I was on Cascades 504 yesterday, PDX-SEA. Instead of the usual Stand in Line for 30 Minutes to get a boarding pass they now issue a car assignment at the ticket counter, board 30 minutes before departure and grab a seat. Much more pleasant and efficient. Does anyone know if this is an experiment or permanent? Waiting for that seat assignment was one of the worst experiences of riding Cascades.
As of 2016, the RapidRide E Line has higher ridership than any other King County Metro route, averaging approximately 17,000 weekday riders. Because it is such a popular route and runs almost entirely on Aurora Avenue, I think it is an obvious candidate for upgrades to improve capacity and reliability. While interesting ideas about upgrading the E to elevated rail to serve Aurora Avenue, Queen Anne, Belltown, and First Hill have been floated around, such a project would be extremely expensive and is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Because of this, I think bus rapid transit is the best option along Aurora Avenue. To create a good environment for transit ridership along the Aurora corridor, significant pedestrian and bicycle improvements could be made as a part of the project. I’m not an engineer or a transit planner, so I won’t be able to provide cost or trip time estimates for these upgrades, but they should be relatively inexpensive compared to light rail and streetcar projects, and could probably be financed without much help from Sound Transit.
When describing the alignment of the new RapidRide E Line, I am assuming that the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel, Northgate Link, and all associated projects are complete.
Unlike its current iteration, the upgraded RapidRide E Line would lay over and serve a new station at Colman Dock. I’ve always been irritated by Colman Dock’s poor transit accessibility given its status as a major transport hub, and terminating a high capacity service there would definitely solve some of those issues. Of course, building such a station would require significant changes to Colman Dock. Although somewhat far-fetched, a new ferry terminal could be constructed with bus bays at the street level for easy transfers between Washington State ferries, foot ferries, and buses.
From the waterfront, buses would travel along the Columbia Street pathway before turning onto 3rd avenue, serving stations along a transit-only 3rd Avenue. To travel between 3rd Avenue and Aurora Avenue, buses would travel along the left curbs of Battery Street and Wall Street in BAT lanes. Instead of serving the current stops, buses would serve a new station between Wall Street and Aurora Avenue at Denny Way. Buses would travel on center-running lanes along Aurora Avenue, serving an island platform immediately south of Harrison Street, prior to driving onto the SR 99 segment of Aurora Avenue.
This is where it gets tricky. Aurora Avenue is completely devoid of crosswalks between Downtown and 68th Street. Unfortunately, this means that all stations would need to be in the median of the road and served by a pedestrian overpass with ADA accessibility (in other words, a frequently malfunctioning elevator), or buses would have to merge through general traffic to access BAT lanes. I am drafting this under the assumption that Seattleites will be reluctant to pay additional property taxes, so in this version, buses will merge to BAT lanes immediately after entering the center of SR 99 to serve a new station pair at Aloha Street. Although unlikely, it is possible that a traffic signal could be used to aid this merging. I chose Aloha Street because, with a new pedestrian overpass, it could provide an easy pedestrian connection between Lake Union Park, the Seattle Center, and Queen Anne Hill. To compensate for the removal of stops along Aurora Avenue, new ADA-accessible pathways between Aurora Avenue and Dexter Avenue would be constructed.
North of Aloha Street, buses would serve existing stations at Galer Street and Lynn Street before crossing a renovated Aurora Bridge. Widened pedestrian and bicycle paths would be surrounded by some sort of suicide-prevention barrier underneath the existing bridge. In place of the old pedestrian walkway on top of the bridge, a jersey barrier would be erected in the center to prevent traffic collisions. Curbside lanes would be converted to transit-only, except for vehicles entering and exiting at 38th Street. A new station pair would be constructed between 38th Street and Bridge Way to serve the Fremont neighborhood.
North of 38th Street, buses would serve the existing station pair at 46th Street. Unlike the current service pattern northbound and southbound buses would both serve the Linden deviation. To travel between Linden Avenue and Aurora Avenue, buses would use the general purpose access ramps located approximately at 61st Street on either side of Aurora Avenue. The grass median of Woodland Place immediately north of 65th Street would be rebuilt into a station. Linden Avenue would feature all-day BAT lanes instead of parking, with a station pair at 72nd Street.
North of the junction with Linden Avenue, buses would utilize transit-only lanes in the center of Aurora Avenue, with stations built on island platforms between the two lanes. Low barriers could be constructed between general-purpose and transit lanes to improve pedestrian safety and prevent unauthorized encroachment onto the busway. Stations on this stretch of Aurora Avenue would generally be spaced somewhat further apart than they are right now to improve travel times. Center platforms would be built at 77th Street, 85th Street, 90th Street, 97th Street, 105th Street, 115th Street, 125th Street, 130th Street, 137th Street, 145th Street, 152nd Street, 160th Street, 165th Street, 175th Street, 185th Street, and 192nd Street. New crosswalks and traffic signals would be needed for stations at 97th Street and 137th Street.
Instead of terminating at Aurora Village Transit Center as it does now, the RapidRide E Line would extend north into Snohomish County. After serving an island platform at 200th Street, buses would turn left onto 205th Street towards I-5. After briefly traveling in general-purpose lanes, buses would transition into center-running lanes after merging into SR-104, serving an island platform at 76th Avenue. The center-running lanes would extend east of I-5, allowing buses to completely bypass congestion created by vehicles entering and exiting I-5. An access ramp would be tunneled below I-5 and SR-104 to enable traffic merging onto southbound I-5 from the east to do so without crossing the busway. To access the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, buses would travel in general-purpose lanes on 205th Street, 56th Avenue, and 236th Street, serving stations with bus bulbs at approximately 58th Place and the junction of 56th Avenue and 236th Street. Buses would serve a station and layover at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center to connect with Community Transit routes and the future Lynnwood Link extension. Throughout the route, transit-only lanes would be enforced by traffic cameras. Intersection treatments will vary. Signal priority will be implemented at all intersections except along the Third Avenue Spine and perhaps a few other locations at-grade crossings with other high-capacity transit services exist. In addition to signal priority, left turns will be prohibited at most intersections along center-running segments of the alignment, except where there is no intact street grid and therefore no other way to access certain side roads, as well as a few very high-traffic junctions, such as 85th Street, 105th Street, 145th Street, and 160th Street. More detailed information on intersection treatments is provided in the map, which can be accessed via a link at the bottom of this article.
Vehicles and stations
All station platforms would be edged with yellow textured strips level with the floors of the buses, and all stations would feature ticket vending machines and ORCA card readers to speed boarding, in addition to real-time arrival information. To encourage widespread use of ORCA cards, stations would also be equipped with machines to vend and reload ORCA cards. Bike racks under camera surveillance would be located at all stations. All stations would feature ample seating, well-lit and covered waiting areas, signs that light up at night for higher visibility, and camera surveillance to to promote safety and discourage bicycle theft. To maintain station quality and functionality, all stations would be inspected routinely for malfunctioning signs, ticket vending machines, or ORCA card readers.
To prevent greenhouse emissions, vehicles would make use of hybrid-electric technology or, if possible, run on battery power alone or hydrogen fuel cell technology. Charging or refueling stations could be located at Colman Dock and Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, in addition to whichever bus base the coaches would operate out of. Trolleybuses would obviously not be possible due to the high speeds of travel along Aurora Avenue, especially portions south of 74th Street.
The vehicles would be 60-foot low floor articulated buses similar to existing RapidRide coaches, with some exceptions. Most notably, the vehicles would feature five doors to serve platforms on both sides of the bus. For rider safety, right and left rear view mirrors on buses would be equipped with flashing strobe lights similar to the ones on buses that operate in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Despite the presence of level boarding and off-board fare payment, coaches would still be equipped with ADA ramps, coin slots, and ORCA card readers that would be used in the event of a reroute, off-board fare payment becoming temporarily unavailable at a station, or E Line coaches being assigned to other routes. To prevent service delays and promote bicycle use, coaches would not have front bike racks, instead featuring an on-board storage area in front of the rear left door similar to Swift and RapidRide G Line vehicles.
