FERRY ALERT: Fauntleroy route down one boat again

November 19, 2015 at 11:04 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Washington State Ferries sends word that it’s canceling some runs this hour on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route because M/V Cathlamet needs repairs, through at least the 11:55 trip from Fauntleroy. This boat was in the #3 spot, so check the schedule here for other times that might be affected. We’ll update when more info’s available.

West Seattle land use: 2 parking tales from outside the lines

November 10, 2015 at 8:03 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 33 Comments

From the land-use files, two items that involve parking, but not in the way it usually comes up:

TEAR DOWN A HOUSE TO CREATE A PARKING LOT? A West Seattle church is considering seeking a land-use permit to demolish a house and turn its 5,750-square-foot site into a parking lot. The early-stage filing is from the West Seattle ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 4001 44th SW, with a document explaining that its church/meeting hall is “very active” and causing parking congestion that has left neighbors “frustrated” that nearby streets are full of church-related parking on Sundays. “The church is anxious to mitigate the concerns of the neighborhood by creating on-site parking spaces,” says the pre-application document, which goes on to say that the church discovered a house next door is for sale (not publicly listed so far as we can find) and is interested in buying it to turn its site into 19 parking spaces for the church. The documents acknowledge that would require exceptions to city rules – aka “variances” – but also point out that the church has never met city requirements for the offstreet parking it was supposed to provide, and currently provides none. The formal application has not been filed yet but you can watch land use project #3022789.

SOUTH ADMIRAL BUILDING GETS PERMISSION TO HAVE NO OFFSTREET PARKING: This land-use item is sort of the flip side – a commercial building that doesn’t meet city rules for offstreet parking used to have some on a nearby site, but lost it, and sought formal confirmation that it doesn’t need to provide any. The decision for 3270 California SW was published in Monday’s Land Use Information Bulletin, and if anyone wants to appeal (here’s how), the deadline is November 23rd. The building houses several fitness businesses. Its owner used to have a covenant for eight spaces at 3239 California SW, but that site is now part of what was the Admiral East Apartments, now “Springline,” construction project. The city’s Land Use Code allows offstreet parking to be provided within an 800-foot radius; there is no longer any place that can happen, the city’s decision notes.

FOLLOWUP: 30 mph still on the way for Delridge, Fauntleroy, Harbor, Olson/Roxbury

November 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 47 Comments

Four West Seattle roads are still in line for a five-mph speed-limit reduction. That’s what we’ve learned since a reader calling himself “A Dad on Dangerous Delridgee-mailed us Thursday to wonder what happened to SDOT‘s plan to reduce the speed limit on 5 West Seattle arterials by year’s end. We wrote about it in mid-February, when SDOT released details of its Vision Zero plan. “Dad” CC’d various city officials, including Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who asked SDOT to respond, even before we started inquiring. SDOT’s Jim Curtin responded: “We will be reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph (on Delridge Way) north of SW Orchard Street in December.” We then asked about the other roads on the list. Curtin’s reply: “35th was reduced to 30 between Roxbury and Holly in September. … Fauntleroy, Delridge, and Harbor will be reduced to 30 before the end of 2015. We’re designing additional countermeasures for the Olson Pl SW/Roxbury reduction to 30 mph. This will include radar speed signs for both Roxbury and Olson Place along with flashing beacons to add additional emphasis to our curve-warning signs (where we’ve had some trouble over the years as you know). Still aiming to implement in 2015.”

On today’s city-budget agenda: $ for part of the West Seattle Bridge Corridor ‘action report’ list

November 2, 2015 at 10:27 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 19 Comments

(NOTE: Click “play” to see live feed when Council is meeting – budget hearing resumed just after 2 pm)
10:27 AM: The City Council‘s next round of budget-related discussions is set to start shortly (10:30 am) and today’s list of potential additions/changes to the original budget proposal includes transportation items. Among them, two related to the West Seattle Bridge Corridor “action report” made public in September.

The first item would specify $700,000 to be spent this way:

… The proposed budget action would allocate $200,000 for further analysis of physical and operational improvements in the Corridor. The following evaluations or studies would be conducted if the green sheet were included as part of the City’s 2016 Adopted Budget:

1. Evaluate the feasibility and benefit of installing center barrier sections so response vehicles can make U-turns to speed up response time.

2. Evaluate the feasibility and benefit of installing markings and signs to provide one designated emergency lane in each direction of the West Seattle Bridge upper roadways for use during emergencies.

3. Coordinate with WSDOT to determine the feasibility of traffic management modifications to improve eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct connections to south- and northbound I-5.

4. Evaluate Lower Spokane Street chokepoint relationships to determine if rail, truck and bridge opening blockages can be better coordinated to avoid cumulative impacts.

5. Evaluate better communications protocols for Port of Seattle cooperation with truck queue management and dispersal.

6. Evaluate the process and capability for providing data reports to the Washington State office of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in order for FRA to enforce the maximum 20 minute blockage rule.

7. Initiate an SDOT/WSDOT Peer Review Team to review traffic operational and safety improvement opportunities on the West Seattle Bridge upper and lower roadways and make recommendations.

In addition to the feasibility studies, the green sheet would add $500,000 for installing ITS infrastructure to help communicate delays and wait times associated with train activity in the Corridor. This project would install ITS equipment including Bluetooth readers and dynamic message signs along the Corridor between Airport Way South and Port of Seattle Terminals 5 and 18 in order to collect and display real-time travel time information to trucks drivers and other motorists. Traffic signal system improvements at the intersection of Chelan Avenue Southwest and West Marginal Way Southwest could also be included in the project scope.

