Transfer mockup via Oran
In the comments to my last post on transfers, a few people referenced Jarrett Walker’s excellent post on Seattle’s prospects for carbon neutrality, which discusses Seattle’s geographic “chokepoints” such as lakes and cliffs. Some commenters argued that these chokepoints make a gridded bus network impossible, but I don’t think that’s right. Walker’s point is simply that geographically-induced chokepoints can improve transit usage, provided enough of the capacity in the chokepoint is given over to transit*:
Transit planning is frustrating in such a place, but road planning is even more so. Ultimately, Seattle’s chokepoints have the effect of reducing much of the complex problem of mode share to a critical decision about a strategic spot. If you give transit an advantage through a chokepoint, you’ve given it a big advantage over a large area.
None of this is inconsistent with having a grid. If transit is given priority at critical chokepoints (crossing Lake Washington or the Ship Canal, say) then transit suddenly has a major advantage throughout the city. This advantage increases the more grid-like the system is, since you can increase the area of the city that’s a single transfer away from using transit across the chokepoint.
As I said in the last post, Metro does a fantastic job of providing one-seat rides to downtown during rush hour, but it can (and should) push to provide better all-day access in places where land use patterns warrant it. Given the looming budget crisis and limited resources, exchanging one-seat rides for all-day mobility via transfers should definitely be on the table.
*Another great Walker post, on the Portland grid’s 30th anniversary, discusses the political challenges of moving from a radial network to a grid.
If you were unable to make the first meeting, there’s another public forum, this time on Capitol Hill and at an hour more amenable to those working a 9-5. It’s tonight, May 6, at 6PM. Details via Capitol Hill Seattle:
Micro-housing development discussion
Monday, May 6, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Seattle First Baptist Church
Fellowship Hall, 1111 Harvard Ave. (map)
Seattle City Councilmembers and Council staff
Representatives from communities and neighborhoods
Representatives of micro-housing developers
Share your thoughts!
I sense a good deal of frustration out there with the news of potential cuts to Metro bus routes. We’ve covered the issue pretty extensively here on STB, but sometimes it’s useful to put it all together in FAQ form.
What is this about metro cutting routes next year?
King County Metro is facing a serious budget shortfall in 2014. This means that they’ll need to cut service by 17% to break even. 600,000 service hours will be cut. 65 routes would be deleted, and 86 would be reduced or revised. All in all, 2/3 of Metro routes would be affected.
Wait… didn’t we just do this two years ago?
Yep, but it was temporary. In 2011 King County passed a $20 “congestion reduction charge” on all vehicles registered in the county. This bought us $25 million a year as part of the deal that also ended the Ride Free Area, but it will expire in 2014.
How bad is it?
There’s a $60M gap in 2014, and a combined $1.2B between 2008, when the recession began, and 2015.
Ok, that’s bad. Can’t they just, you know… trim the fat?
Well, they have been. In 2008 they reduced operating expenses, gutted the capital fund (which pays for important stuff like running new trolleybus wire, etc.), and increased fares. That bought $30M. It also arguably made the system more efficient. Then in 2011, they passed the CRC and got the unions to take a pay cut, saving tens of millions more. WSDOT came through with $32M in mitigation money to deal with Viaduct headaches, but it also runs out in 2014… two years before the Viaduct opens. This mitigation money helps add additional trips to crowded West Seattle routes. Riding in from West Seattle will suck even more when it goes away. All told, Metro has cut $726M from the budget since 2009. There’s not much more fat. It’s pretty much all bone from here on out. Next step is to stop filling the tires on the buses (I’m kidding!). *
Oh, and “cutting the fat” ain’t so easy if you’ve ever been to a community meeting where cuts were proposed. People get angry, they call their Councilmembers, and Metro backs off. Everyone seems to think the fat is in some other neighborhood.
(All that aside, Seattle’s a growing city with a healthy economy and a low unemployment rate. Metro should be increasing service, not cutting it, as Metro’s General Manager Kevin Desmond argues here.)
What about raising money from the fare box?
