Seattle Planet from the Space Needle by Serio Bonachela

This is an open thread.

96 Replies to “News Roundup: My City is Better Than Yours”

    1. Isn’t Metro buying these buses? Aren’t they considered good buses? Why is Daimler exiting?

  1. OPEN QUESTION: How does ST justify continuation of North Sounder?
    This is a question before the Citizens Oversight Panel (COP). John Niles has consolidated the Capital and Operating costs at his website, plus subsidy levels.
    According to briefing items to the COP, the operating cost for each daily boarding is $32.38, for about 500 persons each way. Compare this with parallel ST510 express bus cost of $4.67 per boarding, or 1/7th the cost. Fares on N. Sounder only cover 13% of the direct costs.
    But there’s a bigger issue here. That service wasn’t started for free. It cost ST over $110 mil to build the stations, upgrade sections of line, and purchase the rolling stock. In addition to that, ST paid the BNSF $258 mil for track rights.
    So, what’s the real cost effectiveness of N. Sounder, according to FTA formulas to compete for New Starts funding. ( Table 3-7
    Perpetual ROW is set at 100 year maximum (ST agreement with BNSF). = $258m x .07 = $18.06 mil/yr.
    Facilities & Improvements are 30 year assets and rolling stock is 25 year, so using the 30 year factor for both = $110 mil x .086 = $8.9 mil/yr.
    Add to the $18.06 + $8.9, another $9.1 mil/yr Operating Cost gives $36.1 mil/yr divided by .26 mil/boadings/yr = $138.85 per boarding. Deducting the average fare paid of $4.21 leaves a net subsidy of $134.64, or 29 times more expensive than the bus. THAT’S FOR EVERY BOARDING, EVERY DAY, or $269 per commuter per day, or nearly $70,000 per year, when compared to other alternatives. John Niles points out that many of those riders don’t even live in the ST taxing district.
    The better way to look at this is the lost opportunity of using that subsidy to gain 14,500 additional bus riders by paying for free rides on expanded ST510 buses, assuming you could entice that many riders to ditch the car. Now wouldn’t that be a great thing to have happen?
    Is there any point where some modes of transit or individual routes are just too expensive to keep going? Bruce does an excellent job of advocating for this, so how is this any different?
    If, under the current system of providing a few riders a Sounder trip to Seattle and back, at the expense of providing bus service for many times more people is allowed to flourish, then the short answer is NO.

    1. Sounder North is a result of a political process. Niles should take up his concerns with elected officials from Snohomish County, not Sound Transit. If they rally to eliminate Sounder North in exchange for more Link or bus service I’m sure ST would be more open to it that you would think.

      1. He won’t. He knows how this line was created, and he knows that the political powers-that-be won’t listen to him.

        Sounder North is more likely to be extended/expanded then it is to be cancelled. Because there are several ways to improvement economics besides retrenchment, and nobody is interested in retrenchment except the transit haters.

      2. I’m a massive transit supporter, and commuted on the North Sounder for many years. Sorry Lazarus, but mic has an excellent point. The cost of running the North Sounder and maintaining its sad, stagnant ridership is hard to justify compared to the potential for bus ridership on the 5. At this point, the only good reasons to keep running the North Sounder are politics and we’ve poured so damn much money into it. We also know that the current arrangement is already at the maximum number of daily trains allowed under the BNSF agreement and BNSF will not allow the line to be extended beyond Everett without hundreds of millions in new bridges and more payoffs. Adding stations at Ballard and the Olympic Sculpture Park, and more parking at existing stations, may be the only means of making the service more attractive, but nothing appears to be in the works for the next 5 to 10 years. (For reasons beyond my understanding, ST doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in any of these projects and will go out of their way to try and come up with excuses not build them. But a second, rather unnecessary platform at Muk for $11M is ok by ST.) At some point, we do have to admit there are some failures in our transit system, and they must be considered up for elimination. CT, KCM, and PT have cut entire routes for less justifiable reasons than the ones we can use now to justify cutting the North Sounder. I’d say if there was hope for the line improving or growing in the next few years, then we should consider it a good investment and work harder. I’m not a Sounder hater either. It’s a totally different story on the South Sounder. That line has huge potential, it keeps growing, and should be triple or quadruple tracked to improve service. But as it stands, it’s difficult to say the North Sounder is worth the tremendous cost.

        “nobody is interested in retrenchment except the transit haters.”
        And only a the transit lovers would consider keeping routes & services that are extremely un-cost-effective and inflexible simply in the name of transit. Gotta take off the rose-colored glasses every once and a while and take a whiff of the stale coffee.

      3. Exactly. Sounder North will continue for political reasons and because of the money already spent. Niles and the other transit critics can whine about cost and economics all they want, but they will have exactly zero impact on the discussion. ST and SnoCo officials will be much more likely to try to fix the economics then they will be to cancel the effort.

        But honestly speaking, I sort of think Niles and crew hope that Sounder North sticks around and continues to lose money. It’s the one part of ST1 that hasn’t performed, and its existence gives them something to keep talking about and therefore to helpo keep their funding sources alive.

      4. While I agree with Adams view of ST Board dynamics, it’s a telltale message that ‘Route performance is very important – unless it disrupts our political bias’
        Apply that reasoning behind individual system planning efforts, and the sausages being turned out by the process look weird and don’t taste very good.

