86 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Ride the Orange Line”

  1. Some stuff yesterday from the Orange opening:

    Buses were stil on their regular routes and will change today. That means there was an alternative for everyone who just needed to get somewhere. They didn’t have to fight the crowds.

    There were parallel buses operating as specials, to help move the crowds.

    In the heat, it was nice to have the free water available at so many places. Considering Portland’s long tradition of public drinking fountains s there any chance of getti g a few more of those installed as part of these types of things?

    I was trying to figure out why the crossing the new bridge on foot seemed so peaceful, despite Interstate 5 being so close. It is wonderful to be able to cross the river without traffic blasting past inches away.

    Who in hell thought it was a good idea to, in the middle of a city that prides itself for environmental concern, at an event involving a transit agency that has stated environmental concern as part of its plans, have a mass balloon release? This activity has been known for decades to have long term troubles for wildlife. This seemed like a good idea to someone?

    1. I don’t think mass balloon releases should be legal any more. But TriMet will soon be allowed to purchase oopsie offsets from King County. We can use the money.

      1. I don’t think TriMet planned that particular part of the event, but they’ll take the beating for it.

      2. I can’t condone any helium balloons anymore. We’re heading for a shortage of helium, and once it’s released into the atmosphere (via balloons), it’s never coming back. I couldn’t care less about the wildlife impacts of balloons, but the practical uses for helium (like in your MRI machine) far outweigh the novelty uses.

      3. I’m OK with allowing the novelty use of helium balloons… but the helium needs to be taxed heavily so they aren’t wasted so much.

        I mean, if you get one or two helium balloons for a whole classroom of kids, so that they can learn about helium and play with it, that’s cool. Releasing hundreds of balloons into the air to kill wildlife is just obscene.

    2. This video must have been taken on a different day — it was a hot, cloudless day in Portland yesterday. I rode the line to Milwaukee and back–amazing turnout. Overheard many riders say it was their first experience wuth public transit. Lots of families. Enjoyed seeing the parallell bike routes and the artwork along the route, especially the boats.

      1. Yes, as noted in the video and in comments here, the video was done as part of a press event before the line was fully ready for service.

    3. Re: Public water fountains. We need many more of ’em everywhere, as someone who has to frequently go into convenience stores and restaurants and ask to use their water fountain. There also needs to be more taps installed at popular fountains to refill water bottles.

      1. Re the public water fountains, I definitely agree. This will be especially important if we want to encourage more cycling.

      2. I was disappointed that the Tukwila Sounder station redo last year didn’t include any water fountains. Water is piped there for the landscaping watering so it shouldn’t be that hard to put in something to fill up bike water bottles.

      3. This line, by the way, intersects four significant bike trails and runs parallel to another.

        There might be one someplace near OMSI, but maybe I missed it due to crowds.

  2. I saw a RapidRide coach pressed into service on the 44 yesterday. I’m assuming that having two events on one day requiring shuttle service depleted their supply of regular coaches, but there is some delicious irony seeing go-faster-red on one of Metro’s slowest routes.

    Or maybe this is just a sign of 44 BRT in the near future?

    1. They used a number of RapidRide coaches to cover Husky Specials.

      There are dozens of additional trips that run on route 44 to cover crowds going to the game. Most assuredly, the coach you saw was not a regular run, but a special.

      1. Indeed, though still would be nice to have off-board payment and three doors for the diesel runs on the 44. Maybe even dedicated lanes but I’ll quit dreaming now.

      2. The votes are part of it, but I’m sure we’ll still have to keep the pressure on SDOT to actually do it right. There’s plenty that they could be doing now but aren’t. For instance, where’s the enforcement on violations on bus lanes we have now, or on the transit-only peak-time turns at 15th & 45th?

    2. The above suggestions are more likely, but there’s also the possibility that an operator that had just finished an E Line run was called to do a 44 trip, and rather than take the bus back to SODO to get a regular one, they just used that one.

      1. It’s interesting that the RapidRide buses are even capable of displaying non-RapidRide routes in their headsigns. Given the way bureaucracy works, I would have thought them to be completely different systems, that the driver would have had to resort to pieces of paper taped all over the windows with “route 44” written in magic marker.

