Sound Transit Board Retreat: Who Will Lead on Parking and TOD?

Board Retreat

These days, with hot and heavy public meeting and disclosure requirements, when elected officials have retreats they have something of the quality of watching French royalty eat dinner in the Salon of the Grand Couvert at Versailles: an attempt to have private things happen in full public view. The Sound Transit Board’s retreat this week at Bell Harbor Conference Center was no different. Councilmembers, mayors, and other members of the board talked back and forth, but comments about parking and Transit Oriented Development were probably less candid when aimed at constituents than if they were spoken in private. But I got some good insights on where the board might go on parking and Transit Oriented Development.

First the parking discussion. Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin kicked off the discussion with a well rehearsed set of principles he felt should be used when considering the issue of parking around transit stations. Conlin said that the most important issues are “maximizing ridership, ensure the agency is solvent, and that we have happy customers.”

The “happy customers” point was also raised by King County Councilmember Larry Phillips who asked how people driving to transit who can’t find a place to park might adversely affect future funding measures, a point echoed by others who worried that not building parking might discourage ridership. Continue reading “Sound Transit Board Retreat: Who Will Lead on Parking and TOD?”

Sound Transit’s Ad Rejection Is Good For Progressives

Last night, Publicola wrote a piece about Sound Transit’s policy of not running controversial advertising (a policy shared by Metro), and their decision not to run a recent pro-unionization ad.

There’s another side here. In the court of public opinion, advertising money buys support. Eyeballs on an issue raise awareness, and getting more eyeballs on your issue costs money.

Throughout history, the small forces for progressive policies, labor rights, and human rights in general, have less money than those who profit from employee exploitation and oppression.

The policy that caused Sound Transit to reject this ad would also cause Sound Transit to reject much better funded anti-unionization ads. The ability of a company to buy public opinion is something we have very few tools to limit, and this is one of them. Sound Transit’s position helps reduce the influence of money in politics.

There will shortly be a press conference by labor decrying Sound Transit’s choice. While this outrage helps them get publicity on their issue more than the rejected ad ever would,  in the long run, Sound Transit’s policy helps progressive policies far more than it hinders them.

ORCA Becoming Slightly More Available

Atomic Taco/Flickr

The ORCA consortium is selling a limited number of cards at seven Saar’s Market locations in South King and Pierce Counties.  They’re open 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, but only for a limited time. Those seeking a reduced fare ORCA are out of luck.

In more permanent news, PSRC has $1m in FTA money and is considering spending it on ORCA vending machines, and they’re taking public comments:

The machines will be located in existing public places, such as King Street Station, community colleges, shopping centers, libraries, municipal buildings and park and rides throughout King County. The public review and comment period for this transportation project will run from April 3 to 26, 2012.

How to make a comment:

Mail: Puget Sound Regional Council
ATTN: Kelly McGourty
1011 Western Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, Washington 98104-1035

In Person: April 12 at 9:30 a.m. or April 26 at 10 a.m. at PSRC

Seattle Bubble: How Seattle Stacks Up

Seattle Bubble, a real-estate blog founded during the inflation of the housing bubble, has an interesting post showing how Seattle proper stacks up to the 100 largest cities in the US. While I don’t think you should really pay attention to the density related information, for reasons explained here, I found the other rankings interesting although not surprising. Out of the 100 largest cities in the US here is how Seattle stacks up.

  • Population: #23
  • Square Miles: #62
  • Density: #15
  • Household Size: #100
  • % with Children: #97
  • Home Ownership Rate: #69

Seattle has long had many demographic factors that favor smaller household sizes and low percentages of households with children, and this information completely jives with the data I reported on earlier showing that a majority of Seattle housing is multifamily already. My take away looking at just these two measures, household size and percent households with children, Seattle has the strongest trends that favor smaller apartment housing than just about every other major city. Go to Seattle Bubble to see all the data.

News Roundup: Adjustments

Atomic Taco/Flickr

This is an open thread.

TRU “Day of Action” Tomorrow

The new Transit Riders’ Union, together with Amalgamated Transit Union 587, is holding their first big event to agitate for more transit funding:

Date: Wednesday April 4, 2012
Starting Point: 11 AM, 6th and Royal Brougham (Northbound)
Rally Point: 11:30 AM, Westlake Park, 4th and Pine

After a rally at Westlake, we will be taking our message to the buses and to the streets, flyering along 3rd Avenue and at Westlake until 6 PM. Join us if you can!

