This is an open thread.

102 Replies to “News Roundup: That Sinking Feeling”

  1. I know I have a large following of readers at the headquarters of local transit agencies, but many of the leaders of local government agencies also come to the STB comment section to read my latest thoughts on transit and land use issues. With that in mind, Ed, I’d like you to read this article on whether or not it’s time to end free parking at meters for the disabled. Even San Francisco is considering it!

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-laz-disabled-parking-meters-20141210-story.html

      1. I’ll answer your question with a question. Why didn’t Woodward and Bernstein just email or tweet their findings instead of publishing them in the Washington Post?

    1. Hi, Sam. But you know…

      San Francisco is still a great town with a transit system whose transit personnel set an example with a fine ethic of the industry’s hardest work. But lately the place has fallen into world-wide pattern of manners-free gentrification.

      Personally always give women a break- and facing increasing irritation from women from offering seats and holding doors. But also, I never saw a woman passenger tie up the N-Judah line for miles due to twenty minutes of a screaming, foul-mouthed tantrum because he wasn’t holding on when the driver had to brake.

      My take? Class thing and race thing, both increasingly degrading to transit-workers’ lives, and from what drivers tell me, increasingly common. And come to think of it, historically the way self-called gentry have always behaved. Reason One for the American Revolution and amendment forbidding titles like Earl or Duke. Except for Gary Larson characters and mediocre actors.

      So while wrong, I can see why city officials have started assuming that there is no such thing as a poor or even middle class person in San Francisco. And that BART and MUNI work so well that these people don’t need cars at all when they come in from Richmond and Oakland where they all live.

      But meantime, Sam, you already have a perfect claim of equality for you to use: put the whole Seattle Council mailing list on your contact list, along with whole SDOT command. And be sure your every STB comment shows up in your mail. Guarantee your parking sticker is in the mail already. But careful- those yellow labs in their green vests are really sweet, but every creature on earth has its limits.

      Mark

      1. You’re actually confusing the gentry with the nobility. I understand, people these days don’t have a full understanding of the medieval class system….

    2. And the assault on common-sense policymaking continues.

      When the topic of disabled placards and parking meters comes up, it is embarrassing to watch self-professed progressives and rationalists fall all over themselves chasing simplistic libertarian fantasy-logic about “level playing fields” and “fundamental fairness”.

      While “disability” is socially constructed in part, physical impairment is not. Therefore, any policy that aims toward equality in access must recognize that some actions and options available to the able-bodied are not available to those with impairments.

      These able-bodied privileges include, but are not limited to:
      – parking somewhere peripheral and cheaper and walking further to one’s destination;
      – parking once in a garage that is priced for longer-term visits, and then walking between multiple destinations, rather than paying the higher short-term rate to enter a new garage each time;
      – using transit for chain trips, or while transporting heavy or bulky bags or packages;
      – hurrying

      All of the above lend credence not only to the need for dedicated spaces close to major destinations — or in built-up and commercial areas, evenly spaced throughout, as is mandated in cities far less progressive than Seattle pretends to be — but also to the logic of waiving the charge. The able-bodied have options to avoid those parking charges; the disabled often do not. Equivalent parking rates and unnecessarily short-term time restrictions would create a de facto “disability tax”.

      Now it is debatable whether the duration of free parking should be entirely without limits. I tend to think that street space should never be occupied by 8-hour commuters, and so a 4-hour limit on placard parking (overriding shorter limits on the sign) would be sufficient to encourage turnover and availability for the truly disabled.

      More crucial, of course, is curtailing placard abuse, which can be achieved through better tracking of individual placards, more restrictive guidelines for their prescriptive issuance (merely being old does not make you impaired), and heavy penalties for placard abuse.

      The genuinely disabled are the victims of placard abuse, not the perpetrators. The pretend-parity remedy of the moment is a bit like going after cancer with a machine gun.

      1. d.p. — on the whole you are correct. HOWEVER. I have personal experience in this, as my fiancee is mobility-impaired (severe arthritis).

        We have found in practice that if disabled parking spaces are made free of charge, while other spaces cost money, then vast numbers of scammers abuse the system — making it hard for disabled people to find a space!

        By contrast, if the primary benefit of disabled parking spaces is *better location*, and they cost the same amount as other street spaces, most of the scammers simply disappear. (It’s also OK if they’re discounted, as far as we can tell… but not if they’re completely free.)

        For this reason, advocates for the disabled are now generally *opposed* to free parking for the disabled.

        It’s the same reason why you don’t want to make public transportation free: if you make it free, it attracts lowlifes and criminals. If you have even a small fee, the lowlifes and criminals mostly avoid it. The same applies to disabled parking.

        There are special situations where some disabled people are physically unable to pay the parking meters. Portland has arranged a system for such people: you can buy “scratch-off” payment tickets in advance and put them on your windshield. An excellent solution.

      2. Also, “more restrictive guidelines for placard issuance” is a recipe for obnoxious officials to deny placards to people who really need them. So NO, that is not the solution.

        The solution is to eliminate the incentive for scamming.

        Able-bodied people don’t care that much about being *right next to the door*. Only people with mobility impairments care.

        But able-bodied people do care about saving money. So you have to make sure that they don’t save any money by scamming a placard.

      3. “All of the above lend credence not only to the need for dedicated spaces close to major destinations — or in built-up and commercial areas, evenly spaced throughout, as is mandated in cities far less progressive than Seattle pretends to be ”

        Are you telling me that Seattle does not mandate enough disabled parking spaces?
        They’re supposed to be:
        (a) evenly spaced throughout most areas, 1 per block
        (b) with a whole lot of additional spaces near major destinations
        If Seattle isn’t doing this, it should.

        Some places should have pretty much nothing but disabled parking. I’ve seen busy downtown places where the entire first floor of a garage was disabled parking (the able-bodied can take the stairs), while the street parking was either loading zones, bus stops, or disabled parking (zero general-purpose parking). This makes sense.

      4. Glad you entered in on terminology, guys. All day I’ve been kicking myself for suggesting that the habit Rush Limbaugh brought to radio of ridiculing measures to remedy real inequality and and injustice was itself a disability legitimately deserving special treatment.

        Could say in my own defense that I didn’t specify the color of the sticker in question. Would definitely be a color with canine associations, and certainly not blue. But should not have included loving harmless and eagerly well-intentioned dogs in the joke.

        Even breed often associated with meth labs doesn’t deserve the fate I described. Unlike subject of the piece, they can be rescued and eventually rehabilitated.

