Vote! Ballots are due Tuesday + Where candidates stand on transportation

King County Dropbox locations (click for interactive map)

Don’t procrastinate any longer. It’s time to make a choice and get your ballot in the mail or a (postage-free) nearby dropbox.

If you are registered to vote but have lost your ballot, you can still vote! Follow the instructions here to download a ballot that you can fill out and print.

You can find our coverage of the Growing Seattle housing and transportation forum here: Mayor and City Council Position 8.

City Council Position 9 is absolutely no question: Vote Lorena González.

And of course vote for Dow Constantine for King County Executive.

Seattle Bike Blog almost endorsed Nikkita Oliver for mayor. Oliver’s campaign is easily the most impressive of all the candidates, but we can’t slow down safe streets projects as she says she might. So we’re stuck. If you believe in her as a transformative leader and think supporters of downtown bike lanes and the Missing Link can persuade her administration to keep them on track (or better), then vote for Oliver. If you take her statements as the final word and want a candidate who is clearly already on board with safe streets projects in the pipeline (and more), vote for Cary Moon, Jessyn Farrell or Mike McGinn.

After a lot of thought, I decided not to endorse in the City Council Position 8 primary. For personal reasons (I have very close friends supporting one candidate), I’m just not sure I can provide a fair endorsement in this race. Sorry! I’ll reconsider in the general election. This is where having an election board would be very handy. Hmm…

Here’s who other transportation groups and news sources are endorsing:

The Urbanist endorsed Moon for Mayor, Teresa Mosqueda and González for City Council, Ryan Calkins for Port Commission Position 1 and Preeti Shridhar for Port Position 4.

Seattle Transit Blog endorsed Farrell for MayorMosqueda and González for Council, and, in a separate post, Constantine for County Executive, Manka Dhingra for the 45th Senate District, Nancy Backus for Auburn Mayor, Jon Pascal for Kirkland City Council Position 7, and Jeralee Anderson for Redmond City Council Position 7.

Washington Bikes endorsed (UPDATED 8/1) Constantine for County Executive, Mosqueda for City Council Position 8González for City Council Position 9, Nigel Herbig for Kenmore City Council Position 4,  Chris Beale for Tacoma City Council Position 4Jay Arnold for Kirkland City Council Position 1, Amy Walen for Kirkland City Council Position 5 and Rituja Indapure for Sammamish City Council Position 5. They also endorsed Kate Burke and Breean Beggs for Spokane City Council (do I have any Spokane readers out there?).

Seattle has an embarrassment of riches running for both Mayor and City Council this year. Really makes a good case for ranked choice voting. So many candidates have overlapping constituencies, it’s hard to know how all the votes are going to split. Nobody seems to know who will get through (I’ve seen confident prognosticating pointing in every direction), so don’t get too hung up trying to decide strategically who you think has the best chance of making it in. You just have to vote for whoever you most want to see in office.

But most importantly, don’t procrastinate any longer on your decision. Just make one and get your ballot in. The worst thing you can do is delay because you’re unsure and then miss your chance because you get too busy Tuesday evening.

Below is a roundup of mayoral candidate answers to an endorsement questionnaire from Seattle Bike Blog. Bob Hasegawa did not respond, though his open opposition to safe streets totally disqualifies him, anyway. Don’t vote Hasegawa for mayor.

Q: Seattle is on the verge of permitting private bike share companies, most of which operate on a phone-based, stationless model. The city will be the first large North American city to permit these private services to operate at a large scale. SDOT’s pilot permit will be good through December. You can learn more in our coverage here: https://www. seattlebikeblog.com/2017/06/ 09/city-releases-draft-bike- share-pilot-permit-list-of- interested-companies-grows-to- ten/

Do you support SDOT’s pilot program to permit bike share companies to operate on city right of way (including being parked on city sidewalks)? As mayor, would you work to create permanent bike share permits when the pilot period ends? What role do you believe bike share can play in Seattle (if at all)?

