Currently viewing the tag: "Seattle"

Streetfilms has produced a short film demonstrating an innovative pedestrian crosswalk design in Seattle.

One has to wonder if such design could have helped save Dr.  Robert Geronemus on Brickell Avenue, Ashley Nicole Valdes on SW 80th Street, and  Mario Reyes on the MacArthur Causeway.

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This is a really cool transit system. Leave it to those hip northwesterners to come up with a functional way of building and operating a regional transit system. The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority – or Sound Transit – serves over 3 million people in an area of 3,300 square miles in and around Seattle, Washington. (In comparison, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.4 million, and an area of 1,900 square miles).

Sound Transit, much like our own MPO and MDX, is a state authorized board that is responsible for connecting King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties using express buses, light rail and commuter rail (among other methods). This regional system is in addition to the local transit options throughtout the three county area (including the Seattle/King County Metro Transit System).

Sound Move: The Plan

I guess they have a similar problem in Washington State as we do in South Florida: accountability. They asked themselves: how can we invest loads of money into public infrastructure projects and not be hampered by political infighting, cost overruns or ineffectual management. Sound Move was their answer.

“In May 1996, the Sound Transit Board adopted Sound Move . The plan includes a mix of transportation improvements: high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access improvements, ST Express bus routes, Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail. The plan includes new community “gateways” — connections in urban and suburban areas for communities to connect to the rest of the region. Sound Move is a comprehensive regional transit plan made up of almost 100 separate but interrelated capital and service projects. The plan also contains commitments to:

  • Equitable revenue distribution. Local tax revenues will be used to benefit the five subareas of the Sound Transit District (Snohomish County, North King County, South King County, East King County and Pierce County) based on the share of revenues each subarea generates.
  • Simultaneous work on projects in all subareas. Work will begin on projects in each of the subareas so benefits will be realized throughout the region as soon as possible. Projects likely to be implemented in the latter part of the first phase are those requiring extensive engineering and community planning.
  • Coordinated services and integrated fares. Regional and local transit services will be coordinated and an integrated fare structure developed.
  • System expansion or tax rollback. Any second phase capital program that continues using local taxes for financing will require voter approval.  In the absence of voter approval of any plan to expand the system, Sound Transit will roll back the tax rate to a level sufficient to pay off outstanding debt, and operate and maintain the investments made as part of Sound Move.
  • Annexations and extensions of service outside the Sound Transit District. Sound Transit may provide services outside taxing district by contracting with local agencies. Areas that would benefit from Sound Transit services may be annexed into the Sound Transit District if citizens within those areas vote for annexation.
  • Public accountability. Sound Transit will hire independent auditors and appoint a citizen committee to monitor Sound Transit’s performance in carrying out its public commitments. Citizens will be directly involved in the placement, design and implementation of facilities in their communities.”

Sound Move Phase 1 planned for 80 miles of Commuter rail, and 25 miles of electric light rail, along with necessary park and ride facilities. They allowed the plan to change over time, but always aggressively pushed the development of the transit system. They followed through on these commitments and came back to voters in 2005 to establish a second phase of projects, called Sound Move Phase 2. This plan was sent to voters in 2007 bundled with a road building measure and was defeated. It has since been put back on the ballot for voters this November, and promises to build 53 new miles of light rail within 15 years at a cost of $13 billion. All using Federal DOT money and local sales tax.

In three weeks our commissioners will meet once again to make decisions on the future of our transit system. They will be considering funding for the Orange Line, fare increases, and the viability of the People’s Transportation Plan. They need to study the way that other cities and regions around the country are dealing with the challenges posed by mass transit (funding, management, operations…etc.) Look at Sound Transit: it serves a population comparable to our own, but in twice the area!

Sounds like a lesson our commissioners need to hear.

The Miami streetcar seems to be generating plenty of controversy. Before we convince ourselves that it’s good or bad, perhaps we need to look at another streetcar. Seattle’s streetcar, nicknamed “S.L.U.T.” for the South Lake Union Trolley, made its debut Wednesday to large crowds of riders. It also generated its share of controversy (even to the point of sabotage), so lets look at some of the issues.

The Seattle streetcar apparently does not use signal preemption. It has to stop at all traffic lights just like a bus would. This is rather ridiculous, as even Bus Rapid Transit usually calls for signals to change to give priority to the bus. An effective Miami streetcar needs to have signal preemption.

Bicyclists don’t like it and organized a protest. Seattle put the tracks on the right side of the road, precariously close to the bicyclists’ paths. Rails in the road parallel to a bicycles direction of travel are a recipe for disaster. As a bicyclist myself, I share their concerns. Streetcars like Seattle’s carry a lot more people than bicycles, and that should give them at least a slightly higher priority. At the same time, streets need to accommodate as many modes as possible-especially if we ever hope to implement a decent bike sharing program. The needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and auto all need to be considered carefully in the design of Miami’s streetcar. One alternative that has been used before is to put the rails down the middle of the street.

Seattle’s streetcar is expected to help retail business. That’s probably an accurate expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see the numbers. Most rail transit systems have increased local business, and we could probably expect the same in Miami.

There’s one unique issue that Miami will have to worry about. Every time there is a hurricane, the overhead electric lines will have to be repaired. We all know how often that happens! This makes it worthwhile to consider alternate technologies such as Innorail, which have the added benefit of removing unsightly overhead wires.

It sounds like Seattle’s streetcar was packed the first day, just new like light rail systems. Charlotte’s Lynx light rail is exceeding projections in its first weeks. Surely Miami’s streetcar would do the same.

National:

  • The Houston MTA has voted to use LRT on all of its upcoming 5 rapid transit routes.
  • How do you resolve a budget deficit of $29 Million? You spend $102 Million to build a streetcar of course! This method is being pitched by Cincinnati’s City Manager, who argues that the added benefit the streetcar will bring will more quickly pull the city out of economic recession.
  • Seattle voters will soon be heading to the polls to vote on a massive transportation bill which will simultaneously expand LRT service and widen highways…
Local:
  • Alesh provides a run down of how to use Public Transit. Plenty of good points, particularly: the environment, exercise, reading time, and money. The only thing I’d add to the list is social interaction…
  • Earth to these people…Lowering the parking rates at the Sonesta will CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS… If anything, parking meter rates should increase to discourage people within walking distance of the grove from driving around in search for a parking spot. If you need help on how to get around without a car, see Alesh’s post above…
  • Michael Lewis provides us with some much needed insight on the former fountain in Bayfront Park once dedicated to Claude Pepper…
  • Rail apparently isn’t a viable option to connect to the port… We still disagree


Seattle metro tunnel, originally uploaded by Adam Holloway.

The newly renovated Seattle Transit tunnel will reopen to the public next Monday. After a $94 Million renovation and retrofitting, the final phase of the tunnel will be complete in 2009 when the Sound Transit LRT begins to fully utilize the tunnel instead of the current buses. Due to the reconstruction, a revolutionary precedent was set along Seattle’s downtown third avenue:

“Meanwhile, Third Avenue, which became a bus-and-bike street at peak hours during the two-year tunnel closure, will remain that way. More than 20 downtown surface routes will be shifted to Third Avenue, replacing 18 bus routes that will enter the tunnel.”

What is taking Miami so long to embrace bicycle-oriented policies? Given the area’s fantastic year-round weather, terrible traffic congestion, underdeveloped mass transit, and fairly dense urban core (i.e. Miami proper, Miami Beach, downtown Gables), one would think Miami would be at the forefront of developing bicycle-oriented infrastructure. This certainly hasn’t been the case, however. As of this day, there are only a handful of bicycle lanes in all of Miami-Dade County, and they are located primarily in the suburbs of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
Mayor Diaz’s Green initiatives provide an excellent foundation for sustainability in Miami, I find that a bicycle-boosting initiative is conspicuously missing. If you google “Miami” and “bike”, you’ll sadly get more results for bike-related activities in Ohio’s Miami Valley then in America’s southernmost metropolis. Doing some quick research, the only mention of bicycle projects was at the MPO’s website. However, there are only a very small number of bike projects being considered, and all of them are either fragmented suburban routes or recreational trails. It appears there is very little direction or leadership for improved bicycle policy in Miami. Meanwhile, many cities across the county and around the world are pedaling full speed ahead (pun intended) with their own initiatives to promote bicycling as a popular, sustainable, safe, and effective means of transportation.

  • New York, NY: An elaborate city website exhibits all the bike information you could ever need, including maps. The City already has several hundred miles of bike lanes cris-crossing all five boroughs, yet plans to implement another 900 lane miles of bike lanes and greenways. NYC even has a bicycle master plan, which, if I am not mistaken, is completely foreign to any municipal body in Miami-Dade.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: The City is in the process of implementing a citywide system of bike lanes and paths. Mayor Jeffrey Abramson, who keynoted the 2007 National Bike Summit in Washington, has adopted a “complete streets” policy that requires bike lanes as apart of all major road improvements.
  • Seattle, Washington: Creating safer cycling conditions is the City’s top priority. The City is about to implement its own Bicycle Master Plan, a 10-year strategy to create 200+ miles of bike lanes citywide.
  • Portland, Oregon: A national leader in urban bicycle policy, the City’s fantastic website has extensive biking information. Everything from maps, guides, and brochures - it’s on the website.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark: Perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city on Earth, 32% of residents bike to work. This is despite being a city with a climate that is cool, wet, and dreary for much of the year - the antithesis of Miami (so much for all those lame weather excuses Miamians use to drive everywhere). So 32% of residents bike to work…fantastic, right? Not good enough for Copenhagen. The City has set a goal to increase this percentage to 40%.
Photo courtesy of Flickr account: vj_pdx

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