24 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Remembering the Viaduct”

  1. Metro ran quite a shuttle operation yesterday through the new deep-bore tunnel… efficiently carried tens of thousands using caravans of 5-6 buses at a time full of passengers northbound with careful coordination to use the same lanes to send empty buses back in the opposite direction. Overall they must have had 30-40 buses dedicated to the operation.

  2. Came up from Portland on Amtrak yesterday to walk the Viaduct and Tunnel. Really cool to see all of it up close before it opens/gets torn down. I have to say, I thought the event was really well organized. Walking on the Viaduct, I was struck by how quiet it was. I’ve visited the waterfront in Seattle plenty of times, and I guess I’ve internalized the background roar of the cars as part of the area. I was strange (in a good way) having it so calm.

    As a Portlander, I was absolutely floored by the number of buses that were running on the shuttle route from the south Portal to the North. I didn’t ride them, as it was a short walk back to Kings St station, but it was amazing to see 15-20 buses just stacked up on 1st waiting to pull into the pick up area. That doesn’t even count the other buses on the rest of the route. I’ve never seen that kind of coordination between an event and TriMet, down here in Portland. Does anyone know how many buses/trips they made Yesterday? Every time I visit I become jealous of the investment in the bus service in Seattle.

    1. I’ve been to the Pike Place Market a few times since the closing of the Viaduct and it’s incredible how quiet downtown is now. You can stand on the Market’s new deck listening to the birds and waves lapping against the seawall.

      1. No it isn’t. Waiting lanes for the ferry and bus lanes widen things on the south end, but the part of the waterfront people actually use is only four lanes, same as what’s there right now.

      2. Luckily, parked cars in the queue lane are quiet, and transit lanes that only see a bus every few minutes are relatively quiet too.

    2. I was one of the drivers in a shuttle bus for this event …
      there were 99 buses assigned to this and I made at least 5 trips

  3. Interesting about the buses, Jack. Am I right that there’s not planned to be a single bus route in that tunnel when it opens for service? My own call is that this absence will be temporary.

    Consider the difference in human experience of, say, twenty minutes stuck in traffic on the Viaduct compared to same amount of time motionless underground. Tolls? I’m not sure how many drivers will go in there twice if you pay them.

    So we had better be prepared for some very heavy loads on surface streets. Because could easily develop that staged platoons of express buses will be the only vehicles anybody will board absent shotguns and cattle-prods.

    By way of comfort, I’ll repeat previous comment that fast comfortable service between West Seattle and, say, whatever Green Lake develops into will comfortably earn its keep. One benefit of rubber over rail: if one mode doesn’t work, change is painless. As your own observations happily confirm.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I recall one of the commenters suggesting an express version of the C Line to SLU.

      Let me offer an expanded suggestion:

      Run route 55, which serves the Alaska Junction, through the tunnel, then stay on Aurora, turn right onto 50th/45th, and head to the U-District.

      Run a new route from the Alaska Junction, 58, through the tunnel, and have it turn right to head through SLU and on to First Hill.

      Similarly from Burien Transit Center:

      Send route 123 through the tunnel, and make that right into SLU and First Hill.

      Have route 122 turn right on S 156th Way to head to TIBS. Save all those service hours duplicate-heading downtown to provide better span of service and/or peak frequency on routes 122 and 635.

      Add a new route, 119, that expresses from Burien TC to TIBS and vice versa during peak hours, so that that route plus Link becomes the Burien – UW express connection.

      Alternatively for route 123, just have it express to TIBS, clear SOVs off Denny Way during peak, run route 8 every 6 minutes during peak, and run a better-pathed 49 every 6 minutes during peak down Madison and through Harborview, making 123 + Link + 8 or 49 the Burien – SLU and Burien – First Hill express connections.

