Subway construction, Park Street Station
Victorian Era Subway Construction, Boston. Courtesy Boston Public Library

This is an open thread.

59 Replies to “News Round-Up: Bellevue Council Blues”

  1. “Light Rail for Dummies”
    I have to wonder who the dummies are. Jarret seems to be endorsing the authors conclusion of LRT v. BRT based on a series of glossy factoids – which if true makes everyone else building LRT look like the real dummies, especially us.
    They are claiming to build a light rail system from scratch, equivalent to Central Link, for only a few dollars per person, over 6 years. That’s a whopping 31 million dollars of local money, with another $265 mil from govt. And how much did Seattle pay?
    They claim it will be done in 2014 – 2 years. That’s amazing, almost like magic.
    All the comparisons are there to convince some dummies reading the article that it’s a ‘no-brainer’, which is a requirement for being a real dummie.

    1. I don’t know the Waterloo details, but I’m assuming the 2-year timeline that means they have minimal ROW acquisition and no tunneling. That also may be 2 years to first leg opening.

    2. They’re claiming to be able to build 19km of track in two years, which is a pretty amazing proposition, especially considering their whole system is supposedly going to cost less than $1 bil.

      There’s a ton of bias in that graphic. They also don’t even have proposed ridership numbers. Not that I’m opposed to light rail, but it seems like someone’s a little too eager to build it and is weighing only the favorable options for LRT, not all the options.

  2. The book Friedman reviews, The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World by Paul Gilding, sounds quite interesting: “We will realize, he predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.”

    I haven’t read the book, but sounds similar to this Alex Steffen talk

    1. Careful when the magical mustache speaks. The consumer driven model is already broken (by debt, resources, …) – we’re at the beginning of a painful adjustment. Once a certain level of material needs is met, increasing material wealth does comparatively little to increase happiness. However, it is the downward correction (e.g. unemployment problems) that causes unhappiness. By and large no one’s going to decrease the standard of living by just the right amount voluntarily. And it never happens without some violence when we look at the scale of the decrease that’s coming. But at least Friedman has moved away from the happy globalization story.

    2. “We will realize, he predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.”

      Such as living in a tent instead of an apartment since working less may result in not being able to afford market rate rents?

    3. The adjustment can be more or less painful depending on one’s attitude. If gas and electricity become unaffordable then yes, it will be quite a shock to adjust to a 19th-century lifestyle and then figure out how to provide food to 3.2 million Pugetopolians. And so many recent buildings are designed assuming the elevators, HVAC, and interior lights will always work.

      But if the adjustment is less severe or more gradual, then a shift to happiness-wealth needn’t be all doom and gloom. People will learn to value their personal relationships more, to enjoy browsing the supermarket rather than the department store, to make their own meals and gifts, etc. Rents will go down if the wealth-reduction affects the entire population (i.e., if there are insufficient middle-class salaries to fill the upscale units). Some of the population will enjoy going “back to basics”; others will find it harder but will adjust. The worrying part is those who refuse to accept it and resort to violence: we’ll have to manage that somehow.

      I do hope there will be enough energy to keep the transit lines running, so that we’re all not forced to walk/bicycle everywhere.

      1. Some of the population will enjoy going “back to basics”; others will find it harder but will adjust.

        For an able-bodied person, going to the 4th floor of a building without an elevator is exercise. For a person with a fatigue disorder, it’s an insurmountable hurdle.

        It’s possible to design buildings that have accessibility features without relying on automation. The Central Library’s book spiral is a great example. But for a certain segment of the population, these kinds of changes will dramatically limit their choices.

      2. Energy, even in the form of liquid fossil fuels, isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. At least in the developed world the elevators will continue to work and the lights will still come on when the switch is thrown.

        The question is more one of how stable prices are and what the costs are relative to incomes.

        With nuclear off the table and oil and natural gas becoming more expensive my big fear is more of our future energy needs will be met by coal.

  3. Great, after only 20 years or so after my friend’s “Skateboarding is not a crime” t-shirt, it might actually come true. In some parts of Tacoma.

    From the cul-de-sac story: “But he finds that the likelihood of dying in a traffic accident is 13 times greater than the likelihood of being killed by a stranger.” That should be “of being killed [in some other way] by a stranger.” If a stranger is going to kill you, the overwhelming odds are that they’ll use thier car to do it.

