Highway 99 squeeze: Metro bus, Water Taxi trends so far

On this day 2 of lane-reduced Highway 99 north of the West Seattle Bridge, we’re hearing some stories about bigger crowds on buses and the West Seattle Water Taxi, so we asked King County Department of Transportation what they’re seeing. With the caveat: “Right now, most of our information is based on field observations. We won’t have actual ridership data until later, and then it will be more of a sampling,” KCDOT’s Linda Thielke nonetheless offers this information:

* We are already seeing ups-and-downs with traffic, ridership and travel times based on time of day, location, route…so, we’ll need to give it a few weeks to measure impact of the lane reductions;

* We have some extra buses on standby in case the buses get so packed that they have to pass up passengers. The extra buses were not used on Monday, but we did have to use two Tuesday morning on one trip each of the routes 120 and 125;

* We know there are many bus trips with standing loads, and are assigning someone to start monitoring those both in the morning and afternoon commute;

* So far, with two AM and one PM commute completed, the worst choke point is the Columbia ramp and approach during the afternoon commute, particularly after 5 p.m. SPD is assisting Metro by placing a traffic officer at 2nd & Columbia to help WB buses get on the ramp. Cars going from SB Second to WB Columbia are not stopping on the red light, and just continuing to stream through the intersection. That blocks the traffic coming downhill on Columbia, which backs up buses turning right from Third to Columbia (most of the West Seattle service does this). So, we really want to stay on top of that problem.

* We are also asking SPD & WSP to monitor to the bus-only lanes on the West Seattle Bridge and NB SR 99 for cheaters, so that the buses can keep moving.

As for the Water Taxi, Thielke says it’s also too early for numbers there but the crew has noticed a “significant” bump – estimating 25 to 40 percent above previous levels, at least through this morning.

29 Replies to "Highway 99 squeeze: Metro bus, Water Taxi trends so far"

  • watertowerjoey May 17, 2011 (4:19 pm)

    Having SPD at the Columbia on-ramp to let busses on is fine – but they need to keep in mind that TWO lanes can use that on-ramp – yesterday they were keeping the WB Columbia far left lane from using it – really slowing things down.

    Bus drivers turning west onto Columbia from second need to quit taking up all three WB Columbia lanes as well – very obnoxious – and even the articulated busses don’t need all three lanes to make a turn.

  • April May 17, 2011 (4:25 pm)

    I love that they are getting the cheaters! Yay! Down with the cheaters!

  • dreck May 17, 2011 (5:27 pm)

    blablabla, nothing is done for the user.

    Very political reaction: we will study and take appropriate action.

    This morning the bridge was so jammed that an ambulance could not go through the traffic, this situation is creating a danger for people of west seattle.

    thank you Linda, your helping so much

  • Admiral Janeway May 17, 2011 (6:01 pm)

    Afternoon commute was the same as yesterday, about 10 minutes later. Morning commute was worse than Monday.

  • dandelion May 17, 2011 (7:46 pm)

    I agree – I took the same 54 today that I took yesterday, but got to work about 15 minutes later.

  • The Velvet Bulldog May 17, 2011 (9:32 pm)

    I was wondering about emergency vehicles. Generally I think cars are able to make room, but if access to the bridge is blocked, what are the emergency responders supposed to do?

  • LB May 18, 2011 (7:30 am)

    When was SPD directing traffic at the on-ramp? I go through there just before 5:00 and I haven’t seen anyone directing traffic.

  • NikkiTaMere May 18, 2011 (7:42 am)

    You mean all they have to do is shut down the bridge & the viaduct and then Constantines’ toy boat might actually break even w/ ridership?

    Oh, & after a few more buses lines are ended.

    we have found our county’s answer to the public transit crisis — make car riding miserable & be thankful for the minimum service possible for a “city”

  • LB May 18, 2011 (9:16 am)

    I wonder if retiming the light at 1st & Columbia so that it turns green just before the light at 2nd & Columbia turns green could help things a bit.

