A crushing day on freeways, trains and buses

An estimated 700,000 people descended on downtown Seattle on Wednesday, and it seemed as if half of them came from Snohomish County.

At one point during the morning commute, the Everett-to-Seattle drive time was more than 90 minutes. In light traffic, it usually takes 33.

By late afternoon, with all those people trying to come back north after Seahawks parade day and festivities at CenturyLink Field, the drive time from Seattle to Everett was 73 minutes.

Transportation agencies had warned of a long and late commute, but traffic dissipated to normal levels in the early evening.

Many anticipated a traffic nightmare Wednesday and packed buses and trains for the trip to Seattle and back. Sound Transit reported unprecedented numbers of passengers, malfunctioning ticket machines and people left standing on train platforms as already-full trains pulled out.

“Today has far exceeded what we call crush capacity,” said Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason. Sound Transit estimated at least 20,000 people rode Sounder trains between Everett and downtown Seattle, based on the capacity of all the trains the agency ran during the morning commute.

In the morning, Sound Transit added extra cars to Sounder commuter trains and did so again for the northbound commute. It also planned to add additional buses to the 510 and 511 routes from downtown Seattle to Snohomish County.

Sound Transit had urged travelers via Rider Alerts, Facebook and Twitter to expect similar packed buses and trains during the evening commute, and that perhaps they should plan to stick around downtown Seattle after the events, maybe have dinner there before going home.

Community Transit planned to add six to eight buses in addition to the regular schedule of northbound express service from Seattle.

Community Transit also planned to add buses to Swift service on Highway 99 north from Aurora Village.

Despite extra train cars during the morning commute, there was at least one report of a Sounder train leaving passengers on the platform, at the Edmonds station. On the south line, running from Lakewood to Seattle, that happened several times during the morning runs.

In each case, extra buses were sent to those stations to try and get passengers downtown, Reason said.

Train platforms were so packed in the morning that Sound Transit employees were simply trying to usher people onto the train as quickly and safely as possible, even if they hadn’t bought a ticket.

“We are saying, ‘Get people on that train as soon as you can.’ Trying to collect fares will slow down that process,” she said.

That’s if the ticket machines were even working. There were reports of machines malfunctioning as well, Reason said.

Sound Transit’s bus capacity saw similar epic traffic. Extra buses were sent out on some routes, and drivers were trying to make sure passengers stayed on their best behavior.

“We’re just trying to encourage people to use their best Northwest manners and get through the day,” Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com.

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