WSDOT Photo (Flickr)

It’s nearly done. Forget the questionable process by which it came about, the undeniable lost opportunity for transit investment instead,  or the coming tax bill for litigation and overruns. Bertha will likely break through in the next few days, and there will by a highway bypass tunnel underneath Downtown Seattle two years from now. It’s time to try to look at the bright side.

The Viaduct will be gone. The Waterfront will be opened up. There will be a continuous cycle path along the waterfront, and widened sidewalks to boot. The surface highway that replaces it will be far too wide, and too many concessions have been made for car ferry access, but the net reality on the ground will be undeniably better than the Brutalist monolith above Alaskan Way today.

The question for transit advocates is how much lemonade can be squeezed from the highway lemon, if any? Just a few years ago, the highway bypassed what most considered “Downtown”, but in the intervening years Downtown has growth into South Lake Union to such an extent that direct service to Republican Street now seems like a plausible transit use.

Partially because of the tunnel’s disutility for transit but mostly due to the anticipation of West Seattle light rail, Metro’s Long Range Plan includes just one SR 99 tunnel route, “Corridor 2003”. The route would combine parts of Route 21X and Rapid Ride C, serving Arbor Heights, Fauntleroy, and Alaska Junction before running express to South Lake Union.

Screenshot from Metro 2040 Plan

These sort of boomerang routes have a long history in Seattle due to the Columbia Street express ramps. Routes such as the 79 from Lake City are long gone, but many routes from the north today still serve the south end of downtown first, including Route 355 and a number of Community Transit routes. Similarly, routes such as AM Route 577 serve Seneca, 4th, and Pine Streets before turning down 2nd to serve South Downtown.

But though Metro doesn’t anticipate such a route until 2040, access issues are perhaps most acute in the next few years, when the shiny new tunnel will lie unused while the surface streets suffer all number of constraints. Maybe we should look at such routes a bit sooner?

Consider that the traditional approach from West Seattle to Pioneer Square will continue to be served by Rapid Ride C and Routes 21 and 120. There is a good case to be made for supplemental peak service that serves SLU and Belltown first. “RapidRide CX” could run from Fauntleroy to SLU, perhaps replacing Route 116. “Route 126” could run from SR 509 to SLU, providing bypass service for Burien and complementing Routes 121 and 122. These routes could terminate in SLU, or more likely could continue into the Central Business District via Dexter/7th/Bell/3rd or Westlake/Lenora/3rd.

Such route designs deserve study going into the One Center City years of “maximum constraint”. We’ll have a huge new tunnel that we’re afraid not enough people will use. Let’s put some buses in there.

102 Replies to “As Bertha Nears the Finish Line, Could the Tunnel Serve Transit?”

  1. I don’t have any problem looking on the bright side!! The SR99 project has long been a better project than the Seattle Transit Blog has cared to admit or realize. The big flaw in the reasoning of those opposed to the tunnel – and I acknowledge that many were as anti the project as I was for it – has always been that of thinking it would be a good thing to replace the commercial and economic function of the existing viaduct with a transit alternative. This proved to be beyond what many were willing to pursue in Seattle while also negating the fact that buses will be able to use the tunnel in the future.

    Also, if the state had abandoned the project as again, many wished it to do, I think you would have seen huge damage to the future credibility of the state’s ability to attract contractors for other big projects in the future. I am somewhat surprised and embarrassed that Christine Gregoire – if I have interpreted Mike Lindblom correctly – does not seem to have been overly interested in the project since leaving office.

    If Bertha successfully gets through the drive we can be thankful on many levels. The riskiest part of the project will have been completed and we can look forward to the day when the hideous viaduct comes down.

    I know a lot of folks will be upset here that Bertha ever got repaired and relaunched but it won’t all be bad to have a tunnel through downtown. I urge the project’s critics to look at the many positives here with respect to learning about tunnel technology and WSDOT’s ability to manage one of the country’s great urban projects. I have followed the progress of the tunnel virtually every day since Bertha’s initial launch in July 2013. The state will have a good case that Bertha 1.0 was not as up to the job as the massively-improved Bertha 2.0. This will help enormously in lawsuits in the future.

    1. Talk about being a sore winner!

      Seriously, dude, the tunnel will still never fulfill the largest economic purpose that was used to push it: moving freight between Interbay and the SODO. That will require trashing east-west thoroughfares to get over to Interbay.

      It was the wrong path for the wrong purpose, and still is. Sure, it will compete with transit for moving people between the north end and south end, but that wasn’t the sales pitch.

      People will use it. Freight, not so much.

      1. Seriously, Brent, wouldn’t it be great to make every non-transit vehicle stop at an actual ornate historic toll-booth at each end of the Waterfront?

        The Deep Bore Tunnel isn’t going to rely on philanthropists – or taxpayers- to pay for itself. Why should the Waterfront above it be treated any different?

        Bet that measure would also alleviate enough traffic to put streetcars back in the plan. Which have a long history with horse-drawn carriages – which enrich any park area.

        Too bad New Electric Railway Journal publisher Paul Weyrich isn’t still alive. Most deserved revenge on the liberal politicians responsible for the Deep Bore Tunnel would be a Waterfront advocated by this country’s last honestly-titled Conservative.


      2. The main push for the tunnel was not freight, but people going from north Seattle to the airport, West Seattle, and the south end without being subject to I-5 traffic or “23 stoplights” on Alaskan Way. It boils down to, there should be an expressway bypass because there was an expressway bypass previously.

        I opposed the tunnel from the beginning, but switched to just wanting it to finish without further problems some time ago. Maybe when it restarted; I don’t remember exactly when. Not because I believed in the tunnel, but because prolonging it further would not have any benefit and would distract from more important things, namely better transit and walkability and a waterfront gathering space.

      3. “Sore winner”???? I supported the project from the beginning. The STB’s official line was always that it was a terrible project and that’s still their official view. That’s ok, the project should now get completed and I’ll be reverting to other mass transit projects moving forward. Heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail remain top priorities. I know why you guys don’t or didn’t like the project and I know why I did and do. Respect should be two-way.

        Meanwhile, WSDOT’s ability to manage the project successfully was and remains of paramount importance to forward endeavors and ability to attract civil and other project engineers. Tunnel supporters have never been as vocal as the project’s opponents but yes, we do take pride in what the project promises to accomplish both for Seattle and for the waterfront.

      4. There’s no shortage of travel demand for people (and vehicles) to bypass downtown Seattle, but most of that demand is on the I-5 corridor because the 99 corridor is much slower and lower-capacity in general, especially north of Green Lake and from SODO through the First Avenue South drawbridge.

