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HOV Futility

February 5, 2014 1 comment

HOV 2+ Futility

During typical traffic, the I90 HOV lanes from Mercer Island into Seattle keep flowing and provide incentive to carpool. However, they become heavily congested on days with large events and are particularly bad due to today’s massive Seahawks parade. (The lanes are single occupant from Mercer Island, but HOV 2+ from the Mount Baker tunnel into Seattle).

I90 HOV Lanes

I90 HOV lanes backup

The screen shot above shows traffic backed up on the HOV exit ramp to 5th Ave S & Dearborn while the image to the right shows the backup in the HOV lanes with the Mount Baker tunnel in the background. The empty lane in the middle of this image is the Rainier flyer stop for buses which gives taking the bus a advantage. However, that lane has to merge just outside of the view of this image so the advantage to taking the bus is small.

In the future, Sound Transit’s East Link Light Rail will improve capacity by allowing for up to 4 car trains accessing Downtown Seattle via dedicated right of way. Until 2023, however, we’re stuck in traffic on heavy event days unless the political will to convert the HOV ramp to 3+ passengers between the flyer stop and Dearborn can be found.

Leading Pedestrian Intervals vs Mario Andretti’s evil twin

February 25, 2013 4 comments

Streetfilms has a feature on Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) for crosswalk signals that I’d recommend watching. In short, before a signal for vehicle traffic turns green, LPIs give pedestrians a head start to establish their presence in the crosswalk. While Streetfilms doesn’t cite safety statistics, virtually all pedestrians can imagine how LPIs might improve their odds. We’ve all likely had the experience of getting a “WALK” signal and stepping out into the crosswalk right as Mario Andretti (or at least his evil twin) takes off from his pole position right as the light turns green as if the green signal releases a massive rubber band holding Mario’s car in place.

The city of Seattle has already started experimenting with LPIs in “a few” locations (Sadly, no mention of where). I stumbled across one on 4th Ave S, just north of Costco and can say that it at least *feels* safer. Going forward, I’ll be interested to see more of these, especially in locations with heavy volumes of turning traffic. Perhaps 4th & Olive, or 6th & University near the I-5 onramp? Where would you like to see an LPI?

Low hanging fruit – “Exempt” signs for Bellevue crossings

June 17, 2012 Leave a comment

On December 11th, 2011, the Kirkland City Council approved the purchase of the abandoned BNSF rail corridor within the city limits of Kirkland. The purchase closed sometime back in March and shortly afterwards, Kirkland placed concrete blocks across the rail line.  Because the tracks have already been severed south of the Wilburton trestle in Bellevue, it is currently impossible for trains to travel anywhere within the city of Bellevue. With Kirkland planning to convert their section into a bicycle and pedestrian trail you can be assured that trains will not be crossing at either NE 8th in Bellevue or 108th near the South Kirkland park & ride any time in the near future.

Unfortunately, because of the way State law is written, commercial drivers in buses and trucks are still required to stop at these crossings, because they both lack an “Exempt” or “Out of service” sign. Given the mandatory penalty of a 60-day license suspension for not stopping, you can bet that the vast majority of commercial drivers will be stopping.  (The State Patrol has recently been stepping up enforcement at other crossings in the area – ones with active train traffic – so there has been increased awareness among commercial drivers of the rules and penalties)

I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue.  Rest assured though, that marking these crossing as “Exempt” will improve traffic flow in both areas. Cars can’t pass stopped buses at 108th and NE 8th has a considerable amount of bus traffic since it has the RapidRide B-line and is a deadheading route for buses coming from the east side bases.

A noticeable improvement in traffic flow for two congested areas for the cost of 4 “Exempt” signs? I’d call that a prime example of low hanging fruit.

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