More than 2 weeks before the Metro RapidRide public open houses in West Seattle, the Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO) got a detailed preview of the future service last night, including even the buses’ likely red/yellow color scheme:
The buses will look different and so will their main stations and stops, so people will know the difference between a RapidRide bus and a regular bus. But before you get anywhere near riding one in 3 1/2 years, Metro’s looking for your thoughts on decisions to be made in a time frame that’s more like the next 3 1/2 months – decisions that might ultimately affect you even if you are sure you’ll never board a bus:
One big decision is regarding the route that RapidRide buses will follow through The Junction, as their route replaces the current 54. “We want this route to work and be attractive,” Metro project manager Jack Lattemann says, noting that the buses are to come every 10 minutes during rush hour.
Junction-area residents, however, say they want it to work for their neighborhoods as well as for their own use; they say they’re already dealing with plenty of “park-and-hiders” — people who park in nearby residential neighborhoods before catching buses downtown — and they’re talking with the city about whether they can create Residential Parking Zones, such as those you see near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal.
Lattemann suggests that The Junction might have to consider “parking kiosks” — the city “pay stations” — eventually to help “manage” the parking situation, particularly if RapidRide does not follow the same Junction route as the current 54. The two other options under consideration right now could both lead to some parking curtailment along California between Alaska and Edmunds — Rapid Ride buses might turn at Alaska (though Lattemann insists they would work hard to avoid making that the death of “Walk All Ways”) or even stop on California near the midblock crosswalk. If you’re wondering “what about routing the buses along 42nd” — Lattemann says a variety of factors make that unlikely, including sharp turns that the buses would have difficulty negotiating, and visibility issues because of big power poles.
Another decision he says Metro must make within a few months, from a list of three options, is where the RapidRide route will end — Morgan Junction seems to be the least-likely choice, but it appears as if there is genuine debate about ending it near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal versus ending it near Westwood Village. During last night’s discussion, Lattemann admitted that in the big scheme of Metro things, extending the route to Westwood wouldn’t cost that much more — 6,000 additional “bus hours” in a system now running more than 3.6 million “bus hours,” for example. But he says community opinions must be heard now – the routing decisions have to come before the stations can be built and other work can be done. The other major early decision will involve where the bus travels east of The Junction, and there’s been some talk about that already — the alternatives are described in this online questionnaire.
Last night, JuNO president Erica Karlovits implored Metro to keep in mind that the character and density of The Junction will change in a big way over the next few years, with the Fauntleroy Place and Capco Plaza megaprojects taking shape, and the future of the Huling ex-dealership properties yet to be revealed. The Metro reps acknowledged that, for one, a Fauntleroy/Alaska stop or station is under consideration, given how dramatically that intersection will evolve before long.
The siting of all West Seattle RapidRide stops and stations also constitutes a key decision to be made now. RapidRide will not stop everywhere that the 54 stops now, even where the route remains the same, and the most heavily used stops, as determined by Metro studies, will be “stations” similar to this rendering shown last night and described as already done for a route in Ballard:
“(The stations will) have larger shelters, and real-time information,” Lattemann says — electronic signs telling you when the next RapidRide bus is coming. The stops that don’t become “stations” will be well-marked with distinctive red pylons that he says you’ll be able to see “from a block away.” And the buses themselves, he says, will not just have a different paint job, they’ll be different buses — with three doors that open simultaneously to let people off and on, coupled with a fare system that won’t require everyone to file past the driver and pay or show a pass.
Metro planners are still awaiting some information that will factor into their upcoming decisions; they say a consultant report is due by month’s end. They hope it will be in before all those West Seattle meetings are done. Then, the RapidRide advisory panel, which has citizen representation from West Seattle, will help Metro evaluate the feedback that’s come in, with Metro making these first key decisions in the spring, and ultimate approval coming from the King County Council.
But first, this month and next month, West Seattle RapidRide is in “public outreach” mode, with your next chance to get details and offer opinions on terminals/stops and routing coming at one of the meetings (all listed here). (The Metro reps mentioned last night that a meeting also will be scheduled in Westwood, but we don’t yet have official word on when and where that will happen.) Also, take the online questionnaire, and use the contact info on this page if you have questions for Metro right now. Then when decision time comes closer, be sure to let your King County Councilmember Dow Constantine know where you stand – before he and his colleagues decide whether to go with what Metro recommends. Remember, this is a county service, though coordination with the city will be vital, and discussion last night indicated that’s still very much a work in progress — “I can’t assure continuous coordination with another jurisdiction,” Lattemann acknowledged.
And there are more than a few jurisdictions involved, considering that Lattemann describes RapidRide as “more than a spiffed-up 54 – it’s really a re-do of the corridor between West Seattle and downtown” while acknowledging that what happens when you get downtown, is dependent on what the state and city do about The Viaduct.
But however all that shakes out, once the service launches — target date fall 2011 – it’s up to you to ride it. “We’d like to double the [current] 54 ridership, which is flat,” says Lattemann. “You’ve got to get more of these people [West Seattle residents] into transit – with service every 10 minutes, it will get to be ridiculous with so many people still wanting to use their own cars.”
To help make sure RapidRide service is something that will indeed entice you out of your car, if you don’t already use Metro, your best chance to help shape it is right now.
Want to talk more about RapidRide in addition to commenting on this post? There’s a topic open in the WSB Forums; go here.