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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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.

SLU1

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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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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15th Anniversary of Pioneer Square Pergola Restoration

Pioneer Square’s national landmark nestled on the corner of 1st Ave and Yesler Way has stood the test of time and a few crashes. Today, we celebrate the 15th anniversary of its unintentional demolition back in 2001. In the early hours of January 15, 2001, a commercial vehicle didn’t clear the corner and struck the pergola.

Pergola Grand Re-opening

Pioneer Square Pergola Grand Re-opening

The pergola was originally built in 1909 by architect Julian Everett as a stop for the Yesler and James Street Cable Car Company. This stop would not only attract bustling crowds with its exquisite architectural design, but it also stood above what was known as “The Queen Mary of the Johns”.

Throwback Pergola

Bustling crowds under the Pioneer Square Pergola in 1910

This historic rest room was one of the nation’s most intricate underground comfort stations, complete with “marble stalls, brass fixtures, oak chairs, white-tiled walls, and terrazzo floors.” Who knew we boasted the fanciest subterranean bathroom?!

The pergola served as a ventilation system for the rest room through its nonstructural, hollow pillars. The underground comfort station was sealed over after World War II, but the pergola remained standing until 2001. After the damage to the pergola was repaired, Seattle was able to reopen it on August 17, 2002.

Pergola in pieces

Pioneer Square pergola left in pieces after a semi-truck hit it in 2001

Unfortunately, history has a habit of repeating itself and the pergola had close encounters in 2008, 2012, and 2013. The Parks department took protective measures to ensure that our national landmark remains unscathed by these literal run-ins. Structural poles and bollards have been installed since its destruction in 2001.

Restore Pergola

Restoring the Pioneer Square Pergola in 2002

If you happen to be driving through Pioneer Square, don’t forget to check out the pergola’s stunning architecture on the corner of 1st and Yesler.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=2944

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=2950

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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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How Does Seattle set On-Street Parking Rates?

Ever wonder how Seattle sets on-street parking rates? This video explains Seattle’s Performance-Based Parking Pricing Program, which sets and adjusts parking rates based on parking occupancy.

SDOT’s Performance-Based Parking Pricing Program started in 2010 when the City Council directed the department to set on-street parking rates according to specific data measurements. The overall goal of the program is to help drivers find parking more easily. Our specific objective, written into the Seattle Municipal Code, is to set street parking rates so that one to two spaces are open and available on each block throughout the day.

Parking is a key piece of the transportation puzzle. As a limited resource that’s often in high demand, SDOT manages on-street parking to:

  • balance competing needs (transit, customers, residents, shared vehicles),
  • move people and goods efficiently,
  • support business district vitality, and
  • create livable neighborhoods.

 

Click here for a table of current parking rates and hours of operation. Click on this map to find the best rates near your destination. The information in this map will be updated as changes occur.

Questions? Please contact DOT_Paystations@seattle.gov

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Pedestrian Access Improvements Coming to South Park along 8th Ave S

Next week, the South Park Community Council and SDOT staff will host an open house to talk to neighbors about upcoming pedestrian safety improvements on 8th Ave S, between S Southern and S Sullivan Streets. The large maple trees along the corridor are some of South Parks’ grandest street trees, but their root systems have caused significant uplifts in the adjacent sidewalk making it challenging for people to travel on them.

Southg Park Sidewalk

This spring SDOT will improve these conditions by implementing a provisional walking path along the east side of 8th Ave S to add safety and comfort for people of all ages and abilities, increase predictability for all travelers, while preserving on-street parking and critical street tree canopy.

Three possible design options will be presented to community members so they can provide comments on all of them. Once their comments are turned in, reviewed and addressed, SDOT staff will incorporate technical data to select the most promising option and begin its design phase. SDOT is also investigating alternatives that provide accessible features for pedestrians with disabilities. Regular updates on the progress and implementation schedule will be shared with the South Park Community Council and announced via the project website.

Join us Tuesday January 12 at the South Park Neighborhood Center 8201 10th Avenue South from 6 to 6:45 PM, where a formal presentation will be given at 6:15 PM. After the open house you may also attend the South Park Neighborhood Association meeting which is scheduled to begin at 7 PM.

Comments and questions about these improvements can also be made directly by contacting Adan Carrillo, Community Outreach Specialist at adan.carrillo@seattle.gov or (206) 684-8105.

Materials presented at the open house, as well as comment forms can also be downloaded from the project website. Comment forms can be mailed to Adan Carrillo at P.O. Box 34996 Seattle, WA 98124-4996 or emailed to adan.carrillo@seattle.gov by Tuesday January 26.

 

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