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City Staff Meet with Dr. Keith Hwang

Near the end of March, a small group of City of Seattle staff, led by SDOT Director Peter Hahn, met with Dr. Keith Hwang to discuss a Seoul, South Korea, transportation and open space project that has gained worldwide iconic status since its completion in 2005.  Dr. Hwang is internationally renowned for his work in creating an 5.8 kilometer long public space in downtown Seoul that is oriented around the historic Cheonggye stream.  Much like Seattle’s Central Waterfront project, this urban renewal effort focused on removing antiquated transportation infrastructure and creating open space to better serve residents and neighborhoods.  Dr. Hwang was in Vancouver, B.C., for about a week at the invitation of the Urban Studies Department at Simon Fraser University.

SDOT Director Hahn and Dr. Hwang

Dr. Hwang was part of the team leading the complex design, construction and transportation management effort.  The downtown public space opened in 2005 with widespread public support, and is viewed as a significant success in urban renewal and beautification.  An estimated 90,000 pedestrians daily now enjoy the open space and traffic mitigation efforts have improved overall traffic flow in downtown Seoul.

One of the most interesting things we learned from Dr. Hwang is that, in total, 14 lanes of traffic were removed, to be replaced by only four lanes of traffic.  Recently these were further reduced to two lanes.  The city system has been able to absorb this level of capacity reduction.  For context, these lanes carried about 160,000 vehicles daily for a city with a population of 10 million.

Diane Sugimura, DPD Director, provided a 10 minute video about the project, which you can view below.

The work of Dr. Hwang will help the City of Seattle in its effort to reshape our Central Waterfront.  With the removal of the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct, we also have the opportunity to create a public space that better serves our city and its residents.  The time spent with Dr. Hwang will help better inform our work as we create a new Central Waterfront and think about our transportation future.

Before and After Images of the Downtown Seoul Public Space