Small lots with straightforward and flexible zoning allows a diversity of housing types, mixed with retail and offices, that are affordable to more people. The video creator made a correction on statistics but his point remains valid.

8 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: How an Average Family in Tokyo Can Buy a New Home”

  1. Not Seattle related, but Las Vegas related for Nevada’s Governor passed a bill that gave the ok for the Regional Transportation of Southern Nevada, or the public transit system for the Las Vegas Valley to start building a proposal to send to voters in the valley by 2020 on a light rail line that would go from the airport to Downtown Las Vegas via Maryland Parkway

  2. Wrote this while super sleepy, so I hope it makes sense. It’s a collection of actions I’d take if I was Seattle czar of carbon. Many of the suggestions cost money, so I propose some taxes at the end.


    1) Where ever buses would run faster with a bus lane, make sure there is a bus lane. The more efficient buses are, the more people will take them instead of drive.
    1a) If this means removing parking where businesses appose or taking a car lane in a place where there is already a car bottle neck, too bad.
    1b) No more part time restrictions. It is not helpful to cars – if cars can get by at peak, they can definitely get by off peak without using the bus lane. Part time restrictions do hurt buses though. Part time restrictions encourage people to cheat. Also, if the time of rush hour expands, buses can get stuck in traffic at the beginning or end of peak.
    1c) Install enforcement camera’s on the front of every bus.

    2) Make buses free for kids. Rob Johnson brought this up recently. This will make transit a reasonable choice for families. This will also get children used to riding transit so they will consider transit a viable option as adults.

    3) Make a system of buses to hikes, camping, skiing, and other recreational destinations. Many people use hikes as a reason to own a car, an item which takes significant carbon to produce. Once the fixed costs of payments, maintenance, and insurance are payed for, the marginal cost of driving is very low. This means taking away the reason to own the car would significantly reduce the financial incentive to drive.

    4) Make the city bike friendly.
    4a) actually build a complete bike network, using the best routes, taking parking or car travel lanes as needed.
    4b) Install bike lifts in strategic locations, for example, there should be some to help getting up from downtown to capitol and another to help getting from downtown to first hill.
    4c) require showers and bike secure bike storage at all new major workplaces
    4d) Retrofit showers and secure bike storage to all municipal work places
    4e) Require all new bikes to come with the option for a dynamo light and subsidize the install of dynamo lights for residents. Lights are a necessity for safe commuting in the winter but most light solutions require separate purchasing, self installation, and regular charging

    5) Gather data about what it would take for people to give up their cars so we can prioritize measure with the largest impact

    6) Contribute money to the planned state study of high speed rail between Portland and Vancouver B.C.


    1) Upzone the whole city to allow any hight and FAR as long as the building is completely wood frame. This will: put people closer to their jobs in Seattle, reducing carbon producing commute distance; allow more people into the urban core which will influence them to be more concerned with carbon output; make the city denser, hence more walkable which will reduce car and transit trips per person; and encourage use of less carbon intensive wood.

    2) Not only do away with all parking minimums, but cap parking in all neighborhoods. This will reduce investments in carbon intensive parking structures. This will also leave more room for people. Because our road system is mostly at or above capacity for cars, this will likely not reduce car trips, but it will reduce the number of cars in the city. The less cars in the city, the less car owners frustrated by slow car trips


    1) Convert as many buses to trolley as possible. Convert all other city vehicles to battery electric.

    2) Set more ambitious requirements for energy from renewable for city utilities, not including non-utility solar installations.

    3) Require all new buildings be able to meet LEED certification.

    4) Set an end date for non-car gas and diesel use in the city.

    5) Fund study of Seattle energy usage and how to reduce it.


    1) Hire lobbyists to lobby state and federal government to implement carbon reducing policy

    2) Make workshops for mayors and city council members on global warming and how to reduce carbon.

    3) Run ads for fighting global warming throughout the state. In our metro area, the ads would likely focus on ways individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and why the anti carbon policies adopted by Seattle are important. In the more rural parts of the state, the ads could focus on the effects of global warming, such as the impacts to our shellfish industry

    As far as paying for this, the income taxes recently discussed would impact the poor less. People have been talking about two types. Regular income tax and capital gains tax. The regular income tax is one of the most stable income sources, so it would make sense to pay for the the operating cost side of the plans. Capitol gains is the most volatile tax source, so I would use it for capitol projects.

    On a more practical level, many of these policies would be very controversial. It might make sense to start soft with a focus on the propaganda side first. I don’t like propaganda, but I dislike global warming more.

    1. This is ambitious. you should think about running for mayor. This election cycle Heaven only knows what could happen.

    2. “Require all new buildings be able to meet LEED certification.”

      This would require significant city support and/or subsidy. Developers are already saying they can’t make apartments for less than $1500-2000 without losing money, so adding on requirements like the Bullitt Center or that rain garden complex in Ballard would be a major hit to affordability. The city would have to organize a mass-produced low-cost package to fit into buildings if that’s feasible, or provide a significant subsidy to each new building.

      “actually build a complete bike network, using the best routes, taking parking or car travel lanes as needed.”

      The best routes sometimes conflict with transit lanes. For instance, on Eastlake SDOT determined that Fairview was in such bad shape it wasn’t cost-effective to put the cycletrack there so it’s going on Eastlake, but that blocks transit lanes on Eastlake because the road isn’t wide enough for both and two regular lanes. The net result is that bicycles will get a first-class boulevard but buses will remain stuck in traffic. Likewise, if there’s a decision to give transit-priority signaling on north-south streets, there can’t simultaneously be priority on east-west streets because that would slow down buses on the north-south streets. How would you address conflicts like these throughout the city?

      Adding trolley wire is a siginficant cost. SDOT and Metro are considering it only in a few high-volume corrirdors or to connect short gaps in the network. Doing it citywide would require a budget several times larger than Move Seattle. Also, we’re at a threshold where battery bus technology may overtake trolley bus technology in a few years on quality and price. SDOT is watching that to decide which buses to order for Roosevelt RapidRide. I prefer trolleybuses because they’re quiet and smooth and the wires look like an inverted streetcar (and they may be better on hills?), but we should keep an open mind on possibilities.

      Seattle is already doing a lot to reduce energy usage and promote green energy through City Light incentives and water-appliance incentives. There is certainly more a new commission could do, but a lot of the low-hanging fruit is already being done. My personal request: incentives for rooftop gardens and solar water heaters, and things that apartment dwellers can use (e.g., greenify the building).

  3. All good, Ben. But in order even to get started on a lot of these, how do we re-concentrate a whole region-full of already-sprawled areas?

    My idea lately has been for transit agencies to (get the necessary authority and) buy some real estate themselves, preferably along existing or planned LINK lines, and do whole transit-oriented subdivisions.

    Airport planner I met on LINK on the way to Sea-Tac a couple of weeks back suggested with go for hub-and-spoke regional pattern of development.

    But seems to me that this is one of same Unspeakable Elephants as the economic factors that have turned region-long length of I-5 into a linear car-impound lot in three years.

    Somebody needs some bad manners here. Any suggestions?


  4. Which begs for next question. In Norway and southern Sweden seeing places with excellent rail and bus service. Starting to get jammed by sprawl at exactly same level of development as we did: When the average family could afford a car.

    Took a little longer in Sweden, because cars and fuel have always been a lot more expensive than here. Same thing seems to be happening with McDonald’s. Creating history’s first unhealthily overweight Swedes.

    Luckily, pizza and kebabs got there first. At food court in Stockholm Central rail station, centerpiece sign reads : Classic Nordic Food: KEBABS! Connection with transit, and similar working-class trades:

    Many ethnic Middle Easterners and North Africans, now Swedish citizens, many native-born, are willing to put up with work and work hours like full-time transit driving. And opening small businesses.

    One afternoon at Gothenburg’s amazing rail and bus station, I came back from day-long bus ride to Norway and forgot the code for my luggage locker. Two security guards came downstairs to help me.

    Two Turkish officers. Truly “stately”. May have been twins. Very tall. Shaved heads. Lectured me very solemnly about the need to write down my locker code. Also corrected me on locker number.

    Another afternoon, riding back into Gothenburg on a regional highway bus. Only three of us on board. The driver, Turkish. Looked just like the station guards. And beside me, a very dark, wiry fellow.

    “Persian.” Suspect that in Sweden, people don’t use the name the British gave their country for their own purposes. Another group is the Assyrians. Not “Syrians.” But like major military power in the Old Testament.

    A young woman I met on another bus told me her name was “Nineveh”. Where Jonah went to prophesy as ordered, after the whale spat him out. She then told me the town is now called “Mosul.” Well then, her people are now the Kurds.

    “NO! They stole it from us!” Might help if somebody told our soldiers these things. Or, judging by performance, all our Commanders in Chief as condition of taking office. We take a lot of casualties because of number of things we never heard of that armed locals have never forgotten.

    But when I got up to get off in downtown Gothenburg, the Persian supervisor took hold of my sleeve. “Before you get off, promise me you’ll tell everybody in your country: In Persia, all our people LOVE Americans!”

    Reason a lot of things, and certain public officials of ours, don’t do us the damage they might. Most people in the world dget a lot worse Chiefs of State than they deserve. So right now, all 300 million of us have finally joined the world’s majority.


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