The Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Update (attachment F here) – which covers the neighborhood around the Rainier Beach Link station – went to the Seattle City Council for a vote in May. (For a quick refresh, here’s STB’s past coverage of the Plan). The council voted to approve the amendments, with the items moving forward for further consideration after summer recess.

The main points of the update and the action plan focus on strengthening Rainier Beach’s economic development while retaining its diverse nature. To that end, the most important recommendations were:

  • Mixed-use, affordable housing and commercial development in the Beach Square area (pictured below), along with casting Beach Square as the hub of local commercial activity

Screenshot 2013-09-05 at 10.38.05 AM

  • Transit-oriented development around the light rail station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South Henderson St.

  • Support the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland Project

  • Improve pedestrian and bike facilities

  • Try to lure a community college to the area

  • Increase access to healthy food

The Rainier Beach Coalition highlighted similar issues as well, especially the encouragement of economic development. The council will meet once more in the coming week after summer recess; the agenda has yet to see the light of day, but once it appears, we’ll see what more is in store for Rainier Beach.

While Rainier Beach station is approximately half a mile away from the commercial activity in the Beach Square area, rezoning will allow more development around the station and Beach Square, allowing the potential for the station walkshed to expand into an urban village. Planned bus staging areas will also focus development around the light rail.

39 Replies to “Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Report”

    1. The new 7 wire faces several challenges. First, Metro needs to find layover space for the buses that will serve RBS. It might be tempting to think that the buses could layover somewhere on the Henderson-MLK-Trenton-Renton block, but that property should someday be the site of a keystone mixed use development that won’t be enhanced by buses laying over. Transit geeks might be ecstatic at the idea of many buses chillin’ at the curb in front of their building, but the other 99.9999% of the population won’t find it attractive. Second, if the 7 goes to RBS, how will the Rainier Beach loop be connected to the Link station and what will become of the Prentice Street service? There will have to be changes made to the 8, 9, 106 and 107 routings and frequencies to cover those services.

      1. The layover for buses should have been identified as part of the station design. If not, that’s a huge oversight, as it’s implied that buses will feed ‘Trunk Rail’. The post is talking about creating more activity around the station, and I would hope local buses are not an afterthought, as usually works out around here.
        As for the huge ass loop around Rainier Beach, 75% of all the 7’s terminate at Henderson so the lap around the block at the start of the next run is mostly to get going in the right direction. Only about 25% of the 125 daily round trips continue up the Prentice loop. Loops are a massive waste of operating hours, when a continueing through routed bus could service those few customers quite nicely. (of course the drivers will howl, because they can’t stop at KFC to load up on chicken and take a leak)
        Is there one fricking change Metro can make that doesn’t piss off one person?

      2. GoBH, that block will never be a keystone development because of the power lines, which aren’t ever going to move — one more reason the RBS station site was a poor choice.

        There is plenty of room for 7s to lay over WB on Henderson immediately nearside of MLK.

        As for the Rainier Beach loop and Prentice service, there are several options to cover it (or, in the case of Prentice, it could also just be cut with only some pain). The current 7 service is sort of the worst of all worlds — the unreliability of a long trunk route with the frequency and need to transfer of a neighborhood shuttle. In the FNP I made the Prentice loop (and therefore also coverage of 3/4 of the Rainier Beach loop) part of a new crosstown South Seattle line. I also put the shortened, but 15-minute, 106 through the loop.

        In any case, if you cover the full length of Rainier, you don’t really need to cover the rest of the loop. The two major destinations off Rainier are the Lake Washington Apartments and RBHS. Both are very easy walking distance from Rainier.

      3. Not to drift too far OT, I hope, but can anyone explain why the train stops in the middle of the platform at RBS (as well as SODO Station and MBTC), when it could improve the walkshed of the station by 90 feet simply by stopping along the northernmost portion of the platform (or southernmost in the case of the other two stations), since there is no south station exit (or north station exit at the other two).

        Eventually, people planning to get off at RBS could just take the tail car, and get off at the north exit of the station. Until then, stopping in the middle of one-exit stations appears to be uniformity for its own sake, with an un-thought-out cost.

        I’m liking the construction at SODO Station because it saves me 90 feet of sprinting to my bus stop, and increases my chance of catching the train when I see it coming north.

    2. If we can’t bring the 7 to RBS, perhaps we can bring more connecting bus routes to the 7 and to the RBHS commercial center.

      Imagine a truncated 101 or 150 coming up MLK, making a right on Henderson, and then right again on Rainier, becoming 51st, right on Ryan, and left on MLK. I realize that’s a lot of rights and operators prefer a lot of lefts, but dropping off the passengers headed downtown first is probably a priority if such a route restructure were to happen. Consider having it as a live loop, except when a bus is starting into service or going out of service.

      If layover is required, have space for it to pull up behind another 101 or 150 that is about to go into service, and have passengers transfer to the bus in front of them. David, is there enough space on Henderson or Rainier by RBH to have such a layover?

      Giving Rainier Beach residents a nonciruitous one-seat ride to all the jobs at Southcenter would be nice. Bringing more customers and jobs to Rainier Beach would be even better. I don’t see this happening before 2019, but it would be nice to start planning for 2019.

      1. Brent, I never thought of a live-loop, but for the 101 it’s a good idea. And your routing might make sense for it, because the EB Henderson stop is pretty convenient to the station. We’d have to look at the time cost versus making the Trenton loop.

        The 150 is a tougher call, because as currently designed the route is too long for a live loop. (And if I got my way any truncated 150 would be extended even further on the south end, back to Auburn Station…) There is room for at least one bus to lay over immediately east of the current bus stop EB on S Henderson St.

        Another option for the 150 would be to turn it into a very frequent RBS/Southcenter shuttle. Then introduce a separate RapidRide line from Southcenter to Auburn, of the sort I’ve been banging the drum about for a long time. This would likely work only if the 578 were rerouted to Kent.

      2. Would a live loop still work if the 101 and 169 were coupled?

        Can most buses handle the reverse of that live loop, i.e. climbing the S Ryan Way underpass?

      3. The 101/169 combo would be too long for the live loop.

        Buses have no problem going up S Ryan Wy — it was the base route for the old 42 at the Rainier View terminal. But doing the live-loop clockwise would be better, and skipping Rainier/Henderson would be better yet; that’s a time sink. Just head up Renton Ave to 51st.

        That said, I expect if Metro actually implemented one or more RBS truncations it would be with buses laying over in the loop and picking up on southbound MLK across from the station.

      4. Another option for the 150 would be to turn it into a very frequent RBS/Southcenter shuttle. Then introduce a separate RapidRide line from Southcenter to Auburn, of the sort I’ve been banging the drum about for a long time. This would likely work only if the 578 were rerouted to Kent.

        +1. Run the shuttle at the same frequency as Link, and have timed transfers in the outbound direction. It’s the next best thing to having a Link stop at Southcenter (sigh).

      5. Yes, and “timed” means to actually wait for a southbound train to show up before leaving, not just leaving according to some arbitrary schedule

      6. “Another option for the 150 would be to turn it into a very frequent RBS/Southcenter shuttle. Then introduce a separate RapidRide line from Southcenter to Auburn, of the sort I’ve been banging the drum about for a long time. This would likely work only if the 578 were rerouted to Kent.”

        That’s exactly what they did with the 174, really. They split it at Tukwila, and made a rapidride. But there would be no link station this time around.

        If they add a stop on the 578/577 between Seattle and Federal way, then they seriously need to up the frequencies on that route, like every 10 minutes in the morning peak, every 15 minutes in the afternoon peak, and every 20 minutes midday weekday. It’s underserved as is. It’s so popular, they probably should add extra weekend “peak period” service even though traditionally there is no weekend peak period. The routing to kent, then back to the freeway would add some time, but parts of Kent-Desmoines road is a freeway itself, so that would help.

  1. I think it’s possible to connect the 7 to RBS via this routing: Henderson St. to MLK, right on MLK, right on Trenton or Cloverdale to Renton Ave., left onto Henderson and back to its current terminal across from Rainier Beach HS. That would create a live loop between RBS and RBHS, but it wouldn’t provide service between RBS and Rainier Ave. south of Henderson (Safeway, King Donuts, Maya’s), so other routes would need to offer that coverage.

    I’m not a big fan of the 101/150 to RBS idea, those routes already have pretty good ridership numbers and routing them to RBS and forcing a transfer to Link would add time, hassle and inconvenience to those riders’ trips. There may be a time when it is necessary to truncate south county routes, but I think it would be better to truncate them at SODO station instead of Rainier Beach Station. The time that it would take to divert off of I-5 to RBS and then go to a layover point is pretty equivalent to the time it would take for the bus to get to SODO station where there is plenty of layover space and lots of connections can be made to downtown (surface or underground), West Seattle, Beacon Hill, the stadiums, etc. For existing 101/150 riders, truncating at SODO offers more connections and a shorter overall trip time versus a bus trip that ends in Rainier Beach. And the additional platform hours needed isn’t a huge problem.

