Seattle’s bid to cut emissions and traffic includes downtown tolling by 2021, Pike and Pine protected bike lanes ‘ASAP’

City Hall is putting together a plan to toll downtown Seattle streets before the end of her first term in 2021, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, City Council transportation committee head Mike O’Brien is pushing for a more immediate effort to complete new protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine with money from the Washington State Convention Center expansion.

Both efforts come as Seattle seeks to ease congestion in its core and cut the some 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions created every year in the city.

Durkan’s proposal calls for “the development of a congestion pricing strategy to ease mobility through the downtown core” as well as creation “of more energy efficient and carbon neutral buildings.”

The Seattle Times reports that the only thing for sure at this point is a study to sort out where and how congestion tolling could work in “downtown neighborhoods.” While no major U.S. city has employed street tolling, examples from around the world include areas where entire roadways or specific lanes are tolled. Other strategies have created “cordon tolling” where vehicles are charged a certain amount to enter specific areas of a city. In London, tolling occurs in the central city’s “Congestion Charge Zone” where vehicles are charged during business hours around £11.50 per day — or $16. The city employs a Ultra Low Emission Discount for cars that meet environmental standards.

The study will need to include assessment of how any tolling will change driving and parking in neighborhoods near downtown including Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: Durkan’s proposals include:

  • Improving mobility through congestion pricing in the upcoming years. At the conclusion of a new SDOT-led study, the City will develop a strategy over the next few years to address congestion and transportation emissions through pricing, coupled with investments in expanded transit and electrification in underserved communities.
  • Electric vehicle readiness ordinance for new construction. Mayor Durkan will transmit legislation requiring the inclusion of electric vehicle infrastructure in new construction or renovation that includes parking.
  • Green Fleet Action Plan update. Already a national leader in building a clean energy fleet, the city will update the Green Fleet Action Plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels in all fleet vehicles.
  • Ride share and taxi fleet electrification. The City will work with stakeholders to develop recommendations for electrifying all rideshare vehicles and taxis in Seattle.

The mayor also rolled out two initiatives related to green development:

  • Creating the City’s Most Sustainable Buildings. Announced by Mayor Durkan in her first State of the City, this pilot will offer additional height and floor space incentives for up to 20 major renovations in urban centers for significant upgrades in energy and water use, stormwater management, and better transportation efficiency based on the standards to create carbon neutral buildings.  
  • Energy Efficiency as a Service (EEaS). Expand City Light’s successful, first in the nation, pay-for-performance energy efficiency pilot program to eliminate barriers that keep building owners from investing in deep energy efficiency upgrades.

And two more to address existing buildings and homes:

  • Oil to heat pump conversion. Develop a funding strategy to accelerate the transition of 18,000 homes from heating with oil to an electric heat pump, including financing the switch for low-income residents.
  • Extending and expanding municipal building energy efficiency program through 2025. Currently on track in meeting the 20 percent by 2020 goal, Mayor Durkan will nearly double the funding through 2025, aiming to cut energy use and carbon emissions nearly 40 percent in our buildings.

Meanwhile, council member O’Brien Tuesday renewed a push for protected bike lanes connecting downtown to Broadway as part of Seattle’s Center City network designed to create more and safer biking infrastructure and lanes downtown. “I expect SDOT to come to the table soon to discuss how they are working towards a Center City bike network as soon as possible, and what they plan to implement this year,” O’Brien said.

The proposed public benefits package from a planned vacation of city right of way for the expansion of the convention center includes millions for the Pike and Pine lanes that would connect to “the existing bike lanes on Broadway and 2nd” and form “the spine of an all ages and abilities bicycle network.”

Concepts being considered for protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine have included adding protected bike lanes only to Pine or turning Pike and Pine into “a couplet of one-way streets” with one-way bike traffic and one-way motor vehicle traffic spread across both streets. $10 million is currently earmarked from the benefits package to support the project.

A SDOT representative said Tuesday the department wants to execute Pike/Pine bike improvements as soon as possible and is awaiting funding from benefits package.


