75 Replies to “News roundup: moving up”

  1. What I’m really am getting impatient to hear more discussion about is the entire brand-new economy that’s going to be our far-and-away first preoccupation when the pandemic lifts. Why the silence? Everybody……scared? Or just worried about there being nothing left to regret or whine about not doing?

    Thing I like best about our new Thurston County Airport: Its possibilities for two new industries that could employ thousands of people from here all the way to Aberdeen



    First category should result in zero complaints about noise. If the Allies hadn’t cut off helium supplies to Germany, the Hindenburg would still be doing historic charters. And both should set everybody’s mind at rest about land use. In addition to needing zero runways, noise-wise, both sets of “ships” should be residence-friendly.

    Really think our present ORCA card system has some historic nostalgia potential. Start edging the cards in bronze lear. From the beginning, I’ve always found them empowering and reassuring. Grandly hold it up into approaching headlights so the operator sees you. But mainly, lets every Fare Inspector know an OWNER when they see one.

    For the Thurston Airport stop, first one south of Olympia Transit Center, those bathroom-equipped southern Swedish streamliners painted Amtrak colors instead of purple must also feature a classic touch of railroad grandeur:

    The combination fare inspector, information person, and above all keeper of Law and Order called a Conductor. Company colors- like the rest of ST, blue and white should be just fine.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The problem with helium-filled airships is we have limited sources of the helium itself, and most we do have involve natural gas deposits, which is a prettified fossil fuel industry term for methane pockets. So to get at the helium we need to release the methane, which is an even worse greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide. Granted it can be used for fuel, but we can’t afford to keep expanding fossil fuel usage.

      Another issue is helium is required for medical imaging.

      1. Well, wikipedia notes that in theory, if we could just come up with a chamber tough enough to hold it, a vacuum could be lift an airship. So maybe Thurston International Airport will just have to settle for VTOL planes fueled with alcohol.

        Mark Dublin

    2. I don’t know enough about what the new economy will be to have anything to say. What opportunities do you see? Remember that much is uncertain.

      Downtown commuting could be come less of a thing. Industries like restaurants, bars, and concert venues will have to find new business models. I like getting prix fix take-out so I hope that will continue even after indoor seating returns; I don’t see myself eating indoors again much even if I can. Other pandemics might follow covid; we can’t assume there won’t be another for a century. Covid+flu in the fall will be a complication we haven’t encountered yet. The opportunities for converting to renewable energy, making buildings energy-efficient, and urban/vertical agriculture remain.

      1. Opportunities? Well, for starters, as demand for masks and PPE started getting desperate, some discussion began getting slipped in as to how many things we used to manufacture and now don’t. We even tore down factories.

        Our Breda bus fleet- along with every other machine that misbegotten company ever turned loose to fracture pavement and break hardware- should have been Gabriel’s own Trumpet of warning what you fall prey to when you forget how to make your own most precious necessities for yourself.

        Bet PCC drawings are public domain now. Why don’t we just build some and see what happens? At the very least, one less thing for any streetcar program of ours to worry about. Every one of them will make a great cafe too.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for downtown living if downtown commuting decreased? Perhaps one scenario is people commute downtown less, but many still want to live in a lively urban environment, so office space needs to get repurposed and transit service focus less on suburb to downtown commuting. However, it would probably be a bad thing for suburbs because suburb to suburb commuting (and probably midday non-commuting trips) increased, meaning increased traffic throughout and all the negative externalities that come with it.

      3. Downtown commuting could become less of a thing.

        Seattle is not Calgary. We have tons of office space outside downtown Seattle. Downtown Seattle real estate is extremely expensive, with new big buildings go up, and thus desirable. If there is a downturn in office space demand, it will hit downtown Seattle (and downtown Bellevue) last. That means commuting to Factoria, Issaquah, Kirkland, Tukwila, etc. will be less of a thing long before commuting to downtown Seattle becomes less of a thing.

      4. Agree with Ross. There may be softness in downtown $/sq ft rates, but the vacancy rate won’t move much long term because businesses in less ideal locations will move downtown to take advantage of lower rates.

        Should be the same story for residential. Downtown Seattle, like big chucks of Manhattan and SF, has big increase in vacancy rates because there is little reason to pay a premium when you cannot walk to work or enjoy urban life. But longer term, either rates will drop or urban life will return, and the vacancy rate will return.

        Landowners/developers might lose money in the short/medium term, but the overall population of downtown Seattle shouldn’t change (moreover, will continue to increase as new residential towers continue to break ground).

        If there is a spike in reverse commuting, it will be a function of Seattle’s business/tax climate as business move to the Eastside but workers prefer to live in Seattle, not structural changes from the pandemic. Cities have proven resilient in the face of pandemics for centuries. The midcentury flight to the suburbs was driven by new technology (freeways, tract housing), not a sudden change in the desirability of urban life. Any change in the desirability of urban life will show up in prices (less rental premium for downtown locations) and demographics (gentrification is always moving to new neighborhoods) but the actual neighborhood populations won’t change much.

