Archive for the 'politics' Category

FAQ for Seattle’s plan to reduce speeds to 20/25 mph

Seattle is poised to take a major step forward in improving roadway safety by reducing speed limits to 25 mph on arterials and 20 mph on residential streets. The plan, announced by councilmember Tim Burgess yesterday, will be presented to the City Council for a vote later this month.

This change would represent the city’s most significant action to support Vision Zero, Seattle’s plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030, and would send a clear message that safety surmounts speed when it comes to our transportation network.

While Seattle is not the first city to consider such a change, the idea may be new to many people. Local safe street advocacy organization Seattle Neighborhood Greenways worked with the city on this legislation and has prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions, which is re-posted below in full:

Who supports the 20/25 MPH idea?

Many community, public health, school, business, and advocacy groups are asking for safer speed limits. We hope you will too after learning more about how this idea will save lives!

What’s the idea for non arterial streets (neighborhood streets)?

A safe and livable 20 MPH speed limit for every neighborhood street in Seattle. Currently, the “default” speed on non-arterial streets is 25 MPH – faster than you probably drive on neighborhood streets. 20 MPH streets will be safer for us all, particularly people walking and kids playing.

What’s the idea for arterial streets?

Streets that are known to be dangerous should have speed limits examined, and potentially reduced to 25 MPH, as part of a comprehensive safety strategy. Additionally Communities should be able to request the city work with them to reduce arterial speed limits especially in areas such as business districts and through community hubs. Traffic should be smooth and safe and people should be able to get where they need to go reliably and safely. One part of this would be to change the “default arterial speed limit” signs at the entrances of Seattle to 25 MPH to let visitors know that they may encounter 25 MPH arterial streets.

Will changing the speed limit save lives?

Yes. Changing the speed limit will make our streets safer for everyone! Each year in Seattle about 20 people are killed in traffic collisions and another 150 are seriously injured. 42% of of these collisions involved speeding. Driving even a little slower gives us all more time to see each other and makes it easier to stop. Well-established research shows that even a small speed decrease makes a big difference. Vehicle stopping distance improves by 45 feet (23%) when traveling at 25 MPH versus 30 MPH. If a collision does happen, nine out of ten people hit by a driver going 20 MPH will survive, while at 30 MPH survival rates decrease to only five out of ten.

Will 20 MPH for neighborhood streets mean I’ll take longer to drive anywhere?

No. On non-arterial (neighborhood) streets, it is already difficult to drive faster than 20 MPH due to roundabouts and narrow street widths. When people do speed it is especially dangerous for elders and children living and playing in their neighborhoods.

Would a 25 MPH for arterial street make my commute longer?

First of all, this proposal does not change all arterial streets to 25 MPH (see FAQ above). Not likely. Most people drive during rush hour, when it’s already difficult to drive fast. Travel time is primarily determined by factors like traffic signals, congestion, and turning vehicles. Moreover, a top reason for congestion in Seattle is traffic collisions. Reducing speeds will reduce collisions and reduce the frequency of collision-related congestion. People driving outside of peak travel times may see a slight increase in their travel time. If you’re going 30 MPH without any interruptions, a lowered speed limit of 25 MPH will add about 1 minute to your trip (the average car trip in Seattle is about 3.5 miles). We think the occasional extra minute is worth it to save someone’s life.

When would the speed limits change, and which streets would be affected?

A default 20 MPH speed limit for non-arterial neighborhood streets could take effect as soon as the signs could be changed, except where they are currently signed to 15 MPH (as they are in some school zones).

The 25 MPH limit for arterial streets would be implemented on a case by case basis over time with community and SDOT evaluation (this is the model used by every other city in King County). Only then would speed limit signs be changed and a 25 MPH limit enforced.

Are there other cities with 20/25 MPH speed limits?

Yes. 20 MPH neighborhood streets are widely seen as a best practice around the world to keep neighborhoods safe and comfortable places to live in and raise families. Every other city in King County has a default speed limit of 25 MPH or lower. Many other large cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., London, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo, already have a speed limit set to 25 MPH or lower to improve drivers’ ability to avoid crashes.

Isn’t 20/25 MPH just a way to raise additional revenue for the City?

Not at all. Seattle should reduce its speed limit in order to make the city safer for people walking, biking, and driving. A lower speed limit helps meet the City’s goal of bringing traffic fatalities to zero. Data shows that driving at or below 25 MPH improves drivers’ ability to avoid crashes.

Sometimes streets are just dangerous. Why focus on speed?

Dangerous driver choices, such as speeding, failure to yield, and improper turns, are the primary cause or a contributing factor in 70% of pedestrian fatalities. Legislative efforts, such as lowering the speed limit, combined with engineering street safety improvements, education and enforcement work together to create safer streets for us all.

What is Vision Zero?

