35 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Lawnchairs in Times Square”

  1. I think quite frankly instead of talking about lawnchairs, let’s talk about victory parades!

    I mean ST3 won and won big!

    Aren’t you just smiling ear to ear at the thought we will live to see light rail to Everett and to Paine Field?

    Now I’m going to be brutally honest for the public record: Now I love Paine Field but I happily would have gave up and offered to give up light rail to Paine Field to get ST3 passed. But the Snohomish County Economic Alliance made pretty doggone clear – no Paine Field alignment, no ST3.

    Now we got ST3! Oh yeah! If only I was a fly on the wall of John Niles’ office or Alex Zimmerman’s couch as Alex must have downed an entire vodka bottle. I’m sure Kevin Wallace is just going to be buying different properties along the ST3 lines and Kemper Freeman will go down as a discredited puppet master who got caught out. I’m also sure the Washington Policy Center must just be shocked, SHOCKED at going oh for two (they wanted to stop ST3 & Spokane and were strangely silent on the new Kitsap Fast Ferry Fiasco).

    Meanwhile, we better ready, aye, ready. Just because ST3 won Tuesday night doesn’t matter for much if Todd E Herman shuts down Sound Transit in upcoming litigation because the Sound Transit Board isn’t directy elected (and should be). Just because we won Tuesday night doesn’t matter for much if there’s fights over alignments. Just because we won Tuesday night doesn’t matter for much if the state legislature gets in our way or doesn’t fund the grants for the local bus agencies.

    The work continues… and a safety pin isn’t going to hold the thin chrome line against the anti-transit trolls. Tokenism isn’t going to finish the job. Keeping the trolls’ backs to the wall and keeping Sound Transit innovating will. More transit advocates on more boards, face forward definitely guarantees a win.

    1. I seriously doubt “governance reform” would move the needle on convincing anyone calling for it to suddenly support Sound Transit. I also seriously doubt those who were calling for it will say much about it until there is talk of ST4. Kind of like BRT.

      There are plenty of powerful state commissions without “geographic representation”. I’m not hearing much outcry to make them all elected by district.

      As I am not a fan of single-member districts, I don’t look forward to the gerrymandering exercise that would precede this “reform”, nor to the accusations that the balance of power was rigged by the redistricting commission. News flash: Redistricting commissions gerrymander. As the Geico commercial says, “That’s what they do.”

      1. Brent,

        To be honest I’ve always supported putting transit advocates on transit boards. I’m also worried what the courts might say about Sound Transit not being a directly elected board – the constitutional lawsuit is being drafted (if you believe Todd E Herman).

        I’m not too worried about gerrymandering. I’m more worried about losing out on light rail to Paine Field and Everett Station to accomodate a few (Pierce County-based) prominent complainers.


      2. Kemper Freeman, Maggi Fimia, and others have been suing Sound Transit to stop it from building light rail for almost two decades now. As the Geico commercial would go “If you’re an ardent opponent of Sound Transit, that’s what you do.”

      3. The King County Council is King County Metro’s de facto board. We’ve spilled a lot of ink about its pork-barrel micromanagement of Metro. I don’t think we need a second elected board to replace it, but letting each county councilmember whose district is totally in the taxing area choose an appointee to a Metro board might help insulate Metro from the politics. But I’m not sure the county council is ready go give up legislating route paths and stops. I wish they would.

      4. Brent,

        I’m all for local control of transit. I don’t think we should just let the technocrat staff – many of whom drive to/from transit headquarters – run our lives. Uh, no.

        But micromanagement of transit by a board is also bad. I think we need transit boardmembers who manage transit as a network of fair & equitable mobility – not parochialism.


      5. Metro went through the same issue: a judge ruled that its tax district did not have properly elected leaders, the structure was changed, and the buses kept running. I can’t see a judge just shutting down Sound Transit without recognizing that it performs an essential service that must be maintained as they figure out a solution.

        Your dream about transit supporters running ST has its dangers because it’s not fully realistic. It won’t be just transit fans voting for the boardmembers, it will be everybody, and a lot of people will be swayed by ideas that sound good to them but aren’t sound transit principles, or they’ll just want a transit agency that gets out of the way of highways and parking. So an elected board will have about the same policies as the current board, maybe better, maybe worse. The people who are pushing for an elected board won’t say, “ST is wonderful now, I support everything they do”, because their primary concern isn’t really about an elected board, it’s about keeping taxes low. They think they’ll have more control over boardmembers and can keep their transit proposals small.

