Walking up Rainier Ave. S toward the Columbia School for a community meeting on SDOT’s latest Rainier Avenue safety proposal last Thursday night, I was struck once again by what a dangerous and inconvenient street Rainier is for pretty much anyone who isn’t driving a car. Once upon a time I biked to work on Rainier almost daily, a practice that prompted City Council member and fellow cyclist Sally Clark to write a blog post, titled “Hey, Erica,” suggesting three circuitous but very helpful safer routes from Columbia City to downtown. In 2008, the council quietly shelved a proposal to reduce Rainier from four or five lanes to three, including a turning lane, at a time when the street had nearly 30 times as many crashes, per rider, as the Burke-Gilman Trail. (In 2006, the city’s updated bike master plan acknowledged that “improvement [was] needed” on Rainier, but proposed no actual improvements.)
After years of Band-Aid upgrades to nonmotorized street users’ safety – a pedestrian-activated crossing here, a safety-promoting yard sign there – it looks like the city is getting serious about safety on at least a portion of this fast-moving, accident-prone urban highway.
On Thursday, as part of Mayor Ed Murray’s “Vision Zero” transportation strategy (the zero refers to traffic deaths and serious injuries), SDOT staff presented three scenarios for reducing speeds and improving safety on Rainier. Notably, all three included rechannelization, or a “road diet.” Perhaps it’s a testament to Murray’s coalition-centric leadership style, or a reflection of his predecessor Mike McGinn’s more contentious reputation. Perhaps it’s changing attitudes and the shift away from driving alone. Whatever the reason, what was once unthinkable (a road diet? On Rainier?) is now Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. After years of indecision from SDOT, it finally appears there’s no turning back.
“Option 1A” is the most conservative. Under this option, SDOT would rechannelize Rainier between Columbia City and Rainier Beach (S Alaska to S Henderson), reducing the road from four to three lanes, including one general purpose lane. Even this mini-rechannelization prompted histrionics among a certain faction in the crowd: One attendee said the proposed road diet would turn Lake Washington Blvd. into a freeway; another suggested that the city should encourage cyclists to commute by sidewalk instead of on the street. Clearly, there are some who will oppose even the most modest “road diet.”
“Option 1B” would combine 1A’s rechannelization with two new protected bike lanes between S Alaska St. and S Kenny St (three blocks south of S Orcas in Hillman City), along with presumably narrower general-purpose lanes. According to SDOT, this option presents “design challenges.” According to SDOT community traffic liaison Jim Curtin, option 1B would also cost far more ($1.5m+) than the other two alternatives ($500-700k), even though its span is the shortest. When asked why SDOT wasn’t proposing bike lanes all the way from Dearborn to Seward Park, SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang responded cryptically, “That’s a desire of ours as well.”
Finally, “Option 2” would ditch the bike lanes in favor of intermittent transit lanes, which would be located in what are now parking lanes near bus stops along Rainier. Option 2 would be the fastest for transit, but would also result in fewer parking spaces along Rainier. Asked whether it would be safe to have buses veering into cyclists’ path every couple of blocks, Curtin said, “bicycles and buses intermingle all over the city as it is today,” adding that cycling on bus-heavy corridors is actually “a pretty safe way to get around town.”
All three options, SDOT predicts, will increase car and bus travel time along the corridor by around two minutes.
Any of these options would be an improvement, and I’m hesitant to say which would be the “best,” in terms of safety, for nonmotorized roadway users. Cyclists would obviously benefit from bike lanes that are physically protected from cars whizzing by at 40mph, and bus riders would be best served by bus pullouts, which would reduce the amount of time spent sitting in backed-up traffic half a block from the next bus stop. The problem is, neither of the latter two options offer both, meaning that if cyclists “win,” bus riders “lose,” and vice versa. On the flip side, all three options are a major improvement over what we have now.
Assuming rechannelization does move forward—one notable thing about Thursday’s public meeting was how few people expressed opposition to the concept of rechannelization per se—Rainier still presents some major safety challenges, challenges SDOT will need to address if it’s really serious about “Vision Zero.”
