News Roundup: A Return to Process

Sakura Con at WSCC

Sakura Con at WSCC

This is an open thread.




Comments

  1. SounderBruce says

    CT is adding new service in September: http://www.communitytransit.org/2014changes/

    Highlights include restored 15-minute frequency on the 201/202 (Smokey Point to Lynnwood via Marysville and Everett) with 23 more daily trips, moving Route 113 from Ash Way to Lynnwood TC, and extending Route 120 (Bothell to Lynnwood) to Edmonds CC.

    • John Slyfield says

      Still no service on Sundays, and frequencies leaving a lot to be desired. The 15 minute 201/202 service is great, and it’s also worth noting that CT is doing much better off than Pierce Transit. PT still has service on Sundays, but has anyone seen what it’s schedule looks like? Services that should have 15 minute headways now have 30, some that should have 30 have hourly, and those that should be hourly are…..hellooooooo…nonexistent. King County Metro will be better off than CT and PT though when these cuts and adds are all said and done.

    • asdf says

      15-minute service on the 201/202 is great, but it is also worth nothing that the Lynnwood->Everett segment of the 201/202 is almost identical to the 512.

      • William C. says

        Yes; I’m wondering why they even have the 201/202 running south of Everett now. It seems they could easily reinvest those hours elsewhere.

      • SounderBru e says

        The 201/202 is the only bus service on Ash Way between Mariner P&R and Ash Way P&R. I would replace it with a short shuttle (maybe giving it to ET?).

    • Nathanael says

      I don’t trust their methodology for figuring out “average state and local taxes”. There are a lot of problems with it. For one thing, it’s hard to compute a median from other medians — it doesn’t work, mathematically. For another, a bunch of states (especially Florida) have idiosyncratic taxes which aren’t captured by this analysis.

      The results also simply don’t look right. I know California and NY have exceptionally high median taxes paid (and I know why: a combination of an exceptionally regressive property tax system where commerical properties pay much less than residential properties, and heavy reliance on the property tax). But Florida is *not* a low-tax state and neither is Delaware; something is wrong with the computation.

      I do trust their “quality of government services” ratings, which seem easier to compute, and where the results pass the eyeball test. I don’t think anyone will be surprised that Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa and Utah provide exceptionally good service, or that Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia stink.

      Washington ranks a bit better than Oregon on “quality of services” and I believe it. The claim that Washington has much lower taxes? I don’t believe it. I am pretty sure they’re missing all the regressive fees which tend to appear in such “low tax” states.

      • Nathanael says

        (Note that it *should* work to compute a median from other medians, but the problem of margin of error gets amplfied. A lot.)

      • John Slyfield says

        I believe we are one of the lower taxed states. Looking at http://best-state-taxes.247wallst.com we pay less than oregon does in non federal taxes (9.3% for Washington to 10% for oregon). But Nathanael does have a point that in the lower taxed states an unfairly heavy burden is placed on the poor. I’d like to see how much a family of four making 30,000 pays In taxes in Washington and oregon.

      • Chris Stefan says

        The tax burden in Washington is very low, however the highly regressive nature of most taxes here makes the burden seem much higher when compared to more progressive states like Oregon.

        It may not seem like taxes are low here if you drive a bus for a living or own a Subway franchise, however if you are Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos, Microsoft, Amazon, or Boeing you love Washington’s tax system and pay less here than you would in most states.

      • says

        I’m pretty sure Bill Gates doesn’t like our tax system. He supported his dad’s efforts to institute an income tax in the state. During the campaign, I recall him using vivid examples how of much he benefits from the regressive nature of our taxation system as a reason to reform it.

  2. says

    I am pretty confused about the Whole Foods alley vacation. They’re turning it into a pedestrian walkway combined with vehicle access to the garage and freight terminal. So… an alley, essentially? Except not owned by the city, and probably limiting vehicle access to one side.

    The plans look kind of similar to the alley/walkway/driveway behind PCC in Fremont, which is not a whole lot of fun to walk in and pretty awkward to drive down.

    I’d say the same about the Hedreen thing, but I don’t have a total grasp of what sort of path through they’d provide if they bought the alley.

    I think it would generally be better if the city kept ownership of alleys like this but allowed them to be modified in particular ways, or allowed certain kinds of building over them… it seems like it’s something where the city should be able to protect public use, ensure public benefit, and set standards, and ownership is the strongest way to do that. Or maybe in some cases where the developer would prefer to relocate the alley the city could agree to trade the existing alley for a new alley.

  3. says

    Prop 1 rejecters have pointed out that metro pays a lot of drivers over 80k and over 100k. Why exactly is metro paying drivers so much? I haven’t heard a straight answer.

