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Milestones and Schedule


What is Bus Rapid Transit?
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Madison Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit

Updated December 4, 2014

Recent Community Events:

Thursday, November 20th: The second Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Study Open House. SDOT hosted three design workshops for each section of the corridor (Downtown, First Hill, and Capitol Hill/Central Area) prior to the Open House.  The feedback SDOT received at the design workshops was presented at the Open House. 

Meeting Materials:

Project Overview

Click on the map above to see the Madison Corridor section of the Transit Master Plan.

The Seattle Transit Master Plan (2012) identifies Madison Street between Colman Dock Ferry Terminal in downtown Seattle and 23rd Avenue E as a future high-capacity transit bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor. The proposed transit investment is based on an evaluation of the Madison Street Corridor’s potential to generate ridership, supported by its land use and demographic characteristics, and a screening of potential transit modes, considering factors, such as passenger carrying capacity and constructability. SDOT and King County Metro are working closely to coordinate planning for the project.

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.

Project Definition Study

The Madison Street corridor is an opportunity for Seattle to design and implement, in phases, state-of-the-art bus rapid transit (BRT) improvements.  The 2.1-mile corridor runs from Colman Dock to 23rd Avenue and will improve access to ferries, Third Avenue transit, First Hill medical institutions and housing, Seattle University, the Central district, Link light rail, and the First Hill Streetcar. 

In June 2014, the City will begin studying this BRT corridor.  The study will evaluate roadway channelization options, station locations and features, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and streetscape improvements for the Madison corridor. The study will engage transit agencies, stakeholder, and the broader community to discuss options and tradeoffs.  It will also evaluate implementation options, such as phased speed and reliability improvements and funding opportunities. 

Milestones and Schedule

The table below outlines the study’s key milestones and basic schedule.



Jan 2013 - May 2014

Project Scope Refinement

June 2014 – March 2015

Concept Design Alternatives Development, Analysis, and Community Engagement

April 2015 – June 2015

BRT Concept Design Alternative Refinement and Community Engagement

July 2015

Complete Concept Design

Madison Corridor BRT Library

November 20, 2014 Open House

September 30, 2014 Open House

September 2014 - Stakeholder Outreach

How can I get involved?

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 Maria Koengeter, Transit Strategic Advisor, at or (206) 733-9865.


The Seattle Transit Master Plan identifies a planning-level total capital cost estimate of $87 million. The Seattle City Council identified $1 million in the City’s 2013/2014 budget for a project definition study 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.

What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

The development of Cleveland’s Healthline simultaneously ushered in high-quality transit service and major improvements to the look and feel of Euclid Avenue (photos courtesy of EMBARQ Brasil).

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.


Madison Street History

Madison Street and 2nd Avenue at the turn of the twentieth century and today (images courtesy of

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.

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