Photo by zargoman

  • Car tab fees more progressive than you think.
  • News flash: someone sacrifices their own well-being in the service of a greater cause.
  • Puyallup struggles with Sounder Parking. For all of the people who say it costs them 40 minutes  a day, I really have to ask if their time wouldn’t be worth $4 or $5 a day in parking fees.
  • Finishing touches on the First Hill Streetcar design.
  • Kitsap’s new fast ferry.
  • TCC previews their legislative agenda tomorrow at lunch.
  • Stokes leads Laing in Bellevue City Council race by 51 votes; will trigger a recount. Also in that link: DBT operations buildings are massively anti-pedestrian.
  • This leads me to believe the desire for historic preservation has gone too far.
  • Behind the scenes” at the Bellevue East Link deal.
  • There’s a new $3 bus between Yakima and Ellensburg, eight round trips a day.

This is an open thread.

78 Replies to “News Roundup: Struggles and Sacrifice”

  1. I find the Sounder article interesting as an example of entitlement. Look at how there are multiple comments stating that it’s “Sound Transit’s reponsibility” to provide free parking. Sound Transit agreed to provide a certain number of spaces in Sound Move/ST2 and has no further obligation.

    I think paid parking is inevitable on Sounder South. You simply can’t build enough free spaces, especially considering that most of these stations are in the heart of their respective city. Either a feeder bus network or improved local transit could supplement this very well. If nothing is done, Sounder ridership will be stagnant even with the forthcoming additional service.

    1. Especially when at most older agencies on the east coast, the transit agency provides the train service and it’s the city that provides the parking (and charges for it).

      1. These folks are getting something like $17 in subsidy to provide the train and they’re whining about having to pay to park or walk a 1/2 mile. Plus there are regular connecting routes from Puyallup’s transit center at South Hill Mall where I bet a lot of this traffic is coming from. Good for Puyallup for trying to regain their DT. Maybe 10 years from now the reverse commute train will be full.

    2. Instead of the usual parking pissing match, why not build the biggest garage possible, and cram the most people into it? The design should be catered around the needs of the transit center. We have deemed a pair of $500 million underground stations to be the most suitable for the UW and Capitol Hill. It sounds like Puyallup needs a bigger parking facility to meet the needs and demands of that Transit Center.

      We WANT people to use this stuff. If they’re driving because there is an issue with the current station arrangement, then we have a serious problem. ST, at very least, should throw a dedicated bus at this red lot/Puyallup Sta thing to calm people down. And if it takes building a 1000-space garage to alleviate the issue, then I say get building.

      1. So true…if someone drives 10 miles in suburbia then takes a train 20 miles through a congested downtown, isn’t it better than driving 30 miles and sitting in traffic half the way? So frequently these arguments become a battle of good and evil. It’s nice to see someone has perspective.

      2. Yes, we do want them to use it. But we also don’t want to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on parking. Sounder is mature enough now that it ought to draw from a wider area. I think one good solution would be to have Sounder feeder routes that meet the trains and connect to nearby cities in the region (Maple Valley,Bonney Lake, South Hill, etc.)

        If the mindset isn’t changed, sounder capacity will always be limited by the number of parking spots.

  2. Behind the scenes … Thank you, Bellevue, for not laying down. Thank you for fighting to make the line a little better. The critics were wrong, and you were right.

  3. I wouldn’t use the phrase “sacrifices their own well-being” because I don’t really think that she will suffer as a result of more density at that corner. Your wording is almost like saying that density is bad and harms people.

    Na, she just realizes that change is coming and she accepts it and understands that more is better in this case. She is right and should be commended.

    1. Also if she owns her home she stands to make a great deal of money if she sells to a developer. There is certainly some self-interest involved here.

  4. That federal reserve building is ugly, and apparently not especially useful because it was designed to some cold war era bomb resistance standards.

    1. I like the Federal Reserve Building. I also think most of Pioneer Square is corny, and that the main hall of Seattle Union Station is the ugliest, and most poorly designed public space in Seattle. It’s basically a glorified Quonset Hut with Adams Family light fixtures.

