Inspired by Roger’s post, I thought I’d look at whether downtown makes sense from a pedestrian standpoint. Here’s the map:
Green Circle: 1/2 mile radius.
Using 3rd and Spring as roughly the center of the city, I first drew the green circle. I consider 1/2 mile the distance a person would walk rather than look for alternate transportation. You can see immediately why downtown works so well. All of downtown fits in this circle, making it easy to hop between offices for meetings or to head out for lunch. The waterfront is in this circle, as is Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, the Convention Center, the ferry dock, and many large hotels, which make this also a great place for tourists. There is that pesky I-5 cutting through the right side, which cuts off most of what’s east of there from easy walking. But luckily 99 is above ground within this circle, so it doesn’t get in the way too much.
Yellow Circle: 1 mile radius.
Although a 1 mile trip generally makes more sense on a bus, it’s certainly a distance that’s enjoyably walkable on a nice day. It’s also a likely distance someone might walk when a bus is infrequent, there’s traffic, or a bus route is out of your way. The yellow stripe is out of the core of downtown, but still walkable to it. Notice Belltown is in this zone, as is the International District, Yesler Terrace, Seattle U, several hospitals, and the Pike/Pine section of Capital Hill. Again, these are great locations for these uses – they’re all dense enough and have enough activity to be worth walking from and to. But there’s also some less useful parts in this yellow stripe. The industrial section of the waterfront is unfortunate, but there’s nowhere else to put it. I might not have put the stadiums in this circle, but that’s debatable. But check out the impact of I-5 – it’s practially cutting through the middle of the circle, killing pedestrian connections across it. And look at the SE edge – that’s a massive road interchange, and just outside the circle you have the huge Atlantic Base bus parking lot and a two-highway-adjacent park.
I think the lessons I’d take from the yellow zone aren’t new: I-5 needs more lids, we need to develop SoDo, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move the Atlantic base further from the city. One new argument I’d propose would be to do something about the I-90/I-5 interchange. Look at that mess of concrete, eating up some of our most valuable urban space:
David Marcus sent in this great map of 10-minute and 20-minute walksheds. This shows how far you can walk in, 10 or 20 minutes using our current street grid, factoring in hills.
Update 2: I was recently pointed to a nice feature of WalkScore, that allows you to measure a walking commute from a given address. Check out the tool, it’s really fun.