59 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The New Bus Campaigners”

  1. The NY Times released today the first article in a series on the tribulations of MTA:


    It makes me glad that Sound Transit is reasonably independent, but I wonder if something similar might be in the future for Metro given their incredible dependence on the city of Seattle for funding. Hopefully they can continue using quantitative performance measures to set service levels (for the most part, routes like 71 notwithstanding). I’m hoping that ST’s and KCM’s responsible borrowing practices in the good times will insulate them in any downturn.

    1. Seattle isn’t funding Metro’s maintenance but operations. If Prop 1 isn’t renewed in 2020, Metro will simply return the 5, 8, 10, 41, and 120 to half-hourly evenings and delete the night owls.

      ST’s conservative borrowing is designed to withstand another crash like 2008. I don’t know about Metro’s borrowing. Does it borrow?

      1. I think Metro borrowed for the downtown transit tunnel, but I seem to recall reading somewhere (STB, maybe?) that by policy it doesn’t borrow for bus purchases. This meant that it deferred purchases for years during the recession, but also meant that its operational cuts were far less deep than other agencies because it didn’t have any debt service.

    2. The issue with the MTA is not exactly independence, but that it’s controlled by the state yet only serves a small (geographic) area that will always basically always vote for a Democratic governor, no matter what.

      It would be as if Metro was directly controlled by the Washington legislature. Instead, it’s (from my quick look) part of the King county government. That makes the situation more stable and “safer”.

      1. Metro is owned by King County. It began in the 1970s to continue the service of Seattle Transit and a private suburban bus operator. It was initially an independent regional entity like the Port, with responsibility for transit and sewers. “Regional” in that era meant within King County as the suburban ring only extended to Kent and maybe Lynnwood. But that agency structure was ruled unconstitutional and it merged with King County to save it. That’s how King County + METRO (often capitalized then) became titled Metropolitan King County. I thought it was a county department but apparently it’s something else because there’s now a move to make it a county department.

      2. As to why it wasn’t part of the county government in the first place, I don’t know. One of its responsibilities came first, and it performed so well in that that it was given the other. It may have come out of the effort to clean up Puget Sound in the 60s and 70s

      3. Metro is a division of King County’s Department of Transportation. The proposal was to make it a department separate from the rest of DOT which was kind like how it was when it Metro merged into King County.

        The legislation authorizing metropolitan municipalities had public transit as one of a few permitted functions that voters could authorize. Metro was established as a waste water treatment agency in 1958, after a previous vote to create it with transit functions failed.

        Back then King County was a much more rural place and it really was not equipped to handle urban issues. Its structure was very different from today, dating back to when it was created in 1852. In fact, Metro was created because attempts to reform King County governance in the early 50s failed. King County didn’t get a home rule charter establishing today’s form of county government until 1969.

  2. Best news to wake up to in a long time. Both message and means. But also most important, the chance to get some statistics that transit most needs to know, and acts like it cares the least:

    How much money in lost operating time does the system save by the fare-related measures shown.? Zero fare-box cash-handling. All-door boarding and leaving. And low-cost turnstiles- could be done with card tables, instead of the District Court.

    Pretty sure our Fare Inspectors would vote for a couple more: Take the three criminalized fare-related court-tickets down to one by limiting citations to actual theft of service. And making use of ORCA’s own technology to verify the only information an Inspector should need to see: Are the card and its carrier legit?

    Using part of the savings to rework fare-apportionment so my ORCA pass stops being potential State’s Evidence for a theft-charge for a missed “tap”. Whose requirement itself is increasingly in the way of the fast-approaching passenger loads whose like we’ve never seen. And giving term “Honor System” the right to use its title again.

    Some existing organizations should already be in action to make all these changes law: The Transit Riders’ Union, the Transportation Choices Coalition, all our transit-systems’ unions, every high school student government in the ST region, all three ball clubs, and the Democratic Party.

    Who can also help rescue the hundreds of actual Republicans presently sheltered at great personal risk by their neighbors under our region’s every bridge and park-shrub, from the vicious Dixiecrats who stole their party’s name. I miss them, and we and our transit system need them.

    Mark Dublin

  3. From yesterday’s thread, what options does ST have if West Seattle demands a tunnel/threaten suits for non-tunnel options. Can they say, “Ok, you don’t want light rail, let’s start Metro 8 or Ballard to UW?” Or, is the more likely option is, “you want a tunnel, then think 2040 because of bonding.”?

    1. In that case, the only option is to build the tunnel and pay for it with cuts on the Ballard line. Like having trains cross the Ballard Bridge in mixed traffic. The most politically connected district must come first, ridership be damned.

    2. Graham St Station and 130th St Station would be on the chopping block.

      But I’d say build them first, and delay West Seattle Link until after the new downtown tunnel is open. Proceed with Ballard Link.

      1. Yeah, that too. But it won’t save enough money to pay for a tunnel. Old getting rid of the entire ship canal crossing would. Either that, or run the train as an at-grade streetcar through SLU and Lower Queen Anne, which would be even worse.

        Of course, everyone reading this knows that this is all stupid, that West Seattle should simply not get a tunnel. But it’s the politicians’ decision, not ours to make, and if they believe that West Seattle trumps every else, this is what it’s going to be. They can’t sacrifice Bellevue->Issaquah because that’s East King, and the only way to take enough money from elsewhere in the North King Budget is to screw over Ballard.

      2. That was the first plan, to screw Ballard with a streetcar. But hundreds of people spoke up against it and STB and Seattle Subway said they wouldn’t support ST3 in that circumstance. Also the city had been pushing Ballard as essential for several years. If ST downgrades Ballard to put the money into West Seattle the same thing would happen again. So I think Ballard is safe. Especially because SLU is in its segment and it can’t really drop SLU or it will melt down in a few years over inadequate transportation.

      3. I think you’re probably right. Be we need to be careful to not get complacent. Any delay or quality reduction in the Ballard line to fund a tunnel underneath West Seattle should not be acceptable.

    3. It’s not bonding but voter authorization. ST can say lines are infeasible after further engineering or cost changes or constituents’ change of mind, but it can’t take the money and built something voters haven’t authorized. It can probably plan it (and Ballard-UW planning is in ST3) but not build it. to build Metro 8 it would have to somehow argue that it’s within the scope of the Ballard-downtown project. The scope is wide, so Lynnwood Link could have been anywhere from Aurora to Lake City Way, but I can’t imagine how a branch turning east could be within the scope of Ballard-downtown because it’s not headed toward Ballard.

      If a West Seattle tunnel can’t fit within the budget and the mandate for Ballard stands, then ST could theoretically extend ST3 for it but I imagine it won’t be willing to do for longer than a few years. There’s a difference between extending it because cost increased vs extending it to build a higher-level project than was scoped in ST3. And ST might say 2041 is a hard deadline, and anything that doesn’t fit within it is rolled over to ST4. That’s what it did with the 272nd Street extension and 130th Station: it said it didn’t want to spend any more on ST2 and wanted to roll over those debates to ST3. (That may also have been to give ST3 more popular projects, but it’s generally agreed that there’s less low-hanging fruit for ST4.) We can’t really say for sure about the tunnel without cost numbers to compare to the budget, but it’s unlikely it would fit.

    4. The question should be this: Here is your capital budget, West Seattle. How do you want to spend it?

      I’ll be curious how many more system riders will use Link if it just goes to Avalon and buses are sent to an end-of-line transit center there. Frankly, West Seattle becomes low density just west of California anyway so the extra cost of a tunnel to Alaska Junction (probably 30-60 percent) will probably forecast out to less than 10 percent more riders. It’s magical value will likely prove be terrible.

      1. That’s worth thinking about because the usual way to deal with a limited budget is to defer the last station(s). and that may happen anyway if there’s a recession or federal grants are zeroed out. At first glance you could just reroute the buses to Avalon. But it won’t be so easy to reroute the C, which is turning into a north-south Alki-Burien route. It will run tangentally to Link like the Madison RapidRide at Capitol Hill Station, but further away and with more elevation. So it would either have to be split into two routes, which would perpetuate the division of upper and lower California, or it would have to detour to the station, and we all know that detours are bad.

        Another issue is that the urban village is California Ave: that’s where the pedestrians are. It would be like serving University Way from an I-5 station, but twice as far away. It would be hard to get ST’s or Seattle’s acceptance of that. I could see it as a financial necessity in a recession, but not so much as a strategic plan without a concrete follow-up plan (i.e., ST4 coming in two years and definite plans to finish AJ Staion.)

      2. I think the best and only way to give the West Corridor is to think of West Seattle, Ballard, and the University is as communities encouraged to develop their own character while connected in all directions with of the best transit all modes and means.

        All part of the City of Seattle, which itself is part of the Central Puget Sound Region.
        Term “region” needs to come back into general usage- as it was when the project began. Because the concept seems to be best local organization for industry and commerce at this point in history.

        When the same forces that are currently enriching and energizing Seattle are creating desperate need for living and working space over a space of land far beyond is own borders. A process now carried on amid the kind of panicked inefficiency that’s worse for transit.

        Which is the life and death sector that the State of Washington won’t do and Seattle and its suburbs can’t. Reason project’s founders kept saying “Region,” Like everything else,West side transit can’t be built as warring separate projects. But think of them as the same effort, and a lot of impossibilities will fall into line.

        During preliminary engineering for DSTT, one Board member was advocating a bus on stilts on 46th through Wallingford, with room for cars driving underneath. The Chinese ran one- briefly. Monorail pestilence really stemmed from ST’s perceived slight to the West Side corridor. Some attention including two engineers on the panel could have killed the whole thing.

        Middle class neigborhood- limited litigation money. No long combat experience with State and Federal allies? West Seattle has nothing and nobody to fight alongside. Anything like a serious debate even planned? Meantime, might be worth it to take one or two gondola proponents down to Portland to talk with the aerial tramway crew.

        These Portland guys looked to me like angry old engineers where less trouble than the blizzard that was currently leaving the gondolas the only moving transit in Portland.


