Last week Commute Seattle came out with its biennial Modesplit Survey, showing more incremental progress towards a culture of walking, biking, and taking transit to work. In follow up discussions both internally and in comment threads, we’ve wondered about the balance between this cultural shift and the way we allocate our right-of-way. As One Center City prepares both short-term mitigation measures and long-term structural changes to our Downtown streets, it’s important that our right-of-way allocation align with the same progress we’re celebrating.
Getting a sense of which modes get proportional allocations isn’t terribly easy. Bus and bike lanes are discontinuous, bus lanes are often peak-only, and street widths vary with curb cuts, etc. (For a citywide perspective, Brock Howell had a great guest post in the Urbanist last year). In an attempt at getting our heads around Downtown, I counted 536 blocks in Center City (bounded in my definition by 1st Avenue, Mercer, I-5, and Jackson St). I then counted the total number of lanes on each of these 536 blocks to come up with the total number of ‘lane segments’ in Center City: 2,296. For simplicity, I counted parking lanes as full lanes, no matter their width, because they are still scarce space continually occupied by cars.
On these 2,296 lane segments, there are 150 lane segments of bike lanes (6.9%) and 160 lane segments of bus lanes (6.5%). The remaining 1,986 lane segments (86.4%) are taken up by general purpose lanes, on-street parking, and delivery/loading zones. Off-peak, only 40 lane segments of bus priority remain (1.7%), mostly on Battery, Wall, and Westlake Avenue.
A few caveats are in order. I counted all streets, even those on which you’d never expect transit service (Clay, Eagle, Terry, etc.). I did not count the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) in the ROW allocation, only looking at the surface. And I treated ‘blocks’ as a consistent entity, even though their length varies, especially on the shorter blocks of south Downtown. But the intent is just to depict visually how much raw space to which cars are entitled, and how much we’ve set aside for bikes and transit. I hope it’s helpful as One Center City discussions move forward.