Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What We’re Reading: No Downtown School

Salmon Bay School by Joe Wolf on Flickr.

No Downtown school: Seattle Public Schools bails out on an opportunity to pick up a Downtown property for a new elementary.

Breaking records: The Fremont Bridge is very likely to see more than 1 million bike trips by Christmas.

The weed: Uncle Ike’s scores a temporary victory while more states legalize marijuana use. Of course, Congress might interfere with DC.

Obscure designs: A worry for the next Guggenheim Museum, could it just be weird? And is that even a bad thing?

Disaster in SFO: What San Francisco might look like if sea levels rise 200 feet.

Charming blocks: A look at New York City’s one-block streets and their charm.

120 square feet: Now this is some creative micro-housing.

It really is bad: A commuter has logged all his Sound Transit 510 trips for 3 years. Turns out traffic is getting a whole lot worse on I-5.

Will it live: Maryland just elected a Republican governor who hates transit, but will he kill the Purple Line and other projects in Maryland?

Minimum wage: It turns out that even in conservative territory, minimum wage increases are incredibly popular.

Transit vote: Free lifts to the polling station on transit doesn’t appear to increase ridership.

No trains Saturday: Light Rail will be shutdown next week, so know your options.

Tons more service: Now that bus service will get a boost in June, what could we end up seeing for future service?

Berlin Wall everywhere: Pieces of the Berlin Wall are everywhere around the globe, and they’re good reminders of the ugly past.

Regeneration: A power plant in Wisconsin will now have new life as a student center.

New condo tower: First Hill will see a new condo tower come to the neighborhood.

Bridges and the city: An exploration of how cities and their bridges interact, it’s a situation of the good, bad, and iconic.

Speed humps: Excessive speeding is cut up to 80%-90% in Seattle where speed humps have been implemented.

Capitol Hill Station: Four developers have submitted their proposals for development, one has dropped out. Plans will be unveiled to the public in December.

Mileage fees: A good case for changing how we charge for driving, the best option is a per mile fee.

Second and Union: A new proposal by Skanska for an office tower at Second and Union dubbed “2&U”

Housing, politics and a basic pride of place


Fifth in an illustrated series about place-decoding from the South of France.


What do the politics of urban housing have to do with a seasonal caravan park in Provence? For me, the answer is clear. Our political discussions, mired in jargon and positioning, often lose sight of a human pride of place inherent in even the simplest forms of shelter.

A major American urban theme, today, addresses the challenge of maintaining housing affordability, and determining who should pay to insure available residences close to work and necessary services. Other themes include scrutiny of residential configurations, and debates over how small is too small for today’s dwelling unit size. In Seattle, various stakeholders, from elected officials to developers and nonprofits, continue jousting over an arguably not-ready-for-prime-time housing linkage proposal and new limitations on the size of micro-housing units. A new Advisory Committee will attempt a varied tool-based cure.

I recently keynoted a Seattle housing non-profit’s annual breakfast. There, I had to answer a big question: What, exactly, is affordable housing? My answer simply stated that people need affordable access to the sought-after elements of urban life. To paraphrase, people need affordable access to homes of whatever size and shape that they can take pride in.

When people take pride in where they live, their homes’ appearance shows a bonding with the place, often with considered ingenuity.


This ingenuity is clear at the Domaine du Pin de la Lègue (a 53 year-old caravan park near Fréjus, France). From the Domaine, I asked myself last month, why not focus on how to see and decode the expressions of people’s pride in and around the walls and ceilings that protect them?

I am talking about the basic decorator and landscaper within us all, our human tendency to create a sense of comfort with the outside world so that we blend more easily with where we live.

What will change when Link comes to Capitol Hill and the UW?


Link Connections Logo

What will change when Link comes to Capitol Hill and the UW?

This is the question that Sound Transit and King County Metro are starting to ask.

Beginning in 2016, Link Light Rail will connect Downtown Seattle with Capitol Hill and the University of Washington at Husky Stadium. This new subway service will provide Sound Transit and King County Metro the opportunity to make changes and adjustments to bus service in the neighborhoods surrounding the light rail stations.

With this opportunity in mind, Sound Transit and King County Metro are looking to the public for their input, ideas, and suggestions.

Representatives from the transit agencies will be conducting eight information sessions between November 6th and November 20th at the following locations:

Thurs, Nov. 6 11:00am Street Team: eastbound bus stops on Stevens Way
2:30pm Street Team: Campus Parkway & Brooklyn
Wed, Nov. 12 3:00pm Street Team: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, Westlake Station-Bay A
Thurs, Nov. 13 7:00am Street Team: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, Int’l District Station-Bay A
6:00pm Link Connections: Community Conversation
Mon, Nov. 17 6:00pm Link Connections: Community Conversation
Wed, Nov. 19 10:00am Info Table: University of Washington Medical Center
Thurs, Nov. 20 11:30am Link Connections: Community Conversation

If you are unable to attend any of these information sessions, King County Metro has an online survey that you may fill out.

For more information, please visit King County Metro.

Not an Impulse


Picture 2


Triangle Park, across from the Frye–the very same “it’s-not-the-Frye-unless-there’s-an-ambulance-out-front”–right in the heart of upper Pioneer Square, is not known for harboring commuters with an urgent need to catch specific buses to outlying destinations. Especially not at midnight. Nevertheless, tonight a runner streaks out of its dark recesses toward my stop at Prefontaine, right as that famously short light turns green. As I’ve said before, I’ve noticed many runners are “impulse riders” who don’t actually need your specific route. They just need something going up a few blocks. But you just never know. His eager smile and hustle convince me to tarry–African-American man, bald, in a huge black sweatshirt with some sort of red lettering.

After some pleasantries, we’re rolling. I’m curious. “Did you need the 49, or are you jus’ goin’ up the street?”
“I needed the 49. I just missed the 66.”
“Well shoot, I’m glad you made it.”

This man didn’t just need the 49, as it turns out, he needed it clear to the end of the line! And, would you believe it, he ended up being a Metro employee! He cleans the buses every night, and we talked shop and life for the rest of the ride. I never would’ve guessed, him flying out of Triangle Park like that. Today was a double shift for him, and he mentioned in a complaining tone that upon arriving home, he won’t be able to get to sleep instantly.

“How come?”
“‘Cause my kids, man, they gon’ ask how my day was….”
He says it in a tone indicating he knows he shouldn’t be complaining, buuuutttt….
I cut in, exclaiming, “that’s ’cause they love you, man!”
He grins, relaxing.
“Yeah, dude!” I continue. “They’re gonna say how was your day, they gonna ask whatchoo did, you’re gonna ask what they did, they’ll probably show you some stuff, and it’ll all be beautiful! It’s the great human condition! You know!”

The girl sitting behind us, with the wavy auburn hair, smiles as she listens.

12 Photos from Iceland: Streets Done Right


Iceland takes pride in robust and modern street infrastructure techniques. To anyone who has been to Europe or elsewhere abroad, much of this will seem quite familiar. However, during my recent trip to the country, I was taken aback by just how serious Icelanders were about road safety; prioritization of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit; and making life for the disabled better. While Iceland trails the United States in per capita car ownership, the country has an astoundingly high rate of 745 vehicles per 1,000 people–putting the nation in the top five globally. For perspective, the United States has a rate of 809 vehicles per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, the United States also has nearly 3 times as many traffic-related deaths per capita than Iceland. So, maybe–just maybe–we have something to learn from the Land of Fire and Ice when it comes to doing streets right.

1. The Chicane
Chicane in Reykjavik

A chicane in the foreground; woonerf with divergent lane in the background.

 2. The Plaza Woonerf

Woonerf street with a median street furniture, doubles as an extended plaza.

A woonerf street with median street furniture. The street also serves as an extended plaza space to a theatre.

3. The Pedestrian-Oriented Parking Lot

Parking lot with elevated pedestrian pathway that doubles as speed control ramp device.

A parking lot with an elevated pedestrian pathway doubling as a speed control ramp device.

4. The Textured Street

Photo 25-10-2014 11 38 32

A textured street that has a modest and well marked crosswalk.

5. The Separated Bike Lane

Photo 25-10-2014 09 14 38

 A new separated bike lane headed eastbound in Reykjavík. The bike lane trimmed the street width down, but also took some sidewalk width to implement. Large bricks and pavers separate the road from the bike lane and sidewalk. Asphalt is used to keep the pavement soft for bicyclists. Speeds are reduced to 30 kph (~20 mph).

