Carpocalypse hero Darryl Butler. Credit: Jeff Switzer/Metro

In a Carpocalypse update yesterday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other officials said again that the traffic crunch has gone as well as they could have hoped. They again encouraged commuters to continue using transit and avoid driving during the viaduct closure, and warned drivers to stay off the road.

“While we’ve survived the first week and a half, the marathon is not over,” said Metro’s Terry White. “Marathons are quite long and have their ups and downs. It’s a little too early for us to celebrate and say we have won.”

White again declined to say definitively whether Metro’s systemwide ridership has gone up. However, there are a few indications that it has. All of the below figures were current through yesterday morning

Most importantly, there seem to be fewer drivers on the road. WSDOT’s Dave Sowers says that “a lot of the major arterials through the city, and on [I-405], have seen reductions up to about 5% in total traffic volume.”

There’s anecdotal evidence that more commuters are riding: operator Darryl Butler, a 22 year Metro veteran, says “it’s busier, with more new riders.”

Meanwhile, Metro reports say that the 20 standby buses Metro is operating during the standby tallied 27,067 boardings since the viaduct closed. The standby buses have made 792 trips since they began running on January 14, the first weekday of the closure, and ran on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday on Monday.

According to Switzer, “the number of [standby] trips ranged as high as over 100 and as low as 42 on Day 1 Jan. 12.” The standby figures could reflect increased demand.

Pedestrian ferry ridership has demonstrably increased. Metro says Vashon Water Taxi service increased 17% from the same time last year, and the West Seattle Water Taxi has carried 14,800 passengers since the closure. Constantine said the West Seattle route tripled the amount of riders during the same part of last year.

WSDOT reports that Seattle-Bainbridge and Seattle-Bremerton routes both had more pedestrian boardings and fewer car boardings last Thursday, compared to the same day last year.

According to SDOT’s Heather Marks, bike trips increased 124% on the Spokane Street Bridge, compared to the same period in 2018.

Altogether, the statistics the agencies presented suggest that driving trips into downtown Seattle have probably gone down. However each official warned commuters against returning to cars prematurely—something that might already be happening. Constantine said that traffic volumes on the West Seattle Bridge on Monday seemed to be higher than the week before.

Metro won’t have system-wide ridership numbers for the viaduct closure ready for at least a few days, though White said that officials are working to expedite the data preparation process. Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer cited automated processes, and the sheer size of the systemwide Orca reader data set, as examples of obstacles slowing the release of system-wide ridership figures. Switzer said that, because of the small sample, the standby bus figures and Water Taxi figures are more simply monitored and collected.

Buter and other operators deserve thanks for the work they’ve put in during the closure. Since the start of the Carpocalypse, Butler has pulled 13 hour days and filled in on a variety of routes. Still, he’s been buoyed by riders’ positive attitudes, and seemed reassuringly calm and energetic.

“People have been patient,” Butler says, adding that rider morale “is actually very good. They’re cooperating by riding earlier, and being a little understanding of what it is we have to negotiate.”

Buter said that enhanced bus mobility programs—signal changes, expanded bus lanes, and SPD officers posted at key intersections—have been a big help.

Drivers cutting into bus lanes have not.

“They are in my way,” Butler says. “That’s a regular thing, and there’s certain points where it happens more often than other points—like on Battery Street, approaching the [E Line] Denny stop.”

Butler said that SPD officers have proactively move drivers out of bus lanes. However, operators can’t call the cops on violators directly—they need to radio to their dispatchers, who can in turn get in touch with police dispatchers.

His boss took a more scolding tone.

“We have avoided the worst end of the spectrum, in terms of predictions, because people have made good choices,” Constantine said. “Do everything you can to avoid driving alone.”

This post has been updated with the correct spelling of Darryl Butler’s name.

18 Replies to “Carpocalypse Day 8: “Avoid driving alone””

    1. How long does it normally take? Where do you experience the most new congestion? And how are you getting from West Seattle to Sand Point? Which bus routes?

      1. In my car it usually takes ~40 minutes, so 2x longer than normal. I have been working from home for the past 1.5 weeks, but had to be at work in person today.

    2. I live in West Seattle. On Monday it took me 35 minutes to get from West Seattle to Husky Stadium via public transit (C-line + link). That commute is consistently under 40 minutes. From there you can easily hop the 75 to get to Sand Point in about an hour total.

    3. Jamie, if you could get to your nearest Link station could you get a decent Sand Point transfer at UW? Depending where you are in West Seattle, might it work to get the 560 from Burien to Sea-Tac Airport?

      Mark Dublin

  1. of course, three hours is an exaggeration. use Link (exclusive ROW): where is West Seattle end of trip? connect with Link via routes 50, 60, or radial route; at UW station, use routes 65-75; routes 62 and 75 reach Sand Point.

  2. The new bus route out of West Seattle is faster than the old route that used 99. The reason is that the 2 awful merges with SOVs (to get onto 99 at the WSB and to get off 99 at Seneca) have been eliminated. Furthermore, the AM commute times have been consistent and not affected by days with bad traffic–in the past a bad traffic day could add 20 minutes to the bus commute. No longer! The 4th Ave bus-only exit is the greatest thing ever. I think the bus-only improvements should be made permanent and NB buses from West Seattle should continue to use that route when the tunnel opens.

    I wish the city had acted sooner to find clogs in the bus lines and quickly implement fixes, while using SPD to enforce bus-only lanes and keep buses moving through choke points. Imagine if such a task force was given autonomy to improve other awful routes like the 8 or 44.

  3. Thanks for the bus routes, eddie.

    Judging by KIRO radio yesterday and today, regionwide is where trouble’s been. Several hours jam-up yesterday when a truck turned over on I-5 going through downtown Tacoma.

    And things were 70 minutes late out of Everett this morning. Both of which happened plenty when the Viaduct was still carrying traffic.

    Nationwide is where there’s Clear and Present Danger. Remark about area surrounding Sea-Tac Airport self- erased because it’s not funny.

    But there, and here, three hundred million of us are exercising our abilities to take down trouble as it comes in reach. Besides, kind of early in this inning of our own game for ridership stats and the like, isn’t it?


  4. And also as important is it is unadvertised: KC Metro Route 271 puts Bellevue Transit Center fifteen minutes from UW Station. Have ridden it.

    When word gets around seats could be scarce it you are not somebody’s pet ferret, but for all other creatures, floor space could be tight, but every inch of it will be moving.


  5. It seems that SDOT’s response to Viadoom was to significantly increase green times for the dominant legs at almost all traffic signals in and around downtown/SLU.

    Basically, it means that the cross traffic gets to sit and watch the dominant leg traffic not move for even longer while they wait to cross. It’s also means longer walking times for pedestrians.

    I’m sure it has a positive effect during the beginning and end of peak travel times, but during the worst part, it seems like more of a detriment.

  6. I heard yesterday that there are something like 33.000 federal employees that work in and around downtown Seattle and they’re all furloughed. Anyone know if this is true? It certainly could be helping with congestion.

    1. Answering my own question, that number may be wildly inflated since the governor stated today that there are about 16,000 federal employees statewide. On the other hand, how many contractors are there?

    2. There are a lot of contractors although I don’t know the number. In some departments half the workers are contractors. Almost all of the security guards, building-maintenance workers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and day-care center workers are.

Comments are closed.