Streetcar at Yesler Terrace

This is an open thread.

91 Replies to “News Roundup: Finally”

  1. Jump at $2 flat fee for 30 minutes would be less expensive than my recent Lime e-bike rentals. Seems competitive to me.

    1. I have been using Lime much less recently because the times I’ve been looking for one all I can find are the e-bikes which as you point out are considerably more expensive. I expect they are more lucrative for Lime thus why there are so many around.

      1. Yeah super expensive! $5.50 for 30 mins!

        However, the non-electric bikeshare bikes are so cumbersome, you can’t ride on hills, even the little ones.

        As a result, I haven’t been using any of the bikes. But I do like seeing them out and about. Glad people are adopting them.

      2. Yeah, this is something that I think the Bellevue plan for bikeshare of all E-bikes may have overlooked – the price premium for an E-bike is very steep for those fortunate enough to have a flat enough route to not need one. E-bikes are also excluded from most of the promotional incentives – no bonus bike discount, no membership discount.

        That said, even $5.50 for 30 minutes is still cheap enough to compete favorably with Uber or Car2Go similar trip distances. But, it’s still too expensive to use for an everyday commute to work. I eventually ended up buying my own E-bike, which has a higher speed limit and a more powerful motor than the Lime bikes. I’m not sure I would have bought it had the Lime-E bikes been cheaper, though.

      3. I eventually ended up buying my own E-bike, which has a higher speed limit and a more powerful motor than the Lime bikes.

        Do you stick to the roads? Because anything faster than the Lime e-bikes is illegal to ride in within King County, except for the roads, which is kind of a grey area.

      4. I ride 15 mph on the Burke Gilman and 18 mph on the 520 trail, which is less crowded.

  2. Where I live “microtransit” is called a dollar van and it has worked quite well for decades. Of course, it serves locations and people that actually NEED transit instead of providing a premium services for yuppies to avoid the proles.

    1. That doesn’t work well when you have $15 minimum wage and massive traffic congestion (Seattle).

      1. The city I’m referring to is NYC, an equally if not more expensive and congested city. The only reason it might not work in Seattle is a lack of density. Most of the dollar vans in NYC are last-mile connections in neighborhoods that aren’t well served by the subway.

      2. In NYC, you also have livery cabs, car service that is either sole-proprietor or company owned, which function primarily in the outer boroughs to serve commuters trying to get to or from a subway stop that is too far from home.

      3. Ok… but my point is that just because some tech company took dollar vans and painted them pretty colors doesn’t mean the concept of ‘microtransit’ is new or failing. They just completely misunderstand the market for this kind of service.

      4. Thanks for the opening, Chris. Repetitious but somebody else needs to say it besides me:

        The best way to make housing and everything else affordable is to hire people and pay them enough to afford them.

        Forty years of deferred maintenance, from BART to DC Transit and including ST’s every ST-and all else public, make sure there are three hundred million jobs available literally holding the country together.

        None of them figuratively. But I see many thousand young people headed for politics now, in the right direction. Tragically, same motivation as for opposing the Viet Nam War:

        From school instead of Asia, too many of their age-group coming home in body-bags.

        Mark Dublin

      5. Right, so… microtransit as a response to clear transit demand that the main “macro” transit agency isn’t serving, and that basically works like transit (aggregating travel demand along a fixed route), is an important part of many cities’ transportation scenes.

        Microtransit as an agency response to travel demand that just isn’t transit-shaped is what keeps failing. If the trips people are taking don’t aggregate readily into efficient lines changing service characteristics is just pushing peas around the plate. Maybe autonomy makes the labor inefficiency of unpopular transit less fatal… but doesn’t do much for the energy and space inefficiency of car-dominated cities.

      6. Mark, that is incorrect.

        If you just raise wages without also increasing the housing supply, every dollar of increased wages goes directly towards enriching landlords. Why? You still have the same number of people competing for limited units, but now everyone has more money so landlords can and will charge more.

      7. Not exactly. If you start from Seattle circa 2003, there was a range of residents at different income levels and a range of apartments of different qualities (age, upkeep, view, size, easygoing manager, etc). Everybody making minimum wage could find something in their price range. And except for the lowest-price units, you could look at a unit and decide over a few days or a week whether to take it, and it would probably still be available. That may not be the exact threshold but it’s approximately how it worked, and it serves as a baseline for comparison.

        In the mid 2000s and even more so in the 2010s, the population increased faster than the housing supply did. That meant more people competed for the same units, which shortened the turnover time, and eventually it reached the point that multiple offers stacked up, so landlords could ask for a higher rent and people would take it, or sometimes renfers would even offer more in order to beat out the competition. Another issue was that the newcomers were more affluent on average than the existing residents, so what seemed like a strain or a ripoff or a bid-up to existing residents seemed like no problem to the newcomers, so that allowed them to take the most desirable units. And as the market continued to tighten, even undesirable units became hard to get.

        But there’s not a single housing market: there are multiple markets at different price levels, and they only partly overlap. Lower-income people can only afford lower-priced units. It doesn’t affect me if there’s a $5 million house on Lake Washington available: I can’t afford it. The same thing happens with below-median renters and above-median apartments. But higher-income people can choose anything in either half. Usually they choose what they think their social status deserves, but a few people choose lower-quality apartments because they like to slum it or save money. And that displaces a poorer person who can’t choose the higher-quality apartments. But if the market is slack, they’ll find another place anyway. In 1995 a friend moved to San Francisco, which even then had a low vacancy rate, but he said, “If you keep looking you’ll find something in a month.” That’s a somewhat bad environment. Now it has gotten much worse.

        But that’s with newcomers across the income range, and an above average number of affluent people. That’s not the same thing as setting a minimum-wage floor.

        When the minimum wage rose to $15, that still wasn’t enough for an apartment. $15 full-time is $2640/month. Subtract 33% for taxes is $1847. Some landlords require three times the rent in income, That’s $616. Even Summit studios are in the $750-850 range. So a $15 minimum wage doesn’t really affect the housing market because it’s still below the bottom threshold. But if we imagine a theoretical higher minimum wage that can pay the median rent, what would that look like?

