Seattle's free-flowing experience with more than two weeks of freeway lane closures -- predicted to be traffic Armageddon -- shows that the conventional wisdom about traffic isn't always right.
In a Seattle Times op-ed published today, Sightline Institute's Clark Williams-Derry opines on what the great Seattle Clog that Wasn't can teach us about transportation.
Listening to the news stories beforehand, it was supposed to be an absolute nightmare, with predictions of traffic Armageddon. Then, on the first Monday of the closures, Aug. 10, the commute came and no disaster happened. "Drivers heeded the warnings, and many stayed out of their cars, finding other ways to get to work. In fact, not only was there no traffic disaster, it was, in the words of one commenter on The Seattle Times traffic blog, 'The best commute ever.'"
The main lesson is that traffic is more flexible than we think, which may teach us something about other national and local transportation debates. For example, the amount of northbound traffic diverted from I-5 was just about equal to the volumes that enter the Alaskan Way Viaduct every day from south of the West Seattle on-ramp.
The two cases aren't exactly parallel, but "the fact that the existing transportation system sufficed to forestall a disaster should give us more confidence that, with modest improvements in transit and traffic flow, the region's commuters can find workable commuting solutions without the massive costs and neighborhood disruption of rebuilding the viaduct."
Thanks to Elisa Murray