How do we design for inclusive urban public spaces and life? Jeff Risom from Gehl explains this paradigm.
Free the transit: Paris could be on the way to having the largest urban fare-free public transit zone in the world while Estonia will go fare-free country-wide this summer.
Sketchy lawyering: Sound Transit staff has tried to dash the hopes of a First Hill station with a very questionable legal interpretation.
Hard to predict: Why is it hard to predict when the bus will turn up?
Bad faith player: Despite lots of noise and threats, Amazon is back to constructing the company’s Block 18 tower.
Right-on-red: Perhaps it’s time to rethink right-on-red for safety.
Greenwashing: Oregon is trying to greenwash a dirty urban highway expansion in Portland.
Making PTC progress: Railroads in the region appear to be making on-time progress toward implementing positive train control.
Coalescing opposition to shelter: A coalition has formed and raising funding to oppose a new citywide tax on wealthy businesses dedicated to shelter and housing attainment.
#1 for bikes: Minneapolis is America’s most bikeable city.
Pedestrianizing Lower Manhattan: In New York City, a strong coalition is supporting pedestrianization of the Financial District.
Reinvesting in Detroit: A plan is affoot to continue improving Detroit neighborhoods as the city recovers from its long-standing economic and population decline.
All-in for TOD: Montréal’s transit agency is venturing directly into investing in transit-oriented, mixed-use development at a planned metro station.
Sickening: Michigan could pass a very draconian Medicaid bill meant to strip people in need of vital healthcare benefits.
Parking reform angst: Despite the success of slashing parking requirements several years ago in Philadelphia, political opposition to the policy change.
Build Cascadia HSR: The Cascadia Innovation Corridor will need substantial changes to movements across the Canadian border if it’s to become reality ($), according to its proponents.
Saving Cougar Mountain: A last-ditch effort is underway to save Cougar Mountain, an important regional conservation area, from further urban development.
Dutch the parking: Dutch residents are transforming street parking to better uses like gardens, terraces, and play areas.
Rent in decline: Rent for housing is falling in New York City with the onset of rising housing supply.
Falling behind the pack: In spite of skyrocketing healthcare costs since the 1980s, American life expectancy gains has essentially flatlined while it grows in other wealthy nations ($).
Public versus private: In Washington, D.C., private dockless rental bikes are growing shared bike use, but it is likely serving a very different market from public dock-based bikeshare, which remains successful.
Housing now: Could the American housing crisis become the next national political issue?
20 is plenty: Scotland could soon make it national policy to set street speed maximums in cities, towns, and villages at 20mph.
Map of the Week: If Massimo Vignelli had his way, Washington, D.C. would have a much more abstract transit map.
The sensation was that of riding on air, a wave of euphoria whose origin I could hardly trace.
I told them about the reroute. This was going to be exciting—if for no one else than at least myself, what with the pleasant diversion of driving a nine-foot wide, sixty-foot long articulated coach on new streets. Almost immediately a young woman bounced up and asked furtively, politely, “I know this isn’t a bus stop but is there any chance, possibly, maybe, that you could, just for today….”
“Sure,” I replied with a smile. “Quick, before, anyone sees!”
Her normal stop was twenty-seven blocks away. Look at that smile. Was she cute? Of course she was. Everybody’s cute, when they’re in the mood she was in.
I caught up to the bus scheduled just before me (my “leader,” in bus parlance), who’d neglected the reroute and was now paying the price in lost time. He was busy and crowded; we ambled along behind, hardly working and half empty, looking for people to pick up to make his job easier. Bus-savvy passengers know the second bus of two is always the preferred choice, and half the time ends up in the lead anyway. There’s room to sprawl out in here.
As I parked behind my leader at the transit center, my relief driver ambled over with a smile, understanding the situation at a glance. I explained the brilliance of the reroute to him, and we talked about turns and clearances and express lanes. Don’t you love how work jargon rolls right off the tongue? Bruce. He and I are birds of a feather.
I gestured to another passenger onboard, motioning the half-lost middle-aged mother to come forward and fret not, it’s okay now, Bruce the friendly bus driver is taking over and all is well again. I identified her to Bruce as “the wonderful young lady up front,” and she laughed, maybe because she needed to: she was on her way to comfort a sick sibling, had flown in from out of town to do so. Ah, family. I gave Bruce the bus and walked away with a smile, listening to their two voices merging.
