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Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board

SPAB POSITION PAPER

EXPRESS BUS PROPOSAL BY EXECUTIVE 7/11/01

Executive Summary

Express Bus Service, Intermediate Capacity Transit, and ICT Express Bus Service Impacts on Pedestrian Environment Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board Recommendations to the Mayor

  • Impacts on our pedestrian environment are not objectively measurable now.
    The Comp Plan calls for a pedestrian Level of Service measuring process. We need to establish this to measure the impact of express bus ICT service on our pedestrian environments.
  • Elimination of parked cars on the street degrades the pedestrian environment by placing pedestrians near fast moving, noisy, polluting traffic. Placing express bus ICT vehicles next to pedestrians without the protection of on-street parked cars, a barrier, or planter strip will deteriorate pedestrian environment - particularly in neighborhood shopping areas.
  • Neighborhood transit centers can concentrate activities disruptive to the pedestrian shopping environment at a location near to, but not in front of shops and services. Such centers can mitigate express bus service by separating the heavy bus stop activity from key retail frontage on precious local shopping streets.
  • SPAB recommends that there be a method of measuring the level of pedestrian activity at ICT non-stop intersections, so that pedestrians may have efficient use of those intersections.
  • Mini Malls with parking between the sidewalk and the commercial frontage create a poor pedestrian environment. The city should continue to discourage such mini mall development under the impact of parking removal from arterials.
  • Mitigations to preserve and enhance the pedestrian environment should be part of stage 2 of the Seattle Transit Study (ICT.) and the studies for express bus service.

Connect our neighborhoods with ICT, but keep them a wonderful place to live, work, and shop!

THE MAYOR'S BLUEPRINT FOR TRANSPORTATION
EXPRESS BUS SERVICE, INTERMEDIATE CAPACITY TRANSIT, AND POTENTIAL IMPACTS ON THE PEDESTRIAN ENVIRONMENT
SEATTLE PEDESTRIAN ADVISORY BOARD
POSITION STATEMENT
3/17/01

The Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board (SPAB) supports the establishment of Intermediate Capacity Transit (ICT). We take this opportunity to comment to the Mayor and the Executive Staff on the potential impacts of express bus service, a version of ICT.

The corridors prioritized in the Seattle Transit Study (ICT) for stage 2 study include Lake City/Northgate/Ballard/Downtown and West Seattle to Downtown.

In phase 2 of the Mayor's Blueprint for Transportation it is proposed that these corridors and additional corridors will be studied for express bus service. The express bus service would run in exclusive bus lanes with signal priority. Express bus service is proposed either as a permanent transit solution or as a temporary solution, until more sophisticated and expensive ICT technology can be funded for certain high potential routes.

Along the potential express bus corridors many of the city's most valuable urban center and urban village shopping areas will be impacted by the express bus operations. Commercial activity and redevelopment along extended, commercially developed arterials in these corridors will also be impacted.

The perception of Seattle as a gracious, convenient place to live, work, shop, and recreate is formed largely in the pedestrian environment. We may drive to shop, but we walk between and into stores and service locations.

The pedestrian experience has both objectively measurable qualities and aesthetic qualities. More capacious and speedy ICT transit vehicles will impact all those qualities.

The continued success and the improvement/redevelopment of Seattle's neighborhood shopping areas and arterial commercial areas will depend on how well ICT is fitted into those areas as the new system interconnects our neighborhoods. This is an even more complex and extensive problem than the Sound Transit Station Area Planning project.

