The title says it all:

Red Bus Lane Treatments

These are not new bus lanes, merely bolder marking of existing ones. While some bus lane violations are brazen disobedience of the rules that allow downtown to function, some of it is legitimate confusion at the thicket of traffic rules in complicated environments like downtown.

Paint makes it much clearer to drivers that they shouldn’t be there, so this move should help with compliance. The work should be done this week.

As always, you can always make comments about this and other parts of SDOT’s extremely successful spot improvements program by emailing Jonathan Dong or Alex Phillips-White.

50 Replies to “More red bus lanes coming to downtown”

  1. Has there been any study that shows whether red paint like this actually makes a difference in either compliance or travel times?

    1. I don’t have a link to a study, but Metro did one for the NE Pacific St red lane, which they mentioned in testimony to the Legislature last spring. They concluded that the red paint makes a difference, but so does enforcement.

  2. I was in a car that seriously violated a red bus lane only. SODO, multiple roads closed and redirected, compounded by one way streets (Jane Jacobs discusses this), no designated area for ferry passenger pickups, poor signage. A first time driver through these sorts of mazes feels like a pilot in a MAX gone bad. We wuz bad.

    1. You mean to say the driver willingly violated red bus lanes by their own choice since they’re not difficult to miss and they’re well signed.

      Driving in the middle of a city half under construction is not an easy matter, and it shouldn’t be because an urban core is an incredibly complex place full of so many people.

      1. No, he said the driver unwillingly violated red bus lanes. It is easy to do, given the complex set of rules surrounding them. For some lanes, you are never supposed to drive in them. For others, it is OK, as long as it isn’t rush hour. For many, it is OK as long as you take a right turn, but even then, it isn’t clear when exactly you need to take the right (before the next driveway, before the next intersection?). I’m sure the first thing most violators say when caught is “I didn’t know”, and many of them are telling the truth.

        On the other hand, HOV lanes are much simpler. 99.9% of the violators are cheating on purpose.

    2. The MAX example is a good one, because, in both cases, it requires an operator with poor skill and a lack of experience to make that mistake.

  3. Of these three streets, I’m guessing that the one with the fewest violators is Fifth. I’ve looked on Google over the years, and I’ve seen a single regular car in the contraflow lane. That is because it is very clear. At every intersection, there are big “Do Not Enter” signs. Crossing streets have “No Left” or “No Right” turns. In contrast, look at Pike ( You are allowed in the right lane, but only if you are turning right, or parking. I’m sure there are drivers who use that lane for several intersections, not realizing they are not allowed to. Without a doubt, red paint will help there.

    But it isn’t ideal. Contraflow has its problems — if there is one lane, then buses can’t pass buses. But very rarely does a car drive in it (about as often as someone heads the wrong way on a one-way street). Creating two contraflow streets downtown (say, Third and Fourth) with two lanes each direction would pretty much solve the congestion problems of north-south buses that travel downtown (which represents the bulk of our transit).

  4. Hopefully SPD bothers to enforce them. They’ll probably just whine about the city council for not supporting the thin blue line enough.

    1. Intuitively, it seems like the red paint not only makes it hard for drivers to ignore the rules, but also hard for cops to ignore violators. Hopefully this helps.

    2. They’re criticized for not enforcing them, but they’ll be criticized more for enforcing them. They’ll do what gets them criticized less. It’s human nature.

      1. When are police criticized for enforcing bus lanes except by the person who was caught driving in a bus lane? Do the police currently get a lot of flack for enforcing HOV lanes? You’re not making any sense, as usual.

      2. Police all over the US are accused of racial bias in police stops. Some studies back up those claims. Non enforcement = no bias complaints. Do you think de-policing is fake news? It’s a real, and is happening in cities all over the US, even for little s like jaywalking and bus lane violators.

        Sam. Cyber-bullying victim.

