Category Archives: Rainier Avenue

SDOT Looking for Neighborhood Feedback Regarding Parking

If you’ve ever struggled to find a parking spot, been amazed at the speeds and recklessness of some drivers as they navigate Columbia City’s streets, or have some great ideas on how to improve the driving and parking conditions of the neighborhood, SDOT wants to hear from you.

In addition to this survey which I encourage you all to fill out, SDOT is hosting a drop-in session on Columbia City Community Access and Parking later this month. Here are all of the details:

ccmap2Do you work, live, or play in Columbia City? If so, please take our short online survey about neighborhood parking and access by March 19, 2016.

Background

Through the Community Access and Parking Program, SDOT works in neighborhood business districts throughout the city to improve parking and access.  SDOT is beginning work with businesses and residents in the Columbia City neighborhood to better understand current parking and access issues in the neighborhood. The goal of this work is to improve parking and access in the neighborhood for customers, visitors, and loading needs, while maintaining access for local residents. The effort is focused around the Rainier Avenue business district (see existing conditions map).

Upcoming Outreach and Events

  • SDOT will be hosting a parking and access drop-in session at the multipurpose room at PCC (3610 S Edmunds St) on Saturday February 20th from 9:30 to 11:30 AM.  Come join us to share comments and questions in person.  Click here for more information on our outreach.
  • In spring 2016 we will be partnering with a survey firm to conduct intercept surveys of customers and visitors in the neighborhood.  Questions will include how people get to the neighborhood, how long they stay, and what are the main reasons they visit Columbia City.  Results from a similar survey in 2011 are available here.

KCTS on “Fixing Rainier”

KCTS has a new piece up on Rainier, its reputation as the most dangerous street in Seattle, and the road diet. Check it out here:

    What is the most dangerous road in Seattle, perhaps in all of Washington State? One might guess Aurora Avenue, especially after last fall’s deadly collision of a Ride the Ducks tour vehicle and a bus. But it’s not. It’s Rainier Avenue South, which runs 8.5 miles through Rainier Valley in South Seattle.
    Rainier Avenue has one-fourth the vehicle volume of Aurora, but twice the accidents per mile — over one a day. Part of the problem is that Rainier used to be part of State Highway 167, and it still acts like a freeway.
     “So, it was very much a state route where people were going excessively fast through the corridor, and the design really encouraged those higher speeds,” says Jim Curtin, a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) traffic manager.
    “I’ve seen so many car crashes, people coming through speeding, you know,” says Hikeem Stewart, who works in Columbia City. In the last three years, there have been over 1,200 accidents, 600 injuries and two fatalities on Rainier…

Local News Covers Yesterday’s Rally for a Safer Rainier

As many noticed on the way home or to the market, yesterday marked another rally to raise awareness about Rainier Ave’s ongoing safety issues. Local news outlets were on hand to cover the story. Here’s the report from KOMO:

SEATTLE — Rainier Avenue South averaged one crash every day over the last three years, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

From 2011 to 2014, there were 1,243 accidents along Rainier, and community members say that’s unacceptable.

City data also found that each year, between 10 to 25  pedestrians and two to five bicyclists are involved in collisions on Rainier.  The city says the likelihood of injury is nearly 100 percent in pedestrian and bicycle collisions.

Last year after a string of crashes, SDOT promised changes are coming, but some community members would like to see the changes sooner.

Activists organized a protest and rally outside Columbia City’s popular Farmer’s Market Wednesday to keep pressure on the city. Residents, business owners and crash victims carried picket signs, signed a petition calling for action and signed a giant Get Well card for all the businesses and people hurt by accidents along the busy stretch.

Activist such as Phyllis Porter with Rainier Valley Greenways insist the stats have earned Rainier the title of “most dangerous street in the city.”

“Something is definitely going on, a lot of speeding going on down here,” said Porter.

In a short stretch of Rainier Avenue there have been three recent harrowing crashes. In August an out of control pickup rammed into 15 vehicles.

A couple weeks later an SUV jumped the sidewalk, nearly killing several people. The driver plowed through steel posts, rode the sidewalk, crossed the street and plowed into a busy salon. The driver rammed through a wall and crashed into the neighboring Greek deli.

“I believe they’re estimating she was going  60 or 70 miles per hour,” said Rainier Avenue S. business owner Emily Kopca.

And just three weeks ago, another speeding car jumped the curb, less than a block away, nearly careening into a storefront.

