News Roundup: Won’t Happen

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About Martin H. Duke

Martin joined the blog in Fall 2007 and became Editor-in-Chief in 2009. He is originally from suburban DC, but has lived in the Greater Seattle area since 1997. He resides with his family in Columbia City and works as a software engineer in Lower Queen Anne.




Comments

  1. John Bailo says:

    Jobs keep creeping out of downtowns

    Despite the economic slump, the share of metropolitan areas’ jobs farther from downtowns increased from 2000 to 2010, according to Brookings Institution research out Thursday. The share of jobs located in or near a downtown declined in 91 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/18/recession-slows-job-sprawl/2092149/

    • It’s interesting that the Brookings study doesn’t consider downtown Tacoma as a central business district. For the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, all of those jobs are considered as “sprawl.” Hmmm.

  2. Metro just sent out an email with the updated I-90 corridor restructure proposal.

    The latest version has the 211 First Hill Express skipping S. Bellevue P&R. Riders from South Bellevue are instead encouraged to further pack ST’s 550 and transfer to local buses downtown. Missing from the suggestion list is transfering to the 205 First Hill Express at Mercer Island P&R.

    Is Metro prepared yet to waive the counterproductive limit on 550s in the DSTT during peak of peak?

    • Oh, and they could also transfer to the 211 at Mercer Island P&R. So, Mercer Island actually has two First Hill Express routes.

      Mercer Island express service should be the first routes on the chopping block if Chairwoman Clibborn denies Metro any local funding options.

  3. Tonight at 1900 Hours (7 PM), TVW’s Austin Jenkins is going to interview the House & Senate Transportation Committee chairs.

    Make sure to watch.

  4. Nice redevelopment in Columbia City. That corner has needed it for a long time.

  5. Isn’t it amazing to watch the business people talk to each other through the press? If you are a “financier” who just staked a large apartment project, what are you going to say? It’s in their interest to discourage additional development with talk of a “bubble” because it maintains their ability to charge higher rents. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    I’m not saying there is not such a thing as an “apartment bubble,” but I don’t know that I would trust the anecdotal evidence provided by the Times to verify that it exists and is a present problem.

    • I agree. The article was fine, but the headline was ridiculously negative. How about “New Construction May Lower Rents”

  6. I noticed that the current transportation budget includes the “Puget Sound Gateway Project”

    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Gateway/

    It’s amazing to me that this gets funded over rebuilding a crumbling I-5 through Seattle…

  7. AAA says it costs $7,000-$11,600 to own an operate a car for 15,000 miles a year.

    I’m always a bit suspect of these high quotes for the cost of driving. Car ownership certainly isn’t cheap, but it can be quite a bit cheaper than that. Per the AAA article,:

    Ownership costs are calculated based on the purchase of a new vehicle that is driven over five years and 75,000 miles.

    Sure, if you always buy a brand new car and sell it when it’s five years old that’s going to be expensive. If you buy that person’s five-year-old car and drive it for ten more (which is totally feasible with most car models these days), your costs are going to be much lower.

    The cost breakdown on their brochure shows that about two-thirds of their calculated costs come from non-operating expenses, including:
    * Depreciation – $3,536/year for a mid-size sedan. This is the big one, making up over a third of the total yearly cost they quote. The sedans they mention as using for their calculations have MSRPs in the $22k-26k range, so they’re expecting the car to lose 65-80% of its value in that time. The depreciation curve is much less steep after the first few years. Even if you assume the car is completely worthless at 15 years old, the annual depreciation for years 6-15 is going to be on the order of $750/year.
    * Taxes and vehicle registration fees – $600/year for a mid-size sedan. This includes sales tax on a new vehicle amortized over five years. 9% sales tax on a $25k vehicle divided by five years adds up to $450/year. Buy a used car that has depreciated to a third of its original value and the sales tax becomes much less of a factor.
    * Finance charges – $831/year for a mid-size sedan. They’re assuming a 10% down payment (about $2,500 in this case). Put the same dollar amount down on a car that has depreciated to about $7500 (as they predict will happen in five years), and you’re suddenly borrowing only $5k instead of $22.5k. Your finance costs will be less than a quarter of what they would be for a new car.
    * Full-coverage insurance – $1,020/year for a mid-size sedan. The liability portion of insurance shouldn’t depend much on vehicle age, but the collision part becomes quite a bit cheaper as the vehicle depreciates since the replacement cost is lower.

    Now, used cars have higher maintenance costs and perhaps slightly higher fuel costs because of engine wear. Even taking this into account, a person buying a used car can probably expect to pay about half of what AAA quotes.

    • Cascadian says:

      Those numbers have long seem wrong for me. Thanks for doing the math to explain why they’re on the high side. I can see that a plurality of people might be on the high end, but as an average there’s no way these numbers include more frugal car owners.

      I always buy a car that’s about 5 years old and then drive it into the ground, which takes 10-15 years. I have yet to own a car produced this century. My costs are on the low side.

    • I completely agree with your analysis and I think your “about half” estimate is just about right. In my experience, putting 10k miles per year on an older car costs about $3300 (in 2006-ish dollars).

    • Jim Cusick says:

      That also depends on the kind of used car you are purchasing. Older vehicles, loaded with more ‘comfort’ options will cost more to maintain, and then there is matter of what level of ‘junkiness’ that owner is willing to put up with before they sell it.

      My beaters are really cheap, given that I do all my own work on them… well, discounting the ‘TAP’ portion of the accounting.

    • Well, you’re missing one BIG factor not mentioned. Maintenance. Chances are on a 5+ year old car, you’re going to have major repair and maintenance items, brakes, tires, engine repair etc. And it isn’t a piddly couple of hundred dollars either. Quality tires on an average car can cost upwards of $800, on a luxury car – $2000. Brakes, $600-$1000, engine repairs thousands.

  8. Ryan on Summit says:

    How are environmentalists supposed to reconcile all the carbon generated by buildings being constructed in South Lake Union? And all the parking spaces? 3,300 for Rufus 2.0?

    • Andrew Smith says:

      I’ve been trying to explain good density v bad density here for a long time:
      http://seattletransitblog.com/2012/03/14/we-need-old-buildings/

      I don’t think people here really get it, so I’ll keep harping on it until they do:
      http://seattletransitblog.com/2013/04/17/from-the-papers/

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        I think we get it, that no parking is better than lots of parking. However, I think in many cases the alternative to a dense building with parking is sprawl, which is even worse.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        I’m sort of confused why sprawl is worse. If everyone drives everywhere, why does having more people driving in a smaller area better than having the same number of people driving in a larger area?

        What are the objective, measured benefits of having more drivers in a smaller area?

        The answer cannot be simply “density is better”.

      • Martin,

        Traffic back-ups on the Ballard Bridge essentially prove Andrew right.

        Ballard has absorbed a whopping percentage of the city’s net uptick in density since the adoption of the “Urban Villages” plan, and as I may have mentioned, the city and the regional transit authorities have failed to keep up their end of the implicit bargain contained in that plan: public transportation that does not plainly suck in comparison to driving everywhere.

        Given the perpetual suckiness of the transit, people continue to display a preference for driving, and the results can be seen at the Bridge approaches, on Elliott, on Market, and at pretty much any major intersection where back-ups are palpably worse just in the five years I’ve lived in the neighborhood.

        And yet the buildings keep coming — the larger ones mostly with with 1:1 parking — and the traffic choke just keeps getting worse. Urban idling is, of course, even more harmful to the environment the free-flowing traffic over long distances, to say nothing of what the continued widespread use of vehicles does to the urban form (and that’s a gentle example).

        Any time a building is announced that (miraculously) has a less than 1:1 parking, the neighborhood blogs explode with people freaking out about “where will they all park!!!!?” This always amuses me, because outside of just a few central Ballard blocks, parking is not really all that difficult. The real question these NIMBYs should be asking is “where will they all drive?” The arterials are maxed out and that’s only making the transit situation worse.

      • Andrew,

        Sprawl is worse because there’s usually going to be more empty space between the two points you’re traveling between. That makes average trip distance (and thus fuel usage) larger.

        Let’s say that a large supermarket has to feed 10,000 households to stay in business. If you imagine a suburb with a population density of one household per half acre, a supermarket would serve all households within a 1.5 mile radius.

        If the population density goes up to one household per 5,000 square feet, the supermarket’s radius of influence goes down to 0.75 miles. That means everyone has to travel half as far to get groceries, even if everyone in both places drives everywhere.

        It also means the percentage of people within walking distance of a supermarket increases greatly, and the community can support better public transit service per unit of land area, so driving everywhere becomes less of a necessity.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        That’s a nice intellectual argument, but the lack of super markets in places like Belltown show there’s some difficulty in applying those lessons to reality.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Belltown has numerous small groceries, and IGA, Pike Place Market, and Whole Foods are all less than a mile from Belltown. That’s better than you’ll do in the exurbs.

      • And fuel usage in gridlock is very large indeed.

        I’m (obviously) with Andrew here: automobile-based density is just asking for trouble.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Really? The old roadbuilders as argument that congestion causes pollution?

        I think it’s more likely congestion modulates demand.

      • d.p., I agree that trying to design a dense city where everyone is expected to drive everywhere is folly. At some point the roads just get too full for anyone to make any progress.

        That said, I think “density with parking” is a reasonable intermediate step on our journey toward a city where car ownership is strictly optional. As you yourself have pointed out countless times, transit in this city sucks for most trips that don’t start or end downtown, and even many that do. Therefore most people who can afford a car have one, even if they like transit and use it when it makes sense to do so.

        These cars have to live somewhere. A person who drives their car 20,000 miles per year needs the same amount of parking space as a person who drives their car 5,000 miles per year. That’s where I think “density with parking” can get us: more people using transit for more of their trips but not getting rid of their cars completely in the short term.

        As density increases in an area, fast, frequent transit in that area should increase as well. In the long term, enough of the city will be accessible through a frequent transit network that fewer people will feel the need to own cars. We’re just not there yet, and you can’t flip the switch to a car-free city overnight. Let’s start by eliminating parking minimums citywide to ensure that we don’t build a single parking space that market forces don’t require, give Metro the funding it needs to add service to densifying areas, and let the transformation take place.

      • Nathanael says:

        “I’m sort of confused why sprawl is worse. If everyone drives everywhere, why does having more people driving in a smaller area better than having the same number of people driving in a larger area?

        What are the objective, measured benefits of having more drivers in a smaller area? ”

        I’ll run through this:
        (1) impervious surfaces creating drainage / flooding problems
        (2) larger maintenance costs of longer roads
        (3) more energy used, more GHGs emitted to transport the people further
        (4) more destruction of wilderness and wildlife habitat and “carbon sink” forests

        Those are off the top of my head.

      • Nathanael says:

        “Urban idling is, of course, even more harmful to the environment the free-flowing traffic over long distances, ”

        Urban idling will be a thing of the past once the old car fleet goes away in favor of serial hybrids, which is actually happening very fast.

        The “idling” excuse has been the excuse for buildling vast amounts of roadway, on the spurious theory that making traffic free-flowing is “environmentally necessary” due to idling. I think it is not a good excuse and has mostly done bad things.

    • It’s pretty simple. Housing needs to be added to the region. It is better to do it close to jobs in a dense form. You would be producing many times more carbon if those new houses were all on the suburban fringe, with full yards and a lengthy vehicle commute.

      Even if everyone owned and drove a car just as they would in the suburbs, when your city is dense, everything is closer together, so driving distances are shorter. The important point here though, is that everyone won’t drive. More people will take public transit, and more will bike or walk.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        You would be producing many times more carbon if those new houses were all on the suburban fringe, with full yards and a lengthy vehicle commute.

