Lecture Notes: The Future of Washington's Transportation System

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On Monday, October 20, the Seattle Architecture Foundation hosted Moving Seattle Forward: A Transportation Vision. The event, moderated by Mark L. Hinshaw, Director of Urban Design at LMN Architects, included presentations by local transportation planning leaders.

Throughout the evening, the presenters shared many common ideas and goals for the region's transportation system. All agreed that a good transportation system is key in building compact communities and maintaining economic strength. Their vision for this system includes:

  • Reducing reliance on cars by enabling other transportation options
  • Reducing transit times and congestion
  • Increasing the frequency and reliability of mass transit
  • Creating efficient travel through active traffic management
  • Creating transportation hubs and connections between those hubs

Charlie Howard, Transportation Planning Director at Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), discussed growth projections for the Puget Sound region over the next few decades. He indicated that the majority of the growth is expected to take place in inner and outer suburban areas. PSRC's Vision 2040 plan seeks to direct growth towards the region's cities, while also improving transit options in these high-growth, suburban areas.

Chief Operation Officer and Deputy Secretary of Transportation at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), David Dye, presented the organization's Moving Washington program. Moving Washington is a corridor by corridor approach to add capacity strategically, operate roadways efficiently, and manage demand. As part of the program, WSDOT is introducing advanced traffic management systems, such as variable speed zones to keep traffic moving during rush hour, and is piloting a toll-based express lane system on SR 176.

Joni Earl, Sound Transit's Chief Executive Officer, presented the Sound Transit 2 Plan , a ballot proposal which we discussed recently. If passed, the plan will greatly expand rail options in the region by adding 36 new miles of light rail and 65 percent more commuter rail service. To address immediate transit needs, the plan will increase bus service by 17% beginning in 2009. Check out this interactive map for details.

The Director of the King County Department of Transportation, Harold S. Taniguchi, said that the County's vision of it's transportation system is a coordinated network of transportation choices, with connectivity between light rail, buses, and commuter rail. Together with land use policies, the County's transportation plan includes transit-oriented development (TOD), which aims to build community and business around bus and rail stops.

Grace Crunican, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation discussed the City's transportation plans. She discussed Complete Streets, Seattle's vision for designing multi-modal road access into road construction and renovation projects so that walking, biking, and transit are better integrated into our streets to create transportation options.

It's clear from the evening's presentations that our transportation planners are committed to improving our transportation system and meeting increased demand by creating more options for getting around, more mass transit, and an integrated transportation system.

Photo of a "complete street," credit: flickr/OhioCapCity, Creative Commons License.


A really good way to encourage growth in urban areas is to provide housing that its workforce can afford. People making 60% of the area median income and below (like me!) are getting pushed out of central Seattle and Seattle proper by rising rental and housing prices. They get shoved to where the housing is cheap, i.e. the burbs.

I hope that whenever someone mentions "transit oriented development" they don't actually mean "transit oriented gentrification". My worry is that developers will snatch up the newly-juicy land around new transit hubs, thus sending rents sky-high. Hopefully, my pessimism won't be proved right.

Posted by: Jen Power on October 22, 2008 3:46 PM

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