KCM New Flyer XT60 4554
KCM New Flyer XT60 4554 by wings777 in the STB Flickr pool

Route 7, one of the most popular bus lines in the city, is getting a RapidRide makeover in 2021.  Metro and SDOT are kicking off the public process for the Rainier Valley line with an online open house through April 8.

10,800 weekday riders make the 7 the 5th busiest Metro route, behind RapidRide lines C, D, and E and the RapidRide-in-waiting Route 40.  Rainier Avenue is also a very dangerous street for pedestrians, and bicycle facilities are non-existent.  And while the buses themselves come fairly frequently, the also get stuck in traffic and bunching is common. All of which is to say there’s plenty of room for improvement here.

Chart comparing crashes on Aurora, Lake City, and Rainier Ave.
Crashes on Rainier Avenue are abnormally high

The open house materials break the 7-mile route into four segments:

  • Chinatown to Mount Baker, which includes Jackson Street along with the widest, straightest, northernmost section of Rainier Ave. Improvements here could include a Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane for bus priority or a bike lane, but not both.
  • Mt. Baker to Columbia City on Rainier Ave., which would continue to be a 4- or 5- lane general purpose traffic street
  • Columbia City to Rainier Beach on Rainier Ave., where a BAT lane is already planned
  • Downtown Rainier Beach to its light rail station on S. Henderson St., which could see protective buffer added to the bike lanes at a cost of some parking spots

Pedestrian/greenway crossings would be added throughout the route.  A few stops would be consolidated and the remaining ones would be upgraded to RapidRide standards.

Bike access would be via a “parallel” neighborhood greenway, which is unfortunate — there really is no true parallel street to Rainier Ave.  The materials include a lengthy note explaining why bikes and transit are not both feasible in the narrow section of Rainier between I-90 and Mt. Baker.  It stinks, as ever, that bikes and transit have to be pitted against one another, but as you can see on the right an unbuffered bike lane hugging a bus lane would not be a pleasant experience.

Finally, Metro is undecided about the tail end of the route at Prentice St.  Read our previous takes from 2011 and 2014 if you want to go deep on some ideas for what to do there.

The survey ends April 8.

Update: clarified SDOT’s involvement in the project

61 Replies to “Metro and SDOT Want Feedback on Rainier RapidRide”

  1. Does Ranier between Mt. Baker and I-90 *really* need 4 general-purpose lanes? That seems like a lot of the problem right there. Similarly, 23rd Ave., the next street over which crosses I-90, also has 4 general puropse lanes, with no bike lanes. Does 23rd really need that? MLK does just fine in a 3-lane configuration.

    1. Freeway entrances have the most traffic, so it may. That’s also the area where MLK crises Rainier and 23rd is a few blocks away, and Rainier is the only through street between them so everyone funnels onto it.

      1. There’s on a freeway entrance going east, not west. But the main point is whether we should be compromising other models for the sake of rush hour car traffic in the first place.

    2. Rainier needs all five lanes. That’s especially true north of MLK. Traffic is often at a standstill and cars must wait two lights to get through some places. Traffic today regularly backs up several blocks where it drops to two lanes at Alaska Street — and that section has less traffic than near Mt Baker station (because MLK, McLellan and other streets feed onto Rainier).

    3. I’ve lived in the Central area for over 30 years. MLK doesn’t carry nearly the volume of Traffic as Rainier. Traffic and volume is not getting better or lower. We don’t have unused arterials running north and south through the city but yet we are reducing 4 lane roads to 2 lanes. That lacks basic common sense. More cars and more volume should not equal less lanes of travel. Dot should focus on more viable alternative routes to Keep main lines less congested and stop creating bottle necks.

  2. It’s been twenty-five years since my last eight hour Route 7 shift, so can’t swear to Truth. But Al Gore’s best couldn’t be less Convenient. Ridership, more than justified in 1993. Speed: I could beat the 107-via-I-5 from Rainier Beach to Downtown every time.

    Then and now, from “The Feel of the Wheel”- curves, grades, block-lengths, ridership and neighborhood character, Route 7 from IDS to 62nd and Prentiss has always been for an articulated trolleybus pulling or pushing a bike-trailer. Center lane, signal control, the works.

