Last night, the Waterfront Seattle Project held their second open house, and it’s the one many of us have been waiting for. The topic was Mobility and Access: all about improving connections between the city and the waterfront, and of balancing the needs many different transportation modes that must coexist on the rebuilt waterfront: pedestrians, bikes, transit, freight and cars. Along with the waterfront team, staff from the city and Metro were present in force, and the meeting was well attended (a lot of cyclists, in particular), with vigorous conversations at each table for the duration of the meeting.
The event began with a presentation discussing the background and general considerations and goals of the project, along with a segment by segment discussion of the right-of-way cross-sections, from Belltown to Pioneer Square. The presenter noted that a streetcar had not been eliminated as a possibility within the roadway, although it wasn’t included in the cross-sections. After that, everyone was turned loose to five discussion tables to share their opinions with staff taking notes.
More after the jump.
I can’t possibly mention all the discussions I overheard or partook in, but I will summarize the issues that stood out to me (with the caveat that I make no claim of journalistic impartiality in what attracted my attention):
- Some attendees suggested public parking structures for visitors arriving by car at the north and south ends of the waterfront. I think this is a terrible idea, and I’d give it about a 0% chance of happening, as both Pioneer Square and Belltown would fight a new public parking structure to the death. Moreover, cities should not attempt to replicate the car amenities of the suburbs, because they can’t without destroying the diverse, pedestrian-oriented urbanity that is their biggest and best asset.
- I’m even more skeptical of the merits of running West Seattle bus routes into Downtown Seattle via Marion/Columbia (versus alternatives through SODO or Pioneer Square) than I was when I originally wrote about South End Transit Pathways. The cross-section for the southern part of the Alaskan Way surface street in the meeting showed bidirectional transit lanes in the AM peak and one outbound transit lane in the PM peak (the other reallocated to general traffic to make way for an additional ferry queuing lane; both street parking off-peak). That isn’t going to cut it. If buses are going to reliably navigate the traffic that ensues whenever ferries unload, they need full-time lanes all the way from the freeway exit to 1st Ave. Otherwise, give me a (perhaps slightly slower but more reliable) transit/bike/pedestrian mall on Main St, and cut the southbound transit/parking lane to make the street narrower.
- As I pointed out over at Seattle Bike Blog, whatever bike infrastructure we build on the waterfront has to go somewhere. To the north, connectivity is good, but to the south is a different story. WSDOT’s great new bike trail from Holgate St to King St drops you out onto East Marginal Way, a really unpleasant place to ride a bike, but still the safest and fastest way to access any of the bike routes in West Seattle and Delridge. No more missing links!
- I’m rather fond of the idea of a bike/pedestrian overpass similar to the one at West Thomas St connecting to Pioneer Square from west side of Alaskan Way, especially if it connects to a Main St transit/bike/pedestrian mall. This would give a very strong and safe connection to Pioneer Square. Regardless of any such bridges, many people stressed that the streets and signals should be set to keep traffic flow slow, to minimize tunnel diversion and maximize safety and the pedestrian experience.
- I really like the Pike Place “fold” discussed in the Seattle Times yesterday morning that would serve as a lid over the Elliot-Western connector. It hides the most road-like (versus street-like) element of the current plan, while drawing people down from Pike Place Market (where there are masses of them) to the waterfront (where there aren’t enough of them). Outdoor escalators (with elevators for ADA access) at streets like Union and University where the grade is too steep for a street would also be great.
As promised, this is an open thread, so what do you want to see on the new waterfront?
UPDATE: Here are the slides from the presentation.