We always keep our eye out for dramatic and fun advertisements, especially when they come to bikes! And boy, does this deliver. Happy Sunday.
City Hall issues: Mayor Murray made mountains over mole hills to delay the name change of Columbus Day--for symbolic reasons that no one cares about. The City’s measure for schools may lose to the citizen initiative going head-to head while the Hearing Examiner will entertain an appeal against changes to multi-family low-rise zones. Mayor Murray wants to create a new Department of Education and Early Learning, but Council must approve such an action first. And, Publicola reports on how the Mayor is basically ducking the whole micro-housing issue.
Local transit: Seattle Transit Blog has a run down of the February Metro bus cuts, which have been revised. The West Seattle Water Taxi set a brand new monthly record with over 50,000 boardings during the month of August. A case for repurposing a building owned by Sound Transit at the Bellevue Transit; we like the idea of a bus pass shop or retail use.
Not so bikable: The Stranger wonders if helmet laws will impede the success of Pronto! and takes a huge swing at City of Seattle officials for failure to implement the Bike Master Plan, which just might have saved Sher Kung’s life. A very compelling call to change the streetscape for all users along Roosevelt Way and 11th/12th Avenue in the U District, Roosevelt, and Maple Leaf. City Lab examines how bike lanes actually reduce traffic delay. And, the Broadway Bikeway is seeing a surge in ridership, now more than 600 daily.
City highlights: A brief history on the Montlake Cut–landmass to waterway. Floating homes on Eastlake having viewings this weekend. A Capitol Hill theater company plans one last gig before it moves in the 12th Ave Arts building. SIFF’s Egyptian Theatre on Capitol Hill will open in October with free shows for neighbors! Seattle has the dubious honor of being the state’s first guinea pig in the charter school arena; we can only hope that this won’t be a trend, or that it will harm our local schools.
Elsewhere in the Sound: A treatise on development north of Seattle that has led to sidewalks becoming useless, but they apparently have a much larger discussion thread for greater Snohomish County area, if forum thread are your thing. Wonks. St. Edward State Park, a former seminary in Kenmore, is in jeopardy of falling apart, and the state has no way to fund repairs. Hope is in sight though if the right deal can be struck with a private partner.
A broken dream: The American Dream is now micro, or at least a slimmed down America. Ironically, it isn’t only the young bailing on the large house, so too are the aging Baby Boomers who bought off more than they could chew when they bought into environments built only for the young. The sprawl of Atlanta is horrific when you compare it to Barcelona‘s comfortable compact nature, which has more residents and is 1/10th the size. Apparently its tough for a true urbanite to live in a small town, at least for Reyhan Harmanci in her personal story of quaint Hudson, NY. Old Urbanist talks about the demise of the duplex and related housing types. And, a map of decline around St. Louis and article on how St. Louis County profits from poverty.
Competing solutions: The Federal Highway Administration touts a rebound in driving, and say it’s time to build more highways–except it’s not true on a per capita VMT level. Mental disorders keep tens of thousands of homeless on the streets in the US, but there are solutions to this. Portland, Oregon looks at tiny houses as one solution to homelessness.
Focus on the UK: The UK Airports Commission has put the kibosh on ambitious plan to move London’s major airports to a consolidated location on east Thames. Forget London, Mexico City has an even more impressive airport in terms of design. Meanwhile, UK Thatcherite privatization of the railroads has seen private railway operators split from semi-public railway infrastructure company Network Rail. Turns out that Network Rail has been subsidizing the system by transferring publicly borrowed British Pounds to railway operators, and now the public are on the hook for it all. Apparently this is the most new oppressive building in the UK for 2014–way to go Tesco! And, an eclectic skyscraper that could transform the way people live; it’s very futuristic.
