News Roundup: Urbanist Buzzwords

Muni Metro
Mini Metro
  • As disfunction on a national level and to a lesser degree in Olympia takes its toll, tactical localism, has become the de jour mechanism for cities to advance their urbanist agenda.
  • APTA announces public transit ridership is higher than any year since 1956, even compared to 2008 when gas cost over $4.00 a gallon.
  • The addicting alpha version of Mini-Metro game takes the transit planning world by storm.
  • Data mining Google Streetview to reveal the changing face of neighborhoods.
  • Peak-gentrification: What happens when all the “undiscovered” and undervalued neighborhoods are discovered and gentrified?
  • Frontlash, a good term for a common issue in transportation and land use planning.
  • Seattle is 7th-best US city to get a job in; 5th-highest starting pay.
  • SDOT releases center city cycle track RFP and announces selection for the second round of The Green Lane Project. Over half of the nation’s cycle track projects occurred in first round cities.
  • Piecemeal rollout of Broadway cycle track causing difficulty, contributes to collision.
  • Seattle bike map updated, major overhaul expected next year.
  • The Green Tea Party was key in killing Columbia River Crossing, while not a new dynamic the CRC is a poster child the current transportation paradigms of our time.
  • Lack of clear communication between WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners worries Councilmember Rasmussen.
  • Nearly 3,000 drivers are signed up between UberX, Lyft and Sidecar; UberX has at least 300 drivers active at any one time, more during peak periods.
  • USDOT VMT forecasts diverge from the trend over the last ten years or so.
  • KUOW does a long-form piece on the maritime history of Seattle and how changes around the stadiums could affect the viability of industry in SODO
  • Apple iOS 8 will have transit directions, finally!
  • A good comparison of BC to the rest of Canada and what affects its carbon tax has, or more important has not, had on the province.
  • Mayor Murray on prioritization of buses vs streetcars projects.
  • Senate Eide (D-30, Federal way) who is co-chair of the transportation committee will not run for reelection.
  • Portland’s tourism grows but car rentals don’t.
  • Weekend service (and/or taxing to) restore service in Grays Harbor starting April 1st.
  • SFMTA confirms it will buy electric trolley buses in coordination with King County Metro.
  • An assessment about the future challenges and opportunities of vehicle automation

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: A Big Plan of Small Details

Pike Pine Renaissance
Pike Pine Renaissance

This is an open thread.

TNC Regulation Update

Yesterday, the full City Council attended what was originally intended to be the final meeting of the Taxi/For-Hire/Limousine Regulations committee. Before another packed house, and with only a brief window for public comment this time around, the council discussed detailed amendments to the working proposal. They took votes on some issues, deferred others, and showed that the normally consensus-craving council is divided on the  issue of TNC market caps.

The full video above is exceptional for those interested in wading into the weeds. Public comment was substantive, on-point, and emotionally charged, with opinions hardened and clarified on both sides. The council moved through a series of amendments that generally moved in the pro-TNC direction.

Here’s where things stand:

Insurance: The council fully agrees on requiring that drivers be covered whenever ‘active’ on a system, including in between rides. O’Brien offered an amendment looking for ways to lower insurance costs for commercial drivers but the council ran out of time before discussing it.

Hourly Caps: The Council passed an amendment removing the requirement that limited TNC drivers to 16 hours per week. TNC drivers will be able to work full-time, but will retain daily limits and mandatory time off between shifts.

Pilot Program Review: CM Burgess introduced and passed revised language relating to the data collection at the end of the 2-year pilot. In short, the review of the program will now include an expanded series of performance metrics, such as average dispatch time for taxis and TNCs, % and location of rejected rides, and much more. The intent seemed to be to get a better handle on the relative service quality offered by the different options.

Training: Councilmember Clark introduced and passed an amendment removing a separate permit layer and separate  training requirements for TNC drivers. Instead, all training will be harmonized between taxi/for-hire/TNC drivers, the curriculum will be updated, and emphasis will be on safety. Trainings will be flexible to focus on some issues and minimize others depending upon the audience (i.e. Cash-free Lyft drivers wouldn’t have to be trained on cash-handling)

Market Caps: This was the meat of the debate, and was the only portion of the regulations not to be voted upon. Weeks ago the committee proposed a cap of 100 drivers per company, which was then revised by CM O’Brien to 300 total TNC driver permits which would be portable between TNCs. At this meeting two additional amendments were offered. Likely recognizing pushback from the community on the caps issue, CM Clark offered to double O’Brien’s portable TNC permits from 300 to 600, with Clark arguing that a 2-year cap would ease the way for a likely “capless future.” Bagshaw proposed removing market caps entirely, arguing that a denser, growing Seattle can absorb the new supply, and that in the context of transit cuts that Seattle needs more options. Rasmussen seconded Bagshaw’s call for removing caps, though he proposed that the Council retain authority to impose caps if the market becomes too saturated (a cap-as-you-go approach).

O’Brien and Harrell defended the original cap of 300, making immigrant rights and social justice arguments while sharply criticizing TNCs for flouting the law. O’Brien held that industry support for TNCs was hypocritical (“Would the hotel association support an unregulated AirBnB? Would the restaurant association be ok with unregulated food trucks?”)

Burgess, Licata, Sawant, and Godden stayed largely silent. Sawant criticized the lack of mass transit in the city and proposed eventually having a publicly-owned and unionized TNC company. She supported market caps, saying that it was the taxi driver “Davids” against the “Goldman-Sachs-Jeff-Bezos” Goliaths.

Burgess responded later in the day with a long and substantive blog post defending an approach that caps the market for street hails but leaves the dispatch market unregulated. However, he also said he would support Clark’s limit of 600 if a majority wants caps in some form.

In sum, currently a majority supports caps (Clark, O’Brien, Harrell, Sawant, and Godden), 3 members oppose caps (Bagshaw, Rassmussen, and Burgess), and Licata is undeclared.

The final committee vote on this issue will be on February 27 from 4-6pm. It will then proceed to the full council.

See the draft legislation and proposed amendments for more details.

YPT Event: Communication Specialist Panel

This Thursday the Seattle Chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation will be hosting a special panel of communication specialists in the public, private, and news industries. Join us for a conversation covering the details of sharing transportation project information, how agencies provide information to media outlets, and the impact on the traveling public. We’ll meet at EnviroIssues (101 Stewart Street, Suite 1200) for networking at 5:30 p.m. and introduce the panel around 6:00 p.m.

The panel will include Travis Phelps of WSDOT, Charla Skaggs of EnviroIssues and Mike Lindblom of Seattle Times. Full details here.

Sound Transit LRP: Additional Ideas

It’s been a while since STB has had multiple posts like this and I wanted to quickly add a few ideas to this blue-sky discussion, particularly with relation to projects that I think could fall through the cracks or are more programmatic in nature rather than lines on a map. While I think Sound Transit’s survey is good, as Ben previously mentioned, it sticks fairly closely to the adopted 2005 LRP. Below is a very quick list of some projects or programs that came to mind over my lunch break. I’m not even sure if Sound Transit can do some of these things but I left everything in. Please add to and critique these ideas and send any comments you have to Sound Transit. This is a rare chance to influence the future of regional transit service.

I’d like to see the following ideas or programs addressed in the LRP update:

  1. HCT corridor from Ballard to Northgate.
  2. HCT corridor on BNSF corridor from I-90 to Totem Lake.
  3. HCT corridor between Elliot Bay and 23rd north of downtown.
  4. Third fully-elevated HCT N/S corridor which takes over travel to/from the airport. Extend Central Link to Southcenter/Renton area.
  5. A bus-rail integration program that funds small to major capital projects that improve transfers and bus speed and reliability around Link stations.
  6. Funding to establish a region-wide public development corporation to assist in finance and construction of affordable housing, mixed-use development, and necessary public infrastructure to catalyze private investments along HCT corridors.
  7. A BRT partnering program to fund the capital components of BRT projects with Metro/CT/PT to a ITDP standard of Bronze for 2nd tier HCT corridors.
  8. Regionally competitive grants for small to medium sized transit speed and reliability projects along major transit corridors.
  9. Matching funds for feeder bus service between Link and regional centers not served by HCT with a requirement of very frequent service all day.
  10. Program to fully implement the Growing Transit Communities partnership.
  11. Funds for infill stations where appropriate.

CORRECTION: NE 130th St and 220th St SW Station Likely in Lynnwood Link FEIS

NE 130th St Retained Cut Station
NE 130th St Retained Cut Station

CORRECTION 11/29: The Sound Transit board can select any alignment and station studied in the DEIS not just those studied in the FEIS as originally reported. Additionally, Sound Transit clarified that the NE 130th St and 220th St Stations were not advanced to the 30% design level as other alignments and stations included in the FEIS. However, their design and environmental impacts will be brought up to the same level as the rest of the DEIS analysis.

