Seattle private bikeshare companies: Spin and LimeBike

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25 Replies to “News Roundup: Out of the Gate”

  1. Phinney Ridge housing project delayed over Metro bus ruling

    tl;dr: The 5 doesn’t actually run every 15 minutes in reality (nearly 40% of the time), so the building can’t be built with no parking.

    Not really sure how to improve the situation. Part of the issue is that buses can’t actually fit in the lanes on the Aurora bridge, so when I was riding the 5 we were frequently delayed there. The other issue is the bus lane on Battery St. and the box at the intersection at 6th/Aurora/Battery is blocked all the time.

    1. Ha! Now that is funny. The court basically ruled that Metro’s bus service is too unreliable to be counted as frequent transit under the law.

      If I was the developer I’d sue the crap out of Metro for my loses. Promise one thing, but deliver something that doesn’t meet the legal definition of what you promised? Seems like a pretty strong case to recover any and all loses.

      But I do find it funny that the neighbors are putting up a fight over the Kort Haus. Ya, I guess it counted as “character”, but it always was bit of a dump, and the whole “exotic meats” thing was a bit disappointing.

      1. Could save a lot of court costs if Mayor Jenny Durkan can get a leave of absence. Only problem being, which side to prosecute? Though I forget…don’t prosecution and defense belong to same Bar?

        Can see sure Golden Globe here. Last episode, Metro agrees to permanently route the “5” from Colman Dock to Shoreline College, and operate it with pedicabs in mixed traffic.

        But in return, property owners agree to dress up in dog suits and squeak like puppies begging for a station on a LINK line that will otherwise run express elevated from 85th to Lynnwood.

        And…nice try, Jennie, but you give Dow Constantine and all those developers back their black clothes, round bombs, and old dog-eared Bakunin (c’mon, isn’t that great name for an anarchist from Olympia?) paperbacks and tell PPP (Private Profit Prisons) to put ’em on next NB from Angle Lake!

        You don’t get to be King County Exec by being a snitch!


    2. You realize that you are Metro, right? Any fines Metro has to pay would come out of your taxes, and since a tax surcharge for this is unlikely it would have to come out of Metro’s other service or a transfer from the county, which would just move the cuts from some other county service.

      Also, a judge would require clear evidence of a promise, a kind of level-of-service guarantee. If that exists, why don’t I know about it? Metro has a goal of 15-minute service in various corridors, and when it gets incremental funding it moves toward it. But the closest to a guarantee is the RapidRide lines, which by definition and federal grants are 15-minutes minimum until 10pm. But that doesn’t include acts of God and traffic, bus breakdowns, inability to recruit enough qualified drivers, etc. That’s where a level-of-service guarantee comes in, and for that you’d have to pay through the nose, a kind of “first class” for bus service. So double fares to keep a bus and driver on standby for every few regular buses. . And that’s really looking at the problem from the wrong end, because what’s making the buses unreliable is mostly traffic bottlenecks and car breakdowns, so you could spend that same money on transit/BAT lanes and make the regular buses even more reliable (because even a standby bus can’t get through traffic bottlenecks).

      It would be really sad if apartments get dozens of parking spaces because “15-minute buses” come every 20-25 minutes 40% of the time. A few parking spaces wouldn’t be a big deal. But the idea that people would make a wholesale shift to driving over 5-10 minutes is ridiculous. Some people would drive for some especially time-sensitive trips, or those that require two or three transfers to infrequent routes. But not everybody would drive for every trip, and thus buy a car to facilitate that. It’s like the issue of apodments: opponents say that “of course every unit will have a car” when that’s manifestly false. I wouldn’t get a car, and I want a carless apartment. However, i trust that the collapse of 0:1 parking won’t lead all the way to 1:1 parking. If it settles at 0.25:1 or 0.5:1 that would be OK, and even 0.75:1 would be an improvement over the past.

      Of course, we could just … make the buses more frequent, so that even if one is late, the second one will come within fifteen minutes. Of course that would still break down when traffic causes bus bunching.

      1. “But the idea that people would make a wholesale shift to driving over 5-10 minutes is ridiculous. ”

        But it works exactly the opposite way: driving cars is the default. In absence of a fast, reliable transit service, people will refrain from making a shift away from cars, and will therefore continue to need parking.

