This is an open thread.

114 Replies to “News Roundup: A New View”

  1. Parklets are an interesting concept for a city trying to adapt to changing life styles, human scale development and keeping the transportation pipes free flowing.
    Think of our arterials as the bodies main arteries, and all the side streets as the veins. Few would reccomend artificially blocking one of the hearts laterals, so I have to scratch my head about replacing a couple of parking slots on Olive with a Parklet.
    Clearly Olive is one of the few arterials connecting Broadway with the CBD, even if it is currently gummed up with parking between the curbs. What if Seattle wanted to run BRT style buses up and down Olive in a transit only-two way configuration? All that space between the curbs would be prime real estate – except now we have a very motivated shop owner, a list of vocal customers, and a ready for prime time demonstration why the new transit line ‘Can’t’ be built.
    So it may be a good idea today, but good luck trying to unclog the artery next decade, or whenever the next new idea hits town.
    Another consideration is the cities liability for creating an ‘attractive nuisance’ next to a traffic lane. It’s only a matter of time before a drunk or distracted driver violates that city owned space. That’s a huge tort case waiting to happen and it will with enough Parklets in the wrong places.

    1. All that space between the curbs would be prime real estate – except now we have a very motivated shop owner, a list of vocal customers, and a ready for prime time demonstration why the new transit line ‘Can’t’ be built.

      I often fantasize about using the curb lanes for transit, but then I remember how unlikely Seattle is to remove any buffer between 30+ MPH traffic and one of the busiest pedestrian districts in the city.

      1. me too, so moving the pedestrians further out into the traffic lanes seems goofy without some ‘over designed – mean ass looking ‘ bollards.

    2. mic, Olive south of Denny is not ever going to be a BRT-style transit corridor. If there were ever to be a BRT-style corridor in that area, it would be the 8 corridor, which uses Olive only north of Denny.

      Looking at the existing and proposed parklet locations, the only one that has real potential to interfere with the transit that should be in the area is the one outside Molly Moon’s in Wallingford. But by building bus bulbs along 45th SDOT signaled that there was really, truly no hope of using the curb lanes of 45th for BRT.

      1. That’s exactly why the BRT corridor would be the 8. High demand from that area to the CBD will be handled by Link. Those few who don’t want to use Link will use the 47, which is never going to have BRT-type demand. But there’s no Link going to SLU or Seattle Center.

        I would bet a very nice bottle of scotch that the 43 will go away at some point after CHS opens (perhaps not immediately).

      2. David, you are certain to win that bet, but you—and the scotch, and the planet, and potentially the universe—are not guaranteed to be around to enjoy the victory. :)

    3. Does anyone know how much the private business on Olive pays the city for the public street their business occupies? The average metered parking space generates $5000/month in revenue for the city, so it’s at least that, right?

      1. What private business is in the street? “Parklets convert a small number of on-street parking spaces into public open space …. They are privately funded and maintained but open for everyone to enjoy.” It’s a city initiative for a public benefit. The only advantage to the company is the fact that its bid was one of the winners for a limited number of spaces. If this program graduates from pilot status, there will be more spaces and thus the advantage of having one space will be less.

        What I don’t understand about the parklet at Montana’s is why isn’t there seating at the top of the platform or on the ramp? The design seems to make the space underused.

      2. “What private business is in the street?” I thought the private bar had outdoor seating occupying former public parking spaces. You are saying I am incorrect?

      3. BTW, “they are privately funded …” isn’t information. It’s a meaningless platitude. It’s intellectual pap. It may satisfy others, but smart people … people who read the New York Times … want to know more. Someone look into this for me.

      4. The bar may bring seating out when it’s open, but not when it’s closed which is when I usually walk past there. And even when it’s open I haven’t seen seating or many people using the space. In any case, I don’t think the bar can prevent non-patrons from using the space, and it may not even be able to bring alcohol to it. Washington has some of the strictest laws in the country about drinks going through an all-ages space (the sidewalk), or even between the bar and the stage at El Corazon on mixed-age nights.

      5. Show of hands. Who here would want to live in apartment directly above the parklet on Olive?

      6. Sam, that’s parking fines for the entire city–not just paid spaces. Plus, writing a parking fine costs money, such as the Parking Enforcement Officer and court time, so it’s not nearly as much net revenue as gross revenue.

      7. Sam, maybe people will stop questioning you when you prove that you have at least enough intelligence to know the difference between a month and a year.

        $60 million annually (you might want to google what this word means) divided by 13,000 spaces equals $4,615 per space annually — which equals $385 per month.

      8. Ouch Harold, that’s going to leave a mark.
        Jon Stewart is looking for some good writers to deliver zingers with – interested?

