Monday, 25 May, 2020

FEIS For University District Urban Design Framework Released, Further Action Ahead

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On January 8th, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the University District Urban Design Framework (UDUDF). Prior to this FEIS, the Department proceeded with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in June 2014 to gather feedback on the issues and proposals identified in the DEIS. During the DEIS process, a No Action Alternative–growth under current development patterns–and two Action Alternatives–growth under different development patterns–for the neighborhood were evaluated by DPD. At the time, we encouraged readers to provide public comment on the project to support our own Alternative, dubbed “Alternative 4“, which was a combination of the best elements from the two Action Alternatives. We also provided a brief background on the overall project. In light of the released FEIS, we want to provide a debrief on the proposed changes, a call to action, remaining issues, and what’s next in the process.

DEIS and FEIS Proposals

At the heart of the UDUDF are options for growth in the University District, and the best ways to achieve it. The UDUDF examines a wide range of environmental issues like transportation, parks, emissions, utilities, and urban design to support and mitigate impacts from additional growth. The FEIS had only minor changes in respect to these issues when compared to the original DEIS Alternative Actions. A summary and deeper analysis of these background changes (if any) are discussed by the FEIS. However, the larger piece of the UDUDF FEIS are the proposed land use zoning changes. Broadly speaking these can be summarized as follows:

  • Alternative 1 and Alternative 1B focus development in a somewhat disperse pattern. In the core study area, mid-rise towers be added to the skyline and range from 125-160 feet while low-rise development would be encouraged in northern and southwestern portions of the neighborhood.
  • Alternative 2 and Alternative 2B focus development in a more compact pattern. In the core study area, high-rise towers could range from 240-340 feet while fewer areas outside of the core area would be candidates for additional growth potential. Where zoning changes are recommended outside of the core area, low-rise development would be encouraged.
  • In all four of the aforementioned Alternatives, no changes are proposed to the University of Washington Major Institution Overlay and existing industrial zoned areas.
  • Alternative 3 is the “no action” alternative, which would maintain existing zoning and approaches to development.

On the face of it, the FEIS Action Alternatives 1B and 2B would appear to be the same as the DEIS Alternatives 1 and 2, respectively. And, while the counterpart Action Alternatives for the DEIS and DEIS are based upon the same development standards and geographic distribution for growth, they differ in the underlying growth assumptions. The FEIS Action Alternatives assume that 1,100 more dwelling units would be accommodated than under the DEIS Action Alternatives, resulting in 5,000 additional dwelling units over current zoned capacity.

The FEIS anticipates Alternatives 1B and 2B could each see additional buildings over the DEIS projects of up to 8 buildings in Alternative 1B and 3 buildings in Alternative 2B. More specifically, Alternative 1B would accommodate up to 9,130 new dwelling units while Alternative 2B would accommodate up to 9,802 new dwelling units over the next 20 years*. In addition to the new dwelling units, the DEIS and FEIS Action Alternatives anticipate that 4,800 new jobs would be provided in each case over the baseline capacity of 8,401 new jobs.

In the maps below, you can see the zoning changes proposed for Action Alternatives 1/1B and 2/2B. It’s important to remember that DPD grouped the counterpart Action Alternatives from the DEIS and FEIS together since actual zoning proposals did not change, only total dwelling unit numbers under the scenarios.

U District UDF - Alternative 1BU District UDF - Alternative 2B

 

The DEIS generated over 100 comments with most in favor of some form of Action Alternative. An incredible number of comments even cited our Alternative 4 (see below) option for the UDUDF. The quality of the comments were certainly of high caliber with important issues raised like the need for more affordable housing options, increased transit service, more jobs and business, better public spaces, and the conservation of historic structures. But perhaps the most important outcome from the DEIS process was the forwarding of both Action Alternatives to the FEIS. This happened precisely because of the positive feedback that the Department received from the public and stakeholders on providing more opportunity and capacity for growth within the neighborhood. And, it’s for this reason that we believe some combination of the Action Alternatives are viable.

Maximizing the potential for development opportunities in the University District is an absolute necessity. Artificial restrictions through a less intense rezone would cause faster demolition and replacement of existing historic and affordable structures while also potentially reducing the capacity for new residents, jobs, and businesses over the 20-year planning horizon. These should be serious concerns for all when looking at both Alternative 1B and Alternative 2B as individually proposed. But there’s also a broader set of reasons that a bolder rezone should be presented to Council and ultimately adopted into code.

We previously noted that now is a pivotal time for the University District because “[it] is undergoing many major changes, including a new light rail station, an improved Burke-Gilman Trail, expansion of the UW’s West Campus, and dozens of mixed use projects in the heart of the neighborhood. The University District will be growing rapidly over the next 20 years. As the light rail station opens, and the network expands to Lynnwood and Bellevue, the University District will only grow more important as an educational, shopping, employment, and residential center, for students and long-term residents alike.”

We also said that “[t]he neighborhood core could become a strong anchor for research and development organizations, local services, offices that serve the University of Washington, and any private businesses that want space outside of Downtown Seattle. The University District’s convenient location and light rail access will make it a highly desirable place to live (even more than today); the more housing (and variety of housing types) that the neighborhood can accommodate, the better.”

For these reasons, we stand by our Alternative 4 and endorse it as the superior option for growth in the University District.

While we don’t know precisely when DPD will make their final zoning recommendations to Council, we encourage you to get ahead of the game and let them know now that you, too, still support our Alternative 4. And, perhaps more importantly, you should let Council know that approving the rezone at the earliest possible date is of utmost urgency. When you send comments to DPD (Dave LaClergue, Project Manager) and Council, please be sure to give very specific details about why you support Alternative 4. Doing so will add value to your overall comments so that Council understand why things like increased housing options, greater affordability, larger tax base, and efficient utilization of public resources are important to an Urban Center like the University District.

Alternative 4 - High Res
The Urbanist’s Alternative 4 for the University District.

Next Up: Green Streets Plan

DPD is slated to issue a Green Streets Plan for the University District in the next month. While we enthusiastically approve of most elements in the draft plan, we are deeply concerned by the street plans for NE 43rd St and Brooklyn Ave NE. The future Link Light Rail subway station for the University District will be located on the corner of NE 43rd St and Brooklyn Ave NE. In response to this, Metro will likely reorient its bus network to allocate some bus lines to directly serve the subway station.

Brooklyn Ave NE festival street, courtesy of DPD.
Brooklyn Ave NE festival street, courtesy of DPD.

By the nature of this facility, a massive number of passengers (12,000 at the very least) will be entering and exiting the station on a daily basis. Most passenger trips will be headed to and from the University of Washington campus, University Way (The Ave), local offices and residences, and presumably connecting bus services adjacent to and in proximity of the station. This also means that a great share of these trips will be directly funneled along the length of NE 43rd St from the station to the west edge of the University of Washington campus since bicyclists and pedestrians will want to go the shortest distance and most active way to and from their destinations. Despite whatever traffic engineering went into this plan, desire lines of foot-powered users will ultimately rule the day. Given this situation, the plans for the above-mentioned streets are wholly inadequate.

For instance, NE 43rd St is planned to only provide a 20-foot sidewalk on the north side of the street and a 10-foot sidewalk on the south side of the street between Brooklyn Ave NE and 15th Ave NE. Meanwhile, constant access will be given over to car traffic via two travel lanes (no different than today). Moreover, the Green Streets Plan explores a popup weekday farmers’ market on Brooklyn Ave NE–immediately adjacent to future bus bays–which would likely require the rerouting of buses when transformed into a festival street or over-programming of the space.

NE 43rd Street design and features, courtesy of DPD.
NE 43rd St design and features, courtesy of DPD.

In light of this, the prioritization of the streetscapes seems poorly pieced together. NE 43rd St should give pedestrians and bicyclists full priority over all other modes. The street should instead be closed to vehicular traffic in its entirety between Brooklyn Ave NE and 15th Ave NE. This could also double as the festival street due to the wide right-of-way and two blocks of pedestrian orientation. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Ave NE should remain free of uses that might force reroutes of buses off of the street. While that doesn’t mean a farmers’ market or other festival uses in some form couldn’t exist, they should not impede the right-of-way or bus boarding areas. To do so would cause constant confusion to passengers intending to use any future bus facilities adjacent to the subway station.

