The magnificent new UW Burke-Gilman Trail opens

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Through-traffic is routed under the new parklike space while station and Montlake Bridge traffic is routed through the park.

Through-traffic is routed under the new parklike space while station and Montlake Bridge traffic is routed through the park.

After a year and a half of ever-changing detours, one of the busiest sections of trail anywhere in the State of Washington (and maybe the entire country) reopened Wednesday afternoon.

The completely redesigned “Rainier Vista” area has a much grander, people-focused feel with wide pathways, sprawling lawns and park benches. It is very easy to imagine people hanging out here in big numbers, especially when UW classes are in session. Much like Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill, it’s a simple, comfortable place to just enjoy being in Seattle.

And true to its name, it has a spectacular view of Mount Rainier.

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iPhone cameras are wide-angle, so Rainier always looks way less awesome than it does in real life. It’s just one more of her magical powers: She only poses for high quality cameras.

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Our latest look at plans for a new downtown waterfront

AWPOW_DraftEIS_June2015-elliottwayThe draft Environmental Impact Statement for the redesigned Seattle downtown waterfront is out. You have until August 12 to submit comments, which you can do via this online survey or by emailing DEIS@waterfrontseattle.org. The final EIS should be out in late 2015 or early 2016, and construction should be ready to begin in 2017.

There will also be a public meeting 4:30–7:30 p.m. July 22 at City Hall.

The plan still includes a 12-foot protected bikeway on the west side of the new Alaskan Way, separated from the sidewalk, bus stops and general traffic. It also includes quality protected bike lanes on the new Elliott Way, which will climb the hill from Alaskan Way to connect to Elliott and Western Avenues. Removing the viaduct will allow for all kinds of new connections in this part of Belltown.

The roadway is still very wide with a ton of lanes to cross, especially on the south end between the ferry terminal and King Street. It’s great that most the lanes are 10 or 11 feet, since studies have shown wider lanes encourage speeding and increase collisions.

But people on foot and bikes crossing from Pioneer Square to the ferry or waterfront will still have to traverse up to 88 feet of traffic lanes. Among older populations, for example, a walking speed of 3.3 feet per second is common (PDF). At that speed, it could take nearly half a minute just to walk across all these lanes of traffic. That’s a long time to be exposed in front of traffic, and such width makes it a lot easier to get caught halfway when the lights change.

This glossy concept image from a late 2014 Design Commission presentation conveniently doesn't pan any further left to see how wide this street really is

This glossy concept image (Alaskan Way at Main St) from a late 2014 Design Commission presentation conveniently didn’t pan any further left to show how wide this street really is

The study includes significant analysis of the motor vehicle level of service, but nearly nothing for pedestrian level of service even though it predicts more people walking across the street than vehicles driven on it during summer days.

Since walkability is clearly secondary to motor vehicle throughput goals in these designs, we referred to this previously as a surface highway to complement the tunnel highway. It might be an acceptable design if the tunnel were not being built (or if we choose to abandon the tunnel), but it’s way overbuilt as an addition to the tunnel.

Here’s an updated look at how the viaduct-free waterfront street design is shaping up: Continue reading

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Woman kills 4-year-old walking in Issaquah crosswalk

Image of the intersection from Google Street View.

Image of the intersection from Google Street View.

A 67-year-old woman struck four-year-old Hao Chen Xu while he crossed in an Issaquah crosswalk with his mother Friday. Sadly, he died the next day in the hospital.

Our deepest condolences to his family.

A roadside memorial has been set up at the crosswalk, according to Issaquah Reporter.

Issaquah Police and the Washington State Patrol are still investigating. The woman driving remained at the scene and was not found to have signs of impairment.

“For some reason, the driver just failed to see them,” Issaquah Police Commander Stan Conrad told the Issaquah Press. The boy’s mother was just steps behind him, pushing his bicycle.

