Sound Transit Sounder #922 MP40PH-3C

This is an open thread.

99 Replies to “News Roundup: Up Again”

  1. “•White House reports says NIMBY zoning regulations are a prime driver of economic equality. The reduction in labor’s share of income economy is entirely lost to housing wealth, not other forms of capital”

    “Inequality” right? I highly doubt NIMBYs and “equality” ever end up in the same sentence without a negative.

  2. A Metro employee told me Bellevue Base will take delivery of three Proterra electric buses in November. But he wasn’t sure when they will go into service. Drivers first have to be trained on it. They will be assigned to only those routes that go through the Eastgate P&R, as that’s where the charging station is.

    1. In past Westbound closures of I-90, I’ve not seen any reason WSDOT couldn’t provide priority for transit headed to Mercer Island (554/550). There *may* have been work inside overpasses at East Mercer Way or Shorewood but to the layman’s eye, it looks like WSDOT simply doesn’t bother to try.

      The Park & Ride lots along both routes are underutilized on weekends so there is ample room to add more riders during semi-apocalyptic construction closures like this. Without coordination/funding between/from WSDOT, Sound Transit, and the Legislature, these opportunities to introduce more people to Sound Transit’s services are wasted.

      If there is a reason they can’t provide a lane of travel under the above mentioned overpasses the least they can do is explain why. Continued silence on the lack of priority provides fodder for those who believe WSDOT is run by car driving motor heads who don’t actually see transit as useful for moving large numbers of people.

      1. In fairness to WSDOT, during the most recent westbound closure (Oct 10-11), WSDOT allowed Mercer Island traffic to exit to East Mercer Way and then re-enter westbound I-90 via the onramp for access to Island Crest Way. I believe the buses were using this pathway (no reason not to). WSDOT was doing some general maintenance work in the East Mercer to Island Crest Way stretch (landscape pruning, signage, electrical, etc.), but all the heavy construction work is in the tunnels.

        I agree they should carry the HOV lane further up before forcing a merge. There’s 6 lanes worth of space on the East Channel Bridge; more than enough.

      2. That configuration still required transit to merge and wait in line to exit at East Mercer way for no apparent reason. Again, there may have been work going on under the overpass but if there was it wasn’t explained nor immediately obvious. WSDOT simply blocked off I-90 and made transit fend for itself with all other vehicular traffic.

      3. The explanation I’ve seen from WSDOT regarding this (please don’t shoot the messenger!) involves several factors:
        1) They cannot/do not want a coned-off “island” in the middle of the East Channel Bridge for safety reasons. This means they need to pick one side of the bridge to funnel traffic down into. The short distance between the Bellevue Way onramps and East Mercer Way offramps complicates this; they do not want to do traffic splitting on Bellevue Way (for example, Mercer Island traffic use the GP ramp, Seattle traffic use the HOV ramp). WSDOT tried pushing all traffic onto the HOV ramp for the first westbound closure and it was a disaster because most drivers freaked out when they saw the HOV-only signs and ended up on eastbound I-90 instead. This means they need to keep the Bellevue Way GP ramp open, which means you’re putting traffic on the north side of the East Channel Bridge; there isn’t enough space to merge everything all the way left, and then Mercer Island traffic all the way right.
        2) They are deliberately forcing Mercer Island traffic off at East Mercer Way rather than leaving a direct path to Island Crest Way so they don’t have Seattle-bound drivers who fail to read signs get forced off at Island Crest Way. This could look like the Seafair closures, which pushes freeway traffic onto Mercer Island local streets; WSDOT wants to avoid this for the weekend closures. The configuration they’ve allowed this time around so you can still access ICW is a major improvement; having all Mercer Island traffic on North Mercer Way or going up Gallagher Hill wasn’t fun.
        3) HOV traffic heading for Mercer Island using either the I-90 HOV lane or the Bellevue Way HOV ramp would have to cross over general traffic heading for the express lanes. Thus you have to force HOV traffic into the general lanes at some point prior to East Mercer Way.

        I think WSDOT could stand to extend the HOV lane further than they do (they close it all the way back before I-405; no reason they couldn’t extend it to Bellevue Way), but based on their reasoning above, I can’t fault the current setup too much. WSDOT has made adjustments after every closure so far in an effort to make things less painful, so we could see further changes. They DO listen to feedback in this case, so sending them emails about improving HOV priority may have an effect.

      4. It could have been worse. A previous closure had the 550 and 554 taking neighborhood streets all the way across Mercer Island just to serve one stop at the P&R.

    2. Surprised we’re not partnering with Ballard in Vancouver for buses.

      First Ballard-Powered Fuel Cell Bus Deployed in City of Yunfu, China

      VANCOUVER, CANADA and YUNFU, CHINA – In June 2015 Ballard announced that we had signed definitive license and supply agreements with each of Nantong Zehe New Energy Technology Co., Ltd. (“Zehe”) and Guangdong Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd. (“Synergy”) to provide fuel cell Power Products and Technology Solutions to support the planned deployment of an initial 33 fuel cell-powered buses in two Chinese cities. The deal has an estimated value of $10 million, the majority of which is expected to be recognized in 2015.

  3. Regarding the eastbound I-90 closures this weekend, while there’s no special provision for transit, it’s not really relevant as weekend I-90 routes (the 550 and 554) both use the 5th Avenue HOV ramp and hence will bypass the entire backup via the Rainier freeway station. So no special provisions are necessary.

    Westbound closures are an entirely different story, although the 550 misses most of the backups by getting on at Bellevue Way.

    1. The linked release from WSDOT says that “eastbound traffic will be diverted to the express lanes”. So, yes, the eastbound 550 and 554 will be right in the thick of it!

      Sure, they’ll get momentary relief right at Rainier, but then they’ll have to merge back into the traffic at the east end of the station.

      I do wonder how traffic from I-5 either direction whose drivers don’t “Know Before [They] Go!” will access the express lanes. I guess it will have to exit at Dearborn and squeeze on at Fifth South and Airport Way like the diverted traffic from Rainier. Now that will be carmageddon on Dearborn.

