79 Replies to “News Roundup: SR-520 and Life Between Buildings”

  1. Re: Mt. Baker shooting: PI writes “There are no security guards on duty at the tunnel, according to police.” followed by angry commenters complaining that we need more guards in the tunnel.

    Um… Mt. Baker is an elevated station. Plus I’m not quite sure how you get a drive-by shooting in a tunnel.

    1. So do you think the problem is that the P-I doesn’t know the Mt. Baker station isn’t in a tunnel, or worse: the police spokesperson doesn’t know?

  2. I dunno, the McGinn “gotcha” comeback is pretty illogical when you consider what Bill Gates actually said. Gates said that we need to spend the next 50 years working on zero-emissions energy sources or we’re doomed. I said the same thing here some time ago:

    Basically, Gates’s argument was that even if we limit population growth and gain massive efficiencies in energy use, we’re still going to produce much more CO2 than we need to stave off a climate crisis.

    If we have zero-emissions energy then “global warming” is not a good argument against a 6-lane (or a 1000 lane) 520 bridge. So saying “bill gates says we need to reduce CO2 emissions to zero so Microsoft is a hypocrite” makes no sense. It’s either reduce those emissions to zero by building no bridge, or find zero-emissions energy.

    1. Sorry if I didn’t make it clear. I agree with you. It was stupid move on McGinns part and I think its a perfect example of why he is doing poorly so far. He is the Mayor now and he needs to start to acting like one.

      1. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment! I’m sure we’ll settle down with McGinn at some point, but it is taking a long time – well for me at any rate, but then I wasn’t predisposed to begin with! The new agenda continues to not seem as rational as the old one – and in this, it seems like most of the City Council agrees with me, along with the Seattle Times which I haven’t agreed with much for years. Kind of worries me really!

    2. Fine, but where is the support for a Hydrogen Highway?

      Washington State has massive hydropower resources.

      We can be generating hydrogen for fuel cell cars now.

      Zero-emissions from vehicular traffic.

      1. That’s what Bill Gates said, basically. There’s a realistic limit on Hydro power, but nuclear energy has a lot of potential left, as do solar and wind. We simply won’t get away from fossil fuels unless we have alternatives.

      2. Bill Gates said what?

        I see no reference to Bill Gates advocating a Hydrogen Highway.

        I do see that Mr. Gates is investing in a mini-nuke company and has significant investments in bio-fuel and therefore has self-interest in promoting those as a solution.

      3. Zero emissions because nobody will be able to afford one. The technology is inherently expensive – heavy metals don’t get cheaper with mass production.

      4. Wait, hydrogen fuel cells are made from hydrogen, not heavy metals, or am I missing something?

      5. In traditional fuel cells, a precious metal such as platinum is needed as a catalyst.

        However, the latest versions, and lab research, has made a case that lower cost catalysts like cobalt oxides can be used.

        Here’s a company pursuing that route:


      6. Hydrogen is the energy source, not the material from which the fuel cell itself is constructed.

      7. What? No, Hydrogen is the fuel. The cells are usually made from ceramic and with a anode (not a catalyst) that is often paladium (not platinum) but can even be simple iron.

        The energy comes from some other source (hydropower, coal, nuclear, etc.) and that is used to create the hydrogen. If we had huge stores of hydrogen siting around, why wouldn’t we be using that today?

      8. I meant energy source insofar as it’s what’s converted from chemical to kinetic energy there. If we want to get right down to it, chances are the Sun is the energy source for nearly everything we’re talking about.

      9. Sure it does, it’s mass leads to gravity which creates a pull on the earth which turns to tides which we can turn into energy.

      10. All the hydropower in WA state is currently being used. Any increase in electricity consumption (like Link light rail) results in more natural gas being burned to generate that additional electricity.

      11. 98% of the energy used by Link is carbon neutral. 100% of the energy used by a diesel bus is not.

      12. It does not matter where Link gets its electricity. If it is hydropower, that means someone else whas using that hydropower before Link opened, and that other user must now buy electricity from somewhere else, which means burning more natural gas to provide that electricity.

