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Clear direction to prevent serious crashes in Seattle: Vision Zero Action Plan update

Cover page of the updated Vision Zero Action Plan. Graphic: SDOT

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  • Today we published the 2024 update to our Vision Zero Action Plan.
  • This is more than a document. It represents our core commitment to continue taking meaningful action to eliminate serious and fatal crashes on our streets.
  • The action plan focuses on a Safe System Approach as adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • It identifies 22 broad strategies and over 80 concrete actions we will implement between 2024-2026, with an emphasis on actions this year, some of which are already underway.
  • This plan builds upon the 2023 top-to-bottom review of our Vision Zero program and the 5 momentum-building actions it identified.
  • Mayor Harrell’s Transportation Levy proposal presented to council earlier this month includes $162 million to make targeted and community requested Vision Zero safety improvements. Visit the Seattle Transportation Levy Proposal website to learn more.
  • Read on to learn about this plan and visit our Vision Zero website to stay informed.

As part of our ongoing commitment to prevent serious injuries and deaths of people traveling on Seattle streets, we have released a new Vision Zero Action Plan. The plan sets a bold strategy to improve traffic safety, establishing 22 broad strategies and over 80 concrete actions to be completed over the next 3 years.

Despite Seattle having fewer serious injuries and deaths from car crashes than many other major cities, there are still far too many lives lost on our streets each year. Seattle has seen a decrease in lives lost each year since the peak in 2021, in comparison with broader regional and statewide trends. However, the numbers in Seattle are still higher than they were in 2015 when our Vision Zero program was created. Where we have implemented traffic safety measures, there has been a significant improvement in reducing the most harmful crashes.

With this in mind, we are reaffirming our commitment to improving travel safety and making progress toward reducing the number of lives lost and people seriously injured with new approaches. Our comprehensive strategy acknowledges the urgency of the situation. We are ready to increase our investments in safety to reach our goals.

We have adopted the Safe System Approach established by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). It works by building and reinforcing multiple layers of protection to both prevent crashes from happening in the first place and minimize the harm caused to those involved when crashes do occur.

A person crosses the street with their dog at a marked crosswalk on a sunny day. A bike and a house and trees are in the background.
A person crosses the street with their dog at a recently upgraded crosswalk in West Seattle. Photo credit: Madison Linkenmeyer

Highlighting the projects we plan to deliver in 2024

To jumpstart this important work, we’ve established a list of specific and measurable targets for how we will advance the three-year action list in 2024.

Here are some examples of what we will do this year:

  • Install at least 100 more pedestrian head-start walk signals (leading pedestrian intervals)
    • By the end of 2024, there will be more than 700 of these walk signals citywide (nearly three-quarters of the traffic signals in Seattle). In the past, we have seen nearly a 50% drop in the number of people hit by turning cars at crosswalks with this improvement.
  • Implement at least 100 more No Turn on Red restrictions
    • This will bring us to 275 intersections in Seattle (about a quarter of the intersections with traffic signals.) Right turn on red crashes account for 9% of all collisions with people crossing the street. 
  • Build at least 16 new enhanced crossings at priority intersections.
    • We will also install safety enhancements at 13 key intersections downtown, re-paint about 1,500 faded crosswalks each year, and build at least 1,250 new ADA-accessible curb ramps for people with disabilities. 
  • Construct 2.75 miles of new protected bike lanes
    • We will also upgrade 2.1 miles of protected bike facilities such as adding stronger concrete barriers to better protect people biking.
  • Construct at least 27 blocks of new sidewalks or walkways.
    • This will be in addition to completing 7-11 more miles of neighborhood greenways.

These are just several examples of our planned 2024 actions. You can find a full list of actions for 2024 starting on page 21 of the Vision Zero Action Plan.

Working hard to build more safety projects in 2024

There is no time to lose when it comes to making our streets safer. Last year, we focused on delivery by completing design on a variety of safety-focused projects which we are starting construction on this year. Typically, we start about one large construction project a month and so far in 2024 we have been doubling that pace.

