Sounder and Fog

This is an open thread.

98 Replies to “News Roundup: Indefensible”

  1. The use of the tilt-shift lens on the East Link Pic article is really irritating.

    Regarding your major and the scooters: between the CCC debacle and her scooter position, I think I’m starting to get a good picture. Portland just completed its scooter pilot program without issue. I never used one myself, and aside from some minor annoyances (and a sociopath driver who intentionally drove over two people on the sidewalk because they were looking at scooters), I think our pilot was fairly uneventful.

    1. Short time scooter rentals (scooter-shares) are controversial nationwide. In general, the more densely populated the city, the more hesitant they are to allow them. San Fransisco allowed them, then turned around and banned them. New York City hasn’t allowed them yet. I think Chicago is still testing them. Portland is just a lot less densely populated than Seattle. It has more of a grid as well, which means that you aren’t going to get the concentration on particular streets that you would have here. I’m not saying they should allow them or not, but I think it is reasonable to go slow, given there is no consensus on how best to handle them in an urban environment.

      The CCC debacle was not her doing. She didn’t come up with the idea, she just put the breaks on it (for good reason in my opinion). There is no consensus on what to do, unlike other big money projects, like Madison BRT (which still has widespread support despite the bus acquisition issues). I would say the biggest failing so far for the administration is their approach towards the Ballard Station and ST3 projects in general. They seem to be hard at work trying to avoid upsetting various interests (the port, and West Seattle folks who don’t want to see an elevated line near the junction) even if it means spending a huge amount of money or building something inferior (or both). In contrast, the bike lane shortage is a problem, but not a long term one (we will hopefully get a lot more work as soon as the new SDOT director is in place and the agency can focus on something other than “the squeeze”). But if they make an agreement to build the station in an inferior location, we will be stuck with that forever.

      1. RossB: should Madison still have widespread support if the mode has changed, it sill misses Link or provides long walks for transfers, the network impact is unknown, the CCC Streetcar is killed, and the citywide funding situation needs to be worked out? First Hill should have much better service; is this design the best answer or the Murray-Kubly answer?

      2. If Murray and Kubly were wrong about the Madison route, then McGinn and the Transit Master Plan task force and the city council in 2012-2014 were wrong too. So, were they? Their argument is that most of First Hill’s demand is near Madison which is the main street there, and it’s best served by a straight route even though it’s not next to a Link station. The reason Madison is not next to a Link station is the design of the DSTT in the 1980s and dropping the First Hill station in ST2. Those aren’t easy things to replace, and you can’t move Madison Street either. The Ballard-Tacoma line will have a Madison station, so that’s something. The community has known all along that this would be the Madison route, and there was no significant movement to reroute it to Seneca Street or Capitol Hill Station.

      3. It may be an ST- ahead, but I think First Hill LINK could be our easiest one to deliver-depending on the dirt, rocks, and water underneath Madison and Boren,

        There’s a lot of room under there, both vertically and laterally. Meaning less chance to snag a sewer pipe or crack a basement.

        Recent schematic showed a beautiful sweeping curve that could save millions on both speed and mechanical lifetime. Wish my lifetime could give me two more driving shifts on that line: One at the controls of the TBM, and at the throttle of the first train through.

        And wouldn’t call difference of bus body-styles a change in modes. It’s going to be a trolley-bus line, as it is now, only faster. For Seattle Metro Transit, an old, well-understood operation. Can’t get at my Flickr pics because Flickr changed its terms.

        But have great image of two ancient beaten-up Russian trolleybuses, coupled together and wired through the coupler so first bus got steered, and poles were on the second.

        For us- and Russia- overkill, maybe literally. But do think we can gain capacity by sending regular buses through in platoons, like we were supposed to do in the DSTT. Does Metro still have a Historic Vehicle Society?

        CCC complete perspiration zero. Plain old streetcar, connecting two existing lines, and valued by the all three business communities involved. And DSTT proves that bus to joint ops to rail is a total norushabout.

        Pretty likely there’s roadbed and maybe rails we can just liberate with a jackhammer. Depending on number of wires required- or maybe give the Madison line pantographs that’ll handle two wires, could let Madison line trail in. Or not.

        No-hands-visible city political leadership might benefit by a strong, well-organized, and technically best-in-breed organization to be transit’s version of a Chamber of Commerce.

        Jenny Durkan and I have never moved in the same circles, so can’t say anything whatever about her relation to leadership. But totally believe old adage:

        “Some people are born great, some earn greatness by their own hard work, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Works with idiocy too.

        And same with leadership in really troubling way. Abraham Lincoln. James Garfield. …best ones agree with utmost reluctance,which they never lose. Their lives maybe, but not their reluctance.

        Harry Truman’s wife Bess had her bags packed to go back to Missouri for about eight years,because he kept getting elected to things, and finished off in the President’s Office when Roosevelt flaked out on him by dying.

        While their desperately-would-be followers are literally shaking them by the collar with one hand, and the other waving around pointing to all the dead bodies and vultures.

        Biblical story of how Samuel hired Saul for a king best cautionary tale ever about how talent searches under pressure finish up. And all the while, of course, especially with us Jews, followers’ thanks is to make the new hire’s life a misery of complaints.

        ‘Til they lose their temper and get either retired or shot full of arrows by the Philistines .Google those two guys and then mentally name one of them Jenny and see what happens. Nothing to lose. Could get Prosecuted. But Angle Lake and Tacoma Tide Flats are almost as full as Western State.



      4. What Mike said. Ideally this would connect seamlessly with Link, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad project. Much of our system will work independently of Link. Even when a bus crosses Link, it will be meaningless to a lot of riders. If I’m riding the E, headed to downtown, I will just keep riding it downtown. The vast majority of riders on the E *don’t* transfer to Link.

        Likewise, even if Link had a station at Madison, the vast majority of riders on the Madison BRT wouldn’t transfer to Link. It is just not worth it. If you are going to some other part of downtown, it makes sense to take a surface bus. Those buses go to more areas downtown, and more importantly, are faster overall. You avoid the time spent going up and down to the station, as well as the time spent waiting for the train. Within a few months they will have off board payment, which will speed things up.

        For a lot of Link to Madison Street locations, you have better options than Madison BRT. If you are headed to First Hill from UW, you are better off getting off at Capitol Hill and taking a bus or the streetcar south. It rarely makes sense to get on at Capitol Hill. From Beacon Hill the 60 is a one seat ride, and probably a better option. Likewise, from Rainier Valley the 60 is often better. It is just the geography of both the BRT line and the train.

        The biggest set of connecting trips will come from the west. Basically every bus west of the freeway. In all those cases, the bus connects just fine. Riders on the C, D, E as well as dozens more would make that connection. Right now buses like that (combined) carry well more than Link does. Again, it would be nice if this had a better connection to Link, but it isn’t essential, and it certainly doesn’t mean this route lacks merit.

        Oh, and it isn’t like it would be impossible to get from Link to the bus. It will be a about a two minute walk (from University to Spring) which is shorter than the walk from 15th NW to 14th NW.

        As far as the mode goes, it is largely meaningless. Of course it is better if a bus can run under wire, but it isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t. It isn’t where the big speed improvements are. The big speed improvements come from avoiding congestion. There are plenty of buses (the 8, the 44) where you wish the bus was crawling along at that speed. It beats being stuck, not moving at all. Unlike those routes, this will only have one small section where it is crawling, and only one direction. Just the frequency improvements (6 minute all day service) make it a worthy project. The capital work (that is ongoing, and involves buying up property) would be a lot more expensive to do a few years from now. The project makes sense, both from a short and long term standpoint.

      5. The Madison RR routing has both advantages and disadvantages. In most places, going to Link would be paramount, especially for trips non-downtown trips. That’s why some bus routes detour to stations (Roosevelt RR) or choose a station alternative (10 John vs Pine, or future 7 Rainier Beach vs Prentice). But in Madison’s case there’s such a strong demand for straight trips — to the library, ferry terminal, office builidngs, or a 3rd Avenue bus route — that there’s a stronger argument for keeping it straight. I think it would be best to run on Madison-Pine like the 11 because Pine has more destinations/businesses/transfers of interest to people like me (and next to Westlake Station), but when I suggest that to some 12 riders they say, “No, no, many people go from east Madison to the medical district and downtown Madison area, so a Madison-Madison route is better”, even though it doesn’t go next to a Link station.

