West Seattle, Washington
1:35 PM: Above, you see a live feed (evening update: archived version substituted) from the Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting that just started downtown. During this meeting, the board is expected to finalize the ST3 ballot measure that, among other things, includes a plan for light rail to West Seattle by 2030. See the agenda here. The ST3 resolution, calling for the plan to go to voters on November 8th, is here, with the financial-component resolution here, and the draft of plan details (including who gets what, when) is here. (Other docs are linked from the agenda page.)
2:07 PM: The public-comment period is continuing. The board has heard so far from a variety of speakers, expressing both support – from suburban and Seattle speakers – and opposition, including reps of a newly formed coalition under the banner “No ST3.”
2:32 PM: After about an hour, public comment is over, and the board will hear from the “expert review panel” that took a look at the “methodologies and key assumptions that (have been used to prepare) the plan.” You can read their memo here. From that memo, this might be of interest to those who would like to see a tunnel toward the end of the proposed line to West Seattle, rather than elevated:
For example, several stakeholder groups or jurisdictions have already expressed
interest in supporting construction of a tunnel in alignments where a tunnel is not being
proposed. Staff responded that such a major change in the project scope resulting in increased
costs would likely require additional funding from other public or private sources, beyond what
is available through the ST3 funding package. The Panel suggests that the plan should make it
clear that it is likely “outside” funding would be necessary to support major alignment changes.
This would help set expectations regarding future discussions about alternatives. This suggestion
could be particularly useful in light of the fact that the proposed ST3 plan includes provisional
projects. We assume that additional ST3 funding for a tunnel that is not included in the current
plan would be at the expense of identified provisional projects.
2:58 PM: In case you’re just coming in now – the board is handling other business before getting to ST3 (as with many public meetings, there’s some separation between the public-comment period at the beginning and the actual agenda item about which most spoke).
3:02 PM: And almost as soon as we made note of that – then the board arrived at the ST3 agenda items.
4:03 PM: The board members are making their final round of speeches before the official vote.
4:08 PM: “We have a plan,” declares board chair County Executive Dow Constantine after a unanimous vote in favor of the plan. Next, the vote to send it to the November ballot.
4:20 PM: More from Constantine: “It’s expensive, but it’ll never be cheaper … so we must move forward to November … the hardest work is yet to come” – the work of convincing voters around the region to approve it. A moment later, the final, unanimous, voice vote sending it to the November 8th ballot.
9:02 AM: We hadn’t mentioned this yet because it looked for a while like the problems had been solved, but now Washington State Ferries has announced more cancellations on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run – on a day when traffic was already expected to be heavy, not just for usual weekend increases, but because it’s graduation day at Vashon Island High School. WSF cited shorthandedness as the reason for cancelling runs from Vashon and Fauntleroy last hour; check here for the latest.
10:10 AM: As noted in comments, looks like the route is back to the usual capacity now, but even before this, WSF was advising early arrivals today.
Years in the making, the city’s “Seattle 2035” comprehensive-plan update is moving toward finalization. With transportation being one of West Seattle’s hottest issues, you might be interested in that specific section of Seattle 2035, which gets a briefing at the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee next Tuesday (June 21st) at 2 pm. The map above, setting a goal of 35% single-occupancy-vehicle trips for our area, is in both of the following documents linked to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting:
The documents go into added detail about the focus on “mode share” – moving the same number of people with fewer vehicles – and other parts of the transportation philosophy in the proposed plan. Following up on this briefing, and in advance of others before committees handling topics that correlate to other parts of the plan (the dates are all in the slide deck linked above), a public hearing on the overall Seattle 2035 plan is set for June 27th, 6 pm, at City Hall – full details here, including how to comment on the plan via e-mail before then.
(UPDATED FRIDAY NIGHT with trash can’s arrival)
9:24 PM: Another followup tonight: This one, in the case of the 61st/Alki bus stop that is without a trash can because Metro says the one it used to have was used too much. On Wednesday, we published the response that Diana got from Metro after asking them to place a can there – it boiled down to “no.” We followed up with Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer, including a question of whether it’s Metro policy to remove trash cans that are much-used. This evening, he sent word that they’ve changed their mind and will try a trash can there again:
Our records show Metro hasn’t had a trash can at that site since 2012 after seeing a pattern of it being misused by nearby businesses and residents, with home garbage showing up at the bus stop. It reached the point that our facilities crews were regularly receiving work orders and complaints about garbage, so we decided to remove it.
One of our thresholds in deciding whether to remove a trash can is if a location becomes so problematic that it generates a large number of work orders and crew time cleaning up a persistent problem, something that stretches beyond a transit issue into a community issue.
That said, we’re going to put a new 35-gallon can out there in the next few days, and will monitor how things go. If problems re-emerge beyond what Metro can address, we’ll see if we can get some help from the city and businesses to supply additional trash cans in the area.
We’ll keep an eye out for the new can – please let us know if you see it first.
ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: The trash can has arrived. Diana sent the photo to prove it:
After two and a half weeks, Washington State Ferries says it’s giving up on new “procedures” that were intended to speed up loading at the Fauntleroy dock, but caused new problems instead. This afternoon’s announcement:
On Monday, May 23, WSF instituted new ticketing procedures at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal in order to address several problems identified by the passengers, ferry advisory committee members, and WSF. Over the past three weeks, we have learned from passenger feedback and direct observation that the new procedures were not working. Based on this experience, we are suspending the change and returning to the ticketing procedures that were previously in place starting on Friday, June 10.
Passengers with pre-purchased tickets will be waved through the tollbooth, and their tickets will be scanned on the dock. Passengers who do not have tickets must stop to buy them at the tollbooth. We recognize that this solution does not address the underlying difficulties at the Fauntleroy Terminal, including limited vehicle capacity, challenges with consistent fare recovery, and an outdated schedule designed for smaller vessels and lower traffic volume. These factors create conflict between maintaining the schedule and filling the boats.
Going forward, we will reach out to and communicate with stakeholders as we explore options to improve service within the constraints of our system. Thank you to all of our customers for your patience. We heard you, and we apologize for the disruption and inconvenience this change has caused.
On sunny days, visitors to Alki generate a lot of trash. On the beach side, Parks struggles to keep up with it, as reported here before, and as a few regional news organizations noted earlier this week. But today, outside the park boundaries, Alki has one less trash can – apparently, because it was used too much. Diana e-mailed Metro to ask about the trash can that disappeared from the stop on eastbound Alki at 61st SW and shared the response she received today:
Thank you for your recent case submittal, advising Metro Transit of your concerns about maintenance and lack of trash can at the bus stop on 61st Ave SW & Alki Ave SW. I appreciate your use of public transportation and I regret the circumstances that made it necessary for you to contact us.
This trash can at this stop was pulled due to excessive trash from the coffee shops and not our bus patrons. Our shelter cleaning crews are not (there) everyday and the amount of trash that was being dumped was a factor in the removal of this trash can. A trash can will not be re-installed.
“Coffee shops” would apparently be a reference to the Starbucks store that’s a few steps down and the Top Pot store to the west of that. And as to how much trash is NOT too much, we’re contacting Metro to follow up.
(Wednesday evening note: We’re expecting Metro’s response tomorrow, so look for a followup.)
(Map from July 2015 slide deck about 35th SW plan)
When last we checked in on the 35th Avenue SW Corridor Safety Project – which changed the configuration of lanes on 35th, from Roxbury to just south of Morgan, last fall – SDOT’s Jim Curtin told WSB that the plan for Phase 2, and stats on Phase 1, were expected to be out in May. That month has come and gone; we checked in again today to ask where things stand. Curtin’s reply:
We’ve adjusted our schedule to coordinate outreach with another SDOT effort that may have implications for 35th Avenue SW – the West Seattle Neighborhood Greenway. As you know, greenways are safer, calmer non-arterial streets prioritized for people walking and biking. We need residents to help us determine the best route for the greenway as well as locations for crossing improvements (the routes identified in the BMP are merely suggestions).
We’re aiming for the week of July 11th or 18th for our first meeting, where we’ll share preliminary data for Phase 1 of the 35th Avenue SW project, start the discussion about the Neighborhood Greenway route, share draft plans for Phase 2 of the 35th Ave SW project, and solicit feedback from residents. We also intend to host walking tours like we did for Phase 1 in August.
As a community-collaborative news organization, we cover many things that start with tips, questions, or other messages. Our followup with Curtin today was inspired by a note from Bob Neel. You might know him as an opponent of the rechannelization; he launched a Change.org petition against it last year. Today, he e-mailed both to wonder about the status of Phase 2 and to ask if we would publish the links to two new petitions he’s started. While there is no way for any online poll or petition to be anything resembling scientific (that’s why we don’t set up our own), he’s interested in comparing results from pro and con petitions.
He writes: “For those who like the lane reduction, here is a petition for SDOT to extend the project. For those who are not in favor of the lane reduction, here is a petition for SDOT to go back to 4 lanes. I have attempted to word each petition in a balanced, neutral way so that there is no inherent bias. I’d really like to see a large response to these petitions so that we can get a representative ‘pulse’ of the neighborhood reaction to the project.”
(If you do choose to sign one – or even if you don’t – consider commenting here to say why!)
The 80 “zone” signs installed on the West Seattle Bridge this past weekend comprise one of four projects SDOT has added to the action list for the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor, a list originally shepherded by WS-residing City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen during his final year in office, following the WS Transportation Coalition‘s 2014 list of priorities.. As our area’s first-ever elected-by-district Councilmember, Lisa Herbold has picked up the ball and run with it, and has just announced the release of the newest document in the project, a progress report (technically, the SDOT response to the council’s Statement of Legislative Intent).
