Bellevue Poised to Ban Some Affordable Housing Tonight

[UPDATE: Commenters are keen to make the point that this legislation might impact various non-traditional definitions of “family.” The original article makes clear that the Bellevue Council is very conscious of these unintended consequences and seeks to avoid them. What they’re not seeking to avoid is the broader impact on poor people, as that is the actual point.]

The Times reports that the Bellevue Council plans to ban large groups of unrelated people from living together ($):

Monday night, the Bellevue City Council is expected to adopt permanent regulations that limit to four the number of unrelated people who can live in one house.

The new rules require the adults to be sharing the entire house under one lease and not renting individual rooms on a short-term basis. Any nonconforming leases would have to be terminated within one year or when they next expire, whichever comes first.

The story says that “Neighbors had complained about traffic, noise and landlords not paying for garbage collection or keeping up the yard.”

I have little doubt that traffic, noise, and untidy grounds are sometimes a problem with boardinghouses. Indeed, homes occupied by a single family can also make noise and not keep up the yard. But Bellevue has hit upon a way to limit this that also happens to specifically exclude poor people from the neighborhood, which should concern anyone interested in social justice.

The fundamental argument for having subsidized housing in Seattle, as opposed to doing it more cheaply further away, is that it’s important for poorer people to have housing close to jobs.* The Eastside is the other major job center, and market-rate home prices are actually higher. Furthermore, Bellevue is commonly understood to have among the best public schools in the state, meaning that also limits access to quality education for small families of meager means. Bellevue residents that think this is a bad policy may want to let their representatives know today.

* Why it isn’t important for the thousands of households who can’t fit in Seattle due to zoning restrictions as a simple matter of math, or for the newcomers who may not be able to displace an existing household if we enact rent control combined with restrictive zoning, has never been clear to me.

Expedia Move Enables New Look at Bus Lanes

Google Earth
Google Earth

Expedia’s announced move from Downtown Bellevue to the Interbay Waterfront is likely a net negative for its transit accessibility to employees. Workers coming from arbitrary parts of the region will have to transfer downtown. Getting downtown is straightforward, but the last leg involves a slog through the (still general-purpose) 3rd Avenue through Belltown, time on the wildly unpredictable Denny Way,  a potential diversion through Lower Queen Anne, and a trip down Elliott, where a commuter to Interbay is “reverse peak” and currently unworthy of priority treatments.

As a regular traveler in this corridor, I can attest that 30 minutes to cover the mile and a half Lower Queen Anne to Westlake is something that happens a few times a month. When added to another trip to get to downtown for most people, transit is an unattractive option.

I asked Richard Sheridan of SDOT if the Expedia announcement would cause them to reconsider policy in this area. He told me that “SDOT is interested in adding off-peak direction operation to Elliott Avenue’s transit lanes. Given the recent nature of the Expedia announcement, we do not yet have a timeline for doing so.”

How About a Deal to Lower Youth and LIFT Fares?

These suggestions apply primarily to King County Metro Transit fares, but can also apply to other agencies.

Fare evasion by paper transfer is booming.
Fare evasion by paper transfer is booming.

1. In exchange for eliminating paper transfers, lower the LIFT (low-income) fare (currently $1.50) by 25 cents.

2. In exchange for requiring the use of loaded ORCA product to get the youth fare (for ages 6-18), lower the youth fare (currently $1.50) by 25 cents. (This would also please several school districts that are giving free youth ORCA passes to students furthest from their schools.)

All the agencies in the ORCA pod except King County Ferries allow passengers ages 6-18 to pay the youth fare without an ORCA card. The West Seattle Water Taxi charges $3 on the youth ORCA, or the full $4.75 fare for young riders paying with cash. The Vashon Water Taxi charges $3.75 on the youth ORCA, or the full $5.50 fare for young riders paying with cash.

