Southwest District Council: RapidRide, Route 50, the 2 Viaducts

Always lots going on when the Southwest District Council meets. Its members include representatives from many neighborhood groups and other organizations based in the section of West Seattle that the city calls the Southwest District (the city calls the rest of WS the Delridge Neighborhoods District; here’s the map). Last night, its new co-chairs began their terms – Erica Karlovits, president of the Junction Neighborhood Organization, and Chas Redmond, from the Morgan Community Association (among many other groups). On the agenda: Three major aspects of how West Seattleites get around and will get around in the future — Metro’s forthcoming RapidRide, the Spokane Street Viaduct widening project, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct Central Waterfront decision-to-come – read on for the latest:

That’s Jack Lattemann from Metro. We reported last night that he announced an upcoming Youngstown Arts Center (January 21) open house about Route 50, which will run between North Delridge and The Junction. He said it’s scheduled to start in early 2010, running every 15 minutes in peak hours, every 30 off-peak. Money for it, he said, will come from shutting down the downtown-to-airport 194 when Sound Transit light rail begins.

Now, to RapidRide: As we first reported last June, West Seattle’s route will be known as the C Line. The first RR to get rolling will be the A line (Federal Way to Tukwila), and Metro’s hopeful its operations will help work out some of the bugs before West Seattle fires up. Street improvements are needed to accommodate RapidRide, and Latteman says SDOT and Metro will split them – Metro will be handling the work needed in The Junction and at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal.

When it was time to question Lattemann, some voiced concerns about the articulated buses that RapidRide will use — since, as Metro boss Kevin Desmond reiterated in the City Council storm briefing on Tuesday (WSB coverage here), those buses tend to fail in snow/ice. Lattemann says Metro is talking about figuring out how to keep its own key routes open if SDOT can’t help with everything. But he also said the RapidRide buses are similar to models used in Vancouver, B.C., that negotiated hills well during that city’s recent snow (which he said totaled more than ours).

Also from Lattemann, an apology for not having returned to West Seattle for a RapidRide neighborhood-group update in quite some time (the major round of open houses was a year ago); he said a “rebudgeting” phase changed the schedule for neighborhood meetings. But he agreed to a request to return later this year with an update, perhaps around midyear.

Next, a Spokane Street Viaduct project update from consultant Art Brochet. He says most of the “preliminary work” along eastbound lower Spokane Street — closed back in September (WSB coverage here) for that work – has been done, and work on the eastbound 4th Ave ramp starts next month – here’s a graphic we’ve published before showing what it’ll look like:


Brochet said that right now the biggest problem will be the closure of the 1st Ave ramp onto the WS Bridge, when work starts on the actual added lanes (which will be built north of the existing SSV). When it’s closed, traffic from downtown will have to either go over the low bridge or take I-5 to return to West Seattle. Redmond asked if SDOT would use that as a reason to reopen the issue of keeping the low bridge from opening during rush hours (as first reported here October 21, that request was formally denied).; Brochet says they’ll take it up again, but ultimately, the Coast Guard still has the final say.

He also had an update on something that Karlovits, among others, has been asking about – what about emergency response, if only one lane is open for through traffic at certain points during SSV construction? Brochet says they’ve been working with the Fire Department and have developed a plan to keep two lanes open during most of the work, except possibly for times when equipment must be moved and there’s no way around the one-lane constraint.

He wanted to get one more project on everyone’s radar — repaving work on 1st Avenue South, between Hinds and the Sodo building, starts next month. He says it’ll involve replacing 75 percent of the sidewalks, and some of the storm drains and water lines, as well as replacing the road pavement. This will include major lane restrictions, with 1 lane going south and 2 going north.

Last but not least, the Alaskan Way Viaduct status — you’ll recall, the decision on what to do about the “mile in the middle” Central Waterfront section has been delayed from the expected year-end, to the end of this month. Following up on the recent community conversation that West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen convened at Uptown in The Junction (WSB coverage here), the Southwest District Council will be sending a letter to Governor Gregoire, County Executive Sims, and Mayor Nickels saying they support the “bored tunnel” option that has picked up considerable steam in the weeks since two other options (new elevated, and two surface streets) were announced as the finalists. (Support for studying the “bored tunnel” also is the focus of a letter that West Seattle’s two members on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, Vlad Oustimovitch and Pete Spalding — both of whom were at the SWDC meeting last night — sent to the three elected officials, along with another committee member, Don Newby, who represented South King County.)

The Southwest District Council meets the first Wednesday of each month, 7 pm, at South Seattle Community College, and everybody’s welcome.

12 Replies to "Southwest District Council: RapidRide, Route 50, the 2 Viaducts"

  • Michael January 8, 2009 (4:08 pm)

    “some voiced concerns about the articulated buses that RapidRide will use — since, as Metro boss Kevin Desmond reiterated in the City Council storm briefing on Tuesday (WSB coverage here), those buses tend to fail in snow/ice.”

