Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Report

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.

Sound Transit Board Meeting: I-90 HOV Lanes and ULink Progress

After commiserating happily about Tacoma Link’s anniversary, the Sound Transit (ST) board yesterday afternoon focused primarily on status reports. Ongoing project status briefs focused on two main projects: University Link and I-90 Two Way Transit and HOV lanes.

Screenshot 2013-08-22 at 3.56.05 PM

The I-90 project (R8A) team submitted its 60% design on May 8, 2013 for stage 3, which will establish HOV outside lanes in both directions from Mercer Island to Seattle. STB has previously covered precisely why R8A is important.

“R8A literally paves the way for East Link to move over to east side. Last year…we were facing a number of very tough questions, primarily safety concerns,” the project manager stated. “We hired a team of experts, whose key findings were the ventilation design is key, solid for 60%, very thorough and comprehensive at this stage.”

He added that given the nature of the project, it was important to verify coordination between cost estimation and scheduling and develop a detailed system commissioning plan. Independent constructability and cost review will hopefully finish in November, while the 90% design will finish by October.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Board Meeting: I-90 HOV Lanes and ULink Progress”

Sound Transit Mobile Vending Review

20130722_185459Since May, mobile ORCA vendors have visited farmers markets in Kent and Auburn, with announced visits to senior centers and other venues as well. Jim Hammond, ST customer outreach manager, expounded that ST first thought of reaching out to customers who may not go online ordinarily. Consequently, the ST mobile vending currently targets youth, seniors, and those eligible for reduced rates. On August 5th I tagged along with Sound Transit’s mobile ORCA vending booth at the Mariners game.

“We’re at baby steps here,” Hammond said. “We’ll experiment and learn how to improve protocols.”

He proffered an example: ST could streamline the process of getting an ORCA card, perhaps separating payments and registration, or whatever other options make sense. He emphasized that the mobile vending is in an experimental stage, open for tinkering.

The setup consists of a table spread with ST schedules, promotional materials, general paraphernalia, and the actual station, pictured above. (The artwork is temporary, according to Carol Masnik, ST marketing specialist.) The station’s functional pieces are a laptop, scanner, credit card reader, and Evolis card printer.

You have several options at the station. You can check balance and add value to your card (hence the credit card reader), or obtain a senior, reduced rate, or youth card, per the focus on those least likely to obtain the standard adult ORCA card online. The card reader only produces senior cards (since senior cards are printed with rider name), with the youth cards pre-printed, as they are indistinguishable from adult ORCAs.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Mobile Vending Review”

July’s King County Regional Transit Meeting

The King County Regional Transit Meeting at Shoreline on July 17 was poorly attended, with most attendees either media or staff. This was a shame, since the proceedings were quite interesting. The primary and possibly most far-reaching announcements directly involved park and ride planning; and a possibility that public input regarding Metro service cuts would essentially not play much of a role.

Park and Ride Planning Coordination

King County transit is pushing to plan park and rides regionally. Multiple agencies, including Metro, and Sound Transit, will conduct a study on access to transit, including park and rides. After the work plan is formulated, a King County executive will transmit it to convene a series of regional conversations.

A worthy question regarding this laudable regional coordination is which group could spearhead such an initiative. There were hints throughout a following conversation that the lead agency could be the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), as they have ties to Sound Transit already, and often handle multi-jurisdictional efforts.

John Resha, principal legislative analyst for King County, spoke to the council regarding park and ride planning changes. He pointed out that the problem of coordinating park and rides is not meant to be solved solely by Metro, but by the Department of Transportation, individual cities, and more. To that end, the work plan will be sent over by the end of 2013, to all the parties listed above, “to ensure a robust look at it”.

Resha stated five items the work plan will reflect, all of which a new ordinance will also cover:

1: The role of park and rides and transit infrastructure.

2: Shifts and changes in transit technology, or basically best practices for options other than additional parking spaces.

3: Options for regional needs reporting and funding access to transit; regional coordination, in brief. (“Right now we don’t plan as a region for things like park and rides,” Resha said.)

4: Model policy language, so all the jurisdictions are equally represented and in Resha’s words “come from the same place”.

5: Any potential updates to the strategic plan and guidelines.

On page 11 of the RTC packet, the new ordinance is reproduced in full. The committee passed the motion to strike the old and bring in the new ordinance, and also revised the title amendment based on the changes.

Continue reading “July’s King County Regional Transit Meeting”

Lynnwood City Center Project

Screenshot 2013-07-19 at 12.02.23 AM

Lynnwood is revitalizing its city center, hoping to establish a true downtown anchored by the future Lynnwood Link Station.  Commuters might become Lynnwood city center customers, while expansion of apartments offers homes for those who want to live near the station. The Link station will sit just to the southwest of the red Priority 2 area (see below), but Lynnwood is pushing for improvements to existing street plans and transit access sooner rather than later.

Screenshot 2013-07-10 at 5.41.58 PM

The Priority 1 blue circle contains darker dots indicating a primary focus on improving transportation in that street grid at those particular spots, though the color key is confusing.

There are four primary road and amenity projects in downtown:

Continue reading “Lynnwood City Center Project”

Metro’s Cashless Plan

At the end of June, paper ticketbooks were no longer sold in King County. Metro is innovating in its approach to handling payments, slowly moving forward with a plan to implement cashless fares. The conceptual transit plan from March 2012 and an April 2012 plan to widen ORCA access both address cashless fares, with “The ultimate goal is to reduce or eliminate even off-board cash transactions…”

Metro’s Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee is also moving forward, according to an excellent summary of their recommendations by Brent White.

The conceptual transit plan summarizes rider habits and backgrounds with data from a 2010 survey in order to provide some background: Screenshot 2013-07-17 at 8.14.19 AM Screenshot 2013-07-17 at 8.24.25 AM Accordingly, the plan lays out an agenda of marketing, promotion, and increased access to alternate forms of payment. Incentives include differing fare structures, waiving of fees for cashless payments, free transfers for cashless payment, expansion of ORCA vending locations to retail, and more. The plan also considers the socioeconomic diversity of the population Metro serves, with community partnerships and discount programs targeting specific areas.

Continue reading “Metro’s Cashless Plan”

Tukwila International Boulevard Transformation

Tukwila’s transformation into a full-fledged urban center is charging full steam ahead. The major components of the effort roughly divvy up into the construction of Tukwila Village, and transformation of Tukwila International Boulevard (TIB) into a true transportation corridor with improved safety, sidewalks, and transit access.

Specifically: increased access to the new light rail station; reduction of Tukwila’s crime rate; and revitalizing the neighborhood around South 144th St. and TIB by adding a library, a police resource center, plaza/park, and residential/retail spaces.

The recent First Quarter Update  relates what progress has occurred:

1: The Transportation Corridors Comp Plan element will refocus on TIB, when reviewed in 2014, with further updates. The various committees executing the overall Comp Plan will work on its elements from April-July 2013, with the city council considering possible changes from August to October.

Tukwila Village Location

In addition, a public safety-oriented sidewalk policy will be established. Most recently, the city of Tukwila also approved an ordinance (login may be required for access to the ordinance text) for acquisition of up to 7 properties along TIB, including condemnation if necessary.

“We are indeed completing our appraisals and will start negotiations with the property owners in the next few weeks,” said Derek Speck, Tukwila economic development administrator. “This summer we will go to council for direction in terms of what the city would do with the properties once we’ve acquired them.”

Continue reading “Tukwila International Boulevard Transformation”

Sound Transit Board Meeting: Tacoma Fares, Budget Tweaking

The Sound Transit Board meeting on June 27 covered several important issues:

1. Presentation of a report analyzing a potential fare on Tacoma Link.

The policy report looked at fares up to $2.00, and determined a $0.75 fee would generate more than enough revenue to cover collection costs. Unprofitable fare collection is one of the ST criteria for free service that Tacoma Link no longer meets.

Screenshot 2013-07-05 at 8.56.59 PM

The report estimated ridership would drop 19%, from 83,000 to 67,000 per month with the recommended fare of 75 cents. After subtracting operating costs of collection, Sound Transit would net $12,000 per month. It’d take approximately 58 months for that revenue to also cover the costs of installing fare collection methods and means, which were estimated at $709,000.