  2. A second major airport in Thurston county really doesn’t make sense at all. Unless a large percentage of SeaTac passenger traffic resides around Olympia, which I HIGHLY doubt is the case, a second airport should I ideally be built 1) as close to large companies as possible and 2) spaced away from SeaTac so as to provide a legitimate geographical alternative rather than the majority of the area having to drive south.

    Woodinville/Bothell area has my vote. Paine Field is a far superior location but there’s no room to feature a multi-concourse facility that would handle air traffic rivaling SeaTac’s.

    Of course, all of this airport-site-searching is preliminary.

    1. I agree, it is a ridiculous location. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with having a handful of regional airports, spread out in a large metropolis. But this airport is well outside of that metropolis, and on the wrong side of it. It would sit a one hour drive *south* of SeaTac. SeaTac, of course, sits well to the south of the center of the area. This means someone from Seattle would have an extremely long trip just to get to the airport. It is as meaningful to them as Bellingham airport. Even in Auburn (well to the south of the center of the area) it would be closer to SeaTac. The point at which it is quicker to get to Littlerock, WA is actually *south* of Lakewood. There are very few people there. This really makes no sense.

      Airports in areas like Renton, Woodinville or South Everett are quite reasonable. But this is just silly. I’m not sure why Paine Field can’t be expanded — what exactly is the limitation?

      1. Paine has a fair amount of room. Passenger service at Paine has, however, drawn lots of opposition from the neighbors, especially the “city” of Mukilteo:


        From an aviation perspective, the current viable, existing airports for passenger service (big runways, good instrument approaches, lots of room on the ground) are Paine Field, Boeing Field, Bremerton, Olympia and Narrows. Renton is extremely space-constrained. Auburn has a shitty instrument approach, and will never have a good instrument approach from the north due to conflicts with Boeing Field traffic. All the rest are tiny (e.g. Harvey Field near Snohomish, Pierce County in south Tacoma), in the middle of nowhere (Shelton), or privately owned airparks (Apex, Norman Greer).

        From a ground perspective, Boeing Field is probably too close to SeaTac. Bremerton is probably too far from any urban center. Olympia is on the wrong side of JBLM.

        To me, the obvious choices are to fight the NIMBYs and continue expanding Paine, or branch out and serve the south Sound at Narrows. Where this idea of a new airport in bumfuck nowhere south Thurston is coming from I have no idea.

      2. I don’t think the nimby objection to Paine is relevant, because that would be true of all locations. It doesn’t differentiate it as a better or worse location.

        I don’t see why we can’t just upgrade Bremerton, Paine, and Thun to be comparable airports to Olympia and Bellingham and call it a day. All parts of the region then have good access to major destinations (LAX, SFO, Vegas, etc.), and SeaTac remains the international mega-airport.

        Bruce, would you add Arlington to your list of viable existing airports? Paine would be better, but Arlington probably merits a look this early in the process.

        I didn’t realize the Narrows was a good location. It’s an interesting option given proximity to Tacoma; I’d prefer both Bremerton and Thun given existing industrial land nearby, but I suppose you can create a new MIC around the airport, as SR16 is right there for freight access. Gig Harbor and Kitsap might like having more jobs on their side of the Sound, and Kitsap might rally behind the Narrows if they see Bremerton isn’t going to make the cut. And I always like runways that point onto water because that eliminates like 1/2 of the noise pollution.

      3. The truth is, from a climate change perspective, we really shouldn’t be building any new airports or expanding existing airports. At least not until electric planes because a viable and economical technology.

        Yet, even in the supposedly liberal Puget Sound area, we continue to deny and build more airports to operate more planes to emit more greenhouse gases.

        And, no, the bulk of the “need” is not related to lack of high speed rail. It’s from people making too many unnecessary trips to far away places in the first place.

      4. I guess Arlington does meet the aviation criteria I outlined, although there are local subtleties that would probably rule it out in practice. Specifically, Arlington is the (or at least, a) center of ultralight and glider flying in the Seattle area, which is a kind of flying that doesn’t co-exist well with scheduled jet traffic. A few years ago, the Arlington aviation community rallied to shoot down a proposal to change the airspace classification in a way that would have kicked out all the ultralight pilots. I think the airport management has no interest in becoming a passenger airport.

        Land-side, Arlington about as far from SeaTac as Olympia and has equally horrendous car traffic, but doesn’t have any nearby urban center to offset that distance. Most people going to Arlington would be driving past Paine to get there. It’s just hard to see how it would make sense.

      5. “At least not until electric planes because a viable and economical technology.” Probably about the same time frame as building a 2nd airport.

