Planning for the North Downtown Mobility Action Plan Credit: Lizz Giordano

This week Seattle kicked off planning for the North Downtown Mobility Action Plan to identify and prioritize transportation improvements in the Uptown, Belltown, and South Lake Union neighborhoods.

Potential changes are coming to the area, including the redevelopment of Seattle Center Arena and a new downtown public school on the Memorial Stadium site. SDOT is partnering with SLU Community Council, Uptown Alliance and Project Belltown to improve movement throughout the North Downtown area.

SDOT’s goal is to have a list of projects identified before the draft environmental impact statement for the renovation of the Seattle Center Arena, expected in the spring of 2018. SDOT acknowledges that “sustainable transportation options are fundamental to the long-term success of the arena project.” Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who represents the district where the Seattle Center is located, was present at the October 23 workshop.

In a deal negotiated by former Mayor Ed Murray, and still needing council approval, the Oak View Group will spend $600m to overhaul Key Arena to NBA and NHL standards, nearly doubling its size. Included in the agreement is an additional $40m for a transportation fund, which will pay for some projects in the North Downtown Mobility Action Plan.

The plan is part of the broader One Center City strategy of near-term and long-term comprehensive transit and traffic projects to connect ten of central Seattle’s neighborhoods.

As residents filled the Seattle Center Armory Loft, speeding up light rail to the area was once again a top suggestion. Many also pointed out the lack of east/west transit options, with one commentator suggesting “be realistic on movements in and out of the area, there are not good transit solutions east-west.” A common theme was adding more bus service and installing a transit hub, closer to the Seattle Center, to conveniently switch between modes.

Another popular suggestion was integrating the monorail into the ORCA system, which moved forward last summer. A 2017 study conducted by the city found this change could increase ridership between seven to 16 percent over the first three years of implementation.

Attendees also wanted to see additional protected bike lanes, the continuation of existing paths, and more bike parking. Pedestrian safety was a big issue for many residents who live in one of the surrounding neighborhoods; many wanted additional crosswalks with flashing lights and more enforcement on streets to prohibit cars from turning right on red.

The planning continues with an all-day charrette workshop scheduled on November 18th, which a SDOT representatives described as the critical time in the process for the North Downtown Mobility Action Plan, with an all-day charrette workshop scheduled for the 18th. Members of the public are encouraged to drop by during the day for tours of the neighborhood and also provide input on mobility projects. A draft of potential projects is expected in early spring of 2018 with a final list completed by August.

30 Replies to “City Kicks Off Mobility Planning in North Downtown”

  1. Does the North Downtown area that they are planning for include Expedia’s new campus? I’m wondering what new projects will be needed to accommodate the move.

    1. A bus from the Eastside, exiting at and traveling along Mercer and terminating near the new Expedia campus would be a great east-west connector and would help many folks who are not going downtown and who have no use for a Link connection at UW Station.

      1. Proposed in the 520 Restructure two years ago, but cut when they decided to keep more downtown express buses. I wish they’d bring it back now that the Montlake exit is working more smoothly.

    2. The area is pretty well served by buses (because it is “on the way”). The 32 connects it to the north end of Queen Anne, Fremont and U-District. The D connects it to Lower Queen Anne as well as downtown. A faster route from downtown is provided by the 15, 17, 18, 19, 24, 33. Service improvements could be made on any of those routes, but I think the most likely is the last set. That would provide your fastest connection to downtown, and a lot of those runs are commuter only, to downtown. That means reversing them during those same hours is relatively cheap. I could see the 18, for example, running more often during rush hour, and doing so in both directions.

      I could also see the 8 being extended to there, as long as that doesn’t make the 8 even more unreliable. That not only makes sense as a way to connect Expedia to South Lake Union (and Capitol Hill/Central Area) but it would also enable further improvements to bus service from Ballard. The 18 could be run all day, and fairly frequently as is (maybe even a RapidRide route). It would likely terminate at 65th, though (not go all the way to Blue Ridge). That would be a faster way to get from Ballard to downtown (via Western). For folks on 24th, it would be a lot faster than the 40 to downtown, and would provide one seat rides between that part of Ballard, Interbay, Lower Queen Anne and Belltown.

      As far as east side service, for the most part it will be a matter of taking Link then a bus, but I would expect a company with that much money to also run their own express buses. I doubt that Metro is interested in running some sort of Expedia to the East Side express, but you never know.

  2. Let’s early on establish a few transit-related indicators as to whether the project is even worth discussing.

    1. Light Rail? Subway station near Key Arena.

    2. Streetcar? Start with signal pre-empt at Fairview, where line enters the lake front just east of museum stop. As down payment, do it sometime today. And look up Downtown Library archive Kaiser report on streetcar extensions.

    3. Buses? Current northbound bus-rail lane on Westlake, good start. For plan, do it everywhere relevant.

    4. Parking? Few months’ study of actual number of people served by street parking soon as possible. Go from there.

    Regret I’ll have to forget the Charettes. Whether those were a 50’s rock group, or places the hero had to rescue people from during the French Revolution.

    Mark Dublin

    1. For Key Arena, I would ask the question as to what extent will the monorail be upgraded to handle hundreds, thousands? of NHL fans commuting to and from Seattle Center? Outgoing Mayor Murray mentioned shooting for Orca Card conversion to monorail which would help. But will the Monorail Authority also tailor its technology to handle debit/credit cards for payment as well? The monorail will also have to considerably shorten up its headways to accommodate massive fan attendance; 25-30 minute waits between stops will be unacceptable as is the monorail in its present condition to accommodate future events at a rebuilt Key Arena.

      1. For special events the monorail runs every 10 minutes when both trains are in service. That’s the best they can physically do but an NHL crowd won’t be any larger than Bumbershoot or NYE.

        The payment process needs to be improved obviously and the Westlake platform always feels so cramped with large crowds.

      2. If both platforms were designed like the Seattle Center one (and I’ve heard that’s the plan) then loading and unloading can happen much faster.

        Right now the limit seems to be every 10 minutes, but with better platforms that number can certainly come down.

        The trip only takes two minutes making four round trip. At 10 minute frequency (20 per car) that means nearly 16 minutes of each round trip is consumed by passenger load/unload and security check/driver change.

        I would bet a hefty chunk of that comes from the Westlake platform which uses only half of the load/unload capacity.

        Increase ticketing and boarding efficacy and I’d bet you could cut headways in half.

      3. I waited 25 minutes one time—International Beer Festival at Seattle Center, about 10 years ago. I guess that wasn’t considered a special event:/

      4. Serious enlargement of carrying capacity for The Monorail is a long track beyond fare collection. The structure is, and always has been, a horizontal elevator between the commercial center of Downtown Seattle (if it has one) and Seattle Center.

        Can we have an architect and a structural engineer weigh in with a rundown of what it’ll cost to restore previous loading capacity Downtown? Which means lidding Fifth Avenue. Of course existing cars and track have to be either replaced or seriously updated. Ride quality not nostalgic or funny.

        But real, unavoidable solution is a LINK subway station around Key Arena. Anybody with better idea, the floor’s yours.


  3. Lost me on “charrette”. Do I now need a Masters in Urban Planning to read the blog? I’d prefer you keep it simpler.

    1. I think the term originated in the architectural community. The Merriam-Webster defintion is: “The intense final effort made by architectural students to complete their solutions to a given architectural problem in an allotted time or the period in which such an effort is made.”

      An example would be: “We have $1B outside of ST3 to make transportation improvements in the area. What should they be? Here are the range of possibilities so far and how much each project costs to help in your decision.” Once a number of small groups determine and present their solution packages, it’s possible to contrast and compare each on in light of the others to see where there are commonalities and conflicts, and if any group has thought outside-of-the-box.

      Of course, the word is overused here in Seattle! Technically, this will not be a “charette” unless there is a design problem where people are to reach a consensus in a short period of time. It sounds to me like this is a mere “workshop” to get ideas and concerns from the public. It’s too early to have a charrette because the magnitude of the problem is not yet defined.

      I don’t think SDOT wants true charrettes. Heaven forbid any consideration be given to the public creating a few alternatives! Oh my! How dare something emerge that isn’t advocated by certain people in power behind closed doors — be it elected officials, business leaders, modal advocates, property owners or very senior staff!

    2. A charrette is a workshop where you get a wider group of people (i.e., not the project staff, but non-technical stakeholders or members of the public) to do brainstorming and what-if scenarios, usually in small groups. Transit charettes perform tasks like “Optimize bus routes in a ficticious city”, ‘Generate ideas to improve east-west transit in the Mercer corridor”, “What are the problems for transit riders, peds, and bicyclists in the Mercer corridor?”, etc. The first time I encountered it was at Rail~Volution, a conference that moves to a different city each time, where they have a charrette to address a transit problem in a host city. In Pugetopolis where Link is being built up, you might have a charrette for the Lynnwood station area, downtown mobility, Northgate-area buses and ped/bike station access, etc. This one is focused on SLU, so it may include both ficticious, general, and specific brainstorming tasks related to SLU.

    3. The neat thing about reading stuff on the internet is that you always have a dictionary at your fingertips! I occasionally have to look something up, too. I take this as an opportunity to expand my vocabulary, rather than an excuse to complain about the rest of the world not limiting themselves to my present lexicographical competency, but that’s just me.

