Michael Brunk - Flickr CC
Michael Brunk – Flickr CC

This is an open thread.

80 Replies to “News Roundup: Happy New Year”

  1. Re “Save Our Suburbs”: Just a reminder that if the city of Mercer Island was responsible for its own P&R situation the issues of downtown land use and resident station access could be worked out by elected officials, who would have to make real proposals balancing the needs of their residents and businesses and stake their campaigns on it. That’s how representative government is supposed to work, not by which bunch shouts loudest at public meetings. Obviously it’s appropriate for something like the the bus loop to basically be designed by ST, as freeway interchanges are designed by WSDOT. Beyond that, land use and parking (especially near downtowns!) are essentially city issues, and cities should handle them independently.

    Cities would be far more likely than ST to build parking in a way that promotes their downtowns as local activity centers, something we need more of here… and they’d be more likely to set prices that make sense in the local context because they wouldn’t have to consult the whole region on the false question of whether that’s fair.

    1. The article is almost as sloppy as the misnomer “Save Our Suburb(s)”. A “coalition” is a group of organizations, not of individuals.

      But with this group aiming to work against the interests of every other eastside suburb, I think making “Suburbs” plural is getting ahead of itself.

      I am confused as to how a park&ride where suburbanites would park would make Mercer Island feel anything other than suburban. (Not that I care to have a park&ride there, either.)

      They also seem to conflate the bus loop with the idea of a “bus barn”. Are there any plans for a bus base there? Or are they just opposing having any buses lay over at the station as a bargaining chip (which makes no sense since there are already local bus routes which involve laying over there).

      If the group“will be setting up a public meeting where we can secure everyone’s feedback publicly. Everyone who lives on the Island, or has a business on the Island, needs to have a voice,” they are not taking advantage of a basic efficiency: the fact that the island has an elected city council. Are they not happy with the representation they are getting from their city council?

      But speaking of businesses, if they are trying to keep outsiders from doing any shopping at a transit-oriented business district, I’d be surprised if the Mercer Island Chanber of Commerce gives this group the time of day.

      1. SOS is just like any other group made up of a handful of loud old NIMBYs that complain about parking and traffic (of course they and their sacred single occupant car aren’t contributing to parking and traffic problems). Its based on being entitled to travel between point A and point B without stopping and having an empty free parking space within 10 feet of the destination at all times. Free abundant parking is as essential to life as water and air. The construction of anything but a single family house on a large lot or structure over 20 feet high is the greatest crisis in the world and a direct attack on their house, car and them.

      2. They belong to the school of suburbanism that says, “We want the economic benefits of living near a major economic center, and a lifestyle that resembles an imaginary idealized form of country living.” They want to live at the end of a cul-de-sac with lake views, work at high-paying jobs in downtown Seattle, people-watch at cafes in the town center, shop at big boxes with low prices and giant flat parking lots, and connect the dots in luxury cars with free parking everywhere. And they see the role of public works as erasing every possible barrier to this. It’s a pretty selfish ideology; clearly the issue is bigger than it.

        Downtown MI businesses have no reason to oppose MI being a bit of a transit hub, but suburban downtown businesses often oppose suburban downtown commuter parking, because they perceive their business as limited by parking and traffic capacity as much as floor space (often correctly, in light of the big-box stores that have come to dominate practical retail these days), and don’t appreciate public money paying for parking lots near their businesses that funnel people away from them.

        Practical, affordable retail in suburban/neighborhood downtowns is one of the most important aspects of urbanism. It’s not really on the radar of American transit agencies (typically preoccupied with getting the most commuter-peak usage out of capital projects) but it’s important to city leaders. Often suburban and neighborhood chambers of commerce oppose resident commuters on these issues… and of course they often support business parking over transit, bike lanes and pedestrian improvements, too.

        Among all these different groups we have to find common interests, build a public realm, promote common goods. That’s what city government is for. Therefore any place where commuter parking is more of a land use issue than a simple transit access issue, it should be funded, built, maintained, and operated by city government.

      3. More specifically, an imaginary, idealized form of post-industrial American country living. Before the industrial revolution — and still, in many parts of the world — even small villages are surprisingly dense (at least by American standards). American suburbs are practically isolated rural enclaves, except that the “farms” (yards) aren’t being put to any productive use.

      4. Mercer Island has some regional responsibility given its location. Beaux Arts can remain a sleepy suburb forever because it’s not on the way to anywhere: it’s in a corner of the land. But Mercer Island — specifically the part of it adjacent to I-90 — is a regional centerpoint. So it has to accept some regional functions, such as a bus turnaround. Maybe not another P&R. I’d recommend just closing South Bellevue P&R during construction rather than opening a temporary one. So what if more people drive for a couple years: what matters is that they won’t drive in the decades after the station opens.

        Similar to Mercer Island on I-90, downtown Bellevue is in the center of the Eastside. Fortunately it decided on its own to become the largest urban center in the area. It’s a natural place for the Eastside’s primary transfer point (Bellevue Transit Center). What if Bellevue had gone “Save Our Suburb” and refused to allow regional functions downtown? Kirkland would not have been able to fill the gap because it’s also in a corner. So Bellevue has some regional responsibilities because of its location, and Mercer Island does too.

      5. Yeah, I’m with Mike. Close down all the Mercer Island I-90 exits. Let folks take a boat to the island and see if you like your quiet little suburb. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a multi-billion dollar freeway (that you didn’t pay for) literally right at your doorstep, with private on ramps to boot, and then whine about major transportation projects mucking up your style.

      6. Well, the freeway is only there because the federal highway was there, and its refurbishment in the 80s wasn’t for Mercer Island, it was part of that “regional responsibility”. As to why the federal highway (10) was there, it’s because somebody in the early 1900s thought it was the straightest way between Seattle and Snoqualmie Pass, and it would be too much work to go a bit further north off the island.

      7. I know why the freeway is there, but I’m saying this Mercer Island group wants it both ways. They want all the transportation advantages of a freeway but none of the cost (in inconvenience or actual dollars). The advantages for Mercer Island are many. Solo drivers can drive between the island and downtown Seattle. They are the only solo drivers who can do that. Even without that special treatment, there are several exits on the island, way more than are necessary if the goal is to have this be a quiet suburb. It an extremely convenient location, since it is easy to go east or west from there. They benefit immensely from this, and yet they don’t want others to take advantage of this convenience. Likewise with light rail here. It will provide for great connectivity, but now they don’t want to maximize its use. They are quite happy sucking from the general region’s (or the national government’s) teat, but don’t want to be inconvenienced when doing so.

