By Karen Berge
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
This topic brought together members of the West Seattle Triangle planning advisory group, Metro Transit, Seattle Department of Transportation, project architects, local business owners, community leaders, and neighborhood residents.
A big concern for many is the potential elimination of street parking on SW Alaska between Fauntleroy Way SW and 35th Ave SW; that topic became the main point of discussion.
First: The Triangle planning process’s lead city planner, Susan McLain, emphasized that there are many constituents to consider with Triangle development, “much, much broader than the group in this room.”
So who was in the room? A show of hands indicated that many had attended previous meetings about Triangle development and are also already familiar with RapidRide – the Metro service scheduled to come to West Seattle in September 2012 – and aspects of its proposed implementation here.
This meeting included 3 fairly short informational presentations, followed by discussion and Q&A. David Hewitt of Hewitt Architects, who’s been part of the Triangle advisory-group process, was the first presenter; he gave a review of the Right-of-Way Concept Plan that’s been presented to the group, using several large architectural illustrations on easels. Regarding some of The Triangle’s streets, Hewitt noted, “With 80-foot right-of-ways, it could allow for back-in angle parking on one side, parallel parking on the other.” He also pointed out, “Everything will be vetted through some sort of public process” and “input from the community can shape what the area can morph into” – potentially a true gateway for West Seattle. (The Right of Way Concept Plan is viewable online – see the links on this page, under the October 27th meeting heading.)
Second, Paul Roybal of Metro gave a RapidRide overview, similar to those he’s presented at several recent community meetings (here’s our coverage from the Morgan Community Association last month). He noted the buses will get signal priority at some stoplights and will have dedicated lanes, “Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes” – which have been the crux of community concern, because, on SW Alaska, BAT lanes would require the removal of parking spaces.
Bill Bryant and Christine Alar were there on behalf of SDOT; Bryant provided a briefing on SDOT design work for the C line, now 60 percent done; the last major solicitation of community feedback, he noted, had been two years ago, when the design was at 30 pecent completion. Following up on the subject of BAT lanes and parking removal, “BAT lanes usually require parking removal – that’s the hardest piece of this”; he reiterated that he understands “how important this issue is, especially for businesses. The current design would turn over the two lanes of parking for transit lanes and right-turning cars.”
After his presentation, attendees who had listened quietly, but intently, moved into actively voicing questions, concerns and ideas – either pushing back, probing for more details, or trying to brainstorm alternatives. Highlights and quotes from the comments and questions portion include:
o “There are at least 5 businesses that will potentially be ruined by taking away the parking here.”
Several people described the potential impacts and hardships to nearby businesses:
o One of the doctors from the office at 37th and Alaska spoke passionately about how many of their most vulnerable clients need to be able to park near their entrance and will not be able to use alternative parking that is further away or on the steep side streets. Another staff member from that office echoed those concerns.
o Impacts to business deliveries were noted as a concern.
o Several people voiced concerns about the removal of parking near the VFW.
o Someone asked if they’d analyzed the increased risks of crossing Alaska, especially for children going to or from the West Seattle Family YMCA (WSB sponsor); he noted how dangerous it is even now to lead a rope-line of small children across that wide street, which will become more dangerous with two additional lanes and more traffic.
o “Have you considered the impacts to the fire station there on Alaska? Is there a study from RapidRide on impacts for that?” Reply: “Yes, we’ve been talking with them.”
o “Why is there going to be a BAT lane there (along that stretch of Alaska) but nowhere else?” “Having such a lane there would give most speed benefit in terms of travel time savings. BAT lanes offer a huge benefit to reliability and speed, particularly approaching intersections. There are other proposed BAT lanes including one along Avalon approaching Spokane.”
o “Are BAT lanes during peak hour only?” “The current agreement is they are from 7 a.m. -7 p.m. daily.the agreement would have to be changed. Both agencies (SDOT and Metro) have expressed willingness to minimize impacts and that may result in changes. ”
o “Can the time savings be made up elsewhere?” “Not easily, because each minute saved here is worth a couple down the line, since more riders are on the bus here and later will have gotten to their destinations and gotten off the bus. ”
o “You’ve said that Rapid Ride would shave about 4 minutes off of a route; How many seconds of the 4-minute savings would be gained there?”
o Several people brought up moving the proposed BAT lanes to Fauntleroy Way SW rather than SW Alaska Street. Reply: “There are problems with moving all negative impacts to another area. Wherever you’re giving priority to transit..you’re going to have impacts somewhere.”
o The issue of commuter parking in the residential areas was an issue that generated comments from the group.”What about Park & Ride lots? I don’t understand city’s policy on Park & Ride in West Seattle and why people are parking in the neighborhoods.” “The City policy places parking at a low priority.” “Wait! Don’t go all ‘Party Line’ on us, because Party Line also places a priority on small businesses …”. “Why is Park & Ride off the table?”
No one spoke out in support for the proposal to remove the parking; even bus riders who said they took that route daily were asking about other ways to make up the lost time or other places where the buses could be rerouted.
The meeting wrapped up with the presenters emphasizing that “One of the reasons we’re out here is to gather feedback,” and “we’ll be taking a long look at the concerns.” Metro also says it plans community open houses next fall – a year before RapidRide is scheduled to start in West Seattle – to discuss remaining details and concerns.
Meantime, the Triangle planning process – looking years into the future as the area continues to evolve – will have its own community open house early next year; no date set yet.