One of the better local initiatives to come out of the pandemic are Stay Healthy Streets, roads minimally reconfigured (usually by putting a sign in the roadway) to prioritize non-auto uses. Theoretically, these roads are for local access only.
There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular. Indeed, a recent NPI poll of Seattlites reveals supporters exceed opponents by 39 points. But it seems to me the neighbors didn’t need to be convinced of anything.
After all, why are suburban cul-de-sacs popular? There are institutional reasons, but fundamentally, everyone likes to live on a road that only residents use, but no one can speed through on the way to somewhere else. If you’re auto-centric, it’s the perfect combination of convenience, quiet, and safety. Pity about the pedestrian impacts of cul-de-sacs. Stay Healthy Streets provide the same local benefits, while not messing up walkability and causing only a very diffuse penalty in driving time that our hyperlocalized system won’t capture.
Good for Seattle for implementing these calming measures. They’re simply not as challenging as higher-payoff interventions, like removing parking to create bus lanes, but governing is mostly about doing popular stuff that is also good.
93 Replies to “Stay Healthy Streets aren’t bold, they’re a layup”
Just a note that the post has no direct transit references.
“Seattle Transit Blog is 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that covers transit news for the the greater Seattle area. The blog also focuses on density and the urban form, and other forms of alternative transportation like bicycling and walking. Below is an introduction to everyone who’s ever had a byline at Seattle Transit Blog, since its inception in April 2007.”
Active transportation is certainly within the purview of this blog.
Transit and pedestrian friendly streets go together. How often do you hear someone say “I wouldn’t mind taking the bus/train, but it is along a busy street and …”. You also have people who feel comfortable making short trips on foot and longer ones by bus. Likewise, biking and transit go together. When people feel comfortable biking around the neighborhood, they are more likely to avoid driving altogether (which means taking transit for longer trips).
My comment was not about the relationship as much as it was because the original post did not present a relationship to transit. It’s a comment about the original post’s content specifically.
Even though other topics can be discussed here, it’s good practice for any transit blog to clearly explain the relationship to transit. Otherwise, it no longer is a focused “transit blog”. My post is merely to politely nudge the authors to write posts that include that connection in the text.
“Seattle Transit Blog is an independent, award-winning publication covering transit and land use issues in Seattle and the Puget Sound area since 2007.”
Although it’s not the “Seattle Transit and Land Use Blog” (although STLUB is fun to try to say), doesn’t mean every post has to have a direct, defined relationship to “Transit,” or even direct relation to “Land Use”. If anything, the subject of neighborhood Street Use lies directly at the junction of transit and land use issues.
So it’s wholly appropriate to complain about bicycle lane maintenance or skyscraper appearance on this blog? It may be allowed under the stated purposes, but STB could get off-topic really fast when it comes to transit.
It’s a fair point, that the relationship between transit ped/bike paths and housing may not be obvious to all readers, especially new readers. Perhaps the staff can review whether the site’s general information makes these relationships clear enough, and authors can repeat the parts that are relevant to their article.
The main concept is that everybody walks, if not for their entire trip than at least to the bus stop or their car. Many transit riders like to walk their dog or get exercise. So when you enhance pedestrian infrastucture it ends up benefitting everybody. And pedestrian amenities cost very little.
Some people prefer a prioritization scheme of Trains-Buses-Bikes-Walking because they see the biggest problem as too-long travel time for longer-distance trips. Others prefer Walking-Bikes-Buses-Trains because walking is the only mode built into humans and most trips are shorter distance. Either way they’d put all of these above cars. Freight is an issue distinct from cars that shouldn’t be forgotten. Some might put freight between the others and cars, others might give it a parallel higher priority with freight-only lanes or transit+freight lanes.
Cars have so many problems I can’t get to all of them here. They’re larger per person than a bike, bus, or horse, so fitting them all in a 2-D area takes a a lot of space and pushes everything apart. A surface parking lot is often as large or larger than the building next to it. A house garage is often as large as the entire rest of the house, and the driveway adds to its footprint. Roads and land take up half the buildable space in cities. Cars need 2.5 parking spaces per capita: one at home, one at work, and a shared one at shopping centers. Each space is larger than the car, larger than the person, and needs empty space around it so the car can get in and out. A parking space is the size of a small bedroom or living room, so there’s a solution to the housing shortage. All the space cars take push everything exponentially apart, making things harder for transit riders and pedestrians and bicyclists. Then there are cars’ outsized environmental impacts, lethality, and the subsidizes for cars and their infrastructure that dwarf every other mode. And society is designed to hide these costs from drivers. Oil is subsidized, gas tax doesn’t pay the full cost of highways, water pollution and asthma is ignored, dictators in Russia and Saudi Arabia are tiptoed around. So those are all good reasons to prioritize any or all of transit, bikes, walking, and walkable city design above cars, like Paris and other European and East Asian cities do.
Housing comes in because people have to live somewhere. There are only a limited number of light rail stations and RapidRide/frequent bus stops, so we should make sure that the most people can live near them who want to, and that a wide variety of businesses are scattered among the housing so people can get to them easily without a car rather than driving to some distant place. There’s also the issue that the median income increasingly can’t afford the median apartment or house, and that’s causing a lot of people to be housing-poor and to be stuck in locations they don’t want to be and have lousy transit and are unwakable. This is because there isn’t enough housing in convenient locations or at all, so that drives the price up in convenient locations and everywhere. Transit fans want everybody to have the opportunity to live in a transit-rich and walkabe area, and that means more housing near stations, more medium-density clusters in more areas (thinking of places like Ballard and Capitol Hill throughout the city and suburbs), making zoning and regulations easier for missing-middle housing (that between single-family houses and large apartment buildings), and much more subsidized housing because we’ve let it get so far out of whack.
Al, I won’t litigate every possible topic, but for fun:
Bike lane maintenance: yes, actually, I would have liked an update on “ok broomer” this fall because a lot of downtown bike lanes were chock full of leaves for what seemed like an unusually long time.
Skyscraper appearance: cosmetics, probably not worth a post. Unusual amount of street-level bike parking, or a new tallest mass-timber building? Probably good fodder for a short post or an open thread. A novel non-Amazon package locker system, or coverage of URB-E’s e-bike micro-container-trailer system work in NYC and relationships to e-bike contracts (e.g. Dominos x RAD) in Seattle? Worth discussion, especially if transit expansion is slow.
Not every post has to be about zoning, buses, or trains. Especially if Martin H. Duke is posting, he can post what he wants.
So let me get this straight. A while back everyone was complaining because there weren’t enough articles. Now there are complaints because of this article. Not because it isn’t relevant, but because it didn’t explain why it is relevant, or because it might lead to articles that aren’t relevant.
Look, if you don’t understand why it is relevant, then ask. You did, and it was answered. Are you still confused about the topic? Do you still believe that Stay Healthy Streets have absolutely nothing to do with transit? I wrote a quick summary, but can go into more detail if you want. Simply put, there is a strong relationship between pedestrian/bike infrastructure and transit use. The easier and more pleasant it is to walk to the bus stop (or walk for non-transit trips) the more people will use transit.
Here’s an interesting conundrum about Stay Healthy Streets and pedestrians walking to transit: Most Stay Healthy Streets have sidewalks! Most of those sidewalks are barely occupied! The stated purpose of those streets does not include better access to transit and doesn’t really make transit more accessible in most blocks!
A side effect of the program is that I’ve seen many people living in campers and RV’s along them. Is this the new camper/RV housing location strategy?
The program appears to be cosmetic and not impactful. If the streets are intended to be recreational options, where is the basketball court or playground equipment or even colored chalk? How many pedestrians were run over on a street now designated as in the program?
The outdoor dining tents and designations are great! They get used! That’s in stark contrast to Stay Healthy Streets, which seems like a half-baked idea.
It’s their blog. They can write about what they want.
Being able to safely walk someplace is pretty basic to all forms of transportation, unless you are lucky enough to have a reserved parking place at every destination you go.
Nobody complained when STB covered “rideshare” taxi companies or bike sharing, because that’s an alternative that helps people get around without cars.
Walking is also one of the basics that transportation planners in Seattle frequently get wrong?
• Want to get from the Magnolia Bridge to the bike path under it? At the east end of the bridge it’s a 20 minute tangle involving a spiral sidewalk, several staircases and crossing the BNSF mainline twice on bridges.
• Before the viaduct came down, the Bell Street Pier pedestrian bridge emptied onto a preposterously dangerous crosswalk of a freeway exit ramp coming off the viaduct.
• If there’s a long, slow train crossing Broad Street, the only way to the nearest bus stop from the north waterfront is to use the pedestrian bridge at the Olympic Sculpture Park, except it closes at sunset and for private museum events, so sometimes it’s not available.
There are many other examples where pedestrian access has apparently been a second thought, and in many cases it impedes transit access.
Transit doesn’t work at all unless it connects walkable areas – except perhaps for the somewhat unusual scenario when you are connecting a parking lot to a rental car service, such as at an airport. Of course, Americans tend to believe it is some sort of magic pixie dust you sprinkle around to reduce congestion, but it doesn’t really work like that. Transit is pointless without walkability.
So next time there is a comment about a transit project that is clearly outside Seattle, I expect people to complain, since the name of the website is Seattle transit blog.
The first Stay Healthy streets were mostly on designated greenways that were already intended to have future bike/ped upgrades and possible car downgrades. And many Stay Healthy streets are really mitigating the lack of sidewalks in some neighborhoods, like the one in Lake City. The city has despaired over the prohibitive cost of retrofitting missing sidewalks citywide, but save streets are a much cheaper alternative that at least provides a walking path in the neighborhood.
Uh, I tried to use one the other day (25th/jackson area). Drivers in that area just treated them like a normal street. Seems a bit unsafe if you don’t actually do anything to protect pedestrians/bikers/etc
If anything, on the Portland version of these, drivers seem to treat them as personal freeways and go out of their way to treat most of these like freeways.
The only exceptions seem to be locations where through access has been blocked by barricades or street restaurants.
So some I found to be pretty good (going up Beacon Hill) and others very bad (25th, Columbia).
I haven’t seen that here. Many of them are narrow streets so people drive slower anyway. And I hope people aren’t so callous as to plow over their own nearby neighbor kids riding tricycles.
Yeah it has a reasonably good temporary objective, but it’s a poor substitute for permanent pedestrian safety or slower driving speeds.
1. Unlike speed humps, circles or woonerfs, it doesn’t physically force drivers to continue to drive slower. It’s just signs. The only slowing effect is when drivers swerve around signs. There don’t seem to be any other pavement markings either.