Potential service changes
Given the very high capacity of the improved RapidRide E line, it would make sense to restructure other bus routes around it to improve connections to other destinations and upzone surrounding areas to take advantage of the newly expanded capacity. One possible project would be to extend Sound Transit’s SR 522/523 BRT past the 145th Street Link station to Shoreline Community College. Stations could be shared between the Aurora Avenue BRT and the Sound Transit BRT at 145th Street, 152nd Street, and 160th Street.
To prevent delays along Aurora Avenue between Downtown and 46th Street, Metro Route 5 could be upgraded to RapidRide and modified to serve only stops also served by the E, interlining all the way to the south end of Downtown, where it would either continue to Colman Dock like the E or be routed via Pioneer Square to an alternative terminal. Alternatively, Route 5 could be rerouted south of 46th Street via Fremont Avenue, the Fremont Bridge, and either Dexter Avenue or Westlake Avenue, perhaps being upgraded to RapidRide.
Of these options, I think the best one would be to upgrade the 5 to RapidRide reroute it to Dexter Avenue, because Dexter is much closer to Aurora Avenue than Westlake Avenue is, and King County Metro’s long range plan has Route 5 running on Dexter by 2040. I think upgrading to RapidRide is justified because Route 5 serves a potentially very busy corridor that includes Shoreline Community College, Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Fremont, Downtown Seattle, and potentially South Lake Union. BAT lanes could be built along the majority of the corridor, replacing street parking. Like the improved E, the 5 could feature express service, possibly deviating to Aurora via 85th and continuing to Downtown via center-running lanes, similar to the current 355. Perhaps even a second express could be added, operating between 85th Street and 45th Street, much like the current 5 Express. Any improvements to Route 5 would include sidewalk construction and other desperately needed pedestrian improvements on Greenwood Avenue north of 112th street.
Routes 26 and 28 would need to be modified as well. I can think a few options. Route 26 could be eliminated and replaced with heavily modified routes 67 and 316, as illustrated in the 2025 version of Metro’s long range plan. Assuming that the Roosevelt HCT is extended to Northgate via 5th Avenue, Route 67 could be rerouted to serve Latona Avenue and Thackeray Place like the current 26. Instead of continuing to Downtown, the route would instead terminate at the U District Station. Route 316 would operate all day, but would terminate at the Roosevelt Station instead of continuing to Downtown. The Northern terminus of Route 316 would likely be modified as well.
Alternatively, routes 26 and 28 could be rerouted onto Dexter Avenue with peak-direction express service along Aurora Avenue, similar to what was in place before the Spring 2016 service changes. However, this alternative would unnecessarily burn service hours on Routes 26 and 28 south of Fremont. To solve this problem, Routes 26 and 28 could be to terminated or through-routed in Fremont, forcing a transfer at 38th Street. For this to work, Routes 131 and 132 would need to terminate in Downtown Seattle or through-route with other routes. For example, they could be routed through Downtown Seattle to serve South Lake Union via the same route as the RapidRide C and H lines, creating an ultra-frequent connection between the 3rd Avenue Spine and South Lake Union.
A service change that would likely result in an increase in ridership would be the introduction of an “E express” service. The E express would serve the same route as the E line as described above, except that it would skip all stations between 77th Street and Harrison Street, instead traveling via central lanes on Aurora Avenue. This service would run at a high frequency, most likely in peak direction only. If Route 5 was upgraded to RapidRide, peak-direction expresses could operate from Greenwood and Phinney avenues as well. Up to two peak routes could be introduced: a route very similar to the existing 5 Express, and another one much like the current. Toll lanes could be created along Aurora Avenue to keep buses running reliably at high speeds, This concept will be discussed further in the “other infrastructure improvements” section.
Pedestrian and bicycle improvements
To improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and encourage transit ridership, a number of pedestrian and bicycle improvements would be included in the project. Chief among them would be improvements to the Interurban Trail and the creation of a bicycle corridor connecting the Interurban Trail to the Burke Gilman Trail, South Ship Canal Trail, and Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop.
There is currently a missing segment of the Interurban Trail between 240th Street in Edmonds and 200th Street in Shoreline. A new bicycle and pedestrian trail would be constructed along the old railroad right of way, with an overpass over Edmonds Way and 205th Street. Further south, a bicycle and pedestrian overpass would span 175th Street. Instead of bicycle lanes running northbound only on Linden Avenue between 145th Street and 128th Street, a bidirectional protected bikeway along the west side of Linden Avenue would constructed, with no adjacent street parking.
The new bicycle corridor would begin at the junction 110th Street and the Interurban Trail just east of Fremont Avenue. From there, bicycles would travel via protected lanes on 110th Street, Park Avenue, 109th Street, Linden Avenue, and 75th Street. To accommodate parked cars, northbound and southbound lanes would be located on the west side of Linden Avenue between 109th Street and 85th Street. After joining Aurora Avenue at 75th Street, the bike lanes would continue south along the west side of Aurora Avenue in both directions, separated from traffic by Jersey barriers. Bike lanes would deviate from Aurora Avenue at 59th Street to intersect with pedestrian bridges over Aurora Avenue in Woodland Park. Immediately north of 50th Street, the exclusive bicycle path would veer west along the north side of 50th Street before transitioning to protected lanes along Fremont Avenue. The protected lanes would continue south along Fremont Avenue all the way to the Fremont Bridge, connecting with the aforementioned network of trails converging there.
To improve ADA accessibility and compensate for the loss of bus stops served by Route 5 along Aurora Avenue, new ADA-accessible pathways between Aurora Avenue and Dexter Avenue would be created, possibly including escalators or (preferably) switchbacked ramps. For more information, refer to the map.
Other infrastructure improvements
All segments of road along the regular E Line route would be repaved with high-strength concrete for improved durability.
To enable the reliable operation of express services, restricted lanes could be put into place along Aurora Avenue south of Green Lake. One option would be variable-rate express toll lanes similar to the ones on I-405. However, the Aurora Avenue toll lanes would differ from the I-405 toll lanes in two ways. Most notably, the lanes would only be tolled in peak direction during peak hours, becoming general-purpose lanes at all other times. Because Aurora Avenue is only six lanes wide, only one lane in each direction would be converted to a peak toll lane. These lanes would be paved with high-strength concrete to withstand heavy bus traffic during rush hour.
To prevent head-on collisions, jersey barriers would be installed between 63rd Street and 50th Street and on the Aurora Bridge. To make room for the jersey barriers, the roadway would be widened slightly through Woodland Park. On the Aurora Bridge, the walkways on the deck of the bridge would be eliminated and replaced with widened bicycle and pedestrian paths suspended below the bridge. The paths would be enclosed by suicide prevention barriers.
Since the introduction of the present timetable in September, Sammamish transit users (residents and workers) have enjoyed an all-day bus service. This has not happened since 2014, when Metro discontinued the 927 Dart van service as part of the service cuts at that time. The 927 was a pretty awful service only transiting the main 228th Street artery north of Pine Lake plaza every 2 hours. On the other hand, the new all-day service extends the hours of the 269 from its previous peak only schedule and now runs to a frequency of 30 minutes during off peak hours. At present the all-day service only runs on weekdays, but a Saturday service is promised after the March timetable changes.
The equipment used on the 269 was also upgraded in September: previously most journeys were serviced by the 1990s era Gillig Phantoms; now the newer New Flyer Xcelsiors are used for five out of the six buses needed during daytime off peak. However, whether transit users appreciate this update is a moot point as the Phantoms definitely have more comfortable seats; although the 30 feet Phantoms (which used to predominate, but are now not usually used) can be uncomfortable on hot summer days as they have no air conditioning. Another point to note is that presumably most drivers are now full time rather than part time Metro employees. Whereas the part timers were usually very welcoming, the full timers tend to be functional rather than friendly (there are some notable exceptions).
In the past the 269 was often threatened with closure, rather than expansion. In 2008 Metro proposed to eliminate the route. The second phase of cuts planned in 2014 was going to cut the peak hour 269 service by over 50%. What has brought about this recent improvement may be a bit of a puzzle, but it may have something to do with an active Transit Committee of Sammamish City Council. In the not too distant past transit to the City Council seemed to mean paving roads which were not in poor condition and widening roads, which were not narrow, for the benefit of the city’s residents, most of whom never leave home except in their own vehicles.
