The Desire for the First Hill Streetcar

The First Hill Streetcar (FHS) recently celebrated its first anniversary. As with all things that are new and growing, we took a closer look at the operation in this first year. In 2016, we looked at opportunities to improve the service and, as a result, SDOT is recommending some ways to improve speed and reliability on the FHS line.

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First Hill Streetcar on Broadway at Pine St

We identified three segments on the FHS line where improvements could be made to increase speed and improve the reliability of the streetcar, including:

  • Along Broadway from Pine to Marion
    • Restricting pedestrian crossing for right-turning cars, clearing the lane during peak PM hours
    • Adding transit signal priority
    • Adding a southbound Business Access and Transit lane, converting center lane to a through lane
  • Along Yesler from Boren to 14th
    • Restricting PM peak left turns
    • Re-timing signal at Yesler & 12th
    • Adding a “Stop Here” sign, improving stop bar visibility
  • Along Jackson from Occidental to 14th
    • Removing 6-7 off-peak parking spaces near the stop
    • Adding transit signal priority
    • Synchronizing eastbound-westbound signals to give priority to streetcar

SDOT plans to implement the changes this summer.

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Signals and Signs are a Big Deal

When you drive through an intersection and look at up a traffic signal, it doesn’t look that big, right? Well, they are actually quite large. The most common comment we get from people on the street is about how large a signal is when you actually see one up close.

Below, our electrician Brian Tuck, who is 6’1″, stands next to a standard 3 section signal with 12” lights.

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Tall electricians mean tall signals.

In 2009, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is the federal standard, required all new signals to change from 8” lights to 12” lights, so they are more visible to drivers.

Another surprisingly large item that we install are the overhead directional signs that you see at some signaled intersections. These signs are different than the smaller, street name signs that you see on most street corners.

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See the difference between the sizes of the “N 80th St” sign on the signal pole versus the one on the corner (with Fremont Ave N)? Much bigger.

Below, Brian is standing next to a standard Street Designation Sign.

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Denny Way is bigger than you thought.

Again, these signs don’t look that big when you drive by, but up close they are as tall as Brian (6’1″). And if the street name is extra-long, the sign can be even longer – the “Martin Luther King Jr Way S” sign is 8 feet long!

For more information about signals or signs contact Brian Forsythe at brian.forsythe@seattle.gov or at 206-386-1538.

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City Offices are Closed Presidents’ Day

In observance of Presidents’ Day, City of Seattle offices are closed on Monday February 20th in observance of the federal holiday.

On-street parking is free in Seattle on February 20th, Happy Presidents’ Day!

Mount Rushmore

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.

Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

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Connecting the DOTs

While many of the new President’s cabinet nominees have garnered days of media coverage, a few have flown under the radar. This includes the newly confirmed Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, who could impact SDOT’s work.

Secretary Elaine Chao

The new administration is also proposing a $1 trillion infrastructure package, which if passed, could support needed repairs to roads, bridges, ports, and airports around the country including Seattle. However, no specific legislation has been introduced to date.

Some of the SDOT projects that benefit from federal money include:

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Westlake Protected Bike Lane opened in fall 2016.

Secretary Chao is the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a cabinet position and has been in public service for many years, including Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush.

We will continue to provide updates on transportation news in the other Washington that may affect our Washington.

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Is the new ROWORR important? You bet your assets

How long do contractors have to wait before digging into new pavement? If crews are working on a brick street, must they restore the work area with bricks when they’re done, or can they use another street material?

These questions and more, were answered in a series of public workshops on SDOT’s new Right-of-Way Opening and Restoration Rule, or ROWORR. The new rule is already doing its job to help protect shared public assets. How? We’re glad you asked.

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The ROWORR, adopted on January 1, updates the requirements that construction-related permit holders must meet when restoring openings on public property. Nearly 200 people attended three workshops aimed at helping contractors, utilities, construction firms, women and minority businesses, partner agencies and others, to better understand and meet the requirements of the new rule.

At each workshop, our staff answered questions about everything from temporary patches to full sidewalk restoration. Many more people who could not attend the workshops received direct on-site presentations for their employees.

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No, not that kind of roar – it’s ROWORR! Photo courtesy bhavik Thaker.

Updates include new requirements for pavement restoration timing and methods, as well as improved outlining of ADA accessibility requirements. With proper coordination and planning, these updates can help contractors, utilities, developers, and the public all save time and money.

Questions about the ROWORR? Check out our workshop presentation, email us at SDOTpermits@seattle.gov or give us a call at 206-684-5253.

We’re here to protect your public assets!

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Seattle Transit Riders will get more Late Night Bus Service this Fall

In September 2017, Seattle will more than double its service investment between 2 and 5 a.m., establishing new late-night connections throughout Seattle, and providing late night cross-town transit options for the first time ever.  Currently, Seattle fully funds the Night Owl Network (routes 82, 83, and 84) after a Metro service reduction in fall 2014.

These investments are possible through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) and the passage of Prop. 1 in November 2014 by Seattle voters.

NightOwl1 2-13-17Seattle will provide a simple, easy-to-use late-night network, balancing the needs for service on high-ridership routes while providing coverage across the city.  To do this, SDOT proposes the following investments:

  • Replace current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 (funded by the City of Seattle) with two late-night round trips on the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 70 – serving neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Central Area, Eastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, Phinney Ridge, Queen Anne, and University District. Other routes already provide late-night service to areas such as South Seattle and West Seattle.
  • Seattle-funded late-night service on routes 65 and 67 serving Northeast Seattle areas including Lake City, Children’s Hospital, and Northgate for the first time.
  • Seattle-funded cross-town connections from Ballard to the University District on route 44 and from Mount Baker to the University District on route 48. These investments expand late-night bus travel options for riders without having to go through downtown and diversifying travel options to, from, and through the University District.

