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Losing lanes to bikes will produce a jobs exodus

Take away traffic lanes and you can take away businesses like GM Nameplate. As they go, there go the small neighborhood businesses feeding off their stable employment.
Plans for "dieting" Nickerson St.

Plans for "dieting" Nickerson St. City of Seattle

One week is all it took for the threat of fewer vehicle lanes at Nickerson Street to push out one of the area’s largest, most stable, and oldest employers. In a story appearing in last Friday’s Puget Sound Business Journal, GM Nameplate’s president, Brad Root, specifically cited Seattle’s decision to restrict vehicle capacity along Nickerson Street as a key component in his manufacturing company’s decision to look at the Kent Valley for a new facility.

Root said he warned the city about the impact the reduction in capacity at Nickerson would have on his business decision. “I did let them know this is one of the things that does not weigh favorably for us staying here,” the story quotes him as saying.

Perhaps the city should tell us how much tax revenue will be lost when the company moves 400 jobs out of the city. That would help in quantifying the actual costs of reducing the roadway capacity along Nickerson.

Now we learn that the Seattle Department of Transportation has set its sights on NE 125th Street as the next victim of its ongoing roadway capacity reduction program. Northeast 125th Street is reported to have an 8.5 percent grade, which in itself precludes its use as bicycle route; yet it is the major arterial connecting the Pinehurst neighborhood to I-5 and Lake City Way. The sole intent of this project seems to be increasing automobile congestion along that route.

Thus does another residential neighborhood face the loss of its unique local character, forcing residents to tack on another couple "vehicle miles travelled" to get their groceries, probably from a big chain store. It's another example of SDOT's costly actions resulting in increased congestion and pollution, with negligible (if any) public benefit.

Businesses do not make relocation plans lightly. When they do leave, they don’t come back. Those that don’t have the ability to move their employees simply leave them behind, without jobs. Jobless citizens exacerbate the financial burdens on a city that is already hemorrhaging jobs, as is Seattle.

Jobs leave, the tax base shrinks, taxes on those staying behind go up… You can add only so many new "transportation taxing districts" before the rest of us are forced to leave as well. As the quality of life in our neighborhoods continues to deteriorate there comes a tipping point after which the city is no longer a desirable place to live, and it becomes even more expensive to entice new employers to replace those who leave. A death spiral ensues.

The saddest part of this phenomenon is that it is completely avoidable. In most cases, these road restrictions have been shown to provide no measurable benefit to the bicyclists and pedestrians that the city administrators purport to champion. Rather, these actions seem to be an arrogant and capricious show of force by a small cabal of elitists intent on imposing their agenda. This agenda comes at the cost of obliterating the maritime and industrial sectors and eliminating the neighborhood-based small businesses that are the background of Seattle’s economy and vital to our social and cultural fabric.

It's ironic that most of those now acting to destroy the maritime-centric jobs and neighborhood dynamics that make Seattle so desirable were first drawn to move here by those very urban attributes they are now intent on eradicating.

The city council has the authority to put a stop to this foolish pattern of roadway capacity reduction. Its members should turn their attention to solving this problem before we lose more GM Nameplates — and the local grocery stores, neighborhood restaurants, and other small, family-run neighborhood businesses that depend on them.

Peter Philips is President of Philips Publishing Group, a second-generation small business located in the Fishermen’s Terminal Neighborhood of Seattle.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 1:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Just because a business owner SAYS that a bike lane factored into their relocating doesn't mean it's true. How can it be when GM Nameplate isn't even ON Nickerson - it's nearly a mile south, on 15th!

This is the same guy who recently hosted Dino Rossi at the business, so he's probably just another conservative crank who thinks more pavement is the solution to all our transportation problems, and is predisposed to hating cyclists based more on political philosophy than reality.

I live near Nickerson and both drive and cycle down it regularly, and can't see that there's a bit of impact on traffic flow since the bike lanes were put in.

If roadway capacity is what worries this guy, I wish him plenty of luck running his business in the Kent Valley - there aren't any bicycle lanes on SR-167 for him to use as an excuse for all of the traffic out there.

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 1:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Philips is all about stiring controversy to draw attention to himself and sell more of his maritime industrial magazines. It is perfectly understandable, everyone needs to make a living.

But it would be helpful for everyone if he would stick to the facts, research and analysis, and steer clear of alarmist pablum.

All of the professional traffic engineers who have looked at the Nickerson Road Diet issue (at least the impartial ones) have found no significant impact in their modeling.

