Sound Transit 3, Metro long-range plan @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

(ST3 draft-plan map section with proposed West Seattle light rail)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Today – five days after the draft Sound Transit 3 plan went public – the monthlong comment period officially begins.

That will include a community meeting at 5:30 pm April 26th at West Seattle High School, it’s just been confirmed.

And more information is being added today – fleshing out what was outlined last Thursday – to the official Sound Transit 3 website.

Of course, commenting informally started the moment the plan was circulated that afternoon.

Hours after the announcement downtown, it was a hot topic at the March meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition – though not until about two hours in – and while group members had opinions, the question of an official position wasn’t settled. (The agenda also included the Metro Long-Range Plan – more on that in the second half of this report.)

Regarding ST3, WSTC co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick was concerned about the price tag – envisioned last December as around $30 billion, then, when the 25-year draft emerged Thursday, $50 billion: “That raises a huge red flag in my mind.”

While the draft plan does propose a light-rail line to West Seattle – ending at The Junction, opening in 2033 – Helmick didn’t think it reflected what WSTC had said, and had collected via community surveys. So, she asked, “what do we as a group want to say to Sound Transit about this?”

One quick retort: “Build it sooner.”

ST’s board chair, County Executive Dow Constantine, had suggested in Thursday’s post-meeting media briefing (see the video toward the end of our Thursday story) that the timelines spelled out in the draft might eventually accelerate, at least a bit.

His transportation adviser Chris Arkills was at the WSTC meeting, as he often is, and stressed that only “a map and a list” was released. “I don’t think it was a question of the board not listening [to the WSTC], but they felt that the best line for West Seattle is the line to The Junction.”

“50 billion dollars!” said Helmick, again.

“Any time you’re building light rail, it’s going to be frustratingly long …” many factors, said Arkills. “What we’re voting on now is what the representative plan is – where the stations are, whether it’s elevated or in a tunnel, are all things that can be decided in the future.” There are many reasons why the board favored this alignment with stops projected in Delridge, 35th and The Junction, “offers us the opportunity to do a lot of bus intercepts.”

Helmick at that point read part of an e-mail from co-chair Tom Linde, who couldn’t attend in person, saying “this is a 100-year change for our community and he wants to fight to do it right.”

WSTC’s Michael Taylor-Judd thought it would be important to get out the message that WSTC “heard from 1,000 people excited and overwhelmingly what they wanted was to start looking at going south of the WS Junction” – the draft plan as released only called for a study of sending light rail south to Burien, meaning that would be more than a quarter-century away.

Wondered WSTC’s Deb Barker asked, is there any way to build an underground station without wiping out a full city block? Arkills’ reply: You probably have to wipe out at least part of it, but then you could build buildings on top of it. He thought the parking lots might be the more likely place for the station to go in The Junction. And, he added, task 1 is to pass the plan; Task 2 is to improve on the plan.

Next steps include the aforementioned April 26th public meeting in West Seattle; WSTC also intends to invite ST to its next meeting, which will be two nights after that (April 28th). And as we got ready to publish this story, a survey went live on the ST3 website – find it here.

METRO’S LONG-RANGE PLAN: You’ll start hearing about this all in early April, and it will be part of the April 26th WSHS meeting, too – but for starters, WSTC got a preview Thursday night from Stephen Hunt of Metro (a West Seattle resident).

By 2040, he said, transit boardings must/will triple, as 850,000 more jobs are created in the region and population grows by 1,000,000. “Transit mode share” is expected to grow to 24 percent during peak periods, from 14 percent today. They also expect to get to where 70 percent of people are “within half a mile of frequent service” (every 15 minutes) from the current 20 percent. They also want to make sure a majority of low-income people and people of color are within half a mile of frequent service, and to be “purposeful” about realizing those opportunities. Hunt said they also intend to have “enhanced customer experience.” By 2040, they plan to add 300 miles (20 more lines) of RapidRide, “finishing the alphabet.” They also are looking at how to “leverage” the “different ways people are getting around,” such as Lyft, Uber, carpooling, vanpooling, automation …

In the short run, some transit beefs, including service cuts in Admiral, were brought up. Arkills suggested asking the City of Seattle about how they’re spending the voter-approved Transportation Benefit District dollars to buy added transit service. “They look at the same data we do – the fact is, there’s not real strong midday demand from the Admiral market.”

