Monday, December 10, 2018

NE 130th Street Link Station Update

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Elevated NE 130th Street Station option, courtesy of Sound Transit.
Elevated NE 130th Street Station option, courtesy of Sound Transit.

It’s been over two months since I shared why Seattle needs a NE 130th Street Link station. In that article, I highlighted the benefits of the station to surrounding neighborhoods by noting that it would promote walking and biking in North Seattle, significantly increase transit ridership, provide fast and dependable light rail service to more than a half-dozen neighborhoods, all while doing it without any large investment in station facilities beyond the station stop itself. So here is an update on progress that has occurred on the station since then:

Lynnwood Link Extension EIS Released

Sound Transit released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lynnwood Link extension on April 1. The EIS supports what many NE 130th Street Station advocates believe: a NE 130th Street Station would be preferred by many Seattle residents who live in the areas between Northgate and 145th Street.

Support for Station-Ready Design

Last week, Sound Transit Board Members met at the Sound Transit Capital Committee to discuss amendments to the Lynnwood Link extension plan. Seattle Councilmember and Sound Transit Board Member Mike O’Brien proposed and championed an amendment that would make the design at NE 130th Street “station-ready”. O’Brien’s amendment would ensure that the I-5 alignment running past the station area would be designed with an elevated crossing over the existing NE 130th Street overpass. This configuration would make it easier and less expensive for a station just north of the overpass. This means that even if a NE 130th Street Station is not immediately approved and funded, a station could be added later at minimal cost and without significant delay.

Mayoral support

Seattle Mayor and Sound Transit Board Member, Ed Murray, wrote to NE 130th Street Station advocates to share his support for the project:

This station will be an important addition to light rail in Seattle and fill the gap between the light rail stations at Northgate and 145th St. in Shoreline. The station has the potential to spur the development of a new urban village in this area and will greatly improve the mobility of the community. If the station cannot be included in the preferred alignment for the Lynwood Link, I support funding the station as soon as possible.

April 23rd Sound Transit Board Meeting

The most important update is that the Sound Transit Board will vote on Lynnwood Link Extension station locations at the April 23rd meeting. NE 130th Street Station supporters hope that the Board will commit to building a NE 130th Street Station at this time. However, if the Board does not commit to a NE 130th Street Station, supporters will urge that the Board show support for the station and indicate what would need to occur for them to approve and fund the station. If you want to help support this effort, please join for the meeting or contact the Board.

Thursday, April 23
1:30-4:00pm
Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom
401 S. Jackson Street
Seattle

If you’re interested in staying up to date on NE 130th Street Station progress, be sure to “like” the NE 130th Street Link Light Rail Station Facebook page.

Sunday Video: Waiting for Azulejos

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Waiting for Azulejos by cityzenprod on Vimeo.

An artistic video of Lisbon, Portugal showing the city in color and beauty.

What We’re Reading: Dramatic Growth in Cycling

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Biking in NYC, courtesy of Dani Simons.
Biking in NYC, courtesy of Dani Simons.

Highspeed opposition: The current arguments being made against Texas’ private highspeed rail project are fascinating.

Better design: The UK is rolling out new pylon designs for electric power grids to reduce visual impacts.

New parking meters: Seattle has some high-tech parking meters to replace the aging ones across the city.

Housing imbalance: The US spends way more on homeownership subsidies than actual social and affordable housing subsidies.

On hold: A trail linking Snohomish to Woodinville has fallen apart, for now.

Leading the way: Why Austria is going all in on new methods of woodframe construction.

The best waySeattle Transit Blog talks about how Link might get to Federal Way.

Dramatic growth: New York City has experienced explosive growth in biking over the past decade.

New law: Bicyclists can now get across the street a little bit easier with this common-sense change in law.

Map of the week: An amazing visualization of New York City’s vibrant rainbow of tree species.

Own worst enemy: Democrats are hesitant to give Sound Transit property tax authority because of other priorities.

Filling the hole: 44 people have thrown their names in the hat to fill a vacant Seattle City Council position.

Fireside chatThe Stranger talks to Pronto!’s director about the success of the program six month on.

Midwest shift: A look at how Minneapolis is growing while Chicago is shrinking.

A Panel With The Urbanist At The American Planning Association National Convention

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Attention all you planning nerds! The American Planning Association’s National Conference is coming to Seattle Saturday through Tuesday (April 18 through April 21). The conference promises to be a great gathering of planning minds from a cross the country and globe, and Seattle gets to show off just a little bit! We’ll be there for the four-day event taking photos, tweeting under the #APA15 hashtag, talking to professionals, and even taking part in a session of our own.

