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This is an open thread.

93 Replies to “News Roundup: Accounting Problems”

    1. In every case, the localities had to find alternative funding sources to pay for the increased ridership. Come up with some alternative funding sources, and we have something to talk about. (Hint: Don’t bother the state legislature. They don’t seem to think the state should be in the business of funding transit.)

      Given how packed our transit is already, there has to be a plan for a lot more service, as well as re-purposing road infrastructure for more mass-oriented uses.

      1. This is a matter of accounting and politics, not fundamental design. It’s far more cost effective to have people use transit than all of the road infrastructure involved with cars. Yes, we’d have to work out a deal with Olympia, but that’s life. They let us tax ourselves for the monorail and for Link, they can be convinced to let us tax ourselves for good free transit.

    2. For many commuters, transit is the best option, not just an eco-friendly one.

      Like with the 520 bridge, the users of the service who get the true benefits of not having to drive, or experience wear and tear on a vehicle ( 56 cents per mile ) it saves them money, and hence, there is probably price elasticity upward.

      1. That’s an important point, but it varies a lot based on distance, travel time reliability, convenience/cost of access by different modes at either end, and (particularly if you’re hoping to get some time back on the ride) qualitative aspects like ride quality and load factor.

        Probably the people that get the most value are suburb-CBD P&R commuters with dedicated point-to-point (or nearly point-to-point) express service that’s sufficient to cover the full range of their working hours. Especially if, due to dedicated ROW in key places, transit is more reliable than driving. Parking at P&Rs is thing that’s most obviously underpriced, and premium express service probably is, too.

        Meanwhile, if you take the E Line between north Seattle and Shoreline (across the fare boundary) during peak hours, you’re taking one of the most overpriced common transit trips in our system (along with some short trips between Renton, White Center, and Burien from south Seattle).

      2. @Al: “premium express service probably is, too”. Let’s see, a two zone peak express SRO artic (fairly typical of what you are describing) is sixty passengers * 2.25 [I’m assuming everyone has a pass]. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $135 a trip. Come back and talk about this when the rest of the system manages a cost recovery ratio over 50%. [And remember, in terms of preserving scarce road resources, these are by far the societally most valuable trips].

        Agree about cost recovery at P&R’s.

      3. William,

        Cut your cost recovery by about 2/3 (or more) for the returning deadheads, for the time to and from base, for the generous recovery-time needs, and so on…

        That’s what makes these (valuable) trips so expensive on the ground, and what helps to justify a premium fare that would similarly reflect the advantages these expresses represent to the relatively narrow class of riders able to use them.

        Busy two-way core routes, as a general rule, perform better even at rush hour.

      4. Let’s see, the 212 is scheduled at 30 minutes to downtown. Multiply that by roughly 3 to get an hour and a half per run, so about $200 a run. 60 passengers paying an average of over 2 dollars a run, so $120 cost recovery. 200/120 > 50%. That’s why I asked for only 50% cost recover rather than damn near 100%.

      5. Metro doesn’t seem to put out comprehensive route-by-route performance reports very often. The most recent such report I can find is the one from 2009:

        Right there at the top of page 20 of the report (page 24 of the PDF), is the 212 — the #1 East Subarea performer during the peak period.

        And at 84.1 average rides per trip during the peak period, what was its fare recovery? 32%.

        2009 wasn’t the strongest year, so the numbers could be a bit better today. But it’s guaranteed to be far, far short of 50%.

        And that’s for the shortest peak highway express route in Metro’s entire network.

      6. Another reason core urban services do so much better on fare recovery: many destinations yield lots and lots of intermediate turnover, even at the height of downtown-emptying rush hour.

        As the Eastgate shuttle amply demonstrates, it is virtually impossible for turnover to occur on commuter expresses. Each boarding is a one-time occurrence. Peak capacity and total ridership will be one and the same.

      7. Hmm.. worst year for passenger volumes but before the fare hikes. Cherry pick much?

      8. Nope. It’s the only data available, at least as far as I could Google.

        No idea why they don’t release these comprehensive charts every year.

        Re: fare hikes: Since two-zone fares have been subject to proportionally much smaller hikes than one-zone or off-peak fares, these hikes would not represent nearly the farebox recovery boost you seem to think they would.

        The data are consistent: many two-way core routes edge into the 40% (and occasionally much better) fare-recovery window during peak. The best of the best of the one-way commuter express shuttles still performs worse.

