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Thank you to everyone who filled out the reader survey. It gave us several insights into how we can improve the site, but mostly it served as morale-boosting encouragement that we’re doing something that people find valuable.

I do want to address one of the more common negative comments, which I would generalize as “stop demonizing me for driving a car and living in a single-family home.”

If any STB staffers actually are demonizing people for driving cars and living in detached housing, then they are stinking hypocrites. Partly because car ownership and single-family residency are far from uncommon in our ranks; but also that the entire premise of Seattle Transit Blog is that the region has done a poor job of prioritizing transit so that dense living and transit dependence are widely appealing options.

More broadly, I believe people respond to incentives and make decisions in accordance with what they value. It’s easy to criticize a giant truck for its carbon footprint, but like anyone raised Catholic I know we are all sinners here. Some of us fly all over the world for leisure, some eat more meat than is even healthy, and some of us burn a little extra gasoline. Who am I to judge which impactful choice gives you the most pleasure?

This empathy does not extend to people who seek to use regulatory power to control the choices of others. Campaigns to ensure that no one in search of compact, inexpensive housing can live in a certain neighborhood is well beyond the exercise of personal freedom. Making thousands of bus riders wait in traffic, or bicyclists risk their lives mixed with cars, just to cheaply store a car in public right-of-way is a remarkable indifference to the well-being of others.

So by all means, if it works for you please keep living in your detached house and driving your car everywhere. But please recognize that policies that discourage or prevent other choices are bad for sustainability and for freedom.

51 Replies to “No Demons Here”

  1. See if you can take that criticism and figure out how to fine tune your message. Although it’s completely illogical, many people make simplistic deduction that if you’re advocating for A, then you must be against (“demonizing”) B. In the case of transit, that’s why I like the phrase “transportation choices” as a description what’s actually being advocated for. Somehow you might have to hammer that point in.

    And, for the record, I live in a single-family home, with two cars, in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, unsafe biking, and zero access to transit—and that’s a big reason why I’m such a big advocate for other modes of transportation and strongly support STB.

    1. Good point in any communication meant to persuade. However, case for the single family home would be stronger if more of them looked like the well-proportioned, well-built, and graceful homes of the past.

      The house in the picture, likely extremely typical of new homes in the suburbs- many new houses in the city look to be both good design and high quality- has soul-less look about it. In other words as if it really had been created by demons.

      Very much as if the architects figure that since buyers are influenced by magazine contents, then they need to build houses that look exactly as if they’re props in a magazine. Or- maybe it’s like The Stepford Wives or The Body Snatchers, where aliens are trying desperately to imitate Earthlings.

      Unfortunate transit references- VAT light rail goes through dozens of such complexes on the way into Mountain View. The gracious old town center is rotting. The almond trees were leveled to make way for the invaders. Almost as creepy as Dupont.

      But serious thing to remember: we transit builders are just beginning the reversal of 70 years of development. We’re doing right: building transit and the new forms of residence and commerce as we work. Our best guarantee: does that house look like what kids will run to- like Seattle or fun from- like Lynnwood?

      I’ve seen this and talked to parents. One ride northbound from Tukwila International, and the little ones from then on love LINK better than the ball game or whatever else the destination. One mother told me her two year old would start yelling and pointing downstairs whenever he heard a bell.

      Die, demonic developers! The future is ours!

      Mark

  2. I’m probably among the worst people in the world. Meat-eating, car-owning, frequent-flying, etc. etc.
    But despite all that, I support transit because it can be an efficient way of getting around, both financially and logistically.

    I think the bigger issue for Seattle is that as residents have higher and higher incomes, they perversely demand more transit AND buy more cars (since the fixed costs of cars are much more burdensome for lower-income people). We end up in a bizarre catch-22 – we want a strong local economy to support transit, but our particular local economy attracts lots of high income people who support transit but can afford to own cars. As the city gets more transit, it gets more desirable to live in, which raises the value of scarce real estate, attracting more rich people, which brings in more cars.

    1. Alex, In Europe, along with McDonald’s, which Swedes chow down like starving huskies, as countries get more prosperous, traffic jams get more common, city and suburban.

