Mancave (via Wikimedia), a great place to work during the three-week Carpocalypse

Carpocalypse comes Monday, January 14, as the Alaskan Way Viaduct will shut down forever at 10 pm on the evening of Friday, January 11. That will leave up to 90,000 daily car trips trying to find other ways to get into and out of downtown for at least the following three weeks until SR 99 is connected to the new tollway tunnel under downtown.

King County and SDoT have invested heavily into enabling more trips on the King County Water Taxi and more transportation to the water taxi, as West Seattle will be the area most impacted by the shutdown.

Rideshare companies are offering improved deals to get more people to the train stations, as well as select transit centers. However, per Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason, there will be no extra trains or capacity. The Link fleet is maxed out. The BNSF tracks are also maxed out on usage, so there is no space to add any extra Sounder runs. For those who would like a cheat sheet on when to expect 2-car Link trains, sorry that can’t be done. The only tip I can offer is wait close to the end of the second car, and be prepared to board the rear car, whether it be the second or third. Or if you are travelling between 9 am and 3 pm or on weekends, expect all the trains to be 3 cars.

Sound Transit posted tips to commuters to get through Carpocalypse on The Platform Tuesday. The post skips over one of ST’s previous points of advice: Work from home, if you can. The sage advice remains valid for the small percentage of the workforce that has the option to telecommute. For those who can’t, try working with your employer to flex your schedule so you don’t have to travel during peak commute hours. Commute Seattle also encourages employers to work with their employees to thusly flex schedules.

The post provides charts showing that, yes, there are still seats available on Sounder. (And, yes, standing has always been allowed.) However, for Link, peak trains are nearly at capacity. If you can flex your work schedule so you don’t have to travel 6:30-8:30 am or 4:00-5:30 pm Monday-Friday, you’ll have an easier time getting on Link, and much more likelihood of finding a seat.

King County Metro has published a map showing the West Seattle and Burien bus paths while SR 99 is disconnected, after SR 99 is reconnected to the new tunnel, and once the rest of the road network is done. Additional alterations to Aurora bus routes during the SR 99 transition were unveiled Thursday, with maps forthcoming.

SDoT now has a website dedicated to helping people navigate Seattle traffic, including a car traffic map and a bike route map. Bike routes should be busier during Carpocalypse, though certainly not gridlocked the way car traffic will be if you make the unfortunate decision of attempting to drive downtown.

For those hoping more light rail vehicles are available soon, there is more bad news. The new Siemens LRVs are not expected to start being put into revenue service until the latter half of 2019. That leaves us hoping the faster loop when the buses get kicked out of the transit tunnel on March 23 will enable at least one train to be removed from the peak loop, with its cars added to a couple other trains, and maybe, possibly, being able to run with only one train, at most, sitting at each terminal station (Angle Lake Station and UW Station) at a time, so that the two saved trains can have their cars added to other trains, getting the fleet to all 3-car trains. For the time being, ST is still telling us to keep expecting some peak 2-car trains.

ST used The Platform to announce a somewhat-related service improvement that has arrived just in time for the Solstice: a unique sound for Link and Sounder ORCA tap-offs: two beeps instead of one. Merry Christmas, Mark Dublin!

37 Replies to “Surviving Carpocalypse: Stay Home, Bike, Ride Sounder, or Ride Link Off-Peak”

  1. I mentioned this before in a comment on a previous post, but one significant, but under-appreciated factor that deters biking is that most homes are not designed for quick and convenient bike access. Ideally, hopping on your bike should be as quick and easy and hopping in a car parked in your garage or driveway, but in practice, it’s seldom the case.

    Instead, getting a trip started on a bike require various hassles, such as lifting the bike up or down stairs, waiting for an elevator to go down just one story, unlocking a bike from an overcrowded shared bike rack, or shoving other garage items out of the way to make room. For those who store their cars (and bikes) in a garage, the garage is often not wide enough to get a bike in or out without temporarily moving the car out of the way, so every trip by bike actually requires first climbing into the car, at which point, it becomes all too tempting to just not bother with the bike and simply drive the car.

    It also makes biking more of a hassle if common accessories, such as lights, gloves, helmets, and a tire pump can’t be stored with the bike, so you have to keep lugging those things down from your apartment. For instance, if you need to fill the tires, that’s a whole extra trip up and down the stairs to return the tire pump.

