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Community rallies in support of more pedestrian friendly U-District

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The U-District Mobility Group held the second of three community gatherings Tuesday night to workshop concerns about transportation development surrounding the in-progress U-District Link light rail station.

In attendance were representatives from the UW, Sound Transit, Seattle Metro, as well as other concerned local groups and individuals.

Located on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast between Northeast 45th and Northeast 43rd Street, the new station is projected to open in 2021 and will directly impact the surrounding neighborhood, with a shift in accessibility and transportation. Conversation centered around these concepts.

“This whole study is about how a light rail station is coming into a neighborhood, and this will change how people use transit and walk and bike around the area,” community member Rachel Miller said.

With the recent upzoning of the U-District, development of UW, and increased property taxes, the area is changing fast. By directly engaging in the community, the group hopes to integrate their needs into development.

“Mobility is just one piece of that puzzle, so we have to make sure that it all works together, we have only as many streets as we have,” U-District Advocacy president Cory Crocker said. “We’re looking at different efficiencies for moving people through the district equitably and safely.”

New transit will significantly increase pedestrian traffic and occupancy. Sound Transit estimates that by 2042, up to 13,000 people will board the light rail in the area each day.

To accommodate this influx in traffic, the group proposed a number of pedestrian- and user-centric solutions, from on-the-ground initiatives like wider sidewalks to the complete shift of human travel towards public transportation. Officials can’t change how streets are gridded, but they can alter their layout to entertain more people at busy times of the day.

Planners also anticipate a greater need for services on Roosevelt Way Northeast as traffic and housing concentration shifts.

Crocker’s presentation highlighted the efficiency of utilizing alternatives to cars by showing the audience photos of the same number of people using different forms of transportation. Cars occupied the most space, while buses were the most compact.

Members of the forum engaged in round table discussions, physically marking large versions of three proposed mobility plans with things they liked and disliked. Topics of interest were largely centered around pedestrianization.

The city is placing a high priority on increasing accessibility to and from the area, as well as transporting riders directly to the station with as few transfers as possible. Seattle Metro is in the development stage of bringing Rapid Ride in from both east-west and north-south directions. Future transportation plans will likely hinge on the implementation of these routes.

Accessibility for bikes was also a topic of discussion. Students from the UW’s urban design and planning department brought up the addition of a northbound bike lane. Many of the proposed changes included the creation of more bike-only lanes for travel.

UW transportation was in attendance to work with community leaders on the matter, accommodating for the staff and students they represented.

“Our job is simple: We have to move 75,000 people to campus every day, we have a set number of parking spots and that’s not going to change,” UW transportation representative Phil Miller said.

For many students, this issue may seem far in the future. When the station opens in 2021, all but one undergraduate class will have graduated. However, development for the projects has already started and will affect traffic to and from the area.

“How we get around is super important in terms of quality of life,” UW sophomore Andrew Sang said.

This includes making any future changes business-friendly (considering external changes like rising rent), and taking into account the needs of all those who interact with the U-District community.

“Anything we can do to diversify how people come to campus really matters,” Miller said.

U-District Mobility will be hosting a third workshop May 30 to discuss findings from Tuesday night. They have also made available a community survey to further assess transportation needs.

Reach U-District reporter Samantha Bushman at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @sammi_bushman

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