Overlake Transit Center, eastbound
Overlake bus stop, photo by rideyourbike

Full disclosure: I work for Microsoft – and love it – at the Overlake Campus. I can’t imagine using this overpass for anything except visiting the new company store, which I do just a handful of times a year.

A project that would build a 520 overpass near Microsoft’s Overlake Campus is slated to receive $11 million in PSRC highway stimulus money, and apparently this is upsetting some “tax payer watchdogs”. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national organization who lobbies against corporate subsidies, says that Microsoft should be footing even more of the bill than they already are. Currently, Microsoft has agreed to contribute $17.5 million for the project, which will cost somewhere around $40 million according to WSDOT.

Now it may be true that the majority of the trips across the overpass will be made by Microsoft’s employees and partners, but so what? Every transportation investment is a subsidy for the residents and businesses the project serves. If we stopped subsidizing transportation projects that served businesses, we’d have very little transportation infrastructure at all. Microsoft is chipping in nearly half the project’s cost, so I don’t see a whole lot to complain about. Or would we rather Microsoft spent the $17.5 million on transportation projects for a development center in India*? The answer seems obvious, and the complaints about this particular project seem misguided.

In other Microsoft news, that is one big garage. It’s scary to think a garage that big could ever get full. (H/T to Frank)

*Nothing wrong with that. The question is “would we rather”…

80 Replies to “520 Overpass and Transportation Subsidies”

  1. I agree. Microsoft is one of the most important economic engines in out region, and it’s important to keep as many jobs here as possible.

  2. As a fellow ‘Softie, I think this is a very important investment. I remember showing my brother the Company Store/Visitor Center and I think tis overpass should be built

      1. At least you can take the shuttle. Can’t load my wheelchair (and no I can’t use my legs at all – it sucks)

      2. The MSFT shuttles aren’t accessible? That blows. I’d think that would be an ADA violation of some sort. Besides I doubt you are the only employee with mobility challenges.

      3. They are technically accessible…it’s just the tray that hooks onto my chair so I can work on my laptop while commuting

        There’s plenty of room on the Metro bus for me to take it off when boarding and deboarding, but not on the shuttle

      4. Besides, I’m close enough to the Overlake Transit Center that I don’t need the shuttles (it helps living on the 230:) )

  3. As another ‘Softie (in fact, that’s my building in the photo), I think we should not add another reason for MS not to move folks downtown. A suburban office park is in no way sustainable – we’ve been driving sprawl for decades by being out here. I’d rather see us pick up downtown Seattle office space as lease costs decrease.

    1. I’m not arguing the merits of the overpass or not, I’m arguing about the ridiculous claim that microsoft should pay for all transportation improvements that benefit them.

      1. Oh, and I agree with you there. Although it’s nice that we’re ponying up as much as we are – it makes us that much less likely to keep putting people out here.

    2. Ben, I assume that you live downtown? Certainly, I’m sure it would be better if your employer moved its offices closer to where you live. Convenient for you.

      But how about finding a job job closer to where you live?

      Alleging that Microsoft is, at this point, contributing to sprawl through the Overlake campus – when you live in Seattle instead of in one of the many apartment or condo complexes in the Bellevue/Overlake/Crossroads/Redmond area — well, that just seems self-serving in the extreme, to me.

      1. Hub and spoke travel is by far the most efficient way to organize transportation. By living in the city, I encourage my company to locate more of its space there – something that the company has already done in response to pressure from people like me. Because I’m in the center, nearly all of my trips can be on foot or the bus, adding almost no marginal CO2 emissions.

        If I were to live near campus on the eastside, my non-commute trips would largely have to be by car – I’d be in the city many nights and weekends anyway, because that’s where the unique and interesting things to do are. The area around Microsoft is sterile, and if it became *less* sterile, it would simply attract more trips from other parts of the region. Because the eastside is so spread out, those trips would largely be by car as well, *and* they would cause new congestion on many more arterials that we don’t have the money to improve.

        The ONLY choice the state legislature makes that really affects commute patterns is whether or not you subsidize sprawl – and when given the choice to fund mass transit (which actually does cause people to live near where they work), you dump money into freeways instead. Why is Microsoft in Redmond? Because the state legislature built highway 520. Without that, these jobs would be in the city, but you’re subsidizing this sprawl.

      2. Thanks for calling my neighborhood sterile. Your mutual respect (or lack thereof) for others’ situations and living decisions is what is appalling. Not everyone makes their decision to live based on CO2 emissions and anti-sprawl political ideologies.

        And for the record, the area where Microsoft is based was originally called “Evergreen East” and the proposed location of a massive shopping center. When 520 was extended beyond 148th it essentially destroyed those plans (much to Kemper Freeman’s chagrin) and Microsoft and a handful of other companies moved in.

        To stay on topic however, I actually don’t support the construction of this bridge because it really only increases mobility during business hours and one could parallel that reasoning to adding lanes to a freeway for reducing congestion during peak periods.

      3. An ‘anti-sprawl political ideology’? No, sprawl is not about ideology, it’s about money. Businesses figured out that they could get the government to make cheap land more profitable for them. Now we sit in traffic as a result. I don’t want to pay for lowering my quality of life.

        And CO2 is CERTAINLY NOT a political issue. It’s only a political issue for people who don’t understand or don’t want to address climate change. For the rest of us, it’s a survival issue.

        The Eastside is indeed sterile. Everything is disconnected, most is only accessible by car. While there are small changes being made to improve that, it’s going to be a long road to change that.

      4. I’ve lived in Downtown Redmond near the then P&R, now Transit Center, I’ve lived on 24th & 164th. I’ve lived on 156th & 40th. I know the area pretty well and, yeah, like most suburbs it is “sterile” — clean of the grime and visual history and some of the culture that people like us bloggers tend to seriously appreciate. I find that most people who live in suburbs prefer that — the wide, clean streets and a quiet or non-existent night live. You might! So don’t take it as a slight. Of course our decisions based on where to live are personal.

        Some people do make their decision to live based on CO2, sprawl, and urban culture — there’s nothing wrong with that either! But you can’t possibly get offended when people point out that the suburbs are just less active and, obviously in Ben’s opinion, too clean and picturesque. I can’t speak for Ben, but I like some graffiti and band posters on telephone poles. I like when I walk around Seattle there are people walking around at nearly all times. (People in Overlake never walked! It was creepy. It’s not their fault — where would they walk to?) I like there are bars a few blocks from me.

        I do miss that there is a little forest in middle of Overlake. My girlfriend and I used to always walk to it and through it when we were having serious conversations… It was something I can’t get in Capitol Hill.

        But you know what? Northgate and much of Ballard are too “sterile” for me too. So it’s not an anti-suburb bias, it’s just a personal choice. And you can still have walkable, livable communities, like some of Downtown Redmond, without the urban grime and the culture that comes with it — a “sterile” area that’s still better for the planet. Overlake is neither walkable nor particularly unique — a lot of chains — and I can see why someone wouldn’t want to live there without it being a slight against you.

        But it does kind of rile me up when someone dumps on Capitol Hill, so I can understand defending your home turf. But we can’t let sensitivity get in the way of good land use and it’s hard to talk about good land use without offending anyone.

