Priority Projects
Priority Projects

Among the critiques Candidate Murray made of Seattle’s series of transportation master plans (Transit, Pedestrian, Bike, and Freight) was that the projects in those plans were neither properly integrated nor prioritized. Yesterday he unveiled a vision, called “Move Seattle,” intended to address those two concerns.

As one might imagine, there’s way too much stuff, for too many modes, to capture everything here. However, here are some of the 10-year transit objectives listed in the document:

  • Provide 72% of Seattle residents with 10-minute all-day transit service within a 10-minute walk of their homes.
  • Provide RapidRide levels of investment and service on 7 new corridors (for a total of 10 overall).
  • Increase transit service and improve our streets to make transit more reliable
  • Provide real-time travel information to the public.

And some three-year goals:

  • Develop an iconic Seattle transit map to make Seattle’s transit system easier to understand.
  • Expand Transit Screen displays to 20 buildings to improve access to transportation information.
  • Partner to design and launch a real-time multimodal travel and wayfinding app.
  • Implement “Always on Time” bus routes by focusing transit capital improvements on the routes that serve most Seattle residents.
  • Ensure that 75% of Seattle households are within a 10-minute walk of bus routes with service every 15 minutes or better.
  • Install red bus-only lanes and transit priority improvements at pinch points and implement targeted enforcement to ensure bus-only lanes operate effectively.
  • Upgrade bus stops and stations by implementing a street furniture program and adding real-time information signs and better lighting to busy bus stops.
  • Begin construction of bus rapid transit on Madison Street.
  • Begin construction of the Center City Streetcar Connector and the Broadway Extension on Capitol Hill.
  • Explore opportunities to require new development to provide transit passes and other travel options as a condition of development approval.
  • Launch a “Car Light Living” program to promote alternatives to owning a personal vehicle when moving to Seattle.
  • Partner with King County Metro or other transit service providers to pilot automated transit vehicles and expand the use of battery-powered buses to reduce carbon emissions.

But you don’t care about all these principles and pilots and “exploring.” You want projects. And here are the highest priority projects for a 10-year time frame. These aren’t funded; they will presumably be the top priority for a 6-year “Bridging the Gap” property tax renewal later this year, and the subject of a hunt for federal grants where possible. The project list starts on Page 39.

There are 17 projects the plan proposes to complete by 2024, plus another seven “Long-term priority projects” that are next in line. The letter codes reflect the ranking in the scoring system the document uses; A is the highest priority project and Q the lowest. If revenues come in over projections then presumably project R (1st Avenue South) would be the next one in line. I’ll group the first seventeen as follows:

Complete Streets (7): Delridge (G), Greenwood/Phinney/67th (I), Madison (K), Pike/Pine (N), Rainier Ave (O), Roosevelt/Eastlake (P), Yesler/Jefferson (Q)

Bike lanes, transit priority treatments, and pedestrian improvements. Madison Street also includes the Madison BRT Project from the Transit Master Plan. The Roosevelt corridor, 65th St to Downtown, would also be a fully electrified BRT corridor, in accordance with another part of the TMP. The Yesler/Jefferson improvements would also electrify it, allowing a badly needed streamlining of First Hill service to Yesler. The only major STB wish-list item from these corridors that isn’t called out is the Rainier Beach transit center (we’ve asked SDOT about that).

Corridor Improvements (2): 23rd Ave (A),  3rd Avenue (B)

As far as I can tell, these only differ from complete streets in that the bike infrastructure is on a parallel street. Trolleybus wire is not explicitly called out for 23rd Ave, although the city has already done some of the design work for this project, and is actively seeking funding, so we assume that’s baked in. This project covers 23rd Ave from Madison to Rainier.

Streetcars (2): Broadway Extension (D), Center City Streetcar Connector (F)

The Capitol Hill neighborhood very effectively organized to extend the First Hill Streetcar to Roy Aloha St. The CCC unifies the streetcar network and has dedicated right of way through downtown.

Transit Improvements (2): Ballard to Downtown (C), Market/45th (L)

The Ballard-Downtown work will make various transit priority improvements, make pedestrian and bike safety improvements to the Ballard Bridge, and “support a light rail expansion” in some unspecified way.

Freight Mobility (2): East Marginal Way (H), Lander Street Grade Separation/Railroad Crossing (J)

East Marginal Way includes Bike and Pedestrian separation. Bruce Nourish explains how a Lander Street crossing can help transit.

Bike/Ped Stuff (2): Burke Gilman Trail Missing Link (E), Northgate Pedestrian-Bike Bridge (M)

The Northgate Bridge will connect areas west of I-5, including North Seattle Community College, to the Link Station.

There are also the 7 “Long Term Priority” Projects, which the plan does not commit to finishing by 2024, but elevates above the soup of remaining master plan projects. These are, in priority order: 1st Avenue S Corridor, 23rd Avenue Corridor Phase 4 (Madison to Montlake), Aurora Ave Complete Street, Beacon/12th/Broadway Complete Street, Fauntleroy/California Transit Corridor, Fauntleroy Way SW Boulevard, and Lake City Way Complete Street.

