New Link map at Westlake Station

This is an open thread.

107 Replies to “News Roundup: Inevitable Losses”

  1. Granted this is a pet cause of mine with little support on STB, but… In my 1 March e-mail was this missive from Sound Transit:

    A high wide warning is in effect on both the North and Southlines this evening. All Sounder trains are required to reduce their speeds. This will cause approximately 20 – 30 minute delays to all south trains this afternoon between Seattle and Lakewood. And approximately 15 minute delays on the north trains between Seattle and Everett.

    The speed reductions will cause delays in transit and are approximate. Riders should still arrive to the Station platform prior to the scheduled departure times.

    Yup, you’re still paying for this… and about to pay for Paine Field light rail with limited guarantee of good buses feeding the terminal(s). Let’s say Sounder OR Light Rail.

    I mean I just spent yesterday (2 March) talking to a Sound Transit employee about Mukilteo Station. No idea when it’ll open formally due to continued construction & structural problems. I mean I was… “ThisClose” to filing a Human Rights Commission complaint about no public restroom but decided with WSF bringing public restrooms to the walkshed, no need to drag Sound Transit through the muck as Sound Transit has got ST3 on the ballot this year.

    My point is this: Let’s say with one voice, from the AvgeekJoe Right to the left that Sounder North OR light rail to Paine Field. One or the other…

    1. There are currently restrooms over at the ferry terminal. They’re by the walk-on passenger boarding area, but before the entrance to the ferry waiting room. Between the outdoor ticket sales counter and the entrance to the waiting room.

      Granted, it is a bit of a walk from the Sounder station, but at least they are there.

    2. Oh, and it would be really nice if the high-wide stuff could be shoved over to the UP main line. UP’s bridges over the Puyallup River really aren’t that much more restrictive than the BNSF ones. BNSF is paid large sums to assure Sounder reliability, and they are also paid large sums to move the Schnabel car high-wide loads. A bit of that money sent to the UP for trackage rights for several miles shouldn’t be such a big deal.

      Even if you can’t fit the Schnabel over the UP bridge, you could at least move the thing (whatever it is) over to the UP at Auburn.

      1. Pretty sure it was a typo for “high wind”, based on the recent windstorm causing delays up here.

      2. Ah, now acts of nature are a bit different than acts of oversize obstacles moving down the track at very slow speed.

    3. If I had to choose, it would be LR to Paine Field via I-5/128th, Paine Field/Boeing, then up to Everett via 99. This only adds 2.7 miles to the more direct I-5 route and would cost 4-5 minutes for only those riders north of 128th.
      That gets to be a fair trade-off to serve that area which can only grow, regardless of what you think of scheduled air carriers to relieve Seatac. Anyone north of Northgate would be nuts to head south for a plane if they could catch a regional jet at Paine. Just think of all the shoe leather that could be saved.
      Sorry Bellingham International, Paine has a much bigger customer shed than you do.

      1. Anyone north of Northgate? Not sure I’ll be able to connect to that Dubai, Hong Kong, Atlanta, JFK or London non-stop at Paine, ever.

        Regional jets serve an important purpose, but the vast majority of traffic in Seattle, even north of the city, will always use Sea-Tac because of the vast number of non-stop and one-stop destinations. Unless you were always going to connect somewhere else–within regional plane distance, which basically means SFO–you wouldn’t add another stop to your itinerary just for the hell of it. You also will have zero transferring passengers, meaning the airline is limited to passengers that are O+D (origin and departure) from Snohomish County and far north King. United tried to change their SEA service to regionals via SFO and they have lost nearly their entire market share here. PAE is even riskier.

        BLI and PAE will be fine for the ultra-low cost carriers (Spirit, Allegiant–SW has not been a low cost carrier for many years), but other than a possible handful of Spokane, Portland or possibly Bay Area flights that’s it. Alaska and Allegiant fly out of BLI specifically to capture the Vancouver leisure market (Vegas and Hawai’i), which has dried up along with the loonie the past couple of years. BLI is also far enough from Seattle that Alaska can still connect through Seattle to the huge number of flights there; PAE won’t have that advantage.

        Since we are talking about rail transit, is the tradeoff once you get to Link worth dramatically limiting your flying options? If it’s 50 min to the terminal at SEA from Northgate and 25 min + a shuttle to PAE terminal, are you really saving all that much for much less choice in flights?

        I can see using it if my flight is a couple of hours long and is to my final destination, but other than that SEA is vastly superior.

      2. I don’t disagree with any of that, and as a single runway operation, you really don’t have the capacity to do much more than PDX, DEN, and WA flights, along with the RNO, LAS gambler shuttles.
        Another interesting pair is PAE and Vancouver BC. I just bought a round trip from YVR to Madrid on British Airways for $655 US$, when SEA was took longer and cost 50% more. I’m not sure if the customs thing is workable, but who knows 20 years from now. May we go bankrupt and Canada buys some territory.

      3. YVR has some amazing fares right now – couple of weeks ago I saw a $700 r/t to Brisbane. The weak CA$ has a lot to do with that.

        At YVR you pre-clear US customs there if you’re continuing your flights back here, so you need to give yourself the extra transfer time on the way back but then it’s basically a domestic flight. You actually would go through customs/immigration in YVR both directions if you were flying through there from SEA (or PAE). No worries about staffing at PAE. Problem would be the same as SEA-YVR: the tickets are usually expensive enough between the two ($250+ r/t) that you lose your savings. Even the bus shuttle is around $100.

        I’ve flown out of BLI to Hawai’i on some really good fares ($300+/-); it’s a nice little airport and without the border to deal with it’s usually less than a two hour drive from the north end.

