Thursday, 13 August, 2020

Seattle City Council Notes: HALA Work Plan, MFTE Extension, and SR-520 Resolution

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The Seattle City Council met yesterday afternoon for the regular full Council meeting to vote on important policies affecting housing. Sitting first on the agenda, the Council considered a resolution (Resolution 31609) to set the overarching policy framework and implementation timeline for the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Living Agenda (HALA) recommendations, desire for new affordable housing tools from the State, and larger housing goals through 2025. An amended version of the resolution passed on unanimous consent of the Council, although amendments were limited to the Council’s HALA Work Plan itself.

Timeline for action on HALA items.
Timeline for action on HALA items.

The adopted legislation sets out three broad policy goals:

  1. Implementation of the Council’s HALA work plan, which begins with fast-tracked policy development on Commercial Linkage Fees and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing regulations this year and wraps up with legislation to allow conversion of single-family homes into multi-dwelling units and reduce and/or remove certain parking requirements in 2017.
  2. Begin efforts to lobby for new tools to provide affordable housing for households at or below 60% of area median income. Tools that the Council would like, include: authorization for a 0.25 percent increase in the Real Estate Excise Tax to fund affordable housing, increase in the Housing Trust Fund, and new preservation tax exemption to create rent- and income-restricted affordable homes in existing buildings.
  3. A concurrence with the Mayor’s recommendation that 20,000 new rent- and income-restricted housing units and 30,000 new market rate housing units be made available by the end of 2025. The Council set a goal of implementing strategies that will ensure at least 75% of rent- and income-restricted units are affordable to households earning between 0% and 60% percent of the area median income.

The Council revisited the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) Program (Council Bill 118505) to consider some policy changes and a program extension. (The MFTE provides tax exemptions to property owners of multifamily residential projects in targeted areas of the city if 20% of units are set aside for income- and rent-restricted households. Property owners are eligible to participate in the MFTE Program for up to 12 successive years.) Three primary changes were enacted, including:

  • Establishment of different affordable unit set-asides for projects with fewer than four units with 2+ bedrooms (Small Unit Program) and projects with four or more dwelling units with 2+ bedrooms (Family Sized Unit Program);
  • Expansion of program eligibility areas; and
  • A new MFTE Program sunset provision.

The following table is a comparison of the current MFTE Program and new options available to developers and property owners. The changes bring promised revisions to MFTE Program provisions for Small Efficiency Dwelling Units (SEDUs, aka microhousing units) and the graduation of requirements by housing unit type (e.g. congregate units, 1-bedroom, studios, etc.)

Affordability
Requirements
Current ProgramNew Family Size Unit
Program (Projects
with 4 or more 2+
bedroom units)
New Small Unit
Program (Projects
with fewer than 4,
2+ bedroom units)
Affordable Unit Set-Aside20% of all unit
types, 25% for
SEDUs
20% of all units25% of all units
Maximum Area Median
Income (AMI) for
Affordable Units by Unit Type
SEDU – 40% AMI
Studio – 65% AMI
1 BR – 75% AMI
2 BR – 85% AMI
Unchanged, except:
Congregate Units – 40% AMI
3 BR – 90% AMI
Unchanged, except:
Congregate Units – 40% AMI
3 BR – 90% AMI

If the Family Sized Unit Program is chosen, fewer MFTE dwelling units are required, but a minimum number MFTE dwelling units consisting of 2+ bedrooms kicks in. O’Brien added the provision in committee to incentivize more dwelling units geared toward families. Four such MFTE dwelling units would be required as part of the first 100 units in a project. Additional 2+ bedroom MFTE dwelling units would be required depending upon the total number units in a project as shown in the table below.

Family Sized Dwelling Units required in MFTE projects. (City of Seattle)
Family Sized Dwelling Units required in MFTE projects. (City of Seattle)

Areas eligible for the MFTE Program were revised in two ways. The first change revised program eligibility boundaries as shown in the map below. The second change adds provisions to allow any land zoned in the future for multifamily housing to be included for program eligibility thereby overriding mapped boundaries of the MFTE Residential Targeted Areas.

Targeted program eligibility areas. (City of Seattle)
Targeted program eligibility areas. (City of Seattle)

Councilmember Nick Licata offered two amendments to the legislation: one to extend the MFTE Program to December 31, 2019 and another to add an annual reporting requirement to analyze rent level information for affordable units.