        So, any additional use of electricity means burning more natural gas. When Link started running, Link was responsible for more natural gas being burned to generate the additional electricity that Link requires.

        Therefore, 100% of the energy used by Link is being replaced/generated by burning more natural gas.

      13. Hydropower really isn’t carbon neutral. It produces way less greenhouse gas than other forms of generation, but between the forests that were flooded to make way for the reservoirs behind dams (forests are carbon storage) and the methane (a potent greenhouse gas) produced by decomposition in the reservoir, there’s literally tons of greenhouse gas emitted that wouldn’t be in a natural system without a dam and reservoir.

        That being said, natural gas burning as a result of increased electricity consumption by Link is not necessarily certain. First, hydropower may not be at its generating capacity (there are certainly times of the year when it’s far from it), so generation could be ramped up. Second, as electric users take steps to conserve energy, which people are certainly doing, extra becomes available for Link. Third, alternative energy projects, such as the Wild Horse Wind Farm near Ellensburg, keep coming online (although not necessarily at the same moment Link was turned on).

      14. It changes hour by hour, depending on how much electricity other people are using. At night and on moderate spring days, it’s all hydro. But when everybody turns on their air conditioner/heater simultaneously, the natural gas plants have to be turned on or electricity bought from elsewhere. If people would use fans rather than air conditioning on hot days, it may avoid the need to fire up the gas plants. Link is efficient and its energy use is steady every day, so it’s not really contributing to the peaks that cause fossil-fuel use.

      15. Of course, emissions is not the only issue. Personal automobiles are an extravagant use of energy regardless of the source. Not to mention the downright shameful consumption of space each car requires.

        The problem that no one wants to address is that the entire idea of One Car, One Person is fundamentally flawed and unsustainable. The worst legacy of the 20th century.

  3. I’m not sure the statement “transit on SR 520 finally being comprehensively studied” is fair. The timeline is to have the analysis completed by April 15th, or about 1.5 months. Given the complexities of the project, it would be difficult to conduct a “comprehensive” study in that time frame.

    1. You’re right. Comprehensive is a bit much for a 1.5 month study. I guess I used that because in my opinion not much thought has been given to specifically how transit fits into the bigger project. The DEIS touches on what will happen to transit because of the tolls but a vision of what kind of transit service should be provided hasn’t occurred yet.

    2. There is a bill currently in the house that would give them until October to study transit on 520. I don’t know what the status of the bill is.


      ” The new version of the bill orders the formation of special work groups to study alternative forms of transit on the new bridge and how to finance it, refinements to the design and ways to reduce the impact of the bridge on the Washington Park Arboretum. The amended bill calls for one working group to suggest alternative transit connections in a report by Oct. 1 and make transit-financing recommendations by Dec. 31.”

      “Eddy said her aim with the House amendment was to start bridge construction and Eastside (520) projects and “change the conversation about transit connections and the refinements to the design… from an Olympia-based conversation into a Seattle/Metro/UW/Sound Transit conversation.””

    1. There was a police riot ten years ago near the University Street station; can we add that to the ills caused by transit?

      1. Does your family use the light rail at night? Mine does. Crime is a real problem on it.

      2. My family uses light rail at night and I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      3. Take a look at the Rainier Valley Post or Seattle Crime. Map the incidents onto the walkshed and you’ll realize that it is a real issue. Hopefully you’ll never have a problem.

      4. There is crime in the walkshed, because the walkshed along parts of the light rail line (not all of it) is located in an area that was relatively high crime before the train ever came along. (Not as high as a lot of folks who are afraid to set foot in SE Seattle probably think, though.) But “Crime is a real problem on it” is misleading, I think. Crime actually on the train or in the stations has not been a problem as far as I am aware, though of course we have the two recent incidents that hit the news.

      5. I hear you but what would you define as not a real problem? One of the issues is the seriousness of the crimes that are committed. It is a matter of a purse snatching but rather we regularly (about once a week) hear of people being vigorously assaulted, guns being flashed and the occasional shooting and or stabbing. Folks somehow think that if they aren’t affiliated with a gang or buying drugs that they are somehow immune to these crimes. This isn’t the case. And yes, the areas were tough before the light rail. But if you want high and growing ridership it needs to be safe.

