FOLLOWUP: ‘Tunnel usage remains high and exceeds forecasts’

One month ago today, the Highway 99 tunnel became a tolled roadway, after 7 months free of charge. Pre-tolling, local transportation authorities projected that up to 50 percent of would-be tunnel users would start avoiding it when tolling began. A few days in, they said the avoidance – officially known as “diversion” – was less than they had expected. Now they’ve crunched more numbers and report that trend contnues. The details are in this post on the WSDOT Blog today, which declares “tunnel usage remains high and exceeds forecasts”:

Prior to the start of tolling on Nov. 9, 2019, about 77,000 vehicles used the tunnel on average weekdays. Since tolling started, roughly 20,000 fewer vehicles are using the tunnel – about 26% less. This drop is less than the 35% to 50% predicted. However, the story is more nuanced. Peak travel volumes in the tunnel remain high. Mid-day volumes are lower, likely due to less crowding on city streets.

The WSDOT report goes into analysis of how travel time has been affected, including buses – among the sample routes mentioned, WSDOT says the 120 stayed the same in the morning, but took “less than 2 minutes longer” in the pm. Also mentioned: “Roughly 80% of vehicles in the tunnel are using either a Good To Go! pass or Pay By Plate.” (If you don’t, you get a bill by mail, sent to wherever your car is registered to.)

12 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: 'Tunnel usage remains high and exceeds forecasts'"

  • Kyle December 9, 2019 (5:12 pm)

    Maybe now they can reevaluate the bus lane configuration on 99? Traffic never backs up on the Dearborn off ramp. The artificial bottleneck occurs on the 99 on ramp where there is no bus lane. The open configuration flowed much better for busses and cars, and their fears of backups on the Dearborn exit haven’t materialized.

    • Fauntleroy Resident December 9, 2019 (6:09 pm)

      Yes! The back ups all over West Seattle that started again after the bus lane was reinstated should be evidence enough that this is not the best decision for traffic flow.

    • Jen December 10, 2019 (1:43 am)

      Tell WA DOT!

    • Bus lane not needed December 10, 2019 (11:32 am)

      Agreed and please!

  • Abyk December 9, 2019 (7:53 pm)

    Totally vote for opening up the bus lane for at least a little bit closer to the exit. It used to be smooth sailing for cars and buses. Now it’s only smooth for buses. 

    • Jort December 10, 2019 (9:58 am)

      Then take the bus.    

  • sw December 9, 2019 (8:54 pm)

    I took the exit this weekend for the first time.  Was SHOCKED to see how short a piece of road it actually is from the merge point to where the bus lane breaks free on its own.  500-700 feet maybe?  That little piece of road is causing more backup than its worth.  

    • JTM December 10, 2019 (9:06 am)

      The entirety of the “bus only” section is all of .5 miles. 

  • John Smith December 9, 2019 (10:19 pm)

    I suppose I’m whistling into the wind here, but I wish there were at least a hope for either WSP or SPD to enforce speed limits, etc. through the tunnel and north of the tunnel. I do what the Smith System of defensive driving teaches: if someone is tailgating, slow down to compensate for their lack of response time. Some of the garbage truck drivers and school bus drivers north of the tunnel around 6:35am should get a negligent driving ticket for their aggressive behavior.

    • Common Sense December 10, 2019 (1:53 am)

      @John Smith – please don’t be a traffic troll and sit in the left lane while proving your point.

    • Just wondering December 10, 2019 (7:34 am)

      I agree.  People are doing 70 and 80 to pass me driving at the legal speed of 45.The cameras are already there right?

      • KBear December 10, 2019 (9:31 am)

        Camera enforcement of speed limits and bus lanes is illegal in Washington, outside of school zones. If you want to see camera enforcement, contact your legislators and urge them to change the law.

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