Proposed I-5 plan 
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives//Item No: 61048

When cars began rolling off assembly lines a hundred years ago, cities were reshaped to accommodate the automobile. Sidewalks narrowed to widen streets, parking garages appeared, transit systems disappeared, and eventually Interstate 5 splintered downtown Seattle from neighborhoods to the east.

This resulted in a city that is unfriendly and at times a dangerous place to be a pedestrian, a lesson Seattle Department of Transportation highlights in its recently released “New Mobility Playbook”.

As rapidly evolving technology is once again transforming how people move around the city, SDOT released the Playbook, a set of goals for integrating new transportation choices into the system.

“With cars, we forced our city to adapt to the technology instead of shaping the technology to serve the people living and working in our city,” states the playbook. “This time around, we want to do things differently. Instead of allowing the technology to shape the city, we’re mobilizing the technology to serve the people’s needs.”

In the playbook, SDOT defines new mobility as a “technology-enabled, seamless, nearly door-to-door transportation system” which “allows Seattleites to treat urban transportation as a customizable, on-demand service.”

The New Mobility Playbook lays out two scenarios: actively shape the future or leave it to chance. In the first possibility, despite rapid growth congestion doesn’t increase as autonomous vehicles are shared rather than privately owned. Transit choice increases in underserved communities as the city leverages a data infrastructure system to manage the transportation system in real-time.

However, SDOT warns leaving it to chance could result in more congestion if regulations and incentives for new transportation options don’t discourage single-occupancy rides, or lead to an increase inequality by leaving behind “unbanked” and “smartphone-less” riders who can’t access new mobility services.

Divided into five “plays”,  SDOT lists actions and strategies to reach a set of goals for a future transportation system that puts people first.

  • Ensure new mobility delivers a fair and just transportation system for all
  • Enable safer, more active, and people-first uses of the public right of way
  • Reorganize and retool SDOT to manage innovation and data
  • Build new information and data infrastructure so new services can “Plug-and-play”
  • Anticipate, adapt to, and leverage innovative and disruptive transportation technologies

Two of these overarching goals concentrate on managing the flow of data by developing a digital data master plan. The agency wants to have in-house capacity to analyze data and invest in analytical tools in order to create “strategic policies to capture the benefits of new technologies and mobility models while mitigating their unintended consequences.”

Looking ahead, other actions include: lobbying for a statewide vehicle miles traveled road usage fee, developing a “pitch book” to showcase the city vision to attract workers and companies, and creating a “Transition to Full Automated Mobility Phasing Plan” while partnering with companies to test automatic cars on city streets. SDOT set a goal that, by 2030, at least 30 percent of all light duty vehicles registered in Seattle are electric.

To ensure all residents benefit from new mobility services, SDOT plans to work with community credit unions to bank the unbanked, create a mobility subsidy program for ride splitting and car sharing for first- and last-mile trips in low-income neighborhoods, and develop a Shared Mobility Hub program which will bring multiple transit options together for easy transfers.

To respond to the ever changing landscape of technology, SDOT aims to update the playbook every six months. To comment on the new mobility plan, contact SDOT at

26 Replies to “SDOT Aims To Prioritizes People in New Mobility Playbook”

  1. “…and creating a ‘Transition to Full Automated Mobility Phasing Plan’ while partnering with companies to test automatic cars on city streets.”

    Does “partnering with” really mean “overwhelmingly pressured by” profit-making companies to use our public streets for test tracks, and us for crash-test dummies? Could be coincidence, but for drones carrying both groceries and passengers, better testing area would best be new corporate headquarters in Texas.

    A new field of machinery with few protective barriers on their area of operations, and very large potential for human and property damage. Without a single public vote as to whether their operation on public property should be allowed at all. Could we at least modify the plan from “city streets” to “Fenced Off SDOT Property?

    NIMBY? Count me as NOMGDP. Not On My (Divinely Condemned) Planet.

    Mark Dublin

      1. I really should give a break God. Reason for His ill-tempered language nowadays is that since Hell’s already full of, bad time for the State Legislature to slash his funding in the face of inevitable future.

        We the living will have a lot more room though, likely improving mobility whatever SDOT does. For eliminating the gullible, natural selection is unerring.

