If Monday morning’s CHS post on collisions around Capitol Hill, the Central District, and First Hill and the city’s difficulty in making headway on Vision Zero goals got you worked up about street safety — and you still haven’t cast your August Primary ballot which is due Tuesday, August 6th by 8 PM! — here’s a quick look at the District 3 candidates’ answers about safe streets and car dependence from our CHS Reader D3 Candidate Survey.
We asked each candidate for an overview of their plan to support safe streets and also which areas of D3 transportation infrastructure they feel is most in need of investment. You can also check out the full candidate survey answers on a variety of Central Seattle-focused topics.
Meanwhile, readers who responded to our CHS D3 Primary Poll who indicated they considered “transportation” as a “very important” factor in choosing their candidate, were mostly likely to have said they were supporting Sawant or Orion — also the top vote getters among the full group of respondents. What candidate gains the most support when focusing just on Transportation? That would be Bowers who ranks third after Sawant and Orion among the “very important” transportation respondents. The small percentage of voters who considered transportation to be less than “important” in their decision? They also support Orion and his competitor Murakami.
More survey results here. Answers from the candidates on transit and transportation issues, below.
What is your plan to support safe streets and continue to reduce car dependence in our district?
Bowers: The first step to reducing car dependency is to give people choice. Everyone should be able to meet their daily needs within walking distance of their home. They should not have to get in the car to take their kids to daycare, grab a gallon of milk and a chicken for dinner, or meet friends for a Saturday morning coffee, but it is illegal to put these amenities within walking distance of thousands of Seattle homes. Historically, these neighborhood businesses were scattered throughout the city because people primarily walked places. I will work to re-legalize these businesses within walking distance of all homes. Walking is not the only way people get around a city outside of a car. We need a complete and safe bike network so that when people choose to get on a bike, scooter, or solowheel, they can get where they need to go safely. All cycling infrastructure the city builds should be safe enough for parents to ride with their children, yet the current council allows SDOT to waste money on low quality, unsafe sharrows, door-lanes, and other low quality bike infrastructure. I will require that bicycle infrastructure be truly safe for everyone, and also require SDOT focus on building bike infrastructure so that it always connected end-to-end destinations. Finally, we need to continue to invest in public transportation to make it a compelling alternative to driving. For the city of Seattle, this means I will invest in bus-only lanes and queue jumps for busses at traffic lights (since Metro is operated at King County). I also support the STBD as a funding mechanism for addition bus service.
DeWolf: If you build it (bike infrastructure, improved sidewalks, longer crosswalk signals, prioritized crosswalking signals toward pedestrians, create pedestrian only streets, etc) they will come. We don’t have a good bike network given we prioritize our roads for cars so we need to shift away from car-dependence and build out an appropriate and meaningful bike infrastructure network. It’s a change and people are going to be scared of change, but with the climate crisis looming and transportation being the biggest emitter of carbon/greenhouse gas emissions, we have to make a change to save our world.
Murakami: First, we must continue to increase transit availability and bus routes in D3. We must also prioritize building walkable and self- sustaining neighborhoods and maintain/repair our crumbling sidewalks (preferably with water-permeable concrete). I would also like to see more dedicated bike boulevards and greenways to give cyclists safe dedicated routes, where bikes have the right-of-way, which would not only lower the risk of accidents with cars, but would also reduce the adverse health effects of cycling near dense car exhaust. I would like the city to create living-wage jobs manufacturing electric bikes and adult tricycles, selling them at cost, which I believe would get many people out of their automobiles. We should return to the Urban Village plans which 80% of neighbors committed to having in their neighborhoods. Urban Villages greatly reduce the strain on mass transit because more people will walk to work and services.
Nguyen: Reducing car dependence will contribute to making our streets safer. I’m not implying that cars are unsafe, but simply that traffic causes people to rush and drive in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t. Many constituents have expressed feeling unheard by SDOT. Sure, SDOT shows up at community meetings, but decisions leave out any suggestions made by residents who actually walk and bike the streets. My plan is to make SDOT not only accountable to the Mayor’s office, but also the city council and constituents. No more “overnight” scrapping of promised bike lanes.
