Cross posted from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Blog:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be creating more bus-only lanes along the Rainier Avenue corridor. Scheduled to start in July, the lanes are being put in place to help keep people riding transit moving more reliably by separating buses from other vehicles. Especially in heavy traffic, bus-only lanes reduce travel times for people riding transit.
Learn about the types of bus-only lanes, including who can use them and other details, on our transit lane webpage.
Transit ridership remained high on the Route 7 during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons we are adding bus lanes on Rainier Ave S is to better serve transit riders that rely on Route 7.
Route 7 on Rainier Ave S is one of Seattle’s busiest bus routes, serving around 8,000 riders per day (11,200 riders per day before the pandemic). Many people who live in Rainier Valley depend on the Route 7 bus each day. People ride the bus to schools, daycare centers, grocery stores, jobs, and community gathering spaces.
Throughout Seattle, many people rely on transit each day to get where they need to go and meet their basic needs. People continued to rely on transit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Transit ridership remained high on several routes, including routes that serve neighborhoods with more people of color. These communities need convenient and reliable transit service as the city moves forward from the pandemic. It is important that we focus on investments where they are most needed. Doing so aligns with our core values and goals around transportation equity and safety.
We have been building safety improvements on Rainier Ave S over the past several years as part of the Rainier Ave S Vision Zero project. Our work to improve safety on Rainier Ave S is not done. We plan to continue coming back to this street to make more safety improvements in the future. Recently, we began building other safety and intersection improvements on Rainier Ave S. as part of the Route 7 Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor project.
The upcoming bus-only lanes work along Rainier Ave S will occur in two phases, with construction of the first phase planned to occur July 8 – 10.
This summer, we will be in the community to share more information about the second phase of work and gather community feedback.
- Phase 1: In early July, we will begin construction to add a northbound bus-only lane on Rainier Ave S between S Alaska St and S Walden St. We will also add a southbound bus-only lane between S Oregon St and S Edmunds St. We will remove the curbside travel lane and turn it into a new bus-only lane. We will maintain all existing on-street parking, the two-way center turn lane, and freight access.
- Construction is scheduled to occur July 8 – 10. This work is weather dependent and subject to change. The road will remain open during construction, and people can expect periodic lane closures. People can also expect temporary bus stop closures of the northbound bus stops on Rainier Ave S at the intersections of S Edmunds St, S Alaska St, S Genesee St, 33rd Ave S and S Walden St. These bus stops will be closed for a few hours at a time and relocated bus stops will be provided nearby. Watch for notices and temporary changes at your bus stop during construction.
- Phase 2: We’re studying a Phase 2 project that would extend the northbound bus-only lane from S Walden St to S Massachusetts St.
- Summer 2022: We will reach out to the community to share information about this project and hear your feedback. Your feedback will help inform Phase 2 project design. Project design will continue through 2023.
TODAY: Typical existing street design on a section of Rainier Ave S (looking north), in the Phase 1 project area
FUTURE: Typical street design on a section of Rainier Ave S (looking north), in the Phase 1 project area. Shows the transition of one northbound travel lane to a bus-only lane.
People riding transit on Rainier Ave S will see many benefits from the new bus-only lanes, which are described below.
Expected project benefits of the bus-only lanes on Rainier Ave S:
- More reliable transit on Rainier Ave S, that comes when you are expecting it. This includes frequent bus routes with high ridership such as Routes 7, 48 and 106.
- Easier connections to the Mt Baker Light Rail Station and the McClellan St Metro Transit Station. There will also be easier connections to the new Judkins Park Light Rail Station opening in 2023.
- Saving 2 minutes of travel time during an average morning trip on the bus. Saving 6 minutes during morning travel times when conditions are more congested than usual.
- Saving over 1 minute when traveling north between S Alaska St and S Walden St.
- In the future, we expect more transit travel time savings by extending the bus-only lane further north toward I-90. In this area, traffic volumes are higher and congestion is often greater.
- Shifting more trips to transit helps improve the efficiency of our road space, benefiting everyone.
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.