      8. [Full disclosure; I grew up on the Island, but live in Wallingford now, and NO my family was not rich. Not everybody on the Island is rich. I also am a big proponent of transit use and for the expanded construction of more mass transit]

        Some of the above comments (RossB, etc) might be some of the whiniest rhetoric I have ever seen on this site. It is 100% OKAY for S.O.S. to oppose a new parking garage. It is 100% OKAY for them to desire a “slow-down” approach to all of these construction plans. It is 100% OKAY for them to desire a way to discourage off islanders from flooding the neighborhoods surrounding the current park’n’ride. All of their grievances are FINE. What’s more, what attractions does the Island have to offer? Does it have a pro-sports stadium? Does it have the best restaurants and bars in the area? Does it have a luxury high-end hotel? Concert hall? Nothing at all? Does the island have a complete and effective transit system already in place to funnel the people of the island to the new light rail station? No again? Mercer Island IS a sleepy suburb (no matter how badly you want to change that). The proposed station (and current park and ride) are designed FOR ISLANDERS to get the heck off the Island (in both directions), not as a spring-board for the entire east side to use to get to Seattle. Simply put, the built environment around the proposed station location does not have the capacity to handle the demands of everyone on the east side, and that is FINE. Moreover, restricting/reducing parking capacity on the Island is a GOOD THING if you want to encourage more transit use on the eastside so that they do not clog up I-90.

        The more I read these comments, the more it becomes clear that there is a subtle hatred of the people on Mercer Island. Of course the moment I say this, a flood of replies will suddenly say “I don’t hate Mercer Island people, geez ya troll, I just want [blank], [blank] and [blank] to happen”.

        Michael Orr presents a much more realistic, reasonable, and convincing comment on how to properly criticize the SOS group while also providing different ideas on how to resolve the issues presented by the S.O.S. I also agree with Sam on the contradictory nature of this blog/commentators in regards to parking/car travel. I also like the idea of moving the south Bellevue park’n’ride more south closer to I-90. This, along with a light rail extension to (at least) the East gate park’n’ride, would appear to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the north end of the Island (land, logistics, etc…) and improve over-all system efficiency.
        I wouldn’t be 100% opposed to a new parking structure for the link station on the island, but I do oppose the proposed location. The streets around that location, and neighborhood in general, does NOT have the capacity to handle such a large structure and the in’n’out traffic it will generate. Growing up I remember being stuck in traffic in that area simply trying to get to Luther Burbank Park on a sunny day. That location would be terrible for a park and ride!
        I did not see where a proposed bus barn was reported, but if true I agree with SOS on the area not being able to handle such a facility. I mean, if you destroy a few sculpture parks than you could probably find that space but I believe that would be very contradictory to the Seattle/King County artzy nature.

        The proposed bus loop is fine on 80th Ave SE as the other highway bridges theoretically would be able to handle any excess motor traffic. This, however, will not work if the buses will be forced to loop through the downtown area via SE 27th st. The new traffic lights in that area, in my experience, are horrendously poor timed/tuned and have caused regular back-ups on SE 27th as well as 77th Ave SE.

        Lastly, it IS very important for the downtown area of Mercer Island to begin to densify and accept the role (although small) it has in the overall region. Due to the geographical restrictions of the downtown core (steep ridges to the east and west, concrete river to the north (I-90) and city parks to the south), it only makes sense to REASONABLY increase density, but restrict overall sprawl. No one is 100% right on the future of the Island and it’s commercial downtown, so in that regard a hybrid approach to transit/parking/zoning that reasonably satisfies all is (hands down) the best way to go forward.

      9. I think the S.O.S. group is comically narrow-minded, short-sighted, and selfish, but I don’t think their demands for all the benefits and none of the impacts represents everyone on the island. I think some of the concerns with a community center P&R are reasonable, and I really think this is the sort of thing that’s not ST’

      10. I think the S.O.S. group is comically narrow-minded, short-sighted, and selfish, but I don’t think their demands for all the benefits and none of the impacts represents everyone on the island. I think some of the concerns with a community center P&R are reasonable, and I really think this sort of thing, that close to the town center, is MI’s business, not ST’s. Hand these sorts of decisions and projects to cities. If ST wants to provide general parking for everyone it can do so in other bits of useless interchangeland — one of the few benefits of a largely freeway-based regional transit system.

      11. “I did not see where a proposed bus barn was reported”

        A bus barn is a base, where dozens of buses get parked for the night and have maintenance. This is not a base. It’s a couple bus bays and layover spaces.

        “The proposed station [is] designed FOR ISLANDERS to get the heck off the Island (in both directions), not as a spring-board for the entire east side to use to get to Seattle.”

        That’s news to ST, since they’re the ones promoting the bus turnaround.

        “I also like the idea of moving the south Bellevue park’n’ride more south closer to I-90.”

        That may be a good idea but it’s too late because they’ve already decided on the station location and signed a memorandum with Bellevue on the East Link alignment through the city. You’d have to get ST to reverse its decision, reopen the alignment, do environmental studies, and get Bellevue to accept the change.

      12. How is it whiny to point out the facts. Mercer Island residents get special treatment with regards to the HOV lanes. That is simply a fact.

        Oh, and yes, I agree with much of what you said. Mercer Island is a sleepy suburb. But why, then does it get it’s own light rail station? Seriously, can you figure that out? There are lots and lots of sleepy suburbs that don’t have light rail stations. Hell, there are lots and lots of dense urban communities without them (like Ballard) or even on the drawing board (like the Central Area). But Mercer Island gets a station because .. wait for it … there is a freeway there! Of course it does. If I-90 crossed at Madison Park/Medina we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now (about Mercer Island). Mercer Island residents would have to “drive around” (or take a boat) and there would be no light rail station there. But Mercer Island residents want it both ways. They want a billion dollar light rail line, with very fast access to downtown Seattle or Bellevue, along with express lanes (that as an SOV driver only they can access). But, even with all that, they don’t want buses heading there. Somehow they forgot why the station is there (because it is next to I-90). Of course it makes sense for buses to interact there. Just look at a map.

        Now, if they want to get rid of the park and rides, than I say go for it. I said as much above. I think it would be great if they close down the 400+ parking spots and turn them into a park. Northgate tried to do that as well. They tried very hard to get rid of the park and ride spots, but it turns out that is difficult to do (legally).

        Besides, that isn’t exactly what they want. At best they want no increase. If that is the case, then I think that is great. But as you point out, transit on the island isn’t great, so expect to see some blow back (from island residents). As I said before, there really is no one from outside the island that will park there. Why would they? If you are east of I-90, or on 405, or in South Bellevue anywhere, you will simply park at South Bellevue. This is an island fight, and if these guys want to limit park and ride slots, and they can convince other islanders that it would be a good thing, then I think it would be great.

        But if they want to limit buses getting to the island, they are just being selfish. They want all the benefit of light rail, without the cost. It is a minor cost, by the way, with its own benefit. Again, the comparison with Northgate is stark. Northgate residents see dozens of buses stream by their house, on the way to the transit center, despite it being way less convenient than the Mercer Island station, but people put up with it. It is just the cost of living there. You simply trade the peace and tranquility (of being close to the freeway) for added transit. Somehow this group doesn’t want to make the same trade, which may be fine for them (maybe they have no interest in a faster, more convenient ride to Bellevue College or Issaquah) but it is selfish.

      13. I agree Al. Park and Ride issues should be handled by the neighborhood, not Sound Transit. If the neighbors want one, they should pay for it, and decide where to put it. If not, then great.

        But a bus depot is a different thing. In many cases, it is essential for transit. In this case, it most certainly is.