The second item, at unspecified cost, basically calls for a report on how the “action report” is being followed up on:

… This Statement of Legislative Intent requests the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) prepare a written progress report on the implementation of initiatives described in the West Seattle Bridge Corridor Whitepaper and Priority Investment List.

The report should describe the Executive’s planning and progress implementing the 2015 West Seattle Bridge Whitepaper and Priority Investment List (the Investment List) recommendations to the Transportation Committee or the appropriate Council committee. The report should be transmitted to the Council no later than March 31, 2016 and should include the following information:

1) A description of all anticipated 2016 SDOT maintenance and capital project activities planned for the West Seattle Bridge Corridor (the Corridor). The report should identify all planned Corridor project activities included in the Investment List and any planned Corridor project activities not included in the Investment List.

2) A comprehensive schedule review defining SDOT’s timing for implementing the Investment List’s recommendations including any multi-year initiatives or projects that may not have full funding.

3) Estimated total investment of City resources in both staff and funding to carry out Investment List recommendations in 2016 and beyond.

4) A description of the on-going metrics SDOT will use to measure the effectiveness of the recommended investments and a Corridor-wide assessment of traffic conditions for all modes in 2016.

See the full list of items to be discussed at today’s budget meeting – no votes, since this is “Round 1″ of the budget review – by going here; you can watch the meeting live via Seattle Channel, online (the “live” player is embedded above) or cable channel 21.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? To comment on anything in the budget process – which will continue until a final vote before Thanksgiving – click the “Send Us Budget Feedback” button on this page.

12:17 PM UPDATE: The West Seattle Bridge-related items hadn’t been reached yet when the council recessed for lunch, due back in session at 2 pm.

2:58 PM: They’ve just reached the West Seattle Bridge Corridor items now. (a moment later) Both went by without discussion, aside from a bit of context from Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

Light rail here? Next stops on the timeline explored at West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s last 2015 meeting

November 1, 2015 at 11:57 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 18 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Will West Seattle light rail make it into the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure next year?

And if it does, which configuration will be on the list – a hop across the bay that ends in The Junction, or something longer?

The next touchstone discussion for Sound Transit‘s future plan is now only one month away, and the West Seattle Transportation Coalition wants to ensure that peninsula residents are heard loud and clear. So that was the centerpiece topic of the most-recent WSTC meeting, which featured a briefing by two ST planners, senior transportation planner Val Batey and planning/development manager Karen Kitsis.

West Seattle possibilities are already on the “candidate projects list” for ST3, but that does not guarantee inclusion. Here’s the list:

(If the embedded version above doesn’t work for you, here it is as a PDF.)

Batey explained the timeline:

Click to read the rest of Light rail here? Next stops on the timeline explored at West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s last 2015 meeting…

FERRY ALERT UPDATE: M/V Issaquah returning to service

October 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

The Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth ferry route will be back to its regular capacity as of mid-afternoon – Washington State Ferries says M/V Issaquah is repaired and will be back in service as of 2:20 this afternoon. It’s been out of service for two days following its latest breakdown.

FERRY ALERT UPDATE: Smaller M/V Salish replaces Issaquah on Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route

October 25, 2015 at 3:15 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

3:15 PM: More trouble today for M/V Issaquah, the largest of the ferries regularly assigned to the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run. It’s out of the mix for repairs again, leaving the older, smaller, slower M/V Evergreen State and Tillikum, and canceling some runs. Watch the ferry bulletins page for updates.

3:39 PM: WSF just announced they’ll get back to three-boat service soon with M/V Salish replacing the Issaquah – its vehicle capacity is half the Issaquah’s, though.

FOLLOWUP: 35th SW signal timing still a work in progress

October 23, 2015 at 7:12 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 8 Comments

(:15 of Instagram video looking north on 35th toward Trenton, recorded 6:20 pm tonight)
More than a month after SDOT rechannelized 35th SW south of Upper Morgan, work on the full plan finalized in July is “essentially done,” project manager Jim Curtin tells WSB. We checked in with him today because the topic came up at last night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, with a short discussion of the signal timing in the rechannelization zone. Curtin says they are “still doing some fine tuning of the signal timing,” adding, “We actually had a signal malfunction at Trenton a few weeks ago, which threw us off schedule a bit. We have a temporary fix in place with a permanent repair scheduled to be completed in the next few days. We will continue to tweak the signal timing until it’s ‘dialed in’.” He says there’s one other issue remaining: “We’re also having some trouble getting a few folks to comply with the new parking restrictions for the short segment of BAT lane at Holden. We’ll make another attempt to reach these folks on Monday morning. We’ve knocked on doors and sent three letters to no avail. This time we’ll leave a note on their windshield.” Curtin says he is out on 35th daily – as he has noted publicly many times, he lives in Arbor Heights – and that a new round of data has been ordered, so that SDOT can “provide another update before the end of the year.”

Metro trip cancellations: Bus system still needs to hire more drivers to handle ‘enormous spike of work’

October 22, 2015 at 9:22 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 34 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Metro hopes its hiring spree will take care of the trip-cancellation problem by the end of this month.