(Editor’s note: These answers all pre-date the launch of Spin and LimeBike, so candidates did not get to see them in action before answering.)

Jenny Durkan: We need to pilot a range of programs to increase bike use in the city.  Bike share programs can be a key way to accomplish this, if they are properly executed and “fit” the city.  Benefits include reducing traffic congestion and emissions, and our carbon footprint.  They also promote and provide better fitness. Bike sharing is a practical transit option that should become an integrated part of our transportation system for commuters, other residents, and tourists.

I think it is too soon to know if the proposed system will work in Seattle. It faces challenges. The pilot phase will be important to ensure the system works for our residents, commuters and visitors, and doesn’t negatively impact our neighborhoods and the pedestrian experience. One critical goal of the pilot phase is determining how the bike parking system functions outside of fixed stations and ensuring that private operators are adhering to bike rack rules. This is an example of an unintended impact that, if not mitigated or prepared for, could have significant negative effects on downtown sidewalks. We must take this into consideration in the planning and pilot phases, and must carefully monitor implementation and impacts.

Jessyn Farrell: Yes, absolutely! This is an innovative way to make biking a more convenient and more equitable transportation option. If the pilot program works out as well as expected, this kind of bike share partnership could make Seattle a national leader. I am the only candidate with the track record and leadership to make our transportation system the most equitable and forward-looking of any major urban center in the United States. We need a truly integrated network of bus, rail, walking and biking paths that make door-to-door transportation outside of single-occupancy vehicles a real alternative for everyone.

Mike McGinn: Yes and Yes.  Biking is tremendously convenient for short trips, so I believe bike share can play an important role in improving mobility. The ability to ride and leave the bike makes it easy to integrate with walking, transit and car share in one trip, or in linking trips though the day.

Cary Moon: While bike sharing is increasingly important to increasing bike mode share in cities, I’m hesitant to say yes to private operation of this function without understanding the details. There are many risks with allowing a private company to operate bike sharing on public right of way. Will they commit to high enough quality bikes, and fund the ongoing necessary maintenance, and remove and replace broken bikes? Will they deploy bikes equitably across all neighborhoods, even if lower income neighborhoods are not as profitable? Will they commit to and fund rebalancing every night? Will they adequately maintain bike parking stations, if there are any? How will we hold them accountable to the City’s standards for using the right of way as directed, and how are we as a City prepared to enforce our expectations?

Ideally bike share programs are publicly funded, managed for equity and breadth of access, and maintained in the public interest, resonant with other priorities for the overall transportation system. The question is how quickly Seattle can build sufficient demand, given our hills and our fledgling network of protected bike lanes and our helmet law, to justify increasing our public investment to bring a system up to scale.

Nikkita Oliver: City-wide bike share opportunities are an asset for cities. Private bike sharing can be cost-effective in terms of implementation and provide an economical mode of transportation for residents. They also encourage many health and environmental benefits. Given that Pronto is no longer a program in Seattle, we need new options for residents and so, I would welcome the piloting of private bike sharing programs.

When it comes to the question of permitting, it would be smart for our city to set regulations and require a permit before allowing private programs to launch. This would allow us to get in front of changes and avoid conflicts like the ones that developed as a result of UBER entering the ride-sharing market without a permitting process in place. Temporary permits would also give our city the chance collect data and think through the cost-benefit of programs before committing to them in the long-term.

I would also like to consider ways for new companies to help shape bike culture in our city. While there are many cyclist in Seattle, not all Seattleites have had access to bike culture and these private companies could invest in some city-wide cycling education. I am also committed to centering equity in how our city makes decisions and so I would want to be intentional about city-wide accessibility to these programs for our residents, making sure neighborhoods, especially those farthest from the city center have bike sharing opportunities.

