UPDATE: The Council passed the bike plan unanimously.
On the way to City Hall, I caught up with Davey Oil, Madi Carlson and their children. To get downtown from Capitol Hill, we biked down busy Broadway, and it was safe and comfortable.
And that’s the whole point of this Bike Master Plan. This is a good thing, and it should happen more often in more places around town. If a street is not comfortable and safe for Seattle families, then Seattle needs to fix it. This plan is a good start.
The Seattle City Council is scheduled to vote on final approval of the Bike Master Plan Monday, two years after work on the plan remake began. The vote will come during the afternoon meeting, which begins at 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
After years of work and many, many hours of public outreach, the plan flew through a December public hearing in the City Council Chambers, and the Transportation Committee last week gave it unanimous approval.
For a look at the plan’s long slog to this point, our coverage is divided into two phases:
- Creating the first draft mostly involved gathering all ideas for where bike facilities could use improvements and gathering ideas for education and outreach.
- The second draft was more about making sure the changes are realistic, working to figure out modal conflicts and developing a connected city-wide network of bike routes that aim to be comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to use.
Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and other organizations that have worked to develop the plan are hoping to pack the Council meeting with plan supporters. It’s well past time to pass the plan so the city transportation staff can get to work on a project prioritization plan, and leaders can get to work on figuring out how we are going to realize the vision.
The resolution approving the bike plan does not include funding. Cost estimates put the plan somewhere between $391 – $524 million over 20 years, though not all of that money will come directly from Seattle. Regional, state and federal grants will certainly be used to offset much of the cost, and the city can save money by including bike upgrades with other city work (utilities work, major repaving projects, private development, etc).
When former Mayor Mike McGinn sent the plan to the City Council in November, his letter suggested that the Council include a policy goal of incrementally growing the budget for bicycling projects from $7 – $12 million as in recent years to at least $20 million per year. Without an increase in funding, the city will not be able to complete the plan within the desired timeline.
“I want it built out while I can use it,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who is the Chair of the Transportation Committee and has had a hands-on role in developing the plan from the start.
The Council’s resolution does not, however, include a figure for how much they will aim to budget toward the plan each year (read it in full below).
“My commitment is to build that system out as soon we can,” said Rasmussen. “20 years is a heck of a long time to wait to get it done.”
But funding each year will be dependent on the city’s financial situation that year, he said. If there is another recession, for example, they might have to cut back on bike spending just like many other budget lines. But when things are going well, they could also invest more.
The city will need to average $20 million or so (obviously, costs change over time) over the next 20 years to substantially complete the plan, said Rasmussen.
It will also heavily depend on the next transportation levy, which could be a chance to get the plan some consistent funding. Of course, it needs to pass a city-wide vote. Bridging the Gap expires in 2015, so discussions about the levy to replace it will begin fairly soon.
There may also be an argument to be made for front-loading some of the costs of the plan. For example, the biggest bike need Rasmussen and many other advocates see is for safe bike infrastructure downtown. But, of course, downtown is also likely to be among the most expensive places to build protected bike lanes, since the number of high-traffic intersections and competing road uses is much higher than anywhere else in the city.
The city is currently seeking a firm to handle outreach and design work for the downtown plans, which Rasmussen said will likely take some time.
“Downtown business and property owners will want lots of opportunities to comment,” he said. He believes it would be “very optimistic” for a downtown protected bike lane to be in place before 2016.
Below is the text of the Council resolution. If you cannot make it in person, you can watch the meeting online via Seattle Channel.