Emerald City Impressions: Start of School

The famous view from Kerry Park.

The famous view from Kerry Park.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I moved to Seattle, and I must admit I’m still getting used to it. Today I had my first classes in the graduate urban planning program at the University of Washington, and I forsee my studies giving me a unique view on my experiences in this urban environment.

So far it’s been mostly positive, as I’ve been able to meet some new people and do a little exploring. My hope in the months ahead is to check out all of the Seattle neighborhoods worth visiting. Generally, the residents and workers I encounter have been friendly, and ‘The Ave’ in the U-District is just as lively and full of great shopping and eating as I had heard.

I’m also happy about the abundance of trees and plantlife; I don’t think you can stand anywhere in this city without seeing green somewhere nearby. As landscape architects will be quick to point out, trees do not not only provide an softening and pleasant aesthetic effect in urban settings, but also provide shade for pedestrians and buildings, act as windbreaks, and provide wildlife habitat. What’s not to like about them?

It’s also been easy to get around by foot and bus; the Metro lines I use are clean, comfortable, and on time, though a few days ago my bus didn’t show because it was blocked by the Montlake Bridge being stuck open! From talking to other students and seeing cyclists on the street, I’ve also been considering the merits of getting my own bike. It would cut down on my trips to both class and work significantly, even though the return trip is uphill. Seattle is among several U.S. cities that are progressive in bicycle policy, such as providing dedicated lanes and storage, but it has a ways to go before matching leading cities like Copenhagen.

I also rented my first Seattle Zipcar for a shopping trip. Home Depot in Bitterlake is accessible by bus, but I would have to transfer routes and my purchase would be awkward to carry. After that stop, I drove north on Aurora Avenue until I entered the City of Shoreline; Seattle either has relaxed codes or less money than Shoreline, as the improved appearance of the street amenities was immediately apparent. Along with getting lost in tight and winding residential streets and cruising home on I-5 I got a general feel for what driving in Seattle is like, and it’s not bad during off-peak hours. At my job I also get to drive university vehicles, so I’m acquiring the full range of transportation options here.

One of my primary concerns has been safety, as I live alone in a ground floor unit in an area notorious for street crime. However, I’ve found that my neighborhood is safe to travel by foot during most of the day. It’s the night hours, generally between 11pm and 7am, that one has to be cautious, and luckily some bus routes take me where I need to go if I’m out then. Even so, I’ve had a few early morning work shifts, before the buses run, that have taught me to be vigilant while walking when it’s dark.

I’m excited to finally get back into school and learn more about the profession that shapes the built environment and how it affects us every day. Stay tuned for future updates.

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2 Responses to Emerald City Impressions: Start of School

  1. dad says:

    I have never heard of Bitterlake! Bitteroot mountains-yes!
    See how much I’m learning?

  2. Pingback: Post 50 | The Northwest Urbanist

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