Category Archive: News

Act now to pass the nation’s best transportation package!

MASS SNG

Get Ready for Action to Move All Seattle Sustainably!

We’ve been waiting years to pass legislation this exciting. We don’t know what the Seattle City Council will look like next year, so we’re working with allies to pass the nation’s best transportation package now — see below for more details. You can make it happen.

Please take a moment to send the Mayor and Seattle City Council an email asking them to support the MASS Transportation package.

The MASS Transportation Package includes policy reforms and investments in sidewalks, bus lanes, and bike paths that will help you get where you need to go safely and efficiently.

For our climate, public health, and equity, our city urgently needs:  

  • Faster and more reliable buses: How often is your bus stuck in gridlock? This package calls for a robust network of bus priority corridors connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods to make public transit fast, reliable, and efficient.
  • Convenient and comfortable bike connections: Seattle doesn’t currently have safe, efficient bike routes connecting SE Seattle and SODO to the rest of the city. This package will fund and build these key connections, improve maintenance of existing bike lanes, and make it harder for the city to cancel planned bike lanes.
  • Accessible and safe sidewalks and crosswalks: Our sidewalks are crumbling, our signals too often prioritize cars over everyone else, and, at the current funding rate, it will take hundreds of years to build sidewalks where they are missing. This package will enhance the sidewalk repair program, build more sidewalks along dangerous streets, adopt a signals policy that puts people first, keep sidewalks clear of obstructions, and help ensure that our kids have safe routes to school.

We need to connect Seattle’s diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, minimize reliance on private vehicles, create walkable and roll-able communities, and ensure safe and equitable access to transportation for all people, particularly for those who have been historically and are currently underserved. Please support the MASS Transportation Package 2019

Please take a moment to send the Mayor and Seattle City Council an email.

Thank you for your continued advocacy!

Best part of my bike commute? The smells.

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By Tom Lang, co-leader of Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets

 

One of the best parts of commuting by bike is whizzing past a long line of cars stuck in traffic. I love that. But—hands down⁠—⁠the very best part of my commute is the smells.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, my commute from the far side of Fremont to the U District was along the Burke Gilman Trail⁠—a safe, comfortable and flat bike ride. Some mornings, I would get to see a sunrise over Lake Washington, framed by the Aurora Bridge. Most afternoons, I saw rollerbladers, joggers, and families outside enjoying the day.

 

On Monday and Wednesday mornings, I would be treated to both rich, chocolaty smells and fragrant hops …

 

I also passed by the Theo Chocolate Factory and Fremont Brewing. On Monday and Wednesday mornings, I would be treated to both rich, chocolaty smells and fragrant hops being turned into delicious beers. Most days, it was the highlight of my day.

The North Seattle Transfer Station was also on the route, so I also enjoyed whiffs of garbage and stinky things. But for most of the five years between 2011 and 2016, the Transfer Station was closed for renovation. And the re-opened station does a much better job of containing the trash smells.

 

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I recently traded in my commute for a downtown slog, through traffic and past parked cars, up hills and into Little Saigon. But, here too, there are smells to be grateful for. I pass the Tsue Chong fortune cookie factory in the morning (that distinctively  sweet smell reminding me of birthday dinners past) and several blocks of Vietnamese restaurants, with mouth-watering aromas of garlic and fish sauce. On the way home, I pass Pagliacci Pizza, where I try to forget about all the other surrounding smells of diesel and oil and just…focus…on…the…pizza for at least a few minutes each day.

 

Do other people have an olfactorily-blessed bike commute?

 

I sometimes wonder if I’m alone in appreciating the smells of my commute. Do other people have an olfactorily-blessed bike commute? What kinds of things am I missing out on? Where should I move to in order to maximize my convenience-to-smelliness ratio? I NEED TO KNOW.

MASS Coalition hosts Seattle City Council Candidate Forums ⁠— Video and Transcripts now available

A crowded room of people sitting facing a panel of candidates at the front of the room.

The Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition, of which Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is a part, hosted five forums recently, asking candidates for Seattle City Council tough questions about transportation, housing, and sustainability.

