike lane. The same principle can be applied for right turns and bus lanes. You would simply ban cars from the bus lanes, just as you ban cars from the bike lanes. On Spring and 3rd, cars would be in the next to the right lane to turn right. They would have to wait for a right turn arrow, just as they do on Second.

    2) Center running east of 16th. Once the bus is center running, it is a challenge to have it move over to the curb. Even if the area wouldn’t otherwise warrant it (not much traffic) you end up creating traffic and make it tougher on a bus driver trying to work its way over. If there was a huge distance between stops (a mile or so) then it could make sense, but not for the urban stop spacing described here. The answer is to simply keep running in the middle.

    Unfortunately, both of these solutions are expensive. As with all the projects, I think we’re going to find that the big conflict is not with cars, or with parking, but with money. There simply wasn’t enough allocated to provide a high level of service along these routes. My guess is that eventually more money will be allocated to “fix the G weave” as well as “speed up the G downtown” as part of another ballot measure.

    1. 1) I like the 2nd solution to right turns. No reason you can’t turn right from the right GP if a signal ensure you won’t cross in front of a bus.

      2) “G weave” is definitely a phrase I want to be broadly used in future comment sections.

      SDOT was pretty clear they felt the additional cost of center running east of 16th wasn’t worth the benefit. If they are proven wrong (or more likely the urban core simply keeps growing & Madison gets denser east of 16th), the center running lanes can always be extended as a part of a future project. In the meantime, I’d rather push investments into other RR corridors first and circle back to improving the G in 10~15 years.

      1. 1) Yeah, but I still prefer contraflow. I think in general it solves most of the problems we have, and believe it should be used a lot more. It really should be the center piece of our One Center City efforts. Turn most of the downtown one way streets to two way streets, but with buses taking up the only lane going the other direction. This allows cars access to every driveway they need access to, while making sure that buses run unimpeded. They never deal with cars in their lane, ever.

        The problem we have now is we say “don’t use third”, but then we of course say “except if (blah, blah, blah)”. You pretty much have to. There are too many driveways and other places than need delivery or other access. On the other hand, if we allow buses — and only buses — to travel northbound on Second, then everybody is happy. No car ever need go that way — they just travel southbound on Second (like they do now). The bus has the lane all to itself, all day long, always.

        2) Yeah, SDOT did say it didn’t matter, and maybe it won’t. My guess it will, which is why I do think this is looking more like a starter project. I really don’t mind. In general the great thing about BRT is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to improve it (not much more than if it was built that way originally). The changes I mentioned can be added later, and maybe that is the best approach. The only thing that bothers me is that this is the flagship for our BRT system, and it sets the tone for what follows after. Unlike Roosevelt, I don’t see these problems as being that costly to solve. It would definitely cost more, but you don’t have the intractable bike-bus-car problem like on Eastlake. My worry is that if this turns out to be good, but not great, that people will once again assume that BRT means a different colored bus, and that the only way to get a good, reliable, fast transit system is to put down rail.

      2. I wonder how well contraflow will really work on a street with traffic signals nearly every block. Will the bus traveling the reverse direction hit a red light nearly ever time so that the cars traveling the other direction will get green lights?

        On the 2nd Ave. bike path, you definitely hit more green lights going down the hill than going up the hill. Biking up a hill, hitting a lot of red lights isn’t so big a deal, since you need the rest, anyway. But, for a bus that doesn’t need periodic rest to go up hills, it matters more.

      3. @asdf2 — Yes, that is one of the drawbacks of contraflow. It matters a lot along our avenues, but I doubt it would matter at all with our streets. That is why pushed strongly for it on this route (an east-west route through downtown). When you throw in a bus stop every couple blocks, I don’t think it would be an issue. Having a little signal priority would likely be more important.

        As it is, I would take my chance, even on the avenues. Even random, “going against the flow” stops on 2nd, for example, would probably not be the end of the world. If it makes stops anyway (and isn’t through routing) I bet it would be better than the current mess that occurs regularly.

        Another problem is that it would take a major overhaul, or you end up with the same bus on 2nd and 4th. That is really a pain given the hills, and can be quite confusing.

    2. At the earlier open house I expressed concern about the lack of transit lanes east of 17th. They SDOT guy said it wasn’t needed there so it would be hard to justify taking the lanes. I said what if it turns out to be needed after all, can it be done in the future? He seemed open to that. It would require money beyond Move Seattle to do.

      1. Madison is often backed up all the way down the hill from almost 23rd in the evenings–i.e. at the exact time when unobstructed bus service would be most useful (and would help to prevent bunching on the return). There are always cars parked all the way down the hill on the south side of Madison, but the only thing there is an apartment complex with its own parking so it may be possible to take that lane if it’s causing problems. Once the Madison Valley business district starts, it’s a bit more challenging as there is almost no other parking for people shopping there; that said, you’re nearly at the end of the line by then anyway.

