Gwen Davis
Michael Taylor-Judd (left) Marci Carpenter (center) at the most recent meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.

‘Snowplow driver’ wanted for director of transportation of SDOT

By Gwen Davis

“They want someone who, if needed to drive a snowplow, will drive a snowplow!” said Marci Carpenter, current interim board member of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC) and fresh inductee to Mayor Ed Murray’s committee to find a director of transportation for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

Carpenter talked about her experiences on the new committee to fellow interim board members at the WSTC meeting on Tues. evening.

People on the mayor’s new committee want the director to have “leadership, experience managing a city entity, experience working with stakeholders, and will stand up to challenges and will respect employees,” Carpenter said.
However, the committee Carpenter is on will only nail down the criteria the new director must have. The final search committee will be formed subsequently.
The mayor’s office anticipates announcing the director by mid-June ‘14. The mayor’s nomination is subject to council approval.

The director of transportation reports to the mayor and has management oversight of more than 750 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $400 million.

Carpenter has extensive experience in transportation advisory roles. She helped to develop major transportation projects in Colorado.

The meeting also featured Bob Chandler and Bill LaBorde from SDOT who answered questions the coalition had about current and future projects.
Discussions included the 4th Ave. off-ramps and public funding for continued projects.
“For SDOT, where are your priorities two years out from now for West Seattle?” asked interim board member Amanda Kay Helmick.

However, SDOT doesn’t have “priorities” like that, Chandler said, and instead looks at situations currently needing attendance.

As jobs have continued to grow, ridership is also increasing, Chandler said. It is Metro’s goal to look in the future and get people to and from their jobs.
Rapid Ride still needs improvements. One-ways in downtown need improvements, as well. W. Marginal Way will need to be rebuilt at some point.
Participants were interested in a host of issues, including the last time SDOT did a traffic analysis, if the light rail would be able to serve West Seattle and how many lanes to have on various streets.

The West Seattle vision has dramatically changed within the past several decades, SDOT officials noted.

“I think a lot of zones where growth is going into currently were developed in ’89 when we thought we’d have an urban village,” LaBorde said. “It didn’t happen for a long time, but now it is happening. One way of addressing it is with the Rapid Ride. Is that enough? Maybe, maybe not,” he said.
The meeting included a discussion about getting out the vote for Prop. 1, which would provide funding for public transportation, since the state legislature failed to pass a funding package last year. Members talked about how, if Prop. 1 doesn’t pass, public transportation will take major blows, such as dozens of bus routes being cut, as well as scenarios where people can’t get to their jobs for lack of transportation.

The coalition is nervous about Prop. 1. Members brainstormed options for if it isn’t approved.

“If Prop. 1 doesn’t pass and we won’t have buses in West Seattle, we should get a commuter bus,” Helmick said. “Just throwing that out there.”
Indeed, many organizations already have their own transportation systems, such as Amazon and Microsoft.

Attendees talked about needing an elevator pitch or a solid, “this is why…” statement to persuade people who haven’t made up their minds.
The WSTC is a Peninsula-wide organization working to address transportation and mobility issues for Seattle’s largest constituency. This meeting happened to be the coalition’s 6th month anniversary.

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