Seattle’s goal for traffic fatalities and serious injuries is the same you would want for you and your family: zero (this goal is called Vision Zero). While zero fatalities may seem ambitious, it’s the same standard we expect of our airline system. 20/25 MPH is a great way to improve drivers’ ability to avoid crashes!

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Could Seattle support a strong volunteer-run pedestrian organization?

As of 2009, 3% of Seattle commuters bike and almost 8% walk to work. Over 13,000 bikers in Seattle and the region make up the membership of Cascade Bicycle Club, however there’s no organization for pedestrians with that type of membership.

Could an organization dedicated to walking be as successful as Cascade?

Feet First is a walking-focused organization, but they’re not trying to bring pedestrians together on a large scale. They do support walking in the city through their grant-funded safe routes to school program and neighborhood maps.

Perhaps since walking is such a common activity, pedestrians have no group identity the way bikers do and would not join together in such strength. I’m not aware of a large, successful walking organization in any other American city, but the benefits of one could be significant.

A visible, volunteer-led organization could do the following: Lead and coordinate social, educational, and historic walks open to all fellow walkers; Effectively disseminate news and events related to walking to the pedestrian community at large; and Work together as a group to improve conditions for walking.

Walkers around the city could get involved with this organization and partner with existing organizations to support, not replace, an organization like Feet First.

One concept to unite pedestrians into a single pedestrian body focused on the aspects of learning, acting, and walking is outlined in this presentation.

While there may be some interest in a new organization for pedestrians, could an organization like this earn enough support to become “Seattle’s walking body”?

To be successful, this volunteer-run organization would need a dedicated group of leaders and supporters, in addition to partnerships with other organizations. Are there enough walking enthusiasts out there to lead something like this? And enough people who identify as pedestrians to join in support?

This linked survey is intended to gauge interest and support to answer the questions above. Please feel free to distribute this link to others who may be interested and respond to the poll below.

Could a new volunteer organization succeed as "Seattle's walking body"?

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Bill would allow cities to lower speed limit more easily

Seattle Bike Blog discusses a bill in Washington State’s legislature that would make it easier for cities to set non-arterial speed limits at 20 miles-per-hour.  Currently, cities are required to perform an engineering study in order to lower speed limits.  As Seattle Bike Blog reports, pedestrians hit at 20 mph have a 5% of dying, whereas the likelihood of dying after being hit at 30 mph is 40%.

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Streets for All Seattle update

Great City posts an update on the Streets for All Seattle campaign. The city council approved a budget that includes some increased funding for pedestrian needs, though not as much as the mayor had proposed.

Streets for All Seattle puts it all in context.

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Council to reject funding for Walk Bike Ride

The mayor’s proposed budget, which includes funding for pedestrian projects through additional parking fees and taxes, is being reworked by the City Council. PubliCola covered the council’s discussion and decisions to reject funding for these projects.

The council agreed to raise parking rates, but not as high as the mayor had requested, and without parking fees on Sunday. The council also agreed to raise the commercial parking tax, but not nearly as high as the mayor had requested. The decisions by the council were not unanimous and some council members fought for maintaining the Walk Bike Ride program funding in the budget:

“If we accept these cuts, we will be pushing back [the pedestrian and bike master plans] even further,” Licata said. “I would encourage council members to think again about whether the [parking tax] could be nudged up a bit to take into account some of these really pressing needs.” O’Brien added that viewed in the context of a $300 million-plus transportation budget, the $20 million proposed for pedestrian and biking programs “is really just a drop in the bucket. … It’s hard to tell the public that these are our top priorities.”

After the council agreed to cut the commercial parking tax, the mayor released a list of projects that would have to be cut. Funding for the pedestrian master plan would be totally cut, as well as for the complete streets program, and red light cameras, along with numerous other transportation projects and services.

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Last budget hearing for pedestrian project funding

This Tuesday night at City Hall is the last public hearing for the city’s 2011 budget. Mayor McGinn’s budget proposal includes about $2 million for pedestrian projects next year, including more sidewalks, curb ramps, walking/biking trails, stairways, and pedestrian lighting.

There is some opposition to the funding sources for these projects as funds will largely come from increased parking rates. There is concern that the increased parking fees will keep people (and their money) away from downtown Seattle’s businesses. The Stranger examines what the effects might be of increased parking rates and suggests that increased downtown parking rates will be good for businesses.

The City Council appears apprehensive to support this budget with the increased parking fees, and Dan Bertolet at Publicola calls on the City Council to lead:

Unless they can propose a realistic and equivalent alternative source of funds for Walk Bike Ride projects, how can council members possibly claim with straight faces that they believe it’s important to create walkable, transit-rich communities in Seattle? (The recently approved $20 license fee is slated to fund about $2 million in Walk Bike Ride projects starting in 2012.)

