Tag Archive for 'SDOT'

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Crosscut: SPD enforcement inconsistent with collision data

Former Washington state Secretary of Transportation, Douglas MacDonald, has a post on Crosscut that examines some of the city’s traffic fatality data, asking how safe are Seattle’s roads?. He points out that the number of fatalities for pedestrians is much higher than that of bicyclists:

The numbers are stark, starting with the death toll. In the three years 2008–2010, there were 62 traffic fatalities in Seattle. More than half involved pedestrians (25 deaths) and cyclists (7 deaths). Just to put the scale of traffic victims against the scale of crime victims, that toll of 62 deaths on the roads compares to the three-year Seattle homicide total of about 70, so long as you, like the Seattle Police Department, don’t drag in another half-dozen “officer involved” shootings.

It’s a great write-up, pointing out that elderly pedestrians are more at risk, and that collisions with pedestrians and cyclists account for 10% of all collisions between moving traffic. And, he reinforces what we reported on yesterday:

Cutting through the huge variety of circumstances in all these collision, the data reported by SPD points in one dramatic direction. Three-quarters of vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists in 2009 and 2010 involved the actions of the driver as a contributing factor. In two-thirds of those cases (about half of the total) the problem was the most basic of driver derelictions: failure to yield the right of way to the pedestrian or cyclist. So, with a myriad of steps that can be taken to improve safety, the most fundamental lie with getting the drivers to mind the rules.

This creates a very troubling juxtaposition with what the statistics show concerning traffic enforcement. In 2010 the Seattle Police Department issued 27,348 traffic tickets for moving violations. This was down by 7 percent from 2009. In 2010 just 197 tickets were issued to drivers for failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. That was down by over 50 percent from 2009. SPD did, however, issue 1570 citations to pedestrians in 2010. That was up from 1274 in 2009. That picture might suggest that the enforcement priority lies with picking the low-hanging fruit rather than focusing on the heart of the problem.

The article recommends attending a road safety summit – there are two left.


Ped collisions in 2010 second highest in last 10 years

SDOT has released its annual traffic collision report on Friday. Pedestrian collisions were up, last year, to 529, the second highest rate in the last 10 years. However, pedestrians were injured in a lower percentage of collisions than normal, and only 5 pedestrians were killed, the lowest since 2002. While conclusions can’t be drawn from one year, one could hope that a drop in injuries and deaths would continue from drivers going more slowly.

Overall, vehicle traffic volumes were slightly up for the year. The city counted fewer pedestrians walking downtown last year, but has since switched to a more thorough and standard pedestrian-counting methodology that will be used starting this year.

There is a lot of missing data with regard to pedestrian collisions, however where data was available for drivers, 256 of them did not yield the right of way to pedestrians, which was the biggest cause of pedestrian collisions.

The report indicates that SPD and SDOT work together to target enforcement efforts. According to Acting City Traffic Engineer, Brian Kemper, “When we [SDOT] have locations of concern, we work with SPD…and provide the engineering or traffic solution that is appropriate.” The improvements the city has made, “have been pretty effective,” but it requires a team effort between SDOT and SPD of education, engineering, and enforcement.

SPD did conduct 42 pedestrian safety emphasis patrols, where a plain clothes officer acts as a pedestrian crossing the street legally, and 48 violations were written as a result of these stings.

Though the leading cause of pedestrian collisions is drivers failing to yield the right of way, SDOT issued 8 times more infractions against pedestrians than they did against drivers failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. In fact, the violations issued to drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians in 2010 was down to half of 2009’s level. Also, remarkably, the number of citations issued in school zones were dropped by over 60%.

SPD does deploy a van to monitor speeds in school zones from state funding authorized in 2009, resulting in the issuaance of 1,808 citations last year, averaging a decrease in speed of between 5 and 10 miles per hour in school zones.

The report provides statistics related to the lane rechannelization at Fauntleroy Way SW, and shows that collisions dropped by 31% and injuries dropped by 73%. Rush hour travel time for drivers did increase by 4 to 65 seconds from Alaska to California Ave.

Also, since 2006, more pedesrian collisions have happend in November than any other month.

The Seattle PI has a general recap of the report, as does PubliCola.

A link to the final report can be found here


SDOT stairway maintenance may be cut

The city’s proposed 2012 would enact cuts at SDOT that would defer stairway maintenance, according to a KOMO news report.

Last year’s budget dedicated over $1 million for stairways, including maintenance and funding from the Bridging the Gap levy. This year, however, $200,000 may be cut from SDOT’s stairway budget. The cuts would impact maintenance, including eliminating two positions – a stairway design and inspection engineer, and a stairway construction worker.

The potential cuts would mean that the city would no longer perform regular stairway inspections and would instead rely on existing assessment to prioritize improvements and maintenance.


Open houses for construction projects

An open house is coming up for improvements to Orcas Ave S as well as for the Mercer West Project:

Improvements proposed for Mercer Street from Dexter Avenue N to Elliott Avenue W

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is hosting an open house at Seattle Center, June 8, to talk about the preliminary designs for the Mercer West Project, including the underpass at Aurora Avenue and the two‐way conversion of Roy and Mercer streets between Fifth Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N. In addition, SDOT will show recommendations for West Mercer Place and West Mercer Street, based on the evaluation of alternatives and input from stakeholders. The project team will be available from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Rainier Room (within the Northwest Rooms Plaza) to solicit
ideas from the public and answer questions about current preliminary design concepts for:

– A wider Mercer Underpass at Aurora Avenue North;
– Converting Mercer and Roy Streets from one‐way to two‐way operation;
– And improving intersections, street connections and bike access.

Open House Details:
Seattle Center (at the intersection of Warren Avenue North and West Republican Street)
Northwest Rooms Plaza: Rainier Room
4:30 – 7:00 p.m.

The Mercer West Project would complete the City’s vision for a direct, two‐way connection between I‐5 and Elliott Avenue West, continuing where the Mercer East Project leaves off. The proposed improvements include:
• Widening Mercer between Dexter Avenue N and Fifth Avenue N, including the underpass at Aurora to provide three lanes in each direction, left‐turn lanes, wider sidewalks, and a bicycle path;
• Converting Mercer Street to two‐way operation with two lanes in each direction and turn pockets between Fifth Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N;
• Converting Roy Street to a two‐way street with one lane in each direction and bicycle lanes between Fifth Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N;
• Creating a new Sixth Avenue N connection between Mercer and Harrison Streets; and;
• Closing Broad Street to re‐connect the street grid between Ninth Ave N and Fifth Ave N.

For more information on the Mercer West Project, visit:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is holding an open house on June 16 to discuss pedestrian improvements proposed for South Orcas Street.

Date: Thursday, June 16
Time: 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Dearborn Park Elementary School
2820 S Orcas Street

A new sidewalk, curb and street trees are proposed for South Orcas Street between Beacon Avenue South and 28th Avenue South. If funding becomes available, these improvements could continue on the south side to 32nd Avenue South. There is also a potential for bicycle improvements.

Also at the meeting, project staff will explain the pedestrian and bicycle programs that are coming to Dearborn Park Elementary School.


Infrastructure improvement updates

Here’s a rundown of current and recently completed SDOT projects that promote pedestrian mobility:


Natural drainage systems in sidewalk construction

In Crosscut, Roger Valdez looks at the impacts of traditional sidewalks on the environment. A Washington State Department of Transportation study unsurprisingly shows a benefit from installing sidewalks.

Here’s the key paragraph from the study:

The results provide early evidence in the potential effectiveness of sidewalks to reduce CO2 and VMT [vehicle miles traveled], in addition to a mixed land use pattern, shorter transit travel and wait times, lower transit fares and higher parking costs. Sidewalk completeness was found to be marginally significant (at the 10 percent level) in reducing CO2, and insignificant in explaining VMT.

In this sense the term “marginally” might read as “small.” But in a research context “marginally significant” also means sidewalks can make a difference along with other factors to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

However, pavement is impermeable, blocking rainwater from being absorbed by the ground and redirecting it to the storm sewers that send it to Puget Sound.

After it rains, water hits all that pavement and it starts rolling around, picking up the petroleum drippings from cars, pesticides from lawn care products, and a legion of other things that end up harming fish and other creatures trying to survive in urban creeks and streams. Ultimately, all that water winds up in the Puget Sound, where the Partnership for Puget Sound says at least two species of salmon are threatened with extinction because of stormwater runoff.

Valdez supports natural drainage systems, like the one installed on NW 110th St. These narrow the roadway and include landscaping to collect rainwater runoff, reducing the amount of rainwater and pollutants channeled into the Sound.

The project that Valdez references was constructed by Seattle Public Utilities whereas most sidewalks are constructed by SDOT.

However, the city’s 2009 Stormwater Code requires SDOT to consider green stormwater infrastructure. SDOT spokesperson Marybeth Turner says:

This means that where space is available and it is technically feasible, elements such as bioretention swales, porous sidewalk, and new street trees are required to be installed adjacent to the new sidewalk in the planting strip between the sidewalk and street. These measures are meant to infiltrate or reduce the surface water generated from the impervious surface of the sidewalk before it reaches the gutter and eventually the drainage system and Puget Sound.

There are several current SDOT sidewalk projects that include green stormwater infrastructure elements. On these projects, SPU is “providing guidance with respect to maintenance requirements and direction on standards requirements.” These projects include NE 55th and Ravenna intersection improvements, Linden Ave N Complete Streets Project, and “numerous neighborhood sidewalk projects funded by the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative,” according to Turner.