      5. It’s not the politics of the ST board that will keep Sounder North alive, it is the politics of Snohomish County that will keep Sounder North alive.

    2. I’ve ridden the 510 to and from Everett, but I’ve never ridden Sounder North. I personally think we should put the money we spend on Sounder into more frequent bus service until we’re willing to build a electrified dedicated passenger rail corridor.

    3. The justification is that people voted for ST1 and 2 believing Sounder North would be started and continued. Cancelling Sounder North could be part of ST3. I would like to see that happen because peak-only transit does you no good when your schedule doesn’t precisely align with it. But I can’t see ST making such a large decision without a public vote, or it would be called a bait-and-switch.

      1. ST1 also promised Link to be open about 15 years ahead of and billions cheaper than the current plan. As such, reality is much, much different than planning and theory. I question the expectation that the ST2 vote was to reaffirm the North Sounder’s operations more than people voting to expand Link. Whether or not ST2 passed, Sound Transit and the N Sounder would have continued on. I simply believe that not many people would be upset cutting a costly, half-full service that serves 4 stations 4 times/day in favor of more buses that are already packed and serve a wider number of people and places. I would have gladly given up Sounder service in Edmonds for a bus that went from the train station to downtown Seattle every 10-30 minutes, all day. Having a better bus not only would be more cost effective, but it would be more useful and flexible than what the current North Sounder is capable of offering. Applying Community Transit’s knowledge of BRT could make this sort of service even better.

        And come on, a public vote to micromanage ST’s service. Imagine the hell that would start.

      2. I don’t see how ST could propose shutting down Sounder North unilaterally without invoking opposition from Edmondites and Mulilteoites, which would make it stop in its tracks and withdraw the proposal. Also, much of the ST board is suburban politicians who tend to like services like Sounder with its “low capital costs” and “targeting peak-hour congestion”. We have talked for months about reforming the 57x and 59x to bring more express service to Kent, but it never goes anywhere because it would cut into Federal Way’s buses.

    4. I agree that it is a political boondoggle. Using $32/boarding (ST lists Purchased Cost per Boarding more like $22-23 weekdays) it comes out to $8.4 million a year that could provide 65,000 hours of bus service. That’s full time employment for 32 drivers. Another way to look at it is if the additional bus service matched the existing performance of the 510 it would be serving up over 2 million trips per year for eight times the number of people using Sounder North. But it gets even better. Since the fare recovery ratio would be so much stronger the money would leverage even more service so it’s not a stretch to see buses being an order of magnitude more cost effective. Sadly, buses score low in political panache compared to the choo-choo so it’s more likely board members would vote to kill North Sounder if they could back pedal to the political cover of accelerating or extending Link.

      1. I think you’re simplifying the idea behind Sounder. In theory, you can move a whole lot more people cheaply with a commuter train than buses. The problem is, ridership just isn’t there (for many reasons). If it’s a matter of building up ridership, and ridership is steadily increasing, this could be a good justification for keeping it (not just because they like choo-choos).

        That said, I’m generally against commuter rail – especially when they terminate at park-and-rides. Instead of making it cheaper and easier for people to commute long distances, let’s build more homes in the city.

    5. I don’t think cancelling the service is all that expensive.
      1. The trains can be redeployed to the south line.
      2. The only lost sunk cost would be to MUK, EDM platforms.
      3. Track and signal benefits BNSF and should have some recovery cost.
      4. The biggie. ROW access should be a marketable commodity, given the nature of the corridor, future freight traffic, coal trains, more Amtrak, etc, etc.
      Assuming ST made a ‘reasonable’ deal for the ROW, it should be able to sell it back for close to what they paid for it. If not, they paid too much.
      5. Everett station is still a multimodal hub – with or without a few Sounder trains a day.

      1. The track and signal improvements benefit Amtrak Cascades as well, and Amtrak Cascades needs more of ’em.

        Perhaps the state could be talked into stopping the Vancouver-Seattle trains at Edmonds and Mulkiteo, and Sound Transit could sell its slots to WSDOT; this would probably save WSDOT a little money when it went to buy more Seattle-Vancouver slots.

        Of course North Cascades is suffering too, mainly because nobody has figured out how to get improvements made north of the border. Sigh…

    6. First, I think it’s a not accurate to extrapolate from the 510’s $4.67 cost per boarding to mean that additional 510 buses to replace the Sounder would cost just $4.67 per trip per person who currently rides the Sounder.

      While the 510 route, overall is a service that operates all day, additional 510 trips to replace the Sounder would require satisfying a huge single-direction peak load. Single-direction-peak-only service is the most expensive type of bus service to operate and has special per-trip costs for every 50 or so passengers you want to carry. For example:

      – Each round trip requires that you buy a whole new bus to operate just two one-way passenger trips each day. A capital cost amortized over few trips means a higher cost per trip.

      – One way trips require massive amounts of deadheading. For example, if the base is in Everett, every time a bus gets into downtown, it has to back to Everett empty. Then, in the afternoon, it has to go back into downtown empty before it can pick up passengers. While the morning deadhead would be relatively fast, getting into the city in the afternoon involves navigating traffic that is very unpredictable. To allow for traffic and provide reliable service for people coming out of downtown, it is necessary to have the bus leave the base early enough to allow for the worst-case traffic conditions. Which means even when the worst-case traffic conditions don’t happen, you still have the pay the labor costs for all that time and whatever time is saved in travel just means a longer layover downtown. (Note: if you want to, you can put the bus into service in the reverse direction, but, in practice, these reverse trips going to be mostly empty, so it’s almost tantamount to deadheading in terms of cost per boarding).

      – Peak-only service requires that you hire a new driver to operate every trip, rather than paying an existing driver to work additional hours. When you consider the fixed cost of hiring a driver, such as recruitment, training, and benefits such as health insurance, a part-time driver costs more per-hour than a full-time driver.

      – Peak service operates when traffic is the worst, which means more fuel consumption per trip, plus more travel time per trip, meaning more labor cost per trip.

      While so of the 510 service today is definitely of this single-direction-peak-only variety, a lot of the service is not, so using a cost figure of $4.67 per passenger for Sounder replacement is not reasonable. If we really wanted a cost estimate, the question we should ask is what is the marginal costs of the single-direction-peak-only trips of the 510 today? While it’s probably still quite a bit cheaper than the Sounder, I doubt it’s anywhere near as cheap as $4.67.

      Second, additional 510 trips are not, alone, even sufficient to replace the Sounder, because there’s still the question of what to do with the people getting on at Edmonds or Mulkilteo. Given the out-of-the-way nature of those stops, the only way to serve them without driving travel times through the roof and imposing huge delays on others would be to have separate buses going from Edmonds to downtown Seattle and Mukilteo to downtown Seattle.

      In spite of all this, the operating costs of the North Sounder is so expensive that it may very well still be cheaper to replace it with buses. However, given the difficulty of doing this if we want the votes for ST3, I would suggest we grit our teeth and keeping paying for it for 10 more years and eliminate the north Sounder as part of a service restructuring when Link extends to Lynnwood. The money saved by not operating the Sounder trips could easily pay for a frequent, fast, all day shuttle between and each of the current Sounder stops. And the money left over could be used to help fund a further Link extension to Everett. Once the north Sounder is gone, the trainsets can be redeployed to the south Sounder, so we would still get good use out of them.

      1. So that’s another $100 mil operating expense for about 500 people. or
        $200,000 each. Is that really the message that gets ST3 passed?

      2. What $100 million for what? For the Mukilteo-Lynnwood and Edmonds-MT shuttles? They can’t cost even a fraction of that, and they should be there anyway to maximize mobility and leverage our investment in Link.

        Find some transit supporters in Snohomish County who want to shut down Sounder, with or without extending Link to Everett and adding the shuttles, and then you can think about putting it into ST3. Until then it’s a non-starter.

      3. Thank you Mr Orr for slamming the door on ‘more transit bang for the buck’.
        The End

      4. I agree that Sounder North should be cancelled and the money put into getting Link to Everett as soon as possible. That would serve the most Snoho residents, and the frequent service would encourage more people to take transit. I agree with your points 1, 2, 3, and 5. (Re 4, I’m not sure if ST can really sell its rights.)

        But we have to look at both what’s ideally best and what’s politically feasable. Have you been to the North Corridor meetings where a lot of Snoho residents say their priorities are P&Rs and peak hours? That’s how people think up there. It’s why CT preserved so many commuter routes, because that’s what its public wanted. Snoho residents have a right to tax themselves for what they want, and it’s not for us in KingCo to tell them what they can spend their own money on because we’re not paying for it. At the same time, we must build a transit system for the future because that’s the only way to get out of this automobile-dependency hole we’re in. So long-term solutions (Link) have to be part of the mix along with short-term solutions (Sounder). But if we insist everything has to be perfect right now, there’ll be so much opposition we won’t get anywhere. The point is to keep moving forward, even if it’s not as fast as you like.

      5. #4, that’s why I phrased it the way I did. If they have no residual right to return the ROW access back to BNSF then it was a horrible decision to enter into. Everyone has know since CR was fist proposed that it was a very iffy deal. The thought that it may not pencil out has always been there. (any contracts guys out there?)
        If ST truly doesn’t have any recourse but to keep their track slots forever, then I’d buy an old RDC and run it up and down the corridor on the Sounder schedule with one paying rider in it, 4 times a day. Let the BNSF negotiate the slots back.
        Price? How about $258 mil asking?

    7. Hey Laz, Why do you constantly counter any facts presented to you with a personal attack on someone that doesn’t think just like you?
      I gave the website address and acknowledged John Niles as the one who provided links to relevant sources in one location. Your attempt to turn my post into your latest rant against him, while completely ignoring the relevancy of anything I said, only makes you look small. Had I been talking about Bellevue, I’m sure you would be countering with Mr. Freeman blather.
      This is a legitimate question. Wasting millions of dollars a year only reinforces anti transit taxpayers opinion of us, and does little for the cause. Please limit you outbursts to the questions of the day.

  2. +1 for a Link station at 130th and a bus route on the 130th-125th corridor connecting Bitter Lake, the Link station, and Lake City. Meanwhile, I don’t know what makes sense for Shoreline… none of the locations seems like a slam dunk.

