Longtime readers know that the Mt. Baker Station area, full of design flaws since Link opened, has long had a plan to improve vehicle flow through it. While there have been some incremental improvements in the transfer between train and bus, the “bowtie” plan might have made a bigger dent in some problematic transit vehicle movements.

After facing some local business opposition, the effort morphed into Accessible Mt. Baker in 2015. The most interesting idea was moving the poorly placed Mt. Baker transit center to provide better transfers. And after a modal plan in 2016, the program has been sitting there since.

Anyhow, there’s another community survey out there, with a deadline of May 20th. This area is an important transit hub, but has to contend with a high volume of vehicles. Pro-transit turnout would be helpful.

The diagram below shows what the plan would mean for bus transfers. Instead of navigating the transit center and dropping off riders to cross Rainier and take an indirect route to the station entrance, many buses would instead circle the station itself and provide an optimal transfer experience. The 7 and 9 would keep their current excellent southbound transfer point, and the northbound stop would have a much more favorable location nearer the entrance.


48 Replies to “Give your opinion on Accessible Mt. Baker”

  1. The diagram is not clear about which direction the buses are traveling and laying over. There are also route changes in Metro’s long-range vision that connect at Mt Baker. Finally, some buses are expected lay over so those locations probably need to be shown.

    1. The diagram also proposes leaving Forest Street open while the City’s diagram proposes to close it. Which one is right?

  2. I don’t see how going from 8 lanes to 4-5 on MLK/Rainier is going to help traffic or transit. Morning back-ups in particular are going to get even worse.

  3. The apparent need for buses to do a quick left-right jog in the middle has lots of maneuverability problems. For example, southbound Route 7 buses (or the proposed RapidRide buses for lower Rainier and 23rd) would have to leave the stop at the station (right lane) and prepare for a left turn to get to lower Rainier, the do a switchback right turn to keep going southbound on lower Rainier.

    1. Speaking of maneuverability, the fire trucks from Station 30 also need wide radii and a way to cross both MLK and Rainier as well as turn at either street. That means lots more pavement than the current plans show.

  4. The ultimate solution is frankly to elevate the streets slightly to create just enough room for a pedestrian undercrossing for both MLK and Rainier. I would think 10 or 15 feet would be enough. Even if it was elevated for only the westmost Rainier/MLK, it would be a big help to pedestrians — which probably number a few thousand the days that Franklin High School is open.

    1. We already have a pedestrian bridge doing much the same thing. As if either strategy ever worked when jayrunning is much faster.

      Maybe if the cars had to loop around a few times to get to the car bridge, and then loop back around a few times to get back down, people would see these out-of-the-way pedestrian separations for the gadgetbahn they are.

      The point of such gadgetbahn is always to enable cars to go faster, inevitably with tragic results.

      1. That’s essentially what I’m saying here, Brent. Leave the pedestrians essentially at grade and elevate the traffic! That can be done but raising Rainier Avenue enough to get underneath it or add a new wide mezzanine that begins underneath the Link station and ends on the east side of Rainier or MLK.

        Actually, ST is installing pedestrian-only crossings of Link tracks at Judkins Park, East Main, Overlake Village and SE Redmond. Why not do this just south of the Mt Baker station platforms — creating a wide walkway to extend from there eastward to east of MLK/Rainier? Depending on where it crosses, it might even be able to have stairs and an elevator down to the street between MLK and Rainier.

      2. this plan appears to require blowing up the ped bridge.
        The only safe path from light rail to high school.

        Its used a lot.
        It may not be great, but its better than crossing rainier.

      3. There may be plans to remove it anyway’ I’ve heard talk about it. Can anyone confirm?

      4. And staircases are also not ADA compliant. Should we start a systematic campaign to remove all staircases throughout the city so that everyone is restricted to routes that wheelchairs can handle. Why not close the sidewalks on all streets that are too steep to be ADA compliant, for that matter. If people in wheelchairs can’t visit those streets without a car, then nobody else should be able to either.

        No, this is absurd. ADA is about making reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities when building new structures. There is no requirement to dismantle existing structures that were built before ADA and don’t comply with it.

      5. Who pissed in your Cheerios? Nothing says we can’t replace the existing bridge with a new bridge that is ADA-compliant and make things better for everyone.

      6. My guess is when they move the streets, they have to remove the bridges. They could replace the bridges, but they have bigger fish to fry.