David Hiller has an excellent analysis on the matter in his blog.

http://blog.cascade.org/2010/05/nickerson-street-or-%e2%80%9chere-we-go-again%e2%80%9d/

While it is true Hiller works for a bicycle advocacy group that would naturally be supportive of the road diet, he lays out his case using sound analyis and facts, unlike Philips rant above.

I am a freight person and have not yet seen any case made that the Road Diet will restrict, hinder or delay truck traffic. All the facts point to insignificant impact.

GM Nameplate has been planning to move to larger facilities for years. Good for them that they were able to find cheaper land and other facilities costs in the Kent Valley. It makes sense for them to move down there. But they've been complaining about the high cost of Seattle industrial property for years, and the Nickerson Street Road Diet is just a convenient excuse to their employees and stakeholders who will now have to deal with longer commutes.

Mr. Philips, you are not convincing. Please stick with the facts.

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

I think that for the long term sustainability of this community bike lanes are an absolute necessity. There may be some short term costs associated with reorganizing the transportation infrastructure to provide safe alternative commuter options, but the one car per worker model is failing rapidly, and it is time to confront that reality.

Roads with a grade are among the most important for bicycle lanes, as there is a greater discrepancy in the speed of the cars and the bikes. and the arterial roads you are describing are also critical as they make the bicycle viable for a more serious commute.

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 1:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Funny. I could swear that the last time I ran into him Mr. Root talked about the fact that they had pretty much outgrown their facility and were looking for other options. This was at least two years ago.

KMH

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 2:23 p.m. Inappropriate

To me the principal issue with the so-called "road diet" program by SDOT is the likely contravention with the city's much vaunted "green" policies. Thus, from my experiences as a resident and traveler on Rainier Avenue S. that has been a 3-lane facility for several years now (with bike lanes on both sides after its road diet)is that the resulting levels of service (LOS) on every driveway along the route and at every STOP sign controlled access street entering it are now at LOS 'F'. Before they were at LOS 'D'. The stop delays were tolerable: now they are not.

The standing delays are long and, as a consequence, the newly resulting engine emissions make a shambles of the adopted "green" policies of the city.

In essence, if you want to espouse a "green" philosophy you need to address all access facilities, local access streets and driveways, that are subsequently and consequently pushed into a theoretical low LOS.

Further, in the case of Rainier Avenue S., it was classed as a Principal Arterial in the city's Comprehensive Plan. A Principal Arterial is required to have four (4) travel lanes. Thus, the "road diet" on Rainier Avenue S. that includes only a single through lane in each direction has violated the city's adopted Comprehensive Plan. Two lanes of through traffic is not the same as four lanes. Should this not be a concern?

Accordingly, it seems to me that SDOT staff needs to review, and if necessary, revise the Comprehensive Plan before implementing any "road diet". Have they done that in the case of, say, Stoneway, Nickerson, and now NE 125th Street?

In closing, and in the same vein, if you consider the 4-lane Deep Bore Tunnel replacement of the Alaska Way Viaduct as a larger style "road diet", per se, (since it has less capacity than the viaduct) and if you have read the Draft SDEIS where its electrical power demands for lighting and ventilation are stated as being "239 million BTUs" daily, you will see this computes to 70.017 megawatts of power per day, in perpetuity. To put this in perspective, that power consumption is virtually ten percent of the entire generating capacity of the three dams on the Skagit River - the Gorge, Diablo and Ross Dams - at 711.1 megawatts per day! How green is that?

If you are going on a diet you really need to watch your health.

SeeBee

seebee

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 2:26 p.m. Inappropriate

By coincidence, I have a 30+ year up-close-and-personal relationship with Nickerson. Naturally, I found it quite offensive to see such an obvious lie about 400 people working at a die-casting facility in that neighborhood.

Except for trucks, Nickerson is one of the least essential streets in the city. And the trucks are getting a nice rebuild of that truck-hating curve at the NW end of Nickerson, so they should be happy.

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 2:40 p.m. Inappropriate

"All of the professional traffic engineers who have looked at the Nickerson Road Diet issue (at least the impartial ones) have found no significant impact in their modeling."

Then why change it at all if it doesn't have any impact? Why waste the money?

sean98125

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 2:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Why do you ignore the real reason for the road diets--safety. Every time a road diet has been put in, the traffic flow is not hindered and safety is much improved. The road diets are primarily for pedestrian safety, not bikes.

andy

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 5:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Sea-bee. I suspect you're confusing "MBTU" to mean one million BTUs. In fact it means one thousand BTUs.

