Tuesday, 26 May, 2020

Event: Join Connect Seattle Summit this Saturday



Help the Cascade Bicycling Club build public support in favor of the many new miles of neighborhood greenways and protected bike lanes that will be rolling out this year. Hundreds of volunteers from all across the region will converge to work on better, all-ages and abilities bike facilities. The three-hour workshop will focus on city-wide goals like Vision Zero as well as more specific projects such as the Burke-Gilman Trail’s ‘Missing Link’ and the Rainier Avenue Road Diet.

When: Saturday, January 31st, Noon-3PM

Where: Cascade Bicycling Center, in Magnuson Park, just off the Burke-Gilman Trail located at 7787 62nd Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115

For more info and to RSVP for the event, head over to Cascade.

ICYMI: With $1.3bn loan secured, Sound Transit could restore projects


Sound Transit 2 MapIn an extraordinary announcement, Sound Transit revealed that the agency will receive $1.3 billion in Federal loans from the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). The loans come from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which provides incredibly favorable interest rates to transportation agencies across the United States. Sound Transit will pay 2.38% interest under the TIFIA loans as opposed to 5.75% interest through traditional government bonding. For Sound Transit, the loans will help the agency realize a significant cost savings over the life of the loans, between $200 million and $300 million.

The Great Recession greatly affected Sound Transit’s planned revenues under the Sound Transit 2 package to the tune of 29%. This meant that the agency had to cut back on the scale of projects or postpone their implementation. This ultimately was a key factor in Sound Transit’s application for the TIFIA loan which sought to reduce some costs–like interest–while increasing spending capacity due to savings. The loan will essentially help fund one-third of the total East Link project cost, but any savings can be spent on other projects.

With that in mind, Sound Transit says that these projects are at the top of their shortlist:

  • Deployment of 50,000 more service hours on ST Express buses (of the 100,000 service hours remaining planned for ST2).
  • Completion of two South Link stations along the South Link Light rail alignment (Highline Community College Station in Des Moines and Redondo/Star Lake Station in Federal Way).
  • Preliminary light rail engineering work could begin on East Link from Overlake to Downtown Redmond and South Link from Federal Way to Tacoma with acquisition of right-of-way.
  • Sounder could receive platform extensions and targeted improvements for both Kent Station and Auburn Station.
  • New HOV improvements could be constructed in Renton to enhance bus service and a permanent multi-modal transit facility could be built in Edmonds.

A lot of these projects on the list are worthy of additional funding and deployment, but there are two glaring omissions: Graham Street Station in the Rainier Valley and the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge. These two projects would give a bigger bang for the buck over any of the other individual projects mentioned by Sound Transit. Anticipated ridership growth for project cost should be a key metric in deciding how to allocate these funds. And, it’s for this reason that they should rise to the top of the shortlist.

What We’re Reading: Lipstick on a Pig

Overview of SR-520 in Seattle, courtesy of WSDOT.
Overview of SR-520 in Seattle, courtesy of WSDOT.

A symbiotic relationship: A look at how food trucks and taprooms go hand-in-hand.

Lipstick on a pig: The Washington State Department of Transportation have released their final designs for SR-520 through Seattle; the plan is still universally awful for pedestrians, transit, and bicyclists. You still have an opportunity to comment.

Back to school: Maybe a Downtown Seattle school isn’t dead, Seattle Public Schools supports the federal building location.

Councilmembers call it quits: Last week, Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen said that they won’t run for reelection.

Soaring high: You’d have to look under rocks to find people who don’t want more light rail; great news for Sound Transit 3!

A building is saved: The Landmarks Board has protected the former home of REI and The Stranger.

A big slide: Slide The City is coming to Seattle for summer 2015. Yes, a huge, 1000-foot slide! Get your tickets early, and cheap.

Labor hate: South Carolina’s governor attacks a labor union movement amongst Boeing employees in the state.

Bike racism: Apparently “biking while black” is a real thing that cops look out for.

Global employment change: Definitely the map of the week, a quick look at the global employment market.

Know the difference: How to tell whether a train line is a street car or light rail.

Micro housing goodness: In Seoul, they know how to make small spaces work well.

Getting to the airport: A comprehensive rundown of when to take transit or cab to the airport.

Residency required: Maybe it’s time to consider residency requirements for cops if only so they reflect the values of the communities that they serve.

Service change: The Seattle Police Department is dropping Eastlake and picking up First Hill for the East Precinct.

Chill out: Yes, the suburbs aren’t dying, but that’s because they’re not all the same (think Bellevue and Redmond–dense, diverse, multi-modal, and growing).

Charleston struggles: The city is having a tough time with new development fitting in with the older, historic ones.

Funded mandates: State legislators hope to pass a constitutional restriction on initiatives so that they can’t contain unfunded mandates.

Ruston annexation: A developer in Ruston, the small town adjacent to Tacoma, wants the City of Tacoma to annex their land because Ruston officials won’t play ball.

Sunday Video: Detroit Future City


Detroit Future City: Design for Rapid Change by the UW College of Built Environments on Livestream.

A lively panel discussion on how Detroit transforms and innovates from the grassroots.

About the Same Concerns


Picture 4


This happened a looooong time ago, but it’s a story I keep rattling around in my head, especially on these post-Ferguson nights.

“Hold on one sec,” he said. Tall African-American man, I’d say thirty, six feet something with a baseball hat (curved bill tonight, not flat) and a wardrobe fitted for a mythical man three times his size: black hoodie halfway zipped, glistening basketball shoes with the wide flat laces, and stone-washed black jeans, the expensive kind, with white accent threads and fabric piled around the sagging bottoms, folds of cloth accumulating around his shoes like Michelangelo’s Pietà, or Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo.

“Aw, sure,” I said. We were driving something down Third Avenue, either a 3/4 or a 1/14.
“I know I got it.”
“Oh, it’s cool.”
He kept fumbling around, searching for his transfer.

What would a fellow of his look be up to on a night like this? Ten PM on a weeknight. Sometimes it’s polite to not ask. I don’t ask specifics of the guys I know are dealers, for example. We talk about things like weather. I really ought not to assume though–haven’t seen this fellow before–so I decided to venture.

“How’s your night goin’?”
“Iss been good. I just dropped off my son. We went and checked out the ferris wheel.”
“Oh, cool! Did he have a good time, your son?”
“Yeah, somebody said it was only three times they go around but we got a good three, four times. It was dope.”
“Perfect. And it’s a nice clear night, good for that,”
“Awesome. I haven’t been on it.”
“It’s good, yeah.”
“What time they stop runnin’ that thing?”
“I think it closes at ten… man, I know I had one. Truly.” He was still searching his pockets.

“It’s all cool. D’you need another one for later tonight?”
Heartfelt: “truly.”
“Here’s the goods.”
“Thank you man, I appreciate it.”
“Dude, thanks for lookin’ for it! I appreciate you!”
“Man, I had it.”
“It’s all good. I trust you.”

Sometimes people just pretend to look for transfers. He really did have one. Finally he showed it to me, excited to prove his honesty. “See?”
“You’re awesome! Thank you!”
“Yeah, I just met a new lady,” I continued. His eyebrows went up in a half-smile as I went on–“so I been thinkin’ about places to take her. That sounds like a good one.”
“Definitely. I been lookin’ for stuff to do too.”
“Oh, nice!”
“Yeah, my lady, she thinkin’ about other things, but I’m gonna bring it back. Gonna get it this time.”
“Bring back some a that old magic.”
His eyes twinkled in the darkness. “Yeah.”
“That’s beautiful thing,” I said. The effort.

His concerns were about the same as mine. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

University District grid is partially restored by Sound Transit today

NE 43rd St looking toward the construction site.
NE 43rd St looking toward the construction site.

