27 Replies to “Podcast #87: prior positions not confirmed”

  1. The 44 is worth taking a last stand on. It’s the densest crosstown route outside downtown, and it shouldn’t take 45 minutes to go from University Way to Ballard Avenue (3.7 miles). A Link line was deselected this round, so we should do the next best thing rather than letting it be watered down to the status quo. The 48 moves OK except for a small part around 520, but the 44 does not move OK. Its street priority is not proportional to its density and all-day ridership.

    1. Well said, Mike. I used to live at 43rd and Bagley (a long time ago), and observed that even then the majority of people who shopped at the Thriftway (IIRC) at 45th and Wallingford came on foot or by bus. The small size of the parking lot made it mandatory while also reflecting the reality that it happened.

      There are very few “destination” stores on 45th between Stone Way and I-5. Can the parking.

      1. IIRC, its last pre-QFC incarnation was as the Food Giant. They weren’t assiduous about replacing burned out illumination in their big letters facing 45th (which now read “Wallingford”), so it occasionally displayed something rather humorous, such as “Foo Gint”.

      2. Parking isn’t the biggest issue. We need to take a lane of general purpose traffic. There should be a bus lane westbound, from 15th Ave. NE to Sunnyside, where the road essentially narrows (https://goo.gl/maps/WGYEdvzDiYGAN56G6). If you got rid of the curb bulbs, that could be extended to Stone Way, where the new bus lanes will pick up, creating a bus lane from 15th NE to Green Lake Way. I would keep going, underneath the Aurora bridge, to Market. Westbound Market, as it curves down the hill, converges into one lane (https://goo.gl/maps/VRyVGgHLSQNCZyx66), so the westbound bus lane would end there. You would then pick it up again, at 5th Avenue NW, and extend it all the way until 24th Avenue NW. At 24th I believe the road will narrow to add the bike lanes for the Burke Gilman. In Ballard, it wouldn’t make sense to keep the parking (that is enclosed within curb bulbs — https://goo.gl/maps/wbkYCaR3ENrKa2meA). I would just fill that in — making the sidewalks wider (or add more trees). This would encourage more sidewalk cafes and improve an already pretty nice area.

        Eastbound, it is similar. Starting from 24th NW, you add the bus lane. Unlike westbound, the lane can continue all the way up the hill, until Market ends, and becomes 46th. The bus lane could continue until Green Lake Way. At that point, the road narrows until Stone Way. At Stone Way, you have curb bulbs again, but if you removed them, you could go as far as 1st NE (where the road narrows). It widens again at Thackeray, where you would start the bus lane up again, and extend all the way to 15th NE.

        It wouldn’t be perfect. There would be gaps. These would not be bus lanes, but BAT lanes. There are a lot of places where people want to turn right. It is possible you could have the cars turn right, in front of the buses, in the way that cars turn left in front of bikes 2nd, downtown (https://goo.gl/maps/Ag4GKbf8kvbL8sQX8). That would cost more money, as would the work to get rid of the bus bulbs (or in the case of Ballard, fill them in).

        That is why I would start with the easy stuff: paint. Bus lanes through Ballard and the U-District, as well as parts of Wallingford would be really easy. General purpose traffic would be slowed, but it would be OK. 50th parallels 45th in the U-District, so it would be fine. Traffic might shift a bit from Market to Leary, but I don’t think it would make the 40 much slower than it currently is (the 40 needs a lot more in the way of bus lanes as well). Overall, I think this would be a huge improvement without causing major congestion, just as adding bus lanes to downtown has worked out well.

      3. FBD, you’re right!!! The Food Giant. Thanks.

        Ross, absolutely gat bus lanes. That was the point of “can the parking”.

    2. Kudos to Metro for studying time delays in an objective way (GPS; door open time). It makes discussing route performance much easier.

      Route 44 suffers from operating in a corridor that has performance challenges for both traffic and transit. For that reason, a major investment in something exclusive to transit will eventually be needed. Because it’s so expensive, I would rather see a strategic plan that phases solutions based on what is most strategic and reasonably fundable. To that end, the issue is bigger than what Metro alone can examine. Taking homes or businesses is controversial but will eventually be needed if improvements are ever going to be significant.

      Part of the challenge is that the in-between areas are not significantly denser in either residential or commercial activity. I don’t see Wallingford becoming as dense as even Ballard or Alaska Junction. This conundrum has to be considered, so part of any strategy has to include zoning changes.

