Wednesday, 18 September, 2019

Washington Should Act to Stem Pedestrian Fatalities with $58 Million from Feds

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Every fall, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) traditionally allocates unspent highway funding among all the states. In late August, the FHWA announced that the 2019 “August redistribution” would total nearly $4 billion dollars, of which Washington State will receive almost $59 million. While this is nothing compared to the nearly $500 million Texas will receive, it’s still an unanticipated cash injection into the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) coffers. And while it does happen every year, it’s worth asking what the best use for the funds would be.

WSDOT will likely absorb this money into its highway expansion budget like most other states, but it should consider utilizing it for the emergency currently happening on streets around Washington: the pedestrian safety crisis. In 2010, there were 63 pedestrians killed on Washington’s roadways and by last year that had nearly doubled to 108. This trend mirrors nationwide data showing large gains in roadway safety being erased.

Washington State Department of Transportation’s latest updates on pedestrian and bicycle injuries statewide (WSDOT)

If WSDOT was going to allocate this extra cash infusion for improving safety, investing at least 22% on pedestrian and bicycle safety projects seems like the least that they could do: that’s the percentage of overall fatalities on Washington’s roads last year that pedestrians and cyclists made up. That’s nearly $13 million, not a huge sum statewide but a large cash injection compared to the state’s current spending on bike and pedestrian facilities.

Join the Global Climate Strike on September 20th

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Credit: Anita Khart

“The sea levels are rising, and so are we.” On Friday, September 20th, over 500 climate strikes are planned across the United States. Additionally, strikers will be taking to the streets in over 117 countries worldwide demanding climate action. It will be the single biggest day of protest since the publication of a report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last October declared “urgent and unprecedented changes” were needed within the next 12 years to prevent global climate crisis.

“I’m striking on September 20th to call attention to the minority communities who aren’t thinking of the ‘if’ and ‘when’s’ that often populate the climate conversation, but who are forced to live through the catastrophic effects of climate change that are happening right now, today and everyday,” said Kimaya Mahajan, 15, an organizer with WA Youth Climate Strikes. “I strike to remind people that climate change is not a far-off issue, and if we open our eyes wide enough, we will see the havoc it’s wreaking right in front of us.”

Climate Strike Poster by Marco Kelso and Clea Eppelin.

The Global Climate Strike is part of a youth led movement inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager whose strike in front of Sweden’s parliamentary building gained international recognition. Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, is currently in New York City, where on September 20th she will urging leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit to do more to address the crisis. Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to excuse absences for NYC public school students who participate in the strike.

In Seattle, on September 20th strikers will gather at Cal Anderson Park from 9am-12:30pm for a Climate Justice Fest with activities, art, music, games, and workshops. At 12:30pm, organizers and attendees will march to Seattle’s City Hall to demand transformational action at the scale of the crisis.

Not limited to just kids, the movement is also calling on adults to stand in solidarity as allies. Labor movements, social justice organizations, and faith communities are also being called to participate in the climate strike.

Additionally, more than one thousand Amazon employees have pledged to walk out on September 20th to show support for a group of 8,200 Amazon employees who have publicly called on the company to release a plan for how the company would reduce its reliance on fossil fuels with a zero carbon emissions target of 2030.

“Young people all around the world have been striking from school to call attention to the climate crisis. We’re answering their call to walk out because our role, as employees of one of the largest companies in the world, means we need to push for a climate plan that gets us to zero emissions company-wide by 2030,” said Bobby Gordon, a Finance Manager at Amazon in Seattle.

The Amazon employees will gather at the Amazon Spheres from 11:30-12:30 and then head over to City Hall to join the city-wide rally.

Sunday Video: The Buildings “Model Cities” Built

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Model Cities is a little known chapter in our urban history. It was part of LBJ’s War on Poverty, and was the last gasp of serious investment by the federal government to improve life in urban America. Devised as a corrective to top-down urban renewal, the program coupled major investments in infrastructure with empowerment of local organizations. The program was never large enough to sponsor transformative change citywide change; its goal was to halt social breakdown and provide a model of positive change that could be expanded and replicated with local resources.

