Saturday, 4 July, 2020

No “Average” Transit

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Downtown Seattle supported by transit.
Downtown Seattle supported by transit.

Back in December, the Seattle Hearing Examiner issued a decision that threw out a City land use code interpretation that allowed reductions to minimum parking requirements. The City’s interpretation centered on projects in multifamily and commercial zones and within one-quarter mile of frequent transit service. When located within these areas, a project could be exempt from or reduce the number of required parking spaces onsite based upon averaged headways for frequent transit service. The Hearing Examiner, however, took issue with that specific interpretation and ordered the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to withdraw it.

This put a number of projects in doubt because without relief from the Hearing Examiner’s strict code interpretation. Some projects in the city may no longer be economically viable or could see their end product costs rise drastically. Onsite parking costs about $30,000-$60,000 per stall (depending upon site conditions and whether parking is located above-ground or below-ground) and is ultimately added to housing and commercial construction costs. In a time when Seattle housing costs are rising quickly and elected officials are focused on ways to reduce or manage housing costs, not requiring expensive onsite parking is one way to provide more affordable housing.

The definition of “frequent transit service” is key here. Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 23.84A.038 “T” defines frequent transit service as “transit service headways in at least one direction of 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours per day, 6 days per week, and transit service headways of 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day.” The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) issued Director’s Rule (DR) 11-2012 in September 2012 to further clarify “frequent transit service” for the purposes of determining whether projects in multifamily and commercial zones qualify for the reduced parking requirement.

DR 11-2012 provided two methods for developers to determine whether a project qualifies for reduced on-site parking requirements:

  1. Using DPD’s dynamic mapping service (GIS) to identify lots that are within one-quarter mile of frequent transit service. Development sites within shaded areas on the maps were presumed to be within walking distance of frequent transit service.
  1. The prospective applicant could perform an analysis of transit frequency in a DPD-provided worksheet format and submit the findings with the permit application. Instructions for this worksheet specified:

“Frequent transit service means transit service headways in at least one direction of 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours per day, 6 days per week, and 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day:

  • Four or more pick-ups per hour (15 minute headway) on average over 12 hours per day, 6 days per week; and
  • Two or more pick-ups per hour (30 minute headway) on average for 18 hours every day.” [Emphasis added]

The Seattle City Council, understanding that reliable transit service allows residents to live without personal vehicles, enacted rules exempting or reducing minimum parking requirements when certain land use and transit frequency criteria are met.

SMC 23.54.020.F.2.a in particular provides that: “In multifamily and commercial zones, the minimum parking requirement for all uses is reduced by 50 percent if the use is located within 1,320 feet of a street with frequent transit service. The distance will be the walking distance measured from the nearest transit stop to the lot line of the lot containing the use.” In short, if a project is within a quarter mile of frequent transit, then it need only have half of the on-site parking that would otherwise be required.

In the decision to the Appeal of Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development (Hearing Examiner File: MUP-14-006 (DR, W); S-14-001), the Hearing Examiner held that “had the Council intended that headways be averaged, it could have inserted the word ‘average’ in two places within the definition to indicate that intent. It did not do so, and neither the Director nor the Examiner has the authority via statutory construction to add the word “average” to the term ‘headway’ in the definition of frequent transit service. Doing so would change the clearly stated meaning and the impact of the definition. This can be accomplished only through legislation.”

In response to the Hearing Examiner’s decision, DPD recently released proposed Director’s Rule 6-2015. The key differences between DR 11-2012 and Proposed DR 6-2015 are:

  1. DR 6-2015 does not provide for a DPD-maintained GIS map of property that is presumed to be within walking distance of frequent transit service; and
  2. Computation of headways is not permitted to be averaged.

The impacts of the Hearing Examiner’s decision and of DPD proposed update rule are this:

  • A number of multifamily housing units that were already in the permitting process with and that had relied on DR 11-2012 were found to not qualify for the reduced parking requirements under the new rules. Some of these projects will not be built.
  • Project applicants can no longer rely on a map to determine whether a project qualifies for reduced parking requirements and must undertake an analysis which adds costs to the project.
  • Projects that are served by frequent, reliable transit with headways of 16 or 17 minutes during certain time periods and much shorter headways during other time periods would not qualify.

Ultimately, the best way to fix the uncertainty created by the decision is legislative action by the City Council. A solution to this would be for the Seattle City Council to make the change referred to by the Hearing Examiner and to allow averaging to be used by DPD.  Another possible solution would be for DPD to generate a map approved by Council indicating property that is eligible for reduced parking requirements.