      6. Here’s an example of an event that happened this past week – I believe this is in the Rainier Beach Light Rail Walkshed in addition to being at a bus stop. I think its a real problem when the handicapped are violently attacked.

        “A disabled man who was waiting for a bus in South Seattle on Friday was attacked by three teens who slammed his head against a wall and punched him in the face and chest. According to a witness, one of the teens yelled, “That’s how we do it in the South End” as the three fled.”


  4. Was Don Davidson seriously suggesting that East Link be dead-ended at South Bellevue Park and Ride or was he just flustered? As much as I want a station at S Bellevue, that’s hardly a “regional” system. Unless, of course, he’s advocating for BRT to connect to Link at SBPR. Hmmmmm…

    1. I think the idea is that light rail goes into SBPR, then the operator switches ends and the train reverses out and proceeds south, then east, then north along 118th SE to get to downtown Bellevue.

      1. A lifetime of operating inefficiency to avoid having trains pass by (on the opposite side of a 4-lane street) 6 houses in Surrey Downs.

      2. The turning radius of the Link cars are small enough and there’s enough space at SBPR to construct a turning loop to eliminate end-switching. But then they’ll complain about the noise.

    2. That conversation was pretty interesting. I didn’t realise that bellevue’s council was part-time and they all had day jobs and that the mayor of bellevue didn’t realise that Spokane, Tacoma and Vancouver were bigger than Bellevue (they said that Bellevue was second largest city in Washington three times in the interview).

      1. Then Tukwila is the sixth biggest city in the state?! Oh wait, it only has 14,000 residents.

      2. Kent is #8


        Name Population Latitude/Longitude
        1 Seattle 569,369 47.606 / -122.332
        2 Spokane 197,262 47.659 / -117.426
        3 Tacoma 196,957 47.253 / -122.444
        4 Vancouver 157,517 45.639 / -122.661
        5 Bellevue 111,927 47.61 / -122.201
        6 Everett 96,993 47.979 / -122.202
        7 Yakima 88,405 46.602 / -120.506
        8 Kent 82,276 47.381 / -122.235
        9 Federal Way 80,815 47.322 / -122.313
        10 Bellingham 73,469 48.76 / -122.488

      3. No great surprises in this list, except that I am always taken by just how big Vancouver actually is. I must pay it a visit sometime.

        Bellevue always seems bigger – wonder what this list would look like if we took area rather than density into consideration?

      4. My impression is that most of this information is 10 years old. It will be interesting to see what the new census comes up with. With all the density that Bellevue built downtown it may have moved up the list.

      5. Eyeballing the list, it seems like the average for large Washington cities is 100,000 people.

        To me this is about the most reasonable size for a manageable city.

        This is why I advocate splitting Seattle up into 4 cities:

        North, West, Central, South.

    3. I was appalled at Don Davidson’s lack of knowledge. He was pretty much wrong on everything, and his thinking was several decades out of date.

  5. It’s looking like auto-pilot cars will soon make all mass transit obsolete.


    Stanford’s Robot Car to Drive from SF to LA Next Spring

    Prof. Sebastian Thrun at Stanford University is world famous for leading a team of students and engineers to develop an autonomous car that won the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005. The history making car “Stanley” now resides at the Smithsonian.

    Since then, his next mission was set to develop a vehicle that can achieve urban driving. The team went on to develop “Junior” and during that process in 2007, won second place in the Urban Challenge. But the goal had always been grander – to create a car that can drive itself from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles without human intervention.

      1. Especially if the “systems” are developed by the folks what brought us the Airbus A330.

      2. Yeah Toyota can’t make computers in cars that break and accelerate safely and you want cars that driev us around?

    1. They may make non-auto-pilot cars obsolete, but it will never make all mass transit obsolete. You don’t move millions of people into and around cities like New York and Paris by car, no matter how smart the car, there just isn’t room for it.

      1. Auto-pilot cars will make cities obsolete.

        There will be no more “downtowns”.

        Suburban dwellers can text message for auto-pilot “taxis” on demand.

        People can spontaneously hold a meeting in any location.

