Gene Balk has a typically informative column ($) about who is taking to transit to work these days. University professors, housekeepers, and computer programmers have the highest transit share of any professions in Seattle. He astutely points out how much this has to do with where jobs are located. Seattle is incredibly fortunate that Amazon continues to place the vast majority of its office jobs in the center city.

Someone might use that as a story of how transit is now just a “hipster” phenomenon, but professional definitions are arbitrary — I don’t know the difference between “computer programmer” and “software developer” in this context.

Credit: Mark Nowlin/The Seattle Times

Meanwhile, less arbitrary divisions, like the income chart above, show that low income people remain, in both absolute and relative terms, the biggest users of transit in the region. Moreover, transit’s mode share is relatively stable across income boundaries. Broadly speaking, we’ve made transit an attractive option, and this creates a positive feedback loop. Creating higher-income riders creates stakeholders with more political power — which leads to better and more attractive transit.

89 Replies to “Transit Still a Low-Income Lifeline”

  1. “Some of those with the lowest rate of transit ridership are highly paid professionals, including physicians and surgeons, aerospace engineers, chief executives — they’re all at around four or five percent.”

    Is it a coincidence that the places where aerospace jobs are located are so poorly served by transit?

    1. You can blame the total abortion that is 1960s “planning” for Boeing Everett. Not only does the location suck, the actual layout of the plant sucks too, making almost all access dependent on the SR 526 freeway. I used to ride the bus there from North Seattle, but eventually gave up and joined a vanpool, halving my commute time. Vanpool ridership to the plant seems pretty high.

      Boeing Field was OK from a transit access standpoint, honestly. The 124 is slow but at least it runs semi-frequently all day.

      I’ve never been to Renton but they do have RR-F service.

      1. I think a big part of the problem with Boeing Everett is that it is in Everett. By that I mean it is very rare for a city that size, with that sort of density, to build a good transit system. I think Everett (and Snohomish County) is doing much better than average, but it is just a huge challenge. Bus service to Boeing Everett exists, and is not horrible, but it strains the system. It would be better if it was more centrally located in Everett, but it is much easier for Seattle to serve Boeing Field than it is for Everett to serve Paine Field (let alone the plants where most of the jobs are). That is just because Seattle is a bigger, more densely populated area.

        It is possible that will improve substantially in a few years, once Link gets to Lynnwood. That will ease the burden on Snohomish County and Everett quite a bit. I would expect more shuttles from Lynnwood to the various plants, as Lynnwood becomes a major transit center for the region. But it wouldn’t surprise me if vanpooling is still a better approach for most people.

      2. RossB: It would take me ~ 2 hrs and 3 transfers to get from N Seattle to Boeing Everett, and I live near two “frequent” routes. Worse, most of the routes that go near the plant are peak-only. Needless to say, I use a vanpool, which takes about 1/4 the time.

        Once the Swift Green Line opens next year, the frequency and duration problems should improve a little, but it will still require three transfers, which is not ideal.

        I dealt with a two-transfer 1 – 1.5 hour transit commute (20 minutes driving) in a past job when I was transit dependent, and once I was medically cleared to drive again, I basically stopped using transit.

      3. I think even once Link gets to Lynnwood, it’s unlikely that Boeing Everett will get all-day service from Lynnwood TC. Right now the CT 107 runs 3 peak hour trips between Lynnwood and Boeing, and the Hardeson Rd tail of CT 105 (the Swift Green Line precursor) is peak-only as well. At best, CT might add a few peak trips to the 107 when Link arrives, which is fair, since demand is pretty peaky, but it leaves people who work 2nd/3rd shift or unscheduled overtime out of luck.

        Even this is an improvement to what it was before, where you had to take ST 512 and pray that it got to Ash Way before the only Metro 952 run of the morning arrived there.

      4. Swift Green Line will be all-day service. The problem is that it doesn’t connect with the 512, so the only way to make it useful for commuting to/from Seattle is to transfer to Swift Blue and then RapidRide E. So, you’re already dealing with two transfers, plus whatever it takes you to get to E.

      5. it’s not a huge improvement transfer-wise over Swift Green/Blue/RR-E, but I’ve taken CT 105 (soon to be Swift Green) to Mariner P&R, then CT 201/202 (iirc) to Lynnwood TC for the 512, and at least according to Google Maps at the time it was a good bit faster and a lot less sketchy than riding the E. It’s still way more tortuous than it needs to be.

      6. >> RossB: It would take me ~ 2 hrs and 3 transfers to get from N Seattle to Boeing Everett, and I live near two “frequent” routes.

        Yeah, not surprising. You are right — service to Boeing is very much peak oriented, which is a big part of the problem. But even during peak hours it would be a bad transit trip (I’m sure). I think the big problem is what we’ve said — it is in Everett and an inconvenient part of Everett.

        The contrast with Boeing Field (which is also a relatively inconvenient part of Seattle) is interesting. If you took a job there, you would first go downtown (fairly fast and frequent) and then take a connecting bus (fairly fast and reasonably frequent). The frequency of that second bus becomes the key part and Seattle has done an excellent job of improving frequency on the buses in town. Seattle can afford to, and get the type of fare recovery you would expect for a fairly dense city that has increasing density. Everett can’t. But the point is, the transit trip might not be great, but it is reasonably competitive with driving. Either way you have to go through downtown (which stinks for a driver) so taking transit is reasonable.

        But now imagine a trip from the south end to Boeing Field. It might work, but their is no guarantee. Unless you have a solid one seat ride or a transfer somewhere in the south end, I think you drive. Not many people want to take a bus downtown, then back south again.

        Likewise for Everett. In your situation, a lot of people would just drive, even if transit was great. The reverse commute to Everett (even during rush hour) is not that bad. Northbound out of Seattle in the morning and southbound from Everett are probably the least congested roads in the area at that time of day. Things get bogged down as you approach Seattle (getting from Northgate to downtown is usually horrible in the evenings) but if you started from north Seattle, you can avoid it. The point being that if Everett really did try to make it easy for folks to get from north Seattle to Boeing Everett, I’m not sure how many people would ride it since driving is so good.

        Just to cover the last combination, consider Marysville to Boeing Everett. Transit is somewhat similar to North Seattle to Boeing Field. Not as good, naturally, and certainly not as good in the middle of the day, but competitive with driving. That is, more or less, what they are going for. Folks who live in Everett or places north headed to Boeing.

