By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The lively launch meeting of the West Seattle Transit Coalition was as much an attempt to map a route as anything else – almost one year after changes and cuts in Metro service pushed bus concerns further into the peninsula spotlight than ever before.
Many of the 30-plus people in attendance at High Point Center were neighborhood activists from around the peninsula (and from White Center/North Highline too).
Two elected officials, State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and City Councilmember Richard Conlin, also showed up – to listen, not to talk, though both did the latter briefly on request.
Metro/county reps were there listening as well, including Chris Arkills, the West Seattleite who is County Executive Dow Constantine‘s transportation adviser.
As organizers had hoped, the loudest voices were those of the West Seattleites who say this is the time for a peninsula-wide effort to advocate for our growing population’s transit needs. “We’re all underserved” was a declaration early on that resounded.
As was sharply pointed out by some, including reps of the Transit Riders Union, advocacy efforts have not been in short supply – what has been missing, organizers contend, is a West Seattle-wide voice.
(There is no WS-wide general leadership group or individual, in part because the city handles West Seattle as two districts – Southwest and Delridge – so neighborhood-group reps meet in two groups, as two separate “district councils,” and also in part because the City Council is elected at large, not by districts.)
The WSTC meeting concluded with 11 people volunteering to serve on an interim board (listed at story’s end).
It began with slides prepared and presented by Joe Szilagyi from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council, where the coalition idea sprouted, as transit issues emerged early in the new council’s life as a top priority, given past cuts, potential future cuts, and Westwood Village swelling into a major transportation hub, particularly starting with the launch of RapidRide C Line in fall 2012. Download the PowerPoint here via the WSTC site, or see the slides below via Scribd:
(If you haven’t been following the Metro situation, do note that the “17 percent cut” shown in the slides is “not a done deal,” as Kate from the Transit Riders Union reminded – it is what the county first warned back in April would be necessary if the Legislature does not pass a transportation package allowing at least a funding source replacing what Metro will lose when the Congestion Reduction Charge expires next May.)
After the opening presentation, attendees were invited to stand up and offer their thoughts on the problem, and potential solutions.
A reasoned voice near the end suggested it was vital to fully define the former before trying to recommend the latter – and others warned that if this effort truly is to advocate for West Seattle’s specific needs, it can’t merely seek to solve the Metro funding crisis, it needs a wholistic look at the local situation.
Some suggested that Seattle raise money – some sort of citywide tax – to ensure it is not hurt by a transportation funding gap. Councilmember Conlin offered a word of warning, that such an action might simply let the state off the hook for a problem it needs to solve.
There was a much-shared perception that West Seattle isn’t getting what it deserves, given its population size and its dependence on bridges. North Delridge’s Jake Vanderplas declared, “We need the attention that other parts of the city get.” (He also pointed out that the recent announcement of money for community-proposed Neighborhood Street Fund projects did not include funding for even one of the projects proposed by West Seattleites, a concern raised by local neighborhood leaders earlier this month, with SDOT director Peter Hahn responding that the two local districts were getting funding for street projects from other sources, and that had factored into the decisionmaking.)
Sustainable West Seattle‘s Chas Redmond said that West Seattle Bridge transit trips outnumber those of North Seattleites whose needs have been more squarely in the spotlight.
And it was amply pointed out that West Seattle’s population will continue to grow, with thousands of apartments under construction or on the drawing board, including projects being built with zero or few parking spaces because of their proximity to frequent transit (such as 4535 44th SW, with 36 units and no parking, and 4400 SW Alaska, with 40 units and 5 parking spaces, and 3050 Avalon Way, “microapartments” with 104 units and no parking).
Diane Vincent wondered why developers aren’t required to pay some sort of transit-impact fee, especially those who are saving money on project costs by not building parking, since it’s been widely reported that each parking space carries a five-digit construction-cost price tag.
The seeming lack of a master transportation plan specifically looking at West Seattle conditions and impending development was a concern raised by Kevin Broveleit among others. Conlin said “there is a West Seattle transportation plan … but I doubt it’s as comprehensive as what you are talking about here tonight.”
The bottom line was voiced early on by Delridge District Council chair Mat McBride, declaring that it’s not a case of West Seattle needing to “ask” for what it needs, but that “we can require that the city require the county and require the state to give us what we believe we need.”
Others suggested those needs include information as well as transit service – information, for example, on what exact effects the Highway 99 changes will have on transportation and travel times for our area.
How the demands are made, what solutions are suggested, will depend on how the WSTC’s work proceeds from here. The interim WSTC board – those who volunteered, when asked for a show of hands, to serve – will meet on October 8th, they decided in a huddle of sorts immediately post-meeting. All welcome – time/place likely the same, but watch westseattletc.org (and WSB) for confirmation.
From the list published by Szilagyi on the WSTC website, the interim board members are:
Amanda Kay Helmick
Diane Rose Vincent
(Those who are on neighborhood councils are not necessarily officially representing them on the board, but we are noting those affiliations here separately as a datapoint: Cindi Barker and Deb Barker, who are not related, are communications officer and president respectively of the Morgan Community Association; Dobkin is president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council; Helmick and Szilagyi are chair and secretary respectively of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council; McBride chairs the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council; Rodman is with Friends of Morgan Junction Parks; Stauffer is co-chair of the Highland Park Action Committee; Taylor-Judd is from the North Delridge Neighborhood Council; Vincent is an Admiral resident who participates in a variety of councils, groups, and other civic activities around the peninsula.)