SDOT says that the first phase of this transit lane could save riders on the Route 7 one minute per trip, but that the full extension could save riders 6 minutes during times of highest congestion on Rainier Avenue. That could translate to as many as 141 cumulative hours saved per day, given the ridership of that highly used bus route. Even as the pandemic and work-from-home measures have temporarily sapped ridership across much of the bus network, ridership on Route 7 has remained high due to prevalence of transit-dependent households and essential workers along the route, Metro reports.
A comprehensive overview of the state of Rainier Avenue in 2022 in the context of some much-needed bus priority work. Route 7 (and/or RapidRide R) is exactly the kind of route that will continue to have robust, all-day ridership post-COVID.
This is a side note, but it seems that SDOT has done everyone a disservice in keeping a zombie protected bike lane in the aging bike master plan for MLK (south of Mount Baker) and Rainier (north of Mount Baker). Given the traffic volumes on those corridors, its unlikely we’ll see bike lanes on MLK or Rainier any time soon. SDOT won’t radically reduce car capacity without air cover from City Hall, and the current administration and transportation chair are unlikely to provide it.
That said, there absolutely can and should be a flat, safe direct bike route through the Rainier Valley and we shouldn’t be playing bikes vs. buses hunger games all the time. How might we repurpose all that surface parking, for example, before new development fills it in? The city ought to commit to a real study with some viable options — even ones that require a capital investment — add one to the next Move Seattle Levy so we have something to get people excited about besides (say) replacing bridges in Magnolia.
73 Replies to “Bikes, buses and Rainier Avenue”
“ How might we repurpose all that surface parking, for example, before new development fills it in?”
Uhhhh…. There is no on-street surface parking on Rainier north of Dakota. You can’t repurpose things that don’t exist. There is only two large off-street surface parking lots in the corridor at Lowes and Safeway — and eliminating their parking would make the neighborhood more of a retail desert because the stores will leave — and it still won’t provide anything for a lane to connect to. Many blocks have buildings that touch the sidewalk. The only areas to “take” are the pavement or the tree canopy / green strip next to it.
Even MLK south of Mount Baker is too narrow for surface parking on most blocks.
SDOT already does a terrible job at signal maintenance in SE Seattle. I’m even seeing Link trains get stopped at signals firing when no one is there. I’m seeing train approaching signals go off when the train is not there. Multiple requests to fix signals on Rainier or MLK don’t get results.
Yeah, not really thinking about parking spots on street. Those big box stores will eventually go away… I think that area is zoned for 15 stories or more, so I’d expect multifamily / retail / underground parking eventually. We ought to be able to carve out 12 feet of ROW if we get creative about it, is my point.
“We ought to be able to carve out 12 feet of ROW if we get creative about it, is my point.”
I assume you mean from adjacent private property owners. I doubt sidewalk width could be reduced, especially if they serve as bus stops, and rebuilding all the sidewalks in new ROW would be very expensive.
WSDOT design manuals require 10′ of paved width minimum for a bi-directional bike path with ideally 2′ shoulders, more depending on volume. So that really means taking 12′ from one side or the other, which would be very expensive as it would be a taking due compensation. For likely a zombie bike path.
The other option is to repurpose the center left turn lane for either a dedicated bike path or BAT lanes, and that is really a call for the neighborhood. I am not really sure where the bike lane would go in relation to the sidewalks, general purpose lanes, and BAT lane.
Unless you live in this area, work there, or have a business there I doubt any on this blog understand the needs of the community, who may not hate cars. My guess is the elimination of the left turn lane would be DOA, and the city would balk at the cost of condemning 12′ along one side or the other for a zombie bike lane. But who knows considering it is Seattle.
A through north/south bike lane does make sense, probably more for recreation, so the trick there is to look for public ROW that does not serve major retail or is a heavily used arterial. I would be terrified riding a bike in a “dedicated” bike lane along MLK or Rainier Ave with all the traffic, BAT lanes, and especially cars anxiously waiting to turn left with cars backed up behind them right across my bike lane. It would be like building a bike lane along 405, without the turning cars.
The reality is eliminating a traffic lane or the center turn lane probably won’t reduce the number of cars on these roads. It will just make them crazier.
Someone got an F in the first semester of planning school.
Please get back to enlighten us all on takings after you understand the terms nexus and rough proportionality.
Or pass a levy to buy 12′ of every parcel. I’m sure that will poll well.
Maybe Frank was referring to surface parking lots along Rainier Ave?
Oops, left page unrefreshed for too long.
The cities plans for Rainier include keeping the center turn lane. I think you could make space for a protected bike lane by getting rid of the center turn lane.
I toy with using the left-door Madison RapidRide buses or even a tram on Rainier with center platforms installed where the left turn lane is. That would enable paid fare waiting areas that could speed up the bus route.
The challenge is what to do with the routes that use Rainier for a short stretch.
the center turn lane exists north of South Dakota Street and not south of it.
IME center turn lanes benefit safety for all road users, since you no longer have people swerving into the right lane (especially if that right lane happens to have an unnoticed cyclist in it) to get around someone making a left turn. The benefits of the center turn lane are frequently cited in road diets, so it would be better to keep the center lane and get rid of general-purpose or parking lanes instead.
I assume that the idea would be to get rid of left turns as well as the center lane. Basically make it like Denny, but with BAT lanes on each side.
Getting rid of left turns has its own benefit (traffic moves faster). However, it means more right turns, as cars have to loop around. This would slow down the buses, assuming they add BAT lanes.
I would add BAT lanes first, then look into getting rid of left turns. It might be that the buses would lose some speed because of additional cars turning right, but gain it back by avoiding traffic lights.
I don’t think you can add bike lanes and BAT lanes for Rainier (unless you widen the street, which would be really expensive). That’s the problem. Personally I think BAT lanes are much more important for that corridor. I would have BAT lanes on Rainier from Jackson to Henderson (if not Waters). That means one BAT lane and one general purpose lane.
In contrast, I would add bike lanes to MLK. There are already plans to add bike lanes between Judkins Park and Rainier Avenue. I would extend those bike lanes until well south of Henderson. While I would hate to see the 106 run slower, it is less important than the 7. I also think that the lane configuration can minimize the bus delay. The 106 doesn’t run on MLK until Henderson. The bike lanes would extend further south. This means MLK would narrow to one lane well before Henderson (where the biggest northbound bottleneck is likely to occur). Likewise, there would be only one southbound lane on Rainier*.
23rd should have BAT lanes as well. If nothing else, southbound approaching Rainier (I believe that is the plan). Again, that means one lane of general purpose traffic gets dumped into Rainier (and eventually MLK).
From a bike perspective, that does leave some holes, but I’ll let some of the bike experts address that.
* Implementation detail: Soutbound Boren at Jackson would narrow to one lane to continue south on Rainier, and one to turn east on Jackson. Eventually I would run a bus on Boren, and add a BAT lane curbside.
RossB: yes, this. Suppose Metro took Route 8 from MLK. MLK might have no service on it between South Plum Street (Lighthouse) and the G Line terminal (East Arthur Place). SDOT could add bike infrastructure on MLK; it could connect with the I-90 trail; that connects with South Dearborn Street. The Arboretum is close.
Yes, agreed. Ideally you want your bike lanes and bus/BAT lanes on different streets. MLK is an easy win. It works for various connections, including downtown. This is using MLK from Rainier Valley to downtown: https://goo.gl/maps/BFHLKv7Q7YFg8cTd6. This gets you right into the heart of downtown, without going on major streets. It uses bike paths, and existing bike corridors, that could (or will be) improved.
The only drawback is that it means going up the hill and back down. That is unfortunate, but I don’t think there is a great alternative. The only flat way to get from Franklin High to someplace on the other side of the freeway is on Rainier. Unfortunately, there is just not enough space for both a bike lane and BAT lane along that corridor, and the BAT lane is far more important.
Compliance with a BAR lane on Rainier would be laughable.
