Tukwila Station (photo by the author)
Tukwila Station (photo by the author)

This is an open thread.

59 Replies to “News Roundup: Review Review”

  1. From the What’s Taking Us So Long Department:

    One9: Nine-Story Prefab Apartment Tower was Installed in Just Five Days

    Prefab technology is revolutionizing the way we build our homes, one stackable Lego-like module at a time. Australian construction company Hickory Group recently completed one such example with the One9, a nine-story apartment tower that was installed in just five days. Built from 36 prefab modules, the One9 project also includes numerous environmentally sustainable features such as a gray water recycling system and solar hot water panels.

    http://inhabitat.com/one9-nine-story-prefab-apartment-tower-was-installed-in-just-five-days/

    1. Why do you keep posting this link? What does the fact that it’s possible to build a nine-story apartment building out of prefabricated pieces have to do with improving transit or land use in the Seattle area?

      Sure, it’s cool that they could do this, but it’s not that huge of an improvement over other building methods when you consider that the prefabricated pieces themselves take time and effort to build, and look to be custom-developed for that building site. The only difference is that more of the work is done somewhere else.

      1. I guess if you were building a house with hand saw, and someone handed you an electric one, you’d chastise them.

      2. And if you saw someone building a house with a hand saw, I have no doubt you’d comment on it here…

      3. If you saw someone building a house with a handsaw, no doubt you would propose a slew of legislation outlawing his ability to build a house. You would then surround him with electrically powered sky-trams and seize his property to create a SeaTram station.

      4. No seriously…what is it about technology that allows apartment buildings to go up in 5 days that threatens someone.

        I really don’t understand. I imagine rows of these things, popping up in areas where there is plenty of greenspace but yet adjacent transit and highway access.

        Instead of painstaking waiting for Seattle to take yet another two decades to add a 1/2 mile tunnel we could be building a Regional Rail network with housing everywhere, driving down costs, in a matter of months, not years.

      5. Like new streetcar suburbs? Might work; if someone wants to build them and pay to extend transit lines, I’m all for it!

        (Though I think most of the residents would drive most places anyway.)

  2. Seattle to Eastside article: Are those numbers scaled right?

    Because all 10 Seattle communities add up to a mere 6,820 people!

    You’d hardly want to rewire the whole system just to accommodate a tiny fraction of a percentage of people who aren’t aware of all the options outside Seattle.

    1. It’s a puff piece, John. Seattle loves “news” stories that amount to “Yay Seattle! Boo Eastside!” I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from this article.

      1. When I read the description, my reaction was that the headline ought to read something like “People who choose to commute from Seattle to the Eastside overwhelmingly prefer neighborhoods that don’t look just like the Eastside”. To which my reaction is “duh”.

    1. Way cool. I like the hike to some falls behind Reekin’ Bock (Beacon Rock) so my wife and I may just take that bus some Saturday.

  3. “1. In your opinion, what about the current Design Review program works well?”

    Their rubber stamp is one of the most efficient I’ve ever seen.

  4. Under the assumption that a basketball or hockey is not going to warrant enough crowds for special event Sounder service, this is going to be real pain-in-the-ass to access for anyone not coming by car. Even for those who are coming by car, the long lines to get between the freeway and the parking garages before and after the game will not be pretty.

    Transit-wise, the Link->F combination would take you right there, but would be slow and circuitous. The 150 comes tantalizingly close in a direct route, but some major sidewalk improvements would likely be needed if the goal is for people to feel safe doing this after dark. Ideally, people walking from bus stop to game would be able to bypass the whole I-405 interchange mess via the Green River or Interurban Trail.

    On the bright side, though, Sound Transit ought to be able to lease the event parking for weekday Sounder commuters relatively cheaply, since there is no plausible alternative use of the space when there is no event going on.

    1. Even given Sounder service, getting there would be circuitous for anyone not already at a Sounder station. Currently, people living just about anywhere can take a bus to Downtown Seattle along a route already near-optimized for downtown commuters. To get to Tukwila, though, they’ll need to first go downtown – which might be way out of direction – or connect to the F Line along non-optimized paths.

