Sounder at Freighthouse Square – Photo by DWHonan

(We generally try to avoid overly self-referential posts here on STB, but I hope you’ll indulge me on this occasion.)

I have impeccable urban elitist credentials.  I haven’t owned a car for 6 years, and I’ve been unduly proud of it.  Despite myself, I’ve slowly been becoming the “smug cyclist” that provides such lazy framing material for our city’s overblown culture wars.  Quite frankly, I have had to fight not to be annoying.  But these days I’m quieter, more circumspect, more patient.  Why the change?  My daily commute to the suburbs has relieved me of my arrogance.

More after the jump…

Jobs are precious, scarce, and geographically concentrated.  Housing is relatively cheap, abundant, and geographically diffuse.  Among couples, two-income households are the norm, and spouses and partners almost always work miles apart (my wife works in downtown Seattle).  These realities establish overwhelming incentives to choose where to live first, and means of travel second.  Commuting is a misery we freely choose to gain a benefit that in our fallible judgment outweighs the cost.  It gives us a measure of control over our leisure time, and it provides an additional feeling of affluence.

I live in Seattle, 1.5 miles east of Capitol Hill, and I work 40 miles south in Lakewood.  Every weekday I spend 3 hours commuting (90 mins each way).  I ride the first 3 miles on my bicycle and travel the rest on some combination of Sounder, LINK, 574, 592, 594, 2, 3, and 8.   Though I used to convince myself that my car-free reverse commute was somehow superior to that of the traditional suburban variety, I have come to realize that my reasons for choosing it are the same.  Why not just move south, or split the difference with my wife and live in Kent?  Why in the world would I choose this?

My somewhat stubborn answer is simple, unscientific, and could be given by anyone from Marysville to Orting:  because I like where I live.  I can’t imagine losing Saturday brunch across the street from my apartment,  living in an all-trolley neighborhood, walking up and down Broadway, or having easy transit access to the entire region from downtown Seattle.  If I want to go to Benaroya on a whim, I can.  Mariners games?  A 10-minute bike ride away.   If I moved to the South Sound, I would learn to love 6th Avenue in Tacoma, or Rainiers games at Cheney Stadium, or closer proximity to Mt. Rainier.  But for now, inertia and pleasure keep me in the city.  I love it here.  I live where I do because it has the amenities I want.  Are suburbanites any different?

All this has humbled me and tilted my policy preferences toward carrots and away from sticks.  I can’t begrudge people their preferences; most people are rational individuals making choices that make the best sense of competing demands on their lives.  Yes, externalities (land use, air quality, etc…) are generally insufficiently considered, but that is a not a behavioral flaw but a structural one, as the correct pricing for these externalities remains elusive and intangible.  Wade into the Environmental Valuation or Contingent Valuation literature sometime, and be prepared for less method and more madness. We just don’t know how to quantify the value of unpolluted environmental amenities, and some of the most common metrics (such as WTP, or willingness-to-pay) are quite frankly just guesses that are easily manipulable to fit our preconceived qualitative preferences.

So, as Jarrett argues well, enough with anything that smacks of coercion.  Though a ubiquitous car culture represents a far greater coercion – what kind of society are we when most land use is hostile to something as basic as walking!?! – I am equally tired of urbanist rhetoric that surrounds itself with the vocabulary of punishment, retribution, and reparation.  In my opinion it’s all about enabling car-free lives and making cities attractive for families.  Don’t worry too much about “transit mode share,” because for the next 30+ years we’re stuck with our parents’ land use choices.  Rather, from the bottom-up, let’s create a few places where people can live differently.

Seattle retains an exceptional employment density ; almost 200,000 people work downtown, greater than either Portland or Vancouver BC.  Unlike many other cities, the radial commute still matters here.  Second, cross-town travel is even more important, and we desperately need frequent gridded service to connect the rich network of urban villages we have.  Transit will never work in the vast exurbs – the circle just can’t be squared without, well, making it a square – but we can provide such inefficient service if our democracy demands it.   Behavioral incentives (subsidies, employer transit passes, etc…) have an important role, but the meat of the matter lies in structural incentives, or in the judicious and visionary use of large capital projects that begin to get inertia on our side.  In this respect, we’re on the right track in this region, though the future is far from assured.  But I’m bullish on our prospects, and I’ll be all the more so if we play the long game well, if we come across as nuanced and reasonable people, if we avoid ad hominem explanations for our ideological opponents, and if we assume the reasonableness of our neighbors.

135 Replies to “Reflections on a Long-Distance Commute”

  1. You have a much higher tolerance for commuting pain than me…I live in Wallingford, work downtown, and usually take the bus (~25 minutes, employer provided free bus pass). I also have the option of driving (~15 minutes) and parking in a employer provided & subsidized parking spot. That time difference is right at the limit for me, much more of a differential and and I’d drive more.

    How much shorter would your commute be if you did it by SOV? 90 minutes one way, I’d go crazy right quick, no matter the mode. That’s right around a full _month_ spent commuting, figured cumulatively over the course of a year.

    Also, how do you grid a hilly hourglass that’s surrounded by water? I’d like to see it done too, but it looks challenging.

    1. The 16 is one slow-assed bus. Your commute would suck a lot less if there was a 16X that avoided the jog through Queen Anne and was expressed to 45th St. It’s also in dire need of stop removal around Green Lake.

      1. I live closer to I5 than 99 and usually take the 510/511 in the morning, the 45th St/I5 stop does just barely work for my schedule. Coming home, usually the 64 or 76.

      2. When did route 16 change how it went onto Dexter Avenue? It adds more time now northbound and goes way out of it’s way.

      3. Cinesea the 16 has been doing that for a few years. They started doing the Dexter routing because the bus was getting so held up waiting to get over on Mercer to turn left. It does make the bus faster during peak times or when there’s an event at Seattle Center but I agree it can make the trip longer when there’s no traffic on Mercer.

      4. Hmm, when was the 16 express eliminated? I used to take it from Ravenna Blvd to my job near NSCC in 1990.

      5. 16X was eliminated in Sept 2003: “316 provides weekday peak service between North 175th Street and Meridian Avenue North and downtown Seattle via Green Lake. It replaces the 16 Express but will not serve the Northgate Transit Center.”

      6. Oh, and the 316 only stops at 45th going northbound in the afternoon; mornings the last stop before downtown is 65th & Ravenna.

    2. “How do you grid a hilly hourglass?”

      I think it’s a misconception that Seattle is grid-less. Compared to the bowl-of-spaghetti layouts of medieval or pre-industrial cities, Seattle is very gridded. I prefer to think of Seattle as “Grid, Interrupted.” There are chokepoints (primarily bridges) and places where streets dead-end or become staircases (primarily hills), but almost all streets are oriented as grids, and certainly our main arterials function that way. Downtown has its own grid, Belltown/Denny Regrade has its own, and the rest of the city has a traditional grid.

  2. The appropriate topology for a bus network in Seattle is hub and spoke out from downtown, turning into a grid system in those places where a functional grid exists — mostly north of the ship canal. If you look at Metro’s frequent service routes and cross your eyes a bit, that’s basically what you have. It just doesn’t look that way because downtown’s grid is 45 degrees off from everything else.

