Yesterday, the City of Seattle published the final Environmental Impact Statement for its citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) rezone proposal.  Citywide MHA is the key to the “Grand Bargain” at the center of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).  In a nutshell, Citywide MHA would upzone many of the more urban parts of Seattle, in exchange for requiring developers in the upzoned areas to build (or pay for) a modestly higher amount of affordable housing as part of their projects.

The city describes the key objective of Citywide MHA as “increasing housing and jobs near frequent transit.”  That’s a laudable goal, and absolutely necessary for the city’s continued growth.  Many of Seattle’s roads are at capacity and we don’t have room for more.  Geometry requires that further transportation capacity must come from transit, walking, or cycling.  People only use transit if it’s easily accessible to them.  Allowing more people to live near frequent transit will boost both transit ridership and total transportation capacity.  For that reason and also for the affordable units it will generate, Citywide MHA is a positive step that we should support.

But it doesn’t go nearly far enough.  We have the transit infrastructure to support much more housing than Citywide MHA anticipates, and thereby accommodate more of our new arrivals with less displacement of existing residents. Given the crisis of unaffordable housing prices in Seattle, we owe it to ourselves to do so.

STBD map showing 10-minute bus corridors and Link as of 2017.
Map by City of Seattle.

Our transit infrastructure is much better than it was just three years ago, because city residents stepped to the plate.  Seventy percent of city voters approved Sound Transit 3. When King County voters rejected a 2014 bus service measure, Seattle voters plunged into the breach, decisively approving their own. Bus restructures accompanying Link light rail brought even more frequent transit. SDOT’s report on the first two years of Proposition 1 has an amazing map (at left) showing the improvement.  (We’ll have more to say about this Monday.)

Map showing Metro's plan for frequent service in the city in 2040
Map by King County Metro.

And that’s not all. If funding allows, Metro wants to add yet more frequent corridors in connection with future Link openings. By 2040, Metro would blanket nearly the entire city in frequent service, as shown at right.

But Citywide MHA takes relatively little of this into account. A plan to “maximize housing and jobs near frequent transit” ought to upzone all along these frequent transit routes. Instead, the city’s interactive map shows lots of places directly on current or future frequent transit that remain stubbornly single-family. These areas ought to be upzoned too.

From City of Seattle interactive map. Highlighted corridors are Roosevelt Wy NE and 35 Av NE.

The case of Northeast Seattle is particularly instructive. A combination of a Link restructure and substantial city funding  created two amazing frequent corridors along Roosevelt Way (route 67) and 35th Ave NE (route 65).  These corridors now have buses running every 10 minutes, six days a week, and every 15 minutes until late at night.  But the map shows how little Citywide MHA changes along the corridors (highlighted in yellow).  There is barely any increased zoning, and lots of territory directly along the routes remains stubbornly single-family.  Frequent transit capacity will go to waste.

A look at the Citywide MHA map reveals many other corridors throughout the city that have similar potential. Corridors like route 36 along Beacon Av S, route 62 in View Ridge, and RapidRide C in Fauntleroy represent potential opportunities for people to live car-free. All frequent transit corridors should have much more color on the map. Even after Citywide MHA takes the first baby steps, the city should keep moving further, so we can make the most of our newly expanding frequent transit network.

78 Replies to “Let’s Zone for the Transit We’ve Got”

  1. Route 62 may be frequent, but is in no way a reliably efficient way to commute anywhere outside of one’s own neighborhood.

      1. The 66 should never have been deleted until Roosevelt Station opens. Makes it very time-consuming to get downtown from the Roosevelt district: either zigzagzig via Green Lake, Wallingford, Fremont, and West SLU on the 62, or take the 67 and face a cumbersome cross-the-street wait-for-long-long light-to-cross to transfer to the 70 on Campus Parkway. Whoever plans these types of routings most likely never ride the bus. And of course there is the 45 to Link, but by the time it gets to UW Station, the 66 would have been downtown already.

      2. You didn’t mention taking the 67 to UW station and Link to downtown. The money saved by truncating the 66 is what’s funding 15-minute evening service on the 67, which you may not care about but other people are glad it’s not half-hourly.

    1. Roosevelt Station will at least triple the transit accessibility of the area, and everybody wishes the gap before it opens weren’t so long. The 62 will connect the middle part of northeast Seattle to Roosevelt Station, and it already connects it to Greenlake, and Roosevelt to Fremont. Dexter obviously needs 15-minute service, and people have been using the 62 to travel between Fremont and Roosevelt which never had a route before. However, the entire thing doesn’t have to be a single route. Whereever you split will sever some trips, but there’s no inherent reason NE 65th Street and Dexter Avenue N have to be the same route. I always thought the 62 should continue west to Ballard.

  2. Absolutely. Re-zoning all single family will make traffic worse and transit use worse. Even allowing small apartments (~5 unit) on only corner lots withing 1/3 mile of frequent transit would allow for many 10k’s of units while (especially by not requiring parking) increasing transit ridership and decreasing reliance on sov.

