A proposed pedestrian superblock on East Pike Street, bounded by Broadway, 12th Avenue, East Pine Street, and East Union Street. This looks intriguing. 10th and 11th Avenues already feel almost pedestrian between Pine and Pike Streets, which is pleasant when shopping or attending a nightclub. Having a 3 x 2 block fully pedestrianized area would give Seattle something it doesn’t have, and pedestrians would flock to it. I’m not 100% sure about closing the street, but the arterial ends two blocks east at Madison Street anyway. Buses use adjacent Pine and Union Streets, and cars coming from east Madison can easily choose them instead of Pike.

Animated map of the Chicago L’s evolution from 1892 to 2029. 1900-1910 had a huge wave of expansions. 1948-1958 had a wave of contractions.

This is an open thread.

113 Replies to “News Roundup: Pedestrianizing Pike Street”

  1. A number of cities have tried permanent 24/7 closures for different districts and ended up regretting it. The obstacles are mainly that a week is 168 hours and the street is really only lively for less than 20 of those. Plus, there is the need for deliveries, fire access and there are several garages that serve residents who own condos in this district. Finally, it would force more drivers to turn onto Broadway and that already is a headache for the streetcar and buses.

    To me, a better solution is to make Pike and Pine one-way pairs up to 12th. It would allow for access and deliveries. It could be one or two lanes depending on the need — and there could be spots for deliveries and Uber/Lyft to use.

    1. The baseline is current pedestrian usage, which is at least 20 hours a day. It’s not continuous crowds but it’s similar to neighborhoods in Europe or Lower Manhattan: even the low periods have one or two people at a time, or somebody coming every minute or two. People shop in the daytime, attend bars and clubs in the evenings, and go into or out of their residences 24 hours. It’s right next to Cal Anderson Park, which has crowds of pedestrians most of the day.

      However, I’m not 100% sure about closing the street, which is right in the middle between downtown and the Central District. I’m not sure if it’s right to force cars to make three turns to go around it, right in the middle of a neighborhood. Other proposed pedestrianized streets like University Way or Pike Place or Ballard Avenue are small streets next to main thoroughfares, not main thoroughfares themselves. In Europe pedestrianized squares tend to be in narrow medieval areas.

      I’ve also been reluctant to pedestrianize Pine Street between 4th and 5th for the same reason: it’s in the middle of a primary throughfare, in an area that doesn’t have a lot of east-west alternatives.

      But still, a few pedestrianized blocks in Pike-Pine would be wonderful, so maybe it could get some political momentum, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to drive around it.

      1. As a frequenter of Cap Hill, pedestrianizing E Pike has always been on my mind. But Mike brings up a good point of abruptly disrupting a throughfare. And I can see what impacts it would have on other streets, such as a long queue of vehicles along E Pine street who have to yield to pedestrians continentally crossing to/from Cal Anderson at 10th Ave. And Uber/Lyft constantly blocking traffic as they make stops midblock

        it’s still an idea worth considering. Perhaps doing it on a seasonal basis, like during the summer? Cap Hill in the summer is much busier than in the winter.

      2. While Pike does have great all-day activity, the pedestrian crowding & safety concerns are greatest in the evenings; perhaps the street could be closed from 7pm to 5am or something like that? That would allow for a festival street in the evenings (and/or weekends) while not re-channeling rush hour traffic in a way that simply moves the problem over to another block.

      3. @AJ I lived in Cardiff (UK) for several years about a decade ago. Cardiff is a comparable size to Seattle. Its nightclub district is quite close to the central bus/train station. The major shopping street was fully pedestrianized and the main road by the nightclubs would be closed to vehicles Friday/Saturday evenings. That seemed to be a good compromise.

      4. the commenters brought up good points. The restrictions could vary by time of day and even day of week. Truck loading could take place in the morning.

        this reminds me that the Pike Pine Renaissance could have been better if Pike Street was provided two one-way PBL and Pine Street had in-lane stops for transit in both directions. the bike connection could extend to 12th Avenue and its lanes. Eastbound overhead on Pine Street would have been needed between 1st and 8th avenues. Bike traffic would not have to transition between Pike and Pine streets via Melrose.

        Route 11 could be deleted with the G Line restructure.

      5. Pike and Pine Streets are being improved; that started a few years ago. The city added eastbound and westbound transit lanes and bike lanes at least part of the distance between 1st and Boren, and that makes the bus stops inline. I’d have to go look to confirm exactly which blocks and stops have that. It was partly to accommodate buses kicked out of the tunnel that are now on Pike Street along with the existing Capitol Hill buses. It was also a beautification project and traffic-calming project, funded partly by the Convention Center expansion. One lane of Pine Street is pedestrianized between 3rd and 4th, a kind of makeshift park that can be upgraded later.

        On Capitol Hill between Melrose and Broadway, SDOT has added traffic lights or 4-way stops to every block on Pike and Pine Streets, so it’s already deprioritizing car thoroughput in favor of pedestrian crossings there.

        Melrose Avenue is currently being converted to a “Melrose Promenade” north of Pike Street. The current work is Pike to Denny. Denny to Roy will be a lower-key bike-car street (and is already), and that connects to the bike bridge north of it to Lakeview Boulevard, which goes to Roanoke Street, and from there you can get to the University Bridge, flat all the way except a couple blocks on Harvard.

        So with all that plus the proposed pedestrianized area, there will be bike/transit/pedestrian priority streets on Pine and Pine from 1st to 12th Avenue, the pedestrianized area between Broadway and 12th, and north-south Melrose from Pike to Roanoke, and the existing cycletrack on Broadway. The article also mentions a pedestrian plaza around the Black Lives Matter mural, so at least there the street would be removed, and that would connect Cal Anderson Park directly to the pedestrianized area.

      6. I’ve been to this area many times, by both car and transit. When driving there, I typically aim to park several blocks to the north or east, grabbing the first parking spot I see within a 15-minute walk, rather than waste time crawling through block after block, looking for the best spot. So, even on the days I’m driving, this superblock would not delay me, and certainly not on the days I take transit and walk in from the Link station. What the closure would do is make the walk more pleasant, and allow some of the parking spaces to be converted to planters, adding some trees to an area that lacks them.

        That said, a complete closure would have some issues. There are several parking garages that open into the proposed pedestrian zone, plus a couple of commercial pay lots. Completely blocking access to these parking facilities would have big financial repercussions for whoever owns them. And, businesses, of course, need deliveries in order to function, no matter how their customers get there.

        Maybe a place to start is simply replacing street parking in the area with street trees and/or wider sidewalks, and go from there. Pedestrianization doesn’t have to happen all at once.

    2. From what I’ve seen that really isn’t the case or the places that regret doing it didn’t really put much effort into pedestrization of an area.. Keeping the road as is without much greater change to it to make it pedestrian friendly.
      “Plus, there is the need for deliveries, fire access and there are several garages that serve residents who own condos in this district. ”
      Every European City I’ve been has electronic bollards located at the entrance of pedestrian zones. They’re there to keep out car traffic but still all the above mentioned cases who need to get into the area can still access it with remote access from security personnel who lower or raise the bollards.

      1. It seems to me that among many other things in the Seattle Transportation Plan to be updated in 2024, SDOT ought to consider three pedestrian zones with retractable bollards as long-term “pilots”:
        1. Pike Place, including some portion of Pine & Virginia streets;
        2. The Capitol Hill Superblock (although “CHSB” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “CHAZ” or “CHOP”…) as proposed, also closing the section of Pine with the BLM street mural;
        3. Ballard Avenue, from Market to Dock.

        I’m not as intimately familiar with West or South Seattle, but it seems like there’s still a lot of fundamental work yet to be done there before advocates are going to jump to full pedestrianization of neighborhoods. For example, bike lanes on Beacon Hill are way behind, and there are still many much-need safety improvements around Rainier Valley.

        However, I think there is plenty of capacity to walk and chew gum within SDOT, especially if Spotts invigorates the department to allow a switch from a focus on Level of Service to a colloquial “Level of Safety”.

      2. @Nathan D … you make good mentions of the south end. Rainier Ave is awfully unsafe and the city has started-stopped improving it several times without any progress. I’d love to see the city invest as much effort and spirit into Rainier as it is with several neighborhoods on the North end.

        As for Ballard Ave, half of the street already feels pedestrianized due to the creation of outdoor seating, slow speed limit and weekend crowds. It’d be great to take that final step and ban vehicles altogether.

      3. I think a lot of the problems with pedestrianization had to do with the wider transportation environment. I believe many smaller cities tried it, and it didn’t work because it just made it harder to access shops and such within the zone. There is a cost to pedestrianization when most trips involve cars, and in those cases the cost was higher than the benefits.

        That said I think in certain locations, at certain times of day, this seems like a workable idea. Greenville, SC, where I used to live, pedestrianized the main street for a few blocks during some evening and weekends. It worked fine – it made it a more pleasant place to be, and I’m sure it increased the draw of the bars and restaurants there. I’m sure that there are certain times of the week when closing parts of Pike (and Ballard Ave) would make sense.

    1. Also, another good piece from Ryan Packer yesterday:


      “To pay for additional transportation projects, the Seattle City Council is contemplating a $10 increase to the city’s vehicle license fee, doubling school zone traffic cameras, and a $0.25 per-vehicle fee levied on scootershare and bikeshare operators.”

      The only objectively good idea here is increasing automated enforcement of speeds near schools. Of course, Sawant is the only one willing to come out against flat VLF fees since they are regressive, but it’s one of the few ways the city can add revenues. Additionally, the tax on micromobility is one of those nickel-n-dime taxes that seems like it has more political cost than real revenue.

      Frankly, I’d like to see automated enforcement brought to buses, which could use cameras to photograph bus-line violators and other issues. Although, SDOT claims that bus lane compliance is relatively high (and anecdotally, that’s what I observe). I think the main incidence of non-compliance is when parking lanes become bus lanes and people forget to move their parked private property out of the temporarily-public-oriented space.

      1. I read it too. Although, bridge maintenance is really not just money for cars. Lots of bus routes make heavy use of the ship canal bridges, as do bikes and pedestrians. Like it or not, it does have to be paid for.

        I’m not keen on a per-ride tax for rental scooters. Partly because these rides are already too expensive, but also because it discourages companies from offering subscriptions good for unlimited rides for a period of time. It also seems very unfair to ding the user with multiple per-trip fees each time they unlock a broken scooter and have to switch to another one.

      1. A grand parade of over-engineered BART del Norte. Massive structures to feed the maw of the concrete and steel monopolies, an alignment that hugs the edges of two freeways, doubtless enormously subsidizing two huge highway projects, the “Midway” interchange rebuild and the SR 509 extension.

        Way to go autoistas!

      2. Thanks for sharing! I saw the Lynnwood one but now the FW one.

        Tom I’m not sure where you got your subsidizing highway projects conspiracy theory? FWLE does suburban rail well – 1. leverage highway alignment where it allows for lengthy at-grade operations, 2. place important stations several blocks away from the freeway envelop (KDM, FW), and 3. let buses cover the 1/4 mile stop spacing (RR-A) with rail as the express overlay for longer distance trips.

      3. Tom’s comment is terrific. ST is building a monument. ST3 Link is in freeway envelopes (along with Lynnwood Link and the south part of the initial segment); freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish; Link should be serving pedestrian centers.

