FOLLOWUP: Speed-limit cut to bring thousands of new signs

When Kyle told us last week about the removal of the unauthorized speed-camera signs in Arbor Heights, he observed that ideally SDOT would have installed one of the new lower-speed-limit signs while there. It’s been more than a month since the announcement that all arterials would go to 25 mph – with our part of the city among the first to get new signage – so we asked SDOT for an update. The reply:

We are underway with necessary preparation work to enable us to install the new speed limit signs. We installed new speed limit signs on Rainier Ave S in December, and expect to drastically ramp up installations in February. We are prioritizing reducing speeds in Southeast Seattle first, and will then move on to West Seattle and the Central District. It will take us several months to complete this work in these neighborhoods, and up to a year and half to complete sign installations citywide.

Over the past month, our maintenance crews and planners have been working to prepare for this project. We have begun manufacturing the new signs and have also been working to determine the most effective locations for new signs on arterial roads in South and West Seattle. This requires planners to analyze crash data and scout out every arterial road to determine where signs will be most visible based on the landscape ahead of issuing work orders.

In addition to reducing speed limits, we also plan to greatly increase the number of speed limit signs in order to increase awareness of the change. Today, many arterial roads have speed limit signs roughly 1 – 1.5 miles apart. Increasing the frequently of signs makes them more visible and improves their effectiveness, so we are planning to place new signs approximately every 0.25 miles citywide. This will be a very large project, requiring us to manufacture and install about 2,500 – 3,000 new signs throughout Seattle.

P.S. We have another SDOT-project followup on the way, tonight or tomorrow: What’s left to do on the Avalon/35th/Alaska project, and how long it’ll take; we went downtown for a snow-delayed interview with project leaders.

116 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Speed-limit cut to bring thousands of new signs"

  • Jort January 23, 2020 (1:23 pm)

    Excellent and really wonderful news. Hopefully all these new signs will be accompanied with strict enforcement of this law. Automobile drivers have proven again and again that they are incapable of being entrusted with “policing themselves” when it comes to road safety. Guess what, drivers: it’s time to slow down! Get used to it and start planning your adaptations. No more zoom zoom for you!

    • WSB January 23, 2020 (2:15 pm)

      Our original report, linked in this one, included a mention of plans to increase enforcement.

      • Chris January 23, 2020 (5:21 pm)

        In addition to speeding on arterials, there are also so many uncontrolled intersections. We live by an intersection near a big school on 45th that has no stop sign nor traffic circle. I have seen so many close calls. And when school lets out I have seen some near misses with kids on foot. The uncontrolled intersections are confusing to many. I think that most people don’t understand that the person on the right has the right of way. People think because 45th is a wider street that they don’t have have to yield.

        • KBear January 23, 2020 (9:21 pm)

          No, Chris, at uncontrolled intersections the vehicle that arrives FIRST has the right of way. Only if two vehicles arrive at approximately the same time does it defer to the vehicle on the right. 

          • Chris January 24, 2020 (6:46 am)

            Exactly. And often times people don’t even slow down when they approach the intersection where I live. Especially those driving on 45th. They treat it like an alternate route to California because California can be so slow. If I were to continue even though I’m at the intersection first there would be an accident.

          • Jesus January 24, 2020 (5:28 pm)

            At uncontrolled intersections you yield to the vehicle on your right.  At four-way stops it’s who got there first, unless it’s a tie, then you yield to vehicle on your right.

          • KM January 24, 2020 (8:59 pm)

            Only if you arrive at the same time. You don’t have to sit and wait for a car on your right if they are going to arrive to the intersection later than you, although with how people drive through these intersection without slowing, I understand the caution!

          • Jesus January 25, 2020 (2:49 pm)

            This seems to be something that many drivers misunderstand these days.  At an uncontrolled intersection you yield to the vehicle on your right.  Yielding means that you don’t proceed through the intersection, regardless of when you arrived, unless you can safely make it through without impeding the progress of the vehicle to your right.  If you cause an accident when you haven’t yielded to a vehicle coming from your right you will be found at fault and cited.

    • Rumbles January 23, 2020 (8:36 pm)

      Unlikely as long as people are being gunned down in the streets.  SPD has their hands full as it is.  Not sure how much attention people will pay to the signs, don’t get your hopes up Jort.  

  • Jim Carter January 23, 2020 (1:25 pm)

    Is it me, or is the City of Seattle working diligently to make us give up our cars and go with nothing but Public Transit?? Seems to me the City has been doing nothing to IMPROVE traffic conditions, but they sure have lots of projects to slow down traffic and eliminate lanes on busy roads for things like bicycle lanes and Bus Only lanes,,, is it just me or,,,,

    • heartless January 23, 2020 (3:07 pm)

      You ok buddy?

    • KM January 23, 2020 (3:15 pm)

      You’re still welcome to drive your car, now you are just asked to go a speed that keeps you, other road users, in cars, on bikes, rolling or walking, less likely to die. Our roads are for all users, not just car users, and this is just one effort to make it more safe and equitable.

    • Lee January 23, 2020 (4:58 pm)

      This should improve traffic conditions considerably for people on foot. You don’t need to give up your car (I haven’t), but you definitely need to be respectful of other users, and a lower speed limit is a good way to remind people of that in my view. 

