Montlake Blvd and SR-520

In another unfortunate setback for Vision Zero and the Move Seattle Levy, SDOT has elected to remove the dedicated bus lane planned for 24th Avenue to give more space to cars.

23rd/24th Avenue, home to the 43 and 48 routes and used by over 6,000 bus riders daily, is one of Seattle’s supposed “transit priority corridors” (a phrase that grows ever more meaningless), slated for RapidRide buses in 2024.  The 2015 Transit Master Plan called for bus lanes from Thomas St. to Roanoke St., almost all the way to the Montlake bridge.  As the plan has evolved, neighborhood opposition has increased and the bus lanes have been walked back, until this month, when they were scrapped entirely.

The public comment is the usual incoherent mishmash (“make it safe for pedestrians and also we want to drive faster!”).  SDOT appears to have taken it literally but not seriously, as the saying goes.  Despite referring to the corridor as a “vital street for transit,” no effort will be made to improve bus service.  The agency is, however, proposing a “skid resistant surface” to be applied at the intersections where the most collisions occur.  So there’s that. And while the reduction in downhill lanes between John and Boyer will probably reduce driving speeds, the project has fallen disappointingly far from the original 2015 vision.

Several years ago, Jarrett Walker used Seattle as an example of “chokepoints” and transit design:

No North American city has more chokepoints than Seattle.  The city itself consists of three peninsulas with narrow water barriers between them.  Further barriers are created by steep hills in most parts of the city.  Nowhere in Seattle can you travel in a straight line for more than a few miles without going into the water or over a cliff.

…Transit planning is frustrating in such a place, but road planning is even more so.  Ultimately, Seattle’s chokepoints have the effect of reducing much of the complex problem of mode share to a critical decision about a strategic spot.  If you give transit an advantage through a chokepoint, you’ve given it a big advantage over a large area.

The Montlake area is one of Seattle’s major chokepoints, as traffic backs up in all directions approaching the intersection of Montlake Boulevard and SR 520.  Transit priority ought to be a no-brainer. WSDOT made the wrong call with the 520 offramp, which was quite unfortunate, but I expected more from SDOT.  As cost overruns pile up on other transit and infrastructure projects, red paint for bus lanes remains the cheapest and most effective way to move more people through our limited, chokepoint-filled right-of-way.

88 Replies to “SDOT Nixes Bus Lanes through Montlake”

  1. I actually don’t think this is a huge deal as there isn’t much of a delay imposed on buses between John and Boyer today. Approaching 520 from the south, congestion usually picks up around Miller, maybe Calhoun or McGraw at rush hour, which are well north of Boyer where any priority would end. To Frank’s point, there are no chokepoints between John and Boyer – it’s a straight shot with little to no congestion 24 hours a day…

    1. But the original plan had bus lanes all the way to Roanoke. In the PM peak there’s often congestion heading northbound between Boyer and the bridge. The bus lanes would have helped there.

      1. yes but all this hand wringing isn’t because the “original plan” was shelved, it’s because some hardly useful bus lanes have been canceled.

    2. You’re right. If this was about chokepoint management, why did it end before the actual chokepoint at SR 520? It’s north of Roanoke where the bus spends whole minutes stopped, and this would have done nothing for that. Even having bus lanes from just Roanoke to Shelby would have done more for riders than this.

      Roanoke and north is where this is actually needed, and in typical fashion it’s also where absolutely nothing was even considered. That should be the outrage. If anything worth doing is worth doing well, then anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.

      1. >> If this was about chokepoint management, why did it end before the actual chokepoint at SR 520? It’s north of Roanoke where the bus spends whole minutes stopped, and this would have done nothing for that.

        I’m guessing because that is part of the SR 520 project, which is still relatively in flux. It is pretty easy to imagine a new bus lane precisely where you suggest. Extending it further south makes it all the much better. Keep in mind that if you simply “took a lane” there, it would mean the general purpose lanes would narrow from two to one. That would push the backup further up stream, making it difficult for a bus to take advantage of it.

        It also makes it far more likely that they will add bus lanes there. WSDOT isn’t stupid, and they too respond to public pressure. There are different dynamics here. Folks in Montlake don’t want a huge, extremely wide Montlake Boulevard. So know you have two general purpose lanes (on bus lanes) going all the way to the edge of the project. WSDOT could have two general purpose lanes and a bus lane, but doing so would upset the folks in the neighborhood. They could have one general purpose lane, and one bus lane, but that means that the general purpose traffic just backs up closer to the freeway. More to the point, it is obvious with this change that SDOT isn’t encouraging a bus lane. How can you expect WSDOT to build a bus lane (where it is most needed) if it doesn’t extend very far, will cause a traffic jam leading to the freeway, and apparently isn’t a high priority for SDOT.

        It is both a political and a practical problem. SDOT has essentially passed the buck. They would be happy if WSDOT builds a bus lane and takes the blame for traffic. Most likely they won’t, and SDOT will just throw up their hands and blame the state for the slow bus speeds.

    3. This is the classic lane-crush problem.

      A four-lane overbuilt suburban freeway compacts into three lanes headed into a major city center. Guess what happens.

      Contrast that to multiple off-ramp lanes from SR 520 westbound, traffic from SR 520 eastbound, and two lanes of traffic from 23rd/24th converging on UW. Is it any wonder that the Montlake bottlenecks back up onto SR 520?

      Yes, the increased SOV traffic flow from the neighborhoods (over what it would have been with a transit lane and more of those people riding the bus) will impact the length of time it takes SR 520 buses to get to UW Station.

      If the SR 520 bus restructure is found to be untenable because it takes most PM peak buses 20 minutes to get from SR 520 to UW Station, then, yes, this will impact downtown traffic during the period of maximum constraint.

      One neighborhood where transit riders didn’t organize to out-comment their neighbors shouldn’t mean even worse downtown traffic. But, unfortunately, it will.

    4. The fact that huskytbone is commenting here suggests he/she thinks this issue is a big deal.

      1. Guilty as charged, Brent. I want to be honest you with you. Sub-optimal decision making gets me fired up, especially as it pertains to NE Seattle, light rail, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. To paraphrase Dale Doback, those are my bugaboos.

  2. Since I don’t live in Seattle, doubt anybody in city government will even take my calls. I keep mentioning Rob Johnson, because of his TCC history, and also fact he’s on ST Board. Anybody tried to make contact with him, and if so, what’s been result?


  3. Hey, I didn’t know this decision was being made. The pro-transit community has been broad-sided! We need a parking study. Or two. Or three.

    Okay, do we really have to out-comment NIMBYs in every single comment period on every leg of every project, and then again at every public meeting to get things done?

    Do election results mean nothing?

    1. The election results meant everyone that voted for Move Seattle assumed we couldn’t get something better than giving the city a blank check with no accountability. The election results meant for everyone that is “progressive” and “transit-focused” decided that if a candidate labels himself as “progressive” or a “transit-geek” or “transit-wonk” they should get the vote.

