By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Scooters have arrived.
Will they be a convenient transportation tool, a risk to riders and pedestrians, both, or neither? Hopes and concerns were at the heart of briefings during the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s September meeting, Thursday night online. The WSTC got a quick West Seattle Bridge update too.
Here’s what happened:
BRIDGE UPDATE: SDOT’s project lead Heather Marx presented this, with toplines similar to what the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force heard the day before (WSB coverage here). Stabilization work continues; the contractor is starting the process of attaching brackets that will be necessary for post-tensioning steel work. Marx and a Northwest Seaport Alliance (Seattle and Tacoma ports) delegation toured the top of bridge in pouring rain.
In toplines of the new West Marginal Way plan (WSB coverage here), the WMW/Highland Park Way intersection rechannelization is much-anticipated; they think that’ll improve flow through the intersection by 20 percent. Overall, Marx added, “Going the speed limit is really important regardless of whether you agree with it.” (To provide passing drivers with reminders, Delridge and Dumar Way residents just got a new batch of Vision Zero signs dropped off, she said.) Community conversations are ahead for the WMW bicycle and freight proposals. She also mentioned the Highland Park Home Zone concept (here’s our coverage from the HPAC meeting the previous night); the other Reconnect West Seattle neighborhoods will have plans too. An overall caveat about work schedules – because of the pandemic, SDOT has “significantly less crew capacity,” Marx said.
In Q&A, the potential West Marginal Way two-way protected bicycle lane was asked about, with a mention that a bicycling advocate on the Community Task Force had seemed lukewarm to it. That aside, it was the “fourth-ranked project” in the Reconnect West Seattle bicycle survey, Marx countered, adding, “We haven’t decided to do those things; if we do, it’ll be in conjunction with the signal” (near the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse). Though the port doesn’t support the proposed NB freight-only lane, “they’re not the only businesses we talk to” notes Marx – they’re talking to others too, and those on the west side of the river are those asking for help in access.
In SDOT-related miscellany, WSTC’s Victoria Nelson said Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network has received access permission to use the “Keep Moving Street” section of Beach Drive by Constellation Park so they can drive in with their equipment when a stranding makes that necessary. Then asked by Nelson about the Endolyne/Brace Point intersection in Fauntleroy and whether one of the stop signs could be removed, Marx said they’ll look at it Marty Westerman, WSTC vice-chair and also involved with the Fauntleroy Community Association, said FCA fought to keep both because of past “near-misses and T-bones.” For a future meeting, SDOT will bring new Reconnect West Seattle mobility manager Sara Zora and an engineer.
Before the bridge-and-traffic discussion wrapped up, WSTC’s Deb Barker – also on the Community Task Force – suggested a recap of the low-bridge subcommittee plan. Marx said that group’s work will enable them to come up with a “more dynamic policy” for access. Asked next how the low-bridge repairs are going, Marx said the load-rating deficiencies have been addressed administratively while they design “the fix” – which will also, like high-bridge stabilization, involve carbon-fiber wrap. The price tag will be relatively “tiny” compared to the high bridge, probably around $10 million. The largest trucks, “over legal 2,” are not allowed on the low bridge. Maximum number of allowed vehicles per hour to not impede emergency vehicles is 450, and yes, there are midday times when there’s capacity to spare, but they can’t just open it to all or else it’ll be swamped.
P.S. We asked – no new estimated date for low bridge cameras yet – the City Council will take up the required legislation next week.
SCOOTER-SHARE: SDOT’s point person for this program, Stefan Winkler, led the briefing. He explained that with three vendors, they’ll have seated scooters as well as standing, when other vendors jump in. He shared the background:
Vendors were required to commit to serving West Seattle. SDOT hopes they can help people get to transit, for example.
Other cities have actually seen an increase in the pandemic months, he said.
Scooters are seen as a tool of climate action.
Here’s how they’re trying to keep them from impeding pedestrian safety:
And how they’re trying to protect riders:
He talked about one vendor – Wheels – offering in-seat helmet liners. And that plays into pandemic precautions too
Program equity requires that at least 10 percent of the scooters are distributed to underserved communities such as southeast West Seattle and South Park.
The program is funded by permit fees, and will likely stay at 500 per company until sometime next year.
Lime was first to bring in its scooters; we asked when the other two vendors are expected to deploy theirs. Winkler said they are working on issues such as indemnification and insurance – if they can’t qualify, they can’t come in – but are expected “within the next 30 to 60 days.”
Barker asked for clarification on whether the motorized scooters can use the bicycle/pedestrian path on the low bridge. Yes, said Winkler. He could not clarify, though, if they would even be allowed in the vehicle lane, where motorcycles currently are not allowed 5 am-9 pm.
WEST SEATTLE BIKE CONNECTIONS: WSBC’s Loren Schwartz explained their recommendations for the scooter-share program:
In particular, WSBC would not want them allowed in parks or park trails (like along Alki); they believe scooters should be a form of transportation, not recreation.
They COULD geofence the scooters to be not used on trails, Winkler says, but “from a point of equity SDOT wants all people who ride a scooter or bike the same access … we don’t want them to be unable to do same things that people who bought their own device” can do. WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd observed that there would likely be some confusion over where the e-scooters are OK.
NEXT MEETING: WSTC usually meets fourth Thursday, 6:30, online – watch westseattletc.org for updates.