SDOT announced last week that a key stretch of 4th Ave S will get a bus lane this Fall. The project extends the existing northbound bus lane between Jackson and Weller further south to the I-90 exit Royal Brougham Way. This lane will be 24/7, though cars will be allowed to turn right. SDOT will paint the lane red.

37 bus routes use this lane to access the curbside 4th & Jackson stop at some point in the day. Most are peak-only buses starting their evening run, but the 522, 545, 554, and 594 travel through there all day. A further 19 routes use the 4th & Jackson island on the left side of the roadway, and may be able to use the lane and then get over to the left in time. These routes include through-routed Metro workhorses like the 5/21, 24/124, 26/131, 28/132, 33/124, and 40.

The project does not currently include a queue jump at S Weller St to assist those buses that shift lanes, but planner Jonathan Dong says that a queue jump is a “great idea” that is “worth exploring.”

The project, which also changes Seattle Blvd S to a double right-turn lane to improve transit times, will cost $149,600.

While the big picture is pretty grim at SDOT right now, we can take small comfort from dedicated professionals who are making incremental gains for transit at this scale.

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Update: the transit lane proposal has been adjusted based on Metro’s input. Improvements are scheduled for August 2018.

10 Replies to “Stretch of 4th Ave Bus Lane to Open This Fall”

  1. At say $150 per service hour, $150,000 is a handy 1,000 service hours it will take for this project to pay off. If every bus saves 1 minute, that’s $2.50 per bus, and just 60,000 trips for break even. I count 1,268 trips that pass through 4th/Royal Brougham each weekday. So this paint would pay for itself in just 47 weekdays. Seriously, I don’t know why we’re not painting red on at least one lane of every single transit arterial. It’s cheaper than free.

    1. From memory, agree on that one. Fourth and Second both had contraflow lanes.


  2. Isn’t this already a BAT lane? I ride this in the morning and it flows pretty well as-is. So the only change is red paint?

    1. Yes, looking at Google Street View, the right lane northbound is already marked BUS ONLY with a solid white stripe.

    2. As someone who gets on at 4th and Jackson regularly, seeing two cars using that lane (usually pulling in front of a bus, too) while you’re waiting for a bus is fairly common, so something more is probably necessary.

  3. When this city moves from solving problems with bus only lanes to putting them in to make service even better, I’ll believe we’ve turned the corner as a city and a local culture. The 7 should have it’s own lane on Rainier. Remove parking on 15th Ave NE and make it bus only for all the 70s through the UDistrict. Dedicate lanes for most/all of the 8 and 48 routes. Bus priority for most or all of the C, D, and E Rapid Rides.

    I think these small changes are great, but I’d love to see us doing this proactively rather than reactively.

    1. Right, when Seattle’s policies toward transit and cars are more like Paris’s, our transit will be more effective like Paris’s. Paris is actively prioritizing people’s mobility and transit first and cars last. It’s converting GP lanes on wide boulevards to transit lanes to make BRT the most effective and efficient it can be. A few years ago it adopted a policy of removing a minimum of 150 street-parking spaces every year to convert the land to a more productive use and to bring the number of parking spaces more in line with the city’s values and goals.

      Seattle has just decided to make 3rd Avenue bus-only midday in addition to the current peak hours. Seattle’s Transit Master Plan adopted in 2012 envisions increasing the number of RapidRide lines on 3rd Avenue from three to six or eight, and decreasing the number of non-RapidRide routes there. It hopes that most people in the future will arrive downtown by Link or RapdiRide, and will use those to circulate north-south within downtown. It will no longer be a spaghetti of local buses and peak-express buses that most people arrive on. Instead they’ll be on high-capacity transit lines use (both Link and RapidRide, although it’s stretching it to call RapidRide “high-capacity”), because consolidated priority routes can haul more people and wheel-ass for the same amount of resources, and their full-time frequency makes them more useful to people, and the simpler network makes visitors and occasional riders less fearful that they’ll get lost. It’s assumed that people will take the line from their home station, or if there’s no station within walking distance, that they’ll take a feeder and transfer somewhere outside downtown. Somewhere that has more room to accommodate more people transferring without slowing everybody down.

      In a way it’s like the DSTT. The DSTT functions like a freeway downtown: everybody gets on and off at a limited number of stations, and it’s the fastest way between those stations. The Moscow and St Petersburg metros function the same way, as high-capacity transit “freeways” through the middle of the city and to all corners of it. When you come up to the exit in Moscow stations, it’s not uncommon to see thirty people waiting at the top to meet somebody. In both Moscow and Vancouver BC I’ve seen people agree to gather at a transfer station on the Metro Ring Line or Skytrain’s Broadway Station, and then walk or ride together to whatever evening activity they’re going to. That’s possible if you have a grade-separted HCT network like that, especially if it’s gridded. The DSTT is not long enough to do all of that, but it plus the SODO busway makes an effective “horizontal elevator” from Convention Place Station to Spokane Street, which I and others benefit from for short trips within its area, and for efficient longer trips that use it part of the way. With ST2 Link we’ve effectively extended this “horizontal elevator” or “metropolitan transit freeway” to UW and soon to Northgate and Redmond, and eventually Federal Way, Lynnwood, Everett, and Tacoma too, and every station on every line. That’s a big deal, even if you think that it would be even more effective to put the same number of miles into additional Seattle lines. Because even if you only go to Everett occasionally or think you never will, when you do go you’ll find it far more efficient to take Link from Everett to Bellevue than to take the less-frequent 512 through unpredictable I-5 traffic, wait for longer for it to turn and turn to your bus-transfer point, wait longer for the next bus, and then ride the less-frequent and more slowdown-prone second bus the rest of the way. Train-to-train transfers are usually faster than train-to-bus or bus-to-bus transfers, although of course it depends on how close together the platforms are, whether you have to go up and down to reach the other platform, and how frequent and reliable the second line is, and ST has only a mediocre track record with transfer facilities. But we can hope that in spite of ST’s shortcomings, the law of the industry average and the bell curve means our train-to-train transfers from East Link to South Link will probably be more convenient and faster than our existing 550-to-Link or 512-to-Link or 512-to-C transfers are.

  4. Any predictions on when the Downtown Business Association will decide that the number of cars itself is interfering with the mobility necessary to its customers, and deliveries, makes measures it’s been opposing now mandatory to implement? And advises City Government accordingly?


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