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A few concerns and a lot of hope for improving Madison at Bus Rapid Transit open house

Neighbors and future riders shared some of their last critiques of the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project at an open house for the project held at Miller Community Center Wednesday night.

“We’re at 90% design, so they’re still not completely a hundred percent finalized yet. We’re coming out tonight and showing people the 90% design and what’s changed from 60%,” said Joshua Shippy, the Madison BRT project manager.

Many open house attendees had been following the Madison BRT’s designs since the project’s early stages.

“I always get concerned that transit projects will be watered down when they have to deal with so many different competing interests,” said Steve Goodreau, an open house attendee. “That was a big concern of mine, especially during the first few phases, but I’m happy to see that the dedicated lane remains throughout pretty much all of First Hill, and so has all the signal priority.”

Goodreau’s concern were about how some stations will have designated areas for cyclists and those in wheelchairs when loading and unloading the bus, hoping to make the boarding process more efficient.

Other attendees echoed earlier concerns about dedicated bus lane’s potential to increase traffic and confusion at intersections on First Hill.

“We’re concerned about vehicle access to Virginia Mason, although it should be their concern with their ambulances,” said Jonathan Fredman, who attended the open house on behalf of Feet First, a local pedestrian advocacy nonprofit. “It connects to our concern in general about pedestrian safety, and being able to cross Madison safely, and getting to stops safely.”

SDOT also addressed the changes to intersections on First Hill resulting from the dedicated bus lane, recognizing the changes at intersections were a primary concern.

“We had a traffic analysis done before this,” Shippy said. “People who are not using the bus definitely want to know what’s happening with their service too, so we’re explaining what’s happening with the different signalized intersection design and how we’re working to make their view better.”

Outside of traffic flow, open house attendees were also worried about pedestrian safety at bus stops.

“At a couple of these intersections, 8th and Madison and at one spot on Spring St they’re not going to install twin put twin ADA ramps on a corner, and one spot is a block away from a senior center,” Fredman said. “People are going to have to step directly out into traffic off the curb.”

With the project’s design phase is nearly finished, other attendees were concerned about potential traffic delays during the project’s construction.

My main concern is the construction. My wife and I lived through a couple of years of construction on 23rd between Madison and Rainier and that was no fun,” said Randy Robinson, an open house attendee. “I’m worried about that since Madison is a major corridor, so for it to be potentially blocked up for a couple years is inconvenient.”

Construction on the Madison BRT route is planned to begin in mid to late 2020. Although open house attendees were concerned about potential problems associated with construction, they looked forward to using the Madison BRT when it starts service in late 2022.

“My husband was in hospital at Swedish in February when it was snowing, and I had a pretty tough time getting to Swedish from my house near 30th and Howell,” said open house attendee Jane Hadley. “This would provide another way to get down to Broadway, which is a plus.”

A few other attendees noted the future RapidRide G would be an important East-West transit option Capitol Hill and the Central District lacked, providing convenient access to downtown. A few people also noted the BRT the hill more accessible for mobility impaired individuals.

“I don’t like walking on Madison. The other side of the hill is an extremely hard climb, especially if you’re mobility impaired. I’m really excited for rapid transit to help with that,” said Alex Jordan, an open house attendee.

CHS reported here on the latest changes to the plans for the $120 million, 2.3 mile, 10-station route.

  • Shorter crosswalks at key intersections so people walking have time to get to the other side of the street
  • New diesel-hybrid bus fleet which eliminates the need to extend the overhead trolley wire from 19th Ave to Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr Way. This also removes the small power supply converter (TPSS) from the design at Madison St and E John St.
  • New curbside bus stop on 1st Ave between Madison St and Spring St
  • Updated bus layover station at E Arthur Pl and MLK Jr Way with fewer poles and overhead wires
  • New pedestrian signal at 10th Ave to help people cross Madison St to get to Seattle University and other destinations
  • New underground stormwater detention tank on 10th Ave between Madison St and E Union St

60-foot articulated buses will run every six minutes during peak times. 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.

Half of the project’s budget is expected to come from the Federal Transit Authority. In its latest update to its nationwide Current Capital Investment Grant Projects, the FTA still lists the Madison BRT project in the first phase of the Small Starts Project Development grant process. In November, the FTA gave the project a “high” value rating.

With the project wrapping up its design phase, SDOT is also hosting an online open house at

Planners will also be available for questions and comments Sunday, July 28th, from 11 AM to 3 PM at the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market.

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Ryan A
1 year ago

This is an important project for the district. It’s providing service to a corridor that has seen a dramatic increase in density all the way down to 23rd Ave. But I’m frustrated to see that at the same time we’re dedicating incredible resource to this project, the folks down at the end of the line are resisting higher density development in their neighborhood.

Specifically, the development of new housing and a retail at the City People’s lot has been stalled by NIMBY resistance. I’d love to see our city planners leverage transit projects to get increased density. For example, if Madison Valley refuses increased density, we just stop the Rapid line up at 23rd.

We should be prioritizing investment in transit to areas with more folks and not investing in new transit for areas that refuse to accommodate new neighbors (Apologies to my many wonderful Madison Valley neighbors who support increased housing in their neighborhood).

1 year ago
Reply to  Ryan A

Here here.

Save Madison Valley and the small group of residents who support and fund it are a blight on the neighborhood.

Time for their increasingly ridiculous objections to be set aside and for the project to move forward.

1 year ago

Thank you for covering this story. Still I am a bit disappointed that you did cover the changes and questions at the Miller Community Center including the the impacts to E. Union Street at the intersection at 12th, E. Union, and Madison. I would really like to see a map laying out the proposed PLB plans with the BRT in area around the intersection. Something like a map showing both between 15th and Broadway and E. Spring to E. Pike/E. Madison.

d reeves
d reeves
1 year ago
Reply to  joanna

joanna, thanks for this – what were the questions?

1 year ago
Reply to  joanna

Of course, i meant you didn’t cover Miller open house. Ok, I will try to get back to you. Of course, I am most aware of my questions and curiosities. I note that you have no description of the proposed changes at 12th/Madison/ Union intersection with many implications for E. Union access. I would have found it interesting if that was covered from various perspectives, not just my own. Of course the locations of the open houses did not seem to imply that SDOT really wanted feedback from us. I would say that it was not that well attended.

1 year ago

Finally having time to talk about the changes that impact the CD along E. Union. I was disappointed in the ability of the SDOT representatives to discuss the possibilities or demonstrate knowledge of the intersection and its complications.
Under the proposal westbound traffic will not be allowed to follow the path 13th to Madison to Union as it does now. Union between Madison and 10th will be bus only lane. One can drive on Madison to the cut off of Seneca just past 11th which takes you to 10th. From what I can see in the plans 10th appears to become one-way to Madison south of that, so turning north on 10th to Union and then west on Union should be relatively easy once you’re past 12th, although not as easy as taking Union the whole way.
The other option is 14th to Pike but it is going to be very congested with the added bicycle facility and reduced lane width north of Madison. 13th north of Madison is another option, but still means negotiating the turn from Union to 13th.
The problem that I don’t think anyone along Union has realized is that you can’t turn east onto Madison or Union from 12th so the only way will be to go to 14th on Pine or Pike and turn south to Union. Thus the intersection at 14th/Union is going to become much more congested with turning traffic. The result I think will be that access to the businesses along Union will be reduced as people from Capitol Hill will have to specifically be wanting to go there put up with all the complicated re-routing.
Finally a person from Metro admitted that the plan would like remove the # 2 East bound bus stop for Seattle University on Madison and seemed to agree that placing it on 11th Avenue seemed a reasonable plan and should be noted in all communications. The stop was located on 11th during construction and the pedestrian light was implemented there and worked well. Since then the stop was put back on Madison and paid parking was installed on 11th.

1 year ago I wanted to add that I am posting this information or the information above, not so much due to being sure that 12th Avenue southbound traffic not being able to turn left/east onto Madison or Union is terrible, but due to the fact that all the changes were not detectable at the Open Houses. The PDF that I just posted is from research and knowledge that the map had existed. Other ideas include making sure that the radius is large enough for the westbound 2 to turn onto Union from Madison. The possibility of implementing no parking during rush hours on the north side of Union between 12th and 13th in order to allow cars to sneak past the eastbound bus at the new bus stop to prevent traffic backups. That may come across as car friendly, but the reality is that backups will not serve anyone well. At rush hour there will be an increase in the number of autos and buses.