SeattleST2Earlier this month Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog challanged those running against Mayor McGinn to offer a bold bike-friendly vision for Seattle:

Because right now, the nervous pack of challengers is playing it “safe” and letting McGinn run away with the label as the most progressive and inspiring candidate on transportation issues.

Is it just me or is this especially true for mass transit?   So far we’ve had Ed Murray saying the city can’t afford to expand Link, Burgess’s bold vision is to fix potholes, silence from Bruce Harrell (his last post in the transportation category is over 3 years old), and Peter Steinbrueck trying to reignite the Light Rail v Bus debate.

What gives?  Is it just too early to judge?  Is everyone so busy trying to be the anti-McGinn that they are punting on transit, and the 60%+ of voters that came out for ST2?

87 Replies to “Transit and the Mayor’s Race”

  1. I’m thinking that McGinn appears to be the most progressive candidate on transit because he actually _is_ the most progressive candidate on transit. And I haven’t seen a compelling reason to vote against him from a pro-transit perspective.

  2. Steinbrueck has been consistently playing to the Emmett Watson crowd.

    Ed Murray is shell-shocked from years of fiscal fights with real Republicans (of the sort you don’t ever see on the council).

    Tim Burgess is definitely trying to be the anti-McGinn, which includes catering to the “war on cars”/”McSchwinn” crowd, but he’s also trying to avoid deliberately antagonizing people like us. Thus the small ball and saying nothing.

    I’m increasingly convinced Bruce Harrell just doesn’t know the issue and wants to avoid exposing his ignorance.

  3. Agreed with Greg. But it’s still a head-scratcher that virtually every McGinn challenger has either decided a transit-timid or transit-adverse standpoint is a) politically smart, b) the right policy for this city, or both. I hope that the McGinn campaign ties this to their general election candidate so they’re not able to slip away from their position after the primary shuffle.

      1. That’s so it. They aren’t really in competition for appealing to Seattle voters. They’re in competition for appealing to Seattle Times editors, who will give them the free press to win Seattle votes.

      2. Well maybe, but in 2009 The Seattle Times endorsed Joe Mallahan for mayor (and Susan Hutchison for County Exec, plus Robert Rosencrantz and Jessie Israel for Seattle City Council). If you’d like to see their 2009 endorsements for Bellevue City Council follow this link

      3. I’m pretty sure Burgess has the Times endorsement all but locked up at this point.

      4. Yeah, except no one is Seattle actually reads the Seattle Times because it’s the Extremist Neo-Conservative Times of Rural King County.

      5. The endorsement of The Stranger has had way more influence on elections in the Seattle area the last few years than The Seattle Times. But they both are important.

      6. David L, what are you talking about?!!! It’s no secret that the overall tone and sway of the Seattle Times is Neo-Conservative. They endorsed George W. Bush ! GW!!!! One doesn’t need to live on Cap Hill to know that the Seattle times is fish wrap to the average Seattleite and doesn’t come close to representing the views of most in this city. Gimme a break. Instead of dissing on Stephen F, why don’t you crawl out from the rock you live under and scope out reality ;-)

      7. “the Extremist Neo-Conservative Times of Rural King County.”

        Then why are its ultraconservative commentators so convinced it’s part of the liberal media mafia?

      8. X.G., the “average Seattleite” doesn’t live anywhere near Capitol Hill and is not a Stranger reader.

        Reading this blog, you’d think that Seattle consisted only of Capitol Hill, downtown, and Ballard.

