WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What Avalon-area residents asked Sound Transit during their neighborhood briefing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With 10 weeks left for your comment(s) on West Seattle light-rail options, some neighborhoods are organizing their own briefings and reviews of Sound Transit‘s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the extension.

Wednesday night, the Avalon-area neighbors who first organized in 2020 invited ST for another presentation and Q&A. What they asked, and suggested, might help you if you haven’t already commented (which you can do via the ongoing “online open house”).

The ST team – led by facilitator Leda Chahim and West Seattle/Duwamish segment manager Jason Hampton – opened with a presentation almost identical to what they showed the Community Advisory Group last week (WSB coverage here). That included select pairings of Junction and Delridge station alternatives – the location of the Avalon station, closest to where most of Wednesday night’s participants live, depends on what’s chosen for those two ends of the WS extension. Here’s the full slide deck from the meeting:

(You can also see it here.)

Because the presentation was mostly a rerun (actually a little shorter – the Duwamish-crossing alternatives weren’t reviewed), we won’t recap it here. The slide deck includes the comparison information – factors such as how many households would be displaced, how many could be added (in “transit-oriented development” near stations), the cost, the height, whether park land would be affected, whether other key facilities such as social-service providers would be affected.

The meat of the meeting came when it was opened for Q&A. One big question that has also surfaced at previous briefings is whether the Avalon station is really needed. The idea of building the West Seattle line with just the Delridge and Junction stations was not studied in the DEIS, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be suggested in comments. The concerns voiced both here and elsewhere are that it’s not worth the money, given how close it would be to both other stations, and how relatively low the projections are for boardings at Avalon – 1,200, less than a fourth of either other station. (See page 16 of the slide deck.) Chahim did note that one longer-tunnel option was thrown out in the alternatives-development process because it didn’t have an Avalon station. But if there’s now an increasing sentiment toward the possibility of dropping it, could ST still go back and reconsider? “We will do what the board directs us to do,” Chahim said.

Another point that’s been made by attendees at all briefings: A reminder that the West Seattle line will end at SODO for the first five years after it launches in 2032, and everyone headed beyond that will have to transfer. That factors into projected travel times; the ST team only showed travel-time savings as expected in 2042, a full 10 years after West Seattle is built. Metro has promised to keep downtown bus service from Delridge going for at least those first five years, it was repeated.

Other questions: When will cost-saving possibilities be made public? Early April, so there’ll still be time for them to factor into comments before the April 28th deadline. But if you have cost-saving suggestions, ST says, don’t hold back to see if they’re included – go ahead and suggest them in your comments now.

Could other routing possibilities be studied at this point? “If you have ideas about refinement, put them in your comments,” Chahim replied.

The ridership estimates drew some scrutiny. One attendee asked when those estimates were developed, given the change in travel patterns these past two years, ST’s lower ridership, and changing work/commute patterns. Chahim said they’re trying to look ahead 10 years and acknowledged they don’t really have a way to “guess how to adjust.” There was also a question about factors that didn’t seem to have factored into the comparisons – such as, might higher-elevation stations draw lower ridership because of the extra time/difficulty to get up to the platform? When ST’s reps said they didn’t have information on that, the attendee suggested it should be analyzed. Also pointed out: The boarding numbers don’t necessarily translate to an equivalent number of “cars off the road” – those people might currently be bus riders, for example. Overall, skepticism was voiced about the accuracy of all the numbers on which the alternatives are being scored, as well as the methodology. For commenting purposes, Chahim said, perspectives matter a lot, in addition to data, so she urged people to share theirs when commenting. As for why they’re focusing on these factors, Hampton said the ones in the presentation were chosen based on previously expressed community interest, but if attendees would like to see other factors featured, ST reps can come back with a focus on other aspects.

Honing in on one set of numbers – residential displacements – another attendee asked how solid are those estimates?. Hampton said they’re from (corrected) “a parcel count based on the early design” and anticipated needs both for the project and for construction staging. The DEIS contains visualizations, but one commenter suggested they’re misleading; also noted, the fact that only certain areas were visualized. Hampton said “representative areas along the route” with “sensitive receivers” were chosen – “the executive summary has one for each alternative – the visual/aesthetics/technical report has quite a few more.” But the ST reps stressed that “even though we didn’t develop visualizations for every possible vantage point,” the potential impacts are being evaluated. It was then pointed out that what’s shown in summaries – most notably the DEIS’s “executive summary” – can’t help but carry more weight with people who might not go into all the detailed documents. They’re looking for fair comparisons – if one alternative is “shown at its worst point, then all should be shown at their worst points.” Hampton urged inclusion of this observation as a formal comment too.

Another reminder: People should be aware that the formal comments they submit now will be addressed in the final EIS, due out next year, which is the last stop before the ST Board finalizes exact routing and station locations. Is it better to comment individually or as a neighborhood? Both are good, Chahim said, as long as they’re clear. In order to comment effectively, one attendee suggested, it would be helpful to know why a certain route, for example, was not considered, before suggesting now that it should be considered. For those who didn’t participate in/monitor the alternatives-development phase a few years back, Hampton said, much was considered.

As the meeting concluded, community point person M Miller noted that the meeting’s text-chat box had many more questions that were answered and promised to send it around. For the record, representatives of two West Seattle elected officials, County Councilmember Joe McDermott (who is an ST Board member) and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, were there too.

WHAT’S NEXT: Again, you can comment at any time before April 28th via the “online open house.” Sound Transit has meetings coming up next month (dates/times are here). A member of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition who attended the Wednesday night Avalon meeting, Deb Barker, reminded everyone that WSTC will have its own March 24th workshop on the DEIS, “a little bit more folksy” – the WSTC has been working for years to shine more light on the longrunning process of getting light rail to WS.

31 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What Avalon-area residents asked Sound Transit during their neighborhood briefing"

  • Station FOR Avalon February 18, 2022 (11:57 am)

    I am so confused why people do not want a station for Avalon.Not sure if people have seen the triangle lately but you have two more micro unit apartments being build. A whole bunch of no parking townhouses and several low parking apartments coming up in the next 5 years.little bit of a slap in the face to say hey you gotta commute to the junction to raid the rail. 100% pro having an Avalon station. 

    • SR February 18, 2022 (12:47 pm)

      This Avalon resident agrees! 

    • Friend O'Dinghus February 18, 2022 (1:22 pm)

      I agree with SFA above. The area served by the potential Avalon station is set to change dramatically over the next decade. This station will be a highly sought after local asset one day, creating an opportunity for a great deal of much needed housing. Almost as importantly, this increased housing will then be developed in one of our city’s urban corridors. HALA ‘up-zoned’ these areas for precisely this type and location of planned growth. Admittedly, I am one of those also who believes that the existing HALA up-zone, combined with the allowances for ADU/DADU, are sufficient to provide for our additional need for housing. In other words, I believe we are no where near seeing the full impact of those two changes when it comes to affordable housing, and the Avalon station is part of that fantastic opportunity. Nixing the Avalon station virtually assures high rise growth around the Junction station. Goodbye local history/flavor as a result. It also seems that some folks think sacrificing the Avalon station may somehow in turn pay for tunnel options in the Junction and before/after the Delridge station. If there were to be savings from a nixed Avalon station, chances are the savings would not be applied in West Seattle at all. There certainly is no guarantee of it. 

    • Ron Swanson February 18, 2022 (1:34 pm)

      If they go with the medium tunnel/Andover option it isn’t even that expensive to add the station since you have to pass under 35th anyway – just widen the trench out for platforms.  Would make for great bus connections – terminate the 21 at the station and use the service hours saved to run more frequently to High Point and Arbor Heights.