      3. That’s a great idea, Al. I think that makes a lot of sense as a compromise. If West Seattle really, really wants a tunnel — and I think that is a reasonable attitude — then build the rest of it first. Most of West Seattle gets exactly what they want — a reasonably fast two seat ride to downtown. For folks who live along Delridge and 35th, the trip is exactly the same. For Alki, it is reasonable to just run along Alki and Harbor, and connect up that way. I know that isn’t the long term plan, but it would probably be faster for them to go that way, rather than up and over, via California. Those on California have a longer bus ride, regardless of which direction they came from. It is not a lot different than today, in that buses turn on Alaska, and head east. So I see what you are saying, Mike, but it isn’t the end of the world.

        In general, it is reminiscent of the downtown to UW Link section. Everyone knows that ending at Husky Stadium doesn’t make any sense in the long run. It should go at least as far as the U-District. The current system not only misses out on lots of walk up riders, but forces buses well out of their way to serve the station. The 44 suddenly cuts south, and goes through campus, instead of continuing to Children’s, which is the long term plan. In many ways, ending at Avalon is a smaller hit to the system than ending at Husky Stadium.

        But it is temporary, and this would be viewed as temporary. There would be a tacit agreement to extend this — via a tunnel — to the junction, if not farther. ST has done that a lot in the past. In this case, West Seattle would pretty much get what they were promised (a rail line to West Seattle) at the time they were promised, which is better than what Federal Way has received. They would simply have to wait before getting all of the stops.

        The nice thing is that this might actually be cheaper and faster to build than a complete line.

  4. “Free week” sounds like a good idea. Let people see the impact of all-door boarding, and that may make them understand there is a better possibility. Also, the biggest argument against free buses is that you’d get too many riders and have to increase the number of buses (an expense). Well, let’s see how much it actually changes. In cities that have done it the change has been like 10%, not 100%. In other words, manageable.

    1. My biggest argument against abolishing fares is that transit then loses political support, and gets defunded. That was my experience in Austin. Lots of supposedly progressive Democrats did not have transit’s back. One detail I probably glossed over previously is that the Capital Metro Board did it without getting permission from the county or state first.

      And then I saw a lot of the same here: Nick Licata, Bob Hasegawa, Ron Sims, Maggie Fimia, Marilyn Chase, just to name a few. And that’s just the self-proclaimed *progressive* Democrats.

      Those wanting to free us of fare collection — and I really want to encourage your efforts — have to come up with substitute funding sources and get them passed.

      If the state and county backed the plan, and provided a substitute funding plan, I’d be all for that. The annual cost savings would be somewhere over $10M per year, and yes, ridership would balloon, but the lost revenue would be more in the $100M-$200M per year range, if you include Sound Transit.

      Consider though, that employers are shouldering much of the fare burden right now. Shifting from fares to a regressive tax source could be a backward step when viewed through an equity lens.

      1. Well said. Also in exurban areas and such – like Skagit – employers don’t really provide that many transit passes. So if the fare free thing is going to catch on…

        1) It’s got to be from the exurbs like Skagit & Island County. Also those areas need a deeper transit bench to get “a substitute funding plan” and “have transit’s back”. Just another reason I philosophically support electing transit boards… to get that deep pro-transit bench.

        2) As to Island County and Island Transit, all it takes is mismanaging the reserves for capital needs like a new maintenance facility (a very long story very acutely shortened) plus cut grants and when you go fare free and are dependent on grants & sales tax – it doesn’t take much for chaos. It will take three and a half years to get Saturday Service – SATURDAY Service – back to Island Transit. There was a time for a few weeks at least that Island Transit had to postpone sending out checks due to having no reserves. There need to be clear safeguards against this kind of scenario before going fare free, not after.

        There you go.

      2. Well, Brent, if nixing free fares (toll roads are few and despised, though) from usual quarters is inevitable, what do we have to lose by a permanent campaign to get them ’til chief legislative obstacles die of seniority?

        Or when developmental results of current market forces make Seattle swallow (annex is such skinny word) Olympia on its way to Tierra del Fuego. Exactly like Seattle did to Ballard. And also, like with Ballard, making Seattle-ites complain less about paying for transit in places like Olympia.

        Step one, remembering how Democrats started calling themselves Progressives, (who were actually moderate Republicans when founded,) when Rush Limbaugh started using all three syllables to say their real name, overdue counterpunch from the “D”s: Budget-cut it back to two.

        But reason for Republican Rehabilitation is not because I knew Jim Ellis- though that’s plenty of reason- which in itself is key word. Right next to “Age of”, “Budget” and “Balance Sheet”.

        Considering what’s happened to our public finances since the Confederates finally chased the Union Army out of Washington DC, Democrats’ least excusable fault is their hesitancy to straighten out our people and their politics on how to read a balance sheet.

        Have personally seen anti-tax business people dress up like their idea of Paul Revere to fight against having their company’s latte’s taxed like tea. (Shoreline Management says no caffeine in the Bay.) But since budgetary credibility requires a pin-striped suit with no stamp-sized flag in the lapel, maybe when Thurston rejoins ST, JZ Knight can have Ramtha channel Andrew Carnegie.