      5. John, have you checked out that forest down the hill from 10th and Roanoke? It’s pretty nice.

      6. > it really only increases mobility during business hours

        I disagree. It will help dramatically during peak commute and it’s usefulness as a bike and pedestrian connection are what I really like. Currently there is no good bike connection from the 520 trail to East Bellevue. There’s still a “missing link” in terms of 156th Ave NE, NE 24th and Bel-Red road all being awful but this is a good start. This also ties in with the Overlake Village TOD project (the one built, what 10 years ago?) and someday with whatever is done with the old Group Health Complex which is likely to be huge. The other big benefit is reducing congestion on 148th through Overlake which will be much worse once Link is running; especially if they follow the current COB recommendation to drop the line down to grade in this area.

      7. I’m not sure how you just disagreed. You seem to be, in fact, supporting his assertion. :)

      8. Business hours are traditionally the nine to five. I take the statement that the overpass only increases mobility during business hours to mean it’s primarily just to help Microsoft inter-campus connections. If you take business hours to mean 7AM to 10PM then yeah, I agree it only really increase mobility when people are using it. The same could be said for just about any road.

      9. I wouldn’t describe it as sterile, but it is auto-oriented, meaning it won’t work for me.

      10. Most of the eastside is auto-oriented. No doubt about that. Downtown Kirkland is one example I can think of that isn’t. It has a “younger generation” nightlife” all withing walking distance of transit, residential and employment. Not the same atmosphere as Capitol Hill to be sure but it fits a lot of peoples ideal. I don’t know what the ratio of parking spots to condos is for the new towers in Bellevue but I’m betting a lot of those people are going to be carless.

        Living along 156th or 148th or in Crossroads you can get by without a car but I’m not sure it would be a choice people make on purpose. Overlake Village was built with the idea of not being auto oriented but it was built entirely as low income housing which was a mistake. I think Downtown Redmond has done a good job but of course nothing on the eastside has the character of a 100 year old neighborhood.

        I enjoy the hussle and bussle of downtown but only in small and very infrequent doses. I’d much rather be able to leave my house on a bike ride and not spend the first 30 minutes trying to get out of Seattle. Quiet after 10PM is just fine with me. Stopped thinking of bars as a necessary amenity decades ago. The quality of the public schools is much more important.

      11. Yeah Bernie, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changing priorities. I wish you had more options to have a calm life with great schools in walkable, suburban communities.

        Kirkland is an example of a suburb that’s definitely not sterile.

      12. Capitol Hill is pretty quiet. Sure, one street isn’t, but you don’t want to live on Bel-Red or Avondale either, do you? You live on a side street. I live a block off Broadway and it’s quiet at night.

        As for cycling – I mostly just coast down the hill to Lake Washington Boulevard. I’ve lived in Redmond, and I don’t think it fits people’s ideals any better than the Hill. I just think they’ve decided Seattle isn’t what they want because it’s called “Seattle”.

        Almost every time I show a friend from Kirkland, Renton, Bellevue around where I live, they start looking for a place to live here, because they realize they have misconceptions.

      13. My life changed December 5th of last year (daughter was born) and since then, I need just a single bar that doesn’t completely suck in the neighborhood to be happy.

      14. There are plenty of clean, quiet, and safe neighborhoods in Seattle that also happen to be walkable. Many are also reasonably close to nightlife and the like. Even if not Seattle has the advantage of transit that runs fairly late so one can go downtown or to Capitol Hill.

        I’m currently in Maple Leaf which fits that definition at least for me.

      15. Bernie,

        I agree carless is a stretch in many of these neighborhoods. But with adequate transit options and decent land use “one-car family” is viable. It’s something I plan to do when the rail finally comes in.

      16. “But how about finding a job job closer to where you live?”

        That’s the battle cry of people who either don’t understand public transportation, or oppose it. Or both.

        Talk about simplifying a very complex situation. You think a family of four is going to split up when Dad gets transferred from Boeing Auburn to Boeing Everett? Or, when Mom needs to be closer to ailing parents? Or, kids need to be closer to better schools?

        I hope Rep. Eddy was joking when she made that statement.

      17. Marco,
        Rep. Eddy’s comment was in response to Ben’s idea that Microsoft should move to where he wants to live. She get’s it that people by choice or by necessity don’t necessarily live where they work. You’re trying to put a completely different spin on it.

      18. Eddy’s comment is because she feels threatened – Microsoft’s been moving offices out of her district.

        It’s not about where I *want* to live. Where we end up living has a lot less to do with what we want, and a lot more to do with what infrastructure we build. Microsoft would be in the city if not for our construction of a state highway to serve them.

      19. It’s difficult to always live where you work — right now. Ben is in a generation where urban living is idealized again and he has a personal life that he wants, one that’s incompatible with suburbia. Microsoft is not part of his generation, it was founded decades ago. Over time businesses in the city will get different and potentially better employees.

        I know that personally I want to keep working in the city for as long as I can because a 15 minute commute is just great. But there is a significant difference between Ben living in a city and working in a major suburb office park, and Ben living and working in to disjoint suburbs. For one, he has access to transit that he can ride daily. Second, he does not need to use a car to travel to the store or run errands in the evening.

        So I think we can all say that “live and work in the same place” is a good philosophy, but failing that putting yourself in a position to have a good transit connection is a great second choice. You can’t really compare that to living in Renton and working in Snohomish.

  4. The overpass is a City of Redmond project. It will greatly increase access for condo and apartment residents west of 148th to the Overlake Village area and link station when built. The thing I really like about it is the bike path goes under (not waiting for lights like 40th and 51st) and it has actual bike lanes instead of forcing you to ride the sidewalk or battle the Connector buses. The Microsoft Campus is not the only business between 148th and I-405. Nintendo is also there and currently building a huge expansion. Our company is located in there in a building with Nokia/Siemens. The 148thNE/NE24th intersection has been a bottle neck forever (and a bad place to bring Link down to grade) and this will take a lot of pressure off that retail core. As I read this the federal money doesn’t go to reducing the Microsoft contribution.

    As far as working downtown Microsoft has made it their stated policy for years that they intend to pull as much as possible into the corporate campus and that has been part of City of Redmond planning within the bounds of the GMA. The current job cuts are going to accelerate that concentration.

    1. Of course, we’ve also expanded in downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue at the same time. Two towers in Bellevue!

  5. It’d be interesting to see how much of the cost of past projects private companies have picked up. The only other three I can think of off the top of my head that were built in this way:

    Hwy 526 Freeway from I-5 to the Boeing Everett Plant(This may or may not have had private funds contributed)
    The onramp from Hwy 526 to north I-5
    The interchange in Dupont that seemed to be finished in record time for an interchange. If I remember right , it was finished in six to eight months.

  6. I’m all for any better bus / bike / ped connections. In 20 years (assuming the economy ever recovers) Bel Red will be much more dense and hopefully alot of MS peeps will live there. It will be a Link ride away in both directions to MS

  7. Did I see more housing near Microsoft? Good move. Add in some nightlife so people don’t feel compelled to live in Seattle and commute. Moving some of the jobs downtown is a great idea, too.

    The complaints about an overpass are based on the fact of a office park without relation to any concept of integrated city/town development. That’s why people get pissed off at the idea that because someone wants to build and there will be jobs, we all get held hostage to thier grand idea. Well then they need to pay for a large part of it. Looks like they are. Good.

