Community Post

What exactly will the 23rd Ave greenway be? It’s up to you


Traffic Circle Garden, originally uploaded by prima seadiva.

The 23rd Ave corridor is arguably the most neglected transit corridor east of I-5. For years the Seattle Department of Transportation has recognized the need for street and pedestrian improvements. Now it’s finally happening through two concurrent projects: a $46 million overhaul of 23rd Avenue and a greenway slated to run parallel to 23rd one or two blocks away.

Details of both projects are getting hammered out now, including how each can move forward without running into each other’s path. At a well-attended and — at times — testy November 6th meeting to gather public input on the greenway, much of the discussion turned towards the 23rd Ave corridor project.

Some people in the session ended up pretty damn angry about the whole thing.

But there’s no reason to be pissed. In fact, the greenway could be pretty damn cool.

The 23rd Avenue greenway is likely to be the longest greenway in the city as it wends its way through residential streets parallel to arterial roads. Through a mix of signage, pavement markings, speed bumps, roundabouts and other traffic-calming features, greenways attempt to encourage more people to walk and bike to their destinations. Here’s a greenway FAQ in case you wanted to know, among other things, if greenways will make you happier.

According to SDOT’s Maribel Cruz, some attendees at the confusing meeting early this month were particularly concerned that construction and narrowing of 23rd would create spillover traffic onto the proposed greenway.

“Based on our modeling and traffic counts, we don’t see that huge of a change,” Cruz told CHS. “There would be a minute to minute-and-a-half addition through the four mile stretch of the corridor.” Cruz says planners don’t think that slowdown would be enough to push cars toward the greenway.


On Nov. 6th residents packed into Nova High School to discuss the 23rd Ave greenway (Image: Central Seattle Greenways)

Still, Cruz said the city needs to do a better job of being prepared to talk about both projects in future public meetings.

They’ll have some time. The next greenway won’t be until sometime in early 2014. Prior to that Cruz said SDOT would be posting an online survey to gather more feedback on the greenway. Once a route is picked, design would likely wrap up in March. Ideally, she said the greenway would be finished before construction on 23rd starts next fall.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, the group that initiated the 23rd Ave project, hopes to eventually create a network of connecting greenways throughout the city. SDOT has an internal group studying how to make it happen.

The 23rd Ave greenway is still in the early conceptual design phase. Cruz said the city won’t move forward on details of the plan until the actual route is picked. Four avenues — 21st, 22nd, 24th, and 25th — are still up for consideration. Cruz said both east side and west side options have compelling pros and cons (so speak your piece now).

Drawbacks for 24th and 25th include poorer pavement conditions north of Madison, steep cross streets, and a nightmare crossing over Madison and John in the same intersection. On the plus side, 24th and 25th offer good access to schools and amenities including Garfield High School and the arboretum.

For 21st and 22nd, the hilly terrain and lack of a straight route between Galer and Boyer would present some of the biggest challenges to cyclists. Otherwise, the crossing at Madison is simpler and the west side options would provide easier access to the Miller Community Center and Capitol Hill. The west side also has more pre-existing traffic calming features with roundabouts and double-sided parking.

Whether you’re driving, bussing, or biking, 23rd serves as a major connector between the Central District, eastern Capitol Hill and Montlake and the greenway has the possibility to make all of those modes of transportation more enjoyable.

“There’s a lot of support for greenways, and its an exciting opportunity for the neighborhood to have something built on their street,” Cruz said.

More on the 23rd Ave Greenway

16 thoughts on “What exactly will the 23rd Ave greenway be? It’s up to you

  1. Most importantly for the greenway is to have new pavement. Bicyling should be enjoyable, not the bone jaring wheel busting trip it is now – in Seattle. I’ve never ridden in a place with such terrible pavement.

    Secondly – the double sided parking argument for traffic calming is simply a lame excuse for not addressing parking politics and spending a little more on other calming devices. Double sided parking on narrow streets is extremely hazardous for bicycles. Add an oncoming vehicle or truck – and the rider takes his life in hand or moves to the sidewalk.

    The greenway should have on sided parking or no parking. It should be restricted to entry of non-local traffic by various means – such as one way block entries or even blocks that dead end to vehicle traffic. All these houses simply should be told to use their alleys, backyards, side yards, and garages for parking. The fact that everybody has collected so much garbage as to fill the garage and yard with junk is not really relevant to me. Clean up your yard and park off the street. Why in the world are we paying to have streets maintained just so they can store parked cars on them. It’s dumb. Park you car on your property. Get a smaller car. I don’t care. Ya pansies.

    If we applied these priciples to 18th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 25th, and 29th, and repaved these streest, and added dead ends to eliminate entirely the possibility of short cutting – then we can ride the streets like maniacs. Kids can have fun.

    Otherwise – maniacs will have to continue riding on 23rd, not that I have anything against that – just that I want the choice to ride on decent safe side streets as well.

    I realize that it seems a bit harsh to tell all these egregious parking sucker slobs to get off the street. But, it’s really the way our streets were intended. It is a basic land use principle that you park on your property. Yall are just lazy, greedy, arogant, and fat. It’s really annoying that you whine all the time but won’t take any actions yourself. Oink Oink.

    • I love on-street parking. On-street parking makes streets narrower, which slows traffic. I used to live on a street with parking on only one side of the street, and cars RACED along that street. And right next to curb too, which felt very unsafe. We never let our kids play on the sidewalk because it felt unsafe. The street where our current house is (on 22nd), with double-sided parking, feels so much safer and comfortable. And I’d much rather bike on our current street than our old street, because the cars are going slow. Removing the on-street parking is the last thing you want to do to make the street safer for biking and walking.

      • I agree that parking is an obstacle to traffic. And as a last resort parking would be OK. But it is much easier and safer to simply close the block on one end every few blocs. So everybody has to funnel to an arterial or semi arterial (14th) if they are traveling more than 5 – 10 blocks. I use 20th to go from Dearborn to Broadcast Coffee Jackson, 20th in that area is a semi arterial by my definition. If I’m headed to Tuogo – I go to 23rd then backup the hill.

        If on bike or foot (usually) – well then I go 20th all the way.

        Homes are supposed to have parking. We could narrow the street and let some areas use the “parking strip” for some parking. But not the street. Why does the city pay for everybody’s parking lot on the street? That was never the intent of the right of way or zoning. Roads are for cars and bikes to move along. No loitering.

  2. I’m surprised that there is no mention of what is happening on 23rd to push this along.

    23rd is being reduced from two lanes each way to one lane each way with bus bulbs. They are also closing the route through the arboretum to cars. Where will that traffic go? 23rd. What happens when 23rd backs up? Major traffic jams through the central district and capitol hill. What happens with traffic jams? Emergency vehicles can’t get through. You know, the ones that need to go to the assisted living facilities, hospices, halfway houses and group homes we have all over our neighborhoods?

    This will also more difficult for families to get in and out and around the neighborhoods. Families need cars. They need to pick up their kids from daycare, haul groceries, carpool to school. Making this area worse for cars and better for cyclists is unrealistic. And the cultural issues – many people see taking a bike or a bus as a step backwards, not a step forward. Have we forgotten so quickly the history of the CD?

    • Wonderful – the old children will die argument. If we make any changes – children will suffer.

      Oh, and the race/culture card too. Traffic improvements are racist. Let’s see what else? God is opposed to change! Stop the madness. Stop the world. I want everything to stay the same.

  3. Your sarcastic rhetoric does not change the facts, nor does it add to the conversation.

    What is your solution to helping the families affected? How do you propose working with the historic cultural identity of the central district? Where would you like the emergency vehicles to cut through during peak traffic times?

    • Bythesea –

      There is no mention of the 23rd Ave road diet because that has already been through many rounds of discussion and public meetings, and it is going ahead. This conversation is about the Greenway.

