Where Seattle’s Council Stands on South Lake Union

South Lake Union
Photo by flickr user Mozzer

Andrew already wrote about the City Council’s decision not to extract more taxes, but instead to simply ban outright construction above 160′ along Lake Union. The Times had a breakdown of who stood where:

Joining Bagshaw in supporting 160-foot limits were Sally Clark, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen. Richard Conlin said “240 feet makes a whole lot of sense” but added he was prepared to support 160 feet…

Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Mike O’Brien said Monday they favored the concept of 24-story towers in exchange for extraordinary public benefits. Although they had balked at the mayor’s proposal for so-called Block 59, they said other options might have made added height more appealing.

I think reasonable density advocates can disagree about the extent that various development taxes deter developers from building as many units as they otherwise might. I therefore at least understand the views of Burgess and O’Brien. And Mr. Conlin is clearly taking the most density he can get. In an email exchange with me he confirmed he was “fine with 240 feet” and spoke well the “compromise” that gets  “as much residential as possible.”  As far as I’m concerned he’s the hero of this sorry episode.

But the six councilmembers that pushed a strict height limit were clearly pursuing a different objective altogether.  Curious as to what considerations overcame the enormous moral imperative for as much density as possible, I emailed all six of the 160′ faction. Responses are below the jump.

Continue reading “Where Seattle’s Council Stands on South Lake Union”

Civic Cocktail: Transportation and the Arts

Gentrification's Advance Team?
Gentrification’s Advance Team?

Last Wednesday I attended CityClub’s “civic cocktail,” where they mix together two seemingly unrelated topics in a participatory panel discussion and happy hour.  The program, which will air on the Seattle Channel soon, featured Peter Hahn from SDOT representing the transportation POV.  You might not think that transportation and art have much to do with one another, and to be honest a good chunk of the hour would not have disabused you of that notion.  Nonetheless, there were a few flashes of insight worth highlighting.

David Brewster, peeping up from the audience, noted that both arts and transportation in Seattle have a downtown orientation.  The problems of a downtown-centric transit network have been covered extensively on this blog (duplication of routes, lack of all-day neighborhood access, etc.); the downtown orientation of our major arts institutions is similar.  Later, a musician/bus driver noted that getting home from a concert late at night on public transit was incredibly difficult.  This is a point that can’t be overstated.  A thriving arts and cultural sector is absolutely dependent upon late-night public transport.  This might be a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t surprise me that The Seattle Opera and Seattle Repertory Theater were founded within five years of Forward Thrust going to the ballot.

My thoughts, however, kept coming back to the role of artists in redeveloping (some might say “gentrifying”) neglected urban areas. Since at least the 1980s, there’s been a tried-and-true pattern of urban redevelopment in many American and European cities: artists move into marginal neighborhoods in search of cheap rents, neighborhoods become fashionable, artists get kicked out.  This is the subject of a recent documentary about artists getting kicked out of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood as rents reach Manhattan levels. (Native Americans would likely take issue with the idea that the artists of the 80s and 90s “discovered” Williamsburg, of course.)

Even though this pattern of artist-led redevelopment has been true of many cities around the world for some time (including Seattle), part of me wonders if it’s still the driving force it once was. My sense is that we’ve gotten to the point in infill development where we jump right past the artists-move-in stage and skip right to the high-end condos.  This was especially apparent to me on a recent trip to Washington D.C., where basically every neighborhood in the city is being redeveloped at a dizzying pace. Perhaps it’s due to the changing nature of art itself, with many artists trading large warehouses for MacBooks. Or maybe their role has been co-opted by a generation of self-proclaimed creative types who want the cheap rent but don’t need the industrial space.  Or, maybe I’m dead wrong, and artists are still doing their thing and I’m just old and out of touch and I don’t see it anymore.

Notes On the Senate Transportation Budget

Tacoma Trestle (DWHonan/Flickr)

Last week, the Washington State Senate released a bipartisan transportation budget (summary [PDF]) for this biennium. It’s quite unlike the previous budget we saw from House Transportation chair Judy Clibborn: major highway expansion is almost completely missing, and it includes almost no significant new revenue. However, it does hurt Sound Transit and high speed rail.

The transit part

There are two troubling changes to Regional Mobility Grants, state grants for transit capital and operations.

The first is how it’s appropriated: in the past, it’s simply been competitive. If a project is more cost effective, it ranks higher on the list. This makes a lot of sense! The Senate budget added an “agency cap” – any one agency can’t get more than 25% of total projects. This is effectively an attack on Sound Transit – it cut the $7 million grant to the Tacoma Trestle project.