    3. It’s used on second and is widely and wildly ingnored. I don’t walk on Second Avenue all that often, but on the few times I have done so I’ve seen several close calls where a driver turned right in front of a bike that had the bike signal, sometimes even going the same direction so the cyclist has less warning.

      1. That’s terrible, but in this case, I don’t think it matters. The reason they added the light was for safety. When it comes to a bus, you take your chances. In other words, from a traffic standpoint, we could just treat the bus lane like a bike lane. You can turn right in front of a bus, but you can’t drive on it (or block it). Of course that doesn’t stop idiots from breaking the law, but it definitely reduces the number of cars that foul up a bus. I’m not trying to be cavalier about accidents, but I’m saying it would greatly improve the situation if you simply prevented cars — in all situations — from driving in the bus lane.

  6. Won’t the median running sections create access problems for ambulances going to hospitals? Cars cannot easily pull out of the way. Buses can’t get out of the way at stations.

    What about fire truck geometries? These corners are already difficult and some of the corners look really tight if there isn’t a wider receiving area for fire trucks.

    1. Ambulances can just use the bus lanes and when there is a bus in the way, the emergency vehicle could pull into the oncoming bus lane. Or if both directions of buses are at stations, they could just pull forward.
      Fire trucks (ladders) have to often swing wide on turns and operate on much narrower and constrained streets throughout the city.
      Plus it’s bad urban design to design all (non-truck route) intersections for fire ladders and semi trucks… they just need to be accommodated, which may include turning into the wrong lane for infrequent movements.

    2. “it’s bad urban design to design all (non-truck route) intersections for fire ladders and semi trucks”

      To emphasize this, some cities require all streets to be large enough for two ladder trucks to turn simultaneously. This is what leads to boulevards as wide as freeways and residential streets as wide as boulevards. This is very pedestrian-hostile. Sometimes they also cut the intersection corners way back to allow emergency vehicles to turn at speed, and to minimize the chance that speeding drunk drivers will crash into people, but the deep rounded corners force pedestrians to turn out of their way to get to the crosswalk, and if that happens at every block it’s a lot. Of course these may be the same kinds of cities that have superblocks, so the intersections are every half mile with one large building or cul-de-sac neighborhood on each block, and that’s another problem for pedestrians.

      1. I have to note that the reason that ladder trucks are stationed in urban areas in the first place is to allow for buildings to be much taller. A neighborhood doesn’t need ladder trucks in areas that have building height limits and lots of zoning codes have height limits precisely for this reason. Wider ladder truck geometries are simply one of those tradeoffs that allow for tall buildings and high density in the first place.

      2. I don’t want to get too off-topic, but ladder trucks can be very useful in steep hillside neighborhoods as well, such as the eastern slope of Queen Anne which has lots of low-rise condo buildings.

      3. Downtown Seattle’s streets are four lanes wide, so like half a freeway. I haven’t heard that ladder trucks have trouble negotiating downtown streets. (Or Queen Anne for that matter.) In any case, if two ladder trucks together need to turn, one can wait for the other. It’s not like fifteen seconds of occasional turning will make much difference in total response time. And it’s in exchange for a better pedestrian environment, which will make people healthier and not need the fire department as much.

      4. It’s wide because there used to be a streetcar in the middle. You can still see part of the track where it turned, which is now in a car-repair shop or gas station parking lot. I don’t remember exactly where but somewhere around Woodland Park & 35th.

      5. asdf,

        Woodland Park Avenue was the streetcar route to Green Lake. That’s why it is so wide.

  7. I wish I could get excited about this, since the limited scope and slow pace of Sound Transit projects mean this is the only “rapid” transit service I’m ever likely to see in my neighborhood, but: it’s still just another lurchy, clunky bus, banging and rattling its unsteady way up and down Madison Street, just like today’s #8 and #11. This new bus will join them as my least-preferred transit option, something I’ll only ever put up with for a commute to work, where the cost of daily parking or Lyft rides would add up too quickly for my budget.

    I wish Seattle could afford to do better, because I’d really like to become a public-transit fan in practice and not just in theory.

    1. Careful, Mars. “Clunky” and “Lurchy” were Seattle Times- quality dog-whistle code words. For not being the elevated or subway they would have hated even more. FOX News and its favorite officeholder often do this with “Dishonest.” Meaning calling them on their lies.

      An airport line like Central LINK should at least have barriers and undercuts. Which I’m told by a source I trust can be done without stopping train service. Though will probably not because MLK line will likely remain limited stop local, ’til express track goes in past Boeing Field. But no complaints about ride quality.