It is not easy to determine what are the medium and long-term plans for transit in Sammamish. The City Council did not support ST3, as this did not seem to propose any decent transit for Sammamish. Metro is pretty good at drawing up plans for the future, but these seem to change long before they are implemented. A couple of years ago a futuristic Metro transit map included a spider’s web of bus routes in Sammamish. Now the latest map just shows an express service duplicating the present 269. Why this is needed is not clear; skipping stops on 228th will not save more than a couple of minutes for most journeys. In fact, the present late night and early morning journeys on the 554 are of little use for those who do not live or park their vehicles near to the few stops serviced. It should be noted that most drivers on the late-night service seem to recognize this and are usually prepared to drop any passengers off at non-express stops, saving long walks in the dark (and in winter cold and rain).
The Transit Committee is also not clear about future requirements. A statement from the Chair that “228th Street is not designed for fast, efficient transit within Sammamish” is very puzzling. 228th is a straight road passing three main commercial areas as well as City Hall and a number of parks and leisure facilities. In what seems to be a contradiction to the statement, the Transit Committee has suggested that the 269 stays on 228th south of South Sammamish Park and Ride to give a much faster trip to Issaquah Transit Center; this would mean a bypass of Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride. According to the Committee, among the benefits of this would be to facilitate Costco members, but this writer cannot imagine many Costco members buying bulk items and then struggling with their packages onto the 269. Another possible contradiction is the desire to reintroduce service to Klahanie, which used to be served by the 927, quite often the lengthy transit of Klahanie did not result in any boardings or alighting. Clearly if the 269 were to serve Klahanie, the journey times to Costco and Issaquah Transit Center would be increased, not reduced. It appears that the Transit Committee is thinking of financially supporting some sort of venture such as the Issaquah Route 200 or the Redmond Loop.
Just how is the new all-day service doing? It was introduced almost as a secret. I did not see it on any Rider Alerts for the September timetable changes, although there was a vague mention on the Metro web site. It is difficult to see how the City Council could have given the change any meaningful publicity; apart from their website (perhaps visited regularly by only a tiny fraction of Sammamish residents and workers?) they don’t really have any outreach capability. The Sammamish Review newspaper, which used to be dumped in everybody’s front yard (and how many took it inside to read?) ceased publication earlier this year.
My observations are that the service is being used, but usually payload is very light. Most journeys through Sammamish have one or two riders, but more than three is quite a crowd. However, there is sometimes moderate ridership between 180th and 188th Ave in Redmond.
The 269 schedule leaflet used to state that the service was supported by Microsoft and the cities of Issaquah, Redmond and Sammamish. In recent years the leaflet has not stated this, but according to the Sammamish Transit Committee minutes there does still seem to be some support from that city at least. With a population of over 60,000 the Council obviously realizes that the city should have more transit than morning and evening peak commuter services to Seattle. Earlier posts on this blog as well as an article in the Issaquah Reporter have highlighted this problem. It is to be hoped that Metro gives its full support and that some way is found to inform potential users that the service does exist.
To solve our traffic woes and ensure that all residents have access to opportunity, Seattle will need to address its transportation issues from every angle. That’s why Transportation Choices is bringing together urban leaders from every sector to share their brightest ideas for Seattle’s new Mayor. The next installment of the Transit Talks series will take place Thursday, December 14 beginning at 5:00pm in Seattle City Hall.
Our panel – including business, grassroots organizations, the arts, and transit agencies – will have five minutes to share what they think the new administration should prioritize in lightning round slides, inspired by Pecha Kucha style presentations.
With time for moderated discussion and audience questions, this is your chance to hear (and respond to!) all these great ideas in one place.
- Transit Talks: Transportation Ideas for a New Mayor
- Thursday, December 14, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
- Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room
- No cost
- RSVP Link
PRT – “personal rapid transit” – is one of those perennial concepts that never quite makes it.
An example of PRT is London’s Heathrow Airport ULTra, one of the few operational systems in the world. (http://www.ultraglobalprt.com/wheres-it-used/heathrow-t5/ ).
There is apparently a Seattle PRT advocacy group, judging by the website at http://www.gettherefast.org/ , although I haven’t seen anyone “representing” much on STB. The glorious vision of a typical PRT advocate is a citywide grid of grade-separated guideways, with autonomous “pods” carrying 1-4 passengers. Each trip is direct from origin to destination with no intermediate stops, automatically routed through the grid. As far as I know, nothing even close to this has ever been built.
I’ve been thinking of a variant of the PRT idea that has some worthwhile characteristics. Granted, it’s highly speculative…
In this concept, the PRT pods are designed with the goal of carrying a single bicycle, with its mounted rider. This, makes for a small, light pod, which is the most important cost factor in engineering the whole system. The closest approach I have seen to this small a PRT pod is the two-passenger proposal from ecoPRT in North Carolina http://ecoprt.com/ shown above. A major role of bicycle PRT in Seattle would be to get people up hills. Bicycle commuting (and other trips) would be attractive to many more people if they didn’t have to struggle up hills.
In the distant future, one can imagine the citywide-grid PRT vision, supporting relatively long-distance travel, above the traffic, protected from the weather. Since such a system is connecting “ride-sheds” rather than walksheds, it could place the entire city within 5 minutes of transit using a pretty coarse grid. Note that this vision dovetails perfectly with ubiquitous, cheap bikeshare (extrapolating from this year’s pilot program in Seattle).
I have no idea whether the grand vision of a PRT grid could ever pencil out. However it seems to me that a limited set of hill-hopping routes (primarily East-West) would very likely meet enough demand to justify themselves. They do not need the “network effect”: even one line would provide a valuable service. Even so, this sounds like a major investment in unproven technology. What we need first is a pilot project, a technology demonstrator. Such a pilot would most likely be a temporary installation, a learning experience.
How could this work? I have my eye on Union Street from Alaskan Way up to 1st Ave with a middle stop at Western/Post Alley. It’s a really short run, currently impassable by bike, in a busy neighborhood. It supports three stops, so that the PRT feature (bypassing unused stops) can be demonstrated. How could it be funded? I don’t claim to have any business sense, but one idea is that the initial demonstrator be a proprietary system installed by one of the bikeshare companies. Ride the PRT only on a Limebike, for example. Let the wild-eyed venture capitalists behind the new bikeshare companies take the risk. If it turns out to be technically sound, a public-access system can be built on the same principles, and deployed around the city in appropriate places.
Currently, Route 49 runs via Pine between Broadway and Downtown. I feel like this would be a bit redundant to the future Route 2 on Pine, but then I also think Route 2 would not have enough capacity to carry all the riders between Seattle Central College and Downtown. Moving Route 49 to Madison would be nice, but that would duplicate RapidRide G. Metro has a plan to merge Routes 49 and 36 and run the combined route through First Hill. However, this has received much criticism because many 36 riders ride to International District, and this combined route would break that one-seat ride.
Merge with First Hill Streetcar
The First Hill Streetcar would take over Route 49 north of Pine St. One problem with this is that the First Hill Streetcar is ridiculously slow, and having it take over the 49 route would not be so desirable. A solution is dedicated transit lanes, but 10th Ave is a bit narrow for that.
Replace First Hill Streetcar
Route 49 would replace the First Hill Streetcar entirely, running via Broadway, Boren, and Jackson. One problem with this is that so much money was spent on the First Hill Streetcar, and now the track exists, so it does not make too much sense to get rid of it.
Route 49 would run via Broadway, Seneca, 9th Ave, 8th Ave, and Yesler to Pioneer Square. Route 60 would move to 14th/15th. This would relieve some congestion on Route 3 between Harborview and Pioneer Square. This would also make use of some existing trolley wire on Seneca and 9th.
Route 49 would run via John, 15th, Pine, 14th, and Yesler to Pioneer Square. This would extend the Yesler service to 14th if Route 27 is reduced to peak hours (refer to my Central District restructure for more information). However, this would require placing new trolley wire along 14th and 15th. It would also mean that 49 riders lose their one-seat ride to SCC, but then they gain a one-seat ride to Group Health.
