Right-Sizing Parking

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10PM on a Tuesday Night. Typical Residential Garage in Downtown Kirkland.

In 2012, Metro sponsored a study of parking ratios for multi-family developments in urban King County. By counting vehicles parked overnight, the Right-Size Parking study created a model of current parking needs and demonstrated that parking is 40% oversupplied.

Several pilot demonstration projects were developed in partnership with various cities. However, only one, in Kirkland, made recommendations for changes in policy. It hasn’t gone well. The challenges encountered point to the difficulties in reducing suburban parking requirements.

Fundamentally, right-size parking is a conservative approach. It does not defer to developers to build what the market requires. (Suburban cities are too concerned with spillover parking to be comfortable with that). Neither does it look forward to a less car-dependent future. It only brings parking minimums into line with current use.

Kirkland’s base parking requirements are high, far above even comparable suburban communities. They’re so dated that nobody remembers how they were derived. In downtown, 1 stall per bedroom is required, with a 1.3 minimum per unit. Most other neighborhoods have a 1.7 requirement per unit. Up to another 0.5 stalls per unit are required for guest parking. But overnight parking counts found just 1.27 parked vehicles per apartment. Indeed, the average multi-family unit only has 1.57 residents, so the code requires more parking than there are residents.

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10 Things APA Conference Attendees Need to Know About Seattle

Washington State Ferry:  the state highway with a large pedestrian toll Photo by Jamies

Washington State Ferry: the state highway with a large pedestrian toll
Photo by Jamies

On behalf of the Seattle Transit Blog (STB), I would like to welcome the American Planning Association to Seattle for its four day national planning conference. STB has covered transportation and land use policy in the Puget Sound region since 2007, becoming a recognized source of transportation reporting and advocacy. Written by a group of passionate advocates, we dive deep beyond the headlines.

To help APA attendees from across the country get oriented in our fine city I’ve pulled together a topical compilation of posts and links which will help you get up to speed on the what’s happening in Seattle. If you want information about getting around the city check out Seattle for visitors or consider using our bike share system called Pronto! If you have questions leave a comment and our awesome readers will help answer your questions.

  1. Seattle recently implemented a regional low-income transit pass. Here’s why we support it, how it was studied and how it was rolled out. Don’t forget about Seattle’s $15 dollar minimum wage.
  2. Housing affordability in the nation’s fastest growing city has becoming an omnipresent issue, especially in Center City neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. The Mayor has set up a committee and has called for 50,000 new housing units (20,000 affordable) in the next 10 years. Recently the City Council “went a little to far” on micro housing regulations which some have opposed.
  3. Link Light Rail is expanding north to Lynnwood, south to Federal Way and east to Bellevue and Redmond (despite years of lawsuits). The region could vote to expand regional high capacity transit as soon at 2016 but first the State Legislature has to expand Sound Transit’s funding authority.
  4. Seattle is a national leader on performance based on-street parking management. However, off-street parking regulations which were eased years ago have recently been thrown into a state of limbo. In Downtown thousands of off-street spaces go unused every day and the Mayor has proposed some innovative ideas for moving forward.
  5. Seattle has a complicated relationship with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). For example there are insincere BRT “supporters”. Metro’s RapidRide BRT wouldn’t likely get federal funding now because it’s too watered down. Madison Street is poised to get the City’s first true BRT.
  6. Seattle would like to connect the First Hill Streetcar to the South Lake Union (SLU) Streetcar with an alignment operating in exclusive lanes along 1st Avenue in Downtown. Seattle would also like add a transit only lane on Westlake Avenue to get the SLU Streetcar and buses out of traffic.
  7. Seattle is tearing down the waterfront viaduct, but the largest tunneling machine in the world is having issues. We would have loved the Surface + Transit solution but the questions now is what should the waterfront look like? Parks or commerce? Grand or understated?
  8. Seattle has the largest Car2Go fleet in North America and it’s expanding. How does Car2Go compare to Zipcar? Why does it work so well with paid parking? We sit down and talk with Car2Go’s CEO.
  9. How do you integrate bus and rail service? Mt. Baker Station is bad example, which might get better. Metro and Sound Transit are looking at how to restructure bus service when University Link opens in 2016 but transfers at UW Station will be far from ideal.
  10. South Lake Union, home of Amazon, is booming, but transit service is having a hard time keeping up despite planning.

