Want West Seattle to be on Sound Transit’s long-range map? Speak up now, ST rep tells WS Chamber

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“It’s very timely to be here today,” opened Rachel Smith from Sound Transit, speaking to about 20 people at the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce‘s monthly lunch meeting.

The timeliness is because there’s a week and a half left for you to comment in the current stage of ST’s Long-Range Plan Update process – which could ultimately pave the way for light rail to/from West Seattle – and if you would like to see that, she said, you really need to speak up now.

She reminded the Chamber attendees first that LINK Light Rail – 16 miles with 13 stations so far, and partnering with Seattle on the First Hill Streetcar to open later this year – Sounder commuter rail, and ST Express buses are Sound Transit’s three “lines of business” around the three-county area they serve, and that the board is chaired by a West Seattleite, King County Executive Dow Constantine. (Another West Seattleite, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, is on the board as well.) “Ridership has just been going through the roof,” she added.

70 percent of Sound Transit’s revenue comes from sales tax, and it’s “down $4.7 billion” through 2023, she said – that’s a 30 percent drop over the lifetime of the 15-year plan running through then. But the system has bright spots, $100 million under budget with University Link and six months ahead of schedule. (This is a “twin-bore tunnel project,” she adds.)

Now, for West Seattle: ST is currently in its Long-Range Plan Update – the current LRP is from 2005.

And she warns that “currently Sound Transit has leveraged all of its taxing authority to build what’s (in the pipeline now)” so Legislative approval would be needed to add more taxing authority.

(Click image for full-sized ST 2005 Long Range Plan map)
“The key thing is that … you need to let (Sound Transit) know that you want to be on (its) map … if you do,” she noted, standing in front of a slide showing the current ST map (part of which is shown above), which is devoid of West Seattle light rail.

At this point, she mentioned the corridor studies that are “helping us understand what the options COULD be,” stressing that they don’t represent anything that WILL necessarily happen without further discussion, acting, funding, etc. Right now, West Seattle is part of the South King County HCT Corridor Study – we showed some of that here two months ago:

Its key findings, she said, were “strong overall ridership” in the West Seattle to downtown corridor, also stretching to Burien and beyond, but “market characteristics vary” between those areas. And for “realistic headways” with bus rapid transit, you’d have to have a bus arriving almost every minute. Also big:

High potential right-of-way impacts for the surface and elevated segments from West Seattle to Burien and in Renton because of existing development patterns.

They didn’t find any major effects on the “natural environment,” but they did find a “high potential for equity issues given diverse population groups.”

Then she showed the routing possibilities that came up in the study, as seen here. The A5 option, which would include a tunnel but would not serve the Delridge corridor, would be “100 percent exclusive running” on its route, she said. Overall, she said, the possibilities shown there are mix-and-match and “information that can be used to ultimately put together a project that is feasible, affordable, supported by the voters …”

So, now what? She mentioned that after “scoping,” ST released its draft supplemental Environmental Impact Study a month ago – you can see it here – and is taking comment until July 28th – that’s a week and a half. It’s been having open houses around the area and the last one is tonight at Everett Station. You can comment through this survey, or by e-mailing or sending comments (this page shows how – e-mail, postal-mail, phone info are on the right side). The feedback will be evaluated, and shared with the ST board;

In a brief round of Q/A, Smith was asked questions including, what about parking? “That’s a question that we as an agency answer very differently around the region,” she replied – for example, Sounder commuter rail has parking at every station, and “the demand is huge.” In the city of Seattle, city government does not favor parking in connection with stations, but she says people do use a variety of modes to get to transit so “it would be a community conversation that we would need to have.”

Asked specific questions such as “could you build elevated rail down the middle of 35th,” the reply boiled down to, too soon to tell. Could rail go on the existing bridge or would it have to be a new one? Most likely, if they built a new bridge, it would have to be one that can open – but using the existing (high) bridge has not necessarily been ruled out, she said.

In the end, the Long-Range Plan Update will result in a map – and anything that would go to the voters would have to be on that map. The more people who speak up saying they want West Seattle to be on the map, the “bigger impact” will be made, Smith said.

OTHER CHAMBER ANNOUNCEMENTS: Board chair Nancy Woodland announced that the Chamber has upgraded its software in the “members area.” And it’s now offering stickers that Chamber members can display in their office windows (or on their cars, or …), with an online counterpart so that members can display it on their businesses’ websites. The Chamber also is distributing the newest copy of the “community resource guide” that it publishes each year – maybe you picked up a copy at the Info Booth at West Seattle Summer Fest last weekend. … No monthly Chamber lunch in August but the September lunch will be an update from the Port of Seattle.

16 Replies to "Want West Seattle to be on Sound Transit's long-range map? Speak up now, ST rep tells WS Chamber"

  • Nathan Todd July 17, 2014 (4:17 pm)

    So how do we let them know?

    • WSB July 17, 2014 (4:18 pm)

      Take the survey for starters. We’ve already announced it here a few times but I’m sure there are still many just seeing it now. Sorry, I hit publish before adding the other link – it’ll be there in a minute or two.
      (added) The e-mail, postal mail, phone options are on the right side of this page:

  • Alex July 17, 2014 (4:25 pm)

    I’ve always believed this was totally hopeless, and they’d never really consider transit here… But then again, with the numerous major buildings going in, maybe we will finally be recognized as dense enough to justify the expense?

