Tuesday, 16 July, 2019

Sunday Video: We Support The Westlake Protected Bike Lane

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We support the Westlake protected bike lane and if you do too, show your support by sending a postcard to the Mayor and City Council. If you want more background on the project, check out the details here.

What We’re Reading: Next Stop, Tacoma

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Freighthouse Square

Alt-transpo: Seattle is changing the conversation on the value of streetcars and how to build them. Some new and interesting station designs for Amtrak’s future Tacoma station. King County Metro Transit’s budget has some interesting details for the next two years, especially if you’re a fan of new buses! Bellevue is planning bike lanes on 116th Avenue NE. Danny Westneat doubles down on his idea that it’s impossible to live a car-free life in Seattle. Tom takes King 5 to task on their wrong reporting over biking laws and has some thoughts on SPD bike enforcement.

Spain, NYC, and beer: Madrid is embarking on an even more restrictive congestion charging effort, don’t have a secured parking space it the city center, don’t bother entering–unless you want a huge fine. New York City plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. Everything you wanted to know about the trends of beer and alcohol in the US, this ain’t your grandpa’s Old Fashioned. Bruges’s brewery pipeline is being built underground. New York City is less dense than it was 100 years ago.

Progress can be made: Seattle is getting red bus-only lanes, Portland is getting red bicycle advisory lanes. Life changing events change people’s commute habits. Bike and ped blaming needs to stop, and it should start by getting rid of the fallacious notion of “contributory negligence”. The US DOT now has standards for bike lanes in their uniform traffic manual for streets. UN study says that investing in public transportation could save $100 trillion dollars, protect 1.5 million lives annually, and cut urban transportation emissions by more than 50% by 2050. Most of the US saw little recovery in 2013.

Imagine it: Swanky Bell Street loft could be yours for $1.2 million… Cotswold home with glazed window conservatory addition. Schemata Workshop profiles the additions to Seattle Prep. Calgary may get an amazing new library. Aarhus, Denmark is considering a new waterfront promenade and bathing area. The Sydney Opera House could be overshadowed by a 200-meter modern tower. Sugar Mountain is moving its HQ from Pike Place to the Denny Triangle.

Change the impact: 35 years of shrinking arctic ice in one graphic. Naturally, August was the warmest month in known history. The world’s population in an infographic showing how big a city would be if everyone lived in it according to the prevailing contemporary density. Which cities would be safest with impending climate change? Where all the CO2 emissions are coming from

Boondoggles: Spotlight on Seattle–the deep bore tunnel is king of the highway boondoggles. Go figure, traffic drops on Indiana roads leading to a state toll company to file for bankruptcy. And, the gas tax just doesn’t pay for roads, here’s all the evidence you need, so stop the meme “but I’m a driver, I pay for roads!”–nope, you don’t.

City politics: Mayor Ed Murray unveils his new budget proposal for 2015. Council Member Kshama Sawant loses it over electricity rates, wants flat rates for residential consumers.

Map of the week: The most insanely detailed hand-drawn map of San Francisco, this thing is no joke!

Metro Fall service change includes major bus cuts, more to come in 2015

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Metro 61 already removed from this Ballard flag post.
Metro 61 already removed from this Ballard flag post.

It’s the end of September, which means another set of service changes for King County Metro Transit. But this service change is unlike all those that came before it. This isn’t just a service revision of minor schedule and stop changes or restructuring of routes. This service change is bigger than that, and consists of deep service cuts. To put it any other way than an absolute bloodbath would be all too charitable. Unfortunately, it’s not the worst one on the way.

Thanks to rural and deeply suburban voters who chose to defund Metro in the April ballot measure to save county bus service, the agency is now forced to implement service reductions. These service reductions will eliminate many routes, reduce frequency of remaining service, and consolidate routes in a series of three service changes (September 2014, February 2015, and March 2016).

