40 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Roundabout Rodeo”

  1. Great for vehicles. Shit for pedestrians. Dangerous for anyone with eyesight problems.

    /general feelings about roundabouts

    1. They are very nice on bicycle because you can cruise right through.

      Agreed they are not great for pedestrian. Then again, most American traffic lights allow cars to turn through peds, which is also not great

      1. The issue is drivers only look left for their chance to merge. They never look right so if you are coming up from behind you’re invisible and unless there is grade separation the driver is going to use the whole road including anything striped as a bus lane. When exiting drivers only see an wide open lane and assume anyone on a bike is going to be exiting too or since they just passed you it’s on the cyclist to avoid them. The other problem with multi lane roundabouts is you have to cross lanes of fast moving traffic while looking back over your shoulder. All fine when traffic is light but otherwise it’s roundabout roulette.

      2. They are very nice on bicycle because you can cruise right through.

        If you don’t mind getting killed. From this article https://streets.mn/2017/11/17/are-roundabouts-safer-for-pedestrians/:


        Pedestrians crossing double-lane roundabouts are exposed for a longer time and to faster vehicles. They can also be obscured from, or not see, approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes if vehicles in the nearest lane yield to them. Children, wheelchair users, and visually impaired pedestrians face particular risks. Bicycles are also more exposed to severe conflicts when choosing to circulate with motor vehicles.”

        With bicyclists, the FHWA report states that “Roundabouts may not provide safety benefits to bicyclists. …The complexity of vehicle interactions within a roundabout leaves a cyclist vulnerable, and for this reason, bike lanes within the circulatory roadway should never be used.” A lot of the foreign studies in the report (discussed below) showed increased risk for cyclists.

    2. It’s interesting to see WSDOT involving the transit operators in the design process and studying the feedback they provide. Imagine if they had implemented the same process for the Point Defiance Bypass design and engineer training on the Amtrak Cascades route.

    3. Well, that’s what ramps and bridges for pedestrians, wheelchair-users, and bicyclists are for. Any argument about it, that’s what the Americans With Disabilities Act is for, along with lawsuits and a lot of really bad publicity at a time when a transit agency needs it least. Though as luck would have it:

      https://www.shutterstock.com/search/pedestrian+bridge Like with the designer drawbridge we’re going to bring Link into Ballard with, maybe we can bill it to “One Percent for the Arts”.

      But talk about sudden flashback memories! The ORIGINAL Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel consisted of a pair of lines of orange traffic-cones, laid out in more or less the same “J” shape of the the proposed right-of-way at a drag-racing track whose name I forget, aways down I-5 from Seattle.

      Every day for a week, again if memory serves which it does ever less, we rolled about 20 “artics” out of the yard for a day’s virtual tunnel-driving. For dispatch signals, the raceway gave us a pickup truck with a drag-racing “traffic light” in the bed.

      Mercifully we had no idea that about two weeks into real Tunnel service, Metro would decide that the fortune in signalized “platoon” dispatch only got in the way and turned it off. Well, every single bus that went in one end of the DSTT DID always eventually come out the other, didn’t it? Anyhow, the exercise gave us drivers a terrific hands-on “feel” of participating in the design of something one-of-its-kind.

      If we make this kind of design-participation on the part of operating staff themselves…for a long foreseeable transit-design future, it’ll more than pay for a bike-pedestrian bridge that droves of designers world-wide will fly into Sea-Tac to, whether the elevator works or not, board Link to Shoreline South Station to go see.

      Good going, ladies and gentlemen, and thanks for the posting, Dan.

      Mark Dublin

    4. This isn’t just a simple roundabout that’s planned. It has multiple lanes. It’s a mega-roundabout!

      1. Ya, but it isn’t a Magic Roundabout. I love Magic Roundabouts, but the average American would be way to confused to successfully use one.

    5. So pedestrians won’t be able to get to Shoreline South station without getting hit by a car or running across the street? I guess I’ve only been through roundabouts on a bus, like the ones in Federal Way and Evergreen Point. But the NE 8th Street exits from 405 don’t have signals so cars come at any time, so that seems similar to a roundabout. It’s a challenge to cross 8th Street but but insurmountable, as a car usually comes only every thirty seconds or so. (I’ve lately switched to 12th Street, which avoids both those exits and the hills.) Still, if roundabouts cause problems for pedestrians, how is that not incompatible with the ADA?

      1. It does seem like an issue. There are two things that could help:

        – There is a pedestrian trail underneath 145th just west of Fifth Ave. I’m not sure if will remain.