Our session on Sunday (April 19) will be a panel of four. Other urbanist nerds, including Josh Feit from Publicola, Scott Bonjukian from The Northwest Urbanist, and Nick Welch from Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, will join me for an hour-long panel discussion. We’ll  have a brief presentation discussing the role of grassroots media in planning and then be taking questions from the audience. While we can’t guarantee it, we hope it will be an enlightening event! Here are just some of the topics that we’ll cover:

  • Why grassroots media organizations are important for planning;
  • How planners can use grassroots media as a venue to share their own ideas outside of structured, formal processes;
  • How to use grassroots media as an accessible way to generate informal public discussion on local issues while attracting hard-to-reach younger audiences;
  • Why it’s important that interested citizens have an ability to exert influence; and
  • How the spread of information through grassroots media benefits the public, local officials, and the city at large

The session runs from 10.45am to noon this Sunday (April 19). We’ll also be live-tweeting our session under the hashtag #searbanmedia. Don’t miss it and feel free to introduce yourself afterwards! But even if can’t make the session, there are still plenty of other sessions and venues worth checking out. And for those of you who can’t shell out cash for the full cost of a badge, you’ll be able to catch a few events online for free.

New Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Northeast Seattle

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Eastbound on Ravenna Boulevard. Photo by the author.

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) staff hosted an open house on Tuesday to present conceptual plans for improving bike routes in northeast Seattle between East Green Lake Way N and 20th Avenue NE. Most of the project will simply be the installation of standard plastic posts between the existing bike lanes and vehicle lanes on Ravenna Boulevard. The project will also extend protected bike lanes (PBL) east to 15th Avenue NE, install new PBLs on Cowen Place and the Cowen Park Bridge, and create a two-way route for bicyclists on NE 62nd Street.

SDOT mailed out notices of the meeting last month, drawing about 50 people from around the project area. I’m particularly interested because I frequently ride the entirety of Ravenna Boulevard for recreation. The meeting was surprisingly upbeat, with none of the usual antagonists, and included a diverse mix of residents. Many said they bike along the corridor with their kids. Being between two sizable parks, Ravenna is a popular route for families.

Project map. (SDOT)

SDOT staff didn’t have many visual details beyond what is available on the project website, but were able to respond to some specific questions about certain features. For instance, there will not be a painted crosswalk on 15th Avenue at 62nd Street because SDOT’s thresholds (pedestrian count, sight lines, etc.) are not met. I encountered the same resistance from traffic engineers when I requested a crosswalk further south at the 55th Street bus stop some time ago. However, 62nd Street will continue to be signed as a one-way street for cars (to cut down on through traffic) and, newly, a two-way route for bicyclists between 15th and 17th Avenues. It’s a good route for bicyclists headed east because its relatively flat and has low traffic.

Further south at the intersection of Cowen Place and 15th Avenue will be one of the project’s more intriguing aspects. Currently this intersection is a no man’s land for people on foot, with unclear crossings movements and a huge southbound curb radius. With new PBLs on both Cowen and 15th, something needs to change. As with 62nd, new crosswalks can’t be installed at the current intersection. So he plan is to create an all-way stop with a new bulb-out to the east, making a T intersection. This allows smoother movement for all users and a better connection to a flat, unpaved trail above Ravenna Park. There is also a bus stop here that needs to be accomodated. The intersection might be something like the image below.

Left: before. Right: proposed. In blue is the bulbout, which would first be temporary (with paint and bollards) and made permanent (with concrete) next year. Graphic by the author. (Google Maps)

I’m also excited to see an inclusion of what I suggested to SDOT several months ago: extending the eastbound bike lane two blocks between Brooklyn Avenue and 15th Avenue. Currently the lane ends at Brooklyn Avenue as the street begins climbing a hill, making for a dangerous mixing zone. Extending the PBL will get people biking safely to the top of the hill. In addition, the Brooklyn intersection will be made an all-way stop. Some parking will be lost between University Way and 15th, and parking between University Way and Brooklyn will be relocated to the other side of the street, which currently has as 21 feet wide drive lane. The idea I sent to SDOT is below.

My simple suggestion for a bicycle hill climb.

Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Nearside

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Metro electric trolleybus signed as Route 7.
Metro electric trolleybus signed as Route 7.

“How’s it going?” I nod to a man clad in brown and black.

“I’m great,” he says, even though he has a cell phone to his ear. Into it he says, “no, I’m talkin’ to the bus driver. I jus’ got on the bus. This guy’s cool. Uh-huh. Yo, I’ma get off the phone. Aight.”

To me he then directs his full attention, saying, “and how are you doin’?”
“Fantastic, man! Busy but great, you know!”

“Man,” he says, shaking his head with a grin equal parts impressed and amused, “you are the best! You got one of the best attitudes of anybody out here….” He continues praising me to the high heavens while I go through the “aw shucks” routine, resisting the compliments. I have no idea how to take such kind words. He tops it all off with a joyful exclamation– “man, I don’t even LIKE paying the fare! But when I see you, man,”
“The wallet come out?”
“Yeah man, I be happy to. I THOUGHT it was a good day, ’til I stepped on your bus and realized it was a GREAT day!” Turning to the fetching young thing next to him, he says, “isn’t he something?”

