Route 41 entering the express lane ramp

By Andrew Glass Hastings

Seattle has been successful in redefining urban mobility, but our recipe for success doesn’t have to be unique. Like any good cook who starts with the fundamentals of a solid recipe, then adjusts the ingredients to fit different tastes and dietary needs, each city can adapt elements of successful mobility strategies to best meet their own needs.

Over the past few years Seattle’s recipe to redefine urban mobility has include investment in transit service, adoption of TNCs (Lyft and Uber), growing the car share market, and experimenting with bike share – all of this while Seattle experienced the highest increase in transit ridership of any major city in the US. We are growing the mobility ‘pie’ with more choices to get around than ever before.

Here are a few of the ingredients to consider:

Embrace the transit system: Cities should embrace their transit systems as if they were their own, even if they’re not. It doesn’t mean running the buses and trains. Cities are better served to leave that to our partners at the transit agencies. It means actually caring deeply about the success of the transit system. It means recognizing the buses run on city-controlled streets and cities alone have the authority to prioritize transit over other traffic. It means finding the choke points and dedicating lanes to transit and giving buses a little early jump at key intersections. It can mean small but operationally important changes like bringing the transit stop out to the bus so the bus can stop in-lane and avoid the merge back into traffic. We shouldn’t expect people to stop driving and take the bus if it is stuck in the same traffic as cars. If a city is losing transit riders they should try making the buses faster and more reliable. Embrace the system!

Invest in transit service: Seattle is fortunate to have generous voters who recognize the inherent value in a robust transit system. Today about 50 percent of commuters take transit to work, but just under 70 percent of Seattle voters supported our last transit ballot measure. This means both users and non-users see value in the transit system; car drivers can benefit from transit’s success too.

But here’s the nut: Seattle’s ridership increases did not happen by accident. The City is now investing more than $40 million per year in added bus service, which has resulted in a system where close to 70 percent of households are within a 10-minute walk of a bus that comes every 10 minutes or better. This is a major increase compared to just 25 percent of households in 2015.

A city doesn’t need this magnitude of investment to make a difference. Cities can work with their transit partners to redesign the system around fewer corridors with more frequent service, adding value with a near revenue-neutral first step. It is working for Columbus and Houston while Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and many others are just getting started. But cities should find a way to invest. Making an investment demonstrates improving the transit system is a priority. Ridership will follow.

Recognize the role of private employers: Seattle is able to achieve a 75 percent non-SOV commute mode split downtown with the help of large and small employers. Their collective investment of close to $100 million per year in transit incentives for employees makes taking the bus or train free (or nearly free) for thousands of workers every day. When transit is convenient and essentially free, it is an easy choice. These transit users become a strong constituency for more service, which leads to support for the service investment mentioned above. My friends at Commute Seattle coined this “Seattle’s Virtuous Cycle.”  

Experiment to help shape new modes: Last year the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) published the New Mobility Playbook to articulate the department’s principles and approach to embracing new mobility options. The Playbook serves as a clear signal to private mobility providers that Seattle wants to work with them, and it clearly defines the rules of engagement and priorities, such as put people first.

Free-floating car share began here in 2012 under a pilot permit (today nearly one-fifth of the population is an active member of one or more car share service). In 2014 Seattle was one of the first large cities to legalize Lyft and Uber. And last year Seattle pioneered free-floating bike share with an experimental pilot permit. More than 1.5 million bike share trips later SDOT is building on early success to expand the program by doubling the number of bikes. In fact 75 percent of bike share users reported using bike share to access transit.

SDOT is also eyeing autonomous vehicles (AV). Publicly available shared AV trips will likely be here next year, so we need to be ready to shape this new service for the better.

These modes complement transit. Seattle and other cities can continue to welcome new forms of mobility, such as shared electric scooters and other forms of micro-mobility to shape their role in our urban mobility system. More travel options is better!

Don’t skimp on the partnerships: Partnerships are what make urban mobility work, starting with a strong partnership between the city and transit agency. A partnership so strong the partners find themselves up in each other’s business on a regular basis is a good sign. “Coopetition” is a desired outcome if it means the city and agency are trying to push the envelope…together. It also means the city and agency support each other because they are working from a common strategy. SDOT and King County Metro are committed to partnership and work at it every day, but also know there is room for improvement. Cities and agencies should admit they need each other, and that’s a good thing.

Next, find and nurture advocates. Cities won’t always agree with advocates on the ‘how’ or the ‘what’, but they can’t do this without them. Each community inevitably has your own version of  Transportation Choices Coalition and Cascade Bicycle Club. And don’t forget local bloggers such as the Seattle Transit Blog. Every city needs a voice to keep it honest, push for more, help clear the proverbial transit path and celebrate successes.

Seattle is still a work in progress. As we continue to grow at a record rate, we are redefining urban mobility, but still have a long way to go. We depend on the personal car for too many trips and our progress toward creating safe streets is too slow. We will be tweaking our recipe for years to come. Cities should look to Seattle’s ingredients and others to make their own urban mobility recipe of success.

As Parisian expat Julia Child would say, “bon appetit”. And yes, Paris is now enjoying shared electric scooters!

Andrew Glass Hastings is the Director of Transit & Mobility at SDOT. This piece represents his personal opinions.

Photo: Route 41 entering the express lane ramp by SounderBruce in the STB Flickr Pool

44 Replies to “Urban Mobility in Seattle: A recipe for success any city can make their own”

  1. It’s not clear why we should be celebrating the app based taxi companies Uber/Lyft.

    “Contrary to the story Uber, Lyft, and their peers like to tell, ride-hailing services are not reducing traffic in American cities. Nor will they, even if they meet their goals for converting solo passenger trips to shared rides”

    “Travel surveys consistently reveal that only about 20 percent of TNC trips replace personal car trips. Another 20 percent replace traditional taxi services. The bulk of TNC trips — 60 percent — either replace transit, biking, and walking”

    1. Unfortunately because it’s innovate/sexy to embrace them, politically dangerous to oppose them, and the people love the service they provide regardless of their impacts.

    2. Good point, but a goal of urban mobility is to provide many real travel choices so people can avoid the high costs of driving and car ownership. The focus should be challenging the over-reliance on the personal car! Next step is to shape the services to feed transit and provide trips when a car is needed.

      1. Yes, but as the study pointed out, the availability of cheaper taxi-cab service hasn’t helped that either. We aren’t seeing a big drop in car ownership, nor are we seeing a big drop in personal miles driven or a big increase in transit. People are taking cheap cabs where they used to take transit. Of course there are exceptions that help overall mobility, but in general it is actually worse for congestion and transit.

    3. Uber and Lyft give people the ability to make car trips without the lock-in of a personal car purchase. This is important because as much as we do need to invest in transit to the point where these services aren’t needed anymore, people still need to get places today, and don’t have the time to ride two buses totalling nearly an hour to go 5 miles. Later, when transit improves, getting the Uber riders to switch over will be much easier than getting people who drive their own car to a free parking space to switch over.

      Uber also complements transit in more subtle ways than first mile/last mile. They can be used to go all way one direction during a period when transit has stopped running, with transit going the other direction. They can be used as an alternative to long waits when OBA indicates the transit route you need is heavily delayed. They can be used to go home from a store with merchandise that would be cumbersome to carry on a bus, with walking or transit the other direction carrying nothing. Many of these scenarios show up as an Uber trip that replaced a transit trip in surveys.

      Uber also provides a lifetime for city residents visiting the suburbs, where transit is crap, and Zipcar would have cost nearly double.

      At the end of day, what really matters is not the percentage of Uber trips that replace transit, but the percent of transit trips that is replaced by Uber. Both fractions have the same numerator, but the latter has a much larger denominator, so is much smaller. Uber will never be able to replace transit in mass, at least not with human drivers because the cost of providing the service is just too high for mainstream people to be able to take it for every trip every day, while allowing the company to make a profit. It is a special service for special situations, albeit still essential.

      1. Yes, taxi-cabs can (and do) provide something that benefits everyone. But that happens rarely. More often than not, they are worse for the overall system. The obvious answer for something that is used more often by the well to do, but hurts the masses overall is to tax it heavily. As luck would have it, we could do so fairly easily, without harming the “good” trips that people assumed would dominate, but make up a small portion of the rides. Seattle is considering congestion pricing, and I assume suffers the same sort of congestion problems with Uber/Lift as every other major city in the study. Just tax Uber/Lift for each trip that involves downtown. You could even base it on the hour. At 3:00 AM, there is no charge, but at noon it costs an extra buck, while at 5:00 PM it costs more. Since these Internet tax-cabs know where the cars are at all times, it would be simple.

