Things I’ve Learned From the 358


aurora br


“Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your sufferings will be less because you loved goodness? Truth?”


I’ve driven buses across the Aurora Bridge about a thousand times. Every time I do so, without fail, two thoughts cross my mind.

The first thought is inevitably on how incredibly beautiful the everything looks. Regardless of conditions, whether stormy, foggy, clear; whether a loamy yellow in the setting sun or night after dark in deep blues, where you can sense the vast space while hardly seeing it—wow, I think, coming around the curve at Halliday and bursting into the wide open expanse.

It’s absolutely gorgeous out here.

The second thought is always about Mark McLaughlin and Silas Cool, plunging off the bridge to their deaths, taking the bus and all the passengers with them. Mark was not a driver who behaved in a way that would encourage assaults. He was one of the friendly guys. Perhaps you know of the incident; everyone on the bus either died or was injured, and the route number, then called the 359, was retired. Why change the number to 358? As Ron Sims said in 1998, right after the event, “so that years from now, people will ask why? And we can remember a person . . . we never want to forget.”

As I cross the bridge where he died, driving the same route he drove, the question naturally occurs to me how I would feel if the same circumstances took place on my bus. Am I prepared for that, I always wonder. I know what the answer needs to be.

The answer needs to be, I am completely okay with it, eyes open and ready.

We all have our differences, but there are a few universals. One of them, I think, is that we all wish to close our eyes for the last time having as few regrets as possible. People talk of squaring things away before they pass on. Time to make amends, as the saying goes. Having that long talk with your estranged brother. Connecting with your daughter before you Go. Being on good terms with the ones you love, and with yourself. Why wait till death’s door to be able to look in the mirror?

There is a drive in me to be good, to try and make actual my ideal of a good person. Part of it is reinforced by the daily reminder the Aurora Bridge offers. Awareness of death really means awareness of time. We place value on time only because we know it is limited, and what Bruegel the elder called the Triumph of Death can in fact be seen not as desolation but as a light, a gift of insight, the window through which we perceive the value of happiness and right action, now.

That’s part of the drive in me to square things away. I like a clean closet.

John is the guy from the end of this post, he of the white ponytail and smoky voice. He found me when I first started on the 358 over a year ago, and was thrilled by my attitude. “This is route is NO JOKE,” he would say, amazed at the ebullient sensibility I chose to bring to the environs. He’d stand at the front of the old 2300-series coaches and we’d gab it up.

The bus was often full—the chat seat not available for him—and the yellow line he’s supposed to stand behind was a couple feet back from my driver’s seat, making it awkward for him to stand and talk to me while still following the rules. I wouldn’t have minded if he was over the line- on those coaches it was painted pretty far back, and his being a bit in front of it would not have been a safety issue.

But John would lean in precariously, positioning his body at a gravitationally suspect 45-degree angle, proudly pointing out how his feet were “definitely behind the yellow line, check it out,” even if his entire body was in front of it. I enjoyed his company. He was rarely sober, coming from the bar after his day at work, and we would discuss the books he was reading, relationships, and kindness to strangers. I’d ride the 44, a passenger, and I’d see him get on and we’d keep right on talking as if the intervening weeks or months hardly existed.

Then one night I was in conversation with a driver friend at Aurora Village Transit Center when he came over. I was keyed into the discussion I was having, and intent on listening to my friend.

“Hey John,” I said distractedly, happy to see him but anxious to keep talking.

“Hey, Nathan! How’s it going?”

“Good, how are you?”


I nodded impatiently and he stood there, feeling uncomfortable in the ensuing silence. “Good to see you,” I said perfunctorily, and he smiled politely and walked away.

After that I didn’t see John for a while, but I wanted to talk with him- erase that awkwardness, and let him know that of course, I like his company. Yes, this is pretty small fry as far as regret-inducing dilemmas go, but sometimes it’s the little things that gnaw at us.

Weeks later- there he was! At 85th Street outbound! Hooray! The crowd began filing in, face after face, but… no John. He stayed back, outside, choosing instead to wait for the next bus. “John, what the heck are you doing,” I said aloud to no one in particular as I drove away. “You’re supposed to be riding my bloody bus!”

On the second-to-last day that the 358 ever existed, I saw him again at 46th. My bus was packed, and the general consternation of people boarding and deboarding lasted several minutes. Once again he didn’t board, instead standing just out of my sight, by the rear of the bus, sipping on his paper coffee cup.

