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and here is why:
On August 18th the citizens of Seattle will decide to support or reject a 20-cent plastic and paper bag fee. The Seattle City Council previously approved this proposed fee in July of 2008 with a vote of 6 to 1. Since that time an initiative has been filed to attempt to overturn the bag fee, largely influenced by the American Chemistry Council. Other cities around the globe have adopted bag fees or bans with great success reducing plastic bag use by as much as 90%.

Great City recognizes the impact that plastic bags have on our local, national and global environment, both in terms of oil consumption and pollution of our waterways. The approval or disapproval of the ballot measure on August 18th will likely set a precedent for the other 25 US cities considering similar fees or bans. As a national leader in progressive environmental policies, the successes and failures of Seattle’s policies set the tone for national debates surrounding similar issues.  While the bag fee may seem like a small gesture, its passage would be a clear indication of where we stand in the larger fight to reduce our waste and our dependence on oil. Seattle has an opportunity to become a policy setter while engaging citizens to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Great City understands that a bag fee would reduce the 360 million bags used annually in the City of Seattle by 70% and generate $10 million annually for waste prevention, recycling programs, and environmental education. The City of Seattle’s goals to recycle 60% of the waste stream will also benefit from a reduction in plastic bags allowing more efficient sorting of recyclables, waste and compostable materials.

In an effort to ease the economic strain of the bag fee on the community $2 million of the collected bag fee will be used for promoting the switch to reusable plastic bag alternatives, and underwriting the distribution of free, reusable bags.

For the reasons above, Great City supports this effort. To learn more visit http://greenbagcampaign.org/

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The Beacon Hill station area planning meeting is to be held this Saturday at El Centro de La Raza on North Beacon Hill,  9AM-2PM. http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/Neighborhood_Planning/Overview/ If you live in the neighborhood, I strongly encourage you to come and participate in making the community a better place to live, and helping our civilization last a few generations longer (honestly, I don’t know when our robot overlords will take over, but if we trash the planet before then, it might be the cockroaches instead, and nobody wants that).

As you may know, the Link light rail is scheduled to open in a few months, hearkening in a new era of transportation ease and efficiency in Seattle.  This is more exciting than the Allentown SLUT, which moves at the pace of a crippled donkey and goes almost nowhere at all.  Link will actually will go to the airport, downtown, and even to some neighborhoods.  With a fixed rail system like this, we expect some changes. Land values and uses change from low height and density, auto-dependent suburban models to a more vibrant, walkable, dynamic mix of uses.  I like to think of this as “a good thing, ” but only because don’t like having to drive everywhere, and I fear being ruled by cockroaches.

Going to these planning meetings is important because generally the people from the neighborhoods who show up are the ones who oppose change in all its forms, are really concered about having on-street parking for their SUV (or Prius), and are opposed to the idea of having more people move into their neighborhoods (even if they do want their children to live nearby).  Simultaneously, they want lots of cute little shops, cafes, fish markets, etc., and they want to “save the environment,” and want affordable housing. You might think that this is a horrible contradiction to hold these two sets of thoughts in ones mind at once, but such is the nature of the contempory American homeowner.  We need you, and people like you, to participate in the process, and help spread reasonable, logical ideas.

Like, for example: you can’t have cute little shops without people to shop in them.  More neighbors means better transit service.  Exclusionary zoning (i.e. SF5000) keeps housing from being affordable.  If you have great parks, plazas and streets, you don’t really need a huge house and yard. If we want to preserve the environment, prevent global climate destabilization, we can’t keep building car-dependent, low-density developments because well over half our carbon emissions come from automobile transportation.

Yes, these things seems logical and reasonable to you, but that’s why you need to be there on Saturday. This is a democracy and decisions are made by the irrational squeaky wheels and single-minded busybodies and narrow issue lobbyists who show up to participate.

I’ve walked around Beacon Hill, spoken with many residents, and property and business owners as well as with City Council members and planning staff, and I think the appropriate and most feasible plan for the Station Area is to expand the planning area to 1/2 mile along Beacon Ave north and south from the station.  Heights of 55-65 feet is reasonable from both an urban design and a development economic standpoint. However, there should be some design guidance to prevent a row of really ugly boxes from being built.  Neighborhood Commercial NC3-65 or NC2-65 is probably the right zoning designation to keep the funky commercial character along Beacon Ave.  I would also suggest that 1/4 east and west from the station, the height limit is raised to 65 feet as well, and multifamily housing is permitted so that more people can support the cute little shops along Beacon Ave and more people can benefit from the multi-billion dollar investment we have made in the rail system.

I’m sure this is not the only way to make our city even more fair, and create vital, energetic neighborhoods.  If you’ve got other thoughts, I’d like to hear them.  And so would all the rest of the neighbors and planning staff–even more reason to show up on Saturday.  Besides, they serve coffee and pastries in the morning and really tasty food for lunch (from these cute little restaurants that are totally struggling right now for lack of customers)

So please forward this to everyone you know who lives near the new light rail stations and supports progressive change, and I hope to see you there on Saturday.

If you can’t be there in person, please fill out the survey online.  These comments and suggestions will be used by the City to incorporate into their decision process.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=uxNMJI_2faljdKSs45K1UsfQ_3d_3d

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A cyclist in a blender?

Do you know of an intersection that is particularly bad for biking or walking?  Do you wonder if accidents have occurred where there is that blind turn?  Is there a particular pothole or oddly angled rail track that has sent you flying off your bike?  Do you want to do something about it?

Thanks to the  Cascade Bicycle Club, in partnership with sustainability activist and software developer Phil Mitchell, cyclists in Seattle, and around the world can now use bikewise to find information about crashes, road hazards, and thefts, which will lead to safer, happier riding.

A bit more about bikewise from their website:

Crashes: It’s estimated that 75% or more of all crashes go unreported. We believe that by gathering detailed information on how and why crashes happen, we’ll be able to ride smarter. Also, we hope that knowing where crash hotspots are will help us to identify issues with traffic behavior and road design.

Hazards: How many times have you ridden past a dangerous sewer grate or overgrown vegetation and wished there were someplace to report it? Now there is. We aim to not only collect hazard reports, but to pass these on to the appropriate authorities. (Please note: we’re still putting this part of the system in place.)

Thefts: Tracking where and how bikes get stolen is a key part of making preventing thefts. We’re currently working on other pieces of this system, so that if your bike does get stolen, you have a better chance of getting it back. More to come on that.

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In 2004 Councilmember Licata’s stepson, Joe Robinson sustained brain injuries as he rushed into the street at an allegedly unsafe crossing point. In 2006 Matthew Tatsuo Nakata, of City Councilmember Della’s staff was killed by a car in a West Seattle Crosswalk. A Council Ad Hoc Pedestrian Safety Committee was set up in January 2007. In 2008 the voters OKed Bridging the Gap Property Tax Levy funding for transportation maintenance and capital improvements.

Political will plus dollars: that’s what it takes. After years of demonstrations with a guy in a chicken suit at Seattle’s unsafe intersections by the ped. Advocates of Feet First, the way was clear for some planning and spending on pedestrian routes and crosswalks.

Seattle’s Pedestrian Advisory Board surfed on the new wave of City government enthusiasm by calling for a Pedestrian Master Plan and an Advisory Group. They worked with Barbara Gray of the Seattle Department of Transportation to do the basic planning.

This spring Ped Board Chair. Tom Williams and Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Group Co-Chairs. Rebecca Deehr and Paulo Nuñes-Ueno rolled out the Pedestrian Master Plan to Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Jan Drago’s City Council Transportation Committee.

“This is important and historic work for Seattle that we couldn’t have done without the leadership of PMPAG,” said Councilmember Drago. Councilmember Licata added “to be a “walking city” we must give our citizens a safe city; I am committed to finding the funding to implement this plan after the Council approves it.”

The City Council release states that the Council is scheduled to review and approve the plan this year . This review will include a public hearing on July 21, 2009. But before that, the immediate next steps include: an extensive number of presentations of the proposed plan’s contents to District and Community Council Meetings.

There has been considerable latent support for creating and improving pedestrian routes and crosswalks in Seattle. Householders in the city’s annexed far north end, who live in less costly homes built under old County codes that required no sidewalks, have kept up a clamor for City-funded sidewalks on their residential blocks. Urban center stakeholders who have been blockaded by the Aurora in-city freeway and the Broad St. trench have been calling for new bike, pedestrian and transit connections. Seattle’s health-conscious residents have long criticized State transportation funding that gives individual motor vehicle travel first priority and shorts dollars for safe routes to schools, public facilities, shopping, and transit stops.

As Washington State, and even that other Washington, becomes more knowledgeable about health costs, it is clear that discouraging walking contributes to expensive chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.

The Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan Goals are Safety, Equity (unique in US pedestrian plans), Vibrancy (create great places and support economic activity), and Health (promote health and prevent disease.)

The Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan Objectives utilizing $60 million over the next 6 years:
1. Complete and maintain the Pedestrian System outlined in the Plan: 158 blocks of new sidewalk, 18 important key unsafe intersections improvements, 579 smaller intersection crosswalks, concrete repair and replacement, tree and foliage pruning, crosswalk paint, ramps to crosswalks, etc.
2. Improve walkability on all streets (the pedestrian element of a “complete street.”)
3. Increase pedestrian safety.
4. Plan, design, and build complete streets to move more people and goods.
5. Create vibrant public spaces that encourage walking.
6. Get more people to walk to for transportation, recreation, and heath.

Is $60 million over 6 years enough to make a dent in Seattle’s big pedestrian problems? Advisory Group Co-Chairs Nuñes-Ueno and Deehr said, “No.” There must be continuing funding by Seattle and under the new State law that calls for transportation funding measures to support movement of people and goods, not just vehicles per hour.

by John Coney

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Start construction on major bike routes.

Have you noticed that it is getting tougher to bike from Capitol Hill to downtown along Pine St.?