    1. Eh, I disagree. It’s really a node-based system centered on the urban villages. The biggest nodes are downtown, UW, and Northgate. Routes are designed to connect these arms. It may look like a grid system to you since the streets north of the ship canal are gridded, but the planning is done to get people from one urban village to another.

      1. If that was really the case, why is there no convenient bus service betweem downtown Ballard and Fremont?

        That to me captures the ridiculousness of Seattle’s patchwork and – frankly – arbitrary transit system.

      2. Aaron, lack of service between two specific nodes hardly suggests that we function on a grid system. In this case it suggests that the connection between those particular node is seen by the transit agency as incidental to the radial lines from downtown.

        A true grid system would make that trip totally painless (and require no advance planning) even if there were no direct connection — because whatever replaced the 44 and whatever replaced the 28 would both be fast, frequent, and reliable.

      3. Im not saying it means we function on a grid system, but those are two nodes (and urban villages) with frequent travel between them, as are the U-District and Fremont.

        I see no reason why there isn’t a route from DT Ballard to Fremont to the U-District and perhaps continuing down to Capitol Hill. Those four urban villages/nodes deserve a single route connection.

      4. I actually like the node-based description even better than my original one.

        @aaron I do agree that Fremont-Ballard connectivity is terrible. Fremont-Queen Anne connectivity is poor, too. In fact, Queen Anne’s connectivity to everything except Ballard and downtown is poor. Here’s some brainstorming:

        One thing d.p. and I batted around at some point was the idea of realigning the 46 to duplicate less of the 44 (i.e. move the part west of 8th to Leary), run it to UW at all times, truncate the long tail up Shilshole and make it an all-day bus. This would fix most of Fremont’s east-west connectivity issues.

        Oran once mentioned the idea of extending the 13 to Fremont. I don’t like the idea of further degrading the on-time performance of the Belltown local busses by extending one of them, but I do think there’s a huge dead spot there. If the 13 were made a separate route running from 1st & Denny, up over Queen Anne to Nickerson, up through the center of Fremont, then do a loop in Fremont to connect to the 46, 44 and 5, would that make sense?

        If we also made the 17 more frequent, we could then do away with a number of less-productive routes like the 45, 31 and 30. Of course, that probably doesn’t come close to all the extra hours we’d need to add the services I’ve described.

        Looking at the map to research questions like this just makes me irritable. Before long I’m going to start posting in bold like d.p. Because if we actually tried to do changes like this, all ten people who have one-seat rides from Magnolia to UW would have a fit. Yet the Seattle Transit Master Plan had a great graph showing how those routes (notably the 45) are some of the least productive in the west subarea, and we’d serve way more people better (I think) with changes like what I’ve described above.

      5. The thing about the 45 is that from the top of Queen Anne Hill, there is no other way to get to UW without an inconvenient connection either at SPU (13 to 31) or Lower Queen Anne (2/3/4/13 to 30).

        The 45 is not a productive route – I completely agree on that point – but it cannot be easily replaced by any existing route. The 17 doesn’t go to the U District at all, providing no benefit over the existing 30 and 31, which themselves only serve the edges of Queen Anne Hill. It is a long and steep walk from Mercer or Nickerson to the top of the hill – a great workout, but not likely to appeal to many 45 riders.

      6. @Alex That’s the very problem I’m trying to solve with the Queen Anne – Fremont route I proposed above.

      7. To me, Ballard to Fremont is the low hanging fruit. How about a route that duplicates the 28, but continues up Leary instead of turning on 8th? I’m sure Metro could find a way to make cuts elsewhere that would allow that to happen.

      8. Some of you are too young to remember. About 10-12 or so years ago, due to popular demand, Metro DID start a great Ballard-Fremont-Phinney Ridge circular route. It went from NW Market Street Ballard down Leary Avenue NW, then Leary Way NW which becomes N 36 Street. Then north on Fremont Avenue N and Phinney Avenue N past the zoo, left on N and NW 65 Street to 24 Avenue NW, left back to NW Market. And vice versa. It was a terrific route, but alas, not used, in spite of the surveys which showed residents wanted such a route. I think there were other such mini-routes set up because Metro bought or leased jitneys. I wonder what happened to those vehicles. A similar jitney was used to shuttle passengers from Market Street to Golden Gardens. Also cancelled due to poor ridership–sometimes I was the only one on it. Pity all the way around.

      9. I recall having a shuttle-shaped magnet that Metro sent out to promote that service, though unfortunately it’s long gone. Also long gone is any memory of the route’s name—IIRC these short-lived shuttle-bus routes weren’t numbered but had cutesy names in the vein of Boulder’s HOP, SKIP and JUMP.

        Relatedly, the 81 nightowl is currently the only route that runs on NW 65th, serving three stops: 8th, 11th & 15th. The stops at 8th & 15th aren’t even signed, but 11th Ave has both a sign and a bench, and I suspect that’s because they were put in for the shuttle and never removed.

      10. @aaron How about axing the 46, splitting the 13 off from its downtown route, and running it from 1st & Denny to Fremont via Seattle Pacific, then following Leary to 24th & Market then north as the 18? That would probably be close to cost-neutral, especially if (as someone suggested elsewhere in these comments) that Metro may want to terminate the 18 at Leary once RapidRide goes in.

      11. The issue with these Queen Anne – Fremont routes is that the Fremont Bridge and the streets around 34th and 35th are a bottleneck. The 30 is 5-25 minutes late every morning, and that will happen to the 13 if it’s extended. So we need a few separate routes that cross the Fremont bridge, not tied to long-distance routes to the UW or elsewhere. Merging the 30 with the 46 would be a good idea, and make a separate route for Fremont-Seattle Center, maybe extending up to 46th and the Zoo to cover that Fremont hill that doesn’t have any buses.

      12. North Seattle bus service looks like a half-assed grid, at best. See: the 48/71 thing on 65th; patchwork service on 25th; the aforementioned lack of east-west service south of 45th (or, come to think of it, east-west service at all compared to north-south); lack of any frequent service east of 15th; the patchwork nature of the 30 and 25; and so on. Looking at Oran’s map, north-south spokes are close together given the large distances between them otherwise (look at the 5 and 358, then look at the gap to the 66/67). When you factor in the non-frequent routes, the map looks a lot less like a grid. And the grid really breaks down north of Northgate.

      13. North Seattle streets are something like a grid. North Seattle bus routes aren’t a grid at all. Metro has increased east-west service but all of those routes turn north-south and don’t cover the entire street. The only “grid” is between Ballard and 15th NE, 40th to 105th. There’s a gridette east of the UW (25th/35th/Sand Point Way, 45th/55th/65th) but I doubt hardly anybody uses it that way because it’s a half hour between buses.

