Urban Politics #98: Licata Monorail Survey


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Licata Monorail Survey
  • Preface Of The Report
  • The Study Area
  • Proposed Station/Platform Locations
  • Executive Summary
  • General Observations By Neighborhood

Licata Monorail Survey

Last week I released a report titled: Preliminary Study Of A Proposed West Seattle/ Downtown/ Northgate/ Lake City Elevated Transit Line. The study was carried out by Matthew Fox, legislative aide to former City Councilmember Charlie Chong.

The report found that community leaders from neighborhoods along the most likely monorail route are more supportive than fearful of a monorail. Although they want to be listened to, they do not fear the impact of a monorail as some communities have feared the physical impact of a light rail. Interviews with neighborhood activists reveal a belief that monorail technology will benefit their communities in ways that the light rail does not. For instance, since it will be above grade it will not remove auto lanes from use.

Given the preliminary findings, I believe that the City must initially take two strong steps towards fulfilling its obligation to the public to pursue building a monorail:

First, and most importantly, the City must work with community groups and neighborhood businesses. The Dept. of Neighborhoods and the ETC must work together in doing outreach to the neighborhoods along proposed Monorail routes. Specifically both the District Councils and the neighborhood planning groups must be brought into designing the Monorail system to be proposed to the voters. This outreach must be systematic, thorough and begun no later than this Spring.

Second, the City needs to prove itself. Before a monorail can be built, the City must build trust. The public’s perception of the city being a reluctant partner with ETC in preparing a Monorail plan can only be over come by taking an aggressive stance. It must devote enough staff time to the ETC to get the job done. If the City does not commit its resources we could end up with a politically popular but functionally unworkable monorail plan.

To view the report on the internet go the Elevated Transportation Company’s website: www.elevated.org, or for email copies of the report contact my Legislative Assistant, Newell Aldrich, at newell.aldrich@seattle.gov.

Preface Of The Report

The project was undertaken as a preliminary analysis of one of the elevated mass transit routes identified as part of the Mayor’s Intermediate Capacity Transit Study. It is designed as a first look at identifying stakeholders and issues around a possible Monorail line, and to help the Elevated Transportation Company begin their community outreach efforts aimed at bringing a Monorail proposal before Seattle voters.

Much of the report lies in its appendices. These contain refined versions of Department of Neighborhoods’ lists of neighborhood and business groups, lists of community serving, religious, and educational institutions along the potential route under study that were compiled for this report, and a media contact list for additional community outreach. These appendices also include summaries of interviews conducted for this report, and excerpts from neighborhood plan references to elevated transit.

Although the Elevated Transportation Company has not yet determined any specific routes, it has identified this corridor in its work plan. This route was chosen as the subject of this preliminary report because it fulfills the mandate of I-41 and I-53 to link neighborhoods with downtown, but without duplicating Sound Transit’s proposed light rail service. The Mayor has not yet issued a final report and recommendation from the Seattle Transit Study.

Due to the limited time available to conduct this preliminary analysis, and because the information regarding how the ICT proposes passing through Downtown Seattle is somewhat vague, this study is limited primarily to the routes leading to and from downtown. While many of the stakeholder groups in the Downtown area are identified in the appendices containing lists of business and community organizations, the limited time frame in which this study was conducted precluded a more detailed effort to identify major property holders, community serving organizations, and other parties who are not on the Department of Neighborhoods community contact lists.

The Study Area

The route under study would, if fully built out as proposed in the Intermediate Capacity Transportation Study (ICTS), run approximately 23.9 miles. It would extend from the south end of West Seattle through Downtown Seattle, north to Ballard through Interbay, over at Holman Road toward North Seattle Community College, over to and around the south end of Northgate Mall. It would then proceed down Northgate Way to Lake City Way, where it would run up to the City line at 145th.