  • oliver May 18, 2011 (9:45 am)

    The back up on SB 2nd Ave at WB Columbia could be relieved in part by implementing a green arrow for the right turn from 2nd onto the 99 ramp to allow some cars to get through before pedestrians block the on ramp during the entire time the light is green (especially true on sounders/mariners game days)

  • AcP May 18, 2011 (9:48 am)

    20-minute bridge wait to 99 from 35th.

    Need to nab the cheaters that use the HOV lanes to bypass all the patient people waiting on the bridge. Today saw a woman follow the bus all the way down the HOV lane only to cut over at the last moment. AND the people who go past and cut over at the onramp from E Marginal. Make an example of them.

    Still my commute was 29 minutes to South Lake Union. Not all that different.

  • kirsty May 18, 2011 (10:01 am)

    At 5:20 or so I saw a metro guy at 3rd and Columbia, and I saw an SPD officer at 2nd and Columbia intermittently preventing that lane from continuing down the hill. Still, it was a mess! All the busses seemed to be running late, and getting clustered so you’d get 2 125’s in a row, etc.

    watertowerjoey- Maybe the buses don’t need 3 lanes, but they do need 2, and the cars were so backed up at times that they didn’t have clearance to get around the corner at 3rd and Columbia.

  • A May 18, 2011 (10:11 am)

    Water taxi charges too much! I liked it better when it was Metro.

  • sgs May 18, 2011 (11:21 am)

    When the Delridge onramp to the bridge is backed up it is sometimes so stacked up at that merge point that it is impossible for Admiral and Fauntleroy folks to get in the back of the line for that right lane to 99. Sometimes people have to drive a little bit farther to get in the line. Not to the end for a last minute cut in for sure, but let’s not assume everyone trying to get in from the bus lane is a cheater. Relax, most of us are just trying our best.

  • austin May 18, 2011 (11:32 am)

    Water taxi is only 50¢ more than peak bus fare, a miniscule difference to pay for a relaxing ride over the waves in the morning vs a packed bus grinding through construction.

  • Chris May 18, 2011 (11:39 am)

    Re: Cheaters – I agree with sgs – Let’s remember the goal is not to block traffic *and* smoothly merge. sometimes it takes the whole way up the bridge ie behind a bus to find a spot in the right lane 99N line that’s safe to merge…due to delridge being bumper to bumper…that’s because people are not comfortable driving up the bridge to merge. We are called cheaters.

    If you are stopped and blocking traffic in the NON HOV lane up the bridge, as many failed and or impatient mergers are, you are a part of the problem, too.

  • Heather May 18, 2011 (12:41 pm)

    I hope all of you that do not need to take the Delridge onramp to the bridge realize that when the 99 lane is bumper to bumper into the Delridge onramp, that those of us using the Delridge onramp and trying to get into the left lanes for 5/Columbia can’t even get on the bridge due to others trying to get into the 99 lane at the back cutting over in front of us (literally crossing solid white lines at the merge of the Delridge onramp to get in the back of the 99 line). I sometimes have to wait about 20 minutes in line on Delridge to even get onto the bridge! I don’t understand why people actually stop on the bridge trying to merge and block traffic… Argh.

  • Peg May 18, 2011 (12:44 pm)

    Hey, try an “ALL WALK” at these choke points. Works in WEST SEATTLE at Alaska Junction. It can work downtown too!

    I don’t even live in WS but I know the Columbia St problem from the #113 I rode years ago. Rude drivers think it’s always their turn no matter if they ‘block the box’ or not. Never was a better place to rack up some $$$ with tickets, SPD!

    Good luck WS-ites. I hope something gets worked out so you all can ride safely and quickly and first responders can get there even faster!

  • laeti May 18, 2011 (1:13 pm)

    The whole thing is such a joke… And until 2013?

    We’re seriously considering moving.