      3. I’m sure some car drivers will find a way to complain about traffic enforcement, even if it doesn’t affect them. Remember the ones that whined after that lady prevented SOVs from driving in the bus lane?

      4. And do you think racial bias in policing and criminal justice is fake news? Good thing enforcing bus lanes is pretty cut and dry – if you drive in the lane you get a ticket regardless of race/ethnicity. We can and should enforce them with cameras, that way police can continue to whine about being told to do their job without murdering innocent people.

      5. Barman is pro-regressive traffic cameras. Hurts the poor more than the rich. I’m kinda surprised.

        Sam. Chairman, Comment Section Editorial Board.

      6. My sense is that they don’t enforce much at rush hour because there’s nowhere to pull anyone over. This is why the ability to issue tickets based on cameras is so important.

      7. The cops could also be the ones operating the cameras. It doesn’t have to be an automated system. Just treat it like a parking ticket. Meter maids don’t wait around for the driver, then check their license and registration. They simply issue the ticket. The ticket itself (on the windshield) is just a convenience. You will get billed in the mail, regardless.

      8. I don’t know what “pro-regressive” means but there’s an easy way to make sure fines don’t hurt the poor more than the rich. I know it might strain your brain to think of solutions to that problem but there’s an easy solution: charge the rich more and the poor less.

      9. Calling traffic cameras that enforce bus lane restrictions “regressive” is quite the strawman. Those low income folks that you seem to be concerned about rely on public transit at far greater numbers than those of higher incomes and they lose far more in opportunity costs due to transit delays caused by lane infractions than they would from traffic tickets.

  5. “The combined total of Muni-involved collisions on all three streets increased by 23 percent, though it increased at the same rate citywide at a time when Muni service and car traffic also increased.”

    Whatever my own travel record, my own 24 years’ separation from the driver’s seat really cost me some credibility here. But to me, this is most important finding of all, because it should the one that transit itself can do something about.

    First-off: How many of these collisions have been “preventable” on the part of transit, from the driver all the way up the chain to the County Executive, the city and county councils, and every relevant mayor?

    We need to hear from working drivers, supervisors, and above all instructors. Individually and as union members. Is your transit system giving you the time, resources, and cooperation you need to deal with this morning’s situation?

    Most especially: Is your sense that you are a well-trained and supported member of a working team- or are you, in the midst of maximum stress and disorder, all by yourself out there?

    And a suggestion: Even a quarter century later, I can testify that, given some authority and the minimum respect deserved, a joint union-management advisory group on strained operations is the least you’re owed for the situation you now have to deal with.

    Mark Dublin

      1. KOMO published a hit piece about all the Metro driver assaults they could get footage of to try and drive more people to support massive increases to policing/vote for more right-leaning candidates.

    1. NESS, KOMO did a story about assaults on bus drivers to get people to vote Republican? Commenter to commenter, you’re coming-off kinda nutty. You might want to dial it back a bit.

      Sam. Voice of Reason.

      1. A hit piece indeed! How dare the news media actually report on bus driver assaults. Much better we all pretend they happen too seldom to document.

  6. “This morning’s situation” ? However you focus the lens, I mean thousands of people, hardly any of them trained at all in any sense, having to negotiate multiple systems strained beyond their designers’ conceivable limits. From SODO to both SOHO’s: Jenny Durkan’s Seattle to Boris Johnson’s Pre-Brexit England. And the rest of Europe too by all accounts.

    Thing that scares me worst are radio traffic reports about collisions involving huge professionally-driven machinery. And for every driver with any kind of driver-training at all…maybe measure we need most is to imitate and implement civilian driver’s license requirements and instruction from Sweden. Would definitely mean fewer cars on the road. Though have read Skane (SKOH-ne) Province is giving us some competition for jams.

    Situations listed in comments above? Given general level of preparedness at any level, Mike and Barman, as a juror I would have personally torn up Robin’s driver’s ticket for same reason they didn’t get one- any chance they got forced into that lane and not allowed out?

