Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Another discussion, this time @ City Hall

Cup-half-full version: West Seattle could have light rail as soon as 2026.

Cup-half-empty version: West Seattle won’t get light rail any sooner than 2026.

That was the bottom line of a briefing that was part of the City Council Transportation Committee‘s meeting this morning. Potential West Seattle light rail wasn’t the only topic – in fact, it was the last part of the Sound Transit guest appearance, which in turn was only part of a busy agenda (above is Seattle Channel‘s video of the entire meeting – the briefing starts 35 minutes in). The briefing followed the order of the slide deck. And however you view that potential date, it would depend on West Seattle being written into Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan when it’s updated later this year; it didn’t make it into the plan previously, ST reiterated today, because of the since-scrapped plan for monorail service between West Seattle and downtown.

The slide deck itself didn’t contain the potential 2026 date – West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, asked for a date, and all ST reps would give him was that 2016 would be the earliest a “Sound Transit 3” measure could go before voters. Perhaps a “board member” could speculate further, they said, with all eyes turning to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a board member who happened to be right there at the table.

He then said that in the most optimistic of scenarios, it would take another 10 years to build potential West Seattle service, if it was on the plan, then on a ballot measure, and approved.

Making it clear he wasn’t just describing West Seattle but also including other not-currently-served communities, O’Brien said, “we know people out there are screaming for it.”

When they got to the WS possibilities, ST briefers again went over the scenarios that have been presented in recent months, dating back to this Executive Committee briefing and two briefings in West Seattle, including the WS Chamber of Commerce luncheon we covered last month. As pointed out at those discussions, if there is a West Seattle proposal, it wouldn’t necessarily be one of these scenarios, but could combine elements of them. And ST is considering “bus rapid transit” as well as light rail (LRT). Routes for LRT could just go into West Seattle and White Center, transferring people to buses to get to Burien, Tukwila, and Renton from there, or might go all the way to Renton, stopping in eastern West Seattle along the way – or options inbetween.

Rasmussen asked how the city could request that ST be sure to include West Seattle; staffers at the table verified that they already had sent a letter to ST asking it to include Seattle corridors including ours “and others that are consistent with” the city’s transit plan.

Once the Long-Range Plan is updated – with or without West Seattle – ST would be in a position to “move into system planning,” in other words, coming up with a proposal that then could go to voters for funding, and that process would be expected to run through most of 2015. ST also called attention to King County launching its own long-range planning and a directive from County Executive Dow Constantine – who currently chairs the ST Executive Board – to make sure that Metro and ST plans are “not just coordinated, but deeply integrated.” A report on that, it was mentioned, is expected to be out next month.

P.S. The meeting also included the committee’s first guest appearance by SDOT director nominee Scott Kubly, as part of his confirmation process. A vote isn’t expected until next month. (Among other things, Kubly asked Councilmember Rasmussen to give him a guided tour of West Seattle sometime soon.)

73 Replies to "Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Another discussion, this time @ City Hall"

  • anonyme August 12, 2014 (2:55 pm)

    At this rate, we’ll have hovercraft before we have a transpo plan.

  • AmandaKH August 12, 2014 (3:11 pm)

    I watched the whole Meeting (’cause I am a transportation nerd apparently) and my take away is that Sound Transit really has their s*it together. It is Extremely unfortunate that we were not in the 2005 long term plan. And I mean EXTREMELY, as it pushed our needs way back. However, I heard that we are more like 12 years out, rather than 20 or 30, and Mike O commented that he’d like to shorten that timeline. I think we can, and I think we can by joining together and lobbying DC on our behalf.
    Oh, and I really Like Scott Kubly! He’s an action guy, and in Seattle, that is very very very rare.

  • WSB August 12, 2014 (3:19 pm)

    12 years out is indeed what I wrote above, but that, as you heard, would be the most optimistic date possible … 2 years to a ballot measure, then 10 years for construction (assuming approval of the ballot measure). Would be interesting to look back and see if anything that has been done to date has been achieved in that kind of timeline or less – for example, the light-rail extension now being built past Sea-Tac Airport, when was that first proposed, etc.? I don’t have time to research right this moment but will look later. – TR

  • Trickycoolj August 12, 2014 (3:29 pm)

    After visiting Beaverton/Hillsboro, Oregon four weekends in a row (helping mom relocate) I get increasingly jealous about how much more forward thinking their transit plans and urban development planning is in the Portland Metro area. They built their light rail tracks in the 80s-90s as they built their freeways and anticipated the growth as opposed to Seattle’s oh crap we’re over crowded reactionary infrastructure development. With all the job growth in the Silicon Forrest and 15 minute light rail into downtown from the ‘burbs out in the Forrest makes me wonder when not if they will take over as PNW powerhouse.

  • AmandaKH August 12, 2014 (3:39 pm)

    I’m an eternal optimist TR, always will be ;)

  • Rick August 12, 2014 (3:45 pm)

    Best to appoint a “blue ribbon” committee to study it. Then we’ll arrive at our usual destination.

  • Ray August 12, 2014 (3:46 pm)

    It makes little sense to have West Seattle before the other major metro areas (Bellevue/Redmond).
    To get people to use it, it needs to go where they work. The major areas are downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue, and Redmond. Until those areas have service, it is pointless to spend time, money and resources on non-destination locations. Once those are up and running, West Seattle makes a lot more sense.

  • colleen August 12, 2014 (3:48 pm)

    I will be dead by 2026

  • skeeter August 12, 2014 (4:12 pm)

    How much faster would a light rail line be compared to Rapid Ride? Say rush hour AM from the Alaska Junction to 4th and Pine.

  • Diane August 12, 2014 (4:28 pm)

    I know it’s not just about us/me, but if I am not dead, I will be pretty darn old by 2026

  • Wes C. Addle August 12, 2014 (4:29 pm)

    I tend to lean towards @anonyme and @colleen’s outlook unfortunately.

  • junctioneer August 12, 2014 (5:10 pm)

    It sounds cool, but I’m confused, this must have been mentioned before. But how would Light Rail be any faster than RapidRide/bus? Would it not use surface streets? Or would it be the same speed? And if it would be the same speed—what is the point?

  • kgdlg August 12, 2014 (5:20 pm)

    This has been said before here (I forget who always reminds us) but for the cost of Light Rail – to engineer the bridge to carry it, or, god forbid, to tunnel it to the Junction, we are going to likely get service that is AS SLOW as a true bus rapid transit (not Rapid Ride). (I mean bus rapid transit that has dedicated lanes that don’t merge with traffic, right to downtown.)

    So, for example, if a theoretical light rail ride takes 30 minutes and so does a bus rapid transit line and Light Rail costs twice as much, which should we choose? We should all be thinking about this…

    Moreover, with the significant potential cost of bringing Light Rail to WS, do we really think the region will approve this kind of ballot measure?

    See what living in Seattle for 10 years has done to me.

  • Mark32 August 12, 2014 (5:24 pm)

    I wonder if the monorail vote had anything to do with the timing of this?

  • wakeflood August 12, 2014 (5:35 pm)

    I know I’m in the minority here but I’ll throw this out anyway. First, Ray is right, build it to where the work/growth is going. Everything about it is cheaper and you get more ridership and acceptance when you solve that commute.

    WS (and Ballard for that matter) should exchange moving back in the queue for a more cost effective alternate sooner. Bus Rapid Transit. The distance to downtown isn’t long enough to pencil $250M/mile all-in cost (more if you tunnel to resolve the terrain issues but even if you don’t you have to re-engineer the high bridge).

    Conversely, a well designed couple of elevated ramps between the junction and WS bridge to provide DEDICATED bus lanes create the same throughput and time certain transit to downtown at literally a fraction of the cost. i.e. $1.5Billion for light rail compared to $300M for BRT.

    But then again, I expect most would rather grasp the dream…for their grandchildren.

  • Yep thought about it August 12, 2014 (5:39 pm)

    Yep thought about it……. Would rather have light rail. Can’t be undone, moves better in weather, doesn’t require as many drivers, and it’s permanent

  • WSobserver August 12, 2014 (5:47 pm)

    I lived in the Bay Area in the early to mid 1970’s.
    BART was constructed during that time. The Contra Costa county extension has been added since.

    BART also included a tunnel under San Francisco bay and a number of elevated platforms. How did they manage to build a much bigger project in a larger more densely populated area in less than half the time of this Seattle transit proposal?

    I guess I’m asking why Seattle can’t manage to get this done during my lifetime? What makes our transit so egregiously incompetent?

    • WSB August 12, 2014 (6:20 pm)

      WSobserver – I’m a mega-fan of Bay Area transit – it’s the kind of place you really can visit without a rent-a-car, or if you road-tripped to get there, you can park your car until it’s time to drive back. As such, I have to mention, the “tunnel” isn’t a tunnel – it’s a tube, built on shore and dropped to the bay floor. 135 feet at the deepest point, according to – while looking at the Elliott Bay depth chart at – you would be in water at least twice that deep, if you wanted to tube from downtown to West Seattle. Darn! (I know that’s only part of BART, but I really didn’t quite get it myself until recently, so thought I’d mention.) – Tracy

  • westseattledood August 12, 2014 (5:57 pm)

    My two cents and it’s old. But I’ll do it again.

    So…Water District needs to grow with a full Mosquito Fleet and state needs bucks to build big catamaran ferries for N/S routes and beyond. These too modes should be in our magical vision of deeply integrated corridors. What, you say? We have no water taxis or catamarans to carry thousands more daily on the water from Everett to Renton in points between. Exactly. Why not? Why NOT? Look at Vancouver BC. Because it is going to cost money regardless, so let’s build the Big Picture with ALL the possible elements. Then we go hit up DC and bakesales for funds.

    And did you know, or do you recall that Rapid Ride federal funds originally were tagged for Delridge #121? Then somebody taketh it away in a way which remains a mystery to me. But that was then and this is now. Rapid Ride is working so well and is so deeply integrated into city development. A stolen dream come half true!

  • Born on Alki August 12, 2014 (5:59 pm)

    Perfect timing, as 2026 is about the same time Bertha will finish digging.

  • Gotb August 12, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    To answer a lot of questions about speed, ridership, routes, etc., even though there are a lot of unknowns:
    Short version: light rail pretty much has to be a tunnel through West Seattle (elevated and surface won’t work because of the hills), will be way faster than “rapid ride” and have the capacity to move a lot more people.

  • Ray August 12, 2014 (6:51 pm)

    Sorry if I do not trust the city/county numbers for riderships, revenues, etc. They cannot even get those numbers right for the current mass transit systems and they want to sell this on more smoke and mirrors?

    West Seattle should be low priority for now. Get the trains to places where people want to go.

  • Wakeflood August 12, 2014 (6:57 pm)

    Yup, thought about it, permanent just like the one that ran by my house for thirty years and is now a road? Dedicated ramps are no less permanent.

    I’d rather have 90% of the efficiency in 5 yrs versus 100% of it maybe 25 yrs from now. At a fraction of the cost. 12yrs is a pipe dream.

  • K'lo August 12, 2014 (7:44 pm)

    By the time WS gets anything worthwhile, I’ll be relying more on Access Bus than anything “rapid”.

  • WSince86 August 12, 2014 (8:57 pm)

    Trickycoolj- I hear ya re: Portlands MAX system. It is very much to be envied. Keep in mind though, Portland has only one river to navigate and we have the Sound, canals and numerous lakes to traverse. Still, it is a fine example of planning and executing an excellent public transportation system.

  • Julie August 12, 2014 (11:53 pm)

    Anything grade-separated. Otherwise, there’s no point.

  • metrognome August 13, 2014 (12:54 am)

    once again for the choir … stop blaming the gubmint because we don’t yet have a high capacity transit system that goes to everyone’s doorstep; the VOTERS turned down the transportation provisions of the Forward Thrust packages a couple of times in the late 60’s and early 70’s. If you want to visit Seattle’s rail system, go to Atlanta … that’s where Seattle’s federal money went when your parents and grandparents voted against a rail system. A visit to might prove educational.
    And, if you’re alarmed by the increased density in WS, be careful what you wish for as light rail will likely bring higher density without reducing traffic across the bridge. If you don’t routinely ride the bus into downtown now, you probably won’t regularly take the train either.

  • Rick August 13, 2014 (5:30 am)

    I thought that Portland received our federal transit money back in the day. Oh well. We do have a tunneling machine that’s not being used at the moment. Travel to West Seattle (the red-headed bastard child) in the tunnel. Yeah,that’s the ticket.

  • Joe Szilagyi August 13, 2014 (6:11 am)

    Please ignore Ray’s fearmomgering about ridership numbers. It is totally unwarranted and meritless. Both Metro and Sound Transit in particular are audited to extreme degrees. Their ridership numbers ARE accurate. When they say Central Link rides are constantly climbing it’s no joke. I’ve watched that train in the tunnel for a very long time now on my commutes. It’s ALWAYS jam packed now to where they’re studying adding more cars.
    There is no reason to distrust these numbers unless there is an irrational distrust of math.

  • Que August 13, 2014 (7:14 am)

    The reason it’s taking so long to get any kind of transit to west Seattle is echoed in the comments here.. The majority of the population is aging and conservative, so west Seattle relies more on cars and votes against transit at a higher rate than the rest of the city. Don’t be surprised when the rest of the city just goes along with what west Seattle claims to want.
    And yes, most of the educated people under 45 in Seattle are already planning their exodus to Portland, leaving the aged and infirm and a thriving service sector in Seattle by the timeframe proposed for this transit service.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (8:04 am)

    Joe S., it would appear that the WS Transpo group you helped found has put all its eggs in the ST Light Rail or bust basket. Is that the case?

    If not, could you summarize what the gang sees as the highest priority for off-peninsula options?

    Is BRT an option? Highly supplemented water shuttle services?

    Is there a plan yet or is it still in progress?

  • JoB August 13, 2014 (8:11 am)

    “If you want to visit Seattle’s rail system, go to Atlanta … that’s where Seattle’s federal money went when your parents and grandparents voted against a rail system. ”
    thanks to Metrognome for the reality check.
    the Seattle process doesn’t deliver results
    and won’t until we change the process
    rapid ride through a bottleneck created by a lack of public transit options
    what could possibly go wrong?

  • Tracher Greg August 13, 2014 (8:36 am)

    By 2026 it will take almost ten years to get downtown.

  • happycommuter (not) August 13, 2014 (8:59 am)

    What about reversible lanes on the bridge like the express lanes on I-5? They could be reversed to accommodate inbound and outbound traffic patterns. One problem would be the choke points at I-5 and 35th and Fauntleroy though. To echo others: who was running transportation engineering decades ago? Two people have 3,4,6 kids uuhhhh going to need more infrastructure! Too late…..

  • AmandaKH August 13, 2014 (9:06 am)

    Wakeflood – I’m sure Joe will also answer. The WSTC has not put any eggs in anyone’s basket. In fact, we think that there is room for all modes being bolstered to move people around the Peninsula, and City at large. It just takes one accident to shut down the street and back up bus, motorcycle, and car traffic. If we had circulator buses bring people to a robust water taxi or ferry service, that would help mitigate the road problem. If there was an accident on the road, and the water taxi was down, if there was grade separated rail, people would Still get around. It’s not “let’s get light rail and replace the Rapid Ride”. It’s let’s get light rail, BRT, more water vehicles and better bike lanes. We hold the basket, we are asking for the City, County and State to fill it up.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (10:20 am)

    Thanks for the clarification, AKH. I agree that multiple modes equals fail safes.

    Although I hope that doesn’t end up sounding like a diluted message to the CC? One that’s easier to ignore, in that it basically says, “solve our problem for us and throw money at everything”.

    I hope that’s not the case but we public are certainly capable of providing lots of mixed and contradictory messages to our electeds. Which is why I’m happy that you’re attempting to consolidate options and unify messaging to them.

    It’s pretty clear that we aren’t going to get ALL of those options anytime in the next 25 yrs. There simply isn’t enough money to go around and other constituents to serve.

    I too, think a shuttle feeder system to a robust passenger ferry schedule combined with a true BRT option to downtown would essentially replace the need for Light Rail for at least a generation, possibly more. Like I said, focus on a few things that actually have a chance at getting done in the next 5-10 yrs.

    Light Rail does not fit into that category by anyone’s estimation.

    The density is here now. And growing by the day. WS needs solutions yesterday.

  • Rick August 13, 2014 (10:31 am)

    @ Tracher Greg , are you talking commute time? And Joe should be our new fearless leader. Once again, and as always, follow the money. That explains everything. Prove me wrong. You can’t.

  • jno August 13, 2014 (10:53 am)

    @ Ray and wakeflood – the line to Bellevue and Redmond is already planned, funded, and nearing construction. The time to start planning for WS is now.

  • +1 4 Rail August 13, 2014 (11:28 am)

    It’s a bummer that Seattle let itself grow in all areas except in the area of sustainable and expandable public transportation (rail) all of these years. We are now starting to see the effects.
    That said. I hope that whatever “they” decide to do, that it is based on solid data, not favors or agendas (naive?). I would guess that the most practical thing to do would be to extend rail to the places that the largest numbers of people are commuting to (e.g. Boing, Microsoft, Bellevue, etc). – All from downtown. After that, work back to adding lines to the most congested Seattle neighborhoods (Ballard, W. Seattle, etc.) .
    It’s going to take a while because we waited so long. In the mean time, enjoy your long commute more with good audio books or books if you’re bussing it.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (11:43 am)

    jno: Sure, you can keep WS in the queue for whenever the next plan to go to the ballot is but let’s look at what that really means.

    That line you mention has been in the works for 5 yrs. or so already and is now scheduled to open in another 9+, if all goes according to plan. (Care to bet on that date?) So, if a line through a much easier terrain takes about 15 yrs. from inception, we’re talking about 2030-35 for an actual date to move some folks from a single termination point in WS to downtown.

    And let’s look at what that means for funding other options that could be helping starting in a few years. It likely means that those go unfunded or dramatically underfunded because you’ve been handed the next couple of BILLION dollars to get your rail line. So sit down and shut the hell up is what our fellow citizens will say to any citywide vote to fund something like water taxis, or BRT, or anything else in the short term.

    Tell me that there’s enough money and political capital to pull off both to a reasonable degree within the next 25 yrs. and I’ll ask you for some of what you’re smoking.

  • McBride August 13, 2014 (12:41 pm)

    Sound Transit is a separate tax authority than the city or county. Voting funds to them is not in any way tied to voting for Metro, trolley cars, ferries, wider lanes, or pedestrian improvements. Three different tax channels.
    But the real point is, funding for this particular pie is already in place. It’s just down to slices now.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (1:31 pm)

    McBride, the funding for ST 2 is in place. WS isn’t part of that. Another funding plan must be put in place to add WS or Ballard or anything not on their current plan.

    And I never said their funding was tied, I said you’re high if you think that WS could be the major piece of ST 3 plan to the tune of $1-2B AND get significant funding passed through the City or County votes to do anything substantial here while we wait for our grandkids to ride light rail.

    Wait, I have an idea, let’s count on Metro funding to supplement our options…oh…wait, they’re cutting routes.

    This isn’t a zero sum game when you look at it regionally, but it might as well be when it comes to any particular neighborhood. Unless you can tell me why WS would get the lion’s share of whatever stipends that can get past the stingy voters on top of being the centerpiece of ST 3?

  • Mcbride August 13, 2014 (2:16 pm)

    The ST3 vote hasn’t happened yet, correct. But the planning phase has. What ST3 builds is being decided now. 1-2b is on the lowest end of WS options. The ones with rail start much higher.
    Pretty sure I heard you right, it’s just that I don’t agree. City and County officials are much more inclined to provide for constituents as a means of staying in office. Sound Transit is motivated by getting their next funding package. These are not competing interests.
    Remember when Dicks Drive In was holding a poll to see where the next location would be? Edmonds, as it turns out, because they demonstrated they would back it. Same deal. Sound Transit is testing the voting waters for who gets a piece of ST3, votes being the price of admission. If you want rail, you need to indicate a desire for having rail more than, say, Ballard or Renton. But that isn’t going to change the relationship you have with your locally electeds, whether you get that funding or not.

  • Kgdlg August 13, 2014 (3:26 pm)

    Wakeflood is basically speaking the truth and we should all be listening.

  • Wakeflood August 13, 2014 (4:16 pm)

    McBride, in current, revenue starved, tax averse, infrastructure poor America, EVERYTHING is in competition.

  • Wakeflood August 13, 2014 (4:31 pm)

    Turn 1/3 of abandoned terminal 5 into a Park & Ride with a new dedicated BRT east/west ramp over the high bridge. Serve it with shuttles that run all around the peninsula. Have 7 minute headways.

    Take another 1/3 of the terminal for a passenger ferry dock with boats leaving every 20 mins. during rush hours.
    Served by the same shuttles for the BRT.
    Turn the remaining third into mixed use park and food truck court.

    You could do that within 5 yrs. for far less than a billion $.

  • Wakeflood August 13, 2014 (4:42 pm)

    That’s transformational for WS. It would turn our biggest weakness into a strength. We have commute options and location, location, location.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (5:01 pm)

    But that makes waaaay too much sense, right?

    I mean, who wants to turn an abandoned 20 acre parking lot on the waterfront into a multi-modal transit hub with services for commuters and a park on the water?

    But hey, there’s LOTS of room in the junction for a service hub for a light rail station, right? Just look at all the space there now. Plenty of room for all the amenities and service shuttle lay over areas that don’t hose up car traffic, etc., etc.

    Tell me, anyone who’s enjoyed the food truck court in downtown Portland that you wouldn’t kill to have one of those nearby?

    And not that I’m even saying this but there’s some rail lines on said terminal already, yes? Hmm…

    Which reminds me, gotta’ go see STOP MAKING SENSE before it leaves the theater.

    • WSB August 13, 2014 (5:02 pm)

      Just jumping in briefly inbetween yet another story with yet another round of court documents … Somebody contact your port commissioner(s) and ask them about this. I’ll eventually get around to it but they are the ones who still own the land, and they’re elected officials! – TR

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (5:08 pm)

    Dangit, Tracy, now I have to follow through??? I was hoping to just sit here and spitball ideas. ;-)

    I’ll buy anyone a beer who wants to contact a Port Commissioner!

  • McBride August 13, 2014 (5:33 pm)

    Scott Kubly is confirmed for the next DNDC meeting (next Wednesday, 7pm @ Youngstown). Bring your plan and pitch it. It’s late notice to get the Port, but I’ll see what I can do.

  • wakeflood August 13, 2014 (5:53 pm)

    Think about it.

    No tunnel boring machines.

    No 20 year wait.

    No 10 yr. Environmental Impact Statement process (the transit hub would have BENEFICIAL impact compared to what WAS operating there).

    Ready-made rail corridor (not the same gauge as light rail but still).

    Tons of space for ingress/egress and onload/offload of vehicles and commuters.

    The water taxis could run to the base of interbay for F5 and that mini-business park – with continuing shuttle service to Fremont.

    The mixed use park would be a ready-made space for festivals and other gatherings.

    You don’t have to mess with figuring out how to create a grade separation from all the way up in the junctions – you only have to ramp up from the terminal.

    And the best part? For a fraction of the cost of a single light rail station, you get highly efficient, multi-modal options.

    C’mon West Seattle, let’s make this happen. We’d be the envy of every other north/south community.

  • wsn00b August 13, 2014 (6:21 pm)

    10 years to build a few miles of rail.
    Total incompetence. This is worse than the third-world.

  • AmandaKH August 13, 2014 (6:50 pm)

    wakeflood! The flood gates are open! Good on you for solutions based postings :) Where exactly are we talking? Is that on Harbor Island? I’m looking on Google Maps, but not sure where to look. And thanks McBride, huge kudos if you can get through to the Port!

  • Kgdlg August 13, 2014 (7:13 pm)

    Wakeflood for mayor. Seriously that is a good plan. While I am a huge fan of rail, I do believe the cost to get it to West Seattle makes little sense when you look at the potential travel times. Wake’s idea has serious merit.

  • Wakeflood August 13, 2014 (7:23 pm)

    Wow, McBride, I’m stunned. But delighted! Thank you for whatever you can do. I’ll be there in Youngstown.

    You do know I just pulled that idea out of my you know where, right? ;-). Good. Just making sure no one is expecting a well-thought through idea. Google earth, here I come.

  • RayK August 13, 2014 (8:11 pm)

    New Ray here.

    Terminal 5 does belong to the Port of Seattle, not the City of Seattle, and they aren’t in the transit business. Their strategic plan is leaning to dramatic development of T5 to accommodate ships with 50% more capacity to be competitive for freight traffic on the west coast. The container shipping industry is moving to ships with 18,000 containers from the 12,000 big ships the Port can serve now. That will put more pressure on Spokane St for both truck and rail access to T5.