The September service change begins tomorrow with weekend service. In some ways, regular bus riders will be able to ease into the changes by finding out how the revised and reduced bus system will operate with regular all-day routes. However, Monday will see a big reduction in service to commuters using Metro’s express services, leaving many entirely without a transit option to get to work or school while causing headaches and unnecessary delay for everyone else. Before I dig into the meat of all this mess, let’s run through cuts and service reductions/revisions beginning tomorrow, September 27.

Routes finding themselves axed: 7E, 19, 47, 48E, 61, 62, 139, 152, 161, 173, 202, 203, 205, 209, 210, 211, 213, 215, 243, 250, 260, 265, 280, 306, 909, 919, 927, 927, and 935.

Routes with service reductions and/or revisions: 24, 27, 30, 33, 48, 178, 200, 201, 204, 208, 212, 236, 238, 249, 312, 331, 903, and 931.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

There isn’t much good to report, except to note that Metro’s revenue situation has improved slightly since the beginning of the year. On the one hand, the cost of fuel has gone down to save Metro plenty in terms of expenditures while Metro continues to attain efficiencies and cost control wherever possible in the agency. On the other hand, and probably most importantly, the financial forecasts of Metro have held steady thanks to a growing economy in the Puget Sound. This has led financial analysts to be confident that Metro will have more revenue on hand than previously projected.

At the beginning of the year, Metro was facing a 16% service cut translating to about 550,000 hours. Now the agency is only facing an 11% service cut, which is about 400,000 hours. Because the hours to be cut have been reduced, Metro is able to focus on two rounds of cuts while deferring a third to March 2016 at the very earliest. (This assumes that the financial forecasts don’t improve further for the agency.)

The first round of service reductions (beginning tomorrow) will include 151,000 hourseliminate 28 routes, and reduce and/or revise 13 routes. The second round of service reductions in February will include 169,000 hours, eliminate 16 routes, and reduce and/or revise 32 routes.

That uncertain round of cuts in March 2016? We don’t know exactly what routes will be affected. But we do know that 80,000 hours are in jeopardy of elimination. Metro has chosen to push back that service reduction pending the economic outlook between now and then. Sound Transit’s University Link extension will be opening in January 2016, which means that there is ample opportunity to revise the March 2016 service to better integrate into the light rail.

Now to the bad. Below, you’ll see the next two rounds of service changes, and they aren’t pretty. The flavor of the first round of cuts is primarily express bus services, both local and regionally, and low performing routes (as defined by Metro’s Service Guidelines). Although, how the local workhorse Metro 47 ever made the cuts list boggles the mind.

To compensate for the elimination of routes like the 48 Express, Metro has tried to ease the pain where possible. In the case of the corridor that the 48s run, the 48 Local will see a few additional peak trips to help offset the inevitable overcrowding and delay borne by the 48 Express’s demise.

September Service Changes
September Service Changes

The ugly is inevitable. A second round of cuts in February 2015 will start to dig into the meat of Metro’s regular, all-day service (as seen in the diagram below). Frequencies in off-peak hours will go down drastically and earlier on many routes while some routes will see major revisions.

An example of the ugly is the Metro 8 (despite its own faults as a route) and the Metro 106. The Metro 8 will be truncated and revised to only serve the corridor between Uptown (Lower Queen Anne) and the Madison Valley via Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, the Metro 106 will be revised to take on much of the Metro 8’s southern corridor via Rainier Beach to Mount Baker Station. From Mount Baker Station, the Metro 106 will be sent up the Madison Valley partially before heading toward Downtown via Jackson Street and Yesler Terrace.

This arrangement has a number of pitfalls. Part of the Madison Valley will have a gap in service with the revision of the Metro 8, connectivity between the Rainier Valley and Capitol Hill is reduced, Renton riders will have a longer trip time with less reliability, and Georgetown-Rainier Beach (or similar corridor trips) will become much more challenging. That’s not to say there aren’t some things to maybe like about the change. Reliability would improve greatly for Rainier Valley riders on a revised Metro 106 (who would be Metro 8 riders today) since buses would no longer be caught in the Denny Way mess. But the small positives probably don’t outweigh the costs to riders given the overall route structure and system frequency.

Of course, the Metro 8 and 106 are just two victims that come with bus cuts, and that translates to a poorer bus system for riders.

