Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seattle: A walkable city

I grew up just outside Seattle. My father worked in downtown Seattle, and we’d make frequent trips in to the city to meet with him for lunch, to go to REI to buy stuff for summer camp, or to otherwise enjoy the city. Many of the trips in to town, we’d pile into the car, and make the drive across the lake into the city. Once here, we’d “do downtown” by foot. We’d often park at my dad’s office building garage, and walk from there. Now, years later, my wife and I are living downtown. We’d selected our location to be close in and able to walk more places we wish to go.

Today, the sun came out early in the day and we had gorgeous blue sky. We set out on foot to enjoy our city. We were joined by many, many people (I’m too lazy to count ‘em all, and not very good at estimating, so we’ll just say lots of people). When you approach Seattle by ferry or from the south on I5, or look across from West Seattle, it seems so far from the Space Needle to downtown, you don’t realize how close it really is. Half an hour tops, and you can walk from the Space Needle through downtown to Pioneer Square and the stadiums. Walking the waterfront is easy (well, it’s a bit slow if it’s crowded) with wide sidewalks and only two crosswalks to worry about (the ferry terminal and the driveway at the Edgewater hotel) on the bay side of Alaskan Way.

Today, the Seattle Sun Worshipers were taking full advantage of the day. People were milling about the waterfront. The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park was busy with people walking the trails, sitting outside and inside the Paccar Pavillion. We saw many people starting up the Elliott Bay trail from Pier 70.

Seeing the number of people out on foot makes me feel like Seattle is becoming less car-centric people are opting more and more to use other means of getting around. Of course, we could all just be looking to scratch that itch for some sun that comes after periods of grey during our winters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Viaduct Replacement: Congratulations, It's a TUNNEL!

Well, it hit the papers this morning: we're getting a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Details are still emerging at this time, and more have since I first read about it this morning, including the mention of transit in the plan.

The decision is not without controversy:
  • Voters shot down a tunnel in a 2006 advisory vote. The selected tunnel option is a deep-bore, unlike the "excavate and cover" tunnel initially proposed, but that's not likely to appease some people
  • It's the most expensive option on the table, with current estimates at $4.24 billion
  • It does not appear to provide entry/exit from the highway from Battery Street Tunnel on the north to the Stadium area at the south end
  • It does not connect Ballard to the bypass

I've got mixed feelings about this.

I like that we won't have to look at an eyesore elevated roadway along the waterfront. I like that it can be done with very minimal impact on existing businesses and current traffic patterns, which business owners should appreciate during these tough economic times. I like the fact that the plan includes for increased transit capacity, however, that does little to help matters if folks won't use the additional transit capacity. I like the open space planned along the waterfront, and hope it remains open space and is not entirely sold off to development interests.

I'm concerned about the cost during a time when we have a state deficit of over $6 billion. I'm concerned about the idea of a miles long tunnel in an earthquake-prone area (OK, so the Bay area has done just fine with BART, but you never know...). I'm concerned about the tunnel's capacity; the current plan calls for two lanes in each direction, it doesn't sound like it adds any more capacity to the roadway. If we don't get our collective mindset changed about transportation in general, and mass transit in particular, in this region, when the tunnel opens in 2015, it will be insufficient for the needs of traffic in the region.

From what I've seen in the news, there is no mention about what this means for cyclists and users of human powered transport. Perhaps I'll get answers to that tonight at the "Bikes & Bridges" meeting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cascade Bicycle Club January Presentation

Bikes & Bridges
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
7:00 PM
Seattle REI, 222 Yale St.

This is one of the monthly presentations that the Cascade Bicycle Club hosts. This month's presentation is a briefing from the project teams responsible for both the 520 bridge project and the Alaskan Way viaduct project.

This is an opportunity to hear how bicyclists are being taken into consideration for the projects and voice any concerns or ideas that you might have.

Cascade Bicycle Club monthly presentation series:

For more information you can contact David Hiller at the club. His e-mail address is on the link provided above.

A new year

The turn of the new year always seems to be a time in which we reflect on the past year (what we've accomplished, what we wanted to accomplish and didn't, how the events of the year have changed us, etc) and look towards the coming year with plans and resolutions.

Sitting here, I think back over the past year, especially the period since last June. A lot has happened since Maurie and I started this blog. We managed to leave the car parked quite a lot. We relied upon public or human powered transportation most of the summer. I lost my job. I started my own business. We moved to Seattle. Our updates to the blog slowed down considerably.

Looking forward to the rest of 2009, as it relates to this blog, I have lots of ideas. I want to write more about transportation issues in our new home town. I've never been much for making resolutions. In high school I started joking that my New Year's resolution is to stop making them. I don't know, I guess I see New Year's resolutions as these pie in the sky ideas that we come up with during the reverie of the changing of the year and the desire to begin anew. I rarely hear of a resolution being approached in a manner that bears results. There's little planning, no measurable milestones set to guage progress towards fulfilling the resolution, and consequently little to hold one's feet to the fire for sticking to it.

So, no, there is no resolution coming from me with respect to gettinaround. However, as I look at the coming year and all that I need to do for my business, for my home and family, for my health, and for this blog, I have a goal: REGULAR updates to the blog, throughout the year! I hope to be able to put up at least one post each week dealing with transportation issues. I will even attempt to keep things balanced out a bit and not terribly heavy on bicycling (although, let's be honest, it is great exercise, much faster than walking, and fun to boot!)

There's no shortage of things to write about for the blog. We are supposed to be moving forward with a replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct, as well as a new 520 floating bridge; Seattle now has a bicycling master plan; Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington have all sorts of advocacy programs and events throughout the year; the ZipCar car sharing program is huge in Seattle; there are plans for more streetcars; light rail will start service in King County, with expansion linking downtown to Capitol Hill and the University District. I'm sure there will be even more, and these are just Seattle-area things.