Want faster internet? How to bring Gigabit access to Montlake

Image: gigabitseattle.com via Google Maps

Image: gigabitseattle.com via Google Maps

Mayor Mike McGinn’s office announced plans in December for an ultra-fast internet pilot program that would dramatically increase access in fourteen neighborhoods in the short term, and if successful, eventually the entire city. Unfortunately, the pilot program does not include our neighborhood. Montlaker and broadband advocate, Andre Vrignaud, wants to change that:

… There are technologies such as Fiber-to-the-Home (as opposed to Comcast’s current cable to the home) that can deliver massive increases in internet speed (bandwidth), at the same or lower prices. For context, many of you likely have a 10-20 Megabit (Mb) connection from Comcast that you pay around $60 a month for. Depending on your current speed class, fiber can be 50 to 100 times faster at a similar or lower price.

The good news is that the City of Seattle has entered into a partnership with Gigabit Seattle to bring fiber service to many Seattle neighborhoods in 2013. Unfortunately, as you can see from the current planned coverage map, Montlake is just outside of the planned rollout boundaries.

I’ve spoken with people at Gigabit Seattle, and they have explained that they are prioritizing their rollout based on neighborhoods that have expressed interest. If we can get even just 10-20 more Montlakers to state that they’d be interested in service, it could very well enable a new option for internet service to our community.

Let me stress that this is not a commitment to buy! If you sign up at http://gigabitseattle.com/signup you are simply stating your interest in having the service option in your neighborhood.

More info from Andre at andre@ozymandias.com.

Montlake Bicycle Shop: Dems’ proposed bike tax based on false premise, hurts local businesses

By Neil Wechsler, owner of Montlake Bicycle Shop

A part of a 9.8 billion dollar transportation plan put forth by Democratic Washington State legislators is to create a new $25 tax on bicycles priced $500 and over.  As the owner of the Montlake Bicycle Shop, I am very concerned.

My main points of objection are:

1.      That it is based on the false premise that the roads, highways and bridges are paid for primarily by gas and motor vehicle taxes.  My research has found that the majority of the cost is borne by the general fund that all taxpayers contribute to.  Bicyclists are already paying for the roads, even the few people that never buy a gallon of gasoline.  If we drove cars instead of riding bikes it would cost taxpayers more, not less.

2.      This sounds preposterous but I spoke to a legislative aide who confirmed that it is true: If this passes the tax would be due only on sales from local bicycle stores.  People buying bicycles from out of state who are already not paying our 9.5% sales tax would not have to pay this tax either.  On a $500 bike this would amount to a total of about 14.5% in taxes that we would have to charge.

3.      When you raise the price of a product sales are certain to go down. Some people will find an untaxed out of state source, some will buy a lower quality bicycle, and a few may not buy a bike at all.  That will end up meaning less employment in bike shops in our state.  In the last campaign it seemed like every candidate was running on a pro-jobs platform, yet some of them are now suggesting we create a new burden on local small employers is being proposed for invalid “symbolic reasons.”

4.      That the tax, which is projected to bring in only $100,000 in revenue per year may well cost the state more than that amount.  Creating, collecting, and enforcing another tax is expensive.  If you include that some sales would be driven out of state the lost sales tax revenue would pretty much assure that the fee would end up costing the state money.

Please consider resisting this proposal by writing or calling our legislators, Frank Chopp and Jamie Pedersen.

Further reading:

Montlake Greenways: Meet new crossing guard + traffic safety projects

Article and image: Lionel Job

Article and image: Lionel Job

This morning, Lucille Johnson, 74, showed up early at 24th Ave and McGraw to start her morning shift. Lucille is Montlake’s new crossing guard. Until recently, the intersection used by kids on their way to and from school was not very safe. Lucille is here to remedy this situation. She’s taking control in the most assured manner — a couple of drivers were firmly told to give way to pedestrians.

Little by little we are reclaiming the intersection. A few months ago, SDOT added time to the pedestrian crossing light and will soon add a flashing light reminding drivers they are entering a school zone with a speed limit that will be have to be observed. There will also be some changes to parking rules along 24th and the crosswalk at McGraw will be repainted.

