Columbia City Tells Us How They Get Around the Neighborhood

SDOT recently completed neighborhood surveys along Rainier Ave S in Columbia City to find out more about how people get around. Here’s what we learned:

  • People come by many modes. While using a personal car is the single most popular way people come to Columbia City, 65% of all customers and visitors reported arriving by walking, transit, biking, or other means besides a personal vehicle. That’s a big change from a similar study in the same area in 2011 when only 43% of customers and visitors reported arriving by means other than a personal car.Columbia City 1
  • Locals are regulars. Nearly all residents reported coming to the business district two or more times a week and the most frequent visitors do so by walking or biking.
  • Drivers are finding parking, but it might require circling around the neighborhood first. Most drivers (65%) park on-street, and most (89%) reported that it took about the length of time they expected or less to find parking. However, 11% of drivers reported spending more than 5 minutes looking for parking.


How do these surveys work?  SDOT consults with professional survey companies to gather information from visitors to the business district using a short questionnaire.  Once the data is analyzed, we summarize the findings and share them with the neighborhood, often through our Community Access and Parking Program – SDOT’s effort to improve on-street parking management in Seattle’s neighborhood business districts and nearby residential areas.

For full results from this survey and others, go here. We are planning to conduct surveys in more neighborhoods this fall!

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Rain Gardens in Planting Strips

Our recent sunny weather may have you thinking about the best ways to sneak out of work early, but summer is also a great time to start planning for a rain garden in your planting strip this fall!


Rain gardens are shallow, planted depressions that collect runoff from surrounding paved surfaces, where it slowly seeps into the soil and filters out pollutants.


Building a rain garden in your planting strip – Design

It’s important to select a good location for your rain garden:

  • Curbside rain gardens may be located in the planting strip adjacent to your property, between the sidewalk and curb.
  • The street slope must be less than 5% – in other words, there is less than a five-foot change in elevation per every 100 feet.
  • The planting strips must be at least 5 feet wide.
  • Water must drain through the soil at a rate of 0.3 inches per hour.
  • Light poles, fire hydrants, and other utility structures should be located at least five feet away.
  • Don’t pick a site underneath the canopy of a tree in the planting strip, where digging will disturb its roots.
  • Native and drought-tolerant plants are great for rain gardens. Choose low-growing or dwarf plants that do not grow taller than 3 feet. Near intersections and driveways, plants should be no taller than 30 inches.

Permit Application

A permit for a rain garden is free, but SDOT’s Street Use Division requires:

  • A Street Use Construction Permit Application. Pick up an application in-person at the front desk of Floor 23 of the Seattle Municipal Tower.
  • Or download a fillable pdf and email it to us at:
  • A Right of Way Impact Site Plan. Get a template here.
  • A drawing that shows the length and width of the rain garden, a cross-section, and a plant list.


After your permit is approved, you’re ready to build your rain garden! The best time to start digging is between May 1 and September 30. This season is recommended to give you plenty of time to put in any necessary erosion and sediment control measures.

Planting anytime during the fall or early spring is recommended to take advantage of natural rainfall.


Rain gardens located in the public right of way will require some TLC. At a minimum, the plants will need a deep soak every three to four days for the first two summers to help the roots establish, as well as weeding and mulching in the spring and fall. Occasional pruning may be necessary if the plants grow too tall. For more tips on taking care of your rain garden, see the Rain Garden Care Guide.

Since voluntary curbside rain gardens are considered beautification projects, the permit is free. However, voluntary curbside rain gardens do not fulfill any Seattle Stormwater Code or Seattle Green Factor program requirements, and are not eligible for RainWise rebates.

If you have any questions or would like additional information about voluntary curbside rain gardens, please contact Shannon Glass at

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Yesler Way Bridge Rehabilitation is Underway

Built in 1910, the Yesler Way Bridge is one of the oldest permanent steel roadway bridges in the city of Seattle. The rehabilitation work is to improve safety and reliability while preserving the bridge’s historical elements. The work will last through the fall of 2017.

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Looking north at Yesler Bridge from 4th Avenue.

The first phase of the project is demolition and removal of the entire structure.  The pictures below show the now closed construction zone.

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Looking at Yesler from the northwest, then looking to the northeast.

While the bridge is under construction, the bridge will remain fully closed along Yesler Way and Terrace Street.  At a few points during construction, 4th Avenue will also be closed during evenings and weekends for public safety.

In addition to structural improvements, the stairwell on the north side from Yesler down to 4th Avenue will also be replaced and safely lit for pedestrians.  New energy efficient lighting will be installed underneath the bridge deck itself, improving visibility for drivers.