This afternoon the Sound Transit Board will vote on which Lynnwood Link alignments and station locations to include in the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS). This step is critical because the Preferred Alternative, which will advance to construction, can only use alignments and stations studied in the FEIS DEIS. Additionally, as explained on Councilmember Conlin’s blog, Sound Transit is only allowed to deviate or modify alignments and station locations if it can stay within the voter approved budget. Conlin goes on to explain how Sound Transit has been able to modify the alignment to accommodate both stations in the future and what it would take to fully fund the stations:

The Preferred Alternative that the Board used as a starting point is the least expensive, no-frills alignment, costed out at $1.267 billion compared to the $1.322 billion budgeted for the route from Northgate to Lynnwood. We had several options to consider as possible additions, including possible rebuilds of bridges at 117th and 185th Street ($26 million), adding a 130th Street Station ($24 million), and adding a 220th Street Station ($42 million). Providing for the 220th Street Station would also require alignment modifications costing $36 million, while adding either of the two stations would require additional train sets at a cost of $40 million. Thus, to do everything we all wanted would bust the budget, taking it up to $1.440 billion.

Continue reading “CORRECTION: NE 130th St and 220th St SW Station Likely in Lynnwood Link FEIS”

NE 130th Street Station: A Critical and Underdeveloped Idea

NE 130th Street High Demand Corridors
NE 130th Street Station – Linear, High-Demand Destinations

Since October 2010 we’ve  followed the Lynnwood Link project fairly closely. Unlike other Link extensions, Lynnwood Link had several viable alignments including SR-99, I-5 and NE 15th Avenue. While many in the transit community who believe in the importance of TOD favored the SR-99 alignment; New Starts competitiveness, cost, and institutional momentum favored the I-5 alignment.

From a TOD perspective this was disappointing. However, as discussions about the I-5 alignment advanced, the idea of a NE 130th Street Station to serve the Bitter Lake and Lake City neighborhoods emerged. This station, located half way between the two Hub Urban Villages would certainly help mitigate the lack of TOD immediately around Lynnwood Link stations. Today the City Council will again move to support the NE 130th Street Station.

Because TOD potential along I-5 between Northgate and Lynnwood is so limited, feeder transit must play a disproportionate role in connecting riders to the stations. Frequent, fast and reliable bus connections to the Aurora Avenue and Lake City Way corridors via Bitter Lake and Lake City Hub Urban Villages would do that. These areas have already grown significantly and have strong and growing transit demand. Since 2005 the Bitter Lake and Lake City Hub Urban Villages have seen more than twice as much growth as the Northgate Urban Center (1,522 to 739) and transit re-orientation of Aurora Ave in Seattle and Shoreline could result in significant additional growth.

NE 130th is the best connection between these two areas. Low-levels of congestion, the sequential and linear location of major destinations, and Link headways of 4-58 minutes all-day make transfers to very-frequency feeder bus service ideal. Currently it takes 40-50 minutes to get between the two Urban Villages by transit compared to ~5-10 minutes by car. A single very-frequent route along Aurora Avenue, NE 130th and Lake City Way could connect: Continue reading “NE 130th Street Station: A Critical and Underdeveloped Idea”

YPT Event: PSBS Executive Director Holly Houser

Holly Houser, PSBS Executive Director
Holly Houser, PSBS Executive Director

The Seattle Chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT), a newish group for young professions in the transportation engineering, planning, policy and related fields is hosting its first presentation this Thursday. The presentation, by Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) Executive Direction Holly Houser, will be a great opportunity to learn more about the bike share system in detail. Holly has a good radio interview about the system basics here. I’m particularly looking forward to learning more about what kind of implementation challenges Holly is facing and what lessons she learned from watching other systems around the US launch over the last year or two.

The presentation this Thursday October 3rd, will be in the offices of Parsons Brinckerhoff on the 32nd floor of the Wells Fargo Center (999 3rd Avenue) beginning with professional networking at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation starting at 6 p.m. This will be a great opportunity for transportation professionals to learn more about the PSBS and meet fellow transportation professionals. Please share with colleagues and RSVP here or at this Facebook event page.

P.S. As the Seattle Bike Blog has noted, bicycle planning and advocacy is an area where women in leadership roles are very well represented in Seattle.

