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Posts from the Seattle Category

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If Not for Trump, Last Night Would Have Been Great for Transit

Last night had the makings of a historic election for transit. Voters in cities as varied as Raleigh, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles turned out to support ballot measures to dramatically expand bus and rail service. But the election of Donald Trump and the retention of GOP majorities in both houses of Congress cast a pall of uncertainty over transit agencies everywhere, with continued federal support for transit suddenly in doubt.

Transit backers had a stellar night in local elections, but the Trump win brings funding uncertainty. Photo: Seattle Chamber

In local elections, transit ballot measures performed well, but the Trump win brings broader uncertainty. Photo: Seattle Chamber

In the regions with major transit ballot initiatives, the returns look good. (You can track the results at The Transport Politic.)

Indianapolis area voters approved a comprehensive transit expansion package that will significantly upgrade bus service throughout Marion County.

Raleigh and the rest of Wake County voted for a similar package of additional bus service and BRT routes, as well as a commuter rail connection to Durham.

Atlanta handily passed a half-cent sales tax that will expand MARTA’s rail and bus networks, as well as a separate measure to fund local complete streets projects.

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Transit Vote 2016: Seattle’s Huge, Imperfect Transit Expansion

We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives this November with a look at Seattle. The first installment of this series examined Indianapolis.

The transit expansion plan on the ballot in Seattle this November is a big one.

Seattle's "ST3" plan would add 62 miles of grade-separated light rail. Map: SoundTransit3

Seattle’s “ST3” plan would add 62 miles of grade-separated light rail. Map: SoundTransit3

Known as ST3, the proposal calls for a 62-mile expansion of grade-separated light rail extending across three counties, including about four miles that will run underground in central Seattle. Also included: bus rapid transit routes along two highway corridors, and $20 million to plan transit-oriented development.

The total package comes to $54 billion, which will be paid for by a mix of property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes. And it will take more than 20 years to complete.

Sound Transit estimates that under this plan, ridership will nearly double by 2040 to 800,000 daily trips, and that 361 million miles of driving will be averted each year [PDF].

There are some downsides to the plan, which has drawn criticism for devoting too much to park-and-ride transit in car-centric areas. While expanding the transit network could create new walkable communities across the region, different suburbs have shown varying levels of commitment to transit-oriented development.

ST3 calls for spending $661 million on parking at suburban stations, which works out to $80,000 per space. And much of the suburban light rail will run along highway rights-of-way, which is a bad fit for walkable development.

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Seattle City Council Approves 20 MPH Speed Limit on Residential Streets

Residential streets in Seattle will have 20 mile per hour speed limits. Graphic: City of Seattle

Residential streets in Seattle will have 20 mile per hour speed limits. Graphic: City of Seattle

20 is plenty for Seattle.

The City Council voted unanimously yesterday to lower speed limits on residential streets to 20 miles per hour.

On all other streets, the default speed limit will be 25 mph, though speed limits may vary on major roadways.

The change is part of the city’s Vision Zero effort, aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030. Every year about 20 people are killed and 150 are injured in traffic crashes in Seattle. About 50 percent of victims in fatal crashes are people walking and biking.

Gordon Padelford, policy director with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which led the push for the legislation, said he’s thrilled with City Council’s decision.

“We’re already working on the city’s annual budget process to find additional funding for traffic-calming along arterials that will help implement the policy,” he said.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is asking for $1 million for “Vision Zero spot improvements” — traffic-calming elements in key locations.

The group is also seeking $2 million for a road diet on Rainier Avenue South — a particularly dangerous corridor.

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Seattle Moves to Lower Neighborhood Speed Limits to 20 MPH

Image: City of Seattle

Image: City of Seattle

Seattle is getting serious about reducing the threat of lethal motor vehicle speeds.

The city is moving to lower speed limits on neighborhood streets from 25 mph to 20 mph later this year. On big arterial streets, the city will determine speed limits on a case-by-case basis, but the default will be reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph, and on downtown arterial streets it will be 25 mph.

Seattle DOT Director Scott Kubly and council members Mike O’Brien and Tim Burgess announced the proposal yesterday. The new rules need to be approved by the City Council.

