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City officials say electric vehicle charging station won’t pit Teslas vs. bikes on Broadway

Leave it to Seattle City Hall to somehow pit proponents of electric vehicles against bicycling advocates. But a plan for a new charging station to be installed on Broadway near Capitol Hill Station has sparked a debate over the street and the city’s competing priorities for how to best put the right of way to use.

RESCHEDULED: Electric Vehicle Charging Open House

An open house originally scheduled for February but postponed by the snow will take place next week at Seattle Central to discuss a Seattle City Light plan to install two direct current (DC) fast chargers capable of powering most electric vehicles in front of the Capitol Hill Station mixed-use developments under construction at Broadway and E Denny Way.

While the city-owned chargers would power a typical car for “approximately 80+ miles of range in 30 minutes” at reasonable rate of 43 cents per kilowatt-hour, transit advocates who hope for future extension north of E Denny Way for the Broadway bikeway have noticed the station would be directly in the path. Seattle City Light says be flexible.

“In the absence of a bike lane currently, we believe this is a great location for an electric vehicle charging station,” Scott Thomsen, spokesperson for City Light tells CHS. “Should there come a time, we will be able to move our infrastructure.”

The Seattle Department of Transportation describes the situation a little differently.

“We do not believe installation of a charging station would preclude future bike lanes,” a spokesperson tells CHS. “Assuming a charging station is installed on Broadway, we would work with our partners at SCL to determine how to design a (protected bike lane) around it or shift the charging station to accommodate when the time came.”

“In the meantime, while the curbspace is currently being used for parking and loading, supporting low emission vehicles aligns with Seattle’s efforts to fight greenhouse gases,” the spokesperson added.

After $3 million worth of planning, SDOT and the mayor’s office iced plans for a two-stop extension of the First Hill Streetcar north on Broadway to Roy — and the street and safety improvements that would have come along with it including a longer Broadway bikeway.

The extension plan would have included the removal of another handful of left turns on Broadway, removal or reduction of parking to extend the protected bikeway north to around Roy, intersections marked using skipped green paint, and new bike traffic signals. Plans also included new designs for the transit stops along Broadway with access at-grade from a raised crosswalk. The bikeway was planned to come up to sidewalk level at the crosswalk, encouraging people biking to slow down and giving clear priority to people on foot. You can check out the block by block plans for Broadway’s streetscape changes here.

Including the streetcar elements, the iced plan had a $28 million price tag with talk of a possible local improvement district to help pay for it. That talk went nowhere, a major grant was handed back, and the streetcar plans were shelved even as the unexecuted improvements remain part of Seattle’s bike planning.

SDOT tells CHS the charging station is being reviewed in relation to the city’s Bike Master Plan and “associated implementation plan” as part of the city’s “reassessment” of the voter-approved 2015 Levy to Move Seattle.

“At this time, a Broadway PBL extension is not scheduled for consideration before the levy expires in 2024,” the spokesperson says.

The new City Light chargers are part of the city’s Drive Clean Seattle Initiative, which aims to reduce carbon emissions. 65% of Seattle’s emissions come from transportation, city officials say. 18 new chargers were planned to join a set installed in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to begin the year. Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $2.2 million goal had been to have 20 in place before the end of 2018.

In 2011, CHS looked at the novel at the time proliferation of permits for installations of chargers at private homes and apartment buildings. The planned public Broadway chargers join a free market rush to also provide charging services with installations in the city’s right of way already in place and applied for across Seattle.

A proposal from the company Greenlots for a privately installed charging station in the public right of way nearby on E Olive Way at Broadway was denied by officials in July citing the plans for the city-owned charging station.

“It’s really clear that the major auto manufacturers are making a shift,” City Light’s Thomsen said. “You are going to see more and more of these vehicles on the street.”

At a Capitol Hill community meeting last October where the city’s plan was presented, attendees pushed back on adding more chaos to Broadway and suggested 12th Ave might be a better home for the city’s Capitol Hill charging station.

McCaela Daffern, sustainability and planning manager for Capitol Hill Housing, said the organization’s Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is “supportive of electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicle charging, but not if siting creates unsafe conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers and prevents implementation of future safety improvements.”

“We believe these challenges can be overcome and EV infrastructure and bike lanes can coexist with smart and thoughtful planning,” she writes, and said they are taking City Light “at their word that the placement of a curbside EV charging station on Broadway will not prevent further extension of the Broadway protected bike lane.”

