Westlake Cycle Track under construction. Don’t expect more of these for a few years. (SDOT Photo)

When Move Seattle passed last November 3, the mood was jubilant. An expected nailbiter became a comfortable 17-point victory, with the beers flowing at the election night party at the Belltown Pub hastily morphing from a hedge against disappointment to the fuel of celebration. The city had put the War on Cars before voters and won, marking a fundamental shift toward safe streets, a complete bike network, and transit priority in our city.

The following day, Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog was still feeling the buzz:

Urban cycling’s long existential crisis in Seattle is over. Bike lanes and safe streets are a core piece of our city and our politics. Putting walking, biking and transit first is mainstream policy now, and we have serious funding to back it up.

Since the vote, there have been a series of disappointments. Within a week of Move Seattle passing, the concept design for Madison BRT announced the deletion of transit priority east of 18th Avenue, leading yours truly and others to worry more broadly about Move Seattle’s “Rapid Ride Plus” corridors.  On November 16, the city, Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association announced a new $1.5m “Center City Mobility Plan” (CCMP) that probably should have been made public before the vote. On account of the CCMP, bike advocates have been told that all Downtown bike lanes have been put on hold until 2019 or later, and to put it mildly, they’re not happy.* The CCMP will:

(Establish) a transportation vision for 2035…(and) create a near-term transit operations and transportation management plan by mid-2016 along with a public realm plan for enhancing the right of way to better serve residents, employees, shoppers and visitors.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.38.29 PMImage: Seattle Bike Blog
Part of the impetus for the CCMP was revealed 4 days later on November 19, when Metro announced its bargain price sale of Convention Place to the Washington State Convention Center, leading to the closure of Convention Place Station once construction begins and the end of joint bus/rail tunnel operations as early as 2019. By definitively planning for the end of joint operations, the CCMP will do what (amazingly) no plan has done before, including the Downtown Access Strategy, Access Seattle, Downtown Seattle Transit Coordination, Downtown Transit Capacity White Paper, and the Center City Circulation section of Seattle’s Transit Master PlanThat’s just from the past 3 years. So you can understand the ruffled feathers when officials wait until after a yes vote to say “we need to delay projects pending further study.”

Then there are the seemingly crossed wires of communication. In late October, Mayor Murray stood at Graham Street and said, “I will guarantee it [will be built]. I’ve shown in my time in the legislature that we can deliver transportation projects as we say to the voters we will deliver them.” Yet on March 24, the Sound Transit Draft Plan proposed Graham Street coming on line in 2036, a decade after Move Seattle would expire, negating its nominal $10m contribution.

In March, Councilmember Mike O’Brien added a proviso to the Pronto buyout that mandated that select protected bike lanes be built prior to any Pronto expansion, just weeks before SDOT announced the 1-2 year delay of those same bike lanes.  The reasons for the delay are twofold: the putative need to complete the CCMP, and SDOT’s miscalculation of costs. According to a staff presentation to the Transportation Committee last week, SDOT had used a nice round number of $1m/mile in its calculation of lane-miles to be built with Move Seattle funds, but now says it has underestimated by 30% ($1.3m/mile).

The bait-and-switch many are feeling is legitimate, as the campaign for the vote was one of enthusiasm, commitment, and possibility, while the reality has been considerably more pedestrian.

On the other hand, though it stings when our favored projects are cut or restructured, it’s important to remember that this variability was baked into Move Seattle from the start. The Seattle Times used this “slush fund” criticism in its anti-levy editorial:

Because Move Seattle’s plan is so vague — the suggested projects are contained in a non-binding addendum to the ordinance — there’s a risk funds could be siphoned off to pay for mistakes and overruns on current projects.

But Martin also had a great piece on why “slush funds” are a feature not a bug, and I suggest re-reading the whole thing, as it’s now more relevant than ever:

To actually construct a measure that would neutralize this talking point, Seattle would have to write a package that literally could not adjust to changing conditions. If a federal grant were available but we had to provide matching funds — multiplying the return per dollar — or if growth skyrocketed along one particular corridor, SDOT could do nothing about it. It would be an idiotic way to run the city.

This is all part of a disturbing trend in local politics. Voters tightly constrict the expenditure of any block of revenue, limit the growth of the general fund, and then complain that worthwhile projects require special levies.

SDOT’s Norm Mah was refreshingly frank about this when he told Next City’s Josh Cohen:

“The 2015 plan reflects unstudied but [Bicycle Master Plan] prioritized corridors in CC from 2015 to 2019…Based on the evolving nature of the center city, SDOT did not make a commitment to having all the [Center City Bike Network] construction complete by 2020.”

But despite the cataloging of errors above, and the failures of communication from agencies to the public and between agencies themselves, process critiques should have less force than technical ones. As this is a transit blog, let’s try to answer the question of whether or not the main contention is legitimate. Do Downtown bike lanes need to wait or be deferred on bus capacity grounds?

First, some data. My unofficial calculations show 5,514 daily transit trips on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Avenues plus the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT). The tunnel buses in question account for 826 of these trips, and surfacing them would be an 18.7% increase in surface trips. Significant, but not catastrophic.

DSTT Bar Chart

Next, if you look at the daily transit traffic on each arterial and the DSTT, you see the all-day workhorses of 3rd Avenue + the DSTT, and the much more peak-oriented nature of 2nd, 4th, and 5th. It seems intuitively clear that 2nd/4th/5th could handle the off-peak 41, 101, 106, 150, 255, and 550 without much trouble, but the question is really about peak of peak when pressures are greatest. So how can we balance the needs of bikes transit between 2018-2023? Here are a few ideas:

DSTT Line Chart

Recognize that there’s already a plan for the I-90 buses. Since the “D-2” roadway on I-90 will close to buses in 2018 and there’s already a plan to reroute them, the marginal pressure from the tunnel closure is only the addition of Routes 41, 74, 101, 102, 106, 150, and 255.

Move Routes 41 and 255 to 4th/5th. Though both SDOT and Metro want to get buses off of 5th eventually, pressing it into greater service from 2019-2023 seems like a sensible thing to do. This would also create a common pathway between Downtown and Yarrow Point for Routes 252, 255, 257, 268, 311, and 545.

Give 5th Avenue a full time BAT lane. In the chart above, 5th Avenue in particular stands out for its lack of use, and it also lacks any transit priority between Pine and Columbia. As (hopefully) cars will no longer need to access Columbia Street to get onto the Viaduct after 2018, placing a right-side bus lane wouldn’t unnecessarily burden general traffic.

Extend the 4th Avenue bus lane from Pike to Olive. This would create continuous transit priority from Jackson to Olive.

Remove remaining on-street parking from 4th Avenue between Spring and Pike, and build a buffered bike lane. Between Washington and Spring there is already a paint-only bike lane, between Spring and Pike the bike lane is replaced by parking, and between Pike and Olive the lane reverts to general traffic. By removing the parking and pushing cars to underused nearby garages, we can build a quality bike lane on 4th Avenue now without impacting transit or general traffic.

Consider truncating all Sodo Busway routes at Stadium and run turnback Link trains. When the Convention Place sale was announced, Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray confirmed that Sound Transit has the ability to run turnback trains between UW and Stadium:

Gray noted that although the new light rail vehicles (LRVs) won’t begin arriving until 2020, ST retains some operational flexibility with their current fleet that could potentially add tunnel service in the event that buses need to vacate in 2019. He noted that a rail-only tunnel will be up to 40% faster between UW and International District Station (IDS), with running times between UW and IDS potentially reduced from 15 minutes to 9 minutes. Those time savings would go a long way toward purchasing the service hours needed to operate the turnback trains. With even headways between them, this could mean combined core service every 3 minutes during peak and every 5 minutes off peak, with current 6 minute peak and 10 minute off-peak service south of Stadium.

The pain of the transfer would be real, but the promise of a 6 minute trip between Stadium and Westlake would be pretty compelling. In addition to Routes 101, 102, 106, 150, 177, 190, 590, 594, and 595, you could even consider using the 4th Avenue exit to truncate I-90 routes at Stadium as well. Surely that would be better than the Rainier/Jackson routing planned for some I-90 routes.

Move Route 74 to the Pike/Union couplet. This would unite all remaining 70-series buses (74, 76, 77) onto a common pathway.


If each of these suggestions were implemented, there would be very little added pressure on downtown arterials, the extra Link trains would serve what would otherwise be wasted tunnel capacity, and the Center City Bike Network could also proceed apace. But these are all great questions for the CCMP to answer, and the solutions aren’t necessarily obvious or without tradeoffs. So we should cut agencies slack for needing to get this right.

But we should also all be clear that the future of Downtown Seattle is one of fewer single-occupancy vehicles, fewer buses, less (or no) street parking, more bikes, more people, and more underground trains. Metro’s 2040 vision in its recent Long Range Plan shows only 8 routes remaining on 3rd Avenue, and Link extensions to Northgate, Lynnwood, and Redmond will obviously reduce peak bus volumes further.  The city will be safer, more civilized, quieter, and denser, and the Center City Bike Network is a huge piece of making that happen. Transit and bikes should work together for each others’ mutual advantage in the years ahead.

*Disclaimer: I own a bike rental business with a vested interest in building Downtown’s bike network.

54 Replies to “The Center City Mobility Plan: Sensible Study or a Process Punt?”

  1. Thanks for such a detailed analysis of this issue Zach. I think your ideas are spot on and this gives a balanced view of the CCMP debate.

    1. Thanks for putting the pieces together. I heard that downtown’s bike network was on hold but I didn’t know whether it was true or why.

  2. Large-scale bicycle commuting (ie, beyond enthusiasts) will require a critical mass of safe and reasonably convenient paths, lanes, and bike parking – and then enough time for the habit to develop. Perhaps SDOT is asking the hard question whether that is really possible downtown and deciding to cut its losses.

    Zach’s piece is very thoughtful and constructive, as usual – and also makes some of the argument against trying for that critical mass. Requiring an extra transfer for a significant number of transit riders is a real penalty, particularly when we already are moving towards a gridded frequent transit network. Removing on-street parking is a no-brainer for this community but a real political cost, and those who will pay the cost will surely look first to the larger numbers of transit riders and drivers when deciding which commuters should benefit from the freed-up lane capacity. And perhaps they are right: should bicycle investments be focused instead on areas where the critical mass can more quickly be achieved?

    1. There is plenty of recent and clear evidence that shows high-quality bike infrastructure is adopted very quickly. See Calgary, NYC, London, Vancouver, etc. etc. Part of “high quality” is building the bike lanes where people want and need to go for work and shopping, not just recreation.

      From: http://cyclingindustry.news/strava-interview-audience-becoming-representative-of-wider-cycling-society-not-just-serious-athlete/
      “One of the things that continues to surprise is is how readily cyclists adopt new infrastructure. Generally, if you build it right they will come. I think there is a belief that new infrastructure for cyclists takes considerable time to be ingrained into the day-to-day routes of commuters. When you look at our data in certain areas, before and after implementation of new infrastructure, it’s fascinating to see things change very quickly.”

    2. Those other cities are flat. (Except Calgary which I don’t know.) So you put in some separated bike lanes and everybody flocks to them. But with the steep hills downtown, I’m worried about the burden of walking up to 4th or 5th when most of the destinations and other routes are around 3rd, and bicycles have the same issue. Putting in separated bike lanes will encourage more of the general population to use bikes, but it’s not clear that everybody and his grandmother will and we’ll get to Netherlands-like riding levels.

      So with that, a less ambitions vision for downtown and a slower implementation may be OK. But on the other hand, we can’t just abandon downtown completely. If there’s a bicycle network in the rest of Seattle but it suddenly ends at the edge of downtown, that’s not good either. So there must be some bikeways downtown, but perhaps not as extensive as New York or Amsterdam.

      Also, if the waterfront vision succeeds, the waterfront will become as bustling as Alki. In that case a significant number of people would want to bike to the waterfront. And it’s generally a good idea to have a “greenway” between a major attraction like that and the other neighborhoods (Capitol Hill/First Hill/SLU). Bellevue is planning a mixed-use corridor from 520 along the Eastside Rail Corridor south to the Transit Center, then west along the existing walkway to Bellevue Square and the park, then further to Meydenbauer Park on Lake Washington. Seattle should have something like that from the eastern/northern/southern neighborhoods to the waterfront.

  3. The City also needs to press the Washington State Convention Center more about what it provides as a public benefit in its core mission, in addition to the added public benefits for the requested street and alley vacations for the massive proposed expansion. Attendance at the WSCC has not risen above 1997 levels and the number of events has remained flat despite the doubling in size that occurred in 2001. Yet the WSCC wants 4 more blocks of downtown Seattle claiming they don’t have room in the current facility, and they need to close Convention Place before light rail expansion requires it. Seattle needs to be getting a lot more in return for the $65 in tax revenue that the WSCC receives from Seattle every year, and the City needs to push back on this ridiculous project.

    1. One thing I don’t get is that the space WSCC has chosen is not even adjacent to the current space. I don’t think a pedestrian bridge could easily connect to the new space, meaning that large conventions would force attendees out into the street to access the whole Convention Center.

      1. They don’t plan on a bridge or tunnel, and in fact it would be only a few of the largest events that would come close to needing the WSCC’s entire capacity. The WSCC expansion facility will operate mostly independently. However, they plan to make some anemic improvements to 9th Avenue, which will be the most direct connection between them.

      2. If we built a lid adjacent to where the new convention center plans to go, and it connected to freeway park, folks could potentially walk from convention center to convention center using the lid.

  4. Given that Seattle is at least twenty years behind Portland in developing its bicycle infrastructure, I would say that more and better downtown bike lanes have comparatively “waited” plenty long enough.

  5. We already have a great solution here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/03/14/bringing-frequent-service-to-south-king-county/

    This is a great option because it:
    1. Creates a frequent network of all-day service in south king
    2. Decreases travel times for all trips.
    3. Removes 101, 102, 106 and 150 from downtown.

    Now would be a great time to do this (when there is a compelling reason). There won’t be any capital improvements in the forseeable future that will make this change more palatable so there’s no reason to delay.

    1. Several of us have been recommending this to Metro repeatedly since it was published, but Metro has shown no willingness to truncate the 101, 106, or 150 anytime soon. The new Long Range Plan has an all-day express #2614 that’s similar to the 101 but extended on Pine-Boren-Denny-Westlake-Harrison-Mercer-Elliott to First Hill, SLU, and Uptown. The 150-like route is truncated, Frequent #1049, from Rainier Beach to Southcenter and Kent. Both of them are slated for 2040; the 2025 map still has the 101 and 150. As for the 106, the new September restructure just did something with it, from Renton to Renton Ave-MLK-Rainier-Jackson to Intl Dist.

    2. Actually, what Metro said during the cuts is it would truncate the 101 and 150 only if service hours were so tight it couldn’t maintain half-hourly service on them. (The 101 is hourly evenings, so it would be a question of whether it could maintain that.)

  6. I do agree that figuring out where the busses will go after the tunnel is more important than the bike lane network, however, there are several bike connections which are obvious, and can be implemented immediately. The second avenue lane needs at least one connection to the North, South, and East.

    There are no downtown east-west bike routes except far south at Jackson st. It is trivial to extend the 2nd ave bike lane 2 more blocks south to connect to the Jackson st bike lane.

    A connection Eastward is obviously needed, but the hill is too steep for most casual riders to travel East except at Union, Pike, and Pine. Because Union and Pine are Westbound, Pike st is the obvious choice for bicycling uphill. It also crosses the freeway and connects to Capitol Hill and First Hill via the Broadway bike path. Pike st is wide enough for an Eastbound bike lane without removing a traffic lane, while the Westbound version is already half-implemented on Pine st.

    Extending the 2nd avenue lane Northward is simple, as 2nd has sufficient width for 3 lanes + parking + bike lanes. Once the lane extends to Belltown, many options are available for connecting to SLU and Lower Queen Anne, which can be figured out in coordination with the CCMP.

    1. I still don’t see why bike lanes have to wait for a CCMP. We already have our downtown lane- 2nd Avenue and we will get a waterfront trail. We know we need to connect them to the North, and South and I don’t see that a CCMP with a relationship with buses will affect that. We need to connect to the Westlake trail and eventually the Eastlake route and in the South it needs to connect to West Seattle, the Green River trail and somehow to the Rainier Valley. There aren’t that many decisions to be made that would be affected by a city center master plan. These connections are outside of the city center.