      1. Regular traffic will enter the express lanes right at the portal to the Mt Baker tunnel. This is a one-lane ramp that enters the two-lane express panes, just east of the transit station. This should allow the buses serving the transit station to move directly to the left lane of the express lanes while the merging traffic enters the right lane.

      2. Thanks Pete. That will definitely help.

        I wouldn’t want to make the merge to the single lane that will make the slip, though. Yuk!

    1. Turns out, if you’re not a hated, foreign president, you don’t need to shut down multiple blocks of the city you’re visiting. The President of Ireland will probably just cordon off a table at the Blarney Stone.

    2. In the 1990s Mary McAleese was the president of Ireland and she visited Seattle and gave a talk at UW I attended. It was interesting to see how presidents of other countries are different from the US president. Her priority was to talk with American business leaders and the governor about business opportunities for Ireland, rather than to talk treaties and politics with the host government and international organizations. She also had time to talk with ordinary people like us. If she had a security detail it was so small and unobtrusive as to be unnoticeable, and there weren’t any significant traffic diversions on those days. The undertext was that foreign presidents have fewer fixed responsibilities, and what Ireland most needed was business investment, so that’s what she spent her time doing, drumming up business. It’s also interesting that she was born in Northern Ireland and graduated from Queens University in Belfast (where she was later chancellor), yet she was president of the Republic.

      1. Interesting historic note: Secret Service protection for the President of the United States began in 1901, after William McKinley was assassinated.

        Two previous Presidents had been murdered: James Garfield and Abraham Lincoln. But I’ve read that from the country’s beginning, Presidents and people alike generally believed that, being a citizen, the President didn’t rate any more protection than anybody else.

        President Lincoln had hired bodyguards from the Pinkerton agency- sort of the Securitas of the day. I don’t know if Lincoln or any other President carried a firearm. Though I do know that neither he nor James Garfield would have had a chance to use it.

        Lincoln had well-armed battle-fresh Union soldiers in the theater box with him, and he and his guards both knew for a fact that the war was only over on paper.

        So maybe Lincoln died because entertainment sucked so much less than now. If John Wilkes Booth’s lifetime goal hadn’t been to upstage his brother Edwin in a certain particular theater, Lincoln might have died holding the autograph he’d just requested because who’d turn away the country’s hottest popular actor?

        I’m pretty sure the world in general understands why the President of the United States rates huge protection. But as a nod to the century of our existence when Presidents themselves didn’t expect these extra efforts, I think it’s fair for us, the people, to ask that the occasion for these major interruptions absolutely never include fund-raising.


        Mark Dublin

      2. I had a similar experience with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at Furman University in Greenville, SC a few years ago. Much more approachable and a minimal security detail, despite the unrest in her country prior to her election. She was an outstanding speaker as well.

        Apart from the relative size and geopolitical “importance” of the different countries, part of it is probably that many of these presidents are head of state, a mainly ceremonial position, as opposed to head of government. Our president, of course, wears both hats but that is relatively unusual. We might notice if new Prime Minister Trudeau popped by to visit; the Governor-General of Canada (the Queen’s representative) might be in town right now and we’d never know.

      3. Interestingly, McKinley’s assassination was a *good* thing for the country, as it made Teddy Roosevelt President. McKinley was an awful and evil President, basically having sold out the country for the benefit of a few corporate CEO cronies, and having broken all his campaign promises.

        It’s kind of funny that the previous two assassinations, of Lincoln and Garfield, were bad for the country and did *not* get Presidents any sort of bodyguards — but the one and only assassination in your history which was *good* for the country is the one which caused Presidents to get Secret Service protection. Seems like bad people were at work there.

    1. Oh god no! As a daily commuting cyclist, the majority of cyclist are not mature or experienced enough to deal with the Idaho stop. They can’t even handle the cut and dry stop sign/light laws that are in place now.

      The Idaho stop works in the sparsely populated cities that dot Idaho, where the cycling population is also pretty low. I can’t see this being a positive change for Seattle.

      1. Making this change would legalize a lot of existing behavior that is in fact very reasonable and safe. I’m not sure what kind of stop sign behavior you see and are referring to, but if it’s reckless or dangerous it wouldn’t be legalized by an Idaho stop anyway. Also, it seems like it would be reasonable to allow it generally, but ban it at specific intersections, along the same lines as “no right turn on red.”

      2. So, I drive seldomly, maybe once every one to two weeks, during low traffic periods. When I do drive, it’s for a grocery, hardware or personal sporting event, in which bussing, biking or walking just isn’t practical. The trips tend to be within the city, if not my neighborhood, which includes a LOT of stop signs and red lights, that causes my gas mileage to go down. I consider myself a safe driver, I have a spotless record since I got my permit at 15 1/2. Could I, as a car driver, take advantage of the Idaho stop? It would save me A TON of gas and offset a good chunk of CO2!

    2. At STOP signs between minor residential streets? Sure; and San Francisco has a bajillion of them. But at STOP signs accessing arterials and any traffic signal? Absolutely not. Feet down, no balancing acts.

      1. “Feet down, no balancing acts” – that’s dumb, and yes I know it’s the law. Even with a full stop required I can hit a full stop for a second or two before continuing if the way is clear without having to clip out of my pedals. And with a kid in a trailer behind me, so no silly fixie dancing necessary. That’s already more than what about 60% of drivers in cars bother to do at stop signs without cross traffic anyway.

        The kid in the trailer is why I’m in favor of a yield rule at stop signs – the difference in cranking from a dead stop vs. a 3-5mph slow and look both ways is ENORMOUS.

        I do agree with you on red lights needing to be a stop.

