As leader of Seattle’s Vision Zero road safety initiative, Senior Traffic Planner Jim Curtin has a lot to say about how to make 24th Avenue in Montlake’s Business District safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles. At the November MCC Board meeting, he and those present discussed “right sizing” as part of the SDOT plans for Aloha Street to SR520 –Phase 3 of the 23rd Ave Traffic Corridor Improvement Project.Curtin, MCC Board members, and concerned community members offered information, raised questions, and shared concerns. An hour passed quickly with upbeat, civil discussion about what may result when Phase 3 of the traffic safety project reaches Montlake.
“Right sizing,” Jim Curtin explained, is shaping streets not just to efficiently move vehicles and bicycles, but also:
* to save lives;
* reduce collisions;
* improve pedestrian mobility along and across streets;
* and raise awareness about the neighborhoods and businesses.
Right sizing can mean altering the number of lanes devoted to moving vehicles forward, and changing some lanes into turn lanes, or into transit only lanes. It can mean adding stop lights, reducing right turns on red lights, reducing speed limits, and/or installing traffic calming measures of various kinds. Choosing from all these methods of moving vehicle traffic while keeping everyone safe is just what professionals like Jim Curtin are tasked with doing on our behalf.
It’s fantastic, but no surprise, that these methods and outcomes mesh with the design being created through the Montlake Business District Development Project. Jim Curtin was at the table representing SDOT when your Montlake Community Club planning team first met with Seattle Department of Neighborhoods representatives back in May. Even at that City Hall session, he was enthusiastically seconding the ideas the MCC planning team and consultants were expressing about our main street.
Jim Curtin has led a wide range of transportation projects for municipalities in Washington State over the past 15 years. He created SDOT’s Safe Routes to School program, and headed up the Aurora Traffic Safety Project that reduced serious and fatal collisions by 28 percent. Public education and engagement were critical to the success of those projects, says Jim, and they are standard elements in his Vision Zero approach. That’s welcome news here in Montlake, where we’ve often felt engaged in a token manner as City and State projects pushed through our neighborhood.
You can expect to be talking with Jim Curtin in a Montlake Community meeting in the not too distant future—as Phase three of the Corridor Project becomes a reality.
For more on Vision Zero in Seattle, see Josh Cohen’s Feb 12, 2015 article for Crosscut.