    Nah, sometimes I say crazy things.

    • WSB July 17, 2014 (4:29 pm)

      You just never know. West Seattle’s enthusiasm for transit certainly impressed City Councilmember Mike O’Brien during this afternoon’s hearing on sending the revisited transit tax to the ballot (separate story on that to come) – he called it out specifically. In terms of politicians to contact, note that the story mentions County Executive Constantine and Councilmember Joe McDermott are on the ST board, so they might be worth a note (along with other board members) too … TR

  • TGL July 17, 2014 (5:09 pm)

    Well, there’s one SURE way to never get Light Rail here…sit on your hands and zip your lips.

  • Peter July 17, 2014 (5:19 pm)

    It really does matter that we tell ST we want light rail to WS. At the ST Long Range Planning public meeting on Tuesday, several people spoke in favor of Ballard to UW and Balkard to Downtown, but I was the only one who spoke in favor of light rail in WS. The neighborhoods that ask the most will get the most, so let them hear it!

  • corridordreaming July 17, 2014 (6:51 pm)

    if it were to move forward, and by that optimistic fantasy i mean just to have them put WS as a listed potential maybe possible vision on the displays and maps they cart around to public meetings (btw, the absence of WS on those maps is to override the legal departments instructions outreach public servants to always strive to be damn careful what you say and try to never say it in visuals), i don’t think any train would be on the peninsula proper…i think it would come up over 1st Ave or Intn’l Blvd. from Tukwila and then underground to SODO on 4th or 6th. North Highline should be advocating at these meetings as well. WS and NH are attached like siamese twins when planning transit connections from the airport or Tukwila, from my point of view. A surface line through NH would encourage development and jobs there; and then undergrounding a line through the Duwamish Industrial area up through SoDo and pop back out wherever the millionaire out-of-town developers would want it for their megabuck developments which will eventually fill SoDo.

    WS would need a circulator system of trolley tracks on a perimeter loop of the entire peninsula with a big x of tracks in the middle. Remember, this city doesn’t do “park and ride” anymore. And mini-vans are too small and drink gas.

    What would we call that? WSPT? West Seattle Peninsula Trolley? Naming it makes it real people. Make ST put a NAME on those maps of theirs. Their legal department will have a cow but hey…they are asking for input. Give it to ’em.

  • Joe Szilagyi July 17, 2014 (7:58 pm)

    Remember as well that Sound Transit is not planning their West Seattle plans for TODAY’s density, but for density TWENTY YEARS FROM TODAY.

  • corridordreaming July 17, 2014 (8:24 pm)

    oops. correction: is to *NOT* override the legal departments instructions public outreach servants

  • Al July 17, 2014 (8:26 pm)

    I was under the impression that part of the reason we were left off of the original plan was because it was drawn up when the monorail was in progress for our neighborhood and not just because they don’t think we don’t have the density. I dont think getting rail over here is nearly the longshot some are making it out to be. We were very very close to getting that monorail at one point after all…

  • corridordreaming July 17, 2014 (9:04 pm)

    *HERE* is what we could call it: WSPet! West Pet?
    West Seattle Peninsula Trolley = West Pet.

    Call the mapmakers!

  • corridordreaming July 17, 2014 (9:24 pm)

    Al- i am not an expert or super long-time West Seattle res, but i have the impression that even local’s memories of past transportation efforts, failures or close calls don’t mean squat to the people at Sound Transit who are receiving public input. Ask them a couple of questions about themselves and you find out they have just moved to the NW, just been with the city but very recently. This is not good for WS.

    Not regarding transportation but a city planner was asked where he lived at one of the Growth meetings recently and he said he commuted from the peninsula by ferry. He’s not even a city of Seattle resident. His investment is shakey, if you ask me.

    Also, his planning is based on what the outreach people tell him? See above about new to seattle personnel. This is not good for WS.

    Planners and personnel are not invested in the histories and true needs of West Seattle. They have to be educated with some fundamentals. I truly hope you try to go to the meetings and tell them what the context is for many – tell them what the lessons learned were. That’s an important piece of this that i think gets dropped out of the equation when folks do not show up at the meetings for input.

    I hope you and everybody else with whom this might resonate go and tell these people what was done, historically, strategically, correctly that “almost” got the monorail here.

    In my book, though, “almost” is too low of a standard and crossing one’s fingers for that to change is never really a good enough strategy to actually get this outlier status for WS reversed. imho. eh.

  • bolo July 17, 2014 (10:36 pm)

    “High potential right-of-way impacts for the surface and elevated segments from West Seattle to Burien and in Renton because of existing development patterns.”
    So much for the “Develop first, transit will come” motto.

  • Data July 18, 2014 (9:19 am)

    I don’t know that I agree with the survey approach. The neighborhoods that scream the loudest shouldn’t be prioritized because they screamed. Long term transit planning should be based on data. I also don’t understand the sense of urgency on the topic. How soon would West Seattle get light rail if everything is planned, approved, and built without any hiccups, 15-20 years? I’d prefer they shift some efforts from surveys and work toward learning how to execute faster.

  • AmandaKH July 18, 2014 (9:47 am)

    @Data – totally agree with you. 100% can’t agree with you enough. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way Seattle works. We are a process based City with surveys for everything. Which is why it takes SO LONG to get anything accomplished.

  • Robert July 24, 2014 (8:27 am)

    grease a few palms and watch how fast things move….

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