78 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Capacity of Downtown LA”

  1. Wow. The area of the city of Los Angeles is much like the Pierce Transit service area. Two distinct pieces, connected by a thin strip of area, making it (barely) a single, contiguous area.

  2. Back in April, I wrote this:

    “So now people on Queen Anne, downtown, and Capitol Hill, who didn’t want a 240 foot tall Berlin Wall of glass and and steel encircling Lake Union and throwing the area into a post-apocalyptic nightmare of perpetually oppressive darkness and shadows are selfish land owners? Just because people don’t want to Manhattanize SLU, doesn’t mean they want to “keep people out.” People here accused me of being wildly hyperbolic. Well, well, well. Look what we have here. An article popped up in the New York Times three days ago profiling how taller buildings destroy neighborhoods and harm people’s mental and physical well being.

    In the Shadow of Rising Towers. Laments of Lost Sunlight in New York.


    1. Yes, I at least already knew that would be a problem. I don’t have a source, but I read somewhere that “sunlight rights” are already a salable quantity in Tokyo. Where you’re off is that the actual buildings planned for SLU won’t cast appreciable shadows over parks, nor any shadows over other neighborhoods.

      1. The point of my original comments was this: Just because a neighborhood doesn’t want taller buildings, doesn’t mean their motive is to keep people out. One tactic pro-growthers use is to demonize neighborhoods by calling them NIMBYS or claiming they want to keep people out, when the neighborhood’s motive typically has more to do with aesthetics.

      2. If it is about aesthetics, then why are aesthetics so rarely considered? Because it usually isn’t. Try and get rid of the parking requirement in this city (which would probably help aesthetics). It won’t happen, because people are afraid of losing on street parking.

        Try to get rid of laws that limit the number of apartments in a building, but keep the external dimensions the same. Again, it won’t happen. People are afraid of congestion, or parking, or just too many people in their neighborhood. Look at what has happened with Apodments. Apodments are called a “loophole”, because they go against the spirit of most of the zoning laws. But it is this spirit that is wrong. Simply put — if someone builds a six story building, why should they be limited to a certain number of apartments? The same applies to 2 story houses.

        Hell, just try and liberalize the mother-in-law apartment rules, which would have practically nothing to do with aesthetics, and people will whine about renters, or parking, or something.

        I’m all for good aesthetics as are a lot of people who fight for more density (look at Dan Bertolet). But the people in these meetings aren’t fighting for more “pencils” and fewer “bread loaves”. I wish they were. I also wish the other side acknowledged (more often) that a lot of these big buildings are crap, and not the type of thing we want to build, too. But again, it is usually the proponents of growth (like Bertolet) that fight for these sorts of things (when is the last time an anti-growth proponent said we should be more like Vancouver).

        I’m sure there are good people who understand the need for more housing in the city and want more of it in their neighborhood, but just want the new buildings to be nice (like Vancouver). But they are not a powerful force in these arguments. They are drowned out by folks who want to keep things the way they are now versus folks who want to build as much as possible. The folks who want to keep things the way they are now are all too happy to throw in an extra “the sun will be blotted out from the sky” argument when it suits their needs.

    2. The question is, how much is it right to protect aesthetics when people cannot afford housing at all? There can and should be a middle ground, and it can be codified, as the NY Times story points out.

      The problem is, right now, neighbors can claim (and truly fear) shading impacts when the impact is entirely calculable and not that bad. If we establish a certain amount of allowable shading then that argument is no longer a vague fear/complaint, and part of what you sign up for when you move into the city. But you are also protected from a complete lack of sunlight by a building next door.

      Sunlight IS a human need, and so it actually makes more sense to regulate than height or FAR, which has no direct correlation to human health and happiness. I can imagine new zoning that identifies outcomes (sunlight, and other factors that determine livability and justice) and allows developers to build whatever form produces those outcomes.

      1. DPD requires sunlight/shadow analyses of all proposed towers already. It’s been a common thing in major cities for a while.

    3. The word “Manhattanize” is hyperbolic in this context no matter how you slice it. It’s impossible for SLU to come close to resembling Manhattan, not only because the demand isn’t there but zoning makes it illegal. Also SLU is about 1/100th the geographic size of Midtown Manhattan.

      1. Also, there are no hundred-year-old apartment buildings to be shadowed, because they were torn down seventy years ago to make way for parking lots and warehouses. And if there ever were any apartment buildings with east-coast style lot-line walls and windows, they’ve been illegal for just as long so they’re gone now.

      2. “…there are no hundred-year-old apartment buildings to be shadowed, because they were torn down seventy years ago…”

        Guess I live in a parking lot then?


        Alright fine, Carolina Court is only 97 years old. You win. Though off the top of my head there’s also Williamsburg Apartments, which is 101 years old. Then again, it’s south of Denny Way thus just barely outside of SLU proper. And it’s also sadly set to be torn down sometime in 2014.

