Online Survey for New SDOT Director

The Broadway cycletrack. Courtesy of SDOT.
The Broadway cycletrack. Courtesy of SDOT.

Mayor Murray is in search of a new Director for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). In December, SDOT Director Peter Hahn left for greener pastures. Since then, Goran Sparrman has been acting as Interim Director for the department. Last week, Mayor Murray stated his priorities in searching for new a director:

We’re looking for a leader who can develop a comprehensive strategy to harmonize the many transportation options available in our city. As Seattle continues to grow, our multi-modal offerings must be coordinated with one another and with regional systems. We need to stay true to the goals of our City’s pedestrian, bicycle, transit and freight plans, but the larger goal is to integrate these modes to move people and goods seamlessly and efficiently.

We think this succinctly describes the progressive transportation values that Seattleites expect in city government. In keeping with the Mayor’s policy of public involvement, he has offered up an opportunity for residents to have a say. Specifically, he would like to know priorities people feel are most important, how SDOT can improve, and what has worked in the past. Ultimately, this should help the Mayor’s Office determine what type of candidate that they should seek for the next head of SDOT. Take a few minutes to give your feedback in the online survey. The questions are brief and open-ended.

Mayor Murray intends to have a new director in place by mid-June.

Downtown Bellevue Open House

Bellevue Transit Center
Bellevue Transit Center. Photo by the author.

On March 25, Sound Transit held an open house for the Downtown Bellevue Segment of East Link. This segment covers everything north of Main Street and west of 120th Ave NE, including the Bellevue Transit Center and Hospital stations.

Downtown Bellevue SegmentThe Bellevue Transit Center station, located on the south side of NE 6th St between 110th Ave NE and 112th Ave NE, will serve downtown Bellevue. The station design has evolved considerably since last spring’s open house. In response to public feedback, Sound Transit changed the station’s layout to include three different canopies on each side, separated by twenty-foot gaps. With the new layout, riders will be sheltered from the elements from the moment they enter the platform until the moment they board their train. A large umbrella-like canopy will be installed at the west entrance of the station as well.

The presenters pointed out that there will be some empty space above the tunnel portal and below the west entrance plaza, which Sound Transit plans to use for art. The large space offers the potential for a dramatic, iconic art installation, that could even become a symbol of Bellevue over time.

Finally, the station will be designed to maximize growth on an adjacent parcel, currently owned by King County Metro. The parcel is currently zoned for buildings up to 200 feet high, or about 20 floors. Fire walls along the station boundary will allow the construction of such a building directly adjacent to the station, without needing any setbacks.

Train-to-bus connections will require a walk across 110th Ave NE to the Bellevue Transit Center. At the 30% design open house, several people suggested a tunnel crossing between the station’s mezzanine level and the Bellevue Transit Center platform, allowing riders to connect between trains and buses without crossing traffic. Such a crossing would be cost-prohibitive for the time being. However, I did urge Sound Transit to design the mezzanine level so that a pedestrian tunnel could be added later.

The Hospital station will be located on the north side of NE 8th St and along the alignment of the old BNSF right-of-way. It will serve Overlake Hospital Medical Center and adjacent medical facilities, as well as the Wilburton and Lake Bellevue neighborhoods. To help transit riders reach the hospital more quickly and efficiently, Sound Transit will build a path to link the north end of the platform with 116th Ave NE, passing just behind the Design Market strip mall. The small loop in front of the station will be used for passenger drop-off and pick-up as well as Metro’s Access Transportation paratransit service. The RapidRide B Line stops on NE 8th St will be moved to be right in front of the station; along with a new crosswalk under the light rail tracks, this will provide decent train-to-bus connections. The station platform will also feature windshields to block out southern winds.

The station construction will involve the daylighting of Sturtevant Creek, which links Lake Bellevue and Mercer Slough. The creek will run under the station, and a small bridge will connect the station entrance with the path to 116th Ave NE.

Big Update to the Transit App


Eastbound 44 on the Transit App.

Transit apps have revolutionized the way we use transit. Transit riders no longer need to carry around a paper schedule of a route or know where the nearest stop is. An app can provide that information instead, often with real-time arrival data on-the-fly. When transit apps originally came out, compiling data from multiple transit agencies was challenging. Apps usually served a few transit agencies or one type of transit mode as opposed to many, often unrelated ones.

This has changed rapidly as transit apps have become much more sophisticated. In many instances, transit apps are uniquely specialized. Want to calculate the cost of a transit trip? Or how about which door of a train you should board so that you can exit a station most quickly? Yep, you can find apps just for those purposes. For the typical rider, though, there are core features wewant in an app, and those probably aren’t one of them.