    • Maria January 23, 2020 (5:10 pm)

      The City and other agencies are certainly not wanting to hide any of this.  Efforts have been ongoing to encourage alternative transportation with the intent that those who need to drive can do so at their choice, with your choice being affected by these changes.  Sometimes the efforts are poor choices though such s the Hwy99 bus lane, but on the contrary the above article is more about safety changes in my view.   

    • Jort January 23, 2020 (7:34 pm)

      Just a heads up, the city isn’t going anything to “improve traffic conditions” because no city in the entirety of human history on the entire planet Earth has ever “improved traffic conditions” because it is not possible to do. Seattle is not going to be the first city in recorded human history to “solve” traffic “problems.”

    • James Bliss January 24, 2020 (10:35 am)

      Jim Carter I appreciate you saying this and know you are “ok”…  You are seeing the result of the belief that some people have that riding the bus, or a bike or even walking are on par in utility with driving in a car.  They are not.  Not by a long shot.  Especially for those of us with kids. The above statements come from a person (me) that has ridden the bus and biked to work every day for nearly ten years (so its not like I have a problem with alternate forms of transit).  That being said, give it a couple years and maybe they will all be equal, but not because the alternates rose in utility.

      • heartless January 24, 2020 (12:03 pm)

        Nah.  “[T]he result of the belief that some people have that riding the bus, or a bike or even walking are on par in utility with driving a car”?  Nah.  You’re just seeing a city that wants fewer pedestrians killed by cars.  You’re seeing a city that wants fewer traffic accidents.  No need to overthink it.

        As for Jim Carter’s original post, I dismissed it because it was silly and untrue.  The existence of the ferry system, the existence of buses, the existence of light rail, the continued expansion of light rail, and the various city and county carpool systems are all, just off the top of my head, things that the city has done to improve traffic conditions.  So when he says the city “… has been doing nothing to IMPROVE traffic conditions…” he is either not thinking it through or being disingenuous.

        Finally, you speak of utility, but that argument cuts both ways.  I’m in West Seattle.  Is it easier for me to drive or take a ferry to downtown?  For me it’s much easier to take a ferry–that mode of transit provides much more utility.  My kid and I go down to Alki, sometimes when it is crowded.  It’s far easier for us to take the 50 than to drive and look for parking.  Many people take the light rail to their jobs because it is faster and cheaper than driving.  It’s not “…on par in utility with driving a car,” not by a long shot.  It’s much better. 

        Now, of course these are selected examples–but that is the point!  Oftentimes driving is the worst choice!  Oftentimes driving costs more, takes more time, is more dangerous, etc., etc., so for you to paint with such broad strokes unnecessarily blurs the real picture.    

    • skeeter January 24, 2020 (12:44 pm)

      Hey Jim, can you give us some examples of car lanes that have been removed and replaced with a bike lane or bus lane?  It seems to me like you can still drive a car pretty much anywhere in Seattle.  I guess the exception is that one street downtown (4th??) that no longer allows cars so that more busses can go through.  Are you seeing a lot of car lanes being removed in West Seattle and replaced with a bike/bus only lane? 

  • john January 23, 2020 (1:31 pm)

    Sounds Seattle process driven and hobbled.  Why not just start with the low hanging fruit, as in replacing existing signs immediately while allowing the analysis of the crash data.  A bit confusing because I understand the crash data to be what has led to the speed limit reduction.  The vague time line “several months”  and “up to a year and  half” city wide indicate SDOT’s lack of preparation or notification?

  • Delridger January 23, 2020 (1:58 pm)

    I’m so happy about this! The change can’t come soon enough. 

  • Mike January 23, 2020 (2:32 pm)

    Yes!  We are gradually recognizing that our public rights-of-way are owned by and should be available for safe use by all of us – walkers, runners, cyclists, and motor vehicles.  There is no reason in principle why motor vehicles should be granted preference.   

  • StevenCC January 23, 2020 (2:48 pm)

    What a waste of resource. If there were adequate enforcement of existing speed limits we would all be much safer. Put the money into more officers on the streets, jot more signs!Every day we see people driving 60 and 70 mph on the bridge, and 50 mph on the arterials and side streets.

    • deooo January 23, 2020 (5:25 pm)

      I get 60mph on the bridge, but 50mph on an arterial or side street? really?

      • J January 24, 2020 (7:46 pm)

        Ask Tracy to repost the speeds on Highland Parkway and Admiral Way back when SPD’s ADRT was enforcing speed limits

    • Paul January 24, 2020 (8:32 am)

      Totally agree that enforcement would be far better use of limited resources.  Doubtful that signs will have any impact on speeds on most roads. Ajust another example of knee jerk political reaction. To an issue. Feels good politically, but ineffective. 

  • LAH January 23, 2020 (2:55 pm)

    And how will this actually make cars stop for pedestrians ?  More crosswalk lights would make a whole lot more sense than driving us out of our minds by making us drive so slow.   

    • heartless January 23, 2020 (7:58 pm)

      My theory–and, mind you, this is just a theory–is that vehicles that are going slower will be able to stop more easily.  

      If going 5 miles slower through neighborhoods drives you out of your mind, maybe you should take a step back an re-evaluate your life.

