When the Viaduct comes down and Alaskan Way is finally rebuilt as an epic, 9-lane boulevard, West Seattle buses will enter and exit downtown on Alaskan Way via Columbia Street. As Bruce reported at the time, SDOT hadn’t committed to dedicated lanes along the waterfront for buses, leaving open the possibility that buses (including RapidRide) could get stuck in ferry traffic.
Fortunately, the latest documents from Waterfront Seattle seem to indicate (and a follow-up call with Waterfront Seattle confirmed) that Metro will in fact be getting dedicated lanes as far north as Columbia St.
“The proposed Alaskan Way roadway configuration provides an all-day transit priority lane northbound along Alaskan Way to Columbia Street and southbound along Alaskan Way between Columbia Street and Yesler Way,” according to a report posted on the website.
The report also contains a deep analysis of “local transit” along the waterfront, a.k.a. the old Waterfront Streetcar, mothballed several years ago when the development of the SAM Sculpture Park necessitated demolition of the streetcar’s maintenance shed. The report lays out the pros and cons of re-instating the old George Benson streetcar, or replacing it with either a bus or a “modern” streetcar like the ones that ply South Lake Union (and soon, First Hill). The dedicated tracks you see in the photo above are already gone, and the tracks in Pioneer Square are substandard and would have to be replaced as well.
While the historic streetcar had a certain kitsch appeal and made sense for moving tourists from Pioneer Square to the Waterfront and back, this corridor seems unlikely to be a significant transit corridor for locals. However, a modern streetcar could, according to the study, make use of the new Charles Street facility being built for the First Hill Streetcar (with a $3-10 million expansion), while a historic streetcar would necessitate a new barn “located under Elliott Way” and costing ”between $16.9 to $23.4 million.”