        The advantage of having mayors and councilmembers on the board is that they’re responsible for their cities’ well-being, and they know that good transit is essential for attracting employers that provide jobs and keep sales-tax revenue up. They don’t have the luxury of just saying no to Link or BRT, because then tens of thousands of people can’t get around or are generating enormous traffic or their inefficient traveling is a drag on the economy. Boardmembers who are elected solely on transit (or anti-transit) can ignore or not understand how these other economic issues interrelate.

      6. Mike;

        That’s fine and dandy. I’m not saying elected boards are going to appease Todd E Herman, Maggie ‘ST Lies’ Firmia and other right wing talking heads. I’m simply saying we need to be proactive and so what if you and I are on transit boards? I got a real gripe with the transit boards that have guys who’ve been there forever… who have to run for office on many issues and aren’t really held directly accountable for implementing Sound Transit 3’s billions of promises. I also believe a ST Board being elected will happen, the question is how and when.

        I do though agree on this: An elected Sound Transit Board would have Snohomish County reps probably under intensive pressure or natural bias to have the ST3 light rail alignment of Paine Field, then Everett Station. It was Spine Destiny combined with major economic power.

      7. I don’t see how the Sound Transit board violates the state (or federal) constitution. Every single person on it, with the exception of the Washington State Department of Transportation member, is directly elected by some constituency. The WSDOT member is appointed by a person who is directly elected by the entire state.

        This form of governance is not without precedent. For example, the Metropolitan Parks District of Seattle is a body that is legally distinct from the City of Seattle. All of its members happen to be (by ordinance, but not any other legal requirement) the members of the City Council of the City of Seattle. And the MPD can, by virtue of the voters passing its enabling legislation, impose a higher property tax rate–$0.75/$1000 for the MPD versus $0.25/$1000 for Sound Transit–than Sound Transit and can do so without a second vote of the residents of the district.

        Besides, Sound Transit doesn’t exercise municipal authority. It has to follow the same ordinances, zoning codes, and rules as any other not-for-profit entity, though with some special carve-outs in the law (e.g. eminent domain) specifically granted by the state. The argument against the Municipality of Metropolitan King County was that it delegated direct governing authority in violation of the one-person-one-vote principal. Sound Transit collects money and builds projects.

        The people, per both the principal of self-governance and the plain text of the state constitution, reserve the right to tax ourselves as we see fit (that’s why the people, foolishly in my opinion, have the power of the purse through the initiative and referendum process). Sound Transit is the political manifestation of that power, nothing more.

        I disagree with the idea of Sound Transit’s board being directly-elected, for the same reasons as Mike Orr and because I’ve watched what has happened with route planning with King County Metro.

      8. I don’t object to an elected board, I just think it’s a minor issue that can be distracting. If the structure is unconstitutional, let others worry about changing it; we’re busy focusing on a good network and well-run operations. If it’s unconstitutional, why did the legislature create it that way, and why has it lasted so long without a successful court challenge or any challenge? Kemper Freeman sued to stop East Link from using the I-90 center lanes but a judge threw it out immediately. Maybe this is one of those things. It’s also similar to the one-agency-vs-several debate. Some people think an overarching regional+local transit agency would have a better network, but Jarrett Walker warns while a unified agency can integrate all the transit services, it divorces them from the cities and counties they exist in, which can be a problem because the cities maintain the roads that buses run on, and they control the building permits, and their interests can diverge from the transit agency’s or they can become antagonistic to them. This divorcing of transit from the cities is similar to the problem of an elected transit board focusing solely on transit and not how it relates to the rest of the city’s economy.

        There’s also an argument that there are too many elected positions, all those judges and minor state offices that many people know nothing about and can’t find enough information on, so they leave that part of the ballot blank or vote at random, and wish the governor could just appoint somebody to them. A separate elected position also implies a separate full-time salary, which the cost-conscious may want to avoid.

        Finally, you assume that the most effective transit fans all have the time and inclination to become elected officials and leave their current jobs. That’s not always the case.

  2. How much of the alignments for ST3 can potentially be shifted as the designs and plans move forward? 99 vs I-5? Mercer Slough crossing vs ERC? Bringing Central Link into Downtown Tacoma?

    1. I don’t know if there is any hope for getting more of the alignment in the south back over to Highway 99. I pray that there is.

      The decision to plow through neighborhoods south of Angle Lake so Link can follow I-5, and then cut back over to 99 at Highline College, is an epic mistake people will rue long after the line opens. We could have had a station at 216th, which would have added as much travel time as the zig-zagging. All the neighbors wanted was not to have to hear it (doable with sound walls and track treatments) and not to have riders see into their backyards (doable with those same walls). I thought that was an awesome deal we should have taken. I really, really want that station at 216th, if it can still be done.

