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.
Crosscut archive image.

Plans for "dieting" Nickerson St.

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.

One week is all it took for the threat of fewer vehicle lanes at Nickerson Street to push out one of the area'ꀙs largest, most stable, and oldest employers. In a story appearing in last Friday'ꀙs Puget Sound Business Journal, GM Nameplate'ꀙs president, Brad Root, specifically cited Seattle'ꀙs decision to restrict vehicle capacity along Nickerson Street as a key component in his manufacturing company'ꀙs 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. 'ꀜI did let them know this is one of the things that does not weigh favorably for us staying here,'ꀝ 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'ꀙt come back. Those that don'ꀙt 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'ꀦ 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'ꀙs 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.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors