Allison Sliter is a Roosevelt resident who brings a fresh and needed perspective to the ongoing discussion about density at the future light rail station coming there in the next decade. After talking over a variety of related topics I asked her to contribute a post about her perspective on density. The next big thing happening in Roosevelt is Monday, Sep 19 when the City Council will hold a hearing on the Roosevelt Legislative Rezone at the Roosevelt High School Auditorium
Last October, I had my motor vehicle amputated.
My husband had lived car-free his entire life, but when we met, I brought a 1985 Honda Accord into our relationship. She was a good car for her age – high gas mileage, small, (mostly) reliable. But she was starting to have difficulties. Living where we do, she got left at home more and more. One weekend, the day before a road trip, she was broken into and the thief damaged the ignition lock, rendering my Honda Accord undriveable. That was it. I called KUOW and had her donated and with a mixture of pride and trepidation, watched her get towed away.
I live on NE 12th, the northern end of the University District, about a block south of Ravenna. We live 4 blocks from a Whole Foods, 5 blocks from a Trader Joes, 4 blocks from a Safeway, 2 blocks from a Walgreens and there are two little convenience/grocery stores on the next street over. Within a 5 minute walk are 15 different bus lines (sometimes more, depending on how fast I feel like walking that day). My husband bicycles to work in South Lake Union, which is less than 4 mile away – approximately a 15 minute ride). We’re a half mile from a post office, a hardware store, a book store, and about a mile from a shopping mall. We’re a little more than a mile from Green Lake, where I run with my girlfriends. We’re about a half mile from the award winning Burke-Gilman Trail. Shopping, recreation, work, errands, all accessible without a a motor vehicle.
And it’s about to get better! We’re getting ready to make room in our neighborhood for light rail. Suddenly the whole light rail system will be open to us. We in the Roosevelt Neighborhood have an opportunity to remake ourselves
I’m lucky that this area had supported dense development for the decades before I moved in – that the large residential population supports such a large commercial environment. Density makes car-free not just possible but preferable with a safe and inviting pedestrian environment. Density makes a transit system valuable. Density also creates vibrancy, activity and neighborhood engagement. Great restaurants, farmers’ markets, street culture – the things that make Seattle distinctive and interesting and a fun place to live.
As important as the environment that density creates, it’s vital to consider what it helps prevent: The “drive till you qualify” sprawlsville that traps people in their cars, creates dangerous road environments for people not in cars, and makes us fat. As long as “affordable” means “far away from downtown” those who would most benefit from active transportation and the savings and the benefits involved are priced out the dense, close-in neighborhoods. You shouldn’t have to be rich to live in a safe, walkable neighborhood.
The biggest, most pressing argument in favor of building “up, not out” is climate change. In most of the country, carbon emissions come largely from electricity production and transportation (with roughly 40% each) and the remaining 20% made up of smaller chunks like industrial pollution, agriculture (cow farts), etc. Here in the Puget Sound area, transportation is more like 56% – our electricity is cleaner than most places and so our tailpipes are a bigger chunk of the problem. Over the last decade and a half, our average vehicle miles travelled has decreased, but the total miles for the region have increased steadily. If we’re ever going to make our climate goals, VMT per capita has to drop more. A lot more. Not everyone needs to give up their cars, but more people have to find that possible.
I’m living proof that a person can have a radical automobilectomy and go on to live a full and rewarding life. I want to make room for lots of other Seattlites to do the same. I live in the Roosevelt Neighborhood, and I’m pro-density.