      Guess what: Rob Johnson is none of those, and he didn’t get my vote. This guy is MIA. Somebody with half a spine would be jumping on top of an effing desk in the city council meeting asking why we as representatives of what the public requested cannot get our act together to deliver what we promised in Move Seattle?

      Use your vote and get some new representation.

      1. “Accountability” was a concern troll proxy for “I disagree with spending money on transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure” in that campaign.

        Councilmember Johnson is under fire from some people who didn’t vote for him for pushing forward with building more housing to deal with the housing crisis, backing up SDOT’s plan to have protected bike lanes on 35th Ave NE, starting to bring an end to the era of everyone subsidizing car drivers through free and mandatorially-overbuilt parking, and more. I think he should be cloned, not replaced.

        But you are right. He should have a critical conversation with SDOT’s interim director, and get this project back on track.

    2. I agree. This is ridiculous. People make comments. Some of them make sense. There are little things that any expert can forget, which can make a big difference (like putting in a crosswalk at a particular spot). But extra lanes of general purpose traffic? That is ridiculous. No one in charge said “Oh my, I didn’t think of that”. Instead they said “Look at that — too many pissed off drivers. Better do what they say”. It is ridiculous. That’s not how you should operate — not in the least. SDOT needs to get their act together.

      1. Agreed. This is so confusing.Why would SDOT just capitulate like that, especially when it’s like…a few surveys from Montlake residents, not any kind of real consensus.

  4. 23rd/24th Avenue, home to the 43 and 48 routes and used by over 6,000 bus riders daily,

    For reference, is there a figure on how many non-transit vehicles use that route daily?

    The Montlake area is one of Seattle’s major chokepoints, as traffic backs up in all directions approaching the intersection of Montlake Boulevard and SR 520. Transit priority ought to be a no-brainer. WSDOT made the wrong call [PERIOD]

    There is no “fixing” the intersection and more cars isn’t going to make it better (i.e. a second bridge cutting through the neighborhood). The Montlake cut would be a perfect point to implement congestion pricing. There is only one “chokepoint” here; the UW campus.

      1. So at least 6 times as many voters are thinking eliminating the bus lanes is good for them. Part of the battle is to end the “war on cars” and get a consensus behind a plan that gives something to all sides. Yeah, I know… easier said than done. But, the fact is nobody likes gridlock. Transit is often touted as an alternative but it’s not a realistic alternative for most people. I think that for years a big part of the “yes” vote on transit was people thinking, “if just other people will ride it then there will be more roadway for me.” As unpopular as congestion pricing seems right now I think that with the proper sales pitch people will change their tune. People hated metered on ramps. But when there’s a need to silence the crazy talk all WSDOT has to do is turn them off (or threaten to) and the resulting gridlock speaks for it’s self. The same will be true of congestion pricing.

      2. >> So at least 6 times as many voters are thinking eliminating the bus lanes is good for them.

        That assumes all drivers who drive on that corridor care about the extra driving lane. As someone who drives a lot, I can tell you that a lot of people don’t care. A lot of people also welcome road diets. It makes driving more reasonable and predictable (fewer accidents). Besides, lots of people support transit and road diets because they think it is good for society, even if it makes their drive marginally slower.

        Consider Aurora. I drive that road a lot. I have yet to take the E. But I sure as hell don’t want to see them take away any of the bus lanes. That would be crazy, and just wrong. It is quite possible that the vast majority of drivers on 23rd feel the same way. There has been no vote on the issue, nor any polling. The only thing that has happened is that a handful of drivers bothered to respond to the survey.

        When it comes to voting, the people who voted had clear choices in this, and the last couple elections. They repeatedly have voted for candidates who prioritize bus travel over general purpose traffic. Of course no one wants gridlock, but adding a bus lane on 23rd won’t contribute to gridlock, and would quite likely reduce traffic overall. If SDOT wants to listen to the voters, then they will add back the bus lane.

      3. “if just other people will ride it then there will be more roadway for me.”

        The transit lanes are part of the getting other people to ride it.

  5. SDOT appears to be a mess. This isn’t the only nonsensical proposal produced in recent weeks. I get it — we can’t get everything we want. It is important for cars and trucks to move through the region at a reasonable speed. We also have only so much money, so expensive improvements will be difficult.

    But there is simply no reason to have two general purpose lanes on 23rd. This is part of a recent pattern that is not only disappointing, but nonsensical. The plans for 65th Ave N. E. are ridiculous. SDOT’s own data show that forcing the buses to get out of the lane to pick up and drop off riders only slows down the buses, and doesn’t make the cars move faster. At the same time, they shrink the size of the sidewalks next to a light rail station. The best (or maybe worst) example of the disconnect between the mayor’s vision and some of the plans are the proposals for Rainier. At the same time she is proposing tolls as a means to reduce the number of cars downtown, she wants to have two general purpose lanes *going into downtown*. The right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing. The various plans seem to be designed by people plugging in numbers, and then throwing together a proposal with no regard for the big picture, or even if it actually makes sense. The most transit friendly proposal for Rainier involves a bus lane that alternates between curbside and middle four times in less than a mile (

    There are many more examples (the Seattle Bike Blog has plenty). This is not the result of an agency running out of money, or even prioritizing cars, but of an agency that is simply dysfunctional.

    I have to believe that turmoil at the department has a lot to do with this mess. Kulby is gone, and now you have a former deputy director (Sparrman) in charge. The guy has experience with the department, but never worked with Kulby, which means he probably doesn’t know these people well. He is also interim director. It is pretty easy to imagine all sorts of nasty office politics leading to really poor decisions. The plans are reactionary instead of well thought out, and this is an excellent example. Two lanes because people wanted it — not because they could actually drive to where the want to go faster. Individuals in charge of the proposal seem to be most interested in addressing some random comment, instead of actually accomplishing the goals of the mayor. Speaking of which, she too is new — she has no previous experience with the department (or anything with the city).

    SDOT is a mess. Either the mayor needs to get a new head of the department, or she needs to sit down with Sparrman and explain why these proposals are stupid and ask him to fix it. I realize he has his hands full (downtown), but creating a vision and then making sure that vision is met is essential as head of a department. If he can’t do it, then the mayor should get someone who can.

    1. Got another source on that pdf? It’s gone from the site, and a cursory search elsewhere doesn’t find anything.

      1. Wow, weird. I noticed that original web page referenced in the Bike Blog article ( is also out of date. Maybe SDOT pulled it. One more sign of an agency that is a mess. They can’t even keep their documents straight.

        Anyway, I had it in my cache and copied it here:

    2. This isn’t about SDOT being a mess. This is about the mayor being anti-transit and anti-ped safety.

    3. Could also be partially due to job market being so hot. Lots of people switching jobs. Loss of key staff on infrastructure projects.

  6. What’s transit community got to lose by just floating, meaning threatening Seattle with, idea that KC Metro and its own riders on other lines, and taxpayers county-wide will quit wasting their money on lost service hours from blockages WSDOT could get out of buses way.