“John, hey, man!” I said, jumping out of the coach and striding toward him. I didn’t think about the crowd inside the bus, watching and waiting. I just needed to shake his hand. It would take too long to explain why. I just like taking care of these things. Smoothing out the inconsistent details, ribbing the half-forgotten itches out of consciousness.

“Oh, heeyy, Nathan!” he said, turning, becoming alive.

Me, grabbing his right hand in a firm shake, left arm reaching back for a man-hug. “What’s goin’ on, John? Good to see ya!”

“Hey, good to see you too!”

“How you been?”

“Oh, I’ve been great, I’ve been great, I’m just, you know,”

“You finishing up work?”

I honestly can’t remember his response. I was too excited, gleaming as I took in his crisp eyes, chapped red skin, and bright smile. He was back; all was understood.

I asked, “you wanna go for a ride?”

“Well, yeah, but, that thing is stuffed, man.”

“Sure, sure.”

“I think I’ll finish my coffee here, get my book out.”

“Sure no yeah, makes sense. You wanna relax, spread out on your way home, I’m into it.”

“Yeah, you know.”

“Hey listen John, always good to run into you.”

“You too!”

“I’ll see you again!” I said, hopping back inside my bus. We’d walked back up to the front together.


Only then did I register how odd all this must have looked to the other passengers. The last days of the 358 had the quality of time traveling at a speed outside my experience. The act of shaking John’s hand collapsed the entirety of the day into a gesture. In it lived the desire to make things right, to touch the lives of all the strangers I’d come to know, to be close to the tough reality that had taken me in with such kindness…. To live and be in these final moments, without the need to process them yet as memories, to learn how to glory in the last breath of time, without sadness.

Read more stories at

Exploding Oil Trains Currently Run Through Downtown Seattle


oil trains

Two months ago in Casselton, North Dakota, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken oil fields hit a derailed soybean train on the outskirts of town.  A huge firewall exploded hundreds of feet in the air. Because the fire was so hot, the only thing that the Casselton Fire Department could do was watch it burn.

Last July, in Lac-Mégantic, a small town of 6000 in Quebec, an oil train which had its brakes incorrectly applied derailed at high speed in the middle of town and exploded into what survivors called “a tsunami of fire.” 47 people were incinerated by the explosion and 30 buildings, the majority of the downtown, were destroyed.

The blast flattened nearly everything in a 1 km radius, and heat from the fire was felt nearly 2 km away. The blazing oil entered the city’s sewers and roared out in huge fiery flumes in basements and sewer systems of nearby buildings. Emergency response called the scene a “war zone.” The fire was finally extinguished after burning out of control for nearly two days.

Oil trains carrying the exact same oil are currently running through downtown Seattle at least eight times a week. Currently, there are nine new proposals for oil-by-rail terminals in Washington that could increase the traffic of crude oil through Seattle to nearly three times a day.

Given the recent string of oil train disasters over the past few months, this dramatic increase in the transport of crude oil through Washington communities is worrying to say the least.

A Brief History of Oil by Rail

Using trains to ship this much oil is a new phenomenon. In 2008, the oil industry shipped less than 10,000 carloads of oil. Last year, they shipped over 400,000. Why the sudden increase?

The huge expansion of oil by rail has been due to the amount of recoverable oil from the Bakken oil fields of Colorado, Wyoming, and North Dakota. By using hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, the oil industry has been able to recover over 600,000 barrels of oil per day. The available pipelines are not able to handle this much oil.

Enter oil trains. Even though it’s more expensive, the oil industry has had to resort to oil trains to ship their product. Today, as many of 200 trains ship oil from the Bakken oil fields to refineries. In fact, two thirds of those daily 600,000 barrels of oil travel by train.

Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute says, “Our research suggests that oil is far and away the fastest growing type of freight hauled by rail, and that the volume of oil we are talking about potentially shipping through the Northwest would be nearly as much as the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Some of those trains go through downtown Seattle, right next to our waterfront where thousands live, within a few feet of Safeco and CenturyLink fields, and directly under Pike Place Market.

Why These Oil Trains Are So Dangerous

There are two huge problems with this. For one, the oil being shipped is dangerously unstable. This is not normal crude oil. Bakken oil contains natural gas and other chemicals used in the fracking process. Putting gas into tank cars meant to ship liquids can increase the pressure of these cars to dangerous levels and lead to explosions.

