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.