My initial reaction is that this hits most of STB’s in-city wish list, minus the megaprojects and some items that would clearly be Sound Transit’s responsibility (e.g. a center platform at Chinatown Station). If there’s one thing of the proper scale that’s missing, it’s Bruce’s proposal for a new ship canal crossing, from which Murray raided the study money to fund night owls last year, and of which there is no sign in the new document. But overall, these are clearly needed capital projects if the Prop 1 service hours are to not simply idle away in traffic.

99 Replies to “Murray Unveils “Move Seattle””

  1. Just a quick correction: The Broadway extension of the streetcar is going to Roy, not Aloha.

    Also, I nominate Oran to do the new transit maps. Seriously the city should pay someone who clearly knows what they are doing and Oran has a proven track record ;)

  2. If there’s one thing of the proper scale that’s missing, it’s Bruce’s proposal for a new ship canal crossing, from which Murray raided the study money to fund night owls last year, and of which there is no sign in the new document.


    The largest ‘transit’ capital improvement on the list is a $200,000,000 handout to the Port and Chris Hansen. Yes there would be some improvements for transit riders from the Lander St project but this is obviously about placating port interests over the new Arena. Putting that money back into the new ship canal crossing would be the single improvement that could turn this into a really stellar transit package.

      1. This project and for that price?

        No, no I don’t. This isn’t even the highest freight need in the city. This is a handout to the Port, port interests and Chris Hansen in order to smooth ruffled feathers around the Arena. SoDo businesses feel left behind and that they aren’t getting the ‘respect’ they deserve so are demanding these handouts.

        If the Port feels these improvements are necessary for their business, maybe they shouldn’t have committed $300,000,000 for a downtown bypass tunnel that does nothing for them.

      2. That’s nothing. The state is about to spend billions connecting sprawling suburbs to one another, thus screwing up I-5 even worse, in the name of “better port service”. Don’t get me wrong, if we want to spend a bunch of money making trains better connect to the various distribution networks, I’m all for it, but the 167/509 expansion is at best a giveaway to the trucking industry (at the expense of the railroads) and at worst a project designed to increase sprawl.

        Anyway, back to the subject at hand: I completely agree. Building another ship canal crossing would be a great project for the long term mobility of the region. Unlike some projects (like the “Market/45th Transit Improvement Project”) it would compliment, not be replaced by Sound Transit light rail. It is pretty easy to see how the UW to Ballard light rail would benefit from another crossing. This fills in the gap between the two (covering Fremont, east and north Queen Anne, and South Lake Union). Even if Aurora becomes a huge, fast corridor (and it would with the West Side Transit Tunnel) you still have the gap below (Fremont and Westlake, as well as the north end of Queen Anne). A new crossing, as Bruce Nourish wrote about, would be a huge improvement for buses, bikes and pedestrians.

    1. This is a really significant transit improvement. In combination with the freight improvement, which is also big, it’s worth at least a significant part of the money. Honestly, I think there’s some north-end bias implicit in any argument that the 3rd W bridge is an “obviously” better use of the money.

      1. No, just bias toward considering pedestrians and commuters better than Port of Seattle freight transport. Unless the freight lines in Sodo are as big a barrier to commuters as the Ship Canal? Considering all the other elevated crossings already nearby, as well as the limited east-west traffic in Sodo, I severely doubt that.

      2. This crossing will serve a lot of north-south commuters, not just east-west ones. It’s a needed piece if we ever want to build a second DSTT serving westside buses.

  3. Why oh why must the “provide real time travel information” part of this be on the list of 10 year goals?

    1. Most cities with state of the art transit systems do such a thing–NYC, London, Berlin. Why can’t this “progressive city” get with the program?

      1. I suspect the question wasn’t so much about providing real time information as it was about the ten year time frame.

      2. Yes.

        Google already tracks the speed of everyone’s cell phones and indicates the relative speed of traffic on their traffic congestion map.

        Does it have to be a 10 year project?

      3. NYC doesn’t have real-time arrival. Some subway lines do and a very few select bus stops have them, but the city as a whole is about as behind in this area as we are.

      4. Well I have hung out/rode around in Manhattan for the most part whenever visiting NYC—I take it the outer boroughs are lacking it?

      5. Only sort of–The only true arrival time information is on the numbered lines (the system in place on the lettered lines isn’t worth the money if you ask me), which all of them have except the 7. Bus time is only on a handful of prominent routes in Manhattan and a few test routes in the outer boroughs. It’s not as Manhattan-centric as a lot of other things in the city, but it needs serious expansion.

  4. “Partner to design and launch a real-time multimodal travel and wayfinding app.”

    Why do agencies feel the need to keep re-inventing the wheel here?

    1. +1. Plus, we already made a transit map that I think is pretty f*ing iconic.

    2. This one kills me. Is this essentially google maps? SDOT should not be putting time and money into building such an app, sounds like a waste to me.

      1. Nah. Google maps provides a one-size-fits-all approach for the whole world—it’s pretty easy to do better than Google. For example, despite the terrible user interface, I often use the King County Bike Map because it simply provides more information.

    3. I agree. How many times do we have to explain this. Spend money on producing data that adheres to standards, and let the developers build the apps. The developers will do it for free! Seriously, have we learned nothing from Linux or Firefox or the thousands upon thousands of really outstanding software projects produced and maintained for free. There is no need to spend money building apps. Just provide the data, and the apps (whether free or not) will gobble it up just fine.

      For example, Google has no idea that the monorail exists, and I can’t but think that this is the fault of the city, not Google.

      1. They’re not maintained for free. Linux and Firefox development is almost exclusively performed by people who are paid salaries to work on these projects.

  5. How can we get the two streetcar projects deprioritized in favor of something that fills an obvious mobility hole?

    1. I completely agree. I would spend the money on a gondola (connecting Capitol Hill with South Lake Union) but just about all the other projects in this report are a better value than the streetcar projects.

      1. I think the CCC isn’t a waste of money. One it has exclusive lanes. Two it means we might actually get some transit value out of the existing streetcars. The CCC will nearly triple SLUT ridership and nearly double Jackson ridership for the FHSC.

      2. But if you ask where are the most underserved areas in the city, would you say 1st Avenue and upper Broadway?

      3. True, neither area is particularly under served.

        I’ll agree the Broadway extension really shouldn’t be a priority given the lack of Federal grants and exclusive lanes.

        The CCC is a bit different as the capacity through downtown is needed, there are large Federal grants we can leverage (making the project relatively cheap in terms of local money needed), and it serves as proof of concept for surface rail with exclusive lanes (IOW how the other two streetcar lines should have been built in the first place).

      4. Most of the city has zero rail transit, so it’s all equally underserved. Since we’re starting from zero, 1st Ave and North Broadway both offer a good mix of population density and proximity to existing rail, making them practical places to extend service.

      5. “Underserved” means the existing transit gets bogged down in traffic, is too infrequent, doesn’t run evenings or Sundays, or doesn’t exist. 1st Avenue has ultra-frequent transit on 3rd Avenue. Upper Broadway has the 49 with RapidRide frequency (except 1 hour Saturday evening and 2 1/2 hours Sunday evening, but those will be filled in under Prop 1). In particular I’d put 45th, the Northgate pedestrian bridge, and Madison BRT before either of these streetcars.

      6. I believe that most of the city is underserved in the offpeak hours to the extent that buses run infrequently in the late evening and wee hours of the morning such that if one wants to go out at night and stay out very late, you must have a car (which most people end up using), or a trustworthy cabbie.

        Good dependable transit in an urban area with activities and cultural events happening outside of work hours shouldn’t simply happen during peak hours.

      7. “Underserved means the existing transit gets bogged down in traffic, is too infrequent, doesn’t run evenings or Sundays, or doesn’t exist.”

        It might also mean that the transit that does run is overcapacity. I don’t know if that’s the case on 3rd Ave., but the CCC could add a lot of capacity between SLU and Pioneer Square, and also between Westlake and CHS via Pioneer Square, S. Jackson and Broadway.

      8. I have never been unable to get on a 3rd Avenue bus. Certain routes may be overcrowded, but if you’re just going from midtown to Pioneer Square there’s always another bus in a couple minutes. I especially like the 7/14/36 for going anywhere toward 12th & Jackson or vice-versa, because the 7 and 36 are themselves very frequent, and combined they’re a powerhouse.

        PS. To get to the Harborview area fastest, take the 27 if it’s coming.

  6. How about a Denny way HCT line? (Gondola, brt, light rail… I don’t really care as long as it’s reasonably quick and timely and gets cap hill connected to ballard in less than 45 minutes.)

    1. How about catching U-Link to Westlake, cross the platform and the next E-Link to Ballard, via CPS (integrated into the Preferred Convention Center design from day 1), SLU, and Uptown. Even counting the transfer and a bit of back tracking, you’ll make your 45 min. trip with time to spare.

    2. In a couple years, the fastest way to get from Ballard to Capitol Hill will be to take the train to Husky Stadium, then get on a bike. If the UW to Ballard light rail is added, then that will be the fastest way (and faster than driving most of the day). But going through downtown is fine, too, as long as the west side transit tunnel is built. That would be faster than driving as well.

      But I do support a gondola from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union. Both of those areas are hugely popular (for Seattle). Getting to South Lake Union is a real pain from every direction, but especially from Capitol Hill. This is the best area in Seattle, and one of the best places in the U. S. (if not the world) for a gondola. Compared to light rail (or even a streetcar) they are very cheap.

  7. I should point out that Metro needs to buy battery-electric buses anyway. For urban duty cycles, they are extraordinarily superior to fuel (diesel/gasoline/CNG) buses. The fuel savings gives a payback period of 5-6 years, which is less than the bus’s lifetime. The better accelaration and deceleration makes them faster, too.

    New Flyer is making some very nice battery-electrics with lots of parts in common with their trolleybuses. BYD and Proterra would also bid if a solicitation was made.

    1. …of course, on high-frequency routes, trolleybuses are even more cost-effective than battery-electrics.

      1. I can see how that would potentially be the case, due to wires lasting longer than batteries, but do you have any figures that include all the costs of installing new wires?

      2. I was referring purely to routes where the wire’s already mostly up! I haven’t bothered to try to do the calculation for routes where you’d have to build *all* the trolleywire new; nobody’s done major trolley construction in a long time so it’s hard to find estimates.

        Last I checked, the cost seems to be dominated by the cost of “specialwork” at intersections, so anything which can be done to avoid this is helpful.