      6. “And originally from Sound Move.”

        Was First Hill in Sound Move? I don’t remember clearly but my impression is it was added at some point; before that it was going to go from Westlake to Broadway & Pine, then Broadway & Roy and somewhere in South Campus (UW). But then First Hill was added so it had to backtrack a bit and there was some controversy about that, Convention Place was dropped because it created a difficult angle to get to the next station across the freeway, but I don’t remember if that was before or after First Hill became a goal. But I don’t remember exactly because STB didn’t exist then and I didn’t know about the open houses and public board hearings so i didn’t know many details.

      7. Improving transit on Madison has general widespread support. However, I don’t think the median station, left-door, non-wired vehicle version does. Plenty of riders also know how scary-steep the route is, how difficult it is to get on and off the mostly sloping stops Downtown and how awful it is to stand on the route. Sadly, the project doesn’t have much benefit because the steep route problems will remain ( although Spring is better than Marion) and most trips are less than a mile so time savings won’t be very profound.

      8. So would you level Madison Street, move the businesses to another street, give less service to the riders on Madison? Madison RR went through the public process and there was little public demand to move the route away from Madison. You can’t just argue for it to be suddenly changed when the design is finished and it’s about to start construction.

      9. I would have added consideration of steep slopes — especially at stops Downtown — into the project decisions and alternatives.

        That would mean considering an occasional flat street Downtown — like a stop actually on Third Avenue and routing the lower part of the route two blocks off. (I’ll point out that it takes longer to get on and off a sloped bus. Not only is it more awkward to step on and off and especially in wheelchairs or with strollers or luggage, but it’s harder for many to get up and stand near the door when their stop approaches. That should be weighed against the extra time to jog a few blocks.)

        That would include debate on how best to provide a more level ride. If we are going to have to create a special vehicle anyway, why not add a hydraulic adjustable suspension to the mix?

        It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that flat-floored design would be better for boarding access and riding in this corridor segment west of Boren. Whether it’s Pittsburgh-styled inclines, gondolas, cable cars, escalators or some new technology concept, it seems negligent to not study better solutions. With all-door boarding from paid fare zones, a heavy-duty hydraulic adjustment with the bus being three short, independent cars (if dump truck suspensions can lift heavy rocks, a similar design could lift people) seems attainable.

        If you’ve ever stood on Route 12, you know exactly what this issue is. If you are in a wheelchair or are carrying anything that rolls, you really know! I wonder how many of the commenters have ever routinely had this experience. I have on Route 12 — and its very unpleasant!

        Finally, just because a citywide committee recommends something in 2014 (yet the prior City transit plan done the same way was completely silent about this corridor as a priority) doesn’t mean it’s true and good and everlasting. Even Metro’s proposed 2015 restructure didn’t initially include Madison BRT — and some of you who otherwise think of Metro’s current long-range plan as inevitable fail to admit this. It’s also not the same thing as taking input from actual riders in the corridor. It’s a three-dimensional ride quality issue and not a mere line on a 2D map.

      10. @Mike Orr
        ” ‘And originally from Sound Move.’

        Was First Hill in Sound Move?”

        Yes. Sorry to just copy and paste here from one of my own old comments on this blog, but here’s a refresher:

        >>Finally, here are the detailed project items for the North King County subarea light rail section as outlined in the 1996 Sound Move Ten-Year Plan Appendix A:

        Project List
        Electric Light Rail –
        North University District to Boeing Access Road –
        Capital Cost (1995$millions), $1,355
        O&M, $30
        Combined, $1,385:
        -NE 45th Street Station
        -Pacific Street Station
        -Capitol Hill Station
        -First Hill Station
        -Convention Place Station
        -Westlake Station
        -University Street Station
        -Pioneer Square Station
        -International District Station
        -I90/Rainier Station (Atlantic St.)
        -McClellan Street Station
        -Columbia City Station
        -Othello Street Station
        -Henderson Street Station
        -Boeing Access Road Station

        North University District to Northgate
        (contribution pending additional funding) –
        Capital Cost (1995$millions), $26
        O&M, $
        Combined, $26:
        -Roosevelt Station
        -Northgate Station<<

      11. I’ve never ridden the 12 much, except for a short time when I lived at 19th & Union and it had the best schedule to my job at Western & something. But the times I have ridden it, I have noticed the steep bus stops and their difficulty for wheelchairs. Inside the bus standing it hasn’t bothered me as much. It’s the same thing you encounter in the San Francisco cable cars and trolleybus routes, and other local routes like the 2. Yes, gondolas weren’t considered, because they weren’t open to a non-mainstream technology.

        “Even Metro’s proposed 2015 restructure didn’t initially include Madison BRT”

        Metro doesn’t believe in the Madison-Madison corridor. It wanted an 11-like route or a Broadway-Madison route or a 12-like route something like that. In the U-Link restructure it proposed most of these, but SDOT kept pushing for an all-Madison route as a precursor to Madison RapidRide (which was also the city’s idea, not Metro’s). Metro didn’t like it because it thought there was more demand from parts of Madison to other areas than an all-Madison route, but the city pushed it so strongly that Metro proposed it on the second round (of three rounds). it didn’t get enough public support, and route 12 riders were loud about keeping the 12. (The loudest voice in both this and the earlier recession cuts was to keep the 2 intact, and the second loudest was to keep the 12 intact, and a distant third was probably to keep the 11 intact.) So the third proposal ditched the all-Madison route, and the final kept the 11 and 12 as they were. Seattle still believes in the Madison RR corridor long term, so continued pursuing it, and Metro worked around it in the long-range plan rather than protesting further. So there we are. One argument for the corridor is that Madison is getting a huge amount of development, so future trip patterns and destinations will not be like what past ones were, and an increasing number of people will be going to the hospital district or living in the hospital district, which is right where the RR route is strongest.

      12. “Electric Light Rail”

        How quaint.

        “North University District to Boeing Access Road”

        No TIB or SeaTac? When were they added?

      13. “No TIB or SeaTac? When were they added?”

        That list of stations above was just the North King County subarea. The stations shown in the 1996 Sound Move measure for the South King County subarea were as follows:

        Project List
        Electric light rail-
        Boeing Access Rd. to S. 200th St (SeaTac)
        Cost (1995$):
        Capital $315M
        O&M $10M
        Combined $325M

        Tukwila Station
        N. SeaTac Station (SR-518)
        Sea-Tac Airport Station
        SeaTac Station ( S. 200th St.)

      14. Tukwila stalled any talks of surface rail on International Boulevard, so it was shifted onto I-5 in 2002 as a compromise. Some board members wanted to extend the compromise route to Southcenter, but it was deemed infeasible with the then-current (and unstable) budget.

        Perhaps next year would be a good time to do a Link history refresher. I’ve been gathering materials for a while.

  2. Three candidates and they are all white men, one of whom appears to have no experience with transportation planning. Cool.

    1. The mayor has made a fair number of key appointments that weren’t white men, so that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that these just don’t look like great candidates. Gurol was fired as city manager of Burien (and they didn’t say why). Not exactly a stellar start for an agency whose first priority should be more transparency. He has been in charge of Sound Transit corridor planning for the north end, which should disqualify him right there. ST3 was full of stupid planning, and even ST2 projects (like the station at 145th) are significantly worse than what we voted for. Maybe he was fighting for better planning all along — but if so he never said anything. I really don’t want someone who isn’t willing to go against the recommendation of ignorant people in power, nor do I want someone who sends that message to those he governs.

      Zimbabwe seems decent. D. C. is a big city with big city issues that are like ours. He probably wasn’t too much involved with the subway planning, but he probably understands why it works so well there (and why our system is very different). He looks like a solid, if not spectacular candidate.

      The third guy comes from a military background, which suggests he may have no idea what the issues are. But I wouldn’t rule him out. Folks made a big issue about John Sanford when he became Seattle school superintendent, since he had no background in education. But he ran things pretty well, even if he was too obsessed with testing. I would rather have someone who lives and breathes this stuff, but someone with a strong organizational background who is willing to hire the right people — and mainly just shake things up — wouldn’t be bad at all. If you just hired someone who was focused on the data, then I think we would do much better. For example, what bike lanes are high priority, based on the number of expected (or existing riders)? What areas are more important from a safety standpoint? From a bus standpoint, which improvements will get us the most bang for the buck? Which Ballard station location — 14th or 15th — will get us higher ridership? If we hired someone who could delegate properly, and focus on that, then we would be way better than we’ve been in a very long time. Most of the big transit screw-ups in this town (building poor light rail stations or lines, skipping stations, the streetcar) have all been based on a whim, rather than research. I’m not saying he would be my first choice, but I would much rather have him than Gurol.

