34 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 520 Queue Jump”

  1. What’s the deal with these “bus lanes” that become parking for most of the day? As Seattle starts to experience all-day SOV congestion, these need to be all-day bus lanes.

    The other day I caught an Express bus that left Ballard a few minutes before 9am, and by the time it got to 15th Ave W the bus lane was already a designated parking lot.

    Do only people commuting between 7-9am deserve speedy service? Same goes for the other side of 15th Ave W that is only a bus lane for a few hours in the evening.

    Are there other bus lanes like this in Seattle?

    1. I noticed that express buses that leave later, like past 9am when most people are assumed to already be at work, get caught in the conversion as well. Maybe a small readjustment of time to a bit later and a bit earlier for buses should be in the works.

      1. Yeah, that would make a lot of sense. It is like Third Avenue, where the time was adjusted to fit current realities.

        In most cases, it makes sense to just keep it a bus lane all day long. The only exception is if it is very difficult to make deliveries otherwise. Then a load/unload (with very limited hours) would make sense. The biggest problem right now is that the approach taken on Third Avenue has not been taken on other streets. I’m not saying it should be exactly the same rules, but at least the same approach. Rarely allow cars in the bus lanes, but accommodate deliveries. For a street like Aurora, that would mean that parking would be 15 minute, load/unload only, and only between the hours of 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and after 7:00 PM.

    2. There is no reason why the streets like Elliot and Aurora need on-street parking in the bus lane, at any time of the day.

      1) Most of the businesses have plenty of space for customers to park in off-street lots. Most of the street parkers are probably not even patronizing the adjacent businesses, but, instead, riding the bus into downtown (basically, people who want to ride the bus, but are too lazy to walk a couple of blocks to get to the bus stop).
      2) The parking isn’t all that well-used – a single bus, even in the middle of the day, is likely carrying more passengers than the number of parked cars that bus might pass in several miles.
      3) Even if car traffic isn’t congested, all it takes is just *one* parked car in front of the bus stop to force the bus to merge into traffic, which means waiting for an opening, and delaying everybody on the bus.
      4) In many sections, there is plenty of unused street parking available on adjacent side streets.

      1. Aurora is a good example of a street that shouldn’t have street parking. Where there are street-front businesses, there is a regular grid, which means it is very easy to park around the corner. Where there isn’t a good grid (and a long distance between blocks) there are parking lots serving all of the businesses.

        I think Elliot is in the latter category. It is often a very long distance between blocks, so street parking is hard. But from what I can tell, each and every business has parking. Furthermore, none of the parking spots are time limited (again, from what I can tell) which means that the retail businesses are not getting much out of them. It is possible that employees are being asked to park there, so that customers have more space in their lot. it is also possible that the lots overflow. But from what I can tell, that really isn’t the case. I find it weird, just looking at the map: https://goo.gl/maps/wPqxFq5C3pH2. That is a lot of cars on the south side of the street, yet each and every retail lot has plenty of space. I don’t think customers are parking on the street.

        I think it is people who work in the offices up the street. It is likely that the offices charge for parking (most do in the city) and the employee doesn’t t want to pay. That sure looks to be the case. Up the street there is a big paid parking lot (https://goo.gl/maps/AHrQofrCLVx) which isn’t full, yet all the street parking around there is full. I don’t see any retail around there — it is all office buildings and (half empty) parking lots. This is why simply changing the hours would solve the problem. Right now, I could park there a few minutes after 9:00, work until 6:00, and have a pretty good commute. If they only allowed parking from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (and after 8:00) it would solve the problem. I would also limit the timing on the parking (just because deliveries and retail customers should have priority) but that would be essential. Even if they just updated the hours to the current reality (which mean no parking 6:00 to 10:00 PM and 4:00 to 6:00 PM) it would probably do it. I think it is telling that there are very few people parked northbound, and that is probably because the hours there are more limited. Those may be people who parked there after failing to park southbound (knowing that now they have to move their car before 3:00).