While the bus system has stressed that only a small percentage of trips get canceled – they know it’s a big problem when it’s your trip. And when Metro started tweeting cancellation alerts – while acknowledging that it doesn’t get to send alerts about all the cancellations – it seemed three north West Seattle runs were affected more often than others – routes 55, 56, 57. Three trips from two of those routes were announced as canceled again this morning:

Those weren’t the only Metro trip cancellations tweeted/texted today – there were four others that were NOT on West Seattle routes:

Whichever routes they happen to, the concept of canceling a bus trip seems incomprehensible – you print a timetable, you run buses, you assign drivers, the service goes on, right? So we asked Metro exactly how a trip cancellation happens.

For an expanded, in-person version of the answer, we were shown around the two Metro “bases” at 6th and Royal Brougham one recent weekday afternoon. That’s where the buses are parked and where the drivers are scheduled, assigned, and dispatched. This building houses two of Metro’s seven bases, home to most West Seattle routes, with a few exceptions – for example, Routes 128 and 50 go from the South Base, Route 120 from Atlantic.

It’s where we learned phrases such as “piece of work.” Not what it meant in oldtime slang.

And we heard a lot of numbers.

Example: 1,052 daily trips out of 11,000 system-wide touch West Seattle.

The drivers for those trips are assigned by dispatchers who work in front of screens in what resemble big reception windows (top photo) – inside the 6th/Royal Brougham building, each of the two bases has its own dispatch window. While we watched and observed, we were pointed to a group of drivers waiting in a small lounge-like area down the hall, to see what might come open. Announcements were made from time to time.

In scheduling, some part-time drivers might get a “piece of work” that is very short – the minimum amount of time for which they can be paid, two and a half hours. And that’s where a cancellation might come in. A certain trip on a certain route might be part of that small “piece of work,” and if not everything can be covered, the shortest “piece of work” is what will end up going uncovered.

“What’s usually canceled is the smallest piece of the smallest part time route,” says Sandy Sander (photo above), who is superintendent of Central Base operations.

And even with that, they have policies – “we’re not going to cancel the same route two trips in a row, no first or last trips (of the day, on a route) can be canceled, no school trips.”

Since the addition (or restoration) of service paid for by last year’s Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, she says, “we’ve gone through an enormous spike of work” – so they’ve been going through two dozen new driver candidates every two weeks. There’s attrition in that number, and every two dozen will result in about 18 new hires. (You can get a hint at the hiring challenge by looking at Metro’s fall employee newsletter online:

Already this year (through August) we’ve hired 322 transit operators and more than 300 people for other positions, which meant processing over 1,990 transit operator applications and more than 6,325 applications for other Transit positions. We’ve also promoted 58 employees into new positions.

How long does it take a part-timer to get promoted to full time, if that’s what they want?

“Typically two or three years, but currently, 9 months.” And while you might expect it would be the other way around, the part-timer works the same route every day, while drivers with seniority get to choose.

A driver can work up to 16 hours and then has to have at least eight hours off. Extra work might be assigned on the fly as the dispatchers toil to keep everything filled – a driver might be out finishing up their originally scheduled shift, Sander explains, and on the way in, when a dispatcher finds out they have a spot to fill, they’ll contact the driver and ask “can you become the X route?”

Sander told us, “We’ve gone through a period where it’s like a snowstorm every day” – crazy scheduling and juggling. And until they hire enough people, some trips will be canceled. (Interested in working for Metro? Find out more here.)

Highway 99 tunnel-machine update: Projected restart date now Christmas Eve-Eve

October 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

Tunnel update just in from WSDOT: The newest monthly construction schedule from its contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has slid another month. If this one holds, the tunnel machine will resume work on December 23rd, and if all goes well, the tunnel would open in April 2018. Read WSDOT’s update in full – including what’s happening near the access pit along the Viaduct – by going here.

Delridge RapidRide, ‘low bridge’ among hot topics at West Seattle Bridge Corridor ‘action report’ meeting

October 21, 2015 at 10:52 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

Will Metro Route 120 be improved or damaged if it’s turned into a RapidRide line? That was arguably the biggest topic of Monday night’s meeting on the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor “action report.” The meeting at the Sisson Building in The Junction followed up on the report’s September debut, which in turn fulfills a promise made by City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen in his final year of office, and responds to a push from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition in its priority-setting.

The “action report” includes 27 possibilities envisioned to improve getting around in the corridor. You can read through them here:

On Monday night, SDOT’s Bill LaBorde presented them to the light turnout, fewer than a dozen people, who as a result had time to ask questions as the presentation went by. Big questions about transforming Route 120 – a short-term priority (see page 8) – included whether stops would be consolidated as with other RapidRide routes – Route 54/55 to the C Line, for example. Also: Would the stops include curb bulbs, like the ones in Morgan Junction that lead to backups. And, with the narrowness of Delridge in some spots, will the big RapidRide buses really work? LaBorde said most of the project’s $43 million cost would go to street improvements; he believed bulbs would be studied carefully before any implementation, and he didn’t envision much stop consolidation beyond what already has happened on Delridge.

Another big topic: Low-bridge openings during commute times, and the city repeatedly getting turned down in its requests to find ways to at least limit them. The city is continuing to talk to the U.S. Coast Guard, said LaBorde, while pointing out that some sailings are tide-dependent and the tides are when they are. The city is looking at operational efficiencies for bridge openings, though, including ways the bridge itself might be able to get the job done more quickly. A study would be needed, he said.

