5 ‘most pressing transportation issues,’ as the West Seattle Transportation Coalition sees it, starting Year 2

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition is about to start its second year. After one year of meetings, conversations, discussions, and outreach, WSTC has announced a list of “the five most pressing transportation issues for the West Seattle peninsula, which are within the power of the City of Seattle to directly address and resolve,” and sent a letter about them to city leaders.

First, the WSTC list:

#1

(WSB file screengrab of SDOT camera looking toward bridge’s offramp to 99)
Expand vehicle capacity from the West Seattle Bridge to SR-99.

#2

(Photo by Long B. Nguyen)
Develop a “West Seattle Peninsula” emergency relief plan.

#3

(WSB file photo of the sign that marked the former 4th Ave. onramp spot until 2008.)
Increase access to the westbound Spokane St. Viaduct from SODO.

#4

(City file photo of Lander tracks)
Complete the Lander Street Overpass.

#5

(December 2013: De-icer-slick, closed-to-traffic bridge; WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
Immediate mitigation of traffic events to West Seattle peninsula chokepoints.

WSTC says it has sent a letter outlining “… these issues, possible resolutions, and (calls) for action …” to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, City Council President Tim Burgess, and City Council Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen. It asks for a response with the “plan of action” by January 9, 2015. You can read the letter on the WSTC website, or below:

Agree? Disagree? Get involved! The WSTC meets on second Tuesdays and invites all to its next meeting, October 14th, 6:30 pm, at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center.

SIDE NOTE: This will also be a busy season on some of the problems for which WSTC and local neighborhood councils already have pushed for action – next launch is the 35th Avenue SW Road Safety Corridor project, with a community meeting October 22nd.

35 Replies to "5 'most pressing transportation issues,' as the West Seattle Transportation Coalition sees it, starting Year 2"

  • huh? September 28, 2014 (10:30 pm)

    Expand capacity on the bridge to 99??? First of all, how? But more importantly, how would that help??

    By a longshot, the primary reason the bridge is a problem is because I5 north and 99 north are overcapacity. If both those routes flowed freely, the bridge would be smooth sailing, as it usually is westbound.

    Wasn’t there a low cost plan to widen I5 northbound at Senaca to alleviate the two-lane bottleneck. It seems like adding 25% more north bound capacity (going from 4 lanes to 5 lanes when combining 99 and I5) would do a lot more.

    Also surprised that transit isn’t a priority at all. No effort to push for a light rail vote on 2016 ballot?

  • Joe Szilagyi September 28, 2014 (11:10 pm)

    @huh: This list is items that are from everything we’ve seen, been told, and know, items that the city can tackle directly and in most cases essentially on their own, from a funding perspective at least.
    .
    For the “bridge to the mainland” item, SDOT engineers believed it’s possible to provide a form of dedicated bus lane access all the way past the roundabout interchange or directly down from the bridge to SODO. The exact implementation isn’t defined yet, but the goal is likely attainable. It’s not probable to easily speed it up for all traffic, but it could be for transit. Poor man’s grade separation, maybe.
    .
    For transit solutions in general, we’re already trying to help push for rail and everything else we can get. There’s no lack of support for Light Rail to us anywhere except maybe east of Lake Washington. Every single person on that letter who is elected I believe is on board already and/or pushing to various degrees.

  • Not me September 28, 2014 (11:30 pm)

    i don’t doubt the good intentions of this group. I do wish that the group not make it sound like they have my support and all my neighbors’ support. I couldn’t get past #1 and Joe’s response solidified my disagreement. I’m not trying to be mean, I just don’t like when groups make it sound as though they’re speaking for me because I live in WS or meet some other unintended criteria.

  • WSobserver September 29, 2014 (1:02 am)

    I won’t be at the meeting because even though it can’t be even 5 miles away, it takes me two buses to get there, and two buses to get back. That usually translates into an hour of travel time each way, hence two hours on the bus to get there and come home. Usually in the rain. So no, I’m not coming.

    I would also suggest a -perhaps small- bus dedicated to west Seattle only. Nearly all of our buses now are routed to/from downtown Seattle and beyond. We have nothing local. So if there is trouble on one of the bridges or any other traffic tie up far away, our bus service here self destructs. A bus just up and down California from Alki/Admiral to Westwood? Back and forth. Not everybody wants to go downtown all the time.

    —-

    It takes me two buses to go less than 5 miles to High Point. It takes me two buses to get to Admiral/Alki, less than 5 miles away. It takes me two buses to get to White Center, less than 5 miles away.

    —-

    I’ve gotten to the point if I have to transfer buses to get somewhere, I’m just not going. The system is too convoluted and too unreliable. In the rain. And I don’t have a car, it’s the bus for me or nothing. Usually it seems a lot like nothing.

