King County Metro RapidRide 2013 New Flyer DE60LFR 6089

Photo by Zack Heistand on Flickr

SDOT has kicked off design for Rapid Ride H, the planned upgrade of the Route 120-Delridge corridor. The work area stretches 4 miles from the West Seattle Bridge to the southern city limits at Roxbury Street. Route 120 is one of the top-performing routes in Metro’s network, with 6,300 boardings per day. Comments on early concept designs are due by March 31, and you can view the proposals here.

There are a few unique things about this corridor relative to other Rapid Ride corridors. First, it will be the first route improved with SDOT funds that also extends past Seattle – into White Center and Burien – meaning that improvements south of Roxbury will have a separate (and not necessarily simultaneous) Metro-run process. If White Center annexes into the city during the project timeframe, it is unclear whether this will increase SDOT’s scope of work or not.

Topography and development patterns have meant that Route 120 is already relatively fast, averaging 15mph between Roxbury and the West Seattle Bridge. There is little transfer activity along the line due to a broken grid and steep hillsides, and the corridor is primarily residential or small-scale commercial development. This means there is little to get in the way of the bus.

But aside from a short Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane approaching the bridge, there is no transit priority on the corridor today, and bike facilities are limited to two disconnected (but generally high quality) greenways flanking Delridge on both sides.

SDOT is proposing two broad concepts for the corridor. Option 1 is the more aggressive for transit priority, with BAT lanes from Andover to Alaska and from Graham to Holden Street. Parking would be removed to make way for these BAT lanes, but between Alaska and Graham Street parking would be retained and buses would run in general traffic. Throughout Option 1, the center turn lane would be replaced with a landscaped median wherever roadway width permits.

Option 2 would only provide BAT lanes between the West Seattle Bridge and Alaska St. More parking would be retained, and a continuous southbound Protected Bike Lane (PBL) would be built from the uphill stretch from Andover to Holden. A northbound PBL would be built for a short 3-block stretch between Webster and Orchard. Where the corridor narrows south of Holden Street, both options would retain the current look of street parking and general purpose traffic, but with center turn lane/median improvements.

Beyond the channelizations, both options would invest heavily in resurfacing the street, removing a handful of stops to bring the stop spacing up from 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile, adding shelters and off-board payment, and improving east-west connections from Delridge to the adjacent neighborhood greenways. The primary tradeoffs, once again, seem to be between bicycle and transit facilities, but these improvements would enable a big boost to frequency and reliability, and an 8-12% improvement in speed.

24 Replies to “Rapid Ride H Kicks Off, Comment by March 31”

  1. It’s a minor detail but I don’t know why SDOT has been promoting the “6,300 boardings” figure in project materials without further specification. It may indeed be the correct number for boardings within the city limits or on Delridge Way proper but ridership along the entire 120 corridor is clearly higher. Metro’s Service Guidelines gives 8,900 as the average weekday ridership:

    If you compare with other routes, I would say that the difference between the two numbers is the difference between a moderately-patronized route and a heavily-patronized one that is one of Metro’s most productive. Apparently an SDOT representative wasn’t even aware whether the number represented boardings on Delridge Way or on the entire route, so I figure that it’s worth making a clarification on this point.

  2. > There are few unique things about this corridor

    You probably mean “a few”. “few” conveys a quite different meaning.

  3. The one-way protected bike lanes in Section C of Option 2 don’t seem very well thought-out. The reason bike lanes are needed on this part of Delridge is that Delridge is the street grid west of it is interrupted — there are no other streets that cross Sylvan Way for some distance to the west. The bike route has to get as far north Myrtle to provide a rather marginal cut-through route to the greenway; to Juneau to really work well; maybe Graham is far enough with improvements to the bridge over Longfellow Creek. But it has to work in both directions!

    One-way climbing-direction bike lanes are a typical pattern in Seattle, but this one seems a little crazy. It’s not that steep of a hill along Delridge, and it’s on a street where people drive pretty fast. Even most fast cyclists aren’t going to keep up with traffic northbound (and most people, most days wouldn’t want to if they could), and a landscaped median means drivers won’t be able to use the median to pass cyclists. That means drivers approaching from behind will pressure cyclists to ride in the door zone so they can squeeze by in-lane — two dangers in one! Meanwhile on the other side extra width is being used for buffering and “protection” (probably plastic wands) for a climbing-direction lane — that width is least necessary on a climb because both the bikes and cars are going slower!

