And I’m Talkin’ IN A ROW!

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May25#05-29

 

Martin Luther King, just south of Rainier. We have one taker, a middle-aged man, close-cropped shave growing out again, with a paper bag under one arm. He’s got on worn blue running pants and a blue sweatshirt, the top a shade or two darker than the pants.

“Ey.”
“Wha’s goin’ on.”
“Not a lot, how’s it goin’.”

Both of us are so far speaking these exchanges in a pleasant monotone. He seems like the stoic type. The genial tone of the questions asked are their own answer. He pauses after my last question, however, and I’m thinking he won’t speak further, but then he does:

“Good, for a change.”
“Oh, excellent!”
“Real good, actually.”
“Happy to hear it.”
I’m about to ask him for details, and he jumps the gun– “I was just standing on t’ street corner–” kohnah– “minding my own, right back there, when six cars stopped to ask me if everything was okay.”

His stoic vibe is quickly disappearing as he relates the experience, becoming more animated. More lifelike.

“Six!” I say.
“Yeah, six different cars! And I didn’t have my head in my hands, nothin’ like that, I wasn’t cryin’ or nothin’! Didn’t matter what they was driven’ neither, new cars, old ones,”
“Oh that’s so beautiful–”
“Aw yeah! And I’m talkin’ in a row!”
“Thaaat’s amazing! That makes me so happy about humanity!”
“They’re still out there!”
“They’re still out there!”

On simple reflex I clap with joy, both of us rising up in a secular sort of rapture, living that high you hear in the voices of gospel singers.

“Every single one, makin’ sure I was okay. And one of ’em came back, and we had a looooong conversation, praying’ and talkin’.” “So beautiful!”

When he leaves we wave at each other through the glass, and he’s winking a wink I can almost hear, a signal call of joy and belief, putting rich color into this cloudy day.

2015 Seattle City Council Election, District 3: Pamela Banks Interview

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Pamela Banks
Pamela Banks

Article Note: The Urbanist is publishing a series of interviews with a selection of 2015 Seattle City Council candidates. In June, we will release our endorsements.

Pamela Banks is a political newcomer, running in central Seattle’s District 3. She hopes to unseat sitting Councilmember Kshama Sawant with her own progressive agenda. Banks is as local as they come with deep roots in central Seattle stretching back to her youth. Banks spent a thirty-year tenure in Seattle government working for multiple city agencies and completing her service as a community outreach director for the office of Mayor Greg Nickels. Banks now serves as President and CEO of the Urban League.

What would you do to make housing affordable to everyone in Seattle?

Banks opened the conversation by squarely declaring that “we have to do a variety of things and it’s not rent control.” Banks reasoned market rate housing and subsidized housing were both part of the housing solution. In her estimation, the City needs to reach out and work with developers to create new housing units. The City should also take a direct hand in property acquisition and development. Properties owned by the City should be redeveloped to provide housing options for residents. The City, Banks felt, could partner with successful housing providers like LIHI and Capitol Hill Housing to deliver successful projects and quality units to the market.

Banks pivoted to talk about the financials. She wants to pass a new housing levy to provide funding, but cautioned continued reliance on property taxes to fund city needs. Banks said that the current property taxes are often too much for many to bear now and that it’s time for the City to demand new revenue sources. She pointed to a new income tax and increased bonding capacity.

On the Linkage Fee and other impact fees, Banks said that she was nervous about them as revenue tools. Specifically, she said that concerned how collected fees might be distributed. She questioned whether the fees would go back to the neighborhoods from whence they came.

Council District No. 3
Council District No. 3

How does planning, transit policy, and development affect racial, social and economic inequalities in our city? What policies and efforts can we make to combat these inequalities?

Banks noted that zoning and transportation have been historically problematic for her area. She recounted two examples: I-90 planning process and the construction of light rail in the Rainier Valley as examples. Banks said that I-90 was originally planned to continue from I-5 to Mercer Island without an intermediate access junction near the Central District. Local residents fought hard for the Rainier Ave S ramps and ultimately won. She also shared how light rail in the Rainier Valley was a challenge to residents and businesses, with many simply closing up during construction. She praised the efforts to create the Rainier Community Development Fund, which helped retain many businesses on the corridor.

Banks argued that light rail isn’t serving the Rainier Valley well. She said that people live too far away from the stations and need better access. Banks praised light rail stations like Tukwila International Boulevard as examples for how station access should be provided. Specifically, Banks wants more park-and-ride structures to ensure that people can use light rail.

Banks voiced concern about rising gentrification trends in Seattle. She explained that the Central District has seen minority-majority populations plummet as the neighborhood sees new residents move in and locals move out. She feels that the Race and Social Justice Initiative needs improvement to drive greater balance on the issue.

Seattle’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injury by 2030. Do you think this target is achievable? Why or why not?

When asked if Vision Zero is achievable, Banks replied that there are “too many cars”. She went on to explain that she supports slowing speeds down in the city. She pointed to 23rd Ave and Rainier Ave S as examples of where and how the City should focus their efforts to reduce speed. But, she questioned if 2030 was really an achievable timeline to see Vision Zero become a full success. Echoing her declaration that there are “too many cars”, she said that Seattle has a long ways to go yet.

On transportation, Banks said that she wants to see Complete Street efforts better thought out. Focusing all modes on one street doesn’t deliver the best results in her estimation. Instead, modes need to be spread out amongst common streets in transportation corridors. Banks flexed her transportation muscles by saying that she supports transit, especially light rail.

How best should the city accommodate the next 20 years of growth?

Banks wasn’t coy on the question, but focused most of her time talking about transportation and parking. She said that density must be focused around transit, which would be a departure from the past. She explained that the City has done transportation planning backwards like light rail in the Rainier Valley that skirted around established, dense centers.

Banks said that the City is in need of a truly integrated transportation system, otherwise it risks people continuing their current patterns of driving first and foremost. Banks hopes to represent residents in Capitol Hill and said that many in the northern part of the neighborhood don’t support increased density because they lack appropriate services like access to light rail. Residents aren’t able to walk to the station from where they live.

Banks is concerned that parking is a problem for many fragile neighborhoods. She wants more comprehensive parking assessments to ensure that there is adequate parking in places like Pioneer Square.

When asked what she thought about parking minimums in new development, Banks said that it was a must. She added that the only exceptions should be around certain light rail stations like Beacon Hill. Although, others like Mount Baker (McClellan) might not be appropriate for parking-free regulations. Pointing to immigrant, refugee, and elderly communities, Banks said that these groups have a strong need for vehicle access due to their familial formations.

What is the most important transportation project in your district?

Banks singled out the Capitol Hill light rail station as the biggest project slated for District 3. She explained that the project will deliver more than just transit, but also a series of large housing developments with ample affordable housing mixed in. She also highlighted three other projects as key for the district: Rainier Ave, the 520 trail, and 23rd Ave. Bank said that the 23rd Avenue Corridor Project (stretching from Southeast Seattle to Montlake) would be a game changer due to its multi-modal approach to Complete Streets. She felt that many locals will appreciate the new Neighborhood Greenway paralleling 23rd Ave.

Read our interviews with other District 3 candidates Morgan Beach and Rod Hearne.

SDOT Studying High Capacity Transit for the Roosevelt Corridor

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Roosevelt Way NE is just one part of the corridor being studied. Photo by the author.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is studying options for transit improvements in the Roosevelt corridor between Downtown and Northgate. Although Sound Transit is currently building Link light rail in the same area, the City’s Transit Master Plan (TMP) identifies this parallel corridor with high ridership potential. It includes South Lake Union and Eastlake, which Link will not serve. At a project open house last week, SDOT staff and their consultants from CDM Smith presented background information and early thoughts on speeding up transit service between these growing neighborhoods.

Seattle’s most recent TMP was adopted in 2012. It identifies high capacity transit (HCT) corridors that serve, or have the potential to serve, the greatest number of people, the greatest mix of land uses, and provide the highest quality of service. HCT corridors were also evaluated based on social equity, economic benefits, and neighborhood connections. The TMP makes additional recommendations on land use integration and access to transit.

The corridor being studied. The blue line (added by the author) shows the future Link route and stations. Click to enlarge. (SDOT)

The study area is long, stretching 7 miles miles. It connects a variety of neighborhoods and business hubs. From the south it starts in Downtown at Westlake, a major transit hub and commercial center. It then moves through the growing and congested South Lake Union area, where 22,000 new jobs and 12,000 new households are expected by 2031. Next is the constrained Eastlake neighborhood with only one arterial street. It then crosses into the University District on the Roosevelt/11th Avenue couplet; here 5,000 new households and 4,800 new jobs are expected by 2035. Moving through the Roosevelt and Maple Leaf neighborhoods, the route shifts to 5th Avenue NE and terminates at the Northgate transit center. Northgate is being planned for up to 4,000 new households and 10,000 jobs by 2030.

