Friday, January 31, 2014

Should Children's Hospital Shuttles Be Re-Routed Onto NE 45th Instead of Sand Point Way From 40th Avenue NE? Give Your Input Now On Potential Permanent Routing Change

Children's Hospital Shuttle

You may have noticed Children's Hospital shuttles are now turning right onto NE 45th Street from 40th Avenue NE and lining up in the neighborhood traffic to cross the three-way Sand Point Way intersection.

The Hospital has changed the southbound route in the last ten days to see if it relieves the traffic burden, as well as some safety concerns, at the 40th Avenue NE and Sand Point Way intersection which has, up until recently, been the regular route. 

What do you think about the route change? Neighbors are encouraged to provide input on the new routing of the shuttles to see if it improves traffic flow and safety.
Email the following with your input:

Normally, the shuttles have been turning right out of the campus onto 40th Avenue NE, then turning left onto Sand Point Way, as decided by the CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) during the Master Planning Process a few years ago, so as not to impact traffic on NE 45th Street, one of the main arterials into and out of the neighborhood. 

The recent change in route, Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Transportation and Sustainability, said is due to the "considerable impact at the 40th Avenue NE and Sand Point Way  intersection because no other traffic could pass the vehicle (shuttle) that was waiting for on-coming traffic to clear before before attempting to turn left," Paolo added. He hopes that with the new route, traffic will flow more easily as shuttle busses will no longer be waiting to turn ,causing signficant delays and safety issues.

Paulo  told us that about 18 vehicles per hour are now turning onto NE 45th Street and queuing at the light and at less peak times about 6 vehicles are waiting at the light along with other traffic.

A traffic analysis, conducted by hospital hired consultants, at the time of the Master Planning process showed that the 40th Avenue NE/Sand Point Way route, as Paulo said, "would not likely cause a problem. But we wanted to be sensitive to the concern. During our project planning phase, neighbors provided valuable input and requested very specific routes for our vehicles to take as they enter and leave the Children’s campus."

However, now the Hospital is looking into changing the route as neighborhood drivers have commented that the shuttles are holding up others at the light causing congestion at the intersection. Pauolo said the hospital is working with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), and again with their own traffic consultants, and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) to look at potential improvements and possible long-term changes. 

The new southbound route will be in effect for a few weeks followed by another traffic measure initiated by Children's, and then the results will be shared at the next SAC (Standing Advisory Committee) meeting sometime in the next few months.

Paulo said that before permanently changing the shuttle routing,  the following will be taken into consideration: :
  • review previous traffic analysis completed several years ago 
  • measure of current traffic at 40th/SPW and other key intersections in the area using a transportation engineering company in order to set a baseline.
  • meeting with SDOT to see if there are changes to the 40th /Sand Point Way intersection that might help
  • seeking input from neighbors who were concerned about shuttles pouring onto NE 45th Street
  • discussion with SDOT about allowing right turns on red at 40/SPW North Bound. and evaluation of whether it is possible from a safety stand point
  • observation of safety conditions at 40th/SPW intersection

LCC told us that they are "adverse to shifting additional traffic to NE 45th Street if it causes significant back ups for local neighbor users from 40th Avenue Ne, unless we experience good results with the change."

LCC added that  perhaps collaborating with the Hospital on establishing some some timeline guidelines for shuttle routing could be developed from the data gathered. And this information could potentially make trafic flow easier for neighbors and the hospital at certain times of day, as well as retaining the previous travel routes during non-peak times.

Here are some emails we have received: 
I am experiencing frustration with the Children's Hospital Shuttle busses leaving the hospital Emergency room exit on 40th Ave N.E. and then blocking traffic behind them as they try to make a left on to Sand Point Way. I travel on this route often and there are many times when I do not make the light to cross SPW, sometimes I miss a few a few lights, because of left turning shuttle buses. Physically where the light is located the bus cannot pull out further on SPW and allow cars behind the buses to pass through. Recently, I was nearly hit head on by a shuttle bus making a left. I was coming from the opposite direction as the shuttle bus on 40th towards Laurelhurst. As I was approaching SPW the light turned yellow. To avoid being hit head on by the left turning shuttle bus I quickly rerouted and turned right on to SPW instead of going forward towards my home. 

We hope that shuttles will not be re-routed to NE 45th Street. During peak hours, it often takes three to four light cycles to even get through the intersection as the line is so long and the light change is even longer. The week-ends the frequency of the lights does not reflect the lighter traffic, as we have sat at the light for up to three minutes on a regular basis when there are hardly any cars on the road going through the intersection. The frequency of the light changing needs to be  increased in general and especially if now we are going to have queue up behind Hospital shuttles in our neighborhood and one of the main arterials in and out of the neighborhood. 

The light at NE 45th Street is very long on both weekdays and even on week-ends sometimes only one car waiting to get through the light at 7am and the light is lenghy. It does not seem to be well thought-out on the timing. 
Weekdays it takes 2-3 light changes to get through that light and adding shuttle traffic to that it will take up to 10 minutes to get through that light just to leave the neighborhood.  Once, we timed how long it took to get through that intersection and it was about 5 minutes on a weekday, waiting for the light to change being at the front of the line. So imagine if you have to wait 4-5 minutes per light change and you are at the back of the line.
Have any studies been conducted on the timing of the light, frequency as associated with various hours of the day, the differences between times of days and the differences between days. Is the light activated by cars waiting or is it on a timer?

 (photo courtesy of Metro Magazine)





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