VIDEO: SDOT’s director talks bus lane, Highland Park Way, more @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

That’s our video of SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe‘s return trip to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition at their September meeting. He was brand-new to the job when he last appeared before the WSTC five months ago (WSB coverage here). Since then, he and his family have chosen West Seattle to put down their local roots. And, as he moved on to the hot topic of the night – EB bridge backups blamed on the return of the NB 99 bus lane – he said he’s a bus rider too, most days.

We reported on his comments regarding the bus-lane situation in this WSB story on Friday.

As noted in that coverage, he is aware of the problem (acknowledging that it’s “serious”), has experienced it firsthand, but is hoping to find a solution that won’t involve removing the lane. (An SDOT spokesperson told us a short time ago that what’s being looked at is this: “We’ve been considering whether a slight adjustment to the start of the bus lane in order to give people in cars a little more time to merge out of that lane might help alleviate this issue . We’re still considering this and there’s not a specific timeline.”)

He also talked about the SDOT budget, on which he and his staff briefed the City Council on Friday (the day after the WSTC meeting) – here’s video:

In general, he reminded the group, that this is more of an update budget – the second year of a two-year budget adopted last year.

One West Seattle item of note: The Highland Park Way improvements to be funded by the “Mercer Megablock” sale: “To be clear, the funding would NOT be sufficient for a roundabout- but it does fund a signal that would improve the safety issues we’ve seen.”

Is there still a possibility of a roundabout? Well, maybe, said Zimbabwe, but he said SDOT believes the intersection’s grade does not lend itself to one being implemented safely.

Bottom line, he pretty much ruled out the roundabout.

Other budget points: The Delridge repaving project accompanying RapidRide H Line conversion starting next spring is funded. Plus: “The other thing that will come starting next year, Phase 2 of the West Seattle Neighborhood Greenway” including installation of the 35th/Graham signal next year.

Additional issues:

“We’ve made some real progress” in the Duwamish Longhouse safe-crossing situation (also a topic during Zimbabwe’s first WSTC appearance). “We’ve developed a plan – it would involve another traffic signal and removing a lane on SB Marginal Way so we’re working on how to fund that and keep it moving forward.” Hopefully some striping this fall, he added.

The Avalon/35th project is “making good progress” aside from issues related to the water main installation. The final paving happened the preceding two nights, with a bit more work to go in spring. Big progress on the 35th rebuild – you’ll note that’s heavy-duty foot-thick concrete, Zimbabwe pointed out.

When will a final Fauntleroy Boulevard decision be in? Though the final decision on Sound Transit light-rail routing isn’t until 2022, they should have some idea sooner, Zimbabwe said.

Earlier in the meeting, another SDOT staffer talked about what’s in the works on SW Barton by Westwood Village, beyond the curb extension recently installed. We’re still working to get some additional details from SDOT to finish that story and hope to publish it tomorrow.

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets fourth Thursdays most months – next meeting, October 24, 6:30 pm, at Neighborhood House High Point.

31 Replies to "VIDEO: SDOT's director talks bus lane, Highland Park Way, more @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • sw September 30, 2019 (6:55 pm)

    Keep the emails going, folks.  It’s the only way to get them to listen.  Sam.Zimbabwe@seattle.govJenny.Durkan@seattle.govLisa.Herbold@seattle.gov

    • AMD September 30, 2019 (8:40 pm)

      I mean, his answers here tell me they have listened.  I’m satisfied with these responses.  My question is if they’re going to repave Roxbury between 15th and 25th as part of the RapidRide conversion (or for any reason at all) because DEAR GOD THIS IS ONE OF THE WORST STRETCHES OF ROAD IN THE CITY WHY CAN’T WE JUST GET IT PAVED ALREADY???

      • j October 1, 2019 (8:41 am)

        City line is in middle of Roxbury. East bound is not sdot. It’s King County’s problem to fix. No worries though…just claim some of the millions the electronic police are taking at this location and use the safe route to school money to fix this unsafe street next to the school. A car could lose control, due to lack of road maintenance, and jump the curb and strike a kid.

        • WSB October 1, 2019 (8:50 am)

          Despite the city/county line, SDOT maintains Roxbury up to the southern curb.

          • j October 2, 2019 (8:13 am)

            I think you mean sdot is supposed to maintain that section. Because they have not maintained Roxbury.