      1. SDOT. Metro can study and say what’s substandard but it has no authority over the streets. That’s all SDOT.

      2. I don’t see Wallingford becoming as dense as even Ballard or Alaska Junction.

        Ballard is one of the more densely populated residential neighborhoods in Seattle, in the same category as Capitol Hill and the Central Area. Alaska Junction, like all of the West Seattle neighborhoods, is significantly lower. Wallingford is very similar to the Junction — density is fairly linear (on a handful of streets) — as opposed to spreading out in all directions like Ballard, Capitol Hill and the C. D. My guess is the Wallingford area has as much density as any place in West Seattle.

        Taking homes or businesses is controversial but will eventually be needed if improvements are ever going to be significant.

        Nonsense. All you need to do is take a lane, which we’ve done before. It has been down through most of downtown. It has been done on several streets throughout much of the city, either as a way to slow down traffic, or make it easier for bikes to get through. As I wrote up above, you could do a lot of it with just paint. By removing curb bulbs, 90% of it would be bus lanes, leaving only a tiny, relatively insignificant section too narrow for one bus lane and one general purpose lane.

  2. We definitely need to continue investing in weekend service. Uber and Lyft means that transit has to work a bit harder to complete, but we definitely shouldn’t throw in the towel. I’ve ridden many weekend buses in Seattle, and I’m definitely not the only one on the bus. Having a service run with reasonable frequency makes it so much easier to use. Having to spend $30-40/day, twice a week, just to get around the city, is not reasonable.

    1. What is clear from the numbers is that people prefer frequent buses, especially on weekends. During rush hour, a bus that operates a couple blocks over from another bus is fine. There is enough riders on both buses to have good frequency. But outside of rush hour, and especially during the weekend, we need a network that is more efficient — with frequent buses making better connections. None of that will happen until the next restructure (with Northgate Link) but it should be a guiding principle.

  3. When a Metro trip becomes a Metro + Link trip, ridership totals that add agency totals together would result in a ridership increase even though there really isn’t a new rider. The discussion seemed confused about this.

    If anything, better data on how people arrive and leave each Link station is needed. There needs to be surveys performed every five to ten years about this. BART’s Station Profile study is a good example of what’s needed:


  4. I’m bullish about Link ridership over the next 5 years. Getting Link north of the ship canal was a game changer, but the location of UW station necessitates a lot of transfers while simultaneously being a poor design and place for transferring to/from buses. U-District and Roosevelt station will be much better situated for many transit users in NE Seattle. I’m less optimistic about Northgate Station in the short-term, but if NE 130th St Station opens with Lynnwood Link, that should provide another boost for north Seattle transit riders.

    The opening of East Link in 2023 will also provide a frequency boost for the ID to Northgate corridor- that segment will be a completely grade-separated line running on sub-10 minute headways 5am to midnight 7 days a week, with trains running every 6 minutes or less for most of that time. This should lower some of the psychological barriers to unplanned/spontaneous transit trips.

    1. UW Station was never intended as a transfer point for all northeast Seattle buses; it’s just been pressed into that role temporarily because the budget couldn’t stretch to U-District Station that round (although it was originally in ST1). So what we have now is a stopgap, with extra buses on Pacific Street and the 65 northbound stop to try to mitigate it.

      U-District Station will be a game-changer, although it may not increase ridership immensely because many of its riders are already on Link. Still, a lot of the 70’s riders will probably switch, and some of the 49. I’ve heard a lot of former 71/72/73X riders switched to the 70 and Metro has difficulty providing enough capacity. I don’t understand the because I avoid the 70 because it’s not express, but I keep hearing it’s happening. I take the 49 now sometimes for trips like 50th to the Broadway Market or 43rd to Bellevue Ave because going down to UW Station seems slightly ridiculous for a 1-station trip. But not in the daytime when traffic is bad, only after 7:30pm. But I’ll switch those to Link when U-District Station opens. I’m looking forward to Roosevelt too, and it will be popular.

      I don’t share your pessimism about Northgate but we’ll see what happens. Right now I’m sad that Northgate was going to be a mall with convenient transit access but now the department stores are gone and it’s unclear whether it will still be a place where you can get things not available elsewhere in Seattle so you don’t have to go to Southcenter. That remains to be seen too.

      1. My feeling is that Northgate station’s ridership potential will depend on what it looks like after the mall is redeveloped. If it turns into a lively neighborhood with a good mix of offices, retail, restaurants, and homes, then all day ridership will be good. If it turns into an office park, then it’ll probably have OK peak ridership, but be dead the rest of the day. The renderings for the hockey facility don’t look encouraging to me, but we’ll have to wait and see how the area pans out.

        I rarely go to or through Northgate, but when I do, it feels like the bus often crawls getting into and out of the transit center. I think bus-Link transfers may turnout better at Nortgate than they are at UW or Mt Baker stations, but I still expect them to feel painful.