Speaking of the low bridge, the five-way intersection at Spokane/Marginal at its west end, and the one at the bottom of the eastern Admiral Way hill, both came up. The former is in the action plan, the latter is not. And to the east, the need for the Lander Street Overcrossing – still on the drawing board, years after it was expected to be built – was stressed.

Along with the plan’s potential projects, Councilmember Rasmussen pointed out the city’s traffic-incident-management changes, forced by the fish-truck-crash debacle, and intended to ensure that traffic blockages in corridors like this one are dealt with as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

Some of the “action plan” items are tied to the Move Seattle levy on the November 3rd ballot. What happens if the levy is rejected? Rasmussen was asked. At the very least, he said, the projects would be sequenced in a slower rollout – if you want improvements, he said, there has to be money for them.

P.S. For an update on #26 on the list – possible light rail for this area via the future Sound Transit 3 ballot measure – come to the WSTC’s meeting tomorrow night (Thursday), 6:30 pm, at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way).

See which West Seattle streets are in city’s just-approved ‘heavy haul network’

October 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

(Click the image to see the map as a full-size PDF)
That’s the map of the “heavy-haul network” approved by Seattle City Councilmembers today – a year and a half after the idea started circulating in a big way. This city news release explains:

Mayor Ed Murray praised the Seattle City Council for passing legislation establishing a heavy haul network of city streets in Seattle. The network will allow heavier cargo containers to be transported between the Port of Seattle, industrial businesses and rail yards.

“Seattle is an international gateway and trade supports our strong and diverse economy,” said Mayor Murray. “A heavy haul corridor will help freight move more safely and efficiently through our industrial center. I applaud the Council for approving a plan that will support thousands of trade-dependent jobs and businesses in Seattle, around the region, and across the country.”

The measure provides a framework to repair and build roadways within the network, calls for semi-annual safety inspections of heavy haul trucks, and aligns weight regulations with the state and other municipalities across the country. The proposal will also eliminate citations from the State Patrol to truck drivers for carrying overweight loads.

The proposed corridor will allow the Port to be more competitive with other West Coast ports, which have similar heavy haul networks.

“The Northwest Seaport Alliance thanks the Seattle City Council for its approval of a heavy haul network that will make us a more competitive international gateway and improve the livelihood of truck drivers,” said Port of Seattle Commission Co-President Courtney Gregoire. “Seattle’s heavy haul network, like others in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Tacoma, will allow freight to move more safely and efficiently through our North Harbor.”

The Port of Seattle is contributing $250,000 toward start-up and implementation costs for 2016 and 2017. To offset the anticipated impacts of allowing heavier trucks, the Port will contribute between $10 million and $20 million over the next 20 years towards roadway repair and reconstruction within the network.

Commercial drivers will be required to purchase a $200 annual permit for transporting loads up to 98,000 pounds. The fees collected from the permits will be used to administer the program, including a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer.

As the map shows, the new “network” includes the “low bridge” and West Marginal Way SW.

FOLLOWUP: Nine months after grant approval, Morgan Junction sidewalk repair about to begin

October 14, 2015 at 11:06 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 8 Comments

We first told you back in January that a Neighborhood Park and Street Fund application for sidewalk repair in Morgan Junction had been approved – and now, the work is finally about to begin.

Morgan Community Association president Deb Barker tells WSB that the group has word from SDOT that work is about to start on the project – “long-needed sidewalk repair at the SW intersection of California Ave SW and Fauntleroy Way SW alongside three properties. Ginnie Hance, who manages the Ivy Court Apartments, was concerned about the hazardous sidewalk condition caused in part by tree roots, and submitted the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund application in 2014.” That’s a fund open to community applications for projects like this. SDOT says the work will start “as soon as October 20th,” but is weather-dependent. Once it starts, it’ll take three to four weeks, which means it should be finished by Thanksgiving; SDOT is working now on putting together flyers to send around – once we get a copy, we’ll publish it as an update.

P.S. MoCA’s next quarterly meeting is just a week away; it’s at 7 pm next Wednesday (October 21st), at The Kenney (WSB sponsor).

FOLLOWUP: How are 35th SW and SW Roxbury doing, post-rechannelization? SDOT goes public with first stats

October 13, 2015 at 1:40 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 116 Comments

(Photo from SDOT Blog)

Have you traveled on 35th SW and/or SW Roxbury since the recent rechannelizations (and other changes)? SDOT has just published its first report on the aftermath – see it on the SDOT Blog website, now that the work is mostly done. An excerpt:

… The project team has been monitoring the revised segments of 35th Avenue SW and SW Roxbury Street on a daily basis. We’ve also collected data in an effort to obtain preliminary insights into the effects of the recent changes.

To date, we’ve seen no change in volumes on 35th Avenue SW or SW Roxbury Street. Daily traffic volumes on these streets remain within the same range as pre-project volumes. During our public outreach process, some people commented that they were concerned about drivers diverting to nearby residential streets after the channelization changes. We’ve received no reports of diversions from residents and our volume data does not indicate diversions to residential streets. However, we will continue to keep an eye on this issue moving forward.

Our first look at vehicle speeds on 35th Avenue SW is encouraging. The street once commonly referred to as “I-35” in the neighborhood no longer sees the majority of drivers pushing speeds up to 40 miles per hour. Instead, most drivers now travel around 34 to 35 miles per hour. This is a significant improvement but we’d like to see drivers traveling at lower speeds which are closer to the new posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour. We will expand our speed data collection efforts in October and November and hope to see lower speeds as drivers adjust to the new conditions.