    1. Rezoning the entire city would not cause multifamily to sprout on every block in the city. Developers and renters/buyers would still prefer to be near frequent transit, arterials and corner lots. But it would give homeowners freedom to self-select which of them wants to develop. We might see 10% of the lots go in the first twenty years. That’s hardly the end of single-family blocks. There’s only so much demand. Right now there’s an undersupply of lots, but with a citywide rezone there would be an oversupply of lots and only some of them would be developed. We don’t need an oversupply of housing, we just need enough housing so that nobody is cost-burdened. The developers will not build more than that because there’s no profit in building a unit that nobody will buy.

      1. That would ruin our city and provide a developer free for all. We should not open up the entire city without any planning. Seattle is a very livable and lovely city BECAUSE it was created with all these eclectic single family neighborhoods that include multi-family and each have their own personality. We are losing alot of that personality and livability with these new developments. Old buildings that housed businesses that were fixtures for decades are being lost. We pay a City Planning Department to make sure upzones happen in a strategic manner to keep the city livable for all. Let them plan the upzones. Rezoning the entire city is only a gift to developers and would create an unlivable mess!

      2. >> Seattle is a very livable and lovely city BECAUSE it was created with all these eclectic single family neighborhoods that include multi-family and each have their own personality.

        Yet much of those “eclectic” neighborhoods would simply be illegal now, according to code. Small brick apartment buildings built without parking. Houses, converted to duplexes. The city largely grew organically, without the heavy hand of zoning, and the results are what people now say they like. Meanwhile, the places people really hate, are the opposite. They were built with strict controls, limiting the number of people allowed, and requiring parking.

        Not Zoning:

        Besides, no one is talking about simply allowing everything everywhere. We aren’t saying we should allow forty story buildings in every neighborhood (most of us, anyway). We are simply saying we should change the outdated rules that govern most of the city. Why is it OK to tear down an old house and put up a monster house yet illegal to simply convert the house to an apartment? Why are the rules governing our ADUs (backyard cottages and basement apartments) so much more restrictive than just about any city in the Northwest?

        Here is what I would propose, and it is pretty simple:

        1) Get rid of all references to “density” in the code. Allow tiny units, whether they have bathrooms, kitchens or not.
        2) Get rid of all parking requirements.
        3) Allow subdivisions, to encourage ownership (I see no reason why someone can’t own a backyard cottage, for example).

        Do that and of course you have lots of new growth. But much of it doesn’t involve tearing anything down. Houses get converted to apartments, and new houses are put next to old ones. Of course you still have some old houses being replaced. But you have that now! Talk about a developer free for all — in relatively cheap, affordable neighborhoods tear downs are now common, and perfectly legal. But now, instead of a new monster house, you have town houses, or a small apartment.

        Eventually you meet the needs of the people far more cheaply than you would otherwise, and the result is actually *more* preservation of existing structures. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, it would stand to reason that being more restrictive means more preservation. But it usually doesn’t work that way. There is a finite number of people who want to live here. Once there needs are met, they are met. You could see this in the U-District rezone study. The zoning that allowed higher (more densely populated) buildings, actually resulted in fewer new buildings. That is because new building held a lot more people. Well the same thing is true with backyard cottages and small apartments. It is usually really cheap to build those, which means that once you do, it makes more sense to convert a house to an apartment, rather than tear it down and put up a new place. This house here:, got torn down, because there really was no competition. When they only allow growth in a handful of places, prices skyrocket, and destroying that house (instead of converting) makes economic sense.

        That is one of the fallacies of the current system. It isn’t really preserving anything, except low density, high rent and maybe parking. Keep in mind, my proposal, while pretty mild, is still more radical than what most people are proposing. They simply want to change the ADU rules, to allow a bit more density (

      3. ballardite,

        It depends on whose definition of “unlivable” you are using. Right now, the dearth of available housing is making the city “unlivable” for tens of thousands without permanent shelter.

      4. “Seattle is a very livable and lovely city BECAUSE it was created with all these eclectic single family neighborhoods that include multi-family and each have their own personality.”

        Those were built before the zoning restrictions! There was no zoning until the 1920s or so, and it got more restrictive after that. The small-lot storybook houses on 31st Ave S, N 80th Street, the small-lot houses in White Center — all before the 1950s zoning.

        Zoning originated in private covenants in the late 1800s. The covenants covered one subdivision, and were designed to keep out minorities and working-class people by requiring curving roads and large setbacks (which required a car to get to), and no working animals (no chickens or pigs to eat, only leisure animals like dogs and cats). New York City tried to standardize this in the early 1900s by creating zoning. The courts at first threw out the zoning plans as an unconstitutional limitation of property rights, but some courts finally convinced that a “balanced” citywide plan was OK. There’s speculation that the cities have been trying to avoid the courts ever since in case they strike down the current zoning system. So zoning came to Seattle around the 1920s, and it got more restrictive in the 50s.

