From buses to bridges @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Will West Seattle get back some of the bus service it’s lost? And what’s the deal with some of the most-challenged policies post-West Seattle Bridge closure? Those were the two big topics at this month’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, online this past Thursday night.

METRO’S FUTURE: King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and Metro planner Graydon Newman were the guests for this topic. McDermott said it’s a subject with which he has personal experience, since he took the 56/57 to downtown pre-pandemic, though now his commute route is a set of stairs in his home. However, he said, the council doesn’t get into the details of route planning – it sticks to big-picture issues. With that, Newman took centerstage. Having just launched the spring service change, he said, Metro is now in the thick of “service restoration planning” for September – “making a big effort” to restore some suspended service.

He did not specify which route(s)/trips might make a comeback, though he acknowledged that West Seattle has some routes that have been totally shelved TFN, such as the 22 through southern peninsula neighborhoods.

Metro’s ongoing challenges include pandemic-reduced bus capacity – 12 passengers in a 40-foot coach, 18 in a 60-foot coach – and reduced revenue (the renewed Seattle levy provides less funding than the one that expired, for example). With restorations/additions already made – 21X, 55, 56. 57 service last September, 50/60/128 this month – Newman said they’re at 85 percent of pre-pandemic service levels. But some service suspensions will continue beyond September, he said.

Subsequent discussion included a suggestion that underperforming routes could be repurposed to cover underserved areas such as Admiral and Arbor Heights. Also an offer: The WSTC would like to partner with Metro in reimagining bus service beyond just shuffling the longtime routes. That led to the question of how long it takes to launch a brand-new bus route. Answer: Roughly two years.

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: SDOT’s project leader Heather Marx recapped some of the updates from other recent briefings, including that the city has applied for $21 million from the feds’ INFRA grant fund, and hopes to get word on that within a month or so. They’re still in the midst of getting bids from prospective repair contractors – applications are due April 12th – and in the meantime, continuing to work on the schedule, such as how to phase in traffic over the first days and weeks after reopening the bridge in mid-2022. That will be worked out “in the months ahead,” Marx said.

Wondering about low-bridge access? There’ll be an update at April’s Community Task Force meeting, she promised. Here’s what they’re doing now:

But in the Q&A that followed, she said they absolutely will not reconsider the policy of banning motorcycles between 5 am and 9 pm. “We are NOT going to be changing” that, Marx declared.

Also regarding the low bridge, a WSTC question – if it can handle 20,000 vehicles a day safely, why is its capacity being kept well below that? Marx said 20,000 is a maximum that would mean a long stretch of gridlock, not a comfortable traffic flow. And on the matter of deciding whether to allow West Seattle-residing Harbor Island workers to use the low bridge, Marx said they’re not getting cooperation from businesses that they’re trying to canvass to find out how many workers that would affect.

Another thorny topic, the proposed two-way protected bicycle lane in what is currently a southbound general-traffic lane on West Marginal Way. What if SDOT tried a test run by temporarily blocking that vehicle lane to see what happens? Marx dismissed that idea, saying the protected bike lane is going to happen, the question is whether it’ll happen now or after the bridge reopens (since some have said they’re not opposed to the idea but are opposed to building it and blocking the lane while the bridge is closed).

In the meeting’s waning minutes, one more topic:

NEW BOARD MEMBERS: We published the group’s invitation last weekend. Potential candidates attended the meeting and will now have to decide whether to apply; some people expressed interest but weren’t able to attend. So, no decisions yet on who’ll be joining – recruiting continues.

NEXT MEETING; The WSTC meets fourth Thursdays most months, 6:30 pm, online. See video of past meetings on the WSTC YouTube channel.

28 Replies to "From buses to bridges @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • Alki rider March 28, 2021 (11:54 pm)

    “But in the Q&A that followed, she said they absolutely will not reconsider the policy of banning motorcycles between 5 am and 9 pm. “We are NOT going to be changing” that, Marx declared.”

    Well, my two wheeled friends, sounds like it’s time for us to collectively show up in protest wherever Heather Marx is, like the time thousands of bikers successfully protested in Paris, France against the city banning motorcycles in the inner city core. Sounds like Marx has an unreasonable vendetta.