I haven't seen your reference in the tunnel EIS versions. But your bit about power needs seemed orders of magnitude off...

mhays

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 6:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Phillips - let's see if you can spot the contradiction in your first two sentences:

"One week is all it took for the threat of fewer vehicle lanes at Nickerson Street to push out one of the area’s largest, most stable, and oldest employers...Brad Root, specifically cited Seattle’s decision to restrict vehicle capacity along Nickerson Street as a key component in his manufacturing company’s decision..."

If there's one thing this debate doesn't need, it's more hyperbole.

I would also dispute that GM Nameplate is one of the largest, most stable or oldest employers in the region if a mere road diet could push them away. It certainly wasn't the road diet that led them to open factories in other states 30 years ago or outsource to China in 2005

kurisu

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 6:11 p.m. Inappropriate

During the entirety of my 30+ years as a daily bicycle commuter between Ballard, downtown, and the U District, I've watched businesses selfishly, shamelessly, and (unfortunately) successfully oppose bicycle commuting safety improvements. It's time for a change. Businesses and bicycles can co-exist in ways that improve Seattle for everyone.

I do want to applaud Crosscut for publishing this article. It's a bit like the New York Times publishing David Brooks -- it shows they're open to all points of view, no matter how poorly reasoned.

lazowska

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 8:06 p.m. Inappropriate

A "an arrogant and capricious show of force by a small cabal of elitists intent on imposing their agenda"? Isn't that a little bit excessive in the rhetoric department?

Oh well, it takes one to know one. A "small cabal of elitists" has been attempting to throw its weight around in the Seattle harbor for years. Fortunately for us, they haven't had much success in the last few years and we have right-thinking, forward-looking elected officials now on both our city council and our port commission who are choosing the public interest over cronyism, choosing a balanced approach that preserves our environment and quality of life at the same time as we pursue regional economic development.

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 9:11 p.m. Inappropriate

In response to SeeBee and as a long-time resident in Rainier Valley, I can't think of any place that Rainier Ave. S. is NOT four-lane to vehicular traffic. Certainly not from Jackson through Columbia City through Rainier Beach. Unless you mean a stretch as RAS turns east and south toward Renton for a short stretch, which quickly becomes four lanes again? Correct me if I'm wrong.

bkochis

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 10 p.m. Inappropriate

It's more than a short stretch. It runs 2.6 miles from Ithaca to 115th. It previously was a great north/south alternative to get from Renton to Downtown. It features a giant center turn lane that goes for over half of the distance for streets that don't exist. Just dead space...no bikes...no cars...just waste.
Renton had a choice to participate and thought it was a bad idea. They were right.

Congestion costs money and time. There is no excuse for being taxed for the purpose of creating it.

jmrolls

Posted Wed, Aug 18, 11:12 p.m. Inappropriate

That stretch of Rainier is great within Seattle, and pure suburban crap in Renton. Speaking as a bicyclist.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 12:20 a.m. Inappropriate


"The saddest part of this phenomenon is that it is completely avoidable. In most cases, these road restrictions have been shown to provide no measurable benefit to the bicyclists and pedestrians that the city administrators purport to champion."

Ha! This is an absolute joke.

Let's see, by law, SDOT cannot add crosswalks across the current street configuration. With the change they can. No pedestrian connection to some pedestrian connection is an infinite, and measurable, improvement for pedestrians.

Similarly, cycling in a skinny vehicle lane, where cars have to change lanes to pass, is far less comfortable than riding in a dedicated bicycle lane where cars can pass freely without danger. I will grant you that this increased level of comfort is probably difficult to numerically measure.

In the same vein, I want to second mhays on the success of the bike lanes on Rainier Ave S. As a cyclist, that small section of bike lane connects a whole plethora of routes and trails that would otherwise be divided by an intolerably uncomfortable, if not downright dangerous, stretch of highway. I personally can attest to riding that route at least once or twice a week during the summer months and absolutely love the freedom it provides. Thank you SDOT for this incredible cycling connection.

JoshMahar

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 8:27 a.m. Inappropriate

...beyond comfort is safety. Consider the number of accidents (& lawsuits) avoided by providing dedicated bike lanes to safely convey bikers throughout the city.

Perhaps a closer examination of traffic patterns is in order. Seems like the real task is separating major vehicle arterials from major bikeways. Burke Gilman & Interurban Trails are great precedents. Beyond this there are so many underutilized secondary streets out there that just scream for better use as pedestrian/cyclist venues.

