By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
One is the date ST will release the final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle extension, which has to happen before the ST board finalizes the routing and station locations.
The other is the date the Ballard extension is projected to open – important for West Seattle because light rail from here won’t go all the way downtown (and beyond) until then; riders from West Seattle will have to transfer in SODO.
ST’s Leda Chahim and Jason Hampton provided the updates – no slide deck, so we don’t have visual highlights. Chahim first spotlighted the split between timelines for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions, since various factors led to the West Seattle “preferred alternative” being identified first, rather than the two extensions’ planning processes rolling along in parallel. Then Chahim said they’re not expecting to publish the final EIS for West Seattle until next year – and not early in the year, either; she said it would be after the first quarter. The most-recent timeline had been “late 2023,” which is still on the ST project website tonight, though Chahim said some updates would appear there soon.
She also said the final EIS will incorporate the “further studies” items – they’ll all be fully analyzed. Otherwise, they’re “still working on details’ but expect community engagement “this fall” for the stations and design concepts. Before then, they’ll be out at fairs, festivals, and the Farmers’ Market, to get reacquainted with the community.
WSTC’s Deb Barker asked for more about the status of “refinements” (aka the “further studies” items). Hampton took on that reply. He recapped what’s been studied – potential access improvements for the Delridge station and shifting a station entrance for The Junction. Chahim said the ongoing project website will be updated in the next few days. So with Ballard on a different timeline, what will that mean for the gap between trains from West Seattle going to SODO and going beyond? The additional work on Ballard has taken almost two years so that extension is now not expected to open until 2039 – which means a seven-year gap, previously five years (Chahim said 2032 is still the projected date for West Seattle). West Seattle RapidRide routes to downtown will continue for all those years, Hampton said.
Barker wondered what ST is doing to educate candidates, considering that this fall’s local elections will bring lots of changes (for example, two Seattle ST board members are not running for re-election, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott of West Seattle and City Council President Debora Juarez of North Seattle). Chahim didn’t know of anything in particular.
WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd suggested that ST needs to think about incorporating commercial space at stations, considering the “much-loved” neighborhood businesses that are likely to be displaced. He talked about how the supportive-housing Cottage Grove Commons building included space for the nonprofit Delridge Grocery Co-op, which has taken a while to really blossom but is finally getting there.
The Sound Transit updates followed an appearance by Metro reps to discuss one specific service:
TRAILHEAD DIRECT: This is a seasonal service for taking transit to a faraway hike! Ryan Miller from Metro talked about the program, which started with a pilot in 2017, then expanded to connect with Seattle light rail in 2018 and to serve destinations that people were asking about. They “started the program to mitigate parking access” but learned that the program really was about equitable access to outdoor destinations. That led to a new route from South King County in 2019. The pandemic led to a time of re-evaluation; they brought back two popular routes, from Issaquah and from Capitol Hill, in 2021. That year, though, they also were affected by the operator shortages that have plagued the entire system. So now they’re focusing on the route from Capitol Hill, and “that’s where we’re at for this season,” said Miller.
In Q&A – what’s the cost? Same as other transit – no special fare. (That also means free for 18 and under, interjected Metro’s Al Sanders.) And the buses do have bicycle racks. In response to another question, Miller said the lessons they’ve learned from Trailhead Direct have helped them when planning service restructuring, to include parks and other destinations. WSTC’s Barker pointed out that Alki service is spotty since Route 37 is long suspended; Miller noted 50, 773, and 775 still run. What types of coaches does Trailhead Direct use? asked WSTC’s Kate Wells. They tend to be a “little smaller” than the standard Metro coach, Miller said. The drivers are with Hopelink, so they don’t come from the pool handling general Metro service.
BOARD ELECTIONS: Three members were re-elected; no one was nominated for three vacant positions, so if you’re interested, contact WSTC and get involved.
NEXT MEETINGS: WSTC remains on an every-other-month schedule – so the rest of the year will include July 27th, September 28th, November 16th (tentative), 6:30 pm. They’re still mulling locations in hopes of holding hybrid meetings (in-person and online).