Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Tom Rasmussen has opted not to seek re-election to City Council.  According to The Stranger, transit advocates are “dancing on his grave.” Having attended the last STB board meeting, I can say with certainty that no grave dancing occurred, but it’s true that Rasmussen belongs to the camp who’d rather improve the existing bus network than spend money on streetcars.  He wrote thoughtfully on this site about his bus commute and how it might be improved.

West Seattle is at an interesting junction (ahem) in terms of transit: RapidRide C is quite popular and will be expanded with Prop 1. Development in the urbanized areas is continuing, despite the usual protests.

With expanded bus service in motion, the most immediate transit issue facing the new Council District 1, which covers West Seattle, is light rail and ST3.  Sending Link over the Duwamish will be geographically difficult and possibly unaffordable within Sound Transit’s self-imposed $15B regional package cap. On the other hand, federal grant money is always possible, the district has some well-connected residents, and keeping West Seattle in the fold is part of Seattle’s strategy to present a unified front in advance of a possible vote in 2016.

District 1 residents will get a sneak peek at potential candidates on February 5. I’d encourage our West Seattle readers to attend and let us know what you think.  It will be an interesting few years for whomever wins the seat.

26 Replies to “Tom Rasmussen and the Future of District 1”

  1. Transit advocates may not have been dancing on graves, but [ad hom] like Roger Valdez sure were.

    1. Someone on the STB staff needs to learn the difference between “ad hominem” and “insult”.

    1. Not that interesting. The candidates who have a chance of winning in District 1 haven’t declared yet.

      1. The current candidates have every chance of winning; West Seattle will be particularly intolerant of any Murray or Burgess lapdogs, after those two have done approximately nothing for West Seattle over the years. I guarantee not a single dog that sucks at the teats of the DSA wins in D1.

      2. Chas, Amanda, and George are noble sacrifices. Murray and Burgess will see to it in D1 and every other District gets a Board Certified and Approved candidate and will go to every length, fair or not, and dance right up to the edge of legality to ensure that power stays in their control.

        Expect more of the past number of decades from the new crop of puppets. Murray will see to it, to ensure his legacy and to use them as a stepping stool into Jim McDermott’s seat in Congress. Far too many people are invested in riding Ed to DC now.

        The hype train is moving, and it ain’t light rail.

      3. Perhaps Murray hasn’t delivered for West Seattle over the years because he has been mayor for just one year. Before that, he represented the 43rd District. I’m no fan of Ed’s, but jeez, judge him for his ability to work for the people he is elected to represent.

  2. West Seattle rail’s ROI would not come within a mile (or, more precisely, within three miles) of qualifying for federal grant money.

    1. Agreed, d.p., with the additional observation that there will probably be no “Federal grant money”.

      1. I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. ST3 is likely to be at least a 15 year package. I don’t doubt that federal transit grant programs will return in the next decade.

        The Tea Party isn’t going to dominate the national budget forever.

        That said I see no scenario where rail to West Seattle will qualify for Federal grants. UW-Balllard and a second DSTT almost certainly would and the prospects for Ballard-Downtown are good as well.

    2. I think that idea is that *other* Seattle projects might, freeing up money for West Seattle.

    3. The whole idea of serving West Seattle with a line that depends on federal funding is suspect. If the funding is not certain, ST should budget assuming it won’t come through so that it has a reasonable network in that scenario. It should treat grants as welcome extras, like it’s doing with the Eastside federal loan. Especially when it’s the only line in a quarter of the city.

      If an Aurora line depended on federal grants and the grants didn’t come through, then people would still be able to fall back on parallel Central Link a mile away. But if the West Seattle line depends on federal grants and the grants don’t come through, what then? Resurrect the BRT plan that ST had rejected? How much delay would that cause? Would it contradict the text of ST3 if it says “West Seattle light rail”? Would it require redesigning the DSTT2 to accommodate buses if the original plan didn’t?

      In short, ST3 must have a core network that’s buildable with local funds, or lines that can be easily truncated, or a robust Plan B if the grants fail. It was easy to truncate south Link at 240th because the highest-ridership stations were north of it. But in West Seattle’s case, the most expensive part is just getting to West Seattle (both the Duwamish River and the hills east of California Avenue). So you can’t just truncate it to the least expensive part (a disconnected West Seattle shuttle). You could possibly truncate it at Delridge and not reach the Junction, but that would still be expensive and it would leave an ineffective line (i.e., it doesn’t serve most of West Seattle which was the original goal, even if it does serve Delridge).