    Right now, just get the signal pre-empt and as much lane space as possible. Look at making Columbia City a bus mall or next thing to it. Any stats yet about how much end to end through motor traffic Rainier really carries? Because I bet Medic One would agree about the fragrance of bikes-and-buses.

    There’s a miles’ long lakeside park a mile east. Any use for a bike corridor? But by the speed and the direction of travel, time has its foot on the pedal. No, should not have been the LINK route. Same for a subway built same time.

    But whatever 2028 software is for “Drafting Board”…DSTT 1 or 2. Kent Valley via Renton. By then, steel wheels and walk-through seating plan. I forget the term for that. And special ORCA card for the vets of the civil war it’ll take to let my former passengers’ great grand-kids afford to ride it.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Can you please provide a glossary? I don’t know what it means for a route to go “rapid ride” I assume it is a good thing but…?

  4. I hope they use this as an opportunity to improve the situation at Mt Baker. Somehow there has to be a way to move the transit center under Mt Baker light rail station (or use the small adjacent parking lot). It might require the reconfiguration of the MLK / Rainier intersection as well, which has been discussed here but I haven’t heard of solid plans, schedule, or funding.

    I’m also disappointed by the lack of a flat, segregated bike route running north/south through rainier valley. The only solution I can see working would have required narrowing of the sidewalk through many sections and probably removal of a lot of trees.

    1. Couple years ago, think I saw a rendering of plans to make the whole intersection of Rainier and MLK into a plaza- including Columbia City LINK Station. But time being…any loss by turning Route 7 at present transit center?


      1. Yeah! But that is just a concept – no funding, plans, schedule etc.

        That whole area is transforming, albeit slowly. Construction is starting on a few residential projects. That whole triangle block that currently has a Starbucks, the transit center, and two gas stations could become something awesome.

      2. The “bow-tie” plan is another reason why it would be horrible to take away travel lanes north of Mt. Baker on Rainier. The two lanes from MLK south of Rainier would be channelized to continue as Rainier between MLK and I-90 and that would create a horrible bottleneck.

      3. The Bow Tie plan actually sucks quite a bit from a pedestrian perspective. Currently, you can cross the entire Ranier/MLK mess via a pedestrian bridge, without having to wait for any stoplights. Whenever I take Link to Mt. Baker to visit the beach, this is the way I go.

        The Bow Tie plan, however, gets rid of the bridge and replaces it with signalized crosswalks. Now, you have to wait for not just one light, but two. The two lights are a little over 100 feet apart which means, of course, that they’re going to be synchronized for cars traveling 20 mph. So, anyone on foot who isn’t capable of sprinting at the speed of Usain Bolt is going to have to wait for a second, long, light cycle in the median, between Ranier and MLK. This is far inferior to today’s scheme where you just walk up and over the bridge.

      4. I wish there were a single solution to the bridge dilemma. On the one hand a bridge or underpass is useful to bypass traffic lights, but on the other hand many people won’t use it because they have to go up and down, so it ends up being only half the benefit for the cost. Still, the only way to improve the surface-level pedestrian experience is to give them priority at crosswalks, but that’s precisely what the city and WSDOT refuse to do, particularly at major arterials or highways. And we don’t know what kind of signal timings there will be until it’s in operation, and by that time it’s too late to advocate for keeping the bridge or building a bridge. So maybe we have to assume all intersections will be like Mercer, and oppose making surface-level crossings the only alternative.

      5. There is always a solution. It just may be expensive and/or complex.

        The basic issue with Mt Baker Station and getting across MLK and Rainier is vertical. What’s needed is a pedestrian plan (with possible bicycle use) to be the most important design element of the area. Then the roadways can then be adjusted to what works best for the pedestrian — first with the buses then for regular traffic.

        I would begin by designing something that changes out the Mt. Baker escalators/stairs to be two parts, along with putting in an elevator intermediate stop — to begin to allow for a mezzanine walkway. (Mt Baker needs escalators in both directions, by the way. It’s a long climb downward.)
        From that, a mezzanine overpass crossing could be developed. It might have some tricky up and down slopes to get across the two major streets (or the streets may have to be lowered by a few feet where the crossing occur). It would be cool if that overpass could be landscaped and aligned in a way to complement Franklin High School.

        Another option is to leave the station escalators and stairs alone, and instead elevate the streets slightly so that a pedestrian and bicycle underpass could be added. Of couse, underpasses have security issues so that would have to be considered (like closing the underpass overnight or adding some way to give it “eyes” for security like having an adjacent coffee business).

        I’m not sure why all of the recent studies in this area seem to obsess about treating the current pedestrian overpass as an eyesore and instead want to force as much pedestrian traffic as possible accross Rainier. It’s pretty dang scary to cross Rainier and even MLK, and pretty sketches and aerial concepts don’t show that at all.

  5. I’ve sometimes wondered if a left-door bus with median loading platforms would work better for Rainier. The bus stops are squeezed onto sidewalks and the buses must deal with lots of driveway activity as they move down the street.

    1. Only problem, Al, is that passengers would still have to walk across a traffic lane each side to main sidewalks, wouldn’t they?


  6. Some agency needs to step up and deal with the need for an off-street transit center at Rainier Beach. Our dispersed transit operator and local interests result in every agency expecting someone else to conceptualize, fund, build and operate this badly needed facility.

    1. Why? What’s wrong with ordinary bus stops on the street. Besides saving money in land acquisition, off-street transit centers impose delay on all buses by forcing them to detour through it. And, with Link in the Median, you’d still have to cross the street to get to the transit center, anyway.

      1. I agree. The transit center approach should really be avoided in most cases. It gets you nothing, and costs you a lot.

    2. Why does Al S think there needs to be an off-street transit center? I have never seen more than one or two buses there at a time, not a crowd. The main issue is the same with it without a transit center: the distance between bus and train stops must be as short as possible for transfers. If you merely need more layover space, there are plenty of industrial lots a few blocks south of the station that may have room for a few buses; one of them already has a private bus fleet.

      1. I’m not envisioning a big center like Northgate. I would agree with your points that a “center” can be on-street — I’m not that concerned with literal typology. As a rider, I frankly hate being spun around and getting dizzy inside a bus as it turns multiple times!

        Still, what’s there today is woefully inadequate. All of the riders must cross a busy intersection at Henderson with lots of traffic and left-turning vehicles going in multiple phases (creating quite a wait for riders to and from the platform). I think it’s also a truism that the longer a rider must wait to transfer, the better the transfer point needs to be (shelters, lighting, waiting areas, ,etc). If we’re spending money to upgrade other Rainier RapidRide stops, this one would deserve better treatment than others merely because this will probably serve more riders.

        Frankly, I don’t think ST and Metro had much budget and put much coordination thought about the final design of the station area. Perhaps there was a plan to be more ambitious before the design was finalized. That would have been about 15 years ago and II wasn’t in town then.

        Ideally, I want riders to have a route convergence point from where someone can get to Downtown Renton, Southcenter, Rainier Beach businesses (and those north along Rainier Avenue) and Beacon Hill. Whether it’s actually called a transit center or a transit mall along Henderson or MLK is not as important — as long as it’s as close to the platform as possible, somewhere that has nicer lighting, and has shelters, capabilities for bus layovers, a path to enable buses to turn around and probably driver restrooms. Because we don’t have that, we don’t have an enticing stop to get planners to consider how to restructure routes for this.

        The City should be making this a good RapidRide route with great stops as the project’s highest priority. That’s what the project is called and where the funds are designated — and make building better stops is more important than bicycle routes and safety improvements (which can be designed and funded with other SDOT programs and funding pots).

        Is it possible and reasonable to add a great stop to the south of the platform and have a pedestrian-only signal to cross MLK and get to a nice facility on one or both sides? Is it possible and reasonable to use the area around the high-voltage wires better (perhaps creating a less obtrusive structure with protected circuation underneath as opposed to the scary towers there today)? Is it possible and reasonable to rethink the Henderson circulation/configuration east of MLK or come up with alternatives to restrict the left-turns at Henderson/MLK to reduce the risk and extra time it takes to get across the street? Is it possible and reasonable to get the property on the south side of Henderson that would allow for a setup like what South Bellevue was like (with an on-street bus loading area in one direction and and off-street lane and boarding area in the other direction)?