        This was common where I used to work, in Fremont. There was parking right by the building, but it was time limited. Folks had to move their car or risk getting a ticket. The receptionist would even send out a big email that they were ticketing cars, so that people could hustle and avoid a ticket. I used a variety of ways to get to work, so I can relate.

        But I also don’t have much sympathy. I can understand a business being worried about street parking — a lot of them really do rely on folks that stop on the corner, run in, buy something, and run out. In this case, though, you have a lot of office workers that don’t want to pay for parking. Tough. It doesn’t make sense for lots of bus riders to be inconvenienced just so that a handful of people can avoid paying for parking.

      2. If a neighborhood surrounding a business has a parking shortage, there are much better tools than allowing a car or two to block the bus lane all day.

        1) Make portions of the adjoining streets 15-minute load zones 24/7.

        2) Since the adjoining neighborhoods will already be neighborhood parking zones, allow businesses to have a limited number of parking stickers for employees, while also requiring the business to participate in ORCA Business Passport.

        3) Give residents on the closest streets subsidized ORCA passes, in exchange for them not getting a neighborhood parking sticker.

        4) Create high-capacity transit parking zones where the stickers to park there are much more expensive — at least enough to cover the cost of maintaining the asphalt in those zones, rather than just the cost of administering the sticker program.

        5) Give low-income residents half off the stickers, whether it is the current dirt cheap version or the more expensive version.

        We will always have a parking shortage if parking is free or really cheap. Solve that political problem, and there will be plenty of spaces for commercial loading in gridded areas, and no reason not to paint high-capacity bus corridors red.

        Also for 3rd Ave, most of the half-blocks don’t have a commercial loading zone, or need to be used to turn from westbound to eastbound, so why not paint at least those blocks red?

      3. A hundred percent agreed, asdf2. Over the years, I’ve seen those, what is it, six cars, hold up a dozen Route 40 buses. If this isn’t bribery or similar, it’s first-rate imitation. All somebody needs is a cigar and a Chicago accent.

        Didn’t Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson used to have something to do with a transit advocacy group? He’s not being paid to listen to me. So will one of his bosses please give him a call and say you’ve got people with a tow-truck?

        If he’s going to be a real councilman, he’s got to learn what “got people” means. The police are too busy on parking lot duty about three blocks away to prevent an unauthorized delivery run to that electric furnace over by Avalon.

        Mark Dublin

    3. I was on a bus one weekday last week in that area (Elloitt Ave W) at about 8:45AM, and ALREADY the bus lane was a parking lot.

      As usual, even the minimal restrictions to help buses are not enforced.

      1. The inbound (to downtown) bus lane, around the office buildings, southeast of the Mercer Place intersection.

      2. F5 is short on parking and a lot of employees drive. Everyone starts grabbing spots about 845. I’m sure they would have a fit if the city took it.

      3. F5 is short on parking and a lot of employees drive. Everyone starts grabbing spots about 845.

        Yeah, that is what I figured (office workers too cheap to pay for parking). This is very easy to remedy. Just extend the parking ban. Even if they went with what it is across the street (no parking 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM) it would probably do it. Another alternative would be to put up meters. All of this would get people to use transit (even if it is park and ride transit) or pay for parking (there is a big lot down the street). I get why people want free parking (everyone want to land on that spot in Monopoly) but you just shouldn’t have it in a place that is essentially downtown. The city is growing up. I remember when I used to park (for free) very close to Denny Park, and walk to work at Fifth and Lenora. Those days are gone.

        By the way, this is why the parking limit should be extended to 10:00 AM across the board. You can tell folks are just taking a chance, figuring that the meter maids aren’t going to be coming by, right at 9:00 AM. But 8:55 AM is certainly rush hour, while by 9:55 things have settled down. Little tweaks like that could go a long ways towards making the buses faster, while still allowing people to park in the middle of the day.

    4. The Stewart lane is one of the worst offenders, as it backs up onto I-5 during all hours and delays dozens of inbound deadheading buses (not to mention active ones like 255 and 545). The street is wide enough to support a full-time bus lane once the projects on the street wrap up or advance enough to not need the lane closure.

  2. Thank you to Frank for helping make the queue jump lane on the SR 520 off ramp happen!

    Thank you to WSDOT for listening!

  3. Unfortunately, the bus lane is temporary, and elephant in the room, the impending closure of Montlake Freeway station is looming, and Metro still has no plan for what the riders who use are supposed to do, once that happens.

    Transfer at Evergreen Point…to what? All the u district bound routes that stop there don’t run outside of the weekday daytime hours. Detour all the way downtown? Possible, but adds 30+ minutes to the trip. Abandon the bus, in favor of Lyft and Uber? Possible, but $20-40 a ride, each direction adds up fast. At least the 520 bike path is open, so there’s at least one affordable option, comparable in time to the bus today.

    1. If Glen’s video represents a typical experience turning right onto northbound Montlake Blvd, then buses are only having to wait one light (same as if they got to cut to the front of the line), and have about as clear an approach to UW Station as they are ever going to have, short of getting signal priority. Heck, the signal priority could still happen, even at that distance.

      Make all the off-peak SR 520 buses go to UW Station instead of downtown. That would be routes 255 (probably going to happen) and then have route 542 off-peak instead of route 545. The rest of the SR 520 buses are all peak-only.

      1. The bus lane is only for a few months until they start construction. Then, it goes away to make more room for the construction equipment.

      2. “Make all the off-peak SR 520 buses go to UW Station instead of downtown.”

        Didn’t Metro say it had decided against that?

      3. Does the off-ramp back up this badly off-peak? If not, my suggestion of all off-peak service going to UW Station stands.

    2. asdf2, what if we just let the 545 skip Montlake and head on straight Downtown- giving it some extra speed- and a separate route named, maybe, “545 UW” to UW station and points north and south along Montlake?

      For 545 through passengers to Downtown, and passengers who use the flyer stop now- what do either set lose? Faster ride Downtown. For 545 UW , no walk at all to UW Station. And can still transfer to the 48 at the top of the ramp.

      Need to create a new route? Considering size of this project, many times worth the cost. ‘Til we get I-90 back, I’d like to see the “272X” from UW Station to Bellevue Transit Center non-stop. Link from Downtown, transfer at UW Station for non-stop ride to Bellevue.

      With construction on ’90, good chance to give it a stopwatch-check right now. Good real-world check about time gained or lost using UW Link for cross-lake service. 8 minute weather and traffic-free ride might out-perform any bus on I-90 anytime.


    3. I agree, Metro needs to deal with the problem. In my opinion, there is no simple fix. You could, as they suggested once, just send all the buses to the U-District. That would be unpopular, but people would get used to it, even if it delayed their trip considerably (especially in the middle of the day). Personally, I would do the following:

      1) For all day buses, split the routes into buses that go downtown, and buses that go to the UW. For example, the 255 becomes the 255 (to downtown) and the 256 (to the UW).

      2) Downtown buses never run at rush hour. So that means current peak-only buses (e. g. 252) don’t run to downtown, but run to the UW instead. New UW buses (e. g. the 256) run at rush hour, while the old 255 runs in the middle of the day (and at night).

      3) Take all that savings (from not running buses to downtown at rush hour) and apply it towards extra service to the UW in the middle of the day, so that you can have frequent service to the UW in the middle of the day. This may be as simply as adding a bit of service to the 542. If not, then try the following:

      4) Create a truncated version of the 542, that simply goes from Kirkland to the U-District. This should be timed in such a way to complement the 542.

