Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.38.35 AMEarlier this week, Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced a sweeping set of proposals with the stated purpose of helping small business while flanked by local small business leaders. Two of those proposals relate directly to land use and transit. People simultaneously encouraged by Sawant’s categorical support for transit, and apprehensive about her attitude to market-rate development,* will find a lot to confirm their biases. I chatted with Sawant staffer Ted Virdone about the two relevant policies: tax increases for more nighttime buses and rent control on commercial property.

More Bus Service

Ms. Sawant proposes to restore the $25-per-employee**-per-year  “Head Tax”, with an exemption for small business but removing previous exemptions for employees that use carpools or transit. Council Central Staff estimates that this would generate $4.8m in 6 months of operation in 2016, or close to $10m annually. Furthermore, a 5-point increase in the commercial parking tax (CPT, now 12.5%) would generate about $15m annually. By my calculation, this would fund roughly 200,000 annual service hours, or 548 additional hours every night of the year.

According to Mr. Virdone, this is more than shoring up the night owl network that he described as “skeletal”. Service today gets less and less frequent on the daytime network as the evening progresses, finally switching to a handful of night owl routes sometime after midnight.

Virdone said that SDOT would determine the actual route allocations, but the Council’s instructions would limit the new services to “between the end of the evening peak and the beginning of the morning peak.” Among the objectives they would provide SDOT would be “transit options for drinkers to get home” when the bars close, access to working-class late-night jobs, and anything else likely to generate ridership in those hours. He said Ms. Sawant was “open to input” about other transit demands in the wee hours.

There’s a lot to like about this proposal. Late-night service doesn’t have much to do with “congestion relief,” but it does provide alternatives that discourage drunk driving. Sparse late-night service is also a significant obstacle to car-free living, which transforms transportation choices in a cheaper, more sustainable, and healthier way.

Commercial Rent Control

Many pro-growth people will be more ambivalent about another component of the plan, rent control on commercial spaces. There aren’t many details yet. Councilmember Sawant proposes a “statement of legislative intent” to form a “task force of small businesses,” which would almost certainly include various city officials. “The Statement of Legislative intent is silent” on whether city departments might invite other stakeholders, like landlords, says Virdone. But that’d ultimately be up to the implementing city departments. The legislation would only single out small business representation because, he says, “small businesses are often shut out of the decision process.”

The task force would make recommendations for a specific policy. Virdone says that “probably the outcome of that task force would be some sort of percentage limit on increases with caveats, exceptions, and nuances.”

The fear with any form of price control is unintended consequences, so I asked if protecting small businesses from rent increases would discourage rentals to small businesses in the first place. As it turns out, “we’re calling it ‘small business rent control’ because it’s small businesses that are being impacted, but all commercial property would be affected.” He asserted that bigger businesses have the market power to avoid steep rent increases in practice.

Price Controls often lead to shortages in the regulated commodity. Roger Valdez brings up this very point before pivoting to an attack on Mike O’Brien’s vote against corner stores, which I would agree is more serious transgression against space for small businesses. He also notes that landlords are often also small businesses. On the other hand, the city makes some interventions that increase commercial property supply, like requiring first-floor retail in many developments, whether or not there’s a market for it. In the end, it’s not clear what the cumulative effect on the market equilibrium commercial real estate supply would be. In any case, Ms. Sawant has injected interesting policy questions into the waning days of this election cycle.

In Crosscut, David Kroman reported doubts that Sawant’s office had checked with the City Attorney’s Office before announcing that commercial rent control was legal under state law. Virdone told me he’d “had a conversation with them a few months ago” but he couldn’t share the substance due to attorney/client privilege. He did point me to the relevant spot in the RCW, which to this layman seems consistent with Sawant’s position.

*Like the STB Editorial Board.

** Actually, Full-Time-Equivalent.

132 Replies to “Sawant Proposes Commercial Rent Control, Tax for Night Transit Service”

  1. First worry about better weekend service and then worry about drunken owls service. Lack of good weekend service is what stops me from going carless.

    1. Weekend service improved substantially in June and September, especially turning 30-minute evenings into 15 minutes, and another round is coming in March for northeast Seattle. I’m happy that the 5 and 10 are now full-time frequent (15 minutes until 10pm), the 11 got frequent Saturdays, the 48 got frequent Sundays, and the 70 and 71/72/73X run full time, among other things. Which other routes in particular are bothering you?

    2. Well, Les, only example you’ve listed of a night worker is one whose survival depends on night work having a strict zero-tolerance policy: owls with impaired reflexes die.

      Humans who need to ride buses at night to work that also drug tests can sometimes last a little longer for the lack of transit. But their employment doesn’t, whether they use drugs or not.

      Completely barring them from admission to the category of people who don’t need to ride transit for any reason any hour of the clock or calendar.

      Because they have incomes and legal representation to help them if they get caught driving drunk enough that the policeman who nails them, and everybody else they see, looks like an owl. Or more than one.

      An event whose legal consequences depend on how financially well-off, middle-aged, and otherwise advantaged they look,
      But since these people neither ride nor vote for transit, they don’t figure here.

      MD

  2. Night owl service does a lot more than just get drinkers home from bars (though that is a worthy goal), it also supports the population of (primarily service) workers who work a swing or graveyard shift get home. Taking transit to work might be a worthy goal, but if it can only take you one way, it just doesn’t work. That’s compounded for people who work in a place like Capitol Hill, where there’s not a lot of other reliable options. I had a roommate who worked late nights on Cap hill and often had to take a taxi home because the buses just didn’t run late enough.

    1. The late/early buses around the airport (particularly the RR A and 574) are heavily utilized by airport and other nearby workers.

  3. Sawant’s commercial rent control policy is one of the most brilliant political strategies I’ve seen in a long time. Shes using commercial rent control, an issue even people like myself don’t really care about enough to fight, in order to start preparing the city for residential rent control.

    On a policy analysis, we’ll need to be vigilant on the specifics. What will the max rent increases be? How much will the disincentive be to rent to small businesses? How will eviction procedures be changed?

    1. In reality I think Sawant’s not going to get five council votes to set up the task force and put together a proposal. But I do think it’s an interesting concept worth thinking through. My reflex is to shout “unintended consequences” but I want to have an open mind about this.

      1. Here’s your unintended consequence:

        – Let’s say you are a building owner. You are approached by two businesses to rent your retail space. One is Joe’s Coffee Shop and one is Starbucks. In a world of small business rent control, which would you rent to? This policy would make it *harder* for small businesses to rent spaces. It (like most things Sawant says) sounds good, but it has the opposite effect you intend.