    • Jon Wright March 29, 2021 (12:51 am)

      Not being granted preferential treatment and calling it a vendetta seems a bit melodramatic.

      • Alki rider March 29, 2021 (9:59 am)

        Huh? It’s not melodramatic when me and several riders I know have had their voices completely ignored  by SDOT and WSTC for a year now. Or that asinine, ignorant response from SDOT that “a motorcycle behaves like a car”. What planet do they live on? For all of us it’s been clear that nobody at SDOT has heard of let alone operated a motorcycle before. Marx’s tone seems to imply they have received our messages, but are annoyed we even exist.

        • Jort March 29, 2021 (10:28 am)

          Nah, you’re just not going to ride on the bridge, and that’s how it’s going to be. If this bugs you, feel free to start riding a bicycle or riding the bus. Your voices aren’t being “ignored,” trust me, they’ve heard you. You’re just not going to get your way and that’s how it is, sorry.

          • My two cents ... March 29, 2021 (1:21 pm)

            @ Jort  you are obviously an advocate for biking and transit. In Jort World, is there room for internal combustion or electrical vehicles? Vehicles = 2 wheels and more, powered. Would like to hear you future vision.

          • Barton March 29, 2021 (4:19 pm)

            Oh please My Two Cents – Jort is not an advocate for anything other than Jort.  He/she is a troll that thrives on getting people all riled up with that ridiculous self-righteousness.  If it weren’t biking it would be some other extreme position.   Sincere bike and transit advocates try to align with him/her as if he/she is some sort of prophet rather than an attempted big fish in a small pond.  I seem to recall that Jort doesn’t even live in West Seattle.

        • KM March 29, 2021 (6:05 pm)

          Since when does “not getting your way for special treatment” mean you are “being ignored”, especially after they specifically spoke to your request?

  • Smittytheclown March 29, 2021 (5:27 am)

    Open the lower bridge and let people decide.  If it’s backed up, they will choose W Marginal.  If it’s open, take it.  The emergency vehicle excuse needs clarification.  Plenty of room for traffic to pull to the side.  How can emergency vehicles cross the Ballard and University bridges without restricted traffic?

    • WS Taxpayer March 29, 2021 (7:22 am)


    • freedom March 29, 2021 (8:04 am)

      The emergency vehicle thing is complete nonsense…how is it easier for trucks and busses than cars to pull over and make room?  Even more, how do the current bus and truck traffic make it easier than a motorcycle to make room?  Even considering doing construction for a bike lane during this crisis is almost criminal.

    • Ron Swanson March 29, 2021 (9:34 am)

      Are you really asking “how is a two lane bridge different from a four lane bridge?”  – LOL

      • smittytheclown March 29, 2021 (10:15 am)

        That is exactly what I am asking.  How much room is there to pull over to the side(s) and does it create enough space for emergency vehicles to pass.   2-lane or 4-lane.  If metro busses and semi-trucks can make space why can’t cars?

        • FridaK March 29, 2021 (11:43 am)

          I was on the low bridge one day when an ambulance came through with lights and sirens on. All the cars etc moved over and the ambulance had no problem getting through. The Ambulance argument for cars not being able to use that bridge is a false one. The current system of “move over when you hear/see lights” works just as well on that bridge as it does everywhere else.

          • Joe Z March 29, 2021 (2:45 pm)

            Emergency vehicles are not the reason the bridge is closed to general traffic. The Port of Seattle wants the bridge for freight and that’s all there is to it. SDOT is the messenger here. 

    • Jort March 29, 2021 (10:27 am)

      The reason you are not getting access to the lower bridge, and the reason you will never get access until the high bridge is complete, is so that buses, which are socially responsible methods of transportation, can get across the bridge without being stuck in the traffic caused by single-occupant private automobile drivers. If you think that the city is going to allow buses (which, again, are scalable and sustainable methods of transportation for mass numbers of people) to be stuck behind cars just because the car drivers think buses deserve to sit in traffic, you are in a for a real sad outcome. If you don’t like traffic, you’re welcome to not be part of it and to get on the bus and sit down. See you on the bus!

