Southwest District Council report #1: RapidRide Junction reroute? Yes, suggest attendees, but not the one the city’s proposing

Last night’s Southwest District Council meeting was all about change, both proposed and unavoidable. This first report focuses on one of the items in the former category: Attendees got a chance to comment on the proposed change in RapidRide C Line routing through the heart of The Junction (first reported here in August):

RAPIDRIDE C LINE CHANGE? Jonathan Dong of SDOT and Paul Roybal of Metro came to SWDC for a briefing on the proposed reroute and bus-stop relocation, also seeking feedback and comments. Even though it’s Metro, which is a county service, SDOT is – as noted in August – behind the proposal to move the route onto California between Edmunds and Alaska, rather than its current jog to the west.

Dong said it resulted from a study looking at efficiency on the C Line – “speed and reliability are very important for the city” – and that the proposed change would reduce the travel time by “about a minute per trip. … To accommodate that reroute, we propose to relocate from SW corner of Alaska Street to SE corner of Alaska,” working with Equity Residential, which has a new development going up at the latter corner.

Chas Redmond said he’s “terribly concerned” and would like to see a motion simulation, since, heading east on Alaska/California, traffic isn’t halted, but if you’re turning right on California, “even with signal prioritization, you’re backing up traffic.” Dong said the analysis determined “there is enough room” – with four parking spaces needing to be removed. Redmond points out that “dwell time” on California in Morgan Junction is “four or five minutes instead of 30 seconds as you guys said” because of the RapidRide stop on California north of Fauntleroy. He also said studies should show what would result with the increased RR frequency mentioned earlier today.

Abdy Farid from Junction Neighborhood Organization brought up the green-arrow-right at SW Alaska and the midblock crossing between Alaska and Edmunds. What’s the point of saving one minute? he asked, especially if there are delays elsewhere. Dong says calculations showed a 10-second wait for RapidRide at the midblock crossing.

Cindi Barker from Morgan Community Association said she could only see it working if the stop was further down Alaska – midblock between California and 42nd – since, as has been seen at California/Fauntleroy, the bus might need to spend longer at the stop, for loading wheelchair users, for example.

“You’ve broken up the whole bus zone if you do this,” said Marci Carpenter, “which will be a whole lot more difficult for elderly and disabled passengers. … I think you’d be making a HUGE tradeoff.”

“Saving 1 minute in The Junction is a noble cause,” added Amanda Kay Helmick from Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, “but … from The Junction to downtown you’re losing that savings,” merging onto the bridge, etc. She suggested it’s a “lot of expense” for that.

Diane Vincent from Admiral said that signal prioritization still hasn’t happened and she uses the bus and watches the delays. Dong says that prioritization is “scheduled to be activated this fall.”

Tod Rodman from Morgan Junction said, “In the aggregate, how much time would be saved?” Roybal answered, “96 trips a day,” and Rodman said the resulting math, calculating with 60 people in a bus, could be a “tremendous amount of time savings.”

SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch wondered if they had calculated what would happen if RapidRide used Fauntleroy Way instead, as he and others had supported instead of the California route. “I know that some of the initial thinking that it was good for retail to have the bus line there … but in urban design, where you want public transportation is a block or two off of where you have the nice spaces … 2nd Avenue is an example of buses not really enhancing the business (district), downtown.” He mentioned that West Seattle has always needed a circulator and somehow “RapidRide got mixed up with a circulator” but WS should have both. “To me right now, when I get on RR … I really hate going on California and meandering through stuff that isn’t taking me where I need to go.”

Co-chair Sharonn Meeks from Fairmount Community Association echoed the suggestion that the Fauntleroy routing would have been superior. Instead, now, with RR on Alaska, “you’ve turned a residential neighborhood into a bus zone .. you would save a substantial amoutn of time if you followed the arterial as it was designed to be used.” She said the 55 also has become “unreliable … it’s time for Metro to address the idea of not just incremental 1-minute changes but going forward with a RapidRide line on an arterial as it was designed, as it was proposed.” She says it’s time for the big review to do that, “to go back … and fix it.”

In response to a question from Jim Edwards, who represents the Senior Center on the SWDC, Dong said the study was done with 2013 synchronization – not the recently revised sequencing at California/Alaska. “That was done as an improvement for Route 128 so it could turn left and not get stuck in the queues.” In response to Edwards’ next question, Dong said “we are not planning to bump out” at the intersection.

Redmond asked Roybal: “If you make this change now, will the reader boards show other routes besides the C Line at the stop?” He says fixing that took a year and a half at the Junction station and he’d be worried that a move would lead to a similar problem.

Farid thought Equity Residential would be likely to oppose the plan because its building has a lobby on California near the corner (despite community concerns in the Design Review process).

Susan Melrose from the WS Junction Association notes that Dong was at the last WSJA meeting and merchants are concerned about disrupting the pedestrian zone and the midblock crosswalk: “We already have concerns .. and the presence of large buses would not make that easier in any way. … They also are concerned about another bus stop “further impeding on the public right of way on our sidewalks,” and, she added, “removal of parking is not desired.”

