25 Replies to “Sunday open thread: Overlake Village footbridge”

  1. With the weather warming up, is there any coronavirus-mitigation value in running all buses with the windows open?

    1. I would think so. The virus is largely spread through the air (not by touching surfaces) so increased ventilation would be one of the best ways to reduce the risk of transmission.

    2. Almost every bus I’ve used for the past couple months have been running with between half and all of its windows open, so I assumed either Metro made this a policy, or drivers had informally implemented it themselves. I appreciate the idea, but on days when it’s 45 degrees out early in the morning, I have to grit my teeth and remember that it’s for the greater good.

    3. If the bus is particularly warm, it seems that A) masks will be less effective as they get dampened by sweat, and B) people will be more likely to touch their face to wipe away sweat. So it seems that there is medical value in trying to keep the buses cool, and generally the AC doesn’t accomplish that well enough by itself.

    4. Yes, and it would safe fuel costs and decrease air pollution. If the bus is designed to run efficiently without it. “The HVAC system is an integral and necessary part of the overall vehicle and needs to be functioning as designed to maintain an acceptable interior climate.” So sad, but that was a fad from the 1970s when the centuries-proven techniques for air circulation were abandoned, and they’ve only been moderately restored in buildings (openable windows) and not at all in transportation (intermittent air conditioning/heating has gone from intermittent to full-time HVAC systems, and the vehicle/building designed to depend on them always running).

      I had a friend who lived in a 1920s apartment on Capitol Hill. It was really hot in the summer and they complained to the manager. He said, “Did you open the ventilation shaft?” They didn’t know there was a ventilation shaft, and I wouldn’t have recognized it. It’s one of those mysterious plates in the wall that old buildings have, like plates in front of chimney pipes, or light switches that don’t connect to anything, or dial controls that do nothing. They opened the shaft and the temperature got comfortable again. I’ve never lived in a building that even has a ventilation shaft. Likewise, before electric air conditioners there were evaporative air conditioners, which evaporate water and are silent. You never see those in the US. And simply opening windows and having them opposite sides of the room or at least two sides, and fans to blow the air, can improve the temperature and circulation using only 3% of the energy of air conditioners.

      1. “before electric air conditioners there were evaporative air conditioners, which evaporate water and are silent. You never see those in the US. “

        They’re called swamp coolers and Walmart sells a ton of them, mostly in the red states though ;=).

  2. RE: WS-Chinatown/ID-Ballard ST3 light rail extension:

    The results of the meetings held the Elected Leadership and stakeholders’ groups are pretty useless, right? The revenues aren’t going to be anywhere near what the ST3 measure anticipated by the time that representative alignment’s construction was scheduled to begin. Moreover, if additional revenues from the other subareas are needed for the shortfall the viability of projects in those subareas would be doubtful.

    Maybe the board should reconfigure ST3’s project list so the Pierce and Snohomish subareas get more buses and less rail?

    1. Based on past posts, I’m pretty sure that pretty most regular posters here have ideas on how to cut costs from ST3. I know I’ve got mine!

      I believe that the Elected Leadership and Stakeholders Committees are all project-specific. A committee on West Seattle-Ballard is not in the position to review Tacoma Link, for example.

      Rather than scratch items off the shopping list, I’d rather see ST make a structural change and start engaging a “rider’s committee” to go along with the others — and have an impactful role. That committee should include bus and train drivers, wheelchair users, bicyclists who ride transit, frequent ride-hailing users, frail seniors, students, enforcement officers, young mothers as well as several daily riders that don’t have specific mobility issues. This committee would really help shift the spirit of the investment away from “what kind of favor or mitigation can I get?” to “how can the finished, budget-constrained system work best for me and other regular riders?” ST seems to spend way too much money and energy making sure that outspoken non-riders are happy.

      I think it’s going to take at least a year and maybe two or three to fathom how this virus has changed our lives — our travel destinations, our work locations, our sense of personal space, our times of day and regularity of travel and so on. I think just after the opening of Line 2 in 2023 (East Link) will be a good time to reassess what that new reality is.

      1. One thing that ST could do to make the Link to Tacoma less expensive is to put it on the ground directly adjacent to the freeway between 348th (or just south of the MF if they put it there) and Fife and then between Fife and East Tacoma. Five miles of elevated would save $600 million or so, minus whatever would be required to lengthen the three overpasses.

        The Fife station would still be along old 99; the trackway would be elevated for maybe a quarter mile on either side of it.

    2. I recall similar conversations after the ST2 vote when the great recession hit — revenues will be down, cuts have to be made — but then we had one of the largest growth spurts in our region’s history.

