Magnuson Park – SDOT Photo
Magnuson Park – SDOT Photo

As we reported this morning, Tuesday night the King County Council TrEE Committee and chair Rod Dembowski will host the only public hearing outside of work hours on a proposed Metro transit restructure that could dramatically increase access to frequent transit service in Northeast Seattle and Capitol Hill. The restructure is a set of significant (and controversial) bus service changes that would kick in when the U Link light rail station opens in 2016.

Dembowski has suggested making no changes to the system until Northgate Link opens in 2021, an option that would miss the opportunity to profoundly improve mobility in Northeast Seattle and update a bus network that provides infrequent, daytime-only rides between just two locations, downtown and the University of Washington. 

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Unfortunately, those most likely to advocate for improvements to the network are also the least able to attend tomorrow’s hearing. Per Dembowski, the hearing is being held at the Mountaineers Club out in Magnuson Park– a venue that’s about as transit-inaccessible as Seattle gets. It is true that, as Dembowski, noted during a burst of defensive tweets on Friday, three bus lines–the 30, 74, and 75–stop in front of the Mountaineers. However, those lines stop running from downtown to Sand Point around 6:30, and only the 75 (which runs every half-hour) will be running when the meeting lets out some time after 9. According to Metro’s trip planner, my own ride to Sand Point would take 75 minutes, and my trip back home would be 90 minutes. I’m quite sure that for those who don’t rely on transit (such as, well, Dembowski) the trip will be significantly shorter.

This matters because if transit riders don’t show up in sufficient numbers tomorrow, Dembowski and his allies on the council will have fodder to go back to Metro and say the public opposes the changes.

I asked Dembowski–who also suggested that people who can’t make the hours-long round trip to testify simply comment online instead–why he chose such a remote location. He claimed he tried to line up other venues–including Roosevelt High School, whose staff was on strike when the council was scheduling the hearing, as well as the University and Ravenna Community Centers–but couldn’t find a place big enough to accommodate what he anticipates will be a crowd of hundreds. And, he said, this is a special discretionary committee meeting that he didn’t have to schedule in the first place.

“The only reason this meeting is happening is that I wanted to make sure we met in the community for a nighttime meeting. I was open to more than one hearing, but to get the council members together in the time frame Metro wants is tough,” Dembowski said.

“If you could find a better spot I’d do another meeting. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s pretty good–it’s a block off the Burke-Gilman Trail for thaose that are going to bike, it’s on a major arterial, it’s easy to find. Not everyone is 25 years old and really mobile.”

Dembowski also defended his comment that people who couldn’t make the meeting should just comment online. Denying that council members are swayed any more by public, in-person testimony than impersonal emails from faceless constituents, Dembowski said that, if anything, online commenters “have more power” because they reach all nine council members, who will all vote on the final proposal.”I want to take all of the views into consideration and not be swayed by the loudest voices,” Dembowski said.

Incidentally, on Monday afternoon, Metro announced it was adding bus trips and a shuttle to get transit riders to and from the meeting. I have a call out to Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer to find out if this is the first time Metro has extended service to provide access to a particular public meeting.

45 Replies to “Dembowski: Transit Access to Magnuson Metro Meeting “Pretty Good””

  1. I was having this discussion as well on twitter … but not because I think this is a good idea for a location to use … but rather that folks who live in NE Seattle approved of it … and because they don’t want to deal with having it at UW.

    Roosevelt HS would probably have been a better choice … but Magnuson Park has a lot of room for people to park their cars.

    And seriously … I want more people to have to experience riding in the back of one of the god-awful old high floor 60′ buses as they struggle to make it up the slight hills present along the 75’s route …

    1. I don’t understand why they didn’t have it at the UW. Previous meetings were at the UW, and I’m sure they could have found space somewhere.

      1. I’m starting to question if the Council really is interested in getting comments since given a the meeting runs from 7 to 9 and if that entire time was allotted for comments then with each comment being two minutes, then a max of 60 people could speak.

        So does the Councilman only want to hear comments from people in HIS district or does he only want to hear comments from people who have cars to get there! As a number of have said the Council should be required to take the bus to events like this, so they know what it is to ride the bus. I’m sure that some of us can help them use the trip planner too, but we do need to remind them to have exact fares since I bet they don’t have an ORCA card!

      2. So are people outside Rod’s district to welcome at his public event and will people outside his district be able to speak?

  2. Wow, that @zachlubarsky guy seems like a great follow on twitter. Y’all should follow that guy! :)

    But yeah, I’m really curious if Dembowski caved to the pressure he felt on twitter and specifically ordered(?) Metro to run those extra buses. If so, we’ll need to use twitter to public shame even more!

    1. If that is what happened, I’d call it a good way to atone for an error in judgment.

  3. Good move Metro. Time civic participation became a goal of allotting transit service hours. Many transit agencies – such as Island Transit & Skagit Transit – would do well to follow King County Metro’s lead.

  4. Erica, I’m not 100% sure. We may not have done this for a hearing, but we have tried to boost bus service to meet a specific need before. We designed these added trip options to have a minimal cost.

    1. Great news Jeff. I again really encourage transit agencies to enable and encourage civic participation. Some of us, me included, can’t drive nor afford a taxi to enable giving 2-3 minutes of public comment testimony.

  5. Of course, one the ironies of Dembowsi’s location choice as that the Magnesun Park is one of the places that has the most to gain, transit-wise, from the the restructuring. It will be served by the 62 and 78, on top of a more frequent 75. And, of course, using Link instead of buses to get from downtown to the 75 will also save a bunch of time.