Dong subsequently said this was the “start of the outreach process,” which is to continue through December. He was invited to two groups that apparently hadn’t been on the SDOT radar, Junction Neighborhood Organization (meeting November 18th) and the West Seattle Transportation Coalition this month or next. Reps of both groups said they’d e-mail him:

COMING IN REPORT #2 LATER TONIGHT – the Neighborhood Matching Fund change proposal, and new leadership in the new year for SWDC

23 Replies to "Southwest District Council report #1: RapidRide Junction reroute? Yes, suggest attendees, but not the one the city's proposing"

  • Raincity November 6, 2014 (8:13 pm)

    Routing rapid ride through the junction to save 1 minute is irresponsible. You are negatively impacting the urban space along that corridor. The junction is not a thoroughfare for getting somewhere as quick as possible. It is our neighborhood center. Impact to pedestrian circulation would be negative as well. I’m sure the buses bumping over the raised cross walks will be just great. Not.

  • WSGuy November 6, 2014 (8:38 pm)

    Let’s see if I understand these comments. People want the bus route to come a few blocks by their house, but not right by their house, and then proceed directly to where they are going. Right. Good feedback.

  • Diane November 6, 2014 (9:50 pm)

    correction; my comment was about signal prioritization at Alaska/Fauntleroy, not Morgan junction; I catch Rapid Ride to downtown at Alaska just east of Fauntleroy and often see RR stuck at intersection waiting couple minutes for light to change; we were told 2 1/2 yrs ago, before RR started, that they would have signal priority mechanism to keep bus moving (“rapid” ride); still waiting for this fix

  • sgs November 6, 2014 (10:54 pm)

    SDOT and Metro – what may look good on paper would be terrible in practice. Those two blocks on California are what makes living and walking/window shopping here great. Ice cream, toy shopping, or enjoying baked goods do not mix with bus noise and exhaust (yes, I know the stop is at the end of the block, but the experience still would be affected). A two block diversion is a good trade for quality of life.

  • cj November 6, 2014 (11:16 pm)

    People getting off and on at the SW corner at Alaska Junction are bumping into each other and interrupting loading because their simply is not enough room on that corner. It needs to be moved.

  • Sue November 6, 2014 (11:31 pm)

    So, some people want the Rapid Ride to run down Fauntleroy and avoid the Junction? You mean, like the 54X used to? I used to commute on the 54X, and it was faster than Rapid Ride will ever be because of the routing. It was ironic that taking it away and giving me Rapid Ride actually increased my commute.
    As for the thought of moving RR over near Jefferson Square, while I’ll admit it would be nice to move it 1/2 block from my home (as opposed to 2 blocks away), I think it would be a mistake for many reasons. For one, many people who are getting off at the Junction are shopping or dining in the Junction. A lot of the time I take Rapid Ride, I will stop at a store and buy something on my way home. But if the bus didn’t stop there, I wouldn’t necessarily go back for impulse shopping. So there is a potential economic impact as well.

  • ChefJoe November 7, 2014 (12:03 am)

    raincity, to allow low floor buses to drive over them their height would probably be reduced.

    I suspect they’d also change the Eastbound 42nd/Alaska curb lane from right turn only to bus thru and right only as well.

    I still doubt how well buses will be able to make that right from California onto Alaska headed eastbound. The sidewalks aren’t particularly huge and double length buses either swing wide (into a second lane of traffic) at start/finish or require huge arcs.

  • R November 7, 2014 (4:37 am)

    But what about the bike corral?

  • anonyme November 7, 2014 (6:22 am)

    I didn’t realize the proposed stop would be right on California in the middle of the business district. I ride the bus exclusively, and this is a TERRIBLE idea. It will ruin the flow of the business district, both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. It will place a blocking crowd of smokers and litterers right in front of someone’s business. Has the mid-block pedestrian crossing been considered in the supposed one minute time savings? I see a dangerous situation there as well, with oncoming vehicles not being able to see around a stopped bus, or bus drivers not acknowledging the crossing. Bad idea all around.

  • Kate November 7, 2014 (6:36 am)

    I think that the only viable place to move it, if any, is my Jefferson Square. That block on Alaska is close enough to the shopping and yet far enough to not get in the way. I’m not sure of the amount of people transferring between the C and other buses (that would be nice data to have), but it would not be that much more walking than their current proposal.

    IMO: Fauntleroy is much to far away and would serve a different population than those who currently take the C. The hill going up to the junction would be a barrier for many.

  • Barb November 7, 2014 (7:45 am)

    Sounds like an intriguing idea. Biggest bummer is that the 55 and the C will be at different stops and I usually take whichever comes first.

  • Bus rider November 7, 2014 (8:36 am)

    I live at the south end of the line and am continually frustrated by how long it takes to commute to and from downtown on the C Line. Any move to speed it up would be welcome, in my opinion. The 54X was faster. I am happy that trip frequency will be increased next year because the bus is terribly overcrowded.