The amendments and ordinance passed on unanimous consent.

Separately from housing policy, a vote on the SR-520 resolution (Resolution 31618) was originally scheduled for the meeting, but was pulled last minute from the agenda. A separate vote will be set for next week when the full Council meets again. The resolution is a particularly important policy document because it is the last best chance to make the SR-520 rebuild better for people walking and biking on and near the corridor. The Washington State Department of Transportation is set to make substantial investments to build city streets, bicycle and walking, and transit infrastructure in the coming years, so getting the policy language right now is imperative.

At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, eight amendments were proposed by Councilmember Rasmussen and Councilmember Mike O’Brien — with seven gaining approval. One amendment proposed O’Brien stirred a prolonged discussion on the merits of requiring protected bike lanes directly on Montlake Boulevard from E Roanoke St to the University of Washington Station. Rasmussen suggested that the amendment be put on hold pending feedback from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board (SBAB), leaving the amendment without a vote in committee. On Friday, the SBAB produced a letter giving their full support for the concept saying:

The Bicycle Advisory Board has consistently advised having Protected Bicycle Lanes on Montlake Boulevard from East Roanoke to the Montlake Bridge as a direct access route for people of all ages and abilities riding bicycles in addition to the other bicycle facilities in the SR520 project. Separated, protected bike lanes are an imperative in this location and in other city locations to meet the Bicycle Master Plan Goals of Safety and Connectivity. The Bicycle Advisory Board has been advising and will continue to advise Protected Bike Lanes throughout the city, including Southeast Seattle, West Seattle and Downtown, to address all high needs of safety improvements for people of all ages and abilities riding bicycles, to achieve the goals of Vision Zero and to insure that the Bicycle Master Plan Goals of Equity, Connectivity and Safety are met.

With this kind of unequivocal support from the SBAB, the O’Brien amendment is likely to find friends on the Council for adoption.

Regional Initiative to Create 700 Affordable Workforce Housing Units

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Transit centers across the region could see a huge boost in affordable housing over the coming years. Under a new regional initiative, some 700 affordable workforce housing units could be developed on or near light rail stations. King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine revealed the $83 million plan yesterday. A central goal of the initiative is to create walkable and economically diverse communities around light rail stations.

The initiative is essentially a cooperative program that will be developed between King County and Sound Transit, although it’s likely that other regional agency partners will be involved as it progresses. The Executive’s initial plan identifies three potential funding streams:

  1. King County Housing Bonds. Using new taxing authority, the Executive will introduce a measure to increase the lodging tax and create or preserve some 500 units of affordable workforce housing. The measure is estimated to generate up to $45 million in revenues over the next six years if passed by the King County Council.
  2. REDI Funds. Another $18 million is already committed to the Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) Fund, a revolving loan program that provides strategic acquisition of land and buildings for affordable transit-oriented development. Up to 200 units of workforce and mixed-income housing could be created over the next five years.
  3. Sound Transit 3. In the recent statewide transportation package, legislation requires* the creation of funding for affordable housing** near light rail stations should Sound Transit 3 gain voter approval next year. The Executive plans would dedicate an additional $20 million toward a REDI-like revolving fund over the next four years.

Taken as a whole, this represents a substantial public investment that will spur more than just 700 affordable housing units around transit centers. King County Housing Bonds and REDI Funds alone could produce the requisite number of affordable housing units to meet the Executive’s goal. Sound Transit 3 funding could be an added bonus. By delivering up to 220 or so units, Sound Transit 3 could increase the affordable housing number to 920 units***. And while funds are specifically targeted at affordable housing units, there’s ample room for coordination with private developers to create whole communities that range in income levels.

Northgate TOD concept plan. (Via Architecture)
Northgate TOD concept plan. (Via Architecture)

This initiative is in line with work that King County and Sound Transit are already doing. Many affordable and mixed-income transit-oriented development projects have been completed by the two agencies in recent years, including: Redmond Downtown Transit Center, Renton Metropolitan Place, Thornton Place at Northgate, and Village at Overlake Station. But more is also on the way with projects at South Kirkland TOD, Capitol Hill Station, Othello Station, and Northgate.