      4. BoltBus goes to Pacific Central Station (same as Amtrak) and you can take SkyTrain from there to YVR.

    4. Based on some pretty regular travel between Olympia and Seattle, it’s like this.Strong disagreement, Joe, that Sounder just isn’t needed or affordable short-term. Bill your transit time and stuck in traffic on I-5, and your calculator will tell you that given permanent 100% hour-long delays, usually over fender-benders,an alternate route is mandatory.

      Can forgive delays over dependence on a for-profit freight railroad, But increasingly regular breakdowns of Sounder’s own equipment are a different matter. Night before last, lost half an hour southbound while two northbound trains had to clear- because the locomotive on one wouldn’t start.

      If problem is due to lack of support from the ST board itself, needs to be concerted public campaign to get their railroad back together. I they really don’t have the money, might be worth a political effort to get the money from taxpayers. Like with every automatic message thanking me, my patience is gone, but that’s not the point.

      Ironclad rule in public transit: What you can’t maintain, you don’t run. Attitude that your machines are a warehouse of separate parts just doesn’t get it. Door stuck, say, Monday. Bad starter Thursday. Bad brakes….? The bus bridges we can do temporarily, we can regretfully make permanent.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark;

        I don’t dispute the need for passenger rush hour rail between Everett & Seattle, I dispute how. Trade Sounder North for something better…

        Hell, Skagit Transit would have shut this down long, long ago.

    5. Yup, you’re still paying for this… and about to pay for Paine Field light rail with limited guarantee of good buses feeding the terminal(s). Let’s say Sounder OR Light Rail.

      I’m not sure what you’re saying. As far as I can tell, there’s not going to be a political opportunity to make this particular horse-trade. (I haven’t heard any serious talk of ST abandoning Sounder North; if I’ve missed it please point it out!) They’re both projects of extremely dubious per-dollar value, because of limited demand; enacted (or possibly to be enacted) due to political folly. But beyond that superficial similarity I’m not sure what you think one has to do with the other.

      1. I’m saying we can save some ops dollars by scrapping Sounder North. I don’t care HOW, but it needs to be done and since Spine Destiny seemingly includes Paine Field…

        Uh anybody here hear of leverage?

      2. But who within ST is going to scrap it? The Sounder North horse trading is ancient history. Opening it up again would be a can of worms. As long as political elites from Mukilteo and Edmunds are behind it (and from what I can gather there’s not change there) it’s a non-starter.

      3. I think if political elites of Snohomish County were told King & Pierce Counties won’t pay for Paine Field otherwise; it’d be a very, very different conversation.

        Up here in Skagit County, we are inflexible about ridership standards & cost-benefit analysis…. something Sounder North can’t handle.

      4. Question. When Sounder North gets mudslid, what’s usual backup bus route?

        Because if it’s at all possible for regular Mukilteo and Edmonds (including Ferry) passengers to get to work in Seattle, might be strong argument that the line can be done without.

        But if not, and there’s any prospect at all of larger ridership, there’s a very high cost of removing something of any use at all with the word “only” in front of it.


      5. The problem isn’t the lack of ability to use buses. The problem is the traffic mess on I-5 through which those buses operate.

        Though, in my limited experience, the reverse peak direction seems to be worse. I suspect this is due to the added capacity allowed by the express lanes. It could just be luck or something.

    6. Joe, you do realize the winds shut down the South line too right? Unexpected acts of nature (unlike the mudslides which ARE expected) are something for which I can forgive ST.

      1. Daniel, if it were just this incident that’d be one thing.

        But between a Mukilteo Station that won’t open… the mudslides… the weather… the sheer cost per passenger… at what point does Snohomish & King Counties stop and say, “Okay light rail to Paine Field or Sounder North indefinitely? Which is it?”

      2. There have been only 2 service disruptions on the North line this winter. This has been the wettest winter since about 2007.

        The mitigation work(only $16 million worth), along with pre-emptive maintenance has made the North Line more reliable, and the ridership statistics are showing that given that reliability, people will use Sounder.

      3. But between a Mukilteo Station that won’t open… the mudslides… the weather… the sheer cost per passenger… at what point does Snohomish & King Counties stop and say, “Okay light rail to Paine Field or Sounder North indefinitely? Which is it?”

        As Jim said, the worst service problem appears to be improving, thanks to the maintenance. Also, ridership was up 15% in 2015; cost per boarding down around the same amount. Now, I still don’t think it’s worth the expense, personally, but if the various political actors were perfectly happy to tolerate it’s worse performance numbers, why on earth do you think they’d suddenly turn on it now?

      4. And, of course, to state the obvious, the fact that they’re making a non-trivial investment in a new station in Mukilteo just underscores how permanent this line is. (That it’s a few months late in opening is neither here nor there.)

      5. djw;

        I gotta say we can turn this around if we wanted to. Guess not. Nothing personal, just my view we need to STRETCH those service hour dollars… to get more service to more places more often.

    7. How about fancy new low-floor hybrid Buses to Paine Field? First things first; call it a Proof of Concept.

      The same right of way along SR 525 will be there or Airport Road will still be there in twenty years if the need arises.

  2. On other news, many of the new bus stop signs for the March 26 service change are already out. You can now see clearly on the street which routes will be taking 15th vs. Roosevelt vs. the Ave. in the U-district.

    1. Cheers to Metro for posting signs in advance.
      Jeers to Metro for not posting any explanation that the new signs don’t kick in until 3/26. Especially egregious at bus stops with no printed timetables.

  3. Depressing to see our old rails being taken out / replaced. Someday we’ll wish we had them, similar to how we wish we had early Seattle’s streetcars today. Disappointing.

      1. Yes, like the Burke-Gilman. If the rails were still there, we’d already have a line from the University of Washington to Ballard. We wouldn’t be voting in November for it. If you look at the other old railways, you’d be surprised to see we’re duplicating them now, when they could have been upgraded and functioning for the last 90 years as passenger transit.

