Yesler Terrace (Joe Wolf - Flickr)
Yesler Terrace (Joe Wolf – Flickr)

92 Replies to “News Roundup: Out of Scale”

  1. Amazon’s ‘Life in Seattle’ recruiting video gets satirized. The type of people in this satire video remind me of a certain blog.

  2. I have an honest and sincere question. Anti-roads activists tell us that building more lanes makes traffic worse. If that’s true, then doesn’t adding more low-income housing make poverty worse?

    Something to think about.

    1. Building more lanes doesn’t make traffic worse. It just doesn’t make it better. In 5-10 years the additional space gets filled up due to increasing sprawl development and discretionary trips, and then you’re back where you started. The only way that more lanes could be a long-term improvement is if you completely saturate all possible future demand, such as making 405 twenty lanes. That would require much higher land use or double-decking, and cost much more than the projects the legislature is considering. Even twenty lanes may not be enough since 405 is already at eight or ten in some parts, so maybe you need thirty.

      Likewise with low-income housing, if you provide only 2% of the need as we’re doing now, then the waiting lists stretch for a decade. But if you provide enough housing for everyone who’s in poverty, disabled, or in low-wage jobs, then the waiting list shrinks to a turnover size (like the ideal vacancy rate for apartments).

      The difference is that shelter is a public good, and the government’s minimum responsibility is to provide it for everybody. Transit is the same: the government should provide routes and service levels that meet the widest cross-section of the inhabitants’ trips including discretionary ones. Because the quality of the city’s commerce, culture, and health is highest when the most people can go where they want to.

      But with cars it’s impossible to offer that level of service or even a fraction of it. A car is 4-10 times larger than a person, has 1.2 people in it on average, and must be stored 24 hours when not in use. Each car requires 2-3 parking spaces (vaguely) — one at home and one at destinations. The home one is dedicated unless two people work opposite shifts. The work one is dedicated if everyone works simultaneously 9-5. The shopping one is shared so it’s less than one but still above zero. So draw a rectangle around your car for 1.5 more spaces (and the space between cars on the highway), and that’s how much space a city needs for each person’s car. That means the space factor rises much faster than the population factor, which is why a large city with everyone in SOVs is impossible and why traffic is so bad. Los Angeles and Pugetopolis tried it but it doesn’t scale. We need a minimum amount of roads and parking for emergency vehicles, deliveries and work trucks, and some discretionary trips. But we can’t meet all discretionary demand, especially with no other modes available (transit/biking/walking) or if they have only a token amount of infrastructure. Accommodating people’s maximum discretionary demand — say an average of three round trips a day per person– leads to those who drive less paying extraordinary costs for the roads/space/pollution/oil dependency of those who drive the most. Whereas if they’re all on a bus or train, the costs are only a fraction of it, affordable by the city. With fifty people on a bus, the total space required is 1.1 person’s worth instead of 4-10 (or 25 including the parking spaces). That in turn means less parking and road lanes are required, which puts destinations closer together, which makes it twice as easy to walk between them, like in pre-automobile cities.

    2. There’s no thing you can build that’s low-income housing. Yes, adding lanes adds more cars. And adding homes adds more people living in homes. But I’d call that better, not worse.

    3. Traffic expands to the size of the road. Poverty does not necessarily expand with the stock of low income housing because the two are not connected.

      1. Zach, poverty does expand in the sense that if Seattle does more to build low income and affordable housing than other US cities, than that will draw more poverty to the area.

      2. Both Salt Lake City and Massachusetts have built enough housing for their low-income people according to what people here have said, and people aren’t flocking from the rest of the country to there. Seattle is already a magnet because it’s a liberal west coast city with a mild climate and growing jobs (not just tech sector, but construction and minimum-wage). Other cities are also exploring a “housing-first” approach and focusing more on affordable housing, and their programs may come on-line at the same time as ours.

      3. Sam, you said “Zach, poverty does expand in the sense that if Seattle does more to build low income and affordable housing than other US cities, than that will draw more poverty to the area.”

