SDOT presents latest Madison BRT design concept

SDOT presents latest Madison BRT design concept

SDOT presents latest Madison BRT design concept

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented the latest design concept of its Madison Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project during an open house on Monday, Nov. 16. The plan has taken heat for not following through on promised bus-only lanes east of 18th Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

A group of more than 150 gathered in a fourth-level conference room in the Central Library, where SDOT employees manned information tables and boards that revealed proposed transit lanes, shelter locations, bus technology, bike routes, engineering planning maps and predicted outcomes of the project.

SDOT Madison Corridor BRT project manager Maria Koengeter said of the program’s purpose and ultimate goals, “The Madison Corridor BRT is integral to the city’s vision of creating a safe, interconnected, affordable, and vibrant and innovative city and transportation system. This is just one of the many projects that will help move us forward."

Current and expected traffic times after implementing the Madison Corridor BRT project were displayed, showing slightly longer eastbound auto travel times and very little change in westbound auto travel times but a significant improvement in bus travel times.

SDOT employees, who collected the data using Vissim and other traffic simulation software, were available to answer questions.

SDOT’s Michael James said of the Bus Rapid Transit project, a part of the voter-approved Move Seattle transportation levy, “The idea is that, rather than having a RapidRide here and a RapidRide here, we are going to have a whole network covering the whole city.”


‘A significant investment’

SDOT plans to improve seven traffic corridors throughout the city with transit signal priority, enhanced stations, branded vehicles, station fare-payment options and levels of dedicated running way, which may include central, transit-only lanes or curbside Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes.

“These are the tools we have to put together for the RapidRide corridors,” James said. “Our plan is to be rolling these seven corridors out over the next seven or nine years, with Madison being first.”

While giving an overview of planned routes and lane designs, Tom Brennan of Nelson/Nygaard, the consultant project manager for the program, addressed why bus-only lanes were not chosen throughout the entire project, despite being preferred by a majority of the public, based on SDOT’s Preference Survey.

“One of the reasons we weren’t able to get center-running lanes into downtown was we wanted to maintain two lanes of general-purpose traffic,” he explained. “In order to have a center-running lane, you need to have an island station, and we just couldn’t fit those in.”

Although the Madison Corridor BRT project will consist mainly of BAT and mixed-traffic lanes, with center-bus lanes encompassing less than 25 percent of the route, level-platform boarding, off-board fare payment and transit signal priority will streamline and improve public transit throughout the area.

“A lot of people think transit-only lanes are the thing that deliver speed and reliability, but actually a lot of those other BRT features are equally as important in making sure the bus is reliable,” Brennan said.

The project will include electric buses, with doors on each side, to accommodate for the center bus-only lanes. High-quality shelters are planned for 11 stations along the corridor, along with off-board fare payment, real-time transit information and level boarding platforms. Key investment locations along the corridor include the stations at Terry and Boylston avenues, the station between 12th and 13th avenues and the 22nd Avenue station.

Although Madison Street doesn’t have space for a bike lane, the project team is working to provide alternatives to make bike transportation in the area as good as transit. A bike network study is currently underway in downtown that’s determining the best pathway between downtown and the Ninth Avenue Greenway. Both the Denny Neighborhood Greenway and a protected bike path on Union Street, in each direction of the street, are also in the works, Brennan said.

The total cost of the entire project, as proposed during this open house, is estimated to be about $120 million.

“It’s a significant investment that includes everything from the transit facility to the vehicles to the stations to the pedestrian improvement, design and the costs that go along with traffic operations to put in place a project like this,” Brennan said.

The Move Seattle levy will provide $15 million for the Madison Corridor BRT project, while the Federal Transit Administration and other regional and local sources will be looked into for additional funding.

The presentation concluded without an open comment period, but attendees were encouraged to meet with SDOT employees during the remainder of the open house. An array of hand-inscribed notes filled a comment board, some doting BAT lanes and others pleading for bus-only lanes throughout downtown.


Design work next year

The open house was the first large public meeting since the recent passage of the Move Seattle levy, which allocated $915 million for multiple multimodal corridor, bridge, sidewalk, road and public transit improvements.

SDOT will present a preferred concept of the plan to the Seattle City Council later this year. The city expects to move ahead to the preliminary design and environmental assessment phase of the project beginning in early 2016 and start project construction in 2018.

Information about the Madison Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project can be found at

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