      Same as Bay Area here, and even Chicago, old days and now- even though CTA elevated and subways are extensive. It could be that the population density that jams streets do same for transit.

      The first New York City subway was built in four years, with the tools of a hundred years ago- because on automobile free Broadway, nobody could even walk at rush hour.

      Right now, best assessment is that transit assures that transit sees to it that millions of people can keep moving- fast- even as miles of traffic gets stuck. One can say that while transit itself doesn’t prevent ugly scene on surface, the more transit, the easier to unjam the surface.

      On your last point, people like politicians, planners, and transit advocates, either can’t figure out the answer to problem of how the better the city gets, the fewer working people can afford to live there. Or maybe think that’s just fine.

      Me? I stay onto this because nobody else seems to notice. Raise wages so most people can afford to live in town and problem straightens out.

      Mark

    2. It not only attracts people who can afford cars, it’s also approaching the point where those who can’t afford a car can’t afford an apartment either, so all Seattle residents will be able to afford a car. With an increasing number of landlords requiring three times the rent to qualify, it’s unusual to have just enough for rent but not a few hundred more a month for a car.

      1. Absolutely, this is the main problem with the new developments we’re seeing. Nobody can live in them except on a massive salary.

        I’m a pretty free market guy, but I’d like to see the Council consider softening 3x income requirements in dense transit areas where you don’t need a car. Maybe 2.5x is better – that’s still a comfortable margin for landlords. Or, you could just add some “car-free” adjustment of ~$300/month to the affordability calculation if the renter stipulates that he/she will not own a personal car.

  3. BTW: VAT is out of San Jose. Trains ok- though doors at the ends of the cars look like peep-holes in solitary confinement cell doors. Not sure whether this is VAT’s opinion of passengers or drivers. Or both.

    Really awful. At the end of a beautiful old boulevard, an outbound train turns left toward Mountain view. Right angle turn in the other direction heads pas malls for the desert. SJ used to be pretty town surrounded by orchards.

    Too bad transit lost the battle for the soul of the place. Because even though we’ll eventually prevail, Dupont South will put up a ray-gun fight worthy of “Left Behind!”

    MD

      1. Thank you. Hopefully arrival of new glasses next week or so will take care of dyslexia, reducing the problem to normal dysfunction.

        MAD

  4. The problem is that suggesting that certain perks, freebies, or subsidies for car drivers–mandatory subsidized car storage, for instance–might not be an optimal policy is often treated as some sort of attack on drivers. It’s nonsense, but it’s the entire premise of the ‘war on cars’ trope, so it’s not surprising some people who should know better have internalized it.

    1. This, exactly. I am a car owner (two, actually), even though I commute (and take lots of other trips) by bus. They are convenient if you can afford them! I have no interest in eliminating cars, although I really want to see them become carbon-neutral. But I think that as a car owner I should pay the costs that my cars impose on society. Right now, I don’t. At all. I get massively subsidized parking everywhere except a few small places, gas at a price that doesn’t remotely capture the harm of burning it, roads designed to favor me at the expense of anyone using any other mode, and little to no accountability for safety issues I cause. I’d be happy to have all those things changed, but many car owners would see that as “demonization.” It really isn’t.

      1. +1. As a fellow car owner and bus rider in Capitol Hill who absurdly gets free on-street parking adjacent to my residence, I say I’m getting quite the free ride.

      2. I probably fall in the middle, I use mass transit to get to work (bus, sounder, walk), the car stays at home in the garage (yes I’m one of those weird people that hasn’t filled my double garage will junk to park the car outside) like the three nearest neighbors =D

        We use the car on the weekend for the usual stuff, having lived in a other countries previously where it would cost $130 to fill a car from empty I sure appreciate only having to pay about $30 here at the moment, even if it is a once per month fill up.

        I’m all for mass transit for the majority of travel (e.g. getting to work), but having the luxury of a car on the weekend, and living in a detached house are also important.

      3. I wish I had the luxury of a useful garage. The neighborhood was rearranged about 20 years ago, so my house was jacked up and rotated 90 degrees so they could cram more houses on the lot. The garage now faces the neighbor’s kitchen.

        Not surprising, I live only 5 miles from Emmert International, which is famous for moving large objects including hotels, apartment complexes (MAX green line construction), and about 2/3 of my neighborhood.