The higher fee structures outlined in the table above would take less time, but also impact rider volume. Judging by the overall reaction during the meeting, the Sound Transit board will wait to deliver a final verdict until the next few steps in the process, which consist of pricing model refinements, with special attention to low-income populations, and community outreach.

Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma mayor, stated this process will integrate with Tacoma’s reevaluation of fares and parking, while Joni Earl, chief executive officer of Sound Transit, added that outreach to stakeholders would begin right away given the board’s response. So overall it appears the final verdict is yet to come.

2. Closeout of a total of 19 small projects worth $294m, all delivered a total of $11.5m under budget. Also the Lakewood Layover is transitioning to operations, a total of approximately $3.5m under budget.

3. A staff report and resolution that would “amend the Adopted 2013 Lifetime Budget for the Sounder ST2 Fleet Expansion project from $16,296,000 to $49,530,000” as well as “the Adopted 2013 Annual Budget for the project from $4,196,000 to $15,196,000 to provide funding to purchase nine Sounder passenger vehicles.”

According to the report, the extra vehicles are necessary for additional trips due to service expansion and rider growth. The report does not explain what exactly deviates from the ST2 plan; I have an email in to Sound Transit about this question.

Another interesting note in the fiscal information section of the staff report hints that the extra strain on the Pierce subarea financial capacity (where the extra $20.9m necessary in bonds will come from) may require revision of other current plans as well:

“In addition, the issuance of $20.9 million of additional bonds will reduce the agency’s net debt service coverage, which is already forecast to be below the board’s 1.5 x coverage policy minimum. Through the program realignment, staff is monitoring agency costs and revenues, and reporting quarterly to the Board…To offset the $20.9 million of additional costs, staff will present options to the Board by the end of the first quarter of 2014 for capital and operating costs savings within the Pierce subarea, including options for reducing the scope of the ST2 Sounder maintenance base project.”

However, perhaps it’ll be worth it. The 9 coaches will expand the 14 locomotives, 40 coaches, and 18 cab cars that currently compose the Sounder fleet. Purchased from Bombardier, the coaches would be fully compatible with the current trains, and serve on the South Sounder line. This build-out of the Sound Move program, on the Sounder South and North Lines, allows for another one peak direction trip in September on the South line. 2016 and 2017 will see 3 more trips eventually added.

Lynnwood Public Meeting on Light Rail Environmental Planning

A Sound Transit and City of Lynnwood community outreach meeting regarding current environmental evaluations occurs tonight, June 25, at Meadowdale High School Great Hall from 7 to 8:45 p.m. The meeting will focus on the proposed alignments and stations. Community members will have a chance to submit their thoughts and concerns and receive progress reports so far on the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Screenshot 2013-06-24 at 3.39.17 PM

Mike Orr’s coverage of the Shoreline version is here.

Tukwila’s Transformation of Southcenter – Part 2 of 2

Screenshot 2013-06-20 at 10.57.14 AM

Part 1 of this series focused on infastructure improvements in the works for Southcenter.  This post will focus on the very ambitious and complex proposed revision to the Southcenter-Tukwila Urban Center’s Comprehensive Plan Element recently completed by the Tukwila Planning Commission staff and a consultant, concentrating on zoning and the street grid. A copy from October 2012 can be found here.  Highlights of the plan include:

Screenshot 2013-06-14 at 1.38.13 PM
Click to Enlarge
  1. Locating a “large percentage of the City’s future housing needs” in the urban center, in order “to preserve our existing residential neighborhoods”, encouraged to be within “walking distance of the Sounder commuter rail/Amtrak station” or the bus transit center.
  2. Flexible zoning regulations for residential, retail and light industrial, per district, with development of regulations for appropriate building heights. (The Kent Reporter covered some possible developments in this arena earlier.)
  3. Expansion of residential areas.
  4. Incentives for “providing a variety of different types of open spaces (e.g., plazas, parks, public & private)”.
  5. And finally, anchored between the upgraded bus transit center on Andover Park West and the Sounder commuter rail station, a new Transit Oriented Development neighborhood will sit, as seen above.

