60 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: DC Streetcar Delivery”

  1. With recent talk about Eastlake dedicated bus lanes, I was curious about something: at the corner of Fairview N and Fairview E (near where Fairview hits Eastlake) I noticed some old “Bus Only” markings in what is now a parking lot (streetview 2015: http://goo.gl/9JD43v). Digging-in a bit, I found the full “Bus Only” lanes on Streetview from 2011 (http://goo.gl/obWF6z). They were apparently put-in some time after 2008 (http://goo.gl/q2oaXs). Does anyone know what this lane was used for, and why it was removed?

      1. Yes, it definitely says “Bus Only”. I first saw it in person when no car was parked there; unfortunately the street view image was the only one I could find online. And in any case, the streetview from 2011 shows “Bus Only” pretty clearly!

  2. Reminder: Today is the deadline to get your comments in for the southeast Seattle bus route restructure.

    In addition to previously-covered topics, I asked for more frequency on proposed route 107, so that those losing their one-seat ride to downtown would be made whole by the frequency making up for the transfer time. I also made sure Metro staff is looking at ST’s truncation plan, covered on this blog Friday, to show how to do truncations right.

    For those who insist on using paper transfers (with or without paying for new ones), route 36 is a quick transfer at Beacon Hill Station, and comes just as often as Link. Same argument for route 7 and those on route 38 not wanting to transfer to Link.

  3. Will someone explain trying to fix gentrification to me? Here’s what I know so far. (The following may be offensive to some. Reader discretion is advised).

    A bunch of good, honest middle class people move into what was formerly a toilet of a neighborhood filled with poor people. The gentrifiers transform the violent and crime-ridden craphole into a safe and clean place to live. But now the people who made the area a horrible place to live in the first place are being priced out of the neighborhood. So far so good. Good riddance. But now here’s where I start not understanding the logic of fixing this “problem” … We have to find a way of letting the very people who turned the neighborhood into a sewer to continue to live there now that rents have risen.

    Do I have that right? Is that what is meant by fixing gentrification? That we have to subsidize the people who ruined a neighborhood so they can continue to afford to live in the neighborhood they ruined?

    Do I have that right? Is that basically what fixing gentrification means?

    1. You’re on the wrong blog to ask that question. Most of us are skeptical of claims of gentrification, a word that is very ill defined. You might have more luck asking in NIMBY circles like crosscut or social justice blogs.

      1. I’m on the wrong blog asking what fixing gentrification means when the last news roundup title was fixing gentrification?

      2. When people on this blog use the word “gentrification”, they generally mean something different than what social justice types, like SA party members, mean when they say it.

    2. I think you might understand the issues of gentrification better if you would use a different term than “horrible”. Working-class residents may make less money and sometimes be a different ethnicity, but that doesn’t make them worse by definition as neighbors.

      One of the issues of gentrification is home ownership. Generally, home owners — no matter what income — protect their home investment and thus stabilize a neighborhood and raise a standard of order. We are creating a growth in absentee housing owners in Seattle and in the long run it makes neighborhoods more volatile — pricing out residents in good times, and disinvesting in upkeep in bad times.

      1. This is a great example of how many different definitions of gentrification there are. Often people talk about gentrifiers buying or building houses and condos that displace existing renters, who, because they don’t own their homes, suffer from their increase in value. That’s where the term comes from, deriving from “gentry”, or land-owners.

        I don’t want to pick on your definition or say it’s wrong or not what’s happening… just point out that the word gentrification ends up attached to almost any perceived negative change in a city as property values rise.

    3. The issue of gentrification from a social justice prespective is: do those people that have lived in a neighbor have a “right” to stay in that neighborhood if the demongraphics and costs increase. The social justice folks would say yes, I say no. Neighityborhoods have always changed over time, that is the interesting aspects of cities. In facts the neighborhoods of the suburbs are also morphing. We should not stop change. If one can no longer afford their home/apartment they can move. Life is not fair. In the central district, for example, should governmental/legislatively protect the dissappearing black community, how about the Jewish and Japanese community that the blacks previously displaced and of course those the J/Js displacemented. Should it all be given it all back to the first americans. How about the succesion of native tribes that conquered and took over prime spots through the milleniums. New groups suceeding previous is not a new phenomina. As far as the loss of community: while this is unfortunate, new communities form in new locations and provide the helpful/profitable social structure we need. New vital black communities are forming in Renton and Kent, replacing those lost in Seattle. Similiar with Jewish community moving to Mercer Island at one time and Asians moving to Bellevue and various southend communities. This is normal and not tragic. I have no right to a subsidized home in a part of town I cannot afford with my income or retirement savings.