Down the Road: Future Action on Zoning

Again, while we are not certain of a particular date for DPD to forward legislation to Council on the rezone, we anticipate that this will occur sometime in the summer. We are hopeful that the process will not expand beyond this period and that Council will act quickly in the interest of allowing development to occur sooner rather than later. Legislation must first pass the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Mike O’Brien, before being transmitted to the full Council. In the meantime, getting comments in to all of the key decision-makers and policy-crafting bodies is very important so that this process can come to a swift and desirable conclusion for a better University District.

*This number is based upon an average dwelling unit size of 850 square feet and maximum residential capacity assumed under current and proposed zoning alternatives. It is not a calculation discrepancy. 

Seattle Planning Commission Seeking New Members

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Seattle at night by Kay Gaensler on Flickr.

If you’re a wonk about all things planning, then the City of Seattle may have just the opportunity for you. The Seattle Planning Commission is seeking to fill four open commissioner positions on the advisory body beginning in April 2015. The Planning Commission consists of 16 members that reviews a wide range of planning issues like affordable housing, transportation, architecture and design, land use, and community participation.

The Planning Commission is a representative body that provides a voice for Seattle residents to discuss and debate critical issues to a growing, vibrant, and diverse city. The Commission produces recommendations on policies and plans like land use code changes, Comprehensive Plan updates, subarea plans, parks planning, and transportation priorities and investments in order to help advise City decision-makers.

The City is looking for new members to the Commission with a broad range of skills and perspectives that are:

  • Knowledgeable about transportation infrastructure and how they support neighborhoods;
  • Capable of speaking to the issue of affordable housing and how that affordability affects a growing city;
  • Committed to engaging communities and building positive relationships;
  • Devoted to making Seattle a better place to live, work, and visit;
  • Informed and experienced in land use planning; and
  • Passionate about talking to diverse stakeholder groups about planning issues;

Members of the Seattle Planning Commission are appointed by the Mayor, City Council, and Commission for three-year terms and may serve two terms consecutively. To be eligible to serve on the Commission, you must be a resident of Seattle and not already be a paid staff member of the City.

If you are interested in a Commission position, you must be willing to take on the extensive commitments as a Commissioner. Monthly meetings occur on the second and fourth Thursdays, and attendance of at least one sub-committee per month is required. In addition to these, Commissioners are also expect to attend a host of other planning-related meetings and events as necessary.

Please contact Vanessa Murdock, Commission Executive Director, if you have an interest in one the positions or have questions by calling her at 206.733.9271 or sending an e-mail to Vanessa.Murdock@seattle.gov. To be considered for appointment to the Commission, a letter of interest and résumé must be received by Vanessa on or before January 31, 2015. Mailed applications can be addressed to:

Vanessa Murdock, Executive Director
Seattle Planning Commission
City of Seattle
Department of Planning and Development
PO Box 34019
Seattle, Washington 98124

The Price of Market Freedom

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Pike Place Market by Visual Sensory on Flickr.

I’ve found that many people conflate supply and demand, or price-based resource allocation, with the pseudo-ideal of a libertarian “free market”.

Supply and demand is an explanation for how the world works, not a value statement. If the number of people who want X and don’t have it exceeds the number of people who have X and don’t want it, then there is scarcity. Somehow, X will be allocated, and not everyone will get it.

Broadly speaking, there are three ways that you can allocate scarce resources. You can use pricing (whoever pays the most wins), queueing (whoever waits the longest, or exerts the most effort, wins), or lotteries (totally random). Each of these schemes can be modified by giving “bonus points” to certain people, which could make the system more or less fair, depending on how points are awarded. For example, you could give cash to people who don’t have much (welfare), or you could give cash to people who have a lot (the stock market). You can let disabled people cut in line (reserved parking spaces), or you can let rich people cut in line (business class security bypass at the airport). You can give extra lottery tickets to disadvantaged people (can’t think of an example), or you can give extra lottery tickets to advantaged people (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

There are two advantages that pricing has over the other two forms of allocation. Queueing involves truly wasted time/money/effort that could otherwise be put to more productive (or enjoyable) use. Lotteries do a poor job of allocating resources efficiently; the person who wins may not be the person who wants the item the most, or who will make the best use of it. Pricing — assuming that every person has equal resources [1] — avoids any wasted effort, and ensures that the scarce resources are allocated to the people who will make the best use of them.