    1. Actually, Seattle’s early streetcars ran no more frequently than the buses today that serve the same corridors. Nor did the old streetcars carry more people than a modern bus. Nor were the old streetcars more efficient at getting people on and off (if anything, with high floors and fewer doors, they were less efficient). The old streetcars may have appeared to move faster, in spite of operating in mixed traffic, simply because traffic itself wasn’t nearly as bad then as it is now, but that has nothing to do with bus vs. streetcar.

    2. I’m not clear on the context of your comment, but if your talking about the Eastside Rail Corridors, those rails were in terrible shape and not usable for anything, nor repairable.

      1. I’m not a track expert at all, but….

        Most likely it’s the ties under the rails. Over time, that’s what decays first if they are wood. With very little traffic over them, the rails themselves will last 100 years.

        There was some rail from the 1890s in the Willamette Valley that had to be replaced due to embrittlement due to age, but metal alloys developed nicely after that. This line was the Milwaukee main line north to Bellingham and would never have had stuff from that era.

        In fact, what usually happens on a line like this is someone comes along and offers a bunch of money for the rails, because they were abandoned only part way through their useful life and thus still have useful life on some other line.

      2. That link is to a King County ‘spin’ document.

        The rails have gone to hell because once the local municipalities acquired the corridor they did squat with them.

        Most of the RR professionals I know said that at the time just prior to the BNSF sale, an investment of about 1/2 of ST’s $1 Billion+ system could have eliminated the slow order spots, and brought the speed up to the 40 mph range.

        So Please, stop parroting the NIMBYs with the quasi technical reasons.

        People of means and influence DON’T WANT TRAINS (or BUSES Heaven Forbid), IN THEIR BACK YARD… PERIOD.

        And they’ve Won.

        I just wish they had the balls to go public.

        Of course, that would screw up their Good Ol’ Boys party.

      3. Go visit a road someehere along this line, in a place where they haven’t torn it up yet. Don’t trespass, but get to a public spot where you can see the rail. Look closely at the rail and you will see some numbers cast into the rail, usually about every 39 feet.

        You will see the name of the rolling mill. I’m guessing these will have been made in Illinois. You will see a year of manufacture. I’m guessing no earlier than 1920. You will see something along the lines of 90 lb or 117 lb. that’s the weight of the rail in pounds per yard.

        you’ve probably got something like 115 lb from the 1920s. An awful lot of branch lines have 90 lb, and getting something heavier is really desirable as more and more weight is showing up in each freight car.

      4. It’s not the rails that are the problem, it’s the roadbed that’s gone to seed… literally,

        There are trees growing between the rails on parts owned by King County.

      5. Glenn,

        The ERC was not “a branch line”. It was NP’s freight main to Sumas and interchange with CN, CP and a little interurban that ran between Vancouver, Abbotsford (across the border) and Chilliwack. I have forgotten the name of it, but it was NP’s freight partner for loads into Vancouver. It’s right of way is what the SkyTrain uses on the original line.

        The passenger trains used GN’s tunnel and trackage as far as Interbay then crossed the Ship Canal on a swing bridge and followed the Burke-Gilman to a junction with the freight main in Woodinville.

        Yes, it had joined rail, but I would bet it’s at least 125 lb/yd. SP/NP/CN (or CP or the interurban for Port of Vancouver freight) was a very competitive routing versus GN/WP/AT&SF to and from California for Canadian lumber movements. There were at least six trains a day on that trackage in the 1950’s and 1960’s pre-BN. It fed right into Auburn Yard.

      6. Glenn,

        The Milwaukee used car floats from Seattle to Port Townsend and Bellingham. They had an actual railroad line that ran from Bellingham through Edison to Sumas for the same connections as the NP and then continued on to Kendall and up the Nooksack River to Maple Falls. It also had a little spur west to Lynden; that spur and the connecting track to Sumas are now operated by BNSF once in a blue moon for a few cars of feed.

      7. Yes, I know the ERC was a main.

        Rail weights have increased over the years. 90 lb was once fairly common, and a bunch of branch lines have it.

        Whatever is on the ERC is probably pretty valuable as it is only partially used, and it is probably in better shape than the 90 lb stuff on a bunch of the branch lines now. Anything heavier than 90 lb is of value to those who have branch lines laid with 90 lb.

        The times that I have been around the ERC it didn’t seem quite as heavy as 125 lb, but I didn’t check any numbers either.

        When rail gets over used, it developed a flow mark on the side where the weight of the trail traffic has caused cold flow of the metal. This has to be ground off. The stuff I saw near Bellevue didn’t show any signs of any of this.

        So, as best as I can remember, the rail itself seemed pretty good stuff.

  4. Big project at Othello breaks ground;

    How’s the Station at Othello working out, any retail? I know they got off to a rough start and tapping the subsidized housing demand was killing market rate rentals. From the article this development doesn’t appear to have any private equity or market rate housing.

    1. Othello Wok is still there and doing business.

      Huarchitos is still there and doing (poor) business. Every time they interview the owner she is lamenting about lack of foot traffic and lack of people. Not sure I buy that, but it is what it is.

      A new T-Mobile shop opened up in the ground floor recently.

      The old Deo Valente Cafe sign is still there and that space is still empty and depressing to look at each day.

      I’m hoping (as has been the case lately) that all the new housing that’s being built up around Othello will fill out some of these empty spaces.

    2. Judging from all the new residential buildings underway near MLK stations (Columbia City, Othello, Rainier Beach) in the past several months, I would assume demand is strong, although some may be driven by speculation ahead of U-Link opening. I’ve also met several people who have recently moved to this area because of rising Cap Hill rents.

  5. “Hearing examiner rejects proposed 12-story Pioneer Square building ($), preserving existing parking garage.”