“We’re calling out to the city today to act now to fix the most dangerous street in Seattle,” said Porter.

Kopca, who Columbia City Bouquet on Rainier, has had a front-row seat to much of the destruction.

“Rainier Avenue is a street in which the car takes priority over the pedestrian,” said Kopca.

SDOT promised safety changes last year and came up with several proposed options. They include putting Rainier Avenue on a Road Diet — shrinking it down to just two lanes with a center turning lane — or possibly adding a bike lane or a transit lane. SDOT expects a decision by mid-June.

“Something has got to be done,” said Kyoto Pierce, a Columbia City resident.

SDOT research found one in every three collisions in the city involves speed.

“I almost got hit crossing the street,” Pierce said. “And these people making the turn, they don’t care.”

SDOT says it will reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph from Hillman City to Columbia City, as requested by the community, as well  as extend Cross Walk times, add better signage and striping at crossing points and enhance the timing on traffic lights.

“People just want to make sure it does happen. We’re not going to stop until it does happen,” vowed Porter.

KIRO was also on hand to cover the event.

Crosscut on the Rainier Road Diet: Not the Perfect Solution

Crosscut’s Eric Scigliano has a new piece on the proposed Rainier Road diet.

Unlike most of the recent coverage on SDOT’s three proposals (which has been primarily enthusiastic and approving),  Scigliano’s piece includes criticism of the road diet and limited bike lanes and reaches out to opponents (or at least those skeptical) of the plan. Vocal Columbia City neighbor, realtor, and long-time neighborhood activist, Ray Aykers (who dove into a lively discussion here on the same proposals), is included in the conversation

Late this spring, the Seattle Department of Transportation plans to put Rainier Avenue S.

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

from Columbia City to the city limit on a “road diet” — to squeeze it down from a four- to two-lane arterial, with a center turn lane serving left-turning vehicles going both ways. SDOT has presented three alternative schemes for doing this, all with the same traffic configuration. Only one of them includes any provision for bicycles, and that’s just 0.9 miles of separated bikeway from Hillman City to a little north of Columbia City, the stretch of Rainier with the most commercial and pedestrian activity.

This redesign will make notoriously perilous Rainier safer and more convenient for pedestrians and safer if somewhat less convenient for motorists. But unless it’s amended, it may actually make this notoriously perilous avenue less safe for cyclists, squandering an even better opportunity to bring a safe, widely accessible through cycle route to the most under-served quadrant of the city.

Before considering how that’s come to be and what can be done about it, it’s important to credit the need and motives driving the push for a Rainier safety fix. There’s no questioning the need. Rainier is far from Seattle’s busiest arterial, and, at 8 miles, it accounts for only about 1/200th of the city’s arterial miles, and 1/500th of total street miles. But Rainier claims 1/30th of the city’s traffic collisions, and an even larger share of traffic fatalities — two in the last three years, 11 in the last 10. On Rainier, as opposed to other hotspots, the victims are mostly pedestrians…

The piece goes on to include a number of areas of concern about the road diet’s lane reduction and offers some strong criticism of the limited bike-lanes:

[Ray] Akers predicts the lane reduction will be a disaster for Southeast businesses, most of which lie along Rainier, and for property owners there. “How many Safeways can you find located on a two-lane road?” he asks. “How about 7-Elevens or McDonald’s? Any major chain will seek a major arterial, and that means four lanes. Secondary and tertiary arterials do not command the attention or the value of a four-lane arterial. Real estate fronting on a four-lane arterial is always more valuable.”

[SDOT Director, Scott] Kubly and [Mayor] Murray contend that far from road diets starving retail, there is “a lot of data showing that when you do these kinds of facilities [road diets], retail does better,” says Kubly. “It’s only going to make this a more attractive place to be.” And anyway, he adds, “Most of the people using these retail businesses are using transit to get there.”

Really? Try parking in Columbia City.

I asked both Akers and Kubly and SDOT spokesman Richard Sheridan if they could send me their data. I didn’t hear back from SDOT. Akers replied that his data was “anecdotal,” with one notable example very close at hand: Many retailers closed when only two traffic lanes continued operating on MLK during light rail construction. Indeed, but that project caused (and continues to cause) much more disruption than a road diet, which would be speedily implemented.

