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Permit applications – a rainbow of fun!

PermitCounterGovernment forms aren’t typically thought of as colorful, or, for that matter, easy to use. Enter Seattle, ever on the cutting edge! On Monday customers coming to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Street Use Permit Counter will see a rainbow of permit application colors, differentiating lines of business, and sporting a format much easier to interact with. Here’s a before and after example, of the application for a renewable or “Annual Permit” application: BeforeAfterPermitApplication_AnnualPermits

So what inspired the more inspiring forms? Firstly, it was the over-arching effort to create a more customer-focused service model; that effort includes adding permit technicians to the counter – beginning Monday; as well as a host of other improvements this spring and summer (all aimed at reducing wait times while better preparing
applicants with active coaching and refined tools).

Secondly, indirectly, it was the life history of SDOT graphic designer Mayumi Thompson. In 2009 Thompson lived in England, with her husband and mother-in-law, and they were in the process of moving out. Thompson’s mother-in-law asked her to go to the local council office (don’t worry, I’m getting to the point…) to pick up a form for her, to reviseMayumi_Thompson_400x511 her tax assessments based on no longer having boarders. When Thompson picked up the form, she says, ”I was impressed by the layout and design of it. I had never seen a government form that looked like this.”

“It struck me as being very easy to read and fill out as well as inviting, especially for older people like my mother-in-law, commented Thompson. ”I thought the most intelligent part of the design was their use of white boxes to clearly indicate where users had to fill in information.”

It wasn’t Thompson’s experience that started the idea to revamp the permit application forms. Rather, the permit counter team asked for ideas to update the forms - to make them easier to decipher; inviting to use; and, yes, enjoyable (it’s an ambitious team).

Thompson began researching the friendliness of government forms. What she found in several U.S. cities, including Seattle, wasn’t so warm and fuzzy; bland, text-heavy forms prevailed. That’s when Thompson’s memory from England kicked in, and she looked up the very form her mother-in-law had asked to pick up that day five years ago (you can see it too, at:

“I studied them and created a design for street use based on them,” Thompson said.

So, when you come in to the SDOT Street Use Permit Counter to apply for a permit, and find yourself “enjoying” the inviting colors and the way the clear white boxes beckon you to fill them in, think of England (and Seattle, for dedication to public service and improving it).






There’s more to SDOT’s Stairways than meets the eye!


Due to the steep and sloping nature of Seattle’s landscape, many of Seattle’s dead-end streets are connected by pedestrian stairways. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) owns over 500 stairways, totaling over six miles. The stairways provide pedestrians short access between streets often creating shortcuts to parks, playgrounds and bus stops. Some stairways have bike runnels to help bicyclists move their bikes up or down the stairs. And with today’s focus on healthy habits, it’s not unusual that people are now using public stairways for their open air work outs.

The SDOT has allocated funding dedicated strictly to the repair and maintain stairways over the last few years. The annual Stairway Rehabilitation Program provides funding to rehabilitate existing stairways that have significant condition and safety defects. Of the 509 stairways that are the department’s responsibility the repairs primarily involve broken and deteriorated sections. Recycling in Seattle is often thought of as a fairly recent occurrence. However, already in the 1930s, following the replacement of the street car system for a more modern bus system, Seattle used the old steel rails and concrete pavement panels to build stairways throughout the City. Although, the concrete panels served well as steps and the sections of the steel rails worked as posts for hand rails, these stairs are seeing the effects of their age. About 120 of 509 SDOT- owned stairways are of this type. The stairway maintenance program was initially developed to rehabilitate these “slab and rail” stairways.

SDOT’s Roadway Structures Division conducts a periodic inspection program to develop a list of stairways for repairs. Repairs range from replacing the handrail to removing and replacing the landings, treads, or concrete slabs. The list is prioritized and the work is scheduled accordingly. Element level ratings are given to the different parts of a stairway. This information is used to develop a numerical condition rating. From the list’s numerical condition ranking, additional rating criteria are applied to rank projects for consideration in the annual work plan such as safety, use of the stairway, location of the stairway relative to the Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan and cost.