However, if you commit to pricing-based allocation, and you don’t restrict prices, then any government regulations that influence supply or demand will also influence the market-clearing price. There is simply no way around this. Artificial supply restrictions will raise prices; artificial supply increases will lower prices. Artificial demand restrictions (like taxes) will lower prices; artificial demand subsidies (like tax deductions) will raise prices.

You can try to work around this problem by restricting prices, too, like with rent control. But if you’re artificially restricting supply, and you’re artificially restricting price, then you’re going to end up with shortages — which means that you aren’t really using price-based allocation at all, and you have all the disadvantages of queueing or lotteries. (Seattle Housing Authority and Capitol Hill Housing have multi-year wait lists for most properties, which isn’t exactly an ideal situation for homeless people.)

Alternatively, you can work with the system. For example, if the government builds huge piles of market-rate housing, then it will lower the market price for housing. (If you don’t believe that this would work, here’s another example: if the government builds huge piles of parking, then it will lower the market price for parking. This has actually happened in Seattle, and in almost every other American city.)

So we have two different model. In one of them (we’ll call it the San Francisco model), most housing is built and/or operated by private parties, but the government restricts pricing and building, leading to chronic shortages, and to overpricing of the subset of housing that is not price-contrlled. In another (we’ll call it the Singapore model), most housing is built and/or operated by the government, which purposely tries to build enough housing for everyone who needs it.

Does the Singapore example sound more like “the free market” to you? To me, they both sound like markets that are heavily affected by a single actor (the government). The difference is that Singapore’s intervention works with supply and demand, while San Francisco’s model works against it. It hopefully won’t come as a surprise that Singapore does a much better job at providing affordable housing.

[1] When inequality is very high (like in the US), the efficiency of pricing breaks down somewhat, since rich people who weakly want something can outbid poor people who desperately need it. This is only one of many problems with inequality. The solution is not to abandon pricing, but to abandon inequality, by enacting a set of policies designed to bolster the income and wealth of disadvantaged people, and to limit the income and wealth of those at the very top. This is yet another example of how a libertarian “free market” actually disregards the laws of economics.

This article is a cross-post that was originally published on Medium.

The Case for a Wallingford Crossing

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I-5 is wide concrete chasm between Wallingford and the U District, as seen from 45th St bridge. (Photo by author)

Interstate 5, like freeways everywhere, is a real barrier between Seattle’s U-District and Wallingford neighborhoods. Currently there are only four street connections between the two, down from 12 before the freeway was built.  Recent discussions at community meetings have brought up the idea of a pedestrian-bicycle bridge over the freeway at 47th Street, which is identified in the city’s Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) as a catalyst project and part of a major neighborhood greenway. The bridge could greatly improve the local and citywide pedestrian and bicycle network.

The BMP defines catalyst projects as “…located at significant choke points in the network that pose challenges to implementation due to infrastructure physical constraints…These projects are likely to be expensive, but are very important for network connectivity” (BMP Appendix 8B). But just because a 47th Street bridge is listed in the BMP doesn’t mean it’ll get built any time soon; in fact, the 2014-2019 Neighborhood Greenways work plan does not list it nor the east-west greenway for implementation. Greenways are neighborhood streets (shown in green below) designated for ped-bike safety improvements, such as speed bumps and new stop signs or traffic signals.

U-District Crop
Bicycle Master Plan for the U District, Wallingford, Roosevelt, and Ravenna, courtesy of SDOT.

This is partly because the BMP’s many miles of bike lanes (orange), cycle tracks (blue) and off-street trails (red) are supposed to be distributed and constructed throughout the city in an equitable manner. Another factor is the availability of money, and unfortunately most transportation funding at all levels of government still goes towards moving cars. Indeed, that’s the (literally) uphill battle that University Greenways is facing as it pushes the Seattle Department of Transportation to extend the Roosevelt protected bike lane further towards the 65th Street terminus of a repaving project, though going at least to 47th would help riders get through the dangerous intersection at 45th and connect to the eventual bridge.

