Thursday, December 13, 2018

What We’re Reading: ST Insider Baseball, Promoting Housing Options, and SEA-TAC Fast Ferry


ST3 insider baseball: Sound Transit’s chief executive officer recently sat down to talk about third-party funding and expedited permitting for Sound Transit 3 projects.

Protecting tenants: Philadelphia could be the next city to provide lawyers for low-income tenants to protect them from eviction by landlords.

Prevent the Jenny Jam: A coalition of green transportation advocates (of which The Urbanist is a member) are pushing city leadership to step up and implement cost-effective, safe, and environmental-friendly mobility improvements ahead of the viaduct closure.

The Fighting Third: Two more challengers have thrown their hat in the ring to challenge Councilmember Kshama Sawant in District 3.

Promoting housing options: Minneapolis just made big strides to allow duplexes and triplexes in single-family zones.

Focused on mental health: Governor Jay Inslee (D-Washington) has a $675 million plan to tackle mental health service in the state ($) and bring the system back from the brink.

Low power: The power grid in America is not yet ready for full-scale adoption of electric cars.

SEA-TAC fast ferry: Could a fast ferry service from Tacoma to Seattle really work?

Disrespect from on high: Just before her unexpected last meeting, the co-chair of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board was abruptly dismissed in the eleventh hour by the mayor’s office.

WA green energy plan: Governor Jay Inslee has a green energy plan, but it doesn’t address public transit (aside from high-speed rail) and carbon fees.

Year of parking reform: 2018 was a big year for major parking reform in American cities.

As Vehicle Volumes Flatten, Pedestrian Collisions Continue to Rise


Seattle’s streets are not getting more traffic volume, and vehicle collisions on the citywide continue to decline, but it’s more dangerous to be walking on Seattle’s streets than at any time in recent history. That’s one of the big takeaways from Seattle’s 2017 traffic report, released this month.

For the third year in a row, over 500 people who were walking in Seattle were involved in a collision with a vehicle, with three in four of those people having an injury as a result of the incident. The 11 people walking that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) records as having died due to a traffic collision is the largest number since 2009, and the number of people that SDOT records as having been seriously injured (73) is at its highest level that at any point going back more than a decade.

A caveat: we know that SDOT’s serious injuries and fatalities are an undercount. A number of factors can lead to someone not being included in the yearly traffic report, including problems with SDOT coordinating with other agencies: a January 2017 fatality involving a pedestrian struck by a light rail train is one of the incidents left off this report. There are likely others.

UW Campus Master Plan and 2018 Comprehensive Plan Amendments Approved by City Council


On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved an update to the University of Washington Campus Master Plan. The approval wraps up a two-year planning process that the University of Washington initiated to allow for future expansion of teaching, housing, and supportive facilities at the main campus in Seattle. The city council also approved very modest amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a long-range planning blueprint for policies on things like housing, transportation, and land use.

UW Campus Master Plan Gains Approval

The approved zoning changes are fairly close to this plan. (City of Seattle)

The long-awaited update to the University of Washington Campus Master Plan concluded during the city council meeting, paving the way for the university to add a further six million square feet of net new space for buildings on the main campus. Most of the new square footage will enable additional development in the West Campus and East Campus areas above and beyond the current building cap.

One Month to Seattle Squeeze, MASS Asks City to Do More to Prepare

4th Avenue bus stop.

In one month, the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes to vehicles as the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) begins a three week process of connecting SR-99 to its brand spanking new $3.3 billion (and counting) tunnel. Worsening congestion appears inevitable but execution of non-car investment has been lacking, as bike projects, transit projects, and Vision Zero safety projects are delayed.

Today Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine are holding a 1pm press event at Seacrest Park, which isn’t served by transit at that time of day. They are announcing a new private-public partnership to boost West Seattle shuttle-van-based transit service to get people to the Seacrest Ferry Dock, which is served by the King County Water Taxi on a commuter schedule.