      2. Even if the policy applies to all tenants equally, it has the same long-noted issues that any other form of rent control does.

      3. Martin, if I were any elected official at all, I wouldn’t vote for a task force on anything. So I’m willing to live with the fully-intended consequences of task force control.

        But let’s discuss the fully intended consequences of present policies. At the end of 2013, my neighbors and I, all of us either employed or retired working people, suddenly had to move out of our homes of 20 years or more, when a speculator bought the complex.

        A landlord’s income comes from tenant’s rent, giving him, or her, some incentive to keep renters pleased and maintenance done. A businessman, who is pretty much a worker, except with longer hours. Like Earl Eklund.

        A speculator’s chief interest is in the future price the property can be sold for. Since his business plan entirely depends on future prices completely related to any value he adds to the property, his attention is likewise elsewhere.

        A speculator is a gambler. And corporation doing either has the worst consequences of both business plans. So regulations I’d go for, at whatever political level and cost is necessary:

        1. All residential property will be owned only by actual- not virtual- people. With no upper limits for income bracket. Tenant-owned democratically run cooperatives count.

        2. Set whatever limits can be written into law against owning residential property for speculation. Starting with measures to restrict cost increase to amenities added.A

        3. “Affordability” isn’t a word. Anymore than $15 an hour is an income. So at all levels, start getting people to earning enough to be paying customers in a really free market.

        Starting with labor unions getting the same level of Government encouragement given to banks, whether they’ve earned it or not.

        It’s worked before. Especially in places like Seattle before average STB reader was born. I hope that neither the consequences nor the massively determined intent to bring them about doesn’t bother you too much, Martin.

        Mark

      4. Mark,
        The free market is messy. Sometimes, people get hurt. But overall, its better to let the market work things out than pass a bunch of rules about who buy and sell what and at what price. Not to engage in hyperbole, but look at Venezuela: the government decides what can be bought and sold and at what price. What happens? Shortages and a wrecked economy. See NPR’s recent coverage at http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/10/29/452636462/the-nightmare-of-grocery-shopping-in-venezuela .

        One of the most exciting things to happen in downtown Seattle is the arrival of Amazon’s urban corporate campus in SLU. Do you think that development happens in a world where there are excessive regulations like what Sawant wants? Of course not.

      5. Jason: the “free market” isn’t a real thing. Markets are designed and administered with a set of rules and regulations. Without those rules, you just get rampant fraud, pollution, and abuse.

        Markets are a *great thing*, but they’re artificial, and we have to design them *right*.

        Mark is making an important distinction. We want to encourage productive businesses, and we want to discourage irresponsible speculators. This has serious implications in *how we design the market*.

        For instance, do we heavily tax vacant lots which are held in expectation of future property value increases?

    2. I’ve spent years as a small business owner and I’ve also been through plenty of lease negotiations. Although commercial rent control does sound appealing, I think there would be numerous unintended, negative consequences with too tight of commercial rent control; but I do think there should be a tax on the value of a lease agreements between large companies and large property owners.

      The people who are advocating for additional fees on new building development are making it harder to create something that is in short supply–new housing and commercial space–so I don’t think we should be advocating for fees that make it harder to build new spaces. But once the property is built and the commercial space is leased out, I would suggest a tax on the value of the leases, subject to thresholds that allow small businesses and small landlords to come to agreements without any additional taxes. When a commercial real estate agent closes a deal between a tenant and a landlord, the agent usually gets a 6% commission on the total value of the deal. I would propose that the City also step in at that point and tax the value of the lease agreement (subject to threshold tests to allow truly small businesses and small landlords to transact business without additional taxes).

      The City does currently collect a small portion of the agent’s commission through the B&O tax, but it’s not a significant amount. If the threshold tests are set up properly, small business would be protected and the City would collect some extra revenue without discouraging new real estate development.

    3. The successful British system from Atlee to Thatcher had a rent control board which authorized national rate increases (on a percentage basis) for the whole country, and allowed for additional rate increases on individual properties if the landlord demonstrated that they were being used to improve the property.

      If you’re going to have rent control, you have to have rent control of every single property. The most disastrous rent control ordinances have “rent-controlled” apartments and “non-rent-controlled” apartments, and this doesn’t work at all.

      You also have to make it possible for landlords to service their debt, improve their properties, and make a significant profit all at once; by having a professional board which was charged with deciding on appropriate rent increase, the UK managed to make this possible.

      I am suspicious that Seattle would not manage to do this correctly, given that Seattle can’t even authorize the right *quantity* of housing to be built. From Atlee until Thatcher, the same board which did rent control also worked out how much housing needed to be built, *and built it*.

      1. The Attlee government was responding to a war time deficit of housing caused by the Germans blowing it up. Following a catastrophic event like that it make sense for the government to build housing. They might not “get it right” but it’s better than nothing at all. The craters in Seattle resulting from the vacuum of the last economic boom are entirely different. We really really don’t want government building housing; check out South Kirkland P&R for an example of why.

      2. The Atlee government built a lot more housing than the amount needed to replace what Hitler blew up.

        The issue in Seattle is, frankly, that the government is *PREVENTING* the construction of housing, using the zoning code. Is that a government you would trust to build more housing? They don’t seem to even *want* to.

        That was my point.

  4. “There’s a lot to like about this proposal. Late-night service doesn’t have much to do with “congestion relief,” but it does provide alternatives that discourage drunk driving. Sparse late-night service is also a significant obstacle to car-free living, which transforms transportation choices in a cheaper, more sustainable, and healthier way”

    I disagree.

    The $12/hour worker can’t afford to go out drinking because she needs to pay her rent and buy some food. The $60/hour worker can. Yet, Sawant would tax both workers’ jobs in order for the $60/hour guy to have the option to take the bus home at 2:30am?

    That doesn’t sound like social justice to me.

    If I had to guess, I’d venture that the lack of late night transit service is not a major cause of DUIs. Moreover, many late night drinkers (and probably a lot of the workers too) don’t live in Seattle, so the extra transit service wouldn’t be very useful.

    The current system requires late night drinkers to spend some of their own money to get home safely That seems fair – they made the choice and they can afford it. Rather progressive, I’d say.

    1. The $12 worker is more likely to have a night job. And she’ll soon have $15 if she works in Seattle.

      Many late-night drinkers do live in Seattle. A lot of them take the bus in the daytime but not in the evenings because they’re too infrequent, and the infrequency compounds with transfers. Night owls, of course, reach only a fraction of the population, destinations, and times people travel.

      Making people depend on cars and taxis is not progressive. In European and Canadian cities, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Jersey City, etc, the standard is that transit goes everywhere 24 hours. Not literally to every single house and isolated location, but enough for most of the population to use if they want to. That’s the kind of environment where households feel comfortable downsizing to one or zero cars.

      As an anecdote, in Vancouver the skytrain shuts down around midnight. That causes a large exodus from bars before the last train. There was a months-long transit strike around 2000, which caused all the buses to cease but the Skytrain kept running and was free (because the fare inspectors and TVM maintainers were on strike but the other train operators weren’t). Many bars struggled for business because people wouldn’t come if there’s no transit near them, and many of those that did come left by midnight if that’s when the only transit ends. It’s hard to imagine that in Seattle because most people drive to bars anyway, and if transit went on strike then most of the remaining ones would drive too. That shows how little of a transit-riding culture we have and how many cars we have, so we have a long way to go before our transit even reaches an international standard of normal, much less being exceptionally progressive.

      1. I doubt “most people” drive to bars in Seattle. Pike-Pine doesn’t have nearly enough parking to accommodate all of the bar crowds on Friday and Saturday nights. Same goes for other popular areas.

        “Making people depend on cars and taxis is not progressive”

        I disagree. We were ok cutting the 25 because the few people who used it were primarily higher-income and could use cars to get around. Hardly a social-justice crisis. But now we are not ok with higher-income people using cars (driven by others) to get around because it is late at night?

      2. You’re somewhat unfairly conflating all low income people in to a group of non drinkers. I know plenty of people who earn minimum wage and still go out for a drink or several most nights. It depends on how people like to prioritize their funds, and while there are definitely people who simply can’t afford to go out and have a drink, there are far more who will do what it takes to allocate $10 for a couple of beers after a long day at work.

        Providing reliable non car-ownership options for these people is important, but what’s even more important is simply providing reasonable transit options for everyone, regardless of time of day. There are a lot of other things going on after the offices close that don’t (or only peripherally) involve drinking. These things don’t always cater to the affluent upper middle class, either.

      3. We were OK cutting the 25 because it had 0-3 people per run, not because it went through an affluent area. My support for more night owls is based on the premise that they’d get an average of at least 5 people per run, and sometimes 12 or 30 people. When transit is more comprehensive, over a few years people fund more occasions where it’s compatible with their trips.

      4. Also, the 25 is largely duplicative. Pretty much anywhere along its route is a five minute walk to a more logical and easily-served corridor. I’m OK with axing it because of this. Take away the less productive, duplicate routes and use the service hours to serve the better-performing corridors. The same goes for night service; reduce the scope, and allocate all the service along several important corridors.

      5. “You’re somewhat unfairly conflating all low income people in to a group of non drinkers. I know plenty of people who earn minimum wage and still go out for a drink or several most nights. It depends on how people like to prioritize their funds, and while there are definitely people who simply can’t afford to go out and have a drink, there are far more who will do what it takes to allocate $10 for a couple of beers after a long day at work.”

        It would seem that your acquaintances aren’t having a problem getting to/from the bars today on most nights of the week.

        I used to go out in my own neighborhood when I wasn’t earning much money. Made the trip home easy and free. Maybe that’s not a thing anymore, I don’t know.

      6. Forget all this hairsplitting about people making $12, $15 and $60 an hour. Night service is good for our transit system, and making it a viable option for all people. For giving people options. Even if the service is as infrequent as once every hour or even 2 hours, that still means a lot for what trips are viable by transit. There’s a huge difference between knowing you can return home timed around a max 2 hour wait, and having to wait until 5 or 6 or 7 the next morning.

        Personally, I don’t see 75% of a good transit system, combined with Let them eat Uber, as a good solution for our mobility or the developent of our city.

      7. @Ken: Yes, precisely this. I live right next to a Night Owl route and have taken it home more than a few times and I originally left my house via transit because I knew I could get back home. Back when I really was a Lake City rider (I live in the Central Area now), I wouldn’t leave my house after ~9-10pm via the bus because getting back home using the bus would be a tossup between “better make that last bus, sonny” or “impossible.”

        Frankly, having Owl service–broken as it is, it still exists–in the CD is one of the few bright spots for transit in the central city.

    2. And you must know that even $12 workers go to bars, and that some 80% of the population make less than $60. I had a roommate who worked nights as a short-order cook at a 24-hour cafe, and at 6am many of the night workers from all the 24-hour cafes would gather at one of the restaurants to unwind, even though they were making $12 or less.

    3. Bigger consideration, Alex: The later transit runs at night, the more people use transit for earlier evening activities of all kinds. Meaning a very large number of transit riders who’d otherwise have to use their cars.

      Missing the last southbound bus out of Tacoma at ten to nine means a walk to Olympia passed by truck-drivers training for the Indy 500, shortcuts blocked by unexploded JBLM ordnance, and swimming across the Nisqually River to avoid holding up a BN freight ’til the medical examiner gets done wiping the front of the locomotive.

      So if there’s a millionth of a chance I won’t be able to get out of Seattle by six, I have to drive thirty miles up to Freighthouse parking garage. And back. Safe and well-patrolled, and served by transit ’til after midnight. But would like enough transit I don’t need it.

      So forget relative incomes of drunk people as a transit-planning calculation. Goal should really be to serve the highest income drunks possible- with massively increasing ridership as the place gentrifies.

      My former home neighborhood in Ballard probably doesn’t even have any drunk sailors or fishermen anymore. But present new residents look hip, well-off, and carless, meaning voting for transit as well as riding it.

      Though even if lounges did allow sea-chanteys, average engine-starter-button chantey would be no use at all a handing sail a hundred feet up in the rigging of a clipper ship in hundred-foot seas off Cape Horn.

      Mark

  5. I’d need to see the details, but as a new small business owner myself, on its face this policy would seem to protect established small businesses at the expense of new ones. Having a rent cap or growth limit would indeed protect existing tenants, but it would deeply disadvantage new small businesses from renting space in the first place, and highly incentivize landlords to prefer large commercial tenants for whom the restrictions would not apply. If I were a large national chain I’d see this as a huge win for competitive advantage.

    1. I agree – It has the same problem that rent control always has. You’re not creating new space, you’re just choosing who gets to use that space. And the criteria is apparently whether or not you’re already there.

      I’m a fan of letting old unprofitable businesses fail, and designing policies that help give new businesses a chance. Commercial rent control seems to be working in the exact opposite direction of that.

      1. When Britain had successful rent control — from Attlee until Thatcher — the same board which set the rents *also ordered the construction of large amounts of housing* in order to create the housing supply.

        So, basically, if you want to do rent control *right*, the government setting the rent also has to be creating new space as-needed. Anyone willing to actually try doing that in Seattle? Seems like a good idea.

    2. It’s an interesting idea, but I have to agree that it will suffer from the Law of Unintended Consequences, much as residential rent control would. Commercial spaces work a little differently than residential spaces, so perhaps other rules can be structured as protection. Perhaps rent growth could be pegged to a business’ growth, and commercial landlords given a tax credit for renting to locally-owned small businesses.

      If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Sometimes, that’s enough.

    3. I had the same concerns. I’m a small business owner as well and, while it would be great now to better predict my future rent, I also remember what it was like when I was starting out and I don’t see the advantage of giving older more established businesses an economic advantage over new ones.

    4. So as I explicitly state in the article, rent control would apply to *all* commercial properties regardless of the size of the tenant.

      1. Wow Martin, that’s actually an incredible scoop you got. If you listen to this KUOW program, you’ll see that Dave Meinart specifically says that commercial rent control will apply only to small business. So Meinart lied on the air.

    5. I’ve never heard of commercial rent control before this. Where has it been tried and how is it working?

    6. My first instinct is to hate retail rent control, but most of the disadvantages of residential rent control don’t apply. I would want to see if it has been applied anywhere in the world, and what the long-term effect were.

      Best scenario: It applied to all retail space (regardless of size of business), but not office or industrial space. Existing zoning criteria requiring first-floor retail remain in place. Once a tenant leaves, landlord can re-lease the space at the “market price.”

      Consequences I can foresee:

      1. Existing businesses are grandfathered in, at least until they go out of business. This could even increase demand for new retail space, as high-rollers can’t outbid barely-hanging on businesses as a neighborhood gentrifies. New businesses would require new space, which could be leased at the current “market rate” when built.

      2. Rent controlled retail spaces are not maintained by the owners, since the lease payments are high enough. However, commercial leases typically require tenant to make and maintain all interior improvements. Lessors with slummy landlords often make other improvements as well to keep their business viable. Rent control wouldn’t change that dynamic.

      Advantages: Financially-squeezed landlords can blame “rent control” for why they don’t maintain their buildings. Low-budget businesses can hang on bit longer, perhaps forever is their businesses are stable. This will lead to greater diversity of business types at various budget levels.

      1. You never want a situation where the landlord can’t raise rents on current tenants but can raise the rent if they get a new tenant.

        This gives the landlords an incentive to *harass* their current tenants into leaving. Happens all the time and it’s awful.

        The successful rent control systems I know of all had official allowable ranges of rent for each class of housing (1 bd, 2 bd, 3 bd, or by square footage, or whatever). This is like utility regulation — with a public service board approving or disapproving proposed rents. Applying to all properties in the class of housing, and applying regardless of whether the tenant changed.

        It’s the only way I know to do it without massive economic distortion. It’s got to be like utility regulation.

  6. This rent control proposal looks like it’s going to turn Seattle into a chain-restaurant suburban hellhole.

    1. I realize this might be an embarrassing question but I’ll ask it anyway — what’s the ridership on Seattle owl routes? Whenever I see a late-night bus in operation, the riders could conveniently fit in one automobile. Somebody convince me I’ve got this all wrong, there really are large numbers of night riders to be concerned about.

      1. I think you are wrong about the market for useful, legible night owl service. But we won’t know for sure before the current useless 80-series shelter mobiles are replaced with useful, legible night owl service.

    2. The issue is not a large number of riders; it’s coverage. Night owl will always be a coverage service, but an important one. As Erin said, if you can take transit one way but not the other, then you can’t take transit. Evening and night jobs often have one direction peak hours.

      1. The south county ST and metro routes with late/early service get lots of riders. My anecdotal evidence is many are on their way to/from work (primarily Seattle or the Airport area)

      2. And Kent to Seattle has no night owls, while Federal Way to Seattle does (via TIB). That affects people working nights at Kent warehouses. The last 150 leaves Seattle at 1:30am and it’s pretty well used, but it leaves you 45 minutes early for a 3am shift, and if you get off work at 2 or 3am you’re SOL unless you walk an hour and a half to highway 99. People in those jobs who don’t want to drive get by by switching to day shift as soon as they can, but that just means the companies have plenty of applicants for day shift but not enough for night.

      3. My observation has been that the first thing low-wage workers do, after getting a job outside of downtown, is buy a car, an old beater but something that will get them to and from work. For overnight workers, traffic and parking are not an issue, so it works well for them and beats hell out of waiting for two-hourly owl service. The market for overnight transit service will always be small, and our wishful thinking isn’t going to change that.

      4. If you live in a building with a garage, parking is $225 a month. Then there’s the gas and insurance and maintenance for the car.

      5. Most low-wage workers don’t live in buildings that charge $225/mo. for parking. The rents in those buildings are too high! Groups of workers (family-members and friends) get together and rent low-end houses, often in suburbs like Renton and Tukwila and White Center. Areas where overnight bus service is even worse than Seattle. They park in the driveway and on the street.

        Sometimes I get the feeling folks on this blog have no contact at all with real working-class people around here. I’ve got a large extended family; I know some of these folks.

      6. @RDPence:

        Definitely true in my experience. I worked in a warehouse in Tukwila one year. $10/hour throwing boxes. All of the workers drove, even though a bus route was only a few blocks away. Why? The bus would take them 1-2 hours, since none of them lived along that particular route, but driving was 20-30 minutes. A $4000 car has cheap insurance (no need for collision or comprehensive), they did their own maintenance or had friends who did, and even a 20 mile round-trip commute is less than $3 of gas.

        It allows you flexibility in job opportunities and housing locations.

      7. “Most low-wage workers don’t live in buildings that charge $225/mo. for parking.”

        They do if they have an SO or roommate who lives there.

      8. There are hundreds of thousands of people who make between $8 and $20 and they live essentially everywhere. My scenario is a real person I know, not a hypothetical, and if I asked him where his coworkers live he’d probably say all around and several of them from Seattle. Real people sometimes live alone and sometimes with others, they take jobs wherever they can, they keep jobs that are good situations even if the location isn’t ideal, and they sometimes have multiple jobs in multiple places and the other people in their household work in still different places. So they can’t all live in Auburn and have a beater car, and forcing them to is not the way to go. Saying that most people do so we don’t need to do anything about transit creates a gap that real people fall through. The biggest reason most people don’t take transit is it doesn’t go where they need to go, or in a reasonable amount of time. If we want people to take transit more and drive less, and have fewer cars and live in places without a parking space for every unit, then we need to get transit that meets more people’s trips.