The other problem is the oil cars themselves. The Federal Railroad Administration found that Bakken oil caused “severe erosion” to these oil cars. Many of these oil cars running through downtown Seattle are DOT-111, the same ones used in Quebec and North Dakota. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found in 2012 that DOT-111 cars are inadequate and can lead to “catastrophic loss of hazardous materials” if they derail.

The oil industry is pushing back against any retrofitting of the DOT-111 cars because it would cost them nearly $1 billion.

Pushing Back

Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilman Mike O’Brien have introduced a resolution which calls for the increased scrutiny and new regulations for oil trains passing through Seattle. It calls for local, state, and federal agencies to work together to assess the risk these kinds of trains pose and calls on the city to review its emergency response plans in case of an oil explosion.

While this is a good start, 350 Seattle, a local environmental group opposed to these oil trains, has urged the council to include language about how these oil trains contribute to global warming and also to include a moratorium on any increased shipments of oil by rail.

Adam Gaya, one of the leaders of 350 Seattle says, “Even if these trains don’t explode, their cargo is still deadly—contributing to climate change, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels. “

Last Tuesday Mayor Murray called climate change “the most significant issue we have ever faced as a species.” The large volumes of crude oil travelling through Seattle to refineries and terminals, along with other fossil fuels like coal, significantly contribute to catastrophic climate change. Seattle will feel these impacts in rising sea levels, ocean acidification and an increase in catastrophic weather events.

Why Tech Workers Should Care About Housing Issues

Protesters block a Google bus in San Francisco.

Technology industry workers are not apathetic. The industry is known for its passionate defense of civil liberties, the unprecedented scope of the philanthropy of its most successful members (and not just Bill Gates—Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Pierre Omidyar of Ebay and Sergey Brin of Google were all amongst the top 10 philanthropists in the US last year), and growing movements in both education and immigration reform. Working in such a transformative industry naturally leads people to think and care deeply about societal issues. But I suspect most tech workers have hardly given a moment’s thought to housing issues. That needs to change.

The history of the technology industry was mostly written in the suburbs, whether in Silicon Valley or Redmond. But today tech companies and tech workers are increasingly choosing to locate in city centers. In San Francisco, the arrival of Twitter has brought an influx of tech companies downtown, while here in Seattle, Amazon has completely transformed South Lake Union. Given the large and ever-accelerating size of the tech sector, these companies and their employees are increasingly shaping the character and policies of cities. That gives the tech industry a responsibility for engaging constructively on housing issues, which are central to life in a city.

For a sense of urgency, look to San Francisco, the obvious example of what happens when a tech boom combines with failed housing policy. If you haven’t been following the growing hostilities of the last few months, here’s a quick summary of the conflict unfolding there. New residents have been flooding into San Francisco during the latest tech bubble, while construction of new housing continues its decades-long stagnation (see Gabriel Metcalf’s piece in The Atlantic Cities for a great summary). Predictably, already high rents have skyrocketed. Rightly or wrongly, tech workers have been cast as the villain in all this. Protests against evictions, rising rents and gentrification have become so frequent that they’re making national news. The improbable lightning rod for these protests has been the company buses that ferry tech workers each day to campuses south of the city.

Protesters block a Google bus in San Francisco.

Protesters block a Google bus in San Francisco. Attributed to: Chris Martinlicenseoriginal

In a sense, the protesters are right to blame tech workers for rising rents. Wealthy tech workers are directly competing with poorer residents for the severely limited housing stock in San Francisco. But in another sense, the blame is misplaced. Had San Francisco built housing to keep up with demand then there wouldn’t be ever more people fighting over the same limited housing stock. This is why the tech industry should be pushing hard for more density: because without it, their workers really are pushing out the poor.

The tech industry should be a powerful voice for more housing, more affordable housing, and an end to homelessness. But unfortunately, the message from the tech community that’s gotten the most attention is ex-CEO of AngelHack Greg Gopman’s rightfully reviled rant against the poor. Gopman’s contention that the poor should be forcibly removed so as not to bother the rich reads as almost too movie-villain evil to be real. But sadly, he has become the public face of the tech industry for many.

Being seen as the enemy will have real consequences for tech workers. Companies like Twitter and Amazon are able to locate in downtown cores because city leaders have welcomed them. If public sentiment turns against them, as it has in San Francisco, tech companies will surely find it more difficult to work downtown. Additionally, the new construction that houses so many tech workers in city centers can only continue if the public is convinced that density and growth is good for the city as a whole.