95,000 people currently live in the corridor (defined as a half mile from the route), and 29 percent of households have no vehicle (compared to 8.5 percent citywide). Data from the 2013 American Community Survey shows wide variability in driving and taking transit to work, with driving predominating north of NE 85th Street. Providing more robust transit will likely encourage people to switch from driving and better serve those who already don’t have cars.

SDOT is considering two alternatives for the type of vehicle that will be used. One is bus rapid transit (BRT), which is a bus service that can compete with the speed of driving. This is primarily done with bus-only lanes, having passengers pay their fares before they board the bus, and giving buses traffic signal prioritization. King County Metro has implemented “BRT limited” with six RapidRide routes throughout the county; the biggest missing piece is typically bus-only lanes.

The other option is rapid streetcar, which besides being on rails otherwise has the features as BRT. No such systems exist in the United States, but the TMP heavily leans toward it. One strategy statement is: “Fund and conduct an alternatives analysis study to confirm rapid streetcar as the preferred mode and to position the project for federal funding.” The federal government has been happily funding new streetcar systems across the country, and is expected to fund much of the Center City Connector streetcar construction on 1st Avenue.

Comparing the two mode options. Edited by the author. Click to enlarge. (SDOT)

However, at the open house last week, staff indicated at this early stage BRT is already  the preferred mode. This is likely because of the much higher capital costs of what would be an extremely long streetcar line. There is also potential conflict and incompatibility with the existing South Lake Union (SLU) streetcar route at the southern end of the project area; if the two lines connected, travel times would be dramatically slowed where the SLU line operates in mixed traffic with cars; fortunately, part of this problem will be resolved with new transit-only lanes on Westlake Avenue. But the SLU line also has tight turns and short stations that would may not fit longer, faster streetcars. On the other hand, if the lines don’t connect there is a potential for passenger confusion and redundancy with overlapping rail service in the same area.

Regardless of the final alignment, improvements will be needed for transit operations on Fairview Avenue at Valley Street and Mercer Street. This pair of intersections has poorly timed signal phases that currently delay buses and the SLU streetcar. It can take upwards of five minutes to go less than a quarter mile.

There appears to be some minimal level of coordination with Metro’s route restructuring around the U-Link opening happening early next year; Metro routes 66X, 67, and 70 currently serve the Roosevelt corridor. The 66X is proposed to instead run on Interstate 5 and be peak-only; the 67 is proposed to be rerouted from 5th Avenue NE to Roosevelt Way NE, and then from the Roosevelt couplet to University Way and the UW Link station; and the 70 is proposed to have no route changes. However, there is no firm deadline for implementing this HCT project; it could be constructed before or after Northgate Link opens in 2021.

The alternative shown on the open house maps has the HCT line terminating at the Westlake transit hub, like the SLU streetcar, but it takes a different route via Fairview Avenue and loops to 5th Avenue via Stewart and Virginia Streets.

Community members post notes on a map of the project area at an open house. Photo by the author.

If BRT is ultimately preferred, the line should go beyond Westlake to provide the most utility to people traveling to Downtown. Indeed, the TMP recommends this: “Conduct a detailed study of terminus locations, including…development of a southern terminal that is integrated with the International District Station and does not require transferring passengers to cross a major arterial street.” A terminus at the International District-Chinatown transit tunnel station would eliminate transfers to get further into downtown, and it would provide a connection to the King Street rail station.

The project will likely involve the complete redesign of streets, including bus islands and sidewalk extensions. The Bicycle Master Plan also designates most of the route for new protected bike lanes. With limited right-of-way and transit-only lanes,  parking lanes and general traffic lanes will probably need to be removed or converted in order to meet the City’s complete streets policies. Traffic volume data shows this could be done without adverse impacts, and it would calm traffic and boost business in these neighborhoods.

Two possible options for complete streets on Eastlake Avenue, without transit-only lanes. Images generated by the author at streetmix.net.

Staff will be analyzing public feedback and the alternatives through the summer. A locally-preferred alternative will be announced in November. A conceptual design is scheduled for release in February 2016. For more information and to give feedback on the Roosevelt HCT project, check out the SDOT website and the open house posters (12 MB PDF).

This article is a cross-post from The Northwest Urbanist.

