I-90 Bicycle/Pedestrian Tunnel West Entrance

This is an open thread.

79 Replies to “News Roundup: Above the Fold”

  1. First, good to see Zach get some press.

    Second, I wish we’d say CO2 and not “carbon” – the latter of which is a fundamental element in building life itself. It’s in the elements table.

    Third, uh folks, listen I’m thinking about doing a transit photowalk the evening of Seafair Friday (4 August) like I did in Portland with Victor. I wonder who’d want to go with me – if it’s a big enough group, I might tip off some of my Sound Transit contacts to tag along and practice some unique techniques like light panning.

    1. Carbon is short for “Carbon Dioxide”, which is short for “Greenhouse Gases”, of which CO2 is but one.

  2. While I’m sure it’s already illegal, albeit unenforced, Seattle really should institute a $500+ for ride share companies using or waiting in drive lanes or bike lanes for their fare. A day doesn’t go by where I have to dodge an Uber parked in the bike lane. I usually give them a good whack with my fist to let them know my dissatisfaction for their reappropriation of a facility not designed for them. But they don’t care.

    My favorite is when an Uber, without signalling of course, started to merge into me while in a bike lane on SB 7th Ave, just past Blanchard. What makes this story worse is the bike lane was adjacent to a curb, there was no parking or pull off beyond the bike lane. They intended to stop completely in the bike lane, partially obscuring the single SB drive lane.

    Don’t get me wrong, I support ride share companies, but my commute shouldn’t become much more dangerous to make their job slightly easier.

    1. And that bust stop westbound on Pine in front of Nordstrom? Might we please have some fearsome enforcement there?

    2. The penalty should be enforced, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s rideshare or not. The punishment should be the same, whether it’s Uber, a taxi, or someone picking up/dropping off a friend or colleague.

      1. Lloyd, you’re right about the conflict between cab service and a very important bus stop.

        But the number of passengers boarding cabs at the top of the escalator for one of LINK’s most important stations shows that taxis and ride-shares are not hostile to transit. They’re part of the transit system itself.

        Because passengers who can’t get to taxis- and Uber- via transit will simply board them someplace else. Like the Airport. Every place in the world with a first-rate transit system has a thick layer of taxi service underneath it.

        Seattle’s all-around tight space means we’ve got to reduce the room that the transfer requires. Thought one: Have luggage delivered from the airport to Downtown hotels.

        And two, create apps and online info telling passengers a better place to get a cab at the station most convenient to where they’re actually going. Including not only listing, but calling the cab. So no one has to wait anywhere alone in the dark.

        Since I can’t work a touch tone phone, Uber will always lose me to regular taxis, which I used to drive. Orange cab seems to have some excellent drivers, and late model Prius cars. So curious:

        What’s give-away for an Uber-committed violation? Since it doesn’t have a purple mustache. Also, can’t believe Uber doesn’t have a contact to report violators. Couldn’t anybody who can do touch screen couldn’t send violators viral worldwide. Or find a five year old who can.

        For “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, would be good to find an adorable wrinkled little attorney who can phone to Uber’s home world and also give you letterhead with notice to disintegrate.


    3. A couple of weeks ago I was biking in the bus lane on Pine when an SUV cut me off and into the lane. Right behind was an SPD vehicle to which I yielded while pointing at the SUV. At the red light, the officer got out and knocked on the driver’s window, and proceeded to talk to the driver for probably 30-45 seconds. As she was walking back I waved and yelled “thank you!” She replied “your welcome, and he probably should have gotten a ticket.” I said a warning was better than nothing, and she agreed. I was glad to see that at least sometimes there’s some attention to and enforcement of that lane by SPD!

  3. If I was czar of Seattle, I’d try to to do six things to stop the displacement without hurting growth.

    1) Rent Freeze. Freeze rent on all existing units and only allow increases to adjust for general inflation. All new units can start at any rent, but once the price is set, it can only be raised as much as inflation. If you knock down a building to build a bigger one, the old units need to have replacement units at the same price. This will stop displacement of current residences, but make it so new units can be built for new residents. You can still make as much profit from making new buildings and charging higher rent, but you can’t opportunistically raise rents on an existing building. I’d probably want this to be a temporary measure.

    2) Upzone. I’d upzone, but in the exact opposite way we’ve been doing so far. So far we’ve increased heights in the places that already allow the tallest buildings. While I don’t disagree with those upzones, they won’t do much for affordability. Tall buildings are more expensive to build. If we want growth to be affordable, we need it to be an abundance of lower cheaper buildings. Currently 2/3rds of our city is zoned the minimum, single family. I’d make a new minimum zone. It would have a FAR of 4 and a max height of 45′. It would have a narrow max building width though, to discourage monolithic developments. It would allow commercial on the first floor in residential districts if it is a corner lot. In commercial or mixed use areas, it would have no use restrictions. Any zone with higher FAR or higher heights would keep the higher zoning.

    3) Reduce regulatory cost. For small developments, I’d make it so the only permits required are for safety. If a development is under a certain size, no rules about look or form whatsoever. For larger developments, instead of the whole bargaining for developers to pay for extra height and alley vacation, I’d make the rules set. A set price for development to fund all the improvements we need to make to support the growth. I’d set the standard allowed height to be the top of the extra height they currently have to bargain to get. If we don’t need an alley, we can sell it at market price. No negotiations. I’d do away the HALA requirements but not the extra height we made for it. For small developers, this should permit them to get involved to build a single row house without having to get involved in near as much permitting and regulation. For big developers, this should allow the city to tax development in a uniform fashion, easier for both the city and the big developers.