2. The program is applied similarly on streets with and without sidewalks. If pedestrian safety is an objective, these streets should be signed and striped differently. For example, a street marking to indicate that pedestrians are forced onto the roadway would seem much better for pedestrian safety.
3. The words “road closed” is confusing and arguably inaccurate. It’s closed to through traffic only. Other cities use “no through traffic” or “local traffic only” for similar programs and use “road closed” when a road is actually impassible. This ambiguity in signage (along with no other physical indicators) sends a message to drivers that they can still drive on the street without consequences.
4. Enforcement is essentially non-existent. The signage ambiguity also makes it pretty easy for a driver to invent an excuse (“I am looking for a house for sale around here”) if they get pulled over — which I’ve never seen happen. The police aren’t going to enforce this effectively.
5. Signs keep disappearing.
If slower speeds and pedestrian safety are the objectives, the program should be implemented differently. I’m not attacking the objective, but instead I’m saying that it’s executed pretty ineffectively by SDoT. It kind of reminds me of an overused version of the “slow children at play” signage used in many cities for a long time.
It is “just signs” in the same way that stop signs, yield signs, and speed limit signs are just signs. There are other things we can do to make things safer, but most of our traffic system relies on signs, and enforcement of them. Most people obey the law, although it is irritating when people don’t.
I think what Daniel Thompson is getting at is that, unlike other traffic violations such as speeding, running red lights, or driving in a bus lane, Stay Healthy Streets isn’t something that police could actually enforce without generating backlash that would undermine support for the entire program. The hope is that enough drivers will simply obey the signs that, even without any enforcement, it’s still an improvement, which I think is actually quite reasonable.
A lot of the cut through traffic today happens not out of necessity, but because navigation algorithms. So many drivers these days are clueless how to navigate themselves and just blindly follow whatever turn by turn directions their phone tells them to make. Often, navigation software will tell drivers to cut through residential streets for the most trivial of reasons, such as bypassing one stoplight, or saving 20 feet of distance. If nothing else, the “street closed’ designation will be visible to Google’s routing algorithms, and eliminate a large chunk of the cut through traffic (that from drivers who are slaves to their phones) right there.
On a more permanent basis, I would even argue for virtual “street closed” designations, backed by no signs at all, respected only by routing algorithms. It would allow stay healthy streets to be greatly expanded at almost no monetary cost.
Of course, the best solution to block thru traffic on neighborhood streets is diverters. Capitol Hill has several of them, and they add a lot of greenery to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, they also require expensive curb work, which doesn’t scale, and they probably make Amazon/UPS/etc. delivery routes less efficient. All in all, I would still like to see diverters in more neighborhoods, but virtual street closures are so cheap, it may as well be done everywhere.
I thought the objective was to reduce the number of cars rather than slowing them down.
Seattle already has “Local Traffic Only” signs for a different purpose, to indicate that a street doesn’t lead to an arterial. So using if for safe streets would be confusing and lose the safe street benefit. I think of “Local Traffic Only” as “only within the neighborhood” and “Street Closed” as “only within this block”.
The reason for “Road Closed” is it coincides with disabling the street in the city’s street datbabase so navigation apps won’t suggest it.
In any case, it was a rushed-together job for the pandemic, and the type and wording of the entrance barriers can be improved longer term. Maybe, given the widespread popularity of this new street category nationwide and internationally, and tech developers and early adopters on average being more sympathetic to active transportation than Americans as a whole, they’ll come up with a new flag to distinguish safe streets from closed streets.
Mike, I think the intent of the poll was to close streets to reduce the number of cars, at least on some streets if not overall, but I think the intent of the safe streets program is to simply slow cars down for better safety, at very little cost or enforcement.
Street parking is not reduced in this program (and some planners believe street parking creates a buffer between cars and pedestrians), local access to houses is not reduced, and through traffic is not reduced, unless the traffic management slows traffic enough to move it to other streets. Like you noted, there isn’t the money for new sidewalks where there are none.
Car traffic is like water: very hard to reduce the total amount of water running through the streets because people drive for many different reasons (and by definition these local access roads are not served by transit), so what you are doing is moving the traffic to another street, which I could see making sense if a street or neighborhood had kids or was a popular bike through route and the car traffic should be moved to an arterial where transit runs.
I think there is a big difference between encouraging slower car speeds (I think 25 mph is the standard in Seattle, and many of these narrow roads are less due to their narrowness) and closing streets.
Like I noted before, if you ask people who live along the street if their street should be restricted to their access only (usually by somehow ending the street which is what I think Martin was getting at with his cul-de-sac analogy) they will usually say yes, ( although I am not sure what you do about deliveries from Amazon, mail, garbage pickup or Uber if your street is closed) but the houses just past the street closure will say no, and so will the folks who live along the adjacent streets who now have more traffic on their streets.
If the goal is to reduce total car traffic (including I suppose Uber/Lyft) then some other mode like bikes, walking, buses, light rail, or “rolling”, will have to be more convenient, just as safe and warm and dry, and with the same ability to carry things or people (kids), which means frequency and coverage, both very expensive, and by definition these local streets don’t have transit, so require a walk to transit.
The point is that car traffic, when possible, should be funneled to arterial streets, leaving neighborhood streets for walking, biking, or local access. The total aggregate number of car trips has nothing to do with it.
In other words, we don’t want drivers cutting through neighborhoods to avoid a stoplight or save 10 feet of distance.
Traditionally, the method of preventing cut through traffic was cul de sacs, but cul de sacs also funnel bike and pedestrian traffic onto the arterial roads, which makes life outside of a car very noisy and polluting. The right approach is to funnel cars onto the arterial streets, while still allowing people without cars to get where they’re going on the quiet streets.
On a street with good sidewalks, the reason for this isn’t really so much about safety (although it does help at intersections), but about making walking a calmer, or pleasant experience without the constant noise and fumes of cars passing by.
RossB, I think a little education about signs are in order. Some are regulatory like stop signs or parking signs. Others are not regulatory like a curve ahead or fire station ahead sign.
A problem with the current SDOT “stay healthy” signs are first that a driver can’t read them because the font is too small. The only sign a driver can read is “Road Closed”. Since car drivers can go around the sign, they can reasonably assume the closure is further up than they can see. In other words, the street is not literally closed at where the sign is.
I’m simply saying that the signage is bad and needs a major rethinking. I’m not attacking the program but I’m pointing out that the signage is really bad.
“the intent of the safe streets program is to simply slow cars down for better safety,”
The intent of the safe streets program created last year was clearly to reduce the number of cars. The intent of the poll I don’t know about because I haven’t seen the poll. Daniel, you know what the residential neighborhoods where these safe streets are are like. Didn’t you say you’ve lived in the CD or Lake City or somewhere? There is no traffic. A car comes once or twice in five minutes at most. The traffic is on the arterials. The problem is that even if a car comes only every few minutes, some of them will hit people, or the fear of possibly being run over will intimidate people or cause parents to forbid their children from leaving the yard. One sidewalk lane is not enough for more than a couple people to walk socially-distanced. The street provides a walking path from the whole neighborhood to its commercial district. If a “Road Closed” sign diverts half or three-quarters of the cars to neighboring streets and causes the rest to look carefully for children and bikes, that’s a good thing. And again, the “closed” status hides the streets from navigation apps. That alone eliminates cars. If the cars go to the next street over, it won’t add to traffic, because there is no traffic.
I’m not sure the signs really make much difference in cars beyond navigation-app drivers. But it gives a psychological benefit to non-drivers, saying “This is a space for you”, where they’re theoretically more safe, and it concentrates non-drivers on one street so they’re more visible and expected. The purpose of the program was to vastly expand the “sidewalks” so that a lot of people could be outside while socially distanced. It was created early in the pandemic, maybe before masks were universally recommended, when we knew less about the virus, and when it wasn’t clear that momentarily passing people outdoors wasn’t a signficant spreader. And it created a walking path from the houses to the storein sidewalk-challenged neighborhoods. Some of these may less necessary now than they seemed a year ago, but it’s still great to have all that space, and there’s so few of these streets that it’s little inconvenience to drivers. They have all the surrounding residential streets, which are many times more numerous.
Safe streets are not like cul-de-sacs. Cul-de-sacs block all cars, including residents and deliveries. They turn streets into dead-end roads, or clusters of streets into dead-end mazes with only one way out. Safe streets are not dead-end. They let residents and deliveries through at both ends, and other drivers are on the honor system. The safe streets are in the middle of street grids, with parallel streets just a few yards away. Drivers living in the area know where those streets are; they won’t repeatedly be surprised by the same street. They’ll hopefully drive on an adjacent street, and if they’re going to a safe street, take an adjacent street up to the nearest block and then turn onto the safe street.
Stay Healthy Streets isn’t something that police could actually enforce without generating backlash that would undermine support for the entire program.
This is a law and when you get a ticket, you are pissed. I once got a ticket for parking in a handicap zone (ironically to walk my physically impaired mom to the hospital). The sign was obscured by some shrubbery. I hated the ticket (it was a whopper) but it didn’t change my support for the law. Likewise, my brother got an automated ticket for speeding in a school zone in the broad daylight, when there were no kids. He complained, but he still supports the program. Automatically enforcing laws against blocking the crosswalk are about to go into effect, and you can bet there will be plenty of people pissed about getting a ticket. But I really doubt it will undermine the law itself.
This is just like every other traffic regulation. If you break the law, you grudgingly pay the price, but most of us don’t want to get rid of the rule.
Good article about transit and cul-de-sacs: https://humantransit.org/2010/05/culdesac-hell-and-the-radius-of-demand.html.
IMHO it’s time for the city to acquire some of those cheap concrete ecology blocks that have been on the news, put them at diagonal angles at the stay healthy streets, and divert thru car traffic while allowing pedestrians and bikes to go straight through. Concrete barriers sure went up quick at the East Precinct, just sayin’… Tactical Urbanism!
I am not sure why an article about a “hyperlocal issue” like closing local access roads or restricting traffic has to begin with the same old tired cliches: “There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular.” Who are these Nimbies? What is this “healthier” mode of transport?
This issue as Al notes has nothing to do with transit. People are not going to switch modes because traffic calming signs or roundabouts are put on their local street.
Who else should be consulted except those who have “backyards” along these streets, and live on them? How can “government” know better than those who live along these streets what is best for their street? After all, aren’t the folks who actually live along these streets part of “Seattle” as well?