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Yesler Way Bridge is vital in connecting residents, commuters and businesses in the surrounding  neighborhoods. In addition to providing a major east/west connection across I-5, the bridge displays unique and historic design elements including decorative pedestrian railings, parabolic and circular features of the exterior “fascia” girders, and ornamental capitals and casings, all of which will be preserved in the rehabilitation.

Much of the bridge structure will be replaced as well as the entire western bridge abutment. When finished, the structure will be less vulnerable to earthquakes and have greater vertical and horizontal clearances for traffic passing underneath.

For more information on the Yesler Bridge Rehabilitation Project, please visit:

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Share Your Ideas for Pike Street on June 14 from 5-7 p.m.

Have thoughts about how Pike St could look and feel? Maybe you’ve got some ideas about what could happen in the street to make it better to move, hang out, and interact.

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Your Design Input Wanted for the South Lander Street Bridge Project

SDOT is going ahead with plans to build a bridge over South Lander Street between 1st and 4th avenues south to improve traffic, rail operations, and safety in the SODO neighborhood. At this early phase in the design process, we want to hear from you.

Learn more about the project and share feedback on key design features at our South Lander St Bridge Project Open House on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Metropolist located at 2931 1st Ave S in Seattle.

If you can’t make it to this Open House, you can visit our online open house, available from June 6 -17 at

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South Lander St includes a crossing of four railroad tracks, which creates safety risks and traffic delays.

South Lander St is an essential east-west corridor in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. Every day, the street serves freight, commuters, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as King County Metro buses and the Port of Seattle.

The corridor includes a crossing of four railroad tracks, which pose a safety risk and can cause traffic delays. Train crossings result in the road being closed more than 4.5 hours per day, impacting the mobility of tens of thousands of people and severely affecting access to port and local manufacturing facilities. South Lander St creates direct connections to facilities critical to our economy at the Port of Seattle, which contribute to 75,000 existing jobs and an additional 25,000 jobs that are forecasted by 2040.

The project may sound familiar – it went through preliminary design in 2007, but was put on hold. Thanks to the voter-approved Levy to Move Seattle, this project is moving forward again. Our transportation system has changed since 2007 and SDOT engineers are reevaluating the project’s previous design concepts to ensure the safest and most effective solution. 

For more information about the S Lander St Bridge Project, visit the project website. Email to join our email list.

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Considering the Needs of All Pedestrians

Some of us walk quickly, and some of us walk slowly. Others cannot see or hear as well as others. Still others use mobility assistive devices to help them get to where they need to be. SDOT is trying to better understand the abilities and needs of all pedestrians—in particular, those who live with disabilities.

SDOT engineers have participated in blindness simulations to experience the challenges for people with vision impairments, and traveled the sidewalks of Pioneer Square in a wheelchair to experience difficulties using a mobility assistive device. SDOT understands that simply sitting in a wheelchair and rolling on a sidewalk for 10 minutes is not the same experience as living with a mobility disability.


SDOT Engineer Johanna Landherr uses a wheelchair on a new curb ramp.

That’s why SDOT recently procured a wheelchair that is now used to test sidewalks, curb ramps, and street crossings in different areas of Seattle. This testing provides an eye-opening experience, and a valuable tool, for our engineers. That tangible knowledge can be sent back to the office for consideration when designing curb ramps and sidewalks.


SDOT Engineer John Ricardi struggles to roll up a ramp.

During the exercise demonstrated in these photos, the engineers experienced the obvious challenges of rolling up sloped ramps. Perhaps more important were the subtle challenges, or those that are not usually considered. For example, the side-to-side slope on a sidewalk, if not limited, can be exhausting for a person in a wheelchair, pushing the wheels with their arms. Changes in sidewalk surfaces or grade at the top and bottom of ramps can also disrupt momentum or stability.


Changes in grade on ramps can affect momentum or stability.

SDOT will continue to experiment using the wheelchair, as well as to participate in any exercises possible to better understand the needs of all pedestrians.

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

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Seattle Summer Parkways to transform City Streets into “Park” Ways

Seattle Summer Parkways returns this summer in August and September, and features three separate days of special events in three iconic neighborhoods: Rainier Valley, West Seattle and Ballard.

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Hosted by the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Summer Parkways will transform streets into open-street “parkways” where people can bike, play, walk, run and experience neighborhoods in unique and inviting ways. Based on the success of last year’s inaugural event, thousands of neighbors, families and kids are expected to participate in this summer’s community-based activities, live music and recreation.