      3. I was talking Fairview Avenue and west. AFAIK the Cascade area is protected from megaheight buildings. I thought about the Carolina Court, where I toured an apartment a few years ago, and would have considered it further if it weren’t for the loud freeway noise in the front courtyard (you can barely hear the door phone) and the long walk to Westlake station. That part of Eastlake really got slammed when I-5 went in.

      4. :-)

        My dad (and family) lived at Carolina Court when he was quite young…not quite 97 years ago but pushing 80. I always think of that when I go by there. Never seen the inside but it’s a nice enough looking place. It was probably a bit more pleasant then without I-5 directly out front.

        Not much of a commute for my grandfather either as he owned a meat market in the area and would have walked every day.

      5. Mike:

        Fair enough, if we’re excluding Cascade from SLU. Today I took a walk around the neighborhoods and sure enough, noticed that all of the remaining older buildings seem to be in Cascade. And while I feel that I-5 is quite a scourge on the neighborhood/city (I get sad whenever I try to walk back from Capitol Hill and see the remains of the Republican Hill Climb cut off abruptly thanks to the freeway), I’d like to think that the noise at least helps keep my rent down.


        That’s pretty cool to know! I like knowing that I’m in a place with a bit of history, even if it’s just knowing that so many people have lived here over the years. While it’s no longer a luxury hotel (the “half block of play-ground and tennis courts” are long gone), the landlord, maintenance crew, and management company do quite a good job of maintaining it. The biggest problem really is the freeway.


      6. Eric:

        Thanks for the links–I’m a bit of a history buff and will add this info to the family tree as well. Makes me wonder if all those amenities were there in the early 30’s as well when Dad and family would have been there. I’ll have to check that out.

        Glad to hear the building is still in decent shape and on the landmarks list. It’s always enjoyable to “touch” a piece of your own history. The freeway sucks but the location is pretty good, I’d say!

  3. And my last comment of the day. I read the other day that Norman was banned from this site. I wondered what happened to him. I never saw Norman write something offensive. He was always articulate and had his facts down. I would like to use my gravitas and call in a favor to the Seattle Transit Blog Board of Regents. Will you let Norman come back? Maybe put him on double secret probation or something?

    1. Earlier you suggested a series of dissenting articles, like by Kemper Freeman and such who have different views on transit and urban goals. Perhaps you should campaign to have Norman’s be the first dissenting article.

      1. No, I suggested STB should interview KF. It would be one of the highest viewed posts ever. They can do it or not. I don’t care. It’s just a great idea I had. BTW, I’ll never forget, somebody actually said to my idea, and I paraphrase: “Why should STB interview Kemper Freeman? He’s already been interviewed elsewhere. People can just look up that interview.” Somebody here actually said that. That’s the level of intellect we have in this comment section.

  4. Very soon, we will have a new mayor. The next city council election is two years away. This gives the city a chance to focus on transportation in ways that would have been unthinkable a few months ago. But the city can’t go it alone, nor should it. Cooperating with the county and Sound Transit is essential. Whatever the other agencies decide to do should effect the decisions that the city makes. With that in mind, I would like to hear ideas from folks here about city initiatives from the new administration. I think the city should focus on relatively little things that are either independent of other agencies like Sound Transit, or fit into decisions they have already made. I propose the following:

    1) More bike lockers, especially in the University District. I would start by trying to get the UW to allow the city (or Sound Transit) to add a lot more bike lockers to the Husky Stadium Station area. In a couple years, the fastest way to get to Fremont (or Ballard) from a lot of other neighborhoods will involve taking the train, then riding a bike on the Burke Gilman. Not only is the Burke Gilman fast (for a biker) but relatively safe. There are plenty of bikers (myself included) who will only ride on these sorts of paths. Adding lockers is a very cheap way to improve transportation. I think we should also add them close to Campus Parkway and University Way (the Ave). All of the 7X buses go through here. Until rail extends to the north (and makes those 7X buses largely obsolete) this is the main connection between northeast Seattle and Fremont/Ballard. Lockers in both areas compliment each other. You could take the train to the Husky Stadium Station, then ride your bike about a mile, then transfer to any of the 7X buses.

    2) BRT Stop at Fremont. https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2013/04/04/connecting-fremont-to-rapidride-e/

    3) Gondolas. I can see why McGinn didn’t want to address gondolas. He had a reputation (unearned, in my opinion) for being flaky and anti-car. Proposing something that isn’t common, but quite appropriate for this area is a risky political move. But the new administration doesn’t have that problem. I can think of several areas where gondolas make sense, but a lot depends on what Sound Transit builds in the next few years. Fortunately, the first one proposed for the city covers an area that Sound Transit will not address for a while. A line from the Capitol Hill station to South Lake Union would be huge success. It would connect a spot with a station with an area that has practically nothing in terms of rapid transit (transit, yes, rapid, no).

    4) Bridge over the freeway at Northgate. Hopefully this will be built soon. The sooner the better.

