Belltown Community Council
Belltown’s letter unsurprisingly laments its exclusion from the proposed Ballard line, losing out in favor of South Lake Union. It proposes resurrecting earlier Seattle Subway-style plans for SLU to be served as the starter neighborhood for an SR 99 line, with the Ballard line running through the heart of Belltown instead. Anticipating objections that SLU’s employment density requires it be given priority, the letter argues that Amazon’s new Rufus campus demonstrates that employment is increasingly concentrated in areas traditionally considered Belltown, and that such employment would be equally well served by a 4th Avenue stop as it would one at Westlake/Denny. The letter includes significant documentation of Belltown’s density, employment, and amenities, and criticizes the neighborhood’s exclusion from light rail and streetcar planning. Its desire to be served in ST3 has found traction here on STB as well, with both Frank and Seattle Subway taking up the cause.
Federal Highway Administration
The FHWA limited its comments to areas of common interest between light rail and interstate highways, offering a sentence or two on each candidate project within an interstate catchment area. Their comments are a mixed bag, progressive for a highway agency in some places and traditionalist in others. First, the FHWA seems to favor urban arterials for light rail as opposed to interstates:
Using Interstate right of way as a primary conduit as opposed to an arterial like SR 99 debases the opportunity for appropriate urban densification and its commensurate economic development. (emphasis mine)
FHWA also asks that Sound Transit choose its target market, arguing for either urban arterials with densification, or freeway light rail with more car-centric access provided, but not freeway light rail without parking:
Since the light rail extensions appear to serve car‐based commuters and relies heavy on the existing Interstate, Interchanges, and Park and Ride lots, the ST3 projects may have the potential to increase trips on I‐5 as well as the local system adjacent to those lots and interchanges…We have concerns that placing stations at existing interchanges could significantly increase congestion and decrease safety. ST will need to identify impacts to those interchanges and ensure that the proposed light rail will not prohibit future interchange improvements nor should ST actions result in increased cost to WSDOT to improve those interchanges in the future…If these light rail extension are to serve car based commuters then additional parking needs to be considered. If Sound Transit is assuming to acquire (temporary during construction or permanent) WSDOT parking lots then they could potentially be displacing highway users’ parking at park and ride lots. This will need analysis and may require mitigation.
In what seems like an argument both for transit quality and for minimizing conflict with its highway interests, FHWA believes that ST should take grade separation as a first principle:
A base assumption should be all crossings are grade separated unless there is a compelling reason, regardless of cost. Span lengths should fully span interstate facilities including any future expansion.
Lastly, like many other observers, FHWA also seems puzzled by the lack of connection between South Bellevue and Eastgate under current concepts for light rail between Totem Lake and Issaquah:
This plan leaves a gap in the system along I‐90 between Bellevue Way and Eastgate. That connection should be provided to eliminate the out of direction link through downtown Bellevue and provide a more desirable route to Eastgate.
First Hill Improvement Association, Mercer Corridor Stakeholders, Microsoft, Northwest Seattle Coalition, Queen Anne Community Council, and Transit Access Stakeholders after the jump.
First Hill Improvement Association
The FHIA‘s letter takes up the cause of shifting the second downtown tunnel east of I-5, as Martin has previously proposed. Co-signed by Urbanist writer and frequent STB commenter Gordon Werner – who also chairs FHIA’s Transportation Committee – the letter wisely makes a strong point but in general terms, not getting lost in details this early in the process. Their intent is admirably clear: get an “east of I-5” option included in the scoping for a second tunnel, providing analysis of the benefits of connecting First Hill to South Lake Union and Ballard, etc:
A stop on Madison, east of I-5 would support existing and planned infrastructure improvements as well as provide a reliable connection between South King County, South Lake Union and the high density and swiftly growing residential and employment center of First Hill. This idea is succinctly captured by the Seattle Transit Blog post titled “A Proposal for Madison Station”. This post recommends that SoundTransit consider routing the line eastward in order to capture the large walkshed east of I-5 which includes the region’s major medical services area and the rapidly growing residential population of First Hill. …It presents a unique opportunity to provide high-quality N-S transit service connecting the First Hill neighborhood to the region as a whole.
