POTD 02/7/07 - Future city

This is an open thread.

46 Replies to “News Roundup: Natal Creeks”

  1. RE: Freeway Park:
    This spring, I asked some workers when the main fountain was ever going to be turned on again.
    The trip down the canyon to see traffic thru the waterfall was novel.
    Well one of the workers told me that the pumps were shot and that the only access was thru I-5.
    So, he didn’t see an I-5 closure to repair the pumps happening any time soon.
    Don’t know if it’s true or not, but the fountain was one of the major attractions at the park’s opening.
    IMO, it would be nice to see it working again.

    1. Ditto doubled and cubed for the beautiful art-piece at Convention Place Station that took six months to go from a welcome comforting presence behind a busy platform to a substandard collector for the City Dump.

      The fountain motor failed. Which by either ST rule, city ordinance, Legislative warning, or Federal prohibition would’ve taken fifty years to put out bids to fix. In other words, if you can do this in real English “We’re seein’ a lo’ o’ that lytely!”

      Definitely gives an arsenal of ammo to people who think public art robs both taxpayers and transit. No matter how much their taste in art means the SAM cafeteria, which really is expensive.

      So recommend a rule: if you buy it, find anything of same value to not buy ’til you fix it.


    2. Whatever subject or context, phrase “Not going to happen” is always true. Unlike with sanitary waste, which is always an excuse for predictable preventable malfeasance by somebody with same substance for brains.

      Being the thriving commercial center of a steadily densitizing and value-adding segment of a city of same description, ribbon will be actively cut by a scissors in the hand of the chairman of the Improvement Association.

      Meantime, barring conditions nobody wants to even think about, “Close to Dead” still means it’s murder to pull the plug.


      1. That the article the got me the tuned in. but i was pointing out that is has passed and there was no one was talking about it.

    1. We previewed the zoning updates to downtown in August.

      What’s happening in Wilburton is interesting, and maybe more impactful as AJ suggests. The downtown height increases are offset by more modest FAR increases, tower spacing, and setback rules. But Wilburton is being upzoned from a very low base that has made development really difficult. We’ll have more complete reporting on that shortly.

  2. SDOT is installing safety upgrades along 2nd Ave, which appear to include “beg to cross” buttons at 2nd Ave and Bell. Bell street was rebuilt just a couple years ago into a shared pedestrian/vehicle street, aka woonerf. Shouldn’t a pedestrian crossing button for a woonerf be a design contradiction, SDOT?

    1. Push buttons are required by ADA to provide tactile, visual, and audible indications for those with disabilities. How SDOT chooses to operate them is up to them. They may operate them similar to the location at 2nd Avenue and Jackson St near the King County building. That signal still has a walk signal come on every time but those with disabilities can use the push button if they need the information.

      1. I think it’s great that more intersections are equipped with buttons that give audible signals to give information about which way it’s safe to cross for people with visual limitations.

        However I really wish there was some indication as to whether you actually need to press the button to get the walk signal to come on. For some intersections you do, some you don’t. The button looks exactly the same either way! I’d rather not run up to the button to hit it as I see the light in the other direction turning yellow, only to find out that I’m allowed to cross without pressing it.

      2. ADA might require tactile, visual, and audible indications. But it doesn’t require push buttons. Does any other major pedestrian-oriented city use them? Is NYC or Chicago going around installing a bunch of push buttons? NO.

    2. Who put these stickers on pedestrian call buttons around the city? An anonymous group of “indeterminate size” called the Seattle Department of TRANSFORMation. They told me over email that they have day jobs and are associated with organizations that can’t “publicly speak truth to SDOT power.” The fact of the matter is that SDOT, the actual Seattle Department of Transportation, pretends to be the bureau of all forms of transportation but is really just the bureau of the automobile. SDOT’s employees are paid to make sure the automobile is always in motion, always has enough room, always has its many needs meet.