    And will simply pull runs that’ll spend hours stuck in traffic? If we can collect some addresses, maybe this’ll be on same level as average community input.


    1. The fact that non-drivers get the worst of it if Metro cancels bus runs or lets them be an hour late.

      1. Mike, you know me better than to think there’s a chance that anybody would ever do anything I say, however with one exception. Paul Weyrich, the publisher of The New Electric Railway Journal correctly considered streetcars his signature example of true Conservatism.

        So there might very well be some wealthy extreme right wingers who’ll
        quietly take advantage of the Supreme Court’s murder of Election Financing reports to crowd-fund my campaign to restore the Route 43, except this time incorporating every single parking place on 23rd into fully reserved bus lanes.

        As long as we keep street-running turning radius, LINK should be ok. Paul even sent one of his editors, George Krambles, to see the inception of our dual-power buses. He even showed us a design for guiding poles to the wire without ropes. Something like a spring-loaded coat hanger. So there’s just a chance…. anyhow, whole idea is just to scare this incarnation of “Progressives”.

        Who are mostly liberals whom Rush Limbaugh scared into calling themselves that. Maybe if a real Progressive- James Ellis the founder of Metro is a perfect example- ran for President in 2020, he could sweep the Election spectrum wide.

        At the very least, when liberals actually see what a Progressive is, they’ll realize that they’re neither in danger, or Progressives, anymore.

  7. Maybe Durkan’s SDOT is trying to force the transit, biking, and walking advocates into submission by cancelling or delaying any meaningful non-SOV projects over and over again.

  8. What a ridiculous bit of hyperbole:

    “It is unethical to knowingly design a street that will injure or kill people.”

    You can’t even design an ethical *park* that won’t “injure or kill people”, much less a street which is actually useful for getting from one place to another! Risk is inherent in all forms of motion. People slip and fall, and sometimes even die, just walking around their own houses.

    1. It is unethical to knowingly design a street that will injure or kill more people.

      Happy now?

      1. I still think it’s absurd to act as though one particular set of risk/benefit tradeoffs has some unambiguous moral superiority, above all others, but at least with your change it is possible to have a coherent conversation about the idea.

      2. The only way to design a street that doesn’t kill people is to have no car lanes at all.

      3. Eliminating the car lanes would not be enough; the bike lanes must go as well, since people injure themselves while riding bicycles and sometimes even die. The unfortunate person attempting to design a street according to ethical standard proposed here would also be obligated to remove the sidewalks, since people trip and fall while simply walking around. After eliminating all forms of transportation infrastructure, it might even be necessary for the ethical street designer to fence off the entire right-of-way, in order to prevent children from wandering into the undeveloped space.

        This is a weakness in a lot of the Vision Zero rhetoric; it’s all well and good to have a conversation about the risks and benefits involved in different transportation engineering tradeoffs, but acting as though it is possible to eliminate risk, and using moral-high-horse arguments to squelch opposition, does not lead to productive understanding of the decisions being made.

      4. Relax, Ross. What can be less likely to kill people than a street where nothing on wheels can move? Only one real danger. A skateboard on a sidewalk could reach terminal velocity between Thomas Street and the Ship Canal.


    2. Because with two general purpose lanes it’s impossible to get around but with three it is possible??? Murphy’s Law guarantees that more lane changes and passing will lead to more crashes. Not only do the crashes lead to backups and unreliable trip times, but it is dangerous both for people in cars and those not in cars–and it will kill people.

      1. Everything is dangerous. Moving from one place to another is dangerous. Not moving can also be dangerous. Moving quickly can be more dangerous, but sometimes failing to move quickly enough is a bigger problem. Everything is a tradeoff; we should be honest about the balances of good and bad qualities in the choices we consider, instead of focusing only on certain kinds of harm while ignoring others.

      2. @Mars — Do you honestly think that having two lanes is safer than three? All evidence — all of the studies — suggest otherwise. You’ve gone from making a valid, if pedantic argument, to an absurd one. Absolutely, you can’t eliminate risk. But you can reduce it, and having one lane each direction (with a turn lane) will do just that.

      3. I’m not talking about the number of lanes at all. I’m criticizing a mindset, exemplified by that ridiculous twitter comment, which comes up over and over in “Vision Zero” related discussions. We can’t have a reasonable conversation about the risks and benefits involved in these changes with people who get up on a high horse about the ethical superiority of their personal preferences, when the fact is that we’re all making tradeoffs, and they just won’t admit it.

        As far as lane reduction goes, I’m sure that going from 2 lanes each way to 1 with a turn lane does reduce risk. So what? We could reduce risk even more by going down to zero lanes each way. Should we close all roads, then? Well, clearly no, and just as clearly there is more to the discussion than risk. We have to balance risk against utility, and we have to balance different kinds of utility. There are no easy answers and there is no ethically superior position.

      4. OK, so you admit that your original argument was wrong. Rare these to hear that — that is refreshing.

        So, basically, we are clear that having two lanes each way is safer. The only question is whether that safety is actually worth it.

        So far, SDOT has reversed their decision on this road based on comments, not science. They offer no evidence that this will significantly speed up travel along this, or any other road. So, basically, you are saying we should be willing to trade a perceived and possible benefit (some time saved) versus a known risk (a more dangerous street). That isn’t worth it me.

        Meanwhile, you are throwing up ridiculous straw men (like getting rid of all lanes). No one suggested that. Look, when the government required seat belts on all cars, I’m sure there were folks who said “that is crazy — it will cost a lot of money — if you really want us all to be safer, we should just ban cars”. That argument was as pointless and ridiculous then as your argument is now.

      5. I’m really not sure what argument you think I have been making. I don’t have any particular opinion about the Montlake project. The only thing I have been talking about this whole time is the unreasonable attitude about risk exemplified by that one Twitter comment from the Seattle Bike Blog – which no longer seems to be part of the post, oddly enough. I guess it got edited out…? In which case the editors probably ought to remove this whole subthread, too.

      6. Vision Zero is based on evidence that reducing four lanes to three or two reduces collisions, as does lowering the speed limit and increasing separation between cars, bikes, and peds. In many cases Seattle built four lanes because tradition but they’re only full a couple hours a day if that. With four-lane capacity but less than four lanes of traffic, no turn lanes, and bunches of parked cars here and there, people change lanes to turn or get around turning cars or slower cars. These lane changes increases the collision rate and make the average movement more stop-and-go which slows down everybody, and reducing the lanes and adding left-turn lanes or pockets are intended precisely to eliminate those lane changes.

        So there’s no question about the basic concept of reducing lanes or that 23rd/24th is overbuilt. The issue is that you can’t decide this in a vacuum: safety itself is a value that has to be recognized as such and weighed against other values, otherwise it ends up stomping over them. I disagree with the part about reducing arterial speed from 30 mph to 25 and non-arterials from 25 to 20 because that seems excessive (and will slow buses down, especially if it’s applied to places like MLK, Rainier, and Aurora). Overall I think Vision Zero is OK, but I worry about the other trend of treating safety like an absolute. All these construction companies have big safety signs on their walls; that seems like it has gotten excessive.