      1. Ross: I agree, I’d rather have someone who’s a great manager at this point than someone who’s experienced in the field. The higher up the chain you go, the less it’s about specific experience, and more about being able to hire and people the right experienced people, challenge them on their ideas, and then make decisions and execute them well. This isn’t managing a particle physics lab, it’s getting design and construction moving and managing relationships with ST, Metro and the State.

      2. Some may call this a quibble, but i don’t want a manager. i want a leader who has a vision of where the city needs to go, and who has the ability to form relationships and create networks of people to support that vision.

        Oh wait… that is what the mayor should be.

        Well, we aren’t getting that with the mayor (or to be fair she may have a vision, we just haven’t seen evidence of it), so maybe if we get that in an SDOT director who has the support of the mayor it will suffice.

        Therefore the former city manager is probably not the right person, and the city planner dude will be tagged Iunfairly perhaps) as another Kubly, so maybe the general is the one!

      3. Yeah, although I can see the counter argument is well. I think one of the big problems with transit systems (why so many struggle) is that it appears obvious, but isn’t. That is a bad combination, and common. It is leading us towards building things like the spine. Unless you have someone who is willing to take a step back, and answer the big question (“Is a spine really a good idea?”) you could end up with someone focused on simply delivering the product (“You wanted a spine, there you go”). I think someone from outside would be fine — because ultimately I don’t think transit science is that tricky — but I would want them to be willing to learn, question assumptions, take a different mix of opinions (especially from outside) and ultimately have an open mind. My first choice would be someone who clearly “gets it”, while the second choice would be someone who doesn’t, but is open minded and curious enough to learn it, while being capable as a manager. My last choice would be to pick someone who works for an agency that clearly doesn’t get it, and has done nothing to point out that they don’t.

      4. “He has been in charge of Sound Transit corridor planning for the north end, which should disqualify him right there.”

        This. +1

      5. “Unless you have someone who is willing to take a step back, and answer the big question (“Is a spine really a good idea?”) you could end up with someone focused on simply delivering the product (“You wanted a spine, there you go”).”

        You expect this board in this political environment to look for a candidate like that? They’re following the demand of their constituents, and that’s arguably what democratic representatives are supposed to do. Yes, somebody should have a higher vision and convince the public to demand a Canadian/German-type system “Transit between the densest places where it can help the most people and be most effective”, but the best person to spearhead that would be a governor or mayor, somebody who is elected to champion his ideas, not an ST board or staff which is supposed to follow the will of the people. The biggest demand you hear is “We need Link to Tacoma and Everett and Redmond, doesn’t matter the distance or the lack of other inner-city lines or stations.” And that ultimately comes down to the fact that the suburbs are 2/3 of the population so they have the most votes. And they have a mindset that serving the suburban job centers and having large P&Rs is the highest importance, and the cost of this is a non-issue, just like they don’t believe the cost of supermarket parking is significant, or even if it is, it’s worth it anyway.

      6. “…and the cost of this is a non-issue,…”

        Sorry, but that assertion just doesn’t hold water.

      7. I was saying that in the minds of the voters who are pushing Tacoma and Everett, cost is not a signficant issue. You might say it is for you (as a Snohoman who might not be for Everett and Paine), but the largest cross-section of the public believes the opposite, otherwise ST would not have proposed it, because ST’s goal was a plan that would get the most yes votes, and it does a pretty good job of calculating that. For every urbanist who would vote against an Everett extension or for a Metro 8 line, there are two ordinary people who would vote against it. Otherwise that would have been the plan in the first place and what we’re getting.

      8. I’d even argue that they Mayor should have a separate transit or transportation policy advisor whose job is more coordination with other agencies, stakeholders and elected officials. The SDOT Director’s main job should he managing the staff and the daily operations of our streets for all modes of transportation. I think we expected Kubly to do both jobs and that was a structural mistake.

        With her recent contract to have support with ST, that appears to be the organization that’s coming naturally. The next change should be to put the Move Seattle and other levy money towards an independent person or group separate from SDOT and have SDOT staff ask for more money and offer review when they can’t make projects happen because of time or budget. Currently, the checks on SDOT are pretty high-level and messy. Problems shouldn’t have to be an article in the Times before someone is working to address them.

      9. Al S, I agree that some kind of transit or transportation policy adviser may be advisable, if SDOT is too busy with operations or has a blind spot becuase it’s so used to things being a certain way or has a narrow advantage in it being that way. But I don’t know exactly what’s needed or how much or at what level so I can’t say whether I’d do it. If you take that idea to its conclusion then the mayor would need an independent advisor alongside every agency, and isn’t that what the agency CEO and staff team are supposed to be for, to advise on policy as well as execute it? I’m not sure that I agree that putting Kubly in both positions was a strategic mistake or that things would have turned out better if there had been a separate advisor. One can imagine a perfect advisor, but that doesn’t mean all advisors we might get are Jarrett Walkers.

    2. Was hoping for a non-identifying openly ambiguous and vaguely colored social justice warrior? That does seem like the main qualifications we should be after!

      1. Sadly, the really good transit managers (say, David Gunn) only seem to come by once in a lifetime, and don’t seem to leave behind much in the way of educated successors.

    3. Ross, I am sorry, but you have a COMPLETELY tin ear for politics. There would be no Link at all — and no ST express buses either — were it not for the region’s desire to have trunk line transit from Everett to Tacoma and out to Redmond.

      The politicians in Eastern Washington and south of Tacoma would have NEVER given Seattle — or even King County — the taxing authority necessary to build anything more than an amusement park ride.

      You’re turning into NoSpin yammering on about what a catastrophe ST2 and 3 are, and giving ammunition to people who have NO interest in a better Link, but wish to kill it at whatever stage if incompletion they can manage. Quit it.

      1. That’s absurd. We came within a handful of votes of having a subway in the late 60s and early 70s. The only reason it failed was because we were entering the Boeing recession. Even then a majority of voters approved it. Politically, things ebb and flow. There is no reason why the same package (one designed for the King County) wouldn’t have passed years later. There is no reason the legislature wouldn’t have allowed us a simply majority vote approval. It would have looked different, and probably would have extended further into the northern and southern suburbs, but it is ridiculous to suggest that Sound Transit is the only formula we could have used to get us a subway.

        You aren’t arguing that the spine is a good idea — you are defending it purely on political grounds. You are basically arguing that the only way to produce something of value is to dangle something stupid in front of the public’s eye. You are also ignoring the point! If you work for an agency, and you realize that they are building something — however popular at the moment — that is really a bad idea, don’t you have a responsibility to point that out? As I said up above, that is how we have gotten into these messes.

        Look at the streetcar. It is a very minor project. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t that important. But it is stupid. Yet it has continued (and was built) by people who just wanted to go along with it. No one in charge bucked that trend, and said “Wait a second folks — for the same amount of money, we can build something better.”

      2. “The only reason it failed was because we were entering the Boeing recession.”

        The reason it failed is it required a supermajority, unlike most propositions, and with the Boeing recession it couldn’t quite make it. Other Forward Thrust measures past, so there was probably a bias against rail transit. That’s how it was interpreted afterward, that “The region isn’t big enough for this New York-style solution, and what we need to do is widen the highways and build more parking, and we can’t afford a multibillion dollar train system and it’s not our priority.” Again, it got a majority, but not enough to pass, and the impression the vote gave was that the majority didn’t want it.

        “There is no reason why the same package (one designed for the King County) wouldn’t have passed years later. There is no reason the legislature wouldn’t have allowed us a simply majority vote approval.”

        Why didn’t it then? Why was it seen as a generational decision that we were only able to overcome in 1990?

        “It would have looked different, and probably would have extended further into the northern and southern suburbs,”

        Yes. “The region” in 1970 was Bothell to Renton and Redmond. Not Northgate, not Southcenter, not SeaTac, not Kent. And all within King County. There was some interaction with Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, but Auburn, Tacoma, and Everett were mostly separate job markets. Except for Boeing workers who drove all over the King-Snohomish area and were periodically transferred to different plants and had to drive there. Kent and Issaquah and Lynnwood were just transitioning from farmland then, and the freeways hadn’t yet made the malls and exits the major demand they are now.