Rail~Volution Local Scholarships Available

Rail~Volution, a fantastic national conference focused on transit and land use advocacy, will be in Seattle this year from October 20th through the 23rd and the Local Host Committee has announced that they have additional funds for conference scholarships. Press release below:

The Seattle Local Host Committee has identified additional funds for local scholarships to attend Rail~Volution, a national conference emphasizing building livable communities with transit, that will be hosted in Seattle October 20-23, 2013. These scholarships are in addition to the scholarships offered by the national Rail~Volution organization.

As a learning network, Rail~Volution exposes attendees to some of the best minds on livability in the country and the world. In this learning lab, you’ll hear concrete examples that illustrate the rediscovery of community that is sweeping the country. You’ll have a chance to ask hard questions and explore cutting edge ideas in more than 80 workshops, networking events, toolbox sessions, and mobile workshops. This is an opportunity to attend a national conference in our backyard and should be a good learning and relationship-building opportunity.

There is a local scholarship fund to ensure participation of diverse communities from the Puget Sound region in the conference.  Depending on the number of applicants and available resources, these scholarships will cover all of the $425 registration.

To apply for a scholarship, please complete this application and send it by September 20 to bbakkenta@psrc.org for consideration.  Feel free to reach out and forward this application to some of your community partners that might be interested.

Action Alert: Micro-Housing Public Meeting May 6th

Next week on Monday May 6th, a second public meeting will be held to gather public feedback on micro-housing. Just five days from the event I have only now received official confirmation for the meeting.

Micro-housing is part of a larger set of solutions to increasing affordable housing options in Seattle and your voice of support needs to be heard. Micro-housing provides affordable market generated housing options in high opportunity neighborhoods close to high quality transit service. It lowers residents’ combined housing and transportation costs and provides a diverse housing choices in areas where they are most needed. Your voice will make a difference so please make time to attend and voice your support.

Meeting details below:

SEATTLE – City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen today confirmed that a second public meeting on micro-housing developments will be held. The meeting will be on May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church on First Hill.

The first meeting was held in April in response to questions and concerns raised by residents of several Seattle neighborhoods where micro-housing units are being constructed.

The purpose of the second meeting is to hear from neighborhood representatives who will give their views and recommendations on the micro-housing projects.   Representatives of the developers who build micro-housing projects will be present to describe the projects and the market for this housing alternative and their response to concerns they are hearing from the community.

In addition to Councilmember Rasmussen co-sponsors of the meeting include Councilmembers Nick Licata, Sally J. Clark and Richard Conlin.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen stated: “A portion of the meeting will include an opportunity for the public to provide comments on what they have heard during the meeting and to provide recommendations on what, if any, regulations should be enacted for this unique type of housing.”

WHAT:           Micro-housing development discussion

WHEN:           Monday, May 6, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE:         Seattle First Baptist Church,  Fellowship Hall (downstairs), 1111 Harvard Ave. (on First Hill)

WHO:              Seattle City Councilmembers and Council staff

Representatives from communities and neighborhoods

Representatives of micro-housing developers

“I want to see more affordable housing built in Seattle along with our residential neighborhoods accommodating housing options that contribute to their character,” stated Councilmember Nick Licata, chair of the Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee. “I think both objectives can be accomplished and I look forward to this forum providing an opportunity to hear suggestions on how to fulfill both.”

“I’ve visited some of these micro-units,” said Council President Sally J. Clark. “They provide decent, often attractive housing for a range of people who don’t need or want a lot of space. They’re also appearing in greater numbers and more rapidly than some in the surrounding neighborhood want. This forum can provide a good airing of people’s support, concerns and ideas for appropriate regulation.”

“Micro-housing can be an affordable option for people wanting to live close to work or urban amenities,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. “They’re good for the environment and they can be good for neighborhoods too if we can find ways to preserve their affordability while ensuring that these developments reflect both the letter and the spirit of our land use laws.  I look forward to working with stakeholders and the Executive to craft legislation to accomplish these goals.”

Continue reading “Action Alert: Micro-Housing Public Meeting May 6th”

Publicola: The Pitchforks Come Out

In the blogosphere we’re sometimes accused of hyperbole but this is not one of those cases. Many of the same people who turned out to try to kill Capitol Hill TOD and were outvoted by a margin of 2:1 because of broad and unusually representative community turnout at the TOD meeting, turned out unchecked to yesterday’s midday Apodment brownbag.

You can watch the full video here. Key excerpts of Erica Barnett’s coverage of the meeting are below:

The city council’s transportation committee just held a group therapy session for opponents of micro-housing, or “aPodments,” who showed up in overwhelming numbers, rhetorical pitchforks in hand, to a “brown bag” discussion this afternoon to express their opposition to the affordable developments, which consist of small units arranged around shared kitchens. (We toured Capitol Hill’s Alturra aPodments last month.)

The battle lines on the council itself were clear in today’s meeting, where council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen—the council’s resident microhousing skeptic—spent much of the time before public comment asking representatives from the city’s Department of Planning and Development and Office of Housing rhetorical questions that had the effect of making aPodments look bad.

For instance: Rasmussen, who is almost certainly well-versed in the design guidelines that govern aPodments, asked DPD’s Mike Podowski whether an aPodment with 56 bedrooms would be subject to design review. Podowski responded that in most cases, it would not, but that of 48 microhousing developments the city has approved, “about half a dozen did go through design review.”

Rasmussen likened the new micro-apartment buildings to the single-room occupancy hotels of the 1970s, two of which burned down, killing dozens of residents. “Is our code up to date” to handle micro-apartments?, Rasmussen asked.

Podowski noted that the fire code has been updated since the 1970s (largely in response to the SRO fires), that the buildings have all the required sprinklers, and that the fire marshall has signed off on the floor plans. Incidentally. by Rasmussen’s logic, the city should ban all dorms and hotels.

And one woman testified that aPodments would quickly be overrun by mold, “meth addicts,” “wild parties,” people with “mental illness,” and men who will terrorize “our daughters.” (Then, in a classic case of concern trolling, she worried that microhousing residents wouldn’t be able to cook decent food, because they’d have filthy shared kitchens and in-unit microwaves that wouldn’t “even be big enough for a Hungry Man dinner.”)

Full coverage here.

Your Story: Micro-, Co-, Congregate, and Converted Housing

15th and 52nd - One of my co-housing experiences (via Google Streetview)
One of the houses I lived in, converted into 3 apartments with 8 – 10 bedrooms total (via Google Streetview)

Over the last few months there has been a lot of talk about micro-housing. In most, if not all, the discussions I’ve had with friends, neighbors and acquaintances one common theme has emerged, personal experience. Whether it’s now or decades ago, many people have needed this type of housing sometime in their life.

Whether they are a transplants from Idaho trying to start a new life, an SU college student trying to make ends meet, a gay non-profit worker than wants to live close his friends in a community he feels safe and accepted in, or someone that simply would rather spend money on something besides space and furniture he doesn’t need, everyone has a reason why these types of housing meet their needs. No one is forced into them.

Personally, I care about micro-housing because for 7 years I lived in less desirable alternatives to it. In 2008 I was kicked out of the room I rented in a Capitol Hill townhouse for speaking up about tenant law violations, only to find out a year later from the Secret Service that my landlord committed identify fraud on multiple residents after me. Before that I lived in the house pictured above, which was chronically cold in the winter because it cost too much to heat in the winter. The house before that was even worse, shared with nine roommates; I could often see my breath in the morning. The kitchen, which didn’t have a dishwasher, was a smelly mess most of the time. Micro-housing would have much better met my needs, but it wasn’t available then.

Expanding professionally managed, newly-built micro-housing meets these needs and provides a much needed alternative to the sometimes poorly managed, sub-standard, unhealthy or illegal housing that up until now has been the only option for many people who have needed affordable housing.

What are your stories of how micro-housing adds an additional housing choice that either meets or could have meet your housing needs?

P.S. Today at City Hall starting at 11:30 the city will be hosting a brown bag on micro-housing.If you support this affordable housing choice attend and show your support because there will be lots of people that don’t.

Action Alert: Support HB 1898, 1953, and 1959

[UPDATE 3/13: Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon says these bills are not subject to Wednesday’s cutoff. Martin hears that there was a late deal to declare them necessary to pass the budget, which frees them of the deadline.]

The below action alert has been sent out by Transportation for Washington. I strongly encourage everyone to take  a few minutes to send an email or call your legislator and get a few friends or coworkers to do so as well.

In the past 24 hours, more than 2100 emails have been sent to legislators to support local funding options for saving bus service and fixing our streets. 

We only have less than 48 hours to get this done and we need you to speak up for transit TODAY .

