Friday, October 10, 2008

Expanded bike access to Seattle's downtown bus tunnel

The bus tunnel opened up to bikes on September 22nd. Before, the only places one could board transit with a bike were at the first and last tunnel stations, at Convention Place and at the International District station, respectively. With this new announcement, which I understand is provisional, people can mount or dismount buses with their bikes at any station in the tunnel. Today I decided to try.

I rode my usual bike route from North Seattle to downtown, coming south on Dexter/7th Ave, this time to Westlake Ave, then to 5th Ave, and then to Pine St. I have to say that Westlake has gotten to be a terrible way to travel, perhaps excepting the South Lake Union Trolley; because Westlake is diagonal to the grid, it has nearly twice as many cross streets as a grid street would, it has a signal light at every intersection, and every time I've traveled this section of Westlake, I've had to stop for every light. I don't notice a lot of cars driving this part of Westlake, either. The South Lake Union Trolley gets priority signaling, I understand, so travel times might be quicker on that trolley or in its immediate vicinity. The more things change, the more they stay the same

Anyway, When I arrived at Westlake Center, I saw on an information kiosk that the tunnel station was right across the street (underground, of course), but I didn't see a way to get down to it. I still didn't see a way after investigating a couple of building entrances right above where the kiosk said the station was. Meanwhile, a disturbed fellow was yelling at some other people who were looking at that same kiosk that he was going to (paraphrasing) 'forcefully insert a camera into their nether regions'. I think the subjects of his tirade were tourists. I hope they take better remembrances of Seattle with them than being loudly threatened by a crazy person.

A King County Sheriff's car was across the street with a pair of officers inside. Maybe they were keeping an eye on the menacing loud guy. I asked them where the tunnel entrance was and they told me it was underneath Westlake Center, which was going to be the next place I investigated. There were no stairs that I could find, only escalators on which wheeled vehicles were prohibited. So I found an elevator and went down a level, followed a few signs and went through a few doors, then found the southbound lane and went down a staircase to it. My bus pulled up while I was at the top of the stairs, so I hustled. Once I got to the stairs, everything was fine, but I don't think I'll try using Westlake with my bike again -- it's a pain to get to, and who needs waiting for an elevator (which might be full) when you shouldn't have to? If I catch another King County Metro #150 home this evening, I'll try dismounting at another station, probably University Street, and see how that goes.

Postscript: I took the Sounder home instead, as my wife had lined up a babysitting gig that I had to be home earlier to facilitate, so no more tunnel exploration for me today. Ironically, the train was late, so I missed my connection, only getting home at the last minute.

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