OneBusAway has been a practical and integral player in the transit app market for Seattle. Originally developed by University of Washington students as a class project, the app was later acquired by Sound Transit. The pace of the app’s development has been slow and not as inclusive as other transit app developers. Recognising a gap in the market for a more dynamic transit app, developers of the Transit App added the Puget Sound in 2012 as part of their supported regions.

The Transit App developers have created a transit app that’s clean, intuitive, and universal for users. The app offers useful features like offline schedules, trip planning, use in other cities, and real-time arrival information (where available). The developers have diligently updated thequality and capabilities of their app. Last week was perhaps the biggest update yet to the app with a completely refreshed version for iOS users.

More after the jump.

Greenwood Transit and Sidewalk Open House Report

Bike lane behind bus bulb. Attributed to SDOT.
Bike lane behind bus bulb. Attributed to SDOT.

On March 26, 2014, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) held an open house for the Greenwood Transit and Sidewalk Project. The project involves building sidewalks and upgrading bus stops along Greenwood Ave N between N 90th St and N 105th St. The new bus stops will feature bus bulbs so that buses can stop without having to exit and re-enter travel lanes. In addition, the bike lanes will be rerouted so that they flow between the bus stops and the sidewalk, similar to the bus stops on Dexter Ave.

The open house was largely a recap of information that SDOT had already announced, but there were some new tidbits. The highlight of the evening was an informal announcement that SDOT is exploring the possibility of simultaneously constructing sidewalks on both sides of Greenwood Ave N. SDOT also revealed that construction is scheduled to start between October 2014 and March 2015 and is expected to take 6-10 months to complete. Finally, in the next year or two, SDOT will begin a complete corridor review of Greenwood Ave N, which may include bus bulbs, stop consolidation, and other transit improvements.

More after the jump.

Capturing Underlying Patterns of Urban Street Design


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chuck Wolfe and was originally published on


Have you ever wondered why some places seem built for automobiles as opposed to humans?

In a recent study, J. Alexander Maxwell and fellow researchers from the University of Strathclyde’s Urban Design Studies Unit found evidence that before the rise of the automobile, cities developed on a walkable “human” scale, with main streets that rarely exceeded 400 meters (a little more than 437 yards).

I recently joined Mr. Maxwell as co-author of an article in the London School of Economics and Political Science American Politics and Policy Blog. Together, we argue that this uniformity reveals an underlying pattern to pedestrian city settings, which merits renewed attention in contemporary urban design and policies.

Read our article here.

Image composed by the author in Aix-en-Provence, France. Click on the image for more detail. © 2009-2014 myurbanist.  All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

See more from the myurbanist archives.

Seattle Metronatural


If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up today, you’re just in luck! Visit Seattle has a new, quirky little video that will leave you smiling and falling in love with this city all over again (as if that doesn’t happen every day anyway!) But this video is more than just a tribute to a great city, it highlights many Seattle’s best attributes: diversity, environment, recreation, art and culture, neighborhood business, livability, transportation, opportunity, and so much more. These are the things that great cities are made of. Here’s to Seattle!

Stephanie at 185th


Picture 8


“I got my transfer in here somewhere.” We’re at 185th inbound, and her face is lined with age and humor, that kind of spirit you don’t find enough, equal parts confident and humble. She’s over fifty, blue-gray eyes, wearing a couple older sweatshirts and nursing some bulging paper bags, babying them so they don’t tear.

“D’you wanna come in and look for it?”

I remember an operator who came out to ride my 3/4 once. He was intrigued at how excited I was after every shift, and why I had so many commendations. “What the heck are you doing out there?” he asked me one night at the baseAfter riding a trip on my 4, incognito, he came up and said, “Okay. Two things. First of all, Nathan, you should never become supervisor. You’re way too good at being out here. You’re doing a valuable thing, and we need people like you out here. Secondly, I’ve driven this route many times, and I know a lot of these guys. When they get on my bus, they don’t pay when they leave. But I watched them get on now, and at first they don’t know what you’re doing, being so friendly, if you’re bullshitting them or being sarcastic, but I notice they sit down and they keep watching you. And they realize after watching you interact with everyone else that you’re actually being sincere, you’re for real. And they go digging in their pockets for every loose scrap of change they have.”

“Wow,” I said, thrilled. “Thank you.” I didn’t know that. It’s hard for me to gauge the experience of riding my bus- partly of course because I can never do so, and because I’m so preoccupied with the road, with the front of the bus, and with being myself.

