It was disappointing to learn that 3 of the 7 RapidRide corridors planned for the Move Seattle levy have been postponed indefinitely.  Fortunately, the most effective way to improve transit is also the least expensive: red paint.

a bucket of red paintThe Mayor’s budget promised 100,000 new bus service hours.  It’ll be a shame if those hours are spent idling in traffic.  Increasing the city’s stock of red bus lanes will make our transit dollars go even further while reducing the city’s carbon footprint and providing a real alternative to driving.

For the first time in a really long time, we’re primed to take advantage of transit priority. The Metro bus network has never been better: thanks in large part to the city’s funding, buses are coming more frequently and serving more destinations.  Now we just need to get them moving faster.

In that spirit, I went back to the original Transit Master Plan look for improvements to the 40, 44, and 48, the three routes that were cut from Move Seattle’s RapidRide program.  By adding bus lanes in a few key spots, SDOT can get many of the advantages of RapidRide at a far lower cost.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I polled the STB staff for suggestions on other places where transit priority would help.  The result is seven places for transit priority, distinguished in that they are short stretches of road approaching a chokepoint.

Ridership numbers are from 2016, the most recent available, and have no doubt increased substantially since then.  For the purposes of this post, I’ve ignored other planned RapidRide lines (Route 7, Route 120, Roosevelt-Eastlake, Madison BRT), assuming that they’re still on track for whatever transit priority they’re going to get.

1. Aurora Avenue N

The E Line is a ridership monster and will continue to be one for decades. And yet, it only has partial bus lanes for part of the route: Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes in North Seattle and a transit lane in one direction through Queen Anne. Let’s get it out of traffic with dedicated lanes all the way into downtown along Bell/Battery and into 3rd Avenue. The bridge will be a bit tricky, but the rest of the way should be straightforward.

Length of new bus lanes: 3 miles
Daily ridership: 17,000

2. Third Avenue in Belltown

The extension of Third Avenue’s transit operations to “all day” was welcome, but unfortunately the bus priority stops in Belltown.  That needs to change.  Dozens of buses that run through that stretch every day serve Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard, Greenwood, Broadview, Phinney Ridge, and Fremont — two entire city council districts.

Length: 0.8 miles
Ridership: 50,000 or more?

3. Dexter Ave N (& Fairview Ave N)

Route 62 crawls up Dexter Ave N during rush hour. Dexter maintains two parking lanes, which is insane considering that the garages in South Lake Union have room for far more cars than could physically enter the city on any given day.  Give the young Route 62 a chance to shine with transit priority through an increasingly contested South Lake Union.

Meanwhile, bus lanes are already planned for part of Fairview as part of the Eastlake-Roosevelt BRT project, but not all the way through Mercer. Let’s fix that, especially since Eastside buses headed downtown could be rerouted to use Fairview as well.

Length: 0.4 miles each
Ridership: 15,000+

4. Leary Way (eastbound)

Route 40 gets jammed up approaching the Fremont Bridge.  This is one of Metro’s most popular routes, and one that can’t seem to add enough buses to meet demand. Bus priority between Ballard and the bridge ought to do the trick. Once you’re across the bridge it’s relatively smooth sailing until South Lake Union, where it shares a dedicated lane with the Streetcar.

Length: 1.2 miles
Ridership: 11,400

5. N 45th/46th Street

Every time we interview candidates for Seattle City Council, they tell us that they want to make east-west transit connections in this city easier.  It’s a laudable goal, and one that they must hear constantly on the campaign trail.  Well, here’s an opportunity to make them happy.

There’s only one in this city north of the ship canal that goes uninterrupted from Puget Sound nearly to Lake Washington.  SDOT estimates huge potential gains in the 45th/46th/Market corridor if buses are allowed to flow freely. While the whole street could use bus priority (especially after Ballard Link opens), for now we’ll settle for the central section between Phinney Ridge and I-5.

Length: 1.5 miles
Ridership: 8,400

6. Montlake Blvd NE

The part of Montlake Blvd between U-Village and Husky Stadium is notorious for backups as it approaches Montlake Bridge from the north. Metro currently avoids it altogether, routing the 31, 75, and 372 instead through UW campus on Stevens Way.  This makes for a worse transfer to the UW Link station.  A bus lane, even only in the southbound direction, would make it possible to run buses right to UW station and provide better Link transfers for NE Seattle.

Length: 0.7 miles
Ridership: 14,000

7. 24th Avenue E

This one’s the flip side of #6.  Approaching the bridge from the south, buses tend to bog down in the afternoon peak, affecting Routes 43 and 48.  SDOT had originally planned bus lanes here, but backed down due to neighborhood opposition.  If not now, then 2024, after the Montlake lid is rebuilt and construction in the area dies down, would be a good time to revisit the issue.

Length: 0.7 miles
Ridership: 6,300

What’s most interesting to me about this list is just how short these sections are.  In most cases we’re talking about less than a mile, in a city with over 4,000 lane-miles of streets. It seems like an easy win for tens of thousands of daily bus riders.

Bus lanes are cheap because they require expending political capital more than financial capital. But if the mayor truly wants to put a dent in our climate emissions, despite the financial clouds she sees on the horizon, bus lanes are the perfect way to do it.

67 Replies to “Seven Places to Add Bus Lanes Now”

  1. 6 (Montlake Blvd. NE), I have mixed feelings about. At first, I was strongly in favor of buses taking Montlake over campus. But, as time went by, I realized that, while the walk to the train may be slightly longer, in feet, from Stevens Way, it’s all gently-sloped downhill, and much more pleasant than the Montlake transfer options, which would require a choice of either climbing stairs, waiting for an elevator, or waiting multiple minutes for a walk signal and dealing with hoards of turning cars, when you finally get one. And, of course, not everybody is headed downtown, and the campus option is indisputably far superior for those actually headed to campus.

    At least for the 372, the time penalty for the campus creep is considerably less in the southbound direction, since you don’t need to wait for the light to cross Montlake, but it is still, admittedly, a problem for the 31/32/65/75.

    It may also make sense to reroute some of the buses in 2021 to connect parts of NE Seattle to Link at a different station. For example, maybe the 75 could go up the 45th St. viaduct to the U-district station. There are pros and cons of this approach. Better for access to the U-district, worse for access to the UW Med Center and transfers to buses down 520. Of course, if the buses down 520 eventually end up going to the U-district station anyway (there’s not enough space to layover all of them at the Montlake Triangle, along with the buses that already turn around there), the drawbacks would be mitigated.

    There is also the concern that if you had a bus lane on Montlake Blvd, it would cause the backup to begin further back along Sand Point Way – unless you continued the bus lane all the way up Sand Point Way (which, probably, should be done anyway, but creates more potential for opposition), buses would still get stuck in it.

    1. You beat me to it. I agree. Right now, those buses are all very important as a connection to Link. In three years that goes away. If Metro (as planned) extends the 44 to Children’s, then a lot of people would be better off taking a bus to the U-District. Likewise, folks in Sand Point will head towards 65th, and those in Lake City will head towards Northgate. That means all those buses will probably carry more riders to campus than they do to Link, and for that, the current routing is better.

      1. Does extend mean a long detour to the UW med center, and still have Montlake blce traffic in the westbound direction, or a reroute to go in a straight line down 45th?

        Considering the trolley wire and patterns of existing riders, my guess is the former. In which case, we absolutely do need bus lanes on Montlake, or the delays will propagate to all users of the 44, all the way to Ballard. But even so, a trip from the U village to the UW tower would still be no faster by bus than walking the direct route.

    2. Great feedback, thanks. I see your point, but that’s a lot of backtracking to get buses in the Bryant / Sand Point / Laurelhurst area over to U-District or Roosevelt. Isn’t it more direct to go to Husky Stadium? Also, having a N-S bus that collects from NE Seattle and delivers to UWS seems more efficient than having to walk up to a half mile or more to the nearest E-W arterial.

      1. Having lived in NE Seattle for many years I would tend to agree with you. In addition, NE 45th is a traffic zoo at least as bad as Montlake (which is horrible) – to actually get good transit service on 45th bus lanes would also be required, which in turn would likely mean the three lane bridge down from the hill would need to be replaced. Were I going to one of the stations from southern NE Seattle it would likely be as fast much of the day for many people to get off at U Village and walk to Husky Stadium than to sit in traffic on 45th the way it is currently.

        Reliable N-S bus service through Montlake also opens the door to direct service from NE Seattle/Lake City to Capitol Hill and the CD via 23rd as well as a transfer to the 520 buses. There are other issues that need to be solved (we’ll see how well the 520 rebuild actually works for cross-traffic on Montlake; it currently sucks), but it would take care of a major bottleneck.

      2. I’m sure there will be people for which a North-South bus (to UW Staton) is better. But I just don’t see that being true for that many people. My guess is the bulk of the riders of those various buses are clustered close to the east-west corridor (or in Lake City or along Lake City Way). On the other hand, I could see lots of those same people wanting to go directly to the UW, even when Link gets to Northgate. If you are at Sand Point and want to go to the UW, then the current 75 is about as good as you are going to get. The same is true at Ravenna and 65th. Meanwhile, for folks in Lake City, a one seat ride will likely still be preferable and probably faster to the UW, unless your destination is very close to a station. In other words, I can see how lots of people would take the bus to get to campus, but not that many to the UW Station.

        By the way, this is where data shared between the agencies would be very helpful. How many people are making that transfer, anyway? How does that compare to the number of people who use the bus stops (on those same buses) inside the UW? All of that should be available at least northbound. My guess is even today there are a lot of people who ride straight from campus (without first getting off Link).

        Scott is right, though — we need to make sure that one lane of 45th is set aside as a bus lane. To me that is way more important as a corridor, with or without the proposed change. I wouldn’t want to waste political capital (or worse yet, see traffic move more towards 45th) just to get something that might be worse overall.

      3. Metro’s plan is to send the routes through campus to UW Station. In the restructure many of us asked ST to send them to UW Station but that failed because Metro seems to belive most riders are going to the UW campus, the U-District, or transferring at Campus Parkway. The 65 was the only concession to having a northeast Seattle bus directly at UW Station, and that’s only eastbound. So I imagine the same inertia will come up again. Except that maybe the buses might take 45th if it’s upgraded.

    3. Why is there not a proposal to create a signature purple and gold two-way busway on the east side of Montlake? UW is proposing huge buildings on the northeast portion of the campy well north of the UW Statuon and east of Montlake. The facility could be used a variety of ways — even team buses, campus shuttles, victory parades after games and weekend festivals. It’s mostly asphalt today.

      I can’t believe that we are letting UW expand without adding better transit access to the campus. This would seem to be a win-win idea.

