The Great Freeway Freak-Out That Wasn’t

A gigantic tanker blew up on a San Fransisco area freeway interchange the other day. Gridlock was predicted for Monday’s commute. But…

It didn’t happen.

I’ll let Dan Savage explain:

How was the disaster averted? Mass transit got a boost—more trains were running, more ferries crisscrossed San Francisco Bay, and some folks opted to telecommute. Now the same people that predicted disaster today are warning us that the disaster—the chaos! oh, the humanity!—will surely come tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. It’s likelier, however, that disaster won’t come because drivers will do what drivers do only when they must: adjust. Find other ways around, switch to mass transit, telecommute, ride a ferry.

But once again freeway addicts deprived of a freeway predicted disaster and disaster failed to materialize.

Tear down the viaduct now.

While I’m not quite ready to tear down the viaduct, Dan has a point. We are often convinced we need the things we have, only to realize that, perhaps, we can live without them. I’m certain the destroyed section of freeway will be repaired, but it goes to show you just how flexible commuters can be if they have options.

How naive can you be Will? Don’t you know that Seattle is different, and that transit can’t possibly work here? And while other major cities have torn down waterfront freeways, and commuters have managed to adapt, don’t you understand that this just won’t work in Seattle, because… well… um… it just won’t?


  1. 1

    George W. Bush lost the WAR and GBS knows that conservatives politicians and their supporters are TROOP HATERS!! spews:

    You mean a “fire” melted the steel and caused the structure to collapse.

    I hope this puts an end to the conspiracy nuts who believe that the government placed charges in WTC building to bring them down on 9/11 because buring fuel doesn’t get hot enough to melt steel!

  2. 2

    Essex spews:

    God – if I want to read the all so expert on every topic – really full of shit – Stranger, then I would go there.

    Goldy, the rag is full of poison.

    What the hell does Dan Savage know about SFO traffic on the long haul? He know far more about SFO dick sucking, duh…..


  3. 3

    Windowdog spews:

    Agh, all the talk of Seattle mass transit has quotes from Reality Bites running through my head on an infinite loop.

    Damn you people.

    I mean you just give people a place to read the paper… a good cup of coffee….

    As a daily NJ Transit rider I’d venture that you really don’t want transit officials making your coffee, especially in a java crazy like place like yours.

    Oh dammit it just won’t stop.

  4. 4

    ArtFart spews:

    SFO has had horrible traffic since before Seattle even existed. It also has not only its cable cars, but lots and lots of streetcars and buses and taxicabs, and several ways (BART, Caltrans, ferries) to get into and out of the city other than driving. That the people who live and work there already knew this and adapted to the situation shouldn’t be any big surprise.

  5. 5

    ArtFart spews:

    Wasn’t someone from Homeland Security talking a couple years ago about a concern that terrorists might hijack a gasoline tanker and use it to take out the Golden Gate Bridge?

  6. 6

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    I’m working down in SF now and I tell you their mass transit works. And the problem everyone predicted did in fact not happen. I’m staying in the area where the Embarcadero Freeway used to be. The earthquake in 89 took it down and in its place is a lovely boulevard. Predictions of traffic nightmares gave way to new condos, restaurants and jobs. It’s great. Seattle could learn from SF.

  7. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Does this mean we don’t have to pay $4.4 billion of taxes for a white elephant across Lake Washington?

  8. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I predict $10 tolls and $6 gas will do wonders for the popularity of Seattle’s mass transit!

  9. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    If Clay Bennett’s on the ball, he’ll put out a press release today say, “See? You don’t really need those bridges … so, you can afford my basketball team after all!”

    If he misses this golden opportunity, he’s a fucking incompetent.

  10. 10

    kirk spews:

    Wasn’t it just last week that Dan was complaining about the masses riding on mass transit (gasp) right next to him?

  11. 11

    ArtFart spews:

    2 “What the hell does Dan Savage know about SFO traffic…”

    Probably more than Mike Seely.

  12. 12

    DB spews:


    San Francisco “mass transit works.” That is an important difference between that situation and Seattle.

    Put in a train, build light rail, make the transit system work from different points in seattle, and then we can talk about removing auto capacity.

    Currently, it would take me 2.5 hours to get from west seattle to the university district via Bus. (ASSUMING that the buses ran according to schedule, which is a huge assumption.) The same trip takes 20 minutes via the viaduct.

