Friday, September 5, 2008

Seattle Bus Tunnel

In 2009 Seattle will finally have a light rail train that will run from Sea-Tac airport to downtown Seattle. The train will track through the Seattle Bus Tunnel that was built back in the 1990s. It's now being called the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

Many visitors to Seattle don't realize a tunnel runs under downtown, at some points, deep under downtown. This would seem to be a tad unsettling in an area known to have earthquakes. Supposedly the bus tunnel is built to withstand an 8.0 quake. I'd rather be on top of the Space Needle for such an event though.

The Seattle Bus Tunnel makes it real easy to get around downtown. There are 5 huge stations, themed to their location, like the International District Station is Chinatown themed. The Pioneer Square station is Old Seattle themed. The University Street Station is sort of High Tech themed. Westlake Station is the biggest. There are entries from the Westlake Station to several department stores, like Nordstrom's flagship store and to Westlake Center, which is one of Seattle's vertical malls and is also the downtown terminus for the Monorail.

It is free to use the bus tunnel to get around downtown Seattle. In the video below, that I took a month ago, on August 7, you'll see how well used the Seattle Bus Tunnel is.

There is no similar transit system in downtown Fort Worth, nor is there a need for one, since there are no department stores, few attractions and few people, like tourists, on the streets with a need to get from one end of downtown to the other. Arlington has no public transit system. Recently Fort Worth's bus system, called The T, began offering Arlington people bus service to Fort Worth from a couple Arlington locations. Few are riding though.

In the past year Seattle has started up a new above ground streetcar line, called South Lake Union Transit. They named it that before they realized the acronym was SLUT. By the time it was realized that a different name might be a good idea it was too late, the locals had taken to calling it the SLUT train. That's a SLUT car you see in the pic.

South Lake Union is a boom zone on the north end of downtown Seattle. Lake Union is a natural lake, it isn't the result of anything like a Lake Union Vision Project. Someday Fort Worth may have a lake at the north end of its downtown, the result of the Trinity River Vision. Somehow I doubt if that lake ever floats a boat it'll end up being a boom zone like South Lake Union. South Lake Union has an actual visionary behind what's going on there in the form of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Unfortunately, Fort Worth's billionaire benefactor is noted primarily for having bad taste in architecture with visions like naming a bunch of parking lots Sundance Square.

Meanwhile, Seattle has an actual public square at the heart of its downtown, thought they don't call it a square, it's called Westlake Center.

You'll see part of Westlake Center, both the 'square' and the vertical mall in the video below. And you'll ride with me through the Seattle Bus Tunnel to the Pioneer Square Station where we'll exit to someone singing about it being a beautiful world in Occidental Park.

Above I made mention of tourists. One thing that struck me this time up in Seattle is the huge increase in tourists from Europe and Asia. You'll see a lot of people from Japan in the bus with me in the video below.

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