New Metro bus and Water Taxi insights, plus SDOT and port updates, @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

How will Metro bus and Water Taxi service rise to the challenge of increased West Seattle need as people return to work without high-bridge access?

Some insight emerged toward the end of last night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting. A Metro manager spoke with WSTC after updates from SDOT and the Port of Seattle. (We’ll get to those later in our summary.)

METRO/WATER TAX: Steve Crosley, a West Seattle resident now in charge of “managing the West Seattle Bridge response,” made his first WSTC appearance. He began with the reminder that before COVID-19, Metro carried 19,000 passengers off and on the peninsula daily – plus on-peninsula trips. The ridership crossing the Duwamish River dropped 90 percent during the stay-home months.

Since the March 23rd high-bridge closure, newly striped bus lanes on Delridge and at the 5-way intersection are helping get buses to the low bridge. No stops have changed for current customers – they’re just using the low bridge instead, and aside from that bridge’s openings for maritime traffic, he said, things are going well – he gets downtown in 9 minutes on the 120 from the north end of Delridge.

Crosley said no one’s sure yet how long the current capacity restrictions – as little as 12 passengers per 40′ coach – will last. But schedule constrictions apparently will be in place for a long time. Example: He said the Water Taxi is not expected to run on its 7-day schedule (which, if not for the pandemic, would have started three months ago) this year at all – that’s a change from what was suggested at last month’s WSTC meeting.

Overall, Metro does not expect many people to be returning to offices before September, which is when the next level of service restoration is scheduled to kick in (as announced two weeks ago). They do have backup plans for scenarios such as a long-term low-bridge closure, though.

He also warned that Metro, like other agencies, is facing a financial crunch. Third-party funding (say, if Seattle decided to continue the expiring Transportation Benefit District funding) could mean more bus/Water Taxi service beyond what’s currently scheduled for September. For those concerned in north West Seattle, note that the 55, 56, and 57 are coming back as “peak-hours service” in September but not with as many trips as pre-COVID. Also, Metro will – when more occupancy is safe – be able to add up to 110 vanpools.

Routes 22 and 37 aren’t necessarily dead forever – they are suspended and could come back next year, Crosley said. WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd said the 22 suspension in particular is leading to a lack of service for a “significant chunk of West Seattle.” (In onscreen chat, one attendee mentioned an online petition to revive the 22.)

Crosley stressed that plans are flexible, especially if additional funding is found, and also depending on what traffic-flow data – they’re analyzing cell patterns as well as road usage – shows. In response to a question, he said they’re looking at some park-and-ride options, particularly in The Junction. Answering another question, he said temporary stops along Spokane Street on Harbor Island are in the works too.

Asked what’s more financially feasible – adding Water Taxis or buses – Crosley replied that a second boat, enabling 3 trips an hour, would cost more than $1 million – and would require third-party funding.

Now, to the earlier guests:

SDOT: Heather Marx, leading the West Seattle Bridge project, recapped the main point: “The future of the bridge remains uncertain.” That should change within a few months, as “late this summer” is when they expect to be able to decide whether to repair or replace it. Stabilization work is revving up, she said, with contractor Kraemer North America staging for both the Pier 18 repairs and the carbon-fiber reinforced polymer wrap (shoring).

(Photo tweeted by @pdxmark77)

She also went through everything else that’s happened to date. What’s next: The Reconnect West Seattle feedback “launch” on July 6th, as discussed in the Community Task Force meeting a day earlier (WSB coverage here). She also recapped the immediate change to open the low bridge to all 9 pm-5 am nightly, and to school buses any time, plus possible future changes:

Overall, Marx said, regarding traveling off and onto the peninsula, “We want to maintain similar levels of travel, but we can’t do that if everyone stays in their cars.” SDOT is well aware that some trips require motorized vehicles. But they want you to consider other modes for trips that don’t.

She also touched on a reminder of WSDOT’s upcoming July overnight closures of the northbound 1st Avenue South Bridge, and the increased traffic on West Marginal Way SW – doubled at one recent point, Marx said.

