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: email@example.com
COMING IN REPORT #2 LATER TONIGHT – the Neighborhood Matching Fund change proposal, and new leadership in the new year for SWDC