        A proper grid would have routes like this:
        – (40th) Ballard-Fremont-UW (40th) (UW stn)
        – (45th) Ballard-Wallingford-UW-Laurelhurst (Brooklyn stn)
        – (85th/65th) Loyal Heights-Greenlake-Wedgewood-Magnuson Park (Roosevelt stn)
        * That leaves NW 65th and NE 75th without service though
        * An all-65th bus would have to go around Greenlake, probably the south end
        – (105th/125th) Loyal Heights-Northgate-Lake City
        – (130th/125th) 3rd NW-Sand Point Way
        * If a 135th/Aurora stn is built, it could go from there east to Roosevelt, southeast then east on 125th
        – (145th) 3rd NW-35th NE
        * If a 155th/Aurora stn is built, it could go from there east, south on 5th NE, east on 145th, and south on Lake City Way to 125th
        – (175th or 185th) If a 175th/Aurora stn is built, it could go from Richmond Beach, 185th, north on Fremont? to Aurora Village, south on Aurora to 175th, east to 15th NE (passing library). Then it could go back up to 185th and east to Lake Forest Park, although that may be too low density.

        Fremont would make a natural transfer hub like Campus Pkwy if one can figure out how to site it on such narrow congested streets. Ppl could make a 4-way transfer between the Ballard-Westlake streetcar, 30 to UW, a bus north to the zoo, a Westlake bus to Seattle Center, as well as the 28 and 26.

      14. I like the idea of a route on NW 65th (possibly beginning in a loop just past 32nd), heading up Linden (so RR E can stay on Aurora and doesn’t have to meander through Phinney so it can stay, you know, rapid) and Winona to 80th, and heading straight across to Ravenna Ave E. I don’t know where it goes after that but heading down to 75th seems like it would leave a bigger gap in the grid than if it went further north, but there’s a general paucity of real east-west arterials east of Lake City Way (95th is close to the middle of nowhere and is right on the border of Wedgwood).

        Not only does this fill a gap in the grid, it obviates service provided by the 66/67 and the only remotely useful part of the 72, not to mention the 68. (The south side of Green Lake is iffy at best for transit service – W Green Lake Way has absolutely nothing touching it except for Woodland and Green Lake Parks, leaving the area already served by the 16 and 26. “But those are north-south routes”, you say. This east-west route would basically copy the 16’s route for its only useful portion.)

        Of course it would be more justifiable if North Link had a Maple Leaf station near 85th… >:(

      15. > (45th) Ballard-Wallingford-UW-Laurelhurst ([connect to Link at] Brooklyn stn)

        Mike, I’m hoping you check back here and see my gigantic thanks for putting this out there!

        There is nothing more insane than the failure to provide a straight service on 45th beyond 15th NE. Where do they get the idea that the 44 “needs” to turn south to provide one-seat service to medical center and the entire campus periphery? There are literally 15 other routes that do so; a transfer would be painless.

        But instead, they’ve made it nearly impossible to descend the 11 blocks down the viaduct to the U Village — which is sadly so dark, so poorly designed, and so weather-exposed that it’s hostile to pedestrians 9 months a year.

        Making that transfer means checking OneBusAway first for the 25, then for the 75, 65, or 68. Most of the time it requires riding all the way to Campus Parkway and then crawling through the campus itself.

        There’s no reason for the busiest crosstown line in the system not to keep on straight at least as far as U Village, with most trips continuing to Children’s Hospital.

      16. Aside from the need to install trolley wires, that is, but I, too, have desired better service on 45th from the Ave to U-Village; taking the 30 means a hefty walk. Of course that renders the 25 even less necessary… Two other comments:

        I notice Mike has a “130th/125th” line with “Sand Point Way” as one of the endpoints, but you also have a “105th/125th” line that I’m guessing is intended to be analogous to today’s 75. I would probably just terminate it in the heart of Lake City, though. (Because of the way Lake City Way interrupts the street grid, Lake City is a surprising candidate for a natural hub for bus activity.)

        It occurs to me that if there is to be no non-RapidRide service across the Ballard Bridge, we’d be left with orphaned legs of the 17 and 18 in Ballard that I don’t think could support themselves as orphaned stubs. One could be tacked on to the end of the revised 30, while the other could be used in much the same way the 75 heads to central Ballard now. We’d also be left with the orphaned Westlake leg of the 17, which could be canned entirely, redirected to Fremont, or used to cancel the 31.

      17. Who said no RapidRide on the Ballard Bridge? If I seemed to imply that, it was unintended. I assume C, D and E will roll out as planned. Yes, continuing either the Leary or Market route on 24th NW makes sense. The other one can go up 32nd or Seaview. I do think there should be all-day bus service to Golden Gardens. Other cities have buses to their parks.

        I still think RR E on Aurora is not fast enough, but I’m hopeful that if Link gets built on Aurora from 135th to Aurora Village and beyond, the only slow part of the trip will be from Winona to 135th, and that may be acceptable. (BTW, I think I saw a map showing RR E would ditch Linden and go straight up Aurora. Although Linden is not the problem. The problem is the bottlenecks from 73rd-105th and 130th-145th, where streetlights and 30 mph speed limit and many stops conspire to slow the bus down.)

      18. Yes, terminating a 125th route at 35th (just east of Lake City Way) makes sense. I also think the 145th route should bend down to 125th/Lake City Way even if it slightly duplicates the 522, again to provide a productive terminus.

        The 175th route is kind of blah. Aurora to 15th NE is pretty short for a route but there’s nothing east of it to go to. So I suggested combining it with the Richmond Beach route. I think most people in Richmond Beach would want to go to Aurora Village, not 175th, due to the better shopping, so if the bus serves both NE 175th and Richmond Beach it would have to go to Aurora Village and back down.

      19. How important is the 28? To me it seems too close to the 15 and 5. But I don’t live in the area.

        I did hear 28 riders defending their route at a Metro meeting once. Metro said the 28 had low productivity. The riders said that’s because the 28 is so unreliable people go to the 15 stop because it’s more on time.

      20. Golden Gardens is served by the 17 and the 48. While I agree that parks should have busses, they generally don’t merit busses of their own and the rest of Slilshole is pretty slim pickings IIRC. I’d much rather put the hours on the 17 — or, even better, the 15/RapidRide D plus the 48.

        I am sympathetic, however, to the fact that the railroad is a huge barrier to walkability in Shilshole, and in the absence of the 46, people will have to walk quite a way to the bus, and we would lose some riders. If wonder if a ped bridge around 70th would be possible?

      21. The slope between 8th and Phinney is extremely steep, but fixing the 5 and getting RapidRide right would nevertheless ably cover that segment of the 28’s walkshed.

        8th Ave does an annoying thing further north, passing beneath Holman with no stairway and no connection requiring less than 4 blocks detour. That alone should not justify an unproductive route.

        Meanwhile, I’ve never personally been above 100th on the 28 (it goes well into the 140s), so I have no idea if anybody uses it or if the terrain makes the 4-7 block walk up there too arduous. You could always attach Broadview (132nd) as the tail of a 145th St east-west route (which the 28 presently covers from 3rd NW to Aurora).

      22. Bruce, am I right in recalling that you’re a pretty recent transplant to Seattle?

        It’s not the railroad as much as massive cliff with the equivalent of 14 or 15 flights of stairs. Not a problem for the in-shape 30-year-olds among us, but not ideal for everyone.