      2. Really there are plenty of red light situations where this can be safely applied as well, even on arterials. One example: WB on Pine approaching 8th avenue, light is red. Assuming no peds, the only possible source of traffic is from my left (8th is one way). I can easily slow to a roll, see there is no traffic even visible for an entire block, and be on my way before anyone notices or cares, much less is in any way endangered. And it’s not just the stop vs. roll question, it’s whether you actually have to wait out the red light, especially if it servers no purpose whatsoever.

        And while I don’t like pointless laws, I do like and advocate safety by all parties and try to do my part. If there’s cars or peds with right of way (or even without!), stop and wait them out. And some intersections are too big and hairy to do anything but just wait for your light. I’d definitely put Pine and Boren, and things like the 50th/stone/etc. monstrosity in that category.

      3. Update, I read the article. Per Portland’s Dept of Transportation research “Drivers did not do much better. They came to a complete stop just 22 percent of the time.”

        So revise my comment to ‘that’s already more than what about 78% of drivers in cars bother to do’.

      4. Yeah, gonna have to disagree on this one. Coming to a four way stop at 2.5 mph (and having decelerated from only 15 mph), with nothing blocking your peripheral vision or hearing, it is more than safe enough to not come to a complete stop. There are times and intersections where it isn’t – multiple lanes, hedges blocking sightless, etc. – but for many intersections, it’s safe. After all, 2.5 mph is walking pace – we don’t expect walkers to come to a complete stop before entering an intersection, even if cars may be turning across the lane.

        I don’t think a rolling stop at a stop light makes sense (at least not for straight or left – a right turn when you can see nobody coming for a block or more is fine at 2.5 mph (and safer, b/c you don’t have to accelerate from a standstill). But until stoplights are reliably triggered by bicycles, there is a place for treating red lights as stop signs. (treating them as stop signs with extra abundant caution, but still. I used to have a commute (not in Seattle) that went through a light that got a car only every few minutes at night, and wasn’t triggered by my bike. I would have to either wait until a car happened to come from the direction I came from to trigger the light for me (which ended up being comparatively unsafe, b/c it was a scary road to share with cars already), or just run the light when, as usual, I couldn’t see headlights in the mile of visibility I had in either direction on the road.

        Obviously it is impossible to make the law perfect for every case, but I believe that roll-through at four-way stops makes a lot of sense.

        (one more example – often drivers will make eye contact with you and wave you through, including when they should just go. I like to wave them through and unclip, so there is no ambiguity, but if I do go, I don’t want to come to a complete stop and then start back up, holding up the person who was kind enough to let me go through. This is especially common where bike paths cross streets and everybody has a stop sign, ESPECIALLY when there are pedestrians in the crosswalk.)

      5. EHS,

        I specifically exempted STOP signs at residential streets. I said that they should always be honored at arterials and traffic signals. I would agree with roll-through at four way stops, because it minimizes the time that the bicycle takes the intersection and the crossing vehicles are reliably slowed.

      6. There are four way arterial stops – if you go up 40th Ave NE, you will find four way, arterial stops at 55th, 65th, 70th, and 85th. All the kind of stops that I think are safe to roll through on a bike. If you want busier 4 way arterial stops, go up to banner way and NE 80th.

        These aren’t hugely important – there aren’t a ton of them – but ultimately, most intersections in Seattle are either uncontrolled residential or controlled by lights. A good percentage of stop signs are rolling stop territory. Mercer island has tons of them, and is infamous among cyclists doe setting up stop sign traps on popular bike routes.

    3. The biggest problem is stop signs at the bottom of a hill, where losing the momentum makes it significantly harder to go uphill the next block. Stop signs on flats or at the top of hills are less of a big deal. But stop signs by their nature are at low-traffic intersections, and it’s ridiculous to come to a complete stop when most of the time there’s nobody there, or where you’re fully able to stop if a sudden car or child should unexpectedly appear.

      1. Nope – stop signs at the bottom a hill, where people are likely to not slow down adequately, present a hazard. You shouldn’t go through a stop sign with enough momentum that up or downhill matters – just enough to save you the 3 mph of acceleration. At least, not in cities – I’ll blow through a stop sign at the intersection of two country roads in Eastern Washington where you can see for miles and miles. But in Seattle (or portland) the hills are too steep and the sightless are too short for carrying hill-based momentum through a stop sign. Even an uphill pace of ~8 mph is well too fast to try to carry the momentum through.

      2. EHS: I think we’re saying the same thing. Slow down enough that you can stop if you have to, but not so much that you have to start pedaling on an incline. It feels like people who say come to a complete stop have never ridden a bike, or if they did they don’t remember how hard it is to start moving again, it’s not like just lightly pressing the gas pedal. It’s like the people who’ve never ridden buses who think an hourly or half-hourly bus is enough. How would they feel if their car could only start at the top or bottom of the hour?

  4. Once again, when you give low-income people numerous income-tested reductions in the price of things (housing, food, utilities, transit, etc.), you’re taking away the incentive to leave poverty. “We really like how you’re performing here. We’d like to give you a $5 an hour raise, promote to assistant manager, and switch you to full-time.” They wouldn’t take it because what they’d gain is less than what they’d lose. I am for this idea, however, on a politically philosophical level. It prevents a class revolution that would take away even more of my money.

    BTW, charging everyone .25 cents more on their fares to cover the small percentage of people who will use low-income fares on ST Express? There’s something fishy about that math.

    1. How do you charge someone — even a pathetic, clueless, loser STEX rider — a quarter of a cent more for something? We gave up mills ages ago.

    2. STB management, I wish to issue a formal complaint that I am being cyber-bullied. I am demanding you take action against my tormenters, Anandakos and Drew.

      Abuse victim, Sam

    3. And your abuse of low-income earners shouldn’t be noted?
      All the focus on the individual welfare recipients when corporate welfare runs rampant. Where we really losing money?

      1. Les, I actually agree with what Sam’s saying. These benefits shouldn’t abruptly stop when you earn (200% of poverty level + $1); they should phase out over some range so that any raise always makes you better off in the end. The EIC does that, and it works very well. That’d be rather hard to arrange for transit fare, but other low-income programs should definitely do it.