Seattle is thankfully in a far better position than San Francisco. We’ve continually added to the housing supply, keeping rental prices from rising as rapidly as they have in San Francisco. But debates about growth, density and affordability are far from settled. The tech industry in Seattle should heed San Francisco’s warning and get involved now. For their own good and the good of the city, tech workers should stand up to demand enough housing for everyone who wants to live here.

How Does Sound Transit Expand?

Sound Transit's Question

Sound Transit's Question


Sound Transit, the regional transit agency that builds Link and Sounder rail services and operates a lot of our express buses, is currently updating their Long Range Plan – a list of projects that informs their future expansion. This is the first phase of any ballot measure for additional Sound Transit service. As someone watching this process closely, this seems like a perfect time to talk about how an idea in an advocate’s head becomes a project serving the public!

Long Range Plan

At a very high level – everything starts with advocacy. To move forward on any project, someone must first convince Sound Transit staff, and eventually the Sound Transit Board, to add that project to the agency’s Long Range Plan – an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) first finalized in 1993. This EIS was updated with a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) in 2005, prior to placing Sound Transit 2 on the ballot, and now, in preparation for a potential Sound Transit 3, it will be updated with a new SEIS.

This document is a holistic look at the whole Sound Transit system and how it might expand: those projects that have already opened, those funded or under construction, and those that might be funded someday. The Long Range Plan is financially unconstrained – it isn’t worried about how much funding authority Sound Transit has now, or even how much funding they might win in a future vote. It’s intended to be a menu of projects the agency might build in the foreseeable future, with some, but variable, understanding of their scope and cost, and how those projects would fit into what’s already on the way.

The current update started in 2013, and should be complete by the end of this year. There’s a lot of public input gathered throughout, as with any EIS, and at the end, Sound Transit will release a new plan to the public, showing us all the directions we’ve asked them to go.

Revenue Authority

Before that work is even over, Sound Transit must also begin to lobby the legislature for revenue authority – the right to ask voters for more funding. Sound Transit is currently using nearly all of their existing revenue to build projects voters have approved, and will be paying those projects off for many years to come. To build more anytime before the late 2020s, they’ll need the authority to ask voters for more money.

Even without the current deadlocked legislature, this is difficult work. Not only does the Sound Transit board have to find a set of projects that are likely to poll well when paired with a particular source of revenue, they have to balance public demand in their own cities and districts with the interests of legislators – and grassroots supporters, major employers, business, labor, and environmental organizations, and engineering and construction firms – all the players who will help bankroll a ballot measure as well as their own elections. The Long Range Plan helps protect Sound Transit from some of these external pressures; by forcing the board to select from a list of somewhat vetted projects, there’s some barrier to terrible projects making it to the ballot.

System Plan

After identifying a revenue source and the bulk of the projects, Sound Transit uses their selections from the LRP ‘menu’ to create a System Plan that they might put to voters.

The first System Plan Sound Transit created was put to voters in 1995 and failed, but after modifying the plan, it passed in 1996, first funding Sound Transit projects. This same failure followed by success repeated in 2007 and 2008, with the final vote funding expansion of Sounder service, express bus service, and Link light rail north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and Overlake, and south to Federal Way (although with the recession, light rail will only reach Highline Community College for now).

A System Plan is financially constrained, including local revenue, bonding plans, and expectations for federal grants, and it includes a timeline. We don’t have time machines yet, so it’s hard to predict what a given source of revenue can achieve as the economy changes, both in how much is collected and in the cost of all the goods and services Sound Transit has to purchase to build a project, but Sound Transit increasingly plans conservatively to mitigate those risks.

If Sound Transit is too conservative, the System Plan will be too small or too slow to excite enough voters, and it will fail. If they aren’t conservative enough, though, projects will be visibly delayed and over-budget, dampening public opinion for their future legislative and voter needs.

Expert Review Panel

Before going to the voters, Sound Transit’s enabling legislation has one more requirement – they must submit their System Plan to a state expert review panel, adding months to the development of a ballot measure. As far as I understand, the expert review panel has never found a major issue in a System Plan. The import of this process seems to be almost entirely making the state government comfortable with the agency’s decisions – exerting power above and beyond the purse strings of revenue authority, a Dillon Rule artifact. As an aside, if I’m wrong about this, email me!

