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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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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Commute Trip Reduction: One way, once a week is a great way to start!

New Year’s resolutions can be obtainable, and can start in measured steps (or pedals). January signals a new year and with it new hopes and expectations for ourselves. If you resolved to bike more, and in particular bike to work, set realistic goals and expectations for yourself: “one way, once a week” is a great way to start an enduring bike-to-work practice.

Broadway CTR

Biking along Broadway

All Metro buses, and most regional buses have a bike rack mounted on the front of the bus. Practice putting your bike on the bus, either by trying it out on a Saturday or Sunday, or during an off-peak time when the swirling pace of peak commute times slows down.

You can also access one of two publicly available bus-bike racks that never go anywhere:

  • North Seattle Community College, by the flagpole, at 9600 College Way N, Seattle, WA 98103
  • University of Washington Transportation office, at 3745 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

 

Plan your bike route home. In many cases it will be the same way going to work but in some cases it could be different. Look at a bike map, understand your options, and plan your route. Seattle Dept. of Transportation bike map, located online, is an excellent planning resource.

Next, make sure your bike is ready to ride: tires inflated and sound, brakes and gearing in good working order, and front and rear lights –especially during the dark and wet winter months! Consider bright, reflective clothing that will keep you dry and warm. There are plenty of resources online for “bike riding in the rain.” Remember – always wear a helmet. Not only is it the law – it’s a good idea.

You are now ready to ride to the bus. Bring extra clothing suitable to your bike commute home later that day. Take your time riding home the first couple of times. Obey all traffic signs and signals. You’ll gain confidence and skill the more you bike. Pretty soon your “one-way, once-a-week” will turn into an “all-the-way, everyday” commute.

For more on: Transportation Options

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Roosevelt Way NE Paving & Safety Improvements Project Begins Construction Soon

Construction of the Roosevelt Way NE Paving & Safety Improvements Project will begin as soon as next month!   In preparation for this work, we are hosting a project pre-construction open house on Monday, January 25, 5:30-7:30 PM, with a presentation at 6:15 PM, at the University Heights Community Center (5031 University Way NE, Room 108).  You are invited to join us and meet the project team, hear details about project elements and expected construction impacts, and ask questions.

SB in street at 43rd 09-01-14

The project, with construction expected to last through late summer, will repave Roosevelt Way NE between NE 65th St to the south end of the University Bridge, creating a safer and more comfortable road surface for all travelers.  In addition, the project will also:

  • Create in-lane transit stops and consolidate bus stops to improve transit speed and reliability
  • Install a permanent protected bike lane on the west side of Roosevelt Way NE between NE 65th St and the University Bridge to improve safety for people biking
  • Install curb bulbs and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and improve accessibility and visibility
  • Replace substandard curb ramps to meet federal Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements
  • Replace buckled or cracked sidewalks to improve safety for people walking

Proposed Cross Section_Bus_201503

The new protected bike lane and in-lane transit stops remove on-street parking on the west side of Roosevelt Way NE from NE 65th to the University Bridge. A temporary protected bike lane was installed last year from NE 45th St to the University Bridge and will be upgraded to a permanent one with this project. Over the past year, SDOT worked with businesses and residents to develop an access and parking management plan to respond to this change.

We heard a variety of opinions on how on-street parking should be considered and managed. Some prefer more focus on travel options to reduce the need for on-street parking, while others wanted more certainty that parking would be available close to their homes or businesses. Small businesses without parking lots are interested in maintaining some all-day parking for employees and all need delivery access. Folks want to ensure those with mobility challenges can park close to destinations and have safe crossings of Roosevelt; and many requested two-hour parking on Roosevelt between NE 55th St and Ravenna Blvd.

To mitigate the loss of on-street parking, we are considering a number of changes, including:

  • Adjusting the on-street parking time limits in some locations to better serve the needs of adjacent property owners and tenants
  • Adding on-street parking on adjacent side streets to help restore what is being removed
  • Expanding Zone 10 of the Restricted Parking Zone program, adding residential blocks west of Roosevelt Way NE and north of, and including, NE 56th St

For more please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_roosevelt.htm

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SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

To meet the challenges of a rapidly growing city while improving safety, delivering its core services, and providing more options for travelers, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) focused on launching important new initiatives in 2015.

