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Access Seattle: Working for South Lake Union Mobility

SLU

Map of SLU construction – click to enlarge

If you’ve visited Seattle’s unique South Lake Union neighborhood lately, you’ve likely seen not only the many attractions in this booming community but also the significant construction. In fact, South Lake Union is one of the neighborhoods identified by SDOT as a construction hub, or area experiencing multiple, simultaneous construction projects in close proximity and with considerable cumulative impacts. Those impacts often hamper mobility. That’s one of the reasons the Access Seattle Initiative came to be, to better serve the city through its growth and development surge.

Access Seattle is an initiative launched in 2013 to keep Seattle moving during unprecedented pressure on our transportation system: from increasing population density; new employment centers; and, a significant construction surge. In the South Lake Union area, all three of these factors come into play, creating daily travel challenges for residents and businesses.

A major Access Seattle goal is to proactively plan and manage the city’s transportation system to move people and goods more effectively. The South Lake Union community has a similar goal, of sorts, as part of the South Lake Union/Uptown Triangle Mobility Plan. That plan lays out the community’s vision for all travel modes, to accommodate growth that, “…demands a paradigm shift in how people travel…” The integrated and interconnected neighborhood vision calls for partnerships; the Access Seattle team is working to be one of those partners.

At a recent South Lake Union Community Council meeting, the Access Seattle team talked about progress coordinating multiple construction projects in the neighborhood. Very specific concerns of area residents and business owners were addressed, with results from direct coordination. Some of these concerns, with information the team identified and coordinated steps moving forward, are:

Harrison Street is blocked funneling all traffic to Republican Street and impacts public safety (by restricting access by emergency vehicles). 

The Harrison Street closure and limited emergency vehicle access are related. Off duty Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers were hired by Amazon to restrict street access in order to empty out the garages.

Moving Forward:   SPD will no longer close streets to address garage exiting.  Any such closures must be coordinated with SDOT’s Traffic Management Center in advance.

People avoid the neighborhood because of the traffic gridlock, which hurts local businesses

According to our community contacts, one of the biggest problems is the eastbound flow of traffic on Mercer East, which apparently backs up outside of peak hours.

Moving Forward:  In less than a week, another eastbound lane of Mercer is expected to open up, which will require retiming all the signals and should provide some relief for eastbound flow. Our signal timing engineers will be monitoring the changes and are happy to meet with any members of the community to see how we can make improvements after these changes are complete.

Efforts on the City’s part to coordinate construction to alleviate impacts to parking, and on residents, are not adequate.

SDOT and OED have heard from many community members in construction hub neighborhoods that our efforts through Access Seattle are helping, but more is needed given the scale of the impacts.

Moving Forward:  The Mayor’s Proposed Budget includes additional staffing in 2015 to increase our inspection presence in the field.  We also plan to release more regular traveler information in multiple formats so people can be aware of known impacts.

Residential developments are being constructed without adequate parking.  The community is still experiencing parking impacts, in part due to contractors getting to the neighborhood early and taking up all the available parking all day.

The larger South Lake Union projects all have the amount of parking required by code. There is also an existing Residential Parking Zone.

Moving Forward: Parking enforcement officers have agreed to increase patrols in the area.  Additionally, DPD and SDOT will ramp up the requirements that the builders find off-street parking for their workers.  This is a practice some developers do voluntarily, others are required to due to permit conditions; in the future, we will look at making this a requirement for all large developments

Pedestrian Safety Issues. 

Ninth Ave is not a great situation for pedestrians given the projects along the corridor and many heavy trucks are coming through other parts of Cascade and South Lake Union.

Moving Forward: The builders will pay for SDOT traffic crews to change the signal timing so that we will have all-way walks at the intersections of 9th and Republican, 9th and Harrison, and 9th and Thomas. Additionally, SDOT will be installing all-way walk signals at John and Minor, Yale and Minor, and Yale and Thomas.

Concern about the upcoming Denny Substation construction and increased gridlock. 

The Denny Substation will move into the next phase of construction including running new distribution lines to the substation.  The scale of this construction is significant and there will be neighborhood impacts.

Moving Forward:  We are working closely with Seattle City Light (SCL) to coordinate this massive project.  We continue our efforts to coordinate impacts, keep lines of communication flowing, and resolve issues quickly to minimize the impacts to the neighborhood.

Construction noise regulations are based on a commercial zone, despite the fact that Cascade residents are numerous, including a significant number of low income housing developments. 