This seems shortsighted on the Senate’s part. The Tacoma Trestle is a 100-year-old, wooden, single-track trestle leading up to Freighthouse Square, the Tacoma station for Sounder commuter rail. It would be replaced with a new concrete double track structure – a structure required not just for Sounder expansion, but also to add Amtrak Cascades trips required for the state to keep its $800 million in federal high speed rail funding, and therefore a state responsibility. It’s also the second highest ranked RMG project in the state. This would be a good time to call your Senator and say “I want high speed rail, don’t cut the Tacoma Trestle!”

The other major issue is a word game in the summary linked above. Normally, once a grant is allocated, the money stays allocated to that project until it’s needed, and sits in a state RMG account. The RMG account accrues interest, which can be applied to other projects later. Not this year: in the Senate version of the budget, the interest is zeroed out, rather than going to the next project on the list. It’s a quiet way of claiming RMGs are “fully funded” but changing what full funding means.

The highway part

Continue reading “Notes On the Senate Transportation Budget”

Link Every 20 Minutes Evenings this Spring


For the next few months,  Sound Transit is installing new sound walls in Tukwila around Central Link. The impact on riders is that from April 1st through the end of July, on weeknights trains will drop to 20 minute frequencies after 9pm. Usually it runs every 10 minutes until 10pm and every 15 minutes after that.

I asked ST spokesman Bruce Gray a couple of questions about this:

Are you making any exceptions for game nights?

We’ll be able to have the same number of trains/seats online to clear out games as we’ve ever had. We’re able to clear those post-game crowds pretty quick by having consists ready in the Stadium pocket and ready to roll out of the base. Post-game headways will be more like peak headways because of the extra trains on the line.

We expect big things from the Ms this year and we’re going to make sure their fans have a good experience getting to and from the games on Link.

Why not use the turnaround track at Rainier Beach to maintain headways for most of the line? Between 9 and 10, for instance, it’s pretty straightforward to turn around every other train at RB, maintaining 10 minute headways for most of the line and 20 minutes on the Tukwila segment. Unfortunately, after 10pm the math doesn’t work out so neatly.

Our opps folks call it “operationally inefficient.” It also provides more opportunities for things to go wrong and throw the entire line off schedule… And keep in mind we’re really only talking about an extra 10 min headway between 9-10. After that it’s an extra 5 from the usual schedule.

The Case for a Rainier Avenue Streetcar

Map by Oran

Streetcars are not the solution to every transportation problem, but they do have their role. In particular, they move people within a neighborhood, from one neighborhood to an adjacent one, and connect to rapid transit. Although buses fill this role too, they don’t support as many riders on a route because of rail bias, branding, capacity issues, and a slow and rough ride. So while I fully support Seattle Subway‘s push for a high quality rapid rail network throughout our city, I also think we need the Transit Master Plan’s (TMP) streetcar network.

In fact, I don’t think the TMP goes far enough. There are other corridors worthy of study. One is along Rainier Avenue South. The corridor has good land use (for neighborhoods outside the core), high transit ridership, and is rapidly developing, but it was only tapped for some bus improvements in the Transit Master Plan and largly ignored in the Bicycle Master Plan. The standard attributes of a streetcar would fix many of the problems with existing service and such a project would serve as a catalyst for a series of transportation enhancements.

As the map illustrates, the line would connect to the First Hill Streetcar tracks at Rainier Avenue and Jackson and run south to S Othello Street, turn west and terminate outside the Othello Link Station. The remainder of the 7’s current route could be serviced by a trolleybus tail (see Bruce’s Better 7 post). Operationally, it could be run as two interlined routes that split at Jackson; the old 7 going to Downtown (and beyond?) and the old 9 going up First Hill and then Capitol Hill. Such connections would further realize the original purpose of the First Hill Streetcar: as a substitute for a lost Link stop. For those on First Hill or in the Central District wanting to head east or south on Link, there would be no need to backtrack to IDS. Instead, there would be easy connections to East Link at I-90 or Central Link at Mt. Baker Station. Riders would experience the speed and comfort benefits that come with a streetcar and the increased mobility that comes with connections to 5 Link Stations (Othello, Mt. Baker, I90/Rainier and either Capitol Hill or International District Station).

Find out why else it’s a good idea below the fold.

Continue reading “The Case for a Rainier Avenue Streetcar”

The Cheapest House in Seattle

Tiny Home (Google Streetview)
The house in front of Seattle’s cheapest house (Google Streetview)

(edit: as pointed out in the comments, the correct house is hiding behind the home in the picture)

Real estate blog SeattleBubble runs an occasional series titled Cheapest Homes, where blog author The Tim finds the cheapest homes in Seattle.  I love this month’s cheapest house.  $136k, 0 bedrooms, 360sf.  Apodment meets single family home.  With a 30 year mortgage assuming no down payment and 4% interest that’s $650 a month (well, plus taxes, insurance, and utilities unlike aPodments).  Not nearly as walkable as aPodments, but you get quite a yard (there’s more behind the house).

Note that the 3,000 sf of land it’s on, that could fit more than 8 of these cottages, is well under the nominal minimum lot size for Seattle of 5,000sf.  You simply couldn’t build on this “small” of a plot of land without being grandfathered in.

Of course, in a logical world we’d let people build, say, 4 of these on that piece of land, each with up to a 390sf yard, and this would tend to make them even more affordable.  If enough people wanted this type of housing it would boost densities in our single family neighborhoods without changing their character, which could lead to better retail nearby and better transit.  Seattle’s coming to a reasonable compromise on our rules for some new small homes, allowing them on lots as small as 2,000sf* in exchange for not allowing them to be built tall.  But I’d love to see us go further and remove minimum lot sizes for tiny homes like these.

* But only for plots that were created before 1957, with the correct documentation.  This does not change the minimum of 5,000sf in most cases, and you can’t simply divide existing lots.

Angle Lake Open House Report


Sound Transit

[UPDATE: Minor corrections from Sound Transit below.]

On Wednesday night, Sound Transit held an open house to present the latest updates on Angle Lake Station. This is the name the board adopted for the station at the end of the 1.6 mile extension south of SeaTac/Airport station. The extension is projected to add 5,400 daily boardings by 2018, just two years after it opens alongside U-Link. Riding from Angle Lake to University of Washington Station (at Husky Stadium) will take 47 minutes; downtown just 38.

In the process of naming the station Sound Transit received over 450 comments, overwhelminingly in support of Angle Lake. Even though I grew up in the south end of King County, I’d never heard of Angle Lake and I suspect that the majority of the support came from those that live very near the project area. The station might popularize a name for the area, just as Renton Landing did just a few years ago.

The station will feature 1,150 parking spaces when it opens. 750 of those will be in a garage adjacent to the station and the remaining 400 in a surface lot. When the Kent/Des Moines (Highline Community College) station opens in 2023, demand is expected to reduce considerably as people driving from the south will park instead at KDM. The 400 stall surface lot would then be transformed in to some yet-to-be-determined use. Procurement is currently underway for the parking garage, plaza, retail and surface improvements.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “Angle Lake Open House Report”

Connecting Fremont to RapidRide E

Aurora Ave & 38th St, looking north

One of the problems with the current Route 358, which will persist with RapidRide E as currently planned, is the lack of access to Fremont. The core of Fremont is on Fremont Ave at 35th St, about two blocks west of Aurora Ave, but roughly 100′ below the deck of the George Washington Bridge, which carries Aurora Ave at that point, and the entire hillside north of the Ship Canal around Aurora is densely built-up. Routes 5 and 16, which travel over the Aurora Bridge, but exit near 38th St to serve Greenwood and Wallingford respectively, have stops on the Fremont Ave/Bridge Way ramps which provide peripheral access to Fremont. The E Line’s nearest stop, however, will be on Aurora at 46th St  — almost a mile walk from the center of Fremont.

I suspect there is a relatively cheap and straightforward solution to this problem, and moreover, other engineering work that Metro and SDOT are engaged in further north on Aurora as part of the RapidRide project could lay the groundwork for implementing it. The basic idea is to add a pair of E Line stops on Aurora, just north of 38th St, which sounds extremely simple, but if it were simple, it would probably have been done a long time ago. The northbound stop would be fairly straightforward, but there are multiple issues with a southbound stop, given the road’s current configuration.

The first problem is evident from the photo above. The curb lane disappears at 38th St, and the two center lanes of Aurora carry continuous, high-speed traffic. There would be no safe way for the bus to merge in to those lanes from a stationary position, and this is a show-stopper — Metro will not build or use such a hazardous facility. So, we need to come up with another lane south of 38th St if this idea is to have a chance. After the jump, let’s look at a photo taken one block south of the one above. Continue reading “Connecting Fremont to RapidRide E”

News Roundup: Multiplying

Atomic Taco/Flickr

This is an open thread.