This is similar to the 14th/15th/Yesler proposal, except the bus will run via Jackson instead of Yesler, and terminate at International District Station. This would connect people along the 14th/15th corridor to the International District.
Route 49 would run like Route 43 between CHS and Westlake. This would allow Route 10 to move back to Pine between Bellevue and 15th to supplement Route 2, but then riders along 15th Ave would lose their one-seat ride to CHS, and 49 riders would lose their one-seat ride to SCC without gaining any new one-seat rides.
Hello STB readers. In my last post I mentioned that I would start a Chicago Transit Blog. I created the site a while back, but only now have I started posting on it. My first post was about the controversial Route 11 in Chicago. It is a widely discussed topic nowadays, so I thought it would be a good way to start out. Please spread the word about this blog. Thank you.
Seattle is planning to expand the streetcar system in a project called the City Center Connector, or CCC. Like all of our streetcar projects, there are bold promises of very high ridership. Not only are the ridership claims likely to fall short (as they have before) but we would get a much higher level of service, and higher ridership, if we put the money into improving the bus system. We should follow the lead of other cities, like Providence, Rhode Island, and switch to making bus improvements.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Streetcars
Every transit mode has its advantages and disadvantages. Streetcars are no different. Unfortunately, our streetcars have all the disadvantages, but none of the advantages of other streetcars.
Jarrett Walker did an excellent job of summarizing the two advantages of streetcars:
1) They can leverage existing railways.
2) Streetcars often have a lot of capacity.
Unfortunately, neither applies in Seattle. The streetcars won’t run on existing tracks (we will instead lay new rail). Thus it will cost significantly more to enable streetcar running instead of buses.
Nor are the streetcars significantly bigger than our buses. Our articulated buses are very large, and our streetcars are very small. Even if we needed the extra capacity of a train along this route (which is doubtful) these streetcars can’t offer it. Our streetcars offer no advantages over our buses.
1) Expense. This streetcar line is expensive to build and operate. The small, 1.2 mile expansion will cost $177 million, or more than the entire budget for the Move Seattle RapidRide+ projects (which are listed as “Corridor Mobility Improvements” in the proposal). Operating this streetcar costs $242 an hour, while operating a bus costs $163 an hour.
2) Inflexible routing. It is pretty common and pretty cheap to change a bus route (several changes were made just last month). But making even a minor change to a streetcar line is extremely expensive. For the Roosevelt HCT project, they have budgeted $7 million just to move a streetcar stop a couple blocks.
Since it is expensive to change a streetcars routing, it doesn’t happen. We will continue to endure the mistakes that have lead to slow running, inconsistent headways and low overall ridership.
3) Limited routing. A bus route may run on a busway or bus lanes for its entire route, but it doesn’t have to. It is common for a bus to serve a neighborhood with regular service, then run congestion free where it matters most (downtown). You can’t do that with a streetcar. We see this with the current plans. The streetcars will travel a very short distance, and stop well before a bus would stop. In contrast, the 40 and 70 will be turned into RapidRide bus routes, and they will not only connect South Lake Union with downtown, but connect to other very popular areas.
4) They are a hazard to bicycles. Even with our very short streetcar lines, we have seen several accidents, at least one of which was fatal. We are not alone. All streetcars are a hazard, and different cities mitigate the hazard in different ways. This isn’t just a matter of education, either. Toronto has had streetcars for generations, yet they still has plenty of accidents. Researchers found that 32% of injured cyclists had crashes that directly involved tracks. According to UBC researcher Kay Teschke, a three-fold increased risk of injury was observed when cycling on routes with streetcar or train tracks.
Work can be done to make the streetcars safer but that is often expensive and difficult. You need to both isolate the bike paths and provide for 90 degree crossings. These are common in Amsterdam, but rare in North America.
5) Since they are a hazard to bicycles, a streetcar routing is often less than optimal. It is unlikely that we will be able to produce a relatively safe system, such as the one in Amsterdam. We have trouble converting a general purpose or parking lane into a transit lane so it is unrealistic to think we will also set aside a lane as a buffer for bikes as well (as in this photo). But the routing will have to deal with the fact that surface rail is a hazard to bike riders. In this article, the author points out the hazards that the proposed streetcar routing would create. This sort of criticism is valid, and will likely result in a different routing. Thus the ideal route is replaced by something worse, and only because this is a streetcar, not a bus.
6) Streetcars can’t avoid obstacles. This means that an accident, a parked car or just a bit of debris in the roadway can bring a streetcar to a complete stop. Construction is also a problem. It is common in this booming city to have one lane blocked off, and a flagger move traffic to the other lane. But a streetcar can’t do that. So either the streetcar is shut down for a while, or special work has to be done to accommodate it.
Much has been made of the fact that for part of this route, the streetcars will have their own lane. This is great, and should greatly improve average speeds along part of the route. But for much of the way, there will still be congestion, and a streetcar (unlike a bus) has a tough time avoiding it. But even for the parts of this route that include a transit lane, there are disadvantages for a streetcar. The pathway may be clear most of the time, but if someone sticks out even an inch into the transit lane, the streetcar has to wait. A bus would simply slide over to the general purpose lane, and be on its way. But a streetcar, and all its passengers, will be stuck.
The good news is that there is an alternative, and Providence has already provided it. We simply take the street improvements we would have given to the streetcar, and give it to buses. That would be a better value, whether the bus routes that take advantage of it are BRT or just regular buses. For far less money, we can provide a much better transit system.
Please contact your city council representative and let them know that you want to see the streetcar money be put into bus lanes, and other bus improvements.
An Introductory Scenario
It’s 2037! You’re coming in from getting on Link at SeaTac (or Tacoma or along MLK) and are headed to Capitol Hill, UW, North Seattle, Shoreline or Snohomish County. You have luggage. How will Link get you there? Unlike today, you will have to change Link trains. ST proposes having the Green line be the line for SeaTac (as well as SE Seattle, South King County and Tacoma), while the Red line will connect West Seattle with UW and Snohomish County.
Then the next obvious decision you have is this: Where will you change trains? Will you have to go up and down escalators (or worse yet, elevators)?
You’ll have some choices to make. As current plans show, you will be able to transfer at three or four stations – Westlake, International District-Chinatown, Stadium and SODO. Which station is best?
The Initial SODO Station Transfer Design
Early ST documents shown here (https://www.scribd.com/document/352039517/ST3-WS-Representational-Alignment) suggest that the SODO Red line (West Seattle Link) station will be separate from the original Link station. Sound Transit proposes a center platform for the Red line, but the only place that a rider can go from the new platform is to return in the opposite direction on the Red line.
Designing the station this way will mean that anyone transferring between the two lines much change elevation to get to the other line’s platform. No level, cross-platform transfers will be available.
SODO Station as the Best Transfer Station Location
With multiple Link lines, how ST designs the tens of thousands of daily transfers is fundamental to its user friendliness. As noted in the above scenario, there will be three or four stations to transfer between train lines. Of these four stations, two (Westlake and International District-Chinatown) will be completely underground or below the street, so that designing for transfers is extremely costly and difficult because it involves tunneling. At the possible Stadium Station transfer point, the two lines will be close to overpasses and the elevated East Link tracks, so that designing tracks for cross-platform transfers here is also potentially complicated and costly; in fact, current concepts appear to have one of the lines skipping this station altogether! That leaves SODO as clearly the easiest and least expensive station in which to design for this transfer between these two lines.
Prioritizing Transfers at SODO Station
The current plans propose that any transfer between the two lines would always require exiting a platform and going up or down to a new platform level. Having lived in places with cross-platform transfers, I can tell you from personal experience that simply walking across a center platform in a few seconds from one train to the other (no elevation change) is by far the best way to transfer – especially with luggage or a stroller or a bicycle or a wheelchair! It’s also much easier and attractive than even having two train lines on the same track, because you have to get off one train and wait for the other one to pull in.
In fact, many systems take it one step further, scheduling timed train-train transfers (especially at off-peak hours) so that the time penalty for changing trains is fairly minimal. MacArthur Station works in this way for BART, for example.