    4) Reduce parking. For small developments I would make no parking requirements. For large developments, I’d make a parking maximum. I would try to set it below market demand. In other words, don’t allow developers to build as much parking as the users of the building will want. This should bring down the cost of new development.

    5) Tax office development. Make a tax on all new office space to fund low income housing. Our residential prices increases are a result of new high wage jobs. These new jobs need new office space. While I don’t think new office development can pay for all the low income housing we need, taxing new office space would help balance the market

    6) Tax income. That income tax idea is a good one. Since we have growing income inequality, it makes sense to help fund the low income housing with a high earner income tax.

    All together, I think that would keep Seattle livable. The rent freeze would stop the displacement. The reduction in regulation and the upzone would allow new capacity for the newer residents. The new taxes would allow us to do a better job housing our low income residents

    1. Forgot to mention as part of reducing regulatory costs, we need to make sure we issue permits as fast as possible after application. The faster the city can turn around the permits, the easier it is to build. We’d probably need to hire more inspectors.

    2. A rent freeze might deter economic displacement, at least until the rental stock becomes unrepaired and unlivable, but people are still displaced whenever everyone has to move out because the building is being torn down to make room for something larger. Thankfully, we have a requirement for landowners evicting their tenants to provide financial assistance for moving. I think that makes a lot more sense than SDC’s nonsensical call for one-for-one on-site unit replacement. After all, who wants to move twice when being evicted? I’ve been part of a mass eviction before, which nudged me to moved into a nearby cheaper apartment, and got a handsome check from the evicting landowner. Increasing the amount of that check ought to be on the table to discourage condoization of existing affordable housing.

      I’m worried that a rent freeze would become the ultimate deterrent on housing construction.

      1. “I’m worried that a rent freeze would become the ultimate deterrent on housing construction.” – Yes. A rent freeze is a short term solution to a long term problem. It fixes the immediate problem (rising rents) while making the root cause (housing shortage) worse.

        And if there is a rent freeze, landlords may simply switch from renting to selling, which would encourage condoization.

        And a rent freeze doesn’t help all the people who can’t live in Seattle because they aren’t lucky enough to live in a rent controlled unit.

      2. I don’t think the rent freeze would effect new construction because the rule only applies to old units.

        As far as landlords not maintaining properties, that is why I suggest this as a temporary rule. It is something I’m suggesting because we have the hottest residential market in the country. Once the market cools a little, we can go back to normal market set rent. But generally I agree, this sort of market distortion requires care.

        As far as condo-ization goes, I would consider that getting rid of and not replacing a rentable unit, hence not allowed. The only thing I’d be worried about is new owners not being able to cover loans with the rent because they purchased the building on the assumption that they could keep raising the rent.

      3. “I don’t think the rent freeze would effect new construction because the rule only applies to old units.” Developer would be less willing to take the financial risk of building a new building if they thought they won’t be able to raise rents after the building opens, no?

      4. Rent control would require a change in state law. There are several different pricing models. Those from the 1970s are really bad: they affect only the then-existing buildings, which means they benefit an ever-shrinking percentage of renters. The best model seems to be Germany’s: statewide rent control in each German state. Developers know they’ll get a reasonable profit and cost-of-living adjustment but they can’t price-gouge. They still build enough housing for their reasonable profits. Wall Street developers may flee, but others will step up. In our cont3ext it could be a citywide or countywide rent control on all current and future residential buildings. There’s two additional problems: Germany’s landlords adjusted to it long ago in a different era, and we have an acute housing shortage now. How do you impose reasonable rents when they’ve already shot up 40% since the 2007 tradition? They “should” be rolled back at least 40%, and 50,000 more units built at that level, just to catch up with the backlog. But that’s far beyond what we can impose on landlords/developers suddenly.

        Upzoning: 4 stories (40 feet) is the limit for wood-framed construction (the cheapest). 12 stories (120 feet) is the limit for wood-over-concrete (the second cheapest). So these would be good limits for single-family zones if we don’t want unlimited. A compromise could be 120 feet throughout expanded urban villages, and 40 feet outside them. A sea of 4-7 story buildings like the Summit area could absorb all our population needs in half the city or less.

        Parking: The city has already dropped parking minimums in some urban villages. Maybe it needs to be expanded. Parking maximums is a great idea.

        Taxing office development: interesting idea.

        Income tax: yes.Tax the rich with a progressive tax. They’ve been getting a windfall since 1980.

      5. @ Mike– a small correction; wood framed residential construction cannot exceed 4 stories; 5 if provided with sprinklers. Wood over concrete is actually two separate building types and must be fire separated; you gain no additional height in the wood framed portion by so doing as only adding sprinklers does that. These are the typical boxy “5 over 2” buildings that have sprung up all over. There is no such thing as an allowable 12-story wood framed building for any occupancy type. Non-combustible Type I-B residential construction is allowed 12 stories, but this is not wood framed. (Type I-A allows unlimited height and stories when sprinklered and has a higher fire rating for structural elements than Type I-B.)

        This doesn’t obviate your upzoning idea in the least, just a clarification that the construction type wouldn’t govern in. As with most developments, economics would.

      6. Any time you control or stabilize prices temporarily you have a problem: what happens when the control is lifted? Prices immediately jump up to the market value — years of deferred price increases take place all at once, a truly shocking increase for residents.

        Even simply attempting to temporarily “smooth” rent changes has this problem — if we guess wrong on the long-term market rate of rent increases for several years and large deferred price increases build up, we’re locked into managing rents for a long time. Projecting the long-term market rate of rent increases is… probably pretty hard. I wouldn’t count on the Seattle City Council to get it right year after year. That’s no slight against our council — if I got a projection from an expert housing economist I’d call five others just to make sure!