      The banging and rattling part is a function of road-building. Same reinforced concrete pad the whole length of the route is as necessary as for streetcars. And maintained and repaired as necessary. Not tarmacked and patched. Upon which every meeting goer, and voter with a King County Councilmember should insist.

      Also, Dave and other people who drive out of same bases as some of its sorrier results- what do you think the public can do to get KC Metro instruction to point where driver can restart a hybrid coach? To late for DSTT. But Madison Rapid Ride will need many same skills. Trolleybuses can be beautifully smooth. But it takes a lot of detailed driver training to make them that way. Work should pay a lot more money. So it’s not always in the hands of angry temporary employees.

      BTW: may have missed this. But will center-running still unload to platform on right side of bus? Or will buses run counterflow on center right of way, so right-hand doors will still work for center platforms? Hope we’re not planning left-hand doors in addition to regular ones. But right side platforms will take up much more lane space. How’s this going to work?

      Thanks. Mark

      1. Mark – sorry, I don’t read the Seattle Times and I’m not familiar with any “dog-whistle” usage of the terms “clunky” and “lurchy”. I meant them as simple, literal descriptions of the bad ride quality which has been normal throughout my experience riding buses.

        Yes, of course bus rides would suck less if the city spent more money maintaining the roads they ride on, but how likely is THAT ever to change? The city will continue cutting corners on road maintenance as long as it saves money by doing so. You feel those bumps and ruts and jolts much more badly in a bus than an ordinary car, so it’ll continue to be the people who have no other option for transportation who will pay the price in discomfort for the city budget’s savings in cost.

    2. The proof is in the pudding, but this thing was designed, from the very beginning, to be different. The engineers have basically said “don’t worry about” when folks said this or that might slow it down. This makes it different than Roosevelt BRT, where they basically said “yeah, whatta you gonna do — not enough room for the bikes and cars”, when folks said it would be slow. In other words, SDOT is basically saying this will be fast. Level boarding, off board payment, signal priority and (hopefully) unimpeded progress all add up to a fast bus. Add in all day six minute headways, and it sure looks good to me.

      But it is also possible that it will have flaws. Cars will clog up the route through downtown, and prevent it from cruising up or down the hill. The “G Weave” will make if difficult to manage the areas east of 16th. But if that happens, I see it being eventually fixed. Worse case scenario you have a very frequent, fairly fast bus, that needs just a bit of investment to make it outstanding. That puts it in its own category — very different than Roosevelt BRT, which will likely never get the treatment it needs because it would too expensive — and different than every other bus (certainly a lot different than the 8 or 11).

      1. It does seem likely to be different in ways that will make it more of an actual “RapidRide” than the other lines bearing that unfortunate moniker. That’s a good thing, but there is more to life than just routes and headways. I see no reason to expect that this bus will differ from other buses in terms of ride quality; I therefore expect I will hate it and avoid using it just as much as I hate and avoid existing bus service.

      2. You must hate riding subways Mars. Compared to the jiggly NYC subway, or the ear splitting BART, our buses are smooth as silk.

      3. Quite the contrary: I love subways and earnestly wish Seattle would hurry up and build more of them. I don’t know what kind of silk you’re used to, but it seems clear that our life experiences have been very, very different. I have never in my life found any subway, light rail, heavy rail, trolley, tram, monorail, funicular, gondola, or other form of transit with a ride as rough as the ordinary, everyday back-and-forth across Capitol Hill I’ve experienced during those portions of my life when I’ve been commuting to work via the #8, #11, #3, or #43. I can hardly imagine how it would be possible; try to run a trolley on rails as badly maintained as Seattle’s streets and you’d derail the damn thing every week. Which routes do you ride that have given you such a positive impression?

  8. Any figures on expected travel times? How “rapid” is this RapidRide really going to be, compared with the Route 12, or is the main improvement going to be frequency and reliability (not necessarily a bad thing)?

    1. Five minutes from 1st to Broadway, five minutes to at least 23rd if not the end. That will be hugely, amazingly faster than the 12, 2, 3, or 4.

    2. So ten minutes from end to end if that wasn’t clear. Possibly a minute or two longer for the 23rd to MLK extension.

  9. I must be missing something basic here but how does a metro bus accommodate stops on both the right side and left side (for center lane stops)? Are they going to purchase new equipment for this specific route that will have doors on both sides of the bus, and what will this do to bus capacity? Operationally will they be fairly constrained on substituting/reallocating equipment with other routes?

    1. Yes, there will be three doors on the right and two on the left. SDOT is considering center lanes for parts of the other RapidRide+ routes, such as part of 45th, so they may become more common anyway. And Metro may start using center lanes in the suburbs for the suburban RapidRide lines. (The ones in the map I linked to above.)

