Washington State Ferry:  the state highway with a large pedestrian toll Photo by Jamies
Washington State Ferry: the state highway with a large pedestrian toll
Photo by Jamies

On behalf of the Seattle Transit Blog (STB), I would like to welcome the American Planning Association to Seattle for its four day national planning conference. STB has covered transportation and land use policy in the Puget Sound region since 2007, becoming a recognized source of transportation reporting and advocacy. Written by a group of passionate advocates, we dive deep beyond the headlines.

To help APA attendees from across the country get oriented in our fine city I’ve pulled together a topical compilation of posts and links which will help you get up to speed on the what’s happening in Seattle. If you want information about getting around the city check out Seattle for visitors or consider using our bike share system called Pronto! If you have questions leave a comment and our awesome readers will help answer your questions.

  1. Seattle recently implemented a regional low-income transit pass. Here’s why we support it, how it was studied and how it was rolled out. Don’t forget about Seattle’s $15 dollar minimum wage.
  2. Housing affordability in the nation’s fastest growing city has becoming an omnipresent issue, especially in Center City neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. The Mayor has set up a committee and has called for 50,000 new housing units (20,000 affordable) in the next 10 years. Recently the City Council “went a little to far” on micro housing regulations which some have opposed.
  3. Link Light Rail is expanding north to Lynnwood, south to Federal Way and east to Bellevue and Redmond (despite years of lawsuits). The region could vote to expand regional high capacity transit as soon at 2016 but first the State Legislature has to expand Sound Transit’s funding authority.
  4. Seattle is a national leader on performance based on-street parking management. However, off-street parking regulations which were eased years ago have recently been thrown into a state of limbo. In Downtown thousands of off-street spaces go unused every day and the Mayor has proposed some innovative ideas for moving forward.
  5. Seattle has a complicated relationship with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). For example there are insincere BRT “supporters”. Metro’s RapidRide BRT wouldn’t likely get federal funding now because it’s too watered down. Madison Street is poised to get the City’s first true BRT.
  6. Seattle would like to connect the First Hill Streetcar to the South Lake Union (SLU) Streetcar with an alignment operating in exclusive lanes along 1st Avenue in Downtown. Seattle would also like add a transit only lane on Westlake Avenue to get the SLU Streetcar and buses out of traffic.
  7. Seattle is tearing down the waterfront viaduct, but the largest tunneling machine in the world is having issues. We would have loved the Surface + Transit solution but the questions now is what should the waterfront look like? Parks or commerce? Grand or understated?
  8. Seattle has the largest Car2Go fleet in North America and it’s expanding. How does Car2Go compare to Zipcar? Why does it work so well with paid parking? We sit down and talk with Car2Go’s CEO.
  9. How do you integrate bus and rail service? Mt. Baker Station is bad example, which might get better. Metro and Sound Transit are looking at how to restructure bus service when University Link opens in 2016 but transfers at UW Station will be far from ideal.
  10. South Lake Union, home of Amazon, is booming, but transit service is having a hard time keeping up despite planning.

8 Replies to “10 Things APA Conference Attendees Need to Know About Seattle”

  1. Seattle as a model for planning?

    Well, I guess the professors needed a laugh…maybe take in a Mariners game.

    1. Compared to the auto dominated awfulness in much of the rest of the Pacific Northwest? Seattle itself is doing just fine. In the context of neighboring communities operating under the exact same land use regulations and regional planning organizations you have to compare what is happening in Seattle itself to, say, Hectares of Hell in Gig Harbor
      or Mangled Miles of Lacy.

    2. Seattle is much better planned than places like Ohio, where sprawl has eaten up entire counties with low-density auto-centric strip malls and low-density housing without transit service or even sidewalks in many cases. We have a lot that we can improve on, but our planning is much better than most of the US. Heck, we have urban growth boundaries!

  2. I think a couple of you above are going to find that vast majority of our visitors are going to express nothing but admiration for our transit system. Brace yourselves.

    As these pages will reflect over many years, I’ve been among the harshest critics of the way the DSTT has been operated. Some fellow union members and I helped design the whole thing, including plans for “joint ops”.

    And are therefore in the best possible position to verify how far short of its potential the thing has always been operated.

    So its really discouraging how every visitor I’ve ever spoken to, in particular fellow LINK-passengers headed back to he airport, has contradicted all my negative comments.

    I always have to plead with them not to express these positive assessments in front of our transit officials, who will use them as excuses not to improve anything.

    So I’m glad there will be so many people standing on the Sea-Tac platform with sandwich signs telling the awful truth. For general style and approach, get with the Lyndon LaRouche people.

    Incidentally, Adam: anything I can do to help?

    Mark

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