Monday, 25 May, 2020

What We’re Reading: Chill On The Newbie Hate

Capitol Hill Block Party by David Lichterman on Flickr.

Keep ’em out: An article in defense of newcomers to Seattle ($); they have a lot to offer, so chill it!

Battery powered: Your future train just might be battery powered, and here’s how.

New transit app: A rundown on the pros and cons of the Puget Sound’s newest transit app; Martin over at the STB isn’t so keen on it. We’re still fans of Transit App.

Better maps: We do great at making maps for people who can see, but what about for those who can’t? The solution is braille maps.

Westlake Cycletrack: The latest details on the Westlake Cycletrack are out; the designs are actually very good.

Swedish expansion: Neighbors of Squire Park near Swedish Hospital are livid about the latest proposal from the hospital and their contract company, a debrief on the latest meeting.

Weekly Bertha: Crosscut has the latest on the struggle and drama over Bertha. It’s pretty clear that cost overruns are not the responsibility of the State, but the City of Seattle. Seattle wasn’t warned about the likelihood of “catastrophic failure” by the State. And, the City Council does not trust WSDOT.

Safe routes: Washington Bikes provides an outlook on funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and Safe Routes to School Program, only 20% of the $100+ million grant requests will be funded over the next two years.

New Greenway: Construct of the Central Area Greenway will get underway this month.

Boston Olympics: If Boston is successful for the Summer Olympics, this could be what the new Olympic grounds could look like.

Charlie and the Chocolate Skyscraper: The future elevator just might let you go left and right in addition to up and down; skyscrapers could change radically.

Bus pup: Seattle’s special bus rider is world famous now.

No respect: Some drivers still aren’t respecting the space of bicyclists.

Radical gamesmanship: Senate Republicans create an unconstitutional rule for the chamber by increasing the number of votes needed to pass tax increases. The party also released a very regressive plan for state programs and education.

Productive farming: This indoor farm is 100 times more efficient than your standard farm.

Reducing poverty: Mayor Ed Murray creates a more permanent plan for more homeless encampments and beds at shelters.

22nd and Madison: A new development is on the way for the intersection of 22nd Ave and Madison St.

Populist: Governor Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State Address, which was very populist in nature.

Tenant protection: Senator David Frockt introduced his legislation for greater tenant protections.

Modern newspaper: France’s Le Monde is slated to get some swanky new digs.

The only theory: One economic theory to explain all of the things.

History teaches: What the collapse of ancient capitals can teach us about cities today.

Regressive taxation: Guess which state has the most regressive taxes!? We do!

Different wages: There might be a good case for cities having different minimum wages from their state.

Vision Zero: One question can win the effort to create zero deaths on our streets. We know the rules of the road aren’t enough to save people’s lives.

Protected bike lanes: They work in the suburbs of the Netherlands, there’s no reason they can’t in the US.

Big myth: The story of gentrification is sort of a myth.

Decline of driving: It started a lot earlier than you probably think.

Taco Time Apartments: A review of the mixed use project on E Madison St from CHS.

New Closure and Detour Coming to the Burke-Gilman Trail

City Light BGT Detour
Detour in effect beginning Saturday along the BGT, courtesy of Seattle City Light.

The construction along the Burke-Gilman Trail (BGT) seems almost never ending, and it’s about to get a bit more painful for regular users. Since summertime, Seattle City Light has been working segment-by-segment to do utility work in the trail right-of-way. The BGT was recently closed between Adams Lane NE and 7th Avenue NE. The next stage of construction moves the closure further westward between the University Bridge and I-5. The new closure and detours go in effect on January 17 (Saturday) and should last until mid-February. The good news is that this is the very last phase of construction by Seattle City Light along the BGT. Other work elsewhere on the BGT will continue by the University of Washington and Sound Transit.

The UW is keeping the public up to date with a handy Google Map (see below) for all of the closures and detours.

Seattle City Light has the full details of the project:

Seattle City Light is continuing its electrical reliability and capacity upgrade of the system feeding the University of Washington (UW). The project has required intermittent detours of the Burke-Gilman Trail while underground conduit is installed between City Light’s substation near I-5 and the UW’s substation near 15th Ave NE.

This last phase of conduit installation will require detour of the trail between Latona Avenue NE in Wallingford and Adams Lane near the University Bridge. See Burke-Gilman detour map. The work has a planned start date of this Saturday, January 17 and will last until approximately mid-February, 2015.