    2. I haven’t looked at cycle times, but I hope the spare ratio is pretty generous. I’d hate to see them have to cancel trips or increase headways just because one too many buses with left-side doors need repairs.

      I also expect these buses may have shorter axle gearing than the standard XT60s used on the 7/44/49/70, meaning they will accelerate faster up steep hills but have a lower top speed.

      1. My sense of left-side doors too, David. At speeds we’re talking about, I really wonder about simply switching- with signal pre-empt of course- to counterflow. Same setup as Bellevue Transit Center.

        Fear of accidents? Would like to hear reasons. Because maybe it’s being gunshy over elevators and escalators, but any non-standard machinery seems to be one more long apology while consulting team can be assembled to see why the doors don’t work. Slow speed and bad ride quality feel worst from behind the wheel.

        But Mars, got to forgive me. Easy to lose track of just how many years it’s been since the DSTT, bus an light rail, were still on the drafting boards.

        But my point is that none of these things are forces of Nature. Usual explanation is that money is too scarce to ever get the work done completely right. Harsh and intolerant maybe, but I suspect that problem is usually people in key decision making positions choosing to be distracted by matters that don’t involve machinery.

        Excellent example from DSTT construction days- a few years before opening day in 1990- had a talk with a young technician from Breda at a favorite Italian-run cafe at First and Steward. “The bus we’re turning out…This is not a Breda! Every point we bring up…We can’t get a decision!”

        Every time I quoted those remarks upward- I was on the Joint Union-Management Operations Advisory group- same one word answer: “Governance!” Short for: “King County is Trying to Take Over Metro!” Currently translated in these pages: “Transit Should Be Run By an Elected Board.”

        More disheartening…Metro Council meeting. Sitting next of friend of mine who’s one of the world’s top rail engineers. Public comment period at the time it was needed most. Asked the engineer: “Why don’t you get up and straighten these people out?”

        Answer: “An engineer will tell a decision-maker what the choices are, and the likely technical and financial considerations of each. But he’ll never tell a client What They Should Do!” Damn. So how do we, as transit technicians and knowledgeable voters get smooth operations, including driver skill and ride quality?

        Organize. And learn how to lobby- which re: machinery involves knowing how to take it apart- seldom in position to do it, but mainly knowing enough technical facts to either get a straight answer from officials. Or call them knowledgeably out in public ’til they deliver one. Also actual machinery of Government at every level. Like how to write laws.

        For what it’s worth, the local organization most inexcusably missing from this role is Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587. Membership with intimate operating knowledge of every nut, bolt and resistor in the system. And every consideration and consequence of things exactly like roadbed quality. And scheduling. And passenger handling.

        And protected by contract from any punishment for Speaking the Truth to Power Badly Used. Shared by absolutely no one in Management or elected politics, in any office in any State including the Governor.

        And, in our region’s case, handed, more than 35 years ago, a one-of-a-kind regional transit system, started with more or less standard buses. Changing over to operator-driven trains at a smooth, easy pace. Demanding a union member at the controls of every single vehicle for at least a decade more from today. For starters.

        The kind of effort the transit you deserve is going to require, Mars…on Day One, invite 587 along.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Side note, has anybody heard about how Metro’s negotiations with the cities are going in the suburbs? Just like SDOT, the suburban RapidRide lines will require the cities or county to approve, construct, and help fund the capital costs of transit lanes and center lanes if they’re going to happen. Move Seattle voters stepped up, SDOT has stepped up, but so far the suburbs have done nothing concrete that I know of. Bellevue has an excellent transit master plan but hasn’t done anything about funding the improvements, other than things it can incorporate into its downtown and Spring District construction it’s doing anyway. The last two countywide Metro supplemental funding measures failed. So, will the cities step up? Are there any encouraging signs that they might?

  10. Does we/Sound Transit know where the new downtown tunnel will be? Do we know where the green line light rail stop will be along Madison? It would be a shame not to plan for a BRT stop at that intersection now.

    1. It’s hard to plan that stop when there is no alignment for the new tunnel. There’s been discussion for the Madison entrance to be on 5th, 8th, or even Boren (dont hold your breath).

      1. Current documents do show an alignment, under 5th and 6th. That is not set in stone yet and there have certainly been discussions about changing it, but I would assume that the station will be in the vicinity of 5th and Madison unless ST indicates otherwise.