What We’re Reading: Unaffordable, Overburdened, Decaying, and Dysfunctional

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The Puget Sound from above, courtesy of Doc Searls.
The Puget Sound from above, courtesy of Doc Searls.

Making doughnuts: A look at 66 metro regions shows that a inner cities are doing much better than inner suburbs, although a doughnut effect is taking hold.

Disparate tastes: Who knew Girl Scout Cookies differed so greatly in taste and quality depending upon where you live.

Overburdened suburbs: The cost of sprawl is more than twice the cost of compact development.

Getting restructuredSeattle Transit Blog details some of the University Link restructure plan, more to come this week. We covered this earlier in the week.

New micros: A Capitol Hill apartment could soon be converted to microhousing.

You’re all wrong: Why the left and the right are both wrong on affordable housing.

Octopus down!: An octopus at the Seattle Aquarium almost got away. Almost. Meanwhile, the Seattle City Council will let the Woodland Park elephants move to Oklahoma ($).

Challenging affordabilityDevelopers mount a challenge to stop the City of Seattle from adopting a linkage fee on new development.

An inconsistency: A city council candidate that wants to stop foreclosure on homes bought a foreclosed home.

Violators beware: Parking in bike lane? You might just find your car with bike lane paint on it in Germany.

Sprawl fallout: How sprawl is deeply hurting cities like Tacoma in Pierce County.

Stalling out: Seattle’s bike plummeting bike collision rate may be stalling out.

Still No. 1: New York still rounds out the top for the most economically powerful city in the world, check out the rankings.

Saving the rentals: Berlin is banning rental conversions to condos because the supply of rentals is dwindling quickly.

Launching the streetcar: City officials want to get the streetcar on First Hill moving soon, and to do that, they plan to incentivize the manufacture to expedite delivery ($).

Not good enough: The Design Review Board wants to see a better plan for the Whole Foods block in First Hill.

Designing Capitol Hill: How the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council fits into the planning process for historic Capitol Hill. Is there really a part for them to play?

Transpo failure: The brief synopsis of the politics at play in the Washington State Legislature for a transportation package.

Rent burdened: Understanding New York City’s rent affordability problem.

Sunday Video: Transportation Funding

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Friday New Discussion: Trasnportation by Strong Towns on Youtube.

Former Mayor Mike McGinn gets a bit nerdy and talks transportation with Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns, Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog, and Kevin Shepherd of Verdunity.

Randomosity

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Picture 2

 

He’s the younger guy with the fro cut to look like he’s wearing a pair of headphones.
If it was ever a fashion, it came and went quickly, but I suppose this young man wears it as well as one can. Our discussion starts by my asking if there’s another 7 right in front of us or not. It’s just so quiet on my bus; we’re deep into Saturday night and no one’s out here. The city’s unpredictable, we agree, or to use his words, “hella weird, man…”
“The weather, the people,”
“Yup. S’pos’ta be crowded, then fuhggin nobody nowhere,”
“It’s like the Twilight Zone out here. Feels like I’m doin’ somethin’ wrong!”
He laughs.

I’m trying to gauge if he wants to keep talking. What is there to lose, I think, asking him if he’s always lived in Seattle.
“Born and raised. Well, mostly rural Washington mostly. Fife, Sumner.” We discuss his background and mine, and my being part Korean.

Now he’s pontificating on girls he likes. He frames people by type, considering people in categories of race. He is to Filipino girls as Aristaeus lusted after Eurydice– hungry and filled with longing. He’s telling me how a trip to the southern United States is necessary when searching for “them rrreal black girls,” as the ones he’s encountered here don’t quite stir his fancy– or rather, “they don’t got they muhfuggin’ head right. You gotta go down souf.” If I have anything to say about it, the man has a lot more African-American women to meet in the greater Seattle area before arriving at such horrendously broad conclusions! But I’m here to listen. He waxes poetic on an earlier, simpler time involving himself and his “fitty hoes,” in a mini-narrative right out of The Arabian Nights.