        MD

      5. Out of curiosity – how is someone physical unable to pay a parking meter able to hold onto the steering wheel?

      6. Are you telling me that Seattle does not mandate enough disabled parking spaces?
        They’re supposed to be: (a) evenly spaced throughout most areas, 1 per block…

        Sadly, the federal guideline recommending 1 spot per block-face nearest the curb cut — as seen in all pre-war East Coast cities — is entirely non-mandatory. Cities like Seattle, which oh-so-recently boasted low density and plentiful parking, have entirely failed to bring its dedicated-space policies in line with its new reality.

        Seattle has virtually no dedicated spots outside of downtown, except in non-commercial areas where disabled residents have explicitly requested them installed in front of their home. Busy commercial areas like Upper Queen Anne and Old Ballard, however, have grand totals of zero and two dedicated spots (respectively).

        There have been incidences of suburban towns in Washington and California refusing to consider on-street disabled spots anywhere, under the massive misapprehension that they would need to be double-width from the curb (mistaking angled-lot rules for parallel rules, and eschewing common sense). Not only won’t the federal government mandate what works, they won’t mandate that municipal implementers know what the hell they’re talking about.

        This is a pretty great example of the toothlessness of the ADA, which so many will smugly claim has already (and perhaps burdensomely) “fixed” all our disability rights issues. (Another great example: the near-impossibility of bringing employment-discrimination actions, and the flimsy rationales by which employers can find almost any accomodation “unreasonable”.)

        For this reason, advocates for the disabled are now generally *opposed* to free parking for the disabled.

        This is as personal for me as for your, and I have witnessed nothing approaching such consensus.

        Maybe in Ithaca, where parking can’t possibly cost more than $1/hour anywhere, you might find such an outcome practical. But where metered parking can be $4/hour or more, priced explicitly to encourage the kind of quick turnover (or parking further from the epicenter) that is fundamentally unreasonable to expect of disabled users, charging equivalent rates to those with fewer alternatives is an extreme cumulative burden. Again, a “disability tax”.

        Able-bodied people don’t care that much about being *right next to the door*.

        Incorrect. In fact, our entire system of metered parking relies on the public’s willingness to pay more for proximity — much cheaper or even free parking is often to be found just a block or two away!

        I am often stunned to find that I can park somewhere gratis and still walk less to my destination than if I had taken the bus. But the preponderance of Americans accustomed to door-to-door auto access — this includes transplants from the Midwestern hinterlands as well as the bridge-and-tunnelers of even the densest East Coast cities — have no such reference point. Their comparison isn’t the walk from the transit stop, but the walk from their front door to their driveway.

        Those people will, and do, pay to be close.

        The solution is to eliminate the incentive for scamming.

        Charging disabled users, especially where dedicates spots are in inadequate supply, eliminates placard abuse by eliminating the very concept of disabled parking — it renders placards entirely worthless. That’s cutting off the nose to spite the face.

        Again, limiting on-street placard parking to 4 hours eliminates the incentive for a borderline-eligible office worker to hog a space all day and every day. But the excessive number of placards in circulation will remain a problem as long as you tacitly allow every toe-stubber and sore-back complainer unscrutinized access to the system.

        I will take you at your word that your partner is significantly impaired in the long term by her condition. But not every arthritic person can say the same. Nor can every retired person, nor veteran, nor clumsy skier.

        Just as there is good reason to discourage doctors from prescribing Oxycontin to every person who walks through their door, there is good reason to discourage excessive doling out of placards. (You want to really piss off a permanently disabled person? Hang a placard and then emerge with your leg in a walking boot.)

        New York City and a few other jurisdictions have experimented with different levels of placard. Only the higher levels, for those who are truly and permanently mobility-impaired without assistive medical devices, and subject to greater scrutiny before issuance, grant access to certain types of spaces and an exception from paying the meter. If administered well, this can be an effective compromise.

        how is someone physical unable to pay a parking meter able to hold onto the steering wheel

        Sometimes it’s about the location of the meter station, or the height.

        Sometimes the labor of hopping the curb to pay, hopping down again to place the receipt, and then hopping up again to finally start heading to one’s destination is burdensome in a way the able-bodied might truly not understand.

        Sometimes a person might not have access to all your familiar automobile controls, but may drive with modifications to the steering column.

        And sometimes the disabled person is just the passenger, but it is still unfair to charge a party who might otherwise have taken transit or parked further, if those options were available to the disabled member of the party. (It would incite social exclusion to saddle every outing with additional costs and the perception of impairments as burdensome.)

        You don’t own a car, ASDF. Neither do I. That’s a significant elective cost that we both avoid on account of having no identity-based affinity for personal vehicles and a preference to spend discretionary income elsewhere.

        Many disabled people do not have that choice, and to a great degree, it is because the built environment has been constructed with mostly-able-bodied people in mind. Vehicle ownership can be a “disability tax” in a city like Seattle, and a whopping one. Doesn’t it seem just a wee bit petty to add unavoidable high-rate meters on top of it?

      7. I have to agree that from a policy perspective you need to be very careful about making the rules for getting placards too restrictive.

        I’ve known a number of people over the years with disabled placards with varying levels of need.

        On the one hand my Aunt and a good friend have degenerative medical conditions that aren’t obvious by looking at them. However those medical conditions meant earlier in their illness the disabled placard was only really needed on a bad day and on a good day they could easily walk further to a parking place. Unfortunately my Aunt has since passed away and my friend only really has bad days now.

        I know two examples on the other end of the scale.

        My dad got a disabled placard when he got pneumonia and was using oxygen for several months. Once he got better he kept renewing the placard for the better parking. He’s undergoing cancer treatment now and again has a real use for the placard, but to my mind that doesn’t really excuse the 7 years he was abusing the placard.

        The other is a woman I know who was born without legs. She is extremely active (to the point of doing marathons in her race chair). She used to take transit or just wheel herself where she was going before she got a car with hand controls. She has said, only half jokingly, that she got the disabled placard for the free parking.

        Now I don’t think anyone would begrudge those I know with degenerative medical conditions or my friend in a wheelchair a disabled placard.

        On the other hand cases like my father are fairly common where someone with a temporary medical condition gets a placard then keeps on renewing it once they’ve recovered from whatever qualified them for the placard.

        I’m really not sure of the proper solution to this issue since so much depends on the doctor endorsing the placard application and any sort of outside review runs into multiple issues with medical privacy.

      8. “There are special situations where some disabled people are physically unable to pay the parking meters.”

        That’s beside the point and only affects a few people, and could possibly be addressed with different parking meters. It’s like how Metro qualifies people for Access based on whether they can board a bus’ wheelchair lift. Many disabled people don’t have these two problems but they do have problems with walking a few blocks to the bus stop (especially after the stop diets eliminated some stops), using their walker in a rain or on a hill, getting hit by a car as they cross the street from a bus stop, other passengers not giving them a front seat on the bus or giving them angry stares for boarding slowly, and elevators that are broken or turned off. The elevator problem happens so often that there’s a rumor in the disabled community that Metro turns them off in the DSTT at peak hours every day to prevent people from using them (and overcrowding them I guess?). Apparently somebody asked a security guard and that’s what he said, and now many disabled people believe it.

      9. Then there’s drivers berating people because their walkers are sticking out in the aisle, when there are no larger seats available. And the difficulty in maneuvering to a seat in such a narrow space. And again, the angry stares from other passengers that lead to stress.

      10. Chris,

        I’m sorry to hear about your aunt and your friend, and about your dad’s current treatment as well.

        What your dad needed then, and what he needs now, is a bright-red-colored temporary placard, with an unmistakable expiration date never more than three months from the date of issuance. I have no problem with these things arriving in the mail and being relatively no-hassle for the end-user to obtain from the DMV end.

        From the doctor’s end, though, they need be emphatically restricted only to the period of actual injury or treatment. When the patient is recovered, there can be no extension. That has become the slippery slope to which people above are suggesting overkill ameliorations.

        Mike,

        That seems unlikely; it would be a scandal if it were. Also, I’ve rarely seen a DSTT elevator only briefly out of service — they either work perfectly or they “await repairs” for months. Generally the former.

        It would not be an exaggeration to say that our transit network, as a whole, leaves a lot to be desired for a disabled person needing a hassle-free way to negotiate life.

      11. d.p.

        The problem is permanent disability vs. temporary is determined by the doctor.

        While third party review might be warranted it opens up all sorts of issues with medical privacy as well as asking someone who possibly has never seen a patient make a determination as to impairment.

        In an ideal world those without permanent conditions would get temporary permits. This is not the current reality. Stricter enforcement would open several cans of worms.

      12. There will always be a handful of bad-apple doctor’s who overprescribe. I’m sure the one who killed Michael Jackson would have no problem rushing to declare every Olympic athlete eligible for a permanent placard.

        The difference is that there are potential legal and licensing consequences for prescription abuse, while doctor’s are currently socially encouraged to authorize placards for anyone and everyone who asks.

        Getting doctors to recognize why this is counterproductive really is the first place to start.

        Again, temporary placards should become the default, and they should require relativity little hassle to procure — a doctor’s note, submittable online — since those who need them are likely dealing with other recovery matters as well.

        I have no problem requiring in-person DMV visits for permanent placards, since these are issued only twice a decade and since those who truly need them would benefit greatly from the curtailing of their abuse. Again, a doctor’s note and a signed affidavit should suffice. Changing the culture surrounding the blue-placard default, plus the in-person requirement, should reduce the incidence of they’re being distributed like candy.

        As for those who abuse others’ placards when the legitimate user is not around — or has died — I think that offense should earn an automatic 12-month driver’s license suspension. Inexcusable!

      13. “That seems unlikely; it would be a scandal if it were. Also, I’ve rarely seen a DSTT elevator only briefly out of service”

        That’s what I tell them: write to Metro and tell them you’ve been stuck in the DSTT several times when the elevators aren’t running, and that Metro has a legal obligation to prioritize keeping them running.

      14. asdf2: diseases which cause fine motor control problems, such as fine tremors. Can easily do gross motor control like clutching a steering wheel, can’t do fine motor control like putting coins in a slot.

      15. I wrote: “Are you telling me that Seattle does not mandate enough disabled parking spaces?
        They’re supposed to be: (a) evenly spaced throughout most areas, 1 per block…”

        d.p. wrote: “Sadly, the federal guideline recommending 1 spot per block-face nearest the curb cut — as seen in all pre-war East Coast cities — is entirely non-mandatory. Cities like Seattle, which oh-so-recently boasted low density and plentiful parking, have entirely failed to bring its dedicated-space policies in line with its new reality.”

        Bletchulous. Disgusting. That should be fixed ASAP.

        d.p: “I will take you at your word that your partner is significantly impaired in the long term by her condition.”
        Severe rheumatoid arthritis (particularly in the knees) since childhood; I guess you can’t call it “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis” any more now that she’s not a child. One of the “wonderful” things about rheumatoid arthritis, the joint damage only gets worse, it never gets better. It was poorly treated for about a decade leading to fairly subsantial joint damage already, which means that the joints are developing secondary osteoarthritis every time she uses them. Her doctor was talking about knee replacements when she was 28 (and knee replacements only last for 10 years, and you can only do them twice…)

        At that point we made lifestyle changes to take as much pressure as possible off her knees; moving to a house with zero stairs, etc. (There are absurdly few houses without steps in Ithaca, and absurdly few apartments without steps built after the passage of the ADA, as well; when we looked, the apartments had waiting lists of well over a year; we got very lucky in finding one house.)

        She didn’t think she needed a placard; then I read her the NY State rules (can’t walk further than X feet without stopping) and she said “Oh. I guess I do need it.” Literally every time she walks she is damaging her knees, so it’s really important to minimize walking distances, though she’s not ready to be wheelchair-bound yet. She does *have* a prescription wheelchair and uses it for long journeys… when I can push her. Because she’s got severe arthritic damage to the fingers, wrists, and elbows too…

        ANYway, for people with her type of mobility impairment, having a space as close as possible to the destination is *the single most important thing*. Most of Ithaca is pretty good about this; Cornell University has actually been really terrible. They have a weird habit of concentrating disabled spaces in “central disabled lots” and having none in other lots, and they’ve created buildings where you simply can’t park near the door at *all* (even though there’s a nice big truck loading dock next to the door).

        Seattle needs to get with the program; the purpose of disabled parking spaces is to get disabled people close to their destinations — which could be in any block. If the disabled spaces aren’t present in every block, they *do not serve their fundamental purpose*.

      16. It seems to me that the state law allowing free parking is all about allowing handicap access to close parking without having dedicated spaces. It only works in high demand areas if there are spaces available, so Seattle’s policy of adjusting parking prices to assure some vacant spaces is complementary to the law.

        Having dedicated spaces installed by request should work well for residential areas where there is a resident who needs it, or in front of the entrances to hospitals and clinics.

  2. As I understand it, the legislature has to pass legislation to allow ST3 to go to a vote. In the past, such legislation included subarea equity and proportionality. Could we keep subarea equity and get rid of proportionality? I would think that such a change would be very popular. From a legislative standpoint (not a political one) is this more difficult? Would this have to be a completely separate bill? Other than political opposition to proportionality (and I’m not sure where that would come from) what obstacles are there to this change? I’m thinking of starting a letter writing campaign to support funding authorization for ST3 that would get rid of proportionality.

    1. Question: Is there a single street or road system- local, county, State, or Federal- that mandates “subarea equity” by law? Answer is probably the same as whether there’s any chamber of commerce in the universe that would insist that only its own residents could shop there.

      K-12 school systems still do this- and result, increasingly, is poor parents fined and put in jail for sending their children to a richer district’s schools for a decent education because either their State has no such equity mandate, or more likely, because none is ever enforced.

      Case for subarea equity at gunpoint. But anybody from Lynnwood ever jailed for ride on 255? Wish Almost Live was still on the air in its previous “Ballard Driving Academy condition.

      Universities have started solving locational problem by going online- the way more and more of the world’s people are starting to live their lives. Which is also the way that for thirty years our region’s population has been living our own daily lives as our cars make possible- rolling over subarea boundaries without even the squish of tires on a garden hose.

      But for starters, we might find some divisions that make more sense and do less damage. For instance, suppose we mandate equity by corridors. Everett to Tacoma. Ballard to Redmond. Seattle to Bothell. CBD to Burien. For instance. At least we’d get enough of the damn hoses out of the way that we don’t have to go to the garden store so often.

      Mark Dublin

      With equity taken care of through the relevant political systems, not by formula.

      1. The K-12 funding system is a disaster nationwide, and unfortunately all attempts to fix it have failed, for over 20 years.

      2. With all due respect Mark, I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion about subarea equity, and subarea equity proportionality. I thought I made that clear. I want to know about legislation. Let me make it more clear. I want to know about ST 3. People have been talking about this for months now on this blog (in various forms) and for the most part, they have proposed crap. I don’t blame them. If you assume subarea proportionality with proportionality at this point in time, you get crap. Not for Seattle, but for the other areas. It is just that Seattle is nowhere near being “done” when it comes to big budget mass transit projects, but other areas are. This leads to people proposing gold plated suburban crap simply because they have to spend that much money to match what Seattle wants (and one could easily argue, needs).

        So, again, I ask the same question. Is there some legislative barrier preventing us from authorizing ST3 with subarea equity, but without proportionality? I just want to know before I start asking people to write letters to their representatives. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know the law as far as Sound Transit goes, so I would like to know these things before I ask people to write.

      3. No more legal barrier than there is to an ST3 in the first place. The only question is political – whether it’s worth opening up the idea of new policies for Sound Transit when representatives might want to make other, worse changes.

    2. Two objections, one legal, one political.

      I would guess there is no legal reason the Legislature couldn’t change subarea equity. But, as others have argued, it’s debatable we’d want to. It might mean rebalancing spending in ways we’d like less than the current arrangements.

      Proportionality may be a necessary element. I’m not a lawyer (and we need one to help us with this issue). But I see Black’s Law Dictionary definition of a tax district as “an area geographically, with the same calculations for tax”. I read that to mean that ending proportionality would require breaking up the Sound Transit tax district into independent districts with their own tax rates and ballot approval requirements. You’d have to pass the ballot initiative in each subarea to raise taxes in that subarea. Would we want that? It would make it easy to pass ST3 in North King, and more difficult everywhere else.

      Reviewing all of the discussions about projects here in the last few months, it seems a more logical way forward is a region-wide ST3, and a Seattle-only ST4. Something like what Seattle has done with Metro, where a Seattle body would contract with Sound Transit to build more rail in Seattle. That may take enabling legislation too, but perhaps not. The reason, I think, that Sound Transit needs authorization from the Legislature is that the current Sound Transit area is not a political unit like a city or county. Seattle alone, is a city, and can vote its own taxes subject to limits on overall taxing authority.

      The current candidate projects look imbalanced to me, but there are enough non-crazy projects in all of the subareas for ST3. The plausible project list in the suburbs is going to get really skinny after we spend another $15 B, and I doubt we want a regionwide ST4.

      On the political side, ST is actively engaged with legislators in Olympia. Passing this thing through Olympia probably means log-rolling it with enough other stuff to ensure it comes up for a vote. Eastern Washington Republicans might not care much whether the legislation passes, but they recognize a Democratic priority when they see one, and will be looking to trade this for something they want. Adding any new issues to the table seems more likely to complicate ST’s work than to help it.

      1. The main suburban concern by far is building “the Spine” to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. After that there will be less suburban consensus, and their projects will be more intra-subarea and inexpensive (streetcars and short-distance buses) which may find other ways of funding.

        So what regional projects does that leave after ST3? I’d like half-hourly Sounder South, but South King and Pierce haven’t embraced it yet, and Snohomish and East King would be uneager for a matching project. Burien-Renton Link, Issaquah Link, and UW-Kirkland Link would likely be deferred even longer, but then there’s Lake City/Bothell Link which is next in line. It’s unclear whether, in the 2020s, the Eastside would be willing to deprioritize its unbuilt projects (one or more of Issquah, UW-Kirkland, or 405 BRT) for a Northgate-Bothell-Totem Lake line. (“Northgate” in the LRP but we might be able to move it to 130th or Roosevelt Station.)

        As far as repealing the common tax rate, we’d have to see whether it was in ST1 and 2, or ST’s enabling legislation, or a constitutional issue (“equal taxation”). If it was just in ST1 and 2, then the legislature could easily omit it in ST3. But if it’s in another law or legal doctrine, it would be harder to change. Of course, independent tax districts with their own ballot measures may be preferrable to this joined-at-the-hip approach even with different tax rates.

        But remember the BART problem. BART doesn’t have subarea equity so the exurbs have been pulling all the strings and leaving only a quarter of San Francisco served. (Our equivalent is what’s running now: downtown and Rainier Valley. But we have ST2 coming.) The suburbs would love to abolish subarea equity and do that here (see Metro’s former 40/40/20). The Legislature might do that if the rural legislators side with the suburbs/exurbs.

        I think the tax limit is the same issue as the cities/counties. ST reaches its ceiling with each ST# measure, while the cities and counties keep below their ceiling. That’s because ST is building a network from scratch while the cities/counties have legacy infrastructure.

      2. Thanks Dan, your third paragraph is exactly what I was afraid of. I really don’t think we can get rid of subarea equity — I think it would be too politically difficult. But I think from a political standpoint, proportionality no longer makes sense. But if the two are tired together (legally) then we are stuck with both concepts unless we break up the whole thing (which seems unlikely as well). Like you said, I would really like to get a legal opinion, because I think this issue is huge.

