I spent one long, cold year living in Minnesota, where the locals joke that there are only two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. Lately, I’ve been feeling like the same could be said here in Seattle, especially when I try to navigate 45th Street (which, like any good Wallingfordian, I avoid as often as possible). To find out the purpose of the construction on 45th, I contacted SDOT’s Jeff Bender, who helpfully explained the project.
The construction along 45th is part of transit improvements to create a bus corridor along 45th/46th/Market. This should make trips along the route faster, buses more frequent, and allow buses to be more timely. All good news since taking the 44 from the U-District can be a major pain, especially at rush hour.
SDOT’s website summarizes the project thusly:
- Add westbound transit lane, or queue jump, on Midvale Avenue at N 46th Street
- Add bus bulbs and passenger amenities at three existing NE 45th Street bus stops: Woodlawn (eastbound), Corliss (westbound) and Thackeray(eastbound)
- Add fiber communications and new traffic signal equipment to give buses priority treatment at key intersections.
Jeff helpfully filled in the missing information:
- A “queue jump” allows buses to go the front of an intersection in their own lane (on the right). The buses get early green signal so they can start before other vehicles. You can see a queue jump in action as you approach the Montlake Bridge, where the right lane (for buses and carpools) gets a green arrow sooner than the rest of traffic. At the Midvale intersection, only the bus will get that privilege.
- “Bus bulbs” are sidewalks extensions that allow buses to load and unload passengers without having to pull into and out of traffic. This hastens the loading and unloading process for the bus. Bus bulbs also offer such passenger amenities as shelters, benches, trash bins, pedestrian lighting and where possible, street trees. Or, if you are in Paris, coffee and a lending library. In Copenhagen, a skateboard ramp (see #17). And in my husband’s beloved Minnesota, heat.
- “Fiber communications” will allow buses to trigger the signal and receive priority along a transit corridor. You can already see this in place along the Third Avenue transit corridor. In the future, these fiber communications will also allow for the installation of digital signs that can tell you how long you must wait until the next bus arrives. Woo hoo!
The improvements are made possible by the “Bridging the Gap” levy, which was passed in 2006.
If you’re interested in transit friendly design guidelines, I recommend this SDOT document as a great intro to creating livable, walkable, busable cities.