They’ve done it multiple times. There’s only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone. Back in 2006, when peak fares were just $1.50, Metro predicted fares would rise just 75 cents by 2016. As it turns out, peak fares are already at $2.50 and will probably rise again soon.
Okay, how about all that money spent on light rail and streetcars?
Those were built by different agencies (Seattle DOT, Sound Transit) with different funding sources. Sound Transit has a diversified funding base, including a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax or MVET (it’s marked “RTA” — look for it when you renew your tabs… or don’t) along with a sales tax. That means Sound Transit can weather the recession a bit better. Also, Sound Transit spends a lot of its money on capital projects like new light rail lines, which (a) can be spread out over more years if necessary, and (b) tend to get cheaper when there’s a recession and construction firms are hungry for work.
Okay fine, but what about the “Transit Now” tax we passed in 2006?
That was great! It got us RapidRide and a bunch of other stuff. But because it was a sales tax, it shrunk during the recession and ended up raising less than projected. Since those funds were earmarked for RapidRide as the voters approved them, they can’t be moved into another bucket to save costs.
Wait a minute, this is craziness… Why are Metro’s finances in such bad shape to begin with?
Back in 1999, state voters approved Tim Eyman’s I-695, which would have gutted transit funding across the state by eliminating the state’s ability to charge an MVET. I-695 was declared unconstitutional, but then-Governor Locke and the legislature were so scared of being run out of Olympia that they killed the MVET themselves the following year. That blew a $500M hole in the state transportation budget. Here in King County, Metro lost an estimated $125M over the 2003-4 biennium, which we replaced by increasing the sales tax from 0.6% to 0.8% (and eventually to the legal maximum of 0.9% in 2006 with Transit Now). But there are two problems with a sales tax: it’s regressive, and it’s tied to the economy. Once the recession hit in 2008, everyone cut back on spending and sales tax revenues went in the toilet. It’s not just Metro: transit agencies all over the state, including the Washington State Ferries, haven’t really made up for the money they lost after
I-695 passed the MVET went away.
So what can we do about it?
Well, we can bring back MVET funding, at least here in King County. The thing about an MVET is that it’s progressive and predictable (versus a sales tax, which is regressive and volatile), since it’s based on the current value of all the cars in the county. This would get us back to a healthy mix of tax revenue so that no one source can send the budget into a tailspin. The legislature is in special session right now and one of the items on the agenda would allow King County voters to vote on an MVET that would fund 60% transit and 40% roads. That’s right: the legislature is debating whether or not to give King County permission to tax ourselves, after taking that right away from us 12 years ago. Bruce recently noted that a 1% MVET ($100 on cars worth $10,000) would be sufficient to meet Metro’s needs. It wouldn’t hurt to call your legislator in support of this initiative.
Why should drivers subsidize buses?
Like I said, 40% of the MVET fees would go to roads. But folks like myself who own a car and ride the bus would pay into it and benefit from it as well. Finally, it turns out that more transit options actually makes driving easier: by taking cars off the road, there’s less traffic for the cars that remain. A study conducted during Los Angeles’ 2003 transit strike found that traffic during the strike increased by 47 percent on roads where there was a transit alternative. Transit is a driver’s best friend.
*Update 5:50PM: As my colleague Matt Johnson recently wrote, roughly half the 17% in cuts would come from routes marked as having a “high potential for major reduction.” In the comments below, readers offer plenty of suggestions as to which routes should get the axe.
An Ideal Transfer
Here’s a stat that’s making the rounds, thanks to the good folks over at Commute Seattle: Seattle has the lowest percentage of commuters who drive alone of all cities without a “robust subway system.”
Seattle’s been successful in luring commuters out of their cars for several reasons: our highways are packed, downtown parking is expensive, the Flex Pass program has been really successful, and we’ve built a lot of HOV lanes. Add to that the now-abandoned 40-40-20 rule, which ensured that a lot of commuter service got built out in the ‘burbs, and you have the situation we’re in now: commuter service is amazing. Really top notch. We have one-seat rides into downtown from as far away as North Bend. Getting downtown by bus from Northgate (8.2 miles) is often faster than coming in from Madrona (2.5 miles). It’s what you’d expect given a transit agency whose political support base extends from Puget Sound to Snoqualmie Pass, compounded by the land use patterns of the greater Seattle area.
