West Seattle RapidRide parking/traffic changes continue taking shape for Luna Park, Triangle, Junction

February 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 26 Comments

(Click to view fullsize PDF of West Seattle RapidRide route map)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Few would dispute the observation that we are in a time of transportation transition – eventually toward more transit, fewer one-occupant cars.

The question of how to keep that transition balanced – without abruptly reducing the parking supply or constricting the traffic flow before transit services reach a true “we can get you there from here” status – is at the crux of a tug-of-war over how things will change along the route of the Metro RapidRide “C” Line in West Seattle. It’s not due to start rolling till fall 2012, but many details that must be finalized now, before stops, stations and other facilities are built – some as soon as this fall.

What does that mean to you, whether you’re a bus rider or not? We have a somewhat-clearer picture, after recent meetings in The Triangle and Luna Park, of how RapidRide will affect area business parking and overall traffic flow, particularly along a major east-west route to and through The Junction. The recent local discussion about RapidRide has concentrated on those elements, rather than on the service itself (which, according to a new study released last week by Metro, is earning high marks on its debut south-end route).

But at least two business owners aren’t happy with the results, and are vowing to keep fighting.

First: This past week, the Luna Park Merchants’ Association heard what the county and city said would be the final word on how much street parking will be removed for a bus-access lane on the east (bridge-bound) side of Avalon Way, enabling buses to “queue-jump” to get to the bridge.

In a corner of Luna Park Café, Metro’s Rapid Ride C Line (West Seattle) overseer Paul Roybal and SDOT’s Christine Alar (photo above) told the merchants were told that parking directly across from Luna Park Café, Avalon GlassWorks and Java Bean Coffee will be off-limits between 6-10 am weekdays, between SW Manning and SW Bradford – the government reps at the meeting said that’s about 15 spaces.


View Parking concern in Luna Park business district in a larger map

“That’ll kill my coffee shop,” said Java Bean proprietor Tony Hoyt, despite assurances that other steps would be taken to try to encourage people to visit the Luna Park businesses from the northbound travel lane, such as a marked center turn lane with arrows. (He has written an open letter that we will publish separately, shortly after this story. We detailed the Luna Park merchants concerns previously, in this report two months ago.)

SDOT’s Bill Bryant told merchants that they would continue working to see if there is anything more that can be done to free up other parking. Staci Gravely, representing ailing Luna Park Café owner John Bennett, said they’ve been looking at additional employee/guest parking uphill and behind the Luna Park building.

However, in a phone conversation Friday, Bennett told WSB that the parking loss could mean more than 30 spaces. He says the total space that will be lost to parking is more than 500 feet. (The city’s definition of parking-space length ranges from 15 to 19 feet.) He says he will keep fighting to get the city and county to reconsider the bus-access lane, which he contends would just “dump” the buses into a bridge-bound backup at the Spokane St. turn anyway. He and others also remain upset that RapidRide won’t be stopping in the Luna Park business district (Metro says their studies show there are more potential riders feeding into the planned stop uphill).

Whatever changes are finally made, they are coming sooner than the bus service, as much as a year earlier than RapidRide itself starts to roll; Roybal and Alar say that while RapidRide is not due to begin until September of next year, striping and traffic-flow changes, such as the morning bus-only lane between Bradford and Manning on northbound Avalon Way, may be in place as soon as this summer.

TRIANGLE/JUNCTION PLANS

Aside from a few possible tweaks, the parking situation also is settled along SW Alaska through The Triangle and The Junction – but so far, businesses and residents in that area believe it was settled satisfactorily.

The latest news came during one pivotal week in The Triangle recently. It included County Councilmember Joe McDermott joining Fairmount residents and Triangle businesspeople for a walking tour of SW Alaska, east of Fauntleroy Way. (Fairmount Community Association’s Sharonn Meeks is at left in the photo with McDermott; at right, Chris Porter and Dr. Terrill Harrington, from the growing health clinic you see in the background.)