        Cars cause collisions many times more than bikes do and they’re many times more lethal, just because they’re big heavy things going at faster speeds. If dinosaurs or elephants skateboarded they’d be as lethal as cars, but our own puny human bikes and peds are a fraction of that. So it makes sense to mitigate the car threat (and possibly eliminate car lanes or ban driving) but not go over the top and eliminate bike lanes and sidewalks too, and issue everyone a suit of armor to wear when they go out of their house.

  9. Part of the problem is the way we approach designing our streets. We measure current traffic volume then use that as the basis of how many general purpose lanes we need. If we really want to see a shift from SOV use to transit, walking and biking, we need to assume some reduction in SOV traffic volumes and provide priority to the other modes wherever possible so they are feasible. Call it a war on cars if you want, but I call it a shift of priorities from SOV capacity to transit, bike and ped capacity.

    If congestion pricing actually happens, imagine how much faster our buses would go. It would be so much easier to build bike lanes because GP lanes wouldn’t be as packed.

    Given Mayor Durkan’s short but consistent record, I’m not holding my breath.

    1. I agree with your first paragraph, but I don’t think Durkan has a record as far as transportation goes. That is the problem. She just took office, got rid of Kurby, hired an interim director, and plans that people have been working on under the previous mayor and SDOT chief are just now coming into public view. Things need to change, but it isn’t clear how she wants to change them. Does she go with Sparrman, but ask him to take a more active role, and fix these obvious flaws, or does she hire someone new? Is she secretly OK with this, or this a case of a department failing to realize her vision, and just plugging in meaningless numbers, or responding to the biggest whiners? Given her bold proposal to at least look at the very controversial idea of congestion pricing, I think this is a case where the department doesn’t know what it is doing. That could be the result of Sparrman responding to the whiners (or prioritizing car traffic) or it could be that he has no idea what his department is doing.

      I personally find it odd that Sparrman was hired as interim director. Usually you hire someone from the department to fill that role. To hire someone who *used* to work there doesn’t make sense to me. There have likely been a lot of changes in the last few years at SDOT, and it is quite possible that he has no idea what is going there. Either that, or he simply isn’t up to the task.

  10. Are we not going to talk about part of this segment is on an incline between Boyer and Aloha? Lots of vehicles struggle to get up that hill. The introduction of a left-turn lane certainly is safer but keeping a general purpose climbing lane at least for this segment is very reasonable. This segment has no bottleneck and diesel buses climb the hill very slowly.

    1. Wow! I’m rereading the announcement The second lane is for northbound?

      Now that’s just stupid.

      1. Yes, don’t get that at all. People mainly speed down the hill. So wouldn’t you want the “calming” to occur in the northbound lane?

      2. I agree. It is ridiculously unsafe. Since this is a transit blog, folks are focused on the transit aspect of this. But this flies in the face of all the other work done in the city. On NE 130th, close to where I live, they put the road on a diet. Instead of two lanes both directions, they have one lane each direction, along with a turn lane. The street is much safer, especially where the road goes down the hill. Instead of cars going 40 MPH, they go 30 (if that). If someone in front is driving slow, drivers just have to deal with it. This is a very poorly thought out change, that flies in the face of several stated goals.

      3. I think the article above has it wrong. I went to the SDOT site, which sttes:

        “Using feedback and looking at where speeding is most frequent, we revised the recommended design for 23rd Ave E between Boyer Ave E and E John St. The new design:

        Maintains two southbound travel lanes
        Adds a center turn lane
        Goes from two northbound lanes to one”

      4. @ tk76

        I think the problem is due to the document itself. You are right, at the beginning of the document, that is what it says. But if you scroll down, under the section titled “E John St to Boyer Ave E” (with the picture that includes a big 2), it says

        Note that while our preliminary design included one northbound general purpose lane and one northbound transit lane, we’ve decided to remove the transit lane and replace it with a second northbound general purpose lane based on community feedback.

        There is a disconnect there. My guess it is what they wrote at the beginning of the document — one northbound and two southbound lanes. That makes a lot more sense.

  11. It is worth mentioning that Madison is currently two lanes each direction ( but won’t be after the Madison BRT project is done. There will be the occasional right turn lane, but there will basically be one lane of traffic each direction. This is relevant for a couple of reasons:

    1) If Madison — a major thoroughfare — can survive with one lane of general purpose traffic each direction, so two can 23rd.

    2) It will make less sense to use 23rd. If I’m in a car on First Hill and want to get to Kirkland, then using Madison and 23rd is a reasonable option. But with the change on Madison, this becomes less appealing. It will be slow going each way, but I might as well slog my way downtown (and get on the freeway earlier). SDOT is basically in the process of choking off one of the main sources of cars to 23rd. They seem to be ignoring this, and think that two lanes on 23rd are necessary, when they obviously aren’t. This is just another in a series of recent decisions that fail to consider the big picture. While the changes on Madison will send cars to the freeways instead of the regular streets (a good thing) they seem to be doing the opposite on 23rd.

    1. Or, more likely, Madison changes will get cut along with every other non-car mobility project.

  12. I think people are mixing up a few issues here. The restriction of lanes between John and Boyer is about reducing speeds and not about a “choke point.” If anything it’s an attempt to create a choke point to make cars slow down on that stretch of road.

    Long term, there is supposed to be BRT built along bus route 48, which ideally will get buses moving better through Montlake. But this BRT won’t happen until the new bridge and interchange is completed (2025?)

    I’m all for accelerating the pace of this larger project, but that is separate from this “traffic calming” that is happening this summer. Having a bus lane between John and Boyer will not effect transit times on the 48 bus.

    I do wonder why they are leaving 2 lanes going down the hill and only 1 lane going up. Isn’t there a greater need for “calming” of speeds heading down that hill towards Montlake?

    1. >> Having a bus lane between John and Boyer will not effect transit times on the 48 bus.

      Maybe not, but it wouldn’t hurt. It also sends a clear message to WSDOT as far as what they need to build on the interchange (one bus lane and one regular lane).

      >> I do wonder why they are leaving 2 lanes going down the hill and only 1 lane going up. Isn’t there a greater need for “calming” of speeds heading down that hill towards Montlake?

      Yes, there is. Which is probably why they originally had a bus lane there. What else would you do with that lane? Give it bikes, only to take it away a few years from now? Parking? That would screw up both regular traffic and bus travel. At least now a bus is in the right lane, but if you forced the bus to get in an out of that right lane, it would slow it down. Regular traffic would slow down as folks parallel parked. If you want one lane going downhill (which would make a huge difference in terms of safety) then the only logical thing is to give the right lane over to buses.

      This just runs contrary to the original purpose (traffic calming) while doing nothing to set us up for the future.

