Focus on West Seattle

West Seattle is the neighborhood most directly affected by the changes the Viaduct will undergo. As it closes for construction, trips that used to access Downtown via the Seneca St. exit will be forced to take 4th Ave South or I-5 to reach the core. This will require a rerouting of the most popular bus in West Seattle, the 54, which currently uses the Viaduct for express trips to downtown from the Junction.

Not to worry, Ron Sims is on the case. His Transit Now! initiative plans to provide the closest thing to a “true” BRT line yet attempted in Washington. Some thoughts, after the jump.

West Seattle BRT

The new line will provide nearly the same level of service the Green Line would have, if implemented well. Some details left unresolved so far:

The Spokane Street Viaduct is being improved. The plan shown below calls for extending the existing eastbound transit lane to a new 4th Ave S loop ramp. A new lane is also being added to the westbound direction.
Spokane Street Widening
However, they are removing the existing ramp from 4th Ave S on the north side of the structure. While unsafe as a car exit, this ramp would complete the interchange for buses headed to West Seattle. Otherwise, they will have to travel to 1st Ave to access the bridge. This means crossing the railroad and several traffic lights. While the viaduct is closed, this short stretch will add many minutes to a trip.

Even worse, no provision is being made so far for a westbound transit lane. Converting a general lane to transit will be tough, but is necessary to ensure reliable service.

Below is my conception of a fairly comprehensive scheme for West Seattle that could be accomplished quickly and cheaply.
West Seattle Future

Essentially the same as Mr. Sims plan, but adding an Admiral/Alki loop to serve two important neighborhoods, as well as a 35th SW line to serve High Point, Arbor Heights and Westwood.

BRT will never be as good as light rail, but with sensible 1/3 mile stop spacing in the neighborhoods and dedicated bus lanes from the West Seattle Bridge to Westlake, it comes close.

All we need is the political will to paint another transit lane on the bridge, finish those ramps to the busway, and funnel the resources into running these lines every ten minutes or less, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These routes can then be identified by colors, and added to an easy to use system map alongside light rail and streetcar lines. Make transit simple enough for a tourist to use, and you will attract the “choice” riders.

Of course, someday when Eastside Link is operating, there will be no more room for buses in the tunnel…


5 responses to “Focus on West Seattle

  1. What about the tens of dozens of densely packed condos on Beach Drive in the Alki Beach area? They have no decent transit now (the #37 stops running about 6:30 p.m. and does’t operate at all on Sundays), and they have no adequate transit service in the proposed configuration. The little square loop at the west foot of Admiral Way just barely reaches Beach Drive. It doesn’t serve the Alki Beach community at all, either as a connection to downtown or as a connection to the Admiral business district, which is the nearest neighborhood with grocery stores.

  2. The map only shows BRT routes serving downtown. The new service would let local bus hours be redirected. The 37 would lose its downtown connection (transfer to BRT @ Avalon, Alki or Alaska Junction) but use the freed up hours to become a frequent all day circulator route.

  3. The only way I see this working is to work out the busway/Spokane Street issue. Maybe the way around that is to create a way off the W Seattle bridge both directions and have a busway run along the existing Alaskan Way side road, and somehow duck to the 5th Ave busway along Horton St or some other dedicated corridor. This might also allow for future tie in with light rail along the same corridor. The fact is that Spokane street isn’t gonna have the space for it east of the existing Hwy 99, so maybe that corridor is left for cars above, trucks below with rapid transit peeling off to the west of Hwy 99.

  4. Well, we are getting the 4th Ave ramp for inbound buses (before 2010?). That will deposit them one block from the busway. As I said above, though, outbound buses are destined to forever crawl over to 1st ave on surface streets unless that existing 4th ave ramp is retained.

  5. Couple of problems I see with that ramp:

    1) A lot of people will be using it, unless its dedicated bus only (which will force everyone else onto whatever 99 is and I-5, and that seems to go against the broader plan)

    2) Once off that ramp, no matter how its fixed, you then have buses going through one of what will be with that ramp one of the most crowded and complex intersections in the city – 4th and lower Spokane. Also, depending on bus length and how the ramp is set up, they might not be able to make a hard right onto Spokane, then a hard left onto the busway. In any case, all that wiggling even without traffic are minutes gone.

    I agree, they’re probably destined to crawl over to 1st. The city hates that 4th ave ramp.

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