    Stuff like this matters! For relatively short biking trips (e.g. 1-2 miles), the process overhead of getting the bike in and out of its storage can exceed the time to actually ride the bike to the destination, and for very short trips (< 1 mile), make it so that the bike option is not actually any faster than just walking.

    The Lime bikes and Jump bikes help a lot in dealing with the "bike access" problem, and, while they're priced great for occasional use, they are still too expensive to commute on day after day after day.

    1. The Lime bikes and Jump bikes help a lot in dealing with the “bike access” problem, and, while they’re priced great for occasional use, they are still too expensive to commute on day after day after day.

      That is why I wish that Pronto had expanded. It was quite reasonable if you paid the monthly fee (if memory serves). It especially made sense to solve the last mile trips. For a while I used to take a bus to the U-District, and then ride a bike along the Burke Gilman to my job in Fremont (this was before the 31/32 was as frequent as it is now). This really worked out great, but I was lucky in that I had a place to store my bike at the UW (my wife worked there). That sort of thing would make more sense than ever with the UW station. For example, walk to the Beacon Hill station, catch a fast, frequent trip to the UW, hop on a bike and you are in Fremont or Gas Works in no time. There are other options, but especially for Gas Works (where Tableau is) it would likely be the fastest option.

      I’m sure the opposite would be true as well. If you lived in lower Wallingford, and didn’t want to walk all the way to the UW, bikeshare would be a good option if it was cheaper.

      That really isn’t what bikeshare is designed for, but it still could represent a viable option if it was cheaper.

      1. The scenarios you are describing feel like exactly what bikeshare *is* designed for.

        An expanded Pronto certainly would have been better, but still not nearly as useful as the Lime bikes. The problem is that the cost of building the docks just doesn’t scale to building enough of them to cover anywhere close to the service area that Lime does at reasonable station density.

        Even then, the decision of where to locate the docks would still be subject to the Seattle process, and would be ultimately determined by stakeholders who are not actual riders, just like what is happening with the Ballard Link station. Take the Ballard locks for example. It’s an obvious destination that people want to get to, where people ride Lime bikes to today, with no problem. A Google street view camera even captured a nice picture of several bikeshare bikes parked next to the locks entrance exactly where they are supposed to be parked – in the furniture zone and out of the way. But, you’d never be able to fit a docking station in that space, and the only way to make room for such a docking station without blocking the sidewalk would be commandeer a couple of parking spaces in the city-owned parking lot. But, then the pitchforks would be out about the war on cars and “how dare you take away our parking”.

        The inevitable result is no Ballard locks station at all, with users trying to take bikeshare to the locks expected to walk from Market/24th, the nearest place where the sidewalk is wide enough to comfortably fit in a docking station.

        I used the Ballard locks as one example, but there are others. Pronto’s Montlake Triangle Station was located at street level, next to the bus stops, forcing users to walk the bike up a long, narrow wheelchair ramp with very sharp switchbacks, simply to get to a place to ride. A station at the top of the ramp (allowing users to take the stairs, instead, with no bike to carry) would have made much more sense, but that’s UW property, and the UW didn’t want Pronto stations on its property – so, even under an expanded Pronto system, the Montlake Triangle docking station would have *still* been in place that’s very awkward to use.

        For a third example, let’s consider the Wallingford business district. There, the sidewalks aren’t as wide as in Ballard, so there isn’t room for a docking station without blocking the sidewalk. You could take away a couple of parking spaces and build an on-street, but, again, the Parking Pitchforks would come out, with the result being that central Wallingford has to make due without a station. Or, maybe it does get one station, but it’s in an out of the way spot, which requires several blocks’ walking to get to where the people actually want to go. Again, not surprisingly, people don’t use it, and it ends in failure.

        For example #4, consider the U-Village. Since it’s private property, getting a dock installed would require securing a formal agreement with the property owner, which is hassle they don’t want to deal with. But, if people simply ride dockless bikes there and park them at the bike racks, it works fine, and nobody cares. Again, The fact that semi-permanent infrastructure requires you to be much more scrupulous about property boundaries artificially limits that areas you can ride to.