        Yeah, I agree Arlington make no sense when Paine is a better option for the north side. I just saw it has a big footprint, multiple runways, and an adjacent MIC so was curious if there were technical reasons it wouldn’t be considered.

      6. I agree with all of your points, Bruce. Expanding Paine field makes the most sense. The two airports have a regional balance, not unlike San Fransisco and Oakland airports. Those airports are basically on either end of the central San Fransisco/Oakland/Berkeley core, just as SeaTac and Paine Field are on either side of greater Seattle. As much as we want people to take transit to the airport, very few actually do (even, as is the case with SeaTac, if the transit option is outstanding). This means that for a lot of people in the Seattle area, Paine Field is actually a lot more convenient than SeaTac (just as for many, Oakland International is a lot more convenient than SFO). The same is true for taking transit. Northgate to SeaTac will take 47 minutes. Northgate to Lynnwood will take 13. Assuming they run a bus from Lynnwood to Paine Field every fifteen minutes, I could get up to Paine a lot sooner.

        Small regional airports are also reasonable, but it doesn’t make sense to have a plane going from say, Los Angeles to Littlerock, WA. You can make a stronger case for Narrows and Bremerton, but again, very few people would actually prefer going to those airports. In terms of major airports (with millions of passengers a year) Paine Field and SeaTac should be it.

      7. LA (Ontario, John Wayne, Burbank) and NYC (White Plains) have very successful small airports. But I guess I cannot think of any examples in cities smaller than LA and NYC that aren’t a legacy of each city having their own airport or focused on serving a tourist market (Florida has oodles of small airports with good service)

      8. @RossB Paine Field (PAE) is limited in space for facilities. No doubt the airfield can handle an expansion of the current 2-gate terminal but it wont be anywhere close to that of SeaTac or even a smaller, moderately sized airport (like Spokane, Ontario CA, Columbus OH, etc.). Much of the current space at PAE is dedicated to Boeing and aerospace contractor facilities. They would have to be bulldozed to make room for terminals, driveways, parking garages, cargo aprons, etc. That’s just the beginning. I can’t see how surrounding roadways and businesses would survive major airport traffic without seeing chronic congestion or even being bulldozed to make room for runway/taxiway expansion.

        PAE is perfect for sort of an overflow airport and niche market targeting certain flyers but not ideal for handling major traffic. The purpose of the new airport search is to choose a site to accommodate a second major airport that will be capable of handling activity on the scale of SeaTac in 20-30 years.

        (sorry to nerd out on aviation but it’s an interesting topic for the whole region!)

      9. The history of second large airports in smaller population areas growing near major ones near major cities is not very good. Who flies to Rockford or Macon or Bakersfield? Because of schedules and fares, major airports have such a strong draw that minor ones (on the same side of a Metro area) are little more than niches. It seems only when there is a large secondary metro market or systemic primary airport delays or an “old airport” that already has the runways that secondary airports can become viable.

        I’d much rather see these millions be put into developing sites for remote check-in with connecting frequent buses to SeaTac. For the billions to do this, we could have a pretty amazing regional express rail system that gets passengers to and from SeaTac — and enables lots of other trips too.

      10. Remote check in? I don’t think the security lines are the limiting factor, it’s the actual runways and gates.

        Pretty much all of the airports built recently were to replace an existing airport. When was the last time an American city added an entirely new airport to its region? St Louis built a new airport that became an albatross, but they got screwed by consolidation and lost their hub.

      11. Yeah, LA has five commercial airports (3 international). That’s it — five. This is to serve a sprawling region of around 13 million. The most remote is Ontario, but it is nowhere near as remote as some of these suggestions. If you zoom into Ontario (https://arcg.is/19uj44) it doesn’t look much different than the north or south end of Seattle (https://arcg.is/j8fGm0). That also means it has way more density than any other place in Washington State. Yet when you zoom out a bit, it is clear that the heart of the city is not that far away (and there is plenty of density every step of the way).

        If we had three major airports, it would be like L. A. having a dozen. Many of these ideas (like an airport in Thurston County) would be like L. A. adding an airport in Victorville. It would be well outside the core, and well outside any significant density.

        If that was the second biggest airport, and carried a significant portion of passengers, I think it would be unprecedented. I really can’t think of a major airport that far away from the core, serving that many people. There are plenty of big airports serving really big cities a long ways away from the core, but these are really big cities, that stretch out that far (as L. A. does). Seattle simply isn’t that big.

      12. The St Louis airport albatross is notable — and the site is co-located with Scott Air Force Base so it’s development was not as challenging or expensive as this one would be. (I’m rather surprised that relocating McChord AFB hasn’t emerged as a better new airport alternative for our region. After all, the airfield land was donated to the military by Pierce County in the first place. It would even make a great terminus for a Link light rail extension. The AF could have a site elsewhere that isn’t surrounded by housing. I’m not sure how it would affect regional air operations though.)