        I would love to live somewhere without a yard to maintain, especially in this area (English ivy threatens to consume the whole block every spring), but the idea of throwing money away on rent isn’t too appealing, and the condominiums down here are mostly aimed at people moving from far more expensive markets so the best I could do there is about twice what I paid for my entire house and yard.

        I stayed in Brasil for a while, and the people I stayed with own their apartment but rather than having some sort of homeowners association there seems to be some other type of cooperative arrangement for handling building expenses. Also, such living arrangements are available in all price ranges rather than the high price range condos are usually aimed at here.

      4. Zach, you pay at least something for your “free” parking via your property tax, possibly enough to build and maintain it, depending on what type of dwelling unit you’re in.

      5. Very true, David. The main reason that gasoline is so cheap is that all those unborn human being who would like to eat some of that oil (in the form of fertilizers and fuel for farm machinery) aren’t here to bid against the living us.

        They are going to hate us with an incandescent fury, to be sure.

      6. This might be the best post ever. Or up there, anyway. Describes me to a tee, although my commute is switching from car to bus later this year (except when I need to be on job sites). I’ve always owned a car (since 16), I love to drive–all 50 states, every mile of state highway–but I also recognize the external costs and have happily lived without a car in other places. I don’t consider what you say anything akin to a “war on cars” or on me as a car owner, just an explanation of what those choices mean.

        You did a great job of explaining the externalities of car ownership.

  5. As someone who owns a personal vehicle (a small pickup truck) and who lives in the suburbs (Bainbridge Island), I’d love it if the city of Seattle offered more housing and transit choices, and would have probably opted to live there if it did. It’s the current outcome of decades of lacking transit and land-use policy that largely compelled me to move out of the city of Seattle.

    As it stands, every means of transport in Seattle basically sucks: driving sucks, due to the congested traffic; transit sucks, due to decades of lagging investment and a bus network that needs to be rationalized; and bicycling sucks, due to badly-maintained potholed streets, a lack of bicycle infrastructure, and the city being too spread out and with lots of hills everywhere. Plus, Seattle dropped the ball on parks and doesn’t have any equivalent of Stanley Park (Vancouver), Point Defiance Park (Tacoma), Forest Park (Portland), or the East Bay Regional Parks (Oakland and Berkeley), so I have to battle with that subpar transit situation to get out of the city and into the woods (and connection to nature is very important to me).

    And even though I moved to a suburb, I deliberately moved to the densest and most transit-friendly part of that suburb (the Winslow area, near the ferry). One of the frustrations in my search for a home was how scarce and competitive the market was for things “in town” as they are called here.

    The truck I mainly use for getting to trails. I have no particular attachment to having a personal vehicle and would gladly use bus service if there was something like an express bus that ran on weekends between Seattle and Snoqualmie Pass, stopping at all the trail heads from Issaquah eastward.

    1. Sounds like you’re part of the solution. If you only use a truck for special cases not covered at all by transit, then you’re ahead of about 95% of everyone in the region in terms of transit giving you what you need.

    2. If you’re looking for good bus-accessible trailheads, you can access Cougar, Squak, and Tiger Mountain all from the 554, a straight shot out of downtown. With the 208, it is even possible to do Mt. Si. by bus (yes, I have done it).

  6. My main issue is not that I see a war on cars but that I see a war on suburban living. I fully support transit, but I also believe people should have a choice of how they live and still be able to utilize good transit. I don’t care how good transit is in a dense living environment – I’m much happier in a (relatively small) single family house with some land where I can grow some of my own vegetables and restore some native plants. That being said, many people would probably be happier in denser housing where they don’t need to take care of the yard or as much maintenance, and that’s why I do support such development, as long as we equally support suburban living as well.

    Why do I feel there’s a negative environment here for such a view? Because most of the focus is on advocating transit only for dense development or in areas that can be densely developed and criticizing such thinks as park and rides. When we recently bought a house (east side), we specifically looked for one that is walking distance from a park and ride on the 405. Yet the opinion I’ve seen on this site about that park and ride is that its useless because there’s little opportunity for dense development around it.Despite the fact that it’s basically full by 9 AM and that a surprising number of people walk to it.