  • cj September 29, 2014 (2:54 am)

    We need another rapid ride covering the north end of West Seattle. We don’t need more cars here where land will never expand to make room for them.

  • J September 29, 2014 (5:48 am)

    I agree with WSobserver. A large chunk of my 1.5-2hr commute EACH WAY to Bellevue by bus is waiting as I transfer buses; never mind that 3-4 hours spent on the bus each day just to get to work and back home is something I can’t justify, especially as fares are scheduled to rise.

  • East Coast Cynic September 29, 2014 (6:45 am)

    @Joe

    Most people who post/write on the Seattle Transit Blog also don’t think we’re worth the trouble–Too sprawled and too expensive:).

  • anonyme September 29, 2014 (7:14 am)

    WSobserver, I agree with you except for one point. West Seattle does not end at Westwood, and Arbor Heights has already taken drastic hits in transportation. It actually takes me two buses just to get to Westwood, unless my knees will allow a long hike that day – even then, there are only a few options per day for getting to Barton from AH. The schedule and routing changes have made it much more difficult to get around within West Seattle. I’ve long advocated for a shuttle such as the one you describe, but with a slightly more expanded range to include the chronically neglected Arbor Heights area.

  • G September 29, 2014 (8:22 am)

    West Seattle, like any other area in the country, will reach critical mass and people will either move out, or stop moving in. It will be self-limiting and self-selecting. Retirees/work at home? Move on in. Commuters? Maybe not. Homeostasis.

  • cjs September 29, 2014 (8:23 am)

    How to fix the eastbound WS bridge:
    1. allow HOV vehicles to use bus only lane on bridge and NB SR99.
    2. remove bottleneck to SB I-5 by adding third lane between 4th and 6th avenues
    3. add 3rd lane on I5 NB at Seneca (noted above)

  • Peter September 29, 2014 (8:44 am)

    Wow. All car stuff and nothing for transit. They should change their name to the West Seattle Single Occupant Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emitter Coalition to be more accurate.

  • Kent September 29, 2014 (8:51 am)

    I’d love to see an HOV lane on the WSBridge, particularly as a motorcycle rider. Plus HOV/car pools are like mini private buses when done right, so a nod in the right direction. Easy and cheap change to at least try. HOV + bus lane please!

  • Dunno September 29, 2014 (8:52 am)

    #1 100% focus should be on the bottleneck of going anywhere west or north of West Seattle during the hours of 7am-10am, then back into West Seattle from north to south from 2:30pm-6:30pm.
    There is more pollution and fossil fuel bing burned at these times, and more of our time being wasted. This isn’t rocket science is it? Not all of us can ride the bus or take our equipment on a bike. Taking down the viaduct is crazy! We should have both and get Seattle moving! We’re choking ourselves to death in more ways than one.

  • Peter September 29, 2014 (8:59 am)

    And of course nothing about bicycle infrastructure or pedestrian safety. Those don’t move cars! I know, I’m heretic.

  • East Coast Cynic September 29, 2014 (9:00 am)

    @cjs, As far as 1., Express bus service will be hosed by allowing HOV use in the bus lanes. I’d prefer widening the WSB and or 99.

    @Peter, the WSTC has come out for light rail for WS. Plus if we ever do get LR and it is limited in its transit scope, we have to help commuters who must commute beyond the reach of LR and metro via car.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 29, 2014 (9:07 am)

    @Peter, respectfully, that’s a comical misrepresentation of everything we’ve done for the past year. The city itself doesn’t handle mass transit at the moment, which is a county function, and these are the long term problems we have–and that the city has it in their power to fund solutions to.
    .
    You also neglected to mention that items #1 and #3 on our list are explicitly for transit:
    .
    From #1: The expectation is that at least one new lane of access from the freeway to SR-99 north would be intended for exclusive transit access (“bus only”) and possibly later for dedicated, grade-separated BRT (“bus rapid transit”) access.
    .
    From #3: It is assumed that a 4th Avenue South onramp would be either transit-only or a hybrid onramp for car and transit, with dedicated rail lanes if that is an option. It is assumed that a 6th Avenue South onramp from the closed Busway on 6th Avenue South would be transit-only.
    .
    Item #2 has nothing to do with buses or cars and is for emergency planning. Item #4 is the Lander Street Overpass that benefits everyone. Item #5 is for the city to basically have a plan to clear blockages as fast as is humanly possible and to be accountable for it.
    .

    • WSB September 29, 2014 (9:28 am)

      Datapoint: If you follow the link in the first line, you’ll see that the group originally was the West Seattle Transit Coalition, and then widened.
      .
      Also: Thank you to the texter who pointed out our error (just fixed) in the caption to the 4th Avenue **onramp**-sign photo.