First, in its current form, Rainier is essentially a surface-level alternative to I-5 for many commuters; although the speed limit is 30mph, it’s not uncommon (as SDOT’s presentation made clear) to see people cruising along at 40, 45, or even 50mph. SDOT plans to lower the speed limit along Rainier to 25mph, but, as one commenter pointed out, lower speed limits mean little if they aren’t enforced. (SDOT has secured grant funding for extra speed patrols along the corridor).
A second, lower-profile problem is the stunning lack of marked, signaled intersections along Rainier, where crossing “legally” can mean walking a half-mile in each direction to get to a marked crosswalk. No wonder so many transit riders and pedestrians jaywalk along Rainier, as the alternative is often untenable, especially for the elderly and disabled. Although some at last week’s meeting suggested that jaywalkers were inviting their own injuries or demise – prompting Curtin to state dryly, “There’s been crashes at nearly every place a crash could occur, so it’s something other than behavior” – the reality is that the city makes it very difficult to cross the street to get to destinations like the Rainier Food Bank, which serves a largely elderly population. The lack of intersections is therefore both a transportation problem and an equity problem, one that could be at least partially addressed by installing pedestrian-activated crossing signals like the one at 39th and Pearl St. in Columbia City.
Despite their drawbacks, rechannelizations do work to reduce crashes and lower traffic speeds. On Nickerson St., for example, where SDOT reduced five lanes to three and installed two new marked crosswalks, collisions went down 23 percent and the number of people driving 10mph or more over the speed limit was reduced by 94 percent. Other road diets have led to similar safety improvements. If Rainier’s rechannelization is a success, it will be yet another piece of evidence that, far from slowing cars, destroying needed parking, or creating nightmare traffic congestion, road diets actually work to improve safety, reduce collisions, and slow down speeding drivers who are endangering themselves as much as those with whom they share the road.
61 Replies to “SDOT Will Finally Make Rainier Safer”
I don’t know what the quotation marks are meant to mean in “legally” when talking about pedestrians crossing Rainier, but I doubt many have to walk half a mile to get to a crosswalk in most cases: according to Washington state law, every intersection is a crosswalk (albeit unmarked) at which pedestrians have the right of way: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedrcw.htm
Marked crosswalks are great, but not required to cross the road legally. Now, if only we could somehow make sure drivers understood that law and actually yielded to pedestrians when the law requires…
Slower speeds plus driver education would go a long way to solving the problem of crossing Rainier.
Also, my guess is that a good number of complaints about “jaywalking” are actually uninformed rants regarding pedestrians legally crossing at unmarked crosswalks (and said ranters unknowingly and self-righteously breaking the law by not yielding). That’s been my experience at most community meetings of this type, anyway…
There used to be a huge problem with students from Franklin jaywalking at MLK + Rainier (where there is a pedestrian overpass) (I think that’s where a cop punched a girl during attempted enforcement there which you might remember from youtube). On most daylight days you’ll see people crossing fairly randomly – usually near bus stops but not always. So they are mostly unmarked intersections, but also critically, just a block or half block from the crosswalk that sdot is trying to make safe. All said, its pretty chaotic, and that’s the problem.
Maybe the pedestrian bridges should be torn down. They were put there to get the pedestrians out of the way of the cars, so the cars could go faster. For pedestrian safety, the bridges are counterproductive.
It’s the difference between legal and practical. Yes, pedestrians can legally cross at any intersection, marked or unmarked crosswalk, as long as there’s no signs or signals prohibiting them. But can they do that in practice?
If a person is standing at a corner of an intersection with a marked crosswalk, many (not all, but many) cars will stop for them to cross.
If a person is standing at a corner of an intersection with an unmarked crosswalk, many cars will whiz on by without even slowing down. I suspect a lot of that is driver ignorance that unmarked crosswalks are a real thing. Heck, do most pedestrians even know that unmarked crosswalks are a real thing? If many cars aren’t stopping for pedestrians, are people meant to just walk into the first lane and hope that cars in every lane stop for them?