      2. The neighborhood is developing relatively well. From any of the apartments you can walk to the station, the library, a park or two, a 24-hour gym, Northgate North and the businesses along Northgate Way, the office buildings south of 100th (where you might work), and Kaiser Permanente. The two problems are the large superblocks, the loss of half the walkshed due to the freeway, and the unpleasantness of waiting for a train next to a loud freeway and lots of concrete. The ped bridge will improve the walkshed somewhat, although it will still be a long walk to the office buildings and medical center north of the college.

        I’m more concerned about the mall lot itself. It’s highest-zoned lot (90′ I read), but the mall redevelopment will apparently only be a few stories. So we’ve lost the opportunity to have a lot of TOD in the neighborhood. And only a few other stations are zoned even that high. Hundreds of thousands of people want to live within walking distance of a Link station, but we keep underbuilding the station areas so they can’t.

      3. Northgate has the only Lens Crafters in the city since link knocked out the location in the Westlake Park Mall. Also, when the NHL starts up in 2021, there will be plenty of opportunities for hockey fans to go rink facilities of the NHL team in the Northgate Mall for team scrimmages and practices as well as recreational hockey.

    2. I’m very bullish about Northgate Link as well. I think it will lead to a big increase in transit trips within the city.

      Northgate Link does seem like the weakest of the stations. We kind of knew that coming in. The station was there to save money, but it really is a bad place for a transit center. The only way you can easily get to it is via the freeway (from the south) and the train makes those trips obsolete. East-west trips are impossible, while 1st Avenue is a minor street. The result are buses like the 40 and 41, which zig-zag back and forth before they get to the station.

      It also isn’t great for walk-up riders, for the same reason. The freeway takes up a huge amount of potential space. Although there will be a pedestrian walkway, crossing it will take a very long time.

      All that being said, it will be OK. There are apartments nearby, and folks will either slog their way to the station, or ride buses that zig-zag. Unlike a lot of places, there is a mix of use — apartments, the college, the various medical clinics nearby. The 41 has over 10,000 riders a day, which means that the Northgate Station will suddenly look stupendous compared to most of what we’ve built so far (in the land of the blind…).

      As Mike wrote, Northgate is the northern terminus, but only temporarily. This will create a very interesting situation. It makes sense to terminate a fair number of buses there. I’m not taking about freeway buses, either, but buses that serve neighborhood locations (like Bitter Lake). It should become (or continue to be) a major transit center.

      But only for four years. Once Lynnwood Link opens, we should de-emphasize it. Bus routes should serve far more convenient and efficient locations. Pretend that Link had a station at every cross street. Now imagine what the bus network would look like. Now see how much the network has to change because the train doesn’t have that many stations. You had buses on 65th, 45th, Roosevelt and the Ave before — you have them after. The buses really don’t have to bend to serve those stations. But with Northgate, you are spending a lot of time sending buses weaving around, often going back and forth, just to get to the station. There has to be some of that — nearby areas need coverage, you want to make it easy to get to the apartments, the college and clinics — but you don’t want a lot of that. That means you restructure the bus routes again — probably substantially — after Link gets to Lynnwood.

      It reminds me of something transit blogger Alon Levy recently wrote: The redesign is a process, not a one-and-done program. I agree completely. It doesn’t make sense to restructure every week, but we should definitely be prepared to redo routes every four years, if not more often.

    3. The connection to North Seattle college should also help with all-day ridership, assuming the pedestrian bridge is eventually built.

    4. Yeah, I mentioned the college (although not as often as the clinics). I do think ridership should be just fine at the station.

      My bigger concern is the overall transit network. It is easy to see how both Roosevelt and U-District fit in. Even the UW station allows for a good network. It may be difficult to get to the station, but buses don’t detour to get there.

      Northgate will be all about the detour. There are zig-zags and button hooks. Zig-zags are bad, but button hooks are much worse. The 75 zig-zags to get to the station. If that is your destination, it is not that big of a deal. But imagine you want to take a bus south on 5th NE, from Northgate Way to 75th. The bus is going to detour to 1st (if it even continues past the station). But even that detour isn’t as bad as a button-hook. Consider the experience of someone taking the 40 northeast, from Crown Hill. It heads northeast, on the main corridor. Then, at Northgate Way, it suddenly turns south. It ends up backtracking about a full mile, each direction (essentially adding two miles to what would be a four mile trip). The 66 is similar. The bus makes such a tight U-turn, you can get off on Maple Leaf, and board the exact same bus (going the opposite direction) on 5th. The 26 takes the cake, of course — sometimes if feels like the bus driver is lost.

