We Deserve a Waterfront for All

Seattle deserves a waterfront that is accessible and inviting for people of all ages and abilities, using all modes of transportation.

 

Earlier this week, the Seattle Transit Blog criticized Feet First for colluding in a “bait-and-switch to voters” by encouraging the City to deprioritize transit in the redesign of Waterfront Seattle. This poorly researched and superficial claim that Feet First is a driving force of endangering waterfront bus lanes did not take into account the full picture of Feet First’s multi-modal and pro-transit advocacy.

 

The Seattle Transit Blog cites a 2013 blog post, yet failed to reference the much more recent (August 2015) Comments on Alaskan Way, Promenade and Overlook Walk DEIS (AWPOW DEIS) that Feet First submitted to the City of Seattle Office of the Waterfront in partnership with three other organizations: Transportation Choices Coalition (an organization known for its transit advocacy), Cascade Bicycle Club, and Washington Bikes. In this letter, Feet First explicitly stated its support for a multi-modal waterfront, including transit: “With the expansion of the waterfront, we believe that the City has the opportunity to create a connective network of efficient, multimodal transit; prioritize non-motorized traveler safety; and promote the use of accessible open space.”

 

The 2015 AWPOW DEIS letter recommends over 20 reasonable options for making the waterfront safer and more accessible for people using all modes of transportation. The letter goes on to promote transit in its recommendations that “The City should consider the suggestions made by King County Metro to expand transit service along the Alaskan Way corridor,” and that “Because transit along the waterfront is critical to managing travel demand, the City should consider extending transit-only lanes to support King County Metro’s suggestions.”

 

This letter, like the 2013 blog post, also makes the point that in order to meet accessibility and safety goals we must balance traffic lanes, including transit lanes, with the needs of people traveling on foot. As the four organizations that signed onto the EIS Comment letter agreed, “Increasing the number of lanes on the Alaskan Way corridor could prove to be detrimental for people walking and biking attempting to access the waterfront.” One possible compromise to achieve balance between modes is to relocate transit, but it is by no means the only option. As the letter suggested, the City might “Consider having one general purpose lane and one mixed transit and freight-only lane in each direction, instead of two general purpose lanes and one transit-only lane…” The City might also consider expanding ferry reservation systems in order to reduce the need for ferry queuing lanes. However, the City does not have the ability to control the ferry reservation system. Unfortunately, the roadway being discussed is SR 519 and falls into the jurisdiction of Washington State Department of Transportation.

 

While we applaud the State’s efforts, to apply a Practical Design approach to its projects, this current section of the Seattle Waterfront design falls quite a bit short of meeting the practical design goals. The government agencies would benefit from working together to put people’s safety first by reducing the unnecessary lanes. Adding features such as refuge islands for people walking are helpful, however these safety features don’t take away the fact that the State is forcing the design of an 8-lane highway.

 

The City’s preferred alternative has been and remains a future  Alaskan Way that includes full-time, dedicated transit lanes in and out of downtown. From talking with City staff today, it’s clear that the City’s goal remains a reliable, fast transit pathway in and out of downtown to serve our growing transit ridership. What they explained at the City Council on Monday was that as part of environmental review, they have to consider a range of alternatives in terms of how the street could be designed, to ensure the full range of possible impacts are considered. There is no proposal now to remove the dedicated transit lanes from future plan for Alaskan Way. We’ll have the opportunity again this coming spring to comment on the EIS, and reiterate our support for a great, multi-modal street that serves all users. We hope you will stay engaged in the conversation with us to ensure the promise of a waterfront for all.

 

Feet First is not alone in believing that people of all ages and abilities, including those who walk to and from transit, deserve to be able to cross to the new waterfront comfortably and safely. We believe that walking and transit are intrinsically connected and to that end it is critical to have more safe and integrated transportation choices. Seattle Department of Transportation prioritizes “a safe city” as one of its core values, and the City has adopted aggressive traffic safety goals in its Vision Zero plan. Feet First is one of many organizations that has proposed realistic design solutions to balance the needs of all users, and will continue to work collaboratively with partners who represent all modes and all levels of government to ensure safe, accessible, and inviting places for people of all ages and abilities to walk throughout Seattle and Washington.

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