West Seattle RapidRide: County “not inclined” to reopen route talk

March 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm | In Southwest District Council, Transportation, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

Plenty of discussion when we reported last month that the Southwest District Council – reps from community councils and other groups/organizations around western West Seattle – agreed to send a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine asking that part of the forthcoming RapidRide “C Line” route be revisited. The council has finally received a reply – delivered in person by Constantine staffer Chris Arkills toward the end of this past week’s SWDC meeting – read on:

At the heart of the concern, as reported here last month, is whether RapidRide will bog down as it proceeds through The Triangle; its route is supposed to take Alaska to 35th, and 35th to Avalon. What if it took Fauntleroy east of The Junction instead? asked SWDC members Sharonn Meeks (from the Fairmount Community Association) and Vlad Oustimovitch (from the Fauntleroy Community Association).

A majority of their fellow SWDC members agreed to support sending a letter to ask that discussion be reopened for that section. The letter subsequently was drafted and sent; read it here in its entirety. Its opening excerpt:

The Southwest District Council requests that Metro reopen consideration of RapidRide routing through the “Triangle” in West Seattle, an area roughly defined by Fauntleroy Avenue, Alaska Street, and 35th Avenue. The city and community surrounding the Triangle area will soon be engaging in a planning study and having some flexibility with RapidRide will be helpful in ensuring that the full potential of this transitional area is reached. In addition, the new mayor of Seattle has announced that the city will be working on a plan to bring light rail to West Seattle, and it is likely that this area will be one of those considered for this system. It is important that Metro and city transportation efforts are flexible and well coordinated both with each other as well as the Triangle community.

At last Wednesday night’s SWDC meeting, after scheduled agenda items, Meeks noted that the council had yet to get a reply to its RapidRide letter – and that’s when Arkills got up from the visitor/observer seats in the room and said he’d come to deliver it in person, passing a folder to SWDC co-chairs Erica Karlovits (from the Junction Neighborhood Organization) and Chas Redmond (from the Morgan Community Association).

“We are not inclined to reopen the public process regarding the Triangle (route),” Arkills told the council. He also refuted the SWDC letter’s suggestion that RapidRide – scheduled for full implementation in West Seattle in 2012 – “replicated the (once-planned Seattle Monorail) routing.” According to Arkills, RapidRide routes are being based on the busiest bus routes, and in this case, the second-busiest is the 54 (West Seattle’s busiest bus route, the 120 along Delridge, may be the model for a future RR route). He also contended that there’d been ample “public process” before the routing was finalized.

Before too much back-and-forth ensued on Wednesday night, Karlovits intervened to say, “We weren’t prepared to discuss this tonight,” particularly since the response letter hadn’t been received in time to distribute among the members – which it since has been; Redmond sent it around and noted that the council and/or its member organizations “can request additional discussion” with Metro planners.

Constantine’s letter – which you can read here in full – contended that planners did indeed take the future potential of The Triangle into consideration from the start:

During the first phase of planning for the C Line in 2007-2008, Metro staff recognized that the Triangle area was going to become an important new development node in the West Seattle Community. As a result, the alignment of the C Line through the Triangle area was the subject of specific analysis and scrutiny by both staff and the West Seattle RapidRide Advisory Panel.

Constantine’s letter cited four main reasons for the Alaska to 35th to Avalon route: “Better operating conditions and sites for RapidRide stops on SW Alaska Street and 35th Avenue SW … Long walking distances for riders making connections between a Fauntleroy Way RapidRide alignment and other routes … Insufficient width on Fauntleroy Way for bus-only lanes … Better RapidRide stop spacing via SW Alaska Street and 35th Avenue SW.”

The letter acknowledges that a Fauntleroy route might “be faster by a minute or so” in “optimal conditions.” (For further elaboration, read the full 3 1/2-page letter, which again, you can see here.)

West Seattle’s RapidRide route originally was supposed to open next year, but the county announced last summer that the “branding” would be delayed till 2012 because 2011-12 is going to be the snarliest time for all that road work (Viaduct, etc.) and they didn’t want to call the line “Rapid” if it was anything but.

For more on RapidRide – here’s the official county infosite.

9 Comments

  1. I agree with Constantine on this one. You would save only a few minutes and you would force all the people transferring at 35th and Avalon to hike a couple blocks through like 5 crosswalks just to transfer to a RapidRide bus.