This project is one of four projects Montlake Neighborhood Greenways has taken on. The others are:

  • Improvements to the 19th Ave E. and E. Lynn intersections:  a fund application has been filed for marked crossings, stop signs and improvement to the mud path linking with Boyer along the church parking lot
  • Improvements to the crossing of 23rd Ave E. and E. Boyer at the Boyer Clinic: a fund application has been filed.
  • Making pedestrian and bicycle connections and safety a top priority for the SR 520 project.  With help from other Neighborhood Greenways groups and the Cascade Bicycle Club, we struck a fantastic victory for the neighborhood on Monday: the city council passed a resolution that calls for WSDOT to improve pedestrian and bicycle connections and make them safe and comfortable for “people of all ages and physical ability.”

The Montlake Neighborhood Greenways group works cooperatively with all the Montlake organizations to meet our simple goals of getting kids and adults to schools, libraries, bus stops, shopping, parks, light rail, work and entertainment within our natural walk shed from Interlaken to the UW. We will continue to work with neighbors, businesses, the PTA, the Montlake Community Club, the Montlake Community Center Advisory Council, St Demetrios Church, the Boyer Clinic, the Arboretum, Friends of Interlaken Parks, the Seattle Parks Foundation, SDOT, the school district, Parks, WSDOT and any other group sharing our interests, such as Feetfirst, the Cascade Bicycle Club, the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

A year ago, we told you of our intention to create “greenways,” which are simply safer routes through the neighborhood that encourage kids and adults to walk and bike. As you can see, we are making real progress, but to really succeed, we will have to sustain the effort.

If you are interested in helping out, please contact Lionel Job at lnljob @ gmail.com.

Interfaith vigil and march to end gun violence, Saturday February 9th

You are invited to join in an Interfaith Candlelight Vigil and March to End Gun Violence on Saturday, Feb. 9, gathering at 5:30 pm at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 Tenth Ave. East. The event begins with a prayer vigil of remembrance and lamentation and continues with a 1.8 mile candlelight march to St. James Cathedral where it concludes with a 7:00 pm vigil for hope and action. The vigil and march call on our community to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings and the over 1,100 others who have died from gun violence since then. For more information go to www.candlelightmarch.org.

Annual One Night Count finds Montlake neighbors living without shelter

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness conducted its annual One Night Count in the early morning hours last Friday, with volunteers reporting a total of 2,736 people sleeping outdoors — including 1,989 within the city limits of Seattle — a slight uptick over last year’s count.

Of the 800+ volunteers that spread across the region, a team of seven came to Montlake in search of people sleeping outdoors. The difficult task of finding people who may not want to be found is reflected in One Night Count’s method. The team’s goal wasn’t to scour every inch of the neighborhood or conduct a scientific poll, but rather to just get a rough estimate.

The team leader recently surveyed the neighborhood during the day to find likely areas to search, then returned with volunteers between 2-5am on Friday to confirm the count. A spotted tent was assumed to house two people, same with a vehicle showing signs of inhabitants inside. While several uncovered sleeping bags were found, they were only counted if they clearly had someone in them — a few did not.

During the count, volunteers remarked on the weather — about 40° with light drizzle — and how recent freezing temps must have been hard to survive. While wandering around familiar places made unfamiliar by the quiet dark, the team did its best to observe but not disturb people trying to sleep. One found camp had the last embers of a fire going. Another had a pit bull watching over things — thankfully tied to a post.

“The One Night Count is a humbling experience,” said Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger. “We are especially reminded that everyone should have a place to call home. The Count is a call to action each January — the beginning of a full year of education and action for all of us who care about this crisis.”

Spreading awareness about homelessness beyond just the numbers is a big part of the One Night Count. “So that people who don’t necessarily think about this issue on a daily or nightly basis have the opportunity to experience this,” Eisinger said. “And so that our elected officials and decision makers who come as guests on the One Night Count hold these images and the people who are experiencing homelessness squarely in their minds.” Of the hundreds of volunteers that participated were Seattle City Council President Sally Clark and other city staffers.

Seattle still has much work to do to complete its 2005 pledge to end homelessness in 10 years. Later Friday morning in front of City Hall, homeless advocates took turns ringing a gong 2,736 times, once for each person found overnight. Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is collecting donations to fund their efforts, with matching funds doubling individual gifts through the end of February. Other ways to get involved, here.

For a deeper look at the 2013 One Night Count numbers, click here.

Another advocacy project continues over at Homeless in Seattle, which documents people living without shelter through their own personal stories and portraits — and providing human context to the issue of homelessness.

