Madison Corridor Study AreaThis past Wednesday and Thursday (November 19th & 20th) Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) and their consultants from Nelson\Nygaard held a number of neighborhood workshops as part of their public outreach for the Madison BRT project.

The workshops were divided into the Madison/12th Avenue neighborhood, First Hill Neighborhood, and the Downtown Madison Corridor Business/Hospitality community.

Currently, the Madison BRT project is in the early stages of developing two design alternatives for the corridor which will then be further analyzed. The purpose of these neighborhood workshops was to involve local stakeholders who are most familiar with the route in helping define the parameters of these two design alternatives.

The workshops mainly focused on three aspects of this potential, future upgrade of the Route 12:

  1. Potential design influences (historic/significant people/places on the route)
  2. Station location
  3. Curb-side running or center-lane running buses

Design Influences

This was an exercise to help inform how the new Bus Rapid Transit line should look. Are there significant architectural, historical, and cultural influences present in the corridor that could help define the character of the line from the branding of the vehicles to the design of the stations and other street-level amenities. This included discussion of neighborhood character, historic landmarks, and institutions along the route.

Station Locations

In a typical application of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the bus stops (or stations in the parlance of BRT) are spaced further apart than a local bus route in order to provide faster, more efficient service. In the context of the Madison Street corridor, specifically from the Waterfront through First Hill, this will not be the case. The change in elevation is a greater influence than any potential speed increase might provide; therefore, with a few exceptions, most of the existing Route 12 stops will be retained.

In order to remove potential conflict with the Center City Connector Streetcar line on First Avenue, the turning loop for this line will be moved to Western Avenue. This location is also where a new stop serving ferry commuters will be located, supplanting the existing stop on Marion Street between First and Second Avenues.

On the First Hill portion of the route, the initial plan is to locate stations at Eighth Avenue, Terry Avenue, Boylston Avenue and 12th Avenue. The preliminary locations have been chosen in order to align with Neighborhood Development Plans, provide level access to medical institutions, create better connections to north-south services such as the First Hill Streetcar, and to accommodate the additional station amenities.

Curb or Center Lane

The Madison BRT line will utilize exclusive transit-only bus lanes along the length of the corridor. The question is whether to run these exclusive transit lanes along the curbs or in the center of Madison Street. These two options may comprise the two aforementioned design alternatives for this project.

Both options will utilize right-hand door boarding so that stations may be shared by Routes 2, 11, and 60 where the local bus lines overlap the BRT line. Regardless of the location of the bus lanes, this project will necessitate the removal of all parking on Madison Street. Fortunately, there are existing entrances/drop-off locations for all affected buildings located on adjacent side streets.

In order to mitigate some of the traffic/parking issues along this segment of Madison Street, the project will also look at making changes to some of the side streets that intersect with Madison Street in order to help improve traffic flow, create commercial loading zones, and to increase the overall number of parking spaces.

One More Thing…

One of the more interesting ideas that came out of the Downtown Stakeholder workgroup is the potential of moving the downtown, eastbound portion of the route from Marion Street to Spring Street. By running the buses East on Spring Street from Western Avenue to 9th Avenue, the line could make use of the transit improvements (exclusive bus lane, queue jumping traffic light, etc.) that are already being planned by SDOT on Spring St. for Metro’s Route 2.

Ninth Avenue already has the required electric trolley bus infrastructure present and would only require slight modifications for the bus to turn left onto Madison St. Moving the Eastbound portion to Spring St. would also remove the existing complicated, congested segment along 6th Avenue from Marion St. to Madison St.

This potential Spring St. alignment provides for better access to the Center City Connector Streetcar, University Street Downtown Transit Tunnel Station, Third Avenue Bus/RapidRide lines, the Central Library, Town Hall, and the numerous existing and planned residential towers on the west side of First Hill. This alignment change would still provide equivalent access to/from the Ferry Terminal requiring passengers to walk one block North on Western instead of one and a half blocks East to the current 1st Ave stop.