      2. This isn’t surprising at all as we’ve seen Metro buses on (Metro-operated) Sound Transit routes and vice versa. It’s good practice to standardize the fleet as much as possible

      3. Oran–I understand that. But as I’ve said before, there’s that chance that riders will be fooled into thinking that whatever route that particular coach is operating is a Metro route instead of a Sound Transit route, and then they will attempt to present their Metro-only paper transfer as proof of payment and they’re sadly disappointed when they get on and show it to the driver and the driver says, “This is a Sound Transit route, that transfer is not valid,” and the rider is like, “but this [coach] is a Metro bus!”

        Similarly, when a RapidRide coach is used on a non-RapidRide route, there’s that chance that riders would be fooled into thinking that whatever route that coach is operating is a RapidRide route and will attempt to board through the back doors. Just my two cents on the issue.

      4. As one who has stood at many different bus stops for 200+ days a year for 35 years, most of the people I’ve overheard are looking for the number at the upper left front of the coach and fail to mention (or be aware of?) the color schemes some anonymous decorator thought up. The NUMBER is what folks are looking for.

    3. Does anybody know if the Rapid Ride coaches have “Hush” modes? If so, they’d be absolutely perfect tor the DSTT.

      Three doors. Improved wheelchair fastenings. If we could replace a large number of them with regular artics on the streets, we might even have a snowball’s chance of avoiding a Brad Pitt style of apocalypse coming screaming up the escalators to eat the ORCA cards of the living.

      And for appetizers, the livers of whoever thought we could do six minute train headways with present level of signaling, communications, and training.

      Seriously until the 550 and the 41 can finally give way to trains, a fleet of these coaches could let us finish out our dual-power effort with some dignity. Any chance we could buy these buses on the certainty that we’ll need them on the surface in a few years?

      Mark Dublin

      1. IIRC there is no difference between the two- and three-door DE60LFRs. I can’t remember if Metro does the modification after-market or if they come from New Flyer with three doors but either way it seems those coaches are the way to go in the tunnel. They really should be used on all articulated trolley routes when Metro needs to run diesel coaches too.

      2. This is third-hand info at this point, but IIRC from one of the Seahawk Parade Day threads, they did actually use some RR buses at that time in the tunnel. I believe someone said in the comments that the RR buses were equipped with hush mode. But there was some question as to whether they were equipped with the tunnel radio system.

        Somebody else might be more sure on that.

      3. I still don’t quite understand “Hush Mode.” From what I can tell as a passenger, they just turn off the engine to the bus when they pull up to a stop. I assumed that hush mode would mean that the hybrid-diesel buses would operate on battery only when they go between stops, but that’s certainly not the case.

      4. @Ren,

        IIRC buses on “hush mode” operate on battery-only below 20mph, and then get an engine-assist above 20mph. They also have their AC (and maybe ventilation fans?) disabled.

    4. I think the 40 and 120 would be the next most likely RapidRides if Metro expands the program. Both Metro and Prop 1 have been positioning them that way with incremental improvements. Basically it’s semi-accedence to the view that they should have been the RapidRide routes in the first place, and the Junction/Fauntleroy route was chosen for political reasons, and the 15th NW route was chosen for development/monorail reasons. Now that the 5 has become full-time frequent in parallel to the E, it’s not so far-fetched that the 40 and 120 might become RapidRide parallel to the C and D. Other contenders are Madison BRT and Roosevelt BRT: we haven’t heard what branding they’ll have.

      Has Metro internally made any noises about whether it favors or disfavors expanding RapidRide someday?

      1. “Rapid Ride +” has been mentioned in the Move Seattle levy and idetifies all of these routes as targets for conversion.

        I think that is your answer for now…

      2. It may or may not be branded RapidRide. And I wonder what Metro thinks of Seattle unilaterally announcing RapidRide routes if that’s what it’s doing. Metro doesn’t necessarily like Madison BRT, the First Hill Streetcar, or the SLUT, or the CCC, but the city’s dragging them into them anyway.

  3. Good video, Oran. Thanks. Good lesson to me to read more carefully before I travel. Can’t say this last Thursday was a total loss. Got to ride the A and B streetcar lines to both ends of the bridge.

    Also did not miss any of the Bonneville Salt Flats temperature walking around on site. Iceland would convert that heat to enough geothermal energy to power MAX and streetcars both.

    Video seemed to show extremely light traffic along the route. Was this run made at a very early hour? For the districts along this part of the Orange Line, isn’t there usually more activity? But my main thoughts, as always, were the same strongly mixed feelings.