      14. “Northgate tried to do that as well. They tried very hard to get rid of the park and ride spots, but it turns out that is difficult to do (legally). ”

        Specifically, they didn’t want a new P&R with more spaces, and they didn’t care if the current spaces go away. A study found that most of the park n riders are from east and west of the mall; in other words, they wouldn’t have to drive to it if there were more crosstown buses and sidewalks and bike lanes, so they asked for those instead. That was the first time 3/4 of neighborhood feedback was against expanding a P&R.

        The legal issue that’s forcing ST to build replacement parking during construction and a new small garage is unique to Northgate. Part of the existing garage is owned by the mall, and it has promised in its merchant contracts that a certain number of parking spaces would be available. So if they’re not, the merchants could sue the mall, and the mall would pretty much have to sue ST to recoup its losses.

      15. “Park and Ride issues should be handled by the neighborhood, not Sound Transit. If the neighbors want one, they should pay for it,”

        I wish this were the case, and somebody said that’s how northeastern HCT systems do this — “We provide the station, the surrounding city can provide parking if it wants it.” Meanwhile Puyallup or Sumner is demanding ST build another garage to “mitigate” the traffic going through the city center to the Sounder station, and many voters say it’s the transit agency’s job to provide parking and that’s what their transit taxes are for. It’s a big job to turn those attitudes around, which is why it’s only happening a little bit at a time.

        ST initially seemed to believe large P&Rs were beneficial to the transit line, but more recently (in Lynnwood Extension planning) said they’re to counteract hide-n-ride; i.e., people parking on surrounding streets. The garage is sized to the point that hide-n-ride falls to near zero.

        Of course there are other factors. It seems to be a given that there’ll be at least one large P&R in every direction: TIB, Lynnwood, South Bellevue. And cities can cap the size of P&Rs if they wish, which has happened in Northgate (small), Rainier Valley (none, and the corresponding hide-n-ride has emerged), and maybe now Mercer Island.

      16. “How is it whiny to point out the facts. Mercer Island residents get special treatment with regards to the HOV lanes. That is simply a fact.“

        Myth, any single occupant users are allowed to use the HOV lanes as long as you exit onto Mercer Island. Yes, over the decades it is regular to see users exit onto MI only to get back on the highway.

        “Oh, and yes, I agree with much of what you said. Mercer Island is a sleepy suburb. But why, then does it get it’s own light rail station? Seriously, can you figure that out?”

        Because it is a part of the greater King County community. Investment groups have (fairly) rapidly expanded the downtown core of Mercer Island over the last 15 years, accepting increased density. As a child I could ride my skate board down the main street of the city without fear of getting hit, which is very much NOT the case now.

        “There are lots and lots of sleepy suburbs that don’t have light rail stations. Hell, there are lots and lots of dense urban communities without them (like Ballard) or even on the drawing board (like the Central Area). But Mercer Island gets a station because .. wait for it … there is a freeway there!”

        Probably easier to build a rail line on land you already own, just throwing that out there. Ballard will also get light rail, please…

        “Of course it does. If I-90 crossed at Madison Park/Medina we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now (about Mercer Island). Mercer Island residents would have to “drive around” (or take a boat) and there would be no light rail station there. But Mercer Island residents want it both ways. They want a billion dollar light rail line, with very fast access to downtown Seattle or Bellevue, along with express lanes (that as an SOV driver only they can access).“

        Irrelevant/whiny/every city would want that/shame on them for wanting that.
        “But, even with all that, they don’t want buses heading there. Somehow they forgot why the station is there (because it is next to I-90). Of course it makes sense for buses to interact there. Just look at a map.”

        Did you ignore my points about area/27th street capacity?

        “Now, if they want to get rid of the park and rides, than I say go for it. I said as much above. I think it would be great if they close down the 400+ parking spots and turn them into a park. Northgate tried to do that as well. They tried very hard to get rid of the park and ride spots, but it turns out that is difficult to do (legally).”

        I would agree, as long as the Island had a rapid street car (or something with right of way) that connected the park’n’ride/downtown with a line that snaked south along Island Crest Way to the south end of the island. Too bad the local population wouldn’t be able to support a single line like this, but the stops I would love to see would be (from North to South): (1) At the parking lot at the intersection of SE 22nd St and72nd Ave SE (connect the Roanoke Pub/Parks with downtown via “Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail”), (2) Near the Starbucks on SE 27th St, (3) Next to intersection of SE 27th St and 80th Ave (at which point the line would turn southbound), (4) Next to the intersection of 80th Ave SE and SE 30th St (at which point the line would turn up and onto Island Crest Way), (5) Next to the intersection of 86th Ave SE and SE 42 St via island crest way to SE 40th St, (6) in between Island Park Elementary and Island Crest Park via 86th Ave SE to Island Crest Way, (7) South QFC commercial district, (8) Islander Middle School/the Lakes community. The line skips some neighborhoods, but the general idea is to connect the south end with the north end to help alleviate parking issues.

        “As I said before, there really is no one from outside the island that will park there. Why would they? If you are east of I-90, or on 405, or in South Bellevue anywhere, you will simply park at South Bellevue.”

        Incorrect, that park’n’ride gets flooded with east side residents daily, and the south Bellevue park’n’ride is even worse. You can easily see this yourself if you want to spend a morning near the off ramps. My person record is witnessing 12 cars in a row get off of westbound I-90 to park at the park’n’ride. Why do I feel like I am the only one on here who has had decades of “boots-on-the-ground” experience with the situation surrounding that park’n’ride? Furthermore, what’s the point of having a park’n’ride in your community if you can’t even use it after 7:15AM? That is not even mentioning Seahawk and Mariner game events, which also cause the park’n’ride to fill up rapidly. This all leads to Islanders wanting to somehow limit the local park’n’ride to the local city population (my, how selfish of them).

        “But if they want to limit buses getting to the island, they are just being selfish. They want all the benefit of light rail, without the cost. It is a minor cost, by the way, with its own benefit.”

        80th has capacity for the bus loop, just not the surrounding neighborhood. The real problem is if they made the loop go through downtown via 27th, which would be a really bad idea.

    2. You people are inconsistent. You regularly oppose and demonize all types of parking. Street parking. Parking lots. Parking garages. New construction with parking. TOD parking. Etc. But then when a local community opposes parking, you become outraged and call them names.

      1. I have to agree with Sam. There should be no new Park’N’Ride on Mercer Island, at least, not funded by ST. The bus interchange really does need to be there, though. Good capitalists on the Island should be able to build amenities around it which will snag enough people changing vehicles to make a go of it. During the middle of the day there will be quite a few people waiting for “outbound” transfers.

      2. I’m with Sam, too. Vancouver’s “SkyTrain villages” have been much more successful than Portland’s giant park-and-rides.

        I also think that South Bellevue P&R should have been built straddling I-90, rather than its current location. That would make SBP&R the ideal connection point for all buses. (The same is true for South Kirkland P&R, which would have over twice as much service if it had been built straddling SR-520.)

        But given where South Bellevue P&R is, Mercer Island is the only feasible connection point for buses coming from I-90. So I don’t agree with the residents that the proposed bus loops are bad, and even if Sam disagrees, I doubt even he will call that stance hypocritical.