Moving Forward:  There is not currently a plan to amend the Noise Ordinance to include more restrictive construction hours in neighborhoods not currently covered by the code (such as Cascade).

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The work listed above is the result of the new Access Seattle Construction Coordination Program, looking at all permitted public and private construction schedules and impacts holistically. It builds on the SDOT Street Use permit process, taking it to new levels while building relationships and systems to better communicate. It also joins multiple City of Seattle Departments–Transportation, Planning & Development, Neighborhoods, and Economic Development–toward the common goal of keeping communities thriving.

For more information on the new program, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/hub.htm

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I’m just biking in the rain…fall weather has finally arrived!

bikeandrain

Normally this time of year we would all be breaking out our rain gear for any outdoor activity. It has been an amazing summer and early fall, but we knew it couldn’t last and the rains have returned. This may relegate many folks across the county indoors; in Seattle, rain doesn’t keep us from riding to work or for play. Thanks to the Bridging the Gap (BTG) transportation initiative passed by voters in 2006, biking is becoming easier and more accessible in the City.

2014 has been a solid year for BTG cycling projects across the city and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) crews are working to wrap up their work, making it easier to ride a bike in a rainy Seattle. So far, SDOT is working hard to meet its promise of installing four miles of neighborhood greenways and restriping 60 miles of bike lanes and sharrows.

the wide shape of the arrow, combined with the bike symbol, gave rise to unofficial names such as "bike in a house" or "sharrow

the wide shape of the arrow, combined with the bike symbol, gave rise to unofficial names such as “bike in a house” or “sharrow

 

In addition, SDOT crews inspected 40 miles of trail across the city, made improvements to 10 key locations, are working to install 25 miles of bicycle route signage and complete the installation of 500 bicycle parking spaces at key locations across the city. All this work will be completed by the end of the year.

bicirain

Over the first seven years of the BTG program, SDOT has worked hard to implement the Bicycle Master Plan which calls for key improvements across Seattle to make bicycling easier and more accessible to everyone. SDOT is working hard to keep the promises made as part of the BTG program and is working to keep Seattle moving.

BTG

 For more information on BTG and work it is doing please visit the web site.

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Help SDOT Improve Your Route to School

Our school road safety Wikimap is awaiting your suggestions!

Our school safety Wikimap is awaiting your suggestions!

 

SDOT’s Safe Routes to School program has been recognized nationally for its significant contributions to pedestrian safety. In fact, a recent ranking by Liberty Mutual Insurance lists Seattle as the number one city in the nation for pedestrian safety and explicitly calls out Safe Routes to School for improving the connections between neighborhoods and schools.

While we’re grateful for the recognition, SDOT is not an organization that is satisfied with these results. We know there is more work to be done and we need your help.

We’re in the process of reviewing and enhancing every aspect of Safe Routes to School with a wide range of community partners. Early next year we’ll introduce new pedestrian and bicycle safety education and encouragement programs along with revised enforcement commitments in our school zones. Another substantial component of this work is to continue to improve the built environment to better link parents, teachers and students to schools.

Here’s where you come in. We want you to tell us where people are speeding, where people fail to stop for pedestrians or where crossing and/or sidewalk improvements are needed. We’ve developed an online tool to help collect this information. The feedback you provide will be used to prioritize future infrastructure investments, enforcement activities, and educational outreach. Follow the link below to use our Wikimap and share your thoughts with us.

Seattle’s School Road Safety Action Plan Wikimap

We understand that some people don’t have consistent access the internet but we still want to connect with you. SDOT and Feet First representatives will be at a number of schools across the city to get your input. We’ve already visited with the Wing Luke and Northgate communities but you’ll find us at the following locations over the next two weeks:

October 15

  • Sanislo Elementary – 3:15 PM to 4:15 PM

October 16

  • Graham Hill Elementary – 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
  • Viewlands Elementary – 9 AM to 10 AM

October 17

  • South Shore PK-8 – 2 PM to 3 PM
  • Concord Elementary – 3 PM to 4 PM

October 21

  • Rainier View Elementary – 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM

October 23

  • Bailey Gatzert Elementary – 8:15 AM to 9:15 AM

Thanks for your help, Seattle!