Affordable housing units under the program could begin to become available to individuals in the next two to five years. As this initiative unfolds, the Executive will work with the King County Council to determine where the housing investments go.

*Sound Transit must contribute at least $4 million annually over a 5-year period to fund affordable transit-oriented housing with contribution beginning by the third year.

**Under state law, affordable housing must be provided to those making 80% of the area median income or less.

***Based upon the $90,000 average unit cost estimated for King County Housing Bonds and REDI Funds.

Let’s Talk About Lane Width

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Lane width helps to control speed on urban streets. People driving tend to slow when streets are narrow.

Urban Streets

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recommends a default of 10-foot lanes.

“Lane widths of 10 feet are appropriate in urban areas and have a positive impact on a street’s safety without impacting traffic operations. For designated truck or transit routes, one travel lane of 11 feet may be used in each direction. In select cases, narrower travel lanes (9–9.5 feet) can be effective as through lanes in conjunction with a turn lane.”

Seattle’s current standard is 11-foot lanes and 12-foot bus-only lanes. Many of our streets were laid out in a time when wider was always better — and ended up with dangerously wide lanes, dangerous because wide lanes encourage people to drive fast, and when cars go faster, collisions do more harm. Narrower lanes in urban areas are shown to result in less aggressive driving, and give drivers more ability to slow or stop their vehicles over a short distance to avoid collision.

Lane Widths and vehicle sizesWhile tooling along city streets, unless you are a transportation engineer, you aren’t aware of street width.

You aren’t thinking, “Hey, I’m in a 14-foot lane. And now I’m in a nine-foot lane. And now I’m in a 10-foot lane.” (Note, transportation engineers really do think like this.)

Instead, you, the average mortal, just thinks (if you are driving a car), “I can go fast here. Whoa! This street is narrow, I’d better slow down. And now I can speed up a bit again.”

Seattle’s standard width for parked car lanes is eight feet wide, while adding a bike lane that avoids the “door zone” (the distance a car driver can accidentally fling open a door into the path of an oncoming person on a bike) requires a a 14-foot lane (parked car plus bike lane).

With our elbows akimbo, we’re about two and a half feet riding a bike, taking up about as much space as people in wheelchairs. Both protected bike lanes and sidewalks require a minimum of six feet of street right-of-way to accommodate people riding and rolling respectively.

It’s surprising to see how a difference of 20 miles reverses the survival rates of people hit by moving vehicles. (City of Seattle)
It’s surprising to see how a difference of 20 miles reverses the survival rates of people hit by moving vehicles. (City of Seattle)

Highways

Highways are a different case entirely when it comes to lane width.

You may have read the lane width on the Aurora Bridge was a factor in the recent collision fatality between a Duck amphibious vehicle and charter bus. It is up to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine causes, but Federal standards for highways recommend 12-foot lanes, in addition to shoulders wide enough for emergency parking and median barriers. Most lanes along I-5  are 12 feet wide. The Aurora Bridge lanes are 9.5 feet wide.

The relationship between lane width and safety is a question of geometry and psychology.

Cars range in width from a Car2Go Smart vehicle of about five feet, to a six-foot sedan, to a hefty seven plus-foot SUV. Mirrors add another six inches or so on each side of these vehicles. Buses, firetrucks, freight trucks, and amphibious vehicles almost all are 102 inches or eight and a half feet wide. Mirrors on these vehicles can add easily add another foot to each side, so mandating 12-foot bus and freight lanes on fast-moving highways is an entirely rational choice.

Lanes on highways need to be wide to accommodate wide vehicles moving quickly. Traffic on the Aurora Bridge is posted 40 MPH, while people driving average more than 10 miles an hour faster (p.19 here). The Aurora Bridge has had 144 crashes since 2005.

Narrow lanes are intended to be used slowly. Collisions at faster speeds result in much higher rates of injury and fatality.

Seattle Neighbors for Vision ZeroVision Zero

Lane width is a factor in street safety and how we choose to engineer for Vision Zero.

I first visited Sweden in 1997, just when Vision Zero was getting started, and lived there for year from 2006-2007. The Swedish approach to Vision Zero was first to save lives on highways where many collisions end in serious injury or death. There was a great deal of public discourse on lane width, median barriers, and highway speeds. When Vision Zero launched in Sweden, there were seven traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. Despite more people driving, that number has dropped in Sweden to three per 100,000. In the US, our road fatality rate is 11.6 per 100,000.

