FOLLOWUP: SDOT to modify NB 99 bus lane this weekend

(SDOT camera screengrab from 7:39 am Sept. 30, looking at EB West Seattle Bridge)

As we first reported last week, SDOT plans to try to alleviate the traffic tangles resulting from the new NB 99 bus lane by modifying the lane. There was no timeline then, but there is now. SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe talked about it and more in a letter today responding to City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who had sent him this letter last week. Zimbabwe told Herbold, in part:

We recognize that the re-installation of the bus-only lane has had traffic impacts on all commuters to and from West Seattle, including people riding buses. To address these issues while still gaining the bus reliability benefits, we will be adjusting the lane this weekend to give people driving more time to merge before the bus-only lane begins. This work will occur during WSDOT’s planned closure of northbound SR 99 to complete repair work inside the tunnel. SDOT crews will begin working on Saturday, October 12 and plan to complete the bus lane modification work by the time the NB SR 99 tunnel reopens at 4 AM on Monday, October 14. We are coordinating this work with the planned tunnel work this weekend to minimize impacts to the traveling public.

Here’s his full letter – which touches on a few other transportation matters:

(If you can’t read it above, here’s a PDF version.)

36 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: SDOT to modify NB 99 bus lane this weekend"

  • Chet October 9, 2019 (8:50 pm)

    This continues to be a broken plan by Sam.  He has been repeatedly asked for the data or modeling that supports the addition of the bus lane past the one that existed during construction where traffic merges for the exit.  He has provided nothing because there is no data to support his claims.None.That current bus line and exit is over 1 mile long and can easily handle additional traffic as shown during the week the extended bus lane  did not exist.  Even with lengthening the merge time, it will create an unneeded slowdown on 99 for all traffic.Keep calling the Mayor.  Keep emailing the mayor and Sam.   His war on cars is creating unneeded congestion for everyone and actually making the problem worse by forcing traffic to surface streets to get around the backup.

    • Nolan October 10, 2019 (12:22 am)

      The sheer amount of privilege in this comment, whew. The city is not obligated to justify to you, personally, every last decision it makes before it takes action on those decisions. Nor is it obligated to prioritize the wants of cars over the needs of mass transit.

      • Nalon October 10, 2019 (1:44 am)

        The sheer lack of understanding of the basic definition of a democracy in this comment, whew. Governments are still accountable to its citizens no matter how hard certain people try to change that.

        • Nolan October 10, 2019 (10:00 am)

          Government would not function, period, if every citizen were personally consulted to give a thumbs up to every tentative decision made by any agency. That standard is utterly insane.

        • Rico October 10, 2019 (10:00 am)

          As someone who both rides bus and drives, the reinstating of the bus lane was a complete cluster-fk.   Why was this done?     The bus into the city was moving great prior to doing this, and traffic was flowing well.   Moving the merge lane 1000 feet will only help if drivers wait to merge, which most don’t.    If they Sam and the city didn’t see this coming, they must be incompetent.  

      • DH October 10, 2019 (7:24 am)

        I totally agree with this comment. 

      • Reality October 10, 2019 (8:14 am)

        The question about data & modeling was set forth by Councilmember Herbold in her letter regarding this fiasco. The poster above is indicating that the requests for data and modeling were ignored, at least in a public forum. It it is absolutely appropriate for people to ask elected officials for data and statistics which lead to policy decisions, especially those which affect thousands of people on a daily basis. Finally, for everyone who continually pays themselves on the back for riding the bus. Yes, there are many people on a bus, but one could also point out that there are many more cars on the road and traffic solutions need to benefit all commuters. Seattle is decades behind in mass transit. The current bus system is not mass transit, no matter how much people would like it to be. There is a mass transit plan, but no work has begun and it will be decades before we see an actual functional mass transit system in the city. 

    • KM October 10, 2019 (7:20 am)

      Chet, data collected now will be worthless because tolling for the tunnel will start in a few weeks. The reality right now might not be the reality for years to come, and making decisions on keeping the bus lane or not before data is collected post-tolling (for several months) would be short sighted. I do think many people know this, however, and are just mad that bus lanes exist, so they are using the “data” excuse now even though it is disingenuous.

      • run_dmc October 10, 2019 (1:39 pm)

        But, by that logic instituting the bus lane before data is collected post-tolling was short-sighted and has already led to problems.  So, seems that going back to status quo ante until said data is collected makes just as much sense as sticking with the current problematic bus lane.