Business owners had been alarmed by previous discussion of transit lanes potentially removing most SW Alaska parking along that stretch. The clinic for example, needs street parking so that patients with disabilities or health problems can get in without crossing SW Alaska or walking several blocks.

But three nights before the walking tour, at another meeting in The Junction, the county had revealed a new RapidRide plan for balancing transit lanes with business parking. The prevailing sentiment was that some potential problems still have to be resolved, but the plan generated more optimism than earlier versions.

That earlier, more formal meeting had primarily consisted of a briefing/Q-A session for three West Seattle Junction-area groups; it was headlined, like other meetings, by the Metro and SDOT managers working on RapidRide, who presented sketches of what they’re currently thinking for the Junction-to-Triangle section.

The route itself is not up for discussion, they reiterated – as did McDermott three days later – since it was approved by the County Council two years ago and would require a vote by most of them to overturn it; almost every meeting, though, includes at least one person contending that it would make more sense for RapidRide to take Fauntleroy Way all the way from The Junction to The Bridge instead of Alaska to Avalon to Spokane – but, “That alignment is pretty much set at this point,” said Metro’s Roybal.

According to Metro, the only part of the route that remains “fairly flexible” is the final stretch to downtown; Roybal told the Junction meeting that “depend(s) on phasing of (Highway 99) construction, but it looks like (RapidRide) will operate on The Viaduct through the immediate future, possibly up till 2016.”

Among the non-station stops, Roybal says the ones at Fauntleroy/Alaska will be built with foundations and electrical connections that could facilitate future conversion into full-fledged stations if ridership rises. All stops along the RapidRide run, which is replacing the current 54, will have RR signage.

Most of this will involve newly built facilities, though three of four Junction stops will keep the existing shelters, with some “refurbishing”; one will get an additional awning, and all will get the RapidRide signage, though Metro stresses that the existing artwork will remain too. At the Junction meeting, Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association reminded Metro and SDOT of the new decorative lampposts in the bus-stop stretch of westbound SW Alaska west of California.

Traffic changes in that area drew the most discussion and concern. As SW Alaska continues into The Triangle, that’s where the most revisions have been made. They were explained block by block, west to east, with this drawing shown – click for the full-size version:


BETWEEN 35TH AND 36TH: On the westbound side, there will be no transit lane between 35th and 36th. On the eastbound side, the existing bus stop will remain, and two parking spaces will be removed just west of 35th, since buses will be turning onto 35th from the outside westbound lane.

BETWEEN 36TH AND 37TH: No parking changes along this block, a big relief for businesses on both sides, particularly the growing medical clinic on the south side, whose operators had been worried about access for patients who couldn’t walk far.

BETWEEN 37TH AND 38TH: The transit lane resumes here, and some parking spaces will be lost on the north (westbound) side of Alaska here. The eastbound side (home to Mary North Travel) will keep its spaces. The changes from earlier versions were made possible, said SDOT’s Alar, by decisions including replacing some bike-lane stretches with sharrows.

BETWEEN 38TH AND FAUNTLEROY: The westbound RapidRide stop will be at 38th instead of the intersection, so it won’t conflict with the 76 station’s driveway.

FAUNTLEROY/ALASKA, INTO THE JUNCTION: Westbound, a bike lane is created here, all the way to Junction Plaza Park, since it’s uphill; there will be one westbound car lane, which means a traffic revision for people coming off Fauntleroy: Right now, if you are heading westbound from Fauntleroy at the “Y” intersection with Alaska, the center westbound lane allows either a left turn onto Fauntleroy or a slight right onto Alaska (depending on the light); under the RapidRide-related plan, only the far right lane will continue on to Alaska, which will have only one westbound non-transit vehicle lane between The Triangle and The Junction. There will be a vehicle lane, a transit lane and a bike lane between Fauntleroy and 41st, a vehicle lane and transit lane on the east side. Parking will be removed on both sides of Alaska between 40th and 41st. At 42nd, there will be “left-turn pockets” for cars; concerns were voiced at last week’s Junction meeting about turning options at 41st, as well as the truck traffic for the QFC store at 42nd/Alaska, so SDOT promised to investigate “options.” (During the discussion, there was a suggestion that the bicycle lane be scrapped to avoid a “bottleneck” here; Alar cited the city’s Bicycle Master Plan and noted, “I know our current mayor strongly supports bicycle lanes.”) Between 42nd and California, on the westbound side, parking will remain by Junction Plaza Park, but “approaching the intersection,” it’ll be removed. Between California and 44th, eastbound, there’ll be one through lane and one turn lane, which raises concerns of cars being stuck behind loading buses. SDOT’s Alar noted that the Walk-All-Ways California/Alaska intersection is being looked at for “alignment” so they can “shorten the light cycle.”