      So, I too hope the EIS provides the wiggle room to switch to Highway 99 between Angle Lake and Highline. Let’s win back some of the pro-transit naysayers by getting the alignments right.

      1. And if I were the county councilmember representing that neighborhood, I would want that TOD around 216th in order to help my district trend more Democratic.

      2. How much “flex”- or other chance- does transit legally have to get LINK back onto SR99 where it belongs? Can’t believe anybody in the affected neighborhoods will fight to keep it over, with pillars literally in, their yards.


      3. Lynnwood Link was on I-5 in the ballot measure but the EIS considered alignments ranging all the way from Aurora to Lake City Way. ST wanted to avoid the monorail’s mistake of fixing the alignment and stations in the ballot measure before the engineering studies were done, and the federal grants also require an unbiased evaluation of all reasonable alternatives. So the answer ultimately comes down to how willing ST is to change its decision. The answer is not very likely, or it would have chosen the 99 alignment in the first place. Moving it to 99 would encounter the same opposition that prevented it in the first place: Des Moines doesn’t want it there. So it would require new boardmembers, a change of mind, or a massive public campaign to show that “the people” want it on 99. Look at how much it took to get 130th Station: years of letter-writing and feedback and advocacy groups. 130th was the second-most requested item in the Lynnwood Link feedback (behind only a petition regarding keeping Lynnwood Station away from Scriber Lake Park that got five hundred signatures), yet even then it only managed to get on the back side of ST3.

      1. I would slide in a comment but between ST LynnwoodLink and the ST Service Implementation Plan and my little avgeek situation (WhidbeyEIS.com), the pattern is full. Don’t buzz the tower, I got four EA-18G Growlers doing Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP).

    2. With the comment period open, the next fight begins.

      We can either say that’s that or we can say we need to do better.

      However the cities may question about going along SR 99 and try to make permitting more difficult if done this way. We would have to get out and talk to people at open houses that are along the 99 corridor. Go along the A line and have them talk to people who live near them about making some noise.

      We can do this and fight for better lines.

      1. The EIS is final. The comment periods that could have made the most difference were when it was being designed and the draft. That’s what ST was referring to when it made the decision for I-5. It’s still worth commenting to show how much opposition there is to the alignment, but don’t expect it to have a good chance of succeeding.

      2. What would have the most sway this comment period is to note any shortcomings in the EIS: if it didn’t consider the 99 alternative sufficiently, for instance, if it left out or understated any environmental impacts. A sufficiently strong challenge would force the EIS to be amended or rewritten, while a minor challenge would just be noted as a flaw. A bad EIS in turn would make the feds less willing to give grants on this segment, which may not be what you want.

  3. Lord, I wish somebody would invent time machine- well, maybe YouTube still has some episodes of “The Honeymooners”, starring Jackie Gleason.

    I’m really sorry every bus windshield was glared over, and I couldn’t see Ralph Cramden at the wheel of a ’50’s model GMC. Also didn’t see his buddy Ed Norton climbing up out of a utility “manhole”, or Ralph’s wife Alice waiting tables, or whatever she did while everybody else was at the Ted Talk. Which were a lot better when it had Boston Red Sox left-fielder Ted Williams doing the talking.

    “Williams was temperamental, high-strung, and at times tactless. In his biography, Ronald Reis relates how Williams committed two fielding miscues in a doubleheader in 1950 and was roundly booed by Boston fans. He bowed three times to various sections of Fenway Park and made an obscene gesture. When he came to bat he spit in the direction of fans near the dugout.” -Wikipedia

    OK, somebody needs to call me on being a snob about working peoples’ uniforms. Thanks to fractal geometry and time warps, the IT industry can make everybody in that audience work a hundred thirty hour week under office pressures that would make a steel mill look like a spa. Like any NYC transit-union member watching this video- well, listening to it on the radio- would’ve said: “Hey, Dublin, give those kids a break, will ya?”

    But the reviled Global Economy is already on its way to adding, in a completely environmental, human-friendly, and car-free manner that also brings back the spirit with the potential to make freight drivers into liberal Democrats again.

    Damn roller skates!


    Are we THERE yet?


    Mark Dublin

    1. Really great, Joe. Seriously, I think one of the museums might give you exhibit space for some more of those car interiors. Maybe buy it for their permanent collection.

      Beautiful camera work. So would hate to see you unable to resist the transit world’s most cruel… damn, Halloween’s over with and it’s months ’til April. But since certain people and organizations seem to have an allergic reaction to steel rail, you can show them a remedy.

