With the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct next month, the “period of maximum constraint,” now known, apparently, as the “Seattle Squeeze” is officially upon us. Five years of construction as we rebuild the Waterfront, expand the convention center, and (maybe? hopefully?) build a streetcar on First Avenue and bus rapid transit on Madison St.
Unfortunately, the squeeze is coming as the city is delaying bus and bike improvements. Along with a diverse group of organizations, we are calling for the city to re-prioritize some of those investments. While we recognize that not everything can be built at once, and we don’t want to minimize the considerable effort the city is making in re-prioritizing downtown right-of-way, there are plenty of opportunities for short term improvements to keep people moving over the next half-decade.
For example, we lauded SDOT for creating a temporary bus lane to get people moving out of downtown when there was a tragic duck boat crash on the Aurora bridge. Surely the Seattle Squeeze merits the same (or greater) level of response. Temporary bus lanes on key corridors could set the stage for permanent improvements when the bus corridors are built out in 2022-2024.
To that end, we have an expanded map for where buses deserve priority treatment, which could come in the form of queue jumps, dedicated lanes, or signal priority (ideally all three). Many of these are already identified in the Transit Master Plan, and some are already in progress as part of the Move Seattle work. Implementing them will require funding, yes, but also dedication to de-prioritize other street uses (e.g. temporary car storage).
Finally, this isn’t just about buses: we’re participating in the coalition because we believe that sustainable transportation involves the integration of pedestrian, cycling, and transit investments to create alternatives to car travel.
On Monday, Governor Inslee announced his vision for moving Washington to renewable energy by 2045. While the vision is laudable, we submit that achieving zero emissions in the transportation sector will be nigh-impossible (and inequitable) with electric vehicles alone. Seattle must lead the way in carbon-neutral transportation modes. Let’s seize the twin opportunities of the Seattle Squeeze and the climate crisis to change the way we move about the city.
Learn more about how to get involved at the MASS Coalition website.