        Meanwhile there is no positive future with more cars in and around downtown Seattle. A plan for the future that dumps a bunch of cars that used to take the Viaduct onto the surface streets of Pioneer Square is going to make those old streets as clogged and unfriendly as those of SLU. Every project, big and small, needs to take every opportunity to reduce the amount of cars. Whether that’s what people in Seattle, the region, or Washington State will support, it’s the damn truth, and it needs to be voiced whether it’s popular or not. The more cars we accommodate the more cars we’ll get.

    2. I think you’re being unfair to tunnel detractors here. I doubt that most people who feel the tunnel was the wrong choice were rooting for its failure once work commenced.

      Also, you mischaracterize the argument against the tunnel. The surface-transit alternative was not about replacing the viaduct with buses… it was about replacing the viaduct with surface-level improvements for all users – drivers, walkers, cyclists, and transit. It included widening I5’s downtown choke-point, which would have been a huge win for drivers. The state’s own environmental impact studies (released after the decision to dig was already finalized, in open defiance of state law) showed that the surface option would have *better* long-term mobility impacts than the far more expensive deep-bore tunnel. But arguments of induced demand are difficult for the public to grasp, so what won-out in the end is exactly the straw-man you’re repeating here: that anti-tunnel advocates wanted to replace the viaduct with buses.

      All that said, please stop with this new straw-man that all of us were rooting for the project’s failure once it was underway. I personally am glad to see the tunnel finished close to budget, if not timeline, but I’ll always maintain it was an extremely misguided use of taxpayer money.

      1. During the Bertha shutdown it felt to me like the progressive hive mind in Seattle was actively hoping against a restart. I thought that was the wrong idea at the time, and still think so, even though it will be almost impossible to change the tunnel to be a truly effective transit corridor.

      2. David is right. The vibes that “progressives” gave off in Seattle is that they wanted a new direction. It’s interesting that the City Council demanded virtually monthly presentations from WSDOT and STP leadership when the project was at its lowest points in 2015 but has not requested anything since Bertha restarted in April 2016. You can read into that what you will – that they were grateful for no major issues since last April or that they were looking for gaps between WSDOT and the STP in previous meet ups. I attended a lot of those meetings and one could argue both sides of the coin on this one.

        Anyway, we can move forward hopefully with the divisiveness behind us.

      3. I just read that 2014 post of David’s. Interesting perspective but we are long moved on from that time.

      4. I was tempted to think that, and sometimes I did, although I don’t recall if I said so publicly. If it weren’t for the impending catastrophe of climate change I never would have considered such a rooting strategy, on the grounds of sunk costs and ‘even marginally useful infrastructure is better than nothing.’ But a piece of infrastructure designed virtually only for cars, at this point in history, seems like building for the wrong future, and inducing and subsidizing destructive behavior. Insofar as we’re building 100 year+ infrastructure for cars it should at least be transformable; it’s unclear this is.

        Perhaps in a few decades we’ll have wildly efficient electric-from-renewable energy cars zipping us around and it’ll all be OK, but I’m not betting that way. People who want their grandchildren to have a chance at growing old on a habitable planet can be forgiven for having rooted for Bertha to quietly die somewhere under Belltown.

      5. I don’t care what people root for. Rooting is not a strategy. I want to see accurate reporting and decisions made for good reasons.

        If seeing a few of the downside risks that were always among the reasons the tunnel was a bad idea come to fruition changed a few people’s minds on the overall wisdom of the tunnel, encouraging them to take this opportunity to re-investigate their support of freeways… that’s a strategy. Connecting the size, cost, impacts and risk-magnitude of the tunnel with those of freeway projects generally… that’s a strategy.

      6. Al has an interesting argument about not rooting for things but that’s a fine line that everyone, including myself, crosses every day here and elsewhere. Arguably that is leadership which is always an appealing concept to me. You have elections over concepts, someone gets elected on the basis of them, and then makes decisions based on that. At one time before the War on Cars became the vogue, the SR99 project was a Democratic vision that Gregoire used for developing the project. Since the onset of the War on Cars, the SR99 project has been shoved over to the Republicans which is not fair to either party to be honest. I’m a transit geek like everyone here but have consistently supported the tunnel-rooted for it if you like-just like many here have rooted in the other direction. At the end of the day I view the tunnel as part of a balanced approach to transit and travel needs throughout Seattle and the Puget Sound.

      7. Well, I’ll say upfront that I’m a person who strongly prefers transit to drive commuting — when I worked at Nike in my last contract I’d take the bus from the 99th Street TC in Vancouver (no, not that Vancouver — to Beaverton Creek (for a year and a half) and then Milliken (two years). Yeah, it took longer than driving in the morning, but I got to read!. Instead of giving the finger to the azzoles who squeezed into the twenty foot safety gap I keep behind the car in front of me or passed on the shoulder. Plus, it was way faster in the evening if I got started in time to take the C-Tran expresses.

        Basically, I despise my fellow commute driver.

        That said, the DBT was always a good project, and I hoped for it’s successful completion. There is a lot of through traffic squeezing through I-5 in the “waist” of Seattle, and SR 99 helps divert some of it. I’m glad that Bertha is on her last lap, and I expect that all the “I will never pay tolls!” blowhards will be flooding through it.

        That fact that WSDOT could bore a 58′ diameter tunnel with only a $250 million dollar over-run says clearly that TBM’s are the future for city transportation infrastructure. SoundTransit should definitely keep Brenda — The Little TBM That Could! — to dig the Green Line tunnels.

        And when she’s done with that job, turn her loose in East Campus next to U Village and have her bore her way to Harrison via Fremont. Twice.

      8. Tim:

        > at one time before the war on cars…

        You lost me there. The war on cars is not a real thing.

      9. The bemoaning of the viaduct replacement, along with other issues like complaints about the ferry queue lanes for Coleman dock or advocating for removal of I-5 through downtown Seattle always struck me a bit of wanting to have your cake and eat it to. It’s an interesting mix of extolling the virtues of a growing urban metropolis while at the same time demonizing the transportation network that made us a regional hub in the first place. If I were a more cynical person I would equate it to NIMBYism.

      10. >> The bemoaning of the viaduct replacement, … always struck me a bit of wanting to have your cake and eat it to. It’s an interesting mix of extolling the virtues of a growing urban metropolis while at the same time demonizing the transportation network that made us a regional hub in the first place.

        Except that, again, it isn’t a very cost effective part of the transportation network. Even for cars, it is a horrible waste of money. Just imagine if someone said this:

        OK, folks, we are going to make improvements to the freeway system. But we also want to make something that makes part of downtown more attractive. OK, ideas? Yes, you there:

        1) How about we cap I-5 (which is fairly cheap), which would be great for downtown pedestrians. Not the whole way, of course, just extend the freeway park a few blocks. That is fairly cheap.

        2) Oh, and let’s replace the viaduct, with a different viaduct. Keep the ramps to Western, since they are an essential part of the current viaduct (and the transportation network). Make the viaduct parallel, not stacked to dramatically reduce road noise on the surface.