    • says

      Lots and lots of Overtime. In theory, Metro is using Overtime to more efficiently handle absences and special service. There was an audit several years back that recommended doing this and Metro has been doing so. I don’t know the details though but suffice it to say, there is a small minority of drivers who grab everything they can, presumably by hanging around the base on their days off and calling the dispatcher frequently.

      • Chris Stefan says

        My understanding is that it is cheaper for metro to pay overtime than to add additional part-time drivers. Presumably due to benefits cost.

      • aw says

        Chris, does that hold true if those drivers that are scrapping for overtime are about to retire and their earnings will be figured into what their pension will be? Of course, that should have been considered by the auditor before they recommended it.

      • says

        No… OT is used to handle the variable number of assignments that are open (no Operator assigned to them) each day. Lots of things impact the number of assignments: Specials (Mariners/Seahawks/Husky shuttles), the number of sick/vacation/on leave operators, and retirements/resignations. There are fewer PT drivers right now than actual PT drivers, but those left over assignments get filled through ATL (extra work assigned to PT drivers like me who only work an AM or PM shift regularly) or the Extra Board (FT operators who’s job is to fill whatever assignments are open on any given day).

        As operators quit and retire, those who work the ATL and Extra Board start to see longer assignments and overtime. As the Overtime stacks up and management sees a need to hire more operators, PT recruitment is opened and PT Operators are promoted to FT. The current contract in force added flexibility for Metro to push more work to the ATL which is a big portion of the “cost savings” that Metro talks about getting from drivers.

        Metro is always asking for more flexibility to use PT operators and a majority of the Union membership has for years resisted these changes for a variety of reasons. (Fear of FT work being broken up/desire for more OT/belief that PT is not a legitimate classification… The list is long)

    • Glenn in Portland says

      Part of it is that is what it takes to attract someone to fill the position. There are only so many people that enjoy driving a 60 foot vehicle though city traffic while dealing with the public. Not to mention, they probably have restrictions on who can be hired based on past driving records.

      Assuming you have a decent driving record, how much would they have to pay you to quit your current job and work for them? Obviously the current rates aren’t high enough to make you want to do this, or you already would be.

      • Mark Dublin says

        Like I keep saying (danger signal for old age!) corporations scoping out CEO candidates don’t have any problem with $100 K per year. Except that they’d probably chuck any application that asked for that little into the trash without reading any further. Looooooo-ser!!!

        This really is what a class system means at its most accurately vile. For those at the top, bidding starts where the air runs out in the stratosphere because more expensive means better performance.

        For the far more numerous on the other end, willingness to work for nothing is positive. And short tenure is a positive goal- easier intimidated, and less experience means fewer demands and more servile obedience.

        In a system where the future is quarterly, this makes sense- though there was a time when the hardest-nosed capitalists tried to look ahead a century. Mascot animal now should be a starving pig in a full trough.

        Inexperienced, temporary, not paid to think and knows it. If that’s what you want running a sixty foot machine full of people in freeway traffic, by all means contract out and privatize. But best have a really good risk department.

        I’d rather pay a few hundred K in wages- your medical expenses could easily exceed that. And speaking of which, a lot of the desperate clinging to work in hopes of better retirement now would go away with a decent national health care system.

        Present one? OT because of how far trouble goes beyond transit.

        Mark Dublin

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I don’t know if I would put it quite that harshly, as there are cities that have privatized their bus operations. However, I am not convinced that this really lowers expenses that much. Veolia Transportation talks up their cost effectiveness on their web site
        http://www.veoliatransportation.com/Transit/Bus.aspx
        but when you read their case studies they don’t really talk that much about delivering a real revolutionary turn-around for any of the cities in which they operate. About the best example they give is Phoenix, where they are able to deliver efficiencies because they also operate services for a University and the Sky Harbor Airport. No real serious turn-around listed there.

        Sure, it is one way of doing business, but it doesn’t seem like privatization alone really does anything.

        I’ve been reading Mass Transit Magazine for years now. For a while it came to me as a free paper publication as part of my employment with a certain company (today it comes as an Adobe Digital Edition, which I find horribly difficult to read on any device, so I don’t read it as much as I used to). From time to time they feature profiles of agencies that have experiences a serious turn-around. None of the profiles I have read in there were situations where problems were vastly changed due to privatization efforts.

