Mayor kills Seattle’s public bike share

By the end of March, Seattle will no longer have a public bike share system. Mayor Ed Murray announced Friday night the city will take $3 million set aside to replace its struggling Pronto system and instead put the money to work making bicycling and pedestrian improvements across Seattle. The $4.4 million budget required to start the system in 2014 and the $1.4 million approved last March to keep the system afloat? Poof.

“This shift in funding priorities allows us to make critical bicycle and pedestrian improvements — especially for students walking and biking to school,” Murray said in a statement. “While I remain optimistic about the future of bike share in Seattle, today we are focusing on a set of existing projects that will help build a safe, world-class bicycle and pedestrian network.” Continue reading

Pike People Street tests continue in October with ‘art walk,’ ‘daytime’ editions

In any pilot program, there are winning ideas — and a few losers. The Seattle Department of Transportation is out with its Pike People Street – 2016 Work Plan complete with the framework for three trial dates this October testing further refinements of the original goal: creating a strong pedestrian experience in the middle of Pike/Pine.

Here is the schedule and the description of each of the three variations SDOT will be testing around E Pike next month:

  1. FRIDAY OCTOBER 7, 11 PM – 3 AM Full closure of E Pike St between 10th Ave and 11th Ave. This expanded pedestrian space will relieve pressure on the limited sidewalk space during nightlife hours. Continue reading

With a redo on MLK, Central District crosswalks will receive Pan-African redesign

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As the latest development in a process kicked off by a rogue redesign of a crosswalk last summer, crosswalks across the Central District will be transformed into community symbols.

Eleven crosswalks will be painted in the colors of the Pan-African flag, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced this week. The redesign was sparked when members of the United Hood Movement painted crosswalks near Powell Barnett Park and at the intersection of MLK and Cherry in Pan-African colors of red, green and black to reflect the Central District’s history, in much the same way that the rainbow crosswalks of Capitol Hill reflect that neighborhood’s ties to the gay community.

SDOT put white tape around the crosswalk and began the conversation with Central District residents about a crosswalk redesign. In February of 2016, the SDOT formalized the redesign of the crosswalk outside Powell Barnett Park with a $7,500 paint job. But the city-approved markings — seen above — didn’t achieve the strong look many hoped for while adhering to safety requirements.

SDOT spokeswoman Sue Romero says SDOT worked with the RBG the CD group on planning a redesign. After the first attempt by the city resulted in a paint job many felt was lacking, SDOT agreed on a redo of the first paint jobs as part of a wider campaign across the neighborhood. “We met with the community who agreed they’d prefer a more impactful design and one that is consistent with the Broadway rainbow crosswalks and future community crosswalk designs,” said Romero. Continue reading

Another bug for the First Hill Streetcar as technical issues obscure ridership count

Beset by manufacturing problems and delayed launch dates, the First Hill Streetcar continues to face technical difficulties in its fourth month of operation.

The latest complication has prevented the Seattle Department of Transportation from tracking daily ridership on the 10 stop streetcar line. According to an SDOT spokesperson, the streetcar’s automated passenger counters are collecting data, but there is no way for the department to access it — the information is not making its way to the software system set up to read it.

Seattle Streetcar Departing Broadway & Marion Street Station in Kodachrome...
For now, the department has a few other ways to measure things. In March, SDOT calculated 50,159 rides from ORCA Card taps — roughly 1,618 rides per day. But even with a complete daily count, it would be unclear how ridership was meeting expectations. It turns out, SDOT has no projections for how the streetcar should have performed that month. In fact, SDOT’s only ridership forecast or goals come from a 2010 Sound Transit study (PDF) that projected ridership would reach 3,000 to 3,500 daily passengers by 2030.

The 2.5-mile line connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill began its service in January with free rides and little fanfare.

The Seattle Transit Blog, meanwhile, reports on progress for the City Center Connector portion of the city’s planned streetcar network while also casting a skeptical eye on the lack of visibility for the First Hill line.

To help expose the streetcar to more riders, SDOT has teamed up with neighborhood organizations to offer free rides during three Thursdays in May. Continue reading

23rd Ave small business owners say corridor overhaul is putting them on the ropes

701 coffee trying to make the best out of a difficult situation with deals for road workers. (Image: 701 Coffee)

701 coffee tries to make the best out of a difficult situation with deals for road workers. (Image: 701 Coffee)

The massive overhaul of 23rd Ave, and all the near-term traffic headaches therein, are coming to the E Madison intersection this weekend. The intersection will close and the 11 and 48 busses will be rerouted along with car traffic as crews will work around the clock until Monday morning.