Three bills — House Bills 1898, 1953, and 1959  which would save transit service in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties and fix our crumbling roads are awaiting a floor vote.  If this bill does not get a vote before Wednesday at 5:00pm, we will lose our chance to save transit.  

Send a letter to your legislator now >> 

We need every single vote we can get, and our transit champions, including Rep. Marko Liias, Rep. Jessyn Farrell, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Luis Moscoso, and Rep. Jake Fey, are telling us they need your voice of support right now to show legislators this is critically important.

You already know about the pot holes and missing sidewalks in your neighborhood. We’ve got to give cities and counties the ability to fix them.What has been especially tragic is the loss of bus service in our communities over the past few years. For example, King County Metro was temporarily spared 17% cuts in 2011, but that stopgap measure runs out next year. Pierce Transit has had to slash service 35% and will cut service even more this fall. And the recession has forced Community Transit to similarly cut bus service for thousands of workers, students, and families. 

Besides being a good way to prevent congestion and save money, transit is also a lifeline for thousands of kids, seniors, and people with disabilities. We constantly hear heart-wrenching stories about how single moms can’t get to their jobs or families who can’t get to the grocery store because their bus doesn’t run on Sunday.

Quite frankly, the bus cuts, potholes, and unfinished sidewalks, are all unacceptable. That’s why we need your help to pass House Bills 1898, 1953, and 1959.

We can do this. Send a letter to your legislator now >>

Thank you for everything that you do and have done,

Sincerely,

Brock Howell & Kate Whiting
Field Team
Transportation for Washington

Transit Supporters are the Key Swing Vote

2008 Sound Transit 2
2008 Sound Transit 2

As discussions about a new statewide transportation package continue in Olympia, transit advocates need to make one point clear to lawmakers: transit supporters are the key swing voters when it comes to defending a statewide transportation package. Just because a package passes in Olympia doesn’t mean it would survive a public vote.

While transit supporters are the most likely to support new taxes for transportation investments, they are also the most likely to swing against a highway-heavy package. History has shown that when transit supporters are not happy with a transportation package, an odd coalition of environmentalists and fiscal conservatives (i.e. Tim Eyman) emerges to soundly reject it. This is as true now as it has ever been.

History bears this out. In 2002 Referendum 51 drew criticism from parts of the environmental community, failing in an incredibly lopsided (38%-62%) statewide vote. Three years later, Tim Eyman’s Initiative 912 — which would have repealed the  2005 Transportation Partnership Program which on a whole made necessarily investments in safety, maintenance and replacement  — was rejected by voters. While the initiative had much more support statewide than R-51, King County was the decisive factor in its defeat, rejecting it by over 161,000 votes.

The 2007 Roads and Transit package and 2008 Sound Transit 2 measures also clearly illustrate this trend. Full of controversial projects (such as the Cross Base Highway) and with strong institutional and financial backing, Roads and Transit was nevertheless rejected by 56% of the voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. In contrast, Sound Transit 2 passed just a year later with 57% approval despite a shoestring campaign budget and the looming economic crisis (see map above).

As currently proposed, the House transportation package looks to repeat the history of R-51 and Road and Transit, with transit supporters opposed to the package despite the dire funding needs of transit agencies. What transit supports want is important, but what they don’t want is equally important, and their ‘yes’ vote cannot be assured simply by including their needs in an otherwise unacceptable package.

Key fixes to the current proposal to make it palatable to transit supporters include:

  • Ensuring transit agencies have a sustainable funding sources in addition to revenue sources for future growth, especially for Sound Transit;
  • Increased state funding for safety projects, especially Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School;
  • Robust local funds for counties and cities to maintain their deteriorating roads;
  • Fully funding existing projects like SR-520 and SR-99 over new projects and;
  • A true emphasis on the Moving Washington goals, particularly safety and maintenance.

Action Alert: Come Support Capitol Hill TOD

Urban Design Framework
Urban Design Framework

After four years of extensive work by volunteers, the community, the City and Sound Transit to develop a shared vision and development agreements for the Capitol Hill Link Station, a NIMBY group is slinging outright lies at the work in an attempt to kill it. The NIMBY group is trying to discredit the comprehensive and open process spearheaded by the Capitol Hill TOD Champion group that last September led to a development agreement between the City and Sound Transit, a first of a kind in the region and a model of what needs to happen in the future.  At Thursday’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting John Akamatsu and Lisa Kothari are up for appointment as the CHCC’s representatives to the Champion’s group, and NIMBY groups want to block their appointment in an attempt to stall progress on TOD.