From there, she went through a variety of concerns the WSTC had surfaced, such as Fauntleroy ferry traffic issues (also raised by the Fauntleroy Community Association) doing U-turns on Fauntleroy Way. When you are detouring, Marx urged in conclusion, think about how your decision is affecting the community you’re cutting through – South Park or Georgetown. “Michigan (Street in Georgetown) is a disaster, there are so many cars,” she said.

In response to a question about whether “fees” could be charged for low-bridge access, Marx mentioned they do have legislative authority to collect tolls, but that would require Washington State Transportation Commission approval. (To be clear, there’s no proposal for that – it was just a question.)

Another Q: How to report “poorly sequenced traffic signals”? Contact SDOT684-Road@seattle.gov. Marx also explained that signals are “sequenced in a group” and “you might be on a losing end.” 26 signals on the peninsula are connected to SDOT’s downtown center and change could be made quickly. WSTC vice chair Marty Westerman said his particular concern is 35th/Barton. A bit later, someone asked about the 35th/Fauntleroy signal cycling that seems to still be what it was pre-closure; Marx promised to look into that.

Chair Taylor-Judd read a comment from WSB asking about bicycle-route improvements. A proposed list will be part of what’s released on July 6th for community review/prioritization, she said. Marx will be a guest at the next West Seattle Bike Connections meeting on July 7th, by the way. (She mentioned at that point that she just bought an e-bike.)

Where does SDOT stand on the idea of immersed-tube tunnel? Marx repeated that it’s too early in the process to know how the bridge would be replaced, IF it has to be replaced, and anything’s possible. But whatever option would be chosen would trigger a long environmental process, she said, and they hope everyone would coalesce around whatever decision is eventually made, rather than fighting over it.

PORT OF SEATTLE: Quick updates from a port delegation – Terminal 5 project leader Emma Del Vento recapped what she had recently told the Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council (WSB coverage here), about Terminal 5’s timetable and progress. T-5’s four huge new cranes are currently scheduled to arrive next April.”Getting them to the new berth is going to be an adventure,” Del Vento observed.

Lindsay Wolpa said the port’s working to support the city’s advocacy for what might be needed if the WS Bridge must be replaced. “It’s definitely front and center for us and will be for a long time.”

What about truck queueing, with the bridge out of service? Zack Thomas said they’ve been conferring with SDOT re: freight flows – both daily conferring and long-term trends/mitigation. “It’s an ongoing discussion.”

Before the 2-hour-plus meeting wrapped, a few other points, including:

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE COMMUNITY TASK FORCE: CTF member and WSTC board member Deb Barker talked a bit more about the draft Reconnect West Seattle project lists that community members will be asked to prioritize. (The draft lists have been shared with CTF members but not the public.) She also said she’s kept an eye on the Florida cracked-bridge situation; while our bridge’s closure has not yet been declared a city or state emergency – something Barker has advocated for – the Stuart, FL, mayor did that within days.

WSTC ON YOUTUBE: The group has launched a YouTube channel. The April and May meeting recordings are there, and this one will be soon (you can subscribe to get notifications).

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets at 6:30 pm most fourth Thursdays.

24 Replies to "New Metro bus and Water Taxi insights, plus SDOT and port updates, @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • Pelicans June 27, 2020 (2:26 am)

    So, if I understand all this correctly, the City of Seattle and King County Metro are running on such thin margins already, before Covid, that they don’t forsee being able to restore anything close to previous WS bus service, or any more additional WS Water Taxi runs until NEXT YEAR? Even when more people leave their homes to resume their commutes to work, and are earning wages/salaries to pay taxes again? Busses running at useless capacity? And they want us to NOT use our vehicles now in the quickest routes to go to work? The f***ing arrogance and cluelessnes of these city/county officials is infuriating and appalling.  I’m disabled, work downtown, and can’ t commute on an f’ing bike! Oh, ok, pay big bux for Uber/Lyft? Or hobble to the bus stop, commute one hour each way, making a 12 hour shift into a 14 hour-plus work day?I would be more than willing to keep on paying the TBD portion of my car tabs (80-something bucks a year) just to restore prevoius service levels of transit. I’d be willing to bet most of us who have to commute would.A suggestion: What if the money already collected for ST3 and that to be collected in the next few years,  was re-routed to shore up buses, water taxis, the Sounder train, existing-and-under construction light rail? Now is a desperate time, and that would qualify as a desperate measure. If it was put to a vote, I’d vote for it!P.S.  BNSF Railroad must be running at reduced capacity as U.S. exports and, possibly imports are way down, leading to reduced use on their Puget Sound area tracks. Their need for their tracks is what has limited the Sounder trains’ use of those tracks. Could we use this to increase Sounder runs? Just an idea…