Is It Time to Ban Amenities?

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A Sunday Times cover story ($) late last year told the story of some longtime renters driven out by a new building owner’s intent to renovate and move upmarket:

The record pace of apartment construction… is skewing the average rent higher, said local apartment expert Mike Scott. In part that’s because the new apartments tend to be steel high-rises with luxury-condominium finishes and amenities like gyms, theaters and game rooms that aren’t typically found in older apartments.

 “The rent has gone up, but the product is so much superior to what they were doing 10 years ago,” said Jon Hallgrimson, executive vice president at commercial brokerage CBRE.

Many people are skeptical of regulation micromanaging the housing market, and with good reason. Arbitrary rules can retard one thing that capitalism does very well: matching supply with demand.* Detailed rules can also create perverse incentives and unintended consequences.

But if Seattle is considering these kinds of regulations, as it is in the aPodment debate, it could do worse that trying to limit free amenities like pools and gyms in new or renovated buildings: not banning them outright, but forcing them to unbundle from the rent and instead operate as separate businesses, open to the public.

Consider the following advantages:

  • To the extent it deters construction of these amenities, it leaves more space for units. More units are critical to most of the social challenges density can address.
  • Developers evidently believe they can command higher rents by devoting valuable space to these areas. It follows that separating out these features would lower prevailing rents.
  • Opening a gym to the general public enriches the neighborhood, allows multiple buildings to diversify their amenities, and uses space more efficiently.

Urbanists are familiar with the identical argument when the subject is parking. Residents shouldn’t pay for expensive services they don’t use; bundled parking encourages car ownership (with serious negative externalities) and raises housing costs for everyone. While the externalities of a pool, gym, or private club are not in the same league, unbundling these services strikes me as a much better idea than taxing the housing construction we desperately need to encourage.

* And by “demand” I mean “demand with money behind it.”

How Should Link Get to Federal Way?

Last week Sound Transit released its long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Link’s extension south from Angle Lake (S. 200th) to Federal Way Transit Center (FWTC). As the DEIS is the document that guides the ST Board to select a Preferred Alternative in early 2016, the DEIS is perhaps the last chance for advocacy and public comment to sway a project’s future before political inertia begins to harden opinions and preclude positive change. You can comment now through May 26 here.

As a refresher, Link to the tip of Federal Way (S. 272nd) was included as the marquee project of ST2 in the South King subarea, only to be deferred south of Highline College when South King fell harder, and recovered more slowly, than its peer subareas during the recession. In  early 2012, County Councilmember Von Reichbauer and Senator Tracey Eide successfully funded $24m for design and engineering for the project so that it could be ‘shovel ready’ as soon as funding were to be identified, and the DEIS is the result of that effort. Most recently, a relatively unexpected TIFIA loan saved Sound Transit so much in financing costs that it freed up an estimated $200-300m in capacity, money which could potentially pay for Link to get from Highline to 272nd St, leaving just the segment to Federal Way unfunded and to be covered by ST3 and/or federal grants.

The DEIS presents 4 general alignments: SR99, I-5, I-5 to SR99, and SR99 to I-5. Within these 4 options are over a dozen station alternatives that further complexify the choices, something with which anyone who has been following the alphabet soup of alternatives in East Link can identify. Notably – and perhaps suspiciously – all alternatives present nearly identical ridership projections  (24,000-27,500 daily riders) and with travel times that only vary by 2 minutes (12-14 minutes). Cost estimates vary by nearly 70%, however, from roughly $1.25B to just over $2B.

While this may seem like a dizzying array of options, Sound Transit has done a good job of presenting the material, both in the video above and in an interactive exercise at federalwaylink.org; and the corridor itself is linear and relatively uncomplicated.

