Portland Envy by Seattle, It Keeps Going…

I was speaking with a friend about the crime on 3rd between Pine and Pike in Seattle. I’ve seen more violence and read about more violence on that street in the 1.8 years I’ve lived in Seattle than I heard the entire 6+ years I lived in Portland. I can absolutely relate with this article. The crime doers on this street are absolute scum, but the city does nothing to clean up or mitigate these issues except send in cops. If anyone has half a brain they realize that cops only stop a very small amount of actual crime. Maybe 15% or 20% is the somewhere around the official estimate.

This article points out how Seattle should look into a follow the lead of places like Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.  I quote from the article,

“Physical changes such as more attractive bus shelters, more landscaping and better signage will help Third Avenue, Scholes said. He points to San Francisco and Portland as two cities that have remade their transit corridors into attractive, pedestrian-friendly streets.

Portland’s ambitious makeover, known as the Portland Mall, renovated or rebuilt 58 downtown blocks and intersections with high-end materials including granite, brick and wrought iron, added 45 new transit shelters, new bike lanes and public art. The price — $220 million — made it one of Portland’s largest public-works projects, said Mary Fetsch, spokeswoman for TriMet, the transit agency for the Portland metropolitan area.

Fetsch said the old bus shelters were dark and provided places to hide. The redesigned bus stops are open, well-lighted canopies with clear sightlines.

“You can see what’s happening on the street now.”

Third Avenue from Pioneer Square to Belltown encompasses about 20 blocks, but the council so far has appropriated just $350,000 for the street improvements and another $177,000 for additional cleaning. (Note: This is far less than the $500k Seattle has spent for zero improvements and only cleaning and policing)

“The city will need to invest much more to significantly improve the corridor and achieve something like what Portland has accomplished,” Scholes said. Still, he says, there’s a limit to what physical changes can do.

“More plantings, more lighting, more trees are great, but if we don’t deal with the drug dealing we haven’t improved the corridor.””

The original article is available here.  All I have to say is, “Seriously Seattle, you’re smack in the middle of some of the best cities in the world (Vancouver BC & Portland), and near enough to San Francisco to not be so behind in matters like this, simply, get your act in gear Ms Emerald City!” Simply put the city really needs to just stop, take a breath, and the city councils, mayors office, and all these groups need to get together to take effective and reason actions against these problems like these other cities have.

I personally worry about many of my friends and family in relation to this type of nonsense. What coward would attack a 60+ year old man taking a picture of Christmas lights. This makes me not want to invite anyone to visit and instead just start packing heat myself. I haven’t had this emotion and reaction since I lived, well over 10 years ago, in the New Orleans area where I actually was shot at before. I didn’t move to the north west to deal with this type of nonsense…

…until later, I sure hope to have a good story later.

SR-520 in 6 Months

So what I want to know is…

  • Will SR-520 see a traffic reduction over the 6 month phase in/test period of tolling?
  • Will SR-520 Become easier to traverse?
  • Will the tolling actually cover the percentage of the bridge fix/addition that is being done?

I’m hoping to see a reduction in traffic, know that drivers are paying a greater percentage of their cost on society (at an actual user basis instead out of the notorious general budget funds). Anyone else got an opinion on this?

My other hope is that the traffic reduction provides the possibility of actually getting across via a more dedicated and dependable time frame on the bus. Seriously, Seattle could just build a bridge dedicated to buses and it would carry an insane number of people and would only need 2 lanes.

San Francisco Shorty

A few months ago I ran down to San Francisco. On the quick adventure (I promise beers to all those I didn’t call! This was literally a crazy fast trip) down to the city I did manage to grab a number of pictures and ride a few modes of transit. I also made a few observations about San Francisco’s state of multi-modalism and livability.

First the Negative Dirty Bits

There are a few things that I observed, that were in evidence the last couple of trips I made too. San Francisco is a fairly dirty city. After walking around for a day, one often finds themselves with a film of dirt & dust. A shower becomes a requirement instead of a nice to have. This is prevalent in almost any major city, but for some reason San Francisco gives the perception that one wouldn’t feel this way, but it does indeed happen.

Automobile reliance is still out of control in this city, and too much preference is given in laying out the city infrastructure. This is done in spite of livability and existing neighborhoods. I’m sure however, that this will continue to decrease since it is not maintainable at current levels of dependence.

Now For the Awesome News

Even though San Francisco has a lot of automobile dependent people, the numbers that are not dependent or completely independent (i.e. car free) have definitely increased. In addition to that the options are steadily increasing in the city.

I finally got to see the distinctive dedicated bike lanes on Market Street, running parallel to auto and streetcar/trolley traffic. This type of multimodal setup is a prime option for city streets. In San Francisco, this change has shown with physical, visual, and statistical evidence that reduction of car trips by setting up roads for multi-model use does indeed improve the livability of an area. I’m sure there are a few curmudgeons here and there disagreeing, but for those that live in the neighborhoods and downtown of San Francisco, I’m betting they’re enjoying this change at this very moment!

Tree lined streets also seem to be popping up along Valencia and others. This is a major improvement for any city. Trees make a world of difference, pure concrete makes streets less appealing to pedestrians. Pure concrete encourages drivers to speed up and become less attentive, increasing fatalities – again, all in evidence by more than one measure.