      So if ST puts West Seattle LRT dependent on federal grants into ST3, then it needs to have a Plan B BRT backup. And it needs to incorporate that contingency into the initial design of both the corridor and the DSTT2 so that it can easily switch to it without delay.

      West Seattle has already been waiting two decades for HCT, which was supposed to come with the monorail. If a Link line depending on a federal grant fails, then it would have the same effect as the monorail’s failure, again, and another ten or twenty year delay until something gets built. A person who turned 18 in 2000 (I don’t remember exactly when the first monorail vote was) would be 45-48 when West Seattle Link opens on schedule, or 58 when the next possible round occurs, or 68 if it takes another decade. They would have spent their entire career life with nothing more than RapidRide.

      1. I don’t see a need to do things any differently than was done for Sound Move and ST2. Fairly good guesses can be made about which projects are likely to qualify for grants and the probable grant amounts available. If a grant application is rejected or Congress doesn’t restore something like New Starts then ST can re-tool much like it did with the initial U-Link alignment.

        Unless the Feds get really generous I doubt any possible rail alignment serving West Seattle would be able to qualify for grants. Much more likely is asking for Federal grants for Ballard-UW, a second DSTT, and/or Balllard-Downtown.

      2. Who cares if it’s “the only line in blah-de-blah-de-blah”? It’s the 2nd most sprawling out of the 7 evenly-populated Council districts, and it’s the only one with a multi-billion-dollar geographic barrier (with existing massive roadway) between it and anywhere else.

        Our very densest Council district is getting precisely one Link stop!

        Get over your vision of Seattle and its future subway as a gigantic symmetrical “X”. That vision has zero basis in on-the-ground reality.

      3. That vision of an “X” was around for more than 50 years… Perhaps some people know more than you think they do.

      4. It was a nonsense bird’s-eye “napkin quality” idea 50 years ago, and it mostly still exists thanks to that very same crumpled napkin getting repeatedly pulled from the trash. People just can’t rethink their “received wisdoms” around here.

        And if it was such a flawless idea then, we’d have it by now.

  3. As a resident of District 1, I do hope candidates will come forward who understand the need for full-time dedicated lanes for the C Line (and don’t just bring the issue up in order to block other improvements in the C Line), as well as the 120. All politics being local, and now more so than ever, I thought I would start my wish list there.

    Second, while I want light rail to reach West Seattle, if you say that light rail must reach West Seattle, or you won’t support ST3, you will not be getting my vote. Also, don’t even think of trying to extend the microhousing moratorium. I expect my representative to be both unanbiguously pro-transit and pro-let-more-people-live-inside-the-City-instead-of-forcing-suburban-sprawl. Want light rail for West Seattle? Rezone upward around the possible station areas to justify it.

    1. Want light rail for West Seattle? Rezone upward around the possible station areas to justify it.

      Exactly right. I’m open to supporting light rail to West Seattle, but it’s contingent on West Seattle accepting it’s part of a city and becoming less objectively pro-sprawl. I’m not confident the candidate who’d win my vote on such matters would have much of a chance of winning district 1, though.

      1. I’m not sure the zoning and current infrastructure is all that different from Beacon Hill where the station went in…

      2. Also getting through Beacon Hill didn’t require building a giant bridge over a river as well as a tunnel and Beacon Hill was on the way as part of a much longer line that reached southern destinations like Tukwilla and the airport.

  4. Getting rail transit to WS is going to extraordinarily expensive due to terrain (elevation) issues and the river crossing. Big question is, would the increase in transit ridership warrant the heavy capital investment. An alternative that needs to at least be considered is full-on BRT from the Junction to downtown, including dedicated lanes, signal pre-emption, tighter headways, and maybe even longer buses. Much more than the BRT-lite we have with not-so-Rapid Ride.

    1. A great many of us would be perfectly alright with this, particularly if the facilities were static, permanent, had proper covered and lighted stations, and if the facilities could be shared to dramatically increase regular Metro performance as well.

    2. Accident and Car Stall prevarication transit to and from West Seattle would be good, regardless of how it happens.

      Merely increasing bus service as in more buses w/ shorter headways or more rapid ride/express buses doesn’t overcome some mook who gets into car trouble on the West Seattle bridge or 99.

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