        I don’t think it was such a big deal in the past. But in my opinion the suburbs have already reached that point. There are some good projects to finish (e. g. light rail to Redmond) but beyond that, it is tough to see how spending a lot of money on projects in the suburbs would be more popular than spending a little on bus corridor improvements and express buses. Seattle has big projects that can make a huge difference in the lives of lots of commuters, along with a population willing to tax themselves heavily to build those projects. I just don’t see that in the suburbs, now that the biggest and most important goals have been met.

  3. OneBusAway has been mostly broken for me this week (and maybe last week too – I was out of town). It is mostly showing the scheduled times with only a handful of buses showing actual times. Anyone else seeing this?

    1. Me too.

      BusDrone also having problems, so I would hazard a guess that the problem is at the King County Metro end.

      1. When I looked at the One Bus Away map for the 9 on Broadway today, ithe map also shows the 43 and 49 travelling on Broadway south of Pine, in addition to their regular turns on Olive and Pine respectively. Am I missing something?

    2. Me three.
      Problems started on thanksgiving (somewhat expected by now on holidays) and hasn’t been corrected yet.
      Interestingly, the NextBus feature on Metro’s mobile site (http://m.tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/hiwire?.a=iNextBus) is working properly as are the real-time arrival signs at bus stops.
      Methinks it has something to do with either how Metro is feeding out that information to the “public” (where OBA gets the data) or how OBA is interpreting that data.

    3. A friend of mine saw that his route was 15 minutes late (coming from Federal Way TC). Five minutes later, he looked again, and it was back on time and had passed his stop already.

      There is some instability about ETAs for buses still on layover, I suspect.

      1. I don’t think the bad handling of buses arriving at layover points late is something new. I’ve seen for quite a while buses jumping from very late to on time, especially with the west/south 8 in Lower Queen Anne, and the southbound 40 in Ballard.

      2. I live at the 9’s terminus in Capitol Hill. I basically ignore the real-time info, because I know that the bus will usually turn on time if it’s showing <15 mins late. The only useful info that OBA gives me is to thank the driver a little extra, because I know they sacrificed their layover and bathroom time to keep our bus on time.

  4. To be clear — the Transportation Commission did not “authorize a two-year pilot” of road usage charging on Tuesday. The Commission adopted a report on its third year of work on the topic and is recommending to the Legislature that it fund a one-year demonstration of road usage charging, beginning next biennium. The Commission has neither the authority nor the funding to “authorize” a pilot.

    Paul Parker, Deputy Director
    Washington State Transportation Commission

    1. To Be Clearer – This is all about generating more net revenue for WSDOT, regardless of the heavy burden it places on taxpayers.
      1. Current administrative cost of collecting the gas tax is less than 1%. This will go up at least ten fold, by the studies admission.
      2. Current tax of 37.5 cents a gallon x 25 mpg avg yields $150 in gross revenue taken for 10,000 miles driven in one year. The report used 1.9 cents per mile, costing the same tax payer $190, or about a 25% increase in taxation.
      3. The Commission would offer rebates of fuel taxes paid on some vehicles, knowing the system for rebates will likely be as cumbersome and confusing as their failed toll bridge enforcement program is. More layers of government and vendors to parse out the refunds will be a pain in the ass.
      But thanks for the clarification you’re just sticking another nose under my tent, before you get the go-ahead.

      1. I already wrote my state legislators to voice strong opposition to the road usage charge. If you want to do the same, you can get links to email your legislators here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/

        Maybe if they get a tidal wave of discontent early on they can pull the plug.

        The road usage charge accomplishes no positive goal that simply raising the gas tax couldn’t solve. Meanwhile it costs far more in administrative cost, and shifts the relative tax burden away from operators of relatively heavy, polluting, dangerous vehicles like SUVs and pickups, onto relatively light, cleaner, safer vehicles like compact cars. Given all the negative externalities caused in greater degree by SUVs and pickups, it makes sense for them to pay more in taxes per mile driven, as they do now under a gas tax. A usage charge also shifts the relative tax burden away from those sitting in stop-and-go traffic, who at least right now are paying more gas tax per mile because of diminished MPG in “city driving.” Finally, this will give even more of a tax break to those who illegally keep their cars registered in other states (I’m looking at you, neighbor lady who’s had Wyoming plates on your Audi for two years and counting). At least those cheats are paying Washington gas taxes. Not to mention revenue from British Columbians rolling back and forth to Mt. Baker.

        As for the argument that all-electric cars are getting to pay 0 for their wear and tear on roads, PUH-LEAZE. The contribution of passenger cars to road wear and tear is virtually 0 (and to the extent it’s >0, the impact of SUVs would be massively bigger), and if the complaint is their contribution to congestion, well then just toll the damn bridges, and anyway the gas tax does this BETTER for the 95% of us in gas-burning cars (I probably pay equal gas taxes for start-stopping my Civic through the 14 miles roundtrip to downtown Seattle at rush hour as I do zooming out 28 miles of I-90 to North Bend for a weekend hike, but with a ‘revenue-neutral usage charge’, my super-congested downtown option would cost half as much in taxes). We should thank people for opting to use zero-emission cars while crawling up and down Montlake at rush hour, for not fouling the air, instead of trying to slap more taxes on them. In fact Seattle says it WANTS to promote electric vehicles, so what gives? http://www.seattle.gov/environment/transportation-and-land-use/electric-vehicles

      2. Just raise the d*mn gas tax. It’s the fairest and most effective way to raise funding. Plus it has the positive effective of encouraging reduced gas usage.

        And, if there isn’t the political will to do even that, then at least index it to inflation with an automatic escalation mechanism. That way at least the gas tax can go up with inflation without having to get the politicians involved.

        But I suspect the road usage fee will die anyhow as soon as the rural legislators get involved. Whether rural citizens drive more than urban ones is immaterial — the impression is that they do, and that alone will kill the prospect of a usage fee. Plus they tend to be poorer and more conservative, so they are sure to blame their local politicians.

      3. Exactly jt. Flat rate charges on EV’s or even a graduated charge based on reported odometer reading at Tab-Time would be simple and changeable to reflect fleet make-up in future years to remain fair to all.
        Going through the charade of collecting $190 in mileage tax, then rebating $150 of it, while spending $20 in administrative costs to give WSDOT a $20 bump is the height of ‘over-reaching big government’.
        Europe and most of the rest of the civilized world has no problem with charging higher pump taxes to keep up with rising fuel efficiency and falling VMT’s. Just do the math each year instead of creating these grand schemes to create perfectly flat playing fields.

      4. What jt said. Raise the gas tax and put tolls on the most congested roads. “Road usage charges” are a solution looking for a problem, and would effectively subsidize gas-guzzlers and scammers.