      1. I’m totally fine with the original plan with the bus lane(and I live in the area, so have a strong vested interest in increased safety, I use the 48 bus and wish the 43 ran frequently.)

        I just don’t think that particular bus lane has much transit impact at this stage of things. Hopefully the eventual BRT line on 23/24 will be well executed and not delayed like Madison BRT.

      2. >> I just don’t think that particular bus lane has much transit impact at this stage of things.

        I agree, nor do I think this is anywhere near as bad as the initial set of decisions made by SDOT on Rainier Avenue or 65th NE. But I will say that having a bus lane would:

        1) Make the street safer (the original goal).

        2) Make it easier to build bus lanes through Montlake later (from a political standpoint).

        3) Save money in the long run (assuming they do build a bus lane through Montlake). It is quite likely that this will have to re-striped twice, which isn’t the most expensive thing in the world, but it isn’t free, either.

        What isn’t clear is whether this will even make driving better or not. If it doesn’t make driving better, then it is pointless. If it does make driving better, then there is a fourth benefit to taking the lane:

        4) Makes bus travel more competitive with driving.

        If Seattle is going to make a commitment to bus lanes on this corridor, then they should so now, instead of waiting a few years.

  13. Many good comments here. As depicted, a transit lane was recently nixed southbound heading up the hill from Boyer to John, where it could have been installed without a real problem; one of the two screaming downhill lanes heading northbound (in which drivers have been clocked over 60mph) is being converted to a two-way center turn lane. One of the southbound lanes was proposed to be a transit-only (and right turn) lane, but that apparently ran into some opposition (not from me!) That project is this:

    What we desperately need are transit lanes northbound approaching the Montlake interchange from the south, but it’s not an easy problem to solve and neighborhood opposition isn’t the issue here. The issue is geometry. I for one live a block off 24th and would welcome transit priority in both directions for the length of this corridor if we can figure out a way to add them without causing the system to break down.

    A brief history lesson: Fundamentally the issue is that the SR 520 interchange was built (and will soon be rebuilt) in the wrong place; about 70% of the travel demand (and growing) is north of the cut and the interchange area is its own bottleneck independent of the Montlake Bridge. Many people (myself included) fought for many years to get that problem fixed with transit priority all the way to UW station on first a fixed bridge, and then a tunnel, only to have Governor Gregoire throw her hands up and give up on the problem for another generation or two.

    Hence we came to know, in 2010, that Montlake will remain congested indefinitely, which is why we need transit lanes in two places: northbound approaching the interchange and southbound from U Village all the way to UW station. A $100M second drawbridge was analyzed and somewhat counterintuitively actually does literally nothing for this problem because it just lets more cars through to intersections that are already overloaded. We have several hundred million dollars of studies on this already from the early/mid 2000s.

    Southbound from U Village is not really a problem. The right of way is there and underutilized now. We need a lane for transit, HOVs and emergency vehicles from U Village down to Pacific Street, where it’s cheap and easy on dry and underutilized land. The UW has a vision for huge expansion on the East campus that could and should be the long overdue catalyst for this project.

    Northbound through Montlake is the tough one. The 48, a future RapidRide line, is sitting motionless in traffic queues daily. The trouble is, if we take away a lane for cars and give it to transit as we may be tempted to do, queues will extend not just to Boyer but beyond; cars will line up, idling, for many more hours of the day, and thousands of vehicles a day will cut through neighborhood streets by an elementary school and a greenway, or go another long way around via I-5 or I-90, none of which will scale, causing problems in other places.

    We could try leaving two lanes northbound in the blocks approaching the interchange and turning one of the southbound lanes into a northbound transit bypass lane, but I don’t think we can spare a southbound lane right near Roanoke because that would reduce intersection capacity. We do have an opportunity to improve matters right around Roanoke Street as there is some right of way in that area and the SDOT has been looking at this.

    But SDOT’s doing basically nothing in Montlake along 24th for now and kicking the can down the road another couple of years until it’s reevaluated in conjunction with the Montlake Phase of the SR 520 project. WSDOT will then do nothing to solve this problem, just as they did before, because they do not even consider it to be their problem, while the city has little funding and basically no leverage. And so essentially the status quo will remain indefinitely, no matter what any neighborhood people or transit supporters have to say. Sorry if I sound jaded!

      1. That’s a 36-page WSDOT report. I wanted to know where Jonathan Dubman thinks the interchange should have been. North of the Ship Canal? Closer to the bridge? Connecting to Harvard and 10th instead of 24th?

      2. I’m not him, but you’ll see on page 15 a map of the only other serious proposal I’m aware of for the interchange: extending Pacific St to the east and connecting it to Lake Washington Blvd via an overwater interchange.

        It would’ve eliminated the Montlake interchange altogether.

      3. From a traffic perspective we’d be much better off with at least some of the 520 ramps terminating north of the ship canal. That may be sacrilege to some because from an environmental and livability perspective it’s not as clear. Impacts were going to be huge no matter what, including to the Arboretum. The layout and urban design where these highways meet the city are critical, challenging, fascinating, thorny problems.

        The problems of the current configuration (which is mostly the original 1960’s configuration, but on steroids) were identified and discussed and studied ad nauseum, and the backups we see now were the predicted result of the decisions that were ultimately made (in the end, by Governor Gregoire.)

        This isn’t the right context in which to reprise the whole fascinating journey we took that led us from the starting point of complete neighborhood opposition to any expansion, to a constructive partnership with WSDOT that led to WSDOT’s Pacific Interchange plan, and how that morphed into a tunnel after the Governor nixed the Pacific Interchange, and all the many pros/cons of those plans as they evolved, and how the state deliberately delayed the implementation of tolling so we’d avoid knowing how effective it would be at managing traffic before decisions were made, and the corresponding legal actions and decisions, and how all of this was intricately woven with the politics that led to Seattle focusing its political capital on the SR 99 tunnel downtown under Mayor Greg Nickels, but I will say this:

        Early in the 520 planning process, I and others proposed congestion pricing and a direct, fixed bridge from 520 to UW, with a direct bus-rail connection at what was then the future UW station. The pricing we could start right away to raise money and reduce congestion on the existing facility. We took this vision all the way up at the state level. Congestion pricing would get a 4 lane bridge to flow well (as we hoped to demonstrate via early tolling), keeping the traffic volumes down to a level the connecting streets (Montlake) and highways (I-5) could support. The new fixed bridge (with bike lanes!) would take buses straight from the Eastside dropping you off at the station door without a drawbridge in the equation, at the likely expense of Eastside transit access to Montlake.

        WSDOT was unwilling to consider using tolling (which was already planned) to manage traffic and eliminate the need for the HOV lanes, and ultimately unwilling to build a new fixed crossing of the cut (while ST went ahead and built the Link tunnel.) WSDOT took the good ideas that were suggested and pumped them up to a scale that led to impacts, costs and resistance that, in turn, led to their demise. Thus the tragedy of accomplishing, from a transportation perspective, not all that much, for a grand total of $5 billion.