    3. Free municipal transit is a potentially worthwhile model, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best model for here right now. There’s a city in eastern Europe that started buying bulk passes for all its residents; how is it doing? It’s also effectively the same as the U-Pass program, where the pass is included in the cost of tuition at a steep discount. Denver also has a program where neighborhoods or apartment buildings can get bulk passes if all residents participate.

      Free transit would increase ridership both desirably and beyond-desirably (people taking it just to be ultra-lazy or to pass the time). The latter is not necessarily a problem but would require adequate capacity to prevent overcrowding, and the region may not want to pay the resources to provide that capacity. Still there’s an upper limit on how much people would ride, because riding all day for days on end gets boring and gets in the way of doing other things. Then there’s the issue of municipal boundaries and visitors. Amercans cross suburban boundaries more than Europeans, partly because they live more in low-density areas and partly because the metropolitan governments themselves are more subdivided. A Seattle-only free area would have a lot of non-residents using it. Encompassing the Sound Transit district would have fewer (just the exurbs), and an all-Pugetopolis area would have fewer (just the adjacent rural areas and Thurston County).

      Then there’s the homeless issue, of homeless people riding it all day because it’s warm and dry. That’s really because the governments are unwilling to provide full housing, job, mental health and social services that other countries do. (There’s also a hard core of people who won’t use the services that exist because they can’t drink or take drugs under them, but that’s a minority, and I’m not sure how other countries handle those.) A transit solution can’t address all these other problems, which would require a more comprehensive solution. So free transit alone would mean a lot of homeless people riding transit all day.

      1. Yes. Maybe we could provide some of these buses just parked somewhere for those that just need them for warmth and shelter. And they’d be cheap because we wouldn’t need wheels or engines, and could build them out of something inexpensive like wood.

      2. +1 to Matt’s “housing, not rolling shelters.”

        As for those who will not avail themselves of available services, Mike: wet houses. They’re safer, and they’re a lot less expensive than dozens of ambulance visits to assorted street corners every day of the year. (Never mind the gargantuan amount of money this city spends on parks avoided by citizens.)

        And maybe, just occasionally, an aid worker in a wet house will have a chance to stick a wrench in the addiction machine.

        Our current policy of no carrots + no sticks + “here, take over our public spaces” is about the dumbest possible approach.

      3. Excellent last paragraph, Mike. That there is the problem. We have millions of homeless folks, many of whom just need warmth, or, as they put it, a shelter from the storm. Meanwhile, we have thousands, if not millions of winos and bums, who also fit into that broad category. Asking the public transit system to provide something for them is a bit like asking the public school system to do something for homeless or hungry children, or solve the problem of years of Jim Crow, or … wait, we already do that.

        Free public transit makes sense, but we have a lot of other problems to solve, and many of those can be solved more cheaply than by increasing transit so that it doubles as shelter. It would be nice if we addressed those problems, but right now, we aren’t, and free transit will go nowhere until we do.

      4. It took me a while to figure out what you meant by wet houses, but it sounds like a halfway house with no rules. Do such things exist?

      5. City of Seattle has 2 Housing First projects. I know of the one on 1811 Eastlake – matter of fact I toured it a few years ago.

      6. That sounds like a halfway house with no rules”

        Mike, you’re letting your inner bigot show, There are millions of people who are homeless but have never been in a “halfway house”.
        Dude, those are for criminals. Far from every homeless person is a criminal.

      7. No, there are psychiatric halfway houses too, and when I was in high school I had a friend who had been a street kid and had lived in one although I can’t remember why now, maybe for drug addition. Which gets us back to wet houses. What is a wet house and what are the rules, and how widely do they exist?

      8. What I don’t understand is, if this is some great thing that could have solved our winos-in-the-park problem thirty years ago, why have I never heard of it? Why hasn’t it been more widely proposed in this area? Why isn’t Kshama Sawant promoting it? Is it something that died out fifty years ago like SRO hotels? Is it more common on the east coast or in Europe? And if it is something like congregate housing or studios, how difficult is it to be a manager of such a place?

      9. A lot of people living on the street in any city have some degree of mental illness and, of course, many are addicted to alcohol or drugs. In the ’50s people diagnosed with mental illnesses could be involuntarily committed to mental institutions, and were en masse. Today this mostly can’t happen. I don’t remember what the legal change technically was or when it happened, but “de-institutionalization” is a huge part of why temperate west-coast cities have so many homeless when they didn’t a few generations ago.

        Groups like the Downtown Emergency Service Center are broadly trying the “housing first” approach to break the cycle (and have refined their techniques over the years as they’ve learned what does and doesn’t work), and various other agencies and groups are contracted by various organs of the state to provide outpatient mental health care to people that once would have just been locked up (my wife is a part-timer for one). A lot of people slip through the cracks in what can be a loose and disjointed system of care. It takes a lot of resources just to help the people that really want to be housed but aren’t organized enough to manage their lives… and then beyond that there are people that resist help.

        So, Mike, I doubt there can be a single silver bullet to solve our crisis of homelessness. There are several non-profits using the resources they have (including state and city funding) to provide services and learn what works. Many could do more with more money.

      10. Perhaps because West Coast cities seem to have confused “abandoning the notion of a social contract that confers both rights and responsibilities upon members of the public, including a minimum level of public decorum” with “being tolerant” or “feeling progressive”.

        It is neither. It’s libertarian-inflected do-nothing “I’ve got mine”-ism masquerading as righteousness. It’s suggests a disdain for a public realm, and for the hard work of social compromise and problem-solving and engagement with those different from you, in order to mold a civic space that is healthy and beneficial to all.

        It is a symptom of the same cognitive dissonance that leads people to extol their “city living”, then to seek out privatized spaces (amenity apartments, protected-view properties, the hottest restaurants) and oscillate between them in private automobiles. It is part and parcel with the expectation that you won’t raise your kids in any part of town that feels remotely “urban”.

        You wouldn’t see 3rd and Yesler in any genuinely progressive place. You would see programs to address the cycles of transience, combined with a concerted effort (including enforcement, if needed) to keep civic spaces inviting to — nay, integral to the well-being of — the complete urban citizenry.

      11. (And yes, there’s the failure to devote adequate resources, as Al says. Penny-wise and pound-foolish. It’s amazing how much money we pour down the parks- and streetscape-funding drains for spaces the general public won’t use. And then there are the endless, costly EMT calls…)

      12. The original advocates for deinstitutionalization proposed a large, public-funded system of psychiatric halfway houses.

        Deinstituationalization was instead implemented by Ronald Reagan simply ripping out all the federal funding for psychiatric institutions and not replacing it. The result was disaster.

      13. That’s more than a little unfair. While Reagan certainly had a hand in creating the problems we have today, deinstitutionalization hadn’t really started when he was Governor of California, and was well under way by the time he became president.

    4. The rich, wannabe rich and those that see themselves as rich want fares.

      Everyone else wonders why the government is charging a fee.

      Transit should be free.

      1. Americans are weird; Americans disrepsect anything they didn’t have to pay for.

        It seems to be really valuable culturally to charge a fee. Even a nominal fee, like a quarter.

      2. In nearly every city in the world transit charges fares. Commuters get enough of a subsidy as it is.

  1. the SLUT has been on Orca for a while now … at least for the past month

      1. So if something’s too expensive, you can just take it and not pay for it? I’ll try that the next time I’m in Nordstrom’s.

      2. It’s civil disobedience as a protest against high fares. You’ll have to wear a T-shirt or something that tells people why you’re not paying, otherwise they’ll assume you’re just a scofflaw.

      3. It is more simply about not purchasing a shoddy, overpriced product.

        But since many of y’all don’t seem to believe streetcars need any pesky “riders” (or any “tangible mobility goals” for which people might justifiably “pay money”) in order to “make places”, I fail to see how my not riding or not tapping should be particularly bothersome to the cheerleaders.

      4. d.p. why would you even be on it anyway? You are always stating, correctly, that it is always faster to walk. If you’re not going to pay, why ride?

      5. Have you never been walking in the general direction of SLU and had the streetcar happen to be leaving right then?) Only then will it be faster than walking. (And often by a surprisingly low factor. Because streetcars are ever-surprisingly slow transit.)

        Of course, you can’t count on this, especially if transferring from elsewhere and unable to control your timing. (That’s why streetcars are mobility-irrelevant “symbolic transit”.)

        But if it just happens to come along when you’re already there, why wouldn’t you hop on? (That’s why streetcars are nothing more than “opportunistic-trip transit”.)

