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.
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.
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.
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…