Speed limits, paid parking, street cuts @ City Council Transportation Committee

(Seattle Channel video from Tuesday’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee meeting)

Next Monday, the full Seattle City Council is scheduled to consider the SDOT speed-limit-reduction proposal, primarily proposing that all non-arterial roads to have a speed limit of 20 mph. First word of the proposal a week and a half ago sparked much discussion; it was one of three major topics at this week’s meeting of the council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

SPEED LIMITS: As you can see in the video above (starting one hour, 29 minutes in), the SDOT presenters stressed that they believe lower speed limits will reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries; they presented this slide deck to underscore that.

As for what’s planned for other arterials, SDOT reps said this specific bill does not include any speed-limit changes for arterials outside downtown, but noted that others remain under review, especially the ones with the most crashes. They also pointed out that the city has reduced speed limits relatively recently on four arterials around the city, two of them in West Seattle (Fauntleroy Way SW last February, and 35th Avenue SW). And they said they’re reviewing some areas – many in West Seattle (though specific roads weren’t mentioned) – where they need to add signage reminding people of current speed limits.

The speed-limit proposal needs a majority vote at Monday afternoon’s full-council meeting. No one opposed it at the committee meeting.

PARKING BENEFIT DISTRICTS: While this item did not directly involve West Seattle, some information of interest emerged – particularly, the revelation that SDOT expects to review West Seattle Junction on-street parking again in 2018. That would be nine years after the last full review in 2009, which included SDOT‘s announcement that paid on-street parking did NOT seem to be warranted in The Junction. The review did result in some mostly minor changes, including time limits.

The committee briefing was about a proposal to look at Parking Benefit Districts – in which revenue from paid on-street parking would go back into the geographic districts where the parking was located, theoretically to give community members an incentive to support the paid parking. Specifically, there was a proposal for a pilot PBD in Capitol Hill. SDOT recommended against it, saying it prefers to stick with what it’s been doing, including “time-of-day” variable pricing in some areas and potentially extending paid parking later into the night in some parts of the city. The latest online update from our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold (who was not at Tuesday’s meeting of the committee, for which she is an alternate member) has more details on SDOT’s rationale for opposing PBDs.

Back to the meeting – Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Mike O’Brien had a notable exchange involving constituents’ concerns about parking. O’Brien said he hears most often about new development projects without offstreet parking and said he wasn’t sure that PBDs would have any effect on those concerns. And separate from that, West Seattle’s “remarkable growth and increase in density” was mentioned in passing a few times during the discussion.

CUTTING UP STREETS: This briefing got a little technical but here’s what you really need to know: The city is tightening up the rules for when and why streets can be cut into, and how long the cutters get before they have to restore the pavement. With the Move Seattle Levy funding new pavement, SDOT reps explained, “One of the things we wanted to avoid were a bunch of asphalt cuts turning (newly repaved) streets into Swiss cheese.” You can read here what they are working on, in addition to listening to the discussion in the meeting video (1 hour, 9 minutes in).

28 Replies to "Speed limits, paid parking, street cuts @ City Council Transportation Committee"

  • Eddie September 22, 2016 (5:12 pm)

    Remember not that long ago when California Ave was freshly rebuilt and repaved from Edmonds to Admiral? Drive or ride it today and you’d think we lived in a war zone.

  • Diane September 22, 2016 (5:17 pm)

    I was very surprised while watching this meeting 2 (?) days ago, that developers are currently allowed a full year to do a REAL proper re-paving after cutting into our streets; so turns out those crappy bumpy patches all up/down California Ave between Admiral and Alaska junctions can legally stay that way for a YEAR; ridiculous

  • Mark schletty September 22, 2016 (5:33 pm)

    This speed limit reduction proposal is absurd.  It will completely ruin getting around the city and add to congestion. There is no need for this. Just stupidity at its utmost. Another reason that the city’s current leadership must be changed. 

  • JeffK September 22, 2016 (5:36 pm)

    I vote far left in everything but I’ll work to bounce any city council members that vote for this regardless of their other politics.  The nanny state has to stop somewhere.  

  • Chris September 22, 2016 (5:51 pm)

    We have a feeling they will do what they want to no matter what we say which is evidenced by what is happening to our West Seattle from over building, remarking of streets, wanting to change the speed limits, bus bulbs that back up traffic, etc.     So many have spoken up here in the blog and sure otherwise and yet…..

    We know there is hope.   Perhaps we can take care of in elections of other people???

    Thank you Tracy for all that you do to help get our voices heard, and keeping up with all of this stuff.   You are most appreciated.

  • old timer September 22, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    IMO, the occupancy permit for new buildings should be tied to the state of the street the building has disturbed.  No occupancy/rental income/sale until the street is good as new, not as it was before they started, good as new.

  • AMD September 22, 2016 (6:26 pm)

    The speed limit reduction is on residential streets, not arterials.  People aren’t intended to get around exclusively on side streets and these are never congested to begin with.

    The reality is Seattleites are terrible drivers and until that changes, the DoT is going to continue to change lanes, speed limits, signage until the people and things Seattle’s terrible drivers keep hitting fare better afterwards.  Because getting Seattle drivers to stop hitting people, cars, and stationary objects (or zipper merge, or navigate a 4-way stop) clearly is not a winning strategy.

    Not you, of course.  You’re a great driver.  But you know the rest are awful and you can blame them for the new speed limits.

    • Pops September 22, 2016 (9:47 pm)

      I think arterials will go to 25 from 30.  Seattle drivers are horrible. I think lowering the speed limit is fine but it will be voluntary because police don’t enforce traffic laws which ironically is why I think drivers and parkers are so horrible. I already drive 20 on residential streets so i have more time to get out of the way if most people who jaywalk without looking, or cut corners, don’t yield, drive down the center of roads that are wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass each other easily, etc, etc.

  • TheKing September 22, 2016 (6:35 pm)

    I am requesting a refund for half of my property taxes back since 1993. It only makes sense since I never realized I was living in subtandard and dangerous conditions. These people make Seattle sound like the most dangerous place on earth. Why did they come here ??

  • Space Dust September 22, 2016 (6:48 pm)

    Let’s go back and look at the root of the problem..Can you say,  Cell Phones.

    People walking and looking at the phones are worse then someone driving, at least the driver will look up in a couple seconds. I see people walking in the streets looking at the phone with ear buds in, I give them a courtesy tap of the horn…not even a look up.

    Why do people walk in the street, when the city installed sidewalks for you? Absurd.

    When crossing the street, make eye contact with the drivers! Don’t just look down and hope nobody runs you over. Stay alert , stay alive. The driver of the car doesn’t want to run you over, but will if you don’t draw awareness.

    Put the phone down people!  

    • wb September 22, 2016 (8:57 pm)

      @space dust. What?  “People walking and looking at the phones are worse than someone driving.”  Someone driving is commandeering 4000 lbs of a potential killing machine.  They have no business talking, looking at or texting on a cell phone while driving.

      • Rick September 23, 2016 (5:33 am)

        If it makes you feel better,they also do it while driving those “4000 pound (must not be a smart car) killing machines.  I drive very little but am amazed at the people who are focused on their screens.

    • Maria September 23, 2016 (6:38 am)

      Hmmm.  Condoning drivers use of cell phones while telling peds not to.  “At least the  driver will look up in a couple of seconds” — what, to suddenly see what they are about to hit?   Then sadly you have just given the SDOT the reason to lower speed limits.

  • John H. September 22, 2016 (9:29 pm)

    Ok, so by the city’s own analysis 10% of serious or fatal accidents  occur on non-arterial roads:


    Yet they want to attempt to reduce that 10% of the problem by reducing the speed limit from 35mph to 20 mph on all non-arterial roads.  Where is the analysis that shows this will be effective?  Will they track the accident rate on non-arterial roads in the future to see if this is an effective law?  Likely not.

    Reading through the .pdf file I see no sound rational train of logic to arrive at the 20 mph on every non-arterial will make a significant difference to that 10% number.  Seems they have a 90% problem that they need to focus on instead.  Speed is surely a contributor to accidents, but what are the other contributors – poor street lighting, too many parked cars, blind spots to see pedestrians, pedestrian inattention, etc.?

