3 buses, 3 transit agencies

This is an open thread.

109 Replies to “News Roundup: Preliminary”

  1. “Electric cars not really very clean.” Reading the story, they are very clean if you live in Seattle. And only a little cleaner than a Prius C if you live in Bellevue. Wait, that’s still pretty clean, right?

    1. And let’s not forget the overall picture of electric vehicles in the first place – they’re flexible at the source energy. Sure, Puget Sound Energy doesn’t use the amazing 98% renewable energy sources that Seattle does. Yet. Unlike a gasoline engine, an electric system can be made more green overnight, and without the user even noticing.

      1. There’s no “probably” about it – the cost of a Tesla is so far out of my reach I don’t even bother fantasizing about buying one, but installing solar panels on my house cost all of $15k.

    2. Also worth noting that if everyone drove electric vehicles, people would inhale a lot less particulate from car exhaust. That alone would have a huge impact on public heath.

    3. Electric vehicles may not be clean in the aggregate if their source fuel is dirty, but they make a huge difference in local air quality. As a person who bikes to work, electric cars are the difference between sucking exhaust and breathing clean on my commute.

      1. Local air quality as long as “local” means in your neighborhood that doesn’t have a coal power plant in it. There are a couple of those right in the middle of dense residential neighborhoods in Chicago (Pilsen and Little Village), and based on the experience there this idea that pollution at a centralized source can be easily sequestered is… highly academic. It appears the same is true at Costrip, Montana, though without so many people living right at the doorstep.

        The idea that if impacts of urban behavior are pushed off into another place that urbanites can forget about them is bogus. It’s the attitude that despoils our rural areas and urban industrial zones with garbage dumps, waterways poisoned with chemical runoff, and these sorts of power plants.

    4. My comment on SLOG in response to the article:

      You say “electric cars” but in this discussion you seem only to refer to “battery cars”.

      An electric car can be defined as one whose wheels are turned by an electric motor.

      And that motor can be powered in different ways.

      A Tesla or Leaf is powered solely by many sets of batteries, charged from the standard grid.

      However, the electric motor can also be powered by an onboard fuel cell, which in turn is powered by hydrogen. The processes for generating hydrogen are many, from stream reforming to lab methods like artificial leaves.

      With both battery and hydrogen electric cars, there are no pollutants at the “tailpipe”. The pollution, if there is any, is centralized. That means, at worse, there is a better chance to isolate and capture it, rather than spewing it into each others faces as cars sit in traffic, or pass by schools.


      1. Hydrogen production and distribution in the US will primarily be derived from Natural Gas or other fossil fuels http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_production . The conversion is not efficient and releases GHG’s to the atmosphere. If classic electrolysis is used, then the electricity used is likely generated from fossil fuels.

        Here is an article that discusses the “controversy” about the green cred of electric vehicles and given current electricity production methods, does lead to a net emission cost per electric vehicle. But it is still substantially less than most any fossil fuel car. And the prospects will continue in a downward trend as the nation’s grid takes on more and more renewable energy. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1084440_does-the-tesla-model-s-electric-car-pollute-more-than-an-suv

        Indeed, the prospect a grid powered by renewables and stabilized by energy storage is precisely the game plan envisioned AND being executed by Elon Musk via 2 of his companies. Tesla and SolarCity. http://www.forbes.com/sites/uciliawang/2013/12/05/solarcity-next-move-bundling-teslas-batteries-with-solar/

        This offers this country a concrete path away from dependence on fossil fuels and drives innovation, keeps more of our dollars on this continent and creates jobs here at home.

    5. All of this only counts air pollution. It doesn’t count noise.

      Power generation is obviously a huge source of pollution in many areas. However, much can be done to recapture energy at large power plants, making them vastly more efficient than the smaller engines used in autos.

      Plop a combined cycle plant into the Seattle Steam plant, and you get district heating as well as electricity from the same bit of fuel. Such plants can get 80% useful energy out of a fuel. Auto sized engines are down in the 25-30% range.

      1. Hey, we could put a neighborhood parking garage around it and locate them every couple blocks, and then the houses wouldn’t need garages or driveways or the space they take up.

