The ROI on bus lanes is remarkable:

Another benefit of the lanes is a more consistent trip time for riders. Travel-time variability decreased by up to 26% northbound and 55% southbound, according to the data. And the lanes appear to have encouraged more people to take the bus, with ridership increasing 13% in the first week the Bus Rapid Transit lanes were in service, a pattern that has remained consistent in the following weeks, Tumlin said.

51 Replies to “San Francisco’s Van Ness BRT”

  1. While visiting Houston a couple weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that they actually have a center running BRT line. The bus has it’s own lane through an often-congested street, with some nice looking stations in the middle of the road and a landscaped barrier separating it from traffic.

    Houston being as spread out as it is, this smelled like the perfect situation for open BRT, where you have a whole bunch of bus routes converge on the busway that branch out and go to different neighborhoods in mixed traffic outside of the busway. Instead, they went with closed BRT, where you have a single bus route, 5 miles in length, going from park and ride to shopping center, back to park and ride, without serving any residential area (unless you count hotels) to speak of. Even the rare Houstonian visiting the shopping center by transit, the optimal bus route from almost anywhere in the city doesn’t even use the busway at all, but rather just takes regular old bus routes on regular old nearby streets. They spent a ton of money building the busway, only to blow it on operational details.

    1. Houston has plenty of roadway/ROW space. Despite the roadway capacity, traffic is horrendous. Houston has been awkwardly pro-public transit for a decade or two, What they’ve been doing had satisfied the voting public enough to keep it going. Maybe this will spread.

  2. That BRT Line was supposed to be a segment of Houston’s LRT in the 2000’s.

    But due to local politics, it got downgraded to BRT.

    1. Yeah, but the point asdf2 is making is that once they switched to BRT, they should have taken advantage of the mode, and built open BRT. That being said, this isn’t like Van Ness. It doesn’t run in the heart of the city. I found it difficult to even find the route on the map, since the map has lots of grey, and this is the silver line. Here is how I found it: start with I-10, towards the middle left of the map. Then move east until you find an orange and black circle. This is the Northwest Transit Center, the northern terminus of the line. Go south and you will see a series of small circles (Uptown Park, Four Oaks, Ambassador, etc.). This is the BRT line. It ends at Westpark, Lower Uptown Transit Center. It is relatively short, but that is mainly because Houston is so massive. What is clear to me though, is that the route doesn’t share any space with other routes (from what I can tell). However, there appear to be enough routes that end at the Northwest Transit Center to form a spine, simply by extending those routes south. It isn’t look like the transit center is a good destination (

      My guess is that politics played a part. From a political standpoint, it is much easier politically to build a streetcar or BRT project than it is to make improvements that don’t involve fancy new vehicles. It is also easier to get federal funding (a definite weakness in our federal matching funds program). There is one advantage though, in that you can have special vehicles with level boarding (something the Van Ness buses won’t have). You can do that with open BRT, but that requires more work outside the BRT area (I think — maybe someone can comment on that).

      One last note: The BRT only runs every 12 minutes. Maybe the plan was to run it more often, but a bus that has exclusive use for a corridor and only runs every 12 minutes should not be converted to a train. That would be silly.

      Anyway, that’s my take. I’ve only been to Houston once, and that was during the pandemic, so I really don’t have a big feel for the city (let alone its transit system).

      1. Some of this can be blamed on the stupidity of how we fund such projects. If it has its own branding as a BRT line then it qualifies for FTA funding like a light rail line.

        Even if open BRT would be better, our policies encourage a worse outcome by making funding for closed BRT easier to obtain.

      2. @RossB:

        Politics played a defining role here, as local NIMBY basically got congressmen to ban LRT in certain sections of town, killing the University Line that this would’ve connected to.

        The service plan back when this was supposed to be LRT was for this to branch onto both parts of the University Line.

        In it’s current form, the Uptown BRT isn’t a complete project, as Houston current transport expansion plans envision expanding it north.

      3. Thanks FDW. That is very interesting. It looks like a decent plan (which apparently will never be implemented) but I still wonder about it. For example, the main University line would split. This means half the frequency goes west, while half goes north. If you are running trains (in Houston) that seems like a prescription for poor headways. It also has another line from the west to the north. This implies that enough people are going along each segment to justify good frequency. I don’t see how that is the case. If the segment used by the BRT is so popular, why is it only running every 12 minutes? If the segment to the east is so popular, why the split?

