Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Neighborhood Bus Route To Have Up To 5 Stops on 47th Near Laurelhurst School And Other Impacts To Neighbors, Submit Your Comments Today

At Monday night's monthly Laurelhurst Community Club meeting, the issue of  transportation needs for the NE area and the new Route #78 to serve Laurelhurst was discussed with featured guest, King County Councilman Larry Gossett, and five key staff members from Metro, including Deanna Martin, as well as other related agencies.

Public comment is being taken through today on this important issue which will impact bus service in Laurelhurst and connecting with the UW Light Rail station slated to open early next year. City Council is expected to make a decision on Monday of next week.

An LCC Board member told the Laurelhurst Blog staff that the meeting was well attended by a variety of neighbors, most of whom expressed the need for more convenient connectivity to the new Light Rail station at the UW Husky Stadium.

At the meeting, Metro confirmed that Route #25 is planned to be eliminated due to low ridership in favor of the new Route #78, which neighbors believe would have increased ridership due to the shorter ride (30 minutes including Light Rail connections), instead of the current 1 hour travel time.
The #78 route will operate in a loop to and through to the UW campus along Steven's Way.  However to then connect to Light Rail, riders would need to walk about 4-5 blocks along the UW's new Rainier Vista area, then across the elevated skybridge to connect to the station.  Neighbors said that the distance is too far for them to use that connection, if they have even minor mobility challenges.

Neighbors also expressed concerns about the number of stops along some neighborhood residential streets with the new route, particularly 47th Avenue NE near Laurelhurst Elementary School with  proposed stops  about every 15 minutes or every 1/4 mile per Metro guidelines.  

One neighbor said this frequency would completely change the character of the street.

The route then continues westbound on NE45th Street then turns left onto 42nd Avenue NE to NE 41 Street. Neighbors living in those areas commented that the new frequent bus service would negatively affect an already congested area, with more people trying to find parking to board the bus, as well as bus fumes and bus noise. 

Other neighbors were concerned about too few stops and hilly terrain to board the bus, especially for the elderly and those with disabilities.

One neighbor said that it appears that this new route is the major feeder route from Wedgewood, starting at NE 85th Street, through View Ridge, along Sand Point Way to the new Husky rail station.  So it  "means we will have many hundreds of people riding through our neighborhood every day.  The route 25 was as loop in Laurellhurst so we didn't have outside people coming through. That's all gong to change."
Another issue discussed with the Metro representatives was frequency.  Some neighbors requested daily service, while others suggested only morning and evening peak periods of service with no weekends.

LCC suggested that Metro run a short shuttle circuit, or " jitney" sized service along the back roads of the UW campus, that would connect more closely with the Light Rail Station without having the long walk from the campus. Metro looked into how the busses would drive safely on the unpaved roads in discussion and concluded they were not up to code as far as safety for the busses. The group mentioned using vans instead on the unpaved roads.

It was suggested by LCC that Metro adopt a pilot program to test the suggested transportation program to connect Laurelhurst with the Light Rail Station perhaps even through the perimeter of the E-1 parking lot since it is underutilized.
Councilman Gossett said he and his King County team would devote resources to seeing if a pilot could be implemented with the small , but frequent connection to Light Rail. Some transit connection were assured, but it may remain as the #78 route.
An LCC Board member said in general about the meeting:
Lots of pros and cons to every aspect of the bus service, but at least the needs of the community were heard, and we will see what Metro can devise for both connectivity, easy access and frequency to the new Light Rail.   
Though not expressed at the meeting, the real bottom line is that the new bus service will make it highly desirable to take public transit downtown and enhance the overall livability of the neighborhood. 
Most likely, we need to wait and see how the new route works out for the neighborhood, maybe review the new route after six months and get additional feedback to give to Gossett and the Metro planners.  This meeting started the dialogue. 

For more information go here to a recent Laurelhurst Blog post.

For more information about the new route serving the neighborhood and vicinity go hereGo here for detailed bus route changes.

For questions about the process, contact King County Council at 206-477-1000.


No comments: