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If you’ve been away from the Internet this holiday, here’s what you’ve missed on STB:

68 Replies to “In Case You Missed It”

  1. On the Westlake station topic, I must say that once they make the vending machines available to look up youth and verify their age and give them an ORCA card, or simply offer the youth card in more places, then they really can close the Westlake service center. The process of obtaining any orca card other than adult is quite locked down.

    1. The Da Vinci Code might be better written than Twilight, but that doesn’t exactly make it Ulysses.

      Perhaps we should heed the VTA’s experience: over-reliance on promises of “magic density” that never arrived [coughcoughLynnwoodFederalWaySpringDistrict]. Twenty-five years later, the train chugs along near orange groves.

      1. The insanity of transit in the South Bay makes us in Seattle look either good or lucky — as usual, it’s probably better to be lucky. We’re relying on “magic density” on the edges of our system. They’re relying on “magic density” right at its core. Link is more like BART than it’s like VTA — a VTA analog would be a rapid transit system centered in Bellevue with branches to Bothell (via Kirkland), Redmond, Issaquah, and Renton. But even that would be better than VTA because here our distances aren’t as large and our freeways aren’t as bad.

        Of course, by aggregate density metrics (even population-weighted ones) South Bay is denser than SeaTacBellEverMond. I really think there’s a threshold of density below which non-P&R transit isn’t really effective. We have a few pockets above the threshold and they don’t. We have (greater) downtown Seattle and maybe the U District. If a bus route doesn’t go one of those two places it’s probably a poor performer. Even sparsely populated exurbs of Chicago and New York fill commuter trains to their dense downtown job centers, and South Bay residents often take transit to go to San Francisco. For all the hype of TOD in Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way, etc., their popular bus routes have one thing in common: they go to downtown Seattle.

      2. Actually, this just happened today:

        “The analysis showed no statistical relationship between central business districts and transit commute shares, when all other variables were considered.”

        It’s about the overall quality of coverage and service across the urbanized area, and not about the focus on or two supposedly disproportionate demand generators.

        The mistake of BART and Link is thinking that Concord and Federal Way are part of the urbanized area when they so clearly are not, thus spreading coverage and service so thin as to deplete any usefulness that comprehensive transit could have hypothetically had within the actual urban areas, and sending urbanites back to their cars for lack of a worthwhile alternative.

        When I can get to Hypothetical Lynnwood but need a car to get to north Capitol Hill in a non-excruciating way, can you really be surprised your modeshare fails to grow?

      3. The main problem with VTA’s Light Rail isn’t simply “future magic density”, it’s that they had several chances to build Light Rail on the one Corridor that justified it (The “East Valley Line” from San Jose Didron to the Capitol Expressway via E Santa Clara/Alum Rock) and each and every single time they chose to prioritize the mostly shitty extensions that got built. The worst of the bunch is arguably Tasman West (the segment between Great America and Mountain View), which has several stations where the daily usage is below 100 people. Without Tasman West and Vasona (which also doesn’t contribute much ridership and was only built because the ROW was there) the LRT system doesn’t look nearly as bad.

        tl;dr: SCVTA’s planning division was run by a bunch of morons when the system was built out.

      4. d.p.
        I think density will happen in the Spring District and to a lesser extent in downtown Lynnwood. I agree that Federal Way is probably a pipe dream.

        Unfortunately due to sub-area equity even if those segments never get built it doesn’t mean more money to bring Link to Ballard.

      5. The Spring District will do fine, inasmuch as it’s really just an extension of downtown Bellevue. Although the publicly-available designs for the area are a wee bit… uninspired. (They also show Link buried beneath the development, which as far as I know is a complete fiction.)

        Magic New Lynnwood isn’t going to happen. There is literally nothing there to build on, and no high-rise developer in its right mind is going to take a chance on businesses and residents coming out of the woodwork to live there, especially when all it could ever offer is a carbon copy of what Bellevue already has. (And Bellevue still has plenty of room to grow.)

        Maybe you’ll see a few new Redmond-style apartment clusters — with plenty of parking, of course — but the Lynnwood Chia High-Rise Edge City is a municipal-leaders’ fiction that will be remembered mockingly in a generation.

      6. Lynnwood has shown some pretty consistent growth:

        1970 16,919 134.8%
        1980 22,641 33.8%
        1990 28,637 26.5%
        2000 33,847 18.2%
        2010 35,836 5.9%

        But compared to Bellevue it started small and is being left in the dust:

        1970 61,102 377.0%
        1980 73,903 21.0%
        1990 86,874 17.6%
        2000 109,569 26.1%
        2010 122,363 11.7%

        Since I don’t think East Link has a prayer of being viable in terms of cost per rider I’d have to agree that the Link extension north of Northgate is going to be for the most part an expensive way to shorten a few bus routes. Although Lynnwood’s current density is equal to that of Bellevue, I can’t help but to think of the old Peggy Lee tune, “Is That All There Is?”

      7. I disagree that it’s impossible for Lynnwood to grow. Right around Alderwood mall is a lot of woods and parking lots, the perfect place to make into a Tyson’s corner-type project in my mind. There are two freeways converging, too, making it more like Bellevue. Federal way doesn’t have this, so it’s not really going to get there.

        In this case, I think, we don’t want Ulysses. That would be somewhere small and awesome, but a place most people wouldn’t want to go or even spend a lot of time because living there is just too difficult. Ulysses is maybe Reykjavík or Helsinki or something. We want some thing popular but still sort of good and mostly very lasting, so not twilight but maybe Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

      8. I’m not saying Lynnwood won’t continue to grow but the trend clearly shows that it is approaching being built out and built out at an auto-centric scale of ~4k people per square mile. Because of the freeway access the highest value tends toward Mall style or big box retail. In short, there’s not “there” there. I don’t see any anchor tenants lining up to take space in gleaming new highrise development like The Bravern and Bellevue’s got at least 30 years before DT to Overlake is built out. If someone wanted to distance themselves from the crowd Tacoma has a lot to offer on the cheap and IMHO would make a much more attractive global headquarters. Federal Way does have Weyerhaeuser and the Port of Tacoma sees more container traffic than Seattle.

      9. Yeah, I agree with you that Lynnwood vs Bellevue is a weird comparison. My only point is that some of what has made Bellevue successful, freeways, is what could make Lynnwood successful.

        Tacoma really is its own centre of gravity. It’s really too far for most people to commute to from the main population centres in the Seattle area.

      10. @Andrew Smith: Isn’t the lesson from VTA and Silicon Valley that even if Lynnwood grows, Freeway-Oriented Development just isn’t walkable enough to make it an anchor transit destination on its own? Ideal development around Link is a totally different sort of thing than ideal development around the freeway, to the extent that they’re nearly mutually exclusive. Parking lots and FAR limits are necessary for FOD and death for transit access, walking, biking, etc.

        Even Bellevue isn’t that successful as a transit destination. Take out the routes to and from Seattle and what does its transit modeshare look like? Not much, ‘eh? What walkability downtown Bellevue has is despite 405, not because of it. Compare downtown Kirkland, which has granular use-mixture without much height, and is a more pleasant place to walk.

      11. It’s doubtful that Bellevue would exist in the form it does if not for 520 but it’s long past being a bedroom suburb relying on overflow jobs from Seattle. It’s “big break” was Microsoft deciding to locate on the eastside. But the reason it’s the only center of highrise development outside of DT Seattle is because it was first and owes a good deal to PacCar for taking the initiative to build the first “big” building. And of course Kemper for taking the chance on the first “skyscrapers”.

        I agree Tacoma is going to have to make it on it’s own. If it does and not until then will Federal Way stand a chance of getting the sort of development it’s dreaming of. Lynnwood is like Lakewood; stuck on suburb.

      12. Bellevue is a pretty terrible place to walk: it’s tiny, like a half mile squared, but still takes 25 minutes to walk across. I am optimistic about Lynnwood, and I am also optimistic about Tyson’s corner. I don’t know that much about VTA, but I do know that zoning in the Bay Area is extremely restrictive. Tyson’s corner is being upzoned massively, and I hope Lynnwood is as well.

      13. Ulysses was cited as a great, successful, and lasting work of literature, in contrast to a middling attempt at page-turning (Link) or a schlocktastrophe (VTA).

        Why would we intentionally chase mediocrity?

