One Key Difference

seoul

Map of the Seoul Metro System

The SDOT Blog, Grist and the Slog all have posts covering a lecture about how Seoul tore down an elevated highway and replaced it with a stream, finding parallels with the Alaskan Way Viaduct. From SDOT:

One of the most interesting things we learned from Dr. Hwang is that, in total, 14 lanes of traffic were removed, to be replaced by only four lanes of traffic. Recently these were further reduced to two lanes. The city system has been able to absorb this level of capacity reduction. For context, these lanes carried about 160,000 vehicles daily for a city with a population of 10 million.

Whether or not you agree with the tunnel project, I think comparing Seoul to Seattle is absolutely and utterly ridiculous in this context. Seoul is the largest city and capital of the 11th largest national economy in the world, Seattle is the largest city in a state that makes up just 2.4% of the US economy. By another measure, Seoul is the third-largest city in the world, Seattle barely cracks the top 100.

More below the fold.

The size of the cities is so vastly different that a road that would be very major here is minor there. In this particular case, the Cheonggyecheon freeway’s more than 160,000 trips were only 0.8% of all trips in through the city. In Seattle, the viaduct currently carries over 6% of all trips through the city, an order of magnitude more as a percentage.

Seoul also has one of the largest urban rail networks in the world. Depending on how you count, the Seoul Metro area has as many as 22 subway lines, with more under construction and many more planned – and nearly 300 stations. Seoul has spent the last 40 years building infrastructure that has made it possible to tear out highways, Seattle hasn’t, though we’re getting better. Comparing a city that opened its first rail line two years ago with one that has so many stations they provide search option on the map is apples and oranges.

If tunnel opponents want to be taken seriously, they need to make serious arguments. A better comparison for opponents to mention might be the Embarcadero in San Francisco, but even though that isn’t perfect, it’s a lot closer. Good on Seoul for tearing out their freeway, but this isn’t a case of “Seattle is special”, it’s a case of “Seoul is special”.

Awesome video on the subject below:

Comments

    • Brent says

      Remind me of all those logical arguments for the tunnel, Groan. You’ve posted them over so many blogs that you should know them by heart.

      • Wells says

        The only argument supporting the bored tunnel is that its construction supposedly entails least inconvenience to motorists. But in the long-term, the traffic it displaces onto surface streets causes more inconvenience to motorists than the surface boulevard and cut-cover tunnel options.
        Wsdot is corrupt.

      • Bernie says

        WSDOT is not a decision making agency. They build what the State government tells them to and try to put the best spin on it (i.e. safer bridge, reduce congestion, etc.). We get what we elect. Unless you vote on a specific issue; then, er well… you still get what you elect anyway.

      • Erik G. says

        Except that WSDOT’s manuals and “warrants” and 1950’s Pavement-uber-alles outlook shape the policies that they “recommend” and their symbiotic “relationship” with Associated General Contractors poisons how they look at the world.

        Of course Seattle needs to replace the limited-access-viaduct with a more-limited-access-tunnel; Otherwise how will Seattle move more cars?

    • says

      I suppose it’s only fair, since roadbuilding arguments tend to be emotional appeals. To fear of the gridlock bogeyman, mostly,

      But seriously, thank you for trying to calm this silly escalation, Andrew.

    • says

      • Anti-tunnel people think that the vote — if it happens — will be about the tunnel e.g. Eli Sanders was articulate on that issue on KUOW recently.

      • Pro-tunnel people will frame the issue — over and over — “Well what’s the alternative to the Tunnel?”

      • McGinn has no other alternative than Surface/Transit.

      • There is no way that a majority of the people of Seattle will (in effect) vote for Surface/Transit. They’ve said pretty convincingly in vote and polls.

      • So as it is now, pro-tunnel wins.

      • That would be a disaster.

      • McGinn should create room for a long-term plan along the lines of “Repair Now and Prepare (to eventually tear down the Viaduct.)”

      • microsloth says

        McGinn isn’t about repairing/replacing car-based infrastructure, he is about total destruction of automotive-based capacity.

      • Zed says

        Oh poor baby. If McGinn gets his way only 95% of our transportation infrastructure will be dedicated to the automobile gods instead of the current 96%. How will we survive?

  1. Brent says

    Okay, Andrew, since the tunnel boosters won’t answer this simple question, and you have now offered yourself up as a spokeperson for the tunnel cause, I will put it to you: What will happen to the 70-80,000 daily car trips that currently use the viaduct and won’t use the tunnel?