Driving the base car back to the base to clock out, sitting in slow but moving traffic, moving faster now, with the radio tuned to friendly voices, interviews and laughter. The swishing wipers offer a backbeat, the drum rhythm of city life. I dashed into the base, signing my name out and returning the base car. The window man asked if I was coming back for my second shift later on.
“In a few hours,” I replied, quipping, “I’m gonna go home and think about it for a while!”
“Do you know Nathan?” he asked a nearby supervisor.
“Do I know Nathan? Of course I know Nathan! Filmmaker, blogger, bus driver photographer extraordinaire…”
“Oh gosh, you guys,” I said.
The other continued, “but have you met Nathan? There’s knowing and there’s meeting. I know who the president is…”
“Oh no, don’t compare me to that guy! We’re two different people, I swear!”
I jogged back out into the pouring parking lot, excited to rush home for a few hours, enough time to cook a meal, work on my film, write this draft, and who knows– maybe even relax for a second. I leapt over the water puddles toward my car, calling out to another colleague, “wonderful weather we’re having!”
“Um, yeah,” she cried, shaking her head. “I love swimholes!!”
The metaphor of a pot reaching a boil isn’t generally used to describe the sensation of such mundane tasks, but isn’t that exactly what the most worthwhile, most deeply earned bliss feels like? These were the moments in between, that by rights should barely register in the raising of our mood, if we’re to believe what we’re told… who knew these things could make my day? Running to my car in the rain, reroutes and road reliefs?
There is a type of well-being that floods one’s system almost surreptitiously. It is the slow accumulation of interactions in which we feel whole, accepted—loved not by our loved ones but by everyone, included in the fabric of the world at large, the embrace that tells us it’s okay to be who we are. It seems to come from nowhere, but it’s a torrent coursing through your veins. Belonging. Oddly, the effect is strongest in interactions with people we barely know. We already know our small network of family and friends loves us. This is the world, speaking through the language of the ordinary, telling you your family is the entire population.
When you’re nice to a stranger, you may be helping them toward that sensation, building a block, offering one of a series of moments that infuses them with that unspeakably beautiful feeling of acceptance. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the positive impact you have on others will always be larger than you’re aware.
The disappointment that urbanists feel about Seattle’s failure to obtain a subway system in 1968 (see part one and part two of the Forward Thrust series) reminds me of… professional sports: the aspirations and the disappointment; the recrimination and lost opportunities; the parsing over stats and precinct data for clues about where the team went wrong… the search for moral victories.
Under normal circumstances, a parallel like this would be crass. Insulting, even. Rapid transit impacts neighborhoods, jobs, health outcomes…lives. Professional sports are largely an escapist fantasy. But in the case of the 1968 Forward Thrust bond initiatives, the comparison is warranted. Because while civic mastermind Jim Ellis and the Forward Thrust committee failed to pass a $2.8 billion (adjusted for inflation) transportation levy that would have left the region with 47 miles of mass transit, they succeeded in getting King County voters to bight on the $293 million (inflation adjusted) multi-purpose arena known as the Kingdome. The 62-38 vote on “County Proposition 2” of Forward Thrust paved the way for the arrival of the Seattle Seahawks (1976) and Seattle Mariners (1977), who both played in the Kingdome for the next quarter century.
The demise of Forward Thrust’s transit initiatives in 1968 and 1970 meant that Seattle’s transit history lags behind the standard set in the 1960s by cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Washington D.C. Between 1966 and 1969, each of these cities posited rapid transit as an answer to questions posed by the explosive growth and environmental hazards of post-WWII capitalism. Like savvy general managers anticipating the crunch of the salary cap, the electorates in those cities made hard political choices well before the appointed hour arrived to make them. These roster moves helped them outpace rivals in towns with less foresight. Towns like Seattle in 1968.