        3) With the money left over (and there would be a lot left over) how about we improve I-5.

        That didn’t happen, and that is the problem. This simply isn’t good for cars let alone a cost effective means to move people. If you were concerned about the latter, you would spend money on BRT projects, which if you have been following things, is woefully underfunded.

        These are the combinations that the committee tasked with finding a replacement to the viaduct came up with. Really, it was. They had two solutions. One was to build a new viaduct. The second was not to “do nothing” (as it was often portrayed). Instead they would put money into improving I-5 and transit. They specifically studied a tunnel, and rejected it, because it wasn’t a good value for the money. Nothing has changed. It still isn’t..

      11. If the viaduct had been replaced with another viaduct how long would it take and in the interim where would the viaduct traffic go? Did the committee have a plan for that?

      12. @Rob — I would imagine they did. Just about every project has a means to transition the traffic. There are temporary closures, but like this tunnel, or the new 520 bridge, or just about anything I can think of, traffic keeps moving on the old roads as much as possible.

    3. “I am somewhat surprised and embarrassed that Christine Gregoire – if I have interpreted Mike Lindblom correctly – does not seem to have been overly interested in the project since leaving office.”

      This was predicted and those who predicted it got savaged for it.

      1. What has she overtly been interested in? Nothing as far as I know; I haven’t seen anything about her goings-on for years. She may want to take a break from everything she’s no longer responsible for, or she doesn’t wish to second-guess subsequent administrations unless it’s really critical, as ex-presidents usually do.

      2. I have zero problem with Christine Gregoire not being “overly interested in the project since leaving office.”

        Gregoire is doing other things, and focusing on her current work.

        Leaders who snipe at their successors from the sidelines are rarely constructive and often embarrassing to themselves. More would do well to follow Gregoire’s example.

      3. Last I read, Gregoire was involved with a tech group attempting to design intelligent highways and self driving cars, so that the elites aren’t stuck in traffic with their lessers. Heaven forbid that she would be involved with any group advocating better public transportation for the 99 percent.

    4. Also, I don’t recall anyone arguing against WSDOT’s ability to manage projects. I remain critical of the legislature’s ability to discern and assign the most useful projects to WSDOT, and then not get in the way when a chance for grandstanding comes up (such as on HOT projects).

      It will become immediately obvious that this project doesn’t help much with moving freight, which is the fault of the legislators who designed the project on the backs of napkins before rushing home for the year, rather than listening to WSDOT engineers first. WSDOT was assigned a poorly-though-through project, and got it done somehow.

    5. There were several reasons that people opposed the new tunnel:

      1) The very high risk of cost overruns. Yep, sure enough, there are cost overruns.

      2) It does nothing from a transit perspective. There are no bus lanes. It has fewer lanes than the existing viaduct, and fewer lanes that a proposed replacement viaduct.

      3) It is a terrible use of money from the standpoint of moving cars or freight. Not only does it lack ramps in the heart of downtown, but it lacks ramps for Western! This is a huge deal, as it means traffic from Magnolia, Interbay and the West Side of Queen Anne headed to the south end of downtown, West Seattle or SeaTac will have to slog its way through downtown. It also means that traffic from Ballard headed south will be pushed east, thus increasing traffic there.

      This is why the original group that came up with a solution for the viaduct mess rejected the tunnel idea. They thought it was too expensive to build it right (i. e. bus lanes, as well as a ramp for Western) so they came up with two solutions. The first was simply to replace the viaduct with a new viaduct. This was not exactly popular amongst the transit crowd, but it was so much better than the tunnel that STB preferred it to the tunnel! Yes, that’s right, a transit blog supported a viaduct, because it would be a more sensible way to spend the money.

      Of course what they, and lots of transit folks wanted, was the second alternative the board came up with: Put money into improving I-5 as well as funding transit. I forget the numbers, but if memory serves the idea was to set aside a few hundred million for transit improvement. When you consider the cost of the RapidRide+ projects (and the fact that they are being hammered by lack of money) you can see why people wanted that solution. Simply put, it would have saved everyone — drivers and transit riders — more time.

      1. There are cost overruns, yes. But really not a very large one, something on the order of 12-15% on the actual digging contract. No court is going to rule that the steel pipe required the entire machine essentially to be rebuilt with much larger bearings and a stiffer frame. That was simply bad engineering and I think Hitachi has essentially admitted it.

        That’s probably somewhat larger than the contingency reserve, but traffic is so bad — much worse than expected when the thing was started — that it will pay off its bonds in 2/3 the time allotted, and WSDOT can raise the tolls.

        Sure, it’s a highway project but it was needed. Neither ST nor Metro seems to be able to keep up with the regional increase in travel demand, so there’s gonna’ have to be some road improvements. This was a very beneficial one; after all the City and State are going to get that $3 billion back in property taxes along the waterfront. You can make book on that.

      2. “Neither ST nor Metro seems to be able to keep up with the regional increase in travel demand”

        You put tight tax caps on agencies that prevent them from expanding significantly, and then claim they can’t meet demand? That’s like shooting somebody in the foot and then blaming them for not winning the Olympics.

        What’s the biggest problem with the Move Seattle RapidRide+ corridors? Not enough money for more transformative solutions: everything is compromised and scaled back to fit into the budget. Roosevelt RR is truncated at 45th or 65th instead of going to Northgate because the situation on Eastlake/Fairview was worse than preengineering suggested. The RR lines aren’t fully funded: some depend on federal grants which are now in question. The Northgate pedestrian bridge sat for years without being built because its funding wasn’t complete; never mind that it would have been useful ten or twenty years ago and could have minimized the inefficient U-turn buses have to make to serve both the transit center and the college and offices on the west side, and the people who have to wait for those buses rather than just walking across the bridge.

        But wait, isn’t $54 billion for ST3 significant? Yes, but it’s not enough to get things done until the 2030s and 2040s, and even then it leaves holes like Ballard-UW, Lake City, connecting Renton to the region, etc.

        To be fair, the problem is more than just the hoops transit organizations have to go through to build anything, it’s also that we didn’t do all of this twenty years earlier, and didn’t have Forward Thrust to build on. And another problem is land use, which hinders the ability for transit to maximize usefulness efficiently.The 2/3 of Seattle’s residential land that’s zoned single-family has got to go. How can we expect the suburbs to do their share when the big city is acting like a suburb and nimby-land? A region of 3+ million should have a city with the density of Chicago or San Francisco or Boston.

      3. >> Sure, it’s a highway project but it was needed.

