Reclaiming NE 45th Street from Cars

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NE 45th street with a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street.
My proposed protected bi-directional bike lane and bus-only lanes running down North 45th Street at the intersection with 12th Avenue NE. Perspective is from the north. (Rendering courtesy of Joe Mangan/SketchUp Software).

This 45th Street redesign would add protected bike lanes and put people rather than cars first.

Seattle’s NE 45th Street has long served as a highway collector for North Seattle drivers. Cutting through Wallingford to the west of I-5 and the University District to the east, the road serves a unique purpose as one of Seattle’s few major east-west arterials. However, NE 45th Street must rapidly change to keep up with the trajectory of the area. With University District light rail on track to open this year, with large upzones bringing new towers into the area, and with a series of U District streets possibly seeing full pedestrianization in the coming years, it is time that the city redesigns NE 45th Street. 

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of future light rail users will be arriving at the University District station by bus, bike, or foot—not by car. Thousands of those riders will also be new area residents drawn to recently-constructed and soon-to-open apartment complexes, just blocks away from high-quality rail service. And, new pedestrian streets would likely translate to a higher volume of pedestrians and cyclists in the area. It is vital that the city ensures the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and the speed of bus service, throughout the corridor. 

No longer should NE 45th Street be merely a highway collector and car sewer. When U District station opens later this year, it will be a magnet for local residents, University of Washington students, and people travelling from around Seattle to walk, roll, bike, and hop a bus to access the new light rail station. In anticipation of these changes, and in the face of the climate crisis, I propose (as have the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition and The Urbanist), bus-only lanes along NE 45th Street—a big upgrade for Route 44. I also propose bi-directional protected bike lanes up and down the corridor—which would intersect with the protected bikes lane on Roosevelt Way—to connect area residents to future light rail service, existing and future businesses, and future pedestrian streets.

Rendering shows two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane.
Current channelization for NE 45th Street through the University District. (Rendering courtesy of Joe Mangan/SketchUp software).
Rechannelized street with a bus lane and general purpose lane in each direction. Instead of center turn lane there is a two-way protected bike lane.
Proposed road configuration for NE 45th Street, featuring new bus lanes and a bi-directional protected bike lane. (Rendering courtesy of Joe Mangan/SketchUp software).

NE 45th Street is a highly constricted corridor. It is so constricted, in fact, that its center turn lane and two adjacent traffic lanes are an unusually narrow nine feet wide, compared to traffic lanes in the rest of the city that can range between 10 to 14 feet wide. The two curb-running lanes of the corridor are, currently, often just ten feet wide—a foot narrower than what is often standard for bus traffic. As such, envisioning a multimodal 45th Street can prove a challenge—but it’s far from impossible, as this article will show.

Because of the corridor’s constrained conditions, one-way bike lanes on both sides of the road would be extremely difficult to accommodate alongside bus lanes, sidewalks, and planting strips. A bi-directional bike lane, however, would be capable of servicing the corridor while leaving room for a substantial four foot wide planting strip to protect cyclists and pedestrians from general traffic. Even so, constrained conditions restrict the width of the bike lanes—National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) standards recommend a total width of 12 feet for a bi-directional bike lane, but allow for a total width of just eight feet in the tight circumstances characteristic of NE 45th Street. This would allow bike traffic to be safely accommodated in both directions without sacrificing large amounts of existing sidewalk space or the ability to install bus-only lanes throughout the corridor. 

NE 45th street with a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street.
My proposed protected bi-directional bike lane and bus-only lanes running down NE 45th Street at the intersection with 12th Avenue NE. Perspective is from the north. (Rendering courtesy of Joe Mangan/SketchUp Software).

The space for the bike lanes can be found by eliminating the corridor’s center turning lane. Numerous intersections up and down the corridor through the University District already prohibit left turns despite the presence of the center turning lane. It eats up a great deal of space for car storage, and using that space to safely accommodate thousands of cyclists instead is the clear decision. The center turning lane is currently nine feet wide—meaning that the space could be repurposed to provide an eight-foot bi-directional cycle track while also contributing a foot to the planting strip that would buffer the lanes.

Because left turns are already largely prohibited up and down the corridor, and because many streets could be entirely closed to general traffic within the next few years, the typical threats to cyclists posed by bi-directional lanes—specifically, hazards from left and right-turning drivers not expecting contra-flow bike traffic—would be largely eliminated. If I had my way, we would pedestrianize The Ave, Brooklyn Avenue, and 12th Avenue (plus NE 43rd Street) to entirely eliminate threats to cyclists and pedestrians while creating a new car-free ecodistrict. This would also speed up eastbound Route 44 by allowing the line to move down NE 45th Street from 12th Avenue to 15th Avenue largely without obstruction from cars.

Bike lanes on NE 45th Street would provide a safe route for cyclists between Wallingford and the University District, expanding on the short sections of bike network the city has already installed on 45th—such as on the block running past Dick’s Burgers, between 1st and 2nd Avenue NE. The lanes would also intersect with substantial bike corridors, such as Roosevelt Way NE.

A protected intersection treatment to help get bicyclists through a busy intersection.
My proposed bus-only lanes alongside my proposed bi-directional cycle track at the intersection of NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE. (Renderings courtesy of Joe Mangan/SketchUp Software).

With the center turning lane out of the picture, precisely 40 feet of road width is left to work with. Just over half of that—22 feet or 11 feet per lane—could be used to swiftly shepherd transit riders throughout the corridor by rolling out the red carpet for new bus-only lanes. City surveys reveal that, for 93% of respondents, improving bus speeds in the corridor is the greatest concern. Bus lanes up and down the corridor (as I propose), in conjunction with traffic signal timing that gives buses preference at intersections, would provide the travel time reductions people want to see. This would rapidly speed up east-west bus service from Ballard to the University District—a big improvement for Route 44 riders—while also enticing new transit riders interested in commuting via light rail.

While I do not view reductions in car lanes and turning lanes to be a drawback of this proposal—I actually view those reductions as a step in the right direction towards a clean climate, safe streets, and a livable city—there are many that would not only view such a loss as a drawback, but would also likely be quite angered by the thought of eliminating lanes on NE 45th Street. The reality is that cars are an extremely inefficient mode of transportation. My proposal would be able to move up to 41,000 people per hour through the corridor, while the existing layout hits capacity at 26,000 trips—and, of the current road capacity, car lanes could handle only 8,000 potential trips per hour, while sidewalks handle the bulk of the remaining road capacity. The fact of the matter is that buses, bike lanes, and good sidewalk infrastructure can handle significantly more people per hour than cars alone ever could. Unfortunately, the city often attempts to build streets for cars alone, and then we wonder why we sit in traffic. 

A smattering of tall red boxes show the envelopes for future highrises being planned.
If all the highrise projects in the pipeline are built, the U District skyline will be shaped something like this. (Credit: David Boynton)

The other reality is that, like everything else in our world, roads have a demand, and a supply. With roads, however, increasing the supply induces demand. The fundamental rule of cities is that, “if you build it, they will come.” Building more lanes of traffic, under virtually all observed scenarios, translates to more cars on the road. With more lanes of traffic, travel times briefly drop, enticing new drivers, who then fill the new lanes. According to city planner Jeff Speck, new car lanes are almost automatically filled to 40% of their capacity by new cars. Within four years, new lanes reach 100% capacity. We could attempt to build our way out of traffic congestion with an infinite cycle of new car lane construction, but we would in the process pour thousands upon thousands of tons of concrete and spew millions of tons of emissions into the atmosphere. This approach is not just environmentally devastating, it is also unrealistic: it would require the large-scale purchase of property and demolition of existing housing stock to find the room for new lanes. 

Thankfully, this is not the approach we ever will need to take. Just as demand for driving is induced by new car lanes, demand for cycling, walking, and transit riding is induced by new bus-only lanes and a safe bike and pedestrian network. And, a good transportation system alongside bike and pedestrian improvements can take on the road capacity that car lanes could never provide. As I once noted in my article outlining a safer NE 65th Street, “Cities are built around incentives, and good cities incentivize walking, biking, and transit—the transportation modes that most benefit traffic flow, businesses, the environment, public health, and safety.”

Aeriel view of NE 45th Street looking east from rooftop at Mountaineers Club.
NE 45th Street today frequently includes buses clogged in traffic. Planned bus lanes would partially address that. Bird’s eye perspective if from the Mountaineers Club rooftop bar. (Photo by Doug)

Improvements to NE 45th Street’s bus, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure are long overdue. The reality is that cars have outlived their usefulness. The time to build cities for people, not cars, was yesterday. Every year, 1.35 million people are killed in collisions involving cars. An additional 385,000 people lose their lives annually as a result of toxic air pollution from cars alone, and those emissions disproportionately impact communities of color. The average American spends the equivalent of two and a half work weeks every year in traffic, and studies show that pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streets encourage greater commerce at area businesses than streets built for cars. In cities across America, too, cars are a driving contributor of the climate crisis—in Seattle, 53% of the city’s overall emissions are the result of “cars and light duty trucks” alone

We must ask ourselves: is it worth devoting 50% to 60% of our city space to the car—an invention that kills millions, destroys the planet, segregates communities, drives financial stress for working people, harms local business, renders city streets inaccessible for many people with disabilities, and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually? Or do we want a different future—one where everything you need is available within walking distance and where anyone, regardless of their income, can move about the city efficiently? We must end the dictatorship of the car, and the oppressive negotiation that is walking in urban America. We must move, immediately, to build a robust and efficient mass transportation network alongside critical bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Our urban arteries are not immune. 

With the United Nations urging drastic cuts to global emissions within the next ten years, and knowing that private cars contribute more than half of Seattle’s emissions, one must wonder why a city that prides itself on being a “climate leader” gets such cold feet when it comes to infrastructure investments that question the dominance of cars. Interestingly, pushback from angry drivers often borders on climate denialism—a stubborn unwillingness to recognize that we are rapidly destroying Earth, and that to confront this crisis we must set aside even our greatest conveniences and end our destructive ways of living.

Bus and bike lanes on NE 45th Street would advance Seattle’s transformation to a sustainable, just future. We must work to expand bus service and improve the efficiency of bus routes across the city. Closing off streets to create car-free ecodistricts, too, is but one critical solution in Seattle’s climate response. And, we must look to the city’s zoning laws to create communities that are dense, welcoming, and provide for the needs of all residents within a 15-minute walk. The climate crisis, and climate justice, cannot wait.

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Joe Mangan (Guest Contributor)

Joe Mangan is an urban studies and political science double major at Vassar College. He organized the Seattle Climate Strike, led weekly strikes outside Seattle City Hall as the founder of Fridays for Future Seattle, and was later a coordinator with the Seattle for a Green New Deal campaign. His redesign of NE 65th Street was declared “Better Than SDOT’s” by the Seattle Bike Blog. 

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Daniel Thompson

asdf2 doubts the city council will be “bold enough” to adopt such a plan. Generally if an idea someone thinks makes sense has not been adopted for decades there are reasons, and countervailing interests.

In this case those countervailing interests are/have been:

1. The UW, and the UW basically decides these issues in its backyard. If the UW thought this was a good idea it would have been adopted long ago, because the plan for dedicated bus lanes has been proposed before.

2. Local businesses. They like car traffic and customers, and deliveries.

3. Local drivers, and those who drive to the UW from all over the region. Some may hate the car, but there are a lot of drivers who use 45th, and my guess is the number of drivers outnumbers the number of bus passengers along 45th.

4. Local residents who are smart enough to know the cars won’t simply disappear from 45th or the area, they will migrate to the other streets with dense street parking and narrow roads, and that have more pedestrians and housing (which is why Ross is correct 45th is not the best place for a narrow, code non-compliant, 8′ bi-directional bike path that must cross many busy intersections).

5. Residents in Montlake who are very well organized, and don’t walk car traffic on 45th rerouted through Montlake.

I would add the irony of some who posted that walking from Dick’s to the UW is easily doable, and the author’s reply noting the unacceptable walk from Laurelhurst to light rail, about the same distance. I think the author is correct, because although walking great distances is certainly doable (and long ago as an undergraduate I lived on 50th and Meridian) long walking distances is not a good way to build a transit system, and one could even argue why even have buses on 45th if one could just walk from one end of 45th to the other end.

Anonymous

Anonymous

“although walking great distances is certainly doable, walking long distances is not a good way to build a transit system”

Both these things are true:

1. Dicks to UW is not a “long distance” it’s less than a mile.

2. Best practice for transit walksheds is 1/4 to 1/2 mile.

Joe Mangan

Laurelhurst to Husky Stadium is a 2 mile walk. That’s way outside the best practice for walksheds to transit. The distance is even longer from Windermere, View Ridge, etc.

Dick’s to WSECU on 45th is a 0.5 mile walk. Not comparable distances.

