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Posts tagged "Seattle"

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Laura Goodfellow: Transit-Oriented Runner

One way we can help save the planet and cut down on motor vehicle use is to think creatively about common car trips that seem to be "automatic" or thought of as a necessity. Seattle's Laura Goodfellow is certainly doing that.

So how do you keep the miles from getting monotonous when training for a marathon? Public transit! Laura has run 12 marathons, and the training never gets boring because she incorporates public transit--boats, buses, and trains--into her running to add variety and explore new places.

Throughout her travels by foot and transit, Laura, who has never owned a car, has witnessed firsthand how so many of our streets are dangerous for vulnerable users, and she hopes to recruit more runners to advocate for safer streets for pedestrians.

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Seattle: America’s Next Top Transit City

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and it is making bold investments to ensure most residents live within walking distance of frequent transit.

"Seattle can’t handle any more cars than we currently have," says Seattle DOT Director Scott Kubly. "Our mode split needs to go from 30 percent single occupancy vehicle to 25 percent, and the lion's share of that is going to be carried on the bus."

The city’s efforts are paying off -- both bus and rail ridership have seen huge gains in recent years, and 70 percent of trips to downtown Seattle are not in private vehicles.

In the past two years, city voters approved the $900 million Move Seattle transportation levy, and then regional voters enacted the Sound Transit 3 package, a $50 billion transit expansion plan. These were votes of confidence in the transit system and the agencies that run it.

Seattle is demonstrating how trains and buses can work in tandem to build a fast, frequent, and reliable network that wins over riders. A key factor behind this success is the leading role played by city government, which actively works to improve transit instead of passively following county and regional agencies.

The Seattle story demonstrates that when governments create clear transportation priorities, provide thoughtful, goal-oriented planning, and deliver good service, ridership goes up and a firm foundation of public support can be established.

StreetFilms
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Seattle’s Westlake Bikeway is Finally a Reality!

It has been over ten contested years since Seattle advocates and bike riders have wanted a safe and efficient bike route on Westlake Avenue, a much-needed integral link in the bike network. I've visited myself in 1999, 2006, 2008 and 2011, each time having to either ride the dangerous speedway on Westlake or navigate thru the annoyingly clustered parking lots that comprise the slower alternate route. For a long time many plans were put on hold due to objections by businesses and entities along the waterfront that needed access.

Well that's no longer the case. Under the leadership of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Scott Kubly, the Director of Seattle's Department of Transportation, all sides got behind a compromise plan that saw a new protected cycle track pushed thru. I am sure each side didn't get 100% of what they wanted, but I can testify it is wonderful and I bet commuters are loving it too.

Seattle Bike Blog does report that recently someone threw tacks along the path, which of course is not a good thing. But it seems there is always someone trying to fight progress.

 

StreetFilms
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West Coast Swing: Portland’s 100th Bike Corral, Seattle’s First Cycle Track and Railvolution 2013

Portland Now Has 100 Street Bike Corrals! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Above is a Streetfilms Shortie showing that Portland, OR is now up to an astounding 100 bike corrals, far more than any other U.S. city has installed.  And they can't keep up with demand!! It's so nice that they aren't anything unusual anymore, in fact they are expected and welcome by businesses.

I got to spend a few days at the Railvolution 2013 conference in Seattle. This year they hit a record 1200+ attendees.  My solo Streetfilms University session on Monday was a huge hit as we had over 100 people pack a room to hear how you can make your own transporatkltion films in 90 minutes.  I'm hoping to do this again in 2014 for even more captive audiences at the Bike Summit in DC in March and ProWalkProBike (ProPlace) in Pittsburgh in Septemeber.  Mark your calendars now.  And if you want some instant tips, here is an older, abbreviated version of my presentation to watch right now.

I didn’t get to make any full Streetfilms there, but got to poke around Seattle a bit and saw two of the more innovative street designs currently in production.

Streetfilms Shortie - Seattle's Broadway Protected Cycle Track (Snippets) from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

A portion of the new Broadway cycle track opened while I was there.  Design wise it is interesting since just about every block looks different then the pervious one.  Check out the snippets of video and photos I took above (again, note that some of this is under construction).  There were bviously many challenges on this corridor with driveway access, bus stops, and – in parts – the University Link light rail, which is being tunneled as we speak.