A Bus Interior for a Real City

Via StreetsBlog SF, this is interior layout of Muni’s newest 40′ coaches:

Interior Layout on Muni's new buses.
Interior Layout on Muni’s new buses. Flikr user munidave.

Metro should take note:

  • Passive restraint wheelchair seating, to give wheelchair riders a faster, less-invasive securement option.
  • Forward section prioritizes standing capacity and passenger circulation, while still providing up-front seats for frail or disabled passengers who need them.
  • Virtually indestructible seats.

Word is that the new 60′ trolleybuses will have three doors and RapidRide-style seating layout, similar to this, but the 40′ trolleys may end up with the 2×2 commuter seating Metro loves so much. That makes sense in the suburbs, but it’s just not going to cut it in the city. We need a bus fleet where interior circulation doesn’t fail completely the moment the bus runs short of seats, or someone brings on a stroller. The buses on Seattle core routes need to have interiors that look like this.

Sound Transit Kicks Off East Link Final Design

120th Station area
120th Station area

Last Thursday evening, over a hundred community members showed up to attend Sound Transit’s kick-off open house for East Link final design, beginning with the Bel-Red corridor segment.  The project is nearing the 60% design mark, at which point specific design elements for stations, trackways, etc. will be refined and new cost estimates modeled.  Thursday’s open house zeroed in on Bel-Red and East Link’s integration into the City of Bellevue’s vision for the neighborhood.

The Bel-Red corridor redevelopment has been a major planning initiative in Bellevue for quite some time now.  The area is expected to add 5,000 new housing units and 10,000 new employees over the next two decades.  In response, the City is upgrading the infrastructure, with a network of rebuilt streets and a new grid with East Link at the centerpiece.  Let’s take a look at the designs of the two stations, which have already progressed quite a bit.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Kicks Off East Link Final Design”

Towards a Family-Friendly Downtown


Photo by the Author
Photo by the Author

In many North American cities a growing number of parents choose to stay downtown after they have children rather than immediately flee to the suburbs. Thanks to the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and their Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship, I was able to travel to a handful of these cities to learn the secrets to creating a family-friendly downtown. I dug into issues of neighborhood design, urban housing, recreation, and transportation. I also looked carefully at the incredibly important link between education and housing for parents, as Jon Scholes recently described.

Through a series of interviews and neighborhood visits, I noticed a series of trends that are happening nationwide. One such trend is that these new urban parents are organizing to change cities, hoping that they can stay in the downtown neighborhood they love while still supporting the needs of their growing family. They are using their collective power to fundraise to build playgrounds and make their voices heard at school board meetings and city council meetings. I also came away from my travels with a number of suggested policy and design solutions to help make cities, including Seattle, more family-friendly. Those research findings are compiled in a Family-Friendly Urbanism exhibit currently on display at AIA Seattle’s gallery space* through April 26th.

More importantly for the future of Seattle’s family-friendliness, AIA Seattle, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, the Seattle Planning Commission, and the Downtown Seattle Association are co-hosting a day-long forum about the topic. Ingredients for Designing a Family-Friendly Downtown will take place at City Hall on April 11th. International, national, and local speakers will be in attendance to discuss housing, education, recreation, transportation, and the market realities of retaining families with children in urban neighborhoods.

Will you join us on April 11th to further the conversation?

*1911 First Avenue, open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Who Can Afford What

South Lake Union
A wonderful place for those who can afford it? Photo by flickr user Mozzer

The City Council has decided to eschew Vulcan’s offer to give millions for affordable housing so Vulcan could build taller towers on a few blocks in South Lake Union. I disagree with that decision, but no one gets what they want all the time. So fine.

But this has my blood boiling:

“One hundred and sixty feet gives additional density and makes a wonderful place for all, not just those who can afford to live in the towers,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.

Class warfare is a really nasty business. So before Sally Bagshaw congratulates herself overmuch, it’s worth noting that this isn’t some sort of victory against solely “those who can afford to live in towers”, but also a rout against those struggle to afford housing at all. Vulcan was going to provide $10~$12 million dollars worth to provide for affordable housing in this plan, and the council is putting an end to that.

A wonderful place for all, just not those who can’t afford it.

