How They Do It in Seattle

Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Fall 2011 Transportation Seminar Series

Speaker: Peter Lagerwey, Toole Design Group (Seattle, WA)

Topic: Emerging Trends in Developing and Implementing Bicycle Master Plans – The Seattle Example

When: Friday, September 30, 2011, 12:00 – 1:00pm

Where: PSU Urban Center Building, SW 6th and Mill, Room 204

12 responses to “How They Do It in Seattle”

  1. The census bureau has released a report on commuting by Americans:

    Between 2006 and 2010, the data show, the percentage of Americans driving to work alone rose from 76.0 percent to 76.6 percent. During the same period, the number of Americans taking public transportation rose just a tenth of a percentage point – but declined last year to 4.9 percent, down from 5.0 percent in 2009.

    The U.S. Census says those number are statistically significant.

    Carpooling nationally dropped more dramatically from 2006, down from 10.7 percent to 9.7 percent. Meanwhile, walking to work has hovered around 2.8 or 2.9 percent. And people getting to work by other means, including bike or motorcycle, has remained steady at 1.7 percent.

    So where should the investment be made?

  2. So where should the investment be made?

    In jobs?

    During recessionary periods, these numbers aren’t too surprising. If one is only considering work trips, there’s a fair number of those taken by folks who otherwise drive everywhere, but use transit because the commute sucks–but find their commute more tolerable when a larger share of the workforce is staying home.

  3. There are two ways to look at it. Given that the only significant shift seems to be carpooling to driving alone, do we encourage carpooling, or disinvest? Has congestion decreased during the same period due to the recession? That could explain the shift.

  4. I just found it very strange indeed that the public is actually doing the OPPOSITE from what official policy seems to be.

    My personal feeling is that bicycles will be the transport of the future, along with Transit.

    In order for bicycling to be safe however they need to create complete thorough fares that are restricted to bicycles and pedestrians.

    I also think that you have to let that evolution come from public demand.

    Right now I am leaning more than ever to the market model, as in Stefan Molynuex description of free market, not cascade policy institute idea of free market.

    If this government actually cared about us they would be giving wage earners tax breaks and not corporations.

    You want to do something for bicyclists, forget these master plan’s and get Trimet to figure out a way to haul more bicycles on its system.

    That’s what bicyclists I meet really want, reliable access to the transit system, not “park and rides”, and not MASTER PLANS!

  5. So where should the investment be made?
    In jobs?

    IMO, we need jobs that produce exportable goods. Our trade deficit s—-s! I would like to see how government funded job “creation” actually makes exportable products! Worse yet, some of this infrastructure spending actually results in the reverse—-like the Oakland Bay Bridge in CA producing jobs and profits for CHINA! They even brought over Chinese to do a lot of the work stateside instead of hiring US citizens.

    We used to export timber, but then we made an effort to switch to more manufactured products. The Silicon Forest reflects a major effort to switch from exporting raw materials to manufactured products. However, I am not sure that that policy has actually resulted in a improved standard of living—on the whole. But it’s what we got.

    But back to the question: How in the world can we earn badly needed trade revenue from more government spending? Please clue me in to how that works. Moreover, some of our efforts at earning trade revenue—-I’m thinking, education of foreign students–can backfire. How much more time do we have until our trade deficit crisis gets out of control? Hopefully the 2012 elections will set us on a better course.

  6. Hey Al,

    Master Plans certainly don’t put any concrete on the ground, but they do help us spend constrained resources with some sort of strategy and vision.

    Portland’s bike master plan (before the 2010 version) was from 1996, and it has served us well to getting to where we are today. The new plan should last us at least as long, so there is no need for more master planning until 2030.

  7. Portland’s bike master plan (before the 2010 version) was from 1996, and it has served us well to getting to where we are today. The new plan should last us at least as long, so there is no need for more master planning until 2030.

    OK, I hear ya,I was unaware that this is not something that is done very often.

    Makes some sense now that I understand the process a little.

  8. So where should the investment be made?
    In jobs?

    So, ES, if government spending doesn’t directly lead to exportable products, how else can people improve their economic lot? The urbanist trend… trying to get people to buy mass, corporate produce housing, much of it built by insourced, and even illegal, labor…. seems to work against that avenue of self-improvement, too. If you can’t independently build your own real estate portfolio what’s next to try? Somebody has to start earning some revenue from exporting.

