Thursday, 23 January, 2020





As we pull up to Third and James, southbound, a couple of folks get on whom I recognize. “Heeyy,” I say to them, beaming. We sit for the light nearside Jefferson. Across the way is Triangle Park, that open-air bedroom and bazaar, populated with denizens of all stripes and smells. I hear a roar coming my way from over there: “YO, NATHAN!”

It’s him, another buddy, arms extended in a full-body wave. I don’t know his name, but I’m equally thrilled to see him again– black skullcap rag, fluorescent jacket, construction green, with working boots and a crusty smile. Another friendly face from the bus. People remember when you’re kind.

I roll forward and get stopped at the next red light, only sixty-odd feet ahead, facing Yesler. In my right periphery is a dark-skinned figure in white, shouting up at me. “Aaay! Aaay!”

It’s Sho Luv.* He’s letting his hair grow out, blossoming into a full-bodied ‘fro that would make anyone jealous. I open the doors and respond in kind. This is what red lights were made for. “Mister Sho Luv! Heeey, man! I see you on every end o’ town! It’s like there’s ten uh you, jus’ hangin’ around all over!”

I forget his exact response, but he was as excited as I was, high off the elation of seeing and being seen. He wasn’t interested in a ride, or a transfer, or anything; the man just wanted to belt out a hello. I said something about him having magic powers, and at the green light we went our separate merry ways.

A older fellow inside the bus marveled, saying, “you got clout. You got clout on every corner, huh?”
I smiled before saying, “a little!” As we completed the turn onto Third South I added, “good people everywhere, you know?”
“I know tha’s right!”

*Mr. Luv is the gentleman in the linked 358 post with whom I discuss South Gate, right before talking with the researcher about funding for tuberculosis. His name isn’t mentioned because that was the first time we spoke, and as such hadn’t formally met yet.

Sunday Video: Public Space in Motion


Public Space in Motion, From Nice by Chuck Wolfe on YouTube.

What We’re Reading: Shiny Objects and Micro Palaces

11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia
The proposed 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia River in DC.

Just the facts: Streetsblog discusses HOT lanes and if they really work for transit, it appears they can be a blessing and curse, but mainly just a curse. The data keeps showing that, yeah, the kids aren’t driving, they prefer a multiplicity of modes that aren’t car-based. A before and now of Oklahoma City, its freeway torched the city center, but it looks like OKC officials have some good plans to fix that. Why is DC’s rent so damn high? Blame it on Congress, duh! And, what’s your city’s ratio of place to non-places?

Stop with the Plan Bs: Seattle Transit Blog offers up 10 ways that Metro is better than ever–we forgot how great ORCA really is.Tom over at Seattle Bike Blog makes the case that a “Plan B” for Ballard and the Burke-Gilman Trail is absolutely not the way to go for the Missing Link. SDOT talks about “Access Seattle” in detail for South Lake Union and how it’s a program to ensure access in high construction areas for all modes. Since Sound Transit is already looking to increase fares by $0.25, maybe it makes sense to induce people to use ORCA by increasing cash fares to $3 and $4 even. Tom also gushes on the Divvy bikes back in Chicago (it appears he missed the Pronto! launch at home). And, a photo series on the Link extension from the airport to S 200 Street.

New walls: A brief history on the creation of I-5 that ripped apart Downtown, Capitol Hill, and more on its way north across the Ship Canal. Are we ready for the “big one”? King County has adopting a living wage for all County employees and some contracted positions. It looks like King County will also get its new Youth Detention Center in First Hill after the Seattle City Council approved the land use action; say goodbye to the ugly old block. And, take a peek at the first bit of the seawall installed.

This week in maps: A tool that lets you track the explosive growth of megacities. A former mapmaker for insurance companies turns out to have a wealth of detail in many old cities, it’s data and map junkies treasurer trove. Some sweet English railway map that was less about where the trains go and more about how to charge them.

Shiny objects: This European Alpine villa is pretty amazing, especially because you’d almost never notice it in the landscape. DC has picked its winning architecture team for the new 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia River, the designs are superb an multi-functional. Now this is how you do a new railway station, leave it to the Danish. Slooped roofs in an Amsterdam neighborhood that completely integrate the green in green roof.

Micro palaces: A clever quip by Nathaniel Hood of Strong Towns that people don’t get engaged in the suburbs–or at least their engagement photos. Politico profiles microhousing in Seattle with the developer talking head Roger Valdez as the story’s centerpiece. The Guardian argues that the increase of cycling isn’t just good for cyclists, it’s good for everyone. The new global talent centers are out for 30 cities across the globe–we still lost out to Vancouver.

Oh, But She’s Got the Answers to Everyone’s Problems…


Crystal Peter Wedding-1


“Birthday on the 25th,” Isaac is saying, referring to himself. Isaac is in a work-release program at Burger King, and sometimes he pays me with food instead of fare. Why can’t it be like that all the time?
“Twenty-fifth a coupla days ago, or next–”
“Next month, August. And my daughter turnin’ sixteen on the 24th of August.”
“Whoa, wow! Excellent. Sixteen. She’ll be drivin’ soon.”
“She live in the area?”

We talk a bit more. I mention my birthday being in March, and the lively Filipino woman behind us inquires further: “March what?”
“The twelfth!”
“Ooohhhh! My nephew, it’s the 13th! And then my daughter-in-law, March 17th! Plus two others in my family, I’m surrounded by fishes!”
“That’s good, right?”
“Well, my nephew, I told him if he turned out like the others I’d kill him with my bare hands!”
She’s joking, of course. I think.
“Oh my goodness!”
“He turned out well. He’s a good provider. Maybe too good.”
“I don’t have a family,” I muse aloud. “Maybe one day.”
“Oh why not?” asks the Filipino lady. She’s very interested.

Oh dear, I think. Why did I say that aloud? No time to get into it all. I give them the short answer: “I haven’t found the right young lady yet!”
“That’s because you work at night!”
A working-class Latino man sitting further back, halfway down, is listening and smiling. Filipino lady and I rib each other good-naturedly as she continues holding forth: “How can you expect to find a girl when you work at night? Of course you’re single! Even a nice cute handsome guy like you–”
“But I like driving at night!” This gets a rich smile from the listening Latino man, who looks to work odd hours himself. Filipino lady’s not having it, though–
“Then you need to meet a nice girl who works at a hospital! That’s what you need to do. I know them. All you have to do is go to Virginia Mason. Seventh Floor.”
“Oh, is that right? Is that where all the ladies are hiding?”
“I know everything.”
“That’s excellent!”
“I’m telling you, Virginia Mason, there’s plenty of wonderful nurses, very bright,”
“Up on the seventh floor, you said?”
“The seventh floor.”
“Well, I guess if I ever want to meet someone, now I know where to go… the seventh floor? What about the sixth floor?”
“I’m serious! You have no excuse now! I’m the matchmaker! I know where all the girls are. I have to look out for my grandsons when they come of age!”
“My parents will have you to thank if they have grandchildren!”
“Or at you know, Fourth and Seneca? I know where all the young women go–”
“Fourth and Seneca?? What’s at Fourth and Seneca?”
“I’m telling you, I know these things. Hey. Isn’t this weekend the big, the big you know, the fair,”
“Yeah, Seafair. So many women go to that. Everyone goes. All you have to do is go. What are you doing this weekend?”

Enthusiastically: “Working!”

Of course! Everyone–she, me, Isaac, the listening guy, burst out laughing. But I really am happy to be here. I enjoy hearing her silliness. In truth, I didn’t say what would have ended our pleasant conversation–I love driving at night. I do the things I like to do, and trust in the universe to provide. It’s worked pretty great so far.

Community Transit hosts a conversation on 8-80 Cities

Walkable Denmark by La Citta Vita on Flickr.

Community Transit recently sponsored a community forum at the Lynnwood Convention Center on 8-80 Cities: Vibrant Cities. About 50 people were in attendance to listen to keynote presenter Gil Penalosa’s talk on what it takes to make vibrant and healthy cities. Gil is the Executive Director of the Toronto-based organization 8-80 Cities. He was formerly the Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for the City of Bogota in Columbia.

For many urbanists, the message that Mr. Penalosa brought is nothing new. But what made his remarks interesting is that it was geared towards a general suburban audience. And, that is exactly where this talk was took place–in a suburban setting with all of its attendant challenges.

The irony was very present as I travelled by car to attend this talk, arriving late because of severe traffic–and admittedly getting slightly lost. The site of the convention center sits near the junction of I-405 and I-5, and serviced with limited transit options. So, naturally public transit to this event was not a reasonable choice for me given the commute constraints. And to add to the stereotypical suburban problems, the site was plagued by inadequate onsite parking facilities, encouraging attendees to park on neighboring properties.

Pronto! bikes in Occidental Park by Charles Cooper.So with that backdrop, I sat back and listened to a gently laid out case for cities that take on characteristics of vibrancy and accommodating more walking and biking. The first thing I heard was the idea to lower general vehicle speeds on neighborhood streets to 20 mph. His rationale for reducing speeds had to do with safety. The data that he presented showed that speeds above 20 mph radically increased the risk of death to pedestrians should they be struck. Although, he did note that difference between arterials and local streets shouldn’t be discounted when applying such rules.

Mr. Penalosa talked about walking and cycling as a right, not just some urban frivolity. He then segued into a discussion of the investment in bikeways and walking pathways, and just how meager such investments are in most cities. He argued that often these investments are only used to quell gadflies rather than as part of a real substantive approach to changing how the city works.

