This is the strongest case for grade-separated rail I’ve ever seen.

77 Replies to “Twelve Minutes on the 8”

  1. Is this a case for grade separated rail, or simply a case for reserved right of way? A streetcar in its own lane, not shared with cars, would have made it through in one light cycle at the most; at best, with traffic signal priority, it could have run right through without stopping.

    1. Did you even look at the video? The intersection was clogged with vehicles. The light was green, but no traffic could get through. If cars are blocking the lane — which they were — no traffic could get through this intersection. Reserved right of way would have made no difference, with cars blocking the tracks.

      And, of course, what would traffic have looked like with one less lane for general traffic, if you took one of the lanes and made it transit-only? Would those vehicles crossing this street have ever made it through the intersection? How long would it have taken that truck to get through the intersection if there were one less lane for trucks and cars?

    2. Norman has a point here. I’m fine with taking car lanes for transit, even in this case. But if a case could ever be made that taking a lane would hurt the flow of cars*, it would be on Denny (if that’s what’s in the video – I’m at work and can’t watch). Adding E-W capacity would be very beneficial here, which means grade seperated transit. Of course my idea of gs transit is a gondola, but I’d certainly be happy with light rail instead.

      * again, I don’t think this is a valid design criteria, but removing a lane from the Denny corridor might be politically impossible

      1. I’m torn about whether it would be a good idea – in theory a lane full of buses would move many more people around, but the devil would certainly be in the details as to whether the current trips could be converted to transit trips.

        But even if it were a good idea, I would much prefer a grade seperated solution.

      2. Here’s a twist on the MattMobile ™ concept. Chronic traffic situations could have overhead trams, but instead of gondolas for people, hang huge electric magnets to swoop down, grab a bus and whisk it away to free-flowing-land. Brilliant! (a 60″ magnet can pick up a car)
        Of course power outages are a bit of a problem:)

  2. Hey, that’s my stop. This is not some random occurrence — this is how it is every afternoon. If you are going from Lower Queen Anne, Belltown, or SLU to Capitol Hill there is no reason to ride the #8, you can always walk faster. Yesterday an old lady with a cane was making better time than the bus.

    And the #8 is a very popular bus. It is standing-room only every afternoon no matter what time I get on. Something needs to be done to address this problem. It’s only going to get worse with more development in SLU.

  3. What was the date and time of this video?

    This looks like what happened all over downtown when the viaduct was closed last week. Is that when this video was taken?

    This is the “surface/transit” option for NOT replacing the viaduct. Is this what you wanted? Adding tens of thousands of vehicles per day to city streets gives you this sort of traffic mess.

    Some people reported that it took a “couple of hours” to cross downtown on the Thursday afternoon with the viaduct closed. It took 2 hours to get from Everett to Seattle Thursday or Friday with the viaduct closed.

    This video is pretty much what downtown Seattle would look like during morning or evening peak hours without the viaduct.

      1. Uh. We just had an entire week without the viaduct, and it was in the news constantly. You don’t read the news?

      2. Okay, I should have said “Are you seriously still going on about the surface/transit option?”

      3. Well, we just got a little taste of the “surface/transit” option last week. How did you like it?

      4. But, you got 20% fewer vehicle trips, because a lot of people stayed home instead of braving the traffic mess. Even so, traffic was horrendous much of the time.

      5. [Norman] You know this already, but here you go: The largest effects of induced demand take time. Sure, in the short term people learn to use buses or shift their working hours. But over time people start choosing their workplace and their home location based on traffic. Traffic is effectively self-balancing: add more capacity, and people will fill it up. Reduce capacity, and people will use it less.

      1. But tens thousands of people will be able to avoid this mess by taking the tunnel. Without the tunnel, they would all be stuck in traffic like this.

        And I voted against the tunnel, because I was in favor of a new or rebuilt viaduct, which is by far the best “solution.” Hope you are looking forward to getting stuck in traffic like this on a constant basis pretty soon. lol
        [ad hom]

      2. Norman, [ad hom]. This traffic has nothing to do with the 99 tunnel. It has everything to do with a corridor too narrow to accommodate the east/west traffic between QA and Capitol Hill. This entire city can’t move east/west and west/east efficiently.

      3. Jack: Denny is used by many people to access I-5 to head south. If you can take the viaduct to head south, as I do, you don’t need to access I-5, now do you, genius? Of course, closing the viduct hurts east-bound traffic heading towards I-5 on Denny and Mercer, also.

