Pedestrian-only streets in Pike/Pine planned for trial run this summer

(Image: Tim Durkan via Flickr)

(Image: Tim Durkan via Flickr)

While some may eagerly support making Pike/Pine permanently car-free tomorrow, those leading an effort to explore pedestrian streets in Capitol Hill’s nightlife core are taking a more incremental approach.

The Capitol Hill Eco District is planning to test out one or more pedestrian-only street closures in Pike/Pine this August to improve safety and possibly bring some of the area’s food and music activity to the street. The trial run could lead to regularly occurring pedestrian zones by next year, according to Eco District senior planner Alex Brennan.

“We really want to be intentional and respond to what works,” Brennan said. “The goal is to be incremental.”

Which street(s) would get closed off when is still up in the air, but the idea for August trials generated substantial interest during last week’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting. Pike between Broadway and 11th, and 10th and 11th between Pike and Pine are the three blocks that have risen to the top of the list for trial closures, said CHCC vice president Zachary Pullin.

Brennan said there are four pedestrian zone variations that could happen in August. The first would be to simply block car traffic for one Friday or Saturday night during peak bar crowd activity (10 PM-3 AM in other cities). Street programming could also be a part of the closure, allowing for musicians, vendors, and food trucks to set up on the street. Other options include a street closure to coincide with the Capitol Hill Art Walk or a closure on Sunday afternoon to work in tandem with the Broadway Farmer’s Market. Brennan tells CHS that one or all of these options could get a one-time trial run this summer.

The pedestrian zone project is partially being funded by a $160,000 city grant the  Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce received earlier this year.

“We have to make sure we do it the right way to create a place thats not just affiliated with nighttime use.”

The importance of creating a balanced mix of daytime and nighttime activity on Capitol Hill is a refrain often repeated by business owners. With its 10th and E Pike location, Havana will likely be in the thick of any trial pedestrian zones, something owner Quentin Ertel was cautious to get overly excited about.

“We have to make sure we do it the right way to create a place thats not just affiliated with nighttime use,” Ertel said. “It might be great for me as a nighttime business owner, but is it going to be great five years from now?”

Another component to consider is where best to stage taxi and car services. SDOT has plans to install 10 new car stands this year. And while the residential population is relatively small in the three blocks up for consideration, some of those residents have expressed concern that a pedestrian zone could be more of a nuisance than its worth.

The Seattle Police Department has so far been supportive of a pilot project, Brennan said, as street fights and other crime could be substantially reduced by allowing bar crowds to disperse into the street rather than being crammed together on sidewalks. Spreading crowds over a greater area could also allow police officers to intervene quicker when incidents occur, Brennan said.

A pedestrian-only pilot program on Vancouver, BC’s bar-laden Granville St. was well received by the city’s police department, which reported public intoxication calls decreased by almost half (PDF).

One of the more notable changes occurred with respect to SIPPs (subject intoxicated in public place), which decreased 48% in the (Granville Entertainment District). While fights decreased by 5% in the GED, overall in District 1 they decreased by 19%. While assaults in progress slightly increased within District 1, there were slight decreases in these calls in the GED. Annoying circumstances, however, more than doubled in the GED during the pilot project. These annoying circumstances can range from drug activity to homelessness and panhandling. It is likely that the institution of street closures and dispersion of the once dense GED crowds has made some of these activities more visible. With levels of disorder decreasing, police in the GED are able to deal with more annoying circumstance issues.

Portland has also created a pedestrian-only zone on weekends in its nightlife district.

Leading up to an August trial run, Brennan said he is continuing to meet with individual business owners to solicit their concerns while the Capitol Hill Community Council will continue to gather feedback at it’s regular meetings.

Finding a way to calm traffic — and revelers — in the area has been a topic of discussion in central Pike/Pine for years. Way back in 2009, CHS was dreaming of narrowing E Pike and adding space for more streetlife and less traffic. Closing off 10th Ave around E Pike would be a much less radical change and could mesh well with plans afoot around Seattle’s new streatery and parklet program making use of the corner of 10th and E Pike.

For more information on the pedestrian zone pilot program, contact Alex Brennan at the Capitol Hill Eco District.

UPDATE: The Capitol Hill Eco District has posted more information about the plan and is conducting a survey to collect feedback: Piloting pedestrian streets in Pike/Pine

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23 thoughts on “Pedestrian-only streets in Pike/Pine planned for trial run this summer

  1. Please, not just the Fri-Sat party time street closure. How about something that people who live on the Hill can enjoy, not just something for the driving-in weekend party crowd? I think that sends a message that it’s just a free-for-all those nights.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I guess I should start leaving toilet paper for the guy who poops in my driveway now too since we’re praising bad behavior…

    • Totally agree. I feel that increasingly those of us who live on Capitol Hill and in Seattle are being asked to subsidize the stupid, irresponsible, unattractive behavior of people coming in from out of town to shit on our neighborhood – and by extension to serve the very, very few bar owners who profit handsomely from having these douchebags in our neighborhood. Think if all the police time that is spent breaking up fights between drunken idiots could be spent investigating or preventing crimes for those of us who pay taxes to pay the salaries of the SPD.
      Instead of turning out extra cops to create a safe little playground for these morons and the greedy profiteers who overserve them, set up a solid DUI net around the neighborhood. Prosecute these idiots and the idiot bars who attract and serve them, and use the fines to pay for the increased police presence they require.
      Oh, and yes, open a nice pedestrianized area for those of us who actually live in and care about the neighborhood.

  2. Having designated Taxi/Uber/Lyft stations would go a long way in curbing the weekend traffic issues and make this concept more workable. Currently most of the traffic seems to be from these vehicles trolling for fares, stopping in travel lanes etc. Applying some order would go a long way in freeing up available space and aiding in traffic flow around the closed streets.

  3. That would solve the potentially worse (additional) gridlock the Rancho Bravo drive-in could cause on weekends.

  4. A great idea! And as others have said, having a designated (and policed) pickup area for Taxi/Lyft/Uber would be fantastic.

    And seeing this become permanent on Pike I think would be really cool. It’d be great to see a non-traffic street done in the style of Bell in Belltown (which should be closed to traffic anyway…)

    • Agree the no-traffic street (24-7) would be the best. Some kind of way to walk from 12th to Broadway without having to cross any uncontrolled cross walks would bel best, and a plaza to sit outside.

    • No traffic between 12th and Broadway on Pike *all the time* would be terrific! I walk through this to get home at the end of my work day five days a week, and it would be much more pleasant to not have to work around bad drivers and sidewalk smokers the whole way. It’s always the most aggravating part of my walking commute.

    • I can’t remember the city I saw this (European probably), but they had an alternate approach to pure, 24/7 pedestrian streets. During the day, these street were open to traffic (deliveries, garbage trucks, individual cars, etc.) but at a designated time each day, this blinking posts would rise up out of the street to keep vehicles out. Of course, the entries to these zones were clearly marked with times, etc., but the added benefit was they could be opened or closed at any time. For example, I witnessed a “pedestrian” street being opened for an aid car. I agree that weekends only will probably just add to the shit-show, but the concept as a whole is pretty compelling.

    • As noted in the article, Vancouver and Portland both have pedestrian streets by night, open to vehicle traffic by day. They use removable barricades (cheaper, easier and more flexible than automated posts).

  5. There had better be an increased police presence. I’m sick of the rise in hate crimes, and I don’t like feeling like I need to carry a gun with me on Friday and Saturday nights after 10pm. Hopefully they don’t do it those nights; it’ll turn into a violent, vomit-filled circus.

  6. The changes Vancouver BC made were driven by the number of fights and outrageous drunkenness that was necessitating ever increasing police response and resources and going to pedestrian only on the weekend nights made a huge difference as it spread people out much further. Most cities that create “entertainment districts” where a high number of bars are concentrated have similar problems. Its a lot of city resources and public safety issues to make a small percentage happy a few nights a week.

    • Absolutely. I think there should be a douche tax on bars (possibly calculated with average douche quotient of patrons times amount of alcohol served), and the proceeds from the tax should be spent on projects that benefit residents who have to suffer the douches. The tax money from the Rheinhaus alone could pay for turning the reservoir in Volunteer Park into a cool public swimming pool with diving boards and all!

  7. Widen sidewalks by sacrificing a lane of parking. It would make all
    The differences. There are to many people bumping into each other.

  8. Transit is still weak. Modern all-low-floor trolleybuses for easy boarding and hillclimb indeed is the simplest and best transit fix for downtown. See Trolleybus Reconfiguration and 1st/3rd Trolleybus Circulator. The better streetcar connector is a Couplet on 4th/5th Aves. The Waterfront Streetcar line proposed can handle ‘median stations’ pretty well, 1st Ave cannot. Duh. Anyway, making the streets safer for bikes requires transit. Don’t let SDOT and ST screw up the streetcar connector. See Port candidate Fred Felleman for a Bertha Plan B: 2000′ extension along the seawall to a Pike/Pine portal; cement pier rows both sides entire length; extend Battery Street Tunnel and fix Lower Belltown per FEIS.
    Makes strongest seawall. Won’t destabilize soils beneath vulnerable historic and modern building foundations, the most important concern not addressed with the much longer, deeper bore tunnel route proposed. Tell Felleman you want his view, yes or no, before the Port Authority race wastes more time begging for campaign con-tributions.

  9. Closing the streets to parking which the availability is minimal at best, assures that the people who live within walking distance must be able to support all of the various local businesses. The message sent by this closure is that we do not want the dollars of people who like to come to the Hill, park, pay dearly for that parking if you can find a space, and then support the great businesses in the area. We pay taxes too, we pay your rent, and your salaries by patronizing the bars, restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, etc. Don’t copy Portland, have you been there lately? Do not close the streets on the Hill. This is a terrible idea which will only result in more closed businesses which you have enough already.