Photo by Martin H. Duke

Danny Westneat, in a very good Seattle Times column last week, tears into the hypocrisy of parking being built at downtown and SLU corporate campuses, particularly Expedia:

This two-step between quietly nodding to our car-focused reality while espousing the greenest dreams perfectly captures what passes for transportation planning in the Emerald City.

We wish you wouldn’t drive, the government announces. But we know you’re gonna, the private market whispers in echo.

In fact the market is so certain you’ll drive that it’s building more space for your cars at this new high-tech campus than will fit in the garage at the Mariners’ stadium.

1000% agree. Developers are building a ton of new garages but no new road capacity. It’s worse than pointless. Seattle does have regulations that attempt to curb the amount of parking constructed in high-transit neighborhoods, but they’re not aggressive enough.

Later in the column, though, Westneat laments the lack of transit options to Expedia:

My view is that Seattle desperately needs more mass transit faster, to give better alternatives to all this driving. I’m a longtime fan of forcing this change sooner by turning some car lanes over to true mass transit, such as buses or light rail (not piddly stuff like the streetcar).

Yes, it’s true the train to Expedia is 16 years away. But it’s important to note that Expedia does have a very frequent bus: the D line. There’s also the 19/24/33 on Elliott. Unfortunately, both corridors have only intermittent transit priority. The D Line needs exclusive lanes through Uptown, and/or an Express variant, and the others need full-time bi-directional bus lanes all the way from Interbay to Denny Way.

The column prompted me to reach out to SDOT, where I learned that D Line and Elliott Avenue improvements are being studied this year as part of the ST3-funded “quick wins” (remember those? Still coming!) for Ballard and West Seattle. When Expedia first announced their move in 2015, SDOT also told us that they would consider off-peak bus priority on Elliott. As far as I can tell from Google Street View, nothing has changed since 2015: it’s still peak-only BAT lanes that end well short of Denny. If we want to make a dent in driving, we have to do more, and it’s disappointing that so little progress has been made in the four years since the Expedia announcement.

(In fairness, I’ll take a mulligan on this one as well: when I listed places to add bus lanes last fall, Elliott didn’t make the cut. I mistakenly assumed it was already a done deal.)

If SDOT does come back next year with a proposal for improving bus service on Elliott and in Uptown, there will no doubt be opposition from local businesses in those corridors. When that happens, it will be helpful to have Seattle Times opinion columnists, and not just us lowly bloggers, pushing back.

108 Replies to “On transit priority to Expedia”

  1. Bus lanes can only go so far when enforcement is almost non-existent. Anyone who takes a morning bus on Aurora can tell you that.

  2. The fact that Elliot/15th allows street parking at all has always been crazy to me even decades ago. It’s just such an obvious and easy place to put in a fairly long bus lane that requires nothing more than paint.

    1. And no one can complain about lost parking, since Expedia just added 100,000 parking spots down the street…

  3. Regular 17X/18X rider here – the BAT lanes do indeed end before Denny. Southbound after the bus stop at Harrison the lane ends as the routes to downtown have to merge left one lane to go up the hill on Western to reach Denny.

    The BAT lanes aren’t considerably faster than driving. They are often blocked by parked cars, delivery trucks, and police/fire responses. Slow-moving turning vehicles and cyclists using the lane prevent buses from reaching higher speeds. Southbound, the merge from the Magnolia Bridge causes delays. Finally, there are a lot of buses in the corridor at peak hours such that they delay each other when stopped in the BAT lane.

    I’d imagine Metro will be pressured to add a 15/17/18 stop at the Helix bridge, which although beneficial for Expedia riders, will only slow down the BAT lanes a little bit more.

    1. All the more reason to build a proper, center-running BRT line through Interbay along with fully exclusive bus lanes and signal priority all the way through Uptown. Perhaps even consider HOV lanes, or reversible peak-hour lanes, on Ballard Bridge.

    2. Agreed on all counts. I also sometimes ride the 15X. Very few people adhere to the restricted parking from 7-9am. It’s pretty frustrating as it often feels like a bus full of nearly 100 people get significantly delayed by 5-10 parked cars.

  4. Even when traffic is free flowing, we still need the bus lanes so the bus doesn’t have to sit around, waiting for somebody to let it in every time it leaves a bus stop.

    I don’t understand why full-time bus lanes is so hard. The adjacent business all have off-street parking, which begs the question of who, exactly, is parking on-street. In any case, if you just count the number of parked cars, even when Elliott is “full”, you can see it’s not that many. A single crowded D-line bus likely carries more bus riders than the number of drivers whose cars can fit on the entire Elliott corridor where parking is allowed in the bus lane. And, the buses keep coming by every 10 minutes, while the parked cars just sit there.

  5. I’m wondering how successful this location will be. It’s an out-of-the-way spot in a very narrow area, with limited ability for walkable destinations around it. So it’s like putting an office park in Delridge, not SLU or the Denny Triangle. Yes, they’ll have views of the Sound, but that will be little comfort when there are few places to live within walking distance and few retail businesses around. It might have been better to put something other than an office park there, like a space for small industrial startups.

    1. Good point. It is very isolated. The whole stretch used to be industrial and it makes sense for industry. You have great transportation options by truck, rail and ship.

      I guess one argument for the location is that it is “on the way” for a lot of public transit. Yet it is this very transit which needs improvement (as Frank and others have noted).

      1. It’s literally minutes from the density and retail of Ballard, QA, Magnolia, Fremont, Belltown and Interbay. And, remarkably, is served by a pre-existing multi-use path connecting all of the above. It buzzed when occupied by Immunex/Amgen. It will thrive with Expedia. Over time, their workforce origin/destination characteristics will shift westward.

      2. Minutes in a car or bus. On foot it’s only near Interbay, assuming the Dravus cluster grows significantly. It’s not “in” an urban neighborhood as much as between two of them. “Buzz” to me implies overflowing with pedestrians and destinations like SLU or southwest Capitol Hill. That’s precisely what that area is not doing. Amgen was successful in the sense it had a bunch of employees who worked there for several years. That’s not the same as a buzzing neighborhood people are glad to be in. I don’t know if the Amgen employees were or not, but I know that I didn’t see many pedestrians in the area when I passed through. If I worked there I’d be glad I wasn’t in Eastgate or Snohomish (town), but I wouldn’t look forward to it like I would if it were Ballard or SLU.