      2. @Mike: This is essentially like the pattern of every large apartment or condo complex, except preserving the interior public streets of a typical neighborhood. At the level of density, car ownership, and infrastructure intensity common in most Seattle neighborhoods, an example might be the condos bordered by Fremont, 48th, Linden, and 49th. These condos have the unfortunate feature that the only side with a door is Fremont Ave — they show what amounts to fences and walls to 48th and 49th, and apropos to your idea, a whole block of garage doors to Linden.

        Now surely you don’t have to devote a whole side of a block to garage entrances! Well, if you consolidated the entrances you’d need interior aisles, which take up more space. That might be worth doing if you can’t just use a side street as your parking aisle, or if you’re going to sink the garage below street level and need a ramp of some kind, but that indicates more density, intensity, and up-front cost. The row of garage doors consolidates driveways cheaply at-grade, like an alley does. And there are lots of neighborhoods in lots of American cities with alley parking (instead of curb-cut driveways).

        The benefit to getting car storage out of individual units in the abstract is that you can shrink the width of side streets and lots and bring everything a little closer together, but in Seattle most of the side streets are already built and the lots already plotted. This isn’t something that could be added incrementally. So among recent developments that I’ve biked through with new streets and small buildings… Rainier Vista (the new residences near Columbia City Station, not the UW viewpoint undergoing a mediocre rebuild) is mostly townhouses with alley parking and no curb cuts. New Holly has a mixture of townhomes and SFH, and a mixture of alley parking and curb-cut driveways. High Point is heavier on the SFH and curb cuts, but has some alley parking, too. So it looks like alley parking is the prevailing pattern for incrementally stepping up residential density without intense structured parking. We’ll probably see a bunch of similar stuff in suburban infill around Link extensions… and if a development is intense enough to have structured parking it will probably itself be a multi-story apartment or condo building.

    6. Yeah, the link title you used to the electric car article — and the headline for the article — are FUD.

      The article itself is fine, and mainly focuses on the awful old coal-burning PSE plant. It’s the headline and link title which are terrible.

      Electric cars are pretty clean if you have the sense to get clean power. Which most electric car owners do (there’s actually a strong correlation between electric car ownership and solar panel installation). Here in upstate NY, I’m paying for 100% renewable energy mostly from Niagara Falls…

      Even if you’re getting dirty power east of the Cascades, it turns out the Tesla’s better than the Prius (read the article).

      1. There is a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and toxic pollution by burning trash rather than coal. Convert the PSE plant to a trash burner, and you also eliminate the decay of trash in landfills, which releases methane (4x more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Trying to get the existing inertia to change are a different matter.

      2. Incinerators considered unenvironmental. (The Zero Waste Solution, by Paul Connett). He says incinerators release greenhouse gases all at once rather than gradually, and it’s as difficult to capture them as it is with burning coal. He also says incinerators are expensive and bust the budgets of smaller cities that have installed them. He recommends focusing on composting, and scaling up recycling to things we don’t do now like fabrics, and putting appliance repair shops right in front of transfer stations, and designing things to not have waste byproducts in the first place.

      3. The real question isn’t whether electric cars are better than gas cars or hybrids. The question is whether electric cars can make driving everywhere sustainable. If so, people with the money can buy an electric car and rest easy, at least regarding transportation. Obviously food and buildings still contribute massively to energy use and emissions, obviously sustainability is not a fixed goal, and obviously no individual living in a clearly unsustainable society can claim to be living a sustainable life — truly nobody can rest easy while we pollute at levels we know are unsustainable. But if car culture and car-centric infrastructure can be redeemed by electrics, then electric cars could be an effective environmental strategy for mass mobility.

        So is buying an electric car an effective environmental strategy or a conspicuous consumption greenwash strategy? The answer appears to be, “Not enough of the former to escape a large amount of the latter.” Reducing the amount we drive is still more important than what kind of car we drive.

      4. “The real question isn’t whether electric cars are better than gas cars or hybrids. The question is whether electric cars can make driving everywhere sustainable.”

        No, of course not. But we’re going to need electric cars in rural (low-population) areas. Because mass transit does not work when there’s no “mass”.

        And there’s a lot of rural areas in the US.

  2. City in Chile considers installing a gondola for emergency response in case of an earthquake (doubling as a tourist line in the mean time). The article mentions that Portland’s tram, also running to a hospital, is built beyond US seismic standards.

    1. From the time LINK hit the drawing boards, I’ve wondered to what extent the lines could carry rescue and supplies to hard-to-access places like Capitol and Beacon Hill. Watching the cranes bring material in and out of very deep station areas, I really hoped some thought had been given to keeping shafts and lift equipment quickly convertible for quake relief.

      Would like to be confirmed or corrected in my sense that tunnels as deep as ours would likely survive an earthquake that would wreck the neighborhoods above them. Likewise, even through badly damaged surface neighborhoods, tracks would be easier to clear, and material and machinery easier to move than trying to clear street lanes.

      Just a thought.


      1. I think Link would probably be quite useful after a catastrophe, with the caveat of power. Unless we have very, very large backup generators for Link if city power ever goes out then so does train service. I’ll bet there are backup generators for lights and maybe even elevators, but I’d be surprised if we have enough capacity for trains.

        Gondolas, on the other hand, generally have a backup diesel motor that kicks on automatically when the power goes out.

      2. tunnels will be fine. Double arches are perhaps the sturdiest, strongest architectural element that can be found

  3. The few Metro meetings I’ve been to the representatives made a point of noting what bus routes they rode regularly and what bus route they all rode to come over to the meeting. It was a point well made that they actually used the system almost everyone in the audience was reliant on.

  4. Regarding the impact fees, quote from the article: “Under current law, the fees can’t be used for public transit like buses and light-rail.”

    Of course they can’t. It seems like the only fees or taxes or any other revenue sources usable for funding public transit are ones deemed so toxic that virtually no one will vote them in. For once, John Bailo and I agree on something: if we can’t fund transit with property taxes, why can’t it have a mixture of sources?

    (Also, “light rail” doesn’t have a hyphen, Seattle Times…)

    1. Of course we can pay for transit with property taxes: they are part of cities’ and counties’ general unrestricted revenue streams. For capital expenses, there’s literally nothing other than voters’ reluctance and overall credit limits to prevent the use of property tax backed bonds without even having any effect on the levy lids.

      Impact fees are different, and a horrible idea. They are basically a requirement that new residents buy into Seattle, while existing residents don’t pay their fair share of the costs associated with growth — growth that makes everyone better off. The state allows them, but at least makes an effort to ensure that the fees are used only for basic capital projects, and only to the extent necessitated by new development. I’d be happier in a world where they were just not allowed. Given that they are allowed, I’d be happier if a somewhat broader set of projects — one that included capital expenses for new transit, new jails, new public libraries, and the like. But as things go, the current restrictions are a petty annoyance compared to other things that are wrong with our funding systems.

    2. Brave people have a history of rendering “Current” into “Ante-Bellum” law when necessity arises. Apologies to pigeons in desperate need of public bathrooms, but future pro transit adjustments won’t give you seats on feathered hats sitting on horses anymore.

      Just be satisfied with Tukwila International roof. Remember, all those years on the Chicago ‘El, even poor passengers had to be satisfied with less food from pistachio nut machines didn’t get fed every tie a coin clicks.


  5. I have an honest question. If the greatest threats to mankind are parking lots and culdesacs, as some claim, how come the top news stories are about ISIS and ebola?

    1. Brave people have a history of rendering “Current” into “Ante-Bellum” law when necessity arises. Apologies to pigeons in desperate need of public bathrooms, but future pro transit adjustments won’t give you seats on feathered hats sitting on horses anymore.

      Just be satisfied with Tukwila International roof. Remember, all those years on the Chicago ‘El, even poor passengers had to be satisfied with less food from pistachio nut machines didn’t get fed every tie a coin clicks.


    2. Easy one, Sam. ISIS and ebola are cynical attempts to distract our people from cul de sacs and parking lots. Everybody knows that.

      Now it is remotely possible that there’s a connection between more than 60 years’ need to take the petroleum required for current land uses out of a permanently dangerous part of the world keeps us in permanent war that kills many more people than ebola.

      But a single night’s listening to KIRO radio after midnight will demonstrate irrefutably that real reason for distracting attention from cul-de-sacs is that all of them are saucer landing fields- as witness the home design as well.

      And like everything else from that source, everybody knows that THEY, and especially current administration, don’t want you to know.