        Are you from Seattle? You don’t understand this?

      4. Norman,

        It’s too bad some of my comments were cut from my last post because they are relevant rebuttal to your argument. Any intelligent reader of this thread would understand that (a) cars and trucks clog Denny Way during rush hour which inhibits the flow of people east/west between QA and Capitol Hill and beyond, and (b) this has been a problem for more than a decade and has nothing to do vehicles transitioning from south 99 to south I5, and (c) adding capacity in this corridor is difficult due to terrain, and (d) [ad hom]

      5. Jack: How do you suggest people from Queen Anne, and Magnolia, for example, get to destinations south of downtown with the viaduct closed?

        Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Or not?

      6. “How do you suggest people from Queen Anne, and Magnolia, for example, get to destinations south of downtown with the viaduct closed?”

        Alaskan Way, 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue, 3rd Avenue, 5th Avenue, Boren. No one in their right mind would go all the way to I-5 just to get through downtown.

      7. I don’t have to suggest how they will do that, Norman, because the viaduct isn’t closed. Do you know what you’re talking about? Or not?

      8. Not for the 50,000-plus poeple per day who use the tunnel. They don’t have to worry about surface traffic in downtown Seattle or on Denny.

      9. Jack, the viaduct was closed last week, Jack.
        That is what we are talking about.
        You forgot already?

    1. back in 1996 I worked at Denny & Summit …

      Denny way was like this in Rush Hour back then and pretty much every day since (and many before)

      1. And, because of the viaduct, over 100,000 people per day didn’t have to worry about this surface traffic mess in downtown Seattle, because they could be on a great grade-separated highway, up and above the traffic, instead of down on the surface streets making this mess even worse.

      2. Ah Norman, this is E/W traffic not N/S which the tunnel will take. Are you seriously advocating another tunnel for Denny?

      3. No, Norman just can’t tell the difference between east-west and north-south. Someone should buy him a compass.

    2. Funny… I know a number of people who felt traffic was less with the Viaduct closed than they normally experience.

      For myself, my bus trips to/from West Seattle were mostly better, and never worse than a bad traffic day with the Viaduct.

      Besides, the presence of more cars over a more congested area does not necessarily equal greater travel times.

  4. I travel this corridor everyday from my home in Greenwood to my place of business on Capitol Hill. It’s always been a disaster. In the last several months it has gotten worse due to development in SLU and construction in the Mercer corridor. Most of the vehicles on Denny eastbound are jockeying for position to get on I5 southbound, but a vast majority of the PEOPLE in this corridor are trying to get to Capitol Hill and points east. The city had a chance to widen the corridor 10 – 15 years ago before Vulcan developed their properties on Denny and Westlake but they chose not to do it.

    The geography of the corridor makes it impossible for run any rapid transit at grade, there’s not even enough roadway for signal priority or bus bulbs. The only hope is something tunneled or elevated. I’ve dreamt of a tunnel connection at the Link station at John and Denny with stops at Denny Park and Seattle Center, but in truth I’ll be dead and gone before any of that happens.

      1. I was for an elevated replacement for the viaduct, and I think it could be a good idea here.

      2. Elevated streetcar or light rail — this corridor doesn’t need (and can’t accommodate) more space for vehicles.

      3. Being pedantic, of course, but streetcars are vehicles (and so are bicycles and even prams)!

  5. We could have been on that bus—my daughter has a class at Seattle Children’s Theater until 5:30 and we were headed home to our apartment near REI. We often walk, but this time we took the Monorail downtown instead (yes, an extra $3.25 but always fun) and then the streetcar. Probably took less time than the 8.

    In 2016, monorail plus Link will probably be a better way to get from Seattle Center to Capitol Hill!

  6. I often go through the intersection just before this one, Denny and 8th onto Bell. And on a bicycle I breeze by all this stuck automobile and bus traffic.

    Therefore the city should make it easier to bicycle through this corridor so people have an alternative to sitting on a stuck bus or a stuck automobile.

    Yes an elevated system like a Monorail is the only way to fix the transit problem. (Ah Norman, the DWT is going N/S, this is W/E traffic.) But it’s the second most expensive option. (the first being another tunnel W/E)

  7. Short term, maybe we should just not bother having the 8 go to Seattle Center at all. It’s providing no more mobility than the sidewalk and it probably makes trips very unreliable for anyone getting on the 8 further down he line.