    1. Here’s the thing, and where I think density advocates start to sound hostile, and I really apologize if I come off like that because text is such an inefficient medium for communicating emotion. I promise that I’m not personally attacking you or anyone else.

      You wrote: “…that’s why I do support such [dense] development, as long as we equally support suburban living as well.”

      The problem is, I don’t support suburban living. I respect people’s right to live there if they wish, but I can’t get behind it from an environmental, land-use, financial, or sociological policy. For example, park and rides have their place–I’m not one who finds them useless–but I do object to public money being spent on a “unitasker” as Alton Brown would say. Build a parking garage with local funds and put development around it, especially if that P&R is going to support a billion-dollar light rail line to an area with half the density of a place in the urban core that still lacks rail (or even bus-rapid-transit) service.

      Yes, every area inside the King County Metro and Sound Transit taxing districts should have good transit, but what is good transit on that scale? Is it just for commuters? Or for all-day use? How much will it cost to have the same level of quality transit east of the lake that it does to have it west of the lake and are we (meaning the county, since city citizens have chosen to tax themselves) willing to pay that cost? Those are the questions that, when asked, usually come up lemons.

      1. I don’t support waste. And running buses in low-density suburbia at a frequency and route density more appropriate to an inner city (thus wasting resources and money having mostly-empty buses running around) definitely qualifies as waste.

        Low density and good mass transit service are, in general, mutually exclusive. If you want both, you’re like the beginning photographer who wants large depth of field and short exposure times (at once). Sorry, you can’t have it all. Life is about tradeoffs and compromises.

        “David” is going to have to decide what he wants more: low-density suburban living or good access to mass transit. And possibly move if he decides the transit is more important.

      2. To me it depends on the type of suburban development we are talking about.

        Huge parts of the latest developments in Lacy are a transportation catastrophe, with huge developments swallowing farmland completely disconnected from anything else except narrow two lane roads that have become so busy it is impossible to get around by any method other than driving. The entire road system has been planned and executed so that it is a horrific maze that even when transit supporting density happens it will be almost impossible to have bus routes at all, and certainly no chance of ones that make sense.

        Beacon Hill is essentially suburban in style as it is mostly single family homes, but it isn’t that difficult to get to transit and there are sidewalks to use to get around on foot. There are busy through roads but many of the local residential streets go through and are much less busy.

        I know there are plenty of people that would want to live in the mess that is being built in the northern reaches of Lacy. However, if that is the only type of suburban development being built then it means new arrivals will be forced to live in such a mess even if they don’t want to as that will be the only choice for them.

      3. I think there are trade-offs wherever you live. Though I support transit, my view is that in the suburbs, transit should be used primarily as a way to mitigate traffic problems during commutes and as a way to get into denser areas that are not well suited to driving (e.g., Seattle). There are simply too few people here to support a network running buses from every starting point to every ending point. Which is fine with me. But commutes – when a lot of people are headed in one direction – provide a great way to solve traffic issues with transit.

        I also agree that, ideally, park and rides should be more than just a parking lot. Having it be part of a shopping and/or residential complex would great. But I’d also rather have just the park and ride so that some people can take transit as opposed to nothing at all.

        Living in my own house with some land is a personal choice. Not one for everyone, but it makes me much happier than living in a high density environment and I don’t believe it’s inherently wasteful from financial, environmental, etc… perspectives. My main point here is that people should have the opportunity to decide where they want to live based on their personal preferences, financial situation, etc… Transit should be used to make the lives of those people better, not as a way to force them to do something you prefer. I fully support building higher density development (even near me) and it would be great if more people lived there, but I also don’t want it to be forced on me

      4. I agree that peak-hour commute services can be viable at suburban densities. Or even at exurban ones; pretty much all of Bainbridge Island is covered by such routes, and they are well-patronized because they have timed transfers to the ferry (and vehicle spots on the ferry are both scarce and expensive).

        Paired with congestion pricing on the freeways (which could be used to subsidize the service) peak-hour service could probably be viable in many lower density suburban areas of King County. If I recall the law correctly, I believe that would require Federal legislation (which prohibits adding tolls to currently toll-free parts of the Interstate system).

    2. Politically, the struggle is completely lopsided. We have to fight like cats and dogs for permission to build densely virtually everywhere, with lots of pushback from single family home advocates who don’t want to live near dense housing. There’s no comparable issue for suburban-style large-lot living–if you can afford the land, you can have a large lot virtually anywhere. If an open lot developer in Mill Creek wants to build with nice, large lots for each house, they will not face massive political pushback to make the lots smaller. As far as transit, I’m not an efficiency uber alles person–I’ve got nothing against spending some service hours on coverage milk runs in low density areas. But good transit–frequent, fast, direct, with a nice big span of service–just doesn’t scale to low density areas, because they simply don’t have the demand. Surely you can see that we were to try to provide the service levels we call ‘good’ to low density suburban areas, we’d need far more money to subsidize it, the farebox recovery would be awful, and we’d be putting public support for the whole system at risk.

      Everyone needs to see that ways of living have tradeoffs. If you live in a dense urban area, demanding free/cheap adjacent to property car storage is a way of failing to recognize the tradeoffs associated with the environment. The same for people living in large-lot suburbs who demand frequent and direct bus service in a traditional walkshed. This blog asks both groups to recognize the common-sense tradeoffs associated with their lifestyle. It’s no more a war on one than the other. If there’s a bad attitude about the latter on display, I’d suggest that comes from one of two sources:

      1) People who prefer large-lot suburban-style living in the city and inner suburbs also spend political energy and capital trying to ensure people near them must live the same way. The reverse is simply not true. Parking maximums and maximum lot sizes are virtually absent in local politics, but their minimums are not.

      2) Many bloggers and commenters here are environmentalists, worried about the externalities of our high consumption lifestyle. Insofar as aspects of suburban living are resource intensive and the ecological costs of that resource use is subsidized, we are frustrated by that pricing mismatch. But I don’t see a lot of moralism about from most of the frontpagers at least; they just want to get the pricing right, so people are actually paying for the social and ecological costs of what they’re getting.

      1. I generally agree with you. I’d even go a step further and say that transit should not be provided on routes that are not highly used. These are the suburbs and there really is no reason to provide service on low-density routes. I assume if you live in the suburbs you have a car. On the other hand, I do think providing high quality (primarily peak) service on commuter routes is essential since it provides substantially more capacity on, for example, the 405 than just using SOVs. I’d also argue that doing so requires some way for people to park near the bus stops (park and rides) so that they can use transit even if they live a few miles away. Criticizing said people is counter-productive – if they don’t use transit they’ll just drive, which is much worse.

        I definitely agree on expanding dense housing as an option. But I’m not sure I agree on maximum lot sizes (and I’d actually argue in favor of increasing minimum lot sizes). Personally, I see zero appeal living in a 3,000 sq ft house on a 4,000 sq ft lot where your neighbor is 5 feet away on each side. At that point, you’re basically living in a townhouse anyway, just much more expensive. It makes much more sense to me to either live in dense housing if you want that environment or have some land to call your own. But that would also require changing the consumption culture in this country, which is a whole different problem.

      2. David, what you wrote here: “But I’m not sure I agree on maximum lot sizes (and I’d actually argue in favor of increasing minimum lot sizes). Personally, I see zero appeal living in a 3,000 sq ft house on a 4,000 sq ft lot where your neighbor is 5 feet away on each side.” is exactly what Martin was talking about when he wrote this: “This empathy does not extend to people who seek to use regulatory power to control the choices of others. Campaigns to ensure that no one in search of compact, inexpensive housing can live in a certain neighborhood is well beyond the exercise of personal freedom.”

        As it so happens, I live on a 3,000sqft lot but not in a large house. Whether you or I see the appeal isn’t relevant; why shouldn’t someone be able to build a house on a 3,000sqft lot that meets the setback rules (in Seattle, 5′ on the side yards, 25′ in the front, 20′ in the back and even then I think those are too wide)? That’s dense housing, even if it’s not townhouse- or condo-dense. Increasing minimum lot sizes, by definition, decreases density and removes choices for living in a neighborhood. We can have a lot of conversations about scale and fit with existing houses, but too often those are buzzwords for “don’t build that close to me.”