        Please provide evidence for this claim. I think you’re making that up.

      4. Sam’s claim certainly makes economic sense. It would be surprising if it were outright false, and interesting to try to determine whether the effect is significant.

        Perhaps not directly relevant, but certainly suggestive of analogous effects

        And you know what they say about New Hampshire’s welfare system [buy them a bus ticket and send them to Taxachusetts]

        Perhaps Washington’s allegedly regressive taxation system would balance the effect,

  3. That KUOW article is related to one of the more common flawed arguments used in favor of transit funding (one I’ve used myself, I must admit): “Drivers should vote for more transit, because it will get other people off the road and make your commute better!” This is false: while better transit increases overall mobility, the demand flexibility of SOV driving means it will not necessarily make traffic better, especially in Seattle’s current transportation climate.

    That in mind, I have a question: what is a good response to folks who ask “Why should I vote to tax myself for buses when I don’t use them?” I always bring up some combination of arguments from social equity, environmental impact, and regional mobility driving economic growth. How do you respond?

    1. “Regional mobility driving economic growth.” There’s the key. There’s no room to accommodate more cars in the city and in the denser suburban cores. But those cores are where most of the jobs are. To get more jobs, you have to have more capacity to get people to the jobs, and the only way to get that capacity is transit.

      Now some people respond with “I don’t want any growth.” At that point, you just have to throw your hands up.

      1. Some of them will say “increase transit capacity by adding more roads”:/.

      2. It’s not worth paying $1,000 a year or so in taxes to boost “regional mobility driving economic growth.” At least some of the bus, rail and road services need to be of practical use to my family and my neighborhood, and preferably not worsen global warming.

    2. Yes. There is just no plausible prosperous car-first future, as it is not possible to move more people via vehicles in our highway footprint. So you can either move more people in the same space, meaning transit, or you can have your car mobility back via divestment, flight, recession and population loss. Which do you want?

    3. You can’t avoid growth when the population is increasing. Adding transit while the population is increasing doesn’t make congestion better but it can retard it from getting worse. And it gives a way to bypass the congestion for those who use it. Which could be you when you hear on the radio there’s an accident, or your car breaks down, etc.

  4. Technically, the active transportation mode share has reached 50% in Vancouver after rouding up to the nearest percent. It’s technically just short of the majority of trips.

  5. So now we have the Do-Si-Do (67/73), the Denny Disaster (8), and the Union Bow Tie (2). Anything else?

    1. There’s the Crochet Hook at the north end of the 16, the Terrible Turn made by the 43/44/70 and until recently the 49, and the Mt. Baker Waste of Time on the 14 (which doesn’t have a good name yet).

      1. A crochet hook (I’ve been calling it a button hook) is possible with the new 67 as well (but not if I can help it). I like the Do-Si-Do (very clever phrase). Not that I like the routing, I just like the phrasing.

      2. There’s also the middle part of the 16, which my wife describes as, “like being driven around by an old man assuring you, ‘Oh, yes, this is the way to Northgate.'”

        (Similar statements apply to the 26 on 35th east of Stone, and the right turn the 31/32 take to cross under the Burke-Gilman. There are obviously reasons these routes do these things, but the streets and intersections used are so poorly suited to bus traffic that you feel like you must be off-route.)

    2. Let’s not forget the d.p. Memorial Traffic Light (on the D), the Four Seasons Waste of Time (345), and the Linden Deviation (E, and less bad).

      1. d.p. Memorial Traffic Light (on the D)

        Where is this (no, really, I want to know)? I need to update my Flickr feed.

      2. And if you think the light is bad for the D-bus, the street view picture suggests it’s even worse for the pedestrian. Only the 15X gets to get through that light reasonably quickly.

    3. So glad I no longer live in Wedgwood and have to suffer the Dumb Detour via View Ridge on the 71.

    1. I’ve never understood the reason for the incessant West Seattle sniping that takes place in STB comment threads. When someone from Roosevelt speaks out against density, we don’t hold it against residents of the U District. So why when someone from Admiral speaks out against density do we hold it against residents of the Junction?

      West Seattle holds 15% of Seattle’s population, and in a lot of ways is a microcosm of Seattle as a whole. There are dense areas and sprawling areas, rich areas and poor areas, progressive areas and conservative areas. Geographically, Madrona and the Central District are much closer together than, say, Admiral and the Junction. It’s silly to treat either pair as a single entity.

      1. Yes, yes it is.

        But then we get told that “the Junction/Triangle have grown just like Ballard” (objectively not true)… or that “150,000 people live on [an absurd definition of] the peninsula and so light rail will serve them all” (objectively impossible in so many ways)… or that buses have to make insane curlicues because the 6 lanes of California Ave make it inappropriate for buses somehow, and it reinforces that all of our impressions of West Seattle as a paradise for self-selected NIMBY isolationists who want the benefits of big-city infrastructure without any of the hassles of communal participation are reinforced.

        Oh, and then we get told it is okay for Madrona and the Central District to be 30-minute bus journeys from everywhere forever, because West Seattle is VERY IMPORTANT. And we realize that there are opportunity costs for real people when we allow West Seattle’s collective bullshit to fester. And so we must continue to call that bullshit out.

      2. Really? The incessant Bellevue sniping and the incessant West Seattle sniping are much the same. They’re both suburban. Yes, one happens to be in the city and the other happens to actually have a small but dense center, but the Fremont-living denizens of STB aren’t happy with anything less than apodments.

      3. d. p.’s criticisms are accurate if not tactful. Personally, I think folks miss the point. West Seattle has some moderate density. So does Magnolia. But we would never consider running a new light rail to Magnolia, especially if it lacked stations between (existing stations) downtown and Magnolia. But that is precisely what a West Seattle light rail line would do. No new stations between SoDo and West Seattle (a distance of several miles). Meanwhile (unlike Magnolia) there is no logical feeder system.

        From a land mass standpoint, the area west of the Duwamish is huge. Yet it isn’t that densely populated. Nor is very conducive to feeder buses. The logical feeder bus locations for much of the peninsula are right next to freeway. Since there would be no additional stops between there and SoDo, this feeder system would gain nothing. A rider would lose something (having to transfer, with absolutely no benefit). Only a very small part of West Seattle would benefit. There are no parts of West Seattle with really high density. Meanwhile, the cost to serve West Seattle with rail is enormous. You are talking several billion dollars even for one station. So basically you are talking about several billion dollars so that one small part of West Seattle would have a better ride, while most of West Seattle would be worse off (assuming they transfer). At best you simply continue with the old bus system, which means spending billions to make life better for one small part of West Seattle. That is simply not cost effective.

        On the other hand, the alternative is an outstanding value for all of West Seattle. Just about all West Seattle buses go on the West Seattle freeway and then go downtown. So a new tunnel (the WSTT) along with ramps and other improvements would improve lives for way more people in West Seattle. Just look at the number of people who would save significant time if their bus went directly downtown, but went there very quickly (and more often). That is way more people that would benefit from West Seattle light rail.

        Sometimes the cheaper way is the better way. The geography of West Seattle (physical, distribution of people and existing freeway) just make it way better for BRT (or other bus improvements). The fact that a more appropriate, more beneficial system can be built for less money makes it the obvious choice.

      4. Your comparison of West Seattle with Magnolia is pretty disingenuous; can you name a single bus line to magnolia that comes close to the performance of the 120 and the C line? These are routes that have no stops between downtown and West Seattle, and are consistently among the highest performing routes in the county.

        That said, you entirely miss my point. I’m not arguing that light rail to West Seattle is a slam dunk, nor that it would be a better investment than light rail to Ballard (it isn’t, and it wouldn’t). I’m not arguing that the WSTT is a bad idea (it’s a great idea!) I’m arguing that people like dp treating West Seattle as a homogeneous place, with views best represented by commenters on the WS blog, are incredibly naive. Yet that attitude seems to be a prevailing norm among the otherwise generally insightful comments of STB readers.