      5. I can go with any increase in fees for drivers if:

        The plan has specific, defined projects,

        That have the users pay at least the equivalent percentage of ‘farebox recovery’,

        has the same ‘sub-area’ equity rules transit must live by.

        and it goes into effect only by a vote of the people.

        And if you believe the gas tax is a user fee, then explain who pays for this project:
        Capacity on Highway 522 in Snohomish County about to double (MyNorthwest.com), because if you do the math, those 28,000 daily commuters, who (with a car that averages 20 mpg) burn $.03 per mile of gas – tax contribution, means that in one year, they have contributed $1,226,400 towards that project.

        That’s a $140 million project.

        Someone else is coming up with the difference.

        Put the data out for the public to digest, explain where the money comes from, how it is divided up, what projects are of higher value, and why they should be funded.

        Everyone might agree that extra road fees/gas taxes might be what they want.

        Or maybe they would vote for something else.

    2. Thanks JT. I sent off a note to my representatives expressing my preference for raising the gas tax over road usage charges. Good idea!

    3. Thank you Mr. Parker. Let me just say that this is a ridiculous idea. It is crazy to think that while our governor is busy trying to figure out new and interesting ways to reduce global warming, we would somehow dismantle a solid tool that accomplishes that exact goal. We are supposed to spend lots of money creating a new system, or at the very least, spend lots of money studying a new system, while the old system works really well. It begs the question: Why? Seriously, Why? How could a new system be any better than the old system? Charge for the mile? OK, so you are telling me that if I drive a Hummer I will be charged the same as a Prius? Really? Won’t a Hummer cause more road damage (and more damage to the environment)? Are all cars supposed to be charged the same? If not, what about a trailer? If I drive a sedan, and my neighbor drives the same vehicle, but drags along a boat, will we pay the same amount? How is that fair? He will certainly tear up the road more than me, and how is that supposed to be handled?

      The gas tax isn’t perfect. But at the very least, it taxes those that pollute in proportion to how much they pollute (and that includes me). It also is fairly simple, and generally taxes those in proportion to how much damage they do to the roads. To try and build a new system will not only ignore the damage to the environment, but it will create a complex regulatory framework to try and assess damage to the roads. That just sounds stupid. Keep things the way they are. The current system works really well. Ask the governor. I think you will find that he agrees.

  5. I would definitely like to see a study or something looking at free metered spots for disabled. I would rather have designated spots than have it be free. I’ve seen over 50% of parking in certain areas taken by disabled cars. It also affects the enforcement by making it less appealing and causing more people to cheat since the city just ends up bleeding out more cash as a result.

    1. Portland recently started charging disabled permit holders. A funny thing happened: 30% of the cars parked downtown disappeared after the first week.

      1. Unfortunately, it seems that free parking attracts scammers. As soon as it’s no longer free, the scammers vanish.

        Advocates for the disabled now oppose free parking for the disabled for this reason.

      2. Again, there has been no such shift in consensus.

        Also again, the “all-day spot hogging by commuters” problem is nothing that couldn’t be taken care of with a 4-hour maximum, no other policy changes required.

    2. The reason the disabled can park in regular spots as if they were disabled slots is there aren’t enough disabled slots. Some places have several, some have one or zero. Complaining about, “50% of parking taken by disabled cars”, so you don’t think any more disabled people should be allowed there? That they should get ration coupons for every other day? If you’re able-bodied, get on a bus. Many disabled people would like to take the bus more but it’s difficult to do so.

      And if all the on-street disability spaces are full, they park in a private garage, which has disability spaces but they pay full price (often $10), which is a lot if you’re paying several hundred dollars a month in medical-related expenses (and many of the driving trips are medical-related appointments).

      Perhaps the state can distinguish between regular disability parking permits and low-income disability parking permits. That would end free parking for those who can most afford it.

      1. Parking costs are a small fraction of overall car ownership costs. Unless you’re going to the hospital several times a week every week, you’re going to spend a lot more on gas, insurance, license tabs, maintenance and repairs, and buying the car itself.

        SDOT found that 30-40% of spaces in Pioneer Square, downtown, and near the hospitals (First Hill & Cherry Hill) are taken by cars with permits. Unless you get lucky, street parking may also require a fair bit of walking and often up or down hills, which would seem to make street parking an impossible hardship.

        Regardless of how anyone feels about the fairness of unlimited free parking, the fact remains that Seattle is missing out on a lot of money. Assuming a spot generates $20/day for 250 days/year, each unpaid space would cost the city $5000/year in lost parking revenue. In the downtown core, parking spaces can generate as much as $48/day and can be filled 300 days/year, which pushes the lost revenue to as much as $14,400/year per space. It gets into the millions very quickly.

      2. It’s OK if 30% of spaces are taken by cars with disabled permits. In a busy downtown, really, the able-bodied should be taking public transportation or walking, so you’d expect nearly all the parked cars to have disabled permits, and you might actualy want all the spaces to be disabled spaces (or truck loading zones, or bus stops).

        However, Portland’s experience shows that free parking attracts scammers. Start charging again, and then you’ll figure out how many disabled people there *actually* are parking in a given area.

      3. Again, separate the notion of “hogged by commuters” from the notion of “hogged by the disabled”.

        Both the current diagnoses and the proposed policy changes conflate the two.

  6. I take the RapidRide D at all times of day, and I’ve never been aware of a problem with the RapidRide having trouble crossing Dravus. Don’t get me wrong, a “transit only/all others right only” sign is an awesome, cheap idea and I’m all for many, many more of them, but why this intersection?

    1. If they chose some other intersection first, someone would ask, “Why this intersection?” Some would go further, and concern troll it into, “You should start over there, not here.”

    2. That intersection has been bad since the Emerson construction started (since the southbound through/left lane is part of the detour), especially during the peak periods. Most bus drivers already used the right turn lane as a through lane… now it’s explicitly allowed.

    3. It is especially bad during the afternoon peak — two or three light cycles to cross Dravus is not uncommon — and has only gotten worse during the Nickerson Overpass closure.

      The reason you might not have noticed the problem is that most of the good drivers have long since said “screw it” to waiting with the left-turning backup, and have already been going straight from the right lane. Until now, they were doing so illegally. This overdue sign merely codifies common sense, and encourages the less resourceful/more letter-of-the-law allegiant drivers to follow the problem-solving drivers’ lead.

      Now if we can only get SDOT to ban eastbound 44 buses from the right-turning backup at 15th!

