Double talls on the Stewart offramp

This is an open thread.

Photo by SounderBruce in the STB Flickr Pool

34 Replies to “News Roundup: Glossy Treatment”

  1. Just out of curiosity (and a lot of snarkiness), how much would ST save if we skipped the Amazon stop/made it an infill station (sort of like West Seattle is proposing for its light rail)?

    Since Amazon is willing to halt construction of a building if it doesn’t get it’s way on the head tax, they may try something like this again (perhaps even threaten to leave Seattle). Perhaps if SDOT wrote to ST suggesting this (perhaps leaving it to ST4 to open up the station once it is established Amazon is here to stay (and still in existence)), given Amazon’s stated uneasiness of doing business in Seattle.

    1. That’s funny, I lurk on the Ballard blog frequently and saw someone ask that same question recently.

      I think ST holding a LRT station hostage would be horrible PR. Their job is to build stations and stay out of the political swamp, they shouldn’t deviate from that.

      That said, if Amazon were to hold to their threat, they aren’t going to leave, the amount they pay per year for the head tax is minuscule next to relocating their HQ. They are too invested in our city. If they decide not to continue to build out, somebody else will. The SLU stations serve a dense area and are too valuable to delete, whether they serve Amazon or some post-Amazon company.

      1. Yup, I saw the same post. Also, I think Erica B. on her twitter suggested (snarkily?) of making the Amazonians walk from the Gates Foundation stop and put better stop spacing elsewhere. I sort of scrunched all those posts together to come up with the question.

      2. I wonder why no one has put the “head tax” matter to Mr. Bezos like this: The activities that will give you, all your employees, and many more residents also result in losses to many people who have invested most of their working lives in Seattle.

        Like the continued ability to live in homes where we’d been for decades. On a few weeks’ notice. Also, the right to vote in Seattle, where most decisions that affect our daily lives, not least massive slowing of our drive to work, are made.

        You have a fair argument that Amazon’s presence will generate enough benefit that eventually everybody listed above will finally benefit. Including homes and lives better than the ones we left.

        But any cost to the city’s people, like for water and electricity, your company expects to receive a bill. If you don’t agree with details of the billing system, as a voting resident like many of your workers, you can get with your representatives on fairer taxes.

        Interesting point in the biography of Alexander Hamilton. After his father deserted his mother in the West Indies, Alexander worked as chief clerk in her company supplying English merchant ships. “Ship chandler’s clerk.”

        Having to deal with the gentry (rich and powerful but without a title of nobility) who commanded those ships was main motivation for supporting the Revolution: Doing business with someone for whom it was a matter of honor that a gentleman does not pay his bills. Especially to a person grubby enough to appear in sweat-stained clothes from working.

        Mark Dublin

      3. The same issue came up when Mercer Island and Surrey Downs were instrangent and refused to upzone: couldn’t we just defer the stations? But ST showed no inclination to consider that, so I don’t see them doing it for the SLU station. and I don’t see the point, since SLU is upzoned more than most stations are, and has tens of thousands of workers and residents coming and going, and that will be true regardless of whether Amazon or other companies occupy the buildings. The entire reason we rerouted Ballard Link to SLU is because it has become a high-capacity-transit area.

    2. There is no “Amazon stop”. There are stops that are close to some Amazon buildings, but Amazon could leave tomorrow and they would still be good stops. Companies come and go, but office buildings are reused. Who is in the WaMu building? I have no idea, but it ain’t vacant.

      You also have lots of people who live downtown, with plenty of new residents on the way. For example, at 1120 Denny Way (site of the old Seattle Times building) they are building an apartment with 1,179 units (and plenty of retail space). This is an area that is well within an easy walk of the proposed station on Denny, but would be a long schlep to Link without it. That kind of density is what drives ridership. There are lots of dubious aspects of ST3, but a stop in that type of neighborhoods is not.

      1. Perkins Coie has almost half of the WaMu tower, including the “patio” floor.

    3. Where would they go? South Dakota and Wyoming are the only two states that don’t have either a gross receipts tax or corporate income tax. Texas has no corporate income tax but quite high property taxes to compensate for that.

      I suppose they could go to tax haven Puerto Rico, but they have their set of issues too.