Throughout the talk, Mr. Penalosa showed many slides of cities in Europe, Asia and South America where cities large and small are instituting these ideas and principles to create showcases for urbanism. He also spent some time talking about getting from talking to doing. What he means is that citizens must delve into the political realm to hold our elected representatives accountable. Citizens need to have a sense of urgency lest planners and politicians simply maintain the status quo.

In the end, Mr. Penalosa laid out the case for cities to take on the core values of his organization and the elements of an 8-80 City:

  • 8-80 Cities are communities built for people;
  • They reflect social equality in the public realm and promote sustainable happiness;
  • They nurture our need to be physically active by providing safe, accessible and enjoyable places for everyone walk, bike and be active as part of our daily routine;
  • They recognize that people are social creatures and prioritize human interaction by fostering vibrant streets and great public places where people can rest, relax and play; and
  • 8-80 Cities encourage sustainable and healthy lifestyles for everyone regardless of age, gender, ability, ethnicity or economic background.

I think Community Transit should be acknowledged for recognizing that their future success depends on spatial changes. In order to better serve their constituent population, communities in Snohomish County will need to transform away from the conventional suburban model and instead to an 8-80 model. This inspirational and gentle talk did get people talking about this issue well after the presentation ended, and in that way, it’s a good starting point for that change.

Many of Mr. Penalosa’s points from his hour and a half presentation can be condensed down, and for a shorter version of these, check out his TedTalk.

Pronto! free ride weekends

Pronto Cycle Share in Occidental Park
Photo courtesy of Charles Cooper.

To welcome–well, themselves–to the neighborhood, Pronto! Cycle Share is throwing a series of celebrations over the new few weeks of October. For instance–By being one of the first people to check out a bike from your local neighborhood docking station, you can earn yourself a free 24-Hour pass. Pronto! will be giving away the free passes to the first 10 people to arrive for their weekend ride series on October 18th, 19th, 25th, and 26th. The weekend ride series is a guided tour to and from various locations in Downtown, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill, and serves as an introduction to Seattle’s new bikeshare system. The dates of the event are as follows:

Capitol Hill – Saturday, 10/18 @ 1PM
Start: Pine and 16th End: Seattle Central College

South Lake Union – Sunday, 10/19 @ 1PM
Start: REI (Yale and John) End: SLU Park

Seattle Center/Waterfront – Saturday, 10/25 @ 1 PM
Start: Key Arena End: Pier 69

Downtown  Sunday, 10/26 @ 1 PM
Start: 2nd and University End: 6th and King

Josh Steiner is a planner in the Seattle area with a focus in multimodal and sustainable transportation.

ICYMI: UberPEDAL comes to Seattle


Uber Peddle

Uber dropped some good news for Seattle customers with bikes last week. The company launched a new service called “UberPEDAL” for customers who want an Uber, but also want to bring their bike along, too.

Uber iPhoneMost bicyclists encounter a time when being picked up and dropped off to their destination could be a superior option. We can think of lots of cases where UberPEDAL might be handy like an unexpected flat tire, after a night on the town, or needing to make a spontaneous trip that a bike couldn’t reasonably accommodate.

Uber tapped bike rack company Saris to provide reliable and convenient bike racks that can carry up to two bikes at a time. Uber customers using the UberPEDAL service can expect to pay the regular rate of uberX, plus a $5 surcharge.

Since the service is brand new, Uber is letting customers know that there will be a limited number of drivers equipped for the UberPEDAL service. During the initial launch period, your best bet for getting an UberPEDAL driver are trips that originate near Downtown Seattle.

Requesting UberPEDAL is a breeze. Simply open the Uber app, drop a pin for the pickup location, ensure that the uberX button is selected, and then choose the PEDAL option. Then it’s only a matter of finishing up your reservation.


Tweet of the Week: Goodbye SR-520 ramps to nowhere


R.H. Thompson

WSDOT officially has a date for removal of those awful, rotting concrete ramps to nowhere over Union Bay. Now if they could only actually fund the replacement portion of SR-520 in Seattle and get it right… (But hey, apparently WSDOT staff hate bicyclists, buses, and pedestrians. Go figure.)

If you don’t know the history here, SR-520 in Union Bay was originally planned with a big interchange. A spur highway called the “R. H. Thompson Expressway” would have sent cars as far north to Bothell and south to Renton. You can imagine the total annihilation of the Washington Arboretum and over a dozen Seattle neighborhoods that would have been sacrificed. Thanks to neighborhoods pitching justified fits that they didn’t want this urban-destroying monstrosity in their city, WSDOT relented in 1971 and cancelled the project. But in the wake of the effort to build the project, the unconnected ramps were left as a reminder of what could have been.

Farewell, ramps to nowhere!