    1. After reading these anti-suburban articles for so long, one begins to realize they contradict each other.

      So, the Party Line is that people in the suburbs are constantly driving around, or trying to, and spend hours and hours in traffic.

      However, if they sold their houses and moved into apartments that would all go away. They would live at bistros and walk home drunk from pubs like in Europe.

      On the other hand, there are the articles that tell us we should leave our cars behind because most trips are less than 2 miles.

      Since it seems most people who live in cities are the former offspring of well off suburbanites (who would have so much time to whine so much)…is that in the suburbs people actually live in the homes!

      That’s right…instead of going to pubs, people go to each others homes, which have finished basements, and watch sports and big screen tv. They have parties. They have social clubs.

      The home is part private, part public, as kids and their friends traipse through day and night.

      The failure to recognize this, and to represent the suburban lifestyle in anything approaching a reasonable description is one of the most astounding things in blog literature to me…painting a picture completely based on polemic with zero regard to actuality!!

      1. Who said suburbanites don’t socialize? In my experience suburbanites have less time to socialize, but I don’t think I’ve claimed they don’t do it.

        But, as usual, you’ve changed the topic. What is the most likely way a stranger will kill you?

    2. If a stranger is going to kill you, but “the majority of fatal crashes involved only one vehicle (61 percent)”. And, “Most crashes happened between 5 and 5:59 p.m. on weekdays, and between 2 and 2:59 a.m. on weekends…While statistics continue to improve, 32 percent of fatal accidents involved alcohol-impaired drivers.” Maybe it should be the Bureau of Alcohol Traffic and Firearms. Of course the statistics are similar with gun deaths; “Older people’s gun deaths are most likely to be suicides. Suicides typically make up 56.5% of all gun deaths in according to the information available circa 2006 at Bureau Of Justice Statistics.” So choose your poison, you’re more likely to kill yourself than be killed by a stranger; and that’s not even counting things like accidental drowning, smoking, obesity, etc.

      1. Scratch that – it’s probably with cigarettes or big macs. Depending, of course, on how fast you do it.

  4. “Cul-de-sacs are killing us!!!” This is the very definition of hyperbole. I read the suburbanophobic article, and it’s not even about cul-de-sacs. The title doesn’t match the body of the story.

    1. I was being cheeky, I should have made it more clear I think that whole idea is silly.

  5. Stinky trains!

    Well, we have ’em here, sort of. Seeing that headline makes me crack up. Yesterday morning a scenario happened where we passed one empty garbage train sitting at Terminal 86 with a slight smell (nothing unusual, but there also happened to be one sitting directly in the south end of the tunnel, and it smelled BAD as we were coming down and out of the South Portal.

    Gotta love it!

    1. One of the “challenges” of riding public conveyances is dealing with people who have significant problems. My housemate and I embarked on a day out yesterday beginning with a hide and ride at the light rail station. The 2 car train was rather full, but there was an open seat and I suggested my friend sit down. Then I realized she had sat down next to a person that I will call socially/cognitively impaired. This person was constantly scratching himself and picking his nose and then asked my friend for money to eat. She being the kind soul she is, gave him a 5 spot. But when we alighted the train, she was a bit freaked and was checking if she had been contaminated with bedbugs or fleas.

      This is the unspoken of reality of why it is so difficult to get people on public transit. It is the great fear of the unwashed masses. People have a strong sense of freedom and safety in their private cars and their private homes.

      Of course, economics will be the key change agent that will bring many people out of their cars and onto public transit but it will likely be perceived as a dilution of their prosperity and not a grand social adventure.

  6. Re: What General Motors wants:

    When it comes to abridgment of Constitutional rights and protections, present Congressional majority and a shameful number of the other party tell us we’ve got to accept a shredded Bill of Rights because we’re at war.

    Fine. Because that also means everybody listed above, including opening line, is ten years overdue to accept the other inevitable measures. Starting with massive tax increases, especially on gasoline, and including profiteers looking at a rope or a firing squad.

    And standing loads on public transit for civilians.

    So, GM, the rest of the corporate world and the politicians on its payroll: What part of “This is War!” don’t you understand?

    Mark Dublin

    1. After reading the link, I also think it would have been better if the Federal money that saved GM had instead gone to an entire new industry of electric cars. Same workers- but this time elected to a cooperative executive board.

      With an industry actually run by its workers on a non-profit basis, whole amount could have gone to people who don’t need a regulator’s order to design and build the car we need.