Again, there are sections of the 2nd Avenue bike lane that are 8′ ft wide — almost exclusively at driveways. (To be transparent, the rest of the corridor is a 10 ft wide bike lane — which is preferable). This could be done, and a 8 ft bi-directional cycle track is up to both NACTO and AASHTO standards — which the city transit officials look to in their designs.

However, I am also sympathetic to concerns about narrow lanes. A one-way lane on the South side of 45th could also work in place of the bidirectional proposal, connecting folks from the Roosevelt Way bike lane to the light rail station. That would also free up sidewalk space. But, I still think it’s important to have bike lanes going the opposite direction on 45th, so I would ultimately still lobby for the proposal envisioned in the article over that alternative.

asdf2

I think decisions that you are a assuming was a deliberate design is really just a legacy of the old-school traffic engineer way of thinking. It wasn’t that long ago when people thought cars made walking as obsolete as the horse and buggy, and that you have to prioritize car traffic above everything else. Until recently, nobody even bothered to question these assumptions.

By your logic, streets should not have been pedestrianized in Paris and Times Square should not have been pedestrianized in New York. The U-district has plenty of foot traffic to sustain local businesses and it’s not like narrowing 45th to one lane bans cars from it completely.

As I said in my other comment, if an 8-foot bidirectional bike lane is to narrow, just use the space to widen the sidewalk. It would be a huge improvement for pedestrians, while providing an option for slower-moving bikes as well.

RossB

I’m all for bus lanes on 45th. I think that is essential, and should have been done a while ago. I want to clarify though — I assume they would actually be BAT lanes, not bus lanes. That would mean cars would be allowed in them, so they could turn right. Is that the case?

I am less excited about getting rid of the left turns lanes and adding bike lanes there. I’m not fan of left turns, but doing so on 45th would likely lead to a lot more right turns. This means a lot more cars in the BAT lanes.

Unless of course you really meant bus lanes. That would mean that cars turning right would stop traffic. It would probably be difficult to deliver freight with one lane each direction constantly being stopped by cars turning right (and yielding to bikes and pedestrians).

45th is an essential transit corridor. While it is a good bike corridor, it is not really in the same league. It is not part of the bike master plan, for example. Rather than have very narrow bike lanes which mix with bus stops, it makes sense to have them on parallel streets. For example, 47th would make a very nice bike path, and would require only getting rid of some parking. Another alternative would be 50th. A typical road diet (four lanes to 3) would allow enough room for bike lanes on either side.

asdf2

“I am less excited about getting rid of the left turns lanes and adding bike lanes there.”

Currently, bikes have the Burke-Gilman and trail and Ravenna Blvd. to get across I-5 and nothing between except the 45th and 50th St. arterials with no bike facilities.

Short of building a whole new bridge over I-5, the only way to remedy this is to take space away from cars, and bike lanes on 45th is one relatively cheap way to do it.

Another option that could be considered for 45th in lieu of bike lanes is to simply widen the sidewalk, which is far to narrow to handle the pedestrian volume it typically experiences. Drivers who want to turn left off 45th can simply turn right and go around the block. It’s not that big of a deal.

Anonymous

There’s a great bike lane already that connects much of Seattle. It’s called the Burke Gilman. You should try it out. It’s about two mins from 45th and is wonderful. If you question where are all the cyclists; they are on the Burke 😉
There are also great streets that have been pedestrianized for the past year during Covid including N 44th.
Your proposal is not thought through.

Joe Mangan

Hi, thanks for your comment!

By this logic, we don’t need any of the neighborhood streets in Seattle because we already have I-5 running through Seattle. It simply makes no sense. A network needs to be connected and expansive to be widely useful. The question is, what happens if you want to bike to a business on 45th or in the surrounding area? The Burke Gilman is great, but it doesn’t go there. Do you expect a five-lane avenue to be hospitable to cyclists? Since we know cars are the single greatest contributor to Seattle’s carbon emissions, is it an acceptable reality that so much of our infrastructure is set aside for cars alone while we constrain cyclists to one bike trail?

Cars only took over the city in the past ~half a century, prior to that cities were dominated by the streetcar and were widely walkable and bike-able. A different future is possible — one where everything is accessible by clean transportation, whether that’s by mass transportation, bike, or foot. But the fact is that cities around the world, but especially American cities (whose residents have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world), must do the work to make that a reality in the next 10 years if we are going to make a dent in our carbon emissions. We just have to be bold and visionary. Same-old-same-old planning approach that places cars first isn’t working.