    1. David L, says YOU. What makes you assume I live in Capitol Hill, downtown or Ballard? Your assertions about that and this blog are unfounded and absurd. You think folks in Beacon Hill and Georgetown and the U District and Crown Hill and Queen Anne and Magnolia and Lake City and White Center and West Seattle and Ravenna and Madrona and Rainier Valley and Columbia City don’t read the Stranger?! If I was to play your game, I’d assume you are a resentful crusty white person who can’t bare to come to grips with the fact that Seattle has undergone profound change over the last 25 years. That change means that former stalwarts like the seattle Times play a smaller role and folks like KEXP, The Stranger, blogs, etc play a larger role in daily life here. Seattle is -FACT- becoming more progressive in its’ overall beliefs, not less. The Stranger is progressive. So tends to be this blog (and most all who advocate for increased transit services and infrastructure). I’m not even sure why I waste my time explaining all of this someone who seems bitter and begrudging of these changes and realities. Seattle is in many ways becoming more open and open-minded. As Betty White says DEAL WITH IT!

      1. Are you Raku from Slog? If so, don’t forget to tell us about the importance of “vegan infrastructure”.

        If not, then you might want to know that your failures of reading comprehension and your eagerness to kill the messenger make you seem just as lost for credibility. The comparison is not a flattering one.

        That said, I DO think The Stranger is responsible for the relatively high rate of youth voter participation in this city compared to peer cities.

      2. That’s amusing. First you assume I’m a “resentful crusty white person who can’t bare [sic] to come to grips with the fact that Seattle has undergone profound change over the last 25 years.” Then you tell me to open my mind.

        I’ll refrain from answering further except to suggest you review some of my past comments on this blog.

  4. It would be nice if there were another pro-transit/bike candidate because McGinn’s chances don’t look so hot.

    1. If the NBA rules the Kings are coming here, and they start play for the 2013-2014 season, I could see it being a huge boost to McGinn (whether fairly or not). I think the Sonics leaving was a much bigger blow to Nickles than most people believe.

    2. I wish Conlin would run, but he has no desire for management. He doesn’t seem to be very popular with The Stranger (which I think is a mistake on their part) so he might not be able to win anyway. I think McGinn is the front runner because he will take the endorsement of The Stranger. It would be nice if we had someone like him who was a better manager, and thus more popular on that front, but it may not hurt McGinn that much. With a low unemployment rate (and a rate much lower the rest of the state) it is hard to argue that things have gotten much worse under him (even if you think he bumbled his way along).

      1. I read the Stranger, I generally vote with the SECB recommendations, but I wouldn’t say they are as powerful as you make them out to be. On the other hand, I’m happy an alt-weekly can even give the impression that it is super important. And on the other other hand, the Times can go to hell.

      2. Conlin has overstepped his powers a few times along the way. Do you remember when he signed the draft EIS for the DBT on the City’s behalf, before the City Council took a position?

      3. I don’t know if McGinn will take the endorsement of the Stranger simply because of the SPD issues.

    3. It would be nice if McGinn was in a stronger position, but neither is his position weak. He currently leads the field and given the relentless attacks directed at him from the Seattle Times over the last four years, that is no small achievement. He definitely can win this race, even if it won’t be easy.

  5. Tom over at the Bike Blog pinned McGinn perfectly.

    There are some improvements in cycling here, but overall it is hard for me to relate to some of the so-called enhancements for us riders.

      1. Yeah, but there’s no money. We can write pretty words all day, but if there’s no money to implement it doesn’t mean a thing. Even if there were money, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the level of political determination it would take to fight for all the parking spots/car lanes it would take to implement.

      2. Matt, Prop 1 in 2011 was a good chance for money. This extra money from the Spokane Street project is a chance for money. It comes in little bits for now, but I’d expect a lot to be funded in Bridging the Gap’s renewal in 2015.

  6. Hey, thanks for jumping in with the transit perspective. I did have one candidate get in touch after writing that post on the bike blog: Kate Martin. We’re meeting soon to chat bikes/transportation. Any of you familiar with her stances on mass transit? She seems so far to definitely take a different tone about it all than the others (but, again, I’m not too familiar with her yet).

    1. After she posted on SBB I checked her website. She has some weird positions on development… like she doesn’t want to zone for mixed-use because retail jobs are low-paying (apparently this problem is alleviated if retail is concentrated in giant single-use malls?). I think she wants to kill the SLU rezone hard because it’s a handout to “greedy” developers. The Mayor of Seattle can’t do much about all the freeway megaprojects she opposes, so as mayor she’d probably be the one that twiddled her thumbs while we built more freeway sprawl.

