At 10pm tonight, the main segment of the viaduct closes forever. The Battery Street Tunnel (and the corresponding Western Ave. ramps) will remain open for another 3 weeks. It’s part civic eyesore, part scenic drive, and part important piece of transit infrastructure. Seattle will never be the same.

A KCM Rapid Ride C climbs the Alaskan Way Viaduct

The SR99 tunnel is not a replacement on any of those counts, but we won’t even get that for three weeks. In the meantime, the car capacity of downtown plummets. Thanks to a lack of leadership for several years at many levels, transit will also suffer just as we ask it to do more in this entirely foreseeable ordeal.

The general advice is to stay away, but most transit service will continue to operate. Several new options may also help at the margins. And you still want to get around, so here’s a guide to service from least to most hosed.

The West Seattle Water Taxi and its feeder routes are getting higher frequency.

Biking is unlikely to get slower, although the City’s uneven interest in your safety remains. Generalized gridlock reduces unsafe auto speeds and will therefore make many bike rides more pleasant. There are some minor adjustments to bike paths around the viaduct.

Sound Transit rail is mostly immune to congestion. Link crowding will be a problem, as the agency bought barely enough railcars to handle a normal rushhour. There will be one additional train in reserve to relieve crowding. If station access usually keeps you off the train, in effect your transit fare now counts towards your Uber/Lyft/ReachNow fare if traveling to or from most Link stations. Regrettably, this promotion does not extend to parking-limited Sounder service that has additional capacity.

Metro in-city routes and streectars will suffer from the expected increase in general congestion because many of the area’s key chokepoints lack dedicated bus lanes. In particular, most cars coming south on Aurora Ave. will get off at Denny and contend with core bus lines there. There will be one additional block of bus lane northbound, but E Line riders are forgiven for finding that inadequate. The taxi promotion also includes a few Metro hubs like Northgate.

Buses that use I-5 lack any sort of HOV or bus lane for significant stretches, especially north of downtown. I-5 will likely bear the brunt of diversion from SR99. WSDOT, never missing an opportunity to miss the point, is somehow temporarily removing HOV restrictions from a southbound segment between Mercer and Corson St., parts of which carries virtually all I-5 corridor buses.

However, it’s buses that use the viaduct today that, obviously, will the bear the brunt of the changes. From the West Seattle Bridge, they will travel north on 4th Ave and south on 1st Avenue through Sodo, before ending up on 3rd through downtown, as before. A temporary bus lane will speed up the exit from Spokane St. onto 4th Avenue, but trips will be slower than the old route. OneBusAway will not reflect the new routes. The reroutes start at 8pm tonight, so savor your last trip above it all today.

The yellow routes are the relevant ones.

68 Replies to “Bye, Viaduct”

  1. Well, we have to suffer from Jenny Durkin until 2021.

    She’s done nothing to help transit infrastructure and has somewhat hurt it.

    1. Doing nothing makes people less angry than doing something, which will help propel her planned upwards political trajectory. As long as she keeps her nose clean.

  2. Biking from West Seattle to Downtown is largely on a separated lane or trail so that shouldn’t be slower. But if your normal ride is on streets without any separation, traffic will be an issue. Especially aggressive drivers who will block intersections, etc.

    If your preferred riding style is to generally follow vehicular traffic rules and your regular route has a lot of street riding , I would imagine traffic will slow your bike commute down.

  3. Additional Sounder capacity is why we need more Sounder stops in Seattle proper.

    If this were Europe, there’d be a stop (stop, not an expensive indoor station) up by Ballard that would connect with the KCM 44 bus and/or a stop at the old Amgen/new Expedia office park that would connect with the RapidRide D line, Magnolia buses, and the Elliott Bay Trail. No one who needs to get to UW or SLU from the northside will take the Sounder into Pioneer Square just to slog north again. Likewise, a southside stop around Boeing Field and another near the West Seattle bridge to connect to the RapidRide C line (to/from West Seattle and SLU) would be awesome.

    Obviously, there are more cost-effective investments that are needed, but especially for Sounder North, ST has to figure out how to get people on the train. Imagine being able to take a Sounder train up to Ballard during rush hour–the train is already up and running and how long could a light rail style stop (e.g, an awning with ticket machines like the Link Stadium station) take to construct? We could have rapid transit to Ballard years before light rail is opened.

    1. If this were Europe, there’d be a stop (stop, not an expensive indoor station) up by Ballard that would connect with the KCM 44 bus and/or a stop at the old Amgen/new Expedia office park that would connect with the RapidRide D line, Magnolia buses, and the Elliott Bay Trail.

      No one is going to take a 44 bus, passing by the 15X on 15th, the 18X on 24th and the 17X on 32nd, to wind their way to a train station that will take longer than a bus to get downtown, where your only choice for a stop is King Street. There may be a dozen or so people that live in or around Shilshole that might consider it, but they couldn’t even sustain the old 46 bus.

      Imagine being able to take a Sounder train up to Ballard during rush hour–the train is already up and running and how long could a light rail style stop (e.g, an awning with ticket machines like the Link Stadium station) take to construct? We could have rapid transit to Ballard years before light rail is opened.

      The current express buses aren’t bad enough in the afternoon to make people want to travel all the way down to King St, take the train to Shilshole, and then take a milk run bus east. King St to Shilshole are not exactly two points that are yearning for a direct link.

      1. Matt has a point, and such a stop could, if done right, add more riders to Sounder North.

        The Seattle station for Sounder North is at King St, which is SOUTH of most downtown destinations. This means that north end riders have to go past their destination and then backtrack on a bus or train back north. A Sounder North stop at Ballard or Interbay could eliminate this backtrack, and potentially speed the trip to downtown, especially once Ballard light rail is running.

        That said, I do agree that such a stop would be useless for Seattle residents, but it could be a big benefit for Everett commuters.

      2. it seems like an easy way to increase network connectivity to add a sounder stop or two.

        and as for taking the train to a “milk run bus” — if you add the train station I think you would almost certainly have to change the bus to something more useful than a “milk run”.

        Has ST studied this? of course not… it isn’t what they do.

      3. I think the stop in Ballard would be for people to depart the train and catch a bus to SLU more than people in Ballard hopping on the train to get to down town.

      4. ST studied this 15 years ago as part of ST2 and modeling showed there would not be enough riders to justify the investment (even a simple relatively low-cost stop) or added travel time for folks heading further north.

      5. IIRC, and it was a long time ago now, there was funding for a preliminary study of a Ballard Station. The logical place would have been at Golden Gardens Park, where there was already an underpass and plenty of unused parking to the east of the tracks, but Parks & Recreation nixed that idea. Farther south, neighbors strenuously objected to what they perceived would be parking issues on their streets. A Ballard station (as much as I would have loved it as a Ballard resident) was simply not going to happen. I am very disappointed that in my lifetime I will not see any ST transportation choices in my neighborhood. OTOH, there is no good reason not to put an infill station at Expedia.

      6. I believe dave is correct, except additional Sounder stops were studied as part of Sound Move (1996) planning. I think there were three provisional stops that were looked at, those being Richmond Beach, Ballard and one at Georgetown on the South line.

      7. I think the stop in Ballard would be for people to depart the train and catch a bus to SLU more than people in Ballard hopping on the train to get to down town.

        I don’t think people are grasping the reality that is Sounder North. Its ridership is abysmal. One of the reasons is the station locations. Similar to the existing stations, a Ballard station is in a spot that is not very convenient.

        Even if a SLU bus connection is added, with very low ridership, I would bet that people will still opt to take the mainline Sounder buses and backtrack to SLU.

        OTOH, there is no good reason not to put an infill station at Expedia.

        An infill station near Expedia would make more sense, but I again I would question its effectiveness, for anyone not working at Expedia.

    2. Europe would have built a tram to Ballard in the 1970s, with a downtown tunnel. Most of the heavy-rail tracks are government-owned and passenger-priority, but even they might have had a century-old legacy track that went along the shore that was not close enough to the population centers for transit. Duesseldorf has two S-Bahn lines going north that miss the suburb of Ratingen: one is in the eastern fringe of the city and the other is west terminating at Duesseldorf airport. There’s a tram going north and turning east, but it turns too far north. When I was there there was a bus from Ratingen’s western neighborhood to Duesseldorf. Now according to Google Maps there’s a new tram (i.e., light rail) from Duesseldorf to the center of Ratingen and beyond. So they didn’t just say that commuter rail past the periphery was enough.

      1. Seattle had a pretty decent streetcar system and later a bigger Trolley system. The Trolley’s from what I understand were to replace the streetcars. Then when Seattle expanded from 85th ST to 145th street, most of the north south running Trolley routes were motorized. to save money on expanding infostructure. There is more to the story than that, but those 2 things eere very significant changes. We went backwards 80 years.

      2. I meant a modern tram; i.e., surface light rail in exclusive lanes with a downtown tunnel. That’s what Germany has been building since the 1970s in cities that didn’t have existing subways, even in metropolitan areas down to the size of Spokane.

    1. That’s the $64,000 question, but I will expect more dependable frequencies for WS buses coming to downtown thanks to the insulation from traffic resulting from the SODO Busway. Going back to WS might be much more unpredictable if it does not use the Busway and is much more subject to the SOV rabble.