        Two of the five people you mentioned and I used to be pro-transit, liberal and young together. (Okay, after 20 extra years, 20-year age difference is pretty puny. )In “artic” years, not dog ones. In the days when “Progressive” could also apply to incurable illness unrelated to current condition of our country. Not All Who Remember are Stuck. If the choice still existed, I’d pick the Metro Council meetings that put the three of us in the same room.

        Maggie started life as a nurse, my personal first most valued category on Earth along with accountants and English teachers who also teach History. Which will only cause conflict if anything transit related leaves me with a medical examiner’s signature that is still no excuse for a missed “tap off.”

        Meaning I wish she wouldn’t be trapped aboard a bus stuck in traffic when Fare Inspectors won’t call code on me ’till they finish their warning. With air-conditioning down at 90 degrees.

        But (according to Gore Vidal anyhow) the two of us share same problem with our First Vice President, and First (and maybe last) Real Banker. It’s at least 20 years since transit had its last serious reason to hold a single Kinki-Sharyo or Flyer Hybrid 550 60 seconds for either of us.

        Luckily for us, though likely not for anybody else, if Maggie’s kept up with her technical homework (I know, bad company) wouldn’t take much Richter Scale to make a lot of electric rail glad for another 20 years’ at least joint-use. But only if, dagnabbit, those idiots get those signal consoles out of the mop-closet!


      3. “all it takes is mismanaging the reserves for capital needs like a new maintenance facility (a very long story very acutely shortened) plus cut grants and when you go fare free and are dependent on grants & sales tax – it doesn’t take much for chaos.”

        Is this really any different in non-free agencies? 50-80% of the money is still coming from non-fare sources, and it could be mismanaged just as easily, and if the reserves and operating-fund sources dry up then the buses will stop because fares won’t be enough to keep them running. Unless you’re talking about doubling or quadrupling the fare, which would be $11 in Seattle or $4-8 for a rural agency, and that would drive most of the riders away.

        There is a political difference in Olympia: anti-tax legislators don’t look highly on grants for free fares, but that’s due to rural/suburban legislators’ political attitudes, not to anything intrinsic in grants or operational funding.

    2. A short-term pilot that’s primarily focused on something else — operational efficiency, load, and speed of all-door boarding and off-board payment — is different from a permanent commitment to free fares. It can also be coupled with a “try transit this week” campaign. The free fares are just because we don’t have the infrastructure to pay offboard or validate at the rear doors, but it can also serve as an example of the maximum ridership spike.

    3. I think that a “free week” has to be a tool to achieve a more ambitious objective — such as introducing people to transit or to use a new service.

      An example: Have a math unit in middle school that involves transit field research and make it free for the class participants as a way to apply math and teach students about transit.

      An example: give free time-limited Orca cards to four-year olds that initiate a song when tapped so kids will look more forward to riding.

      An example: include a free ride pass home with the purchase of an admission ticket to a large event to speed boarding when leaving the event.

      1. Good idea, Al, general and specific. Because I think children naturally enjoy transit riding- especially on the trains. And most especially elevated and street-level, but nothing bad about tunnels either.

        I’d also make the technical points of transit very much available to young people. Used to be thought that only boys are interested in machinery- usually cars. Now- the more everybody knows about transit equipment, the more likely that kids who now love cars will include transit.

        Even more important, I keep complaining about how little the average voter understands about the real-world (literally) decisions about matters like tunneling and elevating, the more productive the politics.

        Maybe best result will be massive benefit to the State’s economy. Starting with what’s probably America’s worst-handled subject after History- mathematics. Main problem with math is that very few people can understand it at all unconnected to its real-world uses.

        Motto on a sundial: “God is always doing Geometry!” Literally, measuring the World. In about 200 BC, Greek scientists in Egypt used trigonometry to calculate the circumference of the Earth within about 300 miles. Instruments rods, strings, and ability to measure length of a single foot-step.

        Few years ago in Pioneer Square, met a young guy with about five very enthusiastic kids maybe six years old. With some popsical sticks, strings, and a ruler, they’d just measured the Smith Tower to withing five feet. Good thing nobody called it trigonometry.

        Mechanical. Structural. Speed. Gradient. Terrific return to the school system, the business community, the Armed Forces, and everyone else who needs workers easy with the kind of math that makes things. And glad to subsidize accordingly.


  5. 1900 fantasy street scene, with Mr Dublin driving a bus in the guise of a crazy Dr Teeth from the Muppets. The story may remind you vaguely of “The Nutcracker”. Very slapstick. The street scene starts at 1:14 if you’re impatient.

    1. Metro routes 226 and 241 are both using electric buses on most of the runs. You can catch them from the Bellevue TC or the Eastgate TC. There’s sometimes a little bit of an electric motor smell on those buses but operationally they work fine.