    Here is a thought. Build housing and amenities on that campus. We are not talking about 19th century noxious industrial jobs that no one wants to live near. The live-work dichotomy, along with the automobile, has destroyed our culture.

    I don’t think we need to do a lot of massive new building. Even with a ten percent growth rate, we have plenty available. Let’s reorganize ourselves and use what we have, build homes where there is work. Build for services and jobs where there are only homes. Allow us to turn single family homes into homes for two households.

    More or better roads don’t really help us live the way we need to. What will we have bumper to bumper buses?

    1. The problem with adding more to the overlake area is that you’ll generate new suburb-to-suburb trips (by car) by people from outside overlake who want to go to the new places.

      Building housing on campus would just make it worse as well, because those people will have to drive elsewhere to do anything nonwork. Plus, it’s extremely poor for employee quality of life. The people who live right next to campus are the ones who are workaholics already. It’s *good* that it takes some effort to get to work.

      1. I’m sorry. Rep. Eddy’s question was very fair. As was your answer. It’s all very informative.

        The truth is we need to get over the live-work dichotomy that was created by the first streetcar suburb, that then as economic and social life grew along with the automobile became a notion that it is just dandy to live 20-60 miles or more from work.

        The revitalization of our urban cores does not address the reality of edge cities and towns, and the dead small towns around the state that have lost out because of the end of resource based economic life and an end to rail access.

        So how do we work with what we have? How do we urbanize the burbs? How do we create small downtown ‘main streets’ that are place people want to be? My gosh I grew up in a suburb that was more walkable than Seattle and had a real downtown.

        Frankly, I support punishing people with much traffic and congestion until they make the choice to move closer to work. Or, gasp! live in Kirkland and work in Redmond which at least doesn’t involve the bridge. Maybe they will get involved in planning in their new communities to make them more lively and dense. Or, maybe when one is young one wants to live differently than when one is older. That is also fair.

        At the same time, I support more rail based transportation options to existing places, for those willing to make the trek. That would be the role of all you transportation engineers.

        People DO move to places closer to their work. I’m seeing it in my neighborhood. Seattle neighborhoods need to vastly improve to get in balance, as well, to be sustainable and livable — and that is a socio-economic-political clout- human challenge

        Unless we incentivize human socio-economic life in a system of great places to live in the form of towns and cities and create that, we will never get over our love of sprawl, roads, cars and commuting.

      2. I think it’s a little too simple to compare the distance of the commute without looking at the mode or the lifestyle outside of the commute.

        If you live in Kirkland in a relatively inefficient single-family house driving a relatively inefficient vehicle to work, the store, and everything else then you are hardly an example of responsibility compared to someone who lives in a dense, efficient building and rides the bus to work and bikes or walks to the store. Some people might prefer that car dependent lifestyle, but talking about moving to another suburb as a solution to car dependency is backwards. No one wants to move to Kirkland and get involved just to make things “better” when their current life is already “better.”

        So Ben’s case is hardly an edge city talking point. Rep. Eddy was obviously making a pointed comment, but asking someone to quit their job during the worst economic crisis in 40 years is hardly a substitute for real land use policy.

      3. > but asking someone to quit their job during the worst economic crisis in
        > 40 years is hardly a substitute for real land use policy.

        Ben’s idea of wanting Microsoft to move to Seattle is? That’s what the remark about finding employment in Seattle was in response to. Taking it anyother way is twisting things way out of context.

        I don’t have problem with people wanting the urban lifestyle and commuting to their job in Redmond. I have a problem with people thinking employers need to move to Seattle because that lifestyle is so superior to living on the eastside. Hate to break it to you but cities are not sustainable. Seattle relies on daily imports of food, mostly by truck, and the export of tons of garbage on BNSF freight cars (7,000 per year) to Oregon. Seattle doesn’t even brew it’s own beer anymore (Ranier and Redhook both left). If you want to preach the eco-godlyness of a sustainable lifestyle abandon the bars and publicly subsidized transit; move to a farm and telecommute.

        BTW, I’m like Sam, a role model for the rest of you because I ride my bike to work. And here all I thought I was doing was getting some exercise and saving some money and really I’m saving the planet for future generations.

      4. I think employees of Microsoft are entitled to have an opinion about where they’d like offices to be located. Land use decisions that encourage Microsoft and other companies to be centrally located are not decisions that Ben influences but they are controlled by government policy. Changing those policies is a real step. Asking people to work near where they live regardless of the costs is not a real step — it’s a distraction from the real policy decisions that scale to everyone in the region.

        Employers don’t “need” to move to Seattle because that “lifestyle” is superior, that’s ridiculous. But since so many people live in the city, then having those people be physically closer to work and more likely to be served by transit since cities are better suited for transit is of course better for the region.

        The point is that if you have a smart generation of computer programmers who love living the city, over time they may get jobs in the city too (like me). For Microsoft or other tech companies, this is a matter of competitive advantage and not the environment. For the city, allowing big buildings for Microsoft would be a matter of creating jobs, not the environment. The region and city having those buildings near transit stops would be a matter of creating a population that spends time working instead of stuck in traffic, not the environment.

        It just so happens that what retains competitive advantage for tech companies, creates jobs in the city, and reduces congestion in the region is also significantly better for the environment compared to the status quo.

        But I’m getting real tired of these stupid arguments — Oh, are you green enough? In general, urban areas are more sustainable than suburban ones. In particular, Seattle is more sustainable than Bellevue. It doesn’t mean people who live in Bellevue, like I did a few years ago, are evil eco-terrorists at all. But we need to be honest in evaluating our current situation if we expect to have a serious discussion about addressing climate change in our region. And for Puget Sound, land use is by far the biggest factor.

        And if you’re going to get all ridiculous because you happen to live in a suburb and get upset that we’re pointing out that it’s less efficient or sustainable then you’re not really going to address how Bellevue would adapt to a more sustainable and responsible model. Just because you enjoy biking to work and have that infrastructure available to you doesn’t mean that all the land use issues in Eastside are fixed. Some things, like the lack of proper street grid, people will suffer through for the rest of their lives. And yeah, just because Seattle has a big population doesn’t mean that the strip malls in South Seattle are any more sustainable than their analogs in Woodinville.

        On balance, living in Capitol Hill and busing to work is more sustainable than living in Kirkland and driving everywhere. Just because I, as an analytical person, can recognize that difference doesn’t mean I need to go live on a farm and telecommute. How can we possibly have a serious discussion about more sustainable land use if very the people pushing for sustainability are going to be lambasted for emitting CO2? Pushing for a better model does not require having a perfect one.

        (I just took a giant leap by assuming that living in a rural area was more sustainable. Obviously, with our expected standard of living that would be less sustainable.)

        I guess I’m writing like a jerk or something because you seem to be taking what I’m saying personally. This isn’t about you or Ben. This isn’t a matter of personal decisions. This is about government policy, which right now frequently encourages poor land use. One should have to out of their way to live in an un-walkable community, but instead right now the reality is that you have to go out of your way to live in a place where you can walk your dog to the park and go to the store on your two feet. Just because that’s the status quo doesn’t mean that’s good policy.

