Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Sunday Video: The Big Debate About the Future of Work, Explained

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Vox looks at how the way we work may change in the future and what that means to society.

What We’re Reading: Pausing Outsourcing, Curb Space, and Piloting Solutions

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Housing for all: Advocates are asking the Washington State Legislature for another $100 million to address homelessness.

Pausing a race to the bottom: Sound Transit is stepping back on outsourcing operations of bus services ($) to private companies.

The next governor: If Governor Jay Inslee (D-Washington) successfully runs for president, who is in line to take his place?

Slowing rent increases: The rate of residential rent increases continues to slow in Seattle ($).

Approved in Mill Creek: In a split decision, the Mill Creek City Council approved a 350-unit urban apartment development ($).

Opposition to SB 50: Suburban single-family housing interests are very unhappy California State Senator Scott Weiner’s (D-San Francisco) newest land use and housing bill.

Wrath of bad McCleary decisions: Due to budget shortfall created by the Washington State Legislature, Seattle Public Schools could be forced to cut 24 full-time librarians to part-time.

Stop the violence: CityLab highlights three anti-gun violence laws that are working.

Code for curb space: How should cities manage their curb space when everyone wants a piece of it.

New versus old: The Guardian shared several historic transit system maps of cities versus their modern ones.

Refusing to support injustice: Seattle artists are rejecting the call to create public art for King County’s new youth jail.

Amazon in B’vue: Amazon plans to create several thousand jobs in Bellevue ($) in the next few years.

Piloting solutions: San Jose is America’s petri dish for trying out solutions to the affordable housing crisis.

SFR DC: Where are the single-family housing areas in Washington, D.C.?

Bringing cities back: How can America help bring back struggling cities?

Map of the Week: What areas in America are housing costs devouring peoples’ incomes?

Leading Chinatown-International District Station Options Emerge for ST3

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Chinatown-International District Station. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Last week, the Elected Leadership Group (ELG) for the Ballard and West Seattle light rail extensions received an update from Sound Transit staff on the Chinatown-International District segment. Staff highlighted what they have heard from community and the pros and cons of different station and tunnel options in the neighborhood.

Community feedback on a new station

What community has said about station priorities for Chinatown-International District. (Sound Transit)
What community has said about station priorities for Chinatown-International District. (Sound Transit)

There were several recurring themes from community members that Sound Transit heard on another Chinatown-International District station. Themes like improving connections across transit modes, minimizing impacts to the neighborhood, activating Union Station, and contributing to the community vision.

The community also has indicated a strong preference to rename the light rail stations as “Chinatown-International District”, activating streets around the station, creating more green and open spaces, adding public restrooms and culturally-relevant public art, and facilitating markets and local vendors. Several transit functions that the community has expressed support for include better pedestrian access across 4th Ave S and 5th Ave S and a shallow station for accessibility.

A Small Step Forward for the U District Mobility Plan

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Pedestrians cross the Ave (University Way) at NE 43rd Street. The street has long been closed to most traffic between The Ave and NE Brooklyn Avenue due to light rail construction. Photo by author.

A recently passed Seattle City Council resolution provides recognition of the U District Station Area Mobility Plan, but falls short on specifics for implementation.

Standing at the corner of NE 43rd Street and The Ave (University Way NE), it is quickly evident why the street was selected as a pedestrian connection between the University of Washington campus and light rail station arriving in 2021. Only two short blocks of street traffic separate the future station and a long green pedestrian walkway leading up into the leafy campus. Already well-served by Metro buses, this is one of the few areas of Seattle where pedestrians regularly outnumber cars. With light rail on the way, it is difficult to imagine a future in which cars continue to rule the intersection.

These days the car is still king on NE 43rd Street, as it is throughout all of Seattle. Even so, the imaginative vision of a pedestrian connection on NE 43rd Street feels really modest. Between the rich access to transit and human-scaled shopping corridor flush with small, quirky businesses, it is not a big leap to arrive at the conclusion that this pavement should be dedicated to non-vehicle modes of transportation (i.e., modes that allow people to amble in and out of stores and cafes without fears of being accidentally crushed by fast moving objects weighing thousands of pounds).

