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15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W Bus Only Lane

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Updated January 6, 2023

Improving transit reliability and travel times 

What's Happening Now?

We’re extending the northbound and southbound bus only restrictions on 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W to 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM, between W Mercer Pl and W Armour St. This change only applies to areas where bus only restrictions currently exist. We're not adding new bus only restrictions in areas where they currently don't exist. We're also not changing the bus only restrictions on Elliott Ave W further south of W Roy St and W Mercer Pl. This map shows the areas where we are expanding the bus only hours. 

People driving can enter the curb lane to make turns at intersections and into driveways when the bus only hours are in effect. People biking are also allowed to use the curb lane when the bus only restrictions are in effect. When the bus only restrictions are not in place, the curb lane can be used for parking and loading.   

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.

The curb lane on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W (generally from W Mercer Pl/W Roy St to south of the Ballard Bridge) operates as a bus lane during certain hours of the day. Prior to implementing this project, these times varied depending on location of the street (see this map). The curb lanes are used for on-street parking and loading when they’re not restricted to buses only. 

We’re extending the hours of the bus only restrictions to 7 - 9 AM and 3 - 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. The change also supports the City's climate goals by expanding our network of transit lanes. 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. We expect to implement the signal upgrades by mid 2023. 

Map showing areas of 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM bus only hours from W Mercer Pl to W Armour St

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 identified 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.     

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

Image of the curb lane 15th Ave W (summer 2022, prior to this project)

Evaluating alternatives and outreach  

In 2021, we began evaluating options to change 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. 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 to understand their access and parking needs. Based on what we heard, we shifted from considering 24-hour bus only restrictions to only expanding the bus only restrictions to 7 - 9 AM and 3 - 7 PM.

In fall 2022, we conducted additional outreach to better understand the needs of the people who travel, live, and work on Elliott Ave W and 15th Ave W. We hosted 2 surveys for over 3 weeks and received over 450 responses. Through that outreach, we heard: 

  • People rely on the bus and expanding the hours of the bus only restrictions will better serve many people. More frequent and reliable bus service is still needed. 
  • Safety is a top priority. Speeding vehicles, and the lack of crosswalks and sidewalks for people walking and rolling are key concerns.  
  • There are concerns about reduced availability of on-street parking and loading access with expanding the bus only restrictions.

Based on what we heard through this outreach, we're adding additional loading zones in the project area to help accomodate the needs of businesses. In doing so, we are able to improve transit reliability and meet the loading access needs for businesses and residents on the corridor. If you would like to request a loading zone in the future, you can contact (206) 684-7623 or visit our webpage

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.
  • Contribute to City's climate goals of expanding our network of transit lanes. 

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.

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 hours 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 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 

If you need this information translated, please call (206) 257-2201

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Odeeffannoon kun akka siif (206) 257-2201.

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당신이 번역이 정보를 필요로하는 경우에, (206) 257-2201 ? 전화 해주십시오.

Transportation

Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623
684-Road@seattle.gov

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.