        The 46 is also justified by the aging population along the length of Seaview. I think it’s about finding the right balance between medium-low demand and a level of service that is neither resource-sucking nor too infrequent for anyone but a retiree to choose.

      23. Hmm, I had forgotten how steep that cliff was at that point. I remember Golden Gardens being steep but I’ve mostly been looking out to sea when I walked down Seaview.

        I’m leary of giving every group of senior citizens their own bus. As an able-bodied person, if I lived on Seaview I’d invest $50 in a beater bike and ride it to the 44 each day, or walk up through the Gardens. Places with a small but consistent limited-mobility ridership could be served much more cheaply with an hourly/half-hourly DART van like the 927 in Sammamish. (And if there’s too many people to put into the DART van, I’ll happily extend a real bus up there.)

      24. I said no non-RapidRide service on the Ballard Bridge. :)

        All you need to do to justify the 28’s existence is look at a map. South of Holman, the 17, 18, 15, 28, 5, and 358 are equally spaced. That’s the most grid-like North Seattle gets. It gets wonky north of Holman where the 28 repeatedly detours onto 3rd and gets close to the 5, and 8th has less development than the others, being basically on the border between Ballard and Phinney/Greenwood.

        I’m tempted to just extend the 44 up Seaview… it’s a natural extention of the arterial it follows.

      25. Morgan, they’re evenly spaced and uniformly infrequent.

        Having 1/2-hourly routes every half mile is one of the two major ingredients of the “fractured routing” problem we’re dissection (the other being the node-to-node bias that winds up overlapping service at said nodes and making transfers arduous).

        It would be a futile effort to plan a grid with service in all directions every 1/2 mile. We’re don’t have the density; we’re not Chicago. A grid on 1-mile intervals, on the other hand, still:
        – means no one has to walk more than 1/2 mile even from the mid-point between routes
        – enables frequencies at 10 minutes or less (diverts service hours both from superfluous routes and from overlapping route tails)
        – makes transfers easy as pie
        – results in quicker trips for all

      26. I see the 17 and 46 have recently been changed, so I withdraw my Seaview proposals. The 17 goes on 32nd NW and then takes a shortcut to Golden Gardens, and the 46 has midday service on Seaview now.

      27. Re: 46: They instituted 7 mid-day runs about three years back. Now the mid-day route is down to 4 runs. It’s quite useless At that point, it’s truly nothing but an elder shuttle, because no one else would have that much flexibility to their planning.

        As I said above, if something is too infrequent for anyone but a retiree to use it, it has no business being a full-fledged route and should be considered a waste of resources. A route needs some modicum of consistency; the current 46 shouldn’t exist at all.

        Re: 17: No, really, it doesn’t:,+wa&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=46.495626,67.763672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Ballard,+Seattle,+King,+Washington&ll=47.693241,-122.400613&spn=0.009706,0.016544&t=h&z=16&iwloc=lyrftr:h,0x54901662340adf8d:0x61fc749334bdd61e,47.695328,-122.401224

      28. Addendum (because the above post makes me seem simultaneously in favor of and opposed to the 46):

        The 46 as it is now is a waste. The full-grid service exists only at rush hour and skips downtown Fremont. The Fremont turnback shadows the 44 and 28 (often immediately behind them) and barely runs anyway. And there’s a ton of wasteful deadheading involved.

        But if Metro ever bit the bullet and gridded its Seattle route system, which would fix the Ballard-Fremont problem even if that still required a (quick-and-painless) transfer from a Market-45th bus to a Phinney-Fremont-Dexter bus, then a full-time Golden Gardens shuttle would actually be less wasteful than the 46 is now. You could run the thing back and forth every 20 minutes and still waste fewer service hours than we do now!

      29. So d.p., are you up for cancelling the 18 and moving the 75 off 24th, without replacement?

        For that matter, would you ax the 68 entirely as well? Because when the 68 was included in a proposed 66-74 megaroute from Northgate to the U-District and Downtown as part of preparation for Metro service reductions, there was a lot of opposition on this blog…

        I don’t know about most people, but for me if I had to walk half a mile to a bus it would lose a lot of the benefits of frequency for me. But then maybe I’m spoiled by spending over a decade with a bus stop literally right outside where I live…

      30. So the 17 is just going halfway down the switchbacks? That makes more sense because I didn’t think there was another road north of there. But that’s still useless for Golden Gardens. (I sometimes used to ride the 48 to the end and walked down the switchbacks, but I only walked up them once.)

        A grid approximately every mile would mean:
        – 17 (furthest from 15 and the only route that can serve the northwest corner)
        – (no 18)
        – 15
        – (no 28)
        – 5
        – 358 (special case for inter-county connections)
        – 16
        – (no 26)
        – (no 66)
        – 73
        – (no 68)
        – 65
        – 75

      31. Morgan: If RapidRide were running every 5-8 minutes and were actually f*cking rapid, then by all means, put the 18 to bed permanently.

        But ScrapitRide that is every 10-15 (and sometimes 30) and is f*cking slow fails to justify the trade-off. Even if the 18 continues, with a transfer at Leary/15th, the results will always be slower than what presently exists. Thus the indefensible failure of Seattle BRT as advertised and implemented.

        Where real transit exists, a 10 minute walk to is considered negligible.

        Mike: The 17 doesn’t really go down the switchbacks at all. It just happens to serve a neighborhood smidge to the north that slopes slightly downward. Also, pedestrians aren’t really supposed to use the shoulder-less switchbacks to descend to Golden Gardens. The stairs are arduous but sit right at 85th.

      32. Also, if you’re aiming for a functional, frequent, easily negotiable grid with easy connections, there would be nothing resembling the present 16 or 26, both of which contain absurd switchbacks and side-street choke points. Wallinford would need a central north-south service and Lower Wallingford some consistent east-west service. But neither would look like anything that exists now.

      33. d.p., Bruce, how about public elevators? They seem to be far rarer than they should be in such a hilly city….

      34. Nathanael, I think our lack of elevators/inclines is the result of our lack-of-density thing, which has left the faces of our cliffs (at Shilshole, East Q.A. above Aurora, José Rizal, etc.) fairly wild, poorly built-out, and with lower demand than the likes of a Pittsburgh: or a Québec City:,-71.216512&sspn=0.009869,0.024719&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Quebec+City,+Communaut%C3%A9-Urbaine-de-Qu%C3%A9bec,+Quebec,+Canada&ll=46.812063,-71.22311&spn=0,0.002068&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=46.812097,-71.222969&panoid=l46PMTNcWOijrAWp5IHUAw&cbp=12,132.04,,0,-16.14

    2. Lightning,

      I wasn’t living here at that time, but that does sound like a great route. I bet it would have higher ridership now, as both Ballard and Phinney Ridge have increased significantly in population and amenities.

      I also think an alternate 28 that went all the way up Leary would have good ridership as well…

      1. What do you mean by “all the way up Leary”? 8th is in the middle of Leary, so would you move it away from 8th?

      2. But how can you go all the way up Leary (from Fremont to 22nd) and also go up 8th? What is this alternate 28?

  3. Great post. I live 7 miles from my office (both in Federal Way) and my time in the car contains none of the things that make driving fun. But I can’t get there with mass transit in under 180 minutes each way and the terrain and my own impatience make cycling unattractive. It is only when you show us an option that benefits us more than driving do you make significant progress. (Because we love our neighborhood and our children’s school.). Please keep working on the carrots – they are a good thing!