      14. Bellevue is a pretty terrible place to walk: it’s tiny, like a half mile squared, but still takes 25 minutes to walk across.

        I’d say Main up to NE 12th and 100th over to 112th Ave would define DT Bellevue as a 3/4 mile square which is pretty close to the same size, but not shape, as the Seattle CBD. Pull it up on a map if you don’t believe me. If you’re trying to walk N S then you get hit with really long light signals at NE 4th and NE 8th. E W it’s not so bad and Bellevue is working at making it better. DT Seattle is no pedestrian paradise; especially E W because of the grade down to the WF. And given twice the number of cross streets I don’t think you’d make any better time N S.

      15. And yes, I know we’re not supposed to make fun of Tyson’s Corner, as it is the first documented case of a large-scale explicitly auto-designed development trying to reinvent itself as a pedestrian-accessible one — something we’ll probably need to see a lot of over the next century.

        But the Tyson’s Corner 2.0 plan is just so awful that it’s near-guaranteed to fail at its stated goal.

        The last thing we need is to be encouraging/expecting/promising/building $billion investments to de novo developments on our fringes that would emulate any version of what Tyson’s Corner is or will be.

      16. @d.p.
        I don’t know many people who have actually completely read and understood Ulysses. I have read it and I think I got it, but that was in a classroom setting and I had a lot of help. I was teasing about the comparison.

        I think it’s way too early to call the Tyson’s corner urbanisation a failure when it the Silver Line hasn’t even opened!

        Yes, DT Seattle isn’t a great place to walk either. I would say parts of it are okay: Pioneer Square (which isn’t really the CBD) is pretty good, and the area around Westlake is okay. The “Financial District” is not a tremendous amount better than DT Bellevue, but the hill hurts it, while with Bellevue it’s the street grid. You are right about the size.

        I think that DT Bellevue and the Seattle CBD are less than ideal places to walk but are still successful urban areas say something hopeful about Lynnwood’s prospects.

      17. The Silver Line won’t help anyone walk around Tyson’s Corner.

        And neither will the milquetoast and not-nearly-transformative-enough “pedestrian” plan.

        Tyson’s Corner will just add “park&ride” to the list of things it already does (park&shop, park&work, park&park).

        If Washington D.C. didn’t already have a comprehensive transit system in its actual urban area — the way Seattle doesn’t — then spindling out to Tyson’s Corner for a project this ineffective would be a scandal!

        But in Seattle, I guess it’s just par for the course.

      18. You do have a good point, and it’s one of the failures of the initial law that create Sound Transit. Seattle needs tons of transit lines. Every street car line in the plan and the entire Seattle subway dream are about right. The Eastside might need some sort of trunk system, maybe link is enough, I’m not totally sure. You want commuter lines North (North Link solves this well, I believe) and South. The problem is that Sound Transit has to build something on the Eastside, in Snohomish, something in Pierce county and something in South King county for everything in Seattle, and that’s where oddities like East Link come to play. East Link as designed is probably not the best value for money, and a lot of that is Bellevue’s fault. I think Lynnwood link is actually great value for transit money, and it seems like the FTA will agree.

        I plead ignorance about Tyson’s Corner to some degree, but some places can actually improve, if not transform.

      19. In Bellevue you could build a walkable downtown of significant size centered on Bellevue TC without blowing up any freeways (you’d have to be a dictator but it’s physically possible). In Northgate you’re a little more limited but already have some encouraging starts, are reasonably close to other major transit destinations, and probably have a better political environment. At Lynnwood TC you’re even more limited and are starting with less.

      20. The problem is that Sound Transit has to build something on the Eastside, in Snohomish, something in Pierce county and something in South King county for everything in Seattle,

        That “something” could be a first rate bus system. The problem with the way ST is formed is the decision making is by a board of politicians who know nothing and largely don’t give a rats ass about transit. Especially about transit in the areas where they’re voting to spend billions of dollars. Hire the mayor of Sumner to design your region HCT and you end up with what we got. Bellevue’s major transportation demand and challenge is N S access. East Link does nothing for that. DT Bellevue’s major E W access is SR520. East Link does very little for that.