There’s no doubt that these corridors feel different than they used to, especially during the afternoon commute when traffic volumes are highest. With just one general purpose travel lane in each direction, vehicle queueing at signalized intersections is more substantial during the afternoon/evening commute period. However, longer signal cycles effectively mitigate the queues and vehicles are able to clear intersections in just one green phase. Occasionally, emergency response vehicles such as police and fire will preempt signals at SW Holden Street, so it can take up to two signal cycles to clear the intersection when traffic volumes are high.

Again, the corridor feels different but vehicle and transit travel times have been minimally impacted. During community outreach, we mentioned that traffic modeling projected delays on 35th Avenue SW of one-to-two minutes with a maximum delay of 2.5 minutes during the afternoon rush hour. Our travel time data, based on driving the 35th corridor dozens of times during peak hours, show that our models were a bit conservative:

The data tables are in the full post on the city website – with car and bus travel times – as are ways to get your feedback to the city.

P.S. If you missed the backstory on the 35th and Roxbury projects – check the links and slide decks in this story we published while the road work was under way.

What would you do to fix West Seattle Bridge traffic? Come talk about it October 19th

September 28, 2015 at 6:12 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 48 Comments

(WSB file photo by Christopher Boffoli)
Just announced: A special meeting about the West Seattle Bridge Corridor – not just about what’s in that new city “action plan” first reported here a week ago, but also about what you think should be done to fix its often-snarled state. We just found out about this from the office of City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who’s hosting the meeting; they’ve scheduled it with three weeks’ advance notice so you have time to make plans to be there if you’re interested. The basics: 6:30 pm Monday, October 19th, at the Sisson Building (home of the Senior Center of West Seattle), southeast corner of SW Oregon and California SW. If you missed the report and its 27 possibilities for improving the flow in what the city is now calling the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor, follow the link above, or take a look at the “white paper”:

@ West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Port candidates; bridge ‘action report’ concerns; support ‘Move Seattle’ or not?

September 24, 2015 at 8:42 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two big topics for tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting – a candidates’ forum for the two Seattle Port Commission races, and a discussion of the newly released West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor “action report” – which veered into a debate about the group’s stance on the Move Seattle levy.

Chair Amanda Kay Helmick started the meeting with a moment of silence for victims of the Aurora Bridge crash. Then it was on to politics:

PORT COMMISSION CANDIDATES: For Position 2, incumbent Courtney Gregoire canceled at the last minute (with a note about staying home with a sick child), leaving Goodspaceguy for that position; for Position 5, which has no incumbent in the race, both Fred Felleman and Marion Yoshino were in attendance. Each got about a minute for an opening statement, and we recorded all three on video:

Questions followed (our summaries below are highlights, not full verbatims). First – “what transportation system improvements are needed to better serve the West Seattle peninsula and the Port?”

Click to read the rest of @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Port candidates; bridge ‘action report’ concerns; support ‘Move Seattle’ or not?…

FOLLOWUP: Big ‘action report’ for West Seattle Bridge gets little discussion @ busy council-committee meeting

September 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 1 Comment

That’s the Seattle Channel video from this morning’s City Council Transportation Committee meeting, where the big “action report” for the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor received relatively little examination, since everything else ahead of it on the agenda had taken so much time. (Advance the video to 2:17:34 to get right to it; it’s the final 15 minutes of the meeting.)

We brought you the first look at the report, with its 27-item project list and an even weightier “white paper,” on Sunday night – if you haven’t seen it already, take a look here for direct links as well as embedded versions of the three project documents.

West Seattle-residing, and soon-departing, City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen – the committee’s chair – reminded those on hand this morning that ours is “the busiest traffic corridor in Seattle.” As the report notes, the number of “incidents” (crashes, stalls) in the corridor isn’t high – but any incident’s impact IS, affecting traffic for an estimated 47 to 55 minutes on average.

A few “highlights” mentioned by SDOT staffers from the project list, in the brief briefing:

*Red bus-lane markings (happening now) – “we’ve seen some promising results” from elsewhere in the city, SDOT says. Rasmussen reinforced that more enforcement will be sought.
*ITS improvements (messaging-board signage, signal adjustments, etc.)
*Incident-management protocols
*Enhanced crossing improvements at the notorious 5-way intersection
*4th Avenue improvements, especially to make it more viable for transit, particularly looking ahead to the post-Viaduct Highway 99 future

Some of the changes won’t require more money – just more training, for incident-management protocol changes, for example. Some ITS changes will require more money, though, and that’s part of November’s Move Seattle levy, the committee was reminded.

Rasmussen asked about a long-sore subject – working with the U.S. Coast Guard on reducing low-bridge openings during peak times, or at least during incidents – SDOT’s Bill LaBorde did not sound terribly optimistic. It’s still “voluntary compliance” with the request to reduce some of those openings. (Rasmussen led multiple attempts to change this in recent years, and the feds said no each time – saying maritime takes precedence.)

So what happens to all these ideas now? We asked Councilmember Rasmussen that last night, during a short interview in the bus-lane-marking zone. He said he’s glad to get all this out there – but others will need to step forward to hold the city accountable. (He didn’t say it, but whomever’s elected to the District 1 City Council seat – which he decided not to seek – is a prime candidate, obviously.)

