Sam Hooper, a researcher at Oregon state University, has produced a short video that highlights how natural and human-caused impacts can change forested landscapes in the Pacific Northwest swiftly.
A friend and I were strolling through the plaza at Fifth and Jackson, on our way to Daiso Japan. Incredibly, I’d never been, and was excited. The night was dark. Figures to my left and right, huddling in the gloom, a nightmare with the right assumptions. Has the effort I’ve laid down over the years toward these people helped me? Do such things make a difference?
They do and they don’t. The reason for my kindness isn’t a desire for protection, nor the expectation of the same in return. Those are frequent and wonderful benefits for which I’m thankful, but they’re not why I’m nice.
There is no tip jar for public bus drivers. This fact separates it from many other customer service jobs, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the gig. Why?
Because without one, the public knows your kindness is completely genuine. There is no incentive, no reason for pretense. A friendly bus driver means something to people. That woman or man piloting this vehicle, out here amongst the chaos, actually just likes being nice. There are people like that.
Of course I love it when the contagiousness of kindness reveals itself in others– without this job I wouldn’t know that it happens basically all the time, amongst all people– but I have to remember to give folks the space necessary to be who they are in that moment. They don’t need to reply. They can have some room. I greet everyone once, keeping in mind Mr. J. M. Barry: “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” That good energy you make comes back around in unexpected ways. It’s something real you built, and they build it too.
In the plaza a man came toward us, tall, dark, cloaked, with an imposing figure and strong build, mysteries in those sagging pockets. Hard to make out his expression in this gloaming. I felt short in his presence.
“Excuse me, young man and young lady, I was wondering…,” he began, reaching his hand out.
Then he recognized me.
A grin exploded out of him, the type of beaming smile that would make any person’s face beautiful. He radiated convivial vigor. “It’s you!!! Hey, man,” he exclaimed, as we shook hands long and firm. He turned to my friend. “This guy is the best! He is the best, nicest, friendliest….”
“Oh no,” I laughed.
“It’s good to see you! I’m sorry I’m not driving today! But I’ll be back Saturday!”
He wished us both a great night, still beaming. He didn’t ask us for anything at all. I was touched by that, because he looked like he would have benefited from doing so. I believe he refrained out of respect. Which moved me. Or perhaps we gave him what he needed, in the form of joy, the animation of delight and all it reminds us toward.
He certainly gave me the same.
Seattle is back on top. Among big cities, Seattle is growing faster than any other (on a percentage basis) as it added 20,847 people between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016, according to new US Census Bureau estimates. That 3.1% year-to-year growth puts Seattle at an estimated 704,352 residents as of July 1, 2016, which confirmed what I had guessed in February that Seattle had crossed the 700,000 mark.
Almost 11 months have passed since the effective date of the estimate. That means if Seattle maintained its 3% growth rate–no guarantee–Seattle’s population would surpass 725,000 by July 1, 2017–18 years ahead of one projection.
At light rail stations across the Central Link network, Sound Transit has installed safety barriers to meet a mandate by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to better achieve the goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. “The between-car barriers are supplemental to the wayfinding pavers, and are specifically intended for a vision-impaired rider who may mistake the area between cars for a door,” Sound Transit says. “The spacing on the barriers meets the regulations for the cane-swipe.” Similar light rail systems in Los Angeles and St. Louis have also deployed barriers to reduce the chance of visually-impaired riders from falling between train cars.
In September 2015, the FTA circulated a letter highlighting the falling hazard issue stating:
Under 49 C.F.R. § 38.85, where light rail vehicles operate in a high-platform, level boarding mode, devices or systems must be provided to prevent, deter, or warn individuals from inadvertently stepping off the platform in between cars. The intent of this provision, which has been a part of the [Department of Transportation] ADA regulations since September 6, 1991, is to require light rail systems to obtain suitable devices to assist with and prevent passengers from mistaking the gap between cars for a doorway and potentially falling onto the trackbed.