Pedestrians will be detoured onto sidewalks while cyclists will be detoured onto pre-existing designated bike lanes and lanes to be set apart in current traffic lanes. In the latter case, cones bolted to the asphalt will separate cyclists from traffic. For roadway adjustments to protect bicyclists, see Burke-Gilman Trail detour insets on map . Signage will direct cyclists and pedestrians at waypoints along the detour route. See Burke-Gilman Trail detour signage example. 

Westbound motorists on NE 40th Street will not be permitted to turn left onto NE Pacific Street at 5th Avenue NE to accommodate the new temporary lanes for cyclists. Traffic will be detoured there and can rejoin westbound NE Pacific Street at Latona Avenue NE.

Tweet of the Week: Streets for People


This week’s tweet is a reminder that language matters. Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former chief planner, writes:

What does it mean for a street to be open or closed? A typical arterial in a North American City might be 120 feet wide from building to building, if not wider. Aside from two 10-foot sidewalks and the occasional crosswalk, most of that width is unavailable for pedestrian use. Anyone who tried to walk in that space would either be arrested or hospitalized.

The past 70-odd years have seen the steady erosion of pedestrian space, and the expansion of space reserved for cars. And this expansion has affected how we speak and write. At least in the US, car travel is linguistically unmarked. “Directions” means driving directions. “A map” means a road map, and probably one where limited-access are emphasized as fast travel corridors rather than impermeable barriers. “Traffic” means congestion on roadways used by motor vehicles. “Closed” means that cars aren’t allowed (like when San Francisco proposed to improve pedestrian access and safety on a crooked part of Lombard Street by restricting car access).

You can ask for walking directions, or a transit map; you can complain about bicycle traffic on the Burke-Gilman trail, or about how pedestrians aren’t allowed to cross SR-520. But without the qualifiers — without the words “walking”, or “transit”, or “bicycle”, or “pedestrians” — everyone will assume you’re talking about cars.

The way our cities are built will not change overnight. But we can change the way we talk about them. The next time your city proposes to create or expand a pedestrian zone, follow Brent Toderian’s example, and call it what it is: a street opening.

Rider Alert: One-Month Rerouting for Metro Route 44

King County Metro Route 44 by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.

A significant reroute of King County Metro Route 44 goes in effect today (January 16th) and will last through February 16th. This reroute is due to construction work taking place at the Montlake Triangle. Eastbound buses, signed “UNIVERSITY DISTRICT”, will terminate at NE Campus Parkway and turn back. The last stop for eastbound buses will be the 15th Ave NE/NE Campus Parkway stop (next to Schmitz Hall). And, westbound buses, signed “BALLARD”, will begin at the 15th Ave NE/NE 42nd St stop.

This reroute will not impact other bus routes (like the 25, 43, and 48) that travel along the NE Pacific St and Montlake Blvd NE corridors. For similar service to and from the UW Medical Center, South Campus, and Husky Stadium, use alternatives like Metro routes 43, 48, 167, 197, and 271, or Sound Transit routes 540, 542, 556, and 586.

Seattle Set to Increase Car Share Limits


On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council transportation committee voted to approve an increase in the number of free-floating carshare permits and operators. This would primarily benefit car2go, the German company whose blue-and-white mini cars are rented on a per minute basis. Up from 350 vehicles beginning in 2012, the company has reached the 500 vehicle cap under a pilot program monitored by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The service has proved immensely popular, and reportedly has 59,000 members in Seattle–the largest of car2go’s 30 home cities–representing nearly one-tenth of the city’s population. The company has requested authority to expand. The proposed legislation (PDF) will increase the permit cap six-fold and allow up to four carshare operators in the city.

In the car2go model, drivers don’t need to return the vehicle to a dedicated parking space, hence the term “free floating”. This enhances the public transportation network by enabling trips that may be inconvenient to reach by other means. Members can reserve vehicles up to 30 minutes in advance online or walk up to a vehicle on the street and go. Drivers can park on most streets, with exceptions on some business and arterial streets. According to a staff report (PDF), the vehicles currently occupy only 0.7% of the city’s paid parking space. On average, each vehicle is used six times per day and parked only 68 minutes between trips. Personal vehicles are unused 95 percent of the time.

Committee chair Tom Rasmussen noted that car2go estimates up to 4% (2,360) of Seattle members have ditched a personal vehicle since joining, which removes the option of driving everywhere for every activity and results in congestion reduction. Increasing membership of carshare services will only improve this outcome. SDOT Director Scott Kubly said car sharing is “…a key component to creating choices for people to get around the city, and allowing people to live a car-free or car-light lifestyle”.