But all the options essentially boil down to a handful of fundamental questions:

  • Should we use an I-5 alignment, and SR 99 alignment, or some combination of both?
  • How well should we serve Highline Community College?
  • Where should the 272nd station be?
  • How important is it to serve FWTC directly, or would it be better served obliquely?
  • Should there be additional stations at S 216th and S 260th?
  • How important is TOD?

A summary of each alignment, and brief commentary, are after the jump.

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News Roundup: Fish Out of Water

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Community Transit Joins the Real Time Party

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Community Transit has joined the real time rider information party, although the data is as yet only available through their own website, not OneBusAway:

Customers can access BusFinder at www.mybusfinder.org on their computer or mobile device, or by calling Community Transit’s customer service phone line at (425) 353-7433 (RIDE) and selecting Option 1.

Mobile device users will be redirected to a mobile version of BusFinder. The mobile version is a web-based application, not an app that needs to be downloaded.

BusFinder works best by entering the bus stop number found at all Community Transit bus stops. Users can also enter a stop name, which is the primary street of the bus stop followed by the nearest cross street. The program is intuitive, so entering a primary street will create a list of options from which you can choose your stop.

[…]

Riders catching buses in King County should use the Map or Nearby Stops features to find their stop, as Community Transit stop numbers are not displayed on Metro bus stops. Once a stop is found, it can be saved in Favorites for future use.

CT Spokesman Martin Munguia tells me that publishing a real time feed for consumption by OneBusAway and other apps is on their radar, but as yet has no firm ETA; their team is focused on working out the kinks with their own site first. He also clarified that CT stops in King County transit centers all have CT stop numbers, and alluded unspecifically to “a couple of alternative solutions for King County stops that I hope will be implemented by this summer.”

UPDATE: Apparently, King County transit center signage does not include CT stop numbers, but  “We are working on a solution, vague as that may sound. There are options and we are in negotiation on the best and quickest to implement.”

I’m thrilled to see CT make this leap in usability. Real-time arrival data, on all but the highest-frequency routes (few of which really exist in Washington), is something which I can no longer function without, and I know I’m not the only one. Up-to-date confirmation that the bus is on its way is priceless to riders. I will say, though, that the real champagne moment for most riders will be when CT is plumbed into OneBusAway, the de facto virtual transit interface for Puget Sound.

I have questions out to the current OneBusAway maintainers at Sound Transit to see if any other agencies are in the pipeline, but I can separately confirm one: Spokane Transit will launch a public beta of their own real time service late this spring, with a public feed to follow shortly thereafter.

Once CT and STA are on OneBusAway, the five biggest bus agencies in the state will be on a single real time app — a huge measure of convenience for travelers. Next up: Sound Transit needs to get its rail services up to speed with its buses, C-TRAN needs to gets its own real time service (Next Ride) on OneBusAway, and Whatcom Transit needs to get itself a real-time service. I know the latter two can do it, because they’ve been beaten to the punch by smaller-but-scrappy Intercity Transit.

The Spring Fair, Via Transit

Puyallup Station A few blocks north of the State Fairgrounds

Puyallup Station
A few blocks north of the State Fairgrounds

The State Spring Fair is upon is this Wednesday Thursday through Saturday Sunday, April 16-19, at the Puyallup State Fairgrounds.

Sounder may by a good way to get there or head home in the late afternoon today through Friday. At other hours, not so much. For Pierce County residents, Sounder will be available on an even better schedule Saturday Sunday, thanks to the special service to the Mariners’ game.

ST Express route 578 fills in the gaps with half-hourly service all day, and hourly service on Saturday, at least to get to Puyallup Station. From there, the Fairgrounds is a walk of a few blocks south on S Meridian St or a ride on the eclectic Puyallup Connector (Pierce Transit route 425)

The Saturday Sunday Sounder baseball run is the only special service for the Spring Fair.

The importance of a name; Regional Growth Centers and why Ballard isn’t one

Urban Growth Center Silverdale

Regional Growth Center Silverdale

Last summer Seattle Subway pointed out how the PSRC’s population estimates for Ballard were EXTREMELY low. In summary, just built/under-construction/permitted units will result in Ballard meeting it’s 2035 Puget Sound Regional Council projections in 2017 if not sooner.