      5. The majority of Microsoft’s employees live on the eastside, not in Seattle. Further the population growth forecast by 2030 on the eastside is considerably large than for Seattle. The Microsoft campus is well above average for employees that choose alternate transportation (i.e. other than SOV). 5,000 use the Connector (privately financed transit) every workday. I’d say walking your dog, or even owning a dog is a lot easier living in Redmond than Capitol Hill. Seattle bus connections are great but off peak how many of those buses are running around mostly empty? Using a car and driving where you want to go isn’t on the whole that much more polluting than a transit system. That’s especially true when you have multiple people in the car and think wisely about combining your trips. Take a look at the average CO2 comparisons in the document Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions on the All Aboard Washington website (frankly I don’t know why they link to this study by the ABA but there it is). I’d also point out that van pools are the most efficient of Metro’s operations and return 60% of operational costs, 3X the next best which is fixed bus service.

        Like you said, it’s all really about supporting an expected lifestyle; one that isn’t sustainable with our given energy production. It doesn’t really matter if you live in Seattle or one of the cities on the eastside. There are lots of things that can help and recognizing that those growth projections are going to happen and supporting roads and transit for the region rather than taking the position congestion will stop sprawl and drive people to choose an urban life style is a step in the right direction.

      6. People LIVE in Kirkland and they LIVE in Sammamish and they LIVE in Issaquah. Should we have built those subdivisions and roads. NO. But we did. And we created jobs out there.

        The hub and spoke model is from the 18th century. A network model is better. The DC burbs should have built the Metro II connector in Montgomery County. Instead, they like us, BUILT ROADS. And lots and lots of subdivisions with MC Mansions.

        Do you all plan to nuke the place and start over, and then build it as one huge hunking city, which will be ultimately unsustainable, and of which the building would be incredibly wasteful and unnecessarily polluting?

        Have the transit for folks living in Renton and working in Tukwila. Make downtown Renton a great place to live and work, and Kirkland, and Redmond, and Everett and Tacoma. Bring in those growth boundaries. I looked at the map and they are too big.

        That would be land use planning. Problem is we don’t really do regional planning. We do negotiations between municipalities over growth because they compete economically. Well, we don’t need to grow bigger. We need to grow inward in all towns that we deem shall be real towns. Some areas need economic development, even in Seattle. It’s lovely that people get what they need on Cap Hill, many of us have beer stores and people with guns on our main street.

        In my dreams, maybe some of those McMansions will just be abandoned and turned back into farms. If not, they can be aggressively taxed (there are ways to do this), have crappy roads and higher priced gasoline.

      7. Using a car and driving where you want to go isn’t on the whole that much more polluting than a transit system.

        That’s ridiculous. You’re right that the biggest factor in emissions is commuting to work and back, but driving to the store or to the soccer game also burns oil. Buses consume energy, too, but a lot of city buses and light rail use electricity.

        To answer your question about buses at night being nearly empty… I think there is a culture gap here, Bernie. Buses really aren’t running empty at night. At capacity? No. But certainly enough people are on even routes like an 11:30 pm #2 to indicate to me that there is demand being served by Metro.

        The reason cities around the world run buses past peak hours is because people want mobility at all times. If the transit doesn’t provide that alternative, people buy cars and you get major class differences. The cost of Metro running non-peak routes in Seattle is certainly great. But it is much smaller than the regional cost of all these transit users depending further on cars (road expansion, pollution, congestion, further limited parking, decreased mobility for people to business). This is why a government provides transit service and not the private sector: It’s a social good measured in externalities.

        I’d also point out that van pools are the most efficient of Metro’s operations and return 60% of operational costs, 3X the next best which is fixed bus service.

        Economic efficiency is irrelevant, especially considering that carbon isn’t substantially factored into pricing (yet). But van pools are efficient and good things, but they have no where near the capacity of a serious system like light rail. For all the frustration that congestion causes us right now, I don’t know why we’d force all transit to get stuck in it. Buses and vanpools are good, but rail doesn’t/shouldn’t have stop lights.

        Like you said, it’s all really about supporting an expected lifestyle; one that isn’t sustainable with our given energy production. It doesn’t really matter if you live in Seattle or one of the cities on the eastside. There are lots of things that can help and recognizing that those growth projections are going to happen and supporting roads and transit for the region rather than taking the position congestion will stop sprawl and drive people to choose an urban life style is a step in the right direction.

        Sure, but if you have a billion dollars to spend on infrastructure you can choose infrastructure that encourages emissions (and sprawl) or one that encourages energy efficiency. Bellevue is Bellevue, and it’ll only get more developed over time. But the mere fact that it exists doesn’t mean that expanding 405 is a “solution” to anything when we know that expanding freeways just ends up leading to more congestion and carbon emissions.

        Let’s build the rail there before we put additional major funding into roads, and pockets around stations can be more sustainable with the right land use policies. This is a more substantive and serious move than being concerned about Ben’s employment. Light rail will make Downtown Bellevue expand, as well as Bel-Red, and even make Overlake a better place to have jobs. It’s not just about building Seattle up. But yes, it is about building the land use up (often literally) and that certainly is more sustainable.

        People LIVE in Kirkland and they LIVE in Sammamish and they LIVE in Issaquah. Should we have built those subdivisions and roads. NO. But we did. And we created jobs out there.

        Yeah, so why would Ben also move to a suburb? Just because it’s closer doesn’t mean

        Have the transit for folks living in Renton and working in Tukwila. Make downtown Renton a great place to live and work, and Kirkland, and Redmond, and Everett and Tacoma. Bring in those growth boundaries. I looked at the map and they are too big.

        I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, I agree with all of your post. I still think that even if downtown Renton were built up, people would want to take transit to downtown Bellevue or Seattle. So would I say hub and spoke is the best or network? Well, for transit we barely have funding for vertical line and horizontal line… So it’s the sort of conversation that I think is fun to have for us but not very important now. Certainly Ben living in Seattle and working in Overlake could happen in either a network model or a hub and spoke model efficiently. But him living in Kirkland doesn’t just make a network model so — those are serious policy decisions handled perhaps by WA state legislation, but not addressed by a WA state legislator’s pointed questions.

      8. The majority of Microsoft’s employees live on the eastside, not in Seattle. Further the population growth forecast by 2030 on the eastside is considerably large than for Seattle. The Microsoft campus is well above average for employees that choose alternate transportation (i.e. other than SOV). 5,000 use the Connector (privately financed transit) every workday.

        I’m not saying Microsoft should shut down its Overlake offices. I’m saying that some divisions could be formed in Seattle an attract a different employee. And if Microsoft isn’t there, Amazon.com and another tech company will be.

        A service like Connector is much better than expanding roads. It’s also pretty efficient, which is great. Most companies can’t do it, though.

        If a lot of people are going to move to the Eastside, let’s put them in the efficient housing with walkable communities that they want to live in and are willing to pay for. And let’s eventually link those communities with rail so we don’t have to continue to expand freeways. The Bel-Red corridor is an excellent example of this sort of development that is literally suburban and may turn out “sterile” but will be a much more sustainable model for suburbs. Of course we see modern examples today, and we should move that additional.