      3. It’s also worth noting that going east-west from Interbay via public transit is basically not possible. The closest east-west route is the 8 on Denny, and Queen Anne, while close on a map, is quite the hike.

        I’m not saying we should subject a bus route to the Mercer Mess (and somehow create a route more unreliable than even the 8) but the options are crap.

      4. @Henry — Right, and the lack of direct east-west coverage is the result of its isolation due to the huge green belt to the east. Even if Elliot looked like the Chicago skyline it would be isolated.

        It is possible to head east-west, it just takes two buses. Essentially the grid (such as it is) does not extend that far. There are north-south buses, and east-west buses from about Denny to Jackson, and the waterfront to the freeway. Functionally, this grid-like area extends a bit up Queen Anne Avenue to Mercer, but then stops. By that I mean, from along that corridor you can take the 8 (heading east) or several buses heading south. It achieves grid functionality (but not grid efficiency) by running buses along the same corridor (for a relatively short, very urban section of Lower Queen Anne). It just wasn’t worth it to extend the 8 all the way to Elliot (and may still not be worth it). There are some apartments on Mercer and some businesses on Elliot — just not that many. It is a over a mile without that much there.

        Then you have traffic issues, as mentioned. Mercer Place is one lane each direction, and I don’t see that changing. But that part of Mercer has parking (https://goo.gl/maps/ZPcofgvwU4GktfRE7) which seems like an easy target for BAT lanes. These could extend up to Queen Anne Avenue (or at least close) which would greatly improve the speed of the D, and make extending the 8 a lot more cost effective.

        Extending the grid this way might make sense, but I’m not sure it does. It is not clear where you draw the line. Someone in an apartment at Dravus, for example, would love to see the 8 extended that far — but in my opinion it isn’t worth it. Extending buses along a shared corridors is redundant for at least part of the line (and the longer you extend it, the more redundant it is).

        It is also possible they split the difference, and have rush-hour-only buses from the east (using Denny or a new busway on Harrison). Metro’s long range plan for 2025 has exactly that (http://www.kcmetrovision.org/wp-content/themes/kcmlrtp/LongRangePlan/#). The 2516 is an express that starts in Kirkland, runs through the U-District, gets on the I-5 express lanes heading south, exits at South Lake Union, and follows Harrison/Mercer to Elliot, ending right by Expedia. That may be as good as it gets in terms of direct east-west coverage for this isolated area.

      5. I will say that I would like, when ST3 eventually gets built, for a bus tunnel under the Seattle Center to be built alongside the light rail. The geography is such that east-west trips will still be valuable post ST3, because a great way to kill transit ridership is to require 3+ legs on a single journey.

    2. I think it’s hard to find space for a big corporate campus in Seattle. Really, this is the only spot left.

      I don’t think it’s that bad as people are making it out though. In addition to being on the D line, there is good bike access to the campus via the centennial trail. I think they will also offer a shuttle service.

      Also, keep in mind that Amazon is pretty unusual among large tech companies for NOT offering an employee cafeteria. So the fact that there are few nearby restaurants is not really a mark against them, as probably not that many people will be leaving for lunch anyway.

      1. The S Campus is probably the last available large campus. http://urbanvisions.com/?properties=178

        We have other campuses that are much more isolated that this one. Children’s Hospital is more remote than Expedia and seems to have a functioning shuttle system? The VA Hospital is serve by one good bus line but is otherwise far away.

    3. Don’t you have to cross a bridge over the railroad tracks to get to the Expedia campus? It’s hard to see employees delighted at doing that, or coming out for lunch, or others going to the handful of small retailers that might be on that side. The others would probably go to Ballard or Belltown instead where there’s a larger choice.

      1. Not from the trail. From the north it approaches form the west side of the BNSF yard via 20th Ave W. From the south it comes through Myrtle Edwards park. There are two ped bridges, one at Prospect (the double helix) and one at Thomas St.

    4. “I think it’s hard to find space for a big corporate campus in Seattle. Really, this is the only spot left.”

      There’s Northgate. It’s an urban center and Seattle’s third downtown, and there are several office buildings there already. Or Lake City with its decaying car dealerships ripe for renewal. Or Mt Baker which is a hub urban village and is supposed to get some office buildings eventually. Or Westwood Village, which is also a hub urban village. Or the West Seattle Junction. Ballard-Fremont is probably too built out.

      1. West Seattle Junction too built up w/ houses, small and medium sized businesses. Westwood Village maybe, but you’d probably have to rezone the area, which is a dice roll with some of our NIMBY’S. Plus, not much in way of dining options for the professional class outside of McDonalds and some Teriyaki.

      2. The city has designated Westwood Village a hub urban village, and intends to channel growth there to comply with the Growth Management Act without upzoning the single-family areas. It remains to be seen how far it rezones it, but if an interested employer had a project idea and pushed it, it might zone it larger than otherwise. Better restaurants would follow if there were well-paying jobs in the area.

    5. There’s a strip mall with WholeFoods just north of the site, well within walking distance. Also location just west of the mall is going to be converted into residential. So the location isn’t so much isolated as the rest of surrounding area is going to get a major redevelopment over the next two decades.

      1. Oh yes, that lot with the huge parking lot in the middle. Please stack the parking or put it behind the buildings. Parking is not a centerpiece.

      2. So the location isn’t so much isolated as the rest of surrounding area is going to get a major redevelopment over the next two decades.

        It is still isolated. It can never have east-west bus service (because of the hill). There is nothing to the west, unless you count Magnolia, and the bridge is going away. Your only choice from a pedestrian standpoint is to head north or south. Right now there is very little to the north or south. It is possible that the Seattle Armory area will be redeveloped, but it is still very isolated. It is basically like Harbor Island, except with more office buildings, a few strip malls, and the hope that they redevelop the area with a few apartments. When people talk about using bikes for lunch, it is clear that it is isolated.

        Just to be clear, I’m not saying there won’t be stuff around — I’m saying that because of the natural geography, it is isolated. This makes it different than say, South Lake Union. It isn’t *just* that South Lake Union has grown to be as big as downtown, it is that it *is* downtown — a contiguous area of apartments, office buildings, restaurants and clubs in every direction.

  6. “The D Line needs exclusive lanes through Uptown, and/or an Express variant.”

    Does the 15 count as an express variant of the D? There’s no stop at Expedia, but that should be easy to fix. It has some meaningful speed improvements beyond fewer stops, in particular taking advantage of the 15th Ave bridge over Leary Way (the D stops on Leary Way, so it has to go to the lower level and wait for the light) and skipping the LQA portion of the D route.

    1. I think the 15 definitely counts as an express variant (as does the 17 and 18). The 19, 24 and 33 avoid Uptown as well. In general, the area is served well from the north during rush hour. The problem is serving it from the other direction — which is where the bulk of riders are likely to arrive. Folks are dependent on the D, or the infrequent 24. Building a more bidirectional rush hour system (if not an all day set of routes that avoids Uptown) would greatly speed up service to the area. As part of that, though, we need the type of improvements mentioned here. These go together, as all day (or reverse peak) service is cheaper if the buses move faster.

      1. One thing to note is that while the 24 is infrequent off-peak, the 24 and 33 combine to create a 15 minute headway corridor from downtown to the Magnolia bridge, so there is a frequent all-day fast connection to Expedia, even if it’s only every 15 minutes.

      2. Good point, Alex. That means that it really wouldn’t take much to get ten-minute frequency (or better) in reverse peak direction. (Just get rid of a couple deadheads). If you arrive downtown a little bit after rush hour, you would still have 15 minute service (along with the D).

    2. The 15 is the D’s express. Before the D there were the 15 and 18 local and express. Metro created the D and 40 but left the expresses as-is because workers and downtown. The 15 works only for the traditional commute; it didn’t work for me at all when I worked in Ballard. It should be bidirectional, and Expedia may give another reason to make it so. (But, you say, Amgen didn’t have it. Amgen was another era when Metro neglected workers outside downtown; it’s not a model to follow. The tech buzz surrounding Expedia and the fact the city scored over Bellevue may have the useful effect of improving peak transit to Expedia and maybe (but probably not) Ballard.

  7. Seattle needs to start charging traffic impact fees. If a private business seriously feels the need to build a massive parking garage, especially on a rapid transit line, they need to be willing to pay through the teeth for it.

      1. Traffic sucks and you won’t find many people that would be opposed to a one time tax on businesses who insist on adding hundreds to thousands of new SOV trips.

        Hell, most businesses will probably take the American mindset of “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else!” The only opposition would probably be Tim Eyman.

  8. Do people still use Expedia? I just book direct with an airline or hotel or car rental and skip the middle man. When I’ve had a dispute in the past over extra charges, they had not been helpful, so I don’t see it as worthwhile, just to save $5 or $10 on a rental car. I haven’t had Expedia offer me significant savings on a hotel, car, or flight even once in the past 5 years, at least not anything more than $5 or $10, which is peanuts when you are booking a hotel or flight. Once upon a time, they had a novel idea, but it didn’t work out to actually benefit consumers, so I question why and how they are even in business.

    Transit-related, I can’t understand the economics of building a parking garage. They must plan on hiring a lot of aging baby boomers and GenXers to do their coding. Sorry, not sorry, how can they not see that young people are sick of having sh***y commutes? I’m not surprised, same folks who set up shop in Bellevue back when Bellevue had minimal transit. Now that Bellevue is finally getting light rail, they pick up and leave. Tell them that Tom at MySpace says hi.

    1. Still a going concern, it has a huge business internationally – that’s where I’ve personally used it the most. Especially when the hotel’s own website is glitchy or doesn’t have an English translation. Also big in the corporate travel booking platform business (as is SAP Concur in Bellevue).

      Along those lines, I expect there will be a lot of visitors to Expedia’s campus(vendors, consultants, interviewees, out-of-town employees visiting, etc.). Ironically the lack of nearby hotels will mean most of those visitors are likely to use cars.

    2. I agree, internationally there is nothing better than Expedia. There 24 hour refund policy is crucial for buying 1-way tickets into a country that requires a pass-thru or return ticket before allowing entry into the country. I simply buy my pass-thru ticket while at the airport before boarding and then cancel it after arrival. This way I can stay in country for eternity or until visa expires.

    3. For flying, I appreciate the variety of options Expedia will provide for airlines, departure times, direct flights (versus changing planes), more choices than I would get than simply booking through a particular airline.

      1. They also have the cool feature of listing neighboring dates prices. Sometimes it doesn’t work but it is nice to have when it does.

  9. I hate to be “that guy” but as a frequenter of the D, the 17x, 18x, and after moving, the 24, and 33, these routes will do nothing to solve anything Expedia brings. Unless people relocate, they need much better east/west than north/south transit. And given the 17/18 are packed, I was often left waiting at the Elliott and Harrison stops. Afternoon northbound 19/24/33/17x/18x/D are already full by the time they’ll hit these stops at rush hour so they’ll help no one at Expedia.

    Beyond the obvious requirement of dedicated NON-parking bus lanes with strict enforcement, the capacity planning for those and new routes needs extensive expansion. As for the 24/33 time table roulette, it needs increased reliability. Waiting 1.5 hours because buses are late or full is why people are driving or ubering. As someone dedicated to metro for decades, I’ve had to be come a metro masochist to endure the 24/33 routes.

    1. Yup, the ST hated Metro 8 (and its ST hated sister line, the Ballard-UW) line would have been a better fit– since no one knows if Expedia (or for that matter, Amazon) will exist in 20 years . As someone who rides the 15-18 express buses in the afternoon from downtown, I can confirm the bus does bypass the stops past Denny when it is full.

    2. I think you have it backwards. The highest priority should be improving access from the south, since that is where the primary connection point is (in downtown). Access from the north is fine, except that there are problems with crowding (as you mentioned). But access from the south is infrequent (on the 24) or cumbersome (on the D). If this was improved, then riders from Link (in every direction) would have a faster ride. Anyone arriving from the south via a bus would also benefit. So, too would people from the east, who take a bus downtown, as opposed to taking the 8. Even those from the north would benefit (e. g. people riding the E).

      If the 8 was extended to Expedia, it would help many of those riders, though. For those who already use the 8 (and transfer to the D) it would mean a one seat ride. Some would prefer skirting downtown, even if it means “detouring” to Lower Queen Anne.

      But I would still start with improving the connections from the north (to address crowding) and the south (to address infrequency). The latter group includes those commuting from the East Side, which likely includes folks who have a simple commute right now.

    3. Yeah, what Ross said. The main role buses can play here is as a last-two-miles connector for suburban commuters transferring at Westlake. I should have said that explicitly.

    4. You’re all right. East-west is the more bird’s eye need: affluent tech workers who prefer transit and urban amenities are especially concentrated in an east-west swath from downtown to Redmond, and this appears to be a long-term trend. The CD and Madison Valley are moving in that direction, although may have a ceiling. So there’s a general need for east-west transit to Expedia and any emerging urban cluster in Interbay.

      But at the specific level, all those Eastsiders and CDers must approach Expedia from the south, because it’s just not possible for dozens of commuter buses to march over steep Queen Anne hill. So RossB is right about how to improve the specific transit situation for both this market and everyone else. Expedia may also need better transit from north and south, but that’s another issue.

  10. Not putting a Sounder stop near here – whether it be North, or South Sounder, or both, seems like a missed opportunity.

    1. If there is going to be a Link station, what’s the advantage of having a Sounder station also?

      1. It would mean a one seat ride for anyone who takes (North or South) Sounder. It would also mean saving quite a bit time for those headed to Interbay or Ballard from Sounder. Even backtracking to Lower Queen Anne is reasonable (and would save some time), especially if they came from the north.

    2. South Sounder should terminate there (and the station should be designed to interface with the Link station); North Sounder should continue to DT Renton. There appear to be potential layover spaces in both locations and the Renton spur is already nearly completely grade separated. Among other things that would ensure that both lines serve every station between a putative BAR/Link transfer station to the south and the Smith Cove station to the north, adding a Belltown station for good measure. That would give South Sound residents direct access both from Renton and from Tacoma/the Valley. It might also help with North Sounder’s abysmal returns.

      1. This site would be much less useful than the frequently proposed, and just as frequently dismissed Ballard stop for North Sounder.

        Expedia has been in Bellevue since the company existed, and its employees have never cared about being near Sounder stops.

      2. This site would be much less useful than the frequently proposed, and just as frequently dismissed Ballard stop for North Sounder.

        Where would the stop be? People have talked about a stop at Golden Gardens, but that is an area so destitute it doesn’t even have bus service. In contrast, the new Expedia location will have a Link Station.

        Expedia has been in Bellevue since the company existed, and its employees have never cared about being near Sounder stops.

        That is a ridiculous argument. They are currently a short walk away from the Bellevue Transit Center, about as good as you can get from a transit perspective on the East Side.

      3. @Scott — All those ideas make sense to me. Places like Renton make sense for commuter rail (along with all day express bus service). Adding infill stations in Belltown and Expedia would likely pencil out to be worth it as well.

      4. The Ballard stop would have been in the middle of nowhere, no walkshed to speak of, and not on a major transit corridor leading anywhere. There is no realistic possibility that an intermodal transfer would ever be made there. Smith Cove is not the same thing and a terminus there would enable trains from the south to serve not just the south part of downtown but Belltown and LQA as well (plus having layover space in the immediate vicinity). Expedia’s location is a nice plus but not the main reason to locate the terminus there. It is a fairly low-cost solution to serving the north end of the CBD – basically just the cost of the two stations north of downtown.

        Expedia’s employees will over time, as all companies’ do, make future decisions as to where to live and work based on what transportation is available to them. Since Expedia has been located in Bellevue, why the hell would they have cared about being near Sounder? When my firm was in Bellevue nobody here cared either, nor about Link or the ferries – yet after moving into Seattle more than a few people started commuting using those modes.

      5. I’d also suggest that once link to Everett station is complete then sounder north of Mukilteo should be routed up Japanese gulch to a combined link station with the SW Everett industrial station (Boeing/Future of Flight).

      6. @Ross – thanks; I think the idea deserves further thought as it would be relatively low cost for the benefits obtained. Belltown is the one station I’m not certain about (despite living there) – it is a very dense residential community but there isn’t a lot in the way of jobs there. Its main utility is as a service point to north Downtown, SLU, and LQA, but even those aren’t particularly on the way and would require some dedicated bus or shuttle routes to serve those neighborhoods (that odd Broad/Denny – Capitol Hill gondola idea would have actually been of some use there).

      7. Belltown is the one station I’m not certain about (despite living there) – it is a very dense residential community but there isn’t a lot in the way of jobs there.

        Right — it makes more sense as a subway stop instead of a commuter rail station. That being said, there are still a fair number of jobs there, especially if you are willing to walk a little bit. Given that the other downtown station is on the other side of downtown, it would likely appeal to a fair number of people. I think like the Expedia station, it comes down to the cost. It might be fairly easy can cheap to add a station, it might not. Either way I think the idea should be studied.

  11. You’re an Expedia employee that lives in the suburbs. A one-way commute by transit takes three buses and 1.5 hours. A one-way commute by car takes 45 minutes. So you drive to work to save an hour and a half in commute time per day. Will a new bus lane that speeds up the bus by 2 or 3 minutes get you out of your car?

    1. No but it might get all the people driving alone from Ballard out of their car. I don’t understand this notion people have that if something doesn’t work for their own personal commute then it’s completely worthless. If you have to drive no matter what, then why do you want everyone else to be in the same exact situation as you?

      1. Fish, the original story was about Expedia’s massive garage. There was already a big garage there, then they added on to it. If you go to the Seattle Times comment section on that story, you will see Expedia employees commenting why they drive to work. The story was about the garage, not people who live in Ballard and take the D Line to Expedia who want to shave one minute off their commute.

        Commute-wise, they had it good at their Bellevue location, as it was located just two blocks from the Bellevue Transit Center and the future East Link Bellevue Station. The new site is a horrible location. Great views, but very difficult to get to.

      2. The new site is in the big hipster city, so that was the draw, but they may find that they would have been better off staying where they were next to the downtown Bellevue Link station and 405 Stride that are coming, which will both give more reliable access form all directions and you can walk two blocks to the finest restaurants and shopping or take a 20-minute train ride to the hipster city. When people say they want to work in the big city with the views, they don’t mean they want to work in an area where there’s nothing to walk to and is multiple stone throws away from the bustling neighborhoods.