    2. Frankly, it’s extremely frustrating something this simple is taking so long. The first iteration of 2nd Ave took four months and worked perfectly for what it needed to do; provide a safe place for cyclists without fancy planters or curbs. We now have to build extensions north and south to our new platinum standard while giving the thumbs up to the continuation of dumping cyclists into the hellscape that is 2nd and Pike. Apparently cyclist safety isn’t a concern anymore after we helped give City Hall a big victory.

  7. “Do Downtown bike lanes need to wait or be deferred on bus capacity grounds?”

    How much space is dedicated to parking? How much space is dedicated to GP traffic? This shouldn’t be that hard for SDOT.

  8. I would be willing to accept a route 594 truncation at Stadium station if Link trains connected to it every 5 minutes AND the time savings were re-invested into improved frequency. Currently, the 594 spends about as much time getting from one end of downtown Seattle to the other end as it does getting from SODO busway and Spokane all the way to Tacoma. With Central Base right next to stadium station as a layover spot, one would think the time savings would be at least enough to boost the 594 from every 30 minutes to every 20.

    1. I like that idea. I didn’t realize the 594 only runs every half hour during the day. It is the combination (590/594) that runs more often. Even so, from Tacoma, it is pretty infrequent at night (every half hour). Any way you cut it, though, there is great savings to be had that could (and arguably should) be pushed back into the same route.

    2. As a passenger, I wouldn’t feel comfortable waiting more than two minutes for a connection either direction at Stadium. Especially after either rush hour or dark. Couple of thoughts, though.

      1. Passenger experience aside, at least Greyhound is a transportation – related lighted populated presence. So if any kind of a neighborhood developed around Stadium Station, coffee-stops, bike rental places, bookstores or anything else public and cheerful might work.

      2. So I’d check out looping the 550 and the E-3 buses around Sound Transit’s front door, sharing the trolleybus stop if there’s room. Or maybe up to Main- though no farther into the CBD. One of worst things about Trip-Planner is how little it cares about howling deserted transfer places.

      Mark Dublin

    3. My concern with truncating the buses too far South is for people coming in from the north end of the city. I think an ideal transfer spot is within the southern ends of the major north-end routes–D, E, 40, 41 (depending on where it ends up). That way, transferring passengers won’t have to go all the way into the tunnel just to ride a couple of stops. This could be accomplished by adding a southern stop or two to these routes, or by bringing the 5XX series up into the ID, or both, depending on the route. The built environment by IDS is also better than in SODO–especially if the city, county, and ST can get their acts together about what to do about transfers from bus to Link to train in that area.

      1. That’s a good point. I was thinking if you’re coming into downtown on Link anyway, it’s not really an extra transfer. But if you’re going to Ballard/Lower Queen Anne/Fremont/etc., it is. I think extending the south-end buses an extra few blocks to avoid a transfer just to go one stop is reasonable.

        It would also help with safety issues after dark, since there’s a lot more eyes on the road at 5th/Jackson than at Stadium Station.

      2. I agree as well (and mentioned that idea below). Jackson (or better yet, Yesler) would be ideal, as it would mean a good connection with most of the bus routes, and not a terrible walk for some of the others. The worst significant connection would probably be Madison, which might require walking several blocks, or waiting for a bus on 2nd or 4th. There would be plenty of buses going along here (otherwise, there is no point in doing this). In general, such a transfer is not that different then getting on Link from one of the buses (in some ways it is better, since everything is on the surface).

        I could also see a rush hour versus non-rush hour routing. If traffic isn’t that bad (and there aren’t that many buses running those streets) in the middle of the day, then keep the current routing. But when buses and traffic clogs everything, turn around fairly early.

    4. As a regular 594 rider, I like this idea. I can see the argument in favor of truncating at ID/C instead of Stadium. Also, I would prioritize extending half-hourly service to twenty hours per day above shortening off-peak headways to twenty minutes, but the truncation should free up enough service hours to do both, especially considering the existing peak deadhead service hours that could be used for counter-peak service.

  9. Great piece. I agree with all of your points.

    A few things: first of all, Martin was absolutely correct when he wrote that post a while back. The city needs the flexibility to spend the money as it sees fit. At the same time, it should adhere to the principles of the ballot proposal. Improvements in the various areas should be made as well as possible, in the ratios that were specified in the ballot proposal. The city shouldn’t just take the money that was supposed to go into bike lanes and spend it on, say, fixing the Magnolia Bridge. From what I can tell, that hasn’t been the case. The city is struggling with the realities on the ground, and unless they get creative (as you suggest) they won’t be able to improve downtown bike lanes as much as they want.

    Second, I agree that when push comes to shove, we need to get rid of street parking. I really don’t get why people think you should be able to park on a busy street. You can’t park on Denny, and haven’t been able to park on Denny for many years (long before there were any bike or bus lanes anywhere in the city). Of course, an exception should be made (on a case by case basis) for short term parking (to load and unload).

    Third, I like the idea of truncating the bus routes while increasing frequency (and speed) of Link. Like a lot of improvements, this means cooperating with different agencies (asking ST to increase frequency while asking Metro to change their route). Turning around at Stadium is less than ideal, but that does put the bus at the edge of downtown. Ideally the buses could go just a bit farther and turn around to Jackson. This may have been what you had in mind (I don’t know where exactly you planned on them turning around).

    Finally, am I right in understanding that a lot of the pain is caused by buses having to leave the tunnel two years before Link gets to Northgate, because of the convention center expansion? That is outrageous. The expansion is a stupid idea (https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/05/05/washington-state-convention-center-expansion-is-not-inevitable/). But at a minimum the expansion (and sale) should be delayed a couple years (until we are finally through with the bus station).

    1. “I really don’t get why people think you should be able to park on a busy street.”

      They think it’s unreasonable to pay more than $1 an hour for parking or whatever the meter rate is now. They especially don’t like to be forced into a $10 garage. If that’s the choice many of them won’t shop downtown; they’ll take their money to a suburban mall instead. But downtown has some unique things like the art museum and Pike Place Market and the waterfront and government offices, where there’s no option to go to a suburban counterpart. For those cases it’s bad policy to force people to spend $10 for a garage rather than $1 for street parking. And if they make the trip frequently, all those $10 add up to something unaffordable pretty quickly.

      1. Hasn’t that happened already? Your argument reads a bit like there are suburban parking virgins out there. I would’ve thought that if you drive and park at all in Seattle in the last few years that you have already figured out your price point, or you have already sworn that Seattle is evil.

      2. This is about the people who use the remaining street parking that exists, and what they would say if it’s eliminated. The ones you’re taking about are already using garages or boycotting Seattle.

        Also, medical appointments be an issue. People may have appointments once a month or so at the various hospitals or clinics, and there’s a particular doctor they want to see who’s not in the suburbs, and they’re too disabled to walk from a bus stop but not disabled enough to qualify for Access, and they can’t afford to park in a garage every time, so they hope they can find a street space near their destination. That would be more of an issue around First Hill and the downtown clinics than all of downtown.

  10. Everybody’s already seen pics of bike-rack trailers coupled to the front of streetcars in Germany. SLU? FHS? Connector? Waterfront? Wouldn’t work on front end of buses, but with cameras as mirrors, might work on rear. Worth checking out.

    Since the Waterfront project likes small vehicles, it’s very likely that there’ll be motorized bike racks of some kinds. Might work for other parts of the city too. Where there’s a wheel, there’s a way! (Cue the Vaudeville-style giant hooks and the dead cats!)


  11. The steepness of many east-west downtown streets affects bicycle viability. That makes Seattle vastly different than most other very large Anerican cities, where there are either mostly low slopes or no slopes. As a consequence, the number of bicyclists who complain to me about pedaling uphill is notable. Seattle issues are different than Chicago.

    This slope issue dampens bicycle use and bicycle popularity, especially with people who aren’t in top physical shape. Putting bike racks on buses is simply not enough as it has a number of challenges.

