Real-time bus arrival signs installed along 45th Street corridor

rtis_4Bus commuters can expect a smoother ride to work or school with new arrival time signs at popular bus stops along the 45th Street corridor between Ballard and the University District. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) in partnership with King County Metro has been installing 11 new Real Time Information System (RTIS) signs along the busy commuter route since March, a project that is nearing completion.

The LED signs are mounted on poles at each stop, and use real-time data to display bus arrival times. SDOT says the signs will give passengers, “a sense of security that comes with knowing how long you’ll have to wait and whether you have time to run a quick errand or grab a snack.”

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Map of new RTIS signs (Courtesy SDOT)

SDOT is close to finishing the sign installations, with the majority of the sidewalk and bus stop work scheduled to be completed by mid-June. The remaining work includes connecting wires and testing the equipment, which they expect will be wrapped up by August. SDOT says they’ll be making other pedestrian improvements, including new curb ramps and accessible pedestrian push buttons at select locations. The department says they’ve been careful to maintain the trees and their roots throughout the process; they’ve been able to adjust locations of several concrete foundations to avoid interfering with the root systems to keep the trees alive and healthy.

For the next couple months until the project is complete, SDOT says travelers and neighbors can continue to expect construction noise, intermittent lane closures, temporary bus stop closures, and flaggers and uniformed police officers directing traffic.

For more information about the project, click here.

Metro service cuts certain after voters reject Proposition 1

The King Country Transportation District Proposition 1 was rejected by voters this week. After the second count of ballots on Wednesday, Proposition 1 is behind with 54.5 percent of voters voting no.

According to King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County must prepare for reduction of Metro transit services starting this fall.

“We gave the voters a choice, and presented a proposal for saving Metro Transit and maintaining our roads. They have chosen a reduced level of service, and we will carry out the will of the voters. Tomorrow I will transmit legislation to the King County Council to reduce service by 550,000 hours and eliminate 72 bus routes,” says King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Here in Ballard, as we reported on Monday, now that the measure has failed, Metro will be cutting and reducing many routes that service our neighborhood (click on image below).

According to Metro’s website, local routes 61, 62 and 28 will be cut entirely and routes 17x, 18x, 28x, 29, 40, 44 and the D Line service will be reduced or revised.

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“The defeat of Proposition 1 means King County will make the adjustments necessary to ensure that Metro Transit provides service with the funding that’s available,” says County Council Chair Larry Phillips, chair of the King County Transportation District (KCTD).

If approved, Proposition 1 would have implemented a $60 vehicle fee and increased the King County sales tax by 0.1%. The revenue from the increases would have been directed toward maintaining Metro Transit bus service at its current hours and supporting road repair and maintenance.

Now that the proposition has been rejected, starting in September, Metro will eliminate 72 bus routes and reduce or revise another 84 routes around the city to maintain service with reduced revenues.

The County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will be hosting a series of special night meetings to receive public comment on the Executive’s proposed legislation. The My Ballard team will keep readers informed of the details of the meetings when they are known.

With the failure of the proposition, local group Friends of Transit has proposed a Seattle-only property-tax initiative that would raise $25 million dollars a year for six years at a tax rate of $22 per $100,000 of property value.

According to our news partners at The Seattle Times, the group is the set to file the initiative by the end of this week.

Executive Constantine commented on the announcement of Friends of Transit’s initiative in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“We welcome and encourage efforts that would protect bus service and avoid major disruption to our riders. Unfortunately, in the near term, we will still need to transmit major service cuts if Proposition 1 fails,” says Executive Constantine.

Mayor to City Council: Be bold, fund rail expansion

Last week we talked briefly about SDOT’s Transit Master Plan, which included plans for a light rail that would connect Ballard and Fremont to downtown, amongst other neighborhoods.

Yesterday, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn took to his blog and challenged the Seattle City Council to “be bold” and consider funding such a project.

For the distances served — neighborhood to neighborhood — it looks like the right choice for a number of corridors in Seattle. That includes Ballard to downtown via Fremont, the University District to downtown via Eastlake, and linking those to Seattle’s two initial streetcar lines to South Lake Union, the International District/Chinatown and Capitol Hill. Other cities have already demonstrated the promise of this approach, like Portland with its MAX system.

McGinn went to say that, even if the council didn’t want to act on the initiative, he “will not stop working to fulfill my commitment to expand rail in Seattle.”