  3. Is it just me, or has Metro rescheduled the Downtown to Ballard express buses (!5X, 17X, 18X) to avoid the Ballard Bridge opening at 6pm? (there appears to be about a 15 minute gap–none leaving between 5:31 and 5:45))

    If they did, wouldn’t it be better to do this in the summer when the bridge opens more (for the recreational boaters)

  4. The article on autonomous cars getting hit ends with “Humans violate the rules in a safe and principled way…”.

    That is such complete BS. How does stuff like that get passed editors? Traffic fatalities are almost always because someone broke a traffic law.

    I’m amazed at lengths people go to rationalize their bad driving habits.

    1. In the same way that people can jaywalk safely. Traffic laws don’t form a complete and perfect guide for safety, any more than criminal laws form a complete and perfect guide for justice.

      That said, it’s one thing for someone to jaywalk, and another thing entirely for a several ton vehicle to glide through a stop sign. I’d much rather have the extreme precaution of the self-driving car.

      1. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/37092081163/in/dateposted-public/



        People would get pecked more if crow family thought “Jay-walking” was a slur. But maybe term comes from fact that the whole crow family hardly ever get killed by the cars that just delivered their current supper.

        They also know exactly the distance, often only a foot or so, that they have to move to let a car go by before they’re back at their place at table. Probably same MO around cars as people in Gothenburg and Oslo have for streetcars.

        11am in Gothenburg. Main Downtown Plaza. Among the hundreds of other people walking across the tracks without looking, driver on a 90′ LRV sees a young woman pushing a baby carriage directly toward the train she isn’t looking at.

        He doesn’t slack speed at all- train speed maybe ten miles an hour, but would do the job. He just taps the bell, and keeps moving. The woman still doesn’t look up, just slackens her pace a step or two. Both Swedes, all three, really, not a care in the world.

        Very few caution signs, and I think fewer signaled crosswalks. But what maintains safety is habits from the wagon days for walking close-quarters with large wheeled vehicles.

        People are literally conditioned from their stroller days to keep out from under streetcars. Street rail has some advantages here. One, with railcars generally, car edge clearance never shifts side-to-side.

        And two, the woman with the carriage was doubtless conditioned to feel the vibration in the pavement. The bell told her exactly where the car was in relation to her.

        Whether we’ll ever be able to develop that kind of relationship between people and transit- wouldn’t bet either way. It depends on how fast our population grows, ’til we reach density anything like Europe.

        But for cars without human drivers? Before I’d either get into one or or wait on same side of tallest available barrier with it, I’d like to know its mechanic. Personally.


    2. Agreed! “Rational” law breaking that kills 35K each year and injures/maims many more and terrorized our neighborhoods (e.g., people are literally scared to walk or bike!) is not very rational at all.

    3. I agree, the logic behind the article is bizarre. These accidents are not the fault of the automated vehicle, but the fault of the human driver. If someone is driving overly cautious, so be it. You aren’t allowed to hit them. The automated vehicles are simply operating the way that we should all operate. This is the same way that a driving instructor would drive. This is also the same way that a black man drives when he sees a cop. But these idiot drivers are upset because the other car isn’t being driven in the same idiotic way.

    4. Couple problems common in Seattle driving. One, while I’d bet that the average driver’s license applicant gets a high score on printed rules, many drivers just never learn how to handle their cars.

      Worst instance is knowing about “blind spots”. The places where a driver most desperately needs to see a car right alongside them. And can’t. Body repair man once told me most common first thing a client says: “I never saw him.”

      Still think the law should mandate back seat windows that’ll permit a shoulder check, with cameras optional too but trusted less.

      Next worse, but not by far, and definitely more unsettling, is Following Too Close. Would like to have a serious talk with a tire-iron for a black-board pointer with driver instruction from Seattle city line south.

      Lord, I hate getting tail-gated ten miles over the limit. On a road without any gravel between pavement and ditches. Not great on freeways, either. Reason my chief defensive maneuver is good local road map.