Another thing besides the bike lanes and tree lined streets San Francisco is doing something else that’s a great idea! They have taken some street parking along the street and turned it into outside seating. This, like the trees, adds an appeal for people to get out of cars (or not arrive in cars in the first place) and be among their fellow citizenry. I got to experience people actually speaking to each other, getting to know their neighbors. Things one will never see in the fast food joints of the American suburbs. Suburbanites may think they hate their neighbors, but when people get together they realize there is a lot more in common than in separation.

Seattle’s King County Metro #2 Trolley Bus to Madrona

Yesterday kicked off another transit commuting experiment. I’m doing a bit of house sitting in the Madrona area, so a different commute is in effect. Instead of my normal #18, #17, or #15 to Ballard I’ll be taking the #2 Trolley Bus Route to Madrona over First Hill (just south of Capital Hill). This morning was the first day of the commute and I must say, this is absolutely a part of Seattle somebody could fall in love with.

The neighborhood and area that the #2 Route traverses a good slice of downtown Seattle in the process of heading out to Madrona. The first part, technically starts up on Queen Anne Hill, but I won’t be traveling up that way. The route however comes down Queen Anne into downtown via the standard approach on 3rd Avenue. In mid-city it then cuts east up the hills toward First Hill. The route winds through First Hill and then down into the central area between First Hill and Madrona.

The segment between First hill and Madrona is basically a long straight route. This area changes from heavily business oriented urban to more residential with some mixed commercial. There are some small businesses, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and the like. Overall, the central part of the run is pretty nice.

Just as the route comes up a slight hill into Madrona the houses become a little bit better kept. In addition, the first sharp left in Madrona passes a number of very nice little restaurants, shops, and such and then winds down through the hills toward Lake Washington. There the end of the route rests within an easy stroll along Lake Washington and absolutely beautiful views of the lake.

I hope to write up a few more thoughts about the route in the near future. This type of commute, this type of neighborhood, this type of area is what can truly get someone sold on Seattle and the real beauty of this city. The area is real, with a wide diversity of people and a range of entertainment options. All this within a walkable distance to parks and other areas or a very short (under 10 minutes, probably only about 5 minutes) ride to Capital Hill.

Transit Riders’ Savings Exceed Thousands Per Year!

This message is of course about out of pocket savings, which really is all we can make a market based decision on. If the Government actually allowed or made us pay the full price of transportation these numbers and savings would be even higher, but the overall cost of transportation would alsot be slightly higher. Without further ado, here is APTA’s study and results.

Despite Lower Gas Prices Public Transit Riders Still Reap Big Savings

 Individuals can save $807 this month alone by switching to public transit for their daily commute

Washington, D.C. – Even with lower gas prices public transportation still offers individuals a way to save hundreds of dollars each month.  According to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) December  Transit Savings Report, individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save, on average, $807 dollars this month, and $9,69 annually.   These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the December 20, 2011 average national gas price ($3.21 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.

Currently gas prices are $.15 a gallon less than last month, but still $.23 higher than this time last year. Proving riding public transit is a smart way to lower transportation costs.

APTA releases this monthly Transit Savings Report to examine how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $155.22, according to the2011 Colliers International Parking Rate Study.  Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,863.

The top 20 cities with the highest transit ridership are ranked in order of their transit savings based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass and factoring in local gas prices for December 20, 2011 and the local monthly unreserved parking rate.*


   City  Monthly  Annual
 1  New York  $1,198  $14,375
 2  Boston  $1,106  $13,272
 3  San Francisco  $1,075  $12,902
 4  Seattle  $979  $11,749
5 Philadelphia $955 $11,457
6 Chicago $945 $11,343
 7  Honolulu  $937  $11,242
 8  Los Angeles  $880  $10,554
 9  Minneapolis $859  $10,308
 10  San Diego  $851  $10,215
 11  Portland  $842  $10,099
 12  Denver  $838  $10,053
 13  Washington, DC  $836  $10,031
14 Baltimore $817 $9,810
 15  Cleveland  $802  $9, 628
 16  Miami  $780  $9,355
 17  Atlanta  $762  $9,140
 18  Dallas  $759  $9,109
 19  Pittsburgh  $760  $9,120
 20  Las Vegas  $755  $9,064

*Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on 12/20/11.


APTA calculates the average cost of taking public transit by determining the average monthly transit pass of local public transit agencies across the country.  This information is based on the annual APTA fare collection survey and is weighted based on ridership (unlinked passenger trips).  The assumption is that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase an unlimited pass on the local transit agency, typically available on a monthly basis.

APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving.  The cost of driving is calculated using the 2011 AAA average cost of driving formula.  AAA cost of driving formula is based on variable costs and fixed costs.  The variable costs include the cost of gas, maintenance and tires.  The fixed costs include insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges.  The comparison also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.4 miles per gallon and the price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline as recorded by AAA on December 20, 2011 at $3.21 per gallon.  The analysis also assumes that a person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year.  The savings assume a person in two-person household lives with one less car.

In determining the cost of parking, APTA uses the data from the 2011 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.

To calculate your individual savings with or without car ownership, go to www.publictransportation.org.

# # #

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.

It does however make me wonder, if someone is saving that much with transit usage, how much could someone save with a more intelligent and strategically located lifestyle that allows walking or biking to work? How much healthier and stronger would Americans be if they weren’t stranded in the suburbs and tied to their cars?