VIDEO: Next stop on the track to West Seattle light rail, triple-digit turnout for Sound Transit ‘neighborhood forum’

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Sound Transit‘s light-rail planning for West Seattle should reach out to tweens and teens, because they’re the ones whose lives will be most affected.

That was one suggestion heard at this morning’s West Seattle “neighborhood forum,” next step in the official ST planning process for the line set to open in 2030, assuming the fast-tracked planning process stays on track. And given that the event was promoted as a way for you to share your neighborhood values

About 130 people showed up, ST estimated, out of about 180 who RSVP’d; ST set up an overflow room on the second floor of the Masonic Center in The Junction, and about 20 people gathered there.

(ST board member/County Council chair Joe McDermott with longtime community advocate Chas Redmond)

A few opening remarks were offered by King County Council chair and District 8 (West Seattle, White Center, etc.) rep Joe McDermott, who also is on the ST Board, reminding everyone that if they are frustrated with West Seattle bridge backups, they should be excited about this part of one of the nation’s largest transit infrastructure expansions, And he recapped that in order to speed it up, they are front-ending as many decisions as possible, and that’s why they need “to have the best possible ideas …” He urges people to “stay in touch … as you have ideas over the coming months” – 11 months, to be specific, until the decision on what to study.

McDermott co-chairs the project’s Elected Leadership Group – which will have its second meeting May 17th – and another of its members, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, was at the forum this morning and acknowledged, but chose not to address the crowd.

That moved things along to the first presentation, as introduced by consultant Dennis Sandstrom, ST’s Stephen Mak with an overview on the project and the process, noting that the Stakeholder Advisory Group already has met four times (we’ve covered all four – most recently April 24th). His presentation starts at 7:15 into our clip, which starts with Sandstrom and McDermott:

And then, the first round of small-group conversation, a half-hour about “neighborhood values.”

Conversation at the table next to ours (not pictured) kicked off with a Delridge resident who said he’s born and raised in West Seattle. One person says they were involved in neighborhood planning. One person stressed the need for input from people 12 years old and up – because this will be a larger part of their lives than many of the rest of us. Right after him, a retiree says he doesn’t worry about traffic any more but he does worry about whether this will be serving the points south of us, and he also worries about conserving green space and small-town feel. Next person says he worries about how to get to the airport – “I want to see us more connected to the rest of the area.” He’s lived here 10 years.

At a Junction table, participants were voicing concerns about the potential for an elevated track. One says it would “shatter The Junction.” Some worried about the displacement of businesses in The Triangle if the track cuts through there. Tunneling fans seemed out in abundance, including this woman who said she was selling T-shirts:

When the half-hour was up, participants voted to chug ahead with the second presentation and conversation (the sun outside the windowless Masonic Center was a bit too tempting perhaps). Next up at the podium was ST’s Sloan Dawson of ST, who said he does station planning and would talk about what it’s like when light rail comes to your community.

He leads off our second clip, followed by another appearance for Stephen Mak recapping the routing/station concepts that have emerged in this “Level 1” stage of the process:

Dawson mentioned that the projects serve “many different place types,” and then how the existing transportation network interacts with what will be built. “Planning good integration with other transit services” like buses is vital, Dawson said. (And emphatic discussion at tables underscored that.) He reiterated that “we’re doing (station location work) earlier than we’ve ever done it before” with the West Seattle/Ballard extensions.

He handed the microphone back to Mak, who went through the alternatives that have emerged for consideration so far, starting with the “representative project” (“the starting point”), and other West Seattle possibilities – even including the ones that the stakeholders had suggested dropping, which lent a bit of confusion if you’ve been following the process closely.

Another half-hour of discussion followed at the tables.

One table was boggling over the elevated idea. “It’s going to be like 150 feet tall.” Another person was alarmed at how elevated track looks at Northgate.

Over at The Junction table, parking concerns kept emerging. Also, as we circulated to listen in, there were concerns about being sure the station locations are matching the areas that are already densifying.

Because it’s a large group, they decided not to “report out” table by table, but instead invite everyone to stop by the tables, and to ask facilitators to stay at their tables to answer questions and/or summarize for anyone interested, and after two hours, that’s where it wrapped up, with promises to get the feedback to the groups through which it’s being filtered.

Next touchstone in the process involves one of those groups: The Elected Leadership Group meets 2-4 pm May 17th (Sound Transit board room at 401 S. Jackson). That will include a public-comment period, we confirmed with ST staff, unlike the stakeholder group meetings (next one for them, May 30th). It also will likely be shown on – or at least recorded by – the Seattle Channel. And then – Level 2, which will include another neighborhood forum.

