What is Metro doing to improve transit security in West Seattle? Metro responds to concerns

Four weeks ago, Amanda Kay Helmick, Chairperson of the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council wrote an open letter to Kevin Desmond, General Manager of Metro Transit expressing the Council's concerns about safety and security in West Seattle. These concerns were expressed against a backdrop of recent violent incidents involving transit. Desmond's reply follows the original inquiry. In that reply, Desmond outlines what measures Metro has taken and hopes to take to improve matters.


Amanda Kay Helmick, Chairperson of the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council's original inquiry to Kevin Desmond of Metro:

Good Morning Metro,
I am the Chair of the Westwood / Roxhill / Arbor Heights Community Council. We had our monthly meeting on Tuesday of this week, where our main focus was Roxhill Park. We had community Members from Roxhill Elementary, Daystar Retirement Village, Seattle Parks, Westwood Village as well as many concerned Neighbors.

Our main objective was to talk about how to enhance Roxhill, and discuss the issue of safety. With the Westwood Village Shopping Center and surrounding streets becoming the Transit Hub for this area, we have seen increased levels of transients and petty crime. Even more concerning is the rise in serious crimes. We have had a stabbing, robberies, vicious assaults a parent had a knife pulled on him during the day this past Sunday, at the playground.

We had reports from Roxhill Park's Steward, Scott Blackstock, of finding over 200 tamper proof liquor caps from local grocery stores in the bogs of the park, along with copious amounts of trash. Daystar residents have seen tarps, tents and increased trash as well.

We have been working with SPD and Seattle Parks on these matters, and they have been very responsive to our concerns. However, we have yet to see any significant changes to the Transit Hub since our concerns were brought to your attention at our June 4th meeting.

We would like to see Metro:

Clean up and Police Metro Facilities
Metro should be cleaning the stop and surrounds regularly, not Seattle Parks or Daystar.
Metro Transit Police must be present at the Transit Hub.
Review of Route and Scheduling Considerations.
DSHS, Salvation Army, the White Center Food Bank, and the WIC office are in White Center. The bus connection to White Center is lacking. You have moved people away from the important services that they need.

  • Changes to Transit Hub Implementation.
  • The Wall of Buses inhibit observation of the park from Barton Street.
  • The bus Wall creates hazardous driving conditions from 29th Ave SW
  • The lack of parking in the Westwood Village Parking lot to support a Hub
  • Addition of lighting at the bus stop and along Barton St to 29th Ave SW (where the 21 and C let passengers off). We anticipate an answer from you before our December 2nd meeting.

Sincerely Yours,

Amanda Kay Helmick
WWRHAH CC Chair
www.wwrhah.org

Here is Kevin Desmond's response:

Dear Ms. Helmick:

Thank you for your email of November 7, 2013 about the Transit Center located at the Westwood Village Shopping Center near Roxhill Park. I appreciate you bringing the concerns of the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council to my attention. Safety and security is a high priority for all of us involved in keeping transit riders and community members safe. I apologize for not getting back to you before your December 2nd meeting. We were working to make sure we had all the components to respond to your email as completely as possible.

In the fall of 2012, Metro implemented a series of route restructures in West Seattle that provided additional service to Westwood Village on the RapidRide C Line and Route 21, both of which end service on Southwest Barton Street adjacent to Roxhill Park. In addition, routes 22, 60, 125, and 560 were routed to the eastside of Westwood Village along 25th Avenue Southwest. These changes have resulted in the creation of a new transit hub at Westwood Village that connects people to the many services offered there – shopping, dining, fitness, medical services, recreation, and other opportunities. Connections between transit services at Westwood Village also expand the number of places that people can travel and offer new mobility to many residents of West Seattle and beyond. As you have observed, these transit enhancements have generated new activity in and around the bus zone.

After receiving your email, we took some immediate actions to assess the situation in your community, including inspecting the stops involved and increasing Metro Transit Police patrols. Below you’ll find a summary of the steps we’ve taken:

· Provision of security: A special Metro Transit Police detail provides enhanced patrols in the West Seattle/Southwest King County area, including at Westwood Village. These patrols address transit crime and disorder issues, and any behavior that is not consistent with the Metro Code of Conduct. We have stepped up patrols at Westwood Village bus stops for a limited period of time in response to your concerns. We are also continuing to work closely with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to support policing activities in the area. Metro Transit Police will contact the local SPD precinct to review security issues in the area and evaluate potential additional policing activities that could be undertaken at Westwood Village.

· Additional lighting at Southwest Barton Street and area bus stops: The RapidRide bus stop is well lit with pedestrian-level light fixtures, but the sidewalk to the west towards Southwest 29th Street has no lighting. Existing street lighting in the area is on the north side of Southwest Barton Street. Metro staff evaluated this area and determined that it would be difficult and costly to provide additional lighting along the sidewalk adjacent to the park as there are no existing power sources that could be utilized. Metro then contacted the Seattle Parks Department to see if they have any plans to upgrade the lighting in Roxhill Park. Capital projects at the park were recently completed, and at this point in time the Parks Department has no funding for additional projects in the area. The Parks Department indicated that it will consider this need as a major maintenance request list, and may conduct a lighting study that would guide future investments in this area.

· Cleaning and maintenance of the Roxhill Park RapidRide bus stops: Metro is committed to the ongoing cleaning and maintenance of the RapidRide bus stop located just past Roxhill Park in front of the greenbelt. Metro Facilities Maintenance crews clean this stop three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The crews empty the litter receptacle, pick up trash in the vicinity of the stop and shelter, remove graffiti, repair vandalized elements, and pressure wash shelter pads as needed. We reviewed our cleaning schedule, which exceeds many Rapid Ride stops and is consistent with sheltered locations of similar ridership and customer patterns. As an improvement, we will be changing the existing litter receptacle at this location to a solar compacting receptacle in order to control and confine the amount of litter that may accumulate.

· Provide better connections to White Center: While the fall 2012 route restructure did shift service away from White Center to Westwood Village, White Center continues to be served by six all-day routes. Routes 60, 120, and 560 provide all-day connections between Westwood Village and White Center. Despite the changes, we have been able to maintain good transit connections for many people, including enhanced service between White Center and Westwood Village.

· The “wall of buses” on Southwest Barton Street: Due to frequent service provided by the RapidRide C Line and Route 21, buses do overlap at the terminal along Southwest Barton Street, with as many as three or four buses in this area at a time throughout much of the day. There are even more buses in this area during morning and afternoon peak periods when service operates more frequently. Metro staff is also concerned about the number of buses in this area during peak periods. This past September, we revised the schedules for some C Line trips to reduce the number of buses that end there in the morning, but have not yet been able to do that in the afternoon. We continue to look at other options including alternative sites to park the buses. However, any options that would extend the routes in search of an alternative layover location would increase our costs and are therefore not feasible at this point in time.

· Lack of parking in Westwood Village parking lot: The Westwood Village hub was not intended as a park-and-ride destination and park-and-rides are not generally provided in Seattle. That said, Metro Transit Route Facilities planners will be observing the parking situation at Westwood Village to identify parking needs for people trying to access transit service at this location. As a result of these observations, we may attempt to contact the mall and see if anything can be done to reserve a number of parking spots for transit users.

Thank you again for your email. I hope we can continue to work together to address these concerns. Metro Service Planning staff would be happy to meet with you on site to review these matters in more detail. If you have further questions or comments, please contact Marty Minkoff, Supervisor of Service Planning, at 206-477-5799 or via email at marty.minkoff@kingcounty.gov.

Sincerely,

Kevin Desmond
General Manager
Metro Transit Division

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