      • Brent says

        Andrew, though we are a small town compared to Seoul, there are hundreds of thousands or reasons people support, oppose, or couldn’t give a * about the tunnel. You’ll lose a lot of sleep if you try to respond to every argument that doesn’t make sense.

      • microsloth says

        Yep, just read the talking points given to you by the McGinn camp and remember to wear your bike helmet

      • Brent says

        As you can see, Andrew, this normally scholarly blog is about to be invaded by the platoon of Tunnel/No-Transit rent-a-trolls, avoiding answering questions by spouting insults at the mayor. I wish you hadn’t made this post.

      • Andy says

        Funny, the head explode thing is exactly what I got when I read this article. Especially with how unabashedly sure you are 100% right with your speculation in the face of several projects across this country, and others, that show Highway removal to benefit our less industrialized consumer driven urban centers of todays era. Its not that you disagree, its how your ‘head explodes’ and how people who want to use these real life examples are somehow ‘ridiculous’ and ‘not serious’.

      • Andrew Smith says

        If you are talking about medium sized cities in the US, that is not head explodes. Milkwaukee is a lot like Seattle, so is Portland, so is San Francisco. Seoul is a crazy comparison.

      • Andy says

        It may be a crazy direct comparison, but its really not, Its just part of the body of evidence. The principle working on the smaller cities scales to the bigger ones. Thats good news, not bad. If we were big like Seoul we probably would have developed mass transit like they have. In fact we would of HAD to to be able to reach a size like Seoul. I think Seoul is brought up simply as just another example of how this has worked in various places, even ones with crazy traffic demands.

        Seoul may not be direct evidence in terms of numbers or traffic patterns, etc. but it is evidence of what path we can take and what our decisions will lead to. If we want to be a transit city that is dense and welcoming to pedestrians and all that then now is our time to make that decision. We get this chance once every handful of decades, we can’t miss this one or we DEFINITELY won’t be like Seoul.

        Even if it is painful in the short term we must step away from funding crazy big road projects. We see what has happened by investing in these highways over the last 60 years or so, they have simply made our cities sprawl, demand for cars exploded and congestion will always stay ahead of construction.

        I really suggest you see the Seoul example for what it is, part of a body of evidence, and not the only argument that has been made. It’s not like this is a new argument that was just throw out as a last ditch effort, it is consistent with what Surface supporters have been saying all along and is just further support of that cause.

      • Wells says

        Seoul is evidence of what path we can take and what our decisions can lead to. If we want to be a transit city that is welcoming to pedestrians, then now is our time to make that decision. Even if it is painful in the short term, we must step away from big road projects. Investing in highways has simply made our cities sprawl, demand for cars explode (an appropriate metaphor), and traffic congestion always stays ahead of construction. It’s not like this is a new argument thrown out as a last ditch effort. It is consistent with what surface boulevard supporters have been saying all along.

        Well said, Andy. Seoul probably had contentious arguments with their Department of Highway honchos and bands of motorists singing the praises of a replacement viaduct or tunnel.

  2. reality based commute says

    I don’t think the Embarcadero is a good example either. It was essentially just a loading zone for the Bay Bridge, not a pass through highway.

    • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says

      Is the AWV a pass through highway? I mean obviously the pavement enters and leaves the city, but do the majority of people on it in Seattle?

      • Norman says

        The AWV is a pass-through highway of the central business district, and the large majority of vehicles on the AWV use it to bypass the central business district, yes.

      • Nathanael says

        Pretty much the AWV is not a through route; it’s known that the through traffic takes I-5. I think this was cited on this very blog repeatedly.

      • Norman says

        SDOT’s studies show that a large majority of AWV traffic bypasses the Central Business District. That is just a fact.

      • Wells says

        The flaw with Norman’s mostly correct assessment, “The AWV is a pass-thru highway around the central business district. kThe majority of vehicles on the AWV use it to bypass the central business district,” is that the bored tunnel poorly serves the Interbay/Ballard pass-thru traffic, about 35,000 vehicles or 1/3 the total AWV traffic, and directs it through residential Queen Anne and through the Mercer Mess which will only get messier. Another 20,000 vehicles exit/enter the AWV at 1st Ave, a bad site to exit/enter downtown; I-5 also has exit/entrance ramps to downtown that should be closed off because of Seattle’s steep hills.

      • Norman says

        Actually, the study was done by WSDOT:

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/Questions.htm#6

        “Is most of the traffic using the viaduct today going to downtown or through downtown?

        “The current viaduct carries approximately 110,000 vehicles per day just south of the mid-town ramps. Of this amount, approximately 17,000 vehicles enter or exit downtown at Columbia and Seneca streets, and 33,000 exit or enter at Elliott and Western avenues toward Belltown, Uptown, and neighborhoods along the 15th Avenue and Elliott Avenue corridor. The remaining 60,000 vehicles continue north through the Battery Street Tunnel, either exiting in the South Lake Union/Queen Anne area or continuing north across the Ship Canal.”

        Only 17,000 of 110,000 vehicles/day which use the viaduct enter or exit the viaduct in the Central Business District. That is only about 15% of AWV traffic. The other 85% is bypassing the Central Business District.

        I oppose the bored tunnel. I support the only intelligent transportation option — a new or rebuilt viaduct.

    • Erik G. says

      Embarcadero was intended to carry US101 from the Bayshore Freeway (US101 from San Jose to S.F.) over to the Golden Gate Bridge.

      It was intended to destroy Fisherman’s Wharf, but got stopped before it could do so.

      US101 today uses Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street instead, and quite nicely, in my humble experience.

      • Andrew Smith says

        It does take a long time to get from Marin to, say, Daly City or Redwood City, but what’s wrong with that?

  3. Benjamin C says

    I’m pretty sick of people saying one cannot use examples from other cities just because there are major differences. Of course there are, and I don’t think ANYONE ever said the Seoul freeway is exactly like SR99, or that Seaul and Seattle are similar.

    I think the real argument here is that, when one invests in transit and other modes, urban freeways not only become obsolete, they also become obstacles to economic growth. The anti-tunnel group highlights Seoul, not because of the similarities, but because of the DIFFERENCES. In other words, this is a vision of what Seattle COULD be, IF we invest in transit instead of over-priced, ineffective underground urban freeways.

    This is about priorities and opportunity costs. If we invest in the most expensive version of the SR99 urban freeway, we will live with that choice at the expense of increased rapid transit infrastructure for decades to come.

    • Andrew Smith says

      You can use whatever examples you want, but if you use silly ones people won’t take you seriously.

      Your last paragraph is a perfect argument against the tunnel (that’s my argument which is why I like it) but the first second one isn’t. Seattle cannot be like Seoul.

  4. Brent says

    One annoyingly nonsensical argument from the tunnel boosters is that there is no alternative plan to the tunnel. When a transit advocate makes such an argument, it becomes even more ridiculous.

    It is our job, as transit advocates, to come up with those plans.

    So, let me put just one out there: Kick all the private vehicles off of 3rd Ave. Convert it from a street to a four-laned transit mall. Each northbound lane would have its own sidewalk, set of buses, and bays every three blocks. Or the in-street sidewalks could simply exist every third block. The bays would be aligned with each other and with the most visible tunnel entrances, forming rapid transfer points every three blocks.

    Similarly, 4th Ave could be divided into three segregated lanes: Two for two different sets of northbound buses, and one for general traffic. 2nd and 5th could have similar configurations. The bays on all these streets could be aligned to provide the shortest walking path to their counterparts on 3rd Ave and the tunnel entrances.

    Buses shouldn’t have to weave around each other downtown. If one stalls, there are easy re-routes which those standing by will easily see. The number of ticket machines to cover these bays would number in the low dozens, and half a dozen fare-checker teams ought to provide ample security.

    I don’t think such a scheme would come anywhere close to the order of magnitude of a billion dollars. And it’s feasibility should be independent of viaduct rebuild/repair/remove/bury.

    • Selma says

      “It is our job, as transit advocates, to come up with those plans.”

      Another one our jobs is to figured out how to build coalitions that will allow you to build infrastructure. Greg Nickels was able to do it, which is why you can take light rail from downtown to Seattle.

      No matter what the right side of the viaduct argument is, you have to admit that the current anti-tunnel/pro-something else isn’t working. No decision-makers are listening to you because you — and the Stranger and increasingly in the Seattle Transit Blog — have marginalized yourselves.

      Your Third Ave bus idea is a good one, and perhaps is something that could have been proposed as part of the Viaduct construction mitigation process. As it happens, your team has decided to sit out of that process and instead throw bombs. That approach isn’t now and won’t ever work for you.

      • Bernie says

        Bring back the “Great Wall of Chopp”. If McGinn really wanted to stop the tunnel that political alliance might have a chance. Especially with today’s budget constraints. The problem with the “reinvented” waterfront is all it’s going to become is a wide ass street more obnoxious than the current viaduct which is a visual eyesore but actually doesn’t restrict access. There needs to be some refinement, like keeping a continuous pedestrian and bike corridor and plenty of pass through access and public space but good commercial development with a road on the roof would be the best and cheapest solution.