      5. LWC, you’re pretty much saying the reason in your objection: people who *want* rail to West Seattle also talk about it as one homogoneous place when it comes to this discussion. They’re saying “Light Rail to West Seattle” not “Light rail to Admiral” or “to the Junction” or “to Alki” or to wherever it will actually go (I’m not personally particularly familiar with West Seattle’s geography). They say “West Seattle is densifying” not “[neighborhood] is gentrifying.”

        Yes there is such a thing as Greater Ballard but no one here is seriously talking about rail all the way to Holman QFC (at least not in the next round at any rate).

        The people who are boosting West Seattle are the ones who are treating it as one big homogenous entity, and in the process greatly obscuring the actual complexity, difficulty, and expense of doing so and without realizing it are deluding themselves on what “rail to West Seattle” actually means.

        If the pro-WS rail advocates are doing it, I don’t see anything wrong with those against it doing it, poor tactical choice though it may be. We’re not the ones saying “Build rail to Seattle West of I-5 and North of the ship canal”!

      6. (Although, building the Ballard-U District line would in fact be “building rail to Seattle West of I-5 and North of the ship canal”)

      7. Farro – I’m not sure it’s accurate to say *all* the pro-WS advocates are doing it, but otherwise good point!

  6. On that last bullet point, Tacoma really is both. It is a great regional job center: 2 major hospitals, dozens of clinics to support those hospitals, a relatively small but thriving downtown including the State Farm call center & Museum District, the University of Puget Sound, and Port of Tacoma. It is also a bedroom community for a lot of workers in or near Seattle who can’t justify to themselves the high cost of living in or near Seattle. You get a lot of house for your money in Tacoma and only need to hop on a bus at the T-Dome to get to downtown Seattle. For people who won’t pay the Seattle price premium, but want to live in at least a semi-urban environment, Proctor, Hilltop, and 6th Ave offer something that FAINTLY resembles Seattle. Areas like Northeast Tacoma (i.e. Federal Way Junior) and the West End/Narrows area will almost certainly be bedroom communities (for Seattle or for downtown Tacoma) for the foreseeable future, while the central areas of Tacoma will hopefully continue growing into a sustainable job center.

    1. I’ve often wondered why companies must locate them selves in the middle of cities where they are hard to get to, and expensive to live near. I’m work downtown, but bought a house in Puyallup for all the obvious reasons, at some point I hope to get a job in Tacoma for a shorter commute.

      1. People in my office live in Ballard, West Seattle, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Bothell, Lakewood, Greenwood, Renton, and Issaquah. The office is downtown. Downtowns are usually in the center of the population which minimizes the travel distance for the average worker.

      2. What Andrew said. Also, businesses locate close to other people because that is the nature of business. It is really the nature of the modern economy. Put a bunch of smart people really close to each other and new things get created. That is why lots of businesses thrive so close to university campuses. It is why South Lake Union (an extension of downtown that is closer to the UW) is thriving. Whether someone is working on the new software gadget or the new treatment for a disease, it is really handy to be able to talk to someone who works for a different organization without having to travel very far.

    2. Tacoma should be doing everything it can to make Tacoma Dome the new home of NHL/NBA in this region.

      It would provide a south “magnetic pole” in the area, balancing traffic and demand.

      In between Seattle and Tacoma, with Sounder and now LINK, there is ample opportunity to fill up the corridor with the type of 7-story “Jackson Heights” style apartments being discussed and make them affordable even to someone with a lower middle class income (and yet leave them enough cash after rent for amenities).

      1. Including razing the dome and spending $300-$400M to build a new arena on site? Because that’s the only way that a major league sport would play at that location. There’s no realistic way to even renovate the Tacoma Dome to a modern facility.

      2. The way to make Tacoma the new “magnetic pole” is not to attract a team, but to start attracting jobs to Tacoma. Remember that right now Seattle is well over three times as big as Tacoma.