When Councilmember Herbold announced on Friday that the progress report was out, it wasn’t available yet in digital format, but now it is – see the full progress report here – and the link’s been added to her online post about it. In that post, her overview of the progress report includes:
The report lists work completed so far, estimated costs for the 27 projects mentioned in the Whitepaper; implementation status, though some are listed as TBD (to be determined); which agency has primary and implementation responsibility for each project; resources directed so far, and timetables.
Here’s the table listing those 27 projects, in case you can’t remember them all:
Councilmember Herbold’s overview continues:
Of the 27 projects mentioned in the Whitepaper, SDOT proposes to focus on the 15 projects in the Primary West Seattle Bridge/Spokane Street Viaduct corridor (See map). In addition, SDOT added four projects from after the publication of the whitepaper in 2015, including installing additional locational markers on the bridge.
The report provides data for corridor traffic trends. Of note is that the West Seattle Bridge carried an average of 107,300 vehicles per weekday, and 29,300 transit riders. In 2015, there were 56 collisions on the bridge and the Spokane Street Viaduct, and 117 “incidents”, which averaged 47 minutes in duration.
The report notes the $500,000 approved by the Council in 2015 for Intelligent Transportation Systems improvements will mostly be finished by 2016, with the rest scheduled for 2017.
Also included are cost estimates and grant application status for the South Lander Street Grade Separation and RR Safety Project.
SDOT proposes to exclude some projects from future whitepaper reports, including 4th Ave Transit Ramp to Spokane Viaduct, Delridge Way Rapid Ride Transit, and Sound Transit expansion (which is subject to a public vote). This may be worth additional discussion.
Primarily, SDOT writes in the progress report, the items it suggests leaving out of future reports are items that are in other agencies’ jurisdictions, and/or outside the main bridge corridor. Here’s that list:
(It doesn’t mean they’re being shelved – just that SDOT wants to concentrate its tracking on the others.) Back to the list of four added projects we mentioned at the start of this update: Besides the “zone” signs on the bridge, the list includes repair and painting projects for the “low bridge” (South Spokane Street Swing Bridge), plus the Fauntleroy Expressway earthquake-cushion re-replacement work that is already under way.
What happens next? In addition to SDOT proceeding with the project list, it’s asking for the release of $100,000 – a pre-planned amount – for more traffic studies. Its revised timeline grid, on the last page of the project report, stretches as far out as 2022 (for studying another railroad crossover beyond Lander) and TBD (for “freight-only lanes on Lower Spokane,” “bicycle connection on W. Marginal,” and “Terminal 5 overpass to Alki Trail”). As pointed out in our previous reports on the project list, it’s mostly incremental; the only real big-ticket item is the Lander Street Bridge (which, reminder, has an open house event this Wednesday in SODO) – no ramp widening from the bridge to 99, for example.
P.S. Pages 9 and 10 of the report are where you’ll find the full data table that Councilmember Herbold mentions, with key numbers about local commuting, freight, and more.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight, the Southwest District Council‘s June meeting includes a discussion of an in-progress city review that could eventually determine whether the SWDC and the city’s other 12 district councils continue to exist.
One of the arguments for district councils is their advocacy for their respective jurisdictions getting their fair share of city attention and money, in programs like the Neighborhood Street Fund.
Since their last monthly meetings, members of both SWDC and its eastern West Seattle counterpart, the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, have decided which five community-proposed NSF projects they’re forwarding to the city for consideration.
1st-through-5th-ranked by the Southwest District Council (western West Seattle):
1. Improvements at Harbor Ave SW & SW Spokane Street
2. Improvements at 39th Avenue SW and SW Oregon Street
3. Rapid Ride Bus Stops, Morgan Junction
4. Improvements on Fauntleroy Way
5. Traffic Circles, Sidewalks, and Safety Improvements in Arbor Heights
1st-through-5th-ranked by the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council (eastern West Seattle):
1. Modernize the Intersection of 16th Ave SW & SW Holden Street (Highland Park)
2. (tie) Complete SW Barton Street
2. (tie) Roundabout for Highland Park Way/SW Holden St
4. Brandon St Sidewalks (Delridge to High Point)
5. Safety Improvements to 26th Ave SW and/or 25th Avenue SW (Connecting Chief Sealth HS and the Westwood Village Bus Hub)
Both sets of decisions followed project-proposers’ presentations at the respective district councils’ meetings, and review of written applications – this document explains the criteria for evaluation.
No project is guaranteed funding just because the district council supports advancing it; the city’s pot of money is finite, and the Neighborhood Street Fund is citywide, opening for applications every three years, available for
up to $90,000 $100,000-$1,000,000* for a project making it all the way through the process. But sometimes even projects that don’t get NSF funding land on SDOT’s radar. If you’d like to know more about any or all of the 10 aforementioned proposals, scroll ahead (or jump from the home page) for more details on each, excerpted from the community proposers’ applications – sometimes brief, sometimes detailed: Read More
(UPDATED 4:26 PM with information we requested on project’s cost)
1:12 PM: If you got into trouble somewhere on the West Seattle Bridge – would you be able to clearly describe your location to a 911 dispatcher? SDOT is about to install signs that it hopes will help more people answer “yes,” resulting in most incidents clearing more quickly: The bridge will be broken into nine “zones,” each with signage that will be installed this weekend. Read the full announcement ahead:Read More
First thing we found out at last night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting: SDOT has an open house coming up for what it’s now calling the South Lander Street Bridge project. While the project is in SODO, the former “Lander Street Overpass” proposal has long been of interest to West Seattleites traveling on surface streets to/from there, and has been on the WSTC’s priority list for almost two years; it was shelved almost a decade ago, then revived with partial funding in last year’s voter-approved Move Seattle levy. It will go over the railroad tracks on Lander between 1st and 4th (see the map above; click it for a full-size PDF).
The city’s current timeline is for completing design next year (saying the design from a decade ago is outdated), then building the overpass from “early 2018-early 2020.” As the city infopage notes, funding is not finalized – while local and state dollars are available, they’re awaiting word on a federal grant.
The open house is set for 4-6 pm Wednesday, June 8th, at Metropolist in SODO, 2931 1st Ave. South. An “online open house” goes live two days before that.
P.S. Our second report from the WSTC meeting is coming up later today, covering last night’s Q&A with a port executive re: the Terminal 5 Improvements Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (open for your comments until June 21st).
TOPLINE, 3:37 PM: Sound Transit said the big objections to the draft ST3 25-year proposal involved timelines – such as, West Seattle light rail in 2033. So this afternoon, board members proposed changes that include, as seen in the list below, moving that timetable up by three years:
From earlier, here’s how it unfolded, and what happens next:
FIRST REPORT, 2:37 PM: We’re in the Sound Transit board room on the south side of downtown, with a full house of people interested in the forthcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure for a variety of reasons – from journalists to advocates to elected officials and beyond. Public comment’s been under way since shortly after ST board chair King County Executive Dow Constantine convened the meeting (see the agenda here) at 1:30, and has just wrapped up. Much of it has focused on concerns from and related to the east and north sides of the area. This is all leading up to an expected vote one week from today on finalizing an ST3 measure to send to voters in November. You can watch live via the embedded stream above and we will add notes of interest from here on out. First up, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff will talk about how they might “reduce delivery times” (relevant for WS, where light rail is proposed for 2033 arrival, in the ST3 draft) – including talking to communities before making specific proposals, so they know if they’re walking into a minefield. Also: “establish a transparent schedule for … timely decision-making … throw it up on the Web for all to see,” and other process tweaks, such as fast-tracking permits. In the end, Rogoff added, a “culture change” would be needed, overall, to help speed things up.
2:54 PM: Now, a quick update on the ST3 finance plan. It has “additional capacity to accelerate the program you have under consideration,” the board is told. That’s followed by board members from each of five “sub-areas” proposing changes to the overall plan.
First list of changes includes proposing moving West Seattle light rail up to 2030 – three years sooner than the draft plan released in March.
3:13 PM: The proposed changes are “fully affordable” and meet “sub-area equity,” the board is now told. Next step: The board will consider on June 2nd whether to include any or all of these changes in the ST3 plan. Chair Constantine says, “It’s clear to me … that the will of the board is to move forward with these changes,” so he’ll have them written up by that meeting. The final vote on what to send to voters in November, he says, will be on June 23rd. And with that, this discussion is over and the ST board is moving on to other items.
3:37 PM: The meeting has just adjourned, and Sound Transit’s just sent a news release that points us to this summary of the proposed changes. The only other mentions of West Seattle: “The scope of a study of high-capacity transit between West Seattle and Burien would expand to explore potential future service to Renton via Tukwila.”
This past Tuesday, when SDOT reps talked with the City Council Transportation Committee about changes to the timeline for building Bicycle Master Plan projects, we noticed one in West Seattle prominently featured on a map from their slide deck:
It’s the SW Admiral Way Safety Project, which has been in the works for more than a year now, proposing bicycle lanes and other changes for much of the stretch of Admiral Way west of California SW, and drawing controversy along the way. It’s outlined on the map in this slide deck as “in-street (bicycle lanes), minor separation.” We last checked on it in March, when project spokesperson Dawn Schellenberg told us SDOT was “in the process of revising the design,” with no new timeline.
Two months later, Schellenberg responded to our renewed inquiry today with basically the same answer: “We are still working through some design decisions.” No date for presenting a revised proposal; the project webpage now promises some contact in “mid-2016.”
P.S. A few other West Seattle notes from the slides shown to the council committee this week: The new 5-year plan brings back proposed protected bike lanes for SW Morgan/Dumar and mentions a SW Myrtle neighborhood greenway; it puts on hold a proposed SW Juneau greenway, with SDOT reps mentioning briefly that it’s because Juneau would be parallel to the Morgan lanes. (We’ll be following up soon on the Morgan and Myrtle proposals; a plan for Morgan last came up four years ago, represented as imminent without neighborhood outreach, and was subsequently put on indefinite hold.)