    5) 125th/130th Street Station. This is a tricky one. If Sound Transit finds the money or allocates the money in ST3, then this will be built. I’m not sure how Seattle could do this, and it might set a bad precedent, but I think it would be great if Seattle simply built it, with the guarantee that if the current projects run under budget, they get paid back. Obviously, since this line isn’t being built right now, there is no need to jump on this project. But the amount of money we are talking about is not huge. It isn’t much more than a typical streetcar line, but it would be a lot more valuable.

    1. 4) and 5) are urgent. If we don’t come up with the money now, they don’t happen. The City could make both of them priorities on the ST3 list. If ST wants ST3 to pass, it would be well-advised to include these items in ST3.

    2. With respect to 1), I would add a bike-share station to the list of absolute must-haves, assuming that the bike-share program actually gets off the ground. It would be absolutely crazy to have bikeshare stations every few hundred feet on the UW campus, but not have one at the Link station.

      1. I agree. I would also add the a bike sharing program has to have lots of stations along the Burke Gilman, as well as several other corridors. If not, I would rather they not do it. I don’t want it to fail miserably, then blame it on the something other than not enough stations.

  5. 4 will definitely be on ST3, since almost everyone wants it.
    5, you will have to make that it does end up on there.

  6. I know this idea would be a non-starter, but I think it would help improve mobility in the Green/ White River Valley. KCM, PT, and ST should put together a new, truly BRT line between Tukwila Sounder Station and Puyallup Sounder Station that would have limited stops along the way. Perhaps stops at West Valley Highway/ 68th at 196th, 212th, 228th, at James/ Washington, Central/ 277th, and a few other appropriate stops in Auburn and Puyallup Sounder Station. Stop spacing should be no closer than one mile, and true BRT should be implemented. Perhaps this could be paid for by the cities involved (Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Algona, Pacific, Sumner, and Puyallup. Just an idea. We would need Transit-only lanes (could be used by other routes). This would be true BRT. Shadow service on the 150/180 should be maintained, to provide the local service that the new line would lack. ST 578 could be terminated in Auburn, since this new line would serve Puyallup and Sumner. Just a crazy idea.

    1. It would have to connect to Link since Sounder doesn’t run all day. Otherwise people would get to the end and have no way to go further, and you’d miss that ridership market. So it would have to terminate either at TIB station (bypassing Tukwila Sounder station) or Rainier Beach station. Since it would pass Sounder stations in Auburn and Kent, I’m not sure it needs a Tukwila Sounder connection. Southcenter Mall is a large destination and bus hub in itself, and it will be a nice 10-minute walk to Tukwila Sounder station when Tukwila finishes its master plan development.

      But don’t hold your breath. Metro and PT have never had a limited-stop route like Swift. South King is the poorest part of King County and has many other pressing transit needs (although this line would overlap with some of them). East Pierce is one of the most transit-tax-hostile areas of Pierce County.

      1. Or perhaps ST could run Sounder all-day instead of that. If Sounder would get it’s own ROW (which wouldn’t be that hard except around the stations) and gets electrified (Bombardier is currently testing a new type of train able to run at 100mph with up to 750 seats, which would be great for Sounder), then it wouldn’t be that expensive to run Sounder all day at pretty good (>20 min) headways. And with that speed routes 590 and 578 (not 577) could be cancelled. Just a thought.

    2. I would like to see BRT between Southcenter and Auburn. Past north-south lines running south of Auburn have had approximately zero ridership, and Southcenter is a much more important destination than Tukwila Sounder station.

      I would then truncate the 150 to travel only between Seattle and Southcenter, and this would hopefully occur in conjunction with a move of the 578 from Federal Way to Kent (with a stop in Federal Way on the 594 to compensate).

  7. I’ve been thinking some more about the 17% cut proposal for restructuring the U-district service and how it essentially screws over anyone between the U-district and Northgate who wants to travel to or from downtown outside of rush hour. Not that the options for such trips are great today (72 all the way downtown from Meadowbrook, 66 all the way downtown from Maple Leaf, 71 all the way downtown from Wedgewood), but the new proposal essentially adds an additional 15 minutes or so of walking and waiting, only to end up on the same crappy 73 service we’ve always had.

    To recap the changes:
    – routes 66, 67, and 72 are eliminated
    – route 71 is cut back to hourly and truncated at Green Lake P&R (doesn’t go through to the U-district or downtown)
    – route 73 is expanded to include the frequency of the combined 66/71/72/73 today (headways of 8 minutes weekdays, 10 minutes Saturdays, 12 minutes Sundays, and 15-30 minutes evenings)
    – route changes of the 73 north of Ravenna to use Roosevelt instead of 15th. The route would also be truncated at Northgate, rather than Jackson Park.
    – route 70 gains Sunday service with 20 minute headways, presumably to allow route 73 to at least run the express route on Sundays. But during the evening, with no other service on Eastlake, the new route 73 would presumably have to run local and be awful as ever.
    – Route 372 gains evening and weekend service (30 minute headways Saturday and Sunday during the day) to compensate for the loss of the 72. It is truncated to Bothell, rather than today’s route, which goes all the way to Woodinville.

    Here is the modification I propose:
    – Reduce weekday frequency on the new 73 from 8 minutes to 10 minutes (except during the peak)
    – Eliminate the 71
    – Use the savings from the above to convert the 76 from a peak-only route into route with service all day, seven days a week, with 30 minute headways.

    Given that 76 is essentially the truncated 71, plus an express down I-5 into downtown (which has got to be cheaper run running the new 73 all the way from Northgate to downtown), all of the above should actually lead to a reduction in service hours. Not sure exactly how much, but whatever it is, it could be re-invested to run the 70 later in the evening (at least until 8 or 9, rather than 7), allowing the 73 to maintain its express routing during a period in which it is consistently very crowded. If additional money is available, the “peak” period of 8-minute headways on the 73 could also be extended by an hour or two each day.

    Rationale for these changes:
    1) The proposed 71 is an awful route, which will likely have nearly zero ridership because it doesn’t go to the places where people want to go. It is essentially a mirror image of the current 61 on the opposite side of Seattle.

    2) Trips to downtown from Wedgewood or Ravenna by bus, off-peak, already take almost an hour today, and will likely take more than an hour after these changes. Those who can afford it will abandon the bus in droves and drive.

    My proposed change solves both problems at once, by turning the useless 71 into a useful 76 that actually goes where people are trying to go.

    Rebutal of arguments against:
    1) The reduction in the 73 to pay for the extended 76 would lead to overcrowding in the downtown->U-district segment of the route.

    Many of the riders on the 71/72/73 through the U-district today aren’t actually going to or from the U-district, but, rather, are merely forced to go through it to get downtown because that’s what today’s bus network forces them to do. With all-day service on the 76, most riders from north of the U-district would go downtown on the 76 because it would be way faster than the 73, even with its so-called “express” routing. This would result in the 73 buses having more empty seats as they enter the U-district, leaving more room to handle the crowds getting on within the U-district. For instance, people in Wedgewood who, today, slog it all the way downtown on the 71, would be taking the 76. People in north Ravenna, who currently slog it all the way downtown on the 72, would be transferring between the 372 and the 76. Not great, but still way faster than a transfer from the 372 to the 73, even if, on paper, the 73 runs three times as often as the 76 would. In fact, I would argue that the difference in speed between the 73 and 76 is so great that even people from Maple Leaf who are already on the 73 would likely save time overall by getting off at Roosevelt and 65th St. to transfer to the 76. Furthermore, I would also contend that with inevitable bus bunching, an 8-minute-headway route doesn’t really provide any more useful capacity than a 10-minute headways route.

    2) The 76 wouldn’t get enough riders to justify all-day service.

    The ridership of the 76 would include riders from a number of neighborhoods, including people who currently slog it all the way downtown on the 66, 71, or 72, or 73. Plus, with faster service, more people would use it, including many that currently drive downtown because the existing bus service is too slow. Furthermore, the 76 would also draw ridership from the Green Lake area, catching some people who currently have no option to downtown except the super-slow 16 or 26. Under the 17% cut proposal, route 26 would be cut entirely on evenings and weekends, providing yet more inducement for residents of Green Lake to walk to the 76. The 76 would also attract some park-and-ride riders from other neighborhoods to the northwest.

    Finally, I would like to point out that in addition to all of the above, Sound Transit could significantly reduce the impact of the cuts to people in Maple Leaf by adding a stop on the 522 where Lake City Way crosses either 15th Ave. or 20th Ave. (pick one).

    1. This is a very interesting idea and I think you should email it to Metro.

      I’d suggest, though, that the NE-downtown route should be a modified version of the 64, not the 76. (The Lake City tail would be ended, and the route would use the tunnel rather than the surface and avoid First Hill.) No one really wants to go to eastern View Ridge and Wedgwood from anywhere — all those people drive. On the other hand, you’d get quite a few riders from central Wedgwood, Meadowbrook, and eastern Lake City.

      The other issue is that I think you are too optimistic about how many U-District-downtown seats would be freed up. My experience with the 71/72/73 is that turnover in the U-District is nearly complete. Plus, most of the former 66 and 73 riders who do go downtown from the north end would stay on the bus rather than transferring to a half-hourly bus at Roosevelt. One bus every 10 minutes would be the same as today’s frequency without the 66, and these routes have a severe overcrowding problem at some times of day today.

  8. I have two post ideas. STB examines the housing themes in It’s a Wonderful Life. (Personally, I think Mr. Potter gets a bad rap).

    Secondly, A profile on the area’s Pedestrian Bridges. Photographs, locations, costs, public or privately built?

    1. Which time zone were you using in your previous comment?

      Submit the above articles you propose, and the Board of Regents will give them serious consideration when it next meets.

    2. You’re missing the point. Sam wants somebody else to research and write them. He can’t write them himself, he’s too busy thinking up things for other people to do.

      1. A professor at UW gives out an assignment to his class. A student pipes up from the back row and says to him, “Hey bro, you aren’t the boss of me! It’s your idea, so why don’t YOU do the assignment?”

        Here’s the deal, Mike Orr. Do the stories I give you, don’t do them. It’s this blog’s loss.

      2. I’m not on the Board of Regents, but I’m familiar enough with the STB budget to know that STB is not paying Sam tuition.

  9. For those of you who haven’t been following my flickr postings about the First Hill Streetcar … http://www.wa98104.us/fhs/

    Jackson St:
    Track construction on Jackson St is almost completed. Concrete remains to be poured from 10th ave to 8th ave but there is now contiguous rail from Occidental/Jackson to 14th/Jackson. The only station remaining to be excavated and built on Jackson is at 5th ave.
    Streetcar/ETB OCS junctions need to be built at 3rd, 12th, and 14th & Jackson
    There is some minor sidewalk rehab that still needs to be finished here and there
    Jackson St intersection legs need repaving in many instances

    8th Ave:
    The yard lead track is complete as is the car barn

    14th Ave:
    This is the only remaining portion to be completed that hasn’t really been started and the only gap in the rail.
    The two tracks, crossover track and station need to be built from Jackson St to Washington St.

    Yesler Way:
    This segment is 100% complete

    Track construction from Yesler to Denny is complete
    OCS wire is being pulled along the outbound (uphill) track
    Streetcar/ETB OCS junctions still need to be completed at Union and Jefferson
    Station plazas at Marion & Terrace are almost completed and are awaiting finishing touches before landscaping
    Cycle Track is structurally complete from Denny to James but still requires paint markings from Union to James
    Cycle Track / Broadway Rehab in progress from James to Boren
    Cycle Track / Broadway Rehab from Boren to Yesler has not begun
    Terrace St traffic light has not been activated yet

    Still to do route-wide is the installation of ORCA/Ticketing machines / RIDS / Shelters / etc on the platforms and of course the trams themselves (the first of which is being assembled in the Czech Republic … and the remaining 5 are being prepped as kits for assembly here)

    1. So openning is still planned for sometime in the Spring of 2014, right? With track construction done the rest shouldn’t take as much time and traffic distractions.
      I wonder how people will handle the rails on Jackson where there’s two lanes for much of the way. In SLU drivers mostly stay out of the lane the tracks are in, as if it were to blow their tires, and it’s pretty likely the same will happen on Jackson.

      As for the trams, those will be the same as the SLU ones with off-wire capability (Inekon 12 Trio), right?

      1. I rode the cycletrack on Broadway, which is now finished an open. Once I was on it, it was great. But the cutting over to the left when Broadway hits Denny was very non-intuitive. There were no signs and, since it was nighttime, the pavement markings on the cycletrack itself were difficult to read. In short, if I was not a regular reader of the Seattle Transit Blog and Seattle Bike Blog, I would have likely ended up going straight down Broadway and ended up right on the streetcar tracks, and possibly in the hospital (if I had the bad luck to go over those tracks in the wrong way).

        The city needs to put in some signs making it very clear to southbound bicyclists approaching Denny that the cycletrack is two-way and they need to cut over to the left.

      2. I have seen two people on the cycletrack so far, on different days. I think many people don’t know if it’s open yet or they’re allowed to use it. And coming southbound from north Capitol Hill on Broadway, there’s a sign saying no bikes on Broadway south of Denny or Pine, I can’t remember which. I think the sign is obsolete, but it probably deters bicyclists from finding the cycletrack.

  10. What’s the best way to support investigative journalism in Seattle? What to subscribe to, donate to, or do? The media landscape now includes the Times, a very minimal P-I, Publicola, Crosscut, the Weekly, the Stranger, and maybe others I don’t know about. (I’m talking about things with all-day reporters, so not STB or the neighorhood blogs, which have a different niche.)

    I’m inclined to go with the Times because even with its flaws it’s still the most comprehensive and nobody else could even come close to filling its shoes. Second would be Publicola I guess, because although I haven’t read it much, it seems to be following up on important issues without making you wade through all the juvenile drivel in the Weekly and the Stranger.

    What do others think? What’s the best way to support a good journalism future in Seattle?

    1. I agree. The Seattle Times does a fair amount of investigative journalism, which is nice because at this point, they could probably just phone it in (become an AP/UPI newspaper, with the occasional “look at all the nice weather we’re having” local story). As much as I think the editorial staff is crazy, the rest of the paper is pretty good. Westneat writes a good column, and Jon Talton does an excellent job covering business issues. My main complaint is that they will sometimes do a story that is quite slanted, and suggests that everyone wants to shop in a mall. They ran stories like that a few years back about Pine Street, and did a recent one about the ave (University Way).

      Meanwhile, I think The Stranger staff has really lost it. They seem to believe that a city that is full of overwhelming left wing voters and representatives is somehow controlled by evil business interests out to destroy the average worker. They don’t seem to understand that a lot of these problems are just caused by market forces outside the control of the local jurisdiction. Other than, say, the marijuana or gay rights issue (which, by the way are opinions shared by The Seattle Times) they just seem to get it wrong, or at best, place their hope on the wrong solution. It would be nice to see article after article in the Slog about how requiring parking for new construction is a big factor in our high rents in this city, but that would acknowledge that a more free market solution might help.

      1. I agree completely on The Stranger. It’s really pretty sad. They used to have a pretty intelligent perspective on land use issues, but in the last few years they have started to embrace the John Fox “make it a slum so rents will get cheaper” perspective. It’s been a transition from the best of lefty thinking to the worst of it.

    2. In the end, the Seattle news landscape is pretty sad. The Times has been on a long downhill slide since the P-I folded (or some would argue, since the P-I switched to morning distribution), and as far as investigative journalism goes, they haven’t really done anything that’s impressed me since 2011. They’re reluctant to issue corrections when they make mistakes, and they refuse to acknowledge their own editorial bias.

      In the end, the Stranger’s tiny news department is about all I have much hope for. They have their biases, but the editorial bias is openly acknowledged. Read it in context and you will get the facts. The only problem is that the news department is like 7 guys, all of whom have secondary responsibilities, and one of those guys is Dan Savage, who doesn’t even really count as an employee. So some weeks there is just no significant news out of them. But they still do manage to shine a bigger spotlight on the goings-on at city hall than the Times’ army of reporters.

      1. I don’t know. A quick look at the rest of the Seattle Times “Special Reports” shows some pretty good stuff. Not Pulitzer Prize winning, mind you, but still pretty good. Oh, wait, they are Pulitzer Prize winning.

    3. What about local television news? Haven’t KOMO and KIRO done some in-depth investigative reporting this year?

      1. Besides KOMO-TV doing the series about the leaky 520 Pontoons, I can’t think of any other local TV reports that have had any depth…

  11. Here’s something I’ve thought about in terms of Metro deleting trolley routes:

    To save a little money, they should de-energize the overhead for the deleted routes (provided the overhead is not shared by other routes). Power to the overhead can then be restored is Metro management decides to restore service along the overhead.

    1. Does the unused, but energized cantenary really draw much power? I would think it would only draw as much power as the buses take from it.

  12. Just wondering, is there any legitimate way (other than honking, which doesn’t always work) to make the driver of a connecting bus hold for a connection if the first bus is late? I’ve heard that some “Connection Protection” thing was being tried out, but I’m not sure if it’s functioning yet. This is important because buses can be fairly unreliable at times, and if you’re connecting from an infrequent route and the schedules don’t align perfectly, taking the earlier bus would waste quite a lot of extra time. Of course, the tricky thing is setting up a limit (if your bus is 20 minutes late, making a connecting bus wait 20 minutes if that bus runs every 30 minutes seems very extreme and definitely shouldn’t be done), but if it’s only a few minutes (or seconds) it should be fine.

    1. I’ve only heard the occasional announcement over the radio asking shuttles for a specific transit center to hold for the arrival of a major route. I’ve tried asking drivers to radio ahead, but with mixed (less than stellar) results.

    2. Connection protection is a tricky problem. It is essentially a matter of balancing the interests of people transferring from another bus (or train) and the interests of people only traveling one segment who aren’t transferring at all. There are also situations where having a bus hold for a passenger transferring to that bus would cause people transferring from that bus later down the line to miss their connection. You can have the other bus hold to, but then delays start quickly accumulating throughout the system and after a few hours of this, without extremely long recovery times, you end up with buses arriving at random times and schedules being all but worthless.

      Connection protection makes the most sense for neighborhood shuttles originating at transit centers, where it is expected that virtually everybody riding it will be transferring from another bus. For example, of the 101 or the 150 were to be truncated at Ranier Beach, making the bus wait for an incoming southbound Link train would be almost mandatory. On the other hand, making Link wait for an incoming bus would accomplish little besides pissing a bunch of passengers off who are already on the train.

    3. No. Only four coordinators cover the entire Metro system, and they’re often too busy to take a bunch of radio calls asking for a bus to hold. Drivers can’t directly communicate with each other.

      The best way to deal with this problem is to design a system where routes are frequent enough that buses don’t need to hold.

      Metro used to run more night and Sunday shuttles than they do today (such as the old 1 shuttle, which connected with full-route 13 service, or the old 16 shuttle, which connected with full-route 6 service). On those runcards, outbound trips typically had a notation to wait for the connecting full-line bus.

    4. The policy I’ve heard is that drivers can deviate up to two minutes to facilitate connections if they know somebody’s coming. I used that once years ago for a late-evening transfer downtown to a Bellevue bus, and the drivers radioed it through. But nowadays the dispatchers seem a lot busier. What I do now is, if I see a half-hourly bus ahead that I want to transfer to, I ask the driver to signal it and they honk several times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

  13. ‘Micro-apartments’ linked to psychological problems, domestic violence and drug abuse

    Saegert, however, says that small apartments may have devastating long-term psychological effects.
    ‘I’ve studied children in crowded apartments and low-income housing a lot,’ Saegert told the websit and ‘they can end up being withdrawn, and have trouble studying and concentrating.’

    Micro-apartments also end up hitting renters’ wallets hard. Saegert says they increase the amount of money per square foot that developers get on property investments, meaning renters may pay the same price for studios that they would have spent on larger spaces.

    It gets worse…read on:


    1. Then why don’t they move to the larger spaces? Oh, because the larger spaces aren’t really available at the same price. They may have been available at that price five years ago, but housing supply has not kept up with population growth.

      This has been brought up before with apodments, that some people are willing to pay $100 or $200 a month more for a larger place with “regular” amenities, so they do. But the price gap keeps widening, there are fewer $600 and $700 apartments around than when that comment was made, so that’s becoming less and less possible. At least until Microsoft or Amazon goes bust and demand slackens.

      1. That’s not the argument the article is making.

        It is saying that even if you build micro-apartments the price still trends upward to the high (unaffordable for most) price. However, now the person is paying hte same amount of money he would have but for a smaller apartment!

        In sum, micro-apartments do not help anyone except the owners of the buildings, that is, if you want to be the landlord for a bunch of criminal psychotics driven to drug addiction by cramped quarters.

        To reference Mr. Silva from Skyfall:

    2. Here’s the original Atlantic article, which is somewhat more balanced.

      We need experiments with microhousing to see what works best, because we shut it off fifty years ago and most of the SROs are gone, and that’s what’s leading to increasing homelessness or people living far from where they want to be. The idea that wide-scale microapartments would lead to them costing what a regular apartment does now, is just speculation. It may or may not, but we need to try different types of housing and not just shut one kind out because of a potential phantom. Three are real, concrete people who would benefit from more low-end housing choices, so are we going to deny them housing because of something that might happen in several years? The biggest factor in housing prices is the vacancy rate. You have to build enough housing to keep the vacancy rate from shrinking, and that’s what Seattle has been unable to do.

      1. Here’s your SROs:

        Cheap Rooms, and ‘a Drug for Every Floor’

        “My room is a box – it’s the size of a prison cell,” one resident, Jaime Rodriguez, said as he stood outside a deli near the hotel recently, swaying slightly, his eyes cloudy. Mr. Rodriguez said he had lived at the Greenpoint for a decade, paying rent with disability checks. “This whole place is a prison,” he said.

        Single-room-occupancy establishments like the Greenpoint have long occupied the bottom end of the lodging food chain in New York. Renting rooms by the week or month, the better ones serve as cheap housing for the old or ill, or for those who have fallen out of the middle class and are struggling not to fall further. Others mostly house a mix of addicts, AIDS sufferers, the recently homeless, and those who are all three.


    3. Shockers! The poorest people, living in the cheapest available spaces, have a low quality environment! I would have never expected.

    4. There are people who love their tiny apartments and houses, or have 24 rooms in one using sliding walls. Searching Youtube for Kirsten Dirksen and SPACEStv will bring up several others. Many of these are owned by architects and interior decorators who designed their own unit, so they have more skills and resources than the average Joe, and we don’t know how much they’ll like the apartments in twenty years. But that’s why we need to let this experiment continue to see what works and what doesn’t, rather than shutting it down over some half-truths or speculations.

      I lived in a 348 sq ft studio for five years and there was still a fifth of the space I didn’t need, even with a 5’x10′ wrestling mat alongside the usual bed and desk. I rolled up the mat and unfolded my 2’x4′ table: that was the extent of my “multipurpose furniture”. I would’ve downsized but I met a SO and didn’t know how much space we’d need together so I played it safe with a 600 sq ft apartment, and again a fifth of it is underused. So I’d be happy with a small space, but I draw the line at kitchenettes and alternative toilets.

      The issues the skeptics raise about older people, long-term claustrophobia, tired of rearranging the furniture, kids’ spaces, etc, need to be dealt with head-on. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as always. It may affect some people but be insignificant for others. The article is a lot of fearmongering: people “may” get tired of rearranging the furniture, “I’ve seen children in crowded apartments become withdrawn”. We can’t just take one passing sentence from one person and base a housing policy on that. Especially when we don’t have any confirmation of what she’s seen, how knowledgeable she is, or how biased she is.