      I kind of wish someone would take a reasonable stand on the anti-developer thing. A lot of developers are exploiting quirks in the history of property assessment to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. A few developers (like that guy Hugh Sisley that doesn’t keep up his derelict property in Roosevelt) are acting in seriously bad faith toward their neighbors. Developers are doing business and will act on whatever opportunities they have. But they’ll always be there, and they need to do their jobs for us to build the city we want to live in. So… instead of vilifying people exploiting obvious holes in the city code, why not close the loopholes in the property assessment code? Why not put in laws with teeth against what Sisley did? Why not fix the zoning and building codes so the effect of “maxing out the code” isn’t so terrible? Developers are predictable — they’ll always maximize profit. Come up with codes that align their incentives with good urbanism!

    2. Yes, Martin and I met with her. Her position on transit seems to be “why would we spend money on trains?”

      1. Hi.

        My position is not “why would we spend money on trains”. I’m a planner. I look at all modes simultaneously and I see the transportation system in that way as well – many different transportation pieces in one coordinated system. Rail for trains are a part of that. So are sidewalks for pedestrians, bike lanes for bicyclists, freight lanes for truckers, bus lanes for Metro, and space for cars as well. I don’t look at them in total isolation from one another.

        -Kate Martin

  7. McGinn has certainly been aspirational on rail transit. But with the viaduct coming down, seawall construction, and other projects in downtown Seattle, we will need strong leadership on keeping our workhorse buses moving through the city. This is what I would like to see some debate and focus on. With no viaduct, 22,000 daily riders from West Seattle (many routes interlined to the north end) will need a reliable and fast pathway to downtown. These decisions will be likely be made this year. Do we want to prioritize SOV’s or transit in Seattle’s future?

    1. This is a good point, and a candidate could go a long way to secure the “transit vote” simply by promising to change SDOT’s approach to balancing parking and transit. A few full-time bus-only lanes in the right places, coupled with TSP, could do a whole lot of good for citywide mobility. All it would cost would be a few parking spots.

      1. “A few parking spaces” is a huge cost in this town. Shit, people here are even whining about the Car2Go cars taking up their parking spaces all while only paying a measly $1,300 a year each.

      2. Leif, I know it would be a giant political circus to do something like build a full-time bus-only lane along 45th St or W Mercer St. I’d settle for making the 15th/Elliott, Aurora, and Delridge bus lanes full-time, which would pit transit users against much weaker opposition, and I’m sure any candidate who promised to do things like that would get the transit bloc vote.

      3. Car2Go cars taking up their parking spaces all while only paying a measly $1,300 a year

        That’s actually a steal of a deal. Figure the car uses 8 hours of paid parking at say an average $1.50/hr. That’s $12/day x 6 days x 52 weeks/year comes to $3,700. I bet a lot of people would jump at a $1,300/year parking pass that allowed free use of any paid spot.

      4. I don’t have data to back it up, but anecdotal experience suggests that the average Car2Go vehicle does not spend anywhere near an average of 8 hours a day in a paid meter spot. Cars in downtown tend to disappear quite fast, especially during the daytime when the meters are in effect. The places where cars tend to sit longer are the outlying parts of the city – areas that do not have paid parking to begin with.

        If you don’t believe me, visit the Car2Go website in the middle of a weekday sometime and look at where the cars are. Yes, there will probably be some cars in the metered areas of downtown and south lake union. But it will not be anywhere near a majority of the entire Car2Go fleet.

        Also, Bernie, you act like this is some kind of giveaway to the Car2Go corporation. But you’re forgetting about the fact that the people who actually drive these cars to and from downtown are Seattle citizens. Instead of whining about how it’s a so-called steal, why don’t you simply sign up and take advantage of it instead?

    2. rbc,

      If you’re talking about downtown Seattle’s future, there is no alternative to prioritizing transit. There’s simply no room to park more cars in and around downtown Seattle. And no room on the streets to get them to their stalls.

      If you mean the city as a whole the question is more nuanced.

      1. Yet all of the new towers on tap for SLU and Pioneer Square add thousands of new parking stall each.

      2. During the off-peak, I have found Car2Go to be a wonderful way to get downtown. Without traffic, I can get downtown in as little as 10-15 minutes via Car2Go for a price of $5.38, including tax. Door to door, this same trip would take around 45 minutes on a bus or 25-30 minutes on a bicycle. I still prefer to bus and bike when I have the time, but when I’m in a hurry, Car2Go is simply unbeatable.

        During the peak, however, it’s a completely different story. With traffic on the roads, the driving trip would take a lot longer than 10-15 minutes. And with pricing by the minute, it would cost a lot more than $5.38 too. Meanwhile, the transit option features a wonderful direct connection between the I-5 express lanes and the downtown transit tunnel that effectively bypasses almost all of the traffic. So, all things considered, for peak-period-peak direction trips into downtown, it is no contest – the bus beats Car2Go hands down.

    3. It is extremely important that all candidates (be forced) to weigh in on how they would improve the transit we have and have to live with until ST# comes along in, oh, 8-15 years. Major reforms in routing and frequency, and improved service in the 7-10 PM shoulder along with much more funding should be on the next Mayor’s agenda with the State Legislature, County Council and SDOT. People will always whine about parking downtown; I’ve worked there since 1981 and it has never let up. Can we have a Mayor who will lead us beyond the monomaniacal focus on parking, please?

    4. That’s a really excellent point. But if you look at a site like Wallyhood, where some of my neighbors are adamantly pissed at the modest transit improvements on 45th, you’d get seriously depressed. Apparently, the right to pass a full bus 44 in your SOV to delay 60 or more people to allow you to be a few seconds earlier to get into the rush hour traffic on I-5 is a little-known corollary to the Second Amendment, because it doesn’t admit of any restrictions.

  8. There is a lot of jockeying for position. There are a lot of candidates, and the runoff ends with two. This can result in some strange positioning and a strange race.

    Consider the last race. All the sitting city council members assumed that Nickels would have an easy run. But he pissed off two groups of people. First, he pissed off the Stranger editorial staff because he did nothing to save the monorail. The monorail had all sorts of problems, but folks wanted some sort of transit to serve the west side of the city (still do). The Stranger ran a headline titled Gridlock Greg after the monorail was killed. Then their was the car tunnel. The tunnel would have been unpopular enough without the monorail, but building it when we failed to build a monorail (or any sort of high speed rail for the city) was way too much. The Stranger basically was looking for “anyone but Greg” and they chose McGinn (the obvious choice).

    Mallahan got the folks that were upset with the response to the snow storm. He also got the Seattle Times endorsement. Both candidates were weak, but the two groups managed to sap enough of Nickels support to defeat him in the primary. Nickels might have been survived had he faced either candidate in the general, but he didn’t the chance. McGinn ran against a very weak candidate (who had no political experience and had skipped voting several times) and managed to win with the hard fought efforts of an excited staff and The Stranger.

    This election is different. Each candidate wants to squeak through the primary and be the alternative to McGinn. McGinn has the support of The Stranger as well as much of the city on the issues. But he has shows that he really doesn’t know how to be an administrator (which is no surprise — as I said, it was a weak pair of candidates in the general election). The furor over the police situation doesn’t help. There are other examples as well, which I won’t mention (but I will say that Conlin described his bumbling over the Roosevelt station really well). Each candidate figures that simply being in the general election against McGinn will be enough (even if he comes in distant second).