Seattle Skyline Day

Maintenance:

The nine-year Bridging the Gap transportation levy ended in 2015 and SDOT worked diligently to deliver on the work promised using this funding. A few examples of 2015 work funded by Bridging the Gap include 15 lane-miles of street paving, 11 blocks of new sidewalks, 3,500 trees pruned, 240 maintenance repairs to bridges, and 38 stairways rehabilitated or repaired. The West Emerson Overpass underwent successful upgrade and repairs. Several neighborhoods across the city benefited from microsurfacing (43.3 miles of streets), a preventative maintenance surface treatment that preserves roadways. Nearly 100 percent of potholes requests were filled within three business days.

Safety:

In 2015 the City of Seattle launched Vision Zero with the goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. SDOT studied corridors with high numbers of collisions – Rainier Avenue South, 35th Avenue Southwest, Southwest Roxbury Street and Lake City Way Northeast—to identify ways to improve safety. The department enhanced these four corridors through changes proven effective in reducing collisions, such as lower speed limits, redesigned lane configurations, and improved signage and pedestrian crossings. Preliminary data shows serious collisions were down 26 percent in 2015 from the previous three years.

SDOT also developed the Safe Routes to School Five-Year Action Plan, a part of Vision Zero, to guide new investments in critical areas that will make it even safer and easier for kids to walk and bike to school. The department improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings on 12 walk-to-school routes around the city and installed school speed zone enforcement cameras at six additional schools.

To provide safer and more comfortable routes for walking and bicycling, more than three miles of neighborhood greenways were added—which are designated routes on non-arterial, low traffic volume streets with safety improvements added—and began work on another nine miles.

In 2015 SDOT and the Seattle Police Department adopted a data-driven approach to enforcement, so that patrols are dispatched to locations where collisions occur frequently and focus on the behaviors that contribute to crashes. SDOT partnered with community organizations to raise awareness about top safety issues, such as developing public service announcements about pedestrian safety for older adults with AARP and KOMO TV.

SDOT also partnered with MADD and Lyft to provide discounted rides home in Seattle’s nightlife hotspots to deter impaired driving. SDOT and SPD additionally coordinated “Blocking the Box” enforcement which helps address vehicles that illegally stop in the intersection impeding traffic and safe pedestrian crossings.

Transit:

SDOT additionally worked with King County Metro and Sound Transit to make public transit more convenient, faster and more reliable. The department purchased 225,000 hours of additional transit service on Metro’s routes. SDOT installed 11 additional Real Time Information System screens on Metro Route 44 to inform passengers when to expect their next bus. SDOT and Metro also established a program to provide a fare discount for low-income riders. SDOT also coordinated transit lane enforcement with Seattle Police at critical locations.

To address Seattle’s rapid growth, inspectors were assigned to coordinate and monitor public and private work occurring in areas of intense construction, minimizing impacts to the right of way. SDOT also revised policies and procedures for responding to traffic incidents, supporting faster lane openings for collisions, and installed additional dynamic message signs and upgraded traffic cameras to provide advance notice of traffic conditions.

Other accomplishments in 2015 include:

Parking:

  • Installed 330 new parking pay stations; adjusted on-street parking rates in 12 areas
  • Expanded e-Park to three new garages and installed two new e-Park electronic signs

Pedestrian safety improvements:

  • Improved pedestrian crossings at 35 intersections; installed new signal at 47th SW and Admiral Way SW
  • Installed or upgraded 210 curb ramps
  • Finalized a new director’s rule addressing pedestrian safety around construction

Bicycling facility improvements:

  • Added bike lanes and sharrows to seven miles of streets and maintained 50 miles of bike lane markings
  • Installed bike route signs on 26 miles of routes
  • Provided racks and corrals for 566 parking spaces for bikes

Open space:

  • Oversaw a pilot Play Streets program with 170 play streets
  • Implemented two pavement to parks projects, three parklets and two streateries
  • Converted four shoreline street ends into neighborhood public spaces

Street Operations:

  • Implemented TIMS (Traffic Incident Management Systems) to improve incident responses
  • Expanded Transportation Operations Center hours from 13 (6 a.m.-7 p.m.) to 16 (6 a.m.-10 p.m.) hours weekdays in addition to adding weekends, and are able to staff remotely during off-hours
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Sidewalk Closure a Last Resort: Rule Finalized

Scaffolding over SidewalkThe new SDOT Director’s Rule (DR) highlighting construction-related sidewalk closures as a last resort is now official. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive for ‘SDOT DR 10-2015,’ as it’s lovingly known.

The rule introduces new standards and best practices for pedestrian mobility around work zones. The requirements kick in next month, for projects in 2016 and beyond.

 

The rule includes:    

  • New standards on the types of materials to be used and their placement
  • Direction on creating well-maintained pathways and clear signage
  • More details on meeting American with Disabilities Act requirements

 

Specifics on the requirements are all in section 7 of the pedestrian mobility around work zones rule. New content addresses open walkways; scaffolding; corner work; reroutes; and detours. It also clarifies the difference between a reroute and a detour, with the latter being a last resort when no other option is safely feasible.