      3. There must be sites around the Tacoma Dome that might be OK. Densifying that area would be great, as long as it doesn’t displace the industrial productivity. It would also be great to get more jobs and a wider variety of jobs in downtown Tacoma and inner Tacoma. But I don’t know how to do that and Tacoma hasn’t been able to so far. One thing Tacoma is stuck with is its downtown is out-of-the-way and its HCT station is outside downtown in a car sewer, and that’s not what urban residents/employees are looking for. Pierce did not even ask for Central Link to be routed downtown; it wants it to bypass it and go to Tacoma Mall instead, the way I-5 and Sounder also do in the same general direction. What kind of city wants its best transit skirting the edge of the inner city?

      4. Maybe they could jack it up from the foundation and build a whole new first floor under it, like they do with houses in Wallingford.

  7. The Yesler Terrace story really interests me. After all the talk of it becoming SLU on a slope, that’s not really what’s being proposed.

    1. The entire area was limited to 13 towers. So this project doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer towers, it just means the first buildings might not be towers.

  8. Vulcan just proved–to anyone who wonders–why we have so many 5+2 boxes all over the place. Even in a location like Yesler Terrace with very close access to downtown and zoning that would permit much higher buildings, obviously to them the cost to build higher (and with a different construction type per building code) is so much greater for the concrete and steel towers than for wood frame over concrete that once again that’s what we are going to get. They can mouth platitudes about “respecting the neighborhood’s character” (really?) but as with all developments, it’s how it pencils out that drives the train.

    This is a location that probably should have had some sort of minimum SF or unit count as well as the code-mandated maximum height requirement, but it’s pretty clear that developers aren’t going to build much in the way of type I or II tower buildings in Ballard, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt or Northgate when they won’t even do so next to downtown in a basically NIMBY-free development. Of course, they are also adding 2/3 of a parking spot for every unit as well. Ugh.

    The first (only) comment at the end of the Urbanist piece is spot on.

    1. It’s so weird, because the mere existence of streetcar tracks was totally going to spur the most intensive development imaginable at that site.

    2. What Vulcan is doing is “just right”.

      It’s building the type of low to moderate height apartments that can accommodate more people without turning neighborhoods streets into canyons between mountainous skyscrapers.

      This is what this area needs more of…not only in Seattle, but clustered near transportation focal points in the suburbs as well.

      We need Jackson Heights in Queens…not Park Avenue.

    3. Financing is a lot easier for a smaller project. Related to that, risk is lower. Since construction costs are the same on any parcel, it only makes sense to build concrete+steel where you can command a significant rent premium. Yesler is not one of those places.

      As far as the parking goes, I’ll just keep repeating myself. The only people who can afford expensive new construction apartments have high incomes, and they tend to own cars.

      Developers have high minimum income requirements for tenants that basically exclude anyone who is “stretching” to live in an urban area without a car (i.e. rolling their car expenses into their rent). Someone earning $54k/year could technically afford to pay $24k in annual rent. Particularly if that person is not paying $600/mo in car ownership costs. But no developer would rent to someone earning less than 3x rent, which is $72k/year. At that income level, car ownership is more feasible.

      tl;dr — 3x income requirements for apartments exclude car-free middle income people, basically guarantee parking demand from high-income tenants.

      1. Well, with all the jawboning about how to create affordable housing coming from the politicians, I find it unacceptable that they wouldn’t be doing everything possible to use government backing to promote this type of development.

        As you say, it would be hard to get private enterprise to go it because its not as profitable as the other style of apartment building (though here Vulcan is doing it).

        If leaders want to do something, then this is the something they should do!

    4. Yes, it is a combination of zoning (FAR requirements) and construction economics:

      The city should change the rules with regards to midsize towers, otherwise we will get very few of them, and that is stupid. It is not only bad economically (fewer units means rent will increase — all other things being equal) but it is bad aesthetically. I think I speak for much of the city in wanting some bigger buildings to break up the six story monotony that so dominates new construction right now.

  9. The CHS piece on the Convention Center expansion says that start of construction is set for 2017. But my understanding is that buses will remain in the tunnel until at least 2019 if not longer. How will buses continue to enter/exit the tunnel’s north portal for 2+ years once construction gets under way?