Read more...

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MBA: Highway Removal

In this week's episode of "Moving Beyond the Automobile," Streetfilms takes you on a guided tour of past, present and future highway removal projects with John Norquist of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU).

Some of the most well-known highway removals in America -- like New York City's Miller Highway and San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway -- have actually been unpredictable highway collapses brought on by structural deficiencies or natural disasters. It turns out there are good reasons for not rebuilding these urban highways once they become rubble: They drain the life from the neighborhoods around them, they suck wealth and value out of city, and they don't even move traffic that well during rush hour.

Now several cities are pursuing highway removals more intentionally, as a way to reclaim city space for housing, parks, and economic development. CNU has designated ten "Freeways without Futures" here in North America, and in this video, you'll hear about the benefits of tearing down the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx, the Skyway and Route 5 in Buffalo, and the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans.

Streetfilms would like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this series possible.

StreetFilms
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The Case for Bike Racks on NYC Buses

Over the last ten years (or more) just about every major city in the U.S. has added bike-carrying capacity to their buses. While cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco can boast 100% of their bus fleet sporting bike racks, NYC comes in at 0% - the only one in The Alliance for Biking & Walking's 2010 Benchmarking report.

This probably comes as no surprise to any cyclist from NYC who travels an ample amount, but what is shocking is this fact quietly goes unmentioned in NYC. We cannot recall a single news story or push to get bike racks anywhere in the last ten years.

Of course, there are reasonable assumptions one can make why NYC has not tried out some program. First and foremost: the NYC MTA subway system already allows bikes 24 hours a day.  It's an excellent benefit for sure, but there are many regions of the five boroughs that are not easily within reach of a train. If we want to encourage multi-modalism, we need seriously think about that.

Then there is a barrage of others: cyclists will be too slow to load, bikes might fall off the racks, cost, maintenance, etc, but after viewing our Streetfilm you'll see there really isn't a valid excuse not to.

So we think it's time that the MTA and the city to consider a few pilot programs to put some bike racks on some routes. Of course, we are not talking about places like Manhattan or most parts of Brooklyn but we feel there are some great candidates that would yield good results.  Look here:

  • Anywhere in Staten Island.
  • Eastern Queens.
  • Parts of The Bronx.
  • Any buses that cross bridges without cycle paths including the Verrazano-Narrows, The Whitestone and The Throggs Neck bridges.
StreetFilms
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Seattle’s Link Light Rail – The Start of Something Big

Right now, Seattle is making as serious a commitment to transit as any city in the nation. Recently, Streetfilms got to take a tour of the newest addition to the city's network -- the 13-station Link Light Rail, which opened in mid-2009.

The route is beautiful, swift, and has great multi-modal connections. Service is frequent, with headways as short as 7 minutes during rush hour, and never longer than 15 minutes. And like many of the newest American light rail systems, the stations feature copious art.

Seattle has a lot of car commuters, but in a sign that many are looking for more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of getting to work, the new light rail line will be followed by several more additions to the city's transit network. As Seattle's Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl told us:

[Voters] in November 2008, by 57 percent -- which was a thrill in a recession economy -- voted to expand our light rail system, our commuter rail system, and our buses... to add another 36 miles of light rail in the region. And to add 65 percent more capacity to our commuter rail system.

We'd like to thank everyone who talked to us for this shoot, especially Bruce Gray from Sound Transit, and Andrew Schmid for arranging it all. And of course a big shout out to the intrepid scribes over at Seattle Transit Blog, who cover the local transportation scene with zeal and gusto.

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Biking to Work with Seattle’s Mayor Mike McGinn

When Seattleites elected a new mayor at the end of 2009, they really went for a breath of fresh air. In the general election, Mayor Mike McGinn, who rides a bike to work daily, was outspent nearly four to one. The race was very close, but with an energetic volunteer base -- and a campaign that emphasized many livable streets issues -- he pulled out the victory.

Only a few weeks into the new administration, I got the chance to commute with Mayor McGinn from his home in Greenwood to City Hall. It wasn't hard to convince him, seeing as he's a longtime Streetfilms fan, going back to his days as the founder of an organization called Great City.