Car2Go App ScreenshotThe pilot program’s limitations will be resolved by the proposed legislation. There will be a cap of four car share operators; only two others, Zipcar and BMW’s DriveNow, have expressed interest, but the additional competition will enable the market to set prices and create greater consumer choice. The pilot program’s service area will also expand to the entire city limits, up from about two-thirds of it now. And after two years of service, new operators will be required to serve the entire city in exchange for an increased cap of 750 vehicles per operator (car2go would fall under this now). Effectively, this translates to a maximum of 3,000 car share vehicles citywide. That’s in addition to the hundreds of spot-based Zipcars already in place. The legislation requires regular reports from SDOT, and starting next year the SDOT Director is authorized to adjust the caps as necessary.

The permit cost for each vehicle will increase from $1,330 to $1,730. During the public hearing, car2go representative Walter Rosenkrantz said the company could not simply absorb that cost and may need to raise rental rates or reduce their sponsorship of community groups and events. SDOT’s reports are to include data on neighborhood parking rates and utilization so that fees can be adjusted as needed. Other considerations brought up were the desire for electric vehicles, though that would present logistical problems for charging, and the feasibility of integrating the ORCA card system with car2go. The legislation will next go to the full City Council.

Things are looking up for transportation in Seattle. Last year, one of the mayor’s task forces smoothed out the ridesharing debate with companies like Lyft and Uber, local bus funding was secured to prevent major cuts, bikeshare launched, two new light rail stations will open in 2016, and complete streets continue to be built out. The expansion of carshare services will further incentivize the reduction of urban automobile ownership and improve mobility options citywide.

This article is a cross-post from The Northwest Urbanist, the personal blog of Scott Bonjukian. He is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Department of Urban Design and Planning.

Let Us Not Judge, That We Might Not be Judged Ourselves




“How you doin’ tonight?”
“Typically!” he says. “And yourself?
“Oh, I’m well!”
“That’s excellent!” he smiles. “And syntactically correct!”
“I do my best!”

That was the first guy. With him is a second man, his friend. Both have books. I ask the first fellow what he’s reading, and it’s a hefty sci-fi tome of at least a thousand pages, about the export of steel across different galaxies. “Seminal stuff,” as he describes it, from the great 1960s-70s period of sci-fi. “Asimov, Frank Herbert, all those guys.”
“Just a little light reading!” I say.
He laughs with pleasure.

“And how about you, what do you have there?”
The second man turns up from his own book. “Oh, this is, it’s about Intercultural Communications.”
“Yeah, it’s all about the complexities of communicating between cultures, and how the studies we do can impact those communications and how we apply those results can fundamentally affect decisions people make.”
“Oh wow. So it’s talking about the impact of the studies themselves?”
“More how those studies are conducted.”
“Yeah, how the different methods chosen can influence the results and what people do with those results.”

Once again, just some light reading. I ask him a few more questions about it. I’m fascinated and want to look it up myself. “What’s it called, the book again?”
“It’s, uh. Experiencing Intercultural Communications, an Introduction. By Judith,”
I’m scribbling down the title. “Experiencing….”
“Yeah, Experiencing Intercultural Communications. By Judith Martin and Thomas Nakayama.”
“By Judith Martin.”
“And Thomas Nakayama. Yeah, it’s really good.”
“Nakayama, first name Thomas?”
“What made you choose this book? I mean, that’s a pretty specific focus,”
“I just thought it sounded interesting. And what’s really cool is, at the end of each chapter, they have like sixty or seventy citations to other books on similar subjects to what was covered in the chapter.”
“Oh, that’s a gold mine!”
“Yeah, so if you’re interested in this or that, you can go read further, and get all in detail. Which has been super helpful.”

These two were not students attending accredited universities. They were not educated businessmen. They were street people, quite possibly homeless, no different in look from so many of the huddled figures we pass on the sidewalks downtown. What was it my elementary school teacher told us when she broke down the word “assume?”

Mayor Murray Says “Give Seattle More Buses”

Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine discussing their new transit partnership, courtesy of the Seattle Mayor’s Office.

Last year was a very uncertain time for transit in Seattle. At the beginning of it, we were bracing for service reductions by as much as 17% over a two-year period. Some measure of hope was given by a countywide ballot in April to prevent service reductions. But that vote was narrowly defeated by exurban and rural voters. Seattle then mulled over an idea to save its service in the aftermath while King County Councilmembers fought over how to forestall or lessen the impact of impending cuts. The bloodshed began in late September as the first round of service reductions went into effect, mostly affecting peak-oriented trips. But things changed rapidly. King County managed to call off all planned cuts in early October and Seattle voted overwhelmingly in favor of taxes to increase bus service.

Increase. A year ago, that word seemed almost impossible. Frequent Network Plan? Pure fantasy. We had buses to kill, or at best save. But now we really do get to talk about increasing service, and the Mayor has just the plan to do it.