True – I never said it was practical to take advantage of this law. I was only pointing out a place where the article reflects a common misunderstanding of the RCW. Nevertheless, if all drivers were educated and actually yielded when required to by law, crossing would not be an issue.
It’s both a traffic engineering problem, and a driver education problem.
Three lanes will help immensely. The city doesn’t like to put in crosswalks without putting in a signal when there are four lanes. That was the case on 125th, before the road diet. Now that the road diet is in, new crosswalks were added (in some cases with islands) and things are a lot better. Four lanes is just asking for trouble (unless there is a light). The first guy stops, the guy behind him swerves (assuming he is taking a right) and you have a very dangerous situation (for the pedestrian).
It sounds like a philosophical riddle. If there are all these unmarked crosswalks around in theory, but nobody knows about or uses them in practice, do they actually exist in reality?
I’ve gotten a couple of tickets for parking across them at corners with no curb cuts (the ones at strange angles mostly), so yes. While they may be imaginary legal constructs, they do exist.
Charles, I wish that was the case in my neighborhood. I live in a section of Beacon Hill where the various divided land plats don’t have the streets align from one to the next. This results in a lot of jogs to the streets (in both the N-S and E-W directions) and a lot of Ts. The sidewalks all have extensions from the T portion to the street in order to align with the sidewalk across the street. But nearly every one will have someone parking such that they completely block that sidewalk extension, and thus block the crosswalk. I’m not sure if the parkers are oblivious to the fact that that is what the little perpendicular piece of pavement is, or if they just don’t care.
The existing pedestrian bridge over Ranier at Mt. Baker Station is quite useful, and there is absolutely no reason to tear it down. At a minimum, walking across the bridge is much faster than waiting for two stoplights, even if you have to go up, down and up again to reach the Link Station.
Experience suggests we won’t get slower speeds without narrower lanes, and we won’t get people driving along to look to the corner for people crossing the street early enough to yield to them without marked crosswalks. It also suggests crossing a multi-lane road without a signal, marked crosswalk or not, can be pretty dangerous because when someone in one lane slows down to yield to you people behind them pull out to pass.
Absolutely. Crossing distance (including number of lanes) and traffic speed are probably the two biggest issues that can be controlled through traffic engineering. I’m glad SDOT is thinking along those lines.
At least on Beacon Ave S, the car traffic is forced into one lane next to the station. Crossing there is really, really safe. (Jayrunning in front of a bus, though, is not okay, and the drivers seem to now be instructed not to open their doors for runners who run in front of the bus. Anywhere.)
Experience also suggests that slowing down transit leads to more people driving, which isn’t what anybody wants to stimulate. Will re-channelization and a 25 mph speed limit create an even slower and less usable route 7?
The land use and traffic problems in Rainier Valley are complex but better crossing protection would likely be a great first step to building more transit ridership.
The channelization at Beacon Hill Station slows down the 36 and the 60, but more people make their connection safely, which makes the transit more useful. I see it working the same way with the 7 etc. next to Mt. Baker Station. Indeed, about half the people on those buses are either boarding or alighting at that station.
If speeding up the 7 means fewer people making their connection, then speeding up the 7 makes transit less useful.
>> It also suggests crossing a multi-lane road without a signal, marked crosswalk or not, can be pretty dangerous because when someone in one lane slows down to yield to you people behind them pull out to pass.
Right, which is why three lanes is so much better than four. The city doesn’t like to put in crosswalks without putting in a signal when there are four lanes. That was the case on 125th, before the road diet. Now that the road diet is in, new crosswalks were added (in some cases with islands) and things are a lot better.
As far as speed goes, people really slow down when there are three lanes (instead of four). I’m not sure why exactly that is. Some of it, without a doubt is that you can’t pass (legally). So if I’m driving the speed limit, the guy behind is just going to have to wait. But there is also a more subtle behavioral change. Since you can’t weave, there is less need to get “a bit ahead” of the other guy, to avoid being “hemmed in” by someone taking a left and cars flowing on the right. You simply don’t worry about that situation. There is a also a psychological effect to having four lanes — people just assume you are supposed to go fast.