      Yet, I applaud Pioneer Square Preservation, and think it’s wonderful that Vulcan preserved Union Station.

      Just because it doesn’t match what I regard as your rather pedestrian sensibilities, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be preserved. Good architecture didn’t end in 1910.

      1. You’d love the NORAD building at JBLM. Having been inside it I have to say that it is pretty cool to be sitting in a barber chair and know that you’re safe from a nuclear attack :=

  5. The Fed building story is probably a good example of smart executives using government bureaucracy to their advantage. In a previous story, the building owners across the street are the ones fighting this – if a tall new building is built their high rents go down.

      1. I don’t think there was a direct connection drawn in the story I remember (and a story partially-remembered by an anonymous commenter isn’t worth the e-ink it’s written in), but there’s certainly a question of who is paying the legal bills. It’s far more likely that someone stands to profit than some fan of bad architecture is paying lawyers.

    1. the bank was largely designed, in collaboration with the Fed, by William Bain, Sr., a partner in the architectural firm Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson, or NBBJ.
      Man, I bet MBBJ hopes this thing goes into the dust bin of history before anybody associates the design with their firm. “Can you say butt ugly, I knew you could.” := Who ever would even notice this eyesore was gone if not for the controversy.

      1. I completely agree. Not only is it ugly, it’s function is completely wrong. It sits away from the sidewalk with useless planters, has no retail or anything interesting for pedestrians to look at (except the useless planters), is short and provides little density, and has far too much parking for that building size. There should be some sort of process to force owners to bulldoze buildings like these, not protect them.

      2. That thing isn’t even old, it’s from 1950. Something doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful to have historical significance. For example, if the Treaty of Versailles were signed there (I suppose it would be treaty of Seattle, but you get the idea), then maybe.

        But this isn’t really historical in any sense other than it is possibly an example of a specific type of international style built short in that period in our area. Pretty thin qualifications to me.

  6. Two great surprises: WSDOT is helping finance inter-county bus service!

    … and, as has been pointed out repeatedly, the poor tend not to own a car until they hit $40,000 of household income. (Since I’m not there, I guess that explains why I don’t own a car.)

    If the city can devise a really simple means test — I mean really simple, like qualified for food stamps or receiving social security benefits (though I’m not sure the latter is narrow enough) — to exempt some drivers from paying the car tab, and then promise to extend that waiver to the first $20 of city car tab if a larger one is passed, then I think a car tab is still passable, especially in a presidential election when tens of thousands of non-driving UW students will vote for the first time.

    Make it an all-bus-improvement, no-frills package (although repaving roads that carry buses and building sidewalks to bus stops is *not* a frill), and we can fund lots of infrastructure, including giving a voter mandate to turn parking lanes into car lanes and car lanes transit lanes. Throw in some extra bus hours, to bring up frequency on the Lines C, D, and E (for example), just to take that other phony argument away from the John Foxes of the world.

    I do want to see the subway get studied, but I think that needs to be a separate ballot item with a different funding source, and each ballot item could give the other some cover. I mean, who will want to campaign against two transit ballot items at once, unless they really are hard-core anti-transit?

    1. WSDOT is also funding the 168’s Covington-Maple Valley segment on weekends via some rural mobility grant, according to the schedule at the bus stops.

  7. Really not sure what the whining about the “massively anti-pedestrian” DBT ops building is. Anyone who’s actually walked through that area knows that it’s not any loss compared to what’s there now or previously (I seem to recall there was a BNSF shunting track there before, that’s now bee moved west of Alaskan?). It’s right on the extreme southwest of Pioneer Square, on the boundary of the industrial and stadium districts, away from where most of the pedestrian activity takes place.

    The stadiums and the viaduct are far worse for walkability and general pedestrian experience than the DBT ops building. Meanwhile, the DBT buildings are the price of getting rid of the viaduct, and I see no-one denouncing the stadiums as “massively anti-pedestrian”. What are we bellyaching about?

    1. Are you feeling a lot more “connected to the waterfront” now that some of the southern portion of the viaduct has been removed?