Cost outlay could be minimal if City was smart about utilizing signage, bollards & maps/GPS.

dadaville

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 8:31 a.m. Inappropriate

I should qualify my statement about Rainier Ave. So. I agree with –mhays and JoshMahar about the amenity the re-channelization created for cyclists. My problem with it was the inclusion of parking on both sides of the street in addition to bike and car lanes and the faux turn lane down the centerline. The parking becomes a repository for boat trailers and junk cars and much of it occurs where there are no houses at all. This space should have been included in the allocation for travel. The lanes could’ve been wider and had the parking been dedicated to bicycles there would have been room for a protective barrier between lanes. My biggest problem with bicycles is the obvious potential for serious injury that always exists when bikes and cars collide.

jmrolls

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Peter Phillips is a good, honorable and pro-active advocate for the continuation of maritime and other businesses in the city. He is not anti bikes!

He has been diligently following the long process of examining the impacts of the proposed Deep bore Tunnel as well as the other choices considered.

One needs to look forward, not in the past, to understand his concern for decreasing vehicle lanes, as on Nickerson.
It isn't the concern of current traffic volumes on that road. It is what will happen once the end portal is open and traffic that will be coming South on Elliott Ave, needing to access to the North Portal entrance to the Tunnel, will have to,then, exit Elliott at Nickerson, or exit Elliott Ave at Roy/Mercer, both of which will change, forever, the traffic patterns, volumes and types of vehicles through North & South Queen Anne Hill.
Yes, bikers will enjoy the new lanes for their use. But there is a cost. And with the ever increasing pressures, led by the City leaders, to restrict, reduce and otherwise ban car and truck traffic in the city, any one or any business has to take into account how it effects them.

The City has not done a good job in translating this trend to the effected busineses. Without that link, individual business decisions to relocate will continue.

For general information, 70% of job growth in our region occurs outside of Seattle. Seattle is only 9% of the State's population and decreasing.There are more Seattle residents commuting to jobs outside the city than within. That trend is growing. Our continued school age population decrease, is where the rubber meets the road!
The city is indirectly forcing low and moderate income earners out of the city where housing is cheaper and jobs abundant. If this policy of vehicle reduction continues, the loss of jobs, income, tax payers, etc, will further the inevitable, that being, leaving the wealthy and tourism to make the city economy whole.
We already see this happening. Will it continue? Will Seattle(or has it) become a suburb of our North, South and Eastside communities?
Are we willing to see our "City for all" become a "City for all Higher Income residents and tourists"?

I fear so!

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

I used to bicycle commute the section of Rainier from Renton Airport to Seward Park Ave. Both before the road diet and after. At no time was traffic backed up in either direction anywhere along this section of the road either before or after dieting. However it is a much better bicycle route with the dedicated bike lanes. The back up in Renton on Rainier Ave S is due to the traffic lights and congestion as it becomes 167.

What is hilarious is that the road diet complainers about 125th, are speeding law breakers! So rather than add more enforcement the planners are going to use congestion to reduce the traffic speeds. I have no opinion on adding bicycle lanes to that road as I understand it's not a bicycle route for anyone but it seems dishonest to blame bicyclists for having the city trim a road to reduce speeds.

GaryP

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate

All this talk about "safety" for pedestrians, and increasing the number of places where crosswalks can be put across streets sort of rings hollow when you consider what Sound Transit did to Martin Luther King Jr Way when it put in Link light rail. That street is much wider now than it was previously, making it much more difficult for pedestrians to cross (and more dangerous, one would assume). Also, I believe there are fewer places where pedestrians can cross MLK Jr Way now than there were before light rail was put down the middle of that street.

I wonder how many of those who are pushing these "road diets" also supported the light rail down the middle of MLK Jr Way, which mad that street much less pedestrian-friendly than it was before.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

MLK is pretty safe to cross now, because light rail created an island. That assumes you look both ways before crossing the tracks. Of course I'm the type who will cross the tracks midblock.

As for "adding crosswalks," it's important to note one thing. Crosswalks exist at EVERY intersection unless specifically blocked. The only question is whether lines are painted. (And yes, crosswalk laws about cars stopping exist even when the lines aren't painted....)

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Everywhere I read that the reason to "quiet" streets is that drivers exceed the speed limit and this negatively impacts safety. If that is the case, and the real reason isn't to pander to the the bicycle groups, then why not enforce the speed limit? If it is a manpower issue with the police, put in a speed camera. This would have the wonderful effect of increasing revenues to the city as well as "quieting" traffic and enhancing safety. Dispite complaints about red light and speed cameras they seem to work and the city seems to have embraced them. Quiet the streets by enforcing laws that are already on the books.

Gregr

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 12:57 p.m. Inappropriate

I totally agree on enforcing speed limits. Since traffic accidents kill twice as many people as crime in the US (about 40,000/yr for traffic, less than half that for murder), traffic enforcement should be much more aggressive.