33 Replies to "VIDEO: Next stop on the track to West Seattle light rail, triple-digit turnout for Sound Transit 'neighborhood forum'"

  • Matt Hutchins May 6, 2018 (12:29 am)

    Our table gravitated toward the purple line: 

    1) tunnel through Pigeon Point gives Delridge station southern most location and bigger natural basin of residents.  There is also less displacement (vs routes that slice through existing neighborhood there).  

    2) having station alignments in junction heading south and underground was preference and no surprise.  (Purple and pink lines) 

    I’ve yet to hear a really strong argument for an avalon station. There just doesn’t seem to be enough people for it between Bridge road, and the Golf Course.  Even w/ 35th there.  

    • East Coast Cynic May 6, 2018 (6:07 pm)

      A large number of commuters from Westwood Village, Arbor Heights, Gatewood and Highpoint take the 21 and 21 express up 35th Ave SW that passes by Avalon.  How would those people utilize light rail in the absence of an Avalon light rail station????  In the absence of an Avalon station, walking a high incline Alaska street with long waits at the Fauntleroy intersection lights would not be time efficient for people trying to get to work on time.

      It might be doable if you insure that the buses that drive down 35th Ave SW go to the Delridge stop.  Other than that, ridding us of the Avalon station strikes me as a short-sighted move that screws a lot of potential light rail passengers for a inconsiderate minority.

      • ACG May 6, 2018 (9:59 pm)

        It is my understanding that the majority of the buses we currently have that take folks off peninsula and head downtown will stop running once light rail starts (because everyone will take the train). So, I’m sure the bus routes that remain on peninsula will be reconfigured and focused on moving people from non walkable areas (Arbor Heights, etc) to whatever sound transit stations are decided upon. 

  • Smo May 6, 2018 (1:38 am)

    The meeting was great and I’m VERY excited to have light rail in West Seattle! I love that Sound Transit seems to genuinely care about listening to the community.

    I do worry though about the junction biz owners not considering the needs of lower elevation West Seattleites. Eliminating Avalon Station & going above ground through Delridge Park and our green spaces down hill so the junction gets a tunnel is not a solution (and will delay the whole project with legal & tribal challenges on environmental impact since it rips through the exposed Longfellow Creek area of the golf course). 

    Also, building only two stations isn’t what we voted for in ST3. Keeping Avalon Station expands the walkshed of the whole project and gives a perfect drop off point for buses coming down 35th from the south end. It’s also the closest station to everyone north of the West Seattle freeway entrance and I’m guessing may end up having the highest usage of the three stations. Very easy to say we don’t need it if it’s not your station!

    Seems like tunnel advocates would have more success not pushing the “above ground in Delridge AND kill green space in Delridge AND eliminate Avalon Station” route and finding a more pragmatic option to make the tunnel happen.

  • Smo May 6, 2018 (2:02 am)

    One other note – if you were outraged by the tree cutting incident a couple years back, I have a tough time seeing how you’d support cutting WAY more trees down by plowing light rail through the ancient maples of Delridge Park and the *forested* middle section of the WS Golf Course. 

    • Brian May 6, 2018 (7:59 am)

      There’s a marked difference between private homeowners deforesting a hillside to enhance their view and a government agency removing trees to facilitate mass transit. 

      • Smo May 6, 2018 (10:05 am)

        So the core argument wasn’t the trees being cut, it was the lack of a permit? Right. At least acknowledge all the alligator tears that were shed over the tree cutting incident if you’re now okay with massive, sanctioned destruction of a WAY larger area (with precarious salmon habitat, tribal water rights, etc.) with way more trees in an area actually used by the community (including the gorgeous ancient maples of Delridge Park) all so people are slightly less inconvenienced during construction or god forbid a view is lost (which happens to be why those idiot homeowners cut the trees). “Homeowners destroyed trees in a short sighted attempt to maximize their views and property values” = tree cutter homeowners AND golf course route advocates. Thankfully Lisa Herbold was the leading tree-cutting outrage voice and seems principled enough to not sell out on her environmental concerns.

        There are multiple great options that won’t cut hundreds (maybe thousands) of trees.

        (And btw don’t say that that route is to maximize mass transit instead of helping the views since the route eliminates Avalon Station and could delay the project for years with environmental lawsuits.)

        For the record, I’m against destroying the environment in both situations, not just ones that are convenient to be outraged over. 

        • KM May 6, 2018 (10:48 am)

          To answer your first question…no. You’re well aware of the differences.

          • Smo May 6, 2018 (11:19 am)

            So if it’s not simply the lack of a permit what is the difference?  This is the least practical route from a transit perspective as it cuts a station, will delay the project, risk federal funding, and face west instead of south for future expansion. Both areas have a major environmental impact – one on a critical slope the other through salmon habitat, tribal waterways, and exponentially more trees cut. At least stay consistent. This route is a massive, sanctioned version of what the teee cutting homeowners did. The destroy Delridge Park & go through the golf course route is completely unnecessary from a transit perspective. There are plenty of other options (including tunnel options) that don’t destroy our parks and green space. Killing Delridge Park is the equivalent of running light rail through Hiawatha, which ironically the tree cutters in that area will enjoy for decades to come (though at least they are consistent on eagerness to chop down trees!).