FAUNTLEROY/ALASKA, HEADING NORTH/EASTBOUND FROM FAUNTLEROY: A “bus bulb” will be built so buses will stop in-lane, which, Metro acknowledges, may back up some traffic turning from northbound Fauntleroy onto eastbound Alaska, but the county and city agencies believe volumes in that direction are low enough that it won’t be too problematic. One other benefit, they said, is that it will “slightly shorten” the pedestrian crossing there, which is expected to get busier over the years with more business and residential development in the area.

While Metro and SDOT say this is where they’re settling as station-building and road-striping time draws nearer, they agreed to look at several spots of concern – along the Triangle stretch of Alaska, that includes the area where buses “lay over” currently, along SW Alaska by 37th SW – Fairmount leaders pointed out it is a visibility problem. The 41st/Alaska and California/Alaska areas of concern are still being examined too, Alar confirmed when we checked in again this past week.

Beyond all this, other West Seattle bus routes will be examined when RapidRide launch time draws nearer; Metro promises more community meetings for that process. The community meetings mentioned above, however, were not part of the original RapidRide series of meetings – they were all the result of concerned neighborhood and business leaders working to get changes in original proposals they felt just wouldn’t work.

26 Comments

  1. I’ve lived in West Seattle near the Junction since the late Forties. This is the worst of scores of lamebrained ideas to be forced on the businesses and residents of West Seattle. Who, other than KC/Metro and Hizzoner, think this could possibly enhance our communities? It’s going to be a nightmare.

    Comment by fiz — 8:47 pm February 6, 2011 #

  2. I have only lived here since 01 but I have to tell you the car population has exploded even just from then to now and some of these drivers are pretty aggressive. We have no more room for any more cars here and yet they keep coming. As uncomfortable as this change may be I have to say I don’t see a lot of alternatives other than taking property and making new space. =/ Yes its going to cause problems but we may just have to adjust. I think the bike lanes are a bad idea though as people may just drive in them anyway.

    Comment by cj — 9:35 pm February 6, 2011 #

  3. I hope they know better than to mess with our beloved “walk all ways”.

    Comment by Neighborly — 12:04 am February 7, 2011 #

  4. The bike lanes are a great idea! Finally some consideration for bicycles in the Junction area. And I would hope that my fellow West Seattleites are intelligent enough to realize that a solid line with a bicycle image in it is NOT meant for cars.

    Comment by JN — 12:09 am February 7, 2011 #

  5. this rapid ride is a joke. It appears that anyone south of the boundaries is off limits too good transportation. I live in Arbor Heights and still have no good access to quick transportation to downtown. I would have to drive 1/2 way and find street parking, which irritates the neighbors who have no parking as it is. I do not have a need to have daily transporation to downtown or First Hill, but when I have a meeting, or appointment it would be nice to have a mass transit alternative. And I feel for the businesses on Avalon. This is just plain stupid planning, and shows the governments lack of care or concern for several wonderful businesses that are busting their chops to stay in business.

    Comment by coffee — 4:22 am February 7, 2011 #

  6. coffee, i’ve heard anonyme say this, too. with stops at endolyne, 35th/barton, and 28th/roxbury, the c-line stops as close to you as it does most people in west seattle. what am i missing?

    Comment by redblack — 6:43 am February 7, 2011 #

  7. I dont get it. Is the 54 totally going away? How do the people that dont live anywhere near the 22 get to White Center? And what about the people around Roxbury and Arbor Heights get to Westwood Village and back with groceries…?