      1. Warning: Rambling post!

        I’ve had several conversations with friends about the “Head Tax”. I agree it is sort of an arbitrary way to tax and you usually don’t tax what you want to encourage (we want more jobs, but we tax each one for large companies). What a lot of people don’t know (even those following the issue) is that the state allows cities only a few ways to collect taxes, and this is one of the few untapped ways. It also appeals to those who think big companies are evil or just thinks they should “contribute something”. Also, the city is under immense pressure to do something to address the homeless issue. Even though the homeless population is concentrated in the city of Seattle, this is a regional problem and it needs regional contributions to resolve. I guess what I’m saying is I can see all sides of the issue and I don’t have a better solution. Maybe Dick’s suggestion of focusing on donations rather than the head tax makes people feel better since it is opt-in and not a tax per se.

    1. The answer to that one will depend on schedule coordination. The wait between trains had better be short, and the connection reliable. If you’re stuck on the platform for half an hour, it doesn’t matter how close the connection is in physical space.

      1. If they have identical headway, it should be straightforward to simply overlap dwell times since both lines are transferring at their terminus.

    2. The odd thing about it is the electric BART trains will make two stops at Pittsburg/Bay Point: one at the original station and another at a separate DMU transfer platform over half a mile away. There is no way to walk to that transfer platform from the station or the street. So if you are just going from Pittsburg/Bay Point to points east you have to take a really short ride on an electric BART train to get to the DMU platform.

      1. It does seem odd that this is the setup.

        I’m not that surprised for a few reasons:

        1. BART is a closed system with turnstiles, and all of the stations are manned. Adding a third station would mean more cost and staff.
        2. Providing walk-up access to the transfer station site would require building a new station with skybridges across the median of an eight-lane freeway in addition to other station facilities. Even the Pittsburg Center station was an add-on to the project because the initial budget didn’t even fund that.
        3. The freeway median was purposely wider where the transfer platforms have been built, and that enabled the DMU tracks to remain at-grade. BART also already had tail tracks east of the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station. Had the project extended the DMU to Pittsburg/Bay Point, there would have been lots more structures involved as well as a more difficult transfer.

        Interestingly, it appears that it is possible to hold both trains with their doors shut — or even hold them with their doors open at the previous station — until a simultaneous arrival could occur to keep the transfer time to a minimum!

  2. Mercer Island using the money for parking isn’t surprising given Metro’s service levels within the island:

    * A single all-day route down the main road that stops running before 7 (204)

    * A peak-only connector to Seattle that goes about halfway down the island (630)

    * A peak only coverage route with two trips up and only one trip down (201). If you’re coming from Seattle, good luck to ming the 550 or 554 with your single trip back home.

    * nothing on weekends.

    This is really silly. The entire island could probably be covered with two routes. And the silly 630 isn’t necessary. Of course, it would be less necessary if the 9x had decent service, or if they ran the 106 up Broadway.

    1. Metro had all-day routes on the island… but they got horrible ridership and were deleted in some restructure.

  3. I’m reminded of somebody else whose whole M.O. is getting his way. And who only started becoming a serious civic problem when he started getting attention in direct negative proportion as the value of his contribution to the government he influences.

    Local remedies: One, get in the habit of sending to a certain South Lake Union address an e-mail photocopy of your latest receipt from a local book-store. And corner grocery. And Goodwill. And put the station anyplace you feel like. Eminent domain invented for this exactly!

    The other public door-mat abrasioneer? Twitter campaign notifying every sixteen year old in the country how many of them can vote, and in Washington State run for the legislature, at 18. And simultaneously slip money under the table to every school district in the country to suspend kids who do it.

    And deal with the NRA: In return for some serious lobbying to allow citizens to protect their Home-Backyardland air-space- Ben Franklin would’ve switched away from kites in a second!- we’ll pressure all our liberal friends to leave their black boots to the aging KISS fanclub. and promise not to confiscate all 600 AR15’s in every member’s basement.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mi3Ed-paCE4

    Also, express purpose of this video is to think twice about your reflex to get from any company that delivers by drone.

    Mark

  4. Lots of room for backyard cottages but I’ve learned that the economics may be more in favor of Airbnb rather than rental housing.