If checking every transit rider is racist enforcement, so is a camera to enforce a bus only lane….after we beg the state again.
Here is a link to average weekday daily traffic for Seattle:
The data show that the fourth highest traffic count (37,707) in these data is on Rainier at Walker. There is more traffic here than is on Lake City Way or NE 45th. It’s just 10% less than Aurora at N 68th.
And advocates want to reduce traffic to one lane in each direction? And there is no good alternative path for cars? Any traffic lane take is designing gridlock. Traffic is heavy all day and not just a commute hours.
Meanwhile, SDOT has openly pushed closing Lake Washington Boulevard and reducing MKK north of Rainier to add a PBL already. This will send more vehicles to Rainier. The area is also awaiting the opening of 2,000 apartments in the area between a Judkins Park and Mount Baker, which even if only a small number drive it will add traffic.
I agree with the author that the duration needs further study. However, the reason that there is a problem is trying to allocate streets on a modal basis. Rather than a citywide bicycle plan or any other mode specific plan, what’s needed is a multi-modal SE Seattle sector plan that includes substantial input by the residents and businesses in SE Seattle who use this corridor everyday.
And the plan needs to be based on data rather than advocacy as well as systemic rather than discussed street by street.
I think Al is correct in both of his posts.
First, make sure that whatever transportation choices are made they don’t create even more of a retail desert for this area, which already has issues when it comes to retail. You can effectively create a car free zone by eliminating lanes but without that shopper retail tends to die. Shoppers in cars are already in a car and so have many options. Retail deserts are a big issue in the equity argument, and forcing residents who live in this area to travel long distances — by bus or bike — to get staples so others can ride through this area faster is something the area residents need to be consulted on.
The other point Al raises is from what I can glean online around 2% of all non-recreational trips in Seattle are by bike. My office looks up 2nd Ave. from Yesler to Pine and I can count the number of bicyclists using the bike lanes per hour on one hand. Just how many actual bicyclists per hour — during the day and night — are we talking about on these roads?
If we are talking about ideology ok, but understand the ramifications to area retail and other forms of transportation from changing lane use. If we are talking about actual transportation — and here Ross’s idea about BAT lanes is worth studying — then compare that to retail impacts for the few minutes saved on the through trip.
Too often on this blog transit advocates plan transit without thinking of local retail. I wish there were a retail blog similar to this blog so I could see what businesses would do when it comes to transportation when retail is the primary objective, not just getting through an area. I think the Chamber is pretty good at this for downtown businesses, but not so much the kind of retail along these routes and neighborhoods.
Too often on this blog transit advocates plan transit without thinking of local retail.
Too often you assume that you are the only one who thinks of these things. Hate to break it to you, but that is simply not the case.
My son was a small business owner. Or rather, co-owner. He was head brewer and co-owner of a small brewpub in Fremont. Like many similar businesses, there were two things he was interested in from a transportation standpoint: people and stuff. He really didn’t care how people came here. Most of the regulars were local, and walked. Others rode their bike and took transit. Some drove, but my guess is very few did (it being a bar). The stuff (grains and so forth) had to be dropped off. For the most part, these sorts of things take care of themselves. People find a way to get the goods to the store, just like they find a way to deliver the mail. Life in the big city, as they say.
A lot of the businesses operate the same way as a brewpub. Restaurants and clubs for example. Some do takeout, or have delivery people. For those it is handy to have a convenient parking spot. However, the busiest takeout place I know of anywhere in the city (Snappy Dragon in Roosevelt) has a very inconvenient little lot. That place is constantly packed full of people trying to pay for their order, and yet no place for them to park. Like the delivery folks, people manage.
There are some businesses designed for quick pick-up. I have no idea how many exist on Rainier Avenue. Most of these have parking lots (e. g. a 7-11). Even then, a lot of them do a lot of business with locals. A local convenience store can increase its reach by improving bike infrastructure. It isn’t likely to attract folks who have to drive a long ways to get there.
Most retail businesses I’ve talked to have lots more to worry about than parking. It is an easy thing to complain about, but quite often that’s all it is. I’ve seen businesses thrive, and businesses struggle, doing much the same thing, right next to each other. They both have the same amount of parking, but one has a ton of customers, the other doesn’t. There are a ton of things that the city can do to help out small businesses (I would start by lowering the very regressive B & O tax). If parking (or traffic) is your biggest concern, chances are you have much bigger issues.
The other point Al raises is from what I can glean online around 2% of all non-recreational trips in Seattle are by bike.
Right, but that is a chicken-and-egg problem. Without a safe bike path, most bike riders don’t bother. The fewer bike riders there are, the less safe it is. That is why bikers often talk of “critical mass”, or the point at which simply having more bikes on the street makes the street safer.
It is interesting looking at the data for modal share for the biggest cities: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_share. These are trips to work, which would trend away from biking (a lot of people take transit to work, and bike for short journeys in their neighborhood). Yet German cities stand out for the relatively high number of bike riders to work (15% to 18%). The only obvious explanation is that they have very good bike infrastructure.
Like most public policy, the people on the left of this issue aren’t proposing anything radical. We are simply suggesting we be like Europe*. We have very smart people in this country — the best universities in the world — yet we’ve fallen behind those other countries in various ways, simply because they run things better.
Any sensible person who has a decent grasp of public policy knows all this. Anyone else is just a radical (of some sort) who thinks they are mainstream because the most powerful party in the last fifty years has been been run by reactionaries and nationalists (or some mix of both). There should be no question that we need better biking infrastructure everywhere in this country, but especially in a city like Seattle. Given its minimal cost, it is clearly an outstanding value. The tough part is how best to mix this with other needs (like transit).
* The liberal democracies of Europe, of course. The same goes for the liberal democracies of Asia (like Japan, South Korea, etc.). Various countries do some things better than others. But “Be like Europe” is a lot catchier than “Borrow the best from liberal democracies of Europe and Asia”.
Rainier Ave. is a natural pinch point for cars, busses, and bicycles. It is also one of the busiest bus corridors–it’s not just about cars. So you need to decide how to accommodate them all–a true balanced approach. At the end of the day, many of those cars have alternative routes and could probably get over to I-5 or MLK, Beacon Ave. with little delay to their trip time, as Rainier is really not a very fast corridor for cars. (It would remain the only practical way to get on I-90, granted). A traffic study would be needed to clarify this, which is worth doing IMHO. Bicyclists don’t have a good, flat alternative unless major structural work is done to the grid, or car access is at least restricted on many streets with priority for bikes at safe crossings. At a minimum, where there are center turn lanes, they are the least utilized part of the crowded corridor, so replacing them is fair game.
I agree a study would be required, but not just a traffic study, but one that incorporates the effect on local retail. Just getting through these neighborhoods faster should not be the only factor. I am not so much concerned about the cars trying to get “through” these neighborhoods, but the cars trying to get to them, to shop.
Left turn lanes may not have the most traffic in that lane, but without them anyone wanting to turn left backs up all the other traffic, and so the congestion is unbearable. The center turn lane is the fallback from two lanes in each direction. The folks who really like left turning lanes are retail businesses on the other side of the road.
The reality is most roads don’t have the width for every form of transportation. So you prioritize. If studies show 20% or 30% of traffic on these roads is by bikes then dedicated bike lanes makes sense. But at 2% or 3% they don’t. If studies show BAT lanes would bring more folks to these neighborhoods and businesses, and the time savings would not impact retail, ok consider BAT lanes. But please no “induced demand” arguments.
Transportation and traffic studies too often ignore the impacts on local retail. Powerful cities like Bellevue can shunt East Link to 112th. These neighborhoods cannot. My concern with these plans and proposals is they are designed to make it easier and faster for folks to travel through these areas, not to them.
