The Transportation Committee met on Tuesday (11/24), with a long agenda.Agenda
Committee chair Rasmussen ran the meeting, and Council members Godden and O’Brien joined him.
Normally street vacation ordinances are fairly routine, but today one had a story behind it — a construction project right across the street from City Hall, on Marion between Fourth and Fifth. The subterranean vacation is a small addition to an already approved project where many people worked hard to preserve the historic First United Methodist Church next to the project. Lots of praise all around for people doing the right thing.
Commute Seattle is donating a bike counter to be installed on Second Avenue between Madison and Marion, to emphasize the importance of the protected bike lane there. The number of bicycles has tripled along Second Avenue since the bike lane was added. (presentation)
There was a presentation on the Transportation Incident Management Systems and their ongoing efforts to improve coordination across agencies and overall efficiency. The roll-over incident on Highway 99 last March was the impetus for a major review of the TIMS system to drive improvements. They have begun an education campaign around Steer it and Clear it — aka that it’s state law that if you have a minor accident on a highway and your car is still drivable you are required to move your car out of the path of traffic, then stop and exchange information with the other drivers involved. The presentation includes a list of improvements that have been made to-date.
There was also a presentation on the city’s Transit Master Plan which is interesting, particularly in their plans to add up to seven additional RapidRide bus lines. The presentation was a pre-brief for an amendment they expect to bring to the committee in two weeks to officially update the city’s Master Plan. This is important because the city will be seeking grants from other sources (federal, state, regional) to implement the improvements and having official City Council approval is necessary to obtain those grants.
And there was a presentation on plans to improve transit along the Madison Avenue corridor. Currently taking transit takes up to 67% longer than driving, and the plan would address that by adding a RapidRide line and making street lane changes to prioritize buses. The goal is to reduce the time to travel 23rd Street to 1st Street from 16 minutes to under 10 minutes. The city staff presented the “locally preferred alternative” implementation plan, which they have been working on for over a year. It reduces travel time by 40%, and includes many other pedestrian improvements at bus stops including curb cuts, new sidewalks, and landscaping. Based on community feedback, the planned route has been extended down into the Madison Valley. The plan will be officially submitted for the council’s approval in December.
There was discussion of the potential to further lid Interstate 5 as part of the expansion of the downtown Convention Center. Committee chair Rasmussen said that it is early days, and because so many different entities are involved it will take a lot of coalition-building to make it happen. Council member Bagshaw offered to help.
The last agenda item was a discussion and public hearing on vacating a public alleyway for a new Amazon office building. As with all other vacation requests, the committee reviewed the “public benefits” that would be given in return for giving up the public space. In the public comment session several people raised concerns about the project, including that the building will cast a shadow over Denny Park, that it will dramatically increase vehicle traffic without improving mass transit, and that community input and engagement was handled poorly (though others testified that the neighborhood association was involved from early on). Committee member O’Brien raised a general concern about a proliferation of “privately owned public plazas” in development projects that tend to benefit the people who use the building but not the general public and so should not necessarily count as a “public benefit.” He noted that extending bike paths as new projects get approved adds value as the pub gets better connectivity, and perhaps the first public plaza in an area adds public breathing space, but the eighth or ninth public plaza reaches a point of diminishing return. For O’Brien, one of the issues is the kind of free speech activities that would be allowed in privately-owned public space (where it might disturb residents, workers or retail establishments) vs. when the public benefit for a vacation is a donation of property to become true public space.The petition will come up for further discussion in the transportation committee’s December 8 meeting, and probably will be voted on in a subsequent meeting.