    • Joe Z February 18, 2022 (1:36 pm)

      A large chunk of the Avalon neighborhood gets bulldozed in every alternative except the longer tunnels. The “medium tunnel” option is actually the worst of all for property acquisitions and impacts in our neighborhood, although the above-ground Genesee options are also significant. The main reason the longer tunnels are more expensive is the 2nd underground station. The ridership estimate is only 1,200 daily boardings at the Avalon station because it is located in the walkshed of the Junction Station and people can simply use the other station that is closer to the urban core of the Junction. The Avalon Triangle is basically a freeway onramp. 

    • DC February 18, 2022 (1:48 pm)

      Good point. ST should be forward looking not static. Not only will density increase between now and when the station is built, but the station will allow for even further increase in density while limiting impact on traffic. Rather than look at projected low ridership, imagine how that ridership could be increased. 

    • Wseattleite February 18, 2022 (2:20 pm)

      What about all the other no to low parking units being built all over west seattle?  How is an Avalon station going to help them?  The rest of us are going to have to travel far more than 5-6 blocks to get to a station. No to more cost on this limited use uber-expensive extravaganza in general. 

    • Also John February 18, 2022 (2:35 pm)

      I get what you’re saying.  I’d like to see the Avalon and Junction station combined.  What would you say if we combined them and put in a single station at…let’s say where Trader Joe’s is?  Around that location would be a great spot for a combined station.   Easy walk from the Junction and 35th.

    • KeepStation February 18, 2022 (3:39 pm)

      Same here! I am confused as well of the push to not have the station at Avalon and might be short sighted in the long run to take it out. A lot of new development happening now and more in the next couple years. Plus, the transit lines up and down 35th street (and White Center). I live in the Avalon area and fully welcome the station at the triangle. I’ve shared the comment on the Draft EIS and encourage folks to comment as well. :)

    • Judah S February 18, 2022 (6:52 pm)

      More than anything it is a reaction to the low ridership estimates and the overlapping walksheds for both the Delridge and Junction stations. Combine that with frequent easy bus routes to both of those very close locations and it’s a reasonable question as to cost/value.I’m not saying that there’s no argument to be made for an Avalon station, but it’s not a very strong argument if it’s being made from ST’s own projections and estimates. And ST’s only defense for this station when asked about it is that the voter approved ST3 stated 3 stations would be built in WS so they put 3 stations in the plan. That’s definitely a reason, but is it a good enough reason that It justifies the expense? I agree that the current density of the triangle alone makes it an obvious spot for transit, even to consider for a station, but according to ST themselves that density won’t translate to link ridership.In a project where every dollar counts I’m surprised that more WS residents aren’t questioning it. And if we are talking about density to justify station placement, for comparison, the only other stretch of light rail that has this many stations in the same small length is in downtown Seattle. Hard to make an argument that Alaska to Delridge has the same transit service needs.

    • East Coast Cynic February 18, 2022 (8:39 pm)

      And what about all of those people that I saw on those jam packed 21 express buses coming down 35th Ave SW and stopping at Avalon pre-pandemic?  I’m surprised at the low numbers if it’s factoring in those people who would be using the Avalon stop in a West Seattle Link scenario. I suspect some people are not factoring them in as Link users and limiting the scope to the Avalon area. What the heck are those people coming from Greenwood, Highpoint and Arbor Heights supposed to do without a Avalon station?

  • Derek February 18, 2022 (12:05 pm)

    Avalon station is worthless being that close to Junction. They need to skip it and just route some of the bus lines to there or Delridge. No need to overkill the Junction with two super close stations. Tunnel through the hill from Genessee. Clear winner with comparable price.

  • Dense City February 18, 2022 (12:56 pm)

    One call out made during a previous Q&A was: in terms of stations geographic density, the 3 station solution is more closely resembling stop frequency in the pioneer square and downtown Seattle area.. West Seattle will pack nowhere near that much foot traffic. Couple those low ridership numbers and the budget overrun.. I think it should be more closely evaluated.

    • Derek February 18, 2022 (2:46 pm)

      Report back in five years after these high rise apartments all over Junction and California are full and there’s even more. 