My guess is bicycle use is less in these neighborhoods than Seattle as a whole, and if you asked the residents they would much rather have a left turning lane than a bicycle lane. At least that is what the local residents wanted on 35th. Many on this blog complain the rider is not part of transit planning, but have no problem excluding the local retail from transit and transportation decisions. Hence faster bus times through these areas, while residents have to travel long distances to get staples.
And advocates want to reduce traffic to one lane in each direction? And there is no good alternative path for cars? Any traffic lane take is designing gridlock. Traffic is heavy all day and not just a commute hours.
Of course there are alternatives for cars. That is the beauty of owning a car — you can always find an alternative. Will it be as smooth and convenient as what you remember when you are a kid? No. But as you yourself note, there is bad traffic here already. Ever heard of induced demand?
Not too long ago, the mayor was suggesting we toll riders heading downtown. The whole point of doing that would be to reduce the number of cars downtown. Well reducing the lanes that funnel traffic to downtown accomplishes much the same thing. For people who aren’t going downtown, there is another road that parallels Rainier Avenue, called I-5.
The only way to move a sufficient number of *people* through this corridor is via transit. If that means taking a lane, do it. In some cases, that means people finding alternative means (like driving the freeway) while in other cases that means more people taking transit (especially if transit is significantly faster than driving).
Good bicycle infrastructure also gives people alternatives to driving. Good transit and good bike infrastructure go together when it comes to lifestyle choices. If it is easy to use a bike and transit, then you are far less likely to use a car. The problem is that they compete for precious street space. For Rainier Avenue, BAT lanes are more important. Bike lanes can be added to MLK (see previous comment).
All of this scales. You can talk all you want about the importance of automobile infrastructure, but at a certain point, you are screwed. Not too long ago, I drove back from the mountains, and found myself contending with rush-hour traffic. I usually just wait it out in Issaquah, but decided instead to just head to Bellevue, since I hadn’t been there in a while. Despite the city of Bellevue doing all it could to provide excellent automobile infrastructure, I found myself crawling along, going nowhere fast. At least the parking was free. My big takeaway: stop at Issaquah next time. The point is, as a city grows, it is damn near impossible for the roads to grow with them. Look at L. A., or Honolulu. What is it 7, 8 lanes each direction for the freeway? That doesn’t help. The only way to move more people along a corridor like that is to give people an alternative. That means transit lanes, and yes, bike lanes.
The examples that you give (Downtown Seattle and LA freeways) are very different contexts than Rainier Ave in SE Seattle. The road itself is not wider than 5 lanes with no parking except for a short stretch in front of Mount Baker Link Station where it’s 6 lanes..
Rainier Ave in SE Seattle is primarily a “Main Street” for local residents. There are few east-west streets and the ones that do exist are narrow (like Massachusetts Street).
SE Seattle (about 84,000 residents) is like an island with I-5 and I-90 as shorelines. There are only 12th, Rainier, MLK, 31st and LWB crossing to the north. There are only Holgate, Spokane, Lucile and Albro to the east, and MLK, Renton Ave and Rainier south of Rainier Beach. Of all these gateways, only Rainier to the north and MLK to the south (and Spokane west of 15th only) have more than one travel lane in each direction. Most of the other gateways have stop signs limiting their volumes.
Very few people are driving through on Rainier Ave. It gets lots of midday traffic and lots of turns on and off of it. The only way to make this traffic go away is to literally close the retail and depopulate the area.
It does sometimes get drivers headed to the freeway. However, very few of those are driving all the way through the neighborhood. It does get more traffic when I-5 is jammed but I-5 has to be pretty bad before it affects Rainier.
The examples that you give (Downtown Seattle and LA freeways) are very different contexts than Rainier Ave in SE Seattle. The road itself is not wider than 5 lanes with no parking except for a short stretch in front of Mount Baker Link Station where it’s 6 lanes.
It is analogous. The point is that widening the street doesn’t work. Expand Rainier to 7 lanes (three lanes each way plus a center lane) and see what happens. The same thing that happened in LA and Honolulu when they added lanes. For a while it seems like traffic problems disappear. Then, bit by bit, they creep in, until you are back to where you started. Then they add more lanes, and the process repeats.
The opposite is true as well. Yes, it would be a shock to the system if Rainier Avenue was suddenly down to three general purpose lanes, plus a BAT lane each direction. But people adjust, just like they’ve adjusted on other streets. Eventually traffic stabilizes, and is very similar to what they would do if they did nothing. The difference is that way more people would move through the corridor, since they could ride a bus that isn’t stuck in traffic.
It really isn’t that complicated. Transit scales. Traffic lanes do not. The current configuration can’t possibly move as many people as if there were BAT lanes. Put it this way: Imagine Rainier was three lanes wide (one lane each direction plus a center lane). Would you propose that we add two lanes each way? Seriously?
Rainier Ave in SE Seattle is primarily a “Main Street” for local residents.
So what? That doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives for driving (or for that matter, to driving). Let’s say I want to get from the East Side to Rainier Beach High School. At noon, Google says the best way is to go I-90, then I-5 (https://goo.gl/maps/WFXQ4XzPhpScV2av6). Yet as I write this (during rush hour) it tells me to go down Rainier Valley. When traffic is at its worst, Google suggests we send more cars off the freeways, and onto Rainier Avenue.
The same dynamic exists for various trips, as far south as Renton, and anywhere on I-5. It is just another option for getting there. A lot of the traffic is people using Rainier for long stretches when there are alternatives. In that sense, it is no different than other streets, like Aurora. Sometimes it is faster to work your way over to I-5 and back, sometimes it is better to just stay on Aurora. Of course there aren’t a ton of east-west streets in the city. Does that mean we should avoid adding bus lanes for Elliot/15th or Aurora? Of course not.
The only way to move more people along this corridor is to take a lane and give it to the buses. There will be fewer cars moving through there, but that is the point. Some of those cars will be replaced by people on buses, while others find a different way to get there. Just the other day Frank mentioned the BRT that was added in San Fransisco (https://seattletransitblog.com/2022/04/28/van-ness-%ef%bf%bc/). A whopping four lanes were taken from a major highway, and the results were as dramatic as expected (transit speeds and reliability got a lot better). Did this create a huge fustercluck for San Fransisco as all those cars found different ways to get there? Of course not. Traffic was really bad before, and it was really bad after. That is the nature of traffic as a city gets more dense. Transit scales; cars don’t.
I get why streets like Eastlake is so challenging. We can’t run bike lanes, BAT lanes, and general purpose lanes. Something has to give, and in that case, BAT lanes. It is too important a bike corridor. Traffic serving Eastlake — an area way more isolated than Rainier Avenue — will be really bad. But they will manage, as will the folks in Rainier Valley, who actually have more driving alternatives. There is no reason to have more than three general purpose lanes for traffic (Brandon thinks we should only have two).
I also don’t know what you think a study would show. I can tell you right now what they will predict: more traffic, faster buses. Some will freak out about the traffic, while others will be thrilled with the faster buses. But what they probably won’t model is what traffic will look like in twenty years, assuming the neighborhoods grow. That is because it will eventually get bad, no matter what we do. Pretending otherwise is to ignore what has happened throughout history.
I realize that your utopian world would ban all multi lane roads, Ross. However, at 37K vehicles a day for an urban arterial, it would be full gridlock.
You don’t live in this neighborhood. I do. It’s already taking two lights to get through a signal several hours a day. It’s already very congested. Taking away half of its capacity would make it wildly much worse. Drivers would flood every nearby neighborhood street looking for a shortcut to the extra 10-20 minutes needed to drive just a mile.
Do you think Aurora should also be one traffic lane in each direction? That street is carrying only 10 percent more traffic than Rainier Ave does. This is the volume of traffic involved here.
I realize that your utopian world would ban all multi lane roads, Ross. However, at 37K vehicles a day for an urban arterial, it would be full gridlock.
It’s already taking two lights to get through a signal several hours a day. It’s already very congested.
