Category Archive: Research

Underfunded Equity Priority: Safe Routes to School

Click to listen to CIty Council testimony. Begins at 13.50.

Click to listen to CIty Council testimony. Begins at 13.50.

Douglas MacDonald
June 4, 2015
WA State Secretary of Transportation, 2001 – 2007
Key considerations that support the position offered in public comment to the Seattle City Council of May 29, 2015 that a large increase should be made in the proposed allocation to the Safe Routes to School Program.

The Proposed “Move Seattle” Transportation Levy Should Significantly Increase Its Commitment to Safe Routes to Schools. Justice and equity should be served by higher SRTS funding in transportation investment.

 

School children attending the Seattle Public Schools make up about eight percent of the City’s population.

The ethnicity of students in the Seattle School District is not a mirror image of the city population as a whole. Students are less likely to be white and almost twice as likely to be Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino or Multi-­Racial than citizens at large.

  • Over a quarter (26%) of the students are from non-­‐English speaking backgrounds.
  • Almost two fifths (38%) of the students are from economically stressed family circumstances qualifying students for reduced price or free school meals.
  • Almost one in six (14%) of school age children in Seattle live in poverty.

The purpose of Safe Routes to School investments towards more convenient, safer and healthier trips for school children back and forth from home to school is a transportation investment manifestly responsive to social justice and equity.

SRTS Effectiveness and Results

Nationwide and Washington State research on effectiveness of SRTS programs shows that schools where programs are implemented generally achieve a 20% increase in children walking to school.

We know from WSDOT survey results (2014-­‐15) that nearly 60 percent of parents queried respond that unsafe road crossings are a factor in deciding how their children get to school.

Sampling from classrooms collected by the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction suggests about 1 child in 3 in Seattle already walks to school daily (twice the statewide norm) – underscoring why the safety focus of SRTS is so important. But almost half the Seattle students never walk to school – underscoring the rich opportunity to improve child health and transportation efficiency from SRTS investments.

We know from national and local research that inactive lifestyles are a major contributor to significant health issues for children. Walking and biking to school are widely seen as delivering multiple important health benefits to children.

We know that SDOT has declared a goal of “Building America’s Most Walkable City.” And that the vision of Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan is that “Riding a bicycle is a comfortable and integral part of daily life in Seattle for people of all ages and abilities.” SRTS investments turn rhetoric into reality. Quickly and tangibly.

We know that SRTS programs invariably show ancillary benefits for safer, more walk-­able and more bike-­able trip choices for everyone, old and young, and often do valuable double-­duty as improvements for transit accessibility, a critical need almost everywhere in the city and often especially in lower income neighborhoods.

We know that planning and implementing SRTS programs for individual schools inherently provide rich and welcome opportunities for building positive relationships between the Seattle School District, neighborhood groups and parents, the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Department of Transportation. The value of these collaborations to daily family and neighborhood life is widely dispersed across the city -­‐-­‐ probably unmatched in this respect by any other transportation investment proposed in the levy.

Increased investment in SRTS builds quickly and positively on a program already underway, widely known and favorably viewed. 

STRS is a program with existing momentum that can quickly be made even more powerful, successful and meaningful to Seattle citizens.

Working with competitive grant money from the state and funds from school zone speed enforcement fines (both sources, however, now in decline, and Olympia’s attention unfortunately focused n big highway spending projects) important beginnings on STRS have been made, giving the program visibility and popularity delivering tangible transportation benefit at very modest cost.

A few of the schools, for example, were state funds have already bought starter investments include Dearborn Park, Roxhill, Olympic Hills, Concord, Baylet Gatzert, Sanislo, High Point, Fairmont Park and Hawthorne, among others. Other important progress, though limited in scale and scope, has also already been made by the City’s use of its own resources. Some of the additional schools where progress has been achieved include North Beach, Salmon Bay, Wing Luke and Kimball among others.

City projects have included new sidewalks (but, since 2007, only 27 block faces), curb bulbs and curb ramps, flashing beacons, newly painted crosswalks and other improvements.

 

SRTS needs and priorities deserve more investment than now proposed.