      Pinebeetle’s comment adds lots to the conversation. Through the use of sarcasm, s/he is saying that your scare-tactic rhetoric is so off-base that it is not worth arguing with through logic and facts. S/he’s probably right, but I’ll give it a try anyway:

      – What do the Seattle Police East Precinct (at 12th and Pine), the Seattle Fire Station #25 (at 13th and Pine), and Group Health (at 15th and John) all have in common? They all service our dense neighborhood and its many assisted living facilities, hospices, halfway houses and group homes, they all have lots of emergency vehicles coming and going—and, each is located at the intersection of busy roads that do *not* have two lanes of travel in either direction. How can that be? According to your assumptions, busy roads without two lanes of travel in each direction are incapable of handling emergency vehicles. Simply not true. You are using fear, not data, and the city rightfully does not make decisions based on your unsubstantiated fears.

      – The 23rd Avenue Road diet is from John St south. If the Arboretum is closed to through-traffic between Montlake and Madison then it would include traffic north of John, not south of it. Unrelated issues.

      – You seem to believe that the road diet is predicated on the assumption that tons of people will switch from cars to bikes. Nope. Well-done road diets work even when traffic remains the same. They are better for both cars and bicycles. Your need to see the two as pitted against one another is unfortunate.

      – Your claim that all these traffic improvements are disrespectful to the history of the CD (because, as I believe you are implying, Black folks don’t like to bike) is not worth responding to.

      BTW, I drive and do not bike. I will never bike, given my history of lower back problems. And yet, I celebrate these improvements. I can’t wait to live in a neighborhood in which 23rd Ave is more of a Main Street again, not a throughfare with people trying to rush through the neighborhood, getting caught in the left lane behind someone turning left and zipping over to the right, only to be caught behind someone trying to turn right and stuck by pedestrians, then trying to zip by the bus, etc. etc. 23rd Ave in the CD is a textbook case for a road diet.

      • To address your points –

        Emergency vehicles traveling on 23rd will not be able to get around a bus stopped at a bulb if there is traffic going the opposite direction – see Dexter. It is a physical impossibility. The roads you mention are single lane, but double wide.

        You obviously have not been caught in traffic when the arboretum has had issues. Traffic backs up Madison and that spills on to 23rd in both directions, including the area of the road diet. So, yes, it is relevant.

        I have yet to see a well done road diet in the city of Seattle. So, yes, I am pessimistic. See crazy traffic at SLU, Dexter, etc.

        My comment about the history of the CD stems from conversations I have had with my African American neighbors who have pointed out that they and their friends consider taking the bus or biking to be a sign of lower income and a lack of ability to provide for their families. It is from these conversations that I point this out. It is not pulled from the air.

        You’re right, though – there will be no zipping anywhere. We’ll be too stuck for that.

  4. There was a thread of respectful, reasonable, constructive comments here that disappeared this evening. What’s up with that? I’ll repost my contribution, and hopefully others can weigh in with something other than attacks and sarcasm.

    I attended the meeting (and have posted about it since). There seems to be some confusion about the greenway proposal, and especially about which part made people angry at the meeting.

    The greenway proposal seeks to make side streets (or, one side street) safer for pedestrians and cyclists. There are a few streets in review (21st, 22nd, 24th, 25th). I saw and heard very little opposition to the idea of making one of those streets “greener” and safer. As a person who walks and bikes more than she drives, I’m all for safer, more-pedestrian friendly side streets.

    But the greenway proposal followed on the heels of another process that was far less transparent, and which could have far more significant impacts on local residents. Most of us didn’t know about that process until we went to the greenway meeting. The process to which I refer is the planning and implementation of a conversion of 23rd Avenue from 4 lanes to 2 lanes (with a center turn lane between them). The project will also widen the 23rd Avenue sidewalks.

    I’ve spoken with a lot of my neighbors, and for many of us, those two processes feel quite separate (and seemingly in conflict with each other). One seeks to make a side street safe and green. One seeks to shrink a major arterial. Here are a few of the reasons that people were angry at the meeting Bryan attended.