      2. Light rail projects go through several rounds of planning. The first before the vote is a conceptual corridor: the major communities that would be served. After the vote — especially for projects seeking federal grants, and ST has chosen to do it for all LR lines anyway — is an Alternatives Analysis, where several different alignments are compared. The feds require “all reasonable alternatives” — anything a public stakeholder might sue about if it’s not included, and also more economical BRT where feasible. The outcome of that is a preferred alternative and one or more others, plus a “no build” alternative. These form the basis for the EIS, which compares them more deeply and must list all their environmental impacts — again, everything that a stakeholder might sue over if it’s not studied/disclosed in the EIS. All this takes 2-3 years after the vote (and most projects don’t even begin until some time after the vote). The end result is an EIS with a preferred alternative and two or more other alternatives (including “no build”). The ST board then decides whether to build, which alternative to build, or whether to mix-and-match from the alternatives. But most likely it will chose the preferred alternative (because it was the one that preferred it in the first place).

        We can say that most likely the “representative alignment” in the ballot measure will be the preferred alternative, but it won’t be certain until further studies are done, alternatives are compared, and the board makes decisions. If ST deviates from the concept in the ballot measure, it will have to write a justification statement for it. That’s easy to do but the board is reluctant to. That’s why ST was so reluctant to move Lynnwood Link from I-5, or to move 145th Station to 130th, or to add a 130th station (unless it had extra money). So the original concept is most likely.

        The representative alignment runs on 5th with stations at Westlake, Madison, and Intl Dist. Martin has been advocating to move the Madison station further east to 8th Avenue, so the line would curve from 5th & Pine and back to 5th & Jackson. I think he wrote an article about it. The pro argument is it would be within walking distance of the First Hill hospitals and most of the neighborhood, and partly make up for deleting First Hill Station from University Link. The con arguments are that that the library would lose out a second time, it would be further from the denser downtown where many people are going, and it would require going under I-5 twice which would be expensive and risky. And the freeway is fifty years old and at the end of its life, and will eventually need a complete refurbishment if it’s not decomissioned, and a rail tunnel underneath it could cause complications. (I-5 should be renovated now but the state is dragging its feet because of the billions-of-dollars cost.)

    2. That would be very logical. But it’s not planned for that I can tell. It will probably end up two blocks away from the transfer.

    3. As I mentioned above, it still won’t connect to the Link light rail line that goes to Snohomish County, UW, Bellevue/Eastside and West Seattle. At least that’s assuming that ST doesn’t change the configuration of the various lines.

      1. Snohomish County and Bellevue are twelve miles from downtown, taking around 25 minutes at the chosen alignments, as compared to 15, 45, or 60 minutes in a car or bus depending on the time and congestion. RapidRide G is one block from University Street Station, or a minute or two walk. That’s a large part of the total trip if you’re going to Capitol Hill or SODO, but it’s a tiny part of the trip if you’re going to Snohomish County or Bellevue.

  11. Regarding the connection to the 48 / future 23rd Ave RapidRide: As part of the 23rd Ave rebuild, the sidewalk on 23rd northbound at Madison was widened significantly by concreting over a planting strip that used to be there. It now looks an awful lot like it wants to be a bus stop and is immediately around the corner from the proposed westbound Madison BRT stop. I suspect that the 48 is going to get some stop consolidation/reorganization and will have a new stop here. I tweeted some pictures.

    For the southbound 48 there’s already a (freshly rebuilt) stop on the same block (between John and Madison). The nearest eastbound Madison BRT stop will be a block down at 24th so it’ll be a bit of a walk up/down the hill.

  12. The location of the 2nd subway tunnel has not been decided yet. The rough plan is for a station on 5th ave between Spring St & Madison St, the courthouse and the library although we on First Hill and many Communities to the East would prefer the station to be located between Spring and Madison Streets either at 8th, 9th, or Terry Avenues … that way it would serve the Hospitals, Town Hall, First Hill and provide a better connection to the BRT line (lets people avoid the I5 crossing slog)

    An 8th Ave tunnel stop would be great as 4 20-30 story buildings are being built right there with another 2-3 blocks to the South. (think Capitol Hill station w/actual buildings above)

    A 9th Ave tunnel stop could have entrances at both Terry and 8th splitting the difference w/connections to two BRT stops (Terry & 8th Ave)

    A Terry Ave tunnel stop would directly serve most of the 24,000/sq mi population of First Hill as well as Swedish, VMMC, The Cathedral, Town Hall, Bloodworks NW, etc …

    Regardless, the subway entrance would be sited adjacent to one of the BRT stops.

    As for the buses, they are getting 12 I think … will need 8 for service at any one time leaving 4 spares (might be 10/12 split) … there will be no payment on the bus at all … just like Link. There will be no bike rack on the front of the bus (at least that’s the plan) as there will be 4 bike stowage positions inside the rear doors like on Swift (Community Transit’s BRT service)

    Bus layout (conceptual):

    Only detail that they had no answer for (yet) was what happens when the OCS is de-energized. There are no plans right now for a sub fleet of left-door equipped diesel/hybrid buses.