The 2013 budget for stairway maintenance and replacement was approximately $1,039,000. This funded the repair of 32 stairways and the rehabilitation and replacement of 12 stairways.

If you’d like to become familiar – up close and personal – with some of these SDOT stairways, this Saturday, February 8, from 10 a.m. to 12 Noon, you can join the Feet First organization for its second Annual Stairway Walks Day. The event features eighteen guided neighborhood walks in Seattle, Bellevue, Burien. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the stairways as you enjoy connections to greenspaces and spectacular views and learn interesting information about history, art and architecture. The walks in the city will include stairways located in Ravenna, Fremont, Maple Leaf, the University District, Madrona, Eastlake, Queen Anne, Magnolia, Capitol Hill, Downtown, West Seattle, Mount Baker, Rainier Beach, and Seward Park. Space is limited to 25 people per walk, so please RSVP now at or For more information about the event, please contact Drew DeVitis by emailing or calling 206-652-2310, ext. 5.

Northend Repaving Project to Reopen One Stretch of Roadway while Closing Another

Segment of N 105th, closed since summer, will reopen soon.

Segment of N 105th, closed since summer, will reopen soon.

Construction crews working on SDOT’s North 105th/N-NE Northgate Way Improvement Project are nearing completion of the west phase of the work. This will permit the reopening of the eastbound lanes of North 105th Street between Greenwood Avenue North and Aurora Avenue North the week of President’s Day, weather allowing.  The eastbound lanes have been closed since last summer, with westbound travel often reduced to a single lane, all to permit the repaving of the street, combined with the installation of new sidewalks, curb ramps, drainage/storm water improvements, and street light and traffic light upgrades.

The construction and associated road closure are then scheduled to shift to the project’s center phase the same week, at which time it will be the eastbound lanes of North 105th/North Northgate Way between Aurora and Meridian Avenue North that will be closed, and westbound traffic reduced to a single lane.  The closure and lane reduction are expected to continue for about five to six months until sometime in mid-summer. During this period, general purpose traffic will be detoured either north on Aurora to North 115th Street or south on Aurora to North 85th Street.  Truck traffic will be detoured north on Aurora to North 145th Street.  (General purpose traffic heading to North Seattle Community  College, Northgate Shopping Center, or other neighborhood destinations, may also detour south on Aurora to North 90th Street, then east to Wallingford Avenue North, then north on Wallingford to North 92nd Street, and then north again on College Way North/Meridian Avenue North.)The third and final phase of the repaving on North Northgate Way between Meridian and Corliss Avenue North (immediately west of I-5) will follow in July and August.  Fortunately, the width of North Northgate Way in this single long block is sufficiently wide that at least a single lane of traffic in both east and westbound direction will remain open throughout construction.

While it is the repaving element of the project that impacts motorists (along with adjacent businesses and residences), the project also includes the installation of two new dynamic message signs (N 105th & Ashworth Avenue North and Lake City Way Northeast & Northeast 120th) that will provide motorists with real time traffic information, as well as a new traffic camera at 105th & Ashworth to help SDOT with traffic management and safety.  The entire project is slated for completion late this summer.


More information about the project can be found at


The Waterfront Pergola is on the move!

Yesterday, the Seawall Project moved The Washington Street Boat Landing pergola—the first of two major steps to temporarily relocate, protect and restore this historic structure located on the Elliot Bay Seawall. The structure was resting partially upon the existing seawall at S Washington Street and needed to be relocated for the duration of Seawall construction.

