Tour Group at YMCA

Last night Feet First (great pedestrian advocacy group) hosted their second Walk & Talk tour guided by Tom Rasmussen. The tour started in the Triangle of West Seattle (bounded by 35th, Alaska, and Fauntleroy) and headed east stopping at destinations along the way, ending at a casual reception.

The first stop was the YMCA followed by the new “Link” development. The Triangle is an interesting area. Up until just a year or two ago the whole area consisted mostly of light manufacturing and auto dealership, a large number of which are out of business now. The area is prime for redevelopment, due to its location and underlying zoning. As a casual observer of developments in this area over the last few years it’s interesting how omnipresent the themes of transition and parking are.

More after the jump.

Several large developments are stalled due to the economy while Link is set to open sometime next year. I was surprised and very please with how Harbor Properties, which is developing Link, chose to deal with parking in the development. A majority of the parking is provided below grade, with an off-site surface lot acting as a relief valve. This is a great solution for a transitional area like this where demand for parking from residents could be higher than supply in the garage, but will most certainly shrink as the area becomes denser and a car-free lifestyle becomes easier.

While this area of West Seattle has always enjoyed good service to downtown Seattle, Harbor Properties certainly is hyping RapidRide which will stop just a block away. They will be including a real-time information display in the lobby of the building. For those interested in a bit of back story about the RapidRide alignment wrangling check out the West Seattle Blog. Additionally, there is a Triangle Advisory Workgroup dealing with issues in the area. Take a look through some of the documents if you are interested.

Look for more of these tours accross the city as well as PARK(ing) day (9/17) hosted by Feet First.

UPDATE 12:28 Detailed map of RapidRide C Line with BAT lanes and TSP.

62 Replies to “Triangle Walk and Talk”

  1. The biggest problem right now with the Triangle developers is that they want to move the RapidRide away from the much more densely populated Avalon corridor so that it travels by their new commercial businesses.

    To me that doesn’t sound like a developer that cares about citizens’ transit issues.

    1. And the weirdly altruistic “we just want to make RapidRide faster!” argument just doesn’t hold water. Who petitions for a reroute based on saving 2 minutes?

      The 35th/Avalon corridor isn’t nearly as “clogged” as the petitioners/developers protest, and it’s arguable that their suggested route is actually much busier at peak times.

      (Wish there was an “edit” function in your comments.)

    2. I think if you look at the corridor on a map Fauntleroy does make more sense. Problem is when you add traffic to the mix it actually would take longer, and since 35th and Avalon will have BAT lanes reliablity will be higher for that alignment.

      1. I disagree heartily. Bus riders coming into West Seattle would face a scary crossing of Fauntleroy to get to developments like Link in the Triangle.

        In addition, 35th and Avalon is a major transfer point to the 21 serving 35th and the south end of West Seattle. This means Rapid Ride helps those of us along the 21 too. This is also a major transfer point for other WS routes.

      2. Well I agree with you. I was simply saying if you look at a map and want to connect A to B Fauntleroy is the most direction route. But once you look it on a more detailed level you start to see issues like what you point out.

    3. Harbor Properties does not support moving the Rapid Ride line. They also opened Mural right on the alignment. The desire to move the line to Fauntleroy comes from neighbors worried about parking.

      1. Sure I do. I’vs seen all the vast TOD on Central Link.

        I’m sure you will show us pictures of “real” transi-oriented development, so we can all see how it differs from the transit-oriented development in Ballard, Queen Anne, W. Seattle, et. al. Why don’t you start with photos of all the TOD along Central Link.


      2. I don’t recall saying there was vast amounts of TOD along Link. TOD is a very specific type of development, an apartment building next to a light rail stop is no more TOD than an apartment building next to a bus stop is. That’s why when you take pictures of an apartment building in Ballard and call it TOD everyone laughs at you.

