Imagine for a moment you are setting out to travel across Seattle to complete a common errand. What transportation choices are available to you today? Now imagine whizzing a decade forward into the future — how would you want to be able to undertake that trip?
From more frequent and comprehensive transit, to safer streets and sidewalks for walking and biking, there are many ways in which transportation in Seattle can be improved. Toward achieving that goal, the City of Seattle has embarked on the creation of a Seattle Transportation Plan (STP) and is calling on residents to pitch in with the effort by sharing their priorities through an online engagement hub.
The timing of the STP’s creation is critical — in 2024, the $930 million Levy to Move Seattle will expire, setting the stage for a new nine-year transportation levy to go before voters. At the same time, the City is engaging in planning efforts for a major update of its Comprehensive Plan, a tool used to inform major city government decisions shaping the next 20 years of city growth. Considering the magnitude of the impact STP will have on Seattle’s future, advocacy groups, including The Urbanist, are encouraging an all hands on deck approach.
STP’s online engagement hub is distinctive in the breadth of possibilities it presents for engagement. Residents can complete a survey, use a mapping tool to identify areas of concern or for improvement, request that the engagement team meet with their organization, contact the engagement team using email or voicemail, or leave a general comment.
Diving into each of these options reveals a user interface that is simple to navigate. The survey’s questions are straight forward. Many of them are open ended, allowing for survey takers to provide more individualized responses and address bigger picture questions. Users can also complete a shorter or longer version of the survey depending on their level of interest. The option to follow up using the email or voicemail contact options later on is another nice addition.
The mapping tool allows users to comment by dropping a pin on a map and starting a discussion. Other users can comment on pinned responses, and the discussion is tracked in a log that users can read. Similar to the survey, after providing information, users are asked to share their zip code, race, and gender.
While there are currently no digital or in-person events listed on the calendar, this will change as the City ramps up its STP outreach efforts. Overall, community engagement with the plan is still in its early stages and will be ongoing through summer 2022. Afterward, the community engagement efforts will shift toward becoming more specific and grounded in details during the fall and winter. The entire plan is set to be completed by summer of 2023, setting it on course to inform decision-making around new transportation levy investments.
Seattle residents all hold an internal vision of what their ideal transportation system would look like and how it would feel to move around the city by using it. By using the tools in the online engagement hub, the City has provided an opportunity for residents to share that vision with them.
Natalie Bicknell Argerious (she/her) is a reporter and podcast host at The Urbanist. She previously served as managing editor. A passionate urban explorer since childhood, she loves learning how to make cities more inclusive, vibrant, and environmentally resilient. You can often find her wandering around Seattle's Central District and Capitol Hill with her dogs and cat. Email her at natalie [at] theurbanist [dot] org.