Category: Uncategorized

Take a Trip to Neighbour’s Alley

Check out this video of about Neighbour’s Alley and a winter celebration hosted by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict last December with Framework Cultural Placemaking. Videography by Harley Pan Videography.

Last December, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict hosted a winter celebration to activate Neighbour’s Alley. The alley runs between Pike and Pine just east of Broadway in Capitol Hill and has been the focal point of a revitalization effort. The EcoDistrict, in partnership with local businesses and other stakeholders, convened community gatherings in 2018 to determine a vision for the alley. Stay tuned for a report to be released this fall. This work, funded by the Seattle Office of Economic Development‘s Only in Seattle Initiative, the Bullitt Foundation, and Enterprise Community Partners, is part of a larger effort by the EcoDistrict to guide and inform comprehensive public realm planning for the neighborhood.

An Urban Livability MasterClass in Copenhagen

The Urban Livability MasterClass delegation. Photo courtesy of COurban Design Collective.

This August, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict staff are leading a delegation to study world-renowned public spaces and public life in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden with the goal of bringing home strategies to Capitol Hill. Known as the public realm, open public spaces such as streets, squares,parks, alleys, sidewalks, and other outdoor spaces are a key component to the health, vitality, and livability of individuals and communities. Copenhagen is a global leader in the development of public life in these spaces, and delegates will return with evidence-based practices and professional insight to help develop a shared vision for Capitol Hill’s public spaces.

The delegation includes members of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee, Seattle Central College, Sound Transit, the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Washington State Department of Transportation, 4Culture, Seattle University, Capitol Hill Housing, Kaiser Permanente, the GSBA, the Capitol Hill Business Alliance, the Bullitt Foundation, Blanton Turner, Shields Obletz Johnson, and consultants from COurban Design Collective and Framework Cultural Placemaking. The Urban Livability MasterClass is supported by the Scan|Design Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Tune in this fall as delegates share lessons learned and report back.

Affordable Housing ORCA Passes Started at Capitol Hill Housing

CHH residents use ORCA card during EcoDistrict pilot program in 2017.

In 2017, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict partnered with Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) property management and resident services to pilot offering discounted transit through the ORCA Multifamily Passport program (a new transit product for multifamily residential buildings) to 122 households living in three CHH buildings. A resounding success, residents were able to save money and access increased services across the region.  The program reached many residents who could not afford transit otherwise, even through existing discount programs like LIFT. The Affordable ORCA Passport Pilot received funding from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Enterprise Community Partners with coordination support from King County Metro and Sound Transit. In 2018, we wrote about the need to expand this program to affordable housing residents across King County.

This year, the City of Seattle announced a year-long free transit pass program for 1,500 Seattle Housing Authority residents using the same delivery model based on the ORCA Multifamily Passport. This is a welcome next step for increasing access for low income residents of affordable housing and demonstrates the value of our 2017 pilot.  We commend the City of Seattle for this program and hope to see this program expand to include even more affordable housing residents across King County in the future.

Community Engagement Continues on Developing Streetscape in Pike/Pine Corridor


Photo courtesy of Alex Garland

As the Pike/Pine corridor prepares for a facelift to include protected bike lanes next year, we want to ensure that anyone for whom this space is important has a chance to weigh in. These lanes will significantly change the corridor, and we all have a stake in what happens on the streets of our city.

Turning the traditional City engagement model on its head, we are testing the theory that planning can and should be done with the community. Those of us who use Pike/Pine – and those who want to use it more – are the experts and should have a say in how it evolves.

Take our Survey

This survey follows on the heels of a series of outreach events that we hosted this fall to raise awareness and collect feedback. In addition to extensive business outreach and hosting a temporary bike lane on Pike during Park(ing) Day, we held a Community Design Workshop to develop a shared vision for the streets of Capitol Hill.

On October 25th, more than 150 community members attended a Pike/Pine Protected Bike Lane Community Design Workshop. Guided by an advisory group designed to represent the interests of as many stakeholders as possible, this event was produced by community-based organizations committed to inclusive dialogue about public spaces.