        Line of sight accurate, in the face of stupidity the height of a thunderhead. But one fact that should be better known. By same law. The less our fist shakes, the older we get live.


  2. I rolled by eyes at the term “playbook” as if there is a game afoot. Who is the opposition? Is there a Super Bowl title as a goal?

    More importantly, who is supposed to be on the field and what is their function?

    These aren’t plays; they are broad statements that are so full of lofty goals that I feel like it was written by the hipster twin of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. There aren’t even measurable objectives!

  3. Electric elf driving cars will be ubiquitous in 30 years. There will be far fewer vehicles overall, and most people won’t own cars/trucks. One reason for that is the insurance companies will hike rates so high (because vehicles driven by people are so much more dangerous than self-driving vehicles). There will be ample road capacity as our “peak car” era peters out. Life for our grandkids will be far better because of these developments.

    1. Why would insurance rates rise? The risk factor of human driven cars tomorrow is the same as human driven cars today.

    2. Self-driving car tech is a ruse and a fraud; a ruse that our corporate masters wish everyone believe possible, a fraud in that it diverts attention from real solutions. Eliminating driver assessment of road conditions and ability to take evasive maneuvers to prevent accidents, eliminates that safety device without which self-driving technology alone cannot be considered safer. Autonomous tech can achieve safety goals without eliminating driver control. The claim that traffic congestion will be reduced is dubious. Fair predictions suggest traffic will increase sharply. Along with normal travel need, additional VMT occurs with empty vehicles between passenger drop-off and pick-up. Moreover, transit use is expected to decline. As for any cost savings, self-driving cars are more likely to be as costly as taxi service. Uber and Lyft charge according to their precious rules of supply and demand, the more demand, the higher the price and the longer the wait period. A future with self-driving cars everywhere is a delusional conceit meant to keep everyone car-dependent. These Sdot psycho-babble bullet points would be laughable if they weren’t so insultingly preposterous.

      1. Wells, unfortunately confirms my signature-elderly prejudice yesterday about different core working philosophy between different industries.

        A modern rotary cannon still called a “Gatling gun” supposed to DISRUPT an enemy tank into a brillo pad. But bet the engineer’s wife is always yelling at the kids and the dog to quit disrupting Daddy’s concentration on comparative thousandths of an inch some specific part.

        Another reason besides maintenance and that other one that I drive a Prius instead of a Tesla. Doubt anybody who worked on my 2013 knows the D-word in either English or Japanese. Sorry, Elon, but I’m not going to sign purchase papers promising that anything on my car will be DISRUPTIVE!

        So honest, Jeff, suggestion you put Royal Air Force insignia on your drones has nothing to do with how much they look like bulls’-eyes. And truly, not buying from your remaining competitors to Disrupt your business model.

        I’ll venture that right now, your olifactory techs are designing a patented spray that’ll make every book that comes out of your drones smell like it’s also shopping at my favorite bookstore.

        But in defense of beneficial disruption have to confess experience that’s disrupted my thinking into an application each to both Tesla and Amazon.

        Espresso cafe. Girl at my table studying aircraft-level calculus. Music that’ll sterilize frogs, decibels silencing a rocket on liftoff. Wrote her a note: “How can you concentrate through this Disruption?” Her note? “Can’t study calc. without it.”

        ” Resistance is Futile. You will be….” Do I get a Borg suit free, or will I have to pay for it, like Google made my brother to with his hoodie? ”


    3. >> There will be ample road capacity as our “peak car” era peters out.

      Why would there be less driving if the cost of driving goes down? All electric, self driving vehicles would be extremely popular and probably lead to more driving. Consider the advantages to a self driving car:

      1) Never pay for parking.
      2) Can drive itself somewhere else, so that someone else in the family can use it.
      3) Stop and go driving is less stressful and not stressful at all when no one is in it.
      4) Insurance is less costly.
      5) If the car is electric, driving is fairly cheap, and maintenance much cheaper than a gasoline car.

      I could easily imagine this scenario:

      Mary gets in her car, and is driven to work. She is then let out, and the car goes to the nearest free parking space, a couple miles away. Or instead it goes back home, so that someone else can use the car.

      We are talking about *way* more driving. Unless we start increasing taxes (or tolls) it is likely we will see more congestion.

      1. You know, Ross, I think I’ve figured out the real lobbying clout behind Automatic Cars. Ask yourself: Who benefits from people being inescapably stuck for hours in cars that are actually moving, however imperceptibly?

        Culprits emerge. Makers of every single justly-forbidden piece of electronics.. Compact bathroom designers. Manufacturers of Viagra. But most of all, every anti-transit interest in the world.

        Because there will be an exponentially increasing constituency of people for whom being trapped in a car is perfect unimpeachable excuse for not being someplace else, like home, school, or work.

        And legislators at all levels will be dripping with gratitude for never again having to do anything, meaning transit, to (bite your tongue!) Eliminate Congestion! And that, sadly, is why automatic cars are inevitable. But their could be international connection too.

        SAM exhibit on Haiti showed burial custom of coffins shaped like Cadillacs. Have to be BMW’s and Ferrari’s now. But why bother with an extraneous wood car? Sikorski Sky Crane helicopter “long line” (powered hook at the end size of a motorcycle) can handle ten tons. For final journey, both horizontal and vertical trips-covered.


    4. That’s the future for which SDOT hopes, but it’s far more likely that the self-driving vehicles will be owned, not for hire. And that means many more trips because their owners will send them to hide-and-ride in neighborhoods around the city.

      Grant, it will balance traffic, at least for a five mile radius around downtown.

  4. “a city that is unfriendly and at times a dangerous place to be a pedestrian”

    Just curious, which cities would be considered friendly and safe for pedestrians?

    I’ve spent meaningful amounts of time in ~40 major cities worldwide and I can’t say Seattle is particularly worse for pedestrians. It is notably better than many other U.S. cities.

    We can do better, but I don’t think we’re starting from the bottom.

    1. San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, the majority of cities in Europe – heck, even Portland’s core is significantly more pedestrian-friendly than Seattle’s.

    2. Seriously? I’d say all of our older big cities feel more pedestrian-friendly than Seattle. Off the top of my head…

      1. The push-to-cross thing is absurd, and signal-timing here is just generally anti-pedestrian. Ironically, I return to cities that don’t care if you jaywalk, and find myself jaywalking far less than I do here because signal timing is so much more reasonable. The clusterf caused by the new signals on Mercer has been pretty well documented in various outlets recently (

      2. Push-to-cross aside, Seattle too often prioritizes vehicular traffic over pedestrians in ways that are inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. For just one example, I’ve seen so many people nearly hit crossing 2nd Ave. N at this intersection: Why on earth does eastbound traffic on Olympic Place not have a stop sign? Cars turning right onto 2nd do not bother so much as slowing down, and you can’t really blame them as nothing about the street design suggests they should. Eastbound pedestrians are especially at risk (note the guy walking with headphones in the image), because if you glance up as you cross the street and see three stop signs, why would it cross your mind to look back over your shoulder to confirm there’s a fourth stop sign preventing a car from barreling around the corner?

      2. There are far too many intersections lacking four legal crosswalks (usually for the sake of vehicular flow), forcing pedestrians to use three crosswalks simply to continue walking on the side of the street they are already on. Something that should take a few seconds takes multiple minutes. In my neck of the woods alone, there are examples at both Denny and 1st N and Denny and Queen Anne Avenue. Those are consecutive intersections, meaning that if you’re standing at the Shell and live directly across Denny you have to use either three crosswalks to your left or three crosswalks to your right just to cross the street (

      3. Too often around here we cut corners where pedestrians are concerned. Take the new Mercer underpass: Why, for the love of all that is decent, do the sidewalk and bike path descend with the roadbed, forcing both cyclists and pedestrians to climb an unnecessarily steep grade? We do not need a 30-foot clearance. I actually bumped into an SDOT project manager on the underpass who agreed and said he unsuccessfully fought to change it. Here is an example of Calgary (Calgary!) doing it much, much better:

      4. Seattle grants developers far too many sidewalk closures, forcing pedestrians to unnecessarily criss-cross streets. This has gotten slightly better since council adopted a new policy a few years ago, but walk around downtown right now and it is still much too common. In 30+ years back East I can’t remember not having a protected sidewalk tunnel that maintained the sidewalk.

      Ignoring all the click-bait about “pedestrian rage” there are actually some very good examples/points in this Seattle Times article ($/incognito):

      1. I’ll pick on Boston since I’ve spent a lot of time there:

        Plenty of intersections with very long car phases followed by absurdly short walk phases. Although the push-to-walk buttons have been disabled in many locations, they were not removed, so you still need to push them at unfamiliar intersections.

        Drivers are very aggressive and speeding is rampant. They will not stop if they think they can swerve past you in the crosswalk. Blocking the box/crosswalk is endemic.

        Sidewalks are extremely narrow in the old part of the city. Seattle’s are 2-3x wider. Unless you’re wandering around the North End (which is mostly tourists) the city feels much less friendly to pedestrians.

      2. Have to disagree. An afternoon spent walking around Seattle might ultimately be preferable because of the mountains, the water, the climate, and the lack of Red Sox and Pats fans. But if it’s a question of which city feels friendlier for walking in terms of infrastructure, street design, traffic management, etc., it’s Boston over the Emerald City any day.

        And the fact that Boston is disabling push buttons instead of actively installing them by the hundreds says everything.

    3. You’re kidding, right? ANY Dutch city is far superior for pedestrians, because so many people bike.

  5. Did I miss a single reference to the reserved transit lanes and the new signals that will be necessary to keep Wheel One moving when DSTT closes to buses next year?

    However, today’s posting proves desperate need for an English-only requirement for all official announcements. Which will definitely reduce present overcrowding in the Chambers of the State Legislature.

    But Al S., you’ve made my morning forcing me to look up Sarah. What a relief not to have to think about poor Bernie looking down both barrels of an 1860’s vintage shotgun while being told he was gonna do right by the former Arkansas Governor’s little girl!

    Doubt any Single Payer, or Intensive Care ward, could save him first time he tried to correct first untrue “peep” of the morning’s Twitter over the breakfast table. But realized that the young horror, I mean lady, could do wonders for Olympia’s worst neighborhood.

    Now that Pierce County Government has ordered staff to only communicate with Council Member Pam Roach in writing, State Republicans are looking at their worst nightmare coming true. Pam returning to the legislature. So the whole Transit Community needs to starts a massive campaign to outbid Sarah’s present boss and get her elected to Pam’s former seat.

    The whole Republican caucus will be so grateful they’ll fund so many ST-s we’ll need a black hole in space for route length. Politically, we also come out ahead, because compared to Sarah, all the other right wing Republicans will look like Moderate ones. So all her victims will be replaced by people with no seniority, Hope Thurston County Medical Examiner is non-Partisan.

    However, might be good to have her write copy for SDOT for awhile. Condition the Democrats are in, would rather communications be phrased by Sarah. “Anticipate, adapt to, and leverage innovative and disruptive transportation technologies”? Unfortunately, more likely she did write it, and slipped it into SDOT communications so Marshall Foster will get blamed. Sorry, man.


  6. Was it just me, or did a lot of that verbiage sound like buzzwords that don’t mean anything? It sounds like the sort of vague corporate babble that was popular in the ’90s that no one actually understood. If they really mean to anything in particular, why can’t they say it more plainly? How exactly do they propose to put people first when it mostly talks about technology? Sensible walking shoes are an ancient thing, as are crosswalks and narrow roads with trees. They want to move away from technology dictating how the city should be shaped, but I saw nothing about reclaiming it from the status quo that is at the heart of why it sucks to be a pedestrian in most US cities. In that light, it reminds me of all the pretty words that is mere lip-service about improving pedestrian safety. Unspoken is the agreement that cars will not be inconvenienced, but it is just fine to screw over bus riders and make pedestrians wait forever and a day at long-winded lights with shitty crosswalks at intersection that are still fundamentally designed for the rapid movement of cars. In other words, lipstick on a pig.

    1. Most of it was a soup of buzzwords, but there was at least some decent substance. Mirco-transit sounds promising, and car-share stuff.

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