10 Things APA Conference Attendees Need to Know About Seattle

Washington State Ferry:  the state highway with a large pedestrian toll Photo by Jamies
Washington State Ferry: the state highway with a large pedestrian toll
Photo by Jamies

On behalf of the Seattle Transit Blog (STB), I would like to welcome the American Planning Association to Seattle for its four day national planning conference. STB has covered transportation and land use policy in the Puget Sound region since 2007, becoming a recognized source of transportation reporting and advocacy. Written by a group of passionate advocates, we dive deep beyond the headlines.

To help APA attendees from across the country get oriented in our fine city I’ve pulled together a topical compilation of posts and links which will help you get up to speed on the what’s happening in Seattle. If you want information about getting around the city check out Seattle for visitors or consider using our bike share system called Pronto! If you have questions leave a comment and our awesome readers will help answer your questions.

  1. Seattle recently implemented a regional low-income transit pass. Here’s why we support it, how it was studied and how it was rolled out. Don’t forget about Seattle’s $15 dollar minimum wage.
  2. Housing affordability in the nation’s fastest growing city has becoming an omnipresent issue, especially in Center City neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. The Mayor has set up a committee and has called for 50,000 new housing units (20,000 affordable) in the next 10 years. Recently the City Council “went a little to far” on micro housing regulations which some have opposed.
  3. Link Light Rail is expanding north to Lynnwood, south to Federal Way and east to Bellevue and Redmond (despite years of lawsuits). The region could vote to expand regional high capacity transit as soon at 2016 but first the State Legislature has to expand Sound Transit’s funding authority.
  4. Seattle is a national leader on performance based on-street parking management. However, off-street parking regulations which were eased years ago have recently been thrown into a state of limbo. In Downtown thousands of off-street spaces go unused every day and the Mayor has proposed some innovative ideas for moving forward.
  5. Seattle has a complicated relationship with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). For example there are insincere BRT “supporters”. Metro’s RapidRide BRT wouldn’t likely get federal funding now because it’s too watered down. Madison Street is poised to get the City’s first true BRT.
  6. Seattle would like to connect the First Hill Streetcar to the South Lake Union (SLU) Streetcar with an alignment operating in exclusive lanes along 1st Avenue in Downtown. Seattle would also like add a transit only lane on Westlake Avenue to get the SLU Streetcar and buses out of traffic.
  7. Seattle is tearing down the waterfront viaduct, but the largest tunneling machine in the world is having issues. We would have loved the Surface + Transit solution but the questions now is what should the waterfront look like? Parks or commerce? Grand or understated?
  8. Seattle has the largest Car2Go fleet in North America and it’s expanding. How does Car2Go compare to Zipcar? Why does it work so well with paid parking? We sit down and talk with Car2Go’s CEO.
  9. How do you integrate bus and rail service? Mt. Baker Station is bad example, which might get better. Metro and Sound Transit are looking at how to restructure bus service when University Link opens in 2016 but transfers at UW Station will be far from ideal.
  10. South Lake Union, home of Amazon, is booming, but transit service is having a hard time keeping up despite planning.

What’s Your Vision for Metro’s Future?


This Tuesday March 31st, Metro will launch its first long range planning effort in a very long time with an exciting two-part event at the Downtown Seattle Central Library. The event, which starts at 6:00 pm, will begin with six facilitated break-out sessions that will dive into key topics.  Each break-out sessions will be lead by subject area experts from a variety of organizations and include:

  • Equity and Access (facilitated by Shefali Ranganathan of TCC)
  • Educators and Institutions (Ray White of Bellevue College)
  • Business and Economy (Jessica Szelag of Commute Seattle)
  • Innovation and Technology (Me of STB)
  • Service Integration (David Beal and Craig Davidson of ST)
  • Future Funding and Policies (Amy Gore of Futurewise)

The discussion from each break-out sessions will then be used to identify common themes and the overall vision of where participants want Metro to be in 25 years. If you care about the big picture vision of transit in King County this event is a must. 

Once break-out sessions have wrapped up the event will transition directly into the panel discussion guided by the themes and vision generated in the break-out sessions. Panelist include Jarrett Walker (transit planner extraordinaire), Rebecca Saldaña (Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage) and Mark Hallenbeck (UW transportation researcher and BIG picture thinker). This discussion will be moderated by Rita Brogan of the Washington State Transportation Commission. 

