SDOT director Scott Kubly was in Columbia City last night kicking off a series of neighborhood meetings to begin the process of upgrading Rainier Ave. S. between Letitia Ave. S and Seward Park Ave. S. The pressing concern about the southeast Seattle principal arterial is pedestrian safety.
SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang presented the room (about 55 people were on hand at the the Columbia School elementary) with scary statistics about Rainier, starting with a slide that noted: "Data indicates significant speed and collision issues along the Rainier corridor."
For example, there's an average of one crash a day on Rainier with 1243 total collisions in the last three years, 630 injuries, and two fatalities. Compare that to 717 total collisions on Lake City Way NE and 294 on 35th Ave. SW.
Another factor, that a March 2013 U.W. school of public health study found when comparing Rainier Av. S. crossings to crossings in Ballard, was that intersections in both neighborhoods had a difference in the time allotted for pedestrians to cross. Rainer Av. S. had not been adjusted for compliance with federal safety standards while Ballard had. Additionally, Rainier Ave. is much wider which could contribute to the higher instances of (dangerous) jaywalking on Rainier.
"Data indicates significant speed and collision issues along the Rainier corridor."
Rainier is also a busy stretch with 19,700 to 26,600 vehicle trips on weekdays (plus 11,000 transit trips) coupled with lots of pedestrians—100 crossings a day, for example at Rainier and Henderson.
The speed limit on the four to five lane arterial is 30 mph, though SDOT found thousands of "high-end speeders" (10 miles over the speed limit) per day at three different intersections.
While safety has a kitchen-table legitimacy that other street reconfigurations—with their hippie bike lanes, KUOW greenways and communist (I kid) bus cutaways—don't, what became clear at last night's meeting is that SDOT's supposedly elitist pedestrian agenda goes hand in hand with robust civic basics like safety.
Local precinct SPD officer Captain David Proudfoot came along with Kubly and Chang and told the crowd that despite the perception that there's a lack of speed patrols in the area, SPD has actually increased enforcement. Proudfoot's assessment: The sense that SPD isn't doing traffic control highlights the fact that there's a larger, infrastructure problem on Rainier. Proudfoot characterized increased speed monitoring as a "short term solution" saying he believed a long term solution was necessary, and for that, he was deferring to the SDOT planners.
Only in Seattle do macho cops defer to pointy headed bureaucrats.
And the audience was receptive. One business owner said the she hoped SDOT's plan would include bike lanes, traffic calming, and lower speeds. Chang wouldn't say if SDOT is thinking about removing lanes or widening sidewalks like they're doing on 23rd Ave. in the Central District. SDOT's discussion topics last night included: parking, street design, bike facilities, sidewalks, crosswalks and ramps, traffic signals, transit, pavement, traffic calming, and enforcement.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, November 18 at the Ethiopian Community Center, 8323 Rainier Ave S.