Event Reminder: Seattle 2035 Public Hearing

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Alternatives 3 and 4 of Seattle 2035
Alternatives 3 and 4 of Seattle 2035

The City of Seattle is quickly approaching the completion of its review and update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Earlier this month, the City released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which analyzed four differing alternatives. As part of this, the City has opened up a 45-day comment period for the public to submit their comments. City staff will listen to comments received by the public and further refine the proposed alternatives in a Final Environment Impact Statement. The City Council must ultimately adopt a set of updated policies and regulatory changes based upon a preferred set of alternatives.

Alternatives 1 and 2 of Seattle 2035
Alternatives 1 and 2 of Seattle 2035

Stephen previously shared the high level details of the DEIS alternatives, which can broadly be summarized as follows:

  • Alternative 1 is an approach to growth that targets land use development in the same patterns we’ve seen over the past 20 years. It focuses new job growth in Downtown Seattle and South Lake Union while residential growth takes place in urban centers and urban villages. It assumes that market trends remains generally the same as today.
  • Alternative 2 guides growth to the city’s established urban centers. It assume that these centers will become even more dominant destinations for new residents and jobs than previous decades. It has the benefit of further encouraging people to walk and bike while reducing their dependence on driving.
  • Alternative 3 focuses growth in the city’s urban villages near light rail and urban centers. While growth in urban centers remains important in this alternative, special emphasis is placed on accommodating much of the growth in urban villages where they are–or will be–served by light rail transit. Boundary changes are possible within 10-minute walksheds of existing and planned light rail stations. For instance, a new urban village could be designated at I-5 and NE 130th St during the plan period while a reconfiguration of the Mount Baker and Jackson-23rd & Union urban villages could occur in conjunction with the opening of a light rail station at I-90.
  • Alternative 4 envisions growth for urban villages near frequent transit, which includes both high quality bus and rail service–not just light rail. More urban villages would be slated for increased growth capacity than conceived by Alternative 3, including expanded urban villages in Ballard, Crown Hill, Fremont, and Alaska Junction.

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has put together a useful online open house for the public to review the project proposals. DPD also will hold a public hearing tomorrow evening (May 27, 2015) at the Bertha Knight Landes Room from 6pm to 8pm. This venue is located right at City Hall.

However, public comment will remain open through June 18, 2015 and be considered in addition to vocal testimony. Written comments can be sumbitted onlinethrough a survey, at 2035@seattle.gov, or mailed to DPD.

Our Board hasn’t yet endorsed one particular alternative yet, but we plan to do so in following weeks.

2015 Seattle City Council Election, District 2: Tammy Morales Interview

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Article Note: The Urbanist is publishing a series of interviews with a selection of 2015 Seattle City Council candidates. In June, we will release our endorsements.

Tammy MoralesTammy Morales is running for District 2 in southern Seattle. She is a principal at Urban Food Link, a national firm that works on food systems policy and planning, and helped found the Acting Food Policy Council of Seattle-King County. She holds a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the American Planning Association. She is a political newcomer in the race.

What would you do to make housing affordable to everyone in Seattle?

Morales said she believes local government has the role of addressing market failures, and she supports Seattle’s proposed affordable housing linkage fee. She noted public housing projects can also be funded by other means, including local bonds and general funds. She said working families need greater support, such as with larger apartment units and greater renter protections like 90-day move-out notices. She said people forced out of their homes by redevelopment should receive relocation assistance. A particular zoning tactic she supports for increasing supply is reducing the regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family neighborhoods.

How does planning, transit policy, and development affect racial, social and economic inequalities in our city? What policies and efforts can we make to combat these inequalities?

Morales started by saying that there needs to be a large community conversation about race and social justice. She said political will is needed to make hard decisions that increase equity, and supports the inclusion of a equity analysis in the Seattle 2035 comprehensive plan. She highlighted the high number of 20-somethings in her district who are struggling to start their careers, and suggested working with industry and community colleges to better train young people; one idea she aired is a new community college campus in her district.

Council District No. 2
Council District No. 2

Seattle’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Do you think that this target is achievable? Why or why not?

Supporting Vision Zero, Morales said she “hopes” it is achievable. She shared anecdotes of nearly being hit by cars at least once per month. She supports lowering speed limits, prioritizing transit, and retiming traffic lights in an effort to increase street safety. She also emphasized that the Seattle Police Department needs to step up speed limit enforcement on Rainier Avenue, saying that the only thing that stops speeding drivers is running into buildings. Morales also said there is a number of visually impaired people in her district, and that more crosswalks and acoustical signals are needed.