        • KM October 11, 2019 (8:18 am)

          I agree it was placed at a bad time. I figured they had modeling that says the knew they would need it when tolling starts, and that’s why they put it in, but who knows. I am not sure why SDOT AND WSDOT didn’t sync on it. However, it’s there now, so it would be a waste of money to peel it back up just to realize that it’s necessary later. If you want to see constituents lose their mind on this website, just need to mention SDOT wasting money. What’s done is done and it should not be undone until we know more (if only to be redone later $) Just wait until we have some live data with the tolling. We know based on 520 it will take a while for behavior to adjust to an expected outcome. A lot of people skipped 520 in favor of I90 at first, but it leveled out, so it might take some time.

  • Misti October 9, 2019 (8:50 pm)

    And one person will still try to merge right away, which will make everything back up again…I hope I’m wrong.

    • Marianne October 10, 2019 (6:07 am)

      I hope you are wrong too, but sadly I have to agree with you.  

  • KBear October 9, 2019 (8:58 pm)

    Lengthening the merge doesn’t change the fact that downtown traffic has to change lanes twice. It’s as if they’re deliberately sabotaging it so they can say “We tried. It didn’t work.”

  • bolo October 9, 2019 (9:19 pm)

    Pleasantly surprised that they are making adjustments so quickly. Hope it works, and hope they remain open to making further timely adjustments as necessary.

  • Wseattleite October 9, 2019 (10:49 pm)

    A textbook case of ideology overriding reality. The busses already have the entire shoulder well ahead of exiting onto Dearborn. So now the same double merge action is going on for a shorter section of road that is bus only.  Just so the narrative can be upheld and some people can pat themselves on the back IMHO

  • Kb October 9, 2019 (10:58 pm)

    What a joke. This is so weak. Why don’t they just admit they are caving to entitled car cry babies who are so ridiculously privileged they refuse to merge?! We are all trying to get to work, folks. Move the hell over and let the vehicle with 65 people get on with it. War on busses is more like it. 

    • JRR October 10, 2019 (7:52 am)

      I completely agree. This whole place is still built to cater to the privileged who act entitled to a traffic-free open road to their downtown office. No. Welcome to a city, where mass transit has priority due to volume. This isn’t a little cow town anymore.

    • Misti October 10, 2019 (7:56 am)

      As has been stated repeatedly, the issue is that cars are trying to merge immediately, creating a bottleneck that backs up travel in the interchange for everyone- buses included. Therefore, fixing this will improve travel for buses and cars alike.

    • wscommuter October 10, 2019 (9:53 am)

      “cry babies who are so ridiculously privileged that they refuse to merge” … really??  I refuse to engage in the false argument of “bus v. car” and who is morally superior – it is as stupid a thing to argue about as it is illusory.  Both exist and will continue to share the roads.  The point of this problem is that it affects BOTH cars and buses – this ill-advised change back to the bus lane creates a choke point for all.  Getting rid of it will conversely free up cars … and buses.  Seriously.

      • run_dmc October 10, 2019 (1:42 pm)

        Plus – the people who are “get out of your cars and onto buses; and I’m better than you because I have the good fortune/mobility/job security that allows me to take the bus” every time this issue is raised just completely ignore that putting this bus lane in has slowed everyone down – bus riders and cars.  So, what exactly is the bus lane really about since it’s not about getting any commuters where they are going efficiently.  (Sneaking suspicion it’s about making all of 99 car-free…)

  • KC October 10, 2019 (6:48 am)

    Admitting you have made a mistake is tuff for all of us. Paint or no paint sign or no signs just drive in it they can’t pull us all over breaking the law yes but even those who ride the bus I bet drive over the speed limit  shoot even the buses themselves do that  Ms Suwat would be proud of usbut the thinking from SDOT is a little bus lane is better than no bus laneunstripe it. Say you blew it and make the commute better for all peoples

  • Mark October 10, 2019 (8:03 am)

    Sam is a complete fool. Without the lane all the traffic moved quite well. The lane needs to be removed. It’s time the West Seattle people take back their roads and just drive-in  The bus l We suffered traffic nightmares while they were building the tunnel. It’s finally gets complete in the traffic flows. Sam adds a bus lane and it’s h*** again. He must go and the bus lane  Must go.

  • Ookla the Mok October 10, 2019 (9:12 am)

    While the traffic issues are clearly aggravating, what I find frustrating is:
    a)What problem was the city trying to fix by re-installing the bus lane? I take the bus on some days, and I drive on others. I felt like things moved more smoothly for all modes since the tunnel opened and the old bus lane was removed. b) The city’s decision making process is confusing. For some things, they say they have to study it in what seems like a never ending process. (for example, the decision to finally put ORCA readers on the Monorail). For others, they just do it with very little notice and no study at all. c) Once again, a decision was made having a significant impact on all of West Seattle and Councilmember Herbold seems to have been asleep at the switch. Was her office consulted before this decision was made? What input did she have in this decision? Did she support the decision, or did she push back? Before we all go and scream “war on cars” or accuse people who are just trying to get to work of being “entitled” and “privileged” we need to start asking hard questions of policymakers. They are the ones that need to be held accountable, and they are the ones that need to explain things better.

