New bus-only lanes on Columbia Street to cut commute times
Thousands of bus commuters will be getting faster and more reliable trips through Seattle next week, as Metro Transit unveils its latest bus-only lanes.
Since the viaduct closed more than a year ago, 12 Metro bus routes from West Seattle have been dealing with daily delays and headaches. The 26,000 daily riders were forced from Highway 99 to 1st Avenue South. Those routes endured so much congestion, Metro moved them again to 4th and 2nd Avenues.
Starting Saturday, those routes will run along Alaskan Way and use new bus-only lanes on Columbia Street to access the downtown bus corridor. Metro executive director Bill Bryant said this marks a return to somewhat normal operations.
“This is part of a game-changer that will ultimately include bus lanes up and down Alaskan Way, in both directions, 24-7, which is going to provide the most reliable connection between downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and neighborhoods to the south and southwest, especially West Seattle,” he said.
Bryant said West Seattle riders should start seeing normal travel times return.
“They are going to see a little bit faster trips on average, and they should see significantly more reliable trips,” he said.
If you haven’t been down to Columbia Street since the viaduct came down, the difference is amazing. The street has opened up with the removal of the ramp to the viaduct. Columbia used to be a westbound only road. Now, it will have one westbound car lane, a westbound bus-only lane, and an eastbound bus-only lane. Though cars will lose capacity, Bryant doesn’t expect it to be an issue.
“We don’t expect that car traffic is going to see much, if any, inconvenience as a result of this,” he said.
In addition to the bus lanes, Metro is adding new bus stops in front of Colman Dock, which Bryant said will get a lot of use.
“That’s one of the best parts of this project,” he said. “We’re expecting that that’s going to be a very popular connection.”
While many commuters will catch a bus at that stop to their destination, Bryant expects many people will just hop a bus so they don’t have to walk up the hill to 3rd Avenue.
The bus-only lanes on Alaskan Way should open in 2021, as the city continues to transform the road into a grand parkway.
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