Two notable bicycle events in the next three days:
‘BIKE EVERYWHERE DAY’ FRIDAY: We’ve been mentioning this in the morning traffic watch – what used to be “Bike to Work Day” is now “Bike Everywhere Day” and it’s happening tomorrow. West Seattle Bike Connections will present a commute station along the trail to the low bridge, 6-9 am, with treats, plus bike checks/simple repairs courtesy of Alki Bike and Board – more info here.
‘ALKI DAZE’ COSTUMED BIKE PARADE SUNDAY: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Alki resident Guy Olson and friends have organized a slate of “Alki Daze” activities, and you’re invited to join in, especially Sunday’s Costumed Bicycle Parade. Gather at 63rd/Alki at 1:30, ride at 2 pm, and afterward, “live music and bicycle parking in the 2600 block of Alki SW.) While this is the second year that Sunday morning’s West Seattle 5K is NOT being followed by a “car-free day” city-sanctioned street party (it’s set for September 25th instead), Guy says the bike parade is meant to carry on its spirit. Here’s our video from the start of last year’s parade, which had about 150 participants.
From Washington State Ferries:
Starting Monday, May 23, all vehicles except motorcycles and bicycles must stop at the tollbooths at the Fauntleroy Terminal to purchase and/or redeem tickets. Motorcyclists and bicyclists will continue to be processed near the Terminal building at the west end of the dock.
To speed up the loading process during peak travel times, a bypass lane will be provided for pre-ticketed vehicles only (no sales). New signage has been installed in front of and on the toll booths to indicate when the pre-ticketed bypass lane is open, in addition to providing other important information. Please pay attention to signs and watch for instructions from WSF staff at the Fauntleroy Terminal.
Please note that as a safety precaution, WSF will not allow passengers to be dropped off or picked up at the terminal when the pre-ticketed bypass lane is open. Passengers can be picked up/dropped off in the load zone just south of the Terminal on Fauntleroy Way during these times. Customers with disabilities that prevent them from using the walkway at the terminal should notify WSF staff upon arriving at the terminal that they will need a closer pick-up/drop-off point.
This change is being implemented to speed vehicle processing and loading times. Thank you for your cooperation!
As proposed in the draft plan for Sound Transit 3 – the 25-year outline for expanding light rail around the region, expected to go to voters in November – West Seattle would be served with an elevated line. Some community advocates think a tunnel would be better, once the line gets across the Duwamish River (currently envisioned as happening via its own new bridge). With the proposed final plan just weeks away, the City Council is expected to pass a resolution shortly offering its feedback to ST. Here’s what’s mentioned about that in the draft of the council resolution, which you can read in full here:
The ST3 package should include a light rail extension from Downtown Seattle to the West Seattle Junction, including a grade-separated alignment through West Seattle. The ST3 package should allow for future consideration and evaluation of a tunnel alignment through West Seattle, if cost savings within the ST3 program or additional funding resources become available.
We asked City Councilmember Lisa Herbold for comment on whether she supports this language; she is the “alternate” member on the City Council Transportation Committee, which will consider the resolution at its 2 pm meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, May 17th). We just received a reply through her legislative assistant Newell Aldrich: “The resolution incorporates language suggested by CM Herbold and the WSTC — we worked with them on the WS section. We all wanted to ensure there was equivalency with the Ballard section (i.e. listing a potential tunnel option if funding allows).”
WSTC is a reference to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition. As a side note to this, you might recall that the WSTC ran a survey about WS light rail this spring, before the ST3 draft plan came out. In WSB comments, some have wondered when those results would be released. Former WSTC board member Joe Szilagyi, who led the group’s online presence during his time on the board, published them in this Medium.com post today.
Those who took the Water Taxi for the first time during our Viaductless week-plus might have glimpsed the work going on at Vigor Industrial‘s shipyards on Harbor Island, where two new Olympic-class ferries are now under construction for Washington State Ferries, the third and fourth in the series, following Tokitae and Samish.
On Tuesday, news-media crews were invited to Vigor to tour the Chimacum, which is three-fourths complete, after its superstructure arrived by barge from a North Sound shipyard a month ago and was quickly joined to the Vigor-built hull, and to see the keel-laying ceremony marking the start of construction on the Suquamish. Photojournalist Christopher Boffoli was there for WSB. He reports:
Tuesday’s hardhat tour took us down inside the dry dock where the Chimacum is being built and up a set of stairs into the interior of the ferry:
We just checked on the West Seattle Water Taxi numbers for this morning – first commute post-Viaduct closure – after commenter Elton wondered how ridership had gone. From Greg Lerner of the King County Marine Division:
6:15 am – 52
6:45 am – 81
7:15 am – 115
7:45 am – 94
8:15 am – 78
8:45 am – 62
9:15 am – 45
That’s higher than the pre-closure norm, Lerner says, while about half of the ridership tallied last Monday, a Viaductless day with almost perfect weather, and the highest West Seattle ridership day of the entire closure, according to the county’s overview of how both WT runs did for the shutdown period:
The West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxi routes carried record numbers of riders during the 99 closure. Preliminary tallies from April 29 through May 7 show the two routes carried an estimated 30,000 riders, compared to about 13,500 riders the week before.