    As for some of the comments above. The stops are all located where they are for specific reasons.

    12th Ave connects with the 2 and serves Seattle U, Seattle Academy, the entire 12th Ave Corridor

    Summit/Boylston serves Swedish Medical Center as well as the First Hill Streetcar
    Boren/Terry serves Virginia Mason Medical Center, Bloodworks, The Cathedral, the High School, and most of the residents
    8th Ave & Spring/Madison serves Polyclinic, Town Hall, Freeway Park, and 5000+ apartments that are in various stages of development.

    5th Ave/ Madison & Spring: Serves the Public Library, theater district, hotels, and restaurants; it improves the EB rt 2 (which will be staying on Spring/Seneca for the foreseeable future)

    We, on First Hill, requested exclusive bus lanes due to the congestion that Madison faces because it is an I5 access point. As an additional benefit it will provide first responders with a (mostly) clear path to the Hospitals.

    Originally, contra-flow bus-only lanes were suggested, as that would slow traffic down but according to SDOT this added too many potential problems (safety et al) (but they did study the suggestion) … that would have made it easier for other bus lines to share stops (tho it would have prevented the use of a shared streetcar platform on 1st ave) as well as the need for a distinct subfleet.

    As to why this is being built … well it’s one of the most congested corridors in the city, serves TWO hospitals directly, and TWO hospitals indirectly and First Hill alone has 24,000 residents/sq mi with another 30-50,000 hospital workers (many of whom live in S Seattle and would love to ride Link to transfer at the BRT station on Madison or change trains a stop later at Westlake.) In addition there are patients, and their visitors. Added to that are all the communities to the east.

    Many many who live on First Hill also work in SLU so again, it’s the correct train line.

    If one want’s to lament that they’ll have to walk 1 Block more to the Ferry, well it’ll be on flat surface unlike the anti-disabled stop mid-block on Marion. And it’ll directly connect to the Streetcar which is also good.

    Now I cannot speak for the bicycle component as I am not a bike rider (medical issues) nor do I know what good design is for bike facilities (other than PBL is better than anything else) but there is no good solution here due to Madison’s geometry, the topography, et al. The north side of Spring St is Hotels w/Valets, garage entrances, etc … south side is garage entrances, bus stops and then the Federal Marshals parking spaces — they’ve already said that they won’t relocate.

    As for why the route ends at Madison Valley and not Lake Washington, Madison Park doesn’t want trolley wires and they stomp their feet and made a huge fuss over losing service to the Westlake area. If companies like Proterra manage to create a usable 60′ electric bus, then this route would be a prime opportunity to deploy such a vehicle for the entire length of Madison St (at leas for some runs) (much foot stomping would probably still occur)

    The real problem that will arise is that bus lane enforcement and restricted turn enforcement will rely solely on SPD … and we know how “wonderful” they are at that today. (just look at the number of people who ignore the no turns and do not enter sign at Broadway / E Denny)

    1. “As for why the route ends at Madison Valley and not Lake Washington, Madison Park doesn’t want trolley wires and they stomp their feet and made a huge fuss over losing service to the Westlake area.”

      Not all of us, just the most vocal residents (like the people on First Hill or at ACRS) who successfully retained service at a detriment to many others.

      I wholly agree with the new rail line serving First Hill instead of 5th Avenue, which would share some of the same walkshed as the additional line. If they can make a connection work at Westlake, First Hill service is superior and serves an already dense neighborhood and travel demand generator (hospitals).

      1. Hopefully they’ll be able to up the Sunday/holiday frequency to 10 minutes to match Link.

      2. It’s a start. “Matching Link” can mean two different things: either being as frequent as Link, or “a bus for every train” implying a timed transfer. I think timed transfers are a futile effort for a bus in the center of town: there’s just too much uncertainty with traffic and stoplights and cars changing lanes and wheelchair loading. It’s more reliable out in the boonies on back roads that never have traffic, such as the 106 between Rainier Beach and Renton, or the 30 that used to run from the U-District to Sand Point, or probably the 348 once it gets out of Northgate. Outlying routes also tend to have long layovers that absorb any variations that occur. But expecting to get out of Link and always making an immediate G, that sounds like too much to expect. So I’d just focus on plain frequency, which also means that if you miss the next bus you won’t have to wait long for the following one.

        In that light, the first thing I notice is that the G switches to “evening frequency” at 7pm, whereas Link does so at 10pm. That’s the biggest hole that will be noticed, because 7pm is still peak shoulder, and 8 and 9pm people are still going to evening activities and late dinners. The Sunday frequency also leaves something to be desired: it’s basically like those routes that revert to half-hourly or hourly on Sundays, although at least with 15 minutes you won’t have to wait that long. It means people will have to plan for less mobility on Sundays.