        I think it is nuts to see someone ban a mode, and it is quite possible that LRT would have been better. But more than anything, these low frequencies suggest the bus routes are nowhere near capacity, and what makes more sense is the sort of thing they built. The only modification worth considering is sending more of those buses from the north along this newly built line (running as Open BRT, just like the San Fransisco project). That would create a “spine” along that section, while giving more riders a good connection to the University Line (whether the University Line is BRT or LRT).

      4. @RossB: There would’ve been another service on the entire University Line, so it and the Uptown line would’ve had similar headways to that of the (Original) Red Line.

        Houston has been cheaping out on operations costs for the Green/Purple and Northern Red Lines, resulting in much poorer ridership on these lines versus the Original Red Line. That same cheapness is happening on the Uptown BRT.

        The Original Red Line had some of the Best Ridership per Mile of Any LRT system in North America, because Houston didn’t cheap out, at not as much. The corrridor it’s on was originally going to be Heavy Rail in the 1980’s.

      5. Yeah, there is no questions that the light rail system in Houston has been very successful. It sucks that they are chipping away at the frequency. My point is that it is very common for cities to start by covering their most important corridors with rail, and after some success, get carried away, and run trains on areas that would do just fine with better bus service. The main advantage of rail is capacity. The section that asdf2 mentioned seems like it doesn’t need it. Maybe the University Line needs it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it doesn’t.

        Personally, I think a lot of the cities in North America should follow this pattern of ramping up. Make a bus faster, then run the buses more often. Repeat as necessary. If the buses are running every five minutes during peak, then look at express versions. If that still doesn’t work, and you are dealing with crowding, it is definitely time to look at rail. Surface rail may be fine, but it is also quite possible that you need grade separation (a full on subway/metro). That is what Vancouver will do with Broadway (the corridor would definitely make sense as a tram/streetcar, but they will instead make it part of a subway line). Leapfrogging over the tram/streetcar phase seems way more sensible to me than leapfrogging over the bus/BRT phase. There are corridors where they are laying rail (sometimes without grade separation) that have never had great bus service, and can’t prove they would have good ridership if they did.

        Leapfrogging over both the BRT and streetcar phase to a subway is trickier, because a subway doesn’t have to follow the grid. But you can still make the case, based on big speed improvements and existing ridership. For example, consider the downtown/Capitol Hill/UW corridor. To a certain extent, we had made all the BRT improvements that were practical. Buses ran between the UW and downtown frequently. Often they ran very fast (when the express lanes were in their favor). Capitol Hill to downtown had bus lanes (and very good combined frequency) as well, leaving only Capitol Hill to the UW as lacking a major bus investment. Ridership was very high, and with the major speed improvements, bound to be very successful. Surface rail made no sense, and thus building a subway was the way to go.

        In contrast, West Seattle Link follows the same basic path as the buses, with minimal speed improvements. There isn’t much ridership at the future stations (buses like the 21, 120 and C get decent ridership, but from a variety of stops in West Seattle). Improving the bus system seems like the next step, not leapfrogging to a subway/metro. Frankly the same can be said for much of ST3.

      6. The shopping area served by the silver line is big – we’re talking about an entire Bellevue Square-style shopping mall, plus nearby shopping centers. There is also a bunch of hotels in the area, plus some large office buildings. The northwest transit center terminus is also supposed to connect to the Houston-Dallas high speed rail line; if it ever gets built, the silver line could be a great way to get between train station and hotel.

        It is also an area that is horribly congested, and not just at rush hour, so getting some dedicated transit right of way, especially center running, is a really big deal.

        All that said, my next reaction was to imagine a transit trip to the mall from my parents house, a few miles to the south down a major street. With open BRT, it would have ideally been a straight shot on a single bus, nearly as fast as driving and parking. Instead, the current network would involve regular old bus routes that approach the mall from the other side, bypassing the silver line entirely. Worse, because the buses don’t travel in a straight line, you would have to ride one bus one mile, then transfer to another bus to continue onward in the same direction. So, the transit system fails.

        This gets into another pet peeves of mine about the transit system in the neighborhood of Houston where I grew up. My street is north/south, but the bus bays at the transit center a mile to the north run only east/west. So, for the sake of serving the bus bays, every north/south bus must turn east/west at the transit center, therefore requiring a transfer to continue in a north/south straight line. Bus routes should be decided based on principles involving grids and rider draws; they should never be dictated by the orientation of bus bays at a transit center.