        Nonsense! If that was the case, why did the board come up with two alternatives and reject a tunnel? A board, made up of various interests (including traffic engineers, environmentalists, folks from the port) all rejected the tunnel idea. Because *with fewer lanes* and without *ramps for Western* it is a huge degradation in terms of automobile mobility. Yet it costs a fortune. That is why they came up with the two alternatives. These were:

        1) A new viaduct. This wouldn’t have downtown exits, but it would have ramps for Western. It would be three lanes, not two.

        2) Improvements to I-5 (a much more important corridor) along with transit improvements.

        The first would definitely enable more cars to move, and the second would clearly allow better mobility for people. Either way it would be a much better way to spend the money.

        Just read the history on this. This wasn’t built because engineers sat down, looked at the data, and said a tunnel made sense. It was built because the mayor thought it would be cool, and then almost as soon as he proposed it, it got watered down (three lanes to two, etc.).

        It just boggles the mind how people assume that projects are worth it just because we have bad traffic. You just can’t ignore the fact that sometimes you really don’t get what you pay for. This is the Jim McIlvaine of road projects. Sure, the Sonics needed a center, but not that one, and certainly not at that price. [People who aren’t basketball fans or are too young to remember can look up that reference in Wikipedia]

      4. >> What’s the biggest problem with the Move Seattle RapidRide+ corridors? Not enough money for more transformative solutions: everything is compromised and scaled back to fit into the budget.

        Exactly, Mike. That is a huge issue, which again is why the “I-5 and transit improvements” idea would have been much better. You still would have had lots of traffic along the waterfront (which we will have anyway) but at least you would have much better transit all over town because those RapidRide+ projects (or similar ones) would have a lot more money.

        Oh, and I also agree with your point about land use. Metro has a tough time adding the frequency necessary for a good grid because it is hard to justify service in areas that are sparsely populated even though they are very close to the heart of the city .

      5. Dammit Ross, while it’s absolutely true and an unmitigated “good thing” that transit carries right at half the people who enter downtown Seattle for work every morning, about a quarter of those headed for SLU or the U-District, it basically sucks for a lot of everyone else. Either they live on a “coverage” route with 30 minute headways or they work on a coverage route with 30 minute headways and maybe no evening service.

        I would love it if more people commuted by transit. But absent gazillions of dollars spent on 90% empty buses running down every semi-rural “arterial” in King and Snohomish Counties, there are going to be a LOT more people driving to work than those taking the bus to anywhere but the “big three” job centers plus MegaHard which runs its own buses where the fare is “you work”.

        They need to be accommodated.

        So far as the “freight issue”, just how long do you really think that heavy industry will survive in Ballard and Interbay? Ten years tops; the land is way too valuable.

      6. You put tight tax caps on agencies that prevent them from expanding significantly, and then claim they can’t meet demand?

        I didn’t “put tight caps on the agencies.” so KMA. And smarten up: the majority of people don’t want to ride transit to work and do without a car. They vote to support it so the other guy will ride!

        I preferred riding to driving when I worked, for decades. I never had my own car between 1966 and 1992 except for about 12 months in 1974 when I inherited my Aunt’s 1952 Packard until my then-wife drove over a rock and ruined the transmission when we were apple picking in EWa. After my second wife and I got her a new air conditioned car (we were living in Houston and I walked to work — in Houston’s humidity — a mile each day before that) I only drove when there wasn’t service to my contract site or I knew I’d have to work late that night for an installation or some concentrated programming. [You guys know how hard it is actually to get anything done with all the the meetings…].

        And I know you guys are both similar: it’s important enough to you to do your part to slow AGW and achieve greater urbanity where you choose to live. Good for you. But most people aren’t and sooooooooo your dream of RapidRide Everywhere® ain’t gonna happen. Nor are SFH zoning regulations going to be lifted. Not any time soon; the people in those 3/4 million dollar homes have a whole lot more political power than you do.

      7. “it basically sucks for a lot of everyone else.”

        It does. If you work in Ballard, Meridian, northeast Seattle, or most places in the suburbs, it takes a long time to get to work on transit and there aren’t many options.

        “Either they live on a “coverage” route with 30 minute headways or they work on a coverage route with 30 minute headways and maybe no evening service.”

        It’s not that bad. With the Prop 1 infill service, a lot more of the city is 15-minutes including evenings. This includes the 5, 10, 12, 40, 41, 65, 67, etc. You have to go further out to like Leschi, the Admiral District, Seward Park, or Magnolia to have no 15-minute route within a mile. The corollary of low-density areas is that few people live there, so few people are impacted.

        “how long do you really think that heavy industry will survive in Ballard and Interbay? Ten years tops; the land is way too valuable.”

        It will last as long as the zoning continues protecting it. Why do you think it hasn’t been built up already? Unlike some cities, Seattle’s industrial districts still have functioning businesses, and the city wants a diverse economy to keep it resilient and offer a wider variety of jobs.

      8. Mike, more people live outside Seattle in King County than those who live inside Seattle.

        Most of those people live on coverage routes. Sure, there are clusters of urbanity in Bellevue, Kent and (sort of) Kenmore and yes, there are three suburban RapidRide routes (four if you count the E) and there is good service to and from the U and a three places on the East Side.

        But for someone who wants to go from north of the Ship Canal to south of Spokane Street, driving is really a much quicker option most of the time. These are the people whom the DBT will serve. The people who now get off at Western or Seneca will use the Aurora or Alaskan Way exits and it will take a little longer to get to downtown destinations. But those traips are what transit is best suited to serve, and I don’t have an objection in the world to saying to those people, “Take the bus; it’s better for you and for the region.”

        But one really can’t force people who might spend twenty minutes driving between Fremont and West Seattle or White Center or 30 to Burien to spend more time traveling through downtown Seattle at the peak hours on a crawling bus. They will, rightly, sneer at the “forcer” and vote Republican.

  2. What about a peak express from West Seattle to Fremont/UW, with a single stop in upper Fremont (providing express service, for those willing to walk five minutes, for the Fremont tech jobs) as it gets off Aurora, doubling as an express version of the 31/32 from Fremont to UW?

    1. By “upper fremont” I mean the Bridge way stop currently used by the 26 at Whitman.

    2. We need more good ideas like these. Since West Seattle has a traffic bottleneck to the rest of the region, and northeast Seattle is one of the most difficult places to get to, it makes sense to leverage the tunnel for that. A peak express to UW is the most low-hanging fruit, but ideally there would be an all-day route at some point, something central to the most north Seattlites. I could see an argument for running limited-stop east to UW. Or northeast to Greenlake and Roosevelt Station, and possibly further to Lake City. Or north leveraging the Aurora expressway which ends at 73rd, then east on 85th (or Northgate Way) to Northgate.

  3. About that cycle path… Has anyone assessed the feasibility of the Battery Street Tunnel becoming a veloway, or anything else beside a complete tunnel connecting SLU to the waterfront, but pointlessly filled in with cement to block future tunnels from going through that space, and to “create jobs” removing the cement rubble again?