    And parking is specified only on the east side of Delridge. What’s along the east side? An impassable ridge and a school with an off-street parking lot. It seems like most people parking on the east side will need to cross the street to get to and from their houses. They’ll be physically blocked from doing so in many places by the landscaped median, and where the median is punctuated by crosswalks the landscaping will block drivers’ view of their crossing (the mid-block crosswalk of Pacific Street west of Brooklyn is an example of this, and the paucity of traffic signals along Delridge means most pedestrian crossings will not be at signals).

    So… the southbound bike lane is taking up a lot of space, parking demand is probably mostly for west-side houses, and the landscaped median is just in the way. So we move the parking to the west side. I don’t think it’s high-turnover parking, so it might not matter much, but let’s suppose we still want our southbound bike lane to be separated from traffic, so we can do a “parking-protected” lane. Not my favorite, but with the slower speed of climbing bikes it’s fine, and it means the width of parking and the width of the bike lane’s buffer are consolidated. Then get rid of the landscaping and make the median as narrow as possible and maybe there’s room for a northbound bike lane. Not a very wide one, but since it’s not next to parking you don’t need a door-zone buffer, and you can put up wands since there’s no need for cars to cross the line. Or get rid of the median entirely to make room for a wider bike lane, and where extra width is needed for turn pockets eat into parking/buffer space.

    As the options are, the widened sidewalk of Option 1 is probably more useful for local biking than the bike lane in Option 2, and it gets a bus lane and queue jump in…

    1. (To be sure: I don’t think it’s a good idea for fast riders to take to an 8′-12′ sidewalk. Most of the times I bike that way I’m going long/fast enough that it’s not where I’d be. But I grew up in a suburb, often getting around by bike, and I’ve at least seen the area from running along the Longfellow Creek Trail… and I’m pretty sure if I was 14 and needed to get from somewhere near Westwood Village to the Delridge Playfield, that’s what I’d do.)

  4. The thing about the 120 is – it’s fine when traveling relatively short distances, but it’s too slow to travel end-to-end – too many stops, plus the overhead of the Westwood Village Deviation. Taking the F-line to TIBS to ride Link is one option, but it’s not really any faster – it’s a bit out of the way, plus the overhead of an additional transfer. The proposed improvements will help only marginally – what’s really needed is an all-day express on SR-509, but course, that will never happen.

    1. That’s my impression of the 120 too: it’s faster than the 131 or 132, but its 50-minute travel time is really not acceptable, the same as the 150 in Kent (60 minutes). The distribution of all-day expresses is essentially arbitrary, either reflecting patterns from forty years ago (Lake City/Bothell, Federal Way, Renton [if the 101’s predecessor 107 was all-day]) or political favor (Redmond, Issaquah). Notably left out is Burien, Kent, and Shoreline. That makes me not want to live in Burien or Kent to avoid the isolation, and I’m surprised there haven’t been more calls to rectify the situation. I was hoping that the 120’s partial transit lanes would at least get it up to a respectable 30 minutes, but asdf’s pessamistic assessment sounds like it won’t. When I started visiting Burien in the 1980s I came to the same conclusion asdf2 did: just run the trunk part of the peak expresses all day. It’s this kind of gap that’s making people clamor for light rail, because that seems to be the only way to get something to fill in these gaps. But Burien will not get light rail for at least thirty years. Will it have anything better than the 120 by that time? Will choice riders continue to avoid living there? Will Burien’s poor people continue to have more difficulty getting around than people in other areas?

    2. There used to be midday trips on the 121 in both directions (between Burien TC and Seattle only). They were removed in the 2014 cuts due to low ridership. But Metro would restore them in its Long-Range Plan.

    3. So… will this investment really help much?

      If express routes would help locala more than RR branding, why don’t we just make a Rapid Ride express?

    4. RapidRide will bring full-time frequency, which will help the lower-income people along the corridor. It’s two different transit markets: RapidRide for people going to and from Delridge, and between Delriddge, White Center, and Burien. Express for Burien-Seattle. If RapidRide were fast enough we wouldn’t need the express, but I’ve taken the 120 and even getting to White Center seems like it takes longer than it should, and Burien is beyond that. Going to Burien I usually take Link+F, and coming from Burien I usually take the C to Westwood Village, transfer to the 120, and make a stopover at the West Seattle Junction. That’s another trip pattern.