“We’re thankful to everyone who looked at other travel options besides driving during the closure, and thrilled to see ridership this high,” said Paul Brodeur, director of King County’s Marine Division. “We hope riders continue to see the water taxi as a good option for their trips to and from downtown.”
The West Seattle route roughly tripled its typical ridership as riders took advantage of additional parking options and regular spring service. The service on that route carried more than 24,000 riders compared to a typical 8,000 riders over the same time period. The single-day peak ridership to and from West Seattle was 3,269 riders on May 2, more than triple the riders compared to the week before.
Vashon route ridership climbed by a total of 900 riders during the 99 closure as riders took advantage of additional round trips. Ridership peaked at 1,100 on May 4 compared to about 900 the week before.
One last reminder in case you used it today: After last night’s earlier-than-projected reopening of the Alaskan Way Viaduct due to tunneling progress (now 342 of the originally announced 385 feet needed to totally clear the AWV), today was the last day of added Water Taxi parking and larger shuttles. The West Seattle Water Taxi runs year-round, weekdays in late fall/winter and seven days a week in spring/summer/early fall; its current schedule continues until October 30th. It’s been four months since the new vessel Doc Maynard took over the run, with a capacity of more than 270 passengers.
Going through toplines, one thing surprised us: ST says that in a telephone survey it conducted – separate from the online survey linked to the ST3 website – respondents in areas far from West Seattle considered the WS-to-downtown light-rail route a priority. The “Project Priorities” start on page 25 of this presentation and include the Top 5 projects as ranked by 1,000 respondents in five areas. West Seattle-to-downtown light rail was in the top 5 for four of the five areas – in order of how they appear in the presentation, Snohomish respondents ranked it fifth, North King respondents ranked it first, East King respondents ranked it first, South King respondents ranked it third. Pierce is the only area where it didn’t appear in the Top 5. As for the online survey (whose respondents, ST notes, were “self-selected”), its toplines are here. According to breakouts in that document, West Seattle zip codes accounted for about 2,400 of the 34,706 online survey responses around the region.
WHAT’S NEXT: As reported in our coverage of the ST3 discussion at last week’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, the final ST3 proposal for the November ballot is due next month. Then, the plan and its funding, including a mix of sales, motor-vehicle, and property taxes, is in the voters’ hands.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you still haven’t told Sound Transit what you think about the draft ST3 plan – which includes a light-rail line to The Junction, in 2033 – today is your last chance: 5 pm tonight (Monday, May 2nd) is the (slightly extended) deadline.
Not sure what to say? Here’s what happened when Sound Transit reps talked with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition last Thursday night, two nights after their one-and-only draft-plan meeting in WS:
Tomorrow night at 10 pm, the onramps to the Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 start closing. Within two hours – by 12:01 am Friday – the entire stretch of 99 from the West Seattle Bridge to the Battery Street Tunnel will be closed. More vehices will be on the “low bridge” – officially, the South Spokane Street Swing Bridge – than usual, both bicycles and pedestrians, which have no other nearby path across the Duwamish River, and motor vehicles, because of detours.
(2015 photo by Don Brubeck – bicycle riders waiting while barge goes through opened ‘low-bridge’)
The “low bridge” will continue to be opened for vessel traffic. One difference from the 2011 weeklong Highway 99 shutdown: Those openings are now communicated via Twitter, @SDOTBridges. But the tweets tend to be sent just as the bridge starts to open, meaning they’re no help with advance planning, if you’re leaving your residence and wondering if an opening is imminent.
With that in mind, a WSB commenter wondered if there is any way for SDOT to tweet sooner about impending bridge openings. We asked SDOT communications director Rick Sheridan, who talked with the Bridge Division and replied:
We are required by federal law to open a bridge when a boat makes a request for an opening. Typically, we have less than three minutes notice from the boat making its request to an opening occurring. Part of the opening process is to alert our Transportation Operation Center, which then puts the information out via Twitter.
The presence of a boat on a nearby waterway does not necessarily mean that an opening is required. Boats will sometimes stop prior to the Ship Canal bridges or the lower Spokane Street Swing Bridge and not request an opening at all.
We will continue to tweet notices of bridge openings as soon as they are requested and look for opportunities to speed up the transmission of that information.
We’ll be adding the bridge-opening tweets to our expanded commute coverage during the Viaduct closure. You can also find the link any time on the WSB Traffic page (which will have some renovations before Friday).
6 PM: That’s a look around the West Seattle High School Commons (mouse over the image to bring up the “play” button) as our area’s meeting about the Sound Transit 3 draft plan – currently envisioning light rail to/from West Seattle in 2033 – and the Metro Long-Range Plan got under way. The presentations are about to get under way; among those who will be speaking, Mayor Murray. We’ll be updating as this goes. Even if you can’t make it to the meeting (which is expected to continue until at least 7 pm – the moderator says it’ll go back to open-house format around 6:45), you can comment on these plans via their respective agencies – more on that post-meeting.
