60% Designs for Route 44 Add Some Pedestrian Improvements

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The Route 44 corridor (Credit: SDOT)

The Route 44 Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor (TPMC) had reached the 60% design milestone, and last week the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) of shared their progress with the public. Originally promised as “RapidRide Market” in the Move Seattle Levy, the proposal was downgraded alongside Route 40 and 48 to the TPMCs being planned today. Nevertheless, the upgrades will improve conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit along the existing Route 44.

The Rapidrides that got away (Credit: SDOT)

When we last covered Route 44’s upgrades in September 2020, SDOT had just released 30% designs. The 60% design bring minor tweaks to proposals introduced in the last reveal and a brand-new detailed improvement to the corridor in the U District. Akin to the last update, SDOT breaks down the corridor’s updates into Ballard, Phinney/Wallingford, and U District segments.

Ballard Improvements

Compared to the other two segments, Ballard received the most minor updates to its designs. At Market at 26th Ave NW to 24th Ave NW, the length of the right-turn pocket on NW Market St is updated to maintain some parking and loading zones demanded by adjacent businesses. SDOT used traffic modeling to determine the length of the right turn pocket. Outside of a new visual indicator that seems to indicate a concrete island being proposed on NW Market St between 15th Ave NW and 14th Ave NE to prevent drivers westbound on NW Market St from entering the Safeway parking lot, no changes are made to that block of the Ballard segment.

The biggest change between 30% and 60% design in this segment is to the intersection of NW Market St and 11th Ave NW. Two new curb bulbs seem to have been added to the design in order to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, and increase pedestrian visibility for incoming traffic. SDOT also notes that this update will provide more space for traffic signal infrastructure, which includes two stop signs on 11th Ave NE. New curb ramps for the proposed curb bulbs are included too.

Iterations of the intersection of NW Market ST and 11th Ave NW, scuffed inserts by author (Credit: SDOT)

Phinney/Wallingford Improvements

As we move eastward, we start to see the more dramatic changes that SDOT has recently unveiled. Well at least it happens after N 46th St at Greenwood Ave N to Fremont Ave N, where the only real change seems to be the expansion of the new two-way left turn lane that used to terminate just after Evanston Ave N, and now terminates just past halfway to Fremont Ave N. The dramatic changes begin at N 46th St at Aurora Ave N, where SDOT introduces a bevy of pedestrian improvements like a new crosswalk, concrete median islands, sidewalk extensions, and another stop sign.

Iterations of N 46th St at Greenwood Ave N to Fremont Ave N (Credit: SDOT)

Next, on N 46th St at Green Lake Way/Whitman Ave N, SDOT decided to scrap the odd proposal for widening roadway to add an extra eastbound lane between Aurora Ave N and Green Lake Way N. Apparently, in-depth analysis of the widening determined that it would not provide significant transit benefits, and it also found that channelization and signalization changes could produce similar and cheaper results. There’ll also have to be overhead wire modifications, new pedestrian lighting, a shifted crosswalk, and a widened sidewalk for ADA requirements.

The changes between 30% and 60% design for N 46th St at Green Lake Way/Whitman Ave N (Credit: SDOT)

Also, before we cross into the U District, Metro plans to remove the westbound and eastbound bus stops on NE 45th St just west of 7th Ave NE in order to be consistent with the incoming fall 2021 bus restructure for the Northgate link light rail extension. Metro, Sound Transit, and Community transit service changes will result in much fewer transfer opportunities at the NE 45th St and I-5 interchange.

U District Improvements

A block into our eastward movement in the U District, SDOT has unveiled a new proposal to the Route 44 corridor that goes beyond the 30% design proposal. These improvements look to significantly improve conditions at NE 45th St and 8th Ave NE, where a new crosswalk is proposed across NE 45th St, a traffic signal is added, two stop signs are added, a concrete island is added, curb space reconstruction is proposed, and so are new curb ramps. The proposal looks to prevent drivers eastbound from turning left and westbound from turning left onto 8th Ave NE, greatly increasing pedestrian safety and access. A bus only lane also manages to sneak into the picture eastbound after 8th Ave NE.