  4. Nice piece, Zach – I am in awe of your tolerance for your commute. I had an ideal living situation in Ravenna for a decade and a half, but over that time the commute grew longer and longer, from about 30-35 minutes each way to 40-50 each way. The 76 was fine, but the 71 grew less and less tolerable, especially after 7:00 PM when it would poke along Eastlake and through the UDistrict. So I moved to Madison Park and am back to an average 30-35 minutes door to door – just enough time to do the NYT crossword in the AM and read the New Yorker on the way home. Ninety minutes+ each way? Not a chance. Thanks again, especially for thopse last 2 paragraphs.

    1. My initial reaction was, “How in the hell do you have time to do anything ‘losing’ 3 hours out of each day.” Then I realized I spend about the same amount of time each week working on my home and yard as you do commuting. My commute is 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bike. The extra time to bike isn’t “lost”; it’s the best part of the day!

      1. Nor is my time lost. I read The Economist, I blog for STB, I sleep, I occasionally telework, all things I couldn’t do if I were behind the wheel. And the WiFi on Sounder definitely helps, too (when it’s working).

      2. Sounder probably carries the least time penalty for commuters just because of how much you can do onboard.

  5. Echoing others, your tolerance for a 90-minute commute is pretty rare. I have read that on average people don’t want their commutes to take more than 30 minutes. Once it gets to 45 minutes or an hour, the anger starts. That idea, however, may only be true in cars. I find I can tolerate transit better because I can read or use the internet, and of course if you are biking part of the way that can be fun. So better transit may have an advantage of letting people have more choice of where to live with less stress as a result.

  6. Nice piece, Zach. Will be nice when the Lakewood station opens, I’m sure. Can’t say I agree with everything. Couldn’t handle a 90-minute commute myself, but I understand liking where you live.

  7. “Bruce, Ryan might be taking the 26X. Or if he isn’t maybe he should.”

    It’s very possible, I still consider myself a newcomer to the area and the transit system & am still very much in learning mode. I’ll check out that route.

  8. Agree with Aaron about need for Ballard-Fremont route- one good reason to support sending South Lake Union streetcar line out Westlake and Leary to Ballard.

    Also strongly agree with leaving punitive measures to the far right- if they just had the decency to apply them to somebody besides poor people and others who can’t fight back.

    But, Zach, I am curious about why you find your daily travel “a misery?” These last few years, I’ve had many workdays that started at my door in Ballard, and included work shifts in both Des Moines and Lynnwood.

    I generally look forward to my transit trips- though lately I’ve seriously begun to loathe work-related personal driving. I should put in for a half dozen degrees for the reading I get done. One proof of superiority of rail to bus is a handwritng sample from each mode.

    And more than that, think what a tourist would pay for some of the views every rider gets. LINK and Sounder feature some of the world’s best scenery, and the 590-series has coaches that really class as luxury. Just as a revenue source, transit agencies here should consciously cultivate sight-seeing on regular service.

    Defects? A city as “green” as Seattle deserves a lot more frequent and much faster local service- and better-paved and -reserved street lanes to run it on.
    But “misery?” Well, ok: I consider advertising “wraps” on my bus windows to be theft of the ride quality I’m paying for.

    I’d rather look through gang graffiti. What do we have to do to get the ads confined to the metal?

    Mark Dublin

      1. @Mark Dublin – The actual experience of my commute is pretty pleasant. Biking at 6am has come to be invigorating, Sounder is fast and comfortable (bathrooms, wifi, tables, bike stays dry etc…) The 590-series is pretty good when it’s on the MCI coaches, but the Gilligs are usually pretty crowded. And I’m never late. Both Sounder and the 590s are very punctual in the reverse direction.

        The misery of it is the repetition, the transfer penalty between Tacoma and Lakewood, the last half-mile of biking to work on a dangerous street, and the lost time with my wife.

      2. Given that Metro was justifying the removal of the ad criticizing Israel by saying such ads make buses a target, then wouldn’t it follow that making the windows, in particular, a target, is a really bad idea?

        Metro has no idea what ads will rile up someone’s blood enough to get him to throw a rock until the ad is already on the bus. (In this case, however, it appears that a copy of the ad was leaked to known opponents.)

        Regardless, I don’t think anyone is gaining customers among bus riders by purchasing ads that cover the windows. For public safety reasons, and for the sake of consistent ad policy justification, it’s time to stop doing window-covering bus wraps.

        But even without these wraps, I must say, overtinted windows can be a real depressant on a dark ride home at night. Being able to look out the window of a 590 series bus and see Mt. Rainier in her true colors makes the long ride much more tolerable.

      3. I, too, endured a 60+ minute (each way) transit commute for about 2 years. I would highly recommend getting to know the New York Times Book Review section. It’s amazing how much good stuff is being written these days. There’s also a ton of stuff that used book stores and libraries can provide from the past.

        When Rapid Ride starts serving Ballard, Metro is going to want to terminate the 18 where it connects with RR. Let’s all go to the community meetings and suggest that the 18 continue on to Fremont!

      4. The fate of the 18, in my view, is heavily tied into the fate of the 75 whose route it shares on 24th. If the 75 gets extended at least to 15th and Leary, Metro can ax the 18 entirely (though you lose the loop at the end of the route). Another option for serving the Ballard-Fremont corridor: ax the Seattle Center leg of the 30 and extend it up Leary Way, then ax the 46.

    1. I’m guessing none of you have the “pleasure” of using the wheelchair lift on those MCIs:
      Driver sees me waiting at stop. Driver clears several rows of seats (whereas it’s just one on a Gillig or New Flyer) because they roll forward into each other creating wheelchair space. Driver then activates lift. Driver exits bus and comes to lift door. The Ricon wheelchair lift requires that you raise the grab bars, attach security belt, then lower it to ground. Security belt can be undone so I may board lift. Reattach belt, raise lift to bus level then I roll onto bus. Stow lift, close door, deactivate lift, then secure my chair (if I haven’t done so already).

      PT & ST: many times I ride free on MCIs because the operator does NOT bring my ORCA to the front to validate it (my ORCA is an RRFP loaded with a $2.50 pass, but the agencies aren’t seeing the revenue shared properly). I always have my card ready for usage

      Give me a Gillig or a New Flyer any day, I absolutely hate MCIs for that reason!

      1. So do the other buses have different kinds of lifts, or is it just that they don’t have as many seats that need to get folded up? Just wondering

      2. All the low-floor busses (and I believe all ST’s New Flyer busses are low floor) have fold-out ramps, and the Gilligs have a much simpler and quicker lift.

        Unfortunately for people in chairs, the MCI’s are likely to be a fixture indefinitely, as they’re better in almost every other respect for the long-haul routes.