  5. I can’t say that I’ve used this corridor, but..

    What a mess. Choose between incomplete (one way) cycle infra and partial exclusive bus lanes?

    I’d rather the bike money be spent better connecting the existing bikeways *across* this route than bothering with more disconnected bike lanes. Complete, well signed routes are better than partial protection that randomly throws you into general traffic.

    Can’t they drop the rest of the arterial parking for more lane space? If you must have street parking, its better to have it on side streets anyway.

    1. Delridge is a natural bike route in spite of lacking in bike improvements because it is a gentle grade and direct route. I’m in favor of having bike infrastructure on arterial streets, but that’s just me. the parallel routes are never as good; steep grades, hard to cross major streets, many turns. Sometimes you just want to ride your bike somewhere quickly and nothing beats the arterial streets.

      I’m opposed to trading off bike improvements for a planted median. everywhere a planted median is proposed there could be space for bikes instead. Bikes are going to use this corridor whether bike lanes are provided or not. People will just be forced to ride in the bus lanes slowing down the buses

    2. That’s a point. I like planted medians, but is this one displacing something important? Would removing this median really lead to good bike lanes (and possibly faster buses).

      1. If the planted medians are interspersed with turn lanes, no. You can’t removed the planted medians without also removing the turn lanes. It’s really just a way to fill in space between turn lanes.

      2. @AJ: But in this case there’s parking. Most turn pockets along Delridge don’t have to be very long, and you can’t have parking right up to intersections anyway, so turn lanes can displace parking at intersections, the lanes just have to shift around a little within the ROW. And that’s OK, those shifts help keep drivers alert and dampen speed creep on a corridor that otherwise goes a long way without many interruptions.

        Planted medians are probably bad in general. If it’s just cars we’re talking about, medians hide oncoming and cross traffic, which generally causes drivers to go faster. With pedestrians involved, including people crossing the street to access parking spaces, medians can present really bad visibility problems for non-signalized crossings; as I mentioned above, the mid-block crosswalk of Pacific west of Brooklyn in the U District is an example of this.

      3. Planted medians are good in general. The one in Mercer makes the street look half as bad as it would with just a solid mass of lanes or a useless continuous left-turn lane. When I first went to California as an adult (I left there when I was six so I don’t remember much), one of the things I noticed was the many medians and U-turns, and wished we had those. A median would be a great amenity for Delridge, and it would answer those open-space advocates without taking land from housing. But if the median displaces transit priority then it may be too much of a tradeoff.

      4. Maybe it’s OK on Mercer, which is actually really wide and controlled by traffic signals at every intersection. Similarly, maybe it’s OK on the part of Fauntleroy where it’s proposed. On this part of Delridge? A street that’s not really all that wide, running straight for some time with few traffic signals, that will still need to regularly be crossed by pedestrians and vehicles?

        It reminds me a bit of what Kunstler calls “Nature Band-Aids”. We’ve got a (real) problem and we don’t know how to fix it, so let’s throw in some trees, make it “pretty”, and call it good.

        Even where they might appear to have the best chance, where they’re directly connected to parks, planted medians don’t work. The form of the roadways isn’t the only reason Chicago’s Olmstead boulevard network stands out as an urban planning failure, but it’s one of them — less convoluted roadways could have been better adapted to socioeconomic changes Olmstead didn’t anticipate (as many other streets were). And the failure of the boulevards is in contrast to the parks that they link: the parks are true neighborhood centerpieces while the boulevards are forgotten wastelands (with the exception of the Midway, whose central green is so wide that it is actually used as a neighborhood park, featuring many programmed activities).

