Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share Revealed

Pronto Cycle Share
Model of the new Pronto! bike, courtesy of Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share.

We’ve been anticipating the launch for the Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) for quite some time now, and we still have a while to go yet. But, yesterday we learned some great news from PSBS: the new name of the bike share system and the official sponsor. So, we’d like to welcome you to Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share presented by Alaska Airlines. Yeah, that’s a mouth full, so we’ll just go with Pronto!. In a few short months, we will be seeing green and blue bikes with flashy Alaska Airlines fenders peddling around town.

Alaska Airlines’ contribution to the program isn’t chump change. Over five years, the city’s flagship airline will contribute $2.5M to help fund the bikes. But it isn’t just Alaska that has stepped up to get this bike share off the ground. Many other companies in the Puget Sound have put their money where their people are. We think this bodes well for future efforts to expand the program beyond the Phase I launch area.

Phase I is scheduled for a September launch, just in time for back-to-school. The initial system will rollout 500 bikes and 50 docking stations across Downtown, Capitol Hill, First Hill, South Lake Union, Seattle Center, Eastlake, and the University District. Last month, we wrote about how you could get involved in picking docking station locations. You still have an opportunity to do this by dropping pins or +1ing the suggestions of others for docking station locations in a simple-to-use crowdsourcing map.

The basics

Capitol Bikeshare MapThe new Pronto! website gives plenty of answers to basic questions about the program. In brief, this is what we think you should know:

Cost and time. The program will have three ways in which you can rent the bikes: a 24-hour day pass for $8, 3-day pass for $16, and annual membership for $85. All three pass types come with unlimited 30-minute bike usage. Riders are encouraged to make short bike trips and drop off their bike at a convenient docking station near their destination within this 30-minute usage period. Once you drop off a bike, you can always pick up another if your journey requires it. However, if a rider chooses to exceed 30 minutes of “free” ride time, the rider will be subject to additional fees based upon time (that fee schedule has yet to be released).

Docking. Docking is usually a cinch. Pickup and return of bikes is fairly simply, but depends upon whether you hold a 1-day/3-day pass or membership. Pass holders manage their checkouts of bikes at the docking station kiosk while members have a handy dandy key fob. Occasionally, docking stations may be full, which can be frustrating when you want to return a bike. Luckily, Pronto! will give you a 15-minute time credit if you request it at the kiosk of the full docking station. You can then ride to the nearest one with available docking ports.

Safety. Helmets are required safety gear for cyclists within the corporate limits of Seattle. Pronto! offers rental helmets at docking stations for $2 per use. That seems pretty steep if you’re riding a lot, so it may be wise to bring your own or invest in one! (Or you could always be a rebel, but we’re not recommending that…) In the event of a serious accident, the Seattle Police Department will return the bike on your behalf (because we know you were so concerned about that).

Technology. Yes, there will be an app for that! Cities all over the world have real-time apps that let you know where the closest bike is, how many bikes are available, and where you can return a bike; Pronto! will be no different. We hope to see an app similar to the one from the Capitol Bikeshare (as pictured above), which has some cool features like predictive bike supply and trends at individual docking stations. We’re also certain that there will be a web-based version to help you make your pickups and drop-offs seamless.

If you’re interested in getting updates on the rollout and future registration, be sure to get on the Pronto! e-mail list. As things move along, we’ll also keep you posted. Happy Bike Month!

Reasons to Wear Glasses


Picture 4


On the 7:

He looks gruff, plugged in to his headphones, light mustache and beard cut to angle downwards, as if to set his features in a permanent grimace. I’ve spoken with him before, however, and he’s just another fellow, put-together and forward moving, scrambling to make a life for himself, as we all do. Around forty, black American, his clothes clean and sharp, cutting a figure of disciplined energy. He wasn’t always in such good stead. Not long ago he was studying hard for college entrance exams, a radical change in life for him; in his gruff way he’d keep me updated, and it was a pleasure to see his smile on the day after he passed them.

Today he steps forward before getting out, earphones pulled out for real-life engagement. He’s wearing a jacket of new and treated leather with fitted dark jeans and boots, an ordinary outfit, sure, but with an attention to presentation. The details are crisp, and everything is in its right place.