I suspect that Akers and City Hall are both right to a degree: Fewer traffic lanes will be one more factor dissuading the sort of national retailers that Akers has tried for frustrating decades to lure to Southeast Seattle. But smaller, locally-owned, more pedestrian-oriented businesses may fare better in calmer traffic conditions (and be glad not to have SUVs crashing through their walls). Southeast Seattleites will continue to miss the convenience of Trader Joe’s and Target nearby, but Columbia and Hillman Cities will retain their distinctive, nearly all-local characters. Some residents would call that a fair trade.

The neglect of bicycles in the Rainier plans is more worrisome, and not just for the missed opportunity. Paring lanes may actually make Rainier Ave. more scary for cyclists. That’s because impatient motorists will no longer have another traffic lane for passing them. Asked about this, Jim Curtin said drivers could still use the center turn lane for passing. But that’s dangerous too — and illegal…

Be sure to read the whole piece here.

Seattle Times on the Rainier Road Diet

Over the weekend, The Seattle Times chimed in on the various proposals to calm the traffic on Rainier. Click here to read the whole post:

The city’s patience ran out last August, after a car slammed into the Carol Cobb Salon on Seattle’s busy Rainier Avenue South, pinning a 344a51ac-c479-11e4-93b0-814658681981-300x650family of three to the wall.

Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. A neighborhood rally followed, the salon and the Greek restaurant next to it temporarily found other sites — and Scott Kubly, city transportation director, told staff to let loose their safety ideas.

Eight times in the past year, cars have smashed into businesses in and around the Columbia City business district. The city also reports 1,243 collisions in a 3½-mile stretch of Rainier Avenue South in the past three years, causing 630 injuries and two deaths.

Rainier’s road diet

The city is preparing to remove two general traffic lanes for 3½ miles between South Alaska Street and South Henderson Street. Also, the speed limit of 30 mph would decrease to 25 mph for one mile, through the Columbia City and Hillman City business districts. Options range from $500,000 to $2 million.

Option 1a: Reduce the four lanes to two lanes, plus a center left-turn lane.

Option 1b: Same as 1a, but add protected bicycle lanes in the Columbia City-Hillman City core.

Option 2: A “hybrid” layout that includes bus lanes in parts of the corridor. Some roadside parking would be removed.

Source: Seattle Department of Transportation

Twelve people have died on Rainier Avenue as a whole in the last decade, and there are twice as many collisions as on Lake City Way or Aurora Avenue North.

The problem is speed, safety officials say.

So in October, the road’s four lanes will be reduced to two between South Alaska Street and South Henderson Street, plus a left-turn lane in the center. In a mile-long retail core, the speed limit will be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Rainier Avenue will undergo the city’s 36th so-called road diet since 1972, on a former state highway that attracts nearly 20,000 cars a day. Another lane reduction goes into effect in April on 23rd Avenue through the Central Area, including the stretch in front of Garfield High School.

On Rainier, one of seven drivers exceeds 38 mph between Columbia City and Hillman City, city samples found.

Nationally, road diets reduce crashes some 29 percent, while a city study of Seattle’s 2007 road diet on largely commercial Stone Way North found injury crashes dropped by a third. Average speeds dropped 3 mph…

Seattle Bike Blog on the Rainier Proposals

The Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fuculoro has another recap of last night’s SDOT meeting:

Rainier Avenue will be safer by the end of the year.

Every option the city presented (PDF) at a public meeting Thursday evening in Columbia City included a significant redesign of the notoriously dangerous street. And the city is not going to wait long to take action.

Some signals and signage changes will roll out this spring, followed by some more significant safety upgrades starting in the summer and going into 2016.

Before we get into the solutions, let’s follow the city’s lead and outline the problem.

Jim Curtin and Dongho Chang of SDOT did a very good job explaining, step by step, why the street is so dangerous and how — though genuine community input and thoughtful design changes — the city will move quickly to dramatically increase safety on the busy commercial and neighborhood street.

The big crowd at the meeting seemed very receptive to the ideas the city presented and strongly in favor of safety changes. Cheers rang out when Curtin announced plans to lower the speed limit to 25 mph through the Columbia City and Hillman City business districts. People also cheered when Curtin said they will lengthen the crosswalk signal times.As we reported previously, a study found that traffic signals in Rainier Valley give people less time to cross the street than Ballard.