      • Lee January 23, 2020 (9:29 pm)

        You are bringing physics to bear on a physics question. A radical but compelling idea. I like it!And, yes, the idea that there is ever any reason to fly downhill on Edmunds at 35 mph and ignore all the pedestrians trying to cross – whatever that person is trying to get to is almost certainly not as important as they believe it is.

      • LAH January 24, 2020 (7:54 am)

        But Heartless, I’m one of the drivers that actually stops for pedestrian at unmarked intersections and controlled intersections.  I just also happen to like to drive 30 mph (down from 35 mph) and I don’t see how a further reduction in speed is going to encourage selfish drivers to stop when they’re not already doing it.  It’s about following the law and having a little compassion for your fellow humans.  Obviously your compassion is missing based on your response to me about evaluating my life.  That was just rude and thoughtless.  

        • heartless January 24, 2020 (8:46 am)

          You wrote that you did not understand how going slower might result in people stopping for pedestrians. 

          I tried to explain it in the absolute simplest terms.  There’s not much more to it than that. 

          If cars are going more slowly, they will be able to stop in shorter distances.  Say a driver sees a pedestrian about 70 feet away, clearly wanting to cross the street.  If the driver is going 35 mph they will not stop for that pedestrian.  Even you, carefully driving 30 mph, will likely not have enough room to stop for that pedestrian.  But if a vehicle is traveling at 25 mph and see a pedestrian the same distance away–then magically, lo and behold, they WILL be able to stop.

          Call me names all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that slower speeds enable more drivers to stop for pedestrians–something you initially questioned (“And how will this actually make cars stop for pedestrians ?”).

          Thoughtless, rude, & lacking compassion,

        • KM January 24, 2020 (9:00 am)

          I also stop at every intersection for pedestrians. What this lower speed limit does, when observed, is make it easier for drivers to stop for the pedestrians (as Heartless said), and less likely anyone on the roadway dies if they are struck by drivers while driving cars (god forbid!) So, it might not encourage selfish drivers to stop, but it will improve safety on the roadway overall, since many people DO obey the posted speed limit.

  • dsa January 23, 2020 (3:00 pm)

    Will the buses slow down too?

    • KBear January 23, 2020 (10:26 pm)

      No. Buses will continue to speed, run red lights, and block intersections, just as they do now.

      • Victoria E Lehde January 27, 2020 (5:24 pm)

        this totally depends on the bus driver. i’ve been on the NB 21 and a certain driver continually clocks around 20 mph…….

        • Little One January 31, 2020 (11:45 pm)

          20 mph is the new 25! Super Safe!

  • LR January 23, 2020 (4:01 pm)

    This is not the solution. It needs to be much much harder to get a drivers license. That’s a better solution.  People are driving distracted and the majority drive extremely poorly all the time.  Drivers eduction should be far longer and more intensive and people should have to be able to drive extremely well before they are given a license.  Lots of countries do this. It works. 

    • KBear January 23, 2020 (10:32 pm)

      LR is onto something. Even a simple written test on the rules of the road would eliminate around half the drivers out there. Streets would be safer and traffic would flow freely!

      • Chris January 24, 2020 (12:35 pm)

        Actually KBear we do take a written test. I had to pass the written test when I got my Washington state license 20 years ago. Perhaps it’s been longer for you.

        • KBear January 24, 2020 (9:50 pm)

          “20 years ago”—That’s the problem, Chris. A one-time test is not enough. People should have to demonstrate continued competence to maintain their license to drive. Operating thousands of pounds of machinery at high speed is too great a responsibility to be left to unskilled amateurs. 

          • Zark00 January 27, 2020 (11:25 am)

            Yeah,people should understand how to legally navigate an uncontrolled intersection for example. 

    • Richard Maloney January 24, 2020 (5:56 am)

      Spot on! Way too many drivers are simply unqualified to drive. We should all be tested every three or four years. Our vehicles should have to pass safety inspections. Those using and driving need to be taken off the roads and sentenced to transit. Drop the number of lousy, irresponsible drivers, and there will be safer roads, with far fewer cars.

  • Hmmmm January 23, 2020 (4:07 pm)

    Meaningless waste of our money. SPD’s enforcement of current traffic laws is minimal. Don’t see evidence of big increase of employment #’s of SPD. If they can’t enforce existing law’s this “feel good” lowering won’t have any effect. Reference the shooting downtown. Who’s going to demand that officer’s not respond, instead stay on speed enforcement Really????

    • Zark00 January 27, 2020 (11:28 am)

      Wrong. Lower posted speed limits reduce speeds without any enforcement. It’s been proven over and over and over and over and over again around the world. 

  • Dl January 23, 2020 (4:51 pm)

    I’m so glad the city changed the speed limit for arterials!  Thank you!!!  You don’t think of how serious arterial speeding is until finding out that someone you knew was killed from a speeding driver right in front of your home.

  • Onion January 23, 2020 (4:55 pm)

    Someone has to be a devil’s advocate here. I think 25 will actually hurt rather than help in reducing speeds. Why? Because it will encourage ignoring speed limits where they are unnecessarily restrictive. 25 on Rainier or Admiral or Fourth? It isn’t going to happen.

    • Maria January 23, 2020 (5:14 pm)

      Please don’t tailgate me when I am doing the speed limit on Admiral.

