15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W Bus Only Lane

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Updated November 14, 2022

Improving transit reliability and travel times 

What's Happening Now?

We’re evaluating extending the hours of the bus lanes on 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W to 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM in both the northbound and southbound directions, between W Mercer Pl and W Armour St. We're making this change to improve bus travel times and reliability and to create more consistency on the street. The current bus lane hours vary throughout different sections of the street. This map shows the existing and proposed bus lane hours. 

Thank you to everyone who took our surveys! Our surveys were live for over 3 weeks, and we received over 400 responses. We are now reviewing what we heard in the surveys. Feedback to the surveys will help us better understand how expanding the hours of the bus only restrictions may impact curbspace needs and improve peoples’ experience riding the bus. We will share more information about next steps for this project in the coming weeks.  

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Project overview

We're working with King County Metro to improve transit reliability on 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W. These streets connect dense neighborhoods including Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard. They are also an important freight and transit corridor. The streets provide frequent bus service to King County Metro routes 24, 32, 33, and the RapidRide D line.

Currently, the curb lane on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W (generally from W Mercer Pl to south of the Ballard Bridge) operates as a bus lane during certain hours of the day. These times vary depending on location of the street. The curb lanes are used for on-street parking and loading when they’re not restricted to buses only. The curb lanes are also used for people driving to make right turns at intersections and access driveways. People driving can use the curb lanes to make turns even when the bus lane hours are in effect. 

We’re evaluating extending the hours of the bus lanes to be 7 to 9 AM and 3 to 7 PM in both the northbound and southbound directions. This change will help improve bus reliability and travel times, and create more consistency on the street. We're also planning signal upgrades at 15th Ave W and W Dravus St. The signal upgrades will help prioritize buses and keep other traffic moving efficiently.

Map showing areas of current bus only hours and future bus only hours

Many people ride the bus on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W both before and throughout the pandemic. Before the pandemic, an average of 23,747 people rode the bus through this area each weekday. Currently, an average of 11,353 people ride the bus each weekday. We chose this project to improve transit reliability and travel time where people use transit most. Investments now will continue to make transit a reliable and efficient option for people who rely on the bus.

Project area

An image showing the proposed area where the project work will be done.      

Image of the existing bus-only lane on 15th Ave W.

Image of the existing bus-only lane on 15th Ave W

Evaluating alternatives  

In 2021, we began evaluating options to change the operating hours of the bus-only restrictions to 24 hours a day. In December 2021, we completed a parking use study of the project area. The study helped us understand how people are using parking and loading zones on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W. There are an estimated 464 on-street parking spaces in this area. These spaces are located on the street and side streets. These parking spaces were most occupied in the early afternoon with 180 spaces (about 39%) in use. When looking at use of load zones, we found that half of the loading activity took place on side streets. Based on the data in the study, there is adequate parking and loading access for people living, working, and visiting in the project area.

In early 2022, we did outreach to the businesses and residential buildings identified in the parking study. We wanted to better understand how changing the hours of the bus-only lanes could impact them. Based on what we heard, we are shifting from considering a 24-hour bus-only lane. Instead, we are evaluating changing the bus-only hours to 7 to 9 AM and 3 to 7 PM in the southbound and northbound directions. This change allows us to both prioritize transit and meet the loading needs on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W.

Benefits

  • More consistent and reliable transit trips for people taking the bus
  • Travel time savings for people riding the bus during peak morning and evening commute hours (up to 10% time savings)
  • Improve the transit network in this area to better serve those who rely on transit now and those who will rely on transit in the future. We expect the demand for reliable transit service to continue to grow with future developments and the expansion of light rail service in this area.

