WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: ‘Early themes’ from first round of feedback, and more, @ Stakeholder Advisory Group’s second meeting

(One sheet with all 5 “early themes” depicted as possible routes – see each individually in the story below)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The people who are on the front lines of filtering your feedback on West Seattle light rail got their first look last night at five possible variations of the route/stations – not a “final five” by any means, but what had emerged, Sound Transit staffers explained, as “major themes” in the feedback review so far.

This happened at the second meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Group appointed to help determine a “preferred alignment” for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions of ST light rail

As the meeting began, 19 of the 29 advisory-group members were present, including, from West Seattle, community reps Deb Barker (who is on the board of the WS Transportation Coalition and president of the Morgan Community Association) and Brian King (who is with WS Bike Connections), as well as Hamilton Gardiner of the WS Chamber of Commerce, Greg Nickels (“former mayor and longtime transit advocate” is his self-intro), and Walter Reese from Nucor Steel.

Their seating in the Sound Transit board room at Union Station downtown was changed, notably, for this meeting – instead of sitting up in the board’s”U” as facilitator Diane Adams called it, the group members were placed around square tables in the center of the room. “This meeting is going to be much more interactive,” she explained. That was a foreshadowing of the review of the “early themes” for the line.


WHAT ST HEARD DURING ‘EARLY SCOPING’: Here’s the slide deck, featured here back on xx when it became available in advance:

ST’s project leader Cathal Ridge went through it at the meeting. He said online commenting turned out to be “very successful.” 700+ attendees at the three open houses, 5,000+ visitors to the “online open house” website, 2,800+ total comments between all modes. “We have not completely processed all the comments at this point,” he warned before summarizing, reiterating that they will all be processed and summarized in time for the official “early scoping” report expected out in “early April.”

As noted in the slides, “variations in route alignment and configuration, changes to station locations, need for good transit connections,” were among the types of comments they received, Ridge said. “Operational efficiencies” was another type, along with “build it faster,” which Ridge said is “a theme we heard throughout the planning process so far.” (2030 is the planned launch date for the West Seattle spur, which already is three years sooner than originally suggested during the Sound Transit 3 process.)

West Seattle had a significant presence in “other comments” – at which point Ridge said you can go into the “online open house” and see all the comments that were made – including suggestions for “routes outside ST3 scope – Admiral, Alki, Westwood Village, White Center, etc.”

‘EARLY THEMES’: So far in Sound Transit’s analysis of comments, five “themes” have emerged in the form of potential alignments in the West Seattle area, as shown at one of the three tables tonight (we did not sit in on the other areas’ discussions). These were described as “sketches” – not representing the entirety of comments, and there could be more such sketches. Each table was devoted to the themes/sketches from one area, and the group members rotated between them. We of course just focused on West Seattle. Here are the five (also seen in the slide deck above, along with the “themes” from other sections of the line beyond WS):

Afterward, those at tables got the chance to share what they heard. One participant said orienting the stations with a thought toward later expansion southward was important. Another thought it was interesting that there was some advocacy for fewer options. “I was surprised by the sheer number of options that were on the table,” said another. Yet another was impressed by “thoughtful(ness)” of those suggesting stations needed to be where the density is/will be.

HOW WILL THE ALTERNATIVES BE DEVELOPED? “What are we going to do with all this information?” is how Jim Parsons put it. “We’re going to carry these a little bit further and then run them through a screening process,” he answered the question. The “alternatives development process” slide showed the process in the first phase of five – the fifth being, arriving at a preferred alternative. The options that get to Level 2 will go through another screening process, and onward from there. The visualization showed something of a funnel. How are the evaluation criteria/measures developed? ST offered an example of how it would work – “level 1 is more qualitative; levels 2 and 3 are more quantitative.” If you want to know every detail of how the process will work – here’s the early online version of the slide deck. (Note that it’s described as “draft.” ST is open to comment on the criteria; one person suggested something weightier relating to climate change.)

The “purpose and need” includes “implement a system that is consistent with the ST3 Plan that established transit mode, corridor, and station locations and that is technically feasible and financialy sustainable to build, operate, and maintain.” Parsons reminded everyone that this is being handled differently than past projects – key engineering challenges have been identified earlier and they are “concentrating some engineering resources .. that would not (usually be committed) this early” to deal with those. Cost estimates will NOT be done at Level 1, he reiterated.

As they went through the draft criteria, one person said the tunnel’s effects on the freight industry should be examined for the “purpose and need” section; ST acknowledged receiving a comment to that effect and said they’re working on it. Another stakeholder pointed out that “modal integration” didn’t mention freight.

Other questions included envisioning how the lines/stations would support transit-oriented development, and how affordable housing would factor into that. About criteria relating to non-motorized transportation such as bicycling, one specific team member is working on that, Parsons said.

Measuring how underserved communities are affected is also an important factor.

