Mount Rainier and the Port of Seattle from Magnolia Bridge

This is an open thread.

39 Replies to “News Roundup: Heartbreaking”

  1. Great, the distracted driving bill will add even more violations to the list that won’t get enforced!

    1. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.5249

      Rapid, “Negligent Driving” is already an offense. Though context seems to focus on drugs and alcohol. At great length. Might be better to edit language down to one of its paragraphs:

      ” ‘Negligent’ means the failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.”

      Which seems like it takes care of harm resulting from every self-inflicted distraction. Though should be especially severe on “Driving under the influence of not knowing what you’re doing.” Penalty also assessed on whoever taught you to drive a car.

      With lower-case alphabet of examples starting with (a) “Thinking all blind spots are caused by Political Correctness.” And especially from Tacoma south, (b) “Treating Following Distance as a space to ride your motorcycle or giant pickup truck into, created by a bus as an apology for making you pass it in its own lane. ”

      Too bad there are only 26 letters. So Code should just require frequently getting pulled over to pick up a senior Highway Patrol instructor. To ride-along as long as officer thinks necessary. Before issuing either a renewed driver’s license, or an unlimited transit pass good all over US and Canada.

      Major benefit to all road-users. Not only thousands fewer accidents, but lower insurance for everybody. And best of all, so few cars that HOV and lanes and tolls can fade away along with their unsightly paint stripes and diamonds.

      Some negative effect on transit-users, though. LINK will have to lengthen platforms for trains crush-loaded with former motorists. Who because their attention is still so totally fixed on their touch screens and head-phones, honestly won’t notice they’re not in their car.

      Also freeing up the Chief of the Highway Patrol from permanent Public Comment Duty testifying to electorally deaf ears about danger of using shoulders for freeway bus lanes, and letting motorcycles pass buses in same lane.

      Mark Dublin

      1. +1
        Licenses need to only be given to the those capable of regularly demonstrating competence. Current license criteria is pretty token

    1. Article. If this actually gets to the legislative floor (remember, many bills don’t) and passes then…

      If Sammamish opts out, ST will have to economize on Issaquah Link somehow. It would only be a small part of its budget but something would have to be scaled down. Maybe defer the Eastmont station.

      If southeast Pierce opts out, then their Sounder feeders would be doubtful, but it would require more than that. Sounder can’t stop short of Tacoma or Lakewood, and ST can’t prevent people who lose the shuttles from driving to the P&Rs that still have service and annoying their mayors more. And what if Puyallup or Sounder Station fall outside the taxpaying area, would ST close the stations? Then with Link, you can’t really terminate it in Fife in the middle of nowhere with no big P&R. It would have to be Federal Way or Tacoma. So I’m not sure how Pierce would reconcile all these.

      As for Snohomish, I can’t think of any area that would opt out. Those areas are already outside the ST district because the boundary is tighter in Snohomish. If, theoretically, Everett opted out, that would bring the Everett Station terminus into doubt. But Mukilteo, in spite of resident Tim Eyman, would still probably want the Paine Field extension. And the areas around 405 BRT would still probably want that.

      And North King, well, parts of Seattle are not jurisdictions that could opt out.

      1. If Sammamish dropped out, they lose their P&R and ST Express service, but I don’t think Link would be impacted – there is plenty of room in the East King budget to absorb Sammamish leaving. Sammamish doesn’t generate much in sale tax receipts, which is still the primary source of revenue.

        I can’t possibly imagine Tacoma or Everett exiting ST, but yeah the Link line would simply terminate somewhere within the ST district. The current terminus in Angle Lake is pretty random – it’s simply how far the budget has gotten us so far – wouldn’t be any less arbitrary than Fife.

        For Sounder, mothballing a station that is no longer in the ST service territory seems pretty straightforward, but those cities like their Sounder stations so I can’t imagine them leaving, either.

        Most cities are getting enough in ST3 to stick around … which is a sign the politicians on the ST Board may have known what they were doing…

        The most likely candidate are edge cities that might be getting a P&R and some feeder service but no core service – Orting, Sammamish, Woodinville for example – in which case curtaining service would be straightforward.

        What would hurt more is if a city like MI or Seatac might claim they are getting nothing “new” and ST3 and try to avoid the ST3 taxes. There is any easy counter-argument that those cities benefit from their connection of the larger ST3 network, but the actual political fight could get nasty real quick.

      2. Density drops off majorly after Federal Way. Angle Lake is on the way to Kent, which should get a station because of the college and Kent. Federal Way is reasonable if you accept south King County’s density as the criteria, and it will also get riders from Auburn when Sounder isn’t running (who are currently driving to Angle Lake, and previously drove to TIB). But after south Federal Way density drops way off, and it doesn’t pick up again until right at the Fife casino (where Fife BTW says they’ll build a town center without major garages), and then it gets empty and industrial again to Tacoma Dome.

        If first-wave cities try to opt out because they’ve got theirs, I’m sure there would be a lot of pressure and shaming from the county and other cities not to, because if they were going to pull that attitude they should have done it before the election so other voters would be informed about it. This bill now seems to be more motivated mostly by the exurban areas beyond the last station, who are correct that they won’t get much direct service and who have always voted no. But, if they really don’t like it, then maybe they should get out of the ST district entirely? They would still have to pay off existing bonds but nothing beyond that. That would raise free-rider issues though, like the Marysvillites and Whidbeyers who use Sounder, but those were always a known quantity whereas these would create an unexpected exacerbation. Then there’s the possible impact on operating revenues, depending on how much Sounder’s and ST3 Link’s operating budget depends on their taxes.

  2. Is the low housing lottery heartbreaking? Or is it a reflection of an ineffective approach to the problem?

    Instead of focusing on building a few units that are awarded by lottery and serve a small fraction of the population that needs help, how about policy changes that make it easier and cheaper for private developers to build large numbers of inexpensive units, ideally along transit corridors. Figure out what drives up cost and try to eliminate those things. Maybe grant added entitlements in return for below market rents.

    It seems unfair for the government to give a gift to a small fraction of the population and nothing for others who are equally needy. A different approach to the problem is needed.

      1. I’m pretty sure you mean that tongue-in-cheek. Rent control always ends badly. Might give a short term feel good result, but in the long run it results in bad use of housing as people hang on to rentals that aren’t really suited to them, as landlords don’t invest in maintenance, etc. It’s been a strength here in Seattle not to have rent control… Even if the temptation to enact it is strong.

      2. “Socialist” is a meaningless inflammatory term, so you’d have to explain exactly what policy you mean. What would rents be based on, which buildings would they apply to, when could they be reset to market rate, how we gurarantee owners reasonable revenue for maintenance long-term, and would it apply to new buildings? The “bad” form of rent control that was established in New York and other cities decades ago applies only to buildings that existed then, so developer naturally build expensive new buildings and the population rises and an ever-shrinking percentage of the population has access to rent-controlled units, only people who got their units years ago before the rent spikes and now won’t let go of them even if they’re not living there (subleases being common).

    1. Both. Here are two simpler solutions. 1.A lot more public housing. The US is very low compared to other industrialized countries. 2. Give incentives and subsidies to nonprofits and help them scale up to build and manage the housing. There are various ownership arrangements that nonprofits and small enlightened developers can facilitate, that separate the volatile value of the land (which is the problem) from the cost of the building (which is not the problem). They would work even better with laws that prohibit land speculation or that change how the land and buildings are taxed (I’m not an expert on this but apparently there are better models), but even without that nonprofits can arrange a situation where somebody owns a house and can’t be turned out of it but the land is held in long-term trust so it can’t be flipped and the house can remain affordable.