    Bus service is just plain bad from where we live (line 37, 2 buses an hour, to reach other bus line it takes 20 min walking at least, and it takes forever to reach downtown), water taxi is not only expensive but also not conveniently located (and those shuttles are a joke too)

    I’m 7 month pregnant, so all that walking is not possible at the moment, and will be even less with a baby to bring to daycare. Not to mention those winter month (that are 8 month out of 12)

    Bottom line: No one responsible for transportation is Seattle is thinking about the user.
    I would take the bus, train, tram, boat, whatever, if it was really convenient. But none is a real viable option, so i’m stuck in my car, dreaming of real big city transportation (SF, London, Paris, NYC…)

  • Jamie May 18, 2011 (1:26 pm)

    each day this week the commute has just gotten worse and worse, i’m afraid what it will be tomorrow. i have been leaving 45 minutes earlier in the am trying to get to work on time. this am at 7:30, fauntleroy was a parking lot backed up to fairmont park! drivers were leaving that mess to go via avalon and delridge to get on the bridge instead (thus blocking up all those onramps and admiral as well). i ditched it all and went via the lower bridge to 4th ave to jackson (i work on capitol hill). 4th ave was a breeze! getting on the viaduct at 5pm from columbia is just a disaster and as soon as the rain gets here there will be non stop accidents. only on monday did i see SPD there directing any traffic. this city really needs to figure something out asap!

  • Sarah May 18, 2011 (1:56 pm)

    @chris and sgs: it IS cheating when you drive down the bridge and cut over at the last minute. People cutting over is a large part of why the back up happens. When traffic has just started to move and everyone slams on the brakes to let a car in from the bus lane, it makes everyone stop- all the way back to delridge. We’re all commuting, we’re all in a hurry. Be patient, wait your turn. Cutting in line is not OK!

  • Christy May 18, 2011 (3:19 pm)

    May I suggest trying biking? The weather is perfect for it and it’s really not that far to go downtown.

  • Dunno May 18, 2011 (4:32 pm)

    Yeah, whats wrong with you people, get on your tricycle, I mean bicycle and ride downtown!! That means you 7 month pregnat lady. Wait till our new bike czar rips you a new one!!! Some of you just need a hug from the mayor.

  • Elikapeka May 18, 2011 (8:13 pm)

    I am not in favor of cutting in line, but the merge with the Delridge lane ends up in gridlock because drivers move right too soon. I know we think we’re being polite, but what is really happening is that the Delridge traffic that isn’t going to 99 can’t move over to merge on to bridge. If we drive a little past that point before moving right, that gives the Delridge traffic a chance to move, and should open up space for merging more smoothly into the 99 exit lane. I don’t mean run the whole length of the lane, but go 100 feet or so beyond that choke point before moving over, and it should be easier for everybody.

  • Herman May 18, 2011 (8:34 pm)

    Maybe Mayor McGinn can put his new $87k/year bike evangelist on this traffic problem.
    McGinn is so out of touch. He actually WANTS this traffic problem. It suits his cause. He will do nothing to fix or improve it.

  • drb May 19, 2011 (2:07 pm)

    Ugh..I knew this would be a disaster…so I’m up at 5:30 and in to work by 7am now… I feel like a zombie getting up so early but ..well I’m one less car out there during the morning rush. I’m noticing more people leaving for work really early in the morning now too…hope we don’t have rush hour from 6am-10am etc.

  • Sarah May 19, 2011 (3:48 pm)

    Yes, Elikapeka- I agree! A little bit down the bridge is OK. Going all the way to the bus-only zone is outrageous!

  • AcP May 19, 2011 (5:04 pm)

    The cheaters are those who go over the top (literally) of the bridge. I see it every day. The worst are those who go almost all the way to the entrance of 1st Ave S and then cut over to 99. Shameful, who were your parents and what did they not teach you about respectful behavior in society?

    Put one of those red-light cameras right down at the bottom of the hill snapping pictures of the cars that go by. I guarantee the problem will stop.

  • JN May 19, 2011 (9:14 pm)

    Well, this kind of thing goes with the territory when you are embarking on such a huge project as the viaduct replacement. There really is not anything you or the city can do to effectively control the situation, unless a lot of people stop driving. Of course, that would require people to stop being so selfish, and to expect that of motorists is a little too much.

Sorry, comment time is over.