The 2016 Summer Parkways lineup includes:

  • Saturday, August 13: Rainier Valley, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kick-off festivities will celebrate with existing events including the Big Day of Play, Rainier Valley Heritage Festival, Hillman City Car Show, South Seattle Community Picnic and dozens of community partners, to bring safe streets and sunny fun to the south end. This route will highlight some of the Valley’s beautiful and vibrant areas including Rainier Valley Playfields, Columbia City, Columbia Park, Hillman City, Brighton Playfields and Othello Park.

  • Saturday, August 27: Ballard, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The second event in the series will bring the fun back to Ballard! In partnership with the Sustainable Ballard Festival, Seattle Parks and Recreation and dozens of community partners, a variety of activities will take place along the route of Ballard Commons Park, Ballard Corners Park, Salmon Bay Park, Loyal Heights Community Center, Sunset Hill Park, Bergen Place Park, and the myriad shops and businesses along Ballard Avenue NW.

  • Sunday, September 25: West Seattle, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The final event will celebrate the conclusion of summer with a community party on Alki Beach! In partnership with Orca Running, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Beach Creeps Bicycle Club and dozens of community partners, the route will highlight activities throughout Alki Beach Park, the Alki Trail, Don Armeni Park, Alki Community Center, and the myriad shops and businesses along Alki Avenue SW.

Summer Parkways Returns

Participation is free, and those who want to host an activity in their neighborhood can fill out an online application. Volunteer positions are also available, ranging from intersection management and community ambassadors, to route patrols and mobile bike mechanics.

For sign-ups, route maps and more information, please visit: and follow Seattle Parkways on Facebook and Twitter @SeattleParkways #SeattleSummerParkways.

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Yard signs, get your Vision Zero yard signs!

Maybe you’ve noticed—we’re kind of into signs here at SDOT.

We’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for our Vision Zero yard signs. We’ve seen them popping up in traffic circles and planting strips in neighborhoods across the city. And you can get your very own.

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Get a sign of your own at one of the city’s six Customer Service Centers in Ballard, the Central District, Lake City, Southeast, Southwest, and the University District. This map shows them all. Most are open Monday through Saturday, but be sure to check the website for specific hours. You may also want to call ahead to confirm they have the signs you want.

There are 4 different sign options, and you can get up to 6 total signs, depending on supply.

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These signs are one small part of our Vision Zero education efforts to get more people traveling safely as we work toward a broader goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries on Seattle streets by 2030.

Questions about Vision Zero education and outreach efforts? Contact SDOT’s Allison Schwartz at or (206) 386-4654.

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Construction Coordination in the City

Seattle continues to grow rapidly, as you might notice by the number of construction cranes along our skyline. SDOT manages private construction projects across the city within “Construction Hubs” – the downtown core, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill areas – through a program called Construction Coordination.

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Here are some of the ways Construction Coordinators and Inspectors keep people moving through the city:

  • Evaluating right-of-way impacts during individual projects and for all projects within each Hub
  • Coordinating and consolidating temporary closures, detours and routes
  • Maintaining access to and through impacted areas
  • Facilitating dialog between contractors and the community/businesses
  • Acting as one point of contact to respond and resolve construction related issues in real time
  • Helping public agencies and private contractors work cooperatively to optimize mobility in impact areas
  • Holding regular stakeholder meetings to notify business and neighborhood groups of upcoming development and right-of-way impacts

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The revised SDOT Director’s Rule for Pedestrian Mobility Around Work Zones is now official, with standards to make it easier and safer for people to walk in Seattle. The new standards took effect in January 2016 for new projects.

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
  • All categories under SMC Title 15 Street and Sidewalk Use

SDOT will work with existing projects and new 2016 construction to help ensure safety and mobility for people walking near work zones.


All construction permits issued by SDOT’s Street Use Division are subject to inspection. Inspections are required to ensure that all conditions of the permit have been met and that the public’s safety, mobility and interests are preserved. Street Use inspectors also respond to and investigate citizen inquiries about unsafe conditions or construction activity in the right of way. See more information about SDOT Street Use Permits here. 

If you have a construction related access question, please contact

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City Offices are closed for the Memorial Day Holiday

City of Seattle offices will be closed in observance of Memorial Day. On-street parking is free in Seattle on Monday, May 30 for the Memorial Day holiday.

Pvt. Brian Engelhard, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) places American flags at Arlington National Cemetery during “Flags in,” May 21, 2015. (Courtesy Arlington National Cemetary)

Pvt. Brian Engelhard, 3d Infantry Regiment, places American flags at Arlington National Cemetery May 21, 2015. (Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery)

Monday is a federal holiday in which we honor the those who have died while serving in the United States military. Originally Memorial Day began as an event honoring Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War.  After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women who died in any war or military action. Initially titled Decoration Day, after World War II the day became known as Memorial Day.

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