    • deooo January 23, 2020 (5:26 pm)

      Certain roads may have higher speed limits. 25mph is the default for arterials, if there is no sign otherwise

    • Jort January 23, 2020 (7:29 pm)

      Oh, it’s going to happen, and if people don’t like it, too bad: they’ll get a ticket and they can complain to the judge. Follow the law.

    • LR January 23, 2020 (7:47 pm)

      You are so completely right. This will make things worse.

    • Lee January 23, 2020 (9:40 pm)

      There was emphasis patrol on 15th Ave NW for a time after they lowered the speed limit there. Based on my admittedly anecdotal experience, that had a real impact on people’s driving. Last few times I’ve been down that corridor, other people are driving the speed limit and not passing me at 50 mph.It’s really, really easy to make cynical predictions, and there’s a strong confirmation bias that makes those predictions appealing to a lot of people. That confirmation bias makes it easy for people to overlook outcomes that contradict those cynical predictions. Let’s drive the new speed limit, encourage others to do so, and hope for good results.

    • Zark00 January 27, 2020 (11:34 am)

      When the posted speed limit is lowered, even without enforcement, people drive slower overall. You may think people will break the law more, but as it turns out they will not. Most importantly drivers at the higher end of speeding will slow down, and that alone will save lives. This isn’t some grand experiment. It’s been done over and over again across the globe. If you lower the posted speed limit, people drive slower, period. 

  • Lee January 23, 2020 (4:56 pm)

    I’m really glad about this. The folks who routinely zip around 10 miles over the speed limit all seem to have this incorrect attitude that our roadways are exclusively for cars. As someone who runs and walks quite a bit (on the sidewalk, but I have to cross at crosswalks, and speeders make that very sketchy sometimes), I want people to slow down and respect the equal ownership of other road users. For those who think this is a “war on cars,” check your entitlement and make sure you’re not waging a war on pedestrians.    

    • becauseracecar January 23, 2020 (11:07 pm)

      Roads are for wheels, keep your sneakers on the sidewalks! 

      • tsurly January 24, 2020 (8:43 am)

        Deal, but I plan on riding my bike right up the gut of every arterial forcing cars to slow down, because roads are for wheels.

      • Seriously? January 27, 2020 (8:34 am)

        You might want to be more specific than “roads are for wheels ” Shopping carts, roller skates, scooters, strollers – hell, even my suitcase has wheels. Some sneakers have wheels. Do they belong on roads? No. Your blanket statement is irrelevant.

  • Matt January 23, 2020 (5:06 pm)

    With zero enforcement I don’t see how this will have much effect. I’d venture to guess the average speed stays the same.  

    • WSB January 23, 2020 (7:11 pm)

      As mentioned upthread, the previous story included info on added enforcement.

  • candrewb January 23, 2020 (5:12 pm)

    Without thousands of new police officers, the signs are meaningless.

    • Lee January 23, 2020 (9:42 pm)

      I will follow the new speed limit signs, and I hope you will too. Between the two of us, that’s not meaningless.

      • CandrewB January 24, 2020 (5:33 am)

        Honestly I rarely if ever look at the speedometer. In one of my old cars it didn’t even work. I just go with what I am comfortable with or what other traffic is doing. One speeding ticket in my lifetime.

  • MJ January 23, 2020 (5:45 pm)

    This is irrational, posting arbitrary signs with speed limits inconsistent with street classification violates common sense and will reduce safety, based on 30+ years of reviewing traffic data. Collector Arterials serving neighborhoods is one thing, but multi lane Principal and Minor Arterials is another matter that SDoT needs to conduct formal analysis to show technical basis.

    • Jort January 23, 2020 (7:33 pm)

      You once again have asserted, falsely and with no evidence whatsoever, that a reduction in posted speed limits will “reduce safety.” This is false, wrong, and indicative of the mindset of traffic engineering that has led to the United States being one of the most unsafe countries for road safety in the developed world. This mindset is being ushered out by a new generation of engineers that believe in safe roads, and not billions of fast-moving deadly car drivers.

      • WR January 23, 2020 (9:39 pm)

        The US is unsafe when it comes to driving due to most people not being able to drive and partly due to terrible roads.  Speed is not the culprit and thus this very well could make things worse.  People shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they prove they can drive safely and well. They give licenses to people who can’t even merge. Seriously. 

    • Zark00 January 27, 2020 (11:40 am)

      This is so wrong, so backwards. This MJ person is so woefully incorrect. “He said you’re wrong but you think you’re right, and that makes you dangerous.” – Spider Man

    • Little One February 1, 2020 (12:01 am)

      I completely agree…this is the wrong approach. Bad/distracted drivers will still drive poorly even if they are going slower. Seattle has a notoriously bad driving culture, with people that drive *too* slow and passively or fast and without any skill. Heck, KUOW even had that billboard on the WSB a few years ago as part of one of their stories. Do you think our auto insurance rates will decrease? (I bet you, they won’t.) The 25 mph speed limit is obviously an easy way for Durkan and SDOT to appease a certain demographic of voters and pressure without calling out folks for lack of skill.

  • dftl January 23, 2020 (6:20 pm)

    30-35 mph feels about right; nothing will change until speed camera enforcement comes into vouge.

    • heartless January 23, 2020 (8:06 pm)

      Nah, I’ll drive slower. 