    I’ll even settle for a long homeless encampment promenade. Anything. That tunnel space is too valuable to waste.

    1. The Battery Street tunnel is amongst other things not seismically sound. Unlike a real tunnel it is in reality a trench with bridges built over it. It poses a threat both to those in the tunnel and the street grid above it.

      1. The bridges can be fixed. And it is a “real tunnel”. It’s a cut and cover tunnel like thousands of miles of older subways throughout the world.

      2. Oh, and “filling it will rubble” will not fix the “faw down go boom” problem unless the fillers somehow stuff the rubble in.

      3. On a project of this scale, bringing in a series of round concrete casings or similar structures would be a rounding error within the rounding errors. If there are structures going over the tunnel that are seismically unsound, they will need to be repaired or replaced, regardless.

      4. Brent,

        Exactly. There’s no practical way to “stuff the rubble” into the bore tightly enough that they can forget about seismic hazards to the roadway above, if indeed there really are any.

        There’s a tunnel to the densest residential area in Washington and they’re going to fill it with rubble?!?!?!?!?!?

        Who hired these people?

      5. Some thoughts:

        1. It could be more expensive to fill the tunnel space than to seismically retrofit it. It has not been compared! We should do this!

        2. It’s a stacked tunnel so eliminating the upper tunnel deck could either improve stability or make it worse – and removing the upper level would provide ample height to even have a caternary.

        3. An automated driverless system, using two rubber-tired guided trams like Seatac airport but less costly, could be easy to install. Each tram just ran back and forth every two or three minutes.. A mezzanine entry at each end with a center platform would seemingly be easy to build and cheap to operate. The only other big challenge is just elevators, escalators and stairs at each end.

      6. “2. It’s a stacked tunnel …”

        The viaduct is stacked, (and the new tunnel), but the Battery St. tunnel isn’t.

      7. The Battery Street tunnel plan currently is for it to be filled as full as is possible with compacted debris/fill dirt and then the remainder would be filled with a concrete slurry poured on the surface up to the roadway level. The slurry method is pretty common for filling in things that need to be very stable, it’s not that dissimilar from the underground pillars built for the tunnel pits and the seawall. Getting it “packed in” would not be an issue.

        Note also in addition to the seismic issues the tunnels fire control systems are deficient, the proposals you guys suggest would possibly depending on what they result in require significant retrofitting of the tunnels systems, especially to provide clean air if we were to say allow bikers in it. I’d seriously question the cost benefit of any work to allow bikers to use it vs other bike friendly investments we could make in the city. IMO we already are doing pretty poorly at spending our limited bike $$$ when you look at the double-redo done in the Dexter/Westlake corridor over the last decade.

        If we weren’t to retrofit for other use I’d rather see a full removal where the concrete is removed and it is filled in with actual dirt but that would probably be cost prohibitive.

      8. “Clean air” for bikes would really be a non issue. It’s a bit more than two-thirds of a mile long, and the vehicles would be electric, whether steel or rubber tired. What would dirty the air? A set of exhaust fans in the middle would be completely adequate.

        I don’t understand why you’re so against this. Do you work for one of the consultants or a company that might get the contract for the work?

      9. I’ve articulated multiple times my reasons, starting with it’s structural unsoundness and most recently regarding cost and our limited funds for bike infrastructure, all of which you have largely or completely ignored.

        While not the more normal internet logical fallacy when your strongest argument is to accuse someone of having ulterior motives simply because they oppose your view point I’d suggest it’s time to be introspective on the grounds of your own views. And to answer your question, no I do not. Though I expect you’ll ignore that also.

    2. I completely agree. What an opportunity! It ends about two blocks from where Denny Way Station will be. Put an automated shuttle train a la the Times Square Shuttle in it. Put a track in each side with side platforms for a station at Fourth/Fifth where the other lanes are and have a cycle track squeezed between the platforms and the wall. Then put a station at the tunnel portal between First and Western elevated above Western. That puts a grade separated transit portal within four blocks of the tremendous concentration of high rises west of First up toward Broad.

      In the best of all possible worlds there would be a Monorail station at Battery to connect, but that’s less essential if this tunnel is used.

      1. A Belltown automated rail shuttle would be great for that tunnel, since Belltown is skipped by ST3. It won’t connect to Link until the 2030’s.

        It’s also worth mentioning that ST3 was a pipe dream when the fate of the Battery Street tunnel was decided. No transit agency wanted it. It’s yet another instance of the problems of incremental rail transit planning.

      2. Yes, I know that the Green Line won’t reach Denny Way until about 2034 or so (maybe they can at least open it incrementally?). But it will take a while to clean and reinforce the existing tunnel structure so it’s not unreasonable to co-ordinate it with a Denny Way opening.

    3. The Battery Street Tunnel would need totally new portals to work for biking, or any non-toy transit.

      As a closed toy system it would be substantially less useful than the Seattle Center monorail, having all its disadvantages (short length, few stations, extreme difficulty of performing maintenance on vehicles) and lacking its draws (stopping at an actual transit hub, nice views, googie nostalgia).

      Non-toy transit ideas include:

      – Make this the western end of a “Metro 8 Subway” instead of sending it to Seattle Center. The north/east end of the tunnel would have to be completely redone to connect to that tunnel. For a project of the magnitude of the Metro 8 Subway, this would be chump change; OTOH that project ain’t happenin’ for decades, if ever.

      – Make this the northern end of a waterfront transit route (probably instead of sending it all the way up Broad Street). We’d probably have to do some street work near the south/west end of the tunnel. This is almost certainly a bus route (there isn’t a good place for a streetcar on the waterfront, the grade from the waterfront to the tunnel would need non-standard tech for a streetcar), and therefore we’d need to (a) make room for an underground turn-around at the north/east end of the tunnel or (b) find buses with operator cabs at both ends like LRVs have.

      1. Well, it doesn’t have to be! Sure, it’s not “free” to tunnel under Denny over to Westlake. And it’s not “free” to build a station between First and Western. But if they’re going to put a park there having a station in it is sort of “free”, isn’t it? It’s not like the City (or WSDOT) is foregoing the big buckos for a high rise in the block.

      2. [P.S.|

        I’m not averse at all to your idea of making it the end of a Metro 8, especially since the Green Line is going to handle the western end of the “optimal” route. Having a direct link between Capitol and First Hills and the First Avenue entertainment district would be a huge after hours winner.

        But a full-fledeged Metro 8 costs a lot of money whereas an automated shuttle costs however much the seismic remediation, plus cleaning the grime of fifty years, plus a cheap station at Fourth/Fifth and a moderately expensive station at First/Western, plus the tracks plus the trains would total. Can you say “grade separated transit to the economic center of Belltown for $500 million tops”?

        How can anyone say “No” to that?