When Curtin showed the slide below, the crowd gasped. Rainier is way more dangerous than it should be, and it has been this way for a long time…

The post goes on in some detail covering the various plans. Even if you aren’t a biker, it provides a good overview of the presentation. It’s worth a read 

…and another car runs into a building

Just one day after SDOT hosted a meeting to review plans for changes on Rainier Ave., another car has slammed into a building. This one is (again) at Rainier and Orcas–the last time this location was hit was December 20th, 2014.

Adding them all up, that’s about seven car vs. building incidents in just under a year. If you think that’s about seven too many, be sure to check out the proposals SDOT is considering (just one post below) to help stop these types of avoidable and dangerous incidents.

Car

Photo by Matt C. From: Columbia City Facebook group

 

SDOT Proposes Three Potential Options for Rainier Ave. Safety Project

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Tonight’s packed meeting at the Columbia School was the current step in SDOT’s ongoing efforts to tackle Rainier Ave’s major safety problems. The meeting began by quickly establishing that Rainier has, without question, some alarming safety concerns and that the road is in dire need of some major rethinking and redesign.

In addition to some easy changes that can be made right away–lowering the speed limit through Columbia and Hillman city to 25mph (which got a big applause), re-timing pedestrian crosswalks (more applause), making sure lanes and signals are visible, etc.–SDOT proposed three different options for significant redesigns of Rainier Ave S:

Option 1A:

  • A road diet from S. Alaska to S. Henderson
  • Reduction from four lanes to two lanes…with a designated turning lane in the middle.

Option 1B:

  • Same as option 1A but with the addition of protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City (the most involved and expensive option)

Option 2:

  • Essentially the same as option 1A but with designated transit lanes running intermittently the whole four-mile stretch. No bike lanes.

Although there are variations with separate benefits and limitations to each plan, all share essentially the same key features:

Reduce top collision types (left turns, sideswipe, parked car)

Lower vehicle speeds

Better conditions for people walking

Opportunities for new crossings

Improved efficiency

Easier turning movements – especially for large vehicles

The full presentation can be viewed here and, of course, SDOT’s slideshow goes into much more detail than the quick summaries provided above. To better understand the implications of each option, be sure to really explore the data provided and the ideas behind each proposal. Comments, questions, and concerns regarding each proposal were welcomed and addressed at the end of the meeting. Continued input from the community was encouraged.

The next meeting (addressing much of the same info that was provided tonight as well as some additional, specific information for areas of concern north of Hillman) will be:

Tuesday , March 3, 2015
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, The Ethiopian Community Center,
8323 Rainier Ave S

In the months to come, SDOT will continue to review and study the options, continue to seek out feedback and input from the community, and come back with a decision around May. From there, implementation will begin–which, depending on the decision, may be a very long process. Questions and comments about the proposals can be directed here:

jim.curtin@seattle.gov

(206) 684-8874

Reminder: SDOT Rainier Ave Safety Meetings (2/26 and 3/3)

SDOT is hosting two follow-up meetings in the coming weeks to the Rainier Ave. Safety Project that’s underway. As many in the neighborhood are well-aware, the past year proved beyond any doubt that action needs to be taken to keep pedestrians (and buildings) safe from Rainier’s often-dangerous traffic. Neighborhood involvement and turnout at the last few meetings and events has been high and that is absolutely one of the main reasons SDOT is now paying attention and working on this project. If you can, be sure to attendRainierPostcard:

 

SDOT invites you to review potential safety improvements for Rainier and to provide feedback on possible design changes at one of the following meetings:

Thursday, February 26, 2015
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, The Columbia School – Cafeteria/Commons,
3528 S Ferdinand St (use the Edmunds St entrance and parking area)

Tuesday , March 3, 2015*
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, The Ethiopian Community Center,
8323 Rainier Ave S

*Additional information will be presented about upcoming transportation
projects in the Rainier Beach neighborhood at this meeting

Launching November 2014 – the Rainier Avenue South Safety Corridor Project – a multi-year effort to improve safety for all through street improvements, increased enforcement efforts, and educational outreach.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is launching a collaborative process to review roadway conditions along Rainier Avenue South. As safety is our number one priority, we are committed to preventing collisions and improving safety for all users of the transportation system.

Together we will determine the specific nature and design elements of these changes through the process described below. New safety measures to be considered through this project will include: arterial traffic calming, traffic signal modifications, pavement repair, and pedestrian and bicycle safety enhancements. To address behavioral issues like speeding, distraction and impaired driving, we will develop targeted enforcement strategies and area-specific educational outreach.