Teams of community members gathered over maps to design the streets together, considering each other’s needs as they crafted a common vision. Residents heard from businesses that parking and loading zones matter. Bike enthusiasts learned that wheelchair users can, and often prefer to, travel in protected bike lanes. And safe street advocates shared that corridor improvements must be predictable to all users. We all learned that moving the bus trolley wires on Pike Street would be really, really expensive.

See photos of maps and group recommendations here.

If you were unable to attend the event and want to participate in this grassroots effort to design a Pike/Pine corridor that works for everyone, take our survey. It will remain open until December 31.

Once all feedback has been gathered and analyzed, we will present our findings to the Seattle City Council as well as to SDOT in order to meaningfully influence what comes next.

What started as a conversation about protected bike lanes ended with a call for inclusive community engagement for major infrastructure changes citywide. Our process was community-led, but we heard loud and clear from many workshop participants that this model should be replicated. With that in mind, we will share our lessons learned with the City and any other interested organizations in the hopes of making this a reality.

About the authors:

McCaela Daffern is the Sustainability Manager for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, a community-based initiative operating at the cross-section of sustainability, social equity, and cultural resilience.

Brie Gyncild is a community organizer for Central Seattle Greenways, a volunteer-led grassroots organization that works to make streets safer and more comfortable for people who walk, bike, live, work, and play in the Central District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Central Seattle Greenways is a member of the citywide Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition.

These organizations have worked closely to organize community engagement toward a collective vision for protected bike lanes coming to the Pike/Pine corridor. Based on a commitment to supporting community-driven development, the groups continue to seek insight and feedback from all existing or would-be users of this important public space.

Metro Report Short on New Ideas for Improving Transit Access

More people than ever are riding transit in our region. King County Metro was recently named the best large transit system in North America, and is recognized as a leader for the ORCA LIFT reduced fare program. But many folks are still being left behind, so this summer the King County Council asked Metro to find ways to serve more low-income people.

Motion 2018-0255 directed Metro to identify opportunities to make public transit more affordable and accessible for youth, community college students, affordable housing residents and low-income employees, as well as options for very-low-income Metro fare “for individuals who are in households with incomes of two hundred percent or less of the federal poverty level and are unable to afford the ORCA LIFT fare.”

The resulting report from Metro recommends a pilot program to serve very low-income individuals as compliance with an earlier 2016 Council ordinance (Ordinance 18409, Section 115, Proviso P1). Unfortunately, Metro’s report is short on ways to make transit more accessible to the other groups named by the Council. Instead, Metro opens the report’s third paragraph with this conclusion:

“Although individuals in all the markets considered for this report would benefit from increased transit access, we conclude that special pricing for specific groups is not the best tool to achieve this end.

This conclusion runs counter to Metro’s current practices, including the Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP), which entitles senior riders (age 65 or older), riders with a disability and Medicare card holders to reduced fares. Metro also offers a discounted youth fare.

Metro suggests that “a comprehensive, income-based approach to fares would be the most equitable, viable, and aligned with adopted policy.” This sounds good, but then they kick the can down the road suggesting “policy updates supporting this approach in future updates of King County Metro’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation,” which isn’t scheduled for update until 2021 or later.

In the body of the report, Metro makes broad assumptions about a small set of options for serving youth, students, low income residents and low wage earner groups might work to argue in each case that the cost would be too high to address their respective needs. In addition to considering limited options, Metro takes a very conservative approach to estimating the costs of potential programs, an approach which Metro admits in the report “may overstate the impact that programs could have on farebox recovery.”

Let’s look at how these assumptions play out in relation to one group—affordable housing residents—and a proposed program to adapt the Multifamily ORCA Passport to better serve this population.

Assumption 1: We can’t afford it.

In the existing Multifamily ORCA Passport program, costs are shared between the riders and their for-profit apartment landlord. Metro points out that subsidized housing operators “have very little if any availability to fund the partner/building operator share of the ORCA Multifamily Passport program.” This is true and is why we’ve argued that the Passport program is broken. We believe a modest subsidy of less than $1 million would go a long way towards fixing the program and increasing ridership among affordable housing residents, and suggest Metro work with other transit agencies to reduce the trip rate for Passports in affordable housing and think creatively about sources of funds to cover some or all the operator share. Following are potential sources to explore:

New Revenue: Metro is currently above its farebox recovery requirements and has a variety of options for new revenue.  New revenues of $3 million and $5 million are expected to come from Metro’s recent fare simplification.  Other revenues, such as parking user fees, should be explored.

Other Jurisdictions: We’ve heard some local jurisdictions suggest that if Metro could bring down the cost (e.g. by reducing the trip rate for Multi-Family Housing Passports in affordable housing), those cities might help to cover the partner/operator share for buildings in their jurisdictions. These conversations have been mostly informal and should be followed up.

Sound Transit: Metro’s report assumes other transit agencies won’t participate in a reduced fare program serving affordable housing. But there’s no suggestion in the report that they’ve asked for input from Sound Transit or the other transit agencies part of the ORCA pantheon (Community Transit, Everett Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, Washington State Ferries).

Federal Funds (e.g. CMAQ): The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) administers millions of dollars in mitigation funds block granted from the Federal Highway Administration to address the pollution impacts of congestion. For example, in 2018 PSRC will distribute $26M under the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) program. Metro could explore options with PSRC to see where there might be a good fit in 2019.

Assumption 2: It wouldn’t be fair, Part 1.

Metro suggests it would be unfair to offer a less expensive pass to affordable housing residents because they might get a deal unavailable to similarly low-income or lower-income people not living in affordable housing. We share Metro’s commitment to fairness and recommend better service to low- and very low-income individuals everywhere they reside in the County, including within subsidized housing.

Affordable ORCA Passports would be a complement to other reduced fare products like ORCA LIFT, not a replacement. Passports are effective for reaching groups of riders connected to an apartment building or business, just as the student program services students in Seattle Public Schools. ORCA LIFT is a good option for individual low-income riders not connected to an institution.

Assumption 3: It wouldn’t be fair, Part 2.

Metro suggests that because not all affordable housing is located near transit, offering a lower price transit pass to all affordable housing residents would not serve folks living away from transit hubs.

We suggest offering a program that affordable housing providers could opt into based on the level of interest of residents in their building. It is most likely that buildings with poor transit access would not have a great demand for the program as compared to buildings near transit and would not opt in. This is consistent with how the current Multi-family ORCA Passport program works. Buildings opt in, at least that is the idea. Currently, Metro has very few customers for the Multifamily ORCA Passport program. This is likely because in market-rate buildings near transit, most of the residents already have a Passport through their employer. This is far less likely in an affordable housing property where residents are less likely to have a pass subsidized by their employer.

Assumption 4: We should just do more of what we do.

What is perhaps most disappointing about the Metro report is the absence of creative problem solving. To be fair, Metro was only given a couple of months from when Council passed Motion 15171 and when Metro was required to deliver a report. But instead of offering opportunities, as the motion requested, and perhaps asking for more time and/or resources to develop creative solutions, Metro retreats to promoting what they’re already doing or committed to do.

The main recommendation of the report besides piloting a very low income program is to focus “on increasing ORCA LIFT enrollment among youth, students/trainees, subsidized housing residents, who have low-wage/low-incomes and are communities of color, limited English speaking, and immigrants and refugees.” In other words, better marketing.

Sure, better marketing and outreach to support existing programs is a good idea, but it shouldn’t be the only idea coming out of a report that was supposed to expand opportunities for serving low-income riders. It may not even be the best way to improve ORCA LIFT enrollment.


King County Metro could make the ORCA LIFT program immediately better and likely boost enrollment by bringing the eligibility requirements for the program into alignment with the eligibility requirements for affordable housing. Currently, Metro bases eligibility for ORCA LIFT on 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is set annually in relation to income levels across the continental US and used to qualify for federal programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The FPL is woefully LOW ($12,140/year for an individual; $25,100/year for a family of four), especially in an expensive place like King County.

Area Median Income (AMI) is based on income levels in King County, which makes it far more relevant as a measure of how someone is doing in our local economy. We suggest resetting the ORCA LIFT eligibility to 60% AMI, which would have the dual benefits of qualifying more cost-burdened people and making it easier for affordable housing providers to help enroll residents already income qualified for 60% AMI housing.