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SDOT wants you to be happy

Eric Morris from Clemson University and Erick Guerra from the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the journal Transportation entitled “Mood and Mode: Does how we travel affect how we feel?” The study looks at how levels of stress, fatigue, pain, and happiness vary across users of different transport types. Morris and Guerra used data collected by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of the American Time Use Survey, pulling from 13,000 respondents. The transport modes included in the survey were bicycling, walking, driving in a car as a passenger, driving in a car as a driver, and using bus and rail transport.

The researchers found that those who bike are by far the happiest, with passengers in cars second, followed by drivers in cars. Passengers on buses and trains ranked as the least happy. But why are they happier? Well, our bodies respond to physical activity releasing serotonin, the “happiness hormone.” If you walk or bike, you have more chances of being happy than if you ride alone in your car, a bus or a train.

The exciting thing about this reaserch is that it encourages trasnportation leaders to ask bold new questions about the relationship between the built environment and quality of life.  We asked ourselves, what role can SDOT play in supporting your efforts to find happiness? We have a lot to offer to the cause.

Just check these resources:

The other exciting thing is that we will continue to ask questions about how we can make Seattle a city that offers transportation choices for everyone. Choose what works best for you; what makes you happy.

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SR 520 West Approach Bridge North Project: What’s Happening Now?

SR520

You may have noticed that work to build the SR 520 West Approach Bridge North Project (WABN) in Seattle’s Montlake and Foster Island areas has begun. Crews have placed construction fencing around staging areas and selected trees for protection, closed parking lots, and delivered equipment for upcoming construction activities. In the coming days, SR 520 users and neighbors will see significantly more construction activity and changes within the SR 520 project limits. Upcoming work includes additional tree and vegetation removal, installation of a work bridge over water, demolition activities, and Arboretum trail closures necessary to build the project. WSDOT is committed to best management practices that minimize the effects of construction on neighbors, communities, and the traveling public. Last week, WSDOT hosted a public open house to share design and construction information with SR 520 users and neighbors. If you missed it, check out the meeting materials online here.

Stay informed during SR 520 WABN construction!

Email

Online

Phone

  • Call the SR 520 24-hour construction hotline: 206-708-4657

In person

  • Join WSDOT for public open houses and monthly construction update meetings with the contractor. The first meeting is Nov 5. from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at the Graham Visitor Center, 2300 Arboretum Drive, Seattle

 

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Signs connecting our neighborhoods, thanks to Bridging the Gap

SNS-Ballard-1024x576_v2With the help of the Bridging the Gap Transportation levy the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is working to replace those old, faded hard to read regulatory and street name signs across the city. Through 2013, nearly 45,000 regulatory signs have been replaced and more than 9,800 intersections have seen new street name signs. So far in 2014, more than 700 intersections have received new street name signs and hard working SDOT crews have installed more than 2,400 new regulatory signs across the city.

All these new signs help better connect our communities make it easier for everyone to navigate the city – especially the new street name signs – something we are all very thankful for!

As noted in a previous blog post various street name signs – named and numbered – are available through the City of Seattle Fleets and Facilities surplus warehouse.   They have posted an updated list of available signs which range in price from $5 – 15. Please contact the warehouse directly if you are interested in purchasing a sign.

Please visit the Bridging the Gap web page for additional information about the program.

 

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Dreaming of an interconnected City

What we do with our cities determines the quality of life for hundreds of years for thousands of people. Access to green areas, a waterfront, to sports and music facilities, being able to get to work on time without breaking your budget, make for a better life. Seattle does a good job at many of these things but listening to Gil Peñalosa a few weeks ago, we realize how much potential we have as a city to be even better

Gil was Bogota’s Paks Commisioner and is now the director of 8-80 cities. Gil Penalosa is passionate about cities for ALL people. Gil advises decision makers and community leaders on how to create vibrant cities and healthy communities for everyone regardless of social, economic, or ethnic background. His focus is the design and use of parks and streets as great public places, as well as sustainable mobility. Gil Penalosa

The Peñalosas often involve children in transportation planning using games and other fun activities with spectacular results. We love the idea so here is a resource for teachers and educators for grades 8 -12 from the Henry Ford Foundation. The Digi Kit includes a Teacher Guide and a Unit Plan and access to the Henry Ford Foundation historical archives. Many of the lessons include the use of digitized artifacts from the collections of The Henry Ford, which can be accessed through the hyperlinks in the Unit Plan or at their website, TheHenryFord.org/education. Teachers can incorporate the whole unit into their class schedules or use the lessons or activities most relevant to their need.

Have fun and share the guide with the teachers and educators in your life.