      1. Because Montlake Blvd is a state highway and northeast Seattle’s funnel to 520. We have to get all those cars through.

    4. The R-Vista to UWS walking connection is a treat when it’s not raining. It’s shorter than It conceptually appears in my brain. But, almost any SB alternative (bus, bike, walking, hopping, side-stepping) beats the crawling backup on Montlake from U-Village to the UW hospital. I almost never drive, but if I have to, I dread driving from U-Village back to my office at 520.

      1. The R-Vista to UWS walking connection is a treat when it’s not raining.

        When the weather is clear, Rainier Vista is indeed picturesque. I’m sure it must be featured somewhere in UW’s advertising.

        It’s also a 1/4 mile walk between the Rainier Vista bus stop and UW Station. I walk fairly fast, and it still takes me at 3-4 minutes to get from the bus stop and station entrance. For someone with a mobility impairment, it could easily take them 10 minutes or more. No matter how pretty the view is, that’s not a good transfer- and this is for Link’s 2nd busiest light rail station!

        It would be much more of a “treat” if the bus stops were within a block or so of the station entrance.

      2. UW Station was never meant to be a major transfer station except for Eastside buses. It’s being pressed into that role because U-District Station isn’t open yet. The 5-minute gap between UW Station and the 372 was never intended to be the final transfer experience.

      3. Having to go up to go down is also not a treat for someone with a mobility impairment – even though elevators exist, you still have to wait for them. Nor is waiting forever for the crosswalk signal and trying not to get run over by all those turning cars, when it finally comes.

        Of course, the ideal transfer experience for someone with a mobility impairment would a bus that goes right into the parking lot. But, having the buses do that (UW cooporation, notwithstanding) would require major sacrifices for everybody else on the bus *not* transferring to Link. Unless you want to split the 65, 75, and 372 into two separate routes, that do two different things around Montlake, each with half the frequency, you have to pick one route that’s a compromise for all destinations. And, I think what Metro did is the best compromise under the circumstances.

      4. The pedestrian overpass across Montlake to the Station housing. Up from street level (whether by stair or elevator), across the bridge, then down into the station. And yes that’s easier than slogging over to and waiting for the Montlake/Pacific intersection crosswalk (not to mention far less of a sensory hell).

      5. >> UW Station was never meant to be a major transfer station except for Eastside buses. It’s being pressed into that role because U-District Station isn’t open yet.


  2. Good suggestions. I think while the actual physical work is cheap, the studies tend to take a while and cost some money. Probably still cheaper than anything else that would improve speed, but still not easy.

    I also think that on some corridors the long term plan is to run in the middle (at least part of the time). That may not matter. The city could add the BAT lanes, and then turn around a few years later (when we have the buses and build the platforms) and switch them to center bus lanes. I really don’t see much harm in that — the physical cost is minimal, and you can re-use much of your studying.

    I also think that just getting partway with some of these proposal would help. I mention some examples of this as I go through them:

    1: Ridership is higher than what you list. Just the E is around 17,000, but the 5 has another 8,000, the 26 and 28 add another 6,000 for upwards of 31,000 riders there. For much of SR 99, I don’t think there is any room to add a new lane (no parking or shoulder to take). So that means taking a lane, and making SR 99 two lanes both directions. Twenty years ago that would be considered a crazy idea, but since the tunnel itself will now be two lanes, it might be easier. Then again, the merging northbound around South Lake Union might cause a huge backup there (meaning the buses would move slowly anyway) and cause ripple effects elsewhere. It might mean that Westlake and Dexter become really crowded, slowing down those buses. I agree with the concept though on the surface streets ( Bell/Battery and into 3rd Avenue). A northbound bus should be able to get through downtown and onto 99 without congestion (even if it then shares a lane with regular traffic until Fremont). A southbound bus should be able to go from the bus lane on 99 all the way into and through downtown. One of the problems there, though is the new setup. I don’t know if anyone has addressed how buses are supposed to exit the highway southbound and get on Aurora as it becomes a surface street (just north of Denny). The HOV lanes are to the right, but the exit is to the left.

    2. Completely agree. This should be easy and help a lot (similar if not simpler than the recent improvement to the 8 on Denny close to the bridge).

    3. I agree with this idea as well. It might cost a bit more money though. You would probably have to get rid of the bus stop islands and create different bike infrastructure protecting cyclists. The result would be better for everyone though. Right now there is expensive, “protected” lanes that really aren’t that protected. It is protected close to a bus stop, but that is it. So riders have to be careful about pedestrians running to catch their bus (and vice-versa) while just a few feet away, there is nothing stopping a car from swerving into the bike lane. Worse yet, a biker has to deal with parked cars coming and going along with opening doors. We can do better, especially if the bike and transit community come together on this one.

    4. Yes, absolutely. I think that would be very popular with folks in the area. The 36th/Leary corridor used to have relatively few people (it was fairly industrial). Now it is very urban, and having fewer general purpose lanes would slow people down. I don’t see this as being a huge deal from a traffic perspective, even though a lot of cars use it. If you are headed downtown, it really doesn’t matter how many lanes you have — eventually you hit traffic. It would be crazy to have the city charge to get into downtown, while also having way too many lanes heading towards it.

