Update: Metro’s West Seattle ‘restructuring’ meeting – and future ‘pathways’

We’re at the Chief Sealth International High School Galleria (2600 SW Thistle), where the first of two Metro meetings on proposed West Seattle route restructuring, which has drawn strong reaction since emerging more than 2 weeks ago, is under way. It’s purely an “open house” format – no presentations or speeches – so you can drop by and ask questions, voice comments/concerns, any time until its scheduled end at 8:30. (Based on how meetings in this format tend to go, we wouldn’t advise waiting till the last half-hour – no guarantee they won’t fold up early.) Metro employees are stationed around the room with easels, maps, and butcher paper for recording comments – there are more than half a dozen tables you can sit at, too, to fill out a “Transit System Restructuring Feedback Form.” The first question: “How might these suggested changes affect you or others in your community?” We’re going to check out a few of the easel stations – which appear to go beyond route-restructuring information – and will add more to this story later.

ADDED LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT: The conversations at the tables were the liveliest we heard – particularly voices of those concerned about the plan to cut Route 37, leaving Beach Drive without bus service, and Route 22, leaving Gatewood without off-peak service, as well as the southern leg of Route 21, which currently serves Arbor Heights. Local pedestrian advocate – and Gatewood resident – Chas Redmond told a Metro staffer that the choice of meeting location was ironic, as 22 currently serves the school, where you will find large groups of students waiting to catch buses in the afternoon. Besides “don’t cut (whatever),” some alternate routing suggestions did make it onto the butcher paper. Metro says the comments will be considered as they draw up the next revision of the proposal for presentation at meetings that likely will be held in January. You still have chances to offer your thoughts – 10:30 am-1 pm Thursday, for example, Metro will have a table in the cafeteria at South Seattle Community College, and a meeting like this one is set for Madison Middle School at 6:30 pm one week from tonight (November 17th).

“Transit Pathways” were featured on the north side of the open-house area – Metro’s first pass at figuring out what buses that use the Alaskan Way Viaduct will do when the rest of it is replaced by the tunnel, in terms of replacing the pathway into/out of central downtown. Right now, they’re looking at four alternatives for getting people into downtown, all based on using Highway 99, with a transit lane in place on the northbound side, between the West Seattle Bridge and King Street. The options are different variants of going in through Pioneer Square, whose business community will be involved in upcoming conversations about the “pathways.”

Interesting note from the timeline on this part of the project: It says the Columbia and Seneca ramps onto/off Highway 99 will close in Winter 2015. That would be a full year ahead of when the tunnel is supposed to be in operation. A final decision on the “pathways” is to be made next year.

20 Replies to "Update: Metro's West Seattle 'restructuring' meeting - and future 'pathways'"

  • beach_drive_noob November 9, 2011 (8:37 pm)

    Just moved to beach drive from admiral. I’m sad to hear I might not be able to bus it anymore. I guess a couple mile walk to alki each morning would be healthy for me, but can’t it at least wait until it warms up! #savemetro37

  • Buddsmom November 9, 2011 (9:03 pm)

    LAME! I was there and felt like it was a pacifier to the public. Questions were skirted around by Metro “planners”and concerns were given vague “Okay.Uh huh”answers!

  • David Trotter November 9, 2011 (9:22 pm)

    My wife, Buddsmomn, is far too generous. They talked around issues (printed and posted schedule inaccuracies that lead to planned obsolescence, average stop times on the “Rapid Ride” in the midst of traffic), even face one-on-one with witnesses. Deana Martin, Metro communications, tried to justify race, age and income questions are their survey, which she helped design, by saying they need to know they’re “hearing from everyone.” I was very sharp in pointing out that providing transit to EVERYONe is not a question of race, age or income, of “hearing from everyone.” – If they won’t deal honestly with us and only want show “input” meetings, then we, the citizen-taxpayer-owners of Metro need to take backe our system by whatever means necessary.” Representative democracy” does not mean elected and appointed dictators

  • Thistle November 9, 2011 (9:24 pm)

    Second the comment above! Having worked for a government agency in the past, I truly understand the work that goes into a public meeting and appreciate the overall point/scope of what metro was trying to accomplish, but honestly, the only thing I really got out of this public forum was truly unwarranted tones of condescension from the county reps and a new appreciation of how many times the word MANDATE can be stuffed into a sentence. It was all sound bites and absolutely no real dialogue or explanation as to why they decided to make the proposed changes and how they will be better/different then what we have now. No one could even answer a simple question like how often they were planning on having the 128 run, a crucial piece of information if I am to accurately express to them whether the proposed changes are a small nuisance or the driving force behind not renewing my lease and moving to a part of the city with more bus options.

