I’m going to start out with a rant, probably end with a rant too. Seattle has some serious catching up to do. For such a smart, educated, progressive city it has really missed a few key advances compared to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m going to cover a few of these points now, so get ready.
First Point, I Want Transit Data NOW
Trimet has been a leader in this for about 6+ years. Metro, Sound, Pierce, and the other agencies can’t seem to coordinate this in an efficient, standards based way. Even though Vancouver, BC hasn’t been a leader with this, they’ve definitely made short order of catching up.
The solution is for the Seattle area agencies to coordinate and get the web services deployed, possibly using cloud technology (Amazon & Microsoft are IN TOWN!?!?!?), that provides real time location and other information. This has been provided by TriMet for years, and even the MTA in New York (notoriously behind on technology too) has started providing this data.
Timeliness has fallen apart completely in the US. Metro, Sound, and others are on queue for this. Especially Metro, as I haven’t ridden a bus that is on time. I know I know, it is inherent in any mixed travel lane service. This is true. Sound proves this even further with the timeliness of the Sound Commuter Rail. Their on time arrivals are very high percentages. But the bus system desperately needs help.
Solution is to either get the first point above taken care of ASAP or get services that can be on time (i.e. BRT, LRT, and dedicated transit lines).
Actually get downtown figured out, and stop giving everything to the automobile. If Seattle wants to get closer to the smart populations of Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, or New York in regards to transit share. Better yet, get closer to a larger walking share. Seattle transit authorities need to find some way to work closer with developers and getting downtown oriented more for pedestrians, especially in the residential parts of downtown.
Downtown Seattle absolutely kicks ass. It is a fun place to be, a fun place to live, and can be very efficient. However, the transit and development hasn’t lent itself to appropriate pedestrian friendliness. There needs to be more tree lined streets, dedicated pedestrian crossings (especially on Pike & Pine), and other pedestrian friendly requirements. New Orleans has it, Portland, Vancouver, and even parts of New York, Chicago, and other places. Seattle has a rough spot around this aspect of life though.
Solutions Right Here in the City
Some prime examples of pedestrian friendly areas include Fremont, and Ballard. These two town centers actually provide great examples of intelligent build up that Seattle might take care to notice. Such as the tree lined streets, a number of streets that are no more than two lanes (yes, Seattle IMHO should decrease the size of some of their multi-lane boulevards). This creates a much better atmosphere for street shopping, and other such pedestrian activities.
There are other points, and I know Seattle is working on learning from these areas, but it needs to a bit harder. Seattle needs some hard line edge against the “let’s build more really big roads” mentality. It doesn’t work and there is enough evidence to point that out. I’m not anti-car, just anti-car commuter (the SOV people). The “congestion” based lifestyle that so many “keeping up with the Jones’” create lies in the realm of mass stupidity. Maybe one day we can cure it?