Flex Zone/Curb Use Priorities in Seattle

On Seattle streets, buses, cars, streetcars, bikes and trucks move people and goods. Sidewalks provide space for pedestrians to move and wait for their bus and get to where they want to go.

In between the two is the flexible space where people find their bus, park a car, hail a cab, drop off a passenger or make a delivery. Increasingly, this space is used as a place to socialize or do business in parklets and streateries. So, we call this space the flex zone - though many it call it curb space or the parking lane.

How we use the street: the street is divided into Pedestrian Realms, Flex Zones, and Travel Ways.

Lots of people and vehicles want to use these spaces, so the City's Comprehensive Plan establishes policies that set priority for flex zone use by function.  

Examples of functions

FunctionDefinitionExamples of Uses
Mobility Moves people and goods
  • Sidewalks
  • Bus or streetcar lanes
  • Bike lanes
  • General purpose travel lanes (includes freight)
  • Right- or left-turn only lanes
Access for People People arrive at their destination, or transfer between different ways of getting around
  • Bus or rail stops
  • Bike parking
  • Curb bulbs
  • Passenger load zones
  • Short-term parking
  • Taxi zones
Access for Commerce Goods and services reach their customers and markets
  • Commercial vehicle load zone
  • Truck load zone
Activation Offers vibrant social spaces
  • Food trucks
  • Parklets and streateries
  • Public art
  • Street festivals
Greening Enhances aesthetics and environment health
  • Plantings
    • Boulevards
    • Street trees
    • Planter boxes
  • Rain gardens and bio-swales
Storage Provides storage for vehicles or equipment
  • Bus layover
  • Long-term parking
  • Reserved spaces (e.g., for police or other government use)
  • Construction

Those priorities are set so that Seattle streets can safely and efficiently connect and move people and goods to their destinations while creating inviting spaces within the right-of-way.  

Flex zone functions are prioritized based on surrounding land use

ResidentialCommercial & Mixed UseIndustrial
1 Support for Modal Plan Priorities Support for Modal Plan Priorities Support for Modal Plan Priorities
2 Access for People Access for Commerce Access for Commerce
3 Access for Commerce Access for People Access for People
4 Greening Activation Storage
5 Storage Greening Activation
6 Activation Storage Greening