      2. We’re talking about people in this parkingless building, not all people. There are three possibilities.

        1. They will get cars and park in the street. That’s what the activists fear, that they’ll take “their” parking spaces.

        2. They’ll take transit anyway. This is where I think the difference 5-10 minutes makes is overblown. The transit won’t be worse than it currently is. Their rent may be lower because the building doesn’t have parking amenities so the construction/finance costs were less and it could fit more units.

        3. People won’t move into it because it doesn’t have parking. It will remain substantially empty. This is unlikely.

      3. @Mike

        4. They will park their car in a garage somewhere else. Maybe their friends, maybe a commercial garage.

      4. @Mars — Even if you assume that people will need cars and therefore parking (a notion I find absurd) why is it the developers responsibility to build it? Should the developer also require a new bed? New clothes? A toaster? The whole thing is ridiculous.

        The issues isn’t about Phinney Ridge transit (which is excellent) but why we are increasing rents to build something that has nothing to do with the health or safety of the tenants. Some will decide not to own a car. Some will own two cars. They will park them somewhere else, or rent somewhere else if the place doesn’t have parking.

        If we require the apartment to have parking, it pushes up the cost of this apartment. This not only pushes up the cost of rent for these tenants, but all tenants. We are therefore asking all of those who rent to pay for parking. That is horribly unfair. Those who generally have less wealth (which is why they are renting) are asked to pay for a public good — one which many of them simply can’t afford, or aren’t in the least bit interested. If we want to pay for parking garages, then everyone should pay. Go ahead, raise the property tax (or better yet, car tab tax) to pay for the construction of new parking garages. Good luck with that.

        That won’t happen, as long as one (largely wealthy and powerful) group continues to force another (largely poor) group to pay for a public good. How convenient.

    3. This group calls itself “Livable Phinney”.

      It grates on me that this (and other groups) have appropriated ‘livability” to mean opposition to building more housing, support for maintaining separation between residential and commercial land, and prioritizing cars over every other transportation mode. These are the sort of policies that raise rents and make getting around Seattle more difficult. That makes Seattle less livable.

      1. The only way to counteract it is to point out that it’s really “quality of life for existing homeowners/tenants”, which leaves people out. They will say, “I was here first; why shouldn’t I have the right to control my neighborhood for myself?” But that’s inequitable, and long-term it leads to a growing class divide between those who bought houses before 1995 or had high enough salaries to buy one afterward, vs everyone else. Existing tenants can partly fit into both sides, but as rents increase they’ll be priced out in a decade or two.

      2. Some subset of the building’s tenants will own cars even when transit is frequent and reliable. I saw that firsthand on Capitol Hill which has much more transit than Phinney does. I’d say that is because (1) tenants in new buildings have high incomes and (2) cars are still somewhat useful in Seattle.

        Real life isn’t so neat to think that you’re going to spend most of your life along a certain bus route, or within walking distance. Maybe that next great job opportunity is in Bothell, not downtown. Maybe your new relationship is with someone in Bellevue, not Ballard. Those kinds of things prompt people to own cars.

      3. I can’t believe the number of people in San Francisco and Chicago who drive, even when it’s practically door-to-door between BART stations or el stations. That’s America. But there a very few buildings without parking, do the number of people who want it is greater than the number of units. Those are the people who will preferentially choose this building. The others will either ignore this factor or go elsewhere.

        Also, you’re not acknowledging that structured parking costs $30,000 per space, and adds significantly to the cost of rent. Many people can’t afford to have such a freewheeling lifestyle, even though American city design makes it hard not to.

    4. I wonder how the 40% number was measured.

      Bus arrivals are a “Poisson process”, aka the “bus waiting paradox”, and are expected to fail to meet their scheduled intervals a large % of the time. Conversely, they can also beat their intervals (2 buses arriving together), but that’s not very desirable either.

      You can’t do much to speed up a delayed bus, as the stops and the bus itself will be unusually crowded. In light traffic skipping stops might make up time, but that annoys users. Buses that are running fast will stall for time so they have a better chance of serving their fair share of passengers.

      Of course, it doesn’t take much for a bus to fall so far behind that it effectively becomes the next bus.

      1. For heavy-duty city transit, Andrew, and especially the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, you need to run not on schedule, but on headway- distance between buses. DSTT shouldn’t use them at all between portals.

        Mixed traffic and no signal preempt makes it very hard to either run a schedule or keep headways. Though especially on trolley routes, drivers with experience on a given route will learn to keep the right distance behind follower and ahead of leader.

        Should be past-cost-free measure to put trolleybuses into their own division. With the necessary special training, and also extra pay. Fair, because there’s more to learn and master, and also because to get or stay wired, routes need large passenger loads.

        I think it takes about a year full-time to train into trolley driving. Starting with the “feel” of having to work with gravity and momentum, in addition to power. And “reading” the wire. Definitely should be electric rodeos. Have read that best powered-plane pilots start out on sail-planes.

        But reason I’ll never get off KC Metro’s case about DSTT operations is because the facility was supposed to actually start a regional railroad with trolleybuses. Meaning both driving skill, and a very special order of operations control. Not the basement level under Third Avenue.

        Anyhow, my main message on the point of your comment is that even though it’s much harder than for trains, bus operations depend a hundred percent on as much fully-reserved right of way as they can get. I can imagine Poisson yelling that in French at the top of his lungs every…What’s PM Rush Hour in French?


      2. A lot of this could be mitigated if we had reliable real-time arrival data. Not just that people could leave their offices/homes/bar closer to when the bus is actually going to arrive, but when buses are bunched, people who prefer a less crowded ride can opt to wait for the next one. When I’ve tried to do this with the 67, for example, I’ve skipped boarded a crush-loaded bus because there was another one arriving in two minutes. Then, two minutes later, I learn that ‘next bus’ was a figment of OneBusAway’s imagination.

      3. You have to make sure that the “next bus” is colored red or blue in OBA, not gray. A gray bus is just a scheduled arrival, for when OBA has no idea when it’s going to show up – generally, not to be relied upon.

        In addition, OBA has bugs where it can produce garbage real-time arrival numbers for buses that have not yet left their terminal. You need to be boarding at a stop at least a mile into the route for OBA to be worth much of anything.

    5. This is why I didn’t like the “frequent transit” clause. The rule should be simple — don’t require parking. Let the developer decide whether to build with parking, or build without it.

      It is crazy that we require this one amenity. Who cares if a lot of people have cars. Should we also require a workout room, since that has become popular? What about a ground floor Thai restaurant? The whole thing is absurd. If you buy a car, you will figure out where to put it, and if that means storing it in a garage down the street, so be it.

      What is clear is that if you offered the average renter a discount worth 30 grand (the cost of a parking spot) or the actual parking spot, most would take the cash. Car ownership overall, but especially in the city is fading away, a trend that the big automakers aren’t fighting, but trying to get ahead of (by focusing on commercial, automated driving fleets).

      1. I read years ago that in France, companies were developing that would not only garage your car, but keep up with maintenance, oil changes, and cleaning. And deliver it to you anywhere you called for it. And on your call, pick it up from you and re-garage it.

        Didn’t read any cost figures. Remember that Uber didn’t exist then. But maintenance could still be a big draw. Definitely maintains the car’s value. And something really vital the owner no longer has to worry about making an appointment for. Main point is that nobody’s home absolutely has to have a garage if they have a car.


      2. As I understand it, I think the frequent transit requirement is there for legal reasons, otherwise the city would need to prove there isn’t an environmental impact from removing parking. The city can’t make large changes to zoning rules without an EIS analysis. The frequent transit language allows the city to drop the parking requirement in certain neighborhoods and be able to say in the EIS “no impact on the neighborhood, good to go!”

      3. Agree entirely with your point, Ross, although to be fair you wouldn’t offer the “average renter” a $30,000 discount, you’d offer them a monthly discount based on the $30,000 divided by how many years the building can be amortized at. I think for rental property that’s 27.5 years but I’m no expert on that sort of thing – if so that works out to a $91 offer per month. That may still be a valid price point at which many would happily take the money in lieu of a parking space. (If you purchase, of course, then the $30,000 discount would be the correct offer.)

        To be clear, and as someone who works with developers, I am strictly in favor of having no parking minimum. If you need parking, you won’t choose a building that doesn’t have it. Nobody is mandating that no parking can ever be built anywhere by any developer – and of course many developments will want to have parking. It just shouldn’t be mandatory where it’s not desired by the developer and her target group. When I bought my first house, I wanted a fireplace, and so there were houses that were otherwise desirable that I had to cross off my list. There’s no “right” for someone to have a parking space in every single building that could possibly be available. It is a mandate that provides no conceivable social good – which, after all, is what zoning is supposed to do (see parking maximums, proximity to transit and the like).

  2. Really great to have two features on the same morning presenting such wonderful phenomenon and their implications.

    For first time in history, a candidate is basing his political career on an impossible promise to deliver, not defeat, light rail transit.

    And: “Mister Walker. If we adopt this plan of yours, will that make me leave my BMW in the driveway?” Can be taken several ways.

    One, “Will grade separated rail finally let me leave my BMW in my driveway and not have it get hit by a bus every couple days?” Or two, “After my speeding personal wealth road-kills transit itself, will I save enough taxes that I can leave that German junk-pile parked on blocks in my front yard?”

    Or three, “What’s fair minimum penalty for a terrestrial multiple passenger conveyance violating the Corporate Prime Directive and displacing space-time presence reserved for white galactic transporters equipped with wi-fi?”

    Somehow prefer the Gentry to the Elite. At least they’re still Earthlings who occasionally throw a half-eaten leg of mutton over their shoulders for transit passengers waiting at bus zones in San Francisco to fight over.

    Who wants to risk damage to their teeth and claws for an energy bar?


    1. That’s kinda crazy- Link weekday ridership has always peaked in july or August, so there’s an outside chance that it may reach 80k daily boardings before the end of summer.

  3. Jarrett, right now I’m looking at a 3D satellite scene, aimed directly at the northbound streetcar stop on NW10th Avenue at Johnson. “A-Loop”, I think. In a block it will turn east and head for the Broadway Bridge.

    Last time I was there at sidewalk level, I watched a train held by car traffic for at least ten minutes before I walked away. At a Stop Sign! One of what, dozens, along those streetcar routes? Though I don’t think MAX stops at octagons. Like MUNI Metro trains do.

    Now granted, I only drove 60′ electric articulated buses in Seattle for thirteen years.
    But I really don’t think a bus could have cleared that situation any better.

    Or that crush load passengers would have picked the bus over the train. In the bumper-to-bumper-three-packed-bus-line needed for same passenger count. What I’m saying is that Portland’s class-division problem isn’t choice of equipment.

    Before electronics, average ’53 Chevy-owner used to know that every use in the kit has its tool. Route 8 up to OHSU really should run wired trolleybuses, for sufficient climbing power. But wouldn’t replace the Tramway with it.

    For extremely heavy arterial loads, real advantage of railcars is that they can be coupled. Filling mandatory bus following distances with passengers. Harder to couple buses. Russians used to couple standard trolleybuses. Result not visibly Elitist. Let’s have TriMet and KC Metro check into it.

    But will bet you a coffee at Lovejoy Bakers that your chief transit-lane opponents call all special arrangement for transit ELITIST! Whatever wheels are covered with. Traditionally “Elite” isn’t an insult- When membership is open to all skilled and motivated dirty hands. Earning enough money for an address on every streetcar line they help design and build.

    About 30 years ago, shelter at the Providence Park MAX Station had a glassed-in historic campaign poster from 1968. Several dozen happy cheering people in work clothes. I remember a milk-man. (Anybody else remember one at all?) Under a banner saying: “Wayne Morse! A Real LIBERAL!” He lost by a small margin, mostly re: Oregon politics.

    “Progressives” were turn-of-the 19th-to 20th Century Republicans. Many Union veterans in the Civil War. When they get their party back from the slavers, our country might live. But favor, Jarrett: Ask Tri-Met where that poster is, and can we make copies. Because when Democrats regrow the guts to re-adopt their former adjective, maybe well start winning REAL ELECTIONS again!

    And giving our country the ELITE we can all join to build ourselves the TRANSIT we DESERVE!

    Mark Dublin

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