I believe the confusion regarding the between-car barrier requirement centers on the fact that there is no regulatory definition of “high-platform.” But, the regulatory language links “high-platform” to “level boarding mode” and must be considered in conjunction with other key parts of the regulation, which clearly point to the relationship between platform height and entrance to the vehicle floor—an alignment that must occur to create a level boarding environment. Thus, the requirements in 49 C.F.R. § 38.85 are designed to deal with the safety problem resulting from the gap between cars when vehicles operate in this high-platform, level-boarding mode. Furthermore, the regulation recognizes that level boarding from high platforms (where the platform height is coordinated with the height of the vehicle floor) provides the most accessibility for the maximum number of people.
These requirements address the need to mitigate the hazard of a gap created between two or more rail cars operating in a consist. All travelers must have safe, unimpaired access to a light rail system. In a level boarding/platform environment without between-car barriers, the hazard of falling to the trackbed exists whenever a light rail system operates trains of more than one car.
So far, Sound Transit has installed safety barriers at the edges of platforms for 12 stations. The stations in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) are the only ones without the barriers because of the dual operations of trains and buses. According to Sound Transit, barriers in the tunnel could “impede boarding or egress of buses, especially if more than one bus is at a single bay.” But when the buses finally come out of the tunnel for the last time, barriers will be installed. Sound Transit will also deploy barriers to future light rail stations.
The cost for the barriers is approximately $2,508 a piece with each station requiring a minimum of four with the current two- and three-car train fleet. Sound Transit has authorized just over $346,000 for barrier procurement of a total of 21 stations. That is enough for each of the stations in operation today, two stations in the Northgate Link extension, and two extra spares where needed. For now though, Sound Transit has only exercised $155,000 of the project funds for the initial 12 stations.
Separately, Sound Transit has piloted six-month platform project meant to improve the boarding and alighting process to reduce delay and enhance passenger safety and comfort. That project involved placing markings on platform floors where light light doors open indicate where waiting passengers should stand so that passenger onboard trains could exit more easily. The pilot will end this summer (with some markings already removed due to deterioration), but could be extended and enhanced. Sound Transit’s Operations group hopes to receive user feedback on the usefulness of the markings, particularly from passengers with mobility challenges and visual impairment.
Sound Transit has taken an unprecedented step in issuing a joint statement with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) rejecting a call-out by the Trump administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018–contradictorily titled “A New Foundation For American Greatness”. Earlier this week, the Trump administration specifically named the regions that the agencies operate in for draconian budget cuts that threaten the delivery of new capital projects for transit sorely needed to improve quality of life and economic prosperity.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), an arm of the Trump White House, explicitly identified transit funding cuts to Seattle and Los Angeles in the budget blueprint stating that:
The Budget proposes reduced funding for this program, which provides Federal funding for local transit projects that should be funded by State and localities that benefit from their use. Localities are better equipped to scale and design infrastructure investment needed for their communities. Several major metropolitan areas, including Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle, have already begun to move in this direction by asking residents to approve multi-billion dollar bond measures to speed the delivery of highway and transit investments. These regions realize waiting for Federal grant funding is not the most efficient way to meet their local transportation needs. Federal resources should be focused on making targeted investments that can leverage private sector investment and incentivize the creation of revenue streams where possible.
The OMB proposal focuses on regressive and destructive transportation policies that seek privatization of American infrastructure. Most forms of infrastructure, including transit, require substantial public subsidies to build, maintain, and operate them in order to provide expansive and fair access to all.
Broadly speaking, the transportation budget is a bloodbath which would wipe out about 12.7% in annual discretionary spending. The Trump administration is targeting non-highway spending specifically, which makes up the bulk of the proposed reductions:
- At least $928 million would be reduced from the New Starts transit investment program, leaving the program with an annual budget of $1.23 billion;
- The Essential Air Service, which is imperative to providing rural air service, would be zeroed out;
- Amtrak would lose nearly half of its funding for the cross-national network threatening the viability of most routes and inevitably leaving remote communities stranded; and
- The discretionary surface infrastructure program (TIGER), which helps fund many different small-scale multi-modal projects, would also be entirely eliminated.
