1st step in West Seattle Junction parking study: Today’s tour

February 28, 2009 11:59 pm
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 |   Junction parking review | Transportation | West Seattle news

That’s Dante Taylor from SDOT, project manager for the city’s West Seattle Junction parking study, announced almost exactly a year ago (here’s our 2/21/08 story) but not really launched in earnest till a walking tour this afternoon. The open invitation was accepted by fewer than a dozen people:

Taylor and a fellow SDOT manager, Mary Catherine Snyder, say what was seen and said today will help their department prioritize which blocks of The Junction will be studied most closely before any proposals for possible changes (new restrictions? pay stations? or?) can be made – read on for more details of today’s tour, and what happens next:

After starting from the Walk All Ways intersection at California/Alaska, the tour proceeded to view almost every kind of Junction parking situation in existence – not just the California SW spaces in the heart of the business district (all taken). Here, Snyder is in the background checking out two “2-hour parking” restriction signs knocked down along 42nd SW by Jefferson Square:

Some in the group voiced suspicion that the signs had been deliberately brought down. A few blocks away, new signs were pointed out by Junction Neighborhood Organization president Erica Karlovits:

She noted those signs have finally gone up to keep cars from parking too close to the corners in the increasingly dense neighborhood and impairing drivers’ ability to see oncoming traffic. The changes in the neighborhood were easy to see in this scene when the group stopped along 41st north of Alaska – the west side of the street featured Capco Plaza next to an older one-story home, with newer townhouses right behind:

JuNO has long asked the city to study Residential Parking Zones as an option for neighborhoods like this, with multiple “park-n-hiders” – people who drive from other parts of West Seattle and leave their cars all day while catching buses directly downtown from The Junction.

And this pointed out the larger problem, in a discussion that continued for quite some time during the stop at 41st/Alaska: Tour participants wondered who’s looking at the “big picture” — not just how the parking is used and whether changes are needed in how it’s managed, but also, who is parking in The Junction and why — and how it might change in the next few years, especially as the RapidRide bus route starts up in 2011 — here’s the latest route plan, as displayed at the Viaduct/Tunnel open house earlier this week:

(As you can see from that map, one section of the route has yet to be finalized – Metro tells us it’s still under discussion and director Kevin Desmond is likely to submit a final recommendation in April.) Could shuttle bus routes be found to enable more West Seattleites to leave their cars at home, rather than park-and-hiding in The Junction, it was asked? That’s outside the scope of what Taylor and Snyder are studying, but they made careful notes, for that and many other points — including, at that same corner, the underutilized parking garage at Jefferson Square (entrance in the background of the photo atop this story), and the seemingly overutilized parking lot at Bank of America east of J-Square:

“It’s 10 minutes till the bank closes,” noted Fairmount Community Association‘s Sharonn Meeks, eyeing the nearly full lot. “So who’s parking there?” the SDOT reps asked. Consensus: Probably Junction businesses’ employees. Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association said her organization will be surveying businesses to find out where proprietors, managers, and employees are parking, so that information can be included in the city’s evaluation; she also said talks are under way with Diamond Parking, which operates some underutilized pay lots in The Junction, to see about employee access to Diamond lots.

Another topic of concern, what happens as hundreds of new apartments open to renters, starting just a few months from now with Harbor PropertiesMural on 42nd north of Edmunds:

That’s SDOT’s Snyder, on 42nd, with Mural — still under construction — at left. And then there’s the simple issue of – you can put up all the signs and restrictions you want, but compliance, and enforcement, are important to translate them to reality – here’s a sight along 44th north of Oregon during the tour:

Not only is the Junction parking study being watched by residents and businesses in the immediate areas — it’s also being monitored by reps from the neighborhoods the city plans to tackle next — the Morgan Community Association and Admiral Neighborhood Association both had reps on today’s tour, Cindi Barker (MoCA) and Jim Del Ciello (ANA). Fairmount’s Meeks also put in a pitch for her neighborhood, just east of the Triangle district, to be included, as it receives spillover not only from The Junction but also from employees of (and visitors to) Providence Mount St. Vincent, West Seattle’s largest employer.

But in the short run, SDOT needs to narrow the official Junction review down to the blocks that are seen as a “priority” to be studied, and wants to identify which would be the best times to monitor those areas.

Next steps include another walking tour on March 18th (Taylor says the time’s not set yet) and then the first round of official “data collection” — monitoring those priority blocks — will likely happen in May. If you have a comment on which blocks you think are priorities or Junction-area parking in general – and/or if any other comments – e-mail junctionparking@seattle.gov – more contact options are on the city’s official page for this parking review.

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