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Transit plan may include downtown shuttle

By 2009, Federal Way residents might see improved transit services in four areas of the city.

Federal Way has shown an interest in improving transportation services in the city through the Transit Now initiative, which King County voters approved in November 2006.

On July 3, the City Council submitted four letters of interest to King County in regards to the initiative, which is funded by a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase — and aims to improve and expand Metro Transit services in King County by 15 to 20 percent in the next 10 years.

The letters do not guarantee the city will choose to incorporate the program into Federal Way. But if the city decides to focus its attention on improving transit service through the Transit Now initiative, it will have a chance to submit proposals to do so.

Although no final decisions have been made, the City Council has begun to brainstorm where it would like to see improved transit services.

The city is specifically interested in improving service through its city center, expanding services in the western regions of the city, creating a rapid ride program and improving service on Dash Point Road, traffic engineer Rick Perez said.

The city is still unsure as to what services it could afford to offer and what organizations may be interested in helping to pay for the services, he said.

"Transit service is not cheap," Perez said.

Expanding access to the city center

The city would like to see transit improved and expanded in its city center commute trip reduction act.

Currently, this act includes providing van pools to 15 sites in the city center, Perez said. However, the services are limited, and if one wishes to leave work for a midday lunch or to run errands, that person is almost forced to drive, he said.

The city is interested in possibly replacing the van pools with a shuttle service, which would have drop-off and pick-up locations near restaurants and places where people run their errands, Perez said.

The shuttle would allow people from the 15 participating businesses and sites, as well as city residents, to leave their vehicles at work or home while they ate or shopped, he said. The shuttle would likely serve stops every half hour during peak morning, midday and evening hours, Perez said. The rest of the time, the shuttle would likely run every 60 minutes, he said. Essentially, this service would be a new bus route, Perez said.

Providing service to west Federal Way

The city is also considering partnering with Pierce Transit to possibly expand bus routes 182 and 187, which now serve parts of Federal Way and Northeast Tacoma.

The routes would be expanded together since they use the same buses, which alternate between the two routes throughout the day, Perez said. It would be more cost efficient this way, he said.

Both the extent of the bus routes and frequency they run would be upgraded, Perez said. Route 182 could be extended further into Northeast Tacoma, and both routes might see an increase in the frequency in which they're offered. During peak midday hours, bus riders could likely see service every 30 minutes, rather than every 60 minutes, Perez said. Also, both routes could run later into the evening hours, Perez said.

More service, more often

More frequent service is in demand in Federal Way, and the city hopes to provide this service through the Rapid Ride program.

This program would feature easily identifiable buses with a distinct look, which would consistently provide service every 15 minutes, Perez said. Rapid Ride could be compared to light rail, Perez said.

"The notion is you're going to produce a bus route with very frequent service," Perez said.

One possible drawback for this program is transit stops would be located approximately a half mile to 1 mile apart, instead of one quarter mile apart. Maintaining route 174 on Pacific Highway in addition to the Rapid Ride service may be an option, Perez said.

At the June 19 City Council meeting, where Perez presented the Transit Now opportunity to the council, council member Jeanne Burbidge expressed some concern in making transit users walk a half mile to 1 mile to utilize the Rapid Ride service.

For the elderly and disabled, this could make transit service difficult to use, she said.

Service on Dash Point Road

The fourth and last possibility for expanded transit service in Federal Way is the addition of a Dash Point Road corridor route.

Routes 175 and 901 currently serve parts of Dash Point Road between South 312th Street and 1st Avenue South, but the goal would be to service the whole corridor, Perez said. A transit stop at Dumas Bay Centre would be preferred as part of this option, he said.

However, the city may find that there are not enough transit riders in this area to support the expansion, Perez said.

Of the four areas of interest, the city is most interested in expanding and improving transit service through the use of a city center shuttle — and broadened service in bus routes 182 and 187, Perez said.

Providing a shuttle to the city center would cost about $240,000 per year, Perez said. Some sites, such as Weyerhaeuser, may be interested in becoming partners with the city in funding the shuttle, he said.

Altering routes 182 and 187 would cost about $220,000 per year, Perez said. Pierce Transit made a preliminary offer to partner in providing funds for this option, but it is unclear as to how much money it might contribute, he said.

The right price

On June 19, City Council member Eric Faison expressed his concern with the price of the services. He wondered if the money the city may choose to spend on improving transit services could be better spent in other areas. Faison said he wanted to make sure the city and council adequately researched the costs and benefits of the services.

The city has until Oct. 1 to further research its four interests and decide whether to submit proposals for them, Perez said. For now, Perez plans to work with the Metro Transit staff to fine-tune the city's options and identify possible partnerships, which would be required to commit to matching at least one-third of the cost of the service, Perez said.

"I'd be surprised if the city could afford all four of them," Perez said.

The city expects to be begin discussing its budget within a month or two, council member Linda Kochmar said.

If the city submits proposals, King County will decide by January 2008 as to whether they were approved.

Services would take effect no earlier than 2009, Perez said.

Contact Jacinda Howard at: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or at (253) 925-5565.

To learn more about Transit Now, visit www.kingcounty.gov.

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