      • Brent says

        Selma, a little history:

        The original tunnel agreement among the city, county, and state called for a few hundred million dollars of transit infrastructure for downtown, funded through the county. Shortly after that, and before Mike McGinn was a candidate for mayor (So you really can’t say it had anything to do with him.), the governor line-item vetoed the only legislation on the table to give the county an additional funding source for transit.

        The governor may know a thing or two about how to build a coalition. But she also knows how to destroy one. Her veto did just that. The Tunnel + Transit Coalition was hung out to dry, left with the task of finding a way to gloss over the lack of transit in the tunnel plan.

        As it is right now, the tunnel initiative will probably pass, and the tunnel referendum, if allowed to remain on the ballot, will probably get a “do not enact” vote. It doesn’t have to be that way. The various government parties still have time to come up with funding and a really good plan to give transit its own ROW on a majority of downtown city streets, something like what I described. If that happens, I think you’ll find people like me dropping our opposition to the tunnel so we can get the much-improved transit system.

        If you have any pull with your tunnel allies (and I pray that you do), please tell them it isn’t too late to save the Tunnel + Transit plan by adding a real transit infrastructure component that involves giving downtown buses their own ROW.

        I do appreciate your response.

    • Anandakos says

      Brent,

      Not everyone who drives on SR99 is going to or from downtown. Your proposed changes to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues would radically decrease street capacity downtown for non-transit vehicles. Removing the viaduct without providing an alternative bypass would increase demand for street capacity downtown for non-transit vehicles. You would have a fustercluck.

      Metro does not have the fund to continue current levels of operation, much less provide bypass expresses for the people currently using the viaduct to avoid the fifteen minute passage through downtown. How many people actually ride through downtown on the 15, 18 or 5/54/55? Those are the routes which would provide alternative service for current bypass users of the Viaduct. It’s certainly some, but not many compared to the number of bypass vehicles.

      The right thing to do is to rebuild the viaduct as a stronger, seismically sound structure. The state should use the difference in cost between such a rebuilding to provide bypass express service during the closure. It would maintain the access to the Elliott corridor that the DBT loses and allow a revamping of the Battery Street tunnel during the closure. It’s a better plan.

      The city’s ideas of making the area now occupied by the Viaduct into a large plaza isn’t that great. They’d just be replacing one large concrete area with another. The only real “winners” would be the owners of the short buildings immediately east of the current structure would would suddenly be centi-millionaires.

      • Mike Orr says

        “How many people actually ride through downtown on the 15, 18 or 5/54/55?”

        Many do but they transfer to another route. Or if they’re lucky and the interlined route is where they want to go, they stay on the same bus. And they grumble about how long it takes to get through downtown. Putting buses in the tunnel is a non-starter because they would bypass the transfer points.

      • Anandakos says

        Mike,

        The trips of those who transfer to another route (except perhaps the 16, 26 or 17) aren’t affected by the existence or non-existence of an SR99 through route. They couldn’t use it anyway if they choose to drive. I’m only proposing the bypass express routes during viaduct replacement because SOMETHING would have to be done during that time to replace the capacity lost.

        It might prove popular enough that there would continue to be a market after the replacement structure was completed, and the bypass expresses could use the new structure rather than I-5 then. But that’s only speculation. It would be great if it happened, but I expect that absent ruinous gasoline prices, people who use the existing viaduct as a downtown bypass now would revert to it.

      • Brent says

        Anandakos,

        I understand that transit lanes downtown would come at the expense of general traffic lanes. But at least with transit lanes, the majority of downtown commuters who use transit would be held harmless from the spillover of tens of thousands of cars from the viaduct. If transit is left to fend in antiquated general-purpose lanes, *everyone* will be stuck in Carmageddon.

        I bet you that setting aside half the available downtown lanes for transit would actually enable *better* traffic flow for SOVs than if it isn’t done, because the buses would have a much larger carrying capacity and ridership.

        Besides, if half of all downtown commuters ride the bus, doesn’t it just seem fair to give them half the lane space?

  5. Andy says

    If you don’t want to compare Seoul then maybe these 3 US examples will work, http://www.infrastructurist.com/2009/07/06/huh-4-cases-of-how-tearing-down-a-highway-can-relieve-traffic-jams-and-help-save-a-city/. Or do those not count either? I guess nothing really counts. Lets just pretend we are some special circumstance and rush ahead with our own mistakes. Lets not take info thats out there and get the best we can out of it. Its like Universal HealthCare in America: “It works in every industrialized nation, but that would NEVER work here”

    The truth is all of these projects (Seoul, SanFran, Portland, Milwaukee and more) are in very different cities and the results are similar. They are all examples of the same principles which include “The Braess Paradox” which basically says that as you increase capacity congestion and wait times often increase. We create the demand by building it.