        This basic idea is one that Jarrett Walker suggested recently in a blog post:

      2. Downtown congestion pricing makes sense, especially if it affects all cars equally, rather than singling out those paying someone to drive them vs. those driving their own car, or getting driven by a family member for free.

        But it’s important not to make Uber and Lyft outside of downtown prohibitively expensive in the name of fighting congestion within downtown. For example, a poor implementation of congestion pricing would be a 100% tax on each TNC trip starting in the Seattle city limits, as this would result in $70 fares to go from Northgate to Bellevue at 3 in the morning.

      3. The should off people a one year Orca Pass for people who turn in cars with licensed plates with active MVET tabs who live in the Urban Growth Boundary. Removing cars and gaining riders all at the same time. They could sell the cars to scarp yards or sell them if they are in good working order and take the profits to pay of the cards or go towards ST3 capital Projects

    4. FWIW, Vancouver seems to have a leg up on Seattle despite banning Uber and Lyft entirely. Shows that you can have successful transit use, walkability, and bike friendliness without having TNCs as a “last resort.” Zipcar, Car2Go, and cabs can provide plenty of car for those cases you really need it.

      1. Vancouver has a much more comprehensive public transit system than Seattle, rendering Uber and Lyft less necessary. Even there, though, Uber and Lyft are still missed when people need to visit the suburbs, or travel very late at night, after the Skytrain has stopped running.

  2. Sadly, this recipe lacks “quick-rise yeast”. We need an ingredient somewhere here which can get things done quickly, effectively, and with a sense of urgency that our current situation demands. When I read “nurture advocates” and “more partnerships”, I hear more process, more delay, more appeasing of NIMBY community groups or organizations, higher costs, and a final product lacking in quality.

    Based on Seattle’s various votes on Metro Prop 1, Move Seattle, and ST3; the political will and desire clearly exist to deliver projects in a timely manner, but that desire is not reflected at a municipal level.

    1. My apologies for adding to this, but just noticed STB’s article on 3rd Avenue. We’ve known for years what needs to be done, converting 3rd into a full dedicated transitway, but once again thanks to the partnerships the final product is being watered down to appease a few business owners over the the expense of Metro’s operational budget (aka our tax dollars) and tens of thousands of Metro riders. Or Center City Connector, a project that somehow has ballooned from $112M to $200M+. Or watering down the One Center City concept to get through the period of maximum constraint. Or delaying the Basic Bike Network downtown. Or making a should-be-simple improvement project of Pike-Pine into a “renaissance” (can we please just have ONE continuous uphill bike lane from Downtown to Capitol Hill?.

    2. “Partnership” means a private funding contribution. None of these have been partnerships in that sense as far as I know. Only the initial segment of the SLU streetcar, where property owners sponsored stations and agreed tp a tax LID.

      1. Considering the wording in Andrew’s paragraph related to partnerships, I disagree that it’s referring to funding as money gets no mention and referrers to a partnership more in line with “an association of two or more people as partners”. If it were about money, that’d be far more clear or covered in the paragraph associated with funding.

    3. You are right, Mike. We need more immediate tools to provide better travel options. But partnership is not a euphemism for delay. Since 2015 in partnership with Metro we have almost tripled the percentage of Seattle households near a bus route with 10-min or better all day service. And we saw 1.5m bike share trips in the past year. We need to do everything we can to expedite delivery of high capacity transit, but in the meantime we must keep moving.

  3. Thanks SDOT. Especially glad to see you’ve decided to rethink those traffic-blocking bus stop treatments, and use the saved money to spare motorists a blockage. By politely diverting them to streets that are permanently reserved for cars. Should also be enough budget left to simply adjust traffic signals in favor of transit in its own streets, where it belongs.

    But just to calm the fears that this red asphalt is for terrorizing innocent bulls for public exercise like they do in Spain, and that kids from Forks will be attracted by TransitBranded ™ color and become a pile of ashes for those power brooms. Like Dracula when the original stake-holders finally got him. And also satisfy the ADA about color-blind motorists.

    Jennie,we’re not looking forward to five years of consultant’s reports and public open houses either . So you don’t have to murder any bulls by bull-fights and heart attacks from harassment by Spanish fans and also Rick Steves platitudes about culture…

    Pink is Nature’s Way of saying “Do Not Enter!”

    Mark Dublin

  4. “Cities should embrace their transit systems as if they were their own, even if they’re not… recognizing the buses run on city-controlled streets and cities alone have the authority to prioritize transit over other traffic.”