I also don’t think it is a good idea to cite to a poll that has been widely discredited on this blog as some kind of support, including the “somewhat” in favor votes in the tally. Claiming “Indeed, a recent NPI poll of Seattlites reveals supporters exceed opponents by 39 points” is not my reading of the poll. If anything, considering the demographic of the poll, I thought the results were at best luke-warm on closing local access roads, even near schools. Plus that poll was about closing streets, not lowering traffic speeds with one of the “Slow Traffic, Kids At Play” signs, as this article suggests.
Closing streets has serious implications for the disabled, elderly, and those with small kids, especially in Seattle’s high crime areas. Some don’t have sidewalks, which as Move Seattle proves are very expensive.
These streets by definition don’t carry transit, and there is no proposal to remove their street parking — because Seattle does not require adequate onsite parking on the mistaken belief folks will get rid of their cars so street parking is a political reality — for dedicated bus lanes. Many of these local access roads are barely one lane anyway with all the cars parked along them, and speeds are already quite low.
The issues are, as the article notes, hyper localized. They depend on the street, the calming measure, the measured traffic, the makeup of the citizens, the safety of these streets to walk along, the adequacy of transit, the need for street parking, and so on. “Seattle” and the “government” should not be making these decisions: those who live along these streets should.
Plus it always interesting to see someone on this blog extolling the virtues of the cul-de-sac, which I understand, but most on this blog see as the epitome of suburban planning.
Generally, if the question for the actual folks who live along these streets is do they want more traffic calming, like a roundabout or speed bumps, the answer is usually yes, especially if they have kids (and do parents in Seattle really allow their kids to play in the streets alone)? But those are expensive, and of course simply shift traffic to other streets, and quite frankly speeds along many local access roads are limited by the narrow streets, and street parking, and arterials have many other needs such as moving traffic and freight.
I would suggest picking a street, surveying those who live along the street, give them options from a slow speed sign to closing the street (to all traffic, because if you want NIMBYism they will always vote to restrict access to “their” street to their cars alone), have the traffic engineers determine the effects on the adjacent streets because these measures won’t change the mode of transportation folks use, and if you begin with one street the homeowners along adjacent streets will demand the same — local car access for them alone like permitted street parking — and then you increase congestion on the arterials where transit does travel.
What is this “healthier” mode of transport?
Walking, riding, rolling. You know, without the help of motorized transport. This is pretty obvious when you think of it, but I guess you were busy trying to write your next epic poem based on musings without research. Hmmm, that might make a good title for your own blog — “Musings Without Research”. It can consist of essays like “What is a healthy form of transport” or “What’s wrong with the cul-de-sac?” or “Were locals actually asked about these changes?”. You can come up with your own theories out of thin air instead of actually researching the answer, or asking more knowledgeable people if they know. Because, as you well know, everyone just waits for your long, tedious comments full of false assumptions and logical fallacies.
Ross, can you please concentrate on the issue. It gets very tiresome when you begin one of your personal rants, and if I am not mistaken you recently threatened to report a poster you felt personally attacked you (among many).
I didn’t see any mention of these “healthier” modes of transport you raised in the article, and guess your definition excludes transit (not sure what rolling is). If it is exercise you want to incentivize there are better and less expensive ways to encourage folks to exercise, but of course exercise or healthier modes of “transport” have very little to do with the safe streets initiative, and safe streets are not going to change the mode of transport people use because that is based on many other factors.
“You can come up with your own theories out of thin air instead of actually researching the answer, or asking more knowledgeable people if they know.”
It would help if you read what someone writes rather than move from one personal rant to another because you feel aggrieved at a perceived slight in some other post. You have one of the thinnest skins I have ever seen, especially for someone with your online personality.
My entire point was the folks who actually live along the streets are the most knowledgeable, not me, not you, not Martin. Who else would I ask? You? You would be the last I would ask.
Each street and each neighborhood are unique, as are the folks who live along those streets. So ask them what they want, not what you or Martin think is good for them, because they don’t give a crap about what you think, because no one does.
I answered your questions, because you were too lazy to look it up.
I didn’t see any mention of these “healthier” modes of transport you raised in the article, and guess your definition excludes transit (not sure what rolling is).
It was right there! In the very first sentence there is a link to Stay Healthy Streets. If you don’t understand what these are, then you can just click on the link. Right there, on the Stay Healthy Streets web site, there is a concise definition:
What are Stay Healthy Streets?
Stay Healthy Streets are open for people walking, rolling, biking, and playing and closed to pass through traffic. The goal is to open up more space for people rather than cars as a way to improve community and individual health.
I’m willing to bet that you didn’t bother to click on the link, which proves my point. You are unwilling to make even the tiniest amount of effort to learn about a subject before rambling on and on about your prejudices.
Oh, and “rolling” is the way in which people in wheelchairs get around. It is also the term used for someone on roller blades or roller skates.
My entire point was the folks who actually live along the streets are the most knowledgeable, not me, not you, not Martin. Who else would I ask? You? You would be the last I would ask.
Each street and each neighborhood are unique, as are the folks who live along those streets. So ask them what they want
Yes, and if you did even a minimum amount of research, you would understand that they were asked. Holy cow, man, how did you not get that from my comment. I mocked your lack of research, by pointing out false assumptions you made. One of those was exactly this.
Of course people in the neighborhood are asked about these changes. There is a long city/community effort that you would be aware of, if you actually lived in the city, or did the research. There are online surveys, and before the pandemic, changes like these involved community meetings. In the rare situation where the locals don’t want a quieter street, these changes wouldn’t occur (the city has more demand than it has resources to build these).
You really have it backwards. Locals benefit from a quieter street. Those who live in other parts of the city lose their traffic bypass. You are far more likely to get objections outside the street than on it. Mike made that point as well.
My larger point is that before you make bad assumptions (like the ones in that comment) you should do a little research, or at worst ask people. You could have written a small comment, like “Are locals consulted before these changes go through?” and several people would have written back “Of course”. But instead you wrote a long, rambling screed about a problem that doesn’t exist.
“ Yes, and if you did even a minimum amount of research, you would understand that they were asked. ”
That’s not what I read on the SDOT website, RossB. The residents were indeed asked about the permanent Neighborhood Greenways designation in the past but not the temporary Stay Healthy Streets designation in 2020. There is a difference.
Here is the city’s on comments about the designation: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/stay-healthy-streets
The city is apparently seeking comments now via a survey if the program should be permanent and what changes should be made, accreting you the web site.
“…. According to the web site.”
I don’t believe locals were using these streets as traffic bypasses. People used Northup Way west of Bellevue Way to bypass the 520 traffic and get on at 84th until Yarrow Point put up a stern sign and then a concrete barrier. This isn’t like that. They don’t bypass anything, and they’d be slower for drivers than the arterials. I said the “Road Closed” signs were to reduce the number of cars, but Nathan D below clarified the next step and reason why: to legalize walking in the middle of the street. They turn the streets into woonerfs.
I don’t believe locals were using these streets as traffic bypasses. They don’t bypass anything, and they’d be slower for drivers than the arterials.
Not locals, but folks trying to get from point A to point B. Most of the time they use the bypass because of traffic. Even minor traffic can get Google Maps to tell you that the fastest route is to cut through the neighborhood.
I meant anybody, maybe “locals” was poor wording. I don’t think any person would consider them worthwhile bypasses. Navigation app algorithms can be rational or absurd.
@Mike — Come on man, these sorts of bypasses are common. If you’ve even walked around these areas, you are well aware that people are using the side streets as a bypass. Consider the one in Lake City, on 27th. 30th is an arterial, and routinely has bumper to bumper traffic. Same with Lake City Way. So now imagine you are headed north on Lake City Way, but have to take a left on 145th. You have three choices:
1) Go Lake City Way.
2) Go on 30th.
3) Cut through the 27th, the nearest option that goes through.
These streets discourage the third option. The same is true on the other side of Lake City Way. If no one was using these streets as a bypass, then it isn’t likely they would do this. These streets would be quiet enough as is. What is the point of having a sign saying “local access only” if the only people who use it are those accessing local areas?
Daniel: “… People are not going to switch modes because traffic calming signs or roundabouts are put on their local street …”
Since the pandemic, two summers in a row, my wife and I have been bicycling regularly to Green Lake using the Fremont Ave N greenway, because if feels safe and connects directly to the Interurban Trail. We used to drive to Green Lake, and enjoyed it less because of the hassle of having to find car parking. I imagine that other users on that greenway and Interurban Trail have switched modes precisely because there are now safe alternatives to driving.
We also biked to Carkeek Park, but less often because the Fremont Ave N greenway feels somewhat safer to use, even though Carkeek is closer to us. So, streets that are safer for other modes of travel can actually influence people to use those other modes – not sure how someone can dismiss this possibility outright, especially if that someone has not tried the benefits of these other modes to form a more informed opinion/experience.
Also Daniel: ” … I would suggest picking a street, surveying those who live along the street, give them options from a slow speed sign to closing the street, have the traffic engineers determine the effects on the adjacent streets because these measures won’t change the mode of transportation folks use … ”
I think they did study these greenways as you suggest, not sure why you’d think they did not do something like this? For example, the Lake Washington Blvd greenway had multiple surveys on this topic this past summer.
Daniel again: “… and then you increase congestion on the arterials where transit does travel …”
So you propose a study (that most likely was already conducted), but at the same time you assume a foregone conclusion, that there will be traffic congestion in residential city streets adjacent to the greenway. I’ve read a few traffic studies similar to greenways, like lowering max speeds or removing car lanes for bike lanes, where the conclusion is of minimal increase in travel times for car drivers – like a few seconds or a minute increase over a 10-15 block stretch. Personally, I haven’t observed too much congestion on city streets that are adjacent to these greenways, or where similar traffic calming has been done. Plus, now, pedestrians and cyclists are safer – must not minimize these benefits in comparison to driver incovenience.
“I think they did study these greenways as you suggest,”
The greenways where selected a few years ago in full consultation with neighborhood residents. The city negotiated with the residents on how important each one was and which street it would be on. Adjacent property owners had ample opportunity to comment or to try to get it moved to the next street. The overwhelming response from neighborhoods was positive. The neighborhood wanted it in a strategic central location away from the arterials and stoplights, and the property owners on the proposed street wanted it on their street. The positive response to safe streets is a continuation of that. The routes were designed to complement other planned neighborhood changes like Link and RapidRide stations and to facilitate convenent bicycling paths between neighborhoods or across the city.
“Lake Washington Blvd greenway had multiple surveys on this topic this past summer.”