      Announce that an ST-3 “Provisional” is going to buy a system called “Pinball”, the original manufacturer long since having digitally lost any use for the patent. Public reaction has already forbidden any use of ORCA ’till you can somehow put a nickel with a chip in it in a coin slot you can “click” real loud. Vehicle will be a sphere about twenty feet in diameter.

      And contract negotiations are underway for how to apportion work to the mobs of ATU Local 587 members jumping up and down and yelling for their “turn,” which a shift will now have to be called.

      As with SF MUNI cable car grip-operators, job description will require enough strength to work the springs and flippers to keep the system in motion. “Prizes” will also be a first in labor contract history. And neighborhood groups are already getting deafened by their own head-phones deciding what it’ll sound like when each ball, I mean car, I mean bus makes the bumper light up at their station.

      Brent, thanks for insight into results. Good side- in addition to Joe’s pics becoming a permanent display at SAM- is that memories she and I generationally share of the pinball era could finally save a long-time transit colleague of mine from the cult whose spell she fell into like Sleeping Beauty more than 20 years ago.

      But bad side is that Kemper Freeman is already suing me for patent infringement on his own bridge and tunnel-free crossing of Lake Washington. His engineers agree that Mercer Island tower should swing a 9-iron. However, Waterfront publicity complicates whether the cars will be launched by a Big, Bigger Bertha, or Great Big Bertha driver.


  4. Seriously, Brent, thanks for the video. Couldn’t help the snide comments. The “look” of the old place brought back some memories from my third grade Chicago ‘El riding days. Though nobody would’ve had to force Ralph Cramden and his neighbors out to the suburbs ten or fifteen years later.

    But suburban patterns strongly belong in this discussion. Because the most complicated work in restoring a decent quality of life for the majority of our people involves the same scale of work as present-day New York, but in places where many more people’s lives depend on driving cars.

    Some serious New York City history is on transit’s side. Have read that subway planning and construction really came to life when nobody could even walk up Broadway during rush hour. Suburbs are now looking at same problem, except with the trapped people now stuck in expensive containers.

    So as with both the subways and the present changes in New York, future regional transit now has some expanding aggravated energy developing behind it. Except now, instead of only drawing people into the city, also forcing city people in the other direction.

    This last week, in general tones of the kind angry defeated bitterness it’s always tactically bad to let your enemy hear, I’ve heard the term “Urban Archipelago”. Not so much with the idea of keeping the barbarians out. As if they could afford to live here!

    But that our only hope of changing people’s ideas pro-transit is to make it easier to live at close quarters in Seattle. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, I think the most natural approach is to start organizing the rest of the State to the point where transit works. Replacing miles of parking with same amount of countryside. Macadam pavement doesn’t need jackhammers to remove. Only grass and weeds left alone.

    Instead of transit passively following an inevitable expansion of Seattle, transit plans themselves should actively bring homes, jobs, and schooling along with the trains. As many private streetcar-owners did in the past. I think results would create a way of life people would more than voluntarily accept. Including its transit system.

    Mark Dublin

  5. I also wonder if New York’s idea of temporary paint-only bus lanes could at least let us do some badly needed experiments, for streets, arterials, but also freeways.

    During a week-long spell of winter which included (as always) burying a packed Downtown precisely at pm rush hour), I drew up a quick plan for turning the I-5 Expess Lanes, which WSDOT had completely shut down, into a two way fully-reserved busway between the Downtown and Northgate.

    Supervisors with radios and hand-signals could handle the single-lane ramps. With short enough headways, bus tires might have kept the lanes clear. Metro really did take about a week to say no. But not, as always impossible to say for sure, never.

    Idea could have other uses on that stretch of I-5 especially since the lack of a few miles of southbound transit-way has damaged pm rush hour service for fifty years.

    Could also be useful when track-laying starts on I-90. Similarity is that both plans could carry thousands of moving passengers when major highways are either closed or terminally constricted for periods long enough to make busway plans months-or years-long permanent. As opposed to thirty years ago, we might now have enough buses to improve people’s lives through an emergency.

    Also, my usual point about need for every ST- to give passengers thirty years of service until their own station opens. Which will meantime keep them connecting to the ever-expanding service as the system gets built out elsewhere.

    Wherever, whenever, and however- it won’t be a waste of paint.

    Mark Dublin

  6. I am going to rant again about the volume level of the announcements in the downtown tunnel stations, and the “next stop” announcements on the Sound Transit buses. It’s like somebody shouting in your ear, and it is completely unnecessary to be that loud.

