Madison Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit
Updated July 25, 2013
Madison Street BRT service will be fast, reliable and frequent. It will serve densely developed neighborhoods in First Hill, the Central Area, and downtown Seattle, connecting dozens of bus routes, the First Hill Streetcar, and ferry service at the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal.
Madison Street BRT will use new state-of-the-art electric trolley buses (ETBs) that produce zero emissions and are extremely quiet. Surface rail transit is not an option for this corridor due to the steep east-west street grades.
The table below outlines the study’s key milestones and basic schedule.
More details and opportunities for public involvement will be announced as they are scheduled. Information will be added soon on future open houses and meetings.
Questions and comments can be directed to Jeff Bender at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206)684-8837.
The Seattle Transit Master Plan identifies a planning-level total capital cost estimate of $87 million. Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council identified $1 million in the City’s 2013/2014 budget for a conceptual design of the Madison Street corridor. This effort will result in a refined project cost estimate.
Nationally, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is major funding source for the planning, design, and construction of BRT systems. FTA funds could be a future potential source for the Madison Street BRT Project.
Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, refers to corridor and service characteristics that transform bus service into rail-like service. BRT systems, such as Bogota, Columbia’s TransMilenio, carry passenger volumes that rival those of the world’s great subway systems. A quick overview of BRT components is available on Chicago BRT’s website.
Perhaps the best definition of BRT comes from the Institution for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). According to ITDP, “the best BRT systems in the world combine efficiency and sustainability with passenger comfort and convenience.” ITDP’s “The BRT Standard” details the key features that make a world class BRT system and how to distinguish BRT lines from “enhanced bus service.” SDOT will develop alternatives to determine whether and how the Madison Street corridor can accommodate the “BRT standard”.According to ITDP standards, there are only a handful of true BRT systems in the United States. Cleveland’s Healthline is the highest-rated system. The Healthline features dedicated transit lanes, frequent service, excellent pedestrian connections and stations that feature level boarding and off board payment. The Healthline helped usher in a transformation of Euclid Avenue, spurring additional investments in new sidewalks, bicycle facilities, public art and economic development.
The National Bus Rapid Transit Institute says more than 50 BRT lines are in planning stages across the US (although most of these are not likely to meet ITDP’s definition of BRT and would be better described as “premium bus service” or “BRT Lite”). Many US cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland, Eugene, Pittsburgh and Nashville, are planning new BRT lines that strive to meet the higher standards described by ITDP, akin to Cleveland’s Healthline. Chicago currently has the goal of being the first US city to meet ITDP’s gold standard BRT corridor design.
From 1891 to 1940, the neighborhoods along Madison Street grew up around a busy cable car line. Cable cars ran from Western Avenue to Madison Park, delivering crowds to the shores of Lake Washington, as well as shoppers and employees to the heart of downtown. The transit line even carried freight.
Today, Madison Street is still a bustling, vital corridor with growing demand for better transit. Over the years, institutions such as Seattle University, Virginia Mason Medical Center, and Swedish Medical Center have become major employment centers and trip generators. In addition, more and more people have moved to the area to be close to all Seattle has to offer, resulting in some of the highest residential densities in the state. Many of the area’s households do not own cars. All of this concentrated activity demands high-capacity transit service that can move people in a convenient, safe, comfortable, and efficient manner. A high-quality east/west corridor on Madison Street will be an important link in Seattle’s transit network, complementing the soon-to-open First Hill Streetcar, Seattle’s priority bus corridors, expanding Link light rail, and Metro’s RapidRide lines.
Previous studies of how to improve transit on the Madison Corridor have been conducted by Metro and Sound Transit. You can read the Sound Transit study here.