Three lanes work, even if the lanes are pretty wide.
I think there is a problem with really wide two lane roads (that include parking). These become de facto four lanes roads. A great example is 5th NE, between 130th and Northgate Way. There is a very long section without traffic lights, and people go way too fast, and weave around cars (using the unmarked parking lanes). Changing that to three lanes, though technically not a diet, would be a big improvement for safety. Adding bike lanes would also make sense. That would mean eliminating one lane of parking, but that is a small price to pay.
NE 75th is another example of a really wide 2 lane, which was treated as a 4 lane. Since the conversion to 3 lane plus (not great, but still much better than before) bike lane, collisions are way down.
In the fist sentence, does “anatest” = latest?
“Ana-” is a Greek prefix meaning “again”; so, an “anatest” proposal would be a proposal put out once again for testing. That’s not a bad description of this proposal put out for the “testing” of a community hearing.
Alternatively, it could be a misprint.
I love your theory, William C.! Alas, it was just a typo (and has been fixed).
Yes, thank you for this comment. Every intersection is a crosswalk and a legal pedestrian crossing unless there is a sign to the contrary or a pedestrian bridge. Crossing four lanes of speeding traffic at an unmarked crosswalk isn’t necessarily a good idea, but we all need to be aware that unmarked intersections are in fact legal places to cross the road and drivers have a duty to yield to people walking across a street at an unmarked intersection.
PAINT and PENS
PAINT the bloody crosswalks at every intersection.
Equip SPD with a lot of PENS and do intensive motorist, pedestrian, and bike rider education as only a citation can do.
I think it’s true that either the bikes win or the buses win if only Rainier Avenue is looked at for changes. Whichever option SDOT chooses for Rainier Avenue (bikes win/buses win), more autos are going to divert to MLK or Seward Park Avenue South. So I think it would be a good idea to have SDOT look at restructuring traffic on both Rainier and MLK. Personally, I’d prefer to see MLK as the street that prioritizes bike safety and let Rainier Avenue prioritize transit service. On MLK the outside lanes could be designated bus and bike lanes and the inner lanes would be the general purpose lanes. On Rainier Avenue, buses would be given priority lanes through the most congested areas and left turns should be banned during peak hours where they create back-ups.
MLK was supposedly designed to prioritize bike safety, but it isn’t a big through street for cyclists, perhaps because MLK truncates (for the purposes of folks going downtown or the ID) at the intersection with Rainier. Also, for big population centers like Columbia City and Seward Park, MLK is quite a hike, making Rainier the natural, more central route for buses. Finally: MLK already had a road diet in the form of Link Light Rail, which reduced the through lanes to two, plus intermittent turning lanes. Dedicating one of those two lanes to buses would reduce the GP lanes to one in each direction, which might work technically (I don’t know, but there’s definitely minimal car traffic on MLK compared to Rainier), but would meet with massive community resistance.
I find it difficult to conceive of any plan that makes biking on Rainier Avenue safe. If Rainier is reduced to one general purpose lane in each direction with a left turn lane in the middle, bikers will be at risk from left turning cars (maybe that’s a personal bias–I’ve been hit twice by left turning cars).
Seward Park Ave and Lk Washington Blvd are already heavily used bike routes so I don’t think that restructuring MLK would be an outlandishly inconvenient route for anyone who wants to bike to other destinations in Rainier Valley.
I for one live on MLK, find it terrible to bike on, and often wish it was only one GP lane in each direction.
There would certainly be community resistance, but I can guarantee at least one household along MLK would strongly be in favour of reducing GP lanes.
Adam: Make that at least two households on MLK.
As someone who bikes every day, Rainier and MLK are the main reasons I haven’t moved down to the valley yet. I love it down there, but the former is a safety nightmare and the latter is pretty much a forced sidewalk ride.