Meanwhile, Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition members are charting a path to avoid the worst outcomes as they point out in their press release which is available on their new website. MASS also released a map showing their bus priorities

MASS argues the identified corridors would benefit from rolling out bus lanes as soon as possible to help alleviate the Seattle Squeeze. (MASS)

Katie Wilson, general secretary of the Transit Riders Union, emphasized the urgency needed from City leadership.

“We want to hear a commitment from Mayor Durkan to move forward with these priorities as fast as possible,” Wilson said. “Seattle’s population will continue to climb during and beyond the Seattle Squeeze. We’re never going to escape from this congestion quagmire until we make it far more convenient for people to walk, bike, and ride transit.”

While Mayor Durkan has positioned herself as a climate mayor, MASS members are arguing climate action starts by taking responsibility for Seattle’s number one source of emissions by far: the transportation sector, and working as fast as possible to make it carbon-neutral.

New Design in Public Exhibit Brings the Global Migration Crisis Close to Home


“Sanctuary: Design for Belonging” runs from December 6th to February 23rd at The Center for Architecture & Design, 1010 Western Ave.

The floor to ceiling collage of brightly colored posters with slogans such as “Stop the Deportations,” “Migration is Beautiful,” and “We the Future Will Not be Banned,” is the first item grabs a visitor’s attention at Design in Public‘s newest exhibit, “Sanctuary: Design for Belonging,” which opened this past Thursday in their public showroom.

Graphic art curator Cleo Barnett will be leading a free guided tour of the exhibit on December 12th at 5:30 pm. Photo by author. 

The posters are part of a graphic survey in which designers from around the world responded to a call to create a piece of graphic art that engaged with the themes of belonging, inclusivity, and home for the 65 million people who are currently displaced worldwide. 

Debra Webb, director of Design in Public, first conceived of the survey while walking through an Oakland neighborhood a couple years earlier.

“I saw the poster ‘Refugees Are Welcome’ in every shop window for six to eight blocks,” said Webb, “and I thought, wow, this neighborhood is really making a statement through graphic design.”

The experience prompted Webb to partner with graphic artist Cleo Barnett to create a graphic survey of posters that engaged with social and political challenges faced by immigrants and refugees. Featuring work from both emerging and internationally renowned artists, the designs can be both global and hauntingly personal. One such poster features a kneeling woman in a hijab. Beside her in careful cursive script reads her story. She is Adamas, a young Guinean asylum-seeker whose teenage life was upended when she was thrown into an immigration detention center after being suspected of being a potential suicide bomber by the FBI in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“Today [Adamas] is still coping with the emotional, social, and financial traumas of the ordeal,” concludes the story, reminding the viewer of the lasting impacts endured by so many of the individuals’ whose difficult lives inspired the art before them.

Join Us at Our Meetup This Tuesday, December 11th with Futurewise

Futurewise Policy Director Bryce Yadon. (Courtesy of Futurewise)

Please join us this Tuesday, December 11th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at The Elephant and Castle (1415 5th Ave) for our monthly meetup. This social event is free and open to everyone. Come by if you want to meet other people who care about our city, network, or hear from an inspirational speaker at a local pub. You can find us in the billiards room on the lower level, and our guest speaker starts at 6:30 PM.

This month we will be joined by Bryce Yadon, the policy director at Futurewise. For more than 25 years, Futurewise has worked to prevent sprawl in order to protect our state’s resources and make our urban areas livable for and available to all. Founded to help support implementation of the first-in-the-nation Growth Management Act, they focus on preventing the conversion of wildlife habitat, open space, farmland, and working forests to suburban subdivisions, while directing most growth into our urbanized areas. Their mission also incorporates an important focus on livability, housing, transportation, social justice, environmental justice, and environmental quality in our urbanized areas. Bryce will discuss Futurewise’s vision, its 2019 policy agenda, and take your questions.

We hope to see you there!

If you’re looking to bone up for the event, make sure you’re caught up on Wonkabout Washington, the Futurewise’s monthly news roundup published on The Urbanist. If you missed November’s that’s because there wasn’t one. Sorry, Thanksgiving break and all!

