Seattle is ready to put the final design touches on a powerful new east-west public transit corridor set to be carved out of Madison from downtown through First Hill and Capitol Hill to MLK. The Madison Bus Rapid Transit project will be known as the RapidRide G Line when it begins serving riders along its 11-stop route in late 2019. In addition to more reliable bus service, transportation planners say the line will bring needed improvements to sidewalks and crossings along the route — and add a new protected bike lane, likely on E Union.
In March, you will have an opportunity to add your feedback to help planners shape final elements of the project including those pedestrian and bike improvements along the corridor:
We’re holding in-person and online open houses this March to share the updated project design.
Thursday, March 9
11 AM – 1 PM
Town Hall, Downstairs
1119 8th Ave
Wednesday, March 15
5:30 – 7:30 PM
First African Methodist Episcopal Church
1522 14th Ave
Give feedback online!
(Link will go live March 8)
Stretching from 1st Ave to Madison Valley, the future Madison BRT will travel in a dedicated center lane with island stops from 9th Ave to 14th Ave while the rest of the route will run curbside with right-turning traffic or in mixed traffic.
Under the “locally preferred alternative” design adopted by City Council last year, transit travel time from 23rd to 1st Ave is expected to improve by 40% from 16 minutes to 10 minutes while single occupancy vehicle travel time will increase by 4 minutes. Sorry, cars.
Once the project opens in 2019, people riding the bus are expected to travel the corridor 5.2 and 7.3 minutes faster (eastbound and westbound, respectively) than they would if the project were not built. People driving are expected to travel the corridor 5.6 and 2.9 minutes slower (eastbound and westbound, respectively).
The project’s traffic analysis will be available later this year but the draft of the study found “some traffic will divert to other streets,” while identifying “several key intersections SDOT could improve through various treatments.”
Some of the biggest questions about the coming RapidRide G Line are already off the table:
- Why doesn’t the line extend all the way to Lake Washington? Current project funding does not allow for a further extension of the line at this time, but should the demand and funding be available in the future, the line could be extended further east.
- Why isn’t there a station closer to 23rd? There is not enough existing right-of-way to have sidewalks, travel lanes, left-turn lanes, and BRT stations at that intersection, and the substantial volume of traffic turning left warrants left-turn lanes. Having stations 1 block east and west also allows for a downhill or level walk to a connection.
- Why won’t there be a dedicated bus-only lane east of 23rd? Regarding expanding the bus- only lanes east of 23rd Ave, current traffic analysis indicates buses running in public traffic lanes would maintain good travel times in this stretch of the corridor. However, the city will evaluate if changes need to be made to maintain adequate bus travel times after BRT service has started.
- Why can’t cars use the transit lane during non-peak hours? Madison St has strong, all-day demand for transit in both directions, making bus-only lanes important for ensuring frequent and reliable transit service through a congested corridor. Allowing cars to use the bus-only lanes during off- peak times will encourage drivers to drive in those lanes during peak times as well, increasing bus travel times during non-peak time periods. During off-peak hours, the public traffic lane should provide the appropriate capacity.
- Do we really need to lose more street parking along the route? Curb space management will continue to be part of the design process and discussion, and some parking will be removed.
Other smaller things are already in the “final” bucket. Buses will have doors on both sides to allow ultimate flexibility in serving both center and curb stations, and stations will feature weather covers and very limited seating.
Many of the new elements up for discussion in March, instead, will be focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety and improvements.
BRT planners are especially looking at the intersections of Madison at 12th and 24th “based on concerns we heard about safety and accessibility for people bicycling or walking through these intersections.” Updated designs created in consultation with area bicycle safety advocates are planned to be part of the March presentations.
Figuring out how to run a parallel bike route near Madison is also a key remaining issue for the project. Early designs have called for a protected bike lane along E Union and a greenway along 27th Ave or 24th Ave. “SDOT’s Bicycle Program is advancing the design of parallel bike facilities in the corridor, and more information will be available in spring 2017,” a project update on the route promises.
The new designs also are hoped to address concerns about “safety for people bicycling, intersection design elements, and intersection flow” at the insanely busy intersection of 12th, Union, and Madison, and another busy intersection at 24th and Madison. “The intersection of 12th Ave / Union St / Madison St, and the intersection of 24th Ave and Madison St, are being reevaluated to address the needs of all users, including consideration of crosswalk location and crossing time,” the project team writes.
Bike racks inside each coach are also being considered.
During construction of the line, planners expect some 3.5 miles of sidewalk improvements and 100 sidewalk ramps will be added. In some areas where possible, sidewalks will be widened.
Another part of the outreach process is already underway as planners are beginning the process of working with area businesses to plan construction of the line in phases beginning next year. Part of that outreach includes managing parking during the construction and any possible mitigation. “The project team is also working closely with the Office of Economic Development to identify small business assistance opportunities,” according to a project update document.
Construction is expected to start in early 2018 with service starting in late 2019. About a year before the start of service, Metro will also being the process of revising routes — again — along the corridor with an eye toward optimizing the lines to better connect with RapidRide G.
There is, of course, another matter at hand. How to pay for it all. Madison BRT
didn’t make the cut to be part of ST3’s funding — the city will now have to turn to the feds or beg from the state legislature to power that plan to overhaul Madison from downtown to the Central District. Seattle’s latest transit levy includes $15 million for the project, 12.5% of the estimated $120 million total. UPDATE: SDOT confirms that ST3 funds will be directed to RapidRide G:
Madison Street BRT does have funding from ST3 (nearly $30M) and about $9M in newer funding from City and federal grants (in addition to the $15M from Move Seattle and $4M in State funding). The project now has $58M funded and $62M in submitted grants working through the FTA process, for a total of $120M.
You can learn more at seattle.gov/transportation/