      3. Is there any TOD along Central Link? If so, where is it, and what is it, and what makes it TOD, in your opinion?

        If there is no TOD along Central Link, why is there not?

      4. Link has the Othello Station development, which I think is on the “light” side of TOD, mostly because of restrictive city zoning. There isn’t one thing that makes a development TOD. Density and urban design elements are important… parking ratios, mixed use, etc.

        Maybe one of the most important is whether or not that development (both size, density, quality, etc.) would have occurred anyways *without* the new transit line. Sometimes that is hard to determine (take the pearl and streetcar for example, chicken or egg?). On the flip side look at Vancouver and all the Skytrain stations. Few of those development would have occurred (outside the city center) if it wasn’t for skytrain.

        There hasn’t been a large new private development in the Valley for something like 30 or 40 years, but now with light rail there is one under construction right now next to Othello Station. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened without Link. As for the “Link” development, I absolutely sure RapidRide helps but I think they probably would have developed that property anyways.

      5. So, Central Link has one building that could be called TOD that may or may not be “real” TOD? And construction on Central Link started about 5 or 6 years ago?

        Is that about right?

        I think we can all agree that the only reason this type of development occurs anywhere is because of changes to zoning.

      6. There was a great deal of development in the Link corridor lined up and ready to go before the economy collapsed. As with projects all around the country, most are on hold at the moment.

        “I think we can all agree that the only reason this type of development occurs anywhere is because of changes to zoning.”

        Actually, I doubt much of anyone agrees with that.

      7. Little factoid I picked up at the last Bellevue Transportation Commission meeting. Build big fat roads and it’s a slam dunk rezone. Therein lies the City Councils obsession with paving Wilburton and Bel-Red. Never mind the fact that in Wilburton there are already relatively new buildings that some businesses (Best Buy for one) claim they’ll just leave if the roads take part of their property and increase property taxes. There’s still the perception of “pave it and they will come” despite the fact all of the DT Bellevue projects that haven’t broken ground are on hold indefinitely. TOD in Bel-Red has been great cover for the pavers. What happened to the part of the budget to “restore the streams” BS we were fed in “the Master’s” plan? Yeah, that’s right up there with prevent cut through traffic in our neighborhoods (translation, add another multi story P&R lot at 130th, more freeway ramps and a new east west arterial at 15/16th…. yippie, ain’t light rail great).

      8. This Seattle Times article from last year pretty much sums up the state of development along Link in the Rainier Valley.

        Recession stalls building boom along South Seattle light-rail tracks

        Less than a year ago, the blocks around three Sound Transit light-rail stations in Southeast Seattle were abuzz with real-estate deals and dreams.

        Planners, politicians and developers anticipated the coming rail line would spark a redevelopment boom that would transform the long-neglected corridor along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. For-profit developers proposed more than 1,500 condos and apartments within a 10-minute walk of a station.

        Now, with the trains to carry their first paying passengers in three months, most of those deals are on hold.

        Project after project has been delayed or derailed, victimized by tight credit and related economic woes.

      9. There are two TOD (projects that probably wouldn’t have been built were in not for the new transit service) currently under construction around Link: Station at Othello Park, and Tamarack Place (, awesome Link rendering), the apartments that are part of Rainier Vista a half block from Columbia City Station that probably would’ve been low-rise had it not been for the light rail.
        Then there are a ton of projects planned that are simply not proceeding right now because of the economy. There is Othello Station North, across Othello from Station at Othello Park, there are a ton of proposed developments in the Columbia City area between MLK and Rainier, and there is the future development of the lot at the SW corner of MLK & Othello that is currently owned by SHA.
        There is also the Artspace project next to Mount Baker Station ( mentioned here) that hasn’t been totally approved yet I don’t think but I guess could be great, and Centro de la Raza has proposed building some kind of mixed-use building on the lot to the south of their building right next to Beacon Hill Station.
        They still have to get the various neighborhood plans through, but the areas around all the stations will eventually be upzoned, the Mount Baker area to pretty tall buildings, so we’ll over time see far more sustainable development in the Rainier Valley than we would if Link had not been built.