      3. The three most critical areas where new wire needs installed yesterday are Denny between 3rd and Olive, and 23rd Ave between Madison and Cherry, and again from Dearborn to Rainier – what, about 3+ miles? All three segments are crucial to increasing capacity, frequency and speed for the 8W and 48S. Get ‘er done, KC Metro.

  8. There is lot in the document, some of projects I think are a good value, others not so much, and some I don’t understand. For example:

    What is “I — Greenwood/Phinney/67th to Fremont Complete Street”?

    “P — Roosevelt to Downtown Complete Street” includes BRT style service, which sounds like a great idea. This is a corridor that Sound Transit is ignoring (and will probably never have light rail) so very good bus service would be most welcome.

    “L — Market/45th Transit Improvement Project” sounds pretty good on the surface, but I wouldn’t spend the money if we are about to add light rail there. Good light rail along that corridor, which just about everyone believes is the best value for ST3, would eliminate the need for the old 44, and thus (presumably) the need for these sorts of bus improvements. A bus might travel for a handful of blocks on 45th (e. g. Latona to Meridian) but it wouldn’t make sense for a bus to travel the entire distance.

    1. The subtext from the inclusion of “L” and the Ballard/Downtown corridor improvements seems to be that the Mayor prefers the Ballard/Downtown option for ST3 over the Ballard/UW option.

      1. SDOT, from the Ballard meetings I went to a few months ago, still liked the Ballard to downtown option (through Upper Queen Anne). I spoke of the Ballard Spur option, given the likelihood that ST3 was going to smaller than hoped, but it failed to impress any of the SDOT folks.

      2. Which implies that the SDOT folks are clueless. To be fair, the new guy is just learning his way around town. How about we send him on the 44 from the UW to Ballard and explain that the UW is the second biggest urban center (and destination) in Washington State. Explain that buses (and cars) run fairly fast north/south, but crawl going east/west. Then show him a map, which clearly shows that going from Ballard to downtown via the UW is a very minor detour, while doing the opposite (going from Ballard to the UW via downtown) is a major detour. Then explain that there are lots of people from areas north of the UW (Roosevelt, Northgate, Lake City, Shoreline, Lynnwood, etc.) that want to get to Ballard, or other places in the northwest side of the city. Maybe take him on a tour of Vancouver, while discussing bus to rail interaction.

        Light rail from the UW to Ballard is simply better than light rail from Ballard to downtown. The fact that it is cheaper is simply a side bonus. The fact that we could build really good bus service (from West Seattle, Ballard, Queen Anne and the Aurora corridor) much better with the difference makes it the obvious choice.

      3. Alternately by prioritizing Ballard/Downtown transit improvements over 45th/Market they are investing in the right place as there will continue to be Ballard/Downtown buses for at least the next 25 years. Though Ballard/UW probably won’t open for another 15 years so that money isn’t exactly wasted either.

    2. Re: L.

      As you surely know how many years it has taken to build UW-Westlake, you should see that the 44 is likely to be THE crosstown service for 5+ years, even under optimistic assumptions about how fast we can get anything voted on and done. Moreover, ST is very unlikely to build station stops at a density that would allow the local bus to be canceled, again even under optimistic assumptions about how much sense can be talked into ST’s rail planners.

      The L corridor basically amounts to a repaving+TSP project on the west end, and a TSP optimization elsewhere. Market is already in the paving schedule for 2017, and SDOT’s transit division was already planning to install TSP while the road was hacked up. Metro has already done a stop consolidation program, and SDOT has bulbed most of the stops where it makes sense, and will install RTSs this year.

      I’m not saying the L corridor is entirely prior commitments, maybe some improvements will be made that wouldn’t otherwise be, due to cost (i.e. a new signal at Market/11th), maybe the project will be accelerated, maybe more effort will be put into bike infrastructure, but I suspect much of this was already planned.

      1. >> Moreover, ST is very unlikely to build station stops at a density that would allow the local bus to be canceled,

        Sorry, I completely disagree. Up until now, Sound Transit has been governed by suburban interests and fear. Fear of failure, mostly. That is why there is no First Hill stop. Meanwhile, suburban riders have an interest in minimizing the number of stops on a “long spine”. The gap between Tukwila and Rainier Valley seems ridiculous to someone who knows how light rail is supposed to work, but I’m sure it was pretty exciting for folks that wanted a faster ride to the airport.

        There is simply no reason why we can’t have sensible stop spacing for a UW to Ballard run. The city wants it and the city is going to pay for it. It doesn’t hurt anyone in any other area if it is built. Parts of North Link has similar spacing (two UW stops, a stop at Northgate and 125th). I’m not talking about stops every five blocks, but only four new stops (total). That is farther apart than in downtown, but given the nature of Market/45th, completely eliminates the need for a 44. Again, buses will go on this corridor a little ways, but I see no need (once the rail is built) for them to go very far. Most of the gaps are not heavily populated (like between 8th NW and Phinney). If someone on 3rd and 65th has to walk to catch a bus (which they do now) then someone from 3rd and Market can do the same (especially since 3rd and 65th is more urban). But like I said, buses will probably travel a bit of 45th, around Meridian (as the 16 does now). The northern half of the 16 is just fine, from what I can tell.