Similarly, Metro could consider applying a lower AMI rate, say 30 percent of AMI, to qualify for the new very low-income product they hope to pilot. With Motion 2018-0255, the King County Council directed Metro to identify opportunities to better serve low-income and very low-income riders. Metro has responded by recommending a pilot program to reach very-low income riders. We look forward to working alongside Metro for the success of this program and its full scaling to reach the many folks who need transit access but can’t currently afford an ORCA LIFT card.

We also offer to help Metro respond to the other needs outlined in Motion 2018-0255 and take a deeper look at modifying the ORCA Passport to serve low income folks. Finally, we support the crafting of a comprehensive, income-based approach to fares and recommend that Council and Metro not wait until the next strategic planning process to craft it.



Victor Obeso Answers Your Burning Metro Questions

A big thanks to Victor Obeso, King County Metro Deputy General Manager, for being the first of our Renter Summit panelists to provide a response to questions we didn’t get to during the panel discussion.  We look forward to receiving similar responses from Councilmembers Sawant and Johnson, Speaker Chopp, and Senator Pedersen.  Below, we’ve included his response to the questions you submitted. 


Deputy General Manager of Planning and Customer Services for King County Metro Transit

I enjoyed attending the Renter’s Summit held on September 24.  It is energizing for me to attend events like this where so many attendees care so deeply about public transit.  Many transit related questions were posed at the event, and I’m happy to provide the responses below.

(1) What can we do to increase late night transit?

Metro is considering a proposal to improve late night “Night Owl” bus service, which includes service in the Capitol Hill area. Metro conducted public outreach last spring and is currently in the second phase of outreach through the end of October gathering feedback on service concepts. Late night ridership is low compared to other times of day, so the investments in this time period that Metro is proposing are relatively modest, but would represent a significant step toward providing viable 24/7 service. Metro is working closely with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) on late night transit and the City of Seattle is helping fund the proposed additional service.  You can find more details online.

(2) How can we make transit more accessible to kids and families?

Improving transit accessibility for kids and families includes making transit more available at all times of the day and week and making transit safer and more secure. Metro has increased frequency of service at all times of day through investments including those funded by the city of Seattle Proposition 1. These types of improvements make transit more accessible for families and all other people who travel outside of the standard work commute hours.

It is also notable that all new coaches are configured with low floors, which makes getting on and off the bus much easier with small children. Metro also continues to improve bus stops, with shelters, lighting, benches, and other amenities that make using transit easier for parents and more fun for kids.

For more information on how to travel with kids on Metro, click here. See questions 3 and 4 for more information.

(3) How are we incorporating safety for vulnerable populations in plans to expand transit?

The County Executive’s 2017-18 budget proposal for Metro takes major steps to improve safety and security and to better meet the needs of the diversity of Metro riders and employees. At Metro’s request, the budget proposes funds to add seven Metro Transit Police officers, one detective, and one transit resource officer, and also to conduct anti-bias and de-escalation training for all Metro Transit Police and other King County Sheriff’s Office officers.

The 2017-18 budget also includes funding to establish an effective and efficient system‐wide approach to identify and address employment equity and diversity concerns and incorporate diversity and inclusion principles throughout Metro. We want the workforce at Metro, at all levels, to reflect the diversity of the communities and customers we serve.

Finally, the budget requests to convert a term-limited position to an ongoing position to continue supporting Metro’s efforts in ensure compliance with Americans with Disability Act requirements of Metro’s programs, facilities, and fleet.

(4) How can we make Metro friendlier, less expensive and easier to use for families, especially single mothers with children?

All new Metro buses have a low-floor design, “kneeling” capabilities that allow the driver to lower the entry door several inches, a mobility ramp rather than the old style, relatively cumbersome wheelchair lift, and seating layouts that are more open, improving accessibility and ease of movement.

Capitol Hill has a large number of bus shelters that provide protection from the rain, are well lit, and improve accessibility to Metro routes. Metro also has a bus shelter mural program that improves the appearance of bus shelters and deters graffiti.

People with a household income of less than double the federal poverty level (FPL) qualify for ORCA LIFT – a reduced fare program that makes transit trips less expensive for qualifying residents within the Puget Sound region. About 35,000 people within the Puget Sound area already use ORCA LIFT, which was introduced in 2015.

(5) Can we make transit passes free or low cost for all people, especially workers and students?