      And if you’re behind me, so will you.

      • LR January 23, 2020 (9:40 pm)

        No, I’ll pass you. 

        • Jort January 23, 2020 (10:47 pm)

          Nope! You will go the speed limit or you will get a ticket. Follow the law or stop driving. 

          • Rick January 24, 2020 (8:08 am)

            Oooooohhhh. Tough guy.  Throw a scowl at him too!

          • West Seattle Hipster January 24, 2020 (9:18 am)

            Law of averages are against your opinion.  I routinely drive 10-15 mph over the speed limit and rarely see police.  When I do see them, they pay no attention to how I am driving.Hoping that all drivers who speed will get ticketed is blindly optimistic to say the least.

        • Dl January 24, 2020 (9:09 am)

          all it takes is one speeding driver to kill a pedestrian, and it’s especially reckless “racing passed” on streets with houses, schools, or parks nearby. 

        • heartless January 24, 2020 (9:58 am)

          LR: Here you are announcing you will perform two illegal actions, speeding and swerving around someone driving the speed limit.

          And yet earlier in this thread you wrote: ” People are driving distracted and the majority drive extremely poorly all the time.  Drivers eduction should be far longer and more intensive and people should have to be able to drive extremely well before they are given a license.”

          You have the balls to rail against other people driving poorly while you happily speed and swerve around others who are driving the speed limit?  Given your suggestion that only people who drive extremely well should have a license, you clearly shouldn’t be on the roads. 

          My gods you people scare me.

          • brc January 24, 2020 (12:53 pm)

            It’s legal to pass, no? 

          • LR January 24, 2020 (8:53 pm)

            I don’t think you should be allowed to write comments like this. Passing is legal and I never said I’d speed. Get off the road. 

          • heartless January 24, 2020 (10:19 pm)

            LR:  Me, driving the new speed limit of 25.  You, saying you’ll pass me.  That’s you speeding.

            (Did you just misunderstand the thread?  Recall that I was responding to a comment saying that “nothing will change” with the new, lower speed limit.  I responded that something would in fact change, namely that I now drive slower (i.e., at the new speed limit) whereupon a bunch of upstanding citizens said haha, we’ll just pass you!  Which… means speeding.  Which is illegal.  Are you up to speed now (sorry for the pun)?)

          • brc January 25, 2020 (7:55 am)

            When you drive at speed limit or slightly under you cause a slow train to form behind you and I will pass if it’s safe to do so, perfectly legal – AND I can imagine most of you are epic road ragers based on your comments and fighting with each other on this blog. 

          • Seriously? January 27, 2020 (7:31 am)

            Actually, it’s not legal to speed to pass someone driving the speed limit. On any street in WA. See below. how is it that someone who doesn’t drive (me) know this info when the people who do drive are clueless?

          • heartless January 25, 2020 (11:21 am)

            Passing someone who is driving at the speed limit would require you to exceed the speed limit how is this point even debatable?  Not only that, but you obviously would only pass someone who is driving the speed limit because you want to go faster than the speed limit…  I have absolutely no clue how you find that “perfectly legal,” I mean, unless you’re flat out trolling me I can’t even…

      • S. Gonzalez January 23, 2020 (11:33 pm)

        Me too… 

    • Zark00 January 27, 2020 (11:41 am)

      Wrong. not how this has worked the literally 100s of times it’s been done already.

  • TreeHouse January 23, 2020 (7:39 pm)

    Great news! Seattle should continue prioritizing people and not cars. Maybe it’s time to move to the suburbs if you love your car more than the safety of your neighbors. 

  • K. Davis January 23, 2020 (9:51 pm)

    I’m laughing at the anti-car commenters here.   This is a “feel good” gesture by the City … there won’t be any change in enforcement because we’re not going to hire more police, much less, hire more just to enforce this silly change in speed limits.  So I will continue to drive as I already do – typically speeding a bit over the limit and yes, navigating around those who want to dawdle.  This is a no-impact change for me – and since I know someone will wonder … no tickets/no accidents … one can drive faster safely.  

    • heartless January 24, 2020 (7:45 am)

      You just wrote that you will now drive slower because of the speed limit changes.  You DO realize that, right?

  • Mj January 23, 2020 (10:04 pm)

    JortI have seen actual Traffic Data that clearly shows improper speed limits reduces safety, the data is very clear on this.  The way to calm traffic is through street design, not numbers on a sign.  The fact is 35th Ave SW is a Principal Arterial and properly should have a higher limit than a narrow 2 lane Collector.  A few years back Olympia tried to change a 5 lane Principal Arterial from 35 to 25 MPH, this change did not last long.The City should focus their limited resources on actual physical improvements not ineffective signs.  MJ

    • Ice January 24, 2020 (9:38 pm)

      MJ, please share with us this data, even from a non-academic source is acceptable. The only sort of data you have ever referenced was a vague mentioning of a Seattle times that didn’t back up your assertion at all(at least from what I could find, you declined to provide a link). Please back your assertions up with facts rather than an appeal to your own (supposed) authority.

  • Chris January 24, 2020 (6:31 am)

    We have had so many problems with people wanting to go faster & sometimes they will be almost on our bumper or swerving back and forth behind us.   This would be on California Ave S W, plus on Admiral Way.    Constantly having people wanting to speed on Admiral.   Sometimes we just, for safety, find a place to safely pull over and get out of their way.   What is the best thing to do when someone is behind you anxiously trying to go faster?    It appears this will be more so now with the speed limit going down.   Thanks for advice.

  • Tsurly January 24, 2020 (8:59 am)

    Bottom line is that despite the new speed limits, drivers will continue to be recklessly and endanger those around them (as some have stated above). This will only result in the continued re-channelization of roads, installation of more stop lights, installation of more speed humps, etc, in an effort to prevent cars from endangering others, and you (reckless drivers) deserve every bit of it.

  • Lynda Bui January 24, 2020 (9:20 am)

    Why there isn’t some sort of continuing ed when you renew your license tabs?  Make people watch videos of near misses and give tips on be a savvy driver before you click to pay!

    • LyndaB January 24, 2020 (9:27 am)

      And add in zipper merging!  “it’s a lane, not a birthright.”

      • Little One February 1, 2020 (12:05 am)

        ..Also lane discipline and being able to moderate your speed without breaking every 10 seconds in free flowing traffic…

  • Peter January 24, 2020 (10:18 am)

    Yes! It is long past time for the city of Seattle to start taking pedestrian, bicycle, and general traffic safety seriously. Thank you SDOT! Please prioritize 35th Ave. SW, it continues to be unnecessarily dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians. Lower speed limits are a great start, but there still aren’t nearly enough safe places for pedestrians to cross, and we desperately need bike lanes on 35th. I hope SPD will do a better job of enforcing this than they do with drivers in bus lanes and drivers running red lights.

  • Wsresident January 24, 2020 (10:19 am)

    It’s like “perma school zone” fun!

  • Kathy January 24, 2020 (12:08 pm)

    What proportion of drivers are not scofflaws and obey speed limits? Fifty percent? Sixty percent? What proportion of drivers are in fossil fuel burning cars? If these drivers now drive 5 miles per hour slower, think of the savings in fuel, reduced emissions and pollution, and reduced impact on climate warming.  Motor vehicles are a major cause of air pollution in Seattle. Regarding safety and travel time, with fewer accidents there will be less  delays on the road. Five miles per hour reduced speed limit is not going to significantly delay a trip compared to the benefits for the health of our community.

  • Steve January 24, 2020 (1:23 pm)

    I agree with this comment section’s esteemed local traffic engineer that re-engineering the streets is a better solution to slowing down automobile pilots than signs, but I do feel like signs will help. Especially with educating so many people moving here who are used to driving very fast in their autocentric, pedestrianless sunbelt cities.         

    I live on a street that has one of those radar signs that tells you your speed, and I do notice it helps many automobilers slow down when they see the flashing “SLOW DOWN” warning. It is very alarming to see the people who don’t slow down!

     I think narrowing the general purpose lanes, adding curb bulbs, speed tables, adding protected bike lanes, giving buses a head start at stop lights (so they act as a “pace car” for the traffic that follows) would all help slow down these jay-drivers.

    Additionally, there needs to be traffic diverters on most side streets, especially on “neighborhood greenways” which end up being ride-hailing speedways when they parallel arterials. This would make things safer for people biking and walking.We also need way more crosswalks, especially ones with buttons that instantly trigger a red light for the autoists.

    Of course the main thing is we need to legalize building apartments and shops on every parcel in the city. This would cause a critical mass of pedestrians and there wouldn’t be any excuse to drive to every single appointment because more friends and errands  would be within the immediate neighborhood.

     History has shown that “fixing” traffic and getting people to regulate their actions behind the wheel is impossible. Check out “Policing the Open Road” by Sarah Seo, or “Fighting Traffic” by Peter Norton to learn the history of automobiles and the futile exercise of trying to get drivers to control themselves. 

    • Jort January 24, 2020 (3:30 pm)

      Nobody disagrees that street re-design is safer than simply changing speed limit signs, and I would welcome all of your suggestions in a heartbeat. The issue is that some people are arguing that lower speed limits, themselves, actually reduce road safety. This allegation is incredibly unsubstantiated. There is no data that supports the wildly untrue assertion that lower speed limits make our roads unsafe. 

      • Steve January 24, 2020 (8:04 pm)

        Thanks for the response, Jort. I’m a big fan of your comments! Any proposal you make will be shot down by motorists because they refuse to budge even a millimeter from their privileged place on the public right of way to make the city a safer place for other people. Even things as small as putting up some signs or crosswalks. Moving around faster than 99% of our human ancestors  is apparently not fast enough!

  • flimflam January 24, 2020 (1:53 pm)

    busy-work for the DOT…

  • Mj January 24, 2020 (5:16 pm)

    Jort Improperly set speed limits leads to reduced safety!  Please tell me where to send you the data?

  • WSB January 24, 2020 (8:29 pm)

    In regards to a variety of comments here:

    (a) If you are only motivated to do the right thing by fear of being caught, that’s really, really sad.

    (b) If you think SPD is NOT enforcing traffic laws, you are wrong. For one, listen to the scanner sometime and note the number of traffic stops radioed in. For two, look at the automated Twitter log of SPD calls – with terms traffic violation seattlepd – in the past 24 hours, 139. Just because you don’t see someone pulled over doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

  • Mj January 25, 2020 (9:56 am)

    Jort I have data to send to you, please tell me where to send it.  And on a purely pragmatic note please tell me how it is even remotely rational to post the same speed limit on a multi lane Principal Arterial and on a 2 lane Collector serving a neighborhood?

    • heartless January 25, 2020 (11:15 am)

      I’d like the data too, please.  Since you seem unwilling to post a link here, would you kindly email it to me at

      Thanks, for I am truly curious. 

  • Symptoms... January 25, 2020 (8:55 pm)

    Maybe, just maybe if the city has to continually scratch the itch to spend all of the $6 Billion budget they outlined, they could put stop signs around. The multitude of uncontrolled intersections around West Seattle. I realize that wouldn’t get people arguing in hyperbole over a nominal speed decrease, but would actually make more roads safer across all of West Seattle, but I guess I digress. 

    • heartless January 25, 2020 (9:19 pm)

      Hah.  I once suggested it’d be nice if more crosswalks were painted (the whole idea of invisible crosswalks is still wildly hysterical to me) and, I kid you not, people argued that adding crosswalks would decrease pedestrian safety.

    • Little One February 1, 2020 (12:13 am)

      Especially for a city with so many transplants… put in stop signs and then cars and pedestrians are all on the same page, no question. And since they’re red octagons, we’ll still be able to read them after they’re graffitied! Win win, eh.

  • Mj January 25, 2020 (10:25 pm)

    heartless. – I’m happy to post a link but am not aware of the process.  I’ll get you the data Sunday.

  • YES2WS January 26, 2020 (9:26 am)

    @Symptoms… “The multitude of uncontrolled intersections around West Seattle.”Thank You! This has baffled the heck out of me. How safe is it for a car to drive along thinking they’ve the right-of-way only to encounter another car thinking the same? And it’s not just at a few intersections.I agree; using the money on stop signs or yield signs would make these streets way safer.

  • Mj January 26, 2020 (12:24 pm)

    YES2WS the vehicle on the right has the ROW.  Uncontrolled intersections slows all traffic approaching the I/S.  Assigning ROW increases the speed of the traffic that does not stop!

  • heartless January 26, 2020 (3:49 pm)

    Hi all,

    MJ kindly emailed me some documents.  I have read them and responded, but given the discussion has so far been shared (if not quite communal) I thought I should offer the documents he sent as well as my response.  Here are the links to the three documents: two very partial study reports and an opinion piece in Physician’s Weekly:

     Study 1 Study 2Physician’s Weekly Op-Ed, 2014

    Here are my thoughts:
    Study 1:
    Admiral change—not a decent study, the dates were not commensurate, as indicated by differences in traffic volume; nevertheless speeds decreased.  

    In Central District North the control (only control in the study so far) reports increase of speed of over 3%, which is what other deltas must be compared to.  That is, how can we assume, had no limit changes been enacted, that speeds everywhere would not have increased by 3%?  As such, even no delta in sections with lower limits would indicate an effective reduction in speed.

    Overall, not counting controls, 12 sections report decreased speed, 5 report increased speed, 2 trended towards increased speed but were ns (under .5% change).  This doesn’t seem to show that lowering a speed limit has no effect.  That said, without more information it is very hard to interpret any of these results.  

    Study 2: Speed limit revisions (Federal Way)

    This is useless without control conditions, we simply have no way of understanding the data.

    Further, baseline accident rates render some stretches (e.g., SW 342) unanalyzable (too few data points).

    Opinion piece, Physician’s Weekly, 11/17/2014, “Skeptical Scalpel”

    Their link to the Federal study takes me instead to a missing link page on a motorist advocacy website.

    This is an opinion piece, and I cannot offer any input as to validity or veracity.

    General thoughts about the studies and information you have offered: We need more information before we can interpret any of it.

    We need to know how the speed limit was posted (e.g., distance between signs, etc.), speed trends independent of limits year-to-year, and , relatedly, we need access to control conditions that reflect how speed trends change year-to-year as well seasonally.

    Finally, need to operationalize “collisions”, which should further bin them into categories of relevant severity (hit a bumper in stop-and-go traffic, hit an oncoming vehicle, incidents at speeds over 30mph, incidents involving pedestrians, etc.: not all collisions should be given equal weight).  This is perhaps the most crucial point, as the current discussion (that is, in the always raucous WSB comment section) seems focused on pedestrian safety, including how often vehicles stop for (or not) pedestrians or hit pedestrians.  If I find the time I will look into traffic studies myself, but honestly this took way to much out of my Sunday as is!

    I sincerely appreciate the work you’ve done, and I hope you find my comments useful in re-evaluating the studies you take to support your opinions in this matter.

  • Mj January 26, 2020 (6:48 pm)


    I also provided you the City’s speed study analysis, of the demonstration project, that showed no material changes in speed when the City lowered the speed limit on non arterial streets to 20 MPH from 25 MPH

    The Federal Way study is understandable and clearly demonstrates that properly set speed limits results in lower accident rates.

    The fact remains that numbers on a sign is not effective in changing speeds, the problem is drunk/drugged drivers, texting, driver fatigue and excessive speeds. These are the issues that need to be addressed.

    Over 30 years of work in the Traffic Engineering industry I have seen numerous analysis that consistently show that properly set speed limits results is lower accident rates. I believe the City should focus on proven measures to calm traffic such as geometric design, ensuring sight lines are provided for, proper illumination etc.

    Severe accidents typically involve alcohol, drugs and or excessive speed that numbers on a sign does not address. And in fact can create an issue when set well below what the street design dictates as appropriate, this can lead to street rage incidents dues to disparate speeds.

    • KM January 26, 2020 (8:13 pm)

      MJ. An accident involving speeding, inattentive driving, drugs, alcohol, driving a car with known braking issues, etc. is not an “accident.” It’s a crash or a collision. Most crashes and collisions are not accidents. Many in transportation and traffic industry have updated their language around this, the media is following, as are the rest of us keen to the difference. If you are in this industry, I would expect your language to accurately depict what is happening on our roadways. #crashnotaccident

    • heartless January 26, 2020 (8:35 pm)


      I think at this point we will just have to agree to disagree.  I looked at all of the data you provided, and I fundamentally disagree with the conclusions you draw. I don’t have much to add to my previous comments, but perhaps I can re-iterate some points more clearly. 

      You suggest that the study where limits were lowered from 25 to 20 shows that lowering speed limits has no effect.  My response:

      1) If this is indeed a null result, it doesn’t tell us much.  How was the change enforced?  How was the public informed?  How many new signs were there, and how were they spaced?  How long were traffic patterns studied post-change?

      2) If you look at each section where the limit was changed, most sections had lower average vehicle speed after the change.  Twelve sections had lower speeds, while only 5 had higher.

      3) The differences in average daily volume pre and post-limit change worry me.  Notice, for example, Central District North, 18th Ave SO E Pine: the volume changes from 1092 cars per day to 319 cars per day.  This is a weird difference, and it leads me to believe that times when the streets were studied were not commensurate (e.g., the street was studied during the summer then the speed limit was changed and they studied it over the winter–a big no-no in research circles).

      About the Federal Way study: I did not mean I didn’t understand the numbers, what I meant is that from those numbers we cannot infer any conclusions.  I see no point in trying again to explain why.

      With regards to your comments about other traffic management approaches, I could not agree with you more.  We should absolutely pursue the good ideas you listed; better design, sight lines, illumination, are all desperately needed and would be a great improvement.  I further agree completely regarding the outsized toll driving under the influence takes–I wish we had stronger and better enforcement for these things, if other first world countries can take driving under the influence seriously I see no reason why we can’t here too.  And we damn well should.

      But with regards to lower speed limits, I simply disagree.  I do not have your expertise or pedigree in traffic engineering, that is true.  But I am really, really good at research and data, and I simply don’t find your data compelling.  Moreover, there exist numerous (more methodologically sound) studies that do indicate lower speed limits save lives and reduce accidents.  So again, I’ll just have to respectfully disagree with you on that front.

    • Jort January 26, 2020 (9:34 pm)

      No no no! This is the thing, you’re still saying something that you can’t prove: that lower speed limits MAKE ROADS MORE DANGEROUS than higher ones. Again: NOTHING you’ve provided supports this wildly speculative assertion. You theoretically could argue that lower speed limits don’t make the street any more safe, sure, but that’s not what you’ve said. You’ve said, “lower speed limits will make streets LESS safe.” That’s untrue, unsupported in any studies and unquestionably wrong at every level. Please stop saying it. It’s wrong.

  • Mj January 26, 2020 (10:40 pm)

    KM yes I should have used the term incident.
    It’s the term I use in reports.

    Jort and heartless the data shows properly set speed limits reduces the chance of incidents occurring.

    heartless I used the term no material change in speeds.

    I really wish that SDoT would engineer in traffic calming using proven methods. The City’s own study shows numbers on a sign is not effective. One size fits all is not at all appropriate.

    • heartless January 27, 2020 (7:16 pm)


      I strive to deal with you in a cordially academic manner.  I really do.  But when you claim “…the data shows properly set speed limits reduces the chance of incidents occurring,” and when I have seen the very same data you mean, I have no recourse but to call you out for being absolutely out of your depth when it comes to understanding even the basics of research methods.  Indeed, your ignorance is only exceeded by your stubbornness.  The ‘data’ you showed is from studies so fundamentally flawed that to draw ANY conclusions, much less your specific claim that lower speed limits results in more ‘incidents’ (whatever that means (yet another flaw in both the studies and your interpretations thereof)) is fantastically stupid.

      Do I think lowering the speed limit on I-5 to 20 mph would result in more accidents?  Sure.  Do I think that, in general, lowering neighborhood speed limits by 5 mph will result in more traffic problems?  Nope.  And you, despite your most fervent beliefs (key word there, belief) have absolutely failed to convince ANYONE that this is the case.  

      What you say, MJ, matters very little.  How you support what you say?  That matters a lot. And that is where you continually fail. 

  • YES2WS January 27, 2020 (9:38 am)

    MJ.. I get that. Same as a round-about having ROW. But I think stop / yield signs are more readily understood by all and much safer than the uncontrolled intersections of WS. Still with @SYMPTOMS on this; stop &/or yield signs would be a much better use of money than on signs illustrating a speed limit. On a different note, a simple Google search turned up data on unnatural speeds being less safe even (and especially) if set too low.

Sorry, comment time is over.