Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday Video: Johnny T’s Subway Tips

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Johnny T’s Subway Tips by Glove and Boots on YouTube.

Hilariously good tips about how to ride transit right, especially if taking the subway in NYC. Johnny T has some excellent gems in this video. Happy Sunday!

What We’re Reading: A new parklet arrives on Second Avenue

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Biking in Bellevue: Bellevue is planning to build out more trail along SR-520 and is reviewing options for bike lanes on 116th Avenue NE.

Hail to the Chief: Paulo Nunes-Ueno has been named as the new head of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s newly formed Transit Division. Nunes-Ueno is a long-time advocate for safer streets and transit.

New parklet: Second Avenue has a brand new parklet between Pike and Pine. It stretches half a block and integrates well with the bike lane.

Body cams: It looks like body cams are coming to the Capitol Hill patrols soon. This is a good step for keeping the public and officers honest.

Small adaptive reuse: It’s a tiny example of reusing a small space, but this red-brick boiler room is now a sweet guesthouse.

Clean streams: The Environmental Protection Agency is committing over $300m to cleaning up the Duwamish River once and for all.

Tandem garages: Pugetsoundscape shares the various pluses and minuses of different garage layouts, particularly in Snohomish County.

Blank screens: It looks like two more cinemas will be shutting the doors for good come January. Say goodbye to the Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill and the Varsity Theater in the University District.

Growing jobs: We all know Amazon is huge in Seattle, and it looks like it will grow even larger. By 2019, there could be as many as 71,500 employees–or at least enough room for them.

Inspiring: Even if you’re not the churchy type, this new Nordic church is pretty beautiful.

How economics works: There’s a lot of talk about taxation and how to do it right, but one of the most discredited economic theories is trickle down economics. The ultimate version of trickle down was tried in Kansas recently and has been a disaster while California raised progressive taxes and it’s been a boon.

Taking the train: In two charts, here’s why Northeast travelers take the train more than flying the friendly skies.

Move the people: It may seem contradictory, but slower speed limits actually move more people.

Bellevue budget: The City of Bellevue has passed a $1.46bn budget that has some great projects in it like infrastructure for the Spring District.

Updating the comp plan: The Department of Planning and Development needs more time to craft their Comprehensive Plan update, dubbed Seattle 2035. Look for adoption in 2016 instead of summer 2015.

ORCA on monorail: The City Council wants to explore options to add ORCA integration for the monorail. For riders, this could induce more usage as a real daily public transportation choice.

DC gets the good things: Arlington County, Virginia is exploring a sidewalk level cycletrack while the District of Columbia analyzes options with the Feds for a unique oval street to serve all modes and users.

The Streets Regard Ferguson

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I try to avoid turning my stories into soapboxing opportunities, and for that reason they’re rarely topical in the “breaking news” sense, but I’m compelled to address an issue a number of people have been asking me, and which you may be curious about.

Because I drive the “black” bus, people want to know how people are reacting to the Ferguson decision. There aren’t any white people on the 7 during most of the hours I drive it; what’s the general angle of conversation on the subject, in this, the most educated city in the US?*

Heuristic evidence tells me the general angle is perhaps not the outrage that the media reportage of protests might wish us to think. The general angle I get is that of thoughtful consideration. Just about everyone I’ve listened to has been able to read past the headline and understand that the Grand Jury’s decision is in fact not a legal license to kill black people or a desecration of all that America is supposed to stand for–yes, those was my initial knee-jerk responses–but rather an acknowledgement of a complex situation with multiple ambiguities and moving parts.

While what look like bored clumps of white teenagers** wandering around outside in the street, “protesting,” blocking nothing at night except blue-collar folk wishing to go home, my passengers of color look on in either amusement or mild frustration. They turn to myself and each other and ponder the shooting. An ex-military man with experience in high-pressure situations noted that such circumstances have half-lives not of weeks or months, but of seconds. Death is larger than race, and you don’t think when you’re in situations like that. You react.

