Amtrak Cascades at Mt. Vernon Station

This is an open thread.

57 Replies to “News Roundup: Out in Force”

  1. This whole concept of neighborhood councils stemming from the executive branch is a little dubious anyway. Now that we have city council districts, how about we have our council members get their hands dirty and actually do the hard work to know and represent their constituents?

    1. Exactly my thinking. Didn’t the neighborhood activists win neighborhood representation in the legislature?

    1. I sincerely hope the bike rack length issues doesn’t result in bike racks that only hold two bikes instead of three. A 33% cut in bike capacity would be difficult to swallow. At least, the biggest bike-on-bus bottleneck should be eliminated next year with the opening of the 520 bridge bike path.

      1. From the article it looks like Metro is applying to WSDOT for an “over-length” permit that would apply to the whole fleet. This permit will need to be renewed annually, but there’s no charge for it. Seems like mostly a non-issue.

      2. Yes, Pierce Transit operated ST-Express buses have double racks and I’ve been left behind on half hourly routes.

    2. The best solution is the simplest. Ask the state Legislature to simply amend the law. Should be one of those no-brainer bills that sail through with little fuss or partisanship.

      1. Or at least determine whether the state law is reasonable. Did they just not think about bicycling and bike racks, the way the old 520 bridge had no sidewalk?

      2. You act like it’s going to be a cake-walk for Seattle-area legislators to ask for something from the state legislature. GOP wants to stick to Seattle in any way it can. Good fucking luck.

      3. Knee-jerk anti-Seattleia is not as likely for a narrow technical issue that merely adds a few inches to the buffer. It affects all transit agencies where bikes are common or could become common in the future: Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, Whatcom, Skagit, Clark. Snohomish ordered compliant bike racks, but did it do it by reducing the number of bicycles? The number is already too low for a biking population, as discussed here this week re the 545 and Link.

        But before we get paranoid we need to get to the root of the facts: What is a reasonable bike buffer depth? Are there bike racks the fit three bikes within the state’s current limit? Is it possible for a three-bike rack to fit in the envelope? Why, when, and how was the law enacted? What are the safety issues for a bus and how much does a few inches matter? Did the legislature consider the impacts on bus+bike riders compared to the safety issues? What would Metro need to do to comply: install new racks as buses are replaced or over a several-year period? Can Metro afford to do so without cutting into service hours, bus purchases/maintenance, or planning? Do suitable racks exist without decreasing the number of bikes?

      4. Bike racks on buses are at best a stop gap and recreational amenity that is not scalable. The more ideal situation would be more bike racks and bike stations at transit hubs, bike lockers and corrals which have 24/7 surveillance video streamable online, and bike share to meet last mile problems in dense urban areas. I would not rely on bike racks on buses for any event where I had to arrive at a fixed time, unless I boarded at or near the start of the route or gave myself an extra two trips – in which I might have just biked there in the first place.

      5. From the article:

        The state limits protruding distance for vehicles to ensure they can travel safely on roads, including sight distance concerns and turning radius.

        Transit buses already extend well beyond the front wheels. This magnifies the “sweep” created by any further extension. Not only does it swing out in front, where the driver can see, but it means turns have to be cut short leading to the back of the bus tracking further inside. My thought is that as bikes are becoming more and more popular for “last mile” transportation room inside the bus should be made available. Doesn’t Swift allow bikes inside the bus?

        I’m surprised Sportworks ever designed and sold Metro bike racks that didn’t comply with State law.

  2. While I’m no highway engineer, it seems to me that Double Crossover Diamond Interchange would be a suitable solution for Montlake Blvd. It would at least be more elegant!

    1. The current draft does seem clunky with so many lanes/turn pockets. The turn lanes could prove to be useful, however, if they can prevent cars from queuing in the thru lanes.

      I feel like the extra-wide lanes could be cut down allow for wider sidewalks or something else. Excess lane width is wasted space.

      I don’t think it will quite resemble the “highway” below it, however. Turn lanes are inherently slow zones and traffic volume will remain high. I doubt traffic is going to be zooming through Montlake 15 over the speed limit very often.

    2. I suspect a lot of the extra capacity at the Montlake interchange is to compensate for the demolition of the arboretum entrance ramp. However, from a pedestrian standpoint, the current design is already so awful, it’s hard to see things getting much worse. At least there will be an underpass to bypass all those stoplights.

      In would be nice though, if the lanes could be narrowed just a little bit, with the extra space used for a landscaped buffer between the sidewalk and the street.

      1. Also, those that want a smaller Montlake should be careful what they wish for. The most likely “narrow design” would be the same number of general-purpose lanes and turning lanes, just without the bus lanes. For a chokepoint like Montlake, having bus lanes is important, and I am willing to accept a slightly wider street as the price for having the bus lanes.

      2. “Also, those that want a smaller Montlake should be careful what they wish for. The most likely “narrow design” would be the same number of general-purpose lanes and turning lanes, just without the bus lanes.”

        Good point, that’s what’s in the waterfront draft alternative. Community groups asked the planners to reduce the road width, and they responded by chopping the transit lanes instead of GP lanes, because the agreement with the state requires at least four GP lanes. The alternative may not go anywhere because the people who asked for it said, “That’s not what we wanted,” and nobody else seems to want it. Still, something similar may happen with Montlake.

    3. Harumph.

      Dig a big hole and put the bus lanes on the same level as the mezzanine level of the Link station.

    1. You’ll help rezone some SFH neighborhoods near Microsoft, so the existing apartments can be saved. Glad to hear it.

    2. Tech workers aren’t doing this. Tech workers aren’t standing at the door with baseball bats saying, “Leave, we bought the place, we want to live there.” It’s part of the larger evolution of the Eastside. That building, I haven’t been in Highland much but I imagine it’s something like a two-story building on Bel-Red Road built in the 1960s or 70s when the population was much lower. The population is higher now so the city can’t afford to leave airspace and setbacks empty: that would only increase competition for units, and when a tipping point is reached the rent will rise to the $3000 or $4000 level and the low-income tenants would be displaced anyway, and rents on all other units would be higher than if more housing is built. Most new buildings double or quadruple the number of units compared to the old building. This new building may be an exception if I’m reading the article right: 85 families are to be displaced for 87 new townhouses. That would be disappointing if it’s really only a 2% increase of units, and if townhouses become widespread and significantly choke off denser designs. But in any case, it’s not the tech workers (the future buyers) causing this, and they can’t stop it if they wanted to. It’s just the reality that old buildings are periodically replaced and the amount of housing will grow, and the city should focus on the specific problem of low-income housing scarcity. That could include some mandatory fee to developers, inclusionary housing, and/or a general tax for subsidized housing.

      1. At that very least, cities should require that new housing developments have a minimum 150% of the number of units that preceded it.

      2. @Donde, Good idea, but generally speaking completely unnecessary. Unless restricted by law, new housing developments around here always have a big increase in units. I have yet to see a case where a builder tore down a multi-unit place to put up a smaller place.

        That being said, the law routinely limits what can be built, which is why tear downs (replacing a small house with a bigger house) are routine in this town. In other words, we really don’t need laws mandating an increase in density, we simply need to get rid of the laws that do the opposite.

    3. Sam, the families are getting $3,500 in relocation assistance. Over 85 families that’s $297,500. Shouldn’t be give the tech workers a big round of thanks for being such model citizens? Not everybody is getting $3,500 in free money when they leave an apartment. Silicon Valley tech workers probably aren’t as generous. But aren’t you worried that the families might become lazy and lose the incentive to work with all that free money?

  3. I recently read an article that SDOT is increasing special event street closure permit fees from $1300 last year to $5300 this year to $8000 next year (http://www.king5.com/news/local/higher-permit-fees-plague-seattle-events_/275551040), to try to recoup more of their costs. Having dealt with lengthy street, bike lane and sidewalk closures over the past 5 years of construction boom, I’m curious how much developers pay to close down rights-of-way for lengthy periods of time.

    Granted, a special event closure does take City resources to coordinate and execute, but I would still guess that developers pay nowhere near what public usage pays. However, special events tend to be events for public benefit, whereas construction closures tend to cost the public time and money and can usually be mitigated, but at cost to the developers.

    1. No kidding! I’ve been meaning to look up the street use permit for the construction site on the East Side of 15th Ave. NW South of 80th that has been routinely closing two lanes during the day. Went to look now and can’t find a way to look up issued street use permits.

    2. I feel like SDOT should distinguish between the small community events and the huge ones that disrupt travel across the city. A community street fair that blocks a minor street is barely an issue.

      However, there are some big events that are very disruptive, including some that are making money off of the streets. Rock & Roll Marathon & Capitol Hill Block Party to name two.

    3. Are construction sites, parades, and festivals all lumped into the same “event” category? Parades and festivals are usually for a few hours or a weekend, while construction can last a month or more.

      1. Most cities have multiple categories of street use permits. Normally construction is one category and events is a different one, and each category has different rules. I don’t know Seattle’s rules off hand.

  4. I need to start paying more attention- or maybe less. Read about Proposition 1-2-3 yesterday. It looks like some people, hopefully not very many, have forgotten what happens when a citizens’ initiative votes in a complex technical project, headed by a self chosen governing board.

    I’ve noticed before that professional engineers are often reticent to comment on a public project, however misconceived. But I wish that even a freshman structural engineering student would publicly estimate how many seconds it would take an earthquake to do what the State promised to do in 2012.

    Though with a shortened structure for pedestrians, the rescue dogs might find more people alive. However, since I can get further off subject than usual in an Open Thread, might take the opportunity to threaten, I mean mention, since I can’t vote, my contribution will be influenced by how soon line-haul transit gets back into the regular Waterfront plans.

    I’m no longer insisting on immediate street rail. It doesn’t even have to be there yet in 2040. Just a beautiful walkway from at least Yesler to Broad, structured for either rail or buses, or both. Because it probably won’t take more than a few years of public gatherings recalling recent one on 520 to prove that transit needs its own lanes.

    Am noting that our new eggplant colored fleet can run a ways on battery, and our streetcars too. Making possible a turn and climb across BN tracks at Broad. Anybody know if the batteries can do the whole Waterfront? Meantime, unless you really hate Seattle, make 1-2-3 at least a monorail to lose along with.

    Mark Dublin

    1. My wife is a professional engineer for a city in the region. She’s worked on a number of big infrastructure projects in Washington and around the country. When I told her about the initiative her response was simply, “OH NO, NO, NO, this would be bad!”.

    2. This is similar to the Monorail II initiative in 2014, which would have put a monorail on Alaskan Way and some kind of “people mover” connection to downtown. All the transit/ped advocacy groups came out against it, and it lost by over 70%. Hopefully the same thing will happen to this initiative.

      I’m getting more negative on initiatives in general, even those that ostensibly have a good purpose like limiting campaign contributions or strengthening laws against identity theft of seniors (two things coming in November). The legislature at least puts minimum quality control on its laws and has moderate lawyers review them. Initiatives are often of lesser quality, have unintended consequences, or inconspicuous biases favoring the proponents, and now they are often funded by national groups trying to impose a policy across the country.

      1. The initiative process, was originally intended to give ordinary people the same ability to demand favorable legislation that moneyed interests- especially The Railroads that were the highway interests of their day- already enjoyed.

        But now, initiatives have become the exact opposite: means for very narrow special interests to literally pass wide-reaching laws with an extremely small number of votes. Doing special damage when people with absolutely no relevant technical knowledge can either ignore or overrule engineers.

        I’m pretty sure you’re right that the Legislature has rules for its own deliberations. Which wouldn’t deprive anyone of their rights if applied to initiatives. Not to override the People’s will. But rather to be sure enough voters, with enough knowledge, to classify as “The People.”

        Like I just told Sam, our country comes from the Age of Reason. Which unfortunately only lasted ’til the next generation insisted Sir Walter Scott was totally rad even though girl demons tearing Scottish warlords to pieces and dropping them through the roof on top of their poetic friend who’d tried to warn them were technically not Reasonable.

        Though did look like Reason herself (a really cute Greek girl wrapped in a bed-sheet) compared with the late Monorail initiative, and also Prop 1-2-3.

        Mark

      2. It has been suggested that judges should review the constitutionality of initiatives before they go to the ballot, but that’s being blocked by the doctrine that people have a right to vote on initiatives without judges pre-empting them.

    3. Context please? I googled Proposition 123 and all I saw was an education law passed in Arizona. Nothing here.

      1. Initiative 123, if passed, would legally require the city to build an elevated park using part of the viaduct along the waterfront. A fancy park sounds nice in the hypothetical, but the problem is a) it has no funding source, which means that the city would have to pay for it out of the general fund (and likely cut something else to pay for it) b) it would replace the waterfront plan the city has been working on for years and c) installs the initiative’s authors on a special un-elected committee to “oversee” the project (basically do whatever the fuck they want without much accountability). A bunch of groups, in addition to several city council members, have come out against it because they’re worried about cuts to other essential services to pay for this thing.

      2. also d) it’s unsafe as it uses part of the viaduct despite the fact that the whole point of Bertha and the tunnel was to tear down the viaduct so it here to collapse and kill people in the next earthquake.

      3. It’s modeled after the High Line in Manhattan, where they made a disused elevated railroad into a trail with a narrow park around it. It has become immensely popular in New York, like Cal Anderson Park or Greenlake that are full of people. But, the designer of the Seattle Waterfront plan is the same one who designed the High Line, and he’s against it here. There has been no public discussion on whether people would use an elevated trail, whether the context is comparable to the High Line’s environment, or how many people who would have flocked to to the surface-level waterfront park would stay away if it’s scaled down or canceled. Would the park be scrapped and the decaying piers and open space remain? People barely even know what the trail will be: will there really be vegetation and places to sit and food stands on the side, or will it just be like the bicycle viaducts in Interbay that look like a narrow concrete bridge.

      4. Oh, that stupid thing. I knew about the save-the-viaduct idiocy, just didn’t know the name.

      5. Seattlites are eager to have a beautiful surface-level park that becomes the city’s waterfront living room. That’s what we failed to do in the 1920s and now we have a second chance. The waterfront plan will probably not fully achieve those goals, and various aspects of it have been criticized by different people, but at least it will be something semi-nice and it will draw people because it’s closer to the center of town than Myrtle Edwards Park or Alki. What would the impact be of an elevated trail? The proponents talk about the views from the trail, but what about the view of the trail? What will it look like from the ground, how will it impact the view of the bay and the city which people are longing to improve? I’ve never seen the High Line so I don’t understand its amenities or context well, but I imagine the land is just extra on the side of the city, not the main waterfront which is down around Battery Park. So it beautified an ugly side area, as opposed to competing with the city’s primary waterfront.

      6. Based on photos the High Lond would be really nice if copied along the waterfront.

        Among other benefits, think of how a mile long extension to the Coleman Dock walkway would improve walk-on passenger access.

        It doesn’t deal with the difference between crumbling concrete and a steel structure that can flex in an earthquake.

      7. This proposition 123 seems to have popped out of nowhere –I only learned about it very recently, just before the ballot stuff came in the mail.

    4. The convert elevated road to a freeway would be a great idea – in Tacoma, with the 705, which is already at the same elevation as an adjacent downtown park. The Seattle idea is just plain stupid.

      1. 705 has the same issue though: it’s concrete and will have earthquake issues. The High Line is a steel structure. Steel flexes.

        It would sure be nice to reconnect Tacoma to itself. 705 did a lot of damage. A money and power grab isn’t the way to do it.

    5. So is the High Line built on a raised mound rather than a viaduct? I can’t figure out how they could put vegetation and places to sit on the sides of it and a general wide flat area if it’s a bridge.

  5. The other day near Bellevue Square, I was backing up my car and caught a glimpse of all the new development near 4th and Bellevue Way through my backup camera. (My entire back window is covered with the stickers of all the Ivy League and oversees universities I attended, like Oxford, Cambridge, and IIT in India. So it’s difficult for me to see through the back window when backing up, so I rely on my side mirrors and backup cam). Anyway, as I was saying, I noticed all the new buildings, and I guess I just wanted to thank Mr. Kemper Freeman for upholding … nay … exceeding the ideals that the founding fathers of the this blog had envisioned for urban cores. Thank you, Mr. Freeman.

  6. Just remember, though, Sam, that the Founding Fathers lived in the Age of Reason.

    Mark

  7. Don’t regulate to get the right kind of development, but to get the right kind of developer.

    In Everett, they have this same kind of design review board for Evergreen corridor. What does it get them? Fast food drivethrus.

    Instead: 1) Allow and encourage parking-free development 2) Require all buildings to be mixed commercial/residential, minimum 10% of each.
    No ugly sprawl, because a developer looking to sprawl won’t even consider a neighborhood with these two simple rules that are objective and understood by everyone.

    1. The people who want design review, setbacks, and lower height limits are the same ones who want parking minimums.

  8. The tone of the Lakewood article is really depressing. It sounds like they are only grudgingly spending $2 million on sidewalks because they have a grant and can’t spend the money on anything else. If they could have used it to pay for 0.001% of a road widening project, I’m sure they would have done so.

    1. Also, they widened their main street (Bridgeport) and then painted a picture of a bike in the right lane and pretended it’s a bike lane.

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