    In the case of the tunnel, the vast majority of the announcements are completely unnecessary, since they are the same thing over and over again, printed all over the places, and are basic, common-sense rules for riding virtually any kind of transit vehicle. To make matter worse, the combination of high volume and unpredictable intervals for the mundane announcements has the effect of putting one constantly on edge and making the waiting area for buses/trains a generally unpleasant place to be.

    In the case of buses, the next stop announcements are also too loud, and some of the rarely used freeway station stops, Sound Transit has decided, need to be announced, not just once, but twice (once half a mile back, again when the bus actually pulls up to the stop).

    An example of audio announcements done right is on board the Link trains. You can hear what it’s saying, but the volume isn’t as obnoxious as the buses. The voice also talks faster and says only the station name (not attempting to list every single nearby destination), so a “next stop” announcement that would take 10 seconds on a bus, takes about 1 second on a train.

    Even within buses, King County Metro generally has a much more reasonable volume level than Sound Transit, although I do feel that Metro does go a bit overboard on trying to announce destinations associated with a stop. I personally feel that stop announcements should simply say the name of the stop, and it’s the responsibility of the passenger to do one’s homework and figure out which stop to get off at for which destination (which you have to do anyway in order to know how to get to the destination after getting off the bus).

    1. One thing to remember about sound transit is that it does not operate directly any of the services it funds with the exception of Tacoma link. The next stop announcements are the work of the operating agency. Taking a bus from Bellevue to Seattle (550)? That’s king county metro and the stop announcements should act similar to if you take metro 101 from Renton. Taking 594 from Tacoma? That’s Pierce transit,

      Metro typically does do two stop announcements when there is a big gap between stops. For example on the 101 between 129th and Spokane there are two announcements.

      It’s important to note that next stop announcements are required per federal law if local agencies receive any federal funding.

  7. Oh, no. Here I thought I was doing so well avoiding any reference to the Turkish Army after World War I. Remembering pin-ball, and people I was on the same side with politically while we were building the Tunnel, I suddenly realized that Tiger Woods might be the only thing anybody remembers about golf.

    I don’t even have any proof that Kemper Freeman or any of his associated or neighbors are into golf anymore. He might not even have a single pair of checked polyester pants! Good image of him testifying in court against light rail, though.

    Bertha, Bigger Bertha, and Great Big Bertha are “drivers”, relatively large heavy golf-clubs. First one could send Joe’s photo subjects all the way from Madison Park to Kirkland. Though a 9-iron is fine for Island Crest to South Bellevue P&R. Main trouble would be Madison Park complaining about those ten foot high concrete golf tees falling in their yard after every shot.

    Save yourselves. Everybody else write ten pages each before I wake up tomorrow!


  8. I think the reason that NYC can try out new ideas all the time is because of the everchanging population of that city. some ideas require some older people with history mixed with new people to give it a fresh perspective. It is beginning to happen hear too. New people are questionig people like myself who have been here forever. The dialogue is usually productive. Not ideas work, but the more ideas are there the more you can pick from. I am a little suspicious when she said it was very cheap. Only because we have actually voted on at least 2 taxes, maybe more to accomplish the same things. I also notice NYC does not usually use any streetcars. I believe those are usually for looks, but do not help a street’s traffic flow. Just my opinion. I have not investigated fully to back it up. As a truck driver and mechanic they do make many interesections more difficult for the biggest vehicle on the road. Result: backups behind me.

    1. It’s the large non-driving population. That gives a large constituency that supports closing a few street blocks and creating bike lanes and rapid bus lines. The same thing in Issaquah wouldn’t fly because 97% of people drive and consider access to the Interstate and parking at the shopping center a very central part of their lives. Also, living in a city with seven million people and miles of concrete everywhere may make people yearn for nature and cycletracks and pedestrian recreation spaces. In the 1990s Manhattan didn’t have much of that except Central Park, but in the 2000’s the new High-Line and the shoreline cycletrack became extremely popular. Maybe people didn’t think it was impossible before, for a dense city to have such rural-gateway or Amsterdamish amenities, but the pilot projects showed it was possible and popular.

      Her general point that we need more pilots is a good one. The Murray administration has done some of this with parklets, pedestrianized street days, lawn chairs on the waterfront, game supplies at Westlake Park, cycletracks and greenways and road diets. Let’s tell the city and SDOT we want more pilots about that. It’s similar to the chicken-and-egg problem with light rail: people were doubtful about it until they saw it on the ground and rode it and saw it bypassing traffic jams, then they wanted it in their neighborhood now. Pilots are a way to break through that chicken-and-egg problem and show that it’s worth changing the regulations to allow more of something.

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