Currently, the city council is working on approving a $60 car tab fee that would help save many King County Metro bus routes as well as provide some much-needed maintenance to Seattle’s roadways. But if they want to think big, like Mayor McGinn would like them to, they might discuss much grander plans soon.

Last night there was a public hearing to discuss the car-tab fees. You can listen to public comment through the Seattle Channel here. (Click here for a larger transit map.)

Meeting on school transportation plan tonight

Just a friendly reminder that Seattle Public Schools is hosting a public meeting on the district’s new school Transportation Plan, which if approved will go into effect for the 2011-2012 school year, tomorrow, Thursday, February 3 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Hamilton International School, located at 1610 N 41 St.

The proposed Transportation Plan changes would save the district an estimated $4 million by creating new transportation zones for bus routes for attendance area elementary and K-8 schools. Get details on the new plan here.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed plan at its February 16 meeting, where there will be opportunities for public comment. More information about signing up for public testimony is available here (.pdf) and on the school board website.

If you can’t make Thursday’s meeting, don’t worry. There will be a third meeting regarding the proposed plan next week from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 8, at Chief Sealth International High School, 2600 SW Thistle.

Ballardite photographs tile street markers

One Ballardite is on a mission to document all the tile street names embedded along some of Ballard’s roads.

“Since I moved into Ballard in September 08,” Luke emailed, “I’ve been photographing the old street signs embedded into the sidewalks. Most are on 20th and 24th Avenues, but I’ve found a few outliers here and there.” His friend made up a Google Map of where the signs are.


View Old Ballard Street Markers in a larger map

This was a topic that came up in our forum a few months ago. Long Timer filled in the story as to where some of these tiles came from.

I am proud to say I wrote the application for the ‘Neighborhood Matching Fund’ grant that co-funded the project that made and installed new tiles down 24th. Benson Shaw, a Ballard artist, spearheaded the creative portion. Neighbors and Cub Scouts worked together on 3 different weekends to create and install the mosaics. The new mosaic names were based on the 100 yr old street tiles that can be found in several spots in Sunset Hill and Ballard between 20th & 15th. I think we did the project around 1988 or 89.

It was a wonderful project to be involved in. I still smile whenever I walk over them. It shows what good can be done in our neighborhood when we band together as neighbors.

In the meantime, Luke continues his journey around Ballard to photograph the tiles. “I keep thinking that I’ve taken pictures of them all, but keep seeing them as my wife and I walk around the neighborhood,” he says. If you know of any signs not on the map, list them in comments. Luke will add them to his collection.

Ballard changing faster than planned, residents say

Ten years after the city’s neighborhood plans were published, residents have been asked to help create a “status check” on how well the 20-year plans are progressing — and whether they need an update. Thursday evening a group of Ballard and Crown Hill residents gathered around a table at the Phinney Center to provide the city with feedback on the draft copy of the status report (.pdf).

“(Ballard) is a totally different place than it was ten years ago,” said Craig Benjamin, explaining that he’s disappointed that the city’s draft status report fails to adequately explain the dramatic change in the neighborhood. “When the basis of a plan changes so dramatically, you need to reevaluate where you’re going,” added Peter Locke. Others agreed that the neighborhood’s transformation from a “sleepy fishing village” to a high-density community has introduced new priorities around affordable housing (“Ballard just isn’t affordable”), transportation (“Metro buses are packed”), safety and other city services. Another added that “Crown Hill is the red-headed stepchild” when compared to Ballard’s neighborhood improvements. Representatives from the Seattle Planning Commission and the Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee took notes as neighbors provided their feedback.

The report reviewed the plan’s original strategies: 1) create a Ballard municipal center with a park, library and service center 2) extend the Burke-Gilman trail through Ballard 3) acquire Crown Hill school and develop the facility into a community sports field complex and 4) establish a location for a commuter rail station. As the report explained, the first is complete and the next two are underway, but a light rail station is currently not planned for the neighborhood. Several residents suggested that the city make the neighborhood plans more flexible to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can fill out an online survey with your thoughts about the neighborhood and the status report. In October, the city will hold public meetings to review the updated status reports, and then they’ll be presented to the mayor and the city council to consider.

Weekend construction to snarl Market St.

Seattle Department of Transportation paving crews will be out on Saturday fixing two areas along Market St. The first trouble spot will be just west of the intersection at 15th and Market. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. crews will funnel cars down to one lane in each direction. Further down Market near 30th, the road will be closed completely between 30th and 32nd. There will be a detour provided by way of NW 54th. The crews will be restoring pavement at both locations that was torn up to get to underground utilities.

