Category: EcoDistrict Index

EcoDistrict Index Update – Transportation

Bike Photo

Bicyclists crossing paths at 12th and Pike in mid-March.

This is the second post in a series on the EcoDistrict Index Update for 2015.  The first post can be found here.

As we celebrate the opening of the Capitol Hill light rail station, new transportation data from 2015 show that transformations in the way we get around the Hill are already underway.

There is no shortage of data points for transportation.  We’ve got survey data, payment data, police data, manual counts, and counts with different types of sensors.  There’s data on driving, walking, biking, taking transit, and more.  In all but one area, we are seeing big progress, and even the bad news might be good news in disguise.

Big Progress

2015 was a much safer year on the streets in Capitol Hill.  There were no traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries declined from 12 in 2013 to 10.  These numbers experience some natural fluctuation year to year, but combined, the two year comparison indicates a 23% decrease in serious injuries and fatalities.

Safer streets generally correlate with less driving and we are seeing that too.  In our baseline data, a 5-year census survey covering 2007-2011, 31% of Capitol Hill residents drove to work, already low by Seattle standards.  In the new 5 year survey covering 2010-14, that percentage fell to 28%.

We also see big increases in bicycle and pedestrian traffic at key intersections.  At the 6 major intersections where we counted bicycles in both 2013 and 2015, bicycling is up 36%, 12% of the way towards our goal of tripling bicycle traffic.  The biking changes were visible across the board – in the morning, in the evening, and at all major intersections – with particular growth at 15th and John and 12th/Madison/Union and the slowest growth at Pike and Melrose and Broadway and John.

Walking Photo

Capitol Hill has some of the busiest pedestrian traffic in Seattle and it’s getting busier.

Pedestrian traffic was up big too, 18%.  Because walking on Capitol Hill has always been common, we only expected pedestrian volumes to increase by 33% by 2030.  In just two years, we are already 54.5% of the way towards our goal.  We may need to raise our sights.  Again, there is some natural fluctuation in these numbers, which are conducted in the morning and evening of one mid-week day in late-September or early-October, but the weather and other obvious variables are consistent across these years.

Good news in disguise?

At the same time, transit use appears to be down by 0.4%.  This small decline is likely related to Metro service cuts in late 2014, including temporary elimination of route 47 through west Capitol Hill.  These service cuts were then reversed by the passage of Proposition 1, which not only restored route 47, but also added frequency to Capitol Hill routes 10, 11, 12, 49, and 60 in June and September of 2015.  Unfortunately, our most recent boardings and alightings data date from February 14 through June 5, 2015, marking a low point after the service cuts and before the restored and expanded service.   With bus service added in the second half of 2015, and streetcar and light rail service starting now, we can expect to see a substantial increase in transit ridership in 2016.

Station Photo

Capitol Hill Station a few days before opening to the public.

EcoDistrict Index Update

In 2014, we selected an initial set of 15 indicators to track progress in 8 performance areas, set targets, and collected baseline data (mostly from 2013).   These indicators became the EcoDistrict Index (more background on the Index here).  At the close of 2015, we conducted our first update and can start to see how the neighborhood is changing and how we are succeeding or failing in moving towards our goals.  The table below gives a summary of progress towards each target.

2015 Update 6

In just 2 years, we have seen dramatic progress in a few areas. The Capitol Hill Farmers Market is going gangbusters.  They are almost a quarter of the way towards doubling both all shoppers and specifically shoppers using EBT and WIC through their Fresh Bucks program.

Farmers Market Index Highlight

Our transportation system is also shifting swiftly towards more walking and biking and away from driving (our post dedicated to these exciting transportation changes can be found here).

At the other end of the spectrum, Capitol Hill is backsliding when it comes to recycling and composting.  Already the problem child neighborhood of Seattle waste diversion, people here seem to be sending more and more stuff to the landfill.

Waste Diversion Index Highlight

The top line information for each of these indicators just scratches the surface.  In future posts we will delve deep into specific indicators to shed more light on the neighborhood changes they reflect, and illuminate opportunities to capitalize on success, pay more attention to neglected areas, and recalibrate poorly performing strategies.

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Metrics for Capitol Hill – Version 1.0 of the EcoDistrict Index released

[This post was originally published in the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog on January 25] IBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion, that’s 2.5 billion billion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data are created every day. The bulk is from social media, machine data (e.g., coming from automated sensors like the ones on the Capitol Hill Community Solar project), and transactional data from when we buy stuff. Companies like IBM are racing to improve their ability to sift, interpret and sell this data as a commodity. In

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2015 the market for data analysis services will reach $16.8B and is expected to grow exponentially into the foreseeable future. The promise of big data, according to Steve Lohr at the New York Times, “is smarter, data-driven decision-making in every field.” The private sector is cashing in. Community activists are catching on and seeking ways to access and analyze data for the public good. Maurice Mitchell, a community organizer in Manhattan, claims that “prescriptions for our most pressing social issues emerge from the patterns found in the bonanza of collected data points.” He points to how analyzing data from the NYPD’s stops and arrests helped to uncover the racially disproportionate application of stop-and-frisk. On Capitol Hill, we will use publicly available data to help track progress in meeting the goals of the EcoDistrict. Last month we launched the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Index, a set of performance metrics backed by data from a variety of sources, from local street counts to the U.S. Census. Performance targets are set for the year 2030. We aligned the timeframe with our partners at the Seattle 2030 District, in part because we share a commitment to reducing the water and climate impacts of buildings, but also because 15 years seems long enough to make real progress and short enough to express urgency in addressing serious challenges related to climate change and neighborhood health. With help from community advisors and partner organizations, we selected performance metrics relevant to real social and environmental issues on the Hill, can be tabulated and updated each year, and are easy to communicate. The current iteration of the EcoDistrict Index tracks data in seven performance areas: equity, health, water, energy, habitat, transportation, and materials. We will add metrics for culture in the next round. We’ve calculated baselines and set ambitious targets for reducing waste, ensuring affordability, increasing transit use and cycling, preserving trees, and improving public safety. The building energy use and water goals align with the Seattle 2030 District. Other Index targets are extrapolated from City planning goals. For example, the target of 21% tree cover is drawn from the City’s 2013 Urban Forest Stewardship Plan and adjusted for Capitol Hill based on current land use patterns in the neighborhood. The target of 70% waste diversion, i.e. diverting waste away from the landfill into recycling and composting, is from the Zero Waste Resolution adopted by the City Council in 2007. This waste reduction target is very ambitious for Capitol Hill where most people live in apartments, a segment of the residential sector that has lagged far behind single-family homes on recycling. Index-Table-2-1024x413 Aligning with the metrics of partner organizations like Seattle 2030 and the City makes sense. The metrics have been vetted and the data is available. It also helps to share a common language across multiple urban scales so we can compare our progress against other neighborhoods and the City as a whole. The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Index is a work in progress. Do we know how Capitol Hill will meet these targets? Not entirely, but we know it’s going to take an effort from every resident, business, and building owner. Do the indicators cover the breadth of issues the EcoDistrict needs to address? No, but they’re a start. The Index will continue to evolve with help from neighborhood stakeholders. We welcome community input to the current and further iterations of the EcoDistrict Index. Beginning in February, Alex Brennan, Capitol Hill Housing’s Senior Planner, will publish a series of blog posts about the Index here on the EcoDistrict website. He’ll do a deeper dive on the individual baselines and targets, and outline plans for incorporating feedback and additional metrics over the next several years. Like data? We’d love your thoughts as we work on the next version. Come geek out with us.