Sound Transit - 43rd and BrooklynConstruction on the University District Station has been well underway since December 2013. As part of site preparation and equipment storage to construct the station box, Sound Transit’s contractors have had to repeatedly change pathways for pedestrians and cyclists while closing streets to motorists. One key closure has been at the intersection of NE 43rd St and Brooklyn Ave NE. While a portion has reopened today, the full block of Brooklyn Ave NE between NE 45th St and NE 43rd St, and small portion on NE 43rd St east of the intersection, are planned to remain closed for the duration of station construction.

Contractors have focused much of their work on drilling down pilings, excavation toward the south portion of the station box, and constructing a new bridging system. The latter of which will make many residents, students, and visitors to the area happy. This new bridge is at-grade to the surrounding streets, but is intended to allow traffic movement above the station box while work continues below. The bridge extends along NE 43rd St from the alleyway west of Brooklyn Ave NE to the west edge of Brooklyn Ave NE. This will help reconnect part of the grid by creating a one-way traffic system northbound on Brooklyn Ave NE to University Way NE (The Ave) via NE 43rd St.

For drivers and bicyclist alike, this will be a welcome change because it provides better options for moving around the area. Pedestrians will also get some measure of benefit out of the reconfiguration with wider sidewalks, new crosswalks and handrails, and a permanent pathway. The contractors have place ample striping, signage, and other improvements along the stretch of reopened street.

Photos of the streets nearly complete earlier this week are below.

The Madison BRT Public Survey


The folks at the Seattle Depart of Transportation released an online public survey yesterday to gain public input on the Madison BRT project which will connect the Downtown Seattle Waterfront with First Hill and Madison Valley. (We previously covered this project back in November.) This survey primarily concerns the potential terminal locations, in Downtown Seattle and in the Madison Valley as well as the potential routes to get there.

Start Survey

Downtown Seattle Segment

Madison BRT potential Downtown Routing I would like to advocate for the Madison St/Spring St couplet (in red on the map) because it:

  1. Continues the connection to the Washington State Ferries Colman Dock;
  2. Provides a connection to the Center City Connector Streetcar (1st Ave/Madison St);
  3. Provides a better connection to the University Street Light Rail Station;
  4. Provides an excellent connection to the Central Library;
  5. Provides improvements to the King County Metro Route 2 on Spring St through the use of exclusive lanes, traffic signal priority, and enhanced station amenities;
  6. Provides a connection to Town Hall at 7th/8th Ave & Spring St;
  7. Removes the difficult turn at 6th Ave & Madison St; and
  8. Improves access to Virginia Mason Hospital while maintaining similar access to the Polyclinic.

Madison Valley Segment

Madison BRT Madison Valley Terminal Options For the eastern portion of the Madison BRT line, I would like to advocate for the MLK Jr. Way/29th Ave terminal (in red on the map) because it:

  1. Provides needed bus service to nearby residential communities;
  2. Supports planned construction in the area;
  3. Supports the businesses located in this area with improved access to Downtown/First Hill;
  4. Provides increased multi-modal connection opportunities;
  5. Provides enhanced station amenities for King County Metro Route 11 passengers where the lines overlap; and
  6. Removes a sharp turn and heavy traffic on 23rd Ave.

Madison BRT Alternate Bicycle Routes/Dangerous Intersections

Madison BRT Alternate Bicycle RoutesIn addition, the survey also seeks the public’s input on dangerous intersections throughout the corridor that are in desperate need of improvement for pedestrian and cyclist safety. In this case, I would advocate for Alternative 2 (in blue on the map):

  1. The route is a much more direct which is safer, less confusing, and more likely to be utilized; and
  2. As part of the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan, Union/University Streets on First Hill have already been identified as the location for an East-West cycle track.

As for the dangerous intersections, I will leave that up to those who are directly familiar with them and who have to make use of them each day (they all need fixing).