    3. Sam, for decades the top news story has been, over and over again, “MISSING 20-SOMETHING WHITE WOMAN”. This doesn’t mean that this is even slightly important. News has a bias towards senstionalism, not real problems.

  6. Change the law to allow impact fees to fund public transit and charge away! It’s boggled my mind for many years that Seattle developers are able to do so much without giving a cent back to the infrastructures and communities that make their occupations possible.

    Although unless the state legislature changes demographics, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

    1. This should be for transit capital projects though. I don’t want service money drying up when the construction boom ends.

    2. I think the right form of taxation to add transit to a specific area of development is a transit benefit district fee. If transit benefits the city as a whole, it seems unfair to have only the new residents pay.

      Remember, anything you charge to developers doesn’t really come out of their pockets – it comes out of the pockets of the new residents (and existing renters). A developer won’t start a project without enough profit, and adding fees just pushes off projects until rents can justify them. Like with most things, there’s no free lunch.

      1. Either developers have already lost their minds, or (more likely) the present mega-development financing model is already so absurdly broken as to make further upward pressure on set rents impossible to imagine.

        The new superbuildings at Market/15th and Market/24th are charging just shy of $2,000 for embarrassingly small and terribly arranged units, in projects both charmless and inconveniently arranged. The former is an objectively unattractive setting.

        Even with all the tech money flowing into Ballard, these units have proven very tough sells. Because the value just isn’t there.

        I haven’t a clue whether the present price point reflects the immutable consequences of land acquired at inflated 2008 prices, of recessionary delays and debts, and of building way too much parking, or if developers have merely overpromised their financiers a “luxury” image and an improbable rate of return on each signed contract.

        But I do know that when I can rent a place twice the size in a (well-maintained) pre-annexation building in the actual center of Ballard for hundreds of dollars less, it means Urbana Apartments is being priced by wishful thinking rather than by rational, elastic market forces.

        My point? Blaming real or hypothetical “impact fees” is a red herring. Financing and value-setting is clearly already quite cronked.

      2. Interesting. I have a feeling that if it were on Capitol Hill it would be mostly full. One thing I notice is that the kind of people who have $80K+ salaries to rent those places value living within a few blocks of work. So in my area people cite the closeness to Amazon, and I’ve heard of an Apodment on Eastlake that supposedly rents for $1300 — I imagine that’s only possible if it’s within five blocks of Amazon. So maybe what Ballard needs is a major employer to anchor those apartments.

        By the way, what’s the terrible arrangement?

      3. I meant that the buildings are so cruddily designed that it can take 5+ minutes just to get from your unit to the street. And half the time that involves traversing some cavernous concrete parking infrastructure, whether you want to or not.

        Fremont and SLU tech money is definitely responsible for some high-priced units that have rented in Ballard. But vacancies still run high in these delusionally-priced buildings with tiny apartments in shit locations, and their corporate overlords show no sign of “correcting” or demonstrating the “elasticity” that free-market purists like to claim as inevitable.

      4. Oh, and my hunch is that some of Capitol Hill’s flimsiest new megaconstructions also have much higher vacancies than they’d like you to believe.

      5. And why do I have the sinking feeling that instead the landlord corporations charging less for the vacant units, it’ll instead involve the taxpayers getting screwed (those buildings are too big to fail!)?

      1. Would ask what the shortest distance is where Maglev becomes economical. Also lowest speed. I get the sense that a train leaving Washington for Baltimore would come screaming into Montreal before track brakes took hold.

        Tempted to see technology used for fossil fuel cars, especially the Bakken oil that God is really ticked about losing, since He was saving it all to power Hell. With tubes passing under capitals of states that support such things, just in case somebody miscalculated energy in two miles of canned oil.

        But especially if underground ROW is safer and more efficient than surface, Maglev would be better for general freight than for passengers. Even though average passenger stopped looking out the window as soon as Kindle and i-whatever arrived, I personally could quit complaining if every inch of the whole train was wrapped.


      2. Mark: from what we can tell from the international examples, Maglev is simply never economical. A bit like the Concorde.

      3. I think the Concorde actually was profitable, due to a combination of prestige and business travelers wanting to get across the Atlantic as fast as possible. That says nothing about maglev, though; the Concorde didn’t have to construct its own right-of-way!

      4. @Mark Dublin:

        Maglev is moved forward by alternating magnetic propulsion driven by electric current.