Installing transportation equipment to methodically slide the Washington Street Boat Landing pergola to a mobile platform.. Photo courtesy Elliott Bay Seawall Project, SDOT

Installing transportation equipment to methodically slide the Washington Street Boat Landing pergola to a mobile platform.. Photo courtesy Elliott Bay Seawall Project, SDOT

A full day’s effort, our construction teams methodically and gently inched the structure landward of the pier and onto a temporary platform, where large dollies will next be assembled under it to ultimately transport the structure to its temporary storage location. Overnight on February 9, 2014, the pergola will be moved on the dollies approximately 2.4 miles south of its existing location to Terminal 25 where it will be temporarily stored and restored to its original beauty.

Did you know that the Washington Street Boat Landing pergola has served as the symbolic gateway to the city from the Puget Sound and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1920, it was designed by D.R. Huntington to house the Seattle Harbor Master. The iron and steel shelter is supported by 16 decorated columns, with a small office that was located in the two northernmost bays. The shelter has served a number of uses since 1920, including a landing for ferries and ocean-going ships, headquarters for the Seattle Harbor Patrol, and as the U.S. Navy’s official shore-leave landing and departure point. During World War II, there were numerous water taxis that ran between the Landing and the shipyards on Harbor Island. The structure was actively used until the mid 1970s, and has been vacant ever since.

Map of pergola move to temporary site at Terminal 25. It will return to its original location at Washington Street once Seawall Project construction is complete.

Map of pergola move to temporary site at Terminal 25. It will return to its original location at Washington Street once Seawall Project construction is complete.


Following completion of the seawall project, the pergola will be reinstalled in its original location at the base of S Washington St where it will  continue to serve as a symbolic gateway to Seattle’s waterfront for generations to come.

More information to come on the work being done to preserve the pergola, including visual documentary of the move can be found here.

The Ultimate Street Party – Seahawk’s Victory Parade

As Seahawks fans poured into the streets of Seattle on Sunday night, we managed to, for the most part, play it safe. Maybe you’ve seen this YouTube video showing how fans in Ballard celebrated without jaywalking. Aww yeah, that’s what we like to see.

A steady stream of satiric and self-effacing Tweets resulted – check out the #HowSeattleRiots thread. Here are some of our faves:

  • Took my turn at the 4 way stop instead of waving someone else through.
  • When causing a slow-moving vehicle to bounce up and down, please make sure all vehicle occupants are wearing seat belts
  • Talked to strangers on my @kcmetrobus ride instead of burying my nose in my @AmazonKindle

And the rioting celebration continues…

Today’s parade is expected to draw a huge crowd downtown and we’re stoked to be welcoming our Superbowl champs home!

Parade details:

  • Starts at 11 A.M. just south of Seattle Center, near 4th Avenue and Denny Way
  • Continues down 4th Avenue to S. Washington Street, then proceeds on 2nd Avenue S. to CenturyLink Field
  • Ends with a rally at CenturyLink at 1:30 P.M.

Getting around:

  • Given the influx of people in the downtown area, your best bets are going to be walking, biking, using public transit, or carpooling
  • Expect significant wait times and service delays on buses and trains
  • All bus routes that travel along or near 4th Avenue will be impacted. More information on Metro re-routes can be found at
  • And bundle up – it’s going to be chilly (temperatures expected in the mid-20s)

Have fun, be safe, and way to go Seahawks!


Your Transportation Levy Dollars at Work – 2014, part 1

Newly striped crosswalk and curb ramps near Magnuson Park.

Newly striped crosswalk and curb ramps near Magnuson Park.


In 2006, Seattle voters passed a nine-year levy program targeting transportation maintenance and improvement projects – Bridging the Gap (BTG).  The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has worked hard every year to spend the levy dollars wisely and to hold to the promises made to voters.  Once again in 2014, the work plan for the program sets aggressive goals and will push SDOT staff to be creative in their designs and delivery of projects.

One of the most visible programs of the BTG levy is the asphalt and concrete paving program; this year they will deliver 17 lane miles of new pavements along some of the city’s most traveled streets. Projects include paving work along N 105th/Northgate Way – Greenwood to First Avenue NE and along Holman Road.