    5. This will be very controversial, which is probably why the city wants to wait until it has the money to make this a “RapidRide+” project. If you tell people they are losing their parking or traffic will be worse, they want to feel like they are getting something out of it, other than the same old buses running faster. That is why I feel so strongly about Madison BRT. The RapidRide brand has been sullied because the buses are so often stuck in traffic. But build a new line that moves considerably faster than cars, and you can at least point to something as your vision. Anyway, there are really two parts two this (of the segment you propose). First is the area close to the freeway. That is controversial from a traffic standpoint. Then there is the area in Wallingford, where you just take parking. I think the parking area should be much easier to take. There is a nice, old fashioned city grid in the part of town, which means blocks are small. Just turn the corner and park if you want to park (which is better for traffic anyway). But either way, making fixes here is going to be tough politically.

    6. See

    7. I agree, but I think this will have to be part of the lid project. My understanding is that they didn’t want to add the bus lanes if they simply ended (waiting for the lid to be completed). In other words, I think they are still essentially being delayed. Eventually we should have bus lanes there, and they should extend well into that corridor.

    1. “The RapidRide brand has been sullied because the buses are so often stuck in traffic.”

      I wish you would explain that to your fellow light rail skeptics, especially Sen. Chase. They can’t legitimately claim to be BRT advocates without putting at least nominal effort into advocating for real-life BRT. As we predicted, that advocacy has not come forth from them.

      1. I’m not a light rail skeptic. I just think that ST3 was (and is) crap. I think we could do better (a lot better) if we don’t accept crap and demand better, even if it means waiting four years for something better. People like me and d.p. aren’t skeptical about the benefits of light rail — quite the contrary. I don’t think anyone (on this blog or anywhere really) can make a better case of how a properly designed subway system can transform a city. The problem is that the subway that is part of ST3 isn’t property designed.

        I have no idea what Chase wants, but the people from “Smarter Transit” are bus fanatics. They think buses can provide a better system for *all* of Seattle (not just the suburbs). So the UW to downtown connection, for example, would have been done with a larger bus tunnel. I happen to think that is wrong — but at least they are consistent. They have supported bus lanes and bus improvements as the answer. There approach is as misguided as those who favor light rail to everywhere (e. g. Issaquah) as the answer, although their plans are probably better. A proposal that included a new bus tunnel for downtown along with bus lanes on the freeway and other bus improvements would have been better than ST3. That is because ST3 — while it does add some nice things — is crap.

      2. I have not seen any of the “Smarter Transit” crowd show up to advocate for any of the bus improvements you describe, other than while campaigning against light rail.

        Zero. None. No actual advocacy for better bus flow. If you’ve seen them doing such advocacy (not counting while campaigning against ST3, which can easily be written off as concern trolling), I’d like to know where.

      3. The thing about BRT is our own experience of busses delaying trains in the tunnel strongly suggests that BRT will never, can never be as fast and efficient as light rail. Even when completely grade separated (though offboard payment could help reduce some of those bus tunnel delays). When you’re really talking about pseudo-BRT with shortcuts, it’s going to be even less effective! Which is probably still fine for short, straight stretches like Madison RR, but less so if you’re going more than a few miles.

        OTOH, we also see that expressway busses can actually be faster than light rail for from longer trips, *provided you can keep the bus out of general traffic* which includes merging across lanes of traffic and sharing with HOV and express lane cars. Low hanging fruit for bus fans! However, I have yet to see a plan that would get all the express busses that serve ST3 outlying stations in to dedicated transit lanes, adding highway lanes and ramps, elevated if need be, throughout. Or at least connecting to a not-so-outlying Link station. I suspect the cost of such a system would be cheaper than ST3, but it would still be many $Bns and would still take a heck of a long time to plan and build. Whenever you’re dealing with an existing freeway, this is bound to be the case. Just look at the Kirkland “BRT” station. And who really has the stomach for spending many $Bns on a bus system?

      4. … our own experience … strongly suggests that …

        It is never a good idea to judge transit from our own, provincial little world. It would have taken very little for the buses in the tunnel to be *more frequent* and as fast as light rail. All they needed to do was add off board payment.

        Again, I’m not saying that a bus tunnel to the U-District made sense. Eventually it bogs down, and becomes more expensive to handle all the buses. But the stumbling way in which we handled joint operations should not be seen as an example of how a busway can never be better than a railway. There are good examples throughout the world (Bogota is the big one) as well as one mentioned by Jarrett Walker ( I have no doubt, either, that the WSTT, along with similar improvements to the West Seattle Freeway/Spokane Street Viaduct would have resulted in a much better system for everyone. Within the core the buses would come more often than the train will. For most West Seattle riders it would have been faster to get to downtown (no time consuming transfer). For Aurora riders it would have been a huge improvement. Even Ballard riders would probably come out ahead more often than not. Yes, the bridge can be a big pain, but so too is the transfer. Even if Ballard came out behind, that is a small price to pay for the big improvement for everyone else. The money saved could go towards a Ballard to UW subway (which really does make sense as a subway) and Ballard would be way ahead.

        OTOH, we also see that expressway busses can actually be faster than light rail for from longer trips, *provided you can keep the bus out of general traffic* which includes merging across lanes of traffic and sharing with HOV and express lane cars. Low hanging fruit for bus fans! However, I have yet to see a plan that would get all the express busses that serve ST3 outlying stations in to dedicated transit lanes, adding highway lanes and ramps, elevated if need be, throughout.

        It would be fairly simple, really. ST2 goes to Lynnwood, so that means all you need is to change the lanes to HOV-3. There already are ramps and lanes, just changing the lanes to HOV-3 would probably do the trick. If that didn’t, you could probably add lanes on the outside for fairly cheap. These would not go the whole way. They would act as passing lanes and be cheap to build because much of the corridor has plenty of room in the median. They would converge close to overpasses (where building extra lanes are a lot more expensive).