    2. That must have been me. Metro has no plans for buses in the tunnel until West Seattle Link, when it plans to replace part of the C with an Express route on Fauntleroy-WSJ-SLU. However, public demand tends to change after something opens, like Link in Rainier Valley that had significant opposition beforehand but now most of it has died away. People are probably now fearful of not having a one-seat ride to to midtown, but after the tunnel opens they may start to think that a wide-open road to SLU is a pretty good idea and there may start to be some pressure to reroute some of the routes above. It would then remain to be seen how much counterpressure there is to keep them downtown. It would take a lot of pro-SLU pressure to get Metro to change its mind. On the other hand, Metro has been rerouting odd peak-only routes to SLU and proposing to do more of them, but that’s always in the context of a restructure where the direct service is replaced by Link and more frequent feeders, and that’s not in West Seattle’s future for several years yet.

      The south-end suggestions to the U-District probably have less of a chance because they would contradict the emphasis on “Take Link!”

      1. To say that Metro has to send all the bus to either downtown or SLU is a false choice. At least during rush hour, there are plenty of buses to go around to do both. I certainly don’t think service on the C-line should be reduced; rather, I’d suggest the service to SLU come out from modifications to other routes instead.

        At first glance, the 55 looks like an excellent candidate to take the tunnel to SLU, since pretty much everybody served by it is within walking distance of another route (56, 57, or C-line), which goes to downtown.

        If anything, I think the case for a bus that takes the tunnel to SLU is stronger without West Seattle Link. With West Seattle Link, the Link tunnels will do a lot of what the tunnel does, in getting people through downtown quickly, without traffic, but also carrying people downtown at the same time. Even having to change trains downtown should add more than a few minutes, while the car backup for the SLU exit could erode much of the time savings, as there is no room in the tunnel for transit priority on the exit ramp.

        During the interim period, however, I think the tunnel is likely to still save considerable time over a grand tour of the downtown streets on a bus, so I think it’s worth it.

        With regards to the other suggestion, I don’t see much value in having the tunnel bus continue to go north on 99 beyond SLU, certainly not to 45th as a one-seat ride to the U-district. That’s a lot of extra miles which are entirely redundant with other buses, 45th is going to be slow, and it’s also directionally a bit out of the way. And, I don’t think riding the C-line into downtown and switching to Link to the UW is a horrible option that needs a bypass bus. As long as the C-line has good transit priority, at least enough to get to some Link station, the two-seat ride feels good enough.

  4. The year is 2062, the 100th anniversary of the World’s Fair. What will Seattle be like then? And the region, the climate, and the world? What will people then think of the fair and its exhibits? If there were a follow-up fair in 2062, what exhibits might it have?

  5. Riding the tunnel bike ride this morning, the route went south past the West Seattle bridge before turning back onto 99 north. Heading back north is when I noticed it… the transit priority lanes from the West Seattle bridge to the stadiums are now marked as general-purpose lanes.

    Near the stadiums, there is a “buses may use shoulder” sign, but this is about 1.5 miles north of where the transit-priority lanes used to begin.

    I’ve been trying to keep tabs on the viaduct/tunnel plans with regard to transit, but I must have missed this part if it was ever made clear. Does anyone have more info? Is the long-term plan really to have no transit priority here? If so I anticipate this being an even worse blow to bus travel time and reliability than the tunnel already was.

    1. Thanks for the word on this matter, Jake. The more people who make a habit of noticing and emphatically commenting to their Seattle City Councilmembers over matters like this, the easier transit’s work will be.

      Might also be good to adopt a regular pen-pal at the Downtown Seattle Association, to remind them that if you are forced to shop where rules are written by and for motorists, there’s a lot less competition for parking and road space at a variety of suburban malls reachable from your address, even if it’s in Seattle. Word to those needing to be wised up….


    2. I noticed that too. Depending on how far the traffic backs up for people going into downtown, it could be big problem. Sometimes, I wonder if the temporary solution of the bus-only ramp to 4th Ave. should just become the permanent solution until Link replaces the C-line. 4th Ave. is a pretty fast road, and transit priority on the bridge to the exit ramp is huge.