        …when your city is dense, everything is closer together, so driving distances are shorter

        The data disagree with both of these thoughts.
        1) Commute distance isn’t nearly as correlated to where you live as you might think (lots of people commute from Capitol Hill and Belltown to Redmond, for example).
        http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/subject_areas/national_household_travel_survey/index.html
        2) Parking nearly guarantees driving.
        http://seattletransitblog.com/2013/04/17/from-the-papers/

        This project is only marginally better than building a large sub-development in Sammamish. We shouldn’t be excited about projects like this, we have to think about what is actually good density.

      • Nathanael says:

        “This project is only marginally better than building a large sub-development in Sammamish.”

        OK, but at least it’s marginally better. And it’s better than building a development midway between Seattle and Spokane.

  9. Andrew Smith says:

    369 new units in “Old Bellevue”, too — and 625 parking spaces (ugh).

    This is not a green project. It’s “density” but it’s bad density. Everyone of those people is going to drive for nearly every trip. We don’t want more of this, or at least we shouldn’t.

    • Thank you for explaining “doing density right”. IYHO, which mayoral candidate is closest to “doing density right”?

    • There are degrees of badness. It could be better perhaps, but it could be a whole lot worse, especially in Bellevue.

      Yeah, there’s lots of parking. There’s also ground-floor retail space (though with parking access demands on the ground floor, it might not be very useful retail space, I’m not knowledgeable about that) and a pretty good mixture of stuff within walking distance otherwise. “Those people” will have:

      – Downtown Park, the Cal Anderson of Bellevue (copyright 2013 Al Dimond, LOL), two blocks away.
      – A Safeway three blocks away. I’m counting blocks by street numbers, so this isn’t three Bellevue superblocks, it’s about 3/16 of a mile. How many people in Seattle wish they had a full-size grocery store within a quarter-mile?
      – B Square, Lincoln Square, and an art museum about 6 blocks away.
      – Several other restaurants and shops within a couple blocks.
      – The office skyscraper core within a mile.
      – Local and regional transit (249 and 550) right outside their door; other routes are a longer walk (Bellevue TC is about 10 blocks away, offering great transit access to lots of places where it sucks to be on foot).

      A lot of people living in this building will work in freewayside office parks and drive to work. Many might drive for groceries because they don’t want to carry things. It’s possible (maybe even likely) that parking access requirements will make pedestrian access to the building harder than it should be. But this isn’t the Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club. It’s on the grid. I’m closer to boosting it than knocking it.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        You’re convincing yourself with wishful thinking from anecdotes and ignoring the data. This study I linked to yesterday showed a nearly 1:1 correlation between driving in parking.

        The study’s not from Amsterdam or Beijing or New Dehli or even San Francisco, but from King County including Bellevue.

        http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=1247222

        If you give people parking, they are going to drive, even if they don’t have to.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Andrew, I disagree, because (dense buildings where everybody drives) > (sprawl where everybody drives).

        It’s true that dense buildings where nobody drives is the optimum. But that doesn’t seem to be an option here.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        Explain this to me:

        (dense buildings where everybody drives) > (sprawl where everybody drives).

        By what measure is that better?

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Energy efficiency, less destruction of habitat for sprawl, and likely shorter travel distances, even if it’s by car.

      • Andrew,

        Even if they drove the same amount, the dense housing is still greener. Each person is occupying less space, and there is much less housing surface area, thus, less energy loss. You are preserving farmland and forests, which would otherwise be turned into detaches houses and concrete patios and driveways.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        Let’s take this point by point:

        Energy efficiency, less destruction of habitat for sprawl, and likely shorter travel distances, even if it’s by car.

