Morning Fizz

SDOT Recommends Moving Forward with Pedestrian-Only Street Project on Capitol Hill (Kinda)

Residents support Pike Street closure, sexist language in murder coverage, and more on SDOT director Kubly.

By Josh Feit April 14, 2016

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1. One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday’s Fizz coverage of the ST3 forum: the ridership numbers that Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff rattled off. The light rail system has gone from carrying 36,000 boardings a day in February (prior to the University Link extension) to 50,000 boardings a day, he said—a 38 percent increase. And, Rogoff added, the system came close to hitting 80,000 boardings on Mariners’ opening day. “If the Mariners continue to win,” he joked….and then added for real: “We’ll have to add three more trains.”

Rogoff specifically called out the additional traffic between the new Capitol Hill station and Downtown, which he called “remarkable.”

Which brings me to today’s news: The Seattle Department of Transportation has released its report on last year’s Capitol Hill street closure project; on three Saturday nights last August, East Pike St. between Broadway and 12th Ave. East was designated as pedestrian-only to test out the feasibility of a car-free zone.

The increase in foot traffic was nearly 10 percent compared to traditional nights when the street is open to car traffic, with about 35,000 pedestrian crossings counted between 8pm and 2am (that’s about 5,750 pedestrians in the peak 11pm time slot versus 5,350 on traditional nights.)

SDOT’s survey of the neighborhood’s residents and businesses found 66 percent were in favor of continuing the project (weekend night ped only zones) with 57 percent in favor of expanding the ped-only zones to other times.

However, there was a split between how local businesses viewed the closure versus residents. Digging deeper into those numbers: While 70 percent of residents dug the Jane Jacobs setting, only 48 percent of businesses did. Additionally, just 44 percent of businesses wanted to expand it, while 60 percent of residents did.

That divide was already evident shortly after the closure last year.

Some pro and con quotes from SDOT’s new report captured the basic disagreement:

“It was a much-needed respite from the typical scene down there. Pike St. is such a perfect spot for a pedestrian zone. It felt safer, more inviting, easier to move around and more connective to the space around it. Removing the cars made it feel like a neighborhood again.”

 “I don’t want the Capitol Hill block party every weekend.”

Finally, another important stat (which ties back to Sound Transit and the new Capitol Hill station): SDOT survey results of both  people who came to the area on the ped-only nights and the traditional nights found that 14 percent of people drove alone to get there versus 15 percent took who took transit (the biggest slice, 41 percent, walked.) With Sound Transit stopping at Capitol Hill just a few blocks from the street closure boundaries now, it’s likely car free Saturday nights will become a much bigger part of Seattle’s Saturday nights.

The SDOT report recommends first holding another round of neighborhood meetings to determine the next steps for moving the street closure project forward.

The report concludes:

SDOT and OED recommend convening a diverse group of neighborhood stakeholders to interpret the results found in this report. Through a creative and collaborative process, the lessons learned and challenges experienced can be discussed and used to inform the best way to move forward.

Capitol Hill Housing policy staffer Alex Brennan, who helped put the street closure project together through CHH's "EcoDistrict" efforts, tells Fizz: "The report has a ton of good information that I hope can ground the neighborhood discussion. Going forward my priority is to get people with different opinions and perspectives to talk to each other."

2. If I may weigh in on the mainstream media coverage of the horrifying story about Ingrid Lyne, the 40-year-old woman who was murdered and decapitated. (John Robert Charlton, Lyne’s date on the night she was brutally killed—her head, an arm, leg, and foot were found in trash bags at 21st and Pine—has been charged with murder.)

The headlines and tweets continually refer to Lyne as a “mother” or a “mom” or a “nurse.” The Seattle Times is so stuck on the Lyne’s identity as a nurse they inadvertently repeat the following description within the space of two paragraphs:

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday confirmed the remains were those of Lyne, 40, a registered nurse at Swedish Medical Center.

According to the documents, Lyne, 40, a registered nurse at Swedish Medical Center, texted a friend about 10:35 p.m. Friday saying she was on a date.

And that goes along with this headline and subhead:

1st-degree murder charge filed in slaying of Renton mother Ingrid Lyne: Prosecutors have filed first-degree murder charges against the man arrested in connection with the slaying and dismemberment of a Seattle nurse and mother of three.

The sexism embedded in this language—the classic reverse stereotyping that exalts women as saintly caretakers—is good for headlines, but by romanticizing the victim, it diminishes the reality that an actual human being, a woman (not an idealized character), was brutally murdered.

3. While I’m picking on the Seattle Times, I should also pause and give credit to Times city hall reporter Daniel Beekman, who has more controversial news on SDOT director Scott Kubly. Beekman has uncovered emails that show Kubly was more actively engaged in the Pronto bike share project—without getting the appropriate conflict of interest waiver—than was initially known.    

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