        I really like the free-floating model because the places you can ride to is not arbitrarily restricted by random complaints from people who don’t want to lose a single parking space, or think bikeshare bikes are unsightly. As the picture showed, The Seattle curbs are full of places that have plenty of room to house a few bikes without getting in anybody’s way, but don’t have enough room to install an actual docking station. And that’s to say nothing about the possibility of the docking stations being full, and having to park over a mile away, because that’s where the nearest open dock is.

        That said, I do think there is potential for a hybrid system, which combines both the orderly nature of docks and the ride-anywhere nature of a free-floating system. For instance, one could imagine a scheme where for a handful of specially designated areas (most likely in and around downtown), parking is restricted to marked bikeshare zones only (e.g. virtual docks, but backed by signs and paint). But, everywhere else, it simply reverts to the park-anywhere-that’s-out-of-the-way model we have today.

      2. I don’t use bikeshare but I agree with asdf2: it’s better to let people reveal where their trips really begin and end rather than to install an inevitably inadequate number of stations. Pronto was an abysmal failure, while Lime was a runaway success. I sometimes wonder about bikes parked in the middle of the Rainier Vista lawn other picturesque places where there’s a more suitable place nearby, but overall it’s a net plus, and reflects how bicycles intrinsically can take you anywhere.

  2. At first, I wondered why I got two beeps when I tapped off. I though momentarily that something was wrong. Then I remembered the announcement discussed on STB.

    I am disappointed that there is no explanation on orcaround each reader explaining the change. No on-board announcements or station announcements either. In typical Seattle fashion, the public is just supposed to figure it out.

    1. Agreed. I’m happy for th change but you’d think a little placard taped to the top of the readers for a week or so would have been a really good idea. I’m sure that would cost millions extra though.

    2. Maybe ST was worried people wouldn’t read the sign, and assume the reader was broken, and not tap. And then the FEOs would have to issue a lot of warnings, or, worse, Metro would get more fare revenue.

    3. “Attention ORCA Users: You will now hear two beeps when you tap your card to exit the station. This is also a friendly reminder that any Orca user is required to tap their card when both entering and leaving.”

      That simple announcement would have been great!

      1. Perhaps the staff Tagalog, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Spanish translators were on Christmas vacation.

      2. Technically, you are supposed to tap off with an ORCA card. However, if you have a senior pass you may tap off, but strictly, it is not necessary as senior trips are always (for now) $1.00.

        Also, the double beep can also mean “attention: You have a low balance on your e-purse. You also will get a double beep the last two days of the month on monthly passes to remind you that the month is coming to a close and you need to be sure that your pass is current for the next month.

      3. On Sounder, they tell us the same nanny state announcements about keeping our feet off the seats every single ride. A new, informative announcement about the taps would have been very welcome.

    4. I rode Link yesterday after reading about the two beeps but I thought it hadn’t started yet and didn’t even notice when it must have sounded two beeps.

    5. I agree – I was surprised too when I got a double beep tapping off at Int’l District station. I thought I had held my card for too long, but was in a hurry to get to King Street station to catch Empire Builder so didn’t think to look at the display.

    6. Up until now, multiple beeps have meant a problem with your card. The concept is good, but the execution should’ve been a different tone instead of double beeps.

      1. I disagree. Riders might not remember the pitch of the beep, but they will tend to remember it wasn’t two beeps. If they aren’t certain why they just got a double-beep, they can tap again, and see tap on and cancel.

        When boarding and accidentally tapping off, a different pitch won’t get the casual rider’s attention, but a double-beep will. The point is to get the rider’s attention before boarding that they tapped incorrectly. A double-beep does that.

  3. It’s too late to change much to get through this event. Of course, it’s not a particularly long disruption. The permanent loss of ramps is probably the biggest impact for that reason.

    I do wish that some group sits back when this is done and asks what mistakes were and are made. Timing is a big part of that.

    At least buses will continue in the DSTT until after the new tunnel opens. I wonder if the buses should be paired (one bus driving behind another from the same route) going through the DSTT to help with crowding.

    The new light rail vehicles should start arriving in the next year. I think ST may have to run two lines — one only running between somewhere south of ID and Northgate once Northgate opens if not before. It’s too bad those cars aren’t here already.

    I can’t help but observe that the Link ridership is in the ballpark of what was projected — yet ST acts as though the overcrowding was a surprise. Really? Are they sure it wasn’t just negligence?

