There was a brief skirmish in the Seattle Subway comments about whether the Eastside subsidizes Seattle’s transit service or the reverse. And this is normally a case where we’d bring some facts and settle this. And in fact John worked this out years ago. But I have to say I don’t care.
There seems to be a deep human need to convince oneself that one’s group is paying for everyone else and everyone else is a leech. The problem is how you draw the lines of your survey makes all the difference.
First of all, Eastsiders commonly use Seattle’s infrastructure, and the reverse is certainly true as well.
Secondly, if we expand the boundary from transit to transportation, clearly there’s more need for transit in the urban core and roads elsewhere. It’s entirely natural that in each case the transfers would move in opposite directions.
Moreover, why stop with transportation? Why just local spending? Throw in other budget items, state and federal funding, and more indirect influences like tax subsidies and regulatory preferences, and you have a hopeless tangle of cross-flows. It’s because we’re a single metropolis with an integrated economy and this provincialism gets us nowhere. More after the jump.
Of one thing I’m sure: rich people — and rich regions — subsidize poor ones. That’s not to say that the rich haven’t benefited from public services to become rich, or that there aren’t individual outrages of tax avoidance. But the math is inescapable. The problem is, “why does my rich town have to subsidize your poor one” doesn’t carry quite the same outrage.
Recognizing that this is a silly policy argument is separate from dismissing that voters seem to care. Subarea equity or 40/40/20 may make sense for institutions that have to go the ballot to do anything. But let’s not confuse political expediency with a value that ought to be “exposed” when it’s violated.
57 Replies to “Who Subsidizes Whom”
Parallel situation with King County vs. Seattle Public Library systems.
40/40/20 came about for one simple reason. The large cities have the power (votes) when deciding how resources are allocated. Suburban cities got mostly lip service in the 90’s from Seattle and Metro (dominated by the same decision makers), so getting another route or more hours was like pulling teeth. I struggled along with GRCC to make the 164 happen, and now it’s one of the most productive routes in the system.
That didn’t happen because Seattle plays nice all the time. It happened because we could clearly identify an imbalance between where resources are generated, and where resources are deployed.
Get Greedy – Get 40/40/20
I hope the lesson is not forgotten.
I hope you’re not serious. 40/40/20 is in large part responsible for Metro’s current problems. Unproductive service was added in suburban and rural areas at the expense of letting routes in urban areas become overcrowded.
These unproductive routes are a major component of why the cost of the average platform hour is currently so high.
I don’t agree that “people” care about this – most polls show that voters care a lot less about subarea equity than their elected representatives do.
I agree with Rob. People still care about the Eastern/Western WA split but I rarely if ever hear about King County (or tri-county) subarea equity. Normally Seattle ignores Bellevue and vice-versa.
I also think there is far less crossing of the bridge than you might believe. It’s not surprising to see people who haven’t crossed the lake in 20 years, especially Westsiders.
Forget crossing the lake, I haven’t left my neighborhood in a month at least!
The last time I left city limits was when my workplace had me on loan to the Federal Way location for a week.
Daily bridge crossings are very small compared to the region’s population.
Almost 350,000 daily vehicle crossing per day on the two bridges. I-90 alone is almost equal to I-5 through Seattle and bridge crossings account for fully a third of all trips taken within City limits. However, the volume has been constant for 25 years. Sightline did a great series on this a while back; Dude, Where Are My Cars?
What would be interesting to know is the transit mode share on each of the two bridges. I’d bet it’s increased substantial over the last quarter century. At least one would hope so since we’ve dramatically increased (doubled?) funding.
As dangerous as it is to do math on this blog, if you assume that most of the car crossings are two trips (there and back) and SOV, you end up with under 200K people crossing the bridges a day. Seattle’s population is over 600K, and the region is 2.5-3.5 million, depending on how you’re counting it. So only somewhere between 1/3 and 1/10th of Seattle-area residents cross the lake routinely, assuming that people who are crossing the lake are doing it daily.
