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Signal changes make it safer to walk to and from Light Rail in Rainier Valley

Most of Seattle is still waiting for our signature regional transportation system, Link Light Rail, to reach their neighborhoods, but residents in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill have been boarding Link daily since 2009.

Unique among all of the present and planned Link routes, the Link route through Rainier Valley runs at grade in the center of MLK Jr. Way, which severely increases the odds that the trains will be involved in collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers.

Near the start of 2017, there was a collision between a train and pedestrian, killing the pedestrian. In talking to local folks, I found that many people disliked how the pedestrian crossing signals worked at each of the MLK-based stations.

I decided to start digging around.

I reached out to Sound Transit and received no traction. I went to the Beacon Hill Safe Streets (BHSS) Monthly Meeting and we decided to conduct a survey online, with paid advertising, that linked Sound Transit to dangerous conditions on the MLK corridor. We were contacted fairly quickly following this action by Sound Transit, who setup a meeting with us, the operator of Link (King County Metro) and the signal operator (SDOT).

After multiple meetings, and months of follow up, the determination was made that SDOT would at a minimum re-time the signals with a focus on pedestrians being able to access station and cross the street more frequently and with longer walk times (we also learned that SDOT hadn’t revised signal timing since Link first went online in 2009!)

It took well over a year to work out the new timing, but finally in August 2018 we’ve had success!

SDOT has re-timed the entire corridor where Link operates at grade and was able to increase the “walk” and “don’t wal”k phases to make it easier to cross as well as increase opportunities for pedestrians to cross by 30-50% depending on the intersection.

This means longer walk phases coming up more frequently! While there are many other changes that are still needed this was one of the biggest issues expressed; that people simply haven’t been waiting for the walk phases because they weren’t coming up frequently enough, and were even skipped frequently.

We continue working with Sound Transit and SDOT for more changes.

We’re hoping that signage can be changed to be clear and intuitive and that the “train warning signals” can be more informative as well as something that make sense at first glance, and we hope at some point physical crossing gates can be installed to help improve safety for drivers as well who have also died in collisions with Link.

We’ve learned much about how Link is operated, how crash data is stored, and more through this process that will help us better navigate who’s responsible for what in the future as well.

It may seem like a small win, but we’re hopeful that this small win will have big impacts for residents of Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley.

Too many kids are being injured along Rainier Ave

We have had enough of kids being injured along Rainier Ave. Last week, two young girls were hit at the intersection of Rainier Ave and S Henderson St, and another was hit back in May of this year.

There is a crash every single day on Rainier Avenue South on average. The city must act now to fix Seattle’s most dangerous street.

Here is how you can help:

1) Sign the petition asking the city to improve the intersection of Rainier Ave S and S Henderson St before school starts, and to finish the Rainier Ave safety redesign project.

2) Join us for a discussion this Saturday with the mayor

Who: Mayor Jenny Durkan and people who care about fixing Rainier Ave
What: A respectful discussion of community concerns and potential solutions.
When: 1:00 to 1:45 this Saturday, August 18th
Where: Intersection of Rainier Ave S & S Henderson St

Thank you for caring and taking action,

Gordon Padelford
Executive Director
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

P.S. We have not yet been able to make contact with the family/families of the two girls who were hit last week. If you know them and could put us in touch so we can support them we would be very grateful.

Fixing Rainier Ave: Group Bike Ride Looks at a Contested Street

Story by Adrian Down, Rainier Valley Greenways.

For people biking in Rainier Valley, finding safe and direct routes can be a challenge. Answers to the question, “What’s the best way to get from Columbia City to downtown?” vary widely because right now, none of the options are great. Rainier Avenue might be the flattest and most direct route, but the current street design is unsafe for people on bikes. Safer routes over Beacon Hill or north to Judkins add both considerable mileage and elevation.

This challenge is at the heart of a current debate, as Seattle Department of Transportation redesigns Rainier Ave to create a new RapidRide bus line serving the Valley. This line will replace Metro’s current Route 7, a well-used route that is a vital connection for many people in the South End.

The future of Rainier Avenue: three options on the table

Seattle Department of Transportation’s proposal for Rainier Avenue improvements includes a few different options for bike routes running the length of Rainier Valley. The three proposed options include routes connecting sections of protected bike lanes along Rainier Ave with sections of greenways and other infrastructure off the main Rainier Ave corridor, in varying configurations. One of these proposed sections off Rainier connects from the Mount Baker light rail station (at Rainier Ave South and Martin Luther King Blvd) north to South Dearborn Street and the I-90 Trail.

180313_AdvisoryBoard_RRR180313_AdvisoryBoard_RRR option 2180313_AdvisoryBoard_RRR option 3
Putting the City’s solutions to the test

A group of nine Rainier Valley Greenways volunteers braved light afternoon rain and had a great time touring the three options for this section of the proposed bike route to provide on-the-ground feedback to SDOT. Our group consisted of multiple types of bikes and riders, including a cargo bike full of groceries, bikeshare bikes, and a family with a young child on a bike pulled by her parent—which gave us commentary from a spectrum of experiences. After riding the proposed routes going north from the light rail station towards South Dearborn Street and downtown, we compiled a list of observations and suggestions.


Our ride and recommendations

  • The group ride started at Mount Baker Station at Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King Junior Way South. We found right away that improved crossings at Martin Luther King Junior Way South and Rainier Avenue are essential. This busy intersection is the gateway to a major transit hub (the Mount Baker light rail station) and requires preferential treatment for pedestrians and people on bikes trying to access the station. More sidewalk space for people waiting for the lights to change, curb cuts that face into crosswalks rather than into busy traffic lanes, and safe, intuitive infrastructure for bikes would be drastic improvements.
  • We rode north from Mount Baker Station on Martin Luther King Junior Way South, which currently has heavy, fast-moving car traffic and will require modification before it feels comfortable for people on bikes. We recommend fully protected bike lanes on this stretch of busy road.
  • The first challenge for this proposed route is a left turn from Martin Luther King Junior Way South to get people on bikes onto back roads and eventually across Rainier Avenue. Of the two proposed route options, the South Bayview Street crossing of Rainier Avenue, seemed superior to crossing at South Plum Street, where we observed traffic backing up and blocking the intersections where South Plum Street crosses both 23rd Avenue South and Rainier Avenue. A protected intersection at South Bayview Street and Martin Luther King Junior Way South will be essential to help people on bikes make a left turn from MLK Jr Way across multiple lanes of traffic. This intersection will require crossing lights, markings, and traffic calming to be safe and comfortable for people to cross.
  • South Bayview Street is a relatively quiet road, but its wide street design encourages high car speeds. A safer experience requires either protected bike lanes on both sides or a woonerf design that would both discourage cut-throughs and slow car drivers enough that the mixing of high bike traffic and infrequent cars is reasonable. While this route will need safety upgrades, our group was pleasantly surprised by the relatively flat terrain of the back roads that we toured in this area.
  • Our group continued west along South Bayview Street and crossed Rainier Avenue. This intersection is critical.
    We recommend a full traffic light that provides plenty of time for a large group of people walking and biking to cross. Additionally, pedestrian improvements such as building curb cuts that face into the crosswalks, rather than diagonally into traffic lanes as they do now, and narrowing the entrance from South Bayview Street onto Rainier Avenue. We also suggest closing South Bayview Street on the West side of Rainier Avenue to cars. This would not restrict the access of vehicles to any businesses serviced by that intersection and would create a much safer route for people on bikes to travel and wait at the intersection.