    2. Metro is projecting a 10 minute increase in travel time for viaduct-rerouted buses, which should cause major delays and unreliability in departure times. This typically happens during viaduct shutdowns and snow day reroutes. However, I did see it published that Metro will have 20 buses on standby, ready to run as extra trips in case headways get too long.

      I plan to explore a few off-the-wall ways to commute out of West Seattle while avoid the viaduct reroute mess:

      – Ride2 van to the West Seattle Water Taxi
      – Route 60 the long way around via South Park and Beacon Hill
      – Route 128 south to TIBS, then Light Rail back north

      All of these will be slower than a viaduct bus, unless the reroutes are extremely congested and unreliable. But I plan to try them out just to see.

      1. I’m mainly interested in whether metro plans on trying to maintain pre-closure headways during the closure, and after the opening of the tunnel. Obviously the schedule will not be reliable at all and travel time will take much longer, but headways are critical for capacity.

      2. @AlexKven — Frequency of all-day viaduct buses like C and 120 will plummet, and hence so will their capacity. Completing the entire off-peninsula loop from the last stop on Avalon in West Seattle to Fred Hutch will take at least an hour longer than presently, so after the first wave of C and 120 depart the peninsula, they will not return anywhere close to as frequently as today. The 20 coaches they claim to have ready to dispatch are meant to cover all 99 routes, including E Line from the north, as well as C and 120 and more. Plus they’ll be old green artics, with only 2 doors, for slower boarding capacity.

        I know SDOT has striped a tiny bit more bus lane but it just moves the bottleneck. On heavy traffic days, like when just ONE lane of 99NB was closed by a crash this week, the bus lane leading to 99 has a backup 10 buses deep, sitting for about 15 to 20 minutes, just to take turns with cars to get onto the 99 ramp before reaching the other bus lane up there (my bus got there before the line was that long, and took at least 12 minutes to grind its way up on to 99– that’s when I saw the line had doubled in length since when my bus had arrived. I can send screenshots if you don’t believe me). As other bridge routes like C arrived to Seneca street, OneBusAway pegged them at 28 minutes late. This is small potatoes compared to what’s to come.

        The planned transition via 4th Ave is going to involve several more gridlocked crossings with stopped cars. I predict buses there will be backed up for 30-60 minutes, perhaps with a line of idling buses stretching the entire length of the bridge back to the Delridge ramp. Buses will now have to deal with crossing cars and trucks driving up the ramp from lower Spokane onto the Spokane Viaduct. I wish SDOT would close that ramp during this time, to get the buses further forward. OTOH, buses would then just have to cross paths with those same drivers on lower Spokane, as they crawl through the morass toward Sodo busway access.

        All the buses reaching WSB from Admiral and Avalon also have to share short stretches of lanes with gridlocked cars. Again, on that day with just 1 lane of 99 closed last week, those parked cars stretched all the way up Admiral Way to the ravine overpass bridge near Starbucks, all the way up Avalon to Genesee, all the way up Fauntleroy to Trader Joes, and all the way up Delridge into their neighborhood. I don’t know how so many of my neighbors can bring themselves to drive to work every day but I really hope they’ll give up. Unfortunately the buses are already completely full, and the slowdowns next week will slash C Line and 120 capacity by half or more, due to falling frequency.

        I’ll be getting my bike back in riding shape this weekend, and I’ve been telling all my West Seattle co-workers to do the same.

        For those who doubt how bad it’ll be for West Seattle bus riders, I’ll offer a friendly wager at even odds: I expect that getting from last peninsula stop, on admiral or avalon, to 3rd/Seneca next Thursday, the 17th, will take at least 60 minutes, or 4 times as long as my 7:15am run of the 57 took this morning (14 minutes, I can share the youtube video). Stakes would be a beer or coffee of winner’s choice while discussing Seattle transit :). Martin Duke, would you take that wager?

      3. Another option is to take the 50 from West Seattle Junction to SODO, and switch to Link there. Unfortunately, the way Metro has routed it, you *still* have to deal with the 1st Ave. traffic. But, at least, you don’t have to deal with downtown traffic, and the bus will be much less crowded than the C-line. It would better still if Metro could just express the bus down the West Seattle viaduct, and move the transfer point further east, perhaps Beacon Hill station.