For all its reputation as an environmentally conscious city, Seattle was mired in transit mediocrity for nearly a century. After Seattle voters rejected “The Bogue Plan” and its 90 miles of comprehensive citywide transit in 1912 and then turned down Forward Thrust’s rail initiatives in 1968 and 1970, Seattle finally opened its relatively piddling 14-mile light rail system in July 2009 after a Sound Transit measure for it passed in 1996. If city transit systems were ESPN Power Rankings, Seattle was somewhere near the bottom of the list of big-league cities for close to 100 years.
The confluence of three streets in the heart of Ballard has long been a community concern. Technically a five-way intersection, Leary Ave NW meets 20th Ave NW in two places and one leg of NW Vernon Pl. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) instituted some modest changes several years ago to aid pedestrian crossings across Leary Ave NW north NW Vernon Pl. These included a relocated crosswalk, signage, and striping. This week, however, SDOT implemented much more significant changes with the installation of brand new marked crosswalks, rechannelization of lanes and painted “curb bulbs” on Leary Ave NW, stop signs, and overhead flashing beacons indicating the fully controlled nature of the intersection.
In 2014, The Urbanist documented in a YouTube video the confusing and dangerous nature of the intersection. At the time, it was observed that people driving vehicles tended to fail to yield to pedestrians and to speed. The primary marked crosswalk had also been moved northwest forcing pedestrians to awkwardly walk around the whole intersection if intending to cross Leary Ave NW or risk their lives at unmarked crossings.
The new marked crosswalks are a welcome addition to the street. These more clearly formalize the preferred ways pedestrians want to cross the complex street network. People driving tend to pay better attention to pedestrians crossing at intersections that are marked. But other features also reinforce this expectation, including the stop signs at all crossing approaches, flashing traffic control lights, stop strips, and painted “curb bulbs.”
Ride For The Basic Bike Network: Bicyclist who aren’t living under a rock have probably heard that many street safety improvements have been delayed since the current mayor took office, including the critical 4th avenue bike lane. Since it’s bike everywhere month, advocates are holding a ride in support of saving it and other critical street safety and mobility investments. Riders will depart from various parts of the city and meet at city hall for a rally by 8:15am. You can find where people are leaving from in this link. If you haven’t done a group ride before, it’s a great way to feel safe while riding on streets that may normally not be very comfortable.
The letter below is from the Seattle Transportation Coalition and was signed by Seattle Subway, the Seattle Transit Riders Union, and The Urbanist. Other groups have adopted similar talking points in their own letters to Sound Transit, to encourage Sound Transit to plan Sound Transit 3 (ST3) investments with extreme attention to expandability, accessibility, equity, and reliability issues.
To: Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit CEO
From: Seattle Transportation Advocates Coalition
Date: May 16, 2018
Re: Priorities for ST3 Investments
Sound Transit is executing an expedited project delivery timeline to deliver Ballard and West Seattle extensions and a new downtown tunnel. This work is critical and will impact our city and region for a century to come. It is critical we make great decisions in partnership with the local affected communities and potential system customers, with a shared vision and an eye toward the future city these lines will be constructed in, not just what exists now.
Our priorities below are driven mainly by an interest in avoiding missed opportunities. These are written after consultation throughout the community and with each other striving toward a common goal: a system we all can be proud of. This is the most audacious transit expansion in the country, and these investments are intensely important: we must do them right.
Another Trailhead Direct van route will launch this weekend, connecting hikers and outdoor enthusiasts on weekends and holidays to trails in North Bend. In April, King County Metro Transit restarted a similar service between Seattle and the Issaquah Alps, building on the success of a pilot program from last summer. The restarted service was expanded to include stops in Eastgate (Bellevue) and Mount Baker (Seattle). This was made possible by a partnership between King County, City of Seattle, and several outdoor corporate sponsors.
The new North Bend route will be somewhat similar to the Issaquah Alps service, except that transit vans will depart Capitol Hill instead of Mount Baker and not make stops in Issaquah. Trips to and from Seattle will include stops in the Downtown Seattle core and Denny Triangle, offering extensive opportunities for connections to local bus service and light rail. Riders can also make transit connections to the Eastgate stop in Bellevue. Riders from Issaquah and nearby urban communities can reach North Bend by Route 208 on Saturdays only, but the frequency is fairly poor. For the lion’s share of those transit riders, they would need to backtrack to Eastgate to get to North Bend via Trailhead Direct.