28 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Garden City Explained”

  1. Best start to a Sunday morning in years, Oran. For transit field trips I’m advocating, next in line after Gothenburg.

    For the West Seattle Freeway and every possible aspect of Ballard-West Seattle, our engineers should already have Emergency-Essentiality visas, folded into same briefcase as construction contracts. Every conceivable station, viaduct, bridge and tunnel, not only do-able, but long-since ALREADY DONE. Blindfolded.

    But my own main question about Singapore? In the Boston Marathon bombing, when the first pressure-cooker left the pavement scattered with wounded, (and not a single joint of pot-roast, those fiends!) survivors immediately headed for the victims and began first aid. Second blast, they ducked and kept working. Without Order One.

    At the World Trade Center, large percentage of New York City’s firemen committed suicide on the “Up” staircase. Very likely both the airwaves and the rubble contained evidence they willfully defied orders to evacuate. Which in Singapore would’ve got them both fined and flogged, or whichever in that culture hurts worse.

    And given not only our own view of Government these last couple decades and the reasons for it…..a population that comfortable in a police state, what are they going to do when beneath its spotless covers, their nice comfortable bed of a country starts to get smelly and full of bugs?

    Those blindingly intricate structures. How many lashes for reporting the first crack? Let alone all your neighbors blaming you for not loving your Government. So here’s my suggestion for my own country, which could very well take care of the Bridge, the Tunnels and Ballard at one swoop:

    When same mentality that’s put the US in its present governing condition hits Singapore for the same reasons, with some overdue changes in our own immigration policy its population of 5.639 million skilled, educated, and industrious people will easily fit into our own borders.

    And a giant lacy tower pouring water will be perfect for both the Link station under the Ballard Library and its every possible cable-streetcar extension to both Fifteenth Avenue, Shilshole, and North Beach.

    However, to help these newcomers assimilate, we need to give them both paper and electronic documentation that if they just don’t do anything to anybody else they wouldn’t want to happen to them, it’s not only legal but mandatory to do anything they want.

    But if you see anybody in authority disgrace your beloved government with cruelty and race prejudice, if you don’t report that we’ll turn off your fountain and not give you anymore commands for a month.

    Mark Dublin

  2. And to keep coverage locally pertinent, transit-related, and in the service and spirit of the times: Could we please have some news from Portland?

    From direct personal observation and experience, good idea to know the name Joey Gibson, and use its mention as a signal to start preparing for serious trouble.

    Mark Dublin

  3. I am disappointed that the majority of regular commenters haven’t written a Page Two post. I’m not sure what the excuse is. Thank you to Fa’aumu, Ross, and Alex for doing the last few posts.

    1. I thought about doing a transit day post on my trip to Austin, TX but with Covid19 changing everything soon after that I wound up abandoning the work as I’m not sure what survives the pandemic.

  4. Has KC Metro released a statement about them carrying cops to mace ten year old girls?

    For that matter, how about the union?

  5. As the video shows in many examples, the Singapore climate heavily affects design. However, the idea of creating inspirational and innovative design has to be embraced by the leaders and the citizenry to be effective.

    When I walk around Seattle, I see some innovative buildings and design — but so often they are overshadowed by a sea of bland architecture. I fear that it’s getting worse, as building investors from elsewhere treat Seattle as if it should be just another place to build a plain box. We have only a handful of new buildings with a “wow” factor but they seem few and far between.

    The sad thing about this is the Seattle is in a golden age of wealth and power. Within the history of cities, that is the time to create almost eternal features that last for centuries. Without a civic strategy, this glory will instead fade. Will we be as charming as Boston or Philadelphia or abandoned as Gary or Detroit?

    I’m sure if we assembled a table of sage urban visionists that each one would have inspiring but wildly different ideas. I’m not sure if our local culture would even embrace any of them — preferring to only have “safe” designs that don’t offend stakeholders. Our skyline and streetscapes are destined to be generic because that’s what we like — or is it?