    And I think SanFran example has been pushed out a billion times, Embarcadero and Central Freeway both readily dismissed. Maybe we should look at ALL this evidence from varying areas instead of dismissing these realities and sticking with “Well less roads MUST mean more congestion, derp derp” Not to mention the surface option has plentiful funds to support the traffic, more I5 and more transit. Ultimately public transit is the only solution and building more roads that are EXTREMLY cost-ineffective and only continue to drive demand for cars while transit funding slips. And in the end I bet the Tunnel will cause more traffic problems. But of course we will never get to know because its tunnel or bust and other options don’t seem like they were EVER seriously considered.

    We are making valid arguments. No one will take the time to seriously consider them. And I love this blog but this article rubs me the wrong way. The whole “valid arguments” thing is so dismissive and condescending. I think all your arguments are trite.

    What should of been done is to tear down the Viaduct ASAP, whether we had a plan in place or not. This would of done two things: forced a quicker replacement decision and force us to face the reality without it which would likely prove to not be the doomsday everyone predicts. Not to mention we have spent 10 years driving on this unsafe piece of death and committed ourselves to 5 more years. THAT’s insanity.

    The fact is we have chosen the least cost-effective solution that many believe doesn’t even meet the needs left behind Post-Viaduct. However I will take the tunnel over replacing the viaduct. Getting rid of that blight and obstruction is priority #1.

  6. Brent says

    Okay, Andrew, I’ll grant one positive point out of making this post: It’s all that elegant diagonality on the map. We’ve talked ad nauseam about how that works in Vancouver BC. I hope ST takes this lesson to heart and uses diagonality to maximize connectivity for the greatest population, rather than making a beeline to Everett, duplicating a highway, and failing to compete with travel speed on that highway. … or worse yet zig/zagging back-and-forth between two highways.

    • Mike Orr says

      Which diagonals would you recommend? East Link has a diagonal from Bellevue to Redmond, although it’s not as clear as it could be because it’s not directly on Bellevue-Redmond Road. Everyone agrees that the ideal high-capacity-transit pattern for Seattle is a “X” centered on downtown, but on the ground the east half of the X is exactly where ST2 Link is. The west half is Ballard and West Seattle, which is why they come up repeatedly.

      Link does not “duplicate” a highway. I can’t ride a train on a highway or bypass traffic, at least not with our current I-5. The freeways have caused a profound shift in where people live and travel to, especially in the suburbs, so approximating a freeway (not necessarily next to it, but in the same direction) gets the most riders. Compare Sounder North, which only gets a small fraction of Snohomish County riders because it’s on the edge of the area and behind major hills.

  7. archie says

    Then ask yourself this question: Has there ever been a freeway removal project that was not considered a success?

  8. Erik G. says

    Vancouver, BC
    Calgary
    Amsterdam
    Rotterdam
    Copenhagen
    Paris (not counting the little parkway made famous in “Rodin”)
    London, save for the aborted Westway
    Zurich
    St. Petersburg (The former Leningrad)
    Berlin
    Munich

    All big cities…guess what they have in common?

    • Adam B. Parast says

      Well per this discussion they all have much much more developed transit systems than Seattle.

  9. Greenwood Rider says

    I would think a relevant question on this blog might be: how will transit perform? With the tunnel, the argument is that tolls will divert people to city streets. For tunnel opponents, the favored alternative is the no-replacement streets and transit option, which diverts all traffic that remains onto city streets. City streets and local transit service will be impacted under both options.

    For Metro, 65% of transit bus trips county-wide run through downtown Seattle. We have basically five north-south streets that transit uses, and given that three of those are one-way, there are really only about three streets for transit in each direction, one of those being the very slow First Ave. (In contrast, there were many alternative streets to use in San Francisco when the Embarcadero was removed, and all the displaced traffic was added to those streets without having a major impact). How will our downtown streets perform for transit when a significant share of viaduct traffic is diverted to them?

    • Wells says

      The bored tunnel displaces AWV traffic onto Mercer and Denny Way; streets already overwhelmed with traffic through Lake Union and Denny Triangle. It’s a mistake to add traffic to those pedestrian-oriented districts and totally inappropriate through residential Queen Anne.

      The surface boulevard displaces traffic onto Alaskan Way and Elliott/Western; streets that are appropriately commercial corridors with fewer side-streets and can handle the displaced traffic better. Battery Street Tunnel is retained. The grid at Aurora and John, Thomas and Harrison Streets can be reconnected via a trench or capped cut/cover.

      The surface boulevard does not rule out an eventual cut/cover tunnel which poses much less risk than the bored tunnel and according to all studies displaces the least AWV traffic.

      Seattle MUST invest in transit. I recommend Denver’s 16th Street transit mall shuttle as a model. Its fareless, 4-door, low-floor, hybrid buses run every 2 minutes between transfer stations to peripheral bus and LRT lines which run on appropriately less frequent service. The mall is 1-mile long. Not that many buses are required to operate the shuttle. Such a shuttle system (using trolleybuses) could work for 1st and 3rd Aves. East/west trolleybus shuttle lines are necessary to create a transit grid; they’d run, for instance, from Coleman Dock to First Hill, and Pike Place to Capital Hill. All n/s bus lines could be consolidated and moved to 2nd & 4th Aves with fewer stops to go through town faster as thru-routes.

  10. Eric says

    Even San Francisco is not a close example. They have an order of magnitude better Public Transit than we do:

    Heavy Rail:
    San Francisco – 330,000 riders per day
    Seattle – None

    Light Rail:
    San Francisco – Over 150,000 per day
    Seatttle – Over 20,000

    Commuter Rail:
    San Francisco – All day service, 37,000 riders a day
    Seattle – Commuter Service Only, 9,800 a day

    Not to mention San Francisco has more streetcars, a more effective bus system, etc. etc.

    And the Embarcadero highway was not nearly as central of an artery as the the 99 Viaduct is.

    It’s a terrible comparison – Seattle’s Transit is not equipped to deal with the viaduct being torn down.

    they have a regional heavy rail that carries nearly 350,000 riders a day (Seattle has no Heavy Rail), a light rail that serves over 150,000 riders a day (Seattle’s barely serves 20,000 a and a more effective (and m

    • Eric says

      Also, San Francisco has twice our population and structural density – overall, I dont think they’re comparable cities in terms of urbanity. Culturally, yes, but not when it comes to infrastucture.

    • alexjonlin says

      San Francisco’s transit modeshare is 31.8%, and Seattle’s is 19.5%, which isn’t that big of a difference considering that San Francisco has arguably the second-best transit system in the country. Also, at the time that the Embarcadero Freeway was removed, I’m sure the transit ridership in San Francisco was way lower. It is an apt comparison.

      • Anandakos says

        Alex,

        No, it wasn’t. With the exception of the Third Avenue LRT, transit in San Francisco is essentially unchanged since I lived there in the 1960’s. The same lines run on the same streets which with the exception of SOMA have the same housing stock. The transit mode share was huge in the 1960’s. Things haven’t changed that much.

        The plangent reality is that the Embarcadero and Central Freeways were just a very long on- and off- ramps.

  11. daniel says

    Thank you for this insight. I read the articles mentioned and was curious as to why it seemed so simple. They never mention where the traffic went (of course, .8% is much more easily displaced than 6%). That whole article was full of vague reasons why it worked in Seoul. Thanks for filling in the gaps. Together, they provide a realistic look at the situation.

  12. Adam B. Parast says

    Andrew you beat me to it. When I saw those videos released I actually went onto google to look at the area around the freeway. As you can see here there are 5 or so subway lines in the area where the freeway was removed.

  13. Mark Dublin says

    1. The map makes the real argument for the Waterfront Tunnel: Seoul, like most cities, looks like a game-board. Downtown Seattle looks like a funnel. Depending on one through corridor seems risky.

    2. Therefore, a heavy-duty transit corridor there might be more popular than a skimpy one. What would everybody think of replacing the viaduct with an elevated electric rail line- with a busy mixed-use waterfront commercial district built into the structure? Better than a giant, empty scenic front yard for millionaires.

    3. Given current budget and politics, all our big corridor transit projects will probably take longer than planned- creating some opportunities in the meantime. Until North- and East-LINK really materialize, the DSTT and the E-3 could carry a lot of West Seattle service.

    4. I’ll miss driving the Viaduct, but if it were a public building, wouldn’t it have been condemned by now? Used to love driving it at the wheel of the 55. Would go for an elevated train.

    Mark Dublin

  14. Norman says

    The AWV is primarily used to bypass the Central Business District. Transit’s main usefulness is to access the Central Business District.

    Therefore, transit is not a viable alternative for the large majority of trips on the AWV!