The proximity to the University Playground could instead make the bridge open for parks funding, which will be ample when the Seattle Parks District starts collecting taxes in 2016. And it could be built sooner if advocates emphasize its importance to the 45th Street light rail station, to open in 2021. The bridge would enable Wallingford and Fremont bicyclists to more safely access the station and the U-District’s commercial center. The BMP indicates no plans for 45th or 50th Streets, two high-volume arterial roadways that cross I-5 nearby but only have standard sidewalks and no bicycle facilities. An east-west greenway is planned for a long stretch of 47th Street, but it also won’t be implemented anytime soon. However, 47th is already a low-traffic street and its intersection with the Brooklyn Avenue “green street” (a greenway with lots of plantings), which is planned for construction, will provide a logical and comfortable route.

Northgate Bridge Components
Possible design for a Northgate pedestrian and bicycle bridge, courtesy of SDOT.

The project is similar to the Northgate Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge (above) that will span I-5 and connect the 103rd Street light rail station, set to open at the same time, with a 1.1 mile east-west greenway that is to be built in 2017. Additionally, the station at Husky Stadium will be connected to the Burke Gilman trail via a new ped-bike bridge. The $25 million Northgate project is only partially funded; Seattle and Sound Transit have each committed $5 million under a self-imposed deadline of July 2015 to find the rest. Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien and King County Council member Larry Phillips, both on the Sound Transit board, are calling to ignore that deadline and continue to pursue federal grant money.

This provides a starting point for estimating the cost of the 47th Street bridge, which must cover 550 feet between 5th and 7th Avenues. The Northgate bridge will be between 1,800 and 2,200 feet long; the higher estimate is $14,000 per linear foot. The concept below is about 800 feet long, which comes to a rounded estimate of $12 million.

Bridge Plan
Possible location for a new bridge.

The length of the bridge will be dictated by the four off- and on- ramps at this location. Although they’re below the adjacent streets, it appears a straight and level bridge would have too little vertical clearance. The state transportation department is unlikely to resolve this by prohibiting trucks or lowering the ramps. So, the bridge will need to be angled, and the slope is limited by the needs of cyclists and and mobility-impaired people. The extra length can be accommodated by wrapping the bridge around itself or by extending into 47th Street. The latter would present issues for residential access and height clearance on the avenues.

Another possibility that residents have mentioned is capping the freeway between 45th and 50th, similar to the idea to lid I-5 in Downtown. It’s an equally valid strategy to bridge the massive gap and create needed open space, but it is a much more ambitious project that will take time to organize. My best guess using Google Earth puts the site at 14 acres. A ped-bike bridge is comparably simpler and can be done in time for the arrival of light rail. If you live in the neighborhood, reach out to local officials and ask them to get this project done sooner rather than later.

This article is a cross-post that was originally published on The Northwest Urbanist.

Sunday Video: Seattle Moves A Mountain, The Denny Regrade

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This video is a time capsule in two ways: First it provides a fascinating history of the sluicing of Denny Hill into Puget Sound during the Denny Regrade project and, second, it shows the man-conquers-nature attitude from when it was made (1970).

What We’re Reading: Let The People Decide On Climate

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Seattle area in smoggy conditions by Dave Ozolin on Flickr.

Tunnel talk: Governor Jay Inslee sits down with Grist to talk Bertha, still supports the projectStreetsblog asks if it’s too late to stop Bertha for good. And, if you’re curious how much has been spent for the project, get it to the penny here!

Transit apps: King County launches a new regional transit app service. OneBusAway is evidently fixed with new improvements.

Linking Tacoma: Tacoma Link will finish up preliminary engineering in 2015 for an extension.

Corkbucks: My old stomping grounds in Cork City, Ireland are getting a Starbucks–you have no idea how big a of deal this is.

A bit more than a penny: Only 2% of the center city curb space is occupied with bike lanes.

New York stations: NY Times looks at how a subway station ended up costing $4 billion, and talks about the loss of Penn Station as the savior of Grand Central.

PPPs: How public private partnerships (PPP) work for some infrastructure projects, but not all. Crosscut separately takes a look at PPPs in Canada.

No highways please: Strong Towns says that we should not build new roads. And, a good review of why highways are inefficient investments in urban areas.

Win for trail advocates: The Feds reject a railroad lawsuit securing Kirkland’s trail system.