An overweight Caucasian gentleman seated several rows back has been listening. As if Aristaeus has only just mentioned rural Washington, he hollers out:

“Fife! You must know Graham then!”
“Yeah, I know Graham!” says Aristaeus.
I listen as they bond over how they used to play on competing teams. They conclude with confidence that nothing surpasses playing high school sports while simultaneously smoking marijuana. For my part, I’m happy to see him conversing with a white person, as he had made some frustrated remarks on the subject earlier (read: “tired of them muthafuckin’ white folks keep sayin’ we all muthafuckin’ hustlers, all criminals.” “Perpetuatin’ the lie,” I translated. “Yeeeah,” he said, approving the translation).

At the stop underneath I-90 I notice a man outside whom I recognize, standing listless under the sodium vapor lamps. I yell out his name– “Traaan! Heeyy!”
Next to Tran is another man who also recognizes me, and yells a hello himself. Neither wants the bus, but they’re excited– two tattered, filthy, Dostoyevskian figures lurking in the shadows, wearing the most luminous smiles… I love this job, I think to myself. The second man, about twenty feet away from the doors, half-heartedly shouts a request for a transfer, to which I say, “next time, my friend, next time I gotchu!”
We all wish each other well. I drive away smiling to myself.

Aristaeus, who witnessed the interaction in silence, says, “man, you cool as fuck!”
“Just a little!” I say in response, making the relevant gesture with my thumb and forefinger.
“Naw man, you are. What are you, Colombian?”
I laugh. “Korean!”
“Oh that’s right, you said that like five times. Usually it’s a bunch a racist muhfuggas.”
“I try to make up for those guys!”
“Well. You’re doin’ it.” Two elderly African-American women seated next to him concur. “Thank you,” they say. “We appreciate that.”

However, Aristaeus is bubbling over in a way they are not. He rises, saying, “whuus yo name?”
“Nathan.”
“Nathan, Jeremiah.” We shake hands. He declares, in a voice pitched as if I were thirty feet away, “I’m ’bout to go make babies with my girlfriend tonight, and I’ma name my new baby Nathan!”
“Wow. Wow! That’s an honor!”
“I’m feelin’ you tonight, man.”
“That’s huge!”
“I’m inspired!” He steps off the bus, glowing.

Did he just say that? “Now that I have not heard before!” I quip, after he’s gone. The old ladies crack up.

Something about all this compels the overweight fellow from further back to shout, “Hey! Can you apply for McDonalds online?”
Take it all in stride– “I’m not a hundred percent sure, but yeah, I think you can! I’m gonna say yes!”
“Okay. Cool.”
“You thinkin’ about lookin’ into it?”
“Yeah, I’s thinkin’ about getting a job again. I need to do somethin’ with my life.”
“Yeah, might be all right. Little bit a extra money on the side.”
I continue gently inspiring him. Just pretend it’s normal, all of this, to be yelling between the front of the bus and the middle of the bus about McDonalds versus Jack in the Box. I propose applying while also tactfully suggesting not eating fast food every day. He’s on board with both counts.

“You got me feelin’ talkative tonight!” he yells, turning to the person next to him– a demure elderly woman– and asking how much she thinks he weighs. He stands up to give her a better picture to guess from. “I bet you think I’m two fifty.” They’re discussing nutrition and weight fluctuation now, two people who couldn’t seem less alike, deep in earnest conversation. “I used to be one seventy five, but I max out at two eighty!”

The wheels on the bus, turning ever onward…

Update on Proposed U Link Bus Route Restructures

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A glimpse at Alternative 1 of the U Link bus restructure plan, courtesy of King County Metro.
A glimpse at Alternative 1 of the U Link bus restructure plan, courtesy of King County Metro.

Metro updated their website Thursday afternoon with the official proposals for changes to bus routes around new University Link light rail stations, scheduled to begin in March 2016. The Urbanist’s post from Monday has been updated to reflect those changes. The official proposals include many differences from what the Sounding Board saw in February–differences which are too numerous to mention here. Check out the full proposed route schedule and other details on the Urbanist’s updated post and on Metro’s website.

Vision Zero Passes Its First Test

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This stretch of Rainier Ave S through Columbia City is about to look very different. (Photo: SDOT)

Rainier Ave has long been recognized as a dangerous street, but little has ever been done to fix the issue. Residents have suggested various fixes multiple times since the 1970s, but were constantly rebuffed with concerns over budget or how such a move would affect the flow of cars down a principal arterial. That “cars first” attitude over the years has resulted in Rainier Ave being more of a highway than a neighborhood street, with disastrous results: Rainier sees an average of one crash every day, with 1,243 occurring in the past three years. In the past 10 years, 11 people have been killed, and at least another 1,700 injured.