How will future routes be determined? That was the subject of a spirited back and forth – WSTC’s Taylor-Judd (who is also on the North Delridge Neighborhood Council) recalled the fight to get Route 50 to head that way, and what it took, because advocates were insistent on getting around West Seattle more easily, not just getting “frequent transit” (even at that, Route 50 doesn’t currently qualify as “frequent”).

Other points from the long-range plan – it’s expected that the C Line, for example, would no longer go downtown in 2040 – it would connect to the light rail that, under the ST3 draft plan, would open in 2033. “We are moving away from a one-seat ride,” pointed out Arkills, moving to a “frequent” transport involving transfers, like many other big cities.

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CORRIDOR PLAN: It was noted that the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee is expected to take this up toward month’s end (as we write this, though, .

TAKE A POSITION ON OCCIDENTAL STREET VACATION? Mixed opinions on this. Co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick said it seemed that if WSTC was going to take a position on SODO traffic, it should be big-picture, especially the Lander Street Overpass – not the Occidental arena-or-no-arena issue. 8-5, the vote was in favor of taking a position.

FAUNTLEROY BOULEVARD PROJECT: A brief discussion about the ongoing plan did not, for once, focus on the utility-undergrounding issue that has dominated public discussion recently. WSTC’s Marty Westerman mentioned that business owners along the prospective “boulevard” segment (between the bridge and Fauntleroy) are worried about a bike lane on the north side eliminating ingress/egress from parking areas – “they don’t mind improving the street but they want improvement that improves their businesses.” Deb Barker noted concerns about the Oregon turn lanes. In general, with design nowhere near finished, it was suggested a larger group should coalesce to talk about where the project stands and how the plan is proceeding.

VIADUCT CLOSURE: A bit of discussion focused on the upcoming 2-weeks-or-so Alaskan Way Viaduct closure, when the tunneling machine goes under the structure. Still no date; there was an educated guess it’s likely to be the second half of April. Keep an eye on

BOARD ELECTIONS: Co-chair Helmick announced she will step away from the WSTC board, though she’ll stay involved with the organization. She’s going to focus on eastern West Seattle community issues such as those tackled by the other organization she’s been co-chairing, the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council. So her position will be among those up for a vote in May.

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets fourth Thursdays, 6:30 pm, location may vary – watch

24 Replies to "Sound Transit 3, Metro long-range plan @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • Fiwa Jcbbb March 29, 2016 (12:16 pm)

    If you voted for Martin Selig’s Monorail recall, think a little bit about how much more this project will cost than the now completely necessary “boondoggle” you were so afraid of, and the fact that many of us who voted for it 4 times will be dead before it’s done. We could be using it now. Please slap yourself across the face, hard, for your selfish short-sighted stupidity.

  • wetone March 29, 2016 (1:32 pm)

     Do we need it yes. Do I trust Sound Transit at this to give them $50billion NO,  nor do I think current people involved would spend money properly and get job done without spending 2x what their asking for. Before something like this is started we need to have better more fair way to fund. Most lower income and middle class just can’t afford the never ending tax increases that are happening in this city. Between property tax and car tab increases this plan calls for it could be the final straw for many in this town. Mayor Murray has a few other budget issues that need funding, most likely by more tax hikes.  Right now most property’s in Seattle area are under valued  (real estate tax) I see city pushing a few more levy’s through,  then see city adjusting real estate taxes to real time value……. people think rent and house payments are bad now just wait a couple more years.

