Plenty of discussion when we reported last month that the Southwest District Council – reps from community councils and other groups/organizations around western West Seattle – agreed to send a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine asking that part of the forthcoming RapidRide “C Line” route be revisited. The council has finally received a reply – delivered in person by Constantine staffer Chris Arkills toward the end of this past week’s SWDC meeting – read on:
At the heart of the concern, as reported here last month, is whether RapidRide will bog down as it proceeds through The Triangle; its route is supposed to take Alaska to 35th, and 35th to Avalon. What if it took Fauntleroy east of The Junction instead? asked SWDC members Sharonn Meeks (from the Fairmount Community Association) and Vlad Oustimovitch (from the Fauntleroy Community Association).
A majority of their fellow SWDC members agreed to support sending a letter to ask that discussion be reopened for that section. The letter subsequently was drafted and sent; read it here in its entirety. Its opening excerpt:
The Southwest District Council requests that Metro reopen consideration of RapidRide routing through the “Triangle” in West Seattle, an area roughly defined by Fauntleroy Avenue, Alaska Street, and 35th Avenue. The city and community surrounding the Triangle area will soon be engaging in a planning study and having some flexibility with RapidRide will be helpful in ensuring that the full potential of this transitional area is reached. In addition, the new mayor of Seattle has announced that the city will be working on a plan to bring light rail to West Seattle, and it is likely that this area will be one of those considered for this system. It is important that Metro and city transportation efforts are flexible and well coordinated both with each other as well as the Triangle community.
At last Wednesday night’s SWDC meeting, after scheduled agenda items, Meeks noted that the council had yet to get a reply to its RapidRide letter – and that’s when Arkills got up from the visitor/observer seats in the room and said he’d come to deliver it in person, passing a folder to SWDC co-chairs Erica Karlovits (from the Junction Neighborhood Organization) and Chas Redmond (from the Morgan Community Association).
“We are not inclined to reopen the public process regarding the Triangle (route),” Arkills told the council. He also refuted the SWDC letter’s suggestion that RapidRide – scheduled for full implementation in West Seattle in 2012 – “replicated the (once-planned Seattle Monorail) routing.” According to Arkills, RapidRide routes are being based on the busiest bus routes, and in this case, the second-busiest is the 54 (West Seattle’s busiest bus route, the 120 along Delridge, may be the model for a future RR route). He also contended that there’d been ample “public process” before the routing was finalized.
Before too much back-and-forth ensued on Wednesday night, Karlovits intervened to say, “We weren’t prepared to discuss this tonight,” particularly since the response letter hadn’t been received in time to distribute among the members – which it since has been; Redmond sent it around and noted that the council and/or its member organizations “can request additional discussion” with Metro planners.
Constantine’s letter – which you can read here in full – contended that planners did indeed take the future potential of The Triangle into consideration from the start:
During the first phase of planning for the C Line in 2007-2008, Metro staff recognized that the Triangle area was going to become an important new development node in the West Seattle Community. As a result, the alignment of the C Line through the Triangle area was the subject of specific analysis and scrutiny by both staff and the West Seattle RapidRide Advisory Panel.
Constantine’s letter cited four main reasons for the Alaska to 35th to Avalon route: “Better operating conditions and sites for RapidRide stops on SW Alaska Street and 35th Avenue SW … Long walking distances for riders making connections between a Fauntleroy Way RapidRide alignment and other routes … Insufficient width on Fauntleroy Way for bus-only lanes … Better RapidRide stop spacing via SW Alaska Street and 35th Avenue SW.”
The letter acknowledges that a Fauntleroy route might “be faster by a minute or so” in “optimal conditions.” (For further elaboration, read the full 3 1/2-page letter, which again, you can see here.)
West Seattle’s RapidRide route originally was supposed to open next year, but the county announced last summer that the “branding” would be delayed till 2012 because 2011-12 is going to be the snarliest time for all that road work (Viaduct, etc.) and they didn’t want to call the line “Rapid” if it was anything but.
For more on RapidRide – here’s the official county infosite.