Northgate TC from above

Photo: Northgate TC from above by SounderBruce

This is an open thread

121 Replies to “News Roundup: Reflections”

  1. According to Seattle Times, the Northgate TBM is gonna pop through in ~10 days. Exciting times :)

    1. Go Brenda, go. You go, girl. I don’t care that she is now called TBM 1, she’ll be Brenda to me. I hope we save some scrap of her for MOHAI. She will have been taken out and put together multiple times, and will have dug 6 of the 10 tunnel segments between Westlake and Northgate.

  2. How much of the current explosive rise in housing prices owes to market forces, and how much to speculation- buying residential property and keeping it empty,, on the bet that prices will only increase. Read 2008 Round 2?

    I wonder if the state legislature has the authority to limit residential purchases to landlords and tenants? Call it the “History Repeat Prevention Act.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. Why would you buy high-quality real estate and not even consider renting it out? That’s like buying stocks and telling your broker to keep the dividends because you’re only interested in the capital gains.

      1. It’s not what I’d do, but… I’m going to try to get in the mindset here. You’re buying for speculation, and you’re aware that prices are probably inflated significantly by speculation: this is a bubble, and in a bubble whoever sells quickly before it bursts wins. So you don’t want anything that’s going to slow down or complicate a sale: you want to offer buyers a stock unit with no questions of residents, conditions, modifications, or anything else.

        This strikes me as a pretty crazy mindset. You’re more likely to get burned than to get rich speculating on bubbles, and rental income (even after a management company takes a cut) should be fairly steady in a city with real housing demand. But if the bubble is high enough these more sober-minded people might be scared off by it, leaving only the speculators.

    2. How much of the current explosive rise in housing prices owes to market forces, and how much to speculation- buying residential property and keeping it empty,

      Given that we’re adding 2X as many jobs as housing units, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s mostly due to #1.


    Hey, Elon, somebody beat you to this one. Bet you can afford to buy the patent. Also pretty sure you can get both necessary technical research and naming rights by rebuilding the Beach subway in either New York City or Pioneer Square.

    Legend is that Alfred Ely Beach built his subway with, in addition to lightning speed, complete secrecy, so the corrupt Boss Tweed couldn’t demand a share. Really a shame that as usual in Seattle, main obstacle would be endemic inability to decide on anything.

    “Boss Murray” just doesn’t sound 19th century enough. Though some say just having Tammany Hall (look it up) around gave the 19th century work its lightning speed. Tempting though, while everybody’s attention is distracted by another much slower underground project.

    But greed and corruption would never tempt any self respecting cigar smoking gold watch-chain sporting crook to get involved in that one!

    Mark Dublin

    1. By the 1920s there had been several generations of proposals that treated train cars as giant pneumatic messenger tubes. None of them were bad ideas, but none of them were able to figure out how to deliver large amounts of fresh air to the passengers if they were surrounded by vacuum.

      With space tourism and all that, maybe today there is something more cost effective.

      In the end, it remained more cost effective to just move freight only that way, as freight doesn’t need to breathe or complain about air conditioning.

      Granted, there is probably an interesting market for high speed freight for objects that won’t fit in the traditional messenger tube, but that isn’t what they are showing on their propaganda.

  4. Anyone else notice a deterioration in Metro’s service quality recently?

    In the past two weeks I’ve had either a staggering amount of bad luck or Metro really is getting worse.

    2 buses (both new 40′ trolleys) have broken down, and my buses have been delayed by congestion on 3rd Avenue caused by other disabled buses. 1 driver missed a turn and took the wrong route. Trips are starting late more and more often. One driver attempted to make up for starting 6 minutes late by skipping most of the stops. On time performance (within 5 minutes) is maybe 50%.

    1. Metro has a severe driver shortage at the moment. The talking point about drivers being overpaid seems to have quieted down of late. Oh, yeah, Metro isn’t on the ballot.

      1. With 50% of the US population out of the workforce, why would there be a driver shortage? Everyone, remember what I taught you. When you give too many income-tested benefits to people, they won’t want to work, or else their 15 to 20 various benefits will go away. Paying $45/month (Section 8) for a $1700/month apartment is one example I know of. This woman I know will never want to get out of “poverty.” Tell her about a great paying job at Metro, and she’ll laugh in your face, and say, no thank you.

      2. How many of that 50% is under age 18, or retired and living off savings, or stay-at-home parents not needing work? And what’s the Puget Sound specific workforce participation rate? I’d guess it’s much higher than the US-general one, and out-of-work people in Kansas don’t really help King County Metro.

        Though you do have something of a point there; we can’t create a huge benefit cliff. More programs should take as their example the EITC, which phases out so gradually that a higher salary still always means more take-home pay.

      3. Also, you can avoid the benefits cliff by phasing it out as you make more money or making it a universal citizens dividend. Besides, people choosing to stay on welfare rather then work are pretty rare, and we don’t have that much in welfare in America, anyway.

      4. Yeah. I’ve been to places with 50% unemployment, including the Zimbabwe – Zambia border during the worst of the inflation years. The poverty and desperation present in such places makes such a statement quite shameful.

      5. I recall the number of people working at around half the population. The number of children, retirees, disabled, in jail, in school, etc is large.

        Public assistance has already gone through the Sam cuttting. That $45 rent is doubtless a third of her income, maybe from Social Security or a pension. Maybe she doesn’t get a lot because many women didn’t work until the 1970s, and perhaps her husband died young so her spousal benefits are small. The remaining $90 of her income is going to groceries and perhaps medical expenses. Public assistance doesn’t get you a lot of spending money, and in the Pugetopolis environment it’s hard to live on it. If they can work, they’d probably earn significantly more than they’re getting on assistance. Only if the best job they can get is near minimum wage and especially part time without benefits, or two part-time jobs without benefits, would it maybe be not much more than assistance. But suppose she finds a job at $1000 a month and loses her Section 8: where in Pugetopolis can she find market-rate housing? Or is she going to be pushed out of her Section 8 apartment and become homeless?