February Service Changes
February Service Changes

Seattle can be spared

Despite all the service cuts on the way for Metro, Seattle can be spared the next two rounds of service cuts. In fact, there is a strong likelihood that Seattle can increase bus service over the next year. In November, Seattle voters will have the opportunity to vote “YES” on the citywide Proposition 1 measure. Proposition 1 provides new funding within the City of Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD).

In July, the Seattle City Council and Mayor passed an ordinance to forward the Proposition 1 ballot measure to Seattle voters. The ballot measure is specifically designed to reverse and stop service cuts to Metro buses that operate at least 80% of their route within in the city limits, established an inter-jurisdictional fund for regional expresses that service key Seattle destinations and neighborhoods, and expand access for low-income riders. Unlike the April countywide version of Proposition 1, Seattle’s measure allocates all funding from the new TBD taxes for Metro bus service. It’s the same Seattle-only measure that we championed back in May.

Should the Seattle ballot measure succeed (and we expect it will–at least two-thirds of you voted yes last time!), the February 2015 service changes will be postponed until June 2015. This four-month delay will give Metro time to work with Seattle to hammer out the details and revise the service change plans. Bus cuts will still happen elsewhere in King County come June 2015, but none will take place in Seattle.

It should come as no surprise to our readers, but we fully endorse Proposition 1 and the Yes for Seattle Transit campaign. In the mean time, we encourage you to consult Metro’s website and familiarize yourself with the imminent changes. You’ll want to know them before you try to board the bus (which may never come). You can look up schedules using the Trip Planner feature as opposed to the static route schedule pages, which unfortunately don’t show pending service changes. Simply choose a future date in the Trip Planner for a given route.

New parklet opens at 25th and Union this Sunday

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This Sunday is the grand opening of Seattle’s newest parklet, aptly named the 25th and Union Parklet. In the heart of the Central District, the 25th and Union Parklet will be a welcome neighbor to the Cortona Cafe, a favored establishment in the CD community.

In case you haven’t read our coverage on parklets, or this specific parklet in the past, parklets are small public spaces built on what once were street parking spots. The 25th and Union Parklet was one of 10 approved by SDOT back in March (and three more in April, though one of those has since backed out). Unlike the temporary ad-hoc parklets created for September 19th’s PARK(ing) Day, these parklets are meant to be permanent structures.

Community-driven project

Building community is a big part of the Cortona Cafe, co-owner Isolynn “Ice” Dean said.

“This community is changing,” Dean said of the Central District neighborhood. “You have a lot of people who have lived here for decades, but you also have a lot of newcomers.”

She wants her cafe to bring these two groups together into a community, which is reflected in the design of the Cortona Cafe. Near the front window is a small U-shaped space where cafe goers find themselves face-to-face with other patrons.

“You’re so close, you at least have to acknowledge each other there,” she said.

The parklet under construction as it appeared on Tuesday
The parklet under construction as it appeared on Tuesday

It was this drive for community space that drove Cortona to parter with its neighbors to work together to build the parklet. Fundraising started in May, and there was so much enthusiasm for the project in the neighborhood that they met their $15,000 goal by June 1st, project manager Amanda Bryan said. All of the work, from design to construction, was provided by volunteers.

“This is a serious community effort. We have 12 to 14 different people working on this, and they all have a different job, and they’re all good at their jobs,” Dean said.

Early community meetings around the project had a mixed reaction, Bryan said. Some thought it was great, but others were concerned. Is it safe to sit so close to traffic? What about parking?

She said much of the negativity changed once the community got to know the project. For example, one concern was the loss of parking. Regardless of the arguments for or against trading parking spots for community space, the spot chosen for the parklet was a loading zone for the cafe that Dean said went unused. No parking was lost for the construction of this parklet.

Community drove the design

The parklet site had a number of challenges that drove up the cost and influenced the design, Bryan said. Among these were that the site is located on a slope and adjacent to a crosswalk. In order for drivers coming down the hill to be able to see pedestrians about to cross, the sides of the parklet could be no taller than three feet.

