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After months of work, four community meetings, and a lot of prodding from all sides, Seattle finally has a bicycle master plan implementation plan for the remainder of the $930 million Move Seattle levy. We know know that the city is officially betting on only completing half of the 50 miles of protected bike lanes that were promised when voters mulled filling in the bubble on their ballot in the fall of 2015.

Funded miles of protected bike lane by year, according to the BMP update. (Projects with identified funding but unspecified completion dates placed in 2024)

A letter signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe introducing the final plan touts 50 miles of facilities to be constructed through 2024 as “prioritized, responsible, and realistic”, and states that “we will continue seeking additional revenue sources and grants to advance these key connections”. The letter is the first time that the Mayor has signed her to a statement in support of finding additional revenue for the BMP, with her voice notably absent when the initial draft came out.

The funding gap for meeting levy goals is much narrower than other unfunded mandates that the Mayor has come out in support of, perhaps most notably a $700 million light rail tunnel in West Seattle about which Durkan says “the city of Seattle is committed to getting third-party funding” for.

The document is both incredibly meaningful in that projects that aren’t included on it are very unlikely to see progress anytime soon, and not meaningful in that the implementation plan has made many promises before that weren’t kept. The lines on the map also frequently end up watered down as the on-the-ground reality of parking and level-of-service concerns beat out any Master Plan Vision. The last we saw of plans for a protected bike lane on E Union Street there was a pivotal two-block gap in the facility that isn’t reflected in the master plan.

But what’s changed since the proposed draft was released two months ago?

Southeast Seattle Still Gets Short Shrift

After four meetings to elicit feedback on the draft plan, the resounding message from the community was that connecting Southeast Seattle to the rest of the city was a priority for people in all sections of the city. SDOT in coordination with the Mayor’s Office (in an opaque process) had previously rejected the Bicycle Advisory Board’s top recommendations for making this happen.

Now the department proposes building a protected bike lane that will connect the Mountains-To-Sound trail adjacent to I-90 with the Mount Baker light rail station at Rainier Avenue via MLK Jr Way S. This would be funded in conjunction with the Vision Zero corridor program, essentially doing what the Levy Oversight Committee recommended last month: finding ways to utilize existing funding sources together to expand the bike network. The lane could extend even further south to S Alaska St at Columbia City Station. SDOT is still studying the corridor and would likely not construct this facility until closer to the end of the levy in 2024.

SDOT has also apparently moved other SE Seattle connections into “pre-planning”, including three separate segments of Beacon Ave S and a downtown to Georgetown segment. Based on the fact that the department disregarded these corridors in the initial BMP draft, it clearly views considerable hurdles for moving these projects forward, namely construction funding. But placing them in the bucket of next-in-line projects means advocates for these projects will have something to point to moving forward.

SE Seattle Connections with “study areas” shown in gray. Only one, on MLK, has funding identified. (City of Seattle)

After the repaving projects on Columbian Way, Swift Ave/Myrtle St/Othello St, and Wilson Ave S, the only other protected bike lane project planned for SE Seattle apart from the MLK lane is a short two-way protected bike lane connecting the Jose Rizal bridge on Beacon Hill’s north end with the King Street neighborhood greenway.

The repaving projects certainly didn’t add bike infrastructure in the way that it might if a network was being designed, and compromises upon compromises were made to get those projects to fruition: people on bikes will need to use sidewalks through bus stops, and the protected lanes completely disappear at major intersections.

While this plan gets District 2 to near equity with other districts in terms of lane miles of PBL funded by this levy, there is still a long, long way to go from here.

4th Avenue’s Protected Bike Lane Got Downgraded

Hidden in today’s council presentation is a note that the perpetually-delayed 4th Avenue protected bike lane has been downgraded to a one-way bike lane, northbound. This is simply unacceptable: a 2-way protected bike lane was the outcome of a years long collaborative process between multiple agencies known as One Center City. The advisory group for that process signed off on recommending the 2-way bike lane as part of a comprehensive plan for downtown mobility.

After that process, the public was told the design for 4th Avenue was taken to 100% and only put on hold after Mayor Jenny Durkan took office and asked that it be shelved. We were told transit would be impacted by installing it sooner than 2021, despite the data presented to One Center City that showed the new 5th/6th transit pathway would improve travel times for transit even with a 2-way PBL.

Documents from One Center City show a 2-way north-south PBL as part of the package.

The bike lane has been designed. It’s time to make it happen. A one-way 4th Avenue will cause the entire Center City Bike Network to fall apart. Given the Mayor’s past performance on this issue, it’s hard not to wonder if that’s the purpose.

2nd Avenue May Finally Connect To Something

The most positive thing to come out of the update is the southern bike connection to the 2nd Avenue spine through downtown. The official Bicycle Master Plan route planned for this connection is 4th Avenue S and 5th Avenue S, both key bus routes. In October, we wrote about how SDOT was moving forward a route that completely ignored this, forcing people on bikes to take a detour up a steep grade via 6th Ave S and S Main Street.

The new implementation plan puts the north-south connection to S Main Street on 5th Ave S (shown as #54 in the map below). It also schedules it for completion in 2019, which is fairly ambitious but it’s hard to think of a better connection to make right away than extending the most heavily-used bike route through downtown all the way to the relative calm of S King Street. A King Street neighborhood greenway with additional traffic calming is scheduled for next year, though design elements for that are still up in the air.

Full Waterfront Bike Path Still AWOL

As of right now, there is no identified funding source to connect the existing waterfront bike trail at the Olympic Sculpture Park to the planned waterfront trail downtown being planned as part of the new waterfront. Despite the Durkan Administration giving away $40 million to Waterfront LID payees to reduce their rates, and a number of other projects not directly related to the waterfront planned with the proceeds, we have not finalized a way to pay for this crucial connection. Hoping that this is, as Tom Fucoloro suggested, a joke.

Pike/Pine is Delayed Again

Extending the protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets in 2019 was something promised by SDOT since last year. It was ambitious, but it matched the timeline laid out by the Council’s resolution on the Center City Bike network last year. Now the BMP update confirms that a key 3-block segment between 6th Ave and 9th Ave will not happen until next year.

Momentum to Accelerate?

On Sunday, hundreds rallied below Jenny Durkan’s office to push for the administration to do more to accelerate projects that will make our streets safe and reduce the biggest source of city-emitted carbon. Councilmember Mike O’Brien has six months left in office and seems ready to try and make thing happen. It will not take a significant amount of money to keep the bike master plan on track. The important thing is making the tough choices that will not stunt the growth that the city has seen in people biking. SDOT loves to tout those numbers, but for the past several years that cheerleading has rung very hollow. It’s time to back up our rhetoric with action. The plan as it is now is not acceptable.

The updated bike master plan implementation schedule is headed to the Transportation and Sustainability Committee today at 2pm.

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The Urbanist by Paige Malott (guest Contributor) - 3h ago

The Port of Seattle is planning a new cruise terminal at South King Street, just steps away from the Occidental Square streetcar station and the First Avenue Streetcar line extension also known as the Center City Connector. The project, Terminal 46, is located just south of Colman Dock and is expected to open in 2022 serving 10,000 daily cruise passengers.

Recently, the Port held community outreach meetings in Pioneer Square and SoDo as they begin the early stages of the project. The site of Terminal 46 includes a total of 88 acres, with the new cruise terminal occupying the northern one-third of the space. The remaining two-thirds will be used for cargo, project manager Fred Chao said at the meeting. The cruise terminal building will resemble the structure at Pier 91 and be larger in size with access points at South King Street and South Atlantic Street. Utility upgrades and intersection improvements at King and Jackson Streets are also being planned.

“We will be working closely with the Department of Transportation, stakeholders, and the community to make sure the egress points are safe and operationally efficient,” Chao said.

In 2019, Seattle expects to serve 213 cruise ships and 1.2 million passengers. According to the Port, each vessel supports an estimated $4.2 million in economic activity for our region, with the average cruise passenger spending $1,547 in the city before and after their voyage.

Where are passengers visiting?

Among the Top 10 activities, 64% of cruise guests visited Pike Place Market, followed by shopping at 44%, and 42% going to the Space Needle.

A profile of Seattle cruise passengers. (Port of Seattle)

But with Terminal 46 operating on the southside of downtown, favorite tourist attractions become a one-mile, uphill walk for cruise passengers–or worse–thousands of more Uber rides into the city center during rush hour.

Michael McLaughlin, Director of Maritime Cruise and Marketing, explained that a typical day of a cruise ship starts early in the morning when it docks and roughly 5,000 passengers deboard between 7:30AM and 10:00AM. Starting around 11:00AM through 3:00PM, a new group of 5,000 passengers arrive to board for their cruise journey. The Port also reports that 65% of passengers are staying in lodging Downtown before or after their cruise but only 2% of passengers are using public transit or walking to the cruise terminal. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of vehicles, being added to city streets at a time when it’s at peak capacity.

Results from a survey on how passengers are traveling to the cruise terminal. (Port of Seattle)
What if there was a better way?

Two blocks away from the proposed cruise terminal is the Occidental Square streetcar stop–the current end of the line for the First Hill Streetcar that also serves as a station on the forthcoming First Avenue Streetcar line (Center City Connector). Once complete, the First Avenue line would link Seattle’s two existing streetcar systems in First Hill and South Lake Union, creating a five-mile route with direct access to Pike Place Market and popular shopping destinations in Pioneer Square and Westlake.

Taking advantage of an exclusive transit lane, passengers could travel on the electric-powered streetcar from Occidental Square to Westlake in just 10 minutes. With approximately 6,400 cruise tourists heading to Pike Place Market every day and 4,400 going shopping nearby, the First Avenue Streetcar would be a big win-win-win for sustainability, guest experience, and supporting small businesses along the corridor.

The Center City Connector streetcar extension would be built along First Avenue and connect the two existing streetcar routes in First Hill and South Lake Union, forming a complete five-mile system. (City of Seattle)

The Port is open to new ideas for sustainably transporting cruise passengers around the city. “The new facility has opportunity to utilize public transit,” said Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Managing Director of Maritime. “Included in the principles the Commission adopted to give guidance on cruise terminal development is a focus on getting folks to the cruise terminal in ways other than vehicles.”

For those 6,500 daily passengers sleeping over in Seattle, the First Avenue Streetcar would provide direct access to 15 hotels on the route and serve over 57 hotels located within a three-block radius along the entire streetcar system. Top tourist destinations would also be connected to lodging via the streetcar. In addition, the layout of streetcar infrastructure makes it more accessible for a high volume of people with luggage, strollers, or people with limited mobility as compared to using bus or light rail. Curb-level boarding allows for easy, roll-aboard access between platform and streetcar vehicle, in contrast to navigating the steps and narrow aisles of a bus or escalators of the light rail station.

But what about light rail?

An obvious solution is to direct cruise passengers to travel downtown using the closest Link light rail station at International District-Chinatown. The International District-Chinatown Station averaged 6,200 daily boardings in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to Sound Transit. Adding Terminal 46 passengers could potentially increase the amount of light rail rush hour passengers by 85%. It could also mean that tourists miss an opportunity to visit some of the 220 small businesses and arts venues in the Pioneer Square neighborhood–businesses that are visible from the streetcar route but not from the underground transit tunnel.