One one hand, that’s great! Getting workers to their jobs in the region’s employment centers by bus is fantastic. It takes cars off the roads during rush hour and reduces the need for parking. But providing John Q. Office Worker with a one-seat ride to downtown during rush hour is just one of many use cases for a transit system. Many people rely on the bus for all-day transportation to doctor’s appointments, school, and entertainment. These types of trips don’t happen during rush hour and they don’t happen between the ‘burbs and downtown.
In a world of unlimited resources, we’d improve these all-day trips by amping up the number of one-seat rides between various neighborhoods. Delridge to Kirkland every 10 minutes! In the real world, the world where Metro on the brink of another huge service reduction, we have to make choices. One choice that Metro is starting to make – wisely, in my view – is to expand all-day service by relying more on transfers. If we move to a grid system, we can greatly expand the frequency and reach of the network without increasing costs. The downside is that you’ll have to transfer more often.
The challenge is that most bus transfers currently suck. (more…)
Gentrification’s Advance Team?
Last Wednesday I attended CityClub’s “civic cocktail,” where they mix together two seemingly unrelated topics in a participatory panel discussion and happy hour. The program, which will air on the Seattle Channel soon, featured Peter Hahn from SDOT representing the transportation POV. You might not think that transportation and art have much to do with one another, and to be honest a good chunk of the hour would not have disabused you of that notion. Nonetheless, there were a few flashes of insight worth highlighting.
David Brewster, peeping up from the audience, noted that both arts and transportation in Seattle have a downtown orientation. The problems of a downtown-centric transit network have been covered extensively on this blog (duplication of routes, lack of all-day neighborhood access, etc.); the downtown orientation of our major arts institutions is similar. Later, a musician/bus driver noted that getting home from a concert late at night on public transit was incredibly difficult. This is a point that can’t be overstated. A thriving arts and cultural sector is absolutely dependent upon late-night public transport. This might be a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t surprise me that The Seattle Opera and Seattle Repertory Theater were founded within five years of Forward Thrust going to the ballot.
My thoughts, however, kept coming back to the role of artists in redeveloping (some might say “gentrifying”) neglected urban areas. Since at least the 1980s, there’s been a tried-and-true pattern of urban redevelopment in many American and European cities: artists move into marginal neighborhoods in search of cheap rents, neighborhoods become fashionable, artists get kicked out. This is the subject of a recent documentary about artists getting kicked out of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood as rents reach Manhattan levels. (Native Americans would likely take issue with the idea that the artists of the 80s and 90s “discovered” Williamsburg, of course.)
Even though this pattern of artist-led redevelopment has been true of many cities around the world for some time (including Seattle), part of me wonders if it’s still the driving force it once was. My sense is that we’ve gotten to the point in infill development where we jump right past the artists-move-in stage and skip right to the high-end condos. This was especially apparent to me on a recent trip to Washington D.C., where basically every neighborhood in the city is being redeveloped at a dizzying pace. Perhaps it’s due to the changing nature of art itself, with many artists trading large warehouses for MacBooks. Or maybe their role has been co-opted by a generation of self-proclaimed creative types who want the cheap rent but don’t need the industrial space. Or, maybe I’m dead wrong, and artists are still doing their thing and I’m just old and out of touch and I don’t see it anymore.
London: A Walkable City
People love walkable neighborhoods; so much so that they pay a significant premium to live in one. Interestingly, however, there’s no correlation between living in a walkable neighborhood and actually walking more. That’s the result of a UW study that included Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.
One way to read these results is to say that we’re foolish to pay for walkable neighborhoods because we don’t use them. Another way to read it is that we’ve defined walkability too broadly:
Although many dozens of studies have tried to analyze why some people walk and others don’t, [Brian Saelens, from Seattle Childrens' Resarch Institute] says the overwhelming fact is it’s hard to get Americans to walk anywhere near the recommended 30 minutes per day.
The only proven way, he says, is if they live in high-density, transit-rich neighborhoods. In those areas, walking is useful. They’re dense with apartments and shops, driving is a pain, and good transit service means people will walk to a bus-stop or train station. In Seattle, he says, parts of Capitol Hill and Queen Anne fit the bill.