What do you think it will be in twenty years? You are the one being utopian thinking the problem will magically solve itself, and traffic will be wonderful in the future. Get real man. Look at every big city. Seriously. Go ahead. What is your counter example? What is your city that doesn’t have terrible traffic if it has a lot of people?
It just doesn’t exist. Nowhere. This is the reality for Rainier Valley. Traffic everywhere will get worse, unless the city shrinks. The only question is whether we will provide people an alternative, or simply see transit continue to suffer from the same horrible traffic.
You seem amazed at the 37K number, and think it is some sort of magic number. It isn’t. You ignore some of the reasons why that number is so high, these include:
1) Transit is never faster than driving, for any section.
2) Rainier is relatively fast, making it better than some alternatives, including I-5, as I showed.
3) Rainier is five lanes wide. Of course it carries more cars than some of the other streets — it has more lanes.
Just look at some of the other streets you mentioned. 45th is one lane each direction most of the way. It has sections of bus lanes where they are possible (and should have more of them). It is extremely slow, so of course throughput is slow. Aurora has bus lanes as well. It is pretty common to drive on Aurora, in traffic, and see the bus keep up with the cars, even with the stops (north of Green Lake). Lake City Way also has bus lanes — quite a few actually. Rainier is unusual when it comes to these three factors.
If you convert a general purpose lane to a BAT lane, three things happen:
1) More people take transit. We know this, for a fact (all the studies show that an increase in speed goes with an increase in transit use). Throw in the fact that transit will be even more competitive with driving (since driving *on that corridor* will be slower) and you can expect a significant ridership increase. That would be followed by an increase in frequency, leading to the usual ridership/transit improvement virtuous cycle. This is what I mean by transit scales.
2) People use alternatives. I already mentioned the obvious one (I-5). But for shorter trips, there are alternatives. For example, this is a trip from the Seward Park neighborhood up towards Judkins Park: https://goo.gl/maps/hd5UgGaP6tP2aSbC8. It is the type of trip that takes place all the time, and does not involve going downtown, or anywhere near it. Notice that I force the driver to use 38th by putting the stop there. But also notice that this “detour” doesn’t cost the driver any time. It still takes 11 minutes, either way. This is the type of trip that would be more common in the future, as drivers avoid Rainier traffic.
I get why you are worried about traffic getting worse, but as I keep pointing out, that is inevitable. It is going to happen, as long as the area keeps growing. But the least we can do is provide people with an alternative — transit. Doing nothing is just sticking your head in the sand, and wishing it would all go away, while folks in the area complain about how damn slow the 7 is.
While Rainier might be busy right now, it’s worth considering how much of that is from induced demand by the roadway being so wide. I’m having trouble figuring out how wide the lanes are, but it looks like they’re 11-12′ judging from some SDOT documents and eyeballing StreetView. If even the three center lanes (two general purpose + center turn lane) were narrowed to 10′, that would free up enough room for at least one bike lane, which isn’t perfect but could be better than nothing.
Rainier Ave does not have induced demand. The concept usually refers to added freeway capacity encouraging more sprawl. Rainier Ave was built before WWII. When potholes form, the original brick surface under the asphalt shows.
If anything, it has enabled upzoning in the corridor and that’s the opposite of sprawl.
As I’ve highlighted before, most traffic in the midday is very heavy — as heavy as commute hours. These are local trips made by local residents to local destinations. Finally, SE Seattle has a dearth of local serving businesses compared to other parts of Seattle, and those businesses also serve the CD which has historically not had great local-serving retail choices.
It is a five lane thoroughfare — of course it has induced demand. Did you not read the examples I gave? For various trips it is often faster than using I-5. During rush hour! Yes, traffic gets bad, but I-5 traffic is really bad too, and the detour necessary to use the freeway — a freaking freeway — sometimes isn’t worth it.
Put it this way: Imagine it is a three lane road (one lane each direction, and a center turn lane). OK, now imagine they add one lane each direction. Do you think people will start using it? Of course they will. That is induced demand. Suddenly it is the better choice for a lot of people.
Now imagine, at the same time, the bus suddenly got a lot slower. It went from traveling in a BAT lane, to being shared by cars the whole way. What do you think that would do to transit ridership? Or for that matter, driving? Of course this induces people to driving.
Do you really think that every person on that road has no other reasonable choice? Seriously? Come on, that simply isn’t the case. A huge number of drivers take it because it is the fastest alternative, and it is the fastest alternative because it has five, pretty wide lanes. The very thing that makes it so damn dangerous, makes it attractive to drivers: speed.
“ It is a five lane thoroughfare — of course it has induced demand.”
It’s better to have a five lane street in Seattle than a new freeway lane in Puyallup. That encourages more compact urban growth. It’s the opposite of induced demand for this reason. It’s inducing more regional transit use even without a BAT lane. With more of a hassle getting in and out of SE Seattle, more people will move outside of the city — and drive more.
Everything in transportation has a context.
It’s better to have a five lane street in Seattle than a new freeway lane in Puyallup. That encourages more compact urban growth.
What? That is implying that urbanism requires more and bigger highways. That is absurd, and completely backwards. Just to be clear, we sure as hell don’t need a new freeway in Puyallup either, but the idea that more and bigger thoroughfares is needed in the city to compete with the suburbs is absurd.
It’s the opposite of induced demand for this reason. It’s inducing more regional transit use even without a BAT lane. With more of a hassle getting in and out of SE Seattle, more people will move outside of the city — and drive more.
So basically we could fix a lot of these problems if we just built freeways into the heart of Seattle. If only we had listened to R. H. Thomson.
Sorry, but that is ridiculous, and flies in the face of every urban example in the entire world. Thoroughfares through the city do not encourage urban living, they discourage it. There is a reason why great cities the world over have been moving away from that, or never had it in the first place.
For a North American example, again, look to San Fransisco. At one point, most of the vehicles on Market Street were private automobiles. Now they are banned for most of the road. Van Ness has gone from this https://goo.gl/maps/sUsSp6D1euy7XWR79 to this: https://goo.gl/maps/ngPnL7Fz962ro7RQ7. Just consider that change. This is US 101, the major highway in northern San Fransisco. The road goes over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It connects up to I-80, providing drivers with a fast trip over the Bay Bridge, as well as trips south. It is arguably the most important road in the entire region, in a state known for its love of the automobile. At one point it was essentially a nine lane highway (four lanes each way, with a center turn lane). Now it is a four lane road with parking. If you suggested this change to someone in 1980, they probably would have thought you were nuts, especially if you also told them you would add some 200,000 people (both happened). How could we possibly get rid of those lanes without creating gridlock for the entire city, if not the entire region? And yet they did it. Bit by bit, they did it. A neighborhood in San Fransisco that dwarfs that of any neighborhood in Seattle managed to get rid of several lanes of traffic, and you think this is bad for the city? You think this will encourage people to move to the suburbs as a result? Come on man, get real.
This is just America waking up to the way they do things in the rest of the world. Of course there are roadways. Of course there are major freeways, connecting the roadways. But they don’t prioritize automobile traffic, and wouldn’t hesitate to convert a couple lanes to some other use (if they weren’t used for that already).
Ross, I see our disagreement as one of semantics. The term “demand” as in “Induced demand” is a desire to make a trip. It’s not changing paths. It’s not changing modes. It’s simply that more trips would be made. That means that land uses and destination choices have to change for demand to be induced.
Van Ness opening is also not proof of reversed induced demand either. It takes years to induce demand significantly (rather than days) because land uses and destination choices have to change first. That San Francisco street has parallel one way streets just a block or two away with synchronized signals for traffic, like how Third Avenue works as a transit street with Second and Fourth carrying traffic. It also is a slog to drive as its wide width of 9 lanes meant that red lights take lots more time — so drivers often chose other paths. The gist of the article is even that Rainier has no parallel routes like Van Ness.
Please refrain from insinuated personal attacks towards my comments. It diminishes your contribution to the discussion.
