King County Metro has said it's too soon to tell how the ridership on public transit is turning out due to the Seattle Squeeze—when the Alaskan Way Viaduct shut down for good, leaving a major highway (SR 99) closed for an estimated three weeks.
What Metro does know: For the first time, West Seattle commuters are discovering that there's a thing called a water taxi, and it is good. Rides on the King County Water Taxi more than tripled during the first week of the Seattle Squeeze, compared to the same time last year, according to King County Metro.
As part of King County's plans to offset the effects of the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure, it doubled the number of water taxi rides available starting on January 14 (ferry rides traveling from the Seacrest Ferry Dock along Alki Beach to the downtown waterfront).
"The 10-minute crossing from West Seattle to downtown Seattle is a pretty consistent, reliable trip to bring you into the downtown core," said Jeff Switzer, spokesperson for King County Metro.
On Monday last week, rides rose to 2,872—compared to 779 the same day a year ago. Even on the worst day for ridership, Friday, King County counted 1,759 rides compared to 637 a year ago.
While the number of rides decreased early this week compared to last, it's still far ahead of the numbers from last year. Yet the water taxi rides typically aren't close to capacity—they have room for 245 or 278 people per trip.
King County Metro estimates that its standby buses have carried more than 27,000 people since January 12. And while officials in Seattle warned the public for weeks about the SR 99 closure—pleading commuters not to drive—the hellish backups we feared have yet to materialize.
Updated 8:42am on January 25, 2019, to correct that just its standby buses carried more than 27,000 people, and that one water taxi holds 245 (not 248) people per trip.