        Instead, what really changes things for the better is a vastly improved management philosophy and structure.
        As an example, lets take the article about the management of the Las Vegas transit system:
        http://www.masstransitmag.com/article/10627897/las-vegas-rtc-where-image-is-important
        what really changed there was a top level management change that altered the whole way their transit agency was doing business. Privatization of the bus operations isn’t going to change the top level management of the agency itself.

  4. says

    … and the most important part of the Mercer two-way transition, the part that makes the whole thing really worthwhile: the demolition of Broad Street from 5th to Aurora, and the restoration of a better local street network across the area! Sadly the Gates Foundation will still be a superblock… I wonder if it could become a permeable superblock for pedestrians, like Seattle Center is…

  5. Thomas says

    I actually think that the redesign of the Hedreen’s mega hotel is a big improvement. The massing isn’t as overwhelming as the original proposal and I think the separation of the podium of tower looks good.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      I agree the massing of the 1,200 room design is less massive but the street level design, what really matters for a good building, is pretty unprecedented for a project of this scale. The through block access essentially acts as a woonerf with hotel oriented business handled there. For the rest of the building, every single street blockface has street pedestrian oriented uses minus the service access which heads underground (something the 1,200 design doesn’t in my understanding). Compare it to any other hotel, even those half the size, and you won’t see a better street level design… and don’t even get me started on the convention center its self.

      http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/AppDocs/GroupMeetings/DRProposal3013951AgendaID4728.pdf

      • Chris Stefan says

        Also note that from street level most people don’t really notice the difference between a 6 story podium covering the entire block with a slender tower stuck in the middle of it and a more massive building where the tower goes straight up from the street on much of the block.

    • Chris Stefan says

      I really don’t get why the union is trying to block this hotel. According to people I know in various parts of the hospitality and tourism industry Seattle has way fewer downtown hotel rooms than it should for a city its size. We lose a number of large conventions because there aren’t enough downtown hotel rooms. Furthermore we lose a lot of tourist room-nights due to the high cost of the rooms we do have.

      Given the way financing for these projects is done Hedreen wouldn’t be proposing a 1600 room hotel if there wasn’t demand for the rooms. Love ‘em or hate ‘em visitors do bring a lot of money to the city.

      I agree with Adam that the larger version with the alley vacation is much better from the perspective of pedestrian friendly urban design.

      • Bernie says

        I thought we lost conventions because we don’t have a large enough convention space. Not sure about the hotel room ratio presently but the convention center is pushing for more expansion. Part of the equation is it’s more than just beds. The hotels provide rooms for meetings, banquets, etc. that complement a large convention. Otherwise, with Link in place people could just stay near the airport.

      • Chris Stefan says

        The size of the convention center is a factor as well. Most of our downtown hotels lack the sort of large function space seen elsewhere.

        The 1600 room proposal would have a lot of function space, enough to perhaps win some conventions we lose currently. The 1200 room proposal would have much less function space, probably similar to other large downtown hotels.

    • d.p. says

      Just a reminder that this block currently contains three older, multi-story, mixed-use buildings, which occupy 3%, 4%, and 6% of the block respectively. Each of these offer multiple storefronts at street level, and they cumulatively offer dozens of small, affordable residential and office rentals upstairs. One is, supposedly, protected as a landmark.

      Under both “Hedreen” proposals, these three buildings will see their collective street-level frontage replaced by: a single large corner retail offering; a double-helixed emergency stairwell (the size of one entire existing building); and a pair of escalators in the corner of a large lobby.

      Progress!

      Of course, with an 87% contiguous portion of the block underutilized, a large new project could easily be built around the existing variated streetscape. And would be, in any city whose collective head isn’t shoved so far up its ass that it winds up extolling a density-reducing “streetscape”- and “public art”-lipservicing pile of total horseshit as having nice “massing”.

      Seattle is so screwed if you all think anything about this project represents a healthy or altruistic approach to urbanism.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        d.p. I worked across the street from this site and I can tell you it’s no walkers paradise. When I was there you had a condo sales center and a subway on the corner… the bus depot had one hole in the wall restaurant (which I loved don’t get me wrong) that did *nothing* for the street. The last building I can’t even remember what was there… which I think says enough.

        Change is going to happen, and if we can get this type of street-level designs with all new hotels downtown we’ll be making a lot of progress. The Sheraton downtown is a mistake we can’t repeat again.

      • d.p. says

        The block is a “no walker’s paradise” because it’s 87% abandoned.

        The solution is to fill the 87%. Well. In no universe does that translate to transforming a city block this gigantic into a single monolithic project.

        I cannot understand for the life of me what there is to crow about in either version of this plan. All I see when I look at it is the worst building in Midtown Manhattan, plus extra setbacks and public plazas and massive parking accessways and all the other eye-rolling sops to Seattle’s inability to understand urban space.

