Work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the endless refixing of the First Avenue South ramp are turning the commute from West Seattle into an IV drip.
I live in the best neighborhood in the city, maybe even the country — West Seattle just above Alki Beach. The views of the Sound and Olympics are soothing and unparalleled. For 10 years I’ve told friends about my ideal setup: “It’s like living on one of the islands,” I would gush, “But without the hassle of a ferry!”
Until now. Work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the endless refixing of the First Avenue South ramp and the Grand New Waterfront That May or May Not Ever Be Realized are combining to pinch the traffic flow into and out of West Seattle like an IV drip. And as drop No. 82,034 trying to get through the pipeline, I can tell you things are not pretty.
It’s just seven miles door to door from my house to my office in Westlake Center. It should be a snap, and yet, it seems like it’s the commuting process that’s snapped.
• Bus. I’m a fan of Route 56, and my company gives us ORCA cards. In theory, it should be perfect. In practice … the bus sits in the clog, unair-conditioned, along with everyone else.
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• Water Taxi. It’s a great alternative, but it can be pricey, and would it be too much to ask that the W.T. hold its last boat until concerts at the stadiums or KeyArena are over?
• Driving. Yes, sometimes I drive. There are no shortcuts, no more back or secret ways — just the long slog of all of us as dispirited metal circus elephants tucking our trunks around the tail (car bumper) in front of us and lumbering along in hopes of arriving somewhere, sometime.
• Bicycling. I plan to try this soon. But I will then have to, like Larry David, stop cursing the bikers when I’m driving, and begin to curse the drivers when I’m biking.
• Van pool. We all sit in traffic together.
• Monorail. Oh, right.
Friends, I think it’s now time to think outside the bus. When you are stopped in traffic, you have a lot of time to dream up great ideas. How about:
• Hot-air balloons. I just need a place to take off from and a place to land. Imagine being high above all the stress, strain and naughty words. Sign-up sheet at my desk!
• Kayaks. Yes, this is a little tricky because of all the ferry and shipping and cruise-line lanes you have to steer clear of. But you could frolic with the sea lions and run with the J-pod.
• Jet Skis. If a group of guys can Sea-Doo from Alaska to Russia, Elliott Bay should be easy.
• Jetpacks. If we can get Apple and Amazon interested in a jet-pack arms race, we might soon have iPacks or KindleJets to zoom us from one neighborhood to another.
• Paddleboarding. Listen, if Jennifer Aniston can do this, so can you and I. It’s just a bit risky to try it while you’re wearing your nice work clothes. Are you feeling lucky? Well, are you?
Last week I dreamed that I had been appointed to a blue-ribbon panel to come up with solutions to gridlock. I was presenting a genius idea, and I could tell the crowd was starting to respond. It involved a giant zip line from the top of Columbia Tower to Smith Tower to the Water Taxi dock in West Seattle.
Then someone in the audience said, “But you’ve only addressed half the commute problem — from downtown to West Seattle.” My reply: “So I have an even better idea — monkey bars across Elliott Bay! We can go both ways, and everyone gets to work on upper-body strength at the same time!” I woke up before I could collect the bouquets, accolades, plaques, marriage proposals and ticker tape.
Anne Hurley is a website editor and a former editor at The Seattle Times and The New York Times. She has loved most of the 10 years she’s lived in West Seattle.