        It uses regenerative braking — alternating the electromagnets to reduce speed — and converting motion back into electricity.

        So you could in theory break it as quickly as you sped it up — and recapture a percentage of the energy in the process!

    1. Oh, and some say the bike he was riding didn’t have any brakes. Frighteningly, there may be bicyclists out there riding at high speed without any brakes!

      1. Not totally sure as I wasn’t there, but as a cyclist, this guy sounds like the guy that killed the woman in a crosswalk running a red light in SF: a crazy idiot that deserves jail time.

      2. Yep, if the story is accurate, charges and jail time are appropriate. And Vulnerable User statutes should apply even when one vulnerable user hits another (in this case, a person biking hitting a person walking).

      3. I support serious criminal charges and prosecutions of those who violate the law in ways that needlessly risk human life while piloting dangerous machines, including the occasional man-bites-dog cyclist.

    2. As someone who bicycles (rather slowly) along the Soos Creek Trail, I am often horrified by combination of families with small children, walking, dawdling, crawling, squatting across the entire width of the path, sometimes around blind curves and high speed velodrome style racers speeding up behind people with only last minute warnings.

      I suggest installation of better signage, lowered speed limits for bike, and a stripe dividing it to show two-way traffic.

      1. I think separating bike and pedestrian traffic makes a lot of sense on areas that serve as major bike routes. It would be really handy for bike riders if the speed limit on I-5 was dropped to 20 MPH and bikes were allowed. But that just doesn’t make sense from a transportation standpoint. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense for bike speed limits to be dropped to a ridiculously low level, when there is no safe alternative route.

        Which is not to say that your specific recommendations aren’t valid. I don’t know the area, and I do know that in the short term, it may make sense to just drop the overall speed limit. But in the long term, separation is the answer (parts of the Burke-Gliman are undergoing this change close to the UW).

        All that being said, I think bike/pedestrian accidents are rare, while bike/car accidents aren’t. I don’t have the statistics to support that, but my guess is that from a safety standpoint, we should do everything we can to encourage bike riders to use bike paths that don’t interact with cars. That may mean that from a safety standpoint, the last thing we want to do is lower the speed limit on a bike path, because that might send a biker into traffic, and thus increase the chance of injury (or death).

  7. Mexico’s first urban gondolas are opening in Mexico City in 2015. There will be two lines and seven stations. http://en.leitner-ropeways.com/Home/LEITNER-ropeways-is-constructing-the-first-urban-ropeway-project-in-Mexico

    Gem of a NIMBY Letter to the Mercer Island Reporter opposing a Sound Transit “bus terminal.” Quotes include “bus demolition derby” and suggestion that an overpass could collapse.

    1. BTW: if you do want a bus demolition derby, TriMet is auctioning off 41 of their oldest fleet today.

    2. The letter is NIMBY enough [albeit in a somewhat more nuanced way than usual] without gross exaggeration. The quote is actually “it will be like a ‘demolition derby'” [And even that, out of context sounds stronger than the letter]. It also includes the quote “We should be negotiating for improved bus service on the Island, to reduce the need for Islanders to drive to the Town Center.”

    3. The agglomeration of Mexico City, with around 22 million inhabitants, is one of the largest and fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world.

      Because the infrastructure has not grown at the same pace as the population …

      Understatement of the week?

  8. Is anyone here going to the APTA expo and convention? Not only will it have a bunch of transit technology stuff on display, but they are also having some “Livable and Sustainable Communities” seminars.

    1. On Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, one of the elements in a “don’t walk” sign burned out, so that for many years instead of the “don’t walk” hand it showed instead the “hang loose” hand gesture. It got replaced when the intersection was rebuilt a couple of years ago.

      1. @Kyle S.

        Haha, agreed. It might be a nice little train station suburb… eventually…

        I suspect the hotel concept is fairly sound. Just one station away from the airport for folks forced to lay over… if the hotels right next to the airport are full.

        I am just glad to see something going in there there besides the park and ride and the federal penitentiary.

      2. Nice little train station suburb? Between 99, the planned 509 extension (currently on hold due to lack of funds, but WSDOT has fenced off the ROW), and the airport, this will be a noisy, traffic-choked, disconnected place for a long time.