The First Avenue streetcar line would be located two blocks (0.2 miles) from the new cruise terminal; the closest light rail station is six blocks (0.6 miles) away. (Graphic by Paige Malott)

Pioneer Square and SoDo neighborhoods would likely face the most challenges from the new terminal. “Traffic impacts with people coming into town and out of town, the impacts of noise, of air quality, of your view and lighting; all of these things we will study and review how the project effects these environmental elements,” a spokesperson from the Port said at the outreach meeting. “We expect sometime in early fall to start the environmental review process and look forward to working with the community and making sure this is a well-run operation with minimal environmental impacts.”

Setting sail

With the project still in its early stages, the Port is currently seeking a private partnership to support co-investment into Terminal 46 and potentially operate the facility once construction is completed. The early cost estimate for the development is $200 million, with the Port contributing $100 million to the project.

Could investors be interested in accelerating the First Avenue Streetcar as well?

The Port anticipates an aggressive construction schedule for the terminal to be open by mid-2022, and as of this January, the estimated completion date of the First Avenue Streetcar (Center City Connector) was pushed back to 2026. If we’ve been looking for incentive to lift up the anchor on Seattle’s streetcars and set our sights on finishing the alignment, this is it. Similar streetcar projects, such as the 2.2 mile line in Kansas City, completed construction, vehicle testing, and opened for service in a little over two years. The First Avenue Streetcar line is shorter in distance, spanning 1.2 miles, meaning that a similar construction timeline is feasible.

Why wait until 2026?

If we act with ambition, the streetcar could be open to serve the first passengers arriving at Terminal 46.

More tourists are coming. Will our city be ready? Let’s roll up our sleeves, lay down some track, and provide cruise visitors with a first-class transit option at their doorstep. Let’s get the First Avenue Streetcar rolling by 2022.

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PDX expanding LRT: The plan for Portland’s expanded southwest light rail line takes shape.

The suburbs: It’s the age old question of “how do we define the suburbs?”

Ambitious on tenants: New York could be on the cusp of major updates and extension to tenant protections ($).

Very cold leadership: Everett’s city council has chosen to temporarily block permanent housing for students and their families ($) experiencing homelessness.

Permitted for construction: After 137 years of construction, Barcelona’s grand church Sagrada Familia has been issued a building permit.

After dusk: Why are American parks closed at night?

Big plans to house: Plymouth Housing is planning to build 800 units for people experiencing homeless in Seattle.

Cleanup melting down: Nuclear waste cleanup is stalling out at Hanford.

The supertall game: How developers in New York City game the zoning code to build supertall towers.

Cleared for reopening: San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center is nearly ready to reopen after discovery of shoddy workmanship.

Building midblock crossings: Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog USA looks at how to build safer midblock crossings for pedestrians.

Auto Row-inspired: On 15th Ave E in Capitol Hill, plans for a new development to replace a service station show an Auto Row-inspired design.

Undermining workers: Uber and Lyft are trying to get legislators in California to block a worker rights bill.

Shrinking but prosperous: Richard Florida at CityLab looks at how some shrinking cities are still prospering.

Connecting provinces: Québec wants to get in on the light rail expansion in Ottawa to bring it to Gatineau.

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Meet Veemo, an electric assist vehicle that advertises itself as “bike share meets car share.” From a legal and technical standpoint, Veemo is an electric assist tricycle, or e-trike, but Veemo also includes an enclosure to shield riders from the elements that makes it resemble the tiny car super nerd Steve Urkel drove around in the classic 90’s sitcom Family Matters.

Veemo is part of a new generation of velomobiles, or bike cars, that are creeping up in popularity as people have grown increasing concerned about the significant impact of car emissions on global warming.

Currently available as a shared vehicle on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus in Vancouver, BC, the Veemo velomobile is just one example of the new wave of small electric powered vehicles the City of Seattle is preparing to see enter its streets in coming years.

Veemo is available for rental on the UBC campus in Vancouver, BC. (Credit: SDOT)

The Emerald City has already had its fair share of emerging transportation technologies hit its hilly and congested streets. Seattle was an early playground for carshare and rideshare, but Mayor Jenny Durkan’s hesitancy on e-scooter share has made the city a late arrival to the scooting phenomena that shaken up car-centric cities like Dallas, which already has four dockless e-scooter share companies operating within its city limits. Seattle has the largest dockless bikeshare fleet in the country making it one of the few places in the US where dockless bikeshare has actually flourished.

UPS drivers are using e-cargo bikes to delivery some packages in Seattle. Credit: SDOT

With even UPS already using a fleet of e-cargo bikes to deliver packages across the city, time actually might running short for Seattle to prepare for emerging mobility options. Last year, the City Council passed a statement of legislative intent requiring that SDOT generate a report of about emerging forms of mobility. That report was published recently and provides a survey of new mobility options the City envisions arriving on Seattle’s streets in the next three to five years. It also includes an evaluation of other cities’ efforts to address these emerging forms of mobility and strategies for how to integrate them into the transportation network in a “safe and sustainable manner.”

Rethinking the right-of-way

During SDOT’s recent presentation on emerging technology and mobility, Councilmember Mike O’Brien likened the bike lanes and other safety improvements already made to streets as a potential “warm up” for a coming sea change in transportation as more emerging forms of mobility like Veemo hit the streets.

“We want to build from the successes of the past, but also move swiftly,” O’Brien said.

