By 2019, a swift moving tram-like bus along Madison is planned to shuttle passengers from downtown, through First Hill and along the edge of Capitol Hill on its way to an eastern expanse of residential neighborhoods. The idea is that the current 16 minute bus ride between 23rd Ave and 1st Ave would be cut to under 10 minutes.
But before that happens, the city has to make some key decisions on what that “bus rapid transit” line will look like in order to have a plan ready by July.
On Wednesday, the Seattle Department of Transportation held an public open house on the Madison BRT that included new renderings of proposed designs. The roughly 80 people assembled at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences also had the opportunity to vote on a variety of questions transit planners are facing.
Among the biggest questions for SDOT will be whether the BRT should run on a more pronounced center lane route or more flexible side lane route. The center lane option garnered nearly 60% of the vote during Wednesday’s meeting. A proposed MLK Way eastern terminus also won out big over a terminus at 23rd Ave, while others later spoke about the need for the BRT to go all the way to Madison Park.
Figuring out how to run a parallel-ish bike route along Madison is another key issue planners are hoping to sort out in the coming months. Current plans call for a protected bike lane along Union between 27th Ave and University, though SDOT is still looking for feedback on if that should be a 2-way lane or two one-way lanes.
The results were closely aligned to results from an online survey SDOT posted last year. You can view those here (PDF).
Madison is unique in that it’s the city’s only sound-to-lake street (you were so close, Yesler) 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.
According to SDOT, there’s currently a 7-minute variability in stop times on Metro’s Rt. 11 and Rt. 12 busses. Early studies show a Madison BRT could bring that variability to under a minute. Decisions about service changes to the two existing Madison lines wouldn’t be made until the BRT is closer to completion, according to BRT project manager Maria Koengeter.
In March, Mayor Ed Murray rolled out a 10-year, $835 million transportation plan for Seattle that includes the BRT construction. Next week, a $930 million levy proposal including funds to pay for the BRT project is slated to land with the Seattle City Council before going to the ballot for a vote this fall. 2015 will also see the first benefits of the voter-approved transportation district to better fund Metro bus service in Seattle.