    It would be nice to have a surface route between Rainier Beach and Southcenter. The 39 used to offer that service (before Link) and it failed miserably. Perhaps it might work better now with connections to light rail. The FNP plan doesn’t connect Rainier Beach to Southcenter which I thought was an oversight, but one of the problems of the old 39 was that it frequently got delayed in traffic at Southcenter. Any bus that runs from Southcenter to Rainier Beach will likely have allow for unpredictable traffic and not be through-routed on either end.

    1. The best way to connect Rainier Beach to Southcenter would be either as a very frequent dedicated shuttle or through a 150 truncation, which wouldn’t have to go through the entire loop around the mall.

      The FNP didn’t cover service that is all outside of the city of Seattle. RBS-Southcenter service wasn’t within its scope.

      I’m slowly putting together a South King FNP, and one of the big questions is whether to truncate the 150 or not. (That’s a much easier decision with respect to the lower-ridership 101 — truncate, in exchange for a more frequent 101 through-routed with the 169, which gives north East Hill a sensible Link connection). I’ve come to realize RBS would be the right place to truncate — your thinking is incorrect about the time difference between RBS and Sodo.

      1. According to the trip planners, to get from Southcenter to downtown (3rd & University) via a transfer at SODO would require a 23 minute ride on the 150 and an 11 minute ride on Link = 34 minutes plus the time needed to make the transfer. Southcenter to downtown via a transfer at Rainier Beach requires about 13-15 minutes on the 150 and a 28 minute ride on Link = 41-43 minutes plus the time needed to make the transfer. The existing one seat ride on the 150 takes 37 minutes (middays). I don’t see the advantage of forcing transfers at Rainier Beach Station when SODO offers quicker trip times and more transfer options.

      2. A BRTish bus (hopefully less strangled than some of our current RapidRide routes) going from downtown Auburn to downtown Kent to Central Washington University Station might be better than re-routing the 578, as it would likely be much more frequent than the 578. Making the 578 more frequent would require spending lots of Pierce subarea money on platform hours for low-demand service between Puyallup and Auburn.

        Once CWU Station opens, a chunk of the 150 ridership and a chunk of the 578 ridership would shift to that BRTish route. And maybe, just possibly, the tail of the 578 could be euthanized.

      3. I don’t see a point in truncating any routes at SODO Station. Through-routing them to somewhere other than downtown might work (but hasn’t produced terribly good numbers on the 50), but having them terminate that close to downtown is politically DOA. The calculations for any truncation depend on improved frequency (which is how Link made the “faster” 194 obsolete), which in turn depend on Metro’s ability and willingness to use the platform hours saved by the truncation on the truncated route, but Metro has not been able to put serious improved frequency into routes thusly coupled, nor done a good job of advertising the marginal frequency improvements that have been implemented. Perhaps the savings from ceasing to run the 50 and 60 through the VA parking lot could be rolled into improved frequency on the 50.

        We can’t just increase the number of buses rolling through downtown during peak ad infinitum. Link is supposed to help solve that problem. Many express routes are going to get cut or truncated. Truncation is preferable.

      4. Once the buses are forced out of the downtown tunnel, there won’t be any choice but to truncate some routes or clog the downtown streets with buses. At that time, I think SODO will be the best place to truncate many routes. Making the transfer relatively close to downtown with lots of options in almost all directions should be more appealing than making the transfer in Rainier Beach.

      5. The problem is that terminating in Sodo only buys you a bit of extra service. Terminating further away saves a lot more bus hours. Which would you rather have, if you’re transferring anyway: a 101 that takes you to Sodo but only runs every half hour in today’s limited span, or a 101 that takes you to RBS but runs every 15 or 20 minutes throughout Link operating hours?

      6. I guess the answer to that question is another question: what is the point of the transit system–to move buses or to move people?

      7. Don’t forget it’s not all about trips to downtown. For those that want to travel between the Ranier Valley and Southcenter, a 150 truncation at Ranier Beach would make the trip a 2-seat ride between two frequent services, with no out-of-direction travel. (Depending on where in the Ranier Valley you are coming from, it might even be a one-seat ride).

        Truncate the 150 at SODO, however, and all of sudden, all options for this trip require significant out-of-direction travel. Basically, you would have to either take Link north to take the 150 south, taking Link south and west to take the F-line east, or take the 106 south and east to take the F-line west. Travel times would be much longer this way.

