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What the latest designs for RapidRide G look like, Madison Bus Rapid Transit block by block

The RapidRide future of E Madison means a redo of one of the Hill's most chaotic intersections where Madison meets 12th and Union

The RapidRide future of E Madison means a redo of one of the Hill’s most chaotic intersections where Madison meets 12th and Union

The City of Seattle has released its latest designs and is collecting public feedback on what is being billed as a powerful overhaul of E Madison that will change east-west travel in Central Seattle from downtown, through First Hill, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and into Madison Valley. Judging by a few of the designs for blocks along the route, Seattle City Hall will need your help to get it right.

This month, public feedback will shape the final designs for the Seattle Department of Transportation’s updated Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit project — now known as RapidRide G. You can provide feedback in person beginning Thursday on First Hill or again next week on Capitol Hill. You can also weigh in online:

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!

If you can, make time for an in-person visit and add your thoughts online. Last year, SDOT collected public comments on the proposed project that would create a BRT line from 1st Ave downtown to Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The project team has furthered the project’s design since then, reshaping the $120 million plan.

View the full block by block designs here (PDF — 15.5 MB)

Some of the changes that came from public input include having the eastbound buses begin their route back to Madison Valley on Spring instead of Marion. The route was originally also only going to reach to 23rd Ave but has been extended to MLK. And a westbound stop on 24th Ave was moved to 23rd Ave.

The BRT 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.

One of those areas includes improving the intersection of 12th Ave, Madison, and Union, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.

“We had more than 350 comments from the public on that,” said SDOT project manager Jeff Lundstrom at a presentation to the Madison Valley Community Council on Wednesday.

SDOT’s proposed changes to the intersection include:

  • New curb bulbs shorten the crossing distance for those biking and walking and provide more room for everyone to wait for the signal

  • Bus stops on Union St on both sides of 12th Ave provide better connections between Madison Street BRT and the Route 2.

  • To improve traffic flow for all modes, westbound vehicles will no longer turn right onto 12th Ave from Madison St. Instead, Pike St or 13th Ave offer alternatives.

  • The southbound bike lane on 12th Ave will now extend to and through Madison St. A protected bike lane will run on Union St from 11th to 14th avenues. See Madison by bike for other improvements for those biking.

Overall, SDOT is focusing on capacity, efficiency, and connectivity for the project in the “historically underserved” area when it comes to public transit, Lundstrom said.

The 60-foot articulated buses running every six minutes during peak times aim to better handle the capacity. Card readers at the station allowing riders to enter any of the five doors, 13-inch platforms making it easier for those with strollers or wheelchairs to get on the bus, and designated areas of the stations for cyclists and those in wheelchairs aim to make the loading and unloading process more efficient for riders. Cyclists can also anticipate loading their bikes inside the bus.

“It’s going to be very quick,” Lundstrom said.

The connectivity for the neighborhood should be improved as 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.

The electric trolley buses, run by Metro, will be connected via sensors to traffic signals, giving them the priority.

Last fall and winter, the project’s outreach team met with businesses along and adjacent to the route to understand their needs as construction is planned. The Office of Economic Development is will also be working with small businesses to provide assistance during construction.


Lundstrom said the construction is broken into phases based on feedback from businesses and the community.

“Not everybody got exactly what they asked for, but we’re pretty close,” Lundstrom said.

Seattle’s latest transit levy includes $15 million for the project, 12.5% of the estimated $120 million total. SDOT also has $30 million from the Sound Transit 3 package and another $9 million in federal and city grants lined up, plus another $4 million coming from the state. “The project now has $58M funded and $62M in submitted grants working through the FTA process,” an SDOT representative tells CHS.

The city expects to complete the environmental review of the project this spring with a final design coming by the end of the year. Construction plans will be finalized this summer and work is expected to begin in early 2018 with service starting in late 2019.

You can learn more and provide feedback at

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21 thoughts on “What the latest designs for RapidRide G look like, Madison Bus Rapid Transit block by block

  1. The rendering at 12th and Madison has always perplexed me. That area is tight already with 4 lanes and narrow sidewalks. Buildings creating a physical bottleneck. Viva and the storage building are right up on the sidewalk with minimal buffers in place. Things are no better on the West side. Yet somehow they will find room for a 5th lane and center islands.

    I’m a fan of no left turns where possible. Today at this intersection the left turns are dangerous and create chaos. However instead of eliminating them, I’d like to see them improved. This area is popular for left turns and SU creates a huge barrier so you can’t simply go up a block to turn or turn early to avoid the intersection. Will be interesting to see how this pans out.

    • “Yet somehow they will find room for a 5th lane and center islands.”

      I’m not seeing that. I see a center island with two lanes each side (1 for cars each direction, 1 for buses each direction), total 4. And it looks like the roadway gets a bit wider to accommodate the island.