      1. They’re multi-block buildings with zero street-level engagement that sit empty for the vast majority of the year. And they tend to be surrounded by vast parking lots.

      2. Whatever, that is basically bullshit, since they sit right next to train tracks no one was going to cross anyway, and on the other side have freeways and then a port on the other side.

        They could put pike place market there and you wouldn’t get a whole lot more pedestrian activity.

        The parking lot near Qwest is going to be a huge mixed use development soon, so I don’t buy that either.

        These are bad examples of walkability, but there would only ever be pedestrians there without them in your imagination.

      3. Easy does it, killer. You’re being downright silly, and there’s no need to get snippy.

        Stadiums in general are disasters for walkability. Plain and simple. These two stadiums are no exception. Moreover, it’s absurd to suggest that a swath of land that close to the CBD, steps from Pioneer Square and the ID, and next door the best transit access in the PNW was incapable of being developed into something that would generate good pedestrian traffic—especially if we had invested the amount of public and private capital into the project we sunk into the stadiums. Robust infill development overcomes obstacles like those you cite on the regular. To say we couldn’t have done the same in the Stadium District is a failure of imagination.

        Is the “huge mixed-use development” destined for the north parking lot going to generate foot traffic and improve walkability? Of course it will. But you’re seriously arguing that absolutely nothing could have been built literally next door where CenturyLink sits that would accomplish the same goal? Chile please.

      4. These two stadiums are no exception. Moreover, it’s absurd to suggest that a swath of land that close to the CBD, steps from Pioneer Square and the ID, and next door the best transit access in the PNW was incapable of being developed into something that would generate good pedestrian traffic—especially if we had invested the amount of public and private capital into the project we sunk into the stadiums.

        I actually work in Pioneer square (a startup in the block south of occidental park), very near to the stadiums, and walk around there a fair part of the day (much more than you I imagine). The only days I see anyone walk around outside of the commute and lunch our times are when there are games. Other than hobos, that is.

        Beyond that, this is where my patience with you Utopian transit guys runs completely out. Yes, of course, theoretically, if they built Paris instead of the stadiums it’d be more walkable (I’m not actually convinced about pike place market, whether one or the other actually as more people). But it could never be that walkable, because it’s at the conflux of a million freeways and some ferry boats. Those parking lots are there for the stadiums! Those are full at commute times, at $12, every day. That’s one of the reasons the stadium redevelopment district jerks demanded new parking revenue, it’s a major business down there.

        Qwest or whatever it’s called now was a stadium before, it was called the kingdome, maybe you heard of it. They weren’t going to tear down the kingdome to build a mixed-use, walkable community, no matter how much you might want them to do that. In fact, they are managing to build a mixed use development on part of that land, that’s something. Especially considering the parking bru-ha-ha.

      5. There’s nothing utopian about robust infill development, Andrew. There are a zillion examples of it far closer than Paris (like, here in the states) that have dealt with constraints every bit as bad or worse than those facing the land the stadium district sits on.

        And where exactly would you want people to walk to that they couldn’t? Again, the ID, Pioneer Square, downtown, and the best transit access in the Pacific Northwest are all within walking distance. Given that preexisting connectivity, the swath of land in question is more than sufficient for building a dense pedestrian-friendly neighborhood on a restored street grid.

        “They weren’t going to tear down the kingdome to build a mixed-use, walkable community, no matter how much you might want them to do that.”

        Good grief, man, I never said the stadiums shouldn’t be in their current location. That’s a much different and more complex public policy conversation. You asked a simple urban design question about what makes the stadiums bad for walkability, and I provided a straight-forward answer. You’re the one who then brought up the question of whether the area *could* have been walkable *if* we chose to develop the land differently—to which the answer is obviously yes.

        I reserve the right in future discussions to observe that the port impedes recreational use of the waterfront—and perhaps, if asked, to explain just how it does so—without it being assumed I therefore advocate the destruction of the port. Thanks in advance.

        And good luck with the startup.