    For some reason, when SDOT was ready to discuss the greenway project with residents, they mailed a notification of a public meeting to EVERY resident in the area. However, months earlier, when meetings commenced to discuss the shrinking of 23rd, no one received anything in their mailbox. As far as I can tell, those meetings were announced here, on Facebook, and on signs posted at intersections. But the signs were not specific; they said something like: “23rd Avenue Corridor Union-Jackson meeting.” The signs did not say: “SDOT wants to tear up 23rd and make it smaller, come share your thoughts.” Had the signs been specific, I assure you the turnout would have been significant. Quite a few of our neighbors are elderly and/or low income and/or not fluent speakers of English. Not all of them are on the internet, and certainly not on Facebook. They had no way of knowing about those meetings to discuss the fate of 23rd. Why did SDOT go out of its way to notify residents of the greenway meeting yet do so little to notify residents of the earlier meetings about 23rd Avenue (a project that stands to impact far more residents on all surrounding streets)?

    Quite a few of us worry that the shrinking of 23rd will force traffic onto side streets. As it is, 23rd is quite congested; almost impassable at certain times of the day. I do not see how reducing the size of the arterial won’t cause delays so significant that drivers will start peeling off onto side streets. Advocates for the conversion of 23rd have referenced the Stoneway ‘road diet’ as an example of a successful arterial conversion. But Stoneway and 23rd are apples and oranges.
    Only three blocks away from Stoneway runs a major arterial (Aurora); 23rd’s closest arterial is Boren.
    Stoneway moves very few buses; 23rd moves the 8, the 48, the 3/4, and the 43.
    Stoneway connects Fremont to the zoo; 23rd connects the U.District, Montlake, Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Central District, Judkins Park, and North Beacon Hill.
    At 8:30 AM and again at 4:30 PM, what will motorists do when they get stuck behind the 48 bus? Will they attempt to pass the bus by pulling into the center turn lane? That doesn’t sound very safe. Or will they peel off of 23rd to use a side street?

    Not all residents of the Central District can bike or walk to work. Disability, age, multiple jobs, child care, and other factors force some people into their cars and onto the road. This is going to become an even bigger issue as King County Metro cuts and reduces several of the bus lines that serve the Central District. There are several converging factors that could make 23rd a real bottleneck. The city is encouraging multi-family development, the county is cutting bus service, SDOT is shrinking the neighborhood’s main arterial. How can you simultaneously increase population and reduce access? I don’t disagree with urban population density; it sure beats sprawl. But it has to be well-planned and strategic, and it should work for all residents, including families, working poor, elderly, etc.

    The anger witnessed at the meeting was less about the greenway proposal, and more about the 23rd Ave conversion – the way the decision was made, the lack of transparency and opportunity for public input, the potential for making streets less safe for pedestrians, and the potential for increasing congestion on the neighborhood’s only 4-lane arterial.

    I do believe that some of the voices involved in the conversation about the conversion of 23rd Ave are the voices of developers. That’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s common knowledge that a handful of developers are making (and stand to make) quite a bundle on property in this neighborhood. The meetings were open to the public (just not adequately announced to the public), so developers were free to attend. But I do think that the most important voices in this conversation should be the voices of those who live in the affected areas. So, for transparency’s sake, as we weigh in on this issue, let’s be clear about our own relationship to the issue. I’ll start: I live on 22nd south of Jefferson. I have lived here for 8 years. I own my home and am raising two kids who will go to neighborhood schools. I make my living as a part-time lecturer at a state university and as a documentary filmmaker. I commute by bike and bus.

    • And I am a 9-year resident of the neighborhood who owns a home near 26th and Olive. I am a faculty member at UW and commute by bus, as does my husband. We also bus when we’re going to downtown or Capitol Hill, and typically drive elsewhere. Neither of us bikes. I am European-American; my husband is an Asian immigrant. Neither of us is a developer.