    The city doesn’t seem to realize how much power it has over the transit network, and how it could revolutionize transit’s effectiveness even though it doesn’t control bus routes or schedules or fares. SDOT realizes it because they do the work so they know what work they theoretically could do and what’s in the transportation magazines. But the mayor and council seem less aware. Paris and London absolutely prioritize pedestrians, transit riders, and bikes as the primary means of transportation, and cars get what’s left over. (Although there’s a baseline of car capacity for essential trips: emergency vehicles, deliveries, people transporting big heavy things, taxis, and VIPs’ limousines.) Seattle could do half of that, within its existing authority and budget, but it’s afraid to anger drivers or increase traffic congestion except at the margins. There are new bus bulbs and queue jumps, and red lanes for a block or two here and there, but nothing systematic. Even though voters approved Move Seattle on top of Prop 1 in order to give the city the opportunity to build RapidRide lines better than the previous generation of RapidRide lines were. The center lanes on part of Madison are impressive, but 23rd has been watered down, as have Roosevelt and Rainier, and we know nothing about 45th yet (except for a vague hint about possible center lanes between I-5 and 15th and “things like that”).

    1. Right here too, Mike. There is sooo much more we need to do. The point of my piece was not to saw we have accomplished our goals and are done – but was meant to be much more aspirational. “We are on the right track so let’s keep pushing!” Seattle has over 40 miles of bus lanes and on some key corridors like Westlake Ave, Aurora, 15th/Elliot and 4th Ave S. We need more!

    2. Right, so the kind of partnerships we need are to solve common goals. And that means the goals the city has defined: sufficient housing, non-car mobility, etc. A partnership is more than just consensus or acquiescence; it means all parties contributing something. Even dropping opposition is contributing something, but it must be toward the city’s goal (which benefits all residents and the city’s economy) rather than just your narrow interest (which may be detrimental to other residents, competitors, and the city’s economic potential). By “economic potential” I mean everything residents need to do or want to do, including going to needed medical appointments etc, which indirectly affect money transactions and employment, not just maximizing the number of high-paying jobs. That’s the kind of partnerships we should be promoting. It doesn’t need add delay. The city is already working with stakeholders for the easy parts and low-hanging fruit: the reason for additional partnerships is to generate more opportunities that can fulfill the city’s goals more quickly and completely.

    3. The thing is, Mike, a lot of the loudmouth autoistas don’t even live in the City, so the Council should smile and say “Next irrelevant bloviation!”

  5. Transit isn’t successful overnight. Seattle has a good history of transit use. That was augmented by various transit efforts before 2000. — with some failing so that made leaders be more strategic about others. The DSTT initiated as a bus tunnel first and the Rainier Valley path to Seatac are good examples of that. We benefit now from reasonably good decisions made in the last century.

    I do wonder that the current “all transit is good” mentality will limit us when the decisions made these past few years are operating 20 years from now. Leaders seem to enjoy drawing lines on maps and obsessing about visual and noise impacts to neighbors rather than plan rail lines to the places that would generate the best ridership to the denser areas like First Hill or Lake City. We should advocate for our transit investments to be as useful and strategic as possible.

    1. Yes, I agree completely. Too often — especially in these times — focus on left versus right, or transit/bikes versus cars. But more often than not, in a left wing city like Seattle, it comes down to making the right decisions. We all have the same goal (or at least most of us do) but how do we provide the best system for the money. That is the key.

  6. “It means finding the choke points and dedicating lanes to transit and giving buses a little early jump at key intersections.”

    Amen. So how about Market, 45th, Montlake Blvd, or I-5 between Northgate and Union Street? When will Denny finally get its lane between Fairview and Yale?

    Or any semblance of enforcement on 3rd, Battery, Spring, Howell, Stewart and Westlake?

    Or what about chokepoints such as Mercer, where the city has explicitly deprioritized walking, biking and 12 north-south transit routes in favor of ‘adaptive’ east-west SOV flow?

  7. You know what really would have improved urban mobility? Asking ST to build Option D from the Ballard Transit Study, linking downtown to UQA, Fremont, and Ballard via an actual underground subway. Or here’s a crazy idea; asking ST to include First Hill in ST3. What is the point of having urban villages if we are going to bother connecting them to each other, downtown, the airport, employment centers, etc?