More Questions for Car2Go CEO Nick Cole

Car2Go on 1st Ave
Car2Go on 1st Ave

It’s been just over three months since car2go unleashed its army of rent-by-the-minute Smart Four-Twos on Seattle, and judging by the service’s rapid growth (fastest in the US, per car2go), my experience, and the experiences of others I know who use the service, car2go has already become a crucial component of car-free or car-lite living in the parts of the city it serves. This period of time, short for any new business model to catch on with the public, seems like the blink of an eye to those of us who deal regularly with public agencies, where minor and uncontroversial changes like schedule tweaks or bus stop relocations are ordeals of several months duration.

As I promised when I last sat down with CEO Nick Cole to relay the great questions you asked, I’ll be following up with another interview this week. The car2go team were impressed with our smart and well-informed commenters, so I’m turning it back over to you folks for another round of questions and comments. I’d particularly like to hear:

  • Success stories: Specifically, ways car2go has made living car-lite or car-free possible or easier; or has allowed you to sell (or seriously contemplate selling) a car. Bonus points if they’re things you’d never have thought of before signing up.
  • Useful, detailed criticism: How could car2go be better? While I’ve had no problems with the service, Jarrett Walker has repeatedly encountered an immobilizer firmware bug, and from people who’ve had to refueled a car2go, I’ve heard nothing good about that process; has anyone else experienced these? Are there times and places of chronic unavailability?

I’ve been moving apartments recently, using ZipCar SUVs and ZipVans. These models are hard to find on weekends, and often only available in faraway spots. Especially on Sundays, when most Metro services drop to 30-minute headways, getting across town in a timely fashion on buses is almost impossible, and I don’t feel like hitching my bike up for hours in an unfamiliar parking lot. So, while I never would have thought of this, I’ve used car2go on several occasions to access ZipCars, when the only viable alternative was a more expensive and less convenient cab ride.

The main improvement I’d like to see is one more small expansion of the home area a little further down to Othello in the Rainier Valley, and up north, covering Lake City to 145th St. These strike me as the last areas of the city to remain unserved despite having the level of mixed-use density needed to sustain car2go service. And I still dream of being able to tap in to a car2go with my phone, rather than having to carry another card.

The deadline for questions is tomorrow at noon. Feel free to discuss car sharing generally in this thread.

Midnight March for Metro: Saturday, April 6


Route 24 at 3rd & Cedar

Late Saturday evening, transit riders and supporters, joined by King County Councilmember Larry Phillips and other representatives from local and state government, will march up the Magnolia bridge to highlight the impact of cuts to transit service and to show state legislators that King County needs sustainable funding for Metro.

The idea for the Midnight March originated when transit riders in Magnolia, organizing to restore their late evening service, challenged their Council Representative Phillips to walk the route that they now must walk when they miss the last bus to their neighborhood at 10:20 pm.

It turns out that not all Magnolia residents are rich and own cars. Jim McIntosh, founder of the Magnolia Transit Riders group, explains: “It is the elderly, the low-income, the blind and visually impaired, people with other handicapping conditions, people who do not drive and the young who suffer the most when there is no public transportation.” He hopes the march will help elected officials to recognize the devastating impact of transit service cutbacks on communities and neighborhoods.

But of course this is not just a Magnolia issue. Metro is facing possible 17% cuts next year, and restoring service in Magnolia could mean cutting needed service elsewhere. So the Magnolia riders are working with the Transit Riders Union to turn this event into a broader statement about the need for sustainable and progressive funding for public transit. All county and city elected officials and 36 th District state legislators have been invited to participate.

Please join us! We are working on arranging carpools and other transportation for non-Magnolia residents after the march. On that same day the Transit Riders Union is also having a potluck from 12-3pm at the Downtown YMCA, 909 4th Avenue, at which we will be launching their new Transit Reader newsletter and making phone calls to key state legislators. All are welcome.

  • Place: 1541 15th Avenue W, in front of Staples at the foot of the Magnolia Bridge.
  • Meeting Time: 11:00 pm for speeches and rally
  • March Time: 11:30 pm; we expect the walk to take about 45 minutes
  • End Point: Magnolia Village Pub, 3221 W. McGraw St.