Swedish Transportation safety strategist Matts-Åke Belin believes Vision Zero is achievable if experts agree to fund solutions to traffic safety.

I would say that the main problems that we had in the beginning were not really political, they were more on the expert side. The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into “zero.” Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.

The problem is the whole transport sector is quite influenced by the whole utilitarianist mindset. Now we’re bringing in the idea that it’s not acceptable to be killed or seriously injured when you’re transporting or walking or biking. It’s more a civil-rights thing that you bring into the policy. The other group that had trouble with Vision Zero was our friends, our expert friends. Because most of the people in the safety community had invested in the idea that safety work is about changing human behavior. Vision Zero says instead that people make mistakes, they have a certain tolerance for external violence, let’s create a system for the humans instead of trying to adjust the humans to the system.

As we move towards Vision Zero standards in Seattle, let’s examine the width of our streets as one of the contributing factors of our safety. As a call to action, please sign on to the principles of Seattle Neighbors for Vision Zero.

No one should die or suffer serious injury in traffic.

  1.  Life is Most Important. The protection of human life and health must be the overriding goal of traffic planning and engineering, taking priority over vehicle speeds and other objectives.
  2.  Every Person Matters. Everyone has the right to be safe on our streets, regardless of the way they choose to travel.
  3.  People Make Mistakes. In order to prevent and reduce death and serious injury, traffic systems can and must be designed to account for the inevitability of human error.
  4. The Government is Responsible for Safe Streets. ALL elected officials and government staff need to collaborate and act now to achieve Vision Zero.

This is a cross-post that originally appeared on Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

Sunday Video: Bike Lane Battle

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A look at how Vancouver has see growth of biking as mode share gaining, implemented excellent bike infrastructure, and the challenges ahead to meeting demand and needs of the city’s burgeoning bike culture.

What We’re Reading: 102 Stories Coming to Downtown Seattle

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Breaking new heights: A first peek at the 102-story Crescent Heights tower set for Downtown Seattle, but there could be issues with the proposal.

Placemaking Bham: Bellingham is completely remaking their streets in Downtown to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

New housing opportunity: Sound Transit is considering the future of surplus property on First Hill.

Safe lanes: Protected bike lanes prove to be more useful in snowy cities than warm cities.

Endless speed: Despite efforts to kill highspeed rail in America, efforts across the nation are unbreakable.

Pope in America: Pope Francis is making waves in the United States this week and forcefully called to save the planet, address refugee crises, inequality, and many more pressing issues of the day.

Disconnected: The Campus Parkway bike lanes in the University District will come very close to connecting to the Burke-Gilman Trail, but they won’t quite make it.

Aurora Bridge tragedy: The tragedy of Ride the Ducks struck this week when a tour vehicle collided with a filled charter bus on the Aurora Bridge.

Where the people go: The leading cities of America’s immigrant populations.

From above: Mighty and ominous images of the human condition; they’re stunning.

Parks and mobility: The Seattle Parks District will fund some significant bike and pedestrian facilities to improve neighborhood access.

MA best in biking: Massachusetts has the most advanced bikeway design guide yet in the United States.

Overly romantic: Romanticizing housing of old may not be completely wise and honest to the truth of the past when we look back into it.

Map of the Week: Mapping the world’s pollution in cities worldwide in real time.

Love is in the Air

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Begrimed is such a perfect word for this man, sitting in the front seat, staring at me. I love the English language. With 615,000 entries in the OED, you have the incalculable luxury of always being able to nail down the particular subtlety you’re after. The unlaundered trenchcoat, kinked and torn and growing stiff with organic filth, fits right in on this ancient, dilapidated vehicle. The non-slip flooring is streaked with peeling paint, and the metallic panels and glass are carved about with various slogans and namesakes, their angular letters vying for attention with the natural blemishes of age.

Several of the interior lights are out, and the resulting gloom emphasizes the shadows of our friends the bulky figures. As a youngster on the 174 I remember thinking that freeloaders and sleepers seemed larger, occupying of more space, because of their need to carry all possessions on their person. Jackets over hoodies over sweaters, and bags inside of bags. On this particular late-night 7 we carry a lot of sleepers, because the short turnaround time at Henderson means a full round trip of napping. It’s pointless to fight such endeavors. For those who need it most, beds are among the harder things to find.