Lake Washington Blvd (part of it) has been closed to cars on certain Sundays for decades as part of the Olmstead Park legacy, to provide a pleasant bike street between some of the parks. That has had wide public support, and homeowners knew about it when they bought their houses if they bothered to investigate.
@Mike, thanks for the background information on the neighborhood greenways. I’m glad many neighborhoods pushed for safer streets early on, when area residents like me, were still not as a familiar with the benefits of multi-modal streets, although I’m sure many were already regular transit riders. The survey for Lake Washington Blvd this summer was about “closing” certain stretches on weekdays and not just weekends, and maybe even permanently. I’m sure good permanent designs and compromises can be reached to improve many of these greenways.
It occurred in STB’s time so there may be artlcles about it in the archive. Some were established in 2015 so the planning and public comment periods would have been around 2012-2015.
Daniel, for someone currently berating Ross for not reading comments closely enough, you clearly don’t understand what the “Stay Healthy Streets” program is, nor the thesis of the article.
For starters, the whole point is that there weren’t NIMBYs to overcome; the program is popular for the same reason that cul-de-sacs are popular.
Although it has little to do with my thesis, your contention that the residents of a street should have absolute control over the rules of that street has interesting implications, if taken to their logical conclusion.
“For starters, the whole point is that there weren’t NIMBYs to overcome; the program is popular for the same reason that cul-de-sacs are popular.”
So Martin, why did you write in your article: “There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular.”
Who are the NIMBY’s you were talking about, and how did the city “stand up” to them? Why did the “government” have to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular if you are now saying “there weren’t any NIMBY’s to overcome”, and the program was popular?
I am not saying those who live along a street should have absolute control over their street, although as quoted below the Safe Streets site suggests they now do own the street. You were implying they should have none, and the government needed to make them see the light over their NIMBYism.
I think the residents should be consulted, and every street is different, and have a very large say in their street, but that really is not an issue when it comes to something like “safe streets” and traffic calming because what is really being enforced or eliminated, but becomes a major issue if we are talking about actually closing streets, or putting in very restrictive traffic calming infrastructure. Who wouldn’t want a safe street closed to others?
I live along N. Mercer Way on Mercer Island. It is a lovely wide road with smooth pavement and very few cars parked along it, but is built like a racetrack (which is why the bicyclists love it). I supported lowering the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph, and the police enforcement of that speed limit. I think everyone in the neighborhood did, and like every neighborhood of course we are NIMBY’s about our neighborhood.
NIMBY is a term I don’t understand. It means not in my backyard. Except here we are talking about people’s back yards. Who doesn’t care about their back yard if they own?
When you write: “After all, why are suburban cul-de-sacs popular? There are institutional reasons, but fundamentally, everyone likes to live on a road that only residents use, but no one can speed through on the way to somewhere else. If you’re auto-centric, it’s the perfect combination of convenience, quiet, and safety.”
That is the rub I was getting at. We are not talking about “speeding through”, we are talking about closing the street to others. Closing streets to through traffic but not residents will always be popular, like permitted parking for residents only, and NIMBYism in its purest form, but then you have impacts to other areas.
This is what the website says:
“Stay Healthy Streets are open for people walking, rolling, biking, and playing and closed to pass through traffic. The goal is to open up more space for people rather than cars as a way to improve community and individual health.”
“People driving who need to get to homes and destinations along Stay Healthy Streets are still able to drive on these streets; drivers should use extra caution and yield to people.”
Talk about NIMBYism. I would love to close N. Mercer Way to non-resident use, including off-Island bicyclists.
The rub will come when the adjacent streets deal with the increased traffic, if safe streets are truly enforced, because every street will want to be a safe street, except then no one can drive anywhere. If your street is closed to me why should my street be open to you and your car?
@Dan, sometimes, narratives aren’t real. In fact, there are whole sections of bookstores and libraries full of fictional stories.
The city and other urbanists sometimes construct a “happy narrative” of success which is inflated in order to pretend that they were able to overcome some great political hurdle. Yes, it’s problematic to imply excess difficulty of a political win, but that’s politics.
In rare form, you are correct: NIMBY is short for Not In My Backyard. However, your interpretation is incorrect; the term is an abbreviation of the sentiment “I support new development, but not in my backyard,” a common refrain among those who understand than new housing actually does have to go somewhere, but prefer it to be elsewhere. (An aside: your development philosophy seems to most similar to “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone,” which has an appropriate acronym.) However, saying people are NIMBYs if they want to reduce vehicle on their streets by opening them to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, is a gross misapplication of the term.
“(An aside: your development philosophy seems to most similar to “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone,” which has an appropriate acronym.)”
No Nathan, that is not my development philosophy. I believe a mix of zones is healthy, including the devil, SFH zones. I prefer urban growth zones over upzoning remote residential neighborhoods (as do Seattle, Belleuve and Mayor Harrell) because the scale of development allows: 1. more affordable housing and smaller units for those who live alone; 2. greater density so there is some form of walkable urbanism (ideally downtown but I guess that has been abandoned); and 3. much better access to transit.
Probably our biggest funding issue when it comes to transit is serving far flung areas. Let those folks drive, and concentrate transit — buses and light rail — in urban cores.
It really makes no sense to run light rail to Redmond or Issaquah to Kirkland but not to Ballard or West Seattle or First Hill, or one stop on Capitol Hill, but that is what we will do. It is ludicrous to upzone Seattle’s far flung residential neighborhoods on the basis the folks living there will start taking transit when providing any kind of decent transit to those neighborhoods would bankrupt Metro, and steal coverage and frequency from denser areas.
If someone wants to close “their” public street to others, but use streets in other neighborhoods to drive places, sure that is a form of NIMBYism, and perfectly natural. Whether it is good street management is up to the traffic engineers.
I’m pretty sure you posted, within the last couple days, a derisive reference to Bellevue allowing the construction of two residential towers immediately adjacent to the highest density transit this county has, because it’s not an exclusively affordable housing development and you believe wealthy people exclusively wish to live in single family houses.
And you claim to support urban development? Dan, you’re either lying to me or to yourself.
“I prefer urban growth zones over upzoning remote residential neighborhoods (as do Seattle, Belleuve and Mayor Harrell) because the scale of development allows: 1. more affordable housing and smaller units for those who live alone; 2. greater density so there is some form of walkable urbanism (ideally downtown but I guess that has been abandoned); and 3. much better access to transit.”
I can take that at face value, but the problem is that only 20-30% of the land allows multifamily, and that’s not enough for the number of people who want to live in a walkable, transit-rich area and for the legions of people moving to the region. Not to mention the graduations and divorces and escaping abusive spouses/roommates that split one household into two. Using highrises for subsidized housing is uneconomical because construction prices accelerate above seven, fifteen, and forty stories, and elevators, stairways and hallways take up a larger percent of the building.
We could enlarge the multifamily-allowed area to 40% or 50% and there would still be lots of single-family areas left. We could do it in the form of missing-middle rings around the existing urban villages. We could focus on closing the gaps between nearby villages to create a district-sized urban area rather than little islands of density in a sea of houses.
20-30% of what? Why isn’t that enough? How much is “enough”. “The problem” as in there’s only one? Another instance of where a link to what you’re talking about would be helpful. It’s a lot of “want’s” and trendy jargon like “walkable” without any example of where, why and how. Mike, you’re an idealist. Nothing wrong with setting high goals but if you promote this (whatever “this” is) without any ideas on how it can happen, or even get marginally better, it’s all just Peter Pan. Yes, we all want a perfect world that is magically paid for with pixie dust. Unfortunately Cruella de Vil is closer to reality. Maybe we can find common ground with Big Red.
I said it, 20-30% of the buildable land. Land that’s not industrial, parks, water, or roads. It’s 30% in Seattle and closer to 20% in some of the suburbs. The problem is people living in less walkable, less transit-connected areas than they want t, and thus having to drive more than they want to or endure hour-long transit trips on half-hourly or hourly buses or forego job opportunities because they’re too hard to get to. Lots of people are living in Kent or Lynnwood or Tacoma who’d prefer to live in Seattle. Or they’d be happy with a Wallingford-like neighborhood in South King County or a Capitol Hill-like neighborhood on the Eastside but there aren’t any.
Christopher Leinberger in “The Option of Urbanism” cited some studies in the 2000s that found an unmet demand for walkable urbanism. It’s nationwide averages and peer cities and things have gotten a little better since then, but it’s the same kinds of things I hear from different people all over the region say about their own housing situation. Roughly 30% prefer walkable urbanism (neighborhoods like Ballard where you can walk to everything, the D/40/44 are frequent, and a variety of housing and business types are mixed together), 30% prefer driveable sub-urbanism (neighborhoods like eastern and southern Renton that are mostly houses, where shopping means driving to the downtown Renton big-box stores or Southcenter), and 30% don’t care either way. That means 60% would be satisfied with walkable urbanism. But only 20% of the available housing is walkable urbanism. That leaves a 13% gap of people who are living with less walkable urbanism than they’d like. While those who prefer driveable sub-urbanism have plenty of choice.
There’s also the experiences of Japan and Finland, Italy and Spain. People may think that the ability to walk to the store or school or library isn’t that important, or transit every 5-10 minutes in multiple directions, but when they live in a community that has it, they find it’s quite helpful. Even when they don’t personally use it, they like having it available. Some Americans go to Europe and then think their own cities should be like that. Others go to Europe and then think it works there but it wouldn’t work in the US or it’s impossible in the US.
But really, making things more walkable — like Stay Healthy Streets, doubling bus frequency, adding a supermarket in a food desert, giving single-family areas some more variety like Vancouver’s Kitsilano with scattered duplexes and small apartments — is a win-win, and can work in the US.It’s just that there’s so much inertia against it, and people have been brainwashed.
“For starters, the whole point is that there weren’t NIMBYs to overcome; the program is popular for the same reason that cul-de-sacs are popular.”
So Martin, why did you write in your article: “There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport.
It was an introductory comment, clearly meant to provide context and create a more interesting essay. It is a common literary technique. Let me write a little paragraph that is similar:
Seattle is well known as a city where it rains a lot. But we actually get less rain than New York City and our summers typically contain a drought period.
Notice that the first sentence sets you up. It repeats a common, well known narrative. But the second sentence shows that it doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, there is a contradiction with the common narrative as far as the total amount of rain.
The same is true here. While this can be viewed as a victory over automobile interests, locals actually support the changes, overwhelmingly. There are exceptions, perhaps, but most people *don’t* want cars cutting through their neighborhood. They like the idea of a quieter street, for various reasons.