(For starters, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, which pushed for much of this even before its first year was out, will be talking about it at its meeting this Thursday, September 24th, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, 6400 Sylvan Way SW.)

RELATED NOTE – TRAFFIC INCIDENT MANAGEMENT: Preceding the bridge-report presentation, Heather Marx from SDOT said 17 of the recommendations have now been acted on. She handed the baton to Mark Bandy, an urban-traffic-corridors specialist hired by SDOT from WSDOT, as mentioned in our followup a month ago on the incident-management recommendations.

VIDEO: West Seattle Bridge bus lane getting its red markings – plastic, not paint

September 21, 2015 at 11:02 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 34 Comments

One night later than planned, because of last night’s rain, the first meant-to-discourage-lawbreaking red markings are being applied right now to the bus lane approaching, and on, the eastbound West Seattle Bridge. Our quick Instagram clip takes a closer look:

During a brief hard-hat-required photo op with the SDOT crew and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, first thing we learned was that “markings” is the word because it’s NOT paint. “Paint” was the word used in the city announcement we published – but shortly after arrival in the work zone tonight, talking with crew leaders, we were informed 2′ x 3′ red plastic strips comprise the markings. They’re laid down after the surface is pressure-washed, and then they’re sealed.

Street paint would wear off quickly, it was explained. The plastic is tinted throughout, so it holds its color even as some of the surface wears away. And this is a bright “traffic red” color, in case you were in the contingent thinking red wouldn’t show on a dark, rainy morning/night. In addition, a reflective material tops the plastic strips – looking like frost, to our eyes:

That’ll catch your headlights in those dark hours. The crew started work tonight on the bus lane right after it heads east at the corner of Spokane/Avalon, and were headed toward the high rise when we left. Councilmember Rasmussen said (video) he was glad to see the start of work on one of the items on the 27-project West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor action plan (reported here last night) that his Transportation Committee will review tomorrow – but he also spotted a few things, as we stood along the south side of the bottom of the onramp, such as missing pavement – “you need to get someone out here tomorrow to fix that,” he admonished – and one tattered item suggesting the sidewalk might not have been swept in a few years:

A few decades, maybe. Anyway, if you drive the eastbound bridge – and/or eastbound lower Spokane, east of Avalon – you’ll see red for at least a few years, which is how long the $200,000 application is expected to last.

TRANSIT UPDATES: Reroutes for Chinese president’s visit; rescheduled briefing on Metro cancellations

September 21, 2015 at 5:56 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

5:56 PM: Two quick transit-related notes:

REROUTES FOR CHINESE PRESIDENT’S VISIT: As first reported back on Friday night, traffic and transit challenges are expected between tomorrow morning and Thursday morning while the president of China visits the area. He’s flying into and out of Paine Field in Snohomish County and staying in a downtown Seattle hotel. Metro has just published its full list of expected reroutes; no West Seattle-downtown routes appear to be involved, but for those who transfer and/or work in the area, here are the details.

CITY COUNCIL BRIEFING ON METRO CANCELLATIONS: In our followup last week on Metro‘s recent cancellations, which have seemed to be disproportionately affecting West Seattle routes, it was mentioned that Metro GM Kevin Desmond would brief the City Council Transportation Committee tomorrow. That agenda’s gotten busy, including the new West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor report (covered here last night), so the briefing/discussion has been postponed until next week – Monday, September 28th, at the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (full council wearing different hats) meeting, which follows the afternoon City Council meeting. No specific time yet – we’ll be tracking it.

ADDED 6:52 PM: Regarding the first item above – Bill asked in comments about the president’s arrival time. Haven’t found an official direct source so far but the Everett Herald, closest major publication to the arrival airport, says 9:30 am tomorrow. We’ll have the newest information in our daily traffic/transit update first thing in the morning.

27 possible ways to ease West Seattle Bridge (and vicinity) traffic, per new city report

September 20, 2015 at 9:48 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 38 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though rain has just led to postponement of what was to be SDOT‘s second night of work to add red markings to the bus lane on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge, we’ve obtained a little light reading for everyone interested in what else the city is pursuing for improving traffic in what’s now dubbed the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor.

The bus-lane markings are the first of 27 potential action items comprising the heart of a report to be presented during Tuesday morning’s meeting of the City Council Transportation Committee, chaired by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. It traces back to January, when Rasmussen announced the city would launch a “West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force.” Then at the end of July, he said its recommendations would emerge this month – and here they are.

The report includes three documents – first, a slide deck; second, a project list, third, a “white paper,” which includes declarations such as, “Traffic volumes on the West Seattle Bridge and Spokane Viaduct are projected to increase 26-33% over the next 20 years.” None of the possibilities are particularly dramatic; it’s more incremental – such as the long-expected upgrade of Delridge Way to a RapidRide corridor; possibly turning the West Seattle Water Taxi into a two-boat run for more-frequent service.
The slide deck has the toplines:

The project list elaborates on them (click “zoom in” in the lower right of the Scribd embed, and you should be able to read the details):

And the “white paper” goes even further, adding some other possibilities, as well as facts you might not have heard before (such as “King County Metro currently operates 13 routes over the West Seattle Bridge during weekdays. There are 29,300 total riders and 765 buses in the corridor each weekday.”).

In those documents, you won’t see what SDOT had already long since ruled out, adding another lane to the eastbound-bridge-to-northbound-99 bottleneck. But the “white paper” does mention the possibility of looking at re-adding a 4th Avenue onramp to the Spokane Street Viaduct section of the WS Bridge (the last one was closed in 1993).

