34 Replies to “Podcast #47: It’ll Get Worse”

  1. 25:10 — ST3 was sized as a 15-year project (planning through construction) because that was size of ST1 and 2, and ST felt that that was the size the public was comfortable with and wouldn’t generate a large opposition of “too much taxes; too much at once”. But when ST released a 15-year plan for public comment the feedback was, “WE NEED MORE LIGHT RAIL NOW!!! Go big!! Get more of the urgent priorities in! Better to vote for them now than waste decades of uncertainty whether and when they’d ever get done.” That led to the 25-year plan.

    42:22 — One of the challenges cities face is that federal and state policies are so anti-city Yes, exactly. The federal and state governments see cities as too tax-and-spend, too wanting to make people live in matchboxes and take away their cars, and a gold mine to be plundered rather than the primary jobs engines which should be supported. That both minimizes support for cities and puts in roadblocks against cities solving their problems. It’s starting to make me wonder if city-states were a better model.

    44:14 — Frank doesn’t like the Growth Management Act?

    1. I love the GMA! I think the point I was trying to make is that UGB + inadequate upzoning = self imposed limit to economic growth.

      1. Exactly. Those fighting upzones are also putting pressure on the urban growth boundary. Developers don’t cause growth. That’s a function of biology. Developers just build housing so that the children of NIMBYs have a place to live.

      2. I take your point, Frank, but in listening to the podcast, that’s not at all clear. It really did sound like you were coming out against the GMA, which made me do a double-take as well.

  2. If the Republicans have their way, it won’t be “West Seattle and Ballard are go”, but “West Seattle and Ballard are gone!”

    Wouldn’t want a bunch more of those young people moving in and voting to tax us!

  3. What if as a big cost savings measure the downtown tunnel goes via 2nd Avenue and through Belltown? No need to deal with the existing DSTT save for some block long pedestrian connections at University Street and Pioneer Square.

    1. Second Avenue is too low-profile in the south end of downtown. That has been clear for at least a decade.

    2. The city & SDOT want the SLU alignment. You’d have to get the city staff to prefer a Belltown alignment. ST will defer to Seattle on a major alignment decision like this.

    3. Belltown makes more sense than SLU in the long run. For now it would be an even trade (a stop in Belltown is very similar to a stop in SLU). In the long run, though, it makes sense to combine a Ballard/Belltwon line with a crossing Metro 8 subway line. This would not follow Denny, but go between Denny and Mercer, which would allow for a station next to Aurora (for bus transfers) as well as a station closer to the middle of South Lake Union (which means that it wouldn’t poach so many riders from the Westlake Station). Something like this, basically: https://drive.google.com/open?id=13D-0dGpWZ_HPYbNXp0dWUtF1DAc&usp=sharing.

      To get to South Lake Union you would have to transfer, but most of the riders to South Lake Union will have to transfer anyway. Fewer people will be coming from West Seattle or Ballard, and there are fewer downtown stops than the main line.

      In my opinion, if you built that and the Ballard to UW subway (along with what we have planned) you wouldn’t need to build any more rail.

      1. And we wouldn’t have to worry about the bridge or tunnel over Salmon Bay– which even the podcast acknowledges, could be an issue. (Which is one of the reasons why I wanted Kubly on to explain his reasoning on ST3)

  4. Mike, this country’s worst Constitutional danger is that as people pour into the cities, they and their cities gain wealth, but as with the Senate, leave their allotted representatives behind.

    In the hands of the very people who-sometimes justifiably- feel that urban wealth, represented of not, costs them power, and acting accordingly. Resulting in newly under-represented city dwellers eventually considering secession. But would bet you’d find that the Greek City States were compacted areas governed by their own super-rich (sound familiar?)

    In a constricted space with fewer opportunities for everybody else. And much weaker in the face of attack from either overseas or the poorer areas they abandoned. This is why I keep saying so much about Regions.

    Areas of all population densities and land area, but held together by an economy deliberately designed to be shared in common. Especially the reason I’d like to see our transit system conceived accordingly. Fast and reliable enough that a voter could live in Marysville, work in Black Diamond, and have dinner in Seattle.

    But more important, be able to change jobs across a very wide area, fast, often, and painlessly. As changing economy increasingly demands. And for the dozenth time at least, not talking about “sprawl”, but discreet communities with a lot of green space in between.

    Final thoughts about the urban-rural political chasm now. Nothing to prevent us people now being forced to move from taking our politics and other transit-related ideas with themus. Including affinity for changes like bringing Olympia into Sound Transit.

    Though Hilltop in Tacoma carries a warning about possible danger now disguised as progress: Graceful old buildings containing only restaurants that longer-termed residents can’t afford to eat in. Goal of us whose politics include public transit should be for people who used to make a living in Hilltop and Olympia to start moving back.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Theoretically a growing city would gain more representatives to go with the population, but then you get into gerrymandering.

      Rural people aren’t pouring into cities; they’re trickling in. a they have for over a century.And people are moving out too, especially retirees and hobby farmers. One growth that people overlook is small cities, the size of Spokane down to Bellingham and Centralia. That’s potentially good if they go to the city rather than a brand-new subdivision on the edge, but those cities are even less inclined to do anything about their car dependency and low density beyond a token few blocks in the center.

      The Greek city-states controlled their hinterland, but the people out there were considered city residents and moved into the city during war. However, a city-state was much smaller than Washington State, so it can’t directly be applied, but I think we should move in that direction however we can.

      I’m talking about metropolitan areas, not arbitrary municipalities. So by city I mean Pugetopolis.

      The problem with sprawl is not that it runs together but that it’s low density and car-dependent. Your vision of Marysville – Seattle – Black Diamond makes sense except that Marysville and Black Diamond would be different kinds of places, like walkable streetcar suburbs, and they might be somewhere else like closer in. They were founded as tiny logging/mining towns. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be larger bedroom suburbs now.

      Hilltop could use a living minimum wage and a universal basic income, as well as unions and enough housing that there’s really a choice.

      1. >> Theoretically a growing city would gain more representatives to go with the population, but then you get into gerrymandering.

        Which is the heart of the problem with American democracy right now. Left wing voters are concentrating in urban areas, while the rest of the country is split. The result is that even if they aren’t trying to gerrymander results, it just works out that way. You could have three districts, one in the city, and two in the suburbs. The city might vote Democratic by 90%, while the two other districts vote Republican by 55%. The vast majority of voters vote for Democrats, but the Republicans control the house.

        The Senate works the same way, and as a result, the electoral college does as well. If the Dakotas were one state, and Idaho/Montana merged, Al Gore would have been President (even if Bush was awarded Florida). We have entered an era where more people vote Democratic, but Republicans retain the power. I’m pretty sure the founding fathers didn’t have this in mind when they made the grand compromise, but we are stuck with it for now.

      2. No, it is what the founding fathers intended. The Senate was explicitly designed to protect low population rural states (Carolinas, New England) from high population, urban stations (NY, Penn, VA). Protecting little states from the big states was a paramount concern when the constitution was drafted, given in the Articles on Confederation gave each state equal weight. Most, if not all, of our founding fathers would have been horrified of the idea that someone could win the Presidency by simply winning overwhelming majorities in the large costal cities, and they built the machinery of the Senate & the Electoral College accordingly.

        The Jeffersonians preferred rural American & thought they were cultural superior to urban Americans. Hamilton was pro-urban and probably would have preferred a Federal government dominated by big city interests. Jefferson won that debate.

      3. *of Confederation.

        Sorry, this is all wildly off topic. I’m just irritated by all the people who were shocked to discover in November that the American Federal government isn’t a majority rule system. It’s been that way for 200+ years, people.

      4. @AJ – fair point, but it’s important to remember that the problem has increased by an order of magnitude. The population ratio of the smallest state to the largest state in 1790 was around 1:10. Today the ratio of WY to CA is more like 1:100.

      5. The late 1700s was just before the large industrial factories that turned our little trading cities into large manufacturing centers and really increased the population. The cities and the life of the average person in the country, and how the cities benefit them, is probably something Jefferson couldn’t have imagined. He may still have been anti-city, but being a smart guy he would have educated himself on the issues and perhaps seen that cities are critical to the country’s well-being, especially in an industrialized world. If we all became yeoman farmers we’d be cutting the country off from the forefront of the rest of the world and falling far behind. Not to mention that we don’t have room for 325 million yeoman farmers, especially since a third of the country doesn’t have enough water to support them or their crops.

  5. If getting the rail tunnel to cross I-5 twice ends up being unfeasible, I don’t see why the current proposal (that doesn’t bring the train across I-5) can’t include a 4-block long pedestrian scaled (i.e. much smaller with much less engineering risk) tunnel can’t be built with moving sidewalks and an elevator at the end to take people up to Boren and Madison. Accelerated moving sidewalks were historically problematic, but newer ones like in the Toronto airport are safe and can move people at 4-1/2 mph plus the 3mph walking speed, getting people the >1/4 mile in 2 minutes. Another advantage to this is that there isn’t a winding detour (back and forth across I-5) that adds time to everyone’s trip both because it slows train speed (for corners) and adds distance.

    1. This! I’ve been advocating this for two years. Why are ST and SDOT not studying the possibility?

    2. But wouldn’t that ped tunnel be duplicative with the Madison BRT line? I don’t think it makes sense to drop >$100M on a ped tunnel + addition station entrance in First Hill that will run parallel to what will be (in theory) the best bus line in the city.

      If there wasn’t a BRT line on Madison, I think this would be an interesting idea. But it really seems duplicative to me.

      1. Theoretically they would work together. You would only add one additional stop (e. g. Boren) which would mean that you would take the BRT to Broadway, Union or places east. You might walk if you ended up taking this stop, but if you were starting close to Madison, or took the other train, you would probably just take the BRT unless you were heading close to Boren.It would therefore relieve some of the pressure from the downtown stop, which is a good thing for BRT. One of the key elements of this bus line is that it very well suited for quick on and off (the dwell times should be very low, and frequency should match, if not exceed Link). But BRT can’t handle a big surge of riders the way that light rail can, so this would help mitigate that problem.

        All that being said, it all depends on the cost, and who is paying for it. I would much rather have 100 million to spend on improved bus service (rather than an extra stop) especially since the RapidRide+ (AKA Move Seattle) projects are obviously starved for cash. But I would say that about many of the Link improvements, such as running the train elevated on 15th, instead of on the surface. But that isn’t an option. ST money can’t be spent on bus service in that manner, which means this would only compete with things like running it underground in West Seattle. It is quite possible that building this stop would be relatively cheap in comparison, and (along with other, similar improvements) turn out to be a great value.

  6. I agree that ST needs to revisit how First Hill is served, as mentioned in the podcast.

    One other critical item to think about: ST has not presented a crowding analysis for the ST3 lines. How we move forward with station locations and lines should not happen until the overcrowding on trains issue is fully analyzed.

    A particular concern of mine is the looming overcrowding between Westlake and Capitol Hill. It was the heaviest ridership segment shown in the Lynnwood Link extension EIS. (http://www.globaltelematics.com/pitf/Lynnwood%20Ridership%20Forecasts_18Sept2012%20final.pdf) Extending it to Everett as well as encouraging riders between Queen Anne and South Lake Union to transfer at Westlake to head north will add riders to this segment, and ST has not published how many they are expecting.

    I mention this because it plays into the First Hill Station discussion on the podcast. If ST would shift the red/blue and green line transfer point from Westlake to Capitol Hill, it would enable ease this looming overcrowding. It would allow for stations at both Fifth and Madison (or Marion) as well as in First Hill (say Boren and University) before having a transfer at a separate tunnel that crosses existing Link under the Pike-Pine area, have a platform that is parallel to the one at Capitol Hill that is accessed from a mezzanine extension to the west. North of Capitol Hill station, the tracks could arc to the west, emerge from the tunnel around Melrose and vault over I-5 (with an adjacent pedestrian overpass connected to an elevator on the west side of I-5) to an aerial structure through South Lake Union, returning into a tunnel at Seattle Center (and continuing on the current proposed alignment to Interbay and Ballard). Of course, that would mean that ST would need to give up the Denny/Westlake station location and instead have an aerial station around Fairview Avenue at Harrison or Republican.

    Another option to the First Hill station dilemma is a short Istanbul-style or Haifa-style two-station funicular tunnel shuttle system (akin to a diagonal elevator) between the Midtown Station and Madison/ Boren, providing a diagonal transit link between the two locations. The funicular tunnel could even have a single track segments between the two stations. A cable-pulled funicular tunnel could be much narrower and shorter than a full-sized pair of light rail tunnels and would involve a much less distance to bore than running two tracks both into and out of First Hill. It could also be set up as a series of escalators as Gwed mentions above, augmented with a Hudson Yards diagonal elevator (technically a funicular), providing both wheelchair and bicycle access options.

    Of course, building any rail tunnel and deep stations is expensive. Given the recent cost surges for Lynnwood, I am not yet convinced that we can still afford both Ballard and West Seattle extensions as presented in ST3. I’m not sure how much the current concept will cost and how variations would change it.

    In sum, there are lots of ways that First Hill access can be provided. They all involve cost, but if we don’t speak up now about looking into this, we’ll miss our chance! Let’s put the pressure on ST to study and consider lower-cost innovative solutions to this!

    1. Better still would be a station at convention place. Remove the existing double crossover in pine street stub tunnel for a platform on the existing line. Connect to an above ground Ballard link station Integrated into the convention center expansion and an aerial i5 crossing/lid park on a terry boren or 9th alignment.

      1. The ST3 concept green line transfer platform will be 1 to 2 blocks east of Westlake anyway, but will unfortunately be insanely deep to cross under the U-Link tracks. A variation of my scheme would be to place the Boren green line station closer to the WSCC and have an underground walkway connecting it to Westlake Station. That would enable Westlake transfers. With more underground depth to cross tracks in lower Capitol Hill, the LRT crossing would be easier east of I-5, and transfers could happen at both Capitol Hill and Westlake (with an even further hike than is currently proposed, of course).

    2. I don’t think it make sense to have a First Hill station if it requires skipping Westlake. Westlake is a much bigger destination than First Hill. I think you’d end up with worse crowding because of all the people coming from the south transferring at Cap Hill simply to get to Westlake.

      1. Cap Hill already has 70 percent of the boardings that Westlake does. Cap Hill has more boardings than any other station but Westlake and UW, passing SeaTac Airport and IDC and higher than University Street and Pioneer Square combined.

      2. I’d imagine that as Link pulls in more suburban commuters with Lynnwood & Federal Way extensions, Westlake will growth faster than Cap Hill. Community Transit runs buses to downtown but not Cap Hill for a reason. it’s not that Cap Hill isn’t a major destination – it is – it’s that Westlake is even bigger.

  7. I suspect that the end station in West Seattle will end up being east of California Avenue and Alaska Junction, probably around Fauntleroy. The lower density begins just a half-block west of California anyway. I realize the historical significance of Alaska Junction as a transit transfer point, but there is little to keep buses from simply being rerouted a few blocks to go by a rail station entrance in the future. In fact, having an actual off-street transit hub in West Seattle where bus routes would begin/end (like Northgate has) would seem to offer greater benefits to both riders and operations; I just don’t see something like this happening literally at the corner of California and Alaska without some high-cost real estate acquisition and a messy fight over neighborhood architectural character.

    1. That’s a great point. the distance between California and Fauntleroy is actually 300 feet shorter than the distance between MLK and Rainier at S Edmonds (Columbia City station).

  8. I like the comment on ridership at First Hill vs the CBD, and I think that actually points in favor of keeping the station west of I5. The Financial District is a bigger job’s destination than First Hill. Therefore, I think it make sense to serve the Financial District directly and serve First Hill with a transfer via Madison BRT – rather than serve First Hill directly and Financial District via a transfer.

    I think Madison BRT will struggle, at peak, to absorb all the people existing the First Hill station wanting to get downtown, while I think it can handle all the people exiting a downtown station trying to get to the hospitals, given that flow of people will be “reverse commuting” out of downtown.

  9. Any thoughts on the complexity of simply deviating from 5th Ave? Putting aside going under I5 – won’t not following an existing street involve having to dodge giant underground parking garages? This isn’t an issue when tunneling under residential neighborhoods, but might be an issue downtown.

    I know the Bellevue tunnel, which is quite shallow, was constrained on its alignment because of the presence of giant underground parking garages hemmed it in to follow the existing street grid.

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