Proposed Station/Platform Locations

This route would have a total of 31 stops. There would be nine between Delridge and the West Seattle Bridge, including two on Delridge Way, one by the Highline-West Seattle Mental Health Center, one on 35th Ave SW, one at the Morgan Junction, one halfway between the Morgan and Alaska Junctions on California Ave SW, one at the Alaska Junction, one at Avalon Way, and one just before the West Seattle Bridge crossing at Andover.

There would be two stops south of Downtown, one at 1st and Lander, and one at 4th and Royal Brougham. There also would be four stops downtown, located at Jackson, Columbia, Pike, and Lenora Streets.

One stop is proposed at South Lake Union/Uptown/Seattle Center at approximately at 5th and Broad (currently the existing north terminus of the Monorail). There is a stop proposed near the intersection of Elliot Avenue and Thomas Street. The Interbay platform is proposed to be located at 15th NW and W. Dravus.

A stop is proposed in the Ballard core near Swedish Hospital, with another one near Ballard High School, and another at 15th NW and 85th. Two stations are also proposed on Holman Rd., one about halfway down the hill, and the other at the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and Holman Road. A station is shown at SR 99 and N. 105th, with another at North Seattle Community College.

The system would cross I-5 at about 100th, with one station situated at the south lot of Northgate/Northgate transit center and another located by Northwest Hospital further north at Northgate Mall. There would be an additional stop at Northgate Way and 15th Ave. NE, with the line proceeding along Northgate Way.

After joining up with Lake City Way, the proposed route would have stations in Lake City at the intersection of Lake City Way and 125th, with the final terminus being located at Lake City Way and NE 145th.

While the Elevated Transportation Company has not yet designated specific routes beyond the corridor level, discussions with two ETC board members indicate that there is interest in the potential route identified by the Mayor’s Intermediate Capacity Transit Study and examined in this report. The proposed route is also generally consistent with the intent of both Initiatives 41 and 53, according to the respective proponents of those two voter-approved measures.

Executive Summary

First Finding

Interviews with community activists and a review of the results of neighborhood planning efforts lead to the initial conclusion that there is considerable support from the communities along the proposed West Seattle/Downtown/Ballard/Lake City Monorail route (see Appendix B, interviews, and Appendix C, neighborhood plan excerpts).

This contradicts the critics of elevated transit who state that the neighborhoods that would be impacted by the monorail won’t support it. In fact, of 17 neighborhood plans in the study area, 10 specifically support expansion of the monorail, and none of the others specifically opposes elevated transit.

Second Finding

There is considerable skepticism on the part of both monorail supporters and critics about the City’s commitment to making an elevated mass transit system happen (see Appendix B, interviews).

Citizens are increasingly cynical about the willingness of government to honor the wishes of voters, and about the ability of government to deliver public works projects on time and on budget. The recent problems faced by Sound Transit demonstrate what happens when major transportation projects lose touch with the neighborhoods they are trying to serve.

Third Finding

A monorail route, to be workable, must resolve any problems that arise in commercial and/or industrial areas where free flowing auto and truck traffic cannot be compromised (see Appendix B, interviews, and Appendix C, neighborhood plan excerpts)

Commercial and industrial areas that are heavily dependent of auto and/or truck traffic were the most concerned with the potential effects of elevated transit. Truck turning movements, the ability to make free left turns into businesses, and the problems of existing traffic congestion were all typical concerns. Also, the effects of construction related disruptions were a major issue, as well.

Other Statistics

The neighborhood plans of Admiral, Delridge, Denny Triangle, Downtown Urban Center, Lake City/North City, Morgan Junction, Queen Anne/Uptown, South Lake Union, Westwood/Highland Park and the West Seattle Junction all refer to and support the expansion of monorail service.