        I’m not a logistics expert, but landside access appears to be a huge and maybe the biggest deterrant. The number of gates is expanding in a well-developed plan. I’ve experienced waits to take off but that’s usually to an airport like SFO, which has a much bigger set of airside overcrowding restrictions that result in planes being held at SeaTac (or at any new airport).

      13. Ontario is also unique in that its cargo services are really to serve the logistic hub in the Inland empire and then move cargo onward to the rest of the Western US, so whatever it loses from being ‘far’ from LA, it benefits by having less congestion for freight leaving LA county on I15 and I10.

        I would counter that LAX is effectively twice as big as SeaTac … if SeaTac had LAX’s footprint, there would be zero capacity issue. So if you count LAX twice, LA has 6 commercial airports to serve 13 million people, or roughly one airport for 2 million people. So Seattle looking for 2 airports to serve a metro of 4 million is comparable. The only metros larger than Seattle that have 1 airport are Atlanta and Detroit, both of whom have mega-airports in terms of size and runways. Philly has Trenton, Boston has Providence, Miami has Ft Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix has Mesa, etc.

      14. The Southern California population that’s closer to Ontario Airport is over 5 million people. That includes San Bernardino and Riverside Counties and the Pomona and Covina areas of LA County (the county line Is just 4 miles from the airport). Sure there are other close small airports (Palm Springs) but Ontario Airport has a quite populous surrounding urban population in its own right.

      15. The Southern California population that’s closer to Ontario Airport is over 5 million people.

        Exactly. Each airport has a very strong case for why someone would fly there. You can’t say that for an airport in Thurston, Kitsap or Skagit County. Either you are closer to Paine, closer to SeaTac, or you are part of a very small group of people.

      16. PVD is not a secondary airport for the Boston market. I tried that once when I tried to visit one of my siblings who lived in Newton, MA at the time and I couldn’t get a decently priced ticket to Logan. It’s way out of the way.

    2. This early in the process, I don’t mind looking at one Thurston location, but going south of Olympia really doesn’t make sense … at that point you are almost dipping into the Portland market. I would assume this would replace the existing Thurston airport, which would be redeveloped for something else?

      If we are going to build south of SeaTac, seems like we should be north of JBLM. Leveraging the McCord footprint would be nice, but apparently that doesn’t work for the DoD, so then I see the best site in Pierce to be an expansion of Thun, particularly if they can extend the runway into the landfill.

      But with the region centered on Seattle, the next airport should probably be north of Seattle. I agree Paine cannot have a SeatTac size facility, at least not while Boeing keeps full operations, but for the next 50 years, don’t we really only need a terminal closer to a Midway or San Jose airport? That’s a much smaller footprint.

      It would be a bummer if we needed to build a greenfield airport, as I don’t see a site that wouldn’t be outside the UGA. An airport should have a whole jobs ecosystem of warehouses, etc., so if we place the airport east of Woodinville, do we want to expand the UGA also create an entirely new industrial area (centered on Maltby)?

      Thun has Frederickson MIC nearby, and edge options Arlington
      and Bremerton also have their own existing MICs. I’d prefer all 3 of those over a greenfield project, particularly because I think our future looks more like LA, with one major airport and and 3 or 4 minor commercial airports, rather than a Chicago/Dallas/Houston, where there are two major airports. I’m assuming our secondary airports don’t need to serve the international market.

      1. Growing up in Puyallup (favorite activity as a child was eating at the The Hangar Inn, RIP, and watching the planes takeoff and land), I can tell you that Thun Field would be a terrible location for an airport. Meridian/SR-161 is the only road in and out of there and locations south (Graham/Eatonville). 176th goes west, but that gets you to SR-7 in Spanaway 5 miles to the west, not exactly a high capacity road either

        Meridian is frequently congested and rush hours are terrible. Add a regional passenger airport to that mix and we’re talking gridlock sunrise to sunset.

        Making Thun Field work would likely require an epressway spur off of SR-512 about 5 miles to the north, which only compounds the environmental disaster an additional airport would bring. On top of that, good luck convincing the never ending bedroom communities that populate South Hill these days to have large jets fly over head.

        At least the South Thurston location, as dumb as it is, has proximity to I-5 and space to create an expressway spur, with little to no residential opposition to be found. And it’d be easy to shoehorn in a stop on the Vancouver to Portland high speed rail, opening in the spring of 2150.

      2. I was assuming 161 as-is was sufficient. That’s a good counter-argument against Thun.

    3. We could revive the Moses Lake proposal. That would come with high-speed rail to Moses Lake.

      Re Arlington ultralights, a friend in college had one and we went up one day so he could check up on it. Arlington in the 80s was way beyond the urbanized area. The planes looked like Wright Brothers planes; I didn’t know people still flew them. An instructor took me up for an intro flight. I did not like to be off the ground in such a small box.

      Paine Field is a better choice because the entire north Sound has to cross the central Seattle isthmus to get to SeaTac.

