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RapidRide J Line Shortening Leaves Roosevelt Bike Connection Hanging

The recent news that one of the centerpiece transit upgrade projects of the Move Seattle levy, the RapidRide J line- formerly known as Roosevelt BRT- would see its route shortened was another big blow to the transit segment of the levy. Roosevelt BRT will not even reach the Roosevelt light rail station, instead terminating at the U District light rail station. That news comes on the heels of the city giving up entirely on turning 3 current bus routes into RapidRide lines in 2018, and news this year of the route 7’s upgrade being put on hold. The number of broken promises in the transit component of Seattle’s largest-ever transportation levy continues to grow.

But this is unfortunate news for the hopes of completing a critical bike connection between brand new light rail stations in north Seattle as well. Since 2016, Roosevelt Way NE has had a protected bike lane between NE 65th Street and the University Bridge, just waiting for the light rail station at Roosevelt. But Roosevelt is only a southbound bike lane, and RapidRide J was set to upgrade the paint bike lane on 11th Ave NE, finally completing the couplet. Now it’s not likely that will happen anytime soon.

The RapidRide J line, including the bike lane component, will not change south of the University Bridge, meaning that a full bike connection along Eastlake Ave is still planned. This will complete a hugely critical connection that will have massive citywide benefits, despite considerable opposition to parking removal along Eastlake. Earlier this year, Mayor Durkan herself voiced clear support for installing protected bike lanes on Eastlake, hopefully indicating that another downgrade isn’t likely.

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Updated route map in the U District for RapidRide J
The RapidRide J line will terminate at U District Station instead of Roosevelt Station.

North of the bridge, the PBL was planned to go on the right side of one-way 11th Ave NE, passing one bus stop island for the RapidRide line. At 43rd Street, the bike lane was going to switch to the left side of the street, reducing conflicts with bus stops all the way north to 65th Street. That switch from left to right side will not be needed now, with the paint bike lane (such as it is) staying in place on the right side of the street north of 43rd. Having the bike lane on the right side of the street south of 43rd is still pretty important, with most riders likely either connecting to the Burke Gilman via NE 40th Street or to the light rail station and central U District via NE 43rd.

Previous plan for the RapidRide J showing protected bike lanes continuing north of 43rd Street.

NE 43rd Street is being redesigned in front of the light rail station to include wide sidewalks, an eastbound protected bike lane, and with only one vehicle travel lane directly in front of the station for buses only. People biking westbound will be able to use this lane as well. This layout extends all the way to 15th Ave, except general purpose traffic is allowed in the westbound lane between the Ave and 15th.

Protected bike lane rider heading east, bike rider behind a bus heading west.
In front of U District station, an eastbound bike lane is planned with a westbound transit only lane.

One thing we’ll be watching for as the RapidRide team redesigns the new bus route is how 43rd will accommodate people riding bikes west of Brooklyn Ave, in addition to how the bike lanes interact with the bus stops between the University Bridge and 43rd Street. Next year, SDOT will resubmit its environmental assessment with the shortened bus route so we’ll get a chance to look at those details then.

Map of the 15th Ave NE project between 55th and Lake City Way
The soon-to-be-completed PBL on 15th Ave NE that will run from 55th to Lake City Way.

As for people biking northbound, without 11th Ave NE getting an upgrade to become an all-ages-and-abilities route, the best alternative is going to be 15th Ave NE. Protected lanes in both directions are being installed there by next year. But they won’t extend south of NE 55th St, and as we noted earlier this year, will not exactly be all-ages-and-abilities at major intersections like 65th and 75th, where the protection of the bike lane will disappear and riders will be left with just paint.

There’s also the 12th Ave NE neighborhood greenway, which was not selected as a Stay Healthy Street this year despite its location in the center of an urban center neighborhood. North of 55th, the greenway tends to be pretty calm, but south of there it barely qualifies as a greenway.

No, it’s clear that the best way to make up for the cancelled bike lane upgrade on 11th Ave NE is to pedestrianize the Ave.

Of course, it’s always possible that the RapidRide line could be extended at a future date and the full connections finally realized- maybe even connecting all the way to Northgate. But with the shortened RapidRide J line’s completion now pushed out to possibly 2026, it’s hard to consider that a real possibility, particularly as other lines get cancelled and deferred entirely.

You can read more about the RapidRide J line at the project website.





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10 responses to “RapidRide J Line Shortening Leaves Roosevelt Bike Connection Hanging”

  1. Tom Fucoloro

    Ugh. And what’s really frustrating is that there was a debate about whether the Roosevelt lane should have been two-way, which is how people already use it anyway. But the city said no because this project was going to build the northbound lane a few years later. Now it’s just going to be this really out-of-balance route for the foreseeable future with a quality facility southbound and disappearing painted lanes the other way.

    I think the city should at least make revisions to the block between 44th and 45th to help people biking safely get through that intersection. It’s the worst part, and the street goes from 2 general purpose lanes to 4, which is nonsense.

    1. RossB

      Do you think they should do as planned, and have the bus lanes switch over to the other side of the street? Or do you prefer the type of stops found southbound (https://goo.gl/maps/92XobuoQcWyf9uvj6)? I would guess the latter uses more street space, but I’m not sure.