      3. @Aleks: That’s interesting. It really worries that when we have infrastructure for regional transit that’s not quite in the right place to make local connections efficient, and we have the opportunity to change it, that we blow it almost every time. 145th vs. 130th, 520 freeway stops (South Kirkland mostly; also considering the addition of a flyer stop somewhere in the Bel-Red area so there’s at least some direct Seattle service there), the Tukwila Sounder Station, and maybe South Bellevue’s location, too — actually I haven’t given a single thought to the possibility of moving South Bellevue until now, but anything that avoids sending an armada of buses over the East Channel Bridge is at least worth considering.

      4. I don’t like these either. However, with vast areas of auto based sprawl and the desire to have few Link stations, what are the alternatives?

        Vancouver’s land use planning system would create screams about communism on right if attempts were made to implement that south of the US-Canada border.

      5. Read the whole thing, Sam. They don’t just oppose the park and ride. They oppose a bus hub on the island. I have no problem with them opposing a park and ride. But I think opposition to sensible bus/rail interaction is simply elitism. They want all the advantages of a light rail system, and a huge freeway, but none of the cost (in dollars or in land use).

      6. @Al — You can probably add 520-to-Link connectivity to that list as well (of projects that should have been altered a bit to be far more effective). If U-Link had a station just south of Husky Stadium, at the intersection of 520, it would be a lot more useful. I think you could make a pretty could case for Sound Transit being dysfunctional and incompetent. They focus on checking off boxes (light rail to the UW, check) without getting the details right (like good bus connectivity to the stations). I think the dysfunction and incompetence is due to their political structure.

        As far moving the station, I think it is too late. I don’t think there is a cheap or simple alternative either (unlike U-Link to 520, where all they needed to do was put in a station). At this point, I think the best thing they could do is to double down on South Bellevue Park and Ride. This would not be cheap, but it would be ideal from a connectivity perspective. This means:

        1) Bus only flyover lanes. Right now the HOV lanes go westbound (towards Seattle).* These would be in the opposite direction. I would also add some for 405 as well (southbound).

        2) Widen Bellevue Way and add a bus only lane. You could, of course, simply “take” a lane, but I would expect lots of opposition to that.

        3) Expand the park and ride to handle more buses. This might not be necessary, but right now, I think the plan is to serve this station with buses from 405 (south) and the local area. With this change, it would add I-90 (east) buses to that list.

        With this investment, though, it would greatly improve connectivity in the area over the current plan (as I understand it). Having South Bellevue becomes the main bus transit center for buses from east or south of there is much better than if Mercer Island handles buses to the east, and South Bellevue handles buses to the south. Someone going from one suburb to the other (e. g. Renton to Eastgate) would have a much faster connection.

        Of course, there would be plenty of local opposition to this plan as well. You would have lots and lots of buses streaming into and out of the park and ride. My guess is that opposition, and lack of creativity (paying for ramps instead of paying for light rail to nowhere) would kill the idea. As a result, I think it is best if we simply muddle along, and count on Mercer Island taking the i-90 buses, and South Bellevue taking the 405 ones.

        * The state made a huge investment in HOV only ramps from Bellevue to I-90, but those were (of course) headed towards Seattle. They will be very useful until East Link is done, but then become a lot less so. I can’t imagine any buses using those lanes, for example, after opening day.

      7. The fact that this group opposes both an expanded park and rides and the bus hub is interesting. Opposing the bus hub is likely to be popular with the locals, but I think opposing the park and ride is a different matter. Are folks on the island really willing to take a bus or walk to the station? How very urban. The vast majority of riders live nowhere near the station, so that is putting a lot of faith in the island bus system. My guess is that people there would oppose that idea, but if not, then kudos to them.

        Oh, wait, I just read their plans, and they simply oppose the expansion of the park and ride. They have no plans to close the existing one. That makes sense, and is a good compromise. Of course, once commuters (from everywhere) start using that park and ride, I think folks will start asking someone else to build them a park and ride. Things could get interesting then.

        Oh, and the idea that the bus hub would contribute to extra park and ride use is ridiculous. Why would anyone drive to Mercer Island, then take a feeder bus out to Issaquah or Eastgate. That makes no sense.

    3. “Save Our Suburbs” is a comically hilarious group name. It’s like “Save Our Pollution” or “Save our Crime”.

      Does anyone under the age of 50 actually have a positive attraction to the tract-house suburbs of the 1950s? To genuine rural areas, sure. To small towns (like Kent), sure. To streetcar suburbs, sure. To big cities, certainly. But to the unwalkable tract-house suburb with the unused yard which has to be mowed, and the hour-long commute by car?

      1. Positive attraction, not really. However, family-sized housing in Seattle is brutally expensive even for a couple with good jobs. Down payments are eye-wateringly high and there are very few SFHs available to rent. This shortage will help overcome the resistance to living in the burbs.

        Most of the densifying development in Seattle is not family sized (Studios and 1BD apartments, ADUs, cottages) because today’s market doesn’t demand it. But 2-3 bedroom dwellings are already in short supply and that will only get worse, unless we assume that only ~30% of young residents will start families. More than 85% of the units in my apartment building are Studios or 1BDs.

        Being car-free when you have children is probably quite challenging – possible, yes, but once you buy that car, the burbs are already calling.

      2. Bailo and friends. Surrey Downs residents. While some residents feel trapped in those areas (kids living with parents, people who can’t afford to move elsewhere, elderly and disabled), others preferentially chose them and still prefer them.

        However, I don’t think Mercer Island is a “tract-house suburb”. I’ve only been beyond downtown a couple times but I think it’s mostly individually-built houses rather than tract neighborhoods. Buying a parcel and building a house is more commitment and work than basically “shopping” the tract developments, and it’s also more self-initiated while the tracts are more manipulative through marketing. (How many people who have tract houses would have bought them — or even bought a detached single-family house — without all the pervasive marketing by the developers and mortgage companies? 40%, probably. But 80% or 90%?)

        Aleks is right-on about quasi-farms. If people are going to have large yards, at least make something of them. Plant a large garden, or at least native shrubs and other low-resource and environment-compatible plants (like the area would have been without the house), and only have a lawn if your kids or dogs are actually going to run through it all the time.

      3. Yeah, what Mike said (Bailo and friends). But generally speaking, the numbers are dwindling. It just isn’t as popular a lifestyle choice as it used to be.

        For the most part, folks who move to the suburbs are doing so for the reason Alex mentioned — they can’t afford to live in the city. But this group is doing all it can to tell those people to suck it. They oppose more affordable housing, even houses on small lots, let alone row houses or apartments. Plus Mercer Island is ridiculously expensive — no one moves there because they can’t afford to live in the city. They move to Kent or Renton.

      4. That’s the irony of low density. By definition it means few people. So by limiting density in Shoreline, Mercer Island, Kirkland, or Seattle neighborhoods, you’re limiting that area’s influence over the long term. They have outsized influence now because of the political structure (Seattle is one city, while each suburb is a city) and because single-family residents are currently the majority in many areas. But you can only build single-family neighborhoods on empty land, and there is no more land left in Seattle or the inner burbs. So SFH areas can’t grow, while multifamily areas will grow as the population increases, and the net result is SFH areas losing influence. Seattle just turned majority-multifamily. The new council districts are structured to maximize SFH influence by splitting the multifamily areas into minorities in their district, but that will be effective only so long. And people’s attitudes change over time. It used to be “No upzones anywhere in my city.” Now it’s “No upzones in the existing single-family areas.” In ten years it will be different again. Conversely, some urbanists have been convinced to allow at least some single-family areas to remain; e.g., I don’t object to keeping Magnolia and the eastern neighborhoods (beyond Lake City – U-Village – Madison Valley – Columbia City) as-is long-term.