      But we should push back against a second airport. Much of SeaTac’s passenger volume is just “Because I can”, beyond some baseline volume of going to a job or school, keeping in contact with relatives, and having an overseas vacation every few years. They should be on an efficient transportation mode like trains, and if that’s not available, we shouldn’t go around expanding airports for it. Plus airports are very expensive to build. Boeing should start building other things so it isn’t a one-product excuse for building another airport. Flight volumes are down 90% because of covid, and will probably not recover to their previous level anytime soon. If transit volume will be down, flight volume will be down even more.

      1. The Moses Lake area is too isolated for a major investment, especially the type this new airport search committee wants. Besides, 1) airlines have always been hesitant to maintain service in small airports, that’s why a lot of air service to small cities are subsidized and 2) taking a 2hr high-speed train to the other side of the state to catch a flight while there’s a major airport already nearby would definitely be a turn-off to most flyers.

        As an aviation nerd, I actually agree with you to a certain extent about investing in other methods of transport. However, trains are only best used for short distances. If there was fast and reliable service to Portland, then we’d see more people using the Cascades service. But a train to Los Angeles on a business trip or Vegas on a quick weekend, even a high speed one? Flying will always prevail.

    4. I’d like to see McChord field opened up for shared cargo use. The facility could be on a separate side of the runway. There is great freeway access and even rail access. Cargo only is much easier to handle from a security standpoint and would open up capacity at SEA.

      1. Unless it’s a new hub for UPS/Fedex/Amazon, there isn’t that much market for cargo only. At an airport like SeaTac, most of the cargo in coming in on the belly of international commercial flights. I don’t think the west coast has a cargo-only hub like a Louisville or Memphis.

        If Amazon or whomever wants to work with the region to create a cargo-only facility, great! But that’s distinct from the passenger capacity issue this study is trying to solve.

      2. Eh. Again, I believe that 19th is overwhelmingly on commercial flights. Looks like Ontario is the UPS west coast hub and Oakland is the Fedex west coast hub. If we want to develop an airport that would comparable to Ontario (major cargo hub with small passenger facility), that would be great, but I don’t see the emergent need.

        I could see this weird Thurston proposal becoming a major cargo hub for Cascadia, but that’s a ton of greenfield development with a very minor improvement in passenger capacity. Though perhaps passenger capacity is just a trojan horse to create another cargo/logistic activity center in the region, which I suppose is good for economic development.


      3. “UPS has a major hub at SEA. ”

        UPS is at BFI. They, and the taxpayers of King County, pretty much pay the bills there. FedEx flies into SEA.

      4. If there is one aspect of flying that should be taxed out of existence, it is air cargo. To be clear, you would still have some air cargo (important medical supplies, for example). But it is crazy to think of all the wasted energy just so folks can get their iPhone a couple days sooner. It is even crazier when you consider the role air cargo plays in these sorts of discussions. If air cargo dropped by 90% (and stayed there) maybe there would be no need for an additional airport.

      5. If you look at the chart about 2/3 of the cargo is e-commerce, mail, etc. This largely gets loaded on passenger flights. The other 1/3 is perishables and other import/export goods.
        Commercial aerospace
        Hi-tech manufacturing
        Fresh seafood products
        High-value agriculture

        The limiting factor at SEA is the number of takeoff/landings they can handle. They built the 3rd runway so that the capacity wasn’t reduced by bad weather but it didn’t increase capacity otherwise. Removing cargo simple allows those slots to be passenger plans. Moving short haul flights to Boeing Field could help if a Link station was added.

    5. Perhaps somewhere between Woodinville and Snohomish/Monroe rather than *in* Woodinville/Bothell? I’m thinking somewhere between Highway 2 and the river, which I believe is mostly rural stuff now. Highway 2 would provide good car/bus access from Everett, Marysville, Lake Stevens, ect.

      1. Between Woodinville and Monroe is hilly, and probably not the best place for an airport. Between Monroe and Snohomish is the Snohomish River valley, which would be better. It would still mean buying up a lot of land and improving US 2. For example, the US 2 trestle in Everett is a bottleneck during rush hour as it is.

      2. I don’t think you’d want to put it in a river valley, that would be a flood risk?

        You could put it immediately east or west of Snohomish and just sign up for a ton of regrading? The river valley (all farmland) then functions as a noise buffer. City of Snohomish would need a bunch of mitigation money for noise abatement (might be tricky rehabbing their lovely historic buildings), but the city might be happy to sign up for the steady tax revenue that comes from hosing all the ancillary business, much like the city of SeaTac.

        The US2 tressel will likely be fully rebuilt before SR520 style in the same time frame with or without this new airport.

        Looking around rural Snohomish county, I wonder if the Tulalip tribe would be interested in hosting an airport? It’s a whole different development scale than building a casino & outlet mall, but would be a huge revenue stream for the tribe that could be reinvested in their community, particularly because the land itself would be leased, not sold. The Tulalip reservation is huge, and you’d put the airport right up against I5 so most of their reservation would be untouched.