When asked what the City Council and Mayor can do to address safety, Morales pointed to the inclusion of safety projects in the Move Seattle levy proposal. But she said the city is about to hit its levy cap. She suggested revisiting an employee head tax, and also brought up the broader issue of the state’s regressive tax system and the lack of an income tax.

How best should the city accommodate the next 20 years of growth?

Morales said transit needs to be well integrated with jobs and access to “healthy, culturally appropriate food”. She said there also needs to be better information sharing between the City and residents who will be impacted by the implementation of the Seattle 2035 plan. When asked if the urban village strategy should continued to be pursued, Morales noted that the urban villages boundaries were drawn two decades before light rail appeared; the hub of Rainier Valley is a mile from the nearest station. She said the community needs to ask if adjustments are needed.

What is the most important transportation project in your district?

Without hesitation Morales said the Rainier Avenue road diet is critical. However, she has concerns about traffic diverting onto other streets and pointed to lack of community engagement on other transportation projects, like the First Hill streetcar line through the International District. When asked if she supports streetcars, Morales was ambivalent and said she prefers greater investment in bus frequency and light rail first. She also said people in her district are excited about Pronto bike share, but speculated a new funding model will be needed for the larger low-income population.

Read our interview with another District 2 candidate, Bruce Harrell.

First U-District Parklet Opens

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The U-District parklet on 43rd Street opened during the neighborhood’s popular street fair. (Photo by Andres Salomon)

During the University District Street Fair two weekends ago, the neighborhood welcomed its first official parklet. Located on 43rd Street at University Way, the parklet replaces two parking spaces and complements a Pronto bike share station outside of an ice cream shop and near several restaurants. It’s the latest example of the City of Seattle’s efforts to create open spaces in public right-of-way, and another is on the way just across the street.

San Francisco has been credited with launching the parklet movement in the mid-2000s. Since then, a number of other cities have adopted the “pavement to parks” idea as tactic for cheaply converting space for cars into space for people. Permanent parklets are typically built of wood and have varying types of seating and plantings, and often bicycle parking makes up a component. Temporary parklets, which the movement started with, are celebrated annually on the worldwide Park(ing) Day; they usually consist of grass sod with potted plants and mobile furniture, but can also take a variety of forms.

Parklets have a variety of tangible benefits. (SDOT)

Seattle launched its pilot parklet program in 2013, and since then has seen only positive effects where they go in. They take up very little space while enhancing neighborhood appearance and benefiting businesses. There is widespread public support, and Seattleites want more of them. They also cost much less than acquiring land and building a formal public park.

U District Square is the sponsor behind this particular parklet; the group of neighborhood residents is primarily advocating for public space in the growing neighborhood, and in particular envisions a central plaza integrated with the nearby light rail station set to open in 2021. The group funded this parklet through crowdfunding, raising $6,500 from 107 backers on Kickstarter (full disclosure: I’m a backer). It will be officially opened with a ceremony within the next few weeks.

The design is 8 feet wide and 30 feet long. It is built with 2×6 wood decking and yellow steel, giving it a warm appearance. There is a counter wrapping around one end, presumably to have stools later, and the other end has three benches and planter boxes. It’s simple, accessible, and inviting; even after the streetfair ended, I’ve seen people casually using the space at all times of day.

With the success of the pilot parklet program, the City has made the program permanent and started a pilot program for “streateries”. These are the same as parklets but are an extension on sponsoring restaurants, allowing them to provide table service right on the street. One of eight streateries planned this year will be right across from this parklet, outside of Flowers Bar and Restaurant.

With two parklets, a bike share station, and the street’s long-term closure, 43rd Street is becoming a unique public space within the bustling University District. And if that weren’t enough, it’s planned to be rebuilt as a green street with wider sidewalks and trees as the light rail station is completed. Stay tuned for future updates on all of the projects happening in this area.

A model of 43rd Street by Cory Crocker was on display at the street fair. (Photo by Scott Bonjukian)

Article Note: This article is a cross-post from The Northwest Urbanist.

Construction Zone Mobility: Room For Improvement

Construction Zone SignsSeattle is a boom town. Until recently, traffic plans during new building construction disregarded the mobility of people walking and biking beside building sites. This disregard is a safety issue, not just an inconvenience.