    The cycle track for Mercer under Aurora and the reconnection of the street grid at John, Thomas and Harrison are part of a stupendous upgrade for that whole area for peds and bikes. Of course there’s also more traffic to contend with, with all the growth in that area. I learned at the West Mercer Open House that the sidewalk that runs through the Lake Union Park streetcar stop will be widened, in addition to the traffic calming of Valley itself with bicycle lanes in each direction.

    Maybe someday we can fix the Westlake corridor up to Fremont, which needs a proper bicycle trail in the sea of pavement uninterrupted by cross streets on the only flat route connecting SLU and Fremont. If we ever extend a streetcar line up Westlake, that would be a good time to fix that problem as well.

    1. Bike facilities on Westlake are unlikely because of the very nice cycle track on Dexter.

      1. What if the cycle track were moved to Westlake so Dexter could accommodate a streetcar?

      2. Why not run a streetcar in the old row on Westlake. You know where the old streetcar was

      3. Moving the cycle track from Dexter to Westlake would screw over the people who live on Dexter who would be cut off from Westlake due to the hill. More people live along Dexter than Westlake, so it makes sense to have the cycle track on Dexter.

      4. ‘course, you could use the same argument to say the streetcar should be on Dexter, too.

    2. That link hardly implies that 130th is a shoe-in; it describes 11 alternatives, 6 of which stop at 130th and 5 of which stop at 145th.

      130th and 145th can’t possibly both be on the table, can they? 1.7 miles from Othello to Columbia City, 2.5 miles from Capitol Hill to UW, one stop for the U-District commercial area (itself over a mile long)… but then 15-block spacing in the freaking sprawl. Inconceivable!

      1. I think they both can but it certainly is harder. The fact that there is so much consensus already about the benefits of a ne 130 street station is very good.

      2. I assumed the shoe-in was based on Adam’s external knowledge rather than the article. But we do know Seattle is supporting the station, and ST is likely to defer to Seattle’s preferences, as it is leaning toward in Shoreline and Snoho. Plus the fact that there has been widespread public support for the 130th station.

        I want to hear more about this 185th vs 175th issue. Is there significant activism for 175th? Were there fireworks at the meeting?

      3. I believe the “four stations” is an estimate, not set in stone. I asked specifically about this at the open house, and they said ST is weighing each station individually, that the budget could potentially afford six [1] stations depending on what future engineering says, and that ST would be wiling to do so if there’s sufficient justification (e.g., station-area destinations, P&R potential, public support, not too close to neighboring stations). The “four stations” is in the bottom of the announcement in the background section tied to “recent analysis”; it’s not in the decision section at the top. That’s consistent with what I heard verbally at the open house. ST would be foolish to decide the number of stations now when it’s just starting to study them and doesn’t know their precise costs and benefits yet.

        [1] Six stations because they were assuming only one of 145th-155th would be chosen, but both have now been put into the study. I don’t know if that means possibly seven stations. I expect the study will say 155th is weak. But we know that 130th has Seattle’s support and widespread public support, so there’s a good chance it’ll survive.

    1. So this lady has never heard of the 550? Odd that waiting for an hour in traffic seems to beat stopping (and parking for free) at one of the many P&R’s between Sea and Bel, hopping on a 550, and getting off a BLOCK from the Convention Center with zero parking+feeding the meter concerns.

      1. What’s scary is that she is apparently an editor or reporter for a suburban newspaper

      2. Apparently she knew of the 550 (and P&Rs), but felt that spending $10 on parking was reasonable while $10 on bus fare (2 people, round-trip) was not.

        I particularly enjoyed the complaint about the cost of street parking in Seattle, followed by asking that there be more open parking spaces. That’s exactly why the street parking is more expensive now.

    2. “Hey everybody! While I live a short distance from one of the most frequent bus connections in the city, I still don’t ride! I’ve made exactly zero investment in learning how the bus system works, yet I’m upset that I can’t get where I want to. Give me some validation, please!”

      This article is terrible.

    3. One fallacy I see lots of people making in regard to their driving costs is instead of taking the price of gas and adding it to the price of parking, they simply use the price of gas if parking is free, or the price of parking (ignoring gas) if parking isn’t free. And, in both cases, they tend to pretend that wear and tear on their car is free too. When all is said and done, $10 on bus fares is still cheaper than $10 on parking.

      1. That’s because they see those as fixed expenses rather than variable, like rent, electricity and taxes rather than food. The decision to live a mile from a bus stop and to drive most places was made years ago, and they’re not going to change their minds so easily.

        However, I do think she’s misestimating the speed of the 550 from the South Bellevue P&R to Convention Place. Going through the downtown stations (10 minutes) can’t be slower than circling the block looking for parking.

        What’s ironic is that the Washington State Convention Center (if that is the center she’s referring to) is not the place to expect parking. Conventions attract mostly out-of-town guests who take shuttles from the airport, so it’s not a major parking draw like the stadiums. If visitors do have cars, they park them at their hotels.

        By the way, did she check out Pacific Place? It usually has a lot of parking spaces available.

        Assuming she is talking about the Washington State Convention Center and not another center, it’s ironic that she expects parking there

      2. WSCC General Event Parking:

        The Washington State Convention Center operates two covered parking garages that adjoin each other and the Convention Center. The two parking garages can accommodate approximately 1490 vehicles.