        No, it isn’t “Belltown to Work Downtown” transit like a Second Avenue tunnel would have been. But how long does it really take to hop on one of the every-two-or-three-minutes buses on Third Avenue? NVFL.

    4. In what universe is the Battery Street Tunnel useful for transit? What route could conceivably go that direction and be useful. As for an underground veloway, who needs it? Who wants to ride in a tunnel? Is it worth the cost? And all these people saying of course retrofitting the tunnel is feasible and it would work well and the city was stupid not to use it, are you engineers? You haven’t said so.

      1. It’s the universe of dozens of new 10-40 story residential and office buildings in both Belltown and SLU! The number of high rises north of the traditional bounds of Downtown Seattle is staggering! Many of these are quite a distance rom the DSTT.

        It’s not 2000 in our universe any more! It’s 2017!

  4. And here I thought you were going to describe a plan for adding rail. West Seattle (or some other endpoint south), stopping at our future light rail stop in Uptown right at the mouth of the tunnel. Then continuing up 99. At some future time we could add a downtown stop, though that would be expensive – for now (now being like 20-30 years from now) we just make the W. Seattleites double back on our new subway to get downtown. Either way, SLU becomes much more accessible from south and north.

    Yeah, but of course buses could do most of this. In a *stuck in traffic* kind of way, but it’s cheaper.

    1. (1) Legislators should have foreseen the future: connected cars. Now, those connected cars will be stuck going all the way through the tunnel, or disconnecting before entering.

      (2) Pointlessly filling in the Battery Street Tunnel and continuing to use the monorail as a bake sale for the Seattle Center will help force future high-capacity lines through Belltown to be via gondola.

      (3) Since vehicle-moving capacity will shrink the day the viaduct is closed and the tunnel is opened, more people will be forced to either move next to their jobs or find a new job close to home.

      (4) The exploding homeless population left behind — because Google, Expedia, etc are no longer allowed to build housing for their own employees — will take over the viaduct before it comes down.

  5. Great ideas. No only is SLU now a major destination in it’s on right, but this has transfer opportunities for people transferring to/from routes like the 8 and 5 to get quickly through downtown if their destination in in West seattle. This would help connect, say, Uptown to the Junction

  6. Zach,

    If they do this there may be a lot of people headed to Westlake who take this bus and transfer to the north end of the Green Line at Harrison rather than transfer to Link at the Junction, thereby avoiding seven intermediate station stops in trade for one at Denny. The frequency on the north end of the Green Line will also be greater than the West Seattle stub.

    1. Once the Harrison station is open the west seattle line won’t be a stub. They should have equal frequency.

      That said, I could see someone do that if they were trying to get to any stop north or west of Harrison. But that’s putting a premium on skipping a transfer, and the greater speed and reliability of Link means it’s probably faster to do they extra Link to link transfer than risking getting stuck on 99 with no bus lanes in the tunnel. So I guess it depends on both the quality of transfer in ID plus how congested the tunnel is on a typical day.

      1. Certainly, if the toll turns out not to keep traffic low, the yes, it wouldn’t make sense to do this. But all the “I’ll never pay a toll!” People are dominating the discussion these days.

        We’ll see if they’re right.

      2. We know how this works from 520, 405 HOT, and lots of other toll projects in other cities.

        At first people say “I’LL NEVER PAY.” They stubbornly spend the extra time to avoid the toll.

        Then one day they have an emergency, or find themselves running horribly late. “Just this one time,” they grumble, and they take the toll road, complaining about the “extortion” to anyone who will listen.

        Then they start to internalize that the trip on the toll road was a lot quicker and simpler. And so gradually, they move to taking it whenever they’re short on time, to whenever they’re a few minutes late, to routinely.

        And at that point, they start to make rational calculations about when using the toll is worth it, and stop saying “I’LL NEVER PAY.”

  7. Additionally, what about boomerang from the other direction, with a E line “express” that goes straight from Aurora to the ID? It doesn’t need to come all the way back through downtown, it simply needs to get people to transit node at Jackson?

    Or a SR520 bus that exits at Mercer to serve a few stops in SLU and then heads down the tunnel to ID? Not sure how useful that would be? Think CT might want to do that pre-Lynwood link – a route that serves SLU and Jackson while skipping everything in between?

    1. I think there would be a market for an express mash-up of the 120 and E through the tunnel.

      1. Call it RapidRide x86 (120 plus 14).

        Maybe Intel would open a development office along it.

  8. What about a more radical proposal – routing one of the all-day North Seattle routes (e.g. the 5) through the tunnel and interlining with a West Seattle routes?

    For example, the way it would work is riders from the north end could easily (at the same stop) transfer to one of the several other routes that go downtown along Aurora. You could potentially have the 5 deviate from SR 99 for a few blocks through SLU, and then continue through the tunnel to West Seattle, maybe as something like the 21.

    Likewise, on the West Seattle side, the riders on the 21 should get an easy transfer point to the C line or other downtown-bound busses.

    1. I wouldn’t commit an entire route like the 5, because most people are still heading to the core of the CBD. this proposal is only serving a segment of riders

    2. I think there would be lots of merit to have a way for buses to get from North or Northwest Seattle to Link until the extension to SLU and Ballard opens. All of the new buildings between Pine Street (Westlake) and the south edge of Lake Union is significant and even with bus lanes it’s going to get slower…. and slower… and slower.

      In the spirit of RapidRide, I would suggest looking at a fork in an existing North Seattle line — with the corridor adding a new RapidRide letter for the half of the buses that would use the tunnel rather than run through Downtown streets . After all, the two miles of no stops under downtown is a de facto rapid bus service!

  9. Structurally, is there any reason why the Deep Bore Tunnel can’t ever carry rail? Starting with fully-reserved rail-convertible bus lanes starting pretty much now?

    Ridership? In fifteen or twenty years the Aurora Corridor will very likely have more than enough people and activity to justify another express light rail corridor. Which can either be, or join, express lines to both the Airport and the Kent Valley.

    Would also be good to get some projections about Waterfront freight traffic. I’ve always wished Ballard could retain enough light industry that I could stand to live there if I could afford it. But industry itself likely decided that Ballard Belongs A Boutique.

    Also think our new Waterfront would be better for both visitors and us if it paid for itself with something besides philanthropy. But from brewing and distilling to computer-assisted industrial design, modern industry needs less weight of freight.

    But to use a very old industrial metaphor, right now is a good time to “strike while the iron is hot.” Too bad microchips don’t like heat, shock, or dirt. Anger and positive enthusiasm are both forms of energy that can get a lot of cooperation from the lazy and the guilty.