Ravenna has a Walkscore of 77, which is decent, but Capitol Hill beats it comfortably with a 91. A Saturday afternoon stroll is, I would imagine, rather pleasant in Ravenna, but walking everywhere to run errands is probably intensely time-consuming. Sidewalks and tree-lined streets are nice amenities (as people who live in Sidewalk-less Seattle can no doubt attest), but in and of themselves they’re not enough to encourage more walking. True walkability – where you walk because it’s faster than any other form of transportation – is actually quite rare in Seattle (and most of America).
Sound Transit will be holding an open house on 4pm this Thursday, March 28 at Highland Community Center to show final designs for East Link. The project is entering final design phase, moving from 30% to 100% design complete. More info here. If you do attend, send us a report!
In the comments to Bruce’s post on RapidRide E&F, some folks wondered how the routes were chosen, since the Metro routes being replaced have vastly different ridership numbers, as the Times reported recently.
Well, I don’t have any answers, but this map of RapidRide routes overlaid on King County Council districts might shed some insight.
RapidRide meets KC Council
I’m being a bit cheeky here because of course the districts are drawn based on population, which means the population centers are divided between them, making some amount of district-straddling routes inevitable. That said, I don’t actually think it’s a bad strategy to spread out support. Defense contractors figured out long ago that the best weapons system is one that’s built in all 435 congressional districts and never actually ships. So kudos to Metro making RapidRide “hard to kill” in the political parlance.
Last month, I made the argument that, in a transit-friendly city, there ought to be a variety of affordable housing options within walking distance of frequent, all-day transit.
I got some interesting responses, including one from Matt Yglesias, who made the point that you can’t force “family-friendly” housing since a 3-bedroom house would be equally attractive to three roommates whom, by virtue of their three salaries, could outbid a 2-earner family. That’s sort of true, although I would argue that three early-career roommates won’t necessarily out-earn two mid-career parents. But that’s a quibble.
Yglesias’ response was on my mind when I read this article in the New City Collegian, linked to by Andrew, about the trouble college students on Capitol Hill are having affording rent:
Amy, an international student from Korea, lives on Capitol Hill and rents a two bedroom apartment for $1,300 a month. The contract says only two people may reside there, but skirting the rules Amy now lives with three other roommates. “It doesn’t make sense. I can’t pay this much. As a result, I have three roommates, which means I live in violation of the contract.” The contract violation has left Amy perpetually anxious of eviction saying her manager checks every unit randomly and is “scared every day…I have to sleep with another girl in the same bed. I can’t have my private room.”
To help ease the spike in housing costs, some developers have been building smaller, more affordable apartments such as the aPodment-style units that Tom Rasmussen may want to put a stop to. But wouldn’t an alternative solution be to build more 3- and 4-bedroom housing that, as Yglesias argues, could be rented out to a few college kids or recent college grads? And if a young family was also interested in such housing, perhaps they might take advantage of it as well?
Come to think of it, the whole reason these small apartments exist is that they’re technically classified as a single dwelling unit in the city code. That is to say, the primary difference between 4 “aPodments” and a single 4BR apartment is the presence of locks on all the bedroom doors.
I lived with roommates for a while when I was younger, and it has its ups and downs. It’s less lonely and cheaper than living alone, but yeah, sometimes they leave dishes in the sink and don’t clean the bathroom. So I get the appeal of an affordable apartment that lets you live inexpensively and still have some privacy. What I don’t understand is what Rasmussen’s moratorium is supposed to solve. Young people will still need cheap housing. They’ll just go back to doing what they’ve usually done and use Craig’s List to find roommates.
Put another way, the underlying demand is still there. Some college kids on the Hill are now fanning out to Beacon Hill and the Central District to find houses they can rent and live in with roommates. But the number of 3- and 4-bedroom houses with good transit access in those neighborhoods is finite and increasingly expensive. Hence: aPodments, which are just a snazzy new name for the kind of shared housing that 20-somethings in a city have always gravitated toward. Except they have locks on the bedroom doors, individual rental agreements, and meet modern fire codes.