City parking rules tell Montlake School teachers to take a hike

Neighbors near Montlake Elementary continue to be frustrated with city parking rules they say unfairly force teachers and staff to park far away from school.

In recent years the City has extended a 2-hour Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) deeper into Montlake to prevent UW commuters from eschewing the plentiful (and paid) E-1 lot north of Husky Stadium in favor of (free) residential streets to the south. Zoned parking now nearly surrounds the elementary school.

Image: Montlaker

Image: Montlaker

PTA board member Mark Craemer said, “The nearly 30 teachers and staff at Montlake Elementary School have only three parking spots on the property and most need to find parking on the street beyond where permits are required. This means they must park several blocks from the school.”

Two years ago, residents living near the school petitioned the City to grant Montlake Elementary 25 RPZ permits. Neighbor Glenn Fleishman delivered 30 signatures to City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who promptly agreed to look into the issue with SDOT.

“I have no horse in this race. In fact, my blockface is one of the last near the school that anyone may park in all day, and it is inconvenient in the extreme to not be able to park out front. Nonetheless, I’m committed to getting teachers and staff taken care of,” Fleishman said.

Fleishman and school principal Claudia Allan also asked Rasmussen, chair of the Transportation Committee, for a legislative change to help school employees caught in this dilemma. “There’s a clause in current Seattle code that allows permits to be given to business owners near light-rail stations. That same clause would work perfectly in Montlake,” Fleishman said.

Since then no action has been taken — except to extend the 2-hour zone even farther from the school, making the situation worse.

Meanwhile, rather than risk losing teachers who find more convenient work elsewhere in the district, Craemer and the PTA are seeking their own solution. They’re asking for volunteers with Zone 1 guest passes to donate them for school use during the academic year:

Many teachers and staff would love to use a visitor’s pass and would gladly return it at the end of the school year and even during school breaks if requested. Some suggested that perhaps those who live especially close to the school might offer up their driveway if they are away at work all day anyway. Having a car parked in your driveway might even prevent a break-in if potential burglars believe someone is at your home.

If you would like to help by loaning your visitor’s pass or offering up your driveway, please contact Montlake Elementary secretary Jeanne Suleiman via email jmsuleiman@seattleschools.org or by calling 252-3300. If you don’t currently have a visitor’s pass, but would like to purchase one to then donate to the school, please click here. The cost is $30 and it’s good for two years.

Help out if you can — or contact your favorite elected official and ask them to support teachers by granting schools RPZ permits.

UPDATE 1/12 5pm: Councilmember Rasmussen responds with good news here.

Cascade doubles down on safe 520 routes

Help Cascade help us do better than this. Image: Montlaker + Cascade

Help Cascade help us do better than this. Image: Montlaker + Cascade

Cascade Bicycle Club is doubling down on efforts to improve the 520 replacement design for people moving through Montlake under the power of their own two feet. They’re asking folks to email Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council to require that WSDOT design pedestrian routes over 520 that are safe for 8-year-old kids and 80-year-old grandparents. Want to join their efforts? Read on and follow their ready-made-letter link below…

When asked at a City Council meeting how they would work to make the Seattle side of the SR 520 corridor safe for people of all ages and abilities to walk and bike, Julie Meredith, the SR 520 Program Director for WSDOT, explained that their main focus is moving cars and admitted when it comes to walking and bicycling, “We don’t excel at that.” 

All you have to do is look at the dark, scary and dangerous trail under the Portage Bay Bridge to know WSDOT has a serious problem when it comes to making it safe for people to walk and bike.

But they did more than admit their problem; WSDOT asked the City of Seattle for help. Fortunately, the City of Seattle has the ability to help WSDOT get this project done right – but they need to hear from you today.

Thanks to “overwhelming support” from the community and nearly 800 people like you writing the City Council telling them to get SR 520 rightthe Council is already working on a Resolution that will call for the City working with WSDOT to improve walking and biking connections in Montlake and build a shared use trail on the Portage Bay Bridge.  

But there’s no guarantee that the Council will pass this Resolution. They need to hear loud and clear that everyone, from an 8-year old child to his 80-year old grandmother, should have the freedom to safely walk and bike in and through the Seattle side of the SR 520 corridor.

Tell the Seattle City Council and Mayor McGinn to help WSDOT make critical biking and walking connections with the SR 520 replacement project >>