      10. Let’s not forgot the New Holly and Rainier Vista developments themselves, public-private partnerships that added hundreds of units in each location.

      11. New Holly and Rainier Vista have nothing to do with Link. They have been there for decades, and were going to be rebuilt with or without Link going in.

      12. Yes, I’m sure private developers would have jumped at the chance to build there in the absence of rail.

      13. New Holly and Rainier Vista were going to be rebuilt with or without Link going in.

        Do you have any evidence of that? And whether or not they were, light rail sure was enough a selling point that real estate agents and the president of a developer mentioned it in a Seattle Times article and to prospective buyers.

        … Darryl Smith, a real-estate agent with Windermere Real Estate, who shows the model home to prospective buyers. Smith said Martinez and Aycock are typical of those interested in the homes.

        “They are able to stay in the city and upgrade to a great new home,” said Smith, adding that Othello Station also features such selling points as new streets, underground utilities, a large park, proxmity to the light-rail stop of the same name and neighborhood covenants and restrictions that should guarantee spiffiness for years to come.

        Paul Glosniak, president of Bennett Homes, said developing high-end houses at a former public-housing project may appear risky to some, “but we just knew people need houses like this in Seattle, near where they work and next to mass transit.”

      14. Alexjohn, thanks for the detailed list of projects. It’s nice to know there already a dozen TOD projects in Rainier planned or under construction, in case I might want to live in one of them someday.

        Holly Park and Rainier Vista were built decades ago, and NewHolly was renovated years before Link. Is that huge 2-block empty space on MLK north of Columbia City station part of Rainier Vista? If so, it’s another case where the housing authority would have renovated it anyway. But now that Link is there, it becomes a selling point for the properties. And that influences who buys them, and who chooses another property. People who want light rail nearby and will ride it will choose those properties, while people who don’t care about transit won’t have that motivation.

        The two small strip malls at Othello station are also, not quite TOD, but something approaching it. There’s a laundromat and bakery, and I think pho shops and other things, exactly the things residents need within walking distance, and which you might stop at on the way home from the station. Capitol Hill has only two laundromats now (it used to have four), which can be a mile or more from your apartment, so I was glad to see that Othello has a laundromat so convenient. Unfortunately, the strip malls are car-oriented: you have to walk around the whole side and around the parking lot to reach the stores, and they could be more useful with housing on top. But the zoning when they were built was probably two-story, so that’s what they got.

      15. The old Holly Park and Rainier Vista were solely housing projects. The new versions have substantial amounts of market-rate housing.

      16. Norman,

        How many private development projects in the Rainier Valley were started prior to 1996?

      17. Each neighborhood is different. Ballard, W Seattle and Queen Anne were already highly desirable neighborhoods compared to the Rainier Valley. Not disputing the fact that development can occur in the absence of rail or any type of public transit. The question is whether such development would happen near MLK without Link (barring recessions)? And in what form?

      18. The developments in the flickr photos in Ballard were all built after 1996. How much has been developed along the Link route since 1996?

        There has been development in all parts of Seattle since 1996, none of it on light rail, except for the few buildings mentioned in these posts, and that does not include the Seattle Housing Authority developments at Rainier Beach, and New Holly, which have nothing to do with Link light rail.

        New Holly and Rainier Vista have no more to do with Link light rail than the other Seattle Housing Authority major development, High Point, which is in W. Seattle, and nowhere near any Link stations.

      19. It would be helpful to everyone to have an agreed definition of what’s considered transit oriented development and what is merely development near to transit. There is a distinction, like the number of parking spaces in a development which would be much less for TOD to encourage transit and walk/biking.

      20. Yeah when I did a TOD project with Metro they wanted to call Juanita Village TOD and we were all dumbfounded. The 255 is the only “frequent” route and it isn’t really that frequent.

