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This is an open thread.

61 Replies to “News Roundup: Walk Extender”

  1. I want to help advocate for the healthy restructures in February and beyond while keeping the system funded. Political denizens of STB, how do I get started? Writing emails, actual letters, telling coworkers? I’m a n00b at advocacy, what helps?

    (I also fully plan to vote yes in November but if we can get something better out of this, I would like to contribute effort.)

    1. I’m getting an error when trying to post on the other thread, so if this should go there, torch it and I’ll deal with my computer another time.

    2. The pressure that we have to push back against is the pressure to never restructure anything, ever. The people behind that sentiment don’t have a large online presence but are very effective at showing up for any and all meetings where politicians are present and threatening to make those politicians’ lives miserable if they support or enable restructures. We need to be showing up at the same meetings and saying that we want more frequent and efficient bus service and we want restructures to get us there.

      One challenge is that it’s not always easy to even find out when those meetings are happening, unless you’re already plugged in. Join neighborhood and campaign mailing lists, and pay attention to the meeting schedules of both the city and county councils and the relevant committees. Another challenge, of course (and the one that often keeps me from attending) is that they often happen during work hours.

      1. Yet another challenge is the propensity of the politicians to cancel or reschedule at the last minute.

      2. Could STB help by curating a list of events? As bonus, allow signed-in users to say that they’re planning on attending? This would bring life to the Calendar tab, for one, and create a community of advocacy and mentorship-in-advocacy.

      3. Bonus: I work overnight hours so a meeting at 3PM is very much doable for me if I know about it.

        I will engage the Twitter machine to see what sorts of accounts I can follow to learn about meetings. Any recommended mailing lists? I’m less good at finding those.

    1. Canadian rail?

      How about delays of US passenger trains, including Sounder? Especially the freight delays caused by the proliferating oil and coal trains serving an endeavor that, aside from one or two states, brings absolutely nothing to either the United States in general, or the State of Washington, or, especially Seattle but filth and danger.

      Look up “Lake Magantic” online, and look at the pics. Think Seattle, but black gooey wreckage featuring scorched tall buildings, and a lot more people dead.

      Mark Dublin

      1. CN and CP are two of the Class 1 railroads in the USA. One of them owns track that is used by the Empire Builder between (I think) Minnesota and Illinois. From the story, you can see that the trackage in question is in Illinois for a state operated train.

      2. Interestingly, Amtrak can do absolutely nothing about the delays it incurs on Canadian tracks. This lawsuit is over the US tracks owned by the behemoth “Canadian National Railway” corporation.

  2. Whatever difficulty “job cultures” have relocating, it’s a lot easier for workers themselves. And when enough like-minded workers finally arrive in a place, they can make the “culture” adjust. For its usual reasons, the crucial elements of culture called “businesses” rapidly adjust.

    Twenty years ago, most of rural Washington thought espresso was a fast train in Italy. Now, all across the state, when asked for a straight espresso, the reply from the barista in a roadside stand will be “ristretto?” Equivalent of “Corvoissier or Hennessy?” for brandy.

    The income-level of the workers under discussion allows enough savings and investments to also make changes in the political culture called “voting, running for office and winning elections”- including school board positions.

    Also. article’s assumption of distinct difference between “nerds” and, say, “transit operators” is as insulting as it is false. A very large percentage of the Metro Transit workforce have a wide variety of interests, talents, and abilities- usually the saner ones. As the years pass, many of them will choose to locate in areas of one culture which they’ll help to convert into another one.

    There’s another cultural matter that present “job clusters”, especially ones with Space Needles, had best consider: An increasing number of extremely advanced, computer-savvy, highly-skilled, and politically ferocious are starting to find the increasing wealth, and the expense, social inequality, self-satisfaction and risk-aversion that grossly overblown remuneration causes suffocating.

