This is an open thread.

57 Replies to “News Roundup: Draws Fire”

  1. The Lynnwood Link 130th thing is not great news, right? As I read Conlin’s blog it sounds like the 130th station is far from a sure thing initially but might get added later?

    As for skipping potential bridge rebuilds at 117th and 185th, it’s unclear to me what impact that might have. From a ped/bike station access perspective the existing 185th bridge is pretty good (it’s wide enough that they could paint bike lanes on it today); 117th wouldn’t be super-important for station access and is more or less adequate.

    1. I read Conlin’s post to mean basically that Sound Transit doesn’t have the legal authority to guarantee a 130th St station at this point. If they pass another ballot measure that specifically calls for a 130th St station, then they can promise it will happen. Since ST3 hasn’t happened yet, the best they can do right now is say they will design the line with a 130th St infill station in mind, and adding it will be the first thing they will do when and if the rest of the project seems to be coming in under budget.

      So no, it’s not great news, but it’s not terrible news either.

    2. I just hope 130th can be added in time for the segment’s opening. Graham station has been deferred for four years now and still doesn’t have a construction date. If 145th will be the only station for several years, Lake City is going to need a frequent bus to it. That’s still not ideal because it’s further away, and I have less faith that Metro will create it than for a 125th/130th route. I’m afraid we might end up with Lake Cityans having to go to Northgate to get to Link.

      1. If there is no 130th Station, not many Lake City residents will use Link at all; they will insist on keeping one-seat service to downtown and the U-District comparable to the current 522 and 372. People have long memories, and the memories of the 307 are not fond, to put it mildly.

      2. +1, David. Spot on. Lake City/Meadowbrook residents do not go through Northgate to get anywhere else if they can possibly avoid it.

      3. Yes, but those who want to use Link, especially for its advantages on beyond-downtown trips, and who don’t want to sit in unpredictable I-5 traffic. will want a bus to the nearest Link station… something better than the current 41 and 75.

  2. A question of terminology: Is there any functional difference between light rail and premetro? Best I can think of are that some segments of premetro are built to rapid transit standards, but numerous light rail lines in the USA satisfy that condition.

    Any guesses why the term premetro never really caught on in the USA?

    1. Light rail was the marketing term chosen. “Premetro” implies it will be upgraded to metro someday, and most (or all) light rail systems have no such intention. It would also be bad if the public started using it because it sounds like “not as good as metro”. How would you like to have your transit system named that? “Bartender, a Near Beer please.” But in fact light rail is perfectly sized for many small and medium-sized cities, and even Los Angeles seems satisfied with its Blue Line’s capacity. “Premetro” would more properly apply to a bus corridor upgraded to BRT assuming future conversion to rail. That’s essentially what the DSTT was. (The 41, 71/72/73, 150, and 550 could be considered a kind of BRT, at least compared to what preceded them.)

  3. Cheaper to take taxi than Sounder North…says Access Washington!

    Average cost of Sound North? $37.84 per boarding

    To put this amount in perspective, it would run about $80, or the cost of two passengers on the Sounder, to take a taxi or Uber car from Everett to Seattle. In other words, if it put two passengers in each car, Sound Transit could pay a fleet of taxis to take passengers from Everett to Seattle for the same amount it pays to operate Sounder North. Or Sound Transit could reduce costs by a third by putting three passengers in each car.

    1. So, Uber is out because you can’t guarantee a hundred Uber cars will be available from Everett to Seattle every morning. Taxis could theoretically work if ST had them ready at a station rather than each person needing to find somebody to carpool with. But that would break down immediately if you think about how large a station would have to be to accommodate fifty taxis at once, not to mention the space they’d take up on already-full I-5. You’d have to quickly march to ST Express buses if you want to eliminate the trains.