    When I use the viaduct to get from Queen Anne to the airport, or to the East Side via I-90, I don’t want to stop every few blocks going through the Central Business District, or have to change vehicles. How many “express” routes are there through the Central Business District that go from north of the CBD to south of the CBD without making any stops? That is what the AWV is primarily for!

    Transit is basically useless for these trips, because transit is primarily to get people into and out of the CBD — not past it.

    • Nathanael says

      I think this is simply wrong: the portion of AWV trips which bypass the central business district has been quoted before, and it was less than half IIRC.

      • Norman says

        You are wrong. SDOT’s studies show that the large majority of AWV traffic bypasses the Central Business District.

      • Norman says

        Actually, the study was done by WSDOT:

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/Questions.htm#6

        “Is most of the traffic using the viaduct today going to downtown or through downtown?

        “The current viaduct carries approximately 110,000 vehicles per day just south of the mid-town ramps. Of this amount, approximately 17,000 vehicles enter or exit downtown at Columbia and Seneca streets, and 33,000 exit or enter at Elliott and Western avenues toward Belltown, Uptown, and neighborhoods along the 15th Avenue and Elliott Avenue corridor. The remaining 60,000 vehicles continue north through the Battery Street Tunnel, either exiting in the South Lake Union/Queen Anne area or continuing north across the Ship Canal.”

        Only 17,000 of 110,000 vehicles/day which use the viaduct enter or exit the viaduct in the Central Business District. That is only about 15% of AWV traffic. The other 85% is bypassing the Central Business District.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      “When I use the viaduct to get from Queen Anne to the airport, or to the East Side via I-90, I don’t want to stop every few blocks going through the Central Business District”

      When I want to go from Ballard to Cap Hill I don’t want to stop every few blocks going through SLU. We need a viaduct connecting these two neighborhoods. In fact, I can think of a dozen other examples. That’s what we need – a massive viaduct network connecting our city up. And if the sky fills up we can start tunneling.

      You’re making the same silly argument. I know you love your car, but stop using it to pave over my city.

      • Norman says

        The viaduct does not “connect two neighborhoods.” The viaduct is a central corridor which people use to get from a myriad of neighborhoods to another myriad of destinations. If you don’t understand this, I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to draw a picture on this blog.

        In other words, the viaduct can be used by people in Ballard, Magnolia, Fremont, Queen Anne, Green Lake, Phinney, Greenwood, Crown Hill and other neighborhoods north of the CBD to bypass the CBD on their way to SODO, W. Seattle, White Center, Burien, the airport, the East Side, and any other neighborhood south of the CBD.

        Stop using nonsense arguments to try to force me to drive on surface streets through the CBD of my city.

  15. Eric says

    Seoul is not a ridiculous example. It’s one more example. The Embarcadero has been cited many times, and it’s a great example, not so much for what happens when you reduce the traffic capacity of a road network, but of what you gain when you get rid of a freeway on your waterfront. San Francisco’s Central Freeway actually provides a better example, as it was part of US 101 through the City.

    Of course, the point remains is that you can cite any number of examples of freeway removal. You can go as far away as Milwaukee, or as close as Portland. None of these is an exact analog to Seattle, but all show that freeways can be removed and life will go on.

    Archie asked if any freeway removal had not been considered a success. The answer to this is that with so much political and funding machinery in place to build highways that they don’t get removed unless there’s a fairly strong consensus for their removal.

    And this brings us back to the main point from Seoul, according to the man who planned it. When you remove highway capacity, you’ll lose some trips entirely, some will shift to transit, some will continue driving, and some of those that continue to drive will take 5 or 10 percent longer. But that ultimately, you have to decide what you want your city and your downtown to be, whether it can be a great place to live, work and play–or a great place to drive through quickly.

    And that point is, indeed, completely applicable to Seattle. If the thru capacity of 99 is gone, life will go on, and much of that capacity won’t be missed–though it’s not going to be as easy to drive from Ballard to West Seattle. But if even one or two of the billions saved can be put toward better transit–well, that might be something that more people can get behind, even those who like to grab some lutefisk and take it to a flick at the Admiral.

    With that in mind, I agree that there’s a missing piece of the vision of the surface transit alternative, and that needs to be described more completely. When the county executive and a councilman can stand in front of a microphone and–with a straight face–describe the tunnel as a green alternative because of its importance to bus traffic, it’s obvious that they can’t imagine the city as anything other than a place where you drive to get around.

    • archie says

      I agree with your post except for what you said about my comment. I question how strong of a consensus each project had. Obviously enough to complete the removal, but my point was that, time and time again, these removals are succeeding, from huge cities with great transit (Seoul, Paris) to smaller cities with developing transit (Portland, Milwaukee). Of course no city will ever be a perfect match to Seattle, or any other city for that matter. I’m essentially echoing Andy’s post.

