This is an open thread.

70 Replies to “News Roundup: Local Planners”

  1. I can’t find any detailed documents on the new Tacoma station plan. It sounds good. I wish I could find some conceptual layout documents, though. (I’m trying to figure out how they’re going to get people to the second platform.)

  2. “Hunger allows no choice
    To the citizen or the police;
    We must love one another or die.”

    – W.H. Auden “September 1, 1939.

    The Nazis had just invaded Poland – starting World War II. Small and unprepared, England would probably lose. The poet, an English and gay, had every reason to hate and fear the Nazis. But he had visited Germany and knew that before the crash of ’29, at home Hitler was a political joke.

    The only reason I haven’t been dead for forty four years is that the kid who jumped me outside my cab on a street in Detroit was too dumb to use a small knife I couldn’t have gripped by the flat end behind the blade, and too wasted to keep me from pulling the butcher knife out of his hand. Likely the kid was dead within five years. Detroit was dead in twenty.

    “Love?” A four letter word like in another poem. Auden himself regretted his. The deputy in the train incident deserves a commendation from his department, Metro Transit and the City of Seattle. And gratitude from its every neighborhood. A second and a few inches from being killed or crippled himself, he spared and lawfully arrested another man he could legally have shot dead. Another was released without being charged.

    For most people in the United States, the “Great” depression lasted until Pearl Harbor got hit- just over twenty years. But for twice that long, the present “Miserable” depression has seen to it that generations of young men live very short lives- with no chance whatsoever of the easily available and well-paid work that made their forebears’ lives respectable, no matter how sweaty and dangerous.

    Steel-making, factories…..you could get killed in any “mill.” But your last minute alive, you’d still be considered a man, in the ways a young man most desperately needs.

    Behind all the charts and the verbiage, an honest balance sheet on the economy of the developed world would show that since the 1970’s, every dollar a few people gained let many more permanently have lost a lot worse than money. Meaning hope at the time of life they need it most.

    For what’s left of the middle class, mass credit cards are all that’s prevented the mass collapse that fed Hitler . For the rest? Arrest, jail, or death, they could care less. No chance means no choice, whichever side of the law, the gun, the badge, or the driver’s compartment you’re on.

    Mark Dublin

  3. “The I-90/I-5 interchange is indeed a blight on the city.” Please. Troll much? Those two freeways are vital to the city, its port and its jobs. I respect this site and appreciate the information and the discourse it provides but please try to maintain a little more objectivity.

    1. Those highways and the interchange would flow freely if there were not an overly dense cities jamming too much traffic into it.

      Density is the problem.

      Seattle’s over density creates hardship for the more naturally populated suburbs that surround it.

      1. I thought everyone, including the job creators, were fleeing downtown.

        Who the hell are all these people screwing up my driving pleasure anyway?

        People without options, real or perceived, I presume.

      2. How do you propose turing the world into a Kent-style utopia without genocide on a massive scale? We’d run out of land well before dishing out a quarter of the population their .5 acre pilot.

      3. Note the absence of traffic problems around Detroit.

        That is because it’s archaic urban center has decayed into a low population density suburb.

        That is the ideal situation for a 21st century city.

      4. John, the areas with low traffic in Detroit are MIXED USE areas — commerical & residential mixed together.

        Despite the drop in Detroit’s population, it still has brutal commuting-time traffic from people trying to get from all-residential areas to all-commercial areas.

        It’s really not about the density — it’s about keeping commerce & residences next to each other.

      5. Actually density is the solution to congestion. If you can get people close enough to jobs, schools, shops, restaurants, etc. that they can walk or not have to travel very far, there is much less congestion. At peak periods there is just as much congestion in Renton, Bellevue, Tukwilla, Lynnwood. Sprawl creates congestion.

      6. @VeloBusDriver

        There have been declines on many streets, there was a large increase on Arlington Boulevard:


        Washington DC is rife with highways and beltways so you can jump on quickly and get off a high capacity road quickly. Portland, OR is that way too.

        Since 1996, Arlington has boomed. It’s added millions of square feet of new development, some of the tallest high-rises in Virginia, and about 50,000 new residents.

        So, 50,000 residents over two decades…2,500 per year. Mmm..and yet on their figures for transit they are claiming an increase of 30,000,000 milllion? So they’ve built a commuter city. My guess would be people are reverse commuting in from Washington DC — which would then essentially give the lie to your arguements about centralized urban density.

        By building up a satellite city like Arlington, you alleviate the problem of getting modern jobs into overly dense cities.

      7. I’m going to a wedding in Arlington, VA this fall. In checking out places to stay, many of them emphasize how close they are to metro stations and all the famous sights of DC. So I betcha that a lot of those transit riders in Arlington are tourists.

      8. Once you’re there, you’ll realize that some are tourists, but most are locals — downtown Arlington is just a dense, transit-oriented community.

      9. @Bailo,

        “Nobody lives here” because it’s a barren wasteland, remote wilderness, flat-as-hell boring cornfield or some other aesthetically blighted or unreachable nowhere. Human beings are social artists; we like to live in beautiful places that elevate our souls and minds with other people.

        Kennewick — and Grand Island, Casper, Carbondale, Mufreeesboro, Waco, Redding and Goldsboro — is (are) not such a place.

        And, I was just in D.C. for five days; I got my MetroCard at the with a seven day pass and used the heck out of it. I will verify David’s observation that the vast majority of people on the trains are locals.

      10. The DC Beltway was already a parking lot at rush hour by the 1980s. You can’t build enough road lanes to eliminate congestion, it’s just not possible.

    2. Blight in the sense that it’s ugly, nobody wants to live next to it, and pedestrians don’t even want to be near it.

      Even if those freeways are vital, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been built better or that no non-freeway solution was available. Many of the most vibrant and economically productive cities have no freeways, or have them only across a peripheral corner of the city.

      Bailo mistakes the symptom and the problem. Lack of density is what forces people to work and shop farther than they can walk or take a bus to. As the Arlington article says, traffic went down when people had a viable dense alternative.

      Better boulevards could also lessen the need for freeways. The reason freeways get trafficky is there’s only one or two of them, like arterials in cul-de-sac land. But if there are several boulevards or grid streets, everyone chooses a different street and they aren’t so backed up.

      When density gets so low that even walking to the supermarket or neighborhood center is unmanageable, then traffic is inevitable. Jarrett Walker talks about how every kind of covered vehicle is larger than the person it’s carrying. The smallest car is the size of four people. That means you need at least four people’s amount of space, plus the buffer between cars, for every SOV. In cities where people drive for half their trips or less, that’s not such a big deal. But if you design neighborhoods so that people drive for 95% or 100% of their trips, when they all do it at once it becomes traffic.

      1. Everybody stand back. I will handle this. I will ask him the question the world is waiting to hear the answer to. Martin, do you think Sound Transit’s rail yard is a blight on the city?

      2. Actually, Scam, the VMF is the opposite of a blight. You see, I used to work in one of the old warehouses nearby and can attest that nothing was displaced by the yard that had any economic value remaining.

        So, “No; the Maintenance Facility is not “a blight on the city”.

        That doesn’t mean there is no merit to the controversies in Bellevue and Lynnwood, just that the existing facility is exactly where it ought to be and harms absolutely nothing.

      3. And ST wants to make another blight yard right next to the 520 405 interchange blight. Maybe they’ll work with some developers and make it a sub-basement yard with a ped friendly development and towers on top. Then ST can have their cake and eat it too.

      4. Martin, some time back, you decreed that people in this comment section are not to “get personal.” Anandakos just called me “Scam.” I am commanding you to delete the offending comment, and furthermore, I want them banned from commenting for the rest of July, and be forced to write me a public letter of apology before getting back their commenting privileges.

    3. That article is pretty much based on aerial footage. Built into the hillside as it is, I-90/I-5 is far from the worst interchange around here. I don’t think it cuts off any historic or likely local routes between Beacon Hill and SODO, and its ramps don’t interfere with any part of the city that’s ever been a major pedestrian area.

      In Seattle, I’d nominate any of a number of interchanges involving arterial roads as worse. The I-5/Colombian Way interchange turns the only straightforward east-west path across I-5 for miles into a freeway that’s impassable outside of a car. On the north end the interchange between I-5, 80th, and 85th does much the same. In the wider region I think two Bellevue interchanges contend for the title of worst, though: 405/NE 8th is, of course, notorious for horrible pedestrian conditions in a key location, and 405/90 casts a long shadow over plans to build straightforward/direct bike routes and efficient, connected mass transit in a way that I-5/90 never has.

      1. Columbian Way has a sidewalk across I-5. It starts at Airport Way with a stairway.

      2. The I-5/I-90 interchange is not quite as bad as it looks on the photo as, at least on the north side, Jackson and Dearborn streets are able to pass right under the mess.

        I would argue that I-5 cutting off Capitol Hill from South Lake Union is much worse.

        On the contrary, the junction of I-5 and 520 is a good example of a freeway interchange done right, although perhaps since 520 doesn’t continue on west, the task is somewhat easier.

      3. The I-5 and SR-520 interchange is done right? It’s terror-inducing anytime one tries to get between 520 and Mercer St. in either direction. It’s annoying, but generally safer getting from NE 45th to SB I-5 to EB SR-520.

        Left-side exit and entrance ramps are generally a bad thing. There are cases where they make sense, but this is not one of them.

      4. @aw — He meant from a pedestrian standpoint.

        If we want to talk about stupid freeway decisions, we have a very different list. But yes, just about every left side entrance and exit would be on that list. As 520 and I-5, the problem is not with those freeways and their interchange, the problem is with Mercer. It is a problem no matter where you are and where you are trying to go. If you are coming from Portland and just pushed though the congested traffic downtown and think you want to move into the far left lane (because, I don’t know, you are on a freeway and just want to go up to Canada) you would be mistaken. The far left lane is exit only — for Mercer.

      5. the only good use for a left side entrance/exit I can think of is bus only hov access ramps.

      6. While the left exit may be undesirable from a traffic flow perspective, it does make the interchange more compact and reduce its impact on the surrounding landscape.

        Take a look at the map and consider how many homes would have to be bulldozed to make room for a flyover exit coming from the right. In addition, the construction of such a ramp would have probably precluded the Roanoke St. bridge from being built, thereby forcing everybody trying to cross the freeway into a long detour.

      7. @Charles — Agreed

        @asdf — Good point. There are a bunch of ramps here, so let me give my assessment or the ones that end up in the left lane:

        I-5 southbound to 520 eastbound — I see nothing wrong with this one, except maybe there shouldn’t be two lanes coming from I-5 northbound. This is essentially where 520 starts, so I think each direction should have its own lane, and merge where it now merges. Someone getting off at Montlake has to switch lanes, but that is a minor inconvenience (one lane change).

        520 eastbound to I-5 southbound — This is a bad one. You are merging 520 traffic onto the left side of a multi-lane freeway right before a very popular exit. There is a flyover ramp that flies over the northbound lanes as well as the express lanes. I would slide the southbound mainline closer to the express lanes, and have the flyover go over all of them. Easy for me to say (of course) but I think there would be enough room (especially if the ramp was one lane instead of two).

        The entrances and exits for Mercer are similar, although you go under instead of over. My guess is the ramps were build after the freeway (I don’t know the history). They didn’t want to move the freeway (that would be really expensive). Either way, it probably saved them a bunch of money to build it that way.

        I think we made several mistakes when it came to freeways. One was putting the freeways in the city in the first place. Another was assuming that everyone was headed to or away from downtown. That is the same mistake made by designers of Aurora as well as our bus system. We spent a lot of time and money on express lanes that are of limited value. Which brings me to another mistake, which is too many entrances and exits. Between 45th and Northgate, our light rail line will have one stop. For the same section, our freeway has three (Ravenna, Lake City Way, 85th) or four if you count 50th. This means that just about every east west street under or over I-5 is close to the freeway, which makes east-west travel horrible during rush hour.

        But your point in general is true — the left lane entrance and exit sometimes have less of an impact on the neighborhood. But I think the main reason they were done was because they were cheap. We could dramatically reduce the negative impact of these freeways if we just continued to cap them (as we did with freeway park). At a minimum, I would go as far as Denny. It might get tricky to go further north (towards Mercer) but that would be outstanding. Capping is expensive, though. For a lot of areas, you could just add a bridge (but even that isn’t cheap, depending on the location).

      8. “Another was assuming that everyone was headed to or away from downtown.”

        Everyone was headed to downtown when these freeways were designed. That’s the way it always had been, so people assumed it always would be. The only other significant destinations were the Boeing plants. It took I-5 ten years to fill up because people didn’t know what to do with it; they weren’t used to going to the places the freeway went except downtown. I-90 reverse-peak was one lane until the end of the 80s. The 520 tolls were removed seven years early because the Eastside had grown a lot more than people expected. If they had known that, maybe they would have made it six lanes with sidewalks in the first place.

      9. @Mike Orr: I had no idea that staircase or sidewalk existed, though there it is on the overhead images. That has to be one of the most dismal sidewalks in the whole city. I make a point of noticing and walking on unlikely sidewalks, and I’m not sure I’m enough of a masochist to visit this one.

        It’s still very far from the straightforward connection that an arterial corridor deserves. Like the 405/90 interchange, this one casts a shadow — Spokane Street would be a logical corridor for an east-west bike route from Jefferson Park through the West Seattle Bridge (for the same reason it’s used as a highway corridor), but the interchange makes even a path as dismal as the sidewalk more expensive and complicated.

      10. I walked on it when I was looking at an apartment on west Beacon Hill. The 60 was the closest route, and it ended at 9pm then. The 36 was a 20-minute walk away. So I went over the other side to see how convenient it would be to use the tunnel buses from the Spokane Street stop, and for my trips to Costco. Not very convenient. But not especially bleak. Although my knees wouldn’t like the stairs now.

      11. FWIW, there are at least two other pedestrian paths from SODO across the freeway. One is at Lucile Street; the other at Holgate Street. The latter is part of the Mountains to Sound Trail. I haven’t been on that part of it, but I’ve been on the part from Lake Washington to the 12th Avenue bridge.

      12. Holgate crosses over I-5 without an interchange; it wouldn’t take a monumental project to make it a fine bike route given the will to do so (I think usability for bike routes is a really important issue here given how poor the current network’s connectivity is east-to-west and the distances involved). Albro and Lucille have interchanges and are OK bike routes, and could be improved to very good ones without monumental projects.

        But only Spokane Street is directly lined up with the West Seattle bridge, and only Spokane Street has an interchange that makes any possible cycling connection much more difficult and expensive, and lower in quality (see the MTS Greenway at 405/90). It’s that an interchange with this form exists in such a key location that makes it so particularly bad.

    4. Just because it is a vital bit of transportation infrastructure doesn’t mean it doesn’t induce blight. I would argue that in this particular case it probably doesn’t induce that much blight (there are still some decent homes on the hill above it with a view of the Olympic Mountains). However, vital pieces of highway infrastructure still induce blight.

      Interstate 5 through north Portland is probably the best example I can give you of that. After Interstate 5 sliced through there, the business community through there went into decline and many buildings were boarded up or in a state of very awful repair until the advent of Interstate Avenue MAX. It has far from recovered completely but it is slowly headed uphill from the state it was in in the early 1990s, when it looked like it was some horribly treated suburb of post-war east Berlin that the Soviets had never gotten around to fixing.

      Sure, Interstate 5 is a vital piece of transportation. However, that doesn’t give it a right to completely destroy entire communities through which it is built.

      1. It’s not just the I-5/I-90 interchange that is blight-introducing and pedestrian-unpleasant, but the entire double-decker ramp covering Royal Brougham, and then the ramps that hook up to Edgar Martinez (S. Atlantic) as well as 4th Ave S. This whole area should be made more pedestrian friendly since it is the route between Light Rail and the busway and the stadiums, which means plenty of pedestrian activity. How about better sidewalks. How about allowing for some development under the freeway structures? How about more pedestrian crossings?

      2. How about burying the train tracks so that people and vehicles can cross them at ground level without a monstrous overpass? Or at least building a staircase up to the top so people headed from stadium station to a stadium don’t need to walk all the way around the corkscrew.

        Development under freeway structures is tricky, though. Nobody wants to live under a freeway (extremely noisy, no sunlight). Nor is an under-the-freeway location good for businesses (limited land, bad visibility, potential issues with panhandlers, etc.). In fact, about the only thing land under a freeway is good for is surface parking. A big reason why no matter what development happens in and around Green Lake, Green Lake P&R isn’t going away anytime soon.

      3. I wish they would bury the roads.

        Another place that will be totally awful is the replacement for Highway 99 to the west of the stadiums

        Whereas in the past pedestrians could walk on sidewalks under the elevated structure, now the road is at surface and pedestrians are going to have to walk far out of their way to cross.

        I agree with adding stairs to avoid the corkscrew. Could the ADA have made stairs impossible (e.g. by forcing an elevator so that wheelchairs wouldn’t be forced onto the corkscrew while others have a straight shot on stairs?

        I do think the pedestrians have gotten short shrift in getting their needs met in all of the highway and railway crossing and Highway 99 projects in this district.

      4. I was going to mention that Royal Brougham overpass. It makes walking to the Salvation Army depressing. Coming from Stadium station there’s all these overpasses to walk through. Going to the 4th Avenue southbound bus stop you have to walk south three blocks and north two blocks to get to the “baseball stadium stop” — or else run across 4th Avenue illegally. Pedestrian crossings near freeway entrances are often ignored, as in here or the east side of Fairview & Mercer.

      5. SODO’s all built on a former bay / marsh and is readily floodable. How about doing a Chicago and raising the entire ground level in the area?

        Build a flood-resistant “bathtub” around the rail lines, build some floodwater detention sites, and move the ground floor of all the buildings up one level.

  4. If STB had used the picture of the airplane fuselages dumped into the river by a train derailment with people in rafts looking on for this roundup, what would have been a clever post title?

  5. Since this is an open thread, thought I’d let you know you can put a face to my handle at…

    Long-Range Plan Public Hearing/Open House – Everett
    July 17, 2014
    5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    Public hearing begins at 6 p.m.

    Everett Station
    3201 Smith Ave.

    Make sure you guys participate in this process: http://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/Long-range-Plan-update

    I’ll be taking pictures and if I can, video. Problem is I need a new video camera mount and I also am waaaaaaaaaaaay behind in video work.

    1. I look forward to the report. It would be nice to have new development that isn’t just the hospital or college.

  6. I’m sorry, but the idea of building a new neighborhood around Rainier Beach is pretty laughable. The Tolt Aqueduct and its two BPA lines would be a huge scar through it, pushing any developable land at least two blocks from the station on the east.

    To the west is a steep hill with only a thing strip of buildable land.

    It is, unfortunately, a pipe dream. It’s a good location for a bus transfer facility because of the Tolt ROW, though the station platforms should have been placed north of Henderson so people would have to cross only one arterial.

    1. @ Anandakos It is funny. I laugh at those grand images around the station. I grew up in the area and the first mistake they made was station placement. I feel the station should have been at Rainer and Henderson. Old news I know. Now back peddle and correct the problem, but only in your dreams.

  7. I’m cruising around Dublin (Ireland, not Texas) for the next few weeks and have noticed a few things about its public transit since I’ve been here. For one thing, in many respects, it is very Seattle-like. Most of the routes go inbound to the central city, there is relatively little cross-city connectivity (by bus, more on that in a sec), and deciding which bus type to take where can be dizzying and confusing to the uninitiated. There are no fewer than four commonly-used providers: Dublin Bus (city of Dublin and surrounding suburbs), Bus Éireann (regional and cross-Ireland, along with being the local service operator in some cities outside Dublin), DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit, a Link-style metro rail system running EMUs and commuter services a la Sounder), and Luas (SLUS/FHSC-style street car system marketed as light rail and named “trams,” incidentally a picture of these trains was used in the Seattle Central City Connector document; also incidentally, they have two separate lines that go different places and that are about to be linked via a “Connector”).

    Good things: They have a NFC tap payment system, the Leap card, which in the last year or so has been integrated into all of the transit providers. IT HAS DAY PASSES AND SPEND CAPS, woo, but knowing what to buy if you’re going to be around for longer than a few days but less than a few months is a beating. Bus drivers are physically separated from riders and drivers can make automatic change from the farebox (I think this is a good thing but it’s also bad because Dublin has no plans to go all-electronic for fare payment). They have 11 night routes that make 4-5 trips out to popular locations (they’re called Nitelink and apparently rather ingrained in the local culture, so much that people actually make songs about or referencing them). Luas–the streetcar-as-light-rail–runs every 7-15 minutes almost all of the day, with 15-minute frequency being the longest even on Sundays and holidays.

    Not-so-good things: Frequency on buses is 15-minutes at the shortest, 30-minutes is more common, especially on the weekends. Nitelink only runs on Friday and Saturday nights and, like Seattle, there is talk of slashing Nitelink service in the face of needing the money elsewhere. The two Luas lines, red and green, don’t connect with each other, but will in 2017. Luas rolls up the carpet at 11:30pm, which I guess would be bad for Seattle but isn’t so bad for Dublin given that most merchants are closed by then and off-shift working is out-of-the-norm here. Transitioning from local bus to regional bus, without hunting down an obscure stop, is really only possible from one location in Dublin.

    I really, really like the NFC fare card (Leap Card) and if I could pick one thing from Dublin’s transit to transplant to Seattle, this card and how it is used in Dublin would be it. First and foremost, there is a discount for paying electronically so a lot of people do it. There are 1, 3, 7, and 30-day passes, including various combinations of bus, Luas, and DART passes. Tourists can, right at the airport from a third-party vendor, buy a three-day pass that works on a regional bus from the airport to the city center and on all bus, Luas, and DART electric service. All that for €19.50 ($26.50), including the price of the card. Oh, and Leap cards have a €5 cost that rebates to €5 credit once the first credit is loaded. You can also reload (top up) Leap cards at virtually every convenience store-type outlet anywhere in County Dublin. Leap looks a lot like ORCA done right.

  8. That whole Streetsblog whining about interchanges is pretty useless. Take the 105/110 interchange in LA. It’s behemoth because there are HOV ramp connectors as well as regular freeway connectors. The authors conveniently forget that there is also a light rail line running through it on I-105, and a freeway BRT line on I-110, adding to the height requirements and pavement width requirements. It’s also noteworthy that their article ignores how safe the interchanges are or how congested they get due to bad design.

    1. Al S.,
      Much like the proposed highway 520 expansion thru Montlake…sure, it could be up to 12 lanes in part but that includes the ramps from the GP lanes and HOV lanes in both directions, and I believe there has even been a proposal for ramps to/from the I-5 Express lanes. Sure it will be huge, but put a lid over it like on Mercer Island, and it could eventually be a really nice park with views of UW, Husky Stadium and Lake Washington. But, many people only focus on the ‘up to 12 lanes.’

      1. The ramp from 520 to the I-5 express lanes is going to be next to useless. Half the time the express lanes will be open in the wrong direction, so the ramps won’t be available. And, when when they are, the traffic is going to have to merge on the other side of the ramp anyway. Inbound, especially, the merge point is almost certain to increase congestion on the express lanes.

        From a transit perspective, the big attraction of the express lanes is the direct connection to the downtown tunnel, which saves buses substantial travel time over the regular exits. However, this too, is pointless, with all buses scheduled to be kicked out of the tunnel in 2019.

      2. The ramp from 520 to the I-5 express lanes is going to be next to useless.

        I disagree, although it has its issues (mainly the fact that it would do the most good inbound in the PM, but the express lanes don’t go that way).

        Even without using the tunnel, using the Pike/Convention Place exit from the express lanes provides a far, far quicker entry into downtown than the Stewart exit from the regular lanes. I think switching to that exit would save 3-4 minutes on inbound 520 trips.

      3. On MI the interchanges are spread out, and the only interchange on the main lid is W Mercer Way, a relatively minor one. At Montlake one of 520’s biggest interchanges is going on the lid. As a result, even something as simple as walking/biking paths that go through on the lid is in doubt, and if you use the sidewalk of Montlake Boulevard you’ll walk across nearly “up to 12 lanes” of interchange. There’s just no way to hide that.

      4. From this drawing, I see 7 lanes to be crossed by a pedestrian on the west side of Montlake, and 8 lanes to be crossed on the east side of Montlake. That’s not much different than the conditions today.

      5. @aw: Sure, my point isn’t that there are actually a dozen (hence “nearly” and the use of quotation). My point is that you can’t just slap a lid with a “nice park” over the freeway and call it good when the lid hosts such a large interchange. Crossing the interchange on Montlake Boulevard sucks today and won’t be any better with the lid. Because it’s hard to provide usable park space and decent ped/bike routes right at an interchange, scarcely easier with a lid than with simple bridges.

        I-90 has a couple lids that work out really well because there aren’t interchanges on them. People see them and think lids can solve a whole lot of problems that they can’t.

  9. The Arlington, VA story is a great link. Some priceless quotes on mixed-use, converting auto trips to walking trips, and upfront investments (in NOT piping transit along highway medians) paying off big returns over the long term…

    1. The Arlington story is edging closer to the mainstream. Here are some quotes from a story in Salon:

      “Arlington’s seven “station sectors” produce half of the county’s real estate revenue from just 7 percent of its area. It may be the only American suburban district where fewer than half of residents drive to work.”


      “But without citizens’ willingness to support high-density zones, Arlington would still look much as it did in the Kennedy administration. “Why it’s worked is because there was community consensus back in the ’60s,” explained Robert Brosnan, the director of Community Planning, Housing and Development in Arlington. “What most people fear is you say you will stick to your plans but you don’t, and the boundary between development and single-family homes is going to change over the years. Well, it hasn’t changed.””


      “What has happened in this region, which I have never seen anyplace else, is as other suburban areas begin to urbanize, neighborhood groups around them have organized to demand the county triple the density that’s allowable,”


      “The District, in the form of the Height Act, has one of the most restrictive urban development laws on the books…without a doubt, there’s one lesson whose import will resonate with suburbanites from Huntington to Palo Alto: No suburb can urbanize without the support of its residents. In Arlington, the fruits of that open-mindedness are on full display.”

      Targeted concentrations of high density. Fixed boundary lines. Economically robust. Less than 50% of trips are vehicle-related. Consensus among a broad-based group of community stakeholders….

      …music to my ears.

      1. Music to your ears unless you want to live there. Rent in these “dense” communities is outrageous! A studio apartment is well north of $1600/month with a one bedroom apartment being north of $2000/month. The poor schmucks that can’t afford that rent are thus pushed out into the burbs, slugging into the city.

      2. Doesn’t that prove the desirability of dense neighborhoods with high quality transit access?

        Maybe we should increase the density in a surrounding ring to provide for more housing but a longer walk to the transit stops to get more affordable housing. Supply constraints increase prices.

      3. CharlotteRoyal, all that proves is that there is huge demand for these sorts of places. Pricing would go down if more of them were built, but NIMBYs prevent it.

      4. @CharlotteRoyal,

        The “poor schmucks” who are “pushed out into the burbs” (just as an aside, isn’t Arlington itself a suburb of Washington D.C.?) clearly don’t have the economic value-added to demand an income sufficient to live there. I thought you wingers were all about rewarding people for excellence, not a bunch of Socialists with an obsession for income leveling. What’s sauce for the goose…..

        And the truth is that it’s very easy to get to Arlington from all over the region. The Orange, Blue and Silver lines all pass through the city, linking it directly to farther out suburbs to the southeast, west and northwest.

        And if folks need to live yet farther afield than the Metro reaches, there are regional buses and rail all the way to Fredricksburg, Manassas and the Blue Ridge.

      5. I would say that the Height Act is not only proper (it is after all the United States Capitol building which determines the elevation), but a boon to the city. There are no lightless canyons in Washington D.C. It’s actually quite aesthetic, although one does become aware quickly that all the newer buildings are within a couple of feet exactly the same height.

      6. The height limit is one more way DC is more like a European city than a typical American city. The most surprising thing about London, Moscow, Glasgow, etc, is that the highrise office buildings are not in the city center but off to a side. The first time I went to London, I visited the Docklands which were described as “eerily futuristic”. I got there and thought what’s the big deal? It was only later that I realized “futuristic” meant from the perspective of a city that hadn’t had steel-and-glass skyscrapers before that. It still seems strange to me that “downtown” is off to a side. But how else can you preserve a centuries-old historic city center? The good thing is that high-frequency metro lines go to these business districts — unlike the decentralized model of automobile-only office parks.

    1. I’ve been meaning to come down to Portland and stay at the Tiny House Hotel. The article mentions Terry Strobel and Dee Williams. Strobel’s book “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” is excellent; I read it from the library and then bought a copy. That led me to several YouTube videos on tiny houses and five-rooms-in-one apartments (especially by Kirsten Dirksen and SPACEStv).

      I ended up feeling I like the concept but the right size for me is an ordinary apartment; I don’t want to get into alternative kitchens and bathrooms. And the ultra-compact apartment arrangements are mostly by architects and decorators experimenting on their own unit, so it would be hugely expensive to do on your own. For instance I like the bed is dead (a murphy bed that hydraulically tilts up to become a shelving unit), but it costs $2000 and weighs a ton. More than I want to spend on a bed, and difficult to move.

      When I was in high school, my cousin came from out of state to live with us. She brought all her posessions in a VW Rabbit, and that became an ideal to me ever since. Over time I added furniture so it now takes three pickup trucks full, but I still try to keep everything “light and easy to move” as much as possible. My last apartment was a 348 sq ft studio and I wasn’t using one corner of it. so that’s my “natural size”. I now have an SO and we’re in a 600 sql ft apt. Still trying to downsize but it’s harder with two.

      I just read Dee Williams book “The Big Tiny”. I skimmed through part of it because it was so much construction details and random things. Ironically, it made me less willing to build a tiny house because some of Dee’s values (a one-burner stove because she doesn’t cook more than a can of soup, having to take showers at friends’ houses or the gym or work) aren’t mine. Still, I like seeing the creative things people are doing because you never know when some detail will click with you.

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