        “The Nordic Theory of Everything” has an interesting quote. From memory, both the US and Finland have a poverty level at which people are eligible for assistance. So both countries might have 20% poverty (not an actual statistic). But in Finland poverty just means down on your luck, lost your job, didn’t have the right educational opportunities, etc. But when she *Anu Partanen) came to the US she found that our official poverty level does not mean just down on your luck, it means severely destitute.

      6. You guys are confusing the unemployment rate with the structural workforce-participation rate. The unemployment rate is 4.9%. The percentage of people who can be expected to work (age 18-65, not disabled, not in school, not in jail, not independently wealthy, etc) is around 50%. Maybe higher, maybe closer to 60% or 66%, But not 90% or 95%.

      7. I applied, passed the psychological screening, but was declined after the in-person interview.

        I felt that part of the reason I got screened out was because I arrived at the interview in a Car2Go. You are required to own a car, and I was willing to buy a car after I was hired. I had the funds, but was only still looking and refused to make a quick decision on Metro’s behalf.

        I was ready, willing and able to work. They seem to be selective about their hires.

      8. How did they know how you arrived? It does seem ironic that you’re required to own a car.

      9. You are required to own a car

        That’s….insane. What the hell is Metro thinking? (And do they appreciate the rich irony?)

      10. You are required to own a car because you will often have to get to work when metro isn’t running so you can get metro running. Whether it be because of snow or just you have to drive the first trip of the day.

      11. I applied, passed the psychological screening, but was declined after the in-person interview.

        Same story here. Not sure of the reason but I’ve passed my CDL and am driving for BSD. Better gig anyway. I’d wager anyone driving for Student First would jump at the chance to work at Metro. As the article said, they are only looking to hire ~50 drivers a year out of a workforce of 2,700. They run about 30 people through each training class so willing and qualified applicants isn’t the issue.

        I’m not saying they should but they could do the same thing as Snohomish County and fill ST Express positions with contract drivers instantly giving them a full time driver surplus. That would reset things back to “the good old days” where it took years rather than months for a driver to move from part time to full time status.

      12. Why won’t Metro accept drivers who bike to work, live nearby, or use Car2Go

        If you work for Metro it’s impossible to “live nearby”. They can move the base that you drive out of every two weeks. Of course if you have seniority that’s not likely to happen but new hirers for sure have no clue what base they will be reporting to. Car2Go likely is a non-starter because virtually all work is split shift and there are probably no approved drop off zones within walking distance of any base except maybe Ryerson/Central.

    2. It’s my understanding that if Metro is not going to give drivers sufficiently humane rest breaks, drivers are going to do whatever they have to do to make sure they get them. That might mean passing up stops, leaving the terminal late, etc. If a 271 driver just spent 1 hour and 20 minutes in the seat going from Issaquah to UW, and got so behind schedule that her 15 minute break turns into a 2 minute break, would anyone fault her for leaving 10 minutes late so she can take a proper rest break?

      1. Do you have any evidence that’s significant in this situation? It’s my understanding that Metro was cited for this in the past, but has since lengthened its schedules to accommodate breaks.

        Without evidence, your post is a content-less swipe at Metro. I could just as well say, “It’s my understanding that if Sam and his friends are standing in front of the buses, the buses aren’t going to move and run them over” – but are you actually standing in front of buses? Is Metro actually still scheduling unrealistically short breaks?

      2. William, let’s say I’m your employer, and I give you a 5 minute break, and I am cited for it, so I increase your break to 10 minutes, but that’s just on paper. You are still only getting a 5 minute break in reality. Question. Did I increase your break time? That’s what Metro is doing.

      3. That’d be bad if true. But are they doing that? I’ll believe their paper over your unsupported assertion.

    3. I have been riding Metro for 19 years now. I agree it is getting worse. I remember having to catch the same bus on a Saturday and it was always 10-15 minutes late. Since this was the first stop it seemed weird. One time I saw the bus and the driver in the rest area. She was doing some kind of exercise or dance routine for the entire time. She was late and dancing? Really? That is one example. Rider do play a role in this. I ride the RapidRide A line almost every day.When the seats are full and new riders have to stand they all tend to stand near the front or next to the middle door which causes delays in people getting on and off the bus. If standers would go to the back more people could get on in a quicker way and we could get there faster.

    4. Yep. Service has taken a downturn lately. It probably seems extra bad because Sound Transit appears to run a far superior product (cleaner, more secure, and greater chance to be on schedule). However, I don’t understand why OBA can’t keep up with some of the failings, instead of showing phantom buses, and not interpolating arrival times based on re-routes (like on the 48). The 48 even at non-rush hour times (at least NB at John) is a totally random arrival of buses…sometimes 2 at a time, or never showing up, while OBA has no real world link to what the 48 is actually doing.

    5. Leaving late is one thing, leaving early is even worse. Yesterday my 217 left 6 mins early. Six minutes!

  5. (Bullet 2): Can someone sue the federal government for whatever regulation is keeping light rail systems all over the country from installing crossing gates?

    (Bullet 14): A few people have pointed out to me that the freight track crossings in Kent have “bushings” as they called them. These are foam rubber strips, inside the open space of the tracks, which compress down when the train goes over them, and expand to fill the open space the rest of the time. It doesn’t just protect bikes. It also keeps white canes from getting stuck in the tracks. (This is not to say installing these could justify the poor decision to have streetcars run in mixed traffic.)

    1. Bullet Two: That’s not a federal regulation, that’s just community opposition to clanging bells. The feds involvement is limited to offering guidelines & rules that make it possible to omit the gates. But (cue broken record) photo enforcement of left turns would solve this problem immediately and for free, with no clanging bells required.

      Bullet 14: It is possible that, since the streetcar rails are also used as an electrical neutral/ground for the trains, there is some guideline prohibiting (insulating) foam buffers from being installed in the gap. It doesn’t seem to me that there would be a problem; there’s plenty of metal-to-metal contact area, but the guidelines on track grounding tend to be a little… aggressive.
      More likely, it’s just too much money.

      1. If repeated stories of smashed cars has failed to stop illegal left turns, how would cameras? I would suspect most of those who got their cars smashed did so out of ignorance. Cameras don’t stop ignorant drivers. Physical barriers do.