    • wscommuter September 30, 2019 (10:12 pm)

      Amen.  The more people who tell our electeds and administrators that this change back to a bus lane on NB SR 99 is a bad idea, the sooner they will be forced to undo this dumb idea.  

  • psps September 30, 2019 (7:04 pm)

    This guy is almost as bad as Kubly.  He, too, has no relevant experience in his past, just the usual “nothing but transit, nobody should drive anyway” nonsense .  That’s why he can’t solve such a simple equation:No bus lane = smooth traffic with minimal backups for both cars and busesWith bus lane = enormous and unacceptable backups for both cars and busesGee, what to do? It’s so hard! I don’t want to scrape! Wahh! I’m never wrong! And this guy was the result of a “painstaking search for the right person?”

  • dcn September 30, 2019 (7:16 pm)

    They could have saved the money they spent on putting in the 99 bus lane, and applied it to a roundabout–a project that might actually help traffic flow. He says there’s no timeline for alleviating the mess they made. Sohe’s OK with the extra time spent in traffic and air pollution created by the ill-conceived change. Just wait until the lower bridge starts closing due to ship traffic during rush hour. 

  • Kayo September 30, 2019 (7:44 pm)

    Turned in my work subsidized Orca card for a parking pass today. Huge increase in cost for me but I don’t have a choice.  The bus commute is over twice as long as car.  Not workable for this working mom.  I need reliable transportation options and the current bus situation is the opposite of that. Too bad.  I really wanted to make bus commuting work.  

    • Tsurly October 1, 2019 (5:34 am)

      If you work downtown, you sound like a good candidate for bike commuting. I find it to be significantly more reliable than the bus or a car. Very workable for this working dad who has to get the kid to and from childcare each day.

      • Kayo October 1, 2019 (7:37 am)

        I did that all summer and it is a great option.  I loved it.  My bike is in the shop at the moment but hoping I can get a ride or two in before it gets too dark for me to feel safe out there.  My husband also rides his ebike to work in sodo.  

  • Kyle September 30, 2019 (8:33 pm)

    It’s real simple. Has the “new” bus lane helped buses reach downtown faster? If it’s not doing that then remove the lane.

    • Data driven - sad. September 30, 2019 (10:31 pm)

      The bus lane on 99 is adding 6 to 10 minutes to my morning commute. (See Waze data.) That is a lot of time and extra C02 and I’m not the only one. Buses do not work for my family schedule to be more flexible — Wish they did. Dow, Joe, Durkan and Herbold (not thinking she’ll do much) flex some muscle and fix this mess. A nearly extra hour a week of commute time is just BS. Move the bus lane back 600 yards or 1,000 yards and problem is fixed. Get real. Get flexible. Fix it. My hunch is buses won’t be slowed…may be even faster given delay backup. Show data to refute or fix mess now. You can do it.

    • Paul October 2, 2019 (4:44 pm)

      totally agree, the data shows its a stupid idea.

    • Paul October 2, 2019 (4:46 pm)

      I ride the bus as much as the car, the buses get there not faster with or without the bus lane, it just means the buses que to get off the west seattle bridge rather than the 99 downtown exit. Stupid. Remove the bus lane!

  • Annie September 30, 2019 (8:49 pm)

    They aren’t going to do anything but wait for the tolling to start. 

  • Josh September 30, 2019 (9:53 pm)

    AMD – If there’s every a time caps are appreciated, it’s in your statement above. You’re right, GET ROXBURY FIXED, paved/patched/whatever! There’s no excuse for this!

  • MJ September 30, 2019 (10:29 pm)

    psps – Sam the new SDoT Director is far better than Kubly.  Kubly left a huge mess at SDoT that is still being fixed.

  • chemist September 30, 2019 (10:31 pm)

    Not exactly a topic that came up, but did SDOT ever release any follow-up studies from the Admiral Way restripe project?  WSB 2016 ANA pre-project

     “ANA secretary John Noonan asked what metrics would be watched in the next year or so to see how this is working, once it’s in place. Woods said they would look at the speed, collision, traffic volumes, and bicycle-use volumes. “Obviously the two goals everyone agreed on is lower speeds and reducing crashes.””