      21. Lynnwood and Bellevue are not interchangeable. Some companies may be indifferent in whether they locate to one or the other, but there are a lot of people who live in Snohomish County and want to work in Snohomish County or start businesses in Snohomish County, not fifteen miles away in Bellevue. Currently they have few options if they want a walkable/good-transit location within Snohomish County, and they’re practically forced to choose to an out-of-the-way location with a large parking lot because that’s what’s available (and their customers insist on plenty of parking because the transit is substandard). The only way to break out of this cycle is to build a “downtown Bellevue” in Lynnwood.

        Lynnwood is way late to the game: it missed the 1990s and 2000’s construction boom because it wasn’t ready with a decisive and “shovel-ready” plan. There may not be a boom like those for a couple decades.

        Federal Way does have two freeways converging, I-5 and 18. Plus Pacific Highway, for what it’s worth. And Pac Highway goes closer to “downtown” Federal Way than it does to downtown Lynnwood, so that’s something that could also be leveraged. But Federal Way is already way behind; the only reason anyone considers it at all is it’s the largest city on I-5 halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. But Southcenter/Kent/Auburn aren’t sitting still. Every block of walkability/TOD they build lowers any competitive advantage Federal Way has. If Southcenter/Kent/Auburn one day get rapid transit or a frequent ST Express line, it could obliterate any special attraction Federal Way has.

      22. Lynnwood Link is not at all like VTA light rail. Lynnwood Link is like Caltrain but four times more frequent. If you look at Caltrain or similar all-day systems back east, they’re well-ridden. That’s because they’re frequent, go between the centers of the main cities in the area, with a travel time at least half-competitive with driving. VTA takes an hour to get to… Mountain View, which is like a streetcar to Issaquah. In between it stops at miles of office parks, which are ghost towns after 5pm, and even rush hour ridership is like a Metro milk run.

      23. Bull-fucking-shit, Mike.

        Not even the busiest all-day East Coast systems run their commuter spindles to sprawlsvilles like Lynnwood more than every 30 or 60 minutes. The demand simply isn’t there.

        Not even in the suburbs of New York.

        And needless to say, those commuter rails provide access to developed urban transit that gets you pretty much anywhere you need to go.

        Someone heading from Lynnwood to Ballard, on the other hand, is going to fucking drive.

        Overestimating all-day demand where there is really no all-day demand is precisely what the pathetic rail systems of the West Coast have made a habit of doing.

      24. The only way to break out of this cycle is to build a “downtown Bellevue” in Lynnwood.

        Wouldn’t work and never going to happen. Here’s why, median income in Lynnwood is less than $20k and it’s approaching $60k in Bellevue. That didn’t happen because of building; the development was a product of income. Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond became the rich man’s get away when the Evergreen Point Bridge was opened. Doctors, lawyers and brokers that wanted their “country estate” or to be able to afford waterfront property flocked to the eastside. Federal Way has office space going begging as Weyerhaeuser transitions from being a forest products company to a real estate development corporation. Build it and they will come only works in Hollywood, not Lynnwood.

      25. And Caltrain, which maybe, sort of, barely could begin to consider having enough demand to become a frequent-headway service along part of its route, serves a corridor with hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of residents and dozens of established job centers.

        Lynnwood has 35,000 people — 100% of them in super-sprawl — and absolutely nothing to speak of downtown.

        Delusional (is what that last comparison is).

    2. VTA light rail is not completely worthless, but it does have some serious flaws. Number one is that it does not have any major destinations. The short section from Diridon Station to downtown San José (the convention center area) is useful. Perhaps if it had headed onto the SJSU campus instead of turning north just a few blocks short, that would have helped. And building an east-west line out to East San José would have been more effective than going on a north-south spine (most transit-friendly travel within Santa Clara County happens on east-west lines; north-south is more common for commuters going through the core to destinations in San Mateo and Alameda Counties).

      The freeway alignment for the route south of downtown also misses some walkable neighborhoods that have become denser in recent years. The North First Street alignment doesn’t connect to SJC airport. Santa Clara University is not included. It’s poorly laid out and uses the wrong streets, and does so slowly.

      Had they focused initially on connecting destinations, radiating out of downtown San José, the system would be doing better and ridership would be closer to the level of Sacramento. Land use patterns will change, and the North First Street corridor is ripe for reuse and infill density, but it’s going to take some time before that happens.