    Of course, not every building in Singapore is amazing. Among those cool buildings are lots of very mundane residential towers.

    So getting back to climate, ours is remarkably similar to Paris’. There are features of architecture there that states “Paris” — mansard roofs, ornate iron on buildings, art nouveau lettering, horizontal lines on buildings, arched bridges with prominent street lamps, sidewalk cafes partially nested under mid rise buildings.

    Is it time for an enhanced Seattle “identity”? Maybe a neighborhood TOD identity? What would our identity be? Should it be organic or will a hands-off approach just lead to more drab buildings and mundane public spaces? Should Seattle be eternally recognizable 200 years from now — or does anyone even care enough to take action? Are we willing to give bonuses to developers to move the needle on design that results in fewer new drab buildings (or rail stations)?

    1. Al S., whole idea of “Identity” works pretty well for professions and occupations. Where it falls down and leaves a mess is with religion and politics.

      But especially for cities, problem is that nobody living ever gets to choose it. Generally, best we can do is live with it and try to personify what we’d LIKE it to be remembered for.

      However, real girl-dog of the problem is how often something you can’t stand- think Amazon’s metal bubbles, or Amazon- becomes the whole reason the rest of the world floods your city with adoring visitors.

      One really interesting constant is how often something built for one purpose sooner or later gains its glory over its ability to do something the exact opposite. And remember, nothing’s ever too boring to be demolished.

      Mark Dublin

  6. pork, did you actually see the police mace ten year old girls? If so, were you able to get time, location, description and badge numbers? And did you report what you saw to your member of the King County Council, who govern Metro?

    I’m glad to see the Transit Riders’ Union getting active politically. The transit system’s long overdue for some serious input. But at least in Seattle itself, I’m not sure the police will take likely the possibility that actions of theirs will classify them with others of their profession who are now in jail.

    Keep us, and TRU, and your elected representatives briefed.

    Mark Dublin

  7. OK, I’m starting a new thread on a new post because I think it warrants extra attention. I’m very disappointed that Community Transit is favoring an inferior routing for the Swift Blue extension to the 185th Link Station. Their preferred alternative involves going on 200th and Meridian:

    The bus should stay on Aurora to 185th, then turn there. The bus stops should be just south of 200th (where existing RapidRide E bus stops exist). This would be better for two big reasons:

    1) Those continuing on Aurora would have a faster, better transfer. The preferred alternative is bad both directions. Northbound, riders would first stop at 200th (on the E) then wait for the bus to turn and enter the transit center before getting off. They would then walk across the transit center and pick up Swift. Then they would wait for Swift to get back to Aurora, and make that right turn, back essentially where they started (on Aurora, right next to 200th). Southbound riders have it bad as well. First they wait for Swift to leave the bus lanes and make a left turn. Then the bus makes a stop next to the transit center and the rider walks across 200th and into the transit center and onto the E Line. Then the bus leaves the transit center and heads to Aurora, making yet another left turn. So, northbound that is a bit of extra walking, an extra stop, two additional right turns and a little time in the transit center. Southbound it is a bit of extra walking, extra time in the transit center, and two additional *left* turns. Not only does this mean extra time spent on the bus, it increases the chances of a mixed connection. The other route is better.

    2) It would be faster to get to the Link Station. The CT preferred path has two extra turns (three turns instead of just one). Furthermore, much of that route will be spent on Meridian, which has no HOV lanes, which means that the bus will be stuck in traffic. Meridian also has a regular bus (that lacks off board payment). Thus it is quite likely that the Swift bus will be stuck behind another bus in an area where passing is difficult or illegal (https://goo.gl/maps/D7E8iTRMYyziv8j17). It is also worth noting that Shoreline also wants to add bike lanes to Meridian, which would likely eliminate the opportunities for a bus to pass a bus (bus drivers don’t like breaking laws). In contrast, not only would using Aurora and 185th require fewer turns, but 185th will soon have BAT lanes (from the station to Aurora) and that part of Aurora already has them.

    There is little to be gained by using 200th. With the exception of the 346 — a minor bus with half hour frequency — all the buses that go to the station would have an easy transfer at 200th and Aurora. Even the 346 wouldn’t be a horrible transfer (about a five minute walk). Those riders that don’t want to walk five minutes could always take the 101.

    From a cost perspective, this would require adding ORCA readers on 200th (currently there are no readers there, even though Rapid Ride E stops there). This would be an enhancement that would benefit both agencies. It wouldn’t cost Snohomish County any more than their preferred routing, assuming they plan on adding them on 200th (instead of using the existing ones inside the transit center). If the plan is for Swift to make a loop inside the transit center before continuing, this would further delay those trying to get to Link. A combined Link/Swift Station on Aurora, south of 200th would have all the amenities of both (reader board, nice seats, etc.) which would be befitting the importance as a transfer point.

    To be fair, there are some riders who would come out ahead with a stop close to, or in the transit center. On the west side of Aurora — next to Costco — there is a wall between the sidewalk and the supposed “village” that lies to east. This means that the largest retailer in the area is inaccessible by foot unless you want to hop the little fence and scamper down (https://goo.gl/maps/5K2fbrh5sNAGjNb47). But that does not mean that we should favor Costco shoppers above all else. As it turns out, they have an alternative, tailor made for just such an occasion: the 101.

    The 101 stops at all secondary stops (and then some) and this is clearly a secondary stop. Forcing people to walk a little bit farther to shop at Costco is unfortunate, but severely degrading the flagship route in Snohomish County is worse. I hope that Community Transit takes the better approach and uses the faster route.

    1. I agree with you on all points. Yet, at the same time, it is all too easy to see why things are ending up the way they are (and why the SWIFT bus will likely make two additional left turns off and on 200th to go in and out of the Aurora Village Transit Center bus bays).

      It’s basically a combination of these principles used by the powers that be to evaluate options:

      1) When gauging the quality of a transfer, time spent on a bus waiting at stoplights doesn’t “count” because that’s not technically part of the transfer. Only the experience off the bus “counts” (e.g. walking between stops or amenities while waiting).

      2) Each agency works independently, and must conservatively assume that all other agencies will not be cooperative (e.g. no Orca reader at any E-line stops that don’t already have one).

      3) Those who respond to surveys lean heavily towards existing riders because the existing riders know about the survey, while future riders don’t.

      4) People dislike change of any sort unless there’s a compelling benefit to them. Existing riders, by definition, aren’t looking for Link, so that compelling benefit, by definition, isn’t there.

      5) The Hyppocratic Oath of Transit, that any service change cannot do any harm to any existing riders, must be preserved.

      This is why the path of least resistance when extending a bus route is to keep all existing stops in exactly the same place and simply add new stops after them. And, if it converts what used to be the turnaround loop into a time-sucking detour, so be it.

      1. There is a new post about this subject now. I thought they might write something (but no one tipped us off). I’m moving the conversation over there.

  8. There was no garden city in that video. The garden city movement is opposed to highrises and density. Their ideal is more like Kirkland or Snoqualmie Ridge. Just a few stories, houses maybe close together, and lots of green space. The midcentury one-story apartment buildings with a surface parking lot are called “garden apartments” as an extension to that. “We don’t want no density.” My mom calls it the “town and country style”. That’s what San Jose adopted in the 1950s bauuase it didn’t want to become like San Francisco.

    “Makeshift Metropolis” by Witold Rybczynski explains the differences between Garden City, City Beautiful, Radiant City, Broadacre City, and their relationships to urbanism. Large cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s were mostly industrial cities, with lots of concrete and tenements and pollution but few amenities. These four movements were in reaction to that.

    1. City Beautiful sought to build grand civic buildings, train stations, plazas, and commercial buildings to inspire people and be aesthetically pleasing. The Bon Marche building, Cobb building, Smith Tower, and King Street Station descend from that. The most common styles are Art Deco, Beaux Arts, and related styles. They added unessential decorations for the sake of art.