This evening it’s rainy, and the slick roll of pavement obscures his words at the outset of our conversation.
“I lost forty-five [unintelligible]. It was thirty-three, thirty-eight, forty-three.”
Forty-five what, I wonder. Pounds? Minutes? Is he angry about this loss, or happy about it? I can’t tell. The gruff goatee doesn’t really help. I take a chance and say, “that sounds great!”
“Yeah, forty-five pounds in [unintelligible] months!”
“All my pants. I used to have these designer pants,” he continues. “A whole rack of them, you know, fancy. All them good designer jeans I had, but I couldn’t wear them no mo,’ ’cause they were all too big! Had to get rid of them. All a sudden they were huge. I looked like a crack dealer!”
Both of us laughing out.
“You know how crack dealers where those big,”
“Yeah, yeah!”
“Yeah, tha’s why I had to get these glasses, so people stop lookin’ at me funny!”
“Oh, that’s great!”

There I was, thinking he wore glasses to improve his vision. Clearly I was out of the loop! It’s all about that non-crack dealer image, apparently. I found the idea at once comical, sad, and endearing. Comical, because of its absurdity; sad, because for Pete’s sake, the memo should be out that not all black men are crack dealers; and endearing, because he found a creative solution to a potentially troubling ideological issue, laughing it all off with aplomb and feeling comfortable enough to share it with me. Something to consider the next time you see someone wearing spectacles- or stuck walking around in unnaturally large expensive pants!

Sunday Video: Protected Intersections for Bicyclists


Protected Intersections for Bicyclists by Nick Falbo on Vimeo.

This video gives many of the best practices for protecting bicyclists. There are a lot of good ideas here, and we hope to see many of these implemented all across the country.

What We’re Reading: All You Need Is Two Wheels


Molly Moon's Cyclecream


Bike Washington: This has been a busy week for cycling in Washington. We were named the most bike-friendly state in the union, AGAIN. So pat yourselves on the back. Washington is also seeking a new national designation for our east-way bikeway across the state (Route 10). We’re hoping it gets a big yes for signing.The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has a lot to brag about this week, too: another Greenway on the way, the soon-to-open extension of the Broadway Bikeway, and the Fremont Bridge breaking records. Of course, WSDOT is still trying to kill cyclists near SR 99.

Two wheels go a long way: Bike theft is a huge problem for cities, and here’s 8 reasons why. On the flip side of things, Copenhagen gets to boast more than just a cyclist paradise, it also has the best behaved ones. Next time someone complains about those pesky bikes, remind them that they aren’t the ones causing traffic. And, with the soon-to-be bike share arriving here, we’re hoping that we don’t make the same mistakes as NYC.

$15/hr may be on the way: Mayor Ed Murray revealed on Thursday that the working group on the proposal had agreed to a phased-in package.

Only a few more hours: Chris over at Tacoma Transit says that Pierce Transit Route 1 could get Bus Rapid Transit in the future. He charts what it would take to move this highly productive, higher frequency route to BRT.

Eye of the Tiger: SDOT gives us a rundown on their proposed improvements for Northgate, but in particular their 2014 Tiger Grant application. We love these station area improvements!

Maps of the week: Curious about how far you can get in ten minutes at 7.30am or 10pm? Well, there’s a new map service to do just that! Seattle and the Puget Sound have many great places to ride a bike, and this map shows the most popular routes.

Put a stamp on it: Capitol Hill residents will be happy to know that they’ll get to keep their other post office on 23rd Ave E and E Union St. And after you send that love note, you might just be able to walk next door and grab a bag of weed.

Bertha may die: Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson had a very candid interview this week with talk show host Dori Monson about the deep bore tunnel. Peterson said that there’s a “small possibility” that the tunnel may never be finished and later followed up with legislators by expressing her deep concern via e-mail.

Radical, but practical: What if we capped interchanges like SR-520 and I-405 or I-5 and SR-522 with buildings? These designers have some fun ways to use air rights and spruce up otherwise boring aerial intersections.

Going green: Governor Jay Inslee wants carbon caps, a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, and other initiatives to meet our environmental goals. Considering that the polar icecaps could make waves the size of houses, we think this is a good step. Meanwhile, SDOT is being eco-friendly with Mercer St by giving trees space; the details are actually quite interesting. And, it looks like we may be voting on a new Metropolitan Parks District come August. We gotta fund all of the green space somehow!

Get involved and comment: The University District Urban Design Framework is nearing the end of the line with its Draft EIS (we like Alternative 2). Meanwhile, Ballard is just ramping up with a similar project of its own. Next week, the Department of Planning and Development will hold a meeting on Wednesday for the Ballard Urban Design project.