      • Eric says

        I said “fairly strong,” but I might better have phrased that as “just enough.” The Embarcadero demolition proceeded after a 6-5 council vote; the Central Freeway demolition followed a ballot measure that prevailed with a margin of roughly 55 to 45–solid, but not overwhelming. Each is likely more popular in retrospect; each also was controversial at the time. Mayor Art Agnos lost his reelection campaign soon after the teardown began; he credited pro-rebuild forces for his defeat.

        Each removal was popular enough to actually happen, and each is probably more popular in retrospect. I wouldn’t expect either to be rebuilt anytime soon.

      • Anandakos says

        Eric,

        Both the Central Freeway (which, by the way was not removed completely, just shortened by about 40%) and Embarcadero were long on/off ramps to the Bay Bridge and US 101. That’s all; they were collector/distributors, not arterial highways.

        The AWV as Norman points out is primarily an arterial highway. It does a little collection/distribution do and from downtown, but it’s a significant minority of trips.

        Personally I think that the DBT is a huge waste of money because it does nothing to serve the Elliott corridor for its $4 billion simoleons. Better to rebuild the highway better and more aestheically — maybe with a lid or buildings above it and terraced sides — and fix up the noisome Battery Street tunnel to preserve the existing flows. Use the money saved to build some high capacity transit that’s just for the city.

  16. says

    If we’re going to simply dismiss the Seoul example because of its abundance of nearby transit, then it seems to me the relevant question that no one is asking or researching is whether or not Seoul’s transit system saw a significant uptick in ridership once the freeway was removed. If not, your argument would seem to fall flat.

    • Andrew Smith says

      researching is whether or not Seoul’s transit system saw a significant uptick in ridership once the freeway was removed. If not, your argument would seem to fall flat.

      Seoul’s transit system carries 8 million riders per day. Even if every single person who used the freeway switched to the subway, that would not even be a 2% increase in ridership, which isn’t significant. It would look like noise in the data. If there was a small fluctuation in employment in that period you would have a much larger effect on the data.

      Which is my whole point. That was not a major freeway for Seoul. You can argue about whether we need the tunnel or not, but either way the AWV today is a major highway in Seattle.

      • says

        I understand that you’re saying it may be impossible to quantify any increase in the data, Andrew… but I think you’re missing my point:

        The drivers/passengers in those 160,000 vehicles in Seoul went somewhere just like we need 110,000 drivers/passengers on the Viaduct to go somewhere.

        Saying that Seoul is bigger or has more rapid transit lines doesn’t actually tell me anything about the comparison between the two projects… unless Seoul is different because some large number or those folks were able to simply start taking the subway instead.

        On the other hand, if we can realistically expect a similar number of Seattleites to stop driving at peak periods, take other surface roads, or switch to buses and new transit options in the corridor, then we CAN in fact accomplish something similar to Seoul — and, therefore, why some folks have pointed to that as an example.

  17. Matt the Engineer says

    Another difference: Seoul has walled in their subway tunnels in stations using glass and advertisements. It makes the stations clean and quiet.

    And they have plenty of street food (I recommend the little donuts shaped like walnuts).

    But they’re kind of the same in that the tourist information desk at the airport recommends that tourists take a limosine bus to downtown and look at you like you’re crazy when you say you’re going to lug your 1-yr old son and 3 suitcases on the subway.

  18. AJ says

    You don’t find a single perfect-fit example, that’s a fool’s errand. You find numerous examples and find what aspects best fit your situation. In this, Seoul directs us to the importance of focused transit investment as a means to reduce emissions and reliance on cars.

    Taken with Portland, whose opposition to excessive road capacity led to MAX, we can direct people to the simple fact that you can present people with a great alternative and gain support for it, and when it — transit — is in place, people will just as readily use it as they would have used that previous road artery.

    For example, 10,000 bus riders use the AWV. Increase service in that corridor to mimic major trips (Faster service from West Seattle, better utilization of Link, etc.) and that number would increase. Keep the speed and reliability up and you’ll absorb enough to decompress any gridlock issues.

    Tunnel supporters and fair weather opponents seem to be playing the straw man game far too eagerly, taking each example one by one and knocking ‘em down or offering false compromises like “a better example would be San Francisco” in this conversation, then demurring when people suggest San Francisco saying “that’s not a good example”.

    They’re ALL good examples. You can’t expect one to be a perfect fit.

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