        So all this gives cities a general right to zone. But there’s an additional factor that explains the kind of zoning we have. The cities could have simply zoned for the existing streetcar-suburb pattern of walkable mixed-use, with neighborhood commercial districts and corner stores everywhere. You can still see remnants of these in Mt Baker, Fuhrman Avenue, and in the historical tours of Fremont (where 2-story buildings with a business below and the owners above became a single house, because zoning allows one-way conversion but not the other way). But then came a wave of Le Corbusierian towers-in-the-park and separating all uses. So instead of just having one zone for industry and another for everything else, it became one zone for each use: residential, retail, entertainment, etc. In residential zones only houses, schools, and parks were allowed. No corner stores or small commercial centers, and no apartments or row houses. This assumes a utopia where everyone will travel by car to everything, and thus highways between the zones. That’s inhuman, not scalable, and not sustainable. But that’s the zoning we ended up with by the late 1950s, and it still reigns supreme although it’s recently been chipped away a little bit. Seattle still has a grid of small streets from before zoning, but the current regime favors a single large access point to a large development. And even in areas with nominally grid streets there are exceptions, like the recently-lamented maze around Mt Baker and Columbia City stations where the streets and sidewalks don’t go through and you’d have to condemn somebody’s yard to get good pedestrian access to the stations.

    2. I wouldn’t endorse rezoning all single family. Single family zoning is a useful tool to prevent densification of truly car-dependent areas in the gaps between transit lines. If a lot is more than a 10 minute walk from practical all-day transit service, that area should not be zoned for growth, period. Truly car dependent lots should stay SF5000 or lower, no duplexes, no ADU’s.

      The problem is where these single family zones are allowed to remain just a half-block away from frequent buseservice. At an extreme minimum, it should be LR1 within 3 blocks on both sides, LR2 within 2 blocks, LR3 within 1 block, and MR or C-65 on the served street.

      1. >> Truly car dependent lots should stay SF5000 or lower, no duplexes, no ADU’s.

        Like it or not, that policy hurts the poor. By picking only a handful of areas and saying “build here and only here” you make housing of all types expensive. You also perpetuate a cycle of bad transit. Areas that have weak transit don’t grow, while areas that are low density, don’t get improved transit.

        Consider this spot in central Magnolia, for example: By Seattle’s standards, this area has bad transit. The nearest bus runs every half hour. It connects with downtown and other parts of Magnolia, but doesn’t connect to Interbay or Queen Anne. Getting to Ballard is a two seat ride as well. The one significant trip — to downtown — is slow, as the bus takes a very round about route to get there. By all measures, this is a terrible place for transit.

        But so what? That can change. The main reason that transit is so weak there is because it doesn’t have the density to justify better transit. The area is stuck in a vicious cycle of low density and poor transit. But if there is better density there, then better transit will follow. Even if transit is slow to react, if we don’t grow there (and places like it) then we price people out of the city. This is not a distant suburb we are talking about, it is closer to downtown than Ballard. As bad as bus service is, it is still possible to catch a bus downtown, and maybe the tenant will. Or maybe they bike to downtown (a reasonable choice, given the distance involved). Or they don’t work downtown, and bike somewhere else. Or maybe, like a lot of people, they drive a few blocks, and catch a different bus.

        I think it is ridiculous to try and micro-manage housing, instead of letting people decide where they want to live. Folks aren’t stupid, they can read a bus map. They have a good feel for whether an area is good for transit or not. People seem to be shocked that folks downtown want to own a car, and folks without a car want to live in a place like Magnolia. It happens. Saying, basically, “you can’t live in a small basement apartment there, because transit just isn’t good” is arrogant, elitist, and ultimately, poor public policy. It won’t obtain your objective, unless making housing in this city extremely expensive is your goal.

      2. “>> Truly car dependent lots should stay SF5000 or lower, no duplexes, no ADU’s.”

        I think that’s fine for places like North Bend, where we don’t want to pay the cost of running frequent transit to in the future. But, as RossB said, pretty much anywhere in Seattle, that argument does not apply. The only way to alleviate the housing shortage is to let the free market build as much housing as possible.

        Even the Magnolia neighborhood that RossB pointed to in his example isn’t really that remote for someone in good physical shape. As he mentioned, you can bike to downtown, Fremont, Ballard, and more. You can even run 1.5 miles to the D-line (or future Link Station). Let each person decide what’s best for them, rather than make assumptions in the zoning code about how each and every person is going to decide.

      3. “Truly car dependent lots should stay SF5000 or lower”

        It depends on where exactly you mean. Which parts of Seattle would this apply to? I would not heavily push to upzone the shorelines, Magnolia, the outer part of West Seattle, or the most isolated parts of northeast Seattle. Because those are the least of our problems and they can make the smallest contribution to the solution. But that’s not a good reason to keep them restricted. Even if those areas attract only car drivers, that’s still more housing which would relieve pressure in the rest of the city. As for traffic, that’s their problem.

        The part that most needs to be upzoned is the polygon inside the outermost urban villages. that’s 80% of the city right there, and could solve our housing shortage for a half century or more, before we have to go to the outer periphery which has the least transit and conversely the most expensive water views. So could we please do that at least? Lowrise everywhere inside the ring of Ballard – Greenwood – Bitter Lake – Lake City – 35th NE area – U Village/Children’s – Madison Valley – Judkins Park – central Rainier Valley – Rainier Beach – Westwood Village – WSJ – downtown. Midrise/highrise in urban village centers, and lowrise (7 stories) everywhere else.

  3. There should probably be a requirement that there is frequent transit in all directions, rather than just one. Good luck to anyone on 35 NE who needs to go east and west – there’s no way to go east or west on transit between NE 65 and NE 125. As a result, unless you’re going downtown/the university, or Lake City you’re going to have to drive your car.

    1. This comment illustrates a common fallacy about frequent transit. It doesn’t have to work for everyone to make a huge difference in effective transportation capacity.

      To use your example, once Link is built out, a sizable majority of current and potential commuters from 35th Ave NE will be going to places served either directly by the 65 or by a single transfer to frequent transit. Building more housing along the corridor would be a huge benefit even if some people headed to Greenwood or Broadview would still have to drive.

    2. I lived near 65th and 35th for a long time. While I definitely needed to bike for a fair amount of trips, most trips were not a problem. There are a lot of things in walking distance in the neighborhood. Going downtown or to UW is easy. Personally I think it is a great place for more development

    3. Yet many of the places where two frequent transit routes cross, such as 85th and Greenwood, get the puniest upzones of all. 1/2 block off of the arterial and it’s down to SF5000.

    4. There are no destinations east or west so where would they go to? Northgate is the only place and there’s a hill barrier with only a few ways to cross it. The zoning cap also prevents more business destinations in between from cropping up that people might want to go to. I sometimes transfer between the 62 and 65 at 65th & 35th, and I can’t believe that natural ccommercial district consists of one convenience store and that’s it.

      1. Don’t be so quick to dismiss magnuson as a destination served by the 62. In addition to the growing number of employees coming to the park for work, there are Montessori students coming to magnuson, a significant population of single parent low-income families at the park and the barracks are currently being renovated to add another 172 units of affordable housing to the park.
        A year ago, there were constant questions about the 62 going east of 35th av ne, but with the rate of change and growth down here at magnuson, transit is key to improving access to and from the park.

      2. Yes, I agree. But the original comment was about the lack of east-west routes between 65th and 125th, not 65th itself.

      3. Sorry about misreading the o.p., you are spot on not only about the current lack of destinations but also there aren’t and straightforward east west routes between 65th and 125th that would be conducive to transit.

      4. Theoretically you could run a bus on 95th, but there really isn’t much point. You run into Lake City Way, so you can’t continue. You also don’t build a real grid, because there is too big of a gap between east-west streets. One key part of a grid is that you aren’t that far from an east-west line or a north-south line. But if you are at 85th and 35th, you are too far to an east-west line, and are dependent on the north-south line, as you are today. With a good grid, you can get anywhere on two buses. But even with a bus on 95th, you couldn’t, unless you were willing to walk a very long way.

        But back to Mike’s point — I agree. Because there is no grid, you can’t get everyone on two buses. But so what? Where are they trying to go, that is somehow impossible to get to by bus? The three places that Chris mentioned going — Lake City, UW and downtown — make up the bulk of all trips in the area. You also have Capitol Hill and basically anywhere that Link goes (Rainier Valley, the airport, etc.). Sand Point, as well as Roosevelt, Green Lake, Wallingford, Fremont and Dexter are all essentially part of a grid. Two frequent buses, with very little backtracking. Those are the places that are reasonably fast and direct by transit (sometimes faster than driving).

        Northgate is not especially direct, but really not that bad. You go through Lake City. Google puts the trip at about 20 minutes (including waiting) at 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday. That is outstanding, in my book. Getting to Maple Leaf, on the other hand, is a pain — but how often do you need to do that, really? The only place that seems really bad is northwest Seattle (Ballard, Greenwood, etc.). For getting there, a car would be substantially faster. But that is a fundamental weakness within our transit network. Even getting from Lake City to Ballard is a challenge, despite the fact that both areas have a lot of good bus service.

        Overall, I understand your point, but I don’t think it can be quantified so easily. Do we say that Wedgwood doesn’t pass the test for “good transit” because it is hard to get to Ballard, but easy to get downtown, UW, Lake City, Northgate, Sand Point, Roosevelt, Wallingford, Fremont and Dexter? If you set the bar that high, I don’t think there would be many places that would make the cut.

  4. I blame, perhaps wrongly, the inadequacies of the #5 route and coupling with the #21 (who in turn may feel the same). It seldom is on time, One Bus Away is often wrong. The coupled route is over 20 miles lwrong and has a variety of choke points. How can they be uncoupled? A reliable every 15 minutes is almost A+, but lately I would give the route C+

  5. Here’s a challenge: The Beacon Hill areas east of Mt Baker and Columbia City stations are less than 1/4 mile of those stations and are zoned for single-family — but in many cases there is no way to walk directly to the station. Should this be the case? What efforts are being made to improve station access for pedestrians so that we can more comfortably widen the areas considered for densification?