      7. “Capitol Hill to downtown had bus lanes”

        The bus lanes on Pike/Pine were installed around 2020, as mitigation for the Convention Center expansion. Link to UW was approved two decades earlier.

        “(and very good combined frequency)”

        … which unfortunately has deteriorated. The 10, 11, and 49 come within a minute of each other during most of Sunday, evenings, and to a lesser extent Saturday. That makes them effectively one 15-minute route.

    1. Yeah, those buses sure look empty:

      Come on man, do a little research before you make such a ridiculous comment. This is San Fransisco, for heaven’s sake — do you really think no one rides the buses in freakin’ San Fransisco — on a major corridor? Really? Over half a million people ride the buses, in case you want to know (and are too lazy to look it up).

      1. I believe Mark H is implying that BRT in Seattle would be ineffective since Seattle’s buses are “empty or are mobile shelters”, which shows that he’s only getting his information on the ridership of buses from KOMO.

      2. Hey gents. I know San Francisco and I know Seattle.

        Worked downtown for 20 years taking the bus. Go down at 5pm a weekday next week and report back. Metro has fundamental problems that go waaaay beyond a reserved lane.

        Thanks for the pathetic mansplain attempt. You’re not helping transit in Seattle in 2022. KCM needs to don their own oxygen mask first.

      3. Hey gents. I know San Francisco

        Well, you obviously don’t know it well enough to know that your statement was completely wrong. Anyone who “knows San Fransisco” would know that the buses that run on this street would not be empty.

      4. Hey Gent, I work in Downtown too. My bus, maybe not quite as standing-room-only as it was in 2019, isn’t empty, either, nor is it any more of a moving shelter than they were before. There’s just less “normal” folks to mask the baseline of weird folks.

        Your use of “mansplain” tells me you either don’t know what it means, or like to use social justice buzzwords to shut discussion down.

      5. I was at First Hill on Wednesday and rode the bus, it was fine and you’re full of it

  3. News yesterday reported East Link opening pushed back from summer 2023 to February 2024. Blame is being put on the concrete strike but I’m not buying it. Very little concrete left to be poured but lots of wire on I-90 they didn’t touch during the strike. There was also something about tearing up track on the sinking bridge?

    With the R/W parallel to major roads/freeways and the stations just about complete now would be a good time to nix the 550 and replace it with East Link shadow service.

    1. now would be a good time to nix the 550 and replace it with East Link shadow service.

      What do you have in mind (now, or in the future)? I don’t see East Link having shadow service, but we may just have a different interpretation of that term. I also don’t see any part of the future restructure being implemented now, before you can take the train from Seattle to the East Side.

      1. What I’m proposing, given were likely two years from East Link being in service, is you run the 550 from Overlake Transit Center to Overlake Village, Bel-Red+116th to Wilburton, BTC, 112th to Old Main, S Bellevue via 112th/Bellevue Way, I-90 to Mercer Island and follow the 554 route to serve Judkins Park and DT. This routing “shadows” East Link very closely picking up all of the Stations except Spring District (misses by a block) and 130th P&R which isn’t done yet. It would likely get better ridership than what the 550 has decayed into.

      2. What I’m proposing … is you run the 550 from Overlake Transit Center to Overlake Village, Bel-Red+116th to Wilburton, BTC, 112th to Old Main, S Bellevue via 112th/Bellevue Way, I-90 to Mercer Island and follow the 554 route to serve Judkins Park and DT.

        OK, but that is a much longer route, which means it would cost a lot more to run. I’m not sure where ST would get the money, unless they ran the 550 less often, which would likely lose as many riders as it would gain. If the 550 is suffering, any variation is likely to suffer. If you don’t get many riders between downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue, extending to the east isn’t going to help much.

    2. That’s one hell of a delay update in one month. The February Progress Report was just published, holding showing -48 days of float from the target revenue service date of June 30, 2023, for an opening date of August 18, 2023.

      Regarding tearing up track: ST inspectors found significant deficiencies in the concrete track plinths on the bridge, requiring redo of the entire work, right before the concrete strike kicked off.

      1. Yeah, most of the delay was caused by construction mistakes, although some of it was caused by the strike.

      1. That article left me wondering why anyone will pay to ride ST.

        Sorry no ID, but I’m John Smith. I’ll (not) remember to pay next time.