  • Reroute = keeping people on the same side as the existing sidewalk (see pics below)
  • Detour = sidewalk closed; pedestrians must cross to the other side of the street

 

Picture1

reroute2

We’ll work with existing projects to help ensure safety and mobility for people walking in the area. The same applies for new 2016 construction that may be exempt depending on location, duration, hazards and the associated cost of compliance. Look for more specifics with the January implementation, including a Standard Operating Procedure document that will help address questions raised during outreach. In the meantime, if you see what looks like an unsafe work zone walkway, let us know with an email to SDOTConstructionHub@seattle.gov.

RampCovered

A Director’s Rule interprets an existing Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and this one ties directly to SMC Title 15 Street and Sidewalk Use. The Pedestrian mobility around work zones rule directly supports both Seattle’s Vision Zero for safer streets and the Access Seattle Initiative to maintain mobility in the city during peak construction periods.

 

SDOT DR 10-2015 revises and replaces the former Pedestrian Mobility Around Work Zones Director’s Rule (SDOT DR 1-2011). The updated rule, which is legally binding, is supported by a new progressive enforcement procedure that focuses on providing clear direction to reduce infractions, and heightened attention on those with cumulative violations.

 

For 2016 the creation of a Director’s Rule for bike mobility around work zones is up for discussion. This after much of the public comment during outreach asked that bikes be included in the rule that interprets SMC Title 15. Bicycles fall under SMC Title 11 Vehicles and Traffic.

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Heading Downtown for Holiday Shopping or a Show?

Let SDOT’s e-Park signs help you get on your way with quick and convenient parking options. These near real-time parking signs inform drivers how many open spaces are available in certain parking garages and can save drivers time from circling the city while searching for parking. Since this summer, we have nearly doubled the number of e-Park signs throughout Seattle. E-Park is always a handy parking option tool if you’re headed to a holiday party, shopping around downtown or visiting the waterfront.

For a mobile-friendly version of e-park, you can bookmark this link to follow when you’re in and around Seattle.

ePark

When parking on Seattle streets, proper parking helps accommodate the needs of all users. For a guide to on-street parking, check out our Can I Park Here? brochure. This guide outlines parking restrictions and explanations of different parking signs.

CanIParkHere

To access more comprehensive guide, SDOT also provides a Parking Map which shows on-and-off street parking facilities including Restricted Parking Zones, Temporary No Park Zones, e-Park locations in the downtown sector. Reminder: On-street pay parking is free on Christmas Day!

For more information, please visit on our parking page or call us at (206) 684-ROAD.

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Streetcar Safety Day and Streetcar Ride Along Tour Video

SDOT hosted a “First Hill Streetcar Safety Day”  last week at the Occidental & Jackson, Broadway & Denny, and 14th and Washington stations.

The Safety Day featured Metro streetcar operators onboard stationary streetcars at the three station locations. The public was invited to board and check out the new streetcars and ask questions about how they operate and learn streetcar safety tips. SDOT Rail Transit Manager Ethan Melone gives “Streetcar 101” here on our latest Blog Video.

The First Hill Streetcar will operate from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, with 10 minute headways during peak commute periods, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will help connect and serve major hospitals (Swedish Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center), higher education institutions (Seattle Central College and Seattle University), and sporting event venues (CenturyLink & Safeco Field).

If you couldn’t make it to Safety Day, here are few things you need to know:

  • Streetcars are quiet. They may sound warning bells and horns when necessary.
  • There are no fences or barriers separating streetcars from other cars, bikes or pedestrians.
  • 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.

 

The First Hill Streetcar line was built by the City of Seattle in partnership with Sound Transit, with funding provided by the 2008 voter approved Sound Transit expansion plan. The streetcar system is an important part of Seattle’s transportation network, and will help to improve mobility and reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Find out more about the Seattle Streetcar at http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/ and sign up to receive streetcar news and updates. SDOT will announce a start date for service once final phase testing is completed.

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Are You Looking for Mobile Phone Applications to Help Make Your Trip Safer and Easier?

A smooth commute makes for a more pleasant experience. Here are some ways you can plan for and adjust your trips to get where you’re going more smoothly. These six mobile apps can help you get in and around Seattle and beyond:

Find It, Fix It 

FindItFixIt

This City of Seattle application allows you to report various concerns within city limits, such as potholes, graffiti, abandoned vehicles and more. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can also report online here.

