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63 Replies to “News Roundup: Escalating Cost”

  1. Ryan Avent already replied to this:

    He says the same thing I do – you have to work for it. We HAVE to let developers build higher density for richer people, because if we don’t, we’ll create situations in the future like the one we have now in Seattle, where nobody can afford anything. We need to take that as a given, and then fight for affordable housing funded by someone other than the developers themselves – because as long as we’re not asking suburban tract housing developers to build affordable housing, we’re creating sprawl by asking the urban developers to.

    1. I have to say, sometimes developers are just sheep though. For example several buildings of high-end condos downtown–any one building would have been fine and suited the market, but if you build 5 of them no one gets paid. A guy from the City of Portland told me that they’ve got to incent anything other than studios and 1-bds in the Pearl District because that’s the “safe” thing to build despite the glut.

    2. Thanks for the link to the article, I think it nicely sums up the dilemma.

      But I would ask “why wait for the long term?”. After all, while we may talk of the benefits of managed density, rail, HCT, etc…all of our theories and planning principles and studies have one end goal…sustainable communities. So what definition of sustainable includes disrupting businesses and residential demographics on a wide scale? Seattle has changed a lot in its short 150 years. But I think you can see/feel a thread of continuity throughout that time, and to me that’s important. Isn’t that a cornerstone of Jane Jacob’s philosophy…what started this whole multi-generational conversation in the first place?

      In terms of policy, I would ask whether it makes sense for government to either set targets/mandates for developers, or perhaps just roll up its sleeves and build some degree of lower and middle class housing itself. Given all the incentivizing for developers to build a paltry amount of low income housing, and all the regulations they have to endure, perhaps there’s virtue in a more simple approach. Push back if I’m wrong, but haven’t other countries been doing this for generations…Europe is chock full of housing for pensioners, and hasn’t the UK been building housing since the ’20s?

      In terms of policy, maybe that is or isn’t the right choice. In terms of the power of decision-making, I like a system where the community in question has the largest voice. The developer certainly has a right to be heard as well-he is after all a member of the broader community-but if we cede decision-making power to one man or one institution, through elastic terms such as “whatever the market will bear”, then we’re just negating our own capacity for self-determination.

      1. I would just point out the housing projects in the UK and Europe are some of the worst pockets of concentrated abject poverty in the developed world, just like most housing projects in the US. If government does build housing, it needs to make sure to have a range of incomes, not just the poor.

      2. [Replying to Zef]

        Oh I certainly second your call for mixed income housing.

        Having traveled and twice lived in Europe very briefly, I don’t agree with your hyperbole on European housing, but I respect your underlying point and admit there’s some validity to it.

      3. The Council Estates of the UK and Banlieues of France are pretty notorious for being very low income and high crime. Where I lived in Germany didn’t seem to have that problem but Heidelberg is pretty rich, between tourism, the university and the US Military Base.

        On the subject of Housing, I’m kinda mixed. I’m not outright opposed to it, but I’m more a proponent of subsidizing the things that help people get out of poverty (education, job training, child care, TRANSPORTATION, ect). And yes I realize it doesn’t have to be an either/or thing but budgets are not unlimited.

      4. Zefwagner is right about the US, but the governments and planners have long since learned their lesson. Nobody is proposing developments like Cabrini Green anymore, and Seattle is replacing all of its garden-house projects with mixed-income developments.

        (I’m not sure what’s happening with the highrises: Melrose & Denny, Beacon Hill, Bellevue & Olive, etc. They’re pretty self-contained and don’t bother the neighbors. The Denny one just got a facelift but I don’t know if there’s any move to make it mixed-income.)

  2. For myself, I think a street of strip malls is far more economically productive than a “high street”.

    If you look along 108th Avenue/104th Avenue in Kent, it’s a marvel of low cost retail.

    Restaurants, auto parts, dollar stores, hardware, supermarkets.

    There is lively activity because you can travel along this corridor by bus, bike, car or food from the nearby moderately dense apartment complexes and homes.

    1. I lived on 94th ave. in Kent I used to shop on benson, it is nothing compared to where I shop now, on Chicago’s magnificent Mile, or just off it, in multilevel stores with views, and lots of the same crap for the same price as in suburban Kent WA There is soooo much more stuff here on the magnificent mile than on benson, and even better I CAN WALK TO ALL OF IT! Or take a <10 minute bus or bike ride. It's so close I can take a granny cart with me for when I buy more than I can carry even!
      I have everything here that I had on benson (SR 515/104th/108th) Except dollar stores, and even as a college student, I don't need those. Granted, some people do, but they exist in other parts of the city accessible in <30 mins on transit.