    1. I believe ST overestimated how many passengers a Kinkysharyo LRV can carry in a crushload. I very much look forward to the expanded standing room on the Siemens LRVs.

      The buses that go through the DSTT are already platooned, and I’ve seen more 550s than what was scheduled, since that bus definitely gets crushloaded. 41s also seem to run close together when the first one is packed.

      If ST adds capacity between UW and SODO, it has to pull capacity from the line south of SODO. I’ve been on trains that were still full by the time they reached Mt. Baker, and then filled back up with commuting students from Franklin High.

      If you can’t get on a train, relax. The next one will be along in 6 minutes, a far shorter wait than many bus riders have to endure twice a day.

    2. Al, the surprise is genuine, because Sound Transit has up to now more or less agreed with its critics that the whole thing was a waste and nobody was ever going to ride. And they really lived up to your expectations for cluelessness. They stumbled headlong into a successful transit system that the public loves with a million years of our pent-up tree-full-of-monkeys DNA.

      Had somebody from India tell me they were worried about bringing a relative over to live in Bellevue because they’d be lonely. Amount of space we consider luxury, vast majority of the world only adopted because we do. Maybe now they’ll stop trying to copy our government at least. So take the response I always get for suggesting one change to our ORCA approach.

      “It isn’t going to be changed.” Those people aren’t going back to their cars because those are encrusted with snails, they can’t get their luggage on a Limebike, and their kids will set Child Protective Services on them like a rabid labradoodle if their parents won’t let them honor their forebears by hanging upside down from the overhead bars and screeching. I mean they’re even giving up the banana’s to please you, though the savage biting does take awhile.

      But Brent, in return for noticing me despite mass choral prayers for the health of my car – you and all the Ethereal Websites of Digital Divinity (EWDD) have delivered the answer in everybody’s hour of need for a break. Program everybody’s card with our own personal tone-set of our choice! Bagpipes! “The Black Bear” for On, “Scotland the Brave” for Off. Concertos. Symphonies. Wolves! – “Grrarrrgh!”-On, “Owoooooo” -Off.

      Policies never get up on their sticky little feet and change themselves. Luckily Modern eight year old hackers are quicker. So better get on the website with your tones before you’ve got nothing left but Roger Whittaker. And “Flowers of the Forest” is only played at military funerals, so given today’s news, that one’s already gone.

      Thanks to everybody reading this for just being here. May everybody else get whatever transit you wish on them. Give Sam Zimbabwe all possible help. He looks like he deserves it.

      Mark Dublin

  4. Sometimes back streets and local buses are a reasonable alternative. The 26, 28, 49, and 62 have more space and than Link or the peak expresses. Depending on your origin/destination, sometimes the travel time is comparable, or even a longer trip can be a welcome break from crowding and noise and stress.

    1. Maybe, but I seem to recall that during peak hours, the 62 has its own crowding problems, and taking it all the way from downtown to Roosvelt is going to take a long, long time. Similar for the 70.

      Back in the pre-U-Link days, I sometimes intentionally rode the 66 downtown, rather than the 71/72/73 for this very reason. Everybody knew about the 71/72/73, but the 66 was beneath most people’s radar because did mostly the same thing as the 71/72/73 combo, but ran far less frequently. When I was headed to Westlake Station with luggage to transfer to Link to go to the airport, taking the 66 instead of the 71/72/73 was much more comfortable.

      I tend to refer to routes like the old 66 as the “hidden express”. These are routes which are, on paper, local routes, but most people don’t know they’re there, or don’t think about them, so they end up blowing by most of their stops without picking up or dropping off anybody, so they effectively function like an express. Today, the 66 is gone, but if Link in the Rainier Valley is overcrowded (e.g. requiring that you wait for multiple trains to squeeze on), the 106 could, maybe start to serve that “hidden express” function.

      Unfortunately, from Metro’s perspective, a “hidden express” is simply an inefficiency in the service allocation, and simply eliminating the “hidden express” route to boost frequency in the primary route ends up resulting in higher ridership. Today, there are very few “hidden express” routes left.

      1. The 62 takes Dexter. Bike down Dexter southbound at 3 pm any day of the week and tell me how many cars you pass before Mercer Street.