Two Alternative Configuration Options
To do this, Sound Transit would need to reconfigure how the planned platforms are built. There are a few different options to accomplish this.
- The new center, elevated platform could be designed to serve one direction (such as southbound) of both train lines. The current surface platforms could then serve both lines headed in the other direction. (Perhaps the current surface line could be redesigned to have a center platform by shifting one of the tracks in a later phase — noting that having multiple tracks available would make construction phasing easier). That would mean that only people transferring between West Seattle and the southern portions of the Green Line would have to change a level, and everyone else could have a train at the same level.
- The entire station could be elevated above the street with two center platforms serving four tracks – inside tracks for one branch (like the Green line) and outside tracks for the other (like the Red Line). With that arrangement, transfers between the two lines would also be quite easy. Of course, transferring between West Seattle to the southern portions of the Green line would require two level changes in this configuration.
A comment on East Link trains: Obviously this station doesn’t allow for transfers to East Link; those riders would have to change trains in Downtown Seattle. However, having a lower frequency of trains to West Seattle at SODO Station (compared to the combination of Red and Blue line trains further north) would actually make it more operationally feasible to have a timed-transfer at this station. It also would allow for the station design at International District-Chinatown to prioritize connecting east and south direction train transfers in that design. For example, the new southbound Green line platform at International District/Chinatown could be built just east of the current northbound Red/Blue line platform at this station so that riders heading to SeaTac from Bellevue would have a same-level transfer.
A final point is that ST will need to turn around trains to and from West Seattle in SODO for several years until the Downtown tunnel opens. During that interim period, a cross-platform transfer could significantly reduce the transfer hassle for riders. Imagine if every West Seattle shuttle train rider had a longer-distance Link train to board waiting at the same platform for them (and vice versa)!
Why We Must Act Now
Sound Transit is now initiating studies on how operations will work after the opening of the West Seattle segment (2030 in ST3 materials), and in the new configuration (2035 in ST3 materials). ST hasn’t yet presented about on how many people will transfer between the two lines. I think it’s worthy to transit advocates to get Sound Transit to rethink the initial station track plan at SODO, and instead prioritize a Red/Green line cross-platform design objective into the design. If the current SODO station plans get built and this is ignored, we will be dooming thousands of riders each day for decades to changing levels to continue their light rail trips. Let’s get Sound Transit to design an easy transfer now to prevent this hassle or an expensive fix later!
I recently made a side trip from San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties to catch a ride on a new Nippon Sharyo DMU SMART train connecting the San Rafael Transit Center with Santa Rosa. The SMART trains run on a shared freight and passenger corridor so the passenger vehicles have to meet the most stringent FRA crashworthiness standards. If this operation is a success, it could lead to more short line commuter passenger trains or even some longer routes operated by Amtrak. Locally, the Nippon Sharyo rail cars might make a Seattle to Pasco via Stampede Pass operation more feasible. The SMART trainsets consist of 2 coupled DMUs in a push-pull arrangement. Each car has 79 seats and one car has a restroom while the other car offers a staffed snack bar. The cars were quite comfortable, acceleration was smooth and there didn’t seem to be any problems with the mechanical features of the cars. There are plenty of tables available in each car for working commuters, although at one point the onboard WiFi had to be reset.
Santa Rosa to San Rafael is just the first phase of the SMART project. Construction has recently begun on a 2.2 mile southern extension to the Larkspur Ferry Dock which will allow direct train-to-boat connections to the Ferry Terminal Building on the San Francisco waterfront. Having that connection should boost ridership tremendously. Until the Larkspur extension is completed any trip to SF will require a bus transfer at the San Rafael Transit Center. For anyone interested in making a day trip to see SMART from SF, Golden Gate Transit connects the Transbay Terminal to San Rafael via Van Ness, Lombard and the Golden Gate Bridge (Route 101 is fastest, Routes 30 and 70 are more local and slower). If you are already familiar with GGT’s old, dilapidated and uncomfortable buses and would prefer another option there currently is a local bus connection between the Larkspur Ferry dock and the San Rafael TC (route 228) that is well-timed for a northbound trip to San Rafael but not so good for a southbound trip.
There is one detail about SMART that is important to note for anyone planning to connect to the train from the Sonoma County Airport. The current SMART timetable and map lists “Sonoma County Airport” as the northern terminal for the train but that SMART station is over 1 mile from the Sonoma County Airport terminal. You will need to use a taxi or rideshare to make the connection if you have heavy or bulky luggage because parts of the walking path lack sidewalks and there are no wayfinding signs from the airport to the station. If you arrive with light luggage and feel like stretching your legs after the flight, just exit the terminal, turn right at the main road and walk until you see the SMART O & M facility. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk through a transitioning farmlands to office parks landscape. On my trip I saw a wild turkey strutting across a freshly paved parking lot.
A Bus Connection to Point Lobos!
If you’re visiting the south side of the Bay Area, I also discovered a transit connection between Monterey and Pt. Lobos State Reserve. The Point Lobos State Marine Reserve is one of my favorite places to relax and enjoy nature when I’m in the Bay Area and there is a weekend-only bus from Monterey to Pt. Lobos. Monterey-Salinas Transit Route 22 would allow about 5 hours of relaxation in the park. During the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day the Route 22 schedule expands to offer 3 daily connections to Pt. Lobos. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy connection between Monterey and San Francisco that would allow for day trips via public transit. There is a bus from San Jose/Diridon Station but that bus leaves too late to connect to the Pt. Lobos bus.
Hello STB readers. I realized that I have been posting on Page 2 for a couple months now, but I have never formally introduced myself to the STB community, so in this post I will talk a bit about myself. As some of you may have noticed, I usually post something every Thursday. This will be my last regular post on STB, and I will explain why in this post.
I first moved to Seattle in 2002 when I was really little (I’m 16 now). For many years my family did not have a car, so we depended on public transportation a lot. Because of that, I pretty much memorized the entire bus system in Seattle, at least within the city limits. I also payed a lot of attention to the type of bus I was on. I really liked the Breda trolleys because they gave a kind of “retro” feel that none of the other buses could give (except the MAN trolleys, but those were gone by 2007). I also liked the 30ft Gillig buses because those were extremely rare within the city limits. If there was anything I hated about the bus system then, it was the through-route system and the Ride Free Area, the latter of which is gone now. Though it may have been nice to not have to pay to take a bus within Downtown, it was awful to sometimes have to pay as I left the bus, especially because there were many people paying at the same time while a whole bunch of people were getting on the bus. I still hate the through-route system, though I understand Metro uses it to save service hours and layover space.
During my 10 years in Seattle I had always lived in Wallingford. At first I lived in an apartment between Stone Way and Aurora (which I can’t even remember), but later on I moved to a house east of Stone Way. The buses I took the most were the 16, 26, 30/31, 44, 48, 49, 70, 71/72/73, 15, and 8. When Link opened I took it to places in Southeast Seattle such as Kubota Gardens.
I have always been a big fan of nature. My favorite parks in Seattle were Carkeek Park and Kubota Gardens. I do not like crowded places, so I never really spent much time in Downtown unless I needed to. My favorite neighborhoods in Seattle are Wallingford, Fremont, and Capitol Hill because they have a lot of trees. My favorite part of the entire city is the path in Fremont along the canal. I used to ride my bike there a lot. I spent a lot of time in Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Capitol Hill, and U District.
As a southeast asian, I really like all kinds of asian food. This meant I had to go to the International District to buy ingredients. Though it may have been easy to get from Wallingford to the ID, it was more difficult to get back home due to the infrequent buses going to Wallingford. In fact, I found it more convenient to take the 71/72/73 expresses and transfer to the 30/31 in U District rather than to take the 7/14/36 and wait for the 16 or 26 on 3rd Ave. Now it should be easier with the frequent 62.
I moved to Chicago in 2012 (right before RapidRide C and D opened), and I soon memorized the bus system there too. I kind of forgot about the Seattle system. I live in Hyde Park, so I usually take the Metra train to Downtown Chicago. I find it convenient, but the train runs way too infrequently (hourly). I would say that Chicago has the most grid-like bus system I have ever seen, and I have found it very convenient. At some point I started writing a document full of suggestions on how to improve the Chicago public transportation system. I never really shared it with anyone other than a couple friends, but I still edit it nowadays. If you guys want me to post my Chicago suggestions on Page 2, tell me so in the comments.
