ORIGINAL FRIDAY REPORT: If you travel home from downtown on 1st Avenue – especially by bus – you know it’s been agonizingly sluggish, increasingly often. People have been begging Metro and SDOT to figure out something. Just forwarded from the office of City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who’s been talking with SDOT too, a new reply from SDOT:
We recognize that traffic conditions are constrained on 1st Ave, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we navigate the Seattle Squeeze, Seattle’s period of tough traffic as construction projects change how we get around downtown. 1st Ave is not a long-term plan for buses; this was a temporary relocation due to Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition work. Buses will move off 1st Ave onto Alaskan Way entirely once the two-way Columbia St transit corridor is built. In the meantime, we know there have been impacts to bus riders.
1st Ave is operating at capacity, meaning that an unforeseen event such as a disabled vehicle, or a planned mid-day event in the stadium, can quickly tip the system to failure. Additionally, it takes quite a while for the system to resume normal operation once the problem is resolved. Construction activity along Alaskan Way to demolish the Viaduct at the south end of the corridor is causing additional trips to detour to 1st Ave causing further delay. SDOT and Metro have also been working to make sure buses use the center lane due to the weight restrictions along the curb lanes in Pioneer Square, which causes some additional friction as buses try to access the southbound stop at Railroad Way. Last week, the confluence of these new traffic patterns and evening events at T-Mobile Park resulted in some very long travel times along 1st Ave.
In response, SDOT will implement the following changes in an effort to provide a more reliable experience for all modes, with a special focus for transit and pedestrian users. These changes include:
-Revising signal timing at 1st Ave S & S Dearborn St and Alaskan Way S & S Dearborn St to further aid transit operation
-Further optimizing the signal timing plan for the 1st Ave corridor through Pioneer Square while emphasizing the north and south movements
-Implementing pre-game event timing to support the last two midday baseball games for the season
-Working to ensure high priority for incident management during the morning and afternoon commute time
In the meantime, we’re working closely with WSDOT and Metro to monitor traffic conditions and consider what can be done to keep people and goods moving.
That reply also was sent directly to some of the frustrated commuters who contacted SDOT. Two weeks ago, we had followed up with Metro, which at the time indicated no immediate action was likely.
ADDED MONDAY: Metro says, no reroute:
Some have asked if we could return to the pathway used during the viaduct closure. That pathway worked in January because many commuters changed their travel times and patterns for a month and also because of several temporary bus lanes and uniformed traffic control officers at key intersections. These measures would be difficult and costly to renew and maintain for an extended time.