The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is considering another slate of pedestrian-only events on Pike and Pine Streets this summer, building on the popularity of the pilot program last summer when the streets were closed to auto traffic between Broadway and 12th Avenue on three Saturdays in August.
SDOT reported that 25,000 to 30,000 pedestrians walked through the closure on the average night and pedestrian chokepoints that abound in that stretch where significantly relieved. Moreover, 72% of visitors didn’t just walk thorugh but went to multiple locations or activities within the area. In a post-pilot survey, 66% of 272 respondents said they’d like to see future closures. So, it seems likely SDOT will program more Capitol Hill street closures this summer.
Some Capitol Hill business owners are pushing back against the evening closures, led by Sierra Hansen, director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce (CHCC). Hansen said she asked the City to not close the streets this summer, but later she backpedaled somewhat saying she didn’t oppose the closures outright but worried about having enough to time to plan the event. She reiterated concerns about raucous nightlife and the daytime businesses missing out. Some didn’t buy it, The Stranger reported:
David Meinert, owner of several bars and restaurants on Pike/Pine, including Lost Lake Cafe and Comet Tavern, calls bullshit. According to Meinert, Hansen and the Chamber are simply trying to delay the event into eventual cancellation.
“This issue is really urbanists vs. anti-urbanists,” said Meinert in reference to Hansen and those opposed to another celebration this summer. “It’s not very popular to come out against pedestrian zones, so, instead, people are coming out against nightlife.”
Some have suggested the City start the closures earlier in the day to broaden the event appeal beyond the drinking crowd. That would be a good way to dampen those concerns if it was financially feasible. But Meinert is right. Urbanists should support pedestrian zones, particularly on streets as busy as Pike and Pine. Unfortunately, the closures were funded by a one-time grant of $30,000 for the closure events and the CHCC doesn’t seem interested in spearheading the grant application this time around.
So, others may have to step up in the CHCC’s stead to secure funding. One way or another, many in Capitol Hill want the street closures to continue, and the City shouldn’t be dissuaded by a few vocal opponents.