Referencing how the popularity of e-scooters has captured the public’s imagination, O’Brien stated that if 10% to 15% of travelers adopt new transportation technologies, the City will be required to make substantial changes to the distribution of right-of-way on city streets. Currently the default for many of these technologies, which typically do not reach speeds over 25 mph, is to be steered toward sidewalks or bike lanes, presenting complications for current users, particularly members of the disability community, and placing further stress on infrastructure that may already be inadequate to safely accommodate travelers’ needs.

While personal delivery devices have not yet appeared on Seattle’s streets, recent approval by the Washington State legislature means that they could be appearing soon. Credit: SDOT

Additionally, automated devices like personal delivery devices and transit pods are poised to present further challenges to the right-of-way landscape. Future pedestrians may be have to steer clear of bots as often as cars. Hundreds of personal delivery devices are currently being tested in the UK city of Milton Keynes outside of London.

Because of the diversity of these technologies, the process of decided where and how to include them in right-of-way will be far more complicated than selecting which corridor functions best as a bike lane. Future transportation planners will have reckon with multiple different types of transportation devices. Anyone who has had to leap out of the way of an e-skateboard on the sidewalk or avoid a near crash with a Class 3 e-bike powering through a bike lane, knows firsthand how challenging and stressful it can be to encounter an unexpected form of mobility.

What are some of the new modes of transportation Seattle could see on its streets?

The emerging forms of mobility analyzed in the SDOT report include many of the standards, like e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-skateboards. The report did not take into consideration car-sharing, ride- hailing, or micro-transit, all of which are currently operating on Seattle’s streets, although micro-transit in the form of Via, which transports riders to transit in parts of south Seattle and Tukwila, is still quite new. Aerial drones, which operate in air-space, but not right-of-way, were also excluded from the report.

Among the potentially most disruptive technologies analyzed were velomobiles, like Veemo, and automated transit pods, which can be used for both delivery and transportation purposes.

E-trikes and velomobiles present potential advantages over e-bikes and traditional bicycles because they can be more readily used by people who cannot use a traditional bicycle. In addition, some models provide shelter from the elements, while also being faster and safer to operate on city streets. Newer models run on electricity instead of gasoline or diesel, meaning a much smaller carbon footprint in a hydro-powered city like Seattle.

The ELF by North Carolina based Organic Transit, accommodates two passengers and features a solar panel to assist with battery charging. (Credit: Organic Transit)

But despite making gains in recent years, velomobiles are still largely used by hobbyists and unknown to the general public. Sometimes baffled law enforcement officers don’t even know what velomobiles are, resulting in major hassles for riders.

With the media headlines swirling around automated vehicles like Google’s self driving car, automated transit pods may be a bit more familiar to the general public, but even so, transit pods have specific features that make them different than other automated vehicles.

For one thing, they are slow–transit pods are designed to travel at speeds of 25 mph or lower. Like personal delivery devices, some may be used to deliver goods while others are intended to transport people, typically as circulators.

A Nuro delivery transit pod. (Credit: Nuro Robotics)

In Denver, a transit pod circulator is being used at the International Airport to transport people from both nearby park and ride and transit stops. The pilot will be free for riders for the first four to six months and is part of the city’s Panasonic smart city campus adjacent to the airport.

Future challenges for Seattle

When compared to many other US cities, questions about how to manage right-of-way are trickier to solve in Seattle. Relatively narrow street result in competition in its three defined areas: travel way, flex zone, and pedestrian zone.

Officially in Seattle’s Comprehensive plan there is no formal guidance about how to prioritize between traditional modes of mobility like cars, transit, pedestrians, bicycles and freight. However, anyone who has seen how difficult it can be to negotiate a new bike lane or transit only lane is aware of the fact that right of way is heavily dominated by car traffic.

But if a substantial portion of traffic shifts to emerging mobility modes, SDOT will be forced to rethink the distribution of right-of-way as the agency acknowledges in its report:

To realize the potential benefits of emerging mobility devices and minimize negative impacts, however, we must consider right-of-way management more holistically—from allocation of ROW, to curb and sidewalk management, to street design and enforcement—not only for mobility but also in consideration of other essential functions in the right-of-way.

For activists who have fought hard for safer infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users, it could be a bit disheartening to learn that SDOT is seriously considering creating low intensity travel lanes or other methods for integrating emerging mobility technologies while so much of the city lacks bike facilities or even sidewalks.

At the same time, if these emerging mobility options can provide the last mile solutions needed to get a substantial number people out of their cars who are not currently walking or biking, they could become powerful tools for decreasing carbon emissions.

A well-known set of photographs of 5th Avenue in New York City illustrates how quickly cars came to dominate the city’s streets. The first photograph, taken in 1900, shows a single car amid a street full of horse drawn buggies, while the second, taken in 1913, is completely devoid of horses period.

These photographs are often used as an example of quickly transportation can change. Councilmember O’Brien referenced these photographs when making the case for how quickly the transportation and right-of-way landscape could change. Such a dramatic potential shift invites a lot of questions, many of which are welcome for those who feel that right-of-way in Seattle is unfairly monopolized by car traffic.

“I would say that the existing distribution [of right-of-way] is not meeting our needs from a climate perspective, from a mobility perspective, equity perspective, but changing is not an easy thing to do,” O’Brien said. “We are capable of these transitions, but it is challenging.”

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The Green New Deal, explained - YouTube

In this video, Vox discusses the concept of the Green New Deal, a platform to change the American economy to a green economy while accounting for social welfare.