      2. I think everybody is waiting for a comprehensive station-area plan, and that has been delayed because of tepid developer interest (first because of the recession, then because it’s further from downtown and “less safe” than Columbia City), and now from the moratorium on rezoning due to displacement risk. I don’t see a significant problem at Rainier Beach — not much traffic, not particularly wide streets — but I’ve never been there peak hours. The biggest problem I have is finding the bus stops if I’ve never used the route before — but that just suggest better signage, not necessarily moving the stops or redesigning them. One possible model is Campus Parkway, which accommodates a large volume of buses without an off-street transit center.

  7. I hope this does not entomb route 7’s path in perpetuity. For getting downtown, taking the right turn onto 23rd Ave S and hopping on East Link seems like the way to go in the future.

    At any rate, I hope the spending priority is from Mt Baker Station south. If riders can get to mass transit faster (including the re-route onto 23rd), that would save the most rider-minutes.

    Doing reconstruction on Rainier/Jackson between the freeway station and downtown is poorly-thought-out timing considering the armada of I-90 express buses that will be using that path from fall of this year until the opening of East Link in 2023. But if there is a plan to speed up buses along that corridor that can be built out *before* this September, go for it!

      1. Just thinking out loud here, if the goal is to get quickly from Mt Baker TC to downtown without the transfer penalty, would it make sense to go up Boren and then come down the hill on Madison like RR-G? It would bring rapid ride (and the street-scape changes that go along with it) to First Hill, and perhaps some people living in the Rainier Valley work or have appointments at the hospitals.

      2. I thought the 48/7 route was still on. So SDOT has abandoned it? Interesting. I always was concerned about splitting the Rainier corridor.

    1. It’s not yet become fully understood that Judkins Park to Westlake on Link will take only 11 minutes. I would observe that any project north of the future station won’t serve nearly as many riders.

    2. SDOT’s transit master plan had at one point envisioned combining the 7+48 in such a matter. While it would be a great for me personally, as Al says I can’t see Metro doing anything that radical until after East Link opens and everyone internalizes how much better the faster to link will be.

    3. I was at first concerned about the 48/7 concept because it would break the unity of Rainier Avenue service, which would be like splitting the E on Aurora (e.g., the suggestion to send the northern and southern segments to Northgate). Rainier Valley is a successful urban community, and its 5-mile narrow length makes it too long to walk between destinations so a lot of people make overlapping bus trips, not only throughout the valley but also to Jackson Street Chinatown shops. I’d hate to be shunted onto 23rd which is mostly residential and far from any destinations (e.g., Broadway).

      On the other hand, I do travel from UW to Columbia City and that has been slower since the 48 split (it used to continue on MLK to Rainier Beach). Link is an alternative but not always, especially when UW Station is closed or the down escalators are closed (as has happened to me three times now). So a 48/7 line would be useful for that. Still, these are relatively minor reasons for it.

      But B brings up a bigger reason: for people traveling from the lower valley to Judkins Park Station, which is not only a faster way to downtown but the closest access to the Eastside. There are already an increasing number of Valleyites going to Eastside, and it will increase as the valley gentrifies. Are we going to cripple access to Judkins Park Station to preserve the unity of Rainier (the current 7 corridor)? Maybe that’s not worth it. And if SDOT has changed its mind and reverted to the 7 corridor, then it would be difficult to make it change its mind again. In that case we may have missed an opportunity.

      Of course, if Rainier were closer to MLK then this wouldn’t matter; people could take an MLK route rather than a Rainier route. But the distance becomes wide at Othello and especially at Rainier Beach.

      1. The beauty of Judkins Park is that we will be able to access the future station from either 23rd or Rainier! It isn’t that way today. It will make getting to the station easy from either street

        It does create a problem if we expect people to transfer from a bus on Rainier to a bus on 23rd. However, with the possible exception of a possibly rerouted Route 4 (a whole other matter), I think the various routes have common stops further south.

        As far as Route 106 is concerned, I have often thought it would have been useful to put it on 23rd to Jackson and skip the congested section of Rainier around Dearborn (Jackson to 23rd). Another option would be to use 20th to Judkins to 23rd. Route 7 already serves that Rainier segment with frequent service anyway, and the shift could allow Metro to modify or reduce some of the other service in the area.