      9. At the risk of suffering at the hands of the math majors here, can somebody read the CT Double Tall article and explain what I’m missing.?.
        “.. current fleet of 23 Double Talls carry about 10,000 riders into and out of downtown Seattle every week…?
        So five days a week is 2,000 daily boardings – one up and one back home. There are 70 scheduled DoubleTall (DT’s) runs (see the article), so each bus is doing about 2 runs up then 2 back with some spares in the yard.
        70 into 2,0000 is 28.5 riders per bus trip, far from the 77 rider capacity, or only 40% of capacity.
        I love the DT’s because they are way more cooler than sitting in the hinge on an artic, more efficient, and take up 30% less curb space, which Seattle should be considering on suburban routes getting kicked out of the tunnel within their 14 year life cycle.
        The 15 cents on the dollar cost is a head turner.
        Surely CT has a better load factor than 40% after all the cuts they made.

      10. I think “rider” is referring to one inbound and one outbound boarding. 80% load factor sounds about right.

      11. Thanks David, and you could have slapped me around a little, but didn’t. A real gentleman.

      12. “You are saying I am incorrect?”

        Yes. Parklets in Seattle are privately-funded public space. They are not an extension of sidewalk cafes. Anyone can relax and read a magazine or surf their phone in a parklet. Sponsoring businesses are prohibited from serving anyone in parklets, and no one is allowed to bring adult bevvies into them.

        Almost all (maybe all, can’t remember for sure) cities have chosen not to charge sponsors for the lost meter funding, seeing as the sponsor is providing a public amenity.

      13. I went by the parklet yesterday evening, and there’s a sign saying all the public can use it. There were too small folding chairs at the top of the platform, and five or so people standing on it. There’s room for at least twice as many people, and probably would be if there were more chairs.

        When the Vogue was open (a goth/industrial club that closed in 2001) it had a kind of platform in front of the recessed doorway, and people used to go out of the club to chill out for a while and then go back in, and other people who were regulars there but weren’t going in that day would stop and chat, and others would also hang out for a while, so it worked very well. This parklet is kind of like that, and I imagine some of the people came out of the bar or will go into the bar later, so that’s the advantage for the business, picking up some people who wouldn’t have gone to the bar if it weren’t for the parklet.

      14. Hey Mike,

        I think the ramp is chair-free to meet ADA requirements. There is, IIRC, a small counter so people can set down their coffee or whatever and lean against the railing while people-watching or chatting.

    4. Well, in the Alaska Junction in West Seattle, we already have large bulbs on California Avenue SW protecting mid block crosswalks for pedestrians. These would be ideal locations for a pilot parklet in 2 unmetered parking spaces. But guess what? SDOT covered up the entire SW Seattle area with a grey legend box on their pilot parklet map. With the thousands of new apartments currently being built near the Junction, it would be nice to not just be covered up on their map, but at least considered for adding a little more pedestrian/cyclist space in our busiest commercial center. We have been working for nearly 2 years with SDOT just trying to get 1 bicycle corral located somewhere on the peninsula.

      1. SDOT won’t initiate the parklets, according to their website FAQ’s, but if you can find a sponsor willing to pony up about $10,000 to get it going, put the city on their 1 M liability policy, and be responsible for litter, etc, then I think you’re in business after the trial period ends.

      2. I can’t imagine you won’t ultimately have multiple parklets in West Seattle as soon as next summer. There are just too many good opportunities and potential sponsors.

        Does it really matter where the grey box goes? The parklet in Hillman City prevents the box from going on the bottom right corner, so where else would you suggest the box goes?

      3. So… I wonder if there will be parklets in residential neighborhoods in the future. I could see some rich social person or a commune sponsoring one, or an apartment building. The neighbors would raise cain about losing parking. But it might be easier to get parking spaces converted for parklets than it is for transit, and that would start to make street parking a little less sacred… which would maybe make it easier to convert parking spaces to transit lanes and complete streets in the future.

      4. There are a couple residential parklets in San Francisco, Mike. (Google “Deepistan National Park” and enjoy). They’re not true parklets as they’re built over driveways that enter the ROW at the planting strip rather than in actual parking spots.

        What would be even better in residential neighborhoods would a more permanent reclaiming of under-utilized ROW, what planners are now calling “residual spaces.” Seattle’s side streets have acres and acres of dead or nearly dead roadway that could be converted to green space, pocket parks, or p-patches.

    1. Ya, considering all the construction disruption (caused by both the viaduct and the timber pile bridge replacement) the reduction in traffic just hasn’t been very significant.

      However, tolls will certainly reduce the traffic.

      1. Unfortunately tolls will target drivers who are making trips that aren’t transit competitive and will cause drivers to divert in large numbers to surface streets. I think the lowest hanging fruit from a toll structure perspective is redesign it so even if people get off SR-99 north or south of the tunnel still have to pay a partial toll. From a policy perspective, if you build a tunnel and want to reduce volumes on the waterfront, you then don’t want to encourage them to do the opposite.

  2. The SODO overtracks idea doesn’t seem worth the effort. There are two notable distinctions between the Hudson Yards development and SODO.

    First, land in midtown Manhattan is extremely valuable. It makes a little bit of sense to make a higher use of that land. But it will be very expensive to develop given the constraints of working around the tracks. By contrast, there is lots of avaiable land in SODO that could be built on more cheaply.

    Secondly, LIRR runs their trains on electricity; BNSF and Amtrak run their trains on diesel. If the tracks were lidded, something would need to be done to ventilate the track area. And of course you would have to get BNSF to agree to the development. That seems pretty unlikely.

    All that said, one thing I would really like from the project would be to build another pedestrian bridge over the tracks at S. Lane Street. There’s always a pedestrian traffic jam at the Weller Street bridge on game days.

    1. Building in other parts of SODO would cut further into Seattle’s industrial capacity and jobs.

    2. Wouldn’t building over the SODO tracks remove an option for someday elevating the tracks?

      1. Why would you want to elevate the tracks? Today, the tracks are grade-speparated from the waterfront to Atlantic Street, with a lot of the street over-crossings built recently at large expense. If and when Lander Street is grade-separated it makes sense to go over, not under.

        Building over the tracks would make realignments of the track more difficult.

  3. Does anyone know of an iphone-friendly front end for the King County Metro trip planner? The new fancy map version is great on desktop browsers but a major headache for smartphones.

      1. I know about Google Maps, but in my experience, using the two on the same trip can sometimes yield very different results.

    1. Use Sound Transit’s trip planner. It’s pretty much the same backend and data.

    1. Out of curiosity, who are the non-sleazy developers? What qualifies a developer for the honorific “sleazy”?

      1. Well, I would say trying to slip an even cheaper siding in place of an already approved cheap siding would qualify a developer as sleazy. And it just goes to show how our city is going to end up with developers who could care less about the neighborhoods they litter with their trashy box buildings.

        Granted, pretty much all developers are in the business to squeeze as much money out of a project as possible, but that’s normal business. I work with a lot of developers that wouldn’t even dare to pull a stunt like these guys did.

      2. Could be incompetence rather than sleaziness. The guy who built the small condo in DC in which I bought a unit didn’t supervise closely enough, and the contractor pulled all sorts of little substitutions on him, some not in compliance with code. Cost him quite a bit when he got my inspection report back, but I think he was genuinely unaware. He fired that contractor, but then had similar problems with the next one he hired.

      3. I’ve experienced that side of the spectrum as well. Unfortunately, when it comes to public agencies pretty much needing to go with the lowest bidder. With a private client, you’d hope they would be a little more proactive and weigh costs vs. good contractors, but similar to what you said, incompetence tends to reign and you end up paying more than going with a good contractor to begin with.

    2. So basically, they’re blocking oxccupancy because they don’t like the color.l An we wonder why no one can afford to live here now.

      1. Because Seattle is a wonderful city with a plethora of well paying jobs is my guess.

      2. Delaying occupancy for three months or so will not make much difference in the city’s vacancy rate or affordability. If you don’t enforce rules then they become ineffective. Then the question becomes whether this kind of design review is worth keeping. If it is we should enforce it. If not then we should repeal it. I assume it’s worth keeping, given no other evidence to the contrary.

    3. I guess I’m firmly in the minority but I like the look of most of the buildings that people hold up as “gaudy” or “bland.” That “monstrosity” that keeps getting posted as an example of development-gone-wrong on Capitol Hill looks sleek and futuristic to me.

      1. +1. The agreed-to colors look so … ‘ 70s.

        Changing the colors won’t improve the quality of the apartments, or the look of the building. Fine them, and let the tenants in, I say.

      2. The main aesthetic problem with that building is not the single color above but the gray concrete below. Outline the windows, or put a strip at the top and bottom of the concrete rectangles, and be done.

        Modern sleek architecture is problematic but that’s a far larger issue than just this one building, so we shouldn’t take it all out on the building. Large geometric shapes are soulless and don’t address the human need for beauty and detail. Nature does not have large geometric shapes but leaves and animals and shorelines, which are intricate and non-uniform at both large and small scales, so that’s the kind of environment that’s most comfortable and least stressful to humans. An environment of abstract geometric shapes is ultimately akin to a prison or regimented society. We need to get back to the classic styles and Art Deco and Beaux Arts and the City Beautiful. And if those are too expensive to build now as the architects say, then figure out how to do something simpler that complements our modern materials and shapes. I haven’t seen any so far, but at least some of the contemporary architecture is getting better, like the Bleu building on Broadway & John with its warm vertical wall lights.