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The Urbanist by Nathan Vass - 3d ago

We’ve grown accustomed to requiring a certain dose of cynicism in our fictions in order to find them believable. “Few people have the imagination for reality,” Goethe wrote. Because truth can be beautiful in ways we have trouble daring ourselves to believe. Said Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

I preface this story with these thoughts because I want you to know it really did happen. Yes, we conceive of awe as the appropriate emotional reaction to that which is extreme; but what about that which is happy? Doesn’t that equally warrant our reverence, our admiration and respect?

Readers of my book will know of Avery, whose story features prominently in the book’s delicate thematic organization of a series of seemingly unrelated stories. It’s included for several reasons– we touch briefly on my filmmaking background; we explore a character who rode my bus not once but dozens of times; and most importantly, we offer it to the reader almost as a dare. To what? 

To believe.

“Half of them think it won’t work out,” Melanie Laurent’s character says in Mike Mills’ astute and grossly underrated 2011 romance Beginners, looking at a crowd of people. “And the other half… believe in magic.”

A companion and I were walking to the neighborhood post office with a handful of packages. This was before Elliott Bay was the primary shipper of my book, when I was selling copies, basically, out of my back door. In each package was a signed copy of my book, and in each book was, of course, the Avery story. Avery with the indefatigable attitude, whose welfare and appearance I watched gradually wane over a period of years. He came to mind because the guy outside the post office looked a lot like him. 

Wait a second.

Could it be? Was that him? Standing there by the main doors, the same but different, as ever with the big smile? But look how put-together he is now. Yes, he was still selling Real Change, but he was doing it looking sharp. The dreads clean and fresh, no debris therein nor on his clothing– a trademark collection of beanie, black carpenters, black sweatshirt, hooded of course, with shoes I forgot to notice, so powerfully did his effervescent grin offset his outfit, which another man might wear without knowing the first thing about how to make it as approachable, personable and downright endearing as Avery did. Clean was clearly the word of the day. Spotless. His pride of self and belief in life were palpable, risen back up to the best moments of my first knowing him and possibly beyond. Certainly his attitude must have played a role? How could that not be, honestly? Makes you wonder sometimes, how much control we may actually have in tipping things into being…

The building was just opening for the day, and a small crowd had gathered, the early birds with letters and packages. I could see that he had put in the effort, like I try for, to be known and loved by the community. The friendly neighborhood stalwart. They knew him and they smiled, never mind that they were North Seattle white, and he was a poor black man on the corner. I saw real enthusiasm in their interactions, and several knew him by name. This is where we start, I think, in the massive undertaking of righting history’s wrongs. By tending to the living.

“Avery,” I called out sharply, mock-serious, and he turned. He turned, he saw, and he blew up. He exploded. Pure joy, reader. This man on this corner, today. This was the face and name of jubilation. How did he still know my name, all these years later? I’m surprised enough when people recognize me out of uniform, let alone remember my name a half-decade on, and on the far side of town to boot. 

Our small talk was the conversation to end all small talk. Our “how you been doin'” and “man it’s good to see you” exchanges were overflowing with so much love, surprise, respect, and awe… it must have looked ridiculous from the outside. Comical. But you know the feeling. My shock had mostly to do with the fact that my hopes as written four-plus years ago could actually have come true. That this world had room for him to rise again. 

After a chat my companion and I went inside to mail our book packages. No, I didn’t tell him about my book, or how much his story means to me. Let me find the right time. I’ll share that when the time is right. This was more important, what was going on right now–not depictions or documentations of life but Life, the burgeoning immediate present of his accomplishments, not mine. 

I was struck by an air which seemed to be affecting everyone. Something magical about this place today. When did you last see the staff happy at a post office? The spry older woman in charge, who steered our small talk into what she loved about the job, who called out to customers she knew, and spoke of the day’s hardships–being understaffed, mainly–with a voice that knew there’s more to life than complaining. People chatted amongst each other, chuckling, even a pat on the shoulders here and there. Others walked out past Avery, wishing him well all over again. He eagerly waved them on with a grin that started and restarted the whole experience.

Was I asleep?

Had I been dreaming? If this was in a movie we wouldn’t believe it. If Nathan dreamt of a post office, then yes, this is what it would look like. But it was no dream, no movie. Only in life could something happen as absurd as a happy post office wherein the customers standing  in line, the overworked staff, and the homeless guy out front are all having the time of their lives at eight A.M. on a weekday. This was the post office as fairy tale, community big and bright as life. 

A cynic might roll their eyes, insisting something has to be wrong here; but let us remember that realists are forever doomed to mediocrity, because they lack the necessary naivete to believe in the possibility of great things. They lack the requisite capacity to imagine. A realist wouldn’t even notice that this building on fire, in the best way. My own attitude may have played a role in shaping the place that morning too, sure; it’s a delicate and mysterious dance, the mood of a place. But I credit Avery most of all, he who embodied what my parents taught me from day one: you have to generate your own happiness, from scratch, within. 

Anything else is a setup for failure.

Buy my book, The Lines That Make Us, here; KING5 interview with yours truly about it here.

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It’s been well known for awhile that Community Transit plans to expand the Swift network further by 2024 to complement opening of the Lynnwood Link extension and I-405 and SR-522 bus rapid transit (Stride). That said, how the overall network might be shuffled around for local and commuter service has been less clear. Recently, Community Transit announced that the transit agency is currently evaluating what an overhaul of the full bus network will look like once the light rail extension is open at a briefing to the Snohomish County Council on service planning.

What the network in Southwest Snohomish County with Link could look like in 2024. (Community Transit)

The 2024 concepts indicate that the local bus network will grow and improve service to Snohomish County communities with more frequency, coverage, and span of service due to saved service hours from truncating and eliminating commuter routes and increasing revenues. Much of the service planning emphasis will be on how to get bus riders to and from light rail and Sound Transit’s forthcoming Stride service. Community Transit’s own bus rapid transit lines (Swift) will continue to be major workhouses to do this work with the addition of a new Orange Line between McCollum Park Park-and-Ride and Edmonds Community College as well as an extended Blue Line southward to the NE 185th St light rail station in Shoreline. Community Transit will also look at how other first- and last-mile mobility options could factor into connecting local riders with several major transit centers near the county line.