      21. Okay, try this one. Metro takes an existing P&R, sells a portion of it to a developer to build apartments and structured parking which can be shared by commuters. Meanwhile, almost simutaneously, ST builds a transit center less than ten blocks away. Most of the buses move from the P&R to the TC. Is the former a TOD?

      22. There are now some new photos of “On the Park”, a mixed-use building with a QFC on the street level, and 6 stories of apartments above. This building has a bus stop right in front of it for routes 18 and 75. The pictures are on the flickr site linked to in one of my prior posts on this thread.

        Here is the website for On the Park.

        This neighborhood has a “walkability score” of 100, which is “perfect”. It is the highest walkability score there is in Seattle.

        So, On the Park in Ballard is a mixed-use, multi-family building, 7 stories high, with a bus stop right in front of the building, and the neighborhood it is in has a walkability score of 100. And, by the way, there are bike lanes on the street in front of the building, also.

        Does On the Park in Ballard not qualify as “transit-oriented development” in your opinions? If not, why not?

      23. On the Park is not TOD due to lack of transit. They are not in a light-rail overlay district and therefore must provide at least 1 parking space per dwelling. Not to mention the 18 should really be considered a tail or branch of the 15, and the 75 has half-hour frequency at best.

      24. According to WalkScore, On the Park has “good transit”. It is close to bus routes 18, 17, 75, 44, and 46. There is certainly no “lack of transit” there.

        What difference does it make if On the Park “must” provide at least one parking space per dwelling? Are any developments along Link providing less than one parking space per dwelling? If so, which ones, and how much parking are they providing?

        How many parking spots are provided at the Transit-Oriented Development along the Portland, Ore. light rail line?

      25. Norman did you notice how nowhere on the webpage or in the video do you hear anything about transit? That is one hint that a project isn’t considered TOD, even by the developers, which love to call something TOD.

      26. Notice how in the video you don’t see any buses, at all. Not even a reflection of them in a window nor sight of a bus stop.

        No mention on how frequent all-day bus service to downtown Seattle and the UW is just steps away.

        Compare that to The Station at Othello Park, whose website touts proximity to Link as a key selling point.

        Seattle Public Housing Authority websites for Rainier Vista by Columbia City Station and New Holly by Othello Station also mention their respective Link stations.

        The Station at Othello Park provides 330 parking stalls for 352 housing units and 20,000 square feet of retail space.

        Isn’t the point of TOD to take advantage of quality transit and maximize transit use? How does providing an abundance of resident/customer parking next to a transit line encourage transit use? Although I’d like to see fewer spaces at Othello, I’ll take a parking/unit ratio slightly less than one as a step towards reducing auto dependency. Usually the city requires one per dwelling unit and one per 250-500 sq.ft. retail space.

        Regulations forcing developers to build parking whether or not it is needed increases cost of construction and makes housing less affordable. 60% of parking spaces for the Press Apartments on Capitol Hill sat unused. The residents didn’t want them but the city forced them to be built. It is recognition that not everyone needs a parking space in places with frequent transit.

      27. When Norman talks about all the TOD happening in West Seattle, Queen Anne and Ballard, he should look at a map of the planned Monorail. That’s exactly where the Mo supposed to go. The zoning was changed to allow denser neighborhoods along the Mo route and the developers swooped in to build. Link’s route was chosen several years later, then the real estate bubble blew up and money got tight.

      28. So, as I write, the development in Ballard is classic “transit-oriented development”, on transit lines with very walkable neighborhoods. You want to claim that, because the city does not force these buildings to limit parking, that it is not TOD? lol

        What a flimsy non-argument. Wonder if the general public would see a difference between 330 parking stalls for 352 residences and 355 parkig stalls for 352 residences. Are you seriously claiming that that would be a significant difference between developments?


        Or was that a joke?