      1. All buses should be equipped with rider polling buttons at each seat. Such things as which lane to drive in, PA chatter, HVAC settings could all be displayed up front for all to see (including the driver).
        Simple majority should rule!

      2. Not a democratic matter, not a matter for debate: Any driver who doesn’t know by now to stay the fuck out of the right lane when crossing 15th has no business being behind the wheel of a 44.

      3. Whoa, not so fast Lucy. Stay in the right lane if you know the signal timing, and the few cars ahead have their right turn signals on, which means the bus gets to move up to the front of the line most times, and not have to move right for the next stop.

      4. Thanks d.p. Not ever having driven up this offramp, only bussed, I’ve never really noticed the right turn only, just assumed it was a straight/right lane based on bus drivers actions. And I guess I’ve been lucky to have the smart/law breaking drivers.

      5. I literally cannot remember the last time the right lane of Market @ 15th failed to produce a right-turner. With that part of Ballard getting busier, I also cannot remember the last time a cycle offered no pedestrians to hold up the right-turners.

        Being Seattle, I also cannot remember the last time the right-turners bothered to turn their signals on in advance. (It’s not actually a signal if you wait to activate it until you’re already doing the thing!)

        And lastly, I cannot remember the last time the second lane failed to clear in a single cycle. But a don’t-give-a-shit 44 driver in the right lane will miss 3 or 4 or 5 light cycles every single afternoon.

        Make the right lane right-turn-only. This will help quite a bit, because there will never be straight-headers in it, so more rights will happen on red and in the absence of pedestrian conflicts. Make the second lane straight-only for all — including buses.

        No 44 rider will ever have to suffer multiple cycles of delay again.

  7. They should have just rebuilt the viaduct. It would have been a lot cheaper and would have been done by now. They could have added more lanes and got traffic moving.

    1. They should have just got ST to design and operate their TBM. ST is now on their 5th and 6th bore and hasn’t had any serious problems on any of them (I don’t consider the voids on Beacon Hill to be that serious).

      I’m betting that ST will have both TBMs to Roosevelt station before STP even gets their machine reassembled.

      1. Having ST operate the TBM wouldn’t change anything about the geology being bored through. ST had their own problems with Central Link tunneling causing sinkholes in Beacon Hill.

        But maybe ST would’ve gone for a twin-bore design. That might or might not have worked out better in the marshy conditions being drilled through now.

      2. ST’s tunnel boring machines are 21′ in diameter, with 346 sq ft of surface area to chew. Bertha is 57.5′ in diameter, with 2,600 sq ft of surface area, or 7.5 times as much. That’s not to say that Link tunnels through the same fill wouldn’t have caused similar problems, but I’d think that smaller twin bores are dramatically simpler operations with exponentially less cutter head pressure?

      3. You assume the problems are related to geology and not design or operation — and that is a huge (and unwarranted) leap. What we appear to be witnessing is closer to amateur hour, and amateurs could F-up a project like this even in the best of geology.

        But at least Seattle isn’t on the hook for any of this.

        (and note: ST noticed disparities in the amount of spoils being removed from the Beacon Hill bore and alerted the contractor to the problem. However, the contractor insisted that ST was wrong and refused to make operational changes. Turns out ST was right and the contractor was wrong. And it turns out that that particular contractor didn’t get selected for any of the follow on projects….go figure.)

      1. True, for sure, but I’d take the extra lanes versus losing half of pioneer square. This has gone worse than even the most pessimistic person good have guessed.

      2. If “the worst” does happen and Pioneer Square sinks, can the building owners get compensation? If so, from whom? I can see good arguments for either the state paying since they’re leading the project, or the contractor since they’re responsible for the delay.

      3. It’s going to be lawsuits at 50 paces. Building owners are going to sue everyone even remotely responsible. The state will sue the contractors and the contractors will sue the state and each other.

    2. There was that surface+transit alternative. It could come back if the tunnel finally dies. But that might mean widening the boulevard and cutting into the park.

    3. The professional studies said that a cut-and-cover tunnel combined with the new seawall would:
      (1) make a better seawall
      (2) be the cheapest overall
      (3) provide the most car-moving capacity
      (4) have very low construction risks
      (5) allow for an uncrowded surface space

      This option was sandbagged for backroom-deal reasons I don’t understand.

      1. A cut and cover also allows for downtown exits.

        One of the reasons a cut and cover was nixed was due to the amount of construction disruption it would cause on the waterfront.

      2. Chris, that makes sense. It would have been highly disruptive during construction. Traditionally, one picks the best option for when the project is finished, and deals with the temporary problems during construction, but I can see how that might not have happend.

    4. No, while a viaduct would have been cheaper, it would have many of the same problems that the tunnel has. I’m not talking about construction problems, I’m talking about design limitations. Pretend, for a second, that you don’t care about transit or buses or pedestrians. You only want to spend money on projects that benefit drivers. You want the best “bang for the buck”. Rebuilding the viaduct would not be that cheap, and it wouldn’t have downtown exits. This means that you still have to spend money on surface streets. You might get an exit on Western out of the deal, but that is about it.

      On the other hand, what if you spent money improving I-5, especially on the area close to the West Seattle Freeway/I-90 section. Also spend a little money on the surface streets as well as a little money on transit (so that other drivers don’t get in your way). That would do way more to alleviate traffic for the money. You would still tear down the viaduct, but it wouldn’t matter as much. Just look at West Seattle Freeway right now. Traffic backs up in the morning all the way to West Seattle not because of 99, but because of I-5. The tunnel will do nothing about this problem because the tunnel won’t have downtown exits. It will do nothing for those trying to get downtown, or trying to get to the east side. It will do nothing for those who want to take transit, but find the connections just too burdensome, because there simply isn’t enough money.

      That’s what is so crazy about this project. Not only is it stupid that we are spending billions on roads instead of transit, it is that we are spending billions on the wrong road. I-5 and I-90 are the big heavy lifters in the area, and they are full of ridiculous bottlenecks through and around downtown. Creating an underground bypass to the west won’t help in the least.

  8. Definitely one of the weirder roundups in a while.

    Uber continues to do a fantastic job of applying its “superlative” to all manner of deep-pocketed corporate bullying and assholery. Fortunately, even those once blinded by their loathing of legacy taxi systems are waking up to the possibility that venture capital writing its own laws may not be the best answer.

    Don’t like dealing with the moral ambiguities of gentrification? Redefine it in an incredibly arbitrary and narrow way, and then claim it’s not happening!

    And can everybody please stop linking to Russia Today? I know they’ve mastered the balance between clickbait graphics and interest-worthy-yet-easily-digestible content, but their politically neutral info feed increasingly seems to act as a Trojan Horse for the crazycakes Putin-dictated angle of stories on Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or anything related to energy policy. I can’t think of a more poorly understood, unreliable “mainstream” source with such an accelerating influence (even Fox News is on the wane).