      3. Community Transit chose double-deck buses for their long-haul routes. It has more seats than an articulated bus or an MCI. It has a low floor for quick and easy boarding for everyone. It has an upper deck that’s quiet, spacious and comfortable. I would love to see ST get those, probably 12 years from now when DDs are more common.

      4. Oran,
        I suspect we won’t have to wait quite that long for a replacement for the MCI coaches. They’ve already been in the fleet for a few years so it shouldn’t be too long before ST has to pick a replacement.

        The DD coaches seem to be a good way to get most of the benefits of the low-floor coaches with most of the benefits of the MCI coaches.

        Though the MCI coaches might be replaced with DE60LF hybrid articulated coaches even though these aren’t nearly as comfortable on long routes as the MCI or DD coaches.

        I am curious how the turn radius of the DD coaches compares to the DE60LF coaches. If it is similar to the 40 ft coaches the DDs might be a good choice for some of the urban routes with high ridership that can’t use articulated coaches due to tight turns.

      5. The problem with DDs is you have to have a shop building with enough overhead clearance to be able to put the coach on a lift and not hit anything on the way up. There are not too many shops that can do this. Articulated coaches have the same problem, you need to be able to lift 3 points on the coach and have a bay long enough for this work, and if you dont…

    2. In this time of national security hysteria, I’m surprised that bus wraps aren’t be banned for public safety/national security reasons. It’s unlikely that a maniac/terrorist with a gun would ever take hostages onboard a Metro bus, but imagine how much more difficult law enforcement’s job would be if the guys with the guns could see out, but the cops couldn’t see in.

      1. If it takes the goons at DHS/TSA to get rid of the bus wraps, call ’em out – a better use of their time than standing around watching their colleagues grope honest travelers.

  9. If Sounder is a major part of your commute and/or Tacoma link, 90 minutes is a breeze, slinking along the countryside (because the centers of the valley towns are not their “densest” areas) in a quiet and smooth train surfing the internet is no less comfortable than doing it at home, and the mountain views and what not just make things pleasant. (I did a 90 minute-ish commute over the summer – 94th/248th Kent via Bike-Sounder-Tlink-1 or 13-bike to 26th/Vassault Tacoma.)

  10. Having done the long distance commute thing before i can say there are several reasons why this is. First off, is the fact we are now in a major metropolitan area spanning from Olympia north to Everett. With the areas inbetween are sprawling bedroom communities for atleast one if not two or three major cities (or employment centers such as JBLM). Now atleast in pierce county, what can be done to solve this? First off, JBLM needs to take responsibility for their impact on the community. No one thinks they should go away, but they need to mitigate their impacts. I think a couple of things for them would be to start commuter bus service onto the base, for atleast the civilian employees (or change soldier’s work schedules around so they can effectivly use public transportation). Secondly, Thurston county needs to join into the Sound Transit district, and have commuter rail expanded to olympia, along with improving the Olympia Express service up to a more respectable standard than the mess it currently is. As for addressing the milatary base’s transportation woes, i think having a terminal for them constructed in Lakewood and DuPont with the transportation onto the base handled by the milatary (with all nessasary checking/screening done in the terminal, much like an airport) and having expanded ST Express and Local service to feed the terminals. and of course the milatary can do whatever on post. Dosent have to be fancy, just a couple of lines ciculating back and forth during the off peak times, and added service during the peak times. all in all just a thought from a guy who used to have to suffer though that commute.

    1. I’ll expect the military to hop to it and make this happen about as soon as vegetarian becomes a meal option on base.

      1. Are you joking? 1/6th of all MREs are Vegetarian. In the new meals it’s Veggie Burger, Penne Pasta with Veggie Sausage, Veggie Lasagna, and Cheese Tortellini (Thank God they finally rid of the horrible Cheese and Veggie Omelot).

        And there are plenty of stuff you can get at the chow hall that don’t have meat.

      2. Nothing can be worse than the “Beef patty” MRE. In fact the veggie MREs I recall were just as good/bad as the others.

      3. I’d expect the military to hop to it just as soon as they start insulating their tents.

        I don’t have the reference now, but someone has been fighting to make the Army more energy efficient, starting with sprayfoam insulation for its tents. He’s done successful trials, but it’s been very, very hard to convince the Army to change its ways.

        Right now the Army is horribly inefficient, and they waste tons of fuel doing absurd things like air-conditioning uninsulated, leaky tents, and then they waste absurd amounts more of fuel bringing that fuel there, and then they have to have soldiers to protect the fuel convoys, and so on and so on.

        I believe one gallon of fuel used at the front lines turns out to require over 20 gallons of fuel to provide, so the savings are spectacular. But just try to get the Army to take it seriously…

        I actually think the first army to become oil-indepdendent, to work out how to avoid the use of oil supply lines, will have a huge military advantage. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be our hidebound military.

    2. IT being in the ST district: here we go again

      True, I might ride the 596 just for fun or Sounder to Centennial Station and catch the 94 to my favorite casino

      In the perfect world, ORCA would work from WTA to C-Tran (a girl can dream can she?)

      1. Factoid: the 596 was origonally on the 1994 Orion V (801-827) roll signs as guess what… Olympia-Seattle! So the idea has been around for more than a few years.

        Its day is a comin! well should have been long ago. Oly politicans dont want to be associated with the seattle/tacoma crowd much and seem to like to do their own things, however the rest of society on the other hand increasingly seems to think diffrent.

      2. Z: thus why I mention thr 596. I remember one of the drivers showing me that rollsign after pulling into DuPont one evening

    3. We saw from the Pierce County transit vote last week how and why expanding the ST district will not work in the present “Political Climate”

      1. Retorical Question: I wonder how the Prop 1 vote would’ve fared on a major (:::cough::: November :::cough:::) election?

      2. Remember that IT did pass its transit tax increase. The net effect of adding Thurston County to the ST district may not be as negative as you might think.

        I suspect annexing to the ST district might go over fairly well if it included upgraded express bus service to Tacoma, Seattle, and points in-between like the airport along with Sounder service to Centennial Station.

        Past that there are ways for ST to provide service to Thurston County without necessarily adding it to the ST district.

      3. Actually, Metropolitan thurston county did vote to extend ITs taxing authority, its only been Pierce County and Whatcom counties that have rejected proposals for transit AFAIK.

      4. Key difference between IT and PT:

        IT’s taxing and service district only includes the urban areas of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm.

        PT’s taxing and service district is the entire area of Pierce County.

        IT used to be like PT but then reduced its service area after I-695 and a failed sales tax measure sent it into a funding crisis. There was similar situation with C-TRAN in Vancouver, Clark County, WA that reduced its service area from countywide to urban areas only.

      5. Oran,

        I don’t believe that’s true. The PTBA encompasses most of the population but there are large chunks of the county outside it.

      6. Correct: the Pierce PTBA does not include the entire county. IT once did that, then shrunk to what we have today, but Pierce never did the whole county

      1. Expect to be disapointed. JBLM will continue to grow as BRAC closes smaller bases and consolidates those troops on the larger ones (like Lewis).

        It’s not the Cold War, so we don’t need out military to be spread out to protect against nuclear strikes. As Lewis is a combat arms post (meaning lots of ranges and training areas) it’ll be staying around. Think about it, you could move a Military Intelligence unit, and all you need is a new building. Moveing a Stryker unit requires alot more land and facilities.