  • old timer September 29, 2014 (9:23 am)

    ” All car stuff and nothing for transit”
    I don’t know how anyone could look at that list, use their head, and still think that.
    EVERYTHING, if implemented, would DIRECTLY benefit transit.
    Just read the list and pretend you are a bus, that night help you understand.
    Other agencies, Metro, Sound Transit, WSDOT, are all outside of the control of the City of Seattle.

  • SGG September 29, 2014 (10:05 am)

    Item number one is one of those things that sounds like common sense, until you actually look at what is involved. How exactly do you propose expanding the capacity? I agree with the other posters here, the problem lies on I-5, which is the state, not the City.

    Item number one should be developing a coherent message to advocate for light rail expansion to West Seattle. The opportunity is now to promote that message. Something on light rail is likely going to the ballot in two years, which means this should be item one on the list right now.

    These 5 “priorities” don’t reflect the needs of West Seattle very well.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 29, 2014 (10:30 am)

    @SGG we already have a coherent message for Light Rail. The current Mayor is all in; almost all of the City Council is all in, we’re all in, Dow Constantine, who is KC Exec AND Chair of the Sound Transit board right now, is apparently all in. Every time we’ve asked after Light Rail in the WSTC in any capacity the level of support is deafening. If one out of ten people is against, that’s a ridiculously busy day for the opposition. We already sent a letter to Sound Transit endorsing Light Rail.
    .
    The problem is that there is no chance we’re voting on Light Rail for West Seattle any earlier than 2016 and there’s no chance we’ll take any inaugural rail ride until at least 2025-2026, being honest. There are other problems to be done in the meanwhile, and our part of the city is entitled to it’s fair share of improvements to and amelioration of problems in the meanwhile. Or else, why are you and I paying taxes? Also, we are not a single issue group.
    .
    There are more fights and problems to be solved than just the Light Rail problem. The city has never been really called out in any heavily organized fashion for the negligent handling, funding, and implementation of our transportation out here, and that’s what this is. These are the things that the city can and must deal with, and that they can knock out the quickest, and with the probable lowest amount of meaningful political opposition.
    .
    No local faction(s) would really object to any of these if operating rationally and each would give us some measure of improvements in our quality of life.
    .
    This list is the starting point. The easiest capacity improvements are probably: testing HOV access into the bus-only lane (with strict police enforcement); SDOT engineering’s belief we can double the width of the viaduct to SR99 overpass/loop to add another transit/HOV only lane. There were suspicions some other expansions may be possible down at the I-5 end too, and that’s the sort of thing that would come up and out at the meetings we also requested in the letter.

  • West Seattle since 1979 September 29, 2014 (11:18 am)

    @East Coast Cynic–that’s just the Seattle Transit Blog’s opinion though, and it isn’t even shared by everyone who posts there. (I’m assuming you’re talking about light rail to West Seattle–am I correct?) Not to mention they aren’t the ones making the decisions.

  • Peter September 29, 2014 (1:01 pm)

    Sorry, Joe, I was being a bit snarky, and I recognize some of these will benefit transit. But I still protest that they’re proposing expensive road construction projects and ignoring things that can be done right now virtually free. For example, dedicated 24/7/365 bus lanes for major routes. NOT partial, part time, or shared lanes. I mean REAL bus lanes. Also, saying “the city itself doesn’t handle mass transit,” is a total cop out, as if it’s not a major issue. But wait, 99 is a state highway, so that’s not a city function, so if you can address state functions and city functions, why not county functions? And what has the WSTC done for transit? A letter stating general support for light rail (which is at least ten years away), that’s all I’ve seen. And zero about bicycle and pedestrian issues. I’m sorry, but the distinct impression I get of the group is they’re coming up with expensive road construction projects, while ignoring cheaper and easier solutions, then expecting us to buy their line that it’s all to benefit transit. Forgive me for being skeptical.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 29, 2014 (1:44 pm)

    @Peter re: transit, we’ve held rallies in support of Metro; I’ve spoken on the phone with the Governor’s office and his chief transportation policy advisor at length several times (Charles Knutson) to lobby against our viaduct mitigation money for Metro getting cut (and it didn’t); we’ve had several discussions with Sound Transit and had them out to meet with us; and we’ve been all over Metro for service issues in West Seattle. For bikes, we’ve met several times with West Seattle Bike Connections and helped by throwing our support into the corrals in the Junction and White Center. We’ve yet to be asked to support any other bike projects.
    .
    Yes, the proposed projects are expensive, but they’re ones many people have wanted for a while and that even SDOT admits we need in some way. Yes, they may benefit cars in parallel. Like it or not, they’re a valid mode of transportation still, and our job in our role is to help everyone where we can. The more efficiency we can wring out of the buses and later trains, the more the remainder of people who need to drive will benefit, and the better things would be for the bicyclists by cutting down the number of cars on the road. It all spills outward like ripples.
    .
    I have heard, myself, the argument that anything that benefits ‘cars’ even slightly is a hindrance to the long term good by easing off pressures to push people to other modes. While I personally can see the point of that (human nature and the nature of politics) it’s not something the WSTC has any stance on and I would be amazed if we did. Our job is simply to make things better for West Seattle. We’re not fighting the carbon battle as a group. Once we can get it to where people in Arbor Heights, White Center, and South Park can consistently get to and from downtown in 30 minutes or so by the mode of their choice, we’re probably done and can hang up the WSTC except for emergencies. That’s a goal we’ve jokingly thrown around. Rail, bus, train, bike, boat, foot, in 30 or less.
    .
    These are also projects that are likely to be supported by the Mayor’s office, City Council, and most people. If we sat and shot arrows at the perfect target of the moon, and never accomplished anything, what’s the point of our organization? The goal is to make things better, not to take a stance without a successful outcome.
    .
    You’re more than welcome to read our site and the WSB’s extensive reporting on us in their archive. I’m not sure what else we’re supposed to be doing to your satisfaction after about nine months of real operating time, in case we’ve missed something. Please email us at info@westseattletc.org or come to our next meeting to let us know.