6. The Bus-Only Lane

Photo 24-10-2014 17 21 50

A bus-only lane marked with a red advisory strip.

7. The Elevated Crosswalk

Photo 25-10-2014 11 41 12

An elevated crosswalk/ramp that contains advisory strips for approaching vehicles. Signs are well posted to the approach to notify drivers. Pavers are colored to differentiate zones for pedestrians and warn them that they are about to cross vehicle travel lanes.

8. The Queue Jump

Photo 25-10-2014 09 23 33

A queue jump light exclusively for buses to keep them moving ahead of regular car traffic through Reykjavík.

9. The Woonerf

Photo 25-10-2014 11 37 18

A full-on woonerf with some bollards and differently colored pavers.

10. The Safe Community

Photo 24-10-2014 15 07 16

A sign reminding drivers that they need to keep it slow in villages, towns, and cities for all the right reasons: people live, pray, work, and play here (50 kph = 30 mph).

11. The Tabletop Intersection

Photo 25-10-2014 09 18 57

The tabletop intersection slows drivers down and draws their attention to pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, this intersection type makes it easy for pedestrians to cross at any point with minimal grade change, especially for those with accessibility issues.

12. The Low Curb

Photo 25-10-2014 09 27 04

The low curb makes crossing intersections easy for pedestrians and those with accessibility issues. To provide enhanced safety, the crossing is well marked with eye-catching colors and designs on pavers with some separation features. Advisory pavers strips with special textures let pedestrians know they are crossing a bike lane and vehicle lanes.

Tweet of the Week: Lunchtime Streets


San Francisco is putting many of its smaller streets to better use with a people-focus. As you can see from Will’s tweet, San Francisco has some cool lunchtime streets with cafes spilling into the right-of-way. Seattle already has great alleyways being used as public gathering spaces, art corridors, and even as street frontages and space for sidewalk cafes. Perhaps we can find more spaces here in our own backyard and take cues from cities like San Francisco.

Ballard Urban Design Framework Meeting Tomorrow


Ballard Subway Station

Image: Preliminary schematic of a Market Street and 17th Avenue subway station (Sound Transit’s Corridor D) in Central Ballard.

Just a reminder that this Thursday (November 6th), the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will present their initial strategies to better guide development in the Ballard core. Their strategies will address the bulk and character of development, streetscape design, and public/private open space roughly within the areas shown in my article last week.

The DPD is working with neighborhood groups, non-profits and organized like the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth, and wider public to develop an Urban Design Framework (UDF). The Ballard UDF will establish the desired design qualities for the central area of Ballard and examine how development regulations can better shape growth in ways that reflect those qualities.

While transportation isn’t on the docket for this open house meeting, we hope that other core issues like development character, land use practices, and open space will draw other urbanists there! I’ll be there encouraging activation of underutilized zoning near the most likely place for the anchor terminus of a Ballard to Downtown subway line.

Ballard Urban Design Framework Meeting
Ballard Library
Thursday, November 6
5.30pm to 7.30pm

Early Election Results: Buses, Early Education, Monorail, and More


Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 21.55.51At this point, you’d pretty much have to live under a rock to not know that Republicans have taken control of both chambers of the US federal government, but maybe you missed out on our little corner of the world. Last night was mixed to positive for urban dwellers. On the one hand, the Seattle-only bus measure is passing soundly with over 58% of the vote in favor; on the other hand, Republicans will hold control of the state Senate, which has serious ramifications on funding for basic state services and meeting the education requirements stipulated by the State Supreme Court’s McCleary Decision. So here’s our brief rundown of local and state measures (and sole interesting Seattle judicial race).

Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 concerning bus funding: 58.8% Yes

Seattle Citizen Petition 1 concerning the creation of a monorail authority: 80% No

City of Seattle Proposition 1A and 1B concerning early education: 65% Yes, 67% 1B

City of Bothell Proposition 1 concerns parks bonding: 56% No

Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District concerns transportation funding: 51.4% Rejected

Initiative 1531 concerns reduced classes for K-12: 50.6% No

Initiative 591 concerns eliminating background checks on firearms: 54.5% No

Initiative 594 concerns universal background checks firearms: 59.7% Yes

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 7: 76.1% Damon Shadid (defeating Fred Bonner)

For state legislative district, judicial, and congressional races, check out the Secretary of State’s website. Additional races from King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County are also available online.