          • Tyler May 6, 2018 (10:30 pm)

            The incident was a homeowner cutting down trees on protected public land to gain a view (and great risk of landslide for the whole area). Our government institutions have a lot more accountability and environmental regulation built in place than the whim of a person with a chainsaw. A few trees may be lost to save thousands of hours of diesel bus and petrol car emissions from running every single day for the next hundred years (versus losing trees to widening roads), and that’s the choice voters made. 

          • Smo May 7, 2018 (8:26 am)

            Going through the park and golf course will actually put more diesel in the air than other options since it would likely delay or derail the project and eliminate a Station (which would lower ridership and wasn’t what was voted for in ST3). It could also risk federal funding as there are both city & federal regulations against usage of green spaces when alternatives exist. The environment may not be a federal government priority these days, but the regulations do still exist.

            For what it’s worth, my dream option would be a Yancy tunnel route that kept three stations. And to link it up with a frequent shuttle running from White Center to the Delridge Station & from Arbor Heights to the Avalon station on 35th (similar to the Free MallRide Shuttle in Denver that connects their RTD light rail to the rest of downtown and runs every traffic light cycle). 

    • chemist May 6, 2018 (8:09 am)

      I think there is a pretty big anti-golf sentiment among people who don’t golf and view it as a parks expense they don’t benefit from.  If federal funding might be prohibited to be used if a project undoes parkspace (which the golf course is), it’s not something to take lightly.

      If you want to use the golf course, rent some golf clubs and give it a try.

      • Park May 6, 2018 (11:44 am)

        Turn the golf course into a transit center, complete with parking, bike spaces, bus and shuttle stops. Keep some parkland around the area too. Forget the golfing. More need for the space to serve West Seattle than a few golfers. 

        • Smo May 6, 2018 (1:21 pm)

          The golf course can be developed in some capacity without ripping light rail through the forested center and Longfellow creek area. Keeping the front 9 for golfers, turning 12/13 into a park, and developing the 14th-18th holes would have no waterway impact with minimal tree cutting / environmental destruction. And would be walking distance to Avalon station.

    • MATTHEW HUTCHINS May 6, 2018 (1:10 pm)

      If the choice is between tearing down a hundred homes in Youngstown, displacing the people that live there, and BTW cutting down their trees, versus cutting down three hundred mature trees in Puget Park, along the Delridge Playfield, but preserving most of that neighborhood, I would opt for the tree cutting.  

      No one likes tree cutting.  But the golf course trees are 75 years old for example, planted there after the native forest was clear cut.  They are the same age as some of the houses you’d prefer to destroy. Yes, the trees are mature and wonderful today, but we can replant them more easily than healing the dislocation of hundreds of households. 

      • Smo May 6, 2018 (1:48 pm)

        Homes are displaced in the golf course route as well (roughly 25% as many plus the Park). Pigeon Point tunnel and West Seattle Freeway (in my opinion the best route) are the two routes that don’t displace homes.

        • Matt Hutchins May 6, 2018 (4:14 pm)

          I’m arguing for the purple line/Pigeon point tunnel. 

          I like golf, but rather than have a 135 acre golf course few use next an avalon station with only modest numbers of residents within its  walkshed, i’d rather see a 60 acre park everyone in west seattle could enjoy plus another 60 acres of low rise mixed use with a spectrum of market and affordable housing (maybe a hospital?!?) developed around a transit station.  

  • wlcg06 May 6, 2018 (10:12 am)

    WSB, can you post a copy of the presentation that was given? The video does not give a good view of the presentation itself. Thanks

    • WSB May 6, 2018 (10:32 am)

      Sorry, best we could do. If we can get the PDF(s) from ST tomorrow, we’ll add it; otherwise, much of it was the same thing we’ve covered in multiple previous meetings, aside from Sloan Dawson’s brief descriptions related to station planning.

  • West Seattleite May 6, 2018 (10:38 am)

    I believe any elevated solution which runs through neighborhoods will be an absolute failure.

    • heartless May 6, 2018 (12:37 pm)

      Chicago would like a word with you.

      • chemist May 6, 2018 (1:50 pm)

        The viaduct was one of the most efficient ways to build capacity too.  I <3 my viaduct and wish we’d done another one.

        • West Seattleite May 6, 2018 (7:01 pm)

          The viaduct was/is ‘downtown’… i.e. no single family residences disrupted.  But I agree with you.  I would have much rather seen a Viaduct Replacement in lieu of a New Tunnel… for costs alone.

          • chemist May 6, 2018 (9:36 pm)

            I’m not sure why only SFH qualify as disruptable.

            A lot of businesses, tourist-areas, and condo buildings have been suggesting for decades that the elevated viaduct was harming development in that area.  I don’t think they were appeased by pointing out the easy access to a state highway.

            Yes, light rail is different, but just because things get built next to chicago heavy rail doesn’t mean there weren’t tradeoffs.

            I’m honestly scared I’d send my 96 year old grandmother, who lived in West Seattle since the 40s, into a panic attack if I showed her some photos of development next to the El and suggested that as the WS future.

      • West Seattleite May 6, 2018 (7:02 pm)

        I’m listening.  

  • TiredofGovernmentGreed May 6, 2018 (2:46 pm)

    The Sound Transit neighborhood “forum” was a disappointment for many reasons.  ST seemed to approach this as a make-everybody-feel-like-they’ve-been-heard session, rather than a serious look at facts and issues.  Specifically:

    1.  It is not clear what ST’s specific goals are with this light rail spur into West Seattle Junction, and the primary users and purpose for this line are never stated.  Is this rail line intended for people within a certain walking/biking distance of the stations?  Or is this intended to be fed by bus traffic from Admiral and Central/South West Seattle (where much of the population paying taxes for this light rail are unserved…)?  Or is this  rail line intended to replace the current bus lines?  Are most users of the rail line single, married couples, families?  How far does the typical rider take the train into the system, and how often do they ride it?  What attributes has ST seen of riders in other rail segments?  It’s hard to comment on a transportation service, let alone design one, when you don’t identify your target customers and their characteristics or needs.

    2.  No facts and data provided by ST.  What would be the capacity of the rail line, against the planned ridership?  How many people are in the intended service area?  How many riders do they believe will actually connect to rail via bus?  It’s really impossible to make choices on number of stations and locations without understanding the data.

    3.  The purple colored two-tunnel, bridge over the Duwamish route was apparently already chosen two weeks ago by the “Stakeholders” group.  This option looks better in some ways than the other 4, but still has noteworthy weaknesses in terms of being the most expensive, environmental issues of old-age trees and Blue Herron nesting on the east side of Pigeon point, and potential conflict with the toxic clean-up of the Duwamish river area.  This two tunnel option also requires 3rd-party funding, most likely Federal funding, so harder to arrange if even supported by any 3rd party.   That said, the hierarchy of people in this decision process seems to be elected officials first, “stakeholders” second, and neighborhood for opinions and comments only.  Why have a neighborhood forum and show us options when the decision has already been made for one option for us?

    4.  Ignoring the needs of families and the reality of cars.  The city government wants to eliminate cars from Seattle by imposing high taxes targeted on cars (downtown congestion, $80 “TBD” tab fees) and with limited or no off-street parking for new buildings.  Yet working parents with children typically need to use their cars to get their children to daycare or schools on their way to work.  Without providing a park-and-ride option at at least one station, working families can’t go bus-to-bus-to-rail and will not be able to put light rail into their complicated schedules.   It seems like Seattle more and more is ignoring and shunning the families that made our city’s future so promising and vibrant.

    After two hours of neighborhood form I have concerns about Sound Transit’s accelerated project planning.  I am not seeing the considered, planned approach that I expect the Government to take with large amounts of taxpayer money.

  • MJ May 6, 2018 (4:12 pm)

    A hybrid of the ST preferred route that goes underground at about 30th Ave. SW, keep the Avalon Station (as far north as practical, Genesee St. w/o Fauntleroy) and the west terminus under one of the parking lots in the junction.

    This option takes into account Genesee Street has significant grade towards Avalon Street.  Due to the topography undergrounding makes sense.

    The Avalon Station, presuming its located NW of FB could have a significant walk bike shed and be beneficial to WS residents to the north that have poor transit service.

  • AvalonTom May 6, 2018 (6:10 pm)

    Our table discussed many different topics and we looked at mix and matching options. One big point from our discussion was that 100% of the folks wanted some sort of a tunnel option, period. I found it interesting how everyone had very different reasons for it. I felt it was a productive meeting. Still hope that this is all worth it and that ST is listening.

    • chemist May 6, 2018 (7:14 pm)

      At our table upstairs, Jeanine? cautioned us against combining options.  I don’t recall the reasoning, but when we talked about the Purple line’s tunnel and the elevated water crossing routing of the Yellow line east of there drew caution.  Later, when talking with some reps downstairs, I learned that one consideration with that light rail can’t climb more than 6% grades and route elevations come into play.  It’s part of why you can’t go through pigeon ridge aboveground and still make a tunnel at the golf course in the purple line

  • Guy lies May 7, 2018 (1:13 pm)

    Tunnel… how high are people in West Seattle these days??? 

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