As expected, Wikipedia gives a good rundown of the term “induced demand”. It comes from the world of economics, but has been used to explain a common phenomenon in transportation. I like this quote, from CityLab:
Induced demand is a catch-all term used for a variety of interconnected effects that cause new roads to quickly fill to capacity. In rapidly growing areas where roads were not designed for the current population, there may be significant latent demand for new road capacity, which causes a flood of new drivers to immediately take to the freeway once the new lanes are open, quickly congesting them again.
It doesn’t really matter what the alternatives were. Maybe riders used other, slower roads. Maybe they drove later in the day. Maybe they took transit. It is still the same phenomenon.
Just about every road is subject to this phenomenon, because just about every road has alternatives. There almost always other ways to get there*.
This phenomenon works in reverse as well. It is why “Carmageddons” are usually not as bad as people expect. Publicity helps. People hear about the closure, and find other ways to get there. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/01/24/seattles-viadoom-the-carmageddon-that-wasnt/
Which brings us to Rainier Avenue. As a five lane street, it is bigger than necessary. It would work as a three lane street — theoretically you could get by with just one lane one direction. You would still have motorized access to the areas that need it. I’m not suggesting anything that radical, but I’m pointing out that like a lot of streets, it has more lanes than is needed for local access. The 2 extra lanes in this case provide additional capacity, which induce demand. The layout of the street does as well (it is fast). In neither case does it induce demand to the same level as a freeway, but there are definitely people who would use alternatives but don’t, because of the extra lanes (and ability to go fast). These alternatives include using transit.
* A place like the Florida Keys is an exception, as there is only one way to get there. Although now that I think about it, there are boats. Anyway, such places are rare, and Rainier Avenue is certainly not one of them.
You are also missing the point when it comes to San Fransisco. I use Van Ness is an example, but it is just one (Market is another, and I’m sure there are others). The point is overall automobile capacity has been reduced, even though traffic has been terrible for years, and the population has increased. This is the crucial point. If you disagree with this (or some aspect of it) please say so.
The particulars with Van Ness are interesting, but there is nothing making this change any easier — if anything, it was much tougher than changing Rainier Avenue. Van Ness is part of a major highway. Yes, there are parallel streets, and they can be considered part of the same corridor. It really doesn’t change the dynamic. Those other streets have been congested for decades, and capacity hasn’t increased since the 1970s. My guess is they shrunk a bit (curb bulbs are a relatively new phenomenon).
Van Ness itself is still often the fastest option. As I write this, it is: https://goo.gl/maps/4eTyJDTs2YEtmdK4A, despite plenty of congestion along the way (lots of red). I’m sure at times using a different surface street is better. But that quickly balances out, as more cars use that road. As the primary option, the reduction in capacity on Van Ness effects all travel along that corridor.
Even when considered in the aggregate, the reduction of capacity there is gigantic, and much bigger than if you reduced a lane each direction on Rainier Avenue. In this case, it happens to be a corridor that is far important than Rainier, and one with fewer good alternatives. This is *the* major corridor connecting various parts of greater San Fransisco. Alternatives involve going way out of the way. In contrast, many of the trips on Rainier Valley can be done via the freeway. There is nothing special about Rainier Avenue — it certainly isn’t more special than Van Ness (or the Van Ness corridor if you will).
The change to Van Ness did not happen overnight. It took years of effort. The *exact same* arguments against those changes you are using were made here. Of course they were. Traffic has been horrible in San Fransisco for a very long time. Van Ness carries tens of thousands of cars, and is a vital part of the community, and the region as a whole. It is congested, and has been congested for decades. Reducing automobile capacity seems nuts, and yet they did it. First by adding the curb bulbs, and then eventually the bus lanes.
It is a trade-off, but the only option that actually works. You can’t improve throughput by adding more lanes, or in this case, keeping them. The only way to do that is to improve transit — which is what adding BAT lanes would do.
Unless Rainier Valley shrinks (which seems highly unlikely) bad traffic is inevitable there. The only question is whether we will provide an alternative for folks taking transit, or riding bikes. The sooner we provide that alternative, the better.
Thanks for that quoted definition, RossB. Did you read it? It states that induced demand applies to new developing areas — and not areas that have had the same number of lanes for 80+ years like Rainier in built-out areas like SE Seattle. You just proved me right in this point! Thanks! We can disagree about how many lanes Rainier Ave needs, but not whether this current demand is somehow “induced” by existing lanes and will magically significantly decrease merely by reducing these lanes.
As I’ve pointed out before that SE Rainier is an island of 84,000 people and growing — better than US 1 in the Keys but still limited. I’ll even mention that this area is more like Key Largo than Key West and Monroe County FL has 83,000 people with US 1 in Key Largo being a multi-lane highway (and just 30K vehicles a day as opposed to the 37K on Rainier). Rainier to the north and MLK to the south are the only multi-lane gateway streets that continue deep into SE Seattle and there are only a 3-4 more that don’t require going through a stop sign even as a single-lane street. Like much of Seattle, there aren’t lots of east-west streets to use so the north-south streets do double duty for east-west travel too. It’s much more limited like Key Largo than what exists in a well-gridded network that exists in most major cities in the US.
Can’t agree more. Everything you said is right on the money.
By the way, I finally got around to looking at the traffic data you listed (thanks for the link). It is interesting. Of course they don’t have data monitors everywhere, but one of the more interesting spots is 23rd, south of Yesler. It wasn’t too long ago that it was a four lane roadway; now it is three lanes (one each direction, with a center lane). From what I can tell, it carries more people than any other similar lane, a little over 23,000. That is less than 37,000, but not that much less (and a lot more per lane). I don’t believe that 23rd is “grid lock”, nor did making 23rd a three lane road cause a cascade of traffic disasters. Nor do I believe that the 14,000 person difference can’t be absorbed in other ways, especially transit. The traffic calming of 23rd was great for public safety (and great for people who live there) but it did basically nothing for transit. Adding a BAT lane to Rainier will greatly improve transit, which means that some of those drivers would switch to transit. Others will switch to other streets, like I-5.
Another interesting tidbit. The numbers are taken southbound for Rainier. At 23rd, there are 26,000 (only a tiny bit more than the street that had a road diet). At Walker (south of 23rd) there are 37,000 drivers. So one obvious compromise would be to add BAT lanes between Jackson/Boren and 23rd, since there aren’t that many cars flowing through there (or at least, no more than what 23rd has now, let alone what it had then).
The other thing to do is add bike lanes to MLK (as mentioned). This will make it safer, and shrink the number of cars that can flow southbound onto Rainier (in much the same way that metered ramps improve the flow on the freeway). MLK has almost the exact same number of cars passing through as 23rd — it can easily handle a road diet.
Rainier Ave also has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in Seattle. It really isn’t a proud fact that it has such a high traffic volume.
> And advocates want to reduce traffic to one lane in each direction? And there is no good alternative path for cars?
They can take i-5 or other roads going north/south or just wait in traffic a bit longer. It is a bit weird to make it seem as if all these north/south roads are not plenty of width for cars while there is practically only one ROW for transit that being link. The BAT lane will probably make transit dedicated land going north/south be like 1% out of all the lanes going north/south in this area.
Also even if this road was 7 lanes width, I’m sure there’d still be the same outcry about decreasing it down to 5 lanes.
Also even if this road was 7 lanes width, I’m sure there’d still be the same outcry about decreasing it down to 5 lanes.
Absolutely. Any reduction in capacity is bound to be met with the same fear. It is a reasonable fear, but it is misguided. For a growing city, you can’t solve the traffic problem by adding lanes, or in this case, retaining them. All you can do is provide alternatives — and that is with transit (and bikes). Those scale, while automobile infrastructure does not.
Thanks Al, good to hear from someone who actually lives there.
My guess is based on the desires of the community this idea is DOA (no offense Frank, I just don’t these roads are the right roads for a mostly recreational bike path). Despite Ross thinking I am a “reactionary” the radical idea I am suggesting is asking the folks who live and work there, or have a business there, what they want for their community. (Or does that make me a communist?)