Cool things in architecture: Calatrava designs a new station for Liège, Belltown is getting some new modular mid-rise, Moscow is transforming some factories to swanky mixed-use, and designers plan for the future of post-Hurricane Sandy coastal communities.

Local Pride


Picture 8


“Well, you win the award for Mr. Conviviality,” an elderly woman said to me as she deboarded on the tail end of the 10. It was the conclusion of an overloaded, chatty, energetic journey.
“Aw! You’re so kind!”

As I drove away I was flattered by something besides her sentiment. She was making the assumption, bus driver or no bus driver, that I in my blue collar knew what the word conviviality meant. That benefit of the doubt felt good.

A day later, I was a northbound 14 at Third and Columbia. As per my usual, I plowed up to the head of the zone, the better to make room for other coaches behind me. Some passengers wait at the head of the zone. Others wait in a less populated part of the bus stop, ambling forward when the time is right. I opened the doors and looked through my mirror down the length of the zone. In the evening dimness I could discern a shape-shifting beast rollicking up the sidewalk. This man is best summed up as a lithe, agile swagger of a shadow, half of him seemingly comprised of swinging black back-length dreads, the other half made of handfuls of slack, billowing black fabric.

“AAAAYYY!” he wailed into the night. Translated, that means, “driver, please wait a moment; I’m nearly at the doors.”

“Hey, there he is,” I said as he swam up the staircase.
“Wha’s goin’ on,”
“Not a lot. How’re you?”
“Just gimme a, gimme a second,”
“Oh yeah, we gotchu.”

Sometimes people seem as if they need three hands, to carry everything they’re holding. This fellow needed at least ten. From every pocket and fold of fabric it seemed as if scraps of life were escaping. In Underworld (my vote for the great twentieth-century novel), Don Delillo writes of garbage as the tactile evidence of all human activity, proof of a million impulses and longings, passions, kindness, selfishness and generosity- the totality of our experience in the form of clues and remnants.

Our man on the 14 reaches in every direction. Debris falls from him continuously, like a cloud system dispersing rain, receipts and kleenex, wrappers and more, and he’s trying to gather every escaping shred, all the while doing his best to hold up his expansively sagging pants. He’s in no condition to find his transfer, and I hand him a new one. He thanks me profusely.

At the end of his ride a doctor’s prescription falls to the floor. A passenger and myself simultaneously point it out, and he’s loudly grateful, snatching it up. After he ricochets out of the bus he darts back up, holding his transfer, saying:

“Hey! Will this shit suffice?”
I respond with, “Yup yup, good ’til the end of the night!”

Internally I was thinking, suffice??? Seattle really is the most educated city in the country!* How lucky I am to be in real life, and not trapped inside a stereotype-laden movie. I grinned in the darkness, thinking of the Mark Twain quote wherein he expresses that the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction needs to be plausible.


Article Note: *Read more from Fast CompanyThe Washington Post and Brookings Institution, and CNN.

Ben Ross Presents “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism”

Put In Parking Lot. Photo Attributed to: Daniel Oines. License found here

On May 7th at 7pm Ben Ross will be talking about his new book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism at The Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill. It should be a great event and we encourage you to attend. You can add the event to your calendar here.

Co-presented with FRIENDS OF TRANSIT. Transit advocate Ben Ross has been the leader of the largest grass roots mass transit advocacy organization in the U.S. (Maryland’s Action Committee) for fifteen years. Ross travels to Seattle today to speak about his book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism (Oxford University Press). Arguing that sprawl is much more than bad architecture and sloppy planning, he identifies smart growth, sustainability, transportation, and affordable housing as interrelated. The two keys to creating better places to live are expansion of rail transit and a more genuinely democratic oversight of land use.

Here are the details for the event:

The Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
May 7th, 7pm
The event is free and open to the public.

To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the book:

Smart growth threatened road builders as much as subdividers. The highway lobby had long taken a decidedly nonideological approach to politics, relying on a shower of campaign contributions that fell generously on incumbents of both parties. But as circumstances changed, the pavement people began to find right-wing religion. As early as 1977, conservative writers had complained of a war against the car. “The war against automobiles is never-ending,” the political scientist James Q. Wilson wrote in 1998, and from then on the slogan repeated in a steady drumbeat.

