The double crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and the West Seattle Bridge’s closure has left tens of thousands of people stuck in commuting limbo. As demand for commuter capacity begins rising again, Metro is preparing several scenarios based on bridge availability, bus capacity, and funding impacts related to the pandemic. The West Seattle Bridge Closure Transit Action Plan lays out two scenarios for transit service to the peninsula beyond September 2020, when the first set of service changes can take place.
Scenario 1 would be used in the event that the Spokane Street Bridge (also known as the “low bridge”) remains open to transit. Scenario 2 would be used if the low bridge is closed, with two sub-options based on whether the bridge is closed for short-term maintenance or malfunctions (Tier 1) or for long-term evacuation in case the “high bridge” becomes critically unstable (Tier 2). The presented scenarios would cover a “horizon period” until the September 2021 service change, when service would need to be re-evaluated to fit different commuting trends.
With the high bridge closed until at least 2022 (and likely for longer if a full replacement is deemed necessary), some 900 weekday bus trips carrying 19,000 daily passengers have been displaced. A large portion of these trips were oriented towards downtown workers, a demographic with a slower rise in demand, leaving essential workers working through the pandemic as the main users of transit through these near-term changes.
Until the September 2020 service change, Metro plans to maintain its current level of pandemic-reduced service with adjustments to allow for social distancing. As of writing, King County only permits 12 total passengers on 35/40-foot coaches and 18 on 60-foot coaches (compared to the usual heavy load of 83 passengers on the latter). Suspensions remain in place on most peak-only commuter routes and other lower-priority services in favor of eventually providing near-normal service levels on core routes like the C Line and Route 21.
The West Seattle Bridge Closure Transit Action Plan (or WSBCTAP?) is a “living document”, which is intended to be updated and changed as new developments arise. One of these developments would be the status of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which is headed to the November ballot as a sales tax to replace the existing sales-and-MVET combo. The updated STBD could be used to offset farebox losses and other revenue hits that Metro is anticipating over the next few years, which would otherwise limit the options available to transit planners to work around the bridge closure.
Under Scenario 1, with transit-prioritized use of the Spokane Street Bridge during daytime hours, Metro anticipates that it can begin restoring some services. Due to potential reductions in STBD funding, however, the restorations will likely be nowhere near normal levels.
Peak period routes 55, 56, and 57 would return to service, relieving capacity crunches for Admiral, Alaska Junction, Genesee Hills, and Alki. Additional supplemental service would be available to deploy on crowded trips by providing trailing buses. Metro anticipates that under Scenario 1, they can provide capacity 13,300 daily passengers (2,300 during AM peak towards downtown), a slight boost from current service levels but far short of the normal 64,200 (11,900 in AM peak).
The Water Taxi would also remain on its Winter sailing schedule and would be able to carry up to 86 passengers per run. With 6 round trips, the water taxi would have capacity for 546 passengers in the peak direction during a 3-hour commuting window at 33 percent capacity. A full schedule with a second boat could carry 796 passengers at 33 percent capacity, while having three boats would raise this to 1,046 passengers.
Metro also plans to open a new pair of bus stops on Spokane Street at Manning Street to serve Harbor Island at the request of the Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance. The stops would open in September 2021 as part of that month’s service change, but could open sooner if there is demand.
During the September 2020 to September 2021 horizon period, Metro anticipates to make the following changes:
- RapidRide C Line: Maintain current reroute
- Routes 21/21X: Maintain current reroute
- Route 22: Remain suspended
- Route 37: Remain suspended in favor of Route 775 water taxi shuttle
- Route 50: Maintain current reroute with modifications for Lander Street Bridge opening
- Route 55: Restore and reroute
- Route 56: Restore and reroute
- Route 57: Restore and reroute
- Route 60: Monitor for transit priority need
- Route 113: Remain suspended
- Route 116: Remain suspended in favor of C Line service from Fauntleroy
- Routes 118X/119X: Remain suspended in favor of C Line service from Fauntleroy
- Route 120: Maintain current reroute
- Routes 121/122/123: Remain suspended
- Route 125: Maintain current reroute
- Route 131/132: Monitor for transit priority need
- Route 773 Alaska Jct Shuttle: Increase frequency to meet demand if funding allows
- Route 775 Alki Shuttle: Increase frequency to meet demand if funding allows
Scenario 2, Tier 1: Short-Term Closure
During a short-term closure of the Spokane Street Bridge, Metro will reroute buses from the Chelan 5-way intersection down West Marginal Way to the 1st Avenue South Bridge, then north onto SR 509 / SR 99 or 1st Avenue South. The reroute essentially follows the permanent detour for non-bus/freight traffic during daytime hours, which adds 5 miles to each trip.
Scenario 2, Tier 2: Long-Term Closure
The doomsday scenario as described in Tier 2 would be activated as soon as the low bridge is closed by SDOT and traffic within the “fall zone” under the high bridge is cleared. A long-term reroute would be in place for most routes, while others would be replaced by temporary new routes to connect passengers with other services. Tier 2 would also be used specifically if West Marginal Way is closed, especially where it crosses under the high bridge near the Chelan 5-way intersection.
The following are the preliminary reroutes proposed by Metro, which are subject to change and would only be used until West Marginal Way is reopened:
- RapidRide C Line: Rerouted to Admiral Way and California Avenue to terminate at Seacrest Park with transfer to water taxi.
- Route 21/21X: Layover near 35th Avenue & Alaska Street, with service towards downtown via 35th Avenue, Westwood Village, and Roxbury Street. Buses would continue onto the 1st Avenue South Bridge to resume normal routing.
- Routes 37/55: Normal routing within West Seattle, using the 1st Avenue South Bridge to reach downtown.
- Routes 56/57: Normal routing within West Seattle, using the 1st Avenue South Bridge to reach downtown. Outbound trips (to Admiral) would use Delridge Way.
- Route 50: Normal routing until Delridge Way, where it turns south to follow the 1st Avenue South Bridge pathway.
- Route 116: Live-looped service from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to Seacrest Park via Fauntleory Way and Admiral Way (southbound) or Harbor Avenue (northbound).
- Routes 118X/119X: From the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, buses would travel east via Roxbury Street to the 1st Avenue South Bridge and onward to downtown.
- Route 120: Normal northbound routing to Delridge & Spokane, turning around to return to Roxbury Street and join the 1st Avenue South Bridge pathway. Southbound trips from downtown would skip Delridge Way entirely, proceeding from Roxbury Street directly to 15th Avenue in White Center.
- Route 125: Shuttle loop from Westwood Village to Delridge & Spokane via Delridge Way (southbound) and 16th Avenue (northbound).
Note: Routes 116, 118X, and 119X will remain suspended through the September 2020 service change, but may return at a later time.
Metro has also drawn up an alternative Tier 2 plan that would rely more heavily on the water taxi in lieu of overloading the 1st Avenue South Bridge pathway. With additional funds, the water taxi would be restored to two-boat service with a maximum of 3 trips per hour unless capital improvements are made at Seacrest Park.
This alternative calls for the following changes:
- RapidRide C Line: Rerouted to 1st Avenue South Bridge, with turnaround at 35th & Avalon.
- Route 21: Extended to Seacrest Dock and uses 1st Avenue South Bridge. If extension is not viable, then layover at Alaska Junction.
- Route 21X: Suspended to boost Route 21 service
- Route 22: Remain suspended
- Route 37: Remain suspended in favor of Route 775 water taxi shuttle
- Route 50: Eliminate route west of SODO Station, with potential extension to Alaskan Way waterfront instead.
- Route 55: Expanded to all-day service, routed via East Marginal Way to 1st Avenue South Bridge. Would largely replace Route 50.
- Route 56: Terminates at SODO Station with trips using East Marginal Way to 1st Avenue South Bridge.
- Route 57: Suspended in favor of a new peak-only shuttle (Route 757) that serves Seacrest Dock.
- Route 60: Transit speed and reliability improvements if South Park Bridge volumes are impacted by additional traffic.
- Routes 113/121/122/123: Remain suspended
- Routes 116/118X/119X: Remain suspended in favor of C Line service from Fauntleroy
- Route 120: Rerouted to 1st Avenue South Bridge via Orchard Street/Dumas Way. All service on Delridge Way north of Orchard would be suspended, affecting 20 percent of riders.
- Route 125: Suspended and replaced by shuttle (Route 725), which would also serve the suspended section of Route 120 in North Delridge.
- Routes 128/131/132: Monitor for transit priority need
- Route 725: All-day, bi-directional shuttle from North Delridge to Seacrest Park via South Seattle College, 16th Avenue, and Delridge Way.
- Route 757: Peak-only shuttle from Seacrest Park to Admiral District via Route 57 stops.
- Route 773: Increased frequency if funding allows, especially if Route 21 is unable to layover at Seacrest Park.
- Route 775: Increased frequency if funding allows.
Some changes, including those to Route 21, are dependent on layover availability and other factors. Metro would also temporarily add new park and ride lots to supplement the current 158 spaces, mostly through leasing additional capacity. Their initial analysis estimates that up to 3,000 spaces could be added within walking distance of major bus stops all across West Seattle, including 1,200 near Westwood Village and 550 near Seacrest Park.
To help visualize these changes, I’ve sketched out an interactive map based on the descriptions of both alternatives. This is completely unofficial and will likely need corrections based on my midnight reading of the reroutes.
In addition to routing changes under both scenarios, SDOT would assist in installing transit priority improvements, including the following:
- Allowing transit to use the 1st Avenue South ramps on Spokane Street Viaduct, bypassing railroad tracks on the lower street.
- Re-channelization and re-timing of Chelan 5-way intersection
- Addition of eastbound transit-only lane on west side of Spokane Street Bridge at Chelan 5-way intersection
- Re-channelization of Delridge Way to extend transit-only lane from Andover Street to near Chelan 5-way intersection.
- Hiring of uniformed traffic police to direct vehicles during peak periods and ticket enforcement from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.