Metropolitan King County Council members heard more than two hours of testimony on Oct. 6 from a large number of Northeast Seattle residents concerned about Metro Transit cuts and route revisions proposed to begin at the start of University Link light rail service in March.
Metro is proposing changes to bus routes to cut duplications in service when U-Link begins running between the new Capitol Hill and University of Washington (UW) light rail stations.
The County Council’s Transportation Economy & Environment Committee (TrEE) has had three public hearings regarding the proposed Metro revisions, all occurring downtown in the daytime, TrEE chairperson Rod Dembowski said.
“I wanted to make sure we had a night meeting with the community at least once,” he said, adding the council has received more than 700 online comments about the transit change.
The county councilmember accurately predicted before the Oct. 6 public hearing that the majority of residents in attendance — the Mountaineers Club packed and at standing capacity — were from Northeast Seattle.
Metro estimates its proposed March service changes will affect about 120,000 Seattleites.
Many asked County Council members to spare Route 43 — Montlake to Capitol Hill — which Dembowski said is something the council and Metro are working on.
Rachel Ben-Shmuel, a member of the Capitol Hill Housing board who spoke as a resident at the hearing, said she uses Routes 43 and 25 — which runs from Downtown to Montlake to UW and is also proposed to be cut — several times each week. She said splitting Route 48, proposed to go from the University District through Montlake to Mount Baker, won’t be efficient if congestion at the Montlake Cut is poor.
Susan Coldwell said her son has been using Route 48 to Route 8 — Central Area to Seattle Center — in anticipation of Route 43 being cut.
“He missed the 8 by one minute and had to wait a half an hour,” she said, later adding, “Two 43s went by while he waited for the 8.”
Route 8 is also proposed to be split, running from Seattle Center to the Mount Baker Link station, while Route 38 would run from Mount Baker to Rainier Beach.
Rob Liebreich, Aegis on Madison general manager, also encouraged the council to work with Metro to keep Route 43, as did Tamara Stephas and Michael Jochimsen, who live together on 23rd Avenue East near Aloha Street. They expressed concern — echoed by several others — about 23rd Avenue East and East Madison Street being used as a major transfer point, saying that area is unsafe at night.
Dembowski said he believes the Capitol Hill light rail station on Broadway will work well, but he does see challenges for UW/Husky Station.
“You really can’t bring a bus to the front door of Husky Station,” he said.
A number of residents expressed concern about the need to cross Stevens Way for several proposed transfers, disputing Metro’s claim such a walk could be accomplished in five minutes.
“This is ridiculous,” Jack Papegaay said, “and Metro calls it an improvement.”
Washington 46th District Rep. Gerry Pollet, whose district includes most of Northeast Seattle, said buses may be ADA-compliant, but service changes in his region that force seniors, disabled passengers and schoolchildren to walk farther to a bus or to make a transfer is not.
“Having all of Northeast Seattle restructured at this time is a big mistake,” the Democratic lawmaker and UW instructor said.
Many Northeast Seattleites also protested a Metro proposal to cut Routes 71 and 72.
Gordon McHenry, CEO for Wallingford-based Solid Ground, an organization that aids people in poverty, said he supported Metro’s proposal to make more bus trips around Magnuson Park, with 175 formerly homeless families it serves living around there.
County Councilmember Larry Phillips, who serves on the Sound Transit Board, said that the agency expects to open the Capitol Hill Station for service on March 26, but he has a feeling it will be sooner than that.
“I think it’s been well-designed,” he said. “I’m pretty particular when it comes to light rail stations.”
Metro undergoes route restructuring three times a year, and next spring’s changes will be the largest ever, Phillips said.
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