There has been quite a bit of community feedback, with the R-Line, to replace the 7 (https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/programs-projects/rapidride/r-line-phase-2-engagement-summary.pdf). A majority of the community has spoken out in favor of BAT lanes, but they are concerned about the impact to small businesses when that meant taking away parking. Other aspects were more controversial, such as the stop diet, proof-of-payment payment, serving riders south of Henderson and no longer pairing the 7 with the 49 (to serve late night through-riders from Capitol Hill). It is because of those *other* controversial aspects that Metro basically shelved the project. In the meantime Seattle is inching forward with the one aspect that was largely popular, but has you two freaked out: BAT lanes.
Was the R Line shelved due to controversy or a fiscal crisis? The implementation of the seven SDOT Move Seattle RR lines implementation was stalled by the Kubly focus on three monumental projects: CCC Streetcar, G Line, and J Line. The others required much less capital and fit with Link integration better. There are controversies with every network change. If Metro (and ST) implemented widespread proof of payment fare collection with all-door boarding and alighting, perhaps the RapidRide expansion could be shelved; faster fare collection is probably the largest benefit of RR; do riders care much about the color of the bus? Is the R Line alignment between Virginia Street and Rainier Beach optimal? The north terminal has operational cost and issues. If the overhead was provided on South Henderson Street, could the South Prentice Street loop be served by a one bus shuttle oriented to the Rainier Beach Link station?
Was the R Line shelved due to controversy or a fiscal crisis?
My guess is a bit of both. I think if there was more widespread support and enthusiasm, it would be moving faster.
I also think it was death of a thousand cuts. (Or at least delay by a thousand cuts). Stop consolidation is always controversial. Some of the issues involving RapidRide are particularly contentious here, like proof-of-payment. But RapidRide also changes the through-routing, as folks like the pairing with service to Capitol Hill. Then there is the loop south of Henderson.
All of these can be dealt with incrementally, in my opinion. I would start by scrapping the RapidRide plans, and just look to make the other improvements, like they are doing with the 40. This means street improvement (e. g. BAT lanes) and maybe some bus stop consolidation. Make it clear that the stop consolidation can be reversed if they don’t work out (adding and removing regular bus stops isn’t that expensive). Continue to pair the 7 with the 49 at night, no matter what the 7 does most of the day. Backfill service on Prentice with another bus. I would extend half of the 36 buses like so: https://goo.gl/maps/Qfz5kKxCGnsENacC6. That adds some value beyond just coverage.
After all that, I would discuss the RapidRide conversion. That would mean nicer bus stops, reader boards, and off-board payment. Continue running the night-owl version of the 7, even if it means a special night owl version of the RapidRide bus that overlaps other routes. You can address the proof-of-payment issue head on, instead of mixed in with everything else.
The only disadvantage to doing it incrementally is that doing the change all at once gets people more excited. You can pronounce big times savings that are the sum of the various pieces, instead of making improvements piece by piece. Unfortunately, that message got muddled for the 7, so I think an incremental approach makes more sense.
Don’t worry. Nobody will ever mistake you for a communist.
“I am suggesting is asking the folks who live and work there, or have a business there, what they want for their community.”
We should ask them, but they should not unilaterally be able to make the decision. You sometimes say neighborhoods should determine how dense they get. But a city has a responsibility to all its residents, and should also consider the rest of the metropolitan area. When you let one neighborhood have total control, it can lead to a beggar-they-neighbor situation where every neighborhood makes the same parochial decisions (“We don’t want density/more people/lower-income people”), and everybody is worse off.
In the case of transportation, which intrinsically spans neighborhoods, there’s residents, and also people who go through the valley to Renton and Skyway, and people who work or shop in the valley. There’s also somebody riding a bike from the U-District to Renton. I never did that but I did occasionally ride from the U-District to Rainier Beach or the mid valley. (And I always found MLK the flattest way to go, and not bad congestion-wise. The most unsafe place to ride a bike was 4th Avenue downtown before the bike lane, because there were just so many cars.)
So I think there should be north-south bike lanes through the valley, as flat and straight as possible. I don’t have a strong opinion where exactly they are. But the only straight roads are MLK and Rainier. The existing “safe streets” bike routes zigzag because the valley is diagonal and the minor streets aren’t. I like the idea of bike lanes on MLK, BRT lanes on Rainier, and maybe letting transit decrease on MLK if something has to give.
I think it does make sense to ask folks in South Park what they want to do with the freeway. I think we already know the answer: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-residents-drive-movement-to-tear-out-highway-99-in-south-park/.
I am onboard Ross. As you know I favor more local control over housing and transportation issues.
Mercer Island doesn’t want a light rail station that is just a way point between Seattle and Bellevue and maybe Microsoft (and Bellevue was allowed to shunt East Link to 112th) and an intercept for off-Islanders. Remove East Link from MI and find another route that is less racist.
At the very least MI would like to truncate East Link at MI going west.
We would also like more control over how our state and regional taxes are spent considering the city is a large net plus tax payer. More subsidized 630’s that actually go where Islanders want to go on transit.
Maybe even take a look at the scope and design of I-90 running through MI, certainly SOV access. Seattleites can easily drive north or south on I-5 (unless they want to get rid of I-5) to go east of the Cascades. Or lid the whole thing.
Remove the freeway in your link. I never use it. Then let’s start removing crappy transit on MI and abusive and racist highways like I-90, at least going west.
Are you saying that Mercer Island doesn’t want a Link Station?
I didn’t get that impression at all. I thought folks basically wanted to have their cake and eat it to. They wanted the station, with a big parking lot so that locals can use it, but they didn’t want folks from off the island to use it. They didn’t want connecting buses to use it, even though it is the logical connection point for buses along the I-90 corridor.
Or are you saying folks in Mercer Island don’t want I-90 either? I never knew it had that much in common with South Park.
Your history of Mercer Island is a little off Ross.
You may have missed it, but MI litigated 14 years over the width and design of I-90. MI also objected to a larger park and ride, and the citizens rejected a surface commuter lot in Luther Burbank as part of East Link.
What MI did want is fewer off-Islanders driving to the park and ride on MI because that is the only first/last mile access on MI. The new 1500 stall park and ride at S. Bellevue will hopefully help that, but my guess is travel to Seattle will remain depressed after East Link opens and like today there will be plenty of space at the park and ride.
I suppose in 2008 East Link seemed ok, because at least it would go to Bellevue Way. Of course MI was promised SOV access to the HOV lanes, and buses would be complementary forms of transportation in the center lane until post tensioning required raising the rails. If something happens to the train there will be no transit to Seattle in the center lane. God forbid the bridge is compromised for car/truck travel, and as Bernie notes the lifespan of the bridge is 20 years
The 550 when it accessed the tunnel and 554 and other buses were adequate and were grade separated, and could go to different destinations without a transfer. East Link will not offer any advantage in mobility. I am not sure at 8 minute frequencies East Link will provide more capacity, but it won’t be needed. The region’s population will likely remain flat for many years, and is dispersing. Meanwhile downtown Seattle is imploding, which was not expected in 2008, or no fare enforcement on Link.
Everything has changed so much since 2004 and 2008 that virtually every benefit East Link was going to provide no longer exists. Few will be taking transit to Seattle, the peak commuter is gone, locally subsidized buses like the 630 are necessary to go areas safely in order to avoid a transfer downtown, even the bus intercept is going to be anemic. If East Link never opened few would notice. It is no better than the buses very few take west, with actually less frequency.
Even SOV access is available because there is no enforcement, but also no need for the HOV lane today. My guess is it will convert to a general purpose lane after East Link opens because there will be very few buses crossing the bridge.
The stations themselves are tacky although the landscaping isn’t bad if industrial. ST is building a huge roundabout on N. Mercer Way even though the intercept will be anemic. Apparently four buses will layover along NMW.