The “white paper” also goes extensively into the long-contentious issue of low-bridge openings for marine traffic during commute times, particularly as they affect bicyclists, who don’t have a nearby alternative as do motorized vehicles, and freight. It acknowledges some improvements in the way things have been working, and suggests a few more, most intriguingly, in the last paragraph of the entire “white paper”:

The Swing Bridge control system is a computer based programmable controller system. There are over 2200 individual commands and steps in the process to completely open and close the bridge. Through careful critical path analysis of the opening and closing sequence there is an opportunity to reduce the electrical/mechanical functional time. We cannot control the time necessary for a vessel to safely transit the waterway, but if we can reduce the overall opening time by only 30 seconds, it can save over 15 hours of delay time per year.

WHAT’S NEXT? The Tuesday-morning meeting at which this will be presented is at 9:30 am at City Hall. (Councilmember Rasmussen was still reviewing the report when we talked to him earlier today; we were going to ask him for comment at what was supposed to be a photo opportunity in the bridge-painting zone tonight, but that’s now been postponed for weather, as mentioned above.) If you can’t be at Tuesday’s meeting, Seattle Channel will carry it live, online and on cable channel 21. As you review the documents, you’ll note that some of the suggestions have funding, more don’t, so these will be potential issues in both the upcoming city budget process and the campaign for the Move Seattle transportation levy, as well as issues to bring up with the candidates for West Seattle/South Park’s City Council District 1 seat.

MONDAY MIDDAY P.S. As pointed out in comments, you’re invited to come discuss the overall West Seattle egress/ingress issue at this Thursday’s WS Transportation Coalition meeting, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way).

VIDEO: 2nd open house for SDOT’s Admiral Way Safety Project

September 19, 2015 at 9:54 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

(WSB video & photos by Katie Meyer)

That’s the public meeting that wouldn’t have happened if not for community demand. At the first open house for SDOT’s SW Admiral Way Safety Project back in May at Alki Elementary (WSB coverage here) – at which many concerns were detailed, sometimes testily – Admiral Neighborhood Association president David Whiting stood up and asked SDOT reps to commit to a second public meeting, then and there. They did. And so, nine days after going over plan revisions at the ANA’s regular monthly meeting on September 8th (WSB coverage here), SDOT held a standalone open house at Hiawatha Community Center this past Thursday.

It started and ended with discussion time around the room, where these boards were shown – with some options that weren’t in the deck at the ANA meeting:

The slide deck included in the presentation on our video is here:

The only thing we can’t show you is what Mayor Ed Murray told attendees at the start of the meeting – we had equipment trouble, so our video picks up shortly after that. He told those gathered that their concerns had caught his attention. He didn’t stay, but as you can see in the video, SDOT director Scott Kubly did, as did the staffers who led the presentation, Dawn Schellenberg and Sam Woods, and traffic engineer Dongho Chang.

The points of contention continue to be whether proposed changes are necessary and/or whether they will address the key factor in collisions along the road, drivers losing control (and/or impaired) and hitting parked cars. The need for bicycle lanes continued to be debated; while the road is not heavily used by riders now, the city, and riders, say that’s to be expected because it’s not a safe/comfortable option in its current configuration. While the city’s new options would keep much of the on-street vehicle parking that was previously proposed for removal, the potential loss of a center turn lane as a result drew some concerns.

If the goal is to slow drivers down, why not use speed humps? Chang explained that they’re dangerous on slopes.

The questions/answers continued; SDOT says it’s still open to comments on the revised plans until October 1st – a link for e-mail feedback is on the project webpage – then they will work on a “final” design, with fall/winter implementation and “evaluation” next year:

TRAFFIC ALERT: West Seattle Bridge bus-lane marking work starts tonight, first of four nights

September 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 8 Comments

Since the city sent first word Friday afternoon of the plan to paint red markings in the bus lane on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge, we’ve followed up to get the work schedule, which wasn’t in the announcement. If you’re driving the eastbound bridge overnight any time in the next four nights, be on the lookout for crews. SDOT spokesperson Norm Mah tells WSB it’ll be done over the next four nights:

The prep will begin Saturday night at 9 pm and go probably until 5 am. Then the painting is scheduled to begin Sunday night at 9 pm until 5 am to have the least impact on traffic. The work will continue Monday and Tuesday nights same hours and expected to be completed and ready for the Wednesday morning commute.

The city has marked bus lanes with red paint in four other spots so far. This is apparently one of the action items in the long-awaited “West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor Action Report” that will be presented at the City Council Transportation Committee‘s meeting on Tuesday morning at 9:30 am; the report itself is not yet attached to the agenda.

West Seattle Bridge bus lane to get red paint tomorrow

September 18, 2015 at 4:01 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 48 Comments

Just in from SDOT:

Starting on Saturday, September 19, 2015, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will mark the existing eastbound bus-only lanes on the West Seattle Bridge with high visibility red markings. Similar to those installed in locations such as Battery Street and NE Pacific Street, these markings raise the profile of the transit-only lane and improve driver compliance with the restriction.