      9. Please Ben. I think you should live where you want and that your are being rational and responsible. You think about this stuff, so you are miles ahead of most. I know there are lifestyle choices I make that would get me criticized. Driving too much for personal safety reasons, for example. Gosh, you who live in Redmond and bike to MS? Way cool.

        These interesting discussions are to try to figure out how to create places that people, people in different points in their lives and where we also see social and cultural identities, will want to live and have the transit options that will means everyone drives less. It takes more than transit.

        I have a social sciences background in urban studies and geography. I am glad I found this blog because I am a believer in rail and I think we all agree that it should have been built years ago, and that building new roads…well we have many years of that to get past.

        Interesting and radical? Maybe because I think we need more regional planning authority. To say what is appropriate to build where, based on what already is. And to be able to just say NO to certain development. That would be a huge socio-economic shift in itself. I feel like if there ever was a time…..

      10. The “Eastside has a larger population growth forecast than Seattle” depends very much on your definition of the Eastside. The “core” Eastside communities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Newcastle, Juanita, Medina and Beaux Arts have a much lower population growth target. If you add Sammamish, Issaquah, Woodinville plus the outlying areas (fall city and snoqualimie, etc.) then you have a larger target, but you’re including a huge area.

      11. If not Kirkland, Sammamish and Issaquah then why Seattle? It’s the classic growth was OK up to the point where I live but anywhere developed after that is sprawl. Cities aren’t surrounded by castle walls. Places like Renton and Black Diamond sprung up to supply coal to a blossoming Seattle. As Seattle grows it’s driving sprawl like all the distribution centers that have replaced farmland in the Kent valley. Yes growth in Bellevue has driven that too and that’s why I’m not so hot on replacing industrial zoning with apartments as the economic model for East Link proposes.

        Greater employment downtown doesn’t do much if anything for cutting down on the number of cars on the road. Given the options for transit in downtown far outweigh what’s available on the eastside what’s appalling is what a car magnet the downtown core is. It’s clear in all the growth projections that the population growth is going to be much greater outside of Seattle yet somehow the “green” thing for employers to do is relocate near downtown?

        And the answer is, yes but if we just force everyone to change behavior and adopt the urban lifestyle the world will become a better place. Economic efficiency is irrelevant? The answer to a budget gap is to increase taxes. More to the point increase taxes on people who drive cars because there’s a huge “need” for transit. Wait, I thought the the reason for living is Seattle was to enjoy a walkable neighborhood. Discretionary trips by someone on the eastside are evil but hot and cold running transit in Seattle is sustainable. What a case of denial to posture that the reason we must increase public subside for transit is because it’s our only hope of saving the planet when really it’s all about increased mobility to support a lifestyle choice that’s no more sustainable than in the surrounding cities.

        I understand this blog is pro transit (like the NRA is pro gun) but the hypocrisy of condemning road improvements (like buses don’t get stuck in traffic and Seattle isn’t dependent on those roads for all of it’s goods and economic health) and then defending the ferry system exposes this whole little ruse. The ferries are number one by a nautical mile when you look at CO2 emissions per passenger mile and they’re driving growth out on the peninsula where there’s a continuing drop in employment. The only job growth other than PSNS is that fueled by the development.

        I’d like to see improved transit. I try to use the bus whenever I go downtown because driving in a that traffic sucks. I know that buses full of people coming to Microsoft and going back into Seattle make my life better even though I’m riding a bike. I know that transit is essential to the economic engine that drives growth and I’m not going to pretend that it makes that growth ecologically sustainable. I’d like to see a better job of land management and applaud HB 1172 (Implementing a transfer of development rights) and opposed HB 1490 with it’s smog screen title “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions” diverting attention from it’s top down approach of controlling zoning. There are lots of good reasons to support transit. Social engineering isn’t one of them. There are ways we can improve transit and economic efficiency is one of them.

      12. Bernie,
        The problem is every decision government makes about land use, transportation, property taxes and fees, or transportation taxes and fees is social engineering. The question is what are you social engineering? Converting more forest and farmland to auto-oriented low-density neighborhoods? Building relatively dense walkable neighborhoods in areas that are already developed? Destroying established neighborhoods by punching new freeways through them? Strangling peninsula communities by preventing the people living there from commuting and tourists from visiting?

        Don’t kid yourself, the gas tax doesn’t even come close to paying the full cost of roads. This is without factoring in any of the indirect costs.

        Sure we could try the Houston, Phoenix, or Atlanta solution here, by widening existing freeways to 18 lanes and building a bunch of new ones. But just the ROW acquisition costs alone would be staggering.

        You can buy a lot of transit for the cost of adding one lane in each direction to I-5 or I-405.

        For an example of roads being “social engineering” take the proposed cross-base highway down in Pierce County. Sure there are people already living East of Ft. Lewis and McChord who would benefit but it would also make that area more accessible to the rest of the region and therefore more attractive to developers. This would lead to lots of new auto-centric sprawl East of the Military bases.

      13. Greater employment downtown doesn’t do much if anything for cutting down on the number of cars on the road. Given the options for transit in downtown far outweigh what’s available on the eastside what’s appalling is what a car magnet the downtown core is.

        There is no way to eliminate traffic without something like congestion pricing. Eliminating car traffic is not the end game, which is why expanding roads is a waste of money. Studies have shown that after a road is expanded traffic will just come back and there will be more of it.

        If the goal is to eliminate traffic then no amount of urban planning will do that. If the goal is to reduce VMT, like I want to, obviously having a handful of centralized job centers will allow each of those centers to be better served by transit. The Eastside is not lacking transit options as a form of punishment but because everything is so spread out that transit is hard to get right in the Eastside — unless you’re going to Bellevue or Seattle.

        It’s clear in all the growth projections that the population growth is going to be much greater outside of Seattle yet somehow the “green” thing for employers to do is relocate near downtown?

        Yes. Because even if someone is taking the bus from Issaquah or Sammamish to Seattle/Bellevue then that reduced VMT. Forcing transit into an area where it doesn’t work, like some of the Eastside, creates some of the criticisms we hear from you: This market-driven idea that empty buses are a waste. Empty buses are rare in Seattle, and it’s not because people on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne are poor (they’re not). It’s because those buses go to places people actually want to head to. Can you imagine where a bus route in Issaquah would actually begin and end? Would you need a P&R? If someone drives to a P&R, is it likely at some point they’ll decide it’s just faster to drive the whole distance, alone? This says nothing about Issaquah being evil or bad. But yes, it certainly is better for the environment to build in a few central job centers. Population growth will follow the options. Right now, the options are I-90 and I-405 and SR-520. Soon, the other options will be East Link, North Link, University Link, Central Link.

        The population growth projects are now necessarily how we should design policy but are the artifacts of policy already decided. We are growing in the outer suburbs because we built wide highways to them. That growth may produce walkable, livable communities but given the status quo of policies that seems unlikely.

        And the answer is, yes but if we just force everyone to change behavior and adopt the urban lifestyle the world will become a better place. Economic efficiency is irrelevant? The answer to a budget gap is to increase taxes. More to the point increase taxes on people who drive cars because there’s a huge “need” for transit. Wait, I thought the the reason for living is Seattle was to enjoy a walkable neighborhood. Discretionary trips by someone on the eastside are evil but hot and cold running transit in Seattle is sustainable. What a case of denial to posture that the reason we must increase public subside for transit is because it’s our only hope of saving the planet when really it’s all about increased mobility to support a lifestyle choice that’s no more sustainable than in the surrounding cities.

