At a presentation (PDF) to the Transit Advisory Board, Seattle DOT identified a list of Route 44 improvements that would be carried into 30% design. It’s encouraging to see that most of the big stuff, like the bus (BAT) lanes and signal priority, advanced.

The initial ideas were just “concepts” so while we shouldn’t expect everything to advance through the design phase. At the same time, death-by-1000-cuts is usually how these projects die. So what got cut?

One somewhat major idea was a set of left turn restrictions, which would have presumably made buses go faster. The second was an interesting idea to close off Wallingford Ave N at 45th, and create a mini park, which was pretty neat but which I’m sure raised the eyebrows of Wallingford QFC shopper-drivers.

Probably not happening

SDOT project manager Janet Mayer told me that the concepts were for reasons including “public feedback, infeasibility, lack of transit benefit, or lack of support from SDOT Traffic Operations or partner agencies.”

She did add that stop removals at I-5 will “most likely” be implemented by Metro as part of a restructure and that the reroute to 43rd in the U-district is underway right now as part of the trolley project there.

23 Replies to “Route 44 improvements are refined heading into 30% design”

  1. The green space at 45th & Wallingford is a cute and interesting idea but I don’t see the benefit to transit.

    1. If nothing else, it’s one less cycle the light has to go through. There’s a protected left from Wallingford to 45th that would be eliminated.

      1. Correct. Right now the north/south direction gets two whole cycles because Wallingford Avenue is discontinuous there. One cycle for northbound, one cycle for southbound. East/west traffic such as Route 44 needs to wait for both. Eliminating the second light cycle would presumably speed things up.

      2. But there’a still gonna be NB traffic along Wallingford needing to turn left onto 45th. The time savings would be minuscule by installing a green space. If anything, convert Wallingford Ave into one way-only NB on the QFC side of 45th. That street is practically a driveway, it’s so tiny..

      3. But there’a still gonna be NB traffic along Wallingford needing to turn left onto 45th.

        Yeah. That part doesn’t change. The point is, there is one less cycle, as folks going the other direction won’t have a light.

    2. I could see why QFC might want to veto that. People would be driving through that parking lot to get to Wallingford Ave north of 45th.

      1. Yeah, I suppose, but I think most people would just wait until Densmore and take a right there. Densmore is just as fast as Wallingford at that point (neither are arterials).

        As far as the lots go, it is just about as easy to get to them, but harder to leave them (if you are headed south):

        East Parking Lot — This is a very small lot, with about half the spots designated as handicapped only. Getting there is not much harder — at worse you loop around using Densmore, instead of looping around via Wallingford Avenue (if you are coming from the south) but that really isn’t much different. If you are headed south, then leaving the parking lot would require the same sort of looping. You couldn’t immediately turn left onto Wallingford Ave. Given the fact that turning that way isn’t always easy (if cars are streaming north), the change might actually be better for a lot of people.

        Big Parking Lot — The new entrance off of 45th makes it easier to get to. Leaving the lot, you have the same problem as above. You can’t head south on Wallingford. That means you are either trying to take a left on Densmore (where there is only the stop sign) or looping around on 46th and Burke. I would choose the latter, but it is a bit more work than today.

        I think part of the problem (and this is what SDOT is alluding to) is that people will inevitably make stupid maneuvers. You are bound to have a lot more people on Densmore, trying to make a left on 45th. This will upset the people behind those cars (the ones wanting to take a right). You are also going to have more people taking a right onto 45th from Burke. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that my guess is some of those drivers use the bus lane (at least temporarily). Again, that isn’t bad, except that sometimes a temporary delay becomes a big one.

        I still think the change is a good idea, and I hope the city pushes for it again. But it is more of a community improvement idea than a transit improvement. As mentioned, the light cycle would change (which is good) but it still might be messy for vehicles around there.

  2. The proposed BAT lanes would be great for buses, but I’m also skeptical that they will actually make it through the design review process. I’d give 2:1 odds that SDOT quietly strikes them from the list in order to avoid increasing car congestion.