    2. What’s there now is a construction site.
      What was there previously was, iirc, half rail yard, half warehouse.

      But the zoning goal is to improve the area, not preserve the status quo. Street-facing retail would be mandatory in any private project of the same scale.

      There’s parking garages in Seatac that are more pedestrian oriented than this! We can do better.

      street-facing reta

      1. We don’t require similar-size essential public facilities in dense urban areas that routinely deal with large vehicles to have street-level activation (e.g. the Belltown and Pioneer Square fire stations), and those areas do fine.

        I am not arguing that these buildings are ideal, but to suggest that they are “massively anti-pedestrian” is fatuous.

      2. Well, this is the edge of the industrial district, and you can’t expect those warehouses or factories to have first-floor retail like uptown. It’s not compatible with large loading trucks coming in all day. We could rezone the industrial district, but then those businesses would have no place to go except the exurbs and Seattle would lose its manufacturing potential forever.

  8. You’re not going to believe the Washington Policy Centre spin but here it is:

    “This summer, do you remember the threats from transit supporters and Metro officials that if the county did not impose a $20 car tax increase they would have to cut bus service? Drivers in King County are now paying more in car taxes for bus service, but Metro officials are cutting that service anyway.”…weren’t-20-car-tabs-supposed-prevent-bus-cuts-king-county-apparently-not

    “Nearly all of these service reductions include the same routes that were used by protesters and County officials to threaten the public in order to justify the car tax increase this summer. It is also likely that Metro officials will propose further reductions next year and they will certainly include more routes that were also used to whip up transit supporters during the car tab tax increase debate.”

    The link allows for comments. Thought I should tell you. I am just shaking my head…

    1. The $20 car tab was never supposed to be enough to avoid any service cuts. It was just supposed to be enough to blunt the impact of them. This should not be a surprise.

      Also, independent of what Metro’s budget is, the service being cut is inefficient and redundant with other routes. Killing routes like the 42 now gives metro financial flexibility to boost routes that serve a real purpose later when the recession ends and tax revenues increase again.

      1. I wonder if an ad for “Buy Nothing” would have been permitted. Or are you allowed to advocate for buying things, but not against buying things? ;)

    1. It’s an issue ad. Either they need to reverse themselves on the ‘Israel war crimes” ad or stick to their guns on this one.

  9. A couple of days ago, LackThereof wrote that Bridging the Gap was reducing the bakclog of maintenance on Seattle streets and bridges. Of course, he was completely wrong about that.

    From the SDOT Blog:

    “Why Bridging the Gap Alone Can’t Eliminate Seattle’s Maintenance Backlog

    “Earlier this year SDOT provided new estimates of our maintenance backlog and annual maintenance needs to the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee and the Seattle City Council. Many folks have asked why these figures have changed so dramatically since 2006, prior to passage of the Bridging the Gap Levy.

    “During development of Bridging the Gap, SDOT estimated the deferred maintenance backlog to be over $600 million. This figure was based on very limited data about Seattle’s transportation system inventory and condition. It also excluded major bridge replacement needs such as the Magnolia Bridge, which was estimated at the time to cost over $200 million. Today’s one-time cost estimate to bring all parts of the transportation system into good condition is about $1.8 billion, a significant increase.

    “How did this number increase so dramatically?

    “Bridging the Gap was never supposed to fill the gap: Despite the fact that Bridging the Gap doubled funding for maintenance of Seattle’s transportation system, it was never expected to fill the maintenance funding gap. In fact, with BTG and consistent levels of base funding, it was only anticipated to fill about 50 percent of the need for annual maintenance. This has allowed SDOT to stabilize the condition of some assets and improve maintenance cycles, but still leads to an increase in the maintenance backlog as needs are not fully met.”

      1. If all the taxes and fees paid by motorists were spent on roads, they would be well-maintained. But, as we know, much of the taxes and fees paid by motorists are used to subsidize transit, and other things, instead of being spent on roads.

        And, even a lot of the money supposedly spent on “roads” is not for cars, for example the latest Dexter “road” project, where about 30% of the pavement is reserved for bicycles, and a lot of money was spent on bus “bulbs” which are for the benefit of transit and bicycles — not cars.

