Thank you for this article. I have several comments.
First, this is great evidence SDOT suffers from severe underfunding. (Yes, their maintenance backlog, literally dozens of miles long at this point, already shows this.) Give SDOT the money and they can work wonders. (I commuted along Airport Way for years, and in one of those years, SDOT replaced the viaduct over the rail yard. SDOT completed this work MONTHS ahead of schedule.)
'Despite dropping speed limits from 30 to 25 on arterials in 2016, SDOT left an old “30” speed limit sign in place at 12th and Republican for years, actively instructing drivers to speed.'
Likewise, there was an old "30" mph sign on southbound California Avenue, a block and a half north from the Junction. I was going to report it, but SDOT beat me to it. Until they removed it, the sign was encouraging motorists to accelerate downhill into a busy intersection.
Second, banning private automobiles from Pike Place might actually make it less safe, because (as you noted) there will still be plenty of motor vehicles legitimately there. (Were I a betting man, I'd wager the vast majority of motorists entering there now are tourists, who immediately learn what a huge mistake they just made.) The huge number of cars ensures not one of them can move faster than a pedestrian could crawl.
Third, yes, process definitely slows progress, but traffic engineers must always look at the big picture. Returning to Florentia street, it seems simple to re-designate it, but what happens to the network of streets around it? What if they, individually or in aggregate, become LESS safe because of the unapproved modifications made to Florentia street? There would seem to be little benefit in simply relocating traffic accidents and fatalities to places nearby. Again, getting sufficient resources to SDOT would help here.
Again, thank you for this article. Please keep up your good work.
Seattle Department of Cars.
We have a 171 year old city, and our government seems to be crushing us under the weight of its baggage. From the unweildy comp plan, to our suburban zoning laws based back in the day of redlining, to SEPA ("environmental", in name only) processes that slow down good projects for years in order to protect a parking space, to building codes that are as straightforward as tangled yarn.
It would be super interesting to see us start over. Just start from a blank slate, and have every rule written from scratch. It would take years and significant money and effort, but think of how freeing it would be to be rid of this baggage.
@3 That's the upside of a magnitude 9.0.
S-DOT is well funded. It’s just that the majority of the budget seems to be going to Bright Young Things who are hired to think of ways to slow traffic down, thus increasing frustration and road rage, as we try to make our streets be everything for everybody.
And Vision Zero will never come to fruition in a town with horrible drivers and absolutely moronic pedestrians.
SDOT could solve all the problems mentioned with retractable bollards. The bollands would be activated by either pedestrian (to extend to protect crosswalks) or RFID tagged vehicles (to retract and allow certain vehicles to pass).
No car or truck is going to blow through a crosswalk with bollards without being totaled.
if you're gonna paint a crosswalk
peds are gonna figure motorists're
gonna Know it's there but without a
'Crosswalk Ahead!' sign Good Luck
on a dark & stormy November night
or even a Smoky
In Washington State:
"Every intersection is a crosswalk, unless there are posted signs.
"Drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at every crosswalk, marked or unmarked."
So, marking an unmarked crosswalk is less an act of civil disobedience, and more of proactively reminding everyone the crosswalk is there. (Paint used should meet SDOT standards, of course.)
@5: "It’s just that the majority of the budget seems to be going to Bright Young Things who are hired to think of ways to slow traffic down, thus increasing frustration and road rage,"
Don't worry, dear; Those Darned Kids will Get Offa Your Streets by the time your nap has ended. In the meantime, I agree; your confronting the actual facts about SDOT would just anger your blood. (And could cause nightmares...) Sweet dreams!
"The bollands would be activated by either pedestrian (to extend to protect crosswalks) or RFID tagged vehicles..."
@6 I dunno, man. I bet that Baume would be down there hitting that bollard button until somebody hit him with a stick. Seriously, that would be too much fun whether you needed to cross the road or not.
Tensor dear, what are these "actual facts" that you refer to?
I stand by, ready to be chastened and rebuked by your knowledge. That is, if you have any.
@10: Always pleased to be at your service, Ma'am:
"Since 2006, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been spending about $6.6 million annually on bridge maintenance, an amount that falls far short of the $34 million the agency has projected it needs to spend–at a minimum–to adequately maintain its bridges, which do not include state-owned bridges like the I-5 Ship Canal bridge."
"Back in 2013, Erica C. Barnett reported for Seattle Met that the cost of the maintenance backlog on Seattle’s roads and bridges was approaching to $2 billion. The $2 billion figure was taken from an SDOT report which claimed that the City should be spending $190 million on road and bridge maintenance annually, rather than the $40 million to $50 million it had been spending.
"As dismal as those seven-year old figures appear, today’s reality might be bleaker. According to the City Auditor’s report, the cumulative replacement value of Seattle’s bridges which are either approaching or past their design lives is approximately $6.3 billion. To put that figure in context, Seattle’s entire operating budget is about $6.6 billion annually. "
So, Seattle hasn't endowed SDOT with enough funds to maintain current roads and bridges, and many of the city's bridges are approaching the end of their design lives, which means they will require more and more maintenance cost just to stay operational, until SDOT begins replacing them; the latter's total cost is approximately the city's entire budget for an entire year.
