47 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 10 Years of Tacoma Link”

  1. (This is an attempt at me writing a sincere, non-snarky comment)

    Does anyone know if the TOD going in at the South Kirkland P&R is going to be King County-owned apartments, or will the parcel be sold-off and will be independently owned apartments? I’m curious about this because when King County owns the parcel, it’s taken off the tax rolls. The apartments above the Overlake P&R, The Village at Overlake Station, for example, are county-owned low income apartments. The property, obviously, pays no property tax. I even checked on Parcel Viewer. But I was curious about what kind of tax money a similarly sized non county-owned apartment building throws off yearly. Down at the Redmond Transit Center, across the street used to be a large, county-owned P&R parking lot. That parcel was sold to a private developer, and the Veloce apartments now sits on that site. It’s similar in size to the Village at Overlake Station. The Veloce pays $570,000 year in property taxes. How many Veloces-sized property tax bills are King County and Sound Transit missing out on by owning and operating the parcels themselves, thereby making them exempt from being taxed?

    1. Firstly, Sound Transit and King County Metro don’t (directly) benefit from an expanded tax base.

      Secondly, if I understand our property tax system correctly, an increase in the property tax base would beneift other property owners in that taxing district because they would be taxed at a lower rate.

      1. They, and others, directly benefit. Property tax money goes to schools, cities, the county, libraries, the Port, hospitals, emergency medical services, and more. Property taxes benefit many, non-taxed low income housing benefits only a single group. BTW, don’t a bunch of people on this blog keep yappin’ about how public transit should seek out a more stable funding source, like property taxes? And you’re saying the less property tax that comes in, the better? Huh??

      2. Sam, aw is right. Roughly speaking, the county sets a total amount of tax it will collect and then apportions the tax bill between properties depending on their assessed value. Adding properties to the tax rolls benefits other property owners because their taxes go down just a little bit, but does not benefit the county, except in the attenuated sense that lower taxes may mean marginally less resistance to future property tax increases.

    2. The housing developments are going to be built and operated by the private Nonprofit group Imagine Housing.

      The fact that King County has recently carved out a new parcel, just for the footprint of the mixed-use development, retaining the access roads as a separate parcel, would seem to indicate that they plan on transferring ownership of it, possibly, maybe, at some point in the future. King County Housing Authority isn’t involved this time around, like they were for Overlake, so anything’s possible.

      However, we’re talking about a nonprofit here, who wouldn’t pay property taxes anyway, so it’s a moot point. Even if Imagine wasn’t a nonprofit, and did pay property taxes, Metro STILL would have nothing to gain, since they don’t get funding from property taxes.

      1. Not for profit organizations are not automatically exempt from property tax:

        Typical organizations receiving a
        property tax exemption are schools,
        churches, cemeteries, hospitals, social
        service agencies, character building
        organizations, nursing homes,
        homes for the aging, museums,
        and public meeting halls

        If they were operating a homeless shelter they might be exempt but this is going to be a mix of low income, market rate and commercial space. I don’t know if the property was sold or gifted to Imagine Housing or if they are just being retained as property managers. I also don’t know how much federal money went directly to building housing and retail vs the huge sum spent to recover the same number of parking spaces by building the new parking palace. I do know they aren’t going to use the rebuild to fix the damn one way loop through the P&R or better yet do a land swap with WSDOT and move it adjacent to 520 and build a flyer station. I also know this location is even worse for someone that is transit dependent than Overlake Village. There’s nothing within walking distance but a couple of restaurants, a rental shop, landscape supply and office space with huge seas of parking. The grocery options via transit are Metropolitan Market (the most expensive basket in town) or Whole Foods on 116th.

      2. “Even if Imagine wasn’t a nonprofit, and did pay property taxes, Metro STILL would have nothing to gain, since they don’t get funding from property taxes.”

        I disagree. In one scenario, no property taxes are paid. So Metro/King County gets nothing, forever. In the other scenario, King County sells the property, so there’s that to gain, the sales proceeds, and then there’s a variety of services within the county that would be perpetually funded from the property taxes.

        And with that, I’d like to leave you with this. It’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s from John D. Rockefeller. “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient become independent of it.”

    3. David, explain that math to me. Currently, only 1/4 of property owners pay property tax. 3/4 of property owners qualify for an exemption or extreme reduction. Example, day cares pay no property tax. The EMP, somehow, only pays $15,000 a year. The Gates Foundation, a whopping $4 million a year. (If anyone deserves a break, it’s the Gates organization, not for-profit day cares). If King County privatized a fraction of their hundreds of properties, and the county had tens of millions of more property tax dollars coming into the county each year, how would that only benefit other property tax payers by reducing their rates? Are you saying the county would not be allowed to accept any property tax money above a certain set amount?