Q: Mayor Ed Murray and SDOT put the Center City Bike Network on pause in 2015, citing the need for the One Center City multi-agency plan. Now the city is unpausing the bike network, with plans to build protected bike lanes on 7th/8th Avenues, 9th Ave in South Lake Union, 2nd and 4th Avenues in Belltown and downtown, a TBD connection from downtown to Dearborn St and bike connections on Pike/Pine from downtown to Broadway all by 2020. As mayor, will you support SDOT’s work to complete these connections? If so, how will you explain the need for a network of downtown bike lanes to people who voice opposition, citing a loss of parking or worries about increased car traffic?

Durkan: If we wish to encourage more people to ride bikes to work, then we must make our streets downtown safer for cyclists; these efforts must also extend to neighborhoods throughout Seattle, especially downtown. I will work with key partners to explore how to best implement the Bicycle Master Plan and the Center City Bicycle Network. We can improve our city’s bike network with specific bike safety measures, including better traffic signals, lower speed limits, and physically separated and protected bike lanes. We must achieve this in a way that is both effective and cost-efficient.  Any expansion in bike connections must fulfill the City’s commitment to Vision Zero. We must prioritize reducing biker and pedestrian fatalities wherever possible.

Farrell: Yes, I support the Center City Bike Network. Of course there’s the big picture: biking is a healthier, greener, more efficient mode of transportation than single-occupancy vehicle traffic. But in Seattle’s center city in particular, we have to recognize that the vehicle capacity of the roads downtown is already stretching its limits, and over the coming two decades, we’re going to have 25,000 more units of housing in the city center and 60,000 more workers commuting downtown each day. We need a comprehensive plan to allow those people to get around on foot, by bike, and by public transit. The more people who bike, the fewer who are adding to traffic. I am the candidate in this race with the integrated transportation experience and the strong belief in prioritizing these issues as core to our City’s long term growth.

McGinn: My administration laid the groundwork for the Center City Bike Network, and the last three and half years represent a tremendous missed opportunity to implement it. If elected I will work to speed up implementation. I think that a connected bike network will prove to be quite popular to many as an alternative to car-choked streets.  The reality is that we need to use our streets more efficiently, particularly with regards to transit, because a car-centric approach simply overwhelms the capacity of local streets.

Moon: Yes. Our rapid growth and the shifting of buses from the tunnel to the surface streets demands that we prioritize the most space efficient modes in our street right of way — transit, biking, walking — and ensure we have excellent freight mobility, delivery and drop off facilities curbside. To keep up with the need for access and mobility in a growing city, we must shift how we use street space. This means we must make our bus and transit systems reliable by using bus only lanes and bus priority at intersections, we need to build a complete network of protected bike lanes in order to significantly improve safety and visibility and usage by more casual bike riders, we need improvements to pedestrian safety and convenience especially at intersections, and we need to ensure adequate drop off and delivery space on every block.

Our future is buses, streetcars, Sound Transit, a complete bike network, and making sure neighborhoods are all walkable. We must do everything we can to give people real alternatives to driving that are reliable, fast and convenient or we will never get ahead of congestion. While there are some folks who need to drive and cannot use alternatives, we need to make sure our system is optimized to provide viable alternatives to as many users as possible. A pro-active vision, a logical set of pragmatic proposals, and robust inclusive community dialog — where people get real opportunities to learn, to voice concerns, and be heard– is the only way to do this. We can’t control how many people are moving here, so we must do everything we can to accommodate increased demands on our system, and handle the transition as well as we can.

I would continue to shift SDOT’s focus and culture toward providing transportation options that are alternatives to driving, and ensure we use an economic and racial justice lens to allocate our transportation investments so those communities with the lowest incomes are able to access quick and efficient transit services, bike facilities, and safe walking routes.

Oliver: Yes and I would like to begin this process by supporting the “Basic Bike Network” proposed by Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. The Basic Bike Network would bring quick changes for current downtown bikers and provide our city with the opportunity to collect data so we can make evidence-based decisions when we develop a more comprehensive multi-modal plan for downtown. I believe this “pilot” approach would help quell opposition. Additionally, I would want this project to develop in tandem with the expansion of our public transportation systems. This would provide a public transportation infrastructure that would reduce the need for cars downtown and hopefully present a comprehensive plan for everyone and alternatives for folks who commute downtown..