      • d.p. says

        At the very least, the Grace building has neighbors. This will have none.

        Any development proponent who tells you that a block of this size must contain only two structures atop a single conference space is, for lack of a better word, a liar.

      • Becka says

        This is exactly my problem with proposal, expressed far more eloquently. It’s crazy that Hadreen is leaving the surface parking lot, and replacing the old brick buildings. Sure, take down the old Greyhound station. But build around the older 8-story brick buildings! They don’t make em like that anymore. And it’s far more interesting to have lots of narrow buildings of different character and age.

  6. Anon says

    Anybody know the clickdown on the CH development story….why are developers trying to opt out of building the affordable housing lot…why do they have the option? I would think the city would make an effort to push developers to broaden their portfolio beyond the upscale (by adopting a winner-take-all award process for the CHS bid), reasoning that this might lead them to explore such opportunities in the future outside (of government-initiated projects such as STs).

    Any thoughts here?

    • Chris Stefan says

      Capitol Hill Housing has applied both for the master developer and for the 100% affordable housing site.

  7. Bernie says

    vying for Sound Transit’s …surplus property.

    Any news/plans/rumors for the U District? Or is that tied into the windswept plaza debate? And what is the large new building, as yet apparently unoccupied, between the station construction and University Volkswagon?

    • Chris Stefan says

      The Brooklyn Station site won’t be available for a few more years after the Capitol Hill Station site. Thankfully there is no nutty professor calling for the entire station site to be a lifeless windswept plaza.

      I’m not sure if the city, ST, and the UW will ignore the nutty professor or if he and his allies will convince the powers that be to go with an open air drug market and homeless day center is the path of least resistance.

      While the nutty professor may be right and the U District needs more open space, the Sound Transit station site is just about the worst place for it. There are no “eyes on the street” due to the design of the surrounding buildings and never will be. Because of UW Tower there is almost always a strong wind blowing through here.

      There are plenty of better locations for open space in the U-district, either programmed as traditional parks or as European style urban plazas. For example I’ve always thought the parking lots between 42nd and 43rd on the West side of University way would make an excellent plaza, particularly if surrounded by cafés, restaurants and bars.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        That huge parking lot west of Montlake has always struck me as being rather out of place. I mean, here is a university spending quite a lot of money building towers, and they have this vast surface parking lot that is worthy of a suburban shopping mall. At the very least, most semi-urban universities that need to build towers would have put some sort of structure or other above such a vast parking lot.

        This vast wind-swept plaza that no one will want to visit sounds like it would be the perfect opportunity for someone to plop down a field of wind turbines. That and a capacitor energy storage system might provide enough power to run the elevators, tunnel ventilation and lighting in the station.

      • AD in Ballard says

        Glenn – that parking lot covers a pre-EPA landfill. For all practical purposes (i.e., it would be extraordinarily expensive), it can’t be remediated for any purpose other than being covered by asphalt — the UW couldn’t even build the foundation for a windmill without opening a superfund-scale can of worms.

      • aw says

        Glenn, is your map upside down? The E1 lot is east of Montlake.
        Aren’t the baseball stadium, the soccer stadium and the IMA fields built on that same landfill? So I guess you don’t necessarily need asphalt on it, but maybe there’s some impervious layer below the grass.

    • Chris Stefan says

      Bernie, which large new building? There are apartments being built between 12th and 11th on the South side of 47th. It appears University Volkswagen is replacing its dealership building with a new building across from the fire station. Presumably so they can redevelop the rest of the lot. I’m not sure what is being built a block South next to University Mazda.

      • Bernie says

        It’s a large footprint wise building sort of grey metallic nondescript that looks like it’s going to be office space. It didn’t look to me like there was any street level retail at all. More like something you’d see in a suburban office park. Didn’t count but I’d guess in the four to five story height range. I was pleased to see that the “U District” seems to have become quite vibrant all the way up to 45th and from 15th over to Roosevelt. I’d normally be a park supporter but in this location many small “human scale” spaces that are activated by shops, cafes, common entry areas to residential, etc. are definitely the way to go. I like what the UW has done with their “dorms” in the area. It could be even better but it’s a good effort. Take that model and make it more old world village and I think it’d be a winner.

    • Becka says

      You might be thinking of the VW/Audi dealership expansion on 11th, between 50th and 47th? If so, it’s condensing multiple surface parking lots into a 3-story building, complete with enormous concrete ramp.