      4. NB Link trains at SODO are already crush loaded in the morning peak–can’t really fit that many more people on there.

        I’m not as pessimistic as JT about the West Seattle bus travel times. People will avoid driving and the 4th Ave route with the dedicated offramp isn’t the worst thing in the world. I think overcrowding will be the #1 problem that hasn’t been properly planned for. The C line is crush loaded already in the morning and they have instructed thousands of additional people to take the bus. Are 20 extra buses really going to be enough for thousands of people who have been explicitly instructed by the city to take the bus?

        I usually take the C-line but I’m switching to my bike, at least as long as the weather is nice.

      5. “I’m mainly interested in whether metro plans on trying to maintain pre-closure headways during the closure,”

        No. I posted today’s Metro alert in a separate thread below.

        “and after the opening of the tunnel.”

        Not that I’ve heard.

  4. A couple of years ago, when Bertha was stuck, this very website advocated to simply not build the tunnel and rip down the viaduct. The argument at the time was that people would find alternative routes, make adjustments and that, overall, things wouldn’t be that bad.

    Now we get a prediction of the apocalypse and blaming of the city for not doing enough.

    If you thought it was ok to rip down the viaduct and not build the tunnel, you shouldn’t be complaining at all right now. At all.

    1. Um, you may have missed the part where STB advocated for more dedicated bus right-of-way, better routes to connect to trains, more bike infrastructure so people could safely bike downtown, more expensive parking so that people wouldn’t be so induced into driving downtown treating it like it is free, safer pedestrian paths, ya know, more reliable and safe alternatives to driving.

      The Durkan administration has failed on all these points so far, and WSDoT is allowing SOVs into HOVs on I-5, making transit even less functional and less of an alternative to driving alone.

      But who needs to actually read?

      It is Carpocalypse because cars are the problem. Transit, bikes, and walkability aren’t mitigations. They are solutions. The tunnel is a mitigation, and one still trying to find a problem it is solving.

      1. I don’t think Matt is accusing STB of not advocating from more bike lanes and transit, because obviously they have. I think he is more just pointing out that STB fought fairly hard to stop the DBT completely (even signing on with the anti-DBT initiative), but now seems to think that 3 weeks without an operational DBT is some sort of hardship.

        Personally I think things worked out well. We get the DBT, we get the surface boulevard, and we get improved transit. Ya, it wasn’t all bundled together in one neat little package with a bow on top, but at the end of the day we get it all. Not a bad outcome.

        I’m happy that this chapter is finally drawing to a close and we can move on. I’m excited to see this structure go. In fact, I’m probably going to head downtown this weekend to see the first little bit of it being removed.

      2. Ertica caught the host on that in KUOW’s Week In Review. Paraphrased, “So we’ll actually get to try out the no-tunnel alternative for three weeks.” “There never was a do-nothing alternative. The no-tunnel alternative would have had I-5 improvements, transit improvements, and a surface boulevard.”

        I think later the host said, “The decision then was a tunnel or transit improvements, but as it turned out with the tunnel decision and separate transit levies, we now have both.” Enjoy the smooth sailing in your both.

      1. +1.

        * 34% of all transit trips, and 39% of all car trips are discretionary. Discretionary trips will decrease. There will be no major impact from the viaduct closure.

        * Percentages source: Sam.

      2. I agree it won’t be that big a deal. Compared to the floating bridge that sank, this capacity loss is negligible.

        I’d add the prediction that once the viaduct is actually removed, the people waxing nostalgic about the driver’s views will be a lot quieter.

    2. Matt, in both Oslo Norway and Gothenburg Sweden- we need them both for streetcar-sister-cities- while not exactly tunnels there are enclosed highways paralleling their respective shorelines.

      I’m not seeing any reason to write off the DBT for express bus service – haven’t heard subject mentioned- but no question the Waterfront still needs actual line haul transit service. The whole length of it.

      Kind of early to declare eternal failure for something that nobody’s even talking about getting started, but pedicabs and small electric buses just won’t do the job. In addition to a neighborhood whose whole purpose is crowds, we’ve got stadiums on one end and an international jet-boat terminal at the other. Let alone Colman Dock.

      While the Benson cars were there, a Victoria BC passenger could’ve done a flight to Cape Town via the Waterfront, IDS, and LINK. In addition to some of the actual tracks through Pioneer Square, both the underground utilities and the need are still there. Communications, maintenance, and substations will easily handle CCC as well.

      Or if battery-packs are strong enough, if we wire First through Belltown to meet the West Queen Anne wire, a main-line trolleybus could drop poles for a Waterfront leg, saving problem of unacceptable wire across the BN tracks. So New Years’ Resolution:

      West of I-5 through the CBD and IDS, let’s not declare anything a failure ’til we don’t get the giant pontoons in fastened down before Climate Change makes Jackson Street beach-front property like it was in 1890. Taking pontoons even more horrendously over budget. No winners here, are there?