      2. Getting from SE to First Hill is unnecessarily difficult. There are lots of ways to remedy the situation. Just a few:

        1. Extend the First Hill Streetcar segment starting on Broadway to Rainier/I-90 (a wye at 14th and Jackson) and have the terminus inside the vacant freeway loop. That would then allow for the Jackson Street segment to turn up 12th (another wye) and then turn east at Jefferson (serving Cherry Hill medical destinations and Garfield High School). That would then open the door for service adjustments across the CD.

        2. Extend Route 4 to Mt. Baker, possibly further to Alaska on Rainier, and lay out sort of trolley-bus-wired terminus next to Columbia City Station (32nd to the vacant triangle block north of Edmunds to MLK?) . It probably shouldn’t cross trolley-bus wires with Link wires. That would give access for many CD residents to the many community-oriented businesses on Rainier between MLK and Alaska and help connect SE residents with medical offices on First Hill.

        3. Where Route 50 and 106 cross at MLK/Alaska, switch the legs (at Columbia City Link). The 106 could go to SODO following the 50 path (maybe do something different for West Seattle as was discussed recently so it could use the busway if extended), and Route 50 would become the route that goes to Mt. Baker and into the International District following the 106 path.

        It’s really hard to get to First Hill medical offices from SE Seattle without going Downtown or making two transfers or walking several blocks.

      3. “The beauty of Judkins Park is that we will be able to access the future station from either 23rd or Rainier! … It does create a problem if we expect people to transfer from a bus on Rainier to a bus on 23rd.”

        If we extend the 48 on MLK to Rainier Beach, that would give a one-seat ride from Columbia City to Judkins Park Station, 23rd Ave, and UW. That would meet my original concern. It would actually restore the pre-Link 48, which I think shouldn’t have ebeen truncated. It would result in a situation where part of the route is RapidRide and half isn’t, and SDOT has no budget to make MLK RapidRide south of Mt Baker. But its own precedent has been to make MLK frequent. So maybe it would be OK for a RapidRide route to go into non-RapidRide territory, like if the Madison RR to Rainier Beach had been adopted?

        This would then suggest truncating the 106 at Rainier Beach. That would break the unity of Renton Ave and MLK, but while that’s an advantage it’s not top priority. (I think more people go from MLK to 23rd than from Renton to MLK.) The main impetus of the 106 enhancement was frequent service between Rainier Beach Station and Renton, and we preserve that. Metro’s LRP already calls for changing the 106 into a Rainier Beach – Renton Highlands route by 2025.

      4. I think it would have been more than reasonable to have kept Route 48 going down MLK all the way to Rainier Beach, too. I however understand the challenge of route restructuring makes that difficult; once one major change happens, all of the other routes have to be reconsidered and possibly restructured too.

        Still, the 48 has a basic problem: Except for Garfield High, UW (easier to use Link from SE Seattle now), Safeway south of Madison and a few businesses at several corners like Jackson and McGraw (Montlake), there aren’t really very many non-residential destinations on the 23rd Avenue segment of the route. It’s role to serve Link at UW, Judkins Park and Mt. Baker however will increase its usefulness after 2023 as many if not most of its riders after that will use Route 48 as the connecting route to Link.

      5. If Route 48 went to Rainier Beach, it would make it even more advantageous to have a Rainier Beach Station “hub” (and I won’t call it a “transit center” to keep the layout undebated). A few other adjustments — like moving Route 50 and maybe Route 36 to end there (or to extend to serve the Route 7 tail south of there), and possibly truncating other south-of-Seattle routes there like 101 or 150 — could really elevate the power of that station as the place to transfer to and from Link or to and from routes that would connect SE Seattle with Renton and the SR 167 cities.

      6. “there aren’t really very many non-residential destinations on the 23rd Avenue segment of the route”

        There aren’t but somehow it’s well used anyway. I’ve ridden it at 5 o’clock and seen people get on it at every single stop. “What, do so many people work in their house 9-5? Do all the maids get off at this time?” Recently I’ve taken it north from Garfield HS midday a couple times and it also had a lot of activity. (Which is unfortunate for me because it slows the bus down.) I don’t see this in other residential areas like the 28, 73, 62, 65, or 8 before it was split (northern MLK on Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill), but I do see it on the 48.