The Ballot Measure

Finally, once the System Plan is approved by the state, Sound Transit puts it to the voters. The board votes to submit a ballot measure to Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties. Sound Transit can’t spend money on campaigns, though, so in the meantime, a campaign is filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, and all the advocates, companies, and organizations I mentioned before put in a lot of money and time to win.

As I noted, this has happened four times so far – March 1995 and November 1996, and then November 2007 and November 2008.

The Four Elections

Different election years dramatically affect voter turnout: some people vote in every election, and tend to be older, whiter, and more well off; a more conservative electorate. The more spent by the campaigns and the more media covering the election, the more younger, more diverse, and more progressive people are reminded (or convinced) to vote. Turnout is far higher in a Presidential election than any other year.

Both of these pairs Sound Transit votes consist of a non-mayoral, non-legislative election followed by a Presidential election year. In 1995/1996, Sound Transit chose a conservative year followed by a progressive year – in fact, the original ballot measure in 1995 was a special election, the lowest possible turnout and most conservative electorate they could have chosen. In 2006, Sound Transit was prepared to go to the voters, but the state legislature asked them to wait until 2007 to be paired with highway expansion. In 2008, Sound Transit went to the ballot again by themselves and solidly passed. It’s possible that the highway expansion caused failure of the package (and I would love that to be the case), but I think it can just as easily be explained by the low turnout and more conservative electorate.

Far more people voted against Sound Transit when it passed than when it failed. Let me say that again: some 50% more people voted against Sound Transit 2 in the year it passed, 2008, than in the year it failed, 2007 (King 07, King 08, Pierce 07, Pierce 08, Snohomish 07, Snohomish 08). In the year when it passed, though, turnout was dramatically higher – the new ‘yes’ votes overwhelmed the new ‘no’ votes.

Suffice it to say, we should be aiming for a Sound Transit 3 vote in 2016.

The Future

We’ll be writing more about the Long Range Plan update as it continues, as well as particular projects that we can champion. Once Metro is saved, helping Sound Transit win revenue authority will be the next step on the path to Sound Transit 3, and you’ll hear more from us about lobbying existing legislators, as well as electing some new transit friendly faces.

Improving the Grid in Capitol Hill


Residential, woonerf. Attributed to: La Citta Vita – license – original

Over the past few years, the southern section of Manhattan’s Broadway has steadily transformed from a major vehicle arterial into a “complete street” and pedestrian boulevard. Instead of a “car sewer”, Broadway is now an inviting thoroughfare for walkers and cyclists, and a destination for shoppers, diners, and tourists.

The changes have also improved mobility, even for drivers. It may seem odd that removing traffic lanes could make driving easier. But as the article says:

In pursuing a policy that discourages automobiles from using the street, traffic planners see themselves as issuing a corrective to history: They say the diagonal of Broadway should never have been allowed to cut a path across the orderly right angles of the Midtown street grid. The resulting three-way intersections can slow down cars and tie up the broader system.

Like New York’s Broadway, Madison Street cuts across the grid, creating difficult traffic patterns and an inhospitable environment for pedestrians. When Madison Street was first laid out, it played a vital role in regional connectivity. A cable car ran the length of the street, and ferries waited at the other end to take passengers across Lake Washington. Today, Madison Park is a quiet residential neighborhood, and cars and buses travel across Lake Washington along two wide freeways. In addition, the Pike/Pine corridor has experienced a renaissance, becoming one of the most vibrant (and expensive!) parts of the city. And yet, Madison continues to carry four lanes of fast-moving traffic, cutting through the south end of Capitol Hill in the process.

We have a unique opportunity to reshape the southern end of Capitol Hill. By changing the role and layout of Madison Street, we can create a better environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. And we can do this while simultaneously improving mobility for drivers (or at least not harming it).

Pedestrian Retail Areas

Pedestrian Retail Areas
Pedestrian Retail Areas

Pedestrian Retail Areas

Great cities have active pedestrian-oriented retail areas, and Seattle has many. Could we use more? I think so, and Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) does, too. DPD is evaluating a major expansion of the city’s Pedestrian Retail Area zones, the biggest such expansion in the city’s history.