3. Eliminate the $5 charge for getting the youth ORCA, to harmonize it with the lack of charge for a LIFT ORCA, and in deference to the practical reality that nobody will lightly throw away a youth ORCA card, since it takes special effort to get one. Right now, the only incentive for young riders to pay with ORCA is if they have a monthly pass, or plan to ride a foot ferry. The youth ORCA also happens to be a lot more expensive than any adult bus smart card available in the USA (other than the regular-fare ORCA).

You can order a youth ORCA card through snail mail.

4. Freeze the youth and LIFT fares until the Regional Reduced Fare Permit fare (currently $1, for ages 65+ and riders with disabilities) catches up.

Mariners Back, with Sunday Sounder Service

Baseball season is back upon us, and with that the return of Sounder service to Sunday afternoon Mariners games.

The home opener is on Monday afternoon (April 6), against the Angels, with first pitch at 1:10. The full Mariners schedule for the 2015 season is here.

The full schedule of Sounder service to 2015 Mariners games is here, beginning with the first Sunday home game on April 19, against the Rangers. First pitch is at 1:10 for all games served by Sounder.

South Sounder trains to Sunday Mariners games depart Lakewood Station at 10:45 am and arrive at King Street Station at 11:58. North Sounder trains to Sunday Mariners games depart Everett Station at 11:15 and arrive at King Street Station at 12:14. Return trains depart King Street Station 35 minutes after the final out.

For the tourists, Sounder is probably not the train you are looking for, unless you want to ride it for the scenery. Your train is Link Light Rail from Seatac Airport Station, at the northeast corner of the airport parking garage. The station next to Safeco Field is conveniently named “Stadium Station”. Be sure to buy a ticket, day pass, or ORCA card at one of the vending machines in SeaTac Airport Station, as Sound Transit has fare enforcement officers roving around. Choose Westlake Station as your destination station, so your ticket or day pass will be good for the whole line, for the same $3 or $6 you would have paid if you had selected Stadium Station as your destination. Link Light Rail continues into downtown Seattle, where you can take in a lot of our tourist-trappy stuff, including beautiful ferry rides from downtown across Puget Sound, with majestic views in all directions.

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News Roundup: Retirings and Hirings

County Councilperson Larry Phillips
County Councilperson Larry Phillips

This is an open thread.

Last Night’s Meet-up

Meet-up photo by the author.
Meet-up photo by the author.

Great to see so many faces – especially some new ones – at last night’s Meet up at Rock Bottom.  We had about 50 people turn out to talk with Sound Transit’s Ric Ilgenfritz on a wide variety of issues from sub-area equity to Sound Transit’s evolution from a “start up” agency to the upcoming potential ST3 package that could go to the voters in 2016.

Assuming the bill passes in Olympia (write your legislators and ask for the full $15B!), we should start seeing potential project lists in June.

Did you make it out last night? Leave a comment with your thoughts or just introduce yourself.  More photos via Twitter after the jump.

Strollers III – Now It’s Personal

Future bus advocate; current bus hassle.
Future bus advocate; current bus handful.

[UPDATE: Metro changed their policy about a week ago, it just hasn’t made it’s way down to all employees or their website. Read the new operator bulletin here. Thanks to STB reader Kimberly for this tip.]

As reported by PubliCola, the topic of strollers on the bus reemerged at a recent SDOT hosted public forum:

“[O]ne audience member complained that buses weren’t user friendly for moms with strollers: ‘Your boss [the woman had identified herself as working for King County Metro] buys a lot of buses. Part of the problem is on Metro.'”

The topic is nothing new to the area. Seattle Transit Blog covered it here and here. What is new is that I’m now the father of a young child so have some personal experience with it.

I’ll be blunt. Any long outing with a small child involving buses in this city sucks. The current official policy is:

Baby buggies and strollers must be emptied and collapsed, while on the bus.  If a customer requests the lift or ramp, the drivers are instructed to deploy the lift as long as the zone is accessible. An adult must ride the lift to control the stroller. Once the child and stroller have boarded, the child must be removed from the stroller and the stroller collapsed and stowed.
Metro Customer Service email – Friday March 27, 2015

The reality is that many Metro drivers take pity on us poor souls and use common sense. If it’s not in use they’ll let you park a stroller in the wheelchair area and ask you to lock the wheels. But you never know until he or she waves you on or holds you up. I call it Metro roulette.

A parent has two options. One, you risk it. There is a 50/50 shot the only disruption will be the use of the ramp or lift, and you hope no one who can’t or won’t move is sitting in the wheelchair space so you can park out of the way. Or if you don’t want to risk disrupting everyone you prep at the stop. This means unhooking your diaper bag and any other bags, removing the child, and then holding on the child while you break the stroller down and wait. So you not only have a folded up stroller and a couple bags (hopefully you didn’t pick up much of anything at City Target while downtown) you’re trying to hold on to, but a small child that is NOT tied down (and is upset at not getting to explore now that they are ‘free’). Lots of fun waiting on 3rd like that.

It sucks either way and is why I cut back on taking Isaac on any long outing that involves Metro. If we can’t get there by Link or Link + Streetcar, we don’t go by transit. Now that he can walk at a decent pace and doesn’t require 30 lbs of gear, we’ll jump on a 7 or 8 for quick trips within the valley but that is about it.

Not everyone has the benefit of living on a rail line or a spouse that drives. For their sake (and my convenience) it’d be nice if Metro had a more family friendly policy when it came to strollers.

Link Excuse of the Week: Plate of Nations

5th-PON-LogoDATESFive years strong, the MLK Business Association is holding it’s Plate of Nations promotion from March 27 through April 12. Similar to last year’s event all participating restaurants will offer $15 and $25 shareable entrees, but new this year every location will also have a vegetarian option. Grab a passport, get your stamps, and qualify for fun drawings.

This year’s restaurants:

Café Ibex (Ethiopian), Bananas Grill (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern), Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana (Mexico City), Huong Duong (South Vietnamese), Joy Palace (Cantonese), Momona (Eritrean), Olympic Express (Southeast Asian/Cham Vietnamese Halal), The Original Philly’s (American East Coast), Othello Wok & Teriyaki (Pan Asian), Rainier Restaurant (Vietnamese), and Thai Savon (Laotian/ Thai).

As can be seen on the map most are located within the immediate vicinity of a Link station.

Not all of these restaurants are as exotic as the theme suggests, but they’re all relatively inexpensive and quite tasty. Sometime in the next couple of weeks jump on Link and check them out!

2014 Link Ridership – Still Phenomenal

Photo by author. Taken at 5:12 p.m., Thursday March 12, 2015
Photo by author. Taken at 5:12 p.m., Thursday March 12, 2015

While the year didn’t finish as strong as it began, 2014 was a year of explosive growth for link. Fourteen percent growth for a mature five year old line. While I don’t think Link can maintain that kind of growth rate until U-Link opens (simple math) it will be interesting to see how high ridership can get. Will summer ridership this year be enough to require Sound Transit to move to 3 car trains earlier than currently projected? Keep in mind that 2014 Link ridership was 22% higher than the 2011 projections. Link continues to overshoot revised projections, so it very likely that peak ridership will necessitate expanding capacity before currently slated. The only question is when. If only there were money for the cars.

December’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 31,671 / 22,469 / 18,592, growth of 6.8%, 7.4%, and 2.7% respectively compared to December 2013. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 13.9% with ridership increasing on both lines. Sounder finished up the year with 10% weekday ridership growth. Tacoma Link’s ridership increased 0.3% with strong Sunday ridership making up for a weekday decrease. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.2%. System wide weekday boardings were up 7.4%, and all boardings were up 9.6%. The complete December Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the fold. Continue reading “2014 Link Ridership – Still Phenomenal”