    Long term, for South Lake Union->Capitol hill, I like the gondola solution. Avoid all the car traffic completely, probably much cheaper than a tunnel or viaduct.

      1. Totally disagree, the main problem with 8 reliability from my experience is evening Eastbound traffic to I-5. I used to ride (2009-2010) the 8 Westbound during evening rush (and Eastbound for morning rush) and it wasn’t particularly unreliable. The route is usually fairly full, provides useful connectivity and should be kept despite its problems.

    1. I ride the 8 even though it’s slow when I don’t want to walk up the hill. Eliminating the 8 would remove that option. People asked Metro for literally decades for a route on Denny Way so they wouldn’t have to go downtown and transfer. Of course, whether it has to be the same route as MLK is a different question.

      1. I agree. I think this is one of those routes that hits an important corridor and even though it will likely never be particularly fast it’s worth keeping around.

  8. I’d love to see an analysis of the # of people through-traveling the Denny corridor (who are directly impacted while cars queue for I-5) vs. the total number of people in the vehicles in question. I’m there every single afternoon, walking my bike up from Stewart/Denny up to Denny/Olive because I hate waiting for the 8.

    I also think that there just shouldn’t be an I-5 onramp at Howell/Yale. When Mercer is finished, maybe we could lobby to close that onramp and push vehicles to Mercer, making Denny more like Yesler as far as being exempt from I-5’s pressures. It should be sufficient for drivers to have the northbound ramps at Mercer and Olive/Melrose, and just Mercer for those driving southbound.

      1. Seems like with either of these options, you still have the same number of people driving E-W through the same small number of roads. Will this really help traffic on Denny? Or will people take Denny to get near I-5, then other streets to the onramp?

      2. I think closing Denny to I-5 traffic would increase overall person-throughput significantly. When completed, Mercer will have 3 lanes in each direction, with ramps both north and south. If you drive, that’s what you should have to use, congestion be damned. Keeping the current ramp at Howell/Yale but closing access from Denny/Yale would help, but not much. If people had to access that ramp via Denny-Boren-Howell, then Denny would still be gridlocked between Seattle Center and Boren. I’m usually not one in favor of radically restricting vehicular access, but drivers just shouldn’t have the right to take up that much space for so few people, especially when the existence of I-5 itself is the sole reason that CapHill is cut off from adjacent neighborhoods, neighborhoods that happen to be the densest in the state and thus most deserving of non-SOV capacity. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to travel from Uptown/LQA to Capitol Hill.

      3. In my experience the biggest problem with eastbound Denny is that Yale doesn’t have enough capacity to hold the cars queuing for the I-5 ramp, so the traffic backs up on to Denny and impedes the eastbound traffic. If Yale were closed at Denny then I-5 traffic would turn off of Denny sooner, on to streets that have more capacity, or take an alternate route to I-5, such as Mercer.

      4. “In my experience the biggest problem with eastbound Denny is that Yale doesn’t have enough capacity to hold the cars queuing for the I-5 ramp, so the traffic backs up on to Denny and impedes the eastbound traffic.”

        Not to mention when people turning left off of Denny heading for I-5 illegally block the intersection.

    1. Mercer street is LOSING capacity eastbound: it is currently 4 lanes, and is being converted to only 3 lanes eastbound.

      Right now, with 4 eastbound lanes on Mercer, they need a special traffic cop at the Gates Foundation Headquarters to stop traffic on Mercer to let cars out of the Foundation parking lot onto Mercer, or they would never get out of the parking lot. I asked that cop how long it took from the Gates Foundation to get onto I-5 in the pm peak, and he said about 30 minutes. This is about 1.2 mile. And they are going to eliminate one of the eastbound lanes on Mercer next year.

      And you want to close the I-5 onramp from Denny and shift all that traffic to Mercer, after Mercer loses a lane heading east? lol

      Let me guess, you are a traffic engineer for SDOT, right?

      1. Norman, traffic speeds are not linearly related to the number of cars on a road. Until a road reaches its effective capacity, traffic speeds don’t decrease significantly with an increase in cars. Unless you speed a lot an empty freeway moves you about as fast as one with a reasonable amount of traffic moving at 60MPH. However, once a roadway exceeds its effective capacity traffic slows down considerably. That’s why roads can go from 30MPH to stand still and then suddenly back to 30MPH. Once a road is congested, a lot of the damage is already done.

