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