Working Toward a More Accessible Pioneer Square

Kubly 1In January, the Alliance reported on the new Jackson Street sidewalk repair, a community-led effort to repair one of the most traveled entries into Pioneer Square. This effort was a result of the International Sustainability Institute’s Active Streets Report. The report listed over 40 inaccessible spots in the neighborhood, one of which was the Jackson Street sidewalk. While we are chipping away at improvements, many more repairs are necessary to link transit and destinations for everyone.

Since that time, we learned of a Seattleite working diligently to make Pioneer Square accessible. Frustrated by watching the struggles of others as they traveled around the neighborhood, as well as taking a few falls herself, Kiana Parker, alternative media coordinator at Seattle University Disability Services, took action. She mobilized a tour of the Square with Councilmember Tom Rasmussen in December to give him a first-hand account of what it’s like to get around Pioneer Square using a wheelchair. Real Change covered that story here.

Next, Kiana partnered with the Alliance for a follow-up tour with Seattle’s new Director of Transportation, Scott Kubly. On March 6, a group of 20 people from Seattle University and the Pioneer Square neighborhood met Director Kubly to help him experience the challenges of navigating Pioneer Square.

Traveling by wheelchair the entire trip, Director Kubly managed to stay upright on slanted sidewalks, navigated steep curb ramps, and pushed through cobblestones ramps. At one point, Kubly ended up in the middle of a crosswalk when the traffic signal changed because he was so focused on the challenges of the sidewalk and using the wheelchair. In the end, he thanked our team for the eye-opening tour.

In 2014, SDOT received federal Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) funding to repair curb ramps in Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District. Due to the high cost of repairing ramps in historic districts, funding will cover only design engineering. The Alliance will continue to seek funding sources and partner with neighbors, disability advocates and the City of Seattle for construction funding to complete this project and make Pioneer Square accessible for everyone.