Category Archive: Research

Bringing 15-Minute Neighborhoods to Seattle

Nick Tritt has been interning with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways over the past quarter as part of his UW Environmental Capstone Program. He conducted research on the 15 Minute Neighborhoods strategy. In the interview below, I asked him about some of his key findings. 

Gordon: If you lived in a 15-minute neighborhood what would your life be like?

Nick: Urban planning has long been focused on moving as many cars as possible and though mass transportations systems like Seattle’s own Link light rail are expanding, what if we thought about how to bring people’s daily needs to their own neighborhoods? What if instead, we made it possible so you could get all your daily needs within a 15-minute walk from home? A 15-Minute Neighborhood vision brings amenities like grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants, parks, childcare, and places of employment to where people live. When we focus on how the different spaces in our lives such as residential, commercial and recreation areas can be intermixed instead of in separate areas of the city, meeting all our needs by walking becomes the easy option, and likely the more enjoyable one! When you think of some of your favorite neighborhood streets in the city, I bet some of them are bustling, tree-lined main streets full of character where a short walk is all it takes to run some errands, meet a friend for coffee, and visit some favorite shops all while getting some exercise in along the way just by walking. Those lively streets and the folks who live among them are the heart of the 15-Minute Neighborhood vision.

15 minute neighborhood graphic from PPS

Gordon: What does a 15 neighborhood look like in theory?

Nick: All of the goods and services we need and want would be located in the same safe walkable radius from our homes. Compiling data from many pedestrian-focused academic papers and municipal transit studies show that the largest non-work needs of people in the day to day are:

  • Grocery Shopping
  • Recreation & Exercise
  • Running Errands (mailing, appointments, dry cleaning, pet care)
  • Retail Shopping (clothing, electronics, books, home & hobby items)
  • Healthcare
  • Entertainment (venues, theaters, art exhibits)
  • Natural Areas
  • Public Gathering Spaces
  • Restaurants & Bars
  • Places of Worship
  • Social Services
  • Child Care Services

Having a choice between similar amenities does matter, as several studies point out that with grocery stores specifically, people often frequent several different stores to purchase food. Consumers navigate their priorities of convenience, price, and specialty options to decide which store will fit their needs best when they shop.

It’s important to consider the distances most people are willing and able to walk for their needs. Industry-standard data points out that 5 minutes is the ideal distance and 20 minutes is the maximum a person is willing to walk before choosing a different option. At the average adults’ walking pace of 3mph, 15 minutes allows for about a ¾ mile around their front door. The close proximity of amenities in a 15-Minute Neighborhood makes multi-stop trips easily accomplished all within the same walking route.

Gordon: What weren’t you able to find during your research?

Nick: Some research still outstanding is survey data of the specific daily, weekly, and monthly needs of people beyond broader categories such as groceries, parks, and errands. Next step research is finding out more about the types of errands, recreational activities, and shopping habits people have and their frequency. Another unknown is data supporting how people may have different walking thresholds for different amenities and activities, which can inform the placement of new development.

Gordon: Where have 15-minute neighborhood plans been adopted?

Nick: Below is a map of cities around the world that are implementing versions of 15-Minute Neighborhoods into their official municipal planning documents, ranging from Barcelona’s famous Superblocks and Paris’s fresh new 15-Minute City plan, down to Charlotte’s Complete Neighborhoods and the 20-Minute Neighborhood plans from our regional neighbors in Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

15 minute neighborhoods map

Gordon: What are the core components of a 15-minute neighborhood plan around the world?

Nick: There are many things that 15-Minute Neighborhood style plans have in common regardless of where they are happening throughout the world. Mixed-use development is by far the most common trait among plans because when buildings and spaces have multiple uses and open zoning, the cultural, residential, educational, recreational, and commercial spaces coexist, potentially in the same building. Several plans layout the three D’s of urban walkability; Distance, Destinations, and Density. These factors represent having many areas that are easy to walk in a comfortable distance, presence of the most needed business and facilities destinations, and a dense enough resident, employer, and visitor population to financially support all the amenities in a neighborhood. 