        The problem is that many of the people commute from the south, just because there are a lot more people to the south. That isn’t the case with Boeing Field, where it is the opposite (most of the people live to the north). The result is a tough problem for Everett (and Snohomish County). I see your point in that even when Link gets to Lynnwood they might not get all day service, but it is hard to say. I think part of the problem is that even when they do, it might still not work for a lot of people, as it is quite likely it would be a three seat ride compared to a fairly quick drive.

      7. I think people get things mixed up. Transit should be built for whatever layout and wherever the need is, not the other way around. Transit shouldn’t be dictating where development should happen. It’s like people who think apartments and coffee shops are the greatest place to live and all will be well but when that’s all you have, there’s going to be an end. The way our industry is getting priced out for condos, apartments, etc, there goes a communities lifeline. Retail does not benefit a community, industrial does. Retail will always survive if there is industry, but retail will not survive on it’s own. Retail does nothing except cater to those who work in industry, who have the money to spend. Like the group that’s trying to improve Aurora (article in the Times a while ago), they wanted more apartments and retail, and to get rid of the auto mechanic jobs. While they don’t look the greatest, a car mechanic drives the economy far more than 3 coffee shops. Is the housing crisis caused by industrial job salaries or retail job salaries? The more historically family-wage jobs get pushed out for apartments and retail, the low-income bucket is going to grow (both in those that have jobs and those that choose not to). There’s going to be a breaking point.

        OK, got a little off topic. All in all, transit should find a way to service Boeing / any major employer, regardless of where they’re at. Just like transit should go where the need is, regardless of ANY other factors.

      8. It’s not just service to Everett Boeing that’s peak only. All express buses in north Seattle are downtown AM, northbound PM. There are actually people who live in Everett and Lynnwood and work in Ballard and Northgate but there’s no way to get there on transit except on local buses, which is a 2-hour multi-seat ride.

        Conversely, there are people who live in North Seattle and work or have errands in Snohomish County, but they have no express buses available. If you go to Northgate expecting to find one, you find only two 30-minute slow routes to Mountlake Terrace or Aurora Village. If you take the 512 south from Snohomish because it’s the all-day regional transit, you’ll find that the only stop north of 45th is 145th, and it has only one 30-minute route to Northgate and Shoreline, and nothing anywhere else.

        Although I suspect the 512 would have stopped at Northgate if it could get to the transit center quickly, but the roads and turns conspire against it.

      9. In New York factories are in regular neighborhood buildings, so that a station can serve both workers and tens of thousands of residents within walking distance. That’s what’s missing if you just let industrial jobs sprawl. When a European delegation came to Everett, they were nonplussed that the Everett Industrial Center had no high-capacity transit and no plans for it. (That was part of the reason for the desperate motivation to detour Link to it.) But you have to take a step back and ask whether the layout of the industrial area is part of the problem too. What I see on the Mukilteo Speedway is huge superblocks and big setbacks; it’s almost a mile’s walk just from one business to its nearest neighbor. And the residential area is on a loop side road. Or what passes for a residential area; because it really only has a small number of houses. There’s plenty of room for multiple grid streets but instead there’s just one loop for miles around. An airplane factor needs a large hangar and runway of course, but that doesn’t mean the businesses and offices around it have to be so sprawling.

        The issue is not industrial vs retail. The issue is that we’ve built both industrial and retail and housing in a car-dependent, totally unwalkable, and hard-to-serve-by-transit manner.

      10. >In New York factories are in regular neighborhood buildings, so that a station can serve both workers and tens of thousands of residents within walking distance

        This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, at least based on the jobs postings I’ve seen. Most heavy industry seems to have moved out to sprawling office parks in exurban Long Island or NJ 2 hours out of NYC by transit. There haven’t been factories in lower Manhattan for a while, and formerly industrial areas in Brooklyn like DUMBO are totally gentrified now.

      11. Having heavy industry in dense, urban environment is what made cities the Dickensian hellhole that spawned the Garden City and suburbia in the first place. The “industrial chic” of artists lofts in NYC in the 70s was because the buildings were authentically industrial. They were often abandoned garment factories, and horrible places to work in in their time.

        Pre-automobile, factories needed to be in cities to be near workers. Automobiles (cars for workers, trucks for freight) facilitated industrial parks. In a roundabout way, emptying dirty jobs out of cities helped make cities more livable. Without industrial parks, there would be no back-to-the city movement. Suburban white-collar office parks and malls are losing out to urban centers; industrial parks are still vibrant job center. Related, this is why keeping our industrial agglomerations (SoDO, Paine Field, etc.) industrial is important.

      12. No, having polluting factories in dense, urban environments is what made cities a Dickensian hellhole. Most industries nowadays are non-polluting or can treat the pollution inside. You don’t see smokestacks belching toxic smoke in SODO or the Kent Valley. Ride the 150 down by 212th and 220th and tell me if you see any building you wouldn’t be OK living next to. Also look at the huge empty-grass setbacks down there and tell me it’s not egregious wasted space that could be used for housing or other businesses.

      13. I would not want to live next to those shipping & distributions centers, with trucks beeping & rumbling by all night long. I live immediately next to I90 and put up with that noise, but at least that traffic isn’t on local streets.

        I don’t see much wasted space – I see trees, parking, and lots to-be-developed. You can mandate structured parking & multi-storied warehouses, but land costs are a San Francisco away from that making economic sense.

      1. I’m an aerospace worker and even I think the Paine Field diversion specifically, and the Lynnwood-to-Everett extension generally, is dumb as hell.

      2. @ Sam: Very true. Renton is a good example of the anti-aerospace sentiment.

        @Pat: I can name quite a few plans and current routes / stations that would fall into the “dumb” category before a line to Paine Field / Boeing. If people want people to ride transit, don’t make them get nothing for their hard earned money they are giving to build a system that caters to high tech and those who don’t pay for the system. Boeing – Everett and Microsoft Redmond employ about the same amount of people, but Microsoft gets a nearly direct line, when there are far more places that could use the light rail ahead of Redmond (West Seattle, Northwest Seattle, etc etc.)

        For those who claim Boeing – Everett is out of the way, can you imagine if it were any closer to a downtown? It would be shoved out! Amazon has experienced some of that already in downtown Seattle. Leaders here for a number of years have not the best for those providing the jobs, but great at wanting their money.

      3. How many jobs are within walking distance of Seaview Transit Center? How will the other 99% of workers get to their jobs? Are there any non-job businesses that would bring all-day riders? Future of Flight and the Boeing tour are two, but I can’t think of any others. Ordinary citizens don’t buy airplane parts, much less take them home on transit. A Link station on 99 or I-5 would serve Boeing jobs just as well as the deviation; the company shuttles would just go a bit further to reach it.

      4. Henry.

        I’m not saying Boeing shouldn’t be served by transit. I’m saying that all-day frequent rail service is overkill for a place with no all-day demand drivers. Peak commuter demand can be covered by express buses running out of Lynnwood TC during shift change times, since freeway congestion north of Lynnwood in the reverse-commute direction tends to be minor but can be mitigated by implementing HOV 3+ or transit lanes at a fraction of the cost of fixed-route rail.

        PAE, while it’ll have commercial service soon, won’t ever be busy enough of an airport to merit service beyond what would be provided by the Swift Green Line.

      5. Even if Everett and Paine Field weren’t included in ST3, Link would still have been extended to Ash Way or 128th. That would have been the “small ST3” alternative.

      6. Ian:

        Yes (well, 3 shifts, not 4), but 1st shift (7a-3:30p) is the largest since that’s when most of the office workers are in. 2nd/3rd shift are mainly mechanics and engineers directly supporting the factory, a much smaller group. There is currently no transit service outside of the 1st shift commute. I don’t even think the company shuttles operate during 2nd/3rd shift.

        But you could still serve them by operating buses between Lynnwood TC and the factory during shift change times.

      7. @Pat — Exactly. Of course it will add value, but for the money, it is a huge waste. They could have improved bus lines in a lot more areas (resulting in way better overall service) for half the cost of that thing.

      8. Paine Field is becoming a commuter airport. I has 24 flights a day now but 15years from now when the line is finished that number could be significantly higher considering Setac would need to add a 4th runway to keep up with demand.

      9. AJ, problem isn’t land use. It’s that when the Second World War was over, in addition to being old and badly maintained, most of our industry was obsolete. I don’t think anybody minded new plants to work in. Since they’d kill their own kids for wanting to work in a factory.

        And romantic literature aside, many factory workers’ most fervent wish was that his kid never have to work in a factory. So no great grief that industry now needed technology that since it needed fewer workers, killed fewer of them too. And since we were the world’s only industrial plant left standing, nobody ever doubted there’d be all the new jobs we wanted.

        Reason I don’t believe in conspiracy theories is that the only way two people can keep a secret is if they both choke to death eating the evidence. Like the 70 years ’til autos quit being mobile. And the Democratic party truthfully began denying there’s a working class anymore.

        Too bad “People Who Still Think They Are Middle Class Because They’ve Still Got A Bridge To Park the Car They’re Living In Under-Class” can’t fit on a bumper sticker. Let alone a campaign button. So let’s just say “Low Income”, which you in fact become when your income loses the zero that plummets you back into a millionaire.

        So how ’bout this for Everett. Convert the whole city into the world’s largest trade school- Boeing still does machinery, don’t they? Considering what people are borrowing to pay for school that can’t get them a job (remind me, is that “aerospace” or “tech”) Revenue sources names itself.

        Cost out which one of the useless wars we’ve been lying ourselves into since 1964 is giving us the least defense per trillion dollars. And just shift their whole Defense appropriation to Everett Technical Aerospace Academy (for which all 1950’s Space Cadet listeners will forgive the “Aero” part.)

        We can get some German faculty from Siemens to create a Re-Vertolization department. Since we won’t be able to avoid light rail going to the plant, might just as well have some good lectures, term papers, and PhD’s out of it. Definitely National Defense because never again will America have to buy anything disguised to hide fact it’s a Breda.

        Norwegian Navy will get even for the Oslo fleet, and those Swedish jets parked in barns under wind turbines in Skane Province will see to it Gothenberg never happens again.


  2. Location is a big factor, but there are other large factors as well. Taking transit to work is much easier if you work flexible hours (a bus being late won’t jeopardize your job), are able to go to work in casual clothing (because nearly every transit commute entails at least a few blocks of walking), and have free transit passes (takes away the financial incentive to drive).

    Software engineers for companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft have all of these things going for them. Schoolteachers, by contrast, have none. They teach in residential neighborhoods with free parking (at least for staff). They get no subsidy for transit fares if they choose to commute by transit. They are required to leave enough padding time in their schedule to be absolutely assured of getting to work on time, or else (leaving students unsupervised for a few minutes because a teacher is late is generally not tolerated). And that’s not even getting to the potential awkwardness of running into one’s own students on the bus.

    1. Very good point. I think all the factors play a part. When I worked for a typical software company, the hours were very flexible and I chose transit that would work for me. I knew when the “best” bus left in the morning as well as the best one in the evening. This meant unusual hours for me (9:17 to 5:42 instead of 9:00 to 5:00) but it didn’t matter. Unless I had a meeting, it was fine.

      But when I worked at Safeco, it was the opposite. They had very strict work hours, along with a very strict dress code (as a man, I was required to wear a suit and tie). But I was also low income (as a beginning software tester) and the job was at the UW. I don’t think I even owned a car back then, and even if I did, the buses weren’t bad, so I probably would have taken them.

      I think the high transit rate of software workers has a lot to do with what Martin mentioned: the urbanization of software jobs. When I worked in Factoria, I gave up on transit. I tried, but with a commute of about 90 minutes, it was just too hard. I drove. This was also miserable during most of rush hour, but I would often just work late until traffic died down. Better transit to those office parks along with companies like Amazon moving to more transit friendly locations has helped a lot.

    2. >And that’s not even getting to the potential awkwardness of running into one’s own students on the bus.

      Is that really such a big deal? Sometimes as a kid I’d see my teachers at the grocery store and it wouldn’t be weird or anything.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think that is a big deal. I think the other factors make a bigger difference. Not only are schools rarely served well by transit, but teachers often take jobs in different districts. That happens with software, but since software jobs are often in very high demand, folks change jobs just to get a better commute. I did exactly that (moving from Factoria to Dexter). My guess is not that many teachers can do that as easily as I did.

        Plus teachers put in a lot of hours, with early, strict start time (as asdf2 mentioned). That is a big deal. If I have to be there at 6:00 in the morning, I’m not leaving the house at 4:45 just so that I can catch a bus. I’m leaving at 5:30, then rushing out of there at 3:30 so I can grade the papers at home while avoiding the worst traffic.