        If the target rent is $1000, or $12,000/year, that implies an income of $36,000, and adding a third for taxes gives $47,800. But even $1000 is hard to find in Seattle, and the Summit studios can fit only a tiny fraction of the population. I’ve heard that $55,000 is the minimum income to compete in Seattle’s apartment market, and by now it may be $65,000 or $70,000.

        So we can imagine a minimum wage of somewhere between $47,000 and $70,000. What would happen then? A lot more people would compete for the lower-quality apartments, and that would bid up rents somewhat, but they still couldn’t go above their income threshold, or apartments above $1000 or $1500. The higher-income people would continue doing what they’re already doing. So a few of them would snag those under-$1000 apartments but not more than currently. So rather than seeing a radical increase in rents, it would probably more level the playing field between the lower-income-can-afford and the lower-income-can’t-afford. So the net result would be not that all the increase goes to landlords, but that the same number of people would be shut out. The difference is that it wouldn’t be just all the currently below-threshold people, but a mix of the currently-below-threshold and currently-lower-income. That’s equality, right?

        Of course, we shouldn’t be shutting anybody out. We should be building enough housing to get back to a 2005 or 2003 market, plus enough subsidized housing for those who can’t afford that.

        I’ve heard that $55,000 is the minimum income to compete in Seattle’s apartment market nowadays, and I think it has since gone up to $70,000. That implies an after-tax income of $46,200, or $3,850/month. That would afford a rent of

        If the rent target is $1000, or $12,000 annually, then the threshold income is $36,000, which adding a third for taxes gives

  3. Has anybody else noticed that every time they come above ground at Capitol Hill light rail station, the first hill streetcar is pulling away from the station?

    Also, why is the passenger drop off area on Nagle at Denny blocked by plantings?

    (Grump grump grump grump…)

      1. Maybe it was meeting a passenger on the LINK train just before yours. The word “streetcar” misled the engineers and planners into thinking there’d be six minute headways. And thought the zero behind the number “six” was a typo.


  4. That $110 million in payroll tax Oregon collects would be almost enough to wipe out fare collection for King County Metro (but not all agencies statewide).

    Imagine if ORCA 2.0 were to be a payroll tax, replacing fare collection. The big risk would be political instability that the tax could vanish overnight by legislative action or court order. Recession would be a distant-secondary risk.

    1. That’s not how I would choose to spend $160 million. There are plenty of individuals and businesses that can afford to pay, and there’s more Metro can do for those who can’t at much lower cost. I believe the main reasons people aren’t riding Metro have nothing to do with fares – driving is still relatively easy and comparatively under-priced, service is extremely slow and unreliable, and service levels are too low or non-existent in many parts of the county. I don’t really understand the obsession with blowing a bunch of money on eliminating fares for many of the well-off people who ride. And yes, in a recession, without fares and reliant on a payroll tax, Metro could be forced to make much deeper service cuts than would otherwise be the case.

      I am envious of the statewide funding for Trimet, and of the leadership to look at a ballot measure in 2020. Meanwhile Metro is more or less ignoring the long range plan and continuing with the status quo.

      1. I wasn’t thinking in terms of the demand-side effects of eliminating fares. I was thinking more in terms of how it would speed up buses, and how much money and time could be saved with more efficient methods of collecting revenue. Faster buses means more service. Slow buses are a tax on the time of everyone, poor or rich, and one of the main reasons cars are a faster option.

        Fare collection also happens to be the main cause of violent conduct on buses.

        A payroll tax means those earning the most would be paying the most to support transit, and those earning nothing would not be charged at all for transit. Even with a 50% discount on fares (which ORCA LIFT isn’t at all on some of the premium services, and still won’t be on July 1 for Metro), fares are still the most regressive funding source there is for funding transit, short of a true head tax.

        Metro’s driver force continues to grow, but much of that workforce is used up in maintaining reliability as buses get stuck in worse and worse traffic. That investment has to be made during the period of peak traffic, making the marginal utility of the investment less than the average utility of the previous dollars spent. That also happens to be when fare collection causes the largest slow-downs.

        The most efficient way to reduce the need for revenue is (Ahem, Mayor and City Council) red paint. Priority treatments are not susceptible to recessions, and actually get slightly better in a recession.

        Multiple funding sources are still best. Fares are just as prone to recessions as sales tax is and a payroll tax would be. Property tax, I believe, would be less prone to recession and have other desirable side effects. A little of each, rather than a lot of one, is the path toward sustainability.

        A little of fare collection, though, has huge marginal costs. It is those huge marginal costs, in rider time, staff time, police costs, and accessibility, I would love to see go away.

      2. Well, I would be interested to know exactly what the benefit to speed and reliability would be. Cost savings only accrue at the point where Metro can take an entire bus out of the schedule. There are of course additional costs associated with collecting fares.

        However it is not true that fares are just as susceptible as other sources to a recession. Metro raised fares 4 times in the previous recession, with very little impact to ridership, and that is a part of what enabled Metro to avoid more dramatic service cuts.

        I do agree that speeding service through transit priority would be an effective way to reduce the need for fare revenue. Another way is to improve the productivity of service. More boardings per hour mean that the fare needed per boarding to cover the desired percentage of operating costs is much lower. This could be done by increasing density and/or by eliminating low ridership service in suburban and rural King County. Both of those options obviously have significant political resistance.

        Fares are regressive, but are less so given LIFT, senior/disabled fares, human service tickets, and youth fares. Again, Metro could improve or expand these programs with relatively low cost, while still charging fares to the 50% of riders who earn over $75k.

      3. Sales tax can be raised during a recession, just like fares, but usually requires a delay of several months for a public vote. Fare increases tend to have a long waiting period, too.

        Metro lost ridership during the recession. Not hugely, but it did go down as the number of employed commuters went down. Perhaps the fare increases had more impact on ridership than the recession did. That’s just a hypothesis. It was also before ORCA LIFT, but the youth fare was increased by 67% around 2011, IIRC.

    2. “Imagine if ORCA 2.0 were to be a payroll tax, replacing fare collection. The big risk would be political instability that the tax could vanish overnight by legislative action or court order.”