    • Jon Wright March 29, 2016 (11:38 pm)

      I don’t think anyone disagrees that the price is high, the timeline is long, or the financing is not ideal. But it’s something! Even if the prospect of having to wait until 2033 for a Link train to roll in to West Seattle is exasperating, it is only going to be longer if we keep wringing our hands! So having said what you’re against, what do you suggest we do that would be better? From my perspective, the sooner we start doing something–anything!–the better and so I support this ST3 plan.

  • Chuck March 29, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    Thank you, FIWA JCBBB. That was simply the funniest, most spot-on post I’ve ever read out here in a long time. I wish I could extend said “slap” to the voters of the 70’s with their “don’t build it and they won’t come” mentality. Really, they did play their hand well–assuming they’ve since died or moved on. 

    I was a teenager growing up in the Bay Area during  the 70s, and saw first-hand how BART helped to shape a region. Folks, that was some 40 years ago! So finally we have a comprehensive package that will be astronomically expensive as it tries to rectify what will by then be nearly 60 years of transportation neglect.

    IF we are to pay for the sins of those who have gone before us, can we at LEAST get it on a timeline that is meaningful? Last I read it will take roughly 17 years for this rail line to happen. Not acceptable. Something closer to eight years (the same length of two presidencies) feels right to me. I say get it done, but without breaking the backs of the homeowner. Like many, I am being priced out of a home I have lived in since ’92.

  • anonyme March 29, 2016 (3:53 pm)

    So, it looks like the latest gem of planning wisdom has SDOT tearing up the Junction and eliminating any parking for businesses in order to put in a light rail station?

    “They also want to make sure a majority of low-income people and people
    of color are within half a mile of frequent service, and to be
    “purposeful” about realizing those opportunities.”   Why should transit be racially biased?  Has Seattle gone so far over the PC line that only people of color will be afforded the priviledge of easy access to transit?  An outrageous statement, and a very wobbly stance legally.  The leadership in this city just gets crazier and crazier.  I’m so glad I’ll be dead before this happens.

    • JanS March 29, 2016 (4:22 pm)

      as a person who lives near the Admiral Junction pf Calif. Ave. and Admiral Way, where there is little to no mass transit directly downtown  depending on the time of day, I see what you mean.  I am 69, and I’m physically broken. I do not ride the bus anywhere, and I’m certaily not going to hope I can get to the junction in a timely fashion to get on any piece of crowded mass transit. My car takes me about 20 minutes to get me where I need to go downtown during the day. I work at home, not mass transit commute needed. I keep asking…what about us? And the answer is usually, that we here are not really in the equation.

      Yes, I’ll be dead or close to it by the time this city figures it out. If Bertha is any indication…it’s be more like 24 years. :-\

      • Sam_c March 30, 2016 (5:23 am)

        Berths? Apples and oranges. If the us tunnel is any indication,it will be done early or on time.

        • Sam_c March 30, 2016 (5:25 am)

          Autocorrect fail. Should be Bertha and UW

  • JanS March 29, 2016 (4:26 pm)

    oh, and if any seniors/disabled need  transit to downtown, or a doc appt. , or grocery shopping, etc., think about using the Hyde Shuttle. Door to door service, free, but takes donation. Yes, sometimes it takes a little longer than a car does, but it’s really, really handy. And you don’t have to wait 17 years.

  • WSnative March 29, 2016 (4:53 pm)

    50 billion and 22 years to complete UW to Ballard.  NO WAY!

  • Junctionite March 29, 2016 (6:10 pm)

    How many recessions could potentially derail (pun intended) a project like this over 17 years. Even if I still live in West Seattle, I’ll be retired by this time. Not feeling all that excited about more taxes for something I may never get to use. The timeline is ridiculous!

  • Sue March 29, 2016 (7:09 pm)

    I’m finding it hard to get excited about this when the projected completion date (not barring delays) would put me at 70 years old, when I’m likely to not need transit regularly. When I first moved to West Seattle I was so excited about the monorail that people were talking about happening. Then I learned my first lesson about the ridiculousness of how things work in Seattle about voting again and again and again for something and then having the outcome not even reflect what was voted. So disillusioning.