    I’m always embarrassment over this particular element of Portland’s transit system. Forward Thrust or not, over the decades since MAX first started, Seattle should have built much more light and street rail than we have.

    But also, especially looking at the land surrounding the train, a sense of how wide and flat Tri-Met’s service area is compared to ours. Also, Portland’s inheritance of existing rail rights-of-way exactly where transit needed to go.

    Glenn, what is the engine, or engines, driving the economy of the Portland area? Am I right that Oregon’s economy, including Portland, took some bad hits these last forty years? Yet Portland definitely has the prettier, more comfortable Downtown.

    But it’s always seemed to me that the Seattle area has been a more dynamic place. Making our rate of transit progress even more aggravating. What’s your perspective on these things?

    Now, there are a couple of possible explanations for the Balloon Apocalypse. One is to memorialize the only foreign bomb to fall on US territory since Robert E Lee surrendered, when a Japanese balloon bomb blew up near the coast.

    But the more likely one is that the Zeppelin company, which really is trying to build a new generation of rigid airships a lot smaller than the Graf and the Hindenberg, could be looking to move to Portland and had planned a big kick-off.

    But at the last minute, their Event services people discovered that the region’s whole balloon supply had been sent to MAX, and all their promotional material mistakenly sent by ground from Germany.

    Still and all, the new Zeppelins are the size of blimps, so they can still have a great near-future event where MAX tows one of their ships by its mooring line to the middle of the bridge.

    With a tuba fanfare in another flat car, the mooring line drops, and the ground crew grabs a rail around the cabin and lifts. Traditional airship command: “Up Ship!” And not one more balloon ever needed again in Portland except for somebody’s birthday party.


    1. This run was made a month or more ago, before service on the line really started. I think they were still working on signals in a few places, and that is one of the reasons this train didn’t get up to full speed.

      Seattle more progressive on transit? Hell, we still have dozens of miles of I paved roads, and I think Seattle is down to about 5. Seattle has visionaries that create stuff like Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. Our most famous ambitious person is Tonya Harding.

      Oh, we have some great transit visionaries here. Look at Jarrett Walker’s web site where he talks of those he learned from. Sadly, few of those visionaries are in a position where people pay attention to them.

      1. Hey, don’t knock Tonya Harding – she put Portland on the map.

        Thar said, what I like about MAX is coverage, what I like about Link is design. U-Link will have much higher ridership than the Orange Line, and will carry those riders faster and more efficiency. And the Steel Bridge would never cut it here, nor would cantanary that sags in hot weather.

        But, ya, there is no substitute for coverage. This region needs to get its act together and step up.

      2. Portland is certainly a different city, if only by ratios. In Seattle (like in so much of America), when we’re politically divided, a “centrist” coalition around supporting economic growth and major institutions can often be forged, for better or worse (e.g. DBT, recent state transpo package, Boeing tax cuts). In Portland “anti-centrist” coalitions can score some wins that surprise the rest of the world, like the “green-tea” coalition (however oversimplified that description might be) that’s credited with taking down the CRC and fluoridated water.

        In Seattle plenty of people don’t want fluoride in their water (they fill their jugs a stone’s throw from Ash Way P&R), but they aren’t going to get their way in a regional election. And our DBT opposition (ranging from academics to ideological greens and conservatives to the general anti-change crowd) never gained traction in officialdom until it was too late.

        Either way, it could be worse — it could be the Bay Area.

      3. (I’ve heard that a Unitarian church in Seattle was advertising a minister position, maybe in the ’60s, and stated that the ideal candidate shouldn’t be too much of a pacifist, considering all its members with ties to Boeing. That’s actually sort of Bay-Area of us…)

      4. Ahh, Tonya, aka TurboBooty :D I remember interacting with her back in ’94 when I lived in Troutdale. She had been forced to do community service at ClackyMall (Clackamas Town Center) which used to have an indoor ice rink. She had an attitude.

      5. @Brian B,

        You’d have an attitude to if you were being hounded and pilloried just because you didn’t fit the tradition mold. But good for Tonya for standing up for herself, because certainly nobody else was.

      6. I’m not knocking Tonya at all, to be clear. It’s just that when you travel to remote parts of Africa or South America, and you mention “Portland, Oregon” mostly you get blanks as a response. If I say “It’s sort of near Seattle” even in places that don’t have electricity yet know of the Space Needle, Microsoft, Boeing, and Starbucks. Some places even have heard of Amazon. The only thing in Portland that comes close to that level of recognition is Tonya Harding, and that is quickly fading from memory over much of the world.