This promises to be a unique, blue-sky type of event that only happens a few times a year and I would strongly encourage those who are interested to attend. More details are available here.

Vision Zero: Transit is Part of the Solution

2012 Collision Data
Collision Contributing Circumstances (City of Seattle, 2012 Seattle Traffic Report Section 7)

Last week, Mayor Murray launched the City of Seattle Vision Zero Plan, adding Seattle to a fast-growing list of US cities that have committed to reducing preventable road fatalities to zero. The plan, which was covered here, here and here outlines a variety of near-term actions the City will take to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

The City’s plan, which builds upon Washington State’s Target Zero program, was modeled after Sweden’s Vision Zero programs which began in the 1990s. While Washington State’s road fatality rates are roughly twice those of Sweden, the state has made good progress, with fatality rates dropping by 40% since 2000.

Seattle’s Vision Zero Plan is an excellent starting point. It identifies high-value, near-term actions the City can take now to improve road safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists, who are the most vulnerable road users. Unfortunately, the level of detail identified by the plan for road improvements didn’t carry over into strategies and actions for reducing impaired driving.

This is important because in 2012, the most recent year that city data was available, impaired driving was identified as a contributing factor in 4 fatal collisions, 16 serious injury collisions and 178 possible or evident injury collisions on Seattle streets. To put these numbers in perspective, speed (speeding and exceeding safe speed) was associated with 8 fatal collisions, 21 serious injury collisions and 219 possible or evident injury collisions during the same time period.  Continue reading “Vision Zero: Transit is Part of the Solution”

Improving Bus-Rail Integration at UW Station

UW Station Integration Concept
UW Station Integration Concept

The Problem

Of the two stations scheduled to open in 2016 as part of the U-Link extension, the UW Station has both the most potential and the most challenges for improved bus-rail integration. This station, which is located on the east side of the Montlake Triangle, is isolated from the UW Campus and UW Medical Center by Montlake Boulevard NE, NE Pacific Street and NE Pacific Place.

Currently, the nearest pair of bus stops to the UW Station are located on NE Pacific Street in front of the UW Medical Center. These stops are roughly 900-1,000 feet away, approximately a 4-5 minute walk. While this might be acceptable for less important transfers, it is long for such an important one, particularly if Metro proposes restructures that significantly increase transfers to Link.

Metro staff have said in the past that they were looking at moving the northbound stop by the UW Medical Center several hundred feet east of its current location, but have not yet released any solid plans. Although this would help some, the walking distance for the northbound stop would still be 800 feet, with the southbound stop still over 1,000 feet away from the station.

The State Legislature recognized this challenge as far back as 2010 and asked WSDOT to study changes to improve transfers in the Montlake Triangle area as part of the SR-520 project. While the study was informative and  made several good suggestions, it does not reflect Sound Transit and Metro’s new vision of an integrated, user-friendly transit system.

Integration Opportunities

Continue reading “Improving Bus-Rail Integration at UW Station”

Sound Transit Updates Long Range Plan

Where to next? Photo via: Dennis Hamilton

Yesterday the Sound Transit (ST) Board met to review the Long Range Plan (LRP) update, including discussion of the existing LRP text and corridors. As a reminder, the LRP represents the fiscally unconstrained vision of the Sound Transit system, selections from which will be used to develop a Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot measure. This workshop (materials available here) was a check-in on the LRP process that began nearly a year and a half ago when the board decided to accelerate ST3 planning for a potential 2016 ballot measure. Over the next two months, the ST Board will finalize the updated LRP, which will then be used to develop ST3 investment scenarios which would emphasize investment priorities such as completing the “spine” or maximizing system integration.

Staff began the meeting by presenting a “Chair’s Mark-ups” of the 2005 LRP text. Staff updated the text to begin the discussion and reflect some of the changes that have occurred since the plan was adopted in 2005. These changes included adding recent board policy decisions concerning station access and transit-oriented development. It also included updated definitions of bus rapid transit (BRT), including grade-separated busways and bus-only lanes. Staff also attempted to “tighten” the goal language to reduce repetition.  Finally, staff presented a high-level overview of the light rail, high capacity transit, bus rapid transit, express bus and commuter rail projects identified by the public as part of the plan update.