  • anonyme June 27, 2020 (6:07 am)

    It would be difficult to list all of the nonsensical decisions made by Metro, but suspending fares, then claiming a lack of funds to justify slashing service, is one of the most ridiculous.  Riders need service far more than they need free fare, which only benefits those riding for nefarious purposes.  Drivers AND riders are now less safe.  I just signed the #22 petition, and hope it makes a difference.  Please, anyone who rides the #22, sign the petition and write to city officials.  It is an essential service for many residents who are otherwise completely trapped and isolated, especially in Arbor Heights.  This is unacceptable.  It makes more sense to reduce frequency on well-served routes than it does to completely eliminate transportation in large areas.

    • D Del Rio June 28, 2020 (5:36 am)

      I just wish the 21 would make the loop into Arbor Heights again. I don’t see any reason for it to go to Westwood.  

  • Lee June 27, 2020 (7:06 am)

    I was surprised to read that this hasn’t been declared a state or city emergency. Why not? And if it was, would that free up emergency funds or qualify us for federal funds?

  • Anne June 27, 2020 (8:25 am)

    Over the years when the issue of riding busses out of WS has been discussed , suggestions of building a parking garage or a park & ride lot have come up & it’s always been -no -not going to happen. Now it could be a critical-but where to put it-in the Junction  as reported here. What existing parking lot could be taken over for Park & Ride? How would that impact Junction businesses?  Is there a piece of land around the Junction that could be used  to build a  garage or  a parking lot of some sort?  Maybe where the  closed down Midas Muffler building is ?  Would that be big enough ?  What about -instead of the Junction a parking garage was built out at Westwood Village?  It would probably mean adding more connecting busses that stop out there -but   couldn’t that be an option? 

  • ML June 27, 2020 (8:26 am)

    Wow……WS needs our busses!! ALL ROUTES FULLY RESTORED!!!!! Thanks metro, I just found a job that would pay a lot better doing something I would really love, but guess what… I NEED THE F****** 22 TO GET THERE!!!!! None of this makes sense……

    • Randy June 27, 2020 (7:50 pm)

      your profanity abbreviations detract from your comment’s  credibility content. 

  • Mj June 27, 2020 (8:55 am)

    Let’s see, SDoT fails to maintain the WSB properly and now wants WS residents to commute by means other than via driving alone.  They are quick to penalize people who use the low level bridge and yet still have not proposed a plan to mitigate transportation other than fantasies of 10% on bikes and more people using transit, also a fantasy. 

    On each subject:

    Bikes – I am a bike rider and right now with good weather it works to and from DT Seattle.  Biking to the Eastside or other places further away is less viable, yes electric bikes help.  But if you have to drop kids off at daycare, have midday appointments or are not physically able to ride this is simply not viable.  Further winter weather will be a big disensentive to many riders.  Realistically achieving 5% riders during nice weather may be doable, in the winter it would be less.

    Transit – more riders with less service, this math does not add up!  I believe transit is the most viable mitigation option but only if service is dramatically increased.  This means all day service throughout WS.  Yes budgets are constrained, the City needs to step up and pay for this via re allocating other spending to buy added service.  Metro should review its spending and ensure spending achieves the most bang for the buck.

    Other – telecommuting will reduce demand, but I am surprised the Social and Equity issue has not been raised on this item?

    And from what SDoT is saying the WSB is very likely fixable and I hope that this is the case and they can get on with fixing the bridge quickly. Getting the bridge open would quickly address the adverse affects to South Park and Highland Park area.