        I’m not sure what year RossB is referring to for another vote. Late 70s? 80s? In 1985 Auburn and Tacoma were still separate job markets. I was at the U and had two friends from Auburn and Puyallup; we were all living in the dorms. It was really unusual then to meet somebody from those places or who commuted from those places. In the early 90s I had a friend who lived in Seattle but commuted to a newspaper in Tacoma. Again, few people commuted between Tacoma and Seattle then, but in this case it was his father’s company.

        By 1990 the suburban ring had started to expand, and more people had started commuting from Auburn, Tacoma, and Everett, and moving there. That’s what led to the demand for Sounder and Link and the creation of Sound Transit. In the 80s I was carless and had to take local buses to Lynnwood and Tacoma, but nobody cared about that, it was only when they started moving there en masse and had no choice except a car commute to work that demand for regional transit reached enough threshold to get enacted.

      3. Not really. Lesser Seattle wanted to discourage people from moving here so the population wouldn’t grow. And many people think it was a tongue-in-cheek joke, not a literal policy expectation. In any case, the population has doubled since then. And it sprawled to Snohomish and Pierce Counties and Woodinville because of the zoning restrictions in King County and the lack of sprawl restrictions. And now people have realized that cities aren’t as bad as they thought and sometimes they’re desirable, so urban density is increasing again. And among all that the population continues to increase, and people realize the benefits of more job choices and friend choices and multicultural choices. So there’s that. But the growth is a bit large for some people, and the Amazon/tech influx was especially large and hard to absorb, with housing prices going through the roof. So in some ways there is a Watsonlike revival, or Lesser Seattle II. And it is influenced by the precedent of the earlier movement. But only vaguely, and I wouldn’t say that Lesser Seattle created a world and is a primary influence of everything that’s happening now (i.e., living the legacy of something). Rather, it was one influence at one time that happens to have some relevancy now.

        I would say that a bigger factor is that we’re living in the tax-cutting, deregulation influence that started with Reagan and has lingered since then. And also that there are some parallels in the US and the world to the situation before WWII and WWI and the Depression. Those seem like larger factors than the population growth or a Lesser Seattle-like reaction.

      4. Oh, and another major factor. The sprawl wasn’t just because people wanted a country house. The cities also pulled it to them to increase their tax base. That’s another example of individuals and cities pushing for their own narrow interests rather than thinking about the good of the region and the urban environment as a whole. Some people really believe the delusion that a low-density, single-use, cul-de-sac environment is the best of all possible worlds, but others just want a quarter-acre lot or larger tax base and don’t care about anything greater than that. This is the same mentality that leads to “Link must go to Everett and Tacoma, because they’re the largest cities in the other two counties”. It’s a flawed belief and has negative consequences, but that’s what the majority believes. And while they’re somewhat open to more density in the villages and more BAT lanes and inner-city train stations sometimes, they haven’t fully turned around yet. The only way to really turn things around is to convince them to turn around and support urbanist things, but they’re not there yet, even if they occasionally accept accept bits and pieces of it.

        The statewide ADU moves and upzoning moves in Oregon and California are significant, and they may be the early signs of a change that will happen in Washington too. But we can’t count on that yet, or think that we can force a European-style transit network and land-use layout in Pugetopolis or Washington yet. Hopefully we will be able to at some point, some point before we’ve built a lot more sprawling infrastructure that will be not very useful then. But that all depends on getting the public and policians to change their mind en masse, and they’re not ready for that yet.

      5. It’s because I’ve been living with the ‘Lesser Seattle’ mindset since 1977 which is why I sound jaded.

        Too many of my fellow suburbanites held the belief that if you prepared for the future, you would be inviting people to move here. Along with failure of the mass transit system in Forward Thrust, and from too many people who think putting sidewalks in a development and the environs would make things ‘less rural’. (Aside from the fact that suburban developments were usually set in areas making car ownership necessary to access services).

        Remember the bumper stickers that looked like personalized Washington State license plates (Oregon has their variation on that, too) that said ‘Native’?

        What they seemed to overlook is that we aren’t the USSR. We CAN just pick up and move someplace else if we feel like it.
        What they forget is that when you don’t prepare with the amenities that you like, people will still move to the area, because to them, it’s way better than where they came from.
        Californication, you say? (…well, I just said that). The 2 hour commutes up here are a breeze if you aren’t a native.

        Compounded with the anti-tax attitude, and the “anything gub’ment is bad” mentality, and you can see why I-405 and the eastside looks the way it does. (i.e., what happens when ‘option A – No Action’ in the EIS is the one actually executed)

        Even though my attitude is more sarcastic nowadays, I will tell people that you must participate in the process. You won’t win every battle, but you can influence things a bit.

      6. “Remember the bumper stickers that looked like personalized Washington State license plates (Oregon has their variation on that, too) that said ‘Native’?”

        I moved here in 1972, so I didn’t see anything before that, including Forward Thrust or those stickers. I came from California in fact. :) But my dad grew up in Tacoma and I still have some relatives there, so I have indirect longer-term ties.

      7. It’s probably our age differences, since I moved here in 1977.

        Being older, I might have been focusing on planning and growth issues before you did.

      8. I won’t say how old I was but the move was exciting, including the coloring book and pack of cards I got on the plane, and seeing my first snow, and staying in a hotel, and the TV shows on channel 4 there being on channel 5 here, and two Canadian TV stations with French Sesame Street segments rather than Spanish, and bonbons and hot chocolate, and…

    4. From experience, Glenn, I think that every managers’ capability owes mostly to their “fit” with the particular job at hand, at a time changing with every tick of the clock.

      And that since anything healthy is constantly changing, the last person you want is someone chosen for their work-time with their predecessor. Also,”left behind by…” is cruel reputation to leave with anybody- who’ll soon save their self respect by leaving you when it’s least convenient.

      Most effective Education gets learned on the job, usually from being forced to handle of the work itself while Constrained to the Maximum. Because there’s one thing all really professional businesses or government departments all have in common:

      Hiring and training so every worker can manage the whole operation for at least a day, on very short notice. Because real key to attracting the leader you need is a whole workforce who are already leading themselves.


  3. Whoooo-eeeeee! What a GREAT Roundup (keep if off my organic vegetables!) this morning! Gotta do some comments, and hope they’re found worthy before anybody reads them.

    1. From my quarrying days, are those flatcars alongside the ‘cyclists carrying building stone or shredded cars? If it’s the former, looks like “rip-rap”. Not a musical genre, though should be. Stone for keeping a “cut” from sliding. Subarea competition: Mukilteo or just north of Portland?

    2. Scooterists, use the Past to fight back. They’ve got to be red and say “Radio Flyer” in big white letters. Life was demanding for the likes of Dennis the Menace back pocket slingshot or not. Doubt anybody who rode one would’ve used The Seattle Times to discipline the dog. Too bad anybody needing a motor was a sissy. Girls rode girls’ Schwinn bikes so they could run into people harder. No helmet laws. Hey Seattle…BLEAAAHHHHHHH!

    3. Tacoma, we’ll give you Link before Everett gets it if you get with Intercity Transit so I don’t have to keep wearing out my car driving through Steilacoom so I can get the 574 to the Airport to Sea-Tac Station to buy my paper All Day ticket so I don’t have to sweat being “Tapped Out. While I work on Intercity to let ST put the 574 non-stop except for Tacoma Dome from the Capitol to the airport.

    4. Good Lord,SDOT are you THINKING? A FENCE? Doesn’t stolen property go on e-Bay or that other old one with jobs, cars, and homes? Seattle’s chief obstructionary eyesore is the miles of ugly graffiti-laden plywood around same level of building boom that birthed the DSTT. Quick before anybody notices, get back on the news with the WALLS OF SPEED! Careful not Fentynol, and also that l a roller girl doesn’ t leave fiberglas tracks across your pants.

    5. Jay, learn something from Texas besides how to paddle teenage girl honor students for sharing test answers in class and to build Southgates to the sunset: Put everything Washington State’s whole investment fund into solar and wind. And while you’re at it, tell Seattle’s speculation industry it’s not a tax, it’s a bill. And you’re sending them to Collections.

    6. And Luxembourg, along with the rest of Europe, thanks for example for what the Democrats need to do to get us same medical care as Congress, put people back in their homes with WPA-style wages, and personally running our own business:

    Start thinking about Government like Ben Franklin did, since 1776 was the Age of Reason: Neither a benefactor nor a brutalizer, but ours, The People’s, massive machinery to operate together for public purposes. Like health care and transportation.

    Except for weapons to sell to tyrants, no business is “free” to its owners. We just come out money ahead if we stop paying so many other companies profits. But there’s a reason real Socialism never took root here.

    If you’re the owner, you’ve got no union protection or work- hours laws, and your partners won’t let you limit your liabilities. Because so many of them are corporate lawyers and prosecuting attorneys. So you’ll get your bonus same time we can afford ours.

    OK SPD bike squad, beep your honk-honk horns and blow all your tires on take-off. I’m Radioflying out of here in a red and white flash.


  4. It will be some time before another serious attempt is made to tax carbon emission. It’s still a good time for all to review what has happened and our various roles in the failures.
    – The oil companies won. Denis Hayes is right – as long as they can, they will spend and influence without regard for long-term damage to all of us.
    – Some on the left used the issue as a tool to further other causes (some of which I agree with) – and it may have sunk the carbon tax altogether. No guarantee that I-732 would have passed with full support from the left, but the I-1631 results show that their strategy was no better, and probably worse.
    – Some in the center, with concern for governance (that I share), lost sight of the bigger picture and opposed I-1631

    We simply don’t have time to insist on perfect, or even particularly good solutions. We could have been the 2nd state to actually do something – and nothing will happen nationally until there IS a second state, and a third….

    We probably will get another chance, in 2 years or 5. When we do, please consider the likely impact of climate change on inequality – the poor of the world will have less ability to move, to adapt, and will be the ones who suffer from food and water shortage. And consider the likely impact on governance – governments responding to emergencies become LESS transparent and MORE susceptible to corruption, hard and soft.

    My own baggage – reluctance to single out oil companies. No longer.

      1. The State can, and then pay California for pollution the state government emits. Private citizens are not likely willing to pay California for their vehicles’ CO2 emissions.

    1. “– The oil companies won. Denis Hayes is right – as long as they can, they will spend and influence without regard for long-term damage to all of us.”

      The NRA had the same string of success with gun laws but then it started to turn. You can’t hoodwink and gerrymand people forever. A better environmental future may still happen, and it may turn around sooner than we expect. But the first victories may not be a full-fledged carbon tax. And the market may even overtake government inaction, as the price of solar and wind becomes increasingly more competitive and favorable and electric cars become more commonplace. (Of course, how will we generate the electricity for all those cars?)

    2. I’ve come around to the view that, at least in the short term, carbon pricing isn’t the best political path for fighting climate change. It’s not that I think it’s bad policy- economists from across the political spectrum love it- but it has the problem that its price is immediate and obvious, while it’s benefits are in future and more diffuse. It also doesn’t help that the Republican Party is committed to climate denialism.

      I think Democrats at every level of government should be pushing for a Green New Deal in 2020- at the very least committing to the rapid decarbonization of electricity production. This would cost money, but would also provide visible benefits- jobs and new infrastructure.

      I’d also like to see drastically higher funding for transit as a part of a Green New Deal- imagine if in the short-term to medium-term, Seattle ran most bus routes with at least 5 minute headways during the day and evening, and 10 minute headways well into the night, and by 2040 built out a full subway network (44/8/Aurora line/extend the Ballard and West Seattle branches north and south/whatever)?

      Doing theses things would reduce people’s carbon footprint while producing benefits that are easy to understand and see, and might lower resistance to a carbon tax by providing transportation alternatives.

      1. Philip, thanks – good points. Development of non-carbon public infrastructure is critically necessary – as is pricing carbon emissions to reflect the costs of private decisions. Politically, we’ve already seen this Republican administration reverse Obama’s clean power regulations, so BOTH are uphill challenges. We need to work for and take victories on each front, without jealousy or disdain for the other.
        Transit investments are part of the public infrastucture and should be prioritized many measures including carbon reduction. I believe land-use reform is at least as important, for reasons often and well pointed out in this blog. Building transit in the absence of density is often pushing on a string.

    3. “carbon pricing isn’t the best political path for fighting climate change… it has the problem that its price is immediate and obvious, while it’s benefits are in future and more diffuse”

      The benefits are immediate because the environmental damage goes much further than climate change. Fossil fuels pollute the air which make everybody chronically sicker than they’d otherwise be. Spilled oil and leaks pollute the water and affects the food chain. Coal mining causes black lung disease, and today there was a report that incidental quartz dust is even worse than coal dust. That’s just the physical pollutants; we haven’t even gotten to the space cars take up (half of American cities’ built land is roads and parking lots) and the way it pushes things apart (making walking and transit less feasible). All of these are called “negative externalities”: costs that are paid not paid by the driver or electricity consumer but are imposed on everybody else. Carbon change is one of these externalities but it’s not the only one.

      The problem is our society has difficulty recognizing these costs and putting the responsibility where it belongs. The problems weren’t recognized when cars first appeared, and the oil companies hid the less-obvious problems from the public with distractions and monopoly power, and so a mass mentality was established of cars for everyone and 20 cent per gallon gas and little downsides.

      The libertarians have an interesting idea: extend property rights to animals and fish and trees. That would be another way to approach it. Of course that has its own difficulties because they can’t talk or defend themselves in court, so somebody has to represent their interests, and it’s too easy to game and lowball the costs. But as I once heard, “What is the real value of trees cleaning the air and producing oxygen? What other alternative do we have on a planetary scale?” We have air filter appliances, but they can’t possibly scale up that far.

      1. My basic observation is that I-732 and I-1631 failed badly in a blue state.

        The measures polled 14 and 15 points behind Hillary Clinton and Maria Cantwell respectively. Both measures even failed to reach a supermajority in King County. My impression is that the I-1631 campaign tried to sell itself as a general anti-pollution measure.

        I”m skeptical that messaging is the primary obstacle to enacting carbon pricing.

        I support carbon pricing as policy and will vote for it every time, but I think a blunter approach of regulation, subsidies, infrastructure spending, and green jobs under the banner of a Green New Deal is more likely to engage with a majority of voters.

        The perfect policy is useless if it lacks political support to enact it.

      2. It’s hard to analyze why millions of people made individual decisions for or against any measure or candidate. The number of social-media posts or likes is far less than half the voters. Some people decide on impulse, etc. Taxes on basic utilities (which many people see gas/cars/electricity as) always have an uphill battle because people don’t want to pay more for anything, even if it helps the environment. And the lack of a social safety net or healthcare cost caps makes people vulnerable to worrying about what if they need the money for necessities?

        The most ideal solution I can think of is recognizing a clean environment as a collectively-owned asset, and refunding the tax to residents as their dividend. That’s how employee-owned corporations work, Alaska’s oil-revenue fund works, and Vancouver’s carbon tax works. The first initiative was similar although I didn’t like how it pledged a fixed reduction in sales tax rather than a floating direct refund. It also raises a potential problem of encouraging pollution to get a bigger dividend, but that seems like an unlikely problem we can deal with later.

        So I support any measures that head toward this paradigm. Since it’s unlikely voters will approve these near-term, and the first initiative failed, and we do need to fund carbon-reducing infrastructure and transition-mitigation subsidies for the poor, I supported the second initiative as well. Now I’m looking for third alternatives to try. Inslee’s seems like “Sure, why not”, but I’m not wedded to it in particular. And while i see the need for mental-health service and education funding, I wish it funded something that benefited a wider cross-section of residents. The state still hasn’t started funding local transit, regional transit, or buying the BNSF track for regional/commuter rail, so those are significant gaps in the state’s overall plans.

  5. But they didn’t study the affordable housing supply impacts at 30% of AMI. We must spend two years doing another study at that level. If we don’t get results matching the NIMBY narrative, then we have to do another study at 29%. Then 28%. Get on it, Councilmember Herbold.

  6. I, uh, know some people that live in Luxembourg and when I visited they said that a true local there is about as likely to pay their bus fare as a true local here is to carry an umbrella. So I’m guessing they don’t have much to lose in revenue…

  7. And other thing Tacoma can help me out with: Partner PT with both ST and IT on the jet boat. View headed under Tacoma Narrows bridge both awesome and rad. But also, every time I sneak through Steilacoom, savage Alt-Right border guards yell at me to “go back to Ballard and stop using our gene pool like it’s in the Men’s Room.” Bike barge- easy tow.


