Category Archives: Featured Stories

Burke-Gilman Trail Improvement Project complete; remade trail now open!

Burke-Gilman Trail

Here’s a look at the now-open Burke-Gilman Trail, looking west from the T-wing bridge.

The section of the Burke-Gilman Trail between 15th Avenue NE and Rainier Vista, which had been closed for construction since October 2015, is now open! North-south connections in the area, including the Hitchcock Bridge over NE Pacific Street, reopened at the same time, on Aug. 8.

This highly used section of trail, owned by the University of Washington, has been totally remade. The trail has doubled in width to accommodate increasing capacity levels with the opening of UW Station nearby. Other improvements include separate pathways, on separate grades, for people walking and people biking – making for a smoother, safer trip no matter how you’re using the trail. As on the Rainier Vista underpass section of the trail, if you’re walking, use the concrete sidewalk; if you’re biking, use the asphalt track.

Burke-Gilman Trail

An overhead view of the trail near the Hitchcock bridge.

The new trail is safer in other ways, too. Intersections with other pathways are more clearly indicated, both for people using the trail and people crossing it, with grade and surface material changes to cue trail users. The trail will be more well-lit at night, with new overhead LED lights installed along the entire new section. It also has more blue emergency phones.

Burke-Gilman Trail

Near the west end of the construction zone.

In short, the new trail will provide a safer, more comfortable experience, with room for more people to use it safely.

That’s important, because the number of people using it is expected to soar in the coming years. This section of trail connects people to the UW campus, the heart of the University District, UW Medical Center and the new UW Station. Thanks to the University Link extension, ridership on Link light rail has grown by more than 80 percent since last year. And the new SR 520 bridge walking and biking path is set to connect to Montlake Boulevard NE in summer 2017.  Plus, a new Life Sciences Complex is scheduled to open along the trail in 2018.

Another piece of this project is the construction of a new secure bike house in parking lot C10, near the T-wing bridge. We expect that construction to be complete sometime in August. UW faculty, staff and students interested in using the bike house for bike parking can email ucommute@uw.edu to get on our waiting list.

Burke-Gilman Trail

Near the east end of the construction zone.

As you might know, the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee awarded the UW $16 million in their 2015 transportation package to make similar renovations to the trail on the east end of campus, from Rainier Vista all the way north to NE 47th Street. In the package, the BGT project is listed as a “Priority 3” project, with the funding scheduled for between 2021 and 2025. In the short term, the UW is committed to preserving the entire 1.7 miles of UW-owned trail.

We encourage everyone to get outside in this beautiful summer weather and experience the newly reopened BGT for a taste of the improved trail that the UW and the region will enjoy for years to come.

This post has been updated since its original publication – to reflect the fact that the Burke-Gilman Trail is now open!

Ask a Commute Ambassador: Using U-PASS to take a vacation

Diana Knight

More than 40 University of Washington faculty, staff and students have volunteered to serve as Commute Ambassadors. With help from Transportation Services, they share their love and knowledge of commuting with their friends and colleagues. In this feature, “Ask a Commute Ambassador,” we’ll periodically share stories and advice from one of our Ambassadors here on the TS blog.

How does Diana Knight feel about the U-PASS program? She’s glad you asked.

“I love the U-PASS,” says the UW staff member and Commute Ambassador. “It’s brilliant.”

It helps give her an affordable, enjoyable commute – even better now that Link light rail has arrived on the UW campus. But it also helped her take a trip out of town.

That’s because of one of the lesser-known perks of U-PASS: its Deals & Discounts benefit. Last year, Knight used one of the discounts available to U-PASS members: 10 percent off bookings from Clipper Vacations.

Knight, the assistant to the chair in the Department of Chemistry, discovered the Deals & Discounts program when a colleague told her about it. She was surprised she could use her U-PASS to get a discount on a vacation, and realized she could use the Clipper discount to take a trip to Victoria and visit a childhood friend studying there. With a few clicks from the Deals & Discounts webpage, she was able to do just that.

“I was like, ‘Really, that’s it?” Knight says. “That was easy!’”

She booked a boat trip to Victoria, plus a hotel within walking distance of the boat terminal, all for 10 percent off. “I was impressed,” she says. She had a great trip and caught up with her friend, whom she hadn’t seen in 14 years.

