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Alaskan Way Viaduct Traffic Has Plummeted

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Photo: Art Bromage

In news that should surprise no one, traffic volumes on the Alaskan Way Viaduct have dropped over recent years; what is surprising is just how much they have fallen – nearly 44% from a 2009 peak to 2012 (the last year for which data is available). The Sightline Institute is attributing the reduction partially to a long term decline in driving (thanks millennials!) and to the fact that some folks either changed their routes to avoid tunnel construction delays.* But the biggest reason for the drop was a huge increase in Metro ridership. Of the 48,000 fewer vehicle trips, 33,000 of those drivers chose to ride in a King County Metro bus.

Could increased transit funding be behind the increase in ridership? Metro certainly thinks so, they've expanded their service by 10% since 2010 using state funding for mitigating the effects of Highway 99 construction. Unfortunately that funding runs out in June which is both well before the targeted 2015 tunnel completion and the exact same time that Metro loses funding from the temporary $20 vehicle license fee.

What does this mean for Seattle area commuters? Get ready for more crowded busses and slower commutes as the coming year's transit cuts push riders back to driving. Don't be surprised to see traffic volumes creep back up on the Viaduct while the area's transportation network works towards a new equilibrium.

Of course you could rise above the car vs. bus fray and hop on a bicycle, the weather should be mighty pleasant by June.

*No word on how many people were avoiding the viaduct to ensure they weren't smashed when the next big quake comes along.

Daniel Diiulio is a civil engineer and current graduate student at the UW; he considers bicycles vital to humanity's future prosperity. Follow him through the streets of Seattle here.
· Traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Has Collapsed [Sightline Daily]