Transit and Safety Improvements Coming to UW March 26

As we ramp up more transportation projects for 2016, so do our efforts to increase safety, mobility and quality of life for everyone traveling around Seattle. The recent opening of the street car, which now connects Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square, has been a great addition to our transportation network, and even more connections will be generated with the upcoming opening of the University Link Extension on March 19. Not only will this project increase safety and mobility, but also convenience for people wishing to access Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington while bypassing I-5 altogether.

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People accessing the bus outside the UW Medical Center

In order for these connections to be safer and more convenient near the UW, SDOT crews recently begun a project to improve the way people will access transit services around Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center. This project will improve access and safety for pedestrians moving to and from the light rail station and bus stops, in addition to shortening walking distances outside Husky Stadium. Over the next couple of months, you’ll see construction activities mostly along NE Pacific ST and Montlake Blvd NE, as most of these bus stops will be upgraded with real-time arrival information signs and shelters. Upgrades to the bus stops will also allow for more frequent Metro transit service at each location and improved service to Bus Routes 44, 45 and 48, which was funded by Seattle’s Transportation Proposition 1 approved by voters in 2014.

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Project Map

By the time these transit and safety improvements are completed the weekend of March 26, people will enjoy more reliable access to transit services around Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center. They’ll also experience easier and safer access by walking shorter distances between bus stops and the new light rail station.

This SDOT project is funded by the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle, approved by voters in 2015. For more information about it or about Metro bus routes or Sound Transit’s University Link project, visit our website.

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Don’t Block the Box and Transit Lane Enforcement, Safety First Reminder

As part of a joint Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Police Department (SPD) effort, SPD has been issuing warnings and citations to motorists traveling in violation of posted restrictions of BAT (Business access and Transit) Lane use and Blocking the Box.

Mercer Street at Dexter Ave N Enforcement

Mercer Street at Dexter Ave N Enforcement

What is “Blocking the Box”?

Everyone who drives in Seattle’s most congested areas during rush hour has experienced a “block the box” situation. Block the box happens when you don’t fully clear the intersection by the time your traffic signal turns red – you end up blocking the crosswalk or intersection, making it unsafe for people crossing the street and cars trying to reach their destination. Even a person walking in the crosswalk against the light, when they don’t have the right of way, can also block the box.

Why should we avoid blocking the box?

We want to keep traffic flowing and the crosswalks clear so everyone can get where they’re going in a safe and timely manner.

How do I avoid blocking the box?

Stay clear of the intersections and only proceed if you are sure you can make it all the way past the crosswalk.

What if drivers behind me become impatient and start honking?

If there is not enough room for your car to make it to the other side of the intersection before the light turns red or when you’re making a free right-turn, do not enter the intersection. You’re doing the right thing, so don’t worry about the person behind you.

What is the fine if I block the box?

For cars and bicyclists, blocking the box is a moving traffic violation that comes with a $136 fine. It is enforceable by Seattle Municipal Code, sections 11.72.040 and 11.50.070. For people jaywalking, blocking the box is a jaywalk violation that comes with a $68 fine. It is enforceable by Seattle Municipal Code, section 11.40.100.

What is a BAT lane?

The purpose of “Bus Only” and BAT lanes is to allow buses to travel along the corridor with minimum delay, increasing transit speed and reliability while maintaining access to local businesses and residents.

BAT lanes are for transit only, but other drivers may use them long enough to turn right at the next intersection.

Why are BAT lanes important?
• 45% of downtown commuters use transit
• Best use of limited street space to move more people
• Help the larger transit system operate efficiently
• Provide more reliable transit service

How do I avoid travelling in a Bus Only or BAT lane?

Posted signs and pavement markings indicate where Bus Only or BAT lanes begin. Drivers should merge into general purpose lanes or make right turns at the next intersection. Drivers may use Bus Only or BAT lanes to enter and leave driveways and alleys along the corridor.

What is the fine for driving in a BAT lane?

For cars, travelling in a Bus Only or BAT lane is a moving traffic violation that comes with a $136 fine. It is enforceable by the Seattle Municipal Code, section SMC11.53.230.
Bicyclists are allowed to ride in most Bus Only and BAT lanes, but need to yield to merging buses, just as all vehicles are required.