    Yep, it’s really important to make this a concern, seeing as it happens for about 5 days every 12 years.

  • zero-to-life in West Seattle January 8, 2009 (6:34 pm)

    If only that was the case. The buses failed 2 years ago in the snow (November ’06) as well as the recent snow. I know they have had multiple problems over the years, more so with so much of the fleet being articulated. This doesn’t just effect West Seattle, but the entire city. It is right for them to reconsider what buses should be run in a snow situation. It is bad business to put all this effort in winning people over to mass transit, only to have it fail spectacularly when people are counting on it most.

  • WSB January 8, 2009 (7:07 pm)

    Zero, you have a good point. Here in fact is an article that came up without much searching effort:

    What Kevin Desmond is quoted as saying in the after-review there … sounds a lot like what’s being said now.

  • Jim January 8, 2009 (8:34 pm)

    “But he also said the RapidRide buses are similar to models used in Vancouver, B.C., that negotiated hills well during that city’s recent snow”

    The Vancouver articulated buses that had success, had been outfitted with snow tires. What a novel idea….

  • d January 8, 2009 (8:53 pm)

    Vancouver does everything right.


  • alki_2008 January 8, 2009 (9:57 pm)

    Is really worth questioning the Rapid Ride program because it’ll use articulated buses and articulated buses have more problems than shorties in snow? I think that’s the point of the comment #1. What do those that voiced concerns propose – that Rapid Rise uses shorties and have less capacity MOST of the time, just so those shorties will perform a bit better in the snow than the articulated buses?

    All vehicles have problems in the snow, so the concern with articulated buses should apply to the entire fleet – so using chains is the real issue, not the type of bus. Just doesn’t seem that the Rapid Ride discussion is the appropriate forum for the problem of articulated buses and snow.

    Also, Desmond’s comment makes it sound like the articulated buses used in Rapid Ride might be a different model than the ones currently used by Metro???

  • mar3c January 9, 2009 (6:45 am)

    1. the sw district council? didn’t know there was one. do they have a board of humans that we can yell at – i mean address with concerns?
    2. rapid ride. wow. a new bus line. that shares streets with cars. how does this differ from other bus lines? well, they run more frequently.
    they get stuck in traffic just like other bus lines.
    i’m not impressed.

  • zero-to-life in West Seattle January 9, 2009 (7:33 am)

    The point I was trying to make is that Metro needs to do a better job of THINKING and PLANNING out routes in good weather and driving conditions, so that they can jump in with both feet in bad weather or adverse conditions. I am tired of hearing about “once in a decade, lifetime, once in a hundred-year events” as an excuse. Our buses HAVE to be a priority if we expect to improve our city’s mobility. Recent events where buses have been unreliable: yesterday when buses were diverted off Spokane street because of the fire (my mom’s 54X bus ended up in TUKWILA!), the last week of December ’08, the November ’06 snow, every mid-week matinee Mariner’s game, Nisqually earthquake, every time the high-level bridge or 99 is shut for an accident. Buses should be called off their normal routes if they are going to be sitting behind hundreds of other cars stuck in place. It has only been in the past few years that West Seattle has become the location for KING 5 and other local stations to go for footage of Metro buses stuck on hills, what has changed? The buses used to be more reliable out of West Seattle in snow.

  • Al January 9, 2009 (9:36 am)

    Dedicated bus lanes, dedicated bus lanes, dedicated bus lanes, dedicated bus lanes…

  • alki_2008 January 9, 2009 (12:04 pm)

    zero, I hear you…and I agree with what you’re saying about the need for an overall improvement to adverse weather plans.

    I saw Michaels’s comment aimed at the “concerns about the articulated buses” part of the story, as I don’t think it’s worth questioning an entire route just because it plans to use articulated buses.

    There needs to be a plan for every route (proposed or existing…articulated or non-articulated) when bad weather hits. Not sure a Rapid Ride-specific discussion is the correct forum for an entire-fleet issue.

  • mar3c January 10, 2009 (6:16 am)

    al, what about “dedicated bus lanes?”
    eventually those buses have to merge with the rest of traffic.
    the w.s. freeway is a great example.
    we need to quit screwing around with buses and build real, grade-separated, high-speed transit.
    and, yeah, i *do* want an auto excise tax increase to pay for it. we could base the tax on fuel economy and vehicle weight: lighter, more efficient cars would pay less tax.

  • Al January 10, 2009 (1:11 pm)

    Dedicated bus lanes are need to create a streamlined, efficient bus system. That doesn’t mean short bus lanes for a couple blocks. That means dedicated bus/transit lanes to/from major points (such as West Seattle, Ballard – which has been done on 15th BTW!, Greenwood, etc.) to/from downtown. Buses must be able to get OUT of traffic to make them faster than general traffic. I agree, if buses are in and out of a bus lane and stuck in that same traffic, it sure makes it hard to tout the good idea of taking a bus…I have the same opinion about the streetcar and train ROW.

Sorry, comment time is over.