    • WSB August 13, 2014 (8:29 pm)

      For those who have missed previous coverage of the Terminal 5 situation (it’s not Harbor Island, it’s the westernmost part of the port on this side, adjacent to Jack Block Park, entered off West Marginal by the west side of the low bridge, the now-very-glaringly-empty stretch off to the north side of the high bridge’s west end) –
      From June, the background:
      From July, the last ship before the closure
      As the June story shows, what RayK says is true, but they have not announced/allotted funding for the nine-digit price tag the modernization would have. I am not the expert in the full history of this but the city, county, and port have talked previously about some possible cooperation related to transportation/parking … most notably the Pier 1 concept for the Water Taxi … so who’s to say they can’t talk again, even temporarily?

  • RayK August 13, 2014 (8:23 pm)

    Posters are brainstorming solutions without delineating funding stakeholders. Seattle isn’t in the transit business (streetcar?), Metro and Sound Transit are in that business. We can pay for bus service; we don’t have the final say in where the routes go. Metro has access to King County’s tax base not just Seattle’s and that tax base rejected the Prop 1. Even West Seattle was lukewarm for the tax increase. Let’s see if a city wide tax for transit will carry West Seattle.
    Sound Transit won’t focus its ST3 on WS because they have three counties to serve and that tax base will fund ST3. That’s why they are running LRT and BRT all over the region.
    During yesterday’s presentation to the Seattle Transportation Committee ST presented the conceptual level of corridors which do include West Seattle (WS). They tied the Ballard Light Rail Transit (LRT) and WS LRT corridor using a new tunnel since the Westlake tunnel will be at capacity for only LRT when they build out ST2.
    Whatever final ST3 proposal offers, it better feature grade separation to maintain schedules and LRT should outperform RapidRide or any BRT service without a dedicated path through the Central District and neighborhoods.
    Let’s not think a couple $B will build service for WS. A tunnel through Alaska Junction to Burien / Renton will likely cost upwards of $8B.

  • RayK August 13, 2014 (8:28 pm)

    Building LRT through West Seattle will cost a bunch. Hopefully the ST1 costs will be paid out before ST3 begins in ten years (anyone know that timeline?). LRT will offer much higher capacity (riders/hour) but how will WS riders get to it? Park-n-ride? — unlikely. Circulars service through neighborhoods? That sounds more like the Metro business model than ST’s. The trains will be underutilized if our streets / transit can’t move people.
    Yesterday Scott Kubly made a remark that I appreciated: “We move people, not vehicles.” I thought that was profound.

  • AmandaKH August 13, 2014 (9:46 pm)

    Exactly TR. Exactly! It doesn’t hurt to bring an “out of the box” idea forward that can be a total game changer for the Peninsula. We have nothing to lose by asking.

  • Joe Szilagyi August 13, 2014 (10:34 pm)

    Sorry I’m late to coming back, but most of the big points have been hit. Wakeflood, if you’re reading, come to the WSTC meetings! You would fit in great.

  • westseattledood August 13, 2014 (10:50 pm)

    Somebody put a link up to the Seattle Transit Blog and I saw a few comments from Joe regarding articles he had read regarding the Port’s diminishing bottom line. I’d be interested in taking a peek at those Joe if you can recall the sources. Because the Port matters.

    And the Port is getting its freight caught in the same traffic too. That is so unacceptable and more than just a huge PIA for our historically golden Port. Everything we see around us of importance in this city began because of the trade through our beloved Port.

    This needs to be a win-win discussion. It would be great to have a bit of current data on losses via old equipment and losses versus freight getting clogged leaving the docks in trucks.

    The Port matters.
    But let’s ask a few questions not just of the Port but of the Ferry District and CC (public/private shoreline partnerships).

    And using ferries isn’t exactly an out-of-the-box concept. There was a Mosquito Fleet in Seattle before there was a West Seattle Junction. Some of us have been chanting water corridors for a long, long time. Maybe it’s just the native Puget Sounders….doesn’t matter. Carry on warriors :)

  • Wakeflood August 13, 2014 (11:21 pm)

    So, I’m not entirely sure how to respond to RayK’s posts other than to say, yup, I get all that. I didn’t intend to assume any predispositions by any entity that would need to get behind such an audacious proposal as this.