        What I might suggest today (had this ship not already sailed) is direct access ramps at least to/from the Eastside, where they are really needed for the transit connection, emerging out of the center of 520, flying over to UW, high enough to be a fixed span, probably 70 feet of clearance, with only two lanes of managed traffic, and a number of changes around Montlake/Pacific in the ocean of parking there that gets traffic moving, pedestrians and bicycles safely to the station, campus and trails, and puts bus stops directly in front of the station.

        Drawbridge notwithstanding, getting rid of a lot of vehicles is actually a cheaper solution than anything else and that can still potentially be done. Congestion pricing actually raises money — from the drivers who are causing the congestion. There are social equity issues, although there is also a certain fairness to it. If we used pricing effectively, half the new floating bridge would be surplus. We could grow crops there or repave it with solar panels and still have more more regional mobility than we have now. Maybe we will someday.

    1. Good background info.

      I was hoping that the eventual completion of the 520/Montlake work would help traffic flow better by creating extra lanes dedicated to getting on and off 520 that would enable N-S traffic to flow freely across the bridge(s.)

      You state that this won’t clear up the bottleneck. Please explain.

      1. Extra lanes for on/off ramps are for storage of vehicles — there are still conflicts (i.e. traffic lights) because all those cars are vying for the same pavement. Unless you were to create a cloverleaf or flyover-type interchange (which would take out several homes and make it very, well, Houston-esque) you’re stuck in the “geometry” problem that Jonathan cites.

      2. The Montlake Phase of the SR 520 project will include direct-access HOV lanes that allow buses that are currently stuck on the off ramp from 520 heading towards UW to serve a new transit station on a lid in Montlake before crossing the drawbridge. Separating transit and general purpose (GP) traffic will help speed and reliability for the buses between UW and the Eastside, because they’ll be out of the GP queues, although they will still get stuck along with everyone else if/when the bridge goes up. Hopefully bus stops at UW station will be moved next to the station and then the transfer can be as easy and efficient as it can be.

        However, this will do nothing for the north/south bottleneck along that corridor heading towards the interchange from the south (or the north for that matter, but at least that’s not a problem for the 48.) Things will probably be slightly worse as there will be more vehicles in general using the interchange. The intersection of Lake Washington Blvd. and Montlake Blvd. will definitely get worse when the Arboretum ramp closes and traffic is shunted to the single remaining GP on ramp, though there will now be more queue storage on the loop ramp itself heading to the ramp meters because what is now an HOV lane will become a second GP lane, as HOV access shifts to the center lanes. Northbound Montlake to eastbound 520 via the loop ramp will become a double left turn lane (today it is one left turn lane) which will partially mitigate the delays the other changes will impose.

        What I’m describing is the eventual configuration. In the meantime, get ready for many years of construction, starting later this year, and all of the additional traffic, delays and disruption that entails.

        Nothing except getting rid of a lot of vehicles will yield free-flowing traffic through there at peak periods. And maybe that’s exactly what we need. Jack up the toll on the 520 bridge, implement congestion pricing on Seattle streets, pour resources in transit, and this bottleneck would be resolved.

        Maybe don’t hold your breath on that if Seattle can’t follow through on an uphill bus lane on 24th where it doesn’t even slow anyone down.

        Though it’s easy to become cynical, I do see movement on a decade-by-decade basis in terms of societal attitudes on all this. Congestion pricing is now part of the dialogue. Transit priority is a thing in Seattle, even if unevenly distributed. The 520 project, for all its flaws and missed opportunities, is better now than it would have been had we moved ahead with a 9 lane Portage Bay Viaduct, as WSDOT proposed in 2005. Seismic shifts seem likely to happen in transportation over the next few years, so real solutions may yet emerge that are less pavement-oriented than what’s been tried or suggested before.

      3. No doubt the next few years are going to be really painful once they close the Arboretum interchanges. Not sure why they are closing them 5 years before the proposes fix is in place to address the doubling of traffic at Montlake (and even that “solution” appears a bit half baked.)

        I know people want transit prioritized over cars. But in this case everyone will suffer as Montlake fills up with idling cars on both major and minor streets.

    2. Northbound through Montlake is the tough one. The 48, a future RapidRide line, is sitting motionless in traffic queues daily. The trouble is, if we take away a lane for cars and give it to transit as we may be tempted to do, queues will extend not just to Boyer but beyond; cars will line up, idling, for many more hours of the day, and thousands of vehicles a day will cut through neighborhood streets by an elementary school and a greenway, or go another long way around via I-5 or I-90, none of which will scale, causing problems in other places.

      So what? We deal with those other problems as they crop up. You might have some drivers try to use the side streets, but those are very slow, not at all straightforward, and eventually they have to get in the same line anyway. If folks choose to get on the freeways instead, that is a good thing. That is where the cars belong.

      This is nothing like the mess that closing the viaduct will cause. Three lanes to two, with no downtown or Western ramps — that makes this a very minor thing in comparison. Also consider Madison, which will go from 2 lanes each direction to 1. Somehow folks will survive.

      As someone who drives all the time, I’m sympathetic to those who miss the old days. But those days are gone. You can’t build enough lanes to make traffic free flowing, nor will reducing a lane here or there cause things to get much worse. People will adjust. There will be plenty of drivers who will hate the new SR 99, while others with wonder why traffic is suddenly so much worse on Madison. They will survive. They will find other ways to get where they want to go. They might even take the bus.

      That is the point. Make transit faster than driving and more people take transit. It really doesn’t matter how you get there. You can make transit really fast, or make driving really slow. But if the complete, end to end transit trip is competitive with driving, more people will use that. This is good thing, both for overall mobility, as well as benefiting those who can’t afford to drive. Induced demand cuts both ways. Take away a lane, and more people take the bus. If that bus runs in its own lane, then more people get to where they want to go. This, in turn, leads to better headways on the buses (the virtuous cycle of transit).

      That is the only way out of this mess. We can’t pretend that more general purpose lanes is going to solve the problem, any more than building more general purpose lanes won’t. Cars don’t scale — transit does. We need to move towards better transit, as it is the only way to move enough people. Taking lanes — whenever possible — is the sensible thing to do.

      1. . Cars don’t scale — transit does.

        That’s a false narrative. Transit doesn’t do well at all scaling down. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be “someone who drives all the time”. The Seattle metro area just doesn’t have the density to make transit more convenient for the vast majority of trips. And the peanut butter approach to transit spending is as inherently doomed as adding more lanes to the freeways.

        There’s hard choices that have to be made. If you want to drive through downtown … U-Dist .. Seattle Center… without being stuck in traffic then you’re going to have to pay up. Sorry poor people. Oh no, the R word. The flip side, if you want/need a car free existence then you don’t get to live in North Bend, or even the suburbs with the exception of a few oasis of transit service.