Parklet site before construction (Google Street View)
Parklet site before construction (Google Street View)
Parklet site after construction began
Parklet site after construction began

But with those challenges came advantages. The 25th and Union parklet sits not just on a six-foot-wide parking space like most parklets but also on a 12-foot-wide parking strip. This means the parklet is about three times as wide as most other parklets, project designer Kelly Sommerfeld said, so while they could not build up to protect parklet patrons from traffic noise, they could build in. A buffer of plants will enclose the parklet when it is finished, with seating wrapping around and facing inwards towards a cedar-topped platform rounded by mosaic art and a raised sandbox for children to play in, Sommerfeld said.

“From an urban design standpoint, these parklets are great place for people to interact,” Kelly said.

The official opening party is this Sunday from 4pm to 7pm at the corner of 25th Avenue and Union Street (see map).

Peace Arch State Park hosts climate change rally

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Climate Rally. Credit to Michael Wheatley

Over 700 citizens from both sides of the U.S./Canadian border met in Peace Arch State Park in Blane on Saturday for the “Climate Change Knows No Borders: Defense of the Salish Sea Is Without Boundaries” rally, which was sponsored by 350 Seattle, Georgia Strait Alliance, and the Wilderness Committee.

Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation spoke to the enthusiastic and boisterous crowd, as well as Master Carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation, Alexandra Woodsworth of the Georgia Strait Alliance, Sarra Tekola of UW Divest, and Lynn Fitz-Hugh of 350 Seattle.

“We stand as one, and together we will protect and restore the sacredness of the Salish Sea,” said Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “Together, we are stronger than those who wish to use our home and waters as a mere highway for dirty oil and coal–and together, we will stop them.”

Sarra Tekola from UW Divest said in her speech that “As a young black woman and a second generation immigrant, fighting climate change isn’t a choice. It is an obligation and a duty to protect not only my rights but my communities and the generations after me.”

Added Lynn Fitz-Hugh of 350 Seattle, “We are coming together on this border to tell our political leaders and the members of the UN that the time for posturing and endless talking is over. The time for action is now…and if they won’t lead, we will.”

The rally was created in solidarity with the massive People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, which drew 400,000 people, and was part of the Four Days of Action campaign aimed at protecting the Salish Sea. This campaign, organized and led by the Nawtsamaat Alliance, hopes to mobilize local citizens to help stop the large increase in fossil fuel projects in the Pacific Northwest and increase awareness of the risks and threats to the Salish Sea from the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in British Columbia, as well as the other fossil fuel threats in the region, including oil trains, coal trains and tankers.

In the Pacific Northwest, there are currently active proposals for five new coal terminals, three new oil pipelines, as well as six new natural gas pipelines. Together, these projects are capable of shipping an enormous amount of fossil fuels, which when burned would release 761 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. This would be twelve times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that Canada as a country currently emits each year, or 76 coal-fired power plants.

The occasion also marked the official launch of the Pledge to Save the Salish Sea, a campaign that calls on pledgers to act at critical moments to stop key projects and push for climate leadership in the region, organize cross-border delegations to speak to politicians and other decision makers and help organize future rallies.

Participants ended the rally in a ceremony of commitment to protect the Salish Sea by joining hands across the border.

Author’s Note: The event was co-sponsored by 350 Bellingham, the Nawtsamaat Alliance, Washington Environmental Council, Backbone Campaign, PIPE UP Network, Sierra Club BC, LeadNow, Climate Solutions, Faith Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and Greenpeace.

ICYMI: Pronto! Cycle Share begins docking station installations this week

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Pronto! docking stations awaiting installation on Seattle streets.

Pronto! Cycle Share says that they are set to roll out those swanky bicycle docking stations this week (and possibly this morning if Facebook is any indication). 50 docking stations housing 500 bikes will be located in 9 neighborhoods across the city. Some of those lucky neighborhoods include the biggies like the University District, South Lake Union, Downtown, and Capitol Hill. The first location to see a docking station installed will be at 9th Avenue and Mercer Street, an apt location given its woonerf/Green Street status.

