After I linked to the notification of SR99 lane closures with a fine whine about (lack of) transit priority, there was a fun twitter exchange between WSDOT, some loyal readers, and Zach on the STB Twitter account. As the animation above shows, during daytime left lane closures, WSDOT will open the bus lane to general traffic to maintain two lanes for cars. In a later phase, bus lane closures will force transit into general purpose lanes.
WSDOT said that the corridor carries about 37,000 cars and 740 buses on an average weekday. All else being equal, then, if there are 1.25 people per car then each bus would have to carry about 62 people to mean that transit was more important than cars, and by implication worthy of priority.
— Washington State DOT (@wsdot) January 7, 2016
The E, 5, 16, 26X, and 28x carry about 31,000 people a day, or 41 people per bus, or about a third of the total volume in the corridor. Of course, that’s one-third spread out through the entire day, and the peak share of transit riders is higher, perhaps near 50%. So even if the mode shares remain constant, the idea that half the road capacity should go to transit is hardly outrageous.
Moreover, the idea that the mode shares must remain constant is unfounded. Regardless of WSDOT’s fears, there will be “huge backups” regardless of how many lanes are available. Retaining the transit lane would provide a congestion-free alternative. Not everyone will use this option, but WSDOT would provide a rapid means of travel for those who are willing. Some people will take it and improve transit’s share. Instead, WSDOT is forcing everyone to sit in traffic regardless of choice.
Furthermore, private vehicles are able to switch to alternate routes, while transit must continue to serve people that live all along the route, further increasing the likely proportion of transit riders on the roadway.
It’s common, during construction closures, for the authorities to urge people to alter their trips or take transit. With the basic time penalties associated with transit compounded by a total lack of priority, anyone who respects that request is either a fool or has little choice. Enough people are either transit riders, or willing to change given the proper incentives, that transit deserves half the road space on Aurora.
Closures begin next Monday, January 18.