In 2016 I visited Seattle. I was shocked by how much the bus system had changed. I looked online and noticed that there were 3 major restructures during the 4 years I was gone: September 2012, September 2014, and March 2016. I stayed near the U District during that visit, and I noticed that the only route in North Seattle that did not change in terms of routing was the 44 (now I realize there are a couple routes really far north that haven’t changed, but I never really pay attention to those). As much as I miss some of the old routes, I think the transit system in Seattle has improved a lot since the time I was there. I also like the development in South Lake Union; it used to be a whole bunch of random warehouses, but now there are nice buildings in that area.
I then started writing an improvement suggestions document for Seattle. I started sharing my ideas on Page 2 in March 2017. Since then, I have also modified my document according to what people comment on my posts. I have not found anything similar to STB for Chicago, but if such a thing exists, please tell me.
I will probably take a break from posting on Page 2 now since I have basically written every single idea I had on my Seattle document, and now I want to start posting a bit about Chicago. I might come back every now and then with a post. If there is no such thing as a Chicago Transit Blog, please give me advice on how I can start one.
Thirty years ago Carol and I flew to Delhi, landing by the first light of a November morning. As we waited for the bus into the city, we shivered from the unexpected cold — young New Yorkers with backpacks… The bus eventually came and drove us through Delhi’s outskirts by the blue light. The air was misty and smokey from the dung fires people were just beginning to light, and it was hard interpret the bleak surroundings that flitted by: a wall… some machinery… a few people standing around in the gloaming.
But as we got to the center of the great city, the sun came up, and the wide thoroughfares came alive as rivers of humanity… and, oh my, so many ways to get around: buses festooned with marigolds and icons, ox and donkey carts, dusty trucks, and even elephants plodded along; cars and taxies honked and claimed whatever space would fit them; and a myriad of rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians weaved in and out around the sacred cows and beggars. There were no lanes, yet everyone seemed to have a place in the cooperative anarchy of the Delhi streets. And when more traffic was heading east than west, then east bound traffic simply bulged out, taking up 70 percent of the right of way — so if you looked up the road you would see the median line snaking ahead. These roads were cacophonous, dazzling with color, dizzy with movement, both crazy and surprisingly functional… Traffic was slow, but it moved and pulsed and swayed. And when the late afternoon the heat finally came and the traffic felt less urgent, these streets, bathed in golden light, were beautiful…
I don’t want to over-romanticize this. The motor rickshaws spewed wretched smoke. The open sewers stank horribly, there were injuries and fatalities, bicycle rickshaw drivers had unbelievably strenuous lives, and Delhi commuters cursed the traffic.
But there is not, and never has been, a perfect system for traffic — from ancient Rome to modern New York, people have cursed it. Traffic is everywhere disliked and no where the same. Traffic is a cultural artifact, and while our own traffic is bad, that of other cities is even worse. Delhi’s traffic is about as unlike our own as possible, and many here the US would find it horrifying. Yet, I am convinced that it has somethings to teach us.
One clear lesson: the Delhi streets were democratic. They allowed any mode of transport, and if all you could afford was a rusty old bike, you had a place on the street. What a contrast to Seattle, where in many parts of town the street design and traffic culture creates a virtual monopoly for cars, and even sidewalks are missing and biking is treacherous. For most Seattleites owning a car is a necessity, and not a cheap one. According to the City of Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook, “on average, owning a car in King County adds about $12,500 a year to the household budget.”
A second lesson of the Delhi streets concerns speed — the traffic I saw moved at much slower speeds than traffic in the US. Yes, the sheer density slowed things down. But there was also so much to see that people slowed down just to appreciate the spectacle, so even when the traffic did not clog the streets people moved slowly. The sacred cows were particularly effective; as revered creatures, everyone slowed for them.
Here in the US we have a speeding problem. A recent National Transportation Safety Board report found that speed-related death is comparable to that attributed to alcohol-impaired driving, and kills about 10,000 people per year. See report here. The deadliness of speed starts to increase exponentially above 30 miles per hour. To slow down vehicles, US engineers use “trafffic calming” techniques such as speed bumps, road diets, and driver feedback signs. These techniques are only partly successful, people tend to speed up between bumps, for instance, and the Rainier road diet, while somewhat successful, has not managed to stop cars from speeding.
A more subtle and intriguing approach, called “psychological traffic calming”, is emerging, especially in Europe, and it may even be more effective than the traditional calming methods — by installing intriguing art work, or cafe seating by the edge of the road, drivers will slow down out of curiosity or respect. The streets of New Delhi had this system years ago, sacred cows and festooned buses have long functioned as mental speed bumps that stimulate the mind without jolting your suspension.
A third lesson from the streets of Delhi concerns the safety benefit of steering though chaos… I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me. In a street environment of no lanes, few signs, and a lot very diverse traffic, there are many of what traffic engineers call “conflicts,” that is moments when two people (drivers, bikers, pedestrians) want to get in the same space at the same time. “In conventional traffic engineering thought, the more conflict, the less safe the system. But again, Delhi challenges preconceptions. In a study of various locations around Delhi,… researchers found that the site that had a low conflict rate tended to have high fatality rate, and vice versa. In other words the seeming chaos functioned as a kind of safety device.” (from: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, by Tom Vanderbilt… I read this book as I was writing this essay, and was amazed to find that he writes about Delhi traffic too!) In a way this safety benefit is understandable, all that chaos makes us alert for the unexpected and aware that we are steering a deadly weapon. It does not make driving pleasant, especially to a driver new to this environment, but it makes it safer.
Here in the US our street system is designed to minimize the number of conflicts; our lanes tell us exactly where to be, the signs tell us how fast we can go, what to look out for, and when to stop. If drivers follow the system they can disengage some, talk on the phone, sing and dance with the radio, or just space out and discover, several minutes later, that they have no memory of the last several miles of driving. Driving in the US is designed to be as conflict free as possible which may be why “distracted driving” is epidemic, and why our streets are so deadly. No matter how much engineers try to design conflicts out of the road system, they cannot eliminate them — the kid will dart out from behind the bus, the bicyclist will serve to avoid a pothole—and the driver, at a deadly speed and lulled into a false confidence, suddenly cannot brake fast enough. The problem of traffic safety is not only a problem of engineering roads for safety, it is also a problem of people… of people who drive too fast because they feel safe.
So, what to do with all these lessons from the streets of Delhi? I’m not actually suggesting we install a bunch of sacred cows, do away with the lanes, and call it good… though it would make for an amusing morning commute…
But, as Seattle grows, and gets denser, as more people take to the roads, as we improve transit and pedestrian and bicycle routes; it makes sense to think about how to accommodate this new democracy in our streets that have been so monopolized by cars. And an essential part of that is to a need to slow the cars. So, what would be good mental speed bumps for Seattle drivers? Should SDOT hire more public artists? And how can we help Seattle drivers adapt to more chaotic systems? Several people have called for banning cars from Pike Place Market, yet I think we need more places like Pike Place market where car drivers learn, up close and personal, how to live with pedestrians.
Some things are certainties — both the infrastructure of Seattle roads and the culture of Seattle traffic are evolving, and in fact seem headed rapid change. Now is the chance to shape it.
The RapidRide system is a nice addition to the bus system in Seattle, but right now I feel that there isn’t enough difference between RapidRide and regular buses other than WiFi, some dedicated bus lanes, and wider-spaced stops. In fact, some regular routes are more frequent than RapidRide routes. The Madison BRT (RapidRide G) is supposed to have more BRT-like features, so I think the whole RapidRide system should be like that. Here is a map of my proposed RapidRide system (uncheck the Link box) https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nBYvhYMteQDSepINtLnV9nfzVlA&usp=sharing
Dedicated stops/stations (stations can be shared between RapidRide lines, but not with regular buses)
Off-board payment at all stations
Dedicated bus lanes on most sections, only a few sections in mixed traffic
Coordination with street lights
Weekday Midday: 10
Weekend Midday: 12
Early Morning/Late Evening (4-6 AM and 10PM-12AM): 15-20
Night (12AM to 4AM): 45-60
G Line will be extended to Madison Park to replace Route 11.
