Seattle Police Gillig bus (zargoman/Flickr)

This is an open thread.

99 Replies to “News Roundup: The Cure”

  1. Martin, for once I disagree w/ Washington State Republicans. Read your piece why Sound Transit should be unelected – I agree totally. Most folks would fall asleep during important wonky decisions which would leave either insiders or those bought & paid for by either public sector unions or anti-transit forces.

    1. Given that you are from Skagit County, [ad hom].

      A directly-elected board would value the impacts on people, in a way the appointive Sound Transit board does not. In 2009 he appointees on that board secured a $300 million dollar bond with pledges to collect about $22 billion in sales taxes through 2039 – just as security for the bondholders. Think individuals who have to answer directly to voters would impose new regressive taxes on that scale for over a generation to secure a $300 million bond? For sure not.

      Many of those appointed to that board are mayors — individuals not elected to set policy, yet there they are rubberstamping resolutions for Sound Transit that set broad policies for that municipality.

      All you have to do to verify for yourselves that this appointive-board structure was a mistake is compare the financing plan for ST2 with how every other of the dozens of bus/rail services providers in this country finances their operations. The appointees on Sound Transit’s board are putting into place a financing plan now that is FAR too dependent on regressive tax revenues (in fact the amount of tax confiscations already required by the resolutions the board has adopted exceeds by a wide margin any reasonable or budgeted need for tax revenues). Sound Transit’s appointive board is bent on selling a mountain of long-term local debt debt securities — try identifying any peer that has done that. Hint: you can’t.

      Those are just some of the ways that unaccountable board with unchecked governmental powers abuses the public financially, especially the large segment of the residents here of limited economic means.

      I’d be happy to discuss also why the US Constitution requires that municipalities with the governmental powers possessed by the regional transit authority must have a directly-elected board, but nobody would want to engage in that discussion.

      Best,

      Sam

      1. Sam,

        Given that you are from Bellevue (ad hom),

        For a model of how an elected board can work, we need but look at the Port of Seattle. They at least groused and wrung their hands before voting to sell $300 million in junk bonds to help finance the Highway 99 tunnel.

      2. The ST board is only building a funding plan using the available sources of funding that the State allowed them to use — and that the voters approved at the ballot box in ST2 and prevously in ST1. It has exactly nothing to do with the board structure.

        If you want more progressive funding sources to be available to ST, work to get more progressive representatives in Olympia (basically more Democrats)

      3. Brent:

        Your comparison of the sales of the $300 million in debt securities by the Port of Seattle commissioners recently for the SR 99 work and the bond of that size Sound Transit’s board sold in 2009 is a great one. It emphasizes the point I’m making about how appointive-board entities act in ways that abuse the public.

        As described above, the new additional regressive taxing required by the 2009 Sound Transit bond sale could well reach $22 billion. In contrast, it is entirely possible that the $300 million bond sale by the Port commissioners that is scheduled to close in 2015 and 2016 will result in NO new taxing. That is because those are 25-year bonds. If the Port commissioners had already secured prior 30-year bond sales by pledges to collect that property tax as security within the past couple of years, then the future 25-year bond sales would result in no additional taxing.

        Best,

        Sam

      4. ” In 2009 he appointees on that board secured a $300 million dollar bond with pledges to collect about $22 billion in sales taxes through 2039 – just as security for the bondholders.”

        I’d like to see a real reference for this assertion, because it smells like a big pile of you-know-what to me.

      5. Sam,

        DId I mention the part about taxpayers never getting a direct say on those $300 million in junk bonds the Port sold (and I assume you agree that they do indeed meet the defintion of junk bonds)?

        The voters got a direct say on ST1 and ST2, and will again on ST3. Would you prefer a directly-elected board approve ST3 bonds boardmatically?

      6. Brent says: The voters got a direct say on ST1 and ST2 No, they did not. The financing plan was not described, especially not the part about how the board could secure bonds by pledging to collect the taxes at the maximum rates while any of the bonds were outstanding. People were not given any “say” in the financing plan. Section 5 of the ST2 resolution specified that the unaccountable appointive board would make all decisions about the amount of any taxes it imposed AFTER the election.

        Zed: You want some evidence that about $22 billion of sales tax will be confiscated due to the board’s decision to sell that $300 million bond in 2009? Here ya go –

        Resolution 2009-16 was adopted by the Sound Transit board in September, 2009 at a special meeting. Here is the relevant language of that board resolution:

        “Section 15. Pledge of Pledged Taxes. From and after the issuance and delivery of
        the 2009 Parity Bonds and so long as any of the 2009 Parity Bonds remain Outstanding, the Authority irrevocably obligates and binds itself to impose, collect and deposit all Pledged Taxes into the Local Option Tax Accounts and the Additional Taxes Accounts, as applicable.”

