Archive for the 'politics' Category

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Mayor proposes additional funding for pedestrian projects

With the city facing a budget crisis, Mayor Mike McGinn has announced his budget, which includes quite a few cuts. The budget also includes additional funding for the pedestrian master plan, including more sidewalks, crosswalks, stairways, and pedestrian lighting. It also includes funding for more Summer Streets events.

Streets for All Seattle had been campaigning for more funding for the pedestrian master plan and it is no surprise that the mayor has supported that to an extent. However, in a year with service cuts, it may be hard to sell the city council and taxpayers on a budget that gives more money towards alternative transportation. PubliCola has additional coverage of these budget items here.


Neighborhood street project fund recipients announced

The city has announced which neighborhood projects would receive funding in the upcoming year. From the city’s press release:

Mayor Mike McGinn today announced 11 projects that will be constructed through the Neighborhood Street Fund Large Project program. Utilizing funds from the voter-approved Bridging the Gap (BTG) transportation levy, the city will invest $4.7 million over the next three years in these new projects.

“The Neighborhood Street Fund is a great way for neighborhood leaders to identify and fund small projects that can make a big difference locally,” said McGinn. “Every neighborhood plan identifies safe and walkable streets as a high priority – this fund supports that priority.”

Here is the list of projects:

(Hat tip Seattle Transit Blog)


City selects lead waterfront designer

In a project that will impact our city’s waterfront and the pedestrian experience for generations to come, the city has selected its lead waterfront designer. There is some good coverage of this announcement at Publicola and Seattle Transit Blog.

Public reaction to the selection seems to be somewhat mixed. It sounds like there will be limited private development allowed, if any. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw says “I’ve heard many people ask, ‘Are you going to allow giant condominiums and hotels along the waterfront?’ The answer is, no.” There is some concern that this lack of development may result in a linear park that isn’t well used.

This editorial praises the city’s selection.

Hopefully the the right choice was made and we will see a waterfront that serves as a good public space and pedestrian environment, with the right balance of public space and private development.


City budget hearings

As some of you may know, Seattle has a Pedestrian Master Plan to make Seattle the most walkable city in the country. However, this plan won’t accomplish much until it is funded by the city. Conveniently, the Seattle City Council is currently considering its budget priorities for next year and the Pedestrian Master Plan might be something worth reminding them of.

Here are a couple things you can do, if you’re so inclined:

  1. Send an email to the City CouncilStreets for All Seattle has a form and a template to make it easier to share your thoughts with the City Council.
  2. Attend a public budget hearing – Scheduled for the evenings of Sept 29, Oct 13, and Oct 26, attend and encourage the council to fund the Pedestrian Master Plan.

Putting peds on Pike/Pine

A couple months ago Sally Clark brought up the idea of closing Pike and Pine streets to vehicle traffic in the evenings to make for a more exciting and pedestrian-oriented nightlife environment.

There’s been some discussion of this at Capitol Hill Seattle. Sounds good for nightlife, possibly not so good for residents who live nearby, and maybe good for pedestrians, or maybe not.

Dan Bertolet says that removing cars from Pike St isn’t worth it:

One of the likely targets is Pike Street between Broadway and 12th, but the thing is that strip works just fine with cars in it. The striped crosswalks are fairly well respected by drivers. Because there is so much activity around the street, car speeds tend to be relatively slow. Cars and pedestrians and bikes all coexist to create a healthy urban street energy.

If the cars were removed, however, the space would be much too big, and all that energy would lose its punch because it would become too unfocused and diffuse. Pike is a wide street—about 80 feet from building face to building face—and that’s a formidable swath of empty pavement (check out the photo at the top).

I’m not sure if this idea will go anywhere, or if it should. The sidewalks are a little narrow along Pike, so having a whole street to walk in seems like it would be nice. And there’s not really a need to keep the road open for vehicular flow. There are some logistical issues that would need to be figured out, such as paying for additional clean-up. It does seem like it would be good for pedestrians, though, even if it’s not the most ideal pedestrian mall. The comments to the linked articles above have some more thoughts – most of them seem to be in opposition to this idea.


SDOT on the offensive about road diets

After some recent opposition to SDOT’s plan to rechannel 125th St, in addition to the heavy opposition to SDOT’s rechannelization of Nickerson, SDOT has gone on the offensive, with the benefits of road diets.

There has been a lot of interest in rechannelizations over the past few months, especially with SDOT’s proposal for NE 125th and the recent work on Nickerson. SDOT makes such changes to a street’s configuration to reduce vehicular speeds and make the road safer, especially for vulnerable users like pedestrians.

Seattle has been successfully installing these “road diets” since the Uhlman Administration and we are not alone in doing so. Cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Orlando, Oakland and New York all utilize them to make their streets safer. Though a rechannelization also allows us to incorporate wider lanes to better serve freight or install bike facilities, these are secondary to our primary goal of enhancing safety.

We often hear that these rechannelizations will increase congestion, diminish roadway capacity or cause more crashes. However, those concerns never actually materialize on roads that have been improved in this way. What one can document here and elsewhere are lower speeds, less crashes and fewer injuries from collisions. These are changes that benefit everyone from pedestrians to motor vehicle operators.

