With unique maps and chalk walks, Urban planning firm Smash the Box works to improve Seattle transportation

(Image: Smash the Box)

Smash the Box, a multidisciplinary Seattle-based planning startup, recently won contracts with the Seattle Department of Transportation and King County Metro to join efforts to improve the quality of local transit. Founder Yes Segura, a professional cartographer, has been selling engraved wooden art of maps in order to raise funds to kick start the business.

The firm is diverse in both their leadership and the work they do — Yes Segura, a transgender man and first generation El Salvadoran, founded the firm to provide services ranging from art, to communications, to urban planning and design.

“We’re smashing the box in the way that we’re actually having representation at the table, but also the way that we’re going about it,” Segura said. Continue reading

New ‘seated’ option Wheels join Seattle’s scooter share fleet

A “a more accessible” scooter with a ride the company behind it says is smoother and more “suited to Seattle’s hills and weather” has joined the city’s fleet of private company-share transportation options.

Wheels has released its seated rental scooters onto the streets of Seattle Monday:

Wheels are designed far differently from traditional stand-up scooters. A seated riding position and low center of gravity provide a safer and more stable ride — one that’s more accessible for a much broader demographic, as evidenced by the fact that half of Wheels‘ riders are women and one-third are over the age of 35. Large 14-inch tires create a smooth ride across bumps, cracks, and uneven surfaces. And, unlike other offerings, Wheels comes with its own integrated helmet system! Initially, 20% of Wheels scooters in Seattle will have integrated helmets, but this will soon be scaled up to cover the whole fleet.

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With no bike share in Seattle, sharing in the city takes another hit

Rarely does an industry have such a quick rise and sudden drop as the bikeshare business has had in Seattle. Last year it would have been odd if you didn’t see a mass of multicolored bicycles across the streets, from red Jump bikes to the yellow Ofos and green Lime bicycles.

Lime took its 2,000 bikes off Seattle streets in December and now the Jump bicycles will be temporarily absent, as well, with Lime taking over the red bike’s business operations this month. Lime acquired Jump on May 7 after Uber, which owned the latter, led a $170 million investment in Lime that “reaffirms Lime’s market strength and positions the company to build a long-lasting business that empowers people with sustainable, safe and affordable transportation options,” the company said in an announcement.

This comes as the bike rental business has fallen off a cliff during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were just 23,400 trips in April, compared to 158,600 trips in April 2019, according to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) data.

“We recognize that the COVID-19 has impacted all areas of life including new mobility companies, and we are evaluating our options with these impacts in mind,” SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson said in an email. Continue reading

Seattle’s next top crisis: the cracking West Seattle Bridge

Seattle has another crisis on it hands. Even with costly repairs, the high bridge to West Seattle won’t reopen to traffic until 2022.

Three weeks after the 1984-built structure was closed to traffic when routine inspections revealed unexpected deterioration, the Seattle Department of Transportation has announced some likely terribly expensive bad news:

We do not yet know if repair of the bridge is feasible technically or financially. If repair is feasible, it’s likely this would only restore up to an additional decade of life to the bridge. In either case, we will need to replace the West Seattle High Rise-Bridge much sooner than promised when it opened in 1984. Further, should repair prove feasible, under a “best case” scenario we do not anticipate traffic returning to the bridge in 2020 or 2021.

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Owning ‘nothing’ on Capitol Hill a little harder in 2020 with bike and car share pullbacks

(Image: CHS)

For Capitol Hill’s transportation share options, the end of 2019 feels a little like when you look at your app and see no available rides on your map. Those green and yellow bikes are following “floating” car share off the Hill.

This week, Lime announced it was pulling its rental bikes off Seattle streets for the winter while it negotiates a deal under the city’s new rules for scooter shares.

And Share Now, which was formed from a merger with car2go, announced before the holidays that it was closing its car-sharing services not just in Seattle, but in all of North America at the end of February.

“We want to say thank you to our customers, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Mayor and city council, who have supported us since we launched in the market in 2012,” the company wrote in an email to supporters. “We are saddened by this decision and deeply apologize for the inconvenience this will cause you when service ends.” Continue reading

What candidates have to say about safe streets and transportation investments around District 3

(Image: SDOT

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? Continue reading

Reminder: Madison Bus Rapid Transit — RapidRide G — open house

City of Seattle and King County Metro representatives will be on hand Wednesday night at Capitol HIll’s Miller Community Center to answer your questions and gather your feedback on the latest round of design updates for the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project set to dig in and begin construction next year.

Madison BRT Open House

Representatives will also be available at the Madrona and Capitol Hill farmers markets this weekend.

CHS reported here on the latest updates to the $120 million, 2.3 mile, 10-station RapidRide G route including what planners hope are improved crossings for pedestrians and the major decision to focus on a new diesel-hybrid bus fleet for the line. Pending approval of federal funding that will cover about half of the costs, the start of construction is slated for 2020 with service starting late in 2022.

SDOT has also documented the project in an online open house where it is collecting feedback at RapidRideG.participate.online.

No scooters but Lime plans fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle — UPDATE: First, gas-powered

The Twizy is reportedly coming to the streets of Seattle thanks to Lime (Image: Renault)

If you miss the days of bumping around Capitol Hill in the first generation miniature Car2Go “Smart cars,” you are in luck.

Bike share company Lime is set to build on its fleet of electric bikes with a new fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle.

The Puget Sound Business Journal broke the news last week that the company has applied to enter the city’s car share market.

Backed by Uber and Google’s Alphabet, Lime plans to roll out some combination of 500 Fiat 500e and Renault Twizy vehicles in the city. UPDATE: Lime says its first cars in Seattle will be gas-powered:

In July, Lime hired Peter Dempster, who had overseen ReachNow’s launch in Seattle, to run its car-sharing business. Dempster said Lime hopes to shift its car-sharing fleets to electric vehicles, but said the logistics of charging the vehicles made electric cars unsustainable for now. Like bike- and scooter-sharing services, free-floating car-sharing services require operators to monitor the fleets and rebalance them, so that vehicles remain available in the areas where people are looking for them. For scooters, Lime has used both paid staff members, and “juicers,” people it pays a per-unit rate to charge and redeploy the vehicles.

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Budget update: 8 City Council tweaks to budget include reversing mayor’s drug arrest diversion cuts

budget-process-updateA proposed cutback on the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that expanded to SPD’s East Precinct on Capitol Hill in 2016 will be restored in proposed changes to the Seattle budget put forward by the City Council this week.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant sponsored the proposed $150,000 budget line item’s “green sheet” addition to the 2017 spending plan.

This Green Sheet would add $150,000 GSF in 2017 and $150,000 GSF in 2018 to the Human Services Department (HSD) for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. LEAD expanded to East Precinct in 2016; this funding would keep LEAD’s City-funded portion of its budget at the same level ($960,000).

LEAD is a pre-booking program that places qualifying drug use suspects into counseling instead of jail.

CHS wrote about Mayor Ed Murray’s 2017-2018 budget plan from a Capitol Hill perspective here. Council members have bristled at the mayor’s plan to slice back LEAD spending as well as his homeless spending plan.

Below are eight tweaks to the mayor’s plan being carried forward by the council members. You can take a look at all 104 proposed budget updates here.

  1. Fund the LEAD program: Add $150,000 GSF in 2017 and 2018 to HSD for the LEAD program Continue reading

City fleet’s 30% goal puts Seattle electric car initiative into first gear

Mayor Ed Murray and City Council member Mike O’Brien test drove an electric vehicle this week to celebrate progress on Seattle’s electric car initiative, a plan that includes improving the infrastructure for EVs, electrifying the city’s own vehicle fleet, and continuing Seattle’s ongoing conquest to cut carbon emissions and pollution from transit.

In the video of the stunt, we learn Murray does the driving in this relationship, neither of these guys drive very often, Murray owns a Subaru Forester, and O’Brien can spout EV trivia like Rain Man. We also learn that the City Council’s Transportation and Sustainability committee Wednesday approved a resolution “which sets a goal to have 30% of all light-duty vehicles in Seattle operate under electric power by the year 2030.” The EV champions Murray and O’Brien also “announced their intention to significantly expand electric vehicle infrastructure in Seattle, such as charging stations, to encourage and serve the electric vehicle demand.” Continue reading