Orion: More people arrive in Seattle every day, and some of them have cars. We can’t build more roads, so we have to take some of those people off the streets, and the best way to do that is to incentivize using transit and provide safe, efficient solutions for bikes and for micro-mobility solutions like e-scooters. On public transit, we need a system that’s more efficient and cheaper than commuting by car, and to do that we have to have connected rapid ride bus lines both north and south and east and west. Same thing for bikes–bike lanes won’t work unless they’re connected, and with the advent of electric bikes the hills of Seattle become less of a factor and bikes become a real solution for some commuters. Other small but effective solutions like signal prioritization will keep our transit and bike systems moving faster and safer than they are today, and will encourage more people to get out of their cars and into these other transit options.
Sawant: First and foremost, we need to massively increase our investment in public transit to make it free for all to use and to increase the number of routes and busses in service. We cannot expect people to forgo using cars when they do not have a viable and convenient alternative. We also need to build a stronger movement to demand that the City stay on schedule for building the bicycle master plan, which has been delayed! I fully support all steps in order to make zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 a concrete reality. This should include projects to address high crash corridors, prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections, expand protected bike lanes and protected bike intersections, develop safe routes to schools, and expand neighborhood greenways. I oppose – and have spoken strongly against – the Mayor’s decision to abandon the bike lane on 35th Ave, which is creating increasingly unsafe conditions for bicyclists and drivers. This also shows the importance of continuing to have a movement-building approach, as bicycle and transportation activists have correctly had, in order to ensure the completion of the master plan, and to win further gains. Unlike Mayor Durkan and most political establishment politicians, I do not support the current proposal for congestion pricing. While I understand the motivation to discourage car use, I do not agree that tolling is an effective solution as it represents what are essentially regressive taxes on working people and the poor. Tolls can backfire: a 2009 University of Washington study found that: “As a percentage of income, the poor pay much more.” We need to massively expand the density of the network and routes of public transit, frequency, and the number of stops – this will need serious political courage on the council to build a movement to tax big business and the wealthy. Finally, half of all traffic fatalities in the United States are related to drunk driving. We need widely available late-night Metro service, and we should also explore other public transit options, such as free late-night ride shares.
What specific areas of D3 are most in need of new transit and transportation infrastructure investments and resources?
Bowers: East-West connections are very difficult in Seattle. For example, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union are adjacent but the only bus connecting them is incredibly unreliable and slow. The city needs to fully fund Rapid Ride G along Madison and improve pedestrian access around the upcoming Judkins Park Station. For cycling infrastructure, we need to commit to implementing the bicycle master plan. The plan was created through thoughtful collaboration with neighbors across the city and when implemented will be a step toward safer streets. In D3, the top bicycle priority is extending the protected bike lane from the I-90 Trail up 12th Avenue. We also need to connect Broadway to downtown and the Central District with fully protected bike lanes.
DeWolf: Southeast District 3 in advance of Judkins Park Light Rail station opening.
Murakami: I would include re-design in this question. We need to focus first on our major arterials, such as S Jackson Street, 23rd Avenue and Broadway, where a large increase in new housing units will require increased transit options. I would like to see our streetcar lines connected using new technology, such as virtual painted magnetic track, with an end-goal of eliminating the fixed rail track that is dangerous for cyclists. I would also like to see the addition of small connector buses that don’t run on a fixed schedule, but rather cover a specific loop frequently enough for hop-on/hop-off service to move people and get cars off the streets.
Nguyen: No answer
Orion: Many of our solutions have been focused on north-south corridors, but in order to get folks out of their cars and produce the most efficient systems possible, we also need east-west solutions, like the Madison Rapid-Ride, or the Union and Pine Street protected bike lanes. Other areas that have asked for help? Mount Baker. Residents in the area have expressed concern that there is a lack of sidewalks near schools and largely trafficked thoroughfares. Those who live in Madrona complain of poorly paved streets. Portage Bay has limited Metro Bus access and it almost always involves a transfer, which just encourages more car use. We need to do more to improve our street infrastructure and connect District 3 through accessible, affordable, and electrified mass transit lines.
Sawant: The #3 bus comes too infrequently to accommodate the ridership between downtown and First Hill. I have seen many buses skip the 5th avenue pick up because they were so full of riders, there was no point in stopping. Metro should increase the frequency of this route, along with many other routes. Because Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the country, our transit system faces constant shortages. For example, the Madison Rapid Ride corridor, for example, is dependent on a $100 million grant from the federal government. Public transit, and safety, should be the top priorities for SDOT’s resources. However, they should not have to choose between Rapid Ride, bicycle safety, and filling potholes – Seattle needs to tax big business to fund all of the city’s transit and infrastructure needs.