The current view from the University of Washington campus onto NE 43rd Street. Groups like U District Square have envisioned the pedestrian access created by the walkway shown here fully connected to the light rail station opening two blocks away. Photo by author.

That is why the arrival of light rail has inspired visions of a fully pedestrian street here, as well as on a segment of the Ave, specifically between NE 42nd Street and NE 45th Street. This vision is bolder than simply prioritizing pedestrians on a short two-block stretch of a non-arterial street, but it comes nowhere near the level of the eight block pedestrian mall near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville or many other pedestrian-focused streetscapes found in similar shopping areas across the world.

Sound Transit Drops Tacoma Dome Link Station Renderings for Early Scoping

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Sound Transit rendering of Tacoma Dome station option TD2.

Sound Transit has opened an early scoping for the Tacoma Dome Link light rail extension. This is an integral process for the required environmental review process to identify issues that should be evaluated under the process. Typically, a scoping report highlighting comments and synthesizing issues identified is subsequently issued after the comment period has ended.

The online open house for the early scoping process shows each of the four segments that will make up the extension. Each segment highlights the options drafted as part of the Level 2 screening process for alternatives that we discussed in a report on the extension last week. The options are also ranked according to potential and challenge.

Overview of the route and station options for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension. (Sound Transit)
Overview of the route and station options for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension. (Sound Transit)

Online open house visitors can weigh in on which options by segment should be further studied. Visitors can also provide detailed comments on the stations, alignment concepts, and other issues.

To get a sense of what each segment option might mean, Sound Transit has created a suite of visualizations for the stations at Tacoma Dome, East Tacoma, Fife, and South Federal Way. All of the visualizations depict elevated stations and elevated guideway, an indication that the corridor will be fully grade-separated. The Tacoma Dome Station options all provide for future expandability further west into central Tacoma.

The Bicycle Master Plan May Soon Sputter to a Dead Stop

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) only plans to construct about half of the miles of protected bike lanes (PBLs) that it promised when voters approved a $930 million transportation levy in 2015, according to the Bicycle Master Plan implementation schedule released late last week. According to the plan, the department will completely stop constructing PBLs after 2021, when it has spent all of the Move Seattle Levy funds that were allocated toward them, and almost completely stop building neighborhood greenways after 2022.

The plan, which was due to city council by the end of March as laid out in a council resolution, is the first update to the implementation schedule for bicycle facilities in Seattle since 2017, and the first since last year’s “reset” examined project costs for completed bike projects and found that the original estimates were incredibly optimistic. Costs for almost all programs are coming in over estimates, as the updated workplan for every other program that was released last November outlined, but the bicycle subprogram also ended up paying for expensive street rebuilds that were required for its centerpiece projects, adding drainage and utility costs to these bike projects.

SDOT's draft BMP implementation plan overview from 2019 to 2024. (City of Seattle)
SDOT’s draft BMP implementation plan overview from 2019 to 2024. (City of Seattle)

The reduced scope of the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) subprogram means more pressure to select the most crucial projects, which will go furthest toward creating a fully connected bicycle network that everyone in Seattle has access to. But here too the plan falls short, with key network segments dropped from the plan and Southeast Seattle yet again getting left behind in terms of direct connections to other neighborhoods, particularly Downtown.

The fact that the project list went through Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office before being approved is notable, especially coming on the heels of the decision by that office to cancel a planned protected bike lane on 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood that was fully designed and ready to be put in place. That office also spent at least $14,000–money that came out of the bike budget–hiring a mediator who failed to win support for the City’s design for 35th Ave NE bike lanes by overcoming virulent neighborhood opposition, which had included death threats and the sabotage of City equipment with fireworks.