    FYI…This wasn’t overturned to preserve the garage, even though that is the temporary result.

    1. Regardless, it’s still a major loss for the neighborhood. Maintaining the status quo in the guise of historical authenticity is a terrible allocation of scare land resources. Reading the article – Pioneer Square is NOT priceless. It’s certainly an asset to the community, but it does not have infinite value.

      An argument to protecting neighborhood “character” is always NIMBYism. They may be legally correct in this case, but that simply means the Pioneer Square Preservation District needs to be amended.

      1. Speaking of character of pioneer square, has anyone tried to sue to stop the removal of the priceless viaduct? Haha, like that’ll ever happen.

      2. Why can’t the building designers just chop off a few floors? The board would have been fine with that.

        I’d rather have another 7 or 8 story building than no building/current parking garage.

      3. My understanding is that the owners will try again. Eventually there will be a building there, it just won’t look like that. Personally, if I was in charge, I would tell my architect to make it as “authentic” as possible. I know it smacks of Disneyland design, but just try and mimic the neighborhood as much as possible. Except for the Smith Tower, that doesn’t. count. The whole thing should be covered with red brick, with plain windows. No blue tints, no brown brick — try and match the other buildings as much as possible. I think a building like that would be hard to reject.

        Anyway, in terms of affordability, this is not good. For a company to spend a huge amount of money and time on design means that all housing goes up. It’s like a tax on lumber, or steel, with the money going to planners.

      4. Fake authentic is better than a modernist monstrosity. And they can be creative, they just have to think like a pre WWII designer did, not like the architects that keep coming up with the contemporary trash. They could look at the back of the Joule or the building at Summit & Olive or the Pike Motorworks for examples of a reasonable compromise between traditional and modern.

    2. The character wasn’t so much the issue with the board on this project as the height (even though it is within the zoning envelope). Personally I think the preservation board and the neighborhood activists in Pioneer Square continually miss the point. They seem to be more concerned with the buildings “looking like” their neighbors. What is more important for maintaining the neighborhood character is allowing new development to occur that maintains similar proportions and level of detail, while allowing folks to be able to tell the difference between an historic gem of a building and the new construction.

      Have you ever been to Santa Fe, NM? It’s like going to Disneyworld, Their preservation standards are so strict it is nearly impossible for the uninitiated to tell the difference between what is historic and what is faux-pueblo. The whole city looks the same. That is not what Pioneer Square should aspire to, but that’s what the preservation board seems to be after.

      Personally I’m on the fence about this project. It’s a bit bulky and perhaps too tall, but I don’t think it would be detrimental to the character of the neighborhood as others suggest. Having said that, It’s proportions and detailing are a bit clunky and it could definitely be better, but the rallying cry has always been that it s too tall for the neighborhood and will block out the sun,


    DMU with classic interurban baggage door. Precedent for LINK? On 4-car train, maybe one section? For security, either fold-down benches or seats, or standing room poles and rails for owners.

    Or maybe longer fold-down benches for passenger seating if baggage space not needed. Just a thought.

    Incidentally, I’m new to flickr and want to be responsible and polite. First try message I needed to attribute. After that, couldn’t get the message back. Pic updated no problem.


  7. “Link doesn’t allow cargo bikes; SBB suggests open-plan rail cars.”

    Sigh. Never ceases to amaze me what sort of “problems” someone can find with Link.

    I’m skeptical there are very many cargo bike owners in the city who need to use Link. I thought the whole point of a cargo bike was to allow you to carry stuff in your neighborhood. Like grocery shopping or carrying a package, not traveling to other neighborhoods to get stuff.

    Most people would just get an Uber in this situation. But of course, public transportation ***must*** accommodate every last use case, however unlikely…

    1. An open car would also carry more people. It does double duty. During rush hour, it handles the big loads. During off peak times, it handles bikes. A lot of people only ride Link a few stops last time I checked (they ride it in the tunnel) so not every car needs a seat.

      1. I used to bring my bike on Link frequently, but my commute has changed and I don’t do it nearly as often. When I used it, I was going reverse peak direction, so space wasn’t really an issue.

        I don’t have a ton of sympathy for cargo bikers. For that matter, bringing bikes on Link doesn’t scale well, particularly as it gets more popular and more crowded. And Link’s focus should be on moving people, not bikes.

        All that said, an “open” floor plan car would be amazing, particularly when they eventually start running 3 and 4 car consists. Though it might help with bikes, mostly it will make it easier for standing passengers, strollers, wheelchairs, etc. So I’m all for having 1 of these types of cars in a 3-4 car consist.

    2. It’s not just bikes. Cars that gracefully accommodate luggage seem like a good idea on a line serving the airport too. I really like the idea of procuring some open plan cars with the next purchase.

  8. The stickers are coming off in places. At Mt Baker station northound the map shows all of University of Washington to Angle Lake, and the schedule says “To University of Washington” and “To SeaTac/Airport”. (“But where is Angle Lake?”) At Westlake southbound one of the stickers is partially torn, as if Capitol Hill is running. The overhead signs in the DSTT are such a mixture that I can’t see a consistent plan. ST should probably have put a date rather than just “Soon”.

    1. Angle Lake is an L-shaped lake in SeaTac on Route 99, just south of 192nd it’s a very nice park.

    2. The stickers are a good temporary strategy even if they can be torn off by passengers.

      I hope ST switches them out once before Angle Lake opens. I wonder if the glue will dry too much so that the diagrams will look damaged when removed for that. To that end, switching them to announce the Angle Lake opening date 60 days before opening would be great!

    3. I’m overjoyed that ST has finally placed prominent directional destination boards for Link! I can deal with awkward temporary labeling. It’s such a signage improvement!