  7. Over a year ago, STB had post called something like Seattle’s Night Owl Alignments are Insane. As a respected transit philosopher, I’ve done some thinking on that issue and this current post. If Night Owl alignments are idiotic, what good will it do to hand more money to the very people creating the insane alignments? Having more of something that’s insane will help people more?

    1. To take the bait, SDOT would probably give money to Metro to purchase more late-night trips on existing core routes. Probably the 40, the 7, etc. They wouldn’t sink the money into the existing night owl network.

    2. I thought the same thing about a flat tire the other day. The thing doesn’t even move my car, why would I throw $20 into plugging the hole? So I just left the car on I-5 and walked home.

      1. Here’s a better analogy, Matt. I’m your gardener. I come over every other week to do your yard work. I’m lousy at my job and you’re unhappy with my work. So your solution is you are going to spend more money and double the amount of time I come do work for you, so instead of coming over every other week, I’ll come over once a week. Will me working more often for you solve anything?

        How about this … Let’s first see if Metro can create smart night owl alignments that the world’s smartest transit bloggers don’t find insane, and if Metro can do that, only then we will give them more money.

      2. I agree that we shouldn’t give Metro another dollar for the current night owl alignments. But I’m confident that SDOT will be able to dictate more sensible routes. (Here, let me do it in two minutes: E (with diversion to Westlake or Queen Anne at south end), 16, 66, 49, 48, 3. Done.) Based on SDOT’s track record, I expect them to get such common-sense simple points.

      3. Talking about which… It’s been over a year; has anything happened since then? I can’t see what would take the review process so long.

    3. The main problem with the night owls is the lack of money to make them more frequent and extend them north of 85th Street. But several routes have improved over the years. It used to be only the 7, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, and 280. Now the 81 and 85 milk run loops have been reorganized into the C and D. The E has been added which brings night owl to Bitter Lake and Shoreline. Early owl runs (2:15am) have been added to the 36, 49 and 120. The suburbs have a mishmash of partial night owls on the 124, A, 574, and 180, although they lost the 280. The city council did do a knee-jerk rescue of the “inefficient and confusing” 82, 83, and 84 during the cuts along with the “better” routes (C, D, E, 36, 49, 120), but that was really just a stopgap, not a statement against reorganizations. The 83 will probably be reorganized by 2021. That will leave only the 82 and 84 as insane routes that need reorganization. (Or maybe they don’t?) And Northgate and Lake City must get night owls; extending the 82 and 83 would be a quick way to do that. Then there’s Roosevelt BRT and Madison BRT, which will be good candidates for night owls.

      1. “And Northgate and Lake City must get night owls; extending the 82 and 83 would be a quick way to do that.”

        Indeed – especially since most northenders of modest means live above 85th (which probably wasn’t the case when the night owls were last drawn)

      2. IIRC the Owls end at 85th because that’s where the city limits were when they were implemented. That’s how old they are…literally Eisenhower-era remnants.

      3. I would be a big fan of trashing all the current 80 series alignments and replacing them with more service on normal day time routes. I can’t see a really great motive for making night service routing any different than that of day service. Maintain somewhat of a grid with non-downtown service on the 44 and 48 and extend service on some of the radial routes.

      4. The 81 and 85 are already gone. The 82 addresses the issue of serving both Fremont, Wallingford, and East Greenlake without two routes that may be overservice. No priority transit corridor between Aurora and Roosevelt has yet been identified, so it’s unclear what could replace the 82. The 85 addresses a similar issue with the 3 and 11, and it may go away with Madison BRT. The 84 is probably the least justified; it’s like a 73 combined with partial 71 and 74 tails. (Meaning the old 74, which is now the 30 but used to go downtown. The number may explain why it was considered so important forty years ago, and why it’s so related to the rest of the 7x that it’s part of the same night owl route.)

  8. The problem with rent control is that it removes a price signal from the economy. It *can* be made to work (i.e. one can have rent control and not have shortages), *but* that requires also having some alternate process to replace the price signal for more property that the rent control removes. Vienna, Austria successfully has done so for residential properties by having a very large and robust public housing program (public housing is not just for the poor in Vienna, many middle class residents live in it as well).

    So the devil is really in the details here.

    1. David B. That’s a very good explanation of the key issue with rent control…

      “It *can* be made to work (i.e. one can have rent control and not have shortages), *but* that requires also having some alternate process to replace the price signal for more property that the rent control removes. ”

      Every functioning rent-control system I know of involves a public government board, assigned to determine whether more housing needs to be built, and what sort, and given the power to build it or otherwise make it get built.

  9. Business rent control or housing rent control are idiotic ideas, but raising the issue of housing affordability/supply and thinking about how to foster new and grow existing small enterprises is a great thing to do. A diverse revenue base for transit is also good.

    [ot]

  10. Night Owl service is overrated – unless it’s on Friday and Saturday nights. Evey time I see buses that are running at 1230 or , they’re predominantly empty, and few are close to being a 1/3 filled. Sunday nights are the worst when I spot buses at midnight completely empty.

    Having late, late night service is beneficial when people actually need it. …and that tends to be Friday and Saturday nights.

    1. The bus you see empty one day may have riders the next day, or they may have gotten on and off in another part of the route.

    2. If you add 1:00 and 1:30 buses, more people will be willing to take the risk of depending on that 12:30 bus.

    3. The late night RR A and 574 get plenty of passengers 7 days a week as do the first runs of the morning.

    4. Metro counts the ridership so we don’t have to guess. It ranks the routes in quartiles, and every year it reevaluates the routes in the bottom 25% with an eye toward reorganizing them or shifting hours to the most critical needs in the top 25% of routes. What with the cuts and reorganizations since 2012, the lowest-ridership routes are already gone. Obviously night owls need a different performance standard than daytime service and that hasn’t been fully articulated yet, but that would come if night owls are expanded. Everywhere in the world subsidizes evening and night service from their day service, regardless of how long their span is, because as Brent said, the last run not only gets riders but it makes people more comfortable to take the second-last and third-last runs, knowing that there will be another one after it if they miss it or it doesn’t show up.