Level of Service to Grow
Service hours are set to jump. (Community Transit)

In recent years, Community Transit has been increasing annual service hours with bouying tax revenues and a sales tax increase authorized in 2015. Once approved, the transit agency began a six-year process to grow annual service hours about 40%.

Annual service hours stand at about 450,000 right now, which made about a 10% year-over-year jump, primarily due to the introduction of Swift Green Line service in March. That number will jump to over 600,000 in 2024. A good chunk of this will become available with saved service hours (noted in orange in the graph) of buses that currently operate on I-5.

Commuter Route Concepts

Community Transit currently has 25 commuter routes (including six Sound Transit-branded routes) that operate between Snohomish County and King County, mostly to Downtown Seattle and University District. Buses spend much of their time stuck in congestion on I-5 and I-405 as well as deadheading (out of service trips to route terminals). The opening of light rail and Stride to Lynnwood will greatly reduce the need for commuter routes running into King County. With the new connections, the I-5 and I-405 service hours could be reinvested to more local versions of the commuter routes to reach light rail and Stride.

A restructure Snohomish County transit map. (Community Transit)

During the briefing, Roland Behee, a planning manager for the transit agency, said that bidirectional service on commuter routes could be added, making better use of trips. Some commuter routes might be consolidated or simply have service hours reinvested into the local network, offering more frequency, coverage, and span of service.

Local Network Concepts

With extra service hours to invest in 2024, Community Transit is rethinking how local bus service could operate with concepts. During the briefing, Behee highlighted the existing network design, including local frequencies, near Lynnwood’s city center and what it could be in 2024.

What the existing bus network near Lynnwood looks like in terms of frequency. (Community Transit)
What the existing bus network near Lynnwood could look like in terms of frequency. (Community Transit)

In the 2024 concept, several new corridors could be served at 30-minute headways, including 68th Ave W (north of 200th St SW), 188th St SW, 176th/172nd St SW, and North Rd/Damson Rd, and east of Alderwood Mall Pkwy, SR-524 could get 10- to 15-minute service, which currently has none. Many other local corridors could get frequency upgrades, such as 44th Ave W, 196th St SW, and 36th Ave W. Similar kinds of improvements are possible across the local bus network, particularly in Southwest Snohomish County.

Bus-to-Link Service Concepts
A draft concept of high-level Community Transit bus service to Link. (Community Transit)

Looking closer into the overall bus-to-Link service concepts, Community Transit is contemplating an emphasis on connections to the light rail stations at Lynnwood Transit Center, Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, and NE 185th St. The transit agency wants to provide many neighborhoods with regular bus service within a five-minute walk to stops so that as many people as possible will have bus-to-Link access. To accomplish this, Community Transit is evaluating the following by station:

  • Lynnwood Transit Center. The Swift Orange Line would connect the Edmonds Community College, Ash Way, Mill Creek, and McCollum Park areas to the station with 10-minute frequencies. A frequent bus from downtown Edmonds would meet the Orange Line at Edmonds Community College via Five Corners. With the inclusion of other local and commuter routes, buses would arrive and depart at the transit center every 35 seconds at peak hours.
  • Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. A frequent local route would reach the transit center from downtown Edmonds via Westgate and Aurora Village. Several other local routes would reach the transit center, including a new Edmonds and Esperance route that intersects the Swift Blue Line.
  • NE 185th St Station. The Swift Blue Line would be extended from Aurora Village via SR-99 and N 185th St with two possible infill stations in addition to the stop at the light rail station. Other King County Metro local routes and the SR-522 Stride line would also reach the station.
Canyon Park Connections
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The Seattle City Council candidate forums hosted by the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition zeroed in on transportation and housing issues and revealed not all races were created equally.

The District 4 (D4) forum displayed a considerable consensus around adding density in single family zones and making streets safer for people walking, rolling, biking, etc. Granted, this consensus was furthered by the absence of Alex Pedersen, homeowner group groupie. Apparently Pederson was talking with some Magnuson Park neighbors about public safety instead. Here’s a tweet recap of the D4 debate by yours truly. (See D4 forum transcript.)

On the other hand, District 7 (D7) candidates were much more hesitant to go all-in on a safe streets and urbanist platform; our own Ryan Packer had a tweet thread from the D7 forum. In fact, most were much more excited to blow something like a half a billion dollars doing a one-for-one replacement of the Magnolia Bridge to expand car capacity in D7 rather than grapple with funding more pressing needs for transit, sidewalks, and biking infrastructure–which the same candidates often painted as too expensive. Queen Anne Greenways tweeted that they’d like to trade for some D4 candidates. (See D7 forum transcript.)

Dear D4,

Could we borrow some of your candidates?

D7 https://t.co/h842BH1ASd

— Queen Anne Greenways (@QAGreenways) May 31, 2019

Likewise, a wide variety of transportation and housing takes were on display District 6 (D6) and some were not too into the MASS platform. Retiring Councilmember Mike O’Brien has generally been a stalwart for safe streets and housing justice, but some in the district are taking his retirement as a chance to go in the opposite direction. (See D6 transcript.)

District 2 (D2) was somewhere in-between with some candidates telling MASS supporters to take a hike on their priorities and/or making stuff up (cough: Ari Hoffman). But frontrunner Tammy Morales (who lost by less than 400 votes to retiring Councilmember Bruce Harrell last time around) displayed a firm grasp of the issues. (See D2 transcript.)