        Of course, if you have to pay a surcharge for the slowest mile-or-less of your journey, maybe you’d just continue walking. (That’s why streetcars are “totally fucking failed transit”.)

      6. Norman used to ride Link just to count how few people were on it. I watch Fox News whenever I’m at a hotel to check if it’s still fair and balanced (since I don’t have cable at home). DP may take the SLUT occasionally to confirm it’s useless, or as ironic props to it.

      7. You might be overthinking this.

        The thing exists. It is centrally located. Up until now, it has been effectively free.

        On occasion, such a thing is going to be easier to use than not.

        That doesn’t mean it is routinely helpful. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can plan your trips around its aid. And it absolutely doesn’t justify the opportunity costs inherent in its existence.

      8. So it’s not useful even when it is. And the times that it is useful, it’s still not enough to pay for it.

        How is that not justifying fare avoidance? Great that it can be handy sometimes. But you don’t want it and don’t want to pay for it. So make the conscious decision to object by not using it instead of using it when convenient for you but not contributing. You’re no better than other fare evaders that feel it’s their right to ride without paying. Except you guise it under some greater good as a silent protest no one even knows you’re doing. It’s ridiculous.

      9. We’ll see if ridership goes down substantially or not.

        Seattle and private donors funded the construction. Metro and private donors fund the operation. But Metro recently said it might cap the amount it pays for SLUT operations, in which case Seattle would have to contribute more or see some runs deleted.

      10. Don’t be oversensitive, M.

        Remember the opportunity costs? Perhaps if this shuttle weren’t zigging and zagging around empty all day and night, there might have been a push for, say, frequent evening and weekend service on the genuinely useful through routes that cross the core of SLU.

        Say what you will about my communicative style, but you can’t get away with claiming that the $81/month I already pay (plus occasional rush-hour knife-twisting) buys me especially quality-competitive comprehensive transit

        My use of the Amazon Dinky is infrequent enough that no one will notice my not tossing the extra quarters its way (unless, I suppose, it’s rush hour and I’ve already tapped a $2.50 fare somewhere else). Should roving fare inspectors ever come to Westlake — and what a hilarious waste of public money that would be! — I promise that you’ll never see my smiling face on it again.

        (Or, if the streetcar people so desperately want those revenue-distribution taps, perhaps they should consider setting the fare in line with the incredibly limited usefulness their slow-ass short-line service provides.)

      11. At least Portland seems to understand our line is slow. It’s $1 if you buy just a streetcar ticket.

        You do get screwed if you pay cash fare and originate on the streetcar and have to transfer, as the $1fares are not accepted on TriMet services.

  2. UK to allow driverless cars on public roads in January

    Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new plan at a research facility belonging to Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands.

    “Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” he said.

    1. Maybe they should wait for this though…

      Michigan Is Getting a Fake City for Testing Automated Cars

      The Mobility Transformation Facility will open this fall in Southeast Michigan, right in the heart of the auto industry. It’ll simulate both a four-lane highway and a city intersection—two very different environments with very different dangers. Just recently, Google announced that after driving its autonomous cars for thousands of miles through suburban Mountain View, it’s shifted to focus on teaching its autonomous car to drive in cities.

  3. Interesting blog post, “Let’s Build a Traditional City and Make a Profit”:

    The comments thread on Hacker News is, at the moment, top-voting comments in favor of suburban living and, to a lesser extent, new urbanism. A quote from the top comment: “It is one of those elements that when it came time to put the money on the table I made the decision I would have probably ‘preached’ against in a group of peers. That probably happens often (people say they want green but end up buying an SUV instead of a Prius).”

    I don’t mind people living in the suburbs (“how magnanimous” of me; I’m not being snooty about it, your life, your choices) but I see it now as an ecological and fiscal issue that those of us in the dense cities should no longer be footing the bill for this lifestyle. If you want to live on an acre spread in North Bend or in a new urbanist Issaquah Highlands, go for it, but don’t be surprised when getting into the cultural/financial/interesting-centered dense city requires using a bus or light rail because we don’t want to knock over the buildings to make an 8-lane freeway.

    1. That is a great post, except for the end where he tries to solve the parking problem and ends up proposing what’s basically the world’s largest open-air shopping mall.

      1. I don’t think that’s true. I’ve seen parking hidden inside blocks done well in Europe. Open-air shopping malls tend to have free parking access to large arterial streets or freeways, and generally have parking at the front of the stores (see: U-Village). Hiding parking inside blocks without providing easy access to freeways strongly discourages their use while still allowing for car ownership (because America).

        It would have been nice if he discussed how people in his town leave to get other places – I assume this isn’t a self-contained town and they’d be commuting. The obvious solution is a mass transit running through it, with a station or two.

      2. What’s wrong with it? Isn’t an open-air shopping mall and a traditional city center the same thing? Also, each lot would be owned individually rather than a single mall owner, which again is more like a city center.

        Perhaps he should have described more what the more outlying and residential areas would be like, but I think you can assume just “more residential, less business”. He also notes that outlying areas would have businesses at intersections rather than in the middle of the block, again following longstanding practice.

    2. Love it. Thanks for the link.

      I don’t love his definition of the word urbanist. I find it’s commonly used broadly as someone that prefers we build densely. But I love his solution: it’s the street width, stupid.

      1. (I think in that post he’s mostly talking about “New Urbanists”, not urbanists more generally. One thing that defines “New Urbanists” is that some people that use this label have actually managed to get stuff built, and use the label proudly on it. So when the author criticizes them he’s comparing his pure desires, or cities built in entirely different eras and built up over centuries, to the compromises the “New Urbanists” have managed to get built in the most hostile regulatory environments and urban contexts for walkable towns in human history. It’s not really fair to blame New Urbanists for wide streets when they’d often prefer to build narrower ones but can’t. Which is not to say New Urbanism doesn’t produce some ideas, designs, and results worth challenging… the fact that an actual open air mall is more alive with pedestrians much of the day than most New Urbanist town centers isn’t something we should stick our heads in the sand and ignore.)

      2. Another thing about those New Urbanist greenfield sites. They’re obviously worse than infill development within a more transit-friendly city or suburb. But they’re better than low-density developments. In the Renton Highlands it’s possible to take a ten-minute walk from a house to the P&R or supermarket or another house three blocks away. That was not possible in the suburban neighborhood I grew up in, where the nearest supermarket was an hour’s walk away, the only bus was an hourly milk run, and a smaller number of houses were within a 10-minute walk. If we’re going to sprawl, we should sprawl smartly rather than dumbly.

    3. I’m not sure I’d say, as that blogger does, that New Urbanists have a wide street fetish. But they do seem to want to put all the businesses on “main street” — all the cars, transit, bikes, and pedestrians on the same streets, all the through-traffic and access on the same streets, instead of keeping through-traffic separate. In big CBDs we often have a contradiction — our street networks are both too tight and too wide. The networks of big fast car streets are too tight to allow room for functional open public places, but because there aren’t tiny streets to walk on in between them the pedestrian network is too wide.

      In the heat of this contradiction we build conflicted places. The recent Bell Street makeover, which doesn’t know whether it’s a park or a street, is a symptom of the confusion. This is a street that is used by lots of buses full of passengers trying to go through. Many concessions are made to buses and other through traffic; the width of the street, speed of vehicle traffic, and traffic signals every block (with each intersection having lots of cross traffic) force pedestrians onto the sidewalk. But the lack of curbs, a feature ripped from the woonerf playbook without regard for context or purpose, means parking cars can roll onto it unimpeded.

      I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea that when large sites near Mount Baker Station are redeveloped that the public street network should be tightened. It should be tightened using the sort of streets discussed in this blog post: little tiny streets mostly for walking, but public ones.

    4. New Urbanists are hearkening back to a 1920s town center ideal, but assuming that everybody will have cars and will drive them into and out of the development. The streets were already “wide” in the 1920s. One-lane medieval streets were rejected some fifty or seventy years earlier.

      New Urbanism was founded to promote walkable, mixed-use town centers and neighborhood centers. It has been most successful in greenfield new towns and suburban centers. City neighborhoods have undergone a similar course without the New Urbanist label, although I consider new urbanism and urbanism to be the same thing. However, the New Urbanist developers do seem misguided in one aspect. They focus so much on a walkable neighborhood that they neglect transit into and out of the neighborhood, and they locate their greenfield developments too far from existing transit. So everybody arrives in the neighborhood by car, except a few people who take a peak-express bus to the P&R (Issaquah Highlands). The Black Diamond proposal has only a Metro van route and peak-express bus, which are probably on Metro’s cut list. New Urbansists should take a wholistic walking/transit-first approach, not only within the neighborhood but to the surrounding area and nearest cities. That essentially means more closer-in, infill developments.

      The NewHolly and Rainier Vista redevelopments are essentially new urbanist even though they’re not called that. Or how are they not?

      Narrow streets is a more tenuous issue. New urbanism and most urbanism focus on a 1920s town center ideal, or “streetcar suburb” as they’re also called. But those already had “wide” streets. Medieval one-lane streets had been rejected fifty or a hundred years earlier. The 1920s ideal was literally what the WWII generation and early boomers remembered from their childhood. They never knew medieval streets unless they’d come from Greece or Italy or places like that. So you can’t blame that on New Urbanism because it’s a more fundamental issue.

      I agree with Price that we probably should have more medieval-narrow streets, but I don’t reject 1920s streets or some of the New Urbanist streets he says are bad. Two rows of parked cars and two lanes doesn’t bother me. A parking lot with two rows doesn’t bother me. Aurora Avenue doesn’t bother me that much. What bothers me are six-lane boulevards with intersections a half mile or more apart, and giant seas of parking lots in front of Fred Meyer and Safeway and Southcenter. Full-length left-turn lanes bother me, especially where there are no driveways to turn in to (can’t we have a median with plants instead, and small turn pockets?)

  4. How does everyone feel about confronting another passenger on the bus when they are doing something disruptive or annoying, like littering, playing music too loud, etc?

    The other day I was watching two large young women with strollers toward the front of the bus devouring a large amount of junk food. They were so sloppy, food periodically fell to the floor as they ate. And when they were done, they treated the floor as a trash can, throwing their bags, french fry containers, wrappers, and empty soda cups and napkins on the floor and surrounding seats. Now, since I believe in the proverbs “It takes a village to raise a child,” and “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I was consider approaching these two awful human beings and lecturing them that part of being a good parent is being a good example, and asking them to pick up their trash, but then they got off the bus as I was contemplating what I should do.

    I’m curious what other riders do in these kinds of situations. Do you ever speak up, or do you remain silent? I know this is the “I don’t judge others” generation, and that it’s no longer ok to shame people because “we don’t know what they are going through,” but it seems like this “It’s none of my business” philosophy just fosters more and more anti-social public behavior. If it really does take a village to raise a child, should I have said something?

    1. Sam, you’ve got to be kidding. If you must do something, give thanks that you have the life that you do.
      Besides, this little mini-drama is what makes public transit so much fun!
      You get to see the real “public”.

    2. But Sam, you’re never afraid to speak your mind here on the internet. I wonder what the difference could be?

      1. Oh, I frequently speak up on the bus. That was just one time where I didn’t. I just wanted to see what other people’s thoughts were on the subject. Several times a month I tell passengers with dogs to shorten up the leash because I don’t want their dog to brush up against me. I often correct passengers in their parenting style. For example, I heard a parent being too negative to their children the other day, using the words don’t and no much too often. I pointed this mistake out to them. I thought they were going to thank me for caring, but that wasn’t the reaction I received. I also help people with their clothing choices. Lately, I’ve been asking passengers who are dressed like it’s a cold day in December why they are dressed for winter when it’s 85 degrees outside. I think, for the most part, people appreciate me giving them advice and ideas, and correcting their behavior. People need boundaries and discipline.

      2. “Kirsty was the most organized person Johnny knew. In fact she was so organized she had too much organization for one person, and it overflowed in every direction… Kirs– Kasandra wasn’t good at friends. She told him so herself. She’d said it was because it was because of a character flaw, only because it was Ki– Kasandra, she thought it was a character flaw in everybody else. The more she tried to help people by explaining to them how stupid they were, the more they just wandered off for no reason at all….” –Johnny and the Bomb.

      3. This post finally proves it: Sam is an advanced bot running on Watson programmed as a performance artist mocking Fox News. IBM’s gift to the world of send-up entertainment.

    3. I usually keep my mouth shut, but last week I suggested to a couple of giggling, selfie-taking teenage girls who occupied the front priority seating section that they move when a white-caned passenger entered and there was no other place up front for him to sit. They did, but one of then snarkily snapped while passing me: “You’re not the driver, you have no right to tell us to move.”