“Coming from you that’s an honor,” I say in response, meaning I can see how truthful he’s being. He has no reason to butter me up. I praise his good spirits as well, and we continue up the roadway, exuberantly.

April Special Election Endorsements

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The King County April Special Election is underway. With a handful of local issues on the ballot, we want to take the time to endorse two important measures.

Proposition No. 1: Property Tax Levy for Emergency Public Safety Radio Network Replacement Project–Approve

In 1992, people were watching Full House, jamming out to Baby Got Back, and watching Bill Clinton’s inauguration. They were also designing our emergency radio system.

When you call 9-1-1, dispatchers use a special radio network to talk with first responders like firefighters, police, and medical staff. But aging infrastructure and a growing population are straining the system, with dead spots and service outages becoming more common.

King County is asking for $273 million to replace the system, funded by a property tax levy of seven cents per $1,000 of assessed value over nine years.

We need to bring 911 into the 21st Century. Approve Proposition 1.

Proposed Klahanie Annexation–For

Also happening in 1992? I was taking my first steps in a suburban development known as Klahanie on the Sammamish Plateau. Home to over 10,000 residents, the neighborhood has been looking for a city to call home. To the south, the old and trusty City of Issaquah—home to Salmon Days, the Issaquah Alps, and the mixed-use Issaquah Highlands development. To the north, the new and affluent City of Sammamish. Founded in just 1999, it has been ranked as one of the best places to live and friendliest towns in the country.

Both cities have been courting Klahanie heavily, with Issaquah taking the lead in two unsuccessful annexation ballot measures in 2005 and 2014—the most recent failing by just 32 votes. Now Sammamish is taking a shot.

Annexation is good for neighborhood residents. Cities are better equipped to provide services and infrastructure to suburban levels of density, whereas counties are designed to look after rural and exurban communities. While the annexation will bring an end to the cul-de-sac firework shows I grew up with, it will bring needed repairs to the surrounding Issaquah-Fall City Road, and hopefully some of the stellar parks programming Sammamish has become known for.

Vote for annexation.

Ballots are due April 28th. Get them in the mail!

Reenvisioning the Public Realm of South Lake Union, Belltown, and Denny Triangle

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Major gaps in the physical environment hinder a friendly, fun and high quality experience

When the population of a city doubles, its economic productivity goes up 130 percent. As noted in a paper by the MIT Media Lab, what makes the sum greater than the parts is people’s increased chance of face-to-face interaction. It makes sense as it lets people learn from each other, share ideas, and come up with ways to improve their lifestyle and the productivity of their work. It is exactly this kind of rich social experience that attracts many to cities in the first place.

So as Seattle continues to increase in population, it is important to maximize the return on the investment associated with it by ensuring that high quality public social space is available across the city. Such space includes high quality walking connections between neighborhoods, parks, and plazas. Besides improving people’s health and happiness, they also directly create new retail opportunities.

Two years ago, a group of citizens and local businesses called the Lake2Bay Coalition formed to improve the public realm in central Seattle. It is now a project supported by the Seattle Parks Foundation and has received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The premise is that with hundreds of millions invested in the Mercer Corridor and Central Waterfront, and with the reconnecting of the street grid north of Denny Way after the SR-99 tunnel is completed, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect Seattle Center, Downtown, the new waterfront, and SLU through a web of signature pedestrian-friendly streets.

Major gaps in the physical environment hinder a friendly, fun and high quality experience
Major gaps in the physical environment hinder a friendly, fun and high quality experience

The Goal

The aim is to integrate cultural, residential and work functions with a natural element on the public right-of-way–spaces that let people relax when out for recreation, but also comfortably support going to or even holding a work meeting when appropriate. In this way it is possible to facilitate the unplanned interactions that enrich everybody’s lives while providing the needed mobility. A successful model can then advise the design of corridors in other parts of the city.

The work begins with learning from the success of others:

lake2bay-nyc-highline-collage
The High Line in New York City pays tribute to its transportation past, yet provides highly demanded recreational space in the growing Meatpacking District and Chelsea. People can take a stroll, while enjoying local art and great views or use it to walk to work as many residential buildings have exits directly on it and it passes safely over intersections.

 

lake2bay-dc-noma-collage
1st Avenue NE in Washington D.C. is in the currently redeveloping NoMA neighborhood. It’s lined with 12 floor residential and commercial buildings and the street reflects the broad variety of activities going on. There is commercial outdoor seating, public outdoor seating, bike racks, and plentiful vegetation. The experience is very much comparable to that of a pedestrian-only street while still accommodating travel by any mode.

 

lake2bay-bcn-la-rambla-collage
La Rambla in Barcelona is a world-famous pedestrian promenade that also accommodates multiple modes. A wide pedestrian area occupies the center of the right-of-way while vehicle lanes are on the side (with a small sidewalk on each side too). The promenade contains outdoor seating for the various food and drink vendors, provides space for arts and subway station entrances.