Sunday Video: The Problems With Rebuilding Beaches


In this video, Vox explores economic, social, and enviornments issues with efforts to rebuild beaches in America. 

Nathan on the Sev—Whoops I mean the 5


This one is a companion piece of sorts to one below.

He swaggered onboard with the lost hope of a man who wished he ruled the world. In delusion there is comfort; maybe he did and still would, in the final place where such things matter, the secret recesses of your mind and that of your friends.

I was grateful for his familiarity on this 5/21, where I feel like a stranger in a strange land: a crush of haggard commuters now, the affluent, overworked, and exhausted set, not interested in talking and perhaps understandably so. I’m no judge. People have different solutions for the parts of their lives they don’t like. I’m used to a different type of crowd, though. The Seattle I describe in an earlier post isn’t the Seattle of most of these route 5 passengers tonight. 

But this man, this swaggering dark-clad man with the wild eyes… this man spoke my language.

You may not know that crack cocaine often has no noticeable odor. He smokes it in the back of buses sometimes, and you can see the full whites of his distended irises from all the way up here, where I’m sitting, through the rear-view mirror. That sack-boned gone and dirty need, a speedometer starting at shame and going the other way… What is it about reducing yourself from a human mind to a mere lonely chemical? I see the pipe and I see irreversible brain damage. He sees it and sees release, freedom, comfort, all the things he can’t find in easy reach.

But my job is not to solve the big problems. That’s on someone else. I see too many. I’m not sitting on the piles of capital and infrastructure opportunities that would help. I’m doing what the power players can’t do: I can be their friend. I’m the authority figure who has no agenda. Let me help you feel acknowledged, free, comforted. 

I tell myself I’m okay with all of what I see. It looks like I don’t care. But that’s where I need to sit in order to offer what I have. You’re Abdulahi, drunk at 8 AM, and all the cops and aid workers in Seattle know you and they’re rolling their eyes. Everyone else is crossing the street to get away from you, because you’re scaring people.

But I know your name, friend, and I lean in for a fistpound, as I did this morning in the line at CVS. Because you’re my people and you’ve been nice to me. I leave the solving of problems to more-equipped others. I stick with what I’m best at, and what they may not be able to do as easily: make you feel human. 

One night I talked to him at the terminal, after the others had all left.

“Hey, my guy.”
“Listen, you’re welcome to ride my bus again, but I gotta ask you one favor, which is to please, dude, we can’t be lightin’ up in here. Can’t be smokin’ out inside the bus with all these other people. I don’t mean no disrespect.”
“It’s cool, it’s cool, I won’t do it no more.”
“I know sometimes it’s hard, maybe you really want to, but just outta respect, I gotta ask you please.”
“I gotchoo, bro. I apologize.”
“Thanks, man.”

And he stopped. Two weeks later he got on again.
“Thank you for not smoking, my guy,” I quickly said.
“Ey!” Elastic toothy grin, making my heart soar with relief: “You remember!”
“I appreciate you!”
“You a cool bus driver!”

And that’s how it’s been since. “Ah be good, ah be good,” he’ll say when he slips on. And he is. It was in the breath of our histories (above and earlier, linked below*) that he saw me now, tonight. 

“THE FIVE?” he exclaimed, in shock.
“I KNOW,” I replied, throwing my hands up in the air. 
“Aintchoo sposed tuh be on the 7?”
“TOTALLY, MAN! It’s like, what am I doing here?”
“Ey. It’s good to see you.”

I can’t tell how he’s doing, if he’s better or worse tonight. But he engaged. He was kind. I no longer mind if people are unresponsive to me. But doesn’t it feel good when they do respond? I’m sure these plugged-in people have their strengths. Silence and interiority are virtues, not drawbacks. 

But. He was the person on this bus who said hi to me. I was Abdulahi at CVS, and he reminded me that I belong, too. 

And that counts for something.

*These sorts of things can come and go with the tides. Here he is doing worse, and better; incremental improvement is still improvement.