Pronto! will not launch with an automated vending machine system for helmets. As an interim solution, Pronto! will provide self-serve bins for free to riders. As Holly Houser, Executive Director of Pronto!, put it: “We’re going to launch with an honor system. Riders can check out a free helmet from an unlocked bin at each station, and then return it to a separate used helmet bin at any station when they’ve completed their ride.” These helmets will be sanitized after each use and redistributed throughout the system after inspection. Eventually in 2015, automated vending machines will be deployed throughout the Pronto! network. Those helmets will come with a fee though.

In other Pronto!-related news, Mayor Ed Murray has pledged additional funding to expand the cycle share system in 2015 and add more Downtown bike lanes. In effort to create social equity within the cycle share program, $400,000 is budgeted to fund stations in the Central District and Yesler Terrace. Meanwhile, a further $800,000 will go toward planning and expansion of protected bike lanes on Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue in 2015 and 2016.

Pronto! Cycle Share launches on October 13th. If you’re curious about future locations, be sure to check out the handy docking station map. And, it’s never too late to sign up!

UPDATE 1: It appears that the 9th Avenue and Mercer Street docking stations have been installed as of this morning.

UPDATE 2: And here they are in their completed glory.

Tweet of the Week: Small tweak on Second Avenue

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New infrastructure isn’t an exact science. We knew the Second Avenue bike lanes would need changes along the way. Luckily, Seattle has a very responsive department of transportation that keeps delivering on small fixes to Second Avenue. The latest change is to the beginning of the bike lanes. The lane revision keeps left-turning traffic from crossing the one-directional (southbound) bike lane north of Pike Street.

Reject the SHA Rent Hikes

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Yesler Terrace. Credit to SDOT

Since 2011, Republicans in the U.S. House have forced through significant cuts to federal spending with the goal of undermining public services. No program has been immune from these cuts, including public housing. At a time when demand for affordable housing is soaring in cities like Seattle, federal austerity has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to HUD programs. Seattle alone has seen more than $16 million in federal housing cuts since 2011.

This leads cities to make a choice. Find ways to avoid the impact of these cuts, including new revenues, or go along with them and impose their own local austerity policies that make it even harder for residents to find stable, affordable housing.

The Seattle Housing Authority has chosen to embrace austerity. SHA’s new “Stepping Forward” plan would raise rents on current tenants by as much as 400% over five years. The justification, according to SHA head Andrew Lofton, is that it would encourage tenants to get better jobs and make room for new tenants who need affordable housing.

That’s the same argument made by those on the right — and one that flies in the face of lived reality. Although federal austerity will likely be temporary, Lofton’s proposal makes permanent changes to SHA policies, remaking housing policy in a progressive city like Seattle along fundamentally conservative lines.

Lofton’s plan has generated significant protest this week at public hearings. It’s not hard to see why. Here’s how KIRO TV’s Natasha Chen summarized the plan:

Under the draft proposal, rents would instead be tied to the size of the rental unit. The program also includes enhanced education, training, and employment support.

For example, a family might start out paying $160 a month for a two-bedroom unit. That rent would increase to $360 a month the following two years, then $560 for the fourth and fifth years, then $860 for the sixth year. The agency is still determining if there should be any further increases after that.

“The whole point of this is to help people be successful,” said Andrew Lofton, executive director of the Seattle Housing Authority.

Lofton said he believes most people will be successful in getting higher-earning jobs and won’t need assistance anymore. That will make room for more families to receive housing.

This proposal is intended to conform with the federal government’s Moving to Work program, part of the failed 1996 “welfare reform” plan. “Moving to Work” attempts to force public housing to adopt policies that push renters out if they can’t find a job.

It has become clear that “welfare reform” policies like that adopted by a right-wing Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 have merely increased poverty across America in the nearly two decades they have been in operation. It’s the same logic used by the right-wing government currently in power in Britain, where a variety of public assistance programs are being curtailed on the theory that doing so forces people to find better jobs. There, as in the USA, the result is greater poverty.

Bike Works

Bike Works