      29. I was at the design meeting for the new apartment hi-rise that will replace the old Ballard branch library. The developer’s representatives kept saying how keen they were on encouraging multimodal transportation, but never once used the term “Transit-Oriented Development,” nor were they aware that the city offers a 10% reduction in the parking requirement for being on a bus line.

        It’s quite apparent that this isn’t transit-oriented development due to the lack of enthusiasm for actual transit use from all parties, including the city. It’s simply development near transit. The fact that the city refuses to encourage leaving the car behind for more than 10% of occupants is testament to this attitude.

        TOD seems like pornography: you know it when you see it. Proximity to transit isn’t necessary or sufficient to be TOD; I think it’s perfectly possible to build TOD blocks away from the actual transit facilities.

      30. “You want to claim that, because the city does not force these buildings to limit parking, that it is not TOD?”

        Never made that claim and you got it totally backwards. The city forces parking minimums on buildings that don’t need it, pure subsidies for car drivers and forcing people who don’t want parking to pay for it in the cost of housing and increased cost of goods and services through higher commercial leases.

        “Wonder if the general public would see a difference” Yes, in more affordable housing and less traffic, because there are less cars. Remember, one less car bought and driven is less traffic, right, RIGHT?

      31. So, if the difference is what the “city forces”, what does that have to to with rail or buses? That is the city’s problem — has nothing to do with whether or not a building is on a bus stop or a train station. If the city did not have these different requirements, what makes you think parking would be any different in Ballard than on MLK Jr Way? And is it really any different in any significant way, even with the city’s different requirements?

      32. “Remember, one less car bought and driven is less traffic, right, RIGHT” You see all those people on the buses between downtown and Ballard? You think none of those people have cars? You think only people who don’t own cars take buses? lol

        “Yes, in more affordable housing and less traffic, because there are less cars.” Didn’t you just write that at some building, many of the parking spots were not being used? How does the city forcing developers to put in a minmum number of parking spots force people to own cars? If the spots are never used because people living there don’t own cars, that does not increase traffic, does it?

        Sounds like you have a problem with the city’s laws. That has nothing to do with buses or trains — it has to do with the city. Buses don’t force developers to build parking — it’s the city that apparently is doing that.

      33. It’s not worth arguing whether some building has all the characteristics of TOD to a “T”, or whether the transit at the location is adequate at the present moment. What’s important is to build walkable neighborhoods with frequent-and-rapid transit corridors. They can’t all be finished in one year. In some places, the transit will come first. In other places, the buildings will come first.

        I don’t know the exact technical definition of “transit-oriented development”, but it’s something that has dense housing, grocery stores and other everyday retail within an easy walk of a transit station, or even better if the transit station is integrated into the building itself. TOD would tend to have less parking or no parking, but in this age I don’t think we need to quibble if the developer is reluctant to give up parking.

        “Transit-ready development” is built for transit but doesn’t have a rapid transit station yet. Burien Town Center is one example. There’s a famous one in Virginia; is it called Reston Town Center? The built it to encourage the DC Metro to come to it, and I think the extension is now under construction.

        “Transit-adjacent development” happens to be within walking distance of a station, but it’s not built for it. Often that means the front entrance is on the other side, and you have to walk all the way around a blank wall to get to the entrance. Or there’s a minor footpath for transit riders but it’s not well marked. So you can walk to those businesses/apartments from the station, but it’s not as convenient as it could be.

      34. Again, more distortions from Norman.

        “That is the city’s problem”

        City policy that subsidizes car ownership (since the 1950s) by requiring an oversupply of parking spaces hurts everybody.

        “You think none of those people have cars? You think only people who don’t own cars take buses?”

        We’re talking about people who live in dense developments without a car, not single-family houses on a big lot. So you think that parking a car at a park and ride reduces traffic? LOL

        “How does the city forcing developers to put in a minmum number of parking spots force people to own cars?”