      1. Seattle is in a better position than most cities. Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc. are seeing increased revenue. Boeing is down for now, but given its strategic importance, I expect they will get a federal bailout at some point.

    3. The factors and timing are different from that.

      1. ST drew the representative alignment in 2015 and finalized it in spring 2016.
      2. The ST3 vote was November 2016.
      3. The Ballard/West Seattle alternatives analysis started in 2017 or 2018 and still isn’t finished. The last was a second-level round of proposals. It was expected to be finalized this spring/summer but covid has upended that.

      The Stakeholder advisory boards and Elected advisory boards are project-specific, as asdf2 said, and they gave their input two years before covid became a thing.

      There are several long-term flaws with ST’s processes, but the advisory boards’ impacts don’t directly relate to the issues of covid ridership loss, reducing interior capacity, and tax loss. Covid is so sudden and recent and affects the entire ST mission throughout, so we have to give it more time to sort out how to modify the plans. The finance committee has delivered the first revenue projection, and it’s going from there. Any substantial change will require full deliberation by the board, consulting the cities, and discussing it with the public, and all that will take several months. Plus there’s the unknowns of the state’s actions and whether I-976 will be upheld or the state will enact restrictions approaching it. And whether Tim Eyman will be the next governor.

      Regarding the long-term issues, the biggest thing ST needs is a Riders’ advisory board. The ST board doesn’t sufficiently understand or prioritize the experience from the riders’ standpoint. The whole point of high-capacity transit is to be the primary transportation mode for the majority, and so how useful and pleasant it is to them should be a top priority. Instead ST focuses on what the city governments, county governments, and large business leaders say they want. Riders and advocacy groups like STB are treated as all one stakeholder. That’s what’s leading to the outcomes we have. The effectiveness of the Stakeolders’ group and Electeds’ group is just a small part of that. Ultimately we need a visionary at the top of ST or at least with clout on the board and state to say, “We need a Vancouver/Germany/DC-like transit network that sufficiently addresses urban circulation, has appropriate frequent transit in the suburbs, and is designed so the majority don’t need cars. This goes beyond ST’s regional-transit sphere; it needs to be a comprehensive plan for regional transit, local transit, ped/bike/freight mobility, and treating SOVs as an extra rather than the primary thing we design everything else around.” That’s not even imaginable in the current political environment, and who would lead it?

      ST will have to modify Link’s plans given future revenue constraints nd changing ridership/telework expectations. Most likely they will be minor changes to the ST3 plan because Snohomish and Pierce and East King won’t countenance truncating Everett, Tacoma Dome, or the Issaquah line; they’ll just extend them out as long as necessary.Why would they throw away the ST3 approval and unlimited tax period to finish them? (Their only constraint is the tax rate, not the time period.) It’s what they’ve been trying to achieve for two decades, so why would they throw it away and then have to try to get it back later? Likewise, Ballard and West Seattle light rail will die hard. We can imagine contingencies like a Smith Cove terminus and West Seattle BRT, but they won’t be because Seattle/ST decide they’re better or more economical; they’ll be because necessity forces them. And it’s too soon to say what the real tax revenue or ridership will be in the future; I don’t think we can trust the amateur estimates from ouside ST; so it’s not really productive to say ST should do this now or that now. What we can do is lay out what ST could do and the consequences of that. Then we’ll have those positions all ready for when/if those issues really come up.

    4. “then we had one of the largest growth spurts in our region’s history”

      That’s because cloud computing emerged as the major world industry, and the companies that do that were located here. It started with Amazon offering its spare data-center capacity in the mid 2000s, with convenient dashboards for non-hardware people to manage and lease by the hour. The question was whether businesses would sign up, and they did. At the same time social networking became exponentially more popular, and video streaming and online shopping. Amazon and Microsoft were at the center of the infrastructure for that. Google is mostly software and Apple is mostly hardware, but they both needed the infrastructure. All this coalesced in the late 2000s a couple years after the crash, and it caused Seattle’s strong recovery and massive growth.

      We can’t count on something like that again; there’s no other industry that could conceivably do that, either anywhere or specifically in Seattle. What we can expect is the cloud computing/machine-learning (AI) field to remain massive, even if not increasing as fast as the last decade. And the Internet of Things, if you believe everything will go the way of smart speakers and smart light switches and ubiquidous surveillance. (I’m somewhat skeptical.)