      3. The presence of the prison is going to prevent this from being an attractive neighborhood for a *long* time.

      4. I actually don’t think the Federal detention center is that big a deal. It’s not surrounded by a swath of abandonment, and neither is SCORE just down the hill from it. Maybe software millionaires looking to get their new homes featured on urbnlivn won’t build there, but these aren’t the people that will make it a “nice little train station suburb” anyway.

        The area extended from SeaTac’s runways is a swath of abandonment, and so is the planned course of 509. Those things, and the scale of 99, are the things that will hold back the station area.

      1. If that doesn’t bother the SeaTac city council, why should it bother the rest of us? The FAA has to be somewhere, and it makes sense for it to be next to the airport. Also, what other large taxpaying developer is the FAA displacing? The Ballard Fred Meyer is ugly and car-oriented, but it did bring a department store to an area that didn’t have one, on a parcel that no other developer had wanted for a decade.

    1. Conventioneers don’t use the existing station that was built for them. They don’t go from the airport directly to the convention center; they go to their hotel first. Westlake Station is only three blocks away. The underground facility could have a pedestrian tunnel to the station. But don’t expect it to be approved because those pedestrians should be on the sidewalks being part of the “interesting, changing retail environment for pedestrians”. And as anyone who’s seen the hundreds of conventioneers on certain weekends knows, they do that (walking on the sidewalks) quite well, and willingly.

      1. The train doesn’t go to Convention Place Station anyway, so they couldn’t use the service even if it was actually “built for them”.

      2. +1

        It might have been a nice addition for locals, but really the convention station is one of the most underused ones in the bus tunnel.

        I’d be more interested in finding out how they intend to connect the existing convention center to the annex.

    2. Three entire square blocks, for the sole purpose of competing for fewer than a dozen annual mega-conventions… and losing out on most of them, because the supply is finite and every dumb city tries this.

      Convention bureaus these days are giving the sports-palace boosters some competition in the Fraudulent Economic Claims 5k. But at least the sports palaces don’t aim to sit empty 362 days a year in the literal middle of the city.

      1. Exactly my point. But at least it sits vacant at the periphery.

        The convention center expansion proposal is insane.

      2. From what I understand the WSCTC stays fairly well booked year round.

        I know folks who still think it is a ‘white elephant’ and ‘a waste of taxpayer money’. But if it was the local hotels wouldn’t have agreed to use the room tax to twice expand it.

      3. The convention-chasing game is a bad one, and a hard one to win. Seattle’s doing pretty well at the moment due to the tech boom, but it lacks the natural advantages of San Diego (a tourism mecca) or LA or NY (big cities with large local supplies of convention-goers).

      4. It isn’t so much that Seattle has to chase conventions as the conventions are beating down Seattle’s door.

        From what I understand it has been a fair number of years since the convention center has really needed to chase business.

        Seattle is a tourist destination it’s own right, there is a fair bit of local demand for conference and show space, and we don’t have a lot of local hotels with significant in-house conference facilities.

      5. In 2008 the state wanted to do the expansion as a countercyclical brake against the recession. It said the Convention Center has to turn away a lot of clients because it doesn’t have space for big conferences, and that it would recoup the construction cost in a year or two. But the state decided not to do it then, which I think was an unfortunate loss. So I’m glad they’re doing it now, and even better if part of it is underground.

      6. I’m glad the main hall will be underground in the expansion,. One of the downsides of convention centers is they really aren’t built to human scale and by their very nature tend to have large street-facing blank walls.

        The original WSCTC did what I thought was a fairly admirable job (for a convention center) of attempting to be friendly at street level, at least along Pine. Unfortunately the street level retail spaces had difficulty finding tenants due to the complete lack of pedestrian traffic except during conventions.

        The expansion across Pine was a mixed bag. While it did ultimately seem to bring more life to Pine, Pike, 7th and even 9th, there are many pedestrian hostile elements of the design and it created another block of wasteland along 8th.

      7. Indeed, Chris, the current convention center is doing quite successful business with conferences that max out at 200,000-odd sq. ft. of customizable space. Though, of course, the vast majority of today’s bookings use far, far less than that.

        But robust present business is not the same as having 3x larger mega-conventions “beating down our door”, and clamoring to fill up three more blocks of uni-purpose downtown hole-in-the-ground where there needs to be an actual city.