    This really is the history of the United States- and maybe mankind. Also, Nature’s. As a guarantee of physical, political, intellectual, and culture refreshment, not only relocation, but also Death, always works.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Damn! Just checked the bottle, and you’re right! Have to break the snifter and go back to shot glasses. Prefer taste to…well, the other one. Too many years in Seattle have left me too risk-averse to take a chance by accidentally using three “s”‘s.

        Many thanks.

        Mark

    1. ” An increasing number of extremely advanced, computer-savvy, highly-skilled, and politically ferocious are starting to find the increasing wealth, and the expense, social inequality, self-satisfaction and risk-aversion that grossly overblown remuneration causes suffocating.”

      Yeah, but the self-dealing CEOs have their own lobbyists, and a bunch of them are trying to do things like eliminate democracy, so that they can keep self-dealing. So it’s a bit hard even for the extremely advanced, computer-savvy, highly-skilled, politically ferocious, and moderately wealthy to fight them. Obviously we’ll win against the self-dealing CEOs eventually, but they can put up a heck of a fight. Hopefully we won’t have to resort to guillotines, though that’s what it took in previous eras.

    2. There are a lot of reasons Buffalo, El Paso, or Las Vegas aren’t likely to ever become major technology job clusters.

      For one you have to be somewhere people actually want to live when they have a choice.

      For another having local investors for start-ups is incredibly important.

      Local business culture is important as well. Is creativity and risk taking better regarded than tradition and making safe bets? Is being involved with a failed company seen as valuable experience or a black mark?

      Sure things change, as can be witnessed by early tech clusters Boston and San Diego missing out on the internet boom so far. But start ups in both cities are on the rise and both remain major technology employment clusters.

      So while it is possible we might get knocked off our perch as one of the largest tech job clusters it is doubtful we’re likely to find ourselves at the other end of the scale any time soon.

  3. And Lookie! News thirty seconds ago announced that Nevada just outbid places like Texas for 6500 well-paid jobs at a new Tesla battery plant! What does everybody want to bet that a lot of these workers will immediately start creating a culture where their generous income will go elsewhere in Nevada than casinos?

    Mark

    1. Tesla was playing the states off against each other for the battery Gigafactory. California was in many ways the best option, but they couldn’t cut the red tape fast enough. Nevada is the next-best in location terms: Union Pacific trains can move the batteries from the Gigafactory to the Tesla Factory in a single run. Arizona would have been the third-best, followed by New Mexico. Apparently CA and AZ are still angling to get the planned *second* Gigafactory. I don’t think Texas was ever seriously in consideration, factoring in that Texas still doesn’t allow Tesla to have stores in Texas.

  4. A Park-n-ride is a Park-in-ride no matter how far this truth gets stretched.
    However, there’s one way the Bonnie Lake deal made sense:
    Pierce County sells the land but pays for final upgrades.
    Call it Carter era policy:
    {Tax credits when the credit/money is spent on energy upgrades}.
    Conservative or progressive policy? I’m not sure.
    Fewer and smaller park-n-rides rather than just more-more park-n-rides,
    buses idling, leaving nearly empty, noisy fumes, asphault drives no one enjoys to walk.
    The far better streetcar connector is 4th/5th Aves. Trust me on that. ST is halfbaked.

    1. The creation of Sounder was based on a cacement area of riders that included Bonney Lake. So ST “depended” on the P&R even if it didn’t originally own it or the shuttle bus. When Pierce Transit shrunk to exclude Bonney Lake, ST had to either take over that shuttle, lose those riders and their fare revenue, or find its station P&Rs more full. It decided to take over the shuttle. Now PT has a P&R outside its service area that it’s trying to liquidate. It makes some sense for ST to take it over because it’s mostly ST riders using it, and it’s part of Sounder’s cachement area. It’s not a large construction expense because the P&R is already there, and PT is paying for the maintenance backlog, so the only ongoing expense will be annual operations for a surface lot. The money all comes from the Pierce subarea, so what it’s cutting into is more Sounder service, accellerated Link to Tacoma, and more Tacoma streetcars. Piercians are probably more interested in preserving existing service before adding new service.