23rd Ave is a workhorse of a road, running along the backside of Capitol Hill and through the Central District connecting neighborhoods and commercial areas. The $46 million overhaul of 23rd between S Jackson and E John will transform the artery into a much more efficient, much safer route for cars, transit, pedestrians, and — thanks to an adjacent greenway — bicyclists. But like so many massive transportation construction projects, while the long road may bring promise, the first few miles of the process are pure pain for local merchants. The city’s Department of Transportation and Office of Economic Development have pitched in with extra signage and communicating work plans, but some owners are saying it’s not enough. Continue reading

Those Smurfy Smurfin’ Broadway bikeway bollards are Smurfin’ gone

Blue Bicycle Baracades
With all of the new-era Seattle Department of Transportation initiatives playing out around Capitol Hill, the neighborhood has some of the most colorful — and, sometimes, confusing — street infrastructure around. Some elements are loved. Some, not. Perhaps the most hated infrastructure of them all was hastily removed from Broadway over the weekend.

“Smurf turds gone from B’way bike lane,” was the subject line of one set of pictures emailed to CHS about the removal.

Thanks for the Smurf turd pics, Charles

Thanks for the Smurf turd pics, Charles

It’s true. Without warning, the plastic blue bollards of the Broadway bikeway were removed and trucked off by SDOT Saturday after failing in their one critical mission over the past 18 months. You had one job, Smurf turds.

A Broadway bollard in happier times (Image: SDOT)

A Broadway bollard in happier times (Image: SDOT)

Designed to protect bikers using Broadway’s separated bike lanes and evoke a “needle and thread” theme with other First Hill Streetcar infrastructure, the 21 bollards along the 1.2 mile bikeway instead proved irresistible to taggers and wholly mismatched in their battle to maintain a two-foot buffer separating bikes from parked cars along the route.The bollards were manufactured of molded plastic by Landscape Forms in Kalamazoo, Michigan and were filled with hundreds of pounds of sand. After their first eight months of being pushed around and falling down on the job, the bollards were fitted with braces. That didn’t really work either.

The removal appears to mark the end of the road for the bollards though SDOT hasn’t yet said why they were removed or if there are plans to replace them. Simpler white plastic posts now line the route. Meanwhile, the plan to extend the bikeway north on Broadway along with the streetcar tracks remains in motion. But it appears the bollards won’t be around to see the start of service for the First Hill Streetcar they were intended to accompany.

UPDATE 1/11/2016 — 11:11 AM: They live! Sort of. In our assessment of the bikeway Saturday, we didn’t notice that a few stitches remain in place south of Pine. SDOT says they’re staying — but the rest? Gone for good:

The removal is permanent for the area between E Pine and E Howell streets. In that area the blue “stitches” have been repeatedly struck and damaged.

White posts, used on bike lanes around the city, will replace them. The stitches south of there will remain.

Here’s why they’re adding curb ramps to sidewalks all over Capitol Hill

The Seattle Department of Transportation has installed more than 200 new curb ramps across the city in 2015 — you might feel like all of them were installed in the past few weeks on your block of Capitol Hill. You might be partly right.

Here’s how SDOT describes the flurry of buzzing cement cutters:

SDOT’s maintenance operations crews have been busy all year repaving streets, extending the life of residential streets and repairing damaged sidewalks. As part of these maintenance projects, our crews built over 200 new curb ramps this year. The ramps are required by a federal law which kicks in whenever we resurface a street or repair a sidewalk at a crosswalk. All the associated corners within these projects must have curb ramps which meet current standards for accessibility. These means SDOT crews replace outdated curb ramps with new ones that are easier to use, or we add curb ramps where none existed before.

What SDOT doesn’t mention is the work was inspired by a federal lawsuit brought against the city this fall:

The suit, filed Thursday by Disability Rights Washington, doesn’t seek monetary damages but aims to force the city to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that newly constructed or altered streets have sloped areas to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and more. “We’re not asking the city to fix it today or even tomorrow. We really just want a plan,” said Emily Cooper, an attorney for the nonprofit. “We want a concrete plan on how they’re going to fix all the concrete ramps in the city so everyone can work or visit Seattle safely.”

Meanwhile, SDOT says the city’s “large scale arterial paving projects” also include new curb ramps to make it easier to get around “whether you’re in a bus, on a bike, in a car, on foot, in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller.”

Local tax eyed as $12 million still needed to fund First Hill Streetcar’s Broadway extension

A First Hill Streetcar test run at 8th Ave S and S King (Image: SDOT)

A First Hill Streetcar test run at 8th Ave S and S King (Image: SDOT)

The original Broadway and Roy street car tracks

It won’t be the first time streetcar tracks have rounded the corner at Broadway and Roy (Image: Seattle Municipal Photo Archive)

As the city tries to zero in on a launch date for the First Hill Streetcar, a planned two stop extension along Broadway remains underfunded by about $12 million and a controversial property tax hike is likely to be key in closing the gap.

Streetcar tracks for the 2.5 mile Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill line currently terminate at Broadway and E Denny Way, but a planned stop at Harrison St. and a new terminus at Roy St. would extend the streetcar’s route and accompanying Broadway Bikeway by a half mile starting in 2017. Like it does along the rest of the route, the Broadway extension tracks would share traffic lanes with motor vehicles and buses.

The city’s Department of Transportation currently has enough money to complete ongoing design of the extension, known as the Broadway Streetcar, but not enough to complete construction of the $25 million project. To come up with an additional $12 million, the city is planning to apply for federal grants that will include local matching requirements.

A Local Improvement District is likely to be used to meet that local funding requirement by the raising property taxes of buildings near the project based on value added due to the streetcar extension.

Michael Wells, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said a LID would face major opposition from north Broadway business owners, who are trying to breath new life into the business corridor and are considering an expansion of the Broadway Business Improvement Area.

“If there’s any way to avoid creating a LID for the project, we want to do it,” Wells said. Continue reading

New ‘smart’ parking payment machines coming to Capitol Hill this year, Pike/Pine in 2016

The new station... coming soon to Capitol Hill

The new station… coming soon to Capitol Hill

New, “smart,” variable rate parking payment machines will be installed around Capitol Hill streets later this year with Pike/Pine to follow in 2016 in a $20 million overhaul of Seattle’s paid street parking system.

The new machines are first being installed in Pioneer Square. Provided by contractor IPS Group, the new machines will reportedly perform better than the current fleet of persnickety machines on the city’s streets. “The older technology in the current pay stations is slower to process transactions, provides less reliable cellular communication and includes old credit card readers no longer supported by the vendor,” a Seattle Department of Transportation statement on the new machines reads.

12th Ave, Cherry Hill, and First Hill installations will also follow in 2016. Continue reading

Sponsors are lining up to advertise all over the First Hill Streetcar system

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Baby blue will arrive this summer, but two other streetcars will be covered in advertising (Image: CHS)

When the First Hill Streetcar starts running through Capitol Hill later this year, it won’t just be the trolley cars appearing on the urban landscape. Sponsorship advertising will pepper the station shelters, trolley interiors, and completely cover some streetcars running the 2.5 mile route through Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill.

Initially, two of the six streetcars will be available for “full wrap” sponsorships, similar to those seen on the South Lake Union line. One of the two wraps has already been secured for the second half of 2015, though a Seattle Department of Transportation spokesperson wouldn’t say who bought it.

The other full wrap is being held for Sound Transit, which has the option to purchase the sponsorship at a preferred rate.The four other streetcars will be available for “identity package” sponsorships — small signs on the outside of the streetcar and audio messages played inside the cars.

The multi-hued exteriors of those cars, “inspired” by the “different characteristics” of the neighborhoods they traverse, were revealed last month at a test run with Mayor Ed Murray. The Capitol Hill inspired car got a hot pink treatment to represent the “modern energy” of the neighborhood. Here are the other colors and what they represent:

  • Baby blue for the children born at First Hill hospitals
  • Jade green to represent Vietnam and Little Saigon
  • Gold for Pioneer Square’s history in the Klondike Gold Rush
  • Red and Yellow, traditional Chinese colors, for Chinatown

Sponsoring a full wrap on the First Hill line will run you $6,000 a month plus a $10,000 one-time production fee. Identity packages cost $15,000 a year and interior panels will go for $500 a month. All revenue generated from the the sponsorships goes directly back into the operations budget for First Hill line. Continue reading