26 Replies to “Podcast #46: Hopelessly Optimistic”

  1. Thanks guys. I am critical of Sound Transit at times – including today – but I still wear my Sound Transit cap bought off of eBay around. A Sound Transit Pro Shop at least online would be nice. Be wonderful to wear a Sound Transit jersey to Sound Transit Boardmeetings and other such gatherings. Also buy extra paper trains and a Sound Transit mug.

    I mean slapping the logo and wordmark onto some products would be a small cash stream for Sound Transit to do stuff like ORCALift cards, continuing employee education, tours for students of all ages, and such. I just think part of the Sound Transit mission must be to be a center of transit excellence.

    1. Perhaps a more general online transit shop with swag for multiple agencies? With today’s technology an entrepreneur could set up an online storefront and maybe print small batches on demand (in the case of clothing). There could be some licensing deal with the agencies so that they could get some money for using their name.

      1. ^THIS^ I would support even more. This way I could go through and say, “OK I need 5 cotton T-shirts. So to make sure I don’t wear the same day after day, I’ll get a Sound Transit Light Rail, a Community Transit Double Tall, a Skagit Transit Green Force T-Shirt, a Kitsap Transit Fast Breakdown Ferry T-shirt and of course a King County Water Taxi T-Shirt.

        Yeah, this would make more sense than Sound Transit going it all alone.

  2. One factor about Amazon’s HQ2 issue that I think is overlooked is that the Washington legislature has historically kept the number of higher education engineering and tech graduates woefully low for the marketplace. That leaves employers like Amazon and Microsoft searching out-of-state and out-of-country for tech employees. When these graduates review Seattle area housing prices, they get scared and don’t want to take jobs or they ask for more money. On top of that, there aren’t enough tech interns still in local universities around to hire for menial tech jobs. HQ2 is today’s equivalent of trade-centered industries being attracted to places with ambitious trade schools 100 years ago. We need at least one if not two more universities in the Metro area pumping out tens of thousands more tech graduates every year! Of course, there is plenty of wealth among tech executives here, and if they really wanted, they could fund a new private university to rival Stanford or Penn or the University of Chicago as another solution to their graduate shortage problem.

    I don’t see our housing density or transit issues are being very impactful to get us beyond this structural higher education problem. Sure our policies don’t help, but the same kinds of NIMBY pressures exist in almost every other major metro area in America — growing or not.

    Finally, I don’t think we generally don’t fully appreciate that we don’t pay for weather extremes in our utility bills; paying for air conditioning in the sunbelt and/or heat in the rust belt can add hundreds of dollars to one’s housing costs on top of monthly rent. That benefit is especially important as home mortgage interest and property taxes are tax deductible, but utility costs aren’t. For example, a person might save $1000 a month on a mortgage in Houston, but a decent amount (say a quarter to a third) comes back to the owner with a tax deduction, and a Houston air conditioning bill could eat several hundred dollars more each month, making the differentials much smaller. We are blessed in the utility cost facts of life!

    1. No on mention the fact the Seattle housing plan was going to create 62,000 housing units over 25 years and amazon want to move 50,000 employees here in the next 5.

      1. The relevant amount of housing is regional housing. Seattle is, at most, providing 50% of the region’s incremental housing units.

      2. Lack of new for sale housing probably doesnt help either. These are high paying jobs and employees of that pay grade typically want to buy a place. New for sale housing stock as single family is too far out of commuting distance. Almost no new condos being built due to a state act that makes it crazy to build them due to the liability it exposes developers and architects to.

      3. “Almost no new condos being built due to a state act that makes it crazy to build them due to the liability it exposes developers and architects to.”

        You mean making them pay for leaks their shoddy construction causes?

    2. I agree with Al – I think the primary driver of HQ2 is the lack of qualified talent at the volume Amazon needs. Cost of living is likely a factor, but I think Amazon is looking for additional talent more than they are looking to cut costs.

  3. I am currently working on the Amtrak maintenance facility in Sodo on 4th and Holgate. Due to the soil conditions in this area were are driving piles to a depth of 190′ below grade. If you were to assume 4% grade 20′ of cover of the top of the tunnel you tracks would be at 230′ below grade to get under the Duwamish. 230/4*100 = 5750′. When the tracks for light rail start going down you would need over a one mile run before you got the center of the Duwamish and another mile to bet back up plus any additional run to get the station to the right grad for the station. That being said the idea of tunneling under freight rail in sodo would require the kind of concession from BNSF that I have never heard of.