  • The route winds along side streets to the west of Rainier Avenue that are relatively quiet with low traffic volumes. However, they are wide industrial streets with several potential dangers. The current road design with wide lanes, sloping, gravel shoulders, and wide turning radiuses at intersections encourages cars and trucks to speed. The roads are scattered with gravel and industrial-area detritus, and multiple driveways and parking lots create conflict points. And the route is windy and confusing, directing people on bikes and on foot through an area that isn’t intuitive. We suggest that this whole route be treated as a mixed-use path. Intersections should include diverters or reduced widths and curve radiuses. It would be possible to keep routes accessible for trucks and other large vehicles by building low curbs that can be driven over. We would like to see sites with multiple entrances reduced as much as possible, and clearly defined where they are required. The route also needs ample signage and street markings to make wayfinding effortless, and clearly mark the road as a mixed use right of way. The lack of traffic is a plus of this route, and it could feel safe given these improvements. Finally, the entrance from this route to the I-90 trail has misaligned bollards and curb ramps. A wider, more accessible entrance would accommodate people on bikes, particularly those with cargo bikes, long frames, and trailers, and people in wheelchairs.


The value of community-based scouting rides

SDOT’s proposed routes present plenty of design challenges, but we hope that by providing detailed input, we can help to make the final product as usable and comfortable as possible for all people on bikes and on foot.

Group rides touring proposed routes are a fantastic way for neighbors to provide valuable, impactful feedback to SDOT and other planners. Being on the ground in these spaces, looking at intersections from a bicyclist or pedestrian viewpoint provides a user experience that is incredibly important to the success of the final project. Our group shared valuable local knowledge and feedback, built neighborhood connections and community, and had a great time.

Thank you to all of our Rainier Valley Greenways volunteers for joining us and contributing their voices and viewpoints to this project.


Inspired by this community-driven effort? Pitch in to help make more organizing like this possible.

Rainier Safety Project Is a Home Run!

May 9 2016
Cathy Tuttle

Update: Action Opportunity

Please join us for a Celebrate Safe Streets rally thanking the city for the progress so far and supporting further action.

Celebrate Safe Streets August 17th flyer

Great news about Rainier Ave!

Rainier Rechannelization stats

Seattle’s most dangerous street, Rainier Ave S, got a 4-mile makeover last year, thanks to the tireless advocacy work of Rainier Valley Greenways volunteers AND excellent work by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Vision Zero Road Safety Corridor team.

A year later, reports are coming in showing Rainier Ave S is another successful road safety project!

  • Coming from a total of 1243 total collisions, including 630 injuries and two fatalities in the past three years, Rainier is posting some great safety stats!
  • Top end speeding — that is, people traveling faster than 40 mph — has decreased 95%
  • Travel time for the Route 7 bus that carries 11,000+ people per day has remained unchanged northbound and actually improved schedule time along the route by 1.5 minutes southbound.
  • And best of all, total collisions are down 14%, injuries are reduced 31%, and walk/bike injuries are down a whopping 40%.

Get Well Card for Businesses Hit By Cars held by SNG staff Phyllis Porter & Gordon Padelford on Rainier Ave S

All this is to say, the pilot safety project on Rainier Ave S is working, and working well. More safety improvements are planned — and they can’t come soon enough.

Thank you SDOT, and thank you Rainier Valley Greenways!

Get involved and learn more!


District 2: Rainier Ave S

Thanks for your help in 2016! Read about what you helped accomplished.

YES! I want to learn more about how to help Rainier Ave S!

Children hurry across Rainier at S Myrtle St where a safe crossing is our budget priority!

Making children run across a deadly four lane road is not okay.

What is the problem?
Rainier Ave S is Seattle’s most dangerous street.

What is the solution (the 2016 priority)?
Make Rainier Ave S safe for people to walk and bike along and across. Expand the safety corridor project, create safe crossings and build protected bike lanes from Hillman City to Columbia City.

Who is involved?
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is working to empower Rainier Valley Greenways and their extensive community connections.