Where the property rights movement was at first orchestrated from top down, the defense of the automobile was more spontaneous. After seven decades of suburbanization, the idea that motorists possessed an exclusive right to use streets was built into the landscape and inculcated in public consciousness. Everything in the suburban environment said that roads were made for motor vehicles alone. Drivers were quick to pick up the theme of “war on cars” and run with it whenever they felt inconvenienced….

This feeling of entitlement was on clear display in 2011 when a jury in Cobb County, Georgia, found Raquel Nelson guilty of vehicular homicide. A car struck her four-year-old son and killed him while the family was crossing a five-lane highway to get from the bus stop to their garden apartment. The mother was a criminal, according to prosecutors in the wealthy Atlanta suburb, because she did not walk, with two young children and an armful of packages, a quarter-mile to the nearest crosswalk and a quarter-mile back. None of the jurors who convicted her had ever ridden a local bus.

Right-wing publicists might ignore a Raquel Nelson and leave their followers to think of her as an aggressor in the war against the automobile. But they still face a problem of inconsistency when they hitch a ride on motorists’ belief in the divine right of cars. Their free-market theory has little in common with reality. Suburban roads, even more than suburban neighborhoods, are made by government.

And the devotion of the automobile culture to free roads and free parking poses another even greater problem for these writers. It clashes directly with the agenda of the people paying the bills.

In an era when the highway lobby’s old funding formulas have stopped working, road builders hope that toll lanes will save the day. The Reason Foundation is a center of toll road promotion; Peter Samuel, the editor of a newsletter for the toll road industry, was a signer of the Lone Mountain Compact. These and other prohighway publicists marshal economic theory to justify tolls as user fees that simply make drivers pay for the roads they drive on.

But at the grass roots, the motorist’s sense of entitlement says just the opposite. Paid parking and tolls are just as much a war on drivers as bike lanes and crosswalk signals. Careful steering is required to keep the heavy artillery of the culture war pointed away from the economic interests of the sponsors.

The congestion charge, a daily fee assessed on anyone who drives into a congested downtown, brings this contradiction into the open. The issue first flared up when London’s left-of-center Mayor Ken Livingstone imposed a $15 per day charge. American rightists seconded the criticism levied by British conservatives, with Wendell Cox weighing in loudly if inconsistently.

The Reason Foundation, as the main center of agitation for privately operated toll roads, has no choice but to endorse user fees in principle. But when a city actually tries to impose a congestion charge, the foundation joins Cox in finding reasons to say no. Excuses were not easy to find when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a fee on drivers in Manhattan. The best Sam Staley could do was to complain, under the headline “Bloomberg vs. the Car,” that enforcement by photographing license plates raised “legitimate and troubling questions about the surveillance systems needed to implement these programs.” When toll road operators three years later sought to use the same surveillance system, Staley enthused that “video license plate reader technology eliminates most of the hassle for consumers and users.”

Caught between their doctrine and motorists’ attachment to the subsidized status quo, the road warriors keep finding reasons to reject in practice what they support in principle. Randal O’Toole wants to get rid of rules that require off-street parking in new buildings—but not now, only after public parking rates go way up. Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute endorses the concept of deregulating land use in Virginia—but he opposes an attempt to actually do so. The reason he gives is that streets with narrower lanes, shorter blocks, and sharp corners will somehow “force inclusion.” These writers are the St. Augustines of the free market—end government regulation and make me chaste some day, they pray, but don’t take away my subsidy just yet.

Casual Disregard: The Unspoken Case For $15




I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination but I do think and I do see inspiration in words like those in Matthew 25:40. I take this sort of thing seriously, and by the by a lot of what I write and right will end up being a fair mix of all philosophical traditions. It is part of where I’m from and it guides where I’m going.

So in that regard I feel it’s vital that I speak uncomfortable truths, even when people come bearing gifts and suggesting good will.

First, a little background: Seattle is currently contemplating a push that would set the minimum wage at $15. This, like most social justice struggles, is largely rooted in the need to provide not just equity but fair and just recompense for those wronged at an institutional level. What started as a grassroots movement–as Seattle does–moved into a popular wave–as Seattle does–and is now in the hands of committees and Councilmembers–again, and again, as Seattle does. So here we are.

As is typical with most of this type of activism there is some strong pushback from the business “community”. Essentially it is felt that pushing the city’s minimum wage would represent a hardship that is insurmountable by small businesses. The city’s character will change, it is argued, because those quirky shops we love will go away. In a city that is confronted with a supposed loss of its “flash” this is a powerful argument.

It is also wrong.