        1) Energy efficiency I’ll give you, that’s probably true.
        2) “less destruction of habitat for sprawl” of what you call sprawl is coming on former farmland or timber land. So it’s not exactly “habitat”.
        3) “shorter travel distances”, shorter travel distances than what? I know you’re just assuming this, but the data show there’s very little correlation between where you live and where you commute to (don’t you commute to the distance suburbs, at least you used to). About half of people commute long distances, regardless of where they live:

        http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/subject_areas/national_household_travel_survey/index.html

        Think of all the people commuting by car from Belltown and Capitol Hill to Redmond. That’s not a greener commute than driving in from Sammamish to Bellevue, or (obviously) from Redmond to Seattle.

        I don’t think the strength of your convictions on this topic reflect the depth of your actual exploration into how this works.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        “Each person is occupying less space”

        That is what Aristotle would have called “begging the question”.

        I do agree this is better than green-field forest clearing, and maybe better than farmland clearing (though, I’m not sure how much different farms actually are from lots of yards), but that’s such a low bar for “good” that I’m not interested in praising that.

        That’s like giving people prizes for carpooling once a month.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Well I would say “less paving over of local farmland” is also a worthy objective, whether or not the farmland is replaced by destroying new habitat. I find what’s happened to the Kent Valley the last few decades as quite regrettable.

        I see the link, but it seems self-evident that most dense housing is near the job core, and in the aggregate is closer to work than housing at the exurban fringe. Furthermore, in a place like Downtown Bellevue most non-work trips are likely to be shorter simply because stuff is closer together. For starters, there’s retail right underneath those apartments.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Think of all the people commuting by car from Belltown and Capitol Hill to Redmond.

        While agree that lots of people drive, it’s also true that the transit mode share of this commute is much higher than the alternatives.

        Another issue with sprawl is that it’s nearly impossible to serve with transit without building expensive park-and-rides.

        that’s such a low bar for “good” that I’m not interested in praising that.

        I don’t think anyone here wants to give these developers a medal, but I think it’s much better than preventing the development entirely. It would be great if Bellevue had parking maxima and developers were willing to build under those conditions, but I’m not holding my breath for that and in the meantime it’ll help to curb sprawl.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        I see the link, but it seems self-evident that most dense housing is near the job core, and in the aggregate is closer to work than housing at the exurban fringe.

        There are more jobs in Kent, Tukwila, Federal Way, Auburn, etc. than there are in DT bellevue. That implies we should want more drivable housing near those places, because that’s nearer to work.

        Somehow I doubt that’s the point you want to make, but it follows from what you’ve said.

        If they put 200 units with 400 parking spaces next to Southcenter (which has lots of jobs and “walkable”), would you be excited about that?

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Excited? Meh. But I wouldn’t have a problem with it, and I’d definitely prefer it to a similar number of units in a cul-de-sac subdivision

      • Andrew Smith says:

        While agree that lots of people drive, it’s also true that the transit mode share of this commute is much higher than the alternatives.

        Driving alone share of commute from Redmond to Seattle is clearly higher than the other direction.

        Otherwise, it does seem we’re basically agreeing.

      • Automobile-based density is arguably as bad or worse than automobile-based sprawl, in that it further taxes limited roadway, exacerbates bottlenecks, and wreaks additional havoc on any non-grade-separated transit with which it must share space.

        An afternoon rush hour anywhere in Chicago will quickly disabuse you of the notion that density and a city with a stubbornly-high SOV modeshare is a workable situation.

        And do not forget how very, very dense much of notoriously-unsustainable Los Angeles is.

        As I wrote above, Ballard is already experiencing the effects of densification that leaves most people driving most places.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        I’m just not worried about congestion. Either people will use traffic separated modes where they exist, they’ll stop moving there, or the traffic is by definition not unbearable.

      • Yabbut this isn’t Ballard, which is being repeatedly screwed for transit (non-stuck-in-traffic category). This is Bellevue, about to get a grade-separated train.