It would be interesting to see some real data on this, especially with the amount of money we’re spending on the bridges. I suppose the tolling people should be able to collect data about unique trips if they every figure out how to collect tolls…
10% of the regional population using two bridges is pretty huge. But the issue as I see it is the existing infrastructure handles the volume. Add SOV lanes and you’ll increase the demand but I don’t see that as a good thing. What I see as the big issue is that 520 is sinking and I-90 is only 20-30 years behind. We’ve done it on the cheap with temporary bridges and haven’t learned our lesson. The reason given for not building a real bridge that lasts centuries instead of decades is cost. Instead we’re spending $3 billion dollars on a light weight rail system that will be a “sunk” cost only a few decades after it’s built. For about two thirds of that we could have built a cable stay bridge with HOV/transit lanes plus rail and maintained our existing SOV capacity for as long as that mode is practical.
The main reason you’d hope to see transit volumes increasing is because traffic volumes have been constrained by capacity for well over a decade. Tolls will increase transit volumes further. Spending more on transit hasn’t helped yet because most of the increase in spending is on capital for rail that we won’t be able to use for another decade or more.
The main reason we have concrete floating bridges is that the slope of the land around the edge of Lake Washington is steep and the soils are mucky, so putting in coffer-dams to make bridge foundations is very challenging. The reason the bridge won’t last longer is because it was designed without full and accurate knowledge of weather patterns that would affect it.
Bull pucky. WSDOT took years of prodding to even accurately report the depth of the lake (which is really only one deep hole that can be avoided). The reason we have pontoon bridges is because they are the quick fix cheap (short term) solution. Most of the 520 crossing is shallow enough to anchor a small sail boat!
Historic constant seems to be that “people’s” personal conditions improve in direct proportion to the number of other people they include in their definition of “my.” My definition of “Subarea Equity” has to include this fact:
Whether or not I ride the 164 today, tomorrow I could be working or going to school at Green River Community College. I’ve often boarded the 17 across from my door in Ballard to begin a workday including stops at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Lake Washington Technical College above Kirkland, and Lynnwood Transit Center.
Also, worldwide, the most powerful economic entities are regions, which often overlap political boundaries on the map. Every neighborhood and municipality inside Sound Transit boundaries, and many on its borders, have their own best chance for success in the success of our region.
It’s right for people to demand their fair share. But in a healthy region, no one should take the attitude that their fair share means a loss for someone else.
I can get behind that.
…As long as there are no more 40/40/20-like plans that do, in fact, guarantee a supply-and-demand imbalance and the kind of zero-sum fight Mark wishes to avoid.
Under 40/40/20, it really pissed me off to discover that the 255 and similar routes were consuming some of the West Subarea’s precious service-hour count. (Just because it’s a two-way all-day route, despite west->east usage being negligible.)
Now that 40/40/20 is gone, that fact is less frustrating. It’s still worth pointing out when someone claims Seattle is overserved — “Hey, look where some of ‘our’ service hours are actually going!” — but it’s no longer the source of quantifiable injury that it used to be.
d.p. Did you know that on routes like the 255 and 271 the service hours are only shared on the full length route? Only the runs to/from Brickyard and Issaquah. All of the “turnback” variants are entirely funded by the East subarea. Only 20-25% of the 255 service hours are West subarea, which it uses quite well for service to Google Kirkland and job centers in Totem Lake.
It’s nice to think that someone’s fair share doesn’t mean a loss for someone else, but sometimes it does. In parts of the system where we have crush-loaded buses we may want to add service hours. How do we do that? We either need to move service from other places or raise taxes or fares. It’s a loss for someone else.
The more we grow our idea of the region the more traveling we have to do, the more energy we spend on that, and the harder it is for transit to serve. I have to commute across the lake every day — I was supposed to start a new job in Fremont, and my wife and I found a place to live in Fremont, then my job was moved to Kirkland two days before it started, with relatively little fanfare. In my daily life that amounts to hours of time every day that I can’t get back, and the unreliability of that travel (especially in bad weather) makes it hard for me to do things after work. I can bike to work (which I generally enjoy), I can read books on the bus, but some days I’d rather spend those hours doing things I can’t do while commuting, and I don’t have that option, because somehow we decided that Fremont and Kirkland are part of one region, and everyone should commute everywhere across it. Could I move to the eastside? Sure — but if I did I’d see my friends less and do fewer of the things I wanted to do. In my personal life (and, even more, in my wife’s, as she really hates driving in Seattle) the eastside might as well be across the Cascades, but to my employer it’s “all one region”. What’s good for the economy isn’t always good for people.