        The way these geometric shapes became the dominant form was through the international style and goodgie. The international style was about scrapping the aesthetic details I was talking about, for a total break with the past. Goodgie was about large-scale whimsical shapes that could be seen from a car. Large-scale (gross) details instead of small-scale (intricate). Both of these styles have gone but the large-scale principle became dominant because it’s cheaper, and because companies cared more about the look from a car than the look from a pedestrian. And then when pedestrian scale came back into vogue, some of the principles had been lost and still haven’t recovered. Thus we get all the shortcomings of this sleek building on Madison.

      3. @Brent So you are saying that the city should settle for an even crappier version of an already crappy exterior? And this is the way we want our city to progress forward? No wonder people are anti-density. When the most vocal pro-density people are ok with these gaudy exteriors, it doesn’t make a good impression for the rest of us pro-density folks.

    1. Sam,

      Thank you very much for that excellent link. I gather by your having posted it that you now agree with these three proposed remediations for the excess of “democracy” that rules the rail building business:

      Federal and state requirements that transit dollars can only be spent on routes and stations in the highest-density corridors and areas;

      Legal protection for rail (and rapid bus projects) from the kind of lawsuits typically brought by well-funded neighborhood groups; and

      Campaign finance and decision-making reform of rail agencies to ensure that they are not unduly influenced by special interests. One fix in a place like Los Angeles would be to replace elected officials on the transit agency board with appointees who don’t campaign. Or have agency directors decided through county-wide or district elections with full campaign cash transparency.

      1. One fix in a place like Los Angeles would be to replace elected officials on the transit agency board with appointees who don’t campaign.

        That quote is entertaining because the anti-light rail crowd here in Portland is always saying how much better TriMet would be if the agency had elected officials rather than appointed ones.

        So, whatever an agency is making disagreeable decisions, it is obviously because it is the wrong form of agency.

        Federal and state requirements that transit dollars can only be spent on routes and stations in the highest-density corridors and areas;

        You do realize that Maryland is proposing a light rail line through the middle of a bunch of suburbs right now, through places like College Park (population 31,000) and New Carrollton (population 12,000) and (perhaps the largest community on the line) Bethesda (population 60,000), that doesn’t really go into any major urban centers?

      2. Federal and state requirements that transit dollars can only be spent on routes and stations in the highest-density corridors and areas;

        You do realize that Maryland is proposing a light rail line through the middle of a bunch of suburbs right now, through places like College Park (population 31,000) and New Carrollton (population 12,000) and (perhaps the largest community on the line) Bethesda (population 60,000), that doesn’t really go into any major urban centers?

        It seems to me that Maryland’s Purple Line will work pretty well as a feeder line to WMATA’s lines into DC.

        This principle also works against the original author’s example of CAHSR. If it is to follow the high density corridor, then it should go through the Central Valley hitting the population centers there instead of following I-5. It may take longer, but it’s the sensible route.

  4. The Seattle growth alternatives are: (1) 6+ stories in urban centers, (2) 4-6 stories in urban villages, (3) growth around light rail stations. The third alternative has to intriguing points: “New urban villages would be located around the I-90 and NE 130th Street stations” and “Some village boundaries around light rail stations would expand”.

    My initial reaction to these scenarios is that they’re each too narrow: we should be doing all three simultaneously. The city has long said that both urban centers and urban villages will grow. Now it’s saying it’s one or the other? Alternative 3 sounds great in theory but ST2 Link reaches only the east half of the city and leaves important urban villages untouched. Are we just going to let the west half and Lake City stagnate until ST3 and 4 are approved?

    1. “The third alternative has to intriguing points:” It’s spelled two.

      Also, your assumption that neighborhoods will stagnate without light rail is false. The Mount Baker Station area which as light rail … flourishing and vibrant? Now Bellevue, which has no light rail. How has Bellevue, absent of light rail, done in the last 20 years?

      1. It has turned into a gigantic multi-level garage that occasionally has some well-surveilled pseudo-urbanity built two or three floors above it.

      2. ….and walled in on the west by a multi-lane freeway that resembles a parking lot.

      3. @sam — I think you missed the original point, or I missed the fact that you were trying to strengthen his argument. He basically said that we shouldn’t wait for light rail to go to an area before we change the zoning, because there are plenty of areas that have become vibrant despite the lack of light rail (or good transit in general).

        @ d. p.

        Fair enough, Ballard would have been a better example. Or Lake City itself, or South Lake Union (and a very broad definition of South Lake Union which would include areas far to the west and east). I think there are two reasons for this:

        1) Transit is only one factor for the growth of an area. There are a lot more factors, most of which are more important (which explains why Northgate isn’t growing as fast as Lake City despite the fact that it has much better transit and the difference is about to get even bigger).