This is part of a “nationwide day of action.” Here’s my report on what the new TRU is all about.

Fall Restructure Further Watered Down

King County Metro 24 in West Magnolia
King County Metro 24 in West Magnolia

Yesterday afternoon, King County Metro made public the legislative package which, after formal consideration (and possible amendment) by the King County Council, will turn the Fall 2012 restructure into a reality. To get to this point has taken about six months, during which Metro has presented two comprehensive restructure proposals, hosted several open houses and made numerous presentations to neighborhood groups. The process is now in the home stretch, but nothing is final until the full council votes.

As noted on the Metro Matters blog, the next opportunity for public input is on April 16th, from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM, at Union Station, where there will be an open house followed by public testimony to the Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. Helpfully, with this latest revision, Metro has spared me the necessity of digesting all the changes for each area before I can discuss them: for a custom pamphlet describing the changes for you neighborhood, go the the System Restructure page on the Have a Say site, and click on the map in the “Neighborhood information sheets” box.

From the perspective of building a better transit system — one that serves more people and serves them faster, more frequently and more reliably, with the same amount of money — the primary effect of the public process so far has been to water down the original proposal, removing unpopular components and keeping popular ones, seemingly without respect to their merits, which sometimes results in strange routes that are almost certain to perform terribly. This pattern continues with yesterday’s revision.

After the jump, I’ll get into the details on the major changes since February.

Continue reading “Fall Restructure Further Watered Down”

More Photos from U-Link Breakthrough

The album above is a selection of the photos I took today at the Second University Link breakthrough at the future Capitol Hill Station. My only camera is an SLR, so I couldn’t shoot video, and unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod on hand, so these photos can’t quite be made into an animation, but I hope they convey a sense of what happened. Also, some great photos over at the Seattle PI. Enjoy!

Real Estate Market Segmentation

Luxury Apartments under Construction, 4th and Madison, 1900 (wikimedia)

In liberal Seattle, almost everyone agrees that affordable housing is important, although people are as not as quick to speak well of its cousin, reduced housing prices. Meanwhile, new, dense development is both accused of eliminating affordable housing and being the ultimate source to provide it. I think both sides end up talking past each other because both positions contain a caricature of the segmentation (or lack thereof) of the market.

On my side, there’s a very heavy reliance on the law of supply and demand. Build more units and prices should go down. The dynamic turns up again and again in human endeavor and carries a strong presumption of truth. But if we view the real estate market not as a single pile of commodities but as a series of smaller markets segmented by taste, demographics, and income, the situation gets more complicated and obscures the debate sufficiently to allow people to believe many different things in good faith.

For one thing, even a higher mean unit price may not indicate that housing has become less affordable. In an economically marginal neighborhood, replacing a parking lot with a luxury condo tower will almost certainly increase the mean cost of a housing unit in the neighborhood. However, the impact on the actual existing stock of “affordable” housing is  less clear. There is certainly more supply for people who especially want to live there, driving prices down; however, an influx of wealthier people will bring objective improvements in some senses, particularly in nearby retail property value, local school performance, and so on. As a density guy, I’m inclined to applaud objective improvements in quality of life; I’m not worried about “gentrification” per se, but displacement. Continue reading “Real Estate Market Segmentation”

City Looks to Detroit, Baltimore for Solutions to Gentrification

Detroit Train Station by Bob Jagendorf

With concerns about gentrification growing over the last few years, several council members and city officials have been looking for examples of how other cities have dealt with and overc0me gentrification. What they have found, contrary to generally held urbanist belief, is that reducing demand for housing is the most effective way to combat rising rents and gentrification, not building more housing.

On a recent fact finding mission to both cities, council members and staff met with officials from Detroit and Baltimore to learn from the nation’s leaders in combating gentrification. While council and staff have not had time to formulate any potential policies or actions, I was able to speak to one of the officials who participated.

He said that ideas generally fell into the categories of crime, education, noise and pollution, and jobs. They found that the two cities shared many of the same solutions, which helps to validate the solutions and lent credence to the idea that they could be transferable to Seattle. Most of the solutions they saw were also very low cost, if not budget positive, for the City.

Continue reading “City Looks to Detroit, Baltimore for Solutions to Gentrification”