Councilmember Roberts asked that text around system integration be added to reflect the integration work currently underway between Sound Transit and Metro. Secretary Peterson said that WSDOT should play a larger role, that there need to be better integration of long-term land use planning with LRP corridors and that Sound Transit’s projects need to support local land use decisions. Another member wanted to add citizens’ health to the goals, but was unsure how to measure it.

Corridor Changes

The workshop maps show the new rail and HCT corridors that came out of the public process. There aren’t many of them because the existing LRP is already extensive. The biggest addition is West Seattle-Downtown light rail, formerly a monorail corridor. The map below shows the existing long-range corridors in gray, and the new corridors in bright colors and numbers. In some cases rail and BRT corridors overlap; e.g., Renton-Kent-Puyallup has both an LRT corridor (#7) and a BRT corridor (#33). Only one would be built, but the plan has both options. The BRT corridor continues to downtown Seattle, basically a variation of the 578. But BRT implies more than ST Express: it means frequent service and transit lanes.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Updates Long Range Plan”

News Roundup: Building and Burning Bridges

Island Transit 412 & Skagit 90 routes waiting for Sounder Arrival by Chad
Island Transit 412 & Skagit 90 routes waiting for Sounder Arrival by Chad

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: Moving Along… Or Not

U-District Station Under Construction
U-District Station Under Construction
  • The gondola to Simon Fraser University in Vancouver didn’t make the region’s wish list but advocates are still pushing for it.
  • The partially completed Evergreen Point Freeway Station opened Monday. An eastbound half-mile bus-only lane is providing some relief for riders.
  • “… you can double the number of people in a public place either by doubling the number of people who are drawn to the place … or by doubling the length of time that people choose to stay.”
  • Another massive backup on I-5, this time due to a knife wielding man on the Ship Canal Bridge. I look forward to the reliability and redundancy that Link will provide in the not so distant future.
  • Kate Joncas, the CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, will become the deputy mayor of operations for the City.
  • The Seattle Bike Blog has some great analysis of biking trends using data from the Fremont Bridge. Yesterday’s rainfall is almost as important as today’s rainfall when estimating daily bicycle volumes.
  • Bertha is beefing up to better deal with tunneling conditions.
  • Mayor Murray continues his impressive winning streak, removing caps on TNCs while evening the playing field. Let’s hope that he can keep up this kind of progress on the regional and state level.
  • The Washington Transportation Commission is looking more seriously at road-usage charges with three tiers. Implementation has always been the sticking point on this idea, and the three tier approach sound fairly implementable to me.
  • The state is restarting its search for the chief of Washington State Ferries
  • SDOT will construct more neighborhood greenways this summer.
  • A debrief on the First Hill Streetcar extension open house.

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News Roundup: Superlative Seattle

— HEWITT (@HewittSeattle) June 2, 2014

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News Roundup: Future, Here We Come

All Door Boarding Please

All-Door Boarding Please

  • Google unveils its own driverless car prototype. More importantly, what does this move say about the path, business model and eventual role of a driverless car future?
  • Is it worse that I ignored a PR email we got about this “solar roadway” business as a late April fools joke, or that they raised $1.5 million in crowdsource funding?
  • Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the US. Remember this is a good thing. For the first time in 100 years Seattle is growing faster than the suburbs.
  • Amazon is the poster child of the tech sector’s return to the city.
  • Joel Connelly argues for more diversity on the Seattle City Council in the name of pragmatism. We’ll see what district elections do on that front.
  • Portland food-cart pods on private parking lots are getting displaced($) due to new development on those parking lots. Meanwhile Seattle’s food-cart scene is in my opinion still struggling. I honestly wonder why?
  • The Downtown Seattle Association’s Jon Scholes argues against development fees and an employer head tax to save Metro service.
  • Kevin Desmond, King County Metro’s general manager, thinks any long-term funding solution for Metro needs to be regional.
  • A new report, Older, Smaller, Betterput some numbers behind the ideas espoused by Jane Jacobs, which I believe are generally well accepted. My question is do the finding of this report provide transferable lessons to areas without the historic building stock, and if so how?
  • Eight finalist developers identified for the Capitol Hill light rail station TOD project.
  • King Street Station has room for several office and retail tenants.
  • Seattle Department of Transportation is adding 5 speed-enforcement cameras near schools.
  • Man faces more than 16 years in jail after stealing 4.3 miles of copper wire, the largest in state history,  from Sound Transit Link’s light rail system. Here’s our original report.
  • Massimo Vignelli, a seminal figure in minimal graphic design including the MTA’s 1972 subway map, dies at the age of 83.