      Germany has essentially statewide rent control in the states, and it doesn’t hinder development because it applies everywhere and developers can still make a reasonable profit. (And its medical-insurance companies are regulated nonprofits that are also doing fine, hmm.) That would be a way to build a large number of affordable apartments, but it would require statewide acceptance (ha ha), and it might require rolling back the land-price peaks in Seattle which would cause people to scream about losing value and illegal government takings. The transition from uncontrolled hyper-spiked rents to controlled rents would be more difficult than just having controlled rents already.

      The severe affordable-housing shortage emergency has existed for two decades at least: the waiting list has been several years long over that entire time. It’s the same kind of problem as homeless: there are a large number of homeless people so there’s clearly a shortage of housing, even after you subtract the ones who won’t accept any government interference in their “freedom” living situation. But the mayor has actually declared homelessness an emergency, while he hasn’t done as much about the lack of affordable workforce housing.

    2. “Too mortified to puke” is better description, Carl. Reflection of a country that already deserves to be drowned when its wilfully underbuilt and unrepaired dams collapse. Or poisoned by incompetent engineers hired by Michigan Governor who wishes he’d done drinking water by lottery.

      But like every martial art, we can turn every negative condition to our advantage. The State of California, and the Federal Government, can hire 200,000 probably-homeless if they-survive-next time Oroville residents to fix similar dams. Meaning probably all of them. With the union contracts that used to make America great for working people. Again.

      Word has it that the pillars carrying I-5 past Seattle in same condition as Oroville dam except without the water. Best if we turn the lottery room into a hiring hall before Nature gets tired of looking at the freeway. Though could argue more people can earn enough to buy houses if we wait.

      Last paragraph only needs one small edit:

      “It’s bad enough that the Government awards pennies short of all our Country’s wealth to number of people who wouldn’t make up a seated one-car LINK load. But pales in comparison to their absolute control over the Government.

      Hate to think what the monument to “Equality of Neediness” will look like. Pigeons won’t deign to crap on it. Good thing authors of “Housing By Lottery” won’t pay for it, because everybody knows none of these people work hard enough to deserve being needy.

      Different approach? Anybody with Armed Forces experience, is “Field of Fire” correct term for the ground between your weapons and an entrenched enemy? Based on recent history, I think it’s time for another three-cornered-hat-and-flintlock effort.

      “Shays’ Rebellion” got a lot more patriots killed, in a much better cause, than The Boston Tea Party. Whose recent reference is a lie, but for the small fraction who paid for it…this last November, it Worked for Them!

      Mark

  3. Over the past couple of weeks an interesting announcement has started on the northbound #372 for the stops at NE 86th and NE 92nd on Ravenna Avenue. After announcing next stop and the street name it then says for this stop please use the front door.

    The probable reason is that there is no sidewalk at either stop and only a small cement block with the Metro sign and route number so if someone would want to use the back door they would step into mud when it is wet and/or bushes.

    I have not heard this kind of announcement before on the # 372 and I am wondering if any other routes have similar announcements when it is not feasible to use the back door.

    1. I’ve seen it occasionally on an ad hoc basis, such as once on the 11 at Pine & Bellevue. I’m not sure if the driver’s concern was pulling out of traffic and then having to pull back in, or the sidewalk. Some stops have back doors going right onto dirt or bushes. And the location of the back doors is different on different buses, especially the newer ones. Maybe Metro is getting more systematic about always-front-door at certain stops.

    2. The 16 did at the SB Aurora and Galer stop (pre RapidRide). The (temporary) SB 35th and Snoqualmie stop had that announcement as well (it was removed a few weeks later).

      On the subject of the 35th and Snoqualmie stop, it was being announced as 35th and Avalon for several months after the temporary stop relocation. Metro hasn’t even bothered to update the announcement for Fauntleroy and Alaska (SB) to indicate the temporary stop at Edmunds. Are they always this slow to update the announcments for long term stop relocations?.