        But your other points are well taken. If this is “shovel ready”, then I guess it makes sense to do it. But I would still lower the priority, since by the time work already started, we might have already passes ST3, with Ballard to UW light rail in it. If nothing else, that could mean shifting the priorities a bit, with focus on the areas where buses will probably go (like around Wallingford).

      2. “The gap between Tukwila and Rainier Valley seems ridiculous to someone who knows how light rail is supposed to work”

        They look out the window and see it’s an industrial area with practically nobody around to use the station. And if you brought buses over to it, people don’t want to transfer and wait in the middle of nowhere. There’s a reasonable argument for a Graham station and more Capitol Hill stations. There’s not much argument for stations between Rainier Beach and TIB, much less calling it ridiculous that there isn’t. Do you want a station in the middle of Jackson Park too in case somebody wants to go directly to the 9th hole?

      3. Sorry, I meant to say that it is ridiculous to build a light rail line that includes miles and miles without a station, whether it is because there is nothing in between (like Tukwila and Rainier Valley) or because Sound Transit doesn’t want to build a station. Unless, of course, there are lots of businesses and people on either end (like Bellevue to Seattle). But that isn’t the case with Tukwila, which makes it probably the fifth or sixth thing we should build (if that).

        But yes, your example of a lack of Graham Street station is a very good one. As is the lack of a station at First Hill, SR 520, and 55th NE (and that is only the section between downtown and Roosevelt). So, after spending billions on a light rail line, we are going to have to keep sending (slow) buses to First Hill, and buses between 65th and 45th, and somehow either make bus riders from the east side wait forever or keep sending buses from the east side to downtown via 520. Yes, that seems ridiculous.

      4. Would Ballard-UW stay up near 46th through Fremont?

        I’d rather have a 44 on its current route and a train through lower Fremont (with half mile-ish stop spacing).

      5. Airports are one of the most important things to connect rapid transit to. There are planeloads of people going down there all day.

      6. “They look out the window and see it’s an industrial area with practically nobody around to use the station.”
        Exactly, especially the wasteland they call Tukwila and the Mall just a pumpkin-chunk across 20 lanes of I-5/I-405 IC.
        just sayin

      7. It is important to connect airports to quality, frequent, reliable public transport, for passengers and employees alike.

        But volumes have been written on the opportunity costs inflicted upon vital urban mobility — not in theory, but in dozens of real-world cities around globe — from the misplaced empasis “airport rail” as priority #1.

        The truth is that even the best airport rail (and ours is one of the better ones, despite the awful station location, because it is 3x more frequent than many others) tends to earn fewer riders than you might expect from a place as constantly busy as an airport.

        Because downtown isn’t most flyers’ destination. Because travelers fret about time in the “departure” direction. Because it can be nice to get picked up by a friend after a long journey. Because of early departures and late returns.

        When you start with a single-purpose segment, and then whittle away all of the “I’d love to take it but not this time” use cases, you’re left with something that falls far short of expectations. SeaTac sees 100,000 passengers a day. The train has a couple of thousand boardings, many of them employees. That is seriously punching below weight.

        Capitol Hill will see many times more users from the second it opens than SeaTac station for all eternity. (Despite the mediocrity of the place and line and facilities.) Because urban utility is myriad.

        Direct airport trains are nice-to-haves. They are not “most importants”. You’d be surprised how many European capitals have done just fine without them for decades.

      8. FWIW UW station is likely to be the busiest rail station in Seattle outside of downtown from opening day onward.

        Though I expect the ridership pattern at Capitol Hill to be much more even than UW Station.

      9. There are other factors beyond just the number of riders. A wide cross-section of the population goes to the airport at least sometimes, and it’s visitors’ first impression of the city. SeaTac is the largest transportation hub in the Pacific Northwest, many times larger than King Street Station or Westlake Station. If better transit convinces even a fraction of its drivers and shuttle/taxi riders to become new transit riders, it would be a significant number of people. A one-seat Link ride from UW or Roosevelt or Lynnwood will be a level of transit that has never existed, and will entice a larger percentage of people than just the downtown ride does. Our economy is competing for workers, entrepreneurs, and tourists, and they all arrive by plane, and we’re competing against cities that do have frequent rail to the airport (Chicago, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, etc).

        The most important rapid-transit stations are where large numbers of pedestrians converge: downtowns, colleges, stadiums, malls, airports. That’s where transit is most effective and most entices people from driving. Urban neighborhoods are another priority, both because that’s where these people come from and where other people go to, but just doing downtown/Capitol Hill/UW/Ballard is incomplete.

      10. Ever heard someone say they refused to visit or do business in Berlin or Prague because those cities lacked direct airport rail service?

        There is, in fact, a high likelihood that those cities’ easy and legible airport bus connections achieve significantly higher modeshare than our Link, because they connect to holistic transit systems that are a hell of a lot more useful for the majority of air passengers than any American Airport-Downtown Wankrail is likely to be.

        Here’s a piece on Melbourne’s plan to build an airport rail with a significantly inferior timetable to what exists now:

        That’s one of the absurd outcomes you reach when you make absolutist statements about airport rail’s “necessity” for the purpose of civic optics (essentially the case you make).

        The zillions of hours Seattle residents have wasted on Capitol Hill and U-District buses while a tiny percentage of airport trips have been taken on Link is another.

  9. All of this sounds great. I think however many people in Seattle neighborhoods may find it difficult to get all of this great new service because their neighborhood is not walkable.

    Perhaps the mayor would consider sidewalks and crosswalks before a fancy new bus network?

    1. I was thinking the same thing. There are a lot of neighborhoods where a substantial investment in sidewalks would be a huge improvement in mobility. I know sidewalks are expensive, but I would like to see a bit more on that as well (maybe it is coming out in a different report).

      1. Don’t you want affordable neighborhoods?

        No sidewalks keeps parts of the city cheaper than others…

      2. The concerted effort to pursue widespread, all-hour 10-minute transit across the city easily qualifies as the most ambitious and potentially game-changing element of this plan. It should take a back seat to no other priorities.

        Some day, a Seattle politician will need to grow enough of a spine to state the obvious to the residents of preserved-in-amber houses on minor streets in the fringes: Full-fledged sidewalks are never coming. The math simply does not work .

        For reasons that assuredly have little to do with common sense and everything to do with the layers of excess gradually added to every aspect of U.S. engineering in the last few decades, a single block-face of full sidewalk is now exorbitant. The cost can never be justified where no one but the dozen residents of existing houses will ever tread (and where a significant fraction of that dozen will tread infrequently, as the single-use characteristic that defines their areas lead them to drive for most trips and errands, even after better transit options arrive).

        Arterials in sidewalk-deprived areas need to have their sidewalks yesterday; it is beyond negligence that so many of them still don’t. Side-streets acting as cut-throughs for notoriously reckless drivers should be second in line. Logical pedestrian pathways to transit with demonstrable potential to help more of the neighborhood than just the immediately adjacent property owners should be third.

        But unless a design for an imperfect quasi-sidewalk at a fraction of the regular price can be agreed upon — or unless these areas become willing to open themselves up to densification and mixed-use, with the full sidewalks those projects legally bring — the vast majority of fringe side streets on this city’s perimeter are never, ever going to see their promised sidewalks, and their residents should start seeking other civic amenities on which to expend their energies.

      3. “Arterials in sidewalk-deprived areas need to have their sidewalks yesterday; ”

        NE 95th Street comes to mind…

      4. d.p., you have it exactly right… the problem is that even arterials-only is expensive, well beyond what’s included in this plan. I would honestly trade a couple of the center city projects for more money for sidewalks on arterials and in safety-problematic areas. Some of the worst spots that come immediately to mind:

        – Sand Point Way from 75th to 125th
        – A couple stretches of NE 110th St between Sand Point Way and Lake City Way
        – All of the high-density areas in the SE and NW corners of Lake City
        – 24th Ave NE between Northgate Way and Lake City Way
        – The entire circumference of Haller Lake
        – Meridian Ave N between Haller Lake and N 145th St (by a high school!)
        – 3rd Ave NW between NE 100 St and NE 145 St

        That’s MILES of sidewalk, which would cost nine figures, right there.

      5. Precisely….

        And frankly, unless there’s a lot of through traffic, most of these residential side streets are reasonably safe to walk in, especially if there isn’t a lot of on street parking.

        My only quibble, and it’s a minor one, is that I’d rather that steps be taken to calm traffic on the cut-throughs (or discourage their use entirely) than specially prioritizing adding sidewalks to them. I suspect that in many cases, precisely the attributes that make them useful as cut throughs, will also make them useful as walkable corridors to transit, so they’re likely to get sidewalks anyway.

      6. @groan — Yeah, that one is rather surprising and should be high on the list.

        @d. p. — I’m not talking about sidewalks everywhere (which is what people want) but sidewalks that can form a common corridor, away from the busy street. Obviously, sidewalks on a busy street is the priority (and the city makes it a priority) but having at least one decent way to get through a neighborhood to the next neighborhood without walking exclusively on an arterial should be a priority. By “neighborhood”, I mean an area within a set of arterials (like this: I’m not talking about sidewalks on both sides of the street, either. Just good passageways that encourage people to walk (to the bus or to the park) instead of drive. A great example of this is 12th Ave NE (in Maple Leaf) north of Maple Leaf Park/Reservoir. With the new park (one of the nicest in the north end) the street has tons of people. Not only folks walking to the park, but walking through the park. On the other hand, nearby 15th has hardly anyone, and Roosevelt has mostly folks that got out of their car and are headed to Reckless Video or Judy Foo’s. My point is that without the sidewalk, a lot of these folks just drive.

        As far as opening up to density goes, the areas that fight density the most are in general the areas with sidewalks (Maple Leaf included). Folks in other areas aren’t as concerned about preserving their “perfect neighborhood” because they know it was a compromise. If they could have afforded it, they would live in a house in Wallingford (or Ballard or Fremont, etc.). They don’t care if you rezone, because when they moved in, most of the neighbors had old cars and boats on the lawn anyway.