      3. The Seattle Times comment section is a terrible source of anything other than vitriol and confused boomer rage.

      4. The new site is a horrible location. Great views, but very difficult to get to.

        That is the problem that we are addressing. A three seat ride may not be ideal, but it will be common for folks coming in from the suburbs. If you are going to First Hill, for example, you will need to take a bus, then the train, then a bus. Even when Link gets to Expedia it will take three seats (the last two by train). But it shouldn’t take an hour and a half.

    2. Won’t the infamous Mercer Mess add another half hour just to get to the expressway? There’s gonna be a lot more cars trying to do that stretch. Just wait until NHL games start up. Unless you live in NW Seattle, it’s probably not going to be “just” a 45 minute drive to the campus. At least not *reliably* 45 minutes. And if you did live in NW Seattle, then the (single) bus may well be competitive with driving.

    3. I dunno Sam. Come 2024 you’ll have trains going all the way to Redmond and Federal Way. a fast bus connection from Westlake to Expedia via Elliot seems pretty useful.

      Which suburbs can get to Expedia in 45 minutes during rush hour?

  12. Adding all hours bus lanes to this route is such low hanging fruit. Literally, all they would need to do is change the signs. This is an industrial area where every business has its own parking lot–allowing parking on Elliott/15th is completely unnecessary at any hour. I know I’m naive but I don’t understand why such a simple change takes so long to complete. It’s this kind of bureaucratic slow process that makes people lose all trust in the government to get anything done and this is coming from someone way on the left.

    1. Indeed – there is a one and a half block stretch on E Madison between 13th and Pike that except from 4-6pm allows parking to block the right lane. What is most egregious about this is that it is the only location on Madison as far east as 23rd that does not have two open lanes all day – meaning it not only blocks the 12 for 22 hours a day, it bottlenecks all the cars headed that direction and therefore delays the buses further. All for less than 10 cars to park.

      They didn’t even remove the parking when construction started on that block. Sure, whenever the Madison RapidRide someday gets built, it’ll be gone (meaning it’s not even necessary in the first place), but it would cost almost nothing and no time to change the signs to “No Parking” and make the traffic and transit flow freely through there. Nope. Can’t do that. Because reasons.

      Probably the same “reasons” 15th and Elliott can’t be fixed either.

  13. We are talking about one single building. We do not need to overhaul transit in SLU just because Expedia is moving/has moved into the neighborhood. Our infrastructure is capable of absorbing alot more than this before needing more BAT, frequency, or whatever.

    Danny Westneat went all Much Ado About Nothing, and you followed him into the comedic farce.

    1. See above about how the existing buses get caught in traffic rush hour, which affects everyone going between Ballard, Interbay, and downtown, not just Expedia employees and former Amgen employees. If Expedia weren’t there, another company would be, and would have the same transit needs. Transit/BAT lanes are a basic part of good bus service; many European cities upgraded similar corridors a decade ago.

      Metro also needs to straighten out the routing king on the D, which is a significant time sink for a modest amount of riders. A station on Denny Way (24/33) routing would still be within walking distance of Seattle Center and Uptown. And people going from downtown to Uptown have several other choices: the 1, 2, 13, 24, 33, and on the east side of Seattle Center the 3, 4, and monorail. Metro chose the uptown routing to add a neighborhood to the list RapidRide would serve, and to continue the previous 15/18 service to that area. But if it’s so essential for the D and former 15 and 18 to go there, why isn’t it essential for the 24 and 33 to go there too?

      1. I’ve ridden the 40 during rush hour. I wouldn’t describe it as especially impacted by traffic. SLU moves relatively swiftly compared to many other locations. There are tons of cars, but they are still moving in an orderly manner.

      2. A Joy
        Maybe we have different ideas about what congestion is. The 40 is far faster off peak. I just try to avoid buses downtown during peak. Bicycle if going into downtown, alternative route if passing through

      3. I was talking about 15th/Elliott Avenues where the D and Expedia are, not Westlake Avenue where the 40 is. The D and E have similar problems: rush-hour traffic bogs down 15th and Aurora.

      4. 15th/Elliott and Aurora are six-lane expressways so you could have one BAT lane and two GP lanes each direction. Then the buses would be fast and, well, maybe the D would be fast enough that you wouldn’t need a 15, you could just have more D’s. It’s frustrating that we have car expressways but not bus expressways. That’s not what Paris would do.

  14. Is Seattle able to add buses to routes that are regularly filled and not able to take more passengers?

    1. Not right now. Metro is out of space at its maintenance bases for any more buses, and all the existing buses are busy at rush hour when these fillups occur. A new base is expected in the early 2020s. The Seattle Prop 1 levy in 2016 added hours for more service, and it’s filling in evening/weekend frequency on several routes, but it couldn’t do the expected amount of expansion because of this base capacity issue, so the money got stuck and Durkan redirected it to free bus passes for public school students and residents of certain low-income housing buildings.

  15. The city would probably save a lot of $ if they gave each employee that lived within 5 miles of the office a free or subsidized Rad electric bike if they agreed to not drive. If there’s not enough capacity for cars, not enough buses and there won’t be a light rail station within our lifetime (I’m incredibly pessimistic) then the city should get a little creative. European cities offer lots of subsidies to people purchasing electric and cargo bikes. I don’t get why it’s beyond our capacity to do that as well.

  16. The working hours of many Expedia employees needs to be entered into the discussion. I’ve often heard that large numbers of workers report at 5 and 6 AM, which means that they must leave for work earlier.

    The discussion about service at those times of day need to be part of this conversation. Having bus-only lanes and new routing is relatively minor when the bigger challenge is service hours and frequencies this early in the morning.

    1. That’t not as big a challenge. The buses are available, the streets are free of traffic, and drivers can be hired. While a 4am start time would be early for most routes, RapidRide and Link start at 4:30, and the 180 starts at 3am and the 574 starts at 2am and the A and 124 are 24 hours for early-morning airport shifts. Routes from all neighborhoods would be unreasonable, but one route from north Seattle, one from south Seattle, and one from the Eastside could be feasible as part of early-peak service. After all, peak service starts at 6am even though the buses don’t fill up and the streets don’t get clogged until 7:30am.

    2. The post is remarkably silent about advocating for early morning buses. With Expedia opening soon, the discussion should contain suggestions and direction about the early morning. A discussion about early afternoon is probably also in order. BAT lanes are great — but they need buses on them that operate at times when riders will use them.

      Consider an Expedia employee who lives in Bothell that has to be at work at 5 am and gets off work at 2 pm. What will compel that employee to use transit? With light traffic at 5 am and free-flow I-5 express lanes in the early afternoon, transit has a big challenge to offer a competitive trip time.

      A quick check of Link schedules show that Westlake doesn’t start receiving trains until about 5 am. RapidRide D has one hourly bus between 4 and 5 am, with the southbound bus arriving about 4:15 am.

      I don’t have the perfect answer. I’m merely pointing out that a solution has to begin with serving employee work schedules well rather than begin with red paint and bus-only signs in front of the campus.

      1. With how long the lines will eventually be (Ballard to Tacoma, Everett to West Seattle) I don’t know how they will operate without a 24 hour schedule. Assuming the last train leaves Ballard at 1:00 it wouldn’t get to Tacoma until well after 2, and it would have to start back up at 4 to get back to Seattle by 5:00 AM. That’s only a 2 hour window without service, which seems almost trivial.

      2. I doubt there are that many people trying to get to Expedia (or any downtown location) at 5:00 AM. That probably explains why they run so few buses at that hour.

    3. Expedia is not in Seattle yet so there may be no large companies downtown with such early start times. But Boeing starts at 6 or 7am, Harborview has 7am shifts, the airport has already been mentioned, etc.

      1. The airport is one of the few places with really early bus service (for that reason). I think Boeing has that as well.

        7:00 AM is not that early. There is a big shift between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM for a lot of buses. The D can get you downtown around 6:00 AM, with buses running every ten minutes (if not more frequent) after that.

  17. Expedia should poll every one of their garage users and ask what changes would get them out of their cars and onto transit. I doubt they would answer an extended transit lane.

    1. I would guess that a large number would simply say “faster service” (along with the usual “need my car during the day”, etc.). How best to provide that service requires studying where people are coming from (and when). If Expedia spends just a little bit of money on a transit manager, they should be able to provide sufficient data to increase transit share substantially (as other organizations have).

    2. I know an employee and they are offering employees $5 a day to use options other than driving.

  18. It’s not *that* many employees, a couple skyscrapers worth. But it’s a rare case when moving from Bellevue to Seattle makes transit access worse.

    What I’d do:
    1. Bi-directional, 24/7 bus lanes.
    2. Add stops on 15/17/18.
    3. Boost the 32 to 10-minute peak service.
    4. Turn the base of the helix bridge into a bus layover, and extend the 8 there.
    5. Add peak express service from SR 520 to SLU, LQA, and Interbay. Via Mercer (with new BAT lane) if possible, or if that merge is too tight use Stewart, Denny, Fairview, the new Harrison, 5th, and Mercer.
    6. Consider reviving a waterfront bus route, Pioneer Square-Alaskan Way-Elliott. Catch Sounder and ferry riders.

  19. Metro is planning to reroute some of the downtown express routes to SLU and First Hill, so extending them to Expedia would be a reasonable complement. A route from 520 to SLU is feasible, as would be a route from Boren to SLU and Expedia, or even a Ballard-Expedia-SLU-First Hill route.

  20. Without transit priority down the Mercer Mess, I’m lukewarm about express buses to SLU. I’ve ridden Lyft from the U-Village area to SLU a few times at noon on a weekday. And surprise, the nonstop, one seat ride turned out to not actually be any faster than riding a Lime bike to UW station, taking Link to Westlake station, and walking the rest of the way.

    With buses from 520, which exit will they take? Will they just sit in line with the cars for 20 minutes on the ramp to either Mercer or Stewart? And, once the buses leave the highway, they’d just be plodding along at a walking pace, anyway. If buses use Mercer, will they make a left turn somewhere to get closer to Amazon, then another left turn to get back on Mercer? If they do, that’s at least 10 minutes right there, just waiting at stoplights.

    I think it’s better to pick a small number of transit priority corridors and work to improve them vigeoursly. This means bus lane to exit 520 at Montlake, Link to Westlake station, and bus lanes through Belltown, with express routes that skip most of the Belltown bus stops. Under rush hour conditions, it is better to have a 3 seat ride where every leg is fast, frequent, and reliable, and taking a direct route, than a one seat ride that’s just going to get stuck in traffic.

  21. the D line could also use some priority on Mercer Street. Note that the reverse peak trips on routes 24, 33, and D have capacity available; all serve the stop on 3rd Avenue at Virginia Street for short waits. Yes, an added stop pair for routes 15, 17, and 18. Note that extending peak routes to Interbay has the non-trivial issues of turnaround loop and layover. Perhaps Expedia could charge a parking fee and buy service parallel to U Pass in 1991.

  22. There are a number of things that would help both Expedia commuters as well as the transit system in general. I would do the following, in priority order:

    1) Use a “transit couplet” for downtown buses (as explained here — https://cdn.downtownseattle.org/files/advocacy/dsa-third-avenue-vision-booklet.pdf). This involves two (contraflow) bus lanes running each direction. This would mean 24 hour, unimpeded bus lanes, with buses having the ability to pass other buses. Other than Link issues, I can’t think of any transit decision more important in the next ten years.

    2) 24 hour bus lanes for the D (connecting to the corridor).

    3) Add reverse peak service on the 15, 17, 18, 19, 24 or 33 to provide good frequency. Many of the buses could still deadhead; you just need a sufficient number of buses taking an “express” route to save time over the D. These buses could even deadhead after serving Expedia.

    4) Extend the 8 to Expedia.

    5) Add a train station at Expedia for Sounder.

    The first three are fairly cheap, requiring only paint. From a service standpoint, they are very cheap and likely save money (the time saved by running all the buses faster through downtown is more than enough to cover things like a few reverse peak runs). Likewise, the fourth item would not be that costly. Adding a new train station would not be cheap, but it would still not be that expensive (the train runs through there — all it really needs is a surface station).

