Details: More $ for more bus service when Viaduct work intensifies

September 2, 2008 at 4:45 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle video | Comments Off

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As promised, here are more details on the bus plan that county leaders announced today — yards away from the area where the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s South End work is set to start next spring — the project that will trigger extra service to areas including West Seattle:

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Sodo setting of today’s bus-service announcement by King County Executive Ron Sims and West Seattle’s County Councilmember Dow Constantine was perfect, in a way.

Imperfect, because it was hard to hear what they had to say, thanks to the roar and rumble of traffic on the nearby Alaskan Way Viaduct. However, their announcement had everything to do with what’s about to happen on that section of The Viaduct.

Standing at a portable podium in a parking lot along Royal Brougham just west of 1st Avenue South, a hybrid Metro bus strategically parked as a backdrop, they discussed what the county plans to do with $32 million in state money that will be provided as “mitigation” for the traffic effects of Viaduct construction — the South End work starting next year is only the beginning of work that’s likely to last close to a decade, once the Central Waterfront plan is finalized and thrown into the mix starting in 2012. (More details on all the Viaduct work can be found at alaskanwayviaduct.org.)

They’re planning to “fast-track” the delivery of 30 new 60-foot-long hybrid buses – like the one at the briefing — in hopes of accommodating up to 4,000 more passengers each day, with half of them to be delivered next year. That capacity will be needed for reasons including the fact that they’re also planning to help downtown Seattle employers provide more employee bus passes.

According to the news release issued at today’s briefing: “This transit funding will increase the frequency of existing bus service along three busy Seattle travel corridors — Aurora, Ballard, and West Seattle — in advance of the start of RapidRide … For example, West Seattle’s Route 54 may offer 15-minute service six days a week.

The specifics of which routes will get what kind of “enhancements” are yet to be worked out – we talked with King County Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi at today’s briefing, and he explained that in addition to the planning that’s under way now, adjustments will be made as needed once the construction starts affecting traffic and it becomes clear how many more people are using bus service, when, and where.

A map handed out at the briefing lists the following routes as “candidate(s) for service enhancement” as part of this plan — note that the geographic grouping is as listed on the map, not a regional determination we have made, north to south — we’re including the north end routes since you might be among those who use them via transfers:

Shoreline/North Seattle:
Routes 5, 16, 26, 358

Ballard/Magnolia:
Routes 15, 17, 18, 19, 24, 28, 33

West Seattle:
Routes 21, 22, 37, 53, 54, 55, 56

White Center/Burien:
Routes 23, 60, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 128, 131, 132, 134, 174

Per today’s announcement, Metro also hopes to cut down on “passenger waits and overloads … with the help of a new bus-detection system designed to more closely monitor on-time performance.”

For those who wonder, what about the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, bicycle improvements, or other ways to get more people around once construction delays kick in — the bus money discussed today is only the first phase, according to what Constantine told us in a video interview afterward, and he’s hoping the enhancements will not be temporary:

Constantine and Sims also both were quick to point out that what they discussed today is part of an overall package of changes the county, city, and state are making in hopes of easing the crunch when the Central Waterfront section of The Viaduct comes down (here are more toplines on that). What will replace the Central Waterfront section, of course, hasn’t been decided yet; as we’ve reported previously, more than half a dozen options are on the table. Sims was asked today if this announcement could be considered a precursor to a preference for a “surface/transit option” (by the way, this clip gives you an idea of the AWV noise we mentioned earlier):

Next step for what was outlined today: The County Council has to officially sign off on the plan. (Constantine chairs the council’s Transportation Committee.) Meantime, bus service including the future West Seattle RapidRide will be part of the agenda during a public forum on transportation issues presented by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce one week from tonight — 6 pm 9/9 at West Seattle High School, with an open house for the first hour, moderated Q/A for the second hour. Before then, you can get lots of information about the coming transportation changes at tomorrow night’s joint meeting of the Southwest and Delridge District Councils, 7 pm at Youngstown Arts Center.

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