        I noticed that Gene Balk didn’t mention gender in his study. It wouldn’t surprise me if men take transit at a lot higher rate than women, especially as income increases. A lot of women have to deal with creepy guys on the bus (or train) and after a few bad incidents just give up (if they have other options). My guess is this is worse in the early morning and late at night (the former being when a school teacher would ride the bus). Women also have to deal disproportionately with child rearing tasks (despite the move towards a more egalitarian society) which puts additional strain on their time. Since teaching remains mostly female, this could also play a part.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if high schools have higher rates of transit use than elementary schools. They start later and tend to be closer to transit. High schools are also bigger, which means that the city could improve things more easily with van or carpooling (I don’t know if they have a program right now). With over 3,000 teachers in Seattle public school, it could make a difference, and be a nice win for everyone.

      2. @Ross: IIRC census data in the past has shown that women in the US take transit and walk at higher rates than men, while driving and biking at lower rates. Transportation cycling isn’t popular enough in general to affect transit ridership much, so focusing on driving, the typical analysis is that because women on average make less money than men, they’re less likely in aggregate to have access to a car or to be able to afford parking.

      3. Yeah, that’s why I mentioned income as well. In other words, my guess is that for lower income folks, transit ridership is probably fairly similar for men and women. But for middle to higher income people, transit ridership is skewed towards men. Just a theory, mind you (I have no evidence to support it).

  3. Public Transportation is Failing King County’s Wealthiest Communities. Most of Mercer Island, Somerset and Clyde Hill are completely cut off from transit on weekends. Hilltop and west Medina have zero public transit 24/7. Much of Innis Arden, The Highlands and Broadview aren’t served by transit. The wealthy can’t take transit if they don’t have transit.

    1. Here’s the thing, Sam.

      Screw the rich, and screw the non-rich bootlickers who stan for the rich.

      I say this 100% unironically.

    2. I know you are trying to be cute, Sam, but let’s not forget that wealthy people own cars or bikes. If I lived in Broadview and didn’t want to walk up the hill, I would drive, or ride an electric bike to a parking spot close to Greenwood. People have done this sort of thing for years .

    3. Tacoma’s Hilltop District may be gentrifying rapidly, but at present it is no wealthy community. The Issaquah Highlands aren’t either. They’re designed for middle class suburbanites, the Snoqualmie Ridge crowd. Not even nouveau riche. The Highlands, much like Sno Ridge, also has disproportionately good transit. The P&R there is a significant Eastside transit hub.

      Your definition of wealthy is all over the map.

      1. My bad. I meant the Hilltop neighborhood just east of Somerset in Bellevue. They receive transit taxation, but don’t have transit representation.

      2. I think they would probably object to their transit taxation being wasted on low-ridership hourly milk runs through their low-density McMansion hell. I wouldn’t know, not being rich myself, but those kinds of people tend to complain about such things.

        P&Rs, despite all their problems, are the only good way to serve places like that, and hey guess what, they have P&Rs.

      3. P&Rs are a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Except when P&Rs get built in Seattle as some people have called for in Rainier Valley.

        Note: There are private parking lots near the Rainier Valley stations in case you need to park your car somewhere.

    4. Transit’s job is to serve the majority of residents. The majority of residents don’t live in ultra-low-density areas like Mercer Island and Somerset. In fact, it’s a truism. Large houses and large yards mean few people in an area. What we should look at is whether transit serves the average person. Isolated Mercer Islanders can hire taxis for their maids. Let them eat cake.

    5. Most of the rich people in those communities are perfectly fine with a lack of transit for they believe it keeps the “riff raff” out of their communities;)

  4. I’m actually wondering if we are doing a good enough job serving low income workers. Having mode shares differ at 0.6 percent for all categories under 100K and 2.4 percent for the over 100K category suggest that transit use is about the same across the board. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t describe the number of vehicles available — but lower income workers are less like to be car owners.

    It also makes me wonder if we are reaching a point where low income workers can no longer live inside Seattle. Many areas outside of the City are hard to serve.

    1. Many people are being displaced from Seattle but many still remain. The low-income exodus to south King County started in the 1990s. The densest concentrations of these have transit: Kent East Hill, the Renton Highlands, southeast Auburn, etc. But there are isolated apartment buildings scattered around that don’t have transit. And of course, people in houses making an adequate income can suddenly become poor or disabled, or their teenage or young-adult children can live somewhere they didn’t choose but their parents chose. Those are the ones who get the shortest end of the stick, being the most isolated and transit being the least able to serve them. There may be a few of those in outer Mercer Island, and those are the ones we should be concerned about. Not people who think they;re too rich to live near a significant transit corridor. (“Be on the way”, and transit will be there.)

      1. I’m hard-pressed to find a direct and frequent bus route to Link from Kent East Hill, Renton Highlands or SE Auburn. Maybe Sounder — but not Link.

        That’s important because low income work schedules more often are at odd hours. Directional commuter rail service to Downtown Seattle is beneficial but it’s not going to help many or most low income workers.

      2. Link is not finished yet. Metro’s long-range plan has RapidRide lines from Kent East Hill to KDM (NE Auburn – Des Moines), Renton Highlands to Rainier Beach, Auburn to Federal Way (181), Southeast Auburn is still shafted, sorry.

  5. When I look at how ST3 was assembled to serve higher income workers and jobs, I see that the effect is to serve the residents higher income workers. Alaska Junction but not White Center? Federal Way but not Burien? Issaquah but not Renton? Ballard but not Lake City?

    Even the recent discussions about aesthetics and convenience to trendy shopping areas/restaurants in the Ballard and West Seattle options are implicitly showing biases to higher income people. Even the ST2 public input has been geared to station naming and art projects rather than discussions about entrances, escalators and stairs.

    As much as some people admire the “Seattle process”, I see a strong bias towards higher income workers in ST3. Low income folks don’t usually have the free time to show up at meetings or respond online. When they do, the ST approach is to tailor the noticing to not reach out to lower income workers so that they don’t show.

    Even keeping parking garage spaces instead of escalators for Lynnwood Link carries an implicit bias towards the income groups who ST wants to serve.

    ST needs a better process to consider lower income workers. If everyone pays the taxes, everyone should benefit. I would even suggest that ST is working harder to inspire its “base” — and not to think about those who are more in need of good mobility.

    1. I’ll add that the omission of any ST project to directly serve Harborview iillustrates perhaps the most income discrinminatory bias of ST in the entire region.

    2. It’s really middle class rather than high income. The majority of voters are middle class and live in the suburbs and commute via the freeways, so they want the kind of transit that benefits people like them. And they have a blind spot about the fact that their low-density living arrangement and work location contribute to the problem, but rather than helping solve that directly they want a transit that serves them without them making any changes, and that requires band-aid transit. Seattle is 1/5 the population of Pugetopolis, or 1/3 of King County. That’s why it’s always outvoted. If Seattle had annexed more it would have a higher percentage (there was a proposal to make Mercer Island a park, and annexation got as far as N 145th and could have continued to 205th, not to mention south to 160th. But that might have been a double-edged sword because they still might have developed in a low-density, nimbyish way as northeast Seattle did.