This is an effort to educate and enforce traffic laws that support transit. With 45 percent of downtown commuters using transit, the enforcement work will help ensure the reliable and efficient movement of transit riders along Seattle’s important bus corridors, and improve safety for all travelers.

SPD has also been issuing warnings and citations to motorists who block intersections. Blocking the intersection enforcement helps address vehicles that illegally stop in the intersection impeding traffic, and safe pedestrian crossing. This effort is a part of Seattle’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Here’s our November Blog Video on Blocking the Box Enforcement:

 

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SDOT Director’s Rule Improving Access for Those With Disabilities

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When construction projects impact city streets and sidewalks, it can make it difficult for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to get around. This is especially true for pedestrians with disabilities. As a recent KUOW story highlighted, pedestrian reroutes and detours can be confusing for visually impaired residents. In the past, this confusion has often been exacerbated by inconsistent signage, and by closures and reroutes that are more extensive than they need to be.

But this is changing. As pointed out in the same KUOW story, SDOT’s new Director’s Rule for Pedestrian Mobility In and Around Work Zones is making navigation around construction sites easier and safer for everyone, including those with disabilities. Important standards outlined in the new rule include the requirement that contractors use solid, cane-detectable barriers instead of cones to define the outer edge of pedestrian reroutes , that clear and consistent signage be used, that specifications for meeting ADA sidewalk ramp requirements are met, and that sidewalk and lane closures are only used as a last resort.

We’re constantly working to improve mobility for all. And with Seattle’s newly passed Move Seattle levy placing great emphasis on pedestrian access, you can expect to see us continue taking great strides in improving pedestrian mobility throughout the coming year and beyond.

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Students Learn About the Safe Routes to School Program

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Reflectors shine on stage.

On Friday January 29, 2016, 296 students from Cedar Park Elementary (Olympic Hills Interim) learned how to be safe while walking or biking to school. Monica Sweet, an active member of Lake City Greenways, presented the importance of reflectors for visibility at night. One of the parents, Karoliina Kuisma, also joined her.

The demonstration at the school assembly featured Sweet sporting all-black attire with reflectors pinned to the front of her coat. The lights on stage were turned off and as she walked across the stage, the students had difficulty spotting her. Sweet turned to face the audience, as Kuisma used flash photography to illuminate the reflectors. The students were amazed at how bright the reflectors were.

After the presentation, Sweet and Kuisma visited each classroom to deliver packages of reflectors shaped like bicycles, umbrellas, hearts, and otter paw prints (the school’s mascot). This presentation would not have been possible without the help of the Safe Routes to School Mini Grant Program. This program provides up to $1,000 to schools, PTAs, and community groups for education and encouragement programs for walking and biking to school.

We want to thank Monica Sweet and Karoliina Kuisma for educating the students at Cedar Park Elementary (Olympic Hills Interim) about our Safe Routes to School Program and for setting an example for future presentations.

To learn more about our Safe Routes to School Program as well as our mini grant program, visit our website.

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Working Together Toward Vision Zero

Seattle is consistently recognized as one of the safest and fastest growing cities in the country. Over the past 10 years, Seattle has seen a 30 percent decline in traffic fatalities, even as our our city continues to grow. On February 12, 2015, Seattle adopted Vision Zero and has been highlighted as one of the influential focus cities in the U.S. Our goal is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Downtown Seattle

The Vision Zero Network is committed to eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries among all travelers. Vision Zero first gained traction in Sweden in the 90’s and has proven to be successful across Europe. It’s about time that this campaign gained momentum here in America. We are excited to be one of ten focus cities in the U.S. currently aligning with their efforts to challenge the ‘business as usual’ motto.

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10 cities committed to eliminating traffic fatalities.

Here is a list of the 10 Vision Zero focus cities:

  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York City, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, D.C.

Vision Zero is a collaborative campaign focused on utilizing proven strategies: lowering speed limits, redesigning streets, implementing meaningful change campaigns, and enhancing data-driven traffic enforcement. Along with community involvement, the network collaborates with multidisciplinary local leaders in health, traffic engineering, police enforcement, advocates and policy-makers.

Learn more about the Vision Zero Network initiatives: Stay informed and sign up for regular email updates. If you have any questions or concerns contact Vision Zero Network at leah@visionzeronetwork.org.

If you would like to learn more about Seattle’s Vision Zero plan, check out our page.