    5. The notorious 25 has several different issues. It nominally goes from the U-District to downtown, but in the most circuitous way imaginable that people shun it. It does get riders on Eastlake (where the 70 is on Fairview), and deleting it will cause an underservice in that area where many lowrise office buildings have opened. It also gets riders between 15th and the commercial part of Laurelhurst, which uses all the frequent buses that exist and could still use more. Its unique segments are the Capitol Hill “cliff hole” between Summit and I-5 and on Boyer and the residential part of Laurelhurst. Those are furthest from any other route yet they’re also where hardly anybody gets on/off. The 25 was in a later round of cuts that was cancelled, and its rideship is propped up by the 45th and Eastlake segments which netted it slight increases in Prop 1, but its days are numbered and it’s soon going to be an ex-route.

  11. Why is every head tax proposal ‘flat’? From an earlier post by the Transit Riders Union:

    “The Employee Hours Tax is a flexible tool, since it arises from Seattle’s general business license authority (RCW 35.22.280 (32)). There is no cap, and nor is there any requirement that the EHT be uniform for all businesses. So as long as there are sound policy reasons for it, per-employee rates could vary by geographic area or even type of business.”

    https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/21/lets-bring-back-the-employee-hours-tax-and-make-it-good-this-time/

    Why not make it a payroll tax instead of per employee tax?

    1. “Why not make it a payroll tax instead of per employee tax?”

      A “head tax” punishes employers for having a large staff of minimum wage, part-time, high-turnover employees. It hits hardest on the Ross Work-for-Lesses and Mickey Dees of the world.

      Nor did the exemption for non-SOV-commuting employees work in the last go-round. The savings was not being passed along to the non-SOV-commuting employees.

      I LIKE this proposal.

      I also LIKE the idea of spending more on the overnight network, to make it look more like the mid-day network, with buses coming at least every hour, maybe half hour, on key routes, starting with connections to UW, and making a more legible, attractive shadow network for Link and its future extensions.

    2. Sawant is a self promoter much like Tim Eyman. Let’s not forget she’s rich, not well off but rich. This proposal is very Eyman-esk in that it deals with two totally disparate subjects; night owl service (as opposed to just transit) and rent control. But being “radical” it gets her name in the press just before elections. Another page out of the Timmy play book.

      Rent controls, as anyone who lives in NYC will tell you are a joke. It doesn’t really change the market but just makes it more complex and adds cost. It won’t go away in NYC because too many generations of people are taking a cut on sub-leases that are decades deep. It’s like owning property without actually holding title or paying taxes. What’s not to like!

      Night Owl service; really? Create a new tax and put it toward the least productive transit by any metric that is reported by Metro. Drunks, if they can afford to go to a bar can afford to get home. But, they can already get a taxi ride for free.

      There is a serious proposal on the ballet to increase property taxes in Seattle; I think it’s common name is Move Seattle? I think that’s a dumb idea although I don’t really care since I won’t have to pay it and Seattle rarely finds a tax they don’t like. I used to be opposed to a “head tax” but if you haven’t been keeping score lately Seattle is not Detroit when it comes to job creation. What’s creating the commute problem is mostly people living outside Seattle and trying to get into downtown and SLU. Why tax the people that live in the city? That seems totally bassackward. Make it more expensive to live near where you work????

      1. Having studied a lot of different rent control systems, there are a few which worked, historically. They have to be VERY comprehensive: basically like utility (electric & gas) regulation. All the successful ones I know of (a) applied to all units in a given category, (b) applied to any tenant in those units, and (c) had a central board which reviewed all rent rate proposals and approved or disapproved them.

        If you’re not willing to go that far, you get garbage like the NY or SF rent control ordinances, which are absolutely terrible.

      2. Also, all successful rent control ordinances were coupled with public policies which built plenty of housing. Because the real problem isn’t the rent; that’s just a symptom. The real problem is that lots of people want to live (or operate a business) in Seattle and there aren’t enough bedrooms (or storefronts).

  12. The general standard among cities with good night owl service is half-hourly routes spaced a mile apart. That would argue approximately for the D, E, 16, 73, C, 120, 124, 7, 3, 8, 49, 44, 48, and a 105th/125th route (40/75). And the 21 and 50 due to hills. The 65 and 75 (Sand Point) would be questionable due to low density, and the 50 and 60 (south part) may take a long time to reach a target ridership level. But that’s what a “complete” night owl system would more or less look like. So how does that compare to the 200,000 hours cited above?

    1. How about boosting E line frequency too? It runs most of the night, but drops to one ride an hour between 1 AM and 3 AM. After that there is a 3 hour gap until buses start again at 6am.

      With just a few more runs in there, you could have a full 24 hour bus line on one of the most useful late night corridors in the city.

    2. That’s the normal night owl service level here. 2:15am and 3:30am, and then a 1-3 hour gap until the first morning run. (The gap depends on both the route and the day, with Sundays being worst.) There should be more runs in between, but that’s an issue on all night owls and not just the E.

    3. To be clear, I see the complete service outlined above as a long-term goal, which can be done in phases and we can stop shorter if it’s generally agreed to be sufficient. Seattle has more low-density swaths between the urban islands than the other cities do, so that makes it harder to fully serve the entire city. But we basically want to link all the urban villages and a sensible amount of the surrounding areas and night job centers.

      The first issue is, which is more critical: geographical expansion or temporal? I’d argue geographical, because one reason I don’t live in Lake City is it’s 2 1/2 miles from the nearest night owl. That translates into a 50 minutes walking distance, so it’s equivalent to an hour’s wait but worse. That’s the first geographical issue. The first temporal issue is to bring the future priority transit corridors up to Seattle’s existing standard (2:15 and 3:30pm, or thereabouts for transfer-dependent crosstown routes). That would include the 120, 44, 48, etc. The 85 could remain for a while as a precursor to Madison BRT and improved 3. Then we can start filling in more runs.

      I’m also open to starting with Fridays and Saturdays vs seven days a week. The point is that we should at minimum have Fridays and Saturdays, and ultimately get to seven days a week. And hourly is better than these 2-3 hour gaps.

  13. One of the side effects of commercial rent control is to signal to developers to build residential instead. (This is the same principle for having linkage fees on commercial, but not residential.) Somehow, though, I don’t think this proposal is aimed at giving rent control to business establishments in the upper floors of the downtown bank skyscrapers.

    1. Weird thing is though, given some of the regulations we have had on the books, there is a glut of unused retail in the north end. I suspect if we allowed more of the ped-zone buildings to be built without retail, developers would already gladly do so.

      What we really need is more space where you can build an apartment building without requiring the bottom floor to be (mostly empty) retail space.

      1. With some of these north end vacant storefronts below MFH, I often wonder if the owner is really serious about renting it. There’s one by me with cement floors that barely even has the drywall finished, with a half-hearted “for rent” sign in it. I wonder if builders just assume these are going to be vacant and spend as little $ as possible on them.