        You might think that the “park-like” features of a boulevard would make them great pedestrian streets, but this is almost never the case. Ravenna Boulevard appears to invite walkers and runners down the green, until confusing intersections and lack of crosswalks for the purpose punish them for trying. On Beacon Ave they actually put a path down the middle, and it almost works (because there’s not a freeway interchange and lots of traffic trying to turn across it), but has troublesome intersections. Campus Parkway is a critical bus transfer point, marred by extra-long crossing distances, lack of several needed crosswalks, and general difficulty making sense of the space, all of which are in some way tied to the median green. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many boulevards lack necessary crosswalks, whether in Chicago, or here along Mercer and Ravenna. The need to find time in signal cycles for drivers to make extra-long turning movements and clear extra-large intersections pressures streets engineers to get pedestrians out of the way entirely. Even on streets without tons of traffic, like 17th Ave NE, Mount Baker Boulevard, and the eastern parts of Ravenna Boulevard, the median imposes inflexibility on the street, so that trying to ride a bike at a relaxed pace, which should be the most natural thing on a “park-like” street, is a chore, as you’re frequently pressured by drivers from behind that have no way around — something that bears directly on Delridge.

        So… with the possible exception of the very widest roads with so many lanes that they really need a break halfway, put the green space on the sides, where people can actually enjoy it.

    3. As a cyclist, I’m OK with putting bike routes on parallel streets in some cases. Maybe along most of Delridge, even. The western route on 26th is mostly OK, but it can’t get you across Sylvan Way (which continues as Orchard and Dumar). The eastern route is at a significantly different elevation from Delridge Way itself; there’s a very steep climb to get there from the bridge, or from most locations along Delridge Way. This means there’s one critical stretch surrounding Sylvan Way where you need a bike route on Delridge. What exactly that looks like is a question in itself. I’m not convinced that what SDOT has proposed is the best use of the street space.

      This sort of thing happens a lot in Seattle — our side street network isn’t as complete as people might imagine.

      1. @Al. I don’t ride out this way very often but when I do I take Delridge because that is the way I have always taken for at least the last 10 years. I will have to make a point to explore the other routes, but none are as intuitive as just riding straight up or down Delridge. I don’t like that they offer the choice between the two options, you can get a bus lane with one option or a bike lane with the other option when both of these should be a higher priority than parking or planted median. What I don’t understand is there are people who advocate for transit lanes, people who want to preserve parking, people who advocate for bike lanes. but where are the people who advocate for planted medians, is that really a group of people who really want those?

        I am in favor of having the left turn pockets at the intersections and somehow discouraging left turns in other places, with the lane shifts you mention. no need to have a continuous left turn lane or planted median. the new 23rd has this and it seems an efficient way to design a street

  6. The question becomes, will federal funding come through to make rapid ride H and other ST3 expansion projects a reality. I fear that many of these timelines will be derailed.

    1. I’m pretty sure the city isn’t applying for any federal grants for RapidRide H, just RapidRide G and a few other corridors.

  7. I am copying my comments from the Urbanist post here:

    As a daily 120 rider, it is strange to be requesting fewer improvements, but…

    1. I don’t understand the proposed BAT lanes between Orchard and Graham. There isn’t typically traffic congestion in this section. Queue jumps at Orchard and Holden stoplights would be useful, but beyond that there is no need.

    2. Building a southbound protected bike without a northbound one is a literal half measure, without much value. The parallel greenways to the east and west are actually pretty good and I wouldn’t recommend adding bike infrastructure to Delridge, except…

    3. The west sidewalk between Graham and Elmgrove should be widened to create a true two-way multi-use path, to fill gaps in the 26th Ave greenway and the Longfellow Creek trail. (not shown on the attached maps, but there is a trail in the SW Elmgrove St ROW connecting Delridge to the street to the west, which connects walkers/bikers to the Longfellow Creek trail). A safe bike facility between Holden and Elmgrove is a must.

    The good:

    1. The slowest part of the Delridge section of the 120 during peak hours is the stops – both the quantity of stops and quantity of people boarding/deboarding. Rapid Ride will help both of these: the stop placements are good, 3-door buses and on-board ORCA readers will reduce dwell times.
    2. Extending the bus only lanes south from Oregon to Alaska will be a big help on rainy mornings, and a southbound bus lane in this area will help in the PM.

    What else is needed (but out of SDOTs scope for this open house)
    1. The #1 delay on the 120 inbound is the 1 general traffic lane in the West Seattle Bridge to 99 loop ramp – 5 minutes per trip. Widening this bridge ramp and adding a ramp meter for general traffic would make H & C actually rapid in the peak.
    2. The White Center routing should be moved from 15th to 17th/16th. It appears on this map that the White Center stop will be moved to Roxbury/17th. In that case, the 2 extra stoplights need to reach 15th are without purpose.

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