Are you a Wallingford rider who commutes to downtown Seattle? If so, I have great news for you: thanks to the Mercer West Project, you’re about to get ten to twenty minutes of your life back, almost every weekday afternoon. Starting in February, SDOT will reduce the Mercer underpass to two westbound lanes, as part of the widening of the underpass, and construction of the new 6th Ave N, which will serve as an access road to the future SR99 Deep Bore Tunnel. After reasoning, pleading, and public flogging have failed, this will finally force Metro to do the right thing, and put the 16 on the same downtown pathway as Route 5.
The initial reroute will be a temporary construction detour; but with the completion of the Aurora Street Grid project shortly after SDOT is finished hacking up Mercer, the street grid east of the Seattle Center will be reconnected, obviating the last (flimsy) rationale for a deviation that requires the bus to drive in circles. Therefore, Metro plans to begin public outreach soon thereafter, to ask riders about making the Aurora alignment permanent.
Frankly, it’s pathetic that this change is being forced upon Metro by construction. It is impossible that the problems I have outlined on this subject were not widely known at the agency. I realize Metro is swamped and overstretched, and exists in a institutional incentive structure that is tailor-made to promote waffling, stasis, and inoffensive mediocrity, but the agency is obviously capable of responding to speed and reliability problems when it feels so inclined. That it has failed — and so egregiously — makes its actions in this case externally indistinguishable from an agency that does not care about service quality on core routes; and to the extent that Metro is such an agency, I have no interest in advocating for it, or further subsidizing it.