Already one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Seattle’s center city is projected to add 56,000 jobs and 25,000 households over the next 20 years, presenting challenges for accommodating this growth on Seattle’s existing streets. Today the City of Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) announced they will jointly develop a Center City Mobility Plan, focused on better connecting people and goods within Seattle’s center city to the rest of the region, while fostering an inviting center city for all.
“As Seattle grows, it is critical that we develop a coordinated transportation system,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Transit and transportation agencies from across the region, as well as major employers, must all invest and plan together if we are to meet the needs of downtown workers and residents.”
The Center City Mobility Plan is an outgrowth of efforts by the longstanding Downtown Transportation Alliance (DTA), a coalition of downtown stakeholders, local government and transit agencies focused on supporting a mobile and thriving downtown. Concentrating on an area that serves as the economic engine for the Puget Sound region, the Center City Mobility Plan will include downtown and neighborhoods immediately surrounding it—Belltown, Denny Triangle, Uptown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Pike-Pine, the Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square.
“To maintain dynamic growth in a highly developed urban environment we must maintain and increase mobility, and that takes thoughtful, thorough coordination,” said King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine. “This Center City plan will help us efficiently manage transportation systems and make the right connections for light rail, buses, bikes, and pedestrians.”
Earlier this year, the City developed Move Seattle, an integrated strategic plan that incorporates all modes of transportation —transit, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, parking and freight. The Center City Mobility Plan will incorporate Move Seattle, King County Metro’s Long Range Plan, Sound Transit 2 and a prospective Sound Transit 3. The recent passage of the Move Seattle levy also highlights voters’ interest in addressing congestion and transit issues, especially around the center city. As a first step toward creating a unified mobility plan for downtown, the City of Seattle issued a request for qualifications last week to hire a consultant to support the planning and outreach process.
“We want everyone who travels to, in and around downtown to have a great experience,” said Jon Scholes, DSA president and CEO. “As more employers and individuals call downtown home, it’s critical that the elements of our public realm work in concert – that’s everything from sidewalks and lighting to wayfinding and transit connections. This plan helps provide a framework for future improvements in downtown.”
The backbone of a future transportation system capable of serving a denser population is already taking form with Link light rail expansion to Northgate and Redmond, streetcar lines at both ends of downtown that will come together in downtown Seattle, existing and future bus rapid transit being provided on key corridors into downtown and more convenient, reliable bus service throughout the city. The plan will consider how to best integrate these services as well as incorporate the state’s current plans for the highway system and tolling, and also include consideration of future changes expected in travel innovations, needs and behaviors.
In addition to a long-term plan that establishes a transportation vision for 2035, the effort will create a near-term transit operations and transportation management plan by mid-2016 along with a public realm plan for enhancing the right of way to better serve residents, employees, shoppers and visitors. The plan is estimated to cost $1.5 million and is being funded by the Downtown Transportation Alliance, a partnership of King County Metro, the Downtown Seattle Association, Sound Transit and the City of Seattle.