I was a bit miffed that my bike lane was under construction until the fabulous folks at Capitol Hill Seattle clued me in that new sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly improvements are in the works.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pleased as can be that it will be easier to walk downtown.  Read more at http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2009/04/22/pike-and-pine-street-improvements-to-include-new-sidewalk-bus-bulbs

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Come one, come all to Great City’s Spring Movie Night. Enjoy an evening under screen and stars at  Thornton Place, recently called “Seattle’s first real transit oriented development”, and site of the innovative Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel. In addition to celebrating this pioneering development that is leading the way in Northgate’s rejuvenation, we will also be heralding the arrival of Joshua Curtis as Great City’s new Executive Director and wishing our founding ED and recently-announced mayoral candidate, Michael McGinn, best wishes on his new pursuits. After mingling on the red carpet, you’ll enjoy an introduction by Bruce Lorig, tours of Thornton Place and the newly landscaped green water channel and a free viewing of a movie at the new theater (movie choices will include IMAX: Dark Night, Marly and Me, Horton Hears a Who, Rocky, The Express, and He’s Just Not That Into You.)

Date: Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Time: 5:30 pm
Location: Thornton Place Sales Center, just south of Northgate Mall (www.thornton-place.com)

Suggested Individual Donation:

Supporter – $35
Advocate – $50
Friend – $100

Please RSVP to Allison.

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR HOST:

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Pedestrian Master Plan Brownbag Lunch
Thursday, May 14th
12:00 – 1:30 pm
GGLO Space at the Steps (enter through door located about ¼ of the way down the Harbor Steps)
1301 First Ave, Level A
Last week Mayor Greg Nickels announced the release of Seattle’s draft Pedestrian Master Plan.  The plan aims to establish Seattle as the most walkable city in the nation through its goals of safety, equity, vibrancy, and health. The plan looks at the needs of pedestrians across the city and helps to identify and prioritize projects in areas with the greatest need. The plan provides direction for City staff, private developers, and individual property owners.  Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan is a web-based plan, available at http://www.seattle.gov/mostwalkablecity.htm. To give you a chance to learn more about the plan, Jennifer Wieland, Associate Transportation Planner at SDOT, will join us to present the plan and answer your questions.
Great City’s brownbag lunch forum series is generously hosted by GGLO
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Here is the winning video from the Congress for New Urbanism’s video contest. Great for a little inspiration when things get challenging :)

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So a few weeks back, I explained why a streetcar would function better on 12th Ave compared to the Broadway alignment. Most people seemed to agree that this would be a much better route due to the opportunities it would provide for a healthy, lively community. But one worry I have heard repeatedly is that a streetcar down 12th would interfere with an integral bike corridor, connecting South Downtown to Capitol Hill. Its a legitimate worry. As anyone who bikes regularly knows, the SLUT tracks wreak havoc for those on two wheels. 12th Ave, with its well-marked bike lane and gradual slope, would be an irreplaceable route to lose.

But it is very important to understand that the problem with Westlake is a design flaw, not some inherent problem with sychronizing streetcars and cycling. In fact, many of the world’s most bike-friendly cities use streetcars as an essential part of their transportation infrastructure. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and even Portland all use streetcars effectively without limiting accessability for bikers*. Here is an example from a street in Amsterdam:

Perhaps the most interesting item of note here is that the bike lane is raised from the street. This is because in most of Europe bikes are considered a form of soft traffic along with pedestrians. They have found that the risk of serious injury to citizens is much lower when bikers are with walkers instead of when bikers are with cars. Although a biker/walker collision might be painful and annoying, its almost never life-threatening. In addition, the added comfort provided to bikers significantly improves the accessability of cycling.

Well, its about time that we here in Seattle went a little Euro-style, and there’s no place better to start than on 12th Ave. Here’s a little self-made image representing how this might work out:

If I’m not mistaken the roadway here is 60ft wide. Vehicle lanes are typically 10ft wide and there would be four lanes of traffic, one car-only in each direction and one car/streetcar in each direction (grey and black). Instead of parking the sidewalk would be extended out another 10ft (blue and green) with your standard 5ft bike lane painted on top. Near the streetcar would be a 5ft section of pedestrian sidewalk for easy loading/unloading onto the rail line.

What I love about this design set up is that its really a benefit for everyone. Vehicles still have an extra lane to avoid traffic from left turns, pedestrians get a shorter crossing distance to walk across the street, and bikers get to relax a little and stop worry about car doors. Oh, did I mention there is also an awesome streetcar!

Now, I’m sure there are some challenges here that I’m overlooking and I would love for you all to point them out in the comments. But my main goal is simply to illustrate that through thinking a little differently about how we manage transportation, both streetcars and cyclists can thrive in the same corridor.

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Rapid ride is getting closer!

And for those of you who’ve forgotten, bus rapid transit should be a vast improvement because:

1. There should be dedicated bus lanes for buses only.

2. Buses should load and unload at ground level allowing for faster on/off.

3. Riders should pay before entering the bus at the bus stop.

Who knows what metro will actually end up doing, but they are promising buses every 10 minutes during peak hours.

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