  3. Oh goodie! Another bus term: Transit-plus!

    So we have RapidRide and Transit-Plus on top of limited and express routes (some but not all branded with an “X”). All of that on top of STRide! Does that mean that Transit-Plus corridors keep using a number, or does every bus get branded with a “+”? Why not brand with a “!” so a bus stop doesn’t look like an equation? Lol

    I really do with all of the operators would get serious about adopting common branding terms. It’s bad enough that both RapidRide and STRide aren’t consistently designed from one route to another. Now we get multiple terms for some reason.

    I increasingly believe that we will end up with a concept letter — route number system (R1 for example) when it’s all said and done. It may take 10 to 20 years for the operators to buy in, but rider pressure in branding will eventually make it happen.

    1. The RapidRide corridors in Move Seattle were called RapidRide+. The city was vague on what that meant: some interpreted it as more lane priority. others are more multimodal improvements (cycletracks, sidewalks). Things got further muddled when several RapidRide+ corridors got downgraded to just enhanced bus corridors, which is even more vague. These improvements needed a name, and “Transit+” seems to be the favored term. So the “+” came from RapidRide+, and the “Transit” is just a generic word meaning bus.

      The term is fine as long as there’s no proliferation of new terms. RapidRide+ seems to be retired, so it’s +1, -1. SDOT earlier chose to go with RapidRide rather than inventing another brand, so that’s +0, good.
      I don’t mind the term as long as there’s no proliferation of new terms.

    2. In other words, the “+” is not the route, it’s the street improvements. And any route can use those, especially since SDOT has dropped the earlier concepts for center lanes on 45th which would have required buses with left-side doors. Some transit fans want the 44 rerouted to Children’s, but that can still happen, and the 15th Ave NE improvements won’t go to waste; they’ll be used by other routes.

  4. These look like good improvements, but in the U-District it looks very weak. There should be a transit lane, both directions, from at least the freeway to 15th. There is no reason to have two general purpose lanes each direction on 45th, when 50th is nearby. The U-District should be treated like we now treat downtown — with priority for buses, not cars. There are bus lanes on Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and now Sixth Avenue downtown (with all four lanes of Third Avenue now entirely for buses most of the day). At the very least, the U-District should have bus lanes on one corridor both directions for what is a small distance (less than half a mile). The city needs to get serious about prioritizing transit over general purpose vehicles somewhere else besides downtown.

  5. Thanks for being there to deal with Afaik News, Frank. Which across the entire global spectrum right now means all of it. Sometimes wish my keyboard had a radical sign. Too bad I can’t borrow the one on my calculator.

    Fair amount of time-in-grade on the Route 44, which I especially liked because part of it was the 43, which had some spectacular views. Custom I’d like to see revived because one, it’s a natural “Bus Bridge” when Link needs one, and two, it gives the whole steep hill down to the Ship Canal a single-seat ride to Group Health Hospital.

    But even that long a time ago, always sensed that relief of permanent trafficonflict through the Wallingford District would have to be a bored tunnel from the University District to Ballard. Sooner or later the two “pointers” would cross, and one, incurable surface demand would be heavy enough to end surface running, and two, there’d be a machine to do it on budget.

    Does anybody know if section (from the side, like if the ground was cut open) drawings for such a tunnel exist?
    Keep checking. They’ll look something like this:

    Mark Dublin

    1. Hi Mark – for a radical sign hold down ‘Alt’ key and type 251. √

      Enjoy… :-)


    Just a quick overview of something I think needs a lot more attention and discussion. U-District-Ballard should be under study now. Would also add, from experience, that everybody here who’s interested in successful tunneling familiarize ourselves with Seattle’s Waterfront tunnel.

    With a view to being ready and able to prevent at least one Unforgivable involving a pipe whose existence and location were known and disregarded. Bad history doesn’t repeat itself….it gets willfully repeated!

    Mark Dublin

  7. I’m glad to see that the Wallingford Ave closure at 45th idea has been nixed. I lived in Wallingford for 10 years and shopped regularly at the Food Giant/QFC as well as relied upon Metro route 44 for my transportation for that entire time period. I just don’t see a lot of transit benefit for the trade-offs that this would cause for pedestrian safety and traffic flow in and out of the QFC parking lots and on Wallingford Ave itself.