        The reason that express bus service tends to work well (and long distance subways don’t) is because the dynamic is different in the suburbs. Lots of people will take the train from Roosevelt to Capitol Hill, but few will take the train from Ash Way to Mountlake Terrace. Having riders from Ash Way stop at all those stations means that an express can be faster and more popular.

        The other reason that express buses work well for the suburbs is because relatively few people live close to the stops (unlike, say, Capitol Hill). That means the bulk of the riders much come from connecting buses. Instead of those buses stopping and letting people off, they just keep going. That also means that improvements on those side streets (many of which are major streets) is just as important as the main line. For many, I-5 is not the problem, but getting to I-5 is.

        Another problem is the frequency of those buses. Most don’t run that often. Money spent on improving the system everywhere (including just adding service) would be a much better value than extending the spine.

        Just look at the Kirkland “BRT” station.

        The Kirkland “BRT” station is a lot of money, for very little. The problem is that building such a station is the wrong approach. It again is a “spine” mentality, and assumes that transfers have no penalty. That the buses along the spine will be so frequent as not to matter, as will the buses that connect to it. That just won’t be the case with that project, which is why the BRISK approach would have been way better ( Many of those improvements would have cost a bundle, but the result would have been a much better transit system.

      5. “It is never a good idea to judge transit from our own, provincial little world. It would have taken very little for the buses in the tunnel to be *more frequent* and as fast as light rail.”

        The issue is political will, It doesn’t matter what Bogota does or Jarrett Walker says or you want, unless the county leaders, city leaders, and ST board are convinced to do it. So far they haven’t been, and what evidence is there that they will in the future? If we could get transit lanes on 45th then we probably wouldn’t need a Ballard-UW subway and the advocacy on ST3 would have been a lot different. But that can only happen when the politicians agree to approve it.

        “All they needed to do was add off board payment. ”

        Bah, off-board payment can’t make up for the slowdowns caused by traffic congestion.

      6. Mike, what traffic congestion exists within the bus tunnel?

        As for political will, it is purely the make-up of the ST board that caused the problem. Even when Kirkland said “Please run the buses on the CKC, we hired an expert that said it would work out great”, the people in charge pushed ahead with rail. But the board changes over time, and attitudes change. The first proposal was for the Spine (Everett to Tacoma) and nothing else. Now after a couple failures, at least we will have more for the city. As the city becomes more urban, people figure out the importance of urban stops (like one serving First Hill) and how unimportant extending the spine is. That is why I think it was time to go back to the drawing board, instead of assuming that this was the best we could do. (But I really don’t want to rehash ST3. How did we get on this subject anyway? Oh yeah, Brent made a bullshit attack, suggesting I am a “light rail skeptic”).

        If we could get transit lanes on 45th then we probably wouldn’t need a Ballard-UW subway

        I doubt it. There are still a number of traffic lights and if you had a fast corridor, ridership would increase substantially. Over time, that leads to the same situation as Vancouver. Sure, it doesn’t look like you need the cross town subway — heck, it doesn’t even go downtown. Build a really good BRT line (the most popular bus route in North America) and you don’t need anything else. Except you do, because once it is pretty fast, it becomes too crowded — it carries way too many people.

      7. “Oh yeah, Brent made a bullshit attack, suggesting I am a “light rail skeptic”

        Okay, RossB, I apologize for calling you a “light rail skeptic”.

        There is a clear difference between you and the group of hard-line transit opponents that operate under such titles as “Smarter Transit” and “Families for Transit”, etc. when transit is on the ballot.

        You support much of the improvements needed for buses, and various real-life proposals that are on the table (putting you ahead of d.p.)

        Smarter Transit has not gone on record in support of any real-world bus improvement proposals that are on the table. Trying to get them to do so is pretty much fruitless, like asking for help from the College of Cardinals (which only convenes when it is time to choose a new Pope). Smarter Transit’s only purpose was to oppose ST3, not to then push for things like red paint, even if ST3 was defeated. But individual members could choose to get involved in real transit advocacy, on the pro-transit side. None have done so, including various people who promised us they would, in their efforts to appear at least slightly pro-transit for purposes of the campaign.

        Sen. Chase, for her part, could help enormously by supporting the bills for automated bus lane camera enforcement, on the off-chance she gets re-elected over her pro-transit challenger. She might not give a darn about buses, but she should at least be able to understand the criminal justice element of taking the subjectivity out of the decision to issue a warning or fine, and to not have a gun in a holster while having that crucial conversation with the errant driver.

    2. Heck, I’d like to know what bus lanes a group of bus drivers would add. These are the best field testers that we have! I get concerned when anyone with authority thinks they know what’s best but it hasn’t been field-tested. I also get concerned when the exact same solution is recommended for multiple corridors. At least drivers would have a better idea of where problems are and how to fix them.

      1. From the time a dozen union members and I served on the Employee Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Project, the first thing any group of bus drivers, with train drivers later added would have been to have DSTT be operated as designed.

        With speed and training the facility needed. On vehicles and the fortune in signalling and communications. Which a very short time after opening, Metro Transit decided that since everything that went in one end came out the other, either running or crawling were pretty much the same.