    1. The areas east of Mt. Baker and Columbia City stations aren’t Beacon Hill – they are Mt. Baker and Columbia City. It’s a good point though – these areas need better connectivity and much higher density zoning anywhere remotely near the walksheds of the stations.

      1. Don’t we already have a bus that runs between those stations? If so, maybe shorter headways would take car of it. Or constantly moving dial a ride service, swinging a few blocks off the main route when called. How many demands has the system had for improved service since LINK opened?

      2. There is no bus that runs west on McClellan from Mt Baker station.

        The bus that runs west on Columbian Way from Columbia City Station is Route 50, and that runs most of the day only at 30 minute intervals. It really serves the areas to the northwest of the station and areas southwest of the station are further from Route 50 than they are the Link platforms.

        In both cases, the proposal is not to upzone the blocks within 1/4 mile of the station, probably because of the lack of pedestrian connectivity (primarily driven by elevation change) as well as residents’ opposition.

      3. There was a route between Mt Baker and Beacon Hill stations in the 2009 restructure, but it was deleted in the cuts. It had extremely low ridership. Metro’s LRP has something vaguely related, a route from Beacon Hill station north on 17th-College-23rd-Jackson-MLK, which won’t get you to Mt Baker station but it will get you within five blocks of it and to the northeast part of the neighborhood and Judkins Park station. Recently somebody had an interesting suggestion for a route from the 14’s terminus to Mt Baker and Beacon Hill station and then somewhere.

      1. My understanding is that UW has not wanted to do anything with the laundry, including selling, upzoning, or redeveloping. A big waste – you could fit a lot of TOD there and on the lot to the south.

      2. Can they use eminent domain? Or is that a third rail? (Kinda like putting affordable housing in SFH, which is why these upzones are so puny).

      3. They can’t, because UW is considered a state level agency whereas Sound Transit is a regional (county?) one at best, so the lower level agency can’t use ED on the higher level agency. Or that’s what I’ve been told, at least.

        It’s really a shame, because between the Laundry facility and the awful transfer at UW Station, they have been pretty obstructionist on most transit related matters.

      4. Its a cleanup cost problem.
        How much perc has been spilled over the years?
        Nobody wants the land with that responsibility.

        And UW is aware they can’t get permitted to build an equiv facility anywhere new.

    2. Once you get a few blocks west of MLK, you run into a steep ridge. Just because a lot is a 1/4 as the crow flies from the station doesn’t mean it’s actually within the walkshed of that station. I think the western edge of the Mt Baker & Columbia City villages is appropriate.

      Just take a look at Google map with “terrain” turned off and it will make more sense.

      1. You’re missing my point, AJ. My point is that with better connections vertically, we could open more blocks of development to higher densities near existing rail stations.

        For example, if Mt. Baker Station was built or expanded to have an option to exit the platforms and go up — and connect to a skywalk that went west towards Beacon Hill, several more blocks of Beacon Hill west of the station would become pedestrian accessible and suitable for higher density.

        For example, if a site west of Columbia City Station was occupied by a building sufficiently tall enough and had a public-private connection (elevator and/or stairs) that could let pedestrians get from MLK and Edmonds to 30th and Edmonds, several more blocks within walking distance of the station could be opened up for higher density development.

        Even without an electric conveyance, stairs should really help us densify many more blocks in SE Seattle. We have no qualms about upzoning despite elevation changes when it comes to Madison Valley. We have no qualms about upzoning despite elevation changes when it comes to parts of North Capitol Hill, We have no qualms about elevation changes to lots of areas near the Ship Canal like Fremont and Wallingford and Upper Queen Anne.

        The bigger point is that we’re already spending millions to figure out how to get more density in Seattle. Expanding the walksheds around stations is one of the most cost-effective ways to do that — as well as attract more riders on Link, generate more revenue for ST. This much more cost-effective strategy would set the stage to enable hundreds or even thousands more housing units in Seattle — all without having to spend any more on thousands of hours subsidizing more Metro service.

        If Seattle could somehow shift its priorities to make vertical accessibility better all over town, we could have a much more pedestrian-accessible city that could accommodate more higher density — which seems to be what many HALA supporters want. Merely blaming hillsides as a constraint is a lazy cop-out when so many more expensive strategies are in the works. Let’s conquer this problem!

      2. Yes. What Al says is spot on. Seattle topography is mostly an obstacle, but there are so many opportunities to make it work for station access!
        We’re all intimately aware of the failures of mt baker and husky stadium, by many of the original bus tunnel stations could’ve benefitted from vertical tunnels to the west. I would love to see more of the station budgets go toward tunnels and ped bridges, and less for custom architectural elements/ finishes, parking garages a bus layover yards.

      3. Some cool examples:

        Pamplona has a great hillside elevator and walkway that is amazingly beautiful.