      2. William,

        Except that He-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed-To-Avoid-Comment-Whining always creates a ridiculous straw-man case to argue his Faux News economic points. The number of part-time, low-income workers offered Assistant Manager positions with a $5 per hour raise in any one month throughout the Puget Sound region, could be counted on one hand. Counting the number who turn one down wouldn’t require one.

        He-Who should present someone who actually has turned down such a position in order to remain on assistance. Then we will be duly chastised for our Socialist muck-making.

    4. Here’s an investigative reporting opportunity for you Sam. Go count the number of workers on public assistance who were offered a management position or could have qualified for an opening but turned it down because their benefits were more lucrative. If you can find ten or more of them (in a state with a 7 million population), ask them how long they’ve been on assistance (any more than five years?) and what they have to do do requalify every year (spending a long time going to an office and filling out paperwork and getting asked humiliating questions?). And don’t count people with disabilities because their benefits are paying for expenses that most people don’t have and which a compassionate society shouldn’t expect to come fully out of their paycheck.

      1. Mike, you’ve touched on an idea that would use Nature’s most powerful human trait for immediate massive improvements in management at all levels.

        Everyone in the workforce, starting at the top, will be assigned a numerical Personal Productivity Index, with percentage scales positive and negative.

        A hundred percent positive would offer highest possible income. And more important, their every work-related decision would be implemented a hundred percent as issued.

        But the real value of the program will be that someone with a hundred percent negative rating would be paid at exactly the same level on the ironclad condition that he never come on company or agency property at all.

        In between, at each level, actions and decisions will be either confirmed or reversed according to the rating. In other words, a person with a fifty percent rating would have an equal number of decisions either carried out or reversed.

        As the software is made more sophisticated, however, the subject will never know how his decisions are really implemented.

        Ideal goal, will be for a hundred percent negative rating will result in a complete idiot spending his whole career believing, with absolute truth, that his decisions create stellar success.

        Truly, I think this is what private and Government corporate top offices really believe is computers’ whole function, and already do. To turn stupid input into brilliant output.

        But one undeniable fact. We’ll have finally found a power source that will never run out. Though dangers of stupidity mining or possible derailment of tank-car trains in the BN Tunnel….can’t happen. Where’s my raise?


    5. A new ORCA LIFT card is coded to give the holder the LIFT fare discount on applicable services for two years.

      Most of the fare increase is to keep up with inflation and help provide all that new express bus service ST is planning to roll out next year. Want all that new service? You might want to take the survey and encourage the Board to approve the proposed fare increase. And also take the survey on the Draft SIP, encouraging support for the proposed new service.

      The administrative cost to Sound Transit for ORCA LIFT card distribution is negligible. Metro’s got that covered.

    6. One ironclad proof you’re wrong, Sam. STB staff might want to get me some figures, but I think that, making allowance for fact that the first years out of college use up a lot of Ramen, hardly any of us qualify for enough incentives to become permanently poor.

      However, the fact that no amount of comments like the above one has induced any of us to violate the Shoreline Management Act by filling Elliott Bay with discarded computers proves that there’s no link between major life decisions and the most powerful incentives.

      Though I’m already taking the chance of being prosecuted for a crime against humanity by incentivizing an attempt to prove me wrong.

      (Bad Bavarian accent for this one): I was only obeying orders!


    7. Maybe we should institute a universal citizens’ dividend payable to all and abolish the minimum wage then. It certainly fits Sam’s criteria- no perverse incentives to not work because it reduces your income and helps businesses!

      1. Guess what… a Universal Basic Income’s been seriously proposed, including by some libertarian economists. I don’t really support it, but there are some decent arguments in its favor.

      2. William,

        Given the inroads into gainful middle class employment that computers are increasingly making, some sort of income guarantee will be necessary within a decade or two. A world in which we did things that we love to top up a basic subsistence wouldn’t be a bad place. And honestly, I think it’s pretty much inevitable.

        Japan is even making robots to take care of its old folks. I’m sure they’ll be the next big thing around the developed world.

      3. This is similar to an idea proposed by Milton Friedman in the 60s–the Negative Income Tax. I think he was a conservative Republican even.

      4. Nixon supported it, and it passed the House in 1970 but not the Senate. It’s actually a pretty good idea.

        Here’s an article that covers it. It also nicely addresses the political shift since then:

        What allowed for GAI to be considered seriously by both Republicans and Democrats in the late-1960s and early 1970s? Why would the chances for a GAI proposal be so bleak today? And why are the answers to those questions critical to the outcome of virtually every other domestic public policy issue that exists today?

        In the course of weeks of reporting — both through interviews and an exploration of the documentary record — Remapping Debate found that GAI proposals were given room to breathe in a social and political environment that took seriously the values of citizenship and mutual obligation, and that accepted the fact that social problems could be — indeed, should be — solved by governments.

        That environment has disappeared, due in large measure, we found, to the rise of “market thinking,” a mindset that subordinated — and, in some respects, supplanted altogether — the values of citizenship and mutual obligation.

        On both sides of the aisle, the voices describing unfettered market relations as a virtuous and unstoppable force to which the citizenry had to adapt and submit (as with globalization) grew ever louder. Ultimately, these market devotees drowned out those who continued to believe that government has a vital role to play and that markets do not on their own reflect and honor a broad range of important social values.

      5. The “market devotees” are frauds: they are actually opposed to free markets. Free markets, as Adam Smith explained, require extensive regulation.

        What the “market devotees” are in favor of is unfettered greed and the ability of the powerful to steal from the weak. In short, the worst sort of aristocracy. I suppose there has always been a large portion of humanity who supports aristocracy. That’s who we’re fighting now, and by “we” I mean everyone of good will, regardless of our opinions on other things.

        The pro-aristocracy crowd will throw out all manner of dishonest argumentation to get people to vote for them (including the ‘free markets’ BS) but they really want to get rid of voting entirely — they want aristocratic power.