6:04 PM: Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff speaks first, declaring this “a great crowd. … The crowds that have been turning out and the level of engagement is indicative of the hunger this region has” for more transit. “This is about the future of our region. … The feedback that you give us about this plan is very important. … Census data tells us that this region … is going to have nearly a million more citizens by 2040. … When you’re faced with growth like that, you’re going to have to plan for it, or be overwhelmed by it.” He then throws a line to the crowd, “In an area like this, where the whole region seems to revolve around the West Seattle Bridge” – rueful laughs rippled around the crowd – light rail would seem like something positive, Rogoff said.
6:17 PM: The third of three Sound Transit Board members to speak, City Councilmember Rob Johnson, is speaking now.
— Rob Johnson (@heyrobbyj) April 27, 2016
(CM Johnson’s tweet of the standing-room-only crowd)
He followed Mayor Murray and County Council Chair Joe McDermott – we got both of their mini-speeches on video (both added as of 6:43). Murray noted that the region made a decision to reject a major transit initiative decades ago, and hopes that mistake will not be repeated now.
Johnson is now followed by the overview of the draft ST3 plan, courtesy of an ST planner, who gave some backstory about how the agency got to this point, looking to finalize a plan to send to voters in November. The proposed plan would have 112 miles of light rail, “west to West Seattle and Ballard, north to Everett, east to Redmond and Issaquah, south to Tacoma, Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College.” They also expect “bus rapid transit” on I-405 and Highway 522, “bus on shoulder” on four regional highways, and other system improvements.
Mentioned after that – “to improve bus speed and reliability … capital improvements to RapidRide C and D Routes.” This was mentioned at last month’s unveiling of the draft plan but has not been explained in detail.
Next, the “central corridor” proposals including the light-rail line to West Seattle, with stations at Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction (specific locations have not yet been proposed). ST would also study extending the line south to Burien and then a possible connection to the Tukwila International Blvd. station, which is on the ST “spine” between Everett and Tacoma, “the main trunk, if you will, to our system.” She then elaborates that the West Seattle line would go over the Duwamish River on a new bridge, elevated to a station at Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction – that’s entirely elevated on this side of the river. She mentions that this is a “representative project,” which means some things could change during the environmental-study stage, if ST3 is approved by voters. ST wants to know “are we going to the right areas.”
6:28 PM: Next, a Metro rep comes up to talk about their long-range plan, which has been stuffed into this meeting for some reason. “Metro has been working for 18 months to define, what is the role of Metro as the region continues to grow.” Metro hasn’t had a long-range plan in more than 20 years. Key point: 20 percent of the region’s residents have access to rapid service right now; they want to bring that up to 70 percent. By 2040, they hope to have 26 RapidRide lines (one for every letter of the alphabet) by 2040, including a new one on Delridge (which, it’s been said, would replace the 120 – and some community members have voiced concern that fewer bus stops, the RapidRide design, would be bad for eastern West Seattle).
“The vision of 2040 can bring you more opportunities – how far you can go within an hour at noon.” Get online and find out more – the draft Metro Long-Range Plan is open for comments until May 20th.
6:33 PM: The moderator says they’ll extend the question period until 7 pm, since the speakers ran long.
First question is from a man in Tukwila, the “ST1 zone,” he calls it, who says his house is being shaken, and that he has been trying to get ST to do something about it for eight years. CEO Rogoff offers to talk with him on the sidelines.
Second question is from an attendee who wants to know, “Is there some way to be able to continue to have these conversions to make improvements for all the people?” long after a meeting like this. Rogoff says that the ST website shows all the projects, including ones that were counted out for various reasons. “For every one, there is a public vetting process that has to engage the community, an environmental process … it all involves community engagement (and) comment periods, and very rarely is the project precisely as envisioned the one that gets built.” (The first questioner shouts, “EIGHT YEARS!” from the gallery at that point.)
Third question: “How was the order of who will go first and who will go last devised? (West Seattle) voted at least three times for the monorail .. (and) we’re the closest to downtown … so I wonder why we have to wait at least 17 years before we see something.” At this point, applause and cheers. “In the meantime,” she continues, “for example, when the C Line (Metro) was adopted, all the other routes were dropped back …” and she says that’s made it harder to get around, or to get back here from another part of the city at night.
Rogoff says first, regarding the timeline, “it can go quicker and we are determined to make it go quicker if we have (cooperation) between the municipalities … engage the community, move quickly through permitting. 17 years like I say is a planning factor – with cooperation it could go more quickly.” Rogoff says that 17 years is actually one of the earliest “rail deliverables” in ST3.
Murray then comes up and mentions the city vote to allot more money for bus service, and says that while he is committed to trying to accelerate the timeline, “it’s buses that are going to get us there” until rail is ready.
Fourth question was also about moving up the timeline and streamlining the permitting process. Murray takes the microphone again and says he plans to introduce legislation to enable streamlining. That draws applause. Rogoff says, “That’s the kind of cooperation we’re talking about.”