    Kind of narrows down the options doesn’t it? And once we have arrived at a new formula for reviving our exports, how will we know that a predetermined infrastructure will be of assistance? Seems that they have to work together, and be planned jointly.

  9. Ron,

    There are many useful things that can be exported beyond products, and many ways for a region to attract capital. I certainly agree that housing booms are not a particularly good way to goose a region’s economy–nor are public works projects for that matter, as these things are not sustainable. But having a sustainable economy generally requires capital inflows to more or less balance (over the long term) the capital outflows necessary for a place to exist and thrive.

    Some cities make their money through manufacturing. Some through extractive industries. Some cities make their money through services, some through trade, some through finance. Some cities make their money by attracting wealthy persons or retirees–a good chunk of the economy of Arizona is based on the large number of pension checks mailed there.

    And more than a few cities derive much of their capital inflows from Uncle Sam–a good chunk of the desire for big ticket capital projects like the CRC is precisely because the feds are matching the local contribution. Obviously, one-shot projects do not form a sustainable economic base, as noted above.

    But that’s why I answered the questions “jobs”–or more generally, capital inflows. It’s a big concern. Portland actually does quite well attracting smart, talented people–and the “urbanist trend” is no doubt a big part of that. But a good argument can be that the region is undercapitalized–we have only 2 Fortune 500 companies last I checked. Of course, my answer is rather region-specific, and the statistics Al cites are nationwide, so there may be a mismatch.

    As far as your concern about “illegal” labor–the subject of immigration is generally off-topic here. That said, money earned by undocumented or unauthorized foreign workers who live here does contribute to the local economy. Some of it gets sent abroad, certainly (as is a fair bit of money earned by legal immigrants), but I’d be more concerned if I were you about jobs being sent overseas than about immigrants coming here for work.

  10. By “product” I meant that in a very general way. I realize that we have also earned a lot of trade revenue from providing professional services to other countries and to overseas enterprises.

    Discerning between how individual cities fit into the larger economic picture isn’t really getting at the issue. Port cities, like Portland or San Francisco, have markedly different business mileus than interior cities. A place like SF has long been known for its specialization in the financial industry compared to Portland, reliant on commodity exportation, or Seattle, reliant on manufacturing and defense.

    But when a country imports more than it exports, my understanding is that it will become more dependent upon the lands it is importing from. I have absolutely nothing against exporting services—-except that, now, as in much of manufacturing as well—we are probably going to be getting a lot more competition in that arena too…since we have been training other countries’ professional personnel, along with our own! That being said, the IT industry was a brilliant development, and has obviously brought a lot of reward to the NW. We’ve been exporting commercial aircraft, too, and staying pretty well ahead of the competition.

    But each new era requires rethinking of the export strategy. So… I wonder what it will be?? ?? And while there is justification for public works spending in anticipation of future industrial (inc. prof services) development, the needed infrastructure should not be inaccurately guessed at.

    But it is a reality that when you have urbanist development there is no room for the individual builder—except for interior design and remodeling. It’s corporate or nothing. But that has been true in a lot of suburban development, too. What concerns me is that when an individual cannot build their net worth up through hands-on work, such as building your own home–it does place people deeper into the corporate culture. Who reinforce the corporate culture more:
    A suburbanite who built his own home, restored classic cars, hunted his game and grew his own vegetables —or an “urbanist” who directly produces nothing he owns, and relies upon improving his networth by moving up in his career within a corporation?

    I’m a firm believer in the DIY’er attitude. The complication is that as people get older they get tired of the mundane household projects–and start looking for more complex DIY challenges.

  11. Every aspect of transportation planning in Seattle is a national disgrace. The bicycling community there is dominated by spandex clad racers recklessly charging along roads and through pedestrian environments as if entitled by their ridiculous costumes and haughty bikes foolishly designed for speed. Seattle has NOTHING to offer and the opinion of its transportation planners should be regarded as entirely untrustworthy.

  12. Well….they do water transport pretty well. I lived there for four years… until my Chris Craft TDMY burned up in a fire—-carelessly spread by SFD :( Everything else you say is true.

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