There are no bike chariots part of the plan — yet — but you might notice some new geofencing going up around Pike/Pine tonight. The Seattle Department of Transportation is rolling out a new pilot of a program starting Thursday it hopes to make a permanent part of the Pike/Pine party scene — Capitol Hill’s new, one of a kind “ride-hail pickup zone.”
“Though these ridehail services provide a safe option home for many, this late-night demand for high numbers of rides can contribute to area congestion, particularly along E Pike St,” the SDOT announcement of the new program reads. “This can impact the ability of police patrol and emergency response vehicles to enter or access the area.”
Starting Thursday night, Pike/Pine customers looking for a ride with either Uber or Lyft will be directed to designated waiting areas. Your apps will “display a map notifying you of the closest pickup point.” Riders “may choose that zone or another zone or leave the geo-fence area for a ride,” SDOT says.
The geo-fencing is in effect during the highest demand times for the services: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday between midnight and 3 AM. To create the pickup stops, SDOT has put in new signage restricting parking in the locations.
UPDATE: Oops! As brought up in the comments, SDOT might have a small issue on its hands. A spokesperson said the zone is intended to be in effect on Pike/Pine’s peak nights — Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. But the current signage indicates — technically — that the load only parking and the ride-hail zone is active from midnight to 3 AM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. Confusing! SDOT is sorting it out.
The new program is being driven by SDOT and the ride company giants with input from the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Office of Film Music, the city says. We’re checking with SDOT about whether the geofencing will also be in place for app services other than Uber and Lyft that riders might choose to utilize. UPDATE: A SDOT rep says this will be in place for Uber and Lyft riders only: “The pilot is only using a geofence through Uber and Lyft, and will only affect pick-ups. Other services, like taxi cabs, may also load and unload in these zones if they wish.”
There are four pickup zones in the pilot project including a total of 36 legal parking spaces that change to loading zone restrictions during the program’s hours.
The “ridehail zone” comes amid a continuing boom in the Pike/Pine nightlife economy where huge crowds can gather as last call approaches and revelers head for home.
It also comes as Seattle is moving forward on legislation that will add a 51 cent fee to every Uber and Lyft ride in the city to pay for the downtown streetcar, housing, and industry regulation. In an op-ed published by the Seattle Times earlier this month, Capitol Hill restaurant and bar owner and Capitol Hill Business Alliance board chair Joey Burgess joined Seattle restaurateurs Ethan Stowell and Taylor Hoang in support of the tax:
Last year, Uber and Lyft were responsible for 24 million rides according to city of Seattle data. And just as cities like Chicago have done, we can have a modest charge on Uber and Lyft rides, invest that revenue in housing, including housing near transit for workers, and continue to see Lyft and Uber grow in this market and succeed as billion-dollar companies.
SDOT says the pickup zone pilot period, meanwhile, is slated to last 30 days during which “the City with Uber and Lyft will monitor the program closely.” The plan is to review how things are going “and make adjustments accordingly.”
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