The begrimed man at the front is no sleeper, however. He’s wide awake, stubby fingers working as he regards me between thickset, narrowed slits. You know when a face in the shadows is watching you, even if the unkempt mustache conceals the mouth, even if nothing but pinpoints of light mark out the pupils.

He’s growling softly. Slowly his growls become discernible. He growls, “after you get off work I’m gonna take you home and make you mine.”

They say sexual harassment is usually never about sex, but about power. To think of such come-ons as genuine flirtation would be amusing if they didn’t end so awfully for some. You almost want to ask, has that approach ever actually worked?

Somehow my first impulse is to laugh. I do so, saying with friendly confidence, “oh, I don’t know about all that!”
“As soon as you’re off, you’re comin’ with me.” The growl. “I’ll warm you right up.”

I did what a female night operator once told me works for her– accept the implicit compliment and then steer the conversation somewhere else. Lead this dance, don’t follow.

“Yeah, tonight’s my last night before vacation, nine days,” I say.
“Lucky you.”
“Yeah man, I’m thankful. Doesn’t happen often, lemme tell ya.”
“Where you goin’?”
“Mostly I’ll stay here, but I’m takin’ a few short trips out to the East Coast, then down to LA, that’s my hometown.”
“What parta LA?”
“South Central. You know South Gate?”
“Yeah, I’m from Orange County.”
“Oh, cool! What part?”
“Anaheim.” Which, though it’s a big city, has zero street cred compared to South Central. In the ongoing (and completely useless) SoCal geographical status dialogue, there’s a hierarchy here which works in my favor. The thing to do is let him feel respected despite that, bring him in.
“Oh, cool. Friend of mine went to Chapman, the school there.”
“Yeah, it’s a good school,” he grunts.
“So I’ve heard. You know what’s interesting? They have a piece of the Berlin Wall there, and it’s one of only two pieces of the Berlin Wall in the whole United States. In Orange County! Go figure.” He’s not overly engrossed by Berlin Wall remnants, but I don’t care. I need to keep leading! “I don’t know why. It’s like you know the Lenin statue up in Fremont? That’s the only Lenin statue in the whole country. I don’t know what it means!”
“Huh.”
The man’s interest in discussing Communist revolutionaries and East German artifacts is approximately zilch. He lapses into silence.

As he gets out he starts saying something about penises, but I heartily steamroll right over the guy with an enthusiastic and concerned “have a good one! Be safe now!”

On my last trip he reappeared.

A distinct difference between taxi drivers and bus drivers is that taxi drivers can choose their fares. Bus drivers can’t. I opened the doors at Mount Baker and a few people boarded, our begrimed friend included. But there was no cause for fear. We only talked about bus matters. There was no mention of trenchcoat removal, no dark muttering about fornication. I asked how his last hour had been, and where he was off to next. There’d been a mix-up with his keys. He need to go his landlord’s to drop off a pair, and there was no bus going out that way for a while. We discussed landlords and bus routing in SoDo. As we approached Chinatown, we considered the remaining distance and figured it might be quicker for him to walk.

This time as he left he said something about beds, but once again I was entirely too busy thanking him to hear: “Be safe walkin’ out there! Take it easy!”
“You too!”

Like nothing awkward had ever happened.

The Hunt for a Friendlier SR-520 Resolution for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

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Seattle is faced with a mega-project that will completely overhaul the declining SR-520 segment from I-5 to Montlake. As proposed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the project comes with more lanes on SR-520, a potential second bascule bridge across the Montlake Cut, a more complicated Montlake Interchange, and a wider Montlake Boulevard. But, it also offers partial land bridges and lids, facilities for walking and biking, and direct access for transit.