      3. More reasons why Paine Field is the best option. You don’t want an airport down in the Snohomish Valley — that area that has a ton of fog. Those areas are also a lot less convenient. Getting to Paine Field from the north end of Seattle is easy. Getting to the town of Snohomish (for example) is not. Anything well north of Everett (like in the Tulalip land) is too far away — and it has (as Bruce mentioned) some of the worst traffic in the state (with no transit alternative). Northgate is much closer to Paine Field than SeaTac. Whether by car, or public transportation, that would be the preferred airport for a huge swath of the city. But if the airport is in Marysville (even right next to the freeway) that advantage goes away. Driving is similar, and transit will of course be better to SeaTac. That means that only folks in Everett (a city not much bigger than Bellingham) would prefer it.

        Bellingham International, by the way, carries about 3/4 of a million riders a year. SeaTac carries 51 million. So there could definitely be another airport north of Everett, but there is no way it would be popular enough to handle a substantial portion of the region’s air travel.

      4. “Bellingham International, by the way, carries about 3/4 of a million riders a year. SeaTac carries 51 million.”

        Fwiw, Bellingham passenger traffic declined significantly in 2019 (>-10%), ending up with around 331K boardings. Paine Field, by comparison, has already surpassed the former with 390K boardings in 2019.

        I personally tend to prefer looking at enplanement numbers when reviewing air passenger data as I think folks tend to misinterpret the total volume figures, such as 51M for SeaTac. As a general rule, one can simply double the figures to ascertain total volumes per airport (as most enplanements will entail a subsequent deboard tally from a returning passenger and transferring passengers* will simply make a tally in both columns). It’s just my personal preference though; both types of data are perfectly fine. The total volume figures are important for airport and terminal operations considerations obviously. The point of this distinction is so that folks don’t mistakenly believe that some 51M people flew out of SeaTac last year, for example.

        To your larger point, I agree that Paine Field seems to be the best location for a secondary commercial airport given how the region’s current population is distributed, the topography of the area, and the current (and planned) as well as future access options. I say this as someone for whom such an expansion will be a double-edged sword as I’m located less than 2.5 miles from the end of the runway. On the other hand, I’m less than 5 miles from the passenger terminal! Last year, we took two pleasure trips where we flew out of Paine Field and it was super convenient compared to using SeaTac.

        Honestly, since commercial flights began at Paine Field a couple of years ago, the increase in noise pollution has been noticeable but not dramatic due to the limited number of flights. This would change of course with a major expansion. Right now, the biggest noise polluter is Boeing when they test aircraft. Those jetliners fly very low (under 500′) and very slowly over our neighborhood.

        With all of that said, I tend to agree with jordan’s comment above in his assessment of the situation at Paine Field. There’s just not a lot of space to expand operations there without major demolition of existing facilities, additional land acquisitions and disruption to Boeing’s operations.

        *Continuation flights whereby passengers don’t all deboard and new passengers are picked up are the exception here.

        Enplanement data by airport can be found here:

        Oh, one last thing to add. I have to give props to the airport in Ontario, CA. It’s quite the busy little airport serving the entire Inland Empire region. (I think in volume it ranks right behind Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.) I’ve used it over a dozen times for work trips and I’ve never had a problem. The terminal is rather sparse, but for getting into and out of the area for business (or pleasure) it’s super convenient.

    6. Given Snohomish doesn’t want Paine to be bigger, the Cascades prevent any airport to the East, and the I-5 corridor making Thurston or Watcom too far, that leaves West as the place to look.

      Jumping back to https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/06/18/will-kitsap-county-join-sound-transit/, Bremerton National could be a 35 minute light rail ride from downtown, no farther in time than SeaTac. A tunnel to Bremerton can pop above ground near Gorst and run down WA-3 to the airport.

      Yes, that would be expensive, but a small expense compared to building an international airport.

      Bremerton already has a 6,000’ runway with an old unused second runway and room to expand. Looking through https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/PilotsGuide/default.htm, no existing airport near Seattle looks comparable.

  3. I haven’t been on a bus in what feels like forever. But with King County in phase 2 and things starting to open up more, I am wondering how advisable it is to use transit for less-than-essential trips at this point.

    1. Well, I feel like it’s no different from determining any space you want to enter: do I feel comfortable eating out or sitting down at a brewery or going down the bread aisle at the grocery store. Sure, safety measures have been enacted but they’re also not COVID-proof. And in whatever space you enter, including transit, you’ll experience an eventual breakdown of such safety protocols by being forced to pass by someone closer than 6 ft or too many people in one spot that’s unavoidable…

      I think it’s rather a question of how comfortable are you with risking exposure?

    2. Depends on where you live. I personally think it’s ok on routes which are mostly empty, but I would try to avoid crowded routes. So far, pretty much any bus on the Eastside, including routes crossing the lake to Seattle seem empty enough to be pretty safe. Seattle buses, I would be more cautious. Link feels spaced out enough. Just be sure to wear a mask in the underground stations, in addition to on board the vehicle itself.

    3. In my opinion, it is a bad idea. The risk of spreading the disease is greater than ever. The risk that you actually have the disease is greater than ever (unless you have been lucky enough to get tested). It isn’t just about the risk to you, it is about the risk to everyone else.

      That being said, you can do things that minimize that risk. Get on a bus that is largely empty. Make sure there is good airflow within the bus. And of course, put on a mask.

      1. What RossB said.

        I would add unless it’s a truly essential trip like a mental health break or to get something, just don’t get on right now. We aren’t anywhere near Phase III in the Puget Sound except for Island County.

      2. Right now I am somewhere between you and asdf2 on this. On the one hand, it isn’t that much different than being in another closed space, but it is smaller and people stay in the same spot for extended periods of time. Getting on a bus without a mask seems downright crazy (and hopefully drivers started refusing to board people without masks). But for someone who wants to do the right thing, it’s not clear where on the scale between totally benign and reckless endangerment using transit sits.

        For me, I do have a car and I can drive it, so no transit trip would truly be “essential” since I can just drive everywhere, but that has its own problems. But the more things recover and once I start working in the office again, I will want to switch back over to transit, but exactly when I should isn’t too clear. Maybe it will be clearer once there is more information on exactly how much masks end up helping.

    4. Many businesses are open in phase 2, and transit riders should have equal access to them. However, there are countervailing factors. Several popular routes are at or near the 16-passenger maximum part of the day, so there are only a couple spaces left for additional passengers. Mask wearing is not where it should be; in my experience there are at last 1-2 people without masks and it sometimes goes up to 8 or more. And essential workers still need to get to work, and should not be burdened by overcrowding. I would still limit it to trips that are important to you, a couple days a week. I’ve only been using transit for groceries, to replace worn-out shoes, and to go for walks in parks. If it were my only way to see relatives I’d use it for that too.

      As I wrote in the covid article, in my experience the 10, 11, 41, 49, and 522, and Link have relatively good levels of mask wearing. The 11 is fuller than the others. The 7 and 132 have lower levels of mask wearing, and it’s the worst in the highest-volume segments. (For the 7, between Mt Baker and Jackson, and secondarily between Columbia City and Mt Baker. For the 132, between SODO and Jackson.) Contrastingly, I’ve been the only passenger on the 50, 73, and 124. Asdf2 has reported that he’s been the only passenger on some Eastside routes. South King County routes are near their normal ridership because there are so many low-income essential workers there.

      So if you’re lucky you can find a route where you’re the only passenger or there are only a few others, they have good mask-wearing habits, and they’re not full or nearly full. Then I wouldn’t worry about riding. I have no misgivings riding most of the routes above. However, I’ve started to have misgivings about riding the 7 and 132 due to the low mask-wearing. I try to choose times that I think are less popular, and if another route is convenient enough (like the 124), I take it.

      1. Can’t share my sources, but Seattle and king county will likely be in phase one , again, by the beginning of August if new cases continue to creep upward. This will mean a new push to close restaurants, hotels, retail. Offices will remain closed and some grocery stores may be asked to only do curbside or delivery service. Transit ridership will naturally dip again, making it less likely than anyone of us will be on a bus again until 2021.

      2. That would be crazy in King County. The number of cases is up but the number of hospitalizations aren’t. The death rate has also bottomed out and is approximately the same as the traffic fatality rate. The reason for the quarantine was to prevent overwhelming the health care system.

      3. The 124 today was busy, the opposite of my previous experience with it. And mask-wearing was low, on par with the worst routes above. That’s three bad SODO routes now, so SODO seems to be a hotspot for unsafe buses.

      4. If King County were to continue on the same exponential trajectory of new COVID-19 cases (7-day rolling average, doubling about every 11 days) that we had between June 15 and about July 2, we would be having about 1000 new cases per day by early August. The 7-day rolling average peak in our early April surge was somewhat over 200. That could hardly help but be an ominous indicator for hospitalizations – even if only a quarter as many cases required hospitalization.

        The good news is that the King County 7-day rolling average appears to have pretty much leveled out over the last 5 days. If this holds for another 5 days or so, I think Alex’s sources will be less worried.

        FYI: This is based on the state Health Department’s publicly released statistics – not on any confidential information.

      5. FBD, I agree. In particular, deaths and hospitalizations are way down. At its peak, King County had 55 people admitted to hospital with COVID19 in one day; now, it’s been a month since we’ve had more than 5. We also had 15 die in one day of COVID19, but it’s now been over a month since we’ve had more than 5. This probably isn’t the best place to debate why, but I think it’s clear that we have a much better handle on the disease now than we did a couple months ago.