This project will focus on the segment of Rainier Avenue South from Letitia Avenue South to Seward Park Avenue South.

Facts about Rainier Avenue South

  • Principal arterial classification
  • Adjacent land uses:
    • Single family and multi-family residential, commercial, industrial
    • Libraries, parks, community centers, senior housing and senior centers
    • More than 10 schools and daycare centers within three blocks of Rainier
  • Speed limit 30 mph
  • Busy transit corridor
  • Average Daily Traffic – 19,700 to 26,600 vehicles per weekday
  • 1243 total collisions, 630 injuries and two fatalities January 2011 through September 2014

 

Columbia City and Rainier Valley Part of Murray’s Vision Zero Traffic Plan

This week, Seattle’s new “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic deaths was announced by Mayor Ed Murray. Since this past year’s alarming spike of dangerous collisions in and close to Columbia City, there’s a been a strong push to make Rainier Ave. safer. While by no means a solution, Rainier and MLK did get specific mention in the plan

 Map TrafficMayor Murray, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) launched Vision Zero, Seattle’s plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 through innovative engineering, enforcement and education.

“Our Vision Zero campaign will educate people who drive, bike and walk on how we can all work together to make our streets safer,” said Murray. “We are rolling out a range of new safety improvements that will help get our kids get to school, reduce fatalities on city arterials and make our neighborhood streets safer. Our transportation system must work safely for everyone and this plan will save lives.”

While Seattle is consistently recognized as one of the safest cities in the country, more than 10,000 traffic collisions occur each year. In 2014, 3,449 injury collisions were reported to the Seattle Police Department. Fifteen people died in traffic crashes, including five who were walking or riding a bike.

At the core of Vision Zero is the belief that death and injury on city streets is preventable. The Vision Zero approach emphasizes smarter street designs – forgiving streets that account for human error. When paired with targeted education and enforcement, the effort will save lives.

“Implementing the Vision Zero initiative is vital to creating a safer transportation system,” said Tom Rasmussen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “The way we design our streets, enforce the rules, and educate the public does make a difference. But, most importantly, each of us whether we walk, bike or drive must do our part to make our streets safer for all.”

To make Seattle streets safer all, Seattle’s Vision Zero effort will include the following actions in 2015:

  • Reduce the speed limit in the downtown core to 25 mph by the end of 2015.
  • Improve safety at 10 high-crash intersections downtown by eliminating turns on red lights, installing leading pedestrian intervals to give walkers a head start, eliminating dual turn lanes and other engineering improvements.
  • Install 20 mph zones on residential streets in up to ten areas near parks and schools with documented collision histories.
  • Enhance safety on arterials — like Rainier Avenue S, 35th Avenue SW, Fauntleroy Way SW and 5th Avenue NE where 90 percent of serious and fatal collisions occur — by installing speed reductions, radar speed signs and enhanced street designs.
  • Add twelve new school zone safety cameras in six school zones to improve safety for kids as they make their way to and from school.
  • Add seven miles of protected bike lanes, more than 40 crossing improvements and 14 blocks of new sidewalk to make travel safer across all modes.
  • Conduct targeted enforcement throughout the city for school, pedestrian and bike safety, along with enhanced DUI enforcement. SDOT and SPD will work together to educate people in advance of these patrols, so everyone will expect enforcement and better understand the rules of the road…
More specifically:
Reduce Arterial Speed Limits
Review arterial speed limits and reduce to 30 mph or lower. Pair speed limit reductions with tools like radar speed signs and street design changes. Review speed limits through our annual programs and Road Safety Corridor projects. Work with State partners to make changes to State Routes like Aurora Avenue North, Lake City Way NE and Sand Point Way NE. Lower speed limits on the following corridors in 2015:
  • Martin Luther King Jr Way S
  • Rainier Avenue S…
Urban Center Safety
Bring a higher level of safety to Seattle’s Urban Centers, where high volumes of vehicular traffic, transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists merge. Data-driven improvements may include modified signal phasing, traffic calming, protected turn phases and leading or lagging pedestrian intervals at the following locations:
  • Lake City at NE 125th Street and Lake City Way NE
  • White Center/Westwood at SW Roxbury Street and Delridge Way/16th Ave SW
  • Columbia City and Hillman City on Rainier Ave S…

Road Safety Corridors

Reduce collisions through low cost engineering, enforcement and education efforts on targeted corridors including:

  • Rainier Ave S