Campaign Updates

    • Get involved: Sign our petition thanking the city for making part of Rainier Ave safer and calling for further action:

  • Get Involved: We could use your help! Let us know that you support this priority!
  • N-S Rainier Greenway: SDOT will begin building a neighborhood greenway that runs north-south through the entire Rainier Valley in 2016! We have been working to make this route as good as it can be given that SDOT has been unwilling to put protected bike lanes on Rainier Ave itself so far.
  • Accessible Mt Baker: We are actively supporting the Accessible Mt Baker proposal that would dramatically improve safety and accessibility for the northern end of the Rainier Valley. Rainier Valley Greenways is partnering with the Mt Baker Hub and Beacon Safe Streets Community group to make this become a reality.
  • Rainier Ave Safety Project: We are supporting the expansion of the successful (the data shows its working as planned) Rainier Road Safety Corridor Project.
  • Raised Crosswalks for Rainier Beach: We have submitted a proposal for improving the intersection of Henderson and Rainier Ave S which is at the heart of the Rainier Beach community. Key community destinations people must use this intersection to walk to include four schools, the library, the community center, the main neighborhood park, and the light rail station.
  • This priority builds off the momentum from our 2015 Rainier Ave campaign.
Get Well Card for Businesses Hit By Cars held by SNG staff Phyllis Porter & Gordon Padelford on Rainier Ave S

Get Well Card for Rainier Businesses Hit By Cars

Winning Campaign To Fix Seattle's Most Dangerous Street

Winning Campaign To Fix Seattle’s Most Dangerous Street

Rainier Ave S Protected Bike Lanes experiment

Hillman City to Columbia City family friendly bike lane experiment


Return to 2016 campaigns overview

Rainier Beach HS Students Demand Safe Routes to School

Rainier Beach High School Transit Riders Union 10-22-15 event

Rainier Beach High School Transit Riders Union 10-22-15 event

We support Rainier Beach High School students and the Transit Riders Union in their request to help ALL students to a safe route to school.

To date, our city has failed to provide safe healthy streets for students who need to walk or bike to school. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways supporters would prefer students have a healthy option of walking and biking to school. We see free Orca passes and yellow safety crossing flags as a stopgap measure until Seattle uses Move Seattle Levy monies to complete and connected grid of healthy safe streets for all ages and abilities throughout Seattle.

Community support event for Orca passes is next Thursday, October 22, 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Rainier Beach High School in the Performing Arts Center. Guests include Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Bruce Harrell. Transit Riders Union petition in support.

From the event Facebook Page

Join students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members for an evening of interactive storytelling and collective action! Help us call upon our elected representatives on the City Council, Mayor Murray, and the Seattle School Board to fund bus passes for ALL public school students who need Metro to get to school.

Currently, only students who live more than two miles (as the crow flies) from their school are eligible for a free ORCA pass subsidized by the school district. Not only is four or more miles a long way to walk to and from school, often there is no safe route to walk, due to dangerous traffic or neighborhoods.

Since 2011, Metro fares for youth have risen from $0.75 to $1.25 and now to $1.50, or $54 for a monthly pass. This is not affordable for low-income families. It’s time for our city to provide free transportation for all students to get to school!

This summer, as part of a six week program of the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, 130 Rainier Valley scholars ages 5-18 organized a march between Seattle Public Schools Headquarters and City Hall, where they rallied and raised awareness about the issue of inequitable transportation in their community. Calling the walk zone policy “inequitable,” students mobilized alongside community members saying that for many students, especially those experiencing poverty, this policy “creates a barrier to getting to school, and therefore a barrier to their education.”

This Town Hall event will be held at Rainier Beach High School in the Performing Arts Center on Thursday, October 22, 6:00 – 8:00 PM. Guests include Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Bruce Harrell. Hope to see you there!

Please sign TRU’s petition as well:

Rainier Embraces Transportation Transformation

Mayor Murray at Rainier Ave S Open House 7-301-15

Mayor Murray at Rainier Ave S Open House 7-301-15

Cathy Tuttle July 31, 2015

In a sweltering and packed gymnasium, with the Mayor, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Scott Kubly shouting through a rolled up paper megaphone (the sound system had failed), three of the most transformative projects SDOT has proposed to date were launched.

Harrell tossed down his megaphone and shouted, “We are DONE with Rainier Ave S being a freeway! People live here! We need this street to work for all of us!”