Mayor Ed Murray promised to lower speed limits last year as part of Seattle’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. So far the city had been testing slow zones around schools. The blanket speed limit reduction would be much more comprehensive, affecting 2,400 miles of neighborhood streets.

The advocacy group Seattle Neighborhood Greenways led the campaign for lower speed limits, rounding up support from a variety of community groups. The city’s proposal is “really good,” Seattle Greenways policy director Gordon Padelford told Streetsblog.

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Seattle’s “Viadoom 2016” — Another Carmageddon That Wasn’t

Source: Seattle Bike Blog

Bike trips on Seattle’s Spokane Street Bridge spiked the first Monday when the Alaskan Way Viaduct was out of commission. Meanwhile, car commutes haven’t gotten much worse during the highway closure. Graph: Seattle Bike Blog

Heard this one before?

The temporary closure of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct to accommodate construction — code name: “Viadoom” — was going to paralyze the city. The elevated highway carries about 110,000 vehicles a day. Without it, travel times would soar 50 percent, predicted the traffic analytics firm Inrix.

The highway was closed from April 29 to May 8, and we now have a solid read on the effect. Wouldn’t you know it — Viadoom, like so many Carmageddons before it, didn’t live up to the hype.

“Commute times have not dramatically increased and several of the major routes into the city have been only moderately affected,” the company’s Lytang Kelley told Crosscut. Commuters on these routes only spent a few more minutes in traffic, Crosscut reports.

The fact that Viadoom turned out to be much milder than expected carries special significance because right now Seattle is spending $4.2 billion (expected cost overruns notwithstanding) to replace the viaduct with an underground highway.

Five years ago, highway opponents argued that a surface street with better transit could handle the travel demand just as effectively as the $4.2 billion megatunnel. But they were marginalized by highway boosters in city and state government who backed the project and said the underground highway was absolutely essential to keeping the city running.

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Highway Boondoggles: Washington’s Puget Sound Gateway Project

The $3.1 billion Washington proposes pouring into this highway system could more than fix every deficient bridge in the state.

The $3.1 billion Washington wants to lavish on these highways would be more than enough to fix every structurally deficient bridge in the state.

In a new report, Highway Boondoggles 2, U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group profile the most wasteful highway projects that state DOTs are building. Today we look at a classic — Washington’s $3 billion “Puget Sound Gateway Project.”

Washington plans to spend billions on the Puget Sound Gateway project to “relieve congestion,” but if anything the project will increase it. Furthermore, it is planned for an area where traffic has been stagnant for more than a decade, and where other transportation needs are clamoring for attention.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has proposed construction of a $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion project between Seattle and Tacoma: expanding State Route 167 between Tacoma and Puyallup by two lanes and State Route 509 from Kent to Burien by two lanes. Also proposed is adding two new express lanes to Interstate 5 between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, which could be used by drivers willing to pay for an expedited trip through the new lanes.

Toll revenue would only contribute $330 million toward the total cost of the project from the time it is completed in 2021 until 2060. WSDOT has already warned that more than a billion dollars in additional state borrowing will likely be needed to cover the project’s costs.

Justification for the project relies on claims by WSDOT that expanding routes 167 and 509 will bolster Washington’s export economy by increasing the ease and efficiency of the transport of commercial goods along the routes and to the ports. WSDOT also claims the project would reduce congestion through the region.

But the state’s own data show that building the project would substantially increase traffic on I-5, inducing cars and trucks to drive nearly 2 million more miles a year on the highway by 2030, and drivers to spend more than 25,000 hours behind the wheel on I-5 in that year than if the project was not built. In addition, traffic on routes 167 and 509 remained stagnant between 2003 and 2014.

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Vote for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015

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It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2015, which means we’re about to hand out Streetsies to recognize achievements for walking, biking, and transit in American cities this year.

Earlier this month we asked readers for nominations for the Best Urban Street Transformation of the year, and here are the standouts from your submissions. It’s a great batch and all of these cities deserve recognition for claiming space from cars and devoting it to people. But only one can win! Your votes will determine who gets the honor.

