Educational

City Council Candidate Debate: October 13

wstcdebateblog2015Please join the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce for a City Council Candidate Debate about our local issues. Hear about the issues, and meet the candidates! Please feel free to share this far and wide.

If you would like to RSVP on Facebook and share the event, click here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1706751236210417

Our guests will be:

It will be on October 13, 615pm, at Neighborhood House High Point Center.

Directions: 6400 Sylvan Way SW in West Seattle, three blocks east of 35th Ave SW & SW Morgan.

Rapid Ride from West Seattle to Downtown. Can you spot the bottleneck?

What makes the Rapid Ride C from West Seattle to Downtown so terrible in the mornings? Look at this time lapse showing the bottleneck on Avalon Way, with no dedicated or separate bus lanes, and how fast it speeds up the moment we reach bus lanes, only to have another, smaller slowdown on the Spokane Street Viaduct/SR-99 Viaduct interchange. We need dedicated bus lanes somewhere all the way from West Seattle to SODO or Downtown.

This was done on an iPhone 6 with the time lapse feature, and the recording time was longer than 20 minutes but less than 40, so what you’re looking at is a 60x faster than reality playback of the ride from the middle of Avalon Way SW to 3rd & University on the Rapid Ride bus. Click here for details of how their time lapse feature works.

So, the first 9 seconds of the video takes us from Avalon Way SW & SW Genessee St, Seattle, WA to Avalon WAY SW & SW Spokane, which is about here, 0.5 miles away.

That means it took approximately 540 seconds to go 0.5 miles, which plays back as about the first 9 seconds of the video. Nine minutes to go half a mile on the bus.

That’s an average speed on the bus of 5.025/feet per second or 3.33 miles per hour. Human walking speed is around 2.50 mph for the elderly to 4.00 mph for a brisk pace. Avalon Way SW’s transit design is a failure and dedicated, separate lanes are needed for buses all the way up to and on to the bridge. We need that to bridge our literal gap until we have grade separated Light Rail in West Seattle, and beyond.

WSTC testimony at City Council

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition gave testimony to the Seattle City Council on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 about the upcoming Transportation Benefits District, chaired by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. All City Council members were present except for Council President Tim Burgess and Sally Bagshaw. You can see our segment of the testimony in this video.

The polling we’re referencing can be seen here.

Reminder: tonight is our next meeting

6:30pm at High Point Neighborhood House, 6400 Sylvan Way SW. Here is the Agenda:

6:30 – Welcome and Community News
6:40 – Board Elections in May; click here for details!
6:50 – Committee Reports & Updates:

• Communications; Joe Szilagyi – Plan survey. We will need volunteers to work on developing an agenda and legislative survey for all of West Seattle. The purpose? To find out exactly what everyone really thinks is wrong with our transportation situation. To define and refine the goals of the WSTC. And, most importantly, to let West Seattle tell us where to aim our efforts.

• Action; Amanda Kay Helmick – Meetings with the Governor’s office to discuss mitigation money; Mayor’s office meeting.

• Research & Solutions; Kevin Broveleit; (Meets 1st Tuesday of the Month) – Discuss the Transportation Benefit District that the County is proposing as Plan B for King County Metro funding. Is it appropriate for us to be endorsing a vote either or way or just educating on the subject?

8:30 – 2014 To-Do List: Tackling our items for the year. This is based upon feedback from the Q&A Panel forum in January.

(B = Board Level tasks; C = Committee Level tasks)

Miscellaneous:

B: Identification of projects protocol — set up a procedure for the WSTC to fairly asses things “in our wheelhouse”.

B: Public forum 2 & 3 — we want to hold more events like January, with specific topics, or as debates.

B: Overlay Map — a map of areas and issues that we need to focus upon.

On Peninsula issues (issues specific within our boundaries):

C: Grant funds – for what projects should we pursue?

C: Bike trails through greenbelts to W Marginal — a way for people to get up to and down from us toward the city easily. Inspired by the John Wayne Trail through Snoqualmie Pass.

C-RS: Master Plan — our main “Transportation Master Plan” for the peninsula, as a guide to curate and present to officials of outstanding issues.

Peninsula egress issues (issues related to the access points to and from West Seattle):

C: 4th/6th or bus way to WS freeway — a replacement for the long ago taken 4th Avenue on-ramp.

C: Viaduct Mitigation money — Metro must decide in March if our specific 10% cuts go through in June.

C: Viaduct/SR99 response times — brought about by the terrible December 6 incident.

C: Lander Street overpass — it was already funded once but the money was shifted to the Mercer Project.

C: Light Rail/ST3 — lobbying and pressing for Light Rail here. Surveys have shown 90%+ support in West Seattle.

C: Should we have another way out? Literally–another bridge?

Questions about the incident today disrupting traffic on the SR99 Viaduct and future mitigation of such issues city-wide

This morning just after 6:00 AM, a van spun out and hit the guard rail on the northbound lane and crashed. It took the City of Seattle nearly two hours to get this cleared up. Multiple reports came in from hundreds of people of traffic backed up in every direction, from the stadiums back to the middle of West Seattle, all the way south past the 1st Avenue South Bridge. In short, it was a completely non-managed fiasco, and it was over the past several weeks at least the fifth time there was a major commuter transportation disruption for the West Seattle peninsula, between accidents and mistakes by government agencies. Reports across the news media and in various comment sections (and SDOT web cams) showed backups and damage from the event continuing well past 10:00 AM.

We saw nearly four hours of systemic disruption from a single crashed van that merely needed to be towed. On a weekday, there is no excuse for why the city could not get this cleared swiftly. The crash took place, as the crow flies, less than a half mile from Seattle’s City Hall and mere blocks from downtown. If we cannot service a critical north-south commuter corridor in the heart of our urban core for hours, things need to be addressed and remediated from a very high level.

In light of this, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition mailed this morning to City of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn; Mayor-elect Ed Murray; Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee; and DeAnna Martin, Community Relations Planner from King County Metro. We asked them the following five questions:

Hello,

We are mailing in regards to the events today on the Viaduct which affected all commutes from West Seattle and points south. This was today’s event:

http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/traffictransit-today-frozen-friday-updates

We have had now, approximately, four out of the last six commute days with extraordinary events and anger is clearly beginning to boil over with the public over the ongoing nature of these issues and  our limited, declining transportation options in West Seattle.

In order for us to transmit an explanation to our very large membership of up to 68,000 individuals, could the following be answered?

1. Why did it take two hours for a tow truck to clear an accident from the northbound viaduct this morning, when the accident happened at the height of rush hour?

2. If this was a situation where no third party tow truck was available in a timely fashion, what is the city willing and prepared to do to ensure that there will be one available in an extremely timely and highly efficient fashion going forward?

3. If this was a situation where the tow truck itself had to “fight” its way through the traffic jam itself, is there a protocol for SPD to escort safely the tow truck from the opposite direction to quickly and efficiently clear the scene?

4. If there is no such protocol as described in question #3, why not, and what steps are required for this to happen in all future incidents?

5. What sort of immediate communication was issued to Metro drivers ordering them to re-route and bypass the Viaduct, and what time was that done?

We look forward to a prompt answer to each question and steps taken to permanently ameliorate the process for these events. Seattle–not just West Seattle–has a number of critical transportation choke points in our various bridges. There must be a clear, defined, ruthlessly enforced and funded process for addressing these issues as they arise. Failure to do so and failure to address this would be unacceptable for the following reasons:

  •     It transfers tremendous personal costs in both lost time and lost money to commuters.
  •     It transfers directly financial costs in income lost for hourly employees, particularly low-income and working class employees, and those reliant upon child care.
  •     It passes tremendous costs forward and onto employers and businesses in terms of lost productivity, sales, and revenue.
  •     It allows for massive systemic disruption of our entire transportation and mass transit infrastructure, inconveniencing and passing those costs to citizens and employers across the city. As, in this case, Rapid Ride C from West Seattle is delayed for two hours, so is every Rapid Ride D that services north of the Ship Canal.

All this completely unnecessary disruption and harm to tens of thousands, for want of a single tow truck.

Thank you for your continued service and partnership.

We plan on following up on this and pursuing it until we have answers to each of the five questions in full, and until all five answers are publicized here. After the levels of raw frustration and anger we saw displayed today, the neglect in planning for West Seattle’s peninsula and residents in transportation matters has gone well past the point of reasonable patience on our part. There is no legitimate reason for us to have to wait any further for solutions.

If you would like to help us work on these issues, please check our page on volunteering, or you can simply “Like” us on Facebook here to keep updated.

West Seattle appears to support Light Rail!

Areas under review by Sound Transit for Light Rail.

Areas under review by Sound Transit for Light Rail.

There seems to be a strong hunger in West Seattle for Light Rail expansion to, and through, West Seattle.

On November 21, members of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition attended an information hearing held by Sound Transit about the revision process for their long-range plan. Prior to this, virtually all the feedback we have heard either through the WSTC or through our various West Seattle community groups was overwhelmingly in support of and in favor of expanding Light Rail to West Seattle.

At least one community group which has endorsed the WSTC (Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council) had conducted a Facebook survey of their membership to see if they favored Light Rail. The public results as of November 26 are 24-0-1 in favor of Light Rail to West Seattle (using a Yes-No-Maybe format). That is for one sample a 96% approval rate. While at the event, Sound Transit spokespeople told the WSTC that of all the West Seattle resident responses they have received in their survey that ended on November 25, the approval rate was at 94% as of November 21.