In funding this project, it is essential we also consider that our city is currently in a state of emergency around homelessness. As mayor my first priority will be to address this state of emergency. This may mean pausing certain city projects in order to fund exigent human service needs.

Q: If appellants of the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail lose their appeal to the city’s Environmental Impact Statement, construction on the trail is scheduled to break ground in May 2018, a couple months into your term. Do you support the city’s preferred alternative to complete the trail? Will you work to keep the project moving forward on schedule?

Durkan: I know this issue is complicated. We need to get this missing piece in place and I will work to do so, as quickly as possible if elected mayor.  (Editor’s note: I asked the Durkan campaign several times to clarify whether she supports the city’s preferred alternative or not, since this answer is a bit loose. I did not receive a response).

Farrell: Yes, I support the City’s preferred alternative. The Environmental Impact Study has shown that it’s a good compromise that takes into account the needs of businesses along the route. I was responsible for securing funding in last year’s state capital budget for funding to Burke Gilman. I have a track record of commitment to these issues in Olympia and I’ve delivered. I’ll bring that commitment to the Mayor’s office. It’s time to get the missing link finished!

McGinn: Yes and yes.

Moon: Yes to both.

Oliver: As an amateur boxer, running is a regular part of my daily life. As a result, I frequent many of Seattle’s incredible parks and trails. The Burke-Gilman Trail missing link is a valuable part of connecting our residents to different parts of the city and I would be happy to see this project completed. However, many in our city are currently facing insurmountable barriers to finding affordable housing and over 10,000 of our residents are currently living without shelter. I believe it is the duty of our city leaders to prioritize addressing these exigent human services needs first. This may require us to put some projects, like construction on the Burke-Gilman Trail on hold in order to ensure that we have financial resources to address the state of emergency around homelessness in our city.

Additionally, Seattle and King County are under a settlement agreement to address some serious sewage issues which are polluting our waters. It is my understanding that the likely solution will require building some new pipelines; one of which will go directly under the Burke-Gilman Trail. It seems fiscally irresponsible to pursue this project before the settlement requirements are completed in order to ensure that we do not build a trail, dig it up, and then have to rebuild it. (Information regarding the settlement can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/seattle-washington-and-king-county-washington-settlement)

Q: Rainier Avenue is the city’s most dangerous neighborhood street, but it is also the flattest and most direct route between downtown and most major Rainier Valley business districts. SDOT has implemented a safety redesign of one stretch of the street in Columbia City and Hillman City. The city currently plans to extend this safety project to Rainier Beach in 2018. As mayor, will you support the extension and work to keep it on schedule?

This is not the only change coming to Rainier Ave during your first term. With the Judkins Park Link Station, the city, WSDOT and Sound Transit have an opportunity to make significant changes to a very busy stretch of northern Rainier Ave to prioritize biking, walking and transit access to the station and beyond. The city also has a major project in the works near Mt Baker Station called Accessible Mt Baker. The full vision is to create protected bike lanes for the full length of Rainier Ave. You can learn more here: https://www. seattlebikeblog.com/2015/11/ 20/mt-baker-intersection-plan- continues-to-wow-a-new- standard-for-public-outreach/

As mayor, will you support installing protected bike lanes on Rainier Ave? Why or why not?

Durkan: The existing safety project in Columbia City has significantly reduced the number of crashes along that stretch of Rainier Ave, making it safer by slowing vehicles speeds while still keeping the corridor moving.  I support infrastructure improvements that will contribute to a realization of Vision Zero.

The Judkins Park and Mount Baker light rail stations are important opportunities to link the surrounding communities to regional light rail, but also ensure the stations are served with safe and integrated bike, pedestrian, and transit connections as well as balance the needs of diverse commuters. This initiative illustrates the type of thoughtful outreach and collaboration between SDOT and the community that I wish to promote during my administration.