Many across the Seattle community have made very impassioned pleas to the Seattle City Council to consider a more complete resolution for the SR-520 rebuild. This comes in large part because they feel the project plans fall short of the needs for Seattleites on foot, bike, and transit. Passage of such a resolution by the Seattle City Council will be the City’s endorsement of project implementation and so understandably getting this right is deeply important. That’s why last week Gordon Padelford, a member of the Pedestrian Advisory Board and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, penned a call to action here on The Urbanist saying that:

While there is a lot to like in the draft resolution, … the current SR520 Draft Resolution does not include the top three needed fixes outlined in a letter sent to the City seven months ago by a coalition of community and healthy transportation groups:
1. Single lane on-ramps and raised crosswalks at the Montlake interchange so that people can safely walk across.
2. Protected bike lanes on Montlake Blvd to allow people to safely bike through the interchange.
3. A neighborhood greenway along the Lake Washington Loop paid for by WSDOT, to provide a key link in the non-motorized system, and protect the neighborhood’s quality of life by mitigating cut-through traffic.

To the credit of WSDOT, the agency has made some concerted efforts to improve the project design for those walking and biking. Examples of this are the removal of free right turns from on- and off-ramps, new sidewalks will be much wider throughout the project area, better connections for northbound and cross-lake bus connections, and a network of trails that could act as super-bike-highways between the Eastside and neighborhoods of Seattle north, south, and west of the Montlake Interchange.

Existing conditions and final concept of the Montlake Interchange. (WSDOT)
Existing conditions and final concept of the Montlake Interchange. (WSDOT)

Here are a few of the top things the resolution already expresses support and direction for:

  • Recommendations for a 14-foot wide shared use path on the new Portage Bay Bridge with connections to the City’s bicycle and pedestrian networks;
  • Development of an urban trailhead and mobility hub at the Montlake Interchange that consists of safe connections for transit, bikes, and pedestrians as well as open space;
  • Creation of lid at Montlake with a 70-foot wide land bridge with connections to the Washington Arboretum and old Museum of History and Industry site.
  • Widen and straighten out the Bill Dawson Trail for better separation and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Widen the sidewalks on both side of Montlake Boulevard and provide plantings.
  • Discourages a second bascule bridge across Montlake Cut and favors a bicycle and pedestrian bridge instead that is at least 22 feet wide.
  • Transit improvements that include transit-only lane and access, queue jumps and similar signals, high quality bus shelter and stops, real-time information signs, and similar improvements throughout the Montlake Boulevard corridor as far south as Boyer Avenue in Montlake and northwest as 15th Ave NE and NE 45th St in the University District.

Earlier this week, the Transportation Committee of the Seattle City Council met to discuss the SR-520 resolution in detail — one week after a major public hearing on the topic in the University District. The Committee considered a series of sevens amendments proposed by Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen and Councilmember Mike O’Brien that addressed some of these concerns specifically. Six of these passed at the committee with one of O’Brien’s put on hold pending further feedback.

Rasmussen offered the first amendment, which would amend a section focused on elements of the project still in flux with the WSDOT design team. Much of the project details are still up for refinement, including precise intersection designs and crossings, landscaping, and Bill Dawson Trail. As the final design elements continue to evolve, Rasmussen wants WSDOT to continue to involve the Seattle Design Commission and community.

Montlake to the University District corridor design elements. (WSDOT)
Montlake to the University District corridor design elements. (WSDOT)

O’Brien offered the second amendment, which would require WSDOT to create a protected bike lane from the University of Washington Station to E Roanoke St just south of the Montlake Interchange, in accordance with the City’s Complete Streets policies. O’Brien’s amendment suggests that this could be provided partially via the potential bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Montlake Cut, and reaffirmed that during the meeting. He also said that even if the bicycle and pedestrian bridge is placed further eastward from Montlake Boulevard, a protected bike lane would still make sense along that portion of the corridor since people will want to get across directly.

Andrew Glass-Hastings, Transit and Transportation Advisor, stepped up to speak on behalf of the Mayor’s Office. He felt that the language proposed was “premature and overly prescriptive” at this time given that it could impact modes and affect design without having yet been adequately analyzed. O’Brien responded by saying:

I think if we really want to ensure, live up to our Vision Zero no fatalities or serious injuries, the reality is that there will be folk that are biking on Montlake that are going to take the most direct path, and if that path is a new ped bridge adjacent to it. As I said, they’re going to be riding in traffic on Montlake on bike. And so, I think it’s important that if that’s the path that we choose, then there’s some way we protect that.