Gordon: What are some of the supporting strategies that complement a 15-minute neighborhood strategy?

Nick: Strong bicycle infrastructure and multi-modal transit hubs are widely supported in cities with 15-Minute Neighborhood plans because they allow people on foot to go beyond their walkshed without resorting to cars. More bike lanes, especially those with physical barriers, provide extra protection and space from cars, while well-planned transit hubs can contain pedestrian facilities such as bathrooms, lockers, and information services. 

One other big similarity between cities planning for pedestrian priority is providing more green space and general vegetation in neighborhoods. Greening a neighborhood definitely involves well-maintained parks but also adding street trees, greenery, and pocket parks in vacant lots or oddly shaped and small pieces unused city space. Detroit, MI has made great strides to bring more nature into the city by turning a defunct railroad line into a 1.65-mile-long greenway and supporting extensive urban farm and garden opportunities throughout the city.

Gordon: What do you think should be a part of a 15 Minute Neighborhood plan for Seattle?

Nick: As Seattle progresses toward a more walkable city, we need to make sure that developmental change does not take away the character of our neighborhoods. This includes maintaining racial diversity and equity within communities. We must preserve affordable housing and fully engage with all community members to address everyone’s needs. The individuality of neighborhoods and their unique aesthetics, architecture, and landmarks are part of the intangible characteristics of walkability that make us want to take in the town on foot and feel the community pride with our neighbors and visitors enjoying the scenery. Fostering small independent business growth not only adds appealing character to a neighborhood but in mixed-use development, there is more opportunity for residents to live where they work and be that much more invested in their community.

Recently, the miles of new Stay Healthy Streets in Seattle show that when given the opportunity, communities come alive with activity in new public space options for families to gather, safely play and travel by walking or biking. We need to continue to find similar opportunities to expand pedestrian space through easily implemented temporary traffic lanes and parking minimization. Farmers markets in Seattle, notably the Ballard Farmers Market is an example of what could come from experimenting with reclaiming roads for community space. For less dense areas, being creative with using space in multiple ways such as getting a pop-up retail market or food truck corral in parking lots or school grounds lets less walkable neighborhoods experience having more amenities close to home.

Thanks for all your work on this Nick! For folks who want to support helping Seattle become a place where everyone can walk or roll to their daily needs, donate or sign up to volunteer

The Cost of Vision Zero

Ronacin Tjhung was struck & killed at MLK & South Graham January 2017

Ronacin Tjhung, father of 4 young children, was struck & killed in January 2017 at MLK & South Graham on his way to work

January 2017

May 25, 2017
Cathy Tuttle, @SNGreenways Executive Director

Every life is precious, and over the course of a year, thousands of lives in Seattle are impacted by traffic violence.

In just the past few months in Seattle, two young parents were hit and killed by people driving, people young and old were maimed for life crossing the street, and people commuting to work who’d love to get healthy exercise by walking or biking to their jobs were intimidated by speeding and distracted drivers and so refused to continue commuting by active transportation.

As a society, we’ve chosen to accept this loss of life and freedom as our collective cost of driving.

Serious road injuries and fatalities also have a real economic cost. A shockingly high cost it turns out.

The High Cost of Traffic Violence

The high cost of traffic violence is what we asked Tim Ganter to capture in his extraordinary data visualizations.

Let’s look at one example, the intersection of Rainier Ave S with MLK Ave S, better known as the Accessible Mt. Baker project. In 2016, our advocacy group successfully lobbied for more funding to go to this intersection. 

Tim’s new map tells the story of what our local advocates had verified on the ground.

Click on image for Data viz map

 

  • In the past decade there have been two fatalities and scores of injuries in and around MLK and Rainier Ave S.
  • In the past decade, the cost of traffic violence around MLK and Rainier Ave S added up to an astonishing $17,206,400 according to actuarial tables developed by the National Safety Council.