      2. Brent,

        The UW Portage Bay garage has a gate on the west entrance ramp. It also had a gate on the exit ramp, but they gave up on replacing it as people would just drive through it. Unless the gates are wrought iron, then I don’t know that they’ll help. Too bad ST didn’t do grade separation.

      3. Maybe people make the illegal turn a number of times until they finally get hit? If so, then cameras would discourage this activity by fining people who habitually make the turn illegally.

        Do Link operators sound the bell as they are approaching this type of intersection?

        One possibility would be to put small crossbucks (the pedestrian sized ones) at the intersections where left turns are possible across the Link lines.

        For example at Walden Street there is a pedestrian refuge in the center of the tracks.

        In a few places, the MAX lines have pedestrian cross bucks which indicate that a train is coming.

        I know that there is a train indicator on the traffic light, but people don’t pay any attention to those. An indicator at ground level, such as a small crossbuck as seen in the MAX link above, might give a better visual clue to the drivers that there is a train coming from behind them.

      4. Perhaps repeated stories of smashed cars AND canceled insurance policies AND a new light rail cars with a snazzy cow catcher on their front.

      5. @ Brent:

        It’s not a matter of ignorance, it’s a matter of “I’m sure I can beat the train, and there’s no cop here to catch me”. It’s a matter of habitual disregard for the posted sign because they’ve done it a million times and gotten away with it a million times.

        Photo enforcement is pretty much the only type of traffic enforcement that works, period.

      6. ig·no·rance ˈ(iɡnərəns) noun 1. I’m sure I can beat the train 2. done it a million times and gotten away with it

    1. Is NYC building specialized maintenance bases for their open gangway subways, or has the industry figured out how to link separate cars with articulation connector?

      Thanks, Sam!

    2. These aren’t that new of a concept from my experience. At least some of the Seoul, Korea subways are like this, and I feel like other cities in Asia where I have ridden the subway have this as well, like Suzhou, China.

  6. MLK crash: “none of the intersections in the area have gates to protect cars from the light rail.”

    That tells you everything, don’t it?

    1. The biggest threat to cars is the drivers who operate them. Drivers who don’t obey the law or operate their vehicle in a safe manner will always find a way to get themselves into trouble.

      You might have missed the “illegal left turn” part of the story. The proper response here should be to write the driver a big, fat ticket.

    2. Because, you know, without gates to keep them fenced in, light rail trains just wander the neighborhood looking for cars to smash.

      1. No Joke. When I was in Brazil I was robbed at gunpoint by a light rail train.

        I think the problem is that Americans are awful driver as proven by our 40,000 casualties per year. Everything needs to be designed around the fact that Americans will kill themselves in cars given the opportunity. In this case crossing gates should be required but should be paid for out of motor vehicle funds.

      2. Simple fix might work. A mechanism to lower a rubber ball (or metal spiked one like the head of a medieval mace) (the one the spray cans were named after) on a rope or chain to windshield level ’til the train(s) go by.

        Or instead of using cameras just to record plate numbers for citations, wire them into a computer generated video and screen to depict that individual automobile being instantly sent to the shredder. Driver and all.

        Either way, cheaper than either gates or consequences of not having them. Also, every kid in the car, and the driver’s wife, screaming with glee, and becoming ever more positive about LINK.


      3. “the problem is that Americans are awful driver as proven by our 40,000 casualties per year.”

        Germany has more rigorous driving schools and you have to be 18 to start them. It also has higher gas taxes to disincentivize driving, and more public transit and walkable neighborhoods and transit-accessible industrial parks (like Boeing) so people don’t have to drive as much. In the US most states allow people to start driving school at age 15 1/2 and get a license at age 16, because houses and workplaces are unwalkable and transit is skeletal or nonexistent so people can’t get around without driving. We even call ID cards “Driver’s Licenses” because everybody gets them for driving, and forget about the few people who get non-driving ID cards just for ID.

  7. Jut to inform everyone if you have ever communicated with Sound Transit via email or did a survey for them the Group Mass Transit Now ha your email address. If they have not hit you up for money they will. I sent over 50 responses to them until they told me where they got my email and removed me from their email list. Victory! I am all for public disclosure, I really think it is important, I jut believe that these groups should not be giver our email without our consent. I have also had Sound Transit remove any record of my emails from their database. I received 2 phone calls confirming this. I think it is ad that we cannot email our government without our addresses going to third parties without us even knowing when it happens.

    1. I hate to say it, Mathew, but that is the price of open records laws.

      A group campaigning for the last proposed Metro sales tax increase got a similar list through an Open Records request.

      1. I am sure we can have open government without letting private groups have access to email addresses. Or at the very least let us know when it happens.

      2. I will sometimes redact personal information for things posted publicly (e.g. emailed public comments) when specifically requested, however government agencies don’t have to do this; it is a public comment. As for not releasing email addresses and such, redacting records takes staff time and energy. Notifying people whose email address is or may be released as part of a records request also takes staff time and energy.

        Note the similarity. Staff time and energy costs money, specifically tax dollars.

        If a records request is submitted, state law REQUIRES disclosure of all responsive records. Exceptions are few and in general very limited (attorney-client privileged communication or personal information of public employees, for example).

  8. I remember Kevin Wallace advocating for the “vision line”, or a 405 alignment for East Link. Given the ridiculous alignment we’ve ended up with, I don’t think his was such a bad idea…

    1. The Wallace bashing was intense and few wanted to hear about the other attributes such as:
      1. A common Bellevue station for both LRT and a new DMU line in almost the same location as what is being built. (walking distance will now be nearly identical to bus bays as the Vision Station)
      2. A new crossing of the slough before turning onto the abandoned rail corridor. A stub track aligned with the center of I-90 would have continued onto Eastgate. (now we get an awkward transfer at S. Main).
      3. A covered pedestrian crossing of I-405, complete with moving sidewalks and bike lanes.
      4. Did I mention it was faster and far cheaper than the 4-turn tunnel to nowhere?
      Thanks to all the closed minds on this one.