Rasmussen acknowledged O’Brien’s case for the protected bike lane, but suggested a “friendly amendment” that would revise O’Brien’s language to say “seek to” or “consider” instead of outright require. O’Brien declined the compromise language from Rasmussen. Council President Tim Burgess then raised the question of how the protected bike lane might interact or conflict with dedicated bus lanes on the street. O’Brien reiterated that people are still going to end up biking across the bridge regardless of other modes. Rasmussen suggested that amendment be placed on hold until the Council hearing on the resolution next Monday and also asked that O’Brien speak to the Bicycle Advisory Board on the issue for consensus prior to the hearing.

Roanoke and Portage Bay Bridge SR-520 segements. (WSDOT)
Roanoke and Portage Bay Bridge SR-520 segements. (WSDOT)

O’Brien’s next amendment proposal was much more successful. He suggested that a protected bike lane should be placed on E Delmar Dr and E Roanoke St to connect the I-5 overpass trail to the multi-use path on the Portage Bay Bridge. As seen above, the current arrangement partially achieves the goal of having continuous dedicated bicycle facilities, but doesn’t fully get there.

Following up that amendment, O’Brien proposed another that would greatly enhance pedestrian safety throughout the program area in two ways. Firstly, it would require that freeway ramp openings, in addition to crossings, consist of special surface treatments or raised crosswalks to enhance wayfinding and safety. And secondly, it would require WSDOT narrow freeway ramp openings and reduce turning radii. This comes in addition to language already calling for reduce lane widths and the elimination of free vehicle turning movements at crossings.

O’Brien’s final amendment would bolster the City’s statement on project implementation. As it stands, the resolution calls for final construction to be completed in full with limited impacts to local communities. But O’Brien’s amendment would go further by calling upon WSDOT to develop a comprehensive plan to account for transportation and safe access of all modes during construction, including transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. WSDOT has consistently neglected this issue with inexcusable bus closures and onerous walking detours at Montlake Boulevard thus far.

WSDOT Peninsula to be conveyed. (WSDOT)
WSDOT Peninsula to be conveyed. (WSDOT)

Rasmussen then picked up the last two amendments for the meeting. His first would add language noting Seattle’s expectation that WSDOT convey the wetland and landmass area south of SR-520 (known as the “WSDOT Peninsula”) to the City for park purposes. This land, which consists of a former interchange, is in the process of decommissioning and could serve as a great environmental and open space asset to the Department of Parks and Recreation inventory. Rasmussen’s last amendment would convey last week’s public testimony on the resolution and project to WSDOT and urge the agency to consider the comments in the final project design.

On Monday, the full Council will meet at their regular session to discuss the resolution with possible vote.

Transit App 3.8: Never Miss Your Stop Again

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Building upon recent improvements to alerts, the Transit App pushed out a new update yesterday to help out you snoozing transit riders. Never miss your stop again with the new handy stop announcements. Selecting a specific stop announcement is simple. Users can do this in two ways:

  1. The first way is to select a particular route number using the search function. This will display all stops on a route and the user can pick which one in given direction to be receive alerts on. Alternatively, the user can choose announcements for all upcoming stops.
  2. The second way is to find your bus using the Nearby Mode and selecting the routing. This will enable the user to choose the stop announcements in the combined map / stop list (Hybrid View) window.

Users also have the option of disabling announcements the same way. Notifications are generated through GPS so the app knows when a rider is approaching a stop. Announcements typically appear one stop before the actual stop.

Setting a stop alarm.
Setting a stop alarm.

Aside from this slick addition, Transit App has three other new features. The Hybrid View shown above is an improvement over the old app version. Stops were previously listed exclusively in their own window instead split with the map. Another great part of this is that the map shows where a stop fall on a line by shading out parts of route that the bus or train will have already traveled and highlighting in a bolder color the portions remaining. Disabling alerts and alarms is also easier than ever with full control in the settings tab. And finally, iOS 9 users get a bump in searchability. Searchlight queries with terms like “King County Metro 5” and “King Street Station” will turn up the corresponding station or route from Transit App without even searching in the App.

Supported Puget Sound transportation services by Transit App include: Sound Transit (buses, Link Light Rail, and Sounder), King County Metro Transit (buses, streetcars, and water taxis), Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit (buses and foot ferries), Intercity Transit, Washington State Ferries, Pronto Cycle Share, Car2Go, and Uber. The Transit App also serves 106 metropolitan areas in North America, Europe, and Africa.