    I know 2 colleagues who have ADUs – both are using Airbnb rather than renting them out traditionally. I asked them why and they both laughed. Apparently the profit from Airbnb is 2-3x more than the normal rent they could get. That’s including winter. The rates they can charge are quite substantial – more than a lot of traditional hotel rooms. And surprisingly, they see minimal wear and tear because the guests are hardly even around – being tourists, they spend most of their time exploring. Now another colleague is building a backyard cottage to Airbnb.

    Airbnb is definitely suppressing hotel demand, however, so this potentially allows for more apartment construction elsewhere in lieu of traditional hotels.

    1. The big change that is needed is to allow both places to be rented. That would change the dynamic. People could build ADUs for the same reason your colleagues do, but someone else could buy both places and rent them out. Someone could also just buy up a house, convert it a two unit apartment, also add a detached unit, and rent the entire thing out. They could do the same thing via AirBnB, but you can’t do that with lots of places (because of recent regulations).

    2. Depending on the local regulatory client, short term rentals that do not confer strong tenant rights is also often considered a safer option than a traditional lease.

    3. Public policy should be focused on maximizing long-term rental housing, not on giving windfall profits to AirBnB hosts. Many AirBnB hosts are the same people who already own single-family houses and thus get the benefit of that. And even if they aren’t NIMBYs, the larger class of single-family homeowners are the ones denying an ever-increasing percent of the population a place to live or lane space for transit lanes.

      1. “And even if they aren’t NIMBYs, the larger class of single-family homeowners are the ones denying an ever-increasing percent of the population a place to live or lane space for transit lanes.”

        Please elaborate on this. I fall into this class so I’d like to hear how exactly I am guilty of your assertion. Or am I an outlier (or really just the relatively silent majority of said class). Fwiw, my property has been upzoned twice in the 15+ years I’ve owned it (during my county’s comp plan updates), going from low density to high density residential in the process.

    4. Our public discourse keeps just talking about dwelling units. The discussion about our housing shortage needs to get the more appropriate measure: bedrooms!

      Decades ago, we had rooming houses. Decades ago, three people would rent a three-bedroom apartment. Decades ago, extra housing was needed for non-nuclear family relatives — and this is still standard practice in many parts of the world today.

      Nowadays, Seattle seem to be mainly concerned with only counting units — implicitly encouraging everyone to have only their own little room that’s not much bigger than a closet and can only hold one person. The irony in that is that putting a kitchen and bathroom to go alone with every one of these single rooms (to make a unit) makes the average per bedroom costs go up more than they have to!

  5. If Seattle spent NOTHING on the homeless problem, the numbers would go down – likely by a huge amount. Simple supply (money) and demand. The more money you spend, the more homeless you will attract.

    Few places have spent more money for longer than San Francisco and it’s homeless problem is worse now than ever.

    1. I think the causality is the other way around. Increase in homeless induced an increase in spending on homeless. I suspects homelessness is worsened by rent increases. Few places have higher rent than San Francisco and it’s worse now than ever.

      Anyways, the homeless population isn’t very mobile. I don’t think they are reading WSJ homeless edition to follow what cities have changed their homeless benefits or calculating return on bottle collecting time.

      Consider this. Every city on the west coast has worsening homelessness. From Bellingham to San Diego, people are claiming that the homeless are coming to their city because they spend money on them. So did they all come from Idaho, Montana, and Nevada?

      But even if our spending on homelessness attracted some other homeless. They got word in Spokane that we opened a new emergency shelter and used their pan of change to pay for an Empire Builder ticket or a Greyhound. Is that really bad? Helping a homeless person is something to be proud of, whether they lost their home in Seattle or Boise.

      1. There are two general types of homelessness: folks who have had some sort of tragedy that has obliterated their family’s savings and terminated its income and those who are mentally or socially unable to find and hold work.

        The first group can take a generous helping hand and climb out of their temporary deprivation. The second group needs to be mildly institutionalized. That is, they need to be forced by a court to attend life skills and demonstrate some sort of competency in the skills taught, then housed in the sort of places that Salt Lake City is pioneering.