    • Pelicans June 27, 2020 (11:21 am)

      Very good suggestions. A sizable parking garage near the junction, with paid secure parking, near an enhanced C Line, that ran all day. Same thing X 3 or 4 further south on the peninsula, with tax breaks for property owners who build the garages. Think of all the people who could be employed with these measures! For these breaks, require many dedicated spaces and charging stations for cars & bikes and other battery-powered means of transport. Think of the jobs this would create!While we’re at it, why use Terminal 5 just for containers and big ships and trains?  How about putting a park and ride there, expanding water taxi and ferry service to serve places elsewhere in Puget Sound? Our waterways are seriously under-utilized.    Also, expand marine modes of transportation on lakes Union and Washington.  We need to be considering these things.

      • Pelicans June 27, 2020 (11:30 am)

        Oh, and of course, instate major tax incentives and benefits for companies that employ people who telecommute. 

  • JGreene June 27, 2020 (9:17 am)

    I haven’t seen anything about the C line recently. Any idea how it’s been impacted during this time?

    • HS June 27, 2020 (10:50 am)

      The C is up and running. Personally, I find it hard to social distance properly on the bus. People have to pass seated passengers as they walk down the aisles but seats are marked as closed via signage attached to the seats. The bus has easily filled with 12 people from Lincoln Park to the Junction each time I’ve ridden.

      • This June 28, 2020 (7:42 am)

        If I was a bus rider at this time, I would wear a face shield along with a mask, make sure windows are cracked open, and bring hand sanitizer/wipes too.

        Also, perhaps people should try to sit in a staggered manner, not directly across from or behind another person. If the bus is well ventilated, maybe not necessary.

        Hopefully anyone not feeling well will be staying home and getting a covid test and not riding a bus, but we do have to be aware of asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread, as well as the very small percentage of folks who lack concern.

  • Brayton June 27, 2020 (9:55 am)

    It would really be helpful if SDOT added a left turn lane and light on southbound 16th Ave SW and Holden. Traffic backs up from there and snakes it’s way to Delridge. 

  • HS June 27, 2020 (11:40 am)

    I don’t know. I’ve relied on Metro for the past two years. Did you know that it takes 2 busses and almost an hour to go from Lincoln Park to Alki? Or almost 2 hours from Lincoln Park to Ravenna (just north of the UW)? That’s one way. I’m paying an extra $980 this year on my mortgage due to tax increases. There are soooooo many WS commuters that need service that there HAS to be a better solution. I can tell you I’m looking at buying a car and, after 2 years of trying, less inclined to continue using Metro.

  • John June 27, 2020 (12:06 pm)

    I don’t know but in the three plus months since the bridge “suddenly” became so dangerous it had to shut down immediately, it seems that there has been a lot of talk but no action. I ride my bicycle or drive past the bridge pretty regularly and I have yet to see anyone doing anything except enforcing the low bridge closure. I had to drive off our “island” (I hear they are calling us East Vashon) twice last week and it was a nightmare both coming and going in the middle of the day, and even after 7 pm. I can’t imagine a normal rush hour. The current driving situation is simply not going to work if even 50% of pre-pandemic traffic returns. If this doesn’t qualify as an urgent transportation emergency, I’m not sure what does. It is hard to believe that if sufficient financial resources were brought to bear it would still be impossible to come up with a viable solution before 2022. All due respect to Ms. Herbold’s efforts as set forth in her blog, but those efforts aren’t cutting it. A few more buses and an extra water taxi will not be anywhere near enough. Find the money and fix the damn bridge to make it safe for at least some use until a permanent solution is completed. I’m certainly no engineer and perhaps I’m just ignorant, but I have trouble believing that the geniuses that do this type of stuff can’t come up with a safe fix, albeit it would likely be really expensive.  But this is really a dire situation of the sort emergency funds should be used for. Are you telling me that if a section of I5 in downtown Seattle became unsafe it would be closed for at least two years? Maybe it’s apples and oranges but the viaduct didn’t take two years to stabilize after the earthquake damage made it unsafe.  I love West Seattle and I pay my fair share of taxes willingly, but if the city and state are telling us that there is no viable solution until at least 2022, maybe it’s time for a property tax strike, a lawsuit or something else to get the attention, and more importantly action, this disaster requires.

