The brain power that our city directs at improving the mobility of its citizens must be recognized as considerable. But, sadly, the expenditure of most of this brain power has as much practical use as that which psychics spend on connecting the position of stars with the future events in our lives. Because car mobility is the prime concern of traffic engineers, they, like many economists, are not much better than those who "haruspicate or scry." The distance between and the conditions of a rational mode of mass transportation is cosmic. This can only mean that the SDOT and other departments of transportation are a church or a cult. A science of mass transportation does not need priests or psychics or prophets.
The the religious character of transportation departments is exposed to us daily in the papers, and in the endless traffic jams, deadly crashes, and, in my case, right outside of my office window. At this point, I need to take a step back and bring up something that made the news a few days ago. On September 3, Capital Hill Blog reported that the Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda proposed making the six-block area adjacent to Cal Anderson Park into a superille. The hope is that this will minimize the impact of cars. Capitol Hill Blog also reported that Mosqueda wants to explore the idea in 2020. What does this all mean? We are a very long way from even the possibility of this proposal being nothing more than the daydream of a Seattle council member who cannot help but always look for the future's sunnier side. But those familiar with this arena can see that much more planning and meetings and more meetings and even more meetings and hopes and more planning are needed to transfer a good part of Mosqueda's dream to reality. One only has to look out of my office window office to see why.
Who is ready for a #SUPERBLOCK in Seattle!?
“It’s a win, win, win: a win for local #business, a win for #safety of #pedestrians and #bicyclists, and a win for the #environment.”
Let us know what you think of these street models hailing from #Barcelona🚲🚶🏾♀️https://t.co/ghJlH1xRhA
— Teresa Mosqueda (@TeresaCMosqueda) September 4, 2019
If the SDOT—which is run by a man whose surname happens to be the same as my country of origin, Zimbabwe, which achieved independence from white rule in 1980 and has been led for much of its existence under black rule (39 years) by the now-and-finally dead Robert Mugabe (may you never rest in peace, bastard)—simply removed the stop lights on Pine and 11th and make it an "unsignalized intersection," in engineer-speak, a considerable part of Mosqueda's vision would be realized.
There's already an unsignalized intersection on Pike and 11th, and Pike and 10th, and Pine and 10th (which is not exactly an intersection but it is connected with the path on the west side of Cal Anderson Park). Once the light on Pine and 11th is removed, the next thing to do would be to redirect Metro's Route 11 bus to Union Street, which it would share with the Route 2 bus. This change would supply a constant flow of buses to First Hill, which was deprived of a Link Station by the timid engineers at Sound Transit. (The First Hill Streetcar, where the funds for the First Hill Station went, does not really service that neighborhood but is instead a link between Capitol Hill and the International District.)
Why should we wait until some nebulous time in the next decade to just do this? Much of what's hoped for from a "super-block" can be achieved right away if the last crosswalk becomes unsignalized, and therefore directly favors pedestrians, and thereby promotes a pedestrian, rather than a car, culture in the area.
That said, I have to share some bad news in the form of Pike Place Market.
There is a robust and self-emergent pedestrian culture there, but for reasons that can only be explained by the government's institutionalization of the deep religious feeling of the saviorial powers of the automobile, we must daily deal with the utter density (as in stupidity) of cars, and usually very big suburban cars, driving down a street filled with walking people. What is as obvious as the day is that all cars not related to services in Pike Place Market should be banned from there. It's what's called a "no-brainer." But, as I said at the beginning of the post, so much of the brain-power in traffic engineering is spent formulating and implementing projects that are as far away as possible from the no-brainers (or, put another way, the rational).
If we can't implement a car ban in a place as obvious as Pike Place Market, then we cannot expect the SDOT to ever make a proper super-block on Capitol Hill. That kind of thing is not in their bible. When they speak in tongues, all we hear is: cars, cars, cars.