      All taxes have these risks. There’s an initiative in November which would slash MVET to $30, which would make a significant dent in ST3’s projects. Metro’s farebox recovery is between 20 and 30 percent by county policy, meaning that whenever it reaches the edge of the the county changes the fare. That also means that fares alone couldn’t sustain 80% of the bus service if the state yanked the sales tax authority.

      1. The current car tab initiative is an initiative to the Legislature, so it wouldn’t be on the ballot until 2019.

      2. If you think about it, large employers paying for Orca passes for their employees is very similar to a scheme in which a head tax funds free fares, but only for employees of the companies large enough to pay the tax.

        I use the term “head tax” because the cost per employee here is fixed, regardless of how much or little that person gets paid.

      3. @asdf2 I think you’re right. The key difference is the business passports are voluntary – most business do it to meet trip reduction goals, but they don’t have to pay it for every employee, only those that actually want/use it. Psychologically, that’s an important difference.

        I don’t think you have to be that big to have access to employee ORCA passes – I volunteer with a non-profit in QA, and I believe all 3 of our paid employees have passes paid by the non-profit.

      4. Businesses can choose a pay-per-employee approach, and pay full fare. Under ORCA Passport, they get a discount based on their location, but have to provide passes to all their employees.

        Making ORCA Passport mandatory would be less like a head tax, and more like a tax on proximity to downtown.

      5. I think Business Passport works like the U-Pass, where the price is calculated over everybody, and everybody has to buy it whether they use it or not. The basis of the discount is the difference between the total number of people and the number of people who use it and which services they use (inexpensive local bus vs expensive Sounder). The first year Metro estimates it based on similar companies and locations and any existing data the employer has. After a year or two it becomes clear what the actual usage is and then the price can be more accurate. Of course I say everybody “buys” the pass, which is true for the U-Pass, but in a company the employer may pay it without an itemized salary reduction. But to the transit agency it’s the same thing; they’]re getting a certain amount of money per employee.

        Denver has a program where a neighborhood or apartment building can sign up this kind of plan if the residents agree. I’ve long thought King County should do this. I heard recently that something like it exists here, although it seems to be very limited and not well known. Of course, in my central building most people seem to drive and may not consent to it. My neighbor was opposed to Seattle Prop 1 because he had three or four vehicles (a car, a motorcycle, and a moped, not all of which worked?) and would have paid $200. Well, is paying $200 I assume, wherever he lives now.

      6. Denver has a program where a neighborhood or apartment building can sign up this kind of plan [Passport]

        What if a developer agreed to a “transit tax” based on number of units. In exchange for the transit tax being assessed there would be a reduction (elimination?) of parking requirements. I’m not sure how this would net out with the property tax. That is, if you build say a 40 unit apartment with no parking would the assessed value likely be greater or less than 30 apartments or roughly the same size/quality that included a reserved indoor parking spot?

    3. I don’t know why this is such an issue. They literally don’t require people to pay on buses. Rapid Ride and Sound Transit yes, but they are trying to make it so poor people can’t be fined. It’s practically free now. And plenty of people are using that. Almost every ride I take includes someone asking for a free ride, jumping in the back or just waltzing past the farebox.

      This seems to be an obsession on making all transit free for the poor, but this is already de facto happening.

      I’d rather have a payroll tax go for mental health services, which would also have the advantage of making the buses less of a rolling shelter.

      1. IIRC, a driver got shot when he asked for the fare on a non- rapidride line a few years ago. So, do we want to arm drivers? Have more fare LEOs on all the lines? How do you pay for all this? (and remember, drivers and LEOs require training)

      2. From my own driving days, so long as the public in general thinks fare prices are fair, and that no one gets denied transit if they honestly can’t afford, most will pay voluntarily. And very often, apologize and ask permission to ride.

        Provided that the matter has been handled courteously by the driver. Who by now shouldn’t ever have to see either money or a farebox. Card and either fare inspector or turnstile should remove the need.

        In the meantime, though, would save a lot of both Medic 1 and criminal court time if drivers got any passenger-handling training at all as part of instruction.

        It’s natural for working people to really hate somebody stealing from the revenue that pays them. Or from anybody else. And honestly believe that as a citizen, it’s their duty to do something about it.

        So they need to come out of training knowing that when they fill out an incident report form. including time, place, and description of the thief, they ARE doing something about it that won’t get them killed. Or worse, slow down service.

        If anybody’s got enough seniority to remember the term “working out of grade” anymore, they’ll take the reminder that they’re doing a police officer’s work, who could file a grievance. And also understand they’re getting paid overtime for filling out the paperwork.

        Downside of the old Ride Free Area was having to unload a standing-load sixty foot bus from the front door. After paying your fare. After finding your money.

        So since they had also learned how to keep from either getting killed by drivers or making the bus late, supervision didn’t consider it “write-able” to open all doors- and ask people over the PA to please hold up their passes in the door mirrors.

        Generally a hundred percent compliance. Advocating streetcars proves I really am conservative, and not a closet secessionist and slaver, like Republicans with guns (registered with the Union Army correctly, called them,

        So if transit loses money collecting fares, I won’t do it to improve anybody’s morals. But one thing I think transit advocates need to get if they have to have the Russians hack it out of company computers:

        What is the cost of one (a whole one!) minute that the vehicle is standing still when it should be moving? First Twitter-key should send every fare-box in the fleet to that electric steel furnace near the Chelan Cafe on the 55.

        To make up for all the time they lost by making LINK rails out of them.


      3. I agree with Mark. Having a good fare-paying culture is more important than having good fare enforcement.

        On the routes I ride, occasionally someone can’t find their ORCA card, or is fumbling for change and can’t find that last quarter, and the driver just waves them through. I got waved through once, when the only cash I had was a $20 bill.

        Since >95% of people are paying, I think it’s the decent thing to do. It is very different if not paying becomes endemic, but as long as the driver and passenger can trust that most people want to pay, it’s healthy & compassionate to let a few people through.

    4. After about forty years Washington State, I still can’t figure out why, of all taxes, an income tax is the one people consistently hate the most. Isn’t it really the fairest?


      1. No, it is not. It’s just the most progressive, which is why progressives like it and non-progressives do not.

        I prefer to tax wealth over income, so I prefer property taxes over income taxes, and I also prefer use taxes (tolls, excises taxes like the gas tax, entrance fees, etc.)

      2. It’s not the fact that it taxes income that bothers people, it’s the belief that if the state has three tax mechanisms (income, property, and sales), they’ll end up getting more total money out if you than if it only had two (property and sales). Or to put it another way, income-tax proposals in the 70s and 80s promised to reduce sales tax to compensate. But many people felt that the sales tax would just creep up again and we’d end up with both a high sales tax and an income tax like California does, and people we that as increasing their total tax by a third.

        (I was just a kid then so I didn’t understand that California’s property tax wasn’t like ours: many people paid hardly any property tax because of Prop 13, so the high sales tax partly compensated for that. I doubt many adult Washingtonians understood it either. But regardless if whether California is comparable, people felt and continue to feel like if you give the state the ability to have an income tax, it will inevitably raise your total tax, and that may eventually settle at 50% higher than your current total tax.

        The argument that sales tax is regressive on the poor doesn’t get much traction outside liberal activists. Better to stick with the devil we know rather than the devil we don’t. And the poor were not as desperate in the 70 s and 80s as they are now because housing and expenses were more affordable, so it didn’t matter as much whether we had a regressive tax structure or not. And now the current situation is so new that people haven’t gotten used to it: they don’t think that they will be the ones who can’t make ends meet on twenty or thirty years as the bottom 80% gets devastated as the poor and working-class are now, if we don’t make our tax structure less regressive and move to universal security (I.e., so that people don’t have to struggle for housing and a basic standard of living).

      3. Because people (including me) don’t believe that property and sales taxes will go down if income taxes are introduced.

  5. The gentrification piece, while itself relying heavily on anecdotes, suggests strongly that the City should study whether more or less upzoning in neighborhoods with a higher risk of displacement would end up with more or less displacement by downsizing proposed upzones. I know my district representative loves spending money on studies, so maybe she could be convinced, especially if it becomes another excuse to delay HALA. She seems to have so far been of the decided opinion that reducing upzones will fight displacement. Studies could show her she is clearly contributing to displacement by fighting those upzones. So, roll the dice, Councilmember Herbold. Propose a study. If you don’t like the results, you can always propose a second study. And a third, if the second one still doesn’t give you the narrative you want. But at least study it before you inflict more displacement.

    1. “Improvements” of towns, accompanying the increase of wealth, by the demolition of badly built quarters, the erection of palaces for banks, warehouses, etc., the widening of the streets for business traffic, for the carriages of luxury, and for the introduction of tramways, etc., drive away the poor into even worse and more crowded hiding places.

      Karl Marx – Capital

      1. I didn’t think it was possible to have a worse response than “muh human nature” but you’ve managed to do it, congrats. The problem isn’t ‘growth’.

      2. Okay, so the consumption of all the available land by owners of mansions is the problem. When do we get to rezone some of those mansions so that some of the owners can choose to allow more people to live in the mansion districts of Seattle that take up half the land area?

    1. “Imagine Our Way Out of the Convention Center Construction Period of Maximum Constraint”

    2. No. Erica misunderstood. One Center City is getting rebranded. the Center City Connector Streeetcar is on hold. It would worsen the constraints. We are awaiting its fate. A link to the Gutman story was provided.

  6. For the “Tunnel under the Willamette” idea, is that basically this:

    This is basically what LA and Dallas are doing – take an existing surface alignment and bury the downtown segment to improve speed & capacity. For Portland, you can move the Light Rail underground and keep the old light rail surface infrastructure and treat it like a streetcar (this may actually suggest not removing light rail stops to maintain streetcar stop spacing, maybe just mothball them?)

    1. And it’s what Germany started doing in the 1980s when it modernized its streetcars and built new light rail networks in small cities. A tunnel downtown, surface elsewhere.

  7. That’s good. Image what downtown would be like with a street car. Go Seattle. Let spend money we don’t have to finish the street car on re-branding.

    1. More walkable, less cars, less noise, etc. Connect the dumb things already Seattle!

    2. Ian, I’ve always thought buzzwords deserve a rolled-up newspaper, and re-branding should always get you gored by the affected cow . Good thing they’re not pertinent here.

      Broadway is being built into a new neighborhood with a lot more life than present one. International District, Pioneer Square, and the Pike Place Market are all places visitors like to go. South Lake Union, lot going on too.

      Single line created by connecting the other two will pay for all three. But should be no public patience over present money trouble, especially inability to explain the inability to inability to deliver. Whoever used the word “confidential” in above article about has to understand that the confidence of us, his employers and revenue source, has precedence.

      With a firm language requiement: Plain English.

      Mark Dublin

    3. Apparently Durkan now wants to further delay to study “alternatives.” On something that *already began construction* months ago. I’d venture to say this would never happen with a highway project. As a matter of principal, you should finish what you start. The time to make decisions is *before* you start. Prediction: the alternative is going to be keep the status quo either with busses getting stuck behind the period of maximum constraint car traffic, or telling people to walk up the hill to 3rd, with two obviously disconnected, underperforming streetcar spurs.

      1. The time to make decisions is *before* you start.

        Part of a good decision making process is an accurate budget (funding vs expenses). A decision was made before the start of construction; just turns out that without accurate budget numbers it was a bad one. “Further study” is a nicer way of saying “pull the plug”.

      2. Diverting money from ineffective solutions to more-effective solutions is always a good idea. (Not the federal grants which can’t be applied to a different project, but the local part.) There’s little transit case for the CCC or the existing streetcars; it all comes down to streetcars are swooshy and quiet. Trolleybuses can do what these streetcars are doing, and red paint can be put under trolleybuses just as easily as streetcars. The problems are all political: it’s hard to get people to agree to put down red paint for buses. But that’s exactly what the mayor’s job is: to identify ineffective solutions and those with a high cost/benefit, to advocate for effective solutions and those with a low cost/benefit instead, and to politically persuade people to do things in the city’s long-term interest. Durkin is starting to do the first one. It’s not clear at this point whether she’ll do anything for the second two, or if she’ll even prioritize improving transit over trimming the budget to please tax-haters.