      1. 1. While there were studies done for commuter rail use of the BNSF corridor south of Bellevue over a decade ago, none of that work has been advanced by WSDOT or ST (or anybody else). Commuter rail use of that corridor is nothing more than hand waving at this point.
        2. The discussion of East Link EIS alternatives B2M vs. B7 dragged out for years. You can’t possibly believe that “few wanted to hear about” this. Both alternatives have pros and cons. In addition, alternative B7 as studied would have been north of I-90 and would not have easily allowed for a future connection to the east. Nobody ever really proposed moving it into the I-90 median or south of I-90, because why would East Link cross over I-90 if it didn’t have to?
        3. What purpose would such a crossing serve? East of 112th including the freeway is a total disaster from a pedestrian perspective, and a single crossing of the freeway, no matter how nice, doesn’t solve that problem.
        4. Sure it is faster and cheaper than what’s currently being built, but at the time the proposal was either at-grade on 108th (C11A), or a tunnel under 110th (C9T) with an underground station. Or the “Vision Line” (C14 I believe). The tunnel had clear advantages over the at-grade alignment and the Vision Line and was selected. “Value engineering” nickel-and-dimed it to what we have today. If given the binary choice between the Vision Line and what’s being built, I agree it is a worthwhile debate, but that was never really a choice through the process, and you can’t ignore the decade of process that got us here.

        My choice in all this was B1-C1T, the Bellevue Way alignment with a tunnel under Bellevue Way from Main Street to NE 6th, then turning east under NE 6th, with stations at Main (“Old Main”) and under the current transit center. But that lost out due to cost considerations.

      2. You can’t be serious. Why would East Link cross over I-90 if it didn’t have to? Well… why would East Link travel in a tunnel under downtown Bellevue if it doesn’t have to?

        There is an extreme lack of logic behind any of the decisions that have been made throughout the entire East Link process. It’s been nothing short of a shit show and it would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

      3. Yeah, ST stonewalled the corridor for years, until the $50 m study money got siphoned off to another pet project. DMU’s are not BNSF Commuter Rail. They are light rail vehicles that happen to make their own electricity on-board. You should know the difference.
        Anyway, no point in arguing over spilled milk.

      4. 1. Rail (DMU or otherwise) between Renton and Bellevue would be fantastic. However, I think it will be very difficult to run along the ERC for the political reasons after that corridor is covered from rails to trails.

        2. (Based upon the ST East Link Video) East Link is center running until it turns at Bellevue Way, cross over I90W in the process. No reason you can’t center run from Factoria to Mercer Island, assuming you can navigate the 405 interchange. Issaquah Link instead intersects at East Main because the line is heading towards Bellevue, not Seattle.

        3. I’d much rather have stations a block west of 405 and a full block east of 405, rather than have true a freeway station. A freeway station either means a long walk to the TC or moving the TC out of the actual center of Bellevue.

        And East Main is vastly superior to 118th station in terms of TOD. As much as Surrey Downs SF homes will kneecap ~1/3 of the station walkshed, Bellevue is going to allow high rise construction immediately north and east of the station. That simply wouldn’t have been possible with the station tucked away at SE 8th and 118th.

        4. Finally, if you actually walk the route of the tunnel, the geometry makes sense assuming at-grade stations at East Main and Bellevue TC. No tunnel either means multiple at grade crossings or building the whole section, including 2 stations, elevated.

        The weird multiple turns I assume is to dodge all the giant 7-story underground parking garages in the area?

      5. barman, East Link crossing I-90 would be out-of-direction and needlessly add complexity and cost. A tunnel under DT Bellevue is justifiable just as a tunnel under DT Seattle is justifiable; it is a dense place with lots of surface conflicts, and a tunnel (theoretically) allows for better station placement. Obviously the DT Bellevue tunnel is mostly wasted, although it does allow for full grade separation. As for the decision-making, I agree it was screwed up to comical levels.

        mic, I know what DMUs are, but any reasonable discussion of DMUs in the context of transit in the Puget Sound Region has them NOT running on ST’s light rail tracks, rather on heavy rail or similar tracks, in the guise of commuter rail.

        AJ, 2) It would be easier to swing south of I-90 to clear the Bellevue Way and I-405 HOV ramps, then back into the median to continue on to Factoria and points east. 4) There are indeed big underground parking garages and foundations for the newer buildings lining 110th, so with a relatively shallow tunnel there’s not much choice but to stay in the street right of way. Not having a station in the tunnel is stupid, but that ship sailed years ago.

      6. @Jason – I’m not sure where we’d want a station IN the tunnel – East Main and Bellevue TC are reasonably close, there’s really not a need for an extra station before Wilburton.

        Now, if the tunnel had swung farther west and there was a station by the mall or Old Bellevue, that would be lovely. But given the tunnel alignment, the station are good (probably b/c the stations were picked first, and then the tunnel drawn).

        RE: Swinging south, I like that idea because it gets a better Factoria station placement south of I90 rather than the current ST3 proposal north of I90. However, that may impact the Slough more than squeezing into the existing I90 ROW

        I still think the Issaquah line should go to Bellevue rather than Seattle, but I’ll concede on that issue I’m in the minority on this blog.

      7. “I’m not sure where we’d want a station IN the tunnel”

        To be closer to the bus bays, because a Transit Center is where people transfer.

      8. East Link was screwed from day one. Sound Transit is way too happy to capitulate to big business interests like Kemper Freeman and the Bellevue Club. Unfortunately, that’s who rules Bellevue.

        East Link has a nonsensical alignment that costs way too much and will run way too slowly due to a tunnel that turns multiple times for no reason. Fine, whatever. This is Seattle. Let’s just build it and see what happens.

      9. Psst. Kemper didn’t want Link and sued to try to stop it, but it’s happening anyway. I don’t know what the Bellevue Club is or what they want.

      10. @Mike Orr – again, I think the issue is parking garages. Even if the tunnel ran under 108th instead of 110th, the station would be right in the middle of the giant parking garages under the City Center tower.

