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Study highlights pedestrian mobility ‘d’ohs’ around Capitol Hill Station


Utility equipment blocks the crosswalk path to the Capitol Hill Station. (Image: David Seater, Central Seattle Greeways)

U-Link light rail service made it possible to effortlessly glide beneath Capitol Hill, but accessing the Broadway station above ground can still be a challenge for anybody. For someone in a wheelchair, some routes are impossible. Sidewalks obstructed by trash cans and utility equipment, drivers making dangerous turns into crosswalks, and awkwardly aligned sidewalk ramps are just a few of the access issues identified in a study of intersections surrounding Capitol Hill Station.

In February, Central Seattle Greenways and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways conducted an access audit of the subway station before it opened March. The analysis looked at five intersections around the station and how they ranked in three areas: street crossing safety, obstructions in crosswalks and along sidewalks, and sidewalk capacity. The intersections included: Broadway and E Olive Way, Broadway and E Denny Way, Broadway and Thomas, Harvard and E Olive Way, and 10th and E John.Map-1024x669

Not surprising, Capitol Hill’s 20th Century infrastructure for moving people around is not quite up to par with its newer, underground counterpart (though there is always room for improvement). For instance, utility and signal control cabinets, like the one at Broadway and E John, stand directly in the path of where crosswalks let pedestrians off on to sidewalks.

On the same intersection, the Greenways analysis also called out the ADA ramps for not being aligned with the crosswalk, which directs people into the middle of the intersection. “Broadway and E John is a particularly egregious example of what not to do,” said the report.

Here are some of the other specific recommendations the group made:

  • Install crosswalk markings and signs at Harvard and E Olive Way and 10th and John.
  • Install better signage and lane markings to prevent left turns from northbound Broadway to westbound E Denny Way.
  • Rechannelize E John and E Olive Way to add left turn lanes at Broadway. The lack of turn lanes here causes drivers to change lanes unexpectedly as they approach and move through the intersection.
  • Add left turn signal phases in all directions at Broadway E & E John St / E Olive Way. When the intersection is busy it’s common for drivers attempting to turn left to loiter in crosswalks or in the intersection waiting for a gap in oncoming traffic without watching for people crossing in the crosswalk. This leads to dangerous situations when drivers try to turn through an occupied crosswalk.
  • Improve the crossings at Harvard & Olive Way and 10th & John with raised intersections, curb bulbs, or other traffic calming measures. Many drivers do not yield to people trying to walk across these intersections.

As recent light rail ridership is up nearly 80% as compared to last year and boardings at the Capitol Hill Station projected to reach 14,000 by 2030, Seattle Greenways says it will be key to make pedestrian access improvements sooner rather than later.

The impetus for the study was actually not to identify mobility issues, but to analyze sidewalk capacity. Prior to the station opening, Sound Transit predicted 4,000 to 5,000 pedestrians would be coming through Broadway and E John during peak transit hours.

“That was an alarming number to us,” said Brie Gyncild of Central Seattle Greenways. “We were concerned about how crowded the sidewalks would be.” Since the Capitol Hill Station opened, Gyncild said Central Seattle Greenways has not observed sidewalk crowding to be a major issue.

Following a recent service interruption caused by someone shooting off pepper spray inside the Capitol Hill Station, CHS looked at six ways Sound Transit could make the station even better, including improving communications systems.

Undoubtedly the biggest improvement to the Capitol Hill Station will be expanding its connections across the city and region, a move that cleared a major hurdle on Thursday. The Sound Transit Board approved a $54 billion ballot measure to go before voters in the November election.

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9 thoughts on “Study highlights pedestrian mobility ‘d’ohs’ around Capitol Hill Station

  1. As a neighbor, these are definitely danger spots I see every day — and the other details that reinforce that SDOT hasn’t yet taken any substantive Vision Zero steps to prioritize our streets for the safety of people walking and biking.

    Good going Brie (and whoever else did this work)!

    • Safety is the responsibility of everyone, and too many people do not pay attention when walking, biking or driving. There seems to be an assumption that drivers bear full responsibility in all circumstances since they are manning a large vehicle. This view is misguided, and perpetuating it through a resource intensive Vision Zero approach is not the best option. How about trying to educate everyone of their responsibilities re: shared roadways, enforcing laws such as those requiring pedestrians to remain on the sidewalk when the red hand begins flashing, and those requiring bicyclists to stop at red lights, stop signs, etc. I am all for devoting resources and brainpower to increasing safety and mobility, but oppose devoting unlimited resources to a deluded Vision Zero scheme.

    • @glenn

      i don’t totally disagree with you that everyone needs a refresher course on behavior on public roads and sidewalks. but i do think that driver’s should bear the majority (not all) of the scrutiny when on the road.

      as a driver, you are piloting over a thousand pounds of steel and plastic that can maim and kill. you should be held more accountable than someone walking who tries to “make the light” because it’s pouring down rain.

      and i say this as both a pedestrian and motorist. i’m more often put in harms way by motorists when crossing a street legally on foot than i am by a pedestrian crossing during a “flashing red hand” when i’m driving. all it takes is for motorists to slow down and realize you’re going to get where you are going and that you, even if you aren’t at fault, can cause great damage to a life.

    • What Eli and @zeebleoop said.

      And I’ll add: the threat a driver who encounters a person crossing with a flashing red hand is the possibility of having to use your brakes — an inconvenience. The treat to a person walking or biking who encounters a driver who zips across while turning right on red despite that someone is crossing on foot or bike midblock is potential serious injury or death.

  2. RE: drivers making turns at Broadway & John/Olive. Yes, of course drivers must be aware of and always yield to pedestrians crossing in the crosswalks. But it would also help….alot!…if pedestrians respected the “red hand, don’t walk” signals. Not only does this increase safety but it also improves traffic flow through the intersection.

  3. Bob has a good point. Pedestrians and cyclists need to obey the signals, stay out of the middle of the street and for God Sake look up from your stupid phone! By the way, I am carless and very concerned about pedestrian safety, but we have to share responsibility.

    • Too many people get buried in the phone while crossing the street. This is both dangerous and annoying as they tend to move a bit slower as well. As a pedestrian I do my best to cross quickly and as a driver I keep my head on a swivel for last minute runners. There are lots of visitors at any given time on the hill, that are not used to such manic conditions. Best to double check before moving (both Walkers and Drivers) forward.

  4. That entire intersection at the LR station needs redone. Too many people trying to turn left and chaos ensues as drivers behind them want to pass them on the right. And those turning left race through the yellow/red light to make their turn. Its so confusing as to who is doing what then fold in pedestrians running to make the light. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. This issue will be compounded as that area is set to grow quickly.

    Please fix this along with accessibility for pedestrians so we can calm traffic in this space and help keep everyone safer.

  5. Yes to a planning revisit of that intersection
    Yes to some enforcement focus for infractions
    Yes to reminding everyone to obey the traffic laws, walkers and cyclists included