Straight talk: Councilmember Paul Roberts for the City of Everett sits down with Seattle Transit Blog to talk transit, land use, and taxing strategies for Snohomish County in a two-part interview (Part 1 and Part 2).

Urban price cut: DC takes a price dip for rentals for the month of November.

Chicagoland: Curious about Chicago architecture? Take a look!

Law breakers: An honest discussion on why bicyclists traffic break laws.

No new bathrooms: Germany has resorted to some interesting land use laws to stop new construction and improvements, perhaps for a good cause.

Cheap layover: A clever kid figured out a way to save you money getting to New York City and beyond by “laying over“.

Free college: The Obama Administration is proposing free community college.

The people decide: Washington residents strongly support a tax on carbon emissions.

Suburban poverty: While cities have struggled with poverty for a long time, the suburbs are becoming overwhelmed rapidly.

Fatherless: The US ranks worst of 38 countries for paternal leave.

Fix a street: SDOT has a wiki page to map improvements for city streets.

ICYMI: SDOT Will Extend Roosevelt Protected Bike Lanes to NE 65th St

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SDOT is in the process of a planned repaving project for Roosevelt Way between NE 65th Street (Roosevelt) and Fuhrman Ave E (Eastlake). When we last provided an update on this project, SDOT was focusing much of its effort on repaving, pedestrian and transit enhancements, and modest improvements to bicycle facilities. However, the scope of SDOT’s project has expanded since then. We’d like to recap some of the changes on the way and talk about the big win for cyclists under SDOT’s plan.

Improvements for Bicyclists, Pedestrians, and Transit

Revised Roosevelt PBLOne key element of the project is a one-way protected bike lane (PBL) on the west side of Roosevelt Way. PBLs benefit all users of the right-of-way because they separate bicyclists from general traffic and parked cars, separate pedestrians from potential bicycle conflicts, and provide predictability for drivers when using the street.

Originally, SDOT had only planned a new PBL facility between NE 45th Street and the University Bridge due to funding constraints. SDOT had expressed a hope that more improvements could be added along the corridor in the spirit of the City’s Complete Streets Ordinance and Bicycle Master Plan if further funding could be found. Yesterday, the agency announced that it had indeed secured the necessary funding to construct the PBL along the whole length of the Roosevelt Way Repaving project. The PBL will now stretch from NE 65th Street to Fuhrman Ave E providing up to 25 more blocks of safe biking infrastructure.

The case for extending the Roosevelt Way PBL was strong from the outset of the project. Between October 2010 and October 2014, bicyclists had been involved in 21 separate collision along the full Roosevelt Way corridor with 9 of those on the blocks between NE 65th St and NE 45th St.

The first portion of the PBL between NE 45th St and the University Bridge should launch before the larger project, slated for sometime in early 2015. The PBL will ultimately be integrated into the new University Neighborhood Greenway (12th Ave NE) via NE 47th St and the Ravenna Blvd buffered bike lane–which will also soon be upgraded to a PBL. Where the PBL crosses in front of driveways, SDOT will apply green advisory paint to the asphalt to indicate the sensitive nature of such crossings.

Aside from the PBL, SDOT will enhance the experience for pedestrians and transit users alike along Roosevelt Way. The agency plans to reconstruct or repair sidewalks where warranted, add curb bulbs at the ends of blocks, and provide new ADA-compliant ramps. New curb bulbs will be especially welcome because they reduce the distance that pedestrians must walk to cross the street while constricting the movement of motorized vehicles. Together, this creates a safer situation for all users.

Transit will get a good boost from the project through the deployment of “transit islands” adjacent to existing bus stops along Roosevelt Way (much like those seen on Dexter Ave N). These transit stops are in-lane stops that are separated from the sidewalk. This separation is typically small, but enough to enable bicyclists to pass behind the transit island unobstructed. This particular feature is a smart way to add safety for bicyclists because it removes the need to play leapfrog with buses under the common bike lane arrangement. Meanwhile, buses can directly stop adjacent to the transit islands instead of pulling over to the side of the street. This enhances the reliability of buses because operators no longer have to re-enter traffic, which can add delay to buses and increase potential traffic conflicts. For transit riders, transit islands will increase waiting space at stops and provide level-boarding for ADA users.