      7. No, what should happen is retrofit structures which are not accessible with features making them compliant, so physically-disabled people can y’know actually access things? And if they can’t be retrofitted, yes they should be actively replaced. It’s pretty shitty that the only way to get to MBS for people who aren’t able-bodied is a crappy, long wait time crosswalk.

        The ADA was deliberately watered down to make it easier to ignore. There’s no enforcement save by private lawsuit, and yes we should actively try to make things better for *everyone* all the time. That’s kind of what progress is, not ‘what’s convenient to the able-bodied majority’. Stop obsessing over the letter of the law and look at what’s just for *everyone*.

  5. The pedestrian bridge over MLK and Rainier needs to be retained. Today, we can get across the entire car sewer mess by just hopping over the bridge. Under the proposed design, it becomes necessary to wait for a stoplight not just once to get across, but twice.

    Given the needs for car throughput in the area, plus a large number of left turns as cars jog from one section of Rainier to the other, I am expecting excessively long waits to cross the street – on the order of crossing Mercer or worse. No, the bridge isn’t perfect, but it’s orders of magnitude better than no bridge at all.

    1. After making the prior post, I looked at a Youtube simulation of traffic in the area. One big detail I missed is that the proposal makes the stretch of Mt. Baker Blvd. between MLK and Rainier a bus-only street, with special signals to allow the bus to make left turns from a right-hand bus-only lane leading up to the intersection. Car drivers who want to jog between one section of Rainier and the other will need to use McClellan, instead.

      With only buses making the left-turn jog at Mt. Baker, we at least won’t be having two-minute left turn cycles there. But, pedestrians will still be expected to wait twice to cross two busy streets, so I still want the existing pedestrian bridge to be kept to avoid that.

      1. The issue with the footbridge is that it doesn’t meet ADA requirements. The slope is too steep. This is the driver for removing it.

      2. The issue with the footbridge is that it doesn’t meet ADA requirements. The slope is too steep. This is the driver for removing it.

        ADA guidelines wouldn’t dictate removing an existing structure that no longer meets accessible guidelines, especially if there’s an alternate ADA route (in this case crossing the street at grade). If they were replacing or modifying the bridge, then yes, it would need to meet ADA guidelines.

        I wonder if there’s something else driving the removal like low usage, clearance issues or construction conflicts. Although I do see plenty of people using the bridge when I’m in that area.

      3. I use the bridge daily and would guess hundreds do. I would like to see it retained. I know there needs to be an ADA compatible route in addition, but that doesn’t meant the bridge should be removed.

    2. The problem is that people just don’t use those pedestrian bridges. People jaywalk instead (with infamous consequences). You might get people to use them if they actually connected up to the platform level, but people really don’t like going up and down. You could keep them, of course, but the city probably figures it isn’t worth the cost of doing so when so few people actually use them. Better to make it easier to cross the street.

      1. Sure, some people use the bridge. But lots of people avoid it, despite it being illegal. Enough people break the law that the cops felt the need to put officers there. Enough people still avoided the bridge so that the cops were able to arrest jaywalkers. Enough of those jaywalkers were busted to cause an incident. One of those incidents lead to a shoving match with a cop. One of those shoving matches was filmed, and became an internet sensation. It takes a lot of people avoiding a bridge to get that kind of behavior. The city is right in focusing on what people want to do, which is cross at the surface.

      2. By all means, we should do what we can to improve the surface crossing, but that’s not a reason to justify removing the bridge. Removing the bridge won’t make the surface crossing any quicker.

        In any case, as long as cars remain king, there will never be a surface crossing that’s faster and less stressful than the bridge. Keep both.

    3. This is the missing perspective of all of the Accessible Mt Baker work: what is the pedestrian experience like (particularly going from Franklin to/from the Link station)?

      No street configuration will resolve this as long as two major streets lie in between. Some pedestrian separation seems to be required. That will seem to require adjusting the street grades to insert a station mezzanine or a pedestrian tunnel.

      Otherwise, it’s just playing with traffic flow. Sure that’s a valid objective — but it doesn’t help pedestrian-transit access at all. I think that’s why no one gets excited about making this plan happen.

    4. It’s worth putting in the feedback that the signal timings must be improved for pedestrians as part of the project. The problem is already in SDOT’s radar after the complaints about Mercer and the rest of MLK, but it’s worth telling them not to do everything else and neglect this part.

      Would a new bridge design be better? I see both asdf2’s and RossB’s point of view because sometimes I use the bridge and sometimes I don’t. People avoid this bridge and the one at 130th & Aurora and others because they don’t want to go up and down or out of their way, especially if it requires stairs. They decide that’s more inconvenient than waiting for traffic lights. So what we need is a good bridge that people will use. What else does it need besides an entrance at the platform level (which probably won’t happen because it’s inside the fare-paid zone, and it could only serve the eastern platform unless it went over and had stairs down, but then you have stairs again).