So which fact is more shocking? The money or the violence?
Which fact is most likely to influence public opinion and get leaders to invest and take action?

 

Stories of individual lives lost and shattered because of traffic violence are compelling. But so too are the dollar costs to our society for choosing to invest in streets that favor safety over speeding.

I encourage you to explore Tim’s work, based on Seattle’s open-sourced traffic incident reports, combined with fully vetted National Safety Council cost estimates for fatalities and injuries.

Please let Tim and @SNGreenways know how you use this work in your own neighborhoods. And let Tim know if you want his expertise in developing traffic data visualizations for your own community.

A Basic Bike Network for One Center City

As you may have seen in the media, the One Center City process is well underway. One Center City aims to “bring together many communities, perspectives and partners, to create a 20-year plan for how we move through, connect to, and experience Seattle’s Center City neighborhoods.” As part of the One Center City process, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club are proposing a Basic Bike Network as an early implementation strategy. This interim strategy will allow the city to improve mobility and safety quickly, and collect data about how a connected network of safe places to bike downtown would work best.

Get Involved

Join us at Seattle City Council, Tuesday April 3rd 2018 at 2 PM.

 

Proposed Basic Bike Network

Downtown Minimum grid map with arrows 6 copy

WHY A BASIC BIKE NETWORK?

Our downtown streets are crowded and offer limited bike connections. A connected network of safe bicycle lanes is essential to efficiently move people.

WHY NOW?

One Center City (OCC)
Though the OCC process will eventually produce a comprehensive multi-modal plan for downtown, people need safe places to bike as soon as possible. A pilot basic bike network would make a sensible early deliverable for OCC to make bicycling safer and inform the final plans based on data from the pilot network

Reliable mobility options are needed
Bicycling is a reliable way to travel to, from and within downtown — even when transit is delayed. Implementing a basic bike network will provide more people with a failsafe mobility option.

CASE STUDIES

Calgary offers the best example of quickly implementing a basic bike network, setting realistic target metrics and collecting pre- and post data during an 18-month pilot. After the pilot, Calgary voted to make the network permanent.

Major takeaways include:

  • Bike mode share doubled in three months
  • Improved safety along the most dangerous routes
  • Increased diversity of ridership, including women and children
  • Declines in illegal bicycle behavior
  • Little to no delays for SOV traffic  

Edmonton is now following its approach, with other cities following closely behind. Other cities have demonstrated that a pilot network is a successful model: Seattle’s plan coupled with the comprehensive multimodal OCC process would truly make it a transportation leader amongst our peer cities.

For more information contact: Padelford at [email protected], www.seattlegreenways.org

 

 

The Promise of Seattle Boulevards

The Promise of Seattle Boulevards is a 2016 workshop and report from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, supported by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation (SPR), the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON), and the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP). The recommendations of this group centered on the best use of current boulevards and a design framework to help to determine how boulevards can function equitably as both parks and transportation for all.

interlaken-blvd-promise-of-boulevards-report-2016The history of Seattle’s boulevard system is closely tied to the Olmsted legacy, which left Seattle with a promise of a citywide system of linear landscapes. The idea of connecting people to the remarkably beautiful landscapes and vistas of Seattle predates the Olmsteds, and continues to this day as we evolve to meet the open space needs of future generations, preserving and maintaining design intent, while connecting people to places.

reviewing-plans-promise-of-boulevards-report-2016

What are our challenges?

Our Seattle network of boulevards were not designed for the vehicle speeds or volumes typically seen today.​ Early boulevards were designed as slow pleasure drives linking scenic resources for early-model cars on gravel-lined roads. Boulevards today often lack intended connectivity, and higher design speed limits the safe use of boulevards for family-friendly recreational purposes, particularly by people walking or biking.