        The “rules are racist” crowd are wasteful tinkering at the margins. Unless US society is completely taken apart, rules make things tick.

      2. I agree with you Sam that safety and atmosphere are the two main predicates to get someone to ride transit who absolutely doesn’t have to, and post pandemic the number who absolutely have to ride transit has declined significantly.

        The problems with Link are: 1. It covers such a diverse area, from RV to Redmond to Snohomish Co.; and 2. part of that area — Seattle — has taken a huge lurch to the left, and made the hub — downtown Seattle — unpalatable for the discretionary transit rider when most of the ridership — especially fare paying — was targeted for this area.

        Loss of ridership will definitely affect farebox recovery, and so will fare non-payment. WFH will reallocate a lot of ST general tax revenue to other subareas (like Mercer Island). But you are correct that the key right now is creating a safe and retail/commercial vibrant area that is necessary for urbanism, and the point of transit.

        People have options. I get a kick out of the fact that Nathan who lives in Ballard and never goes to the Eastside is more bent out of shape over the delays for East Link than eastsiders are. Even though fare payment is good on the Eastside and so is safety on transit few need or use transit at this time, and even Metro realized East Link won’t move the needle. Who cares when it opens?

        But the reason for the Eastside transit restructure — and huge growth in downtown Bellevue and soaring housing prices on the Eastside — is eastsiders don’t want to go to Seattle, even in a car let alone on a bus. We have a hub and spoke system with no hub.

        Transit in this area will ultimately depend on Harrell and the Seattle City Council, and right now things don’t look promising. The problems and ideology in this critical part of the spine are too entrenched.

        Too many transit advocates think people should or will ride transit BECAUSE it is transit. Actually that is a reason to not ride transit. There has to be a reason to ride transit for the discretionary rider, and ultimately that comes down to their destination, and without folks having to commute to work in Seattle or wanting to go downtown where is the ultimate destination that will make someone want to take transit, even if it is safe or clean?

        Transit ridership is a symptom. A pandemic, WFH, crime, unsafe streets and transit stops, are the cause. True the route much of Link takes has little density, but it all flows through downtown Seattle because subways and light rail are about vibrant urban cores, not residential neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle where the dollar per rider mile is stupid.

        Nathan can put his head in the sand about the costs of WSBLE or ridership on Eastlink, but his subarea doesn’t have the money to stick its head in the sand. Who cares if ridership on East Link is 1/2 of ST’s estimates. The subarea has the money for a (mostly surface) folly. That only means fewer eastsiders are commuter slaves, there is less traffic congestion, folks can afford their own cars, parking is free or subsidized, buses like the 554 provide a one seat ride to where they actually want go (and maybe ends the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line), more eastsiders work and shop on the Eastside so their employers open offices there, all positive things for the Eastside except soaring housing prices (which are good for owners).

        The situation in Seattle reminds me of a famous competitive golf quote: every golf shot, no matter how bad, makes someone happy. The Eastside is feeling pretty happy right now, despite the delays over East link.

      3. Dan, for all your fits about funding, it’s interesting that you don’t care that East Link is late because ST’s contractor is milking your dollars to do the same work twice.

      4. Too many transit advocates think people should or will ride transit BECAUSE it is transit.

        I’m not quite sure what web site you are confusing this web site with, but amusement park rides usually don’t feature too heavily here, unless they demonstrate a technology that might be beneficial when applied to urban transportation.

    3. “ Blame is being put on the concrete strike but I’m not buying it.”

      I agree. Almost all of the concrete had already been poured before the strike. Only redo items would seem to be affected and surely those aren’t many.

      Also, the other projects under construction are more likely to be delayed by the strike. Shouldn’t Lynnwood, Federal Way and Downtown Redmond also be delayed a year too? Why aren’t these other delays not announced?

      I sure hope that the next DT CEO knows what he’s doing — and that person needs to know how to build and manage a rail system rather than be a professional FTA paper pusher.

      1. hope that the next DT CEO knows what he’s doing
        So far the best man for the job has proven to be a woman :-)

      2. It seems the main delay is 100% the track plinth repair, now. Which is infuriating. how does it go from 3 months to fix, to 15??

        Contractor incompetency.

      3. The solution to homelessness is a place to live. Transit agencies are thus not a real solution, in any form that anyone conjures up.

  4. The delay in opening East Link was not a surprise on the Eastside. Most are expecting July 1, 2024. I don’t know why ST releases false float numbers when you can see from the construction opening on July 1, 2023 was not happening. It is the constant dishonesty rather than the delays that is so frustration.

    The Eastside subarea has plenty of money for East Link. But ST’s unwillingness to reveal the truth until it absolutely must raises huge questions about the DEIS and WSBLE. From the beginning I have never believed those numbers (well, I guess I did in 2016 but I was naive then) and N. King Co. is probably looking at a $20 billion project if the preferred alternative is built. (or begun). Very scary.

    Of course ST blamed everyone and everything in the Times’ article for the delay. Except ST. They even blamed the litigation with Mercer Island when our station has been completed for a year, the roundabout the parties agreed to in 2017 is under construction today and will be done this summer, and the Eastside transit restructure made drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way basically irrelevant due to the reduced intensity of off Island buses (and riders). Mercer Island had nothing to do with the delay, or construction errors on the bridge span, which is a little concerning after the post tensioning “discovery”.

    I also found it amusing ST is sticking with its pre-pandemic ridership estimates on East Link of 48,000/day which is I believe 5000/day more than Northgate to downtown Link. Anyone on this blog want to take a bet on that?

    According to ST East Link’s electrical system prevents opening part of East Link before the whole line. Running a “shadow” East Link line isn’t feasible if just part of the line opens, and makes little sense if the bridge span is not open and cross lake ridership on the 550 is so low.

    The good news is the announcement of the (newest)! delay drew a big yawn on the Eastside, except that probably suggests fewer riders than ST is estimating on East Link, which the same experts who raised the estimated cost of DSTT2 in 2016 and predicted the delay in opening of East Link to July 2024 now put at maybe 25,000/day, tops, in large part because these are simply bus riders whose bus route will be terminated.

    Bellevue’s decision to move a surface line to 112th — which is nowhere — is looking smarter and smarter every day.

    1. Maybe Bellevue’s office of Jacobs should get their shit together and build their projects to specification, instead of having to redo hundreds or thousands of plinths due to shoddy work. The latest update is that it will take them an extra year to fix their mistakes. ST may be able to sue them for money, but they can’t sue them for time (unless you want to use your lawyer powers for good, for once).

      Also, if you can provide a single good reason for ST to redo its ridership estimation, and which models ST should use that would accommodate some prescient knowledge of how transportation needs will look in 2024 and beyond, and how that differs from models used in 2008 (when the plan was developed), then by all means, their inboxes are open.

      1. I’m guessing there would be a good case for ST to sue its contractor. They could go after the loss of revenue. Unfortunately, that probably wouldn’t add up to much right now, with the pandemic and the issues involving the fares. I assume you can sue them for simply not fulfilling their obligations — I just don’t know how you track monetary damages when it comes to the public good. If someone is supposed to build a new playground, but is a year late, can you sue them, on behalf of the kids that didn’t get to play during that time? If so, how do you attach a price to that? (As I’m writing this, I realize I can make an educated guess, but I would appreciate some clarification from the lawyers on here.)

        Anyway, East Link estimates seem optimistic, but not crazy. 50,000 after the pandemic in an area that is growing sounds possible. You’ve got plenty of people going both directions, as well as within the East Side. Downtown Bellevue will lead the way, but I expect decent ridership across the board. With ten stations, that should get us in the ballpark of 50K, although I would go with the under (my guess is it will be around 35K). That is still not enough to change the nature of the project. In contrast, much of ST3 seems like it could be way off. If the stations are too deep and the transfers too tedious, the big increase in ridership from the new tunnel (and its new stations) just won’t materialize. People will simply ignore the train for trips within downtown, which means that at best some of the riders from the south will simply get off at a different stop (e. g. Denny instead of Westlake). Some of the other estimates seem way too optimistic (e. g. 56,000 just south of the Airport). For that matter, they seem way too inconsistent. They expect less than 1,000 riders from the infill stations (e. g. Graham) but 86,000 between SoDo and Beacon Hill. The only way you are going to get anywhere near that in terms of ridership is if Rainier Valley booms, and if it booms, Graham will get way more than 1,000 riders.

        In general ST has greatly underestimated urban ridership, and greatly overestimated suburban ridership. With East Link having a bit of both, I think their estimate is definitely in the ballpark.