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37 thoughts on “Seattle’s bid to cut emissions and traffic includes downtown tolling by 2021, Pike and Pine protected bike lanes ‘ASAP’

  1. In what world is a bike path up the Pike/Pine hillclimb properly considered an all ages / all-abilities route? Unless SDOT is installing a bike escalator up the hill, only the most fit cyclists will be using it.

    • Cyclists of a wide range of fitness abilities go up hills all the time. That’s what lower gears are for. And some bikeshares have electric options. Biking up hills is the best way to get the fitness to be able to bike up hills, regardless of your critique of the wording. Bike elevators would be good also but seem unrealistic at this stage.

    • To add to Max’s points, providing a protected bike lane on a hill makes it much less intimidating, especially for less athletic riders. It allows you to put the bike into a low gear and take your time heading uphill without worrying about frustrating drivers behind you.

    • It’s so easy to ride up Pike/Pine that everyday, rain or shine, there are young people taking their Bikes on light rail between downtown and Capitol Hill.

    • @Bob:

      “Oh wonderful……another dedicated bike lane which will go unused.”

      So you’re comparing a dedicated bike lane that will connect the densest neighborhood in the city to downtown and a decently used 2nd Ave dedicated bike lane, to a dedicated bike lane that connects to nothing? Ironically, the dedicated Pike/Pine bike lane will more than likely increase the amount of users of the Broadway cycle track.

      But don’t let that stop your griping.

    • @ Fairly Obvious: I’ll grant you that a Pike-Pine bike lane MIGHT get a reasonable amount of use. But all the others in current use do not… I drive around the city (on a volunteer job), I rarely see anyone using the increasingly-common protected bike lanes. Only one example….Roosevelt Way north of the ship canal.

    • @Bob: I regularly see plenty of cyclists on Roosevelt, Westlake, 9th Ave and 2nd Ave, and Seattle’s bike counters will corroborate that. Even Broadway gets 200-300 per day in the winter, which is impressive, considering it doesn’t connect to any other facilities.

      Granted, the numbers dip during the middle of the day, but you wouldn’t suggest we rip out streets because there’s a lower amount of cars in the 10-2 hours, would you?

  2. SDOT had planned to extend the interim protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine from downtown up to Bellevue in 2019, and then to Broadway in 2020. On Monday they announced that the middle section won’t be done until 2021. Their definition of “as soon as possible” needs some work.

    • Not to mention these routes were approved in the Bike Master Plan of 2014, funded through the 2015 Move Seattle Levy, but then put on indefinite hold because of planned convention center construction and the ensuing transportation mess.

    • The BMP implementation plan originally had these slated for 2016-2017 completion:

      In 2018, Seattle was supposed to have had a world-class downtown protected bike network with adjacent neighborhood connections. You already paid the tax money to build it (or your landlord did).

      (Personally, it’s this lack of leadership that led me to move to NYC where we build 25 miles of protected bike lanes each year. It’s certainly not utopia, but it puts Seattle to shame.)

    • Do you read this blog? There have been bicycling deaths in the Capitol Hill to Downtown route. Broadway bike lanes are a different animal than potential solutions along Pike/Pine. This is not a joke.

    • I use the Broadway bike lanes every day, 2x a day. They make me feel safer getting to and from work – can’t imagine not having them to tell the truth. I see people riding them all the time with me – so they are definitely in use. I do wish they were better connected so that more people would feel safe accessing them! (ahem, the entrance at Denny, and the connections to Pike/Pine) This is a big reason why the pike/pine bike lanes would be amazing. Just hope SDOT gets those implemented sooner rather than later – it’s already been long enough!

  3. Toll downtown city streets? As long as Uber, Lyft, and Taxi’s pay the toll as well. Uber and Lyft are what’s clogging the streets…..

    • I agree, however drivers (when on the clock) should be reimbursed by Uber and Lyft corporate. And therefore taxis should pay as well. I don’t know the policies in place for existing tollways (520, etc.) and rideshare. But should be consistent.

    • In recent years, 1 death was attributed to streetcar tracks on Capitol Hill. 1 death was attributed to a driver turning on 2nd Ave while on a cell phone. Both due to someones carelessness. I read this blog daily. What other bicycle deaths have occurred in the Capitol Hill / Downtown route have I missed, Max?

      I’m an advocate of this proposed bike lane as East/West bike lanes are needed.

  4. People who ride bikes are in the minority, Moreover, I don’t WANT to ride a bike in the city, It is too dangerous, bike lanes or not, We need a different solution. Tolls are OK with me – as long as mass transportation keeps up with demand. Demanding that all people ride bikes, regardless of age or ability is arrogant and unrealistic.

    • It’s a stretch to say that investing in bike infrastructure and safety ‘demands that everyone ride a bike.’ It’s just one of many strategies we need to not only improve safety for bicyclists (so that more people want to bike, and those that already do feel safe doing it), but also improve safety/options for walkers, and increase frequency/efficiency/options for public transportation. If we toll downtown, fewer people will want to drive — so we need to make sure their other options (biking, walking, bus, train) are just as good if not better, don’t you think?

    • If you build it will they come? I doubt it. Let’s talk about pedestrian safety instead of catering to the desires of less than 10 percent of our population.

    • One last comment before I leave. Pike/Pine to downtown is an easy walk. Why do we need more underutilized bike lanes there.

    • Well, I don’t want to either, Sarah, but that doesn’t mean just because I don’t want to that no money should be spent on it. I don’t want to go to Renton, either, but that doesn’t mean I-405 is useless.

      And riding a bike (either uphill or downhill) is faster than walking. Maybe not everybody’s just just sauntering down from Capitol Hill and doesn’t have 40 minutes (or more) to walk it.

    • @Sarah:

      Wake me up when the infrastructure funding percentage for bicycles reaches the percent of people bicycling. Then we’ll listen to your wacky rambling.

  5. Pike and Pine are the main links between Cap Hill and Downtown. My young children and I go back and forth regularly and nobody wants us biking on the sidewalk and both streets are super scary for children. Bigger sidewalks and bike lanes that work for people of all ages and abilities would make our ‘hood even more fun and boost the sense of being somewhere great.

  6. Seattle’s Climate Action plan states that the city as a whole only decreased transportation-related emissions by 2% from 2008 to 2014, the entire period. Not per year, but for the entire 6 year period. In order to meet our goals, that most Seattleites would, I believe, agree that we need to meet, that number needed to be 7.5% *per year*. Now we need to increase that number even more on a per year basis to keep up.

    How will we be able to do this without building a protected bike lane network through such high-demand areas like Pike/Pine? We can’t, is the short answer. We must do this.

    • I have nothing against biking. I have a problem with an entire city catering to the needs of a distinct minority. Entire lanes in downtown are bicycle-only and sit empty most of the time while the other lanes are choked with stalled traffic, spewing out pollution.
      It defies logic (especially if we want to reduce carbon emissions). Bike lanes are NOT the answer – we need more mass transit. I don’t mind being called wacky. It is better than being arrogant, like so many bicyclists.

  7. If you toll streets downtown wouldn’t that just push more cars up to Capitol Hill?

    I see people driving up Denny or Yesler to 12th to avoid paying a toll

  8. In London, the congregation charge has a few curious side effects which are worth noting :

    – almost impossible to find any parking on the outside of the zone. Since it costs to drive in, abandon the car just outside

    – those living within the zone get to drive for free – they also tend to be the most wealthy since its the central part of the city

    – bus, taxi, truck create pollution via diesel more so than car, and are still allowed within. Thankfully US never fully embraced diesel.

    – property values rise within the zone since its now easier to park, and you get to drive within the city for free

    – property values just outside the zone fall as they become rat runs and how to vast numbers of abandoned cars

    – people that live near the zone want it to expand since once within they enter utopia :)

    – to really work Seattle would need way more mass transit than it has today. Otherwise it is just punishing the poorer commuters who have to pay more of their small wage to drive and park. This is also the case in London where the only cars you see in the zone are those of the wealthy