      1. Yes, but I take that route multiple days a week, remember this:
        Only around half the buses are electric on the two routes, and they each run every 30 minutes with the same termini.
        Electric Buses tend to be LATE and I mean 15-30 minutes late. This is largely due to the fact that they give them the smallest possible layovers to charge, so while normal buses can just skip the layover and get to the next route, electric buses can’t. Not all buses are late, but keep in mind if OneBusAway says 22 minutes late, that’s probably the electric one.

    2. For trolleybuses, Vancouver BC could be your easiest, Joe, Seattle: recommend Route 7 on Rainier, for comparison with LINK next arterial over on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Much perspective on fit between each transit mode and its route.

      For neighborhood route, Route 2 between Queen Anne Hill through Downtown to Lake Washington at Madrona. Sit across from the drivers. Tell them you’re into transit, and good chance you’ll learn a lot. Very old technology. Skill worth learning, even though Metro should pay premium but doesn’t.

      Mistake- because not only should drivers get extra for the passenger loads and knowledge, but also so drivers will stay on them career-long, rather than quit soon as seniority allows because the work’s too hard. OK, nobody else has to see this one again, but important for Joe.


      Crimean Peninsula. Southern Russia, fifty miles each direction between Yalta on the coast, and the capital, Simferopol, across the mountains. Currently, argument about how much is really Ukraine. Probably interesting to go talk to drivers about that, but first get some pointers about this discussion while you’re still in the States.

      World constant, though. Before you go, make contact with the transit system you want to go see, and you’ll get a look at the country that average consultant never gets near. Same for every skill and profession, but especially for transit.

      Anyhow, check it out. Would work great for SR 20 from Marblemount to Wenatchee.


  6. Damn! I thought I recognized you from work! Greatest moment of my driving life! You were sitting across the aisle from me on the front bench seat with a very nice older lady.

    As we took the southbound wire onto Rainier, your eyes kept getting wider and wider, and you correctly pointed out that “Driving this bus must be just like a Space Ship!” I told you that except when the Enterprise threw a pole under a dead spot, Route 7 was the galaxy’s best.

    “And I bet you have all kinds of wars with Space Aliens!” Wondered if I could get CPS to find a home for the two of you someplace farther off the 44.

    Glad to see SPD had those crime prevention cameras in place when I first started driving, because when I started driving, it wasn’t politically correct to notice the nightly gang violence perpetrated by the Laurel and Hardy gang. Bad enough when dogs just bit people instead of kicking them.

    Real hit on ridership ’til Metro finally got some decent police out there. Too bad that actually was what happened year I went full-time and a driver would’ve been killed if three lady school teachers hadn’t come out of a meeting and thrown his attackers all the way down the aisle. Year detention, just a folk legend.

    But a lot of us still think the old “cam” power conditioning handled better than everything electronic.


    Hardly ever blew a tire. And the steering was reason why Atlantic Base took so long to get a weight room.

    But talk about bringing back some really old memories! Flashback to a room my Mom booked for us when our AMTRAK train to Seattle got held for thirty years in Nevada. The gold mine played out. Kept losing my uniform shirt at the casino. And only one company hiring drivers (same as Seattle in 1982)”


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP1DUis74BY First couple shakeups, Tucson to Tucumcari
    was all I could get. Worse than nights on the Route 82. But could finally hold Tehatchapi-Tonopah just when WW&W wired it through that tunnel under the Sierras.

    Joint-use with those freights was pretty dicey, but good thing nothing in transit was ever again as underpowered as that consarned mule team we got from Italy!

    All in all, though, pretty route, weather lot better than Seattle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV40xyl9bRA Never did set their Tunnel clocks any better than DSTT.

    But one memory with me always. Company dental plan finally offered orthodonia to drivers, because a mule would bite off their dentist’s hand. But had just sat down in the chair when the lady I was going with told me crooked teeth proved they were all mine.

    Your turn. Tell me one thing that makes any less sense than LINK’s ORCA hanging-offense fare reader system right now.



  7. May this provoke some discussion: http://mynorthwest.com/821699/you-can-have-your-future-i-dont-want-it/

    The future of cars, we are told, is vehicles as a service: the complete Uberization of mobility. You click an app or call out to Alexa and you get a ride. The problem is, the cars will not be self-driving, they will be government-driven. This is not a prediction, it is an absolute fact; I know this and you can, too, if you consult the announced future crony capitalists and government are now openly discussing: banning cars you drive yourself. This is not about benign rules like speed limits, which are arguably about safety, it is about one of the literal pillars of freedom: going where you want to go, when and how you choose.

    Read. The. Whole. Thing.

    1. If conservatives turn against self-driving cars, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The current utopian theory is that building mass transit infrastructure now is a waste because self-driving cars will solve all problems. With self-driving cars we won’t have to densify the suburbs, which the majority doesn’t want anyway. Conservatives prefer driving and low density more than liberals do, and many of them see driving their own car as an expression of their Constitutional freedoms the way carrying a gun is. So if conservatives turn against self-driving cars as a commie plot, then that’s more than half of the market right there. That would bring us back to 2005 when there were no self-driving cars, and then we’d have to address all these other problems after all, like transit, density, and carbon emissions.