        A trip by someone on the Eastside is never evil, and that’s a strawman argument.

        You are doing something foolish and you’ve been doing it repeatedly. Just because transit is not “sustainable” in the same way that walking is, doesn’t mean that it isn’t much more “sustainable” than personal automobile traffic. And it is. Link light rail will be emissions free. Many bus routes in Seattle are emissions free. And it is a lot easier to make a few thousand buses more efficient than make a car fleet of two million more efficient.

        But look, you’re missing a huge point. The fact is that if you live in a walkable neighborhood a lot of your discretionary trips can be handled with your own two feet. I do not take the bus to the store, for example. When I run errands, I do so near work or my home, both in walkable neighborhoods. This isn’t new-age, hippie stuff. This is how life was for centuries. And now I’m walking on a sidewalk instead of a grass path, certainly, but I’m the only energy I’m burning when I go to the store, rent a movie, or buy groceries is the calories from my dinner. And these neighborhoods do not have to be urban. Right now, though, there are more walkable communities in Seattle than outside of it. (Again, I used to live in downtown Redmond.)

        An auto-oriented lifestyle requires bigger parking lots. That’s more concrete and asphalt — production of both is a significant emitter of CO2. It requires wider roads, which is the same deal. Because there are parking lots everywhere and an abundance of wide-open space, people tend to walk less and less. And biking becomes less common because the distances become large and the car traffic becomes too speedy. So you have a population that exercises less and only sees their neighbors on the highway. And now, when you want to go to the store you have to turn your key and burn some oil. That is not sustainable. That is far less sustainable than taking a bus, certainly. And it doesn’t compare to walking around.

        But again, when someone wants to go out in Seattle and they’re taking a bus, that’s another person not on the roads and auto-dependent. That is good for our entire society because it means we need to support less parking, less roads expansion, less car accidents, less congestion, and less emissions. That’s why bus service doesn’t end at 7pm, and that’s why systems that do have terrible ridership.

        I understand this blog is pro transit (like the NRA is pro gun) but the hypocrisy of condemning road improvements (like buses don’t get stuck in traffic and Seattle isn’t dependent on those roads for all of it’s goods and economic health) and then defending the ferry system exposes this whole little ruse. The ferries are number one by a nautical mile when you look at CO2 emissions per passenger mile and they’re driving growth out on the peninsula where there’s a continuing drop in employment. The only job growth other than PSNS is that fueled by the development.

        Some road improvements are fine. But if you want to speed up bus transit, the answers are HOV lanes, HOT lanes, and bus lanes, not general purpose lanes. You argue that empty buses in the evening are a waste of money. I argue that empty roads in the evening are a waste of money. We don’t have to design our infrastructure for a peak-time scenario where everyone drives. We are significantly investing in transit — more and more people are within access to an alternative to driving.

        I am not very supportive of the ferry system (strawman!). I think it’s a unique thing in our region and kind of cute, but like any transportation link it plays a dangerous hand in sprawl, you’re right. Certainly it’s cheaper to operate some ferries than to build a bridge though.

        I’d like to see improved transit. I try to use the bus whenever I go downtown because driving in a that traffic sucks. I know that buses full of people coming to Microsoft and going back into Seattle make my life better even though I’m riding a bike. I know that transit is essential to the economic engine that drives growth and I’m not going to pretend that it makes that growth ecologically sustainable. I’d like to see a better job of land management and applaud HB 1172 (Implementing a transfer of development rights) and opposed HB 1490 with it’s smog screen title “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions” diverting attention from it’s top down approach of controlling zoning. There are lots of good reasons to support transit. Social engineering isn’t one of them. There are ways we can improve transit and economic efficiency is one of them.

        Social engineering isn’t something I’m interested in, either. I don’t see how you can have smart development at both the regional level and let everything be local. In fact, the interests of Sammamish may not coincide with the interests of the region. But the days of building more freeway access to a municipality because they ignored the interests of the region are over. Just like Redmond can’t develop on some its land because of the urban growth boundary, we need to start thinking more seriously about our “development centers” throughout the region and make sure they are supported by strong transit access and that the development patterns supports they access.

        Cul-de-sacs as far as the eye can see are an example of misplaced priorities. Going with whatever developers want in effort to fill the tax coffers is an irresponsible way to design a city. Sacrificing as basic as a gridded street system or allowing developers to block off access to neighboring businesses — these are not examples of local control, they are examples of a total lack of control. These “free market ideals” are being completely subsidized by the region via highways and arterial roads and the ability to pollute without cost, so it is no longer useful to talk about them in the context of a “free” market when there is significant government subsidization.

        So this isn’t about social engineering or personal choice. It is about the government policies that make it more difficult to find a walkable community in the Eastside than anyone wants.

      14. Chris makes a good point. If you’re going to talk about land use and transportation in the context of social engineering, encouraging dense development and focusing on transit is just as much social engineering as encouraging sprawl and focusing massively on roads. One leads to less emissions, the other leads to more.

      15. Chris,
        You are right that government decisions are to some extent social engineering. Some have a much bigger impact that others. Sometimes the choices to raise revenue minimize that influence, like eliminating various deductions on income tax. Other times decisions are made to forgo revenue in the interest of forcing a certain outcome. The GMA to a large extent does just that.

        Right now adding more transit to 405 between Renton and Mill Creek doesn’t help because even the HOV lanes are grid lock. Often through Bellevue the HOV lanes are moving slower than the general purpose lanes. Removing cars, absent of a large scale collapse of the local economy isn’t going to happen. I sincerely hope that the current proposal to add an additional lane is the final expansion. I believe greater transit capacity on the 405 corridor is a good idea. Where does it fit into priorities? Is a huge investment on rail “someday” better than buses today? I’m not sure but it’s worth looking at.

        I’m not for blindly building roads to continue growth farther and farther a field. I do support building, maintaining and improving roads to areas that already need them and are within the GMA destined to require more capacity. I’m not up on the cross base highway but grew up down there as the son of Air Force officer. Up until 9/11 there was free access through base housing that connected the Lakewood Dupont area with Spanaway and Parkland. Likewise Fort Lewis was an open post and gates on the east side were unmanned. Restoring these connections will make it more desirable to build out east of Fort Lewis and I can’t say that I’m opposed to this happening (within limits). I’m not really up on this particular proposal so I can’t say one way or the other if it’s smart growth but I can’t oppose it just on the blanket assertion that no growth is good growth.

      16. I apologize in advance and probably should have posted this on HugeAssCity, but as we are getting deep here…as well I am in a reflective mood in the aftermath of the TOD bill.

        Do we have the political will to assert real growth containment and great economic and social development where it is really appropriate?

        I realize that this is a Seattle based blog, but I was just with some folks who are from other parts of the state.

        One small farmer said that the Growth ‘Accomodation’ Act in his area has resulted in farms being turned into strip malls, trailer parks and McMansion developments on huge lots. There is a whole set of issues related to the economies of small farms, but here is some land use stuff that pertains. They need towns of decent population and distribution systems (rail?) that allow then to feed those towns. Lots of small trucks traveling around new sprawling suburbs is just not cutting it.