    1. I would argue that no single location has service increase as dramatically as Magnison Park. Maybe this park will gain in visitors as well…

  6. For most of her time as mayor of Portland, Vera Katz got around on TriMet. If she can do that, why not Dembowski? That would show everyone how good the existing service is to Magnusun Park.

    1. ALL of our electeds and “senior” management folks in ALL departments of ciyty and county governments ought to be required to use transit regularly, at least 3 round trips out of the CBD/week.

  7. A place as close as possible to the Husky Link station, anywhere on South UW campus, would have been the ideal location to hold this meeting. As nice as the Mountaineers HQ bldg is, it’s way out in the boondocks for most people.

    1. Anywhere on the UW campus would have been fine. Previous meetings were held at the HUB. That would have been much better.

  8. Any added service for the meeting will probably be met with ire if there are cancelled runs that day due to lack of drivers. (Not that I think they are connected but good luck getting that through to the WSB commenters.)

    1. Note from Zach’s post last week how much more ridership there is on routes A, D, E, and 120 than there is on the C Line. Are they still complaining that they don’t all get seats?

    2. A lot of the complaints on the West Seattle Blog have to do with the cancellations on the peak-only commuter routes (21X, 37, 55, 56, 57, 116X). Unlike a missed run on say the C Line (which seems to happen *very* rarely), these routes run infrequently. If one run is cancelled, riders could be waiting 30-60 minutes for the next bus to arrive. It’s an unfortunate situation, because clearly Metro is trying, but failing, to get these runs out onto the road.

      I’d also venture to guess that the ridership numbers on the C Line have increased since the 2014 report Zach used. Several large buildings (at least three) with 100+ apartments each have opened within the last year in the Alaska Junction/Fauntleroy Triangle area (I happened to move into one) and at least three more buildings are scheduled to open in the next year, with more in the pipeline for 2017.

  9. People in Seattle will complain about anything. God forbid government should take public meetings into neighborhoods where people, you know, live.

    1. And if they were having other public meetings everywhere else people live, it’d be great!

      Problem is, when there’s just one public meeting, it should be accessible to people who don’t live in that single neighborhood.

    2. There are many more people who live in the University District, Roosevelt, Lake City, or Northgate.

  10. Is this a traditional Public Hearing where citizens get to make 2-minute comments, while the public officials look on in mute boredom? Or is it an opportunity for conversation, for citizens to ask questions and get answers; something to advance mutual understanding of the issues and opportunities?

    1. Public meetings usually come in two flavors–public hearings and open houses. Public hearings are where you make a two-minute impassioned plea to bored elected officials. Open houses are where you geek out with project staff one-on-one or in small groups. This appears to be the former.

  11. Dear CVouncil man Dembowski: Transit Access to Magnuson Metro Meeting is NOT “Pretty Good” for all!

    It’s great that bus service n the three routes to the meeting have extra service after 9 pm, but what about the connecting buses in the rest of the city. For me to get there I would have to take the 11 and 48 after using the buses with extra service and that would mean at least a 90 minute commute home.

    Again, Councilman, we need one in the central part of Seattle like at Miller Community Center. Again, I would strongly suggest that Metro and Council personal be required to take Metro from their homes to this meeting so they see what bus riders face each day in their commutes.

    1. I agree. Whoever chose the site for the meeting obviously doesn’t ride transit. The meeting should have been in the University district or at Northgate.

      1. I also agree the county council members should be required to take public transit to/from the meeting.

    2. Why limit transit riding requirement to meetings?
      I think that all the council members, between 7:00 am and 7:00 p.m. M thru F, should be required to use transit for all their travels.
      No transit use, no paycheck.
      They are supposed to work for us, and the tools they give us are supposed to work for us.
      Let them eat the same gruel they feed us.
      See how things might change then.

      1. You do know that “the gruel [Metro] feeds us” is strictly limited by the State Legislature, right? They have the car tabs, they have the sales tax and they have whatever they can cadge from the Feds. That’s it.

        Of course the descendants of the slave owners claim that if they ran the show, they’d get twice as many bus hours out of the existing taxes. They’d just “cut waste” and make the slaves er ah “workers” do more with less. It works every time! Why, look at the lines of unemployed victims of the Kenyan Islamist Obamanation’s horrible economy begging to drive a bus for next to nothing!

        Easy-peasy.

  12. Look at all that space.

    Magnuson Park should be rezoned for high rise, low income, apartment buildings…at least the edge part near the water.

    Then I would run surface light rail right down Sand Point Way and encourage building 5-7 story apartments all along that corridor.

    1. Where would that surface light rail run – in the street, taking away a general traffic lane? If so, prepare for a whole lot of opposition.

      1. Something like, yes. I could name a half-dozen places that need elevated light rail far more than Sand Point Way… but yes. Build elevated rail, all sorts of places around Seattle, with lots of tall apartments. That is what we need.

    2. @ John Bailo: parks are good, open space is good. People like parks, open spaces, places for recreation. Seattle has limited Parks and open spaces. Might need to rethink your thoughts on taking over Magnuson Park

      1. I like the ambition, but the median / center line goes away just north of the park. Obviously ST will never tunnel here – best bet for additional rail in NE is Lake City Way on ST4.

  13. I commented online cause there was no way I could make it to the meeting without spending a good chunk of my night doing so.. but I commented online! I hope they go through with the changes!

  14. Someone mentioned the horrible connections at UW station. While not all that horrible, I do think it might have been a good idea to have waited on opening U-Link until the U-District station (on NE 45th St) was complete for this purpose, especially since there will presumably be another UW area bus restructure around U-District anyway when North Link opens.

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