    Murray is hoping that enough people will support his previous work and that he will have enough LGBT support to get into the general. He is hoping for a Stranger endorsement (even if is shared by McGinn). I’m not sure if Murray is right. My guess is that people won’t care that much about supporting a gay candidate. Twenty years it would be big news. Now it is like supporting a black or Asian candidate. Which brings me to Harrell. He is hoping for similar identity politics to carry him to the general. He isn’t saying much because he thinks he doesn’t have to. He will emphasize his ability to manage things properly, get all stakeholders together, blah, blah, blah. Whether that is enough is hard to say.

    I don’t care for the other two candidates, but I can’t but think they are fighting to be the “old Seattle” candidate. As in, remember the good old days (when you arrived to Seattle) as opposed to now. With a very low unemployment rate, I’m not sure if that is such a good strategy.

    All of this implies that McGinn has a very good shot at reelection. The Stranger is likely to endorse him just because no one else is as good on the issues as him (or, in the case of Harrell, will admit to being as good as him). It is hard to say who the Seattle Times will endorse. They are no fan of McGinn, but they sure don’t like the added fees being suggested for South Lake Union development.

    This should be an interesting race. As mentioned above, the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times will mean a lot. In my estimation, the former more than the latter.

    1. I don’t agree with you at all that The Stranger pulls more weight than the Times, but otherwise I think your analysis is very perceptive. (I think the idea that The Stranger pulls more weight is laughable the second you get out of Capitol Hill or the U-District.) For that reason, I think whichever candidate gets the Seattle Times endorsement in the primary has a damn good shot of winning the whole thing. We are right now watching Burgess, Murray, and Harrell all try to Seattle Times-ize themselves as much as possible. (Steinbrueck doesn’t need to — he already thinks exactly like they do.)

      If I had to guess I would guess that they will endorse Burgess, but I don’t think it’s sewn up at all. I think Harrell has no shot, but there is a more than outside chance they could go for Steinbrueck, and even Murray has a chance if he acts establishment enough in the campaign and in the editorial board interview.

      I would predict that if the Times endorses Burgess then it is game, set, match. He would win the primary at that point and easily defeat McGinn in the general. Fortunately, he’s not the worst of the Times candidates at all. Murray might be tolerable too, if he can get his head around Seattle priorities rather than statewide-get-a-deal-with-Republicans priorities.

      Harrell and Steinbrueck are both awful, and if either one somehow gets through it’s time to man the barricades for McGinn.

      1. I would predict that if the Times endorses Burgess then it is game, set, match.

        For the record: Political scientists (my day job) have studied newspaper endorsements many times, and almost without exception, they find very little evidence for anything greater than a negligible effect on the outcome from endorsements. It’s highly unlikely this race will be an exception; there’s no good reason to think the Times endorsement matters much at all. Even if it has some minor effect, this is a significant exaggeration.

      2. @djw – I would assume that a newspapers endorsement has more effect the smaller the race and the closer the candidates are to each other from a position standpoint. In other words, endorsements for school board are important (not just newspaper endorsements, but individual endorsements) but they are meaningless in a presidential race. In this case, it is something in the middle. Just about all the candidates are Democrats. If you are a local policy wonk, it is easy to see the differences. But if you compare the average candidate to someone nationally, then there is little difference. For example, just about every candidate would vote almost identically with McDermott. This is why I think these endorsements carry weight. There are a lot of folks who don’t follow this stuff and feel pretty good about several candidates. These are the ones that will be swayed by a Stranger or Seattle Times endorsement. I don’t the number is huge, but if it is only 5 or 10 percent, that might be enough to make it to the general, and then the dynamic changes completely (assuming the mayor makes it that far).

      3. Now that the Seattle Times website is behind a fairly impermeable pay wall, its influence continues to wane. The free ads for Rob McKenna last fall was the last straw for us; we have consistently told them we won’t take the physical paper even for free (and they have tried numerous times to get us to take it, so as to increase their ability to charge advertisers). The whole point of their McKenna ads was to try to prove to political advertisers that ads in their paper were valuable. That’s pretty close to maximum possible error.