    This morning I’m really trying to draw some fire from the training front, for every kind of machine involved, from buses to trucks to police cars to average car-owning civilians. And even more from the front office at ATU Local 587.

    Whatever the color of the concrete, these aren’t even your two-years-older brother’s lanes, or whole districts anymore, let alone your grandparents’.


    1. My guess is because southbound Westlake (south of Denny) has some”lane shifts” where adding red paint would make it confusing (i.e. left lane either ends or becomes a turn lane thus through traffic must use the streetcar lane), or there hasn’t been a significant amount of violations to warrant adding red paint at this time. Westlake, north of Denny, only has red paint on short segments between streets.

      1. Thanks. Interesting that if you looks at Earth and run down Denny, there’s a black Yukon that drives in the “bus” lane for at least four blocks before the lane stops being reserved. Typical SUV jerk.

  7. Will this remove the layover zone on Pike between Second and Third? (Not sure if it’s an actual zone or defacto, but there often seems to be a bus/buses using it as such).

    That block was by far the biggest source of delays for the 11 as it made its WB Pine – Second – EB Pike loop. With a bike lane, one lane of general traffic, and buses often laying over in the curb lane, traffic turning from Second to Pike backed up and often delayed that bus substantially as the bus was forced into the general traffic lane with everybody else. If the new red lane takes care of that issue, the buses using that loop should improve their on-time performance dramatically.

    It’s a shame there can’t be a protected turn/queue jump from the WB Pine stop at Third onto Third now that Third is transit only most of the time, and then from Third back east on to Pike – which would keep the bus out of any general traffic lanes such as on Second – but a bus only lane between Second and Third on Pike should help.

    1. Where else can the 49 lay over? Only at the U-District end? That may be problematic with the schedules.

      1. @Daryl — Your comment doesn’t even make sense. Are you trolling?

        @Mike — You could send the 49 south on Third. Better yet, send it south on First Avenue, thus eliminating the need for the new streetcar. You would have to move some wire, but it would be a lot cheaper, and you would probably get just about as many riders.

      2. By the way, extending a Pike/Pine bus down First Avenue is not ideal from a network standpoint. It would be better to move one of the buses off Third and onto First. But sending all of the Pike/Pine buses down First Avenue wouldn’t upset anyone. No one would complain that their bus used to serve Third, but now serves First. Once you lay the wire, you still have great flexibility. The 49 might not go downtown, but other buses will (via Pike/Pine). The result would be a lot more service on First Avenue (better than the current CCC proposal) and very little cost.

      3. It was moved off 3rd to minimize the number of turns on 3rd between Stewart and Yesler The 11, 47, and 49 all eliminated that turn. Metro also tried to reorganize the 2, 3, and 4 to eliminate their turns. The 2 got the most opposition and was postponed until Madison RapidRide. The 3 and 4 were going to move to Yesler but that was waiting for unfinded wire and was finally withdrawn several months ago over the jail stop. Re-adding that turn on the 49 daytime would slow down all the buses on 3rd.

      4. If that is the only potential option for a 49 layover there should never have been a bike lane placed on that block. The inability to get the 11 and other buses using that stretch out of general purpose traffic often costs that route 10+ minutes each run at evening rush hour.

        When I first started taking the 11 I couldn’t figure out why the bus was so badly delayed all the time (talk about “problematic for the schedules!”) – I walked the entire route many, many times and there were really no other traffic issues except right at Broadway (which is consistent and should be accounted for in the schedule). I finally figured it out when I hopped on the bus WB at Third/Pine and it took forever to make that loop. Traffic on Second makes that turn time consuming; making the turn EB on to Pike could be nearly impossible and you’d sit there for several light cycles at time. I often did that just because the bus happened to be at the Third/Pine stop – and it was the same bus you’d have caught 10+ minutes later at Fourth/Pike. :-)

        Either move the layover out of the curb lane and paint it red, or remove the bike lane and make the middle lane bus only (or provide a queue jump from the N lane on Pine to SB Third and avoid Second altogether). The map SDOT provided above shows a “red lane” there – but if it’s a layover zone there’s hardly a point to that on that block. There’s no way infrastructure for a handful of people should be allowed to cause literally hours of cumulative delay for transit ever.