    2. Garden City built small neighborhoods on the outskirts of cities. They deliberately chose low density and lots of green space to contrast with the big cities’ flaws. But their low density was denser than our low density, so they weren’t adverse to row houses and compact arrangements. At the time it was called “living in the country”; now it’s called suburbia.

    3. Radiant City was Le Corbusier’s vision of towers-in-the-park, or highrises surrounded by greenery, with highways connecting them and no local streets. This influenced modern development, and towers in the park became towers in the parking lot. Nobody noticed that parks/woodland were supposed to be directly around the buildings.

    4. Broadacre City was a vision of turning cities inside out and decentralizing everything. Frank Lloyd Wright proposed a rural “city” where everybody had a homestead, highways crisscrossed it, and farm stands and other businesses existed at highway exits. This evolved into the mini-mart and big-box power center based suburbs we have today. In the northern San Diego suburbs are residential areas where the blocks are a mile apart and the local streets are 55 mph quasi-highways.

    Ecologically-informed cities, like Singapore is, developed from urbanism and attempts to make large cities more liveable and ecologically sustainable without giving up on density. They may have borrowed some elements of Garden City or it may have been a coincidence, but they’re completely different from the garden city vision.

    1. The term Garden City was coined by Ebenezer Howard in his book “Garden Cities of To-morrow” published in England in 1898. The idea was that instead of metropolis’ like London it would be better to build many small villages, each with it’s own specialized industry. The villages would all be surrounded by village commons and farms. According to one reviewer on Amazon, “The defining, seminal work of what is now hailed as a new revolution in city planning called Transit Oriented Development.” I wouldn’t agree with that but Wikipedia says:

      The garden city movement is a method of urban planning in which self-contained communities are surrounded by “greenbelts”, containing proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. The idea was initiated in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom and aims to capture the primary benefits of a countryside environment and a city environment while avoiding the disadvantages presented by both.

    2. Actually it is more “Garden City” than you think but instead of highways and parking they used mass transit and greenery.

      This was covered in a previous open thread video about Singapore’s public housing, of which 80% of the population resides. After independence, their Housing & Development Board began building new towns in a style that’s a combination of the Garden (outside the overcrowded urban core to replace slums), Radiant (mid to high rise flats surrounded by parks and greenery) and Broadacre (most daily needs aside from commuting to the CBD) styles.

      1. Singapore, like Hong Kong are the antithesis of the Garden City as originally proposed. Both cities are islands that produce none of the agriculture and raw materials required to survive. Garden Cities are what you see the Tour de France roll through during the month of July. The opposite side of the spectrum is the mega-farms you see in the US, Canada and Australia where the majority of the population is in a narrow band and the rest is fly over country. If Washington was built around this model Seattle wouldn’t be surrounded by more cities but instead the farms that once dominated King County. Spokane would be smaller and there would be more cities and towns like Wenatchee, Yakima, Walla Walla, etc.

    3. Yes, that’s the one I meant. I focus on the size and peripheral aspect because that’s what stuck out to me. Self-containment may be an aspect that wasn’t emphasized in the book or I’d forgotten about. But that brings up another point. New Urbanist developments were supposed to be self-contained at least partially, with people both living and working there. That has been an almost complete failure.

      I hesitated to include Snoqualmie Ridge as a garden city because I thought maybe it’s too dense. And I’ve only seen Snoqualmie Ridge and Redmond Ridge once so my memory is hazy. So let’s go with the Issaquah Highlands which I know a bit better. Maybe my first instinct was right and these new urbanist developments are garden cities, even if they’re a little denser or have less internal greenery than imagined a century ago. The Issaquah Highlands has forest trails adjacent to it.

