By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
You’ve heard lots of pitches about making your plan for the Seattle Squeeze, Period of Maximum Constraint, whatever you want to call the looming post-viaduct-and-more transportation crunch.
The group also got to do a little brainstorming with a group looking far beyond the looming years of transpo-trouble, envisioning the future of downtown.
COMMUTE SEATTLE: Kevin Futhey explained that his organization is a nonprofit collaboration with local transit agencies that’s been working with employers for more than a decade. They work with employers to come up with plans, addressing points such as how employees currently commute, what options and benefits they have, and how to “maximize options and information.”
Right now, of course, the looming Highway 99 closure and viaduct-to-tunnel transition are top of mind. Here’s the Commute Seattle infopage about what they offer, including advice: Efficient commuting, they counsel, includes:
Avoid peak travel times
Reduce road space taken
WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd pointed out that employers should proactively consider and reach out to their workers – he gave an example of a West Seattle nonprofit leader who was at this past Monday’s viaduct-to-tunnel info session in Delridge (WSB coverage here) and realized he has an employee who comes to West Seattle daily from northwest of downtown and should be helping her talk through strategies.
WSTC board member Deb Barker pointed out the extra weeks post-tunnel opening in which West Seattleites will be affected, observing that “three-week closure” isn’t accurate messaging when you are talking with people who live and/or work here.
Futhey said Commute Seattle stresses to employers that they they should make permanent changes, not just temporary. Their message: “Shift the time … shift the mode.” Or even “shift the location” – develop a satellite office, a coworking situation if you have a certain number of workers in a particular neighborhood, for example.
Explore Commute Seattle’s site to see what they can offer.
Now, looking way into the future, when the Seattle Squeeze should just be a distant memory …
IMAGINE GREATER DOWNTOWN: This team representing “a partnership between the City of Seattle, King County Metro, Downtown Seattle Association and Sound Transit” noted they were “NOT here to talk about the Period of Maximum Constraint, the Seattle Squeeze,” etc. – instead, Imagine Greater Downtown‘s mission is to look at the “streets and public spaces of Greater Downtown,” 20 years out. That’s almost half the space in that area, they explained. A variety of partners are working with the city on this. 10 neighborhoods, stretching roughly from Roy to Royal Brougham, are covered. They’re expecting 50,000 new residents and 20,000 new jobs in the 20-year period. Here’s their promotional video:
Downtown has less park land than it should, so they are looking for new opportunities. They’ve also heard feedback including that there aren’t enough “intergenerational spaces” downtown, and that people of color don’t feel welcome in many areas of downtown, aside from Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, and the International District.
Imagine Greater Downtown’s brainstorming is currently focused on 11 “big ideas,” and they chose three to address at the WSTC meeting:
-A quality transit experience – including a logical, legible, intuitive, comfortable wayfinding experience as you arrive and leave. Stations/stops should be places in their own right. Improvements are vital in how you connect to other transportation modes and what it’s like to wait for transportation.
Discussion points that ensued with WSTC board members – most of whom identified themselves as transit users – included making payment simpler for visitors, identifying stations by permanent place names, more-detailed wayfinding maps. The IGD team noted that the Jackson and Westlake “hubs” will be especially important.
WSTC chair Taylor-Judd returned to the point of a greater vision for downtown, so everyone feels welcome everywhere, not just nods to certain cultures in certain places.
Next big idea: “Streets as places … to move and also to stay,” with activities in addition to transportation.
WSTC board member Barker brought up the central business district of Melbourne, Australia, where some streets had “big” and “little” versions, connected by pedestrian alleys dubbed “arcades,” internal connections that even went through buildings. Board member Chas Redmond also recommended a review of the wayfinding signage of Montreal.
The city reps said that connections to the water are a big part of the vision they are working on.
Third big idea: “New mobility to benefit people and climate,” such as autonomous vehicles. Managing them to enhance shared values – such as welcoming places and safer streets – is part of the vision. That includes, subsequent discussion underscored, figuring out how to avoid unintended consequences (such as ride-share vehicles cutting into bike lanes to get their passengers to the curb). That might mean, suggested Taylor-Judd, pulling back from the “complete street” concept by acknowledging that certain areas are where buses move best, certain areas are where bicycles move best, and so on.
Redmond expressed concern that the transportation agencies weren’t working with city planners – since the vision needs to be holistically executed.
What about a public park atop one or two buildings, so the views aren’t just accessible to those who pay for them via residence or office? asked Taylor-Judd.
Wrapping up the discussion, the Imagine Downtown team said the project is launching a new website December 13th that’ll have ways for you to comment on the “big ideas.” More outreach will follow and a February 28th open house is planned – watch for more details on that.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR WSTC: No December meeting. Issues looming for discussion in the new year include – besides the viaduct-to-tunnel transition – Terminal 5 (they’re expecting port reps at an early 2019 meeting) and legislative priorities (they’ll be in contact with 34th District reps). Next scheduled meeting will be the fourth Thursday in January.