      4. “Tom’s comment is terrific. ST is building a monument. ST3 Link is in freeway envelopes (along with Lynnwood Link and the south part of the initial segment); freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish; Link should be serving pedestrian centers.”

        I agree Eddie, but the route of Link once it leaves the Northgate to SODO segment has been known for a long time. No one can be surprised about the alignment along I-5 or 405/520. Either ST 2 or 3.

        The reason obviously is cost. ROW costs have always been underestimated in ST’s levies (and ST tax revenue overestimated). Public ROW’s are much less expensive than private ROW’s, and most communities want tunnels (although only north Seattle got them) if they get Link.

        Compare East Link including Redmond Link with WSBLE. East Link is mostly surface or elevated in public ROW’s or greenbelts. As a result, the cost was around $5.5 billion, even with some expensive issues with the I-90 bridge. The powers that be decided East Link would run over I-90, through a greenbelt in a very undense area (Bellevue Way), along 112th/405, and then basically a jog over to 520. Maybe three stops make sense, at least today: “downtown” Bellevue, Microsoft, Redmond

        WSBLE however is basically the design you suggest through areas people actually live and work, but since most is underground the cost is around $20 billion, and estimated ridership very low for such a huge cost because the reality is a lot of people don’t like dense housing.

        ST’s hope is that citizens will decide to live or work in TOD next to I-5 or 405 or 520, even though so far they have chosen to not live next to a major freeway. ST has tried all kinds of legal tricks and proposed legislation to basically force folks to move to these TOD the PSRC thought were the future (in 2018), and Inslee again touted TOD for affordable housing today but post pandemic people don’t need TOD and so don’t want to live next to a train station or freeway if they don’t have to. Maybe Wilburton or The Spring Dist. might be in several decades, but post pandemic I have my doubts. For areas north of Northgate or south of RV that is just not a freeway TOD demographic. People moved there because a SFH was affordable for them, not TOD or multi-family housing. Look at the zoning.

        The reality is most people don’t choose where they live based on transit or really transportation. That is why pre-pandemic when everyone had to commute to downtown Seattle they still chose to live far away and suffer on a bus for hours. Even in Judkins Park the residents don’t want their housing next to the station, which is why first/last mile access has always been the big issue with Link. When they no longer had to commute they abandoned transit, or driving to work, not where they live. One they love, one they put up with because they had to.

        I can’t really believe ST thought folks would suddenly want to live next to a train station or freeway when throughout history those properties are the least valuable (at least for housing), but the reality is the only way the spine could be quasi affordable was to use public ROW’s. You would think with a $142 billion budget ST would have least hired even a moderately competent real estate agent who would have told ST what it already knew: folks don’t like to live next to train stations or freeways, which ST already knew. What it didn’t know is a pandemic would come along and change work and travel patterns forever (of course neither did WSDOT when it comes to tolls on 520 or the 99 tunnel).

        Tom is right, but he was right in 2008 when ST 2 passed, and again in 2016 when ST 3 passed. The alignment has never changed.

      5. Daniel, Montlake Terrace does show a huge TOD development. The developer keeps adding to it so I would assume that there is demand for this type of housing.
        I’m a bit surprised how much buffer there is between I-5 and the FWLE alignment, does WSDOT insist on leaving space to widen I-5?
        Tom, I agree, there is a ton of earth movement and concrete construction involved. It feels to me like the contractor is building highways and other infrastructure just to put tracks on it afterwards. I compare this with modern track systems which seem to be so much easier to build, like: https://youtu.be/p00RrSCoVbo?t=79 I have not checked the carbon footprint of the FWLE, but I bet it will take until the end of the century to make up the embedded carbon footprint with VMT reductions and our politicians are promising carbon neutrality by 2035/40?!?

      6. Daniel, you’re not quite correct about 2008. At that time the alignment south of Angle Lake had not been decided. There was an SR99 option with two additional stations.

        The I-5 alignment won out because Des Moines didn’t want its lucrative auto dealerships to be inconvenienced by an elevated railway and it was thought that the freeway ROW alignment would be much more at-grade. As the flyover shows, only about 30% is at-grade, and there are four transitions between the SR99 and I-5 rights of way.

        Basically, the freeway alignment now costs about the same as that along SR99.

      7. AJ, without Link’s involvement there would be no Midway Interchange replacement. And of course, it just had to be built to “current standards with many lanes and a widened freeway.

        SR509 was going to be extended, but you might notice that Link’s structure came first, necessitating grading which extends into the future roadway.

      8. Yes the 99 alignment would have allowed for at least 1 if 2 more stations, which made it a better alignment and is unfortunate Des Moines rejected it and forced the I5 alignment. But I’m consistently perplexed by this line of thought, “Option A was forecasted to cost less than Option B, but once implemented Option A cost more than forecasted, and therefore Option B would have been cheaper.” Comparing one project’s actual cost to the estimated cost of an alternative that never made it past 10% design is meaningless if both projects are still within the same order of magnitude.

        Martin, your video is of a single tracked demonstration line.

        And I’m still completely lost on Tom’s highway subsidy complaint. ST isn’t paying for any of the SR 509 project.

      9. Yes, AJ, it’s single tracked, but you can imagine a 2nd track right next to it. It still requires far less ground preparation, just small foundations for the support platforms/columns. The manufacturer claims that they also support a single support column for double track, just like ST does. But the tracks are prefabricated and put in place by crane while ST requires clearing of at least an 80′ corridor all along as you see from the video – far more destructive and costly. TSB built a demonstration track in China in a few months instead of years for the FWLE.

      10. A J, because ST is the first agency in the ROW, it is inevitably shouldering some costs WSDOT won’t have to bear. This is of course good project management: do ALL the grading at once. But it’s a very good way to “shift costs” onto transit, as Ross catalogued so well, a few weeks ago.it

  2. A possible enhancement would be to use Pike and Pine as a streetcar loop route in its own lane between Westlake and either 12th or Biriadway. It would require rethinking the streetcar line configuration — like maybe pair it with a new Belltown and Seattle Center line. With WSCC getting completed it could tie all the attractions together.

    1. I would like the city to revisit building out a streetcar system to connect a lot of the inner ring part of the city itself.

      1. Is there a way to build overhead wire for trolleybuses that can be reused for upgrades to streetcars? Seems like an obvious progression. I’d like to see a large expansion of the trolleybus wire network, if only for consistency of cost of operations with unstable fuel prices.

      2. Nathan, the wires on Market Street in San Francisco are used by both trolley buses and historic streetcars. The trolley buses use both wires while the streetcars use just one (the ground “wire” are the steel wheels and rail).

      3. @Zach B,

        I think I understand your thought process, and I’ve been thinking along those lines myself lately.

        I think a lot of the pieces to a solution to the downtown situation, particularly on 3rd, already exist, but nobody has assembled them into a coherent vision yet. And the CCC Streetcar is central.

        First, some observations:

        1). I think the DSA is correct that the “wall of buses” and the narrow sidewalks on 3rd are the main drivers of the problem.

        2) I concur with the DSA that fewer buses downtown is preferable, IF (and only “if”) mobility can be maintained.

        3) From an urban design POV, the 2-lane, wide sidewalk option for 3rd is preferable. Unfortunately it does not work well with buses.

        4) They never really decided if the CCC would operate as one line, or as 2 separate lines which interlined in the DT core to provide double the frequency and capacity.

        So, as they say, “go big or go home.” Mixing and matching some of the elements that are already on the table, I would suggest the following:

        A) figure out why Metro is underperforming it’s peer cities in riders per bus and correct this situation. We should be able to reduce the number of buses just by increasing performance to a level that every other city seems to be able to accomplish.

        B) get even more aggressive about forcing more bus to Link transfers outside the urban core. We have a high capacity, underground option Downtown – use it!!!

        C) kick all the remaining buses of 3rd. Do not redistribute them to other streets. Remove means remove.

        D) build the 2-lane, wide sidewalk “shuttle and hub” option on 3rd.

        E) instead of putting buses back on 3rd, put the CCC on 3rd, but as a 2 line system with extensions.

        F) the first SC line goes from Cap Hill to Seattle Center via the CCC on 3rd

        G) the second SC line goes from Eastlake to approx Jackson and MLK via the CCC on 3rd. Exact termini TBD.

        H) add a third SC line that operates as a shuttle and hub line, again using the CCC on 3rd. Use bi-directional Pentos if demand warrants.

        The above conceptual plan leverages the investment we have already made in Link and SC, while simultaneously improving the situation on 3rd and while maintaining overall mobility.

        It should at least be considered.

        But I’m with you Zach, I think SC is one piece of the solution to revitalizing DT Seattle.

      4. The CCC is in an ambiguous state. Durkan suspended it and ordered a study to to inform whether to continue it. I think Harrell is pursuing something similar. Durkan had a vision of tourists traveling from Pike Place Market to MOHAI and Little Saigon. But the cost overruns and lack of full funding, and continuing questions about whether this corridor is really a transit priority, have raise doubts about whether it’s worth pursuing.

        The streetcar plan is two overlapping lines: Lake Union to CID, and Westlake to Broadway & Denny. They would each run every 10 minutes, for 5-minute combined frequency between Westlake and CID.

        It also has center transit lanes on 1st Avenue, except in the very narrow Pioneer Square area. The 1st & Madison streetcar stop would be shared with RapidRide G. Other bus routes on 1st Avenue could also use the center lanes and stations, although no particular routes have been proposed. Transit fans envison a route from SODO to Seattle Center serving Belltown.

        The “wall of Buses” argument on 3rd seems to be a scapegoat. They haven’t proven that DSTT construction or the transit mall on 3rd are the cause of the loitering/drug market at 3rd & Pine. The market is there for the same reason the buses are there: it’s a central crossroads where the most customers are. That would be true even without the buses. The loitering/drug market isn’t the entire length of 3rd, just those two blocks around McDonald’s and another couple blocks in Pioneer Square. If the transit mall were the cause of it, you’d think it would be the entire length of the transit mall.

        Similarly in the U-District, the concentration of loitering is at 45th & 47th & University Way. That’s a major crossroads of both cars and buses and shoppers. It’s not the buses causing it; rather, the buses and loiterers are there for the same reason: it’s a major crossroads. There are many other surrounding bus stops on University Way and 15th that don’t have that concentration.

        SDOT’s/Metro’s long-range plan is to convert more north-south routes on 3rd to RapidRide, and reduce the number of non-RapidRide routes. The full Metro Connects plan in 2016-2020 and the Move Seattle levy envisioned at least a half dozen RapidRide lines, both the existing C, D, and E, the under-construction H (Delridge), the planned J (Eastlake) and R (Rainier), and also the 40, 62, and 120. That has been delayed due to Move Seattle’s overoptimistic budget and the covid funding reduction, but it’s still probably the ultimate goal. RapidRide lines going through between Pioneer Square and Westlake and some further north through Belltown, would move more people with fewer buses. The C, D, and E have already contributed to that, and more RapidRide lines would make it an even more effective transit mall, with fewer buses like the DSA wants.

        Then we can talk about reducing lanes on 3rd and replacing them with other amenities. The DSA has a couple visions of what that could be like. There are other potential solutions too.

      5. @Lazarus — I once proposed something similar. But someone on this very blog pointed out why agencies rarely (if ever) do that. People hate it. The reason people ride buses through downtown is because they don’t want to transfer just to go a few blocks. Imagine you are headed from Belltown to Pioneer Square. Do you want your bus to end at Westlake, so you can transfer to Link? Of course not.