  • bus mom November 7, 2014 (9:24 am)

    I rely on the bus for transportation. The bus station in the junction is important for making transfers. I can’t stand the idea of trying to run a block or two with my groceries and small child. And elderly folks rely on the convenience of the stop at the junction. The sidewalks are a mess with holes and cracks that make it very hard for folks with disabilities as well. It’s ridiculous for drivers or West Seattle folks who only ride the bus for sporting events to think their opinions matter here. We need to be thinking about our most vulnerable riders first.

  • js November 7, 2014 (9:31 am)

    The proposal would complicate transfers at the Junction for anyone arriving from other buses to head downtown. (I can easliy imagine watching helplessly from the west side of California as the C loads across the street and takes off.) The current bus bay setup on Alaska is pretty convenient — why mess with that?

  • Peter November 7, 2014 (12:51 pm)

    Fauntleroy routing for the C makes no sense at all. It would completely miss the largest business district and population center of West Seattle. Yes, it would be faster for a few people, but ridership would drop by at least half, and there’s no alternative bus. All the current bus riders on California and at the Junction would have no choice but to switch to driving. How could anyone think Fauntleroy routing is a good idea?

  • seaopgal November 7, 2014 (1:03 pm)

    I would also oppose breaking up the current “transit center” on Alaska. It is best location for Rapid Ride infrastructure and shelters (in terms of not impeding access to businesses) and is most convenient for transfers. If there is sufficient money to reinstitute the 55 as as a through bus from Admiral to downtown, this might not be as critical, but for now it is important to have easy transfer to/from the 50/128 and the C line.

  • pat November 7, 2014 (2:04 pm)

    It has been way too long since I’ve relied on the bus services so I have to admit to some biases away from them. I do remember when electric trolleys vied the Calif/Alaska route but that was when private vehicles were probably well less than 10% of what it is now. I do though agree with Sharonn Meeks when she said “it’s time for the big review…”

    This idea of saving a minute here and 10 seconds there is so misleading. Where are the true slowdowns? You can’t tell me that time is not lost once you reach the Fauntleroy Expressway (what we used to call the West Seattle Freeway and now more often refer to the rush hour parking lot). Maybe 10 minutes is important to some, so why not catch an earlier bus? The C line does run about 15 minutes apart don’t they? Anyway, we need to look at the entire picture and quit getting hung up on a few seconds here and a minute there.

    Maybe the move to the east side is the best solution although I have my doubts. But if it is, there are other changes that will have to be made. And I can envision some of the same snarls that are created in the Morgan Junction area when a C line bus is loading/offloading. Please SDOT, listen to everyone and don’t be too quick to make your decision.

  • kr November 7, 2014 (5:32 pm)

    The one minute time savings is nowhere near enough of a benefit to destroy the quality of California within the junction.

    I’d the crowding at the bus stops is an issue why not making more of a real transit center/ community plaza out of the parking lot behind Pharmaca. Encourage more shopping and ridership by making it a place that could still host farmers market and serve the transit needs.

  • Pattc November 7, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    So…the Rapid Ride C will have the ability to affect the stop light turns in the Junction ?

    Maybe it will be to much trouble to keep the ALL WAY Walk?

    How much time will that save;)

  • Pattc November 7, 2014 (6:34 pm)

    @kr yes, yes great idea!

  • natinstl November 7, 2014 (10:40 pm)

    SDOT needs to take into acount the transfer situation. Oftentimes the C is so crowded leaving downtown that it’s necessary to catch another bus to the Junction and then transfer to the C. I also think this will have negative effects for pedestrians and cars who use California to go to local businesses.

  • artsea November 9, 2014 (1:04 pm)

    I think Metro has created a monster that is growing out of control. None of what I read here seems likely to solve the RR problem, and is likely to create even worse ones. Also, for what it’s worth, those RR buses are lousy. The ride is hard and jarring and the drivers are constantly slamming on the brakes and then the accelerator….over and over.

  • Randall November 12, 2014 (1:46 pm)

    Despite some routes not being run due to holiday, the bus arrival boards downtown listed all the busses as coming and then departing. This would seem like the simplest thing to fix/avoid, but really exhibits what an utterly useless waste of money and energy installing those things was.

    Now, same agency figures they can save a minute by moving a bus stop . . . okay . . . will it save money?

    How about instead of giving me reliably poor service, while repeatedly coming with hat in hand for more tax dollars and (in return?) offering to trim a minute off a ride, you find a way to save everyone some money, even if it costs me an extra minute per day?

    Can you do that?

    I promise you, sometimes the prospect of one minute less smelling some of the odors on the city busses would be great, but sometimes I can get that if the driver just stops where I’ve requested a stop. I don’t need some money pit to maybe get a better-smelling minute back in my day. I just cannot fathom how, with all the route cutting and money woes, someone green-lighted the funding for an investigation of an idea that was never going to have more than negligible benefit to ridership.

Sorry, comment time is over.