    1. I’ve noticed some close calls in the these last few days of testing. This will be fun watching the area adapt to new driving and walking patterns. Those bumpers on the trains seem pretty stout.

      1. It will be interesting to watch human behavior as buses and streetcars head up the hill on Jackson. Buses on the curb, and streetcars in the median. Should I dash from one to the other at the last minute as they both whiz up the hill vying for the checkered flag at 12th?

    2. We ought to start hearing the complaining from drivers at the major Broadway east-west crossings in 10….9…..8…..

    3. There was serious testing going on yesterday, saw just about all the streetcars being tested on what seemed like some sort of schedule throughout most of the day. Prior to that it was maybe one single streetcar doing a single run in afternoon.

  5. “Only a quarter of Americans identify as urban, but this identification is more tribal than economic or geographic. In suburbs where the population is completely urban in the senses that there are no farms around, and people commute to work in the CBD or in an edge city, people do not identify as urban. To them, “urban” means “those people” – usually blacks and other minorities, but sometimes also white people who they perceive as too culturally weird. By any notions of urbanity that go back to when the developed world had a large rural population, the US is at least 80% urban. If you look at metro region, the median American lives in Indianapolis (or did a few years ago), whose metro population is about 2.3 million, the same as Stockholm and Prague. The problem with the US isn’t that Americans don’t live in big cities; it’s that Americans do not think 2 million is enough of a big city to have a large transit system.” (Comment in VMT article, by Aon Levy)

    1. However, Mike, point both sociologically, politically, and transit-related: in Europe, with a force like a theoretical Black Hole,the more anybody becomes Anybody, the closer they live to the center of their city.

      Some say that in some places, ISIS draws a lot of recruits from the Paris suburbs. Motivated at least partly by the sense, living in the suburbs makes indelible the birth-and-citizenship-irrelevant fact that you’ll never be a real Northern European.

      In Gothenburg, many of the streetcar lines terminate in communities where the average person seems to be a fairly-recent immigrant from places south.

      In his book “The Sea Runners”, set in Russian Alaska in 1853, Ivan Doig notes that the Russian Empire could have literally circled the world at the latitudes of Alaska if not for one thing: Russian social status accelerated downward the further you lived from St. Petersburg.

      So I think that the current urbanizing pattern has more dangers than forcing STB commenters into the parking-striped wastelands where transit fears to roll. Or worse, of being forced to beg for scraps of appetizers in the alley behind restaurants with one-word names.

      Without the barriers that the wealthy once used to contain poverty away from themselves…now it’s wealth itself walled in and concentrated. With its absence stretching a lot farther than the eye feels like seeing.

      Mark Dublin

      1. The centralization of wealth downtown, standard in Europe and elsewhere, is going to return to the US. The only reasons we had a “reversed” pattern in the US were historically bizarre: the combination of liberated black people moving to the cities, racist reaction of “white flight” and redlining, and the concentration of lead poisoning in the inner city thanks to leaded gasoline. We’ve got the lead out of the gas and the upper classes are heading back downtown.

        Rural poverty is already really terrible, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it. Suburban poverty is also terrible, significantly worse than urban poverty; eventually it tends to lead to people squatting closer in to downtown; not sure how it’s going to play out.

  6. Reading the 2016 SIP draft reveals some interesting and perplexing projections in Ch 6, tables 21-24
    STEX service hours remain relatively flat, and certainly don’t reflect expected population increases by 2021, and costs per rider go up only 6% over the 7 year time frame.
    Commuter Rail sees somewhat larger increases in service, with ridership growing 22%, while costs escalate 17%.
    And Central/ULink’s costs increase from $55m/yr to $116m/yr. The increase in ridership of 240%, resulting from double the service hours, only yields a reduction in cost per rider of 14% from $5.00 to $4.38 per rider.
    ST will continue to average only 2 car trains until Northgate service starts (205k car hours and 102k train hours in 2020).
    Several questions emerge:
    1. What happened to 3 and 4 car trains?
    2. Service hours increase 31% thru 2020 but train costs soar to more than double. Why?
    3. Link is displacing few STEX buses, and service is being diminished relative to demand. Why?

    1. Link’s share of DSTT trips grew, so ST’s portion of tunnel maintenance and debt paydown grew, allocated to Link’s O&M costs. When the buses get kicked out, ST assumes 100% of DSTT costs, which will be allocation to Link O&M.

      Reading budgetary documents in general, be sure to account for inflation.

      The train lengths will grow when ridership merits it, which is projected to happen within about three years.

  7. •Portland’s affordable housing incentives a failure.

    Oh, it gets worse. Soon after declaring that the city has a housing emergency, they decided to increase rents by 17% in a city owned “affordable” apartment building.

    But, there are reasons why I participate on STB rather than attempt to make any further progress with my local bumbling leaders.

    1. Pretend you’re at one of those microphones from the late forties or early fifties, Glenn, either with those big metal rings or the mouthpieces like chrome Buick grills:

      “To the captive peoples of Portland, your exemplary contributions to light rail” (incidentally, I’ve got my Cascades ticket to go see the new bridge Friday) “still resonate in our hearts! You have not been forgotten! Today Steven Harper! Tomorrow…” Remind me the name of the housing Commissar whose statue we’re sworn to chain to the coupler of a Siemens-Duewag sr70.


      1. We’ve got vast areas of southeast, northeast, and north Portland that are tied up in single family zoning, so whatever apartments are there are the ones built before today’s very exclusive zoning.

        Ballot Measure 47 in 1996 limited property tax increases to 3%, so that real estate speculators can grab up certain properties, leave them vacant for years without a huge amount of tax penalty, and wait for things to get desperate so they can cash in. There are several entire vacant blocks in inner southeast that are used for storage of beverage vending machines needing repair. In the meantime, three blocks away, residential land is so highly prized that 7 floor apartment buildings have been there since the 1950s or so.