    1. huskyt, I think a subway under First Hill ought to be priority for the first ST- we can get it into. Could connect three major hospitals with the rest of the state. And really put Swedish, Harborview, and Virginia Mason in the same subarea with every LINK station.

      But not despondent about delay in getting it. Tunnel Boring Machines only get faster as time passes, And population of places like First Hill gets higher and denser. Wish STB had easier access to section drawings showing the rock, dirt, and water front of the cutter.

      Also advance-wish that Madison, Boren, Broadway, and James have the lanes that carry everything surface-electric shielded from non-transit traffic. Thinking about painted lanes, I think plain paint could be ugly and hard to maintain.

      So I’d suggest reflectors of different colors for different messages- like yellow for caution, green for clear-track, and red for pay attention. Get creative enough and maybe we’ll earn our one percent. Also let DSTT drivers know the blue and white ones are even there. If they still are.

      You need your bright lights, but effect is awesome- though come to think of it, passengers probably can’t see it now. Unless driver leaves the shade up on the door to the cab.

      Before the merger, Metro had a little public library on the fifth floor of the Exchange Building. With an actual librarian. Some material got transferred to the “Seattle Room” on 10th floor of the Downtown Public Library. But I think Sound Transit should once again have it own, enlarged and updated.

      Would decrease the time re: postings, and much improve comment quality.

      My guess is that the hospital area itself should be an easy dig, since there’s lot of the Earth separating the cutter from the utilities. But really need some serious technical accuracy for a judgement. Like the idea of pointing the northbound TBM for that line pointed toward Ballard.

      Best is still ahead. So let’s started getting those lanes and signals starting tomorrow, just to help encourage getting the library too.


    2. 1. Big Tech benefits from the current alignment (good luck making the case against it)
      2. With option D, there probably is not enough money for West Seattle light rail (which we had to accept as part of the ST3).

  8. With all due respect, this seems pretty silly coming from a spokesman for SDOT. Imagine if you took over the Seattle police department right after the federal report on police misconduct, and right after marches downtown by Black Lives Matter. You then wrote an op-ed saying that what we need is for people to “embrace the police system”, even if they don’t personally need it. Recognize the importance of the police department, while understanding that we need to do something about the bad apples. Oh, and recognize the role that large companies (and security guards) play, too. They are all part of the public safety “recipe”.

    The whole thing is silly. No offense, Mr. Hastings, but we get all that. We understand the importance of our transit system. We have voted, repeatedly, to raise taxes to pay for increases in this city. These aren’t income taxes that were raised either (something that would be a lot more popular) but taxes that hit working people hard. Nor are these actions taken by representatives — but rather, by public vote. Heck, the folks in Vancouver rejected a tax increase to pay for transit, despite having a far more successful system there. Meanwhile, we continue to elect pro-transit representatives at every level. The mayor — who was not endorsed by this blog — put transit on the top of her list (just above bikes) — when it came to time to rank the various modes of transport. She caught flak (on this blog) for not putting pedestrians higher, but the point is, no one put cars on top. No one! There are plenty of cities that would. There would be plenty of cities where the vast majority of people just want to able to drive as fast as they can to their destination. We aren’t that kind of a city.

    We really don’t need a pep talk, or to be told how important big companies are to transit, or that free scooters are the answer (or more special sauce for this magic “recipe”). We need action, by the city, on various projects. Yes, there are compromises to be made. Just because you put cars (which includes commercial vehicles) at the bottom of your list doesn’t mean you want to create unnecessary congestion for those cars. But that is no excuse for decisions that baffle people, with no explanation. How do you manage to redo 65th, shrink the sidewalk (right before Link adds a station), all so that you can provide pullouts for buses that will make riding the bus slower, yet not appreciably speed up car traffic? Yes, in the grand scheme of things it is small potatoes, but if you can’t do a simple street like 65th right, how are you going to handle 45th (or Jackson, or Rainier)? How are you going to handle the streetcar situation?

    Speaking of which, I think it is funny that the guy writing a long note about “embracing partnerships”, especially between SDOT and King County Metro, is also, apparently, the same guy who dropped the ball when it comes to communicating over the streetcar operations cost. To quote the Seattle Times article:

    Metro repeatedly offered input on the plan, but was basically ignored, according to the memo. Metro employees didn’t even get to see the operating plan until after it was submitted to the FTA.

    “Metro’s rail section made repeated offers to SDOT senior leadership,” the memo said, “but was told that SDOT didn’t need Metro’s help at that time.”

