SDOT and Metro have some big ideas for Route 44

Source: SDOT

Last election cycle, virtually every city council candidate knew enough about Seattle transit to say they supported “better east-west connections.” You don’t have to ride the bus very much to know that getting across town can be a slog. Promising to fix it turns out to be a popular idea.

At a series of open houses last week, SDOT, in partnership with King County Metro, previewed Level 1 concepts for one of the most important of the east-west routes in the city: the 44. The route, which runs from Ballard to the University District, had been initially proposed as RapidRide but then de-scoped to “multimodal improvements” when the Move Seattle Levy was reset.

While the RapidRide amenities and branding are nice to have, the most important things are the speed and mobility improvements. With these initial concepts – which are drafts for discussion purposes – SDOT is trying to get creative in making east-west transit faster.

Continue reading “SDOT and Metro have some big ideas for Route 44”

Kirkland’s RapidRide should connect to Redmond

Frequent Transit Network in Kirkland in 2024, after the North Eastside Restructure and I-405 BRT, but before RapidRide

In March 2020, Metro will implement a restructure of service in the North Eastside. Most attention will focus on the truncation of Metro 255 to connect with Link at UW station. Another key element of the improved Metro network is route 250. This new route connects downtown Bellevue to Kirkland and runs through to Redmond. It splices together the most productive parts of several current routes (234, 235, 248) for a more frequent connection serving three of the Eastside’s major downtown centers.

The route is likely to be successful. It is, however, a step away from the Long-Range Plan (LRP) Metro adopted in 2017. In developing the North Eastside restructure, Metro assessed that this routing has more value than the Rapid Ride routing assumed for 2025. Sometime this year, Metro will kick off planning this year for a 2025 RapidRide route in this market. As they do so, Metro should reflect the learning of the North Eastside process, adopting route 250 as the preferred option for service north of Bellevue, with Kirkland-Redmond service substituted for the less useful Kirkland-Totem Lake segment. Continue reading “Kirkland’s RapidRide should connect to Redmond”

Levy Spending is Slowly Ramping Up

Bike lanes on NE 65th St
Roosevelt Bus Lanes at 65th St (SDOT)

After a bumpy start, the Move Seattle levy is slowly starting to spend significant funds, SDOT staff told the Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

The meeting began with advocates from the MASS coalition giving testimony on the need for prioritizing buses in a time of climate crisis.  Committee Chair Mike O’Brien agreed, noting that if the city is going to ask people to ride transit, it ought to be reliable and convenient.

SDOT staff presented the quarterly oversight report, which includes a status update on dozens of levy-funded projects.  Spending has been lagging for several years now, due to a combination of factors, including an uncertain federal funding environment, difficulty hiring construction firms in this white-hot labor market, Mayor Durkan’s 2018 “reset,” and a surprisingly cold and snowy winter.  Indeed, money is being shoveled out the door even slower than SDOT had forecasted just six months ago:


Still, despite the snow and the Seattle Squeeze, this was the busiest Q1 to date in terms of project spending:

Staff were generally optimistic, pointing out that the Lander St. Overpass project is now $20M under its $130M budget.  On the other hand, contracting issues are causing challenges with the Northgate pedestrian bridge project (though the project as a whole hasn’t yet been delayed).

We’ll get more updates on the multimodal corridors, including RapidRide improvements, later this year.  Most corridor work will be in concert with Metro (e.g. RapidRidge G & H), though on Rainier Avenue multimodal updates will arrive in 2022, before RapidRide bows in 2024.

Finally, later this year SDOT also plans to identify a potential new location for the Mt. Baker transit center as part of the Accessible Mt. Baker project, which will be a welcome improvement.

Metro Starts Planning RapidRide I

King County Metro 180 at Burien TC
King County Metro 180 at Burien TC

Metro kicks off planning for RapidRide I this week with a presentation to the Renton City Council. The line (#1033 in the long-range plan) will be a hybrid of routes 169 and 180, connecting Auburn, Kent and Renton.  

Like other RapidRide lines, the route will travel on local arterials.  It will integrate with ST3’s 405 BRT project.  Metro estimates 6,000 daily riders, roughly in line with the Eastside’s RapidRide B. The agency will apply for federal funds to augment a substantial $120M capital investment. For perspective, that’s roughly the budget for RapidRide G, which is less than one fifth the length but projected to have at least double the ridership.