        Lots of events cater to locals like the Flower and Garden and show and Comicon every year. From a quick glance at the Event Calendar it looks like about half the use is local yokels. Here’s something I didn’t know:

        WSCC expanded again in July 2010 with the opening of The Conference Center. Located at the northeast corner of Eighth Avenue and Pike Street, this LEED-certified space was originally designated to be the new home of the Museum of History and Industry following the 2001 expansion.

    4. I find it amusing how she takes one occasion of difficulty finding a $10/day parking spot near the convention center during a convention as proof of a widespread “attitude” problem Seattle allegedly has toward suburban areas. And I don’t recall my mayor ever talking about Spandex bike clothing, either. Clearly she’s projecting issues of her own.

  3. Unfortunate news for urbists…

    Our analysis of Mexican and U.S. data sources indicates that at least as many Mexicans and their families are leaving the United States as are arriving in the United States from Mexico. As a result, the Mexican-born population in the United States decreased from 12.6 million in 2007 to 12 million in 2011. This appears to be the first sustained decline in the number of Mexican immigrants since the Great Depression, and it is entirely because of a reduction in illegal immigration — more going home and fewer coming. Today, we estimate that 51% of all Mexican immigrants living in the United States are unauthorized. In 2007, that figure was 56%.

    That’s right the principal…some would say the only…driver of population growth in the US has come to a crashing halt and now more people are leaving than staying!!

    That will pretty much kill off any plans for those who hope to increase density as housing on the perimeter will come so cheap as not require the pricey jobs of the city.

    You may even see a return to the Leisure Lifestyle where people can work adhoc, a few days at a time or a per week, and not have to be part of a drive or ride to a dense urbist core!!

      1. If you want to understand the future of “cities” in America now that immigration has ceased, look at what is happening to Japan:

        Japan’s overall population fell by a record quarter-million to 127.8 million last year, hurt by falling birthrates and people departing for other countries. By 2060, the Japanese population is expected to fall by an additional one-third, to as few as 87 million — and 40 percent of those remaining will be over 65 years old.


        But in Yubari, the demographic and fiscal demise is on fast-forward. The city’s population has plunged by 90 percent since its heyday as a coal-mining hub in the 1950s and ’60s. Currently, fewer than 10,500 people live in a geographic area approximately the size of New York City. And of those remaining Yubari residents, nearly half are older than 65.

      2. Except:
        1. Our birth rate (13.7/1000) is higher than our death rate (8.4/1000), even ignoring immigration (3.6/1000).
        2. Though our fertility rate is at an all-time low, we’re still well positive (2.06 children per woman).
        2. We have a positive (1.2% per year!) urbanization rate, and 82% of our population live in an urban environment.

        You can say we’re just like coutries that are losing population. Except we aren’t, since we’re gaining population. Sure we’re no Indonesia, but we’re also no Japan.

      3. Wait, which is it? Is the #1 on the top 10 list of cities losing population (New Orleans, by the way) down 30% since 2000? Or are “dozens” of cities losing “half” of their population?

        How many cities have increased population since 2000?

      4. Why America’s Young And Restless Will Abandon Cities For Suburbs

        More intriguing, and perhaps counter-intuitive, “hip and cool” core cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston have also suffered double-digit percent losses among this generation. New York City, for example, saw its 25 to 34 population of 2000 drop by over 15% — a net loss of over 200,000 people — a decade later. San Francisco and Oakland, the core cities of the Bay Area, lost more than 20% of this cohort over the decade, and the city of Boston lost nearly 40%.

        In contrast, the largest growth among this peer group took place in metropolitan areas largely suburban in form, with a strong domination by automobiles and single-family houses. The most popular cities among this group — with increases of over 10% — were Las Vegas; Raleigh, N.C.; Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, in Texas; and Sacramento, Calif..

      5. Japan does not support your thesis. Most of Japan’s largest cities have been growing, even as Japan’s population has been flattening out and declining.

        The NYT article you linked is about a town, that at its peak, had a population only about 20% that of Seattle’s.

      6. Japan’s general demographic trend actually seems to be towards increased density, with people leaving rural areas, and moving to places like Tokyo (and even the suburbs around Tokyo often have far higher density than Seattle the “city”).

        [Tokyo city’s growth over the last 5-10 years is about equal to Seattle’s entire population; the growth of the Tokyo metro area is about equal to the entire population of the Seattle metro area (Bellevue, etc)…]

      7. The claim that 25-34 year olds are choosing suburbia is simply false. The article starts by using uncorrected census numbers, and thanks to Bush, those undercount cities. (Sigh).

        Second, there’s an underlying jobs phenomenon — people move where the jobs are, and the jobs are jumping around in crazy ways. NY lost jobs recently due to heavy reliance on finance, which crashed recently

        Fihally, Kotkin has an ax to grind and is picking selective data. The fact is if you study metro areas in a coherent manner, rather than cherrypicking, and control for job availability, you find that people in the 25-34 age bracket are preferentially choosing places which are less car dependent.

        Note that Kotkin never bothered to actually measure car dependency, just cherrypicking a few particular cities to grind his ax with.