        Now here’s the official statement (the document filed with the SEC) relating to those 2009-series Parity Bonds:

        https://fortress.wa.gov/cted/lgcdpbuc/ViewBondDocument.aspx?Name=OS&BondFormId=3699

        On the first page it shows how Goldman Sachs is behind this, and on the second page it shows that sale of a $300,000,000 bond included a pledge to collect maximum sales taxes through 2039.

        It’s a fairly straightforward matter to estimate how much taxing Sound Transit will do under that local law the board created relating to confiscating that municipality’s sales taxes. On page 1 of the Sound Transit 4Q 2010 Quarterly Financial Report it shows that in 2010 the sales tax revenues at the .9% rate were $506 million. That’s the first year of the thirty that the new 2009 local law required that government to collect as security for that $300 million bond.

        The formula for determining the aggregate of 30 annual tax amounts that grow at a compounded rate of 5% is: [Y1 amount]*(1.05)^30. Using that formula (with the Y1 amount being $506 million) gives us a figure of $21,869,000,000.

        That’s the expected tax cost to the public of this $300 million bond – nearly $22 billion of sales tax confiscations. Disagree with any of that, Zed?

        Best,

        Sam

      7. You honestly think that Sound Transit is collecting sales taxes for the sole purpose of securing that bond? ST’s income sources and uses through the year 2023 are pretty plainly spelled out in the annual financial plan.

      8. Zed: Under that taxing ordinance the board adopted the sales tax must be confiscated at the .9% rate through 2039, not 2023. That is far more tax revenue than needed for any reasonable or budgeted spending needs.

        This seems to be a pervasive problem among Sound Transit’s big fans — an inability to comprehend numbers and dates, and what seems to be a complete lack of understanding regarding the financing plan.

        Your turn, Zed. There are a couple of dozen bus and train services providers in this country. Identify what the best practices are regarding financing the capital and operations costs. Which do the best job of that?

        You understand Sound Transit’s unaccountable appointive board is imposing on people here the most financially-abusive financing plan among all its peers, by far, right? Here’s why: the boardmembers are not accountable to people here, and we can not stop them from adopting abusive decades-long policies that municipality will execute.

      9. There’s only one person here who has a reading comprehension problem, and it’s not me. If they were really collecting that much excess revenue they would just pay off the bonds early (as required by the legislation) and be done with the obligation.

      10. It really annoys me when people call the ST board “unelected”.

        The only unelected member of the Sound Transit board is Lynn Petersen, who’s the state Secretary of Transportation, and was appointed by the Governor. Every other boardmember is an elected official. They’re all currently sitting elected offices in Sound Transit’s service area, and have to directly answer for their actions every time they run for re-election.

      11. Zed: No legislation requires Sound Transit’s board to pay off bonds early. Do you think that board would use cash to retire bonds? For sure not. It would make fatter payments to more favored entities so those political appointees could get big campaign contributions for their real jobs. That’s why the plan is to maximize bond sales, as opposed to delaying a couple of years, building up cash reserves, and using those instead of bond sales revenue to cover capital costs. The latter approach would require scores of billions of dollars of less taxing, and it is the reason none of the peers issue bonds like Sound Transit wants to.

        Now, why don’t you address the issues I set set out? Describe the best practices for financing trains and bus systems employed by the peers, and try to identify any peer that imposed heavy, regressive taxes anywhere near the level of Sound Transit.

        Lack Thereof: People only can vote for and against one of the 18 Sound Transit board members: the county executive. Other than those three, all the rest of that board are political appointees. When people voted for them they could not have known they would be appointed, and even if people vote them out from their “real” jobs (which means they’d have to leave their position on Sound Transit’s board) people have no control over who would be appointed by the county executive to replace that individual.

        That board is by definition an appointive board, and people subject to its laws have absolutely no ability to control the policies of that municipality by any political means. We can not elect smarter, more frugal, or less tax-crazed individuals onto that board. That is why it is abusing the people here with staggeringly heavy regressive tax impositions.

    2. Rural Republicans have to stop obsessing with what we are doing here in Seattle. What may or may not work in Garfield County has little to do with what works in King County.

      The R’s need to just get out of the way and let us govern ourselves. Because if they meddle too much with the economic engine that powers the state, they might just find that the taxes that flow out of the Puget Sound area are no longer available to subsidize their rural life style.

      1. Exactly. But that won’t happen as long as people in rural, Republican areas continue to believe that they are some how subsidizing Seattle—despite all evidence and basic logic.

      2. Well put lazarus. Very well put.

        I’m a Moderate Will McAvoy Republican who thinks we need a small government, not one government for 39 counties.

  2. On the face of it, minimum density requirements sound fantastic. Are there any drawbacks, especially for urban villages?

    1. I’ve been trying to think of the goofy designs that will come with minimum FAR’s (goofy designs seem to come out of every building regulation Seattle adds), but can’t think of anything strange. At worst a developer will put in empty storage space just to fit the code, but with the next tenant that space would be useful.