Seattle, through its Race and Social Justice Initiative, has a goal to eliminate disparities and achieve racial equity.​ How can we ensure equitable access on our boulevard system (culturally relevant, ADA, multimodal, and geographically distributed) and create a city where park-like qualities blend into our streets, where parks are accessible for people of all incomes, ages and abilities, all while celebrating our history?​ How can SPR, SDOT, and DON develop shared practices and principles to streamline interdepartmental work on our rich public space inventory? How can we create a transparent process for community involvement?

Read the complete report here

board-of-park-commissioners-1920-promise-of-boulevards-report-2016

Social Justice in the Crosswalk

Dec 9, 2015
By Robyn Kwon
 

Robyn photo
Is walking across the crosswalks in Seattle more dangerous for certain people with different ethnic backgrounds?

During a summer observational field experiment, we tested the hypothesis to see if drivers’ behavior exposes racial or sex bias towards pedestrians. Our results found that White males had a shorter wait time and lower average number of vehicles that passed before a vehicle stopped compared to Black males. In addition, there were more first stop vehicles and a longer average distance for White males. Results for sex bias found that females had a lower average number of vehicles that passed before a vehicle stopped with a shorter wait time compared to males. Females also had a higher percentage of first stop vehicles but a shorter distance between where drivers stopped and where the pedestrian stood at the crosswalk.

Much like the Portland study also looking into Racial Bias in Driver Yielding Behavior at Crosswalks, data from both studies indicate that drivers were less likely to stop for Black pedestrians than for White pedestrians. White males had a shorter wait time, higher percentage for a first car stop and lower average number of vehicles that passed before a vehicle stopped compared to Black males. For the total wait time in the Portland study, Black pedestrians had to wait 2.39 seconds longer while this study illustrated that Black pedestrians had to wait 1.95 seconds longer. For yielding behavior based on first car stops, the Portland study stated that although results did not significantly differ by race, Black pedestrians were more than twice as likely as White pedestrians to have to wait for two or more vehicles.
Read the rest of this entry »

Roosevelt BRT Road Diet Analysis

by Andres Salomon, NE Seattle Greenways
November 26, 2015

NOTE: Seattle DOT Is gathering public input for the Roosevelt to Downtown High Capacity Corridor (Bus Rapid Transit BRT) Project. Be sure to let them know that you want safety improvements for people walking and biking to be the primary focus for this project. Put your Public comment here, or attend a public meeting.

Public SDOT meetings

Wednesday, December 9
6 – 8 PM
TOPS School, Cafeteria
2500 Franklin Avenue E
Seattle, WA
Thursday, December 10
6 – 8 PM
UW Tower, Cafeteria North
4333 Brooklyn Avenue NE
Seattle WA

Same content at both SDOT meetings. A brief presentation starts at 6:15.

 

Within 1/2 mile of the #RooseveltBRT corridor, 30% of surveyed households don’t own a car. Compare this to 8% non-car ownership for the rest of Seattle.

 

Car-free household density map

Where are all of those zero-car households? Here’s a density map. Darker areas have > 10 car-free households per acre.

Read the rest of this entry »

Child-Friendly Transit

by Andres Salomon, NE Seattle Greenways

Andres and Atom travel around Seattle by bus and bike

Andres and Atom travel around Seattle by bus and bike

December 7, 2015

Seattle voters recently approved the Move Seattle levy, which contains funding for a number of exciting transit projects. Seattle’s Department of Transportation is currently planning at least two of these projects; a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line running along E Madison St, and another BRT line running from Northgate to Downtown.

Bicycles and transit go hand-in-hand, with bicycles (and bike share) helping with transit’s “last mile” problem. Transit also compliments biking, allowing people on bikes to increase their range, skip dangerous segments of roadway, bypass hills, or act as a backup option when they can’t or don’t want to ride. Unfortunately, our current public transit systems are failing families who want to bike. Even when bicycle facilities are integrated with transit, they are often designed for only certain types of bikes – non-standard bikes such as family/cargo bikes don’t fit.