You can watch the forums or read transcripts here, with special thanks to Rooted in Rights and Disability Rights Washington, or find a general summary of the five forums here from the Urbanist. (Don’t know which district is yours? Find it here.)

The primary election will take place on August 6 (register to vote or update your mailing address by July 29). The top two candidates will advance to the November 5 general election. Because Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is a 501c3, we are unable to make candidate endorsements, but we encourage everyone to educate themselves on the issues they care about. Don’t forget to VOTE!

MASS

MASS (Move All Seattle Sustainably) is a coalition of organizations and advocates working to connect Seattle’s diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, minimize reliance on private vehicles, achieve Vision Zero, make Seattle carbon-neutral, create walkable communities, and ensure equitable access to transportation for all people.

Community mourns death of Jesse Gurnett and looks for solutions on Lake City Way

Article written by Janine Blaeloch, a leader with Lake City Greenways, SNG’s local chapter in the neighborhood. 

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Candy holds a picture of her son Jesse.

 

On March 29, 2019, 32-year-old Jesse Gurnett, a lifelong Lake City resident, was struck by a speeding driver in the crosswalk at NE 127th Street and Lake City Way—on his way home, and just steps away from Value Village, where he worked. Jesse died the next day, devastating his family and friends. Loved by co-workers and customers for his unflagging positive attitude and his dancing skills (including an uncanny Michael Jackson dance impression) he is sorely missed in Lake City and beyond.

 

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In collaboration with Jesse’s family, Lake City Greenways and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways organized a gathering on June 22 to memorialize Jesse and to honor him through a legacy of street safety for the community he left behind. We gathered at the main plaza in Lake City for some words from family and friends, then walked the intersection where Jesse lost his life—bearing signs saying “Stop for Jesse,” “Brake for Humans,” “Families Crossing,” and other reminders for drivers passing through.

 

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Then we walked to a nearby church basement to talk about problems and solutions around pedestrian safety on Lake City Way, a state highway that is also our neighborhood street. Speed was on everyone’s mind; had the driver who hit Jesse been obeying the posted speed limit of 30 rather than an estimated 45 mph, the two might have seen each other—or Jesse might have survived his injuries.

 

speed

 

Ideas and aspirations sprang forth, and a plan began to take shape for bringing speed down to 20 mph in the commercial core of Lake City through both a speed-limit reduction and streetscape design. A Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) will also be proposed for the intersection where Jesse was hit and others nearby; LPIs give people a few seconds lead time with a “walk” signal before cars are allowed to go.

 

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 Jason & child, relatives of Jesse.

 

Amplifying the passion of Jesse’s family and friends and the commitment of the Lake City community, we are confident that with energy and a strategic approach we will secure improvements on Lake City Way that will honor Jesse’s memory and his parents’ wish that his death will not have been in vain.

If you want to get involved with making safer streets in Lake City, email Clara@seattlegreenways.org.

Bicycle Implementation Plan Update: Good Project List, Incomplete Funding

The mayor’s latest bicycle plan adds critical projects, but leaves them unfunded. Join us at the Ride4SafeSteets this Sunday, and send a letter to elected officials to call for completing the network.

Act Now! button

At the end of April, the Mayor released a draft 2019-2024 Bicycle Implementation Plan outlining projects to be built through the end of the Move Seattle Levy. The plan drastically cut the connected network that the original Levy promised to voters, and the community responded.

In hundreds of emails sent to city officials, letters from advisory and oversight boards, and at outreach events conducted across the city, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) heard two resounding calls —

  1. We want safe routes from SE Seattle to the rest of the city, and
  2. We want the network to be connected — no more building infrastructure with missing gaps where people riding bikes are thrown out into dangerous intersections or stretches of roadway. If we’re spending money to build safe routes, they need to connect to each other.

Now, the City has released the final version of the Bicycle Implementation Plan. Our summary: Good project list, incomplete funding. Join us at the Ride4SafeSteets this Sunday, and send a letter to elected officials to call for action.

A group of smiling kids riding bicycles down the street.

The Good

Because you spoke up, the City added a list of important projects that will be built if more funding becomes available, including North-South routes which would connect SE Seattle to downtown on Beacon Ave S and MLK Jr Way S, and a safe connection from SODO to Georgetown, which would provide safe access to thousands of blue collar jobs.

