Seattle Planning Commission Urges Reimagining of the City’s Streets

A document submitted to the city of Seattle by its Planning Commission outlines an ambitious set of recommendations aimed at reclaiming public right-of-way for people, mitigating the impact of climate change, and improving safety on the city’s streets. The brief notes that road deaths and injuries are on the rise in spite of the city’s Vision Zero pledge.

“The brief goes on to note that the city will not be able to accommodate the growth anticipated in the coming decades if streets continue to be used in the same way they are now, stating that the status quo will ‘literally kill us,’” Ryan Packer writes in The Urbanist. The Commission calls on the city to include their recommendations in the update of the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, which will undergo a major update in 2024. 

“Among the Planning Commission’s recommendations is the removal of vehicle storage from the current Comprehensive Plans’s list of needs that should be accommodated on city streets,” calling instead for “a citywide parking policy and plan that looks to balance revenue needs with opportunities for multi-function streets that provide more options, public space, and environmental benefits.”

The commission also highlighted the discrepancy between the proposed comprehensive plan update and the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Transportation Plan, which, according to a letter sent to SDOT earlier this year, “appear[s] to assume a future high rate of trip-making by privately owned vehicles, with the only variable being whether those vehicles are electric.” The focus on electrification, the commission pointed out, “will miss an opportunity to evaluate alternatives that the City has far more influence over, and that align with the forthcoming update to the Comprehensive Plan.”

As Packer notes, it remains to be seen whether the mayor and city council will adopt the Planning Commission’s bold, transformative vision for more sustainable and equitable land use and transportation planning.

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