  • Denise March 30, 2016 (8:12 am)

    Sound Transit! Hope none of your houses are in their way. Say good-bye. I do not trust them. Public hearing why? They will do what they need to do. Please tell me one thing that CHANGED due to public comment

  • Shawn March 30, 2016 (8:26 am)

    I’m excited about ANY non-road mass transit plans that would bring Seattle in line with other bigger cities. It pains me to come home from a trip to Chicago and think about having to drive everywhere again. And yeah, the money and timelines are going to change drastically in the next 1-5 years, not to mention 22 years from now. But we have to start somewhere, right? Bitching and moaning about what a monorail could have been (city solution, btw. Not really regional like this plan) isn’t really accomplishing anything other than furthering the image that West Seattle is filled with a bunch of “get off my lawn” curmudgeons. 

  • Will S. March 30, 2016 (9:54 am)

    I agree that the Sound Transit’s timelines are too slow and light rail should serve West Seattle much sooner than 2033.  But today I am disappointed in Sound Transit’s latest proposal for a different reason: it contemplates elevated track all the way to an elevated station at Alaska Junction.  (See .)  If light rail is ever extended down California to White Center or Burien, we should presume that all of it will also be elevated, too.

    Has Sound Transit ever articulated its refusal to consider a West Seattle tunnel?  Do they really intend for California Avenue to look as ridiculous as the road to the airport, in the shadow of so much elevated track?

    • Jon Wright March 30, 2016 (3:44 pm)

      It’s a cost thing. Elevated is typically less expensive than tunnelling.

      • Jon Wright March 30, 2016 (3:54 pm)

        …now having said that, I don’t think there is a person alive that wouldn’t prefer a tunnel. It will be incumbent upon us to advocate for a tunnel if that is what we want. There are precedents for tunnels for other sections of Link lines originally proposed to be at grade or above ground (downtown Bellevue and Roosevelt). Light rail to West Seattle is a game changer. But a light rail TUNNEL in West Seattle would be the best ever!

  • Kevin Seimbovich March 30, 2016 (10:15 am)

    What happened with the results of the West Seattle Transit Coalition’s survey, West Seattle Blog? If they got 1000 responses, those questions asked whether or not West Seattle people wanted elevated rail or what we wanted. Where are the full results?

  • Junction guy March 30, 2016 (3:57 pm)

    I say the squeaky wheels get the grease and treat this like a used car deal. Yes we want and need it but you never take the first offer! The people should push for a shorter timeline if nothing else. In 2033 my baby that is still in the womb will basically be grown up! I know its a big project but that is a ridiculously long time to wait. My guess is a lot of that wait is an overwhelming amount of red tape 

  • Dana March 30, 2016 (4:40 pm)

    Unfortunately, voters in the 60s and 70s voted down transit proposals and now Seattle is in the situation it is. As Arkills said, things like elevated or tunnels and station locations are going to be finalized later.  If this doesn’t pass it is going to add more years to the time when light rail finally comes to the peninsula. With the funding restrictions placed by the government (state and federal) I don’t think that we’re going to be able to stamp our feet like children and expect this in five years like we’d all like to see. 


    Any system takes time to build nowadays. This isn’t the 1800s.   And I’m sure the West Seattle light rail will be complicated just because of the new bridge (on the bright side, they’re not taking any lanes from the existing bridge).  I think it would be better to allow this package to pass and then work with Sound Transit to get the best system possible.  I think there are periods throughout the design to allow for and incorporate community input.





    • Jon Wright March 30, 2016 (8:50 pm)

      Well said!

    • wetone March 30, 2016 (9:30 pm)

      Wish it was the 1800s, they got projects done much quicker,  and efficiently. Just look at the tunnels and rail systems built back then, many still in use today. Seattle can’t even maintain the roads and infrastructure as priority’s are eslewhere.

  • TheKing March 30, 2016 (5:16 pm)

    Bring this plan into a room of personal investors…..see what happens. 

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