        I suppose I could say Nike as right now they are the closest thing we have to a famous empire, but they refuse to even be inside any incorporated city let alone inside Portland. However, virtually nobody I’ve met internationally thinks of them as being located here anyway. Bill Gates brings some recognition, but Phil Knight has people scratching their heads.

        We just don’t seem very intent on empires here.

        That brings an interesting comparison of corporate empires though: Nike campaigned against being incorporated into Beaverton because they feared that would bring taxes, which would be used to pay for stuff like roads that serve the Nike campus. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation built in South Lake Union and Microsoft is trying to make its campus become a more urban center, as reported on this blog.

    2. In regards to the prettier downtown, the economic hardships and luck brought that. We don’t have a national historic Distict protecting our downtown. There was no reason to demolish them. Now, every year we loose a few. Seaatle will probably beat us too.

      In terms of MAX serving a flat area vs Link, that was a bit of a choice. Link could have served Kent. No point in it though if Sounder can be made to work better. You have so many area that need better transit there are lots of good choices.

      The biggest problem with the Orange line isn’t where it goes, but where it doesn’t go. Downtown Milwaukie is about as active an urban center as Magnolia Village. Beyond that, the highway 99E corridor is a busy transit corridor, and most of the riders on it go further north than Milwaukie. It’s a bit like building like to the Rainier Valley, but then not through it.

    3. I was struck that Portland, Tacoma, and Spokane have more 19th century brick buildings than Seattle. It’s unfortunate that Seattle has torn so many down.

      1. It won’t be when the big one hits. The buildings are pretty, but even with retrofitting can be a bit of a death trap. Those facades will come tumbling down, leaving steel re-enforced cages behind.

        The most dangerous places in an earthquake in Seattle are the sidewalks of Pioneer Square and International District/Chinatown.

      2. Yeah this. They’re fine for Spokane by aesthetics aside we should not be celebrating their continued presence in Tacoma and Portland.

      3. The Big One?

        Have you looked underneath one of those things?

        The ones in Portland have basements that show off the fact the whole block is supported on 10×10 lumber. A flaming object that goes down the wrong vent hole or a bit of neglect and a swarm of termites would take out an entire block.

        When the Big One hits the stuff to worry about is everything built before 1970, and probably a few office towers built after that.

        The good news is that maybe the Marquam bridge will be gone. (Next time you visit, cross the new Tillikum Bridge and the huge aesthetic advantages of having that monstrosity Marquam gone will be obvious.)

  4. Two nice comments about the Portland light rail strategy:

    1. Portland realizes that Downtown is their best place to go. They built this line before extending the other lines further! All lines run through or around Downtown Portland too.

    2. Portland realizes the benefit of track that serves more than one line. The new bridge serves both the Orange Line and the Streetcar. Many of the other branches through town also serve more than one color of line. It’s particularly noteworthy how the eastside lines branch three ways once reaching I-205. If it was ST, such branching or combining would be unthinkable!

    1. Regarding ST, they are planning to do much like Portland – interline in key areas. That is indeed the plan for East and Cental Link from the ID to at least Northgate.

      Additionally, once the buses are out of the DSTT ST will have even more flexibility regarding interlining.

    2. The decision to build this line wasn’t really that well thought out. When asked about why this line, the Metro people (the regional planning agency that set the priority) gave as their primary reason some thing along the lines of MAX goes everywhere except south, so it needs to go hat way next.

      Same basic idea as spineifest destiny, only executed a bit different.

      It could have been so much better though had the Milwaukie city council not have been hostile to changes needed to make the city better for transit. That could change somewhat now, but won’t come easy. They’ve got a more progressive city council now.

      1. They sort of adopted the Federal Way model: build around the primary core area that would benefit from a light rail line.

        Picture a time in the future when that leadership change happens in Federal Way and they are stuck with a quadruple S curve that avoids developable areas.

    3. The flip side of sharing track is that each line is less frequent. Each MAX line is 15 minutes, which I consider substandard for a metro. It’s so it’s only in the shared segments that you get 7.5 or 5 minute frequency. Unfortunately it’s difficult to live in the shared-segment station areas because there’s not a lot of housing there or it’s next to a freeway. I much prefer Link’s model with 10-minute minimum on each line until 10pm.