Other overseas urbanism: A German town gets rid of traffic signs, traffic lights, and most rules of the road, but guess what! The streets are safer now that they’re a shared space. Copenhagen has ignored calls to implement street calming and conversion despite a compelling case, so Copenhagenize has done the legwork for the municipality. And, New Dehli put the brakes on cars for a day to bring sanity back to the city, and the results were amazing. I guess if you’re going to make a waste incinerator, you may as well make it beautiful, too.
At Letitia I put the lift out, saying goodbye to a couple I haven’t seen in some years. He’s a Vietnam vet with a summer job transporting convicts between different prisons cross-country. She remembers me from the 5 and likes my attitude. They’re on their way to the hospital and the bank.
“Good luck with everything,”
“Oh, it’ll be easy. All I gotta do is activate an ATM card.”
“Oh.” I thought it was some sort of trying experience they were heading into. “Piece of cake!” To her I say, in reference to an earlier conversation, “and I hope your infection’s gone next time I see ya!”
A woman’s been watching from the chat seat. “Is the next one Mount Baker,” she asks. She had moved up to the front at Genessee, calmly, no rush. A rare Caucasian passenger on this corridor, I’m thinking thirties, some sort of European descent, dressed in a ponytail and women’s business casual, a trim collection of grays and tailored lines. Demure.
“We’re dangerously close!” I reply. “It’s three more stops, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Are you going, let’s see. To the airport?”
“No, I’m just getting the 48.”
“Oh. Goin’ up to the U District?”
She nods. “I’m going to UW.”
“That’s my school!”
“Oh, great. I’m going in for an ultrasound today!”
“That’s wonderful. So much to think about. Names, colors… do you know if it’s a boy or a,”
“Have you started thinking about names?”
“Oh, we already have a name. My husband is good with names. He reads a lot!”
“I can’t wait to see what he looks like!”I hesitate a millisecond before speaking, but then I think, why not share. She’s sharing. “Yeah, my mom is Korean and my dad is white, and people often say I look either like a boy version of my mom, or an Asian version of my dad.”
She smiles, her laugh rippling into the morning sunshine. “That sounds great! You got the best of both!”
“Oh, I dont know! I hope so!”
“Speaking of, I have a friend who is also half-Korean, actually half-Korean and half Jewish. He’s from Eastern Europe.”
“Very nice. My friend just went to Romania, the Ukraine, Moscow,”
“Oh, wonderful.” She seems excited to hear about someone traveling to parts of Europe other than Paris and Rome. “I’m from there. Well, nearby, the Baltic States.”
“Oh, excellent. My training is in photography, so I get very excited about traveling!”
“You should definitely go to the Baltic States!”
“I will!” I say, pulling up to Martin Luther King Way.
It occurs to me as I slow for the red light that I have every intention of doing so.
“Congratulations again,” I say as she’s getting off. “You have the glow!” I emphasize the line with a hand gesture, hoping she knows what I mean.
She looked at me for a moment. In a few short minutes we had reached a space where it felt comfortable to say such things. “Oh, thank you! You too, you do too!”
I suppose I meant the glow of being pregnant. Sometimes we find people who absolutely radiate vitality–it seems almost reductive to call it positive energy, though I guess that’s what it is. They might be pregnant, or engaged, or children, or just those rare souls whose well-being explodes out of them for reasons too large to decipher.
A young man once got on my 70 so overwhelmed with joy he rode to the terminal just so we could finish talking about it, parsing it out in words, attempting to solve the mystery. He’d been torn up over the loss of his girlfriend for six months, and today he had a conversation at a “combination tanning salon slash video store,” chatting with the owner about the history of the establishment. The owner was pragmatic in a humorous way: people like suntans, and they also like videos. There you go.
Something about that conversation, in combination with the act of stepping back outside to the sun shining down on him, had filled the young man with an ecstatic, tangible elation which suffused his entire being, and he felt strangely, randomly freed from his grief, as if alerted for the first time to all the greatness going on around him. The rest of the world had been taking place for the past six months, and now he could see it again. We spent the ride and my break at the terminal trying to capture its reasons for happening now, today. Could we bottle it and summon it at will in the future? Could we live in it always? The answers to such queries were outside the scope of our comprehension.