      1. Sam, I’d like to see a citation for ” only 1/4 of property owners pay property tax”. I might buy it if the statement were “only 1/4 of property by land area is subject to property tax” (no citation, I made that up).

      2. aw, I will get back to you on that 1/4 statistic another day. Need to do a little digging to find it.

    1. Old saying about fire also holds true for cars: “Good servant, bad master.”

      Mark Dublin

    2. The last time I saw a real “phone booth” was inside the HUB at Yew Dub. Since they’re re-done the HUB I don’t even know if those are around even. Besides, we all know that phone booths were mainly to hold pay phones (you remember them?) and a place for Superman to change into his briefs over his tights.

    3. Some hardware stores are adding hydrogen refueling. That’s because, real world, customers are using more and more fuel cell utility vehicles like forklifts. They are ideal for warehouses where they do not pollute, yet have longer run times than battery vehicles.

  2. Any other place with proper funding would have Tacoma link connected to central link by now (10 years). Not much to celebrate.

      1. I’m trying to imagine what would have had to be built up with this “proper funding” that is a higher priority than linking Link and Tacoma Link and it makes me so happy that obviously the Ballard-to-UW light rail must have been completed already. I’m sure that West Seattle line is, too. The Ballard Subway is full all the time even with two minute headways. And the gondola up Capitol Hill is a major tourist attraction as well as a great replacement for the 8. I’m sure others can add to this.

    1. Los Angeles, for instance. We should just build the transit we need now rather than spreading it out over decades. Every year without it means accumulated days that people waste waiting for buses or sitting in traffic, or keeping a car in the garage that they wouldn’t otherwise need. That’s days’ worth of productive work they could be doing, without taking time away from their family. So we should finish building Link to Tacoma. But it won’t connect to Tacoma Link because they’re different levels of service. You can’t fit four-car trains at Tacoma Link station or on Pacific/Commerce Streets. Tacoma Link should have been called Tacoma Streetcar to avoid confusion on that.

  3. I know it’s not very humble of me to ask this, but will someone here enter me for a Pulitzer Prize under the Commentary category in Journalism? I suppose you would just look through my body of work here in the comment section, pick out a few of my best commentaries, then submit them to the Pulitzer committee. Here’s the link on how to enter me.

    http://www.pulitzer.org/how_to_enter

  4. With Puget Sound Bike Share on the horizon, has anyone heard if ST is working to provide space in or around new Link stations for bike share kiosks? I could see with just a couple little design tweaks or just reprogramming of space they could make bike share incredibly convenient to the U Link and North Link stations under construction right now.

  5. The Kent Nexus

    I took my Sunday ride alone the Interurban down to Algona, returned and had an Orange Mandarin refresher at Starbucks and then used one of my free Metro passes for a lift up Kent East Hill on the 169. Using OBA I was able to maximize my leisure outside Starbucks and then zip to catch the bus.

    Sitting in the front seat so I could watch my bike, I noted a few things. As always the 169 was quite well used, as always, even on Sundays. While not jam packed, each bench had at least one person, some two.

    Then the 164, 166, 168. 169 schedule caught my eye, especially the schematic on the front. With Kent as the center, arms radiate out east, west, north and south. Kent-Burien. Kent-Renton. Kent-Maple Valley. Kent-GRCC. Kent seems like such a natural center for so many things! And yet, unlike the Seattle isthmus, is not bounded by water!

    1. Yes, it is a natural transit hub.

      I’ve been meaning to take a walk from Auburn to Pacific and also check out the White River Trail but haven’t done it yet.

  6. Coal Train Bargaining Points

    If our political leaders bring in coal trains to the Pacific Corridor, then we must get maximum quid for our quo.

    Specifically, these are the must-haves that Warren Buffet’s BNSF should provide:

    1) Tear up the right of way contract for Sounder; allow free passage at all times when not used for freight. This allows weekend and night service.

    2) BNSF pays for passenger improvements from Portland to Vancouver, BC to allow for MSR (Medium Speed Rail) to travel at around 155 mph.

    3) Along side the MSR trains runs Sounder as the local, up and down Washington State’s Western N/S corridor.

    4) Some money is set aside for coal to hydrogen plants to be built in Washington State as an alternate fuel for diesel-electric engines.

    1. Multiple problems:
      1) I don’t think BNSF would ever agree to terms like this. If push came to shove, the coal trains are worth a lot to them, but probably not that much.
      2) Whatever agency would have veto power over coal trains, it wouldn’t be Sound Transit, and probably wouldn’t care about transit at all.
      3) Even if it did, it would be way cheaper for BNSF to just hire lobbyists and make necessary campaign donations to get whoever runs whatever agency gets to say “no” to coal trains replaced with someone more friendly to them.