Car2go promo photo
I had to run a couple of errands on my way downtown recently, so I walked a couple of blocks from my house and grabbed a Car2go. As I entered downtown and started hunting for a legal parking spot to ditch the car, it occurred to me how Car2go and paid parking are, as they say, two great tastes that go great together.
Paid parking, in an ideal Shoup-ian world, is priced so that some percentage of on-street spaces is always free. This, in turn, makes Car2go an attractive option since you know you won’t have to burn minutes circling for parking when you get to your destination. Car2go would likely not be possible in a world of unrestricted “free” parking.
This makes Car2go a great example of what Steven Johnson calls “adjacent possible” innovation – an evolutionary change that reconfigures the existing system to create something new. The service relies on very little in the way of systemic change, save for the magical parking permit arrangement between the company and the city. Car2go simply takes existing facts on the ground – smartphones, RFID chips, Smart cars, paid parking – and recombines them into something new and useful.
While Car2go has gotten off to a great start in Seattle, it’s clearly just version 1.0 of what could be a more seismic shift in transportation. Dave Roberts had a great piece in Grist recently about “widgets versus systems” and how driverless cars could be truly transformative on a city or regional level. Changes at that scale, however will have to go beyond adjacent-possible-type innovation and towards a more fundamental reworking of our infrastructure. As Charles Mudede wrote recently in Slog, only government is capable of such systemic change.
Ballard Corridor Study Area
As you probably know, Sound Transit and SDOT are coming together to study the possibility of high-capacity transit between Downtown Seattle and Ballard. The two agencies will be holding an open house this Tuesday to discuss the project:
March 12, 2013
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Ballard High School Commons
1418 NW 65th St., Seattle
Head on over and see what they’re up to. As Martin reported earlier this week, the Sound Transit board has directed staff to fund a number of corridor studies for a possible ST3 ballot measure in 2016. While this particular corridor study is technically funded separately from the rest of the potential ST3 corridors, the actual route, if constructed, would likely be part of an ST3 package.
Open House photo by Zach
SDOT held an open house this Saturday at Garfield Community Center to discuss the upcoming repaving project on 23rd Ave. The background here is that SDOT, through several successful grant applications, has put together $20M (more than the $14M I’d previously reported) to turn what would have been a basic repaving project into a potentially much more significant series of improvements, including:
- signal upgrades
- transit signal priority
- fiber optics
- CCTV cameras
- license plate readers
- bus stop improvements
- lighting improvements
- sidewalk repair
With about 6,900 daily riders, 23rd Ave is the most important corridor between North and South Seattle outside of the downtown area, so what happens here is of vital importance to the transit network overall. Buses are the primary non-car mode, and the need for them to remain fast and reliable is, according to SDOT staff, what’s likely to define what’s possible and what’s not.
The big decision is whether to rechannelize the street to three lanes from the current four lane configuration*. SDOT as completed a basic traffic study which has shown that going down to three lanes through the entire corridor would cause significant backups at three intersections, resulting in unreliable transit travel. A more detailed traffic study which may shed more light on this is currently underway, to be completed in April.
Much more after the jump.
Parking Garage, photo by flickr user Jasonmp
Econ 101 tells us that underpriced goods will be over-consumed. Hence, if all parking is free in a busy neighborhood, then free spaces will be scarce. Conversely, if all parking is very expensive, then spaces will be plentiful but people will be overspending on parking. So you have to hit the sweet spot, which is one reason why the city has decided to adjust rates in the International District.
As Erica Barnett notes, the city is constantly adjusting rates in every neighborhood. No doubt they will do it again in the future. Despite the Times’ effort to portray this as a McGinn “blink”, this is a good thing. Matt G did a post back in March with plenty of graphs on parking utilization in the ID and other neighborhoods if you want to deep-dive on this subject.
Here’s local restauranteur Tom Douglas, as quoted in the Times:
“It costs more to park in front of Wild Ginger than the Dahlia Lounge and more to park in front of the Dahlia Lounge than Tai Tung (in the International District). It’s nonsense and it’s self-defeating,” Douglas said.
