When viaduct is gone: what pathways buses won’t use, and why

Once the Alaskan Way Viaduct is demolished, buses from West Seattle and Southwest King County will need a new permanent pathway to and from downtown Seattle.

The City of Seattle and King County Metro evaluated several potential pathways, including surface streets and Interstate 5, to connect buses from State Route 99 and the West Seattle Bridge to the Third Avenue Transit corridor in downtown Seattle.

We eliminated several pathways because of  traffic conflicts, significant likely impacts on transit reliability, difficulty with turns, and other challenges that would prevent delivery of high-quality transit service to the downtown Seattle core.

Here are some of the pathways Metro and the city evaluated and removed from further consideration:

Interstate 5

  • High traffic volumes and poor transit reliability, depending on time of day.
  • Greatest travel distance between West Seattle and downtown Seattle compared to other pathways.
  • Poor connection to stadiums and other key downtown areas.

First Avenue S and Fourth Avenue S (as combination pathways)

  • Significant travel time increases (5-8 minutes, depending on direction of travel).
  • Poor reliability due to at-grade train crossings—which can delay buses up to 20 minutes—and more than 200 stadium events each year.
  • Would require right-of-way acquisition for transit lanes and other improvements, estimated at $20-30 million. A Lander Street overpass would cost an estimated $200 million.

Airport Way (in combination with other streets)

  • Poor transit reliability.
  • Not all routes that currently use the viaduct can connect to Airport Way.
  • Would not allow buses to serve the SODO area.
  • Poor connection to the stadium area.

Yesler Way and James Street (as both single-street pathways and in combination with other streets)

  • Conflict with ferry operations, as cars and other vehicles access the terminal via Yesler Way.
  • Turns that are difficult for buses to make.
  • Pedestrian conflicts.
  • Added travel time due to turns.

Jackson Street (as both a single-street pathway and in combination with other streets)

  • Higher traffic volumes are expected on Jackson Street with the new Alaskan Way surface street.
  • Right-of-way constraints due to First Hill Streetcar operation.
  • Increased turns and pedestrian conflicts.
  • Difficult turns for buses.

Main Street and Washington Street (as both a single street pathway and in combination with other streets)

  • Extensive street improvements would be required.
  • Neighborhood concerns over potential effect on historic district.

Given input from riders and neighborhoods, as well as the pathways analysis, the city and Metro are now focusing on evaluating a two-way Columbia Street pathway.

Once the necessary transit improvements are made, Columbia Street will be the fastest, more reliable pathway. It will provide improved connections to the stadium and waterfront area. Improvements needed to make this pathway work for transit riders include transit priority measures, street and intersection modifications, multi-modal connections at Colman Dock, and enhanced bus stop locations. For more details about the pathways studied, read Metro’s full report.

8 thoughts on “When viaduct is gone: what pathways buses won’t use, and why

  1. Pingback: Two-way Columbia Street pathway seems best for buses when viaduct is gone | Metro Matters

  2. JUST ONE MORE REASON METRO DOESN’T THINK AHEAD AS THIS SHOWS. METRO HAS ALMOST 2 YEARS ALREADY TO TRY AND LOOK AT HOW THE NEW TUNNEL WILL CHANGE HOW THE BUSES TRAVEL FROM WEST SEATTLE TO DOWN TOWN AND NOW YOU ARE STARTING TO LOOK AT HOW TO RUN THE BUSES. I’VE STATES TO METRO MANAGENENT MANY TIMES THAT THEY NEEDED TO START REMOVING THE BUSES FROM THE VIADUCT SO THEY CAN SEE WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T WORK. I FEEL WE NEED TO TAKE
    AND START USING ONLY SURFACE STREETS SO METRO CAN FIND ROUTES THAT DO WORK TO GET RIDERS FROM WEST SEATTLE TO DOWN TOWN AND BACK WITHOUT THE VIADUCT.

  3. In response to Michael, here are five things to consider.

    0) Typing in all capital letters is considered shouting on the internet. I read this as if you were yelling in a quiet room. Turn off the caps lock, please!

    1) These reports have years of study done. Nobody n their right mind decides on a whim to start doing this.

    2) We’re already dealing with SR99 crumbling, and people who already understand these details have decided that it was acceptable to use it until a certain point, but that it must be rebuilt. So yes, we can use it until they shut it down, but we still have to shuffle routes. Which brings me to…

    3) …this. KCM can’t just shuffle routes around unless there is an emergency. All of these things, 1-3, add up to foresight. This is, in fact, the culmination of foresight. This is planning ahead. We are hearing about it now because watching the progress is almost as interesting as watching grass grow in the desert.

    4) Yes, I counted from zero. Deal. =)

  4. @ Dennis, Metro COULD easily test out some of these scenarios during times when the Viaduct is closed for various reasons.

    @ Metro, the WHOLE POINT of using Jackson Street is to access the Streetcar and Pioneer Square businesses and destinations!

    Buses are a significant amount of the traffic coming off the Viaduct when the tunnel is built. Your study should not act as if they or the riders are some other encroaching entity. By your own estimates, they represent 15% of the current Viaduct traffic.

    It is utterly unacceptable for our transit agencies in this region to simply refuse to work together, and it’s time that we stop creating “multimodal” destinations that involved forcing riders to cross a street, walk around a corner, cross over bridges, etc. This is difficult for the elderly, the disabled, and parents with small children. The utter failure of planners to adequately address transfers at Mt. Baker Station between Link and Metro is an unfortunate example of this.

  5. Mickymse, the only rebuttal I can come up with is this: even in cases of Viaduct closure and reroutes, if they engaged in test routing at that time, the screams would be deafening. I don’t think Metro or the State can truly win on this one, unfortunately.

  6. Sorry about the caps. As for my job we have to use all caps per the hospital standards for medical records and that is where I’m responding to this from. Yet I just it sad that whom ever is setting the stops for the “C” line missed the mark big time in West Seattle by not having stops at Jefferson Sq. and the QFC stores as the disabled and our older people nolonger have a stop there that live south of the West Seattle Jct. Metro telling riders that live south of it now have to walk 2 blocks to the stores or more then carry bags of shopping back to the West Seattle Jct to catch a bus home. This means shopping carts will be stacked up at the bus stop or the disabled and older riders have to use the person buggies that then take up 3 or 4 seats on the bus that already has less seats on it now. Just saying that this is what I see happenning on the bus and as it becomes more and more so I see more of the riders using them and taking up more of the space so less people may be able to ride.

  7. You’re probably right, Dennis… Unfortunately, I wish Metro would make more use of the political support it has from riders to demand more recognition. It’s not that long ago that hundreds of people lined up around the block to speak up on its behalf to the King County Council. We should stop letting other political and monied interests dictate what’s happening to service.micky

  8. Michael, perhaps the C line is the exception then. I’ve heard friends in West Seattle griping about the lack of service, and one friend notes she now has to do more or less the same. It’s granted that the disabled passengers have Access service, but even then, if fixed route service serves better, I’d say do it. I can’t help but wonder what it would take to get a stop at that spot again, short of enough people yelling and screaming to put something there.

    Heck, even where I’m at over here on east side, the B line is fed pretty well and acts as a good artery between Bellevue and Redmond. There’s a pretty decent example of something that actually works to serve two cities!

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