      4. I would assume that a newspapers endorsement has more effect the smaller the race and the closer the candidates are to each other from a position standpoint. In other words, endorsements for school board are important (not just newspaper endorsements, but individual endorsements) but they are meaningless in a presidential race.

        This makes a fair amount of intuitive sense, but the evidence that it’s true hasn’t been produced. It’s not a hot topic, and much of the research is old, but that’s not good news for the theory. If it was hard to identify a discernable impact of newspaper endorsements decades ago, when a) the media in general was far more trusted and b)newspapers were far more widely read and made up a much larger percentage of the information gathered by their readers, it’s probably bad news for newer efforts.

        It could turn out to be an accurate theory. But it’s not so compelling as to convince me to reject the null before someone shows me the data.

    2. Nickels lost because of the snow – specifically because of the “B” grade he gave the City’s snow removal efforts during the big storm. There are some gaffes that can’t be recovered from.

      1. Don’t underestimate the Sonics loss as a contributing factor. The 11th hour settlement the city entered into was pretty close to surrender.

      2. Looking at the stadia, definitely don’t underestimate the effects and pull sports has in this town….

    3. If transit were the only issue, McGinn might be the favorite but transit is not the only issue. Its important issues like utility rates and taxes where McGinn has been at his bumbling worst. And Seattlites will be reminded he hired a $90K consultant at the nadir of the recession when the economy was the most important focus but not McGinn’s focus. As for Seattle’s so-called low unemployment rate, that rate just dropped below 7% and most people do not consider that to be a low rate……..furthermore, I doubt McGinn will get credit for the current improvement in the economy. All that’s needed is one articulate candidate with some vision and McGinn will be history.

  9. I think the folks on the blog should take the lead with regards to transit issues and the candidates. It is obvious that the candidates care about this blog and will respond (even if only with platitudes).

    There are a number of questions I would ask, in such areas as:

    Zoning: Support for changes regarding parking (in various types of structures) — South Lake Union development — mother in law apartments — height and width limits, but no limits on the number of dwellings, etc.

    Transit: Assisting Sound Transit with Speeding up Link Projects — adding gondolas — pedestrian bridges

    Those are just off the top of head. I’m sure folks could come up with concrete and probing questions for the candidates. I would not hesitate to question their conclusions. For example, if they continue to support parking requirements, I would ask them if they believe that the cost of that requirement is paid for by renters (of that unit or any unit in the area). If not, why not? Are there other aspects of supply and demand that they don’t believe in?

    1. Most of the candidates have already answered most of those questions, haven’t they? Is there something specific you haven’t seen?

      1. Maybe the questions have been asked and the information just needs to be gathered together in one spot. The job you all did for county council race was outstanding. I could think of specific questions, but I’m sure you could to (and probably better). My guess is most of the specifics have to do with zoning, not transit, since every mayoral candidate will say they support more transit.

  10. When it comes to local politics, most people focus on where the candidate stands on education, police, business, etc. Transit doesn’t rank in the top 10 of important mayoral issues.

    1. What poll are you referring to? Because previous polls from other races tend to show transportation right at the top.

  11. One visit to Vancouver, BC, will quickly show you what a pathetic hoax Seattle is. Both cities are alike in population, bith in city and metro, and pop density. But that’s where it ends.

    Vancouver has extensive bicycle lanes right through the heart of the city which are completely segregated and two way! Green bike boxes for stops. The sturdy multiline SkyTrain. Integrated rail-bus stops. Cutting edge technology like the fuel cell buses.


    Launched in 1986, SkyTrain is the oldest and one of the longest fully-automated, driverless, rapid transit systems in the world. The Expo and Millennium SkyTrain Lines connect downtown Vancouver with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. The Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the city of Richmond.

