Another week, another congestion debacle during this Thursday’s rushhour:
With both gameday crowds (5:30 kickoff) and those coming for the free Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden concert (3:10-4:45), expect large crowds downtown…
Regular Riders: If possible, try to flex your schedule to avoid traveling during the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 4.
When cities go through the long process of watering down their own BRT investments, there’s always a process of measuring “typical” congestion and weighing the time savings against parking and SOV interests.
However, this framework breaks down during bursts of “atypical” construction and event congestion. Agencies have to play a peculiar confidence game: if people heed their warnings and defer trips or switch to transit, then congestion won’t be as bad as advertised; if this experience causes people to ignore warnings, than the jam will be epic.
This makes it all the more shameful that the only alternative to making traffic worse or staying at home is transit — and except for Link, Sounder, and a few busways, that transit fares even worse than the cars that create the problem.
With only a few exceptions among regional trips, all levels of government have placed such a high priority on fast car access that transit is almost always slower. As a result, transit ridership is a mix of people unable to drive, the price-sensitive, and people for whom time spent on transit is more valuable than a shorter time behind the wheel. To increase ridership, as government must do to avoid gridlock during foreseeable congestion events, policy must reduce the time penalty of transit.
This argument isn’t about the general case for dedicated transit right-of-way; although that case is correct, it’s obvious that the leadership values the interests of other stakeholders more than transit riders. In the specific case of construction and special events, the only way to give citizens any alternative to total gridlock is dedicated transit lanes. If that means closing off certain streets except for local access and transit and posting some cops, so be it; the great thing about cars is that they’re not limited to scheduled routes or reroutes, and can adjust to change quite easily. And it seems like the new SDOT director is at least open to the idea:
All modes failing SR99 mess but bikes and Sounder. When will SDOT learn to give transit ROW on congested roads?
— Martin Duke (@MartinDuke2) August 27, 2014
— Scott Kubly (@skubly) August 27, 2014
Unfortunately, although Sound Transit warns Link riders to “expect heavy crowding,” Spokesman Geoff Patrick explains that they can’t run three car trains because the stub tunnel above Westlake still restricts trains turning around to 2 cars. However, “we do plan to have a four-car train staged at OMF [running Stadium-Seatac] if the tunnel should experience gridlock.”