      The only negative is that this creates an extra cost for development, like forcing developers to build parking does. Except this cost will only affect projects that would have been low-density, and I don’t have a problem with that.

    2. I think there are two kinds of critique — philosophical and practical. Philosophically, you’re essentially giving up the argument that we shouldn’t regulate aesthetics and urban form; you’re now just disagreeing with the NIMBYs about what we regulate for. Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that idea anyway, so it’s no big deal to me.

      Practically, I don’t think there’s a downside for the attractive places like Wallingford or Ballard. I think where you get problems are in places like the CD, where the location isn’t particularly attractive to developers. Would the neighbors want to spike a development like this at 23rd & Union, or would they be glad that someone was finally building something in a historically blighted corner of the city, even if it was a shitty design?

      1. I generally hold the opinion that, all things equal, people should be free to do what they want with their land (modulo things that have really obvious externalities, like pollution). The reason is that, once you open the door to extensively regulating land use, it becomes much harder to argue against things like maximum density and minimum parking requirements. If the choice is between adding new restrictions, or removing most of the ones we currently have, I think we’d end up with a better city by taking the latter approach.

        At the risk of beating a dead horse, I still think land taxes are a much simpler solution to this problem. Right now, CVS stands to save a huge amount of money on property taxes by building small. If you set taxes based only on the land (and its full development potential), then CVS has a much greater incentive to build big.

    3. I don’t know about urban villages, but in general I could see a drawback for a rundown neighborhood. This is an interesting example, because folks here are basically saying if you can’t build big, then build nothing. This makes sense because the building that would be torn down is popular. When that isn’t the case, then maybe you are better off building a small building. For example, if someone wants to put up a one story building to replace a parking lot, this might be as good as you can get for the neighborhood.

      You make a good point with urban villages. These are areas that we have agreed (as citizens) should be big. It makes sense, then, to have minimum density requirements in those areas. It seems odd in general for this developer to build such a short building in an area like that. Generally speaking, land owners want to either build as big as they can (in this city) or just sit on the land. Do they really want to tear the whole thing down five years from now to put up a six story apartment building?

    4. I could certainly support minimum FARs around stations and transit hubs, especially if it comes with a complete lack of automobile parking requirements.

      We may come to regret it, though, it we allow that floor area to be consumed by automobile stalls.

      .
      This location is neither a station nor a hub, nor currently even on a BRT corridor (though hopefull, ST will keep it on the list). The proposal is a last-ditch attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game, in order to stop a development the neighbors don’t like, when compared to what is already there: an historic single-story development. The neighbors don’t really want mid-rise development there. They just want to keep the single-story building that is already there. Seen in that light, the proposal is not a serious planning tool, but a last ditch effort to stop a development, by pretending they want density.

      .
      I would love to see minimim FARs incorporated into the city planning process, as part of a serious and honest approach toward Doing Density Right. I don’t think what’s on the table passes the straight face test quite yet.

      1. BTW, I do think Peter and the mayor should sit down and talk about Doing Density Right. The mayor is all about Doing Density Right. Bruce and the mayor are also on the same page on most social justice issues, so I don’t think it would be unfathomable for them to have coffee, put their competing ambitions aside, and have Bruce endorse the mayor when they come to agreement on a list of policy goals that need to be taken care of. Having the three stand together for the mayor’s re-election would show how mature politics can be at City Hall, especially when compared to what goes down in Olympia.

      2. I think “the neighbors” are each different people with different ideas of what they want. Some of these residents clearly want a useful variety of businesses in their neighborhood’s commercial core; replacing three businesses with a big drug store literally two blocks from a Bartell’s is a clear downgrade in this regard.

        Generally there’s a downside to preventing the arrival of a business near a similar one, as it essentially shields existing businesses from competition. When we’re talking about a building, though, the change of three storefronts to one is significant — if it turns out Wallingford doesn’t support three big chain drugstores within several blocks of eachother what will happen in this space?

      3. At least now we have a new tool to convince neighbors to allow multi-story developments in a high-capacity transit corridor: Have the developer threated to build a Bartell’s (or is it Eckerd’s)?

        The same thing happened in Lake City. A historic shopping district was bulldozed to make room for an Bartlell’s, with some chain storefronts attached, and a big parking lot. Not to at least build multi-story residential above these was a crime, IMHO.

      4. Brent–re the Lake City Bartell’s block; I was working at the time for the firm tasked to do some preliminary design for a mid-rise 5+1 residential and retail building on that site. As I recall, the City mandated that the developer look at that option but had no way to obligate it (one reason why a “highest and best use” tax is not a bad idea in urban hubs like LC); the developer had no wish to build any residential whatsoever and hence they developed the Bartells and the adjacent one-story strip mall (different design firm did that one). At least the shops face on to LCW with parking in the rear, much as the original did.

        I assume your use of the word “historic” is at least somewhat ironic, as the corner building (Romio’s Pizza) was a rundown wooden structure and the remainder of those shops were 50’s brick storefronts of no particular note, no different than those found elsewhere (including across the street). Or perhaps you are younger than I am (likely) and those buildings were OLD. ;-)

  3. In regards to sidewalks. What is the current plan for build out in Seattle? I know there is a pedestrian master plan, anyone else aware of other initiatives/plans?

    I haven’t found a Seattle Pedestrian Blog ;-)

    1. Well, there was Walking in Seattle, but it appears to be dormant now.

      I know of no large-scale plans for building out arterial sidewalks. Some PMP projects are advancing as the dribs and drabs of local or grant funding come in. I think the larger problem is that SDOT is broke: the infrastructure backlog is enormous, and the Council has chosen to spend money on big projects like Mercer Street rather than basic citywide stuff like sidewalks. At the current funding levels, sidewalk expansion competes with projects like those, and essential maintenance to keep roads open, and for as long as this situation persists, sidewalks will mostly lose.

  4. Funny article about the 70. Strangely enough, one of the three times I was spit on as a Metro bus driver was along the “70” part of the 71 local, at Fairview and Denny, on a Sunday morning. Some guy was upset that I didn’t let him out the back door (“pay as you leave”).

  5. Ed Murray commited the highest sin in the John Fox’s book: He endorsed Mark Sidran for mayor. Fox’s picketing of Sidran’s kick-off fundraiser, and efforts to keep Sidran from putting his campaign office in a building Sidran owned probably did not help Fox’s cause, and may have won Sidran a lot of votes. (Just to be clear, I thought Sidran was a dreadful City Attorney and an unpalatable candidate for mayor.)

    It seems not to matter to Fox that Mayor McGinn’s big veto was of a proposed ordinance to crack down on panhandlers, a cause that drew a lot of Fox’s time lining up opposition. Mayor McGinn has been the biggest champion of social justice and more affordable housing this city has ever had.

    Go ahead, Ed, have that meeting with John Fox, agree to his draconian anti-development demands, and free him up to become a mouthpiece for you. ;)

      1. John Fox is right about one thing. If you make Seattle a terrible place to live — by filling it with public housing, and making it really hard for people to move here, and letting our infrastructure deteriorate — then no one will want to live here, and the resulting drop in demand will lower housing prices.

        Why do you think Detroit is so cheap, after all?

      2. Sorry, I didn’t intend for that to be ad hom. I’ll rephrase: What evidence does he have that any policy he advocates for would work whatsoever, except for the situation as noted by Alexks above? He talks about somewhere on his website that “anyone who has taken more than econ 101 knows that building more leads to higher prices”. That’s a paraphrase from what I remember, but close enough. Does he literally want to see Seattle fall apart, so housing becomes cheap?

  6. I work for a youth development agency, and we used to get bus tickets from Human Services for a reduced price to hand out to low-income kids so they could make it to our programs. One of the biggest barriers to getting kids involved is transportation, so this was a huge help. Since they phased out paper tickets I haven’t heard anything about the future of this program. Does anyone else know? How could we continue to provide rides with Orca cards?

    1. It is my understanding the the Human Services Tickets will still be distributed as paper tickets. Metro only stopped selling paper tickets to the general public. I think that without a cheap, disposable ORCA card the only option is to continue using the paper tickets.

    2. The program still exists and is growing, although I don’t know how youth, senior, and disabilities already-reduced fares are handled. It certainly won’t go away without a replacement program on this county council’s watch. Has your employer been trying to get tickets, and been denied?

      1. This spring we got a message to make sure we got our tickets before they stopped selling them, and that is all we know. I wasn’t directly involved in getting the tickets, but I think we got a voucher from human services and exchanged it for ticket books at Metro Customer Service. It seems the system will certainly have to change, although I’m relieved that some people here are confident it will continue.

  7. Article on parking is interesting.

    But I also think, how about the optimization and centralization that comes with cars.

    For example, having one supermarket serving thousands of people. Being able to use trunk transportation like trains and trucks to the big store, and then letting people ferry their goods for the last miles back home.

    Also, how about all the square footage eaten up by surface rail? Think about a train and how much the foot print is. Now think of the total sq. footage from track. Train tracks seem like they are inherently “more empty” than roadways.

    1. The reason train tracks seem “empty” is because their use is concentrated into trains. Vehicle lanes spread use out more evenly, so the emptiness is in short bursts, rather than long periods of time.

    2. I think you are going to see more and more things that are similar to amazon fresh. When I lived in Seoul many of the people their would receive their groceries by order straight to their doorstep. Also in a place as dense as Seoul many people were able to make the short walk to the local grocery store and bring what they needed back to their apartment. This is not to say there were not cars. Most grocery stores had 1 to 2 levels of a parking garage and the store itself would be about 3 stories of food clothes and appliances. So there are other alternatives to the standard suburban grocery store that many of us are used to.