  • Shawn October 10, 2019 (9:30 am)

    This is great news, and such a fast response too!  Hopefully this will help get the busses through to downtown more reliably. 

  • LJ October 10, 2019 (9:56 am)

    This “solution” won’t work for busses or cars.   The bus lane should be converted into an exit-only lane.   Now cars exiting at Alaska will have to merge twice in a half-mile section of the road (I ride the bus but for the foreseeable future we are also going to have cars).   I bet there’s not a traffic engineer in America who would recommend such an approach.  And as a previous comment states we can retain the bus lane on the shoulder well before the downtown exit.    Herbold isn’t doing anything as usual, and Zimbabwe is clearly in over his head and has no idea what he is doing.  Time to elevate this to our state reps.   It’s a state highway after all.   Write them. this is Eileen Cody’s   State Sen Joe Nguyen’s email

  • 935 October 10, 2019 (10:20 am)

    People of Seattle…Take BACK your streets. If you hate bus lanes DRIVE IN THEM. Put up or shut up. Its a ticket. $136 – is it worth it to you?The city doesn’t care about you or your cars or me. I , for one, have decided my time is more valuable than being called a “cheater” (nice grade 2 language btw) and $136.

    • Jon Wright October 10, 2019 (10:37 am)

      People of Seattle! Talk tough in anonymous posts!

      • Jort October 10, 2019 (11:48 am)

        Oh, and LOCK UP THE HOMELESS, THEY’RE BREAKING THE LAWS (the laws that I like, that is. Go ahead and break the ones I don’t like, that’s different because I’m special and it’s OK if I do it.)

        • JRR October 10, 2019 (12:39 pm)

          This made me lol. Thank you. 

        • run_dmc October 10, 2019 (1:46 pm)

          I think 935 is saying that he’ll take the consequences of breaking the law – the $136 ticket.  Unlike some of our fellow Seattlites who don’t feel they should face any consequences from breaking the law……

  • Azimuth October 10, 2019 (10:45 am)

    This plan will just push the problem 1000 feet further, causing even more delay at from the curve to the merge point, thus making it even worse for buses.

  • 935 October 10, 2019 (12:18 pm)

    For ONCE Jort – you are absolutely correct!I know you meant sarcasm (same with you Jon Wright) but you’re speaking truth!

  • Gregory October 10, 2019 (1:30 pm)

    An unstated and un-studied consequence of the re-installation of the bus lane is that it’s pushing detour-seeking traffic onto local neighborhood streets. When the WS bridge is flowing well (as it did when the SR 99 Bus Only lane was removed), people actively choose to use it – it’s the fastest, shortest route to downtown; when it’s not flowing well, as is the current state with the reintroduction of the Bus Only lane on SR 99, drivers seek alternatives. The advent of Waze and other traffic management smartphone apps assist drivers with finding alternate routes to save time, including using the low bridge, SR 509 to First Avenue, etc. Getting to these routes often takes drivers through neighborhoods that shouldn’t otherwise see pass-through traffic; for example, you see drivers diverting from 35th Ave to Juneau to 30th to Brandon to 26th to  Dakota to Delridge to the low bridge. These are drivers now in direct conflict with kids waiting for buses and the buses themselves, onlocal streets that are not intended to handle the speeds and volumes that are created.

  • run_dmc October 10, 2019 (1:51 pm)

    Well, having lived in DC for many years, Sam Zimbabwe’s last role doesn’t inspire confidence that he knows what he’s doing here.  Or, that he’s able to relinquish ideological fervor in favor of pragmatism.  Because – other than the Metro – DC’s transportation system and traffic is, if anything, more nightmarish than Seattle’s is currently.  So, not sure why we should all be surprised by his results here.

  • Kyle October 11, 2019 (7:17 am)

    Thanks for the reporting on this WSB! Using the planned wsdot closure to make changes this weekend was a good idea, so kudos to officials on that. Everything else tho…they still didn’t provide any data on if bus times have been improved (can we submit a FOIA for that?). I’m assuming they didn’t because it’s not really helping significantly. They still don’t have a goal of how moving this bus lane is going to help buses? Will my bus reach downtown 10 minutes faster now? I doubt it. They just seem to be randomly making changes with little foresight and no data or goals.

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