        Theoretically you could run a surface shuttle, but again, that becomes a pain. You have made things worse for riders, and it isn’t clear that you’ve actually saved much money. You terminate the buses on the edge of downtown (saving some money) but then you are running a constant stream of shuttles so that those riders don’t have to wait.

        You’ve probably introduced three-seat rides in the process. For example, the 3/4 goes from Queen Anne to the Central Area. A trip from Belltown to First Hill is frequent and straightforward (if not fast). Instead a rider would have to transfer twice. That is an extreme example, but there are plenty of relatively short trips that now require a single transfer that would require two. Queen Anne to West Seattle. Ballard to the Central Area. Meanwhile, we are in the process of building the RapidRide G, the first BRT line in the region. It will run every six minutes throughout the day. From Uptown you would catch the first bus downtown (maybe the D) and then transfer at Madison. But now you are asking folks to make another transfer, just to connect the two buses. People would hate that.

        As for Third Avenue, the only option that retains that much mobility is the couplet. Run buses on Second and Third or Third and Fourth. That allows you enough room to widen the sidewalk on Third. This is a fairly simple change that retains all of the advantages of the current system, while allowing for more sidewalk space.

        It is worth noting that the report on Third Avenue focused on peak service. We do have a lot of buses during rush hour. My guess is though, those numbers have gone down. Partly it is because of less peak demand, but also because of Link truncations. The number of buses through downtown will continue to drop in the coming years.

        Spines are common the world over. We’ve got a good one — it should be improved, not replaced. I would like the bus lanes extended north, to Denny.

      6. @Mike Orr,

        You are correct. Durkan did try to kill the CCC.

        First she put out the false information that the new trolleys wouldn’t fit in the tracks because the gauge was wrong. That was an obviously false statement that she had to walk back immediately!

        Then she launched an internal study. She expected the study to come back showing that the CCC didn’t make sense. Instead the study concluded that the CCC made both transportation and economic sense and recommended building it.

        Then she decided to launch an “independent” outside study of the CCC. As an “independent” consultant she used a firm with that she had a long relationship with. She expected this firm to get the hint and recommend against the project. Instead it concluded that the CCC made good economic and transportation sense, and the firm issued an even stronger recommendation to proceed.

        After that Durkan and the Seattle City Council just ignored the CCC and moved on to important things, like defunding the police, adding bike lanes, and blah blah blah. We’ve all seen the SCC in “action”.

        My recollection is that the city never decided for sure whether or not to operate the combined SC/CCC line as a single line, or as 2-line system interlined in downtown.

        The concept I outlined above assumes the 2-line system, but moves the termini of the 2-lines from the edge of downtown to points further out. This is done to maximize the utility of the system. One line would run from Cap Hill to Seattle Center via downtown. The other line would run from east Jackson to Eastlake via downtown. Both lines would be interlined through the ID and downtown.

        Moving the CCC to 3rd and allows for he implementation of the DSA’s 2-lane, wide sidewalk option for 3rd. Buses simply don’t have the reliability nor the boarding efficiency to operate reliably in this lane configuration and at the volumes required.

        Adding a third SC line, also interlined on 3rd Ave is an implementation of the DSA’s “hub and shuttle” option. The termini of this line would also be outside the urban core to maximize utility and decrease hesitancy to the transfer. People generally don’t like transfers if the transfer is only for a short distance, or if the transfer isn’t viewed as an upgrade. This problem is avoided by having the transfers further out, and utilizing SC tech as the shuttle instead of buses.

        Using bi-directional Pentos for the 3rd line also reduces the number of vehicles on 3rd, and significantly improves SC economics even above the superior levels of the other SC lines.

        Doing the above, and maximizing bus-to-Link transfers outside the urban core, would allow a significant reduction in the total number of buses downtown while still maintaining mobility. It’s a win-win for the city

      7. I thought the two issues with the CCC were:

        1. Cost.

        2. It was slow. I remember a citizen jogged the streetcar routes (including the proposed CCC) faster than the street cars.

        When I tried to ride the FHSC, and I did try to ride it to dental and medical appointments next to Swedish and at The Polyclinic when I worked in The Smith Tower, I thought it was possibly the worst transit in the U.S. I could easily walk-up James to my dental appointment faster than the FHSC except it was pretty steep. I could drive and park for the same cost. Round trip on the FHSC was about $5 less expensive than Uber, which saved around 45–60 minutes round trip door to door.

        If you are talking streetcars that are tourist novelties like San Francisco that I can understand, except for the cost. To be honest, as someone who worked in Pioneer Square for 32 years, I don’t know what the fascination is with First Ave. In the old days when the streets were friendlier (and buses could use the tunnel) I could catch a bus or train to Westlake Center and walk to The Pike Place Market much quicker than walking to First to catch a bus along First.

        What exactly is the point of the CCC, and what supports its huge price tag? I don’t get it.

      8. Around 2000 at an open house in Roosevelt, the city asked whether it next transit investments should focus on light rail, streetcars, or buses. I said, “Light rail or buses, but not streetcars.” Light rail is faster than local buses so people can get from A to B faster, which is what they wanted in the first place, and makes transit more competitive with driving. Buses are inexpensive so they can provide more frequency and coverage for the same amount of money. Streetcars are the worst of both words: more expensive than buses but not faster.

        The SLU streetcar is even slower than the 40 or 62 south of Denny because it gets caught every block at a stoplight, which the buses don’t. The First Hill streetcar is no faster than a trolleybus, so why not use a trolleybus instead?

        Streetcars can be faster than buses and have higher capacity. There’s no technical gap between streetcar and light rail technology; it’s a continuum. In some countries Link on MLK would be called a “streetcar” or “tram”. But in the Seattle/Portland definition, light rail is mostly exclusive-lane or grade-separated, and streetcars are mostly mixed traffic. That right there says what’s wrong with Seattle/Portland streetcars: why build expensive rail to get stuck behind SOVs and traffic lights? That’s what other countries don’t build anymore and haven’t since WWII, because it’s ineffective and expensive. They build something like MLK with a downtown tunnel, grade-separated metro, BRT, and/or lots of local bus routes and frequency. Not streetcars like Seattle/Portland.

        As to why we have streetcars, it’s because Paul Allen wanted to replicate Portland’s streetcars in Seattle. He thought people would love a shiny toy like they love Starbucks and the Space Needle. That it would attract development investors at his SLU properties. That downtown shoppers would take the streetcar to shops in SLU in a way they wouldn’t take a bus. He was a billionaire so the city agreed.

        The First Hill streetcar exists because ST2 Link dropped First Hill Station. It offered the neighborhood a consolation prize, and loudmouths said they want a streetcar, and nothing less than a streetcar would be acceptable. They were also concerned about all those Sounder commuters working on First Hill. I said it should be a trolleybus because a streetcar wouldn’t be any better than that, and the route already has trolley wire. But streetcar advocates got their car.

        San Francisco’s cable cars have priority right of way. Cars can’t impede them, and whenever they stop, surrounding cars must stop too. This was common in the early 1900s, when streetcars were the default transportation mode and cars were extras. San Francisco’s streetcars are exclusive-lane if I remember. They are a tourist attraction, with vintage cars from the 1800s to the 1950s, but they’re also local transportation. When i was stayed at Fisherman’s Wharf and attended a conference downtown, I found that the F streetcar, 8 bus, and Powell-Hyde cable car, all took the same 20 minutes. So I alternated between them.

        As for First Avenue, I don’t know why either, other than that Pike Place Market and the art museum are on it. Some people think the buses running every couple minutes on 3rd and Link underneath aren’t close enough. And south of University Street there’s a steep hill between 1st and 3rd.

      9. @DT,

        Your 2 points against expanded SC are demonstrate love you false.

        1). Yes, the upfront capital cost is much higher than if you were to just buy some buses and run them in existing city streets, it the rewards are also much higher. The original SC analysis, and the subsequent two (2!) Durkan studies of the proposed CCC SC all confirmed this. Building the CCC using SC technology makes both economic and transportation sense. Why do we need to keep debating established fact?

        2) slow? Not really. Ya, any jogger or track star could probably outrun a streetcar on a long city route, but that same runner isn’t stopping at multiple locations to pick up riders. Dwell time impacts total time, and a runner has zero dwell time. And zero utility too.

        2 cont) also, I once out walked the D Line. No kidding, I’m serious. In lower QA the D that I was on was so slow that I just got off and walked. I actually caught up with the D bus ahead and then reboarded. It was crazy slow.

        But hey, I believe in data, so I’m inclined to side with the Durkan studies and expanded SC. Ya, it isn’t a magic solution to all transportation problems everywhere. But it does play a vital role in moving Seattle towards rescuing 3rd Ave and DT from the current situation, and it does help in moving the city towards important transportation and climate goals.

      10. @Mike Orr,

        I’ve never bought into this odd Seattle habit of denigrating it’s most successful residents, so I’m not really inclined to criticize Paul Allen just because he made a pile of money. I’m more inclined to carefully consider his opinions (as I hope I consider everyone’s opinions) before deciding to accept or reject.

        In this case I think The Seattle City Council was correct to build the SLU SC, and the FHSC. The only problem has been that they haven’t been able to step up to the plate and make the final investment to make both lines work effectively together.

        The original analysis on the CCC, and both Durkan studies, all came to the same conclusion – building the CCC makes transportation and economic sense. All the recommendations were to build it.

        This city should have the strength to follow its own data. Build the CCC, and make it even better by expanding it and getting the buses off 3rd Ave.

        Oh, and per the Roosevelt “survey”, if you asked me what tech would best support my needs in my neighborhood, I would say Star Trek transporter. Because as John Prine used to say, “ I could have my lunch in London. And my dinner in St. Paul.”

        Don’t argue with John Prine.

      11. Ok, Lazarus, as long as Seattle is paying for the capital costs (plus the $50 million federal pork, er I mean grant, for the CCC).

        I would love to see some data on dollar per rider mile for the two existing street car lines, including the capital costs and maintenance. I am a little suspicious after ST’s “estimates” in ST 2 and 3.

        Here is what I found on the two streetcar lines and CCC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Streetcar

        “In March 2018, Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered an investigation of the project and a construction halt for the duration of the review—estimated to take up to three months—in the wake of rising capital costs that were estimated to leave a $23 million shortfall in an overall $200 million budget for building the line. Mayor Durkan announced in January 2019 that the project would be revived if funding is found to cover the entire $286 million cost; it is now estimated to open in 2025 due to new engineering and design work that will be required.”

        When it comes to estimated ridership on the CCC vs. the existing streetcar lines I find this:

        “The two lines are unconnected, but share similar characteristics: frequent service, station amenities, and vehicles. Streetcars typically arrive every 10–15 minutes most of the day, except late at night. The streetcar lines are owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation and operated by King County Metro. The system carried 806,000 passengers in 2021.”

        “Center City Connector”

        “The two existing lines would overlap within downtown, increasing frequencies, and the streetcars would operate in an exclusive transit lane. The project is expected to greatly increase ridership on the Seattle Streetcar Network to 20,000–24,000 riders per day (compared to about 5,000 today)”.

        This sounds a lot like ST’s estimates and math.