      These sorts of detours hurt everyone. Not only does it take longer for individuals to get to their destination, it takes a long time for the bus to serve it. This causes less frequency, system wide. There is no easy solution. Northgate is an important destination in its own right. It will also has a Link station. But serving it is so difficult that it makes sense to send buses to other stations, rather then bending it around and around to get to the station.

      1. Ah, yes you did mention the college sorry.

        Yes, Northgate won’t work well for bus routes “passing” by, but can’t Metro instead have a few routes terminate there, leveraging the Transit Center as layover space? That’s basically how Lynwood Link is designed, with 145, 185, and Lynwood all key route termination points, rather than through routes.

        The TC will be overworked until Lynwood Link opens, but post Lynwood perhaps Northgate TC can be a nexus, rather than a through route? I don’t mind the 40 button hook – the college & the TC are the real destinations. Sure you could head east on 100 rather than 105 to avoid backtracking, but presumably there is more density on 105?

  5. For connecting route 7 to Link, isn’t the best option just to wait until Judkins Park opens? For northern RV, once East Link opens we can lean on north/south routes (7, 48, etc.) to connect people to Link, rather than trying to jog over to Mt Baker.
    South of Columbia City, I could see there be a role for Via or a similar service in the medium term.

    I think I agree that adding too many Rapid Ride features to a non-Rapid Rider route really hinders system navigability. I know it might sounds dumb to not improve a route to not “dilute the brand,” but at a point it does become detrimental to the overall system. Bus lanes and queue jumps galore, but I’d pause at off-board boarding for non-RR routes b/c it might just confuse people more than speed things up.

    1. There was a plan to split the 7 at Mt Baker and attach the southern half to the 8, but it’s absent from current plans. Both the 7 and the 48 can serve both Mt Baker and Judkins Park Stations without any changes, because Judkins Park Station is long enough to reach both Rainier and 23rd.

      I’ve always had reservations about splitting the 7 because it would break a linear urban village. If I were in south Rainier I’d much rather have a route going to north Rainier, Chinatown, Broadway, or downtown than 23rd.

      1. I’ve always had reservations about splitting the 7 because it would break a linear urban village. If I were in south Rainier I’d much rather have a route going to north Rainier, Chinatown, Broadway, or downtown than 23rd.

        Yeah, I agree. I suppose the idea was that you could always transfer to Link (at Judkins Park) if you were headed to downtown. Or, to put it another way, assume that everyone makes the transfer to Link. Then the number of one seat connections from south Rainier Valley goes way up. Instead of only a handful of stops between I. D. and the split (at 23rd and Rainier), you have all of 23rd.

        I’m not sure if I’m buying that. The Judkins Park transfer to Link will be better than the transfer at Mount Baker, but my guess is lots of people will want to stay on the bus.

        I think the other reason Metro wanted the change is to enable the connection of the 7 with the 70. Connecting the routes enable a fair amount of through-route trips, and saves a lot of money over overlapping them. The shorter the two routes, the more likely that connection. That seems like a stronger argument, assuming they could pull it off.

    2. Judkins Park will be a great place for transfers. The station will exit onto Rainier on both sides so riders will be able to exit without crossing that street. If the loop ramp from I-90 is modified to intersect with Rainier at 90 degrees (with a new signal), the inside of the loop can be used as a new transfer center and turn-around (exiting out this new signal).

      That would enable some route restructuring that could allow for a relocation of bus route terminations and replacement of the Mt Baker Transit Center. It’s big change and would lots of analysis and discussion on how to lay out the routes. Still, it could enable the station to serve a large catchment area as large as between Madison and Genesee.

      There are benefits:

      – Mt Baker Transit Center property can become TOD. This new site is vacant public land and this would put it to use. It’s a gain for infill.

      – SE Seattle riders heading to Capitol Hill or UW or Snohomish can avoid the rail-rail transfer Downtown after 2035.

      – The new transfer center would give a place for a turn-around. That could be used not only for Metro, but also for shuttles to hospitals or drop-offs and pick-ups (Uber/ Lyft). It could even be a streetcar terminus someday. It could be a terminal for low-speed driverless transit shuttles once the technology is honed (likely well before 2035).

      I like Mike’s point about Rainier being a linear business district. One of our general challenges with many east-west Metro routes in Seattle is that most of these districts are north-south so there aren’t many destinations other than a few businesses or Link to ride without making a transfer. That discourages riders on those routes, which in turn ends up getting service on those routes cut. It’s a self-fulfilling bad ridership though design prophesy.