      1. One time Glenn from Portland posted an article from the Willamette Weekly about gentrification, and in the comments someone posted this gem: “Some of us believe people should have the right to live where they want for the price they want”. Just amazing.

      2. “Some of us believe people should have the right to live where they want for the price they want”

        Great! I suppose they’ll be arguing next for the repeal of height limits and setbacks, so that the thousands of people who want to live in Capitol Hill or Ballard can actually do it!

        Uh… guys? Anyone?

    4. Liberal guilt.

      Bigger thing is that if you really want to stay somewhere, buy something. Subsidized rent isn’t a right.

      1. You know, Mike, there was a time when people took exactly your view on things like sewers. Problem was that outhouses used up increasingly scarce residential real-estate.

        So-as with a lot of really revolutionary things-it was the Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations who decided that real estate and other commercial markets worked best when the city didn’t smell like one.

        While their take on business and finance was truly conservative enough to get them thrown out of today’s Republican Party, around the time of our Revolution, many referred to themselves as “Liberal”.

        Meaning opposing rule of the nobility and the clerics. Karl Marx actually held that a period of government by exactly such people was absolutely necessary to create Socialism.

        In any event, might be a good idea to look at the decent wages required for the majority to the people to earn- not be given- a home.

        Likewise the education being, exactly like the Second Amendment, necessary for both a home and the Survival of a Free State.

        Enough so that until these last couple of decades, taxes for public education were considered same good bargain as for some other things mentioned above.

        However, now that outlook has gone out of fashion…anybody know about what happened to the drinking water in Flint, Michigan? Or in Charleston West Virginia year or two back?

        When same thing starts happening to sanitary sewers, business community will once again follow their noses back to sanity.

        Mark Dublin

    5. You’re trying to shoehorn a complex phenomenon into a simple term that covers only some of its aspects. The most basic part is that new housing is replacing old housing, rents are going up, and former residents are being displaced because they can’t afford the new rents. If the houses were just getting better without displacement, then that could be gentrification in a broad sense, but gentrification is usually a negative term focusing on displacement. These phenomena can’t be easily separated from changes in the city’s economics, supply and demand for housing, etc — they’re all interrelated.

      Secondly, it’s flat-out wrong that the residents turned the neighborhood into a sewer. These are areas that were redlined after WWII: the FHA refused to guarantee mortages and the banks refused to lend because they had a significant percentage of minorities. So the people couldn’t get loans to maintain and renovate their houses. That intersected with the loss of manufacturing jobs which led to high unemployment so they couldn’t do much more than feed their families if that. Then in some areas, gangs too advantage of the high unemployment to recruit youth.

      Meanwhile, artists need an inexpensive place to live because they don’t make much money, and people like gays were marginalized by society. So they took advantage of the population loss in Capitol Hill (suburbanization and the Boeing Bust) in the 1970s. Then in the 1990s some of them started moving into redlined Columbia City. They bought old houses and warehouses and renovated them, thus making the area “nicer”. Eventually the mainstream public started moving in too, and that coincided with the “return to the city” movement when suburbanites or their children moved back to the city for several reasons: walkability, frequent transit, coolness, and short commutes. These people are generally more affluent than the existing residents so when the housing fills up and becomes scarce, they bid the price up. That’s when displacement begins in earnest, and the bad aspect of gentrification.

      Key to this is that while some people want to go to “the hip neighborhood adjacent to downtown” or “the muiltiethnic neighborhood” — both of which are intrinsically limited and scace — others just want a convenient life: being able to walk to the supermarket and library and drugstore, having frequent transit to the surrounding areas and region, and other pedestrians walking around, and no huge setbacks or parking lots in front of buildings that make pedestrians feel like second-class citizens. The former kind of people will only live in cool places like Fremont, the U-District, and Capitol Hill, and won’t consider Lake City or Broadview. The latter kind of people squeeze into Fremont, the U-District, and Capitol Hill because those are the only walkable/transit-rich places in any meaningful sense (and now Columbia City), but if Lake City and Broadview got more convenient they’d be just as willing to move there.That’s why we need to make more walkable/transit-rich neighborhoods in every feasable location until there’s enough housing that everybody who wants to live in convenient places can at a reasonable price.

      “One of the issues of gentrification is home ownership. Generally, home owners — no matter what income — protect their home investment and thus stabilize a neighborhood and raise a standard of order. We are creating a growth in absentee housing owners in Seattle and in the long run it makes neighborhoods more volatile”

      That’s the “renters are bad” argument and it’s what NIMBYs use to keep apartments and apodments out of neighborhoods. Apartments will bring the poor and minorities and addicts and shooting and drive your property values to to the ground. But renters aren’t necessarily worse than homeowners; property values are climbing even when apartments and apodments are added; and you can’t just write off 50% of the population and say they can’t live in the city because they don’t already own a house. It’s wrong to have a city where a few homeowners are sitting pretty and renters have to commute an hour from Everett and Auburn.

      1. Building owners who let apartments deteriorate is where my complaint was focused, and not the renters themselves. I often hear apartment residents complain about deterioration of apartments that are 30 or 40 years old on Cap Hill and I am projecting this issue out to the future when the next economic downturn happens.

      2. This has been an ongoing issue in the Portland area. With apartment vacancy rates at 1% or so, people are actually afraid to report problems with units. Gresham didn’t have a rental inspection program until about 2007 or so, but some of the horrific complaints (floors so rotted out that people would sometime fall through them) finally convinced the city it needed to stop with its Laissez-faire treatment of housing rentals.

        I would imagine that with the housing crunch in Seattle you have something similar going on: nobody wants to loose their housing with a huge housing shortage, so nobody complains about problems that would be reported in a less tight market.

    6. ” Subsidized rent isn’t a right.”

      That’s not the only alternative. Another is to relax the zoning so that enough housing is built to stop the price increases. And ideally to roll back part of the 30% increase that was caused by not responding to the crisis sooner.

      “do those people that have lived in a neighbor have a “right” to stay in that neighborhood if the demongraphics and costs increase.”

      It’s not a question of a “right” to the existing amount of housing. It’s that the housing supply needs to stay in step with the population increase. The number of units needs to increase so that both the gentrifier and the displaced can find something in the neighborhood or larger district. Seattle has let the supply fall far behind, which is shown in the vacancy rate falling from an equalibrium 5% to 3% and below, and that means more people are competing for fewer units, so the wealthiest get them and the others are priced out.

      The poor — those making under $20K — will always need subsidies. But those making between $#20K and $60K are being displaced too, and they could pay market rate if the market weren’t so artificially limited it drives the price up.

      1. History will tell how long I held the gentry off from taking over Ballard, but I like to think they would’ve seized control a lot earlier if I hadn’t driven around in a ’68 Pontiac station wagon that looked like something out of an Evil Dead movie.

        So good tactic could be to make your neighborhood so awful looking that no gentry could even imagine living there. Thereby holding them off ’til they drank enough expensive wine and high-grade espresso that they could finally imagine it.

        Main problem though, Sam, is that in Shakespeare’s time, gentry were fat, easy-going Henry The Eighth type guys who’d go walking down the street eating a leg of mutton.

        And then throwing half the bone over their shoulder so the poor could get decently fed just by following one of them around, and then eating the starving dogs that just ate the mutton.

        Now, the people who seized South Lake Union get all their nutrition from either energy bars or dinners at places with one-word names where the portions are small enough to starve a hamster. Half an order of anything would take an electron microscope to detect- and Congress has just cut the budget for that.