In response to the Trump administration’s cynical budget proposal, Sound Transit and Metro issued the following statement:
The administration’s assertion that our regions can deliver transit solutions for our citizens without federal partnership is uninformed, misguided, and unfair. The voters of our communities stepped up and voted to tax themselves to provide a path out of punishing congestion. For that bold action, they should be rewarded at the federal level, not punished.
The ballot measures adopted by our voters assumed a reasonable level of federal matching funds to deliver our most challenging transit solutions through the continued funding of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program. But the administration’s budget proposes to terminate that federal partnership for challenging projects at a time when ever-worsening road congestion threatens to choke off our and other region’s economic growth. This wrong-headed budget proposal ignores the will of our local voters and the real-world challenges we are facing in our rapidly growing cities.
Both transit agencies are planning massive transit expansions that are heavily reliant on federal backing. Voters in both regions passed separate transit expansion measures last fall. Sound Transit, for instance, is slated to deliver 62 more miles of light rail and 37 new stations, three bus rapid transit lines, expand Sounder commuter rail and increase its frequency, enhance regional bus service broadly, and make other key transit investments throughout Puget Sound as part of Sound Transit 3.
The nominees are in and it’s time to vote. Take a walk through these terrible intersections and place your vote for the worst intersection in Seattle.
- 1. Denny and Stewart: Every year we do this, an intersection on Denny makes the list. This year, it’s Denny and Stewart, nominated by Ryan Packer:
A hostile intersection for anyone on foot, yet essential for travel on foot between SLU and Capitol Hill. According to SDOT’s Vision Zero dashboard, there has been a pedestrian-involved collision at this intersection approximately every year going back to 2004. Pedestrians are forced to cross multiple unsafe lanes of traffic due to the absence of sidewalks on both sides of the I-5 overpass. Crosswalks are frequently blocked by traffic queuing for I-5, drivers frequently make very fast right turns on red from Stewart to Denny. The sidewalks are now so overflowing with pedestrians during rush hour that there is frequently danger of one being pushed into an oncoming bus.
Caitlin seconded the nomination:
+1 And during those crossings when your life isn’t in immediate danger, you’re jolted from peaceful thoughts by one driver incessantly honking at another for blocking the intersection. (Seriously, it happens nearly every cycle. Your honking won’t change anything.) Or, as was the case this morning, one driver angrily whipping around and flipping off the left-turning vehicle that had stopped to let you legally cross Denny.
- 2. NE 45th St and I-5: Outside of the lidded section of I-5 Downtown, every intersection with this major interstate is unpleasant for pedestrians, but the worst could be I-5 at NE 45th St, nominated by Nick:
The sidewalks are too narrow. There is a weird cross walk (north/south) in the middle of lanes of traffic (on the east side of the highway). Traffic is heavy and noisy. A cap on I-5 between 45th and 50th would be awesome to solve much of this concern (and would provide the city with a great additional park space).
- 3. Rainier Ave S and Martin Luther King Way S: These two streets meet at an acute angle and make for a large intersection with a long light-cycle, which isn’t even one of the eight reasons Neel has listed below:
I nominate Rainier Ave S and Martin Luther King Way S.
1. Pointlessly inconvenient pedestrian flyover bridges that no one uses
2. Poor signal timing which starves flow from MLK Way onto Rainier.
3. Heavy traffic volumes, including heavy transit and freight usage mixed with cars.
4. Narrow, partially obstructed sidewalks, next to a high school with a lot of walking traffic
5. Lack of Crosswalks on 2 of 4 possible crossings
6. High schoolers scrambling for their lives to get from school to public transit
7. Poorly sited bus stops that obstruct traffic and strand buses
8. Terrible integration with both the bus transit hub AND the light rail stations nearby.
The “bolo tie” concept would be a massive, massive improvement, and should be funded. It’s truly awful to be anything other than in a car on Rainier Ave S, and even then, it’s pretty bad.