        But in general, the best way to increase density is the way that Vancouver did it, by changing the ADU/DADU laws. You will get very little resistance from the “cheap seats” for this. Allow me to build a little cottage out back without the paperwork? Sign me up. As it is, folks with any sense know that if they build an DADU, they will have a hell of time selling it (e. g. a neighbor of mine has had to drop the price repeatedly). This is because the law requires you own the main property or the addition (which is really nuts).

      7. Some data:

        Sidewalks cost around 2 million a mile, according to this: I have no idea if that is one side or both sides.

        According to a city survey ( the two biggest reasons people gave for not walking to their destination are “too much traffic on the roads” and “lack of sidewalks”.

        This is why I suggest what I suggested above. A few million on sidewalks that are similar to “green streets”. Sidewalks on one side of the street, connecting neighborhoods. A good example of the trade-off is the area just west of Aurora and north of 85th ( Between 85th and 98th, there are sidewalks connecting Aurora to Fremont Avenue. A dozen streets have two block sidewalks. At the same time, there are no sidewalks connecting Aurora with Holman Road. If sidewalk were skipped on the odd streets, there would be enough money to make several connections in that neighborhood. If I lived in the area, I would consider that a great trade-off. If I lived on 91st, for example, I would gladly walk over to 90th if I knew that I could walk all the way to Whitman Middle School on a quiet street with sidewalks. It is too late to do that (of course) but we should strive towards building these long pathways, rather than lots of little, somewhat redundant sections.

      8. Oh, and I would look to pay for sidewalks with parks money. I know that somewhat weakens my case (taking sidewalks out of the realm of transportation) but I think it is easier politically. Not only does the new parks department have a big, separate budget, but I would imagine the projects will be geared towards each neighborhood (as opposed to transit funding). In that case, if you asked the folks in a lot neighborhoods if they wanted park improvements or new sidewalks, most of them would pick the latter.

      9. Nobody wants to spend money maintaining the roads and sidewalks we already have. From a 2013 post on this blog, in 2010 (not sure if there is more recent data) the street and bridge maintenance backlog was $1.8 BILLION, and growing by $140MM each year.

        Even if the backlog wasn’t growing at all, I doubt we’d be able to chip away at the $1.8 billion even over 20 years. Priorities are elsewhere, unfortunately.

      10. Most of these places are in NE and NW Seattle–I am extremely familiar with the examples David Lawson points out; NE 110th for example has THREE schools within 5 blocks of one another and what is at best a non-continuous asphalt path that forces you to cross the street twice, including at an unsignaled intersection. Several years ago the City sent people on this street a notice that sidewalks were to be put in here, but as usual in this part of the city nothing was done.

        Want to know why I (and many like me) voted for districting on the City Council? It’s because stuff like this never gets done in that part of the City. It is a transit wasteland. It’s falsely still considered a middle-class white area (not that this should matter, but it does). It is unknown by most people in positions of power–which is why we get people who think that a Northgate rail station actually serves that area. Look at that map again and see that there is ONE project in the entire vicinity–a tiny bit of safety improvements for Lake City Way, something that they aren’t even planning on getting to until after 2024. Not even attempts to make LCW BRT ready or even incremental steps towards that. Not even any enhancements for cross-town mobility or anything that might help buses get through the LCW bottlenecks. Not even something that would help the entire NE area connect to Husky Stadium Station–addressing the Montlake bottleneck. Yet the sacrosanct West Seattle Rail By God is mentioned often in the text as if it is a done deal. Maybe it is. The risk, however, is that this fast-growing, increasingly transit dependent area is simply going to stop voting for transit and mobility projects when there is no return they see.

      11. It seems like Dow’s head will need to be forcibly extracted from his hind-quarters, or else we’re going to wind up blowing our entire ST3 allotment, at whatever size, on extremely subpar rail projects with poor trip times and few riders, just so West Seattle can claim to be “reached”.

        Meanwhile, I remain fearful of the consequences of Districts, but I’ll admit that I cannot wait to see West Seattle cease to pretend it to punches above its weight as a civic contributor.

      12. I’m glad I started this thread, there are some great insights here. And I wish I could +1 comments on this blog ….

        It would seem the reason why sidewalks are hard is because they are “expensive” to install and the mobility benefits are hard to quantify. I would argue that, if you want to build strong dense neighborhoods, sidewalks are a very visible and reasonably priced piece of infrastructure that gives comfort and confidence to residents.

        And no one is expecting all sidewalks to appear all at once. Let’s decide through our city council how important this is, allocate money accordingly, and start working on the problem.

      13. @Scott

        My mother was in a nursing home on 110th near Nathan Hale. I have to agree the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the neighborhood is so bad as to be nearly criminal. It is far from the only example, just one I happen to be familiar with.

        Just a focus on reducing pedestrian and bike conflicts with cars along the entire length of Lake City Way would be most welcome.

        25th NE between LCW and 82nd or so is another horror show as for much of the length it is a 2 lane winding road with high speed auto traffic, no sidewalks, and no shoulders.

      14. A full sidewalk was built on Ravenna Ave NE (the extension of 25th) a couple of years ago. It was a huge improvement.

      15. @d.p.

        Sadly the best hope there may be passage of the Senate alternative as there simply isn’t enough money to do anything both acceptable and meaningful for West Seattle with the North King budget.