        – Shoreline is supposed to build a 148th St nonmotorized over-crossing I-5 from the ST3 system access funds. It will allow for ways to get to the station from First Ave and points west of I-5. The distance will be much shorter than the Northgate crossing will be. https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Motion%20M2019-97-As%20forwarded%20by%20the%20Executive%20Committee.pdf

      2. It probably isn’t compatible with it, but since there’s no actual enforcement for the ADA besides private lawsuits, few people/entities give much of a shit about it and often just forget it exists.

        That or have very bad ideas of what counts as ‘accessible’.

      3. no actual enforcement for the ADA besides private lawsuits,

        That’s not true. A great deal of design, construction and inspection work is done on all road projects to assure compliance. Anyone who screws up will find them self being back charged for the cost of making it right.

      4. So pedestrians won’t be able to get to Shoreline South station without getting hit by a car or running across the street?

        There are a lot of things that need to be worked out in the area of pedestrian and bicycle safety. Both are complicated. I personally think there will have to be crosswalks with signals (and beg buttons) in several areas. There is already one at First (across 145th). You could add a similar one at 6th or 8th, although there isn’t much reason to cross there. The hard part is east-west travel across the bridge. Either you put the cross walk well outside of where people want to walk, or you put it very close to the roundabout. The later means drivers exit a roundabout and immediately stop, thus killing the whole point. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe people crossing that bridge will be rare, as most pedestrians are approaching from the north side of 145th (across from the golf course) or are headed to the 148th pedestrian bridge. Maybe there aren’t many people walking from here to here: https://goo.gl/maps/jSChpMSdpF8sAKtS8. I just think that if they half-ass the safety aspect of this — if they have a four-lane crossing with no signal — there is a good chance it will cause a huge kerfuffle, and they will just kill the idea.

        Biking also has similar issues, complicated in part because of the proposed bike path and bridge. It is quite possible that you could have people head up to the bike path and then down, but after that things get messy. With a crosswalk and beg button at 6th or 8th I could see this: https://goo.gl/maps/uJcPKHoHJmtsFCLB7. That is slow, but a lot safer than entering that roundabout. I’m not sure what they are going to do about the bike path (maybe have it go under the freeway, as Al suggested).

    1. When his wife and three kids move in with him ’cause their house got sold for back taxes while Congress and the Senate argue over whether they’ll ever see another $600 supplement, his whole team goes belly-up just in time for him to get news from his doctor that COVID’s the least of it….send us another YouTube, Sam. OK?

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark, some time back I told you I wanted more local reporting from you. I told you I want you to ride Intercity Transit, interview drivers and passengers, then report back here. What do you have for me?

    1. Ridership seems to be rebounding in the southern part of Seattle and King County. I’ve seen numerous route 60 and 101 trips displaying the “Sorry, Bus Full” sign and route 106 is now running artics on most weekday trips, too.. Yesterday, I even saw a route 915 to Auburn Station coach showing “Sorry, Bus Full”.

    2. Route 7 seems to be leaving lots of riders on Rainier Ave too.

      It’s one more reason why a parallel Link operation needs to have 15 minute service with an eye to 12 minutes when more demand returns.

    3. Anecdotally, ridership seemed to be way up on Link compared to a month ago. The car I was on seemed mostly full, with about a 3-foot separation between passengers. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be wearing masks, and I was only on it for a a very short time. Soon, we’re going to start to see crowding becoming a problem if the train frequency does not increase to spread riders out.

    4. Christopher, I wonder how much avoidance of transit owes less to fear of contagion than just weary discouragement at one more collection of things that just don’t work.

      Medically inaccurate to call it a COVID symptom, but in the months since the virus hit, system after system has begun to render itself impossible to use, including by people whose job has always been to use it.

      One lucky thing. A lot of passenger information and assistance can be safely done by unpaid but trained volunteers. From what I’m encountering lately, by just being there, the average person on the street is doing more than their share to make up for system deficiencies.

      Does anybody know if there are any organizations already active along the lines I have in mind?

      Mark Dublin

      1. Since the 249 was cancelled, I haven’t used transit all that much, but what’s left seems to work just fine. In fact, in my experience reliability has greatly increased: instead of often waiting 30 to 45 minutes for a bus slogging through traffic, I now wait only 10-20 minutes for buses that are never late.

        I just need to walk a mile and a half to get to the nearest bus stop.

  2. It’s a disappointment that the agencies went to all this trouble but didn’t do a field test with autos, bicyclists and pedestrians in the mix. I’m not so sure that this can handle all the other activity safely — and not break down when all the pieces are in place in their expected numbers. This looks like they only tested a roundabout exclusively for buses.