If we can design our BRT and other public transit systems to be truly family-friendly, not only do we allow families to reduce or completely eliminate car ownership, but we also create a transit system that works for all ages and abilities. In order for a BRT system to be truly family-friendly, families should be able to safely and comfortable walk or bike to stations. However, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has already talked a lot about safe routes, so this will focus on BRT itself. Some of these things are more important than others, and people have different preferences, so I haven’t attempted to prioritize anything. This is simply my ideal, family-friendly BRT system.

Let’s start with waiting for the bus:

* High-frequency. Kids aren’t going to want to sit still for 30 mins while waiting for the bus, and when you have multiple kids (and a spouse), it’s pretty hard to check OneBusAway and time it right. Someone’s going to lose a shoe (or hide your keys), you’re going to leave the house and have to go back for someone’s favorite stuffed bear, or maybe everyone will be already outside and ready to go. Once you’re outside, there will be stops to look at a caterpillar, or wanting to go into a store, potty breaks, etc. You just can’t time public transit with kids. You need a bus or train that just comes regularly. Ideally, every 5 minutes. Without kids, I’m fine waiting 15 minutes while I read a book or check email. With kids, every minute is spent telling them to behave, trying to find something to keep them entertained, etc.

* Safe. The bus stop needs to feel safe. This means good lighting, a good distance away from fast-moving cars, and clean (especially no broken glass, random liquids, garbage, etc). It also means that there’s nothing capable of being broken. For 1-3 year olds, parents will have to make sure they’re not going to fall or touch anything that will hurt them. For 3-6 year olds, parents will have to keep them from breaking/destroying things or venturing out into traffic.

* Entertaining. Stops with things that keep kids (and adults) entertained are the best.
Read the rest of this entry »

Multi-Use Trails Reviewed By Expert User

by Don Brubeck, West Seattle Bike Connections
October 15, 2015 (original letter 9/11/15)
The City of Seattle is in the process of updating both its Pedestrian Master Plan and Trails Plan. There are several opportunities for public input. As an everyday bicycle commuter, Don Brubeck, co-leader of West Seattle Bike Connections, has had a lot of experience as a trail user. Don is also a great thinker and writer. We were so impressed with Don’s suggestions that we got his permission to reprint his letter, below. Thank you Don!

Don Brubeck, West Seattle Bike Connections

Don Brubeck, West Seattle Bike Connections

We are happy to know that SDOT is doing a comprehensive study of the multi-use trails. The trails are valued community assets. They are essential in providing mobility and recreation for people of all ages and abilities. The trails vary widely in age, design, condition and use. It seems timely to step back and look at them as a whole, for safety with Vision Zero, and for connectivity and equity as part of the region’s transportation network.

West Seattle Bike Connections is a volunteer community organization advocating for safe and effective bicycle transportation in, to and from West Seattle. We advocate for pedestrian safety as well, and for use of city streets by all modes of transportation. We represent West Seattle and South Park in the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition. We are the West Seattle branch of Cascade Bicycle Club’s “Connect Seattle” groups. We are part of Sustainable West Seattle. At our last meeting, we developed some suggestions for the Trails Upgrade plan, and followed up with other members in an online brainstorming session. Here are our thoughts.