2024 will be one of the busiest and most productive construction years for SDOT in recent memory. Here are a few examples of the larger safety projects we are building this year:

  • MLK Jr Way Safety Project is underway to add bike lanes and other safety enhancements from Judkins Park Station to Rainier Ave S.
  • Rainier Ave S safety improvements at S Sturtevant St and 54th Ave S. was completed this year. Other Rainier Beach area improvements to come include the S Henderson St protected bike lane and traffic calming improvements on Seward Park S.
  • Beacon Ave S & 15th Ave S Safety Project will begin construction this summer to add a new protected bike lane, sidewalk improvements, and other street safety enhancements.
  • 15th Ave W/NW & Ballard Bridge Paving & Safety Project will begin construction this summer and aims to keep people and goods moving and includes enhancements to make the RapidRide D bus line more reliable and to make travel safer for everyone.
Several people work to install a speed cushion on a sunny day. The workers are wearing orange and yellow safety vests, and a large no parking sign is to the left side of the image, with houses in the background.
Crews construct a speed cushion as part of the West Seattle Greenways project in 2021. Speed cushions help reduce vehicle speeds making streets safer for people walking, biking, and rolling. Photo: SDOT

The Safe System Approach – what is it?

To rapidly advance our progress towards zero lives lost and people seriously injured, we are shifting our framework to adopt the multilayered Safe System Approach established by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). It works by building and reinforcing multiple layers of protection to both prevent crashes from happening in the first place and minimize the harm caused to those involved when crashes do occur.

You can read more about how we’re applying the Safe System Approach in Seattle on our website, including:

  • Safer Streets
  • Safer Speeds
  • Safer People
  • Safer Vehicles and Post-Crash Care
An info-graphic that shares details of the Safe System Approach. Five sections of a circle read: Safer People, Safer Vehicles, Safer Speeds, Safer Roads, and Post-Crash Care.
Six guiding principles and five elements of the Safe System Approach. Graphic credit: USDOT

Aligning with our top-to-bottom review and other long-range plans

In February 2023, we published a top-to-bottom review of our Vision Zero program. Mayor Bruce Harrell and SDOT Director Greg Spotts commissioned the agency self-examination after seeing years of traffic safety success reverse course in recent years.

The review included 12 broad recommendations to improve the effectiveness of Vision Zero and 5 momentum-building actions. We’ve made progress on these 5 actions, which are listed below. This includes delivering over 100 pedestrian head-start signals and 73 new No Turn on Red signs in 2023.

  1. Phase in additional “no turn on red” signs at downtown intersections.
  2. Accelerate leading pedestrian interval (LPI) rollout where existing signal systems can support it.
  3. Partner with Sound Transit to implement a series of improvements along Martin Luther King Jr. Way S to enhance safety for all travelers.
  4. Engage the public on automated enforcement to address equity concerns about future expansion in neighborhoods with many fatalities and serious injuries.
  5. Elevate City Traffic Engineer to a new Chief Safety Officer role.

Our action plan also aligns with our top-to-bottom review as well as the recently adopted Seattle Transportation Plan and our Transportation Equity Framework. The 2024 update replaces the original Vision Zero Action Plan published in 2015.

The plan also aligns with the $25.6 million “Safe Streets for All” grant which we were awarded by the USDOT in early 2023 to build safety enhancements in underserved neighborhoods.

This plan builds on previous safety efforts, including setting safer 25 mph speed limits on most of Seattle’s major streets. An independent research group studied this change and found that there was a 17% initial drop in the risk of people being injured in a crash in downtown Seattle after the change.

An infographic shows Safety in big letters as well as details about SDOT and the City of Seattle's goals for travel safety, with a large yellow heart icon and the Seattle Department of Transportation logo in the lower right corner.
Safety is one of our six core values and goals. Graphic: SDOT.

What’s next?

  • The list of action items in the action plan builds upon the safety-related strategies and policies in our broader transportation plans. It distills these recommendations into actionable steps and projects that can be addressed over the next three years.
  • We’ll continue implementing the 2024 actions identified in the plan and share updates on our progress in future reports.
  • We’re also using the action plan to guide our investments in future safety projects that will be constructed over the next three years. As part of Mayor Harrell’s Transportation Levy Proposal presented to council earlier this month, $162 million was identified for Vision Zero safety improvements to streets, sidewalks, intersection and crossings to reduce traffic collisions, serious injuries, and fatalities. Visit the Seattle Transportation Levy Proposal website to learn more.
  • To stay informed, visit our Vision Zero web page, which includes ways to contact us if you have questions to ask or concerns to share.

Thank you for your time, interest, and attention to this important matter. We’re all in this together, and our entire team at SDOT will continue to work every day to make it safer for you and your loved ones to travel in our city.