      Also, the only lively activity on the benson is the car traffic. There are a couple pedestrians, and only people who are bat shit crazy bike up there. People there are not wandering around to experience shopping, they are going to this store and that store to get this specific thing, and that specific thing. there is no life there.

      1. I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re comparing, Are you seriously attempting to compare a suburban outdoor mall (which is considerably better than benson) to the MAg Mile, (which it PALES in comparison to)???

    2. Yeah, John, the fact that you really think that strip mall is more productive than the high street is a major reason you misunderstand so many other parts of transportation and land use.

      Either that, or you don’t really think it, and you’re just trolling.

      1. Look the point of the article was that the “high street” type shops were failing.

        I simply presented what I observed to be a more successful (based on constant shoppers, consistency of retail outlets, my own personal use, variety of venues) model.

        I also note that while the distances are further than in a high street, the avenue is filled will walkers, bike riders, and bus riders as well as cars.

      2. Which article? The fact that Target and J.C. Penney are moving into the DT Retail Core shows the opposite.

      3. In actuality, JC Penney is moving BACK into the downtown core. They used to have a major store on 1st Avenue at Pine.

    3. It’s great … if you’re a car.

      If you’re a person, on the other hand, it really, really, sucks. Nothing on a human scale. Nothing walkable. Nothing pretty. Everything depressing. No focus, no energy, no beauty, just endless banality, stretching as far as the eye can see.

    4. Strip malls are a massive waste of space. One or two stories with a sea of parking around them. If you live within walking distance of one, that gives you access to only a handful of businesses. If you’re lucky one or two of them may be relevant to you (convenience store, video shop, hair salon, auto pars), but it’s just as likely none of them are relevant (dry cleaners).

      The reason strip malls are cheap is: (1) many of them are old, and (2) people don’t want to live in the area. If enough people did want to live in the area, land costs would rise and it would densify to meet the demand. Therefore, strip-mall-ville is gradually becoming the area where low-income people live, and that further isolates them because of the lack of walkability and transit.

      1. When I was in college, one of the reason’s we went with Yester Oak Apartments was it’s proximity to Yester Oaks Shopping center (strip mall).

        Favorite pub, favorite Mexican place, a chinese take out, sub place, liquor store, Lone Star Steakhouse (where I worked) and off one end was a gas station/convenience store.

        That was an awesome stripmall. Unfortunately those are pretty well AND college doesn’t last forever.

    1. I have thought about gondolas several times in the past I think the example you chose is probably one of the best examples of where this might work. A gondola system would have to have strong anchors, a Link station certainly being one with the other end either having a strong transportation or land use anchor.

      The SLU/Denny/LQA are where most future downtown growth will be going and because the DSTT does not serve this area well I think that a fast connector service to Link would certainly solve a large gap in regional mobility.

      I think for anything to ever happen on this there needs to be a credible feasibility study and Vulcan needs to get on board.

      1. What’s the number one reason the city won’t take serious consideration of this? For the price and time, it seems almost like a no brainer.

      2. johnny – because it’s more cost effective to build something like the 4th/5th streetcar. A LOT more cost effective.

      3. @johnny
        Who knows, but they seem way too slow for general purpose transportation… you clearly don’t want to have an extensive system of them because of the speed problem, and even for currently isolated segments, a transportation agency probably wants to think in terms of something that can eventually grow to become part of a larger system. If they want something temporary and slow’s “OK for now”, in many cases they might as well just use a bus for oodles less money.

      4. This doesn’t have to be an either/or. 4th/5th should absolutely be done – it’s cheap, and picks up a huge ridership base that’s currently ignored.

        But the Harrison St. Gondola is even cheaper. Sure, it probably won’t have the ridership of a downtown commuter route, but connecting neighborhoods provide strong quality-of-life and connectivity benefits.

        I’d actually love to see a ridership study done for this route. Although I compare it to riding the #8 (7 minute gondola vs. 40+ minute bus ride at peak times), it’s not a great comparison (#8 stops much more, goes further, and is so slow that much of its potential ridership probably just drives or walks). This is adding capacity in the E-W orientation in Seattle, something that is very much needed.

      5. [Miles] 14mph is actually very fast compared to a bus or streetcar, even if the bus or streetcar could drive in a straight line. Really all you can compare a gondola to is light rail. Admittedly light rail is better in most aspects, but a few orders of magnitude more expensive. Seattle won’t be able to afford light rail in this corridor for generations.

      6. One reason there are no takers that might get overlooked here is the political optics of it. I can only imagine the Seattle Times comment threads, Schrammy Awards and AM talk radio that a “ski lift” would produce. It’s stupid, but don’t underestimate politicians fear of bad press from loud morons.