Furthermore, as our civilization stumbles with willing blindness into an energy and environmental crisis that could spell its downfall, we need to make important decisions about how we spend our energy. Say what you want about the efficiency of transit — travelling long distances takes more energy than travelling short distances. When we build light rail along the freeway with multi-mile stop spacing we’re doing better than we did with the freeway, but only a little. We’re still prioritizing long trips over short ones.
When the new 520 bridge goes up, with transit priority and a bike path, it will make my commute better in the short-term. But in the long-term it just means longer commutes for everyone. It means more energy spent commuting overall (maybe less per person-mile if we’re lucky, but it means more person-miles of commuting). It means more commute unreliability. Is that what we really want?
New cars, especially new electric cars like the Nissan Leaf (which gets the equivalent of around 100 mpg), are fare more energy-efficient than transit in our area.
Van pools are extremely energy-efficient. Can you start or join a van pool?
Why don’t you telecommute at least one day per week?
Or, see if you employer can go to 4-day workweeks to cut your trips by 20%?
Even if short trips and ultimately more efficient, it still makes sense for transit to prioritize longer trips because the need for transit for such trips is greater. For short trips, walking and biking become feasible. Getting a friend or relative to drive you places is easier, and even taxis become significantly less expensive. For longer trips, however, non-motorized travel modes become too expensive in your time, getting others to drive you becomes too expensive in other people’s time, taxis become too expensive financially, and carpools, while great when available, require a lot of coordination effort and may not be possible for people who work for small employers. So, the travel options degenerate into transit or your own private car, which makes the importance of having transit available greater for such trips.
If we wanted to, we could pretend we live in an ideal world where if we prioritize transit on short trips, the locations of homes and businesses will morph so that people’s home and work are closer together. In reality, as long as SOV is the dominant travel mode, it’s the drive that that forms the underlying assumptions in people’s minds and decisions of how long it takes to get somewhere. When people advertize a home or retail store as “30 minutes from Seattle”, they mean a 30 minute drive time from Seattle and couldn’t care less what the travel time is by bike or bus.
Designing transit to prioritize shorter trips doesn’t mean people will magically locate their homes on the same side of the bridge as their workplace. It will simply mean that transit will be irrelevant to such trips and everyone who makes such trips will drive. If the increase in traffic on 520 and I-90 resulting from such shifts makes the drive unbearable then, and only then, will people be induced to move to the side of the bridge that they work on.
Eric, in a city the size of Seattle, “short trips” mean 4-6 miles. We’re not talking about walking distances, and we’re not talking distances that most people can (or should) be expected to bike at all times/in all weather conditions/for all necessary trips.
Building your transit infrastructure around the presumption that most will lug bikes and helmets everywhere they go is no better than building it around the presumption that even city residents should own cars for non-commutes.
Our current network does prioritize very long-distance trips at the expense of 4-6 mile ones (by giving them greater subsidies, more comfortable rides, and more reliable trip times). How’s that working out for us?
For what it’s worth, most days I bike to Montlake, take any bus across to Evergreen Point, and bike the rest of the way to work. It’s hardly slower than driving, faster than taking transit all the way, and a hell of a lot cheaper than a car full of batteries (yes, let’s have everyone buy one of those). As a Chicagoan, the weather in Seattle rarely stops me from biking. If I’m reading an interesting book I take the bus all the way some days and get some extra reading in. And my company has a Seattle office and I can work from there occasionally when I have commitments after work. But let’s be honest: it sucks to waste nearly 2 hours each day on commuting, and that’s how long it takes.
We in the developed world have a moral obligation to anyone you might name (including ourselves) to reduce our greenhouse emissions dramatically (this is a pretty obvious conclusion of the amount of emissions the atmosphere can absorb and the amount we emit). If we collectively make decisions that make our commutes longer, we’re spitting on all these people (including ourselves). The biggest offender is the freeway network. First because of how it enables long and inefficient commutes, and second because of how it thwarts short and efficient commutes (check the distance between pedestrian crossings of I-5 near Northgate, for example). So it’s the first thing that needs to be pared down… and if we do we’ll notice real benefits. Easier walking access to things, less pollution, less road maintenance expense, less need for expensive/high-energy transit systems to “compete”. If we can collectively commit to reducing the urban freeway network we can then commit to building the local communities we want and making our mid-distance transit commutes better.
There’s a strange paradox that, in some ways, short trips are some of the most difficult to effectively serve with transit. The problem is that every transit trip involves a certain amount of overhead which, at a minimum, includes walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, and walking from the bus stop to the destination. When there’s a transfer involved, add in another wait for the second bus and, possibly some walk time to get from one bus stop to the next.
Each of the different stages of overhead are small, but the problem is that they all add up to the point where, for short trips, the amount of time you spend as part of the bus trip excluding the time you are actually on the bus already exceeds the amount of time if would take to drive (or, sometimes, bike as well) directly to your destination.
For example, if the best bus route to your destination involves a 10 minute walk plus a 10 minute wait, plus a 10 minute walk at the end, your already at 30 minute of travel time even if the bus, once you get on, warps instantaneously to the stop you’re getting off. Add in another 10 minute wait for a transfer and you’re up to 40 minutes of travel time, again, excluding the time actually spent on the bus.
This time drag is of huge importance for short trips and is a major reason why it’s difficult to attract mode-share for those trips. Furthermore, from the perspective of a car owner, the cost of the bus fare actually exceeds the marginal cost of driving a short trip (gas + wear-and-tear), so unless you have an employer-subsidized pass, or are going somewhere where parking is scarce or expensive, there is really very little reason to even consider the bus.
For long trips, on the other hand, the overhead of accessing the bus is amortized over more miles, making it less dominant. Furthermore, when driving longer trips, the cost of the trip in gas money, wear-and-tear on the car, and mental stress, all increase, while the bus fare remains largely the same. Thus, even if the majority of all trips are short, it is easier to convince car owners to give transit a try when the trip is long, provided a direct bus is available to the user’s destination, if not from the user’s home, at least from a park-and-ride lot.
Unfortunately, there is no good way to significantly reduce the transit overhead for short trips with reasonable cost. We can reduce wait times slightly by increasing frequency, but there’s still the 10 minutes of walking on each end. We can try to enumerate the specific places that people are traveling from and to at specific times of the day and create special routes tailored for those trips, but the problem is that the trips people make, in practice, are too scattered for that to work and attempts to do this (consider the 39’s detour in the VA hospital) only create more problems than they solve by making trips slower for everyone that isn’t going to the one specific destination that planners like to pretend everyone is going to.
For more on this point, I encourage you to check out this post at
In Europe it’s axiomatic that all parts of the metropolitan area need to be connected by transit, and it needs to connect to neighboring cities in all directions. In the Rhineland there’s a 24-hour commuter train from Cologne to Duesseldorf to Essen, going through Ratingen (a suburb of Duesseldorf). There’s also a bus from Duesseldorf to the other side of Ratingen until midnight. Europeans would never eliminate transit to suburbs because “people shouldn’t be going that way”. People do tend to live and work in the same city, but they travel for a hundred different reasons. The purpose of transit is to facilitate that transit without a car, not to shut people in once city so they have to drive to go elsewhere.
Instead of making metropolitan transit trips impossible, they give a disincentive via the fare structure: one pass for Duesseldorf city, a more expensive one including the nearest suburbs, and a third level for the entire transit region.
Eric, I’m basically going to agree with Jarrett’s reaction to your illustration: he acknowledges that under very specific circumstances your point holds true, but notes that cities with the precise conditions that lead to your problem-model — cities where “short trips” mean only a mile per leg, but which lack the density for headways better than 15 minutes and offer only a single possible route for your trip — are in very short supply:
* Note how much this outcome depends on the overall quality of the straight grid lines. Eric assumes they’re pretty poor. In fact, the diagonal grid trip usually has a choice of two L-shaped paths (“over and down”, or “down and over”) so there’s an opportunity to choose the better of these two, which will the the one that uses more frequent or faster services.
* Eric’s assumptions are for a standard local-stop grid. Frequencies are assumed to be never better than 15 minutes, and travel speed, for example, is 5-10 min to go a mile, an average speed of only 6-12 mi/hr. Some urban lines are down in this range, but such performance should be considered a problem in urgent need of attention. Stop spacing and a range of minor infrastructure can have large impacts, and will yield benefits that are much greater than you’ll get by dissipating your service over countless little diagonal shuttles. So there’s much that can be done to improve the short-diagonal problem simply by focusing improvements on the grid lines.
I’m going to go a bit further than Jarrett and suggest that the conditions leading to your conundrum are exceedingly rare. Boston, Paris, and Prague are three compact cities where “short trip” often means just 2-3 miles but may still require a transfer (or two). In all three cities, high density has a direct causal relationship with that “2-3 mile” definition. The same high density leads to extremely low headways on core transit services. While walking may be a pleasant and totally feasibly option, it is never faster as your low-frequency model suggests it would be. A 2-line “short trip” in Boston that takes a mere 15-20 minutes is commonplace (and Boston’s got nothing on Paris and Prague’s level of service).
In Seattle, “short trip” means 4-6 miles. If each leg is multiple miles, you’re not talking about a situation where walking is competitive, which makes your example pretty irrelevant to our situation: our scale of city doesn’t come close to meeting your criteria for suggesting “short trips are too short to serve well.” Sure, we’ve failed so far, with our Jackson Pollock routes running at 30 minutes or worse with zero reliability. But give us (reliable) 10 minutes along legible corridors and our short trips are in the bag.
(Heck, they’re already more financially efficient than the long-haul routes. Fix the short-haul route efficiency and you’ll probably double the financial disparity.)
Meanwhile, the gridded nature of Los Angeles made it the focus of much of the reaction to your Human Transit contribution. Los Angeles is an outlier in that it actually is dense enough that it creates demand for lots of trips that, on L.A.’s grand scale, should be called “very short trips” — a mile or so one way and a mile or so another.
But that’s different from a “regular short trip,” which in L.A. is likely to be 5-8 miles (in contrast to an L.A.-style “long trip” of 15-45 miles).
L.A.’s “very short trips” comprise the one example I can think of where your model holds true: they’re very difficult to accomplish on transit unless one or both legs offer a “MetroRapid” route.
But “regular short trips” on the L.A. scale allow the transit system’s grid of very frequent routes a surprising competitiveness to the automobile. (Not so for “long trips” that are far too infrequent, provide far too little coverage, and are insanely inefficient to operate.)
High-density = “short trips” are shorter = better frequencies make them feasible
Extensive sprawl = most “short trips” are further = gridded transit serves them well
Seattle = “short trips” fall in between the above examples = walking is not competitive = we can and should serve them much better than we are
So, I think what Eric’s saying is that the walking/waiting/transferring time overwhelms the riding time for short or very short trips that don’t happen to have a door-to-door one-seat route. And DP seems to be saying that density and the location of destinations affects the walking-time at the ends, and frequency affects the transfer-time, leading to a better human experience in dense cities with frequent gridded routes, better than the “10 minutes riding, 30 minutes walking/waiting”.
Regarding Lake Washington, as I’ve said before, it’s a geographical challenge, not a metropolis-separator. Chicago and Los Angeles don’t have this problem because they don’t have a lake in the middle of the natural city. If they did, you can be sure that the El or Metra would go right over it or under it, and people wouldn’t include it in their psychological distance. If the lake weren’t there, downtown Bellevue would be where the middle of the lake is, and there would be no question that it’s a valid commuting distance from downtown Seattle. Obviously, we can’t build enough bridges for the number of cars that want to cross the lake, but we can build a rapid transit line that absorbs most of the demand (at least for those who don’t insist on driving/have to drive/live too far from a station).
I thought I’d bring one more point to this discussion: price. Time is certainly a crucial factor in getting short-distance ridership, and has been widely considered, but price has been largely ignored. The fact is that it currently costs the same to ride a single mile as it does to ride few dozen miles. This, along with urban density, makes for very high farebox recovery. But it also makes the bus very unattractive for short trips – it’s cheaper to take a taxi on some trips in the city than take a bus (it costs between $9 and $10 for a group of 4 to ride the bus – you can get halfway across Seattle for that in a cab, or much less in a car if parking is free).
Since we have ORCA and we’ll soon have GPS, the next logical step would be to charge by distance rather than by trip.
It’s hard to isolate the effect of price, since the customers who are least sensitive to price — i.e. people who have employer-provided monthly passes — are generally the most mobile. That is, you could imagine that someone with a monthly pass would be more willing to take the bus for a super short trip… but if that person is 25 years old and healthy, they’ll probably just walk, when an older or less able-bodied person might have wanted to take the bus.
I guess my point is that short-distance ridership (as in, legs under a mile) is always going to attract a disproportionate number of mobility-challenged riders, and we should keep that in mind when designing a fare structure.
There are a lot of reasons why I’m not crazy about this idea:
– It’s really complicated. Almost no one knows exactly how far they’re travelling. This is especially bad for people who can’t afford to keep much money on their card (or in their wallet).
– Do you charge by the length of each leg, or origin-to-destination distance? Possibilities include [a] odometer reading, [b] GPS of each tap-on/tap-off point, [c] GPS at the first origin and the final destination, or even [d] GPS of the furthest two points (i.e. take all of your tap-on/tap-off points, compare all of them, and take the largest fare). It’s easy to see that many of these possibilities create a substantial penalty for transferring. Conversely, many of the others also cause the fare structure to diverge wildly from costs.
– It creates a precedent that all trips of the same distance should be the same price. Thus, it becomes much harder to do things like charge a premium for express buses.
In almost every city I’m aware of, there’s a single flat fare for local bus trips, and a higher fare for express buses. It’s super simple to understand, and it aligns costs with riders’ willingness to pay — express bus riders are generally commuting to high-paying city jobs, and can afford to pay more.
Yes, it’s “unfair” to charge more for a two-block trip than a ten-mile one. But it’s also unfair to charge a rider of the 48 the same as a rider of the 42, when the operating subsidy of the latter is far higher.
I’m not really aiming at fairness. I’m aiming at providing appropriate signals to riders for the cost of service. It costs us much, much less for a short ride – that bus was likely going past those two points anyway. But it costs a whole lot for that end mile of service in the suburbs – the route probably goes as far as it does for just a handful of people.
Currently, the signal we send short-distance riders is “we don’t want your business”. Back when I paid my own fare I drove a lot more for short trips than I do now – it just made better financial and time-budgeting sense.
I agree fare simplicity is important. But I’m not talking about something terribly complex. When you get in a taxi they charge you a price per mile (as well as a price for the meter drop, but we can make it more simple than that). Charge, say, $.50 a mile, in $.50 increments. Use your option c, which doesn’t penalize transfers. You’ll be amazed at how quickly people will know the cost of the ride. Off the top of my head I can tell you the taxi cost from the airport to QA ($45), from downtown to QA ($11), and from downtown to Wallingford ($17). I know these numbers far better than I know the physical distances between them.
Oh, and I can certainly get behind an increased fare for express buses. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or. Keep it simple, like charge an extra $1 for express buses.
But the cost of service has very little to do with distance, possibly except for buses with long freeway segments. It’s much more a function of time — that is, driver time.
It’s very easy to show that distance and time are poorly correlated. Just look at the Fremont Bridge, or any freeway route that often experiences congestion.
I don’t think we need to add any disincentives for taking longer routes. No one likes long routes.
Also, what about service like the 38? The per-rider subsidy for the 38 is far higher than it is for the 41, despite the fact that the 41 travels much further.
For routes where distance is truly a cost — like the North Bend routes, or some of the longer ST routes — I agree that there should be a distance surcharge of some sort. But for most bus routes, the cost model you’re proposing isn’t accurate.