        I know 1st Ave. intimately having worked in Pioneer Square for 32 years. I know I vowed I would NEVER ride the FHSC ever again. Based on ridership others feel the same way. 60% of downtown workers have not returned to their offices post pandemic. No frickin way the CCC will have 20,000 riders/day on First Ave., or more than the 5000/day on the two other lines combined pre-pandemic.

        Assuming the usual 30% cost overrun (which might be generous based on history) to complete the CCC, that brings the total construction costs to around $371.8 million. Assuming the same ridership as the two other lines COMBINED PRE-PANDEMIC, 5000 riders/day, I am afraid to even try and estimate dollar per rider mile. Why not just get each rider an Uber and save a few hundred million dollars?

      12. “I’m not really inclined to criticize Paul Allen just because he made a pile of money.”

        What I didn’t like about Paul Allen was how he repeatedly tried to get the public to pay for things he wanted and would benefit him financially and could pay for himself. The SLU streetcar, the football stadium, the Commons project that didn’t go through.

        “building the CCC makes transportation and economic sense.”


        “getting the buses off 3rd Ave.”

        Some buses or all buses? Some buses will go away anyway as more RapidRide restructures go through and Link extensions get peak express routes out of downtown. All buses, you can’t be serious. The streetcars don’t have the capacity for even 1% of the 3rd Avenue bus riders. Increasing frequency would run into a ceiling of level crossings like in MLK, which is limited to 6 minutes. Increasing train size would require buying new vehicles and the platforms may be too short.

        And 3rd Avenue is closer to the middle of where people are coming from than 1st is. And it facilitates transfers to Link. There’s no reason to move a lot of bus service from 3rd to 1st.

      13. I guess I should have added that I didn’t quite understand how 806,000 annual riders on the two existing streetcar lines equals “around” 5000/day in the same Wiki article. If 806,000 riders/year is the accurate number, which I suspect it is, the CCC COMBINED with the two other lines will equal around 5000 total riders/day. And these are pre-pandemic numbers.

      14. Mike, the Commons park would have been a public park. Paul Allen said, if Seattle wants a public park in SLU, he’ll get the ball rolling by donating land and money to the cause, but the majority of the funding of the park, which, again, will be a public park, will come from public tax dollars. I think he would have donated about the 20% of what the total cost would have been. Seattle voted no to that idea. I’m not sure what you’re blaming Paul Allen about. You do realize he benefited a thousand times more from the Vulcan office park that took the place of the Commons park, don’t you?

      15. I think he wanted the Commons park and the streetcar to raise the property values of his adjacent properties. I voted against the Commons for that reason. In retrospect, maybe I should have taken the park more seriously. It would have made the neighborhood better than what we have now.

        I don’t weigh city support or studies for the CCC very highly. They’re missing the passengers’ perspective, what it’s like to use a transit route regularly. Like so many other projects that put other stakeholders ahead of the route’s purpose. The purpose is to transport passengers quickly and conveniently so they can do things at their destinations in a day. The streetcars don’t do that, even with the admirable center lanes on 1st. Because the center lanes are only one mile, a small part of the total routes length.

        When I see the Portland streetcars, I think of how much better it would be to live on a MAX line than a streetcar line.

      16. Studies are only as accurate as the assumptions going it. The studies probably rely on some generic model about people’s willing to ride a vehicle on rails vs. a vehicle on rubber tires. They are likely ignoring the big picture which is that it’s really hard to come up with an actual trip where the CCC would offer a non-trivial time travel advantage over the existing transit network. If you want a one seat ride between SLU and Pioneer Square, you can get that today by riding the 40. To Capitol Hill, you can get that today by riding the 8. To First Hill, there is admittedly a hole in the network, but it can be filled much more cheaply with a bus down Denny and Boren, while still getting people where they’re going faster than a streetcar would. And, even the two seat connection available downtown today still gets you there just as fast as the CCC would because it’s frequent buses taking a direct route vs. the CCC one-seat roundabout route. What’s left? I guess SLU to 12th/Jackson, the CCC would save a small amount of time by saving a connection between two pairs of very frequent bus routes. But, that’s hardly worth spending $100 million+ over.

        There is also the broader issue that downtown already has excellent transit, while Seattle has become less downtown-centric, particularly post pandemic. So, there is a case to be made that transit money is better spent filling gaps in the rest of the city (which could be simply running existing bus routes more frequently, during more hours of the day), rather than pouring an entire fortune into making the already very good downtown transit experience ever so slightly better.

        Ultimately, the two original streetcar lines were simply big mistakes, and the money that went into them should have been spent on buses. Or, if it’s Sound Transit money we’re talking about, making expansion the city’s real train (e.g. Link) more useful and more likely to get built.

  3. I think no, since the streetcars use the rail as a grounding wire?

    Since Seattle already has a solid trolleybus network and an infant (stillborn?) streetcar network, I think it would be better to build upon the trolleybus network. Aside from capacity and a smoother ride, there is little advantage of a streetcar and significant disadvantage is much higher capital costs and less flexible operations.

    If a city had a streetcar network but not a trolleybus network (NOLA, Philly, Toronto) is may make more sense to expand the streetcar grid rather than just run wires., but unless they had really robust ridership (Toronto) it’s still hard to justify.

    1. Bummer. I have a pipe-dream of zero-carbon bus network that’s all batteries and overhead wire, and it’d be nice to be able to save a few handfuls of millions when it comes time to swap from rubber to steel.

      I can’t tell if the city is actually serious about CCC, or if they’re just propping it up for the DSA. If seems to me that if Downtown folks really want high-capacity transit connecting 1st Ave to SLU & CID/YT/FH, they should ask Spotts to paint a couple lanes red and pay KCM to run the equivalent bus service, first.

      1. I have a pipe-dream of zero-carbon bus network that’s all batteries and overhead wire

        I don’t think it is a pipe dream. The county is definitely moving that direction. If the rider shortage continues, I expect the county to look into investing more in infrastructure as opposed to increased service, and electrification is a big option.

        If seems to me that if Downtown folks really want high-capacity transit connecting 1st Ave to SLU & CID/YT/FH, they should ask Spotts to paint a couple lanes red and pay KCM to run the equivalent bus service, first.

        Assuming the buses run curbside, that would be very cheap, since we have an overabundance of buses that run down 3rd. Just send a few on 1st. If you wanted bus stops in the middle of the street you would need special buses (with doors on both sides). That becomes a bigger project. I could see wired buses for there as well as Madison. That would be a bigger purchase order, which would make it possible (they ended up with diesel-electric for Madison because they don’t need that many).

        It isn’t clear whether bus service on 1st would satisfy people. If you view the CCC as a transit project it doesn’t make sense. But if you view it as a way to increase business (and revitalize the area) then it is reasonable. Those who support it for that reason may not want “just” a bus.

        One of the big advantages of a bus over rail is its flexibility. It is clear to most people that the Capitol Hill routing is flawed. Forming a loop doesn’t make it better. But no one is thinking of moving it, despite the obvious flaws. Moving wire isn’t cheap, but it is a lot cheaper than moving rail.

      2. “I have a pipe-dream of zero-carbon bus network that’s all batteries and overhead wire”

        That’s in Metro’s plan. The county wants to electrify the entire bus fleet by 2040 or so, with mostly battery buses. The trolleybus network would get some small expansions like the 48 (which only needs one mile of wire to fill a gap, but not a major expansion. The reason for no major expansion is the cost of trolley wire. Metro has reserved part of its base budget for the electrification. I think the county, Seattle’s Transit Benefit District, the state, and federal grants are contributing additional funding.

        I would rather see buses converted at the end of their life rather than all being converted now. Even diesel buses have fewer carbon emissions than if all those passengers drove SOVs. So it’s more important to get the most service hours and frequency and coverage than it is to convert all the buses immediately.

      3. I would rather see buses converted at the end of their life rather than all being converted now.

        In general I agree. I would rather put the money into extra service.

        I think the driver shortage changes things though. It if is still a problem in a couple years, than shifting to capital projects makes more sense. That being said, there are other capital projects, like additional bus lanes. There may be a shortage of staff to do that as well (I have no idea). But theoretically now is the time to invest in infrastructure, and in the future (when it is easier to hire bus drivers) we should increase service.

      4. “when it comes time to swap from rubber to steel.” That’s an if, not a when. I’d delay upgrading from rubber to steel as late as possible – rubber is better (cheaper, flexible, able to pivot on routes & network design) until it can no longer handle the capacity.

    2. AJ: agreed re streetcars. But, Toronto had electric trolleybus and SEPTA still does. The G Line restructure will be an opportunity to do so.

    3. Of course trolley bus overhead can be converted to streetcar centenary: just remove the ground wire and add catenary hangers. It’s not “free”, but you can certainly reuse the supports andcthe piwer distribution, which are the most expensive parts.

      What you must not do is run catenary under two-wire trolley wiring. It will short. When ETB’s run alongside the streetcar on Jackson they have their own overhead off to the side. San Francisco works because they use single-wheel trolley poles on the ETB “hot”.

  4. What is the current retail density and vibrancy in this two-block area today?

    Generally, the two reasons to create a pedestrian only zone out of public streets are: 1. The sidewalks can’t handle the current number of pedestrians due to the retail vibrancy; and 2. to expand existing retail density and vibrancy. (It is also important to consider this is a “mixed-use zone” so the residents who live in the area might not be keen on all night “vibrancy”). If the goal is to create a pedestrian area without the retail density better to go for a walk in a park.

    Four examples I can think of are: 1. The River Walk in San Antonio; 2. U Village; 3. CID; and 4. Bourbon Street. Each has a lesson.

    To paraphrase Ross’s point about focusing transit spending on where transit ridership already exists, retail is a very difficult thing to create, unless retail vibrancy and density already exist. That means zoning, and luck because there is only so much retail an area can support which is why many cities condense retail through zoning.

    First you need retail facade density. Like U Village. That is what makes retail walkable in a country in which over half the citizens have a problem walking one block in a two-block zone. You don’t want a lot of driveways, commercial businesses like a real estate brokerage or bank, or non-retail uses at the street level.

    Next you need lots and lots of customers, especially tourists because they spend a lot. A square two block zone of facade density will need a lot of customers. A hotel or three are helpful like Bourbon St. and The River Walk.

    Some folks will need to get there by car, and the demands by the CID are instructive (and it was business opposition that prevented closing down streets when Norm Rice tried to revitalize Westlake). I was glad to see Uber mentioned. Is this area on Capitol Hill as vibrant as the CID, because the two main demands by CID businesses (including in today’s Seattle Times editorial) are parking and preserving the zoning. You don’t want to create this area/zone and then have years of construction for tall buildings in the zone, and you definitely need to cap building heights and segregate out commercial businesses unless you are shooting for The Spring Dist. We learned that the hard way on MI.

    Probably number one you need public safety. That means controlling the homeless population, and San Francisco is instructive on that point, and crime (drug dealing). It is one thing to be “alternative” and another to be dangerous, and this area after Chop does not have a great regional reputation for safety, because the kind of retail density and vibrancy to warrant closing down a two-block area of public streets will need a lot of “non-alternative” customers. If you remove cars and create this pedestrian only zone next to a park on Capitol Hill and the customers — or “eyes on the street” — don’t come you will end up with a homeless shelter or 3rd Ave. After all, how many stroll through Cal Anderson Park at night?