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To compliment this network, Metro will fund the following:

  • Add two late-night round trips – at about 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on route 120 serving Delridge.
  • Provide hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.
  • Extend Route 124 from Tukwila to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m., increasing options for travelers and workers.

As with all STBD investments, SDOT will monitor the performance of these service investments to ensure we are providing the best system for our riders.  The map shows the Night Owl investments that will be implemented in September 2017.

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These service investments are included in the September 2017 Service Change Package Ordinance that has been transmitted to the King County Council.

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What is a “crossbike”?

We use bright green paint to make crosswalk-like stripes at intersections where bicyclists and drivers have come into conflict. Some people call these striped lanes a “crossbike.” Think of it as a crosswalk for people biking.

One such intersection was E Pine St and Nagle Pl, a block east of Broadway on Capitol Hill. We painted green crosswalk-like stripes in the westbound bike lane of this intersection.

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Before and after installing the crossbike on E Pine St and Nagle Pl

Crossbikes are just one tool in our transportation safety toolkit that can bring us closer to our Vision Zero safety goals. The National Association of City Transportation Officials outlines several reasons for intersection crossing markings in their Urban Bikeway Design Guide:

  • Raises awareness for both bicyclists and motorists to potential conflict areas.
  • Reinforces that through bicyclists have priority over turning vehicles or vehicles entering the roadway (from driveways or cross streets).
  • Guides bicyclists through the intersection in a straight and direct path.
  • Reduces bicyclist stress by delineating the bicycling zone.
  • Makes bicycle movements more predictable.
  • Increases the visibility of bicyclists.
  • Reduces conflicts between bicyclists and turning motorists.

We’ve done crossbike intersection markings at other locations around Seattle.

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Crossbike on 2nd Ave in Pioneer Square.

We want to thank the businesses and people working and traveling in this area for their support. The goal of our Vision Zero program is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

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Lending a Hand to Portland

On January 11, 2017, Portland was hit with a massive snowstorm, making national headlines. So we sent crews to help out the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It was hard work, but our crews say they’ll never forget the trip to help our friends to the south.

Our Maintenance Operations Division sent more than a dozen crew members and several pieces of equipment.

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Over two days, our crews helped to clear ice and snow from roadways, as well as fallen trees, some of which landed on top of cars, throughout the entire city of Portland.

Our crew takes a break on the way home from Portland.

Our crew takes a break on the way home from Portland.

When our crews came back home to Seattle, they received this thank you letter from the City of Portland to the City of Seattle.

Portland Thank You letter

We are happy to have assisted the City of Portland and its residents and we look forward to our continued collaboration throughout all weather conditions.

Our crews prepare for wintry weather all year round. Check out our Winter Weather page to see our readiness plan, tips on preparing for cold weather, and the always useful winter weather map.

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More than 70% of Downtown Seattle Commuters Choosing Not to Drive Alone

A new Commute Seattle survey shows that more than 70 percent of downtown’s estimated 247,000 daily commuters opt for transit, ridesharing, biking, walking and teleworking – leaving less than 30 percent of commuters to drive alone to work. CS survey graphic 2-9-17

That continues a strong downward trend in solo driving from 35% in 2010 to 31% in 2014.

Commute Seattle 1Employers see the value of a good transportation system. Downtown employers have invested over $100 million in infrastructure and transportation benefits. Downtown Seattle added 45,000 jobs from 2010 to 2016, and an impressive 95% of the increase in daily commute trips have been absorbed by transit, rideshare, biking and walking.
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In addition to private sector investment, voter-approved initiatives TransitNow, Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), and the Levy to Move Seattle have provided funding for new transportation options for downtown commuters. These include City of Seattle and Metro coordinated service expansion of the RapidRide C and D lines, and implementing the 2nd Avenue and Westlake protected bike lanes, which enhance safety and bike capacity to and through downtown.

These results fulfill a 10-year goal to reduce the downtown Seattle peak commute drive-alone rate to 30%, accomplished by Commute Seattle at the direction of the Downtown Transportation Alliance (DTA)—a public-private partnership comprised of the Downtown Seattle Association, the City of Seattle (SDOT & OPCD), King County Metro and Sound Transit.

 

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From Signals to Signs

Red, yellow, and green.  Did you know that Seattle has over 1,000 traffic signals?

Under the right conditions, a traffic signal can reduce crashes and keep people and goods moving throughout our city. But, as community needs and traffic patterns change, signals that were useful in the past could now potentially create problems.

To address the changing needs of our growing city, this year SDOT traffic engineers will be studying up to ten signaled intersections to evaluate their impact, and potentially replace with all way stops.

This intersection in Queen Anne was converted from a normal signal.

This intersection in Queen Anne was converted from a normal signal to all way stop.

Using Federal Highway Administration guidelines, we’ve compiled an initial list of potential locations. Now, we need your help to identify more intersections that could work better as an all way stop.

Example intersections currently being considered:

  • 11th Ave NW and NW 46th St
  • SW Admiral Way and 59th Avenue SW
  • Renton Avenue and S. Kenyon St

For an intersection to be considered, it should meet the following criteria:

  • low traffic volumes
  • good visibility to the stop sign for all approaches to the intersection
  • an intersection nearby that the arterial street is controlled by stop signs

Please send your location ideas to traffic.signals@seattle.gov

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