      The New Urbanist vision was closer-in suburban developments and city neighborhoods. But zoning wouldn’t allow it, so they went to where densifying a large contiguous tract was allowed, in rural exurbs. They built mixed-use developments, which theoretically people would both live and work in. But residents couldn’t find jobs there matching their skills or that paid as much as they could get in the metro, so they commuted. And many of the developments were too from metropolitan transit or not “on the way”, so transit was minimal or nonexistent, so people drove. That was one of the failures of new urbanism, although ultimate culprit was single-family zoning in the city+suburbs.

      The Issaquah Highlands, Redmond Ridge, and Snoqualmie Ridge were built after these failures were known, so they didn’t try to make them different from what they are: exurban developments with close-together houses and apartments and some essential everyday retail, but assuming most people will commute to work. There’s also an obvious class disparity: the people who work in the local Target or Safeway or cafe can’t afford the houses or apartments there, and the people who live there don’t want those jobs with such low wages. This has yet to be reconciled.

      The Issaquah Highlands seems to be the most self-contained, if you consider the rest of Issaquah as its local jobs base. Swedish Issaquah is pretty close, as is Costco’s headquarters and similar companies where Highlands residents might work. Snoqualmie Ridge is clearly not, because you have to drive through ten minutes of nothingness just to get to Issaquah, and Redmond Ridge is similarly isolated. The Issaquah Highlands has an ST Express route and P&R, which has successfully gained some mode share. Snoqualmie Ridge has just the 120-180 minute 208 running weekday/Saturday daytime. Redmond Ridge has a 90-minute bus. So they have essentially no transit.

      Are these garden cities? What about the Spring District, since it’s also a mixed-use development and smaller than downtown Bellevue?

      1. Spring District definitely not – there will be a continuous urban form from Bellevue square to Microsoft’s campus. While secondary to the city across the lake, Bellevue+Redmond is a centralized city … it might have thoughtful green space, but nothing like those anti-city models from last century.

        For Issaquah Highlands, Redmond Ridge, and Snoqualmie Ridge, think of them on a continuum. I suppose all could be considered garden cities given each are a standalone nodes surrounded by greenspace, while the Highlands fixes some of the errors of new urbanism you called out with actual TOD and job activity beyond just retail/gov., while the Ridges are live/play with limited work.

        Redmond Ridge: bedroom neighborhood / fringe city. Contains several community assets (schools, community center, library, etc.), and only a small shopping center. Possible to spend full days here but expected to leave by car frequently.
        Snoqualmie Ridge: Exburb, or perhaps a bedroom neighborhood bolted on to an exburb. Like the other Ridge, contains communities assets (library, school) but only a small amount of office jobs. It is possible to live your life entirely within Snoqualmie/North Bend, but large share commutes into Seattle metro (aka Exburb). It’s a bit of an incline, but the bike/pedestrian connection to historic Snoqualmie is high quality. Living in Issaquah, I will sometimes drive to the Ridge to grab dinner and go for a nice walk/picnic, so I consider it an actual destination.

        The Highlands is very different, with significantly denser core that would horrify the 19th century garden city advocates. It has a far more diverse housing stock, with significant multifamily development still in the pipeline. Sure, there are a bunch of SF homes towards the east, but most people will live within a few blocks of Highlands drive once it is built out. The Highlands also contains a employment center with the hospital, plus the original plans included a secondary campus for Microsoft. This Msft campus did not pan out, but the city continues to push for job development & keeps the total housing units capped at the original master development agreement. Finally, the Highlands has an excellent transit connection to Seattle with the 219 anchored by a P&R, which is the missing piece of most New Urbanism development … it’s mostly P&R ridership, but as the MF development gets built out west of 9th, I expect the walk-up ridership to grow rapidly. (charging for parking would also help)


      2. “I suppose all could be considered garden cities given each are a standalone nodes surrounded by greenspace”

        Not just surrounded by greenspace, but greenspace and inviting pedestrian spaces within it. Towers in the park are standalone nodes surrounded by greenspace but they’re not garden cities. There should be a continuity between the house, the yard, the streets, and the surrounding countryside so that all parts are comfortable to be in Two families might have a party in one house, then move to the yard, then stroll down the street and into the countryside and everything feels human-scaled and a place to be in.