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: Up and Down

Former Eleven 01 and Terry

Former Eleven 01 and Terry by Atomic Taco

  • The Department of Planning and Development is presenting three U-District land use scenarios for environmental impact study.
  • Neither Lynnwood nor Bellevue are happy about the siting of a potential Link O&M facilities near them.
  • Tacoma’s Business Improvement Association has offered to pay to keep Tacoma Link free.
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine steps into the ride-share debate; his simple approach is in stark contrast to the Seattle City Council.
  • The Seattle Council passes restrictions on small-lot single-family houses that will limit building height to 18 ft, or the average height of houses on the block, whichever is higher. As of late, it’s been interesting to watch  Tim Burgess emerge as a pragmatic and nuanced policy maker.
  • Apartment-to-house construction ratio reaching record highs.
  • Land-use restrictions limit opportunity, but Reihan Salam points out one way to get current residents to buy in. I believe that this idea would, of course, be illegal in Washington, as most constructive and innovative policies are.
  • Greyhound has officially moved to S Royal Brougham Way and 4th Ave.
  • A great long-form story on the development of Google’s self-driving car.
  • Google maps route planning for bikes now has shows you elevation change!
  • The Fremont Bridge smashes its previous bike count record, topping out at over 6,000 bikes a day.
  • If you support bike helmet laws, you should also support them for motorists and pedestrians.

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: Painfully Eloquent Microcosm


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News Roundup: 400 PPM

UW Tower View
UW Tower View

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News Roundup: A Return to Process

Sakura Con at WSCC
Sakura Con at WSCC

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Get Out The Vote: Yes on Prop 1

I Voted Yes on Prop 1
I Voted Yes on Prop 1

Tomorrow’s election is going to be close and every vote is going to count. As a daily reader of STB, I’m not worried about you voting Yes on Prop 1. But now is the time to get your friends, family and co-workers to vote as well as all of the other people that value Metro as much as you. Here are three things we can all do to get out the vote:

  1. Take a few minutes out of your day to talk, call, text, or email your close friends, family and co-workers to vote Yes on Prop 1. Tell them why you’re voting yes, often people just need a little encouragement, especially for special elections. Here is why we’re voting yes.
  2. Take to your social media to get out the vote. Change your Facebook profile, invite your friends to vote yes and tweet why you voted #YesOnProp1 to #SaveMetro (we’ll be RTing).
  3. Help the campaign make calls. Move King County Now is hosting phone banks all day, with Pizza provided.


  • 10 AM – 5 PM at 901 Fifth Ave, Suite 2200 710 2nd Ave (RSVP: matt@movekingcountynow.org for any 2 hour slot during the day!)
  • 5:00 PM – 8 PM at 1100 E Union #1e (Help us call voters to remind them to mail in their ballots and Vote Yes on Prop 1 to Save Metro!)
  • 5:30 PM – 8 PM at 1402 3rd Ave (RSVP: matt@movekingcountynow.org)


  • 10 AM – 5 PM at 901 Fifth Ave, Suite 2200 710 2nd Ave (RSVP: matt@movekingcountynow.org for any 2 hour slot during the day!)

Tuesday night the Move King County Now campaign will be hosting an election night party at Kells Irish Restaurants & Pub  (1916 Post Alley starting at 7 PM).

