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At a Crossroads

Written by Mike Thee
November 4, 2010

Seattle University will host a town hall meeting next Tuesday that will help shape the future of our region’s transportation system, including service to the campus area. Faculty, staff and students are being encouraged to attend the meeting, which takes place 6:30-8 p.m. on Nov. 9, in Campion Ballroom. The event will by videotaped for broadcast by King County TV.

The topic: King County Metro Transit is facing “a cumulative deficit of more than a billion dollars over the next five years and expects to cut more than 600,000 hours of bus service in response,” writes King County Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Nearly one-fifth of all bus service may be eliminated.”

Phillips will be joined at the meeting by fellow council member Larry Gossett. After presenting the findings of a seven-month task force on the region’s transit system, they will respond to questions and comments from the audience.

With so many faculty, staff and students relying on the county’s bus system, there’s a lot at stake for the university. “Transit service is so important to us and our partners in the community,” says Casey Corr, director of strategic communications.

While much of the town hall will likely focus on the looming threat of bus service cuts, Corr also sees it as an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to stress the importance of transit options for SU’s campus.

The town hall also comes at a fortuitous time in the development of the First Hill Streetcar, which, set to open in 2013, will link First Hill with Capitol Hill and the Chinatown/International District.  According to early plans, the line will include stops on both sides of Broadway Ave., roughly at Broadway and Marion Street. A design sketch shows a northbound stop at Seattle U’s Broadway Garage. The streetcar is a partnership between the city of Seattle and Sound Transit, with the city taking the lead on managing the design and construction.

The streetcar will enhance service along Broadway, giving the Seattle U community more convenient access to various destinations and providing visitors and off-campus students better access to the university, Corr says. He predicts the streetcar will become very popular with residents and tourists by connecting several of the city’s most lively neighborhoods. Eventually the streetcar will connect to Sound Transit stations, now under construction, giving riders access to a regional network.

The changes along the Broadway corridor give Metro an opportunity to consider shifting some transit to serve 12th Ave., a goal recommended by various city plans and urged by the university. Members of the Seattle U community are encouraged to weigh in on that idea at Tuesday’s meeting.

Seattle University was chosen for the town hall following the university’s open invitation to Councilmember Phillips, whose district includes SU. “A member of the council staff, who happened to be a Seattle U alumnus, asked if we’d host the town hall,” says Corr, “and we jumped at the opportunity. This is a good example of the university partnering with community organizations and government agency to help improve our neighborhood.”