General issues for all multi-use trails and off-street bike paths:

  1. Vehicle drivers entering and exiting driveways frequently fail to stop and look before crossing multi-use paths, creating serious hazards and causing serious injuries. At all public drives, e.g., into parks, public parking lots, Seacrest marina:
    1. Install stop signs and stop bar markings on pavement for exiting drivers.
    2. Restrict curb cut widths to minimum workable, with required sight triangles.
    3. Hold parking lane parking back from entries.
    4. Add trail crossing warning signs to entries to public and private drives.
  2. Posts and bollards are hazardous to bike riders, especially when trail traffic is heavy, and in hours of darkness. Remove posts where not really necessary to prevent vehicle traffic from entering trail. Mark all bollards and posts and mark pavement at posts per national trail standards. Follow WSDOT Design Manual Chapter 1020 – Bicycle Facilities for setback, daytime high visibility paint and nighttime retro-reflective markers, and pavement warning markings per MUTCD.
  3. Pedestrians, dogs on leashes, skaters, skateboarders, people pushing strollers, and tourists on rental bikes and surreys tend to use the entire trail width when in groups, making it difficult to yield and hazardous to all parties for people on bikes or skates to pass in either direction. Even solo pedestrians and inexperienced cyclists are often encountered on either side of the trail, at random. We recommend design and education to encourage travel on the right, with passing on the left and yielding to oncoming traffic, for all trail users.

Read complete letter here

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Talk About Lane Width

Cathy Tuttle
September 26, 2015
jointly published on The Urbanist
Crosswalk wet pavement

Lane width helps to control speed on urban streets.

People driving tend to slow when streets are narrow.

Urban Streets

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recommends a default of 10-foot lanes.

“Lane widths of 10 feet are appropriate in urban areas and have a positive impact on a street’s safety without impacting traffic operations. For designated truck or transit routes, one travel lane of 11 feet may be used in each direction. In select cases, narrower travel lanes (9–9.5 feet) can be effective as through lanes in conjunction with a turn lane.”


Seattle’s current standard is 11-foot lanes
and 12-foot bus-only lanes. Many of our streets were laid out in a time when wider was always better — and ended up with dangerously wide lanes, dangerous because wide lanes encourage people to drive fast, and when cars go faster, collisions do more harm. Narrower lanes in urban areas are shown to result in less aggressive driving, and give drivers more ability to slow or stop their vehicles over a short distance to avoid collision.

Lane Widths and vehicle sizesWhile tooling along city streets, unless you are a transportation engineer, you aren’t aware of street width.

You aren’t thinking, “Hey, I’m in a 14-foot lane. And now I’m in a nine-foot lane. And now I’m in a 10-foot lane.” (Note, transportation engineers really do think like this.)

Instead, you, the average mortal, just thinks (if you are driving a car), “I can go fast here. Whoa! This street is narrow, I’d better slow down. And now I can speed up a bit again.”

Seattle’s standard width for parked car lanes is eight feet wide, while adding a bike lane that avoids the “door zone” (the distance a car driver can accidentally fling open a door into the path of an oncoming person on a bike) requires a a 14-foot lane (parked car plus bike lane).

With our elbows akimbo, we’re about two and a half feet riding a bike, taking up about as much space as people in wheelchairs. Both protected bike lanes and sidewalks require a minimum of six feet of street right-of-way to accommodate people riding and rolling respectively.

20 is Plenty fatalities graphic

“It’s surprising to see how a difference of 20 miles reverses the survival rates of people hit by moving vehicles.”   Seattle Department of Transportation 2015

Highways

Highways are a different case entirely when it comes to lane width.

You may have read the lane width on the Aurora Bridge was a factor in the recent collision fatality between a Duck amphibious vehicle and charter bus. It is up to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine causes, but Federal standards for highways recommend 12-foot lanes, in addition to shoulders wide enough for emergency parking and median barriers. Most lanes along I-5  are 12 feet wide. The Aurora Bridge lanes are 9.5 feet wide. Read the rest of this entry »

Seattle Comprehensive Plan 2035

Cathy Tuttle June 24, 2015
(published originally in The Urbanist on 6/17/15)

Northwest Seattle Mode split expectations Seattle 2035.

Northwest Seattle Mode Split Expectations Seattle 2035

A week ago I sat down after work in a Pioneer Square pub with five young men to discuss the Transportation Element and Transportation Appendix of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Seattle 2035, Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan for growth over the next 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »

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