While these sidewalks take cues from the green drainage designs that SPU has developed, this design cannot be applied everywhere. “The space may not be available, the pollutant loading too great, the soils may not be conducive, and there are in most cases numerous other utilities which may be in conflict,” Turner says

Still, it’s good to know that the city is working to limit negative side effects of new sidewalk construction. Now, if only they could build more of them.


Roadways safer than ever in 2010 but not safe enough

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports that there were fewer traffic fatalities in 2010 than any year on record. SDOT Blog shares how the Seattle Department of Transportation works to make streets safer:

SDOT frequently partners with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to help improve safety on Seattle streets. We are currently working with the Commission on the Aurora Traffic Safety Project which, as previously reported, has been able to reduced collisions on Aurora Avenue North by more than 20 percent in the past year. From 2006 to 2008, SDOT and the Traffic Safety Commission partnered on the Rainier Corridor Traffic Safety Project which improved safety on Rainier Avenue in Southeast Seattle. SDOT also seeks Traffic Safety Commission grants annually to fund school zone flashing beacons. Flashing beacons have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve safety in school zones and can currently be found at more than 35 Seattle schools.

There is still a long way to go to reach Target Zero, a goal shared by transportation agencies in Washington state. SDOT encourages everyone to follow traffic laws and try to get around safely, but many roads in the city are still unsafe by design. Of all roadway users, pedestrians are most likely to die in a collision and dozens have been killed in the past five years. Asking drivers to slow down isn’t going to fix everything. To take safety seriously, SDOT needs to focus on designing roadways safer.

One way to do that is to continue implementing road diets where possible and looking at other ways to slow drivers down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 40 mph is 85% likely to die, whereas a pedestrian struck at 30 mph has a 45% chance of death. Look at the map of pedestrians killed in the past five years and take note of the streets where pedestrians have been killed. How many of these fatalities happened on a street with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction?


SDOT counting peds and bikes this week

From SDOT Blog:

SDOT will be conducting pedestrian and bicycle volume counts at more than 50 locations across Seattle from May 10th to May 12th as part of the National Bicycle & Pedestrian Documentation Project.

Following a consistent, nationally recognized methodology will improve the quality and consistency of our data, and also increase the frequency with which we collect this type of data. The information we collect will document current levels of walking and biking, help us measure our progress towards increasing the number of people who walk and bike, and help make the case for additional investments. We plan on collecting pedestrian and bicycle volume information for times per year with our next count taking place in July.


Seattle rated a top city for walkers

Seattle has been rated a platinum-level Walk Friendly Community by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. This was the first year of the award and Seattle was the only city to receive a platinum rating.

In evaluating Seattle’s application, the reviewers were especially impressed with:
-The clear establishment of goals and measurable performance indicators in Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan;
-Seattle’s exemplary neighborhood traffic calming program;
-Seattle’s Right-of-Way Improvements Manual; and
-The city’s celebration of physical activity through the Celebrate Summer Streets program.

The reviewers also recognized that Seattle has exhibited a desire to become a community that supports active transportation, noting that, “the city is stepping outside the status quo and making an effort to improve walkability and health in the community.”

Responding to news of the designation, Christina Bollo, chair of the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, said “Walk Friendly Communities recognizes not only our incredible pedestrian infrastructure, but also pedestrian programs such as Celebrate Summer Streets. Celebrate Summer Streets contributes to all four goals of the Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan: safety, equity, vibrancy, and health. With the creation of the Pedestrian Master Plan, we set out to be the nation’s most walkable city and this award encourages us to keep pursuing that goal.”

This award is well-deserved. While it’s easy to be critical of the shortcomings in Seattle’s pedestrian infrastructure, Seattle’s attention to making walking an easy and safe way to get around the city is uncommon among American cities. The mayor had this to say:

“Kudos to the Seattle Department of Transportation and the community for making Seattle more walkable,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “The recognition is great – and we’ll keep working on making Seattle a better place to live.”


Mayor approves 125th St rechannelization

We’re a few days late to report this, but the mayor has authorized SDOT to move forward with the road diet on 125th St.

The project was originally proposed by SDOT last August, and faced some initial opposition. As a result, SDOT spent additional time reviewing public input and doing further analysis, resulting in a reaffirmation of SDOT’s proposal to change the roadway. SDOT’s recommendation to the mayor re-energized opposition, however the mayor has approved SDOT’s proposal, and the road diet will happen.

The mayor sent a lengthy response to people who had contacted him on the issue, explaining his rationale on the decision. Seattle Bike Blog has reproduced the mayor’s letter in its entirety.