        In addition to the difficulty of “getting it right”, at least one member of the council, Sawant, would have every reason to “get it wrong” on purpose, build up large deferred price increases, and use that to take control of rents forever. That’s no slight against Sawant — that’s the platform she campaigns on, of course using much more appealing language! Other council members would be more likely to “slouch” into rent control, “getting it wrong” on purpose repeatedly because of short-term political pressure, just like how the Federal government “slouches” into budget deficits. When the economy is booming there will naturally be pressure to control exploding rents, as there is now. When we’re in recession, nothing will be less popular than rent increases in a stagnant economy.

        If we’re gonna start the ball rolling on rent control, we have to be prepared to be in that business for the long run.

    3. I would suggest that we think about how to create dense areas away from Downtown as employment and activity centers. With so many new Link stations opening by 2025, we are set up to create new mixed-use districts in lots of places. That would help fight the tide against staggering housing costs close to Downtown. The Spring District concept in Bellevue is a great example! Dense areas away from Downtown also discourage crush loads at peak hours in Downtown Seattle. Seattle policies combine with marketability to push much of the dense growth to be within 1 mile of Westlake station.

      If South Bellevue, Mercer Island and Judkins Park were in Atlanta, these areas would be preparing for another Lindbergh Station or Arts Center station area concept. But our local culture views ideas like that as a non-starter.

      Could Angle Lake and Kent-Des Moines stations be like Crystal City and Pentagon City in Virginia? That may be more possible.

      1. Agreed. I think anything inside the 10 minute walk shed of every link station should be zoned for at least 200′ buildings. This would help relieve some of the pressure on the higher end market, which should mean less displacement of from existing housing stock. It would also just be a prudent use of our very large investment in constructing link.

      2. This is exactly what the PSRC and the cities in the region is explicitly planning for, and this is why ST cares so much about station in PSRC designated growth areas (which infuriates some commentators). ST3 assumes a region with many job centers, of which downtown Seattle is simply the largest.

        South Bellevue, Mercer Island and Judkins Park, however, are poor examples – none of those are in growth areas. But there are plenty of great examples in the ST2 & ST3 expansions.

        In my view, the stations that could springboard entirely new urban centers are: Northgate, Lynnwood, Bel-Red, KDM, and Central Issaquah. Plus downtown Bellevue and the U District will continue to grow.

        Unlike the Bay Area, Seattle is blessed with many secondary cities that are keen to grow & get denser.

      3. I agree that these would make good sites.

        PSRC endorsement is also good — but it just doesn’t appear to result in many profoundly different local approaches. Besides, PSRC has designated these areas as amorphous, huge growth areas (not limited by area coverage like a half-mile from a station entrance). The areas are not constrained and they don’t have a detailed area-wide development and access plan and accompanying capital improvements program with funding to make them happen. It’s merely a broad, vague promise.

        At the very least, PRSC should be paying for more aggressive planning in these growth areas. It needs to be a multi-agency effort, and not merely an effort by each city to do what they want. It needs to have a specific maximum size that is walkable in addition to a targeted number of jobs. I worry that if some of these cities are suddenly presented by what it would look like to have 20- to 30-story office buildings lining their streets, local opposition would make a useful plan dead on arrival. It’s going to take a generation of visualization and support-building to get us from believing that four-story non-residential buildings are dense to get us believing that 20-story buildings are. It took decades for Bellevue, for example.

      4. PSRC has several regional growth centers designated: downtown Seattle, the U-District, Northgate, Lynnwood, downtown Bellevue, Totem Lake, Issaquah, Federal Way, and some others. These are expected to grow into something like a mini downtown Bellevue. There are several limiting problems:

        – They’re a long distance from each other, thus requiring miles of low-density rail between them.

        – Ballard-Fremont and Lake City aren’t included because their zoning doesn’t meet King County’s job minimum. This is why they’re not getting light rail sooner.

        – Cities may restrict growth. Northgate’s highrises are supposed to be on the mall lot, but the mall owner apparently doesn’t want to build multistory buildings or housing. Can’t we upzone surrounding lots too?

        – Residents may reject them. Will Totem Lake and Issaquah really fill up with residents and commerce? Federal Way and Everett too?

        What we should do besides these is strongly upzone the Roosevelt, Mt Baker, and Othello station areas, so that they could be like New Westminster BC. Then more people could live closer to the center. Another good idea is full 7-12 story zoning across the entire Fremont-Wallingford-UDistrict area. Then it could become a large urban village like Chicago’s north side.

      5. “I worry that if some of these cities are suddenly presented by what it would look like to have 20- to 30-story office buildings lining their streets”

        The growth areas are decaying industrial/commercial zones. There are no single-family nimbys in the immediate area. The residents understand that growth there is the best way to keep growth away from their neighborhoods, so they grudgingly accept it. And 20-40 stories will probably be only 2-3 buildings in each village. The others will probably be 6-12 stories. Some may have more or fewer highrises depending on the village, but that’s the average I expect.

      6. “Unlike the Bay Area, Seattle is blessed with many secondary cities that are keen to grow & get denser.”

        That’s another way of saying that Seattle intends to continue kicking the can down the road by promoting sprawl development. We should be pulling development inwards, not pushing it ever further out.

      7. “I worry that if some of these cities are suddenly presented by what it would look like to have 20- to 30-story office buildings lining their streets” – most growth areas are looking to be the next Ballard, not the next downtown. Lynnwood & Kent are perhaps that ambitious, but most are looking for that 5~8 story sweet spot.

        @Mars – Seattle is still getting the bulk of the growth, 41% of King County’s population growth is supposed to be in Seattle or Bellevue. But at long as the region holds the line on the UGA boundary, promoting density outside of Seattle can only be a good thing. It’s a both/and solution.