So yeah, if you took a vote today MI like most of the Eastside would vote no on East Link, which is what Bellevue did when it shunted it to 112th. Turns out the old induced demand mantra of build it and they will come isn’t always true. Still better than spending $20 billion on WSBLE to move 400 people from their cars onto light rail. Now there’s some induced demand, which is a meaningless term if not considered with the transportation alternatives and what they offer
In defense of SDOT, as more and bikes get electric motors to climb hills, the importance of bike routes being flat decreases. Once an electric motor is assumed, diversion to nearby residential streets is really a minimal burden to someone on a bike. For accessing local businesses on Rainier, there’s still a sidewalk; while riding a bike on a sidewalk for any significant distance is not ideal, it’s ok for half a block. Fast cyclists will have the additional option to ride in the bus lane.
No solution is perfect, but the fact is, neighborhood streets can handle diverting bikes more easily than diverting cars (which would quickly gridlock the neighborhood streets). If you are on a bike and have a motor assist, I don’t think routes to downtown like 31st to Jackson or neighborhood streets to Beacon Hill is a big deal. I’m personally more interested in having Lake Washington Blvd. be closed to cars more often, especially the parts of it that don’t have any parking lots or driveways.
Where’s the “retail desert” in Rainier Valley? There may not be the same range of stores as Kirkland or Southcenter, but there are a lot of businesses, and they seem to be well-patronized and meet the community’s needs. And a wider variety of businesses keep opening every few years. The most desert-like part is right around Henderson Street, but the whole valley isn’t like that. Compared to the recent challenges downtown and in Little Saigon, Rainier Valley seems to be humming away, ironically a bright spot of normality.
It is a retail desert if there isn’t a Neiman Marcus. Seriously though, Rainier has more retail than it has for decades, if not ever. Maybe back in the day there were farmer’s markets, but this as good as its been for a very long time. Columbia City is thriving. There are various shops, restaurants and bars along various parts of Rainier. The area that Mike suggests might be struggling is a bit suburban in its layout, but seems to be doing OK. You have the big drug store and the gym with a giant parking lot, but nearby there are some restaurants. Not too far either direction are grocery stores, and a lot of restaurants close to them. I agree with Mike; overall it is doing quite well.
Retail vibrancy in Columbia City highlights gentrification going south. The restaurants and retail there are very “white”.
If retail farther south is doing as well as you state why mess around with changing access or lanes or transportation modes if what exists now is working at creating and supporting retail?
First rule of transportation planning is do no harm. Second rule is be very careful about change — especially based mostly on ideology — if things are working as well as can be expected.
One only has to look at 3rd Ave. in downtown Seattle to see the risk to retail from transit.
Thompson asserts that transit harmed 3rd Avenue retail. I disagree. There was a pandemic, homelessness, and drug use. Before the pandemic, transit riders and pedestrians patronized 3rd Avenue retail.
The retail vibrancy is not limited to Columbia City, but extends from one end to the other, from Franklin to Rainier Beach. Is this due to it being extremely white now? Let’s take a look at the demographics of the two schools that anchor the valley:
African American: 27.4%
Two or more races: 5.5%
African American: 42.9%
Two or more races: 6.4%
That hardly looks like an overwhelmingly white neighborhood. Those numbers may have changed a little, but not much.
If retail farther south is doing as well as you state why mess around with changing access or lanes or transportation modes if what exists now is working at creating and supporting retail?
To allow the buses to move faster. The 7 works really well, but it gets bogged down in traffic. Try to keep up. Read the post again if you forgot what this whole discussion was about while you went on one of your never-ending tangents.
The idea that good transit and retail can’t coexist is absurd. One of the few arguments for adding an undersized streetcar is that it can help retail.
Ross, you miss the nuance of the questions some are raising on this blog. Yes we know the intent of BAT lanes. You don’t need to quote Wikipedia to explain induced demand. What you seem incapable of or unwilling to is to examine your underlying assumptions for BAT lanes.
First, just how much faster will through buses be. My guess is reducing the number of lanes won’t reduce the number of cars or increase the number of bus riders. These drivers will still need to go to where they are going today. They aren’t just driving for fun on MLK or Rainier. .
Just saying “induced demand” is meaningless. You need to understand why those folks are in their cars to determine whether they will shift modes if there are fewer lanes. Since you have a pathological dislike of cars you just can’t understand why those folks prefer to drive, but a traffic engineer better.
Second BAT lanes are not enforceable. They didn’t work well on 3rd until 3rd was closed to cars. People need to turn right, cars simply drive in the BAT lanes, bicyclists use BAT lanes, and so do cars turning left onto side streets. It isn’t like the bus driver just pushes the pedal to the floor the whole way.
Third, what Al is getting at is whether the time saved for those passing through., if any, is worth the lane diet. That is a complex question for an area that has a lot of struggles to begin with, including retail.
The “induced demand” argument is tiring because building BAT lanes probably won’t reduce the number of cars on these roads or increase the number of bus riders because there are so many reasons folks prefer driving in this area on these roads, including safety and time of trip including first/last mile access.
Studying BAT lanes is fine, but that means really questioning the assumptions. If a small time savings for riders passing through is the only issue why are we talking about removing a Highway.
This is why you have ideally neutral traffic engineers and retail experts. I never said transit and retail can’t coexist; I said you need car customers too, and they have a lot of alternatives.
Ask the community what they want. That is the intent of SEPA. You might disagree with Bellevue’s decision to run East Link along 112th but they thought that was best for their community. Who am I to override that, or whether local residents think BAT lanes are worth it, because I doubt the time savings will be great while the overall traffic congestion will be horrible because the number of drivers will stay the same and the BAT lanes will be de facto general purpose lanes.
It could be that in reality the time savings on these roads for buses will be too little. Or even if significant the community doesn’t think the trade off is worth it for someone riding through their neighborhood.
From my experience driving on this stretch of Rainier, a lot of the Rainier traffic is people getting to and from I-90. The new light rail station is opening here soonish so now is the time to improve non-car access to this area and make it easy for people to switch from driving to the east side.
People already bike here. Before covid I would often count at least 10 people riding bikes, usually on the terrible sidewalk but sometimes on the terrible street which would only further slow traffic. Left turns should be reduced so we can give those bike riders space to be out of the car lanes. Asking people riding the cheapest bikes around to buy an electric bike so they can bike up MLK instead is a big ask. You won’t speed up cars and busses until you give bikes their own lane. And with the light rail coming there could easily be more bikes.
Where do bicyclists secure their bikes on Rainier or MLK. What amount of secured bike storage is the light rail station going to have, because despite a lot of talk about first/last mile access to the light rail station on Mercer Iland by bike very little secured bike storage was built.
If residents on MI are hesitant to park their bike outside a light rail station in the rain what are the odds a bike chained up outside a light rail station — or business — along Rainier or MLK will still be there when you return when Seattle residents are hesitant to leave their bike chained to an outside bike rack anywhere in the city. Or will all those bicyclists carry their bike onto the bus or train?
It looks like there will be a bike cage with room for around 30 bikes or so. There is also a bike rack for another dozen bikes. https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/projects/eastlink/Rainier_Presentation_final_73114.pdf.
I could also see room for expansion, especially up above. Like Mercer Island, this is something the city would have to pay for, not ST.
Asking people riding the cheapest bikes around to buy an electric bike so they can bike up MLK instead is a big ask.
I agree. It is a tough situation, because there are only two streets in Rainier Valley that are the least bit flat, and that is because both were built with that in mind. The “natural grid” is very hilly, unlike some parts of the city. I don’t think it is realistic to have bike lanes on both Rainier and MLK, and yet that is the ideal solution for bike riders. I just don’t see how you can have bike lanes and BAT lanes on Rainier, and BAT lanes are more important.