      7. [Patrick] Perhaps true, but politicians all over the world have faced this problem and won. Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, and Medellin each have entire gondola systems. Singapore put one in three decades ago. Portland has an Aerial Tram (which is close enough to count), Vancouver‘s looking at a small system tied to their Skytrain, London may put one over the Thames, Nanjing China is looking at a system…

        If you’re saying the problem is with our politicians, that’s possible. I like to think we don’t have a gondola system because I only thought of it a year or so ago. Now that I’ve dreamed it up (and the folks around here have helped me refine the first line), I’m sure someone with a budget and power will run with it.

    2. Question: Who owns the air rights over all the fee simple land under a gondola? Up to what height, and can eminent domain trump those rights?
      No, I’m not trolling.

      1. Your property rights certainly extend up to any legal building height limit. I’ve read the analysis as to why your rights don’t extend to the heavens (think air travel) but, they would extend to a gondola wire for sure.

        Eminent domain doesn’t trump property rights, it’s a process to compensate property owners for a taking.

        That said, I’m intrigued by the idea of connecting Renton with Auburn and the views of Kent below between those two terminus points…

      2. Eminent domain still requires payment for airspace. That makes gondolas much more expensive than we think they’ll be. :)

      3. I don’t know the answer to that question. If the limit is building heights, this won’t be an issue. My proposed route entirely uses public right of way, so it’s not an issue there.

        I would imagine it wouldn’t be the most difficult process to buy air rights if they exist. People get pretty upset if you want to tear their house down, but if you want to fly a gondola 100′ over their roof and will pay them for that right? I think it would be an easier agreement than the tear-down option of elevated light rail.

        One issue that’s popped up is views. This isn’t so much a legal issue as a political one. Building a gondola line that looks into someone’s back yard could ruffle some feathers. This has been solved in at least one case using electronically tinting windows – gondola windows on one line turn black for a sensitive segment. Or you just avoid the issue by choosing your route carefully.

      4. I can think of another issue with the line between cap hill, SLU, Seattle center. Doesn’t that fall right in line with the seaplanes that use Lake Union?

      5. Yep. But I don’t imagine this line being as tall as the surrounding buildings. The FAA has clearly defined rules about how high you can build near airports, and we’d obviously work within these rules.

  3. Whatever was or wasn’t “promised” to the Pioneer Square neighborhood, it’s good to see people there would like streetcar service of some kind.

    One good thing about a surface streetcar system is that you don’t have to build it all at once. Important that whatever you do build, design with a view to future extension as needs and finances allow.

    Meantime, however, it might be a good idea not to destroy the track, demolish the stations, and take down the catenary that’s already there in Pioneer Square. Waste of existing equipment is a budgetary item too.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Looks like if the First Hill Streetcar ends at Jackson and 5th that it would be easier to connect to via a 4th/5th Ave cuplet.

      Speaking of all the old Waterfront Streetcar track, stations and catenary, any word what will happen to all this?

      If not the old Waterfront trams, why not send a new streetcar down the line once the Viaduct is taken down? I can’t fathom that something isn’t a part of the new waterfront park. You don’t need to do all the bells and whistles to bring back the old line (basically a tourist line)…keep the single track and use the old stations, just won’t need to be elevated if we use a new tram.

      1. The stadiums funded a study looking into this. There was a post here a while back about it.

    2. Contrary to many other commenters, I’m really excited about the idea of the 4th/5th Avenue Streetcar, especially if the line continues north to the Seattle Center. I think 5th Avenue north of Westlake is sorely underused, and it could provide a major stimulus for development along that corridor.

      So I think it makes much sense to terminate the FHSC at 5th Avenue and see what happens with the 4th/5th couplet.

      Headways are the death of the SLUT right now. We can’t compromise on those yet again.

  4. this is what I wrote to the Stadium people about their plan. All in all its pretty good, nice to see they are thinking about it since the area has been in a holding pattern for so long:

    I like alot of these ideas, however…

    I am not fond of the big park over the new parking on first between first and the waterfront. If it existed in a vacuum it would be a great idea, however with the new park spaces proposed on the waterfront just a block away on railroad ave, I think it is park overkill ( if such a thing is possible ). I think the space above the parking would better put to use as a mixed use of a hotel, office and mixed income apartments or condos while allowing for a continuation of the gateway park on Occidental.

    I also LOVE the idea of bringing the street car down into SODO. I’d REALLY love it if it was a reactivated waterfront streetcar going down to SODO or at least to Safeco Field.

