The new group, Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS), wants more bus lanes and bike lanes, more sidewalks, and traffic lights timed for buses and pedestrians.

Share story

Traffic in Seattle is bad and will soon get worse. Seattle is not on pace to meet its climate-emissions goals.

A new alliance of progressive environmental and transportation groups wants the city to address both of those issues by altering the city budget to make travel easier for pedestrians, bicyclists and buses.

The new group, Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) recently wrote to Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council, asking for about 20 changes to Durkan’s proposed budget, with the goals of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, making streets safer and speeding non-car travel through the city.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »

They want more bus lanes and bike lanes, more sidewalks, and traffic lights timed for buses and pedestrians.

Members of the new alliance include transportation-advocacy groups like Cascade Bicycle Club, the Transit Riders Union and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, and environmental groups like 350 Seattle and the Sierra Club Seattle Group.

“Making it easy to get around the city without driving is one of the most important things we can do to combat climate change and build people-friendly neighborhoods,” Rebecca Monteleone, chair of the Sierra Club Seattle Group, said. “Our policies and budget need to reflect this priority.”

Durkan’s proposed budget would increase spending on transportation next year, with a focus on paving streets, building sidewalks and increasing bus service. But the increase is more due to lower-than-expected past spending under the city’s struggling Move Seattle transportation levy and higher-than-expected tax revenues than to any major Durkan-led policy changes.

“The city’s budget and timelines for funded projects must emphasize guaranteeing right of way for people walking, biking and riding transit,” said the letter from MASS, which also includes the Seattle Transit Blog, The Urbanist, Seattle Subway and 500 Women Scientists Seattle.

Mark Prentice, a Durkan spokesman, noted Durkan’s proposed increases in transportation spending, including a proposed $1 million next year to continue studying the possibility of tolling downtown streets.

“Mayor Durkan will continue listening to the community and working to help build a city of the future with more transit, fewer cars and less carbon pollution,” Prentice said.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, said he supports everything that MASS asked for.

“In general, the budget asks aren’t huge and I think there’s a path to at least getting some of it done,” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot on that list that won’t require funding, it just requires some leadership.”

The struggles of the Move Seattle levy — which anticipated more federal money than the city will get and touted more projects than it will be able to deliver — mean that the city will be unable to fully fund new, promised RapidRide bus lines, which would require new vehicles, repaving and streetside fare readers.

Instead, MASS is asking for a cheaper alternative, but one that may be tougher, politically, to implement — more bus-only lanes. A bus-lane, after all, often just takes political will and paint.

MASS wants the city to “move with haste” to paint bus lanes where some of those RapidRide lines would be: On Rainier Avenue to speed up Route 7, on 23rd Avenue for Route 48, on Leary Way for Route 40 and on Northwest Market Street for Route 44.

Some spot improvements are already planned on those routes.

The group wants Third Avenue’s bus-only protections extended through Belltown, and they want to restart the downtown-streetcar expansion, a project that’s been in limbo for more than six months, since Durkan halted it in March over concerns about costs.

The group also wants more bike lanes (along Eastlake Avenue, the Burke-Gilman Trail missing link in Ballard and through downtown) and to stop the installation of “adaptive” traffic lights, designed to give drivers longer green lights based on traffic conditions.

Those longer lights, MASS says, come at the expense of pedestrians and “are only appropriate for suburban settings.”