Such an ambitious urban redesign requires a new street plan for Southcenter, broadening the current travel and adding bike lanes while also expanding public frontage as seen below.

Screenshot 2013-06-14 at 1.22.44 PM

The current “Street Tree” road layout will need revisions to accomplish such goals, stated Lynn Miranda, project manager for the Southcenter Plan. The plan focuses regulations and investment regarding siting of new buildings and parking lots on and around Baker Boulevard, and the northern part of the Southcenter area.

Screenshot 2013-06-14 at 1.50.14 PM

Continue reading “Tukwila’s Transformation of Southcenter – Part 2 of 2”

Tukwila’s Transformation of Southcenter – Part 1 of 2

Screenshot 2013-06-20 at 10.57.14 AM

The city of Tukwila and its partners are committed to transforming Southcenter into an area more friendly to bus transit, commuter rail, bicylists and pedestrians, envisioning a truly urban center of varied neighborhoods.  One of the centerpieces of this plan is the conversion of Baker Boulevard into a complete street, anchored by a new pedestrian bridge over the Green River. The bridge would connect the new Sounder/Amtrak station that breaks ground Monday to a new Transit Center at Andover Park West and Baker Boulevard (in front of Southcenter Mall).

The new bridge, Transit Center and street makeover are all separate projects that will help lay the groundwork for the development of a new transit-oriented neighborhood.  According to Lynn Miranda, project manager of the overarching Southcenter Plan, 30% of the design for the pedestrian bridge is completed, and she expects the 60% design milestone in late summer or early fall. The NEPA/SEPA process starts in a few weeks.

“The design is anticipated to be completed by March 2014,” Miranda said. “Tukwila received a grant of approximately $4.6m which will be available starting July 1 to apply toward right-of-way acquisition and construction. Our application was for a 4 year project, and at this point the project is in the starting slot for a future award of $2.27m in the 2015-2017 biennium.”

Continue reading “Tukwila’s Transformation of Southcenter – Part 1 of 2”

Mercer Island Station Open House Report Clarifications

A few minor changes to details in the Mercer Island Station Open House Report have been made, to wit:

1: Paul Cornish is a project manager in civil engineering at Sound Transit.

2: While East Link construction will begin in 2015, Mercer Island Station construction begins in 2016, when the center lanes of I-90 are scheduled to be closed.

3: Hewitt and his firm are handling the design for the station at this point.

4: Paul Bennett is also the name of a Sound Transit engineer, so the post was edited to avoid confusion.

Finally, an extra sentence concerning the acoustic walls was added.

Mercer Island Station Open House Report

Screenshot 2013-06-07 at 6.33.04 PM

Thursday evening Sound Transit staff conducted an open house at the Mercer Island Community Center focused on the East Link light rail extension. Approximately 80 to 90 people, including staff, trickled in throughout the evening, which included the brief opening, presentation, and Q&A sessions. The presentation centered on the design of Mercer Island Station in particular, approximately 30% complete. Essentially, the alignment of the track is completely determined at this point; several Sound Transit engineers at the open house intimated that this was the crucial first step of the design.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of this, but we’re at a point where we have a good idea of what’ll work correctly,” said David Hewitt, founder of Hewitt, an urban planning and design firm handling the design of Mercer Island Station East Link.

As one resident put it: “They’ve done their homework.”

The Mercer Island Station (a working name) will squat firmly in the center roadway of I-90, with light rail running on either side. From 77th and 80th Avenues SE, riders can stroll into the western and eastern entrances of the station, respectively. Detailed images and layouts are available here.


Each entrance will consist of a plaza with ticketing and seating areas, leading to an escalator, a stair, and an elevator, with surrounding lightweight steel and glass structures. The east entrance will also have a bicycle cage for secure storage. Once a rider descends 25 feet onto the central platform, she has roughly 380 feet of open space in which to frolic, with a central canopy serving as weather cover. Sound-dampening walls specially designed to absorb I-90’s acoustic assault will outline the tracks.

“It’s fairly symmetrical in nature,” Hewitt said. “The scale of the station is a very pleasant one we think.”


More after the jump.

Continue reading “Mercer Island Station Open House Report”