Here are the three transformative Rainier Valley projects (including SNGreenway’s top 2015 priority for Council District 2):

Click on image to see project details of Accessible Mt. Baker

Click on image to see project details of Accessible Mt. Baker

  1. Rainier North-South Greenway stretching from I-90 to Rainier Beach. Will be completed in 2016. Route identified with extensive input from Rainier Valley Greenways and Seattle Bike Advisory Board.
  2. Accessible Mt. Baker signals an SDOT commitment to prioritize people around transit. It’s too long been the norm for Sound Transit to plop in light rail stations and blithely leave it up to local municipalities to make their stations accessible to people who need to walk or bike to them. Accessible Mt. Baker takes up the challenge with a real station area planning.
  3. Rainier Avenue South Safety Corridor Pilot begins construction on Monday August 3 and wraps up construction on August 14. Not only is did SDOT’s Vision Zero Strategic Advisor Jim Curtin present an unprecedentedly short project timeline, the Rainier Ave S project has the potential to transform what is Seattle’s most deadly street.

Read the rest of this entry »

Safety Over Speeding: Rainier Day of Action May 20


  • What: Join the Day of Action! An event to raise awareness and build support for a safer Rainier Ave S. Join a crosswalk action, help collect petition signatures, post flyers, take portraits of supporters, or sign a Get Well Soon Rainier Ave card. However you want to be involved, we could use your help!
  • When: Wednesday May 20th from 5:30-7:30 PM (5:30-6:30 main event)
  • Where: Columbia City at S Edmunds St & Rainier Ave S.
  • Why: With 1,243 crashes in the past three years, Rainier Avenue South is the most dangerous street in Seattle. Every crash impacts our community – from cars careening into our businesses to our children being run down by drivers who never even stop. We say enough! Rainier Ave S should be made safe for all people to walk, bike, drive, catch the bus, shop, and live.

Can make it to the event? Sign the Rainier Valley Greenways petition to support SAFETY OVER SPEEDING!

day of action half sheet

We need to be able to cross Rainier Ave safely

Our Accomplishments In 2016. Safer Speeds, Safer Routes to School, & More!

We support safety over speeding on Rainier Avenue South

With crash every day, Rainier Avenue South is the most dangerous street in Seattle. Every crash impacts our community – from cars careening into our businesses to our children being run down by drivers who never even stop. We say enough! Rainier Ave S should be made safe for all people to walk, bike, drive, catch the bus, shop, and live.

We’re asking to improve the intersection of Rainier Ave and S Henderson St before school starts, and to quickly finish the entire Rainier Ave safety corridor project.

Sign your name in support below:

District 2: Rainier Valley & Beacon Hill

Click here to see our 2016 priorities

In 2015, community advocates from Rainier Valley Greenways and Beacon B.I.K.E.S. set an audacious goal for 2015: Fix Seattle’s most dangerous street. And they won! They rallied their community members and organizations like Cascade to support a campaign called Safety Over Speeding.

Safety Over Speeding recognizes that with 1,243 crashes in the past three years, Rainier Avenue South is the most dangerous street in Seattle. Every crash impacts our community – from cars careening into our businesses to our children being run down by drivers who never even stop. We say enough! Rainier Ave S should be made safe for all people to walk, bike, drive, catch the bus, shop, and live.

We need our neighborhood back. We need,

  1. Safe Speeds of 25 MPH along Rainier Avenue South and 20 MPH engineered in our community centers of Columbia City, Hillman City, and Rainier Beach with enforcement.

  2. Safe & Dignified Crossings of Rainier Ave S where people driving stop for people walking, and people walking have enough to time cross before the traffic light changes.

  3. A Safe Place for People to Bike on Rainier Ave S.

Campaign Updates

Rainer Ave Campaign

Click the map to see a presentation of the changes

Click the map to see a presentation of the changes

Big update! Our grassroots campaign has used twenty-one different tactics such as posting a giant hand-painted “Get Well Soon Rainier Ave” card on a local business that had been plowed into by a car, framing the conversation in the media around the human toll of the road rather than the fear of change, and hosting a Day of Action crosswalk protest. Your hard work has paid off! A segment of Rainier Ave S received a safety redesign in August 2015, with more miles to come in 2016.

But there is still more work to do, and we still need your help making Seattle’s most dangerous street safer by expanding and improving the redesign.


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