  • Lisa June 27, 2020 (1:07 pm)

    I leave at 14:00 for work and take west marginal way to first hill. The back up has already started and I petrified how bad it will be when we are on phase 4. I hopeful that they will have a lot more options. I’m thankful that I can use the lower bridge to get me home in 15 minutes but I look forward to taking the bus when it’s not on essential service. 

  • Mj June 27, 2020 (1:19 pm)

    John – you make some good points.  SDoT has not found any smoking gun reason that would indicate the bridge is not fixable.  All indications are that it is indeed fixable, and as such getting the bridge repaired post haste needs to be done. 

    In the interim once things open up transit service in WS needs to be increased significantly and provide all day service to all areas anything less is not acceptable!

  • mnw June 27, 2020 (1:37 pm)

    The Rite Aid parking lot near the junction could be made into a temporary park and ride lot. 

  • anonyme June 27, 2020 (4:05 pm)

    So, the Route #22 suspension might be revisited next year?  Should Arbor Heights residents just suspend all the functions of daily living until then?  What if the city closed off Arbor Heights to all vehicular traffic, forcing drivers to walk miles to their car or another mode of transport?  Sounds ridiculous (and wouldn’t fly for a single second), but that’s exactly what Metro has done to those here who rely on the bus.  It might make temporary sense to cut a few trips from well-serviced areas, but to eliminate all daytime/weekend transit from a large chunk of West Seattle is insane.  Almost equally insane is Metro’s decision to suspend fares, and then use revenue shortages as an excuse for even more cuts.  You can bet they’ll be back demanding huge levies to cover the shortfalls created by their own bad choices.  Rabid squirrels could make better decisions than these.  Route #22 riders, please sign the petition.

    • Bill June 28, 2020 (6:46 pm)

      Petition for 22 will be signed.  West side of Gatewood across Thistle to Delridge and Westwood and Arbor Heights areas are all left out.  What really sucks is that the 21 could easily be cut back by more than enough runs — by running less often for instance – and a few ‘C’ runs could be eliminated — to easily fund running the 22.  After all the 22 only runs once an hour and then only between 7 am and 8 pm and the other two lines are running every 10 to 15 minutes from early on until 9 pm and then 20-30 min apart.  The fares could be easily collected and gladly paid with the card readers at the other entrances – for that matter even at the front entrance — I’d say that the drivers would have less exposure than the average grocery clerk! A lot of the non commute hours now largely find unmasked homeless on the 21 and ‘C’ lines.  

  • JenT June 29, 2020 (12:04 pm)

    Heather Marx urging us to “think about how our decisions are affecting things…” LOL. Is that a joke? Rhetorical question, as I know it’s not. SDOT may not have a lot of answers yet, but this continued lack of empathy and telling us WE need to figure out everything ourselves is beyond frustrating. By the way, why is Heather out on a limb for SDOT versus her higher-ups? Where is Sam Zimbabwe and others above her in the chain of command? This is an absolute *emergency* and needs to be addressed by the head of the agency and the Mayor. Zimbabwe has been MIA since that first disastrous town hall. Working in middle management at a big company, I’ve seen this happen again and again. Make the middle manager the face of a disaster while the higher-ups duck all responsibility. Also, stop throwing ridiculous suggestions at us. Thinking back to the proposed mitigation slide which includes moving 10% of traffic to bikes, for example. Unless you can restructure the way we work and get our kids to school, the way we get to critical healthcare appointments — the entire way our economy works — you cannot suddenly restructure the way we commute. Enough with the excuses, and find the money to get this fixed within the next 18 months.

  • Thomas M June 29, 2020 (1:02 pm)

    12 passengers eh?  What are the odds of getting on any C bus on the last stop on Avalon at 06:30 am?

  • CAP June 30, 2020 (9:44 pm)

    I work downtown in healthcare, am finally starting to ride the bus again, and want to pay for my fare! Metro needs this money! Can we figure out a way to do fare collection safely?

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