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: