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Transit notes | Safer streets downtown, 520 Seattle-side survey reminder (and, yay, boat openings to end)

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  • Vision Zero: City officials are hoping for safer downtown streets as speed limits are lowered as part of a broader road safety initiative dubbed Vision Zero:
    Seattle is consistently recognized as one of the safest cities in the country. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a 30 percent decline in traffic fatalities, even as our population grows. Despite this fact, traffic collisions are a leading cause of death for Seattle residents age 5-24. Older adults are also disproportionately affected, and as our population ages, this trend could grow. In 2013, there were 10,310 police-reported collisions in Seattle. 155 people were seriously injured and 23 were killed. This is unacceptable. We can do better. Vision Zero is our plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
    While the crossing of Pine at Broadway is the cover girl for the initiative, most of the near-term changes will be found off Capitol Hill.Downtown, “speeds will be reduced to 25 mph throughout downtown, starting with James Street and the Pike-Pine corridor, instead of the standard 30 mph arterial speed,” the Seattle Times reports. Officials are promising a “data-driven approach” to determine which arterial and residential routes are most in need of new measures. The simplest will be lowering speed limits to 20 MPH on residential streets and 30 on some arterials: VisionZeroPlan-speedlimits-575x728The downtown emphasis in the near-term plan elements is needed. The report says 600 people have been struck by cars downtown in the past three years.Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.31.41 AMWhile Capitol Hill proper won’t see any immediate speed limit changes, you’ll note that the residential 20 MPH change is coming to a triangle of neighborhood streets between Madison and Union. You can learn more at
  • Hill streets: We plan to check in with City Hall about the lack of specific Capitol Hill elements in Vision Zero. The streetcar and bikeway work on Broadway already constitutes a major overhaul of the street environment in the neighborhood so it’s not like our area is being ignored. We also need to check in future plans for elements kicked around by the community and city planners in recent years including changes to Pike/Pine above Broadway and the Denny festival street component of the Capitol Hill Station light rail development.
  • 520 survey: The Seattle Bike Blog reminds that today — Friday the 13th — is the final day to weigh in on WSDOT’s final proposals for the designs of its Seattle-side 520 replacement projects including a new Portage Bay bridge and a Montlake lid. SBB has details on the biking and walking elements of the proposals here. You might want to take a look before taking the survey.
  • Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.59.50 AMEnd of 520 boat openings: Tuesday will bring to an end one of the strangest byproducts of the ongoing construction to replace the 520 bridge. Starting Tuesday, the old bridge will no longer be opened for boat traffic as construction of the new bridge will block the route. “Bridge openings have been a particular nuisance since construction of the new bridge started in 2012, because work lowered the maximum boat height through the east navigation channel to less than 58 feet,” the Seattle PI reports. “Since the project started, bridge tenders have opened the drawspan more than 600 times, holding up traffic for up to half an hour each time.”
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14 thoughts on “Transit notes | Safer streets downtown, 520 Seattle-side survey reminder (and, yay, boat openings to end)

  1. To reduce car/pedestrian collisions the police should outlaw people walking and messing around on their cellphones. I can’t tell you the number of people I have to swerve to avoid missing people that are just not paying attention.

    • That’s OK. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to yell at drivers for nearly running me over because they’re not paying attention either.

      Luckily I’m not able to kill drivers with my inattention, as drivers can kill me.

      • I can empathize with both your points of view. Too many pedestrians are walking about with their heads buried in their cellphones, and too many drivers blithely ignore crosswalks. But I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you, Eli, about pedestrians not being lethal. If someone steps in front of a car, that car could just as easily swerve out the way, endangering the driver and any other nearby pedestrians.

        Seattlelites seem to have this notion that crosswalks have an invisible force field that will protect them from cars. It might be your legal right to waltz across a crosswalk without a care in the world, but that will be cold comfort when an inattentive driver plows into you. I ALWAYS make sure an approaching car is slowing down before I set foot on a crosswalk.

        Bottom line: Drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists must ALL have to look out for each other. It’s that too much to ask? For the love of God, stop making this a Us vs. Them debate.

      • I’ll be brief.

        Vision Zero is about directly tackling the data-identified causes of pedestrian fatalities and major injuries.

        No, there is no epidemic of pedestrians being hit in Seattle by blindly walking into the street without looking.

        No, there is no epidemic of pedestrians causing crashes by walking into the street and drivers swerving elsewhere causing a collision.

        You can read SDOT’s Vision Zero report for details on what actually causes serious fatalities or injuries. Hint: it involves drivers speeding.

        I personally find “drivers should…” and “pedestrians should…” debates pretty pointless. Behavior changes only when you (1) re-engineer the streets and/or (2) legally enforce the required behaviors.

        Luckily, Vision Zero done well is about doing both. Personally, I’m really excited for Vision Zero.

    • AR and NY have contemplated banning headphones. Would horse blinders please you as well? The risk to others is minimal. Let people be adults and take their own chances.

  2. Sounds like they have a big 2015 priority list already in place — I’d really like to understand what the longer-term process will be for getting specific neighborhood slow zones in place, where the community wants one.

    New York City has tremendous community demand, and has to turn down most of the neighborhood requests due to lack of staff. Hopefully we’ll scale better.

    Many of my neighbors adjacent to Cal Anderson Park would LOVE to get some 20 mph traffic calming (as long as parking is preserved) so we can slow down cut through traffic to Pike/Pine and have a safe and peaceful neighborhood.

  3. I think it is a great idea to slow traffic on the streets. The problem with pedestrians not using crosswalks by the rules would be solved if police officers would actually cite jay walkers -and cite drivers AND CYCLISTS who fail to yield. Perhaps all of the additional revenue could be used to protect everyone from the increase in violent crime and harassment.

    • Impaired driving…massive problem in the city. I’d like to see the numbers on when the collisions happen. Especially the hit and runs.

  4. A major improvement in pedestrian/vehicle safety would occur if pedestrians would honor the “walk-don’t walk” signals. When they casually cross the street against the “red hand,” they are putting themselves and drivers at risk. It would also make unnecessary additional restrictions as far as “no right on red”.

    But I’m not optimistic this change will occur anytime soon. Some people are just too darn selfish.

  5. Sure lower the speed limits that will do a lot of good. I can’t even remember the last time I went the speed limit due to stop lights every five feet and so much traffic. The problem is distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians. Not the speed limit. People in their cars on their phones. Pedestrians walking into traffic with their faces shoved in their phones etc.

  6. How ominous that they should use the soon-to-be death and accident trap that is Broadway at E Pine/Pike for the cover/poster. 5 modes of transportation plus parking, all coalescing in one compressed area of doom. Truly this is like seeing a poster for the 4th of July beach celebration where Jaws will inevitably appear. Except in this instance, “Jaws” is the First Hill/Broadway streetcar/light rail system.

  7. Two items would go a long way towards reducing traffic v. pedestrian problems —


    Use the paint to mark every legal cross walk in the city, clearly delineating the stop line for cars and the cross walk for pedestrians.

    Use the box of pens to hand to SPD with a challenge to enforce traffic and pedestrian laws to the fullest extent (especially now that they don’t have to deal with laws that used to concern MJ). Beef up traffic enforcement and educate drivers, pedestrians, and bike riders as to what the laws really are.

    Engineering fixes are good but expensive — a bucket of paint and a box of pens are cheap.

  8. Pingback: Seattle moves to limit sidewalk closures around construction | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle