The Mobility Blog
Keep up-to-date on all things related to the U District Mobility Plan project.
By Samantha Bushman, The Daily of UW, Published on April 5, 2018
View original article.
The U-District Mobility Group held the second of three community gatherings Tuesday night to workshop concerns about transportation development surrounding the in-progress U-District Link light rail station.
In attendance were representatives from the UW, Sound Transit, Seattle Metro, as well as other concerned local groups and individuals.
Located on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast between Northeast 45th and Northeast 43rd Street, the new station is projected to open in 2021 and will directly impact the surrounding neighborhood, with a shift in accessibility and transportation. Conversation centered around these concepts.
“This whole study is about how a light rail station is coming into a neighborhood, and this will change how people use transit and walk and bike around the area,” community member Rachel Miller said.
With the recent upzoning of the U-District, development of UW, and increased property taxes, the area is changing fast. By directly engaging in the community, the group hopes to integrate their needs into development.
“Mobility is just one piece of that puzzle, so we have to make sure that it all works together, we have only as many streets as we have,” U-District Advocacy president Cory Crocker said. “We’re looking at different efficiencies for moving people through the district equitably and safely.”
New transit will significantly increase pedestrian traffic and occupancy. Sound Transit estimates that by 2042, up to 13,000 people will board the light rail in the area each day.
To accommodate this influx in traffic, the group proposed a number of pedestrian- and user-centric solutions, from on-the-ground initiatives like wider sidewalks to the complete shift of human travel towards public transportation. Officials can’t change how streets are gridded, but they can alter their layout to entertain more people at busy times of the day.
Planners also anticipate a greater need for services on Roosevelt Way Northeast as traffic and housing concentration shifts.
Crocker’s presentation highlighted the efficiency of utilizing alternatives to cars by showing the audience photos of the same number of people using different forms of transportation. Cars occupied the most space, while buses were the most compact.
Members of the forum engaged in round table discussions, physically marking large versions of three proposed mobility plans with things they liked and disliked. Topics of interest were largely centered around pedestrianization.
The city is placing a high priority on increasing accessibility to and from the area, as well as transporting riders directly to the station with as few transfers as possible. Seattle Metro is in the development stage of bringing Rapid Ride in from both east-west and north-south directions. Future transportation plans will likely hinge on the implementation of these routes.
Accessibility for bikes was also a topic of discussion. Students from the UW’s urban design and planning department brought up the addition of a northbound bike lane. Many of the proposed changes included the creation of more bike-only lanes for travel.
UW transportation was in attendance to work with community leaders on the matter, accommodating for the staff and students they represented.
“Our job is simple: We have to move 75,000 people to campus every day, we have a set number of parking spots and that’s not going to change,” UW transportation representative Phil Miller said.
For many students, this issue may seem far in the future. When the station opens in 2021, all but one undergraduate class will have graduated. However, development for the projects has already started and will affect traffic to and from the area.
“How we get around is super important in terms of quality of life,” UW sophomore Andrew Sang said.
This includes making any future changes business-friendly (considering external changes like rising rent), and taking into account the needs of all those who interact with the U-District community.
“Anything we can do to diversify how people come to campus really matters,” Miller said.
U-District Mobility will be hosting a third workshop May 30 to discuss findings from Tuesday night. They have also made available a community survey to further assess transportation needs.
Reach U-District reporter Samantha Bushman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sammi_bushman
mobility Walking Tour
By Drew Dresman, Guest Contributor, on September 7, 2017
View original post at The Urbanist.
Sound Transit’s construction of Northlink is on track to extend light rail to the north end of Seattle by 2021. After decades of failed attempts and hard work, we will finally have a fast, reliable rail line connecting North and South Seattle. Unfortunately, major questions have been left unanswered as to how people will be able to safely and easily access our future light rail stations and nowhere is this oversight more glaring than in the U District. U District Station will attract tens of thousands of daily users, but unlike Northgate Station and a growing list of others, no agency has studied how people will travel to and from U District Station and what improvements are needed to ensure people can reach Link safely and comfortably by 2021.
The U District Mobility Group aims to engage the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Sound Transit and Metro Transit to work with the community on a station access plan that will coordinate and accelerate needed investments to provide safe and convenient access to U District Station for all. This afternoon the U District Mobility Group is hosting a walking tour around the future U District Station to engage participants in a discussion about the pressing need for safe and convenient options to reach light rail. The walk will start at the UW Tower plaza at 4:30 pm and end at Cafe Allegro at 6pm with food and drinks (cash bar) to follow. Along the way, speakers will highlight potential barriers and opportunities to improve surrounding pedestrian conditions, bus-rail connectivity, bike safety, vehicle loading and more.
The U District Mobility Group consists of U District residents and representatives from institutions including the UW, Seattle Greenways, U District Partnership, U District Advocates and Seattle Children’s. For the last year we have been discussing the need to help accelerate and coordinate transportation projects that will help U District Station exceed expectations and handle the coming influx of residents, employees, students and connecting transit riders.
U District Station Access Plan Objectives
A multimodal station area plan (or access plan) is an opportunity to identify key issues around the station that should be addressed and develop a conceptual level plan that addresses all modes. Such a plan would help inform upcoming projects such as the city’s rebuild of NE 43rd Street and future RapidRide implementation. We believe a U District Station access plan should accomplish the following:
Prioritize Pedestrian Safety Concerns
The U District is the second largest business district in Seattle and it is growing at one of the fastest rates in the region. The U District is a dense, pedestrian oriented neighborhood where most people walk or take transit to their destinations. U District Station promises to further increase the volumes of pedestrians on already crowded sidewalks and intersections.
Most people traveling to destinations in the U District walk or walk to transit. High volumes of pedestrians on sidewalks, at bus stops and intersections will grow even more with the opening of Northlink.
While Sound Transit has completed the station design and will no doubt deliver a world class light rail station, immediately outside the station major barriers exist to safely access U District Station by foot. According to a recent Seattle Times article looking at the last decade’s collision history, U District Station is surrounded by the two most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and three of the four most dangerous intersections for bicyclists in all of North Seattle.
“The Most Dangerous Intersections in Seattle for Bicyclists and Pedestrians” from the Seattle Times, September 18, 2017
45th Street presents a host of problems including dangerous intersections, narrow sidewalks, narrow crosswalks and narrow bus waiting areas. 45th will be unavoidable for many pedestrians accessing the station, particularly if they are connecting to buses or trying to head west so it is imperative that we identify fixes that can be implemented before 2021 and determine how to develop great alternative routes such as making 43rd Street an attractive pathway for pedestrians.
Develop Great Bus-Rail Transfers
Just as pedestrian safety is a pressing priority for the U District, the connecting bus network design should be sufficiently developed before it is too late to build potential capital improvements that ensure good bus-rail transfers for future routes. For example, Sound Transit’s street design for Brooklyn Avenue is not designed to be compatible with buses, despite the potential transfers this would enable at the station’s front door. Relatively simple design changes to Brooklyn Avenue would allow routes to have the best bus-rail transfer experience for thousands of daily riders. It is imperative that our public agencies work together to determine answers to questions like this before it is too late to optimize bus access.
Metro Connects Long Range Plan reveals assumptions that need to be reevaluated and lingering questions that should be addressed before projects such as the Brooklyn Avenue and 43rd Street rebuilds are fully designed.
Quality bus transfers are particularly important because many people will have to make two transfers to use Link. For example, current Community Transit riders to the U District will have to transfer to Link at Northgate and then hop on a short connecting bus in the U District to get to their old bus stop. Even with Link, one seat rides that will become three seat rides need to have easy, comfortable transfers or some riders will stop using transit. We can address this issue by determining which routes will have high volumes of riders transferring to U District Station and provide these routes with great transfer locations. Routes that use stops on Campus Parkway will involve painfully long transfers. Even routes on relatively close University Way or 15th Avenue may warrant a shift to Brooklyn Avenue as it eliminates a two block walk and protects riders from the elements making a significant difference in someone’s likelihood to use transit as a daily commuting option.
Ensure People on Bikes Have Safe Routes to the Station
We also need to ensure that a basic safe bike network is in place and that there is enough bike parking near the station, particularly in light of the introduction of dockless bike share. Biking will be the fastest, most reliable way to get to the station for many, but if we do not improve routes to the station, dangerous barriers such as crossing I-5 and riding on NE 45th Street will continue contributing to collisions and instill fear in many who would otherwise be willing to ride there.
Ensure Adequate Loading Areas and Building Access for Private Vehicles
Not everyone can walk, bike or take transit to the station and there are numerous competing loading needs for surrounding buildings. Long term, the proliferation of ridesharing (and potentially, autonomous vehicle ridesharing) will continue to increase the number of vehicles that need loading space in the U District. Carefully managing curb space and helping businesses come up with loading solutions is an essential step in creating more generous pedestrian spaces and improving transit access.
Create streets that support safe and welcoming experiences for all
As the U District’s sidewalks become more crowded, it is important to consider how we keep them enjoyable and attractive. Engaging the community on what would enhance their experiences in the U District will be a critical part of this process. For some, personal safety is a barrier to walking in the U District, particularly at night, so we should identify the reasons why and places where people feel most vulnerable and address what we can through environmental design. In addition to safety, as the neighborhood continues to densify, placemaking such as outdoor seating could be part of the solution for maintaining livability amidst rapid growth. Creating open spaces, outdoor seating and other pedestrian amenities would also bolster local restaurants and other businesses by enhancing the shopping and dining experience.
Many strategies for improving the public realm were already developed during an Open Space Forum to update the U District Parks Plan in 2014. Priorities included the creation of a central town square, a north-south green spine, east-west pedestrian connections, and pocket plazas.
The Time to Act is Now
The challenge of how to get people to and from our growing network of light rail stations is emerging as a critical regional issue. Forward thinking plans have been made or are in the works for many Link stations such as the Judkins Park Station Area Plan, Accessible Mount Baker, the North Beacon Hill Town Center Transportation Plan, Move Ballard and the Northgate Station Access Study. It would be a tremendous oversight if our region does not similarly take a close look at U District Station now, while there is still time to implement improvements on the ground in advance of its 2021 opening. In addition to the walking tour this Thursday, we will be working to create more opportunities to engage the community over the next year. Please sign up on our mailing list at udistrictmobility.org to receive future invitations.
The featured image of NE 45th Street is by Anna Wittow and used with permission.
Drew Dresman is a Transportation Planner for Seattle Children’s where he helps manage award-winning employee commute programs and hospital access projects.
U District Mobility
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Seattle WA 98145
U District Mobility is a project of U District Advocates, a 501c3 nonprofit, and donations to the project are tax-deductible.