    I would also like to point out a couple of fantastic places for public art on 4th that are not being used. The odd little triangular air hole on Jackson and 4th between Union and King Stations is a wonderful place for an old style column and statue. Looking from the south you would get the statue, Smith Tower and the Space Needle in a single view. Another spot is on the Railroad skyway crossing on Brougham, there is a little circular part that looks onto the back of Safeco Field that would be prefect for another piece of public art- like a statue of Fred Hutchinson or Emil Sick or some other local baseball or sports figure.

    Finally I had an idea to make the passage to the Stadium Light Rail Station a little more attractive. How about at night, colored lights are shot up onto the underside of the freeway along the passage to the light rail? They could even have some shape cutouts of the sports teams logos and seasons ( snowflakes, leafs, Seafair related things, stars and stripes, you get the idea )

  5. Sort of a random question for the central and north-end Sound Transit bus users. Anyone else annoyed with the cool blue lights in the new 60′ bendy buses King Co and CT recently acquired? To me, they add more misery to an already cold and dark commute. Especially with the dark morning and evening commutes coming up. Riding around Pierce and Pullman Transit, they use rose-colored filters on their lights instead of blue, and it creates much more of a warm and inviting atmosphere. I encourage others to write into ST to ask if they’re willing to remove the blue filters and install warmer tones before our dark winters take hold! Boeing learned people like warmer colors on the planes, why not our buses too?

    1. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the red lights on PT. I much prefer the lighting on Metro buses.

  6. Is there anywhere on the KC Metro webpage (and for that matter ST page) that lists all the stops for a route? I was directed by Google and OneBusAway Monday evening to a stop on Aurora at Thomas to get on a 16 (stop 6250 if anyone cares). The routes listed on the sign only had the 5 but the 16 was clearly taped over to hide it. Stops up there are far enough apart (and unpleasant enough) I didn’t want to walk to the next one (less than 10 minutes and what if I’m between stops and it comes early? Also lazy.) So I spent the time trying to find on the Metro web page full stop listings to see if I was going to get picked up but couldn’t find anything. Luckily, the 16 operator did stop for me and I asked if it was a stop and she said she didn’t know. I tweeted@kkcmetrobus and they replied it was only a stop for the 5.

    So the questions are: where do I find full stop info on the Metro webpage? Also, how is it it that Google and OneBusAway are so wrong? Surely they use data straight from some Metro “web service”? Did we really just have a service change that eliminated stops and the data updates were in process? The sticker did not look that new. How do I get it corrected? As of today onebusaway still think it’s a 16 stop though I can’t coerce google to tell me to go to that stop. I could tell onebusaway directly (though they were in the twitter conversation) but one-off stop data corrections strike me as absurd. :)

    1. For ST Express routes, the stop locations are listed in the schedule book starting on page 134.

      For Metro, did you try their trip planner to get the nearest stop? I don’t know of anywhere on their website that gives all stop locations for a route, but they do show them for the maps they put together for stop diets. They have a rider tool that shows the five closest stops to a location, but that’s not specific to a route.

      1. The trip planner is basically impossible to use on a mobile device and is kind of a backwards way of telling me whether or not a stop is valid for a route.

        And yes, when I later tried the trip planner (on a regular web browser) it said the same thing as did them directly.

    2. I had a similar issue with the 28 Express—Google & OBA said there was a stop at Aurora & John (#6175), but the driver didn’t stop there. Sure enough Metro’s Trip Planner doesn’t suggest getting off at that stop, but I stopped using Metro’s planner ages ago on account of it being crap as far as usability goes. And since Google and OBA get all their data from Metro, shouldn’t their results be just as accurate?

      In the map view OBA lists the 5, 26, 28 and 358 as stopping there, but when one views the full timetable only the 5 and 358 are listed. I suspect this has something to do with the shakeup of stops in the area that Metro did a few months (a year?) back, when the 5 and 358 (and maybe the 16 too) stopped doing that jog onto Dexter before getting onto Aurora. I’ll have to remember to send an email to Metro and OBA about it.

      1. Whoops, I take it back re the website/full timetable. I was forgetting it was already Saturday when I was checking (and the expresses only run M-F)

    1. Also mentioned: the North Lot parking spaces are going to be replaced with existing parking in Metro’s Employee Garage next to Stadium Station. No new standalone garages + $10 million for Metro.

      1. Yes, that’s a big win – thanks Dow. I like the strategy of double-using those spots in the existing garage: Metro employees during the day (I assume the county would pay for this, so not all of the $10M is free money), event parking nights and weekends.

  7. Why isn’t the Columbia River Crossing project dead yet?

    Misconceived from the start, the cost escalations are getting astounding. Several really nice alternative plans have been designed, which were all cheaper and better but (horrors!) didn’t added general expressway lane capacity.

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