    At this point, it’s time to recognize that bicycle use in Downtown Seattle is not about just a bicycle track and rental programs. Perhaps we need to make prominent bicycle stations at many Link stations. Perhaps we should be revisiting how Metro and Link transport and board bicycles on routes with steep hills. Perhaps diagonal elevators or funiculars need to be installed throughout Downtown. Perhaps DSTT stations need to be updated from their 1980’s layouts.

    Consider how some Downtown bicyclists tell me that they even ride to the FHSC in Pioneer Square to get up to First Hill. The issue needs refocus. Striping can happen in a year, but these other solutions mostly require advanced planning.

    1. Well, there’s always: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryCWIjdVF0g .

      In the immediate term, more prominent signage and infrastructure would help. Have something on First Avenue (which climbs the immediate coastal bluff gradually), and signage recommending it. Have better signage and a more prominent route from the heart of the ID to Little Saigon (a great way to avoid the steepness of First Hill).

      A big part of the problem here is that the new cyclist is comparatively on his/her own to discover such things, and can easily get put off by how hard things are when one doesn’t know such “tricks”.

      1. Excellent, David. If they’ll work in Norwegian weather, should be ok for us. Probably salt- and sand- proof too.

        But critical to know who’s going to maintain them. Should be ordinance forbidding any company connected to transit related elevators and escalators from touching this one.

        First “Waiting for Maintenance Funds” sign and we start booting people’s cars to the stalled little platforms.

        Maybe we could also take a leaf from the Queen Anne Counterbalance and have descending bikes help pull ones going up.


    2. Actually, the last time I rode my up First Hill (mostly following the streetcar route, except I stayed on 12th between Jackson and Yesler, rather doing the silly detour), I easily kept pace with the streetcar along side me. It passed me around Jackson/I-5, but I passed it back by skipping the detour. This was in spite the fact that I was very tired and crawling about 8 mph up the hill, with nearly every other cyclist passing me.

      About the only reasons I can think of for taking a bike on the First Hill Streetcar are kids bikes and broken bikes.

    3. Comments like these ignore the critical fact that most of the downtown avenues are reasonably graded, and there are reasonably graded approaches to most avenues from the south and the north. Downtown Seattle isn’t very big east-to-west, and you can always walk the steepest blocks. Most of what we’re clamoring for is improvements to routes that don’t have grade problems, but do have traffic problems. Routes between 2nd Ave and major entry points from the north and south (Dexter, Westlake, Dearborn, East Marginal) are primary; next after these, hilly but popular routes from the east and west (something to Capitol Hill, something to the ferry terminal). If we do these we also fill in east-west routes through some of the plateaus (the northern “retail core”, Pioneer Square). None of that asks anyone to pedal up incredibly steep hills!

      1. Comments like these ignore the fact that the Pier 91 Bike Path are already crowded with bikes at peak periods, even in December.

      2. s/Pier/Terminal/

        OK, so that’s a fifth major entry point. There isn’t a remotely flat way from there to most of downtown, but the steep ones could use some improvement!

    4. Al, thanks, I was just about to say something similar myself. Downtown Seattle is a tough place to ride for casual cyclists, and given the difficulty of going E-W, it’s hard for me to see cycling as a big enough mode to justify displacing transit capacity. What I would love to see is taking the money and investing it in creating awesome bike paths connecting to Link and RapidRide stations instead…and maybe also in creating secure bike parking at these connection points.

      1. It’s not either or. Cycling and transit are complementary. Also, it’s not too difficult or time consuming to make a circuitous route to avoid the eastward climb of lower downtown/pioneer square. Like going from 2nd and Columbia to 5th and Columbia, it would not be unheard of or ludicrous to bike to Pike, then go south on 5th.

    5. “Putting bike racks on buses is simply not enough”

      Bike racks on buses and the hook on Link only work because there are so few bicycles. If we had several bicyclists an hour on a route it would completely break down.

      1. The metro bike racks hold 3. Bus routes like the 10 come about 6 times an hour. That’s 18 an hour.

        Link has a lot of space, on the hooks and off.

        If it becomes a major problem there are always foldable commuter bikes.

        Wait for it to actually be an issue first.