After a time the woman comes forward and says, “this is my transfer, but it’s expired. But I have a cold pop. I got a cold 7-Up here, for an upgraded transfer.”
“Oh, you don’t have to give me that, you should hang on to it. That’s nice of you though,” I say, trading out her transfer for a fresh one. “I love the idea. Barter! I wish more people did that, I wouldn’t have to pack a lunch! But no, I’m happy to help.”
“That’s just what I need. Thank you.”
“I’m glad I can help, I know it’s just a little thing.”
“Oh, everything helps. I’m planning a memorial service for my friend. She died. Well, she OD’d.”
“Oh, no,”
“She’d been on heroin for thirty-two years, she tried methadone thirteen times.”
“Wow. Oh, that’s heavy. I’m so sorry she’s gone!” I’m thinking how amazing it is she lasted that long in the first place. As if reading my mind, the woman says, “Yeah, but honestly I shoulda lost her ten, thirteen, fifteen years ago. I’m glad I got to know her.”
“That’s heartbreaking.”

She spoke of her friend’s time in jail. How she tried vacating her spot at the methadone clinic so Sam, her friend, could take her spot, though this turned out to be of no use because THS is an addiction clinic, not a pain clinic. I wasn’t sure if Sam was her deceased friend or another one; either way I could see the large-heartedness in her aging face, those blue eyes still bright and pulsing.

“That’s really good of you,” I said. “That’s a pretty huge gesture, just ’cause the hardship that puts on you,”
“Yeah, well, you know, sometimes, these folks in the clinics are goin’ through some tough-”
“They’re great people.”
“They are,”
“They have a lot to offer,”
“They do.”

I meant every word, and I hope it registered. On the morning reverse peak runs of the outbound 2- “the methadone express,” as some call it- the recovering addicts are easily the kindest passengers. They’re more expressive than most, which I personally enjoy, even if others find it grating, and they look out for each other in the way that small-town communities do, invested and intertwined with each other’s lives. They ask about your living situation, and they get sad when your dog dies.

“I like your outlook.”
“Hey, we’re all the same. What’s your name?”
“I’m Nathan.” Handshake. “It’s good to meet you.”

A month or so later I saw her again. I said, “how was the memorial service?”
Stephanie’s jaw dropped. “Wow. It was good. You remembered!”

One of my films concludes with the lead actress delivering a six-minute monologue, which I asked her to memorize in full because I wanted to shoot it in one continuous take.  She did so magnificently, and I was thrilled at her ability to retain all the information necessary to perform a monologue of that size. I was beyond impressed when I learned that she had simultaneously memorized another lengthy monologue for auditioning purposes, while also working on other things, and that she was able to dedicate complete focus to all of these works. You can keep adding, she told me. We think that by adding stuff, some other material in our brain has to get thrown out, but you can retain a lot in your memory. I definitely can’t remember everyone’s face, but I make an effort.

“Of course!”
“It was good. It was okay, actually.” Stephanie’s grief had grown in the intervening weeks. There was energy inside her still though, and she was trying to expend it in healthy ways. Some people feel most whole when they’re helping others.
“You know that area, around by the side of the tobacco shop, and up to where the bus stop is?”
“You notice anything different about it?”
“Uh,” I said, stalling. That area’s usually overrun with filth, but I remembered it looking cleaner than usual today- though I couldn’t be sure.
“Did it look cleaner today?” she asked me.
“Actually, yeah, it did!” I said, turning. “it looked kinda nice today.”
“That was me,” she said with pride. “I cleaned up that whole area. I was thinking, this place just looks-”
“Wait. You cleaned up that entire section?”
“Yeah, I spent seven hours over there yesterday. I just got tired of looking at it. I was like, the whole rest of Shoreline looks great, and then this spot by the clinic always looks like complete shit-”
We started laughing.
-“and what kind of message does that send to everyone, you know?”
“That is fantastic, Stephanie. Seven hours! You know, before you said that, I was thinking, it looked good.”
“It’s about the community, you know? These aren’t bad people.”



Read more of Nathan’s adventures on the 358 and other routes at

Which cities have the cheapest housing? It depends how you measure

House for rent. Attributed to waltarrrrr.
House for rent. Attributed to waltarrrrr.

Some cities are more expensive to live in than others. Many writers and researchers have attempted to quantify the difference. One commonly used metric is the ratio of median home selling price to median household income. This makes intuitive sense; if home prices are higher, then people will spend more on housing, right? Unfortunately, this metric is deeply flawed. As an example, Detroit consistently ranks among the cities with the lowest price-to-income ratio, which would seem to suggest that it’s an affordable place to live. But an alternate measure—the ratio of median rent to median household income—shows that Detroit is among the least affordable cities. This metric isn’t perfect either (as the rest of the article will demonstrate), but it’s a lot more accurate than the first one.

How can these two measures be so different? Why is the incorrect measure so widely reported? And can this mistake teach us anything about how we should plan and build our cities?