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Gridlocked: Driving Solutions to our region’s traffic jams

The Seattle Times LiveWire community forums continue Thursday at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall with “Gridlocked: Driving solutions to our region’s traffic jams.” Speakers Mark Hallenbeck, Scott Kubly, Bryan Mistele and Jarrett Walker will discuss how the Puget Sound area can tackle its immediate and long-term traffic woes.

The event is sold out, but video clips from the event will be available Friday on seattletimes.com. You can follow the conversation on Twitter: #STLiveWire. The Seattle Channel will air the event in November. For information on LiveWire and future events, like us at facebook.com/STLiveWireEvent.

In advance of the Thursday event and in response to panelists’ Q&A answers published this week in the Opinion section, we asked readers, “How do you think we’ll get around in 10 years?” Below are selected responses:


Multi-modal is equitable

City and county services like transit are there to provide all citizens access to goods and services. Roads and freeways do not achieve this as they are currently oriented toward cars, which not every prison can afford or is able to use.

Until recently, most roads in this region didn’t provide for other modal shares like walking and bicycling. Unless the city and county provide access for everyone, roads are really only a service provided for those who can afford car ownership and therefore access.

Roads that support all transportation modes together with transit is the only realistic way to provide access to goods and services to the greatest amount of residents regardless of income or economic status. This is the only viable future.

Ints Luters, Seattle

Ration access to streets

Many Seattle streets are at or beyond capacity while the population continues to grow rapidly. Improving existing roads will just increase demand until the streets fill up again. When a resource is chronically overused, everyone suffers.

What we need is a rationing system for downtown arterial streets — perhaps even and odd license plates allowed on even and odd days or photo tolling on downtown freeway exits.

Tony Marshall, Seattle

Light rail is a good option to remove cars from the road

We might be behind, but the completion of the Sound Transit light-rail system will give neighboring transit services a way to connect throughout the region — but it will obviously take more than 10 years to finish.

In the short term, I believe that transit planning needs to focus on the frequency of service. If a rider can have access to a bus or train when he or she needs one, they would be more likely to use it.

While mistakes might occur along the way, like the problems with Bertha and the First Hill streetcar, and support of the Let’s Move Seattle ballot measure, others like Sound Transit are getting funding and completing projects on time or early, and are under budget (Capitol Hill station) — so we have to take the good with the bad.

No matter how bad things get, each car taken off the road will be a win for future transportation planning.

Art Kuniyuki, Seattle

Mass transit not an option for seniors

All of the solutions I have read about do not address the needs of those trying to age in place. They can’t ride bicycles, walk to public transportation or ride light rail.

Options like Metro Access, Hyde Shuttle and Senior Services volunteers are limited to daylight hours and have limited destination options. Will anyone consider how to expand options for baby boomers who will need to get to doctors, dentists, shopping, and might want to go to the symphony, ballet, theaters, movies or the opera?

I’d like to hear one person comment on serving those with disabilities or the health issues of the aged.

Gail Yates, Seattle

Bus routes are less expensive and faster to implement

Why not expand the use of “congestion pricing” during peak hours on freeways and major roads approaching and within the major cities. The revenues could subsidize the expansion of mass bus transit.

We could also reward, by tax or other financial incentives, larger companies (say those with more than 100 employees) for starting their work days earlier or later in the day.

Focus on a mass bus transit system with dedicated lanes, not light rail. Bus is less expensive and faster to implement.

Provide very low cost fees for transit and car pool to encourage usage.

O.J. Humphrey III

San Francisco built a train system, why can’t we?

I think we have a future of much more transit and alternate modes. I’ve lived in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. The Bay Area is much more of a parallel with the Seattle area than Los Angeles is. San Francisco built BART — with millions in cost overruns — in the 1970s. Los Angeles kept building freeways.

Now, even LA is building trains.

Guess what? You simply can’t freeway yourself out of this situation. Los Angeles did try, for years. Believe me, everyone discovered the hard way how much car traffic was prevented by BART. As time passes, there will be more and more use of the trains, and it will prove to be the right solution. However, this will be a while out, yet.

Pamela Moore, Tacoma

Dedicate lanes to buses

Dedicate the commuter lane to bus traffic and build more park-and-ride lots. It would be a lot more efficient and more people would ride the bus.