        A creative multi-family developer in Hollywood in the 1920’s anchored a complex with a signature tower that has a private elevator — called the Hollywood High Tower:

        To facilitate bicycle transport, tracks can be installed next to stairs so that bicyclists don’t have to carry their bicycles:

    3. Good idea Al. In general, this city needs more pedestrian pathways. They aren’t cheap, but compared to other infrastructure improvements (extra bus service, sidewalks) they are a bargain. So, here are the particulars, as I see it:

      Mount Baker Station: There is a pedestrian walkway on Hanford Street, so basically everything south of there is covered. The only thing that is needed is a pathway on Stevens. This would skirt the church — which is an added bonus for those who want to walk there — and then continue by the laundry, right to the station. Looking at the topographic maps (,-122.301284&z=16&t=t4&hillshade=0) it is steep, but not horribly so. No steeper than McClellan — which means that just adding stairs (or maybe switchbacks) in some spots would be sufficient.

      Columbia City is a lot tougher. I don’t think you can fix it. Ferdinand serves as the southern walkway, but only from 30th to MLK. If you are at 29th and Hudson, for example, you are pretty much out of luck. You have to go about half a mile to the station, even though it is 1,000 feet as the crow flies. The problem could be solved if Hudson or Ferdinand was extended all the way through, but to do that, you would have to take private property (from what I can tell). I just don’t see that happening. That is the problem in general for that area. Connecting Angeline and 30th with a diagonal path would be great, but would involve running it in someone’s back yard. I just don’t see that happening.

      I think adding a pathway for Mount Baker Station sounds quite plausible, and would likely be enthusiastically embraced by the folks in the neighborhood. But I think the west side of Columbia city is just out of luck.

  6. I’m left scratching my head why Northgate Link stations are not shown in the City of Seattle map. These stations are under construction! The time it takes to buy property, design buildings, get through approvals and build the buildings means that the stations will be opened by the time a building opens.

    Interestingly, the 2030 BAR station is shown (but Graham is not). Neither is Judkins Park, which opens in 2023. Is this just a badly-made map?

      1. I’m talking about the SDOT map at the top of the past, and on Page 25 of the Seattle Transit Benefit District report. Maybe it’s a graphic that looks different on my two devices but those stations don’t show up on my IPhone or on my Microsoft-running laptop browser.

      2. I do see that the map was intended to show existing service areas and that the stations are not open yet. Still, they will be such a major factor in transit access in the future that to have a map that doesn’t always include these stations from this point forward seems to be ignoring a very big factor. Our Proposition 1 investments should be made anticipating the station openings.

        Oh.,. and the BAR station inclusion is clearly a mistake.

  7. Too bad this all happening slow as molasses, just like everything else in this city. They need till 2040 to build a few subway lines? It’s just ridiculous. I lived in a city where the first subway line opened in 2010, by 2020 they will have 12 lines. I’ll be moving back soon.

    1. Two questions, Hank. Compared to Seattle, what are the soils like, and what’s the population

      Second most important because subways generally get blasted through by the pressure caused by the number of people who can both pay for it and are enraged by being unable either to drive or walk out their own door for lack of street and sidewalk space?

      Real reason, I think, that Forward Thrust didn’t get passed. So it’s good to have as detailed plans as possible in the hard-drive that we’re ready to move soon as vote passes. With files being at preliminary design and working drawings for all segments and phases of the project.

      Colored lines and dots really aren’t worth the paint to stripe the pavement. For average voter, first move should be to both drive and walk any corridor they favor. Correspondence with elected reps will then bring a lot more attention.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Could Trump bring back a subway from China, please. Maybe two, and a bullet train. We could install it with American workers.

      1. This is why I think we should charge more for office development. Every office built puts more pressure on housing. Charging more for office development would 1) slow the extreme pace of office development, and 2) help pay for some more housing.

  8. Interesting that several routes show up as 10 minute when they actually achieved only 12 minute service (which isn’t too shabby but let’s be accurate here, SDOT!).

    1. Every car, truck, and traffic signal, and farebox-using passenger loses a bus from two to ten minutes’ operating time. Meantime- stopwatch or app?


  9. First move toward solving a lot of problems is to change some seriously wrong thinking. Term “affordable” carries assumption that a very large percentage of our population will never be able to earn enough to pay for their basic necessities of life.

    Every mention of affordability should have term “Organized Labor” not too far behind. Just to remind everybody how to spell it, starting with the Democratic Party. And also older Republicans in hiding or exile who miss workers who can spell anything.

    Worked for the whole century before word got inked out of the dictionary, and deleted from Spell Check.

    Mark Dublin

  10. The only neighborhood I’m really looking at is 35th ave ne. I used to live there so I am interested in seeing it grow into a more pedestrian environment with more street life and amenities. The more I look at the map and the zoning, the more dismayed I get.

    Much of the upzoning is going from 30′ to 40′. As has been discussed here on many occasions, there are challenges to building a 4 floor building with ground floor retail with <45'.

    Many of these so called upzones are doing nothing that I can tell – going from LR2 to LR2(M). I don't know what M means, but I did notice LR2 has a FAR of 1.1. Basically as much development as if I covered the whole lot in a one floor building. Why do we have such restrictive FAR?