    Then don’t be surprised if the area becomes something you didn’t expect: gentrified, or a tourist destination like Bourbon St. You start to bring in lots of non-alternative customers who have most of the money and the rents rise and the businesses change. Has happened to gay and alternative communities all over the country on a regular basis.

    You will also need an anchor tenant or two, ideally on a corner, and those tend to be non-alternative. The Crypt might be someone’s cup of tea but probably not in this zone. It killed U. Ave. when The Rack left, and Westlake when Macy’s left. There has to be something to shop for that is not “alternative”. Real stores and real retail. Like at U Village.

    And you are going to need a benefit district to tax the businesses and property owners for the improvements to the area (trees, flowers, benches etc.) and the daily/nightly maintenance.

    So I guess the questions are, 1. whether the current retail vibrancy today in the area — which isn’t great in Seattle — needs streets to handle the people or that is remotely likely in the future, 2. whether the zoning exists or can be adopted (which could mean a downzone for some property owners who usually don’t covet retail, let alone alternative retail) to create or preserve retail facade density, and 3. whether the proponents or residents are willing to accept the reality the zone’s vibrancy will require a lot of folks coming from outside this neighborhood which could fundamentally change this zone. Remember. this Link station will someday connect with East Link, and if really popular will bring in the demographic that will likely change the character. If they come. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    My guess is neither the retail density nor vibrancy exists today to warrant closing down these public streets which is a public taking, and this area won’t get the throngs of shoppers and diners with money to make such a zone, its zoning, and its maintenance costs viable. I don’t see it being a lure for eastsiders on East Link and parking is horrendous. It isn’t exactly U Village when it comes to retail vibrancy today. When I see Mosqueda and Packer at the meeting I know we are talking about total retail amateurs in probably the toughest area: retail.

    It isn’t my call to make, and I really don’t have an opinion one way or the other. I have been planning a trip back to Capitol Hill with my wife after reading about it on this blog and plan to visit this area. It has been many years since I lived there, or even dined or shopped there. I drove through the other day because I was lecturing at Seattle U. Law School and did not see the retail vibrancy — at least during the day — on 12th or Broadway to support a two-block pedestrian retail zone, but want to return at night.

    Any suggestions where to drink and eat in the area this new zone would be?

    1. “What is the current retail density and vibrancy in this two-block area today?”

      Followed by another 1,000 words saying what could have been said in 100. You’ve previously admitted, several times, to being ignorant as to how Capitol Hill is popular. Why not visit and find out?

      1. Nathan, sometimes I see things on this blog — and the article really linked to The Urbanist — that I don’t think are thought through, in many cases because those on The Urbanist or on this blog don’t understand the economics, or begin their analysis about how much they hate cars but have zero experience in running a retail business. You live in a Twitter world in which a complete rezone of two important blocks can be done in 30 characters. I don’t live in that world.

        Whether Capitol Hill is “popular” is not the issue, and that is a discretionary opinion unless you are talking about revenue at the businesses themselves, and profit after expenses. BECAUASE THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT OF THIS PROPOSED ZONE. Otherwise a business goes bankrupt, and I don’t know if you have followed the number of Seattle businesses and restaurants that have gone out of business over the last three years.

        The issue is whether this two-block area that includes important through streets and access for residents to their homes has the current retail vibrancy to support closing down a square two block area, or has any hope of achieving that retail density and vibrancy in the future so that streets are needed to handle the customers.

        I drove by this area just the other day and it looked pretty dead to me in the early afternoon. I worked in Pioneer Square for 32 years and it actually has an existing pedestrian only zone called Occidental Square surrounded by “middle housing” and it is dead, dead, dead, and until Harrell was a de facto homeless camp. Still dead retail wise, just without the tents (and I often found it humorous many on this blog would opine about Pioneer Square without ever visiting it).

        You just don’t think these things through, and your posts reflect that, and who in the world would rely on The Urbanist for such a proposal? Which is why we have a permitting process and likely SEPA process and zoning process. As far as I know you don’t live anywhere near this area so have as much skin in the game as I do. You couldn’t even answer the question I asked: What is the existing retail vibrancy in this zone? Because you don’t know the answer.

        If you close the two-block area, and cut off flow through traffic, which as Al notes will migrate to other streets, and the customers and retail vibrancy don’t come, you will end up with a dead zone that will likely become either 3rd Ave., Pioneer Square, or an extension of homeless camps in Cal Anderson Park. What makes you think people not like you with money will go to this pedestrian zone, because without them the zone makes no point, and you will have a very dead area of Capitol Hill and much worse congestion on other streets.

        What I find amazing, but not surprising, is that no one at The Urbanist, or you, ever asks the existing businesses their thoughts on such a pedestrian zone, when the CID businesses have objected to your vision for their business zone for a very long time. Instead, it is shove a ten-year construction schedule for DSTT2 down their throats, or rely on transit for their customers, because they are too stupid to understand what you understand, and then you wonder why they think you are a racist. Ask the people who do this for a living and actually listen to them, without all the ideological crap.

        Maybe the zone is a good idea and will work and business will thrive, and I would begin with an economic analysis by folks who know something about retail and traffic, but if I am an existing business in or out of the zone I am sure as hell not going to rely on The Urbanist, you, or Mosqueda on that. You guys know absolutely zero about retail or economics, and think it is fine to play with their lives.

        I plan to go the area again, at night, and see the “vibrancy”, but all I will see is the number of people walking around. Retail vibrancy has to do with receipts, and that means how much people spend, the cost of rent, staff, etc. Or you go out of business and end up with a dead zone.

        Try to see how these things affect others, those with skin in the game, and put aside the morality and ideology which is truly boring to me. The only question really is whether the current or future retail density and vibrancy (meaning money spent, not people walking around) supports closing a two-block area including a major through street that will migrate that traffic to other streets, because I hope you don’t think creating this zone will reduce the car traffic, because that would be very naive, and my guess is that is exactly what Packer and Mosqueda were thinking.

        I pity Harrell trying to revitalize Seattle retail with Mosqueda on the council, even though it is probably too late now.

      2. The point of the zone is to have a pedestrian amenity, and to make at least one neighborhood in Seattle more friendly to non-driving circulation. You say SDOT should ask businesses whether they want it. Maybe some of the businesses are part of the coalition promoting it. This area has long attracted those kinds of businesses, and some of them own their lots.

        There are two ways retail can go. It can thrive on pedestrianized blocks where a majority of customers have been coming on foot, bus, or bike anyway. Or it can fail if there’s not enough pedestrian traffic to sustain it and most customers come by car. Many non-American pedestrian retail districts thrive, and Americans visit them and rave about how wonderful they are. On the other hand, some American streets were pedestrianized in the late 20th century and failed, and car lanes were added back. This is doubtless due to the context these streets are in. Even when American cities fund transit, bike, pedestrian amenities and promote non-driving, it’s still really small compared to other countries, and other policies dwarf it by promoting car-dominant streets and hidden subsidizes for driving, and regulations that increase street width and and minimum parking requirements and setbacks, making it difficult to get to businesses without driving, and propaganda that says driving is the only normal way to go. With all that around the pedestrianized street, it’s like setting it up to fail.

        But Pike-Pine is not like that. Pike-Pine is one of the primary places in Seattle that people without cars tend to live in and shop in, and the bars and nightclubs get a lot of walk-ins, and people value seeing their neighbors on the street and sometimes encountering old or new friends. Plus it’s within walking distance of Pike Place Market and the rest of downtown retail, so that makes an even larger walkable area that some people cherish. If a pedestrianized street can thrive anywhere in Seattle, it’s Pike-Pine or Pike Place or University Way. So a pilot on Pike-Pine would be welcome.

        At the same time, I’m also hesitant to close that street, so it needs thorough deliberation, and perhaps more part-time closures. I think New York’s Broadway pedestrianized block started with a short-term closure, and it was so successful they made it permanent. There’s already a precedent for short-term closures with the annual Capitol Hill Block Party and other events. But what these short-term closures won’t do is eliminate the street asphalt, and without that we can’t fully see the potential. It’s also unclear whether SDOT would keep one or two car lanes long-term, even if they’re only for local access or a shared ped-car woonerf. “Safe Streets” are still ugly because they’re asphalt car lanes, even if cars are limited or banned. To fully make it better you’d need to replace the asphalt lanes with something else; e.g., a brick plaza or greenery or something. So we’d need more clarity on how many of the asphalt lanes would be retained.

        “It isn’t exactly U Village when it comes to retail vibrancy today.”

        People who shop there avoid U Village because it’s mostly suburban chain stores. It’s like an outdoor Bellevue Square. They don’t want Macy’s or The Rack or Target there. Those can be somewhere else, and are somewhere else. People who avoid U-Village or suburban malls still go to them once or twice a year for things they can’t get in Real Seattle, but they go as little as possible, and they don’t want those chains invading their areas.

        If a Target does come in, it should be an “urban format” one like the Target downtown or Trader Joe’s on Madison: smaller than typical ones, with an entrance right on the sidewalk, and no or hidden parking. The chains know about this format now: some of them have been operating urban format stores in a few American cities for several years now.

        But again, you don’t need to add retail or a large anchor tenant: the retail is already there. Elliott Bay Books, Pacific Supply hardware, an independent record shop, charity-supporting thrift shops, a vegan restaurant, more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at, and those off the top of my head. My favorite club The Vogue used to be on 11th Avenue in the proposed zone. it closed in the early 2000s due to rent tripling, but I loved going there on Friday and Saturday evenings, the small 2-lane street had people walking across it all evening, while occasional cars came through or dropped people off at the club or parked nearby. People in the club used to stand outside for a few minutes and go back in, interacting with the pedestrians passing by, and pedestrians and drivers coming to the club. That was all very pleasant, and not something you’d find in U Village or the Eastside.

      3. those on The Urbanist or on this blog don’t understand the economics, or begin their analysis about how much they hate cars but have zero experience in running a retail business

        That is rather presumptuous. Just out of curiosity — are you an economist? Because I know of a couple people who routinely comment on this blog who are. I believe that one of them has written posts. As for owning a small business, my son did, and I was actively involved in the business (and by “small business” I mean very small and independent — at one point it was just him and his partner running things). I have no idea what your experience is running a small business. If you have something to say about that, please do. But don’t get on here and just assume that no one else knows anything.

        I really don’t get why you assume that everyone else in the world doesn’t know sh**. When pressed, people will dig out facts, figures and other data to support their case, and yet you persist in assuming that everyone else is the ignorant one. You freely admit that you don’t know anything about a subject, then turn around and make bold claims based on that ignorance. For example:

        What is the current retail density and vibrancy in this two-block area today? … My guess is neither the retail density nor vibrancy exists today …

        Clearly you have no idea what the retail density and vibrancy is. You are literally guessing. This idle speculation is one thing, but then it leads to this:

        It isn’t exactly U Village when it comes to retail vibrancy today.

        How would you know? Seriously, you have no idea — as you clearly stated so yourself. You just assume that it can’t possibly be as vibrant as U Village. Most people who have been to both places would laugh at the comparison. The area has way more people per square foot than U-Village. U-Village is largely a giant parking lot, with a smattering of stores. It does OK, but it is no Capitol Hill.

        You freely admit that you have no idea as to the retail density, but are ready to make pronouncements anyway. All the while, you bad mouth a whole class of people (people who write for the Urbanist or this blog). Wow.

