33 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Seattle District 3 MASS forum”

  1. In general, I feel STB does too many posts about general local politics, at the expense of other transit issues. For example, having one combined STB post for MASS forums in all districts feels reasonable, but having nine separate posts for each district as the only topic of the day for 9 different days feels overkill. Similarly, whenever the legislature is in session, I feel like I see almost nothing on STB except for posts about the legislature. I would prefer to just see a news Roundup item when stuff actually passes, and only track the progress when it’s absolutely critical importance to transit, for example, ST3 authorization.

    Instead, I would be interested in more posts featuring suggestions for how to make transit better in the region, be it bus route restructures, Link station placement, etc. Those types of threads tend to generate a ton of comments.

    1. I disagree. There are only so many writers, and they only have so much (unpaid) time to write. Would you rather have three days of silence, followed by a report on the MASS debates? I’m not saying the debates have been good (far from it) but the last thing I want to do is slog through more than one of those transcripts a day. This is important stuff, but the fault lies with MASS, not STB.

      The format is terrible, and the debate questions are terrible. First of all, it isn’t a real debate. To be clear, there are real debates to be had, but no one is having a real debate, because (like the Democrats in a few weeks) there are too many candidates. High school and college debates, like the classic Lincoln-Douglas debates, involve two people (or two groups). These debates are essentially joint press conferences, but with asinine, or at the very least, leading questions. Candidates have a choice between giving a canned answer (which only marginally answers the specifics of the question) or a more detailed response. Smart candidates go with the former, because the latter requires too much time explaining why the question is asinine or leading.

      MASS should learn from their mistake, and simply interview the candidates. Ask them detailed questions, along with meaningful followups. Then release the transcripts and call it a day. Follow it up with rankings or endorsements (the way that the Muni League has done it for years).

    2. This is the second election with district seats, so it raises a vital question: was the swing toward more pro-urban, pro-transit councilmembers a fluke or will it be sustained? It comes at a critical time in Seattle, with the Seattle Squeeze about to take full effect. So I think it’s a good experiment and we can re-evaluate it after the election.

      Frank recently started an on-and-off tradition of 1 1/2 articles per day, with one researched article and one lightweight opinion piece. We could do more of those to address your concern that a political day means a 48-hour gap between transit news.

      Could the district articles please identify where the district is? I know my own district’s number but I don’t remember the others. In the District 2 article I did not know which district it was, and then the first comment mentioned Constantine so I thought it was West Seattle, and then I looked at the city map and saw it was southeast Seattle.

      The state articles don’t have to go into as much depth about non-transit bills and multiple stages.

      1. More lightweight opinion articles would be fine with me. In general, I’d prefer using that as filler vs. covering a piece of news that has only minor relevance to transit.

        Some of the lightweight opinion articles in the past have led to some long and thoughtful comment threads.

      2. I was hoping people wanting to know where the district is would click on the link. Sorry for assuming.

        This is MASS’s first attempt at forums (none of which, to my knowledge, were advertised as “debates”). I liked this format, with the video made public. Candidates couldn’t tell us one thing and then tell some other group the exact opposite. This seems more accountable.

        Indeed, I dread races where there only two choices. The candidates tend not to debate policy, but rather try to find ways to assassinate the character of their opponent, (or chickenly, let their surrogates do it). This applies even to some of my favorite public servants.

        Interviewing the candidates one by one, on camera, is an intriguing alternative, and a way to remove a candidate’s excuses for not attending.

        Some of those questions were from the audience at each forum. Some, indeed, seemed planted by one of the campaigns, but all were on issues, not mud.

        That so many candidates got the question on traffic cams wrong shows how few read STB, and/or that they thought the question was about red-light-trap cameras or speed-trap cameras. Still, candidates who will cater to those who don’t like getting caught speeding or running red lights are not the top of candidate I am looking for.

        If you want to know more about where the candidates stand on transit issues, a good place to start is following the link under each candidate’s name, and you can see what they have to say in their platform/priorities on their campaign websites.

    3. asdf, The Board and I have noted your critique and will take it up at our next General Assembly.

  2. The requested feature that shows new comments since your last visit has been re-activated. You may need to refresh your browser to see it. Hopefully it doesn’t re-create the out-of-order comments problem that was afflicting some folks earlier.

      1. oops, that’s a goof. I switched out some icons and killed it. It’s back now (under Learn More at right)

    1. Blue fields seems to be working fine. Indenting now makes it much easier to follow replies (back to what it was). With the blue fields you also get a blue bar on the left side. That really helps following thread responses. If there’s a way to keep those after you refresh the screen that would be great.