    What I truly believe is that barring something roughly akin to my proposal, West Seattle’s transportation conundrum will be addressed poorly, via unintegrated and extremely expensive piecemeal solutions that will take decades and never really resolve the problem.

    All the competing interests will undoubtedly bring up a dozen reasons why this option won’t work. I submit to you that their visions may serve somebody but it isn’t West Seattle. Sometimes the right thing wins and sometimes it never gets a real shot. We’ll see…

  • Joe Szilagyi August 14, 2014 (6:59 am)

    @westseattledood, I’m not sure if I’ll have much time to dig around for them — I didn’t bookmark them (I used to squirrel away bookmark after bookmark for years but never had a great organization system and gave up when sites started moving them around periodically). I’m also super busy in spurts right now between work and home stuff, but if I get a chance I’ll post them here. If you don’t see it by say 10pm tonight I didn’t find them.
    Basic/long short of it was this, which was my take on it gleaned from reading a lot of discussion, articles, and other things, plus conversations with knowledable people: the port overall isn’t at max capacity and hasn’t been for a while, due to the ascension and increase of business from other ports. We’re also in theoretical to probable trouble from the upcoming and underway Panama Canal expansions which could make it more cost-effective for North American freight and goods to go directly to other ports for overland travel afterward (i.e. the Gulf coast). Marine freight is absolutely not my wheelhouse, however, and like I said this was the vibe and tone I picked up from a lot of places.
    I’d even heard some people say that in the timescale and context of stuff like my kid (2 years old) approaching grandparent age, we’d start to see political fights underway or brewing to start to change port property and holdings to other zoning classifications. By 2100, could Harbor Island look like the current Seattle waterfront? Could the skyline extend down into the east side of the port where the cranes are today? Questions like that.

  • McBride August 14, 2014 (8:56 am)

    Here’s a link for some Port of Seattle events coming up soon:

    If the link doesn’t work, try their home page, the Port 101 series. Cargo and Duwamish look good. Not quite a perfect fit for this topic, but good networking opportunities.

  • wakeflood August 14, 2014 (11:40 am)

    Hey Joe S. or Amanda or ?? I’d like some help putting a short PowerPoint together for the Youngstown gathering? I tried to post a comment on the WSTC facebook page with same and not sure if it got on there or needs to be moderated first?

    But I’d love some help – maybe you already have some helpful data points or graphics I could use?

    And I certainly would be happy to get feedback prior to presenting as well.

    I can be reached at wakeflood at geemail dot com.

  • Wb August 14, 2014 (8:27 pm)

    “that’s where Seattle’s federal money went when your parents and grandparents voted against a rail system.” –metrognome

    My great great uncle worked on the Seattle street car system. According to

    “By April of 1941, Seattle had ripped up 230 miles of streetcar lines, melting them into steel for the war effort – and becoming the largest city in the country at that time to have no streetcars”

    So now, not having learned from our past, we beat up the King County Metro bus system, and yearn for light rail.

    and by the way, we already do have the equivalent of the high speed trains right here in West Seattle. It’s called 35th Ave SW.

    • WSB August 14, 2014 (8:34 pm)

      I’ve said this before but … the knowledge that we had a streetcar system and threw it away is heartbreaking. Wonder if there was anyone at the time who warned about a lack of foresight, or if everyone just thought it would be the right thing to do.

  • Thomas M. August 15, 2014 (11:48 am)

    Unless you live close to the station, you have to drive to the light rail. The bus is too slow for the job, and not everyone lives on a bus line. So in order to park and ride you need (drum roll):


    Every car the City wants off the roads and out of downtown will have to be left somewhere so the occupant can take the light rail.

  • Kat WS August 17, 2014 (9:12 pm)

    Just to play devil’s advocate here re. the Terminal 5 idea: how many WS residents would actually have shorter commutes with this system( being shuttled to a park & ride, then transfer to RT to downtown) than they do now? I imagine shuttles would only run down main thoroughfares, most of which already have bus lines that go downtown without the need to transfer. I like the general idea, but just wondering about efficiency.

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