Move Seattle’s election night victory assured a crucial chunk of funding for a new tram-like bus to run on E Madison, but the latest design proposal is not quite living up to what its name might suggest.
Instead of a “bus rapid transit” route running in a dedicated lane all the way up and down Madison, Seattle Department of Transportation’s latest proposal has the bus running in mixed-traffic east of 18th Ave.
“Travel time analysis doesn’t show that dedicated transit lanes are necessary east of 18th in order to (improve) transit time and reliability,” Madison BRT advisor Maria Koengeter told CHS, adding that signal priority would help speed up the trip to its MLK terminus.
A dedicated center lane with island stops would only run from 9th Ave to 13th Ave in the current proposal, which includes First Hill and part of Capitol Hill. The rest of the route would run curbside with right-turning traffic until 18th Ave.
Public feedback indicated support for center-running bus lanes and an MLK terminus.
But extending a dedicated lane out to MLK Jr. Way was never in the cards. Back in May, SDOT’s preferred option was to take the dedicated lane to 20th Ave. Along with SDOT’s time analysis, Koengeter said ending a dedicated lane at 18th Ave would allow left turns to continue at 19th Ave.
SDOT officials will discuss the latest Madison BRT plans at an open house Monday, November 16th at the downtown Seattle Public Library. You can also send comments to MadisonBRT@seattle.gov.
The transit advocates at STB say the BRT changes are not necessarily cause for panic, but supporters of keeping the “rapid” in bus rapid transit should be concerned:
There may be good (or at least substantive) reasons for each of these changes, likely because transit priority is losing out to competing neighborhood concerns, right-of-way (ROW) limitations, parking garage egress, etc. But it is also wonderfully illustrative of how “BRT Creep” works in practice. SDOT staff are smart, hard working, and undoubtedly want to build a great project, but if we can’t even keep transit priority alive through a concept design, how do we expect the final product to fare once all the inevitable mitigations and concessions have done their work?
During the meeting, SDOT will also present its newest preferred layover option for the eastern terminal. After the original Arthur Pl layover for the MLK terminus faced staunch neighborhood opposition, SDOT planners drew up two other options (PDF). Option 1 included a layover on the south or east side of the E Arthur Pl/MLK Way/E Harrison triangle. Option 2 involved removing parking spaces for a layover on Madison just south of Lake Washington Blvd.
According to Koengeter, SDOT is now pushing for a new take on Option 1 that will include three layover spaces near MLK and Madison — details to be released at the upcoming opening house.
Madison St was identified as a priority for high capacity transit investment in 2012. The Madison BRT was one of the specific Capitol Hill projects included in the recently victorious $930 million Proposition 1 levy. The levy includes $15 million for the project, 12.5% of the estimated $120 million total. With that funding secure, SDOT will move into 30% design competition phase and continue to search for other regional and federal funding.
During a May open house, nearly 60% of attendees said they preferred the center lane option and the proposed MLK Way eastern terminus also won out big over a terminus at 23rd Ave. Others later spoke about the need for the BRT to go all the way to Madison Park, which SDOT officials are continuing to consider.
Figuring out how to run a parallel-ish bike route along Madison is another key issue for the project. In May, plans call for a protected bike lane along Union between 27th Ave and University, UPDATE: Seattle Bike Blog weighs in:
It’s going to take all of you getting active and making sure this project follows best practices. It will probably also need some innovation (for example, having street parking on the uphill bike lane side, but keeping views very clear for the downhill lanes). The E Union Street protected bike lane is noted in the Bike Master Plan as the major bike connection through this part of the Central District, and it’s a chance to show off how a bike lane done right can improve mobility in a neighborhood.
Madison is unique in that it’s the city’s only sound-to-lake street and the corridor has one of the highest concentrations of car-free households. Supporters of the BRT line are hoping fast moving transit along Madison will help ease the housing crunch on Capitol Hill by opening up eastern neighborhoods to those looking to quickly access downtown.
SDOT will host its Madison BRT open house on November 16th from 5 -7 PM at the Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue (Level 4, Room 1). There will be a brief presentation at 5:30 PM. Visit SDOT’s Madison BRT page for more information. You can also send comments to MadisonBRT@seattle.gov.