      1. And yet you said Lynnwood should be 4-8 times as frequent… serving as it does a marginal community with 1/20th the population of the Caltrain corridor and zero reverse-direction destinations to speak of.

  2. STB is doing a news roundup on itself? Next year will there be a news roundup of news roundups?

    1. Yo dawg, I heard you like news roundups so I made a news roundup of news roundups.

  3. Here’s a Big Story that just turned up from the Seattle Times (is this an Open Thread…not meaning to step on toes, but it’s big):

    Times: State says widening I-5 at Seneca would cost $23 million

    What is amazing about this story is that after decades of billion dollar fixes, they are actually discussing the most obvious bottleneck in the entire Puget Sound…the narrowing band of I5 as it approaches Seattle.

    Every fool that ever drove during daylight sees this, yet over the years the only response was to build a building straddling I5 so that it could never be expanded! Is this a sea change of rational thinking infecting Washington State?

    Is it too good to be true, that a simple, cheap solution, one that a Regular Guy can see would be of benefit might in fact get enacted, rather than every manner of Rube Goldberg “infrastructure solutions”? Am I getting worked up? Will I be O/T’d. News at 11.

    1. This is how WSDOT works, John. It widens freeway segments in order to force the next segment to be widened. You might notices that that is their strategy on SR 520 as well: Do the easiest, least safety-sensitive widening first (after screaming that the money was needed as a public safety emergency), in order to put pressure to get the segment through Seattle widened. Oh, and always underestimate the cost of the project, so the taxpayers are on the hook, in for a penny in for a pound.

      If you believe this project will just cost $23 million, I have some ocean-front property in Carnation to sell you.

      1. Er, on SR 520, I better lay off of WSDOT and properly credit legislative bipartisanship/politics for overriding the engineers and common sense, like they did with the tunnel to nowhere under downtown.

      2. I’m fully ready to believe that the project will only cost $23 million (or its equivalent after construction inflation once the project actually gets done). It doesn’t require significant construction, just restriping and the installation of three ramp meters. Honestly, it does seem pretty much like a no-brainer to me. The only question I have is whether the already bad congestion on the collector/distributor leading from EB I-90 to SB I-5 can withstand the additional delays from the ramp metering that will be necessary to make the plan work.

      3. additional delays from the ramp metering that will be necessary to make the plan work.

        That’s the whole point of ramp metering. You get more throughput. Although it seems like you’re delayed the actual travel time is decreased not just for those on the mainline but those people entering the freeway as well. If there’s not sufficient capacity to cue the cars waiting to get on I-5 then the backup from existing congestion would be spilling out onto the surface streets anyway.

      4. In Freewayland, the sky is always falling and there’s always some lucky chokepoint waiting for its turn to be anointed as the worst in the state.

        Putting a tolling system on the Ship Canal bridge would be a far more effective way to reduce congestion. Capital costs for that should come in at way less than $23M.

      5. Eric H, increasing highway capacity is not always a bad thing.

        Where it can be done for peanuts and without any negative effect on the surrounding community, why not? And “because I hate freeways” isn’t a good answer.

      6. “You might notices that that is their strategy on SR 520 as well: Do the easiest, least safety-sensitive widening first (after screaming that the money was needed as a public safety emergency), in order to put pressure to get the segment through Seattle widened.”

        Yes, which is naturally why WSDOMA is resisting putting a bike/walk trail on the vast majority of the segment through Seattle lest it force them to widen the roadway!

        “In Freewayland, the sky is always falling and there’s always some lucky chokepoint waiting for its turn to be anointed as the worst in the state.”

        Because every chokepoint that gets “fixed” only frees the sky up to fall all the faster.

        “Eric H, increasing highway capacity is not always a bad thing. Where it can be done for peanuts and without any negative effect on the surrounding community, why not?”

        Is there such a place left? Was there ever, at least in the automobile era?

        Don’t say I-5 in Downtown Seattle. Especially during DBT construction, it’ll make it a lot easier to bypass downtown entirely.

        Isn’t the narrowest stretch of I-5 the stretch where the I-90 collector-distributors share some of the capacity? The Seneca St exit on the mainline is even redundant with the Madison St exit in the C/D lanes. In some cities, the freeway splits but both roadways are branded as the mainline with different exits (usually when double-decked). If some exits and entrances could be moved to the mainline, you could almost have the same effect.

      7. Fixing a major bottleneck, especially in Seattle isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though I think closing some of the downtown entrances and exits would provide even more benefit in terms of traffic flow.

      1. If restriping costs 23 million dollars, then the paint must be melted gold. There must be more complexity than I think in restriping the freeway.

      2. Well the signalling system for the ramps is bloody expensive. You have to run utilities, install sensors, tie it into the whole Traffic Demand Management System (hardware and software). I’m sure there’s other reinforcement or at the very least repaving of the shoulders to make them into traffic lanes. And a huge driver of cost is they can’t just close down I-5 and proceed at a leisurely pace until the project is done. They have to work late nights and weekends spending hours of each working block setting up and taking down barricades and patching over temporary access. Looking at what’s been done at 116th in Kirkland that cost $110 million I’d be surprised if the cost is only $23M.

      3. “Ah, a perfect example of how the vainstream media doesn’t do journalism any more.”

        A newspaper is a closer example of what sneering bloggers mean when they sneer about the “mainstream media” than a TV station… especially one that’s not national cable “news”…

    2. “yet over the years the only response was to build a building straddling I5 so that it could never be expanded”

      Best decision ever made.

    3. This is an example of WSDOT’s strong bias towards rural over urban. $23 million for an extra lane through this bottleneck would benefit far more drivers at lower cost than widening highway 522 out to Monroe. But guess which got funded first?

      1. WSDOT doesn’t have a bias. They just do what the elected officials command. Something about keeping your plush State government job.

    4. $23 million: Enough to fund the Cascades “shortfall” for four and a half years.

      And we’re pointing out that this is small compared to what they’re spending on other highways.

      ROADS ROADS ROADS! ROADS ROADS ROADS! Really, how many Washington State legislators are actually cars in disguise?

  4. Matt muses on how we use garages.

    I was musing over the holidays that although at our old house we did use the garage for a car it happened to be the one that didn’t actually run. At our new place we keep the cars we use in the carport. That’s only possible since we have a barn. It’s a wonderful place for things like chainsaws, rototillers, fertilizer, shovels, rakes, etc. All things you wouldn’t want to keep in the house. Obviously the problem with zoning isn’t that we mandate garages or parking places but the failure to require stables with all new residential construction!

    1. My rental house has a shed for such things… a garage would be *way* too big, at least for everything I would need to take care of the lot, which is fairly large by Seattle standards.

      It also has a carport, which I use to store a car. A carport is not as good as a garage but a well-engineered one (which this one is) can provide many of the benefits, especially protection from sun and rain.

    2. Definitely a failure to require stables and barns. :-) We should get right on that. :-)

      1. Damn straight! Note, you can still rent and ride horses in London but not Seattle. The root cause is allowing these postage stamp 1/4 acre lots in the first place. When Peak Oil renders your Zip Car lame for good you’ll rue the day the bridle paths were torn up :=

  5. Just got back from Chihuahua and Quinta Roo. Interestingly, Ciudad Chihuahua is in the process of building bus-only lanes and should be done in a few months. Cd. Juarez is as well, but that town is a total disaster so I don’t hold out hope for those working at all.

    Hopefully Oregon and Washington get their act together and find a way to fund the Cascades fully. Truncating service north of B’Ham is not a good thing, in my opinion.

  6. I got my Car2Go card in the mail today and was very disappointed to learn that when I carry it around in my wallet, the Orca readers no longer accept the Orca card I keep in the same wallet unless I hold up the line to take one card or the other out. This is a big disappointment, as I was hoping Car2Go was something where I would carry the card around wherever I got and forget about until something comes up when I actually need it. Unfortunately, not the case.

    Has anyone noticed this too?

    1. I should also like to point out that Zipcar does not have this issue. I carry my Zipcard in my wallet wherever I go and the readers still accept my Orca card with no problems.

      1. Me too, except that I’m wearing the foil on my head to block the ORCA reader from stealing my thoughts.

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