      1. “I’m not seeing any reason to write off the DBT for express bus service”

        You’re a former bus driver. What realistic routes could use the tunnel?

        “haven’t heard subject mentioned- but no question the Waterfront still needs actual line haul transit service. The whole length of it.

        The Waterfront Transit Report recommends an electric bus or electric minibus running all along the waterfront from Intl Dist to Pier 70, with a possible extension to Seattle Center. It also studied a vintage streetcar and a modern streetcar but didn’t recommend them. So we’ll probably get the bus or minbus. Everyone associated with the waterfront agrees it needs frequent local transit of some kind.

      2. “I’m not seeing any reason to write off the DBT for express bus service…”

        I’m thinking hard about significant origin-destination b pairs that would need to traverse downtown, and what utility there would be in serving them with a service that doesn’t stop downtown. I’m coming up dry. Let me know if I missed any.

        This is also the flaw in the DBT’s premise. I’m still picking over the WSDOT traffic reports, but I suspect that the share of viaduct traffic that bypassed greater downtown was relatively small and insufficient to make any significant dent in the DBT’s capital cost. Possibly not even enough to cover op and maintenance costs. We’ll find out soon enough.

      3. I see two possible kinds of corridors. From south Seattle to SLU, and from south Seattle to north Seattle. Metro’s Fauntleroy-WSJ-SLU express in its 2040 plan is one of them. There could be others from Burien, Georgetown, or Tukwila. Beacon Hill is too far east to get to the tunnel so that would be out,

        the other kind of route doesn’t exist yet, but you could combine the C+E in the tunnel. The others would be similar kinds of pairs, going from somewhere between West Seattle and Georgetown to Greenwood, Greenlake, Ballard, etc. And some North Seattlites would really like an express to the airport, maybe starting at Greenwood and stopping at 46th.

        But how much ridership would these get? Enough for half-hourly service? Or peak only? Where is the large jobs center they would serve, besides SLU? Would people backtrack to downtown? The West Seattle express will work because it’s secondary to Link which will go to downtown. Buses from Burien wouldn’t have parallel Link so there’d be more resistance to not going downtown. And Georgetown has such low population that it arguably can’t fill a bus.

        For the South Seattle – North Seattle combinations, who would take them on which trips? I sometimes take the 26/28/131/132 from north Seattle to Costco, but a West Seattle bus wouldn’t go to Costco. There are always people going from North Seattle to West Seattle, but probably not enough to fill even a van at one time.

        The tunnel just goes to the wrong places for good bus routes. And putting all-day routes in it would suck up a lot of service hours that wouldn’t be available for higher-ridership, higher-need corridors. The tunnel was never designed with bus routes in mind. It was designed for two purposes: those going from north Seattle to the airport, and those going from south of Seattle to north of Seattle. They didn’t want to lose their lower-traffic I-5 bypass. Those who don’t use it supported it because they imagined a hundred thousand additional cars slowing them down, and they didn’t think at all about transit priority or European levels of transit to manage demand. Because that’s so 19th century and foreign.

    3. One major difference here is that a three week period won’t cause nearly as many people to make adjustments as a permanent closure would. Several cities right here in the US have successfully demolished waterfront highways without replacing them with tunnel bypasses, and they’re still bustling places today, so people can and do adapt. Just imagine if that $2Bn had instead been spent on streetcars, real BRT (not RapidRide), and bicycling infrastructure. The urban core of Seattle would be quite a different place, and the impact of bringing down the viaduct much less.

      1. Well…..the bulk of DBT funding comes from gas taxes, which are constitutionally prohibited from being diverted to projects like the ones you mentioned. And another about $200m comes from tolls, which of course wouldn’t exist without the DBT.

        The rest is mainly partnering funds from the Feds and PoS.

        So, ya, it would be nice if we didn’t have to follow the constitution, and it would be nice if we could spend money that doesn’t exist, but neither option is really anything close to being viable. DBT funding just wasn’t ever going to be available for large scale conversion to anything but Hwy 99.

        But nothing was stopping the development of an independent transit overlay plan, and that is basically how we got to where we are. DBT+Surface+Transit

      2. The gas tax prohibits rail. It doesn’t prohibit a boulevard or I-5 improvements, and a compatible transit plan could have been devised and was being devised. The opposition to surface+transit wasn’t constitutional, it was that the opponents thought a second limited-access highway was needed to avoid gridlock.

    4. This is a common misconception. There were three proposals:

      1) Build a tunnel.
      2) Rebuild the viaduct. STB supported this over building a tunnel, but preferred the third approach.
      3) A combination of transit improvements, an extra lane on I-5, surface improvements as well as transit improvements. These other parts of the third approach often get ignored. Folks often (successfully) labeled the third approach as a “do nothing, just tear it down” approach. But that wasn’t the proposal.