        Land use patterns have to change. And that’s only going to happen with “tough love.” That means no highly subsidized ferry service, no Mud Slide & Western RR, no light rail to the hinterlands and, most of all, no more “free”-ways. The HOT lanes are a good modest start. The fact that tolls can’t be set high enough on the DBT should have been a red light signal on that boondoggle. Bridges like 520 should be paid for completely with tolls. For cripes sake, the first one was! We’re slipping backwards.

      2. >> Transit doesn’t do well at all scaling down.

        Who cares, I’m talking about scaling up. Holy cow, man, where you been. We aren’t going to “scale down” along this corridor anytime soon, if ever.

        Meanwhile, we are scaling up like crazy. We are literally spending billions on light rail infrastructure. We are spending millions on new bus service. The new RapidRide that will replace the 48 will cross Link five times. It will also cross the Madison BRT line. These build on each other, but only if the buses can run frequently and reliably. Otherwise, you are stuck with the same mess we are in now (where you are better off driving).

        What are saying, anyway? That we should reserve two lanes for cars, but that we should increase tolling? Those two positions are ridiculous contrarian. If the tolls work, then we don’t need two lanes. If they don’t, then the buses are stuck with the cars.

        >> The Seattle metro area just doesn’t have the density to make transit more convenient for the vast majority of trips.

        You don’t think that there is enough density to have decent and reliable bus service on that corridor? Seriously? It is one of the highest density corridors in the state. Just look at it ( It starts at the UW (very high density) goes through the relatively low Montlake area, then picks up again in the C. D. From there all the way down to Rainier Beach you have good density. Good density, great connections — all it needs is better reliability, which is why it makes sense to give it its own lane.

      3. It’s not just about this corridor or that corridor. If it doesn’t scale down then people can’t get to the bus so they drive their car. If they have to drive their car (or take an Uber) then few are going to waste the time to transfer to a bus. Unless of course; a) can’t get there from here or b) it hits them big time in the pocket book. Congestion tolling certainly takes care of b). The other possibility is gridlock which is where special bus only lanes can be effective. But, even if it’s not entirely true, people stuck in traffic watching a bus go by just tends to tick them off and hate transit. And that’s justified given the probability that attempting to make their entire trip on transit isn’t feasible. So, then you get into the really expensive P&R model of transit. The number of lanes at this one spot isn’t what’s important. It might play a role in how much the congestion price is but without controlling the demand more lanes just means more cars stuck in traffic. The best building GP lanes can ever achieve is a small compression of peak travel times.

        What I’m saying is; number of lanes doesn’t matter. Bus lanes don’t matter. Nothing “works” until you curb demand. Which means you eliminate the GP lanes entirely or charge enough that they flow freely. In the case of the 520 interchange I was for eliminating it entirely except for transit (i.e. can’t get there from here approach). There are just too many cars already trying to get to/through the UW from there. More cars, no matter how many bridges you build, only makes the problem worse.

      4. I honestly don’t know what you are proposing. Read the article again. This is not an open thread, where you are welcome to discuss and propose your plans for fixing America. We are talking about bus lanes on 23rd. Nothing more, nothing less.

        What I’m saying is; number of lanes doesn’t matter. Bus lanes don’t matter. Nothing “works” until you curb demand. Which means you eliminate the GP lanes entirely or charge enough that they flow freely.

        Huh? First you say the number of lanes don’t matter, then you say we should eliminate the GP lanes entirely. Zero is a number. Oh, and were you really thinking we should eliminate cars from the Montlake bridge? Seriously?

        Oh, and what exactly do you mean by “works”? You mean you can’t possibly have a good public transportation system until you curb the demand for general purpose traffic? Dude, that’s ridiculous. Just about all of the great public transportation systems around the world are in cities where lots of people drive.

        people stuck in traffic watching a bus go by just tends to tick them off and hate transit.

        But charging them 20 bucks to drive over the ship canal will thrill them. I also don’t think anyone hates transit when they see a train or a bus go by them. They might be pissed, but only at themselves (“man, I should have taken the train — I knew traffic was going to suck at this hour”). Do you really think there a bunch of angry drivers on 520 every morning cursing the buses that go by?

        So, then you get into the really expensive P&R model of transit.

        Dude, you’re confused. We aren’t talking about Lynnwood here. We are talking about Seattle. Take another look at this corridor. Look hard. Check out the census data. Look at the zoning ( or new development ( Look at the views from the air. Don’t just concentrate on the corridor itself (although it has a worthy level of development) but look at connecting corridors, which have very good transit (or will soon). Now imagine trying to get from one place to the other. Very few will be interested in a freaking park and ride. At most you have a handful of people in Broodmoor who may want to drive and park on Madison. So what? That doesn’t matter, either way.

        The point is, if transit along this corridor is much better, then taking transit becomes the better option. Even if folks decide to drive, at least those that take the bus have a better option. People still take cabs (or drive) in New York. But a really good transit system means that lots of people use it.

        Here, let me give you an example. Let’s say I’m trying to get from the Central Area to the UW. Let me be more specific. How about Garfield High School to the UW. Driving is relatively fast, but I need to find a place to park. Now assume the 48 runs often and fast. With just about any traffic (caused by rush hour congestion or a bridge opening) would mean that taking the bus is faster. Even before dealing with the parking, I am better off taking transit.

        How about Garfield to Bellevue in a few years. Again, driving is faster, unless there is traffic. But the combination of the train and bus can be competitive. Enough so that lots of people (including me) would choose it over the hassle of driving. But not if the 48 is stuck trying to get out of Montlake! That is the point.

        This is not an obscure, suburban pinch point we are talking about. Holy Cow, this is right in the middle of the city. The corridor that is the focus of this article literally runs through the Central Area. It will cross Link five times! It is the opposite of “you can’t get there from here”. It is “you can get damn near anywhere from here — on transit”. But not if the buses are stuck in the pinch points! A bus that spends 15 minutes crossing the ship canal messes up the whole thing. Transit then loses its advantage and you might as well drive.

        I think you’ve wandered off into some weird, philosophical vision of how transportation can be fixed with tolling. Fine. Fair enough. But let’s focus on the subject at hand. How many lanes should 23rd have. Lots of people (myself included) feel that it is simple. One general purpose lane each direction, and one bus lane each direction. That included going all the way across the ship canal. Since there is a new bridge coming, you can mix in some general purpose traffic across the way — I really don’t care. You have bus lanes both directions the entire way, and one general purpose lane coming out (and going into) Montlake Toll the general purpose lanes so that traffic flows better. Again, I don’t care. People pay with their wallet or their time. As long as riding a bus becomes a reasonable alternative, I’m happy.

        It isn’t clear at all what your vision is. Again, I go back to the specifics. How many general purpose lanes do you want? If tolling works, then why do you need more than one? If tolling doesn’t work, then shouldn’t we have a bus lane, so that the buses don’t get stuck as well?