        What DSTT demonstrated was that with well-designed buses, which we never came close to having, and intensive trailing ditto to the fiftieth power, for 19 years we still carried passengers through a top-grade light rail tunnel ’til the trains arrived.

        Our joint-use as actually operated dumped a ton of shame on what we could’ve had. Did we get any transit-priority outside the portals? Little more than none. Not even the two-way transit lanes either I-5 or I-90 which the structure could easily have carried.

        Every passenger I met from places with heavy rail subways, comment always the same: “I wish we’d do something like this!”

        But behind it all, life and death rationale. If we hadn’t taken the system underground in the late 1980’s, we had it on good authority that the developing building boom would have put a permanent skyscraper through our only usable Downtown corridor like a stake through in a Dracula movie.

        All of which shows buses’ really valuable place in regional transit development:. How to use what you’ve got to build as much of what you need as possible, with the money available at every stage. Rather than having to wait two decades to get anything.

        For full regional line-haul, one very tough problem. Buses can’t be coupled without major modification. So I’ve found a, priceless essay on exact approach I’m advocating for our own future building mode for transit that has to be staged.


        This piece carries a warning about “cookies”. Limitations in my own computer experience give me some pause here. Because last page carries this Warning message:

        If this doesn’t cause any problems, then go to:

        Because this essay is greatest summary imaginable for what I mean about working transition from bus to light rail. And back to express buses when this experiment has run its course. So Any info anybody else can give me on baked goods please do.

        Because I don’t want anybody’s computer to have to be quarantined, sprayed with caramel and dipped in coffee like those little Dutch waffles.


  3. Part of me wishes the city council and county council would play hardball with the mayor, and refuse to spend or accept any more money for additional Seattle bus hours until the mayor agrees to paint 3rd Ave red. Putting more bus hours on the 3rd Ave crawl that doesn’t have to be such a crawl is flat-out wasteful.

    1. Does Seattle have anybody on the City Council willing to both work and fight for transit? Seems to me that with his background, should already be in action. Anybody know different?

      Also, hope it’s understood that reserved lanes also need traffic lights set for transit priority.


      1. Incidentally, thinking of Rob Johnson. Didn’t he used to head the Transportation Choices Coalition?

        Though really wouldn’t take that much for anybody on the Council to fit the description if they wanted to. Doubt there’s a wait-list.


    2. That’s shooting ourselves in the foot because it’s the passengers that will suffer as buses become less reliable and/or less frequent. We need to push for both red paint and interim service.

  4. I hope someone in the Mayor’s office reads STB.

    If you want to be a transit and enviro Mayor, you don’t get there by just cutting transit, bike and ped projects.

    If you want to claim that scarcity of funds (in this economy?) is the reason, then you have to make up for it by going out and implementing these kinds of cheap solutions. In fact by doing these kinds of cheap capital cost, but operations cost saving projects you can add to the centrist ‘better government’ persona you are going for.

    I hope STB continues to offer up this admin more of these kinds of projects (I believe Bruce Nourish had some ideas that could be dusted off) b/c right now it doesn’t seem they have anyone inside that can do more than cut stuff.

    1. But, but, but, she gave the public school kids free passes! (which I definitely and strongly support)

      Of course, there is a downside to increasing demand in response to a supply-side problem.

      1. With the tunnel opening coming in just a few months, I could see why some projects should get delayed until the big systems congestion impacts are stabilized. However, having a strong, respected SDOT chief on top of things during the traffic transition would seem to be needed as there could be many system tweaks to address.

      2. Coming from the Age of Reason, Brent, wouldn’t Adam Smith have reasoned that without demand, who’s going to bother with creating a supply-side at all?

        Especially if the demand(s) are coming in at top volume from parents of children, who don”t need a megaphone to demand things good for their children including not have to waste earning-time picking up the kids at school.

        Also counts a lot that in this case, a large number of young people so used to transit-riding they will become both a larger passenger supply, but more important, many operating personnel to run the system. Who also vote.

        But for your own sake,you wouldn’t want to class yourself as a NKOMB (No KidS On My Bus!), would you? Because add the letters “STI” at the front and you’d be ineligible for the title because your office will be in the wrong Washington.


    2. Part of the problem is we have no permanent SDOT chief. Every improvement (such as the change on Denny) was already in the pipeline. Very little is left in the pipeline now. A lot of these changes sound simple, but they still need to be studied. You could very easily make one corridor much better, while another corridor (that has buses) gets much, much worse. Meanwhile, there are political costs to pissing off lots of people. A simple addition to bike lanes on 35th got locals so pissed, they are now in mediation (seriously). It is easy to suggest the mayor just steamroll these folks, until people badger their representative and now they are pissed off as well, and you can’t accomplish much of anything.

      I’m not saying she is doing a great job, but we have never had a mayor do better. You are basically asking for something that no other mayor has delivered (e. g. cutting off Third Avenue entirely from cars) while she has made substantial progress in that area. There is a reason why no other mayor has done the things on this list — they are expensive and must be handled delicately from a political standpoint.

      1. Ross, you’ve noticed I’m willing to give he Mayor some time to restore some badly-needed order to more than one City department.

        But I do wonder: has she ever personally met from any representatives or organized advocates for the transit system? Because without some massive attention, in a few months, only worse problem would be a failure of the sewer system.

        Granted, it’ll be a close race, but with a Finish nobody will want to Photograph. OK, better that than a Twittered Finish. Which would be too saaaad, unfair, and FAKE! to ever fake.