If Metro was to make transit passes free, it would come at a great cost in service. Of the total revenue Metro receives from fare collection, about half of it is paid by the over 2,000 employers getting ORCA cards to over 350,000 employees throughout the region. Over 30 percent of Metro’s operating costs are covered by fares. Without fare revenue, Metro would have to reduce bus service by about one-third.

Metro’s fare program has a number of elements designed to make transit more affordable for low-income riders. For many years, Metro has had reduced fares for youth, seniors and riders with disabilities. In 2015 Metro, working in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health, implemented the ORCA LIFT program to provide discounted fares for low-income adult riders (at or below 200 percent of the FPL). There are currently about 35,000 riders registered for the ORCA LIFT program, who made over 430,000 trips on Metro and 110,000 trips on Sound Transit bus, Link light rail, and Sounder services in August. Metro is also working with the City of Seattle to provide free ORCA cards to low-income Seattle Public Schools students.

Metro also provides an 80 percent discount on tickets sold to human services agencies to provide to their very low income clients. Metro sold about 1.4 million tickets through this program in 2015. The King County Council recently increased the annual subsidy cap by 25 percent, to $3.2 million, effective in 2016. The King County Council also acknowledges the importance of fare revenue and sets targets for Metro to use fares to recover a portion of the cost of delivering service.

(6) How much money are we spending on fare collecting and enforcement? Could we better use these funds for transit access and affordability?

It costs Metro approximately $10 million to collect $158 million, or costs roughly equal to six percent of the fares collected. The largest element of this cost is related to the ongoing collection of cash on the bus. The net revenues gained by collecting fare are used to fund over 30 percent of Metro’s service. Metro would need to cut bus service by about one third if fare revenue was removed. Additionally, fare enforcement on the six RapidRide lines currently costs a total of about $1.5M per year. Fare enforcement on RapidRide is required for provision of off-board fare payment, which is a central element of bus rapid transit. Fare enforcement has the added benefit of improving security for all riders, as reflected in several RapidRide line customer and bus operator surveys over the past several years.  Overall, RapidRide ridership on the A through F lines have attracted 67% more riders on these lines, over 25,000 riders per day, compared to the former regular Metro routes they replaced.  The fares paid by these added riders is part of the reason Metro has been financially able to sustain and add more service over the past several years. See also the prior responses describing some of the ways Metro provides access to and affordability of our services.

(7) How is King County Metro/Sound Transit working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to get transit priority improvements on the street?

King County Metro has a long history of working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to keep transit moving through the most congested parts of the county. This ranges from establishing the 3rd Avenue transit lanes and Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes throughout Seattle, to the HOV lanes on our highways, in particular I-5, I-90, SR-99 and the West Seattle Bridge. However, Metro does recognize that with growing traffic congestion and allocation of increasing amounts of street space to improved pedestrian and bicycle safety, much more transit priority is needed.

With the development of the Metro Connects long range plan, Metro and the City of Seattle have a shared vision of prioritizing reliable, frequent transit across the City of Seattle, including adding as many as 7 new Rapid Ride lines in Seattle by 2025 with bus-only lanes on up to 50 percent of the lane miles, reducing travel time by a target average of 20 percent.

(8) How can we better involve women and minority owned contractors in transit development?

King County Metro has multiple efforts underway that are related to the County’s Equity and Social Justice Initiative.

King County’s Business Development and Contract Compliance (BDCC) is a section within the Finance and Business Operations Division. BDCC’s business development goal is to retain, expand, create and recruit businesses and BDCC manages programs aimed at increasing the participation of small and disadvantaged businesses in County programs and projects.

Towards these ends, BDCC manages specific Business Development initiatives and partnerships inspired by the County Executive and County Council, including the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. The program purpose is to ensure that DBEs have an equal opportunity to participate in USDOT assisted contracts. This applies to King County projects that have an element of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding, loans, or grants.

King County encourages participation by all firms wishing to participate in County contracting opportunities. Firms seeking to be certified as DBE should contact the Washington Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises at 866-208-1064 or

(9) Where does the money from zoned [RPZ] parking go?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Mike Estey, SDOT Parking Manager, at 206-684-8132 or via email at

(10) Why are we not moving forward with a parking benefit district?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Mike Estey with SDOT at 206-684-8132 or via email at

(11) There have been 2 bike fatalities this week. How can we accelerate the creation of protected bike lanes?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Jim Curtin with the SDOT safety program at 206-684-8874 or via email at

(12) How do we improve last-leg connections for those who don’t live directly near the main transit lines?