Click to read the rest of West Seattle Bridge bus lane to get red paint tomorrow…

VIDEO: Celebrating West Seattle’s new King County Water Taxi vessel, M/V Doc Maynard

September 18, 2015 at 12:49 pm | In King County Water Taxi, Transportation, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

And with that, the M/V Doc Maynard was officially welcomed to the King County Water Taxi fleet – though it’s not expected to join the West Seattle-Downtown Seattle run until December – after filling in for its twin M/V Sally Fox on the Vashon run for a while, and after some work is done at Seacrest to accommodate its size and configuration. The celebration at Pier 50 downtown included speeches and even stories – King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, drawing on a past gig as an Underground Tour guide, told the tale of the boat’s namesake:

After the speeches and bottle-smashing, it was out onto the bay for a test run. Here’s a quick look around the top deck at the stern (there’s room for more than 30 to stand at the bow, too) – mouse over the Instagram image to bring up the “play” button:

We have lots of photos, video, and info to add once we’re back at HQ.

ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: More from the event – first, the group shot of West Seattleites who took the short “maiden voyage” after the ceremony, out into the bay and back:

(Photo courtesy KCDOT)

The county points out that the space on the bow is one thing differentiating Doc Maynard from Sally Fox – since the DM will travel mostly in calmer Elliott Bay waters, rather than across the heart of the sound as SF does to get to Vashon Island. Here’s what it looks like on the inside upper passenger deck, which has a view directly into the wheelhouse:

On the outer lower deck, at the stern, some of the bicycle storage:

The event wasn’t just a celebration of the new boat – funded mostly with a grant from the federal government (which had a rep on hand too) – but also of the Water Taxi’s history. It was pointed out that it now goes back 17 years, into the late 1990s, at which time then-King County Councilmember Greg Nickels championed it as a “demonstration project.” Introduced as “the father of the Water Taxi,” he spoke today too:

Nickels noted that the fellow West Seattleites with whom he stood, County Executive Dow Constantine and Councilmember McDermott, also worked with him back in the Water Taxi’s early days. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll recall other boats that have handled the Water Taxi’s run; while the way-back boats weren’t present for the ceremony, the other three current boats were out on the water as the Doc Maynard pulled away:

Besides the Sally Fox, you saw in that clip the current West Seattle boat, the Spirit of Kingston, and the current backup, the Melissa Ann, which is leased. SofK will be the backup boat once Doc Maynard goes into service.

Here’s how Metro bus service will change on September 26th

September 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 13 Comments

Metro has just announced details of its next “service change,” scheduled to take effect on September 26th (one week from Saturday). You can see all the changes here; here are the area routes we see listed (please let us know if we’re missing one), plus a big change for holiday service, with several local routes involved:


Route 21 daytime and evening service frequency will also improve to every 15 minutes on Sunday as all southbound Route 5 trips will be connected to Route 21 operating to Westwood Village and all northbound Route 21 trips with be connected to Route 5 operating to Shoreline CC.


Route 113 to Shorewood will start from the bus stop on 2nd Ave just south of Bell St. It will no longer serve the bus stop eastbound on Blanchard St just east of 1st Ave.


Beginning Saturday, Sept 26, reduced weekday schedules will be eliminated on the following routes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 33, 36, 40, 41, 43, 44, 50, 56, 60, 64, 70, 76, 77, 124, 131 and 132. These routes will operate regular weekday service on holidays.

If you’d rather scroll through a text list of all the changes around the region, find it here.

Crewmembers’ heroism aboard Fauntleroy ferry, West Seattle Water Taxi

September 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

Two tales of heroism on board local waterborne transit this weekend.

FAUNTLEROY FERRY CREW SAVES MAN: Just before 3:30 pm Sunday, a medical call brought emergency vehicles to the Fauntleroy ferry dock. Tonight, the Kitsap Sun, while telling the story of a variety of ferry-schedule interruptions, explains what it was about: An 84-year-old Vashon Island man was found unconscious in his car aboard the M/V Cathlamet after it docked at the island. Two deckhands started CPR and used a defibrillator. An ambulance was called to the boat, which continued on to Fauntleroy, where the man was rushed to a hospital.

WATER TAXI CREW RESCUES KAYAKER: Shared by King County Executive Dow Constantine via Twitter, a report from Paul Brodeur, director of the KC Department of Transportation’s Marine Division, about an incident Saturday evening: “We pulled a borderline hypothermic kayaker out of the water at Seacrest, brought him on board to warm up, called 911, fire department came, assessed him, took him into their care. We left on the 1800 run ten minutes late but made up the time. Kudos to G.W. and Scott for quick thinking and providing good care to the young man.”

ROAD WORK TONIGHT: Roxbury, 35th painting, marking, ‘hydroblasting’ continues

September 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 55 Comments

You might have missed this if you don’t read the daily road-work alerts in the traffic/transit coverage we publish each weekday morning: SDOT crews are due back out on Roxbury and 35th tonight, as marking, restriping, and “hydroblasting” removal of the old striping continues in both projects. We saw this crew on 35th north of Thistle less than an hour ago:

As we showed in this morning’s traffic/transit notes, the Roxbury rechannelizing north of White Center was mostly finished overnight. That’s far from the entirety of the Roxbury project, which is detailed in this presentation first shown at the April meeting of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, and has been in the works for more than a year and a half:

Jim Curtin, managing both projects for SDOT, says, “Our crews will be out on Roxbury again tonight since there’s still some work left,” as well as working on 35th (plan below, as announced two months ago):

If it does rain Wednesday, that could delay some work, Curtin adds: “We can remove paint in the rain but re-painting is impossible.”

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