At this time we do not propose a stop location, design, or any preferred options. We simply put forward the idea of a stop east of I-5 as one supported by the community and worthy of exploration. Our goal is to include the feasibility of a First Hill station in the actual planning and scoping for the DSTT2 by SoundTransit, rather than limit it to the 5th and Madison stop already mentioned. We are fully appreciative of the scope and timeline of ST3 as well as the fact that a station located under First Hill will have its own unique civil engineering and geological challenges, however, it behooves us to think big for the future benefit of the ever growing First Hill residential and medical communities.
Mercer Corridor Stakeholder Committee
The Mercer Corridor Stakeholders Committee – a who’s who of SLU and Queen Anne business and community groups – wrote in unanimous support of ST3, a split spine, and a new downtown tunnel. The letter has a number of encouraging elements from an urbanist perspective, including calling for half-mile stop spacing as national best practice, three stations between Westlake and Queen Anne (Denny, Harrison, Queen Anne Ave), and for a historic shift of Seattle Center tourist and event traffic away from cars to transit:
Three stations could be located along the northern tunnel extension at 0.4 to 0.5 mile spacing…compatible with the best practices from other light rail systems throughout the county. If only two stations are provided, they would be spaced 0.7 to 0.8 miles apart – too far apart to effectively serve these dense urban centers.
…Convenient access to the Seattle Center is also critical to shift event and tourist trips from automobiles to transit. An estimated 75% of the 12 million visitors per year to Seattle Center come from outside of Seattle. Excellent high-capacity transit…would less event-related congestion…which would benefit the entire region.
Microsoft‘s letter asks that the Downtown Redmond extension be the first priority, and seen as completing an ST2 promise rather than an ST3 project. It supports completing the spine, asks that there be SR 520 light rail planning funds, and supports Totem Lake-Issaquah Link. Its support of I-405 BRT comes with a call for integration between WSDOT and Sound Transit, asking that they jointly plan and execute an integrated vision for managing transit and HOT lanes on the corridor.
Northwest Seattle Coalition
The Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3 is an impressive mix of neighborhood groups, transit activists, and industry interests, and their letter primarily calls for a tunnel rather than a drawbridge to cross the Ship Canal, citing a tunnel’s ability to minimize freight impacts and set up compatibility with a Ballard-UW line:
The Coalition advocates strongly for the reliability of a new Ship Canal tunnel over competing drawbridge proposals. A new Ship Canal tunnel will also maintain the existing capacity of 15th Avenue to carry buses, freight and automobiles…
The Coalition recognizes that Candidate Project C-01c is vitally necessary to meet our city’s transit requirements. Additional transit capacity is needed to serve residents and businesses in Ballard, Crown Hill, Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, Uptown, Fishermen’s Terminal, Salmon Bay, Terminal 91, and other areas northwest of the Seattle Downtown Regional Growth Center that would otherwise have to use the already-overcrowded 15th Avenue West corridor. Addressing the transit needs of this critical corridor should be of the utmost priority for the City of Seattle and Sound Transit…
The final alignment chosen to serve the needs of the area represented by the Coalition should:
- Have the absolute highest possible reliability in order to maximize long-term ridership, reduce delay for trips throughout the region, and support equitable transit-oriented development in our growing Urban Centers;
- Reach and serve the most potential transit users along the corridor, both workers and residents, working and residing both in current development and in potential future development;
- Have the fewest negative impacts during construction and after construction;
- Enhance, and not diminish, the current and potential future vehicular, freight, and bus carrying capacity of arterials, especially the critical 15th Avenue West Corridor;
- Be designed, engineered, and built so that all the necessary engineering is built into one underground Market Street station in Ballard from its inception so that service might “split” to the north and east from one underground Market Street station in Ballard as the system expands toward Crown Hill and the University District;
- Be designed, engineered, and built to include “urban station spacing” in the vicinity of the Uptown and South Lake Union Urban Centers, with an additional station included between Uptown and South Lake Union;
- Include integration of other transit services at stations.
There’s much more in the letter, all of it pretty good. Go read the whole thing.
Queen Anne Community Council
Like the Northwest Seattle Coalition, the Queen Anne Community Council’s letter strongly supports Option C1C that would serve Downtown-Ballard via East Magnolia and a new Ship Canal tunnel. The letter’s emphasis is primarily on mitigating construction impacts and retaining vehicular capacity on arterials such as Westlake and 15th Ave W.