        And all of the MVET in our area goes to Sound Transit, not to roads. The MVET is a cost of driving, but it is not spent on roads. I believe the MVET going to ST is expected to be close to $70 million this year alone. All paid by motorists.

      2. “If all the taxes and fees paid by motorists were spent on roads, they would be well-maintained.”

        Thanks for the laugh.

      3. Folks, local roads are paid for by property taxes. No matter who you believe pays for roads nobody but a Montana survivalist believes that they can live without them. Transit certainly wouldn’t exist if all the roads were private or toll pikes. They’re paid for with tax dollars. I’m not keen on building too many more; I’d like to see less SOV use but who pays what is only an issue with folks that want to deny or minimize the fact that the small percentage of people that actually ride transit users pay very little of it’s cost (way way way less than motorists). That’s not necessarily bad but it’s true. There’s plenty of justification which is more important to publicize that getting into a pissing match about how much different taxes and fees support highways.

      4. A whole lot of that wasted money on Dexter is for parking! That’s the real government waste there, nearly equal space given to keeping people moving, and providing heavily subsidized parking spaces!

        Honestly, though, the Dexter ROW is too wide for the traffic flows it sees, and there’s no reason not to devote all that extra space to bus bulbs, bicycles, and yes, even parking.

    1. Please note that the SDOT blog post only refers to revenues from the original BTG levy, not including the $20 tab increase the council recently passed. That post is mostly to justify SDOT asking for more money, which they are getting.

      Of course BTG will expire before the job is done. However, it’s impossible for me to imagine a political reality where it is not renewed and/or increased. Since the beginning of the Nickels administration, City Hall has been going out of their way to make sure SDOT gets everything they ask for (and that’s a Good Thing). If you think that attitude is in any danger of changing any time soon, you’re a fool.

      Regarding the $600 million backlog becoming a $1.8 billion backlog, as SDOT has stated, most of that was preexisting, but undocumented, issues. As I mentioned a few days ago, over the past several years, they’ve been surveying and documenting the construction and condition of Seattle’s street network, something that simply wasn’t done before the 90’s. SDOT knew there was a lot of very bad, neglected streets out there, but had no specifics on any of them. Now that they’ve been doing the surveying, they’ve been able to add specifics to the maintenance backlog, swelling it dramatically. This does not mean we’re falling further behind on maintenance, rather, it means we’re getting better at documenting maintenance that was skipped in the past.

  10. Car tab fees more progressive than you think

    Not unless they are tied to the value of the car. Start with $20 at $2,000 dollars of assessed value and add 2.5% for value above that and it’s progressive. But I still don’t think a value based MVET is a good way to fund transit or even roads. Much better is a sliding scale based on GVWR. I can see the logic of a VMT tax but also see it being a nightmare to collect. It’s also regressive in some sense because lower income people are often forced to live farther from work (e.g. teachers on M.I.). I guess the same could apply to tolls but I’m supportive of that if it pays for the section being tolled. There are also ways around it if variable tolling is used which are a direct incentive to avoid peak travel. A value based MVET is a fixed cost which if anything would push people to drive just to get their money’s worth.

    1. Bernie: The data shows that car ownership is positively correlated with income. On aggregate, if you earn more, you will pay more car tab fees.

      I don’t think anyone here will disagree that a value-based MVET would be better, and that VMT/tolls are better still. But those aren’t options that we currently have available.

      That said, you’re right about one thing, which is that the data seems to suggest that car tabs are, in fact, less progressive than a sales tax. So if we had the ability to levy an extra 0.2% sales tax, that would have been better in every way (i.e. both more progressive and easier to get voter approval).

      1. Are you talking about car tabs without a waiver for low-income owners, or even with such a waiver?

        I’d still much prefer the car tab, with the waiver, than increasing sales tax.

      2. Whether or not there’s a waiver doesn’t make much of a difference — the average annual income of a one-car household is $40k, which is well above any possible limit for a waiver.

