The recent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was forecast to be the worst traffic nightmare for the region since the Nisqually Earthquake. But, thanks to the efforts of local commuters who tried alternate travel modes and methods, “viadoom” was tamed into something less than “carmageddon.”
“Some of the afternoon commutes were difficult, but just imagine how bad traffic would have been if everyone tried to drive,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our King County bus and water taxi service kept people moving during the viaduct demolition, just as it will continue to be a great way to get around during the ongoing construction.”
Metro Transit has been adding bus service along the State Route 99 corridor for the past 18 months in anticipation of construction disruptions both during the nine-day closure and continuing viaduct work. Since February 2010, Metro has added 92 additional weekday bus trips to the corridor. That service will remain in effect to help with anticipated construction disruptions over the next several years.
Early ridership numbers from the King County Ferry District and Sounder trains indicate people were actively managing their commute to avoid creating congestion whenever possible.
During the five weekdays of the viaduct closure, the Ferry District set records. More than 800 people a day rode the Vashon Water Taxi, and the West Seattle Water Taxi carried almost 2,000 passengers in just one day. During the duration of the viaduct closure, a total of 13,781 passengers were tallied on both routes.
“Record-breaking Water Taxi use and increased bus ridership made ‘Viadoom’ less gloomy than predicted. It is my hope that commuters will continue to use the transit alternatives they discovered last week – keeping our region moving as the viaduct is replaced,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who chairs the King County Ferry District.
Sound Transit ridership remained strong over the course of the viaduct closure, with its train and bus services experiencing no major delays or capacity problems. Unofficial counts showed that Link light rail trains carried about 24,000 riders each day and Sounder commuter rail approximately 12,000 riders, for a cumulative increase of approximately 8 percent over the preceding week.
“We are pleased that throughout the viaduct closure Sound Transit’s buses and trains provided reliable service for our customers, without the level of bus delays we could have seen due to increased congestion,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. “The people of our region rose to the challenge of finding alternatives to driving during peak commute hours.”
Because there are so many buses on the road during the commute making multiple stops, both Metro and Sound Transit do not yet have ridership counts during the viaduct closure. But, bus ridership numbers are expected to be relatively consistent with normal service volumes. And, both agencies heard reports from drivers and supervisors in the field that the buses were being well used during key commute periods last week.
In addition to thanking the public, Executive Constantine, Executive Reardon and Councilmember McDermott also expressed their appreciation to the Washington State Department of Transportation, and other partner agencies, for the planning and communications efforts before and during the closure.