      8. I’m with Mars. Suburban development leads to more driving and more sprawl. Even areas with relatively good transit are like this. It isn’t hard to figure out why.

        Consider Lynnwood. It will soon be one of the best transit locations of any place outside the city. Not only do you have the subway going through it, but you also have a ton of feeder buses.

        But it was built for cars and the surrounding communities were built for cars. Serving them with adequate transit, in a region stretched for resources is very difficult. There will be holes in service, which lead people to drive. There will also just be people who prefer to drive, because it is much faster to do so. There will be some places where it is faster to take transit, but very few (e. g. southbound along the I-5 corridor). There really isn’t much of a reverse commute traffic problem right now. Going north out of the city in the morning is a breeze. Southbound in the evening things typically start to back up around 145th. This means that for a large swath of the region, it is easy to drive there. The more suburban the location (Brier, Alderwood Manor, Canyon Park, North Creek, Cathcart) the more it makes sense to drive, which will lead to sprawl. Of course people could park in the Link park and rides, but for many the nearest park and ride *is* the office. Even if it isn’t, why is it better that someone drives from Cathcart to Ash Way instead of Cathcart to Lynnwood? Besides, many of those park and rides will be full. Which begs the question, do you think they will provide parking with these office buildings? Since they provide parking in downtown Seattle buildings — which has by far the highest transit ridership ratio anywhere in the region — I think it is a safe bet they will.

        Lynnwood will be like every other suburban office center. Even if transit is really good, most people will drive there. Since a 20 or 30 minute commute to Lynnwood encompasses a lot of undeveloped land, sprawl seems likely. This is Lynnwood — a city far more urban and far better suited for development than most of the stations outside the city.

        This may be what the PSRC wants, but it won’t be good for the environment or the region.

      9. Ross – I think you have to envision what will be, not what is there now. Outside of perhaps Northgate, all of these suburbs do need to reorient their infrastructure away from cars in order to support robust TOD. The operative verb in your comment is “was built.”

        For Central Issaquah, take a look at my article detailed some of the work the city is doing (or moreover planning to do) around rebuilding the urban infrastructure in preparation for VMU development around the future rail station. https://www.theurbanist.org/2017/03/30/how-do-you-vmu/
        Lynnwood is doing much of the same – re-writing zoning laws, building bus lanes, bike paths, etc. to allow people to move around without needing to drive.

        And finally, a 30 minute drive from Lynnwood doesn’t get you much farther than Bothell during rush hour these days. I don’t think “oh no, someone might drive from Monroe to a job in Lynnwood” is a compelling reason to not densify a secondary city. especially if much of that density is residential, not commercial.

      10. “We should be pulling development inwards”

        We have limited power to achieve that. Only some percentage of Seattlites want that; the city council and voters aren’t fully onboard. So we can’t just push it through until we convince them or get elected to all the offices. What we can do is support the good things others are doing. In the meantime, if Seattle is not willing to upzone enough to absorb the housing demand and stop the rent escalation, then we have to support the suburbs where many people will be displaced to — including many of us. We should fully support Bellevue, Redmond, and Lynnwood at least. We should encourage Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Burien. (Even though the latter three have no medium-term Link access.) We should tolerate and not obstruct the others: Totem Lake, Issaquah, Tacoma, Everett — because we have no better solution at this time. Wanting Seattle to upzone is not a solution. Only actually upzoning is. If we can’t get at least ADUs, duplexes, and small apartments in Seattle’s single-family zones, and expanding the urban villages along the near-maximum alternatives, then we have to support suburban growth and HCT to them. We should add microhousing to the mix too, and Northgate highrises outside the mall parcel. Those would help even more.

      11. “Consider Lynnwood. It will soon be one of the best transit locations of any place outside the city… But it was built for cars and the surrounding communities were built for cars. Serving them with adequate transit, in a region stretched for resources is very difficult.”

        Lynnwood updated its zoning in the last five years; it has an urban center downtown and urban villages around the Swift stations. It just hasn’t been realized because Bellevue/Redmond isn’t full yet, and it doesn’t have HCT yet. The transit expenses will be on CT, not Metro, and CT is all ready to go with Swift 3 (Edmonds – Silver Firs) by the time Lynnwood Station opens. That will give one frequent east-west route, and there’s time to worry about north-south routes later. (And a Lynnwood – Canyon Park – Bothell route.) If downtown Lynnwood grows to even a third the size of downtown Bellevue, that will be a significant achievement. If they put lots of lowrise multifamily around it — say in the half mile around downtown, that will at least provide a medium level of transit access and stores to walk to. Beyond that area I don’t care — let it rot in single-family hell with hourly buses and superblocks for all I care.

        This means that for a large swath of the region, it is easy to drive there. The more suburban the location (Brier, Alderwood Manor, Canyon Park, North Creek, Cathcart) the more it makes sense to drive, which will lead to sprawl.”

        The sprawl is ALREADY THERE. Canyon Park has six-story tower-in-the-park apartments one right after the other. The residents and cars and parking lots are already there. There’s only so much room for more sprawl because the big-box buildings are already there. The least we can do is frequent buses for those tens of thousands of people, and try to make it more walkable any little way we can. The fact that they will drive to Lynnwood Station is neither here nor there — that’s why we’re building a big P&R at Lynnwood. But Lynnwood Station is not mainly for them; it’s for the people who will live in Lynnwood Center City and the Hwy 99 urban villages and along the Swift lines as far as I’m concerned. And half the people in Canyon Park are probably driving south to Bothell and Bellevue/Redmond anyway: Link is irrelevant to them.