Suffice it to say it was great to live amidst the Glow, talking to Mrs. Baltic States, to live and learn in its presence, coaxing something new out of both of us. She walked over to the 48 stop and I drove up Rainier, spreading the good feeling one person at a time.
Throughout the City of Seattle, residents are seeing their neighborhood streets besieged by free-loading, scofflaws, also known as pedestrians. The crux of the problem is that Seattle is facing budget woes, large areas without sidewalks and 634,535 residents that don’t pay their fair share towards the problem. Fortunately, a new group has stepped forward advocating for change, Concerned Seattlites for Safe Sidewalks, Pedestrian Regulation and Stopping Sadness (CSSSPRSS). CSSSPRSS representatives note that other forms of transportation pay their fair share, such as transit riders through fares and motorists through the gas tax, but pedestrians don’t pay anything towards the maintenance and upkeep of sidewalks. This explains why so many sidewalks are cracked and in dire conditions.
Beyond wear and tear, there are further issues with pedestrians. If you’re a motorist, you are likely familiar with the common problem of pedestrians impeding your right-of-way, crossing against the light or jaywalking. Not only do the seconds lost from these activities likely add up to minutes, but everyone bears the cost of healthcare for scofflaw pedestrians. The benefits from licensing pedestrians is bigger than helping solve these problems though. If every pedestrian is licensed, it will finally be possible to require all pedestrians to hold walker insurance. This will mitigate the vast costs from things like drunk walking.
While licensing pedestrians may seem unusual, licensing for all types of things is common, especially transportation modes. As James Vesely points out at the Seattle Times, “Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities.” While the cost of all the undocumented pedestrians in Seattle is obvious, naysayers suggest that it would be impossible or unprofitable to implement. The CSSSPRSS has a plan though.
Implementing A Pedestrian Fee
Implementation would be relatively simple. Since all Seattle residents are potential pedestrians, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) could send a letter out to each address in the city annually. Citizens would be required to reply to the letter stating how many people live in the house and return a small, $10 dollar fee for each pedestrian. In order to ensure enforcement, all citizens would have to return the fee unless they affirmatively petitioned the City and proved that they never used sidewalks. Upon receipt of the fee, the city would send a small license plate attached to a necklace back to the citizen. It would be necessary for each citizen to wear this while walking around so that the police could reasonably tell the difference between law-abiding, registered pedestrians and rule-breakers. This would be especially useful in situations like pedestrian critical mass, commonly seen around Westlake Mall during lunch time.
Unfortunately, pedestrians aren’t the only problem on our sidewalks. The especially egregious free-loaders are those that have pets and strollers. Strollers add to the wear and tear of our sidewalks. Since this is especially common in Ballard, it would be best to have an additional stroller fee in that neighborhood.
Lastly, Seattle hosts a lot of tourists who also aren’t paying their fair share. In order to ensure their contribution, it will be necessary to require all Seattle visitors to register with the SDOT and pay a small fee before they are allowed to use sidewalks. Many people might object that this would be confusing to tourists and it’s unlikely they would comply. On the contrary, it’s likely many people would hear about the law before coming to Seattle because it would be the only city in the country with this policy. If non-compliance became a problem, all the City would need to do is throw a few tourists in jail to make a point.
CSSSPRSS points out that now is a unique opportunity for this novel solution. With the upcoming City Council elections in 2015, CSSSPRSS points out that Council will feel pressure if citizens take action. Considering the overwhelming power of the pedestrian lobby, it’s important to act diligently and timely. It’s likely there will be push-back from militant pedestrians. The most effective contribution you can make is to publicly support this initiative by notifying news affiliates. We encourage you to email the following media organizations.