9 of 13 District Councils (Ballard, Delridge Neighborhoods, Downtown, Greater Duwamish, Lake Union, Magnolia/Queen Anne, North, Northwest, and Southwest) represent neighborhoods in the study area

48 of 77 contacts/groups on the Department of Neighborhoods business groups list are within the study area

115 of 227 contacts/groups on the Department of Neighborhoods residential groups list are within the study area

There are 11 churches along the study route

There are 13 health centers/clinics of varying sizes along the study route, including 3 hospitals

There are 5 schools along the study route, one of which is currently abandoned

General Observations By Neighborhood

West Seattle

Elevated mass transit was supported by all 5 West Seattle neighborhood plans

The business community supports the concept of elevated transit

Park and ride facilities will be critical to ensure people use the system

A route that goes down 35th Ave. SW and negatively affects vehicle traffic may raise more opposition than others proposed

South Downtown

Businesses in the South Downtown area are very concerned about freight mobility and continued customer access

First Avenue S. is seen as being at capacity now, particularly with new office and stadium-related development to come

The South Downtown business community must be shown how elevated mass transit will benefit them if they are going to support it

Downtown core

Downtown Urban Center and Denny Triangle plans both envisioned future Monorail expansion

It is unclear in the ICTS whether monorail extensions would connect to current monorail, or whether they would actually replace it

The Belltown Plan calls for designating 1st and 3rd as primary north/south transit corridors, and discouraging local transit service on 2nd and 4th Avenues

South Lake Union/Uptown Queen Anne

Both neighborhood plans supported Monorail expansions that would serve these areas

The Uptown plan called for Monorail expansion north to Ballard

The South Lake Union plan expressed concerns about elevated alignments that would impact Lake Union access, views, and vehicular movements

BINMIC/Interbay/Ballard

While these areas did not reference elevated transit in their respective plans, they do seem supportive in initial discussions

Businesses along 15th NW, according to the BINMIC Plan Steward, would likely oppose if elevated system resulted in losing a lane of traffic

With adequate shuttle service, it may not be necessary for the proposed line to divert off of the 15th Avenue NW corridor into the core of the Ballard business district

Businesses and residents farther north at Crown Hill may object to view blockage, early surveys are critical to determine levels of support

Greenwood/Aurora-Licton

Neither neighborhood plan refers to elevated transit

Aurora Avenue Merchants Association adamantly opposed to an elevated line up SR-99

Greenwood Plan does call for development of an in-city rapid transit system with east/west corridors at Holman Road/N.105th, N 85th, and NW Market/N.46th.

Northgate

No reference to elevated transit in neighborhood plan

Many of the health institutions/hospitals/clinics are along this proposed leg

Unlike other areas, there is no readily identifiable Northgate business association for non-mall businesses along Northgate Way

Northgate Way between 15th Avenue NE and Lake City Way is almost entirely single family residential

Lake City

Lake City Neighborhood plan specifically supported studying monorail stations on Lake City Way near intersections with Northgate Way, NE 125th, and NE 145th.

Lake City business community was extensively involved in developing this recommendation, and believe elevated transit could help revitalize commercial core

Lake City businesses are much more concerned with negative effects of bus/HOV lanes and lost parking than they are with view issues raised by elevated transit

It will be easier to build an elevated transit system before Lake City Way is redeveloped

Quieter residential neighborhoods of Victory Heights and Pinehurst may object to elevated route along Northgate Way

Other observations

Each potential station location has a number of properties and businesses that should be contacted very early on in the process once a potential route is decided upon

Each “jog” in the line may result in impacts to properties, and these need to be mapped once a potential route is determined

Accurate visual depictions of what elevated transit would actually look like in city neighborhoods need to be prepared as soon as possible

While it is a considerable (and likely expensive) task, surveys should be prepared and mailed to all addresses along potential routes at the earliest possible opportunity

Neighborhood plan support for traffic circles and street vacations is not sufficient in and of itself to ensure these are done – the City still requires 60% approval of nearby property owners for such projects. Similarly, neighborhood plan support for elevated transit is not an adequate substitute for the support of property owners and tenants along a proposed monorail line

Sound Transit’s public review and scoping process should be reviewed to determine why the siting effort for the light rail line failed to identify significant issues earlier on.

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