      Harborview is an example of this neglect but it’s more than that too. First Hill is ignored, but Belltown is also ignored and it’s middle to upper income. (The day workers and homeless in Belltown are a tiny fraction of its population.) The reason is that they were seen as so close to downtown they didn’t need their own service. And they look really close from the viewpoint of Mountlake Terrace and Northgate, with three times as frequent buses 24 hours.

      But if we step back, what was the original Link impetus? It wasn’t to give grade-separated transit to the densest core of the region (i.e., S Weller Street to N 100th Street). It was to connect Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue-Redmond. RossB complains that Link is disproportionately long for the region’s population, but the issue was never miles of track (“moar miles”); it was just the distance necessary to reach Everett and Tacoma which couldn’t be moved. And why were they chosen? Because they’re the largest city (or traditionally the main city) in their county or subarea. Even now you hear Everett’s mayor complain about why is Ballard getting Link before Everett when it’s not on the spine. The same attitude is what caused First Hill’s problem. The bias is toward the largest employers, originally Boeing and now high tech too. And Boeing set a bad precedent with its excessively out-of-the-way locations (more than a runway and airplane noise intrinsically requires; see Boeing Field and the Renton airport), seas of free parking, and transit-as-an-afterthought, and forget about walkability from the building entrances.

      I think people just don’t realize how many people the hospital and medical jobs add up to, because there’s no single huge employer. Nor how many people live in those highrise buildings. First Hill itself can look misleading: most of the streets are quiet, two-lane affairs, giving the impression that you’re far away in Everett or something, not half a mile from the downtown skyscrapers.

      1. Making less than 25K a year is not “middle class”. That’s about $12.50 an hour if working 40 hours a week. Seattle living wage minimum was $13.00 an hour in 2016.

        If we are serving the working poor, that percentage should naturally be much higher than any other income group.

      2. I’m sorry to point this out to you Henry, but serving First Hill can be done cheaper than changing ST3 by adding a proposed tunnel in West Seattle or under the Ship Channel (neither adding any new station or riders). ST won’t even study better access from Midtown Station to First Hill but will study these tunnels. The current equity issue I see is about new, expensive design options versus serving low-income people.

      3. I recall reading somewhere that median income for Seattle was around 80k. 55k might be on the national or state level.

    3. I respectfully disagree. If you completely disregard those who are paying dearly for the system, you won’t get any light rail. Light rail isn’t the only mode of transportation available. Metro also serves these areas, so transit is available if required.

      If the goal is to get cars off the road, then you need to target those who have cars. If there is a different goal, then the system needs to target that goal.

      Another thing, just because there is a station in a low income area doesn’t mean it will get used. You have to look at what jobs are at the end of the line and connect the workers to those jobs. A line just for the cause of satisfying a demographic requirement doesn’t make a useful transit system.

      And a system to get people to their jobs is far more beneficial than building a system specifically for getting someone to a hospital, unless they work there of course. Both are ideal, but you must start with the prior.

      1. What’s your thoughts on the extra billions for tunnels under the Ship Canal or in West Seattle, as opposed to a grade-level extension another two miles to serve nearby low income neighborhoods? These tunnels are mostly to satisfy mostly aesthetic desires (and get closer to chic restaurant and shopping districts with many one-story buildings) over transit service to nearby lower income areas.

        I can expect cries that these extensions are “not consistent with ST3”; that’s the obvious politically-correct excuse to ignore serving low income people better in the original pre-ST3 planning. Only AFTER station areas and lines were chosen did the low-income service question end up as one of many qualitative evaluation criteria.

      2. @ Mike

        They do have surgeries and follow-up appointments. But work is typically 5 days a week. If someone has surgeries and follow-ups on a 5-day-a-week basis, I’m going on a limb and guessing they’re a very small percentage.

        Hospitals and medical facilities should be services, but not at the expense of those commuting to work. Once you have the commuters taken care of, then those things should be looked at.

        And last time I had a surgery, I wasn’t allowed to take public transit or even a rideshare…I had to have a family member or close friend drive me home.

      3. Individually yes, but in aggregate it’s tens of thousands of people every day, and that’s what high-capacity transit is for.

      4. One has to only count the number of times that an office door opens on a typical day. I can anecdotally guarantee that 80-90 of the entries into a medical office each day are patients and not employees.

      5. Many (most?) low income people do have cars, and since the financial burden to run them is a greater fraction of their income, they can be more inclined to leave the car behind–at least for the daily work commute. IF — and it’s a big IF — the transit takes them where they need to go in a reasonable time frame. Time frame is very important to families in the age of both parents working and child care late pickup fees, ect. Not to mention people’s sanity when commutes get over an hour with multiple transfers! Having a Metro bus to Renton TC transfer to the E to Link may never going to be a reasonable time frame for most people–no matter how frequent those busses are. So travel times need to be a part of the conversation on how well a community is (or even can be) served by transit, not just “there is a Metro bus line.”

        First Hill is not just Harborview (even if Harborview itself is enough to pach the 3/4 busses!). It is one of the most dense neighborhoods of Seattle. People live there, and those people have jobs too. Travel time again. If transit is a bus that takes a half hour or more in traffic to go a few miles, it greatly reduces the usefulness of the transit, even if on paper you have frequent busses. Of course, a frequent direct bus connection from First Hill to SLU costs much less in terms of bus service hours than, say, Renton Highlands or Kent east hill (probably with a park and ride that you need to build) express to TIB station. Could probably even do FH – SLU with existing bus lines. OTOH, arguably the marginal improvement in trip time is greater for those folks coming from Renton/Kent. So as a transit agency, which do you prioritize? It’s a good question!

      6. @ Mike @ Al S.

        Tens of thousands of people very day at Harborview co-located medical facilities? If that were accurate, it’s still dwarfed by the number of people that commute every day to work, especially to downtown.

        It’s just data, but according to the Harborview website, 2014 statistics:
        – Employees: 4,500
        – Admissions: 17,000
        – Emergency Department visits: 64,500
        – Clinic visits: 247,350​

        For this example, let’s take the bottom three, Admissions, Emergency visits and Clinic visits: 328,850 for the year. Let’s say it’s just during week days (which will make the daily average higher): ~260 week days a year. That’s 1,265 patients per day, which is even dwarfed by the number of 4,500 employees who commute. Data:

        Then if you add in someone coming with the patient, each patient could come with an average of 2.6 additional persons just to match the number of employees.