        I haven’t read this study that supposedly claims the only thing that matters in driving rates is parking availability. From the abstract it looks like the biggest factors in parking demand are parking availability and price. So essentially everyone that can park a car will own one, but that doesn’t mean they’ll drive everywhere. Driving has a minority mode share in my office in Fremont (I don’t have exact numbers, but I have a pretty good estimate of about 1/3), and essentially nobody ever pays to park anywhere in Fremont. This isn’t just a demographic thing because I work with lots of young-ish people; driving was near-ubiquitous at my previous office in Canyon Park, with similar demographics. Land use actually matters.

      • Al,

        Thanks to the 112th-to-vaguely-east-of-BTC alignment, that train will be the better part of a mile’s walk from this part of Bellevue. These people are going to get in their cars 19 out of 20 times they go anywhere, guaranteed.

        Martin,

        You should be worried about congestion. You really, really should. The experience of L.A. and elsewhere suggests that there’s a wee bit of a lag time between when congestion gets excruciating and when legitimately useful alternatives come to fruition.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        So is congestion going to be unbearable or are people not going to have sufficient motivation to use light rail?

        It seems like it can’t be both.

      • A number of people live and work in downtown Bellevue and walk to work. They still want to keep a car because it’s useful for day-to-day tasks such as shopping or going out to hike, but they don’t use their cars on a day-to-day basis. A lot of people living in this building will work at Bellevue Square and walk there. A lot of people living in this building will work at Microsoft or Expedia and walk there.

        I’ll grant you that this neighborhood which is supposed to be filled with dense housing is a bit too far from the train, but that’s Sound Transit’s fault for sticking the train way on the east side of downtown. But don’t assume that these people in downtown Bellevue will necessarily drive more than people in South Lake Union or Belltown or any other Seattle neighborhood. They just have garage parking instead of Seattle’s standard neighborhood streets clogged with cars.

      • Excited? Meh. But I wouldn’t have a problem with it, and I’d definitely prefer it to a similar number of units in a cul-de-sac subdivision

        I think your argument makes much less sense than you think it does. You’re okay with creating a car based environment as long as the drives are short to a possible work (whether that’s the resident’s real place of work or not)?

        I thought this was the seattle transit blog?

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        I’m OK with the land being used as intensively as is politically and economically possible. I favor the elimination of parking minima wherever they exist. It’s not creating a car based environment – it’s already there.

        We haven’t argued this point, but I think walking, biking, and transit use are likely to be considerably higher than with subdivision sprawl, even if they all own one car per adult and drive a lot.

        That’s especially the case if congestion will be as crushing as you think.

      • Andrew Smith says:

        I haven’t said say anything about congestion (don’t really care).

        We haven’t argued this point, but I think walking, biking, and transit use are likely to be considerably higher than with subdivision sprawl, even if they all own one car per adult and drive a lot.

        You’re just assuming they’ll be more alternative modes, the data simply, clearly, show your assumption to be false.

      • This only kind of a car-based environment. Cul-de-sacs were not built (for the masses) until mass-motorization and could hardly function without it. You could very well move into this building and get around mostly on foot.

        This building won’t be perfect by a long shot, but it’s an exaggeration to say everyone in it is going to drive everywhere. Many Seattle neighborhoods where most of the housing has similar locations relative to daily needs have minority SOV mode-share. Yeah, that’s just commuting but it isn’t nothing.

      • Mike Orr says:

        “This is Bellevue, about to get a grade-separated train.”

        Q. Why is downtown Bellevue getting a train? A. Because it’s the center and crossroads of the Eastside and the largest city in the Eastside, and this line is the key core on which a better Eastside transit network can be built. Ballard is not the center of anything, it’s off in a far corner. Interestingly, the areas that are the center and crossroads of north Seattle are getting a Link line at the same time as Bellevue.

        “that train will be the better part of a mile’s walk from this part of Bellevue.”

        Presumably Metro will reorganize the bus routes when Link opens. At minimum it will have to replace the local part of the 550 which goes through this neighborhood. I have also suggested an east-west route from Medina to Main Street, 112th, and BTC, to replace the 271′s Medina segment.