    • If you look at the draft slide 005 there are:

      5 lanes West of 12th. 2 vehicle travel lanes, 1 vehicle turn lane (taking you North up 12th) and 2 transit lanes.

      4 lanes and an island East of 12th. 2 vehicle lanes, 2 transit lanes and the center island.

      My point is there are 4 lanes today with narrow sidewalks. Where do they find room for the 5th lane West of 12th. and the center island East of 12th and still have both travel and transit lanes.

    • I do that bit pretty often. I think I wouldn’t be too bad. Driving form Cal Anderson to Ike’s, you’d want to make sure and take Pike or Pine over to 13th, then cut down to Union. If you’re on Madison, just turn right onto 13th instead of onto Union.

      I get confused headed W on Union, if I want to get on Madison, needing to turn R onto 13th first. cutting out one of those blocks would simplify things, either Union between 12th/13th, or 13th between Madison/Union. Since there’s a light at 13th, that makes sense.

      What they should also do though is remove the street-side parking on Madison between 13th and 14th. It’s just for a block, and it completely flusters anyone in the right lane, causing a traffic smashup at the 13th intersection, all for the sake of like 5 cars.

    • They should have a right-turn “jughandle” turn around the Sandcrawler building to turn left from westbound Madison onto southbound 12th.

  2. Love the proposal for 12th & Madison. As a pedestrian, that place is scary! Suggestion: eliminate that little nub of Union St behind pony. Divert eastbound and westbound union st traffic onto 13th & Madison, as the westbound traffic is currently.

    • Great idea. If your plan is to make it impossible to go eastbound on Union St through the CD towards Madrona, and back up eastbound Madison St. traffic all the way to I-5.

    • The 2 uses that and trolley wire is in place for it. Very expensive to move. That’s why bikes are on the sidewalk here, when they were in the street at 10% design.

    • The bikes on sidewalk part makes no sense – people coming around the corner don’t expect it, and you are braking hard coming down the hill. Are you then expected to cross as a pedestrian, or somehow rejoin the traffic ?

  3. The 12th Madison intersection has a wonderful bike lane that feeds you into a turn lane where most drivers try to run you down, then on to the pavement where you get to hit the students. This seems to add even more confused complexity.

    • Well, if bikes yielded to the pedestrians like they expect cars to yield to them…maybe there’d be no students hit.

  4. I ride Rapid Ride lines throughout King County. There is nothing rapid about them. It would make a lot more sense to just run regular busses down Madison more often. Cheaper too! When I take the C Line to West Seattle, it takes me longer than the bus 54 that it replaced. This was from the get go.

    • Agreed! I have never understood why this road deserved such a complicated and expensive re-do. Seems like a lot of work, money, and potential after effects (e.g., traffic tie-ups and hassle/danger for pedestrians getting to center lane bus stations), for just a 2.5 mile route. Am I remembering correctly that it will make service faster by only 6 minutes? Those monies would’ve been better placed in improving Metro service elsewhere (e.g., improving current VapidRide lines, reducing wait times elsewhere in the city where bus options are fewer than Madison Valley/Cap Hill, expanding nighttime service to help night shift workers, early am flight catchers, etc.). Finally, as a pedestrian (and a fair weather cyclist), I’m not sure I wholly agree with the idea of putting bike lanes on the sidewalks. Perhaps it’s safer than biking on Madison, especially a road-diet Madison after the BRT is developed, but I don’t want to have to worry about cyclists when walking on the sidewalks. And, as a cyclist, I don’t want to navigate around pedestrians.

    • D DelRio – regular buses aren’t eligible for Bus Rapid Transit grants. That’s why the coat of paint and fancy stops. The concept does have the ability to be more Rapid, but King Co won’t let go of parking or build exclusive lanes. Everything get so watered down you end up with one block of a bus lane, then sharing with right turns, then back into traffic– hence, not very rapid.

  5. I find it funny that the city decided that Madison deserved a rapid line before Rainier/7 did. The Madison line is short, and almost never full – while the Rainier Line is packed full of people every day. This is a joke. I know the 7/Rainer is slated to eventually, one day, get a rapid line, but it is far more travelled and it’s one of the longest lines in the city.

  6. This plan is idiotic. BIkes should be routed away from Union and onto Pine where they can bypass the already-confusing 12th/Madison debacle.

    Forcing bikes to act as both cars and pedestrians by turning bike lanes into crosswalks is going to cause more accidents.

  7. In the presentations the BRT folks give in person they’ve said that the entire sidewalks will be reworked in many places, so the sidewalks you seen in existence now will not – in some places – be the same once the “build” is done. The curbs will also be higher. I had a hard time visualizing it until I attended an info session in person.