    4. Yes, I was referring to the fact that Angle Lake is on the map but not in the schedule. I’ve been to Angle Lake. The station logo is a fish shaped sort of like the lake, which is interesting.

      1. I also thought it was Angle Lake because of the L shape and the 90-degree angle.

      2. The lake is clearly called that because of the L shape. But the fish in that shape could add the dimension of “fish in that shape” and angler. That’s pretty ingenious because if angler was intended it’s a three-level metaphor, and if it wasn’t intended it’s serendipitous that it applies.

        I’ve long been thinking that when Angle Lake Station opens, we should have a group ride to it and a walk to the lake. It’s eight blocks from the station to the park.

  9. Every once in a while, a comment, or even the blog itself, will use the term NIMBY. I don’t think I like that term. For one, I don’t think it’s accurate. When people come out against an upzone or a big building, is it really NIMBYism? Do they support upzones and density, but just want this one spot they live in to not be upzoned? I suspect most of the people we term with this label are against density in general.

    A bigger reason I don’t like the term is it usage. It’s used in a derogatory fashion. Usually, if you call someone names, they aren’t likely to give much weight to your opinions.If us density advocates want to shift more people towards our view, we need to understand the motivations and concerns of the anti density people and at least acknowledge their opinion.

    1. When people come out against an upzone or a big building, is it really NIMBYism? Do they support upzones and density, but just want this one spot they live in to not be upzoned?

      Here’s the problem with that somewhat-rhetorical question: Buying a piece of land in a specific spot does not give perpetual land-use control over the surrounding land. Having “support [of] upzones and density” but not “this one spot they live in” is the classic definition of NIMBY. It’s like supporting transit “for other people” and continuing to demand the right to drive a single-occupant vehicle everywhere (and for bonus points, expect to be able to store it for free in the public right-of-way). Either walk the walk or don’t, but be consistent.

      Usually, if you call someone names, they aren’t likely to give much weight to your opinions.

      Agreed, but damn isn’t it difficult to stay on that moral high ground of not calling names and slinging mud when “the loyal opposition” does so much (in an underhanded way, like “think of the children!” and “Metro’s bringing poor people to your neighborhood!” and “my property values!”) to try to discredit any statement a pro-density person makes. The reaction to HALA, for instance…my goodness.

      …we need to understand the motivations and concerns of the anti density people and at least acknowledge their opinion.

      I’ll grant you the first part but dismiss the second part. Not all opinions need to be acknowledged, at least as suitable, in a given context and the whole equal-time-is-equal-fair mantra is what has gotten us into the famed Seattle Process. That said, understanding the motivations and concerns of folks who are anti-density almost always comes down to another favorite acronym, BANANA: build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.

      1. I was saying they don’t support upzones in general. They are BANANA not NIMBY. Great acronym by the way.

        Don’t get me wrong, I personally think we should entirely do away with zoning. I feel like I could make strong arguments for the abolition of zoning, but I’d be preaching to the choir.

        Let me make an argument for neighborhood preservation instead. I’m a hypothetical person. I really like quite and safe streets. I like to smell fresh cut grass. My childhood was spent in a crime ridden housing project on the east coast during sixties and early seventies. I’ve long moved away from those days. I worked hard and built a business. From my self owned business I bought a house in a quite neighborhood. Since I’ve moved in, the city has gotten denser in other parts, so traffic I-5 is worse, but I’m nearing retirement, so at least I’ll be able to be comfortable in the home I built.

        Now comes along proposed zoning changes to my neighborhood. They want to take away what I worked toward my entire life. Even though I don’t have to sell my property, some of my neighbors will. With increased density, will come increased traffic on my street. Taller buildings will block sun from my yard and reduce its privacy. I’m a big believer in family. I don’t want people to have to raise kids in the dense sort of place I grew up in with no access to playgrounds or parks.

        Besides, who wants these upzones anyhow. Developers. Of course they do. They stand to make a profit developing larger building that ruin where I live. Profiting by making things worse for someone else, in this case me, makes you a bad person. Who else supports this upzone. Housing advocates. First of all, all the new development going up is for the rich. Secondly, it won’t help. More people will just move in. This is a national housing market. Amazon is the problem. The housing will remain to expensive for others, but many nice neighborhoods will be ruined in the meantime.

        This hypothetical person is a real person I talked to. Do I have rebuttals for everything he said? Yes. Do I think his opinions and values valid? Yes. In all honesty, we had a heated debate. But if I could do it again, I would start by asking for his story. I would then try to ask questions to try and get him to consider my side. Questions like, what should we do about urban sprawl and the loss of wilderness and farms near major cities. What should we do about traffic given the city is growing? How much do you estimate a car infrastructure to alleviate the worst of traffic would cost? What do you think we should do about rising rents? Etc.

        I don’t think most people want to consider themselves selfish. I also think that many of the opinions I have where formed through considering questions like the above. Why would someone how never tried to answer those sorts of questions have the same views as me?

      2. Of course the “no zoning” crowd gets their knickers in a snit when private money wants to come in and use land near Link Stations in RV for parking. Double standard much?

      3. Interesting story Ben. I agree, people need to relate to the other person, and avoid labels and jumping to conclusions with regards to their reasoning. Personally, I would have trouble with a “no zoning” approach. I guess I am too much of a moderate, or too much of a conservative (in the classic sense of the word — talk about a loaded term). I would, however, support the following, even though it would be considered radical in this town:

        1) Do away with all of the parking requirements. Let the market decide. Parking may be tougher in your neighborhood as a result. As my mom always used to say, if that is the worst thing you have to deal with, then you live a charmed life.

        2) Do away with density rules. If you can build a two story monster house, then you can can covert that two story house to an apartment, with as many units as you want. Rules ensuring the health and safety of the residents still apply.

        Now it is anyone’s guess as to what would happen after that. A lot of people might sell their house and see it replaced by an apartment (no bigger than a house). There might be more of these than their are tear down houses. But I’m not so sure. Unlike monster houses, you can only have so many. There is only so much demand in this town. If every house was replaced by a quadraplex, there would be 1.2 million new units in a city that houses half that many. That just isn’t going to happen.

        Meanwhile, you would have a hell of a lot of conversions. They just make sense financially, once you allow it throughout the city. We have a lot of big houses that are worth a lot more if you just spent a little chopping it up. This isn’t true of all markets (Manhattan has the opposite problem — a few very rich people who want to own very big apartments) but we aren’t Manhattan. We have rich people, and they are buying fancy houses and fancy apartments, but the main reason rent is so high is because there is so much demand for the bottom end apartments. We have regulations preventing Apodments — if they weren’t popular, you wouldn’t need the regulations. For that matter, when is the last time you read about a development actually lowering density? Yeah, me neither. Those are perfectly legal (one might even say encouraged) but they just don’t happen.

        The end result is that your friend would have to live with more neighbors and more traffic, but not bigger buildings. That hardly seems like a terrible compromise to allow more affordability.

      4. Zoning is primarily a planning implementation tool, probably the most important one in a city’s toolkit. The end result of “no zoning” is no planning. Not sure anyone would be happy with the results of that.

    2. There are people who say they support density in general but not near their house. The problem is if everybody says the same thing, then you can’t site a tall building anywhere, so it’s de facto anti-density even if each person is truly only concerned about their own block. Beyond that you get people who not only oppose development in their own block, but they work to assist other groups in defeating development/upzoning elsewhere. Again they say they sympathize with the need to add more housing in the city, but you can’t find any particular project they’re not opposed to. The same with this Pioneer Square preservation group. If they have good reasons for opposing the building in one place, are they helping to find another nearby place for it? Or would they just oppose that too? If it moved to 43rd & Brooklyn, would they support it, or would they insist there has to be open space at U-District Station? This opposition to development is called NIMBYism, and while it must be remembered that different people have different attitudes and some people don’t go as far as others, it still creates an atmosphere where needed things can’t be built anywhere.

    3. It depends. Sometimes it really is NIMBYism, sometimes it isn’t. If you support the urban village concept, and believe that no growth should occur outside it, then maybe you are a NIMBY. One of the first questions to ask is whether you want your neighborhood to be an urban village. If so, then chances are, you are a NIMBY.

      But I agree, labels like that are pretty much useless. To a certain extent, so what? So what if they are NIMBY? That makes their argument no less valid. They may have reasons to believe that their neighborhood is special. They may be right.

      It is hard not to think of sewage plants when you think of NIMBY. It is the classic example. Interestingly enough, Seattle had a very interesting case involving the expansion of the sewage system. There were several proposals, but one was for Discover Park, the other an industrial area in the Duwamish. A group called “Friends of Discovery Park” fought against putting it there. Many, if not most of the members, lived close by. So were they NIMBYs? Maybe. If the plant was going to go into Lincoln Park, they might have opposed it (for the same reasons) but not fought so hard. But either way, their logic was sound — building an industrial plant on an unique piece of park land is really a bad idea.

      When discussing zoning issues, there are several arguments made in support of the existing rules. One is preservation. If you relax the rules, then you will lose more houses. Fair enough. That is why in general I tend to use the term preservationists when arguing for change. I think the term is complimentary — I think we can all relate to the desire for preservation (e. g. saving a house like this:

      But I think that is just one concern. Another concern (that is really similar) is aesthetic. Not only will you lose a pretty house like that, but a really ugly one goes up in its place. I can certainly understand that argument.

      Another is the desire for parking. This contradicts the preservationist/aesthetic interest, although I’m sure a lot of proponents don’t understand why. First, you have a much better chance of preserving a house like that if it is really easy to convert it to an apartment. If you don’t have to worry about parking, then things get much easier and cheaper. But if you need to add a lot more parking, then leveling starts making sense. Second, the ugliest structures we have built have largely been built around parking. I really can’t think of an apartment that I would consider A+ design that has parking. While I can think of blocks and blocks of really ugly duplexes with concrete in front to hold the cars.

      Finally, a lot of people have a fear of density. They don’t want more people in the neighborhood or additional traffic. I would guess that a very large percentage of people who feel that way are NIMBYs. Those that don’t are probably extremists (where, exactly, are renters supposed to live?).

      Balanced with all of this is the need for shelter (AKA the price of rent).

      As you might guess, I really have no sympathy for those who oppose density, or want parking mandates. But those that are interested in preservation or otherwise want buildings to look nice have a very good argument, in my opinion. This common interest (we all will end up looking at these buildings) should be balanced against the need for more places to live.

      1. From a first glance, I think the aesthetic argument silly. Clearly the person who payed for the development not only thought the design looked ok, but also thought it would be the most popular for potential users. Even if we where to try and make sure the building is pretty, everyone has different tastes. I’m imagining some sort of government building beauty program, where somehow everything ends up looking like Frank Gehry was asked to design a motel. Anyways, this whole thing seems like unfounded pessimism. I feel like certain people simply like building styles from 1900 and have been saddened by every building that has gone up since.

        But then I thought a little more. Aesthetics are a large part of the complaints against density. Current zoning laws do not address this issue. If we could increase density while addressing aesthetic concerns, everyone could come out with something. What if we had heights come down from on high. The city evaluates infrastructure and decides this is how much increase in population this neighborhood can support. But the neighborhood would get to make a style plan which all builders would have to adhere to. Maybe there could be workshops. People could present their vision of the optimal way the neighborhood would look when built out to the heights. The workshops could narrow down the visions to a handful which would then be put to a neighborhood vote. Then the final rules to implement the vision could be put together by a team of urban planners and architects. Maybe they could have leeway to say, make certain places lower and certain places higher, in order to make give varied height feels. But by the end of the day, builders would build buildings the neighborhood thinks least ugly and density would match the needs of the city.

      2. Polluting industrial plants are always brought up for why we need zoning, but it’s possible to limit industrial plants on public health grounds without zoning everything else. An apartment building is not in any way like a factory belching black smoke.

      3. A lot of good comments here that will be difficult to improve upon. NIMBYs do suck, but there can be valid associated concerns that often get lumped into NIMBYism, but may come from a feeling of YIMBYism. For example, I want greater density everywhere, and clearly some places should be designated for more growth than others. As a resident of a nice Seattle neighborhood and father of two soon-to-be public school kids, I’m also concerned about the effects of greater density on schools and transit. Our schools are bursting at the seams with kids in countless portables and roads are packed with SOVs because buses are unreliable and take forever and rail isn’t a serious option for an overwhelming majority of Seattle residents. I’m all for more dense neighborhoods, but I want commensurate investments in infrastructure, which has not really been a part of the HALA discussions to my knowledge. As it stands, more density will mean more cars because, despite our burgeoning light rail system and robust Metro service, this is still a city where people need a car for most trips that aren’t to/from work. Kudos to those who have gone carless. This will continue to be exception and not the rule for those in the neighborhoods for generations because at the end of the day, this is a west coast city that didn’t benefit from early density and Federal transit dollars. Move Seattle and ST3 are a START, and a painfully slow start at that.

        So please, subdivide, upzone, build taller and denser – let’s just be smart about our growth and make greater investments in our schools and rails, ok? Is this reasonable?

      4. I agree that removing all zoning is mostly a bad idea (there’s one area of southeast Portland right now that is mixed industrial and residential, and are having a big fight about large amounts of chromium discharged into the air by Bulls Eye Glass).

        However, there was a time not so long ago that zoning wasn’t quite so exclude, as evidenced by the small, older apartment buildings in the middle of single family zones. Try building the small apartment building at 22 Ave NW and Barrett in Magnolia today as opposed to 40 or so years ago, when it looks like it was built. I don’t think Magnolia would allow that today.

    4. I meant NIMBYism as a critique of a group’s position, not as a critique of the people themselves. NIMBY is a policy position that entails objecting to local development – in this case, Pioneer Square residents. I guess strictly speaking a preservation activist who lives in Renton & opposes a large building in Pioneer Square isn’t NIMBY.

      And NIMBYism is different than BANANA (a truly delightful acronym). People who argue for the preservation of single family zoning to maintain Seattle neighborhood charm are BANANA. People who live in Wallingford who object to development in Wallingford are NIMBY. So yes, there is overlap, but one can be NIMBY without being BANANA.

      Accusing someone of being NIMBY is accusing them of valuing their locale needs over the needs of the greater community. This is a totally valid position, and it’s ultimately a value judgement. Nonetheless, it is a derogatory term because it implies selfishness and shortsightedness … but that’s the point. It’s a succinct way of identifying a policy position that either values local needs over community needs and/or values the status quo over a more dynamic future. Perhaps the local needs do indeed outweigh the greater need. Perhaps the status quo is superior to an imagined future.

      There is still room for debate after identifying the biases of a particular position. It would just be more helpful if people embraced their NIMBYism explicitly. What frustrates me is when people are NIMBY but then trot out unrelated arguments or red herrings to achieve their goal. Being NIMBY is not bad. Being NIMBY but hiding behind other objections is dishonest.

    5. I suspect most of the people we term with this label are against density in general.

      There’s surely some truth to that, but that’s not how the argument ever unfolds. The Stranger comment thread on the historic district board killing apartments in Pioneer Square was a perfect example. Of course we’re not against density and housing, just not *this* project and/or just not *here* is how the argument goes, 99% of the time. The “all growth is a cancer” crowd is just cranks who don’t care about winning the argument. The “not this density, not here, not now” crowd sounds more reasonable but has the same practical political effect.

      1. Accurate and ad hominem aren’t opposites. A person may indeed be an idiot, but calling him or her an idiot in this forum would be, rightly, described as an ad hominem attack. NIMBY is a pejorative on this board and attacks the person, not the ideas he or she espouses.

    6. Allowing conversions of large older homes into multiple units or into mixed use residential and retail preserves them, and the character of the neighborhood.

      Preserving zoning as exclusive single family likely means that the house gets demolished and turned into a modernist dream home from some wealthy investor that’s trying to keep their capitol gains tax down from having moved from some state with far more expensive houses.

      So, NIMBYism and wanting increased density isn’t necessarily excusive. I would have no objection to the house next door being divided into two units. If they wanted a 300 floor Dubai Palace or something, I’d not be fond of it but instead of protesting I’d offer the owner my parcel too. There’s lots of better places to live than where I do, and for enough money I would certainly move to one of them.

      I usually think of NIMBYs as those that protest a change before really thinking about if it is a good change or not. There’s a development proposed where I used to live, and I sympathize with the protesters there because the 16.7 acre parcel is the last bit of undeveloped land in an area where it is five miles to the nearest park.

      Then there are NIMPS. These are the people whose first thought has nothing to do with the back yard. “Those people will consume all the street parking and I won’t have a place to park.”
      So, Not In My Parking Space.

      If you have to have a parking space, then maybe you should buy a house that has one.

    7. NIMBY isn’t the best of terms.

      I consider myself a literal NIMBY, in that I don’t like seeing apartments appear in my backyard, given that I’m deep in the exurbs of Arlington/Marysville and they have no place being here, so far away from good transit access. It just encourages more sprawl that would do much better closer to the city center (where a walkable grid of streets could exist with a little work).

