Nearly two years have passed since the inception of The Northwest Urbanist, and with this 100th post I’m celebrating the grand journey it’s been so far. But firstly, I wouldn’t be writing about local planning and design issues if it weren’t for readers like you. Thank you for your comments, your subscriptions, and your deep interest in the urban issues that affect all of us in the great Pacific Northwest. You are what inspires me to research, attend press conferences, and dive into civic debates. This all comes after another milestone, post 50. Similar to that post, what follows is a brief recap of what’s happened so far and what the future might hold.
Starting in August last year I took on a role at another local website, The Urbanist (the similar names are only coincidental). If you haven’t started following it and its variety of content, you should! As a staff contributor I regularly cross-post articles from this blog and attend weekly meetings with fellow writers and planning wonks. But I’ve a written a few standalone pieces for The Urbanist, such as a summary of a Lake City Way safety project, and more recently helped interview and endorse 26 candidates for the 2015 Seattle City Council election. This week I was offered a position on the website’s Board of Directors.
On the homefront, since post 50 I’ve covered everything from comprehensive planning in Washington, updated my thesis proposal to lid over Interstate 5, and made the case for more streetcars in Seattle. I also covered a proposal by two City Council candidates to build a citywide rail network, Seattle’s study of high-capacity transit between South Lake Union and Northgate, and King County Metro’s launch of a long term planning effort. Earlier this year I attended the first round of a transportation hackathon that aims to improve commuting with smartphones.
As if that amount of transportation news weren’t enough, I criticized Pronto bike share’s late start, did extensive research on high speed ferry service between Bremerton and Seattle, and participated in a simulation of increased light rail service in the downtown tunnel. Related to that simulation, I participated on the U-Link Connections Sounding Board and advised King County Metro and Sound Transit staff on bus reroutes around the Capitol Hill and University of Washington light rail stations opening next spring; I mistakenly published the first alternatives too early, and learned a lesson in public relations.
Last summer the blog and my quote in an article at The Guardian attracted the attention of a German geography professor. I met up with him and his class to give a brief tour of South Lake Union. Some other quotes from me have shown up on Streetsblog (about Seattle allowing car2go to expand), Planetizen (about a bike lane project), and even BBC News (about the future of office space).
In the 2014 elections we saw voters approve a variety of progressive measures and vote down yet another monorail initiative; I also heavily criticized a fantasy to preserve the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Related to movements for park space, I also followed an open space initiative in my home neighborhood of the University District and explored the possibility of a pedestrian bridge across I-5 to Wallingford.
I summarized my experience in Vancouver, B.C. not once, but twice, and what urban lessons we can take from our northern neighbors. Some of those lessons made their way into my academic proposal for redesigning a 10-acre chunk of downtown Seattle. I also attended the Washington planning conference in Spokane last fall. On the backburner is a post about my recent trips to Portland, OR and Dallas, TX, and a recap of the 2015 National Planning Conference in April.
Speaking of which, I spoke at the national conference! I joined fellow planning advocates and writers in a presentation on why planners should care about grassroots media like this very blog. After the presentation I was invited to write for national planning blog Planetizen but haven’t jumped into that yet.
For a little more fun I wrote a letter about the perimeter trail around Green Lake, advertised for an intern (no applications, unfortunately), gave a pep talk about how awesome living in the Pacific Northwest is, and found that some of the top places for planners to work are right near home. More shenanigans to follow.
In February I started a podcast, CascadiaCast, on planning, design, and politics. Three chats with local activists are up on iTunes so far, and on deck is the mayor of Bremerton. Drop me a line if you have any suggestions on who I should talk to next.
In city politics, I again attended Mayor Ed Murray’s annual State of the City address, followed along on his scripted tour of the University District, and recapped his proposal for a massive transportation levy. I also saw Peter Steinbrueck report on an analysis of urban villages and recently summarized a proposal to redesignate single-family zones.
As a sidenote, I’ve also graduated from the University of Washington with my Master of Urban Planning degree (with a specialization in urban design and some transportation classes under my belt). What could possibly come next? For starters, I certainly plan to continue the blog. Near the top of the post queue is a summary of my completed thesis project on lidding I-5, which has significantly changed since my original posts on the idea.
I also want to share ideas about urban form and urban design, the future of transportation, and making cities more family-friendly. More podcast episodes are in store. And a website refresh may be needed. Through all of it, I’ll be excited to continue the conservation with you on urbanism in Seattle and beyond.