    1. The Convention Center deal is pretty recent and may have superceded that schedule.

    2. the 2019’date is the old transportation related date for removing the buses from the DSTT. It’s a meaningless date m

      However, when construction begins on Convention Center expansion the buses will need to be removed at that time. This will occur in 2017.

      Basically the removal of the buses will occur in 2017 and be dictated by Convention Center expansion and not by LR or ST. It’s sort of like when they shut down the waterfront strretcar to build a sculpture park. We lost a transportation mode for reasons completely unrelated to transportation

      IThe 2017 date has been discussed icon this blog before. Most people have chosen not to beleive it, but it is the most likely scenario.

    3. Convention Place Station has a rather significant amount of layover space and I find it hard to believe that Metro would just give that up, with downtown layover space so hard to come by. Are there any plans for what routes like the 101, 106, 150, and (in the interim before EastLink opens) 550 would use instead?

      1. I don’t think the folks working on the convention center expansion are too worried about those kind of details. You’d need to ask Metro.

        But given the number of Metro emps and alums on this blog, I’m surprised someone on here can’t address the issue of Metro’s plans for the 2017 surfacing of all routes.

      2. Well, the folks building the convention center obviously don’t care, but Metro must care, and the convention center cannot just force Metro to give up the land, as Metro is not subject to eminent domain.

        Even if the buses can’t serve the station, the bus layover space still has value. Even with Link fully built out, there are plenty of bus routes downtown that aren’t going away for the foreseeable future, some of which may be candidates for frequency upgrades (meaning more buses) in the future.

        I can only hope that Metro is not shooting itself in the foot when it wants to add trips on some route 30 years from now, but is unable to due to lack of downtown layover space.

      3. Well…regardless of whether Metro is subject to eminent domain or not, why would they fight this?

        Metro knows that the days bus ops in the tunnel are limited, so why would they waste any political capital fighting an eviction in 2017 when they know that they will be evicted in 2019 anyhow? It’s just not worth it for Metro to fight a fight that they know they will lose anyhow.

        And keeping a facility like that operational just as a layover facility is pretty wasteful. There are much better uses for that property than a fancy parking lot, and without access to the tunnel it really is pretty useless even as a layover facility.

      4. I read the project will include layover space of some sort. In any case, the part that needs to be vacated first is probably the tunnel entrance and bus bays, not the layover parking.

      5. AFAICT the county agreed to the deal, sees it as a promising new use for the lot, and will get a bunch of money for it. If the convention center is designed well, it could become a more walkable pedestrianish area, it might hide I-5 and its noise, and it might include layover space for Metro.

    4. Are they actually ripping the closed station out or just building over the closed station? I get why they don’t need the station anymore but with the growth in Denny Triangle and SLU seems nuts to rip out a station forever that serves this area. Nevermind also the large gap between Westlake and Capitol Hill Station. It would be nice to leave open the possibility of a simple spur to Convention Place. It kind of reminds me of the old subway tunnel under downtown LA that was almost entirely intact until recently except for an ugly 70s hotel’s basement garage and could have been used for a long talked about Glendale line.

      1. Everything goes — ramps, surfaces, parking areas, access tunnel. When they are done there won’t be a skid mark or diesel stain left to remind anyone that there was once a station there.

        So, ya, there is NO possibility of a connecting anything back up later. But the DSTT can’t support Joint Ops post U-Link/NG-Link/East Link anyhow, so it doesn’t really matter anyhow.

      2. Incredibly shortsighted in my opinion. Its going to be one miserably sterile area around there once the giant bland box convention center’s cancerous growth swallows or surrounds every building between Westlake and Capitol Hill. Yay, we can get bigger conventions with this 3rd expansion of the convention center until Las Vegas, Phoenix or Chicago builds a bigger convention center and then we will of course have to swallow up more of the city to build an even bigger convention center.