        The more the budget is cut and savings need to be found, the faster Lewis will grow.

  11. I, too, have a long commute (usually 1 hr 15 min to 1 hr 30 min) one way from Capitol Hill in Seattle to the Eastside (specifically Bellevue) whenever I have a work assignment to go to on my job in Bellevue. When I worked in the far reaches of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation I for a time had a commute from 430am to 7am before my arrival at my work site with a 730am office start time on what was called a 8/9’s work shift of 8 days of 9 hr shifts in a consequetive 2 wk period so that I could have alternating Fridays off while preserving my earned pd vacation time. So I feel like I’m a old hand at long commutes lol… I’ve found that reading, surfing the web on Clear encrypted wireless or checking out all the saves, settings, & such on my cell ph to purge files, or carrying my paper reading tickler folder in a small carryon bag onto my bus makes a excellent use of what otherwise is a tedious near daily trip. Occasionally I chat with fellow commuters but since I use my vocal chords in 95% of my job I seldom choose to do that on the trip by bus..I’m a introvert and NEED my personal space on the bus to do things not requiring social interaction with my vocal chords (I’ve lost my voice in the past from vocal strain which is a no no in my job category).
    So I’ve said what I’ve experienced to let you know you’r not alone in having a daily long commute that you accept for lifestyle preferences.

    I live on Capitol Hill in Seattle and it is very dear to me as neighborhoods go.
    It has its faults but I feel for me the good points are much greater and it fits me to a T. I also like Bellevue as a work place so to me I have a good combination of the best of 2 worlds. But since there is no denying a sacrifice of time is involved in my lifestyle someday I’ll probably be in a situation where at least part of each week I’ll have a shorter commute. But for now my bus commute time is my special time to study, read and surf the web without interruption (except of course when my laptop temporarily loses its connection to the Clear signal which is why whenever I’m on my laptop commuting I always have my handy paper backup of a paper back bk to read lol and mark up w/notes ;)…). Thanks for reading my comments.

    1. I live on the Hill too, but thankfully I work on Eastlake, so my commute takes all of four minutes, and on foot no less. After reading about some people’s commutes I realize how fortunate I am.

      1. How do you get from the hill to anywhere on Eastlake on foot in 4 minutes? Can you leap over the highway?

      2. I was wondering the very same thing. My commute is five blocks walk down Western and it takes me five minutes.

  12. Great post, Zac.

    I drive to work (Lakeside Ave to UW) and would take transit if there were just some meaningful, useful carrots for me. I’ve tried repeatedly to use transit and there are just too many constant sticks hammering at me. So until I retire or move, I can pay more to drive; so I do.

    Carrots would include:
    – a local bus that didn’t run only every 1/2 hour and is always late outbound from downtown.
    – Metro actually listed my home stop so that One Bus Away could show it. Yes, I’ve reported it- repeatedly.
    – There wasn’t constant harassment/assaults of other passengers or me on Metro buses.
    – There was more enforcement of civility on Metro. Should *every* ride be tense with violations of Metro’s code of conduct?!
    – It took 3-5 times longer to use the bus as the car.
    – The price of a Upass wasn’t rising steeply as my salary was decreasing.
    – I didn’t have daily errands elsewhere in the city; or family commitments that prevent me from spending more time taking the bus.
    – My students didn’t treat the busride as an additional office hour.
    – My local route actually went to Link (it dead ends a mile before Mt. Baker Stn)
    – The bus wasn’t so loud, smelly, and jerky (diesel up steep hills).

    Even just a few of these carrots would get me to try Metro again…

    1. – There wasn’t constant harassment/assaults of other passengers or me on Metro buses.
      – There was more enforcement of civility on Metro. Should *every* ride be tense with violations of Metro’s code of conduct?!

      I’ve been a regular Metro bus rider for the past 22 years and I can’t say I’ve seen much of a problem in the past 10 years even when I was living in the Central District. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been harassed on a Metro bus in 22 years. I will admit riding the 358 or the routes through Belltown is annoying due to the large number of people not following the code of conduct.

    2. I don’t know exactly where you are on Lakeside, but once UW station opens you’d probably be able to walk to the 14 and then take Link to Mount Baker. As it is now, if I were in your shoes I’d take the 14 or the 27 (or walk) to the 48. What routes were you taking? How long does the drive take you?

      And you can add me to the list of people who’ve never seen anyone harassed or assaulted on a Metro bus. As for students treating the bus as office hours, you simply need to say “No.” You don’t let them interrupt you when you’re having lunch or at the gym, do you? Presumably you can set the same boundaries on the bus.

      1. The best option for your trip is probably to bike. Lake Washington Boulevard is a great bike route and the whole trip should take under 30 minutes.

        That being said, if you didn’t want to bike, the best bus option is probably to walk up the hill to the 48 and not even consider the 27. This way, most of the marginal time over driving is spent walking, which is great exercise (especially climbing up the hill), besides the fact that it avoids all transfers. Google estimates 47 minutes, only 23 of which are actually on the bus. Given that Google is generally pessimistic about walking speeds, a reasonably fit person could probably do it in 40, especially if you use one bus away to adjust your pace while walking to always arrive at the bus stop just a couple minutes before the bus approaches.

      2. Yet another option for nice weather days is to ride the bus to work so you can jog home from work across through arboretum and along Lake Washington boulevard.

        The entire trip looks like around 5 miles, which means jogging should take less than an hour – about the same as walking to the 48 and probably considerably faster than taking the 27 and going through downtown.

        If you like getting exercise, riding the bus to work and running home is much faster than driving to work, driving back, then jogging the same distance as home->work in a loop around the neighborhood. (If you drive yet again to go jogging, the total amount of time saved increases even more).

      1. I actually took the 27 this weekend. Having ridden it and walked around the neighborhood, I’d be inclined to truncate it at the end of Yestler before it goes down that windy hill. In fact, the Yestler part of the 27 is so close to the 14 that I’d really rather just kill the whole route and bump the south section of the 14 to 15 minute peak / 20 minute off-peak service.

        The 14 (south) already performs significantly better than the 27 on almost every metric, it’s electric, the streets its on are wider and less windy, and it already goes further south and hits Mount Baker TC near its south end. If I lived on Lakeside, I’d rather take the predictable walk up the hill to a more frequent electric bus that took me straight to Link or Downtown rather than a less frequent diesel bus on my doorstep that only took me Downtown.

      2. Or extend the 38 to Lakeside and have it go north to Madrona, Denny-Blaine, Madison Park, or even UW Station. The walk up the hill may be predictable, but it’s also tedious and hardly easy. I hope there are staircases along Lakeside to make it easier.

        (Also, between I-5 and 12th there’s a significant difference between the 27 and 14, though I don’t know how the Yesler Terrace redevelopment might change that.)

      3. That area is low-to moderately-dense and very upscale, so I regard its ridership potential as pretty limited. It does have a number of staircases cris-crossing the neighborhood; it’s quite lovely actually, like Madrona.