    3. The southbound 131/132 used to say “3400 Block” at the Costco stop but now it keeps saying “Diagonal Ave S” which is the previous stop. And at Pine & Summit, the eastbound stop says “Summit” even though it’s closer to Belmont, and the westbound stop says “Belmont” even though it’s closer to Summit. In that case Metro moved the stops midblock but didn’t bother to update the stop announcer. In the other case the Costco stop may have been simply left out during a software revision, or maybe they have to do something special for stops that don’t have street names and they forgot to do it this time. Of course it would be most imformative for passengers to just say “Costco”, but there’s probably a Metro policy against announcing private companies unless they’re not mall-sized or Boeing-sized.

    4. Southcenter Blvd and 65th Avenue S on the northbound 150 has a front door only exit. The stop exists at the end of a crosswalk and there is no sidewalk apart from the bus stop.

  4. Sorry I left this out. Though sorrier my political side let the Boston Tea Party get lied about, and never even heard of this one.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays'_Rebellion

    Those lottery-hopeful really do have this in common with the working population, a long way up the income scale: They’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives.

    Vladimir Putin and his KGB veteran buddies must be banging their crew cuts against the wall that they didn’t remember a Time-honored completely Gulag-free means of suppression: Nationwide, for about forty years just replace wages with loans.

    “The American Dream” originally mean being able to earn your living instead of a life begging for charity to make up for the lack of one. Old Europe in a nutshell: People permanently in debt are an oppressor’s dream of unlimited partners-in-oppression.

    Every generosity has to be paid back with interest. Creating a cheap, mean, hateful population, on the lookout for somebody weaker to take it out on. Seen people in this mood turn an election lately?

    Also, night following day, debt turns a citizen in to a subject. Rock the boat and get fed to the sharks! Daniel Shays and his men were Revolutionary War veterans being thanked by prison for debt.

    Washington State Constitution forbids debtors’ prison. But not assessing poor defendant’s court costs and additional fines into, essentially, prison for life. Last report I heard, we’re second to Texas for doing that.

    Hate being second to Texas. So luckily, we still lead the nation, and maybe the world, in putting children in jail for skipping school. All this at the behest of a Legislature in long-term Contempt of Court for not funding schools. Like the ones kids go to jail for not going to.

    Doubt many young people currently paying for college with prostitution go to jail. Though wouldn’t bet against. Even so, horrible thing to think about is that, like college is supposed to be, they WILL remember college as The Best Days of Their Lives!

    Deal with the Legislature: History classes first. All of it. Math and reading second. Lot of problems will start to take care of themselves. Guys like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton would’ve aced WASL.

    But wouldn’t have hired anybody who either demanded or took one.

    Mark

  5. A great article from the NYTimes about urbanism and housing prices, albeit not about transit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/upshot/popping-the-housing-bubbles-in-the-american-mind.html

    The article has me thinking about how we talk about urbanism. Speaking in terms of allowing people to migrate to the city for economic opportunity, explicitly drawing that parallel to immigration, could pull at liberal heartstrings.

    I actually think urbanism is a reasonable response to our political polarization, too. The media choice unleashed by the internet is a cat not going back into its bag; I’m commenting on an interest-group website, after all. But there’s a huge geographic element to our isolation, too.

    That geographic isolation is in no small part attributable to restrictive zoning. The housing shortage in knowledge-economy cities means that while you make more in almost any field here, it’s only outweighs the rent and commute if you’re a part of the knowledge economy. If you are a part of the knowledge economy, you might not even be able find a job in your field in a cheap city.

    So knowledge economy workers end up in cities that others can’t afford, while others live in cities that don’t have opportunities for growth.

    Zoning that allows the housing stock in thriving cities to grow as quickly as the economy does, then, allows immigrants, whether domestic or international, to participate in the American Dream and better themselves, while simultaneously breaking down the barriers that lead to a country that can’t agree on what reality is.

    1. The article is right about the economics and the ideal. The price premium over a minimum baseline is due to the relative difference between supply and demand in a location over the various price points. The Bay Area has much more demand than housing so prices are sky-high. Dallas allows unlimited sprawl so developers build what people demand and the price doesn’t rise much. Seattle is in a price-spike period now, but in 2008 when a lot of people left the city there were “For Rent” signs everywhere, rent increases stopped and reversed, and house prices reversed too.

      Theoretically a city with an urban growth boundary and unlimited heights, or even unlimited building up to four or seven or ten stories, could accommodate a lot of people and remain as beautiful and as liveable as Paris or Edinburgh without high prices. But no American city allows that to my knowledge. Dallas has unlimited zoning but it lets private covenants have the force of law, which means you can’t build apartments on a street that has an anti-apartment covenant and the majority of owners don’t want to change it. So the result is unlimited sprawl.

      Human necessities should not be the subject of speculation. It’s unconscionable to treat homes as an investment when many people have no shelter and others are paying 50% or 75% of their income in rent. That’s the worst kind of “I’ve got mine and screw you”. However, it would be very difficult to unwind this situation, because if prices go down by 50%, many people will lose their retirement savings or can’t pay their mortgage or refinance; we saw this in the 2008 crash.

      The most consistent difference between red and blue areas is density. Blue states have large cities, and every city is more liberal than its surrounding exurbs and rural areas. I believe that’s because when people live so close together they realize they have to get along and cooperate (via government programs). For New Yorkers the only sane response to multiculturalism is, “New York City is multicultural. Get over it.” To a lesser extent this occurs in Seattle and other cities, and as suburbs like Bellevue get larger they become more like Seattle. So cities are often liberal, suburbs are swing areas, and the outer exurbs are conservative. Conservatives tend to like small government, small cities, privacy from their neighbors, and being closer to nature, and don’t mind driving long distances because cars are a symbol of American freedom and capitalism, and real men and real women drive cars, so all these factors make exurban areas favorable to them.

      So I don’t think urbanism itself can fix the political polarization because its proponents are on one side of it. It wasn’t always like this because after WWII there was a consensus to improve our society with everyone working together through the government, and that led to the moderate years where both parties supported urbanization and suburbanization and infrastructure and social programs and civil rights and equality. There was a fringe of anti-New Deal objectors but they were a small fraction. But that started breaking down with Nixon and Reagan and now the country is extremely polarized, with urbanists on one side and anti-urbanists on the other. So we need to look elsewhere for a solution to the polarization. It’s possible that the inevitable (sub)urbanization as the population grows will eventually moderate the right-wing side consistent with what I said above (that living closer together seems to make people more liberal), but it remains to be seen whether it will apply to that case.

      Democrats are at a disadvantage because their preference for cities and inner suburbs puts them into a small number of legislative districts, while Republicans in less-dense areas end up with more districts because they have so much almost-empty land (even though their districts are bigger because of the low density). So something needs to be done about that. But the logical conclusion is for Democrats to move to swing and red areas, but the problem with that is that’s forcing them to live in areas with little transit or walkability, the worst healthcare and religious freedom, the worst voter suppression, and the lowest wages and jobs — it’s not right to pressure somebody else to do that, they should only do it if they themselves want to.

      Restrictive zoning is a somewhat orthogonic to the rest of this, because it occurs in both liberal cities and conservative suburbs. You could say that those who fight to preserve single-family zoning are like the stereotypical “limousine liberals” who like minorities but don’t want their daughter to marry one, but I’d hesitate to denounce them so far. But the de facto effect of restrictive zoning is racial/economic purity regardless of whether that’s the proponents intentions. So the proponents should confront that effect head-on and acknowledge its effect on immigrants finding housing as you say.

      Again, I just wish we could upzone the whole city to seven stories everwhere it’s lower. That doesn’t mean the entire city will become wall-to-wall apartments because the demand is way less than that. It would just give homeowners and developers more freedom and flexibility to decide what to build there. Some will build to the zoning limit, but in an environment with a vast excess of capacity, others will build smaller buildings such as 4-8 unit apartments, townhouses, ADUs, etc. Developers’ profits will be lower on the smaller buildings but that won’t stop construction. The large developers will build as many midrises as the market demands, and smaller developers and homeowners won’t want to be left out so they’ll build smaller buildings to make some profit, and smaller buildings intrinsically have lower costs. (Especially if parking minimums go down and transit goes up.)