        Furthermore, truncating the 150 at SODO only saves any time over the RBS option if I-5 is moving smoothly. If I-5 is backed-up, staying on the freeway to SODO saves nothing over getting on Link further back, and may actually be slower. Operationally speaking, maintaining reliable service requires scheduled recovery times are large enough to handle I-5 being congested, regardless of whether I-5 actually is congested at that moment or not. Which means, for the purposes of determining how many buses to allocate to the route, Metro must plan as if I-5 is always going to be congested, and in the 95% case when it isn’t, the time savings will simply mean a longer layover between trips.

      8. The 150 could avoid I-5 altogether by (coming from the south) staying on Interurban up to Ryan Way, and then cutting over to MLK. Yes, it would probably be a little slower, but it would provide service to a business district desperately needing it, making the 150 more useful (per Metcalfe’s Law). The 150 would also then have a transfer point with the 124.

      9. The two big destinations of the 150 are Southcenter and Kent. For Kent, the already slow trip would become unbearably slow – you’re talking about truncating a route to force transfers, and at the same time, taking slow and circuitous routes to the transfer point. I don’t believe this idea would be viable without all-day express service between Kent and Seattle, perhaps by a rerouted 578. Fortunately, the service hours to do this could easily be obtained by coming the 577 and 594.

        For Southcenter, you’re truncated 150 your circuitous route to Ranier Beach would probably be slower, at least for anyone coming from downtown, than simply taking Link to TIBS and transferring to the F-line.

        So, if we were to do your suggestion, the 150 would essentially lose relevance in connecting its 2 current largest destinations with downtown. It would still have a role to play in facilitating local trips and providing coverage to neighborhoods of Tukwila, but its role would be diminished enough that I would argue that 15-minute service would no longer be justified. I don’t see your truncated 150 getting enough ridership to justify better than half-hourly headways during rush hour, and hourly headways midday and Saturday, with no service at all on evenings and Sundays.

        That’s not to say at all that this would be a bad idea, as the service hours on the 150 could go along way towards boosting the frequency of other route in south King. For example, we would have enough hours freed up to boost the all-day frequency of the A-line and F-line to every 10 minutes and then some. With improved frequencies on the F-line, to provide a bus for every train, and ST express service between Kent and downtown, things could work out to be a net win for the area.

      10. Here are some additional facts and ideas to add to the SODO transfer station idea.

        Remember that once the buses are forced out of the tunnel and onto surface streets, some sort of drastic reorganization of downtown transit service will be required. Another tunnel, more streetcars and the monorail have all been suggested, debated and found to be inadequate, too expensive or impractical. The idea of a SODO transfer station wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it would relieve a significant portion of the bus traffic through downtown Seattle once the downtown transit tunnel is closed to buses.

        Currently, routes 101, 102, 106 and 150 make 71 trips through the tunnel in both the AM and PM peak periods and none of those trips are thru-routed with another route. Imagine traffic flows through downtown Seattle with 142 fewer peak hour trips every day.

        Would passengers be negatively impacted by the change? Today, yes. But in the future when it will be almost impossible to add 142 trips to downtown Seattle’s surface streets without huge delays, the transfer at SODO will be more convenient than a long, slow single seat trip through downtown. With trains running at 7.5 minute headways, the average wait for a train will be less than 4 minutes plus the time needed to walk from the bus stop to the train platform.

        How could Metro make the transfer even better? Take some of money saved by truncating the south end buses and invest it in extending the Ballard and Aurora RapidRide lines south to the SODO transfer hub. During peak hours there would be 8 Link trains and 12 RR buses between SODO and downtown. That’s a Link train every 7.5 minutes and a RapidRide bus every 5 minutes plus several more local buses routes within a couple of blocks of the SODO transfer station.

        Does a SODO transfer station save money? Yes, look at a midday schedule for route 150–about 30% of its run time is spent on the approx. 3 mile trip between SODO and Convention Place. And the 101 spends a higher proportion of its trip time on that segment. Moving buses away from congestion and using high capacity transit saves money.

        Would congestion on I-5 cause slower trip times? Yes, but when traffic is bad, buses could be diverted off I-5 at either the Boeing Access Rd. or at Swift Ave. and the trip to SODO could be made on Airport Way.

        I know that a predictable roster of writers will be taking whacks at this proposal like it’s a pinata, but I’d rather read about your alternative ideas to what can be done to keep traffic moving in downtown Seattle when the tunnel is closed to buses. In other words, if you think this is a bad idea, what’s your better idea?

