“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
What will Seattle transit look like in 2025? The beginnings of a major change are arriving, with Link scheduled to advance to Northgate, and many proposed streetcar lines under consideration. But how do we get from that to an integrated system? Some thoughts, after the jump.
I find one of the biggest failings of the system as it exists is its complexity. Great transit systems connect major destinations with a core network of high capacity routes, operating so frequently a timetable is not needed.
This core network makes it easy to represent the layout of the system. An infrequent rider or a tourist need merely consult a map that represents the various routes by colored lines, in relation to each other and not necessarily geography. Since the first classic London Underground map, this formula has made understanding and using transit systems easy.
Seattle has, instead, a huge map that plots every bus route in the county. There is no distinction made between routes that operate every day, and those that have three peak hour trips weekdays. This makes it very difficult to ascertain how to travel from one point to another.
With the advent of Link, RapidBus and the SLU streetcar, we have the beginning of a core system. What would a map of a fully built out system look like? I think it would go a little something like this:
The streetcar network expands to nearly 18 miles, with the South Lake Union streetcar extending north along Westlake to Ballard and Greenwood. The Waterfront streetcar extends north along Broad to Eastlake, Ravenna & Green Lake, and down Jackson and Broadway to First Hill and the CD.
The RapidBus network expands substantially. The plan shown calls for 30 miles beyond what is currently in the works. While BRT does not match the experience of rail, it can provide far superior service to traditional buses. Major arterials like Aurora and 15th NW get bus lanes, all routes get signal preemption, stops are spaced out further and substantial shelters with bus time displays are added.
And most important of all, there is service every 10 minutes, 7 days a week. The most frustrating part of the bus experience is the waiting. And as the popularity of the new RapidBus routes increases, the possibility of conversion to streetcar does too.
I invite comment and feedback on this map of the future. I hope we can realize the vision of a functional rapid transit network. Eighteen miles of streetcar and thirty miles of RapidBus lines to replace long-haul Metro routes is not anything Seattle can’t afford or achieve. That’s about $500 million for the streetcars, and $20 -$40 million for the BRT. Much less than the monorail, and much less than some have proposed to spend on a mile of tunnel.
The only thing we seem to lack is political will. To the politicians:
”Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood”
– Daniel Burnham, architect – 1893 Worlds Fair