      Downtown Seattle is already the hub of transit service; stadiums should locate there or possibly at another actual hub – Lynnwood, Bellevue, or Tacoma.

      1. The lack of a storage track near Tukwila would mean that event service would have to deadhead after dropping off and again before picking up. But I suppose it could work if it were just one train from each end, with an Everett-Tukwila train taking 75 minutes and a Lakewood-Tukwila train taking 55.

      2. If I were running the show, I wouldn’t bother with the Everett train – I would just do loop serving Seattle->Tukwila->Kent only. At least for anyone living north of downtown Seattle, it would actually be a fairly direct route, especially if the trip to downtown from the north were on Link.

        Of course, as long as BNSF is involved, plus FRA regulations that force trains to be much bigger and heavier than they need to be, the costs would almost certainly outweigh the benefit, especially if North King subarea funds ended up footing the bill.

        A SODO arena, on the other hand, would be much more accessible. Just take Link to Stadium Station and walk a few blocks.

        Another location I would have liked to see considered, that was never considered, is the site of an abandoned car dealership in Bellevue just across the freeway from Bellevue Transit Center. Throw in a pedestrian bridge over 405 at 6th St. and taking EastLink to game actually becomes a real possibility. It would also be a chance for eastsiders to see some form of sporting event without needing to cross the lake.

      3. The last northbound weekday Sounder leaves TSS at 5:32 PM. So, on weeknights people will be able to get to the stadium using Sounder, but will have to take the F-Line and transfer to Link or walk to the 150 in order to get home from North King County.

        They don’t run at all on weekends.

        As asdf2 noted, extra Sounder runs are an expensive proposition, and a basketball franchise certainly won’t be able to afford subsidizing them. You can be double-damn-betcha certain Tukwila won’t either. Which means that for them to happen they’ll have to cost upwards of $10 a ride.

        So they’re not going to happen.

        Personally, I’m looking forward to this site being selected. It will produce regular Carmageddon’s on weekday evenings at the already overloaded interchange of I-5 and I-495/SR 518. Lovely.

    2. I-405. Beg pardon; that damn zero key is right next to the nine. Sometimes the nine seems to scooch over to the right. Disgusting.

    3. This is why, if we are going to have another stadium, it makes sense to have it next to the other two. The neighborhood is already set up for it, the transit system is already set up for it (and it will get a lot better as the trains move north and east). Thousands of people are already there (they work or live nearby) which make it all the more appropriate to have it there, instead of a remote location.

    4. I like the thinking of using Tukwila as a “Region Sports Center” to draw traffic and crowds out the Istmus of Seattle; however, I would go even further.

      The Tacoma Dome is an ideal location for the NBA and for access by fans coming in locally and from afar. It has an Amtrak and Sounder station. It has access from 5 but south of 405 so Eastside fans don’t have to cram across a bridge to get there. It also has adequate parking facilities. At some point it will have a LINK connection.

      Let’s start the De-Seattlization process and spread the load…and the fun…across our whole region!

  5. Quality one for transit driver? Sheer brute endurance. Driving itself injures many more people than assaults. Then:

    Consider yourself a member of a functioning unit- whose whole operation is your own main concern.

    Be able to think under pressure. And make it your business to know enough to do the right thing on your own responsibility if communications go down,

    Understand that the organization you belong to includes your union, and your every elected representative in Government at every level.

    None of which is a home shopping network, and all of which you partly own and operate. Whose success is your main guarantee of everything you demand for compensation.

    And know that your strongest and most natural job security is to think not like an employee, but an owner. What you’d fire somebody else for: don’t do. And whether or not you feel like it, show up when you’re supposed to- early.

    While accepting that all of the above will put you in a visible minority in the workforce, and the union, and in politics-maybe permanently.

    So required outlook? Transit driving is for real and for life. If you want a regular job….apply someplace whose business plan involves a large employee turnover.