Nearly all Capitol Hill transit trips start and end with walking, so improving pedestrian connections that work for all ages and abilities is the most vital element of improving access to transit for last-leg or last-mile connections. Improving pedestrian connections to bus stops can include a variety of projects such as building sidewalk and bike infrastructure, providing wayfinding so people can easily find transit stops and stations, and ensuring that people have good information about the variety of transportation options available.

Also, nearly all Capitol Hill residents live less than one quarter mile (1,320 feet) from frequent Metro service that runs every 15 minutes or better most of the time, but we recognize that geographic and other barriers exist for some riders and we do work with SDOT to address those issues as completely as possible through improvements to sidewalk infrastructure. Metro Connects envisions expanded partnerships between Metro and cities throughout King County to improve connections and allow more people to easily access the transit system.

Thank you for advocating for better transit in your community and for asking important questions. If you have further inquiries or comments, please feel free to contact me at 206-477-5778 or via email at



Little Collective Creates Whimsical Stormwater Parklet for Park(ing) Day

IMG_1510Whimsical stormwater sounds like a contradiction in terms – but somehow this past weekend it was a reality, thanks to Park(ing) Day Plus+ and the imaginations of four environmentally-minded landscape designers. Extended to a two-day affair in Seattle this year, Park(ing) Day is an international event that temporarily reclaims street parking areas for pop-up “parklets” in the name of creative placemaking, community health and urban design.

The Little Collective’s modular mobile rain garden camped for two days in the street parking area in front of the 12th Avenue Arts building on Capitol Hill. The garden consists of a series of raised boxes, filled with compost and plants, through which simulated “rainwater” flows (generated by pedaling on a stationary bicycle!). The water is then cleaned as it passes through the biofilter base layer of the garden. Moreover, the plant life of the rain garden offers upstream habitat to important pollinators like bees.

Talks at the parklet site about local stormwater projects clarified our rainwater problem. Christin Hilton of the Nature Conservancy explained that urban stormwater is the #1 polluter of the Puget Sound. When rain flows through the streets and into the storm drains, it draws hydrocarbons, sediment, trash, fecal coliform, heavy metals and other nasty stuff with it. This is bad news for downstream organisms like salmon. Regarding Seattle’s iconic rain, Christin observed: “What makes our city so beautiful and lush is also a problem for us because of all of our impermeable urban surfaces.”

IMG_1506Designer Hilary Ratliff explained that the modular rain garden is an interim intervention and a prototype. In the next phase of their mobile rain garden design, they want it to pick up storm water directly from the street, taking the garden a step beyond simulation and making it functional. The long-term goal would be to permanently integrate bioretention facilities into the streetscape. In the meantime, the modular version offers a means to raise awareness, educate, and above all, to dream. As Hilary put it: “Streets aren’t just for cars – they’re about possibility.”

The trick, then, is to ensure that creative placemaking isn’t something we relegate to one (or two) days a year. What kinds of permanent change might a mobile rain garden inspire? Or a streetside tool library, a tea party on the curb, a public board game station, or any other of the fifty pop-up parklets we saw at this year’s Park(ing) Day? These streets are your streets. How would you like to use them?

Tap ORCA Here: When Transit and Housing Access Collide

It's great, I can't ride my bike everywhere_web

“It’s great, I can’t ride my bike everywhere.”


Transit Access Is An Equity Issue

After housing, transportation is the second highest cost for most people.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates that households in the Puget Sound Region spend about 19 percent of their income on transportation.  Living in a central, walkable, transit-rich neighborhood like Capitol Hill can help households save a lot on transportation expenses by driving less or not even owning a car – one of the reasons that Capitol Hill Housing believes it is so important to provide affordable housing in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. However, for many low income people, the regular cost of using transit is still unaffordable.