  8. OK. Wrong to put my whole submission in such a negative cast. The very fact that the City is finally reserving so much painted lane-space for transit is best news I’ve seen in months.

    Really is an example of exactly the kind of simple, practical measures I’m advocating. Lifelong bad response to what I call “Government By Punishment,” from any side of the political spectrum.

    From earliest CTA-riding days, have always valued effective civic authority as necessary to the survival of Freedom Herself. Meaning always to be kept well-designed, accurate, well-balanced and above all frequently cleaned.

    I’d certainly be more than ok with a citation directing its receiver to a “Seattle Now” session of extremely intensive driving instruction. Which should also be good yearly test to make sure a renewed license is merited.

    If not, a generous transit pass – possessed with tap-irrelevant proof of payment- good above any steel or rubber transit wheel in the US and Canada.

    But from transit and especially its labor organizations, I would especially like us readers to hear your take on what you need right now to handle the conditions being imposed on you.

    Whistle-blower protection (probably worked even better on a 1938 vinyl record of one of those 4-8-8-4 moving mountain ranges calling for a grade-crossing at 90) shouldn’t be necessary. So must be mandatory.

    Mark Dublin


    Sorry about scratches in my record about locomotive wheel arrangement. For 3985, it’s 4-66-4. Two groupings of six giant spoked “driving wheels” under the center of the engine, two groupings of smaller “trailer wheels at each end.

    Even sorrier that “whistleblower’s” derivation has nothing to do with giant locomotives, but only using a common law-enforcement instrument for calling attention to wrong doing or dereliction. Got to admit, though an instances in recent memory makes it too bad that Locomotive 2985 wasn’t in the yard to sound the warning before the brakes were released.

    Attempt to put this On Topic is that in areas of instruction and training for hardship operating conditions owing to Seattle’s major increase in size and population, crucial group we’re not hearing from are the people charged with supervision and training of operating personnel.

    I think they need some relief, and can’t help but wonder if somebody is discouraging them from requesting it. That’s all.

    Mark Dublin

  10. This will be a big visual improvement but hopefully there’s more enforcement and ticketing of automobile drivers in the bus lanes.

  11. What does a striped red painted lame mean? The lanes on west lake had solid sections with smaller striped sections on either end. Does this mean drivers can enter the striped section but not the solid section? The solid section is only 30 feet long. If I’m driving and the lane is clear after the solid section, can I just drive through the solid section if I don’t stop until the striped section?

    Having part of a lane red and part not red creates a lot of confusion. To me it actually highlights that I CAN drive in the bus lane, at least in part of it.

    1. If the lane line is solid and the lane has red markings, you cannot enter it. The reason SDOT uses the striped patterning is primarily from a material cost standpoint. Many places do full lanes in red paint which have high maintenance costs, whereas SDOT uses MMA (methyl methacrylate) which is much more robust and longer lasting but exhorbitantly more expensive both to obtain and install. The compromise was to use the MMA and adopt a pattern that indicates that the lane is bus only 24/7 but not need to pay the material cost to stripe the whole lane solid red, by doing so, it allows the city to roll out many more miles of red bus lanes than they would be able to do so otherwise without having to sacrifice on maintenance liabilities related to paint. Also, the solid sections are 18′, the whole legend is 50′ total with 4′ bars and 4′ spacing between each section.

  12. There needs to be a Red Bus Lane all the way down 4th ave because many Ubers and other drivers block the busses from parking. It’s getting ridiculous as the bus drivers are always honking their horns to get the Uber drivers to move on. If Red lane isn’t an option, then they need to repaint the Bus Only markings on the street.

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