It hasn’t really snowed around here since Seattle won its only Super Bowl nearly 3 years ago. When it snows and sticks, our region has a deserved reputation for basically falling apart, like the multi-day Snowmageddon of November 2010. Paltry amounts of snow bring us to a standstill, and there are many plausible reasons: the rarity of storms, icing due to multiple freeze/melt cycles, a dearth of snow tires, a street grid built for rain (steep and straight instead of switchbacks), lots of poorly-suited articulated buses, and a generally fragile road network full of chokepoints.
With snow in the forecast for Monday and (especially) Wednesday, it’s a good time to refresh your knowledge of transit snow operations in Seattle. The first thing you should do is sign up for alerts. Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and WSDOT all provide thorough information on road closures and reroutes. Being a Twitter user often gives you a leg up too; follow @seattledot, @kcmetrobus, @SoundTransit, @MyCommTrans, @PierceTransit, and @wsdot_traffic.
In major Seattle snow events, there are a few basic reroute principles:
- First Hill: no service west of Broadway. Trolley routes such as #2/3/4/12 detour all the way down to the International District.
- Queen Anne: No routes travel up the Counterbalance, with routes 2/13 getting a tour of Kinnear/10th Ave W along the way instead.
- Capitol Hill/Central District: Route 8 is basically an entirely different route, using 8th, 9th, Pine, and Union between South Lake Union and the Central District. Route 11 skips the steepest part of Madison east of 23rd. Routes 10, 48, and 49 operate normally.
- SE Seattle: Link usually hums along normally, and Route 7 runs normally except skipping the Prentice Loop. Routes 106 and 107 skip Skyway, staying along Lake Washington between Renton and Rainier Beach.
- NE Seattle: No service on NE 65th street east of 35th Ave NE. There is a convoluted shuttle system for Wedgwood and Ravenna, and new routes such as Route 62 detour all the way to UW Station.
- West Seattle: All routes skip the Viaduct and the high bridge, using 1st/4th and the Spokane Street Bridge instead.
- NW Seattle: The least disrupted area in Seattle, most routes operate normally. Exceptions include Route 5 (no Fremont Ave) and Route 26 (no NE 40th St).
In 2010’s Snowmageddon, Link was the only mode that didn’t fail, With the ULink extension, Capitol Hill and UW riders can now join the ranks of the snow-immunized.
In all likelihood this potential storm will fizzle out as others have, either skipping Seattle by retreating north to the Convergence Zone, or yielding a meager snowfall that immediately melts on warm roads or is washed away by rain. But once in a while things actually get messy, and with some prior planning you can be ready when it does.