        I agree government needs to focus our transit investments where it enhances the places where we already live and work.

        What mitigates are some deep real political challenges that might need to be dealt with at a national level. First, rail based transportation is not an interesting experiment. It’s required to get many of us out of cars and airplanes. It’s a big investment, but it is an investment that will keep on giving. Did Eisenhower have these kinds of problems building the interstate road system?

        Second, jurisdictions compete for their tax base. That along with unsustainable growth (more money, more stuff, bigger houses, more stuff) as opposed to a more steady state has resulted in a lot of our national crash. So, if a company or developer comes along and says, gee I just bought Farmer Smith’s land so let me build some stores there, a jurisdiction will say let us change our comp plan because it means jobs and tax revenue. And land value rises.

        This kind of competition is a really hard thing to shift. Real land use management will have to be negotiated state wide, and maybe even nationally. The bad news is that the agencies watching how comp planning is going are not exactly in a position to assert the kinds of standards or litmus tests that are needed. Maybe ‘highest and best use’ needs to be refocused to state right use. Economics is not magic. The economy is a human creation.

        Engineers and planners are now only in a position to respond to public policy and I am not sure that the objective measures of population are all the factors that need to be considered. The human beings who live here and our needs for great places that support human and natural life require socio-economic equity, balance and measurement which is beyond an engineering problem. Thus, my issues with certain generic mandates.

        I think something is really screwed up with our values and it is reflected in the imbalance of power of who gets to decide – just who builds buildings? Just what they know how to build or want to build? Why the rush to build or accept what and where they want to build? An auto based mall at Dearborn and I-5? No grocery store in any of new buildings near the Othello station? http://www.rainiervalleypost.com/?p=4894 This, along with my rural friend’s story, is the reality of Land Use and Growth Management in the State of Washington. Good people needing to spend their time on stupid fights to get sustainable communities, all feeling like they are doing this on their lonesome.

        Engineers and planners and socio-economic transit junkies are also citizens who, witness this discussion, have a LOT to contribute.

      17. No, Eddy’s question wasn’t fair. It wasn’t even a question, it was simply an attack.

        If you want answers, look at Europe. There is one distinction. They didn’t build and expand their highways in the 30s and 50s the way we did. That’s all. Want to urbanize the burbs? Want to work with what we have? Stop expanding 405. No matter what you’re going to do next, that is ALWAYS step 1.

        The transportation engineers solved this decades ago. The problem is the legislators who just don’t want to understand land use.

        Improving Seattle neighborhoods will happen when new yuppie Capitol Hill couples would see a decrease in quality of life by moving out to the suburbs, and instead stay in town. That will only happen if we stop building highways to accommodate them.

      18. “If you want answers, look at Europe.”

        Yeah, because there’s no sprawl around London and Paris and other major European cities, and the traffic there is non-existent, and the cities are smog-free and everyone bikes to work.

        Right.

      19. KirklandDad, from both you and Bernie I’m hearing this argument: Well if it’s not perfect/carbon-free it’s obviously not worth doing! Is that truly a logical way to do things? There are better models that aren’t perfect and we should always be moving toward a better end. Or some other city and country will do it and beat us. (Or we’ll be swimming to work instead of driving.)

      20. You can’t compare London and Paris to Seattle. Those cities are are so much larger in population that the comparison makes little sense. You know what else has a lot of sprawl? Tokyo. You know how many people live in that sprawl, more than ten times the population of Seattle and half the sprawl radius? 34,000,000.

        Is that comparison fair? Of course it isn’t, it’s ridiculous.

        Compare Seattle to Lyon or Birmingham. Not Paris or London.

  8. I like the design of the bridge and it does promise an interesting gateway to what is essentially Microsoft City (aka Redmond). I don’t have a problem with stimulus dollars going towards it, anymore than I would to having Mercer Street in Seattle renovated. In both cases, private businesses will benefit, but in this economy, anything that helps whatever the stimulus behind it, is going to be good.

    If getting the stimulus money prevents Microsoft having to layoff any more workers, then I am all for it. If we have to get an earmark for it, I am all for that too. I like earmarks so long as my State gets some of it.

    Tim

  9. More roads and overpasses aren’t the problem. It’s the people who commute on them that are the problem. That’s why the roads need to be built. If people followed my example, and lived within biking distance of work, this wouldn’t be an issue. I part of the sustainability movement. I’m part of the solution. Multi-billion dollar freeway and public transit systems do not have to be built for me, because I’m looking ahead. I’m looking toward the future. I’m thinking about the future of this earth, and future generations. I am a role model.

    1. You’ve got it backwards, Sam. Build it and they will come. That’s the reality of things.

    2. Holy Moses. It looks like KirklandDad and Sam are competing for the Least Informed Post award here.

      Work where you live? Yeah. Maybe in North Korea, where the Dear Leader decides where you work and where you live. Elsewhere: good luck.

      Comparing the highly dense and transit oriented suburbs of Paris and London, with – say – the auto-centric ‘burbs of Woodinville or Spanaway is just plain ridiculous.

      These people need to get out of the house more. Really.

  10. Ben, you seem awfully angry – especially at me. My comments were provocative, ironic … and given the comment thread since I last had a chance to check this site (‘way earlier today), you guys have had a really interesting dialogue on the whole jobs-housing balance issue, to say nothing of the development of the Eastside over the last 20 years and the need for a more supportive transportation system. That system could be envisioned as region-wide (building on the entirety of what we’ve got inside the urban growth line right now) or could be centralized to Seattle (which is a contraction that I’m not sure works, except with a contracting economy). I understand that’s where you live now, Ben … I was trying to get you to think beyond your own preferences, situation.

    LIGHTEN UP. I’m not the enemy. And I sure wasn’t attacking you. Why in the world would you think that I was? Do you not “do” irony?

    1. I think subarea equity via Sound Transit is a pretty good approach. Money raised to build stuff in the Eastside always builds stuff there and never gets funneled to Seattle, and same goes for the other way.

      If we had more funds, perhaps including state support, I don’t think we’d only be talking about interesting ways to build to Seattle. I think building to Seattle is the first step for the Eastside. But the second step will be going to Issaquah or Renton or Kirkland. We shouldn’t abandon the cities — and we do need to keep the urban growth boundary in place — but it’s hard to except a huge light rail network when we started construction on the first line less than 6 years ago.

      The awesome thing, Rep. Eddy, is that once Renton gets light rail to Bellevue, now Renton is connected to Overlake, Federal Way, Northgate, Seatac Airport, Bel-Red, Shoreline, etc. And yes, the line also gets people to Seattle — and those stops will be the most popular — but a transit system is no more end-end than a highway system. And I don’t know about you, but when I take I-90 I’m not going to Boston even though it goes there.

      1. I see some looping around Lake Washington possibilities. And maybe a line from Issaquah to Woodinville. Maybe in 50 years we even gasp! get Montlake people and the U of Wa to get over themselves and have light rail over the 520. (Or maybe it was just a few individuals who smugly proclaimed that we WILL NOT have light rail over the 520). Maybe some roads lose a lane to light rail…

      2. Issaquah to Woodinville runs a bit close to the urban growth line for my comfort! A lot of the problem w/light rail over SR520 comes from the logistics of getting a train from Montlake across (up up and away) Portage Bay and around the corner into downtown Seattle. Engineering nightmare, I’m told. That’s why we’ve been so adamant about an “easy” connection from the new SR520 for transit to connect with/into the UW’s light rail station.

