Seattle commuters urged to leave cars at home during Oct. 21-30 viaduct closure

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Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail offer congestion-free commutes; riders urged to plan ahead for accessing busy stations.

Public transit is the answer during the major congestion expected on Interstate 5 and Seattle streets during the nine-day closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It is the best bet for commuters looking to save their time and sanity.

For some, Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail are the only options for congestion-free commuting. Bus services are expected to experience delays due to increased congestion but offer an opportunity to let someone else do the driving.

"The Seattle area has never before seen a highway closure of this magnitude," said Sound Transit Deputy CEO Celia Kupersmith. "Every day 110,000 vehicles drive cross the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Nobody knows how bad the traffic will get as those vehicles look for other alternatives. What we do know is that taking transit and other alternatives to driving are the best survival strategy."

In the final days before the closure, the Washington State Department of Transportation and King County Metro Transit are joining Sound Transit in emphasizing the opportunity to plan ahead for heavy congestion.

"Whether they drive or take the bus or train, every traveler should make and practice a backup plan," said Matt Preedy, Alaskan Way Viaduct deputy program administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation. "Every effort helps. You can help keep traffic moving even if you shift your commute just one day."

"If you can travel by bus, bike, water taxi, carpool or vanpool, or telecommute, it takes vehicles off the roadways and helps everyone travel more quickly and smoothly," said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. "Still, it will be very important that you allow for extra travel time no matter how you are getting around, and consider traveling outside of the peak commute times."

Transit riders who are thinking of accessing park-and-ride facilities during the viaduct closure are encouraged to consider other options since many facilities fill up early even on normal commuting days. For those who need to access transit services by driving, Sound Transit facilities that are least subject to filling up under normal conditions include Eastmont, Everett, Lakewood, Mukilteo, Puyallup Red Lot, South Hill Park and Ride, South Tacoma.

Getting information about how to ride Sound Transit services is easy. The online trip planner that is available at www.soundtransit.org lets riders enter their start and end points and find the best transit options that include riding services operated by Sound Transit partner agencies, such as King County Metro Transit, Pierce Transit and Community Transit. Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday riders can also call Sound Transit at 1.888.889-6368 for help finding the best options for reaching their destinations.

Link light rail runs on a dedicated right of way, so trains keep moving during high-congestion times. Commuters can access downtown Seattle from four underground stations located in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Link stations are also located in Seattle's SODO, Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley neighborhoods, and in Tukwila and SeaTac. Link, which serves 13 stations, runs 20 hours a day with trips every seven minutes during rush hours and every 10 minutes until 10:00 p.m., then every 15 minutes.

Sounder commuter rail service runs Monday through Friday in the morning and afternoon from Tacoma and Everett into Seattle's King Street Station. The nine stations along the 73-mile freight rail corridor that Sounder uses include Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Mukilteo and Edmonds. Like Link, Sounder operates on a dedicated right of way free of roadway congestion.

ST Express offers 25 regional bus routes, most with service every few minutes during peak hours. Regional Express buses serve most of the major cities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Most routes use HOV lanes and offer limited stops, speeding up commute times. However, ST Express services may experience delays due to increased traffic in Downtown Seattle. Riders may want to consider taking an earlier bus to allow for delays.

Commuters coming into downtown Seattle from the south may choose to de-board buses at Lander Street and take a Link train from Sound Transit's SODO station for a congestion-free light rail service the rest of the way into downtown Seattle. Using an ORCA smart card to make the transfer avoids having to pay two full fares.

Sound Transit riders can also plan ahead by signing up to receive rider alert e-mails and/or text messages. Rider alerts offer a great way to stay informed of schedule and other service changes due to traffic impacts. Alerts are customized by transit service, so riders have the option of choosing what updates they want to receive, including alerts for specific bus routes, Sounder north line, Sounder south line, or Link light rail. Sound Transit posts updates as information becomes available. To sign up, visit www.soundtransit.org and go to the Rider Alerts section at the top right of the page.

More information and tips for riding transit can be found at www.soundtransit.org.