      As for those murphy beds, the videos show they have hydraulic lift and “you can move the lever with a finger”, and some of them have a built-in table or shelf that remains level as it goes up and down, so you can keep an open cup of coffee on it. So they’re convenient to rearrange. I looked into them, and their main problem is they cost $1600-2500 and are heavy to move. I’m not ready to spend that much on multipurpose furniture; I’ll suffer with my single-use things for now. But the concept is still worthwhile and I’d like to see things like this become more mainstream. “The bed is dead” is a good idea.

    5. I don’t know what the Daily Mail is, but what bothers me is that these are important issues that deserve consideration, both their good sides and bad sides, and I would urge anyone who cares to at least watch the videos to see their potential. But the article just dismisses them in a way that people won’t look further; it’ll just confirm their bias that tiny apartments and houses are a bad idea (although they’ve never seen one) and that’s that.

      These are different from “apodments”, by the way. Apodments are really just a bedroom, minimal bathroom, dorm refrigerator, and microwave; with a kitchen and common rooms down the hall. The tiny apartments here are self-contained units with more of a kitchen and bathroom (although not full-sized), and without common rooms, so they’re probably larger than apodments on average.

    6. I doubt many families (i.e.) children are living in apodments and while no doubt a smaller (or very small) apartment “may” be less psychologically soothing than a culturally larger one, a longer, traffic clogged commute to the hinderlands is definitely psychologically straining twice a day. It has always sucked being poor or young and just starting out on your own. We need to provide choice.

  14. So last Wednesday after attending a lecture at BHS, I needed to catch the 550 to MI down the street and before leaving checked OBA to see when the next bus was coming. OBA told me there was one “NOW” and one in 12 minutes. Then I walked down to the bus stop, which took me about five minutes, to see a 550 pass by SB on Bellevue Way as I was waiting to cross at the light. Then I had to wait about 15 minutes for the next one (which carried 56 people throughout the trip to Seattle, BTW).

    So is such a unreliability of OBA common (the bus was not on it’s evening Snowflake lane re-route via Main instead of 4th) or was I just unlucky?

    1. Some possibilities.

      1) Sometimes, OBA shows just the scheduled arrival if it is unable to get data. Are you sure the 550 arrival wasn’t labeled as just “scheduled”.

      2) If OBA shows every single bus as exactly on-time, you should take it with a grain of salt and assume those figures are really just scheduled arrival times and nothing more.

      3) It is very possible that OBA was in fact working correctly. The bus could have been approaching your stop as OBA said “now”, then spent a full 5 minutes loading and unloading passengers, finally pulling away as your approached. If the stop in question was something like South Bellevue P&R, this scenario is very believable, especially since OBA will probably say “now” for the full minute or two the bus is waiting for the light to turn left into the P&R.

      1. OBA showed some buses early and late so that wouldn’t be the problem. My stop was SE 3rd and the bus was actually waiting to cross the intersection to the bus stop when I arrived, then while I was waiting it went through, picked up the few people there and took off on its way to Seattle. Weird.

  15. How about talking about LA or FARs? Overall it is making a great point about FARs, although the eastern part of DTLA is arguably not really part of Downtown. The other missing point is that schools for children limit the amount of land available for growth. It makes a critical point about different resource demands that we often overlook. It is particularly true about electrical requirements with high density housing.

    1. I liked the video and would like to see something like that about Seattle. LA is rather unique because on the one hand it has such low-density car-oriented reputation, but on the other hand it’s a large enough city that nobody bats an eye if certain commercial areas are rezoned high-rise. Whereas in Seattle people would freak out if you proposed 50-story buildings anywhere except next to the existing skyscrapers, and that for only a few blocks.

      So I’m not sure how “downtown” LA compares to downtown Seattle. The area presented seems not only physically larger (as you’d expect in a huge city) but more extensive; e.g., comparable to Center City (Mercer Street – 12th Ave – S Weller St) and then some. So I’m not sure what to make of the specific building ideas. The other ideas (electricity, water, etc), you get some of the information in a scattered way (City Light newsletters, Seattle water reports), but nothing comprehensive in this way.

      So, would it be possible to make something like this for Seattle without people freaking out? Or how close could you get?

  16. Another way to get your foam on this holiday season. The Model Train Festival is at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma through January 1st. (However, with regular and holiday closures, it’s really only open Dec 26-29 and Jan 1.) Triple foam if you take Sounder down and Tacoma Link. However, there’s a 3-hour gap between the last southound Sounder (arr. 7:00am) and the museum’s opening (10:00am).

    1. It might work better with Amtrak to and Sounder from. Train #501 departs SEA at 7:30 and Tukwila at 7:45 to arrive Tacoma at 8:15. Train #11 departs at 9:45 and gets to Tacoma at 10:31.

      Coming back, trains #1514 and #1516 depart at 16:25 and 17:00.

  17. A Seattle micro-apartment, 182 sq ft. In the Avalon Co-op in Uptown. The guy bought a basement storage space, built a three-level loft apartment with self-made furniture, and (after two years’ work and learning architecture for the paperwork) got a variance permit for it.

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