 

PayByPhone Parking 

PayByPhone

Pay for your parking spot without leaving your car! This app gives you a convenient way to extend parking time remotely (if available) and can send you text messages reminding you before your parking time expires. Available for iOS and Android devices.

 

Seattle Travelers Live Traffic Cameras 

SeattleTravelers

The Seattle Travelers application provides all who use city streets helpful commute information, such as traffic volumes, travel times, and City contacts for further questions. Users also have access to near real-time traffic camera feed, to check out what’s happening on the streets! Available for iOS devices and on our mobile friendly site.

 

Puget Sound Trip Planner 

PugetSoundTripPlanner

Managed by King County Metro Transit, this application is great for planning bus trips, viewing departure times, and checking out bus timetables. The application is available for download on your iOS or Android devices.

 

One Bus Away 

OneBusAway

Another helpful transit application, One Bus Away , shows near real-time bus arrivals, stop locations, and mapped transit routes. You can also search for bus tops using stop numbers and current location. Download it for your iOS or Android devices.

 

WSDOT

WSDOT

If you’re traveling beyond Seattle, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)’s app can help you navigate the interstates and ferry system. The application gives users a way to view traffic maps, ferry schedules, current toll rates and more. The application is available for iOS, Android, or mobile friendly devices here.

 

For more City mobile applications and mobile friendly websites, check them out HERE. Safe travels!

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Keeping South Lake Union Moving

The construction cranes dotting Seattle’s landscape 1have become an iconic part of our city skyline in recent years. And perhaps no part of the skyline hosts densely clustered cranes more than the area above South Lake Union – a clear sign of the rapid development happening in the area. With 30-plus projects underway, and another 30-plus projects currently applying for permits, South Lake Union isn’t expecting a slow-down anytime soon.

So what does this mean for mobility and business in the community? Exciting future changes, for sure. But having multiple construction projects in close proximity to one another can of course present challenges. Because each neighborhood is unique, solutions to these challenges need to be tailored to the specific neighborhood that is experiencing the growth. This is where SDOT’s Access Seattle Initiative and Construction Hub Coordination Program become essential.

Active Construction Projects (orange) / Projects in Permitting (green)

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So how is SDOT’s Construction Hub Coordination Program helping South Lake Union navigate the ongoing construction boom?

First and foremost, we are reaching out to the community to find out what their needs and concerns are. By attending and holding public meetings, distributing frequent construction updates online and in print, and by establishing a single point of contact in each of Seattle’s construction hubs (Jack Bighorse is the contact for the South Lake Union hub – jack.bighorse@seattle.gov), we are keeping our fingers on the pulse of Seattle’s changing neighborhoods.

In addition to listening to individual concerns, we’re also taking in the big picture.

SDOT Street Use Director Brian de Place talks with constituents to get feedback

SDOT Street Use Director Brian de Place talks with people living and working in Seattle to get feedback.

In South Lake Union, it not just buildings that are changing the cityscape. Preconstruction activities for the Westlake Avenue protected bike lane are set to begin soon, the Fairview Avenue bridge is being replaced, a new substation and power-distribution network will be installed near Denny Way, and RapidRide C Line bus service is being extended to better serve the neighborhood. All of these changes mean that careful coordination with the timing of other nearby construction projects is key, so we’re working closely with contractors and developers to minimize potential conflicts.

4Part of making sure projects run smoothly, and that pedestrian and vehicular mobility is maintained, is proactive construction coordination to identify and resolve potential right of way issues before they occur. The Hub team collects and compiles project and event schedules  then works with contractors and stakeholders to consolidate haul routes, deliveries and other activities to minimize closures and ensure access.

 

We have also written the new Director’s Rule for Pedestrian Mobility In and Around Work Zones (DR 10-2015). This new rule, which will be finalized shortly and go into effect on January 1, provides clear requirements to contractors for the provision of pedestrian access around their work zones. In particular, the rule emphasizes that sidewalk closures should be used as a last resort  – which, especially in a busy construction hub such as South Lake Union, helps keep pedestrians safe and mobile.

SDOT is also partnering with the Seattle Office of Economic Development to gather input from local businesses, and to identify ways to maintain a healthy local economy during times of dense development. In addition to facilitating pedestrian access to businesses in the area, we’re working with stakeholders to develop specialized “construction mitigation toolkits” that are tailored to the unique issues of a particular business.

Do you live or work in South Lake Union or another construction-impacted neighborhood? We want to hear from you! Please send any questions or comments you may have to constructionhub@seattle.gov, and you can learn more about our efforts at seattle.gov/transportation/hub.htm.

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