Here are the nominees:

Chicago: Washington Street

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Photo via Google Street View

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Photo: John Greenfield

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How Ambitious Will Seattle Get With Its Transit Expansion Plan?

seattle_transit_expansion

The nonprofit Seattle Subway wants to expand on the current concept for rail and bus expansion proposed by Sound Transit (left), with a more substantial network of light rail lines (right). Maps via Seattle Subway

Next November, voters in the Seattle region will be asked to approve a new tax to fund a major expansion of the region’s light rail system.

The $15 billion plan to expand transit, known as ST3, would be funded by a mix of sales taxes, property taxes, and car registration fees collected for 15 years. The big question is which projects will get built.

Sound Transit has proposed a smorgasbord of “candidate projects,” including light rail through downtown, commuter rail to the south and east suburbs, and a pair of north-south bus rapid transit routes. But area leaders haven’t yet decided exactly what to include in the final ballot measure.

Meanwhile, transit advocates have stepped up with some ideas of their own. The most talked about comes from the nonprofit Seattle Subway, which proposes a much more expansive menu. Their plan, which they call STcomplete, would use the same funding mix but extend the collection period from 15 years to 30 years.

Rumors are swirling that the Sound Transit board is taking Seattle Subway’s expanded proposal seriously. Doug Trumm of The Urbanist said he hopes that’s true, for a couple of reasons.

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With Big Levy Vote, Seattle Is Ready to Lead the Nation on Bike Infrastructure

Dexter Avenue.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The last two years have revealed a very clear new superstar in the country’s progress toward protected bike lane networks.

It’s the Emerald City: Seattle.

In the last two years, Seattle has completed seven protected bike lane projects, more than any other city in the country in that period except New York.

Seattle heaved through a significant “bikelash” a few years ago, and it’s discovered an ocean of political support on the other side.

On Tuesday night, the city’s voters did something remarkable: By 56 percent to 44 percent, they approved a property tax increase that will spend $65 million on a 50-mile protected bike lane network and a 60-mile neighborhood greenway network over the next nine years. It’ll also put $71 million toward Seattle’s goal of eliminating serious and fatal crashes, $15 million to repair 225 blocks of damaged sidewalks, $250 million to maintain existing roads, and $140 million to maintain existing bridges.

The project list goes on. But it never stoops to the mistaken claim that a fast-growing city can fix its transportation problems by building more and more lanes for cars, always hoping that the next lane will be the one that never fills up.

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Transit vs. Highways: Which Came Out on Top in Local Elections?

Ed Murray's Move Seattle plan got a $900 million nod from voters yesterday. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

Ed Murray’s Move Seattle plan got a $900 million nod from voters yesterday. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

There were several local ballot measures with big implications for streets and transportation yesterday, and results were all over the map. Here’s how three of the most notable votes turned out.

Seattle’s property tax increase to fund walking, biking, and transit

This map shows all the projects planned as part of Ed Murray's 10-year Move Seattle Plan. Image: Seattle. Click to enlarge

This map shows all the projects planned as part of Ed Murray’s 10-year Move Seattle Plan. Image: Seattle. Click to enlarge

Voters have spoken and they decided to enact Move Seattle, the $900 million property tax levy for transportation.

The funding will support Mayor Ed Murray’s 10-year transportation vision [PDF], which lays out an agenda to reduce traffic deaths and greenhouse gas emissions, and generally make it safer and more convenient to walk, bike, or ride the bus.

Among the projects that will receive funding: seven rapid bus routes with dedicated lanes, a creative plan to fill gaps in the sidewalk network, and a network of 50 miles of protected bike lanes.

One of the longer-term goals of the plan is to put 75 percent of Seattle households within a 10-minute walk of frequent bus routes, running at least every 15 minutes.

The constitutional mandate to subsidize highways in Texas

In Texas, voters overwhelming passed Prop 7, a sales tax measure that will generate revenue for free highways. The measure mandates spending $2.5 billion in sales tax revenue annually on highways without tolls. As expected, Prop 7 won in a landslide, with about 83 percent of voters supporting the measure, according to the Austin Statesman.

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