  • KD February 18, 2022 (5:06 pm)

    This train line is completely inequitable and only serves rich white people who will probably never take it. What about the huge amount of people taking the 120 from Burien to White Center and Delridge? What about us? So now we get the luxury of taking 1 or 2 busses just so we can get to a train station and take two trains downtown? What a joke. And here you complain because you want three stations instead of two. Boo hoo. You want a tunnel? Oh really? I’d like to not extend my travel time downtown by an hour and 2 extra stops. 

    • Friend O'Dinghus February 18, 2022 (6:54 pm)

      Hey KD, maybe with all the new housing development certain to be built around the future Avalon station, some of which reserved for those of modest income, you could move to that area and have a much shorter commute downtown? Also, the Avalon station is one of the three stations already planned to be built; the discussion above is about going from three stations to two, not the other way around. 

    • Judah S February 18, 2022 (7:19 pm)

      I think this is a very important (and under represented) point. It’s always seemed pretty silly that they even call that first station the “Delridge” station. But now with the DEIS numbers to look at it makes even less sense that this train turns west as soon as it crosses the Duwamish. Sure the ridership projected for the junction is high but what would the numbers look like if it ran straight down Delridge, through White Center, down to Burien and hooked back up to the “spine” around Sea-Tac? Delridge is a wide Avenue that could have even accommodated an above ground train which was ST has its heart set on. Maybe it will be a different story in 2043 but if I was riding the H line from south Delridge I wouldn’t bother getting off right at the bridge just to take two or three escalators up to get on a train for one stop and then transfer back to a bus or another line. None of these arguments are relevant to the DEIS discussion—it was always going to head west to the junction and I can’t imagine a political reality where it doesn’t—but the further along this project gets the harder it is to give some of these decisions the benefit of the doubt. And I say that as someone who is very eager for the train to get here! 

    • Auntie February 19, 2022 (10:21 am)

      Just stay on the 120 (AKA the H line) which will take you all the way downtown and beyond quickly and without changing anywhere! Who needs the train if you have reasonable access to the H line? Same for those in the Avalon area who have reasonable access to the C line. Just stay on the bus.

    • Martin J Pagel February 19, 2022 (10:54 pm)

      You’re right, KD, there are far more diverse and low income populations in White Center, South Park, and High Point, than Junction. Originally the Junction connection was going to cost $1.7b, now $3.2b meaning a Southern extension will need to wait even longer. The SkyLink team suggested to extend light rail to South Park and serve Delridge/Avalon/Junction via gondola (https://www.facebook.com/101827961794038/posts/308544087789090/), both could be done for less than $3b. More and more people are pushing now for a tunnel. A tunnel will make it far more difficult to reach those neighborhoods later because if you’re underground you need to continue that way. ST3 includes planning the Southern extension, but I have not seen any discussion in the DEIS addressing it.

    • RC February 20, 2022 (4:26 pm)

      I completely agree with you KD. Seems more sensible to take it the line down to Westwood Village with a stop in actual Delridge. 

    • Walker February 20, 2022 (7:13 pm)

      Why would you assume that everyone who will benefit from this new line is rich and white? I assure you I am neither. And why bring race into this at all?

    • Nathan R February 21, 2022 (4:08 pm)

      KD: The West Seattle line needs to be built before it can be extended to White Center and Burien, which is in the long term plan. Sure, that’s decades away, but right now the West Seattle line itself is a decade away. Regardless of timeline, we have to get it right now because there’s no taking it back when it does come around to extending it down to support you.

  • B February 18, 2022 (6:00 pm)

    Agree, if no station in White Center, this whole thing should be killed.  Spend the money housing the folks living in filth all over WS right now. If you can’t clean up the mess that is Delridge/near the bridge, imagine how disgusting it will be with a train station.   I walk past the new station in UDist every day. Nothing happening there except more drugs and not a single rider using it as it was designed. Complete waste (and I ride a bike everywhere, I’m no car zelot).  Nobody is going back to downtown in prepandemic numbers for work.  Seattle missed the boat on public transit by about 5 decades.  It’s all a waste of money now.  Get buses to where they are  needed for folks who absolutely need public transit and make it equitable and fast.  Most of us will never step foot on a train or bus in our lives.  