Light rail sounds good, but it costs too much and doesn’t carry enough people. And it takes too long to build — we should have done it back in the ’70s.

Mary Davies, Stanwood

Real solutions and alternatives to ‘Move Seattle’

Traffic flow can be dramatically improved throughout the region, especially King County. First, the current snail pace of light-rail construction could be accelerated to provide service to more commuters.

Metro could coordinate with Sound Transit to provide reliable and regular routes to light-rail stations. Metro could implement a state-of-the-art process for determining bus routes and schedules.

The state could identify the Interstate 5 corridor through Seattle as a high priority and direct funds to identify and remedy consistent bottlenecks. Inadequate and poorly functioning on- and offramps could be reworked to create better flow.

And to think, all of these improvements could start when the Let’s Move Seattle levy goes down, with voters explaining they are tired of paying for programs that do nothing to ease congestion.

Debbie Allison, Shoreline

Nowhere left to expand roads due to geometry of region

What other way is there to connect the areas where people can afford to live to the areas where people work than mass transit?

There is nowhere else to expand roads in this region, and low-density modes of travel have proved to be a major problem in every high-density population area in the world — what panelist Jarrett Walker calls a problem of geometry.

Add in the other consequences of increased automobile traffic — pollution, dwindling resources, the sheer amount of land simply needed for parking and the environmental impact of that type of land development — and the total cost of road expansion is far beyond what we should accept as a society.

Most major cities in this country have mass transit that is far better than what is available in the Puget Sound region. I would gladly trade in a daily commute via automobile for mass transit, but I do not have a viable option between Woodinville and Kirkland and Bellevue.

Scott Bowen, Bothell

A futuristic idea for travel: personal pods

I envision walking no more than 10 minutes from my home in the suburbs to a transit station, purchasing a ticket to any of 500 stations dotting the Greater Seattle area and stepping onto a moving platform to board the next pod.

Air accelerates the pod and flies it through a junction where I merge into a 7-foot diameter tube with a procession of other pods (2000 pods per hour). The elevated tube has a plastic upper shell, so I enjoy the view from my auto-type seat while the levitated pod glides through banked curves.

No matter where my destination in the grid is, the pod zips the entire distance nonstop at 35 mph via a computerized route through a series of interconnected large traffic circles.

I shoot through one of the fans that pushes all pods through the tube. Soon the pod alerts me for arrival, I am switched into the exit tube and decelerated to the station with air and magnetic brakes.

Within a 10 minute walk, I am at work, a favorite restaurant or a specialty store, all on my time schedule.

Ken Allender, Kirkland

Mass transit is most efficient

Downtown Seattle is geographically cursed.

Since we can’t expand Interstate 5 or Highway 99 through the city, we must act pragmatically. The city and the region must look to the data and support policies that increase mobility by maximizing throughput of people and freight.

Mass transit has the potential to move people much more efficiently than automobiles. Make transit faster and more accessible and more people will use it.

The state’s Department of Transportation 2014 Corridor Capacity Report showed that most of the region’s park-and-rides are at or near capacity. That means people are using that option. Expand it. Make it better. A light-rail line can move 10,000 people an hour.

Since increasing road capacity is not always possible, we have to make the most productive use of the road space that we have.

Nick Anderson, Seattle

Mass-transit isn’t integrated

A continuing theme and solution proposed by the panelists is the needed increased use of mass transportation. This has been proposed as the best possible way to decrease the current gridlocked traffic conditions and avoid greater gridlock in the future. Coupled with this is the push to create greater population densities along the existing and proposed mass transit routes.

There are problems with this, though. The current and proposed transit routes aren’t designed in such a way for them to intersect, which would make it easy and quick to move from one mass transit carrier to another — for example, light rail to bus.

Also, the current light-rail route from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport is designed in a way that makes it difficult for people to easily get to the train stations from a distance (by car) and park nearby so that they can take the train to their destination. The alternative is to just stay in your car and drive, increasing the gridlock.

Finally, the plan to increase densities along the mass-transit routes may be good in theory, but not everyone wants to live in these dense villages. And this idea doesn’t take into account the people in the suburbs or exurbs who would take mass transit if it were more convenient.

Robert Oberlander, Issaquah