        Unfortunately, it’s simply much much cheaper to build the station next to city hall because that land was empty. The stations are still adjacent and there will be escalators to take care of the height difference. Bellevue sets the traffic lights at 108th & 6th to be very pedestrian friendly – frequent scramble crossings – and if they do the same at 110th & 6th I think transfers will be pretty seamless

      11. I was talking about a station in the 110th tunnel, which was one of ST’s proposals but didn’t win. That would have been closer to the bus bays and given a better excuse for the tunnel.

      12. Mic is right. The Vision Line would have been much cheaper, faster (less expensive to operate & generate more ridership) and would have addressed the “impossible” extension to Issaquah. ST3’s answer to the impossible Issaquah extension is to build rail on the ERC. How’s that working out for the CKC?

        The idea that Wallace is “making bank” on the Northgate extension is a catchy by-line but unsupported and Frankly unlikely. The article points out the true reason, “people will be more apt to rent in cheaper Northgate than pricey downtown.” These apartments will be rented long before Link is open. If a quick trip to DT was the holy grail then Othello Station would have been fully rented before it was completed. If you link to the original PSBJ article it says, “Retail is the reason for the gamble.” It’s laughable to suggest that the strong retail environment in Northgate is because of transit rather than automobile access either now or in the coming decades.

      13. Kemper Freeman kept East Link off of Bellevue Way. The Bellevue Club made sure it ran down the west side of 112th, to preserve their precious tennis courts. And then they both are “making bank” off of the construction.

        My point is just that Sound Transit is not a populist organization. It’s all about the business interests. Sound Transit is in the business of redevelopment.

      14. Sound Transit is in the business of redevelopment.

        That unfortunately seems to be their first concern; providing public transportation is somewhere down the list instead of Job #1. ST3 shows this in spades. When they can put forth a shovel ready plan that is Transit Oriented instead of focused on Development I’ll consider voting for it.

        I disagree that the Bellevue Club is “making bank” on East Link. And Kemper’s main concern is luxury auto access. Real transit (for his employees) comes from buses like RR B. Construction and engineering companies, like oh say CH2M Hill, are making bank.

      15. Bernie, the Bellevue Club is clearly in the position to “make bank”. See here:

        Note that the Bellevue Club is in the “redevelopment area”.

        I’m not opposed to having TOD in that area. It’s great that the Bellevue Club can build towers and bring in tons of residents/hotel guests/businesses/Pokémon/whatever near to the train station. But it’s ironic that they moved the train across the street because of their precious tennis courts. My prediction is that the tennis courts will soon be torn down for some very profitable construction project.

        Taxpayers and Surrey Downs will have born the expense so that the Bellevue Club can profit.

      16. My prediction is that the tennis courts will soon be torn down for some very profitable construction project.

        Define “soon”. Eventually they will be taxed out of the property and then, if they want to continue as a business have to pay ever rising prices for a large enough parcel near DT in addition to the cost of construction. Of course if they just “cash in their chips” there will be a large capital gain on the property. But DT Kirkland has seen an astronomical rise in property value and there is zero light rail going through there. Nowhere has anyone shown a “link” between the billions invested in East Link and a rise in property value. If it were so BMW of Bellevue would be “making bank”. Oh wait, ST wants to low ball them on the property and do one of their signature partial takes.

      17. “Sound Transit is in the business of redevelopment.” — “That unfortunately seems to be their first concern; providing public transportation is somewhere down the list”

        No it’s not. ST was neutral on TOD or what happened to its surplus land because it wanted to stay out of the pro/anti density battles so it wouldn’t be reviled by both sides. In late 2014 or 2015 it changed its policy to be pro TOD and affordable housing, because it realized it could not avoid those for maximum ridership and usefulness of the line. By that time the ST2 alignment and station decisions had already been made. ST clearly listens to city governments and large employers and non-residential moneyed interests (if you want to call the Bellevue Club that) more than it listens to other people, but that’s not a “development aganda”. What it is is listening to elected representatives and (presumed) job creators.

      18. ST was neutral on TOD

        The tiny amount of land left as surplus after construction and even the use of station sites is minuscule. ST, and by ST we are talking about the ST Board has always been about; redevelopment, social justice and political favors (not necessarily in that order). Why do you think they went through the RV when deciding how to get from the DT bus tunnel to SEA??? And if you say ridership I’ve got an art gallery on Beacon Hill I’d like to sell you.

        ST clearly listens to city governments and large employers and non-residential moneyed interests

        You’ve eloquently summarized exactly why the structure of the ST Board is inherently flawed. The politicians appointed care primarily about being reelected and have little to no direct interest in transit. But it behooves them to listen to big donors. FWIW, the only reason The Bellevue Club curried special favor was because they had a member, Don Davidson, on the city council.

  9. One of my Sound Transit pet peeves is how they handle the southbound 577 and 578 during sports games. Even though there are no stops south of S. Jackson street, they stick to the regular routing along 4th Ave S until Royal Brougham way, where they invariably move to SODO busway and enter I-5 at Spokane street, wasting 20-30 minutes of waiting in the process.

    Why don’t they simply turn around, backtrack a few blocks, and enter the freeway from James street, where there is nothing? They are going to detour anyway, so why do they consistently choose the worst possible route? It’s like Sound Transit thinks that the only entrances to I-5 are Edgar Martinez drive and S. Spokane street.

    1. Like the 131 and 132, and the 26 and 28 they’re through-routed with. I can’t believe south end residents haven’t made a gigantic fuss over this. Ballard residents and U-District residents and Central District residents and everyone else don’t have 15-30 minute delays twice a week whenever there’s a game. It’s not something people should have to put up with because they live on a route that goes near the stadiums. And the areas affected — Georgetown, South Park, White Center, Highland Park, Burien, the Industrial District — are working class, so there’s a class element to this neglect too. Alaska Junction and Fauntleroy don’t have these delays, no.

  10. Curious that changing the area around the proposed Ballard light rail stop (right now at 15th and Market), they are thinking of changing zoning from commercial to mixed residential/commercial. Does this make eminent domain takings tougher? (Easy to tell Safeway parking lot or Wahlgreen’s or Goodyear to get lost, we need this for light rail but residents?). I guess this goes back to where exactly do they plan to put the Ballard light rail stop (assuming it is not underground).

    1. I’d guess no – it’s a density neutral re-zone, plus I doubt a developer would commit to a large development in that area without knowing where the station will be? This 2nd reason was mentioned as a driver of low development around Mt Baker Station because developers are waiting on the realignment of Rainier & MLK to be completed.

  11. That Bay Area analysis is pretty awesome. Makes me miss taking econ classes in college. Thanks for the good find, Frank.

    1. +1. It always amazes me that our society isn’t set up to default to economics. Wasting $8 Billion a month should absolutely overrule anything else SF thinks about. Creating $8B per month out of nothing could make so many lives so much better, and they’re trading that for what – easier parking?

    2. Geography plays an important role in land use policy and construction costs. It seems to strange to compare SF with LA just because they happen to be in the same state. Because of geography and the constraints imposed by hills and water, it would seem that SF should be compared to NY (and maybe Seattle). LA would be better compared to Phoenix, Dallas and Houston–flatter geography without natural borders. If SF is compared to NY, housing prices aren’t as distorted. Somehow I doubt that allowing “free market” construction in the past would have resulted in doubling the population of the Bay Area while reducing rents by about 30%.

      1. You’ve got a good point, but I don’t think New York is a fair comparison either: it’s got literal rent control laws.

        And on the other hand, considering how low height limits are in a lot of places around the Bay, I really don’t see the problem with easier development in the past leading to double the population today.

      2. SF has rent control, too. It’s tied to the rate of inflation and probably not as strict as the NYC controls. It’s also possible that rent control is a major reason that rents are so high in SF. When tenants move out landlords are free to charge the new tenant whatever the market will bear. Landlords therefore will force the market as high as possible knowing that it may be several years before they will be free to adjust the rent again.

      3. Although not as geographically restrictive as San Francisco, Los Angrles does have several specific constraints. The Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountsins are fairly imposing barriers. Los Angeles has also been getting denser for many decades. It’s much denser than other Sunbelt cities. Here is an article explaining how the Los Angeles urban area is actually our country’s densest!

      4. The author makes it clear he used huge assumptions, which probably makes these results generous. But even getting a fraction of those results would have huge effects. SF is dumping up to 20% of their GDP in the trash every month. That’s insane.

        Oh and the comparison to NYC is interesting. Let’s look at Manhattan. Manhattan has 72k people per square mile. SF only has 17k people per square mile. To become like Manhattan SF would have to grow from 837k people to 3.5M people. Since we’re talking about the entire metro, well let’s just consider SF (including Oakland, Hayward, etc.) is 4.6M people compared to NYC’s 23.7M. Growing to 14M is certainly conceivable.

        The base of his assumption was that SF and LA are equally nice places to live. Meaning at a given price, would demand be the same between the two. That seems like an easier comparison to me than SF vs. NYC. But it’s really a fuzzy non-scientific judgment call that could go either way.

      5. “Here is an article explaining how the Los Angeles urban area is actually our country’s densest!

        That article uses controversial definitions of density and metropolitan area. It measures density as average density rather than population-weighted density, and it defines metropolitan area as the entire region in economic relationship with a city rather than the urbanized area around a city. By that definition the Seattle metropolitan area is most of western Washington, and San Jose has pretty high average density. That completely ignores the fact that people go to Chicago or New York or even parts of Seattle to find something they can’t find in San Jose, which they call density and urbanism and walkability. Calling Los Angele dense ignores the fact that outside of a few areas, people feel they’re inconvenienced and miss out on things if they don’t have a car, that’s why so many Angelinos drive. So what good is Los Angeles average density if it doesn’t have the basic advantages of density?

      6. The problem with Los Angeles is despite the density it’s so spread out. This was originally caused by the interurban railways which primed the region for later auto dominance. Los Angeles and Orange County cover a huge area, as big as the tri-county Seattle metro area. The amount of urbanization in Seattle or Western Washington is not even close. Hopefully that means less sprawl, even if it was dense.

        An urban planner wrote a great article that brings new perspective to “LA’s dysfunctional density” argument by comparing an area of central LA equal in land and density to the entire city of San Francisco.

  12. Are street cars more of an issue for bikers in North America? After recently travelling through Zurich it seemed like plenty of bikes and streetcars coexisted peacefully and most bikers I asked didn’t seem to be too worried about the danger. Is a different type of track used? Is it that people tend to bike slower in Europe? Are people less aware about the problem?

    1. I think this ties directly into why cars crash into Link trains on MLK. American drivers and cyclists are far less skilled than their European equivalents. We shouldn’t hand out driver’s licenses so easily (and cheaply), and good cycling behaviors should be taught in kindergarten.

    2. Yes, and mostly because of tire width. Most American bike shops sell racing type road bikes that get easily caught in the rails. Europeans are more likely to be riding city bikes with wider tires. Also note that many people crash because they are trying to avoid cars, trucks, and busses. Europe typically has more separation.

      1. The cult of the ultra-skinny tire is part of the problem. Dealing with other vehicles on the road is another problem. However I’d say there is a further issue with the DOT and the transit agency having no clue as to what is a sensible configuration of both bike lanes and where the tracks are on the street.

        While the SLUT tracks aren’t really a problem for me I must say the FHSC tracks are a real hazard. I can see why there have been problems and even fatal crashes.

      2. I never had a skinny-wheel bike because it looked like it would tumble over a rock or curb or pothole. So if they have greater problem with streetcar tracks I wouldn’t be surprised. Does Seattle really have a cult of skinny tires? To me it’s one of the strongholds of mountain bikes. I always had a mountain bike or cross bike even though I only traveled in town.

    3. Streetcars aren’t in lanes shared with cars and bikes, except where the land is so extremely tight there’s no room for a streetcar right of way. So there are a lot fewer meeting points where accidents can occur.

  13. In other news, WSDOT is closing the SR-520 bridge in two weeks to remove the HOV lane from a half-mile of bridge, in an attempt to create a smoother merge.

    Thoughts? I’m highly opposed, since it works against the purpose of giving buses as much of a queue jump as possible.

    1. Is it a temporary measure because the western approach isn’t built yet? Maybe the transition from six lanes to four lanes needs a reconfigured merge to function better.

      1. I’m pretty sure this is temporary until the West Approach Bridge opens.

        With robocars, the merge probably would be smoother if it could start earlier, but with human drivers, it probably won’t make much difference.

        That said, having the right lane abruptly end does seem a bit strange – normally, it’s preferable to have the carpool lane be the one that ends, so that fewer vehicles have to move over. Ideally, I would have the carpool lane end at Evergreen Point and have the bus merge over into a GP lane when the bus ramp ends a thousand feet or so after that. The point would be to have the last merge be the bus merge, since once everybody is already down to two lanes, the bottleneck is passed, and it’s smooth sailing – especially with shoulders to prevent accidents from holding up traffic.

  14. I know that this has been discussed before on this forum which is the lack of information in the texts that Sound Transit sends out when there is a disruption in service on the Light Rail. The text just says that service has been disrupted but with no details if that involves the entire line or just a section of it. This past Tuesday there was the accident on Martin Luther King Way when a drive made an illegal left turn and collided with the Light Rail train. In this case I got a close up view of this and the lack of information from Sound Transit was so apparent.

    I was driving south for several different errands and I had to drive south on Martin Luther King Way and I got the text about 15 minutes before I got on that road. As I was driving south I did not see any Light Rail coming north and the first southbound train I saw was one parked with its doors open sitting at Columbia city station.

    I continued on when I saw numerous flashing blue lights in the distance and the left lane was blocked by police vehicles causing traffic to back up. I could also see a train sitting where the police cars were. As I got closer that train moved slowly through the accident area followed a few minutes later by a northbound train moving slowly through the scene.

    Going through the accident area I saw a car parked on the side with police officers checking it out while at the same time there were people from Sound Transit cleaning up the area. Later on I saw that southbound train parked just past Rainer Beach station in the middle track. I don’t know if this was the train involved in the accident and they just moved it there to get it out of the way or its route was shortened to send it back north to get the train back on schedule. A few minutes later I did see another southbound train on its way to SeaTac station.

    So obviously the service interruption was on the southbound portion of the line but you would not know that from the Sound Transit text and you have to ask in this case did service continue on the northbound portion from the UW Station to Mt Baker station where they could turn the trains. It certainly would be helpful if Sound Transit would provide more exact information on what portion of the line is interrupted and what portion is still operating.

    When you receive notifications from Metro they are more specific on what portion of a bus route is interrupted and at what stops you can still catch the bus.

    Sound Transit needs to more specific on what portion of the Link Light Rail is interrupted and what portion is still operating.

  15. I don’t want to be heartless, but I don’t get the problem. Not everyone who would like to live in Hawaii is able to do so. That is also true of Seattle.

    When my wife and I returned to the Northwest from Texas in the mid-1990’s, it was clear that Seattle was too expensive for us to pay off a home in the years we had left to work. So, even though we had lived there before, we chose Vancouver. The contract Oracle work I did was available in Portland.

    Nobody has a “right”to live in a particular place, even though a right to live somewhere should be an entitlement.

    1. The problem is that the economy needs an assortment of different workers in order to function well. Not everyone in Seattle is going to found the next Boeing or Microsoft or Amazon.

      Also, while it worked for you then, Vancouver, Washington is now facing affordability issues as are various other places. Your method no longer works for some of those moving to Vancouver today. See Vancouver Declares Housing Emergency. Of course, the housing emergency in Vancouver wouldn’t be as big an issue if Portland would get its act together and upzone areas that desperately need it.

      1. Glenn,

        Yes, I understand that my wife and I were very lucky to be able to return to the Northwest after having been in Texas. But we made the very decision that I’m advocating for others: it you can’t live without Puget Sound, go to Bremerton or Everett. Don’t whine about other luckier people. Them’s the breaks, bub; life ain’t fair. All those sorts of cliches are cliches because in fact life is not fair!

        The problem with large-scale upzoning is all those damn cars that will come with the new residents. They have to be parked somewhere, and the typical ratio is about 1/5 or 1/4 of the space that their owner will inhabit. In some cities it’s as high as a third.

        Yeah, it will be great when people can really “do without a car”, but as everyone here agrees, we effed up badly in the postwar era and it will be a very long time before the negative effects are worked off.

        In the meantime, not everyone who would like to will have the opportunity to walk at Golden Gardens.

      2. Whining about it is one thing.

        Advocating for a change is something else.

        The problem is that one looks just like the other.

    2. The reason we have a country and cities is for people to live in, and the governments should focus on improving the quality and accessibility of those places for the good of the people who elect them. Cities aren’t just a place where companies can scoop up workers like a squid fisherman with a bucket: that’s viewing it as a society of first-class companies rather than a society of first-class people. Companies exist — and the governments should encourage companies — because people need them for employment and also for goods and services. But the people come first, and that includes both current residents and would-be residents.

      It’s not reasonable for everybody to insist that they should live within a quarter mile of the Space Needle or Pine Street or the Magnolia Bluff, nor is it reasonable for everyone to insist on a McMansion. But it is reasonable for everyone to insist that they should be able to live in a certain city or metropolitan area for an affoordable price, and that the neighborhood be walkable and mixed-use and have frequent/fast transit. Those are just basic common sense principles that were universal before WWII. Of course cities should build enough housing. Of course they should make neighborhoods walkable rather than unwalkable. The idea that only the top 10% should have secure housing and walkable neighborhoods and good transit and everyone else is just whining marxists is completely wrong. There are democratic, market-friendly policies that would lead to better housing and more convenient neighborhoods for all. But the US has been going in the opposite direction. For instance, Seattle, where 75% of the land is single-family houses for the lucky existing homeowners, and everyone else can go screw themselves because they didn’t buy at the right time or are too young to have had the opportunity and it’s their own fault so they can move to Lacey or Omak.

      1. Those are just basic common sense principles that were universal before WWII.

        Before WW2 America experienced The Great Depression which kind of argues against your point. But a reasonably priced home and a job that would afford financial security were hallmarks of the olde middle class lifestyle, however that opportunity wasn’t open to all persons regardless of race, gender, etc. The problem today is that the middle class has all but disappeared and we are becoming a society of debtors and debt holders. Just wait for that bubble to burst.