Suggested Email Text
Dear Media Organization,
I’m emailing to stand in strong support of pedestrian licensing in Seattle. While pedestrian licensing may seems strange, Jim Vesely (former Seattle Times editorial contributor), makes a strong logical argument for all types of licensing, “Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities.”
It is clear that Seattle has a sidewalk crisis. There aren’t enough sidewalks. They are in terrible disrepair. There are too many free-loading, scofflaw pedestrians. Requiring pedestrian licensing would help address the city’s budget problems, raise money for sidewalk maintenance, require everyone to pay their fair share and help the city track and punish pedestrians that break the law.
This issue hasn’t received enough coverage and I strongly encourage you to provide the time it deserves.
Starting on Friday, Seattle will embark on a two-week festival to explore design. This year’s theme is Design in Motion, and it promises to have plenty of interesting venues around the city ranging from walking tours to forums, films, and more. Most of the events are free, though some do require tickets. For the uninitiated, here’s a brief background on the Seattle Design Festival from the organizers:
The Seattle Design Festival, now in its fourth year, celebrates the ways design makes life better. Every September, Seattle’s citizens, city leaders and design experts come together at workshops, tours, talks, films and gatherings to exchange ideas. We believe that the more we work together, learn from one another, share information, discover new processes and remix solutions, the more Seattle will benefit as a whole. Our city is stocked with talented designers who bring their skills, knowledge, passion and design-thinking to help (re)solve chronically stuck problems in our community.
The Seattle Design Festival is the unique brainchild of Design in Public, a local non-profit sponsored by Seattle-area art, media, and architecture organizations.
While there is a kick-off party Friday where you can rub shoulders with local designers, the real fun begins Saturday. Occidental Park will host the SDF2014 BLOCK PARTY, a two-day, interactive event in the park. It’s a fun event for all ages that showcases the innovative products of local organizations.
For a full list of venues, check out the online program list for topics, dates, times, and locations. Design in Motion will run from September 5 through September 19.
Image: (left) Where to access StopInfo within the OneBusAway iOS Application. (right) StopInfo’s information screen.
Many people rely heavily on visual cues to navigate their environments. In the case of locating transit stops, particularly those in unfamiliar areas, this can involve scanning for the proper sign and identifying other transit-associated landmarks such as shelters or card readers. But for visually impaired transit riders, locating stops is often a challenge. Which corner of the intersection is the stop closest to, and how far down the street is it? Is it located on an island? Is the bus sign close to the curb or away from it?
Having access to this type of information ahead of time or while navigating to the stop can help. This is one of the primary goals of StopInfo, a prototype system that can be found on the Web and in the transit application OneBusAway on the iPhone (see image above). StopInfo presents information such as stop position relative to the intersection, whether there is a bus shelter, what type of sign is present and how far from the curb, as well as what other physical objects (such as trash cans and benches) are around. For visually-impaired pedestrians using a white cane, advance knowledge of what landmarks are present at a certain bus stop can help them know what to search for, while positional information can let them know approximately how far they should expect to travel from the intersection. But this information is not only useful to the visually-impaired. Information such as how well-lit the stop is might help people travel more safely and confidently at night. Displaying whether a stop is temporarily or permanently closed can also be useful for all people using the app.
One of the more novel StopInfo features is how the information itself is collected. While the starting information comes from King County Metro’s database, anyone using OneBusAway on an iPhone or the StopInfo website can add data that Metro doesn’t track. Since the initial launch of StopInfo in late February, we have collected over 1,300 submissions for 845 unique stops in King County. We have also studied the use of the system with six visually-impaired transit riders over a five-week period. We found that StopInfo is generally helpful for blind and low vision riders and that it can promote more spontaneous trips, often to less familiar places. Additionally, all six of our participants said that they wanted to keep using the system even after the study ended. Full details on this study can be found online. The study will be published and presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing annual conference in October.