        Again, I think it’s important to service places like Harborview, but it should not come as the top priority over commuters.

      7. Let’s not forget that Link did intend to serve First Hill, and even had a line bending backwards to get to it. It was dropped out of fear that the soil might be so unstable it would financially sink the entire University Link or lead to a cost-overrun PR nightmare that would make it impossible to build anything else after it. This was at a time when ST was rebuilding its reputation after its initial cost overruns and the initial Link segment hadn’t opened yet so the opposition was even stronger than it is now.

        ST’s problem with First Hill is a microcosm of its problem with University Link: when it restarted U-Link after its ship-canal stall, it didn’t reevaluate the question of stations, including a replacement for the Broadway Roy station that had been dropped earlier. It just went with the stations it had chosen years earlier, when there was less consciousness of the urban ridership. Then when it dropped First Hill, it did the same thing: it didn’t revisit the question of whether First Hill still needs high-capacity transit. Part of that was delusions about how much the First Hill Streetcar could accomplish, and part of it was because ST had another “Madison corridor” in the LRP and was uncertain whether Madison BRT would be enough. But either way, Seattle and the region totally dropped the ball on First Hill, Belltown, and SLU — and only recently committed to rectify SLU (because of Amazon and Paul Allen) and still has no plans for First Hill or Belltown.

      8. See my comment above.

        At this stage, ST is studying expensive tunnels under the Ship Canal and West Seattle that were not in ST3. ST won’t study better connections to First Hill from Midtown Station because that was not in ST3. As Mike notes, ST also still has a historic obligation to better serve First Hill from Sound Moves.

        What’s the motivation for this logic? It doesn’t take much to draw the line from neighborhood advocacy to wealthier residents with schedule flexibility and free time as opposed to poorer residents who aren’t heard or considered. If social equity was important to these folk, they would be content with aerial structures and instead advocate to either extend these lines to nearby lower income areas or get to First Hill with any extra funding.

      9. Henry, what are the six largest job centers in Pugetopolis? Downtown, the U-District, Bellevue, Everett Boeing, Microsoft, … AND FIRST HILL. I’d bet First Hill as a whole might even have as many jobs as Everett Boeing. Saying First Hill doesn’t need high-capacity transit because more people work downtown is a bit like saying nobody goes downtown anymore because it’s too crowded. And in fact, we have high-capacity transit to downtown, and the U-District, and soon to Bellevue and Microsoft and Everett Boeing. But not First Hill.

      10. @ Mike

        You’re making common sense now! :) If First Hill is one of the six major JOB areas, then yes, they should have transit. But the argument was about First Hill / Harborview (originally stated low-income) patients needing to get to the hospital. I am in 110% agreement about getting transit to job areas, First Hill being one of them, but for completely different reasons than the original complaint by Al was.

      11. I said job center because transit is most commonly framed as getting people to work. But you can’t separate the workers from the customers and residents because either all of them will use it or none of them will.

    4. I think there are a lot of weaknesses with ST3, but I don’t see a bias towards higher income workers being the worst. Yes, you could make that case (as you have) but some of those things are fluid. A Metro 8 subway would serve the historically low income, red-lined parts of Seattle, but that is now an area rapidly gentrifying.

      I would say the biggest problem — by far — is the emphasis on suburban to downtown commuters. That includes West Seattle, which is essentially a suburb, despite being legally part of Seattle. It is similar to North Vancouver, but without the big buildings that make people hesitate to call it a suburb, even though they do ( Even the best project in the entire mess(Ballard Link) was more suburban than it had to be, choosing a classic 9 to 5 type drive (on a major throughway, with suburban stop spacing) rather than the more urban option to the north. There was no effort to knit together the region to enable fast trips to everywhere, but instead an attempt to pick a handful of places and grant them fast access to downtown (and often little else).

      Of course some of this resulted in projects that will tend to favor the wealthy, but once you take the approach mentioned above, that seems likely to happen. If they ran a branch of Link out to Lake City then it would be great for the area, until rents rapidly grew, and folks who rented would be forced to move. If you improve the transit situation in a few areas, making their commute to (high income) downtown much better (while doing very little for most of the city) then of course that will eventually lead to a system that favors the well to do. The alternative — the approach that will lead to improvement on a wider economic scale — is to build something that operates on a wider physical one.

    5. Purely anecdotal, but from my exclusive use of transit across the country, and overseas (when traveling) I would say that locales where the “poor” dominate the transit agenda (who’s primarily using it, where it goes, planning) have really, really bad transit. There has to be significant buy-in from the middle/upper middle classes for it to be excellent. Just look at Stockholm, London, Tokyo, Singapore (for example) to see world class transit (global best, I would argue) used by the suit and tie elite along with the rest of us slobs.

      The best transit systems are those that are made for, and utilized by, middle income groups, but that also work well for lower income brackets. When suburban mom’s and urban techsters start mentally clumping transit agencies together with welfare services, they are going to be relegated to inferior status.

      1. I agree. But I think what Al is saying is that Link is favoring the more well to do, which means it won’t work for everyone. I believe that is simply a symptom of an agency that is horrible at planning, and hasn’t learned the lesson from areas like those you mentioned.

        Speaking of which, most of those cities are mega-cities, and comparing them to Seattle isn’t fair. The exception is Stockholm, which is roughly the same size (depending on where you want to draw the borders). A quick glance at the subway system ( or shows a system that is quite extensive, yet not that far from the core. You can draw a circle with a ten mile radius and get the entire thing (all 100 stations). I can’t find any gaps along the lines, and even gaps between the lines are rare, despite the very challenging geography. This explains why the thing is about 65 miles long, yet carries close to 900,000 people a day. In contrast, with ST3, Link will stretch out about three times as far, but be lucky to carry one third the riders. It will contain lots of gaps — including in our most urban areas. We will somehow manage to build a system with about 50% more track, yet substantially less functionality.

      2. Honestly, I see Link as more of a hybrid of S-Bahn and U-Bahn if we’re going to compare Link to a European metro system. And while our metro will be long, lets remember that the Seattle metro area is very long and narrow from end to end in terms of area. We also have 2 major population centers (Tacoma and Everett) on each end and people commute into major economic centers in the middle (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond), along with fairly populated suburbs (North and South King, and South SnoCo).

      3. And while our metro will be long, lets remember that the Seattle metro area is very long and narrow from end to end in terms of area.