The reference to the cul-de-sacs seems to be lost on you as well. Martin isn’t advocating for them, but only mentioning that cul-de-sacs (and dead end streets) are popular amongst residences. If those dead end streets have pedestrian access, all the better. That is the nature of these streets (or at least, it approaches that).
I think you answered your own question, to an extent. People who live on a street do have lived experience of what the street needs, but they also have a narrow set of concerns. People will often choose something that benefits their area significantly but hurts others slightly. If you give everyone the chance to make the same decision about their street use, you end up with a tragedy of the commons scenario, as you describe. Where the overall system does not function. This is why governments are needed to make these decisions. A body that represents the entire city has the proper incentives to design a system that works.
“not everyone gets what they want. Putting it on you letter to Santa doesn’t do anything.”
How is saying the US and Pugetopolis should be like Finland just tough cookies? It’s a political opinion on which direction this country should go. Citizens influencing the country’s direction is the most fundamental activity in a democracy. I’m well aware it won’t be enacted now, but it’s important to articulate the goal and keep it in sight. Eventually the fever in Congress might break, and the mind control in red states and areas, and the obsession with universal cars and large houses and cul-de-sacs, and people might realize Finland is actually a practical idea, and then it might happen. If we don’t try, it definitely won’t. I don’t expect it all at once. Stay Healthy Streets is a first step. Greater use of P&Rs may be a second, followed by greater use of feeders, then transit for non-work trips, then accepting more density, etc. Some of that is inevitable as the population grows and time passes. The Bothell-Everett Highway is full of tower-in-the-park apartments. I bet the people living there now didn’t imagine twenty years earlier that would be acceptable to them and an inevitable evolution of the suburbs. (“Inevitable” being densification of some kind.)
For more of the goal see “The Nordic Theory of Everything” by Anu Partanen. She’s Finnish and her husband is American, and she’s explaining to Americans how the Nordic countries work, why it works so well, and how it achieves their education and capitalist goals. Basically, their governments do what the people want rather than what corporations and ideological billionaires want. In other words, they’re non-corrupt. It doesn’t get a lot into the transit details, but we know what Nordic transit is like and how comprehensive it is. Our Mark Dublin has worked on Swedish tram lines.
“As for food options in a “desert” that’s going to be a hard business model to sustain in this age of delivery. Not just Amazon but when I’m in Fred Meyer there are more people pushing around giant carts with bins every week. For a store like an Amazon Go/Fresh there needs to be density way higher than what you can accomplish with duplexes.”
Not in working-class areas like Delridge where the food deserts are. People can’t afford delivery fees. The convenience delivery system isn’t sustainable and there will be a shakeout, and people will use it more sparingly and for disabled people. Amazon Go/Fresh would probably be the last to go to Delridge or western SeaTac there because it’s focusing on the high-end markets. But other stores like QFC, Red Apple, or Grocery Outlet would be more willing. The city/neighborhoods just need to set up a campaign to prioritize it and incentivize it, and if necessary subsidize it with something like a lease discount or profit floor.
Northern SeaTac I mean: west of 99, north of the airport.
if necessary subsidize it with something like a lease discount or profit floor.
That’s exactly what would have to happen. Small grocery stores have been struggling to survive everywhere. But Seattle does the opposite of subsides, it runs them out of business with regulation. What was the last long standing neighborhood store than packed it in, a Thriftway? Most delivery is free with a $25 order which is pretty easy to reach.
Delivery is here to stay. The more it’s used the less expensive it is to operate. It saves stores money by being able to generate more business out of the same store without having to add cashiers, square footage or parking. Amazon has an advantage in they don’t stock shelves and then pay people to pull goods back off the shelf. Chains like Kroger and Safeway (Walmart?) are going to have to establish a similar dock to delivery model. People use it because it saves a ton of time.
SeaTac is probably not a great example. A food desert is where there’s no store with fresh produce within a couple miles. People in Delridge and 16th have to travel to White Center or Westwood Village for groceries. Delridge and 16th don’t have other stores, but in other food deserts where there there’s only convenience stores with processed food and fast-food restaurants, that’s what people eat. Especially if they’re lower-income. Having local fresh-food stores is important because it facilitates health.
“What was the last long standing neighborhood store than packed it in, a Thriftway?”
There was a small Spanish store in White Center I think?
When it comes to The Spring District and Wilburton the issue isn’t the inability to afford food delivery, the issue is the competition from Bellevue Way and Old Main St., which have a retail and restaurant density these other areas can’t compete with. Shoppers want retail density, not a single corner store.
The developers I know planning large developments in The Spring Dist. and Wilburton are not planning extensive retail or restaurant villages, and assume their patrons will Uber the short distance to a retail/restaurant Mecca, which is Bellevue Way (which has the advantage of allowing you to drink alcohol). Why take Link to Redmond? We Uber to Bellevue from Mercer Island all the time. Bellevue may also run a shuttle. No one wants to dine in all the time. They see these areas as mostly commercial as the prime area for multi-story housing is west of 112th, and ideally close to Bellevue Way. There is little point in living in a dense multi-family area without dense retail, and there is only so many patrons to support so much retail, and everyone wants to go out where there are other people.
When it comes to grocery stores, the rising costs and gentrification of Seattle neighborhoods have pretty much wiped-out corner grocery stores. First they have no parking, second they can ‘t compete with the large stores and online shopping, and third they can’t deal in volumes and discounts because of the lack of parking and low volumes.
You need a car to bring home 9 bags of groceries, which was common when our kids lived at home. The two grocery stores on the north end of Mercer Island serve many Seattle residents, because once you are in your car (because you need nine bags of grocery) you tend to drive to an area that is easy to drive to, safe, and has easy surface parking. Or Costco.
The issue with urbanism is yes, it needs density to create retail density which is what makes an area walkable (along with safe streets obviously). The issue is this three-county area is huge, and will never have the population (sorry TT) to create a retail rich walkable dense area except in a few designated areas, despite what the PSRC claims.
Sure we can upzone all the residential areas, and Seattle basically has by allowing three separate legal dwellings on each residential lot, and allow retail in those far flung neighborhoods, but those neighborhoods will never have the retail and restaurant density to lure customers, and it is cost prohibitive to provide any kind of frequent transit service to far flung residential neighborhoods.
At least on the eastside the residents want both: they want a SFH zone to raise their kids and for the lack of common walls and vegetation and trees, and they want access to upzoned, population dense, retail/restaurant rich areas. The huge margin by Harrell suggests Seattleites want the same, and hopefully downtown Seattle recovers. They don’t want a corner grocery store with high prices and a few items on the shelves. So they decide to travel to the retail and restaurants where there are many choices, but to live in the SFH.
You could upzone all SFH zones on the eastside but still the folks would drive, Uber or take transit to the retail dense areas, from downtown and Old Issaquah, to Bellevue, to Kirkland to Redmond. There just is not the population to sustain any kind of dense retail areas in between, and why would you when you can go to the town centers where the retail density is. When you upzone undense areas you begin to dilute the retail density urbanism depends on. Is Mike Orr really going to live in an ADU in Sammamish?
For those who want to live among the retail and restaurant dense areas, like along Bellevue Way or on Old Main St. (and I could easily see myself living there when retired, although I doubt my wife will ever leave our SFH) you can live there, without a car, because you no longer have kids to drive around and don’t need a house. It is why you don’t allow or encourage SFH in these zones either, because they waste the space and spread out the density.
Housing density is the easy part of Urbanism. The hard parts are: 1. safe streets, and 2. retail/restaurant density. Otherwise it really isn’t walkable, is it?
“When it comes to The Spring District and Wilburton the issue isn’t the inability to afford food delivery, the issue is the competition from Bellevue Way and Old Main St., which have a retail and restaurant density these other areas can’t compete with. Shoppers want retail density, not a single corner store.
The developers I know planning large developments in The Spring Dist. and Wilburton are not planning extensive retail or restaurant villages,”
Do you understand nothing? I was talking about areas where people eat junk food because fresh food is too far away, and you respond with middle-class and upper-class drivers’ preferences. I don’t know whether the Spring Blvd area has a fresh-food grocery now; I only know it didn’t when it was industrial and few people lived there. The neighborhood is in transition so all the stores aren’t there yet. Bellevue’s policy now and the developers’ plan is a mix of housing, offices, and retail, not housing and offices only. Even one small supermarket or produce shop would make it not a food desert. I’m sure there will be at least one of those somewhere. It’s the kind of area Amazon Go/Fresh would be the first to go into. So we don’t have to worry about the Spring District.
“the rising costs and gentrification of Seattle neighborhoods have pretty much wiped-out corner grocery stores.”
Corner stores disappeared in the 1950s in a different social context. High land prices were not an issue then. Far north Seattle and Tukwila were still transitioning from rural so there was plenty of room nearby for expansion.
And corner stores didn’t disappear from Seattle; some stores were just converted into houses. The Summit area has two or three of them. When I first visited my friend on top of Queen Anne around 1981, I was amazed that he could walk to two of them, and that was one of the things that make me realize I wanted that too. Their successors are still there. The suburbs have 7-11s and gas-station convenience stores, but not as close to where many people live.
“You need a car to bring home 9 bags of groceries, which was common when our kids lived at home.”
Not everybody gets 9 bags of groceries every week. And if the stores are in walking distance, you don’t have to get all 9 bags at the same time. If you have multiple kids, each kid can get a bag or two whenever it’s convenient for them. Or you can do your main shopping at consolidated trips and Costco, and secondary fill-in shopping at the corner store. Especially for fresh produce, which doesn’t last long.
“The two grocery stores on the north end of Mercer Island serve many Seattle residents”
Wow. It may be because it’s so easily on the way, as you said. Or it may mean there aren’t enough stores in East Seattle between McClellen and Union east of 12th, which I could believe.
“For those who want to live among the retail and restaurant dense areas, like along Bellevue Way or on Old Main St. (and I could easily see myself living there when retired, although I doubt my wife will ever leave our SFH) you can live there, without a car,”
Right, that’s where I lived in the 80s and you could already live car-free there then. That area has the widest retail/entertainment choices outside Seattle because it’s the biggest satellite downtown, like Oakland or St Paul. And the suburbs have gotten better on walkability and mixed-use, at least in their multifamily areas.