      My take, everything now is functional and looks good. To nit pick I’d tend to agree with others sentiment that there’s too much white space. Others may think it’s a cleaner look. Pretty much an individual taste. I’ve stopped using “blockquote” since it makes what I’m trying to edit down to a minimum required to direct attention into a banner headline. Just bracketing the text with “em” allows me to create the same look.

      1. Thanks. I was worried the blue bar AND the blue background might be too much. Seems like it’s working ok. I might tweak the colors a little bit to make it less overwhelming for a new visitor.

        The way the feature works is it sets a cookie on your browser with which comments you’ve seen already, so as soon as you refresh the page, they are all considered “seen.”

  3. I’d like to see a short summary or just a single “hot topic” highlighted. No interest in watching a press conference of 1/2 dozen people running for a position I don’t vote on in a city I don’t live. But Seattle policy does affect the entire region. Did anybody ask the obvious queston, “How did you get to the meeting tonight?”. Always fun to hear how “the war on cars” applies to everyone except liberal politicians. McSchwinn was about the only one that pedaled the talk.

    1. The question “How did you get here” has indeed been asked at every forum. Some saw this as an opportunity to give their life story, but had to resort to something like “hard work” when they realized they had only 30 seconds.

      Okay, so some of the questions were avoidably vague.

  4. I ran across the discussion of how to connect a hospital and medical center on a hill to light rail!

    It’s in a presentation last week on the new Portland light rail now in planning. The part of the project that has the hill is called the Marquam Hill Connector. The presentation is included here:


    The diagrams and analysis appear excellent.

    The committee kept two options on the table:

    – bridge + elevator at $15M-$25M
    – inclined elevator (funicular) at $35M-$45M

    The removed a tunnel + elevator and an aerial tram options. They were both considerably more expensive.

    It still amazes me that a connector is not being discussed for the Harborview area and Link. With I-5 in the way, it will be more expensive than the costs here — but way cheaper than the deep stations at ID or tunnels in West Seattle or Ballard.

    Kudos to Portland for studying the obvious. Connecting a huge hospital to light rail is a concept that ST and the City of Seattle appear to want to ignore.

    Thoughts? Interest?

    1. Route 60 connects from Capitol Hill Station and Beacon Hill Station to Harborview, and could be made more frequent, to match Link frequency, but with high operating costs.

      The First Hill Streetcar connects to the other side of Pill Hill, along with Seattle U, and could be made more frequent with the purchase of more streetcars and more base space. That’s a higher capital cost and operating cost. One-time capital costs for improved ROW could reduce the need for new streetcars by maybe one. At any rate, if it doesn’t get to 10-minute headway off-peak, it won’t draw much ridership. Really, it should be 5-minute headway off-peak to match the future Link headway by 2025, but that isn’t happening. You can’t cut a ribbon on doubling headway.

      All the candidates were asked about funding the Center City Connector, and very few said No. There was no question about buying more streetcars to enable five-minute headway end-to-end, much less three-minute peak headway.

      For riders coming from the north, a timed transfer to a frequent route 60 might be competitive with a messy transfer downtown with several blocks of walking, and the preferred alternative for those wanting a ride to the front door.

      I’d love to see route 60 truncated at Beacon Hill Station on the south end (where a lot of the ridership churns over), extended to Kaiser Permanente on Capitol Hill, and made much more frequent. Or maybe extend it south into the VA campus and terminate there, if the VA can provide a reliability-non-killing path through the campus to the layover location.

    2. TriMet Route 8 serves Marquam Hill as a high frequency route. The leaders in Portland still think a quick link to light rail is important — as opposed to a bus or streetcar. The proposals that Portland is choosing will enable an “elevator” about every 2 minutes — and no bus or streetcar proposal for Harborview matches anywhere near that.

    3. One small nit:

      Marquam Hill is actually at least 4 separate hospitals: Portland VA, OHSU, Doernbecher Children’s and Shriner’s. I think there’s also a couple of minor facilities too.

      All of which was put on such a steep hill that it is difficult (but obviously not impossible) to put roads up to them.

      So, the transit need there is pretty strong.

      1. True that.

        The immediate area around Harborview has mostly tall residential buildings too. Seattle U’s southern campus (tall dorms) is also less than 1/4 mile away.

  5. I find it notable that MASS focused of more lofty ideological questions but didn’t appear to think of this very germane one:

    What do you think should be done to fully embrace the Judkins Park Station and its new 23rd Avenue entrance, which will open during your term in your district if you are elected?

    1. The coalition of organizations putting on the forum, of which MASS was just one of the orgs, was quite broad, with little time to go into weeds, except the occasional candidates complaining they find needles everywhere.