Last year, Seattle created a Construction Hub Coordination Program with dedicated staff who work to improve access for all during construction in high growth areas designated by the City as “Construction Hubs.” Construction sites in South Lake Union, Ballard, Alaska Way, Capitol Hill, and West Seattle Junction are getting better for people walking and biking near them, but problems still remain, in these locations and throughout the city.

In Seattle, we still place a higher value on preserving street parking around construction sites at the expense of providing safe access for people who walk or bike. Sidewalks are routinely blocked, and safe intersection crossings removed for extended periods.

Further, even with dedicated staff, it often takes weeks for City inspectors to get out to sites and make changes. That is, if you can figure out where to report safety problems in the first place.

Cecilia Roussel saw some clear ways to make the system work better and developed her ideas as her project for Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute.

Her main recommendations are:

  1. City: Tighten the Street Use Review Permit process to require walk/bike access plans for all projects in the right-of-way. Increase permit fees for more staff and faster reviews and inspections. City needs to prioritize safe routes for walking and biking and review each application holistically in context with mobility patterns around the job site.

  2. Construction companies: Foster company culture that prioritizes pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Educate crews to set up and maintain job sites for walk/bike access.

  3. Job site signs: Place signs indicating where, and for how long, walk/bike access is going to be impacted, where alternative routes are provided, and provide contact information to report violations or other unsafe conditions.

  4. Community: Be diligent in reporting safety and access problems at construction sites.

Presently, residents have few avenues for reporting unsafe site conditions in the right-of-way. Recognizing that City resources are limited, here is how to triage reporting construction zone problems:

  • For immediate, life-threatening safety problems in the right-of-way call 911
  • Non-time-sensitive concerns can be reported using the City’s #FindItFixIt app
  • Time-sensitive concerns can be reported by a direct call to a Street Use Inspector. Street Use Inspector contact information (including the inspectors that staff the Construction Hub program) is provided by district on this SDOT website. Additional Construction Hub email and phone contact information can be found on the Construction Hub website.
Here is more of what Cecilia wrote about construction site access:Construction Zone Dexter Ave N

Staffing shortages and policy/inattention at the permitting level I think are both issues. It takes weeks to get a response from anyone, either through email routing delays or staff shortfalls. There was a poorly managed construction site on Phinney Ave (not a Construction Hub area) that I emailed repeated complaints about, but only got a response 4+ weeks after my most recent email. Policy is another one. The Seattle Traffic Control Manual for In-Street Work says “maximum effort” must be made to avoid impacts to people walking and biking, but I regularly encounter sidewalks sacrificed and parking maintained on sites. For months, a block near my office had both sidewalks closed without any ped routing, and it took nearly 2 months of correspondence with SDOT to get a response and action. Both are clearly issues that should have been addressed at the permitting phase.

I think the narrow geographic focus of the Construction Hub program is a strength: SDOT staff familiarity with crews and projects over duration of construction, efficiency in travel time.

I asked SDOT Director Scott Kubly about SDOT’s plans for improving the way work is conducted in the ROW at a Move Seattle event, and it sounds like they’re in the midst of an overhaul. Raising permit fees (hopefully to fund more staff), coordinating work to minimize duration and frequency of impacts. But it still seems that there is a huge gap in values. Pedestrian safety should not be compromised in order to preserve parking spots.

Whatever happens in-house is still pretty opaque to me, but it seems that the permitting and pre-construction meetings are a huge opportunity for SDOT to be leaders and educate construction companies, as well as look critically big picture at how multiple projects in the same area impact vulnerable users.

Sometimes, a No Parking sign is the most notice a resident might get about construction impacts in the ROW. But what if we knew more? The unpredictability of faulty traffic routing or mistakes in job site management can present urgently dangerous conditions for people walking and biking. While those users are often the first to observe those conditions, the pathways for feedback are unclear to many. These dangerous situations deserve immediate attention, not just “Find It, Fix It.”.

What if every construction project in the ROW posted a plan for all expected impacts to site mobility?

What if, upon noticing a dangerous situation, you knew exactly who to call?

The City can tighten their review of Street Use permits, making sure that the Traffic Control plans submitted for construction projects prioritize and adequately anticipate the needs of people walking and biking through the construction zone. The Traffic Control Manual for In-Street Work is a document that guides construction in the ROW and includes provisions for the safe routing of people walking and biking. However, the language is sometimes soft. We are all familiar with construction zone efforts that fall short.

