By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the same meeting where the West Seattle Transportation Coalition heard about Washington State Ferries‘ work on a plan looking ahead to 2040, the WSTC board added a member who won’t even be middle-aged when that year arrives.
West Seattle High School senior Sam Cleary ran for and won a spot on the WSTC board, with plans to serve at least through the end of the school year. He said that seniors are expected to get involved in something about which they are passionate, and transportation is his chosen topic.
Board chair Michael Taylor-Judd disclosed that board elections are running behind the schedule laid out in the group’s bylaws, but due to some members’ absences, they won’t be able to hold more voting until next month’s meeting. Deb Barker noted that while she intends to remain on the board, she will be stepping out of the secretary role.
LOOKING INTO WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES’ FUTURE: WSF planning manager Ray Deardorf was the guest – arriving an hour late because of the post-Viaduct-crash downtown traffic snarl.
He reviewed some of the topics that we’ve been covering on WSB via the Triangle Route Task Force meetings in Fauntleroy, including the work that’s getting under way to update the system’s Long-Range Plan – this time to cover the period through 2040. Here’s some of the info presented to the task force last week:
(If you can’t review that, look at pages 9-18 here.)
One previous long-range plan looked at system expansion, and then I-695 “changed (WSF’s) funding reality,” which led to the 2009 plan, which looks out to 2030. The new version will look at the system’s sustainability. Since the last plan, a vehicle-reservation system has been launched on some routes (which have “very few daily commuters”), the WSF website has added information including showing what’s happening at terminals (wait times, cameras), the new Mukilteo terminal is being built, and so is the Colman Dock overhaul – which is being done while keeping the old one in service. Demolition of the old terminal building, Deardorf said, starts in March.
And 7 vessels have been built since 2010 – which, while it sounds good, he noted, happened with WSF starting somewhat behind because of very old vessels that desperately needed to be taken out of service.
In the new plan, they’ll update the market/demographic analysis, the appropriate fleet size, terminals/road-and-transit access, cost efficiencies, emergency preparedness/seismic vulnerability, climate adaptation, sustainability, aging workforce, performance measures including level-of-service standards, and more. WSF is also taking a more holistic look at “the entire trip” – for travelers, not just the ferry part of the trip, but how they get to and from the vessel too.
Asked about the ongoing reports that boats are leaving Fauntleroy less than full, Deardorf mentioned a variety of factors – which, again, all have been discussed at the Triangle Task Force – including the challenges of staging for two destinations, especially considering that Southworth traffic has been growing. Schedule changes is one thing they’re looking at. He also mentioned the tollbooth “tweak” that will be implemented shortly:
That will make one tollbooth “preticketed only” during certain times. He was asked, what about running Southworth boats to and from downtown? Deardorf, who’s been with WSF for more than a quarter-century, had mentioned that was under consideration about a decade ago but was scrapped. Going further back, he said there was an even more-dramatic proposal at one time for running Vashon traffic downtown too – but islanders strongly opposed the idea.
Public meetings for the Long-Range Plan will start in April; comments will be taken online, too; and the draft plan should be ready for review in September. The Legislature wants to see the final plan at the start of 2019. Ridership is expected to rise about 1.2 percent a year, “which might not sound like much,” Deardorf said, but adds up over the years. While population is growing in Kitsap County, so is employment, so not everyone there is becoming a commuter, he noted. Southworth usage still is expected to grow 16 percent by 2040. Traffic is growing in both directions – and even in the afternoon, when you might expect eastbound traffic not to be so much, it’s growing, especially in the summer, and that factors into Fauntleroy backups, because it takes longer to offload, for example. WSF is continuing to encourage online ticket purchasing.
Also, after WSTC board member Victoria Nelson pointed out that Thursdays seem increasingly busy, Deardorf acknowledged: “Thursdays are the new Fridays.”
Last but not least, planning is beginning for the Fauntleroy Terminal Replacement Project. “It’s aging and was built in the ’50s and is vulnerable to a seismic event.” Construction won’t start until 2025 but environmental reviews start now. “Do you have to close it to fix it?” board member Barker asked. “That’s the question,” Deardorf said – a closure of several months could be possible, but nothing’s been determined yet. Could the dock be lengthened, if widening is not an option? WSTC members wondered.
Where is the increased Southworth traffic destined for? chair Taylor-Judd asked. Deardorf said they didn’t know, though they do have a 2013 study online that looks at “origin/destination data” (see it here).
He also distributed the FAQ document recently approved by the Triangle Route Task Force, and the potential scheduling changes that are under review.
The next Triangle Task Force meeting, by the way, is March 29th, 4:30-7 pm – watch this page for updates.
Also discussed at Thursday night’s WSTC meeting:
SOUND TRANSIT LIGHT RAIL STAKEHOLDER ADVISORY GROUP: At least three members of the WSTC board applied for the open positions; no word yet who’s being appointed, but the first meeting is less than two weeks away. (ST told WSB today that appointees will be announced in early February, shortly before that meeting.)
RAPIDRIDE H LINE: Chair Taylor-Judd recapped recent discussions about the upcoming conversion of Metro Route 120 to the H Line and stressed the importance of input – he thinks Metro and SDOT are starting to listen to concerns such as stop spacing. (Our previous stories are here, here, and here.) He also said that the government agencies are finally heeding repeated requests to make materials available in multiple languages.
TO THINK ABOUT… Taylor-Judd asked board members to consider whether they want to support a request for an additional C Line stop between the Alaska and Morgan Junctions, and for pedestrian improvements at Fauntleroy/Rose (where a 12-year-old pedestrian was injured just a day earlier).
ANOTHER MOBILITY FORUM: Did you miss last fall’s WSTC forum (WSB coverage here) on multiple transportation modes, especially helpful to seniors and those with mobility challenges? WSTC is organizing another one, tentatively set for March, at the Senior Center of West Seattle – watch for word of that when it’s finalized.
HALA APPEAL: Barker was asked for an update on any transportation issues that might be related to the HALA MHA process. She’s involved in the appeal process, both with the citywide coalition SCALE and with the Morgan Community Association (for which she serves as president), and said they’re currently working to secure expert witnesses. One transportation topic would be traffic generated by ferry use – one of MoCA’s appeal points was that it’s not addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (which is what’s being appealed). A new development in the process: The timeline for the appeal hearing might be pushed back from the currently scheduled April-May because of the discovery process. Early February is when a new date might be set.
YOUR VOICE, YOUR CHOICE: Laura Jenkins, community-engagement coordinator with the Department of Neighborhoods, reminded this group (as she and colleague Yun Pitre have been doing with others), that it’s time to suggest project ideas for the YVYC grants. February 2nd is the deadline for suggesting projects.