        That’s my beef with mid-century setbacks and open space. They;re not designed like a living room or garden you spend time in and relates to its context, but like a painting of a garden that’s carefully removed from its context and feels sterile, and people don’t like to be in it for long and get impatient walking past it. If there must be unusable spaces like the pocket yards in front of recent townhouses that have no ecologically-friendly garden to redeem them, then they should be small so they don’t take up much space.

  9. A few thoughts on the past week’s events and arguably wins for the protestors braving Covid19 and tear gas and pepper spray and worse:

    1) I gave written comments to Community Transit Thursday that I paraphrased in my oral comments. I made clear to them that, “In 2020 transit advocates should have honest proactive conversations about fare enforcement and other elements of transit policing – and I consider transit policing a noble profession. …I can only imagine as a white disabled male what people of color experience; I ask Community Transit please seek out people of color to lead community conversations on transit policing.” My request will be the same to other transits as I am able to deliver it.

    2) I think it’s important to have some idea in say eight or nine days what a possible Seattle Mayor Teresa Mosqueda is going to do on transit. She will become a Sound Transit Boardmember also if and possibly when the impeachment of Mayor Durkan for non-transit reasons happens.

    3) Regardless of the ongoing turmoil in Seattle City Hall… we as transit advocates need to have some very, very serious conversations here about the vitality of revenue in public transit & civility in public transit. If the fare free lobby wants to replace the revenue first and then go fare free plus replace fare enforcement with ambassadors to address disruptive conduct – I lend my support. We also need to address the hateful comments of a certain Alex who is the bad actor of bad actors in our transit board meetings and if general public comment is allowed again post-Covid, there needs to be zero tolerance for racism & sexism. Zero tolerance. Let the courts be the ones pushing back from that; not the electeds who claim “Black Lives Matter”. In short to quote Tony Blair, “The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.”

    There you go.

  10. Anybody know when Link will be increasing weekend service to something more usable than 30 minute headways?

    1. I’m not sure. But, I can see the temptation for ST to keep this for a long time to cut costs. After all, the large-scale downtown events that have historically driven weekend ridership aren’t even allowed until phase 4.

      1. It’s up to us transit advocates to put the pressure on to get the frequency up to something more reasonable like 15 minute or 10 minute headways. This is just plain providing coverage service when Sound Transit taxes charge for frequency service.

      2. It will be more essential when ST2 is built out and more bus routes are truncated. Currently. within Seattle and the airport you can get around pretty well to all of Link’s areas on the 49, 7, 36, 106, and 124, and all except the 124 are at least 15-minute frequent full time. U-District to SeaTac is not very pretty but it’s doable. The areas that are hardest hit are the Eastside (255, 271) and northeast Seattle (372, 65, 75, etc) since their network is predicated on Link being frequent.

        I hope 30-minute weeksnds doesn’t last several more months and I don’t think it’s likely. I have planned and canceled trips because the twice-hourly schedule means I can’t depart for 45-60 minutes (given a 15-minute walk to the station and a few minutes to prepare before I leave, and not wanting to just miss the train. For instance, I want to take a walk in the Willows Street Park (a small wooded park south of Seward Park I’ve been to once). Link Westlake-Othello is 26 minutes and runs every 30 minutes. The 7 Union St-S Holly St is 40 minutes and runs every 10-15 minutes and goes closer to it. So last weekend, faced with waiting an hour for Link or a 40-minute bus ride and not wanting to take several hours for the round trip, I posponed it for another weekend.

  11. June 7, 2020…
    Long overdue from Sound Transit:
    1. 2019 Q4 Performance Report (EOY ridership numbers/metrics)
    2. U-Link Before-and-After Study, an FTA requirement for New Starts-funded projects

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