      1. I think we definitely need better signal timing too . But the bridge needs to remain. Which option is better depends on the specific location of where you’re going. The bridge is good for connecting to the neighborhood and the northbound #7 and #106. It’s bad for getting to the transit center, or places north of McClellan. When the bridge is not out of direction, it is much faster, and much less stressful than crossing two busy streets.

        ADA doesn’t require removal of existing structures that don’t comply, not does it mandate that nobody can travel any route not navigable by a wheelchair. If it did, Seattle would have no staircases.

        If the city isn’t willing to spend the money to build a replacement bridge, then the existing one just needs to remain untouched and still usable.

      2. If the city isn’t willing to spend the money to build a replacement bridge, then the existing one just needs to remain untouched and still usable.

        I would be willing to be that doing so is impossible. I can think of several possible reasons why the bridge(s) are being removed:

        1) They won’t work with the new street configuration.

        2) Work being done on the street necessitates the removal of the bridge(s).

        3) The bridges are coincidentally in need of repair right now.

        4) The city, on a whim, just decided they want to remove the bridges.

        I think the first two are way more likely. The city could build new bridges, of course, but the same is true anywhere. But bridges of that nature are usually a bad value (there are way more important improvements than can be made for the same amount of money).

  6. OK, I’m not sure I fully understand the plan. But it looks to me like you won’t be able to stay on either Rainier or MLK. To keep going on either street means turning on Mount Baker Boulevard or McClellan. Bus routes in the area could change, so there are all sorts of possible combinations. I don’t think it makes sense for a bus coming from the south to terminate there, so I won’t list that. Here are the other possibilities, with the existing buses listed:

    1) MLK bus terminates at Mount Baker (8). I’m not sure the best way to do this. One option, from the southbound direction, would be to take a right on Mount Baker Boulevard, loop behind the station, take a right on Forest, a left on Rainier, a right on McClellan, then a left on MLK. That works for getting to the station, but that is a lot of turns for getting out of there. Another possibility (not shown on the map) would be to take a right through the transit center, exit out the other side, loop behind the station (this time in a counter-clockwise direction) take a left on Cheasty (which becomes Mount Baker Boulevard) then take a left on MLK. That is fewer turns, but most are left turns. Another possibility would be to add a turn light from MLK to the transit center. That way the loop could be done in a mostly clockwise fashion (starting with a right on Mount Baker Blvd.) with the only left turn the exit from the transit center to MLK.

    2) Rainier bus terminates at Mount Baker Station (48). This seems very easy. A bus would just loop around (right on Mount Baker Blvd., right behind the station, right on Forest, left on Rainier).

    3) Rainier to Rainier (7). This looks a little challenging. To keep going south on Rainier, the bus needs to take a left on Mount Baker Blvd. That means being in the left lane. I’m not sure how you can serve the bus stop and then get over to the left lane in time. The bus could loop through the station (via Forest) but that involves extra turns. Northbound it seems straightforward (although harder than today).

    4) MLK to MLK — It seems unlikely that a bus would do this. If it did, then riders either have to walk a ways between the bus stop and train stop, or the bus does a little loop around the station.

    5) North part of Rainier to south part of MLK (106). Very smooth. Southbound is ideal, and northbound only requires crossing one street.

    6) North part of MLK to south part of Rainier. Similar to #4. Either the bus does a little loop through the station, or folks have to walk a ways.

    Nothing about this looks obvious or easy. Some of the possibilities make bus to bus transfers difficult, along with other issues. It will be nice to make the street quieter, and the option of looping around the back of the station is great (especially for buses that terminate there) but this will still be a challenging area. In general this is a great example of how subway systems are “measure twice, cut once” systems. Even though the city is spending a fair amount of money and effort trying to improve the situation, it can’t make up for the fact that the station really should be where the transit center is (in between the two streets).

    1. Well clearly it’s a massive screw up. (We’ve going to be talking about a similar situation at the Bellevue Transit Center and Downtown Link station in 2023 as thousands of riders sprint across 110th by the way.)