      So, in any event, none of that happened. I-5 hasn’t changed. It will be as clogged as ever, which will send people to other streets. Transit has improved, but not as much as it could if we had anywhere near the money we spent on this tunnel (for comparison, the money allocated for Move Seattle transit projects — while inadequate — is less than 10% of the money spent on the tunnel).

      Meanwhile, you are confusing things. The problem from a bus perspective is not that the viaduct is going away, it is that temporary changes are happening, as a result of it going away. Once those temporary changes are done, the buses will be fine*. But the tunnel is irrelevant to the bus system. A year from now, it will be as if they simply went with option 3 — simply demolished the viaduct — except without the good parts. The delays incurred by the buses will go away when they fix the roads, whether anyone uses the tunnel or not. So your whole premise — that this is just like if we tore down the viaduct and did nothing more — is completely wrong. The only way this is like the third proposal is that there is a temporary period in which things are a mess (for everyone). But once things get built, it is similar to the third proposal, except for the fact that:

      A) There won’t be nearly enough money for transit improvements.
      B) Nothing will be done on I-5.
      C) It will cost a boatload more money so that a handful of people get to go from one end of downtown to the other.

      * When this is all done, it will be worse for transit. Not that the viaduct mattered that much, or that the tunnel matters at all. But SR 99, between the north end and downtown, is a very important transit corridor. The 5, the E, and other buses carry tens of thousands of riders (probably more than will go through the tunnel) each day. But all of those buses will have to use a left exit (to get downtown). Left exits are, generally speaking, stupid. They screw up traffic. But they are especially bad for buses in this area. Buses use the right lane to pick up and drop off people (you know, the whole point of transit) and that is where the bus lanes are. But now, instead of operating like they do now (using the transit lanes in the right lane right up until the exit on the right) they will go from the rightmost lane to the leftmost lane. This will make the buses (and all of the traffic in the area) significantly slower. This is for people *who have no interest* in the tunnel (i. e. the large majority of users) on the highway.

      1. One thing I remember also was a partial 4th plan. Please correct me if I am wrong, it has been a while. The tunnel would be built, but using 3 smaller boring machines capable of making 2 tunnels for cars and one for transit. It was quickly dismissed because of costs. I wonder if it would have actually been cheaper now that we know about the over runs.

      2. You’re right, Ross, but the “left exit” has been in use for at least four years and we haven’t heard a peep out of you about it.

        I think what will happen is that as you predict the buses will be hammered and an emergency fix will be cobbled up by building an aerial bus-only lane from just south of the Mercer over-crossing staying in the air past the Sixth North on-ramp then descending into a now-closed southbound Sixth North as far as Harrison. The buses will then turn left and rejoin Aurora with right turn. That will allow the southbound station stop to connect to the Green Line and serve the Gates complex.

        This would work but it will cost an additional $50 million or so.

        I hope the tolls pay for it.

      3. Just for clarity, I understand that the “left exit” currently just connects to the Battery Street tunnel and the Denney Way off-ramps. So the buses have a “right exit”. All well and good.

        But did you think that the big swoosh to the left was going to be rebuilt with a flyover? There certainly hasn’t been any sign of construction of something like that.

      4. Could the service pattern on aurora mirror that of express buses on I-5 where I’m presuming they will go back to their pre-bus tunnnel routing of going north on third?

        In other words don’t take the left hand exit, but instead they would go through the tunnel and work their way north through downtown instead.

  5. Well, Martin, we’re looking at two Emergencies this, our local one being real and therefore very largely under our control. The other one, count the number of inches in four thousand miles and be glad the District Line is not one closer.

    Thing about leadership is that it has to be demanded by those to be led. Can hear the ring-tones sixty miles away.


    Where’s Sam Zimbabwe right now? Looks can be deceiving, but bet he’ll soon be able to help with some red paint. But hearing something jingling under the table-cloth….I found….The Keys to Transit Leadership!

    Use them in good health. If you’re stuck on the platform at Sea-Tac right now, you can head them off as their trains arrive for their flight to Hungary! But some research before messing with the Mayor:

    Whatever Gaelic is for “Beware of a pessimist with a battle-axe!”

    Mark Dublin

  6. A point of clarification: buses traveling from the West Seattle Bridge to downtown will travel through the bulk of SODO using the Busway (via jogs at Spokane and Royal Brougham), not 4th Avenue S. Metro has stressed multiple times that no stops will be made, which could be a bit lost in translation above (lest anyone get the bright idea that “hey, the C Line can pick me up at 4th and Holgate now!”).