SPAB has a number of concerns about the impact of the express bus system as proposed. SPAB recommends that in studying the feasibility and impacts of express bus service in exclusive bus lanes with signal phase modification that the following mitigations benefiting the pedestrian environment and pedestrian efficiency be considered:

  • Seattle's transportation ordinances and regulations do not yet include an objective process for measuring pedestrian level of service as vehicular level of service (LOS) is measured for street intersections. Seattle's Comprehensive Plan (Transportation) calls for the establishment of a pedestrian LOS measurement procedure (T49.5.) Safety, accessibility, and aesthetics are components of the pedestrian experience. Within these three components are elements which can be objectively measured to determine the quality of pedestrian routes and crossings. Without establishing pedestrian LOS procedures it is difficult to measure the impacts of ICT service on pedestrian environments and the effects of the degradation of pedestrian environments on retail and commercial activities. SPAB recommends that an ordinance to establish a pedestrian LOS procedure be enacted.
  • Traditionally in Seattle a line of parked cars and a planter strip have separated the pedestrian sidewalk from the flow of vehicular traffic on the street. Many streets with pedestrian overlays lack the planter strip at this time. If the parked cars are removed in neighborhood and arterial shopping areas, and high speed articulated buses are run in the lane adjacent to pedestrians, a major degradation of pedestrian environment will occur.

    Pedestrian safety concerns will mount. Inconveniences such as splashing water and blowing dust and grit will proliferate for pedestrians. Direct exposure of pedestrians to bus emissions will greatly increase. Cafes and coffee bars extending onto sidewalks will be negatively impacted. A positive image of the pedestrian environment will be especially important to the survival and redevelopment of neighborhood shopping areas as called for in neighborhood plans. SPAB recommends that careful study and planning be dedicated to the creation of pedestrian mitigations in exchange for the imposition of express bus service in neighborhood shopping areas and commercial arterial areas. Such mitigations would help to retain a safe, efficient, and pleasant pedestrian environment.

    Mitigations might include wider sidewalks with landscaping or constructed shielding from high speed buses to benefit pedestrian environments in neighborhood shopping areas. Within pedestrian overlay zones the express buses could be diverted out of the curb lanes at points in order to preserve the shield of parked cars for pedestrians.
  • Neighborhood transportation center structures can integrate major bus stops, express bus platforms, transfer points to ICT, short term parking, Flexcar locations, taxi stands, advertising, neighborhood informational kiosks, and retail. Such centers can mitigate express bus service by separating the heavy bus stop activity from key retail frontage on precious local shopping streets. SPAB recommends that the city study neighborhood transportation center locations and functions as part of ICT and express bus planning. Centers should be implemented where they will benefit pedestrian environments for neighborhood shopping and transportation efficiency.
  • It is understood that the signal priority system for express buses and trams would extend the green phase of the signals for the ICT vehicles and for traffic that passes through the intersection with those transit vehicles.

    A large group of waiting pedestrians should not have to wait as long as a small group to get across a street where the green light for ICT vehicles is considerably extended.

    SPAB recommends that there be a method of measuring the level of pedestrian activity at such ICT non-stop intersections, so that pedestrians have equity in using the intersections.
  • It is predictable that the elimination of curb lane parking to accommodate express bus lanes in extended arterial commercial areas such as 15th Ave. West, 15th Ave Northwest, Aurora, 45th St., and California St. will once again encourage commercial redevelopment with Los Angeles-style mini-malls which place parking lots between the sidewalk and the retail frontage.

    Mini-malls create a negative pedestrian experience by placing moving vehicles on both sides of the sidewalk.

In conclusion: SPAB understands that there are many kinds of pedestrian environments within Seattle. The pedestrian environments in and near neighborhood shopping are key to the continued success and redevelopment of these unique retail/service areas, treasured by neighborhood plans. The essence of the urban village concept includes attractive shopping in a pedestrian environment.

Express bus service seems much cheaper to implement than the more sophisticated elevated and tram systems, ICT alternative technologies mentioned in the Seattle Transit Study, phase one. But mitigations will be needed to ensure the continued quality of our neighborhoods, particularly in the pedestrian overlay zones. Without these mitigations retail and services will migrate to big box stores, supermarkets, mini-malls, and strip malls. Major chain stores will prevail over independently owned businesses in our neighborhoods. Unique neighborhood shopping will wither.

Mitigations to preserve and enhance the pedestrian environment should be part of stage 2 of the Seattle Transit Study (ICT.) and the studies for express bus service.

Connect our neighborhoods with ICT, but keep them a wonderful place to live, work, and shop!