  5. A new $20 million dollar pedestrian and bike bridge 500 feet away from the recently built 36th/31st overpass? Why can’t people just walk or bike to the nearby overpass, which, according to one publication, was designed to be “an enjoyable environment for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

    And $20 million for a pedestrian bridge? Do I have that right? Didn’t the overpass cost $40 million?

    1. It’s actually more like 800 feet according to Google Maps (assuming the new bridge would be in line with 152nd). But still, I don’t know where the “up to a mile” figure came from. At most, it would save about 2,000 feet.

      1. The bridge will connect 152nd with south of 31st, so it’ll be about 2,000 feet of saved walking/biking distance. That’s a fair amount, in the 5-10 minute range depending on how quickly someone walks.

    2. Drew, I’m measuring the distance from the proposed pedestrian bridge entrance to the entrance of 36th street overpass. That distance is just over 500 feet.

      Big picture time. This is Redmond wanting to keep its biggest tenant happy.

      1. You’re neglecting, though, how the 36th Street Bridge runs diagonal across 520, meaning the distance on the west side is greater than that on the east side. And also, there’s a hill in the way. What’s more, this is on the very southern edge of the Microsoft campus, with several other tech companies near the entrance to the bridge. I can point to a half-dozen ped/bike improvements that’re more necessary than this bridge… but it’s still a good thing.

      2. It’s about an extra half-mile to go around the bridge. Multiply by 2 (for morning and afternoon), and the bridge saves you about a mile of walking each day, if your home is one side and your work on the other.

    3. The NE 36th St overpass cost $30 million, but Microsoft paid $17.5 million of that. Microsoft is also kicking in the entire cost of the OTC bridge, so if Redmond wants to build a ped bridge to Overlake P&R Station, I’d say that’s still a pretty good deal for them.

  6. San Fran is the most productive city because it so happened that a unique collection of nerds coalesced there starting in the 1960’s.

    This is so painfully inane, it’s hard to read before lunch time.

    Where do I begin?

    Nerds in the 1960s coalesced at MIT in Boston, not San Francisco. They also coalesce, and continue to do so, in some of the remotest places of all. College campuses, military and government research and corporate research parks like Bell Labs and Xerox.

    The last time a city produced technological innovation was the turn of century, the last century, 1900, when both Edison and Tesla worked in NYC..and eventually Edison moved away to Menlo Park. NASA, Intel, the Jet Propulsion Labs, IBM, Univac…these were all in the far suburbs or rural areas.

    Steve Jobs began Apple in a suburban garage, not a high rise condo. The only place where scientists live in pied a terres is in the movies, like The Avengers or Fantastic Four. Why does Hollywood insist on scientists living in high rises when nearly all of them work in low 2 story buildings in the suburbs? I can’t explain it any more than I can explain the pervasive forced urbanism of Washington State, SLOG and STB!

      1. There’s a terrible case in point. I imagine they are locating it remotely due to the extremely dangerous nature of the raw materials and products produced. Would you want that place down the street from your house?

      2. I expect the reason it will be in Nevada is that they’re paying the biggest bribe. Kind of how our state legislators bribe Boeing to keep it from moving out.

      3. And, John, it’s a factory, not a research center. Sure, the scientists will have to go there from time to time, but they won’t be living in the sand.

      4. Tesla’s locating their battery factory (a) near the only US lithium mine and near the biggest lithium deposits in the US, and (b) on a direct rail line to their car factory, and on a direct highway route to their car factory.

        Yeah, kind of obvious for supply-chain reasons. R&D is probably still gonna be in Calfornia.