If you support TOD at the Capitol Hill Station come join me at the Cal Anderson shelterhouse on Thursday, February 21st at 6:30pm to show your support these two appointees.

Agenda details are here. To vote on the CHCC you must live within the boundaries of Capitol Hill; own property or own or operate a business or nonprofit organization within the boundaries of Capitol Hill; be employed within the boundaries of Capitol Hill; or volunteer for an agency which serves Capitol Hill.

CHS Blog has more backstory here.

CSG: Bridging the Topographic Fortress with a Trail

North Capitol Hill Topography via CSG Blog

Central Seattle Greenways (CSG), in coordination with other greenways, ped-bike and neighborhood groups have been pushing over the last few months for a ped-bike trail on the SR-520 Portage Bay crossing from Montlake to North Capitol Hill. They have built up a lot of momentum for the idea and this post clearly lays out the argument for the connection and addresses some common questions and concerns.

It would not be hyperbole to think of north Capitol Hill as a topographic fortress. It is surrounded to the east, north, and west by very steep slopes. To the best of our knowledge, there is no ADA accessible route for walking or biking off of north Capitol Hill (check out the map below – compiled from city data and actual measurements). Complicating the situation, the streets that were slightly less steep were cherry picked to be arterials for car traffic. As a result, creating an all-ages-and-abilities friendly route between the “urban centers” of Capitol Hill and the University District, and further to neighborhoods in N.E. Seattle and to the Central District, is quite a challenge.

A Portage Bay Bridge Trail would bridge this topographic fortress. According to WSDOT, the Portage Bay Bridge Trail (PBBT) would have less than a 5% grade, be well lit, and be considerably more direct in getting to the “Montlake Hub” of regional trails and to Husky Stadium side of the UW campus. It would be the most direct and family-friendly route from the Montlake Hub to Capitol Hill by far.

Even in terms of getting between Capitol Hill and the East Campus of the UW, taking the PBBT would only be slightly longer than a Harvard Ave E route (1.89 to 1.63), but would be significantly less steep (4.5% to 8.7%), and more separated from traffic. Even amongst experienced cyclists, research has found that article “cyclists are willing to go considerably out of their way to use a bike boulevard or bike path rather than an arterial bike lane,” and that people will go over three times more out of their way to avoid routes with slopes of over 6% grade compared to those with 4-6% grade (click here to purchase full article). This affect would likely be more pronounced in people who are willing-but-wary. In other words, since the PBBT will be better separated and less steep than other options, people will choose to use it over routes that currently exist even if they are shorter. Let’s look at a few of the existing alternatives.

Whole post here.

Sound Transit Board Wants To Accelerate ST3 Planning

Potential Approaches for Sound Transit

With corridor studies for rail from Downtown Seattle to Ballard and extension of Link south to Federal Way both moving forward next year, it looks likely that the Sound Transit board will move to accelerate planning work necessary for development of a Sound Transit 3 (or ST3) package. Yesterday, much of the board met at a workshop to answer three main questions:

  1. How aggressively should ST push forward planning work such as corridor studies and the Long Range Plan update?
  2. Should ST continue to focus on the light rail “spine” as their primary goal?
  3. Should ST engage state level transportation funding and authorization issues?

You can see all of the meeting documents here. For those interested in background, I would suggest reading this.

On the first question, there was a general desire among the board members in attendance for a more aggressive schedule than what ST is currently pursuing. Three planning processes were presented to the board:

  • Status Quo – would continue the status quo and take 8-12 years
  • Corridor Study – would initiate accelerated corridor planning followed by the Long Range Plan update taking a total of 6-10 years
  • Jump Start – would incorporate corridor studies in the Long Range Plan cutting the total planning timeline to 4 years

Many board members felt that the more aggressive planning schedule, the Jump Start, was preferable – including WSDOT chair Paula Hammond, who said she’d like to see ST3 as soon as possible so it can be integrated with WSDOT’s planning. Some board members had reservations about shooting for a 2016 ST3 package and felt that a 2020 package was more realistic. Not only would 2016 be a very tight planning window, but it would also mean that voters in the region would be asked to vote ST3 before Lynnwood Link and East Link construction were clearly visible. The tight planning window could also complicate the process of getting additional funding authority from the state (more on that later). Continue reading “Sound Transit Board Wants To Accelerate ST3 Planning”