Additionally, the plan fully funds a route on a short section of MLK Way connecting from Mt. Baker station to the I-90 trail, and retains important projects providing safe places to bike on Eastlake Ave E, Green Lake Way, Delridge Way SW, Pike/Pine (and other parts of the Basic Bike Network), Thomas St, and the Burke Gilman Trail Missing Link.

These are big wins — thank you for speaking up.

A joyful crowd of people in rain ponchos ride on a protected bike lane.

The Bad

Unfortunately, because the plan does not commit to fund and build the critical connections through South and South East Seattle and SODO. Also, apparently partly because of a lack of funds, the long planned and delayed downtown 4th Ave route has been downgraded from a two-way protected bike lane to a one-way (northbound).

We must make it clear to our elected leaders that these routes are not optional.

 

A group of people with helmets and bikes hold signs calling for safety and Vision Zero.

Next Steps

In her cover letter, Mayor Durkan states that “we are committed to delivering the bike safety projects included in this plan,” and “we will continue seeking additional revenue sources and grants to advance these key connections.”

We all need to work together to secure funding for these projects, to create the connected, comfortable network of safe routes for people to bike throughout Seattle that we all support. There are numerous options for generating additional funding for safe streets projects including a rideshare tax, commercial parking tax, or impact fees, all of which need careful consideration to ensure they can be implemented equitably. It will be up to our elected leaders to find a way to fund these projects, but it is up to all of us to let them know that we care.

Here’s three things you can do, right now:

  • Join us at the Ride4SafeSteets this Sunday to call on our elected leaders to fund and build these critical routes.
  • Send a letter to the Mayor, City Council, and SDOT thanking them for including the projects and pushing for funding them.
  • Ride your bike, and bring a friend! More people out enjoying the sunny weather on bikes means more safety and visibility for everyone.

A woman with dark hair rides a lime bike down a tree-lined street.

Thank you for your advocacy!

A headshot of Clara CantorClara Cantor

Community Organizer
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
Website – Twitter – Facebook

 

Join SNG and the MASS Coalition on the Ride for Safe Streets

Join SNG and the MASS Coalition on the Ride for Safe Streets
as we launch a Green Transportation Package for Seattle!

A colorful logo featuring icons for a bus, a person in a wheelchair, a person carrying a baby and pushing a stroller, and a person riding a bike. Text reads: The Ride for Safe Streets. Sunday, June 16, 1-3 pm. Seattle City Hall.It’ll be a fun, family-friendly, Father’s Day afternoon, coming together to make our streets safe for all families.

Join hundreds of Seattle residents and families this Sunday as we urge City leaders to fast-track transit, walking, rolling, & biking improvements and make Seattle’s streets safe for everyone.

Ride for Safe Streets
Sunday, June 16, 1-3 pm
Seattle City Hall to Westlake Park
RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

We’ll meet at Seattle City Hall at 1pm for a lively rally — and then bike, walk and roll with hundreds of people down 4th Avenue to Westlake Park, where there will be music, art, and other kid-friendly activities. There will be a marching band, public officials, calls to action, and plenty of fun as we urge Seattle leaders to be bold and take action.

At the event, the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition will launch a Green Transportation Package for Seattle! Don’t miss out on being a part of history.

ASL interpretation will be provided. If you have other accessibility needs or questions please reply to this email. RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

Bike Everywhere Day — and Month!

A mixed group of people with bikes stands in front of the Chinatown Arch in Seattle, smiling and waving.May is Bike Month!

Get outside and enjoy the spring sunshine, whether you’re riding your bike with your kids to the park or commuting across town to and from work.

Join Seattle Neighborhood Greenways local chapters from across the city on Bike Everywhere Day, Friday, May 17, by stopping at our Celebration Stations to pick up free snacks and swag and learn about local neighborhood efforts to make our streets safer for everyone.

Downtown — 2nd & Cherry, on the 2nd Ave Protected Bike Lane. Join SNG and Washington Bike Law for breakfast pizzas by World Pizza, and coffee courtesy of Cherry Street Coffee House! Facebook event page.