      6. Daily COVID-19 outbreak summary

        The graph can be set to show cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The important numbers, hospitalizations & deaths, the mad stream media hardly mentions (and KingCo defaults to number of cases). As long as we’re not overwhelming our health care system and people aren’t dying; why do we care how many cases there are? Every positive test means one less person that’s going to need the vaccine when it initially becomes available. And the deaths from the shut down will increase if we go backwards.

      7. Number of cases is an indicator of where hospitalizations will be several weeks from now, and where deaths will be several weeks after that, It also indicates how fast it is spreading in the community.

        Number of cases is also important long term because this disease causes long term brain, lung and other health issues that people will be dealing with the rest of their lives. Even asymptotic cases frequently wind up with what appears to be permanent lung damage.

        Each case is also not a guarantee of immunity. Immunity from having a virus fades very quickly after having the sickness. Vaccines, where available, provide much better immunity.

      8. Because this virus has an extremely high chance of ongoing effects. 30% of SARS survivors came out of it with permanent ME/CFS, and similar or even worse types and levels of after effects are being noted for Covid-19. Neurological, pulmonary, cardiological, this virus wreaks permanent havoc on people. The less that ever have to get it the better.

        Unless you think the American healthcare system can easily handle a wave of tens of thousands of newly disabled people without dropping the ball horribly (which, by the way, it can’t even do for us currently disabled people), it’s absolutely imperative that we keep total cases as low as possible.

        What “deaths from the shutdown”?

  4. What has changed since 2019? The rules the Biz Journal cited make life harder for landlords, but I don’t see how that makes it harder for developers. If land availability is slightly up, seems like the issue is just permitting delays?

    Newcastle was a bit of a worse-case city to pick on. They have a long history of under-funding municipals services and should really be annexed by Renton or Bellevue, or just outsource all municipal services to Bellevue like Medina & Clyde Hill do … it lacks the economies of scale of larger cities and no retail base like a Woodinville or Issaquah.

    1. As far as I can tell nothing. The article didn’t site anything that changed the actual process of building a building. Sounds more like it just comes down to not enough inspectors to clear the backlog. Which of course is a really easy problem to fix, just hire more inspectors.

      1. I couldn’t read the article (I don’t have a subscription) but that would be my guess. It is harder than ever to build, because there is a backlog of inspectors. I guess being business friendly only means being opposed to business taxes. When it comes to what really matters — making it easier to do business (e. g. build a building) the Durkan administration has dropped the ball.

  5. The Uber article basically confirmed my long-standing suspicion that longer trips are being overcharged to effectively subsidize shorter trips, which are undercharged (although not nearly to the degree as with taxis). The “free market” approach to discouraging drivers from cherry-picking the longer fares is to adjust the pricing so that short trips and long trips are equally worth the driver’s time. Not a top-down approach that effectively forces drivers to accept trips they don’t want.

    Not that it matters anymore with COVID. I haven’t ridden Uber or Lyft in months and don’t intend to anytime soon. In the past, many of my Uber/Lyft trips were used as an alternative to rental cars (cheaper and/or avoiding the hassle of picking up and returning the car). Nowadays, if I need a car ride, I just rent the car because it’s safer.

  6. Every year is hotter than the last. Millions of people are going to die from war and famine caused by climate change. One of the biggest contributors to climate change is air travel.

    But never mind that, let’s build another airport!


  7. The difficulty in building apartments in Seattle is an important topic. The taller the building, the more complex a project becomes from an engineering standpoint and the more rigorous inspections need to be. If Seattle is really serious about resolving housing demand, ways to reduce the effort and time to get a safety livable building built should be our priority — rather than something like our badly unfocused housing fund.

  8. The funniest thing I’ve read today … “I think the JumpStart Seattle plan is going to jump start Bellevue.” Downtown Seattle Association President Jon Scholes, from a q13fox.com story.

    1. Big business rep whines about big business taxes, more news at 11.

      Seattle will be fine.

  9. In regards to the TCC response, what exactly does re-regionalizing transit funding in King County actually mean

  10. @Mike Orr

    I believe you were looking for reusable face masks that didn’t come from one of the internet giants. I stumbled across these tonight, they seemed reasonable and semi-local (based in Portland). I hope you already found what you needed but just in case this may still be of interest, to you or others:


    1. Thanks. My roommate got me a few masks from work, so I have one cloth mask and as a last resort some disposable masks. I also have some towels and elastic staring at me challenging me to make some that fits tightly and doesn’t fall apart after first use. I want to get a couple more cloth ones, so I’ll keep this one in mind. The city also has a page of local manufacturers, although many of them are wholesale (20 quantity minimum). One says you get a random color/decorations depending on what fabric they have that day, and I don’t want to waste money on a possibly-unacceptable design.

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