      Why did the conversation turn the way it did? I think because some of us did participate in the 23rd Ave redesign process. And this feels like folks coming in after its over and repeating the same arguments that we already saw expressed and then dissected in various meetings. We voluntarily spent our time on this already. In the end, I think the plan that came out is a very good one that is the right one for our area. Now it feels like people who didn’t participate in the process want to jump in at the end and have their way. I know you said you didn’t know about it. I can’t explain why; I heard about the road diet meetings, but not the greenway ones. So I can’t explain why you are the opposite.

      “I do believe that some of the voices involved in the conversation about the conversion of 23rd Ave are the voices of developers”. Is this a bad thing? Do developers not get a say in the neighborhoods where they own property? If they had a voice disproportionate to their presence in the neighborhood that would be a problem. I didn’t see such a thing where I was involved.

      “I’ve spoken with a lot of my neighbors, and for many of us, those two processes feel quite separate” I agree 100%- they’re two separate processes. Which is why I find it frustrating that people are turning the discussions about the Greenway into discussions about the Road Diet.

      “But the greenway proposal followed on the heels of another process that was far less transparent,” I simply don’t agree with you on this.

      “23rd’s closest arterial is Boren.” How about MLK? 19th in places? 12th? Broadway? All arterials.

      “23rd moves the 8, the 48, the 3/4, and the 43.” The 8 runs on 23rd for three blocks; same with the 3. The 43 only runs on portions of 23rd that won’t have a road diet.

      “23rd connects the U.District, Montlake, Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Central District, Judkins Park, and North Beacon Hill.” Only three of these neighborhoods line in the road diet zone– and Judkins Park is typically defined as part of the Central District. Very few people going from the U District to Beacon Hill would take 23rd Ave to do it. One could just as easily say that “Stone Way connects Fremont and Wallingford and Greenlake and Tangletown. ”

      “At 8:30 AM and again at 4:30 PM, what will motorists do when they get stuck behind the 48 bus? Will they attempt to pass the bus by pulling into the center turn lane? That doesn’t sound very safe. Or will they peel off of 23rd to use a side street?” They won’t turn into the center lane; this is Seattle. If anyone was dumb enough to go down a side street they’d quickly discover that they couldn’t possibly overtake a bus that way under most circumstances. Perhaps if they’re going a long way they’ll move to MLK. Otherwise, it’s true that for the cars traveling at the same time as the bus they’ll be slowed down for a bit; this is a downside.

      “But it has to be well-planned and strategic, and it should work for all residents, including families, working poor, elderly, etc.” Agreed. I would hate to be an elderly person or a family trying to walk across 23rd in its current manifestation. Indeed, I hate being a middle-aged person trying to cross 23rd every day right now; it’s the most dangerous thing I do all day. I simply don’t see how this plan hurts the working poor; on the contrary.

      “I don’t disagree with urban population density” – Urban population density doesn’t happen without developers, a population for whom you seem to have a deep distrust, and desire to exclude from neighborhood affairs.

      OK, my husband tells me I’ve been on here too long already and need to stop getting sucked back into this. I’ll just end by saying that the Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology division has lots of good studies on road diets, that I suggest perusing.

      • I am a twelve year resident near Madison and 23rd with a family. We walk, bus, carpool, and car commute.

        I have answered surveys and have attended one open house in regards to this. I would have attended more, but I was not able to attend the one other meeting that I heard about via a neighborhood email.

        When I made these same points, asked these same questions, there were people from the city who not only agreed with me, but added to my points. When I asked for solutions, I was met with – “oh, I hadn’t thought about that” and “Oh, I didn’t know we were closing that road.” and “There are a lot of emergency vehicles around here? I didn’t know that”. Finally, I was handed an email and told to ask the questions to a different project manager. One person from the city pulled me aside and continued to talk, so happy that someone was discussing issues surrounding families and social justice.

        So, I’ve tried to listen to the arguments and be a voice for what I see. I agree with the earlier poster about the lack of transparency. The greenway was introduced to me at the same open house as was the discussion of the road diet – it was given to me as a hand in hand type development, so that’s why I brought it up here – that the greenway would not be created if not for the road diet.