      1. I couldn’t agree more with asdf2 about sending West Seattle buses in to DT via 4th and the busway rather than US99. The last few weeks have been easier commutes and I suspect it’s largely due to the transit priority lane on the WS bridge, Spokane St viaduct and, most importantly, the 4th Ave cloverleaf to NB 4th Ave and then the busway. Why doesn’t Metro just stick with this route and leave 99 for cars to fight out the tunnel or surface options there?

      2. Bus riders won’t notice this problem for another week or two. I’m thinking two weeks given the weather.

        In the meantime, some of the no stopping signs on 1st Ave (I just noticed them northbound) are being converted from “6 am to 7 pm” to “6 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 7 pm except Sat/Sun/holidays”. I like to believe SDOT isn’t capable of this level of poor timing.

  6. I just was on a Pierce Transit operated ST Express buss that broke down on I-5 near Federal Way. We had a supervisor on scene pretty quickly and were loaded onto a replacement bus in about a half hour. It didn’t suck nearly as much as it could have.

  7. Chris Hayes’ podcast discusses the state of the NYC subway with Aaron Gordon, a NYC transit reporter. It focuses on the deteriorating reliability of the subway and why that happened, and the implications for other large government bureaucracies. It praises Rio’s BRT for the Olympics as being really excellent. It says the NYC subway went from being the best US transit system in the 1990s to the world’s big-city transit system in the world today today, and that’s not so much because of any changes in the subway service but because other countries and cities have been improving their transit since the 1990s and new York hasn’t. It says the current MTA director is from London and Toronto so he’s pointing out all the problems in the management and in people’s assumptions, such as the MTA blamed reliability problems on too much overcrowding. (“What private company blames its customers for demanding its product too much?”), and in looking for solutions only in the US and not seeing that other countries have already solved these problems.

  8. I’m a little frustrated that my schedule doesn’t allow me to engage until late in the day. In particular, I haven’t had much feedback for the comments I added to the recent post regarding West Seattle-Ballard, so I’m repeating the most salient points here. For more detail, please see my original comments.

    I consider ALL of the remaining options for Ballard to be deeply flawed. If an alternative solves the problem of too-frequent low-bridge openings, it introduces some new problem, either mediocre location or very high cost.

    I wish an option had been advanced for a high-bridge alignment terminating at 20th Ave and Market St. It would be superior to any of the existing options, with higher ridership and better transit connections, at a cost comparable to the 14th Ave high bridge option.

    Do we put our energy into fighting for the best alignment, or do we refine one of the remaining alternatives, to make it less awful? If the latter, then we could try to get the 14th Ave high-bridge refined to terminate on 15th Ave. A 14th Ave STATION is terrible. It would be fodder for opponents, similar to the Alaskan “bridge to nowhere”.

    1. Two semi-related thoughts from my experience in Ballard yesterday.

      First, since the sidewalk on the east side of 15th at Market is blocked for construction, I had to leave Ballard Market (carrying a 12 lb. turkey) and walk all the way to 14th and then all the way to the west side of 15th to catch the D Line. That one block is incredibly wide (particularly to a 62-year old man carrying a 12 lb. turkey). The differences between the two streets are not insignificant (let alone with respect to anywhere to the west of 15th).

      Second, the bus was crush loaded at 2 pm on a random Saturday from Market St. to Uptown. It was full but with no standers from Uptown to Downtown. Point being that there are non-commute related parts of the route that, at least under current conditions in both neighborhoods, link two stops on the future Ballard Link line at a time when you might not think there’d be much business.

      1. A lot of the crowding may have come from the viaduct party. The D-line was not the only route affected. Yesterday afternoon, Link was completely packed, and I was just barely able to squeeze on. Even the 255 to Kirkland had all the seats filled, along with most of the standing room.

  9. I am surprised this blog has not discussed the recent Sound Transit Dick’s Drive in controversy.

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