      If we lack money to do that, then take it from the 271. The 271 does not perform very well. Off peak, it is in the bottom 25% in rides per platform hour, and is simply average in all other categories. Since it doesn’t serve Evergreen Point, if push comes to shove, it is the one that should be shortchanged to serve the greater good. Service should instead be moved towards a shortened version of the 542 (Kirkland Park and Ride to UW) and folks on the current 271 should have to deal with half hour service, or a transfer to Kirkland. It may also make sense to just restructure the 271 out of existence. Maybe send it to the Kirkland Park and Ride, and then to the UW. That would leave a hole in the northeast part of Bellevue, but that could be back-filled with a short bus route that connects to Kirkland, or even just the freeway station (similar to the 246, only all day but shorter). Basically, this part of Bellevue is not “on the way” anymore, since it doesn’t include the Evergreen Point Station, and we may need to restructure routes accordingly.

      My guess is though, when you take the savings from essentially truncating all of the rush hour buses, it will be enough (by itself) to provide good connecting service to the UW all day long.

      1. There are a variety of options. Obviously, truncating all the buses at the UW and pumping the savings into more frequency gives you the most riders per dollar. But, getting that through the county council could be very difficult.

        Fortunately, the case for direct downtown service (at least on the 545) is greatly weakened, once EastLink opens (and the new Montlake lid, with its HOV-only exit ramp, opens around the same time). While not ideal, running redundant routes for an interim period of 5 years isn’t the end of the world. Since it’s 5 years, not forever, we can calculate how much it’s going to cost and budget for it.

        I ran some back-of-the envelope calculations and concluding that adding new 542 trips to maintain the full span of today’s route 545 service, at 30-minute frequency, would require 4 buses in service at a time (just the segment between Redmond TC and Campus Parkway), which translates to about 12,688/year, or an annual cost of around $1.9 million (assuming $150/service hour). This works out to be just under $10 million for the entire period between when Montlake Freeway Station closes and East Link opens. If push comes to shove, the East King subarea has the money, and it could be justified as construction mitigation.

        While the inefficiencies of redundant route is certainly a very bad thing, long-term, I don’t think it’s the end the world for 5 years. I don’t believe for a moment that they have billions of dollars lying around for rail, but can’t find $10 million more, spread out over 5 years, for bus service. Such a move wouldn’t even require buying more buses or hiring more drivers – it’s simply a matter of running the buses they already have with the drivers they already have for more hours each day.

  4. Second the Thank You. But one thought. If there’s a bus on the ramp, could the signal at the top of the ramp be set to hold the signal a few seconds longer until the bus turns onto Montlake? Also how much (plenty, but worth it) to widen top of the ramp to take bus lane half a block to the turn?

    How many years will it be ’til scheduled completion? Or is this ramp complete now? Because I don’t think I’m the only one tired of mistakes becoming monuments. I-5 reversibles probably hold the record. Would like to see them first example of correcting a misplaced ) and -begotten memorial.

    Can also think of a lot of places in the Rapid Ride system where if signal could hold ’til approaching bus crossed the intersection, no bus would have to stop at a light just across the street usual “Far Side” stop. Hated that as a driver, worse as a passenger.

    Whatever the cost, saved operating time, passenger relations, and wear on the vehicle should more than pay whatever costs. Same in the other direction for not doing it.


    1. “If there’s a bus on the ramp, could the signal at the top of the ramp be set to hold the signal a few seconds longer until the bus turns onto Montlake?”

      As you know, yes, it could be done.

      That would be up to WSDOT, since Montlake Blvd happens to be a state highway. But this video feels like watching the Berlin Wall come down. (Okay, I didn’t watch that, but that’s how I imagine I would have felt.)

      1. With latest videofake ™ software, we could send viral the stirring sight of the real wall coming down altered so viewers will still see overjoyed mobs shattering masonry and jumping over A wall, except with buses in the background blowing their horns to Beethoven’s Ninth.

        Bet me that the evil DOT twins won’t think the change has already defacto-ized, so they better go along. And double the bet we won’t even have to dub in occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania cutting the ribbon. His new little Korean voter is already jumping up and down and begging for his Link-and-ST Express ride.

        And the FHS! And the CCC maybe later! And the SLUT (oh oh…Cousin Harvey and Uncle Bret tolllld me not to never say that word!)