        Because, you see, such mega-conventions barely exist. And those that do are already split between existing mega-boondoggles in Chicago, Las Vegas, D.C., San Diego, etc., most of which are desperately mega-marketing to back-fill their mega-debts.

        And at least those cities have the scalable hotel infrastructure to support the few mega-conventions they attract; Seattle’s hotels fill easily already. The promise of mega-conventions will not lead to construction of sufficient additional room capacity, because hoteliers understand that such mega-conventions barely exist, and that building new skyscrapers for just few days of demand a year would be a tremendously stupid idea.

        And again, Mike, “the state” did not want any such thing. The expansion push has always been about the “expert” opinions of unelected WSCC bureaucrats themselves, who have every reason to wish to grow their fiefdom and to collect an ever-expanding slice of the tax-and-fee pie, regardless of the demonstrable flaws in their economic claims. Might as well ask the fox how big the hen house should be, and how its doors should be secured.

      8. (That’s a reply to your earlier comment. I have no opinion on the “undergrounding” proposal, because there is literally no way that a 3-block complex used half a dozen days per year is not going to be terrible for the surrounding area.)

      9. It’s the word of an organization that books conventions for a living and presumably has some knowledge of the market vs somebody who I have no idea what he does or if he really knows how often convention centers are full. When there’s no large convention, they can book multiple smaller ones in the space.

      10. They can book smaller conventions in the existing space, Mike, much of which is practically brand new as it is.

        Convention bureaus are notorious for single-mindedly arguing for endless expansion and a greater share of all forms of visitor fees (hotel/airport/car-rental taxes). No matter the facts on the ground, “expand our convention capacity” is forever their solution.

        Are you so quick to buy into whatever the Department of Highways claims about expansions, extensions, and ever-growing “needs”? Convention bureaus are precisely as credible.

      11. For underused space-wasting facilities, see our single-use monument to baseball. Conventions have a much wider variety than baseball stadiums; there’s a chance you might go to them sometime. And it’s mostly out-of-towners bringing money, not locals redistributing their entertainment dollars. Finally, for the conventioneers it gives them a walkable transit-friendly location, which many venues don’t.

        As for pedestrians, there are pedestrians almost every minute on Pine Street. The main reason people avoid Pike Street is the two blocks of express-lane entrances, the dark underpass street, and the blank concrete wall below the park. Not because the Convention Center entrances are too large or obnoxious. I sometimes go through the Convention Center to go up the escalators to Freeway Park and avoid the hill, so I assume other people do too.

      12. Exactly none of what you just said was an argument for 200,000 additional square feet of 5-days-per-year-use superfluous space.

        Mid-sized convention centers in destination cities are wise investments. Super-sized convention centers are boondoggles. Universally.

        And the presence of pedestrians at Pine & Boren is evidence of our god-awful transit system, not of that stretch’s desirability as enticing urban sinew. You overstate pedestrian usage, as well — passage across the highway gap falls to a sub-trickle outside of commute hours, and as soon as winter rears its rainy head.

        If the aim is to finally close the pedestrian chasm between downtown and the Hill, a 600 foot glass monotonowall that remains sealed 360 days per year is about the worst possible way you could do it.

      13. A couple of things:
        -The convention center sees pretty high utilization currently as such things go. Not sure of the exact numbers but it is more than 5 days a year.
        -i know for a fact SakuraCon, EmeraldCity ComicCon, PAX, and the Microsoft annual meeting all have immediate use for any space the convention center adds. Presumably they aren’t the only ones.
        -The idea of the expansion is so multiple mid size events can occur at the same time. While we lose a certain amount of business because we’re “too small” we loose a lot more because we’re already booked.
        -Even with doubling the size of the event space the WSCC will still be one of the smaller facilities in a major city.
        -The hotel tax is what will pay for this. The hotels support the expansion.
        -The WSCC has operated in the black every year requiring no operating subsidy. Something most convention centers don’t manage to do.
        -There are a lot of new hotel rooms in Seattle due to come on-line in the near future.

