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‘Where did everyone go’ during first week of Viadoom?

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at the Seattle Department of Transportation's operations center on the first morning commute during the Seattle Squeeze, aka Viadoom. (Mayor Durkan's Office)

We have survived the first week of Viadoom, and I must admit that I am a little bit surprised. Where was everybody?

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Other than some accidents, many travel times were better than the traditional averages, even with the Alaskan Way Viaduct in use. It’s kind of impressive, actually.

Certain dynamics did change up during the morning commutes. For example, Lynnwood into Northgate generally went smoothly, but it was Northgate into downtown that was tricky. Usually, there is no distinction here. And generally, the morning commute into Seattle or the Eastside started one hour earlier than normal, depending on the route.

There were some traffic problems throughout the region, mostly caused by crashes and other disruptions. We did have two car fires on Friday. And a car chase on Wednesday afternoon. But most of the backups and slowdowns were not Viadoom related.

Viadoom week one observations

The Alaskan Way Viaduct closure continues next week as we all wait for the replacement tunnel to open. Here are a few observations that might help for week two of Viadoom.

  • Traffic starts to slow between Southcenter and downtown Seattle at 5:30 a.m. — one hour earlier than normal.
  • The Everett to Seattle or Bellevue drive was lighter than normal. Travel times were fairly swift, sometimes better than the usual.
  • If you want to get past the West Seattle Bridge without too much of a problem, get there before 6 a.m. After that, cars begin to crawl. Again, this happens about one hour ahead of the usual.
  • Many drivers out of the south end opted to take SR167 and I-405 instead of I-5. We saw volumes increase on those routes, pushing travel times about 10 minutes beyond the average. This translated to a 10 minute spike going from Auburn into Renton, and then again from Renton into Bellevue.
  • SR99 coming down from Shoreline was actually rather quiet. Of course, this route ends at the Western exit just after the Battery Street Tunnel. Drivers previously went straight on through to the viaduct. But without that available, SR99 was lightly used.
  • The Washington state ferries reported that the Bainbridge Island-Seattle route was not reaching capacity during the morning. They are usually full then. There was a notable number of people on bikes, though.

I speculate that employers are taking the advice of city leaders and staggering work shifts, or encouraging working from home — some combination of that. Also, parking lots for the Sounder train in Everett filled up about 30 minutes earlier than usual, indicating that many commuters were switching to the rail lines into Seattle.

RELATED: City reports massive increase in biking as Viadoom begins

Aside from that, I’m not sure where a lot of the drivers went. For example, I would have assumed many of the drivers missing from SR99 would have switched to southbound I-5. But volumes didn’t indicate that. Both routes were relatively smooth.

So whatever you are doing out there, keep doing it. It’s impressive, and it’s working.

Diving into the numbers

SDOT recently released numbers detailing the rise in biking, transit riders, and more.

On Wednesday, cyclists on 2nd Avenue in Seattle increased from to 685 in 2018 on that same date, to 1,207. On that same day, the Fremont Bridge saw an increase of 2,313 to 3,360, and the Spokane Street Bridge saw an increase from 591 to 1,325.

On Thursday, ferry ridership saw a notable increase as well, as denoted by statistics released by WSDOT.

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