        2) Our light rail system right now is not very good. It isn’t much better than the buses. This is all about to change, though, when they finally build the section they should have built first (downtown to Capitol Hill to the UW).

      4. Glenn, you know something is wrong in your suburb when cars move faster in what you intended as the parking garage than they do on what you intended to be the freeway.

      5. Appologies. That should have been east. Someone interrupted my lunch break.

        There was a trip where I went up to the San Juan Islands some months back, and as there didn’t seem to be any other transit connections scheduled for my desired return trip I took the Bellair Airporter from Anacortes to SeaTac, and other transportation from there back down here. At least, that was the plan. They routed the bus onto I-405 due to congestion in Seattle, and it took some two hours for the bus to get from Everett to SeaTac. I wound up taking link into downtown Seattle and getting the last BoltBus going south, but there were others that were quite unhappy about missed flights.

        I also visited the Bellevue Gardens on one trip. It was nice there, but getting there from the nearest transit stop in downtown Bellevue was a chore. Every single traffic light was an adventure in trying to cross at a cross walk with right turning drivers that apparently had never seen a pedestrian before.

        So, having walked through it, it’s really hard for me to imagine a station at that Main Street area really doing much of any good, unless it is a freeway station for the buses on I-405 as suggested by someone in a previous thread.

    2. In all likelihood, the final alternative will be a mixture of these alternatives. There’s no reason the box can’t be remolded, hence the scoping process. Also, you should consider what else should be analysed by the comp plan update process beside just accommodating these minimum growth numbers.

      1. I agree, a mix makes sense. We should have all three. Basically an urban center gets this, an urban village gets that, and areas close to rail will see an upgrade, but we aren’t too sure what it will look like. This makes sense from a practical and political standpoint. Neighborhoods can fight over whether they want to be an urban village or an urban center or neither. Likewise with growth next to light rail.

        In the case of 130th, I wouldn’t fight that hard for a zoning upgrade. It has really long way to go before it would be an area that would be really appealing for growth. The main value of the station is as a feeder station. So, if anti-development folks want to fight an upgrade of zoning there, I wouldn’t fight too hard. On the other hand, expanding the growth area adjacent to Lake City makes a lot of sense. It is already an urban hub (plenty of shops, apartments, etc.) so the demand is already there.

  5. Spent the weekend in Yaletown, an urban residential part of Vancouver, BC.

    Talk about density and urbanism done correctly!

    I stayed in an AirBnB rented townhouse with a street level entrance. I was able to walk along the waterfront to see the Canucks.

    Within blocks were restaurants, parks, schools, a full featured natural grocery store, more restaurants, loads of transit.

    There were towering apartment buildings, right near the water, but well spaced apart, so no wall of concrete, just nice monumental sized things. But also more genteel structures.

    Oh, and they know how to paint a street bike lane:

    (Yes, it goes between the parked cars and the sidewalk!)

    The sad thing is…after 30 years of trying, and billions spent, there is no Yaletown in Seattle…(Belltown is a laughable aping perhaps…)

    1. Some on this blog assert people will be confused if there’s a “Hospital Station” in Bellevue. They say many people will assume they are going to UW Medical Center. So it must have been pretty confusing for you since there are two Vancouvers. Did you first drive to Vancouver, WA, only to realize you went to the wrong city?

      1. Actually, it is so confusing for people who casually hear of one or the other that Vancouver, WA is considering renaming itself “Vancouver USA.”

      2. I would never have heard of Vancouver, WA had not one of my best friend’s Mom lived (and recently died) there. So, I helped him move her around Vancouver when she was in the last years of senility.

        I found it a pleasant place, sort of like Portland but with the downtown part removed. Or perhaps any other small Washington State city, but much larger. They do have a really good pancake house though.

      3. Every town seems to have a Denny’s. And every Denny’s seems to have a broken wafflemaker.

      4. The place I went to was Elmer’s…just over the bridge from Vancouver into Portland actually.

    2. Yeah, I get so sick of politicians comparing us to Portland (unless they say things like “we don’t want to make the same mistake as Portland”). We need to be a lot more like Vancouver, not Portland. I would love it if we had a big focus group meeting amongst the powers that be and discussed what works in Vancouver, why, and how we could mimic it.

  6. Lean Urbanism – Electrical Code

    “Take the electrical code. Most of us are living with the old electrical code, and we’re just fine. Electrical wires run in tubes, originally 30 amps, then 60 amps.

    Back at the turn of the century, as many of you know, there was a standards war between GE and Westinghouse, lead by technologies from Edison and Tesla.

    Edison offered small, in-city, generators, with low voltage DC current.
    Tesla offered large, remote generators with high voltage AC current.

    Now, we’ve come around to a world where most of our devices — are actually DC…hence we have outlets jammed up with transformer blocks to give us USB scale power.

    If we could get them to make DC refrigerators, a/c, stoves…then we would essentially wire the whole house in DC and use 12v or 6v directly…cutting out the need for many of the safeguards.

    Also, for power, we could go back to Edison’s idea of local generation, by using fuel cells.

    Many countries such as Japan (and some US states) are already going there!

    Fuel cell CHP passes the point of no return

  7. Your wording really threw me. I was very surprised to learn that until last year the only parklets in existence were in Montana, especially since I could have sworn I saw some in SF and PDX before that.

    1. There are a couple of places that are similar to “parklets” in Portland, but somewhat different in nature as they are not exactly public space as described here, at least none of the ones I know of are exactly public.

      As an example, there is Songbird Café at 69th and Belmont. They wanted to have some outdoor seating, so they arranged for the conversion of two of the parking places on 69th (the least busy street in that area) and turned that into their outdoor patio seating. I’m not exactly sure how that was arranged.

      There are a number of places where parking place or two was eliminated and converted to a bioswale for dealing with street runoff. I’m not sure that really qualifies as a park or parklet.

  8. I hope it isn’t off-topic to post this. Another post on the West Seattle Blog about apartment buildings built without parking, or without parking for each unit.

    I realize that some people don’t want West Seattle (or whatever their neighborhood is) to change so they’re against any new development, and there’s always a lot of hyperbole about this. But I wonder if they do have a point about cars– even though there are more car-free people, still it seems that the majority of people have cars, even if they take transit to work and even to run errands. They still
    feel they can’t get around the state if they don’t have a car, and they kind of have a point.

    I know there are ways to get around without cars–I don’t have a car myself. But many people just can’t see it for themselves, for a variety of reasons, and I wonder if it’ll ever change, especially if the driverless cars become common.

    1. They have a point about the contradiction of relying on transit to sell unparked developments while also warning that said transit could be decimated. But assuming we come through with transit funding in April, unparked developments should continue to become more common. Most of Seattle consists of no-garage Craftsman houses whose residents enjoy free street parking, and many of those who do have garages use them for storage but not parking, because street parking is just so (contrary to belief) abundant. And of course you don’t see anyone proposing a mandatory “Craftsman Garage Installation Retrofit” requirement :). It’s hard not to feel like current residents just want to continue appropriating a public resource for free while requiring new residents to pay the increased costs for on-site parking.

    2. Yep, what Zach said. Basically, the opponents built a straw man (and the city helped). It really doesn’t matter if the tenants have cars. Some will, some won’t. What matters is that it isn’t up to the building manufacturer to provide spaces for the cars. The people with cars will figure out how to deal with their cars. They will park on the street, park in a private garage, or find an apartment that provides parking (there are a lot of them). Building an apartment building without a garage increases the chance that a tenant who doesn’t have a car will rent a unit there (and having good transit nearby increases that chance) . I would think the folks in West Seattle (who suffer from traffic) would welcome that. In general, it will lead to cheaper apartments. I would say that this is a good thing, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t care. That is the essential argument (parking versus the cost of rent). Pick your priority.

      1. They don’t seem to see it that way. To their way of thinking, all renters will have cars whether or not the apartment building has parking spaces. Now they’re going to try to mobilize to stop one of the developments on California Ave. SW. Pretty soon they’ll stop all development here, then they’ll probably complain about high rents or wonder why we can’t get light rail. (I believe they will be able to stop development here. They stopped a company from putting a zip line in Lincoln Park a couple years ago.)

        They’re all for the Whole Foods development though, I’m assuming because it has parking. They were all angry at McGinn for trying to stop that. Murray got almost all the votes here; now they’re mad at him and want McGinn or even Nickels back, all because Murray isn’t jumping to stop development like they thought he would. It is really frustrating to see all the anger st McGinn over Whole Foods when normally all the comments are anti-development.

      2. The zip line would have been a private use of public space. That is totally within the city’s purview to deny.

        The Whole Foods needs an alley vacation, which is totally within the city’s purview to deny.

        I’m not familiar with the other developments, but stopping them isn’t a true option. Landowners have rights, but the city can stack up regulations on them until those regulations become a taking. The art of NIMBYism is knowing how far you can go to harass a landowner before you’ve crossed the line of allowing no profitable use of the land. The goal is to stop a development while pretending to be reasonable.

    3. While I think that the analysis of parking minimum advocates is poor, I wouldn’t say they are creating a straw man. While no parking buildings will draw a lot of users that don’t own a car, I suspect that such developments will still increase the usage of adjacent street parking, and likely enough to prove an inconvenience to the existing residents. Moreover, I’m not convinced that the increased traffic from the resulting increased auto ownership would be worse for the local residents than the difficulty in finding parking adjacent to their homes. However, this point is a reminder that the counterfactual of parking minimums is not strictly better for existing residents. And applied on a city wide scale, if their are parking minimums for all development, the downside of increased traffic surely outweighs the upside of more ample street parking near one’s residence.

      But the real kicker is that demanding parking minimums at nearby development is a terrible solution to the residents’ parking concerns when compared to alternatives. The proper solution to the problem is to make the area a restricted parking zone and only allocate parking permits to existing residents. Such a cap trade style system would maintain ample parking for existing residents while ensuring that new developments get built without an oversupply of parking. This solution is detailed further here:

      1. Of course, if all the residents in the apartment get a free permit, that doesn’t solve the problem, and leaves the unparked tenants subsidizing the driving tenants. I see it as perfectly reasonable for an unparked development to have its supply of parking permits limited, and then lease those permits to the tenants. But I’m not sure the administrative infrastructure of the RPZs is set up for that level of nuance.

    4. Norah, Everyone,

      There are quite a few buildings in Seattle which have no parking. I lived in one myself, 621 West Galer, for two years in the 1970’s when I worked downtown. I rode the bus in the morning to be on time and walked back up the Third West stairs in the evening.

      Cities have always had “unparked” buildings, and I hope always will. True most people have a car, but not all do; the ones who don’t are helping out those who have more than one per person park them.

    5. I think it’s funny when people argue against a development because of a fear of loss of available street parking. If existing residents are worried the new residents will rely on it for parking and that it’ll affect them negatively, aren’t they also unrealistically relying on street parking?

      It’s almost like preventing people from living near you because you’re worried you might have to step to one side on the sidewalk because there are a few more people on it.

      Anyways some things they could do, in order of connection with reality…
      * Demand a charge for street parking (meter or permit)
      * Build a garage on your own (dam) property (or a bigger one)
      * Hell, build another garage to rent to out one of your new neighbors that won’t have a parking spot!

      1. If existing residents are worried the new residents will rely on it for parking and that it’ll affect them negatively, aren’t they also unrealistically relying on street parking?

        Many people seem to believe, for no reason whatsoever, that they ought to have a de facto easement right to a couple of car-sized pieces of public land immediately adjacent to their home. Paying for your own car storage is something that apartment dwellers should be forced to do by the state, even if they don’t own a car, to make sure they never try to use the free, government-provided public car storage nearby homeowners enjoy.

      2. It’s all about free parking. People don’t as much expect the space in front of their building to be open, but that there should be an open space within a block of it whenever they’re parking. And it should not have a $1.25 meter or god forbid a $5 garage fee.

    6. Around 1 in 6 households in Seattle are car-free. They are almost certainly heavily concentrated in apartments, not houses, so we’re probably already north of 20% of apartment dwellers without a car.

      Why should it be illegal for developers to cater to this market?

  9. Related to Prop 1, doesn’t it seem odd that the only four groups in the “coalition” against the proposition don’t seem to exist anywhere (especially online)? Who’s heard of any of these?
    -Working Families for Affordable Transportation
    -Eastside Young Professionals Coalition
    -Students for Transit Solutions
    -Keep Metro Accountable

    From this website:

  10. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m starting to feel that there should be some compromise on parking–maybe not one parking place for every unit, but probably more than what’s proposed on some of the new buildings. I realize people will get used to the parking situation in time, and that there will always be complainers and people who don’t want change.

    1. What you’re proposing is that the state should force developers to make apartments more expensive for non-car owners, to subsidize car owners, because local home owners want continued unfettered access to free car storage on a specific piece of public land most convenient for them.

      Some sort of political compromise may be necessary, but let’s not pretend there’s any justification for this.

    2. Also, spaces are going empty in existing apartment buildings because people don’t want to pay the $150 monthly fee. Some of them park on the street but some of them just get rid of their cars like my bf did when it needed a $1500 transmission. In a few buildings a third of the spaces are empty — spaces that were built at the 1:1 or 1:0.66 ratio. These spaces cost $30K each to build, so the landlord makes up for it in everybody’s rent — including non-drivers. That’s the subsidy djw alluded to. Reducing parking minimums is about reducing that cost and subsidy.

      The problem with building 1:1 parking now because comprehensive transit won’t exist until ten years or later, is that the parking spaces and their expense will last much longer than that gap. Every parking space also pushes things further away for pedestrians, because there’s one less business or unit or amenity in the space, and people have to walk past all those parking spaces.

  11. Just wondered if anybody would like a guest blog post on what’s happening – and could happen – up here in NW Washington State with us starting to lose transit service…

    On the other hand, I do not want to spend several days battling one (or several) angry troll(s) who wants to slip into Curtis King’s bus trap of Seattle vs. Rest-of-Washington and then we transit advocates all lose.