      14. If it’s about multiple mid-sized conventions, and the hotels support expanding convention space, and there’s really a lot of business to be done in mid-sized conventions that we’re missing out on due to lack of space, why don’t hotels just expand their own conference facilities? I don’t see what a bunch of unrelated mid-sized conferences gain from being located all in the same facility, and I don’t see what anyone gains from making this a public-sector deal instead of a private-sector one. The burden of proof on these points falls on the people that want an even bigger monolithic state-built facility.

    3. I believe that using the Convention Place Station for light rail is an idea that has “left the station”. Having said that, if the station was redesigned to focus on serving riders on Boren or on Olive Street, it might have gotten more use. I would rename it the Boren/Convention Place Station.

      Consider that we just read a post here last week about how we should spend hundreds of million dollars building a gondola to get up Capitol Hill rather, and no one discusses a much cheaper and faster option for making the transit trip — walk to a new station entrance at Olive and Boren, build a replacement station for Convention Place, and hop Link one stop between Convention Place and Capitol Hill.

      1. The gondola is needed to connect South Lake Union to Capitol Hill. Nothing involving Convention Place Station is going to do that – it’s just too far south.

  9. While having transit agency leaders riding transit would be a great idea, I really don’t think it would work well to require that from them, if only for not being able to decide how restrictive the requirements would be. (Would the CEO not be allowed to own a car? Would the CEO have a transit riding quota? Does the CEO need to use transit 50% of the time? Do we have to monitor the CEO’s car usage? etc.)

    Another issue is that this could cause a conflict of interest. If all the people who make the routes take transit, then when it comes time to reduce service, it might “just so happen” that the routes that go by the houses of the agency’s employees don’t get reduced as much.

    1. There should be quotas but they should be low, say once or twice a month. And they should also be encouraged to periodically ride a route they don’t normally use or is outside their neighborhood. Because if the mandate is to commute every day by transit, then they’re only seeing one route twice a day. That doesn’t give them a broad enough perspective; they need to see what’s it like on the 5, and C, and 50, and 7.

    2. Ex-Portland mayor Vera Katz and her police detail could frequently be seen on the bus. Transit officials are not the only ones that impact how well the transit system works.

      If a mayor can do it, why not a state senator?

      I think at least once a year any elected politician (so judges would be exempt) should be required to go without a car. If they never visit a city with transit, let them hitchhike.

    3. I do think executives of a major transit system should be required to ride it every once in awhile, and those that live outside the range of where transit is available should not be the ones running the transit system.

      One problem with any quota is that if people are genuinely interested in riding to learn about how the system works, they wouldn’t need the quota in the first place, and if they aren’t, they would try to game the system, for example, they might hop on a bus for one stop, then walk back home again and grab their car. Or worse, just pull a “let’s not and say we did”, as who would really know, anyway.

      At a minimum, we need to have as few barriers as possible towards getting the senior leadership to ride. They, themselves should get free passes as part of their job benefits, and the free passes should also extend to their immediate family to encourage them to take transit on trips that involve more than just them.

    4. We need something to get the executive team riding transit. Similar to the neighborhood walks that the Mayor is doing how about allowing folks to nominate some trips for the executive team to take. Better yet allow us to submit to do a ride with a leader where we can take them on a route we think could use some help.

  10. New idea for the PI globe: the first developer willing to put it on top their building gets an extra 50 feet of height allotment for South Lake Union.

  11. MUNI just signed the contract with Siemens for $648m for 175 (+85) new S200 SF LRVs to replace the craptacular Breda LRVs (which replaced the even more craptacular Boeing-Vetrol LRVs)

    The S200 SF is a smaller version of the S200 being built for Calgary’s C-Train. Like Calgary, three design styles are being offered for MUNI to chose from (or perhaps mix’n’match)

    photos: http://www.siemens.com/press/en/presspicture/index.php?view=list&content=&tag=ICRL201409012

    fact sheet: http://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/feature/2014/infrastructure-cities/2014-09-S200/sf200-sanfrancisco.pdf

    videos: http://inr.synapticdigital.com/siemens/SFMuni/

  12. Raised Bike Lanes [in San Francisco…]

    Raised bike lanes offer cyclists vertical separation from the road without these problems. They are usually elevated just a few inches above the street level to prevent cars from crossing over, but are below the sidewalk to demarcate the lane from regular pedestrian traffic. They offer a dedicated space for cyclists, but can be less expensive to build than other kinds of lanes when there’s new road construction anyway.


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