        I think the 48 was truncated to push people onto Link, so that it wouldn’t compete with Link in the north-south corridor (Rainier Valley to UW). That may have been an honorable though excessive intention in 2009, but it makes no sense now, not now that Metro has increased parallel routes like the 49 and is planning a great Beacon-Broadway-UDistrict route. We’ve reached the point that both Link and frequent parallel buses will be well used.

  8. Safety on Rainier is compromised by the many trees in either side of the roadway.

    — The tree trunks make it hard to see pedestrians because they are so wide.

    – The tree canopies block the street lighting (which is uselessly stupid placed amid the leaves) and they disrupt the trolley wires

    – The tree roots get under the sidewalk and street and make the concrete and pavement buckle.

    As pretty as they are, they are probably the single-most factor to making Rainier dangerous in many places. The other streets on the chart (Aurora and Lake City Way) don’t have lots of large trees next to the road.

    1. Surely it has to be more than trees that are making crashes on Rainier so much more frequent than Aurora and Lake City. The number is startlingly higher, 2x more than Lake City Way…what are the structural failures? It seems like a great place for a 23rd Ave like road diet makeover.

      1. Rainier is much narrower than the other arterials, buildings much denser, many more curves. Lower speed limit, higher enforcement might do it. Making as much of it transit-only will help too. Do they still say “Traffic Calming?”

        But we might want to public-record into accident reports, and get some idea. And also drive Rainier for awhile personally, and see what we come up with.


    2. Plenty of greenery and blind curves along Lake City Way between 110th and 85th. I think the average per mile data could be as easily explained if LCW and Aurora have stretches of quiet spots where no accidents occur and Rainier has none.

      1. It’s the parked cars! Aurora and LCW do not allow street parking. They could do nothing to Rainier except ban parking and the collision rate would improve overnight.

  9. Slightly OT, but it still boggles my mind that prior to 2012, the 40–the #1 non-rapidride route in the entire system–not only didn’t exist, but there was actually no bus connecting central Fremont with Ballard.

    1. Many people felt that way. There was the same feeling for years before the 8, 48, and 31/32 (originally 30) were created. They all became wildly popular and Metro repeatedly expanded them over time. Now it’s trying to do the same on 25th Ave NE and 35th Ave NE, which had only partial service and now have full-time service.

      1. Funny i don’t see any women commen ing, reminds me of volunteer park full of men! Interesting. Mike Orr tell your other half that i say hello to Greg

  10. From what I recall, I think planners still saw that stretch as an old weed-grown industrial area where hardly anybody lived. Route 43. Route 5. Route 28. They’ve already GOT buses!

    Fred Meyers’ and the breweries- still the future. Usual reason for service to be added. People build houses and apartments, move in and they and Fred Meyers want to get to each other. Also:

    Old-time loggers and boat mechanics liked bars better than cafes. With fake rockets out front. Probably also thought Lenin was an antique that just lost his cord lampshade. History still out on that one. Crowley Maritime Tug boat captain also clued me in on major cultural shift.

    When it was time to motor out of any port in Alaska, the captain no longer had to make his rounds of every bar in town collecting his crew. Espresso places instead. Pretty much same forces as ones pushing ST-3, aren’t they?


  11. “It stinks, as ever, that buses and transit have to be pitted against one another”

    Surely you mean bikes and transit?

  12. While we’re talking about Rainier, we should also press for the frequent South Seattle – First Hill – SLU – LQA route via Boren/Denny that’s in the Metro Connects plan. Ideally I’d like that to be the 106 since it already parallels Link for so long.

    1. As Link proves to be a faster way to Doentown, restructures will over time begin to shift routing away from Third Avenue unless the route is serving a 2-3 mile radius.

      A possible comparison is Boston, which has almost no surface local bus routes left through their Downtown. Everyone is forced onto a train and instead close-in crosstown bus routes operate there. Of course, that took decades to happen!