        I’ve read some of the studies, but I’m not seeing it work in practice. It reminds me of the studies of adding more bicycle commuting routes – smaller, flat towns have had great success as they’ve planned for bike routes as they have grown, not usually adding them in at a later date on streets as congested, hilly, and widespread as ours. I’m wondering if some of these Fed studies are more apples to oranges in a similar way.

      • “Now it feels like people who didn’t participate in the process want to jump in at the end and have their way.”

        The 23rd Avenue meetings were not announced to residents via snail mail, phone, or email; only via internet and a handful of vague street signs. That means, essentially, that only people who spend a lot of time on the internet have a voice in the changes that take place in the neighborhood. What about my (many) neighbors who don’t have internet at home? They don’t get to weigh in on changes in the neighborhood where they’ve lived for decades. How about my neighbors who struggle with English, but who pay taxes and send their kids to neighborhood schools? They don’t get to weigh in on changes. And the neighbors who don’t spend much time on the internet because they start their days at dawn and don’t stop until bedtime, shuffling between jobs, schools, and day care? They also don’t have a voice in local changes.

        That’d be like throwing an election but only announcing it on Facebook. The results of the election could hardly be called fair or democratic. So, we’re not “jumping in at the end to have our way;” we’re wishing we had been included in the conversation from the beginning; we’re surprised and alarmed to find out about such significant changes, so close to home, after it’s already a done deal.

      • Thank you, rimapacowa!

        I agree completely with your well-thought out explanation of these issues.

        The road diet of 23rd Ave may slow down traffic on 23rd slightly, but the overall through-put will remain the same (see examples on Stone Way and Nickerson, as well as others for how this has worked well), and will be a HUGE benefit for transit (wider lanes for buses) and pedestrians (wider sidewalks and much safer crossings of 23rd).

  5. Maribel: [email protected],

    I am certainly not a nimby on this greenspace unless it is on another street than mine. I am on 22nd east of Meany and the amount of cut through traffic we receive is mind boggling. We have lost cats, car sides but thankfully no children. My concern is that if not on 22nd things will get much much worse for us. that said it will certainly get worse for my neighbors on 21st, 24th or 25th if our area becomes a hindrance to the inconsiderate . Also 21st is a one way and our block is not a one way and both are two-blocks long so even with our circles, speeds are way faster than they should be. Perhaps speed humps on these long streets could be added on all 4 streets were traffic converges to keep those folks out of the neighborhoods… And if we can do that, pls do it BEFORE 23rd is torn up.

    Also, one idea would be to break these streets up up on a few streets as a two one-way greenways especially between john (or madison) to aloha where there are existing one ways now on 21st. Right now any student heading north from south of Madison to either Meany or Holy Names usually buzzes our block. Or those going south west originating on 23rd will avoid rush hour traffic once they miss a light and buzz up to 19th or even worse through 22nd or 21st to get to Madison. I don’t doubt the south bounders probably do the same on 24/25th

    Thanks… Robert

  6. We need a cycletrack on 23rd any alternative is an impact on the residental streets adjacent. Kicking the can down the road to residents pits one street against another for location. 23rd is the arterial and it can be redesigned for a two wat cycletrack, buses and cars. For safety and a progressive multi-modal 21st century transportation system in Seattle the bike must be accomodated as an equal to the car and public transportation as a commute vehicle on our arterials.

    • Yes and no. Ideally bicycle corridors are to be as eficient (or moreso) as arterials in terms of direction, speed/stop-starts, grade, pavement quality. Short term planning and economics would make us want to put bicycles on the arterials – and that is certainly better than nothing.

      My grandios scemes would push for more difficult change towards a system that is safer and better than sharing the road.

      Imagine some streets virtually cleared of cars, repaved, and connected to bridges and underpasses. How about cruising down 21st and having intersections controlled with some deference to bikes. Underpasses at some points where grade allows and flyovers connecting to other routes or accross arterials. Straight on down through interlaken area and accross the new 520 lid without interacting with any cars or busses.

      We want equity – not uniformity. Our bikes are not SUVs. They will never be compatible with arterial traffic no matter how macho we want to feel.