Sounder Bruce (via Wikimedia)

It’s been a while since we checked in with SDOT’s Transit Spot Improvements program. This is a small pot of money for SDOT engineers to make minor improvements to transit operations and rider amenities, which would not otherwise be funded as part of a RapidRide corridor project, an arterial repaving project, or a larger state or federal grant. Some improvements are fully SDOT funded, and some are cost-shared with Metro.

Here’s what SDOT has on the docket for 2017. I’ve omitted a few projects that are purely maintenance of existing facilities, important though that is.

Location Schedule Description
Olive Way & Boren Q2 Install EB queue jump (saving 87 sec/trip).
Broadway & Yesler Q2 Upgrade signals to improve streetcar turning movements (saving 130 sec/trip).
Olive Way, Terry to Minor Q2 Install EB peak period transit lane.
Aurora Ave, 115th to 145th Q3 Refresh transit lane markings.
15th Ave NW & Market Q3 Install rear bus pads for RapidRide D.
Railroad crossings, TBD Q4 “Exempt”/”Tracks out of service” signs to allow Metro buses to avoid stopping at RR crossings.
Various, TBD Q4 Install protected left-turn signals
Various, TBD Q4 Install channelization, signs and markings to improve operations.
Lake City Way & 125th Q4 Install bus bulb.
Blanchard St, east of 3rd Q4 Install BAT lane (saving RapidRide C 4 min/trip); new RapidRide stop at 6th.
15th Ave NW, Leary to Market Q4 Install BAT lane; install ped signal at 53rd.
Westlake, Blanchard to Fairview Q4 Install red painted transit lanes.
Route 60, TBD Q4 Provide rear door pads for various route 60 stops.
Broadway, Pine to Marion Q4 Install SB transit lane, subject to traffic analysis and outreach (saving 55 sec/trip).
Terry, Republican to Mercer Q4 Rechannelize to improve streetcar operations.

I don’t have too much to say about the project list overall, other than that everything sounds great, and I want more of it, faster. I’m especially happy about the 15th Ave NW ped signal, which will provide benefits far beyound transit. Perhaps missing from the list are heavily-used stops in the Fremont area, and speed and reliability improvements on the Uptown couplet.

One thing, in particular, I’m interested in hearing about in the comments: suggestions for left-turn pockets and other signage and channelization improvements. I’ll collect suggestions that seem feasible to me and forward them to SDOT.

43 Replies to “Upcoming SDOT Transit Spot Improvements”

    1. It’s a piece of concrete that prevents you from having to deboard the rear door onto grass/dirt/a puddle/a sprinkler head. In the context of that stop on the D line, I suspect they mean they’re going to fill in a planter strip that’s in the way.

  1. I think a big improvement to the 45 would be if there were some way to give WB buses signal priority at Green Lake & Wallingford. I can’t think of a way to do it there without eliminating parking, the bike lane, and the EB left turn lane onto Stroud because the street is fairly narrow there.

    This isn’t really a signal improvement (I think?) but I’d really love to know why the 28 is such an unreliable route. 30 minute headways aren’t great, but it’s probably acceptable given that it’s lower density compared to the parallel and more frequent 5 and D routes. It’s the route closest to my home and, if on schedule, the fastest way downtown, but I rarely choose it over 5 because the times are almost always wrong, and the buses on this route often lose OneBusAway data. This doesn’t really make sense though because none of the streets it runs on outside of downtown (Aurora/N 38th St/Leary/8th Ave NW) are heavily congested, and unlike the 5 running on Greenwood, it bypasses an intersection with Holman using an underpass.

    1. The 26 and 28 are through-routes with the 131 and 132 so they get caught in all the stadium traffic jams.

      1. Not only that, but the 26 has *zero* improvements north of Wallingford. It goes through several unprotected left turns where the transit arterial has a stop sign but the perpendicular arterials don’t, and they don’t even have any transit service. I’ve been on the 26 going north at rush hour where it spent five minutes at each of the Latona & 65th and 1st & 80th intersections, just because SDOT can’t be bothered to put in a couple stop signs.

      2. That raises the question of why is there a bus on 8th Ave NW. It’s a minor street, mostly single family, and close to both 15th and Greenwood.

      3. Greenwood is up a steep hill, and 15th is a freeway masquerading as a city street. While I don’t use the 28, I can understand why people would prefer it to the 15X/D or the 5/5X.