      3. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of minimum/maximum lot size limits (and I really don’t care how small a lot people build on). But if you were going to impose limits and wanted to increase demand for high density (not single family home) housing, then a possible solution would be to increase lot size limits, hence limiting supply and forcing prices to rise. That would be an additional incentive for people to want to live in high density housing.

        But my other question is what is high density housing? A 3,000 sq ft. lot, if you didn’t need to provide parking, could probably be used at at least 2 families if you wanted to. Probably more the higher up you build. So what then is the type of housing people should live in?

      4. But my other question is what is high density housing? A 3,000 sq ft. lot, if you didn’t need to provide parking, could probably be used at at least 2 families if you wanted to. Probably more the higher up you build.

        I don’t understand the question. Density is a scalar concept. Homes on 3000 sq. ft. lots are higher density than larger lot homes, lower than apartments or townhomes, etc etc.

        So what then is the type of housing people should live in?

        People should have a fair amount of choice here, as long as they’re properly paying for the externalities associated with that choice. You can have your large lot suburban development! That’s fine. But, channeling d.p., your commuter express with park and ride to a major job center should probably cost a bit more than a ride on a crowded, bi-directional urban bus, because it’s a much more expensive service to provide. And the gas to fill your car shouldn’t be so damn cheap, because the externalities of burning it aren’t being properly priced in. And so on. On the flipside, people who want to live in dense urban environments shouldn’t have to pay the kind of premiums they do because we restrict supply relative to demand, driving up the prices, in part to protect suburban style patterns of living inside the city so aggressively.

        I’m not worried about how people decide to make the relevant tradeoffs associated with different levels of density; that’s their business. I’m worried about giving people choice, and pricing the externalities correctly.

      5. Through the early 1950s typical houses were 600 sq ft, as you can see in Mt Baker, the CD, N 80th Street, White Center, and even Mountlake Terrace. Then they started creeping up to 900 and 1000 sq ft, and then they ballooned to 1500, 2000, and 3000 sq ft. The in-city small-size, small-hot houses are in high demand: they don’t stay on the market long. More people would like them but they’re not building any more, because minimum lot sizes and setbacks and house sizes have made them illegal to build. The trend toward row houses and small lots in the most ironic place — the exurbs (Issaquah, Issquah Highlands, Redmond Ridge, Snoqualmie Ridge) — is the kind of building we should have in Seattle and the inner suburbs.

        Some people really want 1500+ sq ft, but others would he happy with something smaller. A larger house costs more to maintain, both to the owner and to the community (those hidden subsidies to low density). The smaller houses are the ones that were underbuilt the past few decades, and should be a greater proportion of the total.

        We should also legalize ADUs citywide — small houses and tiny houses in people’s yards. That would significantly increase the housing stock inexpensively, and by individuals one lot at a time rather than by developers building whole blocks. It would allow the single-family areas to be part of the solution without losing their character.

      6. FWIW to the discussion, the most densely populated city in Oregon is a tiny suburban place with entirely single family homes, but no massive shopping malls or highways in its borders. Portland’s latest planning effort has come up with a number that says some 40% of the land in downtown is devoted to streets, highways and parking. So, single family housing may not be as anti-transit as other land use patterns.

  7. As someone who does not own a vehicle, I have to say that demonizing car owners is actually a micrometer step forward. It means that at least some guilt is in play. 5 years ago I was demonized for not owning a vehicle – what are you, un-American? – and that felt like a total blind step 0.

    Clearly demonizing anyone is not going to get any of us where we need to go.

    Lately I’ve been looking at the traffic on my bus and I think that if there was a true war on cars, well, the cars are winning.

    1. I have to say that demonizing car owners is actually a micrometer step forward. It means that at least some guilt is in play. 5 years ago I was demonized for not owning a vehicle – what are you, un-American?

      +1. I’m about to turn 40, and I haven’t been behind the wheel since I quit driver’s ed a couple of weeks in nearly 25 years ago. I’m damn near certain I’m happier, healthier and wealthier for it. But people over the years have often been weird or hostile about it, as if my choice is some kind of affront to them. (I have a senior colleague very bitter about the seven minute walk from his parking space to the office who makes passive aggressive comments about my ‘special privileges’ of being able to park my bike 20 feet from the main entrance.) It’s not a big deal or anything–I learned early in life to not care much what other people think about me unless I have some specific reason to value their assessment–but I guarantee you no one gets anywhere near this kind of treatment for driving a car, which outside of parts of maybe two cities in North America is coded as normal.