With such a history, cynicism was high and hopes rather low when SDOT began presenting its preferred design alternatives Thursday Night at the Columbia City School. Many residents expected much of the past to be repeated, with a few inexpensive and inconsequential patches applied to Rainier and no substantive change.

Thankfully, that isn’t what happened. With Vision Zero’s goal of no road fatalities or serious injuries by 2030 as a starting point, SDOT showcased three design alternatives that amount to a massive redesign of Rainier Ave S as a neighborhood street.

May of the elements neighborhood activists expected are part of the plan: About 225 hours of extra enforcement by the Seattle Police Department, funded by grants and focusing on pedestrian safety; improved lane striping and road signage; and retimed traffic signals that prioritize pedestrian movement. Restrictions on left turns and other forms of ‘access control’ along the northern portion of the project area are also planned from S Alaska St to S Letitia St.

SDOT’s decision to drop the speed limit between Columbia and Hillman cities to 25 MPH was less expected, with staff noting the lower speed is far safer for people walking, and better aligned with the area’s overall character. But with an average of 40% of drivers on Rainier speeding by 3+ MPH (4,500 of them by 10+) merely lowing the speed limit isn’t enough: SDOT emphasized that the best way to control speed is through engineering and design. In line with that fact, Rainier Avenue is getting a road diet from S Alaska Street to S Henderson St. The question presented to the community wasn’t if such a change would happen, but what to do with the extra space – and how much it would cost.

An overview of the options for a Rainier Ave road diet. (Source: SDOT)

The most basic option presented (1a) would feature two general purpose lanes (one in each direction), a center turn lane, and wider parking lanes: Rainier’s existing street parking only allocates seven feet of space, which is enough to park most cars but doesn’t give people much room to exit their vehicle. Project Manager Jim Curtin also noted that “parklets and curb extensions have both been brought up as possibilities,” with SDOT still working to determine exactly what is possible. At about $500K, this option would mostly fit into the project’s existing budget, and would allow for phased improvements as more funds become available next year.

While early modeling has shown that traffic delays from a road diet and lowered speed limit would only be about two minutes during peak commuting hours, those delays can have a significant impact on transit. Given that Rainer Ave is host to Metro’s Route 7, which carries about 11,000 people a day, this is a problem worth avoiding. SDOT plans to do more advanced traffic simulations to confirm their numbers, but in the meantime they’ve proposed Option 2, which is similar to Option 1a but would take “some parking” away to create multiple transit queue jumps and “partial transit lanes” along the corridor. According to City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang, this could include a first for Seattle: reverse queue jumps, which would allow for a faster, cheaper implementation since bus stops wouldn’t need to be relocated. Additional improvements such as Transit Signal Priority would also be deployed to help speed buses along Rainier as quickly as possible, and Curtin noted that even outside of Option 2 SDOT “may decide that some transit and right turn lanes would be helpful further south on the corridor,” depending on what detailed modeling reveals. Surprisingly, even with the significant transit improvements, SDOT expects Option 2 to cost roughly the same as Option 1a: 500k to 750k.

Some community members expressed concerns about buses and bikes potentially mingling with each other along Rainier, but SDOT staff noted that this isn’t an unusual occurrence in Seattle, and hasn’t posed any  significant issues in the past. It’s worth noting here that Metro specifically trains its drivers how to maneuver around bicycles, and that collisions between buses and bikes are far less common than those between bikes and cars. Still, Curtin told me via email that “this would not be the kind of all ages and abilities [biking] facility that we’re hoping to install on the corridor.”

To see what kind of biking facilities SDOT does want to see on Rainier, we can look at Option 1B, which is largely similar to Option 1A, but adds a full protected bike lane from S Alaska St to S Kenny St. While substantially more expensive than the other two options, Option 1B would revolutionize bicycle access in Southeast Seattle, providing a direct, all-ages connection between the area’s two neighborhood centers, Link Light Rail, and the North/South Rainier Valley Greenway. While SDOT noted that this option presented some “design challenges,” Curtin assured me that they’re “aiming for a substantial barrier for the PBL regardless of the available space,” which is highly encouraging given how often existing PBLs on Broadway and Second Ave are abused by cars seeking parking. Likewise, he noted that a PBL on Rainier would likely preserve most of the existing parking along the route.

