Seattle Could Use an Upzone

I recently did a collaboration with the Sightline Institute to study where there are multi-unit residences in single-family zones. These places are the remnants of the time before Seattle (and many other cities) went through processes of downzoning. These downzones, often along with redlining, created huge areas that have restricted the building of housing, and become, especially in recent years, areas of exclusivity and unaffordability. Working people and the middle class can no longer afford to buy even the most modest houses in these exclusively zoned neighborhoods.
Because of exclusive single-family zoning, we have missed out on generations of development of naturally affordable housing, as new construction ages over the years and becomes affordable. Very little multiplex housing has been built in these neighborhoods since the 60’s, so the opportunities for more affordable aged multi-unit housing have not been realized. If Seattle had continued to allow the development of duplexes, triplexes, and quad-plexes in these neighborhoods, instead of downzoning over half of its area, we would not be facing the affordability crisis that we currently face.
See the full, expanded map.

Margaret Morales’ article, which accompanies the map, can be read at the Sightline Institute.

Transportation Demand Analysis

Does Sound Transit need to increase southbound Sounder service? Here are some maps from a  recent project, created in concert with Paulo Nunes-Ueno. We looked at the origins (by zip code), and destinations (by work location and nearest Sounder station) of office workers south of Seattle. This analysis visualizes potential demand for commuter rail, and will help to drive the decision-making process.

Friends from the Mid-80s–Antioch, CA

Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing posted this video of some old friends of mine from way back. Laden with nostalgia, I found these in some old boxes of negatives. I just scanned and uploaded them to Flickr today. I haven’t seen most of these people in decades. I hope they’re all doing well.


Here’s the original video on YouTube.

Moving to

This site hasn’t been up long, but I’ve started finding limitations in what I can implement in my site. So, I’ve packed it up and moved it all over to a self-hosted site with a installation. Everything should look and function the same as before, but any of my subscribers will need to click through and re-subscribe.

Watch for new historical and speculative maps!

UW Transportation, Past and Future

As part of a recent historical research project, I georeferenced a ton of old plans and maps of the University of Washington campus and surrounding neighborhood. One of the things that has stood out in my mind about this project is the old transportation patterns, and how our society relied so much more heavily on rail to get around.  The University District was served by several streetcar lines in addition to the rail line that was used by passenger trains–now the route of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Modern Subway, Historical Streetcar

We are slowly returning to an era of mass transportation. This 1920 map shows the location of at least two streetcar lines, as well as the old heavy-gauge NPRR line and depot. I have overlaid the alignment of the Sound Transit North Link subway and platform location of the new University of Washington Station. The detail that jumps out is the location of the old streetcar turn-around loop, now the location of the subway station. We’re looping back around to an abandoned form of transportation that should never have been abandoned. This time, we’re making sure that the passage of the rail cars isn’t hindered by private cars.

I sat on a bus for over half an hour yesterday, getting from the U-District to downtown. I’m looking forward to the eight-minute ride that the subway will enable.

Planning for Safe Routes to School

The McDonald International School re-opened in 2012, after 31 years of being mothballed and leased out to various NGOs. Even though the school is in a very walkable neighbSRTS_CoverPageorhood, having been built in what was originally a streetcar suburb of Seattle, little attention had been paid to the walkability of the immediate school area. The streets around the school need a lot of work to make them safer for all kids, their parents and caretakers.

As a final project for my Sustainable Transportation certificate, I researched and wrote up a plan to create safe routes for the McDonald International School. This plan deals primarily with the physical environment within the school reference area, but also touches on some of the social and cultural aspects of walkable cities. This was my first project dealing with active transportation issues, and led to my involvement with a variety of other bike & pedestrian advocacy organizations, including the Seattle Ped Board and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

McDonald School SRTS Plan

A Transportation Plan for Wallingford, Seattle

Wallingford is my neighborhood. I’ve lived here for over ten years, commuting out to Redmond for the first year via scooter and bus. After that, I started working at the University of Washington, with an exact mile commute, door-to-door. I still take my ratty old scooter, but I’ll just as often walk, bike, or bus.

Wallingford Transportation Plan

Wallingford Transportation Plan, Phase III

For those of us who work at the UW, Wallingford is in an ideal location–easily walkable, if you don’t mind traversing I-5 and its associated on and off-ramps. You can quickly bike there if you don’t mind the cranky and sometimes aggressive car commuters. The bus is great, except for the winding, plodding 16 and the always-late, always SRO-packed 44. In addition to these indignities to the non-car commuter, Wallingford is more isolated, transportation-wise, than its U-District and Fremont neighbors. This paper, which I co-wrote with two other authors, creates a plan to remedy these problems. It deals with both land-use and transportation issues, which should always be planned in concert, but sadly often aren’t. We focused on enhancing connections to neighboring communities, as well as to downtown Seattle, decreasing the isolation of the neighborhood and allowing for a more compact and energetic local business district. My contributions were the introduction, land-use, rail, and summary chapters.

Wallingford Transportation Plan