  8. I’d fall into baselle’s category here. But I’d go a step further in saying that it really isn’t demonizing people who drive. Let’s be clear: there’s a war on humanity here, and our land use and transportation clear show that. Why is that? We’ve prioritized everything around a single mode. If drivers get the occasional criticism, they fully deserve it. We’re destroying rural lands, poisoning our air, killing people, and improvising future generations. It ain’t demonizing anyone. At best, it’s mildly chiding them for their wrong choices.

  9. Well said. It is my opinion that some people need to put down the choices of others in order to feel good about or validate their own.

  10. We live in a city surrounded by water. Unless someone suggests paving Elliott Bay and Lake Washington and bull-dozing homes to create more road space, we are going to need transportation options such as light rail, etc. to get around the city in a timely manner.

    1. +1 Increasing car-carrying capacity to support economic and population growth is theoretically possible, but in Seattle, it would be ludicrously expensive and it of course carries with it the host of negative externalities and land use implications readers of this blog are familiar with. Smartly using existing roadway space/capacity is the best way to keep the region from strangling itself. The options that produce the highest increases in person throughput with the lowest costs (not necessarily exclusively in $ terms) are the best.

      1. I disagree with the first sentence. Every major and many mid-sized cities that have attempted to plan around the auto as the only form of transportation has found it isn’t in fact possible. Even cities in Texas are having to change.

  11. When I was growing-up in Seattle in the mid-’80s, an adult who didn’t own a car was considered a Loser. “Joe Metro,” was the derogatory term. When you reached 16, you needed to get a set of wheels if you wanted a social life. An adult who did actually choose to live car-free was truly an oddball, bordering on un-American. That slowly changed starting in the 90’s, but I remember the astonished reaction I got even as recently as 15 years ago when I told the agent at the rental checkout desk that I didn’t own a car and didn’t have an auto insurance policy (Amex charged me $89 each rental for 12 days’ worth of liability insurance).

    I mention all this to point out a truth that’s obvious to transit advocates: the Car has been king for a long, long time, the gravity of which, like any massive object, has bent towards itself everything about our society, from the projects we lavish our public money on to our living patterns, our cultural attitudes, and even to our politics. This blog is a great source of information. I appreciate being able to read informed debate by people who know more about transportation issues than I do. But this blog is also one of the few places where people who support transit expansion in this region are not shouted down by the reflexive anti-tax, anti-guv’ment, nonsense that sees expenditures towards any mode of transportation other than cars as a boondoggle. The illogical, the ill-informed, and the just plain pissed-off dominate the comments sections of every other outlet. Read the comments after a Mike Lindblom or Jon Talton piece, or anything on Crosscut, or see the responses you get after posting a sober, non-inflammatory comment in favor of bus-only lanes. If there’s demonization going on, the anti-transit scream machines at those and other sites are guilty of it. For the record, choosing transit does not mean one is anti-American or anti-Car.

    This blog, far from going on the offensive, is a corrective against decades of exclusive spending on a one-size-fits-all transportation system that has eaten up land and public money at an unsustainable rate. People who rely on transit are still a decided minority in this country, and probably will be forever, so we need this blog, because those opposed to transit dominate just about every other forum.

    I don’t demonize anyone who chooses to drive to work (some of my best friends…), nor do I personally belittle people who choose to live on a big lot and/or in a big house and rely on driving everywhere, and I don’t think this blog does. (This blog is very good about striking ad hominem attacks and giving the benefit of the doubt to obvious trolls, which can’t be claimed about other forums.) But in the era of the Big Sort, where the zip code one lives in and the modes of transportation one chooses can be a good predictor of one’s political leanings, people take things so personally, and advocating for spending more on transit is seen as, ipso facto, a personal rejection of someone who is naturally frustrated driving on our overcrowded roads. Our society now is so polarized. If you support transit expansion and/or oppose freeway expansion, than you must be doing so out of personal animus towards those who rely on their cars. I think that’s why there’s, what I consider, an odd phenomena where people will post pleas for respect (“I drive for work and I deserve respect.”) in the most mundane technical discussions of interest mainly to transit geeks.