      1. If somebody brings unusual vocabulary, they should be the ones to explain it. Also, the Internet tells us what other people mean by it, not what that person means or how significant or what aspect he sees it.

      2. Not just you – being an architect I understand the word all too well, but there certainly is enough tech jargon dropped around these parts that I need to look up/learn if I want to understand certain nuances in conversation. Unless the jargon is the majority of a post or comment, it’s just a good opportunity to learn something. If it’s devolved into a technical paper, that’s another matter altogether. The use of a single specific word that accurately (in modern usage, although the dictionary definition is more accurate) describes something is not at all out of place.

        (can I use “jargon?”) ;-)

  4. Key arena refurb a handout to NBA/NHL owners. They should pay for overhaul with the massive profits they make every year. Tax payers should not have to pay anything. If the fans want this arena bad enough to pay for it then do a user tax per ticket but don’t tax the entire city/county population to pay for it. And related to mobility plan again tax the owners of the teams who will benefit from moving fans to to arena by rail, monorail etc.

    1. The city would retain ownership of the Key and would collect rent from anyone who uses it. Pretty sure the only tax money they’re getting is in the form of credits.

    2. Taxpayers aren’t paying anything. To quote the article “Oak View Group will spend $600m to overhaul Key Arena.” Oak View Group is a private investor.

    3. If anybody thinks Stadium area is short on room for cars, we’d have to do a second Denny Regrade and wash Lower Queen Anne into the Sound to make it flat enough half the fans headed for Key II. So the Team might very well think a large contribution to the necessary station, and subway, is a good investment. No problem naming it after them at all.


  5. The east-west Mercer corridor, between Fairview and Queen Anne, is a transportation wasteland ever since the 30 was deleted. Having service from the U-District that would turn right on Mercer at Fairview and continue to the West Seattle Center area would really help. Having to bus-schlep via Fremont to get from the U-District to Seattle Center is such a time-waste.
    And I hope those who plan public transit also ride it.

    1. I think you mean a public transit wasteland. There is plenty of room on Mercer for transportation by single occupancy vehicles/rideshare/taxis.

      I’m bummed it’s a 5 minute walk plus a 2 transfer ride (including late night 3rd Ave downtown) home to West Seattle after evening events at Seattle Center/opera/ballet/Teatro/Cornish etc. The alternative is a 13 minute walk to Westlake and Mercer to the C line. I wanted to try using a Spin bike but could’t get the app to work. At least there were dry Spin bikes available parked at the ballet entrance.

      1. Yes, I mean public transit wasteland. Since I only use bus for transportation, I wasn’t even thinking of any other kind.
        Won’t catching the D-line outside the Uptown take you to a spot where you can easily transfer to the C-line?

      2. Yes, but the C line doesn’t serve all areas of West Seattle and our feeder routes are not all that frequent. So it’s two transfers if you start out on the D line, and then waiting around to switch to the C on 3rd Ave downtown at night is not always very pleasant or even safe.I’d rather walk the 13 minutes to SLU and cut down the late night transfers from two to one. I gave up wearing heels to the opera since it requires so much walking to get to the bus. I am old and not Uber friendly, that’s part of the problem. But since Metro evidently can’t afford to put east west shuttle service on Mercer, I guess I’ll get the bike share thingy figured out next time.

    2. East-West travel in the area will get a lot better once the SR 99 project is done. When that is completed, you will be able to cross Aurora, north of Denny ( One of the streets will undoubtedly be bus only (since right now you can’t even drive it — and the streets are wide). Current plans are for Harrison to be used for that purpose. I personally favor Thomas, as that would enable a bus to run right through Seattle Center. That is obviously a pie-in-the-sky idea, but one I suggested a while back:

      Either way, it is quite likely that you’ll have bus lanes on Fairview (as part of the Roosevelt BRT project) and bus lanes over Harrison. The 8 will use both. This means that for a trip from the U-District to Lower Queen Anne, you would take the Roosevelt RapidRide to Fairview and Harrison, then take the 8, as shown in the “More Likely Route” (a blue line) in this map: That avoids the worst part of the mess on Mercer (and Denny for that matter) while still providing a crossing connection. My key concern is the area close the Seattle Center (5th, as well as Mercer). We need bus lanes there, otherwise it will be a mess at various parts of the day.

  6. More bike lanes? Do we really need them on every street? It seems like 2nd Ave is becoming the downtown N/S bike lane so why then put one on 4th? Bike riders can handle going two blocks to use the bike lane. And banning Right turns on red lights is not always the answer. Enforcement of distracted driving and pedestrians having the right of way laws would save a lot more lives and keep traffic moving.

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