SDOT’s proposed improvements to Rainier through Rainier Beach, as part of a separate project, also include a Protected or Buffered Bike Lane south of 56th Ave S (Source: SDOT)

While the planned Protected Bike Line is still rather short – only about 9/10ths of a mile long – it could easily serve as a starter route for the valley, and that would appear to be SDOT’s goal: When asked by a resident why they didn’t extend the PBL all the way down Rainier, Dongho Chang noted “That’s a desire of ours as well.” Such hope is boosted by plans released by SDOT yesterday showing a second PBL on Rainier further south in Rainier Beach.

Ultimately, SDOT’s proposals still lack some details and misses a few potential improvements, such as additional marked crosswalks north of Genesee or revised street furniture to reduce blind spots at some intersections. However, the data and proposed changes laid out by SDOT are incredibly encouraging, and all of them represent a significant improvement over Rainier Ave as it stands. Regardless of what you think of the proposals, it’s clear SDOT is taking Vision Zero seriously–and that can only be good news.

Downtown Sees Big Growth, And That’s Good for Seattle

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Images from the Downtown Seattle Association report

The Downtown Seattle Association released their 2015 State of Downtown Economic Report and things are looking good. We’re number one in, well, a lot: sustainability, small business job growth, population growth, and independent coffee shops (naturally).

The report tracks five-year growth in key areas, from jobs to housing and from tourism to transportation. It makes clear that Downtown is an active, thriving area that has made a strong recovery from the recession. We’re adding approximately 24 residents every week and 25 jobs every day.

Downtown, defined liberally as everything from SODO to Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, is the economic engine of the region. Below is a breakdown of the 28-page document:

Transportation

The report shares findings from the recently released Downtown Seattle Commuter Trends survey by Commute Seattle. For starters, we’re one of only six cities in which fewer than half of commuters drive to work alone (31%), while 45%(!) take transit.

It also celebrated key transit projects in the area, including the near completion of the First Hill Streetcar, now delayed until August; planning for the City Center Connector, a streetcar with dedicated lanes connecting the SLU and First Hill lines; and 52.3 miles of bike lanes, shared lanes, and trails for people who bike.

Population

Simply put, it’s booming. Downtown has experienced eight-percent growth since 2010 compared to five-percent citywide, with another ten-percent expected by 2020. The area already has twice the residential density of the citywide average (triple if SODO is excluded).

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 10.56.31 PMThe typical Downtown resident is renting (81%), living alone (68%), and highly educated (53% with a bachelor’s degree or higher). There’s also a 30% chance they work Downtown, though several major transportation projects may change that.

People tend to live within a 30-minute commute. With the Link light rail expansion opening in early 2016, travel times from Downtown to Capitol Hill will be just three minutes, and six to UW. A revived passenger ferry from Bremerton will cut travel time there in half, to a mere 35 minutes. But without increased housing supply, they’ll be unlikely to see the benefit of closer proximity.

A major focus was the growing presence of children. A mere four percent of households have kids, though that number has grown seventeen percent since 2010. And while Downtown lacks the school infrastructure, growth in K-12 enrollment from downtown is triple that of the district average (11%).

Housing

Downtown is a renters’ market, with apartments outnumbering condos four-to-one. Supply is keeping up with demand, seeing ten-percent growth since 2010—though new construction appears to be tapering off with only 2700 new units scheduled to be under construction in 2016, down from 3400 in 2014.

Most units are studios or one-bedrooms (73%). They’re compact, too, averaging 638 square feet for an apartment and 913 square feet for a condo.

Market vacancy has fallen to below 4%, with rents continuing to climb. The average rent in 2010 was below $1500. Now it stands at $1906, compared to $1485 citywide and $1338 countywide.Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 6.33.10 PM

Jobs

Nearly a quarter million people work in Downtown, accounting for half of all jobs in the City and 21% of all jobs in King County. There is over 44 million square feet of office space—that’s half of all the office space in the Puget Sound region—and another 15 million in development. Amazon accounts for about a third of that new development, with 5 million square feet in development, almost exclusively in South Lake Union.

The workforce is dominated by the service industry, representing 144,100 jobs (59%). The Public sector is a distant second with 33,200 jobs (14%), followed by finance, insurance, and real estate with 23,600 jobs (10%) and retail with 22,600 jobs (9%).

Pedestrians
Pedestrian traffic is up a remarkable 35% since 2010, with the largest increases in the retail core and in South Lake Union around Amazon. The International District also saw an uptick in summer traffic, likely correlating to a summer Seahawks game.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 6.58.56 PMSeattle’s newly adopted Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate all citywide traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Part of the plan calls reducing speed limits downtown where most collisions occur. That’s good news for pedestrians, who are often on the losing side of a collision with a multi-ton metal vehicle.