In response to this, the WSTC has drafted and sent the following letter of support to the Sound Transit comment feedback process on November 25, based on this apparently unambiguous overall support for Light Rail in our community:

(more…)

Why is our Metro service facing a 27% cut in 2014?

In case you could not find a clear and simple answer of why King County Metro may be facing 17% cuts in 2014, and why West Seattle is facing a 27% cut, we wanted to explain. There are various moving pieces here. This will explain them all, and then tie them together as it’s explained.

Home rule: Washington is not a “home rule” state, broadly. In some states, local counties (like King County) and municipalities (like Seattle) can do various things on their own to raise tax revenue without involving their state. For example, a county or city may be able to either legislatively (through their county or city council) or through a ballot measure raise a tax. We can do that here–but for almost every situation, we need the permission of the State Legislature in Olympia to do it. The process is: Olympia says, “King County, you have permission to either create Tax ABC,” which is rare, or they will say, “King County, you have our permission to ask your voters if you can create Tax XYZ,” which is far more common.

  • Short version: We need permission from people in other counties to raise taxes on ourselves.

Tim Eyman: Eyman is a conservative activist who has created various anti-tax and anti-government measures using our ballot and initiative system over the years. Some of his measures that have passed have over the years stripped King County Metro and similar public services (Eyman has testified in public on his opposition to public bus systems) of their funding sources. Historically, they used things like MVET (motor vehicle excise tax) and fees on license plate renewals. Due to some ballot measures issued through Eyman’s work, these agencies were forced to use regressive taxes such as sales taxes instead. With the recession that ran from 2008-2011 and being forced into worse economic models due to outside interference, these agencies lost massive funding and issued massive cuts. It also forced agencies like Metro to delay on some other funding rather than cut more service earlier. All of that has come home to roost now. This article on Seattle Transit Blog, here, explains the Metro financial situation in great detail.

  • Short version: Eyman initiatives combined with being forced to fund Metro via sales tax gutted it’s cash flow and reserves.

The Majority Coalition Caucus: first, please read the Wikipedia article on this subject, here. For a less objective but more detailed political overview of this, please read “The Four Horsemen of the Buspocalypse,” on the Stranger. Warning: it’s The Stranger, so there is lots of swearing. Essentially, four key Washington State Senators here in King County are holding up passage of a transportation package that would allow King County to fund itself. They are:

  • Steve Litzow (E-mail, phone: (360) 786-7641), R-41st (Mercer Island-Bellevue-Newcastle)
  • Andy Hill (E-mail, phone: 360-786-7672), R-45th (Finn Hill, Cottage Lake, parts of Redmond, Kirkland, Duvall, Sammamish)
  • Joe Fain (E-mail, phone: 360-786-7692), R-47th (Auburn-Covington-East Hill)
  • Rodney Tom (E-mail, phone: 360-786-7694) , D-48th (Medina-Redmond-Kirkland-Bellevue)

They each have various political reasons that they are doing this. Depending on who you speak to, you’ll hear a variety of different theories and explanations: Ideological opposition to public transit; fear of Tea Party challengers; intending to pass the transit funding legislation but “holding a gun to its head” in exchange for other concessions. In the end, all that matters is that for us, in King County, it’s creating massive unnecessary, unwanted, and unhelpful upheaval and uncertainty. Governor Inslee is calling a special session in roughly 48 hours to work on this problem.

  • Short version: Four state senators from our area are threatening us with up to 17% cuts to King County Metro.

The extra 10% in cuts for West Seattle: West Seattle, ever since the SR-99/Viaduct/Deep Bore Tunnel construction programs began, has been receiving an additional injection of money from the State of Washington to King County Metro. This money is specifically only for extra bus service to and from West Seattle. Without this extra service, from all of the state-sponsored construction that is in our path, our commutes to and from downtown could be as much as 30 minutes longer each way. The construction projects and tunnel–as originally legislated from Olympia–were supposed to be done in the Summer of 2014. Currently, the best guess is sometime in 2017 to 2018. However, that extra money, to keep us from being effectively trapped in our peninsula? It expires in that original legislation in seven months. This is why West Seattle is getting 27% in cuts, while the rest of King County will only get 17% in cuts. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition and some members of the City of Seattle Council are working on this problem. Even if the King County level 17% cuts are completely mitigated and stopped, right now West Seattle alone will still get a 10% cut.

  • Short version: Unless the Governor or the Legislature does something, West Seattle gets a double-barrel of cuts compared to everyone else, because of the State not keeping their commitment to us.

What can I do to help?

  • Contact the four Senators: Click on the links above for each of the four State Senators and mail them.
  • Have someone in their areas contact them: Even better, do you know anyone that lives in those districts and areas of theirs? Can you get them to call or mail those four? Representatives will take feedback from their own constituents far more seriously than feedback from people in other areas.
  • Join the WSTC: You can also join the West Seattle Transportation Coalition as a volunteer or by endorsing us.
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