      2. I Googled “define: comment vigilante” and… “No definitions were found for comment vigilante.”

        A little help from the moderators?

      3. Threads will not be diverted into discussing who is or isn’t complying with the comment policy, trolling, or what have you. Engage with the commenter. If you think they’re trolling, ignore them.

      4. …except that cities exist because they’re economically efficient and create jobs, not because of any imperative that cars cause.

      5. Cities exist because in the 18th century they were near some resource like the mouth of a river or a harbor.

        In the 21st century, almost everything can be done remotely, by computer, hence non-locality.

        Electricity can be carried hundreds of miles, or with the Bloom Box, generated anywhere.

        The Internet can be carried into remote areas by Wimax.

      6. Hah, nice one. WiMax is known for poor performance in both range and speeds. Why do you think Clearwire is so deep in the red? Nobody wants it!

        We can just eliminate cars entirely and have everyone live in pods installed in their houses by robots where they get the nutrition they need through tubes and never move a muscle in their life. Leaving the house will be a thing of the past! (If you couldn’t tell, this is intended to be humorous.)

      7. We have evolved over a long time to live in communities. Not necessarily the 20th-Century megalopolis, but something orders of magnitude bigger than the European-American nuclear family; thus, cities and towns in Europe and America.

    1. There is a passenger only ferry is running weekdays between Downtown Seattle and Vashon and has been so running without interruption (except for weather) for a number of years – look up King County Water Taxi. The Bremerton service no longer exists, of course, thanks to a number of issues well covered elsewhere. The Kingston service of a few years ago was very short lived, however. And there is seasonal service between Port Angeles and Victoria – lots of opportunities.

      1. I know I meant I didn’t get to ride the Kingston-Seattle passenger-only ferry, not the others.

  6. I’ll just comment here on the seeming division between the Seattle mayor and the Seattle city council. One wouldn’t think that we had Democrats in charge at all levels of City Government! Something seems to be wrong in how the executive and legislative branches are communicating and resolving policy differences. It also seems like the Council wants to fill the power vaccum created by the rise to power of a mayor not quite on top of his agenda yet.

    I think that McGinn needs to step back and lead what has already been led and wait for some space for his agenda to work. At present, we are still working on the previous administration’s agenda and as I do not see any overwhelming reason to shift from this at this point, let’s go for that and then McGinn can have his agenda once those earlier items have worked themselves through.

  7. Just got back from visiting friends who recently moved to San Francisco. Man, I love that city, but in a way its always somewhat depressing because it reminds me of how far Seattle has to go. Virtually the entire city there is pedestrian friendly, the streets are vibrant almost everywhere. It is a city of neighborhoods, not a city of nodes like Seattle.

    Im waiting for the day when, from my house in Ballard, I can walk downtown and go through wall-to-wall urban, walkable neighborhoods. Imagine a built-out, pedstrian friendly Leary way connecting Ballard and Fremont, then you walk through Fremont, cross the bridge and Dexter Avenue has its own urban flavor–not just housing but a great commercial corridor as well. Then Dexter would give way to South Lake Union, with wall-to-wall 10 story buildings and a dynamic urban neighborhood, finally connecting to Belltown. Sure, it would be a long walk, but in San Francisco we walked everywhere: From North Beach through Chinatown to Union Square/Nob Hill to Polk Street to the Fillmore District to Lower Haight/Haight Ashbury to the Mission to the Castro, etc. Long distances but there were virtually no dead zones. It felt like we were in “the city” the whole time and our urban surroundings ensure we were never bored.

    Ok, so maybe its a pipe dream to believe Seattle will ever reach that level or urbanity and walkability (especially with the strong single-family housing fabric throughout the city), but if it did I truly believe it could be one of the best cities in the world.

    1. I should add, it would probably be more likely that Westlake would develop into a walkable commercial corridor before Dexter. I love Dexter, though, and feel it is currently really underutilized.

    2. Amazing, isn’t it, how easy it is to walk longer distances when the distances are developed with lots of interesting buildings and shops to look at, as opposed to, say, parking lots.

  8. I wish that whoever made that video would have actually shown the slides that the speaker put up. It’s silly.

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