        Otherwise I fear we are going to have to fight Dow, Joe McDermott, whoever wins the city council race, the district 34 legislators, plus whatever “elder statesmen” (former Mayor Nickels I’m looking at you) throw in with the idea that West Seattle should be next for rail.

      16. @David,

        I guess you can tell it has been a while since I’ve used that route.

      17. @ Chris — my mother was too, as was my great-grandmother (the home wasn’t as nice then).

        I grew up on 110th, went to all three of the schools on it and later bought my first home just off of it. It’s a pleasant neighborhood and still (somewhat) affordable. The schools are good. I’ve probably walked up/down 110th more than anyone ever.

        It should be addressed because a) there are a lot of school-aged pedestrians; b) traffic on that street speeds constantly and c) it is a useful path to get from Lake City to the Burke-Gilman via bike with very few hills. (35th/110th/39th/105th then around the curve to 45th)

      18. @ d.p. — I was adverse to districting for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned in the past, but for the fact that I couldn’t get past the lack of city involvement in my (then) neighborhood. There was no voice on the council that had even a passing familiarity with the area, and hadn’t been for years (to be honest, the state legislature has more representation from NE Seattle than the city council does).

        I would have preferred a hybrid council with some district, some at large, but we got what we got. It remains to be seen how it works. The demographics in North Seattle have certainly been changing towards a more transit-ready population over the 40 years I lived there.

    2. The city seems content with letting/forcing developers to put in sidewalks every time a parcel is redeveloped, which passes the buck and frees up city planners for other activities. This approach is fine, it will just take some time. No one is in a hurry to redevelop the SFH areas of Greenwood just yet. I will say this though, the neighborhoods without sidewalks are a complete eyesore.

  10. This appears to be mere publicity for projects that mostly have already been recommended and are in some stages of design or implementation already. It’s a prioritizing strategy document; not a visionary one.

    Sure it’s a great presentation to the uninitiated public. For those of us that follow things, perhaps we should consider what’s left out. Others have pointed out a few things like more pedestrian connectivity projects. Is anything else missing?

    1. That’s what integration and prioritization means. It’s not redoing all the research that led to the mode plans; it’s consolidating the results. If it really has few pedestrian things, then either that’s a mistake or the original pedestrian plan was minimal.

    1. GoogleCar technology on buses. That struck me as something that should be put off for a while, especially if public money would be going toward it..

  11. I’ll be curious how “Complete Streets” and “BRT” will both be accomplished on the same corridor. They both sound great in theory, but Complete Streets usually involves slowing down traffic including buses while BRT involves speeding them up — with things like fewer stops and better travel speeds usually in mixed-flow traffic. Even transit signal priority will be harder if buses are behind a line of slower-moving cars.

    1. That’s exactly the question we’re facing with the “Vision Zero” plan to reduce speed limits citywide. Buses will be slower so it will take longer to get places. “Complete streets” often include bus bulbs, queue jumps, transit lanes, and/or BAT lanes, so they can be compatible with BRT. BRT is one of the the things the street needs to be complete about.

  12. The fact that there is no mention of a new ship canal crossing is disturbing. I would happily trade the center city connector for a new bridge/tunnel and more sidewalks on arterials.

    The CCC exists for tourists and the egos of our polititians.

    1. A second Fremont bridge would be a significant amount of money for a single project. Not everyone agrees it’s top priority; that’s why it’s not on this list. You can’t just say “Fil wants it and Seattlite want it, therefore everyone should want it.” I wouldn’t object to it but I don’t consider it higher priority than other things.

      And it’s not suitable as a Link crossing anyway, which is what I care more about. It will either be a new surface bridge suitable for a streetcar, or a new automobile bridge to allow the Fremont Bridge to exclude cars. But trying to use it for Link would slow down Link terribly, bias the alternatives against underground ones, and (if it’s at 3rd Ave NW) be undesirably far from the center of Fremont.

      1. Mr Orr.

        If light rail does come to the area it will be with ST money, not SDOT money. An additional crossing in this area would help transit on the ballard bridge, fremont bridge and the aurora bridge.

        I prefer spending ST’s money on Seattle Subways bus tunnel proposal instead of on light rail only serving a portion of the city.

  13. Interesting that Murray touted complete streets and rolled out a CS-heavy presentation but also complained that all streets cannot accommodate all modes and that is predecessor was really too into it. Intentionally mixing messages?

    1. It’s more about degrees of completeness. But at the same time, not everything needs to be shoved onto one arterial. In some places it’s possible to put complementary uses on nearby arterials, or bike routes on residential streets.

  14. For context, what is the current percentage of Seattle residents within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit lines?

  15. I would love to see movement on various up-zoning efforts as well such as the 35th Avenue NE area. The plan has been put forward to provide higher building limits and thus allow more services near residents ( the corner of 35th Ave NE and NE 95th is criminally under utilized )…

  16. The project list has yet to meet its budget constraint, both capital and operating cost.

    If sidewalks are $2 million per mile, then the local share for the CCC and Broadway extension streetcar projects could cover Aurora and Greenwood avenues North. The extensions do not improve transit mobility very much, if at all; as d.p. has pointed out, they are redundant to the existing transit grid.

    The Rainier Beach transit center and South Henderson Street trolleybus overhead would be quite helpful and it is not on the list yet.

Comments are closed.