    The public officials responsible for the Deep Bore Tunnel might feel deeply relieved to be able to cut the ribbon on a transit-way going through it. Especially if we name it, and not the rest of the tunnel, after them.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Size? It’s only large enough for four car lanes. Two of those would have to be converted to rail. The tunnel already has less car capacity than the Viaduct, and this would cut even that in half. Not that I’d oppose it, but the War on Cars would have to be closer to victory before it would have a chance.

    2. Once the 2nd Link tunnel is built under 5th Ave, I can’t imagine seattle needing a 3rd rail tunnel for a very long time.

      1. It will take that long time to get permission from the legislature to have a vote to tax ourselves for ST4.

      2. By that long time ST3 will be finished and we could reuse the existing tax streams for it. Assuming there wasn’t anything higher priority, ahem, Ballard-UW, Lake City, Aurora, White Center, Renton, that Georgetown bypass, etc…

    3. It won’t work. It is way too deep when it goes under downtown. Also, the Aurora Bridge was built too light for streetcars. It sure as heck can’t carry LR trains. If there is ever a line in the Aurora Corridor — and I think there should be someday, it should branch off the Green Line just west of Harrison Street.

      Harrison should be “stacked” like the Central Park West stations are (platforms above one another) so that the tubes that serve them can also be stacked. That way there can be a non-crossing junction.

  10. The issue I have with an early 2003 route is that it won’t connect to Link until the 2030’s. Until then, it would be best to extend it to Westlake or Capitol Hill somehow (no suggestions on routing though).

    On the other hand, routes that are near SODO or Stadium Stations are excellent candidates for a 99 tunnel reroute when they get kicked out of the DSTT tunnel.

    I wonder if an Eastside route could somehow be viable – either on 520 or I-90.

  11. How about a reinstatement of route 133 (UW-Burien)? With the DBT trips might be time competitive with SOV’ing, which might bring ridership in to the acceptable range from its previously substandard rating.

    1. Oohh. That would be a nice mitigating gift for the viaduct loss pwning West Seattle transit. I’m one of the crazy SOBs who commutes daily from West Seattle to UW. Transit is about triple the travel time at midday (even after park-and-hide at the junction), and maybe only 50% longer at rush hours (the Spokane viaduct to I-5 NB backup is vastly worse than present bus lane access on WSB+99; and then in afternoon the Link ride to downtown is much faster than the eyeball-gouging traffic on SB I-5 from the canal to downtown).

      So that express bus would not really improve on the present bus-Link pairing. But it would probably be superior to the post-viaduct bus punishment that West Seattleites are in for. And it could really beat Link by actually running to UW, rather than to an escalator breakdown patience testing mineshaft in a deserted stadium parking lot 15 minutes from campus.

      By the by, I think there’d be a ton of demand for the WS-SLU express detailed in the original post. Especially with bus lanes on WSB and 99 (aside from tunnel), it would make transit the hands down fastest way to Amazon for commuting.

      1. escalator breakdown patience testing mineshaft”

        Ouch! But too true.

  12. Is there a way to access the north portal from the west?

    There might be some advantages to a Seattle Center to SoDo express that bypasses downtown surface congestion until this part is light rail.

  13. I think it might have not been included in the LRP system prior to 2040 is that for very long periods in the tunnel’s history, there has been significant doubt as to the circumstances of It’s completion. With it now being potentially just 2 years away, I think it’s likely that Metro will bring SLU express service to the tunnel sooner.

    One idea is that given that when West Seattle light rail opens, it will only go to IDS until the new tunnel is open, maybe they could run an all-day route that visits the three WS Link stations, then heads up to SLU via the deep bore tunnel, then turns south to Westlake, terminating there or University Street. That will calm complaints of a three-seat-ride to most of downtown, as well as provide true express service to booming SLU ahead of the start of light rail service to that area.

    1. Light rail will not come to West Seattle in our lifetimes. ST3 is going to be a BRT bridge over the Duwamish, with an option for rail later. Mainly because it makes so much more sense. The issue with WS transit is bridge capacity, not rail vs. bus capacity or cost. Very little of West Seattle will be near a fixed-line rail station, but so much of WS is addressable by bus. This SR99 route idea is another example of the flexibility of bus.

      So mainly it will be a new BRT bridge because it makes more sense. But mainly, because it would be cheaper. In a world of MVET revenue cuts, ST cannot afford to deliver rail where it does not make sense.

      So mainly it will be a new BRT bridge because it would be cheaper. But mainly, because the LR plan as advertised isn’t feasible. The alignment is impractical – I’ve seen the prelim rail path and station locations and they clearly were made as a sales job, without any real thought. By the time they are adjusted to something sensible the cost will double.


      1. I believe the rail vs. BRT issue was firmly decided in favor of rail with the ST3 vote. Sound Transit will build rail because that’s what they committed to the voters.

  14. Can I suggest, please stop talking about serving a tunnel and start thinking why nobody has taken up the responsibility of providing regional transit access to SLU. If we keep the focus on where transit access is needed, it’s obvious that the tunnel will provide the best regional access from points south.

    1. That was the myopia of all the plans in the 90s and 00s: they underestimated the effects of putting towers in SLU: the number of commutes it would create, and the fact it would create a regional transit draw the size of UW. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but only somewhat.) And nobody expected that Amazon would grow so fast or that Seattle would suddenly become the #2 tech region in the country. That has left the politicians and planners all scrambling to catch up. They finally started doing something last summer with routing ST3 through SLU. And Metro split the C and D, and has started routing peak expresses to SLU (partly to get them out of downtown), and plans to do more of that. What else would you suggest?

      1. I’d suggest a network of regional express bus routes that serve SLU and the other fast-growing peripheral downtown neighborhoods. A transit spine that uses 8th to get under the convention center (avoid Boren) could allow many routes to serve SLU and First Hill both.

        In a rational world we would keep the convention place station, expedite construction of the SLU station, build a short tunnel and use SLU as the terminus for the south line until the new Ballard line is ready to open. You could get 20 years out of that at a critical stage of SLU’s development, and at the end we’d be left with a crossover track between the two systems that would be very valuable operationally.

        None of these things are politically possible, but I never thought it would be politically possible to spend over $100B on rail either. Where is the political will to do the obvious right thing and provide regional access — *actual service* — to the biggest new downtown we’ll see in a generation?

  15. Totally agree that as long as getting from one end of extended downtown to the other takes upwards of 30 minutes, the express from West Seattle to LQA/SLU needs to happen sooner, rather than later.

    But, even if Metro doesn’t carry people through the highway 99 tunnel, you can be rest assured that the private shuttles of the big tech companies – Amazon, Facebook, Google, maybe more – will. Some of them already have commuter routes from West Seattle to their campuses.

  16. Sorry, not related to the article, but I was referred here to ask. Did anybody attend the ULink opening last year and happens to have one of the special design Orca cards from the event? Thank you!

    1. (Psst, ask on the next open thread or news roundup, There’s one every few days.)