What Changes Could Look Like

So you may be wondering what these changes mean for Roosevelt Way. SDOT plans to retain the two travel lanes along Roosevelt Way. However, in order to provide the needed pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements, parking and loading zones will be removed along the west side of the street. The agency will be conducting a utilization analysis to determine any potential impacts to businesses and residents that may result from parking removal. (But, as we’ve noted in the past, the data usually shows positive results when parking is removed or managed.) Below, you can see can a comparison between the current street layout and the revised layout under SDOT’s plan.

Roosevelt Cross Section - ExistingRevised Roosevelt PBL

Cost and Timing

The total cost of the Roosevelt Way improvement projects will come in at around $9.1 million with funding from the voter-approved Bridging the Gap Levy. While repaving of Roosevelt Way won’t take place until Spring 2015, initial work on the lower portion of the PBL should begin in early 2015. SDOT anticipates that full project work on Roosevelt Way should wrap up sometime in Spring 2016.

Roosevelt Funding Sources

How To Get Involved

SDOT will hold three meetings later this month to listen to the public and answer questions about the project. The times and locations for these meetings are as follows:

Tuesday, January 20
2pm to 3.30pm
University Heights Community Center
5031 University Way NE

Wednesday, January 21
8am to 9.30am
Wayward Coffeehouse
6417 Roosevelt Way NE

Thursday, January 22
5.30pm to 7pm
University Heights Community Center
5031 University Way NE

If you have comments or questions about the projects, you can contact Paul Elliott. For more details about the Roosevelt protected bike lane and repaving projects, check out SDOT’s PBL Q&A and repaving information pages. 

Seattle Streetcar Rationalizing Fares in March

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Seattle Streetcar SLU
South Lake Union Streetcar bound for Pacific Place Station, courtesy of SDOT.

The Seattle Streetcar, whose South Lake Union starter line opened in 2007, has its share of oddities. Though Seattle’s streetcars are operated by Metro, they are funded and planned by the City of Seattle, which chose to set the adult fare at $2.50. That fare choice meant that ridership was actually discouraged during off-peak hours, when nearby buses serving the area are cheaper (the adult Metro fare is $2.25 off-peak). Even stranger: until recently, ORCA cards were accepted as ‘flash passes’ on the streetcar. This created a disproportionate incentive for ORCA cardholders to ride the streetcar, while doing nothing for tourists (who often don’t have ORCA cards) or low-income persons (who often can’t afford one).

While not the only reason, you could easily see such choices by Seattle as contributors to the Seattle Streetcar’s poor ridership. The good news is that SDOT’s new Transit Division has proposed realigning Seattle Streetcar’s fare structure ahead of the First Hill line’s opening later this year. Instead of charging Metro’s peak 1-zone fare, the new structure aims to harmonize with Link Light Rail. Adults will pay $2.25, equivalent to Link’s base fare. Just like Link, Seattle Streetcar will also participate in the new low-income fare program, charging those riders $1.25 $1.50. Finally, a new $5 day pass will be available, though it will only be honored on streetcars. The day pass will be $4.50 for adults, $3 for youth, and $2 for seniors and disabled persons.

Riders will be able to use ORCA cards to transfer for free between the streetcar and other services*, thanks to the installation of validators at all streetcar stops. SDOT will also be upgrading the existing ticket vending machines at streetcar stops to newer models based on their new parking pay stations, which feature faster processing times and a less confusing interface, and which will support the new day passes.

These proposed changes are excellent and long overdue. Charging more for streetcars over buses has never made much sense, given the Seattle Streetcar network’s lack of dedicated right-of-way and short length; synchronizing fares with Link fixes that problem. Meanwhile, the new low-income fare will open up the streetcars to a new group of riders. This is a particularly welcome move with the opening of the new First Hill line, going right by Yesler Terrace (one of the largest affordable housing redevelopment projects in the country), the International District, and First Hill’s medical services. The new day pass is intriguing as well, but ultimately highlights just how badly a 1-day PugetPass is needed on ORCA cards.

SDOT is accepting public comment on the proposed changes at their website, and will hold a public meeting on the proposed changes on February 2nd in room L280 at City Hall.

*If the fare for the second service is equal or lower. If the second service has a higher fare, they will be charged the incremental different when they transfer.

UPDATE: This article has been corrected since publication.