The bike lane on 35th Ave NE was part of a planned repaving project, which meant that the cost-per-mile of adding safe bicycle facilities to 35th Ave NE was way below the cost to add facilities to a street not getting repaved. Months earlier, SDOT cancelled a planned protected bike lane on N 40th St in Wallingford also being constructed as part of a planned repaving last year, with no real alternative offered for safe bicycle access in that corridor.

SDOT has grouped its bicycle projects in a new way, with “low risk” projects separated from projects that it says come with risk of delay, and the precedent from the Mayor’s office suggests that the projects with risks could also be a list of projects that get dropped from the plan if there is political pressure.

Planned Protected Bike Lanes

Below is a list of the protected bike lane projects that SDOT says to complete for the next few years:

PSRC Charting Path to Accommodate 1.8 Million More Residents in Central Puget Sound by 2050

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Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma. (Credit: PSRC)

Over the next 30 years, the Central Puget Sound Region is slated to grow by more than 1.8 million residents and 1.2 million jobs. The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is well underway in the planning process guiding how growth should be apportioned through 2050. In February, the PSRC released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) evaluating three alternatives for growth:

  • A no action alternative (i.e., stay the course with the existing approach to growth under VISION 2040);
  • A transit-focused alternative (i.e., focus most growth around high-capacity transit facilities existing and planned); and
  • A reset urban growth alternative (i.e., use the development trends from 2010 to 2017 to focus growth).
Trend of population and job growth in the Central Puget Sound. (PSRC)
Trend of population and job growth in the Central Puget Sound. (PSRC)

Underpinning the long-range planning effort is the designation of existing Urban Growth Areas, Rural Areas, and Resource Areas as well as the classification of cities and unincorporated areas, and areas with special Regional Centers designations (i.e., Regional Growth Centers and Manufacturing Industrial Centers). The designations are associated with specific growth targets, which differ between each of the alternatives.

D3 Council Candidate Logan Bowers Pledges to be More Accessible than Sawant

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Credit: Logan Bowers for Seattle City Council

From filing a failed ethics complaint to accusations of absenteeism, Bowers is waging an aggressive campaign against Councilmember Sawant.

On a sunny Saturday morning I had the chance to speak with candidate Logan Bowers about his run for the District 3 council seat. The meeting was impromptu. We had both participated in a walking tour of the Lid I-5 study site in First Hill and Capitol Hill, but, for me, running into Bowers at a community event was also not a huge surprise.

Ever since launching his campaign, Bowers has been zigzagging Council District 3, which stretches from Montlake to North Rainier, attending many urbanist-themed events along the way. As his campaign Facebook page reveals, he hosts coffee shop meetups at which he encourages constituents to “stop by and ask him anything,” a bold proposition coming from a city council candidate currently best known for riding an electric unicycle and selling legal pot.

As a councilmember, Bowers pledges to have an “easy and convenient way” for constituents to reach out to him: “I want to be someone who will be there and have discussions that matter to people.”

Bowers’ campaign is highlighting accessibility to differentiate him from incumbent Kshama Sawant, who has faced criticism from some constituents, and now council challengers, for absenteeism in her district, a charge she firmly denies. Sawant has defended turning her attention citywide and to the national issues as best serving the working poor and furthering the class struggle.

Bowers, however, is not buying Sawant’s defense. “Everyone who I have talked to in city government has said Sawant is never there,” Bowers said.

However, absenteeism is not the only reason Bowers believes voters should ditch Councilmember Sawant in the upcoming election. In early March, Bowers filed a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission complaint against Sawant, after SCC Insight published a collection of internal documents from Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party. These documents revealed that Sawant’s votes on city council were decided by voting within the registered members of Socialist Alternative. In Seattle, the party has about 200 registered members–with another 1,000 or so registered members nationwide.

Bowers’ complaint accused Sawant of violating the public records act by withholding some records; additionally, he alleged that her involvement with Social Alternative has resulted in her giving city funds and personnel to the party, which could be a felony.

Sawant has defended her party’s methods in a full statement that can be read here.