WHEN BUS-ONLY HOURS ARE IN EFFECT: Typical section of Elliott Ave W / 15th Ave W

WHEN BUS-ONLY HOURS ARE IN EFFECT: Typical section of Elliott Ave W / 15th Ave W

WHEN BUS-ONLY HOURS ARE NOT IN EFFECT: Typical section of Elliott Ave W / 15th Ave W

WHEN BUS-ONLY HOURS ARE NOT IN EFFECT: Typical section of Elliott Ave W / 15th Ave W

Bus-only lanes quick facts:

  • Bus-only lanes are travel lanes that are restricted to public transportation buses. Public transportation buses are vehicles that any member of the public can board and use. This does not include school buses, vanpools, work shuttles, motorcycles, carpools, or charter buses.
  • People biking are allowed to use bus-only lanes. Emergency vehicles are allowed to use bus-only lanes too.
  • Some bus-only lanes are restricted to buses 24 hours a day, while other bus-only lanes are only restricted to buses at certain times. Signs and markings on the street state the bus-only hour restrictions. Signs and markings also state if/when bus-only lanes can be used by other vehicles, including for parking.
  • Most bus-only lanes allow people driving other vehicles to enter the lane to make turns at intersections or to turn into driveways.

We want to hear from you!

We are seeking feedback from businesses and residences on Elliott Ave W/15th Ave W. Our goal is to better understand how changes to the bus lane hours could impact parking and access needs. If you live or work on Elliott Ave W/15th Ave W, please take our survey for businesses and residents

We also want to hear from people who travel on Elliott Ave W/15th Ave W, including bus riders. We want to hear about your experience traveling in this area. If you ride the bus, we want to know how your experience can be improved. If you don’t ride the bus, what would encourage you to take the bus more? If you travel on Elliott Ave W/15th Ave W, please take our survey for travelers

Both surveys are open through November 13. 

We will finalize plans for expanding the bus lane hours based on what we hear. Prior to any changes being made, we will conduct additional public outreach to make sure people traveling through the area know what to expect.

Learn more about 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W Bus Only Lanes

Many people ride the bus on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W both before and throughout the pandemic. Before the pandemic, an average of 23,747 people rode the bus through this area each weekday. Currently, an average of 11,353 people ride the bus each weekday. We chose this project to improve transit reliability and travel time where people use transit most. Investments now will continue to make transit a reliable and efficient option for people who rely on the bus. 

On-street parking hours on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W will be reduced by extending the hours of the bus-only lanes. When the bus-only hours are in effect, there will be no on-street parking in the areas that are signed and marked as bus-only.

Access to businesses and residences on 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W will largely remain the same. The hours that people can use on-street loading zones on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W will be slightly reduced by expanding the operating hours of the bus-only lanes. When the bus-only hours are in effect, vehicles cannot make stops in loading zones.  Emergency response vehicles are allowed to use bus-only lanes when responding to an incident.

It currently takes a vehicle just under 3 minutes to drive through this portion of the street. It takes buses about 30 seconds to one minute longer to travel through the same area when the bus-only lane hours are not in effect. By expanding the bus-only hours, people riding north in the morning and south in the afternoon should see as much as a 10% time savings. Expanding the operating hours of the bus-only lanes will help make transit travel times more reliable and consistent.  

Travel lanes are not changing with this project. Freight vehicles, as well as other vehicles, cannot currently drive in the curb-side lane, unless they are turning right, parking, or accessing a loading zone or driveway. This is because the curb-side lane is either designated as a parking lane or as a bus-only lane during peak periods, or as signed. This project will slightly reduce the hours that freight vehicles can use the curb-side lane for loading. Freight and other vehicles will not be allowed to stop in loading zones on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W while the bus-only hour restrictions are in effect. Emergency response vehicles can use bus-only lanes when responding to an incident.

Schedule

Early 2022: Evaluate alternatives to expand bus-only lanes on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W. Conduct targeted outreach to key businesses and residences to understand access needs on Elliot Ave W/15th Ave W.

Mid-2022: Conduct broader outreach to businesses, residents, and transit riders to understand potential impacts and benefits. Continue to develop design based on information gathered.  

Late 2022: Finalize plans to expand bus-only lanes operating hours. Conduct broader outreach to notify people about the change. Change signs and pavement markings with new bus-only operating hours and locations.

A graphic showing where we are in the project.

Related Projects

Funding

This project is possible thanks to 80 percent of Seattle voters passing the Seattle Transit Measure (Proposition 1) in November 2020, which created a revenue source for more frequent, reliable, accessible bus service in our city. Through a 0.15% sales tax (the equivalent of 15 cents on a $100 purchase) you are directly supporting access to transit in your community.   

Materials

Translation and interpretation 

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