Then there is the question of conflicting testimonies. Did Mr. Brown turn around? Was he running forward? What about his friend, Mr. Johnson?

“Why you agreein’ wit’ the Man,” one man asked when the other mentioned these ambiguities.
“It ain’t about that. It’s about it’s more than meets the eye. Only people knows what happened, is Darren Wilson, and Michael Brown. Period end of story.”

Snatches overheard:

“And anotha thing. Police officers need to worry about whether oh not they gon’ make it home every night. You always gonna err on the side of protectin’ yo self. Are there kids out here who are dangerous? Uh, yeah! That don’t mean it ain’t no tragedy. But don’t tell me….”

A friend of mine, looking out the window: “What the fuck are these assholes doing? The Grand Jury has already made their decision. There ain’t no, fuckin, what I don’t understand is, where was all these people before motherfuckers made the announcement? Where was the protesters then? When it was back in the day, Martin Luther King and shit marchin’ on Washington, those motherfuckers was out there before, during, and after. These are just lazy sons a bitches blockin’ regular motherfuckers tryin’ to get they ass home. Iss the middle of the fuckin’ night. What these guys think they gon’ do? The Grand Jury gonna say, oh yeah, we’re sorry, we made a…. Yeah, it was a shitty decision, I agree. But I don’t think blockin’ a bus or a train in Seattle is gonna make the Grand Jury in Missouri… oh, man. It pisses me off so much.”

A woman on her way to St. Mark’s summed it up best: “They tryin’ uh get everybody to riot. But they ain’t goin’ to. That police officer was scared. This ain’t no Rodney King.”

Less mayhem, more thinking, breathing, and talking. Ah, yes. Boring for the news networks, and just fantastic for everyone else.
–*Regarding education levels in Seattle: read more from Fast CompanyThe Washington Post, Brookings Institution, and CNN.**Toward whom I sympathize with, mean no disrespect, and among whom I count several friends. I marched in the police brutality protests during the John Williams episode, but this is different. Plus, the ineffectual late-night aspect of the current protests encourages me to poke gentle fun.

Puget Sound ferry agencies see new vessels and service

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It’s been a good year for several of the local ferry-running agencies. They’ve been blooming with the replacement of their fleets while also implementing and planning new service. Here’s a brief recap of what has happened over the summer and fall with a bit of background for context.

King County Ferry District (KCFD)

MV Spirit of Kingston
The MV Spirit of Kingston, the main vessel on the West Seattle-Downtown Seattle route. Photo by the author.

All-American Marine, a ferry builder based in Bellingham, has begun work on the construction of two passenger-only catamarans for KCFD. The new vessels will be able to carry 250 seated passengers indoors and 26 bicycles on deck. This is a significant increase from the current fleet, which consists of two boats: the MV Melissa Ann (serving the Seattle-Vashon route) and MV Spirit of Kingston (serving the Seattle-West Seattle route). The Melissa Ann can serve up to 172 passengers and 18 bicycles while the Spirit of Kingston has a capacity of up to 147 passengers and 16 bicycles.

The new vessels being built will be more efficient to operate due to wider doors for access and reduced fuel consumption. While no new sailings will be added with the introduction of the vessels to service, the boats will increase capacity per sailing. The Vashon run very often sails close to capacity, so increased capacity will hopefully lead to many fewer passengers being turned down for service.

Upon arrival of the new ferries in Fall 2015, the Melissa Ann will be returned to Four Seasons Marine (her owners) while the Spirit of Kingston will remain in County ownership. The new ferry to serve the Vashon run will be called Sally Fox, which is being named in honor of a late Vashon passenger-only ferry advocate. Meanwhile, the new West Seattle vessel will be called Doc Manyard, named after Seattle’s famed pioneer.