        In the meantime, the Oregonian is urging the regional planning agency to increase sprawl by expanding the urban growth boundary. Apartment rents have actually fallen in Oregon City and Gladstone because there are only so many people that are willing to live way out in the middle of nowhere. Thus, expanding the urban growth boundary only accomplishes so much, because the outskirts aren’t where the major demand spike is happening here. The Oregonian is still stuck somewhere in the 1950s I think.

        You guys are next in line. Once apartment vacancy rates approach 2% in Seattle, you’ll get to decide if you really need so many surface parking lots so close to the city center.

      2. Anti-density zoning is the enemy. I don’t think we can overturn the _Euclid_ case, but maybe you can somehow get a city government which is willing to repeal the evil and exclusionary parts of the zoning code.

        How did we get improvements here in Ithaca? We elected a mayor who can’t afford his own apartment without a roommate. As a result, he has his priorities very clear.

  8. The old Hawker-Siddley commuter car design used on Sounder and many other North American commuter railroads has a new variant: GO Transit is now operating the first full width cab version.

  9. The Gondola Project just ran a great series on the new gondola system in Ankara Turkey. It’s 2 miles long with 4 stations and is very urban. It’s exactly the kind of thing I could see connecting Lower Queen Anne with SLU and CH. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 (pictures)


      Thanks for comment, Matt. Dead serious, I think the whole area that was justifiably expecting the First Hill Station deserves, maybe legally, something on the order of the Turkish aerial tramway in compensation.

      Nothing negative about the streetcar intended here. But no one should accept the line as a replacement for the station, however solid or otherwise the reasons for its elimination.

      But check out the link to YouTube for something very well-tried for letting street rail handle very steep grades. There are even engravings of this lift, in Cincinnati, carrying a horse-drawn wagon along with a streetcar.

      Making a connection with both Pioneer Square and the new Waterfront very tempting. Low-Tech magazine is great. Check it out, also for back issues. It’s even got photos of an electrified canal tugboat pulling a load of freight barges.

      Would serve the Ballard gentry- exactly the kind of people the Vikings would have massacred- right to combine the barge-line with the 44.



    1. Glenn, it’s a tribute to the inherent goodwill this man holds toward his employer that he saved them billions of dollars in penalty and compensation fees for only a million and a quarter.

      And certainly no consultant would have clicked the “Reply” key on a company Request For Proposals solicitation at ten times that amount.

      If this worker had been as hatefully vindictive as his treatment- and his employers- deserved, he would have had his attorneys file a tank-car-train length series of continuances until events proved the plaintiff’s case.

      At which time he could simply have bought the railroad and the remains of Tacoma for the change left over after he tipped the barista or his coffee, and rented the whole former management for prison-labor to restore both the railroad and Pierce County.

      He looks like a nice man too.


      1. There is a serious attitude problem at most of the major railroad managements. This is another example of it.

  10. I was hoping there would be more discussion of the real comparison between Denmark and the United States of America. Starting with fact that in both nations, “socialism” is a matter of definitions.

    Considering their taxpayer-derived incomes, I’ve always suspected that Boeing execs have secret meetings in Red Lion basements where they all show up in bad Russian suits, slicked down gray hair, and Hero of Soviet Youth pins.

    When I was in western Sweden some years ago, a young woman told me that her high school teachers had been suggesting that the United States was not really a democratic country.

    To avoid usual angry discussion, to her a republic governed by democratically elected representatives counts as a free country in the hands of its people.

    She had worked for several months in Bulgaria, and left after some experiences that left her with a bad taste of sleaze and corruption in her mouth.

    So I told her I thought that factoring in the size and population of our country, Washington State, and the City of Seattle were in the same country as a good many less fortunate and worse-governed places. Same as Sweden and Bulgaria on the European continent.

    Discussion of the difference between Denmark and the United States should really start with the size, location, and surrounding “neighborhood” of each country. Denmark has about six million people, far below some of our cities, with a land area that would take a grid search to find in some of our states.

    With no militarily defensible borders, on the edge of a cramped continent which has been at war with itself for many times the whole history of the United States.

    However much more important is that Denmark, and the rest of Europe, comprise an assemblage of countries with populations and land areas that would be local in the US, though with a combined population, according to Wikipeda, of several times ours.

    With an age-old weakness which is the direct opposite of our own strongest advantage: a single persistent idea which lies between the ears of its average person.

    At least several hundred million of their people fiercely believe they’re in separate countries. All three hundred million of us think, by such deep habit we don’t think about it, that we’re in the same one. And that, on the grand scale, compared to the alternative, that’s just fine.

    Short of pointing a loaded gun at police and US marshals, a self-proclaimed secessionist won’t even get an FBI file. Spain. The British Isles. Belgium. Italy. Let alone what used to be Yugoslavia. Even where there’s no shooting war, Europeans’ emotional loyalty has a lot tighter limits than current national borders.

    But now that borders are massively being de facto scuffed out peacefully, meaning for the first time in history by civilian footprints instead of tank treads and their precursors, I think it’s possible that Europe, Denmark and all, finally has a chance at our own real strength and safety.

    For history’s strongest reason: whatever the discomfort, and there’ll be plenty, there’s no choice about it. Like the richest US city, even an advanced Denmark-type entity of population five million hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell of surviving alone in the present and future world.

    This fall’s daily coverage wouldn’t change if the whole Danish population enlisted in the border patrol. Same the whole rest of Europe, and Texas and Arizona even with all their efforts to be the kind of place nobody wants to live.

    And I really think that the resulting unified, and also much younger continent will finally end up with the power and confidence that lets us keep Texas, Arizona, and Kansas no matter how their politicians’ pretend to try and tear a hole in us.

    Like the immigrant Quebec citizens who saved Canada from breaking up when the province almost voted to secede in 1995, I think the Europe’s younger generation of new arrivals already want to live in the kind of country most unlike the ones their forebears left.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Canada would be a better comparison than Denmark if you’re concerned about size and regional differences. There are people in Canada who’d prefer less taxes and regulation, and many of them work in the US where they say they can make more money. But they’re a small enough minority that their policies don’t get enacted. Alberta did get some of them enacted for several years but then turned liberal. And it never went as far as dismantling Medicare-for-all.