    Mark Dublin

  6. I have a question. Let’s say density extremists, radical transit advocates in the greater Seattle area get everything they want. Their wishlist only a spendthrift could love has been fulfilled. Now let’s jump ahead 30 years. My question isn’t how has our region improved. We hear about that on this blog all the time. The benefits of transit, the benefits of density, etc. My question is, what’s the downside? In the year 2045, how has greater Seattle devolved if fundamentalist urbanists get their way? I never hear about any down side, which makes me suspicious.

    1. The downside is you won’t be able to buy a single-family house two blocks from Mt Baker Station, Roosevelt Station, or 45th Street. That’s if you’re a rich person. If you’re middle-class or lower you wouldn’t be able to afford the house anyway so it wouldn’t make a difference. People would say, “The Ballard/U-Village/South Greenlake conglomoration looks like Chicago’s North Side”, and that would irritate you. The walkable housing north of TIB Station and east of Southcenter Mall would displace the beautiful strip malls, parking lots, and freestanding big-box stores. You’d have a dilemma deciding whether to drive to work and get stuck in congestion or take the 5-minute subway that bypasses it, or bike on the ubiquidous cycletracks. Those nasty liberals would make life convenient for everybody and reduce inequalty, and there may be one person somewhere who gets benefits they don’t deserve. All the highways will be tolled so you’ll have to go outside Puget Sound to express your constitutional freedom to drive free on highways subsidized by non-drivers.

    2. If Seattle is foresighted and creates mandates preserving sight lines outside the direct urban core of office buildings — you’re not supposed to be looking out the window when you’re at work anyway — it will end up like Vancouver BC. Van BC is a place which seemingly everybody in the world loves so much that housing is double or triple even what it is in Seattle.

      It got that way by being very self-consciously “urbanist”. Everywhere within walking distance of any SkyTrain station that isn’t used for lovely (and supremely expensive) craftsman housing is fair game for up-up-up development. The result is that slums get swept away not by government fiat and public investment but by private developers. And you know what; in BC the towers along the SkyTrain in the outer suburbs have reasonably low costs. The same thing could happen throughout Puget Sound if the stupidly low height limits were relaxed.

      Is that hard on low-skilled people? Yes, it is, but it is also the inevitable result of the “invisible hand” to which your party chants klaxon-loud paeans ceaselessly. There is simply nothing that can be done about those economic pressures, because your party won’t agree to the provision of a guaranteed income for those less blessed than yourselves. Some people aren’t smart enough to “make it” in the technological world. Some are simply too dim to learn complex tasks; others are whacko and can’t get along with co-workers or show up reliably.

      That doesn’t mean they should sleep in cardboard boxes.

    3. Funny smell and alternate side parking. That’s my experience in Brooklyn. It’s not that life is essentially better in denser cities (personally I think it is, but that’s opinion), but that density is inevitable. The earlier we realize this, the easier the transition.

      A primarily car oriented city can only work well under a certain size. By size I mean population. Tri-cities is geographically large but has no traffic problems. The greater seattle area on the other hand has too many people for car oriented transportation to work well. For example, last Wednesday I needed to go from Bellingham to be at Pike place market at six pm. Traffic was flowing till I got to northgate. After slowly working my way to the right I managed to get off at 80th, park in the first side street, and bike the rest of the way in thirty minutes. There is no way I could have made that time in the car given the tragic. When biking in a hilly city is twice as fast as driving, clearly cars are no longer a good choice for general transportation.

      So what are other options to cars? Mostly walking, cycling and public transport. Tell me if I missed something. All those modes have something in common – they as require a minimum of density. Note, they don’t require big population. They also all work better with mixed development.

      Now we get to the essential issue with Seattle. It’s way too populous for cars and too diffuse for alternate mode. That is why transit activists want density.

      1. Well said. The problem with cars is that they just don’t scale. That is why L. A., which has invested an enormous amount in freeways, and could care less about the aesthetic or social costs, has such terrible traffic.

        Density does not mean that transportation will be easier, but it means that paying for it will be. A three mile tunnel from the UW to Ballard would always be cool and useful. But until recently, asking the people around here to pay for it would have been silly — too much for too few. But now (as we get more densely populated) it pays for itself.