  8. The CRC proposal they’re talking about really really is not superior to the original proposal. It’s the exact same proposal, but with the Washington side freeway expansion deferred. The expectation is that Washington will take up the I-5 widening and interchange rebuilding as a separate project, but that the outcome will be the same. It is the same overbuilt bridge, the same freeway expansion on the Oregon side, but with more risk assumed by Oregon. And when they’re looking to cut costs, any potential bike and ped improvements will obviously be the first thing sacrificed on the altar of “value engineering.”

    1. If the phased approach passes we will have a demonstrably better project: light rail with limited highway expansion. If the Washington State Legislature subsequently breaks the gridlock and funds its side, then yes, it’s no better; but I think we can look at these in isolation.

      1. Well, from my perspective as an Oregonian, it’s still blowing our state’s transportation capital investment budget for the next twenty years on an overbuilt, greenwashed freeway expansion project founded on extremely dubious projections of infinitely increasing vmt. I worry that if the bridge and lrt are built without Washington support, then you all’s part becomes a fate accompli — if there’s no lrt component, then the coalition opposing it in Clark County disintegrates.

      2. The “phased” approach is only marginally better, and only because it cuts out the over-designed and unnecessary interchange improvements on the Washington side. It still destroys two functional bridges, and replaces them with ones that will limit river commerce. It still builds LRT that Clark County residents for the most part do not want and will not ride. It still massivly expands bridge lane capacity over the river, unleashing a flood of SOV commuter traffic on the surface streets of North Portland, decreasing our quality of life and safety. And worst of all, Oregon assumes all of the risk, and is essentially completely funding a bridge for people that choose to work in Oregon and live outside of the state. For Oregon taxpayers, this proposal is far worse than the original.

        This is what we should be doing:
        http://bikeportland.org/2013/08/05/a-new-common-sense-vision-for-a-columbia-crossing-91540

  9. KENTSITY!

    Downtown Kent apartments to feature rooftop deck; open in September 2014

    Construction started in June on The Platform Apartments at the corner of West Smith Street and Fourth Avenue North, site of the old unfinished parking garage. The complex will feature about 166 units with an average square footage of 745 feet for the studio, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments, said Matt Parent, director of development for Goodman Real Estate of Seattle.

    The five-story project will include a rooftop deck.

    “There will be a roof top deck with a bar, barbecues and fire pit, work out facility and party room,” Parent said in an email. “The rooftop deck will have a sound system people can play their own music.”

    http://www.kentreporter.com/news/219638081.html

    1. Now can we just get an ST Express bus to Kent (during non-Sounder hours) to go with that fine TOD?? We wouldn’t even need more service hours.

      1. How long do you think it would take an express bus from Kent Station to reach Angle Lake Station, with a stop at Kent-Des-Moines P&R?

      2. I’d guess 15 minutes or so off-peak.

        I think Kent warrants its own express bus service, not just a Link connection — Link is too far out of the way. I’d turn the 578 into a true Sounder shadow (although leaving out Tukwila), stopping at Kent rather than Federal Way. I’d make up the difference to Federal Way by having the 594 stop there during off-peak hours only. Especially now that PT is going to start operating artics for ST again, there should be enough capacity.

      3. I have timed Link several times between downtown and Kent Station. Link Westlake-SeaTac is 37 minutes. The 180 is 20 minutes. That’s 57 minutes not including the obligatory transfer. The 150 is 45 minutes after 8pm and 60 minutes in the daytime. The 180 travels fast in that segment and rarely stops, so an express bus couldn’t be much faster. I don’t know about coming in on KDM Road because the only bus is peak-hours, and I don’t have a car and it’s way too long and desolated to walk. But Link will presumably take 4-ish more minutes to KDM Road, and we can take David’s estimate that an express bus would take 15 minutes. That’s almost a wash again: just a 5-minute gain. We need to just accept that south King County is too wide for one Link line to serve all of it, and also that the 150 is the most well-used route down there like the 7 in Rainier Valley. Possibly Metro could make a decision to truncate off-peak routes and just let the travel time go up, but that would be a strategic change of direction for Metro so it’s not something it will do lightly on just one route.

      4. If Sound Transit rerouted the 578 as previously suggested, to provide Kent with a real express route, truncating the 150 would suddenly look a whole lot easier.

  10. Fill ‘er up…with hydrogen?

    The environmental case for fuel-cell cars has always been a slam dunk. Fuel cells work by splitting electrons out of hydrogen to generate a current that can cleanly and silently power an electric motor.

    Nothing is emitted from the tailpipe except some water vapor. Overall, according to the DOE, a hydrogen fuel-cell car emits 30% to 50% less greenhouse gas than a gasoline-powered one. (While the car generates no emissions, producing the hydrogen itself does create some emissions because of the intense energy needed to extract it from natural gas, currently the most common feedstock.)