For more information:

Metro: Drastic Cuts and Changes without Revenue

Metro GM Desmond is doing a press briefing today, describing what Metro riders will face if the legislature doesn’t come through with addition taxing authority for King County:

“Our analysis shows that we should be adding service to meet growing demand, but the sad reality is that – without ongoing and sufficient funding – potentially one-third of our routes are on the chopping block, and another 40 percent of our routes face reductions and revisions,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “The result would be even more crowded buses, riders left at the curb, or people climbing back into their cars – something that would worsen the region’s traffic congestion and hurt the economic engine of the state.”

Metro’s report details the performance of the transit system’s 217 routes and shows at-risk routes.

Routes at risk for deletion (65 routes): 7EX, 19, 21EX, 22, 25, 27, 30, 37, 48NEX, 57, 61, 76, 77EX, 82, 83, 84, 99, 110, 113, 114, 118EX, 119, 119EX, 123EX, 139, 152, 154, 157, 159, 161, 173, 179, 190, 192, 197, 200, 201, 203, 205EX, 210, 211EX, 213, 215, 216, 237, 243, 244EX, 250, 257, 260, 265, 268, 277, 280, 304, 308, 601EX, 907DART, 910DART, 913DART, 914DART, 919DART, 927DART, 930DART and 935DART.

Routes at risk for reductions and revisions (86 routes): 1, 2S, 2N, 3S, 3N, 4S, 4N, 5, 5EX, 7, 8, 9EX, 10, 11, 12, 14S, 16, 21, 24, 26, 26EX, 28, 28EX, 29, 31, 36, 41, 43, 47, 48N, 60, 65, 66EX, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 106, 107, 116EX, 118, 121, 122, 125, 148, 156, 177, 181, 182, 186, 187, 193EX, 202, 204, 209, 214, 221, 224, 226, 232, 234,  235, 236, 238, 241, 245, 246, 248, 249, 255, 269, 271, 309EX, 311, 312EX, 331, 355EX, 372EX, 373EX, 901DART, 903DART, 908DART, 909DART and 931DART.

Routes potentially unchanged (66 routes): 13, 15EX, 17EX, 18EX, 32, 33**, 40, 44, 48S, 49, 50, 55**, 56**, 62, 64EX, 74EX, 75, 101, 102, 105, 111, 120, 124, 128, 131**, 132**, 140, 143EX, 150, 153, 155, 158, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 178, 180, 183, 212, 217, 218, 240, 242, 252, 301, 303EX, 306EX, 316, 330, 342, 345, 346, 347, 348, 358EX, A Line, B Line, C Line, D Line, 773, 775, 915DART, 916DART, 917DART (** Routes not reduced because we expect productivity to be above the bottom 25 percent threshold due to changes since spring 2012)

This list of routes shows the potential for cuts and revisions, however considerable additional analysis would follow during the coming year. As work continues, the public will receive additional information and opportunities to give input, both online and in face-to-face forums starting this fall.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that a few of those routes slated for a deletion are bottom-of-the-barrel routes that probably shouldn’t exist (e.g. 7X, 25, 37), but it’s evident that these cuts would go beyond just cutting out fat and into bone (e.g. 21X, 57). What “reductions and revisions” we might see for the Seattle core routes isn’t yet clear.

You can follow the live-tweets here: https://twitter.com/kcmetrobus.

UPDATE: And here are some maps: http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/

Fill in the Ship Canal

Seattle pre-canal (Wikipedia)

When the City Fathers began construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal over a century ago, shipping on Lake Washington was an important industry. Today, however, it’s hard to make that claim.

Lake Washington has been left to the pleasure boats. People enjoying their yachts isn’t the worst thing in the world, but we clearly would not launch such a huge infrastructure project today for such a trivial purpose.

Meanwhile, the ship canal massively inflates the complexity and cost of most transportation lines that cross it. University Link had to lose lots of altitude from Capitol Hill to go under the cut, a constraint that both lengthened the tunnel and essentially eliminated the possibility of additional stations.

Pedestrian Bridge on 3rd Ave W/NW, 1912
Pedestrian Bridge on 3rd Ave W/NW, 1912

On the other side of town, Seattle and Sound Transit are trying to figure out how to pay for a new drawbridge at Fremont and some sort of grade-separated crossing at Ballard. If Seattle gets what it needs, it will be many additional hundreds of millions of dollars to cross this entirely artificial barrier.

Weighed against the cost of pushing dirt into a ditch, restoring the path between Fremont and Ballard to a creek, and the denial of boating routes to a wealthy few, the choice is clear. There are many legal obstacles (not least the fact that both canals are historic places of some kind). But the right thing to do is the right thing to do, even if those in the wrong will fight against it.