      1. Nobody will go on record about this, Al, but given the housing market, here’s how it’ll go. With the next ten minutes for notice, having been priced out of his home in Ballard, Jeff Bezos will be checking into the only Seattle CBD hotel with any room left. It’s got a blue tarp over it.

        But here’s where your prediction is off. When he finally finds his dream camper park in Centralia, he’ll decide Seattle CBD’ not worth the tent-rent. And since Angle Lake is full if you don’t get there by nine, he’ll just open a drone- booth at the mall on the Oregon line.

        But certainly will really will be buses downtown Seattle, since City Council says the city can’t seize your vehicle if it’s your only place to live.


        Though urban density laws demand multifamily ‘artics stacked at least ten high.


      2. Boston has a much bigger rail network in the central part of town than Seattle (http://erikdemaine.org/maps/mbta/). That means that from just about any direction, you can get into downtown via the subway or light rail. The system we are building really isn’t like that (https://tinyurl.com/ydadye7t). That means that you need the buses to serve the “local” areas (Belltown, First Hill, the Central Area) and Boston just has fewer areas like that.

        But it isn’t only that. Step out a bit, and you can see that for much of the region, no matter where you are, it makes sense to take a train if you are headed to the middle of Boston. In contrast, that isn’t the type of system we are building. For much of the city — Greenwood, Fremont, Wallingford, north Queen Anne, the top of Queen Anne, even east Queen Anne — it makes sense to take a bus.

        On the bright side, though, we will have a train to Fife. Boston really has nothing like that, which might explain why they have 750,000 riders a day on their subway/light rail system.

      3. The “T” in Boston is great if you never have to leave the inner core of the city (radius – about 5 miles). Venture out of the range of the “T”, and the level of transit service falls off a cliff. There are buses, but the frequency stinks. There’s also commuter rail, but it has off-peak frequency on the order of every 2 hours or so.

        Basically, the system says “here is the 5 mile radius where you can get around without a car”. Everywhere else, you need a car, with the exception of rush hour commuters going into town (who *still* need a car to drive to the train station).

        Even within the range of the “T”, the green line is just a glorified streetcar. It does have its own track, but it’s rickety old track that limits the train to about 10 mph, even when the cars on the street are doing 30. The Green Line also has to stop at every stoplight, and has *on-board* fare payment, where you hold up the train inserting dollar bills into a farebox, just as you would with a bus.

      4. I’m just surprised that such a transit-progressive city basically lacks a grid transit network. Everything is Downtown or bust except the 8 and the 48.

      5. Seattle is also a car-obsessed city. In the streetcar era all streetcars went downtown (and presumably that was where everyone wanted to go because there was much less in the outskirts). The bus network in the 40s replicated it. It was a long battle to get the 48, with Metro afraid it would get little ridership, and the redlined Central District being poorer at the time. But the community finally convinced Metro to try the 48, and it was a huge success. The 8 followed the same pattern, as did the 31/32 (at first a 30 extension). And the 40, which goes back to only 2012. (Before that 24th NW and Holman Road were on different routes, and there was nothing on Leary Way west of where the 28 turns.)

        In the 80s and 90s, the goals of preserving status-quo routes and car/parking lanes hindered reorganizations. Because one person might complain about splitting the 42 or 2, so that was enough to shelve any proposal. That changed in 2012 when the recession forced the County Council to realize it could no longer afford to keep preserving the status quo in the light of new transit needs, and it went to a more ridership-based paradigm.

        Other cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver have probably always had a transit grid with many crosstown routes. In Seattle that was harder because of downtown-centric viewpoints, the tradition of the original network, and real geographic barriers and land use. North Seattle is the only place with a large flat 2D area, and it’s where the biggest grid network is. In east Seattle, south Seattle, and West Seattle you can’t go very far without reaching the shore or a cliff or highway; the only long unobstructed corridors are north-south, and they are all isolated into individual pockets by hills and other barriers. And the land-use is so low density: a few urban-village islands in a sea of residential-only blocks rather than corner stores everywhere, so there’s less reason for somebody in Rainier Valley to want to go to West Seattle or Beacon Hill or vice-versa because there’s not much there. That’s not the case in San Francisco’s crosstown corridors, were there are small businesses and events everywhere that people want to get to.

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