    The Tunnel near Ballard would be more feasible. The Tunnel would be located near salmon bay which has a depth of 50′ and 20′ of cover your tracks would be at 90′ assuming a 20 diameter tunnel. This would only take a run of 2250′ to get to the point if inflection and a 2250 to get back up to grade. From the center of salmon bay would put the first possible station at 51st and 15th ave.

    1. First possible at-grade station north of the ship canal, correct? The station at Market would presumably still be underground.

  4. Small correction. The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed in the Senate in 2013 was never brought up in the House by then Speaker John Boehner.

  5. 10:10 Martin: “On the west side of the city that’s the old monorail alignment roughly, and there’s a sense that we’ve already approved that as voters and we kind of had to deliver on that.”

    Central Link is the east side of the city.It just doesn’t get to the Central District because it’s straight east of downtown. But the reason we need a west side light rail is those are the furthest parts of the city from Central Link. The CD is just a mile away from a Link station, while Ballard and West Seattle are minimum 3-5 miles. That means it’s a larger overhead to get to or from the area from regional transit, and we can’t just leave half the city like that.

    1. “The CD is just a mile away from a Link station”

      Such a painfully ironic miss: we’re close enough that ST is unlikely to ever give us anything better, but still far enough away that we’re all going to remain car-dependent for the foreseeable future.

      1. How about we have an SR 522 line from Bothell or somewhere that crosses the ship canal near the existing Link alignment and runs due south through the Central District before intersecting the spine at Beacon Hill and continuing south to serve Georgetown. From there you could either jump the Duwamish to South Park and Tukwila or recross the spine and head east to Renton.

  6. 0:21:50 Why the 15 and 18 moved from 1st to 3rd Avenue.

    There was a long history of wanting to get the buses off 1st Avenue. In the 80s 1st Avenue was full of prostitutes and adult movie theaters and people didn’t feel safe waiting for buses there. The 15 and 18 ran there and I think all the other West Seattle routes. Then 1st Avenue was cleaned up and went upscale, but people’s bad impressions last a long time and they still don’t feel safe. Selena says the buses were moved to 3rd in 2011 as part of the Deep-Bore Tunnel construction. That may have been the direct cause but an indirect cause was so many years of people telling Metro to get the 15 and 18 off 1st, and it finally happened.

    0:22:20 Streetcar lanes on 1st Avenue and buses.

    The exclusive lanes on 1st Avenue will be compatible with buses, an official told me at a CCC open house. Madison RapidRide will turn around on 1st and share a station with the streetcar. The lanes are available for other bus routes in case any are eventually wanted.

    1. That’s my recollection of the history of bus service on “exciting” 1st Avenue before Mark Sidran’s cleanup attention and developments like Harbor Steps I as well. I think you got the essentials correct. Well done!

    2. There are still a few vestiges of “old” First remaining, but very little. It should be remembered that Seattle was a port city, after all, and until containerization the piers along Alaskan Way where much of the maritime traffic docked were a pretty short walk from First! :)

  7. 32:30 One of the parties has very much hardened into an anti-immigration party.

    Arguably only part of the Republican party has hardened into an anti-immigration party, the Trump base. The anti-tax business leaders want to keep immigration open for their low-paid H-1Bs and farmworkers. The reason immigration reform has never passed is a kind of three-way stalemate between those who want to keep the family-based policy, those who want to replace it with a skills-based policy like Canada’s, and those who want to return to whites-only immigration or close the border. The Trump DACA non-wall overture could lead to a major split in the party, as the Trump base reveal they care more about stopping immigration than anything else, and the rest of the party can’t go full anti-immigration and has various other top priorities (such as abortion).

    34:50 Amazon HQ2 Atlanta is unlikely because the Georgia is a terrible state government by virtue of being a Southern red state.

    The Seattle times article speculated that Amazon might want to go to a red state to get more influence with red-state politicians that decide policies affecting Amazon.

    35:05 Amazon HQ2 Austin is unlikely because it’s too small, doesn’t have transit, and has a lot of nimbys that are choking housing growth.

    The Times article said Amazon has two things going for it: Whole Foods headquarters, and Jeff Bezos lived there as a teenager and has a house there.

      1. By that measure Seattle is bigger than Miami, Boston, DC, and Atlanta – and Jacksonville is bigger than San Francisco. Metro area (CSA/MSA) is what should be looked at rather than arbitrary boundary lines.

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