    I’m also concerned that lazy people will drop off and maybe pick up Link riders on 145th — maybe even in the roundabout. It’s probably going to take barriers and fencing to discourage this.

    1. Al S. and anybody else, is it true that Link is doing “single track” on MLK? If so, what’s the back-story? Also agree that considering it’s our line to an international airport, fifteen minute headway should be a given.

      But my call on the 145th roundabout? An attractive bike/pedestrian bridge will pay its own cost by sparing itself preventable bad publicity and avoidable litigation. Sooner the relevant advocacy groups get active and stay that way, the less it’ll cost.

      And for traffic control in the circle itself, main thing needed is a set of signals at the control of the coach operator to clear the circle of everything except buses while however many buses necessary get through.

      As for workforce participation in all transit planning and design, I’ve said before that I think ATU Local 587 needs to condition acceptance of any salary concession at all on a permanent advisory role. Paid or not…negotiable, though from experience a committee whose like I served on will more than earn its keep.

      That is…on one condition. That blatant disregard of the NEXT employee advisory committee’s advise on a critical matter be actionable in both labor relations and law. One deliberately-lamed transit tunnel in Seattle’s history should hold us from here on.

      Mark Dublin

    2. I didn’t notice single-tracking the two times I’ve ridden on MLK. Both were southbound and the train stopped at the usual platforms. There have been reports of it stopping for red lights more than usual, but it only happened to me once at Orcas Street.

      There was single-tracking in the DSTT during Connect 2020, between January and March.

  3. For the 38th LD, plz endorse Representative Emily Wicks please. From her webpage on transportation:

    Our transit workers are some of the most under-recognized and under-valued contributors to our functioning modern day world. Their consistent service to our communities must be fully recognized socially and financially. Providing safe, affordable, and accessible public transit is undeniably helpful for Washington state residents.

    As a new member of the Transportation Committee, I will focus on investing in projects that create jobs, and ensuring wages that help people contribute to their local economies. I will prioritize projects that have a positive impact on our environment and health, and move people in a way that gives them their time back.

    By making transportation attainable for all, we are taking one step closer to a stronger community.

  4. Bellevue just put in a roundabout at 10th and 100th. I’ve driven through it several times. I never thought of that intersection as a problem location. What’s interesting to me is, a few years ago, a motorcyclist was hit and killed by a car a block to the east, on 10th and 102nd. So, why not put roundabouts where pedestrians and motorists have been killed, instead of where they haven’t? Same for 145th and 5th. It isn’t on any list of deadliest intersections, as far as I can tell.

    Bellevue explains the benefits of a roundabout at that location:

    https://bellevuewa.gov/sites/default/files/media/pdf_document/2019/BenefitsRoundabout-DisplayBoard.pdf

  5. I’m glad the WSDOT spokeperson mentioned the issues with pedestrian and bike safety. In general, all the data about increased safety are about people in cars. What is interesting is that often the number of accidents actually go up. But the severity of accidents go down. Making it safe for pedestrians and bikes is going to be very challenging — how they do that will determine whether it is worth the effort.

    In short, they aren’t adding a roundabout for safety. Nor are they adding it to help the bus system. They are adding it so that more cars can go through that intersection. Right now there is a four part signal cycle. Even though 5th avenue will be one way (northbound) between 130th to 145th*, they can’t take advantage of fewer cars entering that intersection. You no longer have cars going southbound on 5th, but you have cars going northbound. You no longer have cars turn left from westbound 145th to southbound 5th, but you still have cars going left from eastbound 145th to northbound 5th. I’ve thought about how you could take advantage of that, but it still comes down to a four part cycle.

    * That change, by the way, really is being done for safety. Right now, southbound cars cross in front of cars exiting the freeway, opening up the possibility of a high speed head on collision (https://goo.gl/maps/Mr37Hk7hay9iskfM7).

    1. The key for bicycle safety at roundabouts is to force all the cars to slow down to bicycle speeds. This allows bicycles to simply take the lane and act like a car, rather than having cars cut across a bike lane when they exit the roundabout.

      If you want to be even safer, you can do what they did over in Issaquah, just north of I-90, where the East Lake Sammamish Trail actually tunnels underneath the roundabout, keeping most bikes out of the way altogether.

      1. That still seems fundamentally dangerous, especially with a two lane roundabout. Visibility becomes really difficult and with two lanes, the speeds are usually higher.