        So: approach both liberal and conservative is to treat the concept of gentry as it was our Founding Fathers understood it:

        A state of permanent gluttony and accompanying manners such that both dogs and former neighborhood residents can follow your trail until they find something extremely fat and easy to catch to eat.

        And every time a gentry-member disappears in this fashion, a new micro-food restaurant will be opened titled with one of his names. So: corpse of ’68 station wagon for sale, in order to delay atrocities like all the above.


  4. Just came across a blog describing a very well communicated and implemented temporary transit change in Melbourne, Australia. Can you imagine how much easier our life would be if Sound Transit or Metro took this approach to communicating changes rather than putting up some minimal signage and confusing riders.

  5. Yesterday, I joined the Sound Transit fare enforcement warning club. Just a tip for y’all who are used to not tapping off if you’re riding to the end of the line: You should probably tap off anyway, especially if there’s a chance you will reboard, and always double-check that the reader says “permit to travel” before you get on a train.

    Although the FEO said that it would be a warning (“I’m going to let this be an educational experience for you”), and although ST’s own documents say that first offenses are typically only warnings (Yes, I dug up a document with encouraging stats), my paranoia is getting to me a little. How often does a citation get sent when a warning was supposed to be given? I know it happened to Erica C. Barnett when she wrote about it in “The Shoreline Rule.”

    Also, is there any real justification from ST to require you to tap if you have a pass for the end-to-end train fare? The only reasons I can think of are 1: prevent inadvertent fare evasion when the pass expires (but then these evasions would be subject to citation anyway), or 2: keep track of usage so a portion of the user’s pass can be appropriated to the agency.

    1. It’s #2. Apparently the judges take the position that the agencies aren’t paid if you don’t tap, so it’s stealing a ride. Of course, what really happens is the taps change the proportion of the pass revenue that goes to one agency vs another. What’s even odder is that if you travel only on Sound Transit, they’re going to get the same amount of money whether you tap once or tap two hundred times.

    2. I’ve wondered about the exact mechanics of tapping and when a Link tap “expires”. Sometimes I’ll take Link to escort a friend/family to the airport. Since it’s the last stop, whether I tap off or not wouldn’t change my fare. But if I’m reboarding a train 20 minutes later, would tapping count as the old “tap-off” or the new “tap-on”? I don’t know if it’s the lighting or that I’m too tall (6’1), but I have trouble reading the readers without bending down, so usually if I hear a beep I assume everything’s okay and keep walking. Which doesn’t quite work when the beeps for tapping on, tapping off, and cancelling a tap are all the same, but I’m lazy.

      1. In that scenario, tapping once before boarding would be the tap-off, technically concluding the first trip, and would stick you with a warning should a FEO happen to board the train because a tap-on for the second trip never occurred (this is exactly what happened to me).

        But seriously, what the heck is the point of lights and audio cues if they hardly mean anything? There ought to be at least a different sound for tap-off, and a single green light should only be for a “permit to travel” tap, for goodness’ sake.

      2. I would agree that Orca readers should play different sounds. I don’t know how complex it would be but it would not only benefit rider information, but would help enforce fare compliance (people using their grandfather’s card containing a discount).

        It could also provide marketing opportunities. Children under 5 ride for free but would enjoy having a card that sings a song line for them, for example. Tourist Orca cards could include better rider instructions for people using them. There are lots of opportunities for synergy with having more than a beep.

      3. I also got a warning this Christmas for failing to tap, even though my card already has a pass on it. Another time a few months back where right as the train left Westlake, I realized I forgot to tap and managed to run to a card reader at University St. Station, tap, and run back to my original train without missing it.

        In the meantime, I have now officially used up my lifetime warning, each additional time I forget to tap will result in a $127 fine.

      4. asdf2, fortunately, it’s not a lifetime record. From what I’ve read, your warning is only on record for 12 months, after which it’s as if you never had a warning. So as long as you never have two incidents in a twelve month period, then each incident (theoretically) is recorded as a first offense and will most likely end up as just a warning.

    3. Why can’t they have a different beep for tap-on and for tap-off? It seems like an audio cue like that would fix 95% of the double-tapping issues people have.