      1. Judkins Park will be fine for transfers, but where will people be transferring to? If I’m on the 7, and headed downtown, I’ll probably just stay on the bus. Capitol Hill is borderline. Right now it makes sense to transfer, but only if I’m headed to someplace really close to the station. If they straightened out the 60, that would probably make more sense. If I’m headed to the UW and places north, then I definitely want to make the transfer from the 7. It doesn’t make sense if your trying to go south. Of course, if I’m on the 7 and want to get to the East Side, it will be great.

        If I’m north of Judkins Park and headed downtown then it doesn’t make sense to take a bus south, then transfer, when I can just take a bus straight to downtown. Likewise, if I’m in the C. D. and headed north of the ship canal, heading south to then go back through downtown rarely makes sense. The main group of people making the transfer will be headed to and from the East Side. As to your other points:

        As for TOD, the station works fairly well as a transfer station, but it is just about the worst possible location for walk-up riders. The platform is literally surrounded by the freeway, which is then surrounded by parkland. It is pretty much cutoff from the neighborhoods from each direction.

        For the same reason, it doesn’t make sense to terminate any buses there. Again, which ones would you terminate? It would be crazy to terminate a bus headed towards downtown (e. g. the 7). Terminating from the other direction is also silly. You are very close to the Link station, which connects to south end destinations as well as up towards Beacon Hill. I just don’t see the value of terminating any buses there.

  6. For connecting route 7 to Link, isn’t the best option just to wait until Judkins Park opens?

    Hard to say. It depends on why you want to use Link. If you are headed downtown, you will probably just stay on the bus. If you are headed to the airport, the solution is to connect the south end of the 7 to RBS. If you are going to Capitol Hill, you are probably better off with a bus transfer (although the streetcar and 60 are both so convoluted, the train might be better for a lot of trips). With the UW, the train is probably faster than transferring to the 48 (although in some cases, you would simply have a one seat ride on the 48). Everything north of the UW (Roosevelt, Northgate, etc.) and you are better off making the transfer at Judkins Park. If you are trying to get to Columbia City and Othello, improving the 50 seems like a much better way to deal with that trip. But if you want to get to Beacon Hill or SoDo, the Mount Baker transfer makes the most sense.

    All that being said, a detour to serve the station is a very bad idea. As a terminus it is fine — but no bus on Rainier Avenue (serving both the north and south ends) should detour off of it.

    I think I agree that adding too many Rapid Ride features to a non-Rapid Rider route really hinders system navigability. I know it might sounds dumb to not improve a route to not “dilute the brand,” but at a point it does become detrimental to the overall system. Bus lanes and queue jumps galore, but I’d pause at off-board boarding for non-RR routes b/c it might just confuse people more than speed things up.

    I disagree completely. First of all, the “brand” is meaningless. It includes the F, a bus that is not particularly fast, frequent or popular. The brand doesn’t signify anything, really. Even on the E — the queen of the RapidRide — there are regular bus stops, where you need to pay at the front door. That’s fine — I have no problem with that. But if a RapidRide bus can have a mix of off board and onboard payment, I don’t see why a regular bus can’t either. We already have off board payment for all the buses downtown (on Third). Ideally all Metro buses would be 100% off board (like San Fransisco) but we aren’t there yet. Having a mix is the next best thing.

  7. re Rainier Valley connections with Link. The audio is disappointing. Martin lived in SE Seattle and served on the 2009 sounding board, so should know that the network was restructured (though not perfectly) Soon, SDOT and Metro will add trolley overhead to South Henderson Street so that the south part of Rainier Avenue South will have a direct connection with the Rainier Beach station. before 2009, trolley wire extensions of routes 14 and 36 to Link was provided. The Rainier Beach station is served by routes 9, 106, and 107. the Othello station is served by routes 36, 50, and 106. the South Edmunds Station is served by routes 50 and 106. Should Route 50 be made more frequent and reliable? The Mt. Baker station is served by routes 7, 9, 14, and 106. The Beacon Hill station is served by routes 36, 60, and 107. At Mt. Baker, riders intending to/from southbound buses have a good transfer; those oriented to/from a northbound bus must cross Rainier at the South Forest Street signal (ST did not pay to extend the station over the arterial). in 2023, the Judkins station will be served by frequent routes on Rainier and 23rd avenues South. Via and Ride2 were duplicative. what should be its measure of success? how many riders would be attracted if the same service subsidy was invested in bus frequency? In West Seattle, Ride2 was taking intending riders to full C buses or to a water taxi with a long headway; miss a trip and wait a long time. Perhaps such flexible services could be used where there is NO local fixed route network at all. one of you mentioned Lake City and Northgate Link; please, that area will have good service to both Northgate and Roosevelt Link stations.

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