Metro appears determined to continue the letter scheme, even though “I” is so easily confused with “1” (although I guess it’s unlikely anyone will board an Auburn-Renton bus when they want to go between Downtown Seattle and Queen Anne).  LA Metro, by contrast, will reportedly skip over some letters for its rail lines to avoid similar confusion.  

Plans call for a much-needed re-evaluation of existing bus service in the area in conjunction with the new line.  Design and outreach will happen this year and next, and service will launch in 2023. 

Update 12:36pm: in the comments, a link from AlexKven to Brent’s 2017 argument for extending the 169 to Rainier Beach. I don’t think it’s essential that every RR line include a Link transfer, but if it can be done in a revenue-neutral way this makes sense.

RapidRide Update: Some Now, More Later

RapidRide E on 3rd Avenue Credit: SounderBruce

Several of Metro’s busiest routes are scheduled to be upgraded to RapidRide before 2024, while several others will get speed and reliability improvements but without the RapidRide branding, according to the agency’s latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

While RapidRide is a program of King County Metro, Seattle’s 2015 Move Seattle Levy promised “seven new RapidRide+ corridors” in the city, which were pitched as above and beyond current RapidRide in terms of dedicated right-of-way. In the face of budget pressures and an increasingly hostile federal funding environment, SDOT reassessed the levy earlier this year, SDOT saying that while it “can deliver investments on all seven RapidRide corridors…the cost to complete a level of investment that aligns with the higher mobility needs of our growing city and meets community expectations is greater than available funding.”

As Metro and the City work out what they can actually deliver and on what timeline, that level of investment is coming into focus.  Continue reading “RapidRide Update: Some Now, More Later”

PSRC assigns federal funds to Link and four BRT projects

Boarding Swift and RapidRide buses. Credit: Atomic Taco

On Thursday, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Transportation Policy Board (TPB) recommended that five transit projects receive additional Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) funding in 2021-22.

The projects were part of a larger disbursement of federal transportation funds, including highway funding, which must be approved in a meeting of the PSRC’s Executive Board on July 26. Area agencies submitted proposals for a competitive bid process earlier this year.

PSRC staff selected the five projects from that group of proposals, and created an additional list of projects, including Rainier RapidRide and Colman Dock, that could receive funding should additional federal funds become available.

Three of the five projects did not get as much funding as they initially requested. Four of the five projects are for BRT, and East Link also got a boost. According to PSRC spokesperson Rick Olson, that’s because the funding competition was remarkably popular. Bidding agencies worked together to make sure that funding dollars could be used to the furthest possible extent.

“The projects that got less funding than requested this round voluntarily took cuts in order to get more projects funded,” Olson says. “We had far more funding requested than was available.”

Link in Redmond

The segment of East Link between Microsoft and downtown Redmond gets $7 million towards the Microsoft and Redmond stations and the guideway between them. According to Sound Transit’s presentation to the PSRC on the project, the Redmond funds will also be applied towards a cycle track near the downtown Redmond station, a bike and pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek, and several trail connections.

Community Transit’s Swift Orange line

Continue reading “PSRC assigns federal funds to Link and four BRT projects”

Move Seattle’s Rapid Ride Corridor Planning Kicks Off

Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Last night the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) kicked off planning for the five additional RapidRide corridors promised in 2015’s Move Seattle levy. The Draft Seattle RapidRide Expansion Program Report rolls two projects already underway – Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Roosevelt High Capacity Transit (HCT) – into a single process that includes the next five corridors: Delridge (Route 120), Rainier (Route 7), Market/45th (Route 44), Fremont/Ballard/Northgate (Route 40), and 23rd Avenue (Route 48).

The seven corridors would come online in quick succession between 2019 and 2024, beginning with Madison BRT (now Rapid Ride G) in 2019 and Delridge (now Rapid Ride H) in 2020. Shortly after the opening of these seven corridors and East Link, SDOT will have met its “10/10” goal of having 72% of Seattle residents within a 10-minute walk of 10-minute or better service. The network effect of Link’s Red and Blue lines with Seattle’s twelve total BRT corridors will be nothing less than transformative. The existing C, D, and E lines will join the seven Move Seattle corridors, a Metro-led Rapid Ride corridor between Bothell-Kenmore-Lake City-UW (Route 372), and Sound Transit’s coming BRT along SR 522 and NE 145th St.