      8. The 25-34 age bracket is a shrinking portion of the population. No surprise they’d on average opt for the cities where people moving out have increased value relative to the inner ring suburbs where the jobs are being created (i.e. Silicon Valley). Plus this age bracket, becoming increasing not just childless but single wants the social life of an urban environment and has no need for a “back yard” or a care about K-12 education.

    1. Planning Shrinking Cities
      Justin B. Hollander, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department, Tufts

      Developed, modern cities throughout the world are facing population declines at an unprecedented scale. Over the last fifty years, 370 cities throughout the world with populations over 100,000 have shrunk by at least 10% (Oswalt and Rieniets 2007).

      Wide swaths of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan are projecting double-digit declines in population in the coming decades. Internationally, scholars and practitioners of the built
      environment have responded to this crisis by reconceptualizing decline as shrinkage and have begun to explore creative and innovative ways for cities to successfully shrink (Stohr 2004; Swope 2006). The lack of strong market demand and an abundance of vacant land create unprecedented opportunities to improve green space networks and natural systems in shrinking cities. Capitalizing on decline to set aside land for recreation, agriculture, green infrastructure, and other non-traditional land uses will benefit existing residents and attract future development, and enable shrinking cities to reinvent themselves as more productive, sustainable, and ecologically sound places.

      1. Not all cities will benefit
        from rising urbanization

        A report by UN-Habitat, reviewed by Tann vom Hove

        Negative growth trends are largely associated with cities in North America and Europe, where the number of shrinking cities has increased faster in the last 50 years than the number of expanding cities. In the United States alone, 39 cities have endured population loss.

        In the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, 49, 48 and 34 cities, respectively, shrank in size between 1990 and 2000. A number of cities in countries of the former Soviet bloc are losing their populations. Nearly 100 Russian cities experienced negative growth in the 1990s; in Ukraine, 40 cities experienced population loss.

        In the case of cities in the developed world, the report notes that on average, 2.3 million people migrate into developed countries each year. This means that migration – both legal and illegal – accounts for approximately one-third of the urban growth in the developed world. Without migration, the urban population of the developed world would likely decline or remain the same in the coming decades.

      2. Well, duh. Car-based Detroit is shrinking while less car-dependent parts of northeastern and midwestern cities are benefiting.

        Some cities are going to get hurt hard by population declines. That doesn’t support your lunatic idea that everyone is going to move out of cities; people are going to move into *cities they like better*. There will be a small number of winners and a lot of losers.

        Second-tier cities will either become first-tier or shrink back to small cities.

        Eventually the US may look like the UK (where, to a first approximation, everyone lives in London) or France (where, to a first approximation, everyone lives in Paris).

      3. Or as a first approximation everyone on the eastern seaboard lives in NY and everyone on the left coast lives in LA.

    1. That’s pretty depressing. Public transit in Seattle is borderline acceptable. We’re working on improving it, but we’re not there yet.

      I can’t imagine how it is in the cities below us.

      1. Hmm, since Bailo sees Yakima as the future of mankind, perhaps he can clue us is on the state of public transit in Yakima?

      2. check out or .I love this forum. People actually care enough to try to improve things. The time I visited Seattle it seemed like transit paradise, and this was back in 99 We are dealing with “lets build a %$%$%$ trolley” from the mayor, instead of “why is our highest ridership route running every 45 minutes, and not at all after 7pm, and not at all on sunday”. In this place, its impossible to have a job without a car. Its disgusting. The time I visited Seattle it seemed like transit paradise, and this was back in 99. Calls to customer service result in completely wrong information resulting in people being stranded. Count your blessings kids, but keep workin to make things better! here we will probably have another 4 million dollar transit study, and it wont be implemented, and then another 2 years later. anyway, my face is turning red.

    2. The methodology is interesting here — it appears to favor coverage over speed. I suspect that’s why Seattle’s rating so highly — we have pretty good bus coverage

      Put another way, I wouldn’t have thought of SF as superior to Boston/DC/Philly/Chicago, because aside from 1 BART line and the Muni Metro tunnel, there’s no way to get anywhere on transit in SF that isn’t painfully slow. Seattle’s average bus speed puts SF’s to shame.

      I’m not saying this is a methodology flaw — it’s not unlikely that coverage is actually more important for ridership than speed is — but it’s interesting.

  4. OK, since this is an open thread, I’ll ask this question:

    This past Saturday, and several Saturdays past, I have seen several 6800’s do what seem to be training runs in the White Center area. Some of these coaches are 6856, 6917, and 6887, all of which are based at South.

    So what are South Base 6800’s doing in White Center (even if they are training runs)?

    1. South only has 6800s, they dont have any 2300s, or any 2600s. All Part Time driver training takes place at South Base. White Center, West Seattle, Seattle all offer more challenging turns and scenarios for the newbies to practice on. When I trained, we went from Tukwila, to Renton, to West Seattle, to Alki to MLK. Another day was up on Queen Anne and downtown driving. The areas near South Base dont help new drivers handle the narrow Seattle Streets. Most of those buses have 3 trainees on board, and they take turns driving, and then there usually 10-18 people per class, all out on the same day (so 4-6 buses out at once). Theres no prescribed route, but instead where the trainer on board wants them to practice. It just makes more sense to to train new drivers in one place, and get all the equipment from one place. You should also see Souths Orions in areas they dont belong as well as there is 40′ coach practice in the same manner as well.