    Of course, this misses the obvious opportunity to make a C-line stop at SODO light rail station.

    1. Heck, it misses the obvious opportunity to temporarily truncate some West Seattle routes at SODO Station, send them back (in service, because some people work in West Seattle, too) and pick up more riders. The C Line goes into SLU, so it either has to continue through downtown, or have more buses going up and down the infrequent, under-streetcarred, SLUS path.

      But we’ll have to wait until Monday night to know whether Link will end up having a growing bubble of peak riders having to wait for the next train. Still, not everybody transferring at SODO Station is transferring from to or from the train.

      It is sadly lost on streetcar critics (I am merely a skeptic) that the main reason the SLUS and FHSC have done poorly is because we cheaped out on buying enough streetcars, and secondarily that failure to take the right-of-way as dedicated for transit made it necessary to buy more streetcars to get back up to usable frequency, which didn’t happen.

      1. If Link is leaving people at the station during rush hour, why would we want to add West Seattle bus riders to Link?

      2. Exactly. The buses aren’t stopping at SoDo Station because there isn’t enough capacity on light rail to handle the increase in ridership. Believe me, we asked about that. Luckily, I can opt for the Route 50 if I really want to do that.

  7. So busses are the only thing running on the viaduct until 8pm tonight? Sounds like a fun day to ride.

  8. Did they ever look at putting in a couple of bus stations into the new tunnel?

    It seems like this could have been a nice bit of compensation for a highway that lost all of its downtown access.

    1. No. There aren’t even HOV lanes. That is yet another reason why the whole thing is nuts. They build a hugely expensive tunnel, and it lacks transit lanes. Not only that, but it lacks the exits of the previous ones (the most important of which was at Western) and is only two lanes each direction. Meanwhile, southbound SR 99, right at the busiest stretch of the entire highway (just north of downtown) will have a left side exit — to downtown! That will screw up traffic, and screw over the buses.

      So, no, they didn’t add bus stations in the tunnel. To paraphrase a famous moment in sports: Bus Stations? Bus Stations? We don’t even have an HOV lane, and you are talking about Bus Stations?!!(

      1. This has always bothered me. With a little bit of foresight, they could have put in a station right around Pike Place Market and used it thru-route the C line with either the D or E, resulting in a transit bypass of downtown that’s time-competitive with driving.

        Instead, we have a world where buses are subjected to a very long slog through downtown, while cars get the bypass, the result being simply a carrot to encourage people on the fence between transit and driving to choose driving.

        That said, Metro does have an item in its long range plan to run express buses from West Seattle to South Lake Union through the highway 99 tunnel. I think it was originally earmarked for 2025, presumably because at the time Metro made the plan, nobody knew when the highway 99 tunnel would even open. It would behoove Metro to reroute at least some of the downtown express buses through the tunnel at the first post-tunnel-opening service shakeup. During commute hours, there should be plenty of people going from West Seattle to Amazon to fill up a bus every 15 minutes or so. If done right, this new bus could be all the way at the Harrison exit ramp while the existing C-line is still slogging through the stoplights in Pioneer Square.

      2. If the E line becomes center running BRT, the left-hand exit for southbound 99 will become fortuitous.

    2. No, the priority was SOVs. The whole point of the tunnel was so that cars wouldn’t have to get into I-5 traffic. Because there are so many people going from the airport to north Seattle, and from the airport to the northern suburbs and Canada, and they’re so important that they shouldn’t have to suffer I-5 traffic or 23 stoplights on a surface boulevard. Because they’re the backbone of society. There was no consideration of people going downtown or of buses. The tunnel has less capacity than the viaduct and is less useful, but it does that all-essential task of letting cars bypass downtown.

  9. The viaduct could have been reinforced and expanded to make it earthquake proof and allow for more capacity. It would have been done for a much cheaper price and much faster.

  10. Meanwhile… In 2 months we are giving up the best piece of bus transit infrastructure we have ever had so the toy train can run by itself even though it won’t expand for at least another 2 years.

    1. Well, it’s more a matter of giving it up so the Convention Center can expand and eliminate a station….

    2. Something that carries over 2,000 people per hour and is full at rush hour and has had double-digit ridership increases for multiple years is not a toy. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t expand for two years: it’s the heavy lifter in the transit scene. When there’s a Seahawks celebration or a ballgame or a large demonstration, what do people say? “Link will handle the crowds, what would we do without it?” We need to get those bus impediments out of the tunnel so that the heavy lifter can do more of the heavy lifting.