But that's only part of the story. Even with law-abiding drivers, pedestrians can't assume. Shorter crossing distances are important regardless.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Road diets are by definition autophobic social engineering and a mere cave-in to bicycles and autophobes.

animalal

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 3:07 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't see any bicycle advocates clamoring for bike lanes on 125th. Stone Way yes, Nickerson Yes, but this bit of street nope. Red light cameras and $1,000 fines and you'd see the top speed come way down. Singapore does it that way and there is very little speeding. Finland does them one better and pegs the fine to a percentage of your net worth.

GaryP

Posted Thu, Aug 19, 5:07 p.m. Inappropriate

animalal, I guess road expansions are also by definition social engineering?

mhays

Posted Fri, Aug 20, 12:08 a.m. Inappropriate

During the entirety of my 30+ years as a daily bicycle commuter between Ballard, downtown, and the U District, I've watched businesses selfishly, shamelessly, and (unfortunately) successfully oppose bicycle commuting safety improvements. It's time for a change. Businesses and bicycles can co-exist in ways that improve Seattle for everyone.

I do want to applaud Crosscut for publishing this article. It's a bit like the New York Times publishing David Brooks -- it shows they're open to all points of view, no matter how poorly reasoned.
— lazowska

Professor Lazowska, you slam Mr. Phillips for poor reasoning but provide only bald and self-interested assertions to make your own point. Maybe our state legislators have a point about current UW scholarship. Your argument seems to confirm, in its method at least, Mr Phillips theory that we're seeing "an arrogant...show of force by a small cabal of elitists intent on imposing their agenda."

Posted Fri, Aug 20, 10:50 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree w/ GaryP: "What is hilarious is that the road diet complainers about 125th, are speeding law breakers!" In addition, most of the accidents seem to be between cars in turns. You don't want 2-wheel segregation? Bring in the Photo Cops.

22blades

Posted Fri, Aug 20, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Peter and I have had some back and forth on this, but Port of Seattle staff looked at the Seattle Department of Transportation's analysis of the proposed Nickerson Street road diet, and we agree with the City that there should be no major impact to truck traffic. The addition of a left turn lane actually aids throughput in getting drivers turning left out of the through lanes.

We do have some concerns about the diet, particularly if the modeling bear out with reality. To their credit, City officials have agreed to monitor the situation with us, and revisit if if there turn out to be significant delays.

To me, there is a larger issue than road diets that is negatively impacting industrial businesses within Seattle City limits. That is the cost of doing business in Seattle, including the cost of land. Gentrification over the last couple decades has placed a great amount of pressure on the cost of land close in to Seattle's urban core, including industrial zoned land. Rents, at least before the downturn, were becoming unaffordable.

The Seattle City Council addressed this concern partially through passage of the Industrial Lands Policy in late 2007. I believe the City's tax structure also needs to be given a hard look as to how it impacts industrial businesses within the City limits. But in a time where municipalities are all struggling with budget gaps, that may not be realistic, at least in the short term.

The City of Seattle is in a difficult position in that even with its Industrial Lands Policy protecting currently zoned industrial uses, over the long term market forces are hard to fight. At the Port of Seattle, we have 70 acres property up at Interbay that once was leased as a parking lot for a car import operation and is prime property in North Seattle. For at least the last 10 years, however, it has sat empty and unproductive.

Three years ago the Port attempted to reach a deal for a long-term lease with Korry Electronics for $2.50/square foot, but they were able to find property in Snohomish County next to their largest customer (Boeing) for $0.40/square foot. It was an unfortunate loss of a great employer for Seattle, but a no-brainer for Korry. If the Port Commission had authorized a much lower price per square foot, the Port of Seattle would have been giving a massive taxpayer subsidy to a private business, something we have been trying to move away from at the Port.

The Port is not unique as an industrial landowner in Seattle. I believe we need to be looking at ways to create win-win situations for industrial landowners, to encourage continued vibrant industrial sectors within City limits. One way to do this might be through great use of industrial overlays - i.e., if a landowner meets a certain required square footage of industrial use on his or her property, that owner will be allowed to put a certain limited amount of other mixed use on the property. This in effect will allow the other uses to subsidize the continued industrial use.

I well understand that there are problems with this approach. Once we open the door there could be additional pressures on industrial use; but crafted with the proper safeguards, it may be workable. In any event, looking at innovative proposals like this may be worthwhile when the alternative is to see industrial land lay fallow or industrial businesses defecting to other parts of the region.

John Creighton

Posted Fri, Aug 27, 12:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Boeing. When they left for Chicago a quote appeared stating that placing two sports stadiums at the entrance to their facilities was part of the reason for leaving.

chapala21

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