        Density also gets people to realize sooner that the alternative won’t work. L. A. would have invested in a mass transit system a long time ago if it had embraced density. Not that parts of L. A. aren’t dense (they are, to a degree well beyond Seattle) but they embraced the opposite (big lots with a single house that would make a typical Seattle house look like a San Francisco row house). Vancouver, BC, on the other hand, a much smaller city, has embraced density, not only with their towers, but with infill (ADU) that preserved the old houses almost accidentally. But the result was rapid adoption of mass transit, because it just “made sense” after that.

    4. Meant traffic not tragic, but I think I like my swipo (android swipe typo) better. By the way, “density extremists”? “radical transit activists”? You make it sounds like we’re bombing SFHs and SOVs. What do we actually do? We argue that the state should let us put a transit tax to a general vote. We argue that the city should ease up on some zoning. The issue with hyperbole is it distracts from problems which actually warrant upset.

      1. “bombing SFHs and SOVs”

        Sounds like it would be a fun movie.

        “Attack of Agenda 21”

      2. You forgot to mention fundamentalist urbanists, like they’re an offshoot of Wahhabism or something.

      3. @RossB
        Thanks!

        @Farro
        Right, I’m always hoping someone will do an over the top war on cars action flick. Could start of with carstallnacht. At some point the good citizens would be able to pick up RPGs at their local bike shop. It could end with car inquisitors searching boarded up garages and apache helicopters circling in wait to rocket any car that dares try to move in some back ally. At least that’s the imagery that spins through my head every time someone mentions “war on cars.”

        @Sam
        Lol, sometimes I’m not sure if your actually anti-density or just completely trolling us. Either way, you got us good this time.

    5. Is another trade-off that Seattle will become a much more expensive city, like Vancouver? And to assuage our guilt for building a prohibitively expensive city, we’ll give poor people a discount on things?

      1. Seattle is already on the road to becoming a much more expensive city. I haven’t seen any evidence that a construction boom will make things worse, and my common sense – as well as my ECON 101 – says it’ll make things (at least marginally) better.

      2. William, you’re answering a question I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask what’s the downside of a building boom. I asked what’s the downside of urbanists/transitiests/densitiests getting everything they want. People who want 3rd, 4th, and ever 5th bridges across the lake. The banning of SF-only neighborhoods. The banning of cars. The banning of all parking spaces. People who want to replace walking trails with train tracks. Demonizing wetlands by calling them swamps, then paving them over, then turning it into low-income housing projects. Etc.

      3. What the fuck, Sam? Who on this board has ever proposed paving over wetlands and “turning theminto low-income housing projects”? Dude, you’re running out of name-brand straw men. Have you been shopping as Ross?

      4. First, I was responding to your question “Is another trade-off that Seattle will become a much more expensive city” – no, it’s not a tradeoff, since it’s already happening.

        Second, that is not what urbanists want, as has been repeatedly pointed out before.

      5. “at Ross”.

        When can we have that vote on an Edit function in STB3, Martin?

      6. Not a “discount”. A wage top-up for those able to work but of skills inadequate to garner a living wage and some sort of small decent housing for those unable to work at all.

        Did you know, both those policies were first suggested by Republicans who realized that not every human failure is some sort of “moral” or “character” defect? Richard Nixon proposed the Guaranteed Annual Income program (which was not adopted, sadly), and Utah — Utah for Moroni’s sake — now provides homeless people with small units which are cleaned regularly by the agency so they don’t get unlivable.

        There are a lot of Vietnam-era and Iraq/Afghanistan vets living in them.

      7. Housing the homeless has saved Utah quite a bit of money. So it’s a truly conservative solution.

        “Between shelters, jail stays, ambulances, and hospital visits, caring for one homeless person typically costs the government $20,000 a year. Providing one homeless person with permanent housing, however — as well as a social worker to help them transition into mainstream society — costs the state $8,000”

        http://www.businessinsider.com/this-state-may-be-the-first-to-end-homelessness-for-good-2015-2

      8. Sam,

        Nice straw men you put up. First I don’t think anyone who considers themselves an Urbanist or pro-density would advocate additional bridges across Lake Washington. Some pro-transit people have advocated a rail bridge between Sand Point and Kirkland, but I’m not aware of any further bridges being advocated. Some pro-freeway types still argue for wider or additional auto bridges across the lake.