      It’s also interesting that it says, “to avoid the massive crime problems in Seattle”. And one commentator goes further, “I had to go to 3rd and James the other day. Seattle feels like an open-air medium security prison with inoperative plumbing.” But not all of Seattle is like 3rd & James or 3rd & Pine. In fact, none of the rest of Seattle is. And the suburbs have the same problems, it’s just less visible because low density means there are fewer people around. Try asking the Bellevue Police how much theft there is.

      1. Before we can say that self-driving Ubers will replace the need for residents of places like Capitol Hill to own cars, I first want to know – will these self-driving Ubers take you to the mountains and, if so, at what price, how reliable will they be for the trip back, and will they allow themselves to be driven on bumpy, dirt forest roads. If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, “unreliable”, or “$100/trip”, I don’t think they’re going to make much of a dent in Seattle’s car ownership rate. At least in the inner city, people who own cars use them primarily for out-of-town weekend trips, not for daily work commutes.

      2. “At least in the inner city, people who own cars use them primarily for out-of-town weekend trips, not for daily work commutes.”

        I wish this were true, but it’s a small minority who do that. There are many people with an inner city apartment/condo who drive like it’s a suburban house. They may not drive to work because that’s when the most transit and congestion are and they have a peak-express bus, but they drive everywhere else. When I lived on Summit in a parkingless building, my friend lived in a parkingfull building two blocks away (in a 1920s studio with a garage, somehow), and he drove everywhere. He didn’t commute to work because his job was 6-week shifts on a tugboat in Hawaii, but he drove everywhere else beyond walking distance. We went to the Ballard farmers’ market occasionally and at first we drove at his insistence. Later I convinced him to take the bus to avoid the hassle of street parking or a pay lot, and we did, but he didn’t have an ORCA card or carry cash (like so many of my friends) so I had to pay his fare. He agreed it was a good way to get to the Ballard farmers’ market but didn’t start taking the bus on his own. These are the kind of people DP mentioned in the new buildings in Ballard: you don’t see them on the ground floor because they go straight from their apartment to the garage and out. And in my current building in Summit, at least a third of the people go straight to the garage for more than just a weekend trip.

      3. Mike;

        It’ll be interesting, very interesting where Todd E Herman’s transportation libertarianism goes. He clearly brings up ORCAleak in his broadcasts. But Todd also does bring up this issue of people becoming the product.

        I’m sure though that if there was a movement against automated personal cars, now’s the time for it. Or at least we need some kind of constitutional-level regulation over automation.

      4. I agree with Mike. I think the vast majority of people who own cars don’t own them to go to the mountains. They own them to get around town. They know there are other options, but they would rather use a car. A lot of them ignore the cost or even the inconvenience of parking, as with Mike’s friend.

        But that doesn’t mean that self driving cars won’t change things. There will be people who still own their own car, while more and more people don’t. In that way, it will be sort of like land lines and cell phones (although the financial dynamics will be different). Younger people will be more likely to think in non-traditional ways (e. g. get around without owning a car) while older folks (like me) don’t bother (I still own a landline).

        I’ve known plenty of people who don’t own cars, and most of them simply couldn’t afford to own one. I’ve been in that boat before. I got my first car mainly to get to work, because transit was so poor and riding a bike was wiping me out. But if a cab ride — or a cab + transit — was pretty cheap, that would have changed my perspective. Even a cheap car is pretty expensive, and the costs add up. At the time, I bought the car in part because I worked the night shift, which is probably when a self driving cab ride would be cheapest. That is one of the nice things about self driving cars — they actually complement a transit system in a couple ways. When transit is running well (e. g. during rush hour) but unable to solve the last mile problem, the self driving cab might be expensive per mile, but wouldn’t go very far (and generally against the flow). When it is just too late to expect good transit — or the transit is very broad in its coverage — the cab ride should be cheap.

        I also know a couple friends who could afford cars, but just put it off for a long time. Both lived in Fremont, and worked there (or downtown). For one, the tipping point was getting to his medical appointments in Northgate (it just took too long by bus). But he also liked the idea of using a car for recreational trips. That was why my other friend got a car. He used to just rent one for those types of trips, but decided finally to get a car.

        But even if people get a car for those types of trips, at a minimum, a self driving car will change the perspective on parking. If you want a car to get to medical appointments, visit your dad in Lacey, or go the mountains every weekend (all things my friends do), that doesn’t mean you need a garage. I could easily see more parking garages, with 24 hour security, being used for this purpose. The insurance would actually be lower than if you parked it on the street, making up for some of the cost of storing it. But more than that, it stores more efficiently than forcing developers to build parking garages (or parking spots) when they add apartments. For many it won’t matter. If you have space to park a car and the money to afford it, then you will probably just keep buying cars and parking them in your garage. But for many, they will do away with the burden of car ownership, or at the very least, the burden of storing them nearby.

        Oh, and this has nothing to do with transit, but self driving cars will be extremely popular for those that love to hike. It opens up a lot of easy one way hikes. Be dropped off at one trailhead, and picked up at another.