Seattle was the first city to take part in the program and was considered on of its most successful examples. This video, from 1975, touts the successes of the Model Cities program using Seattle as a case study. It includes rare footage of daily life in the Central District and Pioneer Square, showing a glimpse of life before gentrification, displacement, and obnoxious cruise ship tourists reshaped these neighborhoods. Seattle’s program was headed by Walter R. Hundley, an African American minster, social worker, and administrator.

The video’s a treat. There’s a lot to unpack—the depiction of poverty, the modernist architecture, the white gaze of the narrator—but overall it’s a fascinating glimpse into a Seattle that feels amazingly different from the city we know today, and a reminder of the powerful role the federal government once played in America’s cities.

What We’re Reading: Affordable Housing Debate, Ferry Progress, and Westlake Tragedy

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Inevitable?: Is transit ridership loss inevitable? Yonah Freemark does a U.S.–France comparison.

Parisian architecture: Why are Parisians outraged by an addition to the famed Gare du Nord railway station?

Inaccessible: In Washington, D.C., sidewalks are often obstructed, making large parts of the city inaccessible.

Affordable housing debate: In the presidential debates, one question that didn’t come up was affordable housing.

Greening without gentrification: How do you build a new park for a community without spurring gentrification?

Port Gardner: The saga continues over a roiled community seeking to block low-income housing for people experiencing homelessness ($) in Everett.

Grow passenger rail: Virginia is a model for state-sponsored passenger rail.

Ferry progress: Work on the new Mukilteo ferry terminal continues ($). Meanwhile, a new pedestrian bridge and terminal at Colman Dock in Seattle will open ($) on Sunday.

Political scammer: Anti-tax and anti-transit activist Tim Eyman has been hit with more sanctions over his political campaign fraud ($).

Essex Crossing: In the Lower East Side of Manhattan, CityLab says that mega-development Essex Crossing could be a model for including affordable housing and good architecture in a neighborhood.

Skeptical on economics: A deeply pro-transit federal congressional representative, Peter DeFazio, is not onboard with decongestion pricing.

Westlake tragedy: Three people were shot at Westlake Station on Friday with one person dying and the gunman still at-large ($).

Cultural genocide: To build a dam, Turkey will flood a 12,000-year-old city.

Saving workers: Late night workers could save big with 24-hour transit.

Not scooter-friendly: Why did bike-friendly Boulder block electric scooters?

Metro to Roll Out Later Service, Expand 15- and 30-Minute Frequency September 21st

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Later this month, King County Metro will roll out more bus service for the tenth time since 2015. Top line improvements include a doubling of transit service for five routes in South King County, expanding 10-minute frequency on the RapidRide E Line, and more 15-minute frequency on seven other Seattle routes. Metro attributes much of the service improvements to the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, which span 200 additional trips every weekday, 200 extra trips on Sundays, and 150 more trips on Saturdays.

“Adding nearly 1,400 new bus trips each week will make it easier to travel in downtown Seattle and across the county,” said King County Dow Executive Constantine in a press release. “With this latest service expansion, we’re doubling frequency on five of our most popular routes in south King County. Transit means access to opportunity, and we’ve added buses to meet rider demand for the last ten semi-annual service changes, making sure every resident can get to work, school, and all this region has to offer.”

RapidRide E Line will benefit from an additional 23 trips on weekdays, which will result in schedule changes. These will help improve service to provide more hours of 10-minute frequency, particularly in the evening, and make more periods of the day even more frequent that every 10 minutes. On Saturdays, an additional two trips will be added in the late evening hours to improve frequency and result in some schedule changes.

Routes 105, 164, 183, 346, and 906 will be improved to have consistent 30-minute service or better:

  • Route 105 will get an additional 32 trips on Sundays, which will convert hourly service to half hourly service across the majority of the day.
  • Route 164 will get an additional 21 trips on Saturdays, which will improve frequency to every half hour. Another eight trips will be added each weekday improving frequency, particularly in the evening.
  • Route 183 will receive 20 additional trips on Saturdays from mid-morning to early evening, which will allow service to be improved to 30-minute frequency.
  • Route 346 will benefit from an extra six trips on weekdays to improve evening service to 30-minute frequency. For a portion of the route, there is a shared corridor with Route 345 to and from Northgate Transit Center. Schedules will be adjusted to provide combined 15-minute frequency along that corridor segment.
  • Route 906 will get another 10 trips in the peak-morning and peak-afternoon timeframes, which will improve service during those time period to half hourly frequency.

Fare Enforcement on First Day of School Reinforces Need for Reform

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Fare enforcement officers have been stepping up efforts in Seattle. (Photo by author)

Sound Transit stepped in it on the first day of school last week.

Despite widely cheered plans to provide free transit passes to high school students at Seattle Public Schools, Sound Transit turned an opportunity to build goodwill and welcome a new generation of transit riders into a public relations nightmare.

The snafu culminated in people across the country–from Naomi Klein to Ijeoma Oluo–wagging their finger at Sound Transit for handling the situation so poorly. An agency that could have been building relationships with lower-income families and communities of color instead got defensive. In the process, Sound Transit highlighted its lack of progress on equitable fare reform. While King County Metro made some progress on fare enforcement reform last year–lowering fines, offering community service alternatives, and diverting infractions out of the court system–Sound Transit hasn’t followed suit. It should.

Metro’s fare policy change was spurred by a King County Auditor’s analysis of fare enforcement which found a quarter of all citations were given to people experiencing homelessness, effectively penalizing poverty and furthering a cycle of poverty that traps people in with escalating court fines. The report pointed out that the assumption that fare enforcement drives down fare evasion hasn’t been borne out in academic studies.

Here’s Heidi Groover’s recap of what happened last Wednesday and Sound Transit’s response:

Community Transit Unveils September 2019 Service Changes

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The September service change for transit is coming soon with Community Transit releasing their plans early amongst local transit agencies. Beginning on September 22nd, Community Transit will deploy additional service and make schedule adjustments across more than a dozen routes. Riders will welcome the change later service on Sundays and holidays on nine routes.

In March, Community Transit started running the Swift Green Line, a new bus rapid transit service, between Canyon Park in Bothell and Seaway Transit Center in Everett via Mill Creek. More than 40,000 new annual service hours were phased in as part of the March service change, most of which went to the Swift Green Line.

Community Transit now has over 450,000 annual service hours dedicated to bus service. This September service change will add several thousand new annual service hours, a trend likely to continue each biannual service change for the next few years. The transit agency only projects about 16,000 new annual service hours being added per year through 2022. Transit riders should expect service changes to focus on small increases to improve frequency, expand span of service, and add more weekend service where resources allow. Bigger things are on the horizon as part of the 2024 service restructure when the Lynnwood Link extension opens.

Community Transit’s Swift Lines will be getting similar changes:

  • Swift Blue Line service will be extended until 9pm on Sundays and holidays, which is currently curtailed at 8.40pm. On weekdays, the line will start earlier at 4.15am with trips running every 15 minutes until the 6am hour where frequency increases to every 10 minutes. Currently, service starts at 4.20am with 20-minute frequency during the same time period. The remainder of weekday service will remain unchanged. Additionally, Saturday service will improve to every 15 minutes from 6am to 7pm, which currently is only provided with 20-minute frequency. The remainder of Saturday service will remain at 20-minute frequency.
  • Swift Green Line service will be extended until 9pm on Sundays and holidays, which is currently curtailed at 8.40pm. On weekdays, the line will start earlier at 4.15am with trips running every 15 minutes until the 6am hour where frequency increases to every 10 minutes. Currently, service starts at 4.20am with 20-minute frequency during the same time period. The remainder of weekday service will remain unchanged.

Other service changes across the Community Transit network include the following:

Midweek Video: Rail Plus

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Have you heard of Sound Transit’s Rail Plus program? If not, this video explains how ORCA passholders can use their cards on certain Amtrak Cascades train trips in lieu of Sounder commuter rail for the same cost. Find out more online for schedules. Also, let Amtrak Cascades know (Twitter, website) that you want them to expand the program to more trips.

Urbanist Advertising Partner: Kaiser Permanente

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Urbanist Advertising Partner: Bike Works

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