The Pedestrian Retail Area designation is an overlay on top of an area with Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning. The designation doesn’t increase development capacity. Instead, it requires pedestrian-oriented businesses on the ground floor, restricts driveway placement and parking, and waives parking requirements for certain uses. The rules are designed to foster a variety of uses and make these areas more walkable and safer for pedestrians. DPD is considering a set of new rules to strengthen Pedestrian Retail Areas by requiring that developments provide wider sidewalks and overhead weather protection, setting minimum floor area ratios (in Urban Centers, Urban Villages, and Link Light Rail station districts), and limiting lanes for businesses.

Pedestrian Zones MapDPD has identified 62 study areas for the project, including some new areas and expansions of exiting ones. For each study area, DPD has prepared an informational overview to analyse study area conditions, potential regulatory change impacts, and the study area candidate rating.

One of my favorite proposals for a new Pedestrian Retail Area is Aurora Ave N between N 72nd St and N 80th St. The area has changed a lot over the past few years:

  • Many new businesses have opened and existing property owners have invested in their buildings;
  • The RapidRide E Line provides more frequent and reliable transit service;
  • Traffic calming has reduced the speed of traffic; and
  • Many new mixed-used developments have been proposed, such as the recent project Aurora 77 at the intersection of Aurora Ave N and N 77th St.

If any area of Aurora has a real chance as a pedestrian-oriented street, this is it. Designating this corridor as a Pedestrian Retail Area will build upon the recent success of the area, reconnect both sides of Aurora, and further tame the street.

DPD is seeking input from the public on the study areas. If you’re interested in making Seattle more pedestrian-friendly, please take their online survey. It will only take a few minutes. The survey concludes on March 31, 2014.

Amad, iPads, and Customer Service



Read more stories form the road at

It’s that kid again, the one with the observant eyes. I’ve had a chance or two to chat with him in the interim. He is Amad, eleven or twelve, dressed in ordinary, low-profile garb. No flashy bling or starched denim–just a regular dark gray hoodie, not baggy, and jeans that fit. Amad’s coming home from school–it’s late afternoon on the 4, several hours after the schools have let out. Absent-mindedly I wonder what he was doing hanging around for so long before going home.

“Hope it was a good day at school,” I say.

I like to engage the young folk, to give them the example that yes, strangers can and do talk to each other. As a youngster, such opportunities can be strangely absent, particularly if you’re not employed; you may spend years of childhood and adolescence talking only to peers and adults in environments you already know.

The Bigger Picture of Viaduct Traffic

WSDOT - license - original

This past week saw a new plot twist in the Bertha tragicomedy: vehicle traffic is way down on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, from 110,000 daily trips in 2009 to 62,000 in 2012. As Ben noted, this not only explains some of the drop in solo commuting Mayor Murray touted in his State of the City speech but also bolsters the Mayor’s goal of lowering it below 25 percent. In fact, this target almost certainly hinges on not finishing the tunnel, since that new capacity would shift recent converts to carpooling, transit, and cycling back into their cars.

Given the uncertainty that Bertha will ever complete her route, there’s no question the SDOT data is good news. If we enter into the legal and engineering quagmire that the current standstill portends and the tunnel never comes to be, at least we’ll avoid catastrophic citywide gridlock.

WSDOT - license - original

Over at Sightline, Clark Williams-Derry offers four reasons that Viaduct volumes have declined. The most interesting is the “disappearance” of trips due to traffic delays, as commuters have shifted modes and changed routes in response to congestion caused by the removal of the southern end of the Viaduct. But not all of Seattle has seamlessly adapted to the substantial drop in capacity. Though a little hyperbolic, the commenters on Clark’s post reveal that commuting from West Seattle remains a struggle.

But the tunnel has never been the best solution to that. Not only is it devoid of exits into downtown and liable to worsen, not improve, congestion in Pioneer Square, but it’s stuck in an outdated, cheap-oil paradigm that we need to move away from. Plus, we now see it’s grossly overbuilt! It was sized for and justified based upon 110,000 daily trips, 40 percent of which are gone.

Still, I fear discounting the grievances of West Seattle commuters only solidifies their pro-tunnel point of view. In their minds, after all, they haven’t adapted seamlessly to a diminished Viaduct. Plus, it detracts from the real solution: bringing light rail to West Seattle. That isn’t a new fight. Back in December David Lawson considered what a West Seattle Link might actually look like.

Two months on, the data prove we don’t need the tunnel. But if commuting from West Seattle is really a nightmare, then the case for connecting it with better transit is only stronger. Rather than deflect their plight, let’s redirect disgruntled commuters towards that goal.