      3. It’s better than the loud uncovered gash of I-5 that I have to walk past everyday (or take a bus past or take a bus around the other side of the hill to avoid walking past it). A monolithic-looking structure depends on the design; and you can be one of the design watchdogs if you care that much about it. It will bring money to the state on an ongoing basis, so it helps to diversify our economy and make it more resilient in case of future recessions.

      4. Also, Convention Place Station itself is ugly. Who ever thought that concrete and white plastic tubes and and a plastic fake marquee would make a station that people would want to be around?

  10. I saw some buses tonight on 3rd with “turn warning demonstration” on the front display in place of the route number and destination. Anybody know what this means?

      1. Sounds extremely obnoxious. I pity anyone who lives next to an intersection with a turning bus, who will be woken up by a 90 Db “warning, bus is turning” at 5:00 every morning.

      2. Frankly asdf2 if I had a choice between some of your comments and an annoying bus audio sound at 6 AM with “WARNING, BUS IS TURNING” I think I’d take the latter. :-)

      3. Maybe one of the things the streetcar got right is the bell.

        Obviously one of the things it gets wrong is that its bell sounds like a canned sound out of a carnival attraction. But it’s about the right volume to draw attention to an otherwise quiet vehicle. Our buses have horns, loud enough to piece the automotive shell, but nothing suitable for the naked ear. They also have the screeching beeps when kneeling or deploying ramps. We’re all so used to hearing irrelevant warning noises that we might tune them out in a noisy environment, just as we fail to read and interpret road signs when there are too many around.

        It would be a shame if Metro played the same sounds at the same volume in the loud environment of the evening rush as in the quiet environment late at night. In the rush it takes horn-level volumes to register; at night the engine and road noise of the approaching vehicle is enough.

      4. I’m also not quite sure what the purpose of the warning is, since you can plainly see if a bus is turning. Is it intended for blind people?

      5. I was in Urbana, IL a couple years after they installed these on all the buses. It was prompted when a turning bus (either a right turn or a left turn between two one-ways; I can’t remember) ran over a probably-drunk student late at night. If it’s the same purpose here, it’s to help people who aren’t paying attention and don’t notice that the bus is going to turn. That might be helpful downtown or in the U-District, but it seems overkill a lot of other places.

      6. I haven’t heard them yet, but I am concerned about them being annoying. The Times says the voice is like the DSTT announcements. OK, but the DSTT announcements are every few minutes, not every single bus. I worry they’ll be like the “Caution, vehicle exiting” announcements at some downtown office buildings, which repeat and repeat and would be more annoying if I were around those buildings more. Maybe Metro can use them just downtown and in high-pedestrian areas. Except, I live in a high-pedestrian area, so does that mean I’ll be in one of the areas where they’ll be singing all the time?

      7. William C.: I’m currently living in Champaign-Urbana and if they had those turn warnings on MTD buses at some point they’ve since gotten rid of them.

        Sadly, the MTD does not have the same emphasis on pedestrian safety that Metro does, and fatal pedestrian collisions are often the operator’s fault. In 2005, an inexperienced operator struck and killed a freshman with the side of her bus. After this incident, the MTD responded by publishing ads with a picture of a bus and the text: “I weigh 20 tons. You weigh 150 pounds. Who wins?”

      8. Apparently the warning is also spoken in Spanish after the English voice (if the bus takes a long time to turn) and the noise can be heard *inside* the bus. In other countries they use a language independent chime instead of saying something like “next stop”.

      9. Any sane person crossing a street needs to put his/her phone away when entering an intersection. This should be common sense. I fail to see why Metro buses need to go the extra mile to warn pedestrians that they are making a turn when the drivers of every other vehicle on the road (including trucks that are just a big as a large bus) do not.

        Asssuming the warning is automatic, rather than explicitly actuated by the drivers, I can see it going off on tight curves, when the bus is not actually turning.

        The warning is also especially overkill if the bus is making a protected left turn, where anyone in the bus’s way is already running the red light.

      10. +1,001 on that. Put the phone down and take only a few photos when crossing the street and be situationally aware.

  11. When I was a little kid, my family lived in YT and we lived in the building that is shown in the photo.

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