        Did I say it forces people to own cars? No. It forces people to pay for parking they don’t want.

        “If the spots are never used because people living there don’t own cars, that does not increase traffic, does it?”

        That’s true but why force them to build it in the first place? If they eventually find a use for those parking spaces then it does increase traffic. Do you agree that we should let the market decide how many spaces is appropriate?

        “That has nothing to do with buses or trains — it has to do with the city. ”

        The lack of holistic thinking from Norman just astounds me.

      35. “So you think that parking a car at a park and ride reduces traffic? LOL” Absolutely! YOu don’t? lol

        If 300 people park their cars at a Bellevue park and ride and take the bus across I-90 to Seattle, that does not reduce the number of cars on the I-90 bridge? If there were no buses across the I-90 bridge, how do you think those people would get into Seattle, walk?

        You have really exposed yourself with that comment.

        “Did I say it forces people to own cars? No. It forces people to pay for parking they don’t want.” And how does that affect the number of cars on the road? It doesn’t. I don’t care if people are stupid enough to pay for parking they don’t want. What has that got to do with transit?

        Again, this is the city’s problem. That has nothing to do with whether or not people will take a bus. If anything, it proves how badly people want to live near bus routes, if they will pay for parking they don’t use just so they can live near a bus route.

      36. The development in Ballard, including On the Park, certainly meet Mike Orr’s definition of TOD. And any common sense definition of TOD.

      37. Taking your claim to its logical conclusion. Do you mean that if you built a sufficient number of parking spaces (ranging in the 10s of thousands) and provided enough buses do you seriously think you can cut the number of cars on I-90 by half? Do you take transit across the bridge?

      38. If being near a bus line is all that’s required for development to be classified as TOD then every building in Seattle is TOD and there’s no point in making the distinction in the first place!

      39. Density. Mixed-use buildings. High walk score. Near transit.

        So, every building in Seattle meets those criteria?

      40. Can I make a devil’s advocate argument?

        If we’re trying to make a meaningful distinction between transit-oriented and transit-adjacent development, to the effect that TOD actively encourages people to use transit, and especially if it does so by making it difficult to drive… how is that not the “social engineering” conservatives are panicky about?

      1. The post is purposely being obscure on this point. I was halfway through it being confused about “Where are they talking about? West Seattle? Link next year?” when I clicked on the “Link” link to see that it’s an apartment building. I believe in clarity, and the linked page may be down sometime or may be deleted at some point, so I’d rather see explicitly in the post, “Link is an apartment building”.

        The name Link is curious, is it a thinly-disguised hope that Link light rail will come through the area someday (and choose the 35th detour rather than Fauntleroy)? One can’t imagine that they didn’t know about Link light rail when they chose the name, that would be too much of a coincidence.

        If Link LR does go through that area someday, it’ll pose a bit of a dilemma. Make the detour and serve two stops which are pretty close together? Or serve just Fauntleroy/Alaska and abandon the other RapidRide stop, even though the developer is making an effort to build TOD there?

      2. I will point out that the monorail made the same siting decision to tag 35th and Avalon and for many of the same reasons.

  2. Norman’s point about the Ballard, Belltown, and West Seattle developments seems valid. Some emphasize that transportation = land use. Good TOD is pedestrian oriented development. Development can be TOD without official sponsoring from a transit agency. Municipal zoning changes can complement transport investments. The increased density in downtown Redmond, Renton, Kirkland, and Juanita all seem like TOD and POD. The bus ridership in Ballard has increased with the increased development. The developers mentioned transit service in their marketing. Are the Mercer Island condo developments near that P&R TOD; they include plenty of parking; residents can walk to frequent bus service; in a decade, they may walk to Link. Expansion of limited access highways prompts a different type of auto-dependent development (I-90 in east King or east Spokane counties). Here’s a good read: Resilient Cities by Newman, Beatley, and Boyer.

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