UPDATE x1: If you can’t make next Wednesday’s open house, you can still provide your feedback to Seattle City Light:

UPDATE x2: Monday, Mayor Jenny Durkan swore in Sam Zimbabwe as the new SDOT director. Touted as a “project delivery expert,” Zimbabwe joins SDOT after a career in transit planning in Washington D.C.

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33 thoughts on “City officials say electric vehicle charging station won’t pit Teslas vs. bikes on Broadway

  1. Even if the bike lane were not getting extended (and it should) this is still an insane location for a charging station. Why is proximity to Capitol Hill station a criteria for the location of this charger? It’s encouraging vehicles at the very place where we should be encouraging the alternative.

    • I agree. This location is terrible and areas around light rail stations should be for pedestrians and transit, not cars.

      I am also curious why the city’s social justice bent isn’t on display here. This is clearly a giveaway to well to do residents who prefer to drive (poor to middle class folks cannot afford electric vehicles.) How does this fit in with the other alleged goals of the city like Vision Zero and reducing car usage?

      • A used Nissan Leaf is not that expensive ($14K), and even a new one can be gotten at a decent price if you shop well and consider the federal tax credit. But to save money, I did not get the fast-charging car, so these public chargers are no use for older, base-model Leafs.

      • While I agree that this location is less than ideal, your comments on the viability of electric cars for those other than the “well to do” are misguided. As fjnd pointed out, electric cars can be had for very reasonable prices. Also, as more and more companies start producing electric vehicles, the prices will continue to come down. You also fail to account for planning for the future. Something that has always been a problem for Seattle is lack of forward thinking vision for the city. Electric cars are going to become the norm and not the rarity that they are now, which is a positive. Part of the equation to make that happen is having an abundance of places to charge said vehicles. Planning for the future and building charging stations all over the city is a rare example of the city acting analytically and not re-actively when it comes to a problem. All of that said, Broadway is not the place for charging stations.

      • As far as I’m concerned, cars aren’t even the present for city travel… I own a car, but I nearly always choose to not drive it around the city. It’s simply easier to take the bus, walk or cycle unless I am going a long distance or carrying a large load.. What means of propulsion it uses is irrelevant, as electric or not, you sill have to sit in traffic, deal with insane drivers and find a place to park the thing…. I’d rather hit myself in the hand with a hammer than to drive downtown. It’d be less painful.

      • Minimum wage is around $15, which is roughly $31k/yr for full-time work (with no time off). That’s before taxes; after taxes, it’d be more taking home $25-$28k/yr. That means your “affordable” $14k leaf is more than half a year’s salary. I hope you didn’t need to pay rent, or have any maintenance issues with the used Leaf.. Best shot would probably be a car loan, but what’s the average credit score for a minimum wage employees?

        Meanwhile, a transit pass is $1k/yr. A decent new bicycle is around $1k.

    • To those telling Ryan how “reasonable” used EVs can be….I seriously doubt you understand how much money $14K is to most people. Wow. Just. Wow.

      • “The average new-car price stood at $36,113 toward the end of 2017, up from $33,525 just five years ago, while the average used-car price increased from$16,900 to $19,400 over that period, according to Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds data.” Mar 1, 2018
        Leafs are a good deal.

      • Hey fjnd, they are only a good deal if you can afford them. You either purposefully missed my point, or it went over your head. My point is that $14k is a lot of money and one still needs to be fairly well-to-do for that car to be reasonable or affordable.

      • Talk about missing the point…

        Your lazy argument about not understanding the value of $14K is meaningless when you know nothing about me. I’ve worked more minimum wage jobs than I haven’t. I’ve had my power shut off when I had to prioritize certain bills over others. Yet still, I think $14K is reasonable for a car when looking at the market as a whole. Which is the point fjnd was making. But please, tell me more about how I don’t understand the value of a dollar.

        There were 17.27 million new cars sold in the US in 2018 alone. The point being, cars are not going away. Wouldn’t you prefer that more of those cars were electric?

      • Matthew / fjnd – I’m sure many well-off people have worked minimum wage jobs in the past. If your current assessment that $14K for a used car is reasonable or affordable for *people who are not currently well-off who are not you* then you are, now, today, very likely pretty darn well-off relative to most people.

        Most people making minimum wage or even 20 or 30% above minimum wage TODAY are not going to find $14K affordable or reasonable. They probably have other priorities than paying for an electric car. Like how to pay their rent, health insurance, and student loans and have anything left over to ya know, eat.

