West Seattle Blog… | The West Seattle Transportation Coalition takes a ride into the future of subway buses and state ferry service
By Tracy Records
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 during Thursday night’s online meeting:
THE FUTURE OF SEATTLE WEST METRO: The centerpiece of the meeting was a conversation rather than a presentation. King County Transportation Policy Advisor Chris Arkills, a frequent WSTC attendee, was invited this time. First, he reiterated that Metro plans to return to the upper deck once it reopens. “The low bridge has served us well” in the meantime, but with Terminal 5 reopening to regular cargo calls, other demands will be in the foreground. So that means schedules will be a bit fluctuating when West Seattle routes move from Low Bridge to High Bridge this summer.
Arkills also noted that much of the endgame of RapidRide H line construction is suspended due to the concrete workers’ strike. “We don’t expect this to affect the critical path for the opening of the H line this fall, but we may have to open it with fewer items if the strike drags on.”
Next, general questions and answers from WSTC Board members and other meeting participants. First: What about adding weekend service for newly revived people? Highway 22, which serves neighborhoods such as Gatewood and Arbor Heights? They “would love to” be able to restore that, Arkills replied, but they don’t have the money for that right now.
In harsh winter weather, how do you know if your bus is on a snowy route? Answer: Metro website, and strongly recommends signing up for warning alerts. A few years ago, they entered into agreements with SDOT and their counterparts elsewhere in the county to ensure that major bus routes have priority for snow removal.
What will happen to bus service when light rail is launched in a decade? A restructuring process, as is currently happening with other communities in Puget Sound where light rail will be launched 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 an exchange minutes later, Arkills said Metro’s long-term plan already included some concepts – like suggesting the RapidRide H line would continue from Delridge to Admiral and Alki once light rail eliminated the need to take it . downtown. (We later discovered that on the “RapidRide 2050” map on page 48 of the 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 from The Junction is something Metro “continues to struggle with.” And he says the admiral needs better service. “We’re a little behind in how we treat the Admiral.” He also thinks they could improve service at Alki, while noting that even before his suspension, Highway 37 didn’t have a lot of traffic.
When is the next generation ORC card launch? It’s a big undertaking, not a “flip the switch” launch, but the rollout should begin in the spring, he said.
WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES: This was a briefing largely focused on the Fauntleroy wharf/terminal project and the route it serves. David Sowers provided the project history, which we have amply covered. Chief of Staff of the FSM Nicole McIntosh talked about traffic and navigation trends – here is the Route du Triangle:
She also spoke about the crew shortage that led to a system-wide alternate duty schedule beginning in mid-October. They add crossings when possible; McIntosh said they are currently working on a “service restoration” plan – but the Triangle route is second to last in line for service restoration, so its return to a regular level of service “will only be not anytime soon”. As for the overall staffing issue, McIntosh said they are working on the bigger picture, such as reducing barriers – “it takes $120 to get a food handler card”, a- she noted, among other potential obstacles.
WSTC Jon Wright asked why the vehicle 90 M/V Seath is on the triangle route at the moment instead of having the two boats with a capacity of 124 vehicles? It’s just what’s available right now, was the response.
Next for the Fauntleroy project – advisory group meetings in March, no dates yet.
LIGHT RAIL: A reminder from the WSTC President Michael Taylor Judd – Although the sound transit West Seattle-Ballard Link Extensions Draft Environmental Impact Statement released a week early, comment period just opened. The WSTC will be hosting a workshop on this for its March 24 meeting – you’ll still have a month after that to get formal feedback. It will also look at what an EIS is and why it is needed, and other things like “what it looks at and what it doesn’t. WSTC Deb Barker suggested that collecting questions at the February WSTC meeting would help Sound Transit provide answers as a participant in the March meeting.
ALSO FORWARD: The next meeting on February 24 is tentatively expected to include the US House representative. Pramila Jayapal to talk about the infrastructure bill and. other federal funding issues and member of the city council Alex Pedersenwho chairs the board Transportation Committee.