        I can’t believe that between our Kirkland, Redmond, and South Lake Union riders, we don’t have somebody that can use his own smartphone to fix that signal so WSDOT will have to live with our call till the cows come home like they used to on a ferry from Kenmore.

        Besides, they just found out that the SR520 bridge is too heavy and won’t fit on the lake.


    1. Just a guess, but any chance former I-90 passengers might now be riding Link to UW Station and transferring to the 541?


    2. Brent, you might want to check this out. Pull map of ST service area. What I’m seeing is that considering I-90 construction, road repairs and all other possible blockages around Seattle, Link to UW Station to SR520 could be the fastest and most reliable route to the whole east side.

      Or a lot of it. Kirkland and Redmond- direct. Bellevue ditto, via Route 272. From Bellevue Transit Center- a whole lot more. The KCM 272 is a very local route, but from stop at UW Link, about twenty minutes to Bellevue. Express could do ten.

      Worth a temporary 15-minute headway 272X express to check it out. Advertise it, and we might want to be sure the elevators and escalators work at UW. What’s everybody else think?

      Mark Dublin

    3. Standing room only 541s are pretty common during the afternoon rush hour towards UW at least. It’s usually quicker – especially with this great new bus lane – to take the 541 or 542 to Link to get downtown (and definitely to Capitol Hill) instead of the 545. Shame the 541 stops running at 6pm though

      1. Overlake to downtown (around university st station) usually, though I occasionally take it to Capitol Hill too. I think most people taking the 541 and transferring to Link are headed to Capitol Hill.

        To add to my earlier comment standing room only crowds on the 541 in the afternoon towards UW have been fairly uncommon over the last few years (except during Microsoft intern season) but are definitely growing more common. The 542 has gotten especially crowded.

  5. Not sure if Public Comment ™ is over. But have to say this has been the best we’ve had in a very long time. Maybe we’ve just reached a point that the problems we’ve been discussing aren’t that hard to solve.

    But for me, here’s an illustration of my suggestions that the two Link lines, West Seattle to Ballard, and Ballard to the U-District, might make possible for each other what neither could do alone. Because we have Link from Sea-Tac to UW, SR520 will take a lot of the load of f of I-90.

    And also, most of the necessary adjustments, our operating personnel can identify and work out. So the idiots who lost Forward Thrust can get the load taken off for awhile. Well, my time’s almost up. I yield the floor to Comrade, I mean, Air Marshal, I mean Fuhrer I mean Billionaire Fascist Alex Tsimerman, our new US Secretary of Transportation.


  6. Can anyone explain to me the odd routing of the D line south of Yesler? I usually don’t ride it south of midtown but was returning from Eugene on Amtrak yesterday and it was difficult to find the nearest stop to King Street Station (which, best as I could tell, was the one I ended up at where Prefontaine joins Third Avenue at Yesler). Even looking at Metro’s route map, Google Maps, and Bing Maps it seems unclear as to where it goes and where the actual stops are. I suppose I should just ride the thing around whatever the south terminus routing is but that’s not helpful for people arriving in that area.

    Yesterday someone getting off the train asked me where “the bus to Ballard” was and I told him it was easier to just follow me to the stop. It’s a bit of a walk to an important route from a transport hub, and the walk is through a dodgy area. Is there some reason why the D can’t just loop around closer to Jackson (say 3rd all the way to S Main, east to 4th, north on 4th to Prefontaine and back north on 3rd like the 70 does)? That at least would give it a stop on S Main between 3rd and 4th, a block from the King Street Station and close to ID Station on Link. You could even go all the way to Jackson then north on 4th utilizing the bus island there, directly across Jackson from both King Street and ID stations, although I assume the turn onto and then off of Jackson would be a time-killer compared to doing so on Main.

    I’m sure there’s some reason behind the current routing but I have no idea what it is (perhaps the RR buses can’t handle the hill where 3rd turns south? It doesn’t seem that bad.).

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