      1. It isn’t a practical suggestion, it’s a statement on the ineffectiveness of Sounder North. Though Sounder North represents a small portion of our regional transit expenditures and is too politically popular in the north (at least among elected officials) to die, disingenuous trolls (I personally value lots of conservative ideals, but let’s be honest: the majority of political commentary from the right these days is nihilistic bluster or childish trolling) like to use its example to cast doubt the transit system as a whole. But we shouldn’t be fooled: the problems of Sounder North hardly resemble the problems the rest of our system faces.

      2. You assume each and every person would want to arrive and leave at the same minute. That’s true for a train, but not for a cab. Would you even need a “station”? Why not just start the trip wherever 3 or 4 people would meet like a carpool?

      3. @Mike Orr.

        Well, if you think about it…it would be the ideal situation for a taxi company.

        So they start the morning with all their cabs out in the residential areas. Then they drive them into the city. While in the city they ferry people around while they are there at work. Then, at the end of the day they go back to the residential areas and serve people in the evening.

        In other words — the would behave exactly as private autos do!!!

      4. A system like yours would work great in the suburban fringes (e.g. Samammish, North Bend, Redmond Ridge, Black Diamond, etc.) Even for a core commuting route, I could see it working very late at night when buses are currently out of service and each person has to either cough up the entire taxi ride themselves or rent a car.

        Even for rush-hour a commutes, a dynamic-shared-ride taxi system could potentially work as a shuttle option for getting people from homes to a nearby transit station. But for a trunk line between Everett and Seattle – not a chance because the system simply doesn’t scale. As long as human labor is involved, the cost per boarding will never get as low as the $7 or so per boarding it costs to operate the 510. And then, there’s the traffic impact of all these extra vehicles on the road. On the freeway, especially near Everett, it may not make that much difference. But in and near downtown, the impact would definitely be felt. Even buses, with 50 people per vehicle, cause a non-trivial amount of road congestion downtown. Replace every bus with 12-15 shared-ride vehicles and the result, at least downtown, would be gridlock.

        Of course, the JB solution to this problem is to just abandon downtown and move all the jobs out to the suburbs. But downtown exists for a reason. People value being in the middle of things and close to the action.

    2. Am I wrong here, but if you cancelled Sounder North tomorrow, and, theoretically, lined up the entire fleets of Everett Yellow Cab and North End Taxi at the Everett & Edmonds Stations, the cost of Sounder would not go down to zero.

      Because the flaw in your argument is this: If one additional passenger gets on the train, it does not cost anyone an additional $37.84 or any other figure. And since most of the costs of Sounder are already spent, then even eliminating the train will not eliminate much of the costs.

      Rough math:
      $80.00 cab ride from Everett to Seattle/4 passengers per cab= $20.00 per passenger.
      Add around $18.00 per passenger for the sunk costs of the original payment to BNSF for the right to use the rail, whether we use it or not.
      Getting to about the price we have now. But we still save the congestion of a hundred cabs on the freeway, and Snohomish County would still have a cab fleet for local trips.

      Thus is the folly of the $X per passenger that you are always using.

      1. The analysis would be correct on a train by train basis — which is what he is using.

        He’s taking the total cost of the Sounder system and figuring out what it costs to run each train trip, and segregating the North Sounder trips and dividing that segment of costs by the passengers.

        This seems like a valid thing to do.

        The complications would be if there is a difference in the per mile hardware costs of North Sounder versus South (unlikely), in the total fuel spent (have to look burn rate of diesel fuel and the total mileage) and also the leasing costs to BNSF (if it can be broken down to North and South rights of way).

    3. Some say that some very powerful, connected, influential government (including ST) employees take Sounder North. They love the personalized, exclusive train service from their north end waterfront mansions to their downtown corner office suites. They will do whatever they have to do to make sure the line isn’t going away.

      1. I think Joni Earl said she takes Sounder South from Puyallup. As to whether any influential government employees take Sounder North, why don’t you investigate? You can bill your train tickets to STB as business expenses. Not that it would pay them, but it would give you the satisfaction of writing up an invoice.

    4. You’re not counting the subsidy of building roads. If you count the full cost to taxpayers of the train, as well as fares, then you need to count the cost of building and maintaining roads for taxis to drive on. Start counting the cost of pollution, and this argument really goes down the hole.

      Not to say that Sounder North is the most cost-effective transit, but can you imagine if we analyzed every road project like this?

    1. People still seem to think that the rest of the state is paying for Seattle’s infrastructure with their tax money.

      1. Some say that, if anything, the greater Seattle area OWES the rest of the state. “How do you figure, Sam?” Let me explain. Sure, the rural areas of WA state see a net benefit in terms of road projects money we city folk send their way, but we also send them other, less desirable things, like global warming and pollution. Some say the least we can do is build them a few roads and schools for all the ecological havoc we’re wreaking upon them.

    2. The Times comments can be misleading on where the consensus is, though. You’d think that everybody in Seattle hated bicycles with the burning heat of a thousand suns based on what you see in the Times, but that’s not the case. I think the comments just have a way of emphasizing the curmudgeons.

    3. The Times’ comments are pretty uniformly right-wingers, which contrasts decisively with Seattle’s and even the Eastside’s voting patterns. I heard a great explanation of this phenomenon a couple years ago. These are the comments that were previously sent as letters to the editor, who routed them to the trash can. An editor chooses a representative sample of reasonable letters for a limited space, whereas online commenters can self-publish anything and everything. And it turns out that the extremists are the ones with the most time on their hands and an axe to grind.

    4. This anti-Seattle sentiment leads me to believe it might be possible to pass some Eyman-style initiative that says that a county or city only receives, proportionally, what it remits in taxes to the state. The people who think their tax money only goes to Seattle would support it, and then we in Seattle could “keep” our tax revenue.

      1. That would be hilarious and awesome. However, I predict that it would probably fail, for two reasons. First, the folks who are skilled at initiative building (like Eyman) aren’t stupid enough to enact a counterproductive measure like this. Second, the reason we’ve gotten into this situation in the first place is precisely that folks on the left are pretty much okay with funding rural school districts and fire departments. You’d get votes from the Tea Party types, and from many of the Stranger’s readers (cf. Urban Archipelago), but that’s about it.

      2. Folks on the left aren’t merely “pretty much okay” with funding rural school districts and fire departments. We consider it imperative. The idea that wealth created in cities shouldn’t be used in part to maintain basic infrastructure for people doing important rural jobs in rural areas, so that they grow up in something like the same society as people in urban areas do and have social mobility, is not an idea of any “left” worthy of the name (says a child of liberal parents that grew up in the rural midwest, got good educations, and chose urban careers).

        In so many ways the work done in rural areas even by the rural self-employed is under urban command. Farmers, largely sole proprietors, take the financial risks associated with their crops and compete against every other farmer out there; they watch profits slip away to ever-consolidating seed and chemical companies that supply them and ever-consolidating food processors they sell to. The way they work is invented and dictated at these companies and at universities under their watch. Miners, drillers, and loggers have physically demanding, dangerous, insecure jobs; they watch profits slip away to consolidated mining companies that maintain their advantageous position using urban capital and advanced technology (there are low-overhead independent oil drillers in America, some that make a fine living for themselves in these times of high prices; by all accounts they earn every penny).

        In some sense, a Bailo-esque “state-city” has formed (and not just in the last decade), not so much by extension of urban-style commutes across the whole state as by extension of consolidated urban control across rural industries. In some sense, the big sky is closing in when rural life doesn’t mean independent citizenship in a unified society as much as economic subservience in a divided one. In some sense the rural resentment embodied by the Tea Party isn’t so much anti-government as socialistic, using political representation to control urban policy the way unionists used popular support to gain control of capital. In some sense, when its energy is co-opted by corporate forces and suburban movement-conservatives (Fox News and Rob “You guys are awesome!” McKenna) this is counter-revolutionary adaption, like the British monarchy or European social democracy. In some sense it’s also confused, nihilistic, know-nothing, cynical politics, and I’m sure this analogy breaks down in a thousand ways. But I’m pretty sure strengthening our polarization wouldn’t be “awesome” for anyone in the long run.