- 4. Rainier, Boren, 14th, and Jackson: One of Seattle’s many complicated 5+ way intersections, like last year’s Worst Intersection in Seattle, Green Lake / 50th / Stone, but even more hostile to pedestrians and bicyclists. Kevin makes the case:
The 5-way corner of Rainier/Boren/14th/Jackson is a horrible intersection. Heavy traffic from Rainier, Streetcar tracks curving through, Bakery Semi-trucks turning left, push-button crosswalks to little islands. Come to think of it, the whole triangle formed by Boren, 12th Ave, Jackson, and Yesler is a Bermuda Triangle of awful intersections.
- 5. Madison, 24th, and John: Sean P makes a compelling case for this intersection, which was also nominated in 2015:
I nominate the six-way intersection at Madison/24th Ave E./E. John St. The intersection is bad enough as viewed from above, but when you put the whole thing on a steel slope as it is, it doesn’t work for pedestrians, bikes or cars. The Madison BRT project made a half-hearted effort to incorporate some changes in their early designs but they really just consist of some paint here and there. 24th would be a decent greenway except you have to zig zag across this intersection going N-S. Madison is very wide here but the only paint is a double yellow line, so is it 4 lanes or 2? I’ve seen people treat it as both. Cars coming southbound on 24th have no light, so there is a right only sign to John which many people ignore by just darting into Madison. The crossswalk across John at the west side is phased with green coming up Madison, meaning cars are surprised by pedestrians after making only a very slight left. And forget ADA, the hill is so steep nothing could possibly be compliant even if you tried. I could go on for ages, unfortunately I have no idea what the solution is.
- 6. Nickerson, Florentia, and 3rd Ave N: Kristen tells us about this one, another six-way intersection unpleasant for people driving and on foot, which is just south of the Fremont Bridge and near the Ship Canal Trail.
I nominate the 6-way intersection at Nickerson St., Florentia St., and 3rd Ave. N just south of the Fremont Bridge. The lights are timed so poorly during commuting hours that cars coming from Florentia Ave. and 3rd Ave N have nowhere to go when they have a green light. But they go anyways, completely clogging the intersection, and forming an obstacle course for pedestrians to navigate around.
- 7. Rainier, 23rd, and Hill: I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a six-way intersection in the city that anyone likes or an intersection on Rainier, for that matter. This one was nominated on Twitter by @travismerrigan, who tells us first-hand how dangerous the intersection is: “6-way intersection right off a freeway. I’ve almost died their twice, no joke.”
- 8. Leary and 20th Ave NW: The Urbanist summarized all the problems with this sea of concrete in 1,000 words, calling it an “accident waiting to happen.” Commenter Moe Sizlac offered a more concise synopsis: “Leary and 20th Ave NW awful awful awful.”
- 9. University Bridge and Campus Pkwy: This actually used to be an intersection at one point, but at some time between 1936 and 1968 was converted into a highway-style interchange. J explains the situation:
I nominate the intersection/pseudo-interchange at Campus Pkwy and the University Bridge. Even after the recent work, it still represents a major PBL gap, and people biking northbound face a pair of long weave areas at the offramps. There is no easy way for bikes, especially southbound, to get to the eastbound Campus Pkwy PBLs and therefore to the Burke-Gilman Trail. There is no way for people walking to cross Eastlake/Roosevelt/12th without using the underpasses, a roundabout route for people walking north-south on the west side, and no real pedestrian through route on the east side. The east/west to south movement for cars and buses ends with a merge onto Eastlake, which tends to be a slow spot for southbound buses, especially when the Montlake Bridge is closed. There is no eastbound through route, making the inbound 31/32 (outbound 75) take a slow, roundabout route via Northlake/Pacific. Sadly, there is no real way to deal with this mess that would not be insanely expensive. The Roosevelt HCT project could potentially help to some extent; however, it is not in the current plan, and the project’s budget is likely to be cut, not expanded.
- 10. NE 40th St and 7th Ave NE: Few intersections are as confusing as this one, and it’s a pain for people on foot, on bike, and in a vehicle–especially when traffic backs up and clogs the intersection. Here’s what baselle says:
I nominate the spaghetti nightmare (6 way intersection!) of 40th and 7th NE. In addition to the joys of a 6 lane intersection where peds fight cars, and where nobody understands right of way, the Burke Gilman is just close enough to provide extra issues with peds and bikes and cars.