        Also the modernization of zoning of the area is important. Streetside retail in a place without a lot of pedestrian infrastructure isn’t going to work. The answer isn’t more drive-in parking lots, but more pedestrian access.

  14. Well hot dog. My idea for Transit: Up All Night isn’t even a year old and maybe there’s a chance.

    Adding trips to routes 3/13, 11, 16, 43/44, 48, 49, C/E, a modified version of the 41, and a late-night addition of the route 97 Link shuttle for hourly service all night would be about 57,000 annual service hours, according to the TransitMix map that Bjorn Swenson made. (I’ve not gone back and updated anything since the latest service revisions, so this doesn’t account for, say, making the 43 peak only, the annoying split of the 48, or Link going to the University.)

    1. I don’t think a 41 express is necessary at night. Just run the 66, and with no traffic and few stops it’ll still have acceptable travel time.

      1. That’s the modification to the 41, the express part is replaced by routing it like a 16 during that segment. Having the 41 means service to Lake City.

      2. A route like the 26 extended to Northgate would be good coverage for Fremont, Wallingford, east Greenlake, and Northgate. But Dexter may be better than Aurora to serve more people between central Fremont and Denny Way.

  15. I wonder how this will interact with our laws that require retail be built on the bottom floor of many buildings (whether or not there is demand for it). We’ve got quite a lot of empty, never used retail spaces in the north end of the city. Sometimes the owner can convince a bank or a dentist to move in there (dentists offices don’t benefit from ground floor windows at all, so its a waste), but frequently these spaces remain empty for multiple years.

    Will rent control help these spaces get filled? Will it keep them empty? Or maybe lack of need for retail in the area will mean there is effectively no change either way.

    1. The real question is, where are the customers? Why are the spaces underperforming? If people live around them, their walkability should be an asset. I’m reluctant to relax the rule because these are long-term buildings: if we don’t build the retail spaces now they won’t be there in 10 or 20 years when people may be banging on the door for them. There have also been complaints that spaces near the Denny Triangle have been underperforming because few people lived there, but now that’s changing dramatically.

    2. You’d think the oversupply of storefronts would lower rents, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

      I think one potential issue is that landlords don’t care – they can make so much money on the residential that the commercial is more of an afterthought.

      Another issue is that online and big box retailers have hollowed out the universe of potential tenants. Most of the tenants of new buildings I see are service-oriented: restaurants, coffee shops, cleaners, nail salons, etc. Pure-play retail small businesses are an endangered species, not only bookstores but lots of the other tenants you’d have seen 20-30 years ago.

      1. Goods-based retail is largely dead, not because of big box, but because of the Internet. You can get everything from Amazon, or if not there from some other online store. There are a few exceptions:
        — Clothing stores survive because clothing fit online can be such a crapshoot. This will probably eventually change and kill the clothing stores.
        — Building supplies stores survive because shipping costs are so astronomical for big heavy stuff like lumber. These will probably eventually turn into warehouses with all-online ordering; Lowes and Home Depot are already heading in that direction.
        — Grocery stores survive because of perishables, which create difficult storage and shipping problems for online stores.

        Wal-Mart is a dead business walking.

        Service-based retail isn’t going anywhere, because you can’t get your hair cut online. There are a number of stores which appear to sell goods but are *really* selling services (help identifying which goods you want to buy, testing the goods, getting information about the goods, maintaining the goods, etc. etc.) and if they are sharp they will manage to survive.

      2. >>— Building supplies stores survive because shipping costs are so astronomical for big heavy stuff like lumber.

        Obviously you haven’t been to a Home Dopy store. Very few of the patrons are there in trucks picking up lumber.

        — Grocery stores survive because of perishables
        Yeah, some what. But Amazon Fresh can deliver. Most people just like to actually shop for their food. Maybe it replaces the old hunter gatherer instinct. Freddy Krogger grabs the grocery shopper with the housewares, clothing garden market.

        — Wal-Mart is a dead business walking.
        I wish. Maybe there will be a unicorn in our driveway tomorrow.

  16. Let’s just put to a vote all of Madame Sawant’s ideas and see what happens….

    Good grief. Is there a means of separating your wallet from you Madame Sawant doesn’t love?

    That said, I’m all for more transit, more places, more often. That’s important.

    But this rent control?? Yee-haw for more taxes?? Can you see how this is perceived?

    [/rant kinda, sorta]

    1. But this rent control?? Yee-haw for more taxes?? Can you see how this is perceived?

      Dancing right on the edge of the comment guidelines, I am, but I’ll ask you to not talk down to people who, in all likelihood, voted for CM Sawant (as I did). Yes, I know exactly how this is perceived; it is perceived by me as the starting point of a good idea.

      1. Thank you. We don’t need to be the Socialist Transit Blog. ;-).

        If we come across as an extension of those people, expect political support for transit to dry up. Real fast where it matters – Olympia and in the mainstream media.

    2. I’m with you, Joe. I’m opposed to most of Comrade Sawant’s plans, and I also have significant differences with her vision of the ideal transit network. But I agree with her plans for more transit now.

      1. For the record, she wasn’t endorsed during the primary. I think they only actually endorsed her this time around because the other option wasn’t any better.

      2. This is NOT about sexism, this is about whether we at Seattle Transit Blog want to appeal broadly enough to actually get things done for transit.

        I have no problem with women in power – see my support of Captain Katie Higgins, Carly Fiornia, Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, ET AL.

      3. Whether or not you support Sawant, people can definitely attack her record, as Joe was doing. Your immediate accusations of sexism come across as childish and counter to rational discourse.

      4. I think they only actually endorsed her this time around because the other option wasn’t any better.

        I’m pretty sure that is the number one reason for political endorsements throughout the country…

      5. [i]I’m pretty sure that is the number one reason for political endorsements throughout the country…[/i]

        Yep. Heck, that’s been my situation for nearly every candidate for decades, with the exceptions of Al Gore and Bernie Sanders. (Also Dan Maffei, FWIW.)

      6. If I were king of the blog, I’d place something about this sort of meta-political stuff in the comment guidelines. Content-free Red-baiting of the Joe is engaged in here, as well as its inverse (by which I have in mind the kind of accusation you sometimes see here leveled against rent control skeptics or advocates of aggressive market-rate supply increases of “naive faith in the free market to fix everything”) detract considerably more than they add to the value of the comment section.

  17. My editor’s red pencil too short to sharpen, and too expensive to replace. Fell off his Scrooge-era stool, too.

    A speculator’s chief interest is in what chance will bring him, not what his own effort will earn him. Reason good places for breakfast in gambling towns are casinos.

    Just checking to see if anybody catches this. Also if enough regulators and enough real business people demand that the other kind don’t get bailed out again, maybe the Crash of 2008 will be a finale, rather than a prelude.

    Mark

      1. How about moving the 8/11 to 19th Ave East and the reduction of the 43 to peak only for starters. I live in district 3 and got a call from Pam Banks today!

  18. I’m sorry, but I really bristle at a Council person who is just days from a reelection vote from getting any free blog publicity about this. I think that this post should have been held until Wednesday of next week out of sheer respect for the elections process.

    1. It’s a major transit proposal; it’s news. It’s also shewd timing on her part and typical of a politician, but that doesn’t make it less of a policy issue that we should discuss whenever it comes out. The issue is larger than the person who proposes it.

      1. I didn’t say it wasn’t newsworthy. I said it should be held for five days. Clearly this will require public hearings and discussions and I don’t see a mention of any public hearing, agenda or feedback process that is to happen before Tuesday.

    2. This is exactly the logic used by the New York Times to sit on the NSA warrantless wiretapping story until January 2005. I can’t endorse it; the best thing journalists can do is play it straight, cover when they’ve got a story, and not try to come up with some convoluted rules to second-guess themselves.

  19. Professional economists have been – by and large – highly skeptical of rent control. Paul Krugman, hardly a libertarian, weighed in here: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/07/opinion/reckonings-a-rent-affair.html
    “None of this says that ending rent control is an easy decision. Still, surely it is worth knowing that the pathologies of San Francisco’s housing market are right out of the textbook, that they are exactly what supply-and-demand analysis predicts.”

    Yes, some empirical studies on minimum wage laws have disagreed with the predictions of simple supply-and-demand analysis, and so keeping an open mind is worthwhile. But until we see the high-quality empirical studies supporting rent control, and understand any conditions and policy prerequisites (such as large-scale public construction of facilities, as noted elsewhere in the comments), the Econ 101 analysis is a good place to start.

    And the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t about “small business” is a bad sign about the seriousness and transparency of the proposal. Protecting “small business” has been an emotion-laden red herring used to justify a wide range of causes – including eliminating estate taxes.

    1. Clement Atlee’s rent control from 1945 until Thatcher *has* been studied. It worked. Of course, it was combined with a massive government housing construction program. :-)

      Which may, in fact, be absolutely necessary to make rent control work.

      1. (Responding also to your reply to Martin on price controls…) – do you propose a utility approach to real estate? Should there be a “Seattle Housing” like “Seattle Light”? Setting utility rates in a (government enforced) monopoly is certainly a different beast from price controls in a market.

        BTW, a citation on the study of Britain’s rent control and how it worked would be helpful.

      2. A housing construction program is the first thing we need. It may be right that rent control without it doesn’t work, but at the same time if we had a massive housing construction program, maybe half subsidized and half market rate, then maybe we could meet our housing needs without rent control.

        It’s kind of like the “Housing first” approach to homelessness. If you help people get into permanent housing, then they won’t be in the parks and buses, and they’ll have some stability so it’s easier to get a job and keep it, or get mental health services if they need it and stick to a program. And it costs the taxpayers less in the long term. I was struck by a recent article saying that the US’s total social spending and healthcare and “domestic programs” is not really much less than in Europe, it’s just scattered invisibly among federal, state, and local budgets, and contractors’ bills and grants to nonorpfits. So we spend about the same but get much less for it, because of the fragmented nature of the programs and the built-in rent-seeking incentives (contractors, partnerships with for-profit companies, padded nonprofit grants). So it comes back down to, if somebody needs e.g., a place to live, then it’s cheaper to just give them a place to live than to dance around it with other programs.

      3. Oh, god, I wish I had a citation I was willing to use. The history is so convoluted and there were so many confounding factors…. the main thing is that the UK price control *didn’t* have the sort of crazy price distortion and market failures we see in New York or San Francisco or Boston.

        Yes, my main point is that regulation of housing as a public service (which was basically the Attlee approach — remember, it was a socialist government which nationalized all kinds of things) can actually work, but it is *totally* different from just imposing price controls on a private market.

      4. Mike Orr: “A housing construction program is the first thing we need. It may be right that rent control without it doesn’t work, but at the same time if we had a massive housing construction program, maybe half subsidized and half market rate, then maybe we could meet our housing needs without rent control.”

        And I agree 100% with this.

      5. I’m tempted to say that what the UK, Vienna, and some other examples show isn’t so much that “rent control can work” as it is that rent control turns out to be relatively harmless when combined with massive government housing programs.

  20. I hope this doesn’t poison the well, but I am glad to see you taking what seems like a more nuanced analytical eye towards these issues, rather than bashing and dismissing the stupid lefties. I think we all could benefit from a good exchange of ideas, even where we might strongly disagree.

    1. I appreciate the feedback. The record of price controls is horrible, and I’m quite skeptical. But this is genuinely new, people haven’t had a chance to think about it, and it’s unfair to dismiss it out of hand.

      1. Price controls work in the utility industry (electric & gas) and are absolutely standard.

        It might be worth examining why they work there: it has to do with the exact implementation, for one thing.
        — You wouldn’t declare some houses to have “price-controlled electricity” with other houses having “market rate electricity” — that would be a disaster but it’s what most rent control schemes in the US do.
        — You wouldn’t say “Your electric rate is controlled, but when you sell your house the electric company can charge the new buyer whatever they like” — but that’s what many rent control schemes in the US do.
        — You wouldn’t say “We know that half the city doesn’t have electricity, but whatever, we’re not going to fix that”. You would invest public funds and order the investment of utility company funds to *provide* that electricity service. But if half the workers in the city have no housing in the city, most “rent control” schemes do nothing to address this at all…

  21. Sawant will help lower rents in Seattle…but driving everyone and anyone to move as far away as possible.

  22. That Seattle doesn’t have proper 24-hour transit service is (or should be) a civic embarrassment. Vancouver has bus routes that maintain 30 minute headways through the night not only in the city, but even in distant suburbs like Surrey.

  23. SEPTA in Philadelphia started running its subway lines 24 hours on weekend nights (I believe Friday-Sunday). They thought that their passengers would be people hitting the bars, but they turned out to be mainly service workers with night work. It seems to me like the dynamic would be the same in Seattle and a big benefit from improving night service. And if a few drinkers use it too who cares?

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