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Streetcar Safety Ambassadors Hit the Streets for the First Hill Streetcar Soft Launch

SDOT Safety Ambassadors have been out on the First Hill Streetcar line since last weekend to help community members navigate the Streetcar line which had its soft launch last Saturday. The language-capable ambassadors (English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Amharic, Tigrinya, and Spanish) have been ready to provide information about how the streetcars operate and share streetcar safety tips.

A Streetcar Safety Ambassador chats with community members.

The ambassadors highlighted some key safety tips that everyone should know:

  • Streetcars are quiet, but may sound bells and horns
  • There are no fences or barriers separating the streetcars
  • Drivers should be prepared to stop behind streetcars
  • Streetcars cannot swerve to avoid obstacles as they run on tracks
  • Streetcars sometimes have their own traffic signals and can cross the street when other vehicles cannot
  • Cyclists should cross streetcar tracks at a right angle to avoid falling
A Streetcar Safety Ambassador gives out pamphlets discussing safety around the Streetcar.

A Streetcar Safety Ambassador gives out pamphlets discussing safety around the Streetcar.

While the ambassadors were primarily there to discuss safety, they were also able to talk about other aspects of the new Streetcar and answer any questions. Many people were happy to learn that they could take the Streetcar for free until the official launch still to be announced.

A Streetcar leaves the Broadway and Denny stop.

A Streetcar leaves the Broadway and Denny stop.

The First Hill Streetcar operates from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There are 10 stops on the First Hill Streetcar line, connecting the diverse and vibrant residential neighborhoods and business districts of of Capitol Hill, First Hill, Yesler Terrace, Central Area, Chinatown, Japantown and Pioneer Square, while also serving major medical centers (Swedish Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center), institutions of higher learning (Seattle Central College and Seattle University) and major sporting event venues (CenturyLink & Safeco Field).

Here’s our “Streetcar 101” Blog Video featuring SDOT Rail Transit Manager Ethan Melone from last month.

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SDOT Crews Help Improve Transit to and from South Lake Union

More reliable, more frequent and faster transit service is coming to South Lake Union this March.

Service improvements include extending the C-Line (W. Seattle/downtown) to South Lake Union and increasing bus service on Route 8 (Seattle Center/Capitol Hill/Rainier Valley), Route 40 (Ballard/Fremont) and Route 70 (U District). To help keep service frequent and reliable, SDOT is creating dedicated transit lanes on Westlake Ave N, widening sidewalks and extending transit stops to keep people, streetcars and buses moving. We recognize moving around South Lake Union is not always easy and we’re taking steps to make it better.

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That’s where SDOT’s Maintenance Operations crews come in. Since the start of the year, our crews have been widening sidewalks and building longer transit stops to accommodate the additional buses and information kiosks.  While carrying out the construction, crews are maintaining pedestrian access next to the site, carefully demolishing sections of concrete near storefronts and working through heavy rains.

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It takes a lot of coordination to carry out this kind of work in a busy job center. The City chose to keep the South Lake Union Streetcar running during rush hour to serve commuters. This means that each day our crews set up their work sites after morning rush hour, carry out their work and then clean up the site before the evening commute. Crews have also been working all day Saturday and Sunday because of the longer work window provided by the temporary cancellation of streetcar service on weekends.

Staff from our concrete crews are working closely with our urban forestry staff to build new tree pits at these transit stops, and our crews from the lanes and markings group are coordinating on this project to clearly mark the new transit lanes and other markings on the street. We’ve even come up with low-cost drainage solutions that help water planting strips.

This commitment and coordination from SDOT crews is necessary to meet our deadline – which will allow rush hour transit capacity in South Lake Union to double in March!

It’s also worth mentioning that the South Lake Union project is happening while SDOT crews repair sidewalks, curb ramps and streets; maintain street trees; and manage lane markings all across the city.

More details on the South Lake Union transit project are here.

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Seattle’s Pedestrian Mobility Director’s Rule a Model for Other Cities

VzeroBlogDRIn February of last year, Seattle announced the launch of our Vision Zero program, a partnership between SDOT and the Seattle Police Department to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Vision Zero is a worldwide effort that aims to improve traffic infrastructure and planning to increase safety for all travelers. Since its inception in Sweden in 1997, the program has been adopted in more than 15 major cities around the world, and Seattle is proud to now be one of those cities.