  10. This is an open thread – is whining allowed? Twice in the last three days while waiting at the 520/Evergreen Point stop, a crush loaded 257/252 (one on each day) stopped with a 311 coming in right behind it. As the 257/252 let on one rider – that’s all that could fit, the 311 pulled around the 257/252 and left the stop without taking on passengers. The 311 had no standees, as could be seen through the window. It left half-a-dozen of us standing there, waiting for the next bus, which of course was a full 545 that didn’t stop, and then a full 255 that likewise didn’t stop, etc.

    What the hell? Don’t the drivers know that at peak times busses are often full, so you can’t just assume the bus in front of you is going to take everyone???

    OK, I feel better now.

    1. Or get on the damn radio and say “311, I’m full, can you take these passengers, please?”

      1. I’m 87.3% certain that Metro either doesn’t have coach-to-coach radio facilities or such equipment, if it exists, is not allowed to be used except for communication with base.

        I really love Metro but I’d really love a “FAQ”-style posting that explains why so many seemingly-simple things that would improve service aren’t done. (Why can’t an operator tell a bus that is just in front of or behind it that a passenger wants to transfer? Alternatively, why don’t buses pull away from the stop in sequential order instead of passing? At an empty stop, why don’t drivers stop in a consistent place? Why not always open the back door when the cord has been pulled? And so on…)

        There must be a reason that I’m missing.

      2. “Why can’t an operator tell a bus that is just in front of or behind it that a passenger wants to transfer?”

        They do, by blowing their horn. Usually when the bus behind has a transfer for the bus in front.

        “Alternatively, why don’t buses pull away from the stop in sequential order instead of passing?”

        To save time probably. Leaving before people can transfer may be a particular problem at Evergreen Point or these routes. I haven’t seen it at Campus Parkway, or on the 71/72/73X.

      3. They do, by blowing their horn. Usually when the bus behind has a transfer for the bus in front.

        Drivers have been instructed not to do that. A few still will but they can be written up for it. The official story is horns are to be used only as a safety signal. That makes a lot of sense really. I can see it’s also very annoying for people living near stops, like the new apartments at S. Kirkland.

      4. It makes a difference when you’re transferring to a 30-minute route and the first bus was late.

      5. At a bus stop in the middle of the freeway, no neighbors are going to hear the horn over the roar of the traffic. There is no good reason not to do right thing and use common sense. At least until the bus drivers are able to talk to each other over radio.

    2. Complain. Call it in. I hate getting drivers in trouble, but that’s not an acceptable practice, especially given the pass-up rate at that stop.

      1. And if it isn’t reported, the problems (overcrowded, passed up, not enough space for two buses to serve a single stop, etc., there are several issues that are going on) will never be solved.

    3. Buses that are interlined should always stop if passengers are waiting (unless they’re full). This used to irritate me when I rode the 26/28 downtown from Fremont. Often times they would bunch, and would leap frog each other heading downtown in the morning. Not a big deal if you were getting off downtown, but if anyone was waiting for a 26 hoping to continue on as the 132 you they were pretty much screwed if there happened to be a 28 sitting at their stop because the 26 would just skip it. I would run into a few people occasionally that got really pissed about that. Less of an issue now most of the stops on Dexter don’t allow for passing.

  11. I got a postcard in the mail today from Metro for a free ORCA card. Postcard says the offer was sent to people in the area where there’s new bus service. I can sign up for a free ORCA card with 1 week’s worth of unlimited travel loaded onto it. No idea how it works – if it’s for a predetermined timeframe, or if it’s valid 1 week from the first tap. Either way, we both have U-Pass, so it’s wasted on us other than saving $5 on an ORCA card..

    1. Not a waste if you have friends or family visiting from out of town. Or if you leave the U for some reason (graduate or change in employment). If it’s valid 1 week from first tap it could be a lifesaver in the future.

    1. Isn’t there already preclearance here at the station in Vancouver, just like this bill would establish in New York?

      1. My understanding is that there is some sort of preclearance, but they check again at the border.

        Canada checks people after arrival at the station with no border stop.

        I’ve not been on a southbound train yet. It either leaves too early or too late if you are coming to Portland, so coming south it’s Thruway Bus for me.

      2. Yes, I took the Cascades from Vancouver to Seattle once. You clear immigration at the station. US customs check happens at the border. Never been on a Cascades train northbound but I have been on the Adirondack from NYC to Montreal. The train stops at the border for an hour and agents walk though the train checking documents and luggage. Some people would be taken off the train (like the guy sitting next to me who spoke French) for further questioning.

        On BoltBus, you get off the bus and go through an airport like border control checkpoint then emerge on the other side to rebound the bus.

      3. Northbound Cascades has both immigration and customs at the Vancouver terminal.

  12. The 3K riders/day on FHSC were during the Free Ride demonstration period. Apparently we will have to wait for rider counts on routine fare-paying days.

  13. Aurora-Link integration, or, should 522 BRT be extended to Aurora?

    Aurora Avenue and the adjacent Highway 99 in Snohomish County are major transit thorougfares, have a cachement area as far as Greenwood (even competing with the 5), and could become more so if widespread TOD ever finally happens. So there will be demand from any point on Aurora to any Link station, and for most locations it will be a three-seat ride. What’s the best way to minimize the transit overhead? Those between 220th SW and NE 185th are luckiest because Swift will be a one-seat ride to 185th station. But the other north-south routes can’t really bend like that because they continue on. Some have requested for 522 BRT to be aligned on 125th/130th, or another route on that street with a Link station, but if’s iffy whether ST will agree to that station. So what do we do if it doesn’t? 45th and 85th and Northgate Way are not known for speed. So 145th seems like the potentially quickest way to get from Link to Aurora if you’re too far south for 185th. On the other hand it could get congested and slow the bus down, especially if the transit-priority lanes end at I-5.

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