But neighbors have been asking for safety changes on this street for years, and now they’re demanding changes. An online petition clearly lays out the problem and some possible solutions (see text below, then go sign it). No action is not one of the options. Hundreds have already signed. Continue reading

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WA transportation ‘compromise’ spends billions on highways, ransoms transit but keeps most bike/walk funding

UPDATE 12:10p 7/1: Publicola reports that the revenue portion of the transportation package is headed to Governor Inslee. That includes ST3 authorization and an 11.9 cent gas tax. However, other bills that make up the transportation package, including appropriations for the projects below and bonding for mega projects, are still in limbo.

After not moving an inch for months, the Washington State legislature is moving at lightning speed this week to pass a so-called “compromise” transportation funding package that preserves much of the bike/walk safety and access funding in the version of the package we saw earlier from the House.

But the package also spends many billions on new and expanded highways, includes protections against clean air standards and provides authority for a Sound Transit 3 vote (but at a cost).

The new package of bills has already passed mostly out of the Senate and is expected to hit the House floor today. Stay tuned for updates.

Seattle Transit Blog wrote a scathing post today lambasting the package for holding transit “ransom.” The proposed law only gives Sound Transit the authority to put a $15 billion ST3 measure up for a local vote in 2016 on the condition that, if it passes, the agency gives about $0.5 billion back to the state’s general fund. So billions go directly to highways, but transit gets taxed if local voters pass it. That’s all backwards.

On the other hand, Transportation Choices Coalition and Futurewise are pushing for passage of the bill even with all these problems. There’s also talk of putting the package up for a statewide referendum, which I can’t imagine would pass (and would having it on the ballot impact the outcome of the Move Seattle vote? Hard to say.).

Efforts to preserve the bike/walk safety and access funds proposed by the Democrat-controlled House in April were pretty successful. The compromise package passed by the Republican-controlled Senate includes:

  • Bike/Ped Grant Program ($75M), same as House version
  • Bike/Ped Projects ($89M), effectively down $1M from House version since the Northgate bike/walk bridge was moved to the transit projects list
  • Safe Routes to Schools Grant Program ($56M), same as House version

Thanks to Senator Andy Billig (D-Spokane), the compromise deal also includes a commitment that WSDOT direct $86 million in Federal funds it receives in the next 16 years to Safe Routes to School. This smart use of Federal funding was not in the House version.

If you include this commitment for Federal funds, the total funding for bike/walk projects is about $320 million over 16 years, up from $236 million in the House version.

However, the Complete Streets Grant Program would get $106 million in the compromise package, down $54 million from House version. So that’s a significant safe streets hit between the versions.

Blake Trask, state policy director at Washington Bikes, praised Senators for preserving and even growing bike/walk funding. Continue reading

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DUI suspect kills person biking in Ravenna – UPDATE: RIP Andres Hulslander

Image of NE 65th ST/15th Ave NE intersection from Google Street View.

Image of NE 65th ST/15th Ave NE intersection from Google Street View.

A person suspected of driving under the influence struck and killed a 45-year-old who was biking in Ravenna late Saturday, according to Seattle Police.

UPDATE: The man killed has been identified as Andres Hulslander, according to the King County Medical Examiner. The Seattle Times reports that he lived in Seattle since the early 90s and moved to Lake Forest Park earlier this year. We will update when we learn more about him.

Our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

The 29-year-old behind the wheel of a red 2002 Subaru Impreza was arrested and booked into King County jail on investigation of DUI. More charges could be added pending a Seattle Police traffic collision investigation.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times reports that Lucas McQuinn is now facing a vehicular homicide charge and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond.

The collision occurred at NE 65th Street and 15th Ave NE around 11 p.m. Saturday night.

A police spokesperson did not yet have details about how the collision occurred. Major traffic collision investigations can take weeks or months to complete. UPDATE: Police say in a Blotter post that both were headed eastbound on NE 65th St when the suspect struck the man biking from behind.

Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the person killed.

UPDATE: A Seattle Fire Department spokesperson said when crews showed up to the scene, they found the man (who they estimated was about 25) has “suffered heavy trauma.” His bike was found 50–75 feet from his body. They conducted CPR and rushed him to the hospital.

Remember, thank a first responder. They work some horrible scenes and see things we all would like to pretend never happened.

I also confirmed with SDOT that, from I can tell from my reporting and from what the city has tracked, this is the first death of a person on a bike in Seattle in 2015. It’s also the first death since Sher Kung died on 2nd Ave in August.

Before Kung, it had been 15 months since a person biking died on a Seattle street.

UPDATE x2: “ghostbikeguy” posted these photos in the comments with the note: “Ghost bike is up. Please stop making me do this, Seattle.”

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4Ij6mwvUPDATE x3: More info from the SPD Blotter:

A 45-year-old cyclist was killed in the Roosevelt neighborhood Saturday night after he was struck by a suspected intoxicated driver. Police arrested the 29-year-old driver at the scene.

SPD Traffic Collision investigators believe the driver of a red Subaru was headed eastbound on NE 65th Street around 11 PM Saturday night when he struck the cyclist from behind near 15th Avenue NE.

Numerous witnesses called 911, a medics transported the 45-year-old bicyclist to Harborview Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.

Officers examined the 29-year-old suspect at the scene, and determined he appeared to be intoxicated. Police booked him into the King County Jail for Investigation of Vehicular Homicide.

Traffic Collision detectives are investigating the incident.

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Summer Parkways 2015 headed to the Central District and Ballard

10434380_663096477160623_3846152561716757224_nRemember that boost in the city budget to expand Summer Streets? Well, it’s summer, and it’s happening.

There will be two multi-mile open streets events in the city this September:

There was talk of a downtown route instead of Ballard, but that concept has been shelved for this year.

To solidify the change in the style of the event, Summer Streets is now Summer Parkways. Instead of just an awesome, couple-block stretch of people-filled streets for a couple hours, Summer Parkways will feature an afternoon with miles of car-free neighborhood streets opened to walking and biking and yard sales and community parties and basically whatever people and organizations in the area want to make happen.

The new style is modeled after Portland’s fantastically successful Sunday Parkways. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways invited city staff and Sally Bagshaw on a trip to see that even with their own eyes last year. Below is the video they made to give you an idea of (hopefully) what we can expect. We’ve posted it before, but it’s worth rewatching. And captions have been translated into a ton of languages, so send it around to everyone: Continue reading

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Council keeps full-strength Move Seattle levy, adds extra safety emphasis

Council added Accessible Mount Baker and I-5 crossing improvements between Wallingford and the U District to this map.

Council added Accessible Mount Baker, I-5 crossing improvements between Wallingford and the U District, and (maybe) short-term Ballard Bridge improvements to this map.

The Seattle City Council is only one step away from sending a nine-year, $930 million property tax levy for transportation to voters in November.

Mayor Ed Murray’s Move Seattle levy made it through the Council’s special committee shaping the measure mostly unscathed. All Councilmembers are part of that committee, so it’s very likely that their amended version of the ballot measure will pass it’s scheduled June 29 Council vote. From there, the city will send it to King County for inclusion on the ballot.

After much debate in recent weeks, attempts by Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant to replace part of the property tax with an employee hours tax, commercial parking tax and developer impact fees did not pass. So the full levy will be paid by property taxes, both residential and commercial.

The failed amendments were intended to make the levy more progressive, moving some of the burden from lower-income populations. However, there is some disagreement about how much more progressive those other options would really be, as Erica Barnett argued in a Seattle Transit Blog post.

The big question still floating out there (and worthy of much more investigation than I can fit here) is how such a property tax increase will affect the rental market. Since most low-income people are renters and affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges in the city, this is important to answer when debating the November vote. While common sense might say that any property owner will pass their cost increases to renters, rentals exist in a market where — in theory — demand shapes prices rather than landlords.

The average home will see a tax increase of about $12 per month if Move Seattle passes. When you include the city’s existing transportation budget and the grant leveraging forecast, the total Seattle transportation investment level in the next nine years could actually be closer to $1.8 billion. That’s definitely worth $12 per month, whether it gets passed down to renters or not.

Council changes to the levy

The Council did make some changes to the mayor’s levy. If you want to dig through the language yourself, there are links to each amendment in this PDF. Here are the ones that passed (PDFs): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (as amended), 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15 (as amended), 17 and 19.

Here are some highlights: Continue reading

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