The change we need will never happen until we start spending serious dollars on the right things, and the reality is, $5 million per year for Walk Bike Ride projects is only a meager first step. But new funding requires either new taxes or cuts—either of which is bound to piss off someone, somewhere. Where does that leave the city’s leaders? Well, it means they actually have to lead. And to do that, they might have to upset the status quo.

However, it may require a strong show of support to embolden the council enough to support the mayor’s budget. Feet First is encouraging people to come out to the final budget meeting:

City Council needs to hear from you about protecting funding for pedestrians in this year’s budget!

Your voice is crucial to the decisions that are being made about the budget.

The final budget meeting is this Tuesday at City Hall, in the 2nd floor City Council Chambers. Sign-in is at 5 pm and the hearing begins at 5:30.


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Show of support for budget needed

Streets for All Seattle is organizing to make a strong presence at the remaining two budget hearings. You can RSVP to receive a T-shirt from them.

The City Council needs to hear from you about the importance of funding pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements. At the two upcoming budget hearings the City Council will listen to members of the public like you and make crucial decisions about the budget. We need more budget hearing heroes to demonstrate strong community support for Streets For All Seattle.

The next budget hearing is this Wednesday evening at The Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Avenue SW, 98106, at 5pm.

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$2 mil for peds in mayor’s budget

PubliCola dives into the details of the mayor’s proposed $13 million Walk Bike Ride Plan. Of that, $5 million is expected in 2011 and pedestrian projects would get the largest piece at over $2 million.

Mayor McGinn’s office sent out this information about the budget:

What’s in the Walk Bike Ride package? More funding for:

Safe, Healthy Neighborhoods

  • More Neighborhood Street Fund projects that will improve neighborhoods. These projects have undergone an extensive ranking process involving district councils, neighborhood residents, and the Bridging the Gap Oversight Committee. These projects include:
    • Cedar Park: NE 12th St: new sidewalk between Sand Point and 35th Ave NE (2011)
    • Central District: E Union pedestrian and bike improvements between E Madison and 13th St (2011)
    • South Park: 8th Ave South: new sidewalk between S Director and S Concord Streets (2011)
    • Arbor Heights: 35th Ave SW sidewalk between SW 97th and 104th St (2012)
    • Crown Hill: 18th Ave NW sidewalks between NW 85th and NW 89th St (2012)
    • Pioneer Square: 3rd Ave S sidewalk repair between Prefontaine Pl S and S Washington St (2012)
  • Full funding for the Linden Ave North Complete Streets project.
  • Projects that speed up implementation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans. This means more sidewalks, bike facilities, crossing improvements, stairways, pedestrian lighting, and other neighborhood improvements.
  • Getting started on the creation of a bikeshare program in Seattle.

A Dependable, Connected Transportation System

Frequent, Reliable Transit

Creating Great Places

We hope you can help us make Seattle a better place. Thank you.

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How to support the mayor’s budget for pedestrian improvements

With the city trying to cut millions of dollars from its budget to close a $67 million gap, Mayor Mike McGinn’s proposal to add $13 million for walking, biking, and transit is sure to be contentious.

Great City believes it will require a strong show of support for the city council to approve these budget items.

We need to stand together and make sure the City Council keeps this funding in the budget. Only with your presence can we ensure that important mobility projects like sidewalks in South Park and Crown Hill, extending the Chief Sealth Trail, the completion of the Transit Master Plan, and even basic street maintenance receive the funding they deserve.

This is your opportunity to become a hero, a budget hearing hero. Starting this evening the City Council will listen to members of the public like you and make crucial decisions about the budget. This budget process is crucial for our campaign to fund pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure, and we need supporters like you to turn out at each hearing. Are you ready to stand with Streets For All Seattle?

There are two remaining budget hearings – and if you RSVP online with Streets for All Seattle, they will provide you with a T-shirt to show your support.

  • Wednesday, October 13, The Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Avenue SW, 98106, 5 p.m. Sign-in, 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 26, Seattle City Hall, Council Chambers, 2nd floor, 600 Fourth Avenue, 98104, 5 p.m. Sign-in, 5:30 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the meetings, Great City mentions a couple other ways in which you can help:

Tell the City Council your story, and/or donate to Streets For All Seattle and help us have the resources necessary to make walking, bicycling and transit the easiest ways to get around Seattle.

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Walking Crown Hill with the mayor

My Ballard has a good write-up on Mayor Mike McGinn’s walking tour of Crown Hill a couple weeks ago. On the tour, he heard about concerns from residents related to crime, drainage, and walkability:

The mayor also heard about the lack of sidewalks on many Crown Hill streets. Earlier this year, community members applied for a Bridging the Gap grant for sidewalks in the area that spans NW 85th to NW 90th between 15th Ave NW and 20th Ave NW. But due to a lack of funding, the proposed project was slimmed down considerably. “Tell the council to approve my proposed tax increases for pedestrian improvements,” the mayor said.

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