I’m concerned that transit on Rainier, which already gets pretty short shrift, gets even more of the shaft. I gotta agree with GuyOnBeaconHill — creating bike facilities on MLK seems to make far more intuitive sense (it was repaved not that long ago, is wider and seems to have less car traffic than Rainier), while transit facilities on Rainier should be prioritized.
This is another opportunity to re-examine the whole Mount Baker TC setup, too.
I refuse to accept that safe bike infrastructure on MLK/Rainier is an either/or proposition.
I see far too many people treating people on bikes as if they need an I-5 cutting through the city so they can speed on through to get to their destination 10 miles away, thus we need to pick a single N-S route to speed through the valley as quickly as possible.
By that same logic, there’s no need to even have Rainier or MLK to begin with. If you want to speed through the city we already have I-5. Why does the city continue to waste money maintaining MLK and Rainier when people could just as easily take I-5? Talk about a government boondoggle!
There are parallel streets because there are destinations on parallel streets. I live on MLK. That is a destination. I want to be able to ride my bike home without fearing for my life. There are many shops on Rainier. Those are destinations. I want to go to the shops without fearing for my life. There are lots of destinations on both streets, and perpetuating an either/or discourse does a disservice to both of them.
>This is another opportunity to re-examine the whole Mount Baker TC setup
Whatever they come up with for Mt. Baker, they’re hoping that the design pushes traffic currently using Rainier to MLK. That getting some cars off of Rainier will also help out the 7/9.
I like biking on MLK, and other 4-lane streets (when it’s a direct route and there is no suitable bike infrastructure that is; a 3-lane complete street is obviously better). With 4 lanes cars can simply move into the left lane to pass… not that it stops the occasional jerk from yelling that I should get off the road entirely.
I appreciate SDOT’s offer of intermittent bus lanes, but the most important thing that can be done around MLK/Rainier is to improve multi-modal access to the station.
Given that there is no at-grade track crossing at this intersection, I will point to the success of the Beacon Hill Station street improvements. With traffic channelized into fewer lanes, cars slow down. Always. Pedestrians don’t need a light to cross the street. We just step into the street and the cars stop. Nobody misses a train or bus connection for having to wait for a crossing signal. That is pedestrian-access eudamonaia.
Given the choice between saving a minute of travel time on route 7, or reducing time to cross the street by a couple minutes, I choose the latter.
On balance, bike access to the station is also probably more important than saving a little travel time on the 7 for increasing transit ridership. A continuous bike path all the way to Seward Park would probably do more for transit ridership than speeding up the 7 a little, increasing frequency on the 50, and making all the transfer bus stops more tolerable to wait at, combined. All I ask of bikers is that they slow down here, and yield the ROW to pedestrians, who may be stepping into the street at any random moment.
Traffic volumes around the Beacon Hill Station are much, much lower than around Mt. Baker Station. I don’t think they are comparable situations. But traffic (and transit) speeds are very low around MBS–mainly due to road congestion
” A continuous bike path all the way to Seward Park”
A bike path where? On Genessee Street or Othello Street? Or both? :)
They might have meant Seward Park Ave/Rainier. The city already plans to install a protected bike lane from the city limits in Skyway to Seward Park Ave this year, so doing it from Dearborn to Seward Park Ave would pretty much be a complete bike path all the way to Renton.
Beautiful photo, Oran.
Do the bike lanes have to be on Rainier? I always found MLK to be the easiest way to go up and down the valley, although that was before Link. Are there any neighboring residential streets which might make a good greenway as on Beacon Hill? One of the criticisms of the Broadway cycle track is that, while north-south bike lanes are certainly needed, they don’t necessarily need to be on Broadway, and their presence has pre-empted transit lanes for the streetcar and parking spaces.
The Broadway bikeway also pre-empted the need to relocate a mile worth of underground utilities that would have to have been moved to install streetcar tracks on the east side of the street. It’s tough to imagine how SDOT could have avoided that extremely costly relocation while still providing safe access to the streetcar if the space were not used for a bikeway.