    It feels like this is another simplistic plan by our city government to address a complex issue.

  • John H. September 22, 2016 (10:22 pm)

    As a follow-up see the interactive map of vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist accidents. 


    Both serious and non-serious.  So by the City’s own admission it’s a downtown problem.  When I look at the 2015 serious crashes involving pedestrians and/or cyclists I see very very very few in placed like West Seattle compared to downtown Seattle, which makes sense since there are far more people walking and riding downtown.

    So why make all the residential roads 20mph to solve a barely existent problem compared to the big problem in downtown Seattle?  Can’t see the logic.

  • Norma September 22, 2016 (11:27 pm)

    I would much rather ride the bus to get around town, to go to doctor appointments or to events but metro has taken my bus away. The car is my only mode of transportation any more and that’s probably true for others as well.  We do have a commuter run but is pretty unreliable so that doesn’t really work to get people to work.  I don’t see them doing anything to fix this problem.  Their solutions only frustrate drivers more and certainly don’t improve pedestrian or bicycle safety.

  • West Sea Neighbor September 23, 2016 (8:14 am)

    While I would like to see the speed reduced on some non-arterial streets, such as 48th Ave SW near Ercolini park (cars tend to race up and down this street for some reason), I have a hard time seeing how lower speed limits will realistically be enforced when the current speed limits aren’t enforced very well.  For instance, despite the 30 mph limit on Admiral hill, it seems as if cars usually travel somewhere around 40-45 mph. That seems like low hanging fruit, but I have rarely seen traffic enforcement there.

  • West Seattle Resident September 23, 2016 (8:26 am)

    I fully support the reduced speed limit.  The sooner the better.

  • CMP September 23, 2016 (8:27 am)

    John H., you make some great points.  This is low hanging fruit for the city to make it seem like they’re doing something for that 10%.  Yes, lowering speed limits will reduce pedestrian injuries/death (that’s a no-brainer) but how often does that happen?  I clicked on your second link to look at the accident map and most were from hitting parked cars, “angles”, or rear ending, none of which involved pedestrians.  Granted, I viewed only a small number in West Seattle, but it leaves me pondering the decision to lower speed limits city wide for non-arterial roads.  I drive our side streets often enough and my biggest concern is uncontrolled intersections and animals running out in front of my car.  That map just shows we have inattentive or bad drivers…let’s focus on that 90% of the problem as a few readers wisely pointed out.  

    • John H. September 23, 2016 (11:52 am)

      I live on one of those residential streets crowded with cars parked (unnecessarily on both sides of the road) on a hill and you know where all the accidents have occurred on the block in the 17+ years I’ve lived here – at the un-controlled intersections at either end because:
      – People don’t know the rules of un-controlled intersections
      – No traffic island to make people stop
      – People forced to cut through the neighborhood to avoid traffic – essentially turning it into an arterial

      Sure speed plays a role in the outcome of the collision, which is surely an important thing to consider, but not the cause of the accident – by the city’s own data. Speed is not one of the top 4 contributing factors to causes of collisions according to their own data presentation.

      Just here in West Seattle there are many many places where cross-walks can be improved, sight lines improved, cycle lanes that make sense, etc. that likely will have far more effect on avoiding collisions in the first place. Also, effective enforcement of the current speed limits would go a long way towards limiting the speed of collisions as people would slow down no matter where they are if they know that there will likely be enforcement, otherwise the lower limits will be ignored.

  • BeachDriveBoy September 23, 2016 (8:36 am)

    I like the idea of lower speed limits. Beach Drive is used too often as a speedway in the mornings by harried commuters. The problem is, as West Sea Neighbor points out, enforcement. We simply do not have enough police to patrol for speeders. People weigh the penalty vs. the probability of being caught, and speeding becomes a low-risk venture.