        “Lynnwood will be like every other suburban office center. Even if transit is really good, most people will drive there”

        Who cares if they do? I just want a place where I can live without a car, where my friends and relatives can live without a car, if they’re priced out of Seattle or if they have family ties or a job in Snohomish County. If everyone else around them drives, and my tax money is wasted on car infrastructure, well that’s just the sad state of the United States, so what else is new. We’re trying to overhaul it but it’s a long-term undertaking.

      12. I should have been clear. I’m not talking about suburban housing development (along with ground floor retail) but suburban office development. In the suburbs, the former is appropriate by light rail, while the latter is not. I have no problem with residential towers in Lynnwood, Fife or Shoreline. But I think trying to tun any one of those places into the next Factoria, let alone Bellevue, is a really bad idea (for the planet as well as the region).

        They are also in competition with each other. It is highly unlikely that most of Lynnwood will suddenly embrace urbanism, and allow apartments everywhere, when most of Seattle won’t. This means that there are a very limited number of spots where big buildings will be allowed, and if they allow office buildings, it will both push up the cost of apartments in the those areas while limiting the number that can be built. The point being that if you want to live in Snohomish County without a car, then encouraging large scale office development won’t make that any easier (quite the opposite).

        >> The sprawl is ALREADY THERE.

        Yes, but it will increase if big office buildings are added at Lynnwood (and Ash Way, etc.). You can see sprawl from the air — here is an example: https://goo.gl/maps/ZSUS4XTM1vP2. Brand new houses, built in the last six months, is my guess (https://goo.gl/maps/77qqmDhfZo62). Why did it take so long to build these houses? Why didn’t they build them a couple years ago, or ten years ago (before the recession)? The simple answer it it wasn’t worth it. It is a long ways from where most of the jobs are. Now back up a bit with the satellite view and you can see places that are developed, as well as lots of places that aren’t. Sprawl is way more likely to occur in those areas if Lynnwood adds a bunch of big office towers, since commuting from those houses to those jobs wouldn’t be that bad.

        Suburban office development has been one of the worst things that has happened to the country since folks started moving (in large numbers) out to the suburbs. It leads to more sprawl, more driving and less affordable housing options. It sounds great at first — notice how many companies call their buildings a “campus”. Just like college, you can live a few blocks away and walk to work/school. Except only a handful of people do that. Most would rather live in a big city, or maybe their partner would. They own their house in another suburb (where the kids go to school) and don’t want to move. So they drive. Transit improves to the area, but now you are busy trying to serve a multitude of wide spread areas, instead of a central core. Building a grid or connecting the areas sounds great, but because of the distances — and the low density nature of the region — you spread yourself too thin, and can’t deliver much of anything to the vast majority of people. You end up like Silicon Valley, where apartments or houses an hour outside of the main city (San Fransisco) cost a fortune, because you happen to be close to some major tech company. Despite the existence of a nice rail line (Caltrains) it is largely irrelevant to those who commute to the suburban office parks because building a network based on it is so difficult and expensive. People either drive, or ride special business specific express buses.

        Seattle is no different. Imagine if instead of locating in Redmond, Microsoft did as businesses of old did, and located right in downtown Seattle. Same with Bellevue. Imagine if the only thing they allowed were apartments and ground floor retail. Of course you would have sprawl (we had a lot before Microsoft) but you would have a lot less. Housing would have been a lot cheaper on the east side, and both the quality and ratio of transit riders would be higher.

        We certainly can’t reverse the past, but it doesn’t make sense to encourage that sort of thing in the future. If Fife becomes the next Factoria, and Lynnwood the next Bellevue, then I think it would be terrible for the region. I would much rather see office development occur in the city. If not downtown Seattle, then places like Ballard (which is poised to have a lot of that in the near future) or the UW (ditto). Even Northgate — at the edges of the city — is a much better location, as it isn’t that far from the UW or downtown and could be considered part of the urban core based on both distance as well as geography (it is within the constraints of Lake Washington).

      13. Another thing has happened since six months ago or one year ago or two years ago. The population has increased, and more available land in Bellevue has been sold, businesses have signed leases for office space on it, developers have started building housing on it, and fewer large large contiguous parcels remain for large developments. That means the have-not businesses will have to look elsewhere for office space, the have-not residents will have to look elsewhere, and the have-not developers will have to look elsewhere. This is gradually making Lynnwood more attractive to all of them. If you can’t locate in Bellevue or Redmond, and you can’t or don’t want to locate in Seattle, where do you go? Lynnwood will become a popular choice with its pro-density, pro-business city council, two Link lines to both core cities and the airport, and 405 BRT. The regional population is approaching 4 million, and a lot of them live in Snohomish County. Why shouldn’t they be able to work in Snohomish County too? You’re focusing on people who will have to commute further, but there are also people who will have to commute less far. If you want it all to go to Seattle and Bellevue, they will have to grow beyond their PSRC targets, and what’s the chance they’ll be willing to do that? Seattle can’t even get a 20-story building on Capitol Hill or duplexes on single-family lots, and Bellevue is even more adverse to upzoning its single-family areas.

        The problem with Microsoft was that it located on what was then the edge of suburbia. A Lynnwood company would be locating in a city center that wants to densify. Lynnwood will become the primary city in Snohomish County — it’s the most pro-growth and centrally-located — and a county of almost one million people can support an urban office center: and better that it’s concentrated in downtown Lynnwood rather than sprawled along Ash Way and Canyon Park and Bothell.

        Yes, it would be better if Seattle super-densified. But we have limited ability to achieve it as I said. So we have to go with Plan B until we can convince a critical mass to support Plan A. With that, Lynnwood is a better Plan B than any of the others. I’m skeptical that Totem Lake and Issaquah and Federal Way will really pan out: we may end up spending infrastructure money for just bedroom communities. But in that case, they won’t have your office horror stories.