  5. And walking? It seems like nothing is being done to ensure that added traffic downtown doesn’t add to pedestrian injuries, which are already at record levels.

    1. I wouldn’t call having police direct traffic at major intersections “nothing”.

      However, it is odd that SDoT has maps for biking, driving, and parking in downtown, but not for walking safely around downtown.

      1. Let’s start with the whole Rainier Square fiasco: walk from Sixth and Union to the bus tunnel some day and tell me how many streets you have to cross.

  6. Joseph, would like to talk with your sources. Got “warned” last year, second time in the nine years since LINK started running. Kenyan birth certificate proves my senior pass is warranted and by 2020 will get the White House because nobody else will want the job. Have a very strong feeling that nobody with my radiocarbon dating has ever been fined.

    Most unsettling thing for me in trying to get the rules to consider my card the payment-proof its designers intended is how little organized audible public outrage there’s ever been on this subject. Mainly reason why The Seattle Times isn’t demanding justice is probably that they like seeing transit passengers get punished- like everybody else who isn’t a felonious mortgage banker.

    My ORCA card IS TOO! (as any seven year old woman would put it) complete proof I’ve paid for a month’s every conceivable ride. Will stop teasing Fare Inspection for their Star Fleet uniforms if one of them will just do a spot formally requesting Fleet Admiral to just “Make It So!”


  7. But for statutory accuracy, I think your source may be confusing this case with another stipulation. Since last advisement, before any travel day’s first boarding, always buy an All Day paper pass. Reason, in addition to fact that card readers can’t read card board, that missed taps aren’t punishable, is that all revenue from the tickets automatically apportions itself to LINK only.

    HOWEVER! In type font called whatever French is for poppy-seed, little statement that the pass is only good between point of purchase and one other station. First move to buy the pass is to choose the other station on the TVM screen. So to create a completely usable Day Pass, if I buy the card at Sea-Tac, I’ll soon be ok to Lynnwood and Microsoft, but ride to Angle Lake could cost me a dress shirt.

    Inspectors have advised me that because my every distance-base is same fare, I’m good to go NQA (makes “No Questions Asked” sound good enough for ICE if I lose my Texas accent. ) So just plead with your friend to keep this quiet, because if the fingerprints on the signature belong to whom I suspect, one of those dozens of RCW’s says da Family don’t appreciate excessive verbiage among its if you catch their self-created temporary employees.

    Cue the theme from Serpico.


  8. “For those who would like a cheat sheet on when to expect 2-car Link trains, sorry that can’t be done.”

    Actually, if you check the vehicle identifier at the front of the train, if the number is 1 through 40, it’s a 3-car consist. 41 and above are 2-car “trippers.” Do note that once the 3-cars begin to cycle out after the weekday evening peak, these numbers no longer are clear indicators. The vehicle id is also accessible in OneBusAway.

  9. Let’s see, bike to work. I live in the South End and work in Seattle So that is not an option. Ride the Sounder, my home and work are nowhere near it. Take the. Us, that will add hours to my commute and take a lot time away from my family. Stay home, then I will not work, then I will not get paid, then I can’t pay my bills. This is just absolute proof that the powers that be think Seattle is all that matters and everyone else is second class and subhuman.

    1. Exactly! All these ‘tips’ require access to the transit options. Nothing has been done to increase the availability of parking for the commuters who don’t live within walking distance to a stop or station. The park & rides in Kent and Renton are already full prior to 7:00 a.m. The only option would be to go into work at 5:00 a.m.. Shifting to a later start time won’t work as the parking lots for busses, light rail and the Sounder train are already full. Seattle city leadership is making it next to impossible to work in the city if you don’t live there.

  10. I have stage 4 cancer. I will not get on a rolling petri dish! I cannot ride my bike 9.8 miles to SCCA with lung cancer. I can barely drive with a diesel vehicle in front or near me. Gags me. I don’t have funds for an uber nor will I get in one! I have a prius, I do my part. Seattle is a cluster f*^k! We never go except for doc appt. Bikes and cars, busses don’t mix well, how many more have to die before you figure that out? Give us our lans back so traffic moves downtown, ban the bikes! Seattle is ruined. Why do so nuch construction at once? One project at a time would help with the flow of traffic, no brainer! Screw the bike, we want our city back.

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