        Sorry, no. Here, take a quick look at a census map of the area: Feel free to click on the various census blocks. Keep in mind this was from the last census, and the region has become more urban. It really has — more people have moved into Seattle that any other city — at one point we were exceeding the growth of all the other cities in the county combined. But you don’t have to imagine all that, just look at how things were a few years ago. Pretty much all of the density in the state is in Seattle. Nothing else — except maybe a little something on the East Side — comes even close. We all love the bones of Tacoma, but you really struggle to find anything there that resembles Wallingford, let alone the C. D. I can break it down mathematically, but it should be obvious — the region is not that suburban. If you doubt me — if you think I missed something — please, be my guest. Let’s hash it out in the comments. But I think just about everyone, after looking at that map, knows that pretty much all the density in the region is within Seattle.

        Now check out Phoenix: Quite a different beast, isn’t it. There is no “central area” where lots of people live. It is just a sprawling, medium density city. This is an area where building a subway would be challenging, to say the least. Is it even worth it? Probably not.

        Now check out L. A.: Big, sprawling, car-centered Los Angeles. The first thing you notice is that there are lot of people, everywhere. I mean tons of people, in various corners, each of which contain more high density spots than all of Snohomish or Pierce County. Building a subway system there will obviously be expensive — everyone is so far apart — but at least you have lots and lots of people there.

        Link was built thinking we were Phoenix or L. A. We aren’t. Yes, we sprawl into the woods and valleys — just about every city does. But none of those suburban areas — not a single one — are anywhere near as densely populated as regions within Seattle we have simply ignored. I’m talking about densely populated areas we haven’t even bothered to study — while we focus on low density, distant suburbs.

        Sorry man, no one in Europe has ever built the kind of thing we are building, especially for a city like ours. That is a peculiarly American concept. One that has failed repeatedly (even when the dynamics were more favorable).

      4. Within the greater Seattle area, the income breakdown of transit riders varies tremendously from route to route and, even within the same route, it varies tremendously depending on the time of day, with relatively well-off commuters dominating the rush hour ridership, while people further down the income scale are the ones riding at other times of day (trips serving extremely large events, such as Husky/Seahawks games or PAX/Folklife are the exception, and tend to feel more like rush hour, even if the actual trip is on an evening or weekend).

        Sometimes, you get people with mental disorders who can make the ride for everyone else very uncomfortable (and motivate them to switch to Uber or private car next time). From my personal experience, the 150 is one of the worst routes in this regard.

      5. Question, Felsen. Considering price levels in Seattle for everything from a home on down….I see the rich, I see the poor. Point to the middle. Because, looking at Sound Transit’s whole region, I think that’s dominant group, which is good. Most racial, income, and skills diversity

        Reason I’ve got such a problem with the whole idea of “Subareas”, and every consideration or stipulation based on it. The whole idea of the project from the beginning was to help us live our lives as a region. And, cherry on the milk-chocolate Hate Cake: a unified entity that never sending passengers to court over a mis-step apportioning a few cents’ fare among half a dozen separate agencies that hate each other.

        Food, coffee, groceries, school, work, a home…I want to be able to take max advantage of all or them by a fast choice of fast vehicles. Exactly the way our pestiferous brother the car has been operating since he kicked the interurbans to the curb. Gaining it its present market share.

        Best design philosophy I see for a First Hill tunnel. Likely our system’s fastest, it can, functionally, put three major hospitals in same subarea as every one of its stops. Though, really if we max out LINK speed, same should hold for the rest of LINK too.

        Everett- I see a place that needs a new manufacturing base whose population can match its predecessors by creating work that’ll let people be productive as people, and leaving boring repetitive motion to machines, who’ve always loved it.

        SolidWorks. the little brother of the CATIA that Boeing uses for the jetliners. Every file can send orders from a desk-top to a milling machine. No more paper drawings. Humans put design into machining form. Milling machines handle mass production. From Lake Washington Institute of Technology:

        LED clock 3D rendering, model clock and 3D print model same as with a gun.

        1% For the Arts, Everett Airport LINK:

        San Juan Islands to Ballad Uber:

        Kids come out of high school machine shop knowing how to do this now. So not a stretch to get Everett a whole set of new industries. With a very large trade school attached. Lends itself to being quick, practical, and artistic at the same time.

        And from direct experience: Cures a lot of “Problems With Math.” Most people, especially the ones you want for manufacturing, can solve best the problems they can see.

        And feel. I also think that for awhile, country’s educational systems should center on trade schools. More Transit Orientation Located, the better. Bet Betsy de Voss doesn’t know her times tables!

        And National Health Care? 100% universal tech school educated NURSING care. Worse I get hurt on a milling machine, the less I need a doctor, and the more I need a Nurse! BTW, New Netflix series re-doing Ken Kesey’s friend the nurse. No visible savagery.

        Hard to see this new one delivering the Pledge of Allegiance for her profession: “You’ll be dead when I SAY you are!” Most effective approach for dealing with work-related injuries in both manufacture and transit driving.

        Mark Dublin

  6. …many housekeepers and food-preparation workers. Both jobs average less than $25,000 a year for full-time work in King County.

    Am I missing something? A 24,999 annual income at $15/hr works out to only 41 weeks at 40 hours per week. Maybe they’re mirroring the schedule of schoolchildren and taking the summer off.

    1. That $25K number is arbitrary. If we take $15 * 40 hours * 4.2 weeks * 12 months = $ 30,240. In comparison a $1500 apartment * 12 = $18,000. Some landlords require a hard 3 times the income, so $54,000, or right around the median income. So our working-poor person has no chance of getting a market-rate apartment in Seattle unless they can find a spouse or roommate.

      Plenty of people working in Seattle make $25K or less, but they often have 2-3 jobs totaling 50-80 hours a week.

    2. It’s only $15 in some large employer jobs in Seattle and SeaTac. Seattle’s minimums hold up things for the County, most of the low income people in King County are outside of it (and SeaTac), so their employers pay as little above the $11.50 minimum as they can. I can’t work anymore, but I never had a job above $12 an hour.

  7. It’s very “European” of Seattle to have transit use (generally) equalized across income and class groups. I bet that any city that doesn’t have significant buy-in from the “hipster” and/or middle/upper middle classes has sucky transit.

    1. Especially since hipsters [1] ride transit more than others. (If “hipster” includes urban tech workers as a whole.) We’ve also seen that middle-class people will ride medium-to-high quality transit while they won’t ride low-quality transit. Poor people have a higher floor or minimum ridership, but when you add medium-to-high quality transit, middle-class ridership seems to increase faster than poor/working poor ridership does. There’s distinctly more middle-class people on Link than on the 7 or 106 or than the demographics of Rainier Valley as a whole, even though Link is open to everyone (and is included in ORCA LIFT).