In many cases, working your way over the hump between Rainier and MLK would be tiring. But it usually isn’t that far (you can always push your bike). The existence of good bike paths can help in that regard. Sometimes that means going out of your way, but it still seems possible. What is tough is when you are basically told you have to follow a trail that goes up and over, making lots of turns, for a really long distance. For example, if there are bike lanes on MLK, then this doesn’t seem too bad: https://goo.gl/maps/hkJ3y1Luuvozf6Mc9. Nor does this: https://goo.gl/maps/1qRtGyaHFtASjyYp9. You are sometimes going out of your way, but you get there (not unlike how people work their way to the Burke Gilman, or other major bike paths). What sucks is this sort of thing: https://goo.gl/maps/cLoZ5Te7TDrEpcsv8. That is scenic, and likely fairly safe, but it is full of turns and has a decent size hill. If there was a bike path on MLK, then that would make that trip — and a lot of other ones — a lot more straightforward: https://goo.gl/maps/CKkGvw4YYiWVK8kq8.
The last little bit of MLK (up to the station) is again less than ideal, but no different than say, the ride over the freeway at Northgate. That thing is used a lot, despite the fact that people have to climb up to the bridge. You can take an elevator (on the station side) but I think most people just bike the whole thing. Likewise, with the bike facilities off of 23rd, I don’t think there will be many who would prefer going Rainier (next to the freeway ramps) and then taking the elevator up. Some will, but only for a short section, which gets me to my next point.
Bike lanes the length of MLK would not mean that people avoid biking on the sidewalk or street of Rainier, but it would mean they would do so a lot less less.
Through this read I read a lot about cars and transit. But, one issue that I find concerning and lacking from this discussion is freight mobility. Freight isn’t moved in cars or transit. It’s moved on trucks (albeit of various sizes). It’s all cute to have bus lanes and fancy painted bicycle lanes, but one curb management issue we have today is freight and commercial delivery.
One of the biggest violators of bus and transit lanes has been freight and commercial delivery. Additionally, roads that are designed in such a way to slow down traffic or reduce traffic volumes invariably end up being a nightmare for semis trying to make deliveries to a restaurant or store. How many times have you been at a crosswalk where you’ve had to back up because a SU-truck ends up off-tracking when making a turn into a business or adjacent street? We’ve had this issue with construction of new buildings where dump trucks with pups have injured and killed pedestrians in this city.
What kind of infrastructure is the public expected to invest in to satisfy freight companies?
Wouldn’t using an appropriate sized delivery vehicle for the neighborhood be the appropriate way to keep pedestrians safe?
I’ve seen freight companies send full size tractor-trailer units to deliver to locations that were built when deliveries were historically made in box-trucks. If it’s a question of efficiency for the trucking company, then the question is the same:
Who pays to keep the trucking companies bottom line profitable?
I’ve wondered this too, especially now that we have companies like Grubhub taking the Uber disruption of taxis to food delivery. With Uber at least you have a few hundred pounds of humans being delivered in a few thousand pounds of vehicle, but with food delivery it’s more like a few pounds of comestibles in a few thousand pounds of vehicle, but still require a few 10s of square feet of parking at each end. It seems like this would be ideal for bike or e-bike delivery instead, which would also avoid the problem of double-parking or parking in a bike lane/bus stop at the point of delivery.
Jim, if we go use your logic. How much are we the public supposed to spend to appease those that want others to use transit in lieu of their personal cars? Transit isn’t generally isn’t convenient to me, so I don’t use it. I have no interest in turning a 20 minute commute by car into a 2-hour slog. I use transit when it is convenient to me.
Unlike transit which is a huge GovCo expense, freight companies pump money into the system. They have a vested interest and right to be in the transportation discussion.
It is a matter of efficiency. You replace single family homes with high density “multi-use” buildings, you need to bring in more stuff. I’m not talking about GrubHub. If a given store that was built in the 1960s served a low density neighborhood. One can assume that as the neighborhood densifies, the store needs more stuff. More deliveries with small trucks is not efficient.
How much of my property taxes are we supposed to use to create more room for those who choose to use the available pavement inefficiently.
Check your various road projects and see where the funding comes from.
It’s not all “gas tax” supported.
Better yet, let’s put together a roadway improvement district and see what voters want.
We could always go back to the old model of local warehouses, which actually carried…
Imagine that 🤔
Supply chain problems indeed.
How much of your property taxes go to road projects Jim? Each April the county that collects and forwards your property taxes provides a pie chart showing where your property taxes go. My guess is a tiny sliver goes to roads, if any, and of course police, fire, EMT, and freight/deliveries use roads, as do the folks with tools building Link. Unless you want EMT’s to use transit. Oh wait, buses use roads and bridges.
A levy vote on whether to fund roads is fine with me. But I think the vote should be whether to reallocate ST and transit taxes to roads. That way the tax would be revenue neutral. The vote would simply ask how much of transit taxes — specifically the property, sales and vehicle taxes — that currently go to ST should be reallocated to roads so your property taxes don’t go towards roads. Everyone pays the cost of their transportation.
Oh wait, ST anticipated this and the overwhelming support for I-976 and so bonded the anticipated tax revenue, although unfortunately we have now learned ST’s cost and revenue estimates were “flawed”.
I-976 FAILED within the Sound Transit taxing district.
Why reallocate taxes?
Just have the road projects as stand alone ballot measure.
Don’t you have the confidence in the project’s benefits to garner a majority of votes?
My point is how much of the cost of any given road project is paid for by the people that use it.
That would require going to your local library and searching through the archives to see how that particular project was funded.
I’ve only done that once, concerning a small local project(when I lived in Bothell), and I saw a contribution from REET – Real Estate Excise Tax.
Don’t remember the specifics, it was a long time ago. My conversations with a city planner back then had him estimating that about 60% on average was funded by the gas tax.
(Which, on that project confirmed that supposition. No I didn’t look at every Bothell road project)
What I want is transparency whenever it is claimed by local governments that we NEED to increase road capacity.
Show Me The Numbers!
A bit late to the conversation, but I live in the Rainier Valley and get around via walking, transit, biking, and driving in roughly that order. I am thrilled that bus lanes are finally going in on Rainier. The biggest problem with the 7 is it is almost always late, and by how much is completely unpredictable. So planning around the 7 is almost impossible. This bus lane project will help, at least in one direction.
There seems to be concern that drivers will slow down to a halt on Rainier if we lose even one lane. I’ll share this. Driving on Rainier in its current condition is one of the most miserable transportation experiences in the city. Drivers speed and weave through traffic, often only so they can get to the next red faster. This creates even more backups for everyone else while also making it dangerous. It’s a big reason the 7 is always late.
Removing the turn lane and the extra general purpose lanes will reduce speeding and dangerous passing. It will make transportation on Rainier tolerable for more people, including drivers. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, because when I turn east on Massachusetts to avoid Rainier from the freeway, there are always plenty of other cars heading up to 38th or MLK to avoid the mess.
How do you enforce BAT lanes if they are next to general purpose lanes? According to the link drivers can use BAT lanes to turn right or access driveways or businesses, so how do the police determine whether a driver is properly using the BAT lane?
If there are no left turn lanes, and the drivers on Rainier already disregard most traffic rules according to your experience, what is to stop these drivers from using the BAT lanes, especially if the traffic is stalled waiting for a car to turn left? At the least a median would need to be installed to prevent all left turns. This would then require dedicated left turn lanes and traffic lights that allow left turns.
I think this is a decision for the community and local businesses. One assumption I think some make that might not be accurate is that a lane diet will reduce the number of motorists on this arterial and I guess move them to transit, or will force the drivers to become more civil and willing to drive less aggressively. More likely these drivers will continue to use Rainier — including the BAT lane — for the same reasons they use it today or will switch to the residential streets, and will be even more frustrated and aggressive because their trip just got much longer, and according to Al there are 37,000 daily drivers. (Does anyone know how many riders the 7 handles daily?)
It definitely will be an interesting experiment.
On the one hand, there are a lot of competing uses for this roadway. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to get around without, you know, dying.
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