Even apart from the extra discounts, Knight says, U-PASS is a fantastic deal for her. She takes transit to campus from her home in West Seattle. With U-PASS, she pays a good deal less money each month to get to work than she would if she were paying out of pocket for her fares. And she pays a small fraction of what it would cost to drive to campus every day – not just the cost of parking, but fuel, wear and tear, insurance and other costs of ownership.

Plus, she avoids the stress of driving, and gets to use her commute time doing what she wishes instead of sitting behind the wheel.

“I’ve met my neighbors,” she says. “I’ve met other UW employees. I take the time to read for leisure or read the news, or write personal emails to keep in touch with family and friends.”

And her commute has gotten even better since light rail came to the UW. She used to transfer from one bus to another to get to campus, but now she transfers from a bus to Link, doing the reverse on the way home. Because of Link’s fast, frequent and reliable service, she can leave about a half-hour later in the morning and usually arrives home about 15 minutes earlier in the evening.

“That 15 minutes is huge in the evening,” she says.

Plus, because U-PASS allows for unlimited transit trips, she can use it to have fun or run errands on the weekend. “You can use it seven days a week,” she says.

When you listen to Knight extol the benefits of U-PASS, it becomes clear why she volunteered to become a Commute Ambassador.

“I like talking to people about how they get to work,” she says. “I talk about it anyway, so I might as well make it instructive.”

Interested in switching to a transit commute powered by U-PASS? Get started with our Commute Options service online.

How light rail cut an hour from one man’s UW commute

Eric Barton and wife

Eric Barton (pictured here on vacation in Skagway, Alaska, with his wife) took advantage of Link light rail’s arrival on the UW campus to shorten his commute by about an hour.

Eric Barton is separated from the nearest Link light rail station by some 15 miles of distance, plus one sizable body of water.

But even so, the extension of light rail to the University of Washington campus transformed his UW commute for the better. His story goes to show that light rail could help you discover a much-improved commute, even if you don’t live right next to a station.

“It’s much faster,” Barton says of his new commute featuring light rail. “It’s less frustrating.”

Barton, a medical resident at UW Medical Center and a graduate student in the School of Public Health, lives in Kingston, on the west side of Puget Sound in Kitsap County. A lieutenant commander in the Navy, he worked at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor for five years before beginning his residency at the UW, and he might be assigned there again after finishing his residency. He opted to keep living near the base in Kingston, rather than moving his wife and two young children from their house for a two-year residency in Seattle.

Though it meant his family wouldn’t have to pack up and move, the decision to stay put did mean a lengthy commute for Barton, who during the school year spends four days per week on the UW campus and one day at Harborview Medical Center. He opted to take transit to Seattle so that he could spend his commute reading for class.

“It was a pretty long and tiring commute every day,” he says. It took roughly three hours each way.

He would drive to a park-and-ride in Kingston; take a bus from there to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal; take the ferry to Seattle; walk from the terminal there to Pioneer Square; then take an express bus to campus from there.

But when UW Station opened in March, things got much better. Instead of riding a bus to campus through jammed traffic, he could zip underground on light rail and emerge across the street from UWMC. He says it cut about an hour off his commute time, on average, and made things much more predictable. Free from traffic, light rail provides reliable service, allowing Barton to plan his days more easily.

“The light rail seems to come by at the perfect time every time I get there,” he says.

Barton says transit is clearly the best choice for his commute, even though he lives a good distance from campus. Driving to campus would still take up a lot of his time, and it would cost much more money. He can use his time riding transit to study, and spend time with his family when he gets home.

“I get the evening to spend with them, rather than catch up on all the articles I have to read that day,” he says.

And with the U-PASS program, and the Navy Transportation Incentive Program that helps cover his ferry fare, his transit commute is affordable.

“Get the U-PASS,” Barton advises. “It makes everything very easy and affordable.”

With U-PASS and Link light rail – including the new park-and-ride Angle Lake Station, opening this year – a transit commute might be a good choice for you, too, even if you live a good distance from campus.

Need help figuring out a transit commute? Contact our Commute Options staff for a customized commute plan.

New signs remind drivers to “Stop for Pedestrians”

New signs at crosswalk on Stevens Way

Stevens Way NE, the main road looping around the UW’s Seattle campus, is always full of life. No matter what time of year it is, you’ll always see a mix of cars, buses, shuttles, delivery vehicles, and of course, people, making their way around the loop. As a primary route for these many modes of transportation, Stevens Way contains about 40 marked crosswalks in a stretch of just over one mile.