  8. Is a state income tax constitutional? There have been arguments on both sides of that, and opponents of the capital-gains tax say it’s a tax on income so unconstitutional. Why is this so uncertain?

    1. Income usually means cash wages. The rich and corporations have bent over backwards to make stock/bonds even when given in lieu of wages not count as a wage. Hence why Warren Buffet pays a lower % tax rate than his secretary. He gets paid in stock, while she receives a cash salary.

      Of course as long as the WA constitution doesn’t have a clear cut definition of what counts as an income and what doesn’t, it leaves gray space for people to argue this in whatever direction results in them paying less.

    2. But is a cash wage income tax really unconstitutional? Why are some politicians/lawyers saying it is and others saying it isn’t? Is that also because of the definition of “income”?

      1. Currently, the state of Washington has a big advantage in attracting and retaining businesses, and that’s the lack of a state income tax. It would be stupid to throw that away.

        Besides the money, a state income tax also creates additional bureaucracy that everyone has to deal with during tax season, and even if it’s, initially, only targeting the highest earners, it is inevitably going to trickle down over the coming decades until everyone is paying it, because that’s the way taxes work. The federal income tax also originally targeted only the highest earners. Today, everybody that isn’t dirt poor pays it.

        A capital gains tax would produce a lot of unintended consequences. At a minimum, right before it goes into effect, you would see everybody selling their appreciated stock, and immediately buying it right back, simply to adjust the cost basis, so it would take years after inception for any meaningful revenue to be generated. You would also have wealthy people buying second homes in another state, and claiming those as their residences, simply so they can sell appreciated stock without paying the tax. People of more modest incomes, of course, would be unable to do this.

        I’m also not convinced we need a capital gains tax, to begin with. The state seems to be doing just fine with sales taxes and property taxes. I haven’t heard specific plans about what would be done with the money that we can’t do with the existing tax base.

      2. “I’m also not convinced we need a capital gains tax, to begin with. The state seems to be doing just fine with sales taxes and property taxes. I haven’t heard specific plans about what would be done with the money that we can’t do with the existing tax base.”

        Again that’s an odd thing to say when the state is not funding transit and cities and counties are struggling to provide enough transit to meet their residents needs and be a viable alternative to driving. A big problem with sales taxes is it’s boom-and-bust with the economy, so that right when we need more revenues when a recession hits, the sales-tax revenue plummets. Income tax would also go down in a recession as people are laid off, but the effect is not as dramatic I hear. Also, sales tax affects the poor dramatically who can afford it the least. A person on Social Security or $12,000 income a year would probably pay no or little income tax, but they still have to buy toilet paper and toothpaste and shoes, and spend a large part of their income and they’re taxed on that.

    3. The state is already making the argument that the capital gains tax Inslee is proposing is an excise tax.

      From the Washington State Budget and Policy Center’s published Q&A on the proposed tax….


      A: No. A capital gains tax is a form of “excise tax,” or transactional tax under state law. Capital
      gains are much different than ordinary paycheck income. While wage and salary earners don’t get to choose when they pay taxes on their paycheck incomes, millionaires do get to decide when they buy and sell stock and other financial assets. (footnote xiii)”

      [Ed. Note: Not exactly subtle in that spin, eh?]

      And here’s said footnote:

      “xiii Hugh Spitzer, Memorandum: Character of Proposed State Capital Gains Tax, 2011. In a legal memo provided to the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, Hugh Spitzer, an attorney and Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Washington, argues that a state capital gains tax would be upheld be the State Supreme Court as a legal, “…one-time transaction tax, measured by the profit
      received upon sale or transfer, rather than a tax on ‘income’ from capital gains.” ”

      I don’t know if people recognize this name, but Mr. Spitzer is an interested party to the Kunath et al v. City of Seattle (appellant) case now on the WA Supreme Court docket. The last I read the case is scheduled for an en banc administrative meeting in late January. I think Mr. Spitzer has filed an amicus brief in support of the appellant. This is the case in which King County Superior Court Judge Ruhl found that Seattle’s ordinance authorizing a high earner income tax violated state law.

      In regard to the argument that the state will use when a new capital gains tax statute ends up in court (and it will) is of the excise tax kind, which, frankly, I don’t find that persuasive. The appellants used a similar argument in the 1950s case of Power, Inc. V. Huntley and the court was not persuaded. The majority wrote in part:

      “We have no hesitancy in saying that an analysis of the present act convinces us that the tax is a mere property tax “masquerading as an excise.” It is geared throughout to the Federal income tax legislation as it relates to corporations. It has no reference to income from the various business activities on which the business and occupation *197 tax, a true excise tax, is based, but taxes almost any income from almost every source. After studying this act in its entirety, we conclude that the tax is levied because the corporation has net income, not because it does any business in this state or exercises its corporate franchise; conversely, if it has done a million dollars worth of business in this state but has no net income, it would not be subject to taxation under this act.

      “We recognize the right to levy an excise tax on the privilege of doing business or exercising corporate franchises and to base that tax on income; but the tax must be, “in truth, levied for the exercise of a substantive privilege granted or permitted by the state.” Jensen v. Henneford, supra.

      “What we have said heretofore is in support of the ruling of the trial court, which we affirm.”

      Here’s a link to that case should you or anyone else be so inclined to want to read the order.

      1. Whenever the income-definition provision was passed- are we still the same Washington State? Can’t we voters amend the Constitution?

        I wonder how many of the provisions authors are still alive. Or if they are, wouldn’t help write to amend or strike it.


      2. I found the state constitution (PDF). Wow, it has 108 amendments; that’s a lot more than the federal constitution. And the court plaintiffs are railroads, how interesting. Because one of the motivations of the gas tax amendment was to prevent the railroad robber barons from getting the money. Anyway, the paintiffs cite the 14th amendment. That concerns property tax and the “uniformity of taxation” (that everybody must be taxed at the same rate and terms). I can’t find the word “income” as in “state income tax” anywhere in the constitution. (There are a couple references to federal income tax, and to income meaning tax revenue.) The judges say income is a kind of intangible property. That’s not how most people understand it now; income is distinct from property or property tax. And now that property (real estate) has become so expensive that many people don’t have it, the provisions have a whiff of privileges for the rich and entranching their power. (“Property is sacrosanct.”) Is that the constitutional legacy we have to work within? That there’s no modern concept of income but it’s simply treated as equivalent to land? Ayayay! This is not as bad as the states that have an amendment to require a 2/3 supermajority to raise taxes and then can’t pay for their schools and other basic services, but it’s along those lines. We do need an amendment to clarify this and bring it out of the 1880s/1940s. Yes, Mark, we can amend it; the problem is overcoming the tax-haters in Eastern Washington and Clark County who would vote against it. And it’s still really obscure; I’m not sure if a current judge would accept the 1950s interpretation or not. But maybe they would, so that’s a perennial unknown until this is resolved.

    4. “Currently, the state of Washington has a big advantage in attracting and retaining businesses, and that’s the lack of a state income tax. It would be stupid to throw that away.”

      The state also doesn’t fund transit, has inadequate resources to deal with homelessness or universal housing or opioid addictions, or improving our climate/environmental footprint, and even its new education funding is not really comprehensive. What good is it to attract businesses if they just take advantage of the rest of us and don’t contribute anything?

      “a state income tax also creates additional bureaucracy that everyone has to deal with during tax season”

      Not having that is an advantage, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of more important things. Most states have this bureaucracy and they still survive and function.

      “The federal income tax also originally targeted only the highest earners. Today, everybody that isn’t dirt poor pays it.”

      There are also more services and needs than were identified then. Before the 1940s there was no medical insurance, and doctors’ capabilities were much more limited. So was that great because people had less taxes and premiums? Or was that bad because more people died from diseases that are now prevented or better treated? (Employer insurance started during WWII price controls, because companies couldn’t offer a higher salary to attract people so they offered this newfangled benefit instead.) In the early 1900s when income tax was introduced it was considered OK for people not to have electricity, and working 12 hours a day six days a week, and live 12 to a room, and pensionless elderly die because they had no social security, and no food inspections to ensure the food in the market was safe. All of these cost money if you want government to provide progressive services, and where is the money going to come from if not income taxes among others? I note that Scandinavia and New Zealand have a better standard of living and satisfaction with their government than we do, in spite of their ~50%ish level of taxes.

      “A capital gains tax would produce a lot of unintended consequences. At a minimum, right before it goes into effect, you would see everybody selling their appreciated stock, and immediately buying it right back… You would also have wealthy people buying second homes in another state.”

      Maybe, I don’t know much about what people would do in response to this (I don’t have any capital gains except my 401Ks), but it might not be as bad as that (not everybody exploits the tax loopholes that are available). I understand it more at the federal level, where capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than wage income, and some people want to reduce capital gains tax to zero. Because it would supposedly attract money from overseays and companies would invest it in jobs. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. The low capital gans rate causes distortions in the economy, and privileges the 10% who have assets they can get capital gains on. So it would be better to tax capital gains the same as wage income, and then these distortions wouldn’t occur. I don’t know what the state capital gains tax rate is now or how big a difference this would be, so I have less understanding of the impacts. But given that the federal capital gains rate is significantly less than the federal income tax rate, the net effect would be to reduce the difference between total capital gains tax (federal+state) and total income tax (federal, because the state has none). That would at least lessen the spread, and lessen the distortions in the state. That would probably be a good thing at some level.

      1. I don’t mean we would eliminate sales tax if we had income tax, but it wouldn’t have to be as high. Washington has a high sales tax and and higher-than-otherwise property tax because we have no income tax. Just as California has high sales tax and income tax because of Prop 13 that limits longtime-homeowners’ property tax to practically zero. We can have the tax, or we can go without the services the tax pays for.

      2. For instance, Jeff Bezos hates taxes and tries to avoid them and tries to pass laws lowering them. But even he chose two high-tax locations for Amazon HQ2, because other factors were more important than minimizing its tax bill. Likewise, not everybody would exploit the maximum capital-gains loopholes, either because other factors are more important to them, or they don’t know about the loopholes or can’t be bothered, or they want to keep their homes in the state for other reasons, or they have loyalty to the good of the state and future generations of residents, etc. Also, Amazon used to not charge sales tax in states it doesn’t have a warehouse in, and it tried to influence laws and court decisions to not impose out-of-state sales tax, but when it got warehouses in several states anyway, it changed its mind and started paying the tax in every state, and started arguing the other side of the issue. So that’s a similar thing: not every company always tries to avoid or eliminate out-of-state sales taxes.

      3. It is definitely a bad thing to have the levels of government services go up and down with the stock market, and it was especially painful 10 years ago to see bus routes all over the region getting cut because sales tax revenue was drying up in the recession.

        But, I don’t think a capital gains tax is the solution to this problem. If anything, capital gains are going to even more tied to short-term economic conditions than sales tax; for instance, when the stock market is moving down, there’s not going to be a lot of capital gains (at least, resulting from stock).

        A much better hedge against a recession is property taxes. Regardless of how much people are spending, or how their retirement portfolio is doing, if they own property, they still have to pay taxes on it.

      4. Yes, and those property taxes are paid year after year after year, unlike transactional taxes, like our excise taxes (e.g., sales and use taxes) and the proposed income and/or capital gains taxes. Real property tax is essentially a wealth tax that is paid on the same underlying asset’s value over and over for as long as it’s held. Even when that asset’s value falls below the owner’s cost basis there is still a tax liability to be incurred of course. And in an appreciating market, the cost basis plus the appreciation will be paid every year over and over again. It truly is a rather unique beast in the realm of taxing strategies and has become a very reliable funding source for multiple types of jurisdictions (even in a declining valuation environment due to the ability to adjust the levy rates).

  9. Both as an occasional Lyft user and occasional Lyft driver, I would have to say geofencing is the way to go. Anything that reduces the stress and uncertainty associated with pickups, on both sides of the transaction, is welcome! Geofencing should really be extended to all busy roads that don’t have places to legally pull over to make the pickup. Many riders just don’t think ahead as to where they can be safely picked up, or they don’t care, or they’re in an unfamiliar area and don’t know there is a designated passenger pickup zone at the side street at the end of the block. At which some car driver is annoyed he/she can’t park in. And if “rideshare” ever becomes driverless, the experience with geofencing will come in handy.

    1. Yeah, I agree. I think it is a great idea. Both for the short and long term. I wonder if it can be extended to bus lanes in general. That is one advantage of having an electronic record of where the car has been. The only question I have is whether a GPS is that accurate (it is one thing to see that a car is on Third, it is another to determine what lane it is in).

    2. Many of the parking issues with rideshare bikes (which are GPS equipped) could be dealt with via geofencing as well.

    3. Since we place bus stops where they best fit..why don’t we do the same for Lyfft and Uber?


  10. Some of you may remember that I wish that ST had more data on ridership. Every trip involves a tap on, tap off combination, so it seems like they could dig that out. As it turns out, BART does that: You can download a spreadsheet that shows ridership numbers for every origin-destination combination. You can even get that same information on an hourly basis. That is exactly the type of information I wish ST provided.

    1. Exactly. I thought I had mentioned BART’s current ridership reporting capabilities in a reply to a post on this subject matter not too long ago. (Perhaps it never showed up in the comments.) Anyway, I’m glad you posted about it above as it a major improvement over the data we are getting from ST. Additionally, one doesn’t need to wait for the data for a month and a half like we do under ST’s rather ridiculous “committee stamp of approval” process.

    2. Yes. Note how the BART data is teleased by the 5th of every month without board committee review too.

      The ST data could easily be provided in draft form to the full Board at the end of the month, but the arcane attitude that it goes first to a committee delays it a few more weeks.

      Of course, BART gets instant trip pair data from it’s almost 100 percent system (only fare evaders don’t get registered). With ST having no gates and lousy instructions about tapping —especially tapping ou — it’s hard to say if the maybe 60 percent of all riders tapping at both ends are representative enough to be used for trip pattern data.

    3. Is my memory right that when you get off BART you go through not exactly a turnstile, but a couple of flaps that don’t open for you if you owe the system money? Too expensive?

      No problem. Just charge me all the money the system needs out of me when I buy my monthly pass. If problem is apportioning revenue between parts of the system….why not just give every separate “agency” an equal share of the money.

      Idea of giving the least-used segments the least money is a full 180 degrees counterproductive. If anything, they should get what they need to bring themselves up to max productivity.

      If it’s important to know how many people board and de-board where and when…give somebody an employee pass and have them go look.


      1. Not exactly. They make it easier and more obvious that you should “tap off”, but you can still walk out of there without doing so. If you look at some of the BART data, especially the hourly data, you see some obvious anomalies. Late at night, it seems like a lot of people are headed to the suburban terminus. This really doesn’t make sense, and has to be the result of people simply forgetting to tap off.

  11. Small nitpick: I think this headline is misleading: “Seattle booming, not adding cars.” I don’t think that is the case. I think Seattle is still adding cars, they are just using them less. That seems like a minor point, but I think it is an important one. It is easy to assume that one reason why transit ridership increases when density increase (exponentially, not linearly) is because people in areas that are really dense don’t have cars (think Manhattan). But I think it is not just that. I think there are plenty of people who own cars, but just use them less as an area increases density and transit because the better choice. If I’m not mistaken, both New York City and Seattle have added cars as they have added population. In both cases, a lot of the new residents have money. Thus you have a lot of people who use their car only occasionally. It sits in the garage not only when they go to work, but when the go out for the evening, visit friends, etc. Yet the car remains handy for trips to the mountains or other cities and towns.

    I was thinking about this earlier, as I read this: One quote from the article:

    This [the number of people using transit] represents an implausible 184% mode share, in a part of the city where a good number of people own and drive cars, and where some in the innermost areas could walk to work. What’s happening is that when the transit system is usable, people take it for more than just their commute trips.

    1. The car ownership rate in New York has been flat in the last few years per the ACS, but as population has risen so has the number of cars, contributing to congestion. In Seattle proper the car ownership rate is down (16.8% of households were carless in 2017 vs. only 15.5% in 2010), but population has grown a lot so again the total number of cars is up.

  12. Oregon will soon have proposed legislation requiring towns with populations above 10,000 within an urban growth boundary to allow duplexes, triplexes, and quads in single-family zones.

    Has there been any substantial state-level action on housing in Washington?

    1. I don’t follow Oregon politics that closely so I hadn’t heard about this. Thanks for posting about it. Do you know if the pending legislation can gather enough support for passage or is it still too early to say without seeing the draft?

