Transit/traffic changes ahead: Why you need to know about, and weigh in on, One Center City plan

At the very end of last week, you might have seen some headlines go by about “One Center City.”

It’s about downtown … but unless you literally never leave the peninsula, it’ll affect you. So listen up.

It’s specifically about transportation through downtown Seattle, and some big changes ahead. (This slide deck lays it all out.) The Highway 99 tunnel, and the Viaduct demolition and waterfront redevelopment that will follow, is only part of it. The biggest component, we’re told, is that buses will be kicked out of the Downtown Transit Tunnel next year; it’s going to be light-rail-only. The bus moves aren’t expected to happen before September 2018 – but decisions about downtown traffic/transit flow/routing will have to be made way before then, so you’re being asked for your opinion now, regarding a variety of options for how to accommodate the buses on the surface, and how to get through the area with other projects and changes factoring in. Without making some changes, the project team says, downtown traffic and transit will slow to near-gridlock.

First step in finding out what’s ahead and offering your opinion is this: An “online open house,” now up and running at Go there and start clicking through. Don’t drop out too soon – the two “surface streets” pages are where things really get interesting. And after that comes the page about potentially restructuring bus service downtown. That section includes this packet of maps, with one specifically focused on possible changes involving routes to/from here:


So once you’ve gone all the way through the “online open house,” they’re asking for feedback via the pages or via e-mail at The “open house” will be up and running for about three weeks. Then the partner agencies will have a list of potential changes that they’ll float for more input. Transit service changes, for example, would have to be approved by the services’ governing agencies – the King County Council for Metro, the Sound Transit Board of Directors for ST services. The peak time for all this potential congestion – “maximum constraint” – is expected to be late 2018 through 2022.

At this stage of the “engagement” process, they’re not planning standalone meetings, but if you are interested in a briefing at a meeting you’re already having – community council, etc. – contact the One Center City group – same address as above –

11 Replies to "Transit/traffic changes ahead: Why you need to know about, and weigh in on, One Center City plan"

  • TheKing January 30, 2017 (6:01 am)

    I honestly can’t remember the last time I said “hey, let’s go downtown”. 

  • Chas Redmond January 30, 2017 (8:56 am)

    slide deck link broken.

    • WSB January 30, 2017 (9:18 am)

      Thanks, fixed.

  • Rick January 30, 2017 (1:43 pm)

    Great. Another “agency” we get to pay for to convince us to go to places we don’t want to go to because all the other “agencies” aren’t  making the places we don’t to go to make us want to go to.  Mom always said “get a government job”.

    • WSB January 30, 2017 (1:52 pm)

      It’s not another agency, but it is another program/project/initiative for four existing ones. Hadn’t heard a word about it until we suddenly got last word of a “media roundtable” downtown, too late to attend it, followed by an invitation to a conference call to hear the briefing and ask questions, with the invitation pointing out the West Seattle angle. We’ll do our best to keep an eye on this because it will affect transportation to and through downtown. – TR

  • John January 30, 2017 (3:06 pm)

    Basically, force West Seattle commuters who are not on the C Line and who work downtown to depart busses in Pioneer Square and walk or hop on light rail to get to their destination.  I don’t have an issue with it as long as they are running the longest LINK trains possible during peak commutes.  The trains are already packed when I take the 50 down to Lander and ride the LINK to Westlake.

  • JayDee January 30, 2017 (5:27 pm)

    @ John: Exactly the point.  The 56 currently runs down 3rd from Seneca NB. Now it is supposed to get as close as Yesler? Great if you work for King County or a First Hill hospital. Right now 2/3 of the riders on the 56 get off at Seneca, and maybe 1/2 of the remaining at University. I would ride the Water Taxi more since it would still drop me in Pioneer Square. And while I refuse to acknowledge I am eligible for AARP, I hate the sidewalks/paving in PS because of the likelyhood of an inadvertant injury to knees and ankles.

    The C is mostly full by the Junction (as is the 56 by Olga), but I can at least get a seat on the 56th/57th. How is this an improvement? West Seattle will be getting the shaft again if we don’t make noise.

  • Tamsenspengler spengler January 30, 2017 (7:41 pm)

    This elitist form of “community engagement” is not going to include the all of the  folks that this effects. 

