Former Eleven 01 and Terry

Former Eleven 01 and Terry by Atomic Taco

  • The Department of Planning and Development is presenting three U-District land use scenarios for environmental impact study.
  • Neither Lynnwood nor Bellevue are happy about the siting of a potential Link O&M facilities near them.
  • Tacoma’s Business Improvement Association has offered to pay to keep Tacoma Link free.
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine steps into the ride-share debate; his simple approach is in stark contrast to the Seattle City Council.
  • The Seattle Council passes restrictions on small-lot single-family houses that will limit building height to 18 ft, or the average height of houses on the block, whichever is higher. As of late, it’s been interesting to watch  Tim Burgess emerge as a pragmatic and nuanced policy maker.
  • Apartment-to-house construction ratio reaching record highs.
  • Land-use restrictions limit opportunity, but Reihan Salam points out one way to get current residents to buy in. I believe that this idea would, of course, be illegal in Washington, as most constructive and innovative policies are.
  • Greyhound has officially moved to S Royal Brougham Way and 4th Ave.
  • A great long-form story on the development of Google’s self-driving car.
  • Google maps route planning for bikes now has shows you elevation change!
  • The Fremont Bridge smashes its previous bike count record, topping out at over 6,000 bikes a day.
  • If you support bike helmet laws, you should also support them for motorists and pedestrians.

This is an open thread.

121 Replies to “News Roundup: Up and Down”

  1. With the days getting longer and there being more sun, I’ve noticed that bus operators are a lot more cheerful and are trying to have more fun on the PA. Since I’m a killjoy, I sent this note to Metro and I was wondering if others had feedback on what I’m experiencing or if I should have approached the letter differently. I didn’t include one anecdote, because it doesn’t go to the larger issue, but I have had one driver get huffy with me when I asked if the sign was broken (“I like to do it my way”) and if he could stop at a particular stop because I was unfamiliar with the route.

    “I am a younger, hard-of-hearing person, especially for lower frequency sounds like the male voice. Lately, I have noticed that more drivers are choosing to make announcements themselves instead of having the computer perform this task. When I can hear them, I think that the announcements are funny and interesting. The problem is when drivers disable the automated system in such a way that the LED sign also doesn’t work and is compounded by some drivers not enunciating. […]

    If Metro can do this, I would like to ask that drivers be reminded of two things: 1) The LED sign display is very important, especially on routes with closely-spaced stops. Given a choice between funny announcements and a sign, someone in my position will take the sign every day. 2) Please speak clearly when giving any announcement, especially if it’s for something about bus operation. [Anecdote about a 545 driver who disables the bell cord on eastbound trips in the evenings and runs his words together here. -lcr]”

    1. My hearing is fine and I sometimes can’t understand driver announcements.

      I agree drivers should attempt to enunciate clearly when making announcements and ensure they aren’t using the PA mic in a way that makes them hard to understand. I also agree they shouldn’t be disabling the LED sign.

      1. I have an ongoing saga (several months now) with Metro customer service trying to get a particular driver on the 43 to turn on signs. According to FTA, having the equipment off is ADA violation. No resolution so far, and have never received followup from Metro customer service. Would anyone like to write a letter with me to Metro GM and council?

      2. I’ve only had one problem and that was resolved quickly by calling metro. Also one day the announcements were not working system wide but the drivers were helpful in announcing stops the old way.

    2. I would keep calling Metro. I would also email local news outlets. Maybe they’ll do a Get Jesse or KING 5 investigates-type story on it. Another option, take a video of what’s going on. Post it to Youtube, then send that link to Metro. They probably won’t like that there are videos going up of their drivers breaking the rules and/or the law.

    3. I recall exactly two complaints about my use of the PA system- in the days before either LED’s or automated announcements. When PA’s were new as well. I got many more compliments, but honestly, too bad the word “Chill” still only referred to weather. One-word message from my chief would have been enough for beneficial change of style.

      For people with ambitions to be the next Dave Ross- or worse, Dory Monson or Luke Burbank- it’s tempting to go for your own show without an audition. But unlike theater tickets, transit fares don’t get refunded for acts that suck, and stickers say hitting the driver is a felony. Your attorney, though, could note that there’s no mention of spoiled fruit or dead cats.

      As with dozens of other problems with day-to-day transit driving, main cure is lack of any operator training at all. I don’t recall that we received any training at all in using the “mike”. Anyone who’s ever done broadcasting knows that few people are born with this skill. Most people are also scared to death of saying anything in public, let alone over PA.

      I’ve noticed that many drivers still announce stops by voice- which means nobody on board hears it. These drivers who’ve done so tell me they’re afraid of losing teeth if the mike- in those days uncushioned- was in front of their face in crash or hard stop.

      Recorded messages aboard buses are doubtless a reasonable attempt to relieve drivers of the whole communications problem, and give passengers clear and familiar words. But twenty minutes on Sounder or in the DSTT, and you wish moldy fruit or ex-cats could take out robot messaging. More like Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” than Orwell’s 30-years-out of date book, but Big Brother gave Airstrip One a little more talent.

      My feet are off the seats, I know where the exits and the axe are, my attorney knows his job if I have to use them, and I’ve reported everybody on the train for terrorism. ST and Tunnel Control: make like jello and chill.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Read “main cure is operator training”. If lack of it could fix anything, there’d be no complaints or mention of grievances in the Contract.


    4. I am a driver and I don’t know how to disable the interior signage. Bad training I guess. I could turn the automatic stop announcement volume down so low it would be inaudible but can’t imagine why. I hated having to make stop announcement and love letting the computer do it.

      What sometimes does happen is the computer or GPS malfunctions and I have to make the announcements to stay ADA compliant. However Metro has very recently made upgrades to the radio/ bus locator software and operating procedures to help with that problem.

      1. Yeah, this is a driver who has figured out how to turn the system off and who declines to turn it on when asked nicely.

  2. Moving the greyhound terminal is great news. They lost so much time getting to/from 9th ave before, plus this facilitates transfers between link and Amtrak.

    1. Ok. Now, how come Portland managed to put an architecurally beautiful bus station with room for a whole line of buses across the street from its train station- which now has stops for several light rail lines across the sidewalk?

      I’m sorry, but every time I get off the train in Portland, I start getting embarrassed about what a cheap, lazy, ugly place Seattle is by comparison. With no economic excuse. Am I wrong that Seattle has the larger economy?

      I seem to remember that when I first saw Seattle in the fall of 1974, I was impressed by the imagination and initiative of the city. Difference is as much a reflection of the general quality of my generation, and it’s not good to contemplate leaving the world with this discrepancy on my soul.

      Especially in earthquake country. People get dropped into Hell for less.

      One reason I’m so anxious to get some really fast passenger rail service between Seattle and Portland- with an Olympia station that isn’t ten miles out of town- is that together, these three cities could together constitute a very nice place to live.

      But right now, I think the new Greyhound station is a perfect summary of what Seattle is as a city. Come on, somebody. Tell me where I’m wrong?

      Mark Dublin

      1. I think a better example for bus and train station design is Spokane. There, it truly is a single combined station.

        Now, there really needs to be an effort at reworking the driveway to King Street Station so that buses are better able to serve it. Northwest POINT buses and other buses that are to stop at both can easily serve both Portland Union Station and the Portland Greyhound station.

        King Street is significant problem here, due to the buses having to make a slow reverse move to extract themselves from King Street. Obviously the throughway buses still go there, but Belair Airporter stopped going there in 2013 or so.

      2. Mark,

        About Olympia; service to downtown Olympia is absolutely and for all time incompatible with “high speed” service between Seattle and Portland. The route would require rebuilding the line through Lacey; it’s now a very popular bike route. The route to the south at Gate stub ends at a lumber yard around 60th Avenue. It would have to be rebuilt down to Gate or perhaps a “short-cut” could be built under the utility right of way over to the Tacoma Western next to the freeway. The Gate option would be about fifteen miles farther than the main line, and the short-cut about eleven. On a route of 170 miles length those represent a significant percentage growth — they’re saving less than that distance with the Point Defiance Bypass project. But by far the most damage to travel time would be done by the section of low-speed running through Lacey that would be necessary.

        Some folks have advocated using the Union Pacific route which diverges south of Centennial Station. Since it has fewer grade crossings it could be operated a bit faster than the Lacey route, but it’s an additional seven miles farther than the old NP route through Lacey.

        Either route would be a run-time disaster. Besides, folks who want to take the train to or from Olympia have been going first to East Olympia and then now to Centennial for nearly forty years since the Lacey route was torn up.

      3. Mark;

        If you realty want to get frustrated with a lack of vision, take a look at the arrival and departure times in Centralia. For the most part, it would not be difficult to meet your demand going south with a timed transfer bus from Olympia to Centralia. Many of the train times work out well for a bus to leave Olympia, meet a southbound train, and then return with passengers from a northbound train. I think maybe only one or two don’t work out that way.

        So far, any of the agencies I have asked about that have said, basically, “If there was an actual demand for that type of service, someone would already be doing it.”

        You might have better luck on you end trying to promote that. I certainly seem to have wound up in a house of walls on this end, and I even offered to come contribute by generating some sales tax revenue in Olympia.

        Even something better than the current awful bus connection timetable at Lacy would be nice.

      4. OK, it’s not as bad as it used to be. It used to be there was a 53 minute wait at Lacy. It’s only about 20 now.

    2. A bigger problem was trying to explain to visitors how to get from the Greyhound station to Amtrak or Westlake station, or how to get to the Greyhound station.

      The city had offered multiple times to include Greyhound in King Street’s renovation and create a multimodal station area like Portland, but Greyhound kept saying no. Then one day it lost its lease, but by that time the King Street renovation had already been done so Greyhound had to go to the closest place it could find.

      At least it’s much closer now, and right off Stadium station so it’ll be easier for visitors to find it. It also puts it near BoltBus, so all intercity buses and trains will be within walking distance of each other. That will make it easier to tell visitors everything is between International District and Stadium stations: Link to the airport, Amtrak, Grehound, BoltBus, ST Express, and Sounder. And with some of them staying at International District hostels, it will be ultra-convenient for them.

      1. Greyhound has been weirdly hostile to integration with Amtrak and local urban rail hubs. In addition to Seattle, Greyhound declined to cooperate with multimodal hub projects in Denver and St. Paul to my knowledge, and there may be others.

  3. Hyundai’s First Mass-Produced Tucson Fuel Cell CUVs Arrive In Southern California

    Today, at a port near Los Angeles, Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell CUVs began rolling onto U.S. soil, marking the first delivery of a mass-produced fuel cell vehicle for the U.S. market. The first retail sale of the Tucson Fuel Cell is expected within the next several weeks in Southern California.

    Under the Hyundai leasing program, approved lessees can drive Hyundai’s next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell for just $499 per month, including unlimited free hydrogen refueling and “At Your Service” valet maintenance at no extra cost.

    1. Largest H2 bus fleet unveiled

      Europe’s largest hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet was officially launched at the All-Energy 2014 exhibition and conference in Aberdeen this week, marking a major milestone for the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project, in which BOC is a key partner.

      The Aberdeen City Council-led bus project, which is being part-funded by the Fuel Cells & Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, the council, the Scottish Government, as well as a range of other public and private sector partners, will be the largest single demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell buses in Europe.

      1. Other car related topics posted on STB include ridesharing services.

        As such, the “car” whatever it may evolve into in the next few decades and it’s technologies are fair game.

        In addition common criticisms of the “car” are local pollution (I won’t get into the long debate about total supply chain pollution for each fuel) and with a hydrogen car the only emission is water.

      2. The only emission out the talepipe is water. But the electricity to generate the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. In practice, this “somewhere” is a fossil-fuel-burning power power plant. All in all, the total emissions of a hydrogen car are probably no less than a standard car burning gasoline.

    2. Ballard Fuel Cell Modules Powering Zero-Emission Bus Fleet in Germany

      COLOGNE, GERMANY – Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP)(TSX: BLD) congratulates transit authority Regional Verkehr Koln (RVK) of Cologne, Germany as well as Van Hool NV, Europe’s fourth largest bus manufacturer, for delivery of two (2) 13 meter (40 foot) buses powered by Ballard’s FCvelocity®-HD6 fuel cell modules.

      These buses are joining two 18 meter (60 foot) VDL-Phileas model fuel cell buses powered by Ballard, which were deployed in 2011 with RVK and are currently in regular transit service. Procurement of these latest buses has been funded by NOW, the German state and North-Rhine Westphalia region funding agency.

    1. Where do they get these numbers from, since the census is conducted once every decade?

      1. The American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted every year on a sample of the population. The census is a more accurate measure, but on a citywide level the ACS is generally fairly accurate.

      2. So it’s more accurate on a citywide level than on a countywide level?

        In either case, it’s a small sample…not a full census as you say.

      3. With school enrollment and home schooling files, income tax reporting and social security registrants, the Census Bureau can pretty much estimate the population for any geography in its system. The only age group that can’t be quickly tracked are those between 0 and 5, and geocoded birth records can provide a fairly good guess at that.

      4. Is that what ACS does?

        According to it’s website, it’s a sampling, not a tracking.

    2. This doesn’t surprise me at all. And the data also shows that the growth rate in Seattle proper is much more than the growth rate in the surrounding suburbs — and that the difference in growth rate is accelerating. Very good news indeed for those who want a denser, more vibrant city with better transit options.

  4. I’ve never really understood the Seattle mindset that there’s basically only two types of housing that should be offered to residents: large houses with large yards, and apartments crowded up against busy noisy streets. And if you don’t want can’t afford the former (what’s wrong with you, weirdo?), you deserve the latter.

    Oh well. Yet another reason I’ll probably never again live within the limits of that overrated “city” that acts more like an insecure suburb.

    1. Good summary of what I just said above, but one difference: reason for vehemence about Seattle is that I think the city is capable of so much better. Like the ACLU says about the Bill of Rights: The quality of a city can’t defend itself.

      You see, I see two remedies that I think will turn Seattle and much else around a hundred eighty degrees: one, we will get passenger service that will indeed make three cities neighborhoods of the same one.

      And two, when people just getting old enough to vote overcome their understandable loathing of politics, take over both our major parties from the bottom up and form a couple new ones of their own….this is Nature’s own cure for human underperformance.

      Don’t go to the expense of permanently moving very far.


      1. I haven’t moved far. I actually do love this area; it’s just that Seattle falls short enough on some key things a city needs in order to be a livable place for me that I’m better off living outside of it.

        Where I am now I can do all my daily errands via bicycle, also get to some trailheads on my bicycle, and get to Seattle without driving a car. And my apartment doesn’t have the noise track of an arterial street playing continually in the background. Overall, a big win.

      2. What do you consider liveable, and what does your place have that Seattle doesn’t?

        Trailheads and getting to Seattle without a car, hmm, would that be Issaquah? Or Redmond? Or more like Portland?

        The reason for the gap between large-lot houses and dense apartments is that small-lot houses are no longer allowed under zoning. Never mind that the existing pre-WWII small-lot houses are highly desired by buyers. Too many people believe that small-lot houses are not viable anymore and resist attempts to allow them.

        However, the Issaquah Highlands has done a better job of it than other recent developments. The houses are somewhere between large-lot and small-lot, and the bus station and commercial area is within a 10-minute walk.

    2. It’s called “the free market”. There are condos available that fall between typical apartments and the typical SFH. but that really isn’t where the market is going right now.

      We are likely to see much more growth in micor-housing than we are in the large condo market. And again, those building trends are driven mainly by the free market.

      1. No, it’s called “government regulation”. The market is not offering such things in Seattle because by and large Seattle’s zoning rules make it illegal to build.

      2. Not true, particularly in regards to the condo market in general and the large condo market in particular.

        The market just isn’t there. Yeah, there are some large condos in some of the DT high rises, but these tend to be high end luxury units aimed at a limited market. But large or intermediate condos outside the very high end luxury market just don’t exist in quantity because the market just isn’t there.

        Hopefully this will change in the future and the market will develop as the city gets denser.

      3. The regulation exists and it is stopping the sort of housing I am talking about from being built. See bullet point five above.

      4. Ha! That proposal just passed the council last night and isn’t even on the books yet. Blaming current market conditions on something that just passed council yesterday and doesn’t even technically exist yet seems like a stretch of logic (to say the least)!

        And even at that, what the council passed doesn’t preclude small lot development, it just says that it needs to fit in a bit better with the surrounding neighborhood.

        But the small lot developments really are a miniscule portion of the market. What they really represent is an attempt to build a full SFH on a partial (technically “small”) lot.

        So if you want a SFH, then just buy one. There are a wide range of options to choose from and many different neighborhoods with various amenities.

      5. No, it’s obviously not “the market”. In much of SEattle, it’s fine to tear down a nice 1200 SF 100 year old craftsman and replace it with a boxy 4000 SF McMansion. But yahweh forbid we allow someone to build a building the exact same size and shape with 4-6 units, in a nice quiet neighborhood with a shared yard. The market doesn’t rule out living like that.

        I know people who’d love to buy a 800 SF cottage on a 2500 SF lot–I’d be among them if I were in the market. I like the idea of a very small yard and my own place, but I don’t want or need the hassle and cost of purchasing or upkeep on a big house or 5000 SF lot to take care of; it’s just a waste. It is illegal to have that segment of the market met, because faux-lefty NIMBYs don’t want to live near people whose lifestyles differ from theirs in any meaningful way. That has nothing whatsoever to do with a “market”.

      6. lazarus,

        So you would be okay with removing all zoning regulations, since, according to you, our built environment is a product of pure free-market construction? Every property owner in Seattle has been able to build exactly what they want up until this point? If that’s the case, then why have any zoning laws on the books, right?

        Just trying to figure out your position here.

      7. @dfw — I agree. That is the most ridiculous part of our zoning laws. But it gets worse.

        You can’t convert that 100 year old craftsman to an apartment. Really. A little bit of work; add a door here, and a couple extra kitchens there and just like that you have a nice old house that can house four families. The remodel would be smaller than your typical remodel, but it is illegal. Not the addition, per-se, but renting it to multiple, unrelated people. Crazy, really. This doesn’t really benefit anyone. Not the renters, nor the preservationists. The city is in the dark ages when it comes to zoning, and most of the residents are simply in denial (or are ignorant of the issues). It doesn’t help that we have demagogues who run for office, while the press ignores the issues. This includes so called progressive press, like The Stranger.

      8. Developing on small and current lots is fine and should be encouraged within certain guidelines, but converting existing SFH into multi-unit homes and/or apartments/condos should not be allowed, or at least not allowed without proper financial compensation to the existing SFH owners in the neighborhood who will see the value of their investment decrease, or without a vote of the neighborhood.

        But the argument about converting existing SFH to multi-unit is immaterial to the discussion of how Seattle should progress.

        First, be realistic here, it just ain’t going to happen on any significant scale anywhere in the city. It’s just not going to happen. So if you want change, best to focus on where change is actually possible.

        Second, it’s just not needed. There is so much available real estate in Seattle that can be developed to mulit-unit that focusing on the converting SFH is just a silly side show. Put development where development is possible first, then maybe the discussion about what to do next makes sense.

        Think I’m wrong? Drive Aurora from the DBT to the city line at 145th and try to imagine the housing capacity that would be created if it was all built out to 4 stories. Then think of it at 6 or 8 stories.

        It’s a lot of capacity that is sitting there mainly unused while everyone seems to think that the small lot issue is holding Seattle back. Small lots are not holding Seattle back, and neither are the SFH neighborhoods.

      9. “Drive Aurora from the DBT to the city line at 145th and try to imagine the housing capacity that would be created if it was all built out to 4 stories.”

        Yes, there’s tons of potential on Aurora.

        “There is so much available real estate in Seattle that can be developed to mulit-unit that focusing on the converting SFH is just a silly side show.”

        There’s another factor though. Multifamily neighborhoods are most vibrant when they have a contiguous two-dimensional area of 1×1 mile or more, not when they’re broken up into tiny separated islands and one-block wide linear developments like most of Seattle’s urban villages and Aurora Avenue are. The U-District is very good but it should be 2-3 times larger. Imagine a U-District extending to Greenlake and Wallingford for instance. That would be more like Chicago’s north side, and would solve a lot of problems of limited housing, walkability to jobs, and maximum transit ridership.

        Speaking of the U-District, I’m glad that one of the zoning alternatives includes upzoning north of 50th. I’ve become suspicious of things that concentrate all growth in a few 200′ buildings, because if you can’t afford them you’re SOL. Shorter lowrise/midrise buildings over a larger area could do the same job as effectively or more so (because of the 2-dimensional area I mentioned above). Density can work with highrises, midrises, lowrises, or row houses, but there needs to be a minimum. The problem with Seattle’s density is its minimum is too low: too many detached houses everywhere, too many one-story buildings with half the lot taken by parking, etc. Chicago has single-family houses and one-story buildings scattered around the north side, but they’re few enough to be just a trickle rather than overwhelming the area.

      10. In addition to banning things like cottage developments (BTW I saw a couple nice ones out in Kirkland), Seattle makes it all but impossible to build row houses of the sort you see elsewhere.

        A row house with a patio is exactly what I want but cannot find in the city.

      11. @lazurus — Nice job tying yourself into a logical knot, there. My guess is you never studied debate or philosophy. I’m surprised someone smarter than me hasn’t jumped on your logical fallacy sooner, so I guess it is up to me:

        but converting existing SFH into multi-unit homes and/or apartments/condos should not be allowed, or at least not allowed without proper financial compensation to the existing SFH owners in the neighborhood who will see the value of their investment decrease, or without a vote of the neighborhood.

        But their investments will not decrease, because:

        it’s just not needed. There is so much available real estate in Seattle that can be developed to mulit-unit that focusing on the converting SFH is just a silly side show. Put development where development is possible first, then maybe the discussion about what to do next makes sense.

        If it isn’t needed, then it won’t be built. There is no need for compensation, because, as you said, nothing will be built. The zoning law is simply a meaningless change in regulation.

        Do you not see the conflicting argument you just made? If it isn’t “needed”, then changing the law will have no effect. If people really don’t want to live in an apartment or duplex in a quiet residential street, then changing the zoning law will have no effect at all. It would be like allowing 300 foot high buildings in Omak: it really doesn’t matter. But if there is demand, then it is needed. Simply put, if you change the regulation to allow for more development in areas a tad bit more appealing than Aurora, you will see development there, and all housing (even the housing on Aurora) will become more affordable.

        Now, I suppose you can argue about the term “needed”, but that wasn’t how you started the argument, was it? You said, and I quote

        It’s called “the free market”.

        This implies that the “needed” was in relation to the free market. You are absolutely right. For Omak, you do not need to loosen the regulations in order to provide more affordable housing. But for Seattle, you do. To suggest otherwise implies you don’t understand supply and demand (I can explain it to you if you are still confused). Simply put, if you loosen regulations, prices for apartments, condos and housing in general will go down (all other things being equal). Is that “needed”? I guess it depends on who you are. To some, forcing someone to choose between sky high rents and a horrible commute is no big deal; to others (like myself) I think it is, and I think we need a solution.

      12. @lazurus — OK, I already dissected the logical fallacy or your arguments; now I want to talk about this:

        converting existing SFH into multi-unit homes and/or apartments/condos should not be allowed, or at least not allowed without proper financial compensation to the existing SFH owners in the neighborhood who will see the value of their investment decrease, or without a vote of the neighborhood.

        OK, to begin with, there is no reason that property values would decrease when this happens. Unless, of course, you believe that “the wrong kind of people” moving into a neighborhood somehow decreases property values. Otherwise, it should increase the value of the property. If you are allowed to do more to the property (convert it to a condo, put up a skyscraper, etc.) it will increase the value of the property, not decrease it. That is the good news, really, because otherwise…

        By not allowing the conversion, you are favoring owners over those who don’t own. You are basically saying that everyone else has to pay a higher price for rent, or pay a higher price to enter the market because you are interested in the property owner’s “investment”. Personally, I believe that the ability to get shelter, along with food and clothing is a right (the old “life, liberty and property” thing). Protecting your investment is not. When you buy a home, you are buying a home. It may go up in value, or down in value, but it is your home, and the state shouldn’t bend over backwards to ensure your investment. Further, you are basically saying that it should ensure your investment by ensuring that the needs of others are not met. Basically, you want the state to ensure a limit to the available housing so that current owners will get a very good price when they sell. This is essentially a trust, and goes against the principles of modern progressive capitalism. Either you didn’t really think this through or you are essentially arguing for a return to the Gilded Age (when government looked out for the needs of business, and little else).

      13. My debate coach always used to say, “the longer it takes you to make your point the less likely you are to be believed.”

        I stand by what I said previously: All this thrashing about over small lot development is really a side show that won’t have much impact on total housing supply. There are plenty of places to increase total housing supply in Seattle without converting SFH neighborhoods into something that they aren’t.

        But the small lot development issue is not being driven by a lack of total housing supply. Instead it is being driven by a lack of SFH supply. I.e., small lot development is an attempt to expand the amount of SFH supply inside of existing SFH neighborhoods.

        And you simply can’t satisfy demand for single family homes by building multi-family homes — no matter where you build them.

      14. First, be realistic here, it just ain’t going to happen on any significant scale anywhere in the city. It’s just not going to happen. So if you want change, best to focus on where change is actually possible.

        Even if it happens rarely, it should be allowed on social justice grounds. It’s good way to ensure non-rich people can afford to continue to live in the homes they inherit, for example. I know of a case in Ballard like this–grandkids had to sell a huge house in a neighborhood their family had lived in for nearly a century because they couldn’t afford the property taxes. Allowing subdivisions would have solved this problem nicely. And your two arguments cancel each other out–if it happens very rarely, there’s no reason to think it’ll impact surrounding property values. (And even if it did, that’s no reason to suggest we should remove it as a property right. I can do all kinds of things to my house that potential buyers might not want to live next door to, such as eccentric paint jobs and landscaping–and rightly so. Property rights can’t be wholly subjected to the aesthetic whims of the larger community.

        indeed, arguments based on property value generally boil down to, as RossB put it, potential buyers not wanting to be around the “wrong kind of people” which has pretty much always been a vehicle for class-based or racial segregation, two noxious and damaging forces in our country’s history that don’t deserve our respect.

      15. And this:

        All this thrashing about over small lot development is really a side show that won’t have much impact on total housing supply.

        may be true but is irrelevant. No one is pitching small lot development as a savior for housing scarcity. But virtually all zoning changes are marginal–we discussed here a plan that would address a variance to height limits to get a 5th floor under zoning designed to limit to 4. That won’t solve our problem either. But for better or worse, we’re not going to solve our housing problems with a huge rezone, given current political conditions. Victories (and defeats) will be small, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter or aren’t worth discussing.

      16. but converting existing SFH into multi-unit homes and/or apartments/condos should not be allowed, or at least not allowed without proper financial compensation to the existing SFH owners in the neighborhood who will see the value of their investment decrease,

        There are hundreds of single family homes in the Portland area that have been converted to have one or more apartments in them.

        How do these lower the property values of the surrounding houses?
        (That one is very obscure, if you overlook the fact there are now two front doors on the front porch)

        Indeed, because some of these are some of the grand old homes of inner southeast Portland, keeping them around probably increases somewhat the desirability of the neighborhood over demolishing them and building “infill” single family homes, such as:

        The ugliest option that is most likely to decrease the neighbors property value is the one that is perfectly legal under the current zoning for single family residences only.

      17. Portland is *loaded* with conversions of old grand houses to multi-family (sometimes shared as a coop, sometimes as apartments). It seems to have been good for Portland; it preserves the classic houses while providing the housing people demand.

        “Single family” regulations in particular are bigoted and should be unconstitutional. The government has no business prying into people’s personal lives in an invasive fashion to decide whether they qualify as a “single family”, and it’s crazy to write regulations based on that.

    3. It’s a problem, and I think it essentially progressed like so: Back in the day, Seattle built itself with a mix of houses and apartments. There was little regulation, so we ended up with a lot of buildings that would be illegal right now. Most people would consider some of them really nice (brick apartments without parking or small houses on small lots) while other buildings a bit much (high rise apartments in Madison Park or the Safeco building). But most of the city was a mix of smaller apartments and small lot housing. The houses are fairly close to each other, which I always took for granted, until a suburban friend of mine saw them and was shocked. At some point, we added regulation. At the same time, as growth spread outward, we incorporated areas that used to be farmland, and was never part of the city. These areas followed the standard suburban approach of the day. No cul-de-sacs, but big lots and fairly cheap, small housing. The Boeing bust hit and the city took a downward trend. There was no pushback against new development because there was so little development. Through the 70s, you had a gradual move to the suburbs, which again limited development in the city.

      But by the 1980s, there was a lot of growth of two types in the city: duplexes and skinny houses. Both of these were OK by the zoning regulations, but neither were popular. In my opinion, the zoning regulations made things worse in both cases, because they required parking. But either way, in many cases nice, charming houses with interesting yards were replaced with ugly duplexes and boring landscaping (e. g. lots of cement and one rhododendron). Neighbors didn’t like this, so the regulations changed. Again and again, the regulations changed. They had a dual purpose, really. One was to try and force developers to make pretty buildings; the other was to try and limit parking hassles. On top of all this, you had people who just wanted things to remain the same. So the more regulation the better. The irony, of course, is that in many cases the regulations allow(ed) huge houses (AKA monster houses) to replace classic old ones, but not a duplex or row house. To many of these people, the key thing they want is for their street to remain the same. They often live on a residential street, not an arterial. To them, their compromise is to allow development on the arterial, just not the residential street. Once you make that compromise, those that favor development will push for the most development possible. If you look at a square mile of property and say that 90% of it has to be single family houses (each on a big lot) then you won’t be interested in building row houses on the other 10%. The demand for housing on that other 10% will simply be too large. You want big apartments because renters demand it (having been shut out of the other 90%). That’s essentially the current mindset. It’s not that people think we should be offered only the two choices you mentioned, it is that people are afraid of new housing of any sort on their street.

      On top of all this, you have sky high pricing for property of any type. I mentioned the monster houses, and they make sense. Why spend half a million for a small two bedroom house, when you can bulldoze it and put up a much bigger one for only 100 grand more? This sort of thinking goes on all the time in various neighborhoods. Not just the great neighborhoods that have million dollar views, but the more middle class ones, like the ones that used to be outside the city limits. Here is what I think the pro development folks should do:

      1) First, level with people, and explain that any limitation in development costs other people money. The city is ridiculously liberal (we elected a socialist) but it is either ignorant or two faced if it doesn’t understand this. Over and over, we need to explain that limitations on any sort increase the cost of rent (for everyone) and the cost of owning a home (for anyone that doesn’t already own one).
      2) At the same time, acknowledge that there are trade-offs. I own a house and I don’t want to live next to a forty story building, either. I also don’t want to see ugly buildings being built (anywhere).
      3) Acknowledge that regulations designed to balance these interests often backfire. Regulations designed to insure pretty buildings have lead to some ugly, stupid housing (e. g. why on earth did the city mandate fencing in a city that has so little of it?!!).

      I would propose the following:

      1) Liberalize the mother in law apartment rules. This should be popular. Why tell the owners of a house that they can’t rent out the little shack next door, or develop it, when you want to preserve the neighborhood? That is crazy, and eventually it just leads to more tear downs.

      2) Focus on the external dimensions of the buildings, not the number of residents. If it is legal to build a big house, then it should be legal to build a big duplex or a set of row houses. I could even see having the rules encourage density. You can build a big house or a smaller duplex. If there is push back, I can see two different approaches:

      2 A) For areas of the city with big lots, go ahead and allow row housing, duplexes, small apartments, etc. Most of these areas are not super pretty, “classic Seattle”, but areas that until recently contained small, affordable houses on lots that weren’t all that pretty. People park on their lawns (in part because there is no sidewalk). In other words, people really don’t care that much about new housing going in. What they really want are sidewalks.

      2 B) For other areas of the city (e. g. Wallingford) encourage conversions. There are plenty of big houses that take up most of the lot in various parts of the city. Why not allow these to be converted to apartments? The obvious reason leads me to my next point.

      3) Parking regulations need to go. Of all the trade-offs, this one should be eliminated.

      4) In areas that allow full blown apartment buildings, there shouldn’t be regulations limiting the number of residents (beyond the health and safety of the residents). Again, focus on the exterior. If a six story building is OK, then it shouldn’t matter if one family lives in it or eighty.

      1. All eminently sensible proposals, and I wouldn’t hold by breath waiting for any of them to be implemented.

      2. “At some point, we added regulation. At the same time, as growth spread outward”

        There’s another difference: houses became bigger after WWII. The small-lot houses are called bungalows; the large-lot houses are called ranch houses. You can see the difference at N 85th Street: south of it are mostly small-lot houses, north of it are mostly large-lot houses. Even the apartment lots are larger and take longer to walk past. The 5 is a wonderful route to see the differences in buildings in different areas. Northeast Seattle was built up later, so the large-lot houses extend south to, well, everywhere, east of 25th.

        Interestingly, Mountlake Terrace was built up just after WWII, so the part just west of 44th has small-lot houses like Seattle, built before the ranch house craze took hold.

      3. @Mike — The biggest difference is in the size of the lots, not the size of the houses. I am sitting right here, at the moment, looking out at the north side of Queen Anne (this is not the side that gave the hill its name). I can see plenty of big houses, just as I can when I walk through Fremont. But in both cases, the houses are built right up to the edge of the lot. Meanwhile, north of 85th, the lots get bigger. I don’t think this happened organically (post WWII meant cheaper construction) as much as a result of regulation. My guess is that the old city had small lots, but the old suburbs (areas north of 85th didn’t used to outside of the city) did not.

        By the way, I live in one of those neighborhoods (Pinehurst) and if you see a new house, it is likely to be a huge house. Again, this is just because of the general increase in property prices. Twenty years ago someone would buy a house (and lot) worth 150,000 and just live in it. Now, that house (no matter how small) costs $350,000. At that price, you might as well mow it down and put up a giant house and charge $500,000. As I said, this happens a lot with areas that see increases in value, some of which is organic, or the result of external factors (Imagine if Bill Gates had started Microsoft in Tacoma). But in the case of my neighborhood (which is really nothing special) it is the result of regulation. It is impossible to buy that little $150,000 house anymore, even though it would be pretty easy to build (some of the lots could hold several houses).

        Check out this example, very close to my house:
        This house is owned by a very nice lady who is a wonderful gardener. But she won’t live forever, so let’s guess what will happen when she sells the house:

        1) It remains exactly the same. Sure, it could happen. But my guess is that there are very few people who want to maintain a yard that big, but sure, it could happen.
        2) It remains largely the same, but the garage out back gets converted to mother-in-law apartment. Maybe, but that might be illegal.
        3) It gets torn town, and replaces by something like this: (not both houses, just one). Sure, quite possible, and perfectly legal.
        4) The house is kept, as is the garage. Two new little houses are added, each one with its own bit of yard. No, completely illegal.
        5) The house is removed, but four new houses are added, each one shorter than the one I showed with item 3 (there is enough room — this is a big lot). Each one has a little yard, which means that each one will eventually have something interesting in it. Sorry, illegal.
        6) A small brick apartment building will be built (OK, wood with brick siding). It will have room for 8 families, along with a nice yard (sort of like this: No, sorry, illegal.

        Well, you get the picture. But here is the crazy part of the whole regulation game. If you asked people about the proposals that are illegal, many people would prefer those over some of the solutions that are legal (three little bungalows instead of one big monster house — absolutely). Many of the conversions would definitely be “in keeping with the neighborhood” (a formally working class neighborhood). If asked, most of the neighbors, of course, would just shrug their shoulder and say “whatever is built is fine, as long as the nice lady gets good money for the property — hey, when are you going to get us some sidewalks?”.

      4. Mike: technically, in real estate, the difference between a ranch and a bungalow is that a ranch has a basement and a bungalow doesn’t.

      5. “Check out this example, very close to my house”

        Excellent illustration, with all those six alternatives. You might ask STB if they’d accept an article on that, or put it on your own blog if you have one. It gets at this important point:

        “If you asked people about the proposals that are illegal, many people would prefer those over some of the solutions that are legal (three little bungalows instead of one big monster house — absolutely).”

        That’s where we may be able to turn this around, by convincing some single-family homeowners that the existing zoning is not prescribing what they think it does. An article would be a starting point, then ultimately we’d need a photo gallery of legal and illegal buildings, and a campaign to convince SFH homeowners to accept a compromise that allows small bungalows and duplexes but not McMansions.

        That raises one idea. Why are bungalows and McMansions both called “single-family houses” as if they’re exactly the same? What if there was a maximum square footage for an SF house in existing SF zones? Larger houses would then be put in a different category, and restricted to areas away from urban villages and trunk transit stops (e.g., Magnolia, Lake Washington, Laurelhurst).

      6. Also, my comments about small lots and large lots are not about the few half-lots scattered around, but about the average lot size in a block. I don’t care about the half-lots because there are not enough of them to make a significant difference in population size.

      7. These new fixed restrictions on small lots are just silly. At the very least, these situations should be conditional use permit requests rather than be merely forbidden. Depending on the neighborhood, slope, architectural style, roof lines, views, parking, proximity to high frequency transit and neighborhood interests, their appropriateness can vary pretty widely. I just don’t understand why there wasn’t emphasis on addressing this situational “gray area” issue in the zoning code – with conditional use permitting.

  5. I disagree with the idea that more apartment construction is not good for the economy.

    Apartments provide a flexible buffer between owning a home. That is, you can move from an apartment, to a home, when absolutely ready. And also vice versa if you sell a home and have not yet decided where next to live/buy. (Especially now that there is no longer a capital gains penalty from home sales that forces you to re-buy immediately.)

    One thing I wish this region had more off — high quality apartment. I say this as I hear every creak of the floorboard as my upstairs neighbor moves around (and I’m sure my downstairs neighbor thinks the same of me).

    If people are staying longer term in apartments, they shouldn’t just be flimsy motels. I also like the suburban complexes more than the urban towers. These, like the one I live in, have green spaces, play parks, barbeques…all interwoven with the units. Why there isn’t more architecture focused on this model of living escapes me.

    I would also like to see more laws enacted about behavioral things. Smoking for example. If you can’t smoke 25 ft near a workplace, you should not be able to smoke anywhere near multi-family housing especially if children are present!

    Somewhere between McMansions and Apodments lies a golden mean of small plot homes, and great garden apartments, built with Quality.

    Last of all cost. Transit/Transportation can be justified to dense, but regional, apartment clusters. Then we can each have a bit of what we want. Space in the dwellings, greenery, and density (relative to the standard suburb).

    1. What about urban towers with green spaces, play parks, barbeques right out the door, like Vancouver? They aren’t urban towers, but some of the places close to Greenlake seem like they offer this.

      1. I was recently in Vancouver (March) and I stayed in Yaletown at a street level townhouse (AirBnb, highly recommended).

        It was a short walk to the bike path and those towers which I find very attractive. One thing about them – they are spaced widely, not like most wall to wall skyscrapers — and they have a uniform design and they abut the bicycle-pedestrian path near the water.

        All of this is of course is priced out of range for the average person (the for sale leaftlets started at three quarters of a million dollars), …but I say…sure why not…why not take a second crack at doing Le Corbusier right…a few large towers, in a parklike setting, widely spaced so all sides get sunlight, with transit arteries could serve to anchor a community that consists of small plot homes and garden apartments.

      2. Yeah, Vancouver architecture is just nicer than Seattle’s. More pencils and less bread loaves. They also do a better of job of preserving existing structures, so that you might have an old four story brick building taking up half the lot, and then a new, taller building right next to it. This is definitely an “urban style” development, but it is a very nice one, and achieves very high density while avoiding the ugly six story, everything is a giant bread loaf that is now common in Seattle.

        I agree with your other points as well. One of the big problems is that you aren’t allowed to build small houses on small lots. For much of the city, this could increase density quite well. On a different thread someone complained about not being able to buy a lot smaller than 5000 square feet (which is typical for a house in the heart of Seattle). But a lot that size is small compared to much of the city, and the surrounding suburbs. I see no reason why people are forced to choose between a big house (or even a small one) on a big lot versus an apartment. Yet for many, even in the suburbs, this is the choice. We should allow small houses on small lots; row houses, etc., especially in the suburbs. Doing so would increase density and justify new transit to the area.

      3. Those Vancouver condos were only $75K or $150K in 2000, even for a 12th floor unit with a spectacular view. Their sky-high cost now is not intrinsic to the buildings, but is due to supply/demand and the cost of land. (And, some people suspect, drug lords laundering their BC Bud money through real estate, where they don’t care if they take a 30% loss if the home value goes down, because that’s better than a 100% loss if the money were seized.)

    2. Yes, the claim the SFH are better for the economy is very myopic. Apartments may create fewer construction jobs, but they also free up income for all sorts of other, more sustainable spending. There are other effects too, like tax receipts for communities are much higher for dense developments, with less infrastructure, and home energy and transportation costs are lower for residents in dense developments. Our economy had an unhealthy dependence on construction jobs before 2008, we should not encourage that again.

      The National Review article actually contains a much more nuanced argument: when families are encouraged to put all their wealth into oversized housing, one emergency puts them underwater.

  6. Anti-helmet people are a conundrum. Most admit that they wear helmets, but for some reason, they will fight to the death to ensure that if you want to feel that breeze running through your hair, darn it, you should have that right (granted, most non-helmet wearers are wearing those douchey looking caps anyways)!

    But seriously, the #1 argument that comes from every anti article is “helmets detract potential riders from riding”. Which naturally, seatbelts detract potential drivers from driving, helmets detract potential motorcyclists from motorcycling and life vests detract potential boaters from boating. Except they don’t.

    I have NEVER heard someone say, in the history of me being alive, that helmet laws cause them to not want to cycle. Now things such as rain, lack of cycling facilities, extra time it takes, getting sweaty, general laziness, all come up as reasons I have heard for not cycling. Never helmets.

    Add to the fact that the helmet law isn’t enforced (what traffic laws are anymore?), and this seems like a LOT of wasted energy for cycle advocates, when there are many, many more cycle issues that should be pursued before this becomes a priority for anyone.

    1. Helmet laws certainly would dissuade me from spontaneous use of a shared bike, since carrying around a helmet in anticipation that I might need a bike is more hassle than I’d be willing to put up with. Car seats for the kids are a similar obstacle to shared car usage.

    2. Well, it looks like the Kent police use the helmet laws as a, sort of, stop and frisk excuse:

      The officer pulled his patrol vehicle into a parking lot to stop the two bicyclists for not wearing helmets. One of the bicyclists stopped, the other one pedaled away.

      I guess it’s a good law, if you assume that all cyclists that don’t wear helmets are possessing drugs.

    3. Nobody’s really fighting to the death over it. The anti-helmet motorcycle people make a much bigger stink about it, without the stats on their side.

      I’m an anti-helmet-law cyclist that always wears a helmet when riding in Seattle because of the hills and traffic and stuff I tend to encounter. I’m not totally sure it’s a big help to me, but it’s not much of an inconvenience since most of my trips start at home. In flat-ass Urbana, IL, where I went to college and rode an old Schwinn mostly on cycletracks, I often didn’t wear a helmet. There are many people, even here in Seattle, whose daily trips resemble my Urbana trips more than my Seattle trips (if I lived down by the water instead of up on a hill mine would, too). I’m not going to force a helmet on their heads.

      A lot of the current angst regarding the laws surrounds bike share. Every successful bike-share city has loads of helmetless bike-share users, and the collision/injury statistics have been amazingly good. There are lots of reasons bike-share might not succeed here, does it need another?

      Now, it’s likely that the (incorrect) perception of cycling as a fringey and dangerous activity influenced the creation of the law at least as much as the law influences the perception, and repealing the law might not do much about the perception. But the general perception has diminished since the lawn was passed, and the law might prop it up to some degree. I want bike-share to succeed, because its upcoming launch already appears to be a factor in getting some urgency behind the push to improve the woeful cycling conditions in greater downtown Seattle.

      1. The bike share prospect comes up quite a bit. However, they’ve issued a solution to the problem and I’d consider it a non-issue at this point. It will be like people renting stand up paddle boards, who are required, by law, to wear life jackets, but that doesn’t cause people to think it’s a dangerous activity and avoid it. You will be issued a helmet with rental of a bike (did they include a waver if you have your own helmet?) and beyond that, it’s up to the renter to decide if they want to follow the law.

        I see a good portion of paddle boarders (~85%+) just setting their life jackets on the board as they go (got to entertainingly watch one guy spend 15 minutes chasing his life jacket after it fell off the board). I imagine there will be a portion of bike sharers that will just hang the helmets on the handlebars or off a backpack.

        All power to them if they are dumb enough to want to ride without a helmet, just hope they don’t complain when they get a ticket.

      2. You’re wrong — both on the bike share fix and on the presumption if helmet efficacy. See below.

      3. When I had a bike I kept the helmet with it, with the bike’s U-lock threaded through one fo the helmet’s ventilation holes. That made the helmet convenient to use and store and always have whenever I rode. I even found I could thread a light jacket on the lock in summer evenings when going to a club, to avoid paying coat check inside… But it would be completely different if I were using a bikeshare or not a regular rider. Then I would likely not have a helment with me when I wanted to ride, and I wouldn’t want to carry a helmet all day on the off-chance I might ride.

        The point of “amsterdamization” is to encourage grandmothers and non-atheletes and other people who don’t ride to do so occasionally. If helmets are barriers to that — either getting the helmet, or carrying it around, or fear of being seen as a wuss, or ruining your hairdo — then we have to ask whether that barrier is worth it.

        I have always been on the side of wearing helmets like the brain surgeons say. But the article has an important point. Even if helmets help prevent brain injuries, if the chance of injury is only slightly higher than from walking, and a larger number of bicyclists makes all bicyclists safer, then maybe numbers of people is more important than helmets. I have fallen off a bike twice when going over cracks in a road, or when it got dark and rainy and my headlight stopped working and I ran into a ditch in the dark, so I would still be inclined to wear a helmet. But I can see the point that if the number of cyclists has the greatest effect on safety, we should focus on that rather than mandatory helmets. And get with it on greenways and cycletracks to make safer places to ride.

      4. @RapidRider: The answer is clear: if we want biking to have all the practical benefits for urban transportation that stand-up paddleboarding does, we should mandate helmets for everyone.

    4. Turning a free trip (marginal cost = $0 with a membership of any duration) into a mandatory $morethanthebus trip (plus the aforementioned membership) does not solve the problem.

      In fact it makes the problem worse, because politicians will claim to have “solved the problem”, and then everyone will wonder why our bike share is failing miserably.

      Anyway, the answer to your original conundrum is “different tools for different situations”. I wouldn’t go mountain biking without a helmet, nor would I attempt road-warring without one.

      But on an upright utility bike making a simple trip — zero chance of spilling over the handlebars; greatest risk is getting plowed by a bus, for which a helmet will do no good, so I will minimize that chance by riding at a moderate pace while alert — I will not, on principle, be forced wear a useless and misconception-perpetuating lie.

      1. Bike share is not failing due to helmets. I’m pretty sure the locations that were chosen had a big part in it.

        Other than Capitol Hill, I can’t see people wanting to bike downtown (no casual bike facilities), U-District (the boundaries are pretty limiting) or in-between (Eastlake is terrible as an experienced rider). Open up to Fremont, Ballard (along Burke-Gilman trail to Golden Gardens) and Westlake and demand would go up sharply.

        Your answer to my conundrum makes practical sense, but you could argue the same for a car or motorcycle.

      2. Puget Sound Bike Share has, for sure, designed a service area and a station distribution plan that defies all logic and reason.

        But when summer comes and most of the bikes sit idle in the docks and you pretty much never see people zipping around town on them, it will be thanks to the helmet law. Since the dawn of the 21st-century software-enabled iteration of the bike share concept, there have only been two abject failures: Melbourne and Brisbane. Care to guess why?

        The $0-per-trip marginal cost is essential to the bike share model, and the helmet requirement destroys it. This is far more damaging than any vanity or hygienic concerns.

        Meanwhile, there have been no documented cases of helmet-preventable accidents on bike-share vehicles. You can’t crash them — or dart through traffic on them, or get tripped up by pavement conditions on them — in the ways you can on a personal bike. They’re low, heavy, and stable. That’s the point. You can still get horribly maimed by a speeding hit-and-run driver, but the dirty secret about bike helmets is that they’re essentially useless in multi-vehicle collisions of any sort.

        You seem stuck, RapidRider, on the notion that bicycle helmets are broadly advantageous regardless of the circumstances. As much as it may violate decades of cultural indoctrination, what I’m trying to impress upon you here is that this simply is not true. Show me a doctor who generalizes and provides context-free “harm-reduction” percentages, or one who (heaven help us) cites the debunked UW study from the 1980s that single-handedly warped a generation of discourse and that is responsible for the PNW’s unusually oppressive helmet enforcement, and I’ll show you proof that dogma and indoctrination infect even the most learned and lauded professions.

      3. @d.p. Tell you what. When I start seeing articles that state “Cyclist involved in accident. Doctors state that they could have avoided serious brain injury/death if they had NOT been wearing their helmet”, I will throw my support behind anti-helmet laws.

        Until then, the law is doing no harm. The few studies that anti-helmet people point to (Melborne) show no direct proof of helmets detracting riders, but rather VERY loose correlation/causation. People will ride without helmets if they choose and it’s rarely enforced, if at all.

      4. And there’s the rub, right? After a generation of flogging the flatly fraudulent “88% of injuries prevented” claim, it is now a matter of course for articles on bike crashes to mention the presence or absence of a helmet, even when entirely irrelevant to the facts of the crash or injury.

        Kind of how all media describe collisions as “accidents”, to minimize driver culpability. Or like how articles on sexual assault often mention if the victim was walking alone. It’s irrelevant and prejudiced and transfers blame.

        Contrary to your apparently deeply-held conviction, bicycle helmets are effective in preventing head injuries in an extremely narrow range of crash circumstances.

        If you’re going to ride within that window, it certainly would be a great idea to wear a helmet… though you should still try to ride carefully, as you’ve likely been oversold on what your helmet can do. But for other kinds of riding, it is reprehensible to force — and dangerous and intellectually bankrupt to propagate — the lie of helmet efficacy, when there are so many negative corollaries.

        As for enforcement: we live in a town with an autocentric bias and a broken police culture, that also happens to be the town where the 88% fraud originated and has done the most lasting damage to people’s biases… apparently including yours. I’m certainly not going to bank on cops “informally” ignoring helmetless bikeshare users; I can frankly picture being targeted.

        Why are you so wedded to letting ignorance drive policy?

    5. The thing is the statistics used to justify mandatory bicycle helmet laws can be used to justify mandatory pedestrian helmet laws or mandatory driver helmet laws. The thing is any politician who suggested such a thing would be laughed right out of office.

      As others point out the biggest push against helmet laws among cycle advocates is around bike share programs. Sure the bike share can provide a helmet, but who wants to wear some nasty helmet with someone else’s head grease all over it?

      Some who advocate European style transportation cycling also disagree with mandatory helmet laws. When you show people that cycling is something they can do in street clothes without “suiting up” in hundreds of dollars worth of spandex then they are more likely to see it as a viable solution for running an errand or taking a trip to the local park.

      1. If you read the whole article, the guy’s statistics are wacky at best. He starts the “Helmets don’t reduce total cycling head injury rates” section with an admission that wearing a helmet makes the odds of brain damage in an accident 15 to 40% lower, then immediately brushes aside that fact as insignificant.

        Immediately after, his article continues its sleight-of-hand statistical sideshow. He then compares RATE of head injuries, and shows that head injury rates in mandatory regions and non-mandatory regions are declining, which seems pretty straight forward. However, he conveniently doesn’t provide any statistics on how many head injuries in the mandatory regions weren’t wearing helmets. I’d be curious to see the rate of head injuries with helmets vs. without helmets. He seems to imply that all those head injuries in mandatory regions were wearing helmets; something we sadly know is not true, as can be seen on almost a monthly basis, here in Seattle.

        And the whole “pedestrians should wear helmets, since they can suffer brain injury too” argument, which seemingly valid, is nothing more than a straw man. He provides no evidence that the head injury rates are similar, except an unsourced bar graph. Without the data, how can we truly compare walking vs. biking? If you take millions of hours of helmeted biking out, how much higher does the head injury cycling bar go? What is the source of the pedestrian head injuries? Are they from falling over and smacking your head on the curb or are they from somebody punching somebody in the head? These carefully choses graphs seem to be a reoccurring theme.

        Then there’s the kicker “It’s possible that wearing a helmet could make accidents more likely”. He gives two arguments, one based on a SINGLE, study of how close drivers were passing (of course you can use a single study to prove vaccines cause autism, as we’ve seen) and another, that helmeted cyclists are more dangerous, based solely on conjecture, which he surprisingly admits is hard, if not impossible, to prove.

        Of course, I could make the argument that people riding without helmets clearly have no regards for their own safety, so therefore, they have no regards for my or anyone else’s safety. Based on personal experience, the rate of non-helmet wearers committing traffic violations is much higher than helmet wearers (I bike daily). But does that mean non-helmet wearers are more unsafe? That’s impossible to know, but it’s no different than the cherry picked, anti-helmet statistics the author uses to justify not messing up his hair.

      2. Of course, I could make the argument that people riding without helmets clearly have no regards for their own safety…

        You could, but you’d still be parroting fraudulent presumptions of helmet worthiness, and so you’d still be wrong.

    6. life vests detract potential boaters from boating. Except they don’t.

      Except if the life-vest rule actually required people to wear the big, chunky old life vests, it would either be ignored or cause a revolt. Basically, the exact opposite of what you’re trying to adduce evidence for.

      Life vests are hardly ever worn by adults who own their own boats (and thus aren’t subject to club rules that require them and are actively enforced) unless they’re in a storm, or singlehanding, some other situation with elevated risk. Those boat-owners who actually do wear life-vests regularly (I’m one of the few who do) use the modern auto-inflating hybrid ones that are light and comfortable. I have a stack of old chunky orange ones in a locker to comply with Coastguard rules. I expect to wear one about as often as I wear a bike helmet, which I only do when it’s frosty or icy.

      1. If bicycle helmet laws required a heavy, DOT approved helmet, a la motorcycle helmet laws, even I would question abiding by the law. Not quite sure the point you are getting at, but it seems to fall in line of, there well always be people that will not use safety equipment, regardless of the law, which happens in varying rates, from boats (vast majority don’t) to bikes (15% to 25% don’t) to cars (<5% don't) to motorcycles (have yet to see a motorcyclist in the state of Washington not wearing a helmet).

        If someone doesn't want to use required safety equipment, that's on them. The laws aren't hurting anyone and in all four activities I list, there's not a shred of credible evidence that the safety equipment requirements are turning away potential participants.

      2. No, I’m pointing out to you the law does NOT require life jackets to be worn by adults engaged in recreational boating, and if the law did, it would either be ignored, cause a revolt, or tank the popularity of boating.

      3. @RapidRider:

        “there’s not a shred of credible evidence that the safety equipment requirements are turning away potential participants.”

        What? You are just plain wrong. Did you read ANY of the studies the author cited? I am happy to send you the pdf if you don’t have access.

        For your convenience, “In contrast to small reductions in the percentage of head injured cyclists, there was an estimated decline of 36% in child cycle use in Melbourne, where
        matched pre and post law surveys showed a reduction in numbers of child cyclists 15 times greater than the increase in numbers wearing helmets. In NSW, 36% fewer child cyclists were counted, 2.2 times the increase in child cyclists wearing helmets.”

        Head injury rates, thankfully/surprisingly, are fairly rare–and in the same ballpark–for biking, walking, and driving. Where is the data showing helmet laws’ efficacy? Shouldn’t that be at least a little bit important to you if you’re advocating for draconian, low efficacy/high cost mandates? The preponderance of evidence is that it is more or less a wash (at least as far as you can trust observational studies/natural experiments).

        The Boston bike share seems pretty successful. I think they kept the Cambridge side open all winter. I almost never see any of those people wearing helmets. Catastrophe has not befallen my adopted city, yet, and it is SO much more comfortable riding a bike in the city now than it was when I moved here largely because drivers are used to seeing us/dealing with us regularly. I can’t remember the last time I got honked at or aggressively passed (both used to happen at least once on my commute 7-8 years ago). Seattle drivers actually seem a lot more hostile to me than Massholes. It is bizarre that, whether it comes to mass transit planning, zoning, bike shares (or Uber/Lyft), the sky is always going to fall in Seattle if anything changes, despite marked, often decades long, demonstrations to the contrary everywhere else.

      4. @lower than allston

        I read through the majority of his “studies”. The Australia study, I’ve seen pointed to before by anti-helmeteers. However, they don’t investigate any other possible reasons for the reduction in cycling, and also note that walking also decreased, while driving increased. That study is a perfect example of You could also say that all those cyclists took up grunge music, which was up and coming at the time, and they just didn’t have the time to bicycle any more.

        And in the end, if wearing a helmet is truely the SOLE thing keeping potential cyclists from cycling, maybe we don’t want them cycling.

      5. @RapidRider

        That study is better than a simple correlation because different places enacted the laws at different times and they look at time-dependent effects. It is what we call a “natural experiment.” If we can think of a simple plausible mechanism and there are no simpler alternatives, correlation CAN imply causation (though it obviously can’t and doesn’t prove it). Or would you throw out basically all of economics and other social sciences? These are difficult topics to study (certainly difficult in different ways than my field of study), but to me they are worth thinking about seriously. Anecdotes can make for terrible policy.

        I wear a helmet, always. My mom did head trauma research for many years and drilled it into me as a kid, having seen the results of many terrible accidents. But you can’t base policy on these kinds of anecdotal evidence because they have inherent observational bias. It is almost certainly true that helmets are protective for certain kinds of accidents, but what happens when you mandate helmets, across the board? What are the enforcement costs? How do different populations respond? What happens to accident rates? If we really care about making our cities safer, these are the correct questions to ask. Many other places have had such laws and we can look at their efficacy. Many places don’t for adults, like Boston or the Netherlands or Denmark. Are they having serious public safety issues related to the lack of helmet use? I suspect that if you could improve helmet use numbers without discouraging people from riding, you’d see some marginal benefit. Do helmet laws achieve this goal? Show me some data that they do or that places with helmet laws are safer than they would be without.

        Despite walking and driving being nearly as dangerous, I don’t wear a helmet while doing either of those. Head injuries are rare, but I don’t mind wearing a helmet on a bike so much, so I wear one. But the helmet law issue strikes me as SO much smaller than infrastructure improvements, driver/biker education, etc. It seems like complaining about it (“I can’t believe that dude just rolled through a stop sign without a helmet on!!!”) is a significant obsession/distraction from other approaches that have the potential to actually improve outcomes.

    7. The degree to which helmets enhance bike safety and seatbelts enhance the safety of car ridership are orders of magnitude difference. Why don’t we put seatbelts on buses and make people wear them? Because (in part) the contribution to safety isn’t great enough to overcome the costs associated with criminalizing non-use. Ditto for helmets.

  7. Can someone please explain the relevance of the photo at the top of this post?

    1. Formerly it was one of the tallest buildings in the U-District (news story one), but has since been torn down. It goes along with the elevation and height theme of small lot height restrictions and Google maps elevation change. All in all a good number of stories about height and elevation and thus the title and photo.

    2. It’s also a sign of changing density. There were two midrise dorm buildings on Campus Parkway from the 1960s until 2008. They have been replaced by five or six buildings in the surrounding lots. Two are currently under construction: the Terry replacement, and a new one one replacing the one-story gallery at the left of the picture. (It connected Terry to Lander, and had the cafeteria.)

      The reasons for this building boom are: (1) All the dorm buildings were at the end of their lifespan, (2) the UW decided to encourage more dorm living rather than commuting, (3) the UW decided to concentrate most housing in the U-District near businesses and transit rather than in the isolated north campus (north of where the 65/68/75 go), (4) the Great Recession reduced the cost of labor and convinced the UW to accellerate the projects.

  8. I have a story idea. Someone should go out to the future Spring District in Bellevue and interview the businesses that are in the path of East Link. No, this isn’t me bemoaning the fact that businesses will have to move because of Link. I’m honestly curious what these people are going to do, and when. Will they move to a different location? And if so, to where? Or will they just permanently close their businesses? When will they do it? 1 year before Link arrives? 5 years before? I’d like to hear how a business deals with a future deadline of having to move because of a new transit line.

    1. Sam, there were some interviews conducted by the Bellevue Reporter last year about the Spring District. Chown Hardware was excited, Dan Fast Mufflers didn’t think it would have any affect on his business. The rest of the businesses in the area are the sort that aren’t tied closely to their locations–light industrial and heavy service (car repair, Eastside Saw, etc.) that could move anywhere. So, basically, no one care.

      Away from the Spring District people cared even less. Microsoft paid handsomely for East Link. And Sound Transit favored running the train through neighborhoods instead of through businesses. So basically they pissed off individual people rather than pissing off businesses. When the businesses are the likes of the well-connected Bellevue Club, you’ve got to be careful not to piss them off.

  9. It’s out of the scope of the EIS, but it’s interesting to consider the potential labor costs of drivers and mechanics in Lynnwood vs Bellevue.

  10. The Cap Hill Station Cam appears to be dead — frozen in time at 17:30 Monday. Or has ST internationally taken it off-line for some reason?

  11. Perhaps we need to lock the city leadership of Bellevue and Lynnwood in a room until they figure out a solution for the O&M base.

    1. Perhaps as an incentive, ST should make it clear that there will be no East or North Link without a new base, and that any “solution” that incurs a 3 million dollar OpEx penalty in perpetuity will only be considered if someone else becomes legally obligated to fund it in perpetuity. Moreover, ST needs to put a deadline in place for withdrawing the buses that Link is intended to replace.

      For too long narrow Bellevue interests have imposed additional costs and dramatically reduced the utility of the line for everyone. Frankly,I belive that avoiding Downtown Bellevue completely would have been a better option than the currently approved route. I feel about the same way about a no build alternative.

      1. Dear god, I cannot wait until the Seattleites stop whining about Bellevue.

        Both Bellevue and Lynnwood have perfectly valid points here. The Sound Transit facility is a drastic underuse of properties that have great development potential. It is the responsibility of these cities to fight for the best deal for their residents.

        Maybe Sound Transit should make it clear to Seattle that there will be no trains without (fill in the blank). How’s that strike you? You get a pass on unlimited tunnels, better service, whatever the heck you want because you’re the big city?

      2. Train bases are an intrinsic dependency of rail lines. If Bellevue and Lynnwood don’t like ST’s proposed locations, they should help ST find alternate locations in their subareas. Otherwise it really is, “No maintenance base, no Link extension.” Expecting the other subarea or Seattle to absorb the bases is reverting to the bad old days of suburbs not taking responsibility for the negative externalities they cause.

        I agree that the Spring District urban village and downtown Lynnwood are not ideal places for bases. But having frequent rapid transit is more important than losing some “village” land for a base. And Lynnwood has a lot of gall complaining about the base when it’s pusing the station itself to the edge of downtown next to a freeway and P&R. It’s essentially making a “base-like” environment around the station, so what’s wrong with a real base next to it?

      3. What unlimited tunnels in Seattle? Rainier Valley did not get a tunnel. North Seattle got a tunnel because of the hills and ship canal. It was originally going to surface at 65th, but was slightly extended for Roosevelt (like Bellevue TC), and then was extended to 95th because it was cheaper to keep tunneling than to go up and down around freeway overpasses.

        The Ballard, 45th, and West Seattle tunnels are only proposals at this point. And they aren’t even formal proposals yet. We don’t know what the Eastside ST3 equivalents would be because ST hasn’t released them yet. Maybe there’s a Kirkland tunnel in your future.

      4. @Mike Orr: I’m objecting to the statement “no maintenance base, no Link extension”. These things are funded separately. And I maintain that it’s the job of an elected official to fight for the region they represent. I agree there’s a point where it gets unreasonable. But I don’t think we’re anywhere near that point.

        And yeah, a Kirkland tunnel would follow the same terrain argument as many locations in Seattle. When I say “unlimited tunnels” I’m really referring to subarea equity across the board.

        However, my real objection is Seattle-centric thinkers naively criticizing anything that happens across the lake. Quit threatening us. We pay our fair share and often even more.

    2. I have often wondered if given the proximity of the line to the Eastside Rail Corridor, a facility could be placed somewhere not along Link at all but where land is cheaper and utilize the existing ROW to connect to the line. Not sure what would come of it, but it would probably please both cities that are fighting right now.

  12. A few things:

    I worked with DPD staff on the U-District land use/zoning scenarios referenced in the post. It’s important to know/remember that none of the alternatives increase the number of housing units permitted, over the current baseline. That’s not entirely clear from the UW article.

    I really appreciate the conversation around accommodating growth; it’s very challenging to get right but there is a lot of passion and brainpower available here. For my work I’m especially interested in the new SFH potential from lot splits in N-Central/NE Seattle, and whatever market-rate, family-friendly 3+ bedroom apartments come about. (Yes, families can live in 2-bedroom apartments and that is more likely in some neighborhoods. But, using my neighborhood (Pike-Pine) and building (Chloe) as an example: One infant at present; Lots of pet children though.)

    Finally, I thought the blog staff and readership would appreciate this photo from my afternoon commute earlier this week.

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