      4. 8th isn’t close to 15th or Greenwood. There’s a mile between those roads, so having buses on 8th keeps most people within 1/4 mile of a bus stop. 8th Ave may not merit RR+ treatment like 15th and Greenwood, but it’s still an important bus corridor.

      5. Would you use it if it were half-hourly and you either had to risk waiting 25 minutes or work your schedule around when it comes (and the lost time means fewer things you can do in the day)? Because it is half-hourly, so I would walk to one of the nearby frequent routes. 15th is less than a half miles away. The hours going into the 28 could be going into making the D and 5 more frequent.

      6. I see the point, but a lot of people’s work schedules are flexible enough that timing a departure to meet a bus that comes every 30 minutes isn’t that big of a deal, and is worth the tradeoff if it means a faster bus taking a more direct route. If you live near 8th, the 28 is much more direct than taking the 5 or the D.

  2. So, the Blanchard bus lane is coming online in the 4th quarter of the year? SDOT has had the spray paint markings in place for over 2 months (probably much longer) and now the signs are installed and covered in bags. Comparatively, the bus lane on Spring Street will be painted over this weekend. Is the reason SDOT is waiting is because of 1 new bus stop?

    This seems outrageously long to wait for improvements to some of the more critical routes in the Seattle network.

    1. I’m super excited about this one. Now if they would only extend the 3rd ave transit mall north up to Blanchard (or maybe even Bell), they could have a significant and contiguous transit only lane network for the C, the 40, and part of the 62 downtown.

    2. Super excited about this one too! We live along Blanchard and during the afternoon all you hear out the window are buses stuck in traffic. It will be nice to have some dedicated transit lanes to help keep things moving! I also wouldn’t mind if they extended the transit mall all the way to Bell; it makes sense and those stops are always very busy, no matter what time of day it is from my experience.

    1. Yeah, my feelings exactly. In general I find some of these changes amazing. Talk about bang for your buck. I have no idea how expensive these changes are, but my guess is they are fairly cheap, and thus a great value in terms of rider time saved per dollar spent. I would love to see the city spend more on these sorts of projects.

      1. Assuming it’s converting a parking lane to a BAT lane, it’s basically just restriping, some new signs, and enforcement. The cost is mostly political capital, not actual dollars.

        The success of most of the future RR corridors really comes down a willingness to take away parking (or GP) lanes.

      2. >> The success of most of the future RR corridors really comes down a willingness to take away parking (or GP) lanes.

        It really depends on the line. In general it is away to take away parking lanes. What is tough, but usually more important, is taking away general purpose lanes. Eastlake (as currently planned) is disappointing because they did the easy stuff (took away the parking) but didn’t want to mess with the general traffic lanes. Imagine if all of Roosevelt (and the University Bridge) had one lane for the bus and one lane for general traffic. How about the same on Eastlake, by eliminating the middle turn lane (but keeping the bike lane). Obviously things would have moved a lot faster for the bus, but general purpose traffic would be a lot slower, and that would be much, much tougher politically. It might also cause traffic jams elsewhere, which could, in turn screw up those buses (unless they got similar treatment). In terms of cost, a lot of it for that project is doing things like adding wire and moving the streetcar lines and to a lesser extent, building bus bulbs.

        Big bargains like this are rare, which is my point. We should try and do as many of these “little things” as possible, even when they don’t have nearly as big a payoff.

      3. I actually don’t see why Madison BRT couldn’t have just been a series of SDOT spot improvements akin to Dexter bus islands and downtown red bus lanes. Instead they went with an overly complex design requiring custom left door buses.

    2. When I saw that I wondered whether that math was done by the same people that BRT could average 25 MPH, including turns and stops, on downtown surface streets. I mean, it’s possible traffic on Blanchard really is that bad, but if it is, wouldn’t turns and genuine local access take a real bite out of time savings?

      I’d love to see the math on it. It is a long enough lane in a congested enough area that it seems basically possible.

      1. The travel times in that post are pure fantasy. 14 minutes from Roosevelt/65th to 3rd/Stewart is about what I would expect driving at 3 in the morning, with no bus stops or traffic to deal with. Even Link is projected as only about 3-4 minutes faster than this.

        No matter what priority the bus gets, it still has to stop at the bus stops, and there is absolutely no way that a bus which stops every half mile can move faster than a car that doesn’t stop at all, and isn’t stuck in traffic.