      The D2 candidates were given an open-ended chance to talk about bus routes and changes thereto. None of them mentioned Judkins Park Station. They are all still focused on connecting to the current Link route vs. one-seat rides downtown. In other words, they are still Monday morning quarterbacking rather than looking at the future, kind of like the Seattle process wherein everyone has a question they wanted someone else to ask the candidates, and they come up with that question after-the-fact. Some at least showed up to the forum and submitted the question.

      The candidates, for their part, could have had someone at one of the previous forums, to take notes and let the candidate know what most of the questions would be. And still, so many candidates blew the question on traffic cams. I would have actually been fine with letting all the candidates know the questions ahead of time, to level the playing field over those with inside friends, and so the candidates would have no excuse not to be prepared.

      If you want us to have an STB process of having much more detailed interviews with the candidates, we do not have the volunteer personpower to do that and put out news, research-based opinions, or at least relevant videos every day. Recording said interviews, providing a transcript, and putting them out on youtube would be even more labor-intensive, and probably require us to interview all 48 candidates in the five interesting races.

      Just sending questionnaires to the candidates means someone else in the campaign will fill it out, the candidate will sign (if required to), and then the candidate will distance herself/himself from what was filled out in the questionnaire if the topic comes up later.

      1. The Central Area Neighborhood District Council (CANDC) gave candidates the questions about a week ahead of the forum we hosted. I definitely thought we got some better answers because of it.

      2. I wouldn’t consider congestion pricing a “Monday morning quarterbacking” question.

      3. My view of these kinds of questions were formed by my advisor in college, who used Guy Benveniste’s “Politics of Expertise” as a introductory primary text. In it, the author categorizes cities’ decision-making as imperative, trivial, utopian or intentional. All cities encounter the first two (aka emergencies and policy fixes) although they can be contentious. Seattle seems to obsess about embracing utopian concepts, which become difficult when they move to intentional decisions (and sometimes are portrayed as imperative or emergency decisions). The most recent major example is the West Seattle tunnel issue. I see congestion pricing also as utopian for now and vulnerable to an intentional design and implementation strategy. I even see much of the Bicycle Plan still as utopian in that many costs and impacts have not been studied nor explained to the communities where the projects are.

        Of course, committees writing questions don’t think of them in these categories. Answers in any of these categories posed to candidates can be revealing. Still, the intentional discussions are where the most emphasis should be placed because they will require choices by our council in the next few years. Something like permitting ADU’s is intentional; it’s good that this gets discussed.

      4. @Al S. Re Guy Benveniste’s “Politics of Expertise”….

        Wow. Now that brings back memories. I remember reading that book back when I worked as a legislative aide in the NYS legislature fresh out of law school. I saw it on the bookshelf in my assemblyman’s office and our staff director loaned it to me as a recommended read. I hadn’t thought about the takeaways from that book in a long while, so thanks for the reminder, as well as the trip down memory lane!

      5. . I see congestion pricing also as utopian for now

        I guess anything that’s new could be considered utopian but I certainly wouldn’t put congestion pricing in that bucket. It’s really just an extension of HOT lanes and tolling. Earmarking revenue from it to “end homelessness” or shift to a “carbon neutral” city; that’s utopian. Earmarking the money to fix potholes or add Metro hours isn’t utopian. Driving has to move more to a pay to play model.

        I like the gas tax but it’s near the limit of what’s “reasonable”. I say that given that WA has one of the highest gas taxes in the nation. That’s not to say it shouldn’t keep pace with other costs. In fact, tying it to the cost of housing would tend to “curb” moving out into the exurbs and creating yet more demand for roads.

      6. Congestion pricing has lots of land mines to resolve before it can be intentional in Seattle.

        For starters, a majority of households in Seattle own a vehicle and will perceive it like another tax increase. In 2016, that was over 82 percent. Downtown commute mode shares may be impressively low for single-occupant drivers going to work but most trips are not work communing. Itd doctor visits and dropping off kids at school or day care, or locals going to ski or ferry autos. It’s one thing to raise the cost of auto tags ; it’s another thing to introduce a wholly different system. It will probably have to be demonstrated that the current revenue systems can’t sustain a increase before a new one is introduced.

        Further, there have not been any concrete evidence or commitment as to where the revenue goes. I think voters in Seattle expect any fee to be tied to a project goal as opposed to merely produce revenue. Consider that ST3 and Move Seattle both had a set of projects identified that the revenue was needed for as well as had an expiration year.

