Sunday, 12 July, 2020

Merry Christmas, Gosh Darn It


Picture 2


There’s a Samoan man in sharp leather who calls me “Center of the Universe.” It’s because I that’s how I announce Third and Pike/Pine. Tonight, somewhere on Jackson, he launched into the following tirade, which I need to contextualize by saying it was yelled hoarsely by him with a smile on his face. I had just innocuously fared someone well with “happy holidays.” From the middle of the bus, which is scattered at this late hour with faces rugged but friendly:

“Stop sayin’ that shit, man, ‘happy holidays!’ It’s bullshit and you know it!” Arms histrionically waving in the air. “It’s about Christmas! It’s ‘Merry Christmas!’ This holiday is about praisin’ the Lord from up on high, man! Fuckin’ happy holidays, forget that brother, this is about Jesus!” I’m laughing and he is too. He’d be a great preacher.

“Is that right?”

“Yeah it’s right, praisin’ the greater glory of God, don’t hide it! You know better! It ain’t about the merchants, we can’t be celebrating the merchants, ‘happy holidays,’ they’re just tryna make money off tha Lord! Its about the, it’s about Jesus repayin’ our debts and rebuildin’ that church in three days! Don’t say ‘happy holidays!’ I heard you sayin’ that bull, it ain’t no happy holidays,”

“I been sayin’ both! You heard me mixin’ it up!”

“Merchants just after your money, everybody use it as an excuse to buy stuff, they max out their credit cards five years with a swipe! Buy more this year than they did last year!”

“Well, I know that’s true!”

“I’m just thinkin’ aloud, guys,” he says, downshifting. “Thanks for listening!”

“Hey, I’m down, you can say what you gotta say!”

“Thanks for hearing me out, everybody!”

Later on, he said, “hey, what’s your name?”

“I’m Nathan. Nathan.”

“Nathan. I’m Patu.”


“Patu yeah, I’m Samoan. You’re a great bus driver great guy.”

“Thank you. It’s always good to see you!”

“Have a good night! And–” forget political correctness for now, as we holler at each other in unison–”Merry Christmas!”

Later that night, an elderly Jamaican regular looked at me askance after I had diplomatically said “happy holidays.”

“I define my holidays,” he said. Dramatic Pause. Then: “Merry Christmas!”

Okay then! “Merry Christmas!”

I suppose it’s similar to how I feel about the term Caucasian. The etymology derives from the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, with specific reference to the 18th-century populations which lived on the southern slopes. Neither I, nor my father nor any of his ancestors have ever had anything to with the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. I guess I prefer the non-PC “half-white” or “non-white” or yes, “mixed-race,” or the tentatively canonized “hapa.” Or we could all just settle for “Muggle.”

Having said all of that: Happy Holidays!

Sunday Video: Djidjila’letch to Pioneer Square


Djidjila’letch to Pioneer Square by the Burke Museum on YouTube.

Watch the changing face of Pioneer Square from tribal village to the modern district of today.

What We’re Reading: Paddleboard Urbanism

Sunrise over Lake Union by Ryan Healy.

Photo finish: The Fremont Bridge will see over 1 million bike rides for 2014.

Northgate ped-bike bridge: Local politicians call for more time on promised funding for the Northgate pedestrian and bike bridge across I-5. The project is at risk of losing Sound Transit funding.

Robot cars: Six things that The Oatmeal learned from riding in a Google self-driving car.

Paddleboard urbanism: Building up cities around people’s enjoyment of water and their outdoor lifestyles.

Bertha still floundering: The new tunnel won’t open until at least August 2017–likely later. Martin over at Seattle Transit Blog takes a whack at the deep bore tunnel mess and concludes that the project is still terrible, despite the political establishment sitting on their hands. And, Streetsblog’s podcast, Talking Headways, talks the tunnel.

Risky choices: It’ll shock you how much safer rider transit is in comparison to driving, despite isolated events like a suspect stabbing a man on the bus this week.

60 years: See the change of Midwest cities over 60 years.

Indecisive Mercer Islanders: After asking for exclusive parking, Mercer Island looks poised to give up on a new parking structure for transit.

Charge for congestion: An idea of how to conduct congestion charging in Seattle and how it’s technically feasible.

The Metro Neighborhood: Scott from The Northwest Urbanist reflects upon a recent studio project for an area of Downtown Seattle owned by the University of Washington and one way in which it could be redeveloped.

