Archive for October, 2012

Escape to Elliott Bay

Monday, October 15th, 2012

It’s the late 1980s. A Lower Queen Anne resident is in the habit of scaling the fence to get to Myrtle Edwards Park, sometimes even climbing over slow-moving trains to get there. He hadn’t heard the Blue Scholars song posted on SeattleScape October 11th.

Myrtle Edwards is a heck of a park, and a great route north and south. But it’s always been (nearly) impossible to get to for thousands of nearby residents and workers without going the long way around. Thankfully the temptation to risk fate just went away.

On Friday, the West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass opened! Based upon a visit Sunday morning, it already seems popular. A steady stream of people wandered across in both directions, despite the wet streets and ominous clouds, looking very pleased. It’s a good bet that nearby office workers will do the same on work days.

The bridge is a major boost to Seattle’s bike and pedestrian network, including a lot of commuters. In one of the busiest parts of town, and a crossroads, getting anywhere has meant using major, unfriendly roads to get past the tracks. Now, someone working near the Seattle Center and living in Ballard finally has a direct bike route home entirely on the trail and minor streets, assuming he or she goes over the Locks. In a few years even South Lake Union will be have a highway-free route to Elliott Bay.

Of course, having great parks is important by itself, whether for quality of life or economic development, if the former is too namby-pamby for you. Cities that prosper tend to be places people want to live in. People that prosper, in any sense, are often the ones who like where they are, or get inspired by where they are, with plenty of opportunity for both exercise and relaxation. A short walk to have lunch with the waves lapping at the rocks while watching ships pass the snow-capped Olympics…that’ll do it.

It’s not perfect yet. The middle section of the park could use minor upgrades as more people visit and linger near the bridge. A few more benches would be the minimum. Eventually a larger hardscape area would make sense, maybe with a water feature. Lighting that small area at night would also encourage more use, including winter pedestrian and bike commuting.

Here are two more needs going forward: One is a direct stairway from the Magnolia Bridge to the Elliott Bay Trail (the existing one requires walking over the tracks and is sometimes blocked off). Most important of all is continuing the Thomas (or thereabouts) connection east with a skybridge to Capitol Hill, connecting our densest census tracts with our fastest growing employment center.

Blue Scholars team with Sound Transit on train safety video

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

“These trains move fast, so don’t play around” is advice offered by the Blue Scholars in a music video titled “Zoomin’ through the Sound,” just released by Sound Transit.

Vocalist MC Geologic is a member of the Seattle hip-hop group Blue Scholars, which teamed with Sound Transit to produce a video promoting safety around Sounder commuter rail train tracks and crossings. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

The popular Seattle hip-hop group partnered with Sound Transit to deliver train track safety messages.  The Blue Scholars are well known for their love of Seattle and interest in supporting community issues.

The video features MC Geologic (Geo), vocalist for the Blue Scholars, catching Sound Transit’s new Sounder service in Lakewood and riding the train to Tacoma and on to Seattle.

Geo raps about wearing headphones around train tracks (“nah, take ’em off so I can hear the train comin’”), scolds a friend who sends him a text (“you playin’ near the tracks, you playin’ with your life”), and speaks his mind about being smart around train tracks (“don’t be a dummy, and use your head”).

“People don’t realize how quiet the Sounder train is, and how fast it travels,” said Carol Doering, community outreach specialist for Sound Transit.  “We want everyone who lives and works in the Lakewood area, where our new service just started, to pay attention and obey all the signs and signals around train tracks.  We’re very excited to have a group as popular as the Blue Scholars helping us deliver these messages.”

Geo and the second half of the duo, DJ Sabzi, wrote original lyrics and music for Zoomin’ through the Sound.  The video was shot in the Puget Sound area by Seedwell, a digital creative studio based in San Francisco whose founders all hail from Seattle.

Iconic backdrops include Mt. Rainier, the Tacoma Dome and downtown Seattle.  Sound Transit said it enlisted the Blue Scholars involvement because of  their artistic talent and their commitment to important social issues.  The group has performed across the country, opening for and sharing a stage with Kanye West, Slick Rick and De La Soul.

The video is part of a larger campaign called “Be Smart. Be Safe.” launched by Sound Transit in connection with new Sounder commuter train service from Lakewood to Tacoma.

“There are a lot of misperceptions about trains, and we want people to recognize the power of a fast moving train and not put themselves at risk,” said Doering.  “This video helps raise awareness of the great need to behave safely around train tracks.”

Zoomin’ through the Sound can be seen on YouTube at http://youtu.be/yAjs_2LJ3ec, and the song alone is available for download at www.soundcloud.com/bluescholars.  More information about Sound Transit is at www.soundtransit.org, and about the Blue Scholars at www.bluescholars.com.