The group (Seattle Greenways) believes that upgrading walk sheds around the city’s 97 schools with bike and ped safety amenities will transform Seattle into a perambulatory paradise—not just for kids, but, by planning for kids’ safety, the strategy would simultaneously benefit everyone. Disappointed in the plan’s $7 million line item for Safe Routes to School, they called for $40 million.
Mayor Ed Murray spokesman Jason Kelly tells me that despite the $7 million line item listed in the presentation to council, the mayor’s plan actually spends $47 million on Safe Routes to School programs. Kelly says there’s $7 million in the levy, plus $33 million from school zone cameras and $7 million in grants that would complete one Safe Routes to School project at every Seattle public school.
Greenways director Cathy Tuttle says she’s well aware of the $47 million figure, but she says much of that—the $33 million from cameras—is already part of SDOT’s ongoing Safe Routes to School budget, levy or no levy. Tuttle says Seattle Greenways wants an additional $40 million in the levy proper, on top of the money that’s part of the regular budget.
Specifically, Seattle Greenways wants the $40 million to fund a series of pedestrian upgrades—a $250,000 sidewalk reconfiguration at Eighth Avenue South near Concord Elementary, rapid flashing beacons for arterial crossings near Dearborn Park Elementary, and $350,000 worth of sidewalk blocks near Northgate Elementary, for example—in the mile walk sheds around 28 elementary schools where 75 percent or more of the students meet the free and reduced lunch standards. (Seattle Greenways has published a list of $21.4 million worth in projects at 10 specific low-income schools.)
However, Seattle Greenways’s $4.7 million to-do list for Northgate Elementary includes several other projects, including stop signs, speed bumps, sharrows, and flashing lights at arterial crossings. Seattle Greenways has a bigger project list than SDOT because, while Seattle Greenways is scoping out the mile walk shed around each school, SDOT is (literally) zooming in on fixes in the immediate vicinity of the schools.
The levy’s prioritization of Safe Routes to School projects will be based on the following criteria: percent of children eligible for free/reduced lunches, project scoring from the Pedestrian Master Plan, and collision data.SDOT’s list, by the way, also includes middle schools and high schools; Seattle Greenways’ does not.
Also, the City wants YOUR thoughts on their 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update.
One HUGE thing to note is that the City may be under the mistaken impression that BEX IV is covering SPS' need for space. (Cue laughter from parents and SPS school staff.)
The latest Seattle Public Schools capital program, BEX IV, ensures adequate capacity to meet enrollment projections for the 2021/21 school year, 13 years short of the comprehensive plan update planning horizon of 2035 (Wolf 2014). Student enrollment would likely continue to grow as population increases in Seattle, affecting school capacity in the long run.
Because only 34 of 117 schools (30 percent) are located in urban villages where all alternatives propose the most population growth, demand for Seattle Public Schools transportation services would likely increase. Focusing growth near light rail stations under Alternative 3 and 4 would provide better transit access to middle schools and high schools. Focusing population growth in urban villages with deficient sidewalk infrastructure in or near school walking boundaries would increase potential safety risks, which may burden some families with driving children to school who could otherwise walk if sidewalks were available. Residential areas that currently lack sidewalks are mostly concentrated in Northwest Seattle and Northeast Seattle north of N 85th Street, Southeast Seattle, South Park and Arbor Heights.
Currently no policies direct the district to purchase new property or to increase capacity in schools within urban villages, with the exception of a possible investment in a downtown school, currently under exploration.
Call for input from the City:
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has released for public comment a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update. This is a major milestone towards an update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan which plots a 20-year vision and roadmap for Seattle’s future growth and livability. The Draft EIS provides detailed information on various growth alternatives, their potential impacts to the environment, and proposed mitigation strategies. The City wants your voice to be heard as we refine strategies for accommodating growth for the benefit of all.
How to provide feedback on the Draft EIS:
Submit comments on the Draft EIS online, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in writing to:
City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development
Attn: Gordon Clowers
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000
PO Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124
Comments must be postmarked no later than June 18, 2015.