    Comment by westsea — 8:09 am February 7, 2011 #

  8. I keep hearing that this rapid ride bus is going to replace the 54, but is it also replacing the 54 express? One of the reasons I moved to where I did on Fauntleroy was that the express bus was across the street from where I live – it’s pretty much a “rapid ride” already.

    Comment by Sue — 8:46 am February 7, 2011 #

  9. As someone who rides the bus almost daily and sometimes doesn’t get a seat, I am really excited about Rapidride. There has to be a way where businesses still thrive and Rapidride exists. This is WS, we can work together to make this a good solution for all…On one hand I get the parking issues for businesses, on the other, without more buses, I will drive more adding to more congestion. If a bus came by more often like this one, I would go to shop at Luna park even more….Everyone has a point, lets make it work for all.

    Comment by WS Lover — 9:55 am February 7, 2011 #

  10. There is a ton of parking at luna park, right around the corner under the bridge. Oh that’s right, when people take their car someplace they don’t want to walk more than thirty feet to their destination.

    Comment by austin — 10:02 am February 7, 2011 #

  11. Austin, that’s exactly it. Same deal with people moaning about the “lack of parking” that prevents them from going to Zippy’s for a burger. Parking is really not an issue in most of West Seattle, unless you expect to always be able to park within a few yards of the destination.
    I used to live right in this business district and there was always street parking available.
    (Side note: there’d be even more parking if the British auto guys stopped ranching their Land/Range Rovers all over SW Charlestown.)

    Comment by SarahScoot — 10:33 am February 7, 2011 #

  12. Yes, the 54 is going away – that means ONE stop between the Morgan Jct and the Alaska Jct. Unless you want to wait for the 128 so your commute, if you need to take the 128 to transfer to the RR line, will increase. The 54 is a good route now and I don’t think it’ll be so convenient for those living along California. They have stated from the beginning that the 54 was going to go away and that’s a major sore point for those of us living south of Alaska Jct.

    Good question regarding the 54x. Is that route staying or going?

    Comment by Al — 10:41 am February 7, 2011 #

  13. Wow, I guess I should have paid closer attention to this. No stops along California like the regular 54? This is going to be super inconvienient for those of us who can get on the 54 along California. On top of it, I don’t really think this is going to be that rapid.

    Comment by natinstl — 11:43 am February 7, 2011 #

  14. Yes, only one stop between Morgan and Alaska, at Findlay. It’s an attempt to make it, you know, Rapid.

    It’s a baby step to rapid transit, and people in cities with rapid transit have to walk to a transit stop farther away than our poky metro buses that stop at every cross-street. Creating right-of-way reserved for the bus is another baby step in the right direction, and re-striping a parking lane is a lot cheaper than, say, digging a multiple-billion dollar tunnel.

    Comment by New Guy — 12:35 pm February 7, 2011 #

  15. This whole things still really frustrates me, what about all of us NORTH of the Junction? I might actually us this to go to Admiral or Junction if it came NORTH of Alaska! Ferry riders, Morgan get rides but north of Junction does not……….

    Comment by mickey mouse — 12:39 pm February 7, 2011 #

  16. I’m curious, is there anyone here for whom this actually will improve on their current commute via bus? They keep talking about how much time it will save, but for me personally, it will mean an extra 10 minutes each way for me to factor in the much longer walk to the bus. Unless you already live near one of those rapid ride stops, I’d think it would inconvenience a considerable amount of people. So I can save 5-10 min. on the bus (allegedly), but will spend 10 min. walking. Not very “rapid” for my own experience.