    3. Somebody in the city headquarters probably reads STB because a number of city/county/ST councilmembers/boardmembers and/or their staff do, including Dow Constantine. If you want to increase the chances, you can paste the article into an email to the mayor.

  5. I would add Harrison (across Aurora) to this list. I know the street isn’t even built yet (and won’t be for months) but I think we should get ahead of the game, and make sure SDOT is planning on adding bus lanes there. Bus lanes from Fairview to 5th would make sense (maybe even Eastlake to 5th). Westbound, a bus would take a right at Fifth. That means that the right lane between Taylor and 5th would be a bus lane, not a BAT lane. Drivers would be able to take a left from the other lane (they would be able to go all directions.

    1. Yes I’d agree in concept. Putting in bus lanes now would not only set the design tone of the street, but the signals and striping wouldn’t have to be modified in a year or two.

      The tunnel opening will be a big change in circulation and bus lane opportunities. It’s really hard to anticipate all of them.

      I’m still holding out hope against hope that a non-stop, frequent route will soon connect SLU with the ID stations that uses the tunnel will emerge. That route would work best with bus lanes in both areas. I don’t have strong feelings on what would work best on how or where to extend it.

      1. Yeah, I’m not sold on the SLU to ID thing. Part of the problem is the entrances on both ends. The north end isn’t that bad. A bus headed south could cross Harrison westbound, then north on sixth, then get on the highway at the main entrance (that you can actually see via pictures now: Exiting the north end (from the south) is also pretty smooth, as the lanes would kick you out at Republican.

        It is the south end that is the problem. From what I can tell, the soonest you can exit the tunnel is Royal Brougham Way. That is just not very good. You have to connect to 4th and backtrack all the way to Jackson, with nothing to show for it. Between the Harrison and Jackson bus stops you have this one on Fourth, which just isn’t in a great place: There is nothing there, except on game days. Speaking of which, on game days that is a mess. There is no room for bus lanes on Royal Brougham Way — it is only one lane each way (one lane each way on the surface, one lane each way on the viaduct). That means that while it would be an express, it wouldn’t be that fast (lots of turns and lots of back and forth) and be pretty much useless during game days. I don’t think it is fast enough to justify the lack of good stops along the way.

    2. One issue I just realized could be important is access to Sixth, just west of Aurora. As you can see from the map, that is how people can access the southbound tunnel: If Harrison is a transit street, with BAT lanes, then the BAT lane could have a lot of people turning right there, trying to get into the tunnel. I think the answer is to simply not allow that. Doing so wouldn’t be the end of the world. People could still access 6th from Mercer, Thomas, or any street south of there. Simply banning a turn there (either direction) would make it clear that the street really is designed for local access and transit only.

      1. Al, and Ross, I wonder if for the ride from South Lake Union to the International District, that even with lanes and signals, fastest ride would be streetcar to Westlake Station, and south on LINK?


      2. The streetcar terminus is still a busy street crossing and two block walk away — not to mention the stairs required to go to Link. I’d estimate that’s about a 5 minute penalty in addition to the time waiting for a train.

  6. Any chance Denny can be fixed with paint? I think the new 2-3 block bus lane west of I5 has helped a lot, but what about coming down the hill? Maybe we just kick off cars completely during rush hour. If drivers don’t like it they can advocate for my gondola idea to get their car lanes back.

  7. Typically STB forgets the entire South end of the city. Red paint is also dramatically needed on Alaska and Avalon along the C Line in West Seattle.

    1. Hi RBC,

      I didn’t forget the entire south end. I called out the 120 and 7 specifically. But tell me more about where and how you’d put bus lanes on Alaska and Avalon, I’d love to hear more. Thanks!

    2. If you think Frank is bad, talk to Martin.

      Dude’s head just has a giant black hole when it comes to the Rainier Valley. Nary a thought.

  8. one has typo: the couplet is Wall-Battery streets. per RossB, it would help routes 5, 26, and 28. should Route 26 continue?

    three has a dozen bus islands next to the bicycle tracks. the main reason southbound Dexter stalls, is that the island between Roy and Mercer streets is misplaced; it does not allow enough length for the right turn queue. a jackhammer is needed. a new one might be installed south of Mercer.

    six. A southbound BAT lane could be added by converting the left turn lane to a through lane.

    Additional candidates:
    eastbound Mercer Street between 5th Avenue West and Queen Anne Avenue North
    Queen Anne and/or 1st avenues North
    Madison Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue (the RR seems delayed)
    1st Avenue between Virginia Street and South Jackson Street when the CCC Streetcar is killed
    Virginia Street and Fairview Avenue need help.
    northbound Rainier Avenue South nearside South Jackson Street

    RossB: the notion of extending Route 44 to Children’s began with SDOT. It should die of its own fiscal weight and its disruption of established markets.

    1. Extending the 44 makes a boat load of sense. It connects the area in a manner that works, and is part of the evolution of transit in this region. Gone are the days when a bus would just go to the most popular places, but ignore a significant segment of the population. In its place is more of a grid. Sure, someone on the 44 might have to transfer (or walk 4 blocks) if they want to get to 40th, but at least they can get to Children’s or U-Village without making a time consuming slog through campus. Meanwhile, folks from the U-Village and Children’s are way better off. They can get not only get to the places the 44 covers well (the U-District, Wallingford, Ballard, etc.) but connect to Link a lot faster. Suddenly a trip from Roosevelt or Northgate to Children’s is a breeze.