Rainier Valley has two main drags; MLK and Rainier S. They cross in very roughly the middle of the valley to create a skinny “X”. The rest of the streets follow a squared up grid that conflicts with the “X”, and a lot of triangular plots, dead ends, and little streets that end abruptly at a hill or two are the norm. Councilwoman Clark’s article on the routes she bikes to get to downtown is quite accurate. Bikers (or walkers) end up piecing together a lot of “turn left, then go three blocks, then turn left, then go two blocks” routes if they try to stay in the valley and not walk on MLK/Rainier.
Rainier and MLK also approximately follow the floor of their respective valleys, which is why they cut through the grid at angles. The result is that even if you can piece together a sawtooth trail parallel but following the regular grid you are constantly climbing up 50 feet here then dropping 25 feet there, making for an unpleasant biking experience.
It’s tough to get to downtown from Rainier Valley. Following Rainier Avenue is the flatest route, but it requires a death wish. There is a path through Columbia City (via Letitia Avenue and then through Mt. Baker) that’s pretty safe, but it’s not very direct. Going over Beacon Hill is usually the most direct route: ride east-west on Othello or Orcas to the Chief Seath Trail, but even that routing means a lot of hills.
What’s missing in Rainier Valley are good walking paths and bike routes to the schools and community centers. Not every trip needs begin or end in downtown. Can my kids safely ride their bikes from school to the Rainier Beach Community Center, Seward Park or the Ark Lodge? Nope.
I lived in the U-District at the time, so I took MLK all the way to Madison, then those little streets around 28th or the Arboretum to Montlake. But if you’re going downtown, how about MLK to the I-90 trail, then west on the trail to the 12th Avenue bridge, or further to SODO (Holgate Street).
Erica is right about the community resistance. There are a lot of very addicted car drivers here who lament the effects of the LINK on MLK and think MLK was “ruined”. They say so, routinely, and they speed up and down Rainier like proverbial bats out of hell now.
I don’t see many bikers on MLK, either. I am a walker, and I get far more ring-a-dings to move while bikers use the sidewalk than I see bikes actually on the road. In other parts of the city this feels annoying (yes, I know it’s legal), especially when there is a designated bike lane four feet to one side. In Rainier Valley, I give sidewalk bikers a mental free pass, because hecky darn, I would NEVER ride a bike on either of our main drags after seeing some of the crazy car behavior around here but support bike riding as a societal good.
The road diet process will be quite politically tricky–previous SDOT road diets, to my eye at least, didn’t contend with communities with concentrated income levels like a lot of the folks who live on the east ridge south of I90 down to Lake Washington (Colman, Leschi, Seward Park, Mt. Baker, etc.). Most of them avoid the actual valley like the plague and use Seward Park S. and Lake WA Boulevard whenever possible. It “belongs” to them, you know. They don’t want the “wrong element” using “their” nice roads, which they speed along at times with close to the same fervor that Rainier and MLK receive. Plenty of bikers can attest to Lake WA Boulevard car behavior.
An elderly client of the food bank was hit last year while jaywalking to get to the approaching bus after a food bank visit, and was very seriously injured. You didn’t see anything about this in the news, because, well, Rainier Valley. A second-generation American of Chinese descent, a Duke Engages college volunteer, told me that part of the jaywalking situation is that in a number of Asian countries the use of crosswalks is culturally almost non-existent, and many older immigrants from there have an ingrained assumption that the cars will look out for them. If this road diet project can be made to work the rest of the city should be cake crumbs.
‘communities with concentrated income levels like a lot of the folks who live on the east ridge south of I90 down to Lake Washington (Colman, Leschi, Seward Park, Mt. Baker, etc.). Most of them avoid the actual valley like the plague and use Seward Park S. and Lake WA Boulevard whenever possible. It “belongs” to them, you know. They don’t want the “wrong element” using “their” nice roads’
I’ve also noticed this proximity to Lake WA corresponds to opposition to road safety improvements (and new buildings, up-zones). It seems like the Seward Park is the most vocal of the bunch, at least on the internet. I would guess part of the effect is wealth, the other is utterly car dependent lifestyles (and correspondingly bad bus service).
