Burien citizens mostly satisfied with city government; no light rail for the city
By Jack Mayne
Burien residents in a semiannual survey say they are concerned about crime and education, but are satisfied at how their city government is performing, with eight out of 10 people surveyed saying they were happy with their interactions with Burien city staff.
The Council also heard that there will be no light rail link to West Seattle or to Sea-Tac International airport for around a quarter of a century because other expansions and improvement were considered more in keeping with a plan to keep taxpayer money in the neighborhood where it is collected.
The survey and the briefing on Sound Transit and Metro King County Transit were presented at the Burien City Council study session Monday night (April 25).
Like living here
The survey suggested residents like living in Burien, but they are getting much more concerned about the way their schools are running.
This came in a report on results of the 2016 survey of the community costing taxpayers $22,000.
Burien has every two years since 2008 conducted a community survey to assess “residents’ perceptions about the general quality of life in the city and their satisfaction with city government services.”
DHM Research of Seattle did the survey by telephone of 350 residents over four days from March 10 to March 13.
Michelle Neiss of DHM said seven of 10 residents think Burien in general is heading in the right direction, an increase over the 2014 survey.
The survey also showed eight in 10 surveyed said Burien was a “good or excellent place to live. Neiss said that most people are satisfied with city government, but she noted the large number of residents were “a little less forgiving if things were going down hill.”
Crime worries triple
Concerns of residents about education jumped dramatically, with the tripled increase showing that worries were not going to “go away in the next couple of years,” she said.
Crime reduction and police enforcement along with wanting sidewalks, bike lanes and improving streets were major concerns in the survey, Neiss said.
Almost half of the citizens were more concerned about their public safety, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year.
Most residents feel safe but that changes for those east of Ambaum.
But, despite the concerns people have, they “are largely satisfied with Burien Police. There may be some concern “that the number of very satisfied is going down, a trend worth paying attention to.
More police patrols
“What people most want from their police is more police patrols right now – they are happy with them, they just want a more visible presence,” Neiss said.
She said people were asked about their tax priorities and what they would like to see improved.
“Maintenance almost always trumps ‘new’ or ‘more’,” she said, noting that public safety and infrastructure are given support by citizens.
The lower numbers doesn’t mean they are unimportant to people, Neiss said.
As far as the information the citizens are getting from the city, 33 percent more people feel they are getting the right amount of information from the city.
“That tells me something has changed and that is a good change,” Neiss told the Councilmembers. Over eight out of 10 people thought they were having good interactions with city staff.
Staff gets plaudits
“This is a good sign that city staff has made some good improvements in how they interact with the public,” she said, noting the addition of a fulltime staff person in the communications department and changes in how staff interacts with people.
“Those changes are working for residents.”
Councilmember Steve Armstrong said the number really shows the improvement in city staff and the Council gave a short round of applause.
No rail for 25 years
Hopes for rail connections to Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport were dashed by Val Batey of Sound Transit Monday night when she said Burien will only get a study and a rail connection would not likely happen for at least a quarter of a century – “after 2040,” she said. Buses will likely be making such a connection, Beatty said of the Sound Transit Board of Director’s decision.
Sound Transit is currently requesting comments on the content of the next multi-billion dollar bond on the November election ballot. That issue is called ST 3, as the new bond would be the third major construction project finance issue for the transit agency for the 3.7 million residents expected to live in the area by 2040.
Burien had sought a light rail connection from the already planned light rail station in the West Seattle Junction on to Burien and thence to Sea-Tac Airport.
City Manager Kamuron Gurol said it was “hard to predict” but other ways to speed the light rail connection could develop.
“Our community would like to explore other funding mechanisms that would deliver light rail much earlier,” Gurol told the Council.
Currently the plan says that Burien and West Seattle people going to the airport would take buses to the Tukwila International Boulevard station, then transfer to light rail to get to the airport terminal station.
Sound Transit Board member and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said the “main reason” for no immediate light rail connection is something called “sub-area equity.”
That means that dollars raised in an area are used in that area and much of the money collected as taxes in South King County have gone to extending light rail from Des Moines to Federal Way, Upthegrove said.
“There is not the financial capacity to extend the main line and light rail to Burien,” he said, but he added the transit board could ask for additional money from taxpayers “at any time” or “other funding partnerships” to make changes such as the rail connection to downtown via West Seattle and to the airport.
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, contributing via telephone, said that the sub-areas are artificial lines that can be changed. She noted that the transit plan is lacking any consideration for people in the “lower economic classes” in Burien and elsewhere. Upthegrove said this group of people is considered, and that has caused concern from Seattle for not considering density there instead of connecting suburban cities to the spine of the system.
Transit to increase 70 percent
Christina O’Claire, King County Metro Transit’s manager of strategy and performance, told the Council that the local bus system will increase by 70 percent by 2040 to accommodate a million people and 850,000 jobs. To handle that, she said service will go from 3.5 million service hours now to 6 million hours in 2040.
O’Claire said that key transit issues in Burien include more bus connections between various areas of the city and the downtown Burien Transit Center, with more services needed to the Boulevard Park area and on Des Moines Memorial Drive for the future growth of the area.
Also Metro says there needs to be more frequent connections to the east side I-405 corridor and to light rail lines in Tukwila and West Seattle, as well as to downtown Seattle.
Protect Highway 509
Councilmember Debi Wagner noted the 509 corridor into SODO and downtown is going to become even more congested as it becomes more of a freight corridor and O’Claire said that piece of the Metro puzzle is still to be worked out over the next months.
O’Claire was asked by Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar how all of the proposal will be financed. She said existing income will cover about two-thirds of the expansion. She said more local, state and federal money will be needed but they aren’t asking for added revenue at this point.
The city staff prepared a response to Metro’s plan.
“Burien would like to see more detail about the anticipated system build out cost and potential revenue sources,” the city staff proposed telling Metro. Burien advocates that the cost of the system not fall disproportionally on its low income residents.”
The growth in ridership will mean Metro will have to buy 500 new buses and vans, increase bus layover spaces and add two or three new bus bases to support the new and expanded routes, O’Claire said.