Central Seattle Greenways — Broadway & Yesler, where the protected bike lanes meet. Stop by and say hi. They’ll have coffee, snacks, and information about Safe Streets! Open 6-9am

West Seattle Bike Connections — under the West Seattle Bridge where the Alki Trail, West Seattle Bridge Trail and Duwamish Trail meet, just west of the Spokane St Bridge. Coffee, homemade treats, swag, info. Stu from Alki Bike and Board or Brad from Westside Bikes can give your bike a quick check. Facebook event page. 

Ballard-Fremont Greenways — on 6th Ave NW on the substation lawn, between NW 45th & 46th Streets. 

Greenwood-Phinney Greenways — at Greenwood Park on Fremont Ave and N 89th St, 4:30 – 6:30pm

and more — find a Bike Everywhere Day Celebration near you! 

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Join us again, on Friday, May 31, for the End of Bike Month Party at Peddler Brewing!

The wonderful folks at Peddler Brewing are calling all bikey-people to join in as they throw their annual bike party at the end of Bike Month. Check out local vendors, win great raffle items, enjoy live music, and raise a glass as $1/pint goes to Washington Bikes!

Friday 5/31 at Peddler Brewing Company
4 – 8pm: Check out local bike-related makers and nonprofits
7:30pm: Raffle drawing! 1 ticket per pint purchased, must be present to win
7:30-10pm: Live music by Left Turn on Blue
Food Truck: Cycle Dogs

With plenty of bike parking for all, they encourage riders of all ages, abilities and styles to come out to this celebration of biking in Seattle. Everyone’s welcome, Peddler is all ages.

 

 

 

 

Hear from Seattle City Council Candidates on Transportation, Housing, and Sustainability

A row of people on bicycles in a protected lane share the street with a King County Metrobus.There are currently 58 candidates for Seattle City Council.

Are you overwhelmed, and looking for a candidate in your district that aligns with your values? Look no further!

 

SNG, the MASS Coalition, and allies are hosting candidate forums in five of the seven Seattle City Council districts this month. We’ll hear from candidates as they answer questions about the biggest issues facing our city: transportation, housing, reducing carbon emissions, and equity. All forums are wheelchair-accessible and CART services will be provided:

  • District 6 Candidate Forum moderated by Heidi Groover
    Tuesday, May 21, 5:30-7:30pm
    Phinney Neighborhood Association, 6532 Phinney Ave N
    (District 6 includes Crown Hill, Greenwood, Ballard, Phinney Ridge, Greenlake, Tangletown, and parts of Fremont)
  • District 3 Candidate Forum moderated by Heidi Groover and Dr. Larry Hubbell
    Thursday, May 23, 6:00-7:30pm
    Washington State Labor Council, 321 16th Ave S
    (District 3 includes Capitol Hill, Central Area, First Hill, Little Saigon, and parts of South Lake Union, Mount Baker, Montlake and Yesler Terrace)
  • District 2 Candidate Forum moderated by Erica Barnett
    Tuesday, May 28, 7:00-8:30pm
    New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave S
    (District 2 includes Chinatown/International District, Little Saigon, SoDo, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, Mount Baker, Columbia City, New Holly, Othello, Seward Park, and Rainier Beach)
  • District 7 Candidate Forum moderated by Erica Barnett
    Wednesday, May 29, 6:00-8:00pm
    SEIU 775 Auditorium, 215 Columbia St.
    (District 7 includes Pioneer Square, Downtown, Belltown, Denny Triangle, Uptown/Lower Queen Anne, Queen Anne, Interbay, Magnolia, and parts of First Hill and South Lake Union)
  • District 4 Candidate Forum moderated by Erica Barnett
    Thursday, May 30, 5:30-7:30pm
    Cascade Bicycle Club, 7787 62nd Ave NE
    (District 4 encompasses Eastlake, University District, Wallingford, Ravenna Bryant, Roosevelt, and parts of Fremont, Maple Leaf, and Wedgwood)

If you miss the forum or if you live in District 1 (West Seattle and South Park) or District 5 (North Seattle), keep a lookout for candidate questionnaires! You’ll be able to read what candidates in your district have to say about these important issues.