Washington State Ferries (WSF)

MV Tokitae
The MV Tokitae, sister of the new ferry Chimacum, entered service on the Mukilteo-Clinton route in late June. Photo by the author.

WSF is in the process of replacing their aging Evergreen State-class ferry fleet with new Olympic-class ferries. Three Evergreen State-class ferries have reached the ripe old age of 60, the end of their service lives. Evergreen State-class ferries have a capacity of 1,092 passengers and 87 vehicles. Of course, the Evergreen State-class ferries are dwarfed by the shiny new Olympic-class ferries, which have a capacity of up to 1,500 passengers and 144 vehicles.

Earlier this year, the MV Tokitae, a new Olympic-class ferry, entered service on the Mukilteo-Clinton route. Two more ships of this class are planned to be deployed over the next 3 years. The MV Samish is currently under construction by Vigor Industrial based out of Seattle. This new vessel is expected to enter service sometime in Spring 2015. The route for which the ferry will sail has not yet been revealed. However, it is assumed that both the Seattle-Bremerton route and San Juan Islands are candidates for this ferry. And just last month, WSF officially named the third new Olympic-class ferry as the MV Chimacum. The Chimacum will enter service in 2017.

Kitsap Transit

MV Carlisle II
Though more than a 100 years old (built in 1912), the Carlisle II still sails reliably for Kitsap Transit between Bremerton and Port Orchard. The small ferry is the oldest boat still operating under regular service from the Mosquito Fleet, and Kitsap Transit’s largest ferry. Photo by the author.

As we reported in July, Kitsap Transit is looking to provide passenger-only ferry service from Seattle to Kitsap County. Routes previously under consideration were Seattle-Southworth, Seattle-Bremerton, and Seattle-Kingston. Kitsap Transit has selected Seattle-Bremerton as the preferred route. The route between Seattle-Bremerton currently takes about an hour each way. However, a passenger-only ferry would greatly reduce the trip to 35 minutes each way.

Kitsap Transit is currently looking at alternatives for funding for the route and will redeploy the existing 118-passenger Rich Passage I. The ferry was built for Kitsap Transit and put into service for testing during Summer 2012. Potential riders of the new ferry route say that they want to be able to reserve their seats. Riders fear that the route would be so popular, reservations are the only way to make it competitive and reliable against the regular, but slower, WSF ferries.

Tweet of the Week: Mismatch in style and height is A okay

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Equitable Building

 

Last week, yours truly was in New York City. Streetscapes like the one in the tweet below were very typical whether in Manhattan, the Bronx, or Brooklyn. And you know what? They worked. They were visually interesting spaces even if somewhat abrupt and unexpected. Buffy Sparks’s tweet however gets at the heart of a debate that’s been going on for nearly 100 years: height, bulk, and scale.

Structures like the Equitable Building (shown above) in Lower Manhattan were seen as shocking in the early 20th Century. People demanded that something be done to address the concerns for light and air. With the rapid densification of New York and buildings climbing to ever new heights, there were legitimate concerns that streets would simply become caverns of darkness and choked air. And so, zoning regulations were crafted to carry out these public desires in order to reduce the perceived impacts of height, bulk, and scale by requiring new buildings stepback upper floors. Today, these same desires persist widely–not just in New York City.

Stepbacked Buildings in Midtown Manhattan

 

The tall structure highlighted in the tweet below would not generally be permissible under New York City zoning codes now. Not because of its style per se, but rather due to its height and lack of upper floor stepbacks. As Buffy Sparks wisely notes, this building works within its context. It’s not choking out the air and doesn’t create a cavernous feel to the space. The space is still safe and it makes it interesting, despite being very different.