      1. Do any public agencies even have the power to dictate such terms? Even if coal terminals could be stopped in Washington and Oregon, what power does anyone here have over an expansion of coal exports from BC?

      2. Part of negotiating is putting items like these on the table to see just what they will trade.

        Obviously they want to do this.

        Has anyone tried asking, even?

      3. Why does BNSF need to negotiate? They’re engaged in interstate commerce. Nobody here has any leverage.

        If they have a customer that wants to ship a commodity from Wyoming to an export terminal on the west coast, they merely need to figure out how to shove those extra trains onto their capacity-constrained lines while honoring their contractural commitments to Amtrak, Sound Transit and all their other prior customers. Well, they also need to conform to regulations for transporting hazardous materials, but AFAIK, coal is not a hazardous material.

    2. Since BNSF is a common carrier, they cannot refuse* a shipment over their railroad. The only leverage the state of Washington really has with them is the Amtrak Cascades contract. Seattle has some with Sounder, as well, however these are mostly limited to on-time performance, not what goods can be carried on the line. We could if we are smart get more trains out of this for minimal cost, since BNSF is using capacity they already have with minimal improvements to move these extra oil and coal trains. One simply has to figure out on average how many extra trains were added, and how much extra improvements were made and you have a fairly effective bargaining tool. They are going to come back and want the moon, and you can knock them down a notch or two. Of course the flip side is that freight is not as time-sensitive as passenger but never less, its still a good bargaining tool to help determine overall capacity when negotiating.

      * Now they can refuse improperly loaded, or if they did not like you they could make it really difficult for you to ship (using strange routes, interchanges with other railroads, etc. Since the coal trains are unit trains through, they watch the $$$ come in)

    3. You haven’t thought this through, John. (1) is especially poorly thought out — freight railroads simply claim that they are running freight trains at all times and prohibit all passenger service.

      Of note, given that “common carrier” was mentioned above, the freight railroads are violating their common carrier obligations by *not carrying passengers on demand*. They really do refuse shipments!

      They were given a special exemption from common carrier requirements in exchange for joining Amtrak and giving Amtrak priority treatment. They have refused to given Amtrak priority treatment for the last 40 years and should really be liquidated for their criminal behavior. But what are you gonna do.

    1. Sound Transit is not Pierce Transit. They have different mandates, different funding sources, and different levels of pressure against their finances.

  7. Now that Tacoma Link has been operating for 10 years, when will Sound Transit actually provide a schedule? It’s shocking and utterly inexusable that there is no schedule even though the train operates at 24-minute headways (!!!) on Sundays and evenings. This is especially relevant given that Pierce Transit is now planning to truncate several routes at Tacoma Dome Station due to budget cuts, but the connection to/from Tacoma Link will suck if no schedule is provided.

    1. When will they provide a schedule for Central LINK as well? they obviously have one as it feeds OBA.

    2. I believe truncating the routes at TDS is off for now, since that was part of the September service cuts that have been postponed.

      The arrival times for Tacoma Link in OBA aren’t in real-time at all… the wait time shown for each stop is simply half the headway and never changes. Unlike Central Link, I get the impression that there really is no specific schedule for Tacoma Link, especially in regard to when they leave TDS. The operators are pretty nonchalant about switching from one end of the car to the other — they don’t seem to be watching a clock at all.

  8. Random thought: has the NFL’s new “clear bag” policy effectively ended any ability to cycle to NFL events? I know on my own bicycle, I need either a shoulder bag or a pannier to carry my U-Lock/cable combo, and I’m not going to choose a smaller lock if I’m leaving my bike outside a stadium for a few hours in the evening. Given that cyclists don’t have anywhere outside the stadium to leave their bags, which are required to carry their locks, then I think we’re out of luck from here on out.

    1. One of my bikes has a great rack design which allows me to simply slide a U-lock into the rack and carry it around without any container. Even if you don’t have a rack that permits this, you can still secure the lock on top of the rack with a bungee cord. Bungee cords take up so little space, you can just carry it around in your pocket during the game. Yet another option is to bolt a milk create to your rear rack and throw your locks in there.

    2. When I had a bike, I put the U-lock through a hole in the helmet and also threaded it through my jacket sleeve, so I could leave my jacket outside when I went to a dance club that charges for coat check.

  9. For the first time since I started riding transit (more than two years ago), I witnessed a fully-loaded ST 545 going to Redmond on a Sunday evening when I was heading to work. No more people could be physically pushed onto that bus. The driver even asked me if I would mind “trying to get on through the back door” at Montlake. Almost every passenger standing aft of the securement area had to temporarily step off at Overlake TC to let a lady in the middle get leave because there was no room to let her squeeze by.

    ST 550 riders, I get you.

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