SNG’s Electric Scooter Share Policy Statement

Electric Scooter Share Policy Statement
March 2019

 

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways supports options for people to get around our community safely, comfortably, conveniently and sustainably. To meet this need, foot-scooters are one tool that the City of Seattle should pilot.

Scooters can help provide first/last mile connection to transit and a pollution-free short distance transportation option.

We have heard valid concerns that this new technology could make our sidewalks less safe to navigate, especially for people with disabilities. The city and the private companies must, therefore, address these concerns for any pilot to be successful. SNG supports a temporary pilot, derived from Portland’s regulations, to test how scooters could work in the Seattle context. We recommend the following elements be included in a Seattle pilot:

  • Safe Sidewalks: In order to reduce conflicts with people walking, the pilot should legalize and recommend scooters be operated in separated bike lanes, trails, and the roadway of neighborhood greenways. When operated on the sidewalks, scooter users should be subject to the same regulations as people biking, and be required to yield to pedestrians.
  • Orderly Parking: Keeping sidewalks accessible is critical, and strategies to reduce parked scooter conflicts such as installing additional bike/scooter corrals in the street (especially near corners where car parking is already restricted to help “daylight” sightlines) should be implemented.
  • Safe Scooting: Users must pass an educational course (such as an in-app training) that helps people understand how to be safe while scooting and how to keep others safe.
  • Data Collection and Reporting: Most media reports about the safety or danger of this new technology to date have been anecdotal. The pilot should require SDOT work with public health officials to collect, analyze and report on the public health impacts (positive or negative) of scooter share.

Sam Zimbabwe: The SNG Interview

SamZimbabwePortraitSam Zimbabwe, Seattle’s new Director of Transportation, appointed by Mayor Jenny Durkan in February of this year, is a familiar figure in local news by now. In early Seattle coverage, he was praised by former Washington, DC colleagues as a consensus-builder, and as someone who knows what it takes to make ambitious change. In the short months since his arrival, he’s been faced with the first waves of the multi-year Seattle Squeeze and the death-by-driver of a bicyclist on Rainier Ave. He announced the City’s cancellation of a 35th Ave N bike lane, and he oversaw the release of a disappointing Bicycle Implementation Plan.

Just weeks after his arrival, on March 12, David Goldberg, board president of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, sat down with Sam for an interview to help our community learn more about the new SDOT director, his safe streets philosophy, and where he wants to take Seattle’s streets and transportation. The transcript of that interview has been edited for length and clarity (with occasional bold text for emphasis, by the editors).

Sam comes to Seattle from Washington, D.C., where he most recently served as the transportation department’s Chief Project Delivery Officer, working to streamline planning and construction of capital projects. During his seven years at DDOT, Sam oversaw the implementation of app-based bike and scooter rentals as well as implementation of Vision Zero and efforts to speed transit and add bike capacity. Before that, he directed the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, a national nonprofit partnership to promote the equitable development of neighborhoods around transit.

 

What drew you to make this move to Seattle?

First, I have long looked to SDOT and Seattle as a place to find a lot of innovative things around transportation. At DDOT we would communicate with SDOT as a similar-sized city with similar issues. We were both working on free-floating car-share programs around the same time, for example. Seattle has made more progress on transit investment than we were able to in DC. The idea of being in a place that was in the forefront of that was exciting to me.

 

At one point, this region had the highest per-capita car ownership in the country, and a level of opposition to transit investment. The change has been dramatic in a generation’s time, and it came about because of advocacy.

 

What are your big three aspirations for your time here?

1. SDOT has done a lot of hard work over the last year to identify where there are organizational challenges, particularly in how we deliver on commitments. So much of our work has a strong accountability focus because it is funded through taxpayer-passed measures. In DC., there were very few special purpose funds that only went to transportation. The Levy to Move Seattle was a huge jump in how we fund projects on our streets. The Transit Benefit District [to expand bus service in Seattle] was a huge jump in how we deliver transit. So, my first goal is to deliver on those commitments.

2. Vision Zero is a real imperative. Making sure we are doing the full circle of things we can do to improve safety – engineering, education, and enforcement. Seattle has made a lot of strides there, but the last margin is really, really difficult.

3. This region is catching up really quickly in terms of transit investment. You see that in the 25 percent drive-alone modal share to downtown. It will be interesting to see how we can fill the gaps in the transit system and how we continue building on that success. There is a need for SDOT and regional transit providers to be in lock step to make those things happen together.

Those are three big ones, all in the context of having potholes to fill and lines to stripe and all the things SDOT does on a day-to-day basis. And snow to clear, sometimes.

Are there projects or initiatives that you are excited about right off the bat?

There are big multimodal corridor investments that are exciting but will be a real challenge to get done.
AT DDOT, we had modal plans that didn’t really overlay with each other. When I got there, there was a bike plan, there was a pedestrian plan, a sort of unwritten plan for cars in terms of the functional classification system.

Seattle is much clearer about where the investments will go, but our communication about how the plans will be implemented is not very good. So, when we get into the project-level stuff we often run into stakeholder – and agency – confusion, and we don’t have a great way to resolve differences in a way that makes people feel like we are accomplishing the goals of all the plans.

Do you have a philosophy or guiding principles as to how the public right of way should be allocated, and for prioritizing modes?

The goal of the transportation network overall is to provide reliable, safe connections by multiple options. To do that you need to have connected networks. I don’t think that means that every street has to do everything for everybody. I don’t think that’s feasible. Building a connected network is important. Then figuring out how investment in individual streets should flow from that.

SamZimbabweCathyTuttleMarkOstroVolunteerPartyAt some point in every trip, just about everybody is a pedestrian. So, a lot of building a citywide livable transportation system is figuring out the network for how people walk and how that is connected and safe.

Making reliable options for all people is hard because people make decisions about what works best for them in very different ways. Really achieving an all-ages-and-abilities network for all modes, whether transit, walking, biking, driving, is a challenge, and even more so to make it feel inclusive. For example, with biking, research has been replicated in many places about who will bike regardless, who will never bike regardless, and the large segment of those in between that are willing or would like to bike if conditions feel safe.

 

We have big, overriding imperatives like climate change, like safety, that require big shifts over time but we can’t do it if we don’t address the factors that make people resistant.

 

You can do the same sort of thing for who rides transit – how far they walk, the time they are commuting, how frequent the bus is, the whole series of factors that people weigh in deciding how to get around. A lot of things in transportation are very perception-based. It’s hard to change habits, or to make people feel that they can change how they get around. … Like, “I don’t feel safe walking home from the bus stop when I get home at 10 at night.” To say everybody should ride the bus [doesn’t work] if we can’t address those personal feelings. It’s hard to make overall system change, without people feeling like something is being done to them. It’s hard to have a system-level discussion when you’ve got to figure out how to reallocate space or not in this particular place, right now. We have big, overriding imperatives like climate change, like safety, that require big shifts over time but we can’t do it if we don’t address the factors that make people resistant.

What about that climate imperative? What does that say about how we shape our transportation system?

We can’t keep driving at the level we are. Transportation in Seattle is the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change drives us, literally, to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation, and I don’t think electrifying the vehicle fleet will get us there. So, I think we have to figure out how to move more people more efficiently. Electric cars are an aspect, perhaps, but we don’t have the time to change out the fleet, for one thing. Our family car is a 2007 Ford Focus, it’s at 70,000 miles and going fine, there’s no reason to replace it so why would we? Waiting out the vehicle lifecycle for the entire vehicle fleet is not a luxury we have when addressing climate change.

 

I don’t think electrifying the vehicle fleet will get us there.

 

But apart from climate, there are many reasons for change. Driving has a land-use impact, there is a safety impact, the exposure that increases the likelihood there will be crashes. The time we spend driving as traffic grows when we could be doing something else. All sorts of things.

Could people hear that and accuse you of being anti-car?

Today 25% of commuters are driving to the central city to access 250,000 jobs. If you ask them why, many have pretty strong reasons why they drive alone – they live far away, they have family members to pick up or take care of, any number of reasons. The number that say, “I want to drive to the central city because it’s a great experience,” is pretty small at this point. So how we think about what’s impeding people from using other ways to get around is a real issue.

Should we just get over the notion that on-street parking is the highest and best use of limited right of way in busy corridors?

That’s hard to answer in the abstract. There’s a role for parking. It’s not higher and better than every other use, but sometimes, for example, it’s important as a buffer between pedestrian space and moving traffic. A sub-par pedestrian realm next to moving traffic is not a comfortable place to walk.

What is your approach to gaining buy-in for projects and programs? How do you handle opposition to planned projects?

One of the things that I found in my time in D.C. is almost every transportation investment has some level of [negative] impact to somebody. Discussing and disclosing those impacts in a public way of like, “Here’s the challenge we’re trying to address,” builds more trust in what we’re doing and how. I won’t profess to have solved the problem, but we do build credibility when we come out and say, “Hey, we’re not promising it will all be perfect — there are some real impacts and trade-offs here and we need to work through these.” We will mitigate them as best we can, but there might be times in evaluating those trade-offs that we have to make some hard choices, and do it more slowly than some would like it to be.

Most opposition to transportation projects comes from some form of legitimacy; I don’t think that people spend time and energy opposing things just because they want to. It’s a personal, visceral thing that people have very ingrained ways of doing and thinking about things and they come from legitimate places. So, opposition to changes to individual streets need to be listened to and understood to then be responded to. I do think that engagement can lead to better outcomes.

How do we make Seattle neighborhoods more walkable? To make streets feel safer and more comfortable, with construction happening all over, “beg buttons” popping up, obstructions for people with disabilities, speed continuing to be a major issue?

On one level, I think, Seattle has made some really good progress on what causes crashes, where they are, and what counter-measures we can take. We know the conditions that tend to lead to crashes with pedestrians. There are places where we think we have done all the right things professionally, but we still get crashes because of other factors that are hard to figure out. Figuring out what is making people feel unsafe, and knowing what we can do from a design perspective, have to get married up.

How we operate from a signals perspective is an open conversation within SDOT and we’re having that discussion. I don’t know if I’ve had enough time to hear from people, but again the age of the system is one thing that is limiting our ability to make some of the changes that we’ve heard people ask for. An interesting aspect of “beg buttons”, in some places we are putting in signals that are not actuated for some or all of the day, but ADA requirements tell us to put in audible pedestrian signals which require a push-button. Sometimes the perception is that it’s pedestrian actuation. There are certainly places where we have pedestrian actuation where I understand people’s frustration. And certain types of signals that are pedestrian-focused [such as half signals which are only for pedestrian use] will only be actuated by pedestrians.

We seem to have plateaued on our goal for zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Why do you think that is? 71% of pedestrian collisions in 2017 occurred in a crosswalk, six in ten marked. What gives?

We have an issue – not just in Seattle – that drivers do not understand crosswalks, and what they mean. The threat to pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled intersections on multi-lane streets is probably the biggest threat out there. Having more ped crossing points that are controlled, that are convenient, that work in an overall system is a real challenge. It’s easier downtown when blocks are shorter, crossings are frequent. How that works outside of downtown is much more challenging to figure out. SDOT has been systematically addressing those locations that are challenging.

What should SDOT do – and how long should it take – to address roads like Rainier Ave and Lake City Way, where low-income people and people of color are disproportionately hurt and killed?

I’m new here, so I hope I get a small grace period. The recent bicycle fatality on Rainier – SDOT had made crossing improvements at one intersection upstream and one downstream of that crash. That crossing we had not made improvements at. That was a hit-and-run, multiple-threat crash – I don’t know the conditions. But Vision Zero compels us to act methodically to address these corridors and investigate what can be done about each crash.

 

Advocacy helps hold those needs up so they can be addressed.

 

How else can advocates help you make Seattle a beacon of hope for people-centered and climate-friendly streets?

Part of what drew me here is the progress that the city has been able to make. At one point, this region had the highest per-capita car ownership in the country, and a level of opposition to transit investment. The change has been dramatic in a generation’s time, and it came about because of advocacy. It’s critically important.