You are absolutely right about Seward Park and cars. Their Walkscore is 48, and since they are the southernmost of the Lake Dwellers they abut the poorer parts of the valley in a way that the other mentioned ‘hoods don’t.
Age seems to be another factor too, though maybe a weaker one. It’s interesting to see conversations playing out on NextDoor where the neighborhood of a commenter is super prominent. I wish Mt. Baker were split down the middle north to south and I could see if it is the west side that is most interested in improving the Mt. Baker station area and promoting developments surrounding it.
What’s the current state of the Mt Baker Town Center plan with it’s bowtie configuration for traffic on Rainier/MLK? This also contains a reconfiguration of the Mt Baker Transit Center. It seems that when talking about changes to Rainier we need to bring the MBTC plan into the discussion.
I was wondering about the bow tie too.
There is an ‘Accessible Mt. Baker’ meeting on the 26th:
It sounds like the bowtie is no longer preferred, but there is still a strong desire to stop crossing the streams (of MLK and Rainier) through other approaches.
In a 3-lane scenario, would bus stops be in-lane or in pullouts? That has a big difference in the delays for drivers (much worse in-lane) vs. buses (much worse in pullouts since very few drivers yield to buses).
What is an intermittent transit lane? They start and then stop periodically? I’d think transit lanes would be the best solution to help transit users gain from this restructure. Parking on a main arterial is a poor use of space, and removing parking also eliminates parallel parking related delays.
As I’ve commented before, “Vision Zero” is not a pro-transit strategy per se – it is fundamentally a risk reduction strategy. I’m a little concerned that as transit advocates, we are embracing Vision Zero without concern that changes can also worsen transit performance. For example, the stats show that Nickerson is safer, but the single lane is more prone to traffic backups from SPU to the Fremont Bridge at rush hour, trapping buses and cars. Stopped traffic is remarkably safe, so creating more traffic jams would perversely be consistent with Vision Zero. However, the most “safe” street would have no cars or buses (or bikes) at all – it would be 100% pedestrians, as is common is many European town centers.
Intermittent transit lane sounds like peak only, possibly unidirectional.
I also am concerned about imposing 25 mph citywide. That doesn’t sound appropriate for major arterials. 30 mph is already excessively slow; they should be 35. That will impact all the buses, including the 7, 8, and 48. But it may drive more people to Link. That will require more crosstown service on Othello and Henderson Streets where it’s a longish walk from Rainier to MLK. Otherwise people will get frustrated at how long it takes to get around on transit.
How real is the time loss of 25 mph vs. 35 mph?
Looking at Rainier, let’s say you’re going all the way from Rainier Beach High School to the Rainier Chamber of Commerce. You’re looking at less than two minutes’ difference in driving time, assuming no change in intersection congestion.
Now, maybe if you’re a courier who makes that trip a dozen times a day, the time loss becomes meaningful. But for the average person traveling a few times a day, it’s no worse than missing a light or waiting for an occupied crosswalk.
Since when does the #7 bus, with bus stops every 100 feet, ever get to exceed 25, let along 35 mph. Reducing the speed limit may mean an extra minute or two for car drivers, but it won’t matter at all for bus riders.
Oh lordy, here comes the gentrifiers .. sorry, the “urbanists” to tell us how to ‘improve’ our neighborhood aka make it better for white yuppies.
Maybe we should just deed the whole City back to the Duwamish people.
I think this is a legitimate concern. Commenters above have explicitly said that the poor biking infrastructure is the only reason they haven’t moved to the valley.
But I don’t think the solution is to keep the roads good-for-only-cars forever. Instead, we should improve facilities while increasing housing stock so that rent stays reasonable and that gentrification (i.e. the gag-worthy SLU-ification of everything) doesn’t happen.
Because only white yuppies mind getting run over by cars!
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