      But still put main blame on first fault. From the look of other drivers, many of whom seem as people to be “Born To Be Tame”, would bet a lot they either learned following distance in driver training, or are reverting to Nature’s own constant that there’s safety in closely packed moving situations.

      Also called a herd of zebras, whose hooves in a chase have a higher kill rate than the pursuing lionesses’ claws and teeth. So my recommendation is to put all Seattle license applicants through intensive close-order speeding training. With lionesses taking care of those who can’t handle following and blind-spots.

      But every applicant should be required to master, meaning not crash, on a particular piece of I-5 a few blocks from the Capitol dome in Olympia. Get onto the freeway at the Deschutes Parkway entrance near the old brewery, and make it to the first exit northbound with your car even partly still assembled.

      Accelerate up a steep ramp to sixty from a standing stop, with traffic coming upward over your left shoulder, along with diving downhill from halfway to the Pacific coast off of SR101. Whose lane you have to get into, ever steeper uphill while your acceleration lanes consecutively disappear into the mass escape from Aberdeen diving and climbing toward you.

      Writing to Toyota to see if they can’t offer the option of a horn that goes “Tora! Tora! Tora!” Anybody know if that means the horn is on a Camry or a Zero? (Google “Pearl Harbor Day.”)

      Fact that I’ve never seen even a worrisome close-call there with human drivers makes me REALLY want to watch a completely unmanned automatic car try it. Though not fair test, because however lame its performance, We The People won’t even scare it.


  5. Re the Curbed Apt piece, even though I consider myself a city snob, the convenient walking distance to light rail and the in unit Laundry clinch the sea-tac apartment location for me. Capitol Hill is great for location in terms of cultural benefits, but having to compete for apartment dweller washers and dryers and or going to a laundry mat to wait around for available machines was such a pain in the butt.

    1. Agreed. I’m kind of surprised washer and dryer in unit is not standard almost everywhere. One one think, over the long haul, it would bring in far more rent for the landlord than the cost of buying and installing it.

      Maybe in the smallest apartments, the opportunity cost of the square footage is too great, and some of the older buildings might lack the necessary plumbing, but other than that, no reason not to have it.

      1. Many of the older buildings would have to be completely renovated: ventilation and plumbing hookups installed, and re-wired to support the power demands of all units having laundry. It’s not just the cost of buying the appliance.

      2. Yeah, what B said. It really isn’t the cost of the appliance, or the space it uses, but the age of the building. Having visited folks in New York, I’ve seen some really tiny, but new apartments with washer/dryers, and some relatively spacious ones without them.

    2. Almost all new buildings are “luxury”, which in practice means an in-unit washer/dryer, microwave, dishwasher, and jacked-up rent. Because they can say the rent covers the cost of these things, and nobody knows the difference between the landlord’s cost and the rent premium of having those things.

      But yes, in SeaTac an in-unit washer-dryer is really important. Otherwise you’re putting your lanudry in a duffel bag and taking it on Link and probably a bus too to find a laundromat near transit, and repeat every week or two.

      1. Many apartment buildings which don’t have in-unit laundry still have shared laundry facilities in the basement. Not as good as your own machine in your own unit, but still much better than having to lug clothes to a nearby laundromat.

  6. Said this before, but will tell my reps to make it illegal for anybody that hasn’t memorized it to click a key or flick a mouse to build a driver-free car.

    “At the sound of the first droning of the shells we flash backward, in one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that it awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness. One can not explain it.

    A man is walking along without thought or heed. Suddenly he throws himself down on the ground and a storm of fragments flies harmlessly over him. Yet he cannot remember either to have heard the shell coming or to have thought of flinging himself down.

    But had he not abandoned himself to the impulse he would now be a heap of mangled flesh. It is this other, this second sight in us, that has thrown us to the ground and saved us, without our knowing how. If it were not so, there would not be one man alive from The English Channel to Switzerland.”

    “All Quiet on the Western Front”. Which it was when the book’s hero became World War I’s last casualty.

    Channel to Switzerland is ‘way beyond ST Express service area. And in German a “Thousand” years sound more emphatic than a “Million”. Like all advertising, car-automation comparisons leave out a lot, meaning everything important.

    For instance:

    Exactly how many times was a test carried out? And, under exact same conditions, how many human driven cars missed collisions completely? And even more important…how many human drivers who missed even realized there’d been a close call?

    But most important, how much information, and how many million-years developed reflexes and senses, did their entire minds and bodied bring into action at the exact split second when it really mattered? Which, in any mile’s driving, could be multiplied by the number of seconds in a mile.

    Also, mind your design definitions. An “autonomous” car will consider it mandatory to convert passengers into axle grease when a bearing signals it’s out of spec.


    Lot farther than Sound Transit boundaries.

  7. The Medium piece on Portland’s anti-McMansion, pro-duplex policy is really interesting. It will clearly successfully reduce construction of very large new SFHs. But I’d love to see more details from developers on how new triplexes, etc. that this would allow. 2,500 square feet max across 3 units sounds very hard to do in a profitable way, and they don’t make clear what parking requirements are, which on these lots would probably make every triplex impossible.

    1. I’m hoping this is aimed at preserving a bunch of the SFH in inner SE near Hawthorne, Belmont, etc. A number of these huge older homes were converted to duplex + (I’ve seen conversions of up to 7x based on the number of electric meters) decades ago, but with exclusive zoning today those conversions aren’t possible. So, today they are torn down and made into Beverly Hills mansion style things.

      Allowing these conversions again preserves some of Portland’s really attractive neighborhoods while allowing for increased density.

      As for parking, it’s troublesome in those areas sometimes. That’s what bus routes 4, 14 and 15 are for. At the same time, despite the current density east of SE 30th, I’ve not really had that much trouble parking in that area when I had to drive into those places.

      1. Oh, and I’m not convinced that an old Victorian or Arts and Crafts converted into a triplex or so is so much more of a parking problem than one of the monster dream houses that are SFH replacing them. It seems like when those dream house families move in they bring about 10 cars with them, from what I have seen going on.

      2. I’m with you there. All of the McMansions in my area come with 2-3 cars/trailers/toys minimum. I would much rather see 3 low-car families living in a Triplex with the same footprint.

      3. Here are some examples from that area:

        duplex conversion on left, 4plex conversion on right:

        Thanks to the strict single family zoning, these places that could be easily converted are being demolished and turned into stuff like this:

      4. Thanks for the local perspective, Glenn. I wasn’t clear about my parking concern — I agree with you that triplexes are good from a policy perspective. I meant I’m worried that Portland would require too much off-street parking at such new buildings, making it functionally impossible to build them on smallish lots.

    2. Right… it seems like the total built size should be bigger for multifamily projects to make those projects pencil out.

  8. So I think I’ve noticed an ORCA transfer quirk. Curious if anyone else has had this experience.

    The pattern works like this: take at Metro bus at (say) 2:00 PM. Fare deducted: 2.50
    Take another bus at 3:30: I get a 2.50 transfer credit, am charged .25 for peak.
    Take another bus at 5:00: If I understand the fare policy, I should be charged 2.50; only the .25 peak upcharge should get transferred to this fare. However, I get the whole transfer!

    This isn’t an unusual trip pattern for me; I get the benefit of this probably 2-4 times a month, and it seems pretty consistent. Is this a glitch or do I misunderstand the fare rules?

    1. The entire transfer amount is renewed when you pay a surcharge. So you can ride all day paying 25c surcharges if you can find a sequence that supports it. That’s not practically possible since there are only a few fare levels one could sequentially encounter. The last period would have to be in the highest-fare service: Sounder or an intercounty express. But if you take one of those you’ll be out in the exurbs where there aren’t many transit choices to enjoy, and it will take over an hour to get back into town.