Brett Wolfe

A lot of folks utilize the NE 45th St corridor to get from Wallingford or I-5 to get to University Village and Laurelhurst. Projects like this do literally nothing to address how those folks will continue to cross through the area. What is the proposal for all of those folks, which includes ambulances traveling to/from Children’s Hospital? Very few of those people are riding buses, and it isn’t currently feasible to do so.

Joe Mangan

Hi, thanks for your comment!

I think you are viewing the corridor simply through its current functionality as an I-5 collector route for NE Seattle residents. I grew up in NE Seattle, so I’m quite familiar with what you describe. For drivers in Northeast Seattle, the options if you want to get to Interstate 5 are currently restricted to pretty much Northeast 45th, through the University District, or Montlake Boulevard. My guess is that the vast majority of those drivers are trying to get onto I-5 to go downtown — at least, that’s how many of my friends and family members use 45th/Montlake Boulevard. I’d have to look into traffic counts to confirm if that’s entirely the case, but logically, that makes sense.

Knowing the people that live in the area, I know that many of those people ~want~ to take the light rail, but it’s simply not accessible. It’s actually a pretty big source of frustration in the area. From Laurelhurst to the Husky Stadium Station, it’s a 30 to 40 minute walk, if you’re really hoofing it. The alternative is clogged Montlake Traffic or backed up traffic through the University District that takes roughly the same amount of time, but from the comfort of a car. Neither is a glamorous option, but the fact of the matter is that many residents drive because the city has failed to provide a robust mass transportation alternative that conveniently services Northeast Seattle neighborhoods with connections to light rail or direct and speedy routes to downtown.

I think that’s a huge problem, especially because over half of Seattle’s emissions come from cars alone. We need to get residents out of cars and onto mass transit, bikes, or foot if we are to slash our emissions. Electric cars could have a place, but the fact of the matter is that the carbon emissions from manufacturing a bus that carries up to 120 people will always be significantly lower than the emissions that would result from manufacturing an electric car for each and every one of those 120 potential bus passengers. There’s much more to it than that, but the bottom line is that mass transit is simply a cleaner and more efficient option.

For that reason, I think it’s important that the city builds out mass transit options and a robust bicycle network in the area. I have already proposed a streetcar line connecting the Stadium Station through Montlake and Sand Point — basically as a cheaper alternative to building out underground light rail. The article is here:

https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/01/12/sand-point-way-streetcar/

That takes care of one corridor, and would provide thousands of area residents with a car-free solution that would deliver them downtown or to the Eastside (via streetcar and then light rail) without the traffic on I-5/the 520 or the need to drive down North 45th Street. I’m currently working on a similar, alternative proposal that would build that as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system as opposed to the streetcar line I previously envisioned. It would deliver similar benefits but at a cheaper price tag.

To me, this proposal for bus and bike lanes on 45th, and the proposal I outlined in that article, work hand-in-hand. This proposal would move Wallingford and Greenlake residents to the future University District light rail station via mass transportation, bike, or foot, taking thousands of cars off the road. But I think that would also require building out transportation on Montlake/Sand Point Way to take even more cars off the road. The reality seems to be that most of the traffic on 45th currently comes from Northeast Seattle neighborhoods — Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Windermere, Sand Point, Bryant, etc. If we give folks from those neighborhoods the robust transportation options I’ve proposed, we’ll see less cars on the road. That would also be certainly better than the current reality — 5 lanes of clogged cars stuck on 45th, or awful traffic down Montlake Boulevard. It would certainly address the concern you brought up about ambulance services to Children’s Hospital. Hypothetically, if we took drivers out of cars and put them on mass transit we would have more road space to move ambulances faster.

These two proposals would also provide connections to University Village — Route 44 runs through the University District and terminates near Husky Stadium, my streetcar or BRT proposal on Montlake would provide a quick transit connection from there to University Village.

Hope I addressed your thoughts well here.

RossB

Ambulances and other emergency vehicles can use the bus lanes. If anything, adding bus lanes would help the situation.

As far as general traffic goes, I don’t see much of a problem. Eastbound, 45th narrows a bit before the viaduct. Westbound, there is only one lane for the ramp that comes from the U-Village area. Essentially it is already just one lane each direction for through traffic.