Meet Ballard’s highest-tech commuter

We’ve all seen Segways here and there, even at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. But we watched this gentleman, clad in a suit and tie, effortlessly cruise along the side of Phinney Ave. and drop down into Ballard like he does this every day.

And he does. The man told us, through our open window, that he commutes every day between his home near Swanson’s Nursery to Pioneer Square.

Update: The high-tech commuter has added more details in comments below. “It takes me about 40-50 minutes for my 8-10 mile commute (depends on which streets I take). I have been commuting this way for about 8 months and have clocked about 1400 miles on the Segway,” he writes. “It really is great fun!!!”

As expected, RapidRide to run on 15th Ave.

We posted back in March that it looked like RapidRide, the new express bus service coming to Ballard in 2012, will run along 15th Ave. instead of the other option, 24th Ave. Today we received the final recommendation from the RapidRide advisory committee. “Nearly all panel members support or could live with RapidRide located on the 15th Avenue NW corridor,” it reads, adding that a survey of Ballard residents came up with the same conclusion.

Mayor promises to improve access to tunnel

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has committed in writing to improving vehicle and freight access from Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne to the new deep-bored tunnel, according to a press release issued today by Reps. Mary Lou Dickerson and Reuven Carlyle. Nickels wrote that the city will work with WSDOT to improve traffic flow on N 46th St., N 39th St., Nickerson St., Dexter Ave. N, Mercer St. and West Mercer St. The city also said it would work to improve congestion at the north and south ends of the Aurora Bridge.

“The major arterials within our community will need attention and we’re focused on ensuring the city is focused on the needs of residential and commercial traffic,” said Carlyle. Both representatives had asked the mayor for a formal letter expressing the city’s commitment on improving traffic flow to Seattle’s Northwest neighborhoods. As you know, tunnel access has been a hot topic in Ballard’s industrial and freight community, most recently at a town hall held at Ballard High School last month. Read the press release below…

OLYMPIA– State Reps. Mary Lou Dickerson and Reuven Carlyle have secured a formal, written commitment from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels to ensure residents of Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne have more efficient access to the new deep-bored tunnel.

The 36th District state representatives insisted on written commitments that the City of Seattle would move forward on improving traffic flow and access by enhancing major arterials including Mercer, Nickerson, Western, Dexter and other streets when and if needed.

The written commitments they required on behalf of residents of the 36th District were provided by Nickels on April 15 after Dickerson and Carlyle jointly requested a more formal response from the city than verbal statements. Dickerson and Carlyle secured the unanimous support of the House Transportation Committee for their request.

In a letter to Dickerson and Carlyle, Nickels outlined specific steps and projects the city would undertake to ensure “adequate and efficient access for freight and vehicles, as well as for neighborhood residents along the State Route 99 corridor.”

“This is great news for our communities,” said Dickerson, who sits on the House Transportation Committee. “The Viaduct has been essential to our local economies and families for a long time, and we had to make sure our transportation needs will be met when the Viaduct is taken down and replaced.”

“Now that the decision around the tunnel has been made, the most important issues for our community are efficient access and reduced traffic congestion,” said Carlyle. “The major arterials within our community will need attention and we’re focused on ensuring the city is focused on the needs of residential and commercial traffic,” he said.

The written assurances in the letter from Nickels include plans providing for “efficient traffic flow from neighborhoods in northwest Seattle to the north portal of the deep bored tunnel…” To accomplish this, the city says it will work with the Washington State Department of Transportation to address efficient movement on the major arterials for northwest Seattle residents: North 46th Street, North 39th Street, Nickerson Street, Dexter Avenue North, Mercer Street and West Mercer Street. The city will look at strategies such as synchronizing traffic lights and addressing on-street parking. It will also work to manage congestion at the north and south ends of the Aurora Avenue Bridge.

The April 15 letter from Nickels commits to the items specified by Dickerson and Carlyle in an amendment they were considering as part of legislation authorizing and approving of the tunnel project. The lawmakers agreed to remove their amendment upon receiving the written commitment from the mayor.

Dickerson, who backed a rebuild of the viaduct, said, “Reuven and I will be working together a lot as the Viaduct is replaced. With so much at stake, we need to make sure that commitments are kept and that Ballard, Queen Anne and North Seattle generally get what’s right, and not just what’s left, in transportation funding decisions.”

“We share a healthy respect for the ‘Trust but verify’ approach to accountability,” Carlyle said.