    Once Metro realized that SDOT had submitted the lower cost estimates to the FTA, Metro staff again reached out, telling SDOT the numbers were too low and offering expertise.

    Again, they were rebuffed.

    Andrew Glass Hastings, SDOT’s director of transit and mobility, responded “you aren’t changing anything in this operating plan,” according to the memo.

    Instead, SDOT submitted the same costs to the Seattle City Council in the fall.

    We get the message, Mr Hastings. We are all eager members of your choir. But maybe you should spend a little more time heeding your own message instead of preaching to it.

    1. Exactly. And when the city does stuff like that (65th being an example I’m all too familiar with, but also the streetcar/Metro communication mess as well), it doesn’t nurture advocates. It makes them suspicious of city government, and burns them out.

    2. The article sounds fine to an average citizen, but an informed advocate would find it so laughable and silly that it’s almost offensive.

      1. The dock-less bikeshare idea isn’t really a proven success — and many people feel that the program is legal littering of public green strips and sidewalks. I don’t see the public embracing the idea in the long-run for this reason. My moderately liberal friends openly call it a horrible blight on a pretty city.

      2. There have been no demonstrations of autonomous vehicle programs actually proposed by SDOT. There are two pilot programs in the Bay Area for shared autonomous vehicles to serve as last-mile transit right now. Many other cities such as Atlanta and Dallas have invited and embraced demonstrations of the concept of shared autonomous vehicles. Even Pittsburgh and Phoenix have had Google car experiments running. Sorry, but Seattle/SDOT is already at least two years late to that party!.

      3. SDOT cotinues to deny its responsibility to revisit dropoff and pickup at Link stations, but this article brags about supporting Uber and Lyft. There have been none to few curbaside adjustments (changed signs and changed rules) along Seattle street curbs to make it easier at the existing stations that opened in 2010. Even the plans for new stations like Judkins Park don’t provide a place for any of these vehicles to turn around.

      4. I have yet to see how SDOT is planning for the AWV closure, which WILL happen in a FEW MONTHS. What will it do to traffic? What will it do to transit routes, including those affected by more traffic since Downtown ramps are closing? This is a very real change in our system and SDOT should be on top of it! Is this already the next SDOT negligence item?

      In fact, this whole piece reads like a job interview essay submitted by the author to show an agency somewhere else. It contains like a list of broad, conceptual accomplishments and not like a list of public discussion items for a blog.

      1. “This whole piece reads like a job interview essay submitted by the author to show an agency somewhere else.”

        I thought the same thing. At a conceptual or aspirational level this is fine for transit projects, but in terms of actual implementation SDOT is still making far too many concessions to personal cars while overlooking the impacts on people walking and bicycling.

        After the new adaptive signals were installed on Mercer to shave a few seconds off the travel times for drivers headed to the freeway, SDOT staff admitted that they literally had not considered, at all, how the shortened (and sometimes skipped entirely) pedestrian crossing times would affect people walking.

        When the new protected bike lane was installed on 2nd (which is a great way to travel by bike) the pedestrian signals at the cross streets were changed to switch to a “don’t walk” in order to give time for cars to have a protected left across the bike lane. This is fine in concept… except the crossing cycle is cut short even when there are no cars waiting to make that turn.

        From what I’ve heard the same thing is happening with the new signals on 4th, where non-existent turning cars get a protected turn while pedestrians wait. When people walking finally get a walk sign, cars are still given a green light to turn through the crosswalks.

        I could go on: At 5th and Pine, the bike signal turns red just as people on bikes arrive so that people in cars can turn left. At 23rd & Madison a “bus queue jump” light mostly gives people driving an advance green right arrow so that they can drive into a crosswalk just before people walking get a walk sign. At Pike and 9th a new bike lane was installed that literally dead-ends headed the wrong way into a busy intersection. I’m sure there are more in every neighborhood.

        It seems telling that a piece about “successful” urban mobility in Seattle omits any mention of people walking and bicycling, with a small exception for permitting a bike share program.

      2. I wonder whether SDOT is using modern traffic modeling software which actually incorporates pedestrians and bicycles into the simulation (e.g. SUMO If not, maybe some of our local academics do?

        David Seater remarked: “After the new adaptive signals were installed on Mercer to shave a few seconds off the travel times for drivers headed to the freeway, SDOT staff admitted that they literally had not considered, at all, how the shortened (and sometimes skipped entirely) pedestrian crossing times would affect people walking.” Could we not hope that multimodal analysis would be a routine part of every city signalization plan?