Next question is a man who says that they should be listening to comments, not questions, when the moderator tries to tell him he needs to ask something, not say something. A smattering of applause for that. He says that there needs to be budgeting for roads to support the transit system, as damage already has been done (he mentions Avalon, which supports much of the RapidRide C Line). Murray takes the microphone for this one, too, and says that the MoveSeattle levy passed last year “will allow us to catch up,” though, like ST3, he points out, it’s a plan spread out over years, so the money isn’t all available immediately.
Next: Someone who wonders why everything is tied to property taxes – “is there a plan to pay for it some other way?”
Rogoff replies: “There are three (separate) tax increases in the plan – these were given to us by the Legislature – it’s a mix of sales tax, an increase in the motor-vehicle excise tax, and the smallest piece by dollars actually is a piece of property tax – this is the first time that property taxes have entered into the mix, and this is a mix given to us by Olympia; they were trying to get a mix that, since the sales tax has a certain regressivity to it, balances it out … we can only bring (to the voters) what Olympia allows us to.”
That is the answer to the next question, about money, too: “These are the revenue options (legislators) gave us.”
Following that: Someone from Hillman City, who says they’ve “already been waiting for our station for 20 years” and this plan shows it to be another 20 or so away – the Graham Street Station, up on the screen as 2036-2038. “What can you do to speed it up? You’re doing it,” says Rogoff – “come to meetings, talk to your elected officials,” etc.
Next: “How do we as a city dangle the carrot to the federal government and have them (look at Seattle for funding) when many other cities (have needs too)?” Rogoff, a former federal official, says the way for cities to make themselves look most appealing is “whether they have their local funding match in place … that, frankly, is what the ST3 vote is about. … No factor is more influential.”
Then: “What are the capital improvements you’re talking about for the C Line?” The Metro rep answers first by saying C Line use has gone up, “and we’re going to be looking at speed and reliability improvements.” She hands the microphone over – “Some of those improvements depend on SDOT. Signal improvements, queue jumps – opportunities for buses to get ahead of the traffic that’s coming – we also want to look at with Metro and SDOT, opportunities for the 99 loop as it goes off the West Seattle Bridge .. we’re looking at the chokepoints, the bottlenecks for those corridors.” Murray then chimes in and mentions the Lander Street Overpass, “another way we can improve the whole corridor’s movement.” (This answer is pretty much what we got after the draft-plan announcement in March.”
Next questioner mentions that large employers are beneficiaries of this, “so I wonder if they have been approached to maybe give us an interest-free loan, or just invest in the system out of their pockets … ahve they been approached?” Much applause for that. Rogoff says the answer isn’t exactly “no” but they are “in a dialogue with some of the major employers” regarding the “benefits” that their campuses would get. He says he won’t identify them. “But we can partner with other entities to help us bring money forward to accelerate the system.”
6:55 PM: Next (with a warning from the moderator that there’s only time for a few more questions) question is about the regressive tax structure: Rogoff says that the feds don’t really care how the money is raised, only that it is raised (the aforementioned local match).
Next: Does the $50 billion price tag include interest. “I don’t want you coming back to me saying you need another $20 billion.” Rogoff says the $50b is “the capital investment figure,” and yes, there will be payments above that “over time.” He says that in June the board will adopt “a very detailed financial plan” when they adopt a final plan. “I’d encourage you to start by reading the financial plan for the ST2 plan, there’ll be one for ST3, we welcome the scrutiny.” He says they do budget for inflation.
Then: If the plan is passed and the federal government fails to follow through, what happens? Rogoff again goes back to ST2, saying it figured on an 18 percent federal contribution, and this plan lowers that to about 12 percent – “we’re growing but it may not be reasonable to assume that the federal contribution will grow with us … and there’s a lot of stress … on the federal budget right now … and we want to be sure we can deliver on what’s promised.” If somehow the program they’ll rely on ceased, they’d have to figure out how to make up the funding.
Final question at 6:59 pm: An attendee mentions costs of various lines outside the US, in Europe and Canada, at far less per mile than what Sound Transit is suggesting this will cost. So, he says, he wants to ask Metro: What could it do with a $2 billion capital budget? The Metro reply: “You’re asking a very specific question – but you’re right, we’re seeing that high-capacity transit on buses is very productive, and we’re seeing a 96 percent increase on the C Line, and that’s what makes it a very good high-capacity corridor, and future light-rail corridor.” For the $2 billion “what would you do” question, she invites him to “come over to our boards” and see what’s in the Metro long-range plan. “That vision you’re talking about, high-capacity transit … that’s what we’re planning for.”
The moderator invites people to provide feedback online or on paper, or to go back into open house mode and talk to the people who are here from the various agencies, and with that, the Q&A ends.
8 PM: Back at HQ now and adding a few more photos, notes, and links.
First: The conversation about ST3 continues at Thursday night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way SW). Bring your questions and comments.
Next: For ST3, the official comment period continues until Friday (April 29th). At the very least, please take this online survey.