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Advocates also help with a certain amount of storytelling: It’s very hard in transportation to have the voices spoken for who are not yet doing X or Y – bicycling, taking transit for example. Advocacy helps hold those needs up so they can be addressed. The grassroots voice is a good way for a public agency to engage in a place. If it’s all data- and numbers-based, it doesn’t resonate with people who could be impacted and you might miss how people feel about things.

How aggressively should we act to give buses a time advantage, and what should we do?

It is very important. This region has been a leader in the country in expanding transit and expanding space for transit. SDOT just installed bus lanes on 5th and 6th Avenues in preparation for the tunnel change, and yes, there was a lot of groundwork that was done, but we just reallocated a lot of space for transit – and people are generally supportive. 3rd Ave went to all-day transit, with very little disruption, if any.

We will keep going. We have the seven Transit+ Multimodal [ed: previously RapidRide] corridors and we will work on implementing them. In four years, we’ll have light rail to the east side, and up north. There will be massive shifts in how people get around this region.

What are your thoughts about congestion pricing?

There are a lot of ways to think about what it actually means and how it addresses underlying issues we want to address. It’s hard to say you have to pay for access to drive downtown before we make it easier to get there. We have to think about values and what role pricing plays in upholding those values. In Seattle we have done pricing of curbside uses. We have a tax on transactional parking that is going up to help fund the waterfront. I don’t know that we need to figure out a cordon charge to figure out how to address the impact of congestion downtown. And we have to figure what we mean by addressing congestion – bus speed and reliability, car speed, re-allocating space. Congestion might not be the best metric if we want to reallocate space for public use, because if we promise a time-savings for drivers we might not be able to take the space. We need a very frank and open discussion about what we want out of pricing, if we do it.

I wanted to get your quick take on a few other issues:

Bike share, e-scooters and other “micro-mobility” options?
It was not even two years ago that dockless bike share became a thing and in that time the landscape of who is in, what it is, and how they are managed, has changed quite a bit. Bike share is important for expanding who bikes and how. I don’t think we’ve perfected the system.

It will be interesting to see what scooters mean in the long term. I’ve seen evidence that people use scooters who would never bike, but there are challenges that other cities are seeing in how they can be accommodated in the pedestrian sphere.

Nationally, I don’t think we know yet how to manage private companies operating in public space to provide mobility, and the responsibility of the users isn’t always clear or enforceable.

Ride-hailing companies: If they don’t make money, will they continue to exist?
My guess is they will continue to exist, despite the failure to make money to this point, because it is an upgrade to the mobility people had before. Will they be the same companies? I’m not smart enough to know.

We don’t know what it means for transit. Seattle is one of the only regions that has sustained transit growth; some of that is geographical and land use, in addition to transit investment. Research shows pretty consistently that [ride-hailing companies] contribute to congestion. How do you weigh the congestion impacts with the real mobility benefits? If we can have people leave their houses without driving and using their own car throughout the day, that’s a benefit. This is still pretty new stuff and we have to work on balancing the benefits and impacts.

Driverless vehicles?
We are farther away from fully autonomous vehicles than futurists would have us believe. As a city we need to decide what transportation system we want rather than say we have to build a system for autonomous vehicles.

We are building a LOT of transit around the city with rail and new Rapid Ride lines. And we can’t stop there, we have to think about subsequent rounds of investment.

 

You used to work on promoting transit-oriented development. How is Seattle doing, and what are your thoughts around planning for northside Link and future West Seattle-Ballard light rail?

We are building a LOT of transit around the city with rail and new Rapid Ride lines. And we can’t stop there, we have to think about subsequent rounds of investment. It’s not SDOT’s job to do land use planning, but there is an important role for SDOT in planning for development and transportation investments to support plans for future land use.

Is there a book about cities or streets you would recommend everyone on your staff read?
This isn’t necessarily the book for Seattle, but one that changed my thinking quite a bit in DC was Dream City by Tom Sherwood and HarryJaffe. There are lots of good technical books about street design. But to understand how that interacts with the history of a city, the history of under-investment, of disinvestment — those things are as important, or more important, to understand. I haven’t yet found that one for Seattle, but if you have it let me know. So far I have been reading Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle by Murray Morgan. It’s very engaging about the early history of the city, but only goes up through 1960 or so, and so much has changed in this city in the last 60 years.

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