        “Think of all the people commuting by car from Belltown and Capitol Hill to Redmond.”

        How many of these are non-Microsofties? The second-largest employer in the area naturally has people coming from every direction. And are that many Capitol Hill Microsofties driving anyway, through the 520 congestion?

      • Erm… Too bad land use is so lousy in “the crossroads of the Eastside” (and in the whole rest of the Eastside) that the big, expensive train will never receive more passengers in downtown Bellevue than already use the combined bus routes into and out of Ballard.

        After all this time, Mike, do you still not get that transit usability in contiguous urban areas and in isolated nodes is not created equal?

      • Martin,

        You’re making a classic “tragedy of the commons” oversight.

        As long as the parking infrastructure is plentiful and the transit is comparatively inconvenient (largely because the parking infrastructure is plentiful), most trips will seem easier to make in a car. Thanks to the poor location and limited usefulness of the train, even it will only appeal at the peak of the peak of the peaks. Any other time, rational self-interest will lean toward driving.

        Meanwhile, developers will note the success of the new building (with its 2:1 parking) and build lots more nearby (with 2:1 parking). The tipping point for cascading congestion happens sometime after it’s too late to turn back, and well before any mitigating incentives can be introduced.

        Of course, no one will individually change their behavior; it’s not them causing the congestion, but always somebody else.

        I dare you to spend any significant time on L.A.’s Westside and then claim that extreme congestion is a deal-breaker for any individual choosing to drive, where the built environment is insistent in encouraging cars as default.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Andrew,

        You’re just assuming they’ll be more alternative modes, the data simply, clearly, show your assumption to be false.

        I don’t read the findings that way at all. From the abstract in your post on the subject:
        “The overall findings indicate that walk and transit access to trip destinations, block size, population and job density influence parking utilization, in some cases by as much as 50 percent. ”

        Obviously, having more parking is going to increase the number of people who drive. That observation is banal. However, packing people densely into areas where activity is within walking distance and there is some hope of efficient transit service is dramatically better than putting them out in cul-de-sacs from an environmental perspective.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        d.p.

        If people are rationally deciding to take the car in spite of decent traffic-separated transit alternatives, I think you’ve failed to make the case that the area has been crushed by congestion.

  10. Seattleite says:

    In the King Street Station thread rapidrider made the following observation:

    “Deutsche Bahn’s system of assigned seats for tickets purchased ahead of time and sitting in unassigned seats for tickets purchased day of, seems to work like a well oiled charm.”

    WSDOT has said that once Amtrak cuts funding for the Cascades, changing operators is a posibility. People just assumed BNSF would be the first option if we didn’t go back to Amtrak, but how hard would it be to get Duetsche Bahn to run our trains?

    • GuyOnBeaconHill says:

      Arriva is a subsidiary of DBAG, so it is possible, in theory, to have a company owned by DB operating the Cascades service. At this time, however, Arriva does not operate any trains in North America.

    • Bruce Nourish says:

      And again, as I said in that thread, the ticketing system exists because of WSDOT, not Amtrak, who would be just as happy to operate with an NEC-like system as the one they do here.

      WSDOT is already able to switch operators if they wish; they have hitherto been happy with Amtrak’s rates. I don’t know of any reason why Deutsche Bahn couldn’t run Cascades, although I also have no idea why DB would have any interest whatsover in running some pissant sub-hourly passenger train in the northwest US.

      • Nathanael says:

        If WSDOT contracts with anyone other than BNSF or Amtrak, they will face the access charges BNSF provides to outsiders, rather than the preferential access regime which Amtrak gets… but apart from that, sure.

        …also, if they stopped contracting with Amtrak, WSDOT would have to pony up the capital costs to purchase the Amtrak-owned trainsets, and to buy their own locomotives. (Amtrak has a national locomotive shortage and will happily pull their locomotives back for other services; it also has a national car shortage and if it isn’t offered a fair deal will probably walk off with the Talgos it owns and use them elsewhere.)