      2. More and more people are going with electric assist also now. More casual (or serious) cyclists who don’t want to or can’t handle the hills (or don’t want to shower at work, hauling kids, cargo, pesky knee injury) are forgoing the clipless pedals, lycra and/or a pair of fancy sunglasses and putting the cash into electric assist instead. Also more likely than not the bike share system will have an assist option before the network is built out.

  12. Zach;

    You show and discuss transit increases on 2nd, 3rd and 4th, but not First Avenue. It seems like this would be a useful place too, considering the current service there is less frequent than Outer Magnolia.

  13. I have a hard time wrapping my head around why the city allows street parking on any major arterial. It’s silly enough on one of the city’s few major east-west routes like 45th or Mercer; it’s downright irrational on major routes downtown, where people already have plentiful structured parking options to chose from. How many parking spots are there on 4th between Spring and Pike? What’s the capacity of that ROW space in terms of thru-traffic? Get rid of all street parking on 1st through 5th Avenues downtown. We can have a debate about what the best use of that ROW space is, but it seems like even most SOV drivers would agree that car storage isn’t it.

    1. Growing up, when my family drove downtown, I don’t ever remember parking on the street. Who wants to circle around looking for a spot when there are massive garages everywhere? We do need loading/unloading zones, taxi zones and rideshare parking spots. But general parking doesn’t make sense pretty much anywhere downtown. Circling around looking for a parking spot causes traffic too.

    2. Because in too many people’s mind, people have a god-given right to free parking and paid parking (at even one penny per hour) is equivalent to no parking. Also, when people are used to street parking on a street that has had parking for over 50 years (maybe even over 100 years if you count horse parking), very few people will bother to think about potential alternative uses of the space. They just see a place to store their car as the purpose of that street space.

    3. Street parking spaces are descended from horse hitching posts. You tie your horse to a hitching post when you go into a business, so people left their cars on the side of the road the same way. All parking was free then so it was seen as a birthright. As the decades passed and congestion increased, this mentality didn’t change. Large cities forced the issue downtown because they really didn’t have any other choice, and people grudgingly accepted taking a bus downtown or staying in the suburbs, but not everyone has accepted it completely. Meanwhile in neighborhood commercial areas like Wallingford (45th) and Aurora (between 70th and 100th at least), people say if they can’t park on the street for $1 there they won’t shop there, and the merchants are afraid they’ll go out of business if the street parking is eliminated. Because you can say people will come by transit or walking to replace them, but they won’t really, not unless it’s some place like New York or Belltown. Or at least that’s how a lot of people feel.

      1. Outside of peak hours, there exists significant unneeded capacity on many downtown streets, especially the wide Avenues, so why not use it for parking? In addition to increasing utilization of the street in off peak times, parked cars make a great buffer between pedestrians and traffic whizzing by on the adjacent street, and also serves to slow down through traffic. I agree, where capacity is needed for other purposes, parking lanes should be re-purposed, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to eliminate it.

      2. Yeah, and I understand the argument some place like Wallingford or Aurora (even if I don’t necessarily agree that it’s the best use of ROW). It just seems insane to me to use the same reasoning (“People need to be able to park directly in front of my business, walk in to make a purchase, get directly back into their car and leave.”) downtown where property owners have already invested hundreds of millions in underground parking that is almost never at capacity.

    4. When I park downtown (which is not bloody often), if I’m doing a brief errand I will often spend some time looking for on-street parking. Reason is most garages have a rather steep minimum purchase (often 2 hours). When I only want to park for 15 to 30 minutes, having to shell out $10 or more for 2 hours of parking that I’m going to use about 20 minutes of really sticks in my craw, particularly when if I find an on-street spot it will cost me $2 or so to pay for approximately the amount of parking time I actually need.

      If it was a choice between paying, say $3 for 30 minutes in a privately-run garage versus $2 on the street, I’d quit looking for an on-street spot and go into a garage much sooner.

  14. If street parking were eliminated, the way on-demand carsharing works would have to be re-visited. Shutting out Car2Go and ReachNow from the downtown market completely would be a poor outcome for both the companies and the public. Most likely, the companies would negotiate lower parking fees with the city, and using the savings to rent out spaces in private parking garages. Car2Go could even take the step of restriping the spaces to allow three Car2Go’s to fit in an area designed for just two ordinary-sized cars.

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