News Roundup: Taking to the Streets

A BBQ on 2nd Ave
A BBQ on 2nd Ave

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PSBS Has Vendor and Funding

PSBS Station Public Input
PSBS Station Public Input

This morning Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) sent out a substantial and very exciting update confirming rumors that a new, financially solvent bike share vendor has been selected and that the private funding necessary for a full initial launch has been secured. Details on funding will come in May, and an online survey for station locations has been posted online. Earlier this week PSBS published a job posting for a general manager, hinting that a concrete implementation and financing plan had come together. News release below:

Puget Sound Bike Share Confirms Supply Chain Partners for Bike Share System Equipment

April 3, 2014 – In preparation for its 2014 launch, Puget Sound Bike Share announced today that it will be moving forward with world-class partners Alta Bicycle Share and 8D Technologies to provide bike share station hardware, software and operational solutions.

Alta Bicycle Share and 8D Technologies’ software for Seattle will build upon solutions tested and successfully deployed by bike share networks in Washington D.C. / Arlington, Boston, Minneapolis, Melbourne (AUS), London (UK), Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal (CAN).  Seattle’s will be the first program to launch with the new Alta/8D hardware solution.  Consistent with Puget Sound Bike Share’s plans to launch Phase I of the program in South Lake Union, Downtown, Capitol Hill and the U-District, the agreement includes delivery of 50 stations.

An order for 500 bikes will be placed with a well-known global manufacturer later this month. Continue reading “PSBS Has Vendor and Funding”

News Roundup: Nerdy and Dry

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News Roundup: A New View

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News Roundup: Past All the Hype

For Posterity
Our Changing Waterfront
  • King County Metro is looking for undergraduate and graduate interns. Go here and search for “intern”.
  • Wonder why the 3rd and Pike bus stop is closing for construction? This is why.
  • Danny Westneat: A longtime tenant discovers her landlord was shielding her from the modern economy. ($)
  • In 24 out of the 25 largest metro areas the median income household can no longer afford the average new car.
  • 15 different methods to protect bicycle facilities including their pros/cons and cost.
  • New ‘bikeology‘ curriculum for 6-12 graders fills common gap in bicycle education for junior high and high school age teens.
  • Charles Montgomery describes his concept of the ‘Happy City’ in Vancouver, BC.
  • Food desert‘ study for Delridge neighborhood empowers those who are affected to develop implementable solutions.
  • New housing units far outstrips demolished housing units 8 to 1 citywide (2.6 to 1 in Single Family zones, 5 to 1 in Lowrise zones, 15 to 1 Downtown and 18 to 1 in Neighborhood Commercial zones).
  • 2,000 units in four towers proposed on former Seattle Times site in SLU. Parking ratio of 0.85 is low, but not that low given the large number of Amazonians that will likely work a stones throw away.
  • Parking study for West Seattle development with all-day frequent bus service but no on-site parking confirms there there is plenty of on-street parking available.
  • Council unanimously passes ridesharing compromise legislation.
  • 80% of NYC’s taxi rides could have been shared.
  • Senate Transportation Committee co-chairs no longer see eye to eye.
  • Philly speed senors trigger red light. I’m curious to see if it works.
  • Win a free Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB)!
  • Video of one shared Muni/Google bus stop in SF. My first impression, I didn’t realize so many people used the Google buses.

This is an open thread.

Beers for Buses in Bellevue and Redmond

1014402_247924892047178_1694148925_nFor those of us who live or work on the Eastside, it can be hard to get to after work events in Seattle. Luckily, Fuse Washington will be hosting two Move King County Now fundraiser in Bellevue and Redmond on March 24th and April 7th. The April 22nd special election is fast approaching and your financial contribution and/or boots on the ground are key to passing Proposition 1. Maintaining existing bus service is critical and if Proposition 1 fails the Eastside will see significant and painful cuts in transit service. I encourage STB readers to go and bring a friend or coworker along. On a personal note, I’d like to add that the Bellevue Brewing Company’s beer and food makes up for its harder to reach location. Cheers!

Beers for buses – Bellevue (226 and 249)

Monday, March 24, from 5pm–7pm

Bellevue Brewing Company

1820 130th Ave. NE, Bellevue, WA 98005

Beers for buses – Redmond (B-Line, 545, and all other Redmond TC routes)

Monday, April 7th, from 5pm-7pm

Redmond’s Bar & Grill.

7979 Leary Way NE, Redmond WA, 98052