Yesterday, the Council passed the alley vacation for the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) that the Transportation and Sustainability Committee approved last week, as we reported. The O’Brien amendment that would have gotten more money for transit from the WSCC in the event of serious service degradation failed 6-3, with only O’Brien, Sawant, and Herbold voting for it. The other Councilmembers chose not to reopen the negotiated benefits deal.

The overall measure passed. The official record has six votes in favor, Herbold abstaining, and doesn’t record anything for Juarez or Harrell; the video (1:03:45) is quite clear that all nine raised their hands in favor.

The legislation allows the DSTT to close to buses as early as March 2019. Whether it actually happens in March, or in in September instead, depends on the Master Use Permit process with a different city department, discussions between Metro and the WSCC, and actual construction progress. The race is now on for SDOT to complete its downtown transit improvements by March.

16 Replies to “Convention Center Alley Vacation Passes Full Council”

  1. “The official record has six votes in favor, Herbold abstaining, and doesn’t record anything for Juarez or Harrell; the video (1:03:45) is quite clear that all nine raised their hands in favor.”

    It’s nonsensical that the official recorded tally doesn’t match what was captured on video at the time of the vote. Perhaps the council should spend a little less time on their self-congratulatory speeches and devote it instead on the actual voting process. Ideally, just have the clerk call the roll by member.

    1. Maybe they didn’t want to be on record. This may be normal procedure. It doesn’t bother me because the lack of a vote says something too. It means they didn’t want to strongly endorse the bill or oppose it, but just let it pass or fail with the majority.

      1. If they don’t want to be on the record, then I would suggest that they’re in the wrong profession. It reminds me of the games some members of Congress play by voting “present”. I don’t think any constituent voted for their elected representative to be a fence sitter.

        With that being said, what you’re suggesting doesn’t appear to be the case here, as Martin states that all council members raised their hands to signal an aye vote (watching the video that does seem to be a valid observation). The clerk must have simply failed to notice this and recorded the tally incorrectly. Hence my suggestion to simply have the clerk call the roll.

  2. Ultimately, the City Council, not the WSCC, controls the traffic rules on 3rd Ave. Only the City can ban cars from what could be a magic red carpet pathway for thousands of buses and hundreds of thousands of riders every day.

    The City Council needs to move quickly to study the impacts of doing this, and then direct SDoT to do it.

    This could have been done long before the WSCC expansion debate. It needs to be done in the next 10 months. The bus stops with the City Council and Mayor.

  3. Mike, Kshama, and Lisa, degradation-prevention here is largely the job of both King County Metro and Sound Transit. But what the whole City Council, and the Mayor, can do to help them is to ride transit as often as possible, and tell these agencies and the public what you see that you think can be done better. And act accordingly yourselves. Individually and as a government.

    While city-wide, you start putting the most money in Seattle’s history into the reserved lanes, removed parking, and pre-empted signals that will prevent any service degradation in the first place. The gift of Third Avenue’s every lane between Virginia Street and Jackson to transit will save transit a fortune. And not cost the City anything. Put a bow around it and send it express.

    But if the City can’t do anything else, you can at least restore and greatly expand the transit library that was open to the public in the Exchange Building during the years the DSTT was being built. Preferably in Union Station, in a space big enough for a coffee stand.

    Very large section on the Downtown Seattle Transit Project from its beginning. Emphasizing everything designers knew about machinery, the Earth, and the people who build, drive and ride transit. But overriding all else, what-all the years to date have taught us about the ages ahead. History’s own best degradation-deflector.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, the problem is their failure to prioritize transit and non-car travelers. This unanimous yes vote or vote with abstentions, is a symptom of it. We should be doing what other countries figured out long ago, and even New York has started to do, with its bike lanes all around Manhattan and pedestrianizing part of Broadway and High Line. Seattle was an innovater when it opened the Burke-Gilman Trail, now it’s playing catch-up to not only European but also peer American cities. The bright side is we’re investing in transit improvements more than most American cities, but that doesn’t help if more buses are stuck in traffic and more trains won’t open for 5-15 years.

  4. Martin, I think you mean ‘Master Use Permit.’ Strange issue with the official vote count. Do you know why this might be?

    1. yep, thanks. Honestly, it happened really quickly and the clerk wasn’t given a great chance to record the outcome because it didn’t matter. I was only able to figure it out by pausing the video.

  5. A couple years ago the blog argued that it’s not actually that big of a deal for the city to absorb an 18% bump in surface bus trips, and that the whole “period of maximum constraint” framing has been overblown. It’s only 7 routes and 800~ trips per day. If SDOT follows through with a new 5th/6th pathway, or if the CCC is truly paused/canceled and routes can move to 1st Ave, we may even see improved transit throughput. Much ado about not-quite-nothing, but not a pending disaster either.

    CM Johnson was right yesterday when he said that there is plenty of lane capacity in downtown, even with construction. The sole problem is an unwillingness to take any of that space from either moving or parked cars.