There’s still an element missing, which is what makes them “not Ballard” or “not Wallingford” or “not Capitol Hill”. The parking minimums and car-dominant design put a ceiling on walkability; they can’t get more walkable than Los Angeles. The aesthetics are too large-scale and modernist, which is alienating. People may like the amenities, but how many really love the aesthetics? An important exception is Old Bellevue Main Street, which is the best aesthetics in the Eastside or any suburb. They don’t attract the kinds of bars and live bands and clubs that make people go from the suburbs to Capitol Hill and Ballard for. They don’t have the kind of ambience that makes people go for a stroll in Ballard or to the Ballard farmers’ market. You’ll say families don’t want that, but some of them do, or their kids do, and some tech workers do.
“Not in working-class areas like Delridge where the food deserts are. People can’t afford delivery fees.”
Mike. why couldn’t residents of Delridge go to these grocery stores in Delridge:
Delridge Grocery Cooperative
Facebook (8) · Grocery store
5444 Delridge Way SW, Seattle · (206) 935-4285
Closed · Opens Dec 11 at 9:30 AM
6 Foursquare tips · Grocery store
2500 SW Barton St, Seattle · (206) 935-0585
Open · Closes 11 PM
Saar’s Super Saver Foods
3 Foursquare tips · Grocery store
10616 16th Ave SW, Seattle · (206) 737-8900
Open 24 hours
Facebook (1) · Grocery store
5980 1st Ave S, Seattle · (206) 772-1616
Open · Closes 4:30 PM
Tripadvisor (2) · Grocery store
2622 California Ave SW, Seattle · (206) 937-2272
Open · Closes 1 AM
Grocery Stores in Delridge Seattle, WA (13 out of 30 listed).
Deliridge Food Mart.
Qfc. From Business: QFC offers thousands of quality food and household products from your favorite brands and…
South Seattle Market.
Metropolitan Market. From Business: Founded in 1971, Metropolitan Market is a chain…
Stop & Shop.
This doesn’t look like a food desert to me.
“As far as industrial land that’s exactly where Bellevue it putting all of it’s new development.”
That’s a separate issue. Martin pointed out a few years ago that the suburbs were doing a better job than Seattle of building large/highrise village clusters outside SLU and the U-District. But they’re doing it only on industrial land and decayed retail land, like the Spring District, Totem Lake, The Landing, and future Eastgate and northwest Issaquah. They aren’t doing it in existing neighborhood centers like Lake Hills or Kent East Hill where the people already live. Seattle is building urban villages in neighborhood centers like Beacon Hill, Othello, and Roosevelt, but they’re smaller and don’t have as wide variety of retail/services. A large variety is important because then people rarely have to leave the neighborhood, like in the U-District.
Vancouver and San Francisco also built large/highrise urban villages in former industrial areas, and there’s a debate whether Seattle should do so too. The mayor and city council are engaged in that long-term debate. The difference between Seattle and cities that have done this is, in the other cities the industrial districts were dead. The former industries were obsolete or had moved to the suburbs, and new industries weren’t replacing them. In some cases there were factory ruins that were so obsolete they were unusable, and no large-scale companies wanted to modernize or replace them. So the cities built highrise mixed-use villages in their place.
Seattle’s industrial districts are active and productive, with a wide variety of large and small businesses, both trade-related and boring logistics and warehouses and low-budget startups. They offer unique career paths for blue-collar professionals and non-college graduates. They balance Seattle’s economy so it’s not dependent on the boom-and-busts of computer-tech companies and paper pushers. (It’s paperless now but I don’t know a better term.) Some of the industrial districts are on frequent transit so carless workers can get to them. The industrial districts in Kent, Auburn, Bothell, and Issquah have much worse transit. In some places it’s practically unusable, or only practical if you live in a small area within a few miles of it. Seattle’s industrial districts give space for expanding local manufacturing and urban agriculture (in multistory buildings) if that becomes essential in the future. It might for instance if intercontinental or long-distance trade deteriorates after an environmental or political catastrophe. Once these areas are converted from industrial to residential/retail, there’s no going back. So we have to think very carefully before doing it. The mayor and council have the same view on this, which is why they’re just having an open-ended debate on it now rather than doing conversions.
They are doing some small conversions on the edges. The stadium district has some housing and offices. Smith Cove is expected to be one. The Ballard Fred Meyer lot went to Fred Meyer after it remained for sale for seven years and no industry wanted it. There’s talk about maybe a small area around SODO and Stadium stations.
The Delridge Grocery Cooperate at 5444 Delridge Way SW might be the kind of place I wanted. I thought there were no stores between Andover Street and White Center/Westwood Village. There may have been some recent additions. There was some neighborhood/city interest in alleviating the food desert, and that store may be the result of it, especially with “cooperative” in its name. There was talk of some kind of cooperative or incentive to attract a grocier. — that’s what I meant about incentive or subsidy. One way to solve it is for the community to create and run its own store, which would be a cooperative.
The rest of the stores are out because they’re too far way. You can’t walk to them from mid Delridge and it’s more than just a mile or two bus ride away. That’s the situation we’re trying to alleviate. West Seattle has steep hills going east and west, so Delridge, 16th, 35th, and California are cut off from each other if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive. Metro has added the 60 and 50 crosstown routes at Barton and Genessee but there’s nothing in between, and the steep hills and lack of roads make it impractical to add any.
“Metro has added the 60 and 50 crosstown routes at Barton and Genessee”
The 60 used to terminate in Georgetown. It was extended to South Park, White Center, and Westwood Village in two or three phases in the 90s or 00s. The 50 was a brand-new corridor in the RapidRide C restructure in 2012.
Exactly! Why screw up a neighborhood like Lake Hills with it’s nice little commercial center anchored by the Library. Nobody in Lake Hills shares your vision of what a neighborhood should look like. And they, like most Bellevue neighborhoods, have an active neighborhood association to keep it from happening.
>So Martin, why did you write in your article: “There’s a happy narrative >where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor >of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to >implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it >popular.”
Daniel, I encourage you to read the entire paragraph: “But it seems to me the neighbors didn’t need to be convinced of anything.” Indeed, the very title of the post is that this was not a bold overrule of the NIMBYs.
>”Who wouldn’t want a safe street closed to others?”
I mean, yeah, that’s the entire point of the article.
Thanks for the clarification, Martin. I never understood who the NIMBY’s were you were referring to in your original article. I guess the only NIMBY’s I can imagine are those who live along adjacent streets and don’t want traffic shifted to their street where their kids play.
I think Al and Andrew raised the same issues I did with the Safe Streets program (which is much different than a dedicated bike-pedestrian path).
As Al pointed out, SDOT is now reaching out to neighborhoods to gauge interest, which is where I stated I think the inquiry should begin, and as Andrew pointed out who wouldn’t want their street reserved solely for their own use (but of course maintained with public funds). I didn’t quite get from the article how a street qualifies for the program.
As I noted, I would love it if Mercer Island closed North Mercer Way to through traffic (including those attempting to cut through to get back on I-90 pre-pandemic, and off-Island bicyclists who are as big a problem as cars because of their speeds on NMW and large groups who are just riding round and round the Island before a beer at the Roanoke after loading their bikes back on their cars parked in front of my house).
But as Andrew pointed out real enforcement of the Safe Streets program will have impacts to adjacent streets, and overall traffic, and SDOT has to consider the street grid as a whole. If everyone elected to have their local street reserved for only their use no one could get anywhere, including the people who live on their safe street and still have to get to it.
As Mike I think pointed out, one irony is those streets that probably qualify for the Safe Streets program already have such low traffic volumes — because who wants to drive on those streets to get somewhere — the Safe Streets program has very little effect.
So far the program is essentially elective, with the only enforcement “local access only” signs, so the true impact of closing a certain street(s) isn’t really known.
I agree with those who argue the only true way to enforce safe streets is to place some kind of barrier or bollards at one end of the street to essentially make it a dead-end street, although dead end streets are normally not favored in a street grid, and whether a person who lives along the street supports having their street closed to through traffic probably depends on which end is closed, and which end they access their house from. Otherwise they have a long drive around and may have to avoid other safe streets.
Nathan’s supposition that Safe Streets is designed to allow or prioritize kids or residents walking in and playing in the streets misses the fact there will still be vehicle traffic along the road, just less. Do parents in Seattle really allow their kids to play in the street unsupervised? People don’t support Safe Streets for their street because they plan to shift to transit, although I think some on this blog support this program hoping that is the outcome.
Finally, if you truly do live on a dead-end street (which is the equivalent of a private driveway) there are some implications (and we have many dead-end streets on Mercer Island, and the number one desire of those who live on them is to have the city maintain the road).
First, if the street is narrow like in Seattle garbage trucks can’t turn around and so you can end up having to schlep your garbage, yard waste and recycle bins to the end of the street each week.
Second, Amazon and delivery and moving trucks can’t turn around, and sometimes Amazon will require the street to erect some kind of package storage area at one end, and the post office will do the same with common mailboxes at the end of the street, which is now essentially a private driveway.
Third, if fire trucks can’t access a house — and as required in the code turn around — and there are inadequate fire hydrants nearby, houses on the street can be required to install full house sprinkler systems, like on Mercer Island, and that is a very big cost. The international fire code, as many learn, trumps land use codes (number of persons per dwelling) and street layouts (Safe Streets).
When you add all this up I think the Safe Streets program is mostly ideology and politics, beginning with Mike’s point that the streets that would qualify for the Safe Streets program must have very low traffic volumes to begin with. 12th Ave. is not going to become a Safe Street, although those residents would argue they need the most relief from traffic. Few will switch to transit because by definition their street does not have transit and so the walk will be long.
That is why the Safe Streets program will never get real enforcement, because then the NIMBY’s would show up, and those would be your neighbors on the street one over. Would I allow my kids to play unsupervised — when younger — in a street with vehicle traffic? No.
But if only there were some way to get those off Island bike pelotons off North Mercer Way. It isn’t as if they are going anywhere, just round and round, until they stop for a beer or ten. Maybe a bike tax on Mercer Island as many residents advocate, or fee for off-Islander bicyclists.
You’ve apparently never heard of street hockey or kids riding bikes up and down blocks for fun. Maybe it’s because street play is technically illegal without a permit to close the street, and you’re the prosecutor for the Fun Police. Who knows.
To be fair, most streets (especially in my neighborhood) are too choked with parked cars for much real street use, but that’s what you get when most houses have pre-war driveways that can’t fit an XC90.
Dan, It’s not “supposition” that the Stay Healthy and Keep Moving Streets (not “safe streets”, wherever that came from) are meant to prioritize people walking down the street instead of the sidewalk – it’s literally the point of the program. You’ve stated you’ve never actually been on a Stay Healthy Street (much less a Keep Moving Street, because you can’t drive on them) – and yet you bloviate against them while simultaneously wondering who is the NIMBY opposition. Guess what: it’s you!
Although, the fact that you can’t wrap your head around this unsurprising.
Traffic is not like water, because the difficulty of travel is one of the main factors people consider when deciding where, when, and how to travel. Treating long-term traffic volumes like water assumes that travel demand is not elastic in response to cost (particularly time costs associated with congestion). Once again, you’re demonstrably wrong: in fact, traffic elasticity is well studied and well discussed here: https://www.vtpi.org/elasticities.pdf
It’s true that automobile travel demand is sometimes estimated to be weakly elastic, largely because a lot of the cost of operating a car is roughly fixed so there aren’t many short-term price effects that reduce VMT. Long-term car use, however, is observed to be significantly elastic in response to many factors, including congestion and public transit availability.
Most visibly, induced demand (an easy term to research) is a well-documented effect caused by decreasing the costs (usually time) associated with travel along a corridor, so demand increases proportionally. Similarly, reduced demand is observed when travel along a corridor is made more costly (in time and money).
If you’re going to imply that making residential streets car-unfriendly will negatively effect bus routes on arterials, then the obvious solution is to create bus lanes and other infrastructure that reduce congestion impacts on transit. Also, you imply that the infrastructure necessary for car-independence is too expensive – I invite you to prove that car dependency is less expensive to the individual than the per-capita costs of a walkable environment.
Once again you imply contradictory opinions regarding the subject of the article, a tactic you inevitably use to refute any counter-argument so you always “win”. Firstly, you suggest that only residents of a street should be allowed to determine the status of their street, and assume that all residents would vote to minimize traffic outside their front door. However, you then say that some unaffiliated “Traffic Engineers” should have some control over this process, because as soon as this happens, you say adjacent streets will also lobby for similar treatment, until all traffic is shunted to arterials, and then you feign concern for transit because of the ensuing congestion (but your comment history suggests your only real concern is regarding congestion you may experience). So which is it: Should residents have local control, or should traffic engineers preserve your uncongested streets?
Nathan, I think you have come to conclusions I never stated.
If your point is traffic congestion can lead to folks using other modes, I doubt that is disputed. After all, that is the point of Link, except so far Link has not switched many car drivers to transit, and mostly raided bus riders.
Generally though I disagree with manufacturing congestion for that goal. One of the causes of increased driving (other than the virus) is the decreased congestion today, and I think that is a good thing overall, whether you prefer to drive or take transit. Seattleites have 460,000 cars, so I assume they will use them, and need to park them someplace. Trying to get rid of cars (including Uber) is a fool’s errand IMO, often to mask inadequate transit, especially when even pre-pandemic congestion was only during peak hours.
Of course I am concerned about traffic congestion along the routes I drive, which is why pre-pandemic I supported good commuter transit, although it wasn’t so great on the eastside. I hope WFH permanently reduces congestion. I don’t visit many parts of Seattle, especially areas like Capitol Hill, precisely because I hate driving on those narrow access roads with cars parked on each side so two cars can’t pass.
I never correlated bus lanes and safe streets, unless I suppose more cars use the arterials rather than local access roads, but I think drivers should do that anyway, and probably do. Who is driving along 14th or 19th because it is faster? I agree dedicated bus lanes (or bike lanes) are one way to deal with that arterial congestion, if you can walk to the arterial to catch the bus.
Whether increased transit coverage and frequency are major costs is pretty much a no brainer, and a regular topic on this blog, from PT to CT to ET to Metro. But most think future county wide levies are unlikely. So yes, I do think transit, especially regional bus service, is underfunded, and that impacts frequency and coverage, both of which are critical if you want to live a car-free life, which is close to impossible outside the core of Seattle IMO (and certainly if you have kids, which I am guessing you don’t).
The issue isn’t whether car dependency is less or more expensive than transit, it is that an individual can control car ownership which controls their coverage and frequency, but transit spending which determines levels of service is outside their control. Unless you think the levels of transit spending — especially for buses — and the frequency and coverage are adequate today, and commensurate with a car.
I think the decision should begin with the folks who live along a street, but I doubt for example the traffic engineers on Mercer Island are going to allow the neighborhood to close N. Mercer Way to non-resident cars or off-Island bicyclists, although I imagine a majority of us would like that (with the city of course paying the exorbitant costs of road maintenance). So yes, it is a joint decision. These are not “unaffiliated” traffic engineers, but employees of the city.
Finally, I said that yes, I would think anyone would like the street bordering their house to be for their use only (including me), but traffic engineers have to look at the entire picture. I live next to a very large park and would like the park for neighbor– only use, but don’t think the city will go for that.
So to answer your question: “Should residents have local control or should traffic engineers preserve your uncongested streets?” it depends on whether it is my street (pure local control) or your street (uncongested streets, although there are not too many of those in Seattle’s denser neighborhoods).
Daniel, “[R]aid[ing] bus riders” is one of the main reasons light rail lines are built. They allow one operator to provide transportation services to many more people.
I grant that Link is only “light rail” in terms of its technology, not its construction. The vast majority of light rail systems are at-grade over a majority of their route structure. They only have tunnels or elevated sections in very high density neighborhoods or to navigate obstructions too large and steep for rail technology to climb.
They also penetrate the centers of activity nodes, rather than skirting them.
Link has not been built in this way. As a result, it is a curious hybrid of a very expensive “Metro” system with extensive subway mileage and long elevated sections normally used to achieve uninterrupted high speeds while using relatively low-speed LRT vehicles with overhead catenary. It resembles a “commuter railroad” in its wide station spacing and dependence on park and ride lots, but uses low-speed “urban rail” trains to serve them.
That can to some degree be ameliorated by buying higher-geared trains for Spine service, but the new Siemens trains have the same top speed as the Kinky-Shareyou’s. That makes sense for now since all trains will be serving the slow section through the Rainier Valley initially.
But eventually that section will be trenches or bypassed by Spine trains, so they can be served by faster vehicles.
In any case, “raiding buses” will continue to be the main reason for building and operating Link. That’s what rail systems do.
@Nathan — Based on what Daniel wrote above, it is not clear whether Daniel understands the point of Martin’s essay. Nor it is clear that Daniel understands much of anything about the subject. He has brought up points that are in agreement with Martin, while arguing with him. He has demonstrated ignorance about the fundamental nature of these streets, and made false assumptions about them. At this point, it isn’t clear what point Daniel is making, other than the essay confused him.
I thought it was well written, and a pretty simple argument: Safe Healthy Streets are popular with locals and the greater community at large.
Ross: yeah, DT’s top-level comments on the last few posts have been lacking a coherent thesis, probably because the posts didn’t provide enough material for him to bridge to his idea that ST is wasting his money. For some reason, his need to expound his point of view produces some quixotic compulsion in me to combat it – maybe his compulsion to provide unsolicited advice is a similarly quixotic desire to provide some sort of moderating point of view on a blog that represents the very interests he was supporting litigation against.
Sure, it can be a worthwhile reminder that there are people outside the pro-transit echo chamber, but the blog isn’t without other cranks and trolls and man is it obnoxious to read the same rambling screed over and over.
“I hate driving on those narrow access roads with cars parked on each side so two cars can’t pass.”
That may be why you don’t know much about the Stay Healthy streets, because that’s what most of them are like. Not a place cars would go to avoid arterial congestion.
“I am not sure why an article about a “hyperlocal issue” like closing local access roads or restricting traffic has to begin with the same old tired cliches: “There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport.”
The article and title is worded confusingly, unlike Martin’s other articles. What’s a layup? I thought “happy” was ironic and he was arguing against the narrative, because it didn’t happen quite that way. But after reading the rest of the article it was clear he himself was happy and the claim can be interpreted multiple ways. As a one-off, “active Seattle stood up to the NIMBYs and won”, no. But in a long history of active transportation infrastructure being rejected or reduced for the sake of cars, it was a happy step forward.
NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) means people who fight against any changes in their single-family neighborhoods(apartments, businesses, ADUs), and try to keep out greater public goods that have to go somewhere (light rail lines, homeless shelters), and insisting on high parking minimums to preserve “their” street parking. NIMBYs gravitate to single-family neighborhoods so there’s a disproportionate number of them there. The safe streets are deep in residential neighborhoods, so it can easily be assumed that NIMBYs oppose “closed” streets because they oppose everything else that limits car supremacy, but in this case they turned out to be on the opposite side. They like having a street that they and their children can stroll, jog, bike, and walk to the corner store on. They can still use their cars for the things that really matter to them — driving to big-box stores, Bellevue Square, and work — and they can still drive to their house and Amazon can still deliver to them. It’s not so necessary to drive to the corner store and it’s nice to have a family walk.
“Who else should be consulted except those who have “backyards” along these streets, and live on them?”
Because it’s not just adjacent property owners who are affected. There’s usually one safe street in a neigborhood, so people on surrounding streets and people going through the neighborhood have to use that one. If the adjacent property owners block such an amenity, it affects all those other people who are much more numerous. Many of the safe streets are on designated greenways that are for citywide biking and walking away from arterials, so it affects everyone in that part of the city. For instance, one safe street is part of a walking route from southwest Lake City to the commercial district. Another is part of a walking route from Othello Station to Seward Park.
It’s the same issue as zoning. If you allow individual neighborhoods and small suburbs to block apartments and public goods that they want to go somewhere else but the city as a whole needs, and every other neighborhood does the same, then those things can’t go anywhere. That harms the residents and would-be residents who need those things, and they’re much more numerous than the handful of people in that neigborhood. Especially since the neighborhood is low-density to start with, so by definition it’s a small number of people blocking it.
“Plus it always interesting to see someone on this blog extolling the virtues of the cul-de-sac, which I understand, but most on this blog see as the epitome of suburban planning.”
Things aren’t always clean-cut, and there are sometimes tradeoffs in integrating multiple values.
The quintessential bad cul-de-sac is when there are only few arterials, and all the other streets are complex mazes that each have only one exit to an arterial, or have lots of curves, or have half-blocks jutting out at random. That makes the walkshed and bikeshed a quarter the size it would otherwise be compared to a fully gridded neighborhood with small blocks. It means trips that are only a quarter mile as the crow flies are infeasible on foot/bike so you have to drive. It can change walking to the bus stop from a five-minute stroll to a twenty-minute trek. Somerset Hill has a twisting arterial through a maze of cul-de-sacs, and every time it twists it changes numbers and Avenue/Street/Place designation, and those are indistinguisable from the surrounding streets, and the arterial isn’t that much wider or visually distinct from them. They had to rename the arterial to Highland Drive because emergency vehicles kept getting lost.