Continue reading “Move Seattle’s Rapid Ride Corridor Planning Kicks Off”

Roosevelt BRT Will Not Be Rapid

Northgate-Downtown HCT-01
Latest Concept Design – Graphic by the Author

At an open house last night at the TOPS School in Eastlake, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented updated ‘concept designs’ for the Northgate-to-Downtown High Capacity Transit Project. Like Madison BRT before it, the concept design will be refined and completed over the summer, after the which the project will seek funding. As a RapidRide+ corridor under the Move Seattle levy, the public will surely have an expectation that they have already funded most of the work, though they are likely to be disappointed in that regard.

When we last left the project, SDOT was analyzing three levels of investment, RapidRide (basically nothing), Targeted Investments (“Rapid Ride+”), and full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Mobility outcomes between the three options varied widely. The “Targeted Investments” alternative – clearly being telegraphed as the most likely – would yield 28% faster travel times, improving from 6.5mph to 8.3mph. The Full BRT option would yield nearly nearly light rail speeds, improving to a 21.5 mph corridor average.

Average Speed Roosevelt BRT

As expected, SDOT has chosen to advance the Targeted Investment option, largely foregoing dedicated bus lanes in favor of a patchwork of Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes, queue jumps, and small intersection improvements. In short, though the investments in frequency and electrification are fantastic, there is very little in the plan that could plausibly be called High Capacity Transit or Bus Rapid Transit, and the project will have far less in terms of transit priority than Madison BRT.

So what did SDOT show last night? Details after the jump… Continue reading “Roosevelt BRT Will Not Be Rapid”

SDOT Presents Bus Options for Roosevelt-Downtown


SDOT held two open houses for the Roosevelt-Eastlake HCT, on Wednesday at TOPS elementary school and last night at UW Tower. The project is the second of the RapidRide corridors partially funded as part of the Let’s Move Seattle levy.

While it’s still early days for this project, we’re getting a better idea of what SDOT meant by the somewhat vague “RapidRide+” that appeared in the levy campaign materials.   Though the initial Transit Master Plan had targeted this corridor for possible streetcar treatment, the city has narrowed the study to focus on buses. That’s consistent with what we’ve seen previously from the Murray administration, which has been selective about streetcar investments.

The latest transit study focused on a route that runs from Westlake Station to Northgate via Roosevelt Avenue and Eastlake.  Think of it as a “local” version of Link light rail, which will travel underground along a similar route. From Westlake Station to Eastlake Ave E, the route might take Westlake Ave. N or Fairview Ave. N.  The Westlake routing is a holdover from when this was a streetcar proposal. Now that buses have been chosen as the preferred mode, Fairview seems like the wise choice, based on current bus routes and the available right-of-way. The buses themselves would continue on to Northgate, but major capital investment would stop at NE 65th St.

The Goldilox menu includes three options:

  • “RapidRide” is the minimum bar and least expensive. It would be similar to other RapidRide corridors: branded buses, station improvements, and transit signal improvements.
  • “Targeted Investments” is being pitched as the sweet spot: it’s what we might think of as RapidRide+. It would add queue jumps for buses at major intersections and possible electrification, along with some bus lanes.  SDOT seems eager to push for electrification as far as possible.
  • “Full BRT” would have exclusive right-of-way and center island stations. It would take away parking and have the highest per-mile capital costs. It would also have the fastest travel times.

The full Roosevelt-to-Downtown corridor has a long and varying right-of-way. Getting exclusive lanes all the way through is likely to be cost-prohibitive. Conversations with Metro on bus integration are still in early stages, though SDOT is obviously aware of the similarities with the new Route 67.  The “targeted investment” approach also leaves the most room for an “Open BRT” system used by both this route and other Metro routes.

Removing all parking is likely to encounter some opposition from some in the Eastlake neighborhood, especially since most demand for higher speeds and reliability will come from passengers on either side of Eastlake, not the neighborhood itself.

The bike options seem the most fluid: bikes may be located on the side of the street, in a 2-way protected bike lane, on a parallel street, or a mixture of all three.

Speaking of parallel corridors, while they are usually rare in a hilly city like ours, the U-district is unique in that there are 5 major N-S corridors within 1/2 mile: I-5, Roosevelt/11th Ave, University Way, 15th Ave, and, of course, Link. Rather than spread out capital and service investments, it would make sense to have a single point of view from Metro, SDOT, and Sound Transit on where to put biking, transit, pedestrians, and cars.

Project engineering will begin next year, with the new line slated to open in 2019.  Documents from the open house will be posted shortly on the project website.

Thanks to reader Tim Fliss for contributing to this report.