When people talk about building height, bulk, scale, and scale, it’s an aesthetic thing. Pinning down what is bad and good isn’t always clear. Even the most crowded and skyscraping places of Manhattan have something likable about them. Here in Seattle, it’s not uncommon to find starkly different building types in height, massing, and design on the same block. Perhaps we shouldn’t be afraid of that.

https://twitter.com/BuffySparks/status/539424064637784065

Exploring mixed use and the human dimension

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On a walk from Fréjus to Saint-Raphaël last week, an elderly man asked us, in French, why I had just taken a photograph of his house. I offered to erase the photograph, which was intended to show, in modern urbanist visual language, the delight of a stamp and coin shop as first floor retail at an intersection across the world from our hometown.

I re-learned that day what every urbanist should know: The physical city means less without the stories behind building facades.

Sometimes we only learn such lessons while abroad, when acclimating to a new, temporary neighborhood, or when answering a question as simple as the one just stated. After all, the human dimension, of affinity and conversation is broader, and arguably more important,  than the human scale that we hear so much about.

The story continues with the elderly man acknowledging us as Americans, who were more interested in the storefront than the dwelling above. Suddenly, we were no longer suspects, not the tax inspectors or police that could have been. There was no need, he said, to erase the photograph.

Suspicion yielded to enthusiasm and affinity, and his tales of visits to Wyoming and Yellowstone. He provided an introduction to the stamp and coin store proprietor, his son, Roland Spadari. The younger Mr. Spadari is a regular U.S. visitor, shy about his English, but quietly aware of his commonalities with the people who come through his door.

Father and son invited us into the store, and we became neighbors in a city that spanned an ocean. Conversation spilled forth about American coins from another era–from Indian Head pennies to Buffalo nickels to Mercury dimes. We commiserated about what these coins once looked like and discussed whether we ever see them anymore back home.

We politely listened as Mr. Spadari, explained, with his father looking on, how he obtained Buffalo nickels and Eisenhower dollars on his annual trip to Las Vegas last year.

And then we said our goodbyes, and thanked Mr. Spadari for his hospitality. My coin and stamp collection habits ended long ago, so I was in the market for nothing more than continuing our walk.

But the power of the human dimension carried matters beyond their logical conclusion. On our way out, Mr. Spadari gave me three Buffalo nickels–to keep–at no charge.

It took 30 minutes for suspicions about a photograph to become a thoughtful, affinity-based gift of items that transcended place and time. That’s the power of the real dynamics of city life, the connections behind the built environment that we, at first, more readily see.

Image composed by the author in Fréjus, France. Click on the image for more detail. © 2009-2014 myurbanist. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

ICYMI: The Transit App integrates Uber into app service

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Uber on Transit App

Travel options just got better for users of The Transit App. On Monday, the app service was updated to integrate Uber, a ridesharing service, natively into the user interface. The Transit App supports Uber in 47 North American cities with more markets likely to come online as both The Transit App and Uber expand their services.

What The Transit App is doing isn’t all that different from Car2Go and its takeover of the dynamic transportation app RideScout. In September, we gushed about that merger because it represented a more holistic approach to urban transportation services. Marrying different transportation services together puts the power of personal transportation decisions in the hands of riders. When users know the transportation choices available to them, they can choose to take any mode on-the-fly. And for urban dwellers, that means their perceived need for a reliable personal vehicle is greatly reduced.

The Transit App has been growing rapidly and wisely over the past year. The app team has been focused on ensuring the stability of the app and the locations that it serves while streamlining the user experience and adding useful features. The trip planner function, Nearby Mode, and universal access to schedules have all seen massive improvements. The Transit App has also added tons of new regions to its service and just launched bike sharing data over the summer. The addition of Uber is a positive step forward for The Transit App because it increases its universality as a transportation app while maintaining simplicity. (And, we have to imagine that finding a way monetize the app isn’t too bad as well.)

How Uber works in The Transit App

IMG_0853When users launch the app in any of the 47 North American markets that both Uber and The Transit App serve, they will see Uber as a mode choice with real-time departure information from their current location. Users can pan around the map in the app or search a specific location for service, which will also display real-time departure from the intended location. Users can also choose which kind of Uber service that they want like UberPEDAL or uberX. To do so, users need to tap the Uber tile in Nearby Mode and toggle the “swap” function on the tile.