In response PSRC reached out to us and wanted to go over their methodology. When we sat down they agreed that their numbers for Ballard were low. When we dug into the why, it turned out that the designation of Regional Growth Center is pretty significant. It signifies that the local jurisdiction is going to put in the infrastructure and land use policies necessary for growth. The converse of that is the assumption that areas that are not designated as Regional Growth Centers will not be slated for that kind of intensive infrastructure investments and land use policies. Thus in PSRC’s modeling those areas are not projected to grow very quickly.

PSRC’s numbers are important because as our regions Metropolitan Planning Organization they allocate 100s of millions of dollars of federal transportation money (that isn’t an exaggeration, click the link, the last grant was for $440 million). Currently, suburban and exurban locals are more than willing to label themselves growth centers (Silverdale, Bothell Canyon Park and Totem Lake are all Regional Growth Centers) while due to NIMBYS urban areas are afraid to. Combined with outdated models of urban v suburban growth patterns that means this huge pot of money is being incorrectly allocated. The numbers are also important as they are the basis for  Sound Transit’s ridership projections.

Sleepy-town Ballard

Sleepy-town Ballard

Right now Seattle only has 6 of the region’s 28 Regional Growth Centers. Four of those six are in the Central Business District (CBD). Only Northgate and the University District are outside of that core. However, rapid growth is happening all over the city. It’s just not recognized by the modeling and thus is missing out in the infrastructure improvements that should come with said growth.

I contacted Councilmember O’Brien (chair of Seattle’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee) to find out if the city had started the Designation Process for adding any more of our De Facto growth centers (for instance Ballard, Lake City, etc.) and he looking into it. He was kind enough to pass along his response from staff. Tom Hauger, who works on growth management and comp plan issues at DPD (below the fold): [Read more…]

Seattlites: Phonebank for Spokane Transit

STA Bus in Browne's Addition

Phonebank for more of these.

Next Tuesday evening, Transportation Choices Coalition is running a phone bank in support of STA Moving Forward, the Spokane Transit Authority’s ballot measure to maintain and improve service throughout the Spokane region. As I wrote in March, Spokane is a real city, our state’s second largest, with lots of transit riders, and a well-run transit agency that’s full of smart, cost-effective ideas to grow ridership and improve mobility. STA, Spokane transit riders, and the Yes! for Spokane Buses campaign deserve your support.

TCC needs about seven more people on their phone banks that night. There will be pizza and beer. I plan to be there: That’s how much I want this to pass!

Where: Transportation Choices Coalition Office, 219 1st Ave S, Suite 420.
When: Tuesday, April 21st, 4-7:30 PM. (You don’t have to stay the whole time.)

You can optionally RSVP at this Facebook event.

Regional Day Pass Approved

... soon featuring One Regional Day Pass for All

… soon featuring One Regional Day Pass for All

The ORCA Joint Board met Monday, held a brief public hearing at which nobody spoke, and unanimously approved the regional day pass program.

The regional day pass program, scheduled to roll out in June, creates an $8 ORCA day pass, good for the first $3.50 of fare on any transit service that honors the Puget Pass. It also creates a $4.50 Regional Reduced Fare Permit (for seniors 65+ and riders with disabilities) day pass, covering the first $1.75 of fare on any transit service that honors Puget Pass, but only available on the RRFP version of ORCA.

22 comments were received during the comment period, all supportive of the program.
6 expressed concern about the cost of getting an ORCA card.
5 asked for a youth and/or LIFT version of the pass.

The regional day pass has long been on the wish list of many STB commenters. The program took two years of development.

Previous blog coverage of the regional day pass program can be found here.

Action Alert: Full funding for Sound Transit

This is a guest post.

Seattle Subway LogoSEATTLE SUBWAY
Seattle Subway has learned that ESSB 5988 which authorizes transportation projects and a funding source for Sound Transit’s next big regional transit package (ST3) may make it out of committee this week and come to a vote on the House floor.