      2. Construction stopped between 1929 and 1945 so I was going to say before 1929 but I didn’t want to complicate the issue. The point is that in the excitement for cars and “country living” after the war, we built car-dependent areas that assumed a minimum of car mobility was available. There were a few of those before the war but it wasn’t pervasive. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the majority of Americans lived in suburbs; there were that many people to move. Part of it was a natural pull because people wanted “a place in the country”. But most of it was policies that coerced them: federal mortgage guarantees only to greenfield developments, redlining in areas with above a threshold of minorities, subsidized highways. Even if they wanted a place in the country, they might have been happy with a house in a walkable area with an intact street grid and mixed use if that had been the tract’s design.

        If the Depression and war hadn’t happened, if’s interesting to speculate whether all that would have just happened earlier, and when. But we don’t know. Maybe it would have turned out better. Maybe we wouldn’t have this problem now of 3/4 of Pugetopolis living in car-dependent suburbs with only small island of urban villages. Or maybe the problem would be less acute. If they had suburbanized and kept the existing trains and buses and level of service and modernized them, we’d be that much better off.

      3. Mike, as I said, I do think that the right to live somewhere should be an entitlement. That is, we should opt for a national basic income sufficient that folks can have dependable housing access. But your demand that anyone who wants to live in a certain region should be able to do so has not been true since before 1900. There are hundreds of movies depicting people struggling to hang on in New York or Los Angeles, with many of the heores eventually throwing up their hands and moving out. Yes, of course “these are movies”, but they resonate because it happens.

        Puget Sound has been discovered. Sleepless In Seattle effed it up because it showed summer in Seattle to something like 150 million people worldwide. It wasn’t raining on the houseboat.

        The secret ain’t one any longer.

        The nasty reality is that with modern building standards and the cost of land, materials and lablor, you can’t build low cost housing on the West Coast or in the BosNyWash corridor anymore, at least not without significant subsidy. And that is not going to be forthcoming.

        Well, except for Apodments whose time has come and gone.

        People who don’t generate sufficient economic value to be gainfully employed some way in those centers of brain work simply have to go somewhere else. However, there are LOTS of very nice places in the United States where the cost of living is 2/3 to 3/4 what it is in Puget Sound. In a few “less nice” places yet, it’s as low as half. These are places where a two bedroom apartment with utilities can still be had for $500-600. Oklahoma City, Little Rock, any of the three midwest Springfield’s, even some larger cities there. For the sort of jobs that those who will be squeezed out can do, the Federal minimum wage helps ensure that they’ll receive enough income to get by. It doesn’t mean squat on the West Coast.

        The people who can generate sufficient value for an enterprise or just on their own to afford living here will have to pay higher costs to service providers in order that some of them can continue to provide services. The best ones will be able to attract enough customers to survive. But there’s a reason that “DIY” is so big on the West Coast.

      4. If you tell people to just be happy in Bremerton or Oklahome City or the Springfields, you’re telling them to move to car-dependent areas that were designed for a high-energy-consumption lifestyle. If they were still the streetcar suburbs some of them use to be with corner stores you could walk to, then I’d be fine with that. But they were made over like most American suburbs and postwar cities are, so it’s cruel to force lower-income people into that and say, “Well, that’s what you can afford” and shrug it off, as if they were suitable places to be low income in.

        As for the west coast, the prices are being artificially raised by zoning restrictions that don’t allow the supply of housing to match demand. Seattle could double its population if it relaxed the zoning. If we had done that in 2000 we wouldn’t be having rapid rent increases now.

      5. Anandakos: The problem is that people can be gainfully employed and still not make enough money to live in Puget Sound, Portland, or Vancouver, WA.

        When Amazon needs to have its roof fixed, and the nearest person that can do it has to live in Chehalis, then what?

        What happens when you have to have your car towed to Wenatchee to get it repaired?

        For a functioning economy, there have to be people at a wide assortment of income brackets.

        At 22nd and Barrett in Magnolia there is a small apartment building that consumes the space of a single house. People park on the street. It’s not a big deal.

        What’s wrong with building the type of housing the market demands, and recognizing that there is a market (indeed a need) for less expensive housing?

  16. Venting – tried to catch the 550 from South Bellevue P&R after work to go to the Seahawks game. In 45 minutes, when buses should have been coming every ~10 minutes, we had exactly 1 bus come by, and it was full & didn’t open its doors. Northbound 550 dropping people off at the P&R at the regular 10 minute intervals.

    Most people waiting in line called Ubers, and about 6 Uber cars came and left before 1 bus finally came, which couldn’t fit everyone still waiting.

    I took an Uber Pool back home after the game, which was a surprisingly reasonable $16 given the distance.

    East Link can’t come soon enough.

    1. “East Link can’t come soon enough.”

      That’s it. I’m really surprised the stadiums don’t have to pay a large impact fee to mitigate the gridlock they cause everyone else.

      1. But, Mike! Sports are barely separable from religion in this country! To say they should pay their own way is tantamount to sacrilege.

        I definitely agree – either the stadia should pay huge impact fees to speed up transit improvements, or the city should simply make the downtown area free of private vehicles (or at the very least SOVs) for the duration of the events. That might happen several times a week, but people can learn and adapt.

      2. Yeah! And fireworks shows! And street fairs! And music festivals! And marathons! And Bite-of-Wherevers! And parades! And air shows/boat races!

        Seriously, do that and watch them put these stadia back where most cities tried 50 years ago, in a far-removed suburb surrounded by acres of parking and completely inaccessible by transit. 70,000 people all driving to the games. That’s so much better than siting them in locations where tens of thousands can reach them by mass transit.

    2. The PM counter-peak 550 has had issues for some time. Your experience, unfortunately, is not unusual. Bellevue Way southbound in the afternoons can be a cluster, and then I-90 congestion makes things worse… it just compounds on itself. I’ve been pestering Sound Transit to add PM counter-peak trips to the 550 for a while, but they have higher priorities for service hours in East King (primarily SR 520 service and peak-direction 550s).

      If you can swing it, you’re better off using SR 520 service and then transferring to Link.

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