  5. Can anyone (knowledgeably) comment on the limiting factors, apart from politics, in building Link segments?

    Put another way, would it be possible to build future Link segments faster than we have been building Central/U/North/East Link if we threw more money, people, and machinery at planning, engineering, tunneling, or station construction, or for each segment, is (roughly) 12-15 years from project approval/funding to opening the best we can hope to do?

    1. The limiting factors are money, politics, and NEPA environmental clearances. The third one should only take about 2 years but usually seems to take 5-10, which is a problem.

      If you built a private line, it would be exempt from #2 and #3 and the limiting factor would be the difficulty of land purchase without eminent domain.

    1. I’m not sure where the $35k number comes from. The article is not clear whether that is capital or ongoing costs. Probably capital.

      I feel like if the Seattle Times had a pro-transit agenda, they could’ve spun the numbers a dramatically different way:

      The article says that “[the ferry] is on track to burn $52,000 a month…” and has 20 riders in the morning, and 30 to 35 in the afternoon. Divide that $52k by twenty weekdays in a month, divide by two trips, and divide by 50 riders per day per trip, and you’re looking at per passenger costs in the neighborhood of $25 a trip. Seven dollars fare divided by $25 in expenses means a fare box ratio of 28%.

      Obviously that number is completely contrived, but it’s no more bogus than the numbers in the Times article. I don’t want my sales tax dollars to subsidize a ferry to Kingston, which is pretty much the definition of an exurb, but I feel like the Times is the party beating the dead horse here.

      1. I couldn’t figure out the $35k number either. I’m sure the STB super computer is crunching the numbers right now ;-) I suspect you’re right that they are factoring in the cost of buying the boats which in all likely hood will be sold shortly at a huge loss. How many times do public officials in this State need the lesson reenforced that a boat is a hole in the water that you through money into?

      2. I talked to the Port of Kingston about this recently. Rough math, the boats (2) for only one RT each morning and afternoon crossing is about $720k/yr, for about 20k boardings/yr, or about $36/ea way. They are lowering the fare from $7 to $5 to build ridership, so the subsidy is north of $60/person/day.
        Anyone want to buy a boat?

    1. That article makes the Stranger look like the New York Times. What a waste of electrons.

  6. The new WS-DOT/Coast Guard policy on 520 bridge openings may be even worse. They’ve exempted 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm, but beyond that any boater with a mast height of 45 feet can request a bridge opening with a 1-hour notice daytimes. An opening will block SR-520 to car, bus and truck traffic for 20-30 minutes.

    This is not a navigable waterway where people are using boats for transportation or commerce. Commercial boats would likely plan in advance (and the tour boats are far shorter than 45 feet.)

    It’s primarily recreational sailboats, and possibly some construction boats that exceed the 45-foot height.

    I’m told they are approaching an opening per day, but how bad might it get this summer on nice days?

    1. This is not a navigable waterway where people are using boats for transportation or commerce. Commercial boats would likely plan in advance (and the tour boats are far shorter than 45 feet.)

      I’m quite amused by your colonial attitude about Lake Washington. If you’re annoyed that boats have a right to passage as they have done since long boats plied those waters, then maybe you should have advocated for a high bridge…

      1. You mean like the one we’re building with the barges that are blocking the current one?

      2. No David, like the Narrow’s bridge e.g. a suspension or wire bridge. And again, your attitude that private vessels don’t deserve passage is amusing and troubling. The bridge interferes with a navigable waterway that has existed from before the time of cars. Who is to say commerce isn’t being conducted on a private vessel? How do you know if the next blockbuster tech startup isn’t being formulated on one of those boats? How do you know if some CEO isn’t deciding to locate a plant or the headquarters in this area after feasting on our natural beauty?

        No, you feel that because you’re inconvenienced by a “private” vessel you demand they be relegated to 11pm at night or something. Your line of thinking could devolve into some pretty disturbing ideas.

    2. I’m told they are approaching an opening per day,

      Who told you that? Obviously you’ve never been sailing on Lake Washington. 520 bridge openings make the news. You can sit there for as long as you want tooting your air horn and the bridge ain’t going to open. I think that in the last ten years there have been as many openings for tests or because of weather (pressure on the bridge) as for ship passage. I don’t recall a single private vessel calling for the bridge to open. That’s likely why the Coast Guard waived the requirement.

      1. Mmm, I don’t get out on the lake much anymore. I guess it’s not surprising given this from WSDOT:

        The east navigation channel is closed to marine traffic until approximately 2015 due to construction of the new SR 520 bridge.

        Many 30′ sailboat sailboats have mast heights exceeding 45′ which is the limit for the west low rise. My bet is the bridge gets stuck in the open position more than once in the next three years.

      2. Bernie – it used to be that 520 openings were like a couple of times a year. The East highrise has a 64-foot clearance for vessels, so pretty much ever boat could pass through there.

        In its infinite wisdom WS-DOT has allowed the contractor to block the Eastern highrise from now to August 2015, leaving only the western highrise, which has only a 45-foot clearance. As you note 30 foot pleasure sailboats may exceed this.

