Phinney Ridge and Greenwood

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Could Aurora Transit Changes Push Traffic into Greenwood-Phinney Neighborhood Streets?

September 14th, 2010 · 9 Comments · Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Public Transit

Phinney Greenwood Transit Project
Seattle’s Department of Transportation and King County Metro are proposing a $40 million project to improve sidewalks and add commuter bus lanes on Aurora Ave N., including the stretch that runs through Phinney-Greenwood.

BAT lanes — bus lanes like the ones that already exist on southbound Aurora — would be extended to both directions of traffic between N 46th and N 66th, and then from Winona Ave N to N 115th St. Like current BAT lanes, these would be business and transit-only lanes going south during the morning commute and north during the evening.

The plans also calls for new and improved RapidRide bus stations along Aurora — although the specific locations haven’t been determined — along with 5 million in pedestrian improvements, including 7000 feet of new sidewalks and 100 new curb ramps. The rest of the grant money would go to 23 new Metro buses, and Transit Signal Priority technology that would allow them to move up and down Aurora more quickly.

Phinney and Greenwood are the two neighborhoods with the largest stake in this proposal, considering that it affects the section of Aurora that makes up the eastern neighborhood border. According to an email from SDOT, “This proposal would improve pedestrian mobility along Aurora, enhance access to transit, improve transit speed and reliability, and support the implementation of Metro’s Aurora Rapid Ride service.”

At their meeting this week, the Phinney Ridge Community Council couldn’t agree on the proposal and decided not to send a letter of support for SDOT’s grant application. Although several members did support the proposal, and some even said they might use the high speed buses themselves, others worried that expanding the BAT lanes would drive traffic from Aurora onto neighboring side streets, where speeders are already a major complaint.

The Aurora Avenue Merchants Association opposes the SDOT proposal for similar reasons. A notice on the front page of their website ( reads “AAMA does not support King County Metro & SDOT plans to close side streets on Aurora and replace them with fancy bus shelters for RapidRide. All traffic should remain on the HIGHWAY and not be sent onto the neighborhood streets.” According to the Seattle P-I ( the merchants also opposed a similar proposal in 2008. That plan was eventually scrapped by the City.

Although the current proposal is not without its opponents, it does present one possible picture of the future of public transit in Phinney-Greenwood. We are hoping this does not force more people off the bus and into Seattle cabs – away from the city’s purpose to keep transit efficient and Aurora moving.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Sidewalkless in Seattle

    SDOT should immediately begin to update traffic counts for Greenwood-Phinney using automatic counters. This will serve as baseline data. Then after Rapid Ride starts the counts are taken again, and then we’ll see.

    Cut-through traffic might matter a little less if the city committed to making all Greenwood streets safe for pedestrians. Which at present they are not. The rest of the city is full of best practices which for some reason are all judged inappropriate for Greenwood. This. Must. Change.

  • Ducki3x

    Can you expand on the reasoning cited for the BAT lanes pushing traffic onto Greenwood-Phinney streets? For that matter, a link to the actual proposal would be nice – I went looking for it on the SDOT site, but didn’t find anything that seemed to align with this.

  • admin

    Great questions. In general, the more that traffic is restricted on Aurora (via car lane reductions versus current capacity), the more cars who will seek to avoid the backup by using neighborhood streets. We’ve requested a copy of the grant application from the City of Seattle. There are many positive impacts, but want to ensure all results are carefully considered.

  • admin

    A copy of the King County Transit RapidRide E Line link has also been added to the article, which has many related facts.

  • Quincy

    First of all, almost no one ever uses the far right lanes of Aurora, especially northbound in the Winona to 115th segment. Everyone lines up in the middle lane. On the southbound side, even in the mornings when no parking is allowed in the curb lane, people just do not use it. Plus, take a look at what has happened on Aurora from 145th to 165th, where the exact same kind of upgrade has happened: there has been no increase in traffic on Meridian, Ashworth, Greenwood etc. that I can detect. I use Meridian no more or less than I did before the upgrade. No one misses the third lane. In fact, just like on 5oth between I-5 and Stone/Greenlake, which had a general purpose lane converted into a turning-only lane, it’s better. I am certain the planned changes will also be an upgrade.

  • Ducki3x

    Awesome, thanks for the extra info!

    Despite the loss of a lane, I’d think there might be some benefits to commuters with the BRT program, especially with the Transit Signal Priority technology. If implemented properly, this might help keep traffic moving quickly up and down the Aurora corridor during commute times, although it might make the experience crossing the highway worse for those trying to go east-west.

    For my money, the most consistantly bad parts of the Aurora commute are the backup from the Zoo to the Bridge (southbound in the morning) and from the north-end of the lake through 85th (northbound in the afternoon), the latter being the only time I really take advantage of the third, right-hand lane. The problem here mainly seems to be left-turn traffic backing up at the lights and spilling into the main lanes of traffic & the timing of the 85th intersection. If the controlled left-turn lane could be re-engineered or re-timed, I doubt I would ever use the third lane…

    I’d be curious to see where the AAMA is getting their info about the street closures – I don’t see anything in the (admittedly limited) documentation on the KC site you linked to. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they know something I don’t, but I’d love to know more before passing judgement on that aspect of the plan.

  • Curlove

    The Aurora Avenue Merchants Association opposes any attempt to improve Aurora because it is perceived as a threat to their automobile oriented businesses. Any improvements that might encourage people to walk along or near Aurora or take the bus rather than drive is a threat to their businesses. People might start wanting businesses that cater to pedestrians and bus commuters. Oh no!

    This opposition has kept the communities along Aurora dangerous, blighted, disinvested, and crime ridden for too long. I would hope the community councils would organize around any effort to make Aurora safer and more attractive. Just go up to 145th and look over into Shoreline and you will see what is possible. It makes Aurora in Seattle look like some third world country.

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  • Tbirdjim

    I live on Linden Ave. N. which parallels Aurora Ave. N. one block to the west in the proposed transit lane area. It is designated a “collector arterial.” It already is extremely busy between 6 AM-9 AM and 4 PM-7PM and is very busy the balance of the day. I would ancecdotally estimate the average speed at about 40+ MPH. My vehicles have been hit six different times over the last several years on this relatively narrow street, one to the tune of $14,000 in repairs with an attendant devaluation of any resale or trade-in potential. It will be very hard to convince me this plan will not increase traffic on the side streets. Are I and my neighbors now to be subjected to a property value devaluation as well as an increase in hazards to our vehicles? I demand statistics to prove side street traffic will not increase significantly.

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