This year, as part of Seattle’s Vision Zero effort, SDOT drafted and adopted DR 10-2015 – better known as the Director’s Rule for Pedestrian Mobility In and Around Work Zones. The main objective of the rule is to keep pedestrians safe and mobile around construction sites, and to outline specific requirements for developers and contractors whose work impacts the public right of way. Now, less than a month since the adoption of the DR, the novel approaches outlined in this rule have already begun to influence the way other cities approach pedestrian safety.

As Washington DC recently announced moves to implement its own Vision Zero program, some have pointed directly to Seattle as a model for how to achieve goals related to pedestrian safety. In fact, a recent article in CityLab (the urban planning magazine published by The Atlantic) praised SDOT’s new Director’s Rule as being a type of policy that “truly prioritized vulnerable street users.” The author calls out the sidewalk-closures-as-a-last-resort approach as being particularly noteworthy.

We’re committed to our role in the global movement toward ending traffic fatalities and serious injuries, and guidelines such as those outlined in DR 10-2015 bring us one step closer to achieving that vision. To find out more about the City’s plan for safer streets, you can download Seattle’s Vision Zero action plan here.

 

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SDOT Enhancing Mobility with Detectable Warning Tiles

SDOT is working to enhance mobility throughout our city. That includes projects such as installation of detectable warning surfaces at the base of curb ramps and at transit facilities to provide critical information to pedestrians with visual impairments. This tactile surface, in the shape of “truncated domes,” provides a warning to pedestrians that they are entering the roadway or that they have reached the edge of a boarding platform.

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Detectable Warning Surface

There are many different types of detectable warning surfaces available: plastic or polymer tiles, cast iron plates, surface mounted mats or pads, and even painted on domes using a template or mold. Because the detectable warning placement on surfaces has not always been standard practice, we are still learning about the different materials and options available. One thing that we have learned is that the detectable warning surface does not always last as long as the adjacent concrete or other surface material. Sometimes the domes are worn down when run over by vehicles or due to high pedestrian volumes; other times the products may fade, crack, or peel up or pop off from the surface it is mounted to.

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Example of a Detectable Warning Surface Failure

SDOT is evaluating different products and materials to assure that the most efficient and long-lasting surface is provided.  Recently, a local area distributor demonstrated an example of a removable detectable warning product. There are detectable warning options that are cast in concrete and anchored by bolts; if the tile cracks, wears down, or otherwise fails, a maintenance worker can remove the bolts and pull the tile from the concrete base. A new tile can then be installed without the need to rebuild the curb ramp, thus saving time, resources, and funds.

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A drill is used to remove the bolts from the detectable warning tile and the tile is removed

 

The anchor remains in the concrete that allows for a replacement tile to be installed

The anchor remains in the concrete that allows for a replacement tile to be installed

A new tile is screwed in to the existing anchors

A new tile is screwed in to the existing anchors

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

 

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New Safe Routes to School Beacon Hill Trail Groundbreaking

SDOT Director Scott Kubly, Mayor Ed Murray, Mercer Middle School Principal Chris Carter joined community members last week near Mercer Middle to celebrate groundbreaking of the first 2016 Safe Routes to Schools project in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The City of Seattle would like to thank the Beacon Hill community for collaborating on this project.

SDOT Dir. Scott Kubly, Mator Murray, Mercer Middle Principal Chris Carter and students at groundbreaking.

SDOT Dir. Scott Kubly, Mator Murray, Mercer Middle Principal Chris Carter and students at groundbreaking.

SDOT has begun construction of a new 2000-foot paved trail to give Beacon Hill schoolchildren a safer place to walk and bike that will connect 16th Ave South at South Spokane Street to the north and South Dakota Street. The trail runs parallel to Jefferson Park and will be a safe and direct paved path for the community to use, including students traveling to and from Mercer Middle School.

Our SDOT Sr. Transportation Planner and Safe Routes Coordinator Brian Dougherty shares details in the latest SDOT Blog Video:

Thanks to voter-approved funds provided by the Levy to Move Seattle, this new 2000-foot paved trail is the first of 12 levy funded school safety projects for 2016. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is building a paved, off-street trail to give Beacon Hill schoolchildren a safer place to walk and bike.  Here is a link to our Safe Routes to School project page.

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