  • More commute, more green house gases September 30, 2019 (11:05 pm)

    My morning commute is 6 to 10 minutes longer since changescon the bus lane – check Waze data. Pushing bus lane back 600 to 1000 yards would likely fix the bottleneck and get things flowing again. That is 30 minute to 1 hour extra commute time per week. Provide data it is worth it. Are busy really getting dowton faster? They are likely in back up on cloverleaf and bridge. Show data to refute. Dow. Joe, and Durkan need to step up and pressure to fix this mess. Or, provide detailed data it is worth the added time. I would ask Herbold, but im not convinced she gets working people with schedules who need to commute to companies paying their wages. Lisa, if you can, do something. WSDOT and SDOT error was likely a failure to get practical data. Let’s see the data and fix the issue.

  • Brayton October 1, 2019 (7:37 am)

    They should have waited for the tolls on the tunnel to start before putting the bus lane in. Then the extra surface traffic would blow everyone’s mind making the bus lane more agreeable. I do agree that the lane should have started further north to give non-bus traffic a bit more time, but weather that’s truly effective remains to be seen. 

    • KM October 1, 2019 (8:36 am)

      I hope they don’t make any decisions on the bus lane until they can observe it for a few months post-tolling. Why remove it just to put it in again if deemed warranted? I’ve sent an email to SDOT asking them to wait on any decisions.

      • Data driven October 1, 2019 (7:47 pm)

        KM, I take it you are not impacted by the bus lane issue. If you were, then you’d realize traffic flows are greatly restricted and need not be. Move bus lane further north and the merge will happen sooner for all. Back up and over high bridge will lesson…that likely adversely impacts buses. What does bus data show? Review the data on cars and buses commute times now.  Tolling may impact # of exits to Dearborn, but not the merge from highbridge. The bus lane can start before Dearborn offramp and reduce back up on the highbridge. Dow, Joe, Jenny, and Lisa: get your act together and fix this. Be the leaders we elected you to be.

        • KM October 1, 2019 (9:36 pm)

          Your take would be incorrect, I am impacted. I just disagree with you. 

  • smittytheclown October 1, 2019 (7:41 am)

    I am all for giving buses an advantage.  Not sure this is doing that for anyone leaving Werst Seattle after 7:00am.  Don’t they track bus times?I also don’t think that lengthening the merge will help.  All it take is one car to panic and merge right away.  It’s just natural to do.

  • Rico D October 1, 2019 (8:01 am)

    Basic through-put engineering  teaches us that moving dependent events with variable production times close together will create a bottleneck.  In fact, it will create the longest potential production time.   (This is bad for through-put)Traffic merges and bus only lanes (dependent events with variable times) close together creates the longest potential delay in traffic flow.   Not doing this should be traffic engineering 101.   Here’s to more green house gasses!   

  • shawn October 1, 2019 (12:02 pm)

    I’m really happy they have basically ruled out removing the lane entirely.  They seem to be going for the correct approach; adjusting the placement of the start of the lane. That works for me!

  • coffeedude October 1, 2019 (3:30 pm)

    SDOT is a complete mess.  I cannot tell you how many places in Seattle a simple adjustment would make traffic move better.  And safer.  How about a look at a 4 way stop at Barton and 25th.  That is a horror corner.  Then 26th between Barton and Roxbury.  I could go on for hours.  I am fortunate that I do a reverse commute into West Seattle, but there are still some bottle necks for me trying to get here from Beacon Hill.  My business now no longer does free delivery (a huge issue) because it costs us way too much for a person to be in traffic delivering.  We ship everything, even if its a mile away.  

    • John October 1, 2019 (9:58 pm)

      I want to second the comment about 26th Ave SW between Roxbury and Barton. It is in horrible shape. People swerve around to the side of the road or even the other lane to avoid all the potholes and uneven pavement. Plus the light at Roxbury and 26th doesn’t have a turn signal which has caused a number of accidents and many more near misses over the years.

  • pw October 1, 2019 (3:46 pm)

    It is hard to imagine a 15 min commute is now almost an hour in 1 week.No reason or excuse from the City. If I take the C line its worse coming home.Really SDOT.?

  • Paul October 2, 2019 (4:43 pm)

    I am not anti bus lanes, esp as I ride the bus as much as I do use my car to go to work, but the adding back fo the bus lane on the 99 is crazy, the buses dont go any faster and hundreds of drivers get 15 to 20 mins added to thier commute, nice job SDOT!

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