Transit Access Stakeholders
The Transit Access Stakeholders group – comprised of TCC, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, Housing Development Consortium, Cascade Bicycle Club, Feet, First, Seattle Subway, Futurewise, the Sierra Club, and Forterra – submitted a joint letter that is detailed, wonky, and strongly supportive. It advocates for a large ST3 package, prioritization of multimodal access, managed (e.g. priced) parking, affordable housing on TOD parcels, maximizing ridership and reliability, using race/social justice planning lenses, and planning ST3 with future operational needs in mind. Highlights include:
Go Big! We support a bold and visionary ST3 system plan that brings affordable and sustainable transportation options to all subareas. The people of Puget Sound are excited for high capacity transit that offers a reliable, cost-effective alternative to increasingly congested corridors. We urge the Sound Transit Board not to develop a plan that picks between jurisdictions that are eager and prepared for such investments, and instead develop a plan that is able to serve more neighborhoods of all incomes and demographics. We believe an ambitious plan can win at the ballot.
Increase Multimodal Access Funding. ….Sound Transit should prioritize funding for local transit, walking and biking access to high capacity transit over parking by increasing both the overall allocation to the system access fund and the specific allocation for transit integration, access, and information within each project. The system access fund should be large enough to cover both additional community-identified improvements for new stations as well as retrofits for all existing stations that need transit and non-motorized access improvements. Sound Transit also should scale the size of the System Access Program to the size and duration of the final ST3 system plan.
Make Smart Investments in Parking, and Use Pricing to Manage Demand. We think Sound Transit should plan for and build less parking for each project, increasing parking only when the need for parking is demonstrated….We believe that excessive spending on parking disproportionately benefits white people and higher-income populations: people with low-incomes and people of color in Washington are still much less likely to own a car…We urge Sound Transit to price and manage parking at all current and future park-and-ride lots. Parking management can help spread passenger demand across the day, thus lowering operating costs by requiring fewer vehicles and drivers during peak periods. Pricing and managing parking can also help achieve social equity goals by providing predictable access to a spot and defraying the costs of building and operating park-and-rides. Without fees, these costs are fully borne by all users, including people arriving by foot, bike, or bus…We also urge Sound Transit to find ways to use existing parking capacity before building new capacity.
Prioritize Affordable Housing in Development Decisions. Sound Transit should prioritize affordable housing in the use and disposal of its land… The State Legislature has already required, in RCW 81.112.350, that Sound Transit sell 80% of its surplus land for affordable housing use. Additionally, Sound Transit is required to put $20 million in a revolving acquisition loan fund to acquire additional sites for affordable housing near transit. Sound Transit should develop a clear and predictable process for implementing RCW 81.112.350 and maximizing affordable housing outcomes by:
- Removing fair market value requirements on surplus property and better utilizing federally authorized tools such as joint developments, land leasing, and liquidating federal interests.
- Providing favorable sale & development terms for affordable housing developers and organizations acquiring land for affordable housing.
- Planning for and acquiring sites that can be used effectively to promote future TOD, and align land purchasing decisions with affordable housing and land banking actors when possible.
- Updating disposition policies and increasing staff development expertise to better enable nonprofit housing providers and land banking organizations to purchase developable land in and around stations prior to cost increases.
- Maximizing affordable housing potential by ensuring disposition sites are large and regularly shaped.
- Eliminating any assumptions of surplus land sale profits in financial planning.
- Developing minimum standards for sites acquired with loan fund dollars.
- Creating job quality standards for developments at surplussed TOD sites and sites acquired through revolving loan fund to promote healthy, accessible, living wage jobs near transit.
- Ensuring that organizations and developers with strong ties to community (alongside development expertise) be competitive in the bidding process. Community partners are better able to understand the holistic needs of a low-income community, immigrants, refugees and people of color and are the most knowledgeable about what makes equitable TOD successful.
Maximize Ridership and Potential for Equitable Transit-Oriented Development and Density. We strongly believe that the System Plan should include robust policies, projects, investments, and alignments that maximize potential for equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) and increased density…Prioritizing equitable TOD decreases reliance on travel by car, reducing single occupancy vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)….Sound Transit should maximize potential for equitable TOD means by: Selecting alignments and investing in station locations that can support mixed development.
- Building in sufficient funds for multimodal access and TOD development to each station.
- Connecting areas with an existing mix of development.
- Prioritizing contracting with developers that will build affordable housing.
- Actively working to prevent residential and commercial displacement, especially in lower-income, communities of color, immigrants and refugees.
- Supporting equitable TOD through land purchases that are the right size for future development and disposition policies that ensure land can be developed when stations are built or soon after completion.