Additional work to be completed in 2014:

  • SDOT will repair 25 blocks of sidewalk, rehabilitate seven stairways and make smaller repairs to 16 lane-miles of road through the Arterial Major Maintenance program.
  • Seattle’s bridges will continue to receive much needed repair work.  Crews will make 186 repairs to Seattle’s bridges, while design work will continue on two additional bridges – Fairview Ave N and Yesler Way over Fourth Avenue.  Both bridges will be rehabilitated or replaced in future years.
  • Seismic retrofit work will be completed on the Ballard Bridge and the King Street Station complex of bridges.
  • SDOT will plant 500 new street trees and prune more than 3,000 trees.
  • Twelve Neighborhood Street Fund (NSF) Large Projects will be designed and constructed in 2015.

During the seven years of the levy, the city has delivered on the promises made by BTG.  SDOT has paved more than 205 lane-miles of road, repaired 168 blocks of sidewalk, made 2,047 bridge repairs, rehabilitated 33 stairways, pruned more than 23,086 trees and planted 5,569 new street trees.

For more information about BTG’s goals and progress on meeting those targets, please visit the BTG web page.


Mercer Corridor Project
Weekly Construction Preview

mercer_logo_200Work continues this week on the north side of Mercer Street between Fifth Avenue North and Dexter Avenue North and the west side of SR 99 between Valley and Harrison streets. Construction also continues on Mercer Street at Fifth Avenue North with daytime lane restrictions on Mercer Street to accommodate lateral storm water connections beneath the roadway.

Activities this week include: Read more »

Hey, where did everybody go?

Fremont bike counter chart

Fremont Bike Counter–Super Bowl Traffic 


The Fremont bike counter data shows a significant drop in bicycle trips leading up to and during Sunday’s Super Bowl game. This is a good illustration of how bike counter information can help us determine what can cause bike data to fluctuate away from the norm.

The chart shows above normal volumes in the morning and mid-day. Then there’s a big drop off approaching and during the game, followed by higher than normal volumes after the game.

The chart compares average volume for Saturday, Jan. 25, Sunday, Jan. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 1 (which all had favorable weather) to Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2.

Mercer Corridor Project
Weekly Construction Wrap Up

mercer_logo_200Work continued this week on the north side of Mercer Street between Fifth Avenue North and Dexter Avenue North and the west side of SR 99 between Valley and Harrison streets. Construction also continued on Mercer Street at Fifth Avenue North and daytime lane restrictions on Mercer Street continued to accommodate lateral storm water connections beneath the roadway. Read more »

Pilot Parklet Program Extended – Apply Now!

Want to host a parklet? Check out the Montana Bar parklet on Capitol Hill to get some ideas! (Photo courtesy of Capitol Hill Blog)

Want to host a parklet? Check out the Montana Bar parklet on Capitol Hill to get some ideas! (Photo courtesy of Capitol Hill Blog)

Have a creative idea for a small public space in your neighborhood? Now is your opportunity to pitch that idea by applying to become a parklet host!

Seattle’s Pilot Parklet Program was launched in summer 2013 to explore how well parklets serve our neighborhoods. Parklets convert one or two on-street parking spaces into public open space and help to activate the right-of-way, promote economic vitality, and create more vibrant neighborhoods. They are privately funded and maintained but open for everyone to enjoy.

SDOT is extending the Pilot Parklet Program through 2014 and is now accepting applications for new parklets. We’ll permit five new parklet locations in 2014—successful applicants will be announced in mid-March—and then we’ll evaluate all of the pilot parklets after they’re installed.

Completing an application is easy! You’ll need to prepare a simple site plan showing the ideas for your parklet, collect at least two letters of support from businesses or residents near the proposed parklet, snap a few photos of the parklet location, and write a paragraph or two explaining why you want to host a parklet. Visit the program website for more information and to download the application guidelines.

Need a little more inspiration? Visit our parklet gallery to see photos of parklets in other North American cities. But don’t wait too long to develop your own parklet ideas…All application materials must be emailed to by 5:00 p.m. on February 28, 2014.