      1. The words “toy train” are the strongest indication possible that what follows is a garbage argument that can’t stand on its own.

    1. And thank gawd for that. This is a part of “old” Seattle that really needs to go. And thank gawd it will be gone starting in about 1 hour. Can’t wait.

  11. Any chance of converting the I-5 express lanes into non-direction changing HOV northbound and southbound and make some of the expresses from the north skip the freeway stop at 45th?

    It seems like a huge waste to have all that capacity not be useful to any bus routes, even Amtrak thruway or BoltBus.

  12. What buses use the HOV lane between Mercer and Spokane during the rush hours? Just a couple of “ultra expresses” that use Seneca/Spring, right? South of there I get that the buses from the E3 busway will be hurt, but why not just make the right hand lane of the lower level of Spokane buses and right turns only, send them southbound on Sixth to Diagonal and then use Airport Way to Corson or Swift? Yes, Airport Way sometimes gets backed up through the north bit of Georgetown, but it will probably be more reliable than the clogged freeway.

    Probably too late to try that now, though.

  13. Today’s Metro alert. Added downtown stops. No additional runs over regular service.

    The information in this Transit Alert has been updated to reflect added stops on the rerouted service.

    For the next several weeks, all traffic that has been using the viaduct will be rerouted into adjacent travel corridors. While every effort will be made to operate transit service as normally and as close to on time as possible, transit riders are advised to expect possible significant delays and more crowded buses, especially during peak travel times.

    Transit schedules
    Use the regularly published online or paper timetables for the scheduled times of all transit service, but expect likely significant transit service delays, as general traffic will also be using the same alternate surface streets. It is always a good idea to get to the bus stop a few minutes before the bus is scheduled to depart.

    Travel options
    Riders are encouraged to plan or revise their commutes to allow plenty of extra time.

    Working from home, avoiding driving alone, ridesharing, using other transportation modes, changing travel times, riding the West Seattle Water Taxi, taking advantage of the new mobile app, Ride2 Transit, or taking some time off are options.

    Revised routing for West and Southwest Seattle viaduct buses
    Affected bus routes
    Metro bus routes 21 Express, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 and the RapidRide C Line will travel into downtown Seattle non-stop via the SODO Busway, S Royal Brougham Way and 4th Av S, before continuing onto Third Avenue and their regular routes and stops. With the exception of the RapidRide C Line, these routes will also serve the posted bus stops northbound on 3rd Av just south of James St and Madison St, then their regular stops north of Madison. The C Line will serve the posted stops northbound on Prefontaine Pl S just south of Yesler Way and on 3rd Av just south of Seneca St, and then its regular stops.

    Heading toward their West Seattle and southwest destinations, these routes and Route 37 will travel non-stop via the SODO area after leaving their regular downtown routing and stops. Route 37 serves its regular route and stops when heading into Seattle in the morning.

    In a slight deviation from previously published information, Route 125 also travels north through downtown Seattle on Third Avenue, then uses University St, Fourth Av and Union St to get back to southbound Third Av, where its next stop will be just south of Seneca St as it heads back to West Seattle. No stops are missed.

    Leaving downtown, these routes will use different pathways depending on the time of day. Additionally, SODO routing in either direction may be revised as necessary in order to keep buses moving, but regardless of the streets used, these routes will serve their regular downtown and West Seattle stops.

    Only a few bus stops are affected
    Heading in from southwest and West Seattle, the affected routes serve their regular routing and stops prior to their non-stop SODO area routing.

    The bus stop on eastbound Seneca St just west of Third Avenue will no longer be served by buses from West Seattle.

    All affected routes travel non-stop along their SODO routing. Routes 21 Local in both directions and Route 37 heading into town, serve their regular SODO routing and stops, but may be delayed by traffic volumes.

    North end impacts
    While there are no expected long-term related routing or stop changes north of downtown Seattle, the same street realignment work is being done for the SR 99 tunnel portal near Mercer St, and buses that serve Seattle neighborhoods in the north end will also be affected by delays.

    This work is expected to cause significant congestion due to increased traffic on all area surface streets and narrowed roadways along Aurora Av N.

    The schedules for Metro routes 5, 26, 28 and the RapidRide E Line – as well as Magnolia, Queen Anne and South Lake Union bus service – are likely to be affected when general purpose traffic that would normally be using SR 99 is sharing surface streets.

    As with the West and Southwest Seattle service, north end transit riders are advised and encouraged to be aware; use regularly published schedules; be prepared for possible significant delays, especially during peak commuting times, allow plenty of extra time, and consider different travel times or modes.

    As is the case with West Seattle service, north end routing is subject to temporary revisions as needed to keep service moving in the event of blockages.

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