Quality of Life
The BGC is a safe, reliable and affordable transportation choice that decreases household transportation costs, reduces our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improves air quality, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and promotes public health. It also has particular advantages for economically disadvantaged populations, non-drivers, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities – connecting all with education, training and employment opportunities, both directly and by enabling transit connectivity.
The BGC directly addresses safety and capacity constraints that disrupt community connectivity. It is rooted in and builds on all six livability principles developed by the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
1. The BGMC provides more transportation choices
The BGC is the first- and last-mile connection to the state’s second most active transit district, providing direct access for bicyclists and pedestrians to 60 bus routes operated by three different regional transit providers, shuttles from five major regional employers and, starting in 2016, the regional Link light rail system. The BGC sits at the crossroads of SR 520, SR 513, and I-5, the main interstate highway on the west coast running from Canada to Mexico. The BGC provides a critical local connection that reduces the impact of single occupancy vehicles in these core corridors. This is why the UW, the state, local and federal governments are investing billions of dollars in Link light rail, SR 520, and adjacent bus transit facilities to ensure that this area can accommodate transportation growth and continue to thrive. The BGC is the critical final piece of the puzzle that allows these investments to reach their full potential as an accessible, integrated multimodal transportation system with low-cost transportation options that provide reliable, safe and healthy mobility.
Decreasing household transportation costs
With a median household income 54% lower and individual poverty frequency 138% higher than citywide averages, the UCUC is in acute need of affordable transportation options. Furthermore, UCUC households are 46% more likely to be car-free than their counterparts in the rest of Seattle. By providing a safe, convenient way to walk and bicycle for trips within the UCUC and for connecting to bus and light rail transit, the BGC reduces the need to travel by motor vehicle, thus lowering household transportation costs.
The gravitational center of UCUC-area transit service will move to the Montlake Triangle transit center near its new Link light rail station in 2016, which has no adjacent housing. The UCUC has a rich and growing housing supply (>$1 billion in new investment) within the station’s catchment for bicyclists and pedestrians. This makes removing constraints on the UCUC’s bicycle and pedestrian network, and particularly it’s failing spine – the Burke-Gilman Trail – the UCUC’s highest priority.
Reducing our dependence on foreign oil:
Increasing connections between walking, bicycling and transit while promoting regional trip-making is central to enabling car-free or car-light lifestyles, which directly reduces dependence on oil. The robust transit service to the UCUC extends the bicycle and pedestrian network to all regional employment and commercial centers and allows complete trips to be made in oil-free modes, including light rail trains and trolley busses fueled by the region’s abundant hydroelectric power.
Improving air quality
With its adjacency to SR 520 and I-5 and excess emissions from congested UCUC arterials, air quality is a significant concern for UCUC residents. Walking, biking, and transit trips enabled by the BGC pay double dividends for air quality in that they both remove the emissions from trips shifted to the active modes or transit and reduce delays for, and emissions from, the remaining motor vehicles.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The BGC will increase participation in these low- and no-free carbon commuting modes. Since 2000, the number of individuals commuting to UW by bicycle has more than doubled while pedestrian commuting has increased by 20%. However, additional increases in walking and bicycling trips – including those linked to transit trips – cannot be accommodated on today’s Burke-Gilman Trail unless the BGC is completed. The project responds to increased demand for more sustainable transportation choices with an accessible, quality, low carbon multi-modal corridor within one of the largest urban centers in Seattle. The BGC will further stimulate growth in travel modes that generate fewer or no greenhouse gas emissions and can reduce vehicle miles traveled by better connecting the places we live, work, play and learn and supporting dense and high quality land use.
Promoting public health
The BGC supports significant public health benefits associated with increased physical activity from walking and biking and air quality improvements. According to the BCA, the BGC provides over $2 million (7% discount rate) in community health benefits over the next 20 years (over $3 million at a 3% discount rate). The BGC’s safety improvements, including mode separation, grade separation, and intersection improvements, will also pay immediate and long-term public health dividends through reduced collision and injury rates. In addition, the BGC directly improves access to two hospitals and four clinics.
New housing investment in the UCUC
2. The BGC promotes affordable housing
The UCUC has significant economic and ethnic diversity with a mix of public housing, market-rate multifamily housing and single family homes. There is also significant age diversity in the UCUC and on the BGC as well; a senior-housing facility sits at one end of the BGC, and just down the trail are UW residence halls, a preschool and a mature neighborhood of single-family homes. Transportation investments in the UCUC, including completion of the BGC, are stimulating housing growth as 2,438 new units are expected to come on line by 2017. With unbundled parking and reduced parking demand and construction costs, these added units help mitigate the natural increase in housing costs. The diversity of the UCUC helps make the BGC an outstanding investment in affordability and equity.
Creating location efficiency
With the region’s third largest employer, largest academic institution, six grocery stores, a year-round farmers’ market, 16 libraries, two museums, two botanical gardens, six performing arts venues, countless restaurants and six medical facilities all located in the UCUC, this area represents one of the most location-efficient living options imaginable. Through local mobility options like the BGC, residents of the UCUC have access to opportunities to live, work, learn and play. This efficiency is particularly critical for the senior residents of Seattle Housing Authority’s property on the Burke-Gilman Trail, nearby student-family housing and the 31% of UCUC residents living below the poverty line. Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan (http://goo.gl/ceDDN) calls for a 33% increase in household density and a 19% increase in employment density in the UCUC over the 20 year planning window, further increasing the opportunities for location efficient living and the urgency of investing in the UCUC’s active transportation options and transit connections. The premise of location efficiency assumes walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and the BGC removes the primary constraint for achieving this in the UCUC by addressing the failing infrastructure of its primary active transportation corridor.