        Second, who has advocated banning single family neighborhoods? Reducing the amount of land zoned single family near transit stations or near the center of urban areas, sure. Also allowing duplex conversions and backyard cottages. But none of that amounts to banning SF..

        While there may be some who want to ban cars they would be a minority fringe, and even then most of those realize their position is not currently possible politically.

        Not requiring parking for new construction or duplex conversions is hardly the same as banning parking. The same goes for charging market rates for on-street parking or removing parking to create transit lanes.

        If by “replacing walking trails with train tracks” you mean using the ERC between Totem Lake and Bellevue for transit, then yes some have advocated it. However that portion of the ERC is rather wide and has plenty of room for both transit and a trail.

        In any case WRT a new transit bridge across Lake Washington or trains on the ERC there is hardly consensus among pro-transit types as many of us feel those would not be cost-effective projects.

      9. >> Is another trade-off that Seattle will become a much more expensive city, like Vancouver?

        No, that is the result of high employment and a limited amount of land. Our restrictions on density simply add to the expense.

      10. @Anandakos, one might argue that the East Link route is paving over a wetland. That argument conveniently ignores the fact that there’s an office park and a couple highways in the wetland already, but the train certainly doesn’t help the wetland any.

        In related news, Kemper and his friends withdrew their last lawsuit against East Link. We’re finally cleared for takeoff!

      11. Anandakos, forget about my exaggerations … calling them radicals, or claiming they want to pave over wetlands … My original question was sincere.

        FYI, while most of my exaggerations were ridiculous, there is a dusting of truth in each one.

      12. OK, Sam. Dropping the insults, I will say that Seattle becoming a more expensive city is pretty much inevitable. Places which have no view such as the Rainier, Delridge and Lake City Way valleys may remain relatively cheap — “relative”, that is, to the surrounding lands; LCW will never again be “cheap”.

        But the secret is out. We don’t grow webbed feet in the winter, the summer is spectacular, and there are mountains in which to recreate less than an hour from downtown (on Sundays only, of course; two and a half hours on weekdays and sometimes more on Saturdays). The air is clean, the water sparkling pure right out of the tap — no mottled teeth from too much natural fluoride or “I can’t get the soap off!” from lime. No, it’s not as sublime a place to live as coastal California, but that place has already hit its limit; the bajillionaires discovered it in the 1950’s.

        The truth is, regardless of what is causing the change, AGW, “sunspots” or God’s Will, we and Oregon are becoming Northern California, Northern California is becoming Southern California — except for the ability to grow citrus — and Southern California will soon be Baja.

        So, “They are coming”. Indeed; when the tsunami of people forced out of SoCal, Aridzona, and even Texas splashes up on the (relatively) cool beaches of the Pacific Northwest, we will have a huge problem accommodating them. They will change things in your favor politically, but the simple fact is that even if they get their way and the whole Puget Sound region is paved over, there isn’t enough room for every family headed our way to live in the suburban splendor to which they’re accustomed.

        They just won’t fit. So the Puget Sound region is at a very minimum going to have to emulate the Bay Area and start building up….NOW.

        We’ve already made a good start on building BART del Norte but I personally hope we don’t forget to add the Muni Metro as well.

    6. Downsides depend a huge amount on how that density is managed and where.

      In my opinion, it is hugely important to have close in industrial land such as is currently found in SoDo. If not there then where?

      However, most of that industry is single level. If zoning were changed to allow offices or even residential on top, would anyone really notice any “neighborhood” changes?

      I think the biggest downside would come to rural real estate speculators. There won’t be the need to convert farmland in Mount Vernon into housing if people can find housing closer to where they actually want to live.

    7. The downside is parking, and driving in general. Maybe a lot of houses get replaced by six story buildings, but maybe not. Maybe we build density the way that Vancouver does, by adding a bunch of ADUs (http://daily.sightline.org/2013/03/07/in-law-and-out-law-apartments/ — click on the map to see a neighborhood that looks a lot like a typical Seattle neighborhood, it just has a lot more people). It will probably be a combination. But the biggest gain in density will be there (in the ADU) not by the handful of new buildings that go up.

      So what does that do to driving? It makes it harder. Parking is harder — you can expect a lot less easy free parking. The streets tend to be more congested. You may reach an equilibrium, a point where fewer people drive, but if you add more people, you generally add more congestion, even if the ratio of drivers go down (the streets or New York have plenty of people). But we are probably there anyway. Unless we have a major Seattle recession followed by a major exodus (we’ve had them before) I think the days of smooth driving are long gone. I think the biggest loss is cheap, easy parking. I know I’ll miss it (I park in Fremont for free almost every day) but those are just the trade-offs of living in a bigger, healthy city. With any luck, we will have a decent transit system, so guys like me will drive less.

    1. Awesome. I particularly enjoyed the police quote “[we] can confirm that the door was already bricked up when the train left the depot to begin work.” It suggests that they considered the possibility that the wall get built while the train was in service, which is just a delightful mental image.

  7. That reverse-commute article is very unsurprising. If you want to live in a car-oriented, single-family home neighbourhood, that’s what 90% of the east-side is. And the schools are (mostly) better and the houses are (mostly) cheaper. But if you want to live in walkable community, the city has nearly all of those.

    1. Downtown Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Overlake, and Crossroads all have multifamily housing with basic walkability and frequent transit. The affluent tech workers can afford them. So it really comes down to atmosphere, culture, prewar style, walker’s paradise, and (transit) rider’s paradise rather than just the basic ability to live in a multifamily unit and walk to the supermarket and an ST/RapidRide/frequent route.

    2. I’m not convinced that there is anything to be drawn by this. I would need to compare it to other commute patterns. It just looks to me that the most densely populated census blocks have the most east side commuters, which means sense, because they have the most people. There is a bit of a lean towards other tech sectors (Fremont, South Lake Union) which makes perfect sense. Take a job at Amazon, move into the neighborhood, get tired of the job and get a new one in Bellevue. The only exception, the only census block that isn’t dense is Bryant/Windermere, which ironically, is probably the most like a typical East Side neighborhood of any in Seattle. Even though both sides of the lake have plenty of neighborhoods with lots of houses, a house in Seattle typically sits on a grid on a relatively small lot fairly close to the neighbor’s house, while a house in Bellevue sits on a cul-de-sac on a big lot and has a big gap between the neighbor. Bryant/Windermere is a lot more like a typical east side neighborhood, while Kirkland is a lot more like a typical Seattle neighborhood.

      All of this suggests a more obvious reason: money. All of those neighborhoods are pretty expensive. Those that commute from Seattle to Bellevue/Redmond are typically doing so because they can make plenty of money over there. I’m not seeing a lot of Rainier Valley to East Side commuting for that reason (even though that might be the easiest west to east commute).

      1. RossB, I think you’re mistaken about the cul de sacs. Most of the houses between 520 and I 90 are on quarter-acre or smaller lots, just like most of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Goofballs like the Seattlish blog might cut and paste Coal Creek neighborhoods to make them look like they’re next to the lake but we should expect more of STB.

      2. I couldn’t help but notice that all 10 of the census tracks listed in the article are directly served by either the 545 or the Microsoft Connector. Either Microsoft did their market research well, or people are actually considering transit options across the bridge in deciding where to live. Maybe a bit of both.

      3. @asdf, I think it’s more the former. Microsoft knows how to run an efficient bus service.

      4. Bryant’s pretty much completely gridded–small, pre-war homes towards the south and immediate post-war construction north towards Wedgwood. My Mom lived in Bryant from 1942-50, when the houses were new, and attended Bryant Elementary. (Her old house still looks very much like it did in old family photos). Windermere and Laurelhurst are cats of a different color altogether.

        Met Market’s site was a coal yard then…for whatever statement that might make!

    3. Are the houses actually cheaper on the Eastside? Median house price is higher than Seattle/North King. I guess it depends on what you’re getting for your money, etc. Maybe it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

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