Construction companies can expand their efforts to educate their crews on how to keep the job site safe for everyone. A traffic control plan and other guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation by the boots on the ground. The safety and comfort of people walking and biking around job sites must be a shared priority.

Residents have already been asked by the City to pay attention and use Find It, Fix It to report concerns. The City may not have salaried inspectors on every block, but the people using the right-of-way can act as a proxy. Clearly posted project and contact information on-site is a direct and accessible approach towards empowering residents  to cooperate and make construction zones safer for everyone.

You can find Cecilia’s complete PowerPoint presentation here.

Article Note: This is a cross-post from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which originally appeared on their blog.

2015 Seattle City Council Election, District 2: Bruce Harrell Interview

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Bruce Harrell
Bruce Harrell

Article Note: The Urbanist is publishing a series of interviews with a selection of 2015 Seattle City Council candidates. In June, we will release our endorsements.

Bruce Harrell (incumbent) is running for the Council District 2 position in Southeast Seattle. In 2007, he ran for the the citywide Position 3 on the Seattle City Council. He was successful in that endeavor and was later reelected to the position in 2011. Before running for City Council, he ran a private law practice in Seattle. Harrell mounted a robust mayoral campaign in 2013 that strongly connected with his Southwest Seattle base. However, he was nudged out in the primaries finishing in fourth place. He currently serves on three City Council Committees where he is Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee, and Vice Chair of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity Committee and Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations Committee.

What would you do to make housing affordable to everyone in Seattle?

Council Member Harrell ran through a gamut of suggestions on how to make housing affordable for everyone. He started by emphasizing that we need to build more housing. He stated his support for the Multi-Family Tax Exemption and its results of producing affordable housing. He also indicated that he was a proponent of the housing levy and noted that it will be expiring in 2016. He said he was looking at the feasibility of increasing the levy. Lastly, he noted that he is ‘not convinced’ that rent control would be the right policy for Seattle. While he didn’t come out explicitly against the policy, he said the city should not be constrained by state laws when there is a local problem that needs to be solved; pointing to his efforts on gun control as an example.

Council District No. 2
Council District No. 2

How does planning, transit policy, and development affect racial, social and economic inequalities in our city? What policies and efforts can we make to combat these inequalities?

Harrell primarily discussed his positions on transit policy and social inequalities. On the matter, he said that “without strong policy we are displacing people.” Pointing to Seattle’s current transit system, Harrell explained that it was a great example of city-wide integration where people from diverse backgrounds and economic demographics use transit together. Harrell feels that transit is a social equalizer that ensures people have access to urban benefits, specifically mentioning access to good schools. He wrapped up his conversation by discussing his personal success in getting private investment in Seattle communities. One avenue for Harrell in this endeavor has been soliciting and directing private grants to his neighborhood’s Cleveland High School.

Seattle’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Do you think that this target is achievable? Why or why not?

In response to the question, Harrell bluntly noted that eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries in the 15-year timeframe is a “very achievable” city goal. Harrell explained that “road diets are not new” to the city, pointing to the large number of previous implementations. He expressed his view that the 2nd District is a very car-dependent part of the city, but despite this, Vision Zero is attainable there by slowing traffic down. Harrell said that when people live and work in the same part of the city (presumably walking places), they get to know their neighbors and have a better sense of place, which is a positive attribute for communities. His general takeaway was that focusing on safety is about changing the conversation regarding streets and neighborhoods.

How best should the city accommodate the next 20 years of growth?

The first point Harrell made was that “[Seattleites] want a diverse housing stock” and that a lot more needs to be built. He emphasized the importance of local communities experiencing growth being supportive of it: “when we look at this density, we have to make it attractive.” Pointing to light rail, Harrell explained that Seattle still hasn’t built around it in a meaningful way with many stations in South Seattle devoid, but ripe for development.

Harrell made a tie-in with education saying that providing quality education is deeply important as the city grows. He threw in a novel idea, suggesting the city pursue or encourage a mini-university village in the 2nd District. Development designed for college students could be attractive, especially since many places will be a short train-ride from the University of Washington in 2016.

What is the most important transportation project in your district?

Harrell immediately pointed to the Rainier Avenue South Road Safety Project. He also thought Neighborhood Greenways would prove to be very important, noting his advocacy for bicycle lanes and endorsement from the Cascade Bicycle Club.

Read our interview with another District 2 candidate, Tammy Morales.

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