D Line will be extended to Lake City via Holman Rd and Northgate Way. Route 40 will terminate at Carkeek Park.
E Line will have a new station at 38th/Aurora to serve Fremont, even though it is somewhat of a walking distance.
Route 65 will become a RapidRide K Line, going between Brooklyn Station and Lake City.
The Sound Transit 522 BRT will be extended west to Broadview to provide crosstown service on 145th St.
There should be some kind of rapid transit going between Seattle Center, SLU, Capitol Hill, and Madison Valley, similar to the east-west portion of Route 8. However, the city is still rearranging the streets in SLU, so they should get that done before putting such a RapidRide line into service.
In this post, canceled means that the route will not become a RapidRide route. I only mention the routes that appear in the 2025 plan.
Rainier: The Rainier plan basically turns the 7 into a RapidRide. I think the 7 runs close enough to SeaTac Link, so it shouldn’t be a RapidRide. In Rainier Valley there should be Link feeders instead.
40: Ballard already has the D Line, so there shouldn’t be a parallel route. I would just extend the D Line to Northgate and truncate Route 40 at Carkeek Park. If there is a Ballard to Fremont rapid transit (BRT, Streetcar, Link), it should go to Wallingford and U District instead of SLU and Downtown. The 44 RR serves this in a way, but it runs too far from the center of Fremont. That is why I think a Ballard-UW Link line would be good. If there should be a Fremont to Downtown RR, it should also go through Queen Anne (possibly an extension of Route 13 to Fremont).
372: If there should be a RapidRide line in Northeast Seattle, I think 35th Ave NE would be a better corridor for it. That is why I suggested turning Route 65 into a RapidRide line. Also, Sound Transit already plans a 522 BRT, so the 372 should just be a local shadow.
Roosevelt: The portion of Roosevelt RR between Northgate and U District is redundant to Northgate Link, so there should just be a local shadow rather than a RapidRide line. However, I think a RapidRide along Eastlake could make sense. It should be called Eastlake RapidRide, not Roosevelt RapidRide.
C Line: When West Seattle Link opens, the C Line will have much less purpose. In fact, people might even switch to the H (Delridge) Line when it opens. I think when West Seattle Link opens, the C Line should run to Alki Point north of Alaska Junction.
D Line: Ballard residents will probably switch to Ballard Link when it opens. I would assume that Ballard Link will be extended further north to Crown Hill after the first phase is opened. I think that when the first phase of Ballard Link opens, D Line should be truncated south of Market, and a local bus will run along 15th Ave W between Market and Downtown.
Seattle Subway released a new vision map a few weeks ago outlining proposed LRT alignments throughout the greater Seattle area. There were a handful of decisions I thought didn’t make sense – alongside additional lines and options I mulled over. This *train* of thought led to designing an alternative Greater Seattle LRT Network.
- This was just as much an alignment/routing project as it was a learning experience in building an effective transit diagram. It’s my first time attempting something like this and I made it from scratch, so design feedback is welcome and appreciated.
- This map is expansive, I have no responsibilities to convince or affect policy – therefore some decisions might not acknowledge political/economic/geographic realities. If it were to be built, the timeline would probably be around the next 70 years.
- I have no legitimacy as a transit planner and I definitely don’t pretend to know more than Seattle Sub/Sound Transit. All research is 100% armchair.
Most of this map should look familiar, here are some notable changes:
A smarter 8 Metro (ORANGE LINE): A connection to the Cap Hill makes this line much more effective and resolves one of the most inexplicable decisions on Seattle Subways map. Additional stations on Union and Fairview will increase access to bus corridors and growing dense neighborhoods. The connection in Tacoma has also been extended, traveling further south from the Tacoma Mall to Lakewood.
Bellevue Loop (BLUE LINE): Seattle Subway claims a floating tunnel from Magnuson Park to Kirkland would be a similar price as outfitting 520 for LRT. This is non-intuitive, but if built continuing from Kirkland across to Redmond (vs down to Bellevue) would help justify this northern alignment. A 520 alternative might look something like this.
Issaquah Line (PINK LINE): Instead of turning towards UW, the Pink line travels north to Bothell. Intersecting the Blue line it builds an Eastside grid – connecting Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond. (Look how far out of your way you would need to travel to move from Redmond to UW on Seattle Subways map). The Pink line would continue from Bothell to Lake Forest and turn NW, following 104 to Edmonds and intersecting the Purple and Red lines.
A 99 Metro (PURPLE LINE): A line down Aurora seems a no-brainer, it’s straight and flat, has huge density growth potential, and currently is serviced by the busiest bus line in King County. Reaching Fremont, UQA, Belltown, both downtown tunnels, and First Hill this line completes and connects almost all Seattle’s downtown destinations with one line. Especially the two most notable misses from any Seattle Subway plans, Belltown and First Hill. The Urbanist has written a great piece on the idea’s merits (and challenges) here. As a bonus, it also maintains the subversive agenda of each and every Dick’s Drive-In being served by rail.
Kentplete Lake Loop (LIGHT BLUE LINE): This line fulfills the aesthetic and superficial purpose of a complete LRT loop around Lake Washington. It also provides a connection to Kent’s Sounder stop and higher density eastern side. The present demand certainly doesn’t merit its construction, but with Renton and Kent’s growth this might pencil out eventually.
Both the Seattle Streetcar and Tacoma ‘Streetcar’ have been expanded. In Seattle, the Center City connector continues up first to LQA, while in Tacoma an expansion in the vein of this map has been included. Both expansions are obviously optimistic due to the present systems underperforming.
There were two additional lines I considered but not included. The first would be a Delridge spur in West Seattle. The second would be another downtown tunnel, running from the Mt. Baker Station up Rainier to Judkins, then to Little Saigon, Yesler/Harborview, and the First Hill station. It would cross I5 to a Denny Triangle station (maybe a Convention Center station?), connect to SLU, and then proceed up Eastlake to UW. Here is a potential alignment.
A while back I posted a Route 32 restructure having it go through central Queen Anne instead of Interbay because I felt the Interbay portion duplicated the D Line too much. However, people wanted it to go until at least 15th/Dravus so that it keeps the 15-minute frequency with Route 31 between U District and 15th. I came up with a couple other alternatives below. Here is a map of the alternatives: https://drive.google.com/open?id=10P2xFaf-hcsKM0WP2eSHr20uZ20&usp=sharing
South of Dravus, Route 32 will run like Route 1. A drawback of this is that Route 1 is a trolley route, and it would be a waste of trolley wire if a diesel route is operated full time on roads with trolley wire.
28th Ave W
West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 22nd, Gilman, Govt. Way, and 28th Ave W to Downtown Magnolia.
34th Ave W
West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 22nd, Gilman, Govt. Way, and 34th Ave W to Downtown Magnolia.
West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 28th, Tilden, 30th, and Emerson to Discovery Park.
Sound Transit plans to expand the Link system with new lines to Ballard and West Seattle and extensions to existing lines. I like many of these ideas, but I also have ideas for other lines, as well as some changes to the already planned lines. I will divide this post into different lines. Here is a map of my proposed Link system: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nBYvhYMteQDSepINtLnV9nfzVlA&usp=sharing
West Seattle Line
The West Seattle Line will run south of Downtown with the following stations:
Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal
Burien TC (Maybe, but there should probably also be some infill stations)
Northwest (Ballard) Line
The Northwest Line will run north of Downtown with the following stations:
South Lake Union
NW 65th St
Crown Hill (NW 85th St/15th Ave NW)
I think there should be a line running to Fremont. I would prefer this over a 40 RapidRide. In fact, I wish the Ballard line would go through Fremont, but ST3 already has the Ballard line going through Interbay.
The Fremont Line will run north of Downtown with the following stations:
South Lake Union
Queen Anne (if it’s physically possible)
The Northeast Line is the line that currently goes to University of Washington and will be later extended to Northgate and Lynnwood.
The East Line is the line that will go to Bellevue, Overlake, and Redmond. I like the plan Sound Transit has.