      I don’t think a large diverse country is inevitably doomed to fragmentation. In the US it’s more a case that some factions are anti-government, anti-union, and anti-equality, and that limits the kinds of compromise/consensus that are possible. As to where that came from, Jim Webb argues it stared with English settlers in the mid-Atlantic coast who came as commoners but set themselves up as petit gentry, combined with the rigid harsh plantation/slave system from Barbados to the Deep South (constrasting with the moderate plantation/slave system around Virginia), and later the businessmen who opposed the New Deal and wanted to go back to 19th century no-regulation factories.

      1. A great read on that topic is “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer (whom I believe was faculty at the UW when he wrote the book). It’s a very descriptive book about four different colonial regions in what is now the US, the regions differentiated in large part due to where in England the primary settlers in each area came from. Webb’s argument is somewhat similar. There are many things from those times that we still see today as regional peculiarities.

        I sadly differ with you on the fragmentation issue; the US may be the only nation with a suitably large population that is not currently held together by force of arms or threats thereof in at least parts of the country. (Brazil comes to mind as another, although it has its own issues). Without concurrent growth in Congress’ numbers, we increasingly and rapidly find each of our legislators representing huge constituencies (800,000 or so each at the moment) and hence unable to be respondent to the individual or small groups without big money.

        The cultural differences between the regions are real as well. I’ve lived in both Jim McDermott’s district and Trey Gowdy’s, and the viewpoint on politics, religion and so many other bedrock issues are so vastly different between them that it is not hard for a Northwesterner of either political stripe to find more in common with other countries than with our compatriots in the Southeast or in much of the Midwest. Our commonalities have been gradually reduced to a flag, a few wars (but not before WWI), sports and the homogenized American culture of big box stores and chain restaurants and hotels. Perhaps it is enough; at any rate any major devolution will likely affect none of us alive today.

      2. I should have made it clearer about my thoughts about national size and unity.

        I was using the United States as proof that a multi-ethnic country of 300 million people can hold itself together as the stable democratic republic that is the real source of our power in the world.

        If we’d stayed thirteen independent countries, we’d now have Ottawa as a capital, except with slaves. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 settled any question about the South just trying to be left alone.

        Now, with all our faults, despite the congenital health damage slavery left us, we’re the exact example Europe needs to retain the advancement and freedom it now has, in the face of massive unstoppable changes.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Alberta was the first province to implement Medicare-for-all. I’m not sure they’ve ever been right-wing in the US sense.

      4. FWIW the cultural similarities between the Northeast, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain West, and even the Mexican-influenced Southwest are really very large. There are differences, yeah, but less than the difference between England and Scotland.

        The South, on the other hand, is totally alien. I have never felt so uncomfortable or out of place as in the Deep South.

    2. Denmark is Socialist in the way Bernie Sanders’ Vermont is Socialist.

      Have you ever been to Vermont, say Brattleboro or Burlington? I have.

      There are a lot of very poor unskilled people who are dependent on the social welfare system. Things like halfway houses and drug rehab and food banks.

      There are a lot of “hippies” or, I guess “hipsters” who make their living at veggie restaurants.

      However, supporting it all are the wealthy stockbrokers who bought up the farmhouses and the defense and tech industries that bring in the bucks.

      Far from being Socialist, it is more like Enlightened Monarchy, where the wealthy have a sense of nobelesse oblige to donate high taxes to those less fortunate.

      That might seem a good situation but it also highly ephemeral. There is always the change that the nobles might not feel as much obliged as time goes on especially if Wall Street bonuses shrink and profit margins for old tech shrink.

      I’ve often thought about what makes the best Utopia and from my personal experience, the best life possible in many aspects is to be working for a well funded corporation or institution and live in a place where the costs of life are cheap or moderate. That is, you don’t have to be a billionaire, just make a bit more than the average and be able to afford the good things without going into debt. This is what Seattle/Puget Sound was like before the early 1990s. However, that lifestyle tends to extinguish itself as more people pile on the boat and it slowly sinks (Seattle 2015).

      1. What I always say is that capitalism *requires* socialism.

        You have to have a social safety net, a socialist underpinning, to make everyone secure enough that you “can’t fall too far”. Only then are people willing and able to try being entrepeneurs.

        If the worst that can happen is you end up living on a subsistence level of food in a small apartment, *lots* of people will become entrepeneurs and start their own businesses.

        If the worst that can happen is dying in a ditch homeless, starving, and infected with no health care… most people will not be entrepeneurs, even if they’d be good at it. Only people with piles of inherited money will try it.

        In order to have entrepeneurial capitalism, you need socialist underpinnings. Without the socialism, capitalism will destroy itself and turn into inherited aristocracy.

        You are fundamentally wrong about Denmark and Vermont; they are *not* supported by “outside money”, they are supported by local business. Really. Local business like maple syrup, or like Ben & Jerry’s, or like the colleges… export businesses. Very capitalist businesses. The stockbrokers live in Connecticut.

        Denmark, like Vermont, is both capitalist and socialist. This was also the attitude of Abraham Lincoln and the originators of the “American System” of industrial development, which China is now copying in order to get rich.

        Today, however, the US as a whole is heading for inherited aristocracy. I know which choice I prefer.

      2. “The community, business and personal services group is the most valuable services group in Vermont. Its main sources of income are private health care, hotels and ski resorts, law firms and repair shops.

        Ranking in second place is the finance, insurance and real estate services group based on the buying and selling of homes, particularly vacation homes. The state’s major financial center is Burlington.”

        Vermont Poverty:

        Great, so the Bern’s Socialist State is dependent on tourism. Good luck when the snow caps melt from global warming. He’ll end up another Dukakis.

        But yes, it’s been the same thing for day one. In a wealthy, privileged society, one where the cash is flowing in like water, you can afford socialism. I imagine that if you dig deep enough, you will find that most of the big industries in the “socialist” states are still owned by a very few wealthy families who also own the majority of the land and who make most of the decisions behind the scenes with the politicians being frontmen to keep the populace quelled with so much bread and so many circuses.

      3. Tourism is an export industry. It’s the American System, like I said.

        The difference between socialist/capitalist states (which I consider one category) and aristocratic states (the other category) is actually *social mobility*. There are always rich and poor people, but the question is whether your status depends entirely on your birth, or whether the children of the poor can become rich and vice versa. Capitalist/socialist states allow for social mobility. Aristocratic states do NOT.

        If you look into it you’ll find higher social mobility in the states with more of a social “safety net”.

  11. About transit efficiency in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe – Matthew Yglesias is right. Transit is viewed as a basic function of government by basically all parties so that financial conservatives demand that the service be provided efficiently rather than doubting it should be provided at all. Amsterdam transit is partially privatized and has about 75% farebox recovery with a long term plan of 100%. More privatization and higher farebox recovery are both characteristic of many other European systems.

    Some care should be taken drawing conclusions from this, since the US is far behind in ubiquity and ridership, but with the stay growth in Seattle ridership and progress toward ubiquitous frequent service, it may be time for Seattle to take a closer look and establish hard goals for efficiency and farebox recovery. Maybe difficult to do with the current structure of metro and ST, but if (as most here would welcome) demand continues to increase and stresses the capacity provided by Prop1 funding, asking for additional taxes is far from certain to succeed. And we will start to reach levels of usage so that comparisons with Copenhagen and Amsterdam are more germane.

    1. “Privatization” can be used to mean two things:
      (1) Contracting out government work, which often works better than doing it in-house, though not always
      (2) Rent-seeking by privateers who want to collect monopoly profits by jacking up prices and cutting service while extracting subsidies from the government and disappearing when the deferred-maintenance bill shows up. This is what “privatization” usually means in the US and it’s an utterly terrible idea.

      Right-wingers do their best to confuse the two meanings of “privatization”.

      1. I have no info about the quality of service in Amsterdam transit today though it was very good when i lived the 20 years ago. British rail privatization has had mixed success as reported over the years in The Economist. So indeed the devil is in the details. Still, countries and cities with mature and heavily used transit have generally more efficiency and more focus on efficiency, and it’s worthwhile for Seattle to look ahead to that discussion too.

    2. One of the largest costs at TriMet is the health insurance for employees and families.

      Once there is a cost effective way to deal with that then private companies would be able to do more in the transit realm.

      Those types of costs are just too high under a non-socialist system for private companies to flourish at doing it.

    1. I think of downtown as everything north of False Creek and west of about Main or so. There really isn’t anything other than surface streets there.

      Except, of course, the freeway for bicycles produced by the Seaside Greenway.

  12. It’s really good to see a serious discussion of ideas about government and their results carried on this long on Seattle Transit Blog. A few points to keep in mind, though.

    Old saying: “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy”. Same with any philosophy of government’s first day in office. Starting with intensifying conflict within the winning party’s own followers about how to even start writing laws implementing their philosophy.

    But I think history also shows that like everything else alive, including human, political ideas aren’t chiseled in unchanging stone anyplace but on fake-Ancient-Greek buildings.

    Karl Marx used the term “Dialectic”- meaning that the world of ideas is a constant state of mutually influencing and counter-influencing each other. He also believed that capitalism was an absolutely necessary step to his definition of Communism.

    Meaning: conceived by a German living in England in the middle of the 19th Century. It’s very likely that in his own thinking, Marx was really talking about Germany. Possibly also the United States, which many European revolutionaries really did see as the world’s shining new example of freedom.

    But the one European place that Marx never imagined becoming Communist was Russia- because the place hadn’t even had the Renaissance yet, let alone capitalism. Solzhenitsyn himself said, accurately, that the first German shell into a Russian trench in WWI put an end to the Middle Ages in Russia.

    Which can also be said for every third-world country that came under government that actually merited being called Communist- where the only thing like capitalism involved seriously disadvantageous resource removal by the richer world.

    Denmark, like Holland, has for centuries been a prosperous trading nation. But in Norway and Sweden, well into the 20th century, the vast majority of ordinary people were farmers and fishermen living very close to the edge of starvation.

    Under laws approaching certain pre-Civil War controls on slaves. For example, a working-class person was required to have an employer’s written permission to be walking cross country. And in general, their complete lack of money left the average person with hardly any choices about anything.

    So, much of the shift of wealth following World War II was not a revolt against capitalism, but, like Russia, against feudalism. Tellingly, the westernmost countries, Norway and Sweden, made the transition largely without resort to violence.

    Which is probably best working for the present difference between socialism and the communism that became basically glangland when the Wall came down. And either way, an outcome mainly the result of being born in Russia.

    At the end of WWI, Finland had three months of a largely externally- instigated- civil war backed respectively by Germany and Russia, in which neither side doubted that if they lost they’d all be machine-gunned. As more or less happened.

    And also accurately, would rule with very little pretense of democracy. But once again, neither side had really reached the Renaissance. The winning side were farmers, mostly of Swedish extraction, who mostly owned their own land.

    The losers, ethnic Finns whose origin is still under discussion, were as much serfs as their counterparts directly across the border in Russia. And therefore in the Middle Ages and not yet on Marx’s list for communist eligibility.

    The whole point being that underneath labels like capitalism, socialism, and communism, the history, habits, and culture of a country determine its public life much more than abstract ideology.

    For our country, the reason that no classic ideology, socialist or capitalist really takes root is because hardly anybody presently feels like, or sees any need, to personally participate day-to-day in the actual running of the system.

    Too bad. None of the heroes with brilliant rays coming out of their heads on those wonderful engraved old plaques and posters had yet developed any German term for an ideology called “Home Shopping Network.”

    Mark Dublin

Comments are closed.