    4. Mike Orr, I like that Johnny and the Bomb thing. So are you saying that if I see a parent abusively spanking his child on the bus, I should remain silent because I should remember people aren’t perfect?

    5. I was stuck next to a middle aged woman on the CT412 recently who felt she needed to eat her strawberry yogurt on the bus. The smell was obnoxious. But ultimately I said nothing, because if you are an adult male, its pretty much impossible to say anything to anyone without automatically behing the A-hole. So why bother?

  5. Thanks Martin for the link on Island Transit, much appreciate. I am of the view that the bottom has not been hit in the Island Transit scandal, especially as multiple investigations are underway.

    As many of you know, I use Island Transit to see OLF Coupeville – hence the Flickr handle Avgeekjoe. Also, I’ve been an advocate of giving Island Transit more state money – but that’s going to be a hard sell with the current leadership in place.

    I agree with the Washington Policy Center:

    Island Transit leaders have failed to perform their duty to run this agency responsibly. Rose was “blindsided” when she heard the news of financial mismanagement. The article says the Island Transit Board also failed to review the financial statements. Both Rose and the Board assumed the agency had sound financial footing. However, Island Transit’s annual reporting to the Washington State Department of Transportation clearly show reserve funds being spent.

    Indeed. The problem is now this crisis is going to be used to argue fare-free doesn’t work (had nothing to do with the crisis), this crisis is going to be used to justify withholding funds from ALL local transit agencies (only one should be punished and restructured), and this crisis is going to harm many people. Saturday service not being on Whidbey Island? You have got to be joking… nope, that’s the immediate future and the bottom is not yet been hit.

    1. Because the appropriate way to handle mismanagement of transit agencies is to punish riders. Of course…

      1. Yeah, that’s what SUCKS about all of this. It’s time to restructure Island Transit to a more SUSTAINABLE model that services the MOST people AND the disabled community.

        It can be done. It should be done.

      2. @Joe: What specifically is unsustainable about their “model”, and what would a more sustainable one (that serves the most people and the disabled community) look like? Without some actual evidence they’re doing something wrong it’s a lot easier to believe they need money than reform.

    2. The article’s prescription appears to be that Island Transit should have gradually cut service (the whole “downward spiral of ridership losses and cuts” thing) instead of spending their reserves then cutting all at once. Whether they were right to spend the reserves or not, the article’s prescription is for killing transit, not saving it, and its purpose is jeering the agency from the sidelines, not offering solutions.

      So what’s really there in the article for you to agree with?

    3. Island Transit really needs to hire someone to make better maps and schedules. Same with Skagit Transit.

    4. I hope the Republican County Council members view Island Transit as a big wake-up call. If they had their way and Constantine didn’t veto their proposal to forestall cuts and rely on wishful thinking to plug the gap, this is exactly the situation that King County would be in a year from now.

    5. Bob Clay, transit board member and Coupeville councilman, announced the developments during a recent Town Council meeting. He said the board didn’t see regular financial statements, but that will change.

      …the board didn’t see regular financial statements!?! That’s incredible; the board is to blame and they bear complete responsibility. Financial oversight and monitoring of finances are supposed to be two of the board’s primary responsibilities, what were they doing?

  6. What a sad state our city will become when apodments are the only affordable housing being built.

    1. That is what building height restrictions buy you. The Nimbys aren’t done yet though, they want to get rid of apodments too.

      1. Charles, I have a two-part question for you. In, let’s say, the 1950’s, what was the state of height restrictions in Seattle? And, was housing more or less affordable than it is now?

      2. The 1950s had half the national population and less than half the regional population, so there was not as much competition for land and housing, and short buildings could accommodate everybody. Height restrictions came in the 1960s after the two tall buildings in Madison Park and one on Beacon Hill freaked people out. Perhaps University Tower was also part of that (was it originally built for Safeco or did Safeco buy it later?) The 1950s also had a much different economy, and workers had a greater share of profits so they could afford more. These and other differences dwarf any difference that height restrictions made.

      3. Sam,

        In 1950 no one had heard of Seattle. Now it’s a world city. Seattle 1950 Seattle 2014.

    2. Then you people made my point. RapidRider and Charles B were making the case that height restrictions singularly cause a lack of affordable housing. But, upon further inspection, a variety of factors goes into housing affordability, and height restrictions is just one of many factors.

      Question. Think of the cities in the world with the tallest residential neighborhoods. Now, are you thinking affordable or expensive?