    2. I wish I’d had the author’s wherewithal to have moved to some mountain town in Portugal where the goats have to be hauled up on pulleys his whole life. And the monastic determination to neither watch TV or ever leave.

      Though it’s more likely he’s been confined in his basement with his i-Mac since he built it 1953 for an air raid shelter. Yeah, Sweden calls them subway stations, but they also have a draft and have been looking at same Russian threat since Hamlet’s friend used an ethnic slur to say what Baltic power Hamlet’s father wiped out in an ambush.

      But sadder yet, not a single trip to Church, to learn that to the Government imposing these limits, a Thousand Years (in a lot of languages, sounds more awesome than three hundred trillion squared) are as a watch in the night (perimeter guards, not Rolex- do they even have those anymore?-) or as Yesterday’s News That Everybody Prays Will Pass!

      The cruelly unrevoke-able Laws of Physics decree that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, no matter how loud they honk their horns pleading to be released so their drivers can be free to vote against transit!

      However, since Scripture has many revelations about The Lord’s Powers of Persuasion, the time it takes to get out of last year’s transit is but an chip-beep in a cell-phone 24-7-365. He hath invented the Denny Regrade as an exemplary course on a next move that millions of legislators will join the author in a righteous war to achieve.

      When the Rocky Mountains, the Sierras, and the Olympics have been washed into nearest river or ocean, the motorists to whom an hour once again stuck in traffic are as a million years without a toilet, twill hammer their fenders into light rail vehicles, and their wheel-hubs into grooved rail. Proving that, on the Nocturnal Watch schedule, religion should indeed be given a place in government.

      After the trillion to the hundred sixtieth power of years it will need to find its way into every single State religion. Bids for the needle whose eye can handle all those camels?

      Tragic, though great for me- the author should have been in the passenger’s seat on my chariot as for two earthly hours day before yesterday that seemed like a hundred trillion finding my way from Dupont back to Tacoma on my way to Olympia. After four previous hours in traffic from Olympic National Park. Know there’s a Beast service that can deal with these things. But 666 operator says call back when Sarge says I can get off watch.


  8. Thoughts on ST getting into commercial development to fund transit? If we weren’t obliged to give all the land to affordable housing, building for profit high density mix use, with commercial activity on the bottom floors, could be extremely profitable, no? Should we be giving this land away to affordable housing when it could fund a huge portion of the sound transit budget?

    1. I’m very much with you, Andrew, but much different purpose and scope. Simply: do what developers have been doing for decades, starting with streetcar lines before shifting to cars and their roads. First proudly called themselves “Streetcar Suburbs”.

      So what I’m thinking is that Sound Transit could start either doing, or partnering with developers, developing transit-oriented communities as part of its main transit line, rather than add-ons. Pretty much like original developers did.

      Part of plan could be to “interline” routes from the developments onto the main LINK lines. Like a car-oriented developer would do with roads. Repetitive link, but great illustration of what I mean.






      But mainly, rather than concentrating on expanding and intensifying density only in presently- densified places, like Seattle, my approach is to deliberately disperse development regionwide, but along concentrating pre-planned corridors.

      As part of the development, buying as much park, field, and forest land as possible. Same land, but development very intensively concentrated to leave as much nature as possible between the developments themselves.

      I’d also like to be as aggressive as possible, to get ahead of as many competing car-oriented developments as possible. Let’s all discuss it.


      1. While older cities spread out along rail lines ahead of the car, it’s too late for Seattle to do this. Cars already got there. Trains aren’t any faster once they’re making regular stops, so people aren’t going to go any farther on the trains than they’re already going by cars. Anyway, if we built a widely-spaced super-fast rail network way, way out there with lots of undeveloped land between stations that undeveloped land would go to “infill sprawl” incredibly quickly, since the car is already widely accepted. I don’t know of any city in the world that’s prevented that, and I doubt we’d be the first.

      2. Not at all a bad idea. Ideally IMO ST could purchase the vast swaths of parking lots around future stations via eminent domain, and use their commercial development as funding. iirc this is how tokyo subway makes so much money – it’s the rent that businesses are paying. But since our state is ass backwards, we’ve got to get the next best thing which is to let the private companies do it.

        What I don’t get is why ST can’t just use ED to purchase a large swath of land for “staging” that is greater than the need though.

      3. It can’t take too much land because that’s an arbitrary taking, not needed for an essential public need. But ST has switched from taking the smallest footprint possible to taking more coherent chunks. In Rainier Valley it kept the smallest footprint possible to avoid displacing businesses, but that led to surplus parcels being small and scattered and odd-shaped which are difficult to develop on. Now it’s taking larger consolidated chunks that will leave regular-shaped parcels afterward.

      4. “Trains aren’t any faster once they’re making regular stops, so people aren’t going to go any farther on the trains than they’re already going by cars.” – not if the trains are congestion free and the cars are in traffic.

        Driving from Tacoma or Puyallup to Seattle during rush hour is hell. Catching the Sounder is a long but reasonable commute.