A fully-gridded plan with small blocks is the easiest for both pedestrians, bikes, cars, and buses to navigate. Going anywhere is a simple one-segment or two-segment shot, and it’s easy to understand. Full grids allow car traffic to disperse across several streets rather than all crowding onto one street, which reduces congestion.
Seattle and Shoreline are pretty well gridded although not fully. The Central District and parts of Rainier Valley are probably gridded the most, with streets every block that all go through so you can choose any of them. In the U-District the streets are every two or three blocks like 50th, 52nd, 55th, but they’re still smaller than suburban eight-block superblocks. (Or monstrosities like half-mile superblocks in Santa Clara.) Most streets go through so again you can choose any of them. Seattle has a lot of water and hill barriers to that blocks streets from continuing, but other than that it’s pretty good.
The push for maze-like cul-de-sacs in the mid 20th century was partly a belief that they would hinder crime because because thieves wouldn’t be able to find them and would stand out like a sore thumb. Of course, the thieves came anyway, or realized they could steal the same stuff when the car was parked at a supermarket lot.
Some neighborhoods are retrofitting cul-de-sacs with punch-throughs so pedestrians and bikes can get through them without going the long way around. That’s a big improvement but it’s essentially reinventing a partial street grid that should have been built in the first place. It allows pedestrians to get to bus stops and schools, but cars still have to drive around, which uses excessive fuel and spews emissions and kills more children.
In Vancouver BC I’ve seen a, I don’t know what to call it, a few intersections that are partially blocked so cars can go between the south and west or between the north and east but not the other ways. There’s a garden or non-motorized path in the barrier. The purpose is to prevent non-local traffic from going through the neighborhood. This area has a pretty complete street grid so it’s just a few blockages in a few places. I think that’s what asdf2 is talking about above. I might have seen one of those in eastern Capitol Hill, but not several. Western Capitol Hill doesn’t have that but instead has little traffic circles in the middle of some intersections to slow down cars but not block them. And some blocks on the arterials are no-left-turn, which also limits access to the residential streets.
A “layup” is a sports reference to an easy shot in basketball (technically the simplest shot). It’s maybe not as common an idiom as “home run,” but I don’t think it’s hard to parse.
And it seems the term you’re looking for is “diagonal diverter”.
Local Case in point:
Portland’s Salmon-Taylor Streets corridor runs from Mt Tabor west to about 10th. It’s about 50 blocks. There’s probably several thousand people that live along it directly, along with several churches, a grade school focused on environmental studies, and several businesses.
Within 5 blocks north and south, that number changes dramatically. It’s probably closer to 100,000 living nearby, plus close to 1,000 businesses along Hawthorne and Belmont. Add all the customers to those businesses, all the riders on two of the city’s busiest bus routes (14 and 15), people getting to and from the crossing “cross-town” bus routes (70, 75 and 71), drivers on Belmont and Hawthorne that don’t have to deal with as much bike traffic, and visitors to the residents of the area it may well push 200,000+ people that benefit from this pedestrian/ bike corridor on a regular basis.
But sure, hand decisions about what to do with the corridor over to one guy living in Beaverton who objects because his weekly trip to the church property he owns on Taylor will be slightly inconvenient if he can’t turn left at his preferred cross street.
Yeah, a layup is similar to a slam dunk, but easier.
I really don’t get the complaints about this essay. Martin could have made this simpler, but it would have been really boring. It if fairly obvious the point Martin is making (these streets are popular with the locals).
In the context of the overall essay, the second paragraph is at worst a straw man. But it wouldn’t surprise me if lots of people view the issue that way. His point is that at least part of that argument (that locals oppose these changes) is nonsense. Whether anyone believed in that argument before his rebuttal is another matter. Using a straw man as a literary device is fine, as long as it isn’t the basis of your argument (and in this case, it wasn’t). You could have done away with it entirely, but the essay would not have been as interesting.
The article just needed clearer wording. But we’ve discussed at length what it means and what it intended. Martin has been here to tell us if we’ve missed anything, and he hasn’t, so I guess we haven’t.
The Martin post is solid. Sometimes, neighborhood greenways are parallel to transit arterials and reduce pressure to shift scarce right of way to bike infrastructure from transit. One example is North 44th Street parallel with Route 44 on North 45th Street. Another example is in the Central Area parallel with 23rd Avenue and Route 48. A third is in Wedgwood parallel with Route 65 on 35th Avenue NE.
That is a very good point, and in my opinion, should be the model for bike and transit infrastructure. Buses should run on the big streets, while bikes should run on the side streets. There is enough room on the big streets to have both regular purpose lanes and bus lanes. The streets tend to be stronger, having to withstand the weight of trucks (and thus buses). Adjacent streets are much quieter, and have far less traffic. That makes them perfect for bike paths, and a relatively small amount of money is needed to make them quite safe and smooth. There are cases where they must run together, but it is difficult and/or expensive to optimize both forms of transport when that occurs. Whenever possible, we should try and move the bike paths to the side streets.
In the past, we have half-assed these types of bike routes, with nothing more than a few signs. We should go full in on these, banning parking on one side of the street (if needed) and run real, honest to goodness bike lanes. Or block off the street completely for cars (as is done in a handful of areas). Not just by sign, but by physically preventing motorized through traffic (https://goo.gl/maps/fsoGb8NcEyEYCVbYA). By building high quality bike lanes on side streets, we can create a very good biking system, while leaving more space on the busy streets for buses.
23rd Avenue South on the east slope of Beacon Hill is an example of what RossB suggests. South of Rainier Avenue South, it has an uphill bike lane with the parking restricted.
The “Stay Healthy Streets” are great, but all they really do is make it legal to walk in the street and add some cute signs. You get what you pay for, and these features were very inexpensive to implement. Like others have said, if reducing traffic to local-only was the real goal, there’d be larger structural impediments to through-traffic; ideally similar in form and function to mid-block chicanes that make deter short-cutters.
As the title implies, the idea of ostensibly closing a neighborhood street to through-traffic and legalizing pedestrian use is popular. If there were any NIMBYs to defeat, it was the structural NIMBYism of prioritizing vehicle traffic in places where there ought be much more walking, biking, and playing. I’m not saying separating modes of travel is bad – clearly there’s a need for higher-capacity arterials for the movement of people and goods, and on those roads it’s best for all involved that pedestrians aren’t mixing with the buses and trucks keeping the economy flowing.
However, I think all non-arterial neighborhood streets should be returned to a status where pedestrians have right-of-way. I find it ridiculous that it’s explicitly illegal (SMC 11.40.220) to walk in any street featuring a sidewalk (on streets without sidewalks, you’re supposed walk against traffic and yield immediately upon approach of a vehicle). Sure, it’s one of those laws that is likely only ever enforced as a last-ditch effort to arrest someone, but it’s indicative of the pervasive belief that even in the most calm of environments, people should either be behind a wheel or out of the way.
Make Stay Healthy Streets dead-ends for cars. Bollards or jersey barriers.
Sorry for skipping all the comments (in bit of a hurry).
I hate SafeStreets. Not because of the concept itself but how we implemented it throughout the city. They should be in more busier road with retail spaces rather than tiny neighborhoods. I have driven through these signs without hesitation to get to my destination because there’s no difference in pedestrian activity now versus pre-COVID.
If we start shutting down, say University Way or parts of 35th Ave NE, then there would be a lot more foot traffic and hopefully retail activity (Ballard Ave is a good example of this). PLUS…I wouldn’t dare drive through the signs : )
That’s a pedestrianized commercial district, which is different from Safe Streets. The purpose of Safe Streets is to give expanded walking space and outdoor social-distancing space in areas that don’t have enough of it. Many of them mitigate the lack of sidewalks in those neighborhoods, and give one safe path from the residential area to the commercial district, like the one in Lake City.
There has been an ongoing debate in the U-District about pedestrianizing University Way. It’s already pedestrianized Saturdays between 50th and 52nd for the farmers’ market. It’s the biggest farmers’ market in the city and draws a large crowd. Ballard is the second, and Ballard Ave is pedestrianized on Sundays for it. Another part of the Ave around 43rd was temporarily pedestrianized this summer for a take-out eating commons.
There are multiple models for a pedestrian-oriented commercial street. You can close it to cars entirely. You can make it a woonerf like Pike Place, where cars mix with pedestrians and must drive at pedestrian speed. You can have one lane for one-way travel. You can limit cars to a couple hours a day for retail deliveries.
The Bell Street Park was originally going to be a woonerf, with no distinction between the sidewalk and street. But it was badly designed and had too much distinction so pedestrians wouldn’t use the street. And then Metro needed it for some bus routes when SLU critically needed more bus service and downtown needed more north-south bus capacity. I think those routes are gone now, but the city is waiting until there are more RapidRide lines and Link lines to renovate it into the high-quality woonerf it promised in the first place.
Seattle’s program was included in an Oct 2020 report that was published by the traffic analytics firm INRIX Research, ” Utilization of COVID-19 Street Programs in 5 U.S. Cities”. The report has a limited scope and probably raises more questions than it answers, but it does at least try to quantify some preliminary findings for the studied locations. I would hope that the author(s) revisit the subject matter for the cities that have kept their programs going, as well as for any new locations that have implemented similar programs since the report’s publication.
Anyway, I thought a few readers here might enjoy reading their findings/conclusions.
Fwiw, here’s the link to the report (direct link to .pdf file):
Here’s a link to a WaPo ($) article that came out at the time of the report’s publication:
Thanks Tigswm, interesting data:
Minneapolis’s recreational-focused streets saw the largest increase in activity out of the five cities studied, however their program was shelved by September
Yeah, it gets cold in Frostbite Falls when summer is over. I think the great thing about this is it was temporary while people were largely “locked down”. It cost virtually nothing to try and by sampling a large number of locations you get real boots on the ground data about what works or doesn’t before investing in a lot of road furniture. In that sense the “fails” are as valuable as the “winners”.
“In that sense the “fails” are as valuable as the “winners”.”
Absolutely. Well put.
I hope the research interest in this little intersection of mobility, land use and outdoor recreation needs is sustained. As a NYC kid who grew up playing in the streets around my neighborhood as well as my grandparents’, where the streets were not closed to traffic, I’d be thrilled to have this sort of nearby amenity. No more having to move our second base! (We usually used the manhole cover for home. Lol. )
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