Trip planning now displays Uber services whenever a trip is generated in search boxes or dropping pins between two locations. The app automatically calculates the estimated wait time for an Uber pickup and the drive time. The cost of the Uber trip is also estimated in the trip plan. Tapping on the trip will show three options: a ride request, a map of the likely routing for the Uber journey, and more Uber options. If that latter is chosen, all possible Uber services will be shown with estimated times and costs for comparison.

Booking a trip with Uber from The Transit App is fairly straightforward. On the Uber tile in Nearby Mode, the user can tap to reveal the “request” option (this can also be done in the trip planner in a similar way). By requesting the service, the Uber app will be launched with the preferred pickup location identified in the open app. From there, it’s a simple tap of the confirmation request.

Of course, some people may never want Uber as a trip option. The Transit App makes it easy to disable the service through the app settings. Users can simply uncheck Uber as an option within the setting window.

For more on Uber and The Transit App, check out their splash page on the new service.

Supported Puget Sound transportation services by The Transit App include: Sound Transit (buses, Link Light Rail, and Sounder), King County Metro Transit (buses, streetcars, and water taxis), Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit (buses and foot ferries), Intercity Transit, Washington State Ferries, Pronto! Cycle Share, and Uber.

Be Nice to That Couple From Frankfurt

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Sep23#53-1

 

“FUCK YOU,” he says as he boards, with such unhinged force I can only find it comical. Fifty-year old East African man in a sweatshirt and slacks, holding a wooden chair in one hand. I don’t know why I think this is so funny. I think it’s because he looks fairly refined, one of those serious middle-aged types. Phawk You. Maybe I should be afraid sometimes. But honestly, where would that get me?

“How you doin’?”
Upon hearing me and seeing my tone he instantly shapes up a little. “I’m good, how are you?”

Confucius said pleasantries don’t make us better people, but they do keep alive in us the goodness we already possess.
“Excellent, thank you!”
“Tha’s good.” He smiles, appreciating my acknowledgement of his personhood and complete ignorance of his earlier attitude.

He and his friend sit down near the front. The second man is younger but taller, dressed in a huge lightweight blue and burgundy rain jacket. He expands like a sea star, spreading out, covering as much surface area with his body as possible. The two form a compelling visual image. I want to paint these guys. Don’t think I’ll ask them now, though.

“I don’ care where you from,” says the fifty-year old, apparently continuing a thought with his friend. They’re are sitting behind me. “I keep my mouf shut. I keep quiet. I don’ care, shit.” Sheeyit. “Why I’m gonna care?” He continues. “I don’ say no thing, I don’t care.” He expounds a bit further on his promise of keeping quiet before doing so.

Two young Cobain-lookalikes board, one with a guitar in hand. “Oh, hey, it’s you again!” says the one to me, excited. To the second man I say, “ah, an artist! You can play whatever you want, I won’t stop you!” I’m sure I’ll regret saying those words one day, but sometimes you get some really good acoustic work wafting up from the back.

We’re filling up. It’s a night run on the 49, pulling into Convention Center. Here’s a few more getting on. A young European couple, twenties, hesitant in their step. Must be visiting from out of the country. She asks, “do you go to Broadway?”
“I do! Where do you want to go?”
“We want to go to, is it, Broadway and Allison? by Fuhr, uh,”
“Oh. Allison, by Fuhrman, and Harvard?”
“Yes!”
“Yes, I will take you there!”
“Okay! Thank you so much!”

Sparkly eyes, now full of youthful vigor. They’re quite the attractive couple– not tall enough to be supermodels, and too friendly to be on magazine covers. Just perfect, in other words. What they also seem is very much out of their element. The dominating presence on the bus now is a three-way argument between the two East African men and a third black man of ambiguous heritage, wearing a Seahawks jersey, the current neutral Seattle uniform of choice. The two accost him regarding his birthplace, abandoning their self-imposed promise of being quiet on such matters. To their credit, they speak in low tones, but that just makes everything seem all the more menacing.