      I hope this comment doesn’t end up being premature, but way to go Oregon. You certainly have led the region, even the country, on some very big issues in the last 30 years.

      1. Sorry, I know nothing about Oregon politics- I just saw the story on Twitter and thought it might interest folks here. Maybe Glenn can comment about the politics of it?

        It does feel like between this, Scott Wiener’s proposed TOD legislation in California, and Minneapolis opening up its single-family neighborhoods to duplexes and triplexes, Seattle and Washington state have some catching up to do.

      2. My hope is they can get it through. As I have pointed out before, some of the most dense areas of Portland are in inner Southeast where large craftsman houses have been converted to plexes of various number (at least one house has 9 mailboxes on the front porch). You can look at the population density map and see the amber got frozen about 1960.

        Will it pass? It’s really hard to say. Houses on both sides of me essentially operate as multiplex even though they are built and classed as single family.

        The biggest obstacle right now to doing more plexes is probably a requirement that if you rent out a room / unit, you have to also pay Portland business license fees.

    2. If Oregon does it, it may give Washington lawmakers less of an excuse not to. The West Coast states have been following each other’s innovations on several issues.

    1. Why does anybody care where the station is sited in Ballard, if the residents are like the JERKS who comment on MyBallard?

      It’s like the Crimes’ comments section, only dumber.

      1. Tom, just create a mental image of what anybody who disses you online looks like, make an icon out of it, and send it back to them. And if you do Twitter, can’t you make them all be Jared Kushner?

        Your best counterstrike is to link them to YouTube for Vladimir Putin singing “Blueberry Hill.” That way you won’t have to care what any bunch of конвульсии think about anything.

        But my main concern: Are you a kidnap victim being threatened with having your remote point glued on the Money Channel, making a desperate plea to be rescued?

        Because Ballard is still a neighborhood place. If an arborist gone rogue has once again put your smartphone up a tree, give it a meow for a ringtone and give the fire department directions in Old Norse.

        Sorry for what’s happening in YourBallard, but for Mine, that Knorr sailed long ago, with Leif Erickson’s hand on the wheel and his Sunstone calibrated for Olympia.


      2. That’s shooting yourself in the foot. The majority of residents are not on MyBallard and probably don’t know it exists The same thing happens in the Seattle Times comments. But if the majority were like that, why do people not like that keep getting elected and why do transit and social-service measures keep passing? And even if they speak for some current residents, they don’t speak for the future reseidents and future generations who far outnumber them. We shouldn’t harm the silent majority and future residents just to get at the few extremists.

      3. There was one op-ed article that explained it best. Before the Internet people wrote letters to the editor, and they were the same kinds of letters are they are now. But back then the editors would put the letters in the special file box next to the desk on the floor, and they wouldn’t be published. Now people self-publish comments online and the papers don’t edit them (beyond suppressing ad hominem attacks and the like), so you see them. And because these people don’t see mainstream articles and policy discussions that match their opinion, they’re extra-outraged and prolific letter-writers and that shows up in the comment sections. Except in a few places like here, luckily. Because only people with transit-wonkish tendencies or who are interested in transit in their area read STB.

      4. Case in point. Both Mr Dublin, and me, and d.p., have lived in Ballard, and we all have a long-term fondness for it and might want to move back there someday. None of us believe the polemics or vitruol of those polemics, so that’s three residents emeriti of Ballard who aren’t anti-bike jerks or status-quo head-in-the-sanders, and I’m sure there are other Ballard residents like us, including those I’ve known over the years, and probably a lot of them.

        At the same time, I don’t feel strongly either way about Shilsole Ave vs Leary Way. I rode my bike on Leary Way when I biked in Ballard and I think it’s fine, and actually more direct from the B-G to Market Street and less of an incline than Shilsole Ave is. But I won’t stand in the way of it being on Shilsole either, I just want it to be completed somehow.

        (Actually, one day when i walked from the end of the 43 up Seaview Avenue to the yacht club at Golden Gardens for a gathering, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide sidewalk on the south end of Seaview and how it went straight up to an off-road trail east of Seaview. I didn’t realize until later that that was an extension of the Burke-Gilman that had been planned, because when I had a bike the Burke-Gilman ended at 8th Ave NW and there wasn’t any more.

    2. Considering how much rent my former apartment a block north of the Locks is going for, should be enough money in Ballard to give walkers, joggers, and bikers an attractive elevated trail from Ballard Link station, wherever it ends up, to Shilshole?

      And maybe use this project to pioneer something overdue since Roosevelt: a homelessity cure consisting of union jobs paying wages high enough to get my apartment back….if I could stand to live in it. Or anywhere in what used to be Ballard.

      The only thing we have to fear is interior decorators who demolish kitchen walls and put the stove in the middle of the living room. Also on the Roosevelt theme…wish I could remember the date I got my “Quit” notice. If only there was still only one Day of Infamy.

  13. Just so you know, Seattle is adding cars, they are just not being used to commute downtown. I don’t know how you count commute numbers and bus ridership but if it’s only to downtown, that is a very small part of the picture. It doesn’t include all the commuters going to bothell, everett, renton, tukwila, Tacoma and elsewhere for work everyday.

  14. Ugh, another study of ferries from Tacoma to Seattle. No, no, no, no. We don’t need more overpaid Seattle programmers driving up the cost of housing here in Tacoma.

    It isn’t Tacoma’s job to fix the traffic mess that Seattle created. What would I support? Seattle employers relocating to Tacoma. Seattle building intense housing projects to house their own workers. Tacoma providing services to help their own – not Seattle’s – business community thrive. Heck, completing the Link spine so that Tacoma workers commuting from Federal Way can get to work, and so Tacomans can get to the airport. Building a better local transit system in Tacoma, not to Seattle. Yes, these are all goals I could get on board with.

    1. It’s Tacomans who are pushing it. Seattleites don’t give a rip about a ferry to Tacoma. Just like it’s Kitsapites who pushed for the passenger ferries in Bremerton and Kingston. It’s not Seattlites or Seattlites who want to live in Kitsap that are the core of the demand.

      1. Mike, I know. It is really unfortunate. Imagine if Seattle would step up and offer a fast ferry to Gig Harbor. Seattle’s voters wouldn’t stand up for it. Why Tacoma & Pierce County tolerate this is just beyond me!

  15. Well look at this. Friday at 6:40pm I was at UW Station and the train was dark and empty and an announcement said there was a power outage on Link. Something similar had happened to me before, when I was at the same station at the same time and there was a Link outage and we didn’t know how long. The first time i wasn’t in any particular hurry so I lingered on the platform for forty-five minutes and listened to what people were saying about it and periodically explained to someone what was going on, to look up at the announcements, and what alternative transit existed. Finally I gave up and took the 48, deciding to go to Trader Joe’s on the way home. (For a moment I thought the 26 was the closest remaining route between north Seattle and downtown, and forgot that the 49 and 70 still existed.) I live just one station down from UW, so it’s one-half dozen to the other whether I take Link or a bus. The second time I got caught in an outage, yesterday, I was going to Trader Joe’s anyway, so when i saw the announcement, two minutes later I went up to the surface and caught the 48, because I didn’t want to wait down there for possibly an hour or more. And then this morning when i read through my emails, sure enough the outage started five minutes before I got to the platform, and the UW-Capitol Hill bus bridge started an hour later, so my prediction was right and I was lucky I didn’t wait.

    Actually, there was a third outage in between, but it wasn’t like those. I was still at the street level and saw a red “Emergency” sign on the displays. I assumed there was a fire or something somewhere, or at least a fire alarm, and I didn’t want to go down to the platform and have to come back up again or what who knows how long for a train, so again I took the 48. This time I was going home so I had to transfer to an east-west bus, so I was trying to remember how frequent the 2 and 11 were after 7pm, and forgot about the 8. I probably transfered to the 11.

    And a fourth time. It was the big escalator-elevator outage when there was no down escalator, both of the working escalators were set to up, one elevator was broken, and there were sixty people waiting at the street level to take remaining the elevator down. I took one look at that and and went straight for a bus.

    1. I was also in UW Station around that time, also headed to Capital Hill Station. When I got there, the trains were running. But only one of the two tracks had power, so they ran a shuttle train back and forth between Capital Hill and UW on one track, and you actually had to get out at Capital Hill Station and switch to the train on the other side of the platform to continue on into downtown. This was the only time I can ever recall riding south from UW to Capital Hill along the northbound train track.

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