    1. Arthur, not going to argue about bus vs. streetcar mode choice over these particular years. If it had ever been run as planned and promised, DSTT would’ve had no trouble making joint-use work smoothly. So First Avenue will win in a lot faster than a walk.

      But you’re right about construction of any kind during coming re-adjustment. Though we may be able to get some lanes and signals adjusted so we can have a streetcar-friendly transit-way in place when coast is clear. No conflict necessary. When time comes.

      You could also be on the right track (literally) about total “put” through Downtown. Reason I think it’s time for DSTT joint-ops to end as always intended is some advice from a source whose duty station is behind a Kinki-Sharyo throttle:

      The buses themselves have become the Tunnel’s chief obstacle to passenger through-put. Every second of delay, from wheelchair loading to fare collection to sheer slowness of non-coupled vehicles reverberates all the way up and down the line.

      The last one would outweigh the first obstacles no matter how fast the other nuisances could be remedied if system or operating personnel felt like it, which it’s long been obvious they don’t. So passengers on many routes will enjoy a much faster trip if they can transfer from LINK to a much shorter bus ride.

      But will somebody please fill me in on problem I think will be worst. Will we lose access to the freeway ramp that now feeds into and out of CPS staging on its way to Pine Street? And if so, any idea on possible choices?

      Thanks, all.

      Mark

  6. Has the Downtown Business Association weighed in yet? Because Seattle CBD is probably the one commercial area in the region that’s got no room to either park or drive a car. Let alone for average rush-hour’s worth of transit riders.

    I seem to remember that when it was time to put the buses back in the DSTT after conversion for rail, the Association was a lot more eager to put the buses back than Sound Transit was. So I’m puzzled as to why the City is afraid to take almost capital-free measures that can keep surface Seattle moving at all.

    What has who got to lose, and why? Or what are they holding everybody’s mobility hostage to get?

    So speaking just tactically, on or off the record, would like to know how far apart our thinking is from theirs. Specifically, how far are we from getting their support for the measures that can help them to get largest number of their customers and associates in and out of Downtown.

    Incidentally, somebody please remind me. When will North and East LINK at least start to become the new 41 and 550? Also some ideas about which other DSTT routes will take the hardest fight to get the reserved lanes and transit-friendly signals we need. And why?

    Just curious.

    Mark

  7. There are four groups that need/want to use Third Avenue in downtown Seattle: trades people and salesreps serving Third Avenue locations, users of the garages with entrances or exits on Third, folks of limited mobility being dropped off at Benaroya Hall, and everyone else who drives on it.

    It seems to me that tolling answers the needs of each of those groups. First add a “pass” for the system that allows a holder to travel one block toll free and issue one to each vehicle that legitimate Seattle businesses that serve Third Avenue businesses. Then levy a toll on all other vehicles which use a block with a garage in it of $2 to enter the block. These people are already paying $300 or more a month to park in the garage; a $40 increase won’t make a difference. Of course, if their employers are paying for the garage that will notice the difference.

    Finally, levy a $2 toll for vehicles which use the block in front of Benaroya for the hour before and the hour after a performance. Very few poir people attend symphony or ballet performances.

    Finally, put a toll of $50 in every other block of Third Avenue at any other “ordinary” time.

    Whatever additional penalties Washington State levies against GoodToGo scofflaws would be the enforcement mechanism.

    1. How many garage entrances are on third? I can readily think of only one: the Macy’s garage.

    2. Yes, i agree. I suggested tolling earlier. Tolling at every block achieves several other objectives:

      1) A reasonable toll (a couple bucks) would add up if someone goes several blocks on third (which is illegal). You still risk a bigger ticket, but just being charged 20 bucks in a pretty big disincentive.

      2) It allows the city to see when most people break the law. Ideally we would ticket them automatically, but that can’t be done (according to state law). But at least the city can see when people most often break the law, and put the cops out there at those times.

      3) Tolling can be dynamic. At certain times of day (like midnight) the toll can be minimal, or zero. At other times, regular cars are simply not allowed. In between, the tolls can be very high. Someone who breaks the law by driving when they shouldn’t would risk a ticket, but automatically pay a high toll.

      4) Tolls can be displayed by an electronic signs, like on 520. This eliminates the current confusion. Imagine you are a tourist, or just someone who hasn’t driven downtown in a while. You see this sign at a quarter to six: https://goo.gl/maps/fFcN7t6Vx4o. That is a very busy sign, and the driver may have no idea what time it is. Traffic is headed that way — so they make that turn. Now imagine there is an electronic sign there and it looks like this: https://goo.gl/maps/2LZJdWeaBVN2. That is pretty obvious. Unless I’m driving a bus, I can’t take that turn.

      5) Tolls raise money. Not a lot, but hopefully enough to pay for the signs, and the automatic readers.

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