      Seattle was doing all right before the Amazon boom. The 650K city/3 million regional population was big enough, job opportunities were reasonable and increasingly diverse, and the cost of housing was uncomfortable but not stratopsherically bad. Seattle’s population peaked in the 1960s at 550K, and then went down throughout the 70s and 80s and only reached its previous peak in 2000. After the Boeing Bust recovered and Mcrosoft grew, job opportunities were reasonable, and the cost of housing was cheap. In the northern U-District in the 80s a 2-bedroom apartment was $450. In the early 2000s a studo on Capitol Hill was $450, and a 1 BR apartment in north Ballard was $700.Even in 2007 the Capitol Hill studios were still only $700-850 and a 1 BR next tot he Broadway Market was $1000-1100. Houses were in the $200K range in the 90s and $300K range in the early 00s, and in 2007 studio condos on Capitol Hill were in the $120-200K range. Rents were rising 2% or less before 2003, then they accelerated to 5% in the Dotcom II boom. After the 2008 crash they dipped, then in the Amazon boom they accelerated twice as fast as before, with 10% or more increases common. Rents and house prices have almost doubled in just eighty years. If the Amazon-led boom levels out and the population stops increasing, then things will stabilize, and that would be a welcome relief. If the population falls, which nobody really expects because cloud computing is such a long-term shift in the economy, and telework and moving out of state will only go so far, but if the populatiion does decrease and remains lower for several years, then rents and house prices will decrease. That would make the cost of living in Seattle a lot easier, and be worth it even if job opportunities are moderately less and the tax base for transit improvements goes down too. The less population, the less congestion, and so buses can be faster and more frequent for the same cost. We’ve driven out the worst of Metro’s long-distance milk runs with no frequent or express alternatives, so the base network is better than it was.

      1. “In the northern U-District in the 80s a 2-bedroom apartment was $450. In the early 2000s a studo on Capitol Hill was $450, and a 1 BR apartment in north Ballard was $700.”

        I think those numbers are pretty representative. Just to fill in the gap in the two decades you’ve referenced, I’ll offer my own anecdotal data. I moved to a ground floor 1BR apt (in a 7-unit building) in Wallingford in the early 90s where my rent was $450/mo. I lived there for about ten years and my rent was at $550 at the time I moved after purchasing my home in Edmonds. That was probably a good $100 less than market at the time. During that same decade (i.e. 1990s), two of my friends shared a 2BR apartment in Ballard (east of 15th) and I believe they initially paid $700 or $750 for their large second floor unit (in a mid-century 6-unit building). Given the size of their unit and the conveniences provided by its central location, I would imagine that rent there today must be at least $2200/mo.

  3. “You are verrrrry clever for a man who has not even lived ONE lifetime, Doctor. Van. Helsing!” Being Hungarian, Bela Lugosi came from the part of the Balkans that spawned Dracula, though Transylvanians say Christopher Lee looked more like the original. Either way, I’m still scared of Stakeholders!

    I’m very much with you on citizen participation, Al S. Only difference in approach I’d take would be to put this level of knowledge and experience in the hands of people ready, willing, and able to to fight for our goals politically. Bring that chair back here and pay for it, Tim!

    With strong and much-encouraged presence of high school student government. Also, selfishly, good incentive to start combining efforts with my present residence, and its busline. Regionwide, I really think that energy fighting over funding and mode-split will go much farther if redirected to what we all can share.

    Mark Dublin

  4. They (mostly Microsoft) are also building a ped bridge at RTS. Pretty cool rendering of the new sustainable East Campus here.

    1. Very nice. Microsoft seems to get that people are more productive when they get exercise and have the opportunity for chance encounters. Good for them.

      1. Hi Tom,

        I have a question since I wasn’t able to see the bridge in the photos. Does the bridge serving the Microsoft campus have the latest Windows installed?

        Thanks.

  5. “And simply opening windows and having them opposite sides of the room or at least two sides, and fans to blow the air, can improve the temperature and circulation using only 3% of the energy of air conditioners.”

    That’s what I often to do cool my own home, and most days, it works well. The problem is, opening the windows also let’s all the noise in. Which is fine when it’s birds, not so fine when it’s car horns, idling engines, and leaf blowers.

    1. It also depends on your apartment/home not being extremely oddly-shaped/badly built. I can keep every window and door open in my apartment with fans blowing and it’ll still get over 90° in here in the summer (June through September, specifically), and barely dip into the high 70s at night.

    2. Yes, it depends on a building designed for it. And noise is a problem if you live near a freeway. This gets into what priorities builders have. And if it’s 90 degrees outside you may nt be able to get it below the 80s, which interferes with sleep. A cool bath or damp towel can help.

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