The recent examples of Stone Way N and Fauntleroy Way SW highlight how these inexpensive striping changes improve safety with no additional equipment or personnel costs. In fact, we recently studied how Stone Way performed after the change in lane layout and documented that:

Motor vehicles now travel at speeds nearer the legal limit;
Total collisions dropped 14 percent with injury collisions down 33 percent;
Pedestrian collisions declined significantly;
Bike trips increased 35 percent but collisions per bicycle trip have declined; and
Volumes show the roadway still easily accommodates motor vehicle traffic.
(You can read the full Stone Way report here:

Having rechannelized 26 different roads in Seattle over the past several decades, SDOT can confidently state that “road diets” make our roads safer for all. And do so in a way that keeps traffic moving.

SDOT has linked to the Federal Highway Administration’s report on road re-striping, which shows that road diets increase safety with minimal impact to vehicle traffic.

They’ve also publicized some key safety statistics about 125th St – including that the vast majority of drivers speed on the road and that there have been almost 80 collisions with injury on this roadway.

And in response to criticism that SDOT did not publicize the 125th St road diet well enough, SDOT lists all the ways in which they reached out to the community.

Hopefully this communications effort will help refocus the debate – much of the discussion about road diets has been framed in terms of bikes vs cars, and SDOT is getting away from the term ‘road diet’, which may be a little alarming to drivers who fear for reading road capacity. As SDOT points out, road diets are nothing new, but they are still apparently controversial. Being more vocal in advertising these safety facts will surely help future road diets – excuse me, road rechannelizations – to generate less rancorous debate and anger towards bikers.

Not only will drivers and bikers benefit from increased safety, but reconfigured lane striping is welcomed by pedestrians who are able cross streets more safely both at marked and unmarked crosswalks, not be exposed to high-speed traffic right beside them, and overall feel more comfortable walking in their own neighborhoods.


Road Diet opposition in North Seattle

Publicola reports on opposition to a planned redesign of roadway along 125th Ave NE.

Following the familiar routine that has accompanied all of the road diets in Seattle this year, Lake City and Pinehurst community members have raised concerns about the Seattle Department of Transportation’s plans to reconfigure NE 125th St. between Roosevelt Way and 35th Ave NE and making efforts to stop the project.

SDOT’s proposal is to reduce travel lanes from two-lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane. SDOT says the lane reduction would allow them to install traditional bike lanes in either direction, improve pedestrian crossings, improve “major signalized intersections by creating right turn only lanes for vehicles (excluding transit and bikes),” and reduce vehicle speeds. According to an editorial by Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chris Rule, the 85th percentile of vehicles travel 39 mph on the 30 mph road.

View Lake City road diet in a larger map

As we saw with the Nickerson St road diet a few weeks ago, these road diets can be controversial. A flier has been distributed in the neighborhood calling the redesign a bad idea.

If you support the increased safety for pedestrians that results from road diets decreasing vehicle speed, feel free to contact The comment period closes tomorrow at 5pm.


15th Ave NE Bridge closure

The 15th Ave NE bridge over Thornton Creek near 105th St will be closed for the next 11 months for repair and pedestrian improvements.

View Larger Map

For anyone trying to walk across the bridge, the closest crossing is along Roosevelt Way, which is parallel to 15th and about a 5 minute walk west. This area has a walkscore of 78, so the bridge may likely be frequented by people who live in the area. However, the inconvenience to these pedestrians is not without benefit, as when the bridge re-opens, there will be a railing to separate vehicle traffic from the sidewalk.


Nickerson Road Diet to move ahead as planned

Some questions were recently raised by Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen about a proposed re-striping of Nickerson Street. The “road diet” would add lanes for cyclists and a center turn lane for traffic by removing one vehicle lane from each direction.

Previous road diets along Stone Way and Fauntleroy Way SW have been successful at decreasing vehicle speeds and accidents and making the street more comfortable for bicyclists and pedestrians.

However, these road diets were also controversial when proposed. The idea of removing lanes implies a reduction in vehicle capacity and more gridlock, when history has often shown the opposite to be true.

The recent City Council transportation committee meeting had several people speaking out for and against the proposed road diet. PubliCola covered this meeting.

Apparently the meeting helped to answer Council Member Rasmussen’s questions, as he agreed that the road diet will happen.

The disputed Nickerson Street “road diet” will begin in July as planned, says Tom Rasmussen, chairman of the City Council’s transportation committee.

In a road diet, a four-lane road is re-striped to have only two lanes, plus a two-way left-turn lane and bike lanes. Three crosswalks are to be improved on Nickerson, which is to revert to four lanes near the Fremont and Ballard bridges.

Dozens of people testified Tuesday morning at Rasmussen’s committee meeting.

This is likely not the end of the road diets, though. The city may need to take on a more streamlined approach to these, as Josh Cohen suggests on PubliCola:

If we’re going to make a significant environmental shift in this city, as we at least pretend we want to, we cannot afford to have progress constantly marred by unfounded protest.

Re-striping is scheduled for next month.


New signals in Ballard

Another signal change in Ballard. As reported by My Ballard, a new traffic signal will be installed at 28th Ave NW and NW Market St.

The signal currently regulates pedestrians crossing NW Market St. New signals will be added to turn this intersection to a standard intersection with 4-way traffic lights and crosswalks. Head over to My Ballard to see a diagram of the changes.