The District 3 (D3) still has an incumbent in Councilmember Kshama Sawant so it had a different dynamic with challengers taking an aggressive stance in hopes of erasing the advantage of incumbency, as Natalie Bicknell reported. Fireworks aside, candidates seemed amenable to reducing the primacy of cars to make space for people, while their housing solutions varied along a spectrum from free market-focused fixes (Logan Bowers) to social housing centered platforms (Sawant). (See D3 transcript.)

Rooted In Rights recently released all the forum videos (complete with transcripts and closed captions) so you can see for yourself who were the standouts. Seattle Tech 4 Housing was nice enough to code all the rapid-fire responses into spreadsheets for each race to more easily see the differences.

District 2: Tammy and Friends
Seattle District 2 City Council Candidate Forum on Transportation and Sustainbility - YouTube
Video credit: Rooted in Rights

District 2 candidate responses… pic.twitter.com/JtxXLX45Td

— Tech 4 Housing (@tech4housing) June 12, 2019
District 3: These Dudes (and Pat) are Coming for Sawant
Seattle District 3 City Council Candidate Forum on Transportation and Sustainbility - YouTube
District 4: The Urbanist Showcase
Seattle District 4 City Council Candidate Forum on Transportation and Sustainbility - YouTube

District 6: A Big Kayak to Fill
Seattle District 6 City Council Candidate Forum on Transportation and Sustainbility - YouTube
District 7: In Which a $400 Million Bridge is a Must Have, but Bike Lanes are Too Spendy
Seattle District 7 City Council Candidate Forum on Transportation and Sustainbility - YouTube
Primary is Fast Approaching and So Are The Urbanist’s Endorsements

So stay tuned for more candidate coverage. It really is a whirlwind election with four open seats and more than 50 candidates. The Urbanist Election Committee is hard at work with questionnaires and interviews plan to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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Seattle’s streets should be safe for everyone: people of all ages, languages, ethnicities, genders, races, and abilities. But currently many of our streets aren’t and the Durkan administration hasn’t made fixing them a priority.

Join a coalition of groups that care about our safety, our climate, and our city on Sunday, June 16 to celebrate the joys of biking, rolling, and walking, and urge City leaders to fast-track improvements to make Seattle’s streets safe for everyone.

We’ll meet at Seattle City Hall at 1pm for a lively rally with face painting and other family activities and then travel with hundreds of people down 4th Avenue to Westlake Park. It’ll be a family-friendly fun Father’s Day afternoon coming together to make our streets safe for all families.

There’s also a bike train from Othello Station and Plaza Roberto Maestas to help the Southeast Seattle contingent arrive safely and in style. See below for details.

Ride for Safe Streets
Sunday, June 16, 1-3 pm
Seattle City Hall to Westlake Park
RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

There will be a marching band, public officials, calls to action, and plenty of fun as we urge Seattle leaders to be bold and take action. At the event, the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition will launch a Green Transportation Package for Seattle! Don’t miss out on being a part of history.

ASL interpretation will be provided. If you have other accessibility needs or questions please reply to this email. RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

Bike Train from Southeast Seattle to the Event

Southeast Seattle is disproportionately effected by traffic dangers and lacks safe all ages and ability connections to downtown Seattle and the larger city. For this reason volunteers from The Urbanist will be leading a bike train from Othello Station to the event. We will meet at 11:45am at/outside of Cafe Red and ride up the Chief Sealth trail and across Beacon Hill roughly following the Neighborhood Greenway route.

We will make a second stop to pick people up at The Station/Plaza Roberto Maestas at around 12:20pm before proceeding the rest of the way to City Hall. This is meant to encourage people to ride who might otherwise not feel comfortable and as such we will go slow and steady and no one will be left behind.


This event is sponsored by a coalition of groups that care deeply about our city, our climate future, and making our streets safer for all users. They include:

  • Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and many of its chapters
  • Cascade Bicycle Club
  • Rooted in Rights
  • The Sierra Club
  • 350 Seattle
  • Seattle Subway
  • The Urbanist
  • Seattle Transit Riders Union
  • Bike Happy Cascadia
  • Seattle 500 Women Scientists
  • Seattle Transit Blog
  • Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

We hope to see you there! Progress on the basic bike network and prioritizing people-centered streets is within reach, but we must demonstrate critical mass. The rally downtown promises to have some special guests.

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Last week, the Seattle Times ran an article headlined, ‘Study questions ‘best use’ of golf courses Seattle operates’. The article stems from a report that the City commissioned in 2017. The report was apparently due a year ago, but was only recently released, as reported by Erica C Barnett at the C is for Crank.

A number of candidates immediately jumped into the fray, including former council member Heidi Wills on her campaign facebook page. “The City is wasting time and money studying the best use of our city’s golf courses. These green jewels are our inheritance,” she opined.
Merely studying what the best use of rarely used 528 acres (11%) of Seattle’s city-owned open space — amidst an open space shortage, a housing crisis, and rapidly devolving climate situation— is a waste of time and money, Wills alleges. The city’s report is mostly full of fluff, seemingly tilted to elevate the importance and forthcoming increased usage of municipal golf into the future, in order to justify the large expenditures it will require in coming years. Unsurprisingly, the data indicates the opposite.

total rounds are in freefall, City of Seattle Golf Study
Golf’s Severe Lack of Diversity

The data shows a disturbing lack of diversity, heavily tilted toward men being the dominant user — no municipal course in 2016 saw more than 17% of users were female, and half saw as little as 10%. This isn’t really surprising, golf has long had a diversity problem, as well as a troubled history of misogyny. Also worth noting, according to the report, nearly 70% of players stated they don’t actually play most of their golf in Seattle. The report doesn’t have any data on racial diversity of users, but notes that until the 1960s, minority golfers faced significant discrimination.