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/15/technology/fuel-cell-hydrogen.pr.fortune/index.html

  11. response to @Lazerus:

    The ST board is only building a funding plan using the available sources of funding that the State allowed them to use — and that the voters approved at the ballot box in ST2 and prevously in ST1. It has exactly nothing to do with the board structure.

    The voters did not approve securing bonds with pledges to collect sales taxes or other general taxes at the maximum rates. In fact, the ballot measures did not even suggest that would be an option the board would consider.

    Moreover, the board could have financed the capital costs using mostly federal funds, state grants, fare revenues, etc., and they could have sought funding mechanisms comparable to how the peers finance bus and train systems. If they were directly elected, those are the steps they would have taken. Instead, they are in the process of putting into place the most punishing and unnecessary form of financing plan they can. That very much is a function of how they are unaccountable to the people they have the ability to target with their regressive general taxes.

    1. Sam, both ST1 and ST2 specified that they would issue bonds to pay for projects. That’s why much of the reporting on ST2 during the campaign focused on incredibly misleading total repayment costs in YOE dollars. The interest rates they’re getting right now are at or just under inflation – it saves us money for them to bond.

    2. Bond revenue was a suggested source for financing capital expenses. The board has the authority to issue revenue bonds, g.o. bonds, and LID bonds. As is relevant to the issue “Lazarus” raised, the ballot measure did not seek voter approval for use of any of those sources of revenue. Moreover, the voters did not approve securing bonds with pledges to collect sales taxes or other general taxes at the maximum rates. In fact, the ballot measures did not even suggest that would be an option the board would consider.

      ” it saves us money for them to bond.” No, it doesn’t. The fact that the security provisions for the g.o. bonds require that municipality to confiscate the regressive taxes at or near the maximum rates for three decades means that the bonding costs us FAR more than what it costs individuals and families in every other metro region of this country that has light rail and buses. That’s a fact — what is it about that you don’t understand?

    3. it saves us money for them to bond

      My bad. I responded to a troll. Learned my lesson about posting here! It’s Troll City.

  12. I am a bit surprised that no one has mentioned that hyperloop announcement this week. Any thoughts on it?

    I personally like the idea conceptually as a potential way to fill the gap of high speed bullet trains on the west coast, but it obviously needs a lot of work before it could actually work in reality.

    1. I doubt that the Hyperloop cost figures are even close to reality. By the time realistic construction cost projections are developed and the cost for developing an operating control system are figured out, CAHSR will look like a bargain.

  13. Have to disagree on that parking BS. Where I live, a swath of land is set aside for storing cars. If all of the sudden cars were banned, we’d just have a slab of empty asphalt which offers absolutely zero value.

    1. Yes, because the proposal is to ban all cars.[/sarcasm]

      I think he’s just trying to get you to realize how much a car-based society really costs. We can’t (easily) go back and make all of our streets narrower, all of our blocks smaller, all of our cities denser. But we can think about the crazy requirements we’re giving new buildings, and plan new projects a bit smarter.

    2. If all of a sudden cars didn’t exist, you’d have a plot of land you could sell to someone who could build another (parking-free) house.

      That’s not to say cars are evil or should be banned. It’s just a reflection of how (very, very) expensive they are.

      1. Do they make 8′ wide apodments?
        Replace the cars with a string of those, opening to the sidewalk and now were talking real density.

    3. In some sense, cars are creating density and keeping real estate prices high by using up so much land in prime areas.

      If we “released” all this land back to residences, home prices would fall radically and we wouldn’t need vertical density!

      1. The first part, no; the second part, sort of. Parking spaces and roads are not density because you can’t live in them, work in them, or recreate in them (except the “recreation”
        of driving). They hold density down and push everything further apart, which makes it harder to walk/bike/bus to them.

        If a massive number of parking lots and highways suddenly became redundant, it would release enough land to mostly relieve the cities’ housing shortages that are pushing home prices up. That would lead to a gradual stabilization or decline in prices as housing is built up over the next few decades. It would not be a precipitous drop, both because houses can’t be built that quickly, and also because developers would build slowly in the face of declining profits. Prices are sticky on the way down because nobody wants to take a loss; we saw that in the crash where many people kept their homes off the market because they didn’t like what people were willing to pay, and apartments desperately tried “sales” rather than decreasing the base rent.

        As has been discussed recently in this blog, several different density levels are compatible with “transit-oriented neighborhoods”. Paris has 2-4 stories, north Chicago has 3-10 stories, lower Manhattan has 10-40 stories. But to achieve it with 2-3 stories you need to shrink the spaces around the buildings: bring them right up to the sidewalk, several to a block, and no large parking lots that people have to walk past. Seattle’s old single-family neighborhoods are obviouly borderline, because there was no overwhelming objection when comprehensive transit was yanked away from them: the “streetcar suburbs” became “automobile suburbs” with barely a wimper. But in San Francisco’s single-family neighborhoods, with only moderately more density in the way I’ve described, comprehensive transit has remained and nobody dares take it away, in fact they’re falling over themselves to add BRT because the current frequent transit is overcrowded.

