West Seattle, Washington
Perhaps the news coverage of this week’s two cruise-ship-related tragedies made you wonder how soon those big white boats are going to start showing up again every weekend off Duwamish Head, aiming for Alaska. Looks like we’re a month away from the first one, according to the Port of Seattle cruise schedule (PDF). Provided Councilguy Dow’s word is good and the Water Taxi will be back this summer, should be more good times with the “Sightseer” crossing paths with the mega-ships on sunny summer afternoons …
So how are you coping on this mostly-Viaduct-less weekend? We had to work around it a couple times on Saturday and managed just fine. And now I’m intensifying in my support of this opinion — Hizzoner should be brave and bold and shut the thing down for a real test of just how we all will cope, so we can get some stats and whatnot before The Big Vote (eyeroll) this fall. Trying to remember back to our post-earthquake Viaduct-less-ness five years ago doesn’t count; we were all too traumatized. I suggest that our City Leaders get their traffic engineers and researchers together, make a plan, and pick, oh, say, two weeks in the first half of May (gotta do this before the summer tourists show up in mega-force) to Just Do It: Close the viaduct, look at how flows change on the bridge, I-5, Alaskan Way, First Avenue South, etc. Oh, and it would be handy if they could rev up the Water Taxi in time.
Cami from the fabulous Alki News Beacon suggests we should all mark our calendars for these. Note the one at West Seattle HS on March 29. I guess this means Hizzoner Himself will actually be there; not that the WSHS event will be much of a drive for Our Homegrown Leader.
Well, at least someone is doing something sensible with Our Transportation Dollars.
The City of Seattle keeps expanding its network of traffic cams, and two of the latest are right in the middle of the WS Bridge — one east, one west. There’s also one sort-of-under the bridge, at the Chelan intersection.
I’m adding them to my WS cams page (see tab above), too. Hmm, maybe we can get the city to put up an Alki cam …
Oh joy, hot on the heels of several thrilling years of monorail votes, we get another vote about our transportation future … tunnel vs. no tunnel. Once again, those pesky politicos just couldn’t decide to decide. So we get to waste more time and money (and kill more trees to stuff mailboxes with pro-tunnel/anti-tunnel hysteria). While we’re at it, let’s vote on the third option too!
BRIDGE: Got lane-jumped this morning near the top of the WS Bridge. A white Hyundai Sonata with custom “Go Cougs” license plates and two AM 1090 (Air America) bumper stickers sneaked right in front of me, way past where its driver should have waited patiently and properly to get in the right-lane line. Only reason I didn’t consider a beep or bump, the car held two people. Which means one less car. Small consolation. Next time, I’m not going to leave enough space for someone to shoehorn in. SO THERE!
SEA: E-mailed our friendly neighborhood King County Councilperson to see if there’s an update yet on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi for this year. Here now, the entirety of how Councilperson Constantine answered my question “Will the water taxi be back?”:
It will. For the first time the Executive actually put it in his proposed budget. I am working (against much resistance) to fund a permanent dock and establish permanent funding for the service outside of existing Metro bus service. More later.
Call me asleep at the wheel. I didn’t really realize there was serious talk of making the Viaduct replacement a toll road. It’s mentioned in passing in this Times article today. In a quest for more information, I found the state’s study of Viaduct toll viability. Doesn’t sound like it would be worth the trouble (a few million bucks a year). I think I’d rather try cross-bay swim commuting than try to wade through that sort of mess.
I can completely empathize with this dangerous-driver tale of woe from FairmountSprings.org. Our neighborhood includes a busy intersection where ridiculously rushing drivers routinely ignore signs and put lives at risk. We too have asked about extra city controls, only to receive some sort of foggy multilayered answer about petitions and waiting lists. Note to drivers: Stop signs are there for good reasons. Really. And they’re orders, not suggestions.
Seems like this hits the newspaper traffic columns every week. And here it is again this morning — somebody beefing to the PI (last item) about the morning commuters with self-delusions that they are driving buses. Hey, I’d settle for a couple minutes of slowdown if that’s the only side effect of stationing undercover cops (cleverly disguised as roadside breakdowns, perhaps?) to bust ’em.
Realized this morning that I haven’t taken a ferry ride in months, even though the dock is minutes away from our neighborhood (and most parts of WS). The state ferries are a big reason why we wound up here — on my first trip to Seattle as a tourist, a guidebook entry enticed me to Anacortes, where I walked onto a San Juans-bound boat and fell in love with its utilitarian splendor during a basic 3-hour round-trip run. Other ferry rides followed before my vacation ended. And this sail down Memory (Shipping) Lane reminds me, the ferries are even the reason I discovered WS on my second Seattle trip; I saw all those oddly placed “Vashon Ferry (arrow)” signs along Alaskan Way and was determined to figure out where that mysterious run really docked … managed to make my way onto the bridge, veered over to Alki while trying to find Fauntleroy, game over, I was crazy in love, and ready to move.
So excuse me while I go look up the schedule and see about a recreational ride on the F-V-S ferry sometime before the weekend is out … just to rekindle the romance.
Third-to-last paragraph in this P-I story about the status of the monorail tax and the “monorail board” (shouldn’t we call them the non-monorail board?) dithering on when to kill it. “Take it up in his neighborhood”? And this guy expects that pulse-taking to last more than approximately .03 seconds? Let’s just save him the trouble and all yell “KILL IT NOW” simultaneously. Really, I’ve confessed this before, and I’m not the least bit ashamed of it — I was a monorail supporter. I would vote for it again tomorrow. I was excited about it, and I’m still upset about the chain of events that means we’re not likely to see non-bus mass transit in WS in my lifetime. But enough with the tax already. I’ve already paid hundreds since the death-knell vote, and perhaps you have too. I’d rather see a bailout for the remaining bills on this, than for, oh, say, another stadium renovation. (Go, Sonics! And I do mean “go” …)
Funny, yet frightening — and practically plausible.
If only the people who shut down the Seattle streetcars last century had had a little more foresight, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
(When you see somebody weeping in front of the historic streetcar pix in the window of the Train Store in the Junction, it’s usually me.)
Something else from the “I had NO idea” file:
The City of Seattle has a dozen or so of its own traffic cams, in the vein of the well-known DOT cams you see on TV all the time, and two are on this side of the bay:
I’m thinking about making a separate West Seattle cams page for This Here Blog. These two will be a good start, along with the Fauntleroy ferry cam.
Today’s mail brought a “2006 (Legislative) Session Preview” from one of our West Seattle-based lawmakers, Rep. Eileen Cody. Conspicuously missing — some mention of transportation besides ferries. If I were a legislator based on this side of town, I would say something about the viaduct, at the very least, and perhaps add on something about water-based commuter service across the bay — not across the sound — how many of us really commute westward, anyway?
Among Rep. Cody’s other listed priorities are helping schools do more to “ensure that every student has a fair chance to pass the WASL.” Ugh. Let’s not put more eggs in that flawed basket.
If only clicking my heels together like Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz” could have gotten me home faster tonight …
Traffic through downtown was so horrendous tonight (are that many people REALLY going to watch the StupidSonics?), I had to try the viaduct-free way home.
Took an hour to get from north of downtown to the 1st Avenue South onramp for the WS Bridge. One hour, five miles tops. And this is WITH bumper-to-bumper traffic filling the viaduct itself. Without that placeholder for those additional hundreds of cars — the backup will start at my workday parking place. Really.
Is anyone holding brainstorming sessions about this looming disaster? Will we wind up telecommuting, shift-staggering, unemployed, or forming new WS-based businesses to take advantage of the talents of The Peninsula-Bound? I’m going to go look.
Seattle P-I editorialist Ted Van Dyk must not live on our side of the bay. Witness this quote from his guv’ment-advising rant in today’s combined paper:
Rail transit is not the only public transit. Seattle since 1970 has had one of the best bus transit systems in the United States. But bus funds are being diverted increasingly to rail. The City Council recently announced it is “looking at options” to replace the canceled monorail line between Ballard and West Seattle. The monorail needs no replacement but regular, well-scheduled bus service.
Ever try to commute from WS via bus? I have. First mega-problem: Unless you are going straight to the heart of downtown (preferably along 1st Avenue), it’s transfer city, which means potential hours of travel, even if you’re not going too much farther north than the Space Needle.
Worse problem: As monorail campaigners pointed out, you do have to “rise above it all” to get out of the traffic mess. Short of the Jetsons-style suitcase spaceships, their idea, flawed as the financing was, would have at least accomplished that.
Never mind the “bus lane” squeezed onto the bridge a few years back. Impatient drivers turn it into their personal fast track every morning rush hour. Just try to get across it to the viaduct-bound right lane, and you’ll see for yourself (if you live to tell the tale).
I salivate at the sight of the Sound Transit light rail columns going up along the freeway from Burien to Sea-Tac. Can we have a little taste of that? Please?
West Seattle ferry riders may not have to return to grumbling-tummyhood after all. Or so says the Vashon Beachcomber.
Glad to hear it; tried one of the Sound Food sandwiches some time back, surprisingly gourmet for cold, pre-packaged fare. (They offered some hot choices too; we just weren’t in the mood for them.) But really, the run is so short (unless you’re on one of the occasional straight-shot-to-Southworth trips), do you need food? If you’re sailing from Seattle, hit the Thriftway deli or Tully’s en route, or the Cat’s Eye Cafe once it reopens. (Speaking of which, the WS Herald just posted the cafe story.)
If you take the West Seattle Bridge straight to 1st Avenue South, or I-5, you might not care much about the endless Viaduct dithering. Same if you telecommute. But for the thousands of us who rely on that crumbling concrete lifeline along the waterfront, its looming doom is a matter we ponder daily, if only for the moments we roar along its deck, praying The Big One won’t strike until we are safely off it. Lately the discussion has focused on “tunnel vs. New Viaduct,” but this weekend, an editorial threw in an alternative viewpoint — why not just tear it down and stop there? Intriguing, especially if truly usable water transport could be mustered (for example, foot ferries not just from the Water Taxi jumping-off-point vicinity at Seacrest, but also from Fauntleroy, for the south end of our peninsula) — but does it have the proverbial snowball’s chance?