By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Instead of the bridge, this month the West Seattle Transportation Coalition chose to focus on buses and ferries. Here’s what happened at Thursday night’s online meeting:
METRO’S WEST SEATTLE FUTURE: The centerpiece of the meeting was a conversation rather than a presentation. King County transportation-policy adviser Chris Arkills, a frequent WSTC attendee, was a guest this time. First, he reiterated that Metro plans to return to the high bridge once it reopens. “The low bridge has served us well” in the meantime, but with Terminal 5 reopening to regular cargo-ship calls, other demands will be front and center. So that means schedules will be a bit in flux when West Seattle routes change over from low bridge to high bridge this summer.
Arkills also noted that much of the final phase of RapidRide H Line construction is on hold because of the concrete-drivers strike. “We don’t expect it to affect the critical path for the H Line opening this fall but we may have to open it with fewer elements if the strike drags on.”
Then on to general Q&A from WSTC board members and other meeting attendees. First: What about adding weekend service for recently revived Route 22, which serves neighborhoods including Gatewood and Arbor Heights? They’d “love to be able to” restore that, Arkills replied, but they don’t have the money for that right now.
During serious wintry weather, how do you find out if your bus is on a snow route? Reply: Metro’s website, and strongly recommends getting signed up for advisory alerts. A few years ago, they made deals with SDOT and counterparts elsewhere around the county to ensure that core bus routes have plowing priority.
What happens to bus service when light rail launches in a decade? A restructuring process, as is happening now with other Puget Sound communities where light rail is launching in the next few years. “You should continue to advocate for a fresh look at service in West Seattle” when the time comes, Arkills suggested. In a back-and-forth a few minutes later, Arkills said Metro’s long-range plan already includes some concepts – such as suggesting that the RapidRide H Line would continue on from Delridge to Admiral and Alki once light rail eliminates the need to take it downtown. (We later found that on the “RapidRide 2050” map on page 48 of the Metro Connects plan.)
What changes to West Seattle routes would he personally like to see? (Arkills is a longtime WS resident.) He replied that one change he’s excited about is the recently launched 15-minute service on Route 50, which he finds “incredibly useful.” Otherwise – having to go around the block in The Junction is something Metro “continues to struggle with.” And he says Admiral needs better service. “We’re a little behind in how we’re treating Admiral.” He also thinks they could improve service to Alki, while noting that even before it was suspended, Route 37 didn’t have much ridership.
When will next-generation ORCA cards launch? It’s a big undertaking, not a “flip the switch” launch, but the rollout is likely to start in spring, he said.
WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES: This was a briefing largely focused on the Fauntleroy dock/terminal project and the route it serves. David Sowers provided history of the project, which we’ve covered amply. WSF chief of staff Nicole McIntosh talked about ridership and sailing trends – here’s the Triangle Route:
She also talked about the crew shortage that led to an alternative service schedule system-wide as of mid-October. They are adding back sailings when possible; McIntosh said they’re currently working on a “service restoration” plan – but the Triangle Route is the second to last in line for getting service restored, so its return to a regular service level is “not going to be any time soon.” Regarding the overall staffing issue, McIntosh said they’re working on the big picture, such as reducing barriers – “it takes $120 to get a food handler’s card,” she noted, among other potential barriers.
WSTC’s Jon Wright asked why the 90-vehicle M/V Sealth is on the Triangle Route right now instead of having both boats be 124-vehicle-capacity size? That’s just what’s available right now, was the reply.
Next for the Fauntleroy project – advisory-group meetings in March, no dates yet.
LIGHT RAIL: A reminder from WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd – though the Sound Transit West Seattle-Ballard Link Extensions Draft Environmental Impact Statement came out a week early, the comment period is just now opening. WSTC will host a workshop about it for its March 24th meeting – you’ll still have a month after that to get official comments in. This will also look at what an EIS is and why it’s required, and other things such as “what it looks at and what it doesn’t look at.” WSTC’s Deb Barker suggested that collecting questions at WSTC’s February meeting would help Sound Transit provide answers as a participant in the March meeting.
ALSO AHEAD: Next meeting on February 24th is tentatively set to include U.S. House Rep. Pramila Jayapal to talk about the infrastructure bill and. other federal-funding matters, and City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee.
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