It is also our understanding that the Seattle delegation is not fully committed to pushing for $15B in funding authority for ST3. In order for Seattle to get the number and quality of projects we so desperately need, Sound Transit must have the full $15B they asked for.

You can find out who represents you here.   http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/

Please email (or better yet, call) your Representatives TODAY to tell them you want the full $15B funding for ST3 so we can continue to build the Seattle Subway.

Metro Talks Long-Range Planning

RapidRide F coach

A “red bus” on the F Line. Photo by Blue Bus Fan.

On March 31st, King County Metro held a Visioning Workshop to kick off its new long-range planning process.  The process will supplement Metro’s current 2011-2021 Strategic Plan with a new long-range plan, to be presented in draft form in spring 2016 and adopted by the King County Council in late 2016.  The launch party was a transit geek’s extravaganza: it featured breakout sessions for riders and citizens to talk with Metro personnel about what they want from the transit system, as well a “visioning” panel with transit eminence Jarrett Walker, Seattle civic leader Rebecca Saldaña, and UW transportation planning professor Mark Hallenbeck.

Because of scheduling conflicts, I was unable to attend the event itself, which was very well attended and garnered consistently positive reports from attendees (at least those who talked to us).  However, Metro invited STB staff to a media Q&A session immediately before the event, which I was able to make.  At the session, Metro deputy general manager Victor Obeso and Walker offered an interesting, frank, and informative discussion of the long-range planning process. A few highlights of that discussion follow below the jump.

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Community Land Trusts in the City

Mid-Town Center, photo by the author

Mid-Town Center, photo by the author

One of the more interesting developments in Seattle’s recent building boom has been the conversation among some residents of the Central District to attempt to organize in the face of displacement. The community is looking to purchase the Mid-Town Center property on the Southeast corner of 23rd & Union. CHS and The Stranger have covered the issue recently. Here’s a quote from The Stranger’s piece, in February:

Among the possible solutions: buying the property. Bangasser has offered to give the Union Street Business Association (USBA)—a small group composed of people who care about the black business community—site control, kind of like a down payment, for just 10 percent of the asking price. (Bangasser is currently the USBA’s director and treasurer, although he said he’s being replaced given his conflict of interest.) And at the community meeting, the total cost to purchase the property was put at $16 million, but Bangasser’s response to that number was, “I don’t know where that came from.”

“The USBA is now trying to come up with the money,” said local architect Donald King, who’s an adviser to the USBA. “If it’s successful, it could be a model for not only other neighborhoods in Seattle, but other neighborhoods across the country.”

CHS adds that “a Public Development Authority or a land trust [are] still on the drawing board.” Indeed, a land trust would be an interesting model for a large, urban site like this. While rent control and zoning restrictions are usually ineffective in combatting housing affordability, and may even exacerbate it, land trusts are a proven model for permanently affordable home ownership.

In a nutshell, land trusts work like this: the trust acquires land. It then enters into an agreement with a buyer (pre-qualified to meet the necessary income requirements) whereby the buyer purchases a house on the land at an affordable rate. When the buyer is ready to sell, they agree to sell to the another pre-qualified buyer, allowing the seller to earn a reasonable return on their purchase. By sharing the cost of purchase, the trust is able to acquire land less expensively, and the buyer knows they won’t be evicted because they “own” the property.

Occasionally entire neighborhoods can be acquired by land trusts, as was the case with the Dudley Street neighborhood in Boston.

In an effort to learn more about land trusts, I spoke with Erika Malone at Homestead, the largest land trust in Washington State. Homestead receives about 300 applications per year from would-be homeowners and has a waiting list of 700. They currently have 2- and 3BR houses within the Seattle city limits for around $200,000. And since they only require a 1% down payment, it can often cost less up front to buy a home from Homestead than it would to put down first/last/deposit on a 2BR rental.

“Some people think it’s a scam,” Malone joked. It may not be a scam, but it is something of a rarity. Homestead had 36 house transactions in 2013. “Our challenge is supply,” she said. “We need capital and land like any other developer.”