      1. +1 to “at least seven stories everywhere”. We also need to allow a greater mixture of uses – bring back the corner shops and the side-street professional offices, at least.

      2. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the value of density, the reasons we lack it, and the correlation of density with political leaning.

        However, I don’t think that density (or demographics) is destiny. I don’t think urbanism will solve our polarization, either, but I think it could be a useful tool.

        In addition to the erosion of the 50’s consensus, another thing that’s changed since WWII is the internal migration patterns in this country. In the 50’s, where you grew up was a poor predictor of where you would move, if you moved; people moved to where there were jobs. Now, where you grew up is an excellent predictor of where you might move to; somebody from Seattle and somebody from Moses Lake might both move to the other side of the country, but the cities and towns they’re likely to land in are almost completely separate lists.

        Those lists are different not just because of cultural preferences, but also because the urban person is more likely to have skills suited to opportunities in other urban areas, whereas the rural person is less likely to have opportunities that can overcome the cost of housing in urban areas. The reason everybody isn’t moving to whichever city is booming, as happened before WWII, is because zoning doesn’t allow them to.

        (note: obviously urban and rural aren’t quite fair here, because some towns, like Boulder or Asheville would be on the urban list, and some cities, like rust belt and sunbelt-sprawl cities, aren’t likely to draw Seattle knowledge-economy workers. Also, we’re talking in statistics here – obviously plenty of people switch from one type to another, just in far smaller numbers than used to happen)

        Changes in migration are certainly not the whole story, but I think this is a part of how the gap has gotten to be so large. Seattleites don’t just have a different set of values than our rural brethren – we’re so far from those values that most people didn’t really think Donald Trump could be elected. Some of that has got to be due to the fact that we have so little contact with non-liberal parts of the country. (I am far more likely to encounter someone who is openly transgender, in my day to day life in this town, than someone who is openly Republican, even though Republicans make up approximately half of the country.)

        I don’t think we can fix our polarization, but we can move the needle, at least, if we make this an appealing city to live in if you don’t have a college education. That starts with building enough housing to accommodate both the highly educated and the less educated workers in our economy.

      3. I conflated urbanism (“people who live in cities and inner suburbs”) with its more common meaning (“people who believe in density”). However, in the polarization scale, both are Democrats/liberals.

        Rust Belt and Sunbelt cities aren’t as big exceptions as they may appear. Some vote D when their states vote R. But even the ones who vote R are more moderate than their surrounding exurbs and rural areas. Sometimes it’s hard to see if a governor lives in a city; but he’s just one person and his support base is partly outside the city.

  6. There was a real cluster-bang Tuesday night around 6 p.m. on Campus Parkway around Brooklyn. There is a cut-in area for cars to pull in and drop off college students. It was in use, but there were nearly a half-dozen other cars lined up waiting to also drop somebody off; all kinds of emergency blinkers lit up and cars blocking both lanes. Then, an articulated Metro bus tried to turn eastbound onto Campus Parkway, was blocked. Somebody was blaring their horn. I ended up blocking the box, somehow kept my peace of mind, turned off onto a side street. The drop-off lanes on Campus Parkway are utilized a lot, so much so that people stop their cars and turn on emergency headlights all along Campus Parkway, in the right lane of traffic. It was very similar on Thursday night. I am not sure why so many dorm-residents need to be dropped off. Could be the Uber phenomenon.

  7. Guess who’s running for mayor. It’s Joe’s favorite. “Give me a T. T! Give me an S. S! Give me an I. I! Give me an M. M!” The other candidates are Ed Murray, Andres Saloman, Keith Whiteman, and Mary Juanita Martin. Besides Murray and that colorful guy, I don’t know anything about them.

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