We know that despite all the above, the proposed funding level for SRTS in the current proposal for the $930 million nine-­‐year “Move Seattle” transportation levy proposal is just $7 million. This would work out to about $750,000 a year – hardly enough to make a significant dent in SRTS needs and opportunities. This works out to about 7/10ths of 1 percent of the fiscal commitment in the levy – for essential transportation improvements for a population that just counting students alone (not even tallying their parents, or other citizens who directly benefit from these investments) makes up eight percent of the City’s population. Members of the population that have uniquely high claims on transportation spending for reasons of age, social equity and overall personal and community health.

We know from the diligent work of the analysis spearheaded by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways that investment on the scale of $20 million is required to achieve solid STRS progress within the one mile walk zones of ten elementary schools with the highest equity claims for attention. Adding 17 next level equity elementary schools would bring the total scale above $35 million. Key steps taken for high school walk zones are also badly needed. The funding level in the currently proposed levy of $7 million (less than 8/10ths of one percent of the total levy amount) would if unchanged signal a lack of intention to make any more than token progress toward the safety, convenience, health and equity benefits the STRS program should deliver. A larger commitment will both strengthen the levy program and strengthen its tangible appeal to prospective Seattle voters.

View this written testimony in memo form.

Read the rest of this entry »

Construction Zone Mobility: Room For Improvement

May 2015
Cross-posted with The UrbanistConstruction Zone Signs

Seattle is a boom town. Until recently, traffic plans during new building construction disregarded the mobility of people walking and biking beside building sites. This disregard is a safety issue, not just an inconvenience.

Last year, Seattle created a Construction Hub Coordination Program with dedicated staff who work to improve access for all during construction in high growth areas designated by the City as “Construction Hubs.”. Construction sites in South Lake Union, Ballard, Alaska Way, Capitol Hill, and West Seattle Junction are getting better for people walking and biking near them, but problems still remain, in these locations and throughout the city.

In Seattle, we still place a higher value on preserving street parking around construction sites at the expense of providing safe access for people who walk or bike. Sidewalks are routinely blocked, and safe intersection crossings removed for extended periods. Read the rest of this entry »

Safe Crossings for Kids

Kids CrossingEditors Note: University Of Washington students Qiren Lu & Ranju Uezono studied four  intersections in Seattle School Walk Zones to see if drivers stopped for people crossing at  crosswalks.

Their findings were alarming. Motorist  compliance rate ranged from 15% to 34%, low figures compared to the national average.

In other words, in marked crosswalks in school zones, only 3 in 10 people driving cars fully stopped for people walking during school arrival & departure hours.

Read the full report. Read the Lake City Library supplementary report.

Abstract
The percentage of children actively commuting to school by walking or biking in the United States has significantly decreased within the past 50 years (National Household Transportation Survey, 2001). Busy street crossings are barriers to students walking and biking to school in cities around the nation. The purpose of this on-site data collection study titled Safe Crossings for Kids is to analyze motorist compliance rates with pedestrian-motorist encounters at three marked crosswalks near schools in Seattle. The observed crosswalks are located at Wallingford Ave & 43rd St in Wallingford (near Hamilton International Middle School), 15th Ave S & S Hill St in Beacon Hill (near Beacon Hill International School), and 58th St &14th Ave in Ballard (near St. Alphonsus Parish Elementary School). Observations of general public pedestrians crossing were collected, in addition to staged pedestrians crossing these marked crosswalks, modeled after TCRP 112/NCHRP 562 (Transit Cooperative Research Program/National Cooperative Highway Research Program). Results show a majority of non-compliance, as defined by Revised Code of Washington, Rules of the Road (RCW 46.61.235), where full-stops are considered a complete compliance to pedestrians. Subsequent future studies would provide further insight into the current trends of motorist compliance rates around schools in Seattle. The results from this study show that the motorist compliance rate for Wallingford Ave & 43rd St. is 34%, for 15th Ave S & S Hill St., 21%, and for 58th St. & 14th Ave, 15%, which are relatively low figures compared to the national compliance rates. Read the rest of this entry »

LGBTQ Street Safety in Seattle

March 12, 2015

LGBTQ Safe Streets Infographic

View infographic on LGBTQ Street Safety in full screen

University of Washington School of Public Health student Christie Santos­‐Livengood approached Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to do her practicum because of SNG’s positive reputation in her community and with built environment scholars. Her study researched the relationship between neighborhoods and the health and safety of LGBT people in respect to hate crimes and other public health concerns.

Christie’s report makes recommendations to prevent and address anti-LGBT hate crimes in Seattle.  She worked with members of Central Seattle Greenways as well as interviewing  stakeholders in the LGBT community.