Do you know your responsibilities as a driver when approaching a crosswalk? New signs in the center of the roadway at a few major crossings on campus now remind people driving or bicycling that they must stop for people crossing. In fact, it’s state law.

Here are the steps to take any time you approach a crosswalk, whether on campus or off:

  • Slow down to a defensive speed (a speed at which you could make a complete, controlled stop).
  • Scan both sides of the crosswalk to see if a person (on foot, bike, or wheelchair) is waiting to cross.
  • If a person is there, stop completely in front of the crosswalk and wait for them to cross before proceeding.
  • If you don’t see anyone, proceed through the crosswalk at a defensive speed. You may have to stop suddenly for someone you did not see.

Remember, you must stop for people waiting to cross at both marked and unmarked crosswalks in Washington. Unmarked crosswalks are at all normal intersections.

UW Transportation Services is currently studying the effectiveness of these first few pilot signs in increasing legal stop and yield behavior among drivers on campus. If you have comments or observations about these signs, please drop us a line at ucommute@uw.edu.

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month

Man locking car using key remote

Is your vehicle at risk? Vehicle theft is a billion-dollar crime problem nationally, with the cost of stolen vehicles coming in at more than $4.5 billion in 2014 alone. To counter this expensive offense, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is continuing its annual vehicle theft prevention campaign during July, the month in which the most vehicles are stolen.

At UW Transportation Services, we want to make sure you have the information you need to keep your vehicles and valuables safe and secure. To that end, we’ve put together a quick list of practical measures you can take to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.

Note that while there is no surefire way of preventing theft, you will have a clear advantage over would-be thieves with each additional safety measure below that you make a part of your routine.

Cars, Trucks and SUVs

Nearly half of vehicle theft is due to driver error, such as leaving your keys in the vehicle. Use common sense when you park by:

  • Always taking your keys and not leaving them in or on your vehicle
  • Closing windows and locking doors
  • Parking in well-lit areas
  • Never leaving valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen
  • Never leaving the area while your vehicle is running
  • Keeping your vehicle in your garage, if possible

For more information on vehicle theft prevention, check out NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov/theft website and the vehicle safety tips page from UW Police (UWPD).

Bicycles

Bike Lock Diagram

While the focus of National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month may be on automobiles, another pressing concern for many UW commuters is bike security. Of course, there are several secure bike parking options on campus, including bike lockers and bike houses. However, properly locking your bike can go a long way to preventing theft.

As we explained in detail earlier this year, the three most important measures you can take toward bike security are:

  • Getting a U-lock
  • Locking your bike properly with your U-lock
  • Registering your bike (with UWPD)

Please review our entire bike security post for more information, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us at ucommute@uw.edu with any questions.

Valuables

Last year, Transportation Services teamed up with UW Police to launch a new safety campaign called Love Your Stuff. Now entering its second year, Love Your Stuff continues to provide public awareness about the need to keep valuables safe and secure, primarily through posters, digital displays and practical tips in various University publications. Here are a few tips to consider if you keep valuables in your vehicle:

Love Your Stuff poster

  • If at all possible, do not leave your laptop in a vehicle. If you must, secure it in the trunk of your vehicle before getting to your destination.
  • Don’t leave valuables in view for a thief. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is applicable here. Take valuables with you or put them in your trunk before getting to your destination. Do not put them in the glove box or under your seat as those are the first places a criminal will look.
  • Don’t leave vital information in your car. Your registration and insurance cards contain personal home information that allows a criminal to target your home or perpetrate identity theft. Carry these documents in your wallet or your purse.
  • Take your garage door opener with you when you park your vehicle. With your vehicle registration and your garage door opener, a criminal has everything needed to easily burglarize your home.
  • Is your car lonely? Check on it once a day rather than leaving it unattended for days at a time. A checked-on car is a signal to a thief that someone is paying attention, and if your car does get broken into, it helps police investigation by narrowing down the time frame of the crime.

For the complete list of crime prevention and safety tips, visit the UW Police website.

Our campus community is an essential part of maintaining safety and security for all. If you see suspicious activity in a parking lot or near a bike rack, bike locker or bike house, please don’t hesitate to call UWPD’s non-emergency line at 206–685-8973.

Thank you for all that you do to help us promote a safer UW.