      4. No one knows what the retail vibrancy is Ross for this area and for each business. Retail vibrancy isn’t the number of pedestrians or partiers. It is the net and gross revenue per sf of the businesses, retail facade density, and whether that is likely to grow in the future. Otherwise why take a two-block area and pedestrianize it?

        As noted in the article, retail vibrancy is measured throughout the day and night, not just at night. Which is why a city usually does an economic analysis before rezoning a major area and through road, although it really isn’t an “economic” analysis like you are thinking. More of a business analysis. They don’t use an “economist”, they use a retail expert. You confuse the two.

        Since I didn’t really know what each of the groups felt about this idea, and was curious because obviously it had never been repeated, I researched it, and posted links to articles from The Capitol Hill Blog and Stranger at the time. Not surprisingly, the different viewpoints were pretty much what I would have suspected, and why the experiment was never repeated, which leads me to believe a permanent closure is unlikely today.

        I used to read The Urbanist a bit. I liked the comments, but the editor couldn’t accept a viewpoint that differed from his own, and the comments were usually more perceptive than most of the articles. Let’s face it: most writers on The Urbanist are not the movers and shakers of the city and are not sophisticated when it comes to economics and money, and I sense a lot of envy. Other than some on this blog, I don’t know many who consider The Urbanist serious journalism. Mostly young people angry at their financial plight, but that is youth. Some may grow up and go to graduate school or get a real job rather than calling themselves “urban foxes on the eastside” while living at home.

        So I didn’t rely on the article in The Urbanist. I researched what folks had to say at the time. And posted those links so you and others could read them and understand why this experiment was never repeated, and probably won’t be, based on FOLKS WHO ACTUALLY LIVE THERE.

        Yes, I was speculating when I said U Village has more retail vibrancy (e.g. revenue per sf per store or restaurant) than this area of Capitol Hill, but I guess I was also speculating when I said Pioneer Square and 3rd Ave. are dead retail wise. Are you saying this two-block area of Capitol Hill has more retail vibrancy than U Village? When you write “The area has way more people per square foot than U-Village” it is clear you misunderstand what retail vibrancy is (and I don’t know where you got that metric; U Village is pretty dense population wise when open, although that is irrelevant). You confuse population density with retail vibrancy, which is like comparing an Apple Store with an adult book shop or clothing store for goths. Different things.

        I know the manager of U Village and could try and find out the retail lease rates, and compare those to this area of Capitol Hill, but you already know the answer, even though you would be speculating.

    2. Pike-Pine is the nightlife capital of Seattle, with dozens of live-music clubs, DJ bars, and other bars. Everybody who lives there knows the bars close at 2am. It’s one of the primary walkable neighborhoods of the city, so storefront entrances are right at the sidewalk, and there are hardly any parking lots. You don’t need to create retail; it’s already there. The proposed blocks have a variety of retail appealing to young and middle-aged adults. People without cars concentrate in the entire western half of the hill from Melrose Ave to 15th Ave and beyond. People who walk to those shops, and would like a pedestrian plaza in the neighborhood.

      1. https://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/09/city-assesses-pikepine-pedestrian-zone-as-businesses-already-voicing-opposition/

        “Leading up to the pilot project, the idea received a mostly enthusiastic response during community meetings. However, some landowners and business owners have pushed back on continuing the project. As co-chair of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Jill Cronauer worries that the pedestrian zone will send the wrong message about the importance of daytime businesses in Pike/Pine:”

        “What retailer would move into this area? Or restaurant that does not have a very heavy bar component? Not a one. On the other hand, what bar would NOT want to be in the middle of this wild party? That means bars and night clubs can afford to pay more rent which will push out the small number of day time users we have. By closing the streets it feels like we are handing over this part of the neighborhood to nightlife.”

        This suggests this experiment was conducted in 2015, and the groups I thought would object did: residents living there and non-club and alcohol retail businesses, who don’t want the image of a night only retail zone. Folks who like to party and drink like this proposal, but not businesses and residents. Some want Bourbon St. and some don’t.

        Sure if the zone took off I would like to visit (maybe on East Link) and party all night, but I certainly don’t want that zone where I live.

        “One retail manager already in the neighborhood echoed Cronauer’s concerns. Tracy Taylor, general manager of Elliot Bay Books, said closing the streets makes it even more difficult for customers to access businesses given inadequate public transportation options.”

        “With the construction on 10th and 11th, this past year, parking has become more and more of an issue,” Taylor said in an email. “We left Pioneer Square partly because the perception was that parking was too difficult.”

        “Capitol Hill developer Liz Dunn wasn’t wild about the project either. “I’d be far more excited about Thursday night or weekend daytime closures,” Dunn told CHS.”

        “Another growing factor could be residents in the neighborhood. With six new buildings in three blocks of 11th Ave, the residential population in the area is about to get a boost — though we’re also aware that some new buildings in the area are including language about nightlife noise in their tenant contracts.”

        “According to Heidi Hall, a business district advocate with OED, the city will be releasing a more detailed report in October.”

        Anyone know if that report was prepared? According to the article three “artists” prepared an informal report. https://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/04/pikepine-party-art-and-anti-lgbtq-violence-protest-respond-to-a-changing-neighborhood/ You can read their conclusions that were mostly viewed from an artist and LGBTQ perspective.

        The point I was trying to make to Nathan is usually in these proposals the folks and businesses who actually live there have differing views. What I see from Nathan and The Urbanist is a younger demographic who want to drink a lot and party and dance until late at night and so support the zone, like in 2015. But like in 2015 consider those who will object and why.

      2. https://www.thestranger.com/news/2016/04/07/23914967/capitol-hill-businesses-have-mixed-feelings-about-closing-pikepine-to-cars-again-this-summer

        “The event was a pilot project put together by the City of Seattle and Capitol Hill’s EcoDistrict and was set to celebrate the community while reducing street violence and reaffirming the neighborhood as an LGBTQ-friendly place. Or, as Alex Brennan of Capitol Hill Housing puts it: The intent of the making the streets carless was to increase public safety and use “the space as a way to reinforce the queer and artist identity of the neighborhood that people felt like was being lost.”

        “In order to better understand who was out walking around, researchers surveyed some 700 pedestrians during the study. A quarter of survey respondents identified as gay, queer, or something other than “straight,” and 77% identified as “white” or white and something else. Around 14% of people drove alone to Pike/Pine; the majority of people walked, took rideshares, rode public transit, or used some combination of the three.

        “Researchers also wanted to find out what people were up to in the neighborhood: 60% came for drinking, 41% for dining, 23% for dancing, and 21% came to watch live music. Around one third of those surveyed lived in Central Seattle, while another third lived elsewhere in Seattle.

        The actual visitors sound white, straight and from another area looking to drink and party.

        “This issue is really urbanists vs. anti-urbanists,” said Meinert in reference to Hansen and those opposed to another celebration this summer. “It’s not very popular to come out against pedestrian zones, so, instead, people are coming out against nightlife.”

        Ah, the old urbanist card by a bar owner.

        In the end the city claimed it did not have the money to do another trial closure, the Chamber lobbied to keep the streets open, Murray had to resign, and my guess is since then the neighborhood has gentrified quite a bit and those new residents have pushed back against being a frat party.

        I would put the odds at a permanent closure today under Harrell as very low, which I guess is why the trial project died in 2015. That would have been my original guess. I still hope to visit the area at night, but maybe earlier before it gets crazy since my trip would be to shop and dine.

      3. “Or restaurant that does not have a very heavy bar component?”

        Restaurants and clubs have alcohol licenses because it’s a high-profit product. That has little to do with whether the street is pedestrianized or not. I rarely drink, so I’d prefer a restaurant or club without alcohol, and drinks-only bars don’t interest me (I’d rather have food). But that’s where the high profit margin is, so many restaurants pursue it, and drinks-only bars pursue only it. Those businesses already proliferate in the area, and pedestrianizing the street won’t make restaurants more or less likely to offer alcohol.

      4. “Around 14% of people drove alone to Pike/Pine; the majority of people walked, took rideshares, rode public transit, or used some combination of the three.”

        Did you just say more than 50% of the customers didn’t drive to the businesses? Already, without a pedestrianized street?

      5. “This issue is really urbanists vs. anti-urbanists,”

        That is what it is. Urbanists want more walkable areas that prioritize non-driving. Anti-urbanists want to drive everywhere and have free parking at all their destinations, and don’t care about walkability or think “Nobody walks in LA” anyway.

        The problem is that designing cities for primarily cars requires extraordinary subsidies that dwarf transit/bike subsidies, and push everything apart making it more car-dependent, and require everyone to spend hundreds of dollars a month maintaining a car or taking Ubers, which shuts out people who can’t drive or can’t afford to do that. Fifty cars take up several times more room than fifty bus seats, take a lot of raw materials and fuel, and they also need space between the cars while moving and behind cars in a parking lot so they can get in and out. Those are the ultimate problems with cars, and why we shouldn’t design cities in a car-dominant way. Other countries prioritize transit/bikes/walking and working cars over personal car trips, yet they still have a lot of personal car capacity and parking garages, just not as much as the US has. That’s what we should aim for.

      6. Mike, I simply quoted from the articles. Of those surveyed during the temporary closure, “Around 14% of people drove alone to Pike/Pine; the majority of people walked, took rideshares, rode public transit, or used some combination of the three.”

        Those numbers do not surprise me because 2/3 of the visitors lived outside the neighborhood, and most came to drink alcohol, and the number of visitors was anticipated to be high and parking in the area (especially with the construction going on at the time) limited. If I had gone I would have taken Uber too for the same reasons. If I lived on Link and had first/last mile access and was my son’s age I might have taken Link.

        The makeup of the visitors in the survey does not suggest the majority lived in the neighborhood: “A quarter of survey respondents identified as gay, queer, or something other than “straight,” and 77% identified as “white” or white and something else.” That sounds a lot like my son’s fraternity, and my guess is a large makeup of the visitors were from UW because that is a demographic that likes to drink and party late.

        I don’t think this issue, or why some support this idea and some oppose, really has to do with cars or urbanism. Obviously late-night bar and club owners like the idea, hoping it would create a party scene every night, while restaurants that cater to a different crowd or retail businesses were not so keen, and neither were those who actually live nearby.

        I do know that when Elliot Bay Books left Pioneer Square it was devastating for the area as it was a true anchor tenant. But like the owner noted, the perceived lack of parking forced them to move. We hear the same complaints from businesses in the CID.

        I have no skin in the game, but my guess is the continuing gentrification of the neighborhood and Chamber opposition, and departure of Mayor Murray and election of Harrell, likely means the closure does not occur again. Why would Harrell want to add this to his plate? All the articles tried to point out is there is a difference of opinion among the groups who actually work and live in this area, and we haven’t gotten to those who drive through.

        Both Eddie and Al repeat a theme in the articles that if a closure does occur again it would need a lot of comprise and agreement, but I don’t know if the city has the money for it.

        If anything, due to the drive through traffic and retail businesses maybe weekend closures during the summer, if the residents living by don’t object. Most high-end residential neighborhoods don’t want to be the party zone for folks (and college students) who live somewhere else. Just because their tenant leases contained a noise notification doesn’t mean they will not object to more and longer noise.