      3. Al, I’m certainly not advocating for this us vs. them style of politics. My suggestion was mostly a sarcastic one born of frustration. While I do not think that such an initiative would a) succeed or b) be a good thing, I think the debate it would spark about where money comes from and where it is spent would be good for this state and, hopefully, it would let people see that we are in this together and nobody benefits when one region of the state plays itself against another.

      4. Al,

        Like you, I do think that we should do our best to raise the living standard for everyone, and that includes people who live in rural areas.

        However, it really bugs me that Seattle *isn’t* allowed to raise the living standard for people who live here. Not only will folks in rural areas consistently vote down any attempt to increase the scope of government statewide, but they will consistently vote down any attempt to allow us to increase the scope of our own government.

        The reason that I would vote for a measure like the one that Justin Elder suggests isn’t because I think that rural areas should be self-sufficient. It’s because, so long as folks in rural areas operate under the delusion that all their money is being wasted on urban projects, the status quo is that the size of government is steadily *decreasing*. Rural folks consistently vote against their best interests, by voting against tax increases that would primarily tax people who live in the cities and primarily send money to their districts.

        Sound Transit’s subarea equity model is not “fair”: it takes from people according to their ability, but does not give to people according to their need. However, this model has been very successful at raising the *general* level of funding. Pierce and Snohomish and East King voters have shown their willingness to continue to fund Sound Transit, because they feel like they’re getting something out of the bargain.

        I disagree that this would increase polarization, any more than subarea equity has increased polarization for Sound Transit. To the contrary, I think it would create a unity of purpose. Everyone would feel like government had something to offer them, not just people in other parts of the state.

        I think it’s a terrible shame that we’ve found ourselves in the political situation we’re in. But I do believe that, in the long-term, a statewide “subarea equity” system would have the effect of allowing government’s size and scope to increase, because it would get rural voters to buy into the idea that larger government can really make their lives better. It’s crazy and ridiculous that the way to do that would also have the effect of reducing government spending in their districts, but what can you do?

      5. In the early part of the previous decade, there was an initiative (never made it onto the ballot) that would’ve restricted gas tax spending to the county in which it was collected unless otherwise approved by the state lesiglature.

      6. “folks on the left are pretty much okay with funding rural school districts and fire departments”

        Yes, but we’re getting impatient. It’s one thing to subsidize rural areas, another to do it that while listening to their rhetoric about city welfare queens, and still another to do it while being blocked from spending our own tax money on our own basic and critical infrastructure so that we can build their freeways instead. At some point the red states and counties are going to have to get a taste of their own medicine. An interesting thing about some states refusal to accept Medicaid expansion is it may end up doing exactly that: universal healthcare in blue states and medical-bankrupcies in red states. There are also now some on the left wondering if maybe we should let the South secede after all.

        PS. I grew up Republican, was moderately conservative in the 80s and 90s, and Libertarian in the late 90s until early 2001, when G W Bush showed me the error of my ways. I’m still a centrist at heart, but the Right has marched so far right that the “left-wing media” is now speaking the center. (Not Sawant of course, but those more moderate than her.)

    5. I saw a few positive ones about the new development on the old Times lot and they were getting more up-votes than down. I was very surprised.

  4. Tom Rasmussen threatens to move Northgate pedestrian bridge funding back for a project in his district, draws fire, restores the funding.

    The Stranger’s title aside, I disagree with this summary. Rasmussen was elected to an at-large seat on the current city council. He will be up for election again in 2015, and many people predict that he will run for the seat that comprises West Seattle, but he has not yet been elected to that seat. To the extent that he is currently acting in a way that benefits West Seattle at the expense of Northgate, he is actively opposing the interests of many of his current constituents.

    1. If he will run for District 1, his incentive to worry about his current constituents went out the window the day the districts proposal passed. In that case he only has an incentive to worry about the District 1 electorate.

      But, even so, replacing a pedestrian bridge that is a vital transit link and that almost everyone in the north half of the city has agreed about for years with a street beautification project was just too much to swallow.

      1. If he will run for District 1, his incentive to worry about his current constituents went out the window the day the districts proposal passed. In that case he only has an incentive to worry about the District 1 electorate.

        By that argument, any term-limited or retiring politician has no incentive to listen to their constituents at all, since they will never be up for reelection.

        It’s true that “lame-duck” politicians often engage in political gambits that they would not do if they were worried about reelection. But on the whole, I don’t think it’s true that politicians only pay attention to the interests of people who will vote for them again in the future. Most politicians understand that they will have an easier time getting their way if they have the approval of the people while they’re in office. Many political battles are won or lost in the court of public opinion.

        If Rasmussen has truly decided to anoint himself the District 1 representative, then I don’t know what to say, except that he should be ashamed of himself, and that I will make sure to donate money to his opponent.

      2. I’ve called the Fauntleroy “Green Boulevard” a beautification project, too, and I think there’s some truth to that dismissal, and I think the city and state blow too much money trying to greenwash transportation infrastructure (see useless “lid-style” bridges over 520) instead of making it useful. But there are a couple elements to the Fauntleroy project that will really help.

        – It squares off the Fauntleroy/Alaska intersection and gives it a full set of crosswalks. The light cycle there will probably still be heavy on turn phases, so it won’t be a pedestrian paradise, but it will be a huge improvement compared to what’s there now.
        – Adding several pedestrian crossings of Fauntleroy will complement zoning changes in the triangle area (roughly bounded by Fauntleroy, Alaska, and 35th) — with Fauntleroy a softer border it will have a less pronounced border vacuum.
        – The street trees, when they grow up and add a canopy effect, will make the street feel narrower and have the benefits associated with that (people will naturally drive slower and be more willing to cross the street).

        In total, in the long run, the triangle area isn’t going to be Cap Hill, but infrastructure changes like this, similar to those on Lake City Way in the center of Lake City, could have a similar effect (Fauntleroy today is more like LCW south of Lake City, slicing through the local street network). They’ll make a highway less disruptive and more humane without gutting its capacity, allowing the neighborhood to fill in naturally. Maybe in the future, if Fauntleroy sprouts a walkable business district in this stretch like LCW has, it would make a good route for the C Line between Avalon and Alaska… but a “wait and see” attitude seems prudent.

  5. When it snows, there are PSA’s advising people not to drive unless they absolutely have to. When there’s a drought, we are urged to conserve water. When air quality is bad, we’re told not to make a fire. So why, if the threat of a 17% service reduction becomes a reality, wouldn’t there be a campaign to encourage people not take the bus unless it’s absolutely necessary? “Because people have to take the bus, Sam!” And people need water, too, but we are often asked or encourage to use less of it. Why can’t there be a public campaign urging those to don’t need to take the bus, not to? Like water, public transportation is a limited resource, and shouldn’t be wasted, especially after a service reduction. Save the very limited space on the bus for those who truly need it. Workers, students, etc.

      1. AndrewN, you missed the point. There is a certain of percentage of people who don’t NEED to take the bus. Those aimless riders do not drive the economy. Maybe it’s just 5 to 10% of riders, but if the cuts come, asking people not to take the bus would be a perfectly reasonable, prudent PSA.

    1. So, drivers should never make unnecessary trips because it adds significantly to pollution, resource depletion, congestion, road wear, national insecurity, etc. Not one single person of course, but when all of them do it. Transit adds a little bit to the first four but not much, and countries all over the world have decided that the minimal impact of robust transit is worth it, because everybody benefits when people can get to work and shop and cultural events and medical appointments. So in the normal case, people should take transit as much as they like, even for non-essential trips. But maybe not riding it all day as a quasi homeless shelter. But generally, taking transit.

      So then, we have slightly-better-than-mediocre bus network that’s about to get major cuts. Pervasive overcrowding is predicted. That changes the calculus somewhat. If you take a bus that’s normally full, you might literally be displacing someone else, who might have to wait two more buses before getting on, or wait 30-60 minutes because the route is infrequent. That person may be tired, have to get to work now or they’ll be fired, or have little kids with them. In that case, you may want to think about not taking the bus if it’s an unnecessary trip or you can walk to your destination.

    1. What are your thoughts on the development? Here are mine:

      I don’t know why there isn’t ground floor retail all around. The neighborhood needs it. There is no retail at the Mirabella Retirement Home across the street. That’s a lot of people right there who could use a place to have lunch. I can see why you would skip having retail on Denny. It is a nasty street for retail, and there is very little there now. But the rest of it could use and support ground floor retail.

      I’m not sure why there is a public courtyard in the middle, but they eliminate the little park. Seems backwards. I guess the residents want something more “private”. The main value I see in the courtyards is that it makes it easier for a pedestrian to “cut through”. Unfortunately, the way it is designed makes it difficult to do that in an efficient way (too much zig-zagging).

  6. I have nothing against the Broadway cycle track, but I do see how parking can be confusing to someone visiting from outside of Seattle. Even with the signs and the painted lines, that white car with the green checkmark looks like it’s parked in the middle of the street.

    I wish the planners could have come up with a more substantial barrier between the parking lane and the cycle track.

      1. Not that I don’t like the separation, but I’ve seen cars down drive that lane. One was a confused tourist who quickly remedied the error, but the other car just continued driving even as I was biking toward it.

      2. It’s a first step. And Broadway has a limited amount of space and a high volume of cars, buses, and soon streetcars. Is this Vancouver street comparable? Vancover’s West End has a lot of small residential streets inside the Granville-Robson-Dunbar-Davie rectangle, where a cycletrack wouldn’t be disrupting that many cars.

  7. So, I have a thought, and before I go all half-informed and try proposing this to my representatives (Sen. Tom, are you listening?), I want to float it here:

    What about the possibility of removing the “double vote” from the local transit funding through language in a bill that says that only one vote has to take place? If the whole bill is put up to an initiative and it passes in King and/or Snohomish counties, as well as in the state overall (thus the law takes effect) then the local option tax authority can be enacted by the Councils of each county. If the bill passes in the state and either county votes no, then the bill is still in effect but the local taxing option is then able to be put to a second ballot by the Councils of each county.

    Would this even be possible? My former state did this for state constitutional amendments that had the effect of being available only in one county (the amendment had to pass the whole state in order to be effective AND pass by a majority of votes in the specific county) but I’m not sure if it’s feasible in Washington.

    1. Oh, and if the bill passes and is not subject to a referendum (sorry, not an initiative), then the local option still goes before the voters of the specific counties.

  8. Free Gas!!

    Hyundai to Lease Fuel-Cell SUV for $499 as Hydrogen Race Widens

    Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, announced the program yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, initially targeting California, which has the most hydrogen fuel stations in the U.S. The monthly price, and a $2,999 down payment, includes unlimited fuel and no-cost maintenance during the 36-month lease, the Seoul-based company said.

  9. Trivia question: The metal handrail in the above photo (Benaroya Hall connection from the Transit Tunnel to Second Avenue) has Braille text embedded in the railing. Does anyone know what the text is?

    1. A drive-up ATM that I frequently use has braille on its touchpad. Would anyone care to speculate what those dots say?

      1. I suspect that it’s a generic design that is also installable in non-drive up locations, and needs the Braille to help meet bank’s ADA obligations.

        Of course, it could be something else. For example, My father in law has a vision impaired friend. My (then) 1st grade daughter suggested that it would be a bad idea for him to drive himself home because his cane would break the windshield.

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