The cost model I’m proposing — one fare for all local/rapid service, and a distance-based surcharge (100% or more) for peak express/suburban/commuter service — is successfully used by many transit agencies around the country.
As I prepare to waste yet another hour of my life meaninglessly commuting against my will, I hope you all can at least agree with me that we ought to start removing freeways, and that we should not be increasing vehicle capacity just about anywhere, right?
I believe the deep human need that one group is paying for some other group has been exacerbated over many years by the ascendance of right wing media infrastructure, e.g., middle class and other working people subsidizing lazy welfare recipients and illegals; today, the divide and conquer extends to a certain extent to why should suburban and rural sov drivers pay for public transit for city folk.
Family identification is built into the human mechanism from the time we were all meerkats. Until very recently, most people’s standard unit of government was really their extended family, nowadays referred to as “clans” if Americans are discussing Scotsmen, and “tribes” if we mean Africans.
In most of the present-day world, these family associations still mean more to the average person than a border drawn on a map- usually by a foreigner. Europe’s ongoing problem with unity is complicated by the fact that in places that maps list as countries, larger percentages of the population really wish they weren’t included in their own present borders.
The real strength of the United States lies not in its military power- the late Soviet Union needed most of its own monster war machine for its futile attempt to hold itself together- but in the unquestioned belief in the minds of most of its people that all 300 million of us are all in the same country.
Present well-financed attempts to exacerbate divisions among our people are dangerous if nobody stands up to them- but I don’t think our national immune system is compromised yet.
Locally and to put this On-Topic: I- 1125 just lost and not a single county has seceded from Washington. And no, it wouldn’t be better if they had. Recent changes in the development industries’ attitudes in Bellevue are going to spread.
This is an excellent post, Martin.
Why not bring the whole country into the fight?
Washington State is a vacuum cleaner for Federal largesse. People all over the US pay for WA.
And Seattle…just exactly what are the reasons for its existence? As TV Funhouse asked about P. Diddy…what do you do Seattle?
Renton makes planes. Redmond makes software. Seattle…uh, sells specialty honey at booths in a sanitary market?
Specialty breads don’t pay the bills..
Seattle runs one of the major west coast ports and is the closest port of entry for AK oil and tourism. Then there’s banking and federal government jobs. Boeing aerospace and Boeing Field is in Seattle. Nucor Steel is on Harbor Island. Vigor (aka Todd) Shipyards is in Seattle.
To be fair, AK oil enters at Anacortes, not Seattle. That said, I doubt it would enter at Anacortes if Seattle weren’t nearby
Brain fart. Of course you’re correct about the oil refineries being in Anacortes and Ferndale. I’m willing to bet though that a lot of the equipment goes through the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. And of course it’s the off season home for much of the fishing and crab fleet.
Bullcrap. WA, like nearly every “blue state,” is a net donor to the federal government (last numbers available were WA gets 0.88 back for every dollar sent to DC).
I lived in South Carolina, notable for its whining about taxation, for some time, and they didn’t like finding out that they got back $1.21 for every dollar paid.
That notably non-liberal Tax Foundation publishes these numbers every year. WA hasn’t gotten back more from the Feds than we’ve paid in since the late 70’s, and even then it was basically even.
That sounds like the “rich pay all the taxes” argument.
Well…yes…but how did they get that money in the first place?
If you’re running a printing press, and then you give the little people 50% of the counterfeiting and keep 50% … you’ve still stolen 50% of value!
So, the red states are producing energy, food, raw materials, low cost manufacturing.
The blue states produce…lawyering…?
Dick’s Drive-In. Yes, a very tasty place, and I sorely miss having one nearby. But a net generator of capital and productivity?
Vulcan. We sell land to the city, let it depreciate and buy it back. Yep.
6 Nobel Prize winners in Seattle
How many in Kent?
When I entered “Seattle” as a search term, there were 70 hits!
This included any time spent in Seattle and so on…amazing.
Is Seattle a great place to be and live, especially for researchers?