    1. RossB,
      one. why not keep current 3rd Avenue? it works.
      two. do you mean BAT lanes (transit and right turn only lanes) or red paint exclusive lanes?
      three. a two-way all-day Route 17X would also address the Sunset Hill coverage issue.
      four. after deleting the segment south of Madison Street?
      five. North Sounder has only four peak direction trips; it hardly seems worthwhile.
      funding?

      1. 1) Third Avenue doesn’t work as well as it should. Cars routinely block buses, whether they are there legally or illegally. Often the folks who are there illegally are simply confused.

        In contrast, having two lanes *just for buses* eliminates this. You have the best of both worlds. Cars and trucks access Third Avenue (going one direction) while buses (and only buses) go the other direction. This makes Third Avenue, in effect, a 24 hour transit mall (one direction). Do the same thing on an adjacent street and buses run much faster through downtown. Hopefully that answered question 2 as well.

        3) Yes, that is one option.
        4) There has been a lot of talk about breaking up the 8 into two bus lines. This is independent of that (you could extend the 8 tomorrow if you wanted).
        5) That is the nature of commuter rail (it doesn’t run that often). The cost of adding a train station on the ground is minimal (much cheaper than adding a large parking lot, for example). It could probably be paid for in part by Expedia. It would add value for the reasons mentioned here:
        https://seattletransitblog.com/2019/07/02/on-transit-priority-to-expedia/#comment-825762

      2. Given the opportunity cost in dealing with BNSF, the question is whether an Expedia stop would be the highest and best use of that opportunity. You’d be talking only a handful of riders no matter what. Sounder really demands riders with a fixed work schedule that works with the Sounder schedule. If you’re coming from somewhere that has a north Sounder station today (or a south Sounder station for that matter), if you have to work late, the Expedia location probably means a very infrequent three-seat ride if you miss the train. I don’t know how reliable Expedia work schedules are, or whether that situation is subject to change, but I doubt it’s worthwhile investing in this particular improvement for the number who would actually use it.

      3. Sounder really demands riders with a fixed work schedule that works with the Sounder schedule.

        That is the nature of commuter rail. It is a relatively cheap way to get large numbers of *commuters* to work during rush hour. It isn’t like urban transit, which is meant to deal with trips that happen during the day.

        If you’re coming from somewhere that has a north Sounder station today (or a south Sounder station for that matter), if you have to work late, the Expedia location probably means a very infrequent three-seat ride if you miss the train.

        It would probably be a two-seat ride. The first trip (to downtown) would be very frequent (the D runs every ten minutes or so). The next bus (to places like Auburn) may be less frequent, but those who work downtown have the same issue. It isn’t a perfect commute, but that is the nature of most commuter rail trips that don’t involve commuter rail (because it isn’t rush hour).

        I don’t know how reliable Expedia work schedules are, or whether that situation is subject to change, but I doubt it’s worthwhile investing in this particular improvement for the number who would actually use it.

        As mentioned several times before, this would do more than serve Expedia. Eventually there will be a Link station there, which means this would connect to other (northern) neighborhoods. Even now it would do that, as folks could take the D to get to Lower Queen Anne or Ballard. An extension of the 8 would mean a faster ride to South Lake Union.

        Just to be clear, there is a reason why I put this at the bottom of the list. It would not result in a huge increase in ridership. But the relatively low cost — or at least the potential for low cost — make it worth exploring. The big question is how much BNSF would charge to have the southern train stop there.

      4. “That is the nature of commuter rail.”

        That is the nature of commuter rail that runs a few times a day. It’s not the nature of commuter rail that runs half-hourly like Caltrain or the Rheinland’s S-Bahns, or every 5-10 minutes in parts of London and New Jersey’s PATH. Sounder South should be half hourly. Sounder North is a lost cause because if the single tracking, narrow right of way and mudslides, and freight traffic.

      5. From the Wikipedia definition of Commuter Rail in North America:

        Many, but not all, newer commuter railways offer service during peak times only, with trains into the central business district during morning rush hour and returning to the outer areas during the evening rush hour.

        From Pedestrian Observations (https://pedestrianobservations.com/2012/09/14/nobody-likes-riding-commuter-rail/) :

        4. Low frequency. This is partly a result of low ridership based on the previous factors, partly a tradition that was never reformed, and partly a matter of very high operating costs.

        Basically if you run urban transit more often, you increase ridership substantially. If you run commuter rail more often, you don’t. Since commuter rail (in this country) is expensive to run, it usually isn’t worth running it that frequently. Obviously if you can run the trains cheaply, or are in a very large city, it is worth it. Unfortunately, neither is true for us. Even in cities that are substantially bigger than us (Chicago, Bay Area, etc.) the trains aren’t that frequent in the middle of the day (long gaps are common). Some lines in some cities have good all day service, but the best you get is usually around an hour in the middle of the day. Some are much worse; Vancouver BC runs the West Coast Express five times a day each direction. Of course some are better, but there is no reason to believe we are exceptional when it comes to commuter rail (or anything else for that matter).

      6. You’re claiming the failures of those networks as ideals. And citing Pedestrian Observations is especially rich, when he’s one of the biggest advocates for more RER-like and Overground/Crossrail-like and more metro lines and extensions there is, and argues that North America severely underestimates the ridership potential of medium-density transit markets. You seem to be defining commuter rail based on where the authorities decide to put peak-only service, whereas I define it as rail that’s more sized like mainline trains and may share mainline tracks and has wider stop spacing than city-scaled metros. That doesn’t mean it has to be peak-only or infrequent! The more all-day service, the more effectively the transit network overall works.

        Commuter rail’s name came from communitation ticket, a multi-ride bulk purchase ticket card. It doesn’t mean it’s only for peak commuting for downtown; it means it’s for people who make a lot of trips and want a per-trip discount. We used to have one of those for the Vashon ferry when we had a second house there, and we didn’t use it peak hours, we used it on weekends. PATH and Caltrain and Metra all work like that: you can use them not only for work but for bidirectional errands and events throughout the day and evenings and weekends.