      2. By itself, “density” is not a useful concept. It’s like saying that your weight is “pounds”.

        Most of the time, we use “density” as shorthand for “residential density”, and maybe for “commercial density”. The first one means, how many people live on a given amount of land? The second one means, how many businesses operate on a given amount of land? These are both useful concepts to measure, and it’s also clear that the number of parking spaces is not positively correlated with either one.

        You’re absolutely right that the horizontal distance between buildings has become much greater than it used to be. Take a walk around Post Alley, and then realize that there are entire city neighborhoods (albeit not anywhere near here) where most of the streets are about that wide.

        I would love to live in a neighborhood where most of the streets were as wide as Post Alley. Alas, we seem to be trending in the opposite direction lately.

  14. Broadview Community Council Meeting

    Tuesday August 27 2013, 7 PM

    Luther Memorial Church

    13047 Greenwood Avenue N
    Where Should Sound Transit Locate their Trains Stations for Link Light Rail along I-5? is the topic of this meeting.
    Sound Transit staff will discuss potential stations on the future Lynnwood Link light rail at either 130th and I-5, 145th and I-5 and 155th and I-5. Not all these stations will be built. The decisions are being made now by Sound Transit even though they will not be built for years.
    Sound Transit Staff will present the findings of their Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the impact of these Stations on Broadview. They will open in 2022. The Broadview Community Council will look to develop a position on these stations. This meeting is a follow-up on our May meeting on Transit Projects in Broadview.
    Doors will open at 6:45 PM for information displays and a chance for you to meet and greet neighbors. The meeting presentation will start at 7:00

  15. From a Metro service announcement about SeaHawk game day service:

    ” A cash-only, exact fare of $4 one way or $8 round trip per person is required. No IRCA cards, passes or transfers are accepted. ”

    Two points —-

    What’s an IRCA cards? Where do I get one?

    Why shouldn’t I be able to use E-Purse to pay for such a fare? (Not using a pass – only value from the E-Purse). ?

    So is guess it is an IRKA card because it sure isn’t One Regional Card for All is it?

    1. I can guess that because of the way revenue sharing works it would be a bear to adjust ORCA payments for special service. It’s also hard to get across to people that you can use your ORCA if it’s set up as an ePurse but not if it’s a pass. If you have a vaild pass the system is set to tap that first so more special programming.

      1. Back when Pierce Transit still ran special service to the Puyallup Fair, ORCA cards were accepted. Of course, the fare was the same as for local service, so that may have made a difference — no extra programming needed. (It shows up on my ORCA history as PT “Route 9700.”)

    2. It either comes down to technical difficulties or overhead costs. Perhaps it’s not easy to add one-day events into the ORCA system. Perhaps Metro can’t afford to run the service with the ORCA vendor taking a percentage out of every transaction. Perhaps it’s because of what the Seahawks were and were not willing to subsidize. In the end it’s the same issue as, “Why can’t I use my e-purse on the Monorail?” In an ideal world it should work, but this is way low on the list of Pugetopolis’ transit problems. It’s a one-day special service from park n rides, why is it a big deal if it only takes cash? The regular buses will still be running, and they’ll take ORCA.

      1. If truly ‘One Regional Card for All’ then ORCA should be accepted on ALL public transportation vehicles ALL the time – period!
        All the rule-munchkins should be taken out to the shed once in a while for a lesson in KISS.
        What does ORCA do that a debit/credit card doesn’t do, or couldn’t do with some simple data manipulation? Even the girl scout cookie girls can accept plastic with a swipe, so why not just swipe your current plastic at the farebox and be done with it. For times the verification link on the card reader is down, just log the data and process it at the end of the run. Problem cards are flagged for fare inspectors to deal with the problem off the bus in a safe environment, not at the farebox.

      2. Mic, did you notice that Metro is in a revenue crunch and can’t even put more buses on overcrowded routes? “One Regional Card for All” is a slogan, it doesn’t just magically happen without cost just because that slogan was chosen.

    3. It’s also free additional money for Metro when everybody that doesn’t have four one’s on them will have to pay $5 instead of $4.

  16. I am very proud of myself. More proud of myself than normal, in fact. I called this one a couple of years ago. I said STB picks and chooses who gets called a NIMBY based on whether or not STB agrees or disagrees with their cause. And I have been proven correct. The anti-CVS Pharmacy/parking lot people in Wallingford ARE NIMBYS, not YIMBYS. They do not want a national chain pharmacy with a parking lot in their backyard.

    1. Did you read the article? The objection is to not enough of a building. No development = NIMBY. More development = YIMBY.

      Your pride is misplaced.

    2. Sam’s considerable body of wisdom grows daily, as he spends more time reading this blog than reading the New York Times that he stopped reading at the age of six.