10 Ways for Bellevue to Become a Better Bike City


Bellevue is in the process of updating their 2009 Pedestrian-Bicycle Plan with some new sweet projects. However, there should be some major policy changes as to how Bellevue addresses basic bike infrastructure projects. Here are just a few ideas that could go a long way to make biking better.

1. Buy some green paint

NE 40th
Green paint at an intersection along the NE 40th St Cycle Track. Photo by the author.

Green paint serves to indicate the priority of vulnerable users at conflict points between bicyclists and motorists. These are particularly useful at intersections, driveways, and lane merges (a very common feature of Bellevue’s many right-turn only lanes) across bike lanes. When motorists see green paint, they tend to be more aware of bicycles and look out for them. Many conflict areas exist in Bellevue, and they could be made safer with some green paint.

Green paint also serves to create bike boxes at intersections. Bike boxes are staging areas for bicyclists, and allows them to be more visible to vehicular traffic. Bicyclists also get a headstart at light cycles, improving their safety. Bellevue’s first bike box was recently installed at NE 8th St and 112th Ave NE. The City is now planning one more at Main Street and 108th Ave NE.

2. Get a good steep hill bike policy

Bike lane uphill, sharrow downhill on Weller St. Photo by the author.

Bellevue has many hills, perhaps even more than Seattle. This means that downhill bicyclists can go fast while cycling uphill tends to be very slow. When going down hills as fast as motorists, bicyclists are safer if they take the lane and don’t allow any cars to pass them. Sharrows in the center of the lane are best to direct cyclists to a safe position.

However, since bicyclists tend to go much slower than cars when going uphill, it can be annoying to drivers to still have bicyclists in the general purpose lane. In those situations, it is less stressful for both bicyclists and drivers if an uphill bike climbing lane is provided. Uphill bike climbing lanes can be wider than regular bike lanes to allow bikes ample movement when out-of-the-saddle or passing other bicyclists.

On many Bellevue streets, bike lanes are provided both up and down hills. It would be safer to get rid of downhill bike lanes on steep streets and use that space to separate and widen the uphill bike lane.

3. Provide sharrows where bike lanes can’t fit or bikes need to take the lane

Sharrow on Weller Street. Photo by the author.

Bellevue is notorious for having drivers that don’t understand bikes must sometimes take the lane, or place themselves at a safe distance from parked cars. Sharrows warn drivers about bicycles and indicate that they should be taking the lane. Sharrows also direct cyclists to the correct place on the street.

On streets without bike lanes, center refuge islands often create narrow lanes (less than 11 feet) that do not allow bikes and cars to pass safely. However, some drivers still try to pass cyclists if they stay too close to the curb. Using sharrows in these cases will help indicate to bicyclists that they must take the lane. This will make a safer street for all while reducing collisions or near-collisions.

4. Turn bike lanes into cycle tracks

40th St
There used to be a bike lane on either side of the street on NE 40th St in the U District, but they were consolidated into a cycle track on one side of the street. Photo by the author.

Since Bellevue does not have on-street parking on arterials, bike lanes generally extend all the way out to the curb on either side of the street. Re-striping the same bike lanes on one side of the street with a buffer–gained from reducing lane widths from the standard 11 feet to 10 feet–reduces speed and better protects bicyclists. This also makes riding in the bike lanes much more attractive.

Center planting medians can be an obstacle to this on several streets, but as streets are repaved it will become natural to shift them to create protected bike lanes.

5. Create a Safe Routes to School program

Bike at NHS
Bike racks are full even on rainy days at Newport High School. Photo by Soham Pant.

Bellevue has one of the only large school districts in Washington that does not have a Safe Routes to School program. Such a program would teach students how to bike safely to places–like school while young drivers would learn how to behave around bicyclists. The program could also be used to issue mini-grants for better bike infrastructure like bike shelters or curb bulbs. Having more students bike would be beneficial to Bellevue by cutting down congestion and improving student health.

6. Work on driver education

Right hand
How many Bellevue drivers know that this is a right turn signal? Not many. Photo by the author.

Since bikes were not very common on Bellevue streets until recently, many drivers still do not know how to behave with bicyclists. And, new drivers are not even being taught about how to interact with them. Being a high school student, I talk to many people taking driver’s education course who complain about not being told about bikes. Few people have–or will–an understanding about how the right turn and stop signals are done with the left hand, for instance.

