Convention Place Station from above

Convention Place Station from Above by SounderBruce in the Flickr Pool

This is an open thread

41 Replies to “News Roundup: Breaking Ground”

  1. I wouldn’t say the Koch brothers killed the Nashville plan so much as I’d say it collapsed under the weight of its leading proponent’s scandals, the inequitable funding plan (did you know TN charges sales tax on groceries?) and the perception that it would bring hipster gentrification to currently affordable neighborhoods.

    1. The Nashville plan (note that it’s a merged city-county) was structurally flawed in many ways. It relied on a central tunnel in limestone, which is so hard that even little street improvements can require dynamite to construct. It lacked any park-and-ride for those who live away from a corridor. It followed arterials with large amounts of free parking and driveways and diagrams were not presented for nearby stakeholders. The plans never highlighted travel time advantages and most lines were simply following existing bus routes. The project map showed transit centers but not rail stations, making it look like few stations were going to be built because most were not shown. The lines did not generally dog-leg to serve more than the radial corridor.

      As much as the Koch’s slammed it, I doubt that it would have passed with no Koch involvement. Had ST3 been conceived and presented this badly, it probably would have failed too.

      1. The plan actually had quite a few park-and-rides, and was explicitly advertised as a starter system, from which the suburban counties would pass their own plans to join (since TN doesn’t allow inter-county ballots for transit). The vote was definitely stymied by the other issues you mentioned, as the maps and materials weren’t easy to decipher from an outsider’s perspective.

      2. My only personal complaint about the Koch brothers, or at least the one on the NPR board, is half of National Public Radio’s every broadcast day full of shows with names like “Planet Money.”

        Though maybe that is where their listeners are. And it saves the world of Zorgon, which translates as Zorgon a fortune’s worth of cereal box tops, which is their world’s most stable currency. Too bad the Air Force can’t buy an F-35 jet fighter for fifty Cheerio’s box-tops anymore.

        “What’s a box top? It’s on top of one of those square things made outta real stiff paper that you would frequently find closely surrounding Cheerios. No they are not a kind of health food. Look what’s happened to everybody that ate it.


      3. Planet Money is a personal finance education program. I don’t find it that interesting but what’s wrong with it? The only other money-related program I can think of is Marketplace. It’s business news. What’s wrong with that? If there’s another libertarian trojan horse in the schedule, I can’t find it. Many corporations and foundations have long contributed to both sides; that’s nothing new. Sometimes it’s for “soft power”, sometimes it’s to be on the winning side even if something unexpected happens, sometimes it’s because they don’t want to lose customers on any side (“I don’t care what you think as long as your money is green”.)

    2. “It’s a measure of people who don’t understand
      The pleasures of life in a hillbilly band
      I got my first guitar when I was fourteen
      Well I finally made forty, still wearing jeans.”

      “Amanda, you can help the Nashville City Planning Commission out. What did Waylon pay for his present pair of jeans?

      “Because his fans are starting to worry that there is now a clear and present danger that before someone even realizes it’s happening, they can look in the mirror in dreadful surprise….

      “As the sight of their little finger sticking out past the little handle of their demitasse makes them realize that the increasing affordability of their neighborhood has turned them into gentry without ever being hipsters. Like their children were before they all became lawyers and doctors.

      “But on the positive side for us, it’s worse in Louisville where no matter how low the degree is of your rival, like Community College, if you seize him by the collar and order him to stand, your faithless Flora will be on her smart- phone to the police.

      “Who know too well that while our Founding Fathers from Scotland carried more daggers in their white socks than muskets, the NRA still insists those were only bayonets for the AR15 Model 1776. So let the minutes show that our neighborhoods’ sole salvation lies in one word:

      “Retro! Meeting adjourned!”


  2. REI… driving more of the jobs to an area that the average worker can’t afford and away from an area that is at least marginally affordable. I pity the poor accountants, administrative assistants, customer support specialists, marketing personnel, purchasing agents, and technicians who will now, undoubtedly, face an extreme commute in many cases. How many will be willing to give up their homes, uproot their families, force their children to change schools, and accept life with half the square footage and double the mortgage payment, because of the whims of a few smug executives?

    They could have done so much good. They could have continued jobs in affordable South King AND sustainably grew around a transit center. Kent Station? Auburn Station? The new Federal Way light rail? They chose Bellevue, which is already saturated with jobs and built out with homes that nobody can afford.

    How I felt about Russell. How I felt about Weyerhaeuser. How I feel about REI now.

    1. On the contrary, what about people who live in or near Seattle or Bellevue who don’t want the commute choice of a 45 minute drive or 90 minute bus ride.

      FWIW, there is a direct bus from Kent to Bellevue – the 567, but it only runs in the direction that serves people living in Kent, working in Bellevue – not the other way around.

      1. Good point about transit, for the most part, running from Kent/Auburn and into Bellevue and Seattle. As for people that work at REI and want to live in what are now the “suburbs” at least with a Bellevue location they can choose from North, East or South. My bet is many of the “poor accountants, administrative assistants, customer support specialists, marketing personnel, purchasing agents, and technicians” will be happy to live in one of the State’s top ranked school districts and feel much safer than living in S. King County.

      2. Exactly. Why do folks assume that everyone will just move to be close to their job, and love it there? To be fair, change is hard, and for many, this will suck. But for others, this will be a big improvement, and over time, it will clearly be better. If you work in Kent, there are very few places you can live and have a decent commute. If you work in Bellevue it is much better.

      3. Just FYI, the 567 has a non-peak counterpart: the 566. If anything, it ends too early in both directions.

      4. I doubt that most of the lower paid workers will be able to afford to live in Bellevue School District.

        As for this comment: “feel much safer than living in S. King County,” please explain. ?????!!!
        I’ve lived in Auburn for almost a decade and have never felt unsafe. In fact, I know plenty of people in my own neighborhood who avoid Seattle because it is “unsafe.” I think it is just fear of the unknown. Kent, Federal Way, and Auburn are all very nice cities with good and bad neighborhoods, just like Seattle and Bellevue. The only true difference is that of the cost of housing available. Numbers don’t lie, and a quick search for houses or apartments will reveal significant differences in cost of housing.

      5. Engineer: property values in north suburbs vs south suburbs have a lot to do with the school districts. Granted, they are artificial boundaries that serve to maintain socioeconomic inequality, but that’s another story. Recently, the Times reported that Federal Way has grown too rapidly for its schools to keep up.

        Thing about having a job center in Kent is people stay longer in their homes than they do at their jobs, so for every worker who moves to Kent (and may well have to drive because the bus is too far to walk or the schedule is limited) there is probably one who commutes from Shoreline or Lynnwood, and good luck doing that commute by bus–you’re driving it.

      6. Let’s not make too much out of one companies move. Some companies locate in Bellevue, other companies locate in Kent. We don’t even know where the employees live, so the assumption that most of them live in Kent and would have a horrible commute to Bellevue is just speculation. I have worked in companies with just twenty people, a hundred and fifty people, and thousands of people — companies in Northgate, downtown, Ballard, and in between, and all of them had employees scattered over King, Snohomish, and sometimes Pierce County. Only a very few lived within three miles of work; the largest numbers lived in south Everett, Lynnwood, Bothell, Des Moines, places like that. So we can’t tell without more information whether this would make the commute worse or better for most of the existing employees or whether it’s a wash. But we know that central Bellevue has better transit access from many locations than South King County does, so that makes one end of the commute better in a general sense, so that one end is transit-accessible. In South King County often both ends are transit-inaccessible, or have one half-hourly or hourly bus with limited hours and long transfers. In any case, in this growing economy, and with Seattle/Bellevue running out of affordable office/industrial space, another company will move into the Kent location and will employ people, and that may turn out to be a good job for either some previously REI employees or others.

    2. Presumably another company will go into REI’s Kent space and can do all that.

      This sounds like enhancing the corporate image with a prestigious address. That’s more for the bottom line than a knee-jerk emotional reaction. Russell’s reason for moving was that most of its business and contacts were in Seattle. Or was that another Tacoma bank that moved earlier? Weyerhauser, well, haven’t we been telling corporations that they should get out of transit-inaccessible exurban locations? Haven’t people sometimes said Microsoft should move to Seattle or at least downtown Bellevue? We can’t both tell companies to move to urban locations and berate them for doing so. Kent Station, Auburn Station, and Federal Way have space for other companies which will eventually be used as the population increases, traffic gets worse, and people realize we can’t live on just tech vapor alone.

      1. I don’t think Engineer is telling those companies to move to urban locations. Quite the opposite (based on his comment).

      2. Focusing businesses are transit friendly areas like the Federal Way Transit Center, the Tacoma Dome, Kent Station, Downtown Tacoma, Auburn Station, and their correlaries north of King County should be our focus, until such time that the housing market in North King makes a serious correction and welcomes working class families. Metro serves all of King County, not just the north half, so we, realistically, could start increasing service to match what Bellevue and Seattle have with no changes to funding, if the jobs migrated and/or stayed here in South King. Getting the jobs focused to the transit hubs is key to making that make sense. Unfortunately, you apparently need to actually experience life with student loans, children, and astronomical housing costs on a relatively low income to actually understand what it’s like. I’m afraid that a number of commenters on here don’t have a clue what that is like. Until the NIMBY-ism of North King goes away and starts allowing appropriate housing densities to match the job densities, we will be stuck with this problem of pricing people into 2-hour commutes. I can’t support pricing people into 2-hour commutes, because I’ve been there. Truth be told, it drove me (literally and figuratively) into serious depression, to the point where my marriage nearly crumbled, and I was close to walking away from a career. I’m watching as the same has driven a friend and his wife to divorce. They have two kids. I watched as an amazing volunteer that I used to work with became homeless (evicted by a developer) and promptly moved to Spokane. Those are the implications of what we’re talking about. Destroying families and driving away people who give selflessly of their time to improve our communities. Again, I can’t support that.

      3. “I don’t think Engineer is telling those companies to move to urban locations.”

        I was talking about transit fans in general. A significant number over the years have said that companies should reverse their move to far-flung office parks and strip malls.Some have done so, especially internet/web related tech companies, but many have not.

      4. I don’t think you got my point. Here is what you wrote:

        We can’t both tell companies to move to urban locations and berate them for doing so.

        No one has done that. You have people (like you, me, asdf2, etc.) saying companies should move to urban locations and then *applauding* them for doing so. The only one who opposes this (on this thread, anyway) is Engineer, and he — to the best of my knowledge — has never told companies to move to urban locations.

        It is just a difference of opinion, as opposed to being inconsistent.

      5. Focusing businesses are transit friendly areas like the Federal Way Transit Center, the Tacoma Dome, Kent Station, Downtown Tacoma, Auburn Station, and their correlaries north of King County should be our focus, until such time that the housing market in North King makes a serious correction and welcomes working class families.

        Why not just ask businesses to move to Spokane, since it is cheaper there?

        Your suggestion would not be good from a *regional* transit perspective. It would mean a lot more people driving to work, and do nothing to make housing more affordable. Just because a place is a “transit center” doesn’t mean that it is easy to get a bus there.

        Take Federal Way transit center, which is probably better than most of your other suggestions. How long does it take to get a ride from a typical neighborhood in Renton to the transit center? More than an hour ( East Renton — even worse. How about White Center, Des Moines, Kent, and Covington? Also around an hour. Sure, there may be a handful of places that are less than that, but for the vast majority of people *in that region* it will take a very long time to get there. That means a very high percentage of those people will drive to work. Again, that is for people who live *south of downtown*. The folks north of downtown will of course drive.

        In many cases, from a transit perspective, a move to downtown Seattle is faster. From White Center or Renton you can catch express buses to downtown. If you ended up “settling”, and buying a condo in someplace like Bothell, it is much, much faster to get downtown (via transit) than to get to Federal Way.

        Of course transit could improve if more companies located down there. But if more companies located down there, prices would go up. Why do you think Tacoma is still relatively affordable? It is too far to commute to Seattle, and yet it isn’t experiencing the same economic boom that Seattle or Bellevue is. Speaking of Bellevue, the main reason that housing in much of east King County is expensive is because of all the businesses in downtown Bellevue. If not for that, it would be a lot cheaper (like Renton).

        Asking companies to move to Tacoma is simply asking companies to move to smaller area. The number of people who can access downtown Tacoma in a given time is a lot less. The number who can access the area by transit in a given time is much, much less. You might as well move to Spokane.

      6. Engineer has a point. Employment centrality can create housing affordability and transit overcrowding issues.

        I suspect that South King Link stations will become popular for future taller office and mixed-use development in the future. Seatac access combined with direct and frequent Seattle and Tacoma service is a powerful locational bonus. The Federal Way TC area could look like Downtown Bellevue in 25 years.

    3. REI is nowhere near the transit center, it’s out towards the Warehouse and Corporate Park District in Kent. And even if they moved a similarly sized corporate office
      Its highly unlikely it was gonna be South King. It makes sense why they are moving to Bellevue, they want to be likely near East Link when that opens, which can be used as a selling point to Corporate Employees. I know a few who work for Blue Origin in Kent and dont particularly like the reverse commute there, which is why they’re moving to Renton later this summer.
      They want to be in transit friendly places, not in transit hostile ones.

      1. Is it on the 150? Some of them are, and that at least makes it reasonable to get to them from Seattle, Kent Station, or East Hill (which has 15-minute service although it alternates on opposite sides of the street like the 3N and 4N used to).

  3. The city was supposed to have a streetcar meeting on June 19 to review finances and schedule. Does anyone know if the meeting happened and what was the outcome?

    1. I came here to ask the same question. They originally said “no later than June 19th” but I can’t find any sign of a meeting or results from the expert review. Can someone from STB staff follow up with SDOT or the Mayor’s Office if everyone is in the dark?

  4. Affordable housing is a better use for hotel/motel taxes and restaurant taxes than stadiums and the Convention Center.

    I just hope it includes a plan for using a portion of the tax as pay-as-you-go funding rather than bonds only. We need bonds when we’ve got a neglected backlog of projects, but we should work toward a long-term solution of not using bonds so we aren’t wasting money in interest forever.

    1. Really? Affordable housing only benefits the hundred or so people that get to live in the building that we all pay for.

      1. Better them than sports team owners and corporate types coming to the rarefied air of the convention center.

      2. It’s a step toward affordable housing for everyone that needs it. If we just do nothing because we can’t house everyone now, we’ll gradually slide back into 19th century or Tijuana inequality and desperation

      3. Professional sports is big business. Sports can pay for itself!

        Affordable housing is obviously not just about one building with a few hundred people.

        And we all pay anyway when it comes to dealing with homelessness and the myriad of issues that come with it. I can assure you, passing by an affordable housing complex every day is much more pleasant than passing by homeless encampments. Then there are the social science implications of a large proportion of people under financial stress and/or being “priced in” to hour+ commutes. “Pay me now or pay me later,” as they say.

      4. You don’t know when any one of us might be in circumstances where we need affordable housing.

      5. Especially when so many people are living one paycheck away from needing it. In the 1970s this wouldn’t have been as big an issue but it is now. When people can work full-time at minimum wage and can’t even afford a minimal apartment, and many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are working such jobs (whereas in the 1970s it was just teenagers), and there are many things that happen outside people’s control such as getting a major injury or sickness or losing their job or having an identity thief drain their bank account, it’s critical to have more affordable housing available.

    2. I completely agree. Building affordable housing helps hotels in two ways. First, hotels hire a lot of low wage workers for things like room keeping. If employees can’t pay rent, moral is lower and turnover is higher. Affordable housing will help hotel employees. The second way affordable housing helps hotels is by reducing homelessness. As rent rises, so does homelessness. Homeless people make a city less desirable to visit.

      Contrast that with the convention center. There’s already a glut of convention centers being built around the country so it might not actually boost visitors. Especially considering that rising costs in Seattle make it less ideal if a place to hold a convention.

    1. Not only are paywalled articles no longer noted, but you can’t even hover to see the site before you click it. Better stick to private browsing on each choice.

    2. Right, I knew it was a New York Times article because I’d read it there earlier, but I wasn’t sure until I clicked whether it would go there or somewhere else. If. I didn’t have a NYT subscription I’d be mad about using up one of my few free articles per month. And I’m not logged in to the NYT on my phone because I don’t remember the password and haven’t bothered to look it up, so there I only have a few articles per month. STB pioneered the use of ($), it at least it’s where I first saw it, so please keep up the good word. And URL shorteners, there was a plea to use them when STB had a style that was vulnerable to wide pages, but isn’t that gone now?

  5. Really think enforcement problem for reserved lanes is being over stressed. Row of red cones along the lane-stripes should do it if buses get to run ten mph faster than cars.

    With signs from the insurance industry telling policy holders to “Drive at your own risk.”

    Today’s video also confirms what Councilmember Johnson needs to reach his potential. His eagerly-energized pro-streetcar colleague in the chair next to his next election. She looks like she’s got Power’s chief attribute: Ability to make people do things.

    Absence of First Avenue streetcar should not be any excuse for not reserving the lanes. Wouldn’t hurt to at least “block out” the pavement for grooved rail ’til it’s time to install.

    But ASAP like before tomorrow night- two lines of above red cones, one for each side of the eventual right of way, should do it. Long as we’ve got at least one smart-phone to send it viral if anybody tries to take those cones back up.

    How much knowledge of sabotage to have thru-signals yellow, and cross-streets flashing red?

    Especially if each lane is already carrying one bus per minute of headway. Going ten miles over the limit. SPD can legitimately claim that they’re too busy emptying basement lots in South Lake Union to bother with a King County Metro problem.
    (Zeppelins too!) design is to make powerful natural elements, like interagency turf-defense, work in your favor.

    Mark Dublin

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