As you'll see, McGinn has a lot of great things to say. Particularly exciting is a new website called Ideas for Seattle, which asks residents what they would like to see the mayor focus on. Take a look: A good dozen of the current Top 20 could be classified as livable streets issues. (Note: I think other cities should replicate this.) So we wish Mayor McGinn the best and can't wait to check back in a few years to see what kind of changes have taken place.

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How to Properly Cross Rail Tracks on your Bike

Unfortunately, it's something I've seen even the most experienced cyclist do: wipe out while crossing a set of train tracks.  As many of you know, you need to maneuver your bike's angle of approach so that you hit the rails as perpendicular as possible. But even knowing that, some demon riders don't slow enough to sashay properly, and heck: poor newbies have no idea how the road's mathematics work until it's too late!

In Seattle, they are trying something I have never seen before that goes beyond the usual warning signage: the DOT is using "sharrows" and markings to visually guide cyclists in the art of making some of these crossings. Anecdotally, it seems to work well. I found it reassuring that my path was predetermined as I approached instead of having to guesstimate.  Stay within the lines - and all will be good.

But as John Mauro from the Cascade Bicycle Club points out, this is only an interim solution.  This is the missing link in the famous Burke-Gilman greenway, and families out cycling for the day shouldn't have to contend with dangerous sets of tracks in the first place.  Still, it is nice to see DOT's all across the country are getting creative and using cost effective solutions (just a few marks with paint) to keep us a little safer.

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Seattle Crosswalk: Tap foot, Lights blink, Cross street

Along Seattle's historic waterfront I happened upon a unique pedestrian-activated crosswalk that blinks as people cross. Yes, I have seen over a dozen lighted ped signals before in myriad cities, but all required the user to press a button to manually begin the cycle. So, you ask, how is this one different?

Well check this out - as you enter the crosswalk make sure you touch the yellow rectangle on the sidewalk. This activates the lights that line the crosswalk. Drivers stop and it should be safe to begin your adventure: you'll feel a bit like an airplane coming in for a landing. Frankly, it's very empowering and a lot of fun!

Reason dictates that A) there must be a sensor contained within the yellow pad, or B) there's a helpful gremlin who lives underneath and throws a switch for pedestrians. Regardless, anyone else seen one like it in their town?

StreetFilms
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Take a Ride on the Seattle Streetcar

Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar is a 1.3-mile line that opened in December 2007, the first leg in Seattle's commitment to new transit and light rail. It passed the half million passenger milestone in its first year, surpassing ridership projections.

The streetcar features many top-of-the-line tech amenities, including real time arrival message boards, solar-powered ticket vending machines, and human-activated doors to save energy while the train is in layover mode. If you go to the Seattle Streetcar web site, you can find out the next arrival time and actually watch the streetcars moving via GPS trackers.

As you'll see in the film, development is booming along the South Lake Union corridor. "If you build it, they will come" certainly seems to apply here.

However, the streetcar is not without a contentious history, and continues to divide Seattleites as to whether it was a worthy investment. I'll steer clear of taking sides, but one commentary I will offer: these streetcars were made in the Czech Republic. With major U.S. cities continuing to make major plans to build transit, why are there no quality, American-made transit company options to assemble our trains? The Obama administration is busy giving massive bailouts to the auto industry, yet we continue to send money overseas for much of our transit needs. Okay, end of rant.

StreetFilms
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Seattle’s Bus Chick on the Rewards of the Riding Life

Carla Saulter pens a very eclectic blog called Bus Chick, Transit Authority, which you can find on the Seattle Post Intelligencer's website.

Carla, who lives car-free with her husband and young daughter, is all about riding transit and inspiring others to do the same. The bus has indeed figured prominently in her life: she met her husband on the bus; riding has provided her with a creative outlet for stories and interesting anecdotes; and she named her first child for the most renowned bus rider in history.

I was bowled over when I heard that Carla actually went by bus to give birth at the hospital (not to mention to also come home afterward). I knew then and there that I needed to profile her. I just wish I lived closer to the Bus Chick family so I could ride the bus with them more often.