        Given WSDOT’s penny-pinching, they won’t put in the capital necessary to contract with someone other than Amtrak.

    • I don’t know who would operate the trains if Amtrak cut funding for them, but quite frankly I am happy to see someone other than Amtrak operating intercity (and even interSTATE) passenger services in this country–Amtrak’s monopoly has been going on too long, and while I like the system as it stands now, it represents the status quo to me, and I know things should get better (more routes, more services) given enough time.

      • Mike Orr says:

        And Amtrak is the one holding it back?

        Amtrak is definitely cutting funding, because a law passed last year ordered it to stop subsidizing regional lines.

  11. Mark in Kenmore says:

    I’ve been on four buses that have broken down in the last month or so. Two were the 306 on the morning commute, the other two were a 306 and 312 in the afternoon commute.

    Prior to this I had only had one or two bus breakdowns in nearly seven years of commuting by bus in Seattle.

    Maybe it’s just me but that seems like an unusually high number of breakdowns in a short period of time. Are the buses used for these routes getting too old?

  12. AAA says the average car depreciates $3,571 a year. They must have a ton of Range Rovers bringing up the advantage.

  13. I was just in Hong Kong last week: amazing city with a great transit network and the most impressive display of density I have ever seen. The scale of the apartment buildings (let alone the office tours, mixed used towers, etc) is impossible to capture in photography. When I got home to my neighborhood that is constantly referred to as ‘way too dense’ (Cap Hill) by people that obviously don’t read this blog, I was amazed to see just how small and spread out our ‘density’ is here in Seattle.

    I live in a 6-story building that is at the max height for the neighborhood, which is funny when I was looking at many of those towers in Hong Kong – no one lives at the 6th floor or below in most all of the city. Retail/Office for the first 10 stories quite frequently.

    Truly amazing and eye-opening experience!

  14. Virginia says:

    Is there going to be a writeup of the second Car2Go interview?

  15. A flyer is popping up on telephone poles all around Queen Anne urging the rolling back of building heights from 5 to 3 stories.

    http://seattlespeaksup.wordpress.com

  16. Hmm, not an open thread? Well, it’s news so I’ll try posting it anyway. Energy Dept. funds UW project to turn wasted natural gas into diesel:

    The UW engineers will work with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab and two industry partners. They will target the natural gas associated with oil fields, which is often flared off as waste, as well as so-called “stranded” natural gas reserves that are too small for a pipeline to be economically viable.

    Not much of a fuel source but potentially a win for the environment as there is a lot of methane converted into CO2 from oil wells from we derive zero useful work. It’s burned only because the methane is many times worse as a greenhouse gas than CO2. This could potentially be used in other areas like landfills and commercial dairy farms that release methane into the atmosphere.

    • From the Orca card website:

      On a Ferry:

      Tap your ORCA card at the turnstile or give it to ticketing staff. If your card is loaded with an E-purse, the cost of any fares will be deducted. Your E-purse can be used to purchase car and driver fares, passenger fares, surcharges or multi-ride tickets.

      Is this a change from the original policy? I had thought Orca could only be used to pay passenger fares not car and driver; which never did make sense.

      • yes.

      • From a transit perspective, allowing E-purse to pay for car and driver fares is good because provides an incentive for at least some people to get Orca cards, even if they don’t use transit frequently. This way, when they ride their one bus trip a month, they don’t delay everyone else by paying cash.

        If E-Purse funds could be used to pay for 520 bridge tolls too, maybe we could even more habitual-drivers-occasional-transit-users using Orca as well.

  17. In case anyone else having their corporate firewall block access to betterinstitutions.com (for “The overkill of train safety regulations”), here’s the cached copy:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:www.betterinstitutions.com/2013/04/what-do-we-get-in-return-for-ultra.html

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