Farrell: Yes, I will support the extension of the safety design to Rainier Beach. This is a no-brainer: it’s about saving lives, and there are no significant impacts to traffic. I also support installing protected bike lanes on Rainier. Connecting southeast Seattle to our growing alternative transit network is crucial to equity.

McGinn: Yes. I would. Having biked Rainier many times, I know that for much of its length there is actually a surprising amount of room. It could provide a safe, fast, and affordable path into downtown for residents of the Rainier Valley. With other street improvements, it could also calm traffic and support transit improvements.  Collectively these changes would make Rainier Avenue a better street for businesses and residents.

Moon: Yes. We need our streets to be safe for pedestrians, our neighborhoods walkable, and our bike network to be complete. We need to continue to invest funding assertively toward the Pedestrian and Bike Master Plans and Vision Zero priorities. I plan to focus on making walking and biking more viable options with a complete network of protected bike lanes and safe sidewalks — especially near transit stations.

The culture of SDOT needs to shift faster toward the Vision Zero priorities, especially in the south end, where Rainier Ave and MLK are particularly dangerous. SDOT’s capital budget needs to prioritize safe visible crosswalks; adding sidewalks on priority streets that provide access to transit and safe routes to school; buildout of the complete bike network; slower speeds; narrow lanes and road diets on arterials that run through communities. Vision Zero is about the physical design of our streets and transportation facilities to encourage slower speeds, greater awareness of other road users, and increased visibility and greater safety for pedestrians.

In Seattle, we need to shift the culture of SDOT more quickly toward pedestrian safety, bike facilities, transit reliability and convenience, and freight mobility — and away from Level of Service for cars. The rapid pace of growth requires rapid transformation or we’ll never catch up. As a staunch champion for transit, for great streets, for biking and walking facilities, and for freight mobility, I would be honored to guide Seattle to be a national leader in shifting to a 21st century sustainable, resilient and effective transportation system.

Oliver: Yes, safety for our cyclist and pedestrians is very important. As our city grows denser, we need to increase walkability for pedestrians and improve and expand our transportation infrastructure (especially our public transportation infrastructure and service) to ensure public safety on our roadways for all commuters who share our roads and sidewalks.

Protected bike lanes are important for creating safety. They are also very expensive. We want to be evidenced-based in our approach to developing our bike lane system. Some streets/areas that we see as most strategic for this type of expansion are Madison Avenue, Delridge Way SW and Rainier Avenue. I would support prioritizing these areas and specifically the Rainier Avenue expansion project because adding bike lanes in these areas would be cost effective, efficient for cyclists and would increase safety.

As a project like this unfolds, I would also want to consider:

  1. Equity issues that come with bike lanes
    1. Displacement and “push out” in many Seattle neighborhoods have been preceded by particular types of neighborhood changes including the light rail and bike lanes. It is important to do this development with an intersectional analysis that understands who is most likely to ride bikes in Seattle, drive cars, and take public transportation.
    2. Since we know displacement is a possibility as these neighborhoods change we must utilize different community development strategies to preserve the culture and demographics of these neighborhoods.
    3. We MUST prioritize first those areas and streets where a) they are the most dangerous and b) bike lanes will actually provide the necessary safeguards to make our cyclist safer.
  2. Improving bus routes. It is often residents living in areas farthest from our city center that don’t have access to public transportation. We need to address this “last mile” problem in order to ensure our residents in south Seattle have equitable, cost effective access to transportation and other areas of the city.
  3. Effective solutions for congestion and traffic. As the Rainier Beach neighborhood becomes more dense congestion and traffic will be increasingly more of an issue. The more we can do to prevent this early on, the better for the neighborhood and the environment.

Additionally, I have to stress that our city is currently in a state of emergency around homelessness. I believe it is the duty of our city leaders to prioritize addressing these exigent human service needs first. This may require us to put some projects, like construction of bike lanes on hold in order to ensure that we have the financial resources to address the state of emergency around homelessness in our city.

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