        I’ve always thought that the SR520 “light rail” route would begin to make sense, maybe, when this E-W routing could be conceived of going even further westward into Wallingford (deep station!) and on to Ballard. But that’s years and years off …

      3. If you aren’t the enemy, there are two things I want from you:

        1) Fix R8A funding. I understand the budget comes out tomorrow. I’ll be paying attention to whether or not the state will delay East Link. Moving $25 million out to 2017 to block a multi-billion-dollar investment is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. You sit on house transportation, use it.

        2) Step away from the idea that you’re going to combine Sound Transit with a roads agency, or change their governance. We want transit and roads separate – the voters have made that patently clear. Sound Transit is well managed, much better than many other agencies you could be going after, and the continued attacks on them from the state smack of obsession. If you want local highway funding, resurrect RTID and make them learn how to engage with voters the way Sound Transit does.

        Those two things should be easy. I am sick and tired of seeing the state go after Sound Transit year after year. We’ve passed ST2 – I have plenty of time on my hands, and I will start coming after ‘governance reformers’ in their districts if this continues.

      4. Ben, you are arguing yesterday’s debate and looking for evil-doers where there are none. The fact that you think that I – one person – can make funding decisions that suit your politics — well, I wish I was that powerful, but I’m not. So, no, I can’t make the transportation budget say what you want it to say.

        The governance reform discussion is over; you and others like you killed it. Fine. Now, we have to find some other way to make this system work, to make dollars follow value (including externalities like GHG). Some of the postings on this blog indicate that there are people out there who DO get it — the talk about which routes, what scheduling offers the most service? That is GREAT … we’re getting there! What land uses support the transit investment (Sharon’s bill was a good one, even if it did require a lot of wordsmithing) — again, that’s GREAT. If this was easy stuff, it would have been solved years ago. It’s not; but those of us who care a great deal will keep working at it.

        Sorry I offended you.

      5. Okay, and I just figured out something else. You are the age of my youngest child. And we share a passion for Totoro. Ben, I repeat: I am not the enemy.

      6. You haven’t offended me. I just don’t think you’re doing a very good job, and while I think you’re very good at telling people what they want to hear, I don’t see much in the way of action.

        Regarding governance, I don’t think I am talking about yesterday’s debate – maybe yesterday as in Friday, but don’t think I’m unaware of who the players are or what they’re doing. Governance change isn’t dead, it’s just likely delayed until next year – just like last year, and the year before, and the year before that. I’m well aware that the Governor supports Stanton’s plans, and you yourself have been involved with this for quite some time. I doubt your views have changed much since you wrote this: http://www.discovery.org/a/2433

        Your constituents asked for East Link in its current form. You told me, here, that some R8A money was ‘moved’ from Stage 1 to Stages 2 and 3, and we’ll see this week if that’s true. You downplay your influence, but I’ve seen you get things done in the past, and if you wanted this, you could certainly exert pressure for it now.

      7. Ben killed transportation governance reform? Come again?

        You want to know who killed governance reform? The people around Rep. Eddy working on it. As in, the blatantly anti-rail/pro-roads folks who dominated that effort. The voters are overwhelmingly in support of light rail…so when clowns like Ted Van Dyk, or misguided Reagan Administration leftovers at the Discovery Institute became the self-appointed leaders of regional transportation governance reform…well, that didn’t play so well in Peoria.

        It’s easy for people like Eddy to demonize Ben, and point towards a cheap conspiracy theory regarding “who killed governance reform.”. But, in the end, it was obviously the proponents who did themselves in. From what I can tell, Rep . Eddy and others made an attempt at the beginning of the discussion (several years ago) to engage the public with this issue. But, when nobody bit, the entire process was taken over by a small cabal of non-influential Republicans and rail skeptics. The fact John Stanton – #1 GOP funder of the decade – became the annointed spokesman for this effort didn’t help much, either.

        Ben killed governance. I got a good laugh out of that one.

        Here’s a thought: if voters want more effective transportation leadership – reform STATE GOVERNMENT. Make the state legislature a full-time job so qualified people can get elected to office. The current make-up of the state house and senate reminds me of amatuer hour. And I’m not just talking about Rep. Eddy. Go to http://www.tvw.org and torture yourself with a house or senate transportation commmitte meeting. The current chairs of these committees are unbelievably clueless. And that’s not just rude conjecture on my part.

        The voters deserve a lot better – and they’re not going to get it unless 1) qualified and enlightened people start running for these seats; or 2) elected officials from CAMANO ISLAND aren’t driving transportation policy in King County.

        Think I’m going overboard? Read Rep. Clibborn’s “no tolls for I-90” bill, and you’ll see the problem extends way beyond the shores Camano and Whidbey islands. I won’t even get into the issue of Eastern Washington’s influence over urbanized Puget Sound transportation policy. But, you can imagine what direction that discussion will go. Under any one of these scenarios, one thing stands abundantly clear: Rep. Eddy’s contention that regional transportation governance structures are the problem…that’s a joke.

        Take the state out of the decision game, and things would get a lot better. At no cost to the taxpayer!

      8. Despite my doubts about the state legislature’s ability to get anything right, I would like to acknowledge Rep. Eddy’s willingness to engage with the public on forums like this one. It is also heartening to read that Rep. Eddy has actually come to grips with the engineering realities around light rail on SR 520. I didn’t think I would ever see a NE King County elected official put physics over politics. So, kudos to Deb Eddy.

        Now, if we could just get the rest of the eastside delegation to believe light rail on I-90 won’t lead to transportation Armageddon :)

      9. I agree that it’s time we found funding for a full time legislature. The complexity of governing the State has far outgrown the part time model which made sense when it was implemented. Being a legislator is a full time job not even counting the almost full time job of running a campaign without which you can’t do anything.

        I don’t want to attack anyone in the legislature. Some are basically volunteering there time which is wonderful but not a good model for government. Restrictions on fund raising for other political office while the legislature is in session is another way our legislators are paying to serve.

  11. Thanks for the clarification on SR520 and the outer loop ideas, Rep. Eddy. It’s a learning curve and there are no magic bullets. I appreciate the fact that you are listening and helping us to be informed and engaged because all progress is slow and complicated. Would NOT want your job!

  12. One final note, after reading the thoughtful comments of John Jensen and others: had the last generation of leaders & landowners/developers prioritized community as high as they did profit, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Can you imagine how beautiful, pristine and clean Pugetopolis would be today, had the Interstate Highways Act generation not paved western Washington? People can scoff at European land use models, but I can guarantee that we wouldn’t have cul de sacs at the base of Mt. Si – and ridiculous strip malls near the gateway to Mt. Rainier – if this supposed socialist “social engineering” had been in place. Instead, stripping the land and Wal•Martizing communities was the priority of the Boeing generation. It would appear as if the Microsoft generation will apply human values to the physical environment in the coming decades. And resist the urge to rely on gated communities, crowded freeways, and big box retail as the foundation of society.

Comments are closed.