Residents, city staff talk transportation at community meeting
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
July 22, 2011 · Updated 1:18 PM
When Marie Emerson visits downtown Redmond, she usually walks or bikes the two and a half miles from her home into town.
Sometimes she'll drive if there is a practical need for a car, but she never takes the bus downtown because despite the short distance, a bus trip would require a transfer.
For Emerson, who has lived in Redmond for 13 years, it's easier to walk, but she would like the option of the bus if needed.
"I would like better access to downtown Redmond," she said.
It was this interest in the city's transportation plans that brought Emerson to Thursday evening's Transportation Master Plan (TMP) update community meeting.
"I'm just interested to see what kinds of ideas the city staff has come up with," she said.
The meeting was the second of three public meetings for City of Redmond staff to show the community their plans for the city's streets, public transportation, trails, bike lanes and anything else that helps people get from one place to another. This was also an opportunity for the public to provide some input as well.
The first meeting was in November of last year and was part of the city's "Livable Redmond" community event. The final meeting is planned for Nov. 1 this year.
Thursday's meeting began with an open house for the public to look at displays of the city's plans, speak with city staff and ask questions. Then a short presentation about the TMP update was given, followed by small group discussions facilitated by City of Redmond staff.
Lei Wu, a senior transportation engineer for the city, said at these meetings, they want to know how people travel around town on a day-to-day basis now as well as 20 years down the line — whether it's driving, walking, biking or using public transportation.
She said they also ask for examples of what people consider to be great transportation systems from across the country and abroad.
Wu said from the first meeting, city staff were able to take the public's response and come up with a set of principles to use as guidelines when planning Redmond's transportation future. Some of the principles include safety, maintenance, travel choices and community character.
"We want something that fits Redmond," Wu said about the city's TMP, which looks down the road to 2030.
One of the biggest concerns that has come up many times among city staff, stakeholders and the general public has been the ongoing conflict between pedestrians and bicyclists.
Wu wasn't surprised that this was a concern, but she was surprised that it was so universal. She said if this was solved, this would improve safety as well as relieve congestion along Redmond streets.
Don Cairns, transportation services manager for the City of Redmond, said having events such as Thursday's meetings are very helpful for the city because they are able to learn about what's on people's minds such as the pedestrian-bicyclist conflict.
He added that seeing a diverse mix of people at the public meetings is great because topics may be brought up that may not be on his or his staff's radar.
"I think we have a well-engaged community," Cairns said. "That's important."
City of Redmond Mayor John Marchione said the city gives people the opportunity to communicate their concerns and interests regarding transportation through surveys, which does help the city.
"It gives us a sense of where people are traveling," he said.
However, Marchione enjoys public meetings because he likes to see the variety of people attending and seeing people engaging in civic debate. He added that transportation in particular is a popular point of interest for people and having a dialogue with the public helps the city get a fuller picture of what's important to people.
When Cairns gave his presentation about the TMP update, he discussed the city's growing workforce and resident populations and how with that will come the need to create better connections within the city as well as outside the city.
One of the ways the city will be doing this is working to provide mobility to all users: motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, public transportation users and people of different abilities.
"It's important that all of these (elements) get integrated together," Cairns said.
He briefly touched on the future of public transportation in Redmond, which includes Metro Transit's RapidRide B line and Sound Transit's East Link light rail service.
Emerson said she enjoys coming to the meetings because of what she learns — from both city staff and the general public — and the opportunity to provide input.
"I think it's fabulous," she said. "I really appreciate the first-hand knowledge gained."
And no matter what challenges Redmond may have in the future, Emerson is confident the city will face them head on and work with the community to solve them.
"We'll find a way to make it work," she said. "It's going to be very fun to see how all of this develops."Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.