        Anyway, the point is, by keeping your inner neighborhood low density — when the only space available for similar new neighborhoods is in the exurbs (Smokey Point, Maple Valley, Puyallup) in other judisdictions — you’re limiting your area’s influence on the metropolis in the long term.

      5. To small towns (like Kent), sure.

        Kent is the 6th largest city in the state. I could see calling it a small city. It is not by any definition a small town.

      6. Kent stopped being a small town when tract houses came to Kent, both in the late 1960s.

      7. “Most of the densifying development in Seattle is not family sized (Studios and 1BD apartments, ADUs, cottages) because today’s market doesn’t demand it.”

        Yes it does. The developers just haven’t been building it because two 1 BRs are more lucrative than one 3BR in the same space. Each unit has a base rent of some $1600, and around $500 more per bedroom. So two base rents are better than one or two extra bedrooms. But some developers are starting to put all unit sizes in buildings because they realize it’s healthier for the market long-term to accomodate a variety of households.

        “But 2-3 bedroom dwellings are already in short supply and that will only get worse,”

        That would only matter if there’s more demand than supply. The fact that families say they can’t find 2 or 3 BR units while they have to turn down dozens of 1 BRs and studios shows that supply is out of balance.

      8. Downtown Kent is a small town, with annexed tract housing to the east and annexed industrial sprawl to the north. Does that explain what I was trying to say?

  2. Jason Rantz’s rant includes his belief that in celebrating 1,000,000 bike rides across the Fremont Bridge, bicyclists and SDOT are trying to fool people into believing that there are 1,000,000 bike riders in Seattle. Some commenters point out no one is trying to say that the number of rides is equal to the number of unique riders, but he’s having no of it.

    1. I’ve always found KIRO to be the most suburban motorist bias of the local TV news channels.

    2. I wonder if he is equally confused by traffic counts on roads, or if he is just selectively daft.

    3. hmmmm…so you’re telling me that McDonald’s “billions and billions served” signage does not mean that there are billions and billions of people on earth? ;-)

  3. First his superlatively “right to my ignorance” comments about road diets and induced demand, and now his beating of the eye-rollingly exceptionalist “climate refugees” prognostication drum.

    Was 2014 the year in which local idiot savant Cliff Mass finally overstepped the limited bounds of his expertise?

      1. As someone who lives within spitting distance of the road diet on 125th, I can tell you that Mr. Mass is dead wrong about the road diet there. To begin with, it had nothing to do with adding bike lanes. The bike lanes were added only because they had extra space. It had everything to do with changing a four lane road to a three lane road. Simply put, odd numbered lanes are better, unless you have a road with no turns (studies have shown this).

        But you don’t have to check the study, just drive a little. Drive in the left lane, and someone will eventually make a left turn in front of you. So you (if you are lucky) move quickly to the right. That is repeated over and over (with people who don’t signal until the last minute) and next thing you know everything is backed up.

        But that’s only about the cars. Now consider a pedestrian. The car on the inside lane stops for the pedestrian. Now the other car assumes it is another bozo that forget to turn on his signal, so the driver swerves around the guy. He doesn’t see the pedestrian (since he is focused on his rear view mirror trying to make the lane change) and wham — dead pedestrian. That happened not too far from 125th, by the way, on 5th Ave NE. She was 17. Seventeen. Seventeen! Sorry I keep repeating that, but no amount on minor traffic (and I drive that road all the fucking time — the added delay is minor) is worth the life of a 17 year old. 125th (east of Roosevelt) is a lot safer, and cars go through there just fine. Despite what the doomsayers said, the road diet was a huge success. If only 5th had undergone a similar change than maybe Ms. Khadka might still be alive.

        Oh, and if you really, really wanted 125th to go faster than there are much better (and safer) ways to deal with it. I would start by simply banning left turns on 130th, just east of the freeway (on 5th). There is no reason to turn left there. If you need to go north, then take a left on 1st, where there is a left turn lane (and arrow) or take three rights at the next intersection. But the idiots who take a left on 5th block traffic, which is especially bad because the freeway on-ramp is on the right. This means that drivers will drive on the left lane until just past the on-ramp, then switch to the right (to avoid the left turn bozo).

    1. Would it help if the name “road diet” wasn’t so terrible/misleading? “Diet” implies going without – I think folks instinctively assume capacity is going to suffer when they see that term.

      Perhaps there’s a wish for 2015 – get a term that connotates:

      * Greater safety for all who use the road (Drivers, walkers etc)
      * Is neutral on capacity (since many road rightsizing projects simply smear out exisiting congestion along a road rather increase the effective total of it)
      * And the resulting quality of life improvement for the folks who live around the road

      Given folks I talk to Mass isn’t alone in his misunderstanding (and yes it’d be nice if he acted more responsibly but perhaps we should thank him for his apparent determination to provide us a very visible proxy for your basic low information voter ;-). So better branding could help here.

      “Road Rightsizing” is the best that comes to mind, but I’m not all that fond of it, either.

      1. It’s not the word, it’s the emphasis on MOTCs (Modes Other Than Car) which looks like a “War on cars”, combined with the non-intutitive fact that 2+1 lanes may have as much capacity as four lanes. It looks like halving the capacity, and there’s a disconnect between the visualizations showing it preserves capacity and people’s beliefs that it doesn’t. In other words, the marketing hasn’t been effective. People perceive worsened traffic even if it’s not actually there, because they think it must be so. And the actual changes in traffic may be individually too small for them to perceive (so their belief overrides it).

      2. A better term already exists. “Complete Streets.” As in: We did a complete streets upgrade on 125th – now its safer for everyone who uses it.

      3. Very good point, Greg. I’m afraid that term, as well as term “complete streets” are not ideal. For drivers, they think they are losing something (to bikers or pedestrians). I think maybe just saying “we are going to add turn lanes” would be better way to put it. In some rare cases it might even be a straight addition (two very wide lanes to two lanes with a turn lane). For example, this could easily make sense for 5th Ave NE (the street I mentioned). It might make sense for Roosevelt even (in Maple Leaf). The lack of turn lanes gets people to swerve, even on a two lane road.

        But for a road like 125th, I’m sure that some drivers will immediately say “What do you mean you are ‘adding turn lanes’, you are taking away two lanes and replacing it with one?”.

        To which you say, “Exactly. Studies have shown that traffic moves just as quickly through an area with three lanes as it does with four. As a benefit, it reduces accidents, which as you very well know, are the cause of the worse backups. (Especially the ones that involve girls getting hit with cars. Those can really slow down your commute)”.

  4. Here’s an idea for what to do with the Prop 1 money: Bring the old George Benson Streetcars out of storage and put them to good use somewhere.

    As you may recall, when the Waterfront Streetcar’s maintenance facility was razed in 2005 to make way for the Olympic Sculpture Park, the streetcars were put into reserve for future use (that never came). However, with the central section of the waterfront line already dismantled, and the waterfront redevelopment committee blatantly ignoring the possibility of reviving the line, the cars cannot simply get their old job back.

    It would be depressing to see the streetcars end up in a scrap pile and equally depressing to see them remain in storage collecting dust. I have heard several proposals for how to restore the streetcars to active service. One proposal suggests utilizing them occasionally on the City Connector (the cars themselves modified to be compatible with the new higher-voltage modern streetcar system), and another proposal to use them on the Eastside Rail Corridor.

    My question for all you STBers out there is: What would YOU do to keep the streetcars from being stored for eternity or scrapped?

    1. Maybe they should have required a replacement facility in that ugly “do not touch” scrapyard themed “park”. The fuel storage tanks there before were better, at least they didn’t have that freeway trench and overpass design for Elliott Avenue.

    2. Sell (or give) them to San Francisco for use on the F-Market/Wharves. They have several old Milan cars which grind along noisily, just like the Benson cars. Their maintenance folks should be familiar enough with the technologies they use to keep them running for a long time.

    3. No. No to the antique choo choos.
      They are not serious transit. They should be regarded as tourist toys along with the waterfront wheel.

      No.

      1. Go to http://www.streetcar.org/live/

        Give MUNI a call and drop them an e-mail, fil. Tell them you participate in the Seattle Transit Blog, and that you’d like to see the shops and talk to the repairmen.

        Also, ride those cars for a couple of days. Our Skoda streetcars, and the Siemens light-rail cars in Portland are easy to handle and efficient, taking full advantage of modern materials, controls, and motors.

        But you might want to think about which generations of technology- the “F-line” cars cover at least two- as opposed to present generation could be retired to the Third World and have to contend with heat, rough wear, and locally-made parts.

        Look at the Benson cars and their contemporaries this way: there are lessons about tough and simple machinery that need to be studied and learned so you know how build yourself something that doesn’t break when hit. Or go to its death along with a distant computer.

        Considering ongoing lessons from these test vehicles, silencing noisy track is an easy fix.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Nothing wrong with bringing tourist toys to the waterfront. That is the point of many of the proposed post-viaduct improvements.

        The her active cars on the Embarcadero and Market Street in SF may be “tourist toys’ but they are part of what brings visitors to the city. Not only that but Muni and BART didn’t suddenly become useless because OMFG SF is paying for heritage transit used by tourists!

        (That said the backbone of the heritage trolley service in SF is primarily old PCC cars. Just ask people on the Ashmont-Mattapan line in Boston if PCC cars are serious transit or not.)

    4. Thanks for bringing a certain streetcar line into today’s discussion, SR. You might want to get hold of the minutes of a couple of years’ worth of the board meetings of the Waterfront project.

      When the line was taken out of service in 2005, explanation was that shut down was only a temporary measure necessary to viaduct demolition. And therefore left to deteriorate- with the cars garaged- for several years before chunk one hit the dirt.

      As the project got rolling, I met the chief of the design team, who told me that, one, the planned activities for the Waterfront- walking, biking, driving cars etc. could not spare any more room. And also that he’d never heard of George Benson.

      Luckily, more and better positioned people than me saw to it that the planned sale of the cars was canceled. The Benson cars will definitely be kept. But I think that the thinking now is that the First Avenue Connector is close enough for the Waterfront too.

      With a couple of camera-chips of jpegs and video footage, I’ve got enough evidence to convince a court of law that the waterfront plaza in Oslo, Norway makes absolute garbage out of the incompatibility argument. Crowds of people refuse to flee in terror from streetcars- long ones- that kill none of them.

      There’s a bike rental place twenty feet from the tracks, and I guess Nordic bikes have special tires, because nobody there thinks grooved rail is a hazard.

      But the overwhelming evidence- including reports from streetcar motormen in Oslo and Gothenburg- that not only are streetcars safe for exactly the purposes of our Waterfront- but for walkable and bikeable spaces, they’re the best form of public transit.

      Checking carefully, I think that the reason people are so comfortable with streetcars is that the outer edge of the car never varies from side to side. So with day-to-day experience, people get a sense of exactly how far from the tracks they’re safe in walking.

      On the Oslo plaza, there’s not a single pedestrian warning sign. The tracks are set into a raised pad an inch or so about the rest of the flagstones- which took some interesting stone-cutting, since hundreds of slabs had to be cut with a raised area to precisely fit with the one next to it.

      Meaning that the side of one’s shoe could indicate the precise edge of the “envelope”. But mainly, in streetcar-supplied cities, people grow up understanding that grooved rail underfoot and catenary overhead mean: “when you hear the bell, step aside.” Most don’t even look, while the either step aside or just slow their walking pace.

      I’m in favor of the First Avenue Line- but given the cliff rising above the beach at the north end, the Waterfront needs its own spur. Both lines can share a substation and maintenance. The tenth floor of the Downtown Library has a reference section where you’ll find substantial engineering studies showing not only how to rebuild the Waterfront line, but also ways to extend it at both ends.

      Probably the best thing we owe poor Bertha, in addition to possible cancellation of the DBT, is some time to bring the streetcar back onto the plans, on its way to the Waterfront. Check out current City Council committee assignment and personnel. Winnable and worth it.

      Mark Dublin

      1. At the northwest corner of Fairview and Valley I don’t think there are any warning signs. It’s right along a bunch of my running routes these days, and as you approach from either direction there’s not much choice but to cross the tracks. The streetcar drivers do ring the bell about every time they accelerate or cross a street, so I wonder if they’re supposed to ring it where they cross that sidewalk. It certainly keeps speeds permanently slow through there…

      2. I attend the recent public outreach meeting of the First Ave. streetcar project (Center City Connector), and staff made it clear that the Geo. Benson streetcars are not part of the project. They gave it some consideration but it’s just impractical to combine old and new cars on that line (different platforms, different turn-around locations, different operational profiles, etc.)

        Contrary to what the out-of-state designers say about the downtown waterfront, there is plenty of room to restore the Geo. Benson line there — all it requires is the political will. Given all the funding questions, the LID falling apart, etc., it’s clear the project is in a state of flux, and people who want to see the old W-2 cars restored to the waterfront need to mobilize now.

    5. Maybe the city can give everyone who loves the Benson streetcars a round trip ticket to San Francisco every five years to experience them. It may be cheaper than reinstalling them here. I rarely rode the Benson streetcars when they were running because they were slower than a bus and infrequent. I rode them maybe four times, and one of those was to show them to a friend from Melbourne (he said they reminded him of his childhood).

      Among San Francisco’s vintage collection is a wooden streetcar from the 1880s, a couple Benson-era ones, and a newer one from the 1950s. There’s a huge difference between the last one and the earlier ones. The 1950s streetcar is fast and smooth, like the modern Portland and Seattle streetcars. I’d rather have one of those than a Benson-era one.

      1. They were a cute addition to the old waterfront at a time before Seattle took modern rail seriously. They were clunky and jerky. I’m sure they are not up to ADA standards. Most of all (for those who claim they are “historic”): yes, there are historic, but historic to Melbourne, Australia. Other than the few years they plied the waterfront, they have no “historic” connection to Seattle. When the downtown streetcar connector line is built, I want the current, modern cars to be run exclusively.