Her findings indicate that the LGBT community stakeholders are concerned with Gentrification and Newcomers, Mistrust of Police, Nightlife Culture and Hate Crimes.  Recommendations are provided and include action items for the City, Business and Non-Profit Organizations and the LGBT Community.

Stakeholders were blunt in their assessment of living in the Central-Capitol Hill area:

“With Capitol Hill becoming a center of nightlife, I think there’s just more people and not everyone is used to being around different segments of the population… [Outsiders] don’t see themselves as anti-gay but don’t necessarily see what they are doing when they are drunk.”

“A member of ours 2 summers ago was chased down the street and beaten with a skateboard.  He wasn’t aware of his surroundings, wasn’t in a good state, you don’t know [if it was a hate crime] but he had just come out of a gay bar. Those are the things that terrify people…Pike and Pine are well lit and well traveled, but a few blocks north and south are very dark, lots of places to hide… Four stabbings in front of my door in two weeks at 2 [o’clock] in the morning.”

Christie concludes that hate crimes against LGBT people in Seattle are a public health and urban planning issue that must be addressed.  It is imperative that the City of Seattle, businesses and the LGBTQ community study these recommendations because they have the potential to truly impact the health and well being of LGBTQ people, and the entire Seattle community. Full report here. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Rainier Ave S Off-Scale Dangerous? Yes.

Cathy Tuttle
March 4, 2015

Open larger view in Tableau.

Open larger view in Tableau.

During a recent Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) evening meeting to talk about Rainier Ave S safety improvements, a driver crashed into a nearby local business on Rainier Ave South.

Ironic, yes? Unusual? Unfortunately no. This was car number EIGHT driven into a Rainier Ave S business in the past year, and in 2014 alone, Rainier Ave S was hit with 1,243 crashes.

SDOT’s slide deck for their safety meeting included a table illustrating the number of crashes on Rainier Ave S, relative to other high capacity corridors around Seattle. It showed Rainier Ave S does indeed have a crashing problem.

What the SDOT table didn’t illustrate was that Rainier Ave S doesn’t carry nearly as many vehicles per day as other local high capacity corridors. When you factor in the fact Rainier Ave S carries far fewer vehicles, the carnage on Rainier Ave S spikes dramatically.

Kenneth Trease @kptrease put together a Tableau viz chart to illustrate the utter chaos on Rainier Ave South. Per vehicle mile, Rainier Ave S has THREE times as many crashes as Lake City Way NE, and FOUR times as many as Aurora Avenue North.

Yes, we need #VisionZeroRainier now! Sign the petition!

Save Lives & Keep Moving: Seattle’s Successful Safety Redesigns

Road Diet Save Lives & Keep Moving

Open graphic in full screen

Cathy Tuttle
February 15, 2015

If you think a “road diet,” or safety redesign, will slow you down, think again.

Walking in Seattle blogger Troy Heerwagen poured through data from a half dozen Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) evaluation reports and found huge benefits for everyone using our shared public right-of-way.

SDOT engineers have learned smart new techniques to make high-capacity streets safer and more efficient. After a safety redesign, streets still carry as many vehicles as they did prior to their road diet. If fact, our streets are in better shape and can take on even more vehicle volume after a safety redesign. Another benefit? Aggressive speeding, the kind of behavior that kills people, falls dramatically. And not surprisingly, collisions and crashes of all sorts drop precipitously too.

Since safety redesigns are often a matter of mainly repainting travel lanes, they are also one of the quickest and least expensive road safety improvements around.

We call that a great investment in our future!

Check out Troy’s work in this Tableau-generated infographic.

UW Class Studies How to Market Walking & Biking For Transportation

click on image to read full student report on Walking & Biking for Transportation

click on image to read full student report on Walking and Biking for Transportation

Every year, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways staff meets with UW faculty and students to set up guided research projects and classes.

In the fall of 2014, we worked with Urban Design & Planning Instructor Megan Horst to help develop a UW Studio class focused on behavior change that would lead to more walking and biking at UW. Students worked on how best to market active transportation choices to students.

We were especially taken with the project called “Secret Shopping at Bike Shops”.

The student team  analyzed three bike shops near campus and ranked them on customer friendliness to students who are new bike users. Their survey’s included “Quality of Employee Questions” and “Addressed Misconceptions”. They made recommendations on what needs to be done to improve the shopping experience for students who are looking to buy a  bicycle.