- Considering access costs when evaluating alignments. Freeway alignments and other access challenged alignments should require analysis and inclusion of multimodal access costs as a mitigation need.
Use a Race and Social Justice Lens in Decision Making. Sound Transit should make an extra effort to bring reliable, high-frequency, and accessible service to low-income households and communities of color, both of which are disproportionately transit-dependent, underserved, and negatively impacted by transit investments. This may mean providing light rail service in these areas, or it may mean ensuring smooth system integration with local bus service…Because access to reliable transportation is the single most important factor in escaping poverty, Sound Transit has the opportunity to significantly improve quality of life for communities throughout the Puget Sound. Like with other stations that have these characteristics, we strongly support funding the Graham Street infill station.
Maximize Reliability. Sound Transit should choose projects and alignments with exclusive right-of-way, and grade separated where possible. This ensures that light rail will remain a competitive mode of transportation even as the region grows and congestion increases. For example, we strongly support the construction of a new transit tunnel in Downtown Seattle, which will provide the opportunity for increased train frequency and capacity for higher ridership while avoiding congested downtown roads. When at grade, Sound Transit should invest in safety measures that adhere to universal design standards in order to maximize safe access to transit.
Adopt a Community Engagement and Outcomes Policy. Sound Transit should develop and adopt an explicit community engagement and outcomes policy that lays out best practices for expanding engagement with low-income communities, people of color, immigrants and refugees earlier in and throughout the planning process. Achieving equity outcomes – and optimizing ridership – will succeed only by providing diverse communities with equal opportunities to participate in and influence the planning process. Laying out steps to create and sustain meaningful relationships with community leaders and social services organizations, which will help Sound Transit staff understand language and cultural differences that may shape the way that the agency engages with communities and conducts planning outreach is key to this process.
Plan for the Future. Sound Transit should develop the system plan in a way that will best serve our growing region in the future by:
- Designing alignments and stations that make it easy to expand lines and create new junctions;
- Making cost-effective investments that will allow ST to do more with the money they have, accommodating more growth in the region over time;
- Increasing funding for and ensuring policies support early recruitment for apprenticeship programs so that we have a local workforce in place that is ready to tackle ST3 construction Sound Transit should look into new grant opportunities for workforce development in the FAST Act;
- Locating in dense areas with the best potential for TOD in order to connect the most people with the most jobs, reducing GHGs and helping meet long-term climate and growth management goals;
- Planning for contingent funding to build out the system further if projects come in under budget or additional federal, state or local matching funding is found. This should also include identifying potential projects in all subareas, and doing early planning that can inform decision making for ST3. Thank you for the opportunity to share these comments.
West Seattle Transportation Coalition
The WSTC’s letter is short and, other than expressing skepticism of at-grade and elevated alignments, it remains agnostic on project details. The letter primarily asks for additional process and outreach to West Seattle prior to the release of the Draft System Plan. The letter in full:
The West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC) is a peninsula-wide organization representing Seattle’s largest constituency of more than 100,000 people living and working in the 10 square mile area between the Duwamish River and Puget Sound. These community leaders, advocates, business owners, and residents are working to address the peninsula’s transportation, mobility and commuting challenges.
The WSTC membership has some concerns about the “3+1” West Seattle ST3 options that have been presented to the Sound Transit Board (STB) for consideration. The proposed ST3 projects with at-grade or elevated tracks will directly conflict with the Move Seattle funded Fauntleroy Boulevard and Delridge Way SW Visioning / Complete Street projects. In addition, the decision by Sound Transit not to include comprehensive planning to West Seattle in ST2 funding puts us at a distinct disadvantage.
Therefore, we request that before the March draft of the ST3 plan is unveiled, a significant effort is made by Sound Transit, with the assistance of the City of Seattle and WSTC, to get constituent input on potential light rail routing. We propose meetings be held in each of the West Seattle Urban Villages (Alaska, Admiral, Morgan, Westwood/Highland Park and North Delridge) as well as in the City of Burien.
WSTC strongly believes that our region requires a fully connected light rail system. The system should accommodate our fast growing population and economy, and the reality in which we must live and commute from more affordable housing in our suburbs and outlying areas. We endorse all the projects presented to the STB on December 4, 2015, to form the Complete Regional System. Our hope is that the STB chooses to ask for the taxing authority in order to successfully implement the complete, regional light rail system.
We look forward to working with Sound Transit in order to Move the People.