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Rantz: Seattle to kill 300 parking spots, 2 lanes, for bike lanes and no plan

A flier on Eastlake Avenue announcing a plan to take away hundreds of public parking spots in favor of bike lanes. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

Despite concerns from residents and businesses, the Seattle Department of Transportation will kill two well-traveled general purpose lanes and 324 parking spaces serving an already over-capacity Eastlake neighborhood. Why? So that it can create two more unnecessary protected bike lanes, in another capitulation to the militant bike community.

The project was pushed forward by a bike activist council member who is so unpopular — Rob Johnson — that he has already thrown in the towel and won’t seek re-election next year. He’s admitted part of the reason he won’t run again, is he’s tired of the constant criticism. Perhaps if he worked in our best interest, he wouldn’t be criticized?

“In the Eastlake neighborhood, the current design could remove over 300 parking spaces,” SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH in September, when I first inquired about the project. “The trade-off of removing parking has been a consideration since SDOT and Metro began the project. Removing parking spaces allows us to build a continuous connection for people riding bikes between the University Bridge and downtown along Fairview Avenue North.”

For years, Eastlake residents and businesses between Fairview Avenue and the University Bridge have complained there’s not enough parking for the growing neighborhood.

The city has responded by allowing construction of new housing units, built without parking, while needlessly removing dozens of spots in the process.

Now, the plan is to negatively impact the most high-trafficked street in the neighborhood, for the purpose of slowing down traffic that’s already slow, while building bike lanes that aren’t needed. Indeed, during their study, there was only an annual average of 6.5 bike accidents on Eastlake, none indicated by SDOT in their presentation as serious. This, courtesy of the RapidRide Roosevelt project from 2014.

The city, via SDOT, has held public meetings to discuss the project. Most people weren’t aware, however. As is usually the case, SDOT does the absolute bare minimum to promote these meetings, which includes blog posts that virtually no one reads on websites no one visits. As both a former resident of the neighborhood and a current worker (KTTH, KIRO, ESPN and MyNorthwest is located in Eastlake), very little outreach was done to make us aware of the meetings.

There’s no plan for residents or businesses.

Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest

SDOT admits they have no plan for drivers who rely on their cars to get to and from work, nor the businesses — from restaurants to radio stations — that cannot rely on transit or bikes to accommodate their customers or employees.

“Over the next couple of years, we’ll work with the community to share more information about the scope of impacts to the existing curb space on Eastlake Avenue East and to discuss available options to manage this limited public resource,” Schellenberg explained to me, not understanding the irony of referring to spots as a “limited public resource” that SDOT is choosing to make even more limited. “This will include understanding access needs for businesses and apartments. Opportunities to participate will be widely promoted, and we’ll stay in contact with the neighbors throughout the duration of the project.”

Their plan: come up with a plan to solve the problems they’re causing. It’s like having a meeting to discuss when to have another meeting about a previous meeting. In other words, they’re moving backward. It’s the type of move you do when you don’t really care about the impact you’ll have on drivers.

And it appears they have no plan for transit either, if they still go with an option presented at an October meeting.

While there is a small carve-out for transit-only lanes at the University Bridge, Eastlake goes from two lanes to one in either direction, forcing buses to more directly compete with vehicles getting into the U-District or northbound, connecting to I-5 via E. Lynn Street from Eastlake. Try that route on any weekday afternoon, and you’ll see dozens of cars struggling to even get on the street, thanks in large part to poor traffic light management near I-5. After construction, buses will be stuck in standstill traffic with Eastlake unable to accommodate the cars waiting to get onto Lynn.

Who is behind this?

The bike lobby is small in numbers, but loud in voice and Twitter trolling. It has pushed for protected bike lanes at any and all costs. And they share one thing in common with SDOT and Councilmember Johnson: they offer no support, nor consideration, to drivers. Writing in the Seattle Bike Blog, anti-car zealot Tom Fucoloro wrote that cars shouldn’t be prioritized at all, solely “walking, biking and transit.”

To justify support for the project, SDOT and Johnson turn to public comments in favor of the plan, though some support came from folks in the bicycle community that neither live nor work in — or even pass through — Eastlake at all. Indeed, Fucoloro praises citywide readers for contacting SDOT. The city, of course, does not care. They’re just looking to justify their anti-car vision of Seattle. And, during all this, Mayor Jenny Durkan is absent. She doesn’t really visit the neighborhood or is generally aware of the people who live here. And if she can’t see the problem, she can just claim it doesn’t exist.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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