    3. No kidding. Great that it’s being done, but also frustrating that it wasn’t a bit more of a priority for this new, important, signature branded route. 4 minutes!

  3. What’s re-channelizing? After completion of his consulting contract to help JZ Knight destroy the evil Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle two eons, I mean decades ago, maybe Ramtha is now boarding Babylonian Airways to head up SOV-only linear space-time warp between Yelm and South Lake Union.

    http://historylink.org/File/7813 Find paragraph on “Biosolids”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXHtjb44qyA

    EIS on this one could be a bitch.

    Or maybe re-channelizing is what needs to be done to the Defense Budget to create nationwide high-speed rail and enough electric transit that the next war in the Middle East won’t be necessary.

    Meantime, a signal re-set, a rule-change, and a couple of paint stripes on Eastlake should be all the budget needed to get the inbound South Lake Union streetcar from the “Fred Hutch” terminal to the Wooden Boat Center stop in less than half an hour at PM rush.

    Am I close on the definition?

    Mark

  4. Busses get delayed 5, 10 or even 15 minutes or more trying to make the left turn from northbound 5th AVE S onto westbound S Washington Street. The only way they eventually get ahead of the cars and busses making the free right turn from southbound 5th AVE S (the traffic lanes from 4th AVE S to 5th AVE S are full) is to eventually pull into and block the intersection until the next signal change on 4th AVE S and Washington. If the driver is hesitant about blocking the intersection, the bus will be stuck waiting for the end of rush hour.

    1. I don’t quite understand why buses need to make that left turn from northbound 5th to westbound Washington S. in the first place. One would think it would be faster to just take 4th directly from the I-90 exit ramp. It certainly isn’t to stop closer to Uwajimaya or the International District because there’s no bus stop there – the nearest stop is halfway between Jackson and Main St., practically all the way to Pioneer Square.

  5. The 65 takes a left onto NE 125th Street from 35th Ave NE. Adding a turn arrow would likely save some time. There already is a turn lane, so adding a turn signal would likely be pretty cheap. It would also increase safety, as there is an increasing number of pedestrians and traffic in the area. Ridership on this bus isn’t really high, but likely to increase as Link moves farther north.

  6. Broadway bus lane = SDOT admission of the failure of the First Hill Streetcar street design?

    1. Dunno, but “subject to outreach” means we shouldn’t hold our breath on it getting done, given SDOT’s history.

    2. Al, at the north end of the Broadway District, corridor itself ends at T-junction. So there’s no way it’ll ever be, or should ever have been, considered a through street. I think merchants themselves will finally see that in a city as populous as Seattle is getting to be, efficient transit will bring them more customers than street parking does.

      Over the likely length of its life, like any other public utility, the First Hill Streetcar will see many changes and adjustments. One easy measure: just shift right of way and signal priority from motor traffic to streetcars. But as time passes and population to put it mildly grows, advantage of tracks will be that they’re much harder to relocate than plain GP paving.

      But “Outreach” is one of the worst of my hate list for Power By Sounding Pathetic. I see wailing victims in 19th century engravings reaching yearningly (really hope they made it) to brave rescuers. If you need something vague, just say “Public Opinion.” Well it’s better than “input.”

      Mark

    3. Failure to get it right the first time, likely. The post says “transit lane”, and only one actual bus uses that route: the weekday peak-only 9X, so I do not think it’s going to be a bus lane. Sounds more like the overture to making the streetcar tracks exclusive for that stretch of Broadway. I share Mark’s opinion though about “outreach” and “traffic analysis”: they sound pretty toothless, FWIW.

      (Also, retiming the Broadway/Yesler signal intersection is a good win for the streetcar too. Next up should be 14th and Jackson/Boren/Rainier…)

      1. I missed the 60, it runs on Broadway north of Madison. It will presumably benefit as well.

  7. Wish list besides what was noted above (yes, please extend transit-only out to Blanchard at least):

    Enforce blocking the box
    Enforce 3rd Ave transit spots
    Enforce yielding to bus
    Enforce no SOV in bus-only lanes

    -NB queue jump for buses from Leary to Market Street.

    -Remove SB parking on Western Ave between John and Denny to provide a queue jump to make the left onto Denny.

    -Expand the Virginia Stop bus zone.

  8. Two suggestions I’d like to make for the 26. First, get rid of the around-the-block jog at Woodlawn and Ravenna, and have the 26 serve the existing bus shelter for the 82. Second, 1st/80th needs a signal. In general, any design where the bus has to wait at a 2-way stop to cross a busy street is usually a failure.

  9. Really don’t think any bus in the fleet needs left-side doors. Bellevue Transit Center doesn’t require them. All that’s needed are signals at each end of the reserved right of way to move the buses across an intersection to counterflow lanes, presenting right hand doors to center platforms.

    Should be some barrier. Though former counter flow lanes downtown never needed them. Would like to see figure for extra cost of those left-side doors, purchase and maintenance. I don’t think we need them. Though on the other side, the close-to-truly busway in Eugene has doors on both sides of the green buses.

    Would like to see the stats. BTW, Eugene uses yellow fiberglass bars to guide tires where coaches pass platforms, to keep sides from scraping. Think we should have done that with DSTT. And should consider for any Ride called Rapid.

    Mark

  10. These are literally all north of Yesler. Are there no minor improvements needed for transit operations in the other half of the city? Or are those locations done in a different phase?

    1. The route 60 improvements? The various protected left-turn signals, etc.? Though I agree there’s definitely a preponderance of north-end projects.

    2. The broad surface defense of SDOT’s project distribution would be something like:

      – If Yesler is the dividing line, way more than half the population is north of it
      – That’s particularly true for daytime population, since most of downtown is north of Yesler
      – A lot of the improvements are in (greater-)downtown, which is a typical definition for the “center” of a city. They are skewed toward its north end… and it’s the north end of (greater-)downtown that’s outgrowing its existing infrastructure fastest.

      Even considering these, this project list does seem to have a pretty heavy northward skew. That said, I can’t think of a lot of good candidates off the top of my head south of Yesler:

      – The 7, generally, has had a lot of improvements of this scale in the last several years, most recently the queue-jump at Rainier/Dearborn. It might be about tapped out for “spot fix”-scale work. Various parts of Rainier are targets for safe-streets work at the moment.
      – Jackson is used by tons of routes and can be a pain point, but it was just torn up and redesigned for the streetcar, and buses already stop in-lane; it’s not clear what small improvements could really make a difference.
      – Anything around Mount Baker is going to fall into the larger Accessible Mount Baker bucket.
      – Anything along Delridge is going to fall into the larger Delridge corridor redesign.
      – Anything around the “Triangle” part of West Seattle is going to fall into the larger “Fauntleroy Boulevard” design.

      And I can’t think of many other areas south of Yesler whose transit-operations pain points are as significant as those addressed in SDOT’s project list, though of course I could easily be missing things. One thing that needs to be addressed is delays through SODO during stadium events, but even if SDOT started on that tomorrow it would take some time to get done (several of the projects on this year’s list have been in planning and design for a year or more, and I’d be shocked if a few weren’t pushed to next year because of planning, design, or outreach delays… some might even get pushed back because weather messes up construction schedules).

      There are a lot of transit access problems, big and small, in the southern half of Seattle, but those mostly end up addressed by “safe streets” projects or larger corridor redesigns.

  11. Why is there a transit lane being created eastbound for Blanchard, but not westbound for Bell or Lenora for the buses going the other way?

    And is there going to be a bus stop for the C RR route westbound on Lenora at 6th if there’s going to be one eastbound on Blanchard at 6th?

  12. One idea that’s been floating in my head is can SDOT install a queue jump signal for NB at the 4th Ave & Weller location? That would allow buses who stop at the island stop at 4th & Jackson to be able to use the bus lane for most of the distance from Royal Brougham to Jackson.

  13. Happy to see the new Spring Street bus lane be installed yesterday, hopefully its a trial for the permanent lane as part of Madison BRT. Many like myself have expressed concern with the Spring bus lane at 5th due to right turning vehicles crossing and blocking the bus lane. If it doesnt work out hopefully they can swap the bus lane and right turn lane (as is the case with the new lane at Spring & 6th).

  14. I would love some signal improvements on both Pike and Pine at Boren. Buses are always waiting at these lights. Let Boren back up more and let Pine and Pike have more green.

  15. So when are they going to fix the nonoperational reader board (“next bus times”) on 3rd Ave. & Marion St. downtown? It’s been broken for months.

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