        I doubt Fife even believes it can attract offices. Those would go to Tacoma and Federal Way first. Fife might get some housing, But we’re not building Tacoma Link for Fife, we’re building it for Tacoma and Pierce County. Fife just happens to be along the way, lucky for it.

      14. Ross – I think see what you are saying, and I’ll generally agree. Large employment centers should be at transit hubs (so it can be fed by many different transit lines), while non-hub HCT stations should be primarily residential with “local” employment (retail, medical offices, schools, etc.).

        I think I’d agree with Mike that Lynnwood is, or will be, a transit hub, and office towers will therefore be appropriate. And a few other places, like SeaTac and Overlake, are already employment centers.

        But otherwise I’m with you … Central Issaquah should be trying to be the next Ballard, not the next Bellevue. If you talk to the city, they are trying to replicate downtown Kirkland or Redmond, which I think you’d agree is appropriate?

      15. One fact you may not be aware of: Snohomish county has a huge imbalance of residents and jobs. Some 70% of Snohomans work in King County. A lesser majority of Snohomish workers live outside the county (this includes people from Skagit and Island as well as King). The county and cities desperately want to add jobs so that their residents can work in the county. That and the tax base jobs would bring. That’s part of what’s pushing these moves in Lynnwood and Everett. The cities will probably try to recruit foremost businesses matching their residential demographics rather than trying to snag the next Facebook, and will have more success that way. So a few people will commute from King County but not the bulk. A county of a 600K people can support an office district, and if they do drive from Mill Creek, at least they’re not driving far.

      16. “notice how many companies call their buildings a “campus”. Just like college, you can live a few blocks away and walk to work/school. Except only a handful of people do that.”

        Campus means a group of buildings together. It doesn’t imply anything about what’s around them. It comes from Latin campus meaning field (Spanish campo, French champ as in Champs-Éysées), as in the buildings are constructed in a field. My high school principal called the school a campus. That surprised me because I thought only universities were campuses, so it sounded pretentious. He meant that it’s a group of several buildings. To me the only good kind of campus is something close in like UW, or the center of a college town. The state capitol is a kind of campus like that. Otherwise to me a campus is essentially the same as an isolated office park, in other words, bad. That’s not what I want in downtown Lynnwood. You know me better than that. I want something like Bellevue Way or NE 6th Street or SLU, and there are many other models and sizes that might be OK. I’m not sure I can even say where good architecture like the Amazon complexe end and bad architecture like the Norhup Way office parks begin. Let’s get some specific concepts from the developers first.

        “Building a grid or connecting the areas sounds great, but because of the distances — and the low density nature of the region — you spread yourself too thin, and can’t deliver much of anything to the vast majority of people. You end up like Silicon Valley, where apartments or houses an hour outside of the main city (San Fransisco) cost a fortune, because you happen to be close to some major tech company.”

        I’ve seen that in Santa Clara. Blocks a half mile wide, with one six-story building in the middle, and a sea of parking and open space around it. It takes thirty minutes to walk three blocks! And that’s how far you have to walk to even one IHOP or convenience store or Safeway plaza. There is a nice sort of new urbanist village at the Montague Expwy and Agnew Street. With a good Safeway and a superb Thai restaurant. But it’s completely isolated, and giant-sized blocks! Fortunately Snohomish County has stuck to 8-block superblocks like the Eastside did. So there’s a little home. And maybe Lynnwood will infill a few streets downtown?

      17. Some of you guys should really look at some case studies before summarily trashing the idea of suburban office development near rail stations.

        Take the Crystal City example. In the 1960’s, before Washington Metro opened, Crystal City was a big suburban area with free parking and nearby single-family homes. Today, Crystal City has dense office buildings and a 50-percent mode share! The same it true for the areas of Arlington near Metro stations, most above 40 percent transit mode share. These shares are even beating out those in stations inside DC! The data in this report from 2009 (pages 42-44) is here: https://www.wmata.com/initiatives/plans/upload/FINAL-Transit-Ridership-and-Market-Trends-Report.pdf

      18. I guess the qunitissential characteristic of a bad office park is stunted growth. Where it could be one six-story building, it’s spread out into one- or two-story buildings.

    4. Maybe I’m missing something, but I haven’t seen very much thinking on how to make the parties who are enriching themselves to ride out Crash of 2008 Chapter 2 pay for what their activities have done to regional transit.

      Let alone land-use planning in general. Before I hear anymore about density as a sacrosanct cure-all, let’s face the fact that three years’ energetic densification are creating the worst sprawl in Northwest History. And figure out what to do about it.

      Because the cul-de-sacked refugee camps I’m seeing make the 1950’s look like a quaint European Old City.

      Mark Dublin

    1. Transit police here needs to be more visible to discourage these types of crimes from happening.

    2. Best crime prevention is to keep Seattle from developing the conditions that turned Oakland into the kind of city where these things happen.


      1. In a perfect world…
        I recall reading that there have been similar incidents on Link, although not involving such large groups of teenage hoodlums–only one or two individuals entering and snatching peoples’ cellphones, then making a hasty exit before the doors closed.

  4. My recollection is that the Sonics were a money-loser for the Key compared to most every other show at the Key. I’m not sure moving an NHL and NBA franchise in there would make fiscal sense, even ignoring that the franchises could walk away at any time.

    Regardless, I’m not convinced there is a purpose in the KeyArena renovations other than falling for the NBA’s and NHL’s game of playing gullible local taxpayers off against each other.