      3. >> The problems are all political

        Yes, absolutely. It is hard to change course, even when the change makes sense. It is hard to admit that the original streetcars were a mistake, and that connecting them doesn’t suddenly make them all much better. The term “sunk cost” and the colloquialism “putting good money after bad” are both in the English language because it is common mistake. No one wants to admit past failure.

        >> it’s hard to get people to agree to put down red paint for buses.

        Yes, and it is hard to get people to agree to put down red paint for streetcars. Seattle is no exception. If you look at the two streetcars, the most valuable section, by far, is on Broadway. That connects to a popular Link station, and runs in a direction no bus route does, despite the inherit importance of it. Oh, there are buses that run a few blocks, and there is the 60, which zig-zags back and forth — but there is nothing that is just a straight shot between Yesler and the light rail stop, other than the streetcar. It is also the start of the line, which means a delay there effects the timing for every southbound rider. Yet even with all that, the city won’t give the thing its own lane there.

        I think it is quite likely that if the original plan was just a center running bus route* down First Avenue (to match the center running bus route for the Madison BRT) then it wouldn’t be so controversial. Like the Madison BRT, work would have continued on it without delay. But the mode choice added to the cost, which gave everyone a chance to ask whether it actually makes sense.

        I don’t mean a bus that only went from one small part of First to the other (like the streetcar) — that would be silly. I mean something that connected other RapidRide projects (like the 70 and 7).

  8. The Economist article smacks of limousine liberalism, which is to say it’s a drive-by announcement of “look how much good we’re doing for you!” The article argues that poor renters don’t move out of gentrifying neighborhoods more than average, ergo gentrification is good. Even if this is true, when those poor renters do move out, they aren’t replaced by other poor renters, but instead with gentrifiers! Furthermore, cash-poor homeowners that cannot afford their rising property taxes might have to sell their homes and move out of the neighborhood. (I know that’s a NIMBY talking point, but it is still a problem to consider.) It’s the combination of gentrifiers moving into the neighborhood, and then gentrifiers backfilling when poorer people move away, that causes the demographics to shift so rapidly.

    Pointing at lowered crime rates due to gentrification is also problematic, as those are based on police reports, and of course the police intervene disproportionately against people of color and the poor. Even if property and corporeal safety did actually improve, other crimes like wage theft and tax evasion could increase.

    It is entirely possible for development to be good and gentrification to be bad, as this Shelterforce article argues ( A huge problem is rampant land speculation, as it is well known that land is the most expensive acquisition for affordable housing. Short of a land value tax and social housing, a policy of massive upzones and guaranteed rate-of-return rent control (similar to natural monopoly utilities) would tame land prices and rents while still incentivizing development.

    Furthermore, while we do need to build a ton of housing as soon as possible, there is something to be said for maintaining Seattle’s culture through its built environment. While big cities are great, there can be a sense of utilitarian cut-and-paste with their architecture. I want Central District development to really feel like the Central District if at all possible, not like colonizing space cubes from some big-box developer.

    1. It’s certainly not the case in Seattle, where poor renters are being displaced and have been moving to south King County since the 1990s, and may be starting to move to Pierce County now. Some black homeowners have made a lot of money selling their house to a devloper, and later lamenting that their new South King County location has fewer bus options or community and it’s harder to get to church. I’ve heard people on the 106 talk about that. In some cases they may think it’s still worth it for the more land and lower expenses, but in other cases maybe not.

      Maybe there are other cities where the number of people displaced from the neighborhood is vanishingly small, but I’m skeptical about that and would like to see more evidence.

  9. LA Metro is finally having to deal with the Crenshaw— Norwalk — South Bay dilemma. In involves splitting an existing light rail route (Green Line).

    This additional forced transfer after a few decades of travel is proving to be unpopular.

    We will have the same debate when the Seatac/ Tacoma Green Line is potentially shifted to the second tunnel in SODO. Of course, LA Metro is planning platforms at the same level to facilitates transfers. ST is not doing this currently.

    1. It’s worth detailing that LA Metro is enabling level transfers in some form at the Aviation-Century Station or the infill LAX people mover station now being designed. ST isn’t doing this.

      It’s worth detailing that LA Metro could delay the service plan because flexibility was build into the track design.

      Finally it’s worth noting that the forced transfer added with the SODO line split in 2035 will affect probably 10-20 times more riders that have to transfer than this line will. That could easily mean 10-20 times more pressure on ST to keep some service connecting Seatac and SE Seattle with UW, NE Seattle, Shoreline and Snohomish County. Plus, because ST has proposed no level platform for this transfer means that the outcry could easily be much louder.

      ST Board members and senior staff: here is one more situation that you recreating right now in the West Seattle-Ballard study. Forcing future transfers — especially requiring level changes (even with escalators both up and down, noting that down escalators continue to be treated trivially by ST) — will be a major political problem.

    2. That’s where a minimum frequency guarantee is essential. ST has de facto adhered to a 10-minute minimum until 10pm on all Link segments, and there’s hope that it might still do so in the ST2 and ST3 extensions and lines. It’s madding that ST won’t explicitly commit to a minimum frequency, we just have to hope it keeps doing what it’s doing. There has also been talk of a 6-minute peak, 12-minute off-peak frequency in some cases like the south line and the Eastside. I hope that’s not officially being considered. What makes subways so useful and high-ridership is that there’s always a train in five or ten minutes. In Chicago even the bus routes run every 5-10 minutes daytime, 20 minutes evening, 30 minutes night owl. In St Petersburg and Moscow the metro runs every five minutes or less daytime, and only reaches ten minutes after 8:30pm! And never goes below that.

      1. I’m of the opinion that most riders would strongly prefer to wait another six or eight minutes for a direct train rather than hop on the first one and have to transfer. For starters, once a person gets a seat, they don’t want to risk losing it by having to transfer — especially if they have mobility issues or a bicycle or luggage. Then, ever transfer points currently proposed requires changing levels; that adds time to get off one train, change levels (possibly without an escalator and maybe having to use a slow elevator) and wait or get on another train — easily taking at least another six o eight minutes anyway.