      5. I lived in Reno before I moved to Seattle, I know exactly where that possible Tesla factory site is, and it is nowhere close to being in “the middle of the Nevada desert” – it’s fifteen minutes’ drive from the center of town! Imagine driving to Seatac, if you replaced Georgetown and Tukwila with a bunch of rocks and sagebrush. It is literally the closest place you could build a large new factory which needed access to a railroad line.

    1. Neither the distinction between suburb and city nor the similarity between suburb and rural area is all that important for working purposes. Auto-suburbia was the ascendant form of city building when Silicon Valley started, and of course the forces pushing manufacturing to rural areas have only increased since then. For the purposes of everything but mass-production of devices, Silicon Valley’s story is basically one of how a city in this form has grown — it’s a fundamentally urban story: new enterprises from existing people and infrastructure, self-reinforcing growth, sustenance of a distinct culture… all springing from an urban form with lots of highways in it. And the challenges it faces now are undeniably urban challenges.

      A physical inventor has multiple geographical needs. One is the need to attract talented people to work with. Projects at university sites are hardly rural — a significant university is doubtless a city unto itself. Another is the need for space to build and test things. Indeed, this means physical inventors mostly aren’t looking at downtown high-rise space. Certainly not in the incorporated city of SF, with its astronomical prices and massive civic dysfunction (in both private and public sectors).

      When people talk about SF this way they include the whole bay area, as if it’s one big city. In some ways it is one big city (there are certainly cultural threads that pervade the whole thing), though the Stanford-Cal axis is more central to its business culture aspects than anything in SF. Even the critical venture capital sites (finance being a traditional high-rise sector) weren’t in SF. Some people that write about this sort of thing are loathe to ascribe any cultural centrality and significance to a place as un-cool as the peninsula suburbs, but it’s hard to claim that the city’s current tech boom isn’t an echo of the valley’s repeated success.

      Software innovation doesn’t need the physical space hardware innovation does, so the software industry was primed to move to high-rises once that form of city-building became ascendant again, and now software people call the bay area SF again. In that sense software is more like publishing or fashion than semiconductors. And, accordingly, software people (disclaimer: I’m one) have broadcast their wacky cultural styles, politics, and fashion to the world like publishing or fashion magnates.

    2. “a unique collection of nerds coalesced there starting in the 1960’s”

      I thought there was this thing called hippies in the 60s that played a larger role.

      My family lived in the San Jose-Palo Alto area from the 50s till the early 70s, and I was a kid there in the latter part. Santa Clara Valley (not Silicon Valley) was orchards and small cities, then it went massively into suburban expansion, and the population doubled. High-tech companies were present but not the majority influence; it was a wide variety of postwar prosperity. “Suburban” is perhaps not the right word because San Jose was mostly a separate city and job market from San Francisco at that time, like Tacoma was from Seattle. It’s more accurate to say that the residents turned the valley into the “American dream city” (Le Corbusierian model, or as locals called it, “Town-and-country style”). The primary push may have been developers wanting to cash in on land, rather than citizens’ demand, but I’m not sure about that. What I do know is, they wanted to keep San Francisco density away. Tech proceeded underground and in labs and manufacturers, but didn’t become a major force until two decades later.

      “Steve Jobs began Apple in a suburban garage, not a high rise condo.”

      That is a point, but he also didn’t begin it in Moses Lake or a Wenatchee farm. The “suburban garage” and his friends growing up, and the education he received and the resources available to him, only existed because of (1) the Stanford-Menlo Park core planted a century earlier, and (2) the enormous suburban expansion around him that coincided with his lifetime.