    Here’s a sample of what we’re in for up here. So important politically King County doesn’t go over the cliff…

    1. Wait, what? I thought the tri-county connector bus service had been saved. It hasn’t? The article really should have gone more into whatever the misunderstanding happens to be.

      1. Long story short: The Camano-Everett Connector has gone down for Island Transit. The hope was the state legislature would renew the funding.

        Next year, the Tri-County Connector funding will have to be renewed for another biennium. I hold little faith in the mainstream media to cover transit accurately as nobody who works in the MSM uses transit – or can considering their hours.

    2. Found an article explaining it:

      I understand that people are human and mistakes happen. It seems that a lot of folks missed what was going on here. The state I come from has a “Legislative Budget Board” that is able to parcel out a relatively small amount of funds based on what a “contingent” of legislators say they intended to do. Those funds are required to be made up in the next budget. I guess Washington has no equivalent?

      1. Thanks much for finding the article. Just makes me appalled at how we’ve gotten to this situation where a major transit agency has no reserves & a State Senator this blog helped elect got so confused.

        I also believe very strongly we cannot allow Prop 1 to fail in King County!!

  12. The east end of Freighthouse Square is the right decision for the new Amtrak station in Tacoma. Hopefully they can get it done now and move the line onto the bypass.

    1. Visited Freight House Square a couple of days ago and agree that the new proposed east location is way much better than the west one. I love spending time in that building looking at all the great old train photos lining the walls. The large Lego facility downstairs is very popular with families, and I hope will remain when Amtrak moves in.

    2. How about this idea:

      The current Tacoma Link maintenance shop occupies some real estate that could be better used for some other purpose. The east end Amtrak station might be a good purpose for this. The actual Amtrak platforms could be on the south side of the line, with the actual station on the lower level, as this part of the line is currently on a bridge. This produces an arrangement a bit like Spokane, with the station somewhat under the main line and allowing multiple track access from underneath. This reduces the conflict when both Amtrak and Sounder trains are at the station at the same time.

      Where to move the Tacoma Link maintenance facility?

      About two blocks south of Thea’s Park there is a BNSF railroad yard that is almost completely useless. When they built I-705 it completely cut off the south end of the yard, which used to be a significant part of Tacoma’s Union Station. Today, the tracks are too short for use by a train of any significant length, and are on the opposite side of the main line from any of the industries in Tacoma. Sometimes, there are two or three maintenance of way cars spotted there, but mostly that yard hasn’t been able to be used since I-705 was built. Every year there is more and more construction that blots it out, there are still parts of a line connecting that yard up the hill with the route Tacoma Link now takes.

      So, put the Tacoma Link maintenance facility in this otherwise unusable freight yard, and recondition the line connecting the two as a light rail *ahem* streetcar line. This location would be an ideal spot for this facility, since it is extremely unlikely that this spot will be used for anything else due to it being impossible to access by anyone except those few who know where the access road to it is.

  13. Surely CT has a better load factor than 40% after all the cuts they made.
    Mic, what you’re forgetting is those routes are highly bias toward people coming into King County in the AM and fleeing in the evening. The load factor is probably more like 75% peal direction and 5% reverse commute with many of the peak commute buses at +100%. Basically they are running full one direction and deadheading the other.

    1. Bernie – There aren’t any scheduled reverse-commute trips. (There should be, but that’s another issue.) Mic’s numbers are based on the count of trips (all forward-commute) listed on Community Transit’s website, so he’s calculating the forward-commute load factor. With David’s addendum, the data comes out to average 80% – with, I don’t doubt, many outliers at 100%.

      1. I’m amazed that the don’t run back north in service. It seems like it would have to be at least a brake even proposition. On the ST routes from Bellevue going north to Lynnwood and Everett they collect about a dozen people at BTC. I’d expect the numbers to be more than double that from DT given that it’s so much larger of a market.

      2. There’s already more than enough in-service 512 buses to handle the reverse-commute demand. Having more of the returning buses do revenue trips would just slow them down for no reason, wasting money.

      3. Ah, yes I see. ST has it covered with a reverse commute bus every 15 minutes. It’s a different situation than B’view where ST is the only show in town. Thinking out loud, without obviously any knowledge of the details, what if CT was “awarded” the return trips. Could ST reroute buses to cover other areas? Like maybe 99 or Bothell to 405 returns? Just a thought. I understand that the root problem is there is just way more demand in one direction. Seems like Sounder North would be the answer except it’s not and it’s so unreliable do to mudslides. Just brain farting for something to do with all the excess capacity that has no demand.

      4. Perhaps some of the extra capacity could be diverted to the Boeing plant? I know it’s out of the way from everywhere except Mukelteo, but there really should be some easier way to get there than 512 to 952.

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