It's difficult to see how this all adds up to "S-DOT is well funded," but I'm afraid I must leave that to you.
I stand corrected, tensor dear. I hereby amend my statement to say "S-DOT does not use the limited financial resources wisely. Instead, the majority of the budget seems to be going to Bright Young Things who are hired to think of ways to slow traffic down, thus increasing frustration and road rage, as we try to make our streets be everything for everybody."
That DIY crosswalk at N 83rd and Greenwood Ave N is actually at the site of installed handicapped/blind crossing ramps. You know, the bumpy yellow mats that let blind folks know there's a crosswalk there. And SDOT hasn't seen fit to put the actual crossing zebra on the roadway? So now a blind person can happily cross while a car blows right through a "non crosswalk"? If I was the mayor, SDOT would be out there Thursday morning putting in the markings. To keep the city from getting its ass reamed in an ADA lawsuit.
@14: Even if SDOT fired every last one of Those Darned Kids, so they would always and forever Keep Offa Your Streets, SDOT still wouldn't have financial resources sufficient to replace all of Seattle's soon-to-be-obsolete bridges. Not by at least an order of magnitude (or more).
Also, believe it or not, it is possible to improve traffic flow overall by slowing traffic on some routes. Improved traffic flow is not the only benefit, either:
"A safer speed limit can achieve more uniform speeds and reduce dangerous midblock acceleration, while adding little to overall journey times. Research from Grenoble, France has shown that a speed limit of 30 kmph (18.64 mph) rather than 50 kmph (31 mph) only added 18 seconds of travel time between intersections 1 km (.62 miles) apart. Lower speed limits may even reduce congestion in some cases, as they reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks. This has been observed in Sao Paulo, where lowering the speed limit on major arterials reduced congestion by 10 percent during the first month of implementation, while fatalities also dropped significantly." (https://www.wri.org/insights/need-safe-speed-4-surprising-ways-slower-driving-creates-better-cities)
But, if you absolutely must get home to your booze a whole 18 seconds faster, well then little Bobby will just have to suffer even greater permanent consequences from chasing Fido out into YOUR street. (Serves him right, that darned kid...)
tensor dear, let me make sure I understand what you are saying (me being elderly and all): We could fire all the Bright Young Things in SDOT, but it doesn't matter since we have no money to do things, so we might as well keep them on the payroll? How very Seattle Government of you! Are you a fellow traveler? Let's trade org unit numbers at the stroke of midnight at the water tower at Volunteer Park!
And, in all your links and somewhat, you seem to keep mum about the "bridging the gap" levy (or was it levies?). But that's ok. I live for your narratives!
@17: Contrary to your repeated assertions, dear, the amount of money SDOT spends on those traffic-calming measures you hate is nowhere near the amount of money required to complete SDOT's current maintenance backlog. It's absolutely nowhere near the amount of money needed to replace bridges. If SDOT hasn't the money to maintain and replace infrastructure as needed, then in what sense is SDOT "well funded"?
You're doing an incredibly poor job of defending the very assertion you came here to make.
So, Tensor dear, are you saying that since we don't have the money to do the big things, we should just spend money on little things, and not maybe try to save up the money to do the big things? That's plucky of you, but not very forward-thinking.
The West Seattle Bridge has been closed for two years, Ballard Bridge is a death trap for pedestrians and cyclists, Magnolia has been threatening to collapse for decades, the streets in general - but especially in SODO - are a mess, but we have bike lanes and "healthy streets" so it's all OK.
And while I ceded your point about SDOT funding several posts back (too try to keep up) you have studiously ignored my question about the funding for "bridging the gap". Don't you have another Erica C Barnett story from the 00's that you can link to?
Here's a few tidbits to start you on your journey.
@19: Mrs. Vel-DuRay dear, I'm saying that when considering a shortfall which runs literally into the billions of dollars, your repeated complaining about re-striping some traffic lanes, changing some speed limit signs, and re-timing some traffic lights shows a complete lack of understanding about the scope of the problem. (If you're in danger of losing your house, scrounging in the couch cushions for spare change is probably not a very good use of your time.)
"And while I ceded your point about SDOT funding several posts back (too [sic] try to keep up)..."
Where? @14, you described SDOT as having "limited financial resources". As does everyone. But some have enough funds to cover all of their obligations, and some do not. Those in the latter category are, by definition, not "well funded."
And, as you keep getting this completely wrong as well, please do note: I didn't offer an opinion on whether or not SDOT should tweak some signal timings. I did say that any amount of money which might be saved by not doing such things simply would not matter against the sheer scope of the funding shortfall SDOT faces.
Look, it's fun to harrumph about wastefraudanabuse, shake your fist in the general direction of City Hall, and crank out the silly and belligerent claim that government would have plenty of money if only it would stop doing things you happen not to like. But that's all just fodder for Tim Eyman's scams; none of it should be taken seriously by adults when considering civic policy for a wealthy, liberal city.
@19: So, if SDOT is short of funds, the local residents should just go out and paint the crosswalk again. Soon, SDOT will have to declare bankruptcy and quit erasing them. Or do they have some hidden f-you slush fund they can draw on when they don't get their way?
Better idea: Go re-paint them. But this time as rainbow crosswalks. Let's see if the city has the guts to remove those.
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