Want to spearhead the next Capitol Hill community transit win?

It’s been a good week for community-driven transportation and street improvement efforts on Capitol Hill. Earlier, CHS reported on the $3 million fruition of a multi-year (CHS endorsed!) community and chamber of commerce effort to push for a plan to extend Broadway’s streetcar and bikeway toward Volunteer Park. Meanwhile, The Melrose Promenade group got some loving attention from the Daily Journal of Commerce. We like those guys too.

While the Melrose group could still use a hand, anybody looking for a new Capitol Hill infrastructure cause might want to check out this Olive Way onramp transit stop proposal featured recently on the Seattle Transit Blog:

Every now and then there is a simple fix to an existing inefficiency that improves transit access, decreases travel time, and costs very little.  Such an opportunity exists at the Olive Way/Melrose Ave on-ramp to northbound I-5.

(Image: Zach Shaner/Seattle Transit Blog)

In a well-known story, in 2005 Anirudh Sahni successfully lobbied for a morning-only Capitol Hill stop for Sound Transit Route 545 at Bellevue/Olive, sparing mostly Microsoft commuters living on the Hill an unpleasant walk over I-5 to Olive/Terry.  (In the afternoons, however, Route 545 commuters still have a longer and even more unpleasant walk back up the hill from Denny/Stewart or 9


Made by 30 AM trips,  the Bellevue/Olive deviation requires 5 turns in ½ a mile – 3 of which are signalized left turns (from Boren to Pine, Pine to Bellevue, and Bellevue to Olive) – adding a minimum of 5 minutes to each AM trip.  Simply adding a stop at Melrose/Olive/I-5, a mere shift of about 750 feet, would save 2-3 hours of cumulative delay every day on the 545.

But the benefits of this stop would extend well beyond just the 545.  At the cost of perhaps 30 seconds per trip, and without changing any routing at all, the stop could be also served by:

  • U-District and Northgate express routes in the AM peak (41,71,72,73,205)
  • All SR-520 PM peak routes (250,252,257,260,265,268,311,424)
  • All outbound trips on the 255 and 545
  • All off-peak northbound trips to Lynnwood (511) and Everett (510)

In all, over 350 daily trips could serve the stop.  Just as one example, UW students living in the Summit Slope/Olive Way corridors – many of whom likely take the much slower 43/49 to the UDistrict rather than walk/bus to Convention Place – could see their travel times halved.

Occasional CHS transit consultant and STB writer Bruce Nourish wrote more about the proposal here. We asked him how one might go about eliminating the Bellevue/Olive deviation.

“Just push for the stop,” he writes. “Some technical study will be required to make sure there are no safety or traffic problems, but there’s not likely to be any real issues there. They don’t need to study potential ridership, as there’s already enough ridership on the 545 to warrant a stop in the vicinity, and eliminating the 545 deviation saves them a grip of money.”

Nourish says the most likely allies in the push are riders of the 545 and 255 routes — other routes, he says, might require scheduling changes if they’re going to accomodate increased demand from the change.

We also reached out to Sound Transit to ask them about the best way for an interested party to push for the stop. “fastride@soundtransit.org would be the best avenue for now,” a spokesperson replied. Um, OK. We guess that’s a start.

One thing is certain — readers at STB are excited about the prospects. Nourish says any real effort from the Hill to push for the change would likely have wide support from the transit geek crowd.

The internal machinations needn’t concern neighbors who want better bus service. The original 545 deviation was aproduct of small scale, but persistent neighborhood activism, and there’s no reason why that can’t be repeated. So, if you’re a transit rider who lives on Capitol Hill and fancies a try at neighborhood organizing, here’s a great chance. If a serious effort arises to put in an Olive Way stop, I’m sure STB editors would support it.

The, maybe for the next win, you can do something to make it a little safer for pedestrians and bikers heading up and down Olive Way near the ramps. Time to get to work.

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