We are now in the midst of evaluating the system more fully, and are considering the underlying values associated with it for a full range of stakeholder groups. These groups include transit officials at King County Metro, visually impaired transit riders, bus drivers, and transit riders who might potentially contribute information. So, if you are a Metro driver, a person who is blind or low vision, or are interested in potentially contributing information or have contributed information before, please contact us at email@example.com. If you are a OneBusAway user interested in contributing, you can also take a quick online survey, which offers a chance at winning a $50 Amazon gift card in a drawing.
We encourage transit riders in the King County area to submit information about bus stops as they wait for the bus. It’s easy to do by using StopInfo on iPhone or in a mobile browser for other smartphone platforms (we are working on incorporating this feature into other versions of OneBusAway soon). We are also working with Metro on ways to reward our top contributors to the application.
For more information, or if you have questions or comments, you can read our article on StopInfo, contact us at the e-mail address mentioned above, or reply to this post. Thank you!
One of The Urbanist’s contributors made a very good suggestion to Sound Transit last week:
There was a time when Sound Transit provided frequent and comprehensive progress updates for University Link tunneling. We would love to see those updates come back. It gives us something to write about… and it’s fun to watch the progress of these projects that our region so vitally needs!
As of July 30, Sound Transit’s University Link Extension project was 87.2% complete, up 2.6% from our last update. And the Northgate Link Extension project (formerly known as North Link) has been rapidly proceeding, too.
In this project update, we’ll share some statistics and details about the significant progress that Sound Transit has made, including station box work at all sites under construction, tunneling work from Northgate, and movement of the Capitol Hill crane.
University Link Extension
Capitol Hill Station saw the big red crane come down in mid-August. The crane was promptly redeployed to the Roosevelt Station construction site. Sound Transit anticipates that the crane will remain in Roosevelt for the next two years, in order to move equipment and supplies in and out of the station box. Meanwhile, work at Capitol Hill Station continues with construction of the station box. As you can see above, station walls have been constructed above ground. These are partially viewable from E John Street. As of July 30, Sound Transit reports the station as 64.5% complete.
The University of Washington Station is almost done (96% complete). The pedestrian bridge over Montlake Boulevard, and related station access construction, have recently been Sound Transit’s main focus. The access project has led to months of lane closures, bicycle detours, and re-grading work in and around the Montlake Triangle area (the triangle island landmass fronting on to Pacific and Montlake). But from the looks of it (see below), the pedestrian bridge across Montlake is nearing completion. The University of Washington must finish their part of the project by connecting Montlake Triangle with the Rainier Vista mall, which is due in early 2015.
For the tunnels themselves, the primary focus has been track, power, and safety system work. Sound Transit reports that the tunnels are 43% complete.
Northgate Link Extension
Construction at the University District Station has moved on from drilling and pile driving (which your correspondent felt and heard from his apartment) to digging. Sound Transit reports that 230 pillars were driven into the ground, ranging from a depth of 40 to 120 feet, during the drilling phase. These pillars were then reinforced with support beams, concrete shells, and rebar. Now that the site has been sufficiently secured (as a result of all pillars being driven into the ground), the station box can be excavated and the station walls can be shored up. These walls will form the shell of the completed station. The excavation for the station will reach 95 feet underground, and work will continue through the spring of 2015.
Just to give you an idea of how quickly the tunneling work is going, Brenda (the primary Northgate Link Extension tunnel boring machine, and not to be confused with Bertha!) was launched from the Maple Leaf Portal in
May July, and has already traversed more than 1,600 feet. Sound Transit estimates that Brenda will reach Roosevelt Station early in 2015, after having traveled a total of 1.5 miles. (Luckily for the future riders of the Northgate Link Extension, Link trains travel more quickly than tunnel boring machines.) Another tunnel boring machine is scheduled for launch from the Maple Leaf Portal in a few short months. All tunnel boring work on Northgate Link should wrap up in 2017. The twin-bored tunnels will connect Northgate, Roosevelt, University District, and University of Washington Stations, at a total distance of 3.6 miles per tunnel.