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Mayor Harrell order calls for ‘low-pollution neighborhoods,’ sets up pieces for a future transportation levy

Mayor Bruce Harrell signed an executive order this week with a list of climate actions and plans, including an expansion of Healthy Streets, Safe Routes to School, bicycle freight and green neighborhood efforts.

“We put together 23 bold actions that we think are not only achievable but essential to our fight against climate change,” said Mayor Harrell during a press conference announcing the order (PDF). “We know that transportation accounts for the vast majority of our greenhouse gas emissions, about 61%.”

The order calls for completion of a Vision Zero program review in early 2023, which SDOT Director Greg Spotts announced on his first day on the job. It will also update the Bicycle Implementation Plan to make 20 miles of Healthy Streets permanent and will update the Pedestrian Implementation Plan to expand the School Streets program and “ensure an all ages and abilities bicycling facility serves every public school.”

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The order also calls for “zero-emissions freight options at the curb, including the potential for ‘green loading zones’ and new support for e-cargo bike freight delivery programs.”

Building on the success of the youth-led effort to win free youth transit, the city will convene a Youth Transportation Summit in 2023. I am very excited to see what comes from this summit, especially if it gets a serious level of support.

Perhaps the most intriguing high-level concept in the order is the goal of creating at least three “low-pollution neighborhoods by Q1 2028.” Potential examples include “low-emissions zones, eco-districts, resilience districts and super blocks.” The timeline is not overly ambitious, and there is not a ton of commitment in the order, but the concept is very exciting. The order only commits to “convening a community conversation aimed at planning” such neighborhoods as well as publishing an implementation and funding plan in 2025. Much of the actual funding will likely be needed from the next transportation levy, so expect to continue seeing this idea evolve in the next couple years.

Considering the urgency of the climate emergency facing our city and our planet, the executive order was lacking in immediate, concrete actions. Of course, actions require funding, and this year’s budget did not have a lot of spare cash to spread around.

Seattle has a long history of making great plans and not following through. However, this is the time to make ambitious plans because the city needs to set up efforts for inclusion in whatever fund method replaces the Move Seattle Levy, which is set to expire at the end of 2024. A revamped and expanded Vision Zero needs to be ready for a big funding increase, for example. And a superblock plan could be a great visual concept to center levy communications. A youth-led effort to help shape the levy could also be a powerful and unique element that nobody should underestimate. So yes, the order is full of plans and “conversations,” but if this leads to a strong levy proposal then it is important work.

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3 responses to “Mayor Harrell order calls for ‘low-pollution neighborhoods,’ sets up pieces for a future transportation levy”

  1. Craig Lundgren

    all of these climaste goals are good.
    We need cars until publick transportation improves to the point that we can safley take it to and from where we need. Until that time, don’t forget that cars are how the majority of us commute to and from work, shopping, medical appts., etc.

  2. peri hartman

    Harrell seems to be turning out more supportive of alternative transportation and pedestrian safety than I expected. I especially like the “zero emissions freight options” and would like to read more details on that. Diseasel trucks idling while someone is loading or unloading makes being a pedestrian terribly unpleasant. Perhaps there can be incentives, such as EV-only truck load zones as well as cargo bike zones, as you mentioned.

  3. Financial rewards/penalties through built infrastructure are a strong agent for change. The “green loading zones” would be a nearly free way to encourage bicycle freight and EV trucks to replace fossil fuel burners. The “low pollution nieghborhoods” concept is a good first step and I would encorage the city to seek Federal funds to set up community owned green energy installations that apartment dwellers can participate in.

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