Bus stop to doom business, owner fears

When customers haul their carpets to be cleaned at David Katz's Ravenna Interiors on Northeast 65th Street, they park in front of his store. He has no parking lot.

That they might have to schlep their rugs a block or more leaves Katz frowning and shaking his head. But that's what might happen later this year if Metro goes ahead with its plans to place a bus stop directly in front of Katz's store, taking away his parking and, he says, his livelihood.

"This is a family business started by my parents," said Katz, 50. "Parking's not sexy, but losing my parking 24 hours a day for a bus zone is the unkindest cut of all."

The proposed bus stop is part of improvements planned for the 35th Avenue Northeast corridor, along Northeast 65th and Northeast 75th streets between 35th Avenue Northeast and Interstate 5. Metro wants to relocate some bus stops closer to crosswalks, which is why it wants to move the route 71 and 76 buses two blocks west to Katz's corner at Northeast 65th Street and Ravenna Avenue Northeast.

"It's always a hardship on someone when we move something," said Eric Gleason, manager of service development for Metro.

"I absolutely sympathize. But we're committed to work through solutions."

The plan, says Metro, would return 12 to 15 parking spaces to the neighborhood. But in the case of Katz, it comes with a high price.

What's driving the move, said Len Madsen, supervisor of transit-route facilities with Metro, is a safety issue: Katz's intersection is the only one with a signal between 20th and 25th avenues northeast. Madsen said he expects there would be about 80 passengers each weekday getting off at the proposed stop eastbound at Ravenna.

He said the new stop would require about 70 feet of curb space, leaving about 20 feet in front of Katz's building.

In all, said Madsen, four stops are proposed to be closed along the Northeast 65th Street corridor.

Katz argues that several apartment buildings are planned for the area where the buses now stop, and it's better to leave the stops nearer a dense population area than move it to his block.

Madsen said no decision has been made, and the public has until Friday to submit comments. Perhaps, he said, the stop could be moved to the end of the block, freeing up parking spaces in front of Katz's store. But that could be trouble for another business.

Changing bus stops is nothing new. Metro did it recently on Lake City Way, eliminating some stops to speed travel along the busy corridor. With 10,000 stops in the entire Metro system, it becomes a series of trade-offs, Gleason said.

Metro looks at whether a bus stop gives reasonable access to important destinations, whether there is appropriate distance between bus stops and whether people would walk to the stop.

"We are sensitive to business owners about parking," Gleason said, "and try to explore other options on side streets."

The generally accepted industry standard is that people would be willing to walk as far as a quarter of a mile to a bus stop, and that's what Metro uses as a rule of thumb. On a route with more frequent trips, people might walk farther because they wouldn't be concerned about missing a particular bus, Gleason said.

As for Katz, he doesn't know what he'll do if Metro puts the stop right in front of his business, and he isn't hopeful he'll win his battle. All he has to do is look a couple miles west to Aurora Avenue North and see how the city has restricted parking, despite loud objections from merchants.

"The city is at war with cars," he said.

"We carry carpeting, we carry furniture. I'm a commercial space that needs delivery, and I have no off-street parking," Katz said.

"If customers can't park conveniently, they won't shop. The current zone has worked well for decades."

Bumper Crop

Interstate 5 in Federal Way has entered cyberspace. The state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has turned on three new cameras at the South 320th Street exit, the South 288th Street crossing and the South 260th Street crossing. Commuters can go to the WSDOT Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov to check out driving conditions.

WSDOT also has congestion detection devices installed on the freeway between 320th and Highway 516. That way, WSDOT can monitor congestion and take action, such as ramp metering or turning on message signs.

This stretch of I-5 carries 200,000 vehicles a day.


Got questions, ideas?

Questions or suggestions on bus stops? Comments on other transportation issues? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Susan Gilmore at bumper@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2054.