      • Kshama is that you? The way you didn’t answer my question and think only you know the plight of the working person, is telling.

        Pretty sure this article was about charging stations for electric cars, but if you’re comfortable with our current trajectory toward climate change oblivion, you do you and keep missing the point.

  2. I thought the idea of an extension of the bikeway north of Denny was more-or-less dead. As I recall, the majority of businesses opposed it. Hopefully, it will remain dead. If built, it would only compound the chaos and cluttered streetscape which exists south of Denny. The bike lane continues to get very, very little traffic.

    • How do you define chaos, Bob Knudson?

      Is it measurable?

      Are people getting injured?

      And if it’s not connected to anything, do you really expect people to use it? It’s a little like building a road to a river but not building a bridge, then wondering why no one uses it.

      • “And if it’s not connected to anything, do you really expect people to use it? It’s a little like building a road to a river but not building a bridge, then wondering why no one uses it.”

        Not really the same. A bicycle can also work on the street and on the sidewalk, instead of the bike lane.

      • @sloopy, with study after study showing how perceived safety is the biggest barrier to smaller-than-car transportation, whether a bike can “technically” work on the street isn’t as relevant as whether it works in a way that helps people stay and feel safe.

        A cyclist got killed on rainier a day or two ago. I bet that bike “worked” there too.

      • The point I was trying (unsuccessfully) make using your example is that a car literally can not cross a river, but bikes are able to operate outside of the bike lanes. So it is not comparable.

        I’m sorry to hear a bicyclist was killed on Rainier but that doesn’t mean that bicycles don’t work on roads, or that in the absence of a bike lane there are no options. It means that there was an accident and someone was hurt.

      • @sloopy I understood your point, and responded to it. You don’t seem to have responded to mine.

        It’s not about whether a bicycle can technically bike on a street. It’s about whether it’s safe to do so, and specifically about whether people feel safe.

    • The bike lane gets lots of use, it would get loads more if SDOT would decide to just commit to prioritizing bikes on Broadway, instead of this half-assed, patchy attempt at a protected bike lane. All parking should be removed off Broadway; This would allow for a dedicated streetcar lane, two way traffic lanes, true protected bike lanes, and even wider sidewalks (much needed!).

      • Please define “lots of use,” Maria. I am on Broadway quite often, both as a driver and as a pedestrian, and I rarely see someone using the bike lane.

        All parking off Broadway? How would you feel about that if you were a business owner on the street? And where, exactly, would those cars park? (other than an expensive lot). Parking is already extremely tight in the streets neighboring Broadway, and getting even tighter because of all the developments without parking.

      • @Bob I’d actually be incentivized as a business owner to open a business there if on broadway if there was no on-street parking. The most successful streets I can think of have no cars at all…they are actually so successful that rents hike and it becomes a tourist destination. Imagine being able to wander down a street like Occidental, where you have time to check out a menu or a shop that would otherwise be missed. People like spending tome in areas like this.

  3. There seems to be a mentality from SDOT that Broadway should have literally every form of transportation infrastructure, to the point where none of them actually function. How nice of SDOT/SCL to propose this while refusing to improve the traffic signal and dangerous turning problem at Olive/John & Broadway. Maybe SDOT should be encouraging driving/parking/charging on a street that doesn’t have a streetcar, bike lanes and is also the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare in the city.

  4. Why not put the charging station on the lightly traveled (and one way) block of Denny just east of Broadway, i.e. just round the corner from the proposed location.

    • Agree or even on 10th ave on the other side of the block. Isn’t that how folks used to access parking behind the buildings that used to be there before the station?

  5. This is the busiest stretch of sidewalk in the entire city of Seattle. Putting charging furniture in the (sidewalk) right of way for double digit level usage at most is off-the-rails bonkers.

  6. Electric cars are going to be a hard sell for apt dwellers. It’s hard to imagine having enough charger points, and cost of charging per month is non trivial.

    – the license tabs on electric cars run to $450 or more since you end up paying gas tax
    – city light provides no time of use metering so you quickly end up spending 15c kWh to charge it. $60 or more avg for just around town driving. Public charging would maybe treble this.
    – with heat on, electric cars still have limited range. To go any distance you need another gas car.

    If you add it all up, a conventional car doing 40-50 mile gal works out cheaper and is far more flexible.