Should my brother commuting hundreds of miles every day to a job on the East Coast and paying top tier taxes pay for that?
Should every bearded guy on the pennisula feel entitled to his quarter acre and duellie.
Dunno…sometimes I think Seattle is due a bit of Friedman’s Shock Doctrine.
You really think your East Coast brother is somehow subsidizing Seattle?
Seattle’s economic paradigm does strike me as a bit of a two trick pony–IT and Aerospace-possibly two and a half if you factor in health care. The other industries around here seem to pale in opportunities compared to bits, bytes and airplanes. There was a lot more banking here back in the 90’s but the industry has scaled back considerably over the last ten years–a lot of back office operations and customer service functions either outsourced to lower labor cost centers or phased out by technological advances.
Health care is definitely a full industry. In addition to direct health care (as a world center for cancer treatment, regional center for trauma care, etc) and medical research firms, we’ve got a number of high-tech medical equipment firms based here.
And what you lump together as IT is quite diverse. Etailers, software firms, hardware firms, telecom and network firms… calling IT a single industry today is like labeling manufacturing as a single industry. And thanks the kind of telecom infrastructure we’ve got in downtown Seattle, the businesses that need a serious internet presence are here to stay, and that need stretches across an ever-growing list of industries. There’s no outsourcing the kind of internet connectivity you get in the Westin Building, and you can count on one hand the number of west-coast cities with comparable backbone access.
The Seattle area is also the home to several major retailers. Just off the top of my head: Starbuck’s, Tully’s, Nordstrom’s, Costco, REI, Eddie Bauer, etc.
On top of that we’re home to companies like Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek Timber, Fluke, and Paccar.
Psst, John, Renton and Redmond would not exist if Seattle weren’t there, and Boeing and Microsoft would not be located there. Renton and Redmond would be tiny rural towns like Omak, or at most Mount Vernon. If Bill Boeing had grown up in Omak and built early planes there, he would have had to move to a metropolitan area with universities (Portland?) to scale up operations and attract tens of thousands of workers. If Bill Gates had grown up in Mount Vernon, his family would probably be too poor to send him to university, he wouldn’t have gotten connections with computer geeks, and Microsoft would never have existed. If somehow it did anyway, he would have to locate it in a university-rich, culture-rich city or affluent suburb in order to recruit sufficient workers.
Puget Sound Bank was the only local bank in Tacoma for many years, and it heroically resisted the urge to move to Seattle as the cities became tied together in the 70s and 80s. But most of its business customers and contacts were in Seattle, and the CEO was spending three days a week in Seattle, so it finally bit the bullet and moved. Now it’s located in Bellevue, which is another suburb, but it’s in closer commuting distance to downtown Seattle. PSB would not be a fraction of its size if Seattle didn’t exist.
Also, the distinction between city and suburb is political rather than fundamental. Annexation was in fashion until the 1950s when north Seattle came in, then “local control” came into vogue and prevented Shoreline, Burien, and Renton from coming in. A 1930s Seattle plan would have turned Mercer Island into a city park. If that had succeeded, it’s not impossible Bellevue (or the west half of Bellevue) would have later been annexed to Seattle too.
Mike, these two posts were great.
Correct me if I’m wrong but Washington state actually pays more taxes then it gets. I believe to the tune of 90% payback. Maybe we should ask what the rest of the country is doing for us?
As usual you are out in fantasy land with your theories again. There is plenty of real economic activity occurring in Washington State, King County, and even Seattle with real value added.
You can turn around and say rural Washington is growing the food and generating the electricity, but realize the rural areas need the cities just as much as the cities need the rural areas. Without the cities there is no market for power or food, no ports for exporting wheat, no capital to build dams, etc.
Washington State also generates something like 85% percent of its electricity with hydropower.
With crops in the East and manufacturing in the West, seems like Washington could at any point pull in the reins and be completely independent as a political entity.
One Nation, Under Bigfoot?
Washington is very much part of the larger regional and national economy. We do a lot of business with our neighboring states. Being the gateway to Alaska is important to the state as well.
Besides all those military bases we’d be unlikely to want to pay for on our own are important to the state economy as well.
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