      The “high rise condo” part is also significant. The best incubator of ideas and business models would be an inexpensive urban neigborhood of apartments and condos and maybe some houses, with a well-educated population. That would bring the maximum number of people together in both intentional ways (groups) and unintentional ways (encounters in supermarkets, buses, sidewalks). That allows more idea-sharing and generation than in a low-density suburban neighborhood like Steve Jobs had. Also, people spend less time in isolated bubbles called cars, which are the opposite of this synergy. This almost describes the urban neighborhoods in San Francisco and Seattle and other places except for one thing: inexpensive. John is right that only a few people can afford a high-rise condo, and the overhead of the work you must do to pay $2000+/month for it may interfere with your ability to collaborate and generate ideas, or to take a job at a struggling startup. So what we need is enough urban areas with good walkability and transit — in both large cities and small cities — that the price premium for these areas disappears. And we had it in the 1920s when every neighborhood and town was a “streetcar suburb”, and only farmers and the rich lived in isolated dwellings.

    3. Manufacturers do not usually go to rural areas. They go to the edge of suburban rings, which are already transitioning from rural. The Kent Valley’s manufacturing coincided with its growth in housing, and I assume it was the Kent City Council who recruited the manufacturers and developers to locate there, rather than manufacturers forcing the council to allow them.

      However, Kent is only twelve miles out. The suburban ring now extends forty miles out. It’s doubtful that new manufacturers will locate that far, because it would be hard to recruit workers, and the managers need to schmooze with business contacts in the city and inner suburbs. There is plenty of room in Bothell, Issaquah, Kent, Lynnwood, and Everett to absorb any additional manufacturing facilities that may be required over the next century. There’s also SODO, Interbay, and lower Ballard for smaller facilities.

  7. That post by The Urbanist reminds me how STB was in the good old days. I miss the heavy rail updates, the Link countdown clock, the fantasy maps…

    1. As soon as they announce a firm date for the FH SC, and for the U-Link and Angle Lake extentions we could have 3 countdown clocks — enough to satisfy just about anyone.

      Things are a happening in the greater Seattle area.

      1. A lot is happening! And this blog used to be *the* go-to source for everything transit related in the region. I can read about development and land use anywhere. STB seems more interested in hyperbolic Roger Valdez style opinion pieces these days, unfortunately…

      2. I’m not sure what STB what you’ve been reading, or what you’re reading now. We’ve always had a fraction of our posts focused on land use, and that remains the same today.

        Moreover, authors write about what they’re interested in. If there’s some story you wish was here, it’s because no one cares enough to write it, including you.

  8. And still no concrete evidence from the anti-helmet people that helmet laws are bad. Just a bunch of [citation needed] opinions (the data is overwhelming!!!; yet no data actually cited).

    Seems like if they put their energy into more positive things, like more protected bike lanes, cycle tracks and bike trails, they would find that it’s not helmet laws that hold people back, it’s lack of infrastructure and perception of safety.

    1. The opposite is true as well. The pro helmet people argue cycling with helmets is so much safer. However it ultimately is a bit of a faith based exercise as for a lot of cycle accidents a little bit of styrofoam cooler strapped to the head isn’t going to do much. Furthermore the net negatives of helmet laws aren’t considered such as increases in obesity and heart attacks due to such laws discouraging cycling.

      Indeed if the number of head injuries and deaths due to head trauma by pedestrians or car drivers and passengers was ever considered on the same basis as it has been for cyclists then there would be mandatory helmet laws for all pedestrians, drivers, and passengers.

    2. What are you talking about? The concrete evidence is that the number one most important factor in bicycling safety is the number of people bicycling – more cyclists means more safety, whether or not they are wearing helmets while they ride.

      Helmets are a fine thing and I’m certainly not going to discourage people from wearing them, but if a *mandatory helmet-wearing law* discourages people from riding, we should absolutely scrap it in order to improve safety for all bicyclists.

    1. Speaking of Uber, how have they, so far, managed to get out of collection sales tax (at least in states like Washington that have such a tax)?

  9. I’m confused about the cuts, theres the September cuts, then theres the cuts next year that even if voters approve the measure in November will just delay the second round of cuts by a few months but will still go through?!? Do I have that right??? If so, that could be a huge problem for its passage, if not, that message better be cleared up fast with the general public.

