Earlier this year, King County Metro and the City of Seattle partnered to improve transit speed and reliability on Howell Street in downtown Seattle.

Metro and Community Transit buses were experiencing heavy congestion on Howell Street while traveling to I-5 on-ramps. Though buses were using a bus-only lane, they were routinely getting stuck when vehicles traveling to I-5  would block the bus lane.

During the afternoon rush hour, there are about 36 buses per hour moving through this corridor. Over the course of the day, these buses carry about 8,500 people.

To keep buses moving, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Metro partnered together to shift the bus-only lane to the far-left side of Howell Street between 9th Avenue and Yale Avenue, and add a queue jump.

Queue Jump – a traffic signal that lets buses move through the intersection first, before other traffic, giving them a head start.

There was an existing queue jump at 9th Avenue and Howell Street to help buses move from the far-right lane to the far-left lane, and a second queue jump signal was installed at Yale Avenue and Howell Street to help buses easily move back to the right side of the street to pick up more passengers and proceed to the I-5 Express Lane on-ramp.

Now buses on Howell Street can bypass the I-5 ramp congestion to make these trips faster and more reliable than before.

The project was funded by City of Seattle, via the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefits District and Metro, via a Washington State Regional Mobility Grant.

Metro’s Spot Improvements Program consists of low-cost capital investments aimed at improving bottleneck conditions that affect bus travel times, reliability, and safety. In 2018, the program partnered with the cities of Seattle, Kent, Bothell, Redmond, Renton, and Snohomish County to improve “hot spots” at 14 locations, benefiting 263,000 riders along 72 bus routes.