Many drivers also commit faults without being aware of them, such as passing cyclists too close, overtaking bikes right before a traffic signal, or drifting into the bike lane unconsciously. Better driver education could have major positive impacts on how drivers and cyclists interact.

7. Tie bike facilities into a network

Seamless connection between the 18th Ave S Greenway and the I-90 trail in Beacon Hill. Photo by the author.

Bellevue has many great pieces of infrastructure, but too many are not continuous and thus do not provide an easy-to-use network. Bike lanes end abruptly and later pick up, or trails have no signage to other streets. Connecting bike facilities together and signing them appropriately will get Bellevue truly useful bike infrastructure, rather than bike lanes that were built as street overlays happened.

The non-existing connection between the future 116th Ave NE bike lanes and the bike trail on the NE 12th St overpass comes to mind as a real opportunity.

8. Use neighboorhood greenways as bike routes

108th Ave is a low-traffic street that serves as a major part of the bike network. Photo by the author.

As a suburb, Bellevue does not have Seattle’s great street grid that allows for easy travel though low-traffic streets, known as Neighborhood Greenways. Streets are often disconnected and deadended. However, many low-traffic streets still exist, and they should be made more comfortable for cyclists. 108th Ave NE outside of Downtown Bellevue, the Lake Hills Greenway east of 164th Ave NE or the Kelsey Creek Greenway (between 128th Ave NE and 132nd Ave NE) in Wilburton are examples.

Other deadends can be connected using short trails that restrict car travel while allowing bikes and pedestrians through.

9. Build protected bike lanes Downtown

2nd Ave
Seattle’s Second Avenue Cycle Track. Photo by the author.

Downtown Bellevue is a major job, retail, and residential center. It makes sense that this is one of the top destinations for bicyclists in the city. While bike access to Downtown is generally good, no bike infrastructure is actually provided in Downton. The last-mile of many bike trips should be just as protected as the rest of the trip. Bellevue should build a network of two-way protected bike lanes in Downtown to accommodate bicyclists in addition to cars. The City should 108th Ave NE between Main St and 12th St NE, and 12th St NE from 108th Ave NE to 112th Ave NE, top priorities. A connection from 12th St NE would integrate well with the existing bike facility across I-405.

Over time, it would be optimal to see north-south cycle tracks on Bellevue Way, 108th Ave NE/SE and 112th Ave NE (north of NE 6th St) and east-west protected bike lanes on NE 12th St, NE 6th St and Main St.

10. Expand the multi-use, off-street trail network

Ship Canal Trail
Seattle’s Ship Canal Trail near Interbay. Photo by the author.

Bellevue currently has two major off-street trail projects. The first is the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway. The City plans to extend the I-90 trail all the way from its current end in Factoria to the city limit with Issaquah at Lakemont Boulevard. The second one is the north-sound Eastside Rail corridor. This new trail will link Bellevue with Kirkland and Renton. Both projects would be beneficial to biking, but multi-use trails can do more than just this.

Several streets in Bellevue have both bike lanes and sidewalks. However, both are sparsely used in some places. These could be converted to wide, multi-use trails on one side of the street, separared by a planted (generally trees) buffer from traffic. Such trails would be a win-win-win situation, as it would provide separation for bikes and pedestrians, and make the street safer by reducing crossing width and speeding (though trees), as well as putting all the bikes and pedestrians in one spot.

Lucky number 11: Convert shoulders to bike lanes

This uphill climbing shoulder is not signed as a bike lane, thus cars can park in it, impacting bike flow. Photo by the author.

The only difference between shoulders and bike lanes is that cars are allowed to be parked in shoulders, but not in bike lanes. On many streets in Bellevue, shoulders exist but are not labeled as bike lanes. Since cars do not regularly park on many of those arterials, this does not pose a problem, except when a car does decide to park in the shoulder. This forces the bikes into traffic without a safe transition between the shoulder and the travel lane. Designating shoulders as bike lanes, especially on streets where they are narrow or on hills, would make a good, cheap bike safety improvement.

Wishing You the Best of Holidays

Pike Place Market during the holidays.
Pike Place Market during the holidays.