New pedestrian infrastructure at the intersection of NE 45th St and 8th Ave NE (Credit: SDOT)

Nothing significant seems to change between NE 45th St at 9th Ave NE to 15th Ave NE in 60% design, an eastbound bus only lane does seem to have mysteriously disappeared between 9th Ave NE and Roosevelt Way NE. For 15th Ave NE at N 45th St to NE Pacific St, the southbound business access transit (BAT) lane between NE 43rd St and NE 45th St will be made peak only from all day to maintain the load zone just south of NE 45th St after outreach determined it was needed. Just before reaching NE 43rd St in a southern direction, some parking is also restored after being eliminated in 30% design.

Lastly, at 15th Ave NE at NE Pacific St, the BAT lane that continues on 15 Ave NE now terminates after NE Pacific St because Metro will add a bus stop on 15th Ave NE just south of the NE Pacific St intersection. The addition will have southbound buses travel in the curb lane on 15th, as opposed to the BAT lane proposed in 30% that was a lane away from the curb. 60% design also now indicates that trolley overhead wire modifications will be required for 15th Ave NE at N 45th St to NE Pacific St.

What’s Next

Alongside the 60% design unveiling came the announcement that construction will begin in the U District this summer to complete work there before the U District light rail station opens on October 2nd. This early implementation work includes an eastbound bus-only lane on NE 45th St between Roosevelt Way Ne and 15th Ave NE, plus the BAT lane along 15th Ave NE between NE 40th St and NE 45th St. You can continue to follow along and get email updates at the Route 44 – Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor project website.

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Shaun Kuo is a junior editor at The Urbanist and a recent graduate from the UW's Jackson School. He is a Seattle native that has lived in Wallingford, Northgate, and Lake Forest Park. He enjoys exploring the city by bus and foot.

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longhouse_cat

“Also, before we cross into the U District, Metro plans to remove the westbound and eastbound bus stops on NE 45th St just west of 7th Ave NE in order to be consistent with the incoming fall 2021 bus restructure for the Northgate link light rail extension. Metro, Sound Transit, and Community transit service changes will result in much fewer transfer opportunities at the NE 45th St and I-5 interchange.”

It’s worth noting ALL the routes (with the exception of Routes 64, 322, and possibly 661) serving that flyer stop will truncate at Northgate Link Station. It’s not super clear what Metro wants to do with the facility. As partners, Community Transit, Sound Transit, and Metro Transit has basically given the facility a death sentence. Seriously. What are they gonna do with it? My biggest hope is that Metro hands the facility over to WSDOT and SDOT so they can make serious intersection improvements. Or, they can use that facility as an HOV entrance for vanpools. Or, they can help Pierce Transit out and create some layover space for the 586. Or something.

longhouse_cat

SDOT and WSDOT can, for example, shorten the length of this intersection.

Screenshot_20210508-214030_OneBusAway.jpg
RossB

There are some good changes in here, but compared to the changes for the 40, it is weak. No BAT lanes in Ballard or Wallingford. No BAT lanes westbound on 45th in the U-District. This is a step in the right direction, but a small one. That being said:

The pedestrian improvements are huge. I especially like what is being done in Linden. This will be great. It will make it much easier to walk around that neighborhood, and much easier to transfer from the 44 to the E (two of our busiest buses). The new crossing on 8th will also be a great addition. There is not crossing between 7th and Roosevelt, so this will save a lot of people a lot of time.

The changes on 15th should make a huge difference, especially northbound. From the parking garage on 41st to the end of the BAT lanes (north of 42nd) there are no turns. That means it is a bus-lane, not a BAT lane. Both directions you have a “squeezing” of traffic on 15th, from two lanes to one, while the bus has an alternative. This should make travel for the buses much better. I also like the new left turn BAT lane from 15th to Pacific.

I’m a little surprised there is nothing to make that turn from 15th to 43rd easier, since a lot of buses will now turn there. At 45th there is a left turn lane that can only be used by buses — I would assume the same.

In general this seems like some good transit improvements, but they don’t go nearly far enough. At least we are getting some good pedestrian improvements.

RossB

In general this looks good. Let me start with one thing I would change:

Get rid of the curb bulb on 11th and Market. The pedestrian light is a great addition, and it is always nice when you have a shorter walk across the street. But this will narrow the street to one lane each direction. This will increase congestion both directions, making a ride on the 44 slower, as there are no BAT lanes in the area. It isn’t worth the curb bulb, we are better off with slightly longer light cycle, timed with the other lights in the area (8th, 15th).