The student group found bike shop employees are not trained in marketing to people who need a bicycle for everyday transportation and that students don’t understand what to look for in a basic commuter bike.

Their report concludes, “If the University Transportation Services can connect more fully with the shops in the area, they can help promote them and foster more bicycling among the student body.”

 

 

Let’s Talk About Safe Streets

Click to open in full screen

Click to open in full screen

January 6, 2015

Language is powerful.

The language we use everyday has the ability to change how people think about the world. Our ideas about reframing the language of traffic violence are starting to take root nationally!

Still, many news media outlets and even cities still call preventable crashes “accidents.” By doing so, it frames traffic deaths as unavoidable byproducts of our transportation system. In reality, these deaths are unnecessary, and often the result of 1950s era car-oriented engineering and/or unacceptable driver behavior. When media outlets label traffic collisions “accidents” before the causes have been studied, it is biased and journalistically reckless – and we encourage you to join us in calling them out.

By working to change our society’s language to neutral language that describes “collisions” where “a person driving a car hit three people walking” we can undo the false idea that traffic deaths are a normal part of our transportation system.

And that’s just one example.

Our coalition of thoughtful local leaders and advocates have learned through thousands of conversations what language cuts through engineering gobbledegook and connects to our shared humanity.

This handy cheat sheet distills the our knowledge of what language resonates and what doesn’t.

Public meetings are often when things can get heated. At these meetings, our leaders have learned that it is critical to talk about hyperlocal issues using your neighborhood’s language, and to focus on people and their needs (quiet street to raise a family, walking to the bus stop, being safe dropping off their kids at school, etc), rather than on modes of transportation.

Language constantly evolves. If you’ve got other suggestions for how we can all mind our language, drop us a line at [email protected], or tweet us @SNGreenways

Lake City Greenways Directly Benefits from UW Student Work

So much student work is about theories and bold ideas that unfortunately never leave the printed page.

Click here to learn more about ALL UW student projects for the Lake City class.

Click here to learn more the UW student class projects for Lake City.

So it is satisfying for students, and a win for everyone when bold ideas are put into practice. The newly opened Olympic Hills Greenway pulled design ideas directly from a 2013 UW class that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways helped to develop. Future traffic safety and design work along Lake City Way N and in the Lake City neighborhood is sure to use this extensive research as well.

With the Lake City Greenways group as the initiating stakeholder for UW Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio studio, 16 students (from landscape architecture, urban design and planning, and architecture) learned about Lake City and envisioned its potentials as a healthier neighborhood.

Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Julie Johnson led the students through a participatory design process, such that the students gained insights about the varied places and needs of this neighborhood, as well as their own design responses, through community interactions.

Lake City Greenways leaders gave students an overview and led walking tours. Students facilitated small group discussions, did youth workshops, and surveys.

All of this student work is collected in this on-line book.

 

 

 

Speed Bumps to the Rescue!

by Cathy Tuttle
October 28, 2014

Speed bumps work

What’s black and white and gray all over?

Lake City Greenways volunteer Monica Sweet was impressed with the speed bumps she’d seen in other neighborhoods. She wanted slower, safer streets where she lived on NE 123rd in Lake City. With no sidewalks and drivers that seemed to rip through her neighborhood at high speeds, speed bumps seemed to offer a simple, inexpensive yet effective safety solution.

After a great deal of back and forth with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), whose staff tried to convince Monica to put in small traffic circles, Monica and her local greenways group prevailed and soon speed bumps will make another Seattle residential street safer for people who walk and bike.

In related news, SDOT just completed the before and after study of vehicle speed on nearby NE 130th Street where speed bumps were installed in the summer of 2014.

According to Brian Dougherty, SDOT Senior Transportation Planner:

“The study shows that the speed humps have had a big impact, reducing the number of drivers traveling above the speed limit. The biggest change is the reduction in the number of ‘top end speeders’ which as you know are the most dangerous for people walking and biking. We show a 90% reduction in these aggressive drivers traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit… Before and after speeds were measured for one full week using pneumatic tubes.”

* P.S. You may hear the terms speed humps and speed bumps used interchangeably by traffic safety professionals. Speed “humps” are actually the official term but according to our friends in Portland traffic engineering, the signs that said “Humps Ahead” were frequently stolen by the public but “Bumps Ahead” were left to perform their traffic calming duty.

 

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