  17. While I’m not sure how feasible it would be, the battery street tunnel could be rebuilt for Metro and ST coach layovers. Install a new portal at 1st and one at Denny, and use one of the two travel lanes for coach storage, leaving the other lane open for coaches to enter/exit. If the center wall is not load bearing it could be removed to make the situation even better for coaches to maneuver around down there. This could help mitigate the loss of CPS, plus the constant problem of finding room for layovers.

  18. Glad to see this type of thinking about using everything available for better transit. I still don’t understand why no one has at least undertaken preliminary design for a midpoint transit station in the DBT. I’ve taken transport engineering classes and have yet to see convincing proof that it’s impossible or even very expensive. So let’s entertain this concept…
    1) The profile leaves enough room to add a third lane. WSDOT wants to keep shoulders, but they are not necessary through the whole length. If the lanes were shifted, then a bus lane allowing for a stop could be separated from the other two with jersey barrier.
    2) Since the lanes are stacked we can dig down on one side to reach both directions. A couple elevators, platform, glass screening and presto you have a station where people can get on and off buses in both directions in the heart of downtown.
    3) There’s a href=”’31.1%22N+122%C2%B020’22.2%22W/@47.608645,-122.3400472,166m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d47.608645!4d-122.3395″>parking lot just south and east of PPM. It’s directly above and next to the tunnel. That could be the station entrance. Hard to beat the location for access. Sure it’s a long way down to dig out. That’s a poor excuse not to build something so obviously useful isn’t it?

  19. Hmmm, yeah, I don’t see it. I just don’t.

    Ultimately, this is an express, and if you have been following transit issues for a while now, you will notice that a lot of our express service is going away. Even extremely popular express routes, like the U-District to downtown has gone away. You take a local bus, then the train, despite the fact that the express (71/72/73) had transit priority for the key part of the run (at least in the peak direction). This meant, for example, that if you were standing on the Ave, and wanted to get to various parts of downtown, the fastest way by far to get there was to take the bus. Everything from Convention Place to the I. D. was faster on a bus than it would be in a car. That attracts a lot of riders.

    That is gone now, because it just wasn’t worth the service hours. Plenty of individuals — huge numbers of people — are asked to spend extra time getting to where they want to go, but for other routes, they have less waiting. For a lot of buses, you no longer have to wait twenty minutes for a transfer, or arrive at your destination twenty minutes earlier than you wanted. This is a good thing, but it means that express service — very fast express service — was eliminated..

    To make matters worse, a route that bypassed the heart of downtown would not be especially fast. There will be *fewer* lanes than today! Unlike I-5, there will be no bus lanes in the tunnel. Buses that serve (or served) that leap frog (i. e. serve the opposite end of downtown first) often took advantage of the HOV express lanes. Like the old 71/72/73, it meant that getting to that part of downtown was much faster than driving. But with this bus, that won’t be the case. It will slog through the same traffic as regular cars. Unless, of course, very few people drive that way. But if that is the case, then it is hard to see how this bus route is justified. If very few people are willing to drive that way then how can you justify a bus route that only serves a small subset of those trips?

    Making matters worse, it doesn’t connect very well with the rest of the system. You have the 99 corridor, or course, along with maybe Westlake, but that is about it. You are a long way from the nearest Link station, which means that trying to get to the UW is really not that easy. You are better off taking a bus to SoDo, and then transferring to Link from there.

    If there were buses lanes in the tunnel, I would feel differently. But overall I think this will be a lot like a bus I used to ride to work every day. I forget what it was called, but it went from Lake City to the U-District to downtown Bellevue. I used to call it “my private bus” as it came about a five blocks away from my house, and dropped me off within five blocks of my work. It was a commute only bus, and carried maybe thirty people per bus ride. Ultimately, as popular as it was for the riders, Metro couldn’t justify the service, and it was axed. I see buses serving SR 99 as being very similar.

    1. It sounds like you’re saying a transit route will only succeed if it has priority on a long stretch of congested highway. Not only is that a pretty tall order, but such a route would still have some of that: the bus lanes on approaches to the West Seattle Bridge (like Delridge or Avalon), plus the bridge itself, plus on SR99 past the port, all combine to save several minutes over driving at morning rush hour. And then the bus is also attractive for people who 1- hate to drive, 2- don’t have cheap/free parking at the destination (true of most UW commuters), or 3- don’t have easy car egress from work (true of most SLU commuters).

      Take a stroll around Amazon’s campus at 5pm. The backups on and around Mercer and Denny are migraine-inducing just to imagine being in. They stretch all the way into the garages. I’ve talked to people who put up with them who often find it’s 15 or 20 minutes to reach I-5, and then 10 minutes home from there. Stepping out the front door for a timed express bus on a bus lane, hopping aboard and flipping through the news would seem mighty preferable, even if it moves at the same speed through the new tunnel as you would have in a car.

      For UW, it’s hard to say. If it crossed over to Fairview, that’d make a nice transfer with the frequent 70, a good option for reaching the U District and northwestern UW campus. I think that 70 transfer will be much preferable to transferring at Pioneer Square or ID, since the West Seattle to downtown buses will all be stuck in the same 30-minute backups as the cars piling off 99 near the stadiums. The useless empty tunnel should only take 5 minutes to reach SLU, then 5 minutes across it to Fairview.

      Still, I’m really not sure how much demand there is for this. Checking the amount of boarding for the C Line in SLU would be a good place to start. Those people’s bus commutes are about to get wrecked, like all West Seattleites’. Maybe in the medium term, transit-oriented Amazonians will avoid living in West Seattle anyway as word about the horrible commutes gets out, so it’ll become a moot point.

      1. My point is that there wouldn’t be enough demand for special express bus to justify the service hours. Improve the C/E, by adding a lot of bus lanes (which is what they will do) and then call it a day. Yes, it will take a long time to get to South Lake Union, but like folks who wished they could take the old 71/72/73, there are at least decent alternatives (i. e. a bus that makes many stops before it reaches the destination).

  20. It would be fun, at least as a thought exercise, to take a big step further on using the tunnel for busses/transit. In the not too distant future (pick your date), we will be desperate to move even more people to and through Downtown Seattle. Highway 99 represents a critical North-South corridor. What if we could create 2 or 3 bus stations in the Downtown tunnel? The problems to solve would appear to be these: (1) getting people down to the level of the tunnel (including locating above ground access points); (2) accessing the tunnel without compromising the structure; (3) safely stopping busses and loading passengers. For problem 1, we can assume this would require using elevators and digging shafts. For problem 2, solutions would involve minimal portal entry points, rather than the use of the wide-open platform. For problem 3, this can be solved by any combination of dedicated bus lanes, signals and/or speed limits. These are intriguing engineering and passenger management/passenger loading challenges. The corridor just seems too valuable to dismiss. And who knows?

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