  • Diane November 9, 2011 (9:53 pm)

    why did they advertise this as a “meeting”? it was really an open house; most of the public I spoke with came tonight expecting a meeting, with at least some presentation, and open forum to make comments, give us all an opportunity to hear what others in the public think about the new plans
    as soon as I walked in, a woman friend told me the guy from Metro was severely condescending in response to her questions
    so we sat at a table with many of the public; as they transitioned in and out, most had questions about the 37; I was surprised only a couple people were there to ask about losing bus access to Arbor Heights; funny that so many came from Alki to advocate for 37
    we had a wonderful young man from Metro (Stephen Hunt) who sat down with our group to listen and respond, taking all of our questions, requests, and rants; the older folks at Metro could take a lesson from him in how to be more welcoming, listen, and respond to the public

    • WSB November 9, 2011 (10:00 pm)

      Diane – I will be asking tomorrow if they will consider a different format for the Madison meeting. I had expected at least the hybrid open house type of event – where there’s a presentation, and then everybody circulates – the problem with this format is that so far, nothing has been explained or outlined, unless you happened to read the copious amount of info on the Metro site (which isn’t easy to wade through, the way it’s been segmented). I know there was at least one advocate for the 21 there, a gentleman who had been very vocal about it at the Southwest District Council meeting last week – I saw and heard him at one of the tables as soon as I arrived – TR

  • Diane November 9, 2011 (10:15 pm)

    yes, I just remembered that guy at my table was from Arbor Heights, and very vocal, and talked about going to SWDC; I added edit to my comment above; after the Arbor Heights couple left, we had a table filled with 37 advocates, and the young man from Metro joined us

  • Aman November 9, 2011 (10:32 pm)

    Sad to hear the meeting with metro employees seemed unproductive. Liquor sales were outsourced this week. Maybe we could do the same with Metro?

  • JD November 10, 2011 (8:58 am)

    Agree w/ Aman…Outsource it. Competition means they have a drive to succeed for the lovely profit. No more bilking our car tabs or property taxes.

  • Buddsmom November 10, 2011 (9:07 am)

    Aman- I totally agree with that idea! Worked for the water taxi. I found the meeting to be a waste of taxpayers time and money. Condescending isn’t exactly how I would refer to a couple of the Metro reps,downright rude is. While in the midst of going down a list of questions and concerns I had, I was quite literally cut off in mid sentence as he turned to another person and began talking to them. He didn’t want to hear my concerns about the proposed lack of service to Arbor Heights on weekends. Perhaps it was because he didn’t have any answers!

  • Bruce Nourish November 10, 2011 (12:33 pm)

    Good lord, there are some precious people in West Seattle. I went to meeting downtown, and saw nothing whatsoever like the negative things described in the comments here.

    It’s strange that so many people are upset about the loss of service on Beach Drive. Ridership on Routes 37 and 53 on Beach Drive is paltry. That is why those two routes being eliminated: they are a waste of money. As often happens when Metro proposes the deletion of a route, more people show up to defend it than actually ride it on a daily basis.

  • Steve M November 10, 2011 (12:37 pm)

    I disagree with the comments above. I found the Metro folks to be well informed, informative and courteous listeners. Metro has clearly done a lot of work to optimize the system, align its routes with its ridership and work within its budget. They were there to hear our concerns and answer our questions. I think they did both admirably.

    Sure, there are winners and losers in this realignment. My favorite morning route is being eliminated and replaced by the slower Rapid Ride line. But there are trade offs and we will pick up more consistent service throughout the day. But in talking to the Metro folks I walked away with the feeling that more people are being better served with these changes than before or than would have had the changes not been implemented.

    Change is always hard. We get set in our routines and don’t want them to change. But in the end change is not always bad. Let’s give the route realignments a chance.

  • Chetan November 10, 2011 (2:11 pm)

    I have to disagree with the comments at the top of this thread. I think it makes total sense for Metro to add service on routes that have high ridership (21,128,120,54, new route 50, new route 40), and take it away from routes that no one rides (37, etc.)

    The greatest benefit that a transit system can provide to suburban areas like Beach Drive is not the service itself, but the congestion relief that comes from taking cars off the road. Changing metro’s route structure to serve more people by taking away non productive routes helps to further reduce congestion.

  • Forest November 10, 2011 (2:36 pm)

    Metro will never admit it, but some of the low ridership routes are due to its own bad planning. For example, its original routing of the Water Taxi shuttle to Admiral was up the back road of Fairmount Ravine so there were no stops and the shuttle didn’t even connect with the neighborhood until California & Lander a block south of Admiral Way. The Metro planners then claimed low ridership as their excuse to cancel that shuttle route. Had they routed the same shuttle uphill to the north end of California as they finally did only after 10 years of neighborhood lobbying (kudos to Dennis Ross and John Dodd for their persistence), the shuttle route to Admiral wouldn’t have been low ridership in the first place.

  • Thistle November 10, 2011 (4:11 pm)

    Wow, it almost feels like there were two different meetings going on. I am really truly bummed that I did not get to speak to the rep that Steve did. All I can say is that the three different metro reps that I spoke with/observed constantly interrupted even the most polite and straight forward questions from individuals, could not provide even basic info about proposed lines and how they would relate to current routes (one of the reps actually told someone to their face that they did not know what they were talking about when they stated that the current 57 was a direct route to downtown from Admiral… I had to laugh because last time I checked, I get on a 57 at the corner of Admiral and California every morning and get off on Third Street), downplayed individual concerns not by giving solid info or mild corrections but by dismissing them verbally with comments like your just exaggerating and well not everyone will be happy, and simply repeated again and again that they had mandates they had to follow when doing the re-routing, without ever explaining exactly what the mandate even was. For me, I went into the meeting pretty mellow about it all and left it feeling upset enough to contact metro and email King County counsel members regarding my experience (I have never wrote to them before last night). I do not expect the city to cater to my every individual whim with front door bus service and fully support the idea that change is good, but I do expect a level of basic knowledge and common tact when a government agency decides to hold a town hall meeting on a vital city issue.

  • anonyme November 10, 2011 (5:10 pm)

    Agree with Forest. Many ridership issues have to do with poor planning. Route 21 probably doesn’t need to do the long run down Marine View Drive, and ridership might be higher in Arbor Heights if the service weren’t poor already. With the new changes, many residents of Arbor Heights (with the exception of those who work bankers hours and drive on weekends) will be completely cut off.

    It’s not reasonable to expect people to walk 12 blocks or more to catch a bus, regardless of physical condition. All three of the buses I completely rely on to get to and from work (21, 54, 125) will be impacted in such a way that I will lose my job if the changes outlined are actually implemented. Metro needs to acknowledge that the people most reliant on public transportation are probably not the 9-5 briefcase set they are catering their services toward.

  • Paul November 10, 2011 (6:01 pm)

    I went to the downtown meeting and had good, respectful conversations with the four Metro reps I talked to. It was interesting to learn that some people who live along the loop at the far south end of the 21 have been actively lobbying the County Council to get rid of the 21 in their part of the neighborhood.

    I certainly understand the need to restructure the routes, but I think some of the proposals are too extreme. In the case of the 21, I suggested the loop they propose be extended down to 106th. This would retain service to the parts of Arbor Heights and Shorewood that probably need it (or want it) most. If the proposed frequency increase needs to be scaled back, so be it.

  • WestSeattleiteSince1979 November 10, 2011 (8:25 pm)

    I don’t think this is a case of people resisting change just because it’s different. Some of these changes are going to seriously inconvenience people. Not everyone has the option to change their work hours to accommodate a bus schedule, especially in this economy. Not everyone is physically able to walk miles to catch the bus.

  • Blue Collar Enviro November 11, 2011 (6:53 pm)

    Metro reps have come to my neighborhood meetings several times. I can only recall one being even borderline “rude”.
    Most of the new routes being proposed are products of neighborhood lobbying, not drawing crayola lines on a map, as one blogger said in previous bash-Metro comments.
    I also find it totally appropriate for Metro to ask demographic questions on the survey. Rich western West Seattle has a habit of cutting in line ahead of Delridge, most recently in getting RapidRide when staff numbers showed the 120 was a better candidate for RapidRide treatment. And then when western West Seattle got RapidRide, it proceeded to water it down with barriers like parking in the transit lanes.

  • toast51 November 21, 2011 (11:03 am)

    It seems that Metro is inviting comment, but not sharing. I guess they believe that dialog is one way and would hurt their chances of ramming this proposal down our throats if we actually knew what we all thought and could respond with some synergy.

    The following is the message I sent to them in response to the elimination of the 51, 37, 53 routes:

    Changes would disenfranchise us and many others by completely eliminating the 51 and 37 routes. The proposal is unconscionable. An easy solution would be to combine the routes. Both the 51 and the 37 terminate at the Alaska Junction. Replace the larger busses with a smaller Dart sized van and alternate throughout the day between the route 51 and the route 37/53. Currently, there are rather lengthy layovers between the end and start of the routes. Alternating the routes would eliminate the stopovers and coupled with a reduced bus size and economies in operations, this alternative would allow savings without completely sacrificing ridership to somewhat arbitrary priorities.

    We deserve better consideration from Metro. If you want to exact cost savings, try instituting overtime rules changes that would eliminate any possibility that drivers could earn over $100,000… or even $60,000 per year. Cut management and salaries. It’s those kinds of excesses that drives Metro to constantly raise fares and eliminate service.

Sorry, comment time is over.