      1. They already have a different beep for insufficient funds. They even have a different beep for “monthly pass expires soon” for goodness sake. Having the same beep for tap on and off just reinforces the notion that everything is normal, while any different cue would make just about anybody take a look at the card reader to see what’s different about this tap.

      2. There may also be an ADA reason to have different sounds. If someone is visually impaired, do they currently have any way of knowing if they accidentally double-tapped? Sounds would fix that too.

      3. Wonder how much money would need to be raised for a very well publicized court challenge to the idea of an agency calling someone a thief while holding enough money for a month’s rides in their hands?

        I would like to see the stats on how many people are really forced to pay that fine- even though the warning itself is an insult to one’s integrity.

        Meantime, I’ve taken to buying a paper All Day Pass every time I ride LINK. Glad to tell anybody in authority that my ticket is automatic proof of innocence, while my ORCA card could be State’s evidence.

        Also think of it as Theft Insurance.

        Mark Dublin

    4. It just seems so backwards to me for FEO to hassle people who obviously intended (or tried) to pay and the complexity of the system and lack of information means you didn’t technically have a fare. Isn’t fare enforcement supposed to be primarily targeted at those who intentionally skip the fare? Every time FEO has boarded and scanned my ORCA I’ve been good (no real complex trips for me, usually), but if I hadn’t been I’d really have no idea why — I tap in/out every time the same, and never actually look at the card reader to see what it says.

      It seems extra hypocritical if you’ve ever sat at Stadium or IDS after a Sounders/Seahawks/Mariners game, where all FEOs and security are focused on jamming as many people as possible on each train, rather than actually checking fares. People know this, and rarely pay. They even do the same at IDS for buses after games, putting half of the people on the back door of the bus with no expectation to pay fare on exit.

      Of course, a great way to “solve” most of this would be having actual turnstiles at the stations. Something I’d hope is in the works for when buses are out of the tunnels. But some better communication of the “right” way to handle it from ST would be great, particularly if FEOs are giving people hard times.

      1. Easier and cheaper: Set up a folding table or two at the head of each stairway down to the platform, and have a few Securitas guards at each one with card readers. Since they’ll have nothing to do with fare enforcement, shouldn’t be necessary for them to be actual fare inspectors.

        Also, process should be pretty much voluntary- removing any kind of legal cost from both passengers and transit. Goal will be fast way to check card for correct number of “taps” before entering proof-of-payment territory.

        Mark Dublin

  6. Did I miss a memo on Link fares getting ready (or going) up? Perhaps in preparation for Cap Hill and UW stations opening?

    I got on Link at the airport on Friday, and as an attempt to get in a habit of doing so, I tapped off at Westlake even though I know it’s not going to refund an unused portion of the fare. When I looked at my ORCA activity online, I saw a $3.25 charge when boarding at the airport, and a $0.25 refund when tapping off at Westlake.

    Now I made the reverse trip last week (on the way out of town), tapping on at Westlake and off at the airport, and it was the usual $3.00 on, $0.00 off registered.

    The Sound Transit website still shows the fare at $3.00, and I would’ve thought that I’d have heard something had a fare increase been announced. It just seemed like an odd issue, if it was one, that likely cost quite a few people $3.25 since not many are in the habit of tapping off at the “end” of the line.

    1. That’s what it sounds like to me, since fares are distance-based ($2.50 + $.05 per mile rounded to the nearest $.25).
      It’s hard to believe that we’re now just about two months from being able to take light rail to UW.

      1. Makes sense. I just didn’t know at what point that’d be capped, if at all. I was in favor of the price going up to $3.00 ($2.75 from downtown to the airport seemed quite low), but it might start to get a bit spendy as Link expands.

        Now would be a great time to reiterate to people that tapping out is necessary every single time they ride the Link.

  7. I rode the First Hill Streetcar route on my bike today, and passed a test train at about 8th/Jackson. When I got all the way to Broadway and Pine, there was the same streetcar again.

    And I was not riding this trip particularly fast. I was going uphill on very tired legs, from a much longer ride earlier in the day. I don’t think I ever topped about 7 mph on the uphill sections and 12 mph on the flat sections. Although, I did take the direct route, turning left from Jackson onto 12th, rather than doing the Streetcar’s deviation.