    1. Read it and weep:

      Some of the City’s programs for cyclists include:

      Separated bicycle lanes: Introduced in 2010, the City expects to increase the comfort of cyclists and attract new cyclists as more lanes are opened
      Public bicycle system: The City received expressions of interest in April, and plan to reach a decision to launch this service later in 2012
      Increased bicycle parking: The City and private businesses install bicycle racks and corrals on public and private property around Vancouver
      Bike-friendly events: The City encourages event planners to promote active transportation, by providing bike valet parking and public transit options

      1. One thing to correct re: Vancouver versus Seattle, John: Vancouver’s Metro is significantly SMALLER than ours. Hard to believe but there’s is ~2.3 million and ours is 3.5-4 million, depending on where you draw the circle out to.This all only makes your observations more frustrating to take in :-(

        On the flip side, there are many in this city who are hating the idea of Vancouver-style (mini-Manhattan) high-rise housing. Me, I think Downtown and SLU should be one big pool of them, with rent restrictions on many and a vibrant mixed-use, transit/bike/ped-oriented area that’ll alleviate the need to destroy traditionally single family areas such as Ravenna, East Capitol Hill, etc.

      2. @X.G

        Yes..I was looking at Google Street view and nearby North Vancouver is full of both private homes and low rise 2 and 3 story apartment townhouses. Density and sparsity with the density in the urban core.

        High housing cost is a negative…but any city can be a “Vancouver” and spread the load.


        In advance of the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, 20 fuel cell powered buses were delivered and continue to operate as part of BC Transit’s fleet. The low-floor buses have a range of 500 km, a top speed of 90 km/h and a life expectancy of 20 years. They are the sixth generation fuel cell bus developed in Canada.

    2. The price of regular gasoline in Vancouver BC is about $1.38/litre which converts to about $5.22/gallon (with the exchange rate is near par). What would be the consequences of $5.00 a gallon gas in the US? Better public transit, smarter zoning regulations, bike lanes….

      1. That’s fairly optimistic. The price of gas has tripled, and what’s happened? Not a lot.

    3. Vancouver has long had similarities to San Francisco, starting with the Lion’s Gate Bridge and Stanley Park and ending with the Skytrain, dense housing, and high real-estate prices.

      The tall skinny towers didn’t come out of a new urbanist vision; they started in the 1970s as Hong Kong immigrants built towers according to their accustomed norms and Vancover’s zoning didn’t prevent them. The Skytrain was built for the Expo 86 world’s fair. Originally it went just to Scott Road, the first station on the Surrey side. The suburbs were smart enough to allow highrises around the stations. (Just imagine those around Kent Station. :) Metrotown seems to have been an accident; nobody predicted the explosion of housing around the mall or that it would become a major urban neighborhood.

      In the early 90s, immigration from Hong Kong increased because Britain’s lease on the colony was about to expire (1998) and they wanted a plan B in case Chinese rule was bad. Also in the 90s, the province built a satellite city in Surrey (Whalley) to absorb the rising population, and they built a new compact downtown and extended Skytrain to it.

      So Vancouver stumbled into urbanism kind of by accident. And because it started in the 70s, it was in full swing by the 90s and became a model for American cities just when they were ready to consider the idea.

      The reason all these things worked so well is that Canadians generally view government as an ally rather than an adversary, so they’re willing to let it make regional decisions and follow through with them, rather than trying to drown it in a bathtub and slash taxes to 1%.

      1. I still don’t buy it.

        Seattle also experienced rapid growth from immigration from California. There was every opportunity to take advantage of this new tax base by rectifying the property tax assessments.

        But even still…just like with Portland the Feds pumped billions and billions into this region for transit completely gratis.

        The argument is always phrased as pro or con transit, but even a pro has to sit back and wonder where all the money went and why Seattle has so little to show for it.

        It really comes down to bad and inept management and possible rampant chicanery.

        Vancouver stands as a yardstick to show how poorly Seattle has managed its growth and how freely it squandered its resources.