        Currently Denny is somewhat to heavily congested, particularly for Eastbound evening rush. This is primarily due to traffic headed to southbound I-5, which clogs the right lane for hundreds and hundreds of yards. If the southbound entrance and exits were removed (or at least access from non-capitol hill to this entrance) then the congestion problem would largely be removed. The traffic would still be heavy, but it would more closely match Westbound evening traffic, which is bad, but not a standstill.

        Under such a scenario, of course, traffic from this area attempting to access I-5 would have to use Mercer or Spring St. But at least in the case of Mercer since traffic is already incredibly slow, the additional congestion caused by this change would be relatively small, especially considering that Mercer is a mere 5 blocks from Denny and that there are numerous north-south Aterials to traverse between the two.

        It is also notable that, unlike Denny, Mercer is not a through street, nor does it carry transit. For Mercer the vast majority of traffic is trying to access I-5 meaning that those that create the congestion, I-5 users, take the brunt of the congestion. On the other hand, for Denny the cars that create the bottleneck, backed up I-5 traffic, make it miserable for people trying to simply get from Queen Anne, SLU or Belltown to Capitol Hill. It is better to have the effects and causes of congestion in alignment instead of having perverse incentives for cars to back up a through lane for hundreds and hundreds of yards.

        Finally, bringing in the Mercer Street project is a red herring. Once the Mercer St. project is completed it will probably be more feasible and practical to route transit via Mercer or Harrison then Denny. In this way the whole dynamics of system will be completely different and similarly the arguments will be different. Also while Mercer will have three lanes instead of four it will also have a center turn lane, and the street grid across Aurora will be reconnected making the four lanes to three argument a totally incongruent with what is actually going and how traffic patterns actual work.

    2. Interesting idea. I think you’d have to do a good amount of modeling to figure out how this would impact the transportation system in the SLU area. Traffic problems on Howell/Olive/Denny are all because of queuing from I-5 SB and the signal at Yale and Howell.

      If you didn’t want to close the ramp completely you could toll the onramp, which is along the same lines of what WSDOT/SDOT are looking at doing in the Arboretum to reduce volumes. Tolling the SB onramp would also make a SB trip via the DBT and Edgar Martinez Dr/SR-509/SR-599 more attractive.

  9. If you are FOR rail transit, then you should like road traffic because it makes the drivers get irritated and puts them on grade-separated rail transit. And interesting urban planner said that road traffic on a freeway is less polluting than a full freeway with freely moving cars at regular speed. I say leave the roads the way they are, but provide a rail option for those that don’t want to have anything to do with road traffic.

    1. This is not too far away from what I think…if someone is going to drive into an area that is congested, hilly, one-wayed, pedestrians everywhere, w/ expensive parking during peak hours…well, that is a concious decision, there’s a large time and aggravation penalty to be paid. There are better things to do with public money than SOV-aggravation reduction. & I say that as a person who sometime has to drive in downtown Seattle.

      On another topic, I ask the mods to be more aggressive about moderating Norman. Just from this thread we have:

      “Did you even look at the video?

      You don’t read the news?

      [ad hom]

      If you can take the viaduct to head south, as I do, you don’t need to access I-5, now do you, genius?

      Are you from Seattle? You don’t understand this?

      Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Or not?

      You forgot already?”

      The guy makes every thread worse.

  10. The route 8 is a line you can almost never count on. Delay times of as much as 20 minutes or longer are common every day. It’s not uncommon to catch a route 8 and have another one come five minutes behind it.

  11. There should be a huge fine for blocking an intersection and it needs to be vigorously enforced. I don’t feel the current $75 fine is enough and it certainly isn’t enforced.

    If drivers were heavily fined for blocking intersections transi lanes would work here.

    1. “Blocking the box” it’s called, and it’s enforced quite seriously in a lot of cities.

    2. Careful what you wish for. Left turns from 15th to 45th in the U-dist. for buses is only accomplished by ‘blocking the box’ during PM peaks.
      One green left turn arrow = one bus gets through.

      1. I wonder if Metro has considered rerouting/extending the 43/49 so that they turn at 50th rather than 45th. That way, you can avoid the difficult turn from 45th. (This would be especially useful if the 44 gets extended to Children’s, since then you can ban turns at that intersection altogether (aside from buses heading back to base).

  12. It would be nice if they considered using part of the Battery St tunnel as an underpass for Denny, once the new tunnel is finished. They could connect up into the N/S grid with ramps at 6th & 5th, 4th & 5th, or 4th & 2nd.

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