We hope that the holidays are finding you well, especially on this Christmas Day. Wherever you are, we hope that you are enjoying time with family, friends, partners, or loved ones. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this little part of the world. We live in an amazing region with plenty of opportunity to experience diverse cultures, arts, entertainment, and more. The Seattle PI has a great article of 51 Seattle Christmas traditions. We wanted to share some wonderful photos that we captured of Seattle over this holiday season, so check those out below.

Carolling at Westlake Park.
Carolling at Westlake Park.
Christmas tree at Westlake Plaza.
Christmas tree at Westlake Plaza.

Christmas Eve


Picture 1


He came up to me at 135th, scabrous and gristled. This was last Christmas Eve, on the 358.

“You give a good ride, man.”
“Well, thanks, man. You got plans for the holiday?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna get off here, go over to KFC.”
“Oh, right on.”
“Yeah, gonna grab some dinner for my girlfriend. We’re gonna stay in tonight, watch some TV.”
“Sounds good to me, chance to relax. ‘What it’s all about, right?”

What I felt was not pity but admiration. He existed outside of all the shame, the hunger for status that drives so many of us, leading us to places of inadequacy and judgment, washing away the awareness of what’s truly important. I daresay his Christmas Eve was, in its barren simplicity, likely more stress-free than any number of his fellow Seattlelites.

Community Transit Receives Approval and Grants, Closer To Swift II


Last week, we reported on Community Transit’s future plans for Swift II, a new bus rapid transit line in Snohomish County that would connect Canyon Park (Bothell) to Paine Field (Boeing-Everett). The pieces are quickly falling into place for the project with newly granted approval by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to proceed with project development. This is an important step because it means that the project could qualify for the coveted and valuable New Starts grant program. Earlier this year, the agency received a $3.3 million dollar grant from the FTA to proceed with design and environmental analysis on the line.

Community Transit has a lot of work left:

  • The County and State need to develop a plan to improve capacity and speeds along 128th Street at I-5;
  • Small Starts grants must be secured in order to deploy new buses and stations;
  • State taxing authority is required to operate Swift II service; and
  • The agency must work with local jurisdictions to upgrade infrastructure along the proposed routed.

Working with local and state agencies are manageable issues for the agency. New taxing authority would come through a local options sales tax that the Governor proposed last week. It is unknown if such a proposal will be successful in the 2015 Legislature. Meanwhile, if the application by Community Transit rates high enough, it could qualify for the New Starts funding in the next two years. The agency believes that the soonest deployment of Swift II service could be early 2018.

Besides new stations, buses, and high frequency service, a key element for the deployment of Swift II is the construction of Seaway Transit Center as the line’s northern terminus. This facility would be located on property currently owned by Boeing at the Everett plant. The approximate location is expected to be around Boeing Access Road and Gate E-77, just west of Seaway Boulevard. Boeing already funds a custom route by King County Metro Transit designated as Route 958, which loops around the campus and serves Gate E-77. Adding a transit center here is a logical decision. Boeing has a very high volume of employees that come and go from the plant 24 hours a day. Ridership is already built in. But this location also has a benefit for residents and commuters. The new transit center would provide a connection point for many local Community Transit and Everett Transit routes as well.

Earlier this month, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) picked the Seaway Transit Center as a candidate for their Regional Mobility Grant Recommend Project List. If funding becomes available, WSDOT could award up to $6.8 million to Community Transit. The grant would allow Community Transit to both assemble land and design the transit center. It is anticipated that funding could roll in over the next four years.

In a press release by Community Transit, US Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) was quoted as saying:

This approval from the Federal Transit Administration is an exciting and important next step toward making Swift II a reality. Snohomish County commuters, businesses and families have already seen the benefits of the first Swift line, and I will continue working with Community Transit and federal transportation officials to move this project forward.

Murray has done a lot for local transit thanks to her power as Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. In the past decade, she has delivered more than $1 billion towards new capital transit projects like Link Light Rail, Seattle-Portland high speed rail, Swift, and RapidRide to name a few. While her position in Senate will be changing come January due in part to the Republican takeover, we hope that she will continue on the Subcommittee as Ranking Member. Her presence is invaluable to delivering key transit funding to projects in Washington like Swift II.


Feature image credited to Atomic Taco on Flickr.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct Must Come Down, Not Be Converted Into a Park, Part 2


Editor’s note: This is a two-part article cross-posted from The Northwest Urbanist, see Part 1. Yesterday, Scott covered the points of aesthetics and accessibility, and costs and funding.