On the plus side, the joint relationship between the trust and the homeowner can help keep the property affordable for the long haul. Today’s affordable housing can become tomorrow’s unaffordable housing as soon as it’s sold. Homestead’s renewable 99-year leases keep the property affordable, theoretically in perpetuity.

For a multifamily development, the land trust could be even more powerful. One reason we don’t see more small condo buildings in Seattle these days is that condo owners have an almost routine habit of suing the developer. Developers have generally decided that it’s not worth the risk unless the building is a large tower. In the case of a land trust condo, the developer and the buyer would jointly own the property, thereby making the relationship more cooperative than adversarial.

Like any developer, Malone says they’re attracted to fixed rail because it offers a sense of permanence, which is important when you’re thinking about a 99-year lease. She said they’d like to get more involved in transit-oriented development, but they “aren’t in a position financially” to take advantage of opportunities around LINK in places like Othello Station. One wonders what a land trust might have done with a free piece of land right next to Roosevelt Station.

While Malone stresses that land trusts are “not a silver bullet,” they are a useful tool in the affordable housing belt, preventing displacement and building equity in a sustainable way.

 

Two New Reasons to Honor Passes as PoP: LIFT & the Proposed Day Pass

The ORCA Joint Board will be holding a public hearing this coming Monday, April 13, at 10:30 am, in the 8th Floor Conference Room at 201 S. Jackson St, on its proposal for making the ORCA regional multi-agency day pass permanent, and adding a Regional Reduced Fare Permit version of the day pass. Details of the proposal were covered here. Comments will be accepted at contactus@orcacard.com until meeting time. Action on the day pass proposal is scheduled to follow the hearing.

It happens to everyone eventually. My turn came a year ago, when I managed to tap an odd number of times between getting off and back on Link downtown. As has happened numerous times, my car was boarded by a team of Fare Enforcement Officers (also known by the unfortunate acronym “FOEs”). This time, I was given a warning for fare evasion, and threatened with a $124 fine if I did it again. [Click here for Sound Transit’s fare enforcement policy.]
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Portland-Eugene Cascades Service May Disappear

Mt Bachelor Trainset – ODOT Photo

Mt Bachelor Trainset – ODOT Photo

Despite spending $42m on two new trainsets just two years ago, ODOT might be forced to suspend Cascades service south of Portland on July 1. In the post-PRIIA landscape – in which states must fully fund rail corridors of less than 750 miles – Oregon needs $28m in the 2015-2017 biennium to keep the trains rolling. With $17.6m already set aside from a hodgepodge of sources including unclaimed gas tax refunds and custom license plate fees, a gap of $10.4m remains. Former Governor Kitzhaber duly requested the full $10.4m, but the legislature thus far has only proposed $5m. If the $5.4m gap isn’t closed by July, the service will disappear.

When ODOT purchased its trainsets, it also prioritized intra-Oregon travel, changing the schedule to enable day trips from Portland to Eugene for the first time and reducing daily Seattle-Eugene trains from two to one. The expected demand never materialized, and ridership has fallen by 9.1% since 2013. While the other train’s ridership is mostly flat, the added morning train from Portland to Eugene has been a disaster, with just 8,800 riders in 2014, or 24 people per train.

ODOT’s recent performance report to the legislature paints a similarly grim picture, with runaway costs, poor on-time performance, worsening freight interference, and dropping ridership:

On the route’s performance:

[Read more…]

News Roundup: Letting It Burn

Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

This is an open thread.

To Get More Affordable Housing, Build More Transit

El Centro de la Raza - 110 Affordable Housing Units. Beacon Hill, Seattle WA

When Mayor Murray first announced his Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, there was always a risk that it would be undermined by a lack of specifics. To get the committee on track for a May announcement, the mayor recently announced a goal of 20,000 affordable units over the next 10 years, nearly triple the current rate of production.

Funding these units will be difficult. (One would assume that the sometimes-maligned linkage fee, which Martin described last fall, will play a role.) Given that it costs $20,000 or more to build an urban parking spot, it would be counter to the spirit of affordable housing to spend scarce funds on private car storage. For the purposes of this blog, then, it’s interesting to consider how these 20,000 units might be oriented around transit and walkability, and what that might do to the transit landscape.