    Comment by Eric Goetz — 6:58 pm March 7, 2010 #

  2. Go Dow.
    .
    And to Southwest District Council, you do not represent me on this issue, and I would guess none of the many residents that would have farther to walk to RapidRide, just so that potential new businesses could get more traffic.
    .
    I choose not to think your stance is due to influence by developers. Instead I choose to believe it’s just that you’re a bit misguided and misinformed. Hopefully the thoughtful responses you’ve received will bring this issue to a close.

    Comment by Michael — 9:33 pm March 7, 2010 #

  3. I don’t agree with the Southwest District Council. I attended several community meetings on the topic of the RapidRide route before the final decision by King County. I believe the proposed route is the one that serves West Seattle the best. I would hate to see this issue reconsidered by the County.

    Comment by Sarah Hardt — 10:43 pm March 7, 2010 #

  4. I apprecaite that this council is an all volunteer council, but curious what sort of public outreach the SW District counil did they do before they asked KC to reconsider?

    Comment by Bus Rider — 8:18 am March 8, 2010 #

  5. People get very emotionally involved when it comes to transit, but I can assure everybody that the SWDC has no ulterior motives other than to see if it is possible to make RapidRide actually rapid. Currently it is slower than the 54 bus route it roughly follows, and yet has a fraction of the stops of that existing system. The community groups in the vicinity of the “Triangle” detour have never supported it, so this isn’t a new issue. It is one that never got fully resolved, and the SWDC was simply wanting it look at it again to see if there was a better way.
    .
    Metro argues that the reason for the detour onto 35th is primarily to aid in transfers, but in fact it already designates two major transfer points in this part of West Seattle (see red dots): http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/bus/area_images/SystemMap.pdf. One is in Alaska Junction, and the other is along Spokane below the viaduct (along with about 155 parking spots), on either side of the area in question. Even if the alignment changed to a direct one, it would still be possible to transfer at Avalon/35th by simply walking around the corner. That is why the detour around 35th seems convoluted and unnecessary.
    .
    Please, let’s keep the discussion about the bus route and not on any imagined conspiracies they can attribute to peoples good motives.

    Comment by vlado — 9:34 am March 8, 2010 #

  6. Just to keep it real for Metro:

    Aside from any considerations of the negligible value of this Rapid Ride scheme in general, if RapidRide is not soon brought through the Delridge Valley, Metro will irredeemably fail the mission it has been given.

    How is it that the Delridge route has not already been designated as a RR route? This issue was addressed before I started paying close attention, but now that I have begun to consider the issue, I cannot wrap my brain around the bureaucratic bumbling which negated the entire Delridge population.

    How is the heaviest ridership ignored? Isn’t the program based upon such numbers? How and why did this current route get funded first? When Metro states the parameters of the program, then why this exception? I am baffled. And a little disgusted by the potential implications. If someone can clarify whether I have misinterpreted the history of this, I would welcome it.

    Comment by d — 1:54 pm March 8, 2010 #

  7. Vlado–the proposed Rapid Ride line is not slower than the 54. That is simply not possible–same route, 1/4 the stops, easy loading from curb bulbs, etc–you do the math.

    I don’t know if you actually ride the bus, but for those of us who live along the Route 21 or 22 corridor, we often catch a quick 54 or 55 to 35 and Avalon and hope to intercept a transfer bus to the south end. Hundreds of people do this every day. If you take a quick Viaduct bus out to WS, then you double your chances because you can often catch a local that has gone through SODO. The bus transfer issue is a real one.

    Comment by I live on 35th — 12:25 am March 10, 2010 #

  8. d, I’m not really sure what you’re complaining about.
    .
    Delridge is getting attention. The 120 has been increased in service in the last few years, and may get more during the Viaduct project.
    .
    It is under consideration for a Rapid Ride branding, but there are a handful of others around the entire King County Metro region that are lined up first, so it will be awhile before revenues are available.

    Comment by Mickymse — 5:52 pm March 10, 2010 #

  9. “I live on 35th” — you just inadvertently made the point you were trying to discredit. The RapidRide will be slower because it will NOT ACTUALLY BE ON THE VIADUCT.
    .
    So it is best to make up that lost time through the wisest possible routing and the fastest possible boarding procedures.
    .
    That said, I have long maintained that there are actually too FEW stops in the RapidRide proposal. West Seattle is not that dense; Metro is asking for people to walk great distances for a service that will be not all that fast and — make no mistake here — not especially frequent. For many, they are encouraging the use of feeder buses, negating any convenience RapidRide should provide.
    .
    Stations a 1/2 mile apart would make so much more sense — walkable for most and, as long as boarding procedures are speedy, would add virtually no time to the trip.

    Comment by d.p. — 12:51 pm March 12, 2010 #

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