      2. I didn’t notice that this is going to be a multilane roundabout. That definitely ups the danger factor by creating more weaving opportunities. I was hoping 145th could simply merge down to one lane before the roundabout, but I guess the Department of Moving Cars doesn’t like that. Agree, this does look like a classic highway project, where you find the solution to maximize car throughput first, then bolt on something at the end to allow (patient enough) bikes and pedestrians to eventually get through without getting run over, while spending as little money as possible and having as little impact on car throughput as possible to accommodate them.

      3. It is a state highway and a freeway entrance, so that may be pushing the car thoroughput. The state is probably having nightmares of cars backed up for miles and angry constituents calling their legislators. While the pedestrian constituents are assumed to be too few to swing an election.

  6. As it happens, Sam, this morning my driver on IT Route 12 commissioned me to contact the company about this. Since we all board through the back door now, average placement of a glass and steel shelter in a bus stop can result in passengers being unable to board or get off because the normal position of the bus results in the shelter blocking the door, forcing passengers to “squeeze” past it.

    As we trolley-bus drivers learned early how to handle such problems as being stalled on substation-breaker “dead spots” in the overhead if we stopped in the wrong place. We learned to find ourselves “landmarks”, fire hydrants were good, at exactly the right location where if I looked straight sideways at it, I knew exactly where my shoes were in relation to the dead spot.

    So what he suggested I do was call Customer Services and suggest IT detail a driver to take a bus out at a light-service day and time, and at every stop, pull the coach to where the back door clears the shelter, and spray a paint-mark on the sidewalk or curb beside the front door. “On it” soon as I hit “Post Comment.”

    My only reservation is that once they realized the possibilities of this piece of knowledge, especially once COVID’s OVID, and he 612 to Tacoma re-activates, all IT’s best people will sign on at Atlantic just to use their new-found skill. Leaving my only remedy to start attending IT board meetings demanding that at least IT runs 1 Express, 45, and 48 be electrified.

    On the positive side, though, as long as the freight tracks still put grooved rail on Jefferson Street from the Port to the Plum Street entrance to I-5, fact that it is a railroad will prevent anybody from making a hiking trail out of it ’til we can close the deal making it an exclusive busway with a perfect entrance at Olympia Transit Center. Wills and ways, Sam, wills and ways.

    Mark

    Mark Dublin

  7. but the average American would be way to confused to successfully use one

    “To confuse: causing a sense of disorientation or vulnerability to another”. Conjugation “I confuse, you confuse, he/she/it confuses, we confuse, they confuse”.

  8. Calling all route 48 riders–

    Could anyone tell me how the northbound commute to UW in the morning and the southbound commute to the Central District in the afternoon was, pre-pandemic?

    I can’t remember seeing the 48 buses as packed as, say, the 44 or 49 in and out of the U District. But maybe you could tell me what I might expect (I may be moving to the Central District and taking the bus to work at the UW campus).

    Thanks.

    1. I used to live near Route 48 and sometimes rode it eight years ago. I moved and last rode It three years ago — and it was much less crowded. I think U-Link captured lots of riders going the full length between UW campus and Mt Baker Station, and it’s turned into a more local-serving route.

    2. I sometimes rode the 48 southbound at 5pm. It was busy but I don’t recall it being packed. The thing that stood out was it stopped at every single stop in the residential areas; there was always somebody getting on or off. That makes for a long trip if you’re going a long distance. I used to go from UW to Columbia City, which was once a one-seat ride but now requires transferring at Mt Baker, although Link is now an alternative. But when Link late due to a collision or power outage I take the 48.

      Transferring between a southbound 8 and a westbound 11 isn’t very easy; you have to cross two streets and go east down the hill, only to take the bus back across the street again. When I’m going to Trader Joe’s I usually walk, and Pike Street is in some ways more pleasant than Madison Street (because it doesn’t have such large buildings).

    3. When the 45 was split from the 48, the 48 was expected to be the higher-volume route. But the opposite happened: the 45 became high-volume and the 48 lost a significant number of passengers, enough that it might lose its 10-minute frequency someday. I think it’s because the 45 was moved to University Way so it gets the Ave visitors, and it also connects 65th & Roosevelt to UW Station (along with the 67). When U-District and Roosevelt stations open, the 45 will probably lose a lot of people.

  9. “We tested the air and surfaces for Covid-19 in a number of Link cars, Metro and Sound Transit buses, Streetcars, Ubers, and Carshares, and this is what we found.”

    I just made the above statement up, but I’d like to read that kind of report.

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