    3. I actually agree with Sam on this one. Some people don’t want to live next to a tall building; other people don’t want to live next to a short building with too many parking spaces. In both cases, neighbors are asking the city to intervene, to prevent a property owner from constructing an undesirable (to them) building on privately-owned land.

      Like many of the people who post here, I think that dense, walkable cities are great. I also think that sprawling development and excess under-priced parking have lots of negative externalities, and I think we should use public policy (such as land taxes) to help correct those market failures. But I’ve never been a fan of name-calling. And I’m not sure what NIMBY is supposed to mean, if it doesn’t refer to someone who wants the government to block a nearby development that the person doesn’t like.

      If you subscribe to the argument that cities should regulate urban form, then you can’t really fault people for agreeing with you, even if you disagree strongly with them about what that form should be.

  17. Anyone get caught in the 3rd and pike/pine trolley wire mess? Apparently some of the wire came down around 5:30,

    As an aside, what happened to the 3 beeps when there was a control center to driver announcement?

  18. I’m surprised they are not pushing for merging the central Puget sound transit agencies into one mega agency like the old SCRTD (although in this case it would probably be the CPSRTA aka ST). They have tried in years past to do this but not much seems to come of it. Of course the local politicians would loose control, and I’m sure metro’s high cost of service would quickly spread to the other agencies mitigating any cost savings that may be had. Not to mention the cost of merging the systems, changing the fleet livery, signage, back end technology, etc. all to save the wages on a couple of CEOs.

    1. King County knows better than to tie the future of the bulk of its transit service to the region-wide electorate.

    2. Why not split up ST into PT, MT, and CT where it started, and leave all the funding sources in place when the last bonds are retired in 2053? It operates virtually nothing now or in the future, so it’s just a big job shack operation.
      Oh, the horror of it. Roll back government.

      1. The issue is not whether we have too much government, but whether we have sufficient transit (1) to compete with cars, and (2) to allow allow people to fufill most of their needs without driving. “Too much government” is an ideological abstraction, while “adequate transit” is a concrete criterion. It’s flipping ridiculous that it takes an hour to get from Ballard to Capitol Hill, or Greenwood to Lake City. The only way to solve this is with dedicated bus lanes or new rights of way. Just adding more buses will not make a difference. The powers that be have rejected converting parking lanes to bus lanes and signal preemption, so that only leaves new rights of way. That is intrinsically a capital problem, and ST is the best qualified to fulfill it. ST’s taxes will automatically roll back as the bonds are paid off, so you don’t have to worry about that. The taxes may be replaced by new voter-approved projects, but people will stop approving them when they perceive there’s enough transit.

    3. First off, ST is not qualified to, nor do they know how, to operate a transit agency. They contract out to other transit agencies to operate their trains and buses, from top to bottom. So before you suggest ST handle everything, let’s first see if they can handle even one thing. Let’s give it a test period, even. Let’s see, for example, if ST can operate all their own buses in King County for the next five years. That’s hire their own drivers, mechanics, supervisors, use their own bus base, etc. If they can do that well, THEN maybe we can talk about ST taking over and running everything in the region.

      Secondly, merging agencies doesn’t improve quality. It’s an idea that’s mentioned frequently on STB. Think LA Unified School District. High dropout rate, low test scores, overcrowded classes, poor maintenance, incompetent administration.

      Merging transit agencies is more intellectual pap and a panacea than an actual smart solution.

      1. Wait a minute. We have Sam Wright playing the role of Sam a few threads up on this post, proclaiming how much taxpayer money ST supposedly wastes on its financing tools.

        And now, we have an apparent union apologist proclaiming that transit agencies that contract out their operations aren’t real transit agencies, and posting under the monicker “Sam”. The latter is clearly unaware of the practices of numerous cost-concerned transit agencies in that regard.

      2. ST’s contracting isn’t quite “top-to-bottom.” As small as it is, they have been operating Tacoma Link for 10 years and will be adding staff and equipment there when the line expands.

      3. The faces change at the top but things stay essentially the same. If ST starts operating its own buses or takes over all the buses in the tri-county area, it will have to, gasp, hire people, thousands of people. Who would be most qualified? The ones at the existing transit agencies, of course, who have been running those exact same buses for years.

      4. Mike is exactly right. Metro itself is the product of the consolidation of the Seattle Transit System and the Metropolitan Transit Corporation, which with the exception of a few people at the top, ended up absorbing the employees of its predecessors. If you look at the history of that transition, the first day of Metro operations was chaotic enough without having to hiring thousands of drivers and mechanics from square one.

  19. Well, since nobody else has said it:

    Since I enjoy looking at what my wife calls “bus porn” *** so much, I just have to point out the above picture of the “police bus” is just about the coolest thing I have seen all week. Really. I’d have one of those. For my vast collection. :)

    *** (Get your mind out of the gutter! But I get her point. What else would you call my cruising the Internet looking for glossy pictures of such beautiful transit vehicles?)

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