  5. This reminds me of Boston’s experiment with a temporary bus lane by using orange cones a few years ago. They simply laid orange cones along a busy route and saw incredible improvements in travel time. The lane eventually became permanent.

    Last night I was at Madison & Union and was flabbergasted by how the street was torn up and gutted. I’m all in favor for transit but I’m becoming less in favor of massive capital projects just to increase the frequency of a bus route.

    1. My understanding is that they have to rebuild Madison Ave to accommodate the extra weight and frequency of the buses. There’s a similar issue on Market Ave in Ballard, which needs to be rebuilt from the gravel-base-up after decades of over-use. The street reconstruction would have needed to happen at some point. It makes sense to me that SDOT would do the reconstruction before establishing a major transit route, than afterwards.

    2. Van Ness is about twice as wide as Madison is. It’s more like Mercer in SLU wide. I hope people don’t think it’s very comparable because it isn’t.

    3. Al is right. The big expense is making the street wider. Basically they want to have center running. This means bus stops in the middle of the street. Thus the street goes from four lanes to five. Sometimes that means taking expensive property, quite often it doesn’t. What is common though, is moving utilities (power lines, communication lines, fire hydrants). This adds up, and is disruptive. It isn’t just so the bus can run often — it is so the bus can run a lot faster (which in turn, does make it cheaper to run more often).

      There is probably some of the work Nathan is talking about as well. Like a lot of Seattle streets, Madison has seen a lot of buses and trucks. Might as well do the maintenance now.

      1. Van Ness isn’t being widened. There are far too many big buildings along it for that ever to happen. It was built big in the first place, anyway.

        It is being reconfigured.

      2. We know that Tom, we were talking about Madison (look at Jordan’s comment at the top). As Al wrote, Van Ness is very wide, but Madison isn’t. Van Ness is wide enough that they can not only add bus stops in the center of the street, but at both sides (taking up two lanes) — Thus they don’t need special buses. Holy cow, that diagram is telling. The street is nine lanes wide, or more than twice as wide as Madison was.

  6. Just a few notes on this project:

    1. It was discussed in the 1980’s, got some original funding from a 1989 sales tax referendum. That’s 32 years for a surface project that doesn’t lay rail. That’s 7 years before our Sound Moves vote! Can one say “finally”?

    2. It’s not really BRT bus instead functions like a rubber tired tram. That rubber tired choice is driven by several bus routes on it extending beyond Van Ness Avenue including Golden Gate Transit buses going to Marin County and the need to leave the cross streets open that restrict stop/platform lengths (like Third Ave in Seattle).

    3. There are many routes on the cross streets, which means that it is designed with frequent stops and close stop spacing. Van Ness is also very wide (originally 7 traffic lanes plus room for on street parking) and is US 101 which means that giving buses priority is difficult as pedestrians need a long time to walk across the street.

    4. This part of San Francisco is mostly built out. The City did upzone the corridor several decades ago, but only for blocks along the corridor.

    5. Because of the needed close bus stop spacing, a subway would not have worked well because going deep would have taken riders lots of extra time just to go maybe a half-mile or a mile typically on this street. However, SF may regret not building a subway line there with only about four stations. The riders will see better travel times but not wildly better travel times.

    1. I agree with all of your statements, except for number two. A “rubber tired tram” is definitely BRT — in this case it is Open BRT. For this section it operates like a tram/light rail line (not much different than MAX, for example). Outside of this section it operates like regular buses. Of course they have to deal with cross traffic — that is true of even the best trams. But unlike some trams (especially those in North America) they don’t have to deal with traffic on those streets. The buses are running in the middle of the street, in their own lane. Ordinary buses just don’t do that. It is BRT.

  7. Its too bad the exclusive lanes… especially the low cost option of repurposing existing super wide streets… is the one fix most US BRT projects can never manage to keep when they actually begin service.

    1. Do you have some examples? That wasn’t the case with this project. It isn’t the case with Madison BRT — in fact it is the opposite. They made the street wider to create exclusive lanes in the middle of the street. Exclusive lanes on wide streets seems to be the one thing that is possible in many cities — it is common in Seattle for buses that certainly aren’t BRT. I guess at Geary they decided to move away from a center-running section, but that was only after they found that running on the side gave them good results. It is still a BAT lane (semi-exclusive).