      7. Not everybody makes a distinction between shopping and nightlife. If a business is uniquely attractive, people will go to it wherever it is. If a business is one of several the client considers interchangeable, other factors will emerge. For some that’s walkability and a pedestrian-centered ambience. For others it’s free parking. Nightclubs are more unique: there are only a few of them, and they cluster together in a few neighborhoods. Clothing stores, restaurants, and hardware stores are everywhere. But there’s only one Elliott Bay Books, and there was only one Vogue. Fortunately they’re both in a highly-walkable area, so I didn’t have to choose between the business and its neighborhood.

        The pedestrianization proposal is not a chamber of commerce gimmick to increase sales, it’s to improve the neighborhood for citizens and provide an all-too-rare-in-Seattle amenity. That’s a value in itself. People are more than just the money they spend. The city needs to weigh both the pedestrian amenity and retail potential, not just turn everything into a sales machine. And business staff are citizens too, and may use and value the amenity.

        In any case, the retail is already there, the clubs are already there, the pedestrians filling the sidewalks in the evening are already there, the wildness is already there. They’ve been there for decades. Businesses and residents have already located in or far from the neighborhood based on that. This pedestrianization won’t change these. But if it’s done right, people will feel happier being in the neighborhood. That will encourage some more pedestrians, but maybe not a lot more. That’s OK because it’s for the current pedestrians as much as for future ones. And if people feel better about the neighborhood because of the pedestrianized amenity, they may be more willing to shop in the neighborhood, and that may increase sales. But that’s not the goal, it’s a side effect.

      8. “Around 14% of people drove alone to Pike/Pine; the majority of people walked, took rideshares, rode public transit, or used some combination of the three.”

        The 14% is driving alone. It’s important to understand that this is not fully describing the traffic situation.

        It’s common for friends to drive with other friends to a nightclub in order to have a designated driver. These are not counted in the 14%. The data is driving ALONE and. It just driving.

        Uber/ Lyft usage is high in this area. Again the need to not drive drunk figures into the decision. While these aren’t in the 14%, these cars add lots of localized traffic in a nightclub district.

        So I don’t think the 14% is a very significant data point unless someone is counting parking spaces.

    3. You bring up an important point, Daniel. Retail vibrancy is different from nightclub vibrancy. That’s what I was alluding to with my comment on number of vibrant hours.

      In fact, a large retail space where Value Village (“Thrift Shop”) was is no longer retail.

      Don’t get me wrong. I love Elliott Bay Books. But most other of the few few retail stores are specialized and cater to specific things (like goth women’s clothing and collectible sneakers). As retail districts go, it is pretty far down the list with places like U District, Alaska Junction, Ballard and even North Broadway having lots more retail.

      However, Friday and Saturday nights can be a mob scene. People spill into the street. Pedestrians are running to and from their rides or waiting to see a performance. I could see a partial (one direction) or full street closure at those times.

      Still, that really is limited to about 20 hours per week. In fact, closing the street may deter customers from going to those specialty retailers that rely on customers from across the region rather than just the neighborhood.

      During the pandemic, SDOT closed 11th. How did that work out? It didn’t seem to affect things much. SDOT even reopened it.

    4. “Probably number one you need public safety. That means controlling the homeless population”

      (rolls eyes)

    5. Daniel, U Village is not “walkable”. The storefronts ALL turn away from the neighborhood around it, and pedestrians from them must approach through driveways.

      To call this moated car park “walkable” is an affront to the English language.

      1. As someone who used to go the u village frequently, and rarely by car, a I can say this is only marginally true.

        The sidewalk in front of the golf range is buckled and dangerous, with no buffer from fast traffic, and the crosswalk is in direct conflict with turning cars on Montlake.

        From the west, trying the negotiate the slip lane feeding the steady stream of cars to the Din Ti Fung garage is basically a game of frogger. You are better off sneaking through some non obvious parking lots adjacent to the Burke and using the car entrance further north.

        From the north, if you adventurous, you can find a path through the apartment complex, but it’s not marked and discouraged.

        They made the entrance near the Burke on the NE side a bit better, but it’s a bit of a hill and usually the one I least preferred.

        From Laurelhurst the sidewalks are really unpleasant, poorly maintained, non buffered and crisscrossed with high volume curb cuts.

        It feels like the mall considers the barriers a feature, not a bug.

  5. I have just returned from a trip to Europe that included a week living in a Barcelona “superblock” (Sant Antoni Market area).

    I can’t say enough about how WONDERFUL the transformation is (and how well received the project has been by the surrounding community. Tremendous street vitality!

    It’s important to note that Barcelona’s superblocks don’t inevitably ban vehicular traffic – they just implement traffic re-routing, timed delivery windows, and multiple (aggressive) calming techniques so that the pedestrian activity has a safe space to flourish. Automobile traffic is inevitably reduced as drivers who are “just passing through” choose speedier alternatives.

    Many documents about the Barcelona experience are available online – this short (8:44) YouTube video also provides a useful introduction which includes information on project rationale, design, implementation and outcomes:


    Let’s do this Seattle!!!

    1. My understanding is that the superblocks are grid blocks surrounded by straight through-running arterials. That would be like if Eastside superblocks had walkable interiors, dense housing, and a variety of retail and services so they’re a kind of mini-village. The opposite of big-box power centers and cul-de-sacs.

      The problem with pedestrianizing Pike Street at 11th, or Pine Street at Westlake Square, is that they’re not that. They’re nine-block areas surrounded by arterials; they are arterials. And the closures are right in the middle of the arterial corridors, between Pike Place Market, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. In a city that doesn’t have a lot of through streets because of geographical barriers (hills, cliffs, water, freeways).

      I’ll watch the video, but can you also tell more about what you saw about what the streets around the superblocks are like, how many interior one-lane or two-lane streets they have, and what the restrictions on interior streets are. For instance, can a resident drive to their apartment inside the superblock? Is there any parking there? Where do residents store their cars if they have them?

      1. The multiple superblocks that I saw in Barcelona utilized different design elements – variable based on local geography and needs.

        In some cases, there were true arterials on the perimeter of the superblock neighborhood as you’ve described. However, in other cases, traffic on the “through streets” (can’t really call them arterials) were slowed and deflected around a core such as a community playground, restaurant concentration, or retail aggregation.

        With regard to your other question: The interior streets that I saw were almost inevitably one-lane, one-way streets. There was some limited on-street parking and a number of cars were seen “pulling up, unloading, and moving on.” Most residents parked their vehicles in underground lots located on the edge of the superblock neighborhood (generally creating a need to walk 1-3 blocks to retrieve your car when it’s needed – although, keep in mind, your daily living needs are a very short walk from your home).

      1. Yes Sam – that’s where we stayed!

        We were across the street from the Mercat (large, super-clean food mart with multiple stalls/vendors for fish, veggies, meat, cheese, etc.). If we use the Mercat’s shape as a clockface, I can point out a few features:

        Our flat was at about the “7-8” mark. The street had very little automobile traffic (single lane, traffic calming). Within 1 block, we ended up spending money at multiple restaurants, pharmacy, traditional super-ish market, wine store, and electronics store.

        From the “9” mark on the Merkat (across the street and down to the left) there is a tree-lined promenade with extensive traffic calming. This area is dominated by restaurant usage – filled with outdoor dining.

        And lastly, from the “6” mark on the Merkat, go across the street then down and to the right. One block away you’ll see in neighborhood playground in a space formerly dedicated to cross-traffic. There’s a superb breakfast spot here (Federal Cafe) – and we spent a lot of time enjoying that space.

        Two additional resources for those who have interest in learning more about Barcelona’s superblocks:

        * Probably the best overall launching point for general information can be found here: https://www.barcelona.cat/pla-superilla-barcelona/en#reptes

        * And if you want a view of how neighborhoods across the city are being enhanced – with some high-level parsing of the treatments: https://www.barcelona.cat/pla-superilla-barcelona/mapa/en/#a_0__&

        // GG

      2. Greg, but, but, but where can the cars go? How will America, home of Capitalism red in fang and claw continue to show the ignorant “rest of the World” the “proper way to live” without them?????

  6. What happened to this blog? Why did the pandemic exponentially reduce its output? It was so robust and current and really served as a community hub for discussion about transit and land use. That is not the case anymore. It’s a shame!

    1. Those who bring up such questions in a volunteer-run organization offer themselves to be part of the solution.

    2. But since you raised the question, I’ll raise it with a different question: Why is transit ridership still way off from pre-pandemic levels?

      A huge chunk of former riders are still voting with their feet to avoid transit, perhaps riding less often, or perhaps avoiding it like the plague, literally.

      If you are reading this, and you are one of those riding less often, I’d love to know what is motivating your choice.

      1. @BW,

        OK, I’ll bite.

        I’m not necessarily down in usage, but I do find that I am riding Link more and the bus less. My trips are mainly discretionary, and as I ride Link more, and as the Link expands, I keep discovering new utility in the system, and I get a bit less tolerant of the bus. Particularly so in the urban core, and if a Link-to-bus transfer is required, I prefer to just walk.

        So I’ve kind of moved towards a Link/walk mode.

        My wife is slowly (very slowly) moving in the same direction, although most of her trips are non-discretionary so she finds herself on the bus more often. She does not drive and spent many years on the bus, and she doesn’t like change, so her first reaction is always to think of the bus first. But she too is using Link more.

        Case in point: We were running errands and I was driving. We stopped in the U-Dist for Thai food for lunch, after which she was going to meet a friend at Seattle Center for an event at Center House.

        Her first reaction? Take the bus! And there actually is a bus that goes from the U-Dist to Seattle Center, but it is crazy. I have no idea why anyone would take that bus, but she had her mind set on it.

        Eventually I was able to convince her to take Link to Westlake Station and transfer to monorail. The result? She got to Center House in half the time. And the real kicker? It was raining and she never even had to go outside!

        Now she is pretty sold on that combination. She says she is not going back.

        So I do think there is a slow shift in transit patterns occurring, particularly for discretionary trips (which now make up a higher percentage of total trips due to WFH). I would expect even more of a shift when East Link and Lynnwood Link opens.

      2. “there actually is a bus that goes from the U-Dist to Seattle Center, but it is crazy. I have no idea why anyone would take that bus, but she had her mind set on it.”

        Local bus routes are about their middles. The 32 is mainly for U-District to Fremont, Fremont to Uptown, Children’s to U-District, and stops in between. The 31 is more of a unique crosstown route: it goes to Magnolia instead of Seattle Center. The 32 is like the 4, which overlaps with the 48 on 23rd Ave S. Some transit activists would like to consolidate the 32 into the 31. But I think the 32 gets more ridership.

      3. The 62 is another route focused mainly on its middle. You can take it from Magnuson Park to downtown, but it’s much faster to transfer to Link at Roosevelt. The route serves several overlapping trips: downtown to Fremont; SLU to Fremont, Greenlake, and Roosevelt; Fremont to Greenlake and Roosevelt; Wallingford to Greenlake, Roosevelt, and Sand Point, etc. If it were split into two routes at Roosevelt or Greenlake, it would make several of those trips harder, especially when most routes run every 15 minutes instead of 10 or 5 minutes. Inevitably there will be people who just miss a transfer and have to wait 15 minutes, or longer if the bus is late. That can mean they’re waiting for as long as they’re riding one segment or even both segments.

      4. I can relate, Lazarus.

        Living in NYC for many years, the Subway-Walk combo option was the only thing I ever considered. The exception being to take an express bus to the hinterlands or Newark Airport.

