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Seattle Squeeze
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The next phase of the Seattle Squeeze has officially arrived

(Mayor Jenny Durkan)

The first phase of the Seattle Squeeze kicked off in January, with the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Over the weekend, the next phase kicked off, when 830 daily buses were booted out of the Seattle transit tunnel.

RELATED: SDOT provides updates on delayed, over-budget projects
RELATED: Buses booted out of Seattle transit tunnel Saturday

“If you’re used to going to the bus tunnel, remember it’s not a bus tunnel anymore,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a Monday morning briefing at the Seattle Department of Transportation Operations Center.

With the Seattle transit tunnel now the exclusive domain of Sound Transit for running more light rail service, roughly 18,000 daily riders will now catch one of 15 separate routes moved to surface streets.

The routes that have new boarding locations: 41, 74, 76, 77, 101, 102, 150, 255, 301, 308, 316, and 550.

This all comes as the next phase in what SDOT is labeling the Seattle Squeeze, a half-decade-long period of major transportation construction projects across the city.

“Over the next five years, Seattle’s downtown will be in a state of transition to meet the needs of our growing city and region,” SDOT said in a recent blog post. “New mobility projects are being developed and constructed to connect communities to downtown with fast, regular service and to create the public spaces our growing region needs.”

To account for the 800-plus daily trips added to Seattle’s most congested city streets, a handful of measures were enacted. Those measures include:

  • Expanded bus-only hours for 3rd Avenue, now running between 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
  • New Orca transit card readers and real-time bus arrival signs at every stop on 3rd Avenue between Yesler and Denny, allowing for all-door boarding.
  • New bus-only lanes on 5th and 6th Avenues downtown, active between 3-7 p.m. weekdays.

The 3rd Avenue transit readers for all-door boarding won’t be fully completed until April 2019 at the earliest, and possibly as late as March 2020. New construction costs also sent the project over-budget by $3 million.

“Metro has developed a contingency plan to utilize on-street staff and ORCA hand scanners to replicate off-door boarding service during the PM rush hour period until the permanent ORCA readers are in place,” a recent SDOT report presented to city council reads.

The city expects the adjustment to the transit tunnel to largely affect the afternoon rush hour in the downtown corridor.

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