    Comment by Sue — 1:26 pm February 7, 2011 #

  17. 54x is supposed remain unaffected. The theory is that for those stops on California between Alaska and Morgan the 22, 128 also serve the intermediate stops so Metro is hoping that people get on one of those if they need a bus to get to a RR stop. Since the C-line is supposed to come so often, Metro is expecting a short wait at a transfer point after taking either of the other two.

    http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/MetroTransit/RapidRide/CLine.aspx

    Comment by kr — 1:37 pm February 7, 2011 #

  18. kr, the way I’m reading that page, it’s not so clear (to me) about the 54X. The text under the route map says “The RapidRide C Line will replace Metro’s Route 54 along Fauntleroy Way SW and California Avenue SW between Westwood and downtown Seattle via the Alaska Junction.” Do they mean the 54 along the length of Fauntleroy (which is the express), and also the 54 along California, via the Alaska Junction (which is the non-express 54)? Or do they mean the regular 54 that starts out on Fauntleroy and then goes up California? The only place I’ve seen mention of Rapid Ride and specifically the 54X is on Wikipedia’s entry on Rapid Ride, where it says it will replace the 54 and 54X. However, I don’t take Wikipedia as an authority on this.

    Comment by Sue — 1:49 pm February 7, 2011 #

  19. Sue, I’m not certain, but I think there’s a good chance this RR line will make it more reasonable for me to take the bus, primarily because of reduced wait times to transfer.

    Comment by J — 3:14 pm February 7, 2011 #

  20. save Luna Park

    Comment by cassy — 5:47 pm February 7, 2011 #

  21. Anyone know the plans for 55 after RR starts? I like the direct (one bus) route from Admiral to downtown, I think it would be less convenient to have to change at Alaska Junction to the RR. Are they planning to reduce or remove 55 trips?

    Currently we have pretty good service from Admiral to the junction and downtown, I’d hate to see that reduced.

    Moose

    Comment by Moose2 — 6:25 pm February 7, 2011 #

  22. Other West Seattle routes are up for discussion, which is supposed to start later this year. PLEASE watch here – we’ll have plenty of notice – both casual presentations at community group meetings as well as official Metro-presented public meetings. P.S. RapidRide has a presence here at the Triangle open house, unannounced, so if you have questions and it’s before 8, c’mon down! – TR

    Comment by WSB — 6:55 pm February 7, 2011 #

  23. If you haven’t read this part “FAUNTLEROY/ALASKA, INTO THE JUNCTION:” of the plan printed above, you’re in for a surprise. There will be only one lane for cars, trucks, etc. from Fauntleroy to the Junction. Two lanes now barely handle the commute traffic. SW Oregon will have increased load for sure.
    .
    I don’t understand a plan that creates new bottlenecks. Some of us have jobs that don’t allow for bus commuting and we are going to have to live with this mess for a long time.

    Comment by fiz — 8:10 pm February 7, 2011 #

  24. Great, a ‘rapid’ way to get to downtown. What about all of us WS’ites that commute to UW everyday? What about a direct route without changing downtown? It’s a no brainer to get there in 15-40 min by car than the 1+ hour by local bus, changing in a not so nice area of Pike in the rain in the dark. I would gladly take a DIRECT bus there. Commuters from Fed Way, Lynwood, and even Stanwood have a direct bus. How about it fellow WS’ite xMayor Schell. You brought all the additional residents to WS over your reign of increasing living space here. How about helping us get out on a daily basis, now that you commute like the rest of us-or do you still have a chauffeur?

    Comment by UW bound — 10:41 pm February 8, 2011 #

  25. I guess its time to break down and buy a car…

    Comment by westsea — 2:07 pm February 10, 2011 #

  26. Blame the gubmint all you want, but they’re just following orders from the voters. We voted for RapidRide. It’s coming. Get used to walking a few more yards from parking not on the street the bus is running on.
    .
    If Luna Park business owners want to be reasonable and work with the transit community instead of discounting us and disregarding us, we could all work together to get a stop added by the park&ride under the bridge. (This would especially make sense since that is a logical place for transfering between bus lines.)
    .
    Eventually, expect all the parking on the streets along the route to go away. Once RapidRide starts up, and riders see the difference between how fast the bus goes in a bus lane vs. how fast it goes in general traffic on a street with parking, the street parking insisters will be vastly outnumbered.

    Comment by Blue Collar Enviro — 10:13 am February 12, 2011 #

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