      In general though, it seems backwards. Downhill you have a nice protected set of lanes. Uphill you are supposed to keep up with the cars. If they are only going to have one set of bike lanes, it should be the other way around. Any idea why they decided to do things in this order?

  2. Dave S.

    Yet another reason why it was a mistake to build angled parking instead of protected bike lanes on the northern half of the Ave in the U-District. These sorts of decisions by the city really start to add up after a while, and make the bike network less robust, especially when not all future projects are guaranteed.

  3. NoSpin

    Don’t take the PBL through Eastlake as a given: that neighborhood is full of NIMBYs who continue to take every opportunity to fight to protect ‘their’ parking.

  4. RossB

    “At 43rd Street, the bike lane was going to switch to the left side of the street, reducing conflicts with bus stops all the way north to 65th Street. That switch from left to right side will not be needed now, with the paint bike lane (such as it is) staying in place on the right side of the street north of 43rd. ”

    If the goal is to avoid conflicts with bus stops, then it is still needed. The 67 isn’t moving, and there are lots of bus stops along the street up to 65th (and beyond). The 67 is fairly frequent, almost as frequent as the RapidRide J would be.

    1. Ryan Packer

      If I was hopeful of any changes north of 43rd, I’d say it should switch sides. But I’m concerned about the RapidRide team putting the bike lane on the left side of the street south of 43rd to save the expense of a bus island, and then keeping the switch in place at 43rd but in reverse.

      1. RossB

        I’m afraid I don’t follow you. What does that last phrase mean (“keeping the switch in place at 43rd but in reverse”)?

      2. RossB

        OK, since there is no response (yet) I’m going to guess at what you meant. Are you afraid they would create a bike path on the left side of the street, but then end it a little past 45th? If so, yes, that would be stupid. If they have the path on the left side, then it needs to go all the way to 75th, where the street essentially ends, and merges with Lake City Way. At that point Roosevelt itself becomes two way. There are a couple reasons for this:

        1) There will be buses on that street (11th/12th). It doesn’t matter if they are RapidRide or not, the buses will be frequent.

        2) It would be crazy to force bikes over to the left side (weird in itself) and then force them back to the right.

  5. KK

    I disagree about 12th Ave NE. It may not qualify as a greenway but as things are now, it is a safer alternative to Roosevelt/11th despite not having PBLs (though it isn’t as direct).

  6. RossB

    >> There’s also the 12th Ave NE neighborhood greenway

    I could see some big improvements for 12th. It is a narrow street. There is parking only on the west side of the street (https://goo.gl/maps/2SqzQWuoNXUdPJTU6). I could see making it one way, headed south, along with a bike lane heading north (I think there would be enough room for that). Even if it was just paint, it would likely be effective, since the cars would be heading the opposite direction as the bikes in the pike path.

    The only problem area is between 43rd and 45th. There will be a ton of buses laying over there. Worse case scenario, though, bikes just maneuver around the buses (as they will on 43rd). Making that street one way southbound would make sense (to keep cars from interfering with buses). The buses will only be going northbound there (just as the buses only go westbound on 43rd).

    The other alternative is Brooklyn. It is a wide arterial much of the way. You could get rid of the parking on the east side of the street, and add a bike lane there. Buses don’t use Brooklyn north of 41st (other than some layovers) but that will probably go away. It is a busier street, but by simply taking some parking, you could build a nice northbound bike path with lots of space and protection. The street is faster than 12th, so there is that. Fortunately though, it wouldn’t require much work. There are stop signs on 42nd and 47th. Cars won’t be able to turn right on 43rd. The streets to worry about would be 45th, 50th and the intersections after that. But that is no different than a bike path on Roosevelt (or 11th) — cars turning right in front of a biker is an issue, and the street would ideally get special treatment (https://goo.gl/maps/SZtjAvLpr8cox2ao7). The nice thing about Brooklyn is that it keeps going, past Ravenna (unlike 12th). The street becomes quieter and narrower (and no longer an arterial) but it just keep going straight. You still might have enough room to just get rid of the parking, and have a bike lane northbound. If not, you could make the street one way south along with the bike lane. Either way there would be parking on the west side. At Brooklyn and 65th you would add a traffic light, where the bike lane would essentially end (riders would turn, or keep going on that short block north of there).

    One of the big things that needs to be improved (if it hasn’t been already) is the turn from Eastlake over to 41st. Even though it is a bike lane, I would immediately turn off of Eastlake at this point, just to get away from the busy cars and trucks as I make my way up the hill. This turn looks way too narrow (https://goo.gl/maps/fG4SW68Kc7J2uAck6). I could do it, but it really doesn’t need to be that narrow. They should shave off a few feet, even if it means losing a parking space. I don’t know — maybe it is designed to slow bike riders down. But there are very few pedestrians walking along Eastlake there (it doesn’t make sense). All it does is encourage people to keep going, where things get a lot messier very quickly.

    In general though, I like the idea of building a parallel northbound bike path, whether it is 12th, or Brooklyn. It is a lot cheaper and a lot less work than trying to squeeze bikes and buses on the same busy pathway.

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