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Street Use Inspector Jumps in to Help

If you have a moment, we’d like to share our pride in a fellow SDOT employee. On Sept 24, 2014, Street Use Inspector Bryan Harris was conducting a routine inspection in the 1700 block of Melrose Avenue when he heard a crashing sound.

Harris rushed over to investigate and saw that a car had crashed into a concrete wall, was immobilized, and was blocking the westbound lane of East Denny Way—a major arterial that connects traffic from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle.

Mr. Harris was aware of the potential major traffic back-up this blockage could cause and the potential negative experience for the traveling public. He immediately took the initiative to provide emergency flagging service, to ensure the safe flow of traffic through the accident scene and minimize the potential traffic back-up. All SDOT Street Use Inspectors have had flagger training and are certified flaggers.

Harris stayed at the scene for 45 minutes, until Seattle Police Department officials arrived and relieved him. Higher priority calls in other areas kept police officers busy, delaying response to this non-injury accident. In the meantime, Harris kept traffic safely flowing. We’re proud of Mr. Harris and his instinct to serve the public.

SDOT Street Use Inspector Bryan Harris

SDOT Street Use Inspector Bryan Harris

 

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Season 2 of Seawall Construction Begins Today

Work occurring along Alaskan Way between Pike and Madison: Many waterfront attractions remain open and accessible

Marking the beginning of its second season of construction, the Elliott Bay Seawall Project resumed work along the central waterfront today. Scheduled during the tourism off-season to help waterfront businesses, the work is now underway between Pike and Madison streets is scheduled to be complete by June 30, 2015. Construction will continue in the work zone south of Yesler Way.

Fencing was installed to safely contain the work area, and construction equipment has been mobilized.

Fencing was installed to safely contain the work area, and construction equipment has been mobilized.

Throughout construction, many of the waterfront’s favorite attractions will remain open and accessible, including the Great Wheel and many Pier 57 businesses, the Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises and businesses along the east side of Alaskan Way. Access to Waterfront Park and Pier 57 will be maintained at the north end, near the Seattle Aquarium. Some retail businesses at Piers 54, 55 and 56 will temporarily close in order for seawall construction to progress efficiently.

Several waterfront attractions are open and accessible throughout construction

Several waterfront attractions are open and accessible throughout construction

As season two of construction begins, waterfront visitors can expect:

  • Street parking along the west side of the Alaskan Way Viaduct has been removed to make room for the construction work zone. Visit downtownseattleparking.com for more information about parking availability and rates.
  • North/south vehicular traffic will continue along Alaskan Way, under the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
  • Ferry terminal access on Alaskan Way has shifted one block south, from Spring Street to just south of Madison Street.
  • The multi-use path on either side of the viaduct will remain open for pedestrians and bicyclists, although short-term closures of the path on the west side of the viaduct are expected during the first month of construction.

For more information about seawall construction, visit the Seawall Project website. If you have questions, email the Seawall Project (seawall@waterfrontseattle.org) or call the 24-hour hotline (206.618.8584).

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Safe Routes to School grant program now accepting applications

Do you have a creative idea for promoting walking and biking to school? Looking for a source of funds to make your idea a reality? Look no further!

FPEWSB_KidVestThe Seattle Department of Transportation is now accepting applications for mini grants of up to $1,000 to fund projects that educate students about pedestrian and bicycle safety and encourage walking and bicycling to school. All you need to do is fill out a straightforward application form, get a letter of support from your school principal, and complete a summary report when you’ve finished your project highlighting all the great things you accomplished. It’s that simple!

Some examples of past projects funded by the Safe Routes to School Mini Grants include kick-starting a walking school bus with safety vests and flags for bus “drivers;” supporting walk to school month events with prizes and incentives for walkers; incentives for bike to school commuters, like bike locks, lights, and helmets; bicycle safety and maintenance classes to make sure kids know the rules of the road and how to keep their bikes in tip-top shape; traffic circulation plans and communication to make sure traffic flows as safely as possible around schools.

If you have an idea for a safety education or encouragement program, please visit our website www.cityofseattle.net/transportation/ped_srts_grant.htm for more information on how to apply for a mini-grant. In addition to the application, a letter of support from the school principal must be e-mailed, mailed, or faxed by the application due date. For questions, contact Ashley Harris at ashley.harris@seattle.gov. Completed applications are due October 31st, 2014 by 5pm and recipients will be announced by December 5th, 2014. Funds will be distributed in January 2015.

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