On Monday, the Mayor summarized how important his plan for increased Seattle bus service is:

By adding more than 200,000 more hours of bus service annually, we can ensure that transit expands along with our growing city. This voter-approved investment in additional service will help make transit a better choice for everyone in Seattle, and is the first major expansion of bus service in our city in almost a decade.

Under Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s plan, the city would see 223,000 service hours annually added to the baseline service that we see today. A strong focus of the service hours are geared toward reducing crowding and improving reliability of existing routes. Service hours will be targeted at adding frequency on 34 high-demand routes, revising schedules of 48 routes that are chronically unreliable, and adding new buses to 16 routes that are severely overcrowded. Hours that are added to increase frequency will be allocated toward all service periods: peak, off-peak, weekend, and night. The latter three should be especially good news to bus riders.

In addition to this, a small sliver of funding will go toward partnerships with other jurisdictions ($3 million annually) and social welfare ($2 million annually). The voter-approved measure allows the City to enter into contracts with other cities that want to cost-share routes that also serve Seattle. These types of routes would exceed Seattle’s standard requirement for full subsidy (routes that operate at least 80% of their service hours in the city can qualify for full funding). An example of cost-shared services might be peak commuter routes like the 158 (Seattle-Kent-Covington) or 212 (Seattle-Southeast Bellevue). If the pair cities are willing to pay for a portion of the service cost, Seattle could pick up the remainder to keep or add these long-distance services. Meanwhile, the new ORCA LIFT program for low income earners will receive funding assistance from the City. Fares under the program are reduced for many services like King County Metro, the Seattle Streetcar, and Central Link Light Rail.

The terms of the contract create a very unique situation for the newly formed Transit Division of SDOT. While service planning and implementation will be collaborative between SDOT and King County Metro, SDOT will still have a strong say in what types of service treatments individual bus routes will receive under the partnership. To help guide the allocation of service hours and improvements, the agency will use the City’s adopted Transit Master Plan and the baseline Service Guidelines promulgated by King County Metro itself.

The first step to making all of this a reality is the execution of a contract for service between the City of Seattle and King County. On Monday, the Mayor’s Office said that this should happen very soon after the City Council has had an opportunity to review and approve the final contract language. The Mayor sent the contract to Council the same day. King County Executive Dow Constantine also sent the same contract language to the County Council for review and approval on Monday.

The service increase is only possible because of the successful vote for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 in November. This measure ensures that at least $45 million in earmarked revenue will be collected through a combination of an annual vehicle licensing fee and sales tax increase. The annual vehicle licensing fee is $60 and sales tax increase is 0.1%. The Transportation Benefit District has the authority to levy these revenue sources for six years.

Under the terms of the contract, the City and County will enter into a binding agreement for three years worth of service increases at a total cost of $120 million. The contract could be renewed for a further three years, which happens to coincide with the life of the voter-approved revenue source. The rounds of service increases will occur this year: one in June and the other in September, each coinciding with King County Metro’s regular service changes.

UPDATE: Seattle Transit Blog has additional information on how the service hours will be allocated route by route. You can read the contract language and King County Council’s ordinance here and here, respectively.

SDOT Installing Interim Protected Bike Lane on Roosevelt

IMG_1118 crop
Looking southbound on Roosevelt Way NE from NE 43rd Street.

As planned, this week the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) began installing a temporary protected bike lane (PBL) on Roosevelt Way NE between NE 45th Street and the University Bridge. Dawn Schellenberg, community engagement liaison at SDOT, says it should be completed later this week. The interim improvements include closing the west parking lane, creating a buffer with paint and plastic bollards, and new signage. The PBL will be made permanent and extend another mile north to NE 65th Street after the completion of a full street repaving in fall 2015.

This interim demonstration project is, to our knowledge here at The Urbanist, the first of its kind in Seattle. SDOT is allegedly prompted by immediate safety concerns; this corridor saw 21 collisions involving bicyclists between October 2010 and October 2014, or about five per year, making it one of the most dangerous routes in the city. But the repaving project wasn’t originally going to improve the street’s parking-adjacent bike lane at all. It took a push by University Greenways, a neighborhood group, to get SDOT to implement its own plan for a PBL on this street. SDOT took the initiative to find additional funding and came back with updated plans last week to install the PBL along the entire length of the repaving project.

The temporary improvements don’t yet include curb changes at the University Bridge entrance, where people on bikes are forced to merge with motor vehicles for a short stretch. That will change with the full PBL later this year.

UPDATE: The following are additional photos see from along the corridor today.