      Especially loved the quote about how the Federal Government- meaning the whole earning power of us, the people- has worn out the welcome we earned by saving the company’s oversized and out-of-date back bumper.

      We the people are not present in this land by your leave, Mr. Chairman. Don’t like the government that saved your company or the people it represents, door’s open. Don’t damage it with your rear end on your way out.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I thought his bit about the generosity of the American people was pretty rich, too. The company got a Federal free pass to shed a whole bunch of its liability (in some cases, debt owed to involuntary creditors and environmental assessments) and save the skins of a lot of people that voluntarily associated with the company. If GM wanted to show its appreciation for the generosity of the American people in actions rather than words it would pay back its debts to those involuntary creditors and take back on those environmental assessments. Will it?

  7. I’m starting to feel McKenna and whoever he chooses to head up WSDOT might be a really bad thing for Sound Transit.

    1. Is this because you feel McKenna as Gov. is a forgone conclusion? If you want to avoid that catastrophe then you’ll have to work for the result you want and not simply wring your hands that people are buying the Libertarian tea the Republicans are waterboarding the public with.

    2. McKenna would be bad news for way more than just transportation! He is a Republican. Just ponder that for a moment. Look at the positions most Republicans take on various issues. Pretty scary.

      1. I think that’s a misconception. Most Republicans are for efficient use of resources. Democrats use a lot of fancy names (High Speed Rail) to describe pork projects for insiders (handing BNSF, a profitable railroad, money to update its freight track).

        In energy Bush had what I considered a legitimate answer: Hydrogen. You may not agree with the method, but it wasn’t as if he did nothing or spent nothing on progress.

      2. John, you would “like” to think Republican’s are for “efficient” use of resources but that is a complete fallacy. Republicans are all for deficit spending when it benefits their “base” and for projects and values THEY care about.

        The United States is spending well over $1 Trillion dollars per year on defense related expenditures but no one dares utter a single syllable to question this? The United States provides BILLIONS of dollars in tax credits to oil and gas companies for drilling on federally leased lands and seabeds. The United States provides significant tax benefits to those that truly don’t need it. All activities that drive up our deficits. Yet, we are being asked as a nation to sacrifice our education system, our retirement systems, our healthcare systems, our transportation systems and all manner of things that had made our country the envy of the world.

        It is no mis-characterization. It is an indictment.

      3. Both parties spend a bunch of money. The right spends it to protect themselves from some unknown threat and the left spends it on projects for the masses like transit and education. The money will get spent either way but you have to choose if you want to build High Speed Rail and fund education or buy another fighter jet and bombs to go with it.

  8. Andrew,

    Your link on “Seattle voters like $20 fee for more transit service” is misleading. The poll it links to is related to the work of CTAC-III and not the $20 King County Congestion Fee. Anything CTAC3-III proposed would be a Seattle-only vote and not county-wide.

  9. So, I count 11 streetcars in the photo, within about a block. That’s pretty good service.

    1. Indeed! How many cars or buses are there? Hmmm. They aren’t called the “good ol’ days” for nothing!

    2. The only reason you see so many in that picture is because just out of the frame they are all stuck behind a broken down bus :=

      1. It could just be a simple computer malfunction, messing up an otherwise highly orchestrated ballet of transportation movements.
        At first I thought the photo was Broadway after FHS was finished, with Harborview in the background.

  10. 1. Earth is full. Yep, I said so myself (in 2007):

    2. Here’s what it’s like to go down Kent East Hill on a bike on the sidewalk:

    3. Cost of light rail. Some people pay $576 for a monkey wrench. Others $5.76.

    Seriously, it’s steel track!! You could lay it on any reasonable surface…a potholed road, a dirt path (with a rock bed). It’s mean to be run on level ground, which is why in any other situation it should be Dirt Cheap!!!

    1. 2. Turn right at 4:45, down a few doors and I used to live there on Prospect. Great neighborhood, in a house built in 1897. Now that was a fixer upper!

    2. Man, looking at that you almost wouldn’t think Kent East Hill is the densest neighborhood in the Puget Sound region!

      1. Population density by Zip Code, showing 98031, Kent East Hill (unfortunately they don’t seem to have uploaded the 2010, so this is before the new 98031 zip code was split off):

        The part of Kent East Hill in which I live, 104th east to Lake Meridian, ranks in the highest (dark green).