      And with that, I rest my case.

      1. Tokyo is much larger than Seattle, and yet full of much more affordable places to live. Height alone does not make a place expensive. Height restrictions and high demand DO drive up price.

      2. Why are they tall? Either they’re in a country with a high population and little land (Hong Kong or Taipei), or a lot of people want to live in that city (New York). Either of those would drive housing prices up, and tall buildings are the effect rather than the cause.

      3. I was responding to the argument that the only thing standing in the way of affordable downtown housing is height limits. That’s simply not true.

  7. The American Conservative magazine has embarked on a new blog which looks at Urbanism from a more conservative outlook…

    “Welcome to New Urbs. Over the course of the next year, The American Conservative will be opening a discussion on how to rebuild America’s communities and sense of place by fostering humane, sustainable, and walkable built environments, made possible by a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.”

    The magazine also hosts the Center for Public Transportation, a conservative, pro-transit advocacy group…

    1. Nice. There are some pieces there representing the thoughtful conservatism we used to have in this country, and need to have again. And some that are fluffy cheerleading, as is common enough in liberal urbanist circles (or probably almost any circles you could name).

      1. I don’t know… The first post that comes up on the CPT blog contains some rationalist, “principled conservative” discussion of the excessive layers of review that lead to waste in our mass transit projects, yielding more expensive and ultimately less effective (see: Skytrain versus Link).

        But then he undermines those points with a whole lot of streetcar boosterism. I can’t for the life of me see how expensive rails with zero mobility outcomes could possibly conform to any form of conservatism.

        So then, as if to prove his conservative bona fides, he takes his frustration out on that favorite right-wing whipping boy, the (George Bush Sr.-signed) ADA.

        There’s no doubt that some post-ADA regulations have been miswritten or misimplemented, raising the cost of some public projects and making skinny infill development harder to manifest. But frankly, its details are no more absurd than any other unintended-outcome riddled legislation of the last few decades, from either side of the aisle. (The real problem is an inertia-based political culture that refuses to fix what is broken.)

        The ADA has helped to open entire cities and entire arenas of economic and social interaction to universal participation. In the long run, you would think decreasing disabled dependence on the state, be it by paratransit or by direct financial supports for those unable to access employment, would be a conservative goal. At the same time, the legislation correctly recognizes that differing physical abilities and economic realities sometimes require differing solutions; that’s why it should be easier for the disabled to access on-street parking than the general public, and why it should, for some set duration, remain free. Real solutions rather than stubborn ideological ones: I thought that was the “principled conservative” mantra.

      2. Sure, I’m holding the bar a little low so they can jump over. They have values and ideals that aren’t just negations of liberal ones, not something you can say of many self-professed conservative commentators. They find the idea that a physical public realm can lead to a better society (finding pride/meaning/belonging in a place) to align with conservative ideals. New Urbanism tends to be nostalgic, backwards-looking, and conformist; they swallow it uncritically.

        But, really, coherent reasoning from conservative impulses is uncommon enough that I’m glad to hear it even if I totally disagree with the result. It’s at least something to think about, when most political arguments aren’t.

  8. That last link (to the Pedestrian blog) is really insightful. I would encourage you to recycle that occasionally so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle..

    The last paragraph sums it up:

    “Ultimately, the two camps [Technicals and Politicals] are on the same side when it comes to supporting a transit revival. However, the strategies are diametrically opposed. Ask [Technical] Clem Tillier or Systemic Failure’s Drunk Engineer how to do it and they’ll propose modernizing the regulations, minimizing community impact through smart engineering to reduce NIMBYism, and making sure to build the most cost-effective projects in order to appeal to fiscal conservatives. Ask a political, such as Bruce McF, and he’ll propose to build locally popular projects and spread money around until there’s a critical mass of train riders willing to lobby for more cost-effective regulations. The two camps’ goal is the same, and there can be agreement on individual issues such as the need for FRA reform or support or opposition for specific projects, but the general strategies have the opposite sequences of steps.”

    That’s a really good find Martin.

  9. More climate change doom and gloom that will never happen. Is this what happens when it gets warm in Seattle for a month?

    1. No, no “global warming”. Nothing happening here. Move along, move along.

      I love this Conservative mantra, because it means they’ll fiddle while Earth burns and will be completely unready for the unavoidable catastrophes.

      And die.

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