In 2014, we surveyed over 300 Capitol Hill households about their transit expenses.  We found that while 42 percent of households in market rate buildings had all or part of their transit passes paid for by their employer and school, only 16 percent of households in affordable housing received similar help paying for transit. We wanted to change this for our residents.  An opportunity came when we learned about King County Metro’s new Multi-Family Passport program that allows property managers to offer the same subsidy and discounts as employers.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money to contribute our share to the subsidy.  Luckily, SDOT agreed to step in and cover those costs in 3 buildings as a pilot project.

"We love the light rail and the streetcar and go more places than you would think."

“We love the light rail and the streetcar and go more places than you would think.”


How Affordable Housing Providers Can Tackle Climate Change

Promoting transit use has other benefits as well. If affordable transit passes reduce driving, that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  Driving just recently surpassed power plants as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  Transportation is an even bigger contributor to emissions in Seattle because we get most of our electricity from hydro power.  If we want to tackle climate change, we need to reduce emissions from driving in ways that also have positive impacts for low income people.


Last but not least, transit pass can help reduce housing costs associated with parking.  If transit passes reduce the need for our residents to own cars, we won’t need to build as many expensive parking places.  The average parking garage space on Capitol Hill costs about $33,000 to build.  If our residents no longer need parking in our existing buildings, through our district shared parking program, we can rent out those unused spaces to generate revenue that helps support building maintenance and operations.

How Does the Affordable Housing Transit Pass Program Work?

With funding from SDOT, Capitol Hill Housing was able to purchase transit passes for residents of three of our income restricted apartment buildings, totaling 122 units.  Residents who wish to participate pay 50% of the monthly cost, which is $10, $16, or $17 depending on the building.  This compares with $117 per month for a standard individual pass or $55 per month for a standard individual low income fare or LIFT pass.  Payment for the card is processed along with rent.  Passes completely cover unlimited trips on all local transit including Metro, Sounder Train and Light Rail.

"Please keep doing this. We love it."

“Please keep doing this. We love it.”

Preliminary Results

  • Over 50% of passes sold.
  • 52% of participants previously had a card for which they paid 100% of the cost
  • The small administrative burden is small (less than 4 staff hours per month)
  • We have received anecdotal reports of over $100 in monthly savings by some participating households

Capitol Hill Housing will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program in early 2017.

Expanding the Program

Everyone in Seattle should have affordable access to transit.  An expanded Affordable Housing Transit Pass program would leverage affordable housing providers to connect more low income people to low cost transit options.  We hope that by continuing to work with King County Metro, the Seattle Department of Transportation, other affordable housing providers, our residents, and the community at large we can expand this program to eventually serve all affordable housing properties in the city.

"It's an amazing deal. Thanks for setting this up."

“It’s an amazing deal. Thanks for setting this up.”



Happy Thanksgiving

Here in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, we have tons to be thankful for. Today I want to give special props and gratitude to the EcoDistrict Steering Committee: Michael Mariano (co-chair) Schemata Workshop Neelima Shah (co-chair) Bullitt Foundation Alicia Uhlig GGLO Charles Bowers CBRE/Group Health Clayton Smith Sustainable Capitol Hill David Dologite

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Capitol Hill Housing/Pike-Pine Urban Neighborhood Council Erik Rundell EcoNW Erika Melroy Recology CleanScapes Heather Burpee University of Washington/Integrated Design Lab Julie West Seattle King County Public Health Leon Garnett Centerstone/Squire Park CommunityCouncil Liz Dunn Dunn & Hobbes/Pike-Pine Urban Neighborhood Council/CHH Board Matthew Combe Seattle 2030 District Michelle Caulfield City of Seattle – OSE Michelle Hippler Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Rob Schwartz Seattle University/CHH Board Ric Cochrane Milepost Consulting Whitney Fraser Environment International LTD/Dyke March   THANK YOU!

Hello, world!


Every 60 seconds, 70 new domains are registered and 571 websites are launched on the interwebs.  That’s more than twice the world birthrate (255 babies per minute).  During that same minute, 293,ooo statuses are updated on Facebook, 67,000 images are uploaded to Instagram, and 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. Source: Qmee

So, without making too big a deal about it, we’re launching a new website for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict. Sure, the launch isn’t world newsworthy, but we’re pretty excited. The site’s taken at least nine months to gestate and the blessed day is finally here. Hello, world!

Here we will cover things astir in the EcoDistrict and other topics of relevance, at least in the minds of our bloggers. Look for more soon!