        Now the Seattle/Central Puget Sound region:

  11. New proposed Apple “Spaceship” Headquarters a testament to the power of sprawl…

    Yes, we’ve all heard about a few companies (well one or two) heading into downtowns for some unknown reasons…but when it comes to the top technology behemoths…they are suburban sprawlers to be sure. Take a gander at Apple’s plans for Coliseum of Technology housing 12,000 workers in a single building, nestled in an expansive area of Cupertino:

    1. And yet the “sprawl” of Cupertino is still twice as dense as Kent, and nearly as dense as Seattle.

      1. Is it really? I’ve been in the sprawl south of Cupertino and it sure looks like Bellevue. Some things are different: more expressways, more U-turns, bigger houses and lots, but on the whole it’s pretty similar to the residential part of Bellevue.

        Don’t get me started about Penninsula sprawl. Caltrain once an hour and stops at 10:30pm. Buses that crawl. I’m so glad I don’t live there. The only places I could live in the Bay Area without being continuously frustrated are SF and Oakland.

      2. At 5k people per square mile it’s closer to Bellevue (4k/sq.mi.) than Seattle (7k/sq.mi.). Kent is at 3k/sq.mi. (numbers from Wikipedia).

      3. Bernie,

        The variance in density of Seattle, and Bellevue, and most incorporated places, is simply too high for those numbers to be meaningful. Downtown Bellevue is more dense than Roosevelt, or any of the single-family parts of Seattle. Conversely, Capitol Hill is far, far more dense than any of the residential-only parts of Bellevue.

        In terms of Census blocks, the densest parts of Santa Clara county — and the only parts which compare to the commercial districts of Capitol Hill/Belltown — appear to be a few small parts of San Jose and Sunnyvale. No part of Cupertino exceeds the density of Fremont (and that’s including the residential areas), and many parts are closer to Madison Park.

        Whatever you call sprawl, what should be clear is that single-family zoning and dense, walkable neighborhoods are simply incompatible. So density numbers for single-family residential areas are almost meaningless. Even if you pack people in like sardines, if they still have to drive to the supermarket, that’s no good.

      4. But until we can get neighborhoods in Seattle to approach the densities in cities like Chicago we have a long way to go. The neighborhood I left has a density of 36,000 people per square mile.

      5. Parts of Capitol Hill and Belltown are denser than the Chicago neighborhood you left. The western slope, where I live, had over 40k people per square mile in 2000, and it’s undoubtedly much higher now.

        You’re absolutely right that most Seattle residents don’t live in these dense neighborhoods, but some of us do. :)

  12. Friday is candidate filing deadline. There are some key openings.

    Nobody has filed for Position 1 on the Bellevue City Council. This is the swing vote in the great East Link war.

    Three Seattle City Council incumbents are as yet unchallenged.

    And nobody has filed to run against Bill Bryant for Port Commissioner. I realize he has a war chest of a quarter million dollars, but elections are decided by votes, not dollars.

    1. It’s political gamesmanship. Grant Degginger has already started raising money for his reelection campaign. Two new candidates have yet to declare which positions they are going to contend for. I think Council Member Degginger has the most secure position of all those running so leaving that position “open” until the last minute may draw off fringe candidates that don’t really stand a chance but could cause a problem requiring expenditure of campaign funds in a useless primary run off election. For the most part it’s pretty hard to not get reelected as a Bellevue council member.

      1. “For the most part it’s pretty hard to not get reelected as a Bellevue council member.”

        Just another reason why the Bellevue City Council is horribly broken.

  13. Someone was asking where the future First Hill Streetcar’s storage yard will be. 8th and Dearborn.

  14. I know there’s flooding in the midwest, but why isn’t the Empire Builder running as far as Whitefish or Minot? This is prime tourist season, they must be losing thousands of dollars each day, not to mention paying people to sit around. There is a stub running daily from Chicago to The Twin Cities, why can’t we have the same thing here?

    1. John Stokes just filed for position #1 this morning. He’s been very active in school issues but no record with the public disclosure commission. He’s also on the Bellevue Parks & Community Services Board.

    2. And Aaron Laing filed this afternoon for position 1. So far it’s the only contested race but I’m sure that will change by 4:30 this afternoon.

  15. Please don’t link to Thomas Friedman without warning. I have little children in my house and I will not have them scared senselessly by having that giant mustache popping up like that.

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