Potential Stop Locations

Here I would advocate for the following stop locations:


  1. Western Avenue/Alaskan Way between Madison St & Spring St: connections to Center City Connector Streetcar and ferries
  2. Spring St & 3rd Ave: connections to Link, Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, and 3rd Ave buses
  3. Spring St & 5th Ave: Seattle Public Library and shared with Route 2
  4. Spring St & 8th Ave: Town Hall, residential Development, Virginia Mason Hospital, and Polyclinic
  5. Madison St & Terry Ave: replaces stop at Boren Ave and shared with Route 60
  6. Madison St & Boyslton Ave: Swedish Medical Center, replaces stop at Madison & Summit, shared with Route 60, and near First Hill Streetcar (Broadway/Boylston)
  7. Madison St & 12th Ave: shared with Route 2
  8. Madison St & 17th Ave/18th Ave: shared with Route 11
  9. Further stops east to MLK Jr Way: to be determined

  1. Stops west from MLK Jr Way: to be determined
  2. Madison St & 17th Ave/18th Ave: shared with Route 11
  3. Madison St & 12th Ave: shared with Route 2
  4. Madison St & Summit Ave: Swedish Medical Center, shared with Route 60, and near First Hill Streetcar (Broadway/Boylston)
  5. Madison St & Terry Ave: replaces stop at Boren Ave and shared with Route 60
  6. Madison St & 8th Ave/7th Ave: potentially over I-5
  7. Madison St & 5th Ave: Seattle Public Library
  8. Madison St & 3rd Ave: Link, Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, and 3rd Ave buses

To participate in the survey, click the grey “Start the Survey” button or simply click here.

Start Survey

Full disclosure: I am a resident of First Hill and I am on the Board of the First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) and sit on the Transportation Working Group. These are my personal opinions and while in sync with FHIA, they should not be construed as the official position of FHIA. Illustrations are courtesy of SDOT and used with permission.

Seattle’s red light cameras reduce collisions by 23%

Photo enforced sign by Lynn Friedman.

Red light cameras have never been popular with people who drive. Since their introduction in to the US, many states have banned their use entirely. Various automobile associations and motoring groups have steadily campaigned for their removal by claiming that they do little for safety and only serve to line the pockets of cities and the private companies often behind the cameras themselves. It comes as no surprise, then, that the City of Auburn recently joined a growing number of cities across the country by choosing to remove the red light cameras installed at four intersections across the suburb. The move was undoubtably popular with local citizens, and council members voting for the removal cited data indicating that the cameras had failed to reduce injuries or automobile collisions at their intersections. On the other hand, the cameras did appear to reduce the number of people running red lights.

With Auburn out of the red light camera business, the question of Seattle following suit has come up. Like Auburn, Seattle first installed its cameras in an attempt to reduce collisions and improve safety at various high risk intersections. Unlike Auburn, though, data shows that Seattle’s red light cameras have done a tremendous job of reducing the number of collisions at various intersections across the city. By looking at the number of collisions in the three years before and three years after a camera was installed, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has found that red light cameras have reduced accidents by about 23% on average. Right angle collisions (also known as t-bone or broadside collisions) were reduced by a whopping 46%, while collisions involving a person walking were reduced by nearly one-third.

Correlation, of course, is not proof of causation–but it is a hint. The data has some imperfections, as well: in some instances a camera had to be tuned off for construction, while in others poor intersection design caused additional collisions. Not every intersection equipped with a camera saw an improvement, either. But even with these issues, the difference is stark and lends credence to the assertion that red light cameras can help make intersections safer.

To help show just how effective red light cameras in Seattle have often been, I’ve created an interactive visualization based on the data that SDOT provided The Urbanist. Use the dropdown or click on the map to look at how different intersections stack up in the overall dataset. SDOT’s data includes a total of all collisions at an intersection in the three-year periods before and after a red light camera was installed, along with the specific amounts of  pedestrian, rear end, and right angle collisions (which may not add up to the total). Click here to view a bigger version, and note that you can download the file if you want to dig in further.