I think the Tacoma extension would make sense, though if it goes north of Downtown Seattle, it would result in a line about 40 miles long. That wouldn’t be too bad though. It could be through-routed with my Fremont Line.
A while back there was a post by Joseph Story on a possible naming scheme for the Link system. I find his ideas pretty interesting, so you guys should read his post.
In my map, I have color-coded the lines. I avoided green and blue because those are being used for the Swift BRT. However, I think there should be some other kind of naming system for Link, maybe by direction, such as Northeast-Southwest.
Greetings Northwestern friends from Southern California. I’m a transit planner based in Los Angeles, but a longtime follower of Seattle planning issues and reader of this blog. I’m writing today to share an animated map I made showing the planned phases of Link implementation.
Sound Transit could never make this map, obviously, because it does not show Tacoma Link. But I can.
Higher-res versions of the full buildout map are available here: http://calurbanist.com/seattle-future-light-rail/
I feel like there are too many zigzagging bus routes in North Seattle, the best example being the 345. I think there should be more of a grid system in North Seattle.
Proposal (North Seattle)
Routes to be deleted: 41, 77, 345, 347, 348
Routes heavily modified: 73
Routes 40 and D Line will swap routings north of NW 85th St. This means that Route 40 will terminate at Carkeek Park, while D Line runs via Northgate Way. The D Line will be extended to Lake City, still doing the deviation to NSCC and Northgate TC.
Instead of running to Northgate, Route 75 will run via 125th, Roosevelt, and 130th to 130th/Greenwood.
Route 65 will be extended west to 145th/Greenwood via N 145th St. Between 125th St and 145th St, it will run via 35th Ave NE and Lake City Way instead of 30th Ave NE.
Route 345 will be discontinued. Route 346 will run at 15-minute frequency, and it will through-route with Route 352 at Northgate TC.
Route 73 will be extended north to Mountlake Terrace TC via 15th Ave NE, NE 196th St, 19th Ave NE, and 56th Ave W. It will be renumbered 377, and it will run at 15-minute frequency. This is similar to Route 347, except more straight. Route 347 will be discontinued.
Alternative to above proposal: if people prefer connection to Northgate over a full 15th route, then Route 347 could be straightened like my proposed 377, and the current 73 can stay as it is now.
A new route will run like Route 348 between Richmond Beach and 5th Ave NE/NE 185th St, then take NE 185th St, 10th Ave NE, NE 180th St, 15th Ave NE, NE 175th St, and 5th Ave NE to Northgate TC. On weekdays it will deviate to 1st Ave NE between 130th St and 145th St to serve Lakeside School. This route will be numbered 352, and it will run at 15-minute frequency. It will through-route with Route 346 at Northgate TC.
Between 1st Ave NE and 5th Ave NE, Route 330 will deviate to NE 145th St to serve the Link station. Route 330 will also run at 30-minute frequency all 7 days a week.
Route 372 will be extended to Woodinville like Route 522, the way the original 372 ran before the March 2016 restructure. It will run on its full route all 7 days a week.
Routes 31 and 32 will run both directions on NE Pacific St and terminate at Husky Stadium. They will no longer through-route with Route 75. Route 75 will through-route with Route 45 instead. To accommodate this through-routing, Route 45 will deviate from University Way to Brooklyn Ave between 47th St and 45th St in order to serve the Brooklyn Station, and on 15th Ave between 45th St and Stevens Way.
Routes 65 and 67 will run in both directions on Stevens Way. They will also run via 45th St instead of Campus Pkwy.
At all times, Route 62 will run on both directions on NE 65th St. During nights and weekends, it will loop at Radford Dr.
Route 44 will run to Children’s Hospital instead of Husky Stadium.
D Line: https://goo.gl/maps/SUFGo25kM9P2
Every year the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge closes for the Blue Angels performance. As one of only four ways around Lake Washington, the closure hugely impacts the region’s transportation system. It is a safety zone mandated by the FAA to “keep the public and pilots safe and to minimize distractions.” The bridge closures take place midday on weekdays and weekends, and causes 1.5 mile backups, while affecting the two all-day routes over I-90.
These two routes–both Metro-operated Sound Transit routes 550 and 554–miss two stops: The Rainier flyer stops and Mercer Island Park & Ride. It is impossible to serve the Rainier flyer stops during the closure, as the stops can only be accessed from the bus-only express lanes in the center of I-90, and the next accessible exit is on the other side of the bridge that is closed. Luckily, routes 7 and 106 provide a frequent (though not as quick) connection from Downtown to the Rainier flyer stop.
According to data from Sound Transit’s 2017 Service Implementation Plan, Mercer Island passengers account for 10-11% of route 550’s average ridership and 4-7% of route 554’s average ridership. The SIP numbers suggest that about 60-85% of riders originating at Mercer Island are headed towards Seattle.
Neither Metro nor ST were able to provide me with stop-level data, but unofficial ridership numbers show that route 550’s weekday demand drops sharply after about 9:15 and doesn’t pick back up until mid-afternoon. Much of route 550’s demand on Mercer Island centers around parking availability at the 447 stall Park & Ride, so once the lot is full, ridership originating at that stop drops. Weekend ridership is across the board making it difficult to draw conclusions.
Almost two thirds of route 550’s Bellevue ridership uses the three stops in Bellevue’s downtown core; if ridership from the recently-closed South Bellevue Park & Ride is excluded that number jumps to almost 80%.
Despite the majority of the ridership not going to Mercer Island, Metro has designed their reroutes to prioritize Mercer Island ridership. After leaving the tunnel, the route heads over SR-520 (the only logical choice) and sails past Bellevue in order to reach a connection in southern Bellevue to connect to a temporary Metro shuttle. From there it continues on its normal route, albeit on a much delayed schedule. In 2016 and 2017 I inadvertently timed it just right so that I was able to catch a rerouted trip. The reroutes were slightly different each year.
2016’s reroute was slightly more sensible, but due to the closure of the South Bellevue Park & Ride for East Link construction this was no longer possible in 2017. In 2016, the route used the Bellevue Way ramp from SR-520 and ran without stops between SR-520 and South Bellevue Park & Ride. At the Park & Ride, the bus was able to make a U-turn through the park & ride and continue to/from its normal route. Despite vocal objections from riders, the operator didn’t make any stops in Bellevue while continuing to/from 520.
In 2017, the same route wasn’t possible and the route was extended even further to Eastgate Park & Ride to connect to the Mercer Island shuttle. From Eastgate, the route continued to/from Bellevue Way via I-90 to its regular route.
I asked Metro why stops couldn’t have been made in reverse order, and King County’s Scott Gutierrez explains:
The ST 550 reroute also was seen as the most efficient and least confusing for customers and operators. For customers, this reroute essentially maintained the usual sequence in terms of stops (other than the I-90 stops). Making the Bellevue stops in reverse order would have been very challenging to communicate to customers. For operators, this option allowed them to use an established layover location with access to comfort facilities.
The operator I spoke to mentioned that he didn’t have any access to the comfort station and was running his trip late as a result.
Having a chance to reflect on this, I’ll agree that running in reverse order isn’t the best solution. However, there is a solution that would allow operators adequate layover time, provide access to all regular stops outside Seattle, and prioritize the highest ridership routes.
Similar to Zach’s idea to permanently move route 550 to SR-520, the reroute could be changed to serve Bellevue immediately, with the Mercer Island shuttle connecting in Downtown Bellevue and serving Bellevue Way riders. The rerouted trip could end at the existing layover space next to the Bellevue Library or at the Bellevue Transit Center before looping back to the library. This means the operator of the 550 would likely have a much longer layover, as any delays from 520 would be more than offset by the truncation of the route. However, this means that the Mercer Island/Bellevue Way shuttle would have much higher platform hours. The connection in Bellevue could be made in a “bump and run& fashion–as both routes serve the same stop, and once passengers deboard from one route and board the second, each leaves, ensuring a seamless transfer for all.
There is no doubt that closing off any part of a route is going to cause delays, inconvenience riders, and cause confusion–even if no stops are missed. Despite costing more to implement, it prioritizes the locations where the most riders are headed.