Activities

Healthy cities have an abundance of activities and cultural events to enrich the lives of its residents, and Seattle has no shortage. In 2014, Downtown saw over 23 million attendees to more than 4,000 major events, museums, and attractions.

The report provides top reasons we’re such a hot spot for visitors: we’re one of the most walkable cities, we have easy transit access (especially light rail from the airport), we have diverse food establishments and boutique shops, and we have gorgeous natural scenery.Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 6.03.55 PM

Conclusion

Indeed, these are the very features we at The Urbanist fight to protect and expand. We know that cities do best when they’re active, accessible, and stimulating.

Downtown represents much of the best of urban living. It fosters the development of young, highly educated residents and business startups in tech, life sciences, and gaming. It offers a robust, multi-modal transit system with quality light rail, an expanding streetcar system, a burgeoning bikeshare program, and wide sidewalks. And it offers active streetscapes with engaging street-level businesses.

Our density is what facilitates all of this development. Density creates efficiency; it fosters interactions that spark innovations; it allows for the kind of specialization and niche building that build a thriving and exceptional culture.

Good urbanism isn’t and can’t be isolated to Downtown. We’re working to encourage smart, sensible development where it belongs; we’re fighting for vital pedestrian infrastructure in Northgate; we’re calling on legislators to expand light rail throughout the region and expand our streetcar system within the city; we want active streetscapes that prioritize the needs of people who walk, cycle, take transit, and drive; and we want affordable housing so more people can enjoy our beautiful city. When areas like Downtown thrive, so does the rest of the City and the region.

The New Seattle Transit Advisory Board

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Council President Tom Rasmussen discussing the new transit advisory board, courtesy of the Seattle Channel.
Council President Tom Rasmussen discussing the new transit advisory board, courtesy of the Seattle Channel.

On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council created by resolution a new advisory board to oversee all matters of transit in the city. The new Seattle Transit Advisory Board would consist of 12 board members selected throughout the city. Council President Tom Rasmussen introduced the resolution by describing its ties to the original Proposition 1 measure (the citywide bus funding measure), which called for a citizen’s committee to oversee how Proposition 1 funds are used. Rasmussen enumerated some the primary competencies that Proposition 1 envisioned for the Board:

Responsibilities of the Board include reviewing and providing comments on which routes get investments, and whether they are actually reducing overcrowding and improving reliability, the effectiveness of the use of funds for outreach and access to Metro’s low-income fare, how the vehicle license fee low-income program is being administered, and the status of the proposed Regional Partnership Program which will encourage other cities to participate with us in the enhanced service.

But, Rasmussen noted that the Board’s responsibility would be bigger than just oversight of Proposition 1 funds. The Board would be tasked with directly advising the Council, Mayor, and city departments on the full spectrum of issues related to transit. One of the big priorities for the Board, Rasmussen said, would be to ensure that the Transit Master Plan (TMP) is being realized by the city and local transit agencies. The Madison BRT project is a key element of the TMP, and currently in the planning process by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). This project, Rasmussen suggested, could be one of the first tasks for the newly created Board to take up and weigh in on.

The new Board would be modeled after other transportation advisory boards like Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Freight. Staff from SDOT’s newly formed Transit Division would be tasked to support the efforts of the Board. And, six of the positions will be appointed by the Mayor, and five by the Council, and one from Get Engaged as a young adult representative. Members will serve two-year terms on the Board, although six of the original 11 members will be appointed for three years to stagger future appointments. Specifically, the Resolution calls for board members to be chosen by the following criteria:

  • Different geographic areas of the City;
  • Different transit rider groups (persons with disabilities, senior and school age citizens, commuters, low-income riders);
  • Travelers of different modes of public transportation (e.g. bus, light rail, streetcar, and ferry);
  • Seattle residents with an interest in improving transit conditions within the City and region, and have experience with urban transit issues;
  • Transit-related organizations/clubs; and
  • Schools, business, and neighborhood organizations that particularly depend on the City’s public transportation system.

In other words, the Council wants to create a very diverse board that is knowledgeable, uses transit, and comes from various age groups and backgrounds. It’s a sensible approach to get a broad perspective on Seattle’s growing and future transit system. We’ll keep you posted when the board opens up for inaugural membership.