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.)