    And I’m certainly feeling hostile toward putting more taxpayer money into KeyArena capital improvements before the monorail is integrated into the regional transit fare system. Heck, I’m feeling hostile toward any more capital improvements at the Seattle Center until the monorail is allowed to become a part of the public transit network. No more city investment until denizens can get there easily!

    For mid-size events like Redhawks games, the best approach now is to cut a deal with UW to use Alaska Airlines Arena (Hec Ed Pavillion), as that is a short hike and a light rail ride away from the Seattle U campus.

    1. Do you have a source for that? I could imagine that the Arena might have been losing money once it was announced that the team was being relocated and people stopped going to games (I remember scalping amazing seats for less than $10 near the end). They would have had all the concessions open, but little crowd.

      But before that, if they were losing money, it was either because of a terribly negotiated lease or poorly run facilities, both which would be the Arena’s fault, as a well attended NBA game shouldn’t lose money, unless somebody’s doing something wrong.

      Regarding relocating mid-size events to Hec Ed: good luck. The UW isn’t known for sharing or cooperating for anything that isn’t directly UW related and outside of legislative action, there’s no one to force their hand.

    2. Zero chance UW will allow another Division I basketball program to share its arena. The Storm might be able to talk their way into the AA arena for a season or two while the Coliseum is being upgraded, but Seattle U has no chance.

      My understanding of the renovation deals is the city would lease the Arena to the private venture for X years and Y dollars, and the lessee would in turn be responsible for booking events, whether those are concerts, sports, etc. So I believe the city will be protected from financial loss during the term of the lease.

      The argument for a renovation over no action is no action means either the city spends $100M to do minimum renovations simply to the keep the arena open and function or the city lets the arena fall apart.

      Both proposals include integration of the monorail into ORCA.

    3. There is a challenge to scheduling big concerts and other events when you have a pro sports team tenant. Their home games (~41 per season for NBA and NHL) take prescident over touring acts which can leave money on the table for arena operators. In the past this is why Seattle often skipped and shows went to Portland or Vancouver, BC instead.

      1. This is why I think Seattle can handle two arenas. I think the region is big enough to fill up two arenas on a Friday night if one is a sports game and the other is a big concert.

        I remember reading last year that the KeyArena was able to eek out a profit these last few years partially because they were so flexible on dates they were able to get good terms on some touring events.

      2. When you consider that the region is going to get bigger population wise and the economy is expected to be relatively strong for the foreseeable future, the Mayor’s concern that SODO Arena would drive Seattle Center into destitution is totally ridiculous. But when you factor in that a big campaign contributor to Murray, the Port of Seattle, is an opponent of SODO, it’s not all that surprising that he’s cool to SODO.

        My fear is political consideration more than good public policy that benefits King County and Seattle will win the arena war.

      3. Can you name an example of an act that skipped Seattle because they couldn’t play at the Key? That doesn’t make any sense.

      4. Re: skipping Seattle because they couldn’t play at the Key—-I believe U2 skipped our city to play Vancouver BC due to its limitations in terms of loading. I also suspect Black Sabbath on its final tour skipped Seattle to play at the Tacoma Dome:(:(. Heavier guitar bands have trouble w/ the Key due to the lack of loading docks.

      5. The lack of loading docks is an issue that could be solved with a remodel. I mean, is there a major band who skipped Seattle entirely because they couldn’t play at the Key for capacity reasons.

        It hasn’t happened. There are many other venues in the area, Tacoma Dome included. It just sounds odd to claim if the NBA/NHL play at the Key we are at risk of losing our spot as a tour location which is ludicrous.

      1. I heard it’s actually been quite profitable since the Sonics left and a quick Google search confirmed that.

        Due to the Arena being paid off and a much more reliable scheduling atmosphere without 41 NBA home games, it’s been constantly booked with profitable concerts and other events (WNBA and D-1 are more willing to be flexible). I would also imagine required personnel for concerts, WNBA and D-1 basketball are less than NBA games.

        The one downside is that the NBA games generated a lot of tax revenue from local bars and restaurant. However, with the explosion of LQA population since the Sonics left, I think that’s a moot point these days.

  5. AEG is valued somewhere north of $10 billion. Traffic mitigation is a crucial issue for a renovated Key Arena. We’re staring at an ideal private partner for a Capitol Hill/Seattle Center cable car offering a congestion-free alternative to Denny. It’s a golden opportunity for grade-separated east-west transit connecting two dense neighborhoods and major activity centers.

    1. How are you going to do a cable car on Denny? I would argue there’s insufficient room in that corridor for rail, and the political climate for a cable car is a non-starter.

      The only way you could do this cheaply and not use a gondola, would be to leave Denny about 8th Street and head south to pike/pine where you turn up hill and join the streetcar network. But there’s a lot of ridership on Denny east of 8th up to Broadway so this diversion to pike/pine may not be useful.

      IMO the only viable but expensive idea using a Denny alignment is the metro8 subway.

    2. What would a modern cable car be like? San Francisco’s are very small: they can seat around 10 and maybe fit 20 more standees. Not enough to be the trunk in the Uptown-SLU-Capitol Hill corridor. San Francisco has several very-frequent trolleybus lines parallel to the cable cars, which absorb most of the demand. Denny Way doesn’t have much possibility for parallel lines without morefreeway crossings.

      1. Yeah, sorry I wasn’t clear at first. What’s new is the developer with nearly bottomless pockets that needs to invest in traffic mitigation at Key Arena. The Mexicable line in Mexico City is a public-private partnership, and is generating nearly 30K riders a day.

    3. Istanbul has two underground cable-pulled funicular trains that are tied into their rail system. It may take something like that — either underground or aerial — to connect these two places. The advantages of a funicular is that it can be at a steeper grade, it can take advantage of counter-balancing from each of two trains so no vehicle motors are needed, and riders can ride with a level floor (great for a bicyclist or a wheelchair passenger, by the way). The disadvantage is that it can’t be part of a longer rail line.