      2. So most heritage trolley lines aren’t using cars historic to the areas they run in either.

        I don’t understand why some people believe a heritage line on the waterfront and a modern streetcar on First are mutually exclusive.

      3. Mike, I’m also not sure I’d fight to include Benson cars on First Avenue. But MUNI’s Melbourne cars run same base route as the Breda light rail cars- which like that company’s other equipment, should never share same track with passengers anyplace.

        However, the San Francisco “F” line always does make make me impatient with all the things KC Metro says they can’t do. If trolley wheel (Melbourne to PCC), pantograph (lrv’s) and trolley-buses can share same track and positive wire in San Francisco, no reason why Metro can’t make similar things work too.

        Careful about speed comparisons between the former Waterfront line and buses. In heaviest street traffic in the city, the 99 ran like a slug and hardly carried anybody. While the streetcar line, with its own right of way the whole route, never had speed or ridership that bad.

        The chief Waterfront problem was that Metro viewed the line itself as a carnival ride, and left out some critical things- like more passing track, necessary with single-track operations. Which are themselves questionable for any city-center service.

        I think the Benson cars belong on the Waterfront and perhaps the South Lake Union line. Incidentally, should be problem zero to return the Waterfront line into the International District via Main Street. Would have been easier to have not paved over the tracks, but cost of fixing that should come out of the budget of whichever agency ordered it, and the salary of whoever signed the order.

        Don’t think converting the cars to one-man operation would violate anything historic, especially since raised platform boarding doesn’t seem to. Also don’t think anybody would sacrifice service to history. One coffee-table author speaks of “the slightly demented mechanism” common in the street rail world- like the Queen Anne counterbalance.

        But since the Benson cars probably work best in tourist-heavy areas, it might be good to have crewmen in conductors’ uniforms dispensing system-wide transit information. Would possibly save many operating hours lost over uninformed passengers, and drivers having to hold at stops discussing routes and schedules.

        Mark

    6. There are about 230 of these still in service in Australia. If Seattle can’t figure out how to use them in a useful fashion on a modern line then offer to return them. Their original owner certainly has.

  5. If beginning of this posting is any preview of 2015 for transit, best transit-related move is to imitate author Carl Hoffman, author of “The Lunatic Express”, and travel all the way around the world on the kind of transit available to most of the planet’s population- airlines, buslines, and boat companies whose machines crash or sink a lot.

    Except use this list as a means of every now and then seeing some refreshing examples of our industry’s ability to work out simple and durable adjustments to unusual local operating conditions:

    .Alma Ata, in Central Asia, whose subway tunnels- as noted in recent STB posting, are equipped with shock absorbers so earthquakes don’t take down service- as opposed to a certain transit tunnel whose present approach to transit operations would be improved by an earthquake.

    .Crimea, where Russians created a fifty mile long trolley bus line around the time they gave Crimea to Ukraine. Might be a contribution to world peace to build a trolleybus line someplace anti-transit and then give those places back to Ukraine to compensate for Russia taking Crimea back.

    . Trieste, where streetcars are assisted up and down a very steep hill using a little cable-grip locomotive- which used to be orange and manned, but now are blue and white with only driver being the one in the streetcar. Trackway alongside or under the Route 8 across the freeway really good. Crashes caused by motorists watching it should teach people to keep their attention on either the road or texting.

    Summing up good lead thought for 2015: in a wide world of transit, if a parking lot on Mercer Island is a threat to anybody’s suburbs- or all of them- we can placate the plaintiffs and also deter Vladimir Putin with a threat to move them to Crimea.

    But caution: If intent is to turn 2015 into a great transportation year, avoid Greyhound, which according to “Express” author, exceeds worst possible mental disorder for surreal awfulness.

    Happy New Year!

    Mark

    1. Regarding the Almaty Metro (it hasn’t been called Alma Ata since the fall of the Soviet Union), when I visited there I was too busy admiring their gorgeous stations to wonder about engineering challenges due to earthquakes. This is the first I’ve heard of the anti-earthquake shock absorbers, so thank you for a new topic to read up on.

      After riding on the Almaty and Tashkent metros, the only two subway systems in Central Asia, I came away with a new appreciation for Soviet-style subway station designs. In Seattle I get saddened by the station aesthetics, both in the drab and dreary DSTT and at the already-looking-dated Link stations.

      Sticking in some Soviet-style fast-as-hell escalators would also be nice, but they would invariably cause a pileup at the top due to people here not knowing how to properly ride an escalator.

      http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Almaty_metro_stations
      http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tashkent_Metro

      The Tashkent Metro has far less photos taken of it due to it being illegal (and enforced by the always-present Uzbek police) to take photos of the system.

      1. Boy, Adam, I wish you’d headed the list of all these comments. Would’ve got 2015 transit discussion headed in the direction it most needs and deserves.

        We really need some detailed history of transit in Russia and the lands it used to control. Calling attention to certain labor practices in public works- and cutting the facts no more slack than would the coverage of similar affairs under the Nazis, over a similar period of time.

        But to me, stations are a lot less interesting than Russian machinery and technology. From the outside, the sense I’ve always had is that from trolleybuses to tanks, and also to aircraft, result is generally a machine we’d consider crude, but able to withstand a huge amount of abuse in both operation and brutal operating conditions.

        Am I anywhere close? Embarrassing number of plastic cones and pleas for undeserved patience indicate we can use some Russian escalator and elevator equipment, even if it is designed for launching satellites. Seattle hasn’t even got a winter!

        Interesting about station aesthetics. Russian, Khazak, and Uzbek design makes the styles of the Czars and the Khans look agelessly contemporary, while whatever category ours fit into, they look dated.

        I’m not sure any of the outdoor LINK stations look dated at all, in addition to being a good bet to class from contemporary to advanced for decades ahead. ‘Specially like Columbia City, shovel, lions, and all. But Tukwila International will take a long time to get blase. In addition to having immediately become a pilgrimage destination where pigeon go do die.

        The DSTT? I got to sit on a special advisory committee on the art project. The constraints on physical space- the room available underground through Downtown Seattle cut our footage to, or below, standard platform and mezzanine measurements.

        The complicated passages from platform to surface result very much from the fact we had to fit the whole project into the city like a dentist doing root canal and gold dental crowns. But also, one of design prime directives was to keep passengers from feeling buried.

        Strikingly vaulted ceilings at Pioneer Square and University Street required a gutsy decision not to extend mezzanines into a full second story. Westlake’s mezzanine treatment managed a fine compromise.

        Maybe because I personally associated the architectural style of the 1980’s with the political direction of the country, it bothered me to have this particular taste imprinted on our tunnel for all time. Felt
        Michael Keaton’s approach to post-modern in “Beteljuice” was right.

        But we also, through our own skill and effort- our project artists worked harder than anybody on the hammers and drills- managed to build one of the transit world’s most creative projects in a political atmosphere worse than any until now.

        With that in mind, period architecture really does reflect and explain the conditions and times of the project’s birth. But now for the question Free World public transit demands to know:

        Do the Uzbek police disappear people for vandalism and littering, or just for taking pictures? Hate to even ask about fare collection. And also: what’s the restroom situation in the lands of Kublai Kahn?