      5. Or if the trains are high speed. A train from Edinburgh to London is a few hours faster than a bus, and a train from Cambridge to London is twice as fast, as is a train from Dublin to Carlow. While in the US it’s the opposite.

      6. @AJ: Tacoma, Puyallup, and Seattle are already within the urban extent. The city centers are already there, and so is the infill sprawl between them. The roads are already there, and so is the congestion. There’s nothing to “get ahead” of, like Mark is talking about. Sounder to Tacoma and Puyallup is essentially infill transit. So of course it’s good to build great transit to Puyallup. And to resist building more freeways through Fife (the 509 expansion might be the worst thing currently planned in the Seattle area). But all the benefits of “getting ahead” of auto-oriented development won’t be there. Cheap land without highway infrastructure in the way, without existing auto-oriented built-environments and commute patterns, isn’t there.

        Even out in, say, Frederickson and Graham, the land use on the way out to those places is a patchwork of subdivisions already. And even if it wasn’t, if a city center was planned in one of them, that would only intensify strip-mall development along the highways and arterials. You can’t plan in secret, or against public will, for too long in a republic. As far ahead as we can see, all the transit will be infill transit.

      7. Or if the trains are high speed.

        Or just decently moderate speed operated well with stations close to where people want to go. Potsdam is well outside Berlin, but for many places in Berlin you can get there faster than driving on the regional trains.

    2. That’s what ST did from 1990 to around 2006. Everything from Stadium to SeaTac was built under a regime of selling to the highest bidder. Even with affordable housing there will still be ground-floor retail, both because it’s ST’s policy and because zoning requires it in Seattle and some suburbs (Des Moines for instance). There are ways to get new buildings to pay more for transit, but they’re precluded by state and city laws and the state constitution (which doesn’t allow any kind of public credit for private development, or taxing properties unequally); in any case they’re things legislatures and councils an change, not ST. And when the housing crisis is the biggest problem we face, and people who would take transit full-time can’t afford to live near it, how can we not dedicate the only property we publicly control to affordable housing? The need for affordable housing and workforce housing (which this doesn’t address) is at least four times the amount of housing that’s being built.

      1. There is a nearly unlimited need for affordable housing. Sound Transit would only be a drop in the bucket. In my view, we’d be building mix income developments, if they pencil out. More units being built overall, since the rich subsidize the poor, but we still have some affordable units being constructed. Ideally we’d be able to take the DART model used in Dallas and tax buildings on the local increases in property value, but if that’s not possible, eh I guess full on commercial development is the next best thing

      2. The biggest reason nonprofits don’t build more affordable housing is land prices.private owner won’t take less than the highest offer, so if government doesn’t make concessions nobody will. And this is about giving a transit-motivated population an opportunity to live near transit stations, which is in a transit agency’s interest.

  9. “I think children naturally enjoy transit riding- especially on the trains.”

    That’s certainly true. Somebody rides the Snoqualmie steam train’s Santa series, although it also runs weekends in the summer.

    I sometimes ride the 268 to the end to monitor how ridership, walkability, and development are doing. One Saturday morning westbound a man and his son got on from one of those new subdivisions east of Lake Meridian. The boy was excited to take a bus trip to Seattle! The man may have been a regular downtown bus commuter, but the boy didn’t go to Seattle very often.

    My first encounter with rapid transit was after high school when my dad and I drove down the coast and stopped to stay with his friend in San Jose. My dad was doing something businessy all day and his friend suggested, “Why don’t we drop Mike off at Fremont and he can take BART to San Francisco and he’ll enjoy it?” He was right and I did.

    My second encounter was in college when we went to a conference in Urbana, Illinois. The returning shuttle bus took us to O’Hare in the early morning a few hours before our flight. I saw the “Train to City” sign and followed it to an El station. I waned to take it to the Loop and back but I was afraid there might be long headways we’d miss the flight. (This was before 9/11 security made it completely infeasible, but still 45 minutes down and again back was not a comfortable margin for a 2-3 hour layover.)

  10. Mike, and Andrew, have just been thinking off the top of my head, watching phenomena I mentioned at exact correct range. Olympia. Also fascinated by the streetcar suburbs idea,which worked for decades before the suburbs went rubber-tired. Understand that ST can’t do any development or land-purchase itself.

    But how are the affordable flats at our new Transit Oriented Developments financed. Maybe it’s possible for research groups like the Transit Choices Coalition to meet with architects and designers whose firms might be interested, and offer to give them the information they’d need to design the places we need.

    Doubt I’d be the only one to run these ideas by somebody in one of these companies or consortiums. Would’t bet there aren’t more than one in Portland- which is the natural south end of the regional entity I’m talking about. Also not surprised if there’s more than one plan on the boards.

    Because there are at least some plans in which eventual street-rail inclusion can be built into a subdivision for when it’s needed. Drains, street layout, conduits, and such. Built in places of employment could also long-term provide workspace in areas who’ve lost their last industry.

    Maybe Jessyn and Cary are already on it. Will check with them and TriMet.


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