    4. We already have a rapid connection between Seattle Center and Capitol Hill. It just happens to be on two separate systems for which one refuses to have free transfers between systems, due to making a profit for the Seattle Center being a higher goal than getting people to and from the Seattle Center.

      1. I thought at one time the city should run a streetcar from EMP down 5th, stop at Bell, and join the city connector at stewart. then we give the monorail to dublin.

      2. With the monorail, you also have a couple other issues. One is that it doesn’t have very good capacity (or throughput) do in part to the decision to squeeze the tracks close together, limiting the ability of both trains to go through that section at the same time. The second is that the transfer isn’t exactly great.

        A transfer from CHS to a gondola wouldn’t be great either, but it would also serve South Lake Union (likely with two stops, one in the Cascade neighborhood and one down in the valley). Fixing the monorail issues might not cost much, but it wouldn’t add as much value in the long run, as taking Link will always be a better bet. With a gondola the trip to the Center is really a bonus — it is more about the other connections.

  6. Vis-a-vis, Key Arena reconstruction, AEG might be less car centric than OVG to the extent that they don’t have garage building in mind, but it is still quite car centric—Uber and Lyft are car services. Cars are being utilized, only the fans are riding rather than driving. Ultimately, the privately financed SODO Arena project has the widest array of transit options available for fans getting to SODO—not just metro, but link and Sounder for fans outside of King County who if commuting to the Key Arena would be left little choice but to drive into the morass of Lyft, and Uber cars to reach the Key, assuming AEG were to get the nod.

    For the drivers, a potential SODO Arena is much closer to the major highways than Key Arena as well as closer to a larger number of highways–I-5, I-90, and 99.

    Re that Seattle Times article, STB commenters should realize that the ST has been totally in the tank, along with the Port of Seattle, for Key Arena and opposed to SODO Arena from the get go–strong interests in the Real Estate by both groups that Hansen has got his hands on.

    1. >> … who if commuting to the Key Arena would be left little choice but to drive into the morass of Lyft, and Uber cars to reach the Key, assuming AEG were to get the nod.

      That’s not true. You have the connection with the monorail. As mentioned in the previous article, it is competitive with SoDo because the SoDo arena is very far from the Link stop. There are also buses (both regular and those just for the game). I could easily see an express from a Kirkland Park and Ride, for example. The difference between driving that route and taking a bus will only get better. The HOV 3 lanes will extend to I-5, and it is quite possible there will be bus only lanes on Fairview (as part of the Roosevelt HCT project). From there a bus either slogs its way up Mercer, or continues south, and then crosses Aurora on Harrison (once the SR 99 project is done). It is possible that crossing might be in a bus only lane as well (I think it is likely). If the bus decided to use the giant EMP parking loop (and I think it should) then folks would have a five minute walk to the game.

      Then you have the people coming from Ballard, who are way better off with a Center location both now and in the future. You also have way more people who would walk to the game.

      While in theory the SoDo location looks great, it wouldn’t surprise me if way more people would drive to the SoDo location. It would be different if the arena was planned for where they are building the convention center, but doing that would require far more creativity and intelligence than this region has mustered in a long time.

      1. I don’t think I5 is wide enough. You have to take some land on either side. This is why the Convention Center place would make great sense (to say nothing of the fact that the Arena can be convention space itself).

        I’m with Ross. SoDo seems like the obvious first choice at first, but it comes less and less appealing the more I look int the details & the actual distances involved.

  7. Portland’s aerial tramway has been the only passenger transportation running for more than one night this last winter. Wikipedia notes:

    “The tram was jointly funded by OHSU, the City of Portland, and by South Waterfront property owners, with most of the funding coming from OHSU. It is owned by the city and operated by OHSU.”

    Two bus-sized cars, counter-weighting each other on a spectacular ride of several minutes. Essentially being the only reliable transit between a medieval city-sized medical complex and the surface of the Earth. We don’t have anywhere near the concentrated need and geography.

    Anybody serious about aerial tramway, might be worth checking LINK engineering records about rocks, dirt, and underground water and public utilities between Capitol Hill LINK Station and Seattle Center. Maybe archives on 10th floor of the Downtown Library can get us started.

    Because first, and maybe last question will be whether the Earth itself can hold the structure we’ll need. If it can’t, passenger loads and property prices can be left on the shelf.


  8. Well, AJ, I have to admit there’s another explanation for the re-emergence of an old disease.

    It could be that the sprawl of previous decades left spores in the soil, who have developed a resistance to pesticides like growth management, land use planning, and public transit.

    So good counter-measure could be at least starting to figure out what do do about it. Because like every dread disease in its choice medium, this pathogen seems to be thriving on perceived inevitability and resulting silence.


  9. Well, like the great Swedish-American Industrial Workers of the World Joe Hill would’ve said: “Workers of the World arise…You have nothing to lose but your chairs!” Though if he ever attended a modern union membership meeting, he’d wonder who lost all those empty chairs.


    Fact that he was always saying things like that might have been main thing that got him falsely executed. Wish he’d come back Monday and haunt Ballard. Though before he got executed in Utah, he said to scatter his ashes in every state of the union but Utah.

    Because he wouldn’t be caught dead there. Though he’ll probably take one look at what Ballard has become, take the Route 44 to UW Station, and LINK to Sea-Tac. And catch a non-stop flight back to Salt Lake City.



  10. Tacoma Link Extension: exciting. Can’t wait to get some actual transit down here that isn’t an express bus to Seattle.

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