The big difference would be folks who drive to the U-District. They lose a lane each direction. Sorry, that’s life. It is like downtown Seattle, that has been adding bus lanes like crazy over the last 20 years (I think they are into the double digits now). If you want to drive downtown, you are limited to a handful of lanes. But the vast majority of the people downtown are taking transit. The same thing is true of the UW. This isn’t the 1950s. Way more people take transit into and out of the U-District — the infrastructure should reflect that.

asdf2

Emergency vehicles, including ambulances would, of course, have access to the bus lane, so it’s a strict improvement for them over the status quo where they might get stuck behind cars. Even the intersections where the proposal would prohibit left turns, an ambulance can use its emergency vehicle privileges to turn left there anyway. Ambulances will be fine.

eddiew

the piece should describe the profile at bus stops; are the SDOT bus humps per NE 65th Street intended? Transit priority would have been more important in previous decades when the transit agencies had service oriented to the U District from the north and could not use the I-5 reversible lanes; transit volumes will decline in fall 2021 with Northgate Link.

Joe Mangan

Hey, that’s a great point! I’ll see if I can come up with a mock-up of what a bus stop here would look like and try to get back to you. No guarantees though, I head back to college soon so I don’t have a ton of time on my hands currently. My preference would be to run the bike lane behind the bus stop, similar to the existing configuration I rendered on Roosevelt Way. I’m not a fan of the setup the city used on 65th for bus stops (forces bus riders and cyclists to negotiate for space when a bus arrives at the stop in a way I find potentially more dangerous than a different setup). I believe I critiqued that setup in my Northeast 65th article, but I may be remembering wrong.

https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/01/23/ne-65th-street-needs-heavy-dose-vision-zero-heres/#comments

Because of the constrained conditions on 45th, bus stops might have to function as they do on 65th, but I generally am a believer in the idea that almost anything is possible, so I’d want to take a stab at designing an alternative before I commit to that. Thanks for your comment.

eddiew

on Roosevelt Way NE (and Dexter Avenue North), there is parallel parking in the same alignment of the bus islands. There is no parallel parking on NE 45th Street, so that road space is not available. So, for the bike lane to go behind the bus stop, it would have to displace the sidewalk. The sidewalks carry pedestrians and intending transit riders. Right of way is the main constraint. You should provide a drawing. With the SDOT NE 65th Street humps, cyclists are to yield to those transitioning between being bus riders and pedestrians. Bike speed becomes an issue.

RossB

Transit priority would have been more important in previous decades when the transit agencies had service oriented to the U District from the north and could not use the I-5 reversible lanes; transit volumes will decline in fall 2021 with Northgate Link.

I disagree, and certainly not east-west service, which is what this is about. The case for adding bus lanes on 45th is stronger than ever. Trips like Wallingford to Northgate, or Wallingford to Capitol Hill are suddenly a lot faster — but not if the 44 is stuck in traffic. Same with Ballard or U-Village to Northgate.

Northgate Link does very little, if anything, to replace east-west trips. A trip from Ballard to the UW will not involve Link. Neither will a trip from the U-Village or Children’s Hospital. Those that do involve Link will start with an east-west bus.

Even north-south bus service is essential after Northgate Link. There is no station at Campus Parkway or 55th, which means that lots of riders will get off the train, and want to catch a bus a few blocks. That being said, while north-south improvements would be nice, I don’t see them as essential (the buses move fairly well north-south).

asdf2

I very much like the proposal here, even though I don’t have a lot of faith in the city council being bold enough to make it happen. This kind of reminds of what happened in Paris, where they kicked out cars from the road by the Seine river and, even though the drivers were angry, people as a whole reacted very positively.

Maybe we can even use COVID argument to justify it that conservatives all-too-often use to bash transit. After all, if everyone is working remotely, maybe we don’t need that rush-hour car capacity.