- 11. North Green Lake Intersections: The intersection of E Green Lake Dr N, W Green Lake Dr N, and Green Lake Dr N is terrible based on the street names alone. However, it’s only one intersection in a series of bad ones that Jay nominates:
I nominate the mess of intersections at the north end of Green Lake. Of the 6 arterials that meet there (E Green Lake Dr/W Green Lake Dr/Green Lake Dr/Wallingford/Winona/Stroud), only the Wallingford intersection has any sort of traffic control. The result is congestion if you’re in a car or on the 45 bus, a lot of near misses and noxious fumes if you’re on a bicycle. As a pedestrian, your main risk here is being a victim of road rage.
- 12. 15th Ave W and W Dravus St: 15th Ave W is essentially a highway at this point, with a long light cycle that creates traffic back-ups, where overeager drivers encroach on the crosswalk to turn right on red. Here’s what Lisa B. says:
15th Av. and Dravus, where Interbay/Magnolia/Queen Anne blend into a wonky, frustrating mess. The busy D Line passes through here – with lots and lots of Ballard High students traveling north during morning rush hour. The timing of the signals is completely unpredictable and can take what seems a lifetime to get through each segment of the intersection. And because it’s on an overpass, there are several small segments to get through. When commuters get off the D Line from downtown, they scurry across the street to a tiny strip of concrete (it is NOT a sidewalk) because, as mentioned above, it can take FOREVER if you actually wait for the signal.
The polls will be open until June 9.
The fate of much disputed MidTown Center may finally be decided. Lake Union Partners closed the deal yesterday on the coveted property with a $23.25 million bid. Moreover, the developer agreed to sell 20% of the parcel to the conservation non-profit Forterra who has partnered with Africatown with the shared goal of creating affordable spaces for homes and small businesses to ensure African Americans can continue to call this historically red-lined–and now red-hot–neighborhood home.
Excluded from other neighborhoods and cities with racial covenants and discriminatory lending practices, African Americans called the Central District home because they had few other options. As recently as 1970 the Central District was 73% Black, but it’s now estimated Blacks make up less than 20% of the neighborhood. With a shrinking Black population and mounting displacement pressure, Africatown has made it their mission to write African Americans into Seattle’s future. Many in the Central District’s Black community sees owning the land as key to changing the pattern of displacement and exclusion.
“We need to get our own cranes up,” Black Dot’s community manager Britney said at a protest at MidTown Center after Seattle Police Department dispersed a group camped inside the now re-located Black Dot, a community space and business incubator.
“If we don’t write ourselves into the future, there’s a good chance we won’t be in the future,” Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett said last year. “There was intentional exclusion, and now we need to have intentional inclusion.”
The Midtown Center deal propels Africatown toward that goal and vision for the Central District. Forterra and Africatown plan to build 135 affordable homes atop several storefronts and perhaps a small business incubator on their portion of the site. They will use a community land trust model to allow moderate-income residents a path to ownership. Meanwhile, Lake Union Partners aims to build at least 420 apartments, about 125 of those affordable via Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and MFTE (Multi-Family Tax Exemption).
After weeks of speculation, the Seattle City Council appears to be rushing to put together a framework that could allow private bikeshare operators to get their bikes onto Seattle’s streets by the height of peak tourist season. Tom Fucoloro at the Seattle Bike Blog has been covering this story more intensely than anyone else in Seattle media, and thanks to his reporting we have a pretty good idea of what companies are eyeing the prime Pronto-free streets of Seattle.
Allowing a private bikeshare operator (or three) to come in and place bikes on our streets is probably very tempting to the bike-friendly members of the city council, who from all reports were left out of the loop on the decision to close down the city-owned Pronto bikeshare on March 31st. The decision by the mayor’s office to divert bikeshare funds elsewhere during an election year disarmed a political problem. Private bikeshare doesn’t come with as many political problems: no city money would go toward it, and the city might even come out ahead with revenue coming in for permits.