        With this speculation of a similar political outcry to this one at LA MTA in mind, I think that both West Seatle and Tacoma Link lines will end up having two train lines — one to Ballard and one to UW and points north. I could see that the Tacoma trains headed to Snohomish would stop short if driver scheduling wouldn’t work (although I predict that by 2035 every train will be “driven” remotely or be completely driverless, at least for most of the route that doesn’t cross streets).

        I think that ST should really just make sure that their future operations can be flexible at this point, with center island level transfer platforms wherever possible. Even with great transfers, I still see that the public will push back until they get direct service, especially if they get that service for the preceding 25 years like what we have today. Then, future ST service planners will have the liberty to “right size” their operations frequencies as demand warrants.

      2. We aren’t taking about adding transfers. We’re talking about if the south line is split at SODO with a Georgetown bypass and rejoins before TIB, then both lines should be 10 minutes minimum, not reducing them to 15 or 20 minutes. The Rainier Valley segment has a physical limit of 6 minutes to avoid disrupting the traffic-light timings too much, but this would not reach that limit. On the other hand, splitting the south line somewhere north of SODO and sending some trains to Ballard and other trains to somewhere else, might hit the 6-minute limit and be infeasible. But that still doesn’t mean that Ballard or SLU should be hit with less-than-10-minute trains.

      3. What does this mean? I’m simply saying that a rider, given a choice to board the first train that comes along every 6 to 8 (or 10) minutes may easily prefer to let that train pass and take the next one in another 6 to 8 minutes in order not to have to transfer. Still, they would have to choice of transferring or waiting for a direct train. The line frequencies would still be high for the line.

      4. In that case they have a choice. But people in Rainier Valley, Georgetown, and Ballard don’t have a choice: they have to wait twelve or twenty minutes because there is no other train.

      5. You don’t seem to understand my proposal, Mike. This doesn’t reduce headways on a line.

        Four lines, say each at 12 minutes peak:
        Everett-West Seattle
        Ballard-West Seattle

        (Of course Eastlink is also running between Snohomish and the Eastside)

        Every train to or from Ballard would go into Downtown Seattle at the same frequency as the current 6-minute service plan. Just half of them would go to West Seattle and half to the Rainier Valley and points south. A rider from Ballard could board a train every 6 minutes to Downtown; the rider would have a choice to take the first train (if a transfer was required) and transfer, or wait for the second direct train if they weren’t going somewhere on the line. If the exiting station was Downtown or in SLU, the train the rider is on won’t matter and would have a train every 6 minutes..

        The same choice would be available for both West Seattle and Rainier Valley. The same choice would be available for the UW and Snohomish people as well. There is no reduction in train frequency; only in direct train frequency.

        Imagine looking at a platform sign at U-District station:

        Downtown-SODO-West Seattle 2 minutes; Downtown-Redmond 5 minutes; Downtown-SODO-Seatac-Tacoma 8 minutes; Downtown-Redmond 11 minutes; Downtown-SODO-West Seattle 14 minutes

        Why not give a rider a choice? Why make every rider going somewhere not on a specific line have to transfer?

        The only added requirement is for the Tacoma-Everett drivers, who may need to get a break near Downtown Seattle. They could hop off one train, get their break, and drive the next segment on the next train.

        Meanwhile, 10K to 50K riders would not HAVE to transfer at Westlake, ID or SODO!

        It solves the transfer hassle problem. It solves the need to change levels for people with mobility issues or luggage or bicycles. It doesn’t degrade service.

      6. I guess that would be OK, and potentially a creative solution. I just have never seen that overlap-to-compensate-for-branching kind of network. There are the truly frequent subways like New York and London where no station every has less than 10-minute service regardless of branching (except maybe after 10pm but we’ll ignore that).

        But in the next level below that like MAX and BART each line usually runs at 15 minutes, so where multiple lines overlap it’s 7.5 minutes or 5 minutes.That’s great if you live in the multi-line segment but not so good if you live on a single-line tale. And often there are few places to live on the multi-line segment.For instance, with MAX when it was only the Blue and Red lines and before most of the later TOD, you had to live downtown or along the Banfield freeway west of Gateway. There’s not much walkshed at the Banfield stations. And both MAX and BART have gone below this frequency during recessions or budget cuts. BART went down to 20 minutes on the Richmond-Fremont line (there’s no Richmond-San Francisco line on Sundays), and MAX went down to half-hourly on Sundays, which makes me wonder how is that better than a bus?

        And I’ve seen the same thing with Metro. Before the 2012 restructures, the 26/28 overlapped to 34th & Fremont and then diverged. The 7/10/11/14/43 (now 49/10/11/47/43) overlapped to Bellevue & Pine (westbound at one stop, eastbound at different stops) and diverged. And each was half-hourly (although the 7 and 43 were 15-minutes weekdays), and they weren’t evenly spaced (the Capitol Hill routes). So if you wanted to live where there’s always a bus within 15 minutes, you had to live within a tiny edge of Capitol Hill or Fremont. That’s what always bothered me about Convention Place station: it also was only in the walkshed of that tiny sliver. So almost all of Summit’s and Capitol Hill’s dense units were unavailable to you. So where do I live now? At Bellevue & Pine because it sort of has full-time frequent buses to downtown and I can walk to downtown and go everywhere. When Northgate Link and Lynnwood Link are open, then I’ll feel I have more choices where to live.

      7. It seems that this is how Denver South and Southeast Lines are diagrammed.

        I would agree that most two-line segments in other cities branch out at the ends, or some trains are short-turned. However, if overcrowding in Seattle becomes a problem, short-turn trains are likely as a response to people (especially at Capitol Hill and in North Seattle) complaining about overcrowding and being unable to board or maybe get a seat — but that’s a whole other issue (“Why do Snohomish residents get seats but Seattle residents can’t even squeeze on a train?” complaint)

    3. In the case or our “spine”, I’m not a fan of the splitting. Having it go north-to-south makes sense. The need to change operators in the middle is easily solved and far-outweighed by the need of lots of passengers to transfer.

      I am a fan of splitting East Link from the north spine, and pairing it with SLU/Ballard, as east-west makes a lot of sense, and SLU might be a larger destination for eastsiders than UW is.

      But Newton’s First Law of Transit Routes could end up politically forcing West-Seattle-to-Ballard to be a real line, by default.

  10. The Lynnwood station seems to be designed well. One of big concerns was congestion caused by “kiss and ride” passengers. As long as the powers that be allow 2 people in the HOV ramp, there will be lots of people using the same pathway as the feeder buses. That means there is the potential for a substantial amount of car traffic holding up what it likely to be the biggest source of ridership. Fortunately, the planners put the drop off point to the right, with the bus center to the left. There is a left turn lane there, which means that the bus will essentially have its own lane as it heads to the bus depot. It seems like a pretty good setup overall — the only thing that would be better is if they simply made the ramps HOV3 or bus-only.

    1. I use the current drop off area next to the existing Ride Store roughly shown on the site map as a row of 4 trees next to the store. If I’m reading the site map correctly the parking garage will be accessible (by vehicle) from 44th or 48th and the south parking lot will be accessible from 48th but neither will be accessible from 46th which I think will be of great improvement.

      Right now everyone has access to 46th with no access on 44th so all traffic coming from or heading to the east uses the 46th entrance.

  11. Copying my comment about the Urbanist article concerning the John/Olive and Broadway intersection:

    I can understand why the city decided to save money and not add new signalling. But there is a cheap way to both improve traffic flow and safety at the intersection: Ban left turns.

    There are four left turns:

    1) Eastbound Olive: This is easy to ban. Someone can take three right turns. Someone who came from the other side of the freeway (or just a few blocks to the west) can just use Denny Way. Denny Way already has turn signals, as eastbound Denny Way becomes a dead end at Broadway ( There are no buses there, either, making it an ideal places to funnel cars. It will take a while to get used to, but drivers adapt quickly. At a minimum, this should be changed.

    2) Westbound Olive: Not quite as easy, but still fairly simple. Again, three right turns is an easy way to make a left (onto Broadway). John is not a through street (it does a dogleg on 15th) which means that no one drives westbound on John for very long. The only problem is that people might want to turn left on 10th instead. Like Denny Way west of the freeway, there should be several “No Left Turn” on John. People will adapt fairly quickly, and realize that simply staying on 15th or 12th is the way to go. The handful of people who are on westbound John but want to head south on Broadway will take three right turns.

    3) Northbound Broadway: This is where left turn signals make sense. There already are lanes for turning. Furthermore, you can’t turn left onto Denny (either direction) from Broadway. Asking people to make three right turns is reasonable, but not ideal.

    4) Southbound Broadway: Very similar to the last one. I suppose you could take a left at Aloha (assuming you started north of there) but you are basically asking most people to take three right turns. You would have to add lots of “No Left Turn” signs along Broadway to make it work, and a lot of people would be confused for a while.

    I would start with the first couple. That is what makes sense for the long run. It means that you would only have one extra left turn phase, not two. It is also simple, although it takes a while for people to get the hang of it. Eventually you want the new traffic signal for the other direction, but adding in two left turn lights instead of four should save some money. Until then, you put up with the risk (unfortunately). My guess is that folks turning off of Broadway are generally safer than those turning off of Olive. By the time you are on Broadway you should be well aware of the fact that there are lots and lots of people walking around there. But if you drove up the hill, you might think you are “out of downtown”, and with Olive being seemingly built for speed (with a gentle curve and few traffic lights) I think a driver is more likely to be focused on fellow cars, not pedestrians.

    1. I prefer simply taking away the parking and carving out a bus queue jump lane.

      Protected left turns would significantly increase pedestrian wait time at an intersection with very heavy pedestrian traffic, all for the benefit of cars, since no bus routes actually turn left there.

      1. I’d agree that it’s preferable to not add any signal phases. That’s punishing pedestrians even more!

        I think generally that Seattle has way too many exclusive left turn phases, and that adds delays for both pedestrians as well as other drivers. It even probably encourages people to turn left more often, because left-turning vehicles get to go first. The new ones on 23rd are particular aggravating, as the left turns can be made only their own phases — so pedestrians have to wait even longer (where if the left turns were permitted at the same time as through traffic is going, the pedestrians would have a shorter wait).

        I like the way that LA does it at many busy intersections. The signals are general set for two phases, all traffic on Street A then all traffic on Avenue B. If there is a back-up of left turning vehicles at the end of a phase — it gives those drivers a left-turn arrow with additional time to that movement. I realize that it could mean that left-turning vehicle drivers may not see pedestrians before turning, but the added assurance that they’ll get a left-turn arrow at the end of the phase makes them less “aggressive” about sneaking in a turn during the main phase.

      2. For now they are simply adding the lanes, but not the left turn arrows. If you look at the chart (on the Urbanist page) it looks like an improvement. Westbound buses (on John) won’t be held up anymore by either left or right turning cars. An eastbound bus might be held up by a right turning car, but that is less common (since a driver could just use Denny).

        In general I think it is a step in the right direction, but I would simply ban left turns onto Broadway there. That would make things run more smoothly, and allow more space for a bus lane. Eastbound, you could turn the right lane into a BAT lane (right turn or bus only lane). The left lane would be for general purpose traffic just going straight ahead. That way, the bus can use that right lane, but if it is blocked by a car turning right, it will simply merge to the left (similar to a lot of intersections, like this one in my neighborhood — Westbound you could do the same thing if you wanted, even if you don’t ban left turns. You would gain some space from eliminating left turns, but I would go back and turn the eastbound section east of Broadway back into two lanes both directions. That means the rightmost lane could be a BAT lane. As it turns out, they could do that anyway, but it would start around 10th, which is when the lanes widen to two lanes eastbound.

        Either way, what they are doing sounds like an improvement, but I can see some potential problems. Eastbound, the left turn only lane may not be long enough. That could back up traffic, as folks try and merge there. I don’t know how long the lanes will be, but I assume they are taking away all the parking on both sides of the street, at least to 10th (I don’t see how it would work otherwise).

        The thing is, if you ban left turns, than things get a lot simpler. You can extend the right turn/BAT lane as far as you want. But that is not the only benefit to banning left turns. It means that no one will ever add a left turn phase, which is what the original plan was (until it proved to be too expensive). You get both safety and better flow when banning left turns.

        As I said above, though, I wouldn’t ban left turns from Broadway. I think that would simply push the problem to a different intersection. Broadway does have buses (and a streetcar), and while none of them turn, they can be backed up by cars turning left. Right now there are left turn lanes there. I wonder though, if they back up so much that they do stall the buses. If so, then I can see the reasoning for adding a left turn cycle. The other argument for left turn arrows is safety. That would be only one more cycle (meaning you would have three cycles — east/west, north/south, and cars on Broadway turning left). The left turn cycle wouldn’t be very long, just long enough to empty out some of the cars, and prevent them from backing up buses like the 49. That seems like a small price to pay for pedestrian safety and better flow on Broadway.

        I really think the first thing to do is eliminate left turn from eastbound Olive to northbound Broadway. I really don’t see any reason why anyone needs to do that. Just use Denny, where there is left turn arrows, and intersection is very well suited for that.

    2. The more dangerous street is John at this intersection. Broadway is wider. It also has left-turn pockets.

      I’d end the driving “guessing game” on John (is the left lane or right lane faster?) about how to get through the intersection. The City just needs to allow one through lane and make the second one for left or right turns only. If they put in a left-turn only lane, maybe they can make the through lane wide enough so that a through car can go past a right, turning one. Maybe as part of that, they should look at banning left turns from John; it’s not like there aren’t plenty of side streets just a block away that couldn’t handle local traffic.

      The curious truth is that drivers are already avoiding that intersection and using nearby side streets already. Banning left turns may not add any more side street traffic because it’s already there.

      1. >> The City just needs to allow one through lane and make the second one for left or right turns only.

        That is what they are doing. If you look at the picture from the article ( it separates the lanes into three.

        As I said, that is a big improvement. But lack of left turn signals (there and on Broadway) has a price. It sucks to wait extra for a walk signal, but it sucks worse to be hit by a car. That is why I think we should ban left turns onto Broadway, but have left turn signals from Broadway (at that intersection). That seems like an appropriate balance. Left turns onto Broadway are less important, as you can use Denny (from the west) or 12th or 15th (from the east). But left turns from Broadway make sense, because there are few alternatives (with left turn signals) and it helps avoid big backups on Broadway.

    3. The only issue with removing left turns from westbound John to Broadway is that some runs of the 43 turn left there, and they use overhead wires so they can’t reroute easily. That could be solved with an “except buses” disclaimer though.

      1. I thought the 43 always turned on 23rd. The schedule map shows it that way ( But you are right — even if it did, or even if we alter a bus route so that it turns left from westbound John to Broadway — we could still ban regular left turns. That makes it pretty easy, as you only need two lanes — one for turning right, one for straight ahead/left. The only vehicle that could hold up traffic in the second lane is a bus.

        The 43 does turn left from westbound Olive to Bellevue Avenue (as does the 10). That has similar issues, and could use similar treatment. With that one, I would probably take a similar approach. Left turns onto Bellevue Way would be legal, perhaps with their own left turn arrow. But left turns from Bellevue Way (which are very sharp, and thus taken rarely I assume) would be illegal. Doing that would likely make things run a bit smoother, while making things safer. Like the other intersection, pedestrians would have to wait for a left-turn cycle, but only one set.

  12. Is there any other city in the world that is building elevated suburban metro stations with escalators in only one direction, or without escalators at all? Genuinely curious!

    It looks like station art and landscaping are on but platform access is the first thing to be sacrificed. Art and landscaping could be easily added later and should really be the first things to get scrapped (or delayed). Parking, especially free parking, should also be on the top list of things to get scrapped (or delayed). In the age of Uber and driverless cars, less station parking will be needed. At any rate, parking can also be added later if needed (and preferably if paid for via parking fees by the users of said parking).

    Station access is very difficult to change–Sound Transit hasn’t done it even once. Have to get this right the first time!

    1. I share your frustration. I did a web search on this last year, and found almost nothing.

      Escalator manufacturers have written things but those don’t seem to be credible sources.

      New York has looks at circulation from a capacity standpoint. There is a hazard when escalators get too much use.

      I did find an APTA document on escalator standards, but that appeared to be about escalator design and not about escalator need.

      The lack of standards is probably because no agency has thought of it. It’s also probably a case-by-case thing based on constructability and cost and use as well as demand.

      Coming up with calculations on when it’s needed (in addition to elevators beyond just one) would make a great research project! There are many factors like directional use to and from a platform, special needs issues like luggage and canes and strollers, elevation changes, and sizes and widths of everything including escalators and escalators and stairs. I casually have suggested it to an user-experience engineering professor who thought it would be a great research topic, but of course academic research is now so grant-driven that getting a robust research document done is difficult.

    2. LA Metro’s elevated center platform Expo Line stations (opened 2012 and 2016) don’t have escalators, just stairs and elevators.

      1. My impression is that most of the world doesn’t consider escalators important for climbs of 1 to 2 storeys. If the country caters to those with mobility challenges, they will generally provide elevators instead, since escalators are at best a partial solution to the problem.

        I know of at least two classes of exceptions

        1) extremely busy stations (of which Seattle has 0)
        2) Potemkin villages (which I hope we aren’t building)

  13. 3,000 Metro drivers, an all-time high.

    Maybe it’s time for Metro to replace it’s centralized hiring/training process and have trainers at each base. Allow managers at each base to hire and coordinate training. HR would would have a fit but the only thing they are qualified to drive is a desk. I know in theory any driver can be assigned to any base but in reality you have to be trained on routes out of that base before you can drive. I think you’d have even more people signing up as drivers if they had slightly more control over their commute.

  14. I was just using google maps (mobile app and laptop) to look up the listed times for getting to Sea Ta airport (during weekdays) and I was surprised to see it repeatedly tell me to take the 574 from the SeaTac station to SeaTac Departures. I have the default options (“Best route”). Did they change some algorithm?

  15. Re [the landscape for local journalism] is “changing radically”] links on th me donation article:

    Oh god, is that what Twitter is like? It was like a nightmare of depressing Sinclair news, Fix News fanboys, and left-wing extremists. Rachael Maddie seems so moderate and normal in co.Paris in. If this is what’s happening all over social media and pervasive in civic discourse, then America s in a lot worse position than I thought. I’ll stick to my traditional media and books and values, thanks.

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