  8. STB comment poll: Which will open first?

    #1: University Link

    — or —

    #2: First Hill Streetcar

      1. I don’t think they’ll open Angle Lake before they finish the Parking garage, and that is still under construction. It will probably be open by summer though.

        ULink will be open in March.

      2. Wow, the Lake of the Angels? That’s on the Olympic Peninsula about 108 miles from the Angle Lake station opening on Link this year. Quite a bold prediction that they’ll lay some kind of tracks all the way to this beautiful alpine destination before finishing the streetcar line, but based on DC’s 6-year delay, I think it might just be doable!

        WTA (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/lake-of-the-angels) says it’s 3400 feet of climb in 4 miles, or >16% grade. They’ll probably need a funicular for the steepest portion.


  9. The topic video is too good a chance to pass up on this one:
    Am I the only one who never again can stand a new-streetcar ad with the same diddly (not Bo!) background music like for a stuffed-puppet of a candidate?

    Next one across my car-tracks and I’ll donate for Critical Mass members to take a welding class at Lake Washington.

    There is a precedent: at the height of the streetcar days, engineering college students in straw hats and raccoon coats used to weld streetcars to the tracks at terminals. Maybe because they got tired of every new line using the same barbershop quartet.

    So: just get the car off the truck and into service, and make the first trip a “musical ride”. With a barbershop quartet in one section, and a Bo Diddley imitator in the other.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Diddley. Federal Elections Commission should also require this for mainstream candidates.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Has there been any attempt to make better use of the mezzanine levels in the bus tunnel stations? Food vendors, shoe shiners, musicians, whatever? It’s a bunch of wasted real estate right downtown and it always feels so spooky empty.

    1. That’s a really good idea. I assume it’s policy right now that they’re not allowed at all (which is worse than not encouraged), which is why everyone’s up right by the exits to the tunnels.

      Though I’ve seen a handful of musicians from time to time, especially at Westlake. Not sure how long they stay there.

    2. I actually brought this up at a meeting of the Citizen’s Transit Advisory Council when the transit tunnel was under design in 1983 or so (the comment is in the EIS); they had no interest in enlivening the space then, and as I recall there was no electrical or other provisions made for it. Metro was concerned about trash, etc., and the mezzanines were at least at one time planned for the possibility fare gates. As Andrew notes above, there are frequently buskers at Westlake and it seems to be at least tacitly approved.

      Nowadays the kind of kiosks that you see in malls would be a good idea to help make the space less catacomb-like. The station at Cantagalo on Rio’s Metro has extremely long underground access passageways and there are several kiosks and tiny free-standing shops along them that can be fully closed up–everything from candy stores to women’s clothing. They’re good ideas especially for new small businesses, as the capital outlay must be pretty small.

      1. Didn’t ever think about the issues of not having power along the mezzanine, particularly for the power demands of a small restaurant/food stand or a store.

        I think about the larger metro stations in Barcelona, which are amazing in how many little shops and even walk-up or bar-style restaurants are available. That’s on top of food/drink vending machines and electronics vending machines (like you’d see at airports).

        It just seems like the city could turn that into a solid source of revenue charging rents for placement in the mezzanines, particularly at Westlake with so much unused space that never sees enough passengers at once to warrant its size.

      2. I agree completely (and did as a high-school kid in 1983!). I’d like to see some more life in those places as possible, and provisions made for same in any new stations that have large mezzanines or lengthy passageways (although we’re about done with subway stations unless there is a new Seattle line in ST3, it’s conceivable that new stations there might have need for this sort of thing). I don’t think it’s quite the issue in above-ground stations, even those like TIBS.

  11. The FH Streetcar will open on a Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if it opened on the 23rd or 30th of this month.

    Although with the way this project has been going you never know…..

    1. We don’t even have schedules yet! We rarely have 5 working trains! Today we had 4…..things have improved greatly tho, defects and issues are down, the trains are behaving more often, so i think “soon” may actually mean soon at this point.

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