  23. As a regular downtown commuter, I have two options to get to work via transit. Both routes start at the same location but one route drops me off about a block from my office tower while the other drops off 6 blocks away. I take the latter because it doesn’t make an intermediate stop before reaching downtown. That stop adds 20 minutes to the trip.

    Simply extending routes that were already extended to SLU to continue to Interbay will be a slog for those employees. Just as bad as a multi-trip with crappy connections. In other words, Transit is not convenient for them. It’s a big reason why Microsoft, T-Mobile, Amazon and Starbucks have their own employee shuttles.

  24. I have heard about builldings that built their parking garages in a way that could be converted to office space or something else later. I think they put in pipes for plumbing and other future needs. If the argument is that transit is not sufficient for these areas, then maybe the zoning for garages should be to make them able to be converted to somethong else when the transit improves. Just a thought.

  25. So this is massively off-topic and not transit-first, but from an engineering perspective, is there a reason 520 just dead-ends at I-5? Ignoring the fact that it would require wholesale elimination of blocks of Eastlake and mar Lake Union, it seems like nobody has ever proposed extending 520 to the Aurora and Fremont bridges, even back when people were highway crazy.

    At the very least it could improve connections to the western half of the city and lessen the need for Mercer to be the east-west linchpin route.

    1. I’m not a Seattle historian, but the history of 520 alignment seems to formally originate from the late 1950’s. The City’s plan as recent as 1953 actually had the original bridge at Sand Point (aka Magnuson Park). (https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7620/16173374584_563c80b3a4_h.jpg)

      There have been details written on its history. The summary version that I found showed that the bridge construction was approved in 1956 but the location choice ended up delayed a few years, and it was moved southward during between 1956 and 1959. In other words, it appears it was decided somewhat in a rush. (http://www.520history.org/1956-Present/EvergreenPtBridge/BridgeHistory.htm)

      There was another long-time proposal to connect I-5, SR 99 and the waterfront north of Downtown — generally along Mercer Street and Broad Street called the Bay Freeway. It was apparently very contentious through the 1960’s and early 1970’s, and was voted down in a citywide referendum in 1972 (https://www.historylink.org/File/3114).

      I will mention that traffic congestion was probably not well understood back then. As long as major connections were planned, things were probably satisfactory for the planners. Things like weaving over a couple of lanes in a short distance were not often on the minds of people.

    2. 520 was part of a larger plan drawn up in the 1950s that would have had a rectangle of freeways along I-5, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Spokane Street, and Mercer Street (the Bay Freeway) — a ring road that’s not round. It also had a freeway on N 50th Street, and down MLK and the Arboretum. Tthe R.H. Thompson freeway. Thompson was an engineer around 1900 who designed the regrades. This freeway may have extended north to Sand Point or 522; I’m not sure.) 15th Ave W/NW would also be upgraded to a freeway or more of an expressway.

      The 1950s people were right in what would be needed for everybody to drive everywhere as in Futurama. However, people don’t actually drive that much, so some of them were superfluous or could have been realized as boulevards (more capacity but level crossings). Nationwide there was a similar freeway mania in the 1940s and 1950s, and only a tenth of them were built.

      The worst consequences of this mania are freeways slashing through inner-city neighborhoods (I-5 and the proposed Thompson), and the paving over of cities like San Jose. Santa Clara County voted down BART to spend its federal money on expressways and light rail. Expressways are like freeways without all the features, so Santa Clara’s have level crossings every half-mile or so and sidewalks and a speed limit of 40-55, but they still hinder the walkability of the surrounding neighborhoods. So they built all these expressways and freeways and now they’re stuck in traffic again. VTA light rail was proposed in the 50s as a successor to the former streetcars. But the streetcars went everywhere, while light rail has only a few lines and serves only a few areas. And it’s all surface, so as slow as MLK.

    3. I understand that the original plans included the Bay Freeway, but I don’t think the Bay Freeway would’ve solved anything; in fact, it would probably make it worse, since the pictures I’ve seen of it have indicated that the ramps would be in exactly the same place they are today at Mercer St, so you’d have an even higher volume of traffic dumping into that stretch of I-5 between Mercer and 520.

      What I’m talking about is having a straight shot connection from 520 westwards ending at the Aurora and Fremont bridges. New highway connections are obviously dead politically, but I believe such a route would help both transit, cars, and urbanism by eliminating the need for most drivers to go from 520 and merge across 5 lanes of traffic to get to Mercer St or some other exits.

      1. The answer to your original post is apparently no. I’ve never found any historical document where such a road extension was proposed. With the last part of the 520 rebuild designed and environmentally reviewed, I think that it’s very unlikely that an extension would ever happen in the best 30 years if at all.

        I’ve seen discussions here about connecting Mercer Street to Lake City Way using the I-5 express lanes as an arterial/ expressway (like a median frontage road), and connecting 520 to that. Interesting but I’m not sure if it helps much.

        Anyway, one fundamental problem today is that Mercer is now too wide for pedestrians to comftably cross. Had the Bay Freeway been built, that pedestrian crossing would have been easier because a surface Mercer would have been a narrower street. Perhaps had the Bay Freeway been proposed as underneath the street grid with development on top, public reactions in 1972 would have been different. Of course, hindsight is a trivial thing.

        It points out one other thing: the systemic lack of good pedestrian planning for high activity pedestrian districts in Seattle. Had the Mercer improvements recently made been based on putting pedestrians first, it wouldn’t be the wide river that it is. It’s a classic example of what happens when grade separations are considered ugly, auto-only improvements and the resulting all-surface street designs end up punishing pedestrians instead. Even now with proposals to put Link train platforms deep under the ID (and the general lack of pedestrian circulation concepts at every proposed ST3 station), pedestrian circulation just not elevated to the importance that it should be.

        A friend recently summarized it to me this way: We put bicyclists first and pedestrians last.

      2. “one fundamental problem today is that Mercer is now too wide for pedestrians to comftably cross. Had the Bay Freeway been built, that pedestrian crossing would have been easier because a surface Mercer would have been a narrower street.”

        Cities without freeways have wide boulevards to compensate. You take the boulevard to the edge of the city and get on the freeway. So if we didn’t have freeways, we’d have boulevards as wide as Mercer, presumably at Mercer Street itself and something north-south around where I-5 is. The pedestrian issue would then be how to cross that.

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