Expanding energy efficient housing choices
One indicator of housing energy efficiency is recognition by the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating program. More than $850 million of the $1 billion in housing investment within three blocks of the BGC is designed to meet or exceed LEED Silver. At the leading edge of this investment are UW’s new residence halls, which include innovative energy-saving features, such as providing residents with real-time feedback on energy consumption on a room-by-room basis. The age of housing facilities is another indicator for energy efficiency, with modern construction practices and materials offering significant energy advantages. The densification of the UCUC, enabled by projects like the BGC and the transit it supports, is contributing to a renewal of housing stock that will improve home energy efficiency and provide energy efficient transportation options.
3. The BGC promotes economic competitiveness
As outlined in detail in Economic Competitiveness, the BGC provides reliable and timely access to the incredible array of employment, education, and services in the UCUC. More than 230 businesses and 34,000 jobs are located in the UCUC, and the UW hosts over 43,000 students in addition to over 4,200 working adults in professional certificate programs. The BGC is a highly effective Ladder of Opportunity that will connect working class families to opportunities for employment and for developing the job skills that will allow them to advance their careers.
The area surrounding the UW is home to hundreds of small and independent businesses and has been identified by the City of Seattle as a new hub of innovation technology and job creation. The City of Seattle is aiming to nearly double the jobs in the “University District Northwest,” the business district adjacent to the UW campus, by 2035. A new Urban Design Framework and new zoning are also planned to support a thriving commercial district, encourage new jobs and businesses, create public space, integrate transportation, and sustain the environment.
Services in the UCUC
There is a comprehensive network of of community, health, and social services in the UCUC, serving all populations with a special emphasis on youth.
The University Heights Center provides a “town hall” to the UCUC and a place for children and adults to assemble, recreate, play, learn, and grow, with programs including volunteer days, community cleanups, literacy programs, art education, fitness classes, and children’s theater The thirty-year-old University District Food Bank serves 1,100 needy families each week and is undergoing a $3 million expansion to enable it to serve 33% more customers. The expanded food bank will be part of the new University Commons, scheduled to open in Summer 2015, which will provide low-cost housing along with spaces for life and job skills training.
There are a variety of services for at-risk youth in the UCUC. Seattle Education Access provides higher education advocacy and opportunity to young people struggling to overcome poverty and adversity, including academic advising, tutoring, scholarships, and career counseling. Street Youth Ministries serves homeless and at-risk youth with a drop-in center, life skills training, case management, and other activities. Teen Feed provides hot meals to 40-50 homeless youth each night as well as support programs and internships. The University District Youth Center provides at-risk youth with a drop in center, case management, employment, substance abuse counseling, and education. The ROOTS Young Adult Shelter served over 530 homeless young adults in 2012. Youth Care’s ISIS House provides transitional housing, job training, and counseling to uniquely vulnerable homeless LGBTQ youth, who are seven times as likely to be subject to violence as their straight peers.
Medical services in the UCUC include care at the UW Medical Center, with over 138,700 inpatient admissions and 620,500 outpatient visits every year. The UW School of Dentistry provides general dentistry, specialties, and urgent care services to the greater Seattle community, with more than 85,000 patient visits in Fiscal Year 2013 including over 11,000 Medicaid pediatric patients. The dental school also delivered care to over 3,500 patients with disabilities, of whom more than 90 percent were on Medicaid.
The BGC provides direct access to these critical community services in the UCUC.
4. The BGC supports existing communities
Collaborative community planning
The City has worked with community and business stakeholders to develop the University District Partnership (UDP). Through the UDP, the UCUC is answering the call in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan for urban centers to “receive the most substantial share of Seattle’s growth, consistent with their role in shaping the regional growth pattern” and doing so in a way that complements, rather than displaces the existing neighborhood.
UW’s investment in the BGC is part of a long commitment to a transportation strategy centered on walking, biking and transit. That strategy has reduced UW’s drive-alone rate to just 20%, saved as much as $280 million in parking construction costs and enabled the recycling of $73 million in land from parking use to public facilities and open space.
The UDP is leveraging the UW’s success in shifting travel to low impact modes and the region’s investment in UCUC transit infrastructure to recycle surface parking into mixed use transit oriented development. In addition to private housing development, the UW is in the process of constructing 2,500 additional beds by 2015 (an 38% increase) in an effort to concentrate housing in mixed-use buildings proximate to the UW and BGC. These transportation and housing investments are the cornerstones of an effort to revitalize the neighborhood by implementing land-use strategies that promote walk-, bike- and transit-friendly neighborhoods. All of this new housing stock sits within three blocks of the Burke-Gilman and its success is predicated on construction of the BGC and removing the constraint on the trail’s capacity.
5. Coordinate policies and leverage investments
The BGC synchronizes federal policies & investments The BGC builds on federal policy coordination in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities by directly supporting the Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Growing Transit Communities” (GTC) initiative (http://goo.gl/1Be0U),