    • Ginny February 1, 2017 (6:55 pm)

      I agree. I’m having a hard time figuring all of this out, please give us some simple language, maps that a layperson can read. I used to take the bus anytime downtown from Alki, now as a retiree, I have to take two buses. A few weeks ago, I needed to get to King Street Train Station with one suitcase in tow,  which is probably ten minutes away by car. I was going to take the water taxi, but it was a holiday and not running. Then I went to Metro trip planner and it was going to take me over an hour to get to the train station….with two transfers, really? I decided to take a cab for $25. It’s hard on retirees and seniors, shame on Seattle planning department to not think of Senior Citizens.

  • WsEd January 31, 2017 (2:59 pm)

    This is horrible for anyone from West Seattle that needs to commute to South Lake Union, that new hub of wonderfulness where we are all crammed together like vacuum packed pickles.  There is not a lot of information I see here except, this and that are going away.  And Alaskan Way will not be open to traffic until 2023.  I would hope that it doesn’t take five years to pave a road once the viaduct comes down. 

  • cremese February 7, 2017 (9:01 pm)

    Thanks a lot for posting about this!

    The ST reported about this as well in this article, as it affects the whole city (hint! Let all your friends that live elsewhere in Seattle know – they are likely to get equally cheesed off if they commute by bus).

    For me personally it is a double whammy as now I do 55 => 545 to go to work. They both get rerouted, therefore I’ll need to add an extra step and switch to 55 => link => 545. So, I am forced to get in my car for commuting, and I am really concerned more would be pushed to do this.

    Anyhow, beyond the smoke that the long presentation is tossing, in my view the reason for this is quite clear:  favor large scale construction developers getting lane closures in downtown (the ST article hints towards that as well).

    As a background: developers that build skyscrapers and large buildings need to close lanes of streets in order to deliver materials to their construction sites. This is because the outline of those buildings is usually very close to the property line, leaving no space for a delivery bay, but on the street itself.

    Buses are a huge nuisance to get a lane closure, especially for prolonged amounts of time, and makes the whole process more expensive. Unless you get rid of the buses in the first place, of course, like this proposal does. (I used to work in NYC’s skyscraper industry, there were very similar issues).

    I’d like also to share that I have sent an email to our council representative , and I received a very proactive response (which I share below as well, I am told the email is public record under FOIA anyway). It sounds like this measure will be briefed at a Sustainability and Transportation committee meeting in February – which is conveniently at 2 pm on a working Tuesday.

    Anyhow, I am frankly  appalled that it really seems like bus use is discouraged in favor of cars, which seems just what the doctor ordered for Seattle in general, and West Seattle in particular. As an opening offer from the developers, this is very very poor for us citizens. I guess our recurse is keep the heat on and complain with the various elected council people until they are blue in the mouth, and hopefully this whole plan gets rejected.

    ========email received from council member Herbold on Jan 30th 2017=============

    [Omissis] thank you for writing Councilmember Herbold about today’s article in the Seattle Times regarding proposals for some bus routes that go through Downtown, your commute from West Seattle to Redmond on the C Line and the 545, and how that would be affected by ending the 545 at the UW Station.


    After seeing this article, I asked the Council’s Transportation staff for more information about these proposals regarding bus routes that travel through Downtown, and they noted this is multi-jurisdictional planning that SDOT is leading, that also involves King County Metro and Sound Transit; staff noted this information was debuted in a meeting yesterday evening, so our work is just beginning on this. I’ve attached the presentation from the meeting. The presentation mentions these are “Potential Service Concepts” that will be considered at a meeting in March, to be followed by opportunities for public input.


    I’m copying Scott Kubly and Cheryl Swab of SDOT and requesting that they provide you with additional information about this, in particular any information about opportunities for public input, and any information they may have regarding the volume of West Seattle bus riders (or just C line riders) who transfer to other routes such as the 545, who would be impacted by this proposal (SDOT provided valuable information last year regarding the volume of C Line riders who continued to South Lake Union, which helped form the basis for the change in route of the C Line to include service to South Lake Union).


    I asked the office of Councilmember O’Brien, chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee, about whether they are planning committee briefings at the City Council, and they are planning on a briefing in February. 


    As this is a cross-jurisdictional issue, you may also wish to contact King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents West Seattle on the County Council; King County operates bus service in Seattle.




    Newell Aldrich

    Aide to Councilmember Herbold

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