      11. Mike Orr: “What’s CWU station?”

        Probably referring to this. Thanks for making me care enough about Brent’s codeword to look it up.

      12. GuyOnBeaconHill, why SODO station and not Stadium station? At Stadium, there’s a pocket track that could be used for turning back trains for higher frequencies for North Link before East Link opens. That gives a little more operational flexibility, even if they choose not to use it.

      13. SODO Station vs. Stadium Station

        I think the transfer between bus and trains would work better at SODO, although Stadium would be closer to Metro Base and (obviously) the stadiums. Once East Link is open the transfers would have to go back to SODO. There will have to be some capital costs to build the transfer point. Best to spend the money once.

  2. “TOD. Urban Farms. Bike Facilities. Access to Health Foods” But ask the average person walking down the sidewalk around Rainier and Henderson what’s important to them in their community, and nobody will mention any of this. This is something gentrifiers would mention.

    1. “Wait a minute, Sam! Just hold on there one second! The upper middle class whites who are gentrifying the Rainier Beach have just as much right to express their opinion as anyone else!” Calm down, straw man, take a breath. Yes, they most certainly do have that right. But we keep hearing about Rainier Beach’s alleged diversity (RB whites tend to send their kids to private schools). Yet, when I click on the “highlighted similar issues” link, in the first pic I see, I’m not seeing a whole lot of diversity.

    2. Lots of real social justice advocates want to improve access to “healthy foods”, which carries a significantly different connotation than your “Health Foods” (’tis a worthy troll indeed that can troll most trollishly through the mere omission of a single letter). TOD is a buzzword that appeals to people with big ideas about urban planning; what it means at its best is an investment in public streets and encouraging development and creating opportunities in local business districts (like many planning buzzwords throughout history it will be applied to both great and lousy projects as it’s tacked onto essentially any public investment anywhere near a transit station) — those are things real social justice advocates ask for all the time. Improvements in pedestrian safety and especially accessibility are things real social justice advocates ask for all the time, too, at meetings that the yuppie contingent of the bike lobby (which is visible out of proportion to its size, as it is throughout society — cycling for transportation is roughly even across the income scale) doesn’t attend.

      The gentrification angle isn’t insignificant. Public investment and publicly-encouraged private development may ultimately contribute to generally higher rents in some areas even as residential supply increases (whether it will in Rainier Beach is questionable). But if no new development happens, and if public facilities don’t improve, gentrification and displacement still happen!

  3. Try to lure a community college to the area

    That’s….pretty ambitious, considering the brutal cuts Olympia has subjected existing ones to, and the fiscal outlook going forward.

    1. … where?

      … and why? when there’ll be a one-seat train ride to four (4) other community college campuses by 2023.

      1. Under the power lines.
        Alternative Energy and Nuclear Science Univ., or maybe Fermi Labs West.
        OTOH, it could be a genetic mutation or cancer school.
        Electronics and RF propagation CC would be a big hit with the IEEE brats.

    2. Altho I can imagine some frustration with fairly pathetic transit options to the nearest community college, SSCC, which is a testament to the horrors of crosstown service.

    3. I suspect the community college goal is about the “disadvantaged neighborhood”: something to inspire kids to go to college and a nearby place to attend…. Southeast Seattle is also the only corner of the city without a college or university.

      However, Rainier Beach is a really small area. Siting a three-block college would require knocking down apartments no matter where they put it, and would majorly change the neighborhood.

      But just for fun, if you were to site a college the size of Central on Henderson Street, where would you put it? Where would the front door be, and what would it look like?
      Second, if the goal is to put a college in southeast Seattle, is there a better place than Henderson Street?

  4. The amount of sugary recommendations in the policies sound so sweet that it would send a diabetic into a coma. But face it — it’s mostly empty calories! Art projects and healthy foods are wonderful, noble ideas that makes politically correct Planning Commission members feel smugly satisfied — but it’s merely window dressing. I don’t see any discussion of how to reduce crime and make people feel safer through better street lighting design, give people faster mobility to other parts of the area to improve jobs and shopping opportunities, or introduce an effort to provide more medical services in the area by a strategy to fund more doctors and dentists to locate there. There are two types of plans — vague utopian ones and strategic, implementable ones. I think we all know which version this is.

    And guys I totally agree with you about the 7 terminus and the need to rethink it. It’s but one relevant topic that could be addressed in “real” neighborhood planning.

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