A group of Seattle residents called Park My Viaduct is campaigning to convert the city’s waterfront freeway into a linear park, akin to New York’s High Line. They are proposing to save 14 blocks of the concrete double-decked structure, put the idea to a vote in the November 2015 election, and construct safety improvements at a cost of $250 million. But this idea is in opposition to the entire purpose of the ongoing waterfront reconstruction, which has already had a public participation process and is currently being built. The entire viaduct should be demolished as planned.

The proposal calls for saving 14 blocks of the viaduct between Pine Street and Railroad Way, a distance of nearly one mile and almost the entire remaining section. (Waterfront Seattle)

Don’t start the process over

A major point of the campaign is that similar elevated parks in New York and Paris have attracted large amounts of private redevelopment around them, contributing to tax revenue and neighborhood vitality. This is more likely to happen with implementation of the approved Waterfront Seattle plan because waterfront businesses have been able to get involved and shape it to meet their needs. At 25 feet high and significantly narrower, the High Line is less than half the size of the viaduct and runs through an area that was mostly dilapidated industrial properties, so it’s not directly comparable. If Park My Viaduct was around earlier a case could have been made for keeping the lower deck of the three-quarter mile section south of King Street which was demolished in 2011; there the viaduct ran along the rear of the seaport beside railroad tracks and could have provided a scenic connection to the Duwamish River crossing.

Much of the land uses adjacent to the viaduct are parking lots and loading docks, and there’s little reason to think that would change because there’s a bike path five stories above. Foster said there have been recent changes to development regulations for the core area between Columbia and Union Streets that includes encouragement of more hotel and residential uses, screening of parking from the street, and no changes to height limits. He also said the City is putting together new urban design standards for properties facing Alaskan Way.

Underneath the viaduct, where a temporary roadway has been built.

But the opportunity to voice their opinion and work the viaduct into the waterfront plan has mostly come and gone. Since 2011, Waterfront Seattle has hosted or attended some 300 events for community outreach and collecting public feedback. It is unreasonable for this minority to expect to be seriously acknowledged when the city is becoming invested in the current plan after such a long and thorough process. Preserving the viaduct would also interfere with a number of planned features, including the Railroad Way promenade, a new Marion Street pedestrian bridge, and the Overlook Walk. It would also directly prevent the Alaskan Way redesign from happening, though the size of that new street has its own problems.

A serious hazard and questionable legitimacy

The campaign didn’t exist until the viaduct’s replacement tunnel was delayed in December 2013. (The replacement tunnel is an entirely different boondoggle that other writers have covered well.) But the hastily-formed effort has already received funding from developer Martin Selig for a feasibility study. The engineers’ findings shouldn’t be surprising; the viaduct is a known hazard to life and property. The state transportation department’s regular inspections indicate the viaduct has been sinking since being damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. In the video above, a (very) dramatic simulation of a future earthquake shows how the viaduct could collapse without reinforcements.

Park My Viaduct’s legitimacy, limited as it is, would improve if they answered basic questions about their proposal; multiple inquiries and asking when their feasibility study will be released went unanswered. Their silence is reminiscent of the Griffith family, who built the waterfront Ferris wheel without public input and who are now attempting to quietly build a private gondola in public right-of-way. The gondola would be equally problematic and, ironically, hinges on the viaduct being demolished. Foster said because of many policies that are in place, such as Union Street being a protected view corridor, the City doesn’t see a path forward for the project.

This proposal is also the same kind of misguided activism that led voters in the last election to decline yet another effort for a citywide monorail system. And, not surprisingly, local activist Elizabeth Campbell has been involved with both. She’s on the campaign’s steering committee and led the monorail campaign so poorly that some of the people she listed as supporters were opposed to the project. The monorail vote failed by 62 points.

While new park space is needed downtown, putting it on top of a crumbling and inhuman-scale freeway structure that is slated for removal is the wrong way to do it. The waterfront plan has already been developed after a long period of public participation, and that should not be preempted by a haphazard proposal that threatens the viability of the entire project. The Alaskan Way Viaduct must be demolished as planned and as soon as possible so that Seattle can move forward with transforming its waterfront into a world class public space.

Scott Bonjukian is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Department of Urban Design and Planning. He writes about local and regional planning issues at his personal blog, The Northwest Urbanist.