      5. I’ll keep it short and to the point. The bus lanes don’t matter. The new mayor is trying to rein in spending on “feel good” projects; like this and the street car. Predictably, out come the spears and pitchforks instead of trying to build consensuses around something that really works and generates revenue to boot.

      6. Bus lanes don’t matter? Seriously? You are saying that saving time for transit riders is meaningless? Saving money for the transit system, which also means building a better transit system is also meaningless? Holy cow, we spent a lot of money on a bus tunnel, which has saved millions of riders millions of hours, and it was all meaningless.

        Oh, and I have no idea what “really works” even means. Works how? What are even trying to achieve? New York, Tokyo, Paris, Toronto, hell, even Vancouver BC — all those cities with bad traffic but first class transit are wasting their time, because they haven’t found out what really works, which apparently is tolling. Man, they could have saved themselves a lot of cash if they just tolled everyone. Bogota is the worst offender — their entire system is based on bus lanes. Imagine how much cheaper it would be if they just tolled everyone and ran the buses with the regular traffic.

        Oh, and back to the point (you keep drifting off topic). If bus lanes don’t matter, and tolling will eliminate the need for so many general purpose lanes, why on earth are you arguing that we need two general purpose lanes on 23rd?

  14. “It is unethical to knowingly design a street that will injure or kill people.”

    Statements like probably contribute the bike blog’s inability to gain broader traction.

    1. Sad thing is too many people take it for granted that someone will just have to die so that motorists can save a few seconds. Runners obsess about shaving seconds off of their 5K time, but not to the extent of being willing to risk someone’s life over it. This is the antithesis of Vision Zero and can not even be considered a “balanced approach.” Welcome to the War on Non-Cars.

    2. When the people behind Black Lives Matter came up with their name, some in the group complained. They thought it could be taken the wrong way, as if it to say “only” black lives matter. Others thought that was absurd. Of course it means all lives matter. Adding “too” or “also” (Black Lives Matter, Also) would make the slogan longer than it needs to be. Give America some credit, they can figure it out. Obviously not.

      Likewise with this. It should be clear to anyone what Seattle Bike Blog was saying. It was a tweet, for heaven’s sake. Saying “It is unethical to knowingly design a street that will injure or kill more people than the alternative” is obviously their meaning, even if they left out several words. But, of course, just like with BLM, some will find fault with an obvious, if not pedantically precise statement.

    1. People are so quick to eject the mayor. It happened with Schell, Nickels, McGinn, Murray, and now some commentators are all ready to reject Durkin as anti-transit or ineffective. Durkin seemed very pro-transit to me during the campaign, and she hired Sheila R (I won’t try to spell her last name), the head of Transportation Choices Coalition, to get her administration organized, and she’s doing some reasonable organizational things and reviews. Let’s wait and see whether she’s really inept or captured by the automobile lobby, or whether this is just a difficult time and things start looking better by the end of her first or second year.

      Who would have been the right mayor? The only other one I recall with strong support among STBers was Cary Moon. Should it have been Cary All the Way? She had less experience and might have been even more confounded with the situation. Or is it some mythical ideal mayor that wasn’t on the ballot?

  15. One of the design features of 23rd Ave in the CD is that there is enough room for vehicles to go around a bus — usually at a stop just after a signal — preventing traffic from backing up into an intersection if the bus is loading or unloading. That’s why the street is wider at Union, Cherry, Jefferson and Yesler bus stops.

    When a lane is taken off of this segment of 23rd Ave, this same design issue will exist. Without a wider lane at a bus stop, traffic will back up on the segments with only one lane unless vehicles can pass by — and potentially blocking intersections. Will SDOT be building these wider street segments so that vehicles can get around a stopped bus? I can’t seem to find any mention of this on the web site.

    1. I didn’t follow the project on 23rd in much detail. Did they widen the sidewalks (and shrink the roadway)? The road used to be four lanes. Now it is three. In the parts like you mentioned, there are four lanes. It seems like they wouldn’t need to have the street wider there than it used to be. So, basically, they shrunk the street in many places, but kept it wide where they want people to pass the buses (or they want extra turn lanes).

      Consider 23rd and Pine. If you look at it from the air, you can tell it used to be four lanes. Where the bus stop is, there are essentially four lanes (, one for the bus, one to pass the bus, a turn lane, and a lane going the other direction. So that all seems pretty simple, and would only require striping. But if you look at the sidewalk, you can see it narrows after that section. So you are right, the street is wider next to the bus stop. But looking at it from the air again, it looks like they widened the sidewalk (although it is tough to tell). You can see plenty of new trees planted in a little strip that extends out from sidewalk. I don’t think that section was there before. It looks like the actual sidewalk is the same width as before, but there is that extra strip (of greenery).

      With this project, it is much simpler. It is all striping. It will be four lanes (as it is now). So that means it could be four lanes where cars pass the bus. My guess is they take the turn lane. So that means two lanes both directions for a section. That way the two lanes are pretty much the same the whole way (otherwise there is no point) while the turn lane just disappears for a bit after a bus stop.

    2. It’s true that the earlier segment of 23rd Ave was narrowed. However, the road at bus stop locations there are wider that the redesigned main road. In this case, the road appears to be the same width (except for one or two tiny left-turn pockets not long enough to parallel a bus stop).

      I guess SDOT could just eliminate the double left-turn lane at bus stops in the single-lane side of the roadway to provide room. The challenge is that almost all stops are at intersections so it would be very confusing to have the turn lane everywhere but at the intersections where people turn! The other thing they could do is make one of the two-direction sides a left-turn only lane at those locations. Neither is very safe or clear to drivers though.

      Finally, this would be an issue for a bus-only lane for bus stops in the other direction. A bus-only lane will not solve this issue in the opposite direction unless the bus lane is discontinuous — and having buses move in and out of regular traffic seems really more dangerous!

      1. >> The challenge is that almost all stops are at intersections so it would be very confusing to have the turn lane everywhere but at the intersections where people turn!

        Not really. The bus stops are far enough from the intersection to carve out a turn lane. For the most part, there really aren’t that many turns, because there isn’t much on either side. The exceptions are Boyer and Thomas.

        I will assume that the two lanes are going southbound (which is contrary to this article, but stated at the beginning of the document, and the logical choice). So we are only worried about northbound cars passing northbound buses. Start with John: You can see there is plenty of room between the bus stop and the intersection. You would probably change the layout at about where that white truck is parked. North of there, the turn lane disappears, for half a block. Northbound you will see one lane transition into two. Southbound the turn lane has been gone for a while, but as you approach that white truck, an extra turn lane (left turn only) appears. You won’t have a huge amount of space for a left turn lane, but you don’t need it. All you really need is room for one car, since worse case scenario is that people back up into the left most lane (you still have the right lane).

        Boyer is five lanes wide, so I think there is enough room to do whatever they want. So in general, I don’t think it is a big problem, and they are simply punting on this (and other issues) for now. I seriously doubt they will do anything but re-stripe, which they may end up doing in a few years.

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