      The very lack of showing a routing for each Metro route in the SDOT work demonstrates the inadequateness of the current plan (in addition to now showing what pedestrians will do and how long they have to wait at each light). It’s very frustrating and misleading to see street trees on diagrams as if it’s a concept that has “finished design” to the point of creating landscaping, yet the basics of transit operations and pedestrian access go ignored. (The flippant attitude of “we can figure that out later” is apparent. Let’s not even begin to discuss trolley wiring!) Even the report diagrams (transit versus landscaping diagrams) don’t match because Forest Street is open on one set but not the other!

      Maybe Forest and the MBTC can become a “Forest Street bus-only mall” that runs from MLK to 27th Ave S rather than to have buses on this jog. Still, that would leave the hassle of getting across Rainier unless all of the buses went to 27th and somehow turned north and cut across the QFC lot in a new bus-only street to get back to Rainier. Otherwise, there remains the core problem: walking across Rainier to get to the Link station (if buses only run between MLK and Rainier).

      Of course, there is always moving the MBTC to Judkins Park (maybe a secondary one also at Columbia City, Graham, Othello or Rainier Beach). There is already a proposal to bring the I-90 westbound loop off-ramp perpendicular to Rainier, freeing up that giant space inside the loop for a major off-street transfer center there (and crossing no street to get to a Link platform). Unless there is heavy traffic, it’s going to be faster to get to and from outer Rainier to Downtown using Judkins Park than Mt Baker anyway. The problem with that is that Franklin High plus TOD proposals will increase pedestrian activity in the area to the point that the transferring riders may not be as important as walking between the platforms and local destinations.

    2. The only thing the grandiosely-named “transit center” provides is a bus layover. The Bellevue and Renton transit centers are major bus transfer points, but people aren’t likely to transfer between the 7, 14, 48, and 106. So how about we eliminate the transit center and move the bus layovers somewhere else or extend the routes so they don’t terminate there.

      1. So how about we eliminate the transit center

        Fine, but that gets you nothing. That is the point of my comment. Even after we ignore the transit center and build a busway behind the station, there is no clear route for half the buses. The only option that looks decent is 2 (a bus like the 48 terminating there) or 5 (a bus like the 106 that goes from the north end of Rainier to MLK). Option 1 (a bus like the 8) is challenging. The most common route (where the 7 goes) is very problematic.

        The transit center is largely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what you do with it — that isn’t the problem. If anything, having it at least gives the bus another option for turning around.

  7. the diagram seems to have the route network from before spring 2016. the current network could be improved. Metro Connects is not funded. one issue to address: the walk transfer between the northbound Route 7 and Link. does the project have a budget? the UW laundry may close.

  8. ” optimal transfer experience.” Love the euphemism for time-wasting bus detour. Nicely done.

  9. The proposed transit improvements look promising, but the outlook for general traffic is grim. The plan assumes that SB traffic on Rainier wants to turn onto MLK and SB MLK wants to turn onto Rainier (and the reverse for NB traffic).

    But some huge volume of traffic wants to continue on the present streets, requiring it all to do left-then-right turns on McClellan or Mt. Baker Blvd. We need to look at the traffic volumes projected under this proposed scheme. On paper, it looks like a borderline nightmare scenario.

    1. Based on what was said above, the only way you can keep going on the same street is to use McClellan. A regular car won’t be able to use Mount Baker Boulevard to make that connection.

      1. Has anybody seen the projected traffic volumes, especially during peak hours, that are expected to make those left-then-right turns? Can the traffic lights be synched well enough to avoid severe congestion and minutes-long delays? On paper, it sure looks awful.

  10. Martin,

    I think those graphics you used are old. I don’t think any decision has been made on moving the transit center or on moving forward with the bowtie plan. I believe the current status is that they are studying where to move the transit center. The survey is being done by OPCD

  11. Would a scramble contribute to better pedestrian access to the station or is the intersection too large for this to be useful?

    1. I think it’s too big. At least if you don’t want drivers on MLK/Rainier to remain stopped long enough for traffic to back up.

  12. The elephant in the room – how likely is this plan to ever come off, at least in the Durkin administration? Even if it’s faster for 100% of drivers there would still be a loud group complaining they can’t drive straight up Rainier to 90. And realistically there are trade offs in this design.

    If Durkin scraps SDOT plans when a few complain like the 35th bike lines, how do you think a major redesign of MLK and Rainier is going to go?

    1. I’m also wondering how realistic it is to connect Rainier not to Rainier but to MLK, and to connect MLK not to MLK but to Rainier.

  13. Why was MLK built? What was the purpose of two parallel highways from Seattle to Renton through what was then farmland and small towns?

  14. It’s telling that the “themes” section of this survey lacks anything about improving transit or pedestrian access.

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