      Keep in mind, even if we did add bus lanes for Montlake Boulevard, a bus like the 75 can’t get too close to the station when heading eastbound. There is no way to turn left from Pacific Street to Montlake Boulevard, which means that folks headed to UW Station still have to cross the triangle. U-District Station will also be 20 feet closer to the surface, and have stairs (stairs!) which will work just fine if the escalators fail.

      We are spending billions for this big underground choo-choo. The least we can do is make sure it connects well with transit.

  9. Increasing the city’s stock of red bus lanes will make our transit dollars go even further while reducing the city’s carbon footprint and providing a real alternative to driving.

    I like the idea of getting the best value for tax payer dollars and there should be no doubt that bus only lanes accomplish that. Reducing the carbon footprint… meh, maybe, depends on how much idling backed up cars burn. Transit already is a “real” alternative to driving. “Taking” lanes is a double edged sword. It makes the transit alternative faster and makes the driving your private automobile slower. Time is money but I think the time aspect is probably the most important. As much as most drivers are in denial, there is factually no way that the commute to DT will ever get better by adding more SOV lanes.

  10. If I had a magic wand to fix one seemingly simple thing that often jams up the southbound Route 40 bus along Westlake Avenue, just north of the start of the dedicated bus/streetcar lane near Lake Union in the afternoons as traffic heads into the Mercer Mess … Some bus drivers already do this in heavy southbound traffic conditions in the afternoons on Westlake Avenue N: Instead of waiting in the left-turn lane to continue onto Westlake Ave N near the Courtyard Marriott, they turn from one of the two southbound lanes (that continue straight as 9th Ave N) and sneak into the bus-only lane and then wait your turn to cross Valley/Roy and then Mercer. The turning area on Westlake is partially striped off (In front of Art Marble 21), which also has a small pedestrian island for the crosswalk. Seemingly, figuring out a way to allow a special bus-only turn from the non-turning lane would speed up Route 40 through the Mercer Mess in the afternoon. That intersection of 9th Avenue N and Westlake Avenue N near the Courtyard Marriott is incredibly frustrating in the afternoon for downtown-bound bus riders—and everyone else.

    1. That sounds like a great fix. The type of thing that Frank and I (and many others) love. It is reminiscent of the Denny/Stewart fix for the 8 — a seemingly little change that makes a huge difference. It makes most of the projects on this post seem huge (even though Frank is right — the amount of striping here is really pretty small). Let’s hope that SDOT can make it happen.

      1. The only sticking points I see at that spot is that an articulated bus that’s turning from a special bus-only turn from southbound Westlake to southbound Westlake may have a tough time navigating the turn when cars are also turning left in the adjacent turning lane. If the pedestrian refuge island weren’t there (or were slightly smaller), there’d be plenty of room to accommodate a double-left turn. So there may be a safety trade off at this location, too because there’d probably be more generous room for SOV drivers to take the left turn more quickly or recklessly. Maybe the bus-lane improvement is worth that? Since this probably only would benefit a handful of southbound bus trips in the afternoon, there are probably better places to use resources. Still, it’s a nice spot improvement.

  11. I so agree with the bus lane on 45th through Wallingford. The 62 usually works pretty well to get me to Fremont, but when it gets stuck in traffic it’s almost always on 45th, and a few times a year I find that I could have done better walking in hindsight. The problem is it’s hard to predict when those days will be, so I can do something else.

  12. Northbound, the section of Aurora Ave before the bridge almost functions as if it were a bus lane. The traffic is usually significantly lighter than lanes 2 and 3 as many drivers are likely anticipating slowdowns from drivers merging and turning off at Halladay. Turning this into an actual bus lane would improve things a bit and formalize that buses have priority. That said, you’ll likely experience SOV drivers using the lane for a significant distance with their right turn signal on indicating they are “turning” – often starting all the way at the other end of Queen Anne. This happens frequently in the Southbound direction though in my experience it rarely causes major issues for transit and probably doesn’t warrant more enforcement resources. YMMV – It’s been a while since I’ve driven the 5 or E Line though I often ride transit in both directions along that stretch.

    1. Yeah, that’s my experience as well. Just recently I drove from Queen Anne to 130th and Aurora. I used the entrance at Halladay and the lane was fairly clear. Very few people drive that lane, just because they know someone is likely to dart out. I think what you would do is paint the right lane red just after Canlis. That would make it clear that if you were in that right lane before the bridge and didn’t turn before the bridge, you are in trouble. Enforcing it would be pretty easy, too (a bike cop could look for violators and speeders). The red paint would end half way across the bridge, and those exiting at Fremont would then merge. As you said, though, I’m not sure if that would make things that much better. My guess is the bigger problems occur when the Fremont exit backs up, and a bus has to change into the middle lane.

    1. “For the purposes of this post, I’ve ignored other planned RapidRide lines (Route 7, Route 120, Roosevelt-Eastlake, Madison BRT), assuming that they’re still on track for whatever transit priority they’re going to get.”

      Which south-end lanes did you have in mind for painting red?

  13. I could not agree more with RossB on the Aurora Bridge: “taking a lane, and making SR 99 two lanes both directions. Twenty years ago that would be considered a crazy idea, but since the tunnel itself will now be two lanes, it might be easier. ” I just crossed the span on the E Line in no time because of uncharacteristically low traffic volumes. The variation in number of drivers choosing to hop in the car is not the fault of bus riders. Roll out that red carpet and let’s party.

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