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What counting every Pike/Pine pedestrian on a summer night reveals

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(Images: Seattle Department of Transportation)

Roughly a Key Arena full of people stream through Pike/Pine on an average summer weekend night, according to a six night night study of pedestrian activity in the area.

The study was conducted as part of the Pike/Pine pedestrian pilot project this August, which closed off three blocks of E Pike on three nights to ease crowd congestion and open the area up for street performances. The study’s findings offer an analytical look into some fairly obvious trends: Pike/Pine crowds peak around 11 PM, people use a variety of transportation modes to get there, and they are primarily showing up to drink.

Organized by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and Seattle Department of Transportation, researchers counted and surveyed pedestrians on the three street closure nights and three regular nights in July and August. An average of 26,281 pedestrians were counted entering and exiting the Pike/Pine area from 8 PM – 2 AM, not accounting for re-counts.

Counts were conducted by analyzing 200+ hours of video taken from six cameras placed on the edges of Pike/Pine. SDOT researchers counted every person that appeared on camera during the six hours; similar studies reduce that total number by 20% to estimate the total number of individuals, researchers said.

“It’s not a count of every person, but it gives a sense of scale,” said Seth Geiser, who’s helping coordinate the pilot project with SDOT.

Crowds peaked around 11 PM and stayed constant until 2 AM during the six nights. There was a 9% uptick in pedestrians during the street closure, according to the report.

In order to better understand who was out walking around, researchers surveyed some 700 pedestrians during the study. A quarter of survey respondents identified as gay, queer, or something other than “straight,” and 77% identified as “white” or white and something else. Around 14% of people drove alone to Pike/Pine; the majority of people walked, took rideshares, rode public transit, or used some combination of the three.

Researchers also wanted to find out what people were up to in the neighborhood: 60% came for drinking, 41% for dining, 23% for dancing, and 21% came to watch live music. Around one third of those surveyed lived in Central Seattle, while another third lived elsewhere in Seattle.

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Not surprising, it appears the Big Mario’s pizza window attracts a standing cluster of people that grows throughout the night. Researchers found the stationary cluster at 10th and E Pike included many people sitting and lying on the sidewalks, making it nearly impossible to pass through without brushing by someone or stepping on to the street.

Organizers from the EcoDistrict and Office of Economic Development held two sparsely attended community feedback meetings last week on the pilot project. Online feedback and individual meetings with business owners have garnered a more robust response, organizers said. You can still offer feedback on the project here.

The city will be releasing a more detailed report in October that will summarize feedback from businesses, property owners, and residents. The pedestrian zone project was funded through $30,000 of a $160,000 city grant.

Leading up to the pilot project, the idea received a mostly enthusiastic response during community meetings. However, some landowners and business owners have pushed back on continuing the project with complaints that it puts resources toward the neighborhood’s nightlife industry without enough consideration of daytime businesses in the area.

EcoDistrict organizers have said they are open to scrapping the project if it isn’t working for everyone in the neighborhood. The Capitol Hill Housing-backed organization will have plenty to work on in coming months. Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill Chamber is seeking a new director. It remains to be seen how the pedestrian streets project will be impacted by a re-tooled chamber and a Broadway Business Improvement Area that could be expanding into Pike/Pine territory.

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6 thoughts on “What counting every Pike/Pine pedestrian on a summer night reveals

  1. With 86% of people found a way to get here without driving alone when do we stop wringing our hands about street parking? What will it take for businesses to realize that Pike/Pike is the most walkable, bikeable, and transit accessible place in the city if no the state, and that they should capitalize on this rather than continuing to demand unmetered storage for single occupant cars?

      • Ask the owners of Elliott Bay Books that question. They are the business opposing this because of a perceived loss of parking. Would be a shame if SDOT allowed a tiny minority of people in the neighborhood stop a project that made people safer and increased business for others.

      • +! to CapitolHillian.

        I haven’t had much luck doing an (admittedly cursory) search that directly ties Elliot Bay to opposition. So if anyone has links, I’d appreciate it. I love them but …
        that’s shortsighted.

        I volunteered to help with the count and this article reflects pretty well what I heard when chatting with folks who took the surveys. My favorite was an elegant older woman en route to an art gallery who breezily told us she usually drives but came via public transit “because everyone knows you don’t drive to Capitol Hill on a weekend night.” Most people who lived in the area came by foot, IIRC, and were very supportive of “closing” the street.

      • here you go –

        some choice quotes from the above article link:

        “However, some landowners and business owners have pushed back on continuing the project. As co-chair of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Jill Cronauer worries that the pedestrian zone will send the wrong message about the importance of daytime businesses…

        One retail manager already in the neighborhood echoed Cronauer’s concerns. Tracy Taylor, general manager of Elliot Bay Books, said closing the streets makes it even more difficult for customers to access businesses given inadequate public transportation options.”

  2. Great information (and graphics), Bryan. It seems to confirm what most know by experience; we all look forward to seeing the final reports and next steps.

    Seems to confirm that P|P is indeed one of our most walkable neighborhoods. Now, if we could just garner more of this energy to support our daytime retail.