    Many of the upzones would be effecting areas which were just redeveloped. For example, the area between 32nd and 34th ave by 65th st.

    Many places I would really like to see upzoned are kept the same. For example, the east side of 35th between 80th and 84th st currently has single family homes which face away from 35th. The thin sidewalk between traffic and overgrowing hedges feels very unwelcoming to pedestrians. I had hoped that section could be upzoned to NC45 to make walking along it more pleasant. Alas, it will keep it's current zoning.

    Looking closely, there are a few places where this upzone will likely result in denser and more pedestrian development. The upzone to NC2P-55(M) (what a mouthful) by 85th street will likely result in denser development. The area was NC40, but many of the buildings in that area are small one floor with big parking lots.

    Overall this was a major punt of an upzone.

    1. The (M) isn’t a zoning designation, but just an indicator used in the HALA documents to indicate an upzone by one tier, such as LR1 becoming LR2 or LR2 -> LR3.
      (M1) is used to indicate a 2-tier jump, such as SF5000 -> LR2 or LR1 -> LR3.
      (M2) indicates any jumps more than 2 tiers.

      LR2’s FAR rules vary quite a bit depending on the housing type, up to 1.3. Open-space and setback requirements in LR zones are nearly identical to those for single-family zones, so LR2-compliant development still ends up 3 stories high to fully utilize that FAR.

      A typical LR2 redevelopment can replace a single family home with 3 or 4 units of around 1700 sqft each, while LR3 can push it up to 5 or 6 units.

    2. One of the challenges specific to 35th av ne is topographical. The majority of 35th av ne runs across an east facing slope so a 3-4 story building on the west side of 35th has much less impact to adjacent residences and the amount of sun or shade they get than the same building on the east side where 35th av ne adjacent residences are as much as 15 feet lower than the grade of 35th av ne. That makes a world of difference in the quality of light and life but the guidelines do not seem to address these sorts of real distinctions.

    3. >> Overall this was a major punt of an upzone.

      I agree. This city — specifically the mayor — is responsible for that. He decided to abandon the key proposal of his own committee, and, as you say, punt. Imagine this: you meet with various community leaders for months, and argue back and forth. Some want radical changes, some want to nibble at the edges. At the 11th hour, you actually come with a compromise and the key proposal is that you liberalize the ADU rules. Hurray! Not the big development change that many wanted — FAR is still the same, there are still major arterials that won’t have six story buildings, but at least a big step in the right direction. After all, ADUs are probably the cheapest thing to build, and most of the land in town is zoned for it, and nothing more.

      So what does the mayor do? He kills it. He then changes the subject, and now it is all about the “grand bargain”. So he can parade around as the great statesmen, able to work with both sides, even though he completely destroyed the work of his own committee (and their compromise). Talk about a punt.

      Then he goes back to the old way of doing things, which is to focus development on areas that are largely already developed, as if tearing down a two story apartment building to build a six story one is going to get us cheaper rents. Of course it won’t. But fewer home owners will be upset, because it only effects small slivers of the city. It was a cowardly act by a cowardly man.

  11. For all my complaints about the patheticness of the zoning near bus lines, this does relatively well at allowing density near ST2 Link stations, and makes some serious progress towards correcting the terribleness of the Rainier Valley station area zoning. Multifamily zoning surrounding the stations looks to roughly approximate a 10 minute walkshed in the plan, instead of current odd L shapes and random detached islands.

    The most egregious example, single family zoning literally on the 3000 block of S Angeline St, literally 50 yards SW of the Columbia City platform, is preserved, but that only accounts for 3 lots, and the single family strips surrounding it on both 30th and and Alaska are gone.

    I have a few other minor complaints; SF directly south of the Montlake cut should be at least LR1, and SF zones encroach too closely to the SE of Othello station, but on the whole this is a big win for rail-oriented planning.

    Hopefully we can revisit the zoning near the potential Graham station if/when it is built, and move some of that RSL to LR3 or better.

  12. Transit we’ve got- makes sense for zoning. But let’s also be working on the transit we’re going to need. Last four years shows that importance of readiness is expanding as exponentially as the traffic.

    Like, incidentally, proliferation of subways and the rest of transit, the more that gets built, the easier it is to get the rest.

    Also will stay onto the idea of affordabilitizing by the market’s own rules. Which roadbuilding and real estate have mastered since before bicyclists started voting in pavement. They’ve always been years into detailed plans for a sprawled horizon before transit has its first colored dot.

    Whatever laws and rules are in the way of same transit-developer consortiums, if we’re as quiet and focused about it as the sprawlers, we’ll be the ones with the working drawings while the other side is still finding stencils for their dots.

    “Streetcar Suburbs” is a cliche. That any ad-man will tell you is more effective the more aggravating it is. Again, though, good example of ideas that “well, everybody knows”: How many years since any developer has had to say “Car, Van, and Motorcycle suburbs”?

    Like Joe Hill the great IWW organizer always said (better if you’ve got a Swedish accent): “Workers of the World arise! You’ve got nothing to lose but your chairs!” Probably main reason he got executed.


  13. I was wondering about the 65 earlier today. It seems like Metro’s longest bet: putting full-time frequent service and night owl in the boonies. Although it also supplements 45th and Children’s, and that may be the reason for the investment and the adjacent area just came along for the ride. How has ridership on the 65 been doing since the restructure? I’ve only ridden it a few times so I don’t know what it’s usually like, but every time I’ve been on it there have only been a few people. Have people who live there seen a difference? I wonder how long the full-time frequent service will last if ridership doesn’t go way up in ten years.

    1. Commuter ridership on the 65 has grown a lot since the restructure, but was good to begin with. And because the largest commuting destination is the UW, the nature of that ridership is more or less all-day during the day on weekdays. Nights and weekends the jury is still out.

      The Link-65 transfer at UWS has been very successful. I wish there would be a bus lane all the way down Montlake so it could work as well in the opposite direction.

      The bet is really SDOT’s, not Metro’s; STBD funding has paid for the night/weekend expansion and the daytime improvement from 15 to 10 minutes.

    2. I ride it frequently from Lake City. In addition to the morning commute, I see Nathan Hale HS students. The times i ride it, its a full bus.

  14. Yes, Northeast Seattle will have better transportation much faster than Ballard. And Crown Hill will never have better – nothing new is planned. We should be rezoning Northeast Seattle in the area 3 miles north of the UW train station. But View Ridge residents are strongly connected to the City Council so somehow they have not had to rezone much at all.

    1. It’s not right that “nothing new is planned.” In connection with the opening of the Ballard Link station, Metro wants do to a major restructure of northwest-side bus service. Metro’s current plan would open up a new, faster connection to Northgate; double current frequency along 15th NW between Crown Hill and the Ballard station; and upgrade the current 40 to RapidRide.

  15. Any way to mandate that residences created by upzoning are not allowed to owned by households also owning automobiles?

    Otherwise we know how this story will end: a few more people riding on transit but a lot more cars. As it stands there’s only one sure group of winners from upzoning: property developers with their usual externalized costs. It would be nice to ensure that upzoning serves broader interests.

    1. The only realistic way for such a mandate would be to impose a ceiling on the amount of parking. People can’t move in somewhere with cars if there’s no place to park them.

      That said, outside of places like downtown, such moves seem a bit heavy handed. Before we can seriously considering doing that, we need to first get rid of parking minimums city-wide, which do the opposite.

    2. It might be more effective to start by removing mandatory minima of on-site car parking, and replace it with some mandatory minima of modern bike parking, within the walkshed of frequent transit stops.

  16. Well, I agree that the city’s plan doesn’t go far enough and this would be much better. But I also think this plan doesn’t go far enough.

    Just to backup a bit, not everyone wants to live next to a six story building. This is reasonable, in my opinion. Since we won’t upzone the entire city to allow six story buildings, it makes sense that we should pick and choose those spots carefully. Focusing on transit makes sense, especially when it comes to Link. A rail line is not flexible, nor can it be built quickly. It may take a while to get a station, but once it is built, it is built.

    But bus based transit — which makes up the bulk of ridership, and will likely continue to do so for the next fifty years — is a lot more flexible. In just a few years we have improved the system dramatically, and are setting the stage for further improvements. As “json formatter” said up above, in a few years, the entire city will probably have great transit. The 28, for example, serves 8th Ave NW. But why assume that the 28 will run every half hour in perpetuity? If it runs every fifteen minutes (or ten) then suddenly 8th NW is a very good location for transit. Getting to Fremont or downtown is a breeze, and you can easily transfer to the future RapidRide+ version of the 44 to get to the U-District or other parts of Ballard. If we are going to carve out sections of the city and allow higher buildings, then we shouldn’t limit ourselves to areas that have good transit *now*, but assume that various places in the city (like 8th Ave. NW) will have good transit in the future.

    But that isn’t the biggest problem in this city when it comes to housing. Bigger buildings certainly play a part in making housing more affordable, but a relatively small part. There just isn’t the political will to allow tall buildings in enough places to solve the housing problem that way. You can easily add density without adding height, but the city refuses to do so. Our antiquated, oppressive zoning laws not only prevent tall buildings next to most houses, they simply prevent density. You can build a three story house, but you can’t put four units in it. You can’t even convert an existing, big house into an apartment in *most* of the city. That is the biggest problem in this town, and until we address it, rent in this city will continue to be sky high.

    1. +1 +1 +1 Seattle has had a transit master plan since 2012, and Metro since 2016. They both say that most transit arterials in the city will be 15-minute frequent, and even some other streets like Aloha where two coverage routes will intentionally overlap to provide 15-minute service. Why doesn’t the city upzone all these ares? Isn’t that what a city planning for smart, non-car-oriented population growth would do?

      1. +1 more! I think that is a big problem with the urban village strategy, which has focused on relatively small, defined areas rather than large, long corridors which may have very frequent transit service. Why can’t these corridors grow upwards and in mixture of uses? And the fact that huge million dollar houses can be built where a building the same size could house 2, 3, or even 4 units, is just ridiculous.

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