  • Hoff September 29, 2014 (2:03 pm)

    Too many SOV’s. Time to start charging congestion fees during high use.

  • Peter September 29, 2014 (3:19 pm)

    Thanks, Joe, I appreciate your response. I still don’t get the logic of classifying expensive projects that can’t be started for many years projects as “most pressing” over much simpler solutions that can be started now. Prime examples of what I would consider are 1 & 7 in this STB post:
    http://seattletransitblog.com/2014/09/27/9-ways-to-make-seattle-public-transit-better/
    It’s not that we do to need the big long term projects, but they are not our most pressing issues. We can’t wait years and years for them to come to be.

  • WS Since 66 September 29, 2014 (5:00 pm)

    Gee just think if the monorail were built we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Let’s see 4 “Yes” votes and 1 “No” vote and it is killed. Even with a year overrun we would have been enjoying the ride downtown for the last 4 years.

  • wsn00b September 29, 2014 (5:23 pm)

    This entire conversation seems to be missing data: Traffic data, city growth rates and traffic models.

    Has a qualified transportation engineer taken WSDOT, SDOT metrics and converted this into any applied traffic model to see if any of these ideas will actually work?

  • Joe Szilagyi September 29, 2014 (6:26 pm)

    @Peter, could you please email to info@westseattletc.org? I’m really curious where you would like to see more dedicated bus lanes IN West Seattle in particular. Bus speeds IN our penisula very rarely comes up, aside from Avalon Way.
    .
    @wsn00b every idea except #1 and the emergency relief plan is in SDOT’s to-do list somewhere. Lander Street is already designed but unfunded. We’re asking for them to move each of these to the next step, which is either official research or funding.

  • Peter September 29, 2014 (7:22 pm)

    Joe: the entire routes of the C and 120 at the least, and ideally the entire route of significantly upgraded 21 and 56.

  • Kevin September 29, 2014 (9:32 pm)

    @joe – can provide a reference to where an SDOT engineer said it was possible for #1 and a link to the to-do list? I’m curious about what constraints were identified, costs, and other things that might have lowered its priority in all the previous SDOT plans.

  • Bruce September 29, 2014 (11:03 pm)

    Lots of great suggestions in the comments, hope they get picked up! I’d like to see the buses that leave West Seattle reduced to one route like the Rapid Ride and taken off 99 and use the bus way between 4th and 5th instead.

  • Kathy September 29, 2014 (11:58 pm)

    I would say items 2 and 4 have merit. Thanks for pushing items 2 and 4 forward, WSTC! The other 3 items sound a little whiney. How about a campaign in West Seattle for our citizens to help themselves by not jumping in their car simply for convenience. If that were ever successful, I suspect it would go a long way toward alleviating the traffic jams that are holding up the buses, paratransit and emergency vehicles. We would be a shining example for the rest of the city and kill that “whiner” image for good.

    I for one would like to see bike share stations expand into West Seattle to help many people get from their transit-underserved neighborhoods to the nearest Rapid Ride or express bus stop. It might take installing a few bike lanes, though.

  • Peter September 30, 2014 (7:16 am)

    I misstated my previous comments, I meant all parts of the routes should be considered for bus lanes, not make the entire routes bus lames. My bad. The Czech at least needs improvement in that area to make it closer to real bus rapid transit.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 30, 2014 (8:34 am)

    @Kevin – this was in the SDOT meetings we held in May and June 2014. When the idea came up as a what-if the engineers said it was “likely” to “doable” from a technical standpoint, and they said it had been discussed internally at some point in the past. We’re basically asking them to restart and formalize it, and if it’s possible to review and disclose the pros, cons, and costs.

  • Wondering October 1, 2014 (11:18 am)

    Awesome! Thanks for your advocacy WSTC.

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