        And the Coast Guard has deemed that a pleasure boat on a leisure cruise may require the bridge to open on a 1-hour notice at no cost to the pleasure boat – but probably at significant cost to transit users and operators, drivers, and also to WS-DOT. I won’t be surprised if you are right and the bridge gets stuck out of commission.

        As for the statement that the boats were here first – let’s give every boat that was built before 1963 and every commercial vessel free passage. And then let’s specify two times per day that pleasure boats built after 1963 have scheduled openings.

        I just see the 1-hour opening for pleasure boats on a bridge that’s not designed for it and takes 20-30 minutes to be a clusterf*&k and ridiculous public policy.

      3. Don’t forget to include all of the boats shorter than 64 feet but taller than 45 feet built before a few weeks ago.

      4. WSDOT obstructed an establish navigable channel by building the bridge. They were only allowed to do so by guaranteeing free passage to marine traffic. It’s irrelevant when the boat was built. ST’s purchase of ROW on the BNSF corridor isn’t limited to light rail cars built at the time of purchase. Conoco Phillips doesn’t have to drive old pick-up trucks and use vintage wells if it wants to drill for gas on your land. It does seem staggeringly stupid to close the eastern highrise for three years.

        There’s this note from WSDOT on Ross Hunters blog which seems to indicate this is only short term:

        Our construction equipment will be out of the eastern navigation channel during the first weekend in May, which is the official opening of boating season, so that vessels can pass under the bridge during this busy maritime weekend.

        Of course if they’d built a cable stayed bridge to begin with it would be done and paid for and good for another 100 years.

  7. Everyone loves Seattle. Then when do we finally get a national party convention? The Northwest (read Seattle) is the only area of the country never to host a national convention. These days, perhaps we don’t have a venue big enough. Perhaps a new arena would fill the bill.

    1. I recall an attempt to bring the Republican National Convention here during the time when George Argyros owned the Mariners and the Kingdome, obviously, would have been the venue. Argyros was a big GOP contributor and was quoted as saying that he would be happy putting the M’s on the monthlong road trip the convention and its preparation would require. Of course, Argyros didn’t exactly have a lot of political capital in Seattle or with King County which, after all, actually owned the dome.

  8. in case anyone missed it … Brenda, the TBM, successfully passed underneath I5 on 23April … now heading down Pine St to the PSST … ULink tunneling’s days are numbered!

    1. Cool! Where are you getting this news? I can’t believe there’s a Link email list that I missed… :)

      1. It was also in the CEO Report.

        “Earlier this week the TBM passed safely under the I-5 corridor and is nearly to its destination under Pine Street connecting with the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Last year Brenda also safely passed under I-5 when it dug the first of the University Link twin tunnels between Capitol Hill and downtown.

        Stay tuned for Brenda’s “hole-through” announcement next month. When Brenda is finished, it will mark the completion of all the U-link TBM mining.”

  9. Attended the ST open house at B’vue City Hall. I was previously a fan of the “open air” station on 6th but the 800# Gorrilla is that this drops the south entrance to the underground station on 110th. While it’s easy to focus on BTC it’s important to remember that this is a DT Bellevue Station and that DT is the trip generator. The best cost saving idea presented was the center platform shallow (i.e. no useless mezzanine) station.

    Really scary was the cheap skate approach to 130th. This is deja vu all over again with respect to promises made regarding the Kay Marche property redevelopment in which the City Counsel caved to developers.

    Of course it was no surprise that the biggest cost saving measure wasn’t represented; don’t build the stupid project that spends billions to go the wrong way from DT Bellevue to Seattle over a bridge that will be sinking into the sunset by the time the line opens. DOH!!!

    1. I like the idea of moving the Winters House to the blueberry farm. Then you can walk between them and it’s a shorter walk from the station. There should be no accommodation for keeping the Winters House where it is; it’s in a bad location.

      The 6th Street station seems best to me because you can see the buses from the entrance, which is both practical for transfers and makes it feel like one multimodal station rather than two stations. The slope is a problem for disabled people though. Hopefully the sidewalk can be raised a bit to allow a flat path from the elevator to the buses.

      Regarding 16th, there are two issues. One is whether to put the street on one side of the tracks rather than straddling them, and the other is traffic crossings if it’s built at-grade. Putting the street on one side of the tracks saves the cost of a stairstep arrangement, and the city can always build a street on the other side of the track later on its own dime. At-grade crossings are bad everywhere, even with warning gates, because we see at SODO that the train still isn’t reaching full speed even with gates.

  10. A Parking Revolution is Coming to the Urban Jungle

    Automated parking garages are nothing new; they have them in Europe and Asia, typically Ferris-wheel type designs or existing parking structures retrofitted to achieve some degree of automation. But what is new is how Auto Parkit is integrated into an overall development via its unique design concept. “It’s basically a large-scale pick-and-place machine that puts away cars in parking cells,”

    “The Auto Parkit reduces the carbon footprint substantially when compared to traditional parking,” says Cheadle. “Typically, if you don’t like a traditional garage, you have to destroy the concrete and do something with the crushed rubble. However, the Auto Parkit automated garage can be disassembled and reassembled in a completely different configuration elsewhere.

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