      1. It’s a bit of an oversimplification. If you look at the blue line
        you will notice that at peak period it gets trains every 6 minutes during certain periods.

        That one definitely goes into some residential areas along E Burnside, but you have to know the areas because some areas are far more desirable than others.

        If you want more frequency, then there’s Laurelhurst or Hollywood. You can get places in either that are close enough to walk to MAX but are far enough from the freeway that life isn’t too bad.

        It all depends on what you want to be close to. There’s a bunch of residential along the line between Beaverton and Hillsboro, but the development pattern out there is a dense version of modern suburbia rather than the older neighborhoods on the east side.

        They could do every 10 minutes on MAX, but one issue here is that there is a heavy concentration on commuter service due to the funding source for TriMet being a payroll tax. There are those I have met that feel the customers of the agency are employers rather than riders. You could redistribute more of those blue line trains to cover more frequency in the evenings rather than more frequency during the peak period. However, the current level of service more closely matches the actual travel patterns.

        Thus, we get services that are quite heavy in the peak period but much less during the evenings.

        Some of that has also been caused by cutbacks due to the recession. There were times before the recession that the Hawthorne bus (now #14 but at one time it was #5) and 15 (NW Portland through to SE Belmont) were every 15 minutes until 9 pm, and as little as every 3 minutes at peak periods. Service is starting to return to where it should be, but there are still holes.

      2. The only real track-sharing problem is the Steel Bridge, where 4 lines share 2 tracks. That’s a real limit on capacity; it would be very difficult to run more than 30 trains per hour in each direction on the bridge, and 24 per hour is a more realistic limit. That means service every 10 minutes at best if shared equally by all 4 lines.
        But if a new bridge or other river crossing is built, the rest of the system still has capacity to at least double current service. The busiest tracks other than the bridge are the shared Blue/Green/Red line segment heading east to Gateway, but there are only 16 trains per hour max on this section. A 50% capacity increase to 24 per hour would be no problem after replacement of the Steel Bridge. The north-south route of the Yellow/Orange/Green line has no more than 12 trains per hour, so service could be doubled (The Orange line will usually be interlined with the Yellow Line).
        The limit of 2-car trains, due to the size of city blocks downtown, is a more important theoretical limit on capacity. The biggest “light rail” systems have trains with 6 articulated cars, 3 times longer than MAX. If the system hits capacity limits even with the Steel bridge bottleneck is fixed, a grade-separated alignment (elevated, or most likely a subway) would be needed to fix this; it could increase capacity by another 300% on the east-west lines, which are the only ones I can imagine needing that much capacity.
        The interlining itself mainly hurts reliability a bit, by making the signaling and switching more complicated, but it usually works well, and it prevents people from having to transfer from the Red and Green lines to the Blue Line to get downtown. The switch of the Green Line to the north-south alignment downtown also makes it easy to get to Union Station or PSU directly, without having to transfer, from the Lloyd District and inner NE Portland.

      3. The real limit on capacity though isn’t the Steel Bridge, but the road crossings. Highway 99E is just east of the convention center. It’s good that it is a one way northbound and southbound on separate streets because that makes traffic light synchronization a bit easier, but that and the fact that there is an I-5 exit ramp right into the MAX station at the Rose Quarter really limit what can be done without upsetting the highway planning people.

        Let’s see here, MAX blue line:
        6:31 to 8:31: Rose Quarter counts 18 or so trains through in those two hours.
        Red Line:
        6:27 to 8:27: Rose Quarter counts 8 or so trains through those two hours
        Green Line:
        6:26 to 8:26: Rose Quarter counts 10 or so trains through those two hours

        So, just with those it’s about 18 trains per hour per direction at Rose Quarter, or one every 3 1/3 minute. Note carefully that if you look between the schedules you will see that some of those trains are only 1 minute apart. Standing at the platform there, sometimes it is possible to look down the street several blocks and see two or more headlights of trains behind the one that is currently boarding.

        At some point, they need a tower and operator just for the junction at the Steel Bridge. Having a dedicated interlocking tower for a busy junction like that really helps keep the flow of trains going well, and that is why busy systems still have them (eg, Chicago’s Tower 18). It also means that the trains could run a bit faster in places as they wouldn’t have to have their reverser in neutral to make certain switches operate for them.