        Those who are unable to manage even that need more rigorous, but still kind, institutionalization. People think that the raving lunatics on the streets are like The Big Chief or McMurphy, but they’re not. Or that they’re wise, ascetic gurus. Ha! Most are basically low-level con-men with skills too poor to pull off the con.

        Many of them are self-harming in one way or another and in some few cases harming others. We’re a nation that loves individual freedom; I’ve been homeless in the past myself. But I did it in the woods, not on city streets, disturbing everyone’s peace.

        If they want to live the life of the self-sufficient loner in the wilderness, more power to them, but not in the city where they’re a health and social nightmare.

      2. I forgot to acknowledge that ameliorating the problem of the second group will cost a lot of money and that much of it will be an ongoing burden. But it will benefit the larger society by creating a more livable city.

        An increasing of people have the attitude expressed on a recent series of posts that homeless people frequently make bus riding an olfactory assault. It’s true that the anti-transit crazies grossly over-emphasize the problem, but it does limits potential non-commute ridership on in-city routes.

        Part of that is that the homeless people obviously have no place to bathe but part is also that society tolerates it, and many of the low-level con-men types like “sticking it” to their fellow citizens.

    2. Richard, before you start wasting valuable coercive time on people on whom max coercion has already been applied by life itself and failed, you might want to at least practice on the sector of the population who can pay lobbyists to write the laws so they never get coerced into anything. Like paying the bills for the effects of the activities that make them rich.

      Especially permits for residential development. Might want to be careful where your woods used to be. Because the tenant’s committee of the condos inside the wall always has its private police take people like you to where everybody giving residents bad dreams by just existing deserves to go.

      Really wouldn’t mind duplicating my own summer’s sole residential address of a campsite by a stream in the Cascades forty years ago. Even thought the weasel I occasionally had to help get out from under the screen was cute and kept the mice down. Problem with this year’s relocation to Royal Brougham will be that the size rats he’d have to keep out would necessitate his being a rabid wolverine.

      Which, come to think of it would be perfect, because all I’d have to feed him will be every coercive finger wagged at me. Remember that historically, by far this country’s loudest cries for “Freedom!” came from people and governments, including the Federal one, demanding their own God-given liberty to send their independent contractors’wives to a brothel.

      But just to set the record straight: I think former Army Nurse Mildred Ratched deserves both the Congressional for putting up with Ken’s malingering, and a truthful biography from his estate. Come to think of it, any coercion campaign run by lady nurses, I’ll be first to enlist in. As had all her patients, who were probably the ones who really threw McMurphy out the window.

      Mark

    3. Cool. Seattle has a homeless fairy godmother that will take care of homelessness if everyone stops spending money on solving the problem?

      I assume this works as well as the pollution fairy godmother, the freeway fairy godmother and the pothole fairy godmother?

      1. There is a extremely minor, but very vocal portion of our population that seriously thinks that all this time, the Council could have wiggled their noses and made the homeless and drug problem disappear, instantly and for free naturally, and that the Council is just lining their pockets with the money.

        Their grasp on reality is strange, to say the least. It’s hard to formulate responses that aren’t dripping in condescension, like my own. You can’t reason with them, society just needs to pass them by and move forward.

    4. The vast majority of homeless remain in the same city/metropolitan area as where they previously rented/owned/worked/grew up. Migrations like “California dreamin'” and free bus tickets across the country are marginal. In large metropolitan areas like ours there’s some interchange between cities and suburbs, based on several factors, such as concentration of services, homeless-hostile policies, and large enough commercial/industrial areas to sleep unobtrusively in without homeowners calling the police, etc. For decades practically the only homeless services in Pugetopolis were in downtown Seattle so suburbanites had to go there, and now even though Eastside services have increased they’re still way behind Seattle’s.

      There are several kinds of homelessness, and the severely-challenged winos in downtown Seattle are just one of them, and they’re not the majority. Many are middle-class people who lost their job, had a large medical bill, or fell behind on rent. There’s a 96% correlation between the increase in housing prices and the increase in homeless people. A lot of them are women or families with children, and they don’t beg at streetcorners because they consider that a last resort.

      So to generalize most of them as coming from out of town for bleeding-heart liberal handouts because they’re too lazy to work is very inaccurate, and it matters because real people are falling through the cracks and experiencing something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and that a wealthy civilized society should be beyond.

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