        Finally, we still have no idea what the geographic boundaries of this theoretical district are. Will it include the ID or Capitol Hill or Queen Anne? Will it include I-5? Will it apply to through trips, and how will an agency be able to distinguish when a trip is a through trip (or a diverted through trip) if travel times are unreliable? What happens to the inevitable peripheral parking that will occur on the edges?

        These are clearly factors that motivate me to declare the idea as clearly utopian at this point.

      7. Well, I didn’t read the textbook so guess I’m a fail. But based on the common definition of utopian the regulatory issues you’re citing don’t come close to the accepted definition, “impossibly ideal conditions especially of social organization”. In fact they are down right “pedestrian”.

        a majority of households in Seattle own a vehicle and will perceive it like another tax increase

        Yes! Even the bicycle messengers all own cars. Dirty little secrete which may explain why Seattle always votes for more taxes; it’s the “feel good” value that counts.

        Property taxes largely pay for local roads. I think that revenue source is tapped out too. Lot’s of other things it should be funding and… isn’t there already an affordability “crises” in King County? Car tabs and gas tax likewise… tapped out.

        So if Seattle wants to do something/anything to show that it’s more than just, “the rich need to pay more” then what better showcase on the world stage is there than joining cities like London that have made congestion pricing a real part of the solution. Problem far from solved but at least a move in that direction.

        Or, there’s the Seattle Process where people with fancy cars continue to drive them to meetings discussing how “other people” need to solve this “crises”. And talk is cheap, even with our high gas tax, so that’s what happens.

        Thinking back… HOT lanes == no vote. Tolls on 520, IIRC… no vote. Gosh, we’re getting down to where government is actually governing. They’re going to get the money some how; or we get nothing. States can’t “charge it” like the Federal Give-Away (free money) can.

      8. I don’t know how the book defines utopian but I’d define it as “impossible or vanishingly unlikely in all probable political paths”. The book may define it as simply an idealized concept, which is not necessarily unlikely.

        So my utopia would be a German or Swiss type network like Thomas White outlined: a national network of high-speed and interconnecting regional trains; full buildout of Metro Connects with 5-minute frequency on RapidRide and major frequent routes and 10-minute frequency on other frequent routes (dropping to 15 minutes after 8:30pm — Moscow and St Petersburg have 5-minute on all city routes); 30-minute Sounder South 18/7 (like S-Bahn); four more Seattle Link lines; a Metro Connects level of network in Snohomish and Pierce Counties; a mainline rail spur to the airport (like Duesseldorf S-Bahn or Gatwick/Zurich main line); all-day, every-day bus feeders at every Cascades station and proposed Seattle-Spokane stations; permanent seasonal Trailhead Direct and ski transit; and 30-minute service to all peripheral parks in Seattle and the major suburbs; bicycle cars on trains; transit/BAT lanes and protected cycletracks throughout Seattle and the burbs and towns; bicycle cars on trains; and prioritizing pedestrians first and SOVs last. This is a combination of what other countries already have, so it’s not infeasible. And as a result they have a much higher transit mode share, are more resilient against recessions and oil-price shocks, and have greater participation in society (people aren’t stuck without transportation or having to own a car they don’t want or having to use expensive taxis).

        What makes it utopian is it’s hard to draw a line from here to there. US ideology is against it, people don’t want to pay taxes, don’t want to subsidize people not like them, don’t want to share vehicles with strangers, suburbs have too much power to veto things (“local control” means NIMBY control), etc.

      9. Congestion pricing is not impossible; it’s just at a very early stage, and several aspects aren’t well-thought-out or articulated yet. The cities that have congestion pricing are much larger than Seattle, have much larger downtowns, have much better transit, dedicate the revenue to even more transit, and don’t toll part of a narrow isthmus that could have severe impacts on residents of Capitol Hill, the CD, Magnolia, etc.

  6. Comparison of single-family zoning in several American cities. ($) Seattle’s has 81 of its residential land zoned single-family. Portland 77%, Los Angeles 75%, San Jose 94% (!), Chicago 77%, Washington DC 36%, New York 15%, Chicago 77%. Minneapolis was 70% before it was recently reduced to 0%. and Charlotte is considering a similar policy. The study defines row houses as “not single-family”, and excludes housing in non-residential zones (e.g., commercial).

    “The earliest American zoning advocates clearly did not put rowhouses in the [single-family category]: ‘A home, they believed, was a house “which one can drive a yoke of oxen around.'”

    Seattle was highlighted as, “Neighborhoods like Wallingford were downzoned to single-family but still contain many multi-family buildings built in the early 20th century.” It also discusses the dominance of racial exclusion in Seattle’s zoning history.

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