    3. “The dock-less bikeshare idea isn’t really a proven success”

      How do you define success? If it means improving residents’ mobility and giving them non-driving, non-rideshare alternatives, it’s a wild success. Especially compared to the limited, dock-full Pronto which failed. Whether it makes enough money to keep the companies interested remains to be seen, but that’s not our concern. “Bike littering” is a small problem, especially compared to the benefit of having a moderate probability of finding a bike available anywhere you need it. I haven’t seen many bicycles in the way of pedestrians, especially after the first few months when people became conscious of the problem. If you don’t like the look of a bike next to a tree or a Rainier Vista bench, that seems like a petty complaint. The bikes are bright artistic colors, not huge slabs of concrete like our automobile infrastructure.

  9. I’m a little embarrassed about trying for a cheerful comment on so a posting this negative, condescending, and brief about the very measure that could solve a huge percentage of transit’s problems. Capital-wise, just about free.

    Buses only on Third Avenue between Jackson and Virginia. With all signals preempted by transit. And same for all the other heavy-duty arterial routes. ‘Til Seattle agrees to that, nothing here is worth a key-stroke.

    And save your voters the trouble of getting your superiors just make you do it. Though no longer sad about the day the problem solves itself. When all our transit routes are so packed with cars like cans in a scrap yard that people will only be able to get out of their seats when the helicopter release them from the magnetic hook on the long-line.

    And goes rotating away to get another one. Just do it, SDOT, just do it. I doubt the cost will cost Jennie the wages any consulting firm will need to bring the report in late enough.


    1. “And same for all the other heavy-duty arterial routes.”


      It’s simply pathetic that SDOT spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fix the ‘Mercer Mess’ and yet somehow there’s no tranist on Mercer beyond a couple of stops in Lower Queen Anne.

      A major east-west corridor through one of the most heavily trafficed areas of the city, immediately adjacent to the major attractions of the Seattle Center and running through newly vitalized South Lake Union, has NO transit. That speaks volumes for how little SDOT cares about tranist.

      1. Transit on Mercer is tough. It’s easy to say there needs to be buses there, but it’s not clear what route such buses would take in order to not be duplicative with what’s already there. For instance, I would love a route that took Mercer->Fairview->Eastlake->U-district, but that would be too duplicative with the 70. Such a route would also be subject to bad traffic on Mercer, and during peak hours, would be so slow as to be utterly useless (as in, a golf cart shuttle on the Mercer sidewalk would be faster).

  10. The premise of this essay only works if you count going from a D+ to a C- as “success”.

    1. Yes. I couldn’t get past Seattle’s “recipe for success.” Who do they think they’re kidding?

  11. An effective urban transit system is critical for any mayor city. You have to emphasize in mobility, people need a reliable way to get from point A to point B and cheap too. A city with a good public transport system is a great city. So it still need to be worked, but I hope Seattle is move in the right direction.

  12. How about equity?

    I’d love to see some kind of mention of how any of this benefits people such as: people of color, low-income people, people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, people at risk of displacement or who have already been displaced, people who are actually dependent on transit rather than just the white people who choose transit for the 9-5. The City could do a lot more to actually center the experiences of people who have historically been, and currently are, most marginalized by our systems as they were and are.

  13. Overall, a fine essay.

    Two thoughts:

    First, the author’s ‘embrace the system’ opener was spot on and highlights the biggest problem with transit in our city: simply put, the City of Seattle (and SDOT and SPD in particular) don’t really give a flying fuck about transit. If they did, buses would have signal prioritization throughout the city, curbside parking would be prohibited along every bus route, and cops would enforce ‘don’t block the box’ at intersections. These three low-cost solutions would improve transit service overnight if implemented.

    Second, the author over-sells things a bit in claiming that “70 percent of households are within a 10-minute walk of a bus that comes every 10 minutes or better.” No, No, No. There are some areas where a bus is SCHEDULED to come every 10 minutes or better – but virtually nowhere except downtown Third Avenue does that actually happens. And guess what? When you promise one thing (a bus every ten minutes…) and deliver something else (late buses, buses that are too full to actually stop and pick up passengers, ‘phantom’ buses that OneBusAway says are a minute out but mysteriously never show up…), customers get fed up and drive instead.

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