  • Flo B March 29, 2021 (6:45 am)

    How to “phase in traffic” over days or WEEKS.  Hope everyone caught that. It seems SDOT wants to torment us longer for their ?????  Or, it could mean they’re afraid the repairs won’t be done correctly and want “guinea pigs” to test. 

  • anonyme March 29, 2021 (7:11 am)

    “Southern peninsula neighborhoods” have long been underserved at a variety of levels, but especially transportation.  It has been apparent for some time that Metro never intended to either bring back the 22 to Arbor Heights, OR provide some kind of alternate service.   Just the useless, flapping mouthpieces at Metro teasing a potential return by posting obscure surveys designed to prove nothing.  The expanded availability of Access vans will expire soon, leaving many seniors permanent prisoners in their own homes.  Many accuse the city of waging a war on cars, but underhanded actions like these bus cancellations make it impossible for many people to do anything but drive.  Those that can, anyway.

    • D Del Rio March 29, 2021 (12:55 pm)

      I no longer live in Arbor Heights, but I don’t understand why Metro just can’t have the 21 make the Arbor Heights loop like they used to.  Does anyone out there know why Metro is so adamant about not doing this? Also with all the new development going on in the Admiral District, I wish they would have the 55 running all day like they used to.   

  • HarborIslandworker March 29, 2021 (8:10 am)

    Well thank god (SDOT) is finally looking at Harbor Island workers that live in west seattle we have always used the low bridge and will continue to use it after the west seattle bridge reopens we should have had access from the beginning 

    • skeeter March 29, 2021 (1:02 pm)

      HARBORISLANDWORKER – I’ll be watching this too.  I currently bike across the low bridge each day but I’ll admit there are some days when the weather is terrible that I’d prefer to drive.  Please note there is a new bus stop on Harbor Island that is a good option if the weather is awful.

      • HarborIslandworker March 29, 2021 (2:02 pm)

        Skeeter…. there is a survey that your employer was supposed to receive and fill out regarding how many people your employer has that live in West Seattle for some reason the companies on Harbor Island aren’t getting back to SDOT in a timely fashion …. you might wanna look into that 

        • skeeter March 29, 2021 (3:27 pm)

          HarborIslandworker – thanks!

          About a week and a half ago I was biking home around 6:15pm.  There was a car pulled over in the Harbor Marina Corporate Center lot on the south end of Harbor Island.  Driver was putting fabric covers over his front and rear license plates to conceal them from the cameras!  LoL!!  He then sped off across the lower swing bridge.  

  • Herongrrrl March 29, 2021 (9:06 am)

    Was route 37 mentioned at all? We have a student who will not be able to get to middle school without it, once in-person learning starts again.

  • Mark Schletty March 29, 2021 (9:07 am)

    So the 22 is totally shelved. A whole large area of West Seattle with no bus service. So much for Heather Marx and Jort telling me to ride a bus instead of driving a car.  (Not physically able to bike or walk distances). Thanks a lot Metro.

  • WSB March 29, 2021 (9:57 am)

    Regarding the bus questions: The fate of both suspended routes has yet to be determined. If I boiled the entire discussion down to one sentence – perhaps that would be a better way to report sometimes! – it was “just so you know, we’re talking about things.” No decisions or even hints about what will happen to the 22 and 37, nor any other specifics. I’m following up to ask if there’s going to be any point for public input, beyond that survey we recently mentioned a few times. – TR

  • Al King March 29, 2021 (4:32 pm)

    Joe Z. Emergency vehicle access WAS a big reason SDOT wanted car restrictions. They’re certain busses and “essential freight” will NEVER block emergency vehicle access. Can’t talk to them. The wall gives better answers then they do.

  • 1994 March 29, 2021 (9:39 pm)

    The following has now expired but was there ever noticeably increased transpo/Metro services in West Seattle? I recall that all the funds raised couldn’t be used as intended and presented to voters because of a shortage of buses, shortage of bus storage capacity….and some of the funds were then used to supply free Orca passes for all high school students…Voters approved a measure in the November 2014 election that started expanding Metro service in Seattle in 2015. The additional service is paid for with a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% increase in the sales tax. The improvements focus on reducing overcrowding, increasing frequency and increasing reliability. 

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