      3. I agree, Mike. I would say 6 minutes until 8:00 PM, then 10 minutes until 10:00, then 15 minutes until closing sounds about right. Oh, and 10 minutes on Sundays and holidays, too. In fact you could make a strong argument for six minutes every day, given the hospitals this serves.

  13. I’ll make another pitch (as unpopular as it is on here) for finding a way to end RapidRide G at UW Station. With the recent recommendation to terminate routes from 520 there, an extension could serve both a 520 freeway station and UW Station for Link. Given the current and future overcrowding of Link between UW and Downtown, having an extension of this route work as a single-transfer surface alternative would be very strategic and powerful, especially for locations south of Madison Street on First Hill. Why make Eastside riders transfer twice (made worse with the UW level change problem AND the RapidRide G stop being a few blocks from Link in Downtown Seattle) when it could be a very convenient transfer if RapidRide G was extended?

    A final advantage is that the Arthur Place layover could be eliminated from the project. The corner of Madison and MLK is a big problem for turning Route 8 buses today, and RapidRide G is going to have the same problem. It seems silly to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a project only to create a big operations mess at the outer end of the route.

    1. Or just wait for the 48 to be RapidRide-ized for frequent service on both corridors. Same end result.

      1. No it’s not the same.

        Transfers would be required. It’s also likely that those transfers will be a block from each other.

      2. You would have both.

        There is a lot to be said for overlapping BRT lines. It is quite common, and allows you to get really good headways on the shared segments while maximizing your investment in right of way. However, I see a couple problems with that idea, as intriguing as it is:

        1) The shared segment is very weak. It is the weakest part of the 48 route, and much weaker than the current G. To double up service on such a sparsely populated area is not a great way to spend money. Very high frequency (e. g. 3 minutes) is wonderful for spontaneous rides, but only if you have people who can take advantage of them.

        2) It isn’t clear how much right of way investment will be made for that corridor. SDOT has made it clear that they believe that the G will run very fast, without being slowed down by cars — and if it isn’t, they will fix it. There is no such promise on Roosevelt HCT, nor on the 48. They may just have a stop diet and very frequency service to go along with off board payment and some signal priority. If that happens, then you really don’t want the G to be hampered by the delay that could cause.

        A three seat ride doesn’t bother me as much as the various connections. Unfortunately, there is only so much we can do about it. Ideally we would have a Link station on Madison as well as where Link crosses 520. We won’t, so that means:

        1) We need to improve the 520 to Link connection. This is essential, whether folks take another ride from there.

        2) Improve the connection from CHS to Madison. One approach would be to run another BRT line up Madison, but deviate, to get closer to the station (either via 12th or Broadway). Broadway would be ideal, but you would need to move the bike path to 12th, which is expensive. Ending at Aloha would be adequate. That could mean six minute all day service for both lines, and three minute service on the core of this route. Metro would then run buses east-west (Aloha to Belmont to South Lake Union) along with a bus on 14th/15 (Group Health to Cherry Hill and beyond). You would have a real grid, along with some fast connections to downtown and First Hill. Now folks from the north end (UW, Roosevelt, Northgate, etc.) would take Link to CHS, then transfer to the BRT to get to the hospitals or Seattle U.

        But that won’t happen for a long time. For now the focus should be on that first issue (the connection from 520 buses to Link) and making sure the bus stops for the G are good ones.

    2. That would more than double the length of the route. It’s probably the case the upgrades to 23rd would be less costly on a per mile basis, but not that much less. Also, 2X as many special new buses.

      So if you’re going to promote this, not as a thing that would be cool in a world with unlimited resources but as a thing that should be done in this world, you need to identify a whole lot of other projects you think SDOT/Metro should cancel to pay for it.

    3. Theoretically there could be a second line on Madison-23rd from 1st Ave and the U-District. That would achieve Al S’s goal without disrupting RR G plans and its potential extension to Madison Park. It’s also how the 4 MONTLAKE used to run — the precursor of the 43.

  14. Given the confusion in this and other recent comment threads about how one project will interact with other expected changes in the network, I think we need to somehow focus more on the totality of changes, or what each project means in the context of everything else that’s happening. Metro’s TMP is not set in stone: it will have to go through all the restructure hearings and tweaks the U-Link restructure did, but it gives us an outline of the most likely situation in their surrounding areas when RapidRide G, North Link, and Lynnwood Link open And some of the other RapidRides and 522 BRT are scheduled to be open either ahead of or at their neighboring Link opening.