    1. Yes. The off wire battery power is being used in a number of places. I have ridden a 1 the length of downtown off wire (and a few other places), and there are places with pans so they can put the poles back up without getting out of the bus.

    2. I rode an all-electric 226 today, the first route to have them. I was hoping it would be silent like the old trolleybuses were, but it had a loud fan running continuously, and about as bumpy as a diesel bus. The interior is slightly different than the style in the new trolleybuses.

  9. Great set of links and great comments on them. I agree with all of the points. Putting aside the particulars, I think Portland has the right idea. They are basically pushing for *both* preservation and an increase in density. Current, misguided policies in this city (and many others) put them at odds. But there is no fundamental reason they should be. Converting a house to an apartment is one of the cheapest ways to add density.

    Meanwhile, if you end up tearing down an old building, replacing it with as many places as possible will decrease the likelihood that another building is torn down. That is one of the counter-intuitive findings from the U-District upzone. They found that if you raise the building heights very high, then you meet the needs of more people, and end up replacing fewer buildings. It simply becomes less cost effective to replace a building if there are a bunch of new units down the street. Of course some home owners fear that if you allow apartments or even townhouses throughout the city, that all of the old houses will be torn down. I don’t buy it. There are only so many people that want to live here. More to the point, that sort of thing can be balanced with the right set of policies.

    One of the things I would like to see is smaller, especially outside the central core. These are areas that are currently zoned for 7200. Drop that in half, and allow for an irregular size lot, if a house is there already. They you wouldn’t have one house torn down for three huge ones, but five new houses being added. For those who aren’t aware, this is fairly common in my neck of the woods, because years ago, a lot of this was farmland, and the houses are sitting on enormous lots. Here is an example, on the northwest corner of NE 17th and NE 120th (https://goo.gl/maps/MzccnMVBuCK2). There are three houses that are clustered together, and appear to be touching. The lot is huge — about 25,000 square feet by my estimation. It definitely has the look of old farmland, despite being a couple blocks from a busy arterial. When the woman who owns it finally sells it, I can guess what will happen. They will tear down the old building and build three very expensive houses on three large (7200+) lots. This is crazy. You could preserve the existing houses (or at least the ones that are in good standing) and build around them. I personally would rather have a dozen row houses, or maybe a small apartment there, but even if you want free standing houses, there is no reason to have so few. But the existing lot sizes — being so huge — simply prevent the construction of more middle class housing. The result is more tear downs, not fewer, which is what a lot of the preservationists want.

    This is because the current policy is a mess. We aren’t adding adequate density to satisfy the urbanists, while the only thing we are preserving in most of the city is low density. It is the worst of both worlds, unless you really like the looks of this: https://goo.gl/maps/eXw2RX69sCU2

  10. Open thread item…

    Why does Sound Transit take SO LONG to publish their monthly ridership numbers? For that matter, since we are now 20 days into October, the September and 3rd Quarter report are both pending.

    1. I think the entire region is slow with their numbers. I would like to know what Metro buses are popular, and if possible, what stops. Same with ST buses and the train. It seems like this data takes forever to reach the public, even though new tools can make more sense of it than ever..

    2. Someone in an earlier post said that the monthly reports are posted after the Operations and Administration Committee Meeting. I noted that the August numbers were posted within a day after that meeting — pretty much as predicted! The next one is November 2.

      That’s just a point of information. I find it really odd that ST doesn’t think they should release the numbers to the public until after the Committee meeting. It seems terribly procedural, if not oddly imperial of them! However, I also wonder that, if they didn’t have that meeting deadline, ST staff would actually post the reports later!

      I would agree that ST could release some preliminary numbers beforehand. The month that Link opened, they were releasing data within a week! Perhaps the hassle is all of the modes that ST operates have data that arrive differently.

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