  13. 13

    Poster Child spews:

    Art Fart @ 4
    I was tempted to think of your “SFO has had horrible traffic since before Seattle even existed” as the stupidest thing ever, but given that the Denny party got here in ’51 and that SFO population grew from 1,000 in ’48 to 20,000 in ’49, you’re probably right.

    I’m so sick of population growth. Sick to death of it – it fucks everything up.


  14. 15

    jason spews:

    it’s already been pointed out, but i’ll pile on to attacking this stupidity – WHEN SEATTLE HAS THE SAME MASS TRANSIT OPTIONS AS SAN FRANCISCO, THEN YOU MIGHT HAVE AN ARGUMENT. hell, i’d even put up with a *plan* for mass transit. no, you people want to tear down the viaduct & then start thinking about how to move people around the city after the fact.

    my god, the stupid. it burns.

  15. 17

    Emily spews:

    DB @ 12:

    Buses aren’t the only way to use mass transit. Is there a van pool from West Seattle to UW? If not, can you start one? Get on a waiting list? How about just a plain old-fashioned car pool? There are a lot of way to get to work that don’t involve driving in your car all by your lonesome.

  16. 18

    DB spews:

    The problem with that is that I live a mile from Alaska Junction. And like most people I am not going to walk a mile to take a 45 minute trip, and then a 45 minute trip back and then walk a mile home.

    The problem there is that my trips are somewhat unpredictable, or at least at odd hours (not at 8 and 5 every day). As such, a carpool or vanpool doesn’t serve my needs.

    People need to get where I need to go quickly, when I need to go there, and with a minimum of fuss. Until those three criteria are met, you will continue to have a ton of drivers. There just aren’t enough people willing to put up with the bullshit for a “good cause.”

  17. 19


    The mistake is that it was one day free transit and alot of absenteeism. Not sustainable in the long run. That’s not an argrument against transit, as I am the transit man.

  18. 20

    zounds! spews:

    The deal is, the Bay Area HAS good mass transit. I watched BART get built 30 years ago, and it’s full a lot. IN THE EVENT we actually have mass transit options, I will not drive, but Seattle offers little to no options.

    Truly sad, since I would much rather ride a monorail or light rail to work, meetings, etc.

    My job requires me to move about town, and this town SUCKS for mass transit. I simply cannot wait until 2027 (yes, 2027!) for the light rail plan to be completed. What am I supposed to do for the next 20 years? I want transit NOW. GIVE ME OPTIONS, and I will use them!

  19. 22

    Wells spews:

    Link light rail is on schedule for opening in 2009. The time-consuming part of building a light rail system are preliminary studies, engineering, politicking, funding finagling, management. Seattle’s future light rail line expansion will take even more preparation time for the tunnel under Capital Hill, Portage Bay and UW; and a lot of preparation time for the complicated I-90 crossing of Lake Washington and route through Bellevue. LRT routes south of Seatac and north of Northgate will also be pretty complicated. Good grief.

    The problem I have with the upcoming transportation package: it’s great that light rail expansion is funded, but much of the preliminary work has not been done. Sound Transit is putting the horse before the cart, once again. “Give us the money. We’ll decide how to spend it later.” The package also lacks funding for a proposed east/west spur to Southcenter/Renton and Burien. These spurs could be more productive than extending south to Tacoma, or extending north from Northgate. And I’m still skeptical about whether the tunnel to UW should proceed.

  20. 23

    social economist spews:

    Logical fallacy.

    SF has mass transit, and didn’t have gridlock from one particular accident. If Seattle copies what SF does, then there will be no gridlock from accidents. Discuss.

  21. 24

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    BART was already working on emergency planning while everybody was figuring out what happened. Longer Trains, more trains, not sure if they went to 24 hour service. THey do the latter whenever the Bay Bridge is closed for repairs.

  22. 25

    Chicago Kid spews:

    Old time Seattle types don’t want to learn from Manhattan and Chicago. When I moved here I was warned about the “Seattle is special” types who resist condos and transit. San Francisco traffic is better this week folks and that’s a fact. Tear down the viaduct and Seattle traffic will improve, that’s future thinking. Dan Savage cares about the future of Seattle not the past of dive bars and crappy single family houses.

  23. 26


    It’s interesting that since this article was written, the University bridge in Seattle was shut down for almost 2 days and caused horrendous traffic snarls… and that’s not even a freeway bridge! Seattle’s transportation system is so fragile that any one link being taken out would paralyze the city. Seattle’s transportation system is being surpassed by those of San Francisco, Vancouver BC and Portland. Any more political gridlock in this city and even Spokane will have a far better transportation system.