Madison BRT, now RapidRide G, rounding out pedestrian, bike elements with aim for 2019 start of service

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

MARCH 8-22
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

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38 thoughts on “Madison BRT, now RapidRide G, rounding out pedestrian, bike elements with aim for 2019 start of service

  1. Good luck parking on 1st Hill if you are sick, visiting a doctor, having chemo, visiting a sick friend or disabled. It is already really hard.

    • Yes, I also paid for parking when I visited the emergency room on first hill a few months back.

      It was far, far cheaper than the emergency room.

    • If you’re having an emergency, it goes without saying…dial 9-1-1. You shouldn’t be driving, nor should someone else be driving you, if it’s a true emergency.

      Having your spouse/significant other/talented pet drive you to the ER and endangering everyone else (because, let’s be honest, no one drives safely during an emergency) on the road.

      Don’t be that person who runs someone else over or gets in an accident because of an ’emergency.’

    • AbleDanger —

      Not really. My ’emergency’ was just a earbud that got stuck in my ear, and none of the urgent care clinics were comfortable doing it.

      I was going to bike there, but my friend offered to drive.

      Calling an ambulance would have been pretty silly and insanely expensive.

    • Sorry, free parking is not a basic human right. If people need help affording decent food, housing, health care, child care, or education, I am ok with some of my dollars going to subsidize those things. Driving and parking a polluting and deadly machine in a crowded city, you can do that on your own nickel.

    • If you are trying to park on Madison St. for an appointment or other hospital visit, you’re doing it wrong.
      And all hospital emergency/urgent care entrances have drop off/pickup and short term parking areas.

  2. so @timkerrick – following your logic of free parking for people in emergencies – how are we supposed to differentiate between parking for an emergency and everyone else?

    What’s wrong with paid parking in a garage?

    • It never fails how glibly people roll off this “just pay for it in the garage” response. So, you go to a Dr.’s appointment or visit a friend, and stay for barely an hour. $8 for that. What if your friend is in the hospital for 3 days and you want to visit every day? $24, or more. Sounds like nothing to a lot of people, but to other people it’s a lot. The same people who respond “just pay for parking” whine when restaurants add service fees, or complain they’re being priced out of their apartments because of greedy landlords.

    • @jim, there’s this new fanged thing called The Bus. it costs $2.50 and let’s you get most places in the city including first hill easily! it’ll let you get to your friends place, your doctor’s office without having to pay Big Parking Lot your hard earned money.

    • re: Zach’s comment.

      And if you work at most large area companies, The Bus comes free with your employment.

      If you can afford a car in Seattle, I don’t think you need the rest of us to subsidize your parking for you.

  3. Driving along Madison between the freeway and Broadway is already a congested nightmare, and this plan is going to make it much worse. I’m beginning to agree with others who say there is a “war on cars” from the city officials.

    • The war on cars is over, Bob. Cars lost. Some people are still fighting, much like those Japanese soldiers on remote islands who believed WWII never ended.

    • Bob, it’s not a war on cars. It’s simply a struggle to move as many PEOPLE as possible. You can move a lot more PEOPLE more efficiently if you put them in buses in a dedicated bus lane than individuals in cars. It’s that simple.

    • I agree with you, Bob. At some places in this city we need arterials to carry traffic. Busses cannot accommodate all people, all the time. Many can’t seem to understand that.

      This solution will not replace all traffic trying to access I-5. People who work on the Hills and live elsewhere in other cities are not going to be accommodated by this niche service. Other mass transit services are decades away. They may be inclined to move into the city but where will we house them? We don’t have enough in-city housing as it is.

      I feel sorry for anyone who’s waiting on an ambulance when you compress down to 1 lane of bumper to bumper traffic for most parts of the day along Madison.

    • Timmy, I’m sure that having stretches of dedicated bus lanes will help separate emergency vehicles from general traffic. They’ll just use the bus lane.

    • Alonso, when the dedicated bus lane is separated by a curb and possible median from general traffic lanes, it is then very difficult for any other vehicle, including emergency vehicles, to access these dedicated lanes. This places emergency vehicles in with general traffic.

    • The transit lanes can be accessed from the intersections if unable to enter the lanes along a length of a block. The reality is that the majority of the transit only lanes are not much more than red paint and solid white lines so it’s not a physical barrier along most of the route.

    • The reality is that this proposal is more than just “red paint” and emergency vehicles shouldn’t ever be blocked in by barriers such as curbs and medians. Sometimes events happen mid-block, they have to turn into an alley etc. Restricting emergency vehicles in an arterial is a disaster waiting to happen.

      Today they make efficient use of the center lane. What will they do tomorrow?

      • Specifics including life safety are the responsibility of SDOT, and if its a significant issue, I am more than certain that Harborview and the other hospitals will push their weight to incorporate changes. Keep in mind that our first hill hospital zone is a part of a large campus scale planning process with the city and ingress/egress is a major part of those studies. If it significantly impacted emergency care operations, we’d be hearing of this already.

        We are not the first city to introduce dedicated bus lanes and I doubt the first to have such lanes near hospitals.

  4. Glenn, Move Seattle had a small amount (relatively speaking) for this project; like many other projects in the levy, it was basically seed money with the hope to get matching funds from other sources (like ST3 and the Feds).

  5. If the Madison BRT is ever up and running I will gladly sell my car and take the BRT. Right now if I take the bus it takes 42 minutes for me to get to work because of the circuitous route of any bus combo plus plenty of walking. If I just walk up Madison I can get to work walking in 45 minutes. When you can walk in almost equal time to the bus, and driving takes you 10 minutes, you drive. A water to water bus is long overdue. Yay, Madison BRT!

    • Yes, the Madison BRT would be even better if it went to Madison Park Beach (water to water) but I believe it will only go to MLK (Ferries to Cafe Flora).

    • Same here. I live in Madison Valley and work near Pioneer Square; a 2 mile commute. My various transit options (8 + Link, 11 + 12, 11 + 252/257/268/311/510/511/512/513/545, 11 + Link, walk + 12) all take 25-30 minutes depending on how long I wait at stops. Think about that…. 2 miles in 30 minutes is 4 miles per hour. That’s unacceptable for an urban transit network! Just walking takes 35 minutes. I never drive (cause parking is too much of a hassle), but if OneBusAway says the bus is more than 5 minutes away, I start walking because that’s faster.

      RapidRide G would allow me to get to work in 15-20 minutes, which is the time that this 2-mile commute really should take.

  6. I really hope we get an extra special HALA upzone for the Madison community along this major transit amenity. Affordability + density within walking distance of this route is the best of all possible worlds.

    • That would be great! Madison & MLK is a great little kernel around which a healthy neighborhood center could be allowed to grow. Unfortunately, the HALA zoning changes don’t currently stretch any further east than Madison & 23rd – Madison Valley is left out. Alas.