    Until we either get serious and install photo radar in places other than a handful of school zones (or recruit a bunch of civilian ‘bounty hunters’ equipped with certified radar guns & cameras – pay them with a share of the fine), these speed reductions will be a pointless ‘feel good’ measure that won’t do anything because no one will slow down.

  • Gene September 23, 2016 (10:41 am)

    It’s another ” feel good” idea- that if put into law Will seldom be enforced.Oh I’m sure from time to time someone will get a ticket – & there will be those that will go the posted limit- so that’s a good thing- but there are just not enough LE to enforce it. There’s precious little enforcement of the current posted limits—But hey- if it makes you feel better……

  • Double Dub Resident September 23, 2016 (10:43 am)

    Hey city council, we have a serious homeless problem going on here. Please do something about it. 

    City Council :Ok,  let’s lower the speed limit….. Oh and we’re pondering the idea of essentially legalizing homeless encampments in your public parks that you pay taxes on. 

  • Leslie September 23, 2016 (11:12 am)

    For what it’s worth – at the new Google campus in Kirkland you are supposed to enter the new parking garage from 5th place south. If you come up 7th ave south there was a “no right turn” sign (symbol with red circle and line through it) which was to discourage all the employees (800 or so) from driving up the very residential 7th ave south. Well that didn’t work. Even though the ability to turn right into the garage driveway can only be done by a car the turning radious of a Smart Car folks still kept trying taking several attempts to jockey their car around the very tight right angle turn. So they put up THREE no right turn signs – one after the other – with one even spelling out “NO RIGHT TURN” in addition to the normal symbol of a right turn arrow with a red circle and line through it.  If the very smart folks at Google Kirkland can’t read and follow the traffic signs I can fully understand why the Seattle City Council is feeling the need to control people’s driving habits with additional rules and regulations given all the smart tech people who now work and live in Seattle. It’s the sign of the times unfortunately. I hate it as much as everyone else but I’m in my 60s and have experienced driving in Seattle since I was 16 and know how it should be but now see how awful people drive today and as much as I hate to admit it I sort of have to agree with all the new rules just so we can maintain some safety and for that matter some  sanity. Until we can get those who feel rules and signs don’t apply to them to understand that YES they really do apply to them we will continue to be ruled and regulated by government for the better of the masses. Sigh……

  • wsn00b September 23, 2016 (12:59 pm)

    I thought the lack of road surface maintenance/rebuilding on California, Fauntleroy and 35th were part of the bigger picture to slowdown traffic and improve safety. You can’t do 40mph over giant ruts, potholes and the remaining road surface swiss cheese.  You can’t hold your phone while driving if you are being rattled around by potholes. 

    Save money, automatically drop speed and enhance safety – stop maintaining the roads SDOT!

  • Mark September 23, 2016 (4:28 pm)

    The City is ignoring extensive data that clearly documents lowering the speed limit by itself does not reduce traffic speeds.  And in fact can lead to less safe conditions.  Kubly (who is not a PE) claims SDoT is data driven.  The data says this is not effective, thus why is the City doing it?  5 demo projects yet no report was conducted why?  The why is it would not provide the desired answer

  • AceMotel September 23, 2016 (5:09 pm)

    Kubly has overstayed his welcome.  He can go home now, and take his Pronto bikes with him.

    The city can outlaw cars IMO, if they would provide an alternative.  A bus coming (or maybe not coming) every 30 minutes, and then going someplace I don’t want to go, so I can transfer to another bus 30 minutes later that may go to the place I want to go, is not an alternative.  If SDOT/King County/Metro can’t figure out mass transit, they need to visit almost any European city and take a few lessons.

  • CMP September 23, 2016 (5:10 pm)

    I’m against lowering speed limits but if you look at the actual goal of the Zero whatever campaign, it’s to reduce pedestrian fatalities and major injuries, and reducing speed limits accomplishes that as statistics prove. The city goal is not to make streets “safer” per se. If that were the case they’d actually have a lot of work to do like making it harder to get a license, improving uncontrolled intersections, banning all phone use while driving, etc.  as I said earlier this is low hanging fruit. Some people will follow the speed limits, some won’t, and some of us will move away because this city is becoming ridiculous. 

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