      1. I have the income to drive to work everyday without sacrificing, but I enjoy using transit. My affinity for riding the bus (and now train) and walking has been a driving (haha) factor in where I’ve lived and worked. I feel free not having to drive myself around in city traffic, and since I live alone, it’s nice to be around my neighbors on my way to the office.

        Anyway, I just hope the slide into occasional mini-chaos I’ve seen Metro take (in terms of safety, cleanliness, and rider behavior) doesn’t infect ST services. I can’t imagine giving up my 48 + Link + 8 daily triangle from home-work-gym, but If Link’s relative Tokyo/Stockholm quality gave way to PDX Mad-MAX, or something akin to an evening 7, I would definitely be challenged in my transit love affair.

    2. Felsen and Mike, generational thing, maybe, but remembering what a hipster was back in my streetcar-riding in Chicago days- slicked back hair, collar turned up, count your hubcaps, calling everybody but their dad “Daddy-o….”

      I’d give Elon Musk his own free plug-in at every station in the Region if I can always get off my train and find my wheels still attached.

      Hoooowwwwwevrrrrrrr…Hey, Elon….

      1:16 / 11:25

      And word to the hip…one more labor dispute, and you might have some problems finding your electrician’s tape next time your brake cable turns into a sparkler.


  8. I wouldn’t have expected the $75K-$99K block to be the smallest, by a large margin, in King County. That’s really interesting.

  9. I recently rode transit from downtown Edmonds to Beacon Hill Station. CT route 130 to Aurora Village, Rapid Ride (not!) to downtown, and then Link. 1:55 end to end. The return trip via automobile took 35 minutes.

    I’m a dedicated transit guy, now retired with a lifetime free transit pass in my back pocket. But the user experience can be frustrating, even to me.

      1. Sounder North is a few peak-direction trips, only during weekday rush hours. Useless for the rest of us.

    1. Well, Roger, since I’m in the role of pretending to be Customer Services, I need some more information. Am I right that your car was near Beacon Hill Station until you came down, picked it up, and drove it home?

      Begging the question of how long it took for you to get it down there. And also how you got back up to Edmonds without it. But let’s leave that aside. When last I lived in Edmonds, there was a fairly direct CT bus to Lynnwood Transit Center, and about 25 minutes to Westlake LINK station.

      Also recall that cabs weren’t that bad either. Because in real life, “Swift” is a Mad Magazine Don Martin sound effect for somebody’s toupe getting blown off down Pennsylvania Avenue before the Secret Service or Steve Bannon can grab it. Sad. Which is worse than either Unfair or even Fake.

      Cabs are part of the User Experience, aren’t they? But maybe this is the difference between retired and being between jobs, meaning lying. First couple of years in Olympia, after a truck blew up on I-5 at the Nisqually River Bridge, I put in a lot of hours finding every “Freeway-Free” way to get in and out of the Capital if I needed, or wanted to.

      All through scenery people put a lot on their credit cars to see. Using my User Experience to keep my vehicle handling skills in shape, since even though I opposed DSTT’s switch to hybrids, I do my best never to lose the feel of an electric motor under my accelerator, and the two-lanes like SR101 are designed for motoring.

      Another Three Musketeers-grade oath: “Death Before Traffic Trapped!” For health care of both my car and me, I’ll drive ten miles to keep moving to avoid ten minutes stuck. So first advice: Put your User Experience under your own control. Starting with discovering all the routes nobody else will know. And kill them if they find out.

      But let’s get to specifics. You’re in Downtown Edmonds, and your car is near Beacon Hill Station. Check your schedules, get on the ferry to Kingston, and transfer to Kitsap Transit Route 91. Just over an hour to Bainbridge Island, I think, and ferry to Colman Dock to Pioneer Square Station to a 35 minute drive home in your car.

      After several hours you won’t mind at all- remember, if you were in a hurry, Olympia Transfer Center isn’t that expensive a cab-ride- you’ll pick up your car in a frame of mind to enjoy the drive home. Can’t believe a transit ride isn’t God’s way to be sure you don’t forget how to read. View out that KT window, and from the boat deck…no court would ever find your User Experience degraded.

      But you want to be careful about the “r” word. One danger is thinking your past career will make your juniors happy to see you come in and give them advice. Which is why they’ve got a chair shoved under the door handle from the inside while they run down the fire escape.

      If you can stand being yelled at that you’re really retired and get used to it…..if your own Elected Transit Representatives aren’t interested, a word with Mike Lindblom and Senator Bob Hasegawa might get you hated, feared, and killed but not sympathized to death. What kind of car you got? Because if I were you, best possible use of your life is finding and memorizing at least a half dozen pretty ways to get the hell out of there if you have to.

      User Experience is yours to either Use or Lose. What kind of car?


      1. Hi Mark,
        Mine was a late-afternoon trip. SB I-5 is regularly jammed after noon, so my experience with the 512 has not been good at that time of day. And it’s easier for me getting to Aurora Village than to Lynnwood P&R. Yes, cabs and Uber are an option, but the dollar cost is too high for a retiree.

        For people outside the downtown Seattle core, being transit-dependent is a challenge. You can’t do very many things in a day, if those things are miles apart; it’s just too time-consuming. I’ve developed a little more sympathy for people who drive.

  10. There’s another problem lurking in this discussion, in that there’s an implicit assumption that every trip is simply about transit vs. driving. But, for very short trips (< 1 mile), the fastest non-car option is very often simply to walk. And, for trips in the 2-4 mile range, the fastest option is very often to bike. And with electric assist bikes becoming cheaper and cheaper every year, the hills of Seattle are no longer a good excuse to not bike.

    Even longer trips, bikes can still work out well if you have an e-bike, or as an alternative when transit is especially bad. Consider this trip, for example, which I’ve done both by bike, and with the 545. Google Maps estimates the bike option at 1 hour 12 minutes, but with an e-bike to power up the hills, the actual travel time is only about 45 minutes. It sounds crazy, but with a motor assist, no traffic, and minimal stoplights, each mile is just another 3.5 minutes, and at 11.3 miles, easily fits. By bus, 45 minutes of door-to-door travel time is pretty much the best-case scenario – bike 1.5 miles to the bus stop, but immediately shows up and hits no traffic on the freeway. During rush hour, in practice, this never happens.

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