Daniel Thompson

This is an interesting proposal, but not new. But when the author states,

“We must ask ourselves: is it worth devoting 50% to 60% of our city space to the car—an invention that kills millions, destroys the planet, segregates communities, drives financial stress for working people, harms local business, renders city streets inaccessible for many people with disabilities, and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually? Or do we want a different future—one where everything you need is available within walking distance and where anyone, regardless of their income, can move about the city efficiently? We must end the dictatorship of the car, and the oppressive negotiation that is walking in urban America. We must move, immediately, to build a robust and efficient mass transportation network alongside critical bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Our urban arteries are not immune.”

the author loses me. I also don’t see the support for the statement, ” because many streets could be entirely closed to general traffic within the next few years, the typical threats to cyclists posed by bi-directional lanes — specifically, hazards from left and right-turning drivers not expecting contra-flow bike traffic”… Is there a specific proposal to completely close streets in this area to cars? Wouldn’t these other streets be necessary to handle the car traffic displaced from 45th in this proposal?

The issue is whether dedicated bike lanes and bus lanes are a better use of the road space, so the first part of the quote above is legit, depending on respective use of 45th. But the issue isn’t about morality, or whether the car is the work of Satan. No one is walking from Dick’s to the UW, and there are already sidewalks along 45th, and it is still an unpleasant walk with little retail density and busy intersections. I was just on 45th and Roosevelt last week and it isn’t an urbanist utopia “where everything you need is available within walking distance and where anyone, regardless of their income, can move about the city efficiently”. It is mostly a busy, run down college street with heavy traffic going somewhere (considering the UW is not open). Bike lanes still have to cross multiple busy intersections. I would much rather walk one of the side streets east-west.

If I really wanted parts of this proposal to pass I would skip the bi-directional bike lanes that at 8′ are way too narrow (4′ less than code which is too much for liability purposes), and retain the center turn lanes and dedicated bus lanes, otherwise car congestion will be absolute. What this proposal really neglects to consider though is a right hand turn by a car, across blind bike and bus lanes.

Whether such a proposal will ever be adopted — and dedicated bus lanes on 45th have been proposed for many years, and have merit at least during peak school hours — depends on politics (and probably the UW), and whether voters and users of 45th want to limit cars on 45th, which of course drives traffic to other more residential streets like 50th and other side streets. In the past the answer has obviously been no.

Anonymous

“No one is walking from Dick’s to the UW, and there are already sidewalks along 45th, and it is still an unpleasant walk with little retail density and busy intersections”

I don’t personally east at Dick’s but I’ve walked 45th (and 50th) from Wallingford to the U District a number of times.

asdf2

I’ve done so many times too. UW->Dicks is not too far to walk. Plus, the proposed changes would make the walk a whole lot less unpleasant. An extra 10-20 feet from moving car traffic helps a lot, as does the fact that slower-moving cars make a lot less noise than faster-moving cars.

And, if you’re too tired to walk both ways, there’s still the #44 bus, which this change would make much faster and more reliable. I’ve ridden the #44 during COVID with the UW closed and it’s amazing how fast it is; with a dedicated bus lanes, this is how the #44 would function even when everything is open and hopping again.

Anonymous

The 44 is a great point. Under non-COVID conditions, IIRC you could catch one in either direction every 10 minutes along the whole Ballard-Wallingford-U District route.

Joe Mangan

To address your concern about right turns by cars “across blind bike and bus lanes,” I feel as though I should mention that every bicycle lane design I have ever proposed includes a dutch bike intersection. I have never proposed anything else. This drastically increases safety by moving the stop line for cyclists much ahead of the stop line for cars. By the time the light is green, cyclists are often across the intersection before a right-turning car can even touch them. Cyclists are also always kept ahead of a driver’s vision, eliminating the blind spots present at many American bike intersections. This is why the Seattle Bike Blog called my redesign of NE 65th Street “Better Than SDOT’s.” This video explain the dutch bike intersection well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

This concern is also further mitigated by my call to pedestrianize many of the intersecting streets, removing points of conflict. This is along the lines of already-existing proposals by the UDistrict Mobility Group to pedestrianize many of the area streets, although my proposal does go a bit further.

https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/10/31/university-district-mobility-plan-would-pedestrianize-the-ave-and-ne-43rd-st/

The bike lane is also up to both NACTO and AASHTO standards. Seattle has built bike lanes to the specifications that I propose.

brockwhowell

I’m a little confused by the fluidity of the use of “North 45th St” and “NE 45th St.” Doug, can you clarify the segment for which you’re proposing these changes?

Doug Trumm

Most of the changes are NE 45th St, but, since it does connect to existing facilities by Dick’s, a portion of it would be N 45th Street to make the connection. I’ve updated the piece to clarify the NE vs N issue.