    I don’t understand why people opposed to the clearly-stated aims of this blog feel the need for validation. I don’t write letters to Kemper Freeman or the Seattle Times editorial board seeking validation for going car free. I don’t care if people responding to a Mike Lindblom article see increasing density as mental illness-inducing, downtowns as hellholes, and buses as something only Losers ride on. I choose to go carless and live in a walkable neighborhood because it suits me, and I accept the freedoms and limitations it entails. The majority in this country would reject my lifestyle, but I don’t see it as a personal rejection of me, where I need to plead for respect. And even if it were, who cares?

    I would ask that people who might feel like they’re being demonized on this blog consider that those who rely on transit, whether out of choice or necessity, and especially the car-free, are still a prohibitive minority in our country. We’re the ones fighting upstream. We’ve only arrived at the point where our region is (finally) spending billions on light rail and other transit/bicycle initiatives because we’ve spent the last 60 years trying to build enough SOV road lanes to ever-far-flung exurbs in an effort to ensure congestion-free living, and we’ve failed. It’s as simple as that, and it’s really nothing personal.

    1. Hear, hear. +many.

      The “don’t demonize me for choosing the dominant modes of living and transport” comments absolutely remind me of the people who didn’t like “how people were intolerant of their intolerance” at Brown (vaguely liberal). Hello, maybe you should have gone to Princeton instead?

  12. Where problems arise is when scarcity of some resource forces trade-offs that favor some mode of travel at the expense of some other mode of travel. Sometimes, the resource is road space (bus lane vs. car lane vs. protected bike lane). Sometimes it’s money (build light rail or widen freeways). Sometimes, the scarcity can even be something as mundane as green time at a traffic signal (prioritize car movements, bus movements, or pedestrian movements).

    Part of the problem is that since the car has been king for so long, people have been conditioned to believe that the slightest inconvenience to car drivers trumps all considerations for any other modes of travel. So, the installation of anything from a bus lane to a road diet to sidewalks creates the perception of a war on cars, when all it is really doing is making a modest attempt to level the playing field from such a car-dominated baseline.

  13. I don’t remember making that comment, but as someone with three kids I don’t think it’s all that practical for me financially or from a quality of life standpoint to live in the downtown core. We have managed to be a one car household for 4 years within the city limits, but overall people with my living/work/life situation don’t seem well represented by STB articles. Still I think this blog provides a lot of good information I do use frequently.

    1. Just an FYI, but all three of the current Editorial Board members have small children (Martin w/3) and none live downtown.

      1. Yep, STB staff members currently live in Columbia City (2), Kirkland (2), the Central District (1), Capitol Hill (1), First Hill (1), Ballard (1), South Park (1), and Santa Barbara (1). There are a half dozen or so kids, several cars, and a mix of housing types in our ranks, from large SF homes, micro SF homes, townhomes, urban condos, and urban apartments.

    2. It takes a certain kind of person to live in a downtown highrise, and I don’t think most people would. But it’s worth remembering that the Summit apartments in the 1950s were full of families with children. So it’s not impossible. What bothers many people here is not individual families choosing to live in single-family areas, but the neighborhoods’ unwillingness to allow a few blocks around urban villages and corridors to be converted to multifamily/rowhouse to prevent the housing shortage from becoming bigger and to build more viable urban areas (which need to be several contiguous square blocks).

      1. Do you have any speculation as to why individual families choosing to live in single-family areas would be opposed to density nearby to them?

        In other words, in lieu of a ‘Gallop Poll’ asking these people “What are your fears?”, have you attempted to get into their mindset?

  14. The STB’s premise should also include assuring the tax-paying public that their money spent on transit is being spent wisely vs. blindly accepting whatever the transit agency officials tell us. Metro has saved millions by having the foresight to have independent, comprehensive operations audits, Island may have averted problems had they been required to, and the other agencies would certainly benefit from having them. Benefit = more service hours and less taxes. Not doing so = less service hours and more taxes.

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