Questions …

While the purpose of these workshops were to help inform the process and not make any firm decisions, there are a number of important questions that still remain to be answered. While there are some obvious benefits from overlapping local bus routes, i.e. shared enhancements to the right of way and stations, there is still much to be determined with regards to how this BRT line will integrate into the existing Metro bus system if this line is in fact implemented. In conversation with David Seater after the workshops, he shared his concerns that many important questions were as of yet unanswered:

  • Will the BRT line replace the route 12 completely?
  • What will happen to the 19th Avenue leg of the route 12? Does it become a new route that follows the route 2 West of 12th Avenue? Or the route 11 down Pine St? Does it become peak-only service? Is it withdrawn like the 47? Would it become part of a restored route 47?
  • Will the frequency of the Route 11 be negatively affected by the addition of BRT service (at least East of 23rd Avenue?)
  • Where will the BRT line terminate? 23rd Avenue (The Transit Master Plan indicates this) or further East at the business district near MLK?
  • Will the service and/or frequency of the Route 2 be negatively affected by its proximity to the BRT line?

As the project is still in the early stages, these questions will undoubtedly be answered, but the apprehension of the various affected communities is more than understandable after the recent battles over funding for King County Metro. Now that funding for Metro has been stabilized, at least for the City of Seattle, these questions and concerns will hopefully be answered quickly and succinctly.

Special thanks to Maria Koengeter and the rest of the folks at SDOT, Nelson\Nygaard, et al for their work thus far and for providing this opportunity to help inform the development of the Madison BRT line. Continued community neighborhood/stakeholder involvement in this project will be an important factor in the line’s development and future success. As the Madison Corridor will be facing unprecedented growth over the coming years, projects such as this will be critical for the communities affected.

Full disclosure: I am a resident of First Hill and a member of the First Hill Improvement Association Transportation Working Group.

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Gordon is a native New Yorker who wisely chose to leave the Northeast in the early 1990s. A past resident of Belltown, and Queen Anne, he currently calls First Hill home. He is a board member of the First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) as well as the FHIA Transportation Committee Chair and is constantly looking for ways to improve transportation up the hill.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Why have the #60 run on this for a few blocks, seems better as a simple transfer crossing the transitway (and re-route the #60 slightly to not run on Madison).
    Also I don’t get having the turn lane in the center between the two directions of the center-running transitway, locate the left turn lane to the right of the two directions of transitway. This would keep the cars out of the transitway entirely.

    • The 60 being on Madison will have no effect on BRT being on the same street other than the 2 shared stops will have improvements that the 60 can take advantage of.

      Putting the left turn lane (when present) on the right side of the bus lane would probably cause a lot of accidents, never mind requiring the bus lanes to constantly weave back and forth more than necessary

      • Putting the turn lane in the center has the cars enter the transitway which will just clog it up with SOVs and make it ineffective. Having the left turn lanes outside of the transitway is standard protocol for LRT and busway where they run down the center.
        Ok as long as having the 60 not hamper or complicate the operation and design of the through routed lines on the transitway I am sold having it use it for 2 stops.

        • I will bring your comments re: location of the turn lane with the folks studying the project at SDOT to see their thoughts

  2. I am more concerned about the BRT being slowed down by regular buses, rather than the other way around. Many of the BRT improvements are designed to eliminate the weaknesses of regular bus service. These include things like level boarding and off board payments. If the BRT service has this, but the regular buses don’t, then a BRT bus could be sitting, waiting for a regular bus (that waits for someone to pay the fare, is using a wheel chair lift, etc.). So, this leads me to several questions:

    1) Will the new BRT bus have level boarding?
    2) If so, how will that line up with the other (regular) buses?
    3) Will the new BRT bus have off board payment?

    If the answer is “no” and “no”, that doesn’t mean this is a bad thing. I’m all for bus improvements. Give me exclusive lanes and let various buses use them. I just wouldn’t call it “BRT”.

    • 1. The BRT bus stops will have level boarding
      2. the BRT buses will essentially be different-painted versions of the new Xcelsior Trolley buses that Metro is already buying
      3. The BRT buses will have the same type of off-board ticketing that they are testing at 3rd/pine outside of Macy’s + orca scanners

      • Thanks for the response. As far as item 3 is concerned, I’m not that familiar with the testing at 3rd and Pine. How exactly does that work. Is it a proof of payment system, like Link Light Rail? Or is it a gated system (like a lot of subway systems)?

        Back to the big picture. So, what it is the difference between the regular buses (the 2, 11 and 60) and the BRT? One difference is obvious — the BRT operates in an exclusive lane the entire way, while the regular bus operates in the exclusive lane only part of the way. Is the same true with off-board payment? In other words, will the 2, 11 and 60 have off-board payment at the BRT stops, and regular (on board) payment elsewhere?