        It’s not that NYC doesn’t have a very extensive bus network, it’s just not worth considering, because they are mostly stuck in traffic.

        My guess is, in the absence of exclusive, SOV-protected bus lanes, that will also happen in Seattle. Once people get a taste of the train, it’s hard to go back to the bus. Due to speed, very simple wayfinding (even if you haven’t taken link for a year, they can’t have changed the route on you) convenience, and a much more pleasant rider experience.

      5. I’m riding more often, but that’s only because I moved at the beginning of the pandemic from a transit desert to a city with barely usable, but still functional transit.

      6. @Cam,

        Yes. I concur. It is amazing how quickly you get used to a certain level of experience and come to expect.

        And when East Link gets interlined through the core things get even better. Half the wait!

        And I have to admit, I never really considered the monorail to be much of an option. But with ORCA on monorail now, and with a fast Link ride to Westlake, it actually does become useful in certain limited situations. Link has made it more useful.

      7. I took the ST express bus occasionally to work when I worked in The Smith Tower. But after we moved our offices to Mercer Island I no longer go to downtown Seattle. I now walk to work.

        I can walk to the bus station, and frequency from MI to downtown Seattle is quite good with all the buses stopping on MI. There is/was little traffic congestion from MI to Pioneer Square on the bus so that was not an issue. Cost was $3.25 one-way peak IIRC, although our firm bought ORCA cards for employees and partners. But if there is no reason for me to go downtown there is no reason to take transit downtown.

        If I am going anywhere on the eastside I will always drive. My experience is less than those who commuted on transit every day from the eastside to downtown Seattle pre-pandemic (and to some extent pre-kicking the 550 out of the transit tunnel), but I think the drop off is for the same reason. Eastside work commuters did not take transit to downtown Seattle from the eastside for the hell of it even though time of trip on I-90 on the bus was pretty good even from Issaquah, and when given the opportunity decided to not waste a few hours/day commuting to work, whether on a bus (there is no train and won’t be for a long time) or in a car, because car congestion is waaaaay down too.

        People just don’t like to commute to work, which is uncompensated time, if they don’t have to, and I think that is the PSRC’s Vision: less commuting. If I had to guess they disliked commuting on a packed bus more than driving, if given the choice, but still preferred to not commute at all, mainly because of the privacy of driving and because it was faster since there was no first/last mile issue so wasted less of their uncompensated time, unless of course they could not afford to park in downtown Seattle. Even with very minimal congestion during peak hours on I-90 today, and many employers offering subsidized parking, most would prefer to not commute to work by any mode. I doubt that feeling will change, although there may be a conflict with employers who want staff back in the office.

      8. What Lazarus is describing is something that I call a “rail bias”. Simply put, rail is more comfortable to ride. Things like:

        1. Steel wheels and tracks don’t create the vibration and jerking that bus rides have.
        2. Stations are better protected from elements and better lighting making riders feel safer. Roaming security also helps.
        3. The frequency combined with few obstacles on a typical trip ( no waiting for a wheelchair rider, a bicyclist securing his bike or a traffic signal or congestion) make it seem more reliable.
        4. The availability of frequent service until 10 pm means that a rider doesn’t have to watch the clock in most situations.
        5. The ceilings are higher and the windows are bigger than a bus, making it feel less claustrophobic. With bigger cars, there are more seating options.
        6. It’s often faster for trips over a mile or two — even when forced to change elevations.

      9. @Al.S,

        Some people like to call it “rail bias” because it makes the preference for rail sound unjustified or somehow irrational. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        The preference for rail is based on the old adage “quality sells”. Faster, more reliable, a smoother quieter ride, and a higher degree of comfort, all at the same cost to the user? Heck ya the end user prefers rail.

        And that is what the wife and I are discovering too. We are making a purely discretionary trip this morning. Without rail we would drive (there is free parking), but we prefer to use Link.

      10. Lazarus, I agree, frequent and robust (reliable, always on time) favors rail and cable based (gondola, APM…) systems. To a certain extent bus lanes and higher frequency services help, but the more reliable the service is, the less buffer time I have to plan. If I miss one, I just take the next – with a bus I may be late…

    3. Several longtime editors and authors had to scale back their volunteering for family and personal reasons. Nobody mentioned pandemic impacts specifically. It takes many hours a month to write researched articles, maintain the software and hosting provider, moderate comments, occasionally fundraise to pay the hosting bills or hire a paid reporter who can do more intensive research, etc. After several years they couldn’t make that much commitment anymore. It might have happened anyway, or it might be due to pandemic impacts, I don’t know. It’s an all-volunteer organization. The only people who’ve been paid are when we hired a reporter who could spend more time on research than the volunteers can. There have been a few of those, but not recently. For now, we could use some more volunteer writers, and then the volume and depth of articles would come back. In the meantime it’s become mostly comment-based, responding to articles and news on other sites and media.

      1. There’s also not a lot happening news wise.
        A lot of the rail expansion projects that would be worth talking aabout are still far off from finishing environmental review.
        Rapid Ride news has been a drip since the pandemic as they’ve shelved, delayed, or canceled projects and delays to the G Line.
        And Local Bus Agencies haven’t had a lot to say other than bus rider shortages, route and service cuts, etc. Unless we see the CT-ET Merger talks start up again or PT finally gets a major bus system restructure.

      2. There are always things to write about. The Urbanist finds them. Other blogs find them. STB used to find them but doesn’t have the people to do so right now. As I learned in my amateur left brain/right brain studies, there are always details in nature and your surroundings that you’ve overlooked. We used to write about those in the periods between project openings and major design decisions. The mid 2010s had such a wealth of openings and expansions that we got used to expecting a lot. The current situation is like the transit recession in 2014-2015, but there were still daily articles then. Because there are always more details to uncover, aspects that somebody recognizes while everyone else overlooked.

        We’re about to enter a period of a lot of openings, with ST2 Link and RapidRide G/H/I/J. That period was supposed to have started already. But the covid recession, work-from-home curve ball, driver shortage, and ST’s mistakes have dragged them out longer. ST Express was going to expand this year, filling in 15-minute Sunday frequency on the 550, Sunday service on the 535, as an interim step toward East Link and Stride 2. But the driver shortage prevented it. The wave of openings will still come, just in the mid-to-late 2020s and maybe spread out more. After that will be will be another long low period until the ST3 projects and unfunded RapidRide lines are ready. We’ll have to be ready to expect that low period.

        One thing people could write about is networks in other cities. How are they marching forward? What are they doing right that we haven’t covered enough here? Asian networks have some innovations that people trainspotting European and North American networks haven’t seen, like Link’s 3-digit stop-number plan, or how they deal with so many widely-different languages close together, or such large cities and urban areas. We could look more at those. The advanced networks in Switzerland and The Netherlands and Scandinavia have been covered mostly in the comments, where they tend to get scattered and lost. There’s article material there, even if some of it is secondary from research other videos and blogs have done. It just needs somebody to synthesize it, and explain how it could apply to Pugetopolis, and how to get from here to there.

      3. Agreed: there’s a lot happening that could be written about. They appear every day in such publications as Mass Transit Magazine daily news amalgamation service. Gaining access to the local publication articles means paying for a bunch of local newspaper paywalls though.

        The King County Metro Now Serving 5 Million Per Month press release piece is one example. It probably is a summary of a more extensive article from a local news source.

        However, such agency press releases also deserve a critical and time consuming examination.

        A few weeks ago Island Teansit and Skagit Transit adjusted their schedules. It adds consistency as Skagit route 410 is now hourly with no change in time from morning to afternoon. Bad news is it now adds 45 minutes of layover if transferring between the ferry and the bus. The altered schedule now also means a 45 minute layover in Oak Harbor for those going from Anacortes to points further south on Whidbey Island.

        The point isn’t to argue if any of that is good or bad. The point is that there are dozens things per month that deserve to be dug up and discussed but there is a significant lack of hours available to do that.

      4. Speaking as a volunteer contributor who recently passed 14(!) years with Seattle Transit Blog, people’s priorities and motivation change over time.

        Each volunteer has different interests and perspectives, for better or worse this means they will be most motivated to write about those; they are not paid journalists whose job is general coverage and investigations. Each post takes hours of research and writing, even for the basic reporting/round up posts. People eventually burn out or lose interest so new people need to be recruited and brought on board to continue the mission. This is true for any volunteer-based organization. I salute all the people who have managed to keep up a constant contribution for so long, especially Martin.

        I started with the blog when I was a college student at UW when the ST2 campaign was in full swing. I moved away from the Seattle area in 2012 but maintained a distant interest since it is my hometown and I still have family and friends here. Never had the strength to officially quit, hoping that someday I will return. Pandemic-induced Work From Home did give me the opportunity to spend more extended time back here but these days I am mostly on my bike with some transit rather than a daily commute.

        On a more general note, I am glad that we still have other local blogs covering these local issues. The downside of reduced coverage is the loss of a knowledge base that can be referenced in the future.

  7. Reece Martin released another video advocating for cross platform transfers:


    It inspires me to again plead for support and advocacy for same direction cross platform transfers at SODO. As a station that’s not underground, this is the place to encourage transfers between Seatac (a luggage heavy destination) and SE Seattle and South King with UW and North Seattle and Snohomish County.

    It’s also very essential in the interim period between the West Seattle line and the 1 Line for the many years it will operate before DSTT2 opens. It greatly improves transferring between Link lines. It would take pressure off the need to use escalators (will they be working?) at Westlake and ID-C for many transfers and reduce the effort from as much as 5 minutes to a mere 20 seconds — literally saving time as if trains run lots more frequently.

    Out of curiosity, who besides me has advocated for cross-platform transfers at SODO to ST or to ST Board members?

    Reece again makes a very clear case for them. It’s not just me talking about this need in the transit universe.

    1. Al, yes, great video. In Seattle we neither need a 2nd tunnel nor do we need a 2nd parallel line through SODO. If WSLE gets built, it should interline with 1 Line and a center platform in SODO to allow transfers in both directions (like WS to airport) and CID to allow transfers between 1 and 2 Line in both directions or platforms on both sides to allow faster transfers.
      If a 2nd tunnel gets built, then cross-platform would be great, but ST has no plans for any of it.

    2. I’ve advocated for cross-platform transfers at CID for years, in every feedback to ST. That’s better overall usability, and it’s needed for Eastside-SeaTac trips which will be an opposite-direction transfer. ST talked about redesigning the station in ST2 or ST3 but then it just dropped it. I didn’t try to suggest a center platform for Westlake because I thought it would be futile. But all the new stations are center platform (Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, and I think Northgate). So why can’t ST do it for the most critical transfer stations? I’m not so convinced about SODO, but CID should definitely have it.

      1. In theory, IS-C is the best place since the 2 Line is there.

        Still, it would probably add about a billion dollars — at least several hundred million to do that. It would be a horrific mess.

        SODO on the other hand could have cross platform transfers for probdjlu under $20m. Heck, they propose adding three sets of escalators there in the latest preferred alternative, requiring every same direction rider to use two escalators to transfer in addition to hiking to the end of the platform. It may even be cheaper, as the current plan is to have north-south-north-south track directions. So if a train wants to use the other platform going the same way, they have to fly over a teack in the middle. Plus the tunnel portals have to cross two tracks underground in both direction rather than just in one direction.

        So from a cost-benefit perspective, SODO wins by a large amount.

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