The Seattle Squeeze is coming

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 12/03/2018

Are you prepared? What to know about commuting when the Viaduct closes

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As we approach the Seattle Squeeze -- a new era of tough traffic -- we’ve collected information on how transportation in our region will be affected by the first major milestone: the Viaduct shutdown on January 11, 2019. This kicks off our "new normal," and employers and employees have a role to play to reduce pressure on the system. 

The impact will be major: about 262,000 people travel through downtown Seattle every day -- enough to fill Century Link field over three times. 

During the Seattle Squeeze, we'll all need to think about alternatives to driving alone. We need business to continue as usual -- for people to continue to work, for visitors to arrive, and for freight to be able to get around. The best way to make that possible is to get out of your car if you can -- and if you must drive, bring along a friend or two.

What impacts can we expect? Last time SR 99 closed for an extended amount of time in 2016, we saw:

  • Region-wide impacts, including longer travel times on I-5, SR 520 and I-90.
  • Peak commute times starting earlier and lasting longer.
  • More vehicles on downtown Seattle streets.
  • Increases in Sound Transit commuter rail ridership. In 2016, it doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent.
  • Increases in water taxi usage. In 2016, West Seattle water taxi ridership increased 135 percent, Vashon passenger ferry service increased by 27 percent.
  • Longer travel times for King County Metro buses rerouted off of SR 99.
  • More cyclists on the road.

Employers have an important role during the Seattle Squeeze. You can provide guidance to your employees, customers, and clients around appropriate commute options. Employers have different levels of resources, but we can all do something. We are encouraging our members throughout the region to think about the ripple effect the SR 99 closure will have and to communicate regularly with their staffs about how this will affect operations.

Here are ways employees and employers can help reduce congestion during the Seattle Squeeze:

  • Encourage use of alternatives to driving alone: employees can bike, take the water taxi, take the bus or carpool to work.
  • Support policies for telecommuting so that more employees can work from home.
  • If you are in a leadership position, consider setting an example by taking public transportation to work yourself during this time.
  • Shift company work hours so that employees can avoid peak travel times, before 6 a.m. or after 9 a.m.
  • Compress the work week, to reduce the number of days your employees are on the road. 
  • Consider transit passes for your employees. Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have not previously offered transit subsidies are eligible for a 50% rebate, up to $10,000, from the state. Contact Nick Abel, transportation specialist, at Commute Seattle for a consultation to see what might be available to you. 
  • Offer information on public transportation and encouragement for using such transportation to their employees.
  • Subscribe to alerts from the Seattle Department of Transportation at this link.