There seems to be a casual disregard for the underpinnings of what made those small businesses work, or even what made Seattle what it is. Underlying much of Seattle, both figuratively and literally, are untold thousands of people who have lived and died in poverty and rejection from society through institutional forces that directly benefit some and directly harm others. As a city we owe much to their lives, even if in life and death we don’t pay attention to them.

We can start this story from the beginning of the city we know, from its very founding. Seattle came after Seattle. Never was it the intention to name it thus, and in fact, it was initially called by the settlers “New York, Alki”, or “New York, Someday”. This wishful invocation itself was a product of the then-visible and now unseen. Alki is a word from the smooth and normalized Chinook Jargon that the original peoples and traders used.

Even then our city was built in spirit on the backs of the first peoples, even as the comity of the close confines of our little crossing over place swelled in pride and then shrank as ignorance took hold. As we all know, it was shortly thereafter that Seattle became Seattle, named after the person, whose Anglicized name was retooled and retooled in a game of rhetorical keep away that forced the distinction we now know of when we speak of Sealth or Si’ahl. Even to this day there’s still an awkward non-Native ownership of his name, but his descendants are grateful for the honor all the same.

More below the jump.

Plan C Is Progressive and Helps Our Long-Term Goals

Buses in the International District. Courtesy of SolDuc Photography, all rights reserved.

Securing revenue is the most critical step to improve transit in Seattle. The city has a long history of trying to build transit, from streetcars that were ultimately dismantled to the monorail project. Both the aforementioned examples largely failed because of funding problems. If we are serious about improving transit we need to reject the philosophy that we will get the best government by first cutting revenue. Additionally, we need to avoid the trap of trying to find an ideal funding method, that can’t immediately be implemented. If we support a progressive Seattle with better infrastructure and service, we need to increase revenue now.

Progressive Revenue Increases

Increasing revenue for transit is fundamentally a progressive cause. Collecting and disbursing money acknowledges that we can work together towards a better Seattle; that we are interdependent and live in a society. It is clear that residents within the city of Seattle overwhelmingly agree spending money on transit is the right way forward.

Before suggesting there are better solutions it is important to know how we got where we are and what the alternatives are. You can read a brief history here. In summary, campaigns to defund government over the last few decades have incrementally increased the vulnerability of transit funding. It is now dependent on sales taxes and state politics, both of which collapsed in the last few years. Given the current tax situation in Washington state, Seattle is extremely limited in how it can raise funds, especially before September.

To adopt a progressive solution, we must balance sharing this burden among the largest group possible while also having those with wealth pay more. A small increase in property taxes is our best solution. This initiative would require people and businesses to pay two dimes and two pennies for every $1,000 of wealth they own in property. This tax is a percentage, meaning middle class and low income families owning property would pay much less than people or businesses with million dollar homes and buildings. No other tax schemes could be implemented as quickly, spread as widely, address wealth inequities and have a legitimate chance of passing.

Towards A Long Term Solution

As mentioned before, this vote is not just about maintaining service. There are three big picture benefits if this initiative succeeds.

First, it will overturn the cynical and negative message from the April 22nd election; King County, the most transit supportive and bus dependent county in the state, rejected additional funding. Legislators are not passive observers of this outcome. Elections test support for policy and most big policy changes begin with small victories. We must demonstrate that Seattle wants transit supportive legislators. Voting yes on Plan C will be the best way to rectify this mistaken message and prove Seattle supports transit.

Second, it is impossible to rally people behind a long term solution until we stop the bleeding. Transit supporters are not a big enough advocacy group to split our efforts between many different pursuits. Improving service will require the support of those that are currently engaged because they need to save their bus while increasing engagement by increasing ridership. Funding buses in Seattle is necessary for supporters to coalesce behind bigger projects in the future.

Lastly, more state funding is absolutely critical. We wouldn’t be in this situation if the state legislature hadn’t failed to fund transit. Securing funding in the state legislature proved to be insurmountable this year because many state senators aren’t affected by cuts. Seattle representatives cannot secure funding alone. They must cut deals and they desperately need more leverage. Seattle residents can help with this by increasing locally raised revenue and spending. It is a perverse reality of politics that if we aren’t desperate, we can negotiate for more.

We must support a better city by funding transit and growing ridership. Supporting Plan C is the progressive solution and the first step to the next big transit projects.

Passing this initiative will require a lot of effort, mostly by volunteers. If you’d like to help, you can sign up online. If you have questions about this effort, you can direct those to info@theurbanist.org.