    1. The answer to your question is “no, the cuts don’t happen.”

      For a more technical answer, read on: King County Metro doesn’t automatically get a bag of money from the City of Seattle if Seattle voters say yes in November. Should the vote pass, Metro will delay the February and subsequent cuts so that the City of Seattle (technically, the Seattle Transportation Benefit District) and the Metropolitan King County Council can work out a contract where Seattle will, on paper, officially, be paying Metro to run certain routes inside the City of Seattle. This is just how Bridging the Gap funds buys extra service on, say, route 41, but on a much larger scale. In the HIGHLY unlikely event that a contract can’t be worked out, yes, the cuts still happen, but the odds of that happening are about as good as Sam from SeattleTransitBlog being elected Mayor this fall (0%, he’s not running, there’s no mayoral election, and he lives in BellevueTheGreatestCityOnEarthExceptKent).

      So, no, if Seattle votes yes in November, the cuts don’t happen.

    2. If the vote passes, Seattle will have money to compensate for the remaining three rounds. The council will formally defer the cuts till June. That’s to give time for the city and Metro come up with a plan to supercede the cuts. The June deadline should never be reached because that would imply the city and Metro had failed to come to an agreement, which is not plausable. This isn’t Republicans vs Democrats in the Senate; it’s two groups who have the same goal and mostly agree on how to go about it, there are just some questions on details.

      The biggest issue is how many hours will go to which legacy routes, and how many hours will go to reorganizations. It’s the city paying, so Metro will probably do whatever the city wants. It then comes down to how much the city council will stand up for long-term network improvements vs how much it will cave to status-quo advocates.

      This round of route PDFs makes explicit the distinction between “good reorganizations” and “bad reorganizations” I’ve been harping about. The good reorganizations are described as, “Reduced as part of a group of routes that are being changed to make them more efficient and to preserve service for the most riders.” (#2) The bad reorganizations are described as, “Reduced and restructured because of Metro’s funding shortage.” (#125) So we want the good reorganizations to go through and the bad reorganizations to be reversed.

      1. I’d be very surprised if we see any meaningful reductions to the post-September Seattle service pattern. The enabling legislation for the proposed tax says that it’s principal purpose is the preservation of existing service, explicitly calling out the February restructures as something to be avoided. It’s hard for me to imagine the courts accepting a “we had to destroy the village to save it” argument. Activists have been pretty successful at preventing restructures without a lever like that. Neither Seattle nor King County have a spare pot of money to spend litigating. Unless/until Metro stops depending on Plan D, restructures will have to be restricted to the suburbs.

      2. So you’re saying we should vote against the measure, then?

        My longstanding nausea about paying more for the same old cap is unabated.

      3. @d.p. I don’t live in Seattle, so my opinion doesn’t count. If I did, I’d probably hold my nose and vote for it, just as I did for plan B.

      4. William, the pessimist in me wants to agree, but the optimist in me should point out that both Mayor Murray and Councilmember Rasmussen disagree with that interpretation. Both are open to a certain degree of restructuring. The challenge for restructure advocates is to match the advocacy of the status-quo side.

        d.p., if the restructures come together with substantial service cuts that in some cases reduce capacity well below the level needed based on existing ridership data, you will never get a restructure in this city ever again. . Vote yes, and continue banging the pro-restructure drum. It does occasionally work (see 120, B Line, 345/346/347/348).

  10. Has anyone else “gotten” the absurdity of the “Well buses can be moved and rail can’t” argument, given the jihad-level resistance to any rationalization of existing bus service?

  11. It’s a shame that the Seattle Transit blog hates the Times so much that it feels the need be critical of some very positive coverage of walk commuting. And the criticism is pretty silly, to boot.

    1. “Transit is an excellent walk extender”? But if they’re taking transit, they’re taking transit to work, not walking, aren’t they? (not sure how serious I am about this)

      1. If you live, for example, a mile from rapid transit, you can get many of the benefits of walking to work even though you’re nowhere near it.

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