Posts Tagged ‘walkability’

Seattle tops ‘most literate’ list again

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Seattle is back in sole control of the top spot in an annual study of the country’s most literate cities.

The study’s author, Jack Miller of Central Connecticut State University, drew from statistics such as newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.

Seattle was tied at the top of the list with Minneapolis last year. This year Washington, D.C., fills the number two spot, followed by Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Portland, St. Paul, Minn., Boston, Cincinnati and Denver.

The study found that the most literate cities tend to rank high in other quality-of-life measures such as health, safety, active singles scenes and walkability.

The case for the deep bore tunnel

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Right now, a drill rig is outside on First Avenue, testing soil conditions for the deep bore tunnel.  The plan is far from certain obviously, but progress of any kind is exciting! Meanwhile it’s working its way through the legislature. This is a good time to hit some key points and dispel some misconceptions.

The tunnel would have more capacity than the current tunnel, not less. The same two lanes each way, plus breakdown lanes that avoid backups. The missing third lane is replaced by people exiting before Downtown rather than in Downtown.

It might save money vs. the alternatives despite costing more. What’s the price of several years of massive disruption with the aerial or shallow-cut alternatives? How many stores would fail, offices would move away, residents wouldn’t move in, and tourists wouldn’t come? (not to mention the effect of being next to another eyesore for another lifetime)

It’s realistic about traffic. The surface-option supporters have great motives. But they’re mistaken. Better transit would reduce trips somewhat, and many drivers might simply move. But tens of thousands of cars per day would be added to surface streets. Political concessions to the driving public would turn Downtown streets into highways focused on throughput rather than those who work, live, or shop here. For example, the PI instantly suggested fewer pedestrian crossings when the original surface option was shortlisted.

A tunnel helps Downtown function. Downtown Seattle is the dominant economic engine of our region, and plays an important role for most locals, whether working here, attending events, or just getting through. It’s tough to concentrate so much activity in a narrow area, but we do pretty well because of tunnels, including the BN tunnel, the transit tunnel, the existing 99 tunnel, and even the covered part of I-5. Downtown is growing. Putting 99 underground gets the through traffic through (without encouraging more driving) while allowing Downtown to be what it can be.

It avoids another 50-year mistake. Cities that succeed in the coming decades will have quality of life (as well as functionality; see above). The central waterfront and our surface streets are essential parts of that.

I think it’ll pass. The plan mixes best-case attributes and lacks strong anti constituencies. The “view while driving” crowd seems numerous but they ought to watch the road and will look foolish if the initiative goes anywhere. Through-drivers get their freeway (without more lanes to encourage more driving), Interbay gets a wider Alaskan Way and non-jammed streets, transit users end up with more transit (even if indirectly), Downtown people get our great waterfront and hold on to our walkability, and locals shoulder the difference in cost, which is a manageable figure.

PS, did everyone notice that Sound Transit just bid two two tunnel sections for massively less than projected?  They came in 23 percent and 34 percent under Sound Transit’s estimates, at a combined $329 million rather than $425 million. This is encouraging for the deep bore 99!

What makes Seattle livable for me

Friday, March 27th, 2009

By SUSAN JONES, atelierjones

Eds. Note: Jones, the founding principal of atelierjones, lives with her husband and two children in a condo near Pike Place Market. She works a few blocks away.

More cool Seattle shots by Michael Nalley at DDB

Seattle’s livability is about the vibrancy of its people: Walk any ten blocks three times over in Seattle’s downtown – stop to say hello to an old friend, walk over to check on your construction site at 1st and Union, stop by a press conference heralding the opening of Seattle’s new Green Lab, run into a client there and set up a meeting for their renovation of their condominium further south on 1st Avenue later in the day, stop at the Creamery at the Pike Place Market to buy fresh milk for breakfast, drop it off at home, then up to the WAC for a swim, walk back to the office for a quick meeting about a new downtown green roof project, then off to meet your client at their home to go over the design of their carbon fiber dining table, stop back home to pick up your daughter for her piano lesson – and you’ve walked 2 miles, half of them straight up hills, swam a  half mile, supported your local market, developed three design projects, seen four friends, and helped this city grow more and more livable with every footstep.

More Seattleites muse about livability here.

Livability means a pedestrian scale

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Frequently in my posts and in opinion pieces I suggest we should organize our thinking about growth as a city into three distinct domains: affordability, livability and sustainability.

I am continuing to think through these domains and defining them in more detail. But when I think of livability the first thing that comes to my mind is pedestrian scale. . . . at 12th and Thomas

If Seattle did one thing to support livability as we work toward accommodating more growth, it would be prioritizing pedestrian travel. The pedestrian would be at the top of the hierarchy followed in descending order by bicycles, scooters, transit, freight, shared vehicles and at the very, very bottom single passenger cars.

Two examples come to mind of what I mean by pedestrian scale and they are at extreme ends of the continuum. The National Mall in Washington D.C. stands out as an example of being out of scale with pedestrian travel. Although it was designed before the rise of the automobile it represents the kind of Brobdingnagian scale that lends itself to cars rather than people. It’s just too damn big.A quiet oasis . . .

At the other end is 12th and Thomas, shown above and at left. A look at these pictures might lead you to think that this is in someone’s back yard or perhaps a park. But the fact that this little oasis is part of a sidewalk near a busy street can teach us something.

Building Seattle as if we had to walk everywhere will make our city more livable. It doesn’t just have to be more sidewalks and gutters.

Instead, humanizing our walkscape means less pavement and more landscaping, less impervious surface and more unpaved amenities. The oasis at 12th and Thomas won’t save the world but you really can’t appreciate it driving by in a car.

To market, to market

Monday, July 14th, 2008

There’s lots of good fodder for urban development nuts to digest in today’s news. A few selections, in case you missed them:

In a piece for Crosscut, former city council member, architect (and offspring of Pike Place Market advocate Victor

The Market's year?
Steinbrueck) Peter Steinbrueck sounds off on fixing townhouses. Steinbrueck’s take: disallow certain types of townhouses altogether and make the rest of the code more form and performance based, with more design flexibility. He also suggests the city’s design community create an attractive “townhouse model” developers can work from.

The Seattle P-I has a piece on a new campaign targeting grocery shoppers as a way to reduce miles driven in the city. Feet First is providing deeply discounted personal carts, for now only to people living within one-quarter mile of the Westwood QFC in hopes of getting shoppers out of their cars for grocery trips.

Speaking of markets, the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to put a $73 million levy for Pike Place Market repairs and upgrades on the November ballot. Council is still in discussion on a $140 million levy for Seattle parks.