        Really, though, we should bury a section of Highway 99E through the east side, if only at major intersections.

      4. I was talking all-day service, not peak extras. The issue is the maximum time you have to wait for a train.

    4. This works well until you get stuck in the situation of Boston, which failed to build an urban ring and now you must travel two sides of a triangle instead of taking the most efficient route.

      1. If you live in BFE suburbia the best you can hope for is reasonable transit to some more urban transfer point. It makes no sense to build real mass transit from BFE Suburb A to BFE Suburb B.

  5. Acute update from my end: I’m going to very likely join the Skagit Transit Citizens’ Advisory Committee. Seems to be a good place to park my transit-minded soul in a constructive, collaborative environment just as Skagit Transit is making long-range plans…

      1. They operate school trippers in a manner which violates FTA policy. They also operate “field trip” services for local organizations which do not shadow a regular fixed route, violating the charter policy.

  6. Glenn, I certainly didn’t mean that Seattle is more progressive on transit, or any other particular compliment. What bugs me about Seattle is that it seems to me that the place carries a level of potential energy that should long since have given us a much more advanced transit system if it ever went kinetic.

    Maybe public officials who aren’t corrupt, stupid, or alcoholic would get more done if they were- much historic evidence for that. But meantime, we’re paying a horrible price for their personal quality.

    Maybe I should have said more agitated. Also, term “progressive” means ready to unite and work together on projects whose reward will be an improved life for everyone involved. It does not mean refusing to make a decision as a Constitutional right, or a requirement for public office.

    Like the old name “New York Alki”…yeah, we theoretically could be Progressive- but you gotta be patient!

    Nor is it any disrespect to Portland that the atmosphere seems to be more relaxed. Along with MAX and the streetcars, I really do find it a relief to go down there. One reason I’m for high speed rail. Would love train trip out of Olympia for Vancouver BC, Seattle, and Portland same day. Breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks, and dinner- faster than Seattle CBD to Ballard, which is really pretty low bar.

    Would be proud to have Jarrett live in Seattle, but don’t you think he’d still like Portland better no matter how good transit we get?

    Tonya Harding? Glenn, how close do you think Wikipedia describes her? Young life that would drive anybody to a fierce and vengeful state of ambition. Doubtless savage resentment against competitors from a more comfortable background. Am I wrong that many of her neighbors and associates can relate?

    At least two sad lessons. One, don’t ever hire your ex-husband for a hit-man, even if you get the two-for-one benefit that he’ll get whacked along with your intended victim. And also: face it that few young American athletes can defeat a starving Ukrainian orphan brought up by former-Soviet coaches.

    Really do want cross the river on the A line and the B line on same visit. Will be sure to bring a sombrero, and attach a tank car full of water to the back of the train.


  7. I recommend to my worldwide readership (Hello Busar in Kenya, who has to walk 9 miles to the nearest village with internet access to read my comments), to watch the video and listen to the music from Macklemore’s Downtown. It’s quite catchy! What’s that have to do with transportation? Much of the video is about Mopeds. Here are some of the lyrics: “You don’t need an Uber, you don’t need a cab
    F*** a bus pass, you got a moped man.”

  8. There is an appalling lack of bus stops on Broadway between Thomas and Pine. Many stops were removed in anticipation of Streetcar/Link, but until both of these are in operation temporary stops could easily be installed. Two heavily used bus stops were removed to make room for the ‘Smurf Turds’ across the college.

    1. I suspect that’s more about the light rail construction than actual service anticipation. When the light rail finally opens, it would be crazy for the 49 to pass right by it and not have a stop in front of the station.

  9. I’m not finding anything on the web easily, but there is a really nice dual level bike parking shelter at the Bybee station. It’s one step up in bike parking density over a regular bile rack. I’ll try to get photos when I am able.

  10. One of you commenters in another recent post said something like, “Duh, I wish that all of Mercer Island had no homes on it was turned into a giant park.” This made me curious. You people do know where property taxes come from, don’t you?

    1. You know that one of Seattle’s early plans had all of Mercer Island as a park? That’s where the idea comes from, not just a park anywhere (maybe Lake Forest Park?). But nobody really believes Mercer Island should be turned into a park now and disposess all those homeowners. It’s just playing on a “What if the park had been built?” In any case, if Mercer Island had been a park, those homeowners would be living elsewhere in the county, and would be paying property taxes there. Perhaps a few of them would have left the state because they couldn’t get a house on Mercer Island, but that’s doubtful. (Is Vashon too rural and far away?) And given the fact that some of the tax goes to the City of Mercer Island, which is a small entity that doesn’t benefit the rest of us, they may instead be giving their taxes to a larger entity like the City of Seattle or Bellevue or Redmond or Shoreline, which would benefit us more directly.

      1. I think the guy said the park comment because he’s outraged that Mercer Island advocates for its own self-interest before that of non-M.I. residents.

      2. … or maybe the interests of self-proclaimed neighborhood advocates who want ST to build them a parking facility, but keep it private (as in for Mercer Islanders only), and who don’t want anyone getting off the train at Mercer Island and doing any shopping nearby. The first is something lots of neighborhood groups try to get away with, and should be told firmly No. The latter is MI shooting itself in the foot.

        They don’t want our stinkin’ sales tax revenue. They’ll fund their city needs just fine on property tax, thank you.

    2. Actually my comment was not to turn Mercer Island into a park, but what if Mercer Island had not been developed at all and left natural? Ideally never even logged – if that happened it would be a priceless old growth forest and a fantastic natural preserve right in the middle of the city. Better than Stanley Park in some ways.

      Yes, cities need taxes and development pays for that, but also, developed areas need services that taxes pay for.

      Vacant land does have a cost, but sometimes not so much.

      1. What if Capitol Hill had not been developed and was left natural? In fact, I think you could argue Mercer Islands has left much more of the nature in tact than Capitol Hill has. Wouldn’t Capitol Hill be a fantastic nature preserve?

      2. Psst, Sam, it’s an island. Turning an island into a park makes sense. Yes, we could have “Central Park” on Capitol Hill, and it would be better in some senses because it would be easier to get to at any moment. But an island park sparks people’s imagination and longing in a different way. It would really be a unique regional asset if it had been built, something that few other regions have.

  11. I have a question about what you people think of the city in the movie Blade Runner. I think it was supposed to be Los Angeles in the year 2019. But it seems to fit everything all y’all love in a city: Dense. Quick transit. Walkability. So I guess what I’m asking is, would you like Seattle to be more like the city in Blade Runner?

    I also have another thought. I’m so sick of people saying they love Seattle, but want to change it to make it better. Don’t we say about a guy who claims to love his girlfriend, but … wants her to lose weight, wear different clothes, and get a nose job, all for her own best interest, that the bf doesn’t really love her and she should dump him?

    1. Loving your city isn’t like loving your wife, it is like loving your extended family. You can want it to change, and it’s not ok to yell at your cousin because they got married because you liked the family the way it was before.

    2. Yes, Blade Runner density would be nice. The police state, paranoia, nuclear aftermath, and social groups based on mental illnesses would not, but that has nothing to do with density. The Blade Runner world had a major population loss, so many cities and neighborhoods were abandoned. Los Angeles has merely densified in the way that long-term sensibility and Oriental influence would dictate. It’s inevitable that suburban malls and parking lots are not the future: they can’t scale and they cause as many problems as they solve, even if environmentally-friendly fuel becomes standard.

      Look at “Back to the Future” 1950s and 1980s: are people happier and less stressed with a town square and walkable shops, or a mall parking lot they have to drive to? They thought the mall was better, but many of the early malls are now abandoned, or recycled for marginal purposes far below their original aspirations. The early malls were abandoned for big-box stores and lifestyle centers. Many early big-box stores are themselves abandoned the same way, and the later ones don’t have anything to say for themselves other than they’re cheap and they won’t fall apart in their twenty-year lifetime (but in the twenty-first year they’re fully depreciated so they’re essentially “out of warranty”). Lifestyle centers are upscale malls with nice outdoor sidewalks and sometimes housing — like University Village. That’s more urban and so far it has been successful, so it’s a way for shopping centers to gradually pull back from their extreme sprawl. (Redmond Town Center may not be doing so well; I’m not sure, but long term it’s next to downtown Redmond so well eventually be engulfed into it as SLU is into downtown.)

      People have autonomous needs and desires that must be respected. Cities don’t. Wanting to improve your city is the same as wanting to improve your house: you don’t ask the house whether it wants to be improved, and you don’t move away because the house must never be changed. Except that cities are a collective decision rather than an individual decision. Everyone should be giving input on how to make their city more ideal, or whether it’s already ideal.

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