Yikes. (Credit: City of Seattle Golf Study)

According to USGA, “From 1934 to 1961, the Caucasian-only clause was a part of The PGA of America’s by-laws that prevented non-whites from membership, and from competing on the PGA Tour.” In 1999, the Newstateman, in an article titled ‘No Jews on their golf courses’, wrote, “For miles along the Florida coastline, from Miami to Palm Beach, there are tangible signs of Jewish philanthropy tucked alongside clubs that still have partial or complete bans on Jewish members.” Oddly, while there is a section on history, virtually none of this is mentioned.

the youth have other interests, City of Seattle Golf Study

Despite claims that high school golf teams are a top user, in 2017, only 1.3% of rounds by High School Golfers were logged: 2,703 out of 206,010 rounds. In 2016, rounds played by those 18-25 years old, were less than 3% of total rounds.

Seattle’s Golf Courses are Bleeding Money and Customers
green fees? freefallin’, City of Seattle Golf Study

All of the golf programs are bleeding money. Green fees are falling like a rock (16% in just 2 years!) Operational costs are increasing. And there is a long laundry list of outstanding maintenance and facility upgrades that will push the golf programs millions of dollars into the red in coming years.

Colman Pool, City of Seattle

Utility costs will not be declining, and the report states, ‘SPU fees have increased an average of 6% a year since 2010’. The report doesn’t state how many CCF of potable water are used by the courses, but gives a cost of $520,000 for Interbay Golf Center. Backing out the cost from SPU’s rates, that looks to be about 60 million gallons of water. This is on top of the 37.5 inches of rain Seattle gets in an average year. How much water is 60 million gallons? The Colman Pool in West Seattle (pictured above) is roughly 500,000 gallons. It would be like filling it up, and emptying it out, 120 times — most of that occurring in summer and the shoulder seasons. 60 million gallons is the UN recommended amount of water for 12,500 people for an entire year. Interbay is only a 9-hole course!

jackson park’s massive decline, City of Seattle Golf Study

In 2000, Seattle had 564,109 residents, and 280,000 rounds of golf were played on municipal courses. In 2017, the number of rounds dropped to 206,010 while population skyrocketed to 725,000. The report claims that between 2015 and 2017, there was a 16% drop in rounds played — however, this doesn’t take into consideration our population boom. When adjusting for population, golf saw a 43% decline between 2000 and 2017. That is a tremendous drop in less than a generation, and it likely isn’t going to change.

Climate Change Implications
The smog of wildfire season has put a damper on recent summers in the Pacific Northwest.

Climate change is already affecting golf in Seattle. Wildfire smoke the last two years had a significant effect on the number of rounds played. That isn’t likely to change as the region gets warmer, and trees continue to die. How many rounds do you think will be played in summer when the western slopes of the Cascades start burning? It isn’t even summer yet, and wildfires have already begun to affect air quality in the region. Then there is the heat — Seattle’s heat wave last July will also not likely be an anomaly, affecting the ability of people to play golf in the summer. Changing rain patterns that see larger and more violent downpours and flooding, will also have an effect on course conditions.

did WSDOT estimators prepare this analysis… City of Seattle Golf Study

Oddly, despite all of this data, the report optimistically predicts this will be the year things turn around for golf. And then a dramatic leap, followed by continued increases in usage. Literally nothing in the report points to this happening. Seattle has gotten wealthier, younger, denser — and golf is not thriving. This graph, by the way, is reminiscent of the WSDOT traffic projections.

Jackson Park Golf Course: poor land use all the way down. (Credit: Google Maps)

On the question of what the golf courses should become, should they change, I have mixed feelings. Unfortunately, all of our municipal golf courses will be relatively, if not directly, adjacent to future light rail stations. Jackson Park Golf Course will have two adjacent stations. Given our compounding housing and climate crises, we should be planning for something other than golf courses. We could aadd ecodistricts with tens of thousands of homes directly adjacent to transit, while preserving over half of this acreage as open space and parks, ones that wouldn’t require payment in order to access, or toxic chemicals and a ridiculous amount of water to maintain. As we densify, we also have an open space shortage (and massive disparity) that will only be possible to address by removing cars from public right of ways.

Interbay is the outlier here. (Credit: City of Seattle Golf Study)

That being said, three spots seem worth highlighting in this report. Interbay Golf Center is the least worst, financially. Restaurant revenue is up. Driving ranges are popular, seeing a 40% increase in revenues in just a few years. What does this mean? People want to eat and drink in parks! But it also means driving ranges are great — unlike golf courses, ranges don’t take up much space, can be urbanized, aren’t an environmental nightmare, and they’re economically accessible to a greater swath of population from beginner to expert. I didn’t learn to play golf on a course, I spent months on a driving range and pitching green. We could re-purpose the golf courses, increase the number of driving ranges, and expand access to open space for much more of the city.

Golf. Is. Dying.

CityLab reported on this very issue last year. This is not unique to Seattle, nor the US, but a global phenomenon. Much like climate change, this change is abrupt and drastic. We should be reacting to that change, not sticking our heads in the sand to preserve a floundering and inequitable status quo. Determining whether or not municipal golf courses are the ‘best use’ of public land — especially as they continue to bleed financial and water resources—is absolutely something that should be studied. It would be financially imprudent, and environmentally irresponsible, not to.

This is a cross-post from Mike Eliason’s blog on Medium.

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