A Little Bird Told Me

UPDATED: see below.

…that Viaduct Option C, a.k.a. the Alaskan Way and Western Avenue one-way couplet, is going to be the horse to beat. Here’s the scheme (for more detail, look here):

At the November 13 Viaduct Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting, the results of mobility studies on the eight viaduct options were presented. Reports by the Times and PI both focused on how the elevated option would provide shortest travel times by car, revealing the pathetically spent car-centric bias that has led to dismemberment by pavement in so many of our cities.

In contrast, the response from the People’s Waterfront Coalition (PWC) focuses on trips:

“All options serve the expected demand for trips effectively, only varying +/- 1% comparatively in how many trips they serve.”

And regarding the impact on I-5:

“Results show the number of trips diverted to I-5 is pretty low, and the viaduct decision doesn’t affect I-5 much; I-5 is pretty full now and will continue to stay full. Options B and C do not increase congestion or travel times on I-5.”

The PWC also points out that the model assumes a 20 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled by 2015. But that assumption is based on the status quo, ignoring the inevitable hit VMTs will take from rising fuel costs and climate change, as well as trip reduction that occurs when people use their brains to respond to congested traffic conditions.

My money’s still on a surface option. And I would not be surprised if option C becomes the favored surface option, since it no doubt provides more car capacity than A or B, and will be viewed as a compromise. But nope, I don’t much like it. The three-lane one-ways will encourage cars to travel too fast, and will create a more formidable pedestrian barrier on Western Ave. The intersection of Western Ave and Virginia at the north end of Pike Market would be particularly egregious. Color me down with Option B.

UPDATE: Also color me busted by commenter KeithR for not carefully reading the map, which shows an underpass for Western Ave at Virginia St. Still, from an urban design standpoint I’m still leaning towards B rather than C. I like the calm, pedestrian friendly character of Western Ave, for example at the bottom of Harbor Steps. I’m wary of an underpass, and how that will likely create a pedestrian barrier between Steinbrueck Park and Western Ave to the south, and then when it surfaces further to the north it will likely create more pedestrian barriers. And I think Alaskan Way is actually a pretty good location for a two-way multi-lane boulevard: there’s plenty of room for it, and as Matt the Engineer commented, a 3-lane one-way may leave too much open space. The energy of two-way boulevard seems appropriate for the waterfront, and overall the boulevard could contribute to the waterfront’s character and sense of place — think Champs-Élysées.