      1. Well Russia Today isn’t actually a parody site, but they are about as credible as one. Really in the same league as World Net Daily or News Max.

      2. RT actually gets scoops, unfortunately, so I have to read them sometimes. (Then again, the Weekly World News got an actual scoop a few years back.)

  9. You raise an interesting question, Mic. But I think History provides an excellent answer:

    As a rule, people will put up with no say at all in their government and seriously curtailed rights as long as for most of them, their government works. Different definition for different countries, much due to long experience.

    Exactly why Vladimir Putin, with a democracy-free resume of that put a lot blood on this hands, enjoys a large amount of trust from huge numbers of people in his country: centuries’ long memories of repeated savagery rolling across indefensible borders from west, east, and south. North? Geographically less temptation.

    Also, not to point fingers but to notice direction and speed, I’ve got a country in mind not there yet, but headed that direction. Will just note that whatever its faults and however dangerous they are, there has never been a government in world history that has given its people so much, for so long, and asked so little of them as our own right now.

    So one constant for both world history and trolleybus driving: when a driver is handling his or her coach smoothly and efficiently, and giving passengers the information they need to help them board and deboard efficiently, none of them will demand any say whatever in operating the bus.

    System already provides remedy for that- which is not running the Route 44 by committee, which would hardly result in freedom from delays and crashes. Though, the system needs to do a better job of train its drivers to handle their buses and trains so they never hear their passengers singing “La Marseillaise”, “The Internationale”, or “Many Thousand Gone!”.

    Mark

    1. Quite right, Mark. What drives me nuts is that I do not think the US government is actually functioning right now. It loses every war it gets into, it harasses its citizens, it fails to provide justice for crimes, it’s allowing the economy to collapse for 99% of the population without providing a safety net, and even the bridges are collapsing.

      This isn’t functioning. People tolerate (even cheer for) autocracy when things work, but I would argue that at the national level, things really aren’t working.

  10. Here’s a really stupid question that I don’t remember the answer to:

    When the monorail pulls into Westlake and it’s on the track that’s on the far side of the platform, how do people boarding and exiting get from the platform to the train?

  11. “For a census tract to be considered gentrified, it had to start out at a high level of economic distress, with at least 30 percent of residents at or below the poverty line (roughly double the national average). If, at the end of the four-decade period, the tract rebounded to a poverty rate below 15 percent, it had gentrified. Remarkably, Seattle does not have a single census tract that meets this threshold for gentrification. To be fair, the data show that neighborhoods like Ballard and Capitol Hill have experienced displacement, with declines in the percentage of residents who earn poverty-level wages. But these neighborhoods weren’t extremely blighted to begin with. In central Ballard the poverty rate was just 16 percent in 1970. In the heart of Capitol Hill, it was 19 percent.”

    This really gets my goat. First they use an extremely narrow definition of gentrification, then they say Seattle doesn’t have it, so problem solved. Then they say the real problem is people in poverty, but that’s switching the topic. They just ignore the gap between the official poverty level and the well off, even though there’s a lot of people in between and they’re struggling too.

    Gentrification does not just mean the neighborhood started “with at least 30 percent of residents at or below the poverty line”. It means the neighborhood is, well, gentrifying. I.e., richer people are moving in, making the houses more fancy, driving up housing prices, attracting boutique shops, and pricing out the kind of people who used to live there. That’s exactly what has been happening in Rainier Valley since the 90s, even if it wasn’t run-down or empty enough to meet Balk’s definition of gentrification. And it’s happening in Capitol Hill and Ballard right now.

    And no, it’s not about the loss of the Harvard Exit. What’s more important: a movie theater, or people being able to live in the neighborhood they want (or even just any neighborhood with frequent transit and a pedestrian environment)? The Harvard Exit was just an ownership change and the new owner wanting to do something different. I’m just glad he’s keeping the 1920s building, and I hope the vintage projector goes to another theater or MOHAI or something.

    1. A question i have is there any case where gentrification has been stopped or successfully mitigated?

      Opposing gentrification really boils down to saying the needs of commercial and residential renters trump those of property owners.

    2. Gentrification can’t be stopped because rich people will buy what they want. You’d have to convert the entire neighborhood to public housing: no rich people allowed, and the properties are not for sale. But it can be mitigated by providing enough housing for the poor and lower middle class, not necessarily in the same neighborhood but in a neighborhood with good walkability and transit. If there’s enough housing in neighborhoods with decent infrastructure that the overall price doesn’t rise much, then it doesn’t matter that the rich will take over the most prestigious areas. The problem is that a few prestigious areas are the only areas with good walk circles and full-time frequent transit, so not living in them means half-hourly buses, 1+ hour regional trips, and no supermarket within walking distance.

    3. As to where there’s good mitigation, Chicago and LA may be among the best best because there are lots of areas citywide with decent transit and housing costs like pre-spike Seattle or lower. They still displace people from the most prestigious neighborhoods, but as I said that may be unavoidable, and the thing to to do is to make sure less-prestigious neighborhoods have adequate infrastructure and vacancies — more than the number of rich people buying.

    4. I agree that the definition is awfully limited and misses the point. In some ways, it suggests that gentrification is a good thing. After all, if the city became more economically diverse, then gentrification, by this definition, would occur everywhere. In other words, I’m sure Detroit dreams of this kind of gentrification. It won’t happen, of course, because even if wealthy people move in, poor people will move somewhere else (nearby). Unless the country, as a whole, gets its act together and starts acting like a developed country (Sweden, Norway, Germany) and less like a developing one (Mexico). I’m not expecting this to happen anytime soon.

      Anyway, we should pause here and give thanks to the folks in the city that made this definition impossible. Seattle never had really bad slums. The Central Area (or CD as it is more commonly called these days) was never as run down, nor as impoverished as in most cities. The reasons are complex (luck had something to do with it) but a lot had to do with the schools. Garfield, which once had a cheer that went “Soul in the ghetto …”, was never in anything like the ghettos you find in most of the country. It was, back in the day, simply a safe, extremely high achieving school. This is good, and worth remembering.

      But that makes this type of gentrification even more troubling. If people are being forced to move from their home (because they can’t pay the rent) then we, as a city, have certainly lost something special. Let’s hope that lots of those folks actually owned their house. In which case they are either enjoying the higher valued neighborhood, or have cashed out (and if they cashed out, they probably moved a bit south, and will do the same thing all over again in a few years).

Comments are closed.