        Mark

        Am I anywhere close on this?

      2. Unfortunately I’m not one to ask concerning the history of transit in Russia, despite how interesting of a subject I’m sure it may be.

        As for Russian machinery and technology, my preconceived notions of the Russian ethos of utilitarianism and longevity in machinery escaped unscathed after spending a few months in a variety of former Soviet countries (though I’ve still yet to step foot in Russia itself). It may not be pretty or fancy, but it works. And having it work is all that matters.

        Most of Link’s outdoor stations are fine with the notable exceptions of Stadium and SoDo stations. The color schemes look out of the 90s and had dated designs the day they were built. The other at-grade stations are fine by me. Mt. Baker and TIBS look quit overbuilt. Mt. Baker especially makes me sigh, as the robust-looking construction almost makes me feel that I’m about to board a Shinkansen, only to get on Link then piddle along down MLK at 35 mph. It would make me laugh if it wasn’t so depressing.

        TIBS has good aesthetics by my eyes, but again, it’s such a huge structure that houses barely anything. They could have taken that same voluminous structure and housed retail shops, magazine shops, kiosks, coffee shops, restaurants or something… anything at all. They could have turned the station itself into a destination, and instead it’s just a massive empty structure surrounded by parking lots. It has so much wasted potential.

        The DSTT very much feels like a project of its time. I appreciate both the vaulted ceilings and the mezzanines, but overall they feel far from timeless–Westlake and Chinatown being the worst offenders. If Metro was serious about a cheap fix to making the DSTT less drab feeling, then they would at least rethink the lighting. Brighten those spaces up a bit, and it would make the whole shebang a bit more tolerable.

        When entering the Tashkent Metro, from the time you show your passport and get your bag searched before entering the metro until you arrive at your destination and leave, you are never far from the searching eyes of the police. And if you happen to be out of direct line-of-sight from an in-person officer you can bet your buttons that you’re being watched on the pervasive CCTV system. I do not recall any vandalism or litter in the system nor saw anyone attempting such, so I sadly cannot answer your question.

        For fare collection you go to a window with a lady sitting there, give her your cash, she gives you a token, you pass more policemen and show your passport and get your bags checked yet again, then you stick your token in the turnstile and proceed through. It’s quite an inefficient process, but you need to find ways to keep people employed nonetheless. At least I’m sure fare evasion is kept low.

        For restrooms, I don’t remember. Never had a need to use them while underground.

      3. You have to show a passport and go through searching every time you get on the metro? That could be several times a day. I wonder if it has encouraged bus and streetcar ridership and car buying.

  6. Oh, and since I don’t think Cliff Mass gets into either transit or oth34 problematic phenomena, might still be “a bit of a giggle” (have I got that term right, Bruce?) if hordes of LA refugees had their their six week long ride on the Coast Starlight diverted to Denver by a lahar from Rainer widening the Nisqually with a high speed tidal wave of mud, huge rocks, and real estate-

    Only to arrive in Seattle just as the last effort to free Bertha kicks loose the giant fault under Dearborn Street and sends their train, rolling somewhat faster, back to California- which in addition to poison oak for a ground cover has undergone yearly brush fires since the beginning of the world. Followed by usual mudslides worse than NorthLINK. Showing above all that God hates parking lots too.

    MD

  7. Less money for bike specific improvements and more for road maintanance sidewalks and transit. There still large areas of the city without sidewalks and the maintanace backlog is huge. The bike lobby is way over served in the city at the expense of transit and maintanance.

    1. The amount of money that goes to bike-specific improvements these days is so tiny that even getting rid of it entirely would hardly make a dent on the needs of sidewalks, road maintenance, and transit. It would be like trying to balance the federal budget by eliminating Amtrak.

      Also, in most cases, bike improvements usually happen as part of a larger project that benefits other road users too.

    2. It’s catching up from the almost complete lack of bicycle infrastructure in the past decades. And it’s keeping up with our peer cities who are running ahead of us. We have to have at least average bike infrastructure to retain businesses and residents over the long term. That may sound silly now with tech jobs coming out our ears, but in thirty years it may be different, and at that time we’ll be glad we have existing infrastructure that’s already paid off. Kind of like how we’d be better off now if we’d built a subway in the 70s.

  8. I did my “climate refugee” due diligence, and while the Pacific Northwest is… OK…. the Great Lakes are way, way better.

    So. It’s Toronto which should be expecting in-migration, not Seattle.

    1. I believe the models say that the great lakes area will have cold snaps that will be beyond anything we’ve seen before. Could be wrong, of course – but, assuming Rainier doesn’t blow and the subduction zone holds… I like our (relative) chances.

      1. We know horrendous cold snaps in the Great Lakes area. That is really nothing new. It used to be below zero routinely (it’s only in the last couple of years that that is *odd*). The key points are that we’ve got lots of fresh water (even after the glaciers fail), we’ve got lots of farming, we’ve got hydropower, and *we aren’t on the coastline*, so sea level rise is less of an issue. I guess you’ll have a slightly warmer climate, but our cold snaps will kill the tropical parasites, while they will infest Washington. :-)

  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Roads_Movement

    “The Good Roads Movement was officially founded in May 1880, when bicycle enthusiasts, riding clubs and manufacturers met in Newport, Rhode Island to form the League of American Wheelmen to support the burgeoning use of bicycles and to protect their interests from legislative discrimination.

    The League quickly went national and in 1892 began publishing Good Roads Magazine. In three years circulation reached a million. Early movement advocates enlisted the help of journalists, farmers, politicians and engineers in the project of improving the nation’s roadways, but the movement took off when it was adopted by bicyclists.”

    -Wikipedia

    So one way to look at the cost of bicycle infrastructure now is as repayment, with reasonable interest, for the fact that no motorist will ever again find themselves looking a floating pig in the eye.

    On the other hand, street rail interests have a bone to pick with bikes. The more miles of asphalt, the fewer passengers for the interurbans. By 1915, the die was cast. But while it’s tempting to say that streetcar tracks, say, in South Lake Union are basically revenge from the grave, there’s an ironclad piece of exculpatory evidence:

    Considering everything else bicyclists had to avoid in 1899, starting with oinking, grunting face-downs for lane space (come to think of it, precursors of motorists) the average rider would have been able to run Westlake blindfolded and with his hands off the bars.

    Happy New Year to all interests mentioned above.

    Mark

  10. Can we cut WashDOT some slack for the 70% number? Even the most pro transit of us have to remember that it’s taken one and a half Sound Moves to build out the original 21-mile Central Link Initial Segment.

    1. Good point. In software there is a quote that goes something like this:

      The last 10% of the project takes half the time.

      Or maybe it was Yogi Berra. Anyway, there statement was essentially that. Lots of work has been done, but the toughest part, the part that is most likely to be late is still being worked on.

      As for Sound Transit, you are absolutely right. To make matters worse, they also built that first section out of order (they should have built UW to downtown first). But like WSDOT, their problems are more political than they are based on bad engineering. Even if the tunnel had been dug on time and under budget, the project was still a stupid one, especially since other projects (that engineers said were far less risky) would have moved people and goods faster and cheaper (and some of those would have left a similar waterfront).

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