“You not from Ethiopia. I know.” The tall guy. “I’m from Ethiopia! I’m gonna know. I know. You Somali?”
“I’m from Ethiopia,” says the Seahawks man quietly.
“You’re not from Ethiopia. How you gonna fool me? Live my whole life…. Eritrea? Eritrea. Eritrea maybe. You from Eritrea? I can understand that. Tell me you’re from,”
“I’m from Ethiopia.”
“You’re not from there. Why you say you’re from Ethiopia?”
“That’s where I from,” he says, maintaining his quiet tone. Impressively cool. He leans his bulk forward.

“Where are you from?”
Have you noticed how most fights– in the street, in the bedroom, the kitchen– start over the most inconsequential things? It all seems so intense in the moment.
“I’m from Ethiopia. I’m Ethiopian.”
“I don’ know why you keep saying that.” The tall man’s face is tilted back on the headrest, coolly looking down his nose at the other. Legs splayed out, jacket big and wide. Sotto voce: “I know. I know your face.”
“You know my face? I know my face!”
“You from Ethiopia? What part Ethiopia you from? What tribe?”I see the European couple shifting uneasily in the side seats above the middle wheels. I know what this all looks like. The impressively intimidating argument dominating the first half of the coach, bubbling chatter elsewhere, the Cobain lookalikes talking loudly in the back, a group of college girls going on about transcribing and transcriptions, various street guys peppering the room… and all of them in their own comfortable worlds, exclusive, uninviting to outsiders, not realizing they’re forming a young couple’s first impression of Seattle. A friend recently described to me her first impressions of the reality of American life as “uglier and scarier than anything [she] had imagined,” and looking at the couple back there I get the sense they feel similarly. When you read a bunch of guidebooks warning about the dangers of travel in strange new cities, and then find yourself in this environment at this time of night, yes, the mind does wander….

For me the scene is different. I know the Cobain kids and the street guys. They’re fine. And East African immigrants in their forties and fifties don’t get in physical fights. They just don’t. I let their argument play out, fascinated. The Seahawks man really is from Ethiopia. He speaks some language samples and specifies a few words and locations. All is well.


At Roanoke the European girl comes forward, followed by her boy. We’re two stops away.
“Hi,” I say to her. “I think I can take you closer. Almost there!”
“Oh, okay!”
“I did not forget about you!”
She smiles the warm smile of relief, the enveloping feel of safety coming back. Acceptance.

“Is it a restaurant, or a house?”
“It’s a house.”
“Oh good. Yes, we are very close.”
The boyfriend pipes up: “finally, someone in Seattle is nice!”
“Oh no! Oh, no!”
“Yes, everyone has been so unfriendly,”
“Oh, I’m sorry! Welcome to Seattle!” Waving my arm in the air.
“Thank you! Now we feel welcome!”
“Where are you visiting from?”
“Germany!”
“Oh great! Which city?”
“Frankfurt!”
“Excellent. I have three weeks in January and I’m trying to decide where to go, I want to go somewhere in Europe….”
She says, “you can stay at our house anytime!”
“You’re so nice, thank you! So here’s your stop, and Allison street is right behind us….”
“Thank you! Thank you. You’re such a wonderful person!”
I’m surprised at their initial impression of Seattle, and can’t help but reflect how just a few interactions can shape one’s view of an entire city, especially when that’s all you have to go off of. There are always friends, even in the furthest corners. I hope the rest of your trip is terrific.
Soon Mr. Phawk You deboards, singing a very different song as he leaves the bus– it’s as if he’s undergone a positive mental bath of sorts: “Thank you, my brother!”
“Thank you, my friend! I’ll see you again!”I will see him again, in about an hour. Everything will be fine.