    1. I think it would improve pedestrian safety, not make it worse. As far as transit goes, the main advantage is a shorter light cycle. That is a small benefit, which is why I think this doesn’t need to be part of this process, but should be part of a general neighborhood improvement project.

      1. Yes I get the point about the light cycle. Trust me, I’ve been on the 44 enough times suffering through that slog in that part of the route. (I’ve actually just gotten off the bus in front of the drug store and walked home from there, instead of staying on and deboarding at Stone Way, on multiple occasions.) I just see an even larger number of cars cutting through the smaller QFC lot as a result of this particular proposal and hence my trepidations about decreasing pedestrian safety. One of our best couple friends who we socialize with routinely and who still live right in that neighborhood have the same concerns. (We met them at Spot Bagel years ago. Remember that place? I miss it and wish it wasn’t so hard to find a decent bagel joint these days. But I digress. Lol.) Drivers currently do this today and eliminating the right turn onto Wallingford Ave from 45th westbound will certainly only increase the number of cars doing likewise. I can see a lot of pushback coming not only from QFC and SDOT but also from neighborhood groups.

      2. I just see an even larger number of cars cutting through the smaller QFC lot as a result of this particular proposal …

        I don’t see that. It just doesn’t make sense. You are talking about people going along 45th, and then taking a right through a parking lot, (probably stopping), then taking another right to exit out of the other side (thus risking a ticket). For what? There is nothing more on Wallingford than there is on the adjacent streets. It is no faster than the adjacent streets. If you started west of there, you turned on Stone Way (which is much faster); if you started east of there, you turned on Meridian (which is much faster). The street (north of 45th) should have as many people as Densmore or Woodlawn (which is to say — very few). Very few will risk a ticket, because very few are actually headed to Wallingford, and most of those drivers realize that turning on an adjacent street is just about as fast.

        The only reason so many people go on (that part of) Wallingford is because the traffic light sends them there (or they are headed to the main QFC parking lot). If you are on the arterial part of Wallingford (south of 45th) headed north then the traffic light is basically begging you to continue on Wallingford ( It is even marked with a yellow line, as if it is an arterial ( even though it isn’t. This is a major pedestrian hazard, as of course people will drive too fast on there, while pedestrians — confused by the higgly piggly mess of it all — inevitably jaywalk.

        All of that changes once you block that road. Drivers go east or they go west. Those coming in from the sides take another street. Those going to the big QFC parking lot just access the lot it via the new entrance (right off of 45th) while those accessing the little lot do what they’ve always done. Yes, there is traffic going to and from the parking lots. There always has been. If anything, traffic north of 45th will decrease, as the big lot will continue to be used a lot more than the little lot, but now more people will just stick to 45th (since they can enter and exit there).

        Overall, it is safer for pedestrians, even if some idiots drive through the parking lot. They aren’t going nearly as fast as some the existing drivers making the dogleg.

        It is a well thought out little improvement, that folks are just dismissing. SDOT deserves credit for the idea, even if people aren’t ready to accept it. Maybe, like bike lanes and bus lanes, it will just take a while.

  8. the fate of ST Route 512 should help determine the efficacy of the stops on NE 45th Street at I-5. If Route 512 is truncated at Northgate in 2021, then the stops would have less value. but suppose Route 512 continued as was oriented to South Lake Union? then the transfer point with Route 44 would have more value. ST is asking its riders about it routes.

    1. I’m pretty sure that ST will truncate at Northgate. That seems to be the direction they are leaning, and ST doesn’t have a huge amount of money for service. Shifting riders to a train just makes sense for them (and their riders).

    2. ST Express is defined as an interim service until high-capacity transit comes to that corridor. Link’s Westlake-Northgate travel time is 15 minutes, which is competitive with the 512, so it’s pretty clear it will be truncated. It’s also competitive for the other 51x routes, although their truncation will depend on how much turnaround/layover capacity exists at Northgate, plus the capacity on freeway exit and intermediate streets.

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