      I think the toughest thing to deal with is relatively narrow streets. Eastlake is a good example. It is an important transit, bike and automobile corridor. But it isn’t wide enough to handle all three, if you want to add bus lanes, let alone center platforms. Compromises had to be made, and they made sure that bikes were given priority (which is what I would do as well). You still want a general purpose lane each direction, which leaves the buses with bus-lanes in some sections, and general purpose running in others. You can’t get better than that unless you widen the street. It is less than ideal, but I think they did an excellent job. The “skip ahead” sections serve two purposes. They allow the bus to get ahead of a congested section, but they also limit the flow of general purpose traffic. Right now, on Fairview, there are two northbound lanes ( Then those two lanes flow into Eastlake, which eventually narrows to one lane, causing congestion (for the buses and cars). What will happen instead is that starting just south of the freeway, Fairview will have a general purpose lane northbound, along with a lane that alternates between BAT and bus-only. At Republican there is only one lane for drivers to use if they want to continue on Fairview (and eventually Eastlake). Thus when the bus gets to Eastlake (and has to share the road with cars) there will be a lot less traffic.

      It isn’t perfect. I wouldn’t call it BRT (a lot of people use the term “BRT-light” which makes sense). But the point is, it is a great improvement, and about as good as can do unless you do something radical (like not allow general purpose traffic) or widen the street. The main thing missing is a similar treatment to the north — there is no reason for Roosevelt to be two lanes each direction. It should be one lane each direction, with a bus/BAT lane, starting at the Lake City Way/Roosevelt merge.

      I think the biggest problem is not “BRT-Creep” (degrading of subway projects is much worse). I think the biggest problem is lack of vision when it comes to bus projects. We don’t do the little things and we aren’t interested in the big things. 45th NE should have bus lanes both directions in the University District. That is a little thing. Aurora should have center running buses. That is a really big thing, but we seem focused on rail (which would be extremely expensive, and likely overkill). Hell, right now the biggest thing the city needs is to run the buses more often. We focus on massively expensive projects, imagining we are much bigger than we are, while failing to run buses like a big city would. There is no overall vision — just a mix of projects, run by different agencies, some of which have no transit expertise. When we have a really good project (like the plans for the 40) people seem to ignore it, instead of championing it, and pushing for similar changes elsewhere.

      I have a feeling this sort of mess is common in America.

  8. I wasn’t familiar with this project (or maybe I forgot) so I just now read about it on Wikipedia. One of the more interesting things about it is that the buses will be center running, but they will be ordinary buses. They won’t even have level boarding. This makes things simpler outside of this section, but worse within it. They also don’t have doors on both sides. They decided against it because no one built trolleys with doors on both sides.

    I think this was a lost opportunity. Seattle should have cooperated with San Fransisco, and gone in together on trolleys with doors on both sides (I assume the buses are similar). The problem when Seattle wanted to buy the buses is that our order was too small (even with six minute headways, we don’t need that many buses, as the route isn’t that long, and the buses will be fast). But maybe with a combined order, the bus company would have done it.

    Seattle certainly would have gotten a lot out of it, although I’m not sure San Fransisco would have. This street is ridiculously large, so saving a lane doesn’t get you that much ( If they wanted a bike lane, they could have just gotten rid of the parking — it is almost like they wanted an excuse to take an extra lane (to make the street quieter). This is what it looked like before:, instead of now:

    1. @RossB: San Francisco Trolleybuses are of the same model, though they’re interior is Superior to that of King County Metro. You can sit on MUNI seats for hours on end.

      And with Center Lane Trolleybuses, for San Francisco that would require Capital funds that would be better spent on the Geary Subway, on the Central Subway Phase III/IV.

      Van Ness itself doesn’t have bike lanes, because they’re a block over, on Polk.

      1. My recollection of MUNI seats is they’re hard plastic with a small thin butt pad like fast-food restaurants. Not at all as comfortable as Metro, which has some of the best seats I’ve seen in any bus network, with no hard plastic. The old Metro seats before the 2010s were even softer and more comfortable. They probably cost more to maintain but they make the bus ride much more comfortable and pleasant.

      2. @Mike Orr:

        The comparison I’m drawing is between KCM’s current seating and between MUNI’s current seating. Especially since they both operate many of the same bus models.

        MUNI’s hard seats are more comfortable than KCM’s padded ones, in part of because of the interiors. KCM (and Sound Transit) have poorly designed interiors where the pipe on the floors makes it uncomfortable to sit by the window.

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