        What really convinced me about the car tab was realizing that it’s adding to the (already high) fixed cost of car ownership, but doing nothing to the (relatively low) variable costs. Perversely, increasing the fixed costs while holding the variable costs steady can actually increase driving, as people decide to use their car more to “get their money’s worth”.

    1. Out of curiosity, is there any way to get from Seattle to Ellensburg (and from Ellensburg to Spokane) except by Greyhound? I mean a fairly straight route, not going via Wenatchee or Vancouver.

      1. Seattle to Ellensburg, you can ride the “Airporter Shuttle.” Multiple trips per day, much MUCH better than Greyhound.

        Ellensburg to Spokane is a little harder. Excluding Greyhound, there’s not really any direct options. You could ride the Apple Line up to Wenatchee and then use Northwest Trailways to Spokane. Other than that, the Empire Builder or flying are your options.

  11. few different types of passenger ferries … All of them damaged the shoreline and had to be slowed

    The other big problem is that the faster you go the more fuel you burn. A hydrofoil? Boeing tested this concept years ago and discovered that while yes, the technology works it’s impossible to avoid flotsam that damages the foil on a regular basis making it economically unfeasible. If your time is really that valuable how about living on the same side of the water as your job???

  12. Does anyone know when tolling is going to begin on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge? WS-DOT announced it would be in December but it’s December now and no date has been announced. I’m not even sure I could find the Transponders I bought back in January.

    1. A helmet is only required when riding on Washinton State road ROW. You can not be given a ticket for not wearing a helmet on the Burke-Gilman or when riding on the sidewalk. I support the helmet law just like I support the government nanny state seat belt laws. I’m totally OK with just enforcing the law as it is and providing more ROW where it doesn’t apply. I’ll wear a helmet and take my chances on the road but really for wide spread bicycle use to be adopted what’s needed are paths where “suiting up to do battle” isn’t necessary.

      1. Well, then say goodbye to any chance for a bikeshare system in Seattle. In the Netherlands nobody would think to wear a bike helmet because bikes are given priority both in road design and under the law. If you really want to expand cycling, make it safe enough that helmets are no longer necessary. We decided long ago that we would tolerate unsafe driving in exchange for speed, so seatbelt laws became necessary. We don’t have to do the same with bikes.

  13. Quite apart from the issue of 65′ versus 40′ development near Roosevelt, the developer holding the blight-gun to the neighborhood’s well being needs to have his holding seized and sold to somebody else with a better attitude. Using decayed properties as a planning stickup weapon is not civil; encouraging this sort of behavior is bad for our future.

    1. Would you support more density east of Roosevelt Station if somebody else owned the property?

      1. Yes, particularly if no specifications are given. In my mind, “more” may mean less than in yours.

        But again, my remark had nothing to do w/density, was directed to the concept of a developer threatening neighbors intentional harm to their quality of life by holding property for the purpose of allowing it to decay until permitted to have his way. The fellow appears to have explicitly said that those are his intentions. There’s no room in a healthy community for that sort of attitude.

      2. Perhaps a photo of the mess this developer has fostered would help readers understand why his arm twisting tactics are not desirable for reproduction on a wider basis. Or, failing a photo, take a swing by the intersection of 65th and 15th and view the decaying remains of houses behind cyclone fences, boarded up shells that have been there now for years. I don’t live in the neighborhood, but if I did I’d be resistant to any plan put forward by the individual responsible for purposefully creating and maintaining such a wretched mess. It’s 3D graffiti on a grand scale, a big middle finger pointed at local residents.

        In any case, let’s not pretend that the developers in question care a rat’s ass about Seattle or its neighborhoods. They’ve worked very carefully to avoid a good reputation, going way back:

        Good partners for improving Seattle?

  14. Took transit back from Seatac to East Hill tonight. It is so the right thing to do.

    The 180 amazes me…direct to Kent Station..this bus needs to run 24 hours a day, every day.

    In praise of the 176th and Intl Blvd stop. It is not a friendly place tucked under the skybridge and the LINK elevated, but somehow it makes me feel safe with all its bright colors, lighting, real time displays, and lit maps.

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