        I’m totally not sold, though, on the idea of a bus up Lakeview. If Metro’s bus network has demonstrated anything it is that stringing together low-ridership neighborhoods with slow busses on pokey streets does NOT make for a good transit system. It makes for service that’s unreliable, too thinly patronized to be frequent, too infrequent to be usable by working people, and usually ends up with a ridership of ten retired old ladies who will raise hell at public meetings if you ever try to get rid of it.

        I would be amenable to extending the 38 east to be a frequent E-W service to Mount Baker and Beacon Hill. I have no idea where one would go, but it makes a hundred times more sense than yet another milk run.

  13. I used to commute from Seattle to Poulsbo for about 18 months. My morning commute was about 90 minutes and my commute home was up to about 2:15 depending on my schedule that day. Much of the delay in the evening was due to buses from Poulsbo not lining up well with the ferry departures back to Seattle.

    Still the commute was far less annoying than it would have been on a packed stop & go bus or driving to Seattle from Olympia.

  14. Some people will put up with a 3 hour commute because they have house with some acreage in the countryside. But your idea of paradise is an apartment near Cap Hill? And you’ll put up with a 3 hour commute for it?

    1. How shocking to an Eastsider that someone likes streetlife and restaurants and walking?

      Your myopia is continually astounding.

    2. That area is actually Madrona, and is walk/bike/busable to Capitol Hill but is itself pretty quiet.

      But yes, some of us like this urban living thing and are utterly baffled by people who move to the suburbs so they spend their lives mowing lawns, sitting in traffic and watching TV. *shrug*

    3. Count me as another person who wouldn’t give up my Cap Hill apartment for anything — except a nicer apartment. ;)

      I often feel like most of humanity’s problems are caused by our inability to understand that other people are different than we are. This applies to virtually every part of life, but especially land use and transportation. I love living in a city apartment, where I have a whole world within walking distance, and where I don’t have to worry about traffic or mowing lawns or anything like that. Other people would prefer to have a house where their nearest neighbor is miles away.

      I have absolutely no problem letting those people live how they want. I object only when people want to take away my choice to live how I want.

      1. I live in an apartment in Kent and walk, bike, drive, train and bus myself around.

        Apartments here are big, clean and modern with health clubs, computer rooms and swimming pools.

      2. @Bailo…it isn’t all or nothing, though I’ll grant part of your point. I love hiking the mountains, and I love biking the suburbs. Last Saturday I spent all day biking in Woodinville, Redmond, Sammamish and Issaquah. My preference for urban living is my ‘default’ for everyday life, but I do appreciate some of the greenery that suburbs have to offer.

      3. Personally I’d prefer it if the people were in the city, and the Soos Creek Trail was there and Kent wasn’t.

  15. Exactly. People make choices about where to live not just based on transportation, but based on all sorts of other quality of life issues. Who wants to raise a kid in Belltown, where the parks are filled with needles? And not every family can afford a reasonable-sized place that is close to where they work. That’s why I live in Bitter Lake–if I could have afforded something closer in that would actually work for my family, I would have of course bought closer in, and believe me, I looked. You’re not going to lure families to the city if they have to cram themselves into a 2-bedroom 800-square-foot condo.

    1. Who wants to raise kids? I might not want to. I definitely don’t want to waste my weekends pushing a lawnmower around. I grow tired of repeated public assertions that a 3+ bedroom house with a yard is the standard for a “reasonable-sized place.” Besides, I could list a number of low-density areas (White Center, parts of Aurora for a start) that are more sketchy than Belltown after dark.

      More generally, I’m not trying to force anyone to live in an 800-sq-foot condo. I am advocating for a transit system that allows people in the denser areas to live easily without a car, and people in less dense areas to be able to make as many trips as reasonably possible without a car. I am advocating for zoning laws that don’t try to shoehorn me into a bigger house than I want, and that allow more dense development where there is a demand for it.

      1. You might not want to raise kids. Plenty of others do. Cities need kids, and suburbs need people without them. There’s plenty of room between “800 sq. ft. condo” and “3+ bedroom house with yard” and we don’t do a very good job of building those places for families in denser neighborhoods.

      2. @JohnS I agree entirely. Our current zoning laws seem to have divided the housing market into three segments: large multi-car homes, small urban flats and suburban-style three-floor apartment complexes surrounded by an acre of parking. I would like to see more flexibility in those laws, which will naturally tend to diversify the housing stock and densify it in places near light rail and streetcars.

      3. Well, I for one want to raise kids (your tone comes across to me like you think that’s not a valid life choice. I will assume the best about you and believe that you didn’t mean it to sound that way) and I want to live in a city, and I don’t want to drive a car. I want a 3-bedroom place so I can have at least a little bit of space that isn’t filled with my toddler’s toys, but I don’t want or need a yard, I just need something bigger than the 2-bedroom condos that are the only thing I could afford within a 15-minute commute of my job. Unfortunately, if you want something big enough for a family, the housing market only provides that in house-with-yard styles, and a handful of townhouses filled with narrow stairs that aren’t ideal for toddlers that cost almost as much as a house with a yard. I don’t WANT to live in a single family home (I absolutely HATE weeding and mowing), I want to live in a nice spacious condo, ideally in a building with a big grocery store at the ground floor. But the only condos big enough to hold a family that are close to my job downtown are luxury condos in the $1 million range. So I’m stuck living 45 minutes by bus from my job because that’s where I can find a 3-bedroom home of any kind in my price range. If developers built family-sized condos at moderately affordable prices, I think you’d see a lot of young families snatching them up instead of buying houses.

        I happen to live near Aurora (that’s where Bitter Lake is, just a few blocks west of Aurora at 130th), and although there are plenty of hookers around, there is no part of my neighborhood that is as toddler-inappropriate as Belltown.

      4. Have you looked recently? 3 bdrm condo on 125th and Rosevelt that’s twice the square footage of my first home (where we raised a kid) for $219k. There’s over 1,000 listings for 3 bdrm condos in Seattle under the median home price for King County. And adjusted for inflation the median price is below what it was 25 years ago.

      5. Having a kids is perfectly valid life choice. I haven’t made my mind up yet whether I’m going to do it. If I seem tetchy about it, that’s probably because I’m tired of the assumption (mostly coming from the older people in my life and in public discourse) that by my age everyone should be hitched and planning to have kids, and that moreover the ONLY valid place to do this is in the suburbs with a yard and a car, and how could I think of doing so in the city, especially not putting a kid on a bus!

        I’m also tired of the continuous ragging on Belltown as if the moment the sun went down it turned into a war zone overrun by drug dealers and gangsters, needles and ammunition strewn all over the street. I live just south of Belltown and sometimes go there of an evening. It’s not really my kind of place in general (a bit too yuppie, too pricey), and yes it’s rowdy after 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. I’m sure plenty of coke gets sold and snorted there. But I’ve never felt threatened walking home after midnight, and while I probably would prefer Capitol Hill or Queen Anne or maybe Ballard for raising kids, there’s nothing wrong about raising kids there if you have the cash.

        But, I actually think we pretty much agree on the substantive issues, and I’m sorry if I came off as an asshole.

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