Reserving parts of Seattle’s public streets for transit use only is controversial. But, the debate over government-restricted lanes could be settled by addressing whether or not the lanes actually help people. Seattle officials promised transit-only lanes would “reduce travel times for all users.” Unfortunately, as the Washington Policy Center points out, “new analysis from [Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)] officials shows their claims are wrong, revealing the harmful effects the lane takings have had on drivers.”
Seattle commuters chose their cars about 60% of the time. That percentage increases for non-work related trips. Given the high percentage, it’s easy to see why SDOT’s promise inspired a good deal of well-deserved skepticism.
The Washington Policy Center reports that Seattle officials claimed restricting lanes to transit-only would make “commuting 24% faster in the PM Peak heading northbound on a stretch of SR-99 by reducing a 17-minute commute to 13 minutes.” Officials also estimated that “southbound trip times in the evening would drop by two minutes, a nine percent time savings over previous levels.” That’s not what happened, to say the least. The Washington Policy Center,
“However, a recent official analysis shows that didn’t happen. According to the SDOT report, not only did officials not provide the driving public with quicker trips, but for many people, travel times actually got worse after the policy took away part of the public street. Even bus riders heading northbound during the afternoon commute have suffered longer commute times since officials reserved the public lanes for transit.
“It gets even worse when you compare the actual results to what officials promised. For example, car and freight drivers heading northbound during the PM peak sit in traffic 31% longer than officials said they would. Oh, and good luck driving southbound. During both morning and afternoon peak periods travel times are 15% longer than planners said it would take.”
The Washington Policy Center provides the following charts to demonstrate actual commute times.
In the end, SDOT’s promises are—as we’ve come to expect of transit agencies in our state—empty. SDOT’s lane restrictions are just another example of ridiculous government policies that add to, rather than work to alleviate, Seattle’s traffic nightmare.
SDOT’s lane restrictions are just another example of ridiculous government policies that add to, rather than work to alleviate, Seattle’s traffic nightmare.
Reading comprehension may tend to increase if one would bother to read all the way to the end of the entire one-page SDOT report:
However, the increased travel time is partly attributed to construction activity at W Mercer Street which reduced the number of southbound lanes. Employment growth in South Lake Union also contributed to increased growth in traffic.
So, during the very years when Seattle was the fastest growing large city in the country, SDOT was able to reduce travel times for some commutes.
Clay Fitzgerald says
Sorry, bucko, the SDOT has absolutely NO credibility… that’s zero, nada, none! Your continuing reference to the SDOT website as a source for backing THEIR incredible contentions is stupid. If you can cite a truly unbiased, objective and credible source that agrees, then you might have a leg to stand on.
Sorry, bucko, the SDOT has absolutely NO credibility… that’s zero, nada, none!
Then complain to Shift and the Washington Policy Center. This post at Shift is an uncritical regurgitation of the linked post at the WPC, which is in turn based entirely on an incomplete, out-of-context (mis)reading of a single, one-page document from SDOT. (Good luck in complaining to WPC about the shoddiness of their “research”; the WPC has heard — and ignored — exactly such valid criticisms for the entirety of its miserable existence.)
Your continuing reference to the SDOT website as a source for backing THEIR incredible contentions is stupid.
Your decades of thankless toiling at low-level support positions in transportation engineering offices has obviously imbued you with enormous lingering resentment toward such engineers, but that does not mean you should make broad and baseless accusations against them. Either provide evidence of their malfeasance, or stop making groundless accusations against them. Put up or shut up.
If you can cite a truly unbiased, objective and credible source that agrees, then you might have a leg to stand on.
OK, genius, you tell us: what entity other than SDOT collects data on street traffic in Seattle, and why do you believe this other outfit to be better than SDOT? Again, put up or shut up.
Clay Fitzgerald says
Your obtuseness and disingenuousness does nothing to further your argument. There are other organizations, public and private that do traffic studies all around the country. I will never take the word of one agency that has a vested interest in backing their own claims, besides that the empirical evidence shows that traffic congestion in Seattle and surrounding communities is getting worse. I certainly can’t believe that what SDOT and you purport that SDOT traffic policies are making things better… because traffic is actually far worse now then it was ten or even five years ago.
You and I agree completely on the invalidity of this post. Your reason is that it depends entirely on SDOT data, which you have declared to be untrustworthy in any and all circumstances. (Why you complained about this to me and not Shift is a mystery you have yet to resolve.) I noted that even if one accepts SDOT’s data, Shift’s conclusions do not follow.
There are other organizations, public and private that do traffic studies all around the country.
Of course there are, but I hadn’t asked you that. I asked you to identify who you would trust to collect the data, because if a consulting firm uses data from SDOT in their traffic study, you’re just going to issue another groundless dismissal, since a study is only as valid as the data upon which it rests.
…besides that the empirical evidence shows that traffic congestion in Seattle and surrounding communities is getting worse.
No one here has disputed this, so you’ve made no contribution to the conversation. (If you had read the SDOT document, you might have seen SDOT’s own admission they had failed to meet most of their own goals for improvement of traffic flow.)
…you purport that SDOT traffic policies are making things better…
That’s what SDOT’s study showed — limited improvement in a few areas, worsening traffic in most areas. I was merely noting SDOT had made improvements in some areas, which contradicts the point of this post.
… because traffic is actually far worse now then it was ten or even five years ago.
Again, no one has disputed this. What should be obvious, even to you, is that Seattle’s population has grown dramatically in the last five years, and there are construction projects on major streets all across town. Ignoring this context, and blaming SDOT for all traffic problems — while groundlessly accusing SDOT’s engineers of unprofessional behavior — does nothing to help improve traffic. In short, “(y)our obtuseness and disingenuousness does nothing to further your argument.”