      2. I’ll say this, John: Sound Transit seems more than a little incompetent. So many excuses for absurdly long construction schedules on the current subway system construction; an asinine name for this system (LINK LIGHT RAIL? REALLY??? Gawd, that sucks) and the inability/failure to communicate that the system is really poised as more of a subway for most potential users and NOT a simple light rail system; the idiocy of the end of line at Sea-Tac airport that forces travelers to huff it 1/4+ mile to and from the terminal (WTF???). Oh, and 1 station stop between downtown and the U District? What a mistake! What a friggin’ blunder. Do these fools even bother to study subways and local train systems elsewhere? If they did, they’d know that the current configuration through Cap Hill and Montlake is an unacceptable waste of opportunities.

        Not too mention their lackluster execution on Sounder, failure to integrate Metro and ST services seamlessly and, yah, area transit planners often just suck compared to what taxpayers should expect. And, the politicians just sit by and say/do nothing to really bring meaningful change. Everything at a snails pace, at best.

  12. the two Vancouver posts by John Bailo are astute. Too many Seattle leaders have (e.g., Nickels, Drago) or are (e.g., McGinn) looking to our little sister city, Portland, for inspiration; instead, they should be looking to Vancouver, our big sister. Vancouver handles many things much better: SkyTrain, bus-rail integration, electric trolleybuses, no streetcars, density, bike infrastructure, waterfront, no freeways in center city….

    1. (Please forgive me, but I’m somewhat drunk)

      [Expletives] Vancouver is rad as hell.

      You think Seattle’s transit advocates and the McGinn-ish faction of leadership wouldn’t like to make great bike infrastructure and fast transit happen here? Streetcars and sharrows and glacial progress on even those are the compromises you make when you’re trying to build the city you want in a wider political environment that’s hostile to your goals. When you try to build bike paths and get sued, when businesses adjacent to cycletracks won’t give up their parking lots’ second [exp] entrances. When you can’t even think about making transit move downtown for a whole host of [exp] reasons you can’t control.

      Seattle and King County and ST have no money to do this [exp] right and the state won’t allow it taxing authority to get it, because the [exp] Rodney Tom coalition has to counter Seattle influnce. And when the state brings megaproject dollars to Seattle it brings only freeways. 520, where even the parts entirely within Seattle are mostly about access to/from the eastside, and local travel priorities are made secondary. The [exp] boondoggle deep bore tunnel, a downtown screwjob.

      You can’t vote for anyone in Seattle that can do a thing about the state political environment. Look at the tunnel. Seattle elected a mayor whose opposition to it was a defining issue, and the [exp] Federal DOT said it was a [exp] idea. Does this matter to the state DOT?

      Blaming mayors for not having the vision to spend money and use power they don’t have is [exp] mindless.

    2. Except Vancouver is our smaller sister much like Portland:

      You guys see a place with a few tall bldgs and a two way bike path, and you’re as bedazzled as if Amanda Seyfried had just asked you to marry.

      The reality is that parts of Vancouver are near ghost towns because many of its condos are not occupied by their owners;

      And jobs in Vancouver are rarer than snow in Costa Rica. I had two German friends who moved to Vancouver two years ago intending on staying at least two years and preferably longer. They lasted 11 months. Why? They couldn’t get jobs. The breaking point was when one of the Germans who had just gotten his German equivalent of a Ph.D in psychology applied to sell liquor in a liquor store and was shown a pile of resumes from applicants all who had masters and Ph.Ds. Vancouver is economically stifled. It was Seattle that impressed my German friends; not Vancouver.

      Be careful what you wish for.

  13. Steinbrueck will be the next mayor of Seattle. Trash my opinion, next year, on this date, if I am wrong.

    Vancouver, Washington, is not the little brother. Vancouver, British Columbia, is not Seattle’s big brother. Seattle stands alone. McGinn is gone next election.

    Portland is in Oregon. We get there by the “scenic Point Defiance route”. That is super important. Yeah, baby.

    1. I think McGinn supports a subway from Ballard to West Seattle. A) He’s told me, and B) he’s personally donated to Seattle Subway. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to build streetcars too, though!

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