We don’t know if there’s more to that quote that clarifies why Mr. Douglas thinks setting prices according to demand is “nonsense.” Nevertheless, parking outside Dahlia Lounge costs $2.50 per hour. The Mixed baby lettuces with lemon, parmesan, goat cheese crostini on the dinner menu will set you back $9. Just to keep things in perspective.
The First In-Service RapidRide, by Atomic Taco on Flickr
I’m a huge fan of pub trivia (or “Quizzo” as we called it back in Philly). I’m also a fan of pub crawls. And I’m learning to love RapidRide. So I have to give a special shout out to Seattle Trivia Crawls new RapidRide edition:
A first in Trivia Crawl history. Instead of walking amongst pub stops, we’ll use the Rapid Ride buses.
We’ll be crawling along/using the “D” line. You either need an Orca card or cash to pay the $2.25 fare.
3 pm start time at Thirsty Fish in Crown Heights
End location is Lower Queen Anne (so plan accordingly).
This crawl will go longer than the typical 3.5 hour length due to the uncertainty of bus arrival times.
An email with all pertinent details will be sent a few days prior to the Crawl to those who have registered.
Heh: “the uncertainty of bus arrival times.” It’s like you don’t even need a schedule!
Townhouses / Photo by Adam
Debates about how we ought to design our communities often get lost in the weeds fairly quickly: “build this! don’t build that! more density! less density! streetcars! none of the above! all of the above!” When we’re deep not in the weeds, we’re up at 50,000 feet, using vague adjectives like “livable,” “walkable,” or “sustainable.” If we got the thing we’re all clamoring for, how would we even know? More importantly, what tradeoffs are we willing to make to get there?
As I watch friends start families and head for the suburbs in search of what they perceive to be cheaper housing, I wonder what it would take to make in-city living an option for more families. While there are many reasons why a family might choose to live somewhere or another, surely it’s a major civic policy failure if the only housing units available near frequent transit lines are 1BR apartments and half-million-dollar single-family houses.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology has done great work showing how suburban families end up spending on transportation most of what they’re saving on housing, but many times those costs aren’t transparent. Suppose for a moment that we’d like housing in Seattle that’s transit-friendly, family-friendly, and affordable. What would that mean?
Here’s what I think it could mean: having a healthy supply of housing for sale or rent that meets the following criteria:
Call it 3-15-15.
Mayor McGinn speaks at the Center City Connector Open House
SDOT held the first open house for the Central City Connector Corridor Study on Wednesday night at City Hall. Three more open houses will be held as planning progresses over the past year. Mayor McGinn was first to take the stage, followed by Richard Conlin and finally project manager Tony Mazzella. McGinn spoke about the process of updating the Transit Master Plan and the need for many different revenue sources, including potentially ST3. Conlin billed himself as a streetcar “skeptic” who was converted by having seen the Portland Streetcar and then the Seattle line in operation.
Here’s the proposed purpose, according to SDOT:
To serve the growing demand for Center City circulation trips with a mode and street alignment that is:
• Highly legible and easy to use for a variety of trip purposes
• Provides continuity of travel between the downtown commercial core and adjacent Center City neighborhoods that are or will be served by the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar
When the TMP was first announced in 2011, Martin did a thorough analysis of the CC1 (1st Avenue) and CC2 (4th/5th Avenues). STB commenter and occasional contributor Mike Orr was at last night’s meeting and wrote in with the following comments:
The feedback on the group-brainstorm sheets showed about half the people prefer 1st Avenue to Seattle Center. The rest were about even on 4th/5th or 1st-to-Westlake. A few people preferred bus or trolleybus over rail to save money. A few said to put all resources into a 3rd Avenue transit mall. And a few said to revive the vintage waterfront streetcar.
The question of alignment is obviously going to be an important one, but before we get there I think it’s important to step back and make sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. One potential outcome of the connector, if built, would be to knit together downtown with its adjacent residential neighborhoods, and make the area bounded roughly by Mercer Ave, Broadway, and Jackson St. feel like a single neighborhood – in which one can bounce around freely and frequently.
Alternatively, if this is to be the first leg of an eventual line to Ballard, that’s a different project with very different needs than a downtown circulator. The relative importance of measures like frequency, reliability and travel time benefits depends in large part on what happens to the streetcar system outside of downtown. We’ll look forward to seeing more clarity in this regard with the release of the purpose and needs statement in the next few weeks, and over the year as the plan evolves.
Mike Orr contributed to this report
23rd and Cherry, Looking South (1968) – Seattle Municipal Archives on Flickr
23rd Avenue in Capitol Hill and the Central District is currently a disaster for pedestrians and bus riders. The right-of-way is far too narrow to support four traffic lanes and pedestrians comfortably, to say nothing of bicycles. The pavement has been torn up by heavy bus use, and needs replacing. So it’s great news that the city has cobbled together $14M for a full redesign of 23rd Ave from John St. all the way to Rainier Ave. Central District News reports on the project here, which could start as soon as 2014. Community outreach is still ongoing, and final designs and lane configurations have not been set.
According to Bill Bryant at SDOT, the redesign will consist mainly of transit signal priority, fiber optic upgrades, and passenger facility improvements. Electrifying the corridor, which could benefit many transit riders well beyond the CD, would cost an additional $12M or so, funding for which has not yet been secured.
Between this and the recent developments planned for 23rd and Union and 23rd and Jackson, change is afoot in the neighborhood. Now more than ever we need that Madrona/Queen Anne restructure.
Update: great point by Zach in the comments. The past 40 years of road infrastructure in the CD (such as the widening of Cherry St. in the 1950s) have been about speeding up through traffic: getting people (in cars) through the neighborhood instead of to the neighborhood. Hopefully we’re seeing a the beginnings of a reversal to that trend.
The Island of Asa Mercer
The residents of Mercer Island have a pretty sweet deal. They live in an emerald castle of sorts, surrounded by a moat, which keeps the riffraff out and property values high. They have a relatively short commute to Seattle OR Bellevue. They have a bridge across said moat paid for by federal and state taxpayers in both directions. Finally, they have free access to the HOV lane for their single-occupancy vehicles! All in all, it’s a helluva place to settle and raise a family if you happen to earn three times the U.S. median household income.
But alas, all is not well on the emerald isle. Tolls are coming. What?! That’s not what’s supposed to happen! In fact, it’s precisely backwards: the bridge is supposed to keep people out, not keep the islanders locked in! They took the beautiful Castle on a Cloud and turned it into… Alcatraz!
Alas, the moat giveth, the moat taketh away. But I, for one, am at least somewhat sympathetic to the plight of our island-bound friends (soul mates, as they are, in our 206 area code). These folks bought houses under the (perhaps naïve) assumption that they’d have permanent, subsidized access to the mainland in perpetuity and now the rules are being changed. What, if anything, should we do about it?
The high-capacity transit corridor known as the Center City Connector — discussed previously here and here — will be just 1.1 miles long. But it’s an important 1.1 miles! Running between King St. Station and Belltown, the connector will provide the spine for potential future extensions to Queen Anne and the North End.
Federal grant money to move forward with the project was secured last fall, and on February 6 SDOT is hosting an open house to kick off the project. Stop by to get the details. Before you go, you may want to prepare yourself by reading this brief corridor analysis from the Transit Master Plan (pdf).
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Transit, WhichBus, and Google Maps for iOS
Last summer I noted that Apple would be dropping transit directions from the iPhone’s maps application as they switched away from using Google services. Around that time, Oran linked to a Kickstarter project (to which I donated) to create a trip planning app using OpenTripPlanner. A few things have changed in the world of transit trip planning since then.
For one, the Kickstarter project has shut down and returned the funds to their backers (myself included). Meanwhile, a few trip planning tools have cropped up that are worth your time. The three that I’ve tried are the new iOS Google Maps app, Transit, and WhichBus (which isn’t an app but a mobile-optimized website). OneBusAway, of course, continues to provide great real-time arrival info and stop locations. I haven’t included it in this review because it’s not new, and doesn’t do trip planning.
A reminder from my previous post: a “transit app” generally has one or more of these three features: (more…)