    Now clearly, only those who understand the totality can leverage it — it takes a certain amount of transit experience to be able to intuit the gestalt and how it will affect people’s trips overall — we can’t expect everybody to keep track of so many pieces in their head and predict how they’ll interact, But for those who are able to understand and hold most of them in their head, we have a special responsibility to articulate them, and to articulate particular projects in their context so that everybody can understand, “What will be my choices if I’m standing at 4th & Marion and want to go east?” (or standing anywhere and going in any direction). Hopefully we can get to some more articles and comment threads exploring these totality issues, since there will be a lot of new situations coming up. East Seattle in 2018, near north Seattle in 2021, far north Seattle and Snohomish County and the Eastside in 2023, and whenever RapidRides 40, 44, 48, 70, etc are ready.

    1. I agree, and it does make some of the suggestions here more difficult. The focus at this point should be on the stops, in my opinion, and the key to that is the connections. Not knowing how the other buses will travel in the area makes this a challenging task. Here are my thoughts:

      1) There will definitely be crossing service on Broadway as well as 23rd.

      2) There will be crossing bus service downtown, but we don’t know which streets will carry most of the buses.

      3) Link will have a station where it is now, and the ferry will unload where it unloads now.

      4) The 2 will be most likely be moved, as described above, and as presented on the long range plan ( The map is not detailed enough to show how that is supposed to work, but the basic idea is to dogleg up to Pike as the bus gets close to Madison. Turning on 12th is impossible and 13th is one way. It makes the most sense to use 14th. This switch makes sense now, as it would smooth out the rough edges of the route. It makes a tremendous amount of sense later, as there is no need to service Spring with the 2 anymore — it is better to concentrate service on Pike/Pine while this bus serves Madison and Spring.

      5) The long range plan suggest a north-south bus crossing Madison at 12th. I would like to see a similar bus cross via 15th and 14th. It isn’t clear if either will happen.

      With that in mind, here are my thoughts:

      1) The connection to Link is very important, as is the connection with the ferry, but I don’t think we can make it any better, without screwing up the route. To get closer to Link would require making a detour on 3rd. To get closer to the ferry, you have to go farther south. The two are at odds with each other, and the current routing splits the difference, while maintaining a straightforward route. Besides, I think at this point, that ship has sailed.

      2) The connections at Broadway and 23rd are probably the most important after those.

      3) If the 2 continues on its current course, then I doubt there will be many transfers. They more or less overlap through downtown, then flare slightly away from each other. On the other hand, if they do make the suggested change, then transfers could be fairly common. Madison and Pine are far enough away to justify a transfer.

      4) Similarly, it is worth considering what a transfer would look like for 12th, as well as 14th and 15th.

      Specific suggestions:

      1) It would be nice to move the stop closer to Broadway, but the best way to do that is to get rid of a left turn lane, either eastbound or westbound. That is difficult to do. You need the lane, or you need to ban a left turn. Eastbound, that would mean a huge detour. Westbound it is possible, as you would ask folks to make three right turns (on Boylston, Spring and Harvard).

      Another alternative would be to place a stop close to Broadway Court, west of Broadway. There is enough room there to add a stop, and keep the left turn lanes. You would need to add crosswalks there, though, as despite the intersection, it is essentially a mid-block crossing (

      2) There is a stop between 12th and 13th. This is great if they run a bus on 12th. It’s not good if the 2 cuts over on 14th, of they run a bus on 14th/15th. This is why we really shouldn’t build a stop until we know what the restructure will be like. Since that won’t happen, I’m inclined to just live with it, even though we may soon regret it.

      3) The westbound bus stop next to 23rd is outstanding, right where you want it. The eastbound bus stop is not. I really don’t understand why they don’t just use the existing eastbound 11 bus stop here:

      1. Re specific suggestion #3. I asked about this specifically at the open house on Wednesday. The person I talked too – who seemed very knowledgeable and thoughtful — explained to me all of the different struggles they went through to get the stops as close to 23rd as possible. Things I’d never thought of. For instance, for the southwest-bound stop, they originally had it further east because the building at the corner with 23rd has entrances level with the sidewalk right at the sidewalk. And because there will be level boarding, they need to build the sidewalk up higher, and the engineers originally said they couldn’t do it without ruining ADA compliance for that building. But with additional pressure the engineers found a way to lower the road instead – expensive, but doable. For the northeast-bound stop, he said they don’t want to put it where the current 11 stop is, because that will cause cars to back up behind it into the busy Madison intersection. I’m not sure why it’s OK for the 11 to do it, but he insisted that it’s no longer considered an option. And I can see why that is. (Of course if the bus had its own lane, like it should, this wouldn’t be a problem). As for putting it just west of 23rd, they would have to buy out the Madison Church of God through eminent domain, which I sensed was an economic and political non-starter.

        Don’t know how accurate these responses are, but that’s what he said.

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