        • like the streetcar and/or parking meters. you pay at the TVM and it prints a ticket w/date+timestamp … show it to the driver like a transfer

          Seattle Times did a story: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025102413_busticketsxml.html

          as for your second question … you won’t be able to pay w/orca cards for the 2/11/60 off board just as you can’t pay w/orca at rapid ride stops for regular buses downtown today … but no reason why you couldn’t use the TVM to print a ticket as the BRT line will be the same fare as the regular buses

          • OK, but if you have to show something to the driver, then it really isn’t off-board payment. For example, you can’t open up all the doors and have everyone enter or exit the way that you can with Link (or just about any subway in the world). This means you encounter the same sort of delays as regular buses. This is disappointing.

            That being said, a cashless on-board system is a big step in the right direction. ITDP ranked a bunch of BRT systems on various criteria, and most were given a 7 or 0 (out of 7) on this measure. I would guess that this system might be like Boston’s Silver Line, and be given a 4.

            I’m guessing that when you looked at most of the existing RapidRide lines, they would fail to “medal”, thus earning a “Not BRT” ranking by the rating agency. This line, however, might at least get on the pedestal.

          • BRT will work like rapid ride with all door boarding and proof of payment enforcement.

            off-board payment will still speed things up somewhat for the few stops shared with the 11, the single stop shared with the 2 and the two stops shared with the 60

          • OK, I get you. Proof of payment for BRT, and tickets for the regular buses (on the BRT route). Sounds good to me. This can easily be adjusted, too. If the regular buses actually do slow down the BRT, then the regular bus routes can be altered.

  3. I don’t get it – center lane is clearly superior, but how would they go center lane if this has to share stops with the 12?

    Side note: Wouldnt taking a right at 23rd and continuing to connect to the future LLR station be a nice extension?

    • I think it said that even if it is center lane, it will be right boarding. That is unusual, and I’m not sure how that will work. I’m guessing that there would be curbs to the right of the bus (like a cycle track) but with bulbous stations. I would like to hear more about that though — how exactly would center lane work with right boarding buses?

      • OK – I’ll have to ask them some of these questions. I can imagine stops that were offset to allow right boarding using theee lanes. Seems kind of goofy – why not just kick the regular buses off the corridor and do real BRT?

        • certain portions will be shared because of topography and the way Madison affects the street grid (running at an angle) … having overlap will actually be a plus for shared portions of the 2, 11, and 60, due to the enhancements on Madison

    • In response to your “side note” question:

      Yes, Yes, a hundred times Yes! This would be great. Not only would it connect to the future Link station, but it would connect to the existing Link station (at Mount Baker). This goes through the heart of the CD, connecting Garfield High School with Franklin. It is one of the best lines in the city that will hopefully be a light rail line someday (basically putting the Metro 8 underground) but it will take a long time to build that. In the meantime, adding BRT to this corridor would be hugely popular. There already is a bus line (the 48) that covers part of this, but the 48 doesn’t go downtown, and doesn’t connect to the Capitol Station or First Hill. This would.

      Besides, if the design of this BRT is more just general bus lane improvements (as I suggest in my other comment) then these improvements would be shared by all the buses along this corridor. For example, the 4 travels along this route (for part of it’s route) while the 8 alternates between 23rd and MLK. The 8 could simply be moved over to 23rd.

      • Ross – we (Seattle Subway) definitely think that the Madison/23rd corridor should be in ST4. Its our top post ST3 priority.

        In the meantime this corridor with real BRT features (a true exclusive lane, for one) could be a blockbuster.

        If the Madison line is efficient, they may run into demand issues related to how much pent up demand being induced by good service.

        Anyways – like you say, adding 23rd gets you major LR and transfer connectivity.

      • what happens to the line after 23rd is up for debate. the Transit Master Plan (TMP) only specifies the corridor on Madison to 23rd. After that … it really amounts to public advocacy to determine what happens.

        Best thing one can do if they have an idea, is to contact the Madison BRT folks at SDOT and present your ideas for inclusion in their study.

        the project’s email address is: MadisonBRT@seattle.gov

    • also you are assuming that there will be a 12 after the BRT line is built. Most likely there will not. The 19th ave tail might become part of a different route or still cancelled altogether

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