Ryan Curren, who manages the City’s Community Cornerstones program, told me that the city has financed “several really interesting affordable housing mixed-use projects at light rail stations” in the last few years, including projects at Mt. Baker Station (Artspace), Beacon Hill (El Centro de la Raza) and Columbia City (Mercy). All of thee projects feature limited parking and a mix of commercial and residential uses.

Financing and construction for projects like these would need to be expanded dramatically to hit the Mayor’s target. It would also mean acquiring more land near transit at a time when the cost of such land is at an all-time high.

“Land costs are an obstacle, specifically the escalating cost of land over time and land costs at stations relative to land located further out along corridors,” Curren said. Federal and state programs can help, but they’re limited.

Rather than chase the expensive land near current transit stations, the task force might consider how to bring frequent transit to more parts of the city. That would open up more neighborhoods to potential affordable housing. It’s encouraging that Prop 1 and Move Seattle, along with Metro’s long-range-plan, all nod in that direction. The housing task force could be another voice pushing for fast and frequent transit in more parts of the city.

15 Minutes or Better

This is a guest post.

By NEIL GREENBERG

Hello Seattle!

Neil from Detroit here. I am working on a project that you all may find appealing. It has a Seattle connection. More importantly, is has broad relevance for the entire public transit space.

The effort is called 15 Minutes or Better. It’s a series of short videos to highlight the fundamentals of effective public transit: coverage, connectivity, speed, span, frequency, accessibility.

To longtime transit enthusiasts, these elements are painfully obvious. Today, thanks to increased academic interest and a chatty internet, more and more people are describing themselves as transit enthusiasts. It’s a positive phenomenon – we need all the support we can get.

However, many newcomers are overlooking the core ingredients of effective transit. Essential service attributes are regularly dismissed as “too technical” – while the conversation drifts toward trendy sub-topics of transit: policy, technology, private financing, real estate development.

Those are all worthwhile matters. Taken alone, though, none can significantly improve the full experience of using transit. As such, 15 Minutes or Better intends to give proper due to the meat-and-potatoes of transit service. We’ll address each “technical” component in a fun, engaging and decidedly non-technical way. In so doing, we’ll equip the growing ranks of transit enthusiasts with a more thorough, more powerful understanding of the issue.

The project starts in Detroit because our transit conversation is astoundingly incomplete. Despite well-documented deficiencies with our transit service, the official discussion is revolving around secondary themes. We talk of apps and websites and TOD and attracting millennials – while practically ignoring route coverage and service levels. We know that other cities have effective transit systems, but we’ve failed to identify – or even ask – what makes those systems effective.

So we’re hitting the road. We are travelling to multiple US cities – including Seattle – to showcase effective transit service in its natural, everyday habitat. In each city, we’ll walk the viewer through an actual transit trip and point out what is working. The message is clear: the elements of quality transit service should not be taken for granted. If you want to improve transit in your city – Detroit or elsewhere – insist on this element!

In Seattle, our particular element-of-focus is connectivity – how transit can downplay political boundaries to link logical destinations. For example, we may start at the Tacoma Dome and travel to UW. Anyone can see why this trip makes sense: a big population center to a big university. In too many other places, transit couldn’t connect these dots because they’re in different counties. But Puget Sound gets it right. Let’s bring that to light – and set it as a precedent for all metropolitan areas.

And – you had to see this coming – 15 Minutes or Better will cost us to produce. We’ve figured about $45,000 to film, edit and compile the whole video series. We are attempting to raise $15,000 of that through crowdfunding – check out the campaign, along with the trailer, at patronicity.com/15mob. Our first target audience is Detroit. Beyond the Motor City, our findings can help inform the national dialogue. We want to ensure that the transit conversation doesn’t forget to talk about transit.

We’d love your support – a small contribution, ideas for local transit highlights, even your knowledge on-camera as a “local host”. If you have any questions, please contact me directly.

Thank you!