      • Bernie says

        That’s likely it. I seems amazing that given the value of land in the U-District that an auto dealership could even survive. Doubly so when you look at the considerable tax savings buying an R8 at a dealership outside the ST/Metro taxing district (new cars are less in Puyallup). But it looked like there was substantial office space. Maybe they plan to rent that and become landlords as well as an auto buisness. Certainly the maintenance business has to be a huge money maker for them

  8. Bernie says

    Honest question. When the cuts say a route, let’s say the 249, will eliminate all service after 6PM does that mean routes that start before 6PM will be saved or does the route have to be complete by 6PM. Or does my 249 that I catch at 5:56 at S. Kirkland P&R turn into a pumpkin somewhere along Northup?

    • asdf says

      I don’t think anyone on this blog can give you the answer, nor do I think Metro planners themselves have figured out yet. But, rest assured, you will know when the time comes.

    • aw says

      Did you not read this paragraph:

      Set aside from the Sound Transit 2 funding that was approved by voters in 2008 is $55 million to invest in access improvements to the station, including pedestrian, bike, traffic, bus and parking enhancements. About $11 million accounts for pedestrian and bike improvements in each of the proposed packages.

      • John Bailo says

        Construction Cost Estimates for Parking Garage in National, US

        Location: US National Average
        Stories: 5
        Story Height (L.F.): 10.00
        Floor Area (S.F.): 145000
        Basement Included: No
        Data Release: Year 2013

        Cost Estimate (Union Labor) % of Total Cost Per SF Cost
        Total $48.61 $7,048,500
        Contractor Fees (GC,Overhead,Profit) 25% $12.15 $1,762,100
        Architectural Fees 6% $3.65 $528,600
        Total Building Cost $64.41 $9,339,300

        http://www.reedconstructiondata.com/rsmeans/models/garage/

  9. John Bailo says

    Spokane Turning Into A Seattle

    Zombie TV series ‘Z Nation’ will provide Spokane with good jobs

    The zombies are coming. And they’re bringing work for nearly 200 actors, 1,300 extras and more than 100 crew members.

    The new SyFy Network television series “Z Nation” will begin shooting in Spokane next month. The network has ordered 13 episodes, all of which will be filmed in the Spokane area this spring and summer and are scheduled to begin airing in the fall.

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/apr/24/zombie-tv-series-z-nation-will-provide-spokane/

    That’s right…every day Spokane becomes more Seattle.

    Then Tri-Cities…becoming more Seattle

    Tri-Cities housing is more expensive than you think

    It’s not as cheap as you might think to live comfortably here in the Tri-Cities. Our region is among the top-third nationwide for the highest wages you’d need to afford a decent one-bedroom apartment. KEPR looked at the reasons behind that.

    http://www.keprtv.com/news/local/Tri-Cities-housing-is-more-expensive-than-you-think-256456661.html

    Yakima…mmm…not there yet….but Seattle Alki…as they say…

    DeSales girls golfer Emily Baumgart finished second at the seventh annual Wally Johnson Invite at SunTides Golf Course here on Thursday.

    http://union-bulletin.com/news/2014/apr/25/irish-girls-break-through-yakima/

    • John Bailo says

      Yup, the inside of the station house looks great.

      However the tracks and platform are still the same creepy, dank place they always were, with narrow platforms, lack of cheerful lighting, few egresses, too steep climbs to the to bridge, and badly misplaced exits.

      If they could only find a simpler way to get us directly across that single Amtrak track right to the stadiums and street, we’d enter and an exit so much easier.

      • Dan Carey says

        Are you referring to the Sounder side? I’ve never had a problem with the the egress or exits on the Amtrak side. I’ve boarded Amtrak trains during the day and night and have not had a problem with the lighting either.

      • Jim Cusick says

        That’s because it’s a ‘station’ (as opposed to a ‘terminal’, with a concourse at the end of the tracks), and it would be too dangerous (i.e. the liability too high), to have people on active RR tracks (Tracks 2 & 3).

  10. John Bailo says

    Took the Mariners’ Sounder train in yesterday from Kent.

    Many more people which could have been due to it being a Rangers game, or that it was Kids Day (something I hadn’t counted on).

    It wasn’t quite as packed as the two Sounders they run for Seahawks, but it was about 70% full judging by open seats.

    Still, for me, it’s a make or break reason for me to go. Cheap transit instead of pricey parking and getting stuck in traffic and low cost bleacher seats. You just can’t find a good pro-Sports venue at this price almost anywhere. And the scoreboard bleachers seem to be the best place to enjoy the sunshine.

    Maybe someday the M’s will win a Worlds Series, and the tickets will start at $50 instead of $17, but for now…

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