NEIGHBORHOOD FORUMS: These are the next opportunities for your feedback in the process. The first ones are coming up in late April and early May, with dates to be set in the “next couple weeks,” ST says. Over the next year, there will be three rounds of six forums, with each round including one in West Seattle. the agendas will include project overview discussions on neighborhood values, future vision for light-rail integration, alternatives and screening.

One stakeholder said that SODO discussions should be scheduled “during work time” since it’s not a residential neighborhood. Another person wondered if ST might consider aligning one or more of these with existing neighborhood meetings.

In response to another question, he said the major goal of the criteria is to uncover “fatal flaws” when sorting through possibilities.

Andrea says about 3,500 people are signed up for the e-mail list. She reiterated that ST is open to attending any neighborhood meeting, gathering, etc.

Ridge reiterated that if anyone has an idea about some way of reaching the community that is not happening – PLEASE let them know.

WHAT’S NEXT: This group’s upcoming meetings are all listed now on the ST website – two meetings are scheduled in April (17th, 24th). The group may be taking a tour of the corridor. Also, watch for announcements of the “neighborhood forums.” Also ahead, the Elected Leadership Group – which in turn will review feedback from the stakeholders – has its next meeting. This is all working toward determination of a “preferred alternative” in spring of next year.

15 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: 'Early themes' from first round of feedback, and more, @ Stakeholder Advisory Group's second meeting"

  • Ron Swanson March 15, 2018 (4:22 pm)

    The fifth option looks like the best to me: the southern Duwamish crossing eliminates a lot of conflict with the Port and the tight squeeze around Pigeon Point.  There’s public right of way along Idaho and Genesee streets, and it’s a straight shot up to a tunnel portal at 35th.  Moves the Delridge station further into the neighborhood and improves its walkshed, too.

    • WS Guy March 16, 2018 (12:31 am)

      #5 seems to involve TWO tunnels and THREE stations.  Seems a bit much, don’t you think?  Where would you cut if you wanted to save $?

      • CAM March 16, 2018 (8:23 am)

        The part that’s driving up the cost without increasing the service to riders: the tunnel. 

      • Ron Swanson March 16, 2018 (9:13 am)

        There’s no real need for the first tunnel; you could cross from Marginal to Delridge with a retained cut through the greenbelt.

  • RMK March 15, 2018 (4:26 pm)

    And it looks like the Admiral District, once again, gets the shaft on public transportation . . . 

  • sam-c March 15, 2018 (4:41 pm)

    Some of the first few alternatives presented are really surprising to me, as they seem to ignore the North Delridge area. I didn’t realize that was an option ?

    • WSB March 15, 2018 (4:43 pm)

      Sound Transit said repeatedly that this phase was the time to get everything on the table, any and every idea you had.

  • MJ March 15, 2018 (5:58 pm)


    Admiral resident car tab fees 10’$ of thousands of $’s a year, added bus service = zero.

    Light rail station street parking near the stations, even though it is public, likely will not be available to WS residents not living near the station based on other stations that is not fair to other taxpayers.

    However, the northern alignment appears to have a Station near an existing P&R that would be a nice asset to the routing for residents with poor bus service.


  • Judy March 15, 2018 (6:23 pm)

    Park and Rides for light rail will be important to areas that do not have good bus service.  South Alki does not have good service either (20 minute walk to the 50 or 56 which doesn’t run all day; 35 minutes and two steep hills walking to the C; the 37 runs only a few times a day during commuting hours).  As it is now, people drive and park on the streets all around the C line; this will become a problem.  

  • WS Guy March 15, 2018 (6:34 pm)

    Tunnel options are #2, #4, and #5.  Let’s pick whichever one of those is the least expensive. 

  • dsa March 15, 2018 (9:46 pm)

    #5 is least intrusive and moves Delridge stop further south away from the industrial area.  It is a much better alignment, horizontally and vertically.

    • chemist March 15, 2018 (11:27 pm)

      maybe, but they’ve also made option 5 into some odd monster with a longer tunnel and a junction station built around where the 7/11 is at california-erskine.   the idea to have the station at the bank of america/40th-alaska site would be better from a cost-perspective, I imagine.

      • Dustin March 16, 2018 (9:20 am)

        The 7-11 at California/Erskine is not far from the heart of the Junction, and may be a less disruptive location, both in terms of the station’s construction and the neighborhood’s configuration and character. The longer tunnels are a benefit of option #5 as well, except for the cost perspective as you mention, but if cost were the only consideration, this train would be an at-grade streetcar, or better yet an express bus line. In my opinion, the more tunnel we cough up for, the better this commute option will be. I like that Option #5 brings the Delridge station further south, reaching more residents of that north-to-south oriented neighborhood.

  • Wakeflood March 16, 2018 (9:36 am)

    Nice to see that we’re getting into the details.  I’m good with any of the undergrounding options, frankly.  I’ll be most supportive of the version that optimizes for throughput of people.  That means ease of bus transfers and feeder routes from Metro’s perspective; station location, orientation, sizing, etc., etc.

  • zark00 March 19, 2018 (12:00 pm)

    None of these options have enough stations.  Tunneling under WSea is a terrible idea.

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