  • Avalon Neighbor February 18, 2022 (7:04 pm)

    Not having a station at Avalon where a large number of apartments are being built is outrageous. In European countries a station is typically placed every 1/4 mile. The suggestion that everyone should use the Junction station means Avalon residents will need to walk at least 1 mile, 20 minutes, to take the rail. That just encourages car use. While the station should definitely expand in the future, it’s ridiculous to remove a station in hopes that another will get a station in the next 20 years with those funds. 

  • bill February 18, 2022 (11:05 pm)

    I am puzzled that placing a station at Alaska & Fauntleroy is not getting more attention. (Parallel to Fauntleroy, above Alaska, on the east side of the intersection, taking out the gas station and parking lot.) Would this not be a good way to combine the Junction and Avalon stations? Separately, I agree the boarding figure of 1200/day at Avalon seems to ignore the area’s impending growth. But placing two stations so close together will slow the train down. Just ride the existing line all the way to Northgate and notice how pokey the train is through SODO and downtown.

    • Martin February 19, 2022 (11:03 pm)

      Bill, I am not sure why Sound Transit is insisting on their original location for the Fauntleroy now that the big apartment building has been built. Why not move the station a bit North (at Trader Joe’s, potentially combine with Avalon) or further South?!? It seems it should be much cheaper to build but then the tunnel options wouldn’t be as attractive anymore?!?Regardless, I wonder how the line would ever get extended to serve High Point and White Center something Sound Transit is supposed to plan for as ST3 but I have not seen and discussion on.   

  • Bus rider February 19, 2022 (9:34 am)

    People, if you don’t know the 120 bus comes from Burien Transit Center up Delridge to downtown.  To ride the bus to where the Proposed Delridge Station is; take stairs up three stories; catch train; transfer at Sodo to another train to get to downtown is stupid. At least 20 min total time. If you’d stay on the bus from the proposed Delridge station it’ll take 10 min to get to downtown. Especially since the bus from that point is all highway (when fixed) with dedicated bus lanes. 

    • skeeter February 23, 2022 (10:14 am)

      This is an important point Bus Rider.  Thank you.  Some transit (bus) riders will actually have a longer commute with light rail due to the need to wait for not one but two trains (including transfer at Sodo.)  I wonder if the Rapidride H (Delridge) will end at the light rail station at Delridge or will continue on downtown.  Gonna be way faster to just stay on the bus and not wait for two trains.

  • eddiew February 23, 2022 (9:51 am)

    Of course there should be a station straddling 35th Avenue SW for transfers to/from Route 21; it woujld be riders north and south of the station.  ST should place stations on the alignments so that they provide transfers with buses with short walks and serve pedestrians.  If the stations straddled the transit arterial, they would help intending riders cross the busy traffic.  That was not done well at SeaTac or Mt. Baker.Why does ST think the West Seattle line should be a shuttle for several years?  That seems silly.  How about delaying the West Seattle line to be coincident with the Ballard line? 

  • Jort February 23, 2022 (10:11 am)

    The